Category Archives: UK

Implications of the Surveillance State


By Mark A. Goldman

Even those who are deeply incensed at the thought that the NSA and others are snooping on every American do not necessarily understand what the implications are; how this program has already destroyed most of what we thought it meant to live in America.

Most Americans do not realize that the country that exists in their minds has already been dismantled. In some sense this ignorance is now our only hope… but only because our illusions are really our cherished memory of what we think we have and what we really want. Only now what we think we have no longer exists and if that’s what we still want, it will have to be reclaimed… it will have to be won all over again for we now live under a tyranny that we don’t all yet recognize or experience because up until now the dismantling of the Constitution has been a secret or at best a taboo topic for public discussion.

No branch of government now operates as it was originally intended or visualized by the Framers. Those who are in control have corrupted every important aspect of what it means to live in freedom and in a democracy. We have to deeply lie to ourselves in order not to see what we have become as a nation, as a people.

Those who hold high office are being blackmailed. They live in fear of losing face, status, reputation, position, money, or whatever is important to them. They follow orders and no longer think for themselves. Many don’t even know that what they believe has been programmed into them, defining the limits of what they are allowed to think if they wish to hold onto their position in life.  You don’t have to be an elected official for this to happen to you.

To be elected to public office requires that you gain favor from certain individuals who possess wealth and power. And yet you can’t get elected unless you get enough votes. So to get elected and to stay in office you have to tell voters what they want to hear but later, behind closed doors, do just the opposite of what you told them. You have to ignore injustices you discover and sign legislation that contributes to injustice in ways you may not even understand. And those injustices can include some of the most horrific crimes that human beings can contemplate and carry out against other human beings.

You have to spend your time dialing for dollars rather than doing the people’s business. You have to pass legislation that funnels money into the hands of the already privileged and undeserving few at the expense of ordinary citizens. You have to support war and war crimes. You have to tow the party line, fall into place, and follow the lead of people you fear. If you don’t fall into line you can be destroyed by someone who has the goods on you and knows how to use that illegally gathered information to get what they want. There are exceptions, of course, but you live and operate within the confines and in an atmosphere of systemic corruption. And this is true whether you are a judge, an elected official, or an appointee to a position of power.

The specifics that prove what I am saying is true, are what whistleblowers have been trying to tell us and what those in power don’t want us to know; for if too many of us did know and understand, and if we believed in ourselves, we might actually try to do something about it and succeed.

Of course if we never try and don’t succeed, we will continue to lose more of our freedoms, our wealth, our dignity, and our happiness.

via Implications of the Surveillance State.

Austerity Today- Austerity Won’t Work if the Roof Is Leaking


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 Austerity Won’t Work if the Roof Is Leaking


New York Times
Hasn’t Germany been one of the most outspoken advocates of fiscal austerity after the financial crisis? Yes, and that’s not a contradiction. Fiscally responsible businesses routinely borrow to invest, and so, until recently, did most governments 
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Anxious, austerity-minded, but worldly: the young Britons of Generation A
The Guardian
This is Generation Y, born between the 1980s and the millennium, hammered by the recession andausterity. Generation Y faces more years of financial slowdown, but what is to become of the cohort following in its footsteps, arguably moving through an 
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Labour and the Tories’ woes show our political system is breaking apart
New Statesman
On the other side of the political aisle, activists from the People’s Assembly Against Austerity don’t think much of Labour either. One of their luminaries, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, spelled out why in his Staggers piece last week, berating 
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Potential Mistakes (Wonkish)
New York Times (blog)
Understating output gaps leads to excessive demands for austerity and excessive complacency at central banks; this perpetuates the depression; and the longer the depression goes on, the more misleading the standard estimates become. So it’s good news 
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Municipal workers protest in Greece over government layoff plans
Press TV
Greece has been at the epicenter of the eurozone debt crisis and is experiencing its fifth year of recession, while harsh austerity measures have left about half a million people without jobs.” Greek municipal employees have held demonstrations against 
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Calls for a 5pc rise in welfare cash for our poorest OAPs
Herald.ie
Age Action Ireland says the cumulative impact of a series of austerity budgets is having a devastating impact on our senior citizens. The advocacy group has pleaded with the Government, particularly Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, to include a 
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Bulgaria’s president calls for early elections amid mass anti-government protests
The Province
The government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski took office after the May 12 early elections following the resignation of his predecessor Boiko Borisov amid antiausterity protests. The appointment of controversial media mogul Delyan Peevski as head 
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Teen ‘lying on the road for an hour’ in wait for ambulance
Irish Independent
AUSTERITY measures are to blame for leaving a 14-year-old girl lying on the road awaiting an ambulance for more than an hour, the union representing HSE ambulance drivers claims. Also in this section. Robinson at festival · Dissident arms haul is 
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Social Justice Ireland wants Govt to increase pension payments
Irish Examiner
Cuts to income and services have left pensioners at breaking point, it was claimed today. Age Action warned Government that the cumulative impact of multiple austerity budgets was having a severely damaging effect on the most vulnerable of older people.
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The withering of America’s exception agriculturelle
Financial Times
Lacking the money for a proper stimulus and the time to wait for the healing power of austerity, Europe’s leaders have pinned their economic hopes on trade with the US. Negotiations on the proposed transatlantic trade and investment partnership, which 
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Ipsa: MPs’ role in our democracy ‘should be recognised’
Telegraph.co.uk
Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) chairman Sir Ian Kennedy admitted that theausterity being felt by the country made its review of MPs’ salaries and pensions tougher, but said that the role MPs play in a democratic system means they 
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China: luxury dining goes mid market
Financial Times (registration) (blog)
There is plenty of room for skepticism about whether Beijing’s latest austerity drive will have any lasting impact on the per capita consumption of Lamborghinis by government officials. But in one area it clearly has had a marked effect: luxury dining.
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Italian austerity drive forces Vatican to pay more property tax
BusinessGhana
More ». Italian austerity drive forces Vatican to pay more property tax. News Date: 5th July 2013. The Vatican said Thursday it had to pay an extra 5 million euros (6.5 million dollars) in property tax last year as a result of austerity measures 
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Why Are Leakors Investigated or Punished Without Reason?


