Thursday, May 31, 2012

Eh, too, Canada?

Guambat has been perhaps overly intrigued with the ructions in the South China Sea, most recently this. It's a subject that has engaged all littoral states.

And now Canada, too, seems to be taking the cause up, literally. Eh?

Troubled waters: Canada and the South China Sea
Although Canada’s friends in the region – Australia, Japan and the United States – do not claim any part of the South China Sea, they are becoming concerned about Chinese belligerence. In addition to confronting Vietnamese and Philippine ships, Chinese ships and aircraft have harassed U.S. vessels operating in the South China Sea. The United States, Japan and Australia are thus becoming concerned that China seeks to limit their access to its claimed waters. Problematically, these claimed waters amount to the entire littoral area from the Yellow Sea to the waters off Indonesia, bounded on the east by the islands of Japan and the Philippines.

The Harper government has made a clear decision to engage East Asian states, particularly China, as it attempts to capitalize on the second half of the “Asian Century.” Ottawa has made no secret of its preference for focusing this engagement on economic issues as part of a strategy to diversify away from U.S. markets.

Regional tensions threaten Ottawa’s preference. Canada’s diplomatic track record in the region, such as it exists, has previously been centred on supporting maritime security initiatives in Southeast Asia. It has a history of diplomatic activism in this policy realm. Canada has been silent, however, on the recent flare-ups in maritime East Asia. Ottawa appears reluctant to weigh in on security issues to which it is not a party

Quiet diplomatic pressure has been applied to Canada by its friends in the region to address the growing disconnect between China, its neighbours and the United States on maritime security and navigational issues in East Asia. One option is for Ottawa to issue a diplomatic statement supporting the peaceful resolution of the disputes in the South China Sea and articulating its stance on navigational freedoms through regional seas. Beyond issuing such a statement, Canada could leverage its legacy as an impartial dialogue partner, built during the 1990s, to once again facilitate dialogue between China and its neighbours.

additional diplomatic support from Canada on South China Sea issues may in fact do little to modify Chinese behaviour. Indeed, a public Canadian statement that supports the U.S.-Japanese position on freedom of navigation in the South China Sea could further reinforce the dominant nationalist narrative within China, in which Western states seek to impose their will on China. Therefore, continued Canadian ambiguity on South China Sea issues, however challenging, may be the best way forward.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

It takes a thief

With Personal Data in Hand, Thieves File Early and Often
The United States attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Wifredo A. Ferrer, called identity-theft tax fraud an “epidemic.” The agency, which had $300 million cut from its budget this year, has invested the same amount in combating the problem.

“The I.R.S. is doing what they can to prevent this, but this is like a tsunami of fraud,” Mr. Ferrer said. “Everywhere I go, every dinner, every function I attend, someone will come up to me and tell me they are a victim — people in this office, police officers, firefighters.”

The criminals, some of them former drug dealers, outwit the Internal Revenue Service by filing a return before the legitimate taxpayer files. Then the criminals receive the refund, sometimes by check but more often though a convenient but hard-to-trace prepaid debit card.

In South Florida and Tampa, the problem has gotten so bad that police officers conducting unrelated searches or simple traffic stops routinely stumble across ledgers with names and Social Security numbers, boxes of stolen medical records and envelopes with debit cards.

With nothing more than ledgers of stolen identity information — Social Security numbers and their corresponding names and birth dates — criminals have electronically filed thousands of false tax returns with made-up incomes and withholding information and have received hundreds of millions of dollars in wrongful refunds, law enforcement officials say.

The government-approved cards, intended to help people who have no bank accounts, are widely available in many places, including tax preparation companies. Some of them are mailed, and the swindlers often provide addresses for vacant houses, even buying mailboxes for them, and then collect the refunds there.

Postal workers have been harassed, robbed and, in one case, murdered as they have made their rounds with mail trucks full of debit cards and master keys to mailboxes.

Any good news?
Mr. Ferrer, the United States attorney, said he had seen tax fraud overtake violent crime in Overtown, a poor, high-crime section of Miami.
As the law begins to crack down on these crack heads, Guambat hopes they include marketing companies, social media and other identity thieves in the sweep.

Better yet, while they're working on identity theft, maybe they can find a cure for Alzheimers.

But those guys are mere pikers. You gotta respect this 50 year old woman:

Former Lloyds worker Jessica Harper in £2.5m fraud charge
Jessica Harper, 50, of Croydon, south London, is accused of submitting false invoices to claim payments, between September 2008 and December 2011.

At the time she was working as head of fraud and security for digital banking and allegedly made false claims totalling £2,463,750.

Andrew Penhale, from the Crown Prosecution Service's Central Fraud Group, said: "The charge relates to an allegation that between 1 September 2008 and 21 December 2011, Jessica Harper dishonestly and with the intention of making a gain for herself, abused her position as an employee of Lloyds Banking Group, in which she was expected to safeguard the financial interests of Lloyds Banking Group, by submitting false invoices to claim payments totalling £2,463,750.88, to which she was not entitled.

