Inside Xi Jinping’s purge of China’s oil mandarins

by reuters

Oil executive Jiang Jiemin rose to power in Communist China in time-honored fashion: by hitching his star to a mighty mentor.In Jiang’s case, that patron was another oil man, Zhou Yongkang, who went on to become the chief of China’s internal security apparatus and one of the country’s most powerful men.Like Zhou before him, Jiang rose to the top of country’s biggest oil producer, China National Petroleum Corporation. In return, say people familiar with his career, Jiang helped Zhou build power by using the oil giant to dispense patronage. In March last year Jiang ascended even higher, when he was named to run the agency that oversees all of China’s biggest state-owned companies.Their relationship was on display ahead of the party’s 18th congress in November 2012, when both attended a banquet for CNPC veterans of a 1980s drive to find oil in remote western China. In toasts and remarks, Jiang continually referred to Zhou as “the leader” and urged the oil men to “accept the leadership of the Party’s central committee” and of Zhou himself, says an executive who was at the banquet. The flattery, the executive says, “was so obvious.”Today, the retainer’s loyalty to Zhou has backfired. In September, Jiang was sacked and arrested, a victim of a seismic power struggle as Chinese President Xi Jinping sets out to crush Zhou, the most senior leader targeted in a corruption probe since the Communist Party took power in 1949.In a bid to isolate his rival, Xi is steadily taking down Zhou’s extensive web of colleagues, political allies, relatives, staff and business associates of his family, according to people familiar with the investigation. Corruption investigators are swarming the CNPC group, where Zhou, 71, a geophysical engineer, built a vast network of friends and allies over the decades.Jiang, 58, is the most senior executive to fall in an ongoing purge of current and former managers of the petroleum giant. He is accused of using his position and CNPC’s massive budget to help Zhou buy political favors and maintain his network of supporters across China, according to people with ties to the Chinese leadership.The campaign against Zhou is roiling the entire Communist Party. A Reuters examination of the oil-industry component of the crackdown shows the extent of the purge, a drama that will have repercussions well beyond China.”The scale of the probe into CNPC is unprecedented, but perhaps the severity of corruption at the company is also unprecedented,” says Qing Yi, a Beijing-based independent economist.CNPC is one of the world’s largest companies, with global operations and 2013 revenue of $432 billion. Its publicly listed subsidiary, PetroChina, trades in Hong Kong, Shanghai and New York and is the world’s fourth-biggest oil producer by market capitalization. Jiang ran both the parent and PetroChina from 2007 until last year, when he briefly headed the State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC). Interviews with senior CNPC officials, statements from the authorities and an analysis of the positions held by the arrested executives indicate that investigators are scrutinizing offshore and domestic spending, including oil service contracts, equipment supply deals and oil field acquisitions.The investigation has already touched CNPC group operations in Canada, Indonesia, China and Turkmenistan, say people familiar with the proceedings. In addition to Jiang, the Chinese authorities have confirmed the arrests of CNPC vice president Wang Yongchun, PetroChina vice presidents Li Hualin and Ran Xinquan, and the listed unit’s chief geologist, Wang Daofu.Criminal prosecutors are now investigating Jiang and Wang Yongchun for bribery, the official Xinhua news agency reported July 14, without giving details. In China, the announcement of a criminal probe means charges are almost certain to follow. Acquittals are rare.SASAC, the state-owned company regulator, said last year that Li, Ran and Wang Daofu were under investigation for “severe breaches of discipline.” In China, this phrase is often a euphemism for corruption, but SASAC did not go into details.Oil industry sources have told Reuters that another six senior CNPC group executives have been detained and are under investigation, but there have been no public announcements of these cases. Dozens of other managers have been questioned as investigators methodically unravel Zhou’s petroleum faction, according to senior officials at CNPC in Beijing.The authorities have yet to reveal any specific evidence against Jiang or any of the other detained CNPC managers. CNPC and PetroChina did not respond to questions for comment on the investigation or arrests. The party hasn’t made any public announcement about Zhou’s fate.As is routine in Chinese corruption cases, Jiang, Zhou and the other people named in this article as suspects couldn’t be reached for comment, nor could their lawyers be identified.While not dismissing the graft allegations, some Chinese say the purged officials appear, in part, to be victims of a brutal struggle within the Communist Party. “All this is not transparent, so people are suspecting that’s the case,” says Mao Yushi, an advocate of economic reform and honorary president of a private Beijing-based consultancy, Unirule Institute of Economics. “I share the suspicion.”Anxiety now grips the non-descript offices inside CNPC’s steel-and-glass Beijing headquarters, according to staff working at the building. Managers are being regularly taken away for questioning, company officials say. Some prominent executives have returned to their desks after the interrogations, while others remain in custody. Senior staff told Reuters they expect more arrests.To spearhead his crackdown, Xi has enlisted a close ally: Wang Qishan, a veteran official with a reputation as the Communist Party’s top trouble-shooter and an implacable corruption fighter. Wang heads the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which as the party’s internal watchdog division is the most powerful investigative body in China. On June 30, the commission said Jiang had been expelled from the party for corruption. The commission did not respond to requests for comment.Xi is determined to bring down Zhou for allegedly plotting an audacious power grab ahead of the 18th Party Congress in November 2012, people familiar with the probe say. Zhou is accused of attempting to promote his supporters into the leadership so that he could rule from behind the scenes after he retired, they say. He has been under virtual house arrest in Beijing since late last year.

