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 81 
 on: Oct 28, 2014, 06:11 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Horse rescued from swimming pool in Phoenix, Arizona – video report

The Guardian
10/26/2014

A horse that fell into a swimming pool in Phoenix, Arizona, is rescued by firefighters. The animal was wandering outside its pen when it fell into the water in its owners' back garden and became stuck. Vets tranquilised the animal to stop it struggling, before hauling it out using straps. The horse was not injured and recovered well

Click to watch: http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/oct/28/horse-swimming-pool-phoenix-arizona-video

 82 
 on: Oct 28, 2014, 06:09 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Bird v machine: hawk attacks drone cam – video

The Guardian
10/28/2014

A drone equipped with a camera captures its own demise as a hawk attacks the device in mid-air. Drone operator Chris Schmidt was flying his machine at a park in Massachusetts on Wednesday when the red-tailed hawk swooped in for the kill. The bird was not injured (and the machine was unharmed) in the ordeal

Click to watch: http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/oct/10/hawk-attacks-drone-video

 83 
 on: Oct 28, 2014, 06:04 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

2030 pact UK's most significant environmental deal ever – Ed Davey

British understanding with Poland key to climate agreement, says energy minister, but devil is in the detail

Arthur Neslen   
theguardian.com, Monday 27 October 2014 16.20 GMT      

A minimum 40% plunge in Europe’s CO2 emissions by 2030 agreed by EU leaders last week was a “historic moment” on the road to a global climate deal, enabled by a new British relationship with Poland, the energy minister Ed Davey has told the Guardian.

The bloc’s proposed greenhouse gas curb will be studied closely by China, the US and other major emitters ahead of a global climate summit in Paris next year that aims to agree on the first new emissions-cutting treaty since the Kyoto protocol in 1997.

“I really think this package is quite a historic moment on the pathway to that elusive global deal,” Davey said in an exclusive interview. “It is probably the most significant environmental agreement that a British government has ever been involved in.”

Coal-dependent Poland had threatened to veto any agreement that raised its energy prices – adding to the country’s ‘renegade’ image in Brussels. But in lengthy talks, the Polish environment minister, Marcin Korolec, was persuaded by the UK’s agenda of an energy transition that was cost-effective, flexible, technology-neutral and secure.

“We spent more time with Polish ministers, officials and their energy sector than any other country – just to understand where they’re coming from because you have to respect other member states and find a way forward,” Davey said. “It was painstaking and took a protracted amount of time but it was worth it in the end.”

The agreement allows the EU to continue pursuing a roadmap that is intended to arrive at a reduction of carbon output of 80-95% by 2050, in line with IPCC recommendations for keeping within a 2C trajectory of global warming.

Asked whether Poland was committed to that end goal, Davey said: “I think they are. I think they see it as in their interests for energy security reasons.”

Polish government sources though, hedged when asked the same question. “There is no 2050 goal,” one said. “There is only 2030.”

The 2030 package has been criticised for granting Poland concessions including an estimated 200 million free carbon allowances (emissions credits) – worth about €4bn (£3bn) at a carbon price of €20 per tonne – and a new modernisation fund for poorer EU countries to upgrade their energy sector, which may be worth €6bn in the decade to 2030. Environmentalists fear that some of the fund could be spent on Polish coal-fired plants.

From the Polish perspective, indigenous coal supplies offer immediate energy security in the face of an often hostile neighbour to the east.

Davey said that the final deal had a “greater environmental integrity” than the 2020 climate package negotiated by Tony Blair, because it would give fewer free allowances to Polish coal plants. “Of course we were never going to get a deal with Poland if they weren’t able to burn more coal than possibly we were comfortable with,” he added.

“We had the UK on our side in many issues,” a Polish official confirmed. “The [Paris 2015] review clause was one of these. That helped. Apart from that, good working relations between Poland and the UK also helped when closing the deal.”

