Myanmar: As murder & persecution of Muslims continues, we recall the odious Aung Suu Kyi & friends


Conventional wisdon is often wrong, and seldom more so than in the case of the Burmese leader Aung Suu Kyi. Hailed as a democrat and a peacemaker upon taking office in March 2016, this rotten woman can now be seen for what she really is – the grinning face of contemporary ethinc cleansing.

Donald Trump had his Muslim travel “ban” and the world rightly went berserk. Meanwhile, Aung Suu Kyi presides over a regime that has turned a blind eye to the slaughter thousands of Muslims, and the Obamas and the Clintons of this world remain silent.

Have these people no shame?

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All Smiles – Obama & Clinton

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Error of judgement? – The former British Prime Minister, David Cameron

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Revolting – Hillary Clinton

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Rogues Gallery – Bill & Suu

Burma: Rohingya Muslim babies and children ‘being slaughtered with knives’, UN warns

Eight-month-old baby among children stabbed to death in their own homes during so-called ‘area clearance operations’ by Burmese security services, according to ‘alarming’ UN report

The Independent Online

Babies and children have been slaughtered with knives during a military campaign on Rohingya Muslims in Burma, according to a series of accounts in a disturbing UN report.

An eight-month-old, a five-year-old and a six-year-old were all reportedly stabbed to death in their own homes during so-called “area clearance operations” by Burmese security services, which are reported to have killed hundreds of people since 9 October, in a Rohingya-dominated area in northwest Rakhine State.

The chilling accounts, described by the UN as “revolting”, are outlined in a flash report from the United Nations Human Rights office. The report, which has been released early because of its alarming nature, is based on interviews with more than 200Rohingya refugees who have recently entered Bangladesh after fleeing from violence they faced in Rakhine.

One mother recounted in the report how her five-year-old daughter was trying to protect her from rape when a man “took out a long knife and killed her by slitting her throat”, while in another case an eight-month-old baby was reportedly killed while his mother was gang-raped by five security officers.

A 14-year-old girl also told of how, after being raped by soldiers, she saw her mother beaten to death and her two sisters, aged eight and 10, killed with knives.

The Burmese Government has repeatedly denied allegations of persecution against the Rohingya minority, rejecting any evidence as “propaganda” and arguing that police beatings were ordinary in many countries.

During the crackdown in Rakhine, armed members of Burma’s security services are said to have rounded up Rohingya men and taken them away in vehicles, before then going from house to house gang-raping or sexually harassing women, and sometimes killing children who cried or tried to protect their mothers.

In another case, recounted by a number of refugees in separate interviews, the army of Rakhine villagers locked an entire family, including elderly and disabled people, inside a house and set it on fire, killing them all.

Boys stand among debris after fire destroyed shelters at a camp for internally displaced Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine (Reuters)

Many witnesses and victims also described being taunted while they were being beaten, raped or rounded up, such as being told “you are Bangladeshis and you should go back” or “what can your Allah do for you? See what we can do?”

Other attacks against Rohingya Muslims by Burma’s security services include brutal beatings and disappearances. The vast majority of those interviewed said they had witnessed killings, and almost half reported having a family member who was killed, as well as family members who were missing.

More than half of the 101 women interviewed said they had been victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence.

Linnea Arvidsson, one of the four UN workers who interviewed Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and drew up the report, told The Independent she had never encountered such a “shocking” situation.

“It’s shocking. I’ve never encountered a situation like this, where you do 204 interviews and every single person you speak with has a traumatic story, whether their house was burnt, they’ve been raped or a relative was killed or taken away,” said Ms Arvidsson.

“In many cases we were the first people, other than their close family, who these people had spoken to. They would break down. Women and even grown men would be crying.

“The women cried when they spoke of being raped, or seeing their children being killed. Men cried when they related how their houses had been burnt, and their concerns over how they would now be able to support their families.

“It’s very rare for there to be such a high prevalence of violence. And when you think we spoke to just 204 people of a total of 88,000 who have fled the area, it’s really scary to think of the total numbers.”

The attacks on Rohingya in Rakhine were triggered last October when nine police officers were killed in attacks on posts along the border with Bangladesh, and the security services launched an intense crackdown on the Rohingya population to track down the insurgents behind the incident.

But the violence follows a long-standing pattern of violations and abuses, systematic discrimination and policies of exclusion and marginalisation against the Rohingya that have been in place for decades in northern Rakhine.

Ms Arvidsson added that the violent attacks against men, women and children were more than systematic operations in the search to find the insurgents responsible for the police killings in October, inferring that ethnic discrimination was also behind the slaughter of babies.