There are very critical issues missing from news reports about the U.S. government’s protection of so called classified information and its pursuit of that data’s leakors.

Who classified the data; why; and how is that classification valid?

Scores of news reports have focused on so called classified information leaked out in thousands of documents by WikiLeaks, its agents and entirely separately by Edward Snowden, who exposed the National Security Agency’s massive domestic surveillance program.

Those news reports generally discuss the kind of information disclosed. But, no government agent is quoted as specifically justifying why the data became secret in the first place or who decided it should be so classified.

If leakors of so called classified information are to be charged with crimes or heavily criticized in the news media, that information is crucial to protect the accused. As well, the public needs to be assured that those classifying information as secret have not done so simply to cover up their own mistakes or the government’s crucial and intentional errors.

Federal prosecutors are in the midst of a court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst on a charge of aiding the enemy for sending thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. They are still pursuing Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, for his role in widely publishing such documents.

Now, according to news reports, federal authorities are separately investigating Snowden, a 29-year-old defense contractor, for leaking documents and data about the classified domestic surveillance program to Britain’s The Guardian newspaper and The Washington Post.

Missing from most daily news reports on the leaks of secrecy issues headlined for months worldwide is this crucial issue. Where is the U.S. government’s proof that the hordes of data at the center of these controversies is properly classified? Where is the valid explanation that each and every one of the documents in question has any information that needs a security classification? And, is there any motivation to cover up data embarrassing to the government, its hired security companies or their employees by simply classifying it?

Here is but one big area of doubt created in the title of a detailed article inside George Washington University’s version of the National Security Archive: “Systematic Overclassification of Defense Information Poses Challenge for President Obama’s Security Review.” The article discloses reams of overclassified data in decades of government documents.http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nukevault/ebb281/index.htm

It points out that: Pentagon classification authorities are treating classified historical documents as if they contain today’s secrets, rather than decades-old information that has not been secret for many years.

Here is the legal definition of secret data: USC – 834 – “Classified information” defined:. the term “classified information” means information which, for reasons of national security, is specifically designated by a United States Government agency for limited or restricted dissemination or distribution.

It would seem logical and simply fair that every single classified document needs accountability and identification from the source or sources classifying it. They need to reveal exactly why it is or was classified, and why that so called classification is valid or still valid. Even legally classified documents need to be constantly monitored to assure their top secret, secret and confidential classifications are still valid today.

via OpEdNews – Article: Why Are Leakors Investigated or Punished Without Reason?.

So What is Neoliberalism all About?


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Neoliberalism means:

–controlling the economy by shifting from the public sector to the private sector;

–the reduction of deficit spending;

–limiting subsidies;

–reforming tax law often by lowering taxes for the wealthy while spreading the tax base;

–opening up markets to trade and limiting protectionism;

privatizing state-run businesses;

–encouraging de-regulation;

–holding private property as sacrosanct.

–representing the aims and views of the World bank coupled with the IMF/ECM

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MODERN TIMES/Bobby Sands


It is said we live in modern times,
In the civilised year of ‘seventy nine,
But when I look around, all I see,
Is modern torture, pain, and hypocrisy.

In modern times little children die,
They starve to death, but who dares ask why?
And little girls without attire,
Run screaming, napalmed, through the night afire.

And while fat dictators sit upon their thrones,
Young children bury their parents’ bones,
And secret police in the dead of night,
Electrocute the naked woman out of sight.

In the gutter lies the black man, dead,
And where the oil flows blackest, the street runs red,
And there was He who was born and came to be,
But lived and died without liberty.

