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Archive for April 22, 2011

U.S. Worried by Potential Chinese CW Tech Sales to Iran

April 22, 2011 Comments off

globalsecuritynewswire

A leaked diplomatic cable indicates that the U.S. State Department believed in 2009 that a Chinese firm was providing Iran with equipment that could be used in producing chemical weapons agents, Haaretz reported on Thursday (see GSN, Feb. 3).

“We have new information indicating that Zibo Chemet transferred technology for the production of glass-lined reactor equipment to Iranian customers, significantly enhancing Iran’s ability to produce indigenously chemical equipment suitable for a chemical warfare program,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated in a message to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

The Obama administration’s top diplomat requested that the embassy inform the Chinese government of the situation and press Beijing to put an end to the exports, according to the July 24, 2009, dispatch obtained by the transparency group WikiLeaks.

Zibo Chemet is suspected of providing sensitive technology to Iran, North Korea and Syria, and was sanctioned by Washington in 2007, according to the cable. Beijing subsequently took unspecified “limited punitive action” against the firm, it states.

Nonetheless, Zibo Chemet “recently transferred Australia Group-controlled technology to manufacture glass-lined chemical reactor vessels to the Iranian entity Shimi Azarjaam. This glass-lining plant is located in Shokoohieh Industrial Park, Qum,” Clinton stated.

Such reactor vessels are produced to withstand chemicals they hold, which can include precursors for nerve agents, according to Haaretz.

China is not a member of the Australia Group, a multinational organization that seeks to prevent exports of materials intended for use in biological or chemical weapons programs.

The United States and other nations have accused Tehran of developing chemical-warfare capabilities. Iran, whose troops and citizens were subjected to chemical weapons attacks during the nation’s 1980s war with Iraq, denies operating such a program (Yossi Melman, Haaretz, April 21).

Feds to Supreme Court: Allow Warrantless GPS Monitoring

April 22, 2011 Comments off

wired.com

The Obama administration is urging the Supreme Court to allow the government, without a court warrant, to affix GPS devices on suspects’ vehicles to track their every move.

The Justice Department, saying “a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements (.pdf) from one place to another,” is demanding the justices undo a lower court decision that reversed the conviction and life sentence of a cocaine dealer whose vehicle was tracked via GPS for a month without a court warrant.

The petition, if accepted by the justices, arguably would make it the biggest Fourth Amendment case in a decade — one weighing the collision of Read more…

Dollar keeps sinking while gold tops $1,500

April 22, 2011 Comments off

latimes.com

Silver, Gold up 49% 6% respectively on the year while Dollar keeps tumbling

The dollar is getting trashed again, driving a key index of the U.S. currency’s value to its lowest level in more than two years.

And as the greenback slumps further, gold and silver — the hard-money alternatives to paper currencies — are hitting new highs. Gold closed above $1,500 an ounce for the first time.

The DXY index, which measures the dollar’s value against six other major currencies (including the euro, the yen and the Swiss franc), slid to 74.10 on Thursday, down 0.4% from Wednesday and the lowest since August 2008.

Dxy421 Year-to-date the DXY index (charted at left) is down 6.2%.

“It’s a ‘sell the dollar, buy everything else’ market,” said Win Thin, a currency strategist at Brown Bros. Harriman in New York.

The euro hit a new 16-month high of $1.454 on Thursday, up from $1.451 on Wednesday. The dollar also hit a record low of 6.52 Chinese yuan, down from 6.56 yuan a month ago, as the Chinese government allows its currency to steadily strengthen.