“To say these are area clearance operations looking for insurgents who killed police officers doesn’t make any sense. To kill babies, toddlers and young children and rape women when you are trying to find insurgents doesn’t make sense,” she told The Independent.

“The testimonies we gathered pointed at two intents as the motivation of this persecution: the collective punishment following humiliation over the attacks against police officers in October, and the ethnic and racial element – the disdain for this minority.

“You don’t slaughter eight-month-old babies because a police officer was attacked. It’s because you just don’t consider the child as human.”

The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, described the “devastating cruelty” against Rohingya children as “unbearable”, saying the allegations of babies being stabbed “beg” a reaction from the international community.

“The devastating cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable – what kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother’s milk,” he said.

“And for the mother to witness this murder while she is being gang-raped by the very security forces who should be protecting her – what kind of ‘clearance operation’ is this? What national security goals could possibly be served by this?

“I call on the international community, with all its strength, to join me in urging the leadership in Myanmar to bring such military operations to an end. The gravity and scale of these allegations begs the robust reaction of the international community.”

Mr al-Hussein also urged the authorities in Burma to bring an immediate end to the “grave human rights violations” against its people, saying: “The Government of Myanmar must immediately halt these grave human rights violations against its own people, instead of continuing to deny they have occurred, and accepts the responsibility to ensure that victims have access to justice, reparations and safety.”


A Geologist Bets on a North Sea Gusher That May Never Come

When many oil companies were hunkering down trying to save money, Robert Trice, a geologist, spent four months on a drilling rig in the rough waters west of Scotland’s Shetland Islands. He wanted to make sure he was there to make quick cost-cutting decisions, and he could not wait to see the results.

“Getting early geological information is worth its weight in gold,” he said in an interview.

The effort turned out to be worthwhile. A well, in an area called Lancaster, that Mr. Trice’s company, Hurricane Energy, drilled on, produced oil at the very healthy rate of 15,000 barrels a day, suggesting the presence of very promising resources.

Mr. Trice was taking advantage of the sharp drop in costs of drilling to pursue his sometimes quixotic 12-year quest to prove that undiscovered troves of oil still lie in British waters — if you just know where to look.

Most oil below Britain’s North Sea and elsewhere is found trapped between the grains of porous rock, like sandstone. Mr. Trice is, instead, drilling into granite formations almost three billion years old. Granite is crystalline and impermeable, but Mr. Trice is betting that myriad cracks or fractures in the rock contain large volumes of oil. These oil plays are known as “fractured basements” because the ancient rocks containing the oil are usually deep in the earth’s crust.

People who know Mr. Trice often use the words “visionary” and “determined” to describe him. A former employee of Royal Dutch Shell, Mr. Trice has been working on his project since 2005, spending about $200 million. The effort has been long, and has brought criticism from some of his investors.

Mr. Trice estimates that there are 2.3 billion barrels of oil trapped in the rocks at Lancaster, of which more than a half million barrels can be extracted. If these estimates are correct, Lancaster would be larger than any oil field developed in British waters over the last decade.

“The scale of oil that is down there is very large compared to everywhere else in Europe, “said Kevin Swann, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie, the energy consultants.

If Mr. Trice is successful, he could also open a new way of thinking about exploring in European waters. Hurricane also made two other discoveries last year in areas called Halifax and Lincoln, adding to others made in previous years. The company has locked up five exploration licenses around the finds that could prove valuable.

“If we demonstrate that these rock types are viable in the U.K., then this is potentially the tip of the iceberg,” said Mr. Trice, who owns 1.5 percent of Hurricane. “This is potentially billions of barrels.”

Lancaster was discovered in 1974 by Shell, but only recently has technology advanced enough that an explorer like Mr. Trice can hope to accurately map the best fracture zones and then drill horizontally across them, tapping oil. Only a coterie of industry experts work on these formations.

“It is a specialist play, “ said Roy Kelly, an executive at Kerogen Capital, a private equity fund that has invested more than $100 million in Hurricane, and a Hurricane board member. “You need specialists like Robert and his team.”

Hurricane is a tiny company with only 15 employees, but it has been one of the most active drillers in Europe. Other companies have reduced their exploration budgets to cope with lower oil prices. Mr. Trice drilled four wells last year when only 14 exploration wells were drilled in British waters.

The west of the Shetland area is the frontier of the British petroleum industry. The fields of the North Sea, long one of the world’s most prolific oil regions, are to the east and north of Scotland. With those resources depleted, operators have been moving west.