Zhou was a relentless networker over his decades at the top of Chinese industry and politics, oil industry veterans say, cultivating supporters throughout China. Jiang was one of his agents in building these connections. Some of this support for Zhou involved tapping the pork barrel.At the helm of CNPC, Jiang recruited political allies for Zhou by approving proposals to build refineries in a number of provinces, a person with ties to the leadership told Reuters. “Local governments were grateful because the refineries helped boost their economies and created jobs,” the source said, without pinpointing specific deals. “Through Jiang Jiemin, Zhou Yongkang won over their loyalty.”Under Jiang, one of CNPC’s most controversial moves was a 2008 decision to build a $6 billion refinery and petrochemical project at Pengzhou, near Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province. Zhou was party secretary in Sichuan between 1999 and 2002 and established a political stronghold in the southwestern province. Investigators have made many arrests in Sichuan in the campaign against Zhou.From the start, there were strong environmental protests against building a refinery in the earthquake-prone area. Some critics of the deal also questioned the wisdom of situating the complex so far inland, in an area far from ports and without major nearby oilfields. Most of China’s major refineries are on the coast with easy access to imported crude.Without mentioning Zhou, a CNPC official with knowledge of the project told Reuters that Jiang backed the plant because he wanted to please political leaders. “It doesn’t make much sense to build the project there,” the CNPC official said. “Where do you source your crude oil?” In its project proposals, CNPC said the Sichuan refinery would process oil from Russia, Kazakhstan and western China. Some industry analysts say southwest China has very little refining capacity, and the Pengzhou project fills that gap. An earthquake devastated Sichuan in 2008. Undeterred, Zhou prodded local officials to beef up safety measures and press ahead with the refinery. “Build up Sichuan’s heavy petrochemical industry,” he urged on a 2010 visit to the province, according to reports in the state-run media. When the refinery started production this year, China’s economic planning agency said it would boost the regional economy.PetroChina, with a market capitalization of about $225 billion, is China’s dominant oil and gas producer, with global operations including oilfields, refineries, pipelines and petrochemical plants. It is a subsidiary of CNPC, and yet a power in its own right: PetroChina holds most of its parent’s assets on its balance sheet.While Jiang was at the helm of both companies, PetroChina launched a spending bonanza, heeding a political command to secure access to more offshore oil as part of Beijing’s campaign to boost energy security. Annual capital expenditure almost doubled to about $57 billion over the six years to 2012. In the five years to 2013, the company also spent $25 billion on overseas assets. These outlays are now under the microscope.CNPC vice-president Wang Yongchun was the first senior oil executive to fall, late last August, as part of a wider campaign to roll up Zhou Yongkang’s network. Days later, in early September, the probe into Jiang was made public. More than 300 of Zhou’s relatives, allies and business associates have been arrested, detained or questioned, according to people briefed on the investigation. Authorities have seized assets worth at least 90 billion yuan ($14.5 billion) from Zhou’s family members and associates, they said. Zhou’s last public appearance was in Beijing on October 1. He has been under virtual house arrest since late last year, people briefed on the probe say.