The buck’s slump this year has been fueled in large part by the widening gulf between U.S. interest rates and Read more…

Oil Crisis Just Got Real: Sinopec (Read China) Cuts Off Oil Exports

April 22, 2011 Comments off

zerohedge

As if a dollar in freefall was not enough, surging oil is about to hit the turbo boost, decimating what is left of the US (and global) consumer. Xinhua, via Energy Daily, brings this stunner: ” Chinese oil giant Sinopec has stopped exporting oil products to maintain domestic supplies amid disruption concerns caused by Middle East unrest and Japan’s earthquake, a report said Wednesday. The state-run Xinhua news agency did not say how long the suspension would last but it reported that the firm had said it also would take steps to step up output “to maintain domestic market supplies of refined oil products”. Oh but don’t worry, those good Saudi folks are seeing a massive drop in demand… for their Kool aid perhaps. “Sinopec would ensure supplies met  the “basic needs” of the southern Chinese special regions of Hong Kong and Macao, but they also should expect an unspecified drop in supply, Xinhua quoted an unnamed company official as saying.” Now… does anyone remember the 1970s? Read more…

Texas Wildfires Threaten Wheat Crop, Drive Food Prices Higher

April 22, 2011 Comments off

care2.com

Texas Wildfires Threaten Wheat Crop, Drive Food Prices Higher
This month, raging wildfires in Texas have killed two firefighters, burned over a million acres of land and threatened thousands of homes. Three years of record droughts throughout the state have left fields full of dry and dead vegetation, making fighting the spread of wildfire flames extremely difficult.

As firefighters from around the country and the National Guard continue to battle the many blazes scattered across the state, with no immediate end to the crisis in sight, the future looks bleak for Texas farmers. Many farmers’ fields were already damaged by drought, and now some crops have been further harmed by smoke or entirely destroyed by flame.

Some agricultural experts are now predicting that Texas will lose two thirds of this year’s wheat crop to drought and Read more…

Ozone hole linked to southern rain increases

April 22, 2011 Comments off

AFP

WASHINGTON — The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is a significant driver of climate change and rain increases in the southern hemisphere over the past 50 years, US scientists said Thursday.

The findings by a team at Columbia University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science are the first to link ozone depletion in the polar region to climate change all the way to the equator.

Researchers said the analysis should lead policy-makers to consider the ozone layer along with other environmental factors such as Arctic ice melt and greenhouse gas emissions when considering how to tackle climate change.

“It’s really amazing that the ozone hole, located so high up in the atmosphere over Antarctica, can have an impact all the way to the tropics and affect rainfall there,” said Sarah Kang, lead author of the study in the journal Science. Read more…

Disease hits wheat crops in Africa, Mideast

April 22, 2011 Comments off

AFP

PARIS — Aggressive new strains of wheat rust disease have decimated up to 40 percent of harvests in some regions of north Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucasus, researchers said Wednesday.

The countries most affected are Syria and Uzbekistan, with Egypt, Yemen, Turkey, Iran, Morocco, Ethiopia and Kenya also hit hard, they reported at a scientific conference in Aleppo, Syria.

“These epidemics increase the price of food and pose a real threat to rural livelihoods and regional food security,” Mahmoud Solh, director general of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), said in a statement.

In some nations hit by the blight, wheat accounts for 50 percent of calorie intake, and 20 percent of protein nutrition.

“Wheat is the cornerstone for food security in many of these countries,” said Hans Braun, director of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), near Mexico City, singling out Syria.

“Looking at the political and social situation, what they don’t need is a food crisis,” he told AFP by phone.

Wheat rust is a fungal disease that attacks the stems, grains and especially the Read more…

Fossil Sirenians Give Scientists New Look at Ancient Climate

April 22, 2011 Comments off

nsf.gov

Photo of geologist Mark Clementz sampling tooth enamel from molars in a Florida manatee.Geologist Mark Clementz samples tooth enamel from molars in the lower jaw of a Florida manatee.

April 21, 2011

What tales they tell of their former lives, these old bones of sirenians, relatives of today’s dugongs and manatees.

And now, geologists have found, they tell of the waters in which they swam.

While researching the evolutionary ecology of ancient sirenians–commonly known as sea cows–scientist Mark Clementz and colleagues unexpectedly stumbled across data that could change the view of climate during the Eocene Read more…

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