While explorers are excited about the west of Shetland because there has been much less drilling there than in the North Sea, remote locations and harsh weather mean that working in the area is expensive. The region has largely been the province of well-financed companies like BP, Chevron and Total rather than start-ups like Hurricane.

“It is an incredible story what Hurricane has achieved, “ said Ian Linnett, head of equity services at RPS Energy, an independent consulting firm hired by Hurricane to assess the company’s discoveries.

Mr. Linnett compared Hurricane’s exploits to last year’s shocking win by Leicester City of the Premier League, Britain’s top soccer competition, a team that is usually outgunned by bigger, free-spending teams.

Small companies like Hurricane take risks to make breakthrough discoveries and then large companies buy stakes in the projects or take the small companies over, but although Hurricane has looked for partners to provide the billions of dollars that bringing its discoveries to market would eventually require, the big oil companies have declined to bite.

Analysts say that while fractured basements have produced oil over long periods in places including Vietnam and Egypt, they are unproven in Britain. These plays are also geologically complex and risky, and people in the industry say it is very difficult to evaluate how much oil they actually contain. Even though the test wells have been prolific for a short time, that performance does not guarantee that the field would function as well long term. One major worry is that the wells will suck in water from underlying aquifers into the fractures, complicating operations.

“Nobody has jumped in because the technical risks are too high at this early stage, “ said Chris Cornelius, a British geologist and oil entrepreneur.

To win over skeptics, Mr. Trice is moving ahead with a major test of whether his theories work. He has lined up a floating production platform — essentially a ship’s hull bristling with oil production equipment — and plans to produce from two wells, starting in 2019.

To pay for this project, Hurricane, which is listed on the London AIM small company exchange, raised more than $500 million this year. The stock price fell sharply before the fund-raising, angering some investors. In September, for instance, the Crystal Amber Fund, a major shareholder in Hurricane, wrote in its annual report that it was “baffled” that the company “chose not to discuss or consult” with the fund on the tactics it used in rounding up the money. Hurricane says the funds enabled it to “stay on track.”

Despite such stumbles, Crystal Amber and other investors say that Hurricane’s discoveries offer potential rewards. The question is whether Mr. Trice and his team can actually prove that their ideas work.

“I think there is generally a very positive view of Dr. Trice in terms of his geological prowess,” said Sanjeev Bahl, an oil analyst at Edison, a market research firm. Hurricane’s management has “less of a track record in funding large oil and gas development projects, ” he said.

Mr. Trice says he is confident that the pilot project will make money:around $100 million a year if oil averages $50 a barrel. “There is some real money in this,” he said. “It is not just a science experiment.”




Iraqi troops seize parts of oil-rich Kurdish region that voted for independence

Iraqi forces drive towards Kurdish peshmerga positions on October 15, 2017, on the southern outskirts of Kirkuk.
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE | AFP | Getty Images
Iraqi forces drive towards Kurdish peshmerga positions on October 15, 2017, on the southern outskirts of Kirkuk.

Iraqi army units on Sunday seized positions in and around Kirkuk, a major oil city that’s dominated by the country’s Kurdish people and which voted for independence last month.

The Iraqi national army has taken control of Kirkuk’s industrial district and oil refinery, Reuters reported, citing a statement from the military.

Reports indicated that the Iraqi troops had not faced any opposition from Kurdish peshmerga militia fighters in the area. The Iraqi units went on the move toward Kirkuk around midnight local time in order to “safeguard” the area, military commanders said.

Oil prices reacted strongly to the news, with Brent crude rising as much as 1 percent to $57.88 a barrel during Asian trade on Monday. U.S. oil futures meanwhile were just below the $52 level.

“Just as the battle against ISIS seems to be finally ending, there is a new theater of battle emerging in Northern Iraq,” John Kilduff, partner at energy-focused investment manager Again Capital, told CNBC.

Moving toward airbase northwest of city

The Iraqi maneuvers come after Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region and other Kurdish-dominated areas including Kirkuk held an independence referendum last month.

The Kurds are a separate ethnic group from the Arabs and are primarily Sunni Muslims. The Iraqi army is dominated by Arabs who are Shiite Muslims.

A map of Kirkuk, showing the close proximity of the K-1 airbase, marked at upper left. Courtesy Google Maps.

In a Friday research note, risk consulting firm Eurasia Group warned that Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi “is increasingly committed to re-establishing central government control over the territories contested by Baghdad” and the Kurds.

Iraqi forces want to take over the Kurdish-controlled K-1 airbase, which used to be an Iraqi air force facility, a senior official told Reuters on Sunday.