Guambat reckons, but for the part of the charge that reads "by submitting false invoices to claim payments totalling £2,463,750.88", a whole lot more heads would roll at Lloyds, and elsewhere.

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Risky business

With such stellar experience as sitting on AIG's governance board, what went wrong?

JPMorgan Gave Risk Oversight to Museum Head With AIG Role Bloomberg
The three directors who oversee risk at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) include a museum head who sat on American International Group Inc.’s governance committee in 2008, the grandson of a billionaire and the chief executive officer of a company that makes flight controls and work boots.

Futter, a former president of Barnard College in New York, joined the JPMorgan board in 1997. Her re-election this year was opposed by Washington-based investor group Change to Win and shareholder advocate Glass Lewis & Co. over her previous experience on the boards of AIG and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.

Futter headed the audit committee of Bristol-Myers, a New York-based drugmaker, during an accounting scandal that began in 1999 and that the company settled for $300 million to avoid criminal prosecution. She also served on AIG’s compliance and governance committees, resigning in July 2008 before the insurer took a $182.3 billion bailout from the U.S. government.

Futter was criticized in newspapers and industry publications after she joined AIG’s board for accepting a $36.5 million donation for the museum from a charity run by then-CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg.

JPMorgan is a corporate sponsor of the museum and gave $1.5 million for an exhibit about water, according to the organization’s 2008 annual report. Dimon’s family foundation donated $25,000 in 2009, according to tax filings.

Kristin Lemkau, a spokeswoman for the bank, wouldn’t say how much JPMorgan or Dimon has donated to the museum, except that the gifts are less than 2 percent of the organization’s annual revenue, the limit set by the New York Stock Exchange for donations to charities that directors help manage.

The board reviewed the bank’s charitable donations and determined that “none of them create a material relationship” that would impede the independence or judgment of its directors, according to company disclosures.

Futter has received personal loans from JPMorgan, according to the company’s proxy statement, and was awarded $245,000 in cash and stock for her work on the board last year. The bank didn’t disclose the amount of the loans. Futter didn’t return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

The younger Crown, who worked at bond-trading firm Salomon Brothers Inc. for five years until 1985, was a member of the search committee that chose Dimon to head Bank One Corp., acquired by JPMorgan in 2004. Dimon and Crown’s father, Lester, are overseers of the Harvard Business School Club of Chicago.

The committee, which met seven times last year and hasn’t changed its composition since 2008, approves the bank’s risk- appetite policy and oversees the chief risk officer, according to the company’s April 4 proxy statement.

What the risk committee of the biggest U.S. lender lacks, and what the five next largest competitors have, are directors who worked at a bank or as financial risk managers. The only member with any Wall Street experience, James Crown, hasn’t been employed in the industry for more than 25 years.

“It seems hard to believe that this is good enough,” said Anat Admati, a professor of finance at Stanford University who studies corporate governance. “It’s a massive task to watch the risk of JPMorgan.”


Make her day -- shoot her

Then throw her in the pen for trespass.

Shot by Tim Justice and the Queen of the Road, also really nice looking folks.

All three will be a long time getting over this one.


Friday, May 18, 2012

The running of the bears

Spanish Banks Said to Be Set for Downgrade by Moody’s Today (Update 1)
Moody’s Investors Service is set to downgrade the credit ratings of Spanish banks later today, said two people with knowledge of the situation.

Fitch Calls For Capital Increase As Run On Spanish Banks Continues
Fitch ratings has called for a huge increase in capital reserves at the world’s biggest banks today as the markets reel from the run on Spain’s banks. The agency recommended banks across the world raise a total of $556 billion an increase of 23 percent over what the banks are currently holding.

Fitch made the recommendations on 29 of the world’s systemically important banks. That list includes Goldman Sachs Group, HSBC Holdings plc, Mizuho Financial Group Inc., Bank of America Corp., Societe General S.A., and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Banco Santander S.A., a Spanish banking giant, is among the list of the most important 29 banks. It is not at as much risk from the current run on deposits in the country but suffers from the aura of the crisis.

The increase in the amount of money banks have to hold and simply sit on meant the firms will not be able to earn money on those reserves and will reduce profitability. The other option is leaving the institutions open to failure. It is this tradeoff that will dominate the institutions for the next several years.

After, and in the midst of, such a unique and deep financial crisis it is probable that regulators will swing too far toward stability leaving less room for growth and innovation. It may be some years before a correct balance is restored to the sector but it seems inevitable that right now government interference is going to grow.

State rescue may be beginning of end for Spain's Bankia
Spain's government plans to clean up, downsize and sell Bankia within three years, but the strategy could be short-lived as the bank's capital gap may be larger than the 15 billion euros ($19.1 billion) so far identified, government and financial sources say.

"The bank faces two options," said a financial source with direct knowledge of the bank's situation. "First, to be wound down. Second, to be wound down. The question is how small it will be at the end."

