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

COMMENT:

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.

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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.”

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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.”

 

 

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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.

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