Potentially big implications for oil

Iraq is the second-biggest oil producer in OPEC. Kurdish-controlled areas of Iraq are among the most productive in the country and contain much of its energy infrastructure.

“Oil prices could spike a lot higher on this development because this time is different, after years of war in the region. The battle, finally, is for the oil, and no other reason. In other words, here we go,” Kilduff said.

Kilduff added that oil infrastructure, which was largely spared in previous fighting, “will likely be the main target this time around.”

The Pentagon has urged both sides to “avoid additional escalatory actions” and warned that it opposed any destabilizing actions that detracted the fight against Islamic State militants, Reuters reported on Monday.

Kurds want independence, but the world balks

The Kurds have pressed for their own nation state for more than a century, but that movement gained momentum after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the rise of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, that followed.

Kurdish fighters were among the most effective troops for the Iraqi government during the Iraq War, and they have easily been the most successful force on the ground against ISIS, which swept the regular Iraqi army from the field in 2014.

“In the summer of 2014, Kurdish forces exploited the collapse of the Iraqi army in northern parts of the country to move into areas claimed both by the region and by federal authorities, especially oil-rich Kirkuk. The central government remains unlikely to accept this presence,” Eurasia Group said.

Kurdistan includes parts of Iraq, IranTurkey and Syria. Kurdish independence is opposed by every major player in the region — even including the United States, which has fought closely alongside the Kurds since 2003.

“The Kurds have no friends — Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Russia, and the U.S., among others, have decried their independence push,” Kilduff said.

—CNBC’s Patti Domm contributed to this report

Correction: This report has been updated to reflect that Kirkuk voted in favor of independence without formally declaring it.


Global Warming?

JANUARY 30, 2014

It snowed in Atlanta, and we are closed, for the foreseeable future—where is global warming? 


Atlanta is frozen. Here is what we looked like the other night.

Today I thought I might talk about the weather in Atlanta, and its connection to mathematical paradoxes.

It has been extremely cold the last few weeks. Our pipes froze and broke in my house, destroying our kitchen. Just Tuesday we had about two inches of snow; the city is paralyzed, and the main interstates are clogged with trucks and cars that cannot move. A baby was born last night in one of those cars. It is a mess.

Where is global warming when we need it? The claim that seems well founded is that the earth’s average temperature is increasing; hence, global warming. But we are freezing, Tech has been closed for the last two days and is closed today too. Is this consistent with global warming?


Global Temperature

Being stuck in our house gave me time to think about the issue of global warming. I started to read some of the papers on the claim that the global temperature is rising. I believe that CO{_{2}} gas is a major problem, am all for better treatment of the Earth, but I started to see some potential issues in how the climate experts compute the global temperature (GT).

Here are two of the issues that a quick search found:

  • What does GT even mean?
  • Is there potential misuse of averages?

The later is the one that I think is the most interesting, especially for me. It is a mathematical question.

The former question is about physics, so let me just mention one paper. Christopher Essex, Bjarne Andresen, and Ross McKitrick have written a paper called Does a Global Temperature Exist? They do not say GT is not rising, they say it is meaningless. Here is their abstract:

Physical, mathematical and observational grounds are employed to show that there is no physically meaningful global temperature for the Earth in the context of the issue of global warming. While it is always possible to construct statistics for any given set of local temperature data, an infinite range of such statistics is mathematically permissible if physical principles provide no explicit basis for choosing among them. Distinct and equally valid statistical rules can and do show opposite trends when applied to the results of computations from physical models and real data in the atmosphere. A given temperature field can be interpreted as both “warming” and “cooling” simultaneously, making the concept of warming in the context of the issue of global warming physically ill-posed.

This is an attack on their paper—asking if it is a joke? Statements like that disturb me—unless they are really out there—I prefer an attack to remain scientific. They have their defenders—see this for a defense of their paper. My suggestion is glance at the paper and decide for yourself. By the way, the writers Essex et al are from research universities and do not seem to me to just poking fun. They do make a point that I found interesting:

Despite popular thinking otherwise, temperature and energy are not equivalent. Temperatures can be very high at very low energies. While heat is a form of energy, temperature is, fundamentally, a measure of how energy is spread over quantum states. For example, radiation from a small laser powered by flashlight batteries can have temperatures peaking as high as {\approx 10^{11}}K. This is higher than many stellar interiors, but one cannot even feel the heat of the beam on one’s hand.

However, this is not my area of expertise.

Let’s leave this debate and move on to discuss the use and mis-use of averages.

