As Long As He Lives, Islam Karimov Will Never Join Any Union With Russia

President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov spoke out against the integration process, initiated by Russia

Fergana

December 13, Uzbek media published report of the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov , in which he made ​​clear his reluctance to participate in the formation of various inter-state associations, as “it is possible that they will go beyond economic interests and become politicized content.”

Recall last fall Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and before him President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayevspoke about the need for post-Soviet Eurasian Union, has already earned the Customs Union, which participants are Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, its desire to join also said Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan . Uzbekistan also expressed dissatisfaction with the tendency to unite, they stand out in the report of Islam Karimov at the solemn meeting on the 19th anniversary of the Constitution of the Republic.

The full text of the Uzbek president in translation UzA .

This is an attempt to distort our history yesterday, all that our people had to endure in the way of achieving sovereignty and independence.

It’s no secret that in recent years in the post-activated force, which, using the fact that intervening in the lives of today’s younger generation does not have sufficient understanding of recent history, by seeking to bring the various myths of nostalgia for the Soviet past, while forgetting about the totalitarian nature of Soviet empire, the collapse of which was due, primarily, political, economic and ideological bankruptcy of the system on which it was built.

We are fully aware that the further development of globalization, the huge, largely critical importance of integration processes which remove the border and customs barriers to trade, economic and investment relations of States, especially given the challenges, threats and consequences are still going global financial and economic crisis.

Realizing that modern integration processes – it’s imperative of our time, we at the same time do not forget about some of the issues associated with these processes. When it comes to the formation of various inter-state associations, it is possible that they will go beyond economic interests and become politicized content, which in turn could adversely affect the already established links and collaboration with other members of the association with external partners, the development of integration processes third countries.

Speaking of which, it should be noted that at the present stage of development our top priority is the implementation of the immediate and medium-term program to bring advanced technology and innovation aimed at a radical modernization and diversification of our economy and its leading industries.

This should be subordinated to the task of further developing and strengthening cooperation with all our partners, those who are ready to go to meet us in solving this critical problem for us. And for that we are ready to provide interested parties with a maximum long-term security benefits and privileges.

Based primarily on these considerations, meet our long-term interests, we will determine its policy with respect to forming and joining of Uzbekistan to the inter-state organizations and unions.

To implement such a policy is not necessary for someone to get permission, but must be guided only by the national interests of Uzbekistan.

Summarizing the above, I would like to declare that history can not turn back. Our nation, which has grown over the past 20 years, young people today are looking confidently to the future of tomorrow, and never, I would like to repeat – never depart from the chosen path of Uzbekistan. (emphasis edited “Fergana”)

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China and U.S. Brinkmanship in the South China Sea

China and U.S. Brinkmanship in the South China Sea

Joseph Kirschke

Protesters shout anti-Chinese slogans next to a policeman during a march in downtown Hanoi, Vietnam, on June 26, rallying against a territorial dispute over a group of islands in the South China Sea. (Photo: Hoang Dinh Nam, AFP-Getty Images)

 

Two weeks ago, The Washington Post broadsided us with another Beltway bombshell: China’s “Underground Great Wall” – a “vast network of tunnels” with a “sophisticated missile and nuclear arsenal” dug by “a secretive branch of the Chinese military.”

The intrigue came from a 363-page study by top Pentagon strategist-turned-Georgetown University professor Phillip A. Karber and his students, based on classified Chinese military documents, satellite imagery and other information. Among the revelations, a Second Artillery Corps—which, in addition to digging the tunnels, has a website—directly linked to The Post’s article.

To its credit, the story shows the three-year project creating an atmosphere menacing U.S. nuclear stockpile reductions. Still, the often-absurd saga of China and the United States will live on in dreary Capitol Hill hearings and buzz among Pentagon brass and tiresome foreign policy oracles. Moreover, despite U.S. economic indebtedness to China, Inc.—and common sense—petty, 1960s-era politicking and a military industrial complex fixated with a rising Middle Kingdom will continue to carry much of the day.

Is China challenging its neighbors over the Spratly Islands, the Paracels, the Scarborough Shoals, Reed Bank and Tungsha in a South China Sea home to 17.7 billion tons of oil and gas? According to the Indonesian Center of Democracy, Diplomacy and Defense, Beijing has deployed 27 battleships, an aircraft carrier and unknown submarines to the area amid competing claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Beijing and the People’s Liberation Army, for their part, have their own highly unpublicized views on Asian brinkmanship. Though hardly state secrets, they won’t scream off the pages of The Post anytime soon.