Bankia, Spain's fourth-biggest lender with more than 10 percent of bank deposits, said its clients can be absolutely calm over the deposits they hold, while Spain's Economy Secretary said there had not been an exit of deposit funds.

The government which nationalized Bankia last week after months of uncertainty over its capacity to weather the financial storm.

Finally, the government is under intense public pressure to reduce the taxpayers' bill by selling the more than 5.4 billion euros worth of stakes the bank holds in major Spanish companies such as Iberdrola and Mapfre.

The Socialist opposition said last week it would back the Bankia takeover on condition public funds would be recovered at some point. Yet public anger at the banks is rising after seven other lenders had to be bailed out by the state at a time when education and health spending are being cut.

The lender's auditor Deloitte identified several gaps in Bankia's accounts and it is still not clear whether its rescue will cost the government more than the 15 billion euros it initially planned to inject.

A senior government source last week estimated the size of the state intervention at up to 10 billion euros.

That would come on top of the conversion of a 4.47 billion euros loan into shares, which will give the state 45 percent of Bankia, with an option to take another 3 percent, and 100 percent of its parent company Banco Financiero y de Ahorros (BFA).

Loaded with bad loans from a decade-long real estate boom, the bank needs to raise about 1.3 billion euros by June to comply with stringent European Banking Authority capital rules.

It also needs to find at least 6 billion euros by the end of the year to comply with two financial reforms presented by Spain's centre-right government in February and last week.

Greeks pull cash out of banks as confidence wanes
Greeks withdrew more than $900 million Monday and another $600 million Tuesday, according to the Greek Central Bank. While deposits have been steadily leaving banks since the start of the country's debt problems in 2009, this week's outpouring of cash reflects a new level of panic, analysts say.

Meanwhile, in Spain, the newspaper El Mundo said customers have withdrawn more than €1 billion ($1.27 billion) since the state took over Bankia, the country's fourth-largest lender, a week ago. Bankia insisted its depositors' money was safe, and the government denied there was a run on the bank.

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Generally, old generals never die

Iran attack decision nears, Israeli elite locks down
This inner sanctum at the end of a corridor between Netanyahu's private room and the office of his top military adviser, is where one of the decade's most momentous military decisions could soon be taken: to launch an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear program.

Time for that decision is fast running out and the mood in Jerusalem is hardening.

Adding to the international pressure, U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro said this week American military plans to strike Iran were "ready" and the option was "fully available".

Experts say that within a few months, much of Iran's nuclear program will have been moved deep underground beneath the Fordow mountain, making a successful military strike much more difficult.

Iran's nuclear program - regarded by Netanyahu as an existential threat to the state of Israel - will soon be buried deep enough underground to render an Israeli attack impossible. The Jewish state's options are narrowing.

"I think they've gone into lockdown mode now," the senior Western diplomat said. "Whatever happens next, whatever they decide, we will not find out until it happens."

As the deadline for a decision draws nearer, the public pronouncements of Israel's top officials and military have changed. After hawkish warnings about a possible strike earlier this year, their language of late has been more guarded and clues to their intentions more difficult to discern.

"The top of the government has gone into lockdown," one official said. "Nobody is saying anything publicly. That in itself tells you a lot about where things stand."

Netanyahu, those who know him say, is determined to avoid going down in history as the man who did not shirk his opportunity to stop Iran going nuclear.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

China all at sea with territorial claims

After centuries, nay millennia, of walling itself in, and the rest out of, the great terroir mass of Asia, China is trying to break out to the big wet of the Pacific. But first it has to seize the seas. But the rejection of the others in the 'hood is now unanimous: that ain't going to happen, peacefully or inexpensively anyway. Even Little Brother North Korea has now signed the memo.

North Korea 'Piracy' Targets China Fishing Vessels, As Chinese Fishermen Draw Controversy Across Asia-Pacific
These are turning out to be difficult times for Chinese fishermen. Even North Korea, which relies on China for large quantities of economic assistance, is picking on its far bigger neighbor's sailors.

On Wednesday, state media reported that the Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed that 29 Chinese fishermen and 3 fishing boats had been taken captive by as yet "undefined persons" from North Korea. Whether those entities were criminals acting independently, or ultimately personnel with links to government authorities, remains unclear.

However, the case has many of the hallmarks of the maritime hijackings and piracy that are more common in South East Asia or the Gulf of Aden. Xinhua says that the three ships and its crew were variously captured between the early morning and afternoon of May 8, within Chinese waters.

Over the past month, Chinese fishermen have found themselves a central element in foreign policy disputes between China and other Western Pacific nations.

On April 30, South Korean authorities reported that arrests of 9 Chinese fishermen poaching in Korean waters led to a scuffle that resulted in 4 Korean coast guard officers being hurt by knife wounds. Earlier, on April 19, South Korean news agencies reported that Chinese fisherman Cheng Dawei, who had stabbed and killed a Korean coast guard service member in December 2011, had been sentenced to 30 years in a Korean prison. South Korea has seized 475 Chinese fishing vessels over the last year in the Yellow Sea for illegal entry and fishing in their waters.