Despite sanctions call, UK approves Russia arms exports

by detroitnews

A group of legislative committees that oversee arms export controls said there are 251 export licenses in place for sale of goods worth at least 132 million pounds ($225 million) to Russia. The report did not detail actual exports, simply the licenses.The permits cover sniper rifles, night sights, small arms ammunition, gun mountings, body armor, military communications equipment, and “equipment employing cryptography.”“Russia is an authoritarian regime,” said the committees’ chairman, Conservative lawmaker John Stanley. “We should have been applying a more cautious approach for some time in regard to Russia.”Britain has been the most vocal European advocate of tougher sanctions on Russia since the downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet last week. Western governments believe rebels shot down the plane with a Russian-made missile, killing all 298 people aboard.Prime Minister David Cameron has criticized France for going through with a deal to sell warships to Russia.In March, then-Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain would halt the sale to Russia of military equipment that could be used against Ukraine. The lawmakers’ report said 31 licenses had since been revoked or suspended.The British government said Wednesday that its policy was not to export anything that could be used for internal repression or against Ukraine. It said most of the exported material was for “commercial use.”It said all licenses were kept under review.

Jews Are Not Descendants of Abraham

Originally posted on News-Press-Liberty With Responsibility!:

9781930004825by Texe Marrs

Who should possess the land of Israel? Christian evangelicals say it should be the descendants of Abraham. They point to the Old Testament and claim that God gave this land forever to the descendants of Abraham and that God demands they and they alone own the land.To the Christian evangelical, this means the Jews. Yes, it is the Jews who own this land, and it is their land forever.The Jews, then, according to Christian evangelicals, are the descendants of Abraham, his seed.There is only one problem. And it is a huge one. Science proves those who call themselves “Jews” are not Jews!

http://socioecohistory.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/texe-marrs-dna-evidence-shows-ashkenazi-khazar-jews-are-not-of-the-bloodline-of-abraham-isaac-and-jacob-they-are-gentiles/

DNA Science has confounded the Christian evangelicals by proving conclusively that most of the people in the nation of Israel and in World Jewry are not the descendants of Abraham.Those living today who profess to be “Jews” are not of the ancient Israelites, and…

View original 892 more words

The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist

By Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux

The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place entire “categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted.The rulebook, which The Intercept is publishing in full, was developed behind closed doors by representatives of the nation’s intelligence, military, and law-enforcement establishment, including the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and FBI. Emblazoned with the crests of 19 agencies, it offers the most complete and revealing look into the secret history of the government’s terror list policies to date. It reveals a confounding and convoluted system filled with exceptions to its own rules, and it relies on the elastic concept of “reasonable suspicion” as a standard for determining whether someone is a possible threat. Because the government tracks “suspected terrorists” as well as “known terrorists,” individuals can be watchlisted if they are suspected of being a suspected terrorist, or if they are suspected of associating with people who are suspected of terrorism activity.
“Instead of a watchlist limited to actual, known terrorists, the government has built a vast system based on the unproven and flawed premise that it can predict if a person will commit a terrorist act in the future,” says Hina Shamsi, the head of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “On that dangerous theory, the government is secretly blacklisting people as suspected terrorists and giving them the impossible task of proving themselves innocent of a threat they haven’t carried out.” Shamsi, who reviewed the document, added, “These criteria should never have been kept secret.”The document’s definition of “terrorist” activity includes actions that fall far short of bombing or hijacking. In addition to expected crimes, such as assassination or hostage-taking, the guidelines also define destruction of government property and damaging computers used by financial institutions as activities meriting placement on a list. They also define as terrorism any act that is “dangerous” to property and intended to influence government policy through intimidation.This combination—a broad definition of what constitutes terrorism and a low threshold for designating someone a terrorist—opens the way to ensnaring innocent people in secret government dragnets. It can also be counterproductive. When resources are devoted to tracking people who are not genuine risks to national security, the actual threats get fewer resources—and might go unnoticed.
The fallout is personal too. There are severe consequences for people unfairly labeled a terrorist by the U.S. government, which shares its watchlist data with local law enforcement, foreign governments, and “private entities.” Once the U.S. government secretly labels you a terrorist or terrorist suspect, other institutions tend to treat you as one. It can become difficult to get a job (or simply to stay out of jail). It can become burdensome—or impossible—to travel. And routine encounters with law enforcement can turn into ordeals.