The Mathematics Of Averages

The notion of average of a set of numbers is one of the most basic, most powerful, and most useful notions in elementary mathematics. Averages can be used to prove many theorems in combinatorics—this is one of main tools used in the probabilistic method created mainly by Paul Erdős.

I have been looking out my window to see white, no cars moving in my neighborhood, unplowed roads, and the local news showing jack-knifed trucks all over the city. Thousands of poor people were stuck in their cars all last night, with no food, no water, and little heat.

While I have been watching this I started to think about how averages can be mis-leading. Can we say anything mathematical about the rise of the average temperature of the planet and the freeze we are now experiencing? Indeed. Perhaps we can.

The Simpson Paradox

The Simpson Paradox was discussed by Edward Simpson in a 1951 paper. It was clearly known to statisticians earlier: by Karl Pearson in 1899 and Udny Yule in 1903. The paradox was named by Colin Blyth in 1972. It is an instance of Stigler’s law of eponymy, which says that laws are often not named after their discoverers. Many therefore call the effect the Yule—Simpson paradox.

The paradox arises in the following simple case: In the figure the two red lines are above the two blue lines. But when the data is combined the result flips: now the blue is above the red. This is the paradox.


The mathematical version is this: Suppose that

\displaystyle  \begin{array}{rcl}  	\frac{a_{1}}{b_{1}} &<& \frac{c_{1}}{d_{1}} \\ 	\frac{a_{2}}{b_{2}} &<& \frac{c_{2}}{d_{2}}. \end{array}

Then it need not follow that

\displaystyle  \frac{a_{1} + a_{2}}{b_{1} + b_{2}} < \frac{c_{1} + c_{2}}{d_{1} + d_{2}}.

For example{\frac{1}{3} < \frac{34}{100}} and {\frac{66}{100} < \frac{2}{3}}. But { \frac{67}{103} > \frac{36}{103}}.

Averages Of Averages

Daniel Lemire has a neat blog where he talked about the danger of taking averages. Another way to think about the Simpson paradox is to look at computing averages. Here is an example of this:

\displaystyle  3,4,6,5,4.5

has average {4.5}. Now let’s split the list into two:

\displaystyle  3,4


\displaystyle  6,5,4.5.

The average of the former is {3.5} and the latter has average {5.16666666667\dots}. However, the average of the averages is

\displaystyle  (5.16666666667 + 3.5)/2 < 4.5.

In general,

\displaystyle  (\mathsf{avg}(A) + \mathsf{avg}(B))/2 \neq \mathsf{avg}(A \cup B),

for disjoint sets {A} and {B}.

Connection With Global Warming?

What does Simpson paradox and taking averages of averages have to do with Global Warming. A lot. One of the fundamental problems that is faced is the computation of GT. This is done by repeatedly taking averages and more averages. This sounds on the face of it to be dangerous. Simpson anyone?

NOAA uses this average of average method, at least it appears to. See here for some details. One quote from there is a bit scary:

Different agencies use different methods for calculating a global average.

Do they get the same answer?

Can We Help?

Let try and be positive. Can we turn the computation of GT into an interesting theory question? I think there is a good chance that we can.

Let {f:E \times T \rightarrow \mathbb{R}} be a map from the earth {E} and a given time interval {T} to the local temps. We can view their averaging strategy as an attempt to compute the integral:

\displaystyle  \int_{E} \int_{T} f(x,t)dxdt.

They only have values of {f(x,t)} at certain places and at certain times. What is the best method for calculating this? It seems that this is a kind of quadrature problem, which is well studied. Can any of this theory be brought to bear here?

A novelty is perhaps that only certain values of {f(x,t)} are known. These values come from sensors and the location of the sensors is not uniform: that means that getting a value {f(x,t)} for certain {x \in E} is impossible, no matter what the time {t} is. Another issue is that sensors are of course noisy and that needs to be accounted for in any scheme.

Aside from this, can we suggest other measures? Total energy in the atmosphere and oceans? Perhaps a purely kinetic measure? Ken opines that the primary effects of the processes tabbed as responsible for global warming are greater energy and dynamism. Note that southern Australia had record heat that forced stoppages in the Australian Open tennis tournament, while the global warming movie “The Day After Tomorrow” featured a deep freeze in Scotland as an effect. He also notes that the University at Buffalo has been open all week and everything feels normal there.

Open Problems

For me the main open problem is when will we be able to leave our house? The sun is out in Atlanta. It is a balmy {20^{\circ}} Fahrenheit and it may go up to above freezing today. Time to dig out our car and get some food, since we are running low. When will Atlanta become normal again? For the rest the main question is there any better way to talk about global increase in the average temperatures, so we avoid any paradoxes?