The review clause is an ambiguously worded text, promising to “revert” to the EU’s package after the Paris summit. EU leaders insist that the preceding passage in the text calling for ambitious counter-pledges from other states indicates that the 40% greenhouse gas cut may only get added to.

“The package is clear that it is ‘at least 40%’ – so the review is upwards only,” Davey said. “If we get a really good deal and America and China step forward, it means that we can go further. But the EU is saying that we are going to do 40% regardless of the rest of world.”

Warsaw attaches a different emphasis to the clause, related to the way that increased ambition may be imposed outside the bloc’s carbon market, but touching on the fractious arguments over qualified majority voting and, potentially, the national veto.

“The review clause and embedded ‘consensus’ are there to make sure the spirit of the conclusions is reflected when implementing the package,” a government source said, “so there is no ‘upwards-downwards’ discussion but [rather] how to make sure everyone feels safe with us further moving forward.”

This may set alarm bells ringing for environmental NGOs and clean energy industries, which have already condemned the package for a lack of legally-binding targets.

Friends of the Earth say that even the aspirational 27% improvement in efficiency by 2030 will be based on a projection made in 2007 before the economic crisis, when expected growth rates – and thus energy consumption – were far higher.

Ingrid Holmes, the associate director of the E3G thinktank told the Guardian that 2007 was the “worst possible” starting point for energy use reductions. “It’s before the slowdown so overestimates energy use compared to what we are doing,” she said. “It equals 12% energy savings in today’s economy.”

 84 
 on: Oct 28, 2014, 06:02 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Spanish authorities arrest 51 top figures in anti-corruption sweep

A day after PM Mariano Rajoy played down scale of corruption in Spain, members of his party were among those arrested

Ashifa Kassam in Madrid
The Guardian, Monday 27 October 2014 19.25 GMT      

Dozens of public officials, bureaucrats and business leaders have been arrested across Spain as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation, just a day after the prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, downplayed the scale of graft in the country.

Speaking on Sunday, Rajoy sought to depict the issue as a case of a few bad apples and one that must not define Spain. Noting that the justice system was doing its job, he said, “a few small incidents isn’t the same thing as 46 million people nor all of Spain”.

Less than 24 hours later, 51 people – including top members of Rajoy’s ruling People’s party (PP) – were arrested as part of an investigation into “a network of corruption” that involved contracts worth roughly €250m (£197m), the country’s anti-corruption prosecutor’s office said on Monday.

The investigation focused on the regions of Madrid, Murcia, León and Valencia, the prosecutor’s statement said. “The collusion between local councillors and civil servants, with builders and energy service companies, and the corruption of middle-men and key companies, has helped them to secure contracts worth around €250m in the past two years alone.”

Those arrested include Francisco Granados, a former high-ranking PP official in the Madrid region who stepped down in February after it emerged he had at least €1.5m in a Swiss bank account. As many as six mayors from the Madrid region were also reportedly among those arrested.

They face charges including money laundering, embezzlement and influence peddling.

On Monday the PP sought to take a tougher line on corruption than Rajoy did on Sunday. “The PP is indignant and rejects any type of corruption,” said a spokesman. Any members involved in the arrests would be immediately suspended from the party, he added.

The Socialist party also said it would expel any of its members arrested on Monday.

The raid is the latest in a series of scandals that have entangled Spanish politicians and bankers. An investigation into the misuse of company credit cards by more than 80 officials connected to savings bank Caja Madrid has dominated headlines in recent weeks.

The officials allegedly racked up charges on the cards of more than €15m on everything from groceries to safaris. The bill for Rodrigo Rato, a former head of the International Monetary Fund and a former PP finance minister, came to more than €54,800. That of chief executive Miguel Blesa came to €436,700, including €10,000 spent on wine and more than €1,500 at ice cream shops.

The lavish spending continued for many of them in 2010, when Caja Madrid folded into Bankia. Two years later, facing near-collapse, Bankia became the symbol of the country’s financial crisis and forced Spain to seek an EU bailout.

Corruption scandals have left few among the Spanish ruling class untainted, engulfing politicians on the left and right of the spectrum, as well as businesses, unions, football clubs and even the king’s sister.