The incidents between South Korea and China have incensed nationalistic communities in both countries.

But even in places as far away as Palau, more than 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) from China's southern Hainan Island, Chinese fishermen are getting into confrontations with local authorities. Palau, an island nation in the Pacific, is located between Papua New Guinea and the Philippines. On April 2, Palau police shot and killed a Chinese fishermen and arrested 25 others originally from Hainan during a chase with what Palau says were illegal poachers.

Palau authorities also claim the Chinese vessel attempted to ram its coast guard ship. The fishermen were later released and flown home to China more than two weeks later. Palau does not have diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China on the mainland and instead recognizes the Republic of China government on Taiwan.

Beijing may be upset and embarrassed with the friction caused by its own fishermen and has enforced a temporary fishing suspension in the South China Sea. The seasonal fishing moratorium, which goes into effect on Wednesday, will last until August. It will mostly affect fishermen in China's southern provinces, particularly on Hainan, and may serve to alleviate present tensions in the South China Sea.

Although Hainan has become home to a booming tourist industry in recent years, fishing remains an important part of regional livelihoods, especially for smaller communities and lower-income families. New skyscrapers dot the landscape at Hainan's tourism resort of Sanya, China's southernmost city, and yearly conferences at Bo'ao draw business moguls and leading poltiicans from across the world, but the province still has one of the lowest GDPs per capita in all of China.

Consequently, even when the recent ban is lifted, Hainan fishermen may have no choice but to head into controversial waters again, likely stirring tempers abroad. As for Beijing enforcing stricter regulations on its own fishing communities, the task won't be easy. After all, people in China understand the old adage that "heaven is high and the emperor is far away" - in this case, even more so when you're off on the high seas.
Guambat is left wondering if this just isn't some seasonal thing.

LATER THAT DAY: Maybe its a Szechuan seasoning kind of thing:

China outraged by Philippines' provocation over Huangyan Island (Xinhua press)
The Chinese people are enraged by the offensive behavior of the Philippines over the Huangyan Island dispute, expressing full support to the efforts made by the Chinese government for safeguarding its territorial sovereignty.

In defiance of China's warning and stance of resolving disputes through diplomatic ways, the Philippines keeps making trouble in the waters around Huangyan Island, China's indisputable territory.

He Shixuan, a fisherman in the city of Qionghai in south China's Hainan province, is the owner of one of the 12 Chinese fishing vessels harassed by the Filipino warship. He went back to Huangyan Island again after the incident.

He said his family has fished in waters of Huangyan Island for generations, and believed it always a part of China's territory. The return of his vessel to the island is largely a sign of his support to the government in safeguarding its sovereignty.

"We have no reason to be afraid of any country, as we are fishing around our own island, nor do we need to evacuate the waters," said He.

According to media reports, the Philippines has notified China on its readiness to raise the issue of the sovereignty of Huangyan Island to international arbitration.

In addition, it tried to rename the island and remove the signs and monuments related to China, and even attempted to agitate Filipino people to hold demonstrations against China around the world.

According to media reports, the Philippines has notified China on its readiness to raise the issue of the sovereignty of Huangyan Island to international arbitration.

In addition, it tried to rename the island and remove the signs and monuments related to China, and even attempted to agitate Filipino people to hold demonstrations against China around the world.

However, the Chinese army has shown its attitude. On Thursday, the PLA Daily, the official newspaper of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China, listed historical evidence, human activities and international rules that Huangyan Island is part of China's territory.

"Anyone's attempt to take away China's sovereignty over Huangyan Island will not be allowed by the Chinese government, the people or the armed forces," the newspaper said in another signed article titled "Don't Attempt to Take Away Half an Inch of China's Territory."

"When one is driven beyond the limit of endurance he doesn't need to show patience any more," read an ed-op carried by China's flagship newspaper People's Daily in its overseas edition Tuesday.

The paper in a Thursday commentary noted that with its surging overall strength, China is completely free to tackle the Huangyan Island incident in a different way.

The Philippines should "take a proper measure of itself," and avoid going beyond the limit in a wrong direction, noted the article.

"The Philippines falsely believes that it has the exterior advantages to provoke China and that China won't dare to resort to armed force. That's why it has dared to pull tricks repeatedly," Jin said.

Is this just hyperbole of the sort daily fed the North Koreans through their state run mind control, or something else?


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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Daisy, Da-azzz-eeeeeeeeeeeeee

Guambat is reminded of the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey, where Dave strikes back at HAL, ever so slowly ejecting HAL's memory, one memory bank at a time, and as HAL begins to lose it, he starts singing Daisy, Daisy, slower and slower, evoking a memory of childish dreams of long ago, and a much more simpler and naive time than the one HAL and Dave found themselves in.

And what evoked this memory of memory lost?

