Saudi Pipeline Explosion or Iran Hyping Up Oil Prices?

Mark Shenk and Aaron Clark, ©2012 Bloomberg News

SFChronicle
March 1 (Bloomberg) — Oil climbed over $110 a barrel for the first time since May after an Iranian state-run news channel reported an explosion on a pipeline in Saudi Arabia.

Futures reached $110.55 at 3:17 p.m. in New York after Iran’s Press TV reported on its English-language website that “an explosion has hit oil pipelines in the flashpoint Saudi Arabian city of Awwamiya in the kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern province.” Saudi officials said there was no explosion, according to the Wall Street Journal. Gold jumped and U.S. equities dropped on the unattributed report.

“Oil is shooting higher due to the Saudi report, absolutely, no question about it,” said Phil Streible, a Chicago-based commodities broker at RJO Futures. “People are buying oil based on the news. Gold is also rising.”

Crude oil for April delivery rose $1.77 to settle at $108.84 a barrel on the Nymex before extending gains after the floor closed. The price was $108.81 at 4:31 p.m. Futures settled at a nine-month high of $109.77 on Feb. 24.

Brent oil for April settlement climbed $3.54, or 2.9 percent, to a 10-month high of $126.20 a barrel on the London- based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Brent rose as high as $128.40 after the settlement and dropped back to $126.17 at 4:31 p.m.

Pakistan’s Plans To Block 50 Million Blacklisted URLs

[To my Pakistani friends, I can only say that I hope you have enjoyed No Sunglasses while it lasted.]

Pakistan’s excessive Internet censorship plans

A Pakistani man removes movie posters on a cinema wall in Rawalpindi. (AFP/Abid Zia)
A Pakistani man removes movie posters on a cinema wall in Rawalpindi. (AFP/Abid Zia)

Last month, Pakistan’s government put out requests for proposals for a massive, centralized, Internet censorship system. Explaining that “ISPs and backbone providers have expressed their inability to block millions of undesirable web sites using current manual blocking systems,” the state-run National Information Communications Technology Research and Development Fund said it therefore requires “a national URL filtering and blocking system.”

The new system would need to handle “up to 50 million [blacklisted] URLs,” and would operate across the entire Pakistani Internet. The research fund intends the system to be designed and built within the country, “by companies, vendors, academia and/or research organizations with proven track record.”

Fifty million URLs is quite a tall order — but not, sadly, for the demands of an Internet censorware device. Censorship, managed by routers and software built by a number of companies, scales rather easily to such demands. Companies like McAfee sell blocking systems for corporate intranets with databases in excess of 25 million web addresses. Such databases have been re-purposed for national firewalls in countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for many years.

It is democratic oversight which fails to scale to such numbers. Databases of millions of sites inevitably include “false positives” — sites that should never have been included, even on the terms of the blacklist. That’s why corporate blocks have been shown to include feminist and gay rights sites under “pornography,” as well as high-profile blogging and micro-blogging sites like Twitter and LiveJournal as “dating” websites. When these databases are applied to national firewalls, such sites disappear from general access.

Worse, it’s impossible for citizens to oversee such blocking systems to prevent over-censorship, including of news sites, by those in power. Pakistan’s current censorship policy is unclear, but already sites such as the Baloch Hal and others carrying news about Baluchistan — a contested region of Pakistan with a number of secessionist groups — are blocked. Any future blacklist will undoubtedly be kept secret. And the centralized nature of the database means that the government will be able to censor sites swiftly, with no checks and balances. In the RFP’s technical description, there’s no room for any civic oversight.

Even the small steps taken by some Pakistani ISPs to automate Internet censorship has led to over-blocking. Last year, a blocking system introduced by one telecommunications company, Mobitel, meant that Pakistani Internet users could not even search for the name of Asif Al Zardari, their own president.

An unchecked, centrally-controlled, censorship regime with such vast capacity is a recipe for disaster for local online press freedom. Companies, vendors, and academics thinking of applying for the role would be complicit in building a system that could easily — and judging on past behavior, would inevitably — be misused by the Pakistan government.

San Francisco-based CPJ Internet Advocacy Coordinator Danny O’Brien has worked globally as a journalist and activist covering technology and digital rights. Follow him on Twitter @danny_at_cpj.

The fire called Balochistan

The fire called Balochistan

Things have reached a boiling point in Balochistan. And sooner or later, something’s bound to give. All stories come to an end. Good or bad, happy or sad, there’s always an ending. It may not be what we want, it may not be what we expect, but that depends, on how the journey has been. Here in Pakistan, there are many stories unfolding concurrently, the saddest of which is the tragedy of Balochistan.Balochistan appears now at the point of no return. Come what may, the stakes in Pakistan’s largest province have been raised so high, that good or bad and sooner rather than later, something is bound to happen.