As corruption consistently ranks as a top concern for Spaniards, second only to unemployment, and with an eye on upcoming municipal and regional elections in the spring, Spain’s political parties have been keen to appear as if they are tackling the issue. The rising popularity of Podemos, an anti-austerity party that promises to rid Spain of corruption, has also been credited with sparking a shift in the political attitude towards corruption.

 85 
 on: Oct 28, 2014, 06:01 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

UK axes support for Mediterranean migrant rescue operation

Refugees and human rights organisations react with anger as minister says saving people encourages others to risk voyage

Rescued migrant: ‘I feel for those who were with me. They got asylum in the sea’

Alan Travis, home affairs editor
The Guardian, Monday 27 October 2014 20.52 GMT   
   
Britain will not support any future search and rescue operations to prevent migrants and refugees drowning in the Mediterranean, claiming they simply encourage more people to attempt the dangerous sea crossing, Foreign Office ministers have quietly announced.

Refugee and human rights organisations reacted with anger to the official British refusal to support a sustained European search and rescue operation to prevent further mass migrant drownings, saying it would contribute to more people dying needlessly on Europe’s doorstep.

The British refusal comes as the official Italian sea and rescue operation, Mare Nostrum, is due to end this week after contributing over the past 12 months to the rescue of an estimated 150,000 people since the Lampedusa tragedies in which 500 migrants died in October 2013.

The Italian operation will now end without a similar European search and rescue operation to replace it. The Italian authorities have said their operation, which involves a significant part of the Italian navy, is unsustainable. Despite its best efforts, more than 2,500 people are known to have drowned or gone missing in the Mediterranean since the start of the year.

Instead of the Italian operation, a limited joint EU “border protection” operation, codenamed Triton and managed by Frontex, the European border agency, is to be launched on 1 November. Crucially, it will not include search and rescue operations across the Mediterranean, just patrols within 30 miles of the Italian coast.

Human rights organisations have raised fears that more migrants and refugees will die in their attempt to reach Europe from the north African coast. The hard-pressed Italian navy will be left to mount what search and rescue operations it can. The new European operation will have only a third of the resources of the Italian operation that is being phased out.

British policy was quietly spelled out in a recent House of Lords written answer by the new Foreign Office minister, Lady Anelay: “We do not support planned search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean,” she said, adding that the government believed there was “an unintended ‘pull factor’, encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths”.

Anelay said: “The government believes the most effective way to prevent refugees and migrants attempting this dangerous crossing is to focus our attention on countries of origin and transit, as well as taking steps to fight the people smugglers who wilfully put lives at risk by packing migrants into unseaworthy boats.”

The Home Office told the Guardian the government was not taking part in Operation Triton at present beyond providing one “debriefer” – a single immigration officer – to gather intelligence about the migrants who continue to make the dangerous journey to Italy.

Other EU countries have responded to the call for help with two fixed-wing aircraft and three patrol vessels.

It is understood that Britain does not rule out providing further support later for an operation it says will be limited to “border management”. As it does not involve search and rescue missions it will not be covered by British government policy which regards the rescue of desperate migrants as only encouraging others to make the hazardous journey.

The home secretary, Theresa May, was among justice and home affairs ministers who agreed earlier this month to the ending of the Italian search and rescue operation and to deploying Operation Triton without delay in order to “reinforce border surveillance in the waters close to the Italian shores”.

European interior ministers acknowledged that the situation in the Mediterranean was of the greatest concern “as there are indications that the current trend will continue and the situation even risks deteriorating further”.

As well as deploying “Task Force Mediterranean”, which includes two fixed-wing surveillance aircraft and three patrol vessels in Operation Triton, ministers agreed a series of North African measures including finding ways of curtailing the supply of vessels from Tunisia and Egypt used by people smugglers.

May told the Commons the meeting had agreed “the prompt withdrawal of the Mare Nostrum operation … and for all member states to comply fully with their obligations under EU migration and asylum [policies].”