His old read, Barry Ritholtz, but this post by Invictus:

If Information Is Power, What Is Lack Of Information?
I’m going to take the charitable (though probably mistaken) view and say that Representative Daniel Webster was not deliberately trying to turn out the lights on Americans’ access to critical data when he proposed an amendment to defund the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).

I tried (unsuccessfully) last year (here, here) to salvage the Statistical Abstract of the United States, a vital source of data since 1878. So the “most essential reference work” utilized by government documents librarians is now gone, for a savings of about $2.9 million, not even a rounding error on a rounding error.

And the ACS is apparently next. The effort to kill the ACS is opposed by even the right-leaning Wall St. Journal, as well the New York Times and the Washington Post (see also here).

The charitable view is that it’s all about cost savings. The not-so-charitable view is that it’s about death by a thousand cuts to the vital information that informs us as to where we’ve been, where we are, and helps us plan where we’re going and craft a better future for all Americans. “Operating in the Dark,” as the Times puts it. This must not stand.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Austerity or Posterity: Buy now or Pay later

Europe Austerity Leading to ‘Catastrophe,’ French Lawmaker Says

Setback for Merkel as austerity agenda rejected in Germany's biggest state

Greek austerity: Path to recovery, or path to violence?

Irish pose next democratic test for EU austerity

Police clash with anti-austerity protesters in Italy

Spain: Mass Anti-Austerity Protests Sweep Nation

We need a British austerity revolt

Default now or default later?

“I had no idea.”
Unless the rich and poor encounter one another in everyday life, it is hard to think of ourselves as engaged in a common project. At a time when to fix our society we need to do big, hard things together, the marketization of public life becomes one more thing pulling us apart.

“The great missing debate in contemporary politics,” Sandel writes, “is about the role and reach of markets.” We should be asking where markets serve the public good, and where they don’t belong, he argues. And we should be asking how to rebuild class-mixing institutions.

“Democracy does not require perfect equality,” he concludes, “but it does require that citizens share in a common life. ... For this is how we learn to negotiate and abide our differences, and how we come to care for the common good.”

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Friday, May 11, 2012

I'm so sorry

I'm sorry, so sorry
That I was such a fool

JPMorgan reveals $2B trading loss,
CEO Dimon apologizes

I didn't know
Love could be so cruel

the errors are embarrassing

Oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, yes

egg on our face

You tell me mistakes
Are part of being young

bout a trader, nicknamed the ‘London Whale'

But that don't right
The wrong that's been done

It could cost us

(I'm sorry) I'm sorry
(So sorry) So sorry

one of the kings of Wall Street

Please accept my apology
But love is blind

some people may lose their jobs

And I was too blind to see

a complete tempest in a teapot

Oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, yes
he still believes in his arguments
against the Volcker rule
But that don't right
The wrong that's been done

Apologies to Brenda Lee
I'm so sorry
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, yes

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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

In a game of brinkmanship, which ship brinks first?

The Philippines is standing naval to naval with China.

So far.

Like Travis, Crockett and Bowie against Santa Ana and his thousands of soldiers.

We Texicans know how that ended.

China sends 3rd ship in standoff with Philippines April 12, 2012
A Philippine warship attempted to arrest several Chinese fishermen accused of illegal entry and poaching, but was prevented by the arrival of two Chinese surveillance ships.

One of the Chinese ships blocked the entrance to a lagoon at the shoal, where at least eight Chinese fishing vessels were anchored. The Chinese ships also ordered the Philippine warship to leave Scarborough, claiming Chinese sovereignty over the rich fishing ground.

Philippines shuffles ships in maritime standoff with China April 12, 2012
The Philippines said Thursday that it had pulled its largest naval vessel away from a remote lagoon in the South China Sea where it was engaged in an uneasy standoff with two Chinese maritime surveillance ships.

The Philippine naval vessel -- the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a 378-foot cutter -- has moved away from the lagoon for "reprovisioning" and a decision has not yet been announced on whether it will return, Hernandez said.

Commentary: The Spratly standoff
The heat is rising in Southeast Asia as China and the Philippines are in the third week of a naval standoff in the strategic South China Sea.

Although these islands lie 700 miles from China and only 100 miles from the Philippines, China claims what is commonly called “the cows tongue” – a vast swathe of sea shaped like a tongue that reaches close to the shores of the other claimant nations.

China bases its claim on maps dating back 500 years.

Back in 1988 clashes over the Spratlys between China and Vietnam left nearly more than 60 Vietnamese dead.

The United States stands smack in the middle of this tension:

The absolutist attitude over what it sees as its core geographic interest has been extended to include the South China Sea for the past two decades. Angry editorials in the China Daily threaten the Philippines, saying its American protector won’t be around to help them and it should sit down alone at the table with China.

The risks are great. Warships standing bow to bow over a speck of sand and rock in the sea can suddenly explode into an escalating conflict that would drag in the United States. This can also happen if our small allies wrongfully believe they have a blank check from the U.S. military to open fire in the expectation that the U.S. fleet will be standing behind them.

Read more at links to each article.