Back in 2001, a curious incident off south China brought to light some quiet Cold War-style American espionage. The episode, long overshadowed by 9/11, took place when a U.S. spy plane collided with a Chinese aircraft near Hainan Island, leading to the crew’s capture by local authorities.

After a diplomatic standoff, the pilots were freed in one of President George W. Bush’s earliest humiliations. The following decade, we know, was marred by bigger embarrassments—namely botched wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—all impossibilities bereft a multitrillion-dollar fire sale of U.S. Treasury assets to China.

To this day, surveillance of China’s air defense systems persists beneath the radar, 10 years after the worst terror attack in United States history claimed some 3,000 lives.

Lately, ASEAN members are relaxing with President Obama’s announcement of a U.S. military base with 2,500 marines in Darwin, Australia. But Beijing sees red: In the vast arc of a U.S. militarized zone from the Korean peninsula to Marine bases in Japan—with more than 60,000 U.S. personnel between the two—to an activist 7th Fleet off Taiwan, it will now face extra encirclement thousands of miles due south. This must be a twist, given that China’s joint naval maneuvers with the Australians in 2010 deliberately excluded American forces.

In the end, however, the Chinese Communist Party, with its 70 million adherents, remains its own worst enemy. The Party has a massive public relations problem, one that perpetuates the great Pacific stalemate every bit as much as Washington adventurism. Much state-owned media, notably, ceaselessly echoes eerie-sounding praise of “strategic cooperation” and “win-win” situations juxtaposed with bristling hostility, sowing bilateral confusion in the process.

President Obama’s fabled 2009 Shanghai town-hall meeting crystallized this myopia. At the height of his first, most important visit to the mainland, Obama faced Orwellian questions by handpicked, hopelessly robotic students. Domestic media glossed over touchy responses, censors took down Internet transcripts, and only one local station carried the show live while international condemnation was fast and furious. It was hardly Beijing’s finest hour.

All this is understandable, if maddening. Colored by millennial traditions tinged heavily by a brutal nationalism, an obsession with preserving face at all costs, and a historically justified leeriness of outsiders, the Chinese government feels itself caught between a rock and a hard place.

Order among 1.3 billion people is perceived as crucial, and sometimes urgent against a backdrop of ethnic tensions. Thus 60 offenses, including killing pandas, are capital crimes, among other gruesome human rights statistics. For another consideration, the unseemly term “renegade province” is all part of Beijing’s oft-ignored internal domino theory: Once Taiwan goes, rather, so too do Tibet and Xinjiang, an “autonomous region” totaling one-sixth of China’s land mass.

None of this, including China’s big posturing or detentions of the tiny fishing boats of smaller countries, is excusable. China’s balancing act, however, at least from within, weighs a broader—and, in ways, more serious—internal reality: patriotism of ordinary Chinese resentful of encroachment by foreigners.

And what if Alaska and Florida had separatist ambitions? Would China make public overtures to their political and religious leadership? Or what if the Chinese, under a 30-year-old internal mandate, sold billions in surface-to-air-missiles and MiG-20 fighter jets to an independent Hawaii, one with ties to an American civil war claiming at least 1 million lives that ended but 60 years ago?

Imagine a foreign, nuclear-armed naval destroyer hovering 300 miles off California’s coast? And imagine Washington Post editorial indignity were Chinese signal intelligence planes probing national air defenses near the coast of Oregon.

These days, Sino-U.S. relations in Asia’s sullied waters are equally beset by misunderstandings as genuine threats. On one side are Americans, brash and eager to manage crises and dominate a Pacific agenda they have largely ignored over the past 10 years. On the other are a proud, stubborn, heavy-handed Chinese set in their ways and petrified of betraying any weakness—to their own people, much less anyone else.

Joseph Kirschke is an American writer and a former editor at China Daily, the biggest-circulating English-language newspaper in China, based in Beijing.

Egyptian Islamists’ Plans To Talibanize Egypt

Islamist vision of ‘sin-free’ tourism raises alarm in Egypt

The Egyptian tourism minister has expressed concern about recent comments by members of the country's leading Islamist parties, who have outlined their vision for "sin-free” tourism
REPORTING FROM CAIRO — The Egyptian tourism minister has expressed concern about recent comments by members of the country’s leading Islamist parties, who have outlined their vision for “sin-free” tourism.

“There are international concerns about some irresponsible comments made by some Islamists about beach tourism in Egypt,” Tourism Minister Mounir Fakhri Abdel Nour told the independent satellite channel Mehwar on Monday evening. “Many countries have sent inquiries and asked for explanations, and Egyptian tourism already lost a lot because of these comments.”