Admiral Filippo Maria Foffi, the commander in charge of the Italian naval squadron involved in Mare Nostrum, is expected to spell out on Tuesday the impact of its cancellation.

The British Refugee Council chief executive, Maurice Wren, responding to the Foreign Office refusal to take part in future search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean said: “The British government seems oblivious to the fact that the world is in the grip of the greatest refugee crisis since the second world war.

“People fleeing atrocities will not stop coming if we stop throwing them life-rings; boarding a rickety boat in Libya will remain a seemingly rational decision if you’re running for your life and your country is in flames. The only outcome of withdrawing help will be to witness more people needlessly and shamefully dying on Europe’s doorstep.

“The answer isn’t to build the walls of fortress Europe higher, it’s to provide more safe and legal channels for people to access protection.”

Tony Bunyan, director of Statewatch, which documents European justice and home affairs policies, added: “The government’s justification for not participating in Triton is cynical and an abdication of responsibility by saying that not helping to rescue people fleeing from war, persecution and poverty who are likely to perish is an acceptable way to discourage immigration.”

Amnesty International wrote to the home secretary last month criticising the woeful response from European countries to the unacceptable scale of the loss of life from the influx of refugees and migrants on boats across the Mediterranean.

 86 
 on: Oct 28, 2014, 05:58 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Vladimir Putin’s Eurasian Economic Union gets ready to take on the world

Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus at heart of post-Soviet trading bloc that aspires to commerce but not community

Benoît Vitkine   
Guardian Weekly, Tuesday 28 October 2014 10.04 GMT   
   
Until the last moment Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, held out for 7 October, to coincide with Vladimir Putin’s birthday. But in the end the parliament in Minsk ratified the treaty on Eurasian Economic Union on 9 October, the day before its first three members – Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan – were due to meet.

It would be simplistic to reduce the nascent EEU to a toy in the hands of the Russian president. When it comes into force, on 1 January 2015, it will be the most advanced organisation for regional cooperation the former Soviet bloc has seen, an achievement preceded by many false starts.

In fact, the EEU already exists. It has a headquarters – a glass building near Paveletsky railway station in Moscow – and officials who would not look out of place in Brussels. Its member states have already lifted some internal customs barriers and harmonised others for the outside world. So much for the practical side, what analyst Nicu Popescu describes in an article for the European Union Institute of Security Studies as the “real” EEU, a trading alliance slated to guarantee free circulation of goods, services and assets, but not hydrocarbons.

The other Eurasian Union is “imaginary”, the brainchild of Putin, first mentioned in October 2011. As he sees it, this organisation will be the equal of the EU and other major regional entities, a powerful bloc that will matter on the world stage. Its official formation is also intended to show the world that Russia has fully recovered, while crowning Putin’s efforts to pull together the states making up the post-Soviet sphere of influence. Those who deride the scheme see it as an attempt to restore the empire.

This dream foundered last November in Kiev, when the Maidan protests started. They carried away President Viktor Yanukovych, guilty in the eyes of the demonstrators of refusing an association agreement with the EU. Ukraine, with its population of 45 million, was supposed to play a key role in the EEU, on account of its economic clout and the place it occupies in the Russian imagination and worldview. “Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire,” the former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in The Grand Chessboard, in 1997.

Ukraine had to be punished, for wanting to move closer to Europe but also for refusing to join the EEU, after Yanukovych’s demise. Moscow started by restricting trade with its neighbour, then annexed part of its territory (Crimea) and finally fomented war in its eastern extremity. Russia has also put pressure on Moldova and Georgia, both of which have so far shunned the EEU.

Belarus and Kazakhstan have often voiced their concern at the treatment meted out to Ukraine. They have worked to limit the political weight of the Union too. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev lobbied hard to get the word “economic” in the title and both states demanded a high price – gas or cash – for joining.

Although Putin is determined to push the EEU perimeter as far as possible, it is not yet clear what real economic benefit countries will gain from membership. Apart from Belarus and Uzbekistan, all former Soviet states have stronger commercial links with either the EU or China than with Russia.

