Emirates Navy fires on Saudi Navy – Oil giants going to war?

Italian-built Falaj2 Stealth patrol boats on order for Emirates Navy

The United Arab Emirates navy is thought to have opened fire on a small patrol vessel from Saudi Arabia after a dispute over water boundaries. According to one report, two Saudi sailors were injured in the alleged bombardment.

The Saudi vessel was forced to surrender, and its sailors were delivered into custody in Abu Dhabi for several days, before being released and handed over to the Saudi embassy earlier this week.

The clash happened in disputed waters between the coasts of Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and the peninsula on which the gas-rich state of Qatar sits…

The seabed is rich with oil deposits, while the Dolphin pipeline project to carry natural gas direct from Qatar to Abu Dhabi has provoked irritation in the Saudi authorities. Nevertheless, direct conflict between the two countries’ armed forces is highly unusual.

The Gulf is one of the most heavily armed regions in the world. The Saudi government has been building up its army and air force for years in response to what it sees as a regional threat from Iran…

But now the UAE, despite its small size, is the fourth largest purchaser of weaponry on the international market in the world.

Western governments are exasperated that the two countries are unable to co-operate because of a series of long-running border disputes, largely influenced by oil reserves…

Is there anything to do with oil profits and the greedy bastards controlling most of it – that doesn’t provoke militarism and war?

Teabagger’s favorite hustles their money with made-up rivalry

Scott Brown sent out a fantastical email to his supporters…claiming that “the Massachusetts political machine,” a homogeneous entity, is recruiting Rachel Maddow to run against him.

According to The Daily Beast, Brown’s “evidence appears to rest on a message sent out by Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh on Twitter the same day a Facebook page supporting a Maddow bid went live. ‘Some are talking about you running vs. Scott Brown in ‘12,’ Walsh tweeted, and the Boston blog Universal Hub suggested the message could have been meant for Maddow.”

It was this Tweet that engendered Brown’s ill-timed money-grubbing phantasmagoria. “Some like Rachel Maddow. I’m sure she’s a nice person—I just don’t think America can afford her liberal politics,” he wrote in the offending email.

Except, of course, Rachel Maddow has no plans to replace Scott Brown as replacement Ted Kennedy.

The Scott Brown fundraising letter is at the bottom of this article.

She finally ended up taking out a full-page advert (.pdf) in the Boston GLOBE pointing out what a silly hustle this was by Brown – since she never entertained anything to do with running for office.

I admit I can’t wait to see how much money Brown’s gullible supporters kick-in for a non-campaign.

Mexican drug gangs active in every region of United States

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Mexican drug gangs have expanded their activities in the US with heroin production doubling in 2008, the US justice department says in a report. Despite US funding for the war on drugs, trade in marijuana, ecstasy and methamphetamine also grew, the National Drug Threat Assessment said.

The report found that Mexican groups were active in every region of the US.

Gangs were moving an estimated $40 billion in cash back into Mexico across the border each year, it added.

Mexico has long been the main conduit for illicit drugs smuggled into the US but this report suggests that the efforts to halt the flow on both sides of the border have had only a limited impact.

In 2007 the US pledged $1.4 billion over three years to fight the drugs cartels but the following year heroin production in Mexico rose from 17 to 38 metric tonnes. This, the report says, led to lower heroin prices and more overdose deaths in the US…

The assessment says that Mexican drug suppliers have increased their co-operation with American street and prison gangs to expand their distribution networks.

Decriminalizing drugs – even hard drugs – permits regulation of everything from purity to price, diminishes overdoses and related crime.

Way too sensible – even for reactionaries confused by new tax revenue sources.

Canadian teachers buy national lottery in the UK

National Lottery operator Camelot has been sold to a Canadian teachers’ pension fund for £389m.

The company, currently owned by a consortium that includes Cadbury, has been running the UK’s National Lottery since it began in 1994. The sale will be looked at by the regulator, the National Lottery Commission. One of the factors in its decision will be whether or not the national interest will be served by the sale.

Camelot’s proposed buyer, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan – known simply as Teachers’ – runs the pension fund for more than a quarter of a million Canadian teachers.

It already has a wide range of investments in the UK, including Birmingham and Bristol airports and a 27% stake in Northumbrian Water.

The National Lottery Commission’s chief executive, Mark Harris, said: “We will scrutinise the proposal to ensure that the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan is fit and proper to take over the running of the National Lottery and that the commitments we secured for the National Lottery, players and good causes during the licence competition are safeguarded.”

Could have been worse. What if they bought Portsmouth FC?

For the love of a stork

Vets who saved a female stork, shot by hunters in Croatia, thought her days were numbered – but reckoned without the devotion of her mate.

The vets knew the female, which they called Malena, would never fly again but put her back on her nest thinking she would not survive the winter.

When her partner, named Rodan, flew south with their young they expected that she would eventually die and certainly never mate again.

But their predictions were proved wrong after the Vokic family where she had a nest helped to feed her through the long winter months and she survived.

And – even more amazingly – Rodan has returned every year to mate with his partner and rear another clutch of chicks.

Every year Rodan flies 13,000 kilometres to South Africa to spend winter in the warm and then the same distance back again to be back with his injured love.

I always find these tales interesting, though I can’t speak to storks. Squirrels I can speak to.

Forest loss slows, as China plants and Brazil preserves

The world’s net rate of forest loss has slowed markedly in the last decade, with less logging in the Amazon and China planting trees on a grand scale.

Yet forests continue to be lost at “an alarming rate” in some countries, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Its Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 finds the loss of tree cover is most acute in Africa and South America. But Australia also suffered huge losses because of the recent drought.

It is good news,” said the report’s co-ordinator Mette Loyche Wilkie, a senior forestry office with FAO.

The area of… forests undisturbed by human activity continues to decrease, so countries must further strengthen their efforts to conserve and manage them

The last decade saw forests being lost or converted at a rate of 13 million hectares per year, compared to 16 million hectares in the 1990s.

However, new forests were being planted to the tune of more than seven million hectares per year; so the net rate of loss since the year 2000 has been 5.2 million hectares per year, compared to 8.3 million in the 1990s.

Globally, forests now cover about 31% of the Earth’s land surface.

The biggest change has been in Asia which now reports a net forest growth

The Beeb left out an important detail in the northern hemisphere. Of all surprises [to some] one nation showing the way to reforestation is Mexico. They actually planted more trees than did China.