Abdel Nour was referring to statements by members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and the ultraconservative Salafi party Al Nour. The two parties are leading in parliamentary polls after the first stage of voting last month, raising fears that the country’s lucrative tourism industry could be at risk.

About 15 million holiday-makers visited the country last year, contributing $12.5 billion to the economy, Abdel Nour said.

A senior assistant at the ministry said Tuesday that Egypt is expected to earn no more than $9 billion from tourism this year because of a reduced number of visitors, which at one point during the uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak was 80% lower than the previous year.

Abdel Nour said Egyptian tourism “is currently facing a double challenge: security and the [religious] fatwas.”

On Sunday, the Muslim Brotherhood held an event aimed at allaying fears about tourism should Freedom and Justice win a parliamentary majority. Party candidate Azza Jarf told a crowd gathered across the street from the Giza pyramids that “tourists don’t need to drink alcohol when they come to Egypt.”

Jarf’s comments echoed those of party Secretary-General Saad Katatni, who told tourism officials in August that Egypt is a pious country and that bikinis should not be allowed on public beaches.

Although the more politically pragmatic Brotherhood has often remained subtle about its plans regarding beach tourism in Egypt, Salafis have been more clear that alcohol and mixed beaches should be banned.

Salafi cleric Youssef Bourhami recently described to independent television channel Dream TV his version of halal tourism, the same term used to describe food allowed according to Islamic law.

“A five-star hotel with no alcohol, a beach for women separated from men in a bay where the two sides can enjoy a vacation for a week without sins,” he said. “The tourist doesn’t have to swim in a bikini and harm our youth.”
— Amro Hassan

Photo: A foreign couple walks along the beach in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik. Credit: Nasser Nasser / Associated Press

Barbaric Pakistani Madrassas Chaining Little Boys and Drug Addicts for Brainwashing

Next photo

A young student, found chained up in the basement of an Islamic seminary, is set free (AFP, Asif Hassan)

Photo by Agence France-Presse

Pakistan young students “educationally” controlled by chains in Islamic seminary

Pakistani police have rescued more than 50 young students from a religious school, an Islamic seminary, in Karachi, including drug addicts, who had been “educationally” tortured, chained, and hooked in the basement of a madrassa for unreasonable reasons. .

Police involved in the Monday night rescue, which reportedly came after a tip-off, said an administrator at the seminary was arrested during the raid.

It wasn’t immediately clear why the students, some as young as 12 and some in their 40s, were subjected to such treatment. But police, who conducted the raid late Monday after a tip from neighbors, told local news media that some of the students were drug addicts sent there by parents or other relatives unaware of the horrible conditions.

Azmat Ullah, a 17-year-old student, said his father sent him there because he suffered “fits” and could be violent.

“My father took me to several spiritual healers who said I was a victim of black magic,” he told the AFP. “Three months ago, I was admitted here.”

Former students including an eight-year-old say they were regularly beaten at the school, which was equipped with chains, hooks and a warren of basement rooms. The head of an education federation called it a “torture cell”.

Former students including an eight-year-old told the AFP news agency that they were regularly beaten at the school, which was equipped with chains, hooks and a warren of basement rooms.

Police said 21 teenagers were among those found during the raid.

Naeem said officers had ruled out any possibility that the seminary had links with militant groups, which are known to use madrassas for recruitment.

Hanif Jullandhri, head of a federation of Pakistani madrassas, told Express television that the premises was not registered.

“We strongly condemn this and urge the government to take the harshest possible action against its owners. The government should investigate how such torture cells are established and operated,” he said.

Madrassas, which provide the poorest families with the only education they can afford, are not tightly regulated in Pakistan and have served as recruitment grounds for the Taliban and other al-Qaeda-linked terror groups.

Police said the students were chained up because they were drug addicts whom the madrassa “wanted to rehabilitate”, but many details remain unclear.

At least 15,148 seminaries in Pakistan educate more than two million students – around five per cent of the 34 million children in formal education – according to official statistics.

But officials suspect thousands more go unregistered, providing sons of Pakistan‘s poverty-stricken majority with the only education they can afford.

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Pakistan young students “educationally” control…, posted with vodpod

Caspian Ecology Teeters On the Brink

CREDIT: NPA GROUP
Science 18 January 2002:
Vol. 295 no. 5554 pp. 430-433
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5554.430

As nations around the world’s largest lake bicker over oil rights, the wildlife of the Caspian Sea is in a state of siege from which it may never recover

ASTRAKHAN, RUSSIA—Lev Khuraskin stepped gingerly across the shoal, avoiding the dead seagulls and cormorants rotting in the sand and their squawking, orphaned chicks. The rail-thin biologist, his face leathered from decades on the sun-drenched Caspian Sea, crept up to a seal lolling near the water and straddled it, pressing his hand against the back of its neck to subdue it as a colleague skittered over to draw blood. Fit seals don’t like being messed with, but this emaciated and listless male submitted calmly. “It’s very ill,” says the team’s leader, Vladimir Blinov of VECTOR, Russia’s State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology.