Since the first customs measures were introduced in 2010, only Belarus has benefited. Enlargement to include poorer states such as Armenia, Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan would make the balance of the EEU even more precarious.

But what counts for Putin is the image of Russia restored and the bolstered notion of a president embodying a conservative bulwark against western decadence. As Popescu puts it, the Russian president is prepared “to spend a few billion a year on a foreign policy project that, in his opinion, brings geopolitical benefits to his country, as well as domestic political benefits”.

So who else may join? Armenia, which has Russian troops on the ground and is counting on Moscow’s support in its conflict with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, has announced plans to join shortly. The president of Kyrgyzstan, tipped to be next on the list, has displayed only lukewarm enthusiasm, a stance he made clear in December 2013: “Ukraine has a choice, but unfortunately we don’t have much of an alternative.”

Moscow’s bear hug inspires fear and it has little in the way of soft power or other attractions to compensate. At an institutional level the EEU resembles the EU, but its workings are likely to be much more top-down, hinging on the power and domination of Moscow. “There is no concept of building a community in the EEU,” says Thomas Gomart, an analyst at France’s International Relations Institute, “but given trends in the EU, the Russians think their model is more viable.”
Introducing the EEU

Members: Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus

Prospective member: Armenia

Possible members: Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan

Wooed: Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan

Population: 173 million (Russia, including Crimea, 146 million; Kazakhstan, 17 million; Belarus, 10 million)

Total GDP: $2.4 trillion

Share of world gas reserves: 20%

Share of world oil reserves: 15%

 87 
 on: Oct 28, 2014, 05:57 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Vladimir Putin’s Eurasian Economic Union gets ready to take on the world

Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus at heart of post-Soviet trading bloc that aspires to commerce but not community

Benoît Vitkine   
Guardian Weekly, Tuesday 28 October 2014 10.04 GMT   
   
Until the last moment Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, held out for 7 October, to coincide with Vladimir Putin’s birthday. But in the end the parliament in Minsk ratified the treaty on Eurasian Economic Union on 9 October, the day before its first three members – Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan – were due to meet.

It would be simplistic to reduce the nascent EEU to a toy in the hands of the Russian president. When it comes into force, on 1 January 2015, it will be the most advanced organisation for regional cooperation the former Soviet bloc has seen, an achievement preceded by many false starts.

In fact, the EEU already exists. It has a headquarters – a glass building near Paveletsky railway station in Moscow – and officials who would not look out of place in Brussels. Its member states have already lifted some internal customs barriers and harmonised others for the outside world. So much for the practical side, what analyst Nicu Popescu describes in an article for the European Union Institute of Security Studies as the “real” EEU, a trading alliance slated to guarantee free circulation of goods, services and assets, but not hydrocarbons.

The other Eurasian Union is “imaginary”, the brainchild of Putin, first mentioned in October 2011. As he sees it, this organisation will be the equal of the EU and other major regional entities, a powerful bloc that will matter on the world stage. Its official formation is also intended to show the world that Russia has fully recovered, while crowning Putin’s efforts to pull together the states making up the post-Soviet sphere of influence. Those who deride the scheme see it as an attempt to restore the empire.

This dream foundered last November in Kiev, when the Maidan protests started. They carried away President Viktor Yanukovych, guilty in the eyes of the demonstrators of refusing an association agreement with the EU. Ukraine, with its population of 45 million, was supposed to play a key role in the EEU, on account of its economic clout and the place it occupies in the Russian imagination and worldview. “Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire,” the former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in The Grand Chessboard, in 1997.

Ukraine had to be punished, for wanting to move closer to Europe but also for refusing to join the EEU, after Yanukovych’s demise. Moscow started by restricting trade with its neighbour, then annexed part of its territory (Crimea) and finally fomented war in its eastern extremity. Russia has also put pressure on Moldova and Georgia, both of which have so far shunned the EEU.

Belarus and Kazakhstan have often voiced their concern at the treatment meted out to Ukraine. They have worked to limit the political weight of the Union too. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev lobbied hard to get the word “economic” in the title and both states demanded a high price – gas or cash – for joining.

Although Putin is determined to push the EEU perimeter as far as possible, it is not yet clear what real economic benefit countries will gain from membership. Apart from Belarus and Uzbekistan, all former Soviet states have stronger commercial links with either the EU or China than with Russia.

Since the first customs measures were introduced in 2010, only Belarus has benefited. Enlargement to include poorer states such as Armenia, Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan would make the balance of the EEU even more precarious.

But what counts for Putin is the image of Russia restored and the bolstered notion of a president embodying a conservative bulwark against western decadence. As Popescu puts it, the Russian president is prepared “to spend a few billion a year on a foreign policy project that, in his opinion, brings geopolitical benefits to his country, as well as domestic political benefits”.

So who else may join? Armenia, which has Russian troops on the ground and is counting on Moscow’s support in its conflict with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, has announced plans to join shortly. The president of Kyrgyzstan, tipped to be next on the list, has displayed only lukewarm enthusiasm, a stance he made clear in December 2013: “Ukraine has a choice, but unfortunately we don’t have much of an alternative.”

Moscow’s bear hug inspires fear and it has little in the way of soft power or other attractions to compensate. At an institutional level the EEU resembles the EU, but its workings are likely to be much more top-down, hinging on the power and domination of Moscow. “There is no concept of building a community in the EEU,” says Thomas Gomart, an analyst at France’s International Relations Institute, “but given trends in the EU, the Russians think their model is more viable.”
Introducing the EEU

Members: Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus

Prospective member: Armenia

Possible members: Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan

Wooed: Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan

Population: 173 million (Russia, including Crimea, 146 million; Kazakhstan, 17 million; Belarus, 10 million)

Total GDP: $2.4 trillion

Share of world gas reserves: 20%

Share of world oil reserves: 15%

 88 
 on: Oct 28, 2014, 05:52 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Lithuania Offers Example of How to Break Russia’s Grip on Energy

By JAMES KANTER
OCT. 27, 2014
IHT

KLAIPEDA, Lithuania — The vast ship that eased into this misty seaport early on Monday was hailed by American and European officials as the strongest signal that the stranglehold Russia has on the Baltics and their energy needs can be broken.

The vessel, the Independence, is a floating factory for converting liquefied natural gas into the burnable variety. It represents a direct challenge to the Russian way of doing business as many other countries in the European Union have dithered over how to deal with President Vladimir V. Putin and his attempts to reassert Russian influence over parts of the former Soviet empire like Ukraine.

“We are now an energy-secure state,” Dalia Grybauskaite, the Lithuanian president, said at a ceremony that featured martial touches like a naval brass band, red flares and a cannon salute. “Nobody else from now on will be able to dictate to us the price of gas, or to buy our political will, or to bribe our politicians.”

“If we don’t like it, we can drop it fully and totally,” Ms. Grybauskaite said, referring to a possible severing of relations with Gazprom, the government-controlled Russian gas exporter, which supplies all of Lithuania’s gas.

For Lithuania, which is just slightly larger than West Virginia, the floating terminal — a faster and generally cheaper option than building a terminal on land — is a big step toward energy independence from Russia. Europe has long declared such independence to be its goal, but has done little to achieve it. That makes Lithuania’s efforts to break free of Gazprom a significant example of how even countries that are bound by geography and history to Russia’s energy behemoth can find alternatives.

“This was done because the government of Lithuania wanted to make this happen,” Amos J. Hochstein, acting special envoy for international energy affairs at the State Department, told a gas conference here on Monday. “This needs to be the inspiration for the rest of Europe,” said Mr. Hochstein, who urged the European Union to approve a short list of strategic infrastructure projects intended to improve its energy security.

The American focus on the issue began in late 2008, when the government contributed more than $800,000 to Lithuania to help develop technical specifications for a liquefied natural gas terminal to provide “increased flexibility and competition” for the country.

The Lithuanian government gave final approval for the project in 2010.

Ms. Grybauskaite, who previously said that local companies and lawmakers with links to Gazprom and other Russian businesses meddled in the liquefied natural gas project, said on Monday that more energy independence could have been achieved sooner had there been greater political will in Lithuania.

Lithuanian officials say they had already pushed Russia into bargaining — something it has long resisted — when Gazprom cut its gas prices by about 20 percent in May.

“Consumers are already feeling lower prices of gas” as “a natural outcome of our terminal construction,” Rokas Masiulis, the Lithuanian energy minister, told reporters on Monday. The price that Lithuania was paying for liquefied natural gas was in “a very similar range” to the lower Gazprom price, he said.

The first shipment of liquefied natural gas, set to arrive on Tuesday from the Norwegian company Statoil, is equivalent to 60 million cubic meters of natural gas. Further shipments from Statoil should reach the equivalent of 540 million cubic meters annually in the next five years. That is a fifth of Lithuania’s needs.

Lithuania says the terminal, the only operation of its kind in the region, could become a beachhead to supply most of the needs of the other two Baltic states, Latvia and Estonia, which also rely on Russia for gas.

Even so, the company managing the project, Klaipedos Nafta, the state-controlled oil terminal operator, has not yet sold the majority of the liquefied natural gas terminal’s capacity — one of the factors that raise the important question of whether the terminal makes economic as well as political sense.

“Next year will show very real interest for the terminal,” said Mr. Masiulis, the energy minister.

Another challenge for the project would be if Gazprom dropped prices to Lithuania to the point that running the terminal became uneconomical.

Gazprom shrugged off the arrival of the vessel.

“If Lithuanian consumers are willing to pay more to reduce their dependence, it’s their business,” a spokesman, Sergei Kupriyanov, said by email.

The vessel was built in South Korea for the Norwegian company Hoegh, which is leasing it to Klaipedos Nafta under an arrangement that gives the Lithuanians the right to buy it after a decade.

Lithuania is spending 448 million euros, or $568 million, for construction, maintenance and a 10-year lease on the floating terminal, including financing for state-backed loans, said Mantas Bartuska, the chief executive of Klaipedos Nafta.

The vessel, which is three soccer fields in length and formally known as a floating gas storage and regasification unit, could not have been more timely for Lithuanians. The country of about three million people was the first former Soviet republic to reclaim its political independence. This year, Lithuania received approval to join the eurozone on Jan. 1, 2015. But it has waited 25 years to regain some control over its energy, which is a major expense for Lithuanian households and businesses.

In the past, Lithuania paid more than its Baltic neighbors for Russian gas. Lithuania also says it feels more exposed than Latvia, which has gas storage facilities, and Estonia, which has shale oil resources. Gazprom had an ownership stake in Lithuania’s natural gas distribution network until this summer and part of Lithuania’s electrical infrastructure is still controlled from Moscow.

Before the arrival of the vessel, Lithuanian commentators warned of the potential for Russian sabotage, and parts of the port were locked down Monday for its arrival. Linas Linkevicius, the Lithuanian foreign minister, suggested on his Twitter account on Oct. 19 that reports of a lost submarine in Swedish waters represented a “weird coincidence” when the liquefied natural gas vessel was crossing the Baltic Sea.

Lithuanians continue to complain that the West has underestimated the dangers posed by Russia, which has an enclave in Kaliningrad, on the border with Lithuania, where Russia keeps a naval base.

For analysts like Jonathan Stern of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, the project comes at the right time for Lithuania, partly because liquefied natural gas prices are expected to ease over the next two years.

“One of the most interesting questions is when the long-term contracts run out in Lithuania next year,” Mr. Stern said, referring to Gazprom’s sales agreements. “Will the Lithuanians say they do not want to extend the contracts” because it is “geopolitically unacceptable to depend on Russian gas at all?”