SOURCE

US: Russia firing artillery at Ukraine military

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is accusing Russia of firing artillery to hit Ukrainian military sites and planning to send pro-Russian separatists more lethal weaponry.The State Department says the U.S. has evidence that Russia is shelling Ukraine from sites inside Russia. Spokeswoman Marie Harf also says the U.S. has evidence Russia intends to deliver “heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers” to separatists battling Ukrainian forces in the east of the country.Harf declined to provide details or elaborate on the evidence because she said she could not get into intelligence “source and methods.”The U.S. has repeatedly accused Russia of stoking the Ukraine rebellion and alleges that Russia is ultimately responsible for last week’s downing of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine.

SOURCE

The Next Big E-Commerce Wave: Vertically Integrated Commerce

Given the number of start up in VIC in ecommerce,I can’t help but recall this 2 year old piece from Techcrunch.
Editor’s note: Boris Wertz is the founder of version one ventures , and has invested in more than 35 early-stage consumer Internet and mobile companies, including Chloe & Isabel, Julep, and Indochino. Follow him on his blog and Twitter . There has been more e-commerce innovation during the past [...]

Click here to view original web page at techcrunch.com

Ukraine instates third call of duty, citing continued Russian aggression

by Matthew Luxmoore

Additional reservists will be called up to reinforce servicemen fighting Kremlin-backed mercenaries and their proxies in eastern Ukraine after parliament on July 22 passed a bill on “partial military mobilization.” Adopted by a simple majority of 232 lawmakers, the specific draft notice will take place in all 24 regions of Ukraine and the capital city of Kyiv, and last for 45 days once the law enters into force. Introducing the bill, which was submitted to parliament by President Petro Poroshenko on July 21, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Andriy Parubiy said it would mobilize an additional 15 combat and 44 combat-support units for the government’s antiterrorist operation in Ukraine’s east, arguing that continued Russian aggression necessitates the move.Their length of service wasn’t disclosed, but military expert Valentyn Bardrak has told Yurligazakon, a legal web portal, that they could serve until the conflict ends or indefinitely if it exacerbates.”Russia continues its policy of escalating (the) armed confrontation… It is necessary to push the Russian occupants out of Ukraine,” Parubiy told parliament. He estimated that some 41,000 Russian troops, equipped with 150 tanks, 500 artillery systems and almost 1,400 armored vehicles are currently amassed along Ukraine’s border.During a question-and-answer session prior to the vote, Parubiy stated that reserve officers and those with higher military educations or military service experience would be called up in areas where they are needed. This is the third call-up since the armed conflict in Ukraine’s two easternmost regions began. The first took place on March 17 and the second on May 6, according to the National Security and Defense Council. Combined, they yielded 53 military combat units and 18 other military formations. Also, parliament on July 22 increased the military service age for reservists to 60 years. Thus, the age limit for privates and non-commissioned officers is 60 years, and 65 for senior officers. Speaking on July 21 following the bill’s submission to parliament, Presidential Administration spokesman Hennadiy Zubko said partial mobilization does not stipulate a rotation of forces engaged in the government’s antiterrorist operation in eastern Ukraine but a reinforcement of those currently out in the field.”There will be additional recruitments. A rotation is not on the current agenda… The situation in the East is such: we are practically mounting an offensive and it would be a lie to say that we are planning a rotation,” he told Channel 5 TV, according to Interfax Ukraine.That same evening, Parubiy gave a different assessment of the planned bill in an interview on channel ICTV, suggesting that a rotation of servicemen “who in some cases have already spent several months on the frontline” will be carried out if necessary.“We are carrying out partial mobilization in order to gather the maximum amount of people that the Ukrainian government is currently able to equip and provide with necessary protection before dispatching them to the frontline,” he added, according to Ukrainska Pravda.Previous waves of mobilization have provoked mixed feelings from the population, with many expecting those dispatched to the conflict zone to return after the mandated 45-day period of service was through. A large proportion of the army contingent fighting in Ukraine’s east has not been rotated since the armed conflict began some three months ago.Hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have been killed since the armed conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts began in mid-April, and Russia has been accused by Kyiv of supplying the pro-Russian insurgents fighting government forces there with weapons and personnel.On July 21, spokesman for Ukraine’s Security Council Andriy Lysenko said that an extra 100 Russian military units had been added to the contingent massed at the border with Ukraine. The Defense Ministry, meanwhile, reported that Russia was continuing to fire at Ukrainian positions from its side of the border.

SOURCE