Island belongs to China Updated: 2012-05-08
A Philippine gunboat harassed 12 Chinese fishing boats that were taking refuge from harsh weather in a lagoon near China's Huangyan Island last month, triggering the current standoff between China and the Philippines.

The Philippines never disputed China's sovereignty over the island until 1997, and a 1978 map sanctioned by the Philippines' National Mapping and Resource Information Authority placed Huangyan Island outside the Philippines' territorial limits. However, in May 1997, the Philippine navy intercepted two vessels carrying a group of amateur radio enthusiasts from China, Japan and the United States, who had planned an expedition to Huangyan Island. Before long, a group of Philippine congressmen sailed to the island and posed for photos under a Philippine flag, and later the Philippines navy arrested 21 Chinese fishermen near the island and filed an illegal entry charge against them.

Manila bases its claim on proximity and insists that the island is within its exclusive economic zone. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea allows a coastal state to claim a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, but the state has no right to change the ownership of territory by doing so.

China is the first country to name Huangyan Island and incorporate it into its territory and exercise jurisdiction over it. In 1935, the then Chinese government included the island with the name Scarborough Shoal as part of the Zhongsha Islands into Chinese territory. In 1947, the government announced a new list of South China Sea islands, in which Scarborough Shoal was also included and renamed as Democratic Reef, and in 1983, China released a list of some South China Sea islands and began to use Huangyan Island as the island's standard name.

While China has legal foundations for its sovereignty over Huangyan Island, the Philippines' claim that Huangyan Island is within its exclusive economic zone lacks legal basis. Back in 1997, Judge Eliodoro Ubiadas of the regional trial court of Olongapo in Zambales province dismissed the illegal entry charges filed against the Chinese fishermen, invoking a provision in the Presidential Decree No 1599, a law issued in 1978 to establish an exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. The provision stipulated that even though the Philippines' exclusive economic zone extends to a distance of 200 nautical miles beyond and from the baseline, provided that where the outer limits of the zone as thus determined overlap that of an adjacent or neighboring state, the common boundaries shall be determined by agreement with the state concerned. The judge thus ruled that the accused "were apprehended in a place over which there is yet no agreement between the Chinese and the Philippine governments" and thus there is no legal basis to conclude that "the accused entered Philippine territory illegally".

Although the bilateral agreement to resolve the issue diplomatically makes war unlikely, the Philippines continues to escalate tensions. For instance, the Philippines has declared that it will unilaterally bring the dispute to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and it has confirmed its plans to open an elementary school on Zhongye Island, which belongs to China's Nansha Islands in the South China Sea.

In this way the Philippines is attempting to turn its claimed sovereignty over Huangyan Island into reality and intensify nationalistic sentiments as a means of re-channeling dissatisfaction with domestic problems. The Philippines is also trying to play off the members of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations against China.

The ongoing standoff might leave China facing some disconcerting questions about its foreign policy and its ability to defend its interests in the South China Sea, but it also offers an opportunity for Beijing to gain the upper hand, as the ongoing crisis initiated by the Philippines serves as a good chance for China to enforce its jurisdiction over the island.

The confrontation is actually to China's advantage, as Beijing is better equipped than the Philippines, and once the Philippines withdraws its ships, China should thereafter block entry to the lagoon and better excise its jurisdiction over the island.

Last but not the least, China should send construction teams and equipment to the island and speed up the building of shelters for fishermen, lighthouses and military outposts. Once these are established, military units can be stationed on the island to further safeguard the country's sovereignty and maritime interests in the area.

China prepared for escalation of Philippine standoff May 8th, 2012
Chinese vice foreign minister Fu Ying said Beijing was fully ready for an escalation of a drawn-out maritime standoff with the Philippines, as a tense row over a disputed shoal continues.

“The Chinese side has… made all preparations to respond to any escalation of the situation by the Philippine side,” she told a Philippine diplomat in Beijing Monday, according to a statement posted on the foreign ministry website Tuesday.

Currently, four Chinese surveillance ships and 10 fishing boats have anchored off the disputed shoal, facing off with two Philippine coast guard ships and a fisheries bureau vessel.

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Saturday, May 05, 2012

Cinco de Mayem

It's a gringo thing, that Cinco de Mayo stuff. Mainly celebrated by Norte Americanos who need an excuse to drink and eat beans. As if. explains its, well, history, and we can only hope this is not a deja vue all over again.
In 1861 the liberal Mexican Benito Juárez (1806-1872) became president of a country in financial ruin, and he was forced to default on his debts to European governments. In response, France, Britain and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew, but France, ruled by Napoleon III (1808-1873), decided to use the opportunity to carve a dependent empire out of Mexican territory. Late in 1861, a well-armed French fleet stormed Veracruz, landing a large French force and driving President Juárez and his government into retreat.