 89 
 on: Oct 28, 2014, 05:50 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
 SPIEGEL ONLINE
10/27/2014 05:12 PM

Chief MH17 Investigator on German Claims: 'We Will Need Evidence'

Interview Conducted by Rainer Leurs

In an interview, the Dutch official leading the investigation of the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine addresses reports that German intelligence is convinced the plane got shot down by pro-Russian separatists.

SPIEGEL: Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), believes that pro-Russian separatists shot down the aircraft with surface-to-air missiles. A short time ago, several members of the German parliament were presented with relevant satellite images. Are you familiar with these photos?

Westerbeke: Unfortunately we are not aware of the specific images in question. The problem is that there are many different satellite images. Some can be found on the Internet, whereas others originate from foreign intelligence services.

SPIEGEL: High-resolution images -- those from US spy satellites, for example -- could play a decisive role in the investigation. Have the Americans provided you with those images?

Westerbeke: We are not certain whether we already have everything or if there are more -- information that is possibly even more specific. In any case, what we do have is insufficient for drawing any conclusions. We remain in contact with the United States in order to receive satellite photos.

SPIEGEL: So you're saying there hasn't been any watertight evidence so far?

Westerbeke: No. If you read the newspapers, though, they suggest it has always been obvious what happened to the airplane and who is responsible. But if we in fact do want to try the perpetrators in court, then we will need evidence and more than a recorded phone call from the Internet or photos from the crash site. That's why we are considering several scenarios and not just one.

SPIEGEL: Moscow has been spreading its own version for some time now, namely that the passenger jet was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet. Do you believe such a scenario is possible?

Westerbeke: Going by the intelligence available, it is my opinion that a shooting down by a surface to air missile remains the most likely scenario. But we are not closing our eyes to the possibility that things might have happened differently.

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 on: Oct 28, 2014, 05:48 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Paris Talks Bring Together Leaders over Disputed Karabakh Region

by Naharnet Newsdesk
28 October 2014, 07:09

French President Francois Hollande held talks with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan Monday in a fresh push to end the festering conflict over the disputed region of Nagorny Karabakh.

The summit in Paris enabled "the resumption of a direct dialogue" between the presidents of the two countries, though no accord was reached, the French presidency said in a statement after the talks ended.

The Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders however agreed to an exchange of information about people reported missing in the conflict, under the aegis of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the statement added.

The meeting followed a visit by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to both countries last week after a sharp escalation in violence over the region in recent months amid European concerns about the war raging in Ukraine.

The conflict goes back to the 1990s when Armenian separatists supported by Yerevan seized the mountainous region, which is mainly inhabited by ethnic Armenians, from Azerbaijan in a war that left some 30,000 people dead.

Despite years of negotiations since a 1994 ceasefire, the two sides have not yet signed a final peace deal on Karabakh, still internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.

Oil-rich Baku, whose military spending exceeds Armenia's entire state budget, has threatened to take back the region by force if negotiations do not yield results.

Armenia -- heavily armed by Russia -- says it could crush any offensive.

Hollande held a meeting first with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and then with Armenia's Serzh Sarkisian, ahead of three-way talks and a dinner that took place in "an excellent atmosphere," the French leader's office said.

Although few expected a breakthrough in Paris after more than two decades of bloodshed, a French diplomatic source said it was "important to bring the two presidents together, to call on them to work together, to get back to the table to reduce tensions".

The two leaders have said they will continue their dialogue, notably on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly next year, the French presidency said.

Hollande had urged them to overcome their differences and prepare their people for a peace deal.

He hosted the talks in Paris with representatives of the Minsk group of mediators in the conflict appointed by the OSCE in 1992, which France co-chairs with Russia and the United States.

Last August saw a dramatic surge in violence across the countries' border and along the Karabakh frontline as more than 20 troops died in the deadliest clashes since the ceasefire.

Tensions between Azerbaijan and Moscow-allied Armenia have escalated as Russia confronts the West over Ukraine, where government forces are battling pro-Russian separatists.

Source: Agence France Presse

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