For decades now, the Baloch sardars have been poisoning their locals with delusions of grandeur and modernity, with promises of equality, justice and an honest day’s work. After years of taking royalties from the state and not passing anything forward, they are now under pressure to come good on their word to their people. Or face a mass revolt.

At stake now is the age-old tribal sardari system in Balochistan, which can definitely be thought of as one of the major reasons for Balochistan’s backwardness. If the sardars don’t take their Baloch population to prosperity, they will be taken down by their own kin. Balochistan then, in the absence of the sardars will be in a state of a deadly vacuum. And as the saying goes, if you leave a vacuum, someone or something will eventually fill it. The Baloch sardars could also take a stand. Stand firm, putting pressure on Islamabad for deliverance. For dues of 60 years past.

These are two completely different paths, and in Balochistan, there is a difference of opinion amongst the sardars as to which path to tread. One path champions dialogue with Islamabad, in search for a solution, whereas the other path is breaking away from Pakistan into an independent Balochistan; to quote Martin Luther King, by any means necessary.

For Islamabad, an independent Balochistan is simply unacceptable; they cannot have another December 1971. Hence only the path of dialogue remains. But all the actions that come under dialogue, like the All Parties Conference (APC) and the Aaghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan (AHB) package, have been completely ineffective in redressing 60 plus years of injustice against the Baloch population. Therefore, Islamabad needs to act, and act quickly to ensure that the issue of Balochistan can be resolved peacefully via dialogue. Or else they could soon be hearing a unified call for independence from Zhob to Quetta and Turbat. What then?

The state will not sit back if the cry of an independent Balochistan rises above a certain level. Expect a massive military and covert operation against Baloch freedom fighters, expect human rights to be overlooked, expect forced abductions, and extra-judicial killings. This will only add more fuel to the fire, and in the long run, more fuel will be added to the fire called Balochistan.

The political leadership must realise that its current actions, inactions and political point-scoring are not helping Balochistan. It has 60 years of injustice to reverse, and it must act now.

All the prominent separatist leaders say that the backlog of what’s owed to Balochistan is so large; one won’t know where to begin. But begin we must. How about royalties, jobs, education, health, security, growth, modernity, and freedom of speech? These are good starting points. If the state was to take these steps, wholeheartedly, in good faith and without failure or delays, it could, sometime in the near future, be able to bring to the table those who are currently singing the song of independence in Balochistan.

Otherwise we can expect more of the same reaction as we saw a few days ago when Interior Minister Rehman Malik announced that cases against two Baloch separatist leaders, Hyrbyair Marri and Brahamdagh Bugti would be withdrawn. A prominent Baloch leader and current member of the Senate Mir Israr Ullah Khan Zehri scoffed and replied: The interior minister can’t even remove one check post!

The writer is the chief operating officer of a private FM network. Emai: laasimzk@gmail. com

Lashkar-i-Islam is a creation of the intelligence agencies.

[Lashkar-i-Islam is a creation of the intelligence agencies.  It is only fitting that they are now waging war against the Pak Army (SEE:  Waging War Upon Ourselves

Before his promotion to terrorist overlord of  Bara, and potentially, all of Khyber, Mangal Bagh was a mere bus driver.  The Lashkar-i-Islam he commands began as a self-imposed religious police, brutally enforcing a warped Wahabbi version of Shariah Law that had been brought into Bara by a religious-terrorist named Haji Namdar, who had been brought in after finishing ten years of religious indoctrination in Saudi Arabia.  Namdar had created the precursor to Lashkar-i-Islam, called "Tanzim Amr bil Maroof wa Nehi Anil Munkir" (the Suppression of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue).  Lashkar was actually formed by his successor, a radical preacher Mufti Munir Shakir, whom Namdar had brought in for reinforcement.  When the feud which Shakir had started with local Berelvi leader, Pir Saifur Rahman (over Shakir's "Radio Mullah" broadcasts) started looking like a religious war, the authorities stepped in and deported the radical Mufti from the war zone.  At that point, Shakir's "Army of Islam" was turned over to Mangal Bagh.  Today, the TTP are waging a campaign of terror against the Lashkar and Mangal's forces are eagerly reciprocating.  That forces the Army to step-in between the two warring factions, causing heavier casualties to all parties involved. 

There is no hope at all for Pakistan, until messes like this one are cleared-up.  Don't forget to thank the Saudis and the CIA for every bomb blast in Khyber.]  

Suicide attack in Khyber agency kills 22: official

More than 20 people were also wounded in the attack.—AFP/File photo

PESHAWAR: A suicide bomber targeted a mosque in a troubled tribal area of Northwest Pakistan on Friday killing at least 22 people and wounding more than 20, local officials said.

“The bomber detonated himself near the gate of a mosque in Tirah valley of Khyber tribal region when people were returning from the prayers,” local administration official Jamilur Rehman told AFP, adding that the casualty numbers may rise.