As the bureaucrats, speculators and presidents alike,
Pin on their dirty, stinking, happy smiles tonight,
The lonely prisoner will cry out from within his tomb,
And tomorrow’s wretch will leave its mother’s womb

BOBBY SANDS was twenty seven years old when he died on the sixty sixth day of hunger-strike in the H-Block prison hospital, Long Kesh, on the 5th May 1981. The young IRA Volunteer who had spent almost the last nine years of his short life in prison as a result of his Irish republican activities was, by the time of his death, world-famous having been elected to the British parliament and having withstood pressures, political and moral (including an emissary from Pope John Paul II)for him to abandon his fast which was aimed at countering a criminalization policy by the British government.

Hunger Strike: The Irish Experience


When people ask me, “what is the most important thing you learned about Bobby Sands?” I tell them one simple thing. The most important thing about Bobby Sands is not how he died on hunger strike, it is how he lived.

New York – Bıa news agency, 5 November 2012

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The hunger strikes of 1980/1981, in which ten men including Bobby Sands died, are the most famous use of that political weapon. Yet hunger striking has a long history in Irish political culture. It is said that the ancient Celts practiced a form of hunger strike called Troscadh or Cealachan, where someone who had been wronged by a man of wealth fasted on his doorstep. Some historians claim that this was a death fast, which usually achieved justice because of the shame one would incur from allowing someone to die on their doorstep. Others say it was a token act that was never carried out to the death – it was simply meant to publicly shame the offender. In any case, both forms of protest have been used quite regularly as a political weapon in modern Ireland.

The history of Irish resistance to British colonialism is full of heroes who died on hunger strike. Some of the best-known include Thomas Ashe, a veteran of the 1916 “Easter Rising”, who died after he was force-fed by the British in Dublin’s Mountjoy Jail. In 1920, three men including the mayor of Cork City Terence MacSwiney died on hunger strike in England’s Brixton Prison. In October 1923 two men died when up to 8,000 IRA prisoners went on hunger strike to protest their imprisonment by the new “Irish Free State” (formed after the partition of Ireland in 1921). Three men died on hunger strike against the Irish government in the 1940s. After the IRA was reformed in the 1970s, hunger strikes became common once again. IRA man Michael Gaughan died after being force-fed in a British prison in 1974. And Frank Stagg died in a British jail after a 62-day hunger strike in 1976.

Unlike in Turkey, the Irish make no distinction between a “hunger strike” and a “death fast,” although many hunger strikes have started without the intention of anyone dying. In 1972, IRA prisoners successfully won status as political prisoners after a hunger strike in which no one died. They were then moved to Long Kesh prison camp, where they lived in dormitory-style huts and self-organized their education (including guerrilla training), work (including cooperative handicrafts production), recreation, and attempts to escape and rejoin the conflict. The prisoners used their relative freedom to raise their collective and individual consciousness about their struggle against British occupation of Ireland. They read international revolutionaries like Che Guevara and Irish socialists such as James Connolly. This was, in turn, a foundation for rebuilding the IRA on a basis that included a less hierarchical and more participative structure, with a higher emphasis on community politics as a part of armed struggle.

As the IRA rebuilt their organization in prison the British government also changed strategy. The main pillar of the new strategy was a “conveyor belt” of security operations that included widespread arrests of young Catholic males, heavy interrogation including torture, and juryless courts in which a single judge pronounced guilt often on the sole basis of verbal or written statements under interrogation. At the end of the process was a new prison structure. All prisoners found guilty of offences committed after March 1976 were stripped of political status and committed to cellular confinement in the newly- built “H-Blocks” of Long Kesh prison. There were eight cellblocks built in the shape of an “H” (later copied on Robben Island in South Africa), with 25 cells on each wing and an administrative area on the crossbar of the “H”.

Eventually, this new cellular prison structure -as in Turkey in 2000 after operation “return to life” and the violent transfer of prisoners to F-type prisons – would lead to an intense hunger strike with the deaths of ten men including Bobby Sands.

Here the similarity with the 2000-2006 Turkish hunger strike ends. Instead of embarking immediately on hunger strike, IRA prisoners went through five long years of intense struggle against cellular confinement. Their conditions of confinement were horrific: when an IRA prisoner refused to be criminalized by wearing a prison uniform he was thrown into a small cell without clothing, reading materials (only a bible and a few religious pamphlets), pens, paper, or any appliances such as a radio. The cell included only basic furniture – a bed, a desk, and a locker. The only personal items the prisoners were allowed were soap, toothpaste, a toothbrush, a hairbrush, and four small packets of tissues a month. Having no clothing, the prisoners wore their blankets around their shoulders and waists and, thus, became known as “blanketmen”. The blanketmen were kept in bare lockup 24 hours a day, seven days a week for five years. They were allowed out of their cells only on Sunday to attend religious mass in the block cafeteria and to go on one monthly half-hour visit with family or friends.

In these bare conditions, an incredible thing happened. The prisoners began several years of collective resistance to the regime. Each act of protest was followed by horrible new punishments and deprivations by the authorities. The guards stopