Iraq keen to play role in Nabucco

BAKU, Azerbaijan, March 1 (UPI) — Iraq is very interested in shipping its natural gas reserves through the planned Nabucco pipeline for Europe, the country’s oil minister said.

Iraqi officials have expressed support for the Nabucco natural gas pipeline planned as an alternative to Russian energy resources.

Iraqi Oil Minister Asim Jihad told the Trend news service from Baku that his country is keen to play a role in the much-lauded pipeline project.

“Iraq’s officials have repeatedly stated that the country is interested in participation in this project,” he was quoted as saying.

Nabucco authorities have said they’d look to feeder lines, notably from Iraq, to provide additional capacity to the planned pipeline.

The International Energy Agency said political turmoil in Iraq could get in the way of broader energy developments, though Jihad brushed off the critique by saying all parties in Iraq were ready to discuss Nabucco.

The Nabucco pipeline company said construction on the pipeline is scheduled for late 2013. First gas is expected by 2017.

Nabucco is up against competing projects in the so-called Southern Corridor. In February, the consortium controlling Shah Deniz II natural gas field off the coast of Azerbaijan chose the Trans Adriatic pipeline, a Southern Corridor project, as a possible route to European natural gas consumers.

Sentence for ex-Ukraine minister blasted

KIEV, Ukraine, March 1 (UPI) — A prison sentence handed to former the Ukrainian internal affairs minister is more evidence the country doesn’t respect human rights, critics say.

Yuriy Lutsenko was found guilty of embezzlement and abuse of office Monday in Kiev’s Pecherskyy District Court and was sentenced to four years in prison, fined and banned from holding public office, Ukraine officials announced.

The court found Lutsenko, who served from 2007-09 with former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, guilty of providing his driver taxpayer-funded perks, including an apartment and a public pension, as well as overspending on public celebrations while a governmental decree on budget-cutting was in effect, a parliamentary leader of the ruling Party of Regions said.

Volodymyr Oliynyk, first deputy chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament’s committee on legislative support of law enforcement, said losses to the state were estimated at $110,000.

“The court’s ruling in Lutsenko’s case served as a message to each state official — anyone can be held liable for the abuse of power,” Oliynyk said.

Lutsenko denied any wrongdoing and claimed his prosecution was politically motivated. His fate was similar to that of Tymoshenko’s, whose trial last year resulted in a seven-year sentence for abuse of office.

Lutsenko’s lawyers say they will appeal the verdict and take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Tymoshenko’s sentence was met with worldwide protests and has hampered Ukraine’s efforts at economic integration into the European Union and the ruling against Lutsenko has triggered a similar reaction.

It garnered quick denunciations from EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Stefan Fule, EU commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy.

“We are disappointed with the verdict against Mr. Lutsenko, which signals the continuation of trials in Ukraine which do not respect international standards as regards fair, transparent and independent legal process,” they said in a statement.

Promising to closely monitor the appeals process, Ashton and Fule noted that an EU-Ukraine summit in December established that “respect for the rule of law will be of crucial importance for the speed of Ukraine’s political association and economic integration with the EU.”

Tymoshenko’s case has soured relations between Ukraine and the European Union and has resulted in the delay of a long-sought “association agreement” and comprehensive free trade deal between the parties.

Brussels regards parliamentary elections scheduled for October as key test in measuring democratic standards in Ukraine.

Fule, speaking this week at a Brussels conference organized by the European Policy Center think tank, called Kiev’s progress on “selective justice,” business climate and constitutional reform “disappointing.”

“The need to secure democracy, human rights and the rule of law remains at the very heart of the Eastern Partnership,” he said. “Reform in these areas will continue to be non-negotiable and it will be essential that Ukraine demonstrates its firm commitment to these core values.”

The Czech Republic was among countries expressing concern over Lutsenko’s sentence. Its foreign ministry called the ruling “far-removed from European standards and principles regarding human rights,” Radio Prague reported.

Yulia Tymoshenko’s husband, Oleksandr, and her former economy minister, Bohdan Danylyshyn, have both been granted asylum in the Czech Republic.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Dikusarov told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti progress toward an association agreement shouldn’t be further damaged by the Lutsenko decision.

“We are convinced that the decisions made in the context of our European integration will have a continuation … and we will finally initial a relevant agreement,” he said.

The government has introduced a new criminal procedure code that passed its first test in Parliament in February, Dikusarov added.

Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis by James Rickards

[pl_amazon_book_order src=""]Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is a riverboat gambler who has embarked on the greatest economic gamble in the history of world finance. But unlike the gambler who can squander only his own fortune, Bernanke’s gamble has created a worldwide crisis. Through quantitative easing, the Fed has declared currency war on the world.

In Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis, James Rickards discusses how nations have purposely debased their currencies both to benefit themselves and hurt others. He posits that there have been three currency wars just since 1900, and we are currently engaged in the third one. The first, Rickards writes, lasted from 1921 to 1936. The second was from 1967 to 1987. The one happening now began in 2010.

Rickards is a counselor, investment banker and risk manager with more than 30 years of experience in capital markets. He’s also an adviser to the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. intelligence community and major hedge funds on global finance. He is a regular contributor to the cable network financial programs and guest on NPR.

Currency Wars begins with Rickards describing his participation in a war games scenario held at the government’s Applied Physics Laboratory and conducted by the Department of Defense. His charge was to help the Pentagon understand what might happen in a financial war.

Rickards was dismayed to learn that, aside from him, the participants in the war games — representatives of the Department of Defense, cabinet agencies like Commerce and Energy, academicians, theoreticians and military officers — knew a lot about war but little to nothing about finance. So he obtained permission to recruit people who understood the markets, hedge funds and exchanges, and financial weapons.

The games, which Rickards describes in detail, showed the DoD that it wasn’t prepared for a financial war. It was so unprepared, in fact, that when they gamed a scenario that had Russia decide to replace U.S. dollars with gold as accepted payment for its natural resources, the game’s judges cried foul. But the next day, a Drudge Report headline screamed the news that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was considering just that.

After detailing the war games, Rickards gives a brief history of U.S. finance and the gold standard. Then he discusses the currency wars of the 20th century.

The first was begun by Germany in 1921 with hyperinflation designed to improve competitiveness that devolved into an effort to destroy an economy weighed down by the oppressive war reparations resulting from World War I. The ensuing responses by other governments created a worldwide depression.

Rickards ties the beginning of the second currency war in 1967 to Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 election and his “guns and butter” platform. The United States was benefitting from a strong economy, boosted by John F. Kennedy’s tax reduction program that was signed by Johnson shortly after Kennedy’s assassination.

But funding the growing war in Vietnam and deficient spending on the Great Society programs set in place an inflation that would run out of control for 20 years. The problem was compounded when Richard Nixon announced on Aug. 15, 1971 his “New Economic Policy.” It established wage and price controls, a 10 percent surtax on imports and the closing of the gold window. That, finally, separated the dollar from the gold standard — a process that actually began with the establishment of the Federal Reserve in 1913.

The new currency war began in 2010 as a consequence of the 2007 depression. Rickards writes that the dimensions and consequences of this war are just coming into focus. He believes there are three theaters to this war: a dollar-yuan theater across the Pacific, a dollar-euro theater across the Atlantic and a euro-yuan theater across the Eurasion landmass. He explains each of these in detail.

Finally, Rickards discusses the endgame: paper, gold or chaos. According to Rickards, a gold standard is inevitable if we are to ever get on sound financial footing. He explains in great detail how it could happen.

But ultimately, Rickards writes, the most likely outcome of the currency wars and the debasement of the dollar is a chaotic, catastrophic collapse of investor confidence resulting in emergency measures by governments attempting to maintain some semblance of a functioning system of money, trade and investment. He has history as a guide. It has shown that currency wars never end well.

Rickards’ book is spot on. He dismisses Keynesian economists and their wrong-headed — and plain wrong — approach to finance. He makes the case for sound money in a way that few people are able to do.

This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand government, economic history and world finance.

U.S. Treasury Blocks Banks Dealing With Iran

The U.S. Treasury Department disrupted a Dubai-based banking operation that the Federal Government believes had become Tehran’s primary channel for evading international sanctions and processing its oil sales, according to a source who was briefed on the operation, The Wall Street Journal reported.

According to the news outlet, the effort to circumvent the sanctions was particularly sensitive because the institution-in-question in the United Arab Emirates is partly owned by the local government of Dubai, an ally of the U.S. The chairman of the bank, known as the Noor Islamic Bank, is the son of the ruler of the emirate.

The Journal reported that Noor, in mid-December, agreed to close off what the people briefed on the operation characterized as Iran’s single-biggest channel for repatriating foreign-currency receipts for oil purchases. According to estimations, this counted for as much as 60 percent of the Middle Eastern nation’s foreign oil sales by late 2011.

Reuters reported that the U.S. Treasury said banks who are involved with Iran “risk losing their correspondent account access to U.S. financial institutions,” according to David Cohen, the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Government Employees: The True 1 Percent

Watch Wayne Allyn Root report on the true 1 percent: government employees. This is the privileged class that is straining taxpayers to the breaking point and bankrupting the U.S. economy. Will you retire with $5 million to $10 million? Average government employees are doing it every day. Watch here to understand the greatest scam since Bernie Madoff.

Congress: Your First Amendment Rights Annoy Us

Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The 1st Amendment has been under attack by the American political elite for some time, and a bill voted on in the House on Monday sets the next portion of the Amendment in line for the chopping block.

The House voted this week 388-3 to pass H.R. 347 a bill called the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011. The bill was slightly amended and voice-voted by the Senate earlier in the month; House passage of the Senate version sends it to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature into law.

Congress makes it illegal in the bill to trespass on the grounds of the White House. The wording in the bill, however, goes on to allow the government to enforce trespassing laws against more than tourists and protesters near 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

A portion of the bill explains who it criminalizes:

`(a) Whoever—`(1) knowingly enters or remains in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so; `(2) knowingly, and with intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, engages in disorderly or disruptive conduct in, or within such proximity to, any restricted building or grounds when, or so that, such conduct, in fact, impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions; `(3) knowingly, and with the intent to impede or disrupt the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions, obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds; or `(4) knowingly engages in any act of physical violence against any person or property in any restricted building or grounds.

The bill also explains what are considered restricted places for peaceful protesters:

`(1) the term `restricted buildings or grounds’ means any posted, cordoned off, or otherwise restricted area–`(A) of the White House or its grounds, or the Vice President’s official residence or its grounds; `(B) of a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting; or`(C) of a building or grounds so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance; and `(2) the term `other person protected by the Secret Service’ means any person whom the United States Secret Service is authorized to protect under section 3056 of this title or by Presidential memorandum, when such person has not declined such protection.

Basically, anyplace where Secret Service agents are present or any building where government business is being conducted is made off limits to “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” by language in the bill. Both GOP candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are currently protected by Secret Service agents, and Newt Gingrich has asked for protection. Ron Paul is the only candidate who has said that he will likely not opt for Secret Service protection during the campaign.

According to the Secret Service website, the agency is authorized to protect:

  • The President, the Vice President, (or other individuals next in order of succession to the Office of the President), the President-elect and Vice President-elect.
  • The immediate families of the above individuals.
  • Former Presidents and their spouses, except when the spouse remarries.
  • Children of former Presidents until age 16.
  • Visiting heads of foreign states or governments and their spouses traveling with them, other distinguished foreign visitors to the United States, and official representatives of the United States performing special missions abroad.
  • Major Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates, and their spouses within 120 days of a general Presidential election.
  • Other individuals as designated per Executive Order of the President.
  • National Special Security Events, when designated as such by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Because foreign dignitaries are often protected by the Secret Service, the Federal government could consider demonstrations against any foreign president on American soil a violation of Federal law, as long as it could be considered disruptive.

Secret Service’s ability to be present at any “National Special Security Events, when designated as such by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security” is also particularly alarming for free-speech advocates, as it could mean no peaceable assembly just about anywhere Janet Napolitano sees fit. According to RT, about three dozen events in all have been considered National Special Security Events since the term was created by President Bill Clinton. Among the events on the DHS-sanctioned NSSE list were Super Bowl XXXVI, the funerals of Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, State of the Union addresses and the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

The only “no” votes on the bill were from Representatives Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).

Amash commented about the bill on his Facebook page saying, “Some government officials may need extraordinary protection to ensure their safety. But criminalizing legitimate First Amendment activity — even if that activity is annoying to those government officials — violates our rights.”

Navy Testing Electromagnetic Railgun

The Navy has announced that it is getting close to developing an electromagnetic gun that can fire rounds at targets more than 100 miles away.

Called an electromagnetic railgun, the weapon consists of parallel rails and uses a magnetic field and electric current to generate energy to fire rounds accurate at up to 115 miles. The weapon will be able to hurl its 40-pound projectile at a speed of 5,600 mph at a rate of 10 guided projectiles per second.

The 5-inch guns currently used on Navy on destroyers typically have a range of about 15 miles.

According to Navy researchers, the weapon’s high-velocity and range would allow ships to provide support for Marines as well as self-defense against cruise and ballistic missiles and could target enemy ships.

The video below shows a Naval Research-funded electromagnetic railgun prototype launcher that was recently installed at a test facility in Dahlgren, Va. The test shots begin a month-long series of full-energy tests to evaluate the first of two industry-built launchers.

Way Off Target

President Barack Obama’s former White House Chief of Staff, current Chicago mayor and eternal Democratic godfather Rahm Emanuel advised: “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” In keeping with the philosophy of the hollow-eyed Gollum of Grant Park on turning public tragedy into political treasure, liberals from the ivory towers of the corporate media to the sewers of the left-wing blogosphere have raised the hue and cry about firearms in the wake of the killing of three students, allegedly at the hand of the severely disturbed T.J. Lane in Chardon, Ohio.

Of course, the bodies are not yet cold and the tears not yet dry. But by all that is Obama-approved, the Democrats will turn this sordid tale into a volley fire at the battlements of the Bill of Rights — or further humiliate themselves trying.

Leading the charge of the lout brigade was, of course, MSNBC, aka the Democrat Channel. Someone named Alex Wagner, who apparently worked for the George Soros-backed vomiteers at ThinkProgress before running away to join the MSNBC circus, donned her tinfoil hat on Tuesday, ranting:

“… the only protection against gun violence is, in the end, the law. And yet, in the very same states that have seen the country’s grisliest gun crimes — Colorado, Virginia and Ohio — state legislators have — remarkably — tried to weaken gun control…”

Well, Obama forbid anyone mention the law, the police, some semblance of personal conduct or even common decency — all of which Lane ignored — to the intrepid Wagner. Clearly, showing regard for the victims and their families never entered the equation, although we’ll forgive MSNBC for its macabre scavenging. It needs the sensationalism; it has nary a viewer to spare.

It’s also worth noting Wagner’s resurrection of the almost laughably clichéd phrase “gun violence.”  Every time liberals need to blame the bugaboo of firearms and/or the National Rifle Association for some human-caused tragedy they pull out that phrase. Dismissing “gun violence” as a weak-kneed leftist catchphrase is trite. But when a group of devout Democrats get together to exploit senseless violence in an effort to breach the walls of the Bill of Rights, clichéd and trite are as close as anyone is likely to get to logic and reason.

Meanwhile, the Democrat hate-speech clearinghouse Dailykos featured Sam Diener, the “Education Coordinator” at the “Center for Nonviolent Solutions.” Diener scribbled out nearly 1,700 words under the heading “Talking Points on the School Shooting in Chardon OH.” In the text of the predictably far-left screed, Diener states flatly what has yet to be proven: “Guns increase danger.” Actually, people with malevolent intentions increase danger; guns are merely a tool. Blaming guns for what Lane allegedly did in Chardon is like blaming General Motors for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.

Guns are merely a scapegoat for the misdirected wrath of a liberal movement that is always quick to excuse criminal behavior. Consider the fact that the same Democrats who routinely demand an abrogation of the Bill of Rights will line up to defend people who use guns to commit violent crimes, notably if they’re African-American and if the crimes involve killing police officers.

Furthermore, consider the fact that Democrat-controlled cities like Detroit, Washington and Obama’s and Emanuel’s hometown, Chicago, are virtual war zones despite draconian anti-gun laws.

I often refer to what I like to call “the politics of easy.” It is indeed easy to blame guns for crimes such as those Lane allegedly committed. Being inanimate objects, guns are unlikely to muster much of a defense. It’s easier still to use anti-gun rhetoric in defense of criminal behavior — especially when said defense will provide brickbats with which to attack their political enemies. And if said enemies — in the opinion of the liberal elite — need to be disarmed, that’s all the better. So what if some personal tragedies need to be turned into stage characters in a twisted liberal passion play?

–Ben Crystal

Nanny State To Mandate Rear-View Cameras In All Vehicles

The National Highway Safety Institute has set in place a law that will require that all vehicles come equipped with rear-view cameras, a measure that — if 100 percent effective — will prevent 228 American deaths each year at a cost of about $12 million each to American auto buyers.

According to The New York Times, in a preliminary version of the measure released for public comment, regulators predicted that adding the cameras and viewing screens will cost the auto industry as much as $2.7 billion a year, or $160 to $200 a vehicle. Some of the cost is expected to be passed on to consumers through higher prices.

Government statistics say that 228 people — 44 percent of whom are younger than 5 — die each year after being backed over by passenger vehicles. About 17,000 people a year are injured in such accidents.

Critics of the measure say that efforts to encourage Americans to pay more attention would be a much more effective way of avoiding tragedies without putting in place yet another auto-industry mandate to reduce the competitiveness of American autos.

Reason reports: “…Legislators put minimum effort into finding the most cost-efficient solution to this problem and failed to consider that car design isn’t really their job in the first place. Clearly, when considering the fact that most backover accidents involve the parent or relative of a child, the right course of action would be legislation that prohibits parents and relatives of children from driving in the first place.”