The mosque is located in an area controlled by warlord Mangal Bagh, he said explaining that “most of the dead belonged to Lashkar-i-Islam group lead by Mangal Bagh.”

The bomb, which also damaged the mosque, exploded in the same area where officials said a clash earlier in the day had left 10 soldiers and 23 militants dead.

At least 10 troops, 23 militants dead in Pakistan clash

The clash took place in Tirah valley of lawless Khyber tribal district bordering Afghanistan. — Photo by AP

PESHAWAR: At least 10 Pakistani soldiers and 23 militants were killed early Friday in a gunfight in a restive northwestern tribal area, officials said.

The clash took place in Tirah valley of lawless Khyber tribal district bordering Afghanistan.

“At least 10 soldiers embraced martyrdom and three others were wounded,” a senior security official told AFP.

“At least 23 militants were killed in the fighting which lasted for nearly six hours,” he added.

“Militants from Lashkar-e-Islam group attacked our outpost and a gunfight erupted,” Khyber administrator Mutahir Zeb Khan said, (According to Reuters, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan was the group behind the attack).

Military officials in Peshawar confirmed the attack and casualties.

Lashkar-e-Islam, which is led by warlord Mangal Bagh, is said to be linked to Taliban militants and criminal gangs.

It was not possible to independently verify the official account of the incident as access to the area is restricted by the military.

Some 18,000 people fled their homes in Khyber in October last year amid fears of a fresh onslaught of fighting between the army and Islamist militants linked to the Pakistani Taliban.

Pakistan’s seven tribal districts near the Afghan border are rife with homegrown insurgents and are strongholds of Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives.

Bibles Found In Alleged “Osama-Land” Demolition In Abbottabad

[English Bibles?  Sure sounds like someone else was living there, like that guy who impersonates bin Laden on all of those fake tapes that have been released over the years?]

 

Bible copies found at Osama bin Laden’s hideout

It is being speculated that Laden had used these religious books for coded communication. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

The demolition crew found two volumes of the Bible from Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Express News reported on Wednesday.

According to security officials, the Bible copies were in the English language and had certain lines of text highlighted.

It is being speculated that Laden had used these religious books for coded communication.

Apart from copies of the Bible, the demolition crew also found two radio sets from the compound.

Bulldozers on February 27 finished demolishing the hideout and only the wall of the compound remain intact, surrounding the debris of the three-storey building. Security forces guarding the compound refuse to let anyone inside.

The triple-storey house, built over an area of 38,000 square feet and worth Rs85 million, was under the control of the security forces and police since the May 2011 raid.

Clashes Erupt In Quba, Azerbaijan Over Local Governor

Clashes Erupt In Azerbaijan Amid Public Protests

Clashes Erupt In Quba, Azerbaijan Over Local Go…, posted with vodpod

Security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets to subdue rioting in the northeastern Azerbaijani city of Quba, where injuries were suffered on both sides. (Video by RFE/RL’s Azerbaijani Service)

QUBA, Azerbaijan — Security forces have fired tear gas and rubber bullets in a bid to quell an outbreak of rioting in the northeastern Azerbaijani city of Quba after the local governor described residents as “traitors.”

Authorities said four people, including three police officers, were injuried. At least one journalist was among those hurt in the clashes between police and protesters.

Thousands of protesters had taken to the streets of Quba to demand the resignation of local Governor Rauf Habibov.

They have broken windows at local government buildings and set fire to a house thought to belong to Habibov.

Authorities later said they controlled the situation in the town, where security forces and armored vehicles were on patrol.

See an RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service correspondent’s video from the center of the unrest

The unrest follows comments from Habibov that appeared on YouTube videos in which he calls Quba residents “traitors.”

Habibov met with the protesters earlier on March 1 and offered apologies, but he rejected demands that he step down.

Protesters set fire to a house

The protest is the largest public demonstration to occur outside Baku since President Ilham Aliyev came to power in 2003. Aliyev and his father, the late President Heydar Aliyev, have both touted perceived stability that their rule has brought to the energy-rich Caucasian country.

“He insulted the people of Quba!” one protester told RFE/RL. “He accused us of treason. Quba residents have always supported our state.”

In his speech earlier this week, Habibov accused Quba residents of selling their “land, families and motherland” for as little as $40. Some local residents were given land by authorities as part of an ongoing agricultural reform, but many are too poor to cultivate them.

“Quba is a very rich place. Everyone tries to get a place here,” Habibov says in the video. “Some men become famous with good deeds, others with bad ones. The Quba people have sold out Quba. The Quba people have sold their lands for 30 or 40 manats (around $40). Quba has been sold by the ungrateful men of Quba. The men of Quba have sold their nation, their lands, their families.”

Quba is home to 160,000 people.

The Public Chamber opposition coalition condemned the use of force against protesters and said the unrest was a result of the government’s “anti-people” policy.

A group on Facebook has called on Azerbaijanis to demonstrate across the nation on March 2 in support of the Quba protesters.