Certain that success would come swiftly, 6,000 French troops under General Charles Latrille de Lorencez (1814-1892) set out to attack Puebla de Los Angeles, a small town in east-central Mexico. From his new headquarters in the north, Juárez rounded up a rag-tag force of 2,000 loyal men—many of them either indigenous Mexicans or of mixed ancestry—and sent them to Puebla. Led by Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza (1829-1862), the vastly outnumbered and poorly supplied Mexicans fortified the town and prepared for the French assault. On May 5, 1862, Lorencez drew his army, well provisioned and supported by heavy artillery, before the city of Puebla and led an assault from the north. The battle lasted from daybreak to early evening, and when the French finally retreated they had lost nearly 500 soldiers. Fewer than 100 Mexicans had been killed in the clash.

Although not a major strategic win in the overall war against the French, Zaragoza's success at Puebla represented a great symbolic victory for the Mexican government and bolstered the resistance movement. Six years later—thanks in part to military support and political pressure from the United States, which was finally in a position to aid its besieged neighbor after the end of the Civil War—France withdrew. The same year, Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, who had been installed as emperor of Mexico by Napoleon in 1864, was captured and executed by Juárez's forces.

Read more at the link above. adds local flavour.
It is primarily a regional holiday celebrated in the Mexican state capital city of Puebla and throughout the state of Puebla, with some limited recognition in other parts of Mexico, and especially in U.S. cities with a significant Mexican population. It is not, as many people think, Mexico's Independence Day, which is actually September 16.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo has become increasingly popular along the U.S.-Mexico border and in parts of the U.S. that have a high population of people with a Mexican heritage. In these areas the holiday is a celebration of Mexican culture, of food, music, beverage and customs unique to Mexico.

Commercial interests in the United States and Mexico have also had a hand in promoting the holiday, with products and services focused on Mexican food, beverages and festivities, with music playing a more visible role as well. Several cities throughout the U.S. hold parades and concerts during the week following up to May 5th, so that Cinco de Mayo has become a bigger holiday north of the border than it is to the south, and being adopted into the holiday calendar of more and more people every year.

What's to celebrate?

23 dead, 9 found hanging from bridge, in Nuevo Laredo
The bodies of nine people were found hanging from a bridge just south of Laredo, Texas in the Mexican town of Nuevo Laredo early Friday morning. Five men and four women were among those dead.

Bodies of 23 found dumped near U.S. border in Mexico drug war
found hanging from a bridge or dismembered in ice boxes and garbage bags

Police could not confirm who was responsible for the murders but a message seen with the bodies indicated it may have been an attack by the Zetas cartel against the rival Gulf cartel. The Zeta cartel was founded by deserters from the Mexican special forces who became Gulf cartel enforcers and later split from their employers.

The two gangs are now fighting for control of local drug trafficking routes.

In Nuevo Laredo, 23 corpses found on grisly day in Mexican drug-cartel war
A Web site devoted to news about narco-violence published photographs of the nine victims — five men and four women — swinging from the bridge, the corpses bloody and bearing marks of torture. Some had their pants pulled down to their ankles.

There was a banner hung beside the bodies on the bridge, and its profanity-laden message boasted that “in this way I am finishing you all off.” It also said that one victim “cried like a woman giving birth.”

Feel like celebrating now? With terrorists right on our doorstep?

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Friday, May 04, 2012

Pouring oil on troubled waters?

China to employ 1st deep-sea rig in South China Sea
China will formally employ its first home-made, deep-sea semi-submersible drilling platform in the east part of South China Sea on May 9, marking the beginning of the country's deepwater oil strategy, the National Energy Administration said.

State-run China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) is the owner and operator of the deep-sea rig.
Oil's not well on South China Sea
China has once again warned companies looking to explore for hydrocarbons in the South China Sea (SCS) to stay away from the disputed waters.

The South China Sea is believed to hold large reserves of undiscovered oil and gas.
Despite the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS, 1982) guidelines, ownership disputes continue to stir up the SCS waters.

Among the nations flanking its shores, China, Vietnam and the Philippines are aggressively claiming sizeable portions of the sea. China has been demanding almost the entire area and is rooting for bilateral talks to resolve the territorial disputes, arguably to use its size to influence the one-to-one dialogues.

Recently, Beijing raised objections to ONGC's presence in SCS. ONGC's overseas arm, ONGC Videsh (OVL) holds stakes in a producing gas field — Block 06.1 in the Nam Con Son basin off Vietnam's south coast — in a joint venture with TNK-BP and state explorer PetroVietnam.

In 2006, OVL won a contract to jointly explore, along with PetroVietnam, Blocks 127 and 128 in the Phu Khanh basin, Vietnam. It then signed a three-year deal with Petrovietnam in September 2011 to jointly explore for oil and gas in these blocks. OVL later relinquished Block 127 after it encountered dry wells.
The blocks in question — 127 and 128 — lie within the Vietnamese maritime border as per the UNCLOS guidelines and partially beyond the line of control claimed by China.
However, China's claims are based on historical maps that find little support in international law.
Despite China's repeated warnings to nations for cessation of exploration in South China Sea, India has maintained its stand of respecting the freedom of international navigation through this key shipping route. The region can be an important piece on the energy supply map for both India and China. It opens up the shipping route for bringing ONGC's Sakhalin oil to India's coast through the Strait of Malacca.
Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines are pushing for increasing exploratory drilling in their respective Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and Indian companies, like other international players, should grab this opportunity with both hands.
First, this will add a hydrocarbon supply source that is closer to its own shores, cutting down on the transportation distance; second, India's relationship with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) will gain ground, apart from the ‘customary' regional cooperation status.