The seal that lay dying on Malyi Zhemchuzhnyi Island is one of the latest casualties in the Caspian Sea’s unfolding ecological drama. Sturgeon, prized for their caviar, are hovering near enough to oblivion that three of the five nations around the Caspian’s shores—Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia—agreed last June to an unprecedented 6-month ban on fishing the species. Too little, too late, some fear. “The question is whether the species can be saved at all,” says Lisa Speer of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a nonprofit based in New York City.

Adding to the mounting horror of ecologists, Mnemiopsis leidyi, a comb jelly notorious for having devastated anchovy populations in the Black Sea, invaded the Caspian a few years ago. New findings suggest that this voracious free-floater has done a similar number on the Caspian’s kilka, or sprat, by “driving numerous species of zooplankton toward extinction,” says ecologist Henri Dumont of Ghent University in Belgium. Mnemiopsis is more bad news for the seals, which feed on kilka and are already reeling from epidemics of canine distemper virus in 1997 and 2000 that killed thousands.

If the Caspian’s wildlife only had natural invaders to deal with, that would be bad enough, but this lake—the largest in the world—is a pressure cooker of political and commercial forces. Ranged around its shores are the growing economy of Russia in the north and fundamentalist Iran in the south, with Muslim ex-Soviet republics in between. Both Russia and the United States are vying for influence in the region, a process accelerated by the war in nearby Afghanistan.

Complicating the picture are the Caspian’s vast oil reserves. The Soviets largely ignored this resource, but the newly independent republics are keen to exploit it. Production in the Caspian is expected to ramp up fivefold to 5 million barrels a day by 2020. “For the time being, there’s no proof that oil exploration or extraction will pose a major hazard to the Caspian environment—if it’s done properly,” says Arkadiusz Labon, a Toronto-based fisheries consultant who coordinated a major fish stock survey in the Caspian last year. However, he and others note, a major spill—always a possibility in this geologically unstable region (see sidebar)—could spell disaster.

Oil in troubled waters

Two millennia ago the Caspian was a sacred place for Zoroastrians, who would meditate at temples near jets of flaming gases that vented from the naphtha-rich sands of the Apsheron Peninsula, a nub of land jutting into the Caspian in present-day Azerbaijan. Later generations of Persians, still awestruck by the pillars of fire, recognized a commodity and by the late 1500s were scooping petroleum from shallow wells.

True development of the oil fields began in 1875 when Ludvig and Robert Nobel, brothers of renowned Swedish industrialist Alfred, bought up land near Baku. Boring deeper wells, they and their crew learned how to work Apsheron’s fickle semifluid sands. Oil production increased by 50 times over the next decade, reaching 1 million tons a year. When after a brief independence Azerbaijan was absorbed into the Soviet Union, the Nobels were out and central planning was in.

Although the Soviets discovered three giant oil fields in the Caspian basin, they left them mostly untapped. They found it easier and less costly to extract oil from their vast petroleum reserves in western Siberia and even went as far as banning offshore drilling in the north Caspian to protect the sturgeon’s feeding grounds and spawning migration routes.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, oil investments from the West poured into the Caspian, turning the region into a “Wild East.” But although oil exploration has not yet had a major impact on local ecology, the same cannot be said for fishers out to make a fast buck by harvesting the Caspian’s other precious resource: caviar.

Of fish and jellyfish

With their long snouts and ridged, scaleless bodies, the young sturgeon swimming circles in a glass tank at the Caspian Fisheries Research Institute here in Astrakhan look more like baby dinosaurs than fish. But having long outlived the dinosaurs since debuting in the fossil record 200 million years ago, the venerable sturgeon is facing its toughest test yet. The Caspian is home to the world’s biggest population of sturgeon. The sea’s four major varieties—stellate sturgeon, or sevruga (Acipenser stellatus), Russian sturgeon (A. guldenstadti), Persian sturgeon (A. persicus), and beluga (Huso huso)—supply about 90% of the total caviar harvested worldwide. It’s a lucrative commodity: As Science went to press, one firm, Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, was advertising sevruga caviar at $1448 per kilogram. Beluga roe, meanwhile, was fetching more than $2500 per kilogram. Russia alone says it hauled in $40 million last year from caviar exports, although some observers claim that the figure for legal exports was closer to $100 million.

The sturgeon’s enemies are legion, but poachers may be taking the heaviest toll. Last year they fueled a shadow caviar market estimated at $400 million, according to Russia’s Interior Ministry. Rampant poaching since the Soviet meltdown has sent sturgeon stocks crashing, with beluga numbers less than 10% of what they were 2 decades ago, the government estimates. Last year Russia began working with Interpol to try to crack down on smuggling, but most observers say it will take years, if not decades, to stamp it out. Other factors in the decline include dams on the Volga River that cut off access to spawning areas, and perhaps pollutants that accumulate in fat and may render eggs infertile. “The whole ecology of the rivers has changed,” says biologist Ellen Pikitch of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York City.

Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, the secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) got three Caspian nations to agree to a 6-month moratorium on fishing sturgeon last June. Some experts contend that the ban, which ended on 1 January, did little good for the sturgeon, because it took hold after the main fishing season in the spring.

A recent census of Caspian fish corroborates that view. Last summer, the Caspian Environment Programme (CEP), a World Bank and European Union initiative, undertook a rare comprehensive survey of Caspian fish stocks. Over 6 weeks last August and September, the CEP team used sonar to chart and characterize fish populations everywhere but in the coastal waters of Turkmenistan, which did not allow access. Sonar is an imperfect technique, particularly for bottom-feeding fish like sturgeon, so the team captured and released fish as well.

Although the researchers are still analyzing their data, the emerging picture is dire indeed. “We found very few mature sturgeon,” says Labon. “That’s a sure sign of dramatic overfishing.” As expected, the team found ample young sturgeon, indicating that hatcheries in the Volga delta and Iran have averted total calamity. But the hulking fish are late breeders, taking years to reach sexual maturity. That means poachers and other fishers will be netting more and more juveniles in an increasingly frustrating search for caviar.

Figure
Soon a scene of the past?

Russians haul in sturgeon on the Volga delta near Astrakhan.

CREDIT: HANS-JURGEN BURKARD, COURTESY OF CAVIAR EMPTOR

Labon argues that a 10-year fishing ban—without loopholes such as a permissible “scientific” catch—is essential to rescue the sturgeon from extinction. However, a total moratorium could backfire by driving the entire caviar trade underground, argues NRDC’s Speer. Her organization, for one, is campaigning for a ban on trade of beluga only, the most endangered species. It will make that pitch when the CITES standing committee on sturgeon meets in March to review this year’s proposed catch quotas. NRDC will also lobby the next conference of CITES parties in November to elevate beluga to the most endangered Appendix One list, which would ban beluga export from any signatory nation.

The sturgeon is not the only Caspian fish under siege; some other species are facing a more insidious, if spineless, threat. First sighted off the Iranian coast in 1998, the comb jelly Mnemiopsis within months had managed to swarm across much of the rest of the Caspian. The delicate, luminescent creature, looking more like a miniature starship than an animal, appears to have stowed away in the ballast water of ships in the Black Sea, reaching the Caspian via the Volga-Don Canal.

Based on the jelly’s voracious habits in the Black Sea, researchers expected it to gulp its way through the bottom of the Caspian’s food chain, grazing on zooplankton that are the staple of kilka and many other fish. Over the past couple of years, says Labon, professional fishers along the Caspian have been asking, “Where have all the kilka gone?” In Iranian waters, Ghent’s Dumont adds, “they don’t catch anything but jellies now.” The CEP fish survey spotted this decline. According to Labon, the survey found that kilka and herring populations “are severely depressed” compared to 2 years ago. His team is still crunching numbers to determine precisely how much these fish have declined.

A kilka crash is bad news for the fishing industry in Iran, where there’s a big market for the sprats. But for the beleaguered seals that feed on kilka, it could be a crushing blow.

Hunting a killer

It has been a tough few years for the Caspian’s seals. Two years ago, a mystery epidemic killed several thousand of them, including many young ones. A CEP seal ecotoxicology team, led by Susan Wilson of the Tara Seal Research Centre in Northern Ireland, and the VECTOR group—working independently—unmasked canine distemper virus as the likely villain (Science, 22 September 2000, p. 2017). When seals began dying in droves again last spring, both teams headed out to different parts of the Caspian to find out why.

Their preliminary, unpublished findings suggest that canine distemper is not the seals’ only foe. After sampling dead or dying seals washed up on the Apsheron Peninsula, Wilson’s team found that—unlike what they had observed in 2000—the victims were mostly adults. Analyzing tissue back in the lab along with samples from Iran and Turkmenistan, Wilson and her team so far have found no sign of canine distemper or any other virus.

FigureFigure
Hard times.

The CEP ecotoxicology team’s Hormoz Asadi observes a seal on the Apsheron Peninsula. The comb jelly Mnemiopsis leidyi (top) may have abetted last year’s die-off.

CREDITS: (TOP TO BOTTOM) LAURENCE P. MADIN/WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION; S. WILSON

Wilson’s team believes that pollution may be a contributor to last year’s die-off. The researchers are now testing their samples for levels of the pesticide DDT and other long-lived pollutants. Such chemicals are also the prime suspect in the seals’ plummeting birthrate, says Wilson. But she and her colleagues are pursuing other lines of inquiry, including bacterial infections and poor nutrition.

The VECTOR team’s findings add more intrigue. Blinov’s group says it detected a flu strain last spring, similar to one that jumped from birds into people in Hong Kong in 1997, in some of the dead seals they had sampled in 2000, as well as a nearly identical strain in a single sick seal in Russia’s Lake Baikal. “If avian viruses could overcome host barriers and infect humans in Hong Kong and cause pandemic outbreaks in seals,” says Blinov, “we thought, ‘What might occur tomorrow?’” Tests for virus in seals sampled last year on Malyi Zhemchuzhnyi Island are still under way, but they have come up negative so far.

That jibes with the CEP ecotox findings, but it fails to penetrate the mystery of where canine distemper is lurking, or whether the avian influenza that VECTOR spotted was a red herring or a continuing threat to the seals. Wilson speculates that canine distemper, at least, could reemerge in a couple of years. She notes that the evidence is looking more solid that distemper was behind a mass die-off in 1997 and may periodically afflict Caspian seals.

If canine distemper does resurface next year, the seals could be in for a double whammy. Both the CEP and VECTOR teams have reported that many ill or dead seals were underweight and some were emaciated, which may point to a food shortage. Wilson carried out a limited survey of seal feces collected on Apsheron last year and found that kilka appeared to make up only a tiny proportion of their diet, suggesting that the seals had to make do with less-nutritious prey. “We need to extend these diet studies,” Wilson says. But it does seem to bear the tentacle-marks of Mnemiopsis.

Dumont and other experts argue that steps must be taken quickly to rein in Mnemiopsis. After Mnemiopsislevels in the Caspian last fall exceeded those ever reached in the Black Sea, a scientific advisory committee called on littoral nations to approve plans to unleash a predator this spring to control the invader. Their choice was Beroe ovata, a heftier comb jelly that dines almost exclusively on MnemiopsisBeroe slipped into the Black Sea in 1997 and quickly brought the villain to heel. There, Mnemiopsis populations had plunged so low by last year that it was hard to find specimens for analysis. Beroe, says Dumont, “is almost too good to be true.”

Azerbaijan and Iran are pressing hard for Beroe to be introduced, but it’s unclear whether the other Caspian governments will climb aboard. Signs look unfavorable for agreement on something as contentious as biological pest control—no matter how benign Beroe would appear—when tensions are already running high over oil rights.

Political hardball

Like 49ers staking claims in California, the five littoral nations have asserted overlapping territorial claims in the Caspian itself. Last summer, Iranian gunships chased an Azeri research vessel out of waters claimed by both countries. A meeting planned for last October at which the countries had agreed to demarcate borders was abandoned after the 11 September terror attacks, although the leaders of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are scheduled to visit Moscow later this month in part to revive the negotiations.

FigureFigure
Eternal flames.

At the Surakhany Fire Temple, ancient Persians meditated on Baku’s perpetually burning hills, including the Kirmaky gas seep (top).

CREDIT: MIKE SIMMONS/CASP

The Caspian nations are playing hardball because their oil is considered a major prize by Western powers. The newly independent states could act as a counterweight to OPEC, because the Caspian oilfields would greatly augment the few reserves—including Siberia and the North Sea—not controlled by the Middle East-dominated cartel. Caspian oil “can offset [OPEC’s] efforts to keep prices high and their use of high prices for political dictates,” says Brenda Shaffer, research director of Harvard University’s Caspian Studies Program.

Apart from Russia, the three countries with the largest Caspian reserves—Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan—have welcomed alliances with the West, which they think will help them convert their black gold into cash and limit Russian influence in their affairs. Beyond oil and gas, the region is important to the United States, which “needs to develop friends like Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan in the Muslim world, due to their clear separation of religion and state,” says Shaffer. Russia, meanwhile, has bolstered its sphere of influence by strengthening ties with Iran and forming alliances with other ex-Soviet littoral states.

Sound like a powder keg waiting to be lit? Quite so, says Terry Adams, a senior associate at Cambridge Energy Research Associates and founding president of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company oil consortium: “The seeds of future Caspian conflict were planted early.” And with an international effort to safeguard the Caspian’s ecology nowhere in sight, the lake itself can only suffer in the process.

Science. ISSN 0036-8075 (print), 1095-9203 (online)

Major Gold and Copper Finds In Papua New Guinea’s Crater Mountain Deposits

Triple Plate Junction rallies on positive study results from Crater Mountain gold project

by Sergei Balashov

Gold Anomaly said the results from hole NEV027 provided further confidence that Crater Mountain hosts a much larger gold deposit

Gold Anomaly said the results from hole NEV027 provided further confidence that Crater Mountain hosts a much larger gold deposit

Shares in Triple Plate Junction (LON:TPJ) surged in early trade after its partner Gold Anomaly (ASX:GOA)reported positive study results from the Nevera prospect at the Crater Mountain project in Papua New Guinea.

Gold Anomaly said the results of studies completed on a sample of core from hole NEV027 provided further confidence that Crater Mountain, which is 18.7 percent owned by Triple Plate Junction, hosts a much larger gold deposit.

The studies found that NEV027 intersected what appears to be a typical porphyry system, some of which Gold Anomaly said are responsible for some of the largest copper gold deposits in Papua New Guinea and around the world.

The intrusive intersected by the hole was geologically similar to major porphyry deposits such as Xstrata‘s Freida River and Newcrest’s Wafi Golpu, the company added.

All of the samples taken from NEV027 have completed sample prep and may already be en-route to the laboratory with the results expected before Christmas.

Two holes are currently being drilled at Crater Mountain, including NEV030, which is targeting the intrusive identified by NEV027 at a lower depth.

The other hole, NEV031, is testing the north-eastern extent of the mixing zone and is expected to be completed in the next couple of days.

Only last month, Triple Plate Junction announced a maiden resource at the Nevera prospect, which now has 24 million tonnes grading 1 gram per tonne (g/t) for 790,000 ounces of gold in the inferred category.

The two companies expect the ongoing drilling programme of over 1,000 metres to lead to a significant expansion of the resource within the new few months.

Gold Anomaly plans to extend exploration activities to adjacent prospects Masi Creek and Nimi in 2012, which have similarsurface geology, mineralisation and alteration to that seen at Nevera.

Triple Plate Junction traded at 5.88 pence this morning, up 7 percent from Tuesday’s close. The company currently has a market cap of £20.35 million.

Fracking Has Formerly Stable Ohio City Aquiver Over Earthquakes

Fracking Has Formerly Stable Ohio City Aquiver Over Earthquakes

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By Mark Niquette

When Youngstown, Ohio, shook on Sept. 29, Karen Fox thought her daughter was crashing down the stairs.

“It rumbled enough where you could hear the windows shaking,” Fox said in a telephone interview. “I ran downstairs and said, ‘My God, are you OK?’ And she looked at me and she says, ‘I was running upstairs to see if you were OK.’”

Earthquakes weren’t recorded around Youngstown until D&L Energy Inc. began injecting wastewater from drilling into a 9,300-foot disposal well in December 2010. From March through Nov. 25, there were nine in an area of about 4.5 square miles west of the shaft, according to the state-coordinated Ohio Seismic Network.

As hydraulic fracturing produces natural gas by forcing chemically treated water and sand underground, groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council question whether the risks of the process are worth it. A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report Dec. 8 linked so-called fracking in Wyoming to contaminated groundwater. Now, with temblors in states including Ohio, Arkansas and Texas that researchers say may have been caused by wastewater wells, residents also have to worry about their houses falling apart, said Fox.

“Back in March, when these first started, nobody was thinking anything of it — it’s just Mother Nature,” said Fox, a 46-year-old medical secretary and president of the city’s West Side Citizen’s Coalition. As earthquakes continue to hit, “more people are getting more concerned.”

Not Our Fault

Scientists such as Jeffrey Dick, chairman of Youngstown State University’s geology department, said that though the quakes’ timing and location suggest wells may be to blame, more data is needed. The National Academy of Sciences has said a committee will release a report on the issue next year.

Ben Lupo, president and chief executive of D&L Energy, said in a telephone interview that he doesn’t think his well is causing them and that “if these things weren’t safe, we would not put them in.” The well wasn’t operating during the Nov. 25 earthquake because it was the day after Thanksgiving, he said.

About 7 million barrels of wastewater from drilling have been injected annually into Ohio wells since 1985 without incident because the practice is closely regulated by federal laws and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said Thomas E. Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a trade association with more than 1,450 members.

Surrendering to Panic

“There’s people that are simply opposed to oil and gas development, and they’ll seize on any issue, no matter what the issue is, and no matter what the facts, and try to use that to create hysteria,” Stewart said in a telephone interview from Granville.

The earthquakes in Youngstown, which is roughly equidistant from Cleveland and Pittsburgh, ranged from 2.1 to 2.7 on the Richter scale, the Ohio Seismic Network said. Earthquakes with magnitude of about 2.0 or less on the Richter scale, which has no upper limit, are not commonly felt by people, according to the U. S. Geological Survey. The Aug. 23 earthquake that had an epicenter in Virginia and was felt across the East Coast had a 5.8 magnitude.

New YorkPennsylvaniaMarylandWest Virginia, Ohio and parts of Kentucky and Tennessee sit atop the Marcellus and Utica shale formations and the states have been wrestling with how to regulate drilling and fracking to tap natural gas as deep as 12,000 feet below the earth’s surface. Governor John Kasich has said the practice “could change Ohio,” and has even proposed having his state, IndianaMichigan and Pennsylvania run their vehicle fleets on compressed natural gas.

Following the Fluid

Still, as companies including Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK) and Halliburton Co. (HAL) are benefiting from fracking — and more disposal wells are drilled — Dick urged caution.

“You certainly don’t want have an injection well that’s coincident with earthquakes, and then five months from now we get a 5.5 magnitude quake that knocks down a couple buildings,” Dick said in a telephone interview from Youngstown.

The state required D&L Energy to conduct a test using radioactive material to trace whether the fluid being injected in the well is going only to the areas allowed by its permit, said Tom Tomastik, deputy chief of the Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management.

Blanket Ban

D&L Energy, a 26-year-old closely held company based in Youngstown, has agreed to put a concrete plug at the bottom of the well if tests show that fluid is reaching bedrock levels, Lupo said. There has been no unusual seismic activity at the state’s other 190 permitted injection wells, Tomastik said.

“Just to blanket say that we’re going to put a moratorium on drilling or a moratorium on disposal when we don’t really know what is happening, that’s, I don’t think, the way to go,” Tomastik said.

The Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission did stop well disposal in August after a swarm of earthquakes. There were about 1,250 quakes recorded through July after two injection wells started operating last year, said Scott Ausbrooks, geohazards supervisor for the Arkansas Geological Survey in Little Rock.

Ausbrooks did a study with the University of Memphis and concluded there was “a plausible relationship between the injection wells and the earthquakes” after a previously unknown fault system was discovered, he said.

The state Oil and Gas Commission ordered that one injection well be shut down and operators agreed to stop using three others, “erring on the side of caution and public protection,” Shane Khoury, the commission’s deputy director and general counsel, said in a telephone interview.

Rocking Texas

After the wells were shut down, there were only four earthquakes recorded in the area from July through October, down from an average of four a day, Ausbrooks said.

A 2010 study on a swarm of earthquakes in 2008 and 2009 near injection wells in the Dallas-Fort Worth area by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and Southern Methodist University concluded that the quakes “may be the result of fluid injection.”

A 1990 U.S. Geological Survey report found that “injection of fluid into deep wells has triggered documented earthquakes” in Colorado, Texas, New York, New Mexico, Nebraska and Ohio. It highlighted more than 70 quakes in July 1987 in Ashtabula, Ohio, about a kilometer from the bottom of a hazardous-waste disposal well in operation only a year. There had been no other known earthquakes within 30 kilometers since 1857, it said.

Quick Inundation

While well disposal requires sustained pressure as liquid is forced underground, fracking itself is a short, sharp shock as water breaks up rock and is withdrawn.

There have been fewer reports of earthquakes connected with fracking, though the Oklahoma Geological Survey concluded in an August report that it might have induced 43 temblors near Elmore City during 24 hours in January. Cuadrilla Resources Ltd., a U.K.-based explorer, also suspended fracking near Blackpool, England, in June based on a concern it may have triggered a quake.

The incidents raise questions about whether enough is known about the practice to ignore risks in the name of jobs and domestic energy, said Ohio state Representative Robert F. Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat. And the state may become a “dumping ground” for wastewater, he said in a telephone interview from Columbus.

During the first three quarters of 2011, nearly 53 percent of the 368.3 million gallons injected into Ohio’s wells came from out of state, according to data provided by the Natural Resources Department. The number of new permits for injection wells increased to 24 from 10 last year and five in 2009, records show.

“I’m paranoid about it,” Hagan said. “I would travel out to California thinking that anytime now, there could be an earthquake. Well, anytime now, there could be an earthquake in Youngstown.”

Lupo said he plans to have five more disposal wells operating near the city next year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Niquette in Columbus, Ohio, atmniquette@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net