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Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Russia to Halt Ukraine Gas Delivery

The past is prologue and it appears that the Kremlin … er, Gazprom, is not dissuaded in this move by threats to expel Russian military assets from the Crimea … in 2017. It is going to be a chilly ring to the New Year for Ukraine.
Russia will halt natural gas shipments to Ukraine today for the second time in three years after talks failed to resolve a dispute over pricing, raising the threat of disruption to European supplies.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko ordered his delegation to leave Moscow, OAO Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller told reporters. Miller said supplies to Ukraine would be cut at 10 a.m. Moscow time today.

The spat erupted again yesterday over prices, less than 24 hours after Ukraine attempted to defuse a standoff over debt, pledging to pay as much as $2 billion in arrears. The threat to European energy supplies is less severe than during a similar dispute in 2006, because liquefied natural gas shipments have diversified supplies, the weather in Europe is warmer and utilities say they have sufficient inventories.

“We are getting the impression that there are some political forces in Ukraine that are very interested in seeing a gas conflict between our countries,” Miller said. “All responsibility for this situation lies with the Ukrainian side.”

Iryna Vannikova and Larysa Mudrak, officials in Yushchenko’s office, could not be reached for comment.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said earlier Ukraine faces “serious consequences” should it interfere with the transit of natural gas from Russia to Europe after Russia’s neighbor rejected an offer from

Gaza, Hamas, and Life Loving Democracies

Alan Dershowitz sums up the Israeli-Palestinian problem as best he can.  Its really all very simple, you see.  The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the primordial battle, it is a
war between terrorists who love death and democracies that love life.
See?  It doesn't get much starker than that.

Those democracies, I'm guessing now, would be Israel and the US, the two preeminent life-lovers in the world today.

What Dershowitz is claiming here, indeed, what is nearly universally claimed, is that the Hamas police stations and the police themselves, are "security compounds," which imputes ill upon what have nominally been police stations used by the British, the Israelis and Fatah. But now, under Hamas control, the police stations are "Hamas security compounds are in the middle of the city."  Where else should police stations actually be?  This is not a relevant question, of course, because Hamas is only to be portrayed as an illegitimate entity.

William Sieghart, who has spent many years in Gaza, imparts some sanity on the discussion of Hamas and the Palestinian population in Gaza.
Last week I was in Gaza. While I was there I met a group of 20 or so police officers who were undergoing a course in conflict management. They were eager to know whether foreigners felt safer since Hamas had taken over the Government? Indeed we did, we told them. Without doubt the past 18 months had seen a comparative calm on the streets of Gaza; no gunmen on the streets, no more kidnappings. They smiled with great pride and waved us goodbye.<

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

US Vetos UN Resolution on Gaza

After voting against the "right to food" earlier this year, voting against the ban on cluster bombs, Khalilzad continues doing his utmost for world peace at the UN:
The UN Security Council has been unable to force an end to Israeli attacks against Gaza due to the intervention of the United States.

Washington once again used its veto powers on Sunday to block a resolution calling for an end to the massive ongoing Israeli attacks against the Gaza Strip.

The council has only been able to issue a 'non-binding' statement that calls on Israel to voluntarily bring all its military activities in the besieged region to an immediate end.

The World According to Conflict

There are many parameter spaces by which we might describe and characterize the world.  GDP, health statistics, income levels, all can impart some coloration to understanding.  But conflict, of course, is one of the primary parameter sets in the world today.

Via Stealth Conflicts comes a conflict map of the world.  Compare and contrast the relative sizes of regions in this parameter space, as opposed to what we here and know about those regions within the parameters of news and media coverage.

Map of conflict-related deaths (1990-2007)



Nigerian Army Repels Oil Raid

Working to keep Shell Oil profits safe:
Nigerian troops have repelled a raid by armed militants on an oil-pumping station run by the local unit of Italy's Eni SpA, killing three attackers.

Soldiers guarding the Tebidaba facility of the Nigeria Agip Oil Company Ltd. fought attackers who came in speedboats yesterday, capturing four injured militants, said Colonel Rabe Abubakar, a spokesman for the military task force in charge of security in the oil region.

Attacks by armed groups in the southern delta, which produces almost all of Nigeria's oil, have cut its crude exports by more than 20 percent since 2006.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the main armed group fighting in the region, said its fighters were not involved in the Tebidaba incident as it was still abiding by its September unilateral cease-fire.

“Whenever hostilities resume, we will take responsibility for any attack we carry out,” Jomo Gbomo, spokesman for the group known as MEND, said in an e-mail today.

The militant group says it is fighting for the poor of the Niger Delta, who are yet to share in the oil wealth pumped from their region.

Nigeria's Niger Delta region, generating huge oil wealth, which is in contrast to the impoverished life of local people, has drawn worldwide attention in 2008 with rampant sabotage on oil facilities and kidnapping.



That is the number of war crimes documented in a new book, George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration's Liability for 269 War Crimes, by Professor Michael Haas. The Foreword to the book is written by former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz.

The crimes are categorized by chapter:

Crimes of Aggression
Crimes Committed in the Conduct of War
Crimes Committed in the Treatment of Prisoners
Crimes Committed in the Postwar Occupations
Tribunals for War Crimes Prosecution

Get yours today!

The Hollow Man

“With them, it is all about tanks and land and controlling territories and controlled territories and this hilltop and that hilltop. All these things are worthless.

"Who thinks seriously that if we sit on another hilltop, on another hundred meters, that this is what will make the difference for the State of Israel’s basic security?”
-- Ehud Olmert,
September 30, 2008

Israel has rejected calls for an immediate cease-fire. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the four-day bombardment of Gaza "the first of several stages", suggesting that the conflict is far from over.
-- Israeli raids change everything,
Press TV,
30 Dec. 2008


Beat Down, Gaza

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As the assault on Gaza continues, with more promised, Israeli gunboats are now ramming humanitarian aid ships to prevent the delivery of medical supplies -- clearly needed -- to the beleaguered strip of hell.  After all, Israel is a peace-loving nation we are told, over and over again.  Why else would they try to stop the delivery of humanitarian aid, if not for love and want of peace?  All those US military aid dollars are being used to maximum effect.  Military aid smacking down humanitarian aid; the metaphor of our age.

That most media outlets and commentators insist on calling this murderous beat down a "battle" or, even more obtusely, a "war," remains beyond examination, as does the psychotic cheer leading seen across the spectrum of pontificators.  Palestinians deserve this, you see, because they voted for Hamas! And we just can't have that.

A summary of conditions within the prison is provided by Sarah Roy.  Eroding conditions have been exacerbated by a stranglehold siege, wherein Israeli officials demand that [...]More

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Russo-Ukraine Tit For Tat

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The swath of post Russo-Georgian conflict friction continued its widening course recently when Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz recognized that they would not likely complete a new natural gas agreement before the end of the year.  Indeed, the stalemate of such an agreement likely stemmed from Ukraine's failure to pay accounts already past due, which Russia claims stands at some $2 billion for gas so far delivered.  The fracture was further exacerbated when President Medvedev then announced on Russian television that
"The debt should be paid to the last ruble if they do not want the economy to suffer from Russian sanctions. The situation cannot be tolerated any longer."
Once again, Ukraine could face sanctions in the form of a threatened cut off from Gazprom gas supplies, just as occurred in January of 2006.

Never to be undone by Muscavite acrimony, Ukraine's marginalized president, Viktor Yushchenko, announced two days later that Ukraine would  not extend a 1997 agreement with Moscow on the use of Russian military bases [...]More

Stealth Conflicts

It has been the great good fortune of Shockfront to have been paid a visit by Dr. Virgil Hawkins, Assistant Professor at the Global Collaboration Center (GLOCOL), Osaka University, Japan, and author of the book, Stealth Conflicts, How the World's Worst Violence is Ignored.  Dr. Hawkins stopped in and left a comment on the article Imperial Clash on the Congo Resource Front.  From Japan!  The internet is awesome.

Hawkins also has a blog of the same name, Stealth Conflicts, which I expect I will now be checking frequently.

As the subtitle of his book suggests, Hawkins attempts to explain how monstrous conflicts and humanitarian disasters, such as we see (or, rather, don't see) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today.  Having only recently been tipped off to Hawkins book (thanks, Dr. Hawkins!) I look forward to reading his ideas on why this egregious state of affairs exists and how it occurs.

From his website, you can read the introduction to the book, which ought to give you some idea about Hawkins thesis on the matter.  A short primer describes the overall aim of the book:
Many of the world's deadliest conflicts are largely ignored – becoming off-the-radar 'stealth conflicts'. How can this be possible in a world with unprecedented levels of access to information, and unprecedented levels of attention and resources being

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Israeli "Shock Treatment" Kills 200 in Gaza

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During what is now the "bloodiest one day death toll in 60 years of conflict," Israeli Defense Forces launched a massive air strike campaign against supposed Hamas "security compounds,"  which are, in fact, police stations, claiming that Hamas had failed to halt rocket attacks emanating from Gaza.  While Hamas has not been responsible for those attacks -- Islamic Jihad has been the party involved -- Israel claims that Hamas nevertheless bears responsibility for them, which in turn means that the Gaza civilian population must suffer the consequences for their poor democratic choice.  The death toll now sits at 208 people, with over 700 hundred wounded.

Despite the fact that Israeli forces have been unilaterally violating terms of the presumed six month "ceasefire," Hamas recently announced that the cease fire was over.  While it may surprise casual observers that an ceasefire was actually in effect, the six month agreement never resulted in anything approaching peace and calm.  Israel tightened and even ratched up sanctions on Gaza during this so-called ceasefire, distressing further an already destitute population.  In the aftermath of the ceasefire, the gloves are now off, and Israel has jumped at the opportunity to inflict a major blow [...]More

IMF Loan to Pakistan "will exacerbate slump and poverty"

Countries teetering on the edge of stability were particularly vulnerable to destabilizing effects that would inevitably stem from the world financial crisis.  Pakistan was one of the first such countries to go wobbly.  After China refused a loan request from Pakistan, the IMF became the loan officer of last resort.  At the time, the expected turn to the IMF was deemed a "politically unpopular prospect."

After decades of the crushing yet entirely routine "austerity measures" that the IMF always demands in exchange for their generally undesirable largess, countries around the world have grown to loathe the prospect of IMF loans.  They are well aware of what exactly these loans are meant to do: create a western-oriented client state through indebtedness, economic ruin and increased poverty.*  After all, a country that prospers cannot be bent to heel, which is exactly why IMF (and World Bank) loans are structured the way they are.  They are not meant to help but to hinder.**

World economic powers turned away from the politically unstable, nuclear-armed Pakistan and forced the new government to turn to the IMF for a hand-out.  As expected, that $7.6 billion loan is coming with some unpleasant strings attached, harming both the public at large and local businesses.
The conditions the IMF is attaching to its loan to Pakistan will severely impact the country's workers and toilers. They include: eliminating all subsidies on energy, petroleum products, and fertilizer; slashing government spending, including "non-priority" development spending; and raising taxes.

In order to pave the way for the IMF loan, Pakistan's central

Friday, 26 December 2008

Pak Troops Move to India Border

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As Pakistani protesters burned the flag of India (well, that's a change), the back blowing Global War on Terror™continues its sordid daily unraveling on news that Pakistan redeployed "thousands of troops" from the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan to the Pakistan border towns of Kasur and Sialkot, "near the Indian border."
Pakistan has started to redeploy thousands of troops to the Indian border from the tribal areas near Afghanistan, intelligence officials said Friday, raising tensions in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks.

The move was expected to frustrate the United States, which has been pushing Pakistan to step up its fight against al-Qaida and Taliban militants near the Afghan border.

India has blamed Pakistani-based militants for last month's siege on its financial capital, which killed 164 people and has provoked an increasingly bitter war of words between nuclear-armed neighbors that have fought three wars in 60 years.

The troops headed to the Indian border were being diverted away from tribal areas near Afghanistan, the two officials said. They said elements of the army's 14th Infantry Division were being redeployed to the towns of Kasur and Sialkot, close to the Indian border.

The military began the

Islamic Forces Verge on Somalia Takeover

Much as they did in 2006, Islamic militant forces are on the verge of seizing complete control over Somali.  A militant break-off wing of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) now holds some 80 per cent of the country.  The US-backed Ethiopian army, which invaded at the behest of the Bush administration, is due to withdraw from Somalia at the end of the year, having sewn nothing but hatred and death across the land.  The ridiculous puppet regime installed in Mogadishu was never in, any sense, legitimate and held no sway over the ousted Islamic factions, who have constantly fought against the foreign proxy invasion.

Taking the usual signals from the Bush administration and the Pentagon, western media outlets -- really just dumpsters of Pentagon IO output -- rarely fail to claim that Somalia "could become a new al Qaeda stronghold" after two brutal years of Ethiopian occupation and US air strikes that, more likely than not, killed an array of farmers and "nomadic herdsmen."

Nonetheless, the IO is pumping furiously in an effort to generate support for further US military incursions into Somalia on two fronts: al Qaeda threats and piracy.  While everyone seems bent on tackling the pirates, al Qaeda activity remains soley the  product of fevered minds in the Pentagon.

The entire Ethiopian operation has been a predictable disaster, both in foreign policy terms and for those war-blasted Somalis caught in the path of the Bush administration's blunt force trauma device known as the Global War on Terror™.< [...]More

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Ebola Outbreak in Congo

Good grief.  As though the afflicted population of Congo didn't have enough to worry and stress about, now ebola is breaking out there.
A mysterious disease that has killed nine people in southern Democratic Republic of Congo has been identified as the deadly Ebola virus, the Congolese health minister said on Thursday.

The virus appeared in southern Western Kasai province on Nov. 27, and blood and stool samples were sent to laboratories in Gabon and South Africa for identification.

“Following the analysis of samples taken in (the village of) Kalwamba, it is now recognised that we are facing an epidemic of the viral haemorrhagic fever Ebola,” said health minister Auguste Mopipi Mukulumanya.
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