To protect its interest in the South China Sea and in ASEAN, India needs to be both forceful and diplomatic. As of now, New Delhi's reply to Chinese bickering has been that India has faith in Vietnam's sovereign claims over the concerned blocks and ONGC's investment is purely commercial in nature, with no political connotation. As per the UNCLOS boundaries, India stands justified.

New Delhi, with due regard to its own stand on Kashmir, should not put its foot in its mouth by giving opinions on territorial debates. It also has to deal with the tempestuous task of settling its own border dispute with Beijing. Hence, concerted efforts to increase bilateral energy cooperation with Vietnam, the Philippines and other ASEAN countries may prove to be a diplomatic masterstroke, as it will check China's high-handedness in the region and establish India's commercial interest without political spite.
India, like China, is on the cusp of a demographic and economic makeover, and in need of increasing energy supplies to fuel economic development. Both the countries are keen on securing energy supplies from across the globe, with energy import bills damaging their balance of trade. The South China Sea is one such region that holds promise.
It will be foolhardy to let the opportunity pass, while global majors flock to exploit the region despite the sovereignty disputes.
The presence of energy majors such as ExxonMobil and BP in the SCS substantiates the promise that the region holds. Hence, it is in the best interest of both countries and the other littoral states to let the region be explored and its potential be assessed through material developments.


Not a fan

Guambat is not a fan of the "new look!" of the blogger dashboard.

Sure it has a new whistle or bell or two, but why?  It's like adding apps for phones that Guambat will never ever want, let alone need.  Oh for the good old non-virtual days.  Fancy a virtual smartipants phone?  Or the real thing?

Guambat might even trickle down into a real funk and whinge were it not a free service he's complaining about.


Not free like in the good old days.  Back when men were men and sheep knew it, and a free bargain was more bargain than free, but you knew it.

Guambat reckons that every "upgrade" he's ever suffered through has been more of a downer than an upper.

Amazing how old you gotta get before you truly appreciate "progress".  Or the adage, leave well enough alone.

Incrementally, inch by inch, byte by bite, Guambat feels himself being eroded of his own self.

I'm shrinking, I'm shrinking.  And Guambat's formatting is maddening.



Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Tennessee puts homos in its scopes

When Crockett joined Bowie and Travis at the Alamo, they had more in common than Old Betsy. 

They represented the same lineage which today finds species specious, if of the human kind. 

Nobody, not even a few thousand Mexicans, made a monkey out of them, Pilgrim.

Fighting evolution one monkey law at a time opinion by Fred Grimm in the Miami Herald.
Evolution has been voted down in the Tennessee legislature.

School kids there need not be bothered by confusing allusions to homo erectus, homo ergaster, homo antecessor, homo heidelbergensis, homo neanderthalensis and other ancestral contradictions to that Old Time Religion.

The Monkey Bill, as it’s known thereabouts, became state law earlier this month. the national media has had a good time remembering Tennesseans acting like anti-science yokels back during the 1925 Scopes trial.

Once, the Monkey Bill would have been regarded as only a local curiosity. But lunatic legislation no longer occurs in a vacuum.

Tennessee’s Monkey Bill was based on the “Model Academic Freedom Statute on Evolution,” contrived by the Discovery Institute (which promotes teaching intelligent design over evolution) to nudge up to the very limits of the U.S. Constitution. Ostensibly, it protects the rights of teachers to present alternatives to evolution, global warming, human cloning and “the chemical origins of life.”

All eight of Tennessee’s members in the National Academy of Sciences asked the legislature not to pass the bill, signing a statement that, just a few years ago, would have been belaboring the obvious.
“The evidence for evolution is overwhelming. There is no scientific evidence for its supposed rivals (‘creation science’ and ‘intelligent design’) and there is no scientific evidence against it.”

No matter.

Last year, Sen. Stephen Wise of Jacksonville attempted to push an anti-evolution bill through the Florida Legislature, saying, “Why do we still have apes if we came from them?” You can figure creationists will be reprising those Wise words next year.

Read more at the link above.

Oh, and the Tennessee/Texas connection alluded to above?
Texas Bored of Education decision too complex to result from chance
Another dinosaur roams Texas
Dinosaurs at it again in Texas
Dinosaurs in Texas: But Wait, There's More!

In the interests of Fullish Disclosure, Guambat sheepishly (how'd sheep get into this? Oh, yeah, that thing about sheep and cowboys) admits his ancestry passes through both Tennessee and Texas on the way back to his evolutionary beginnings.   He has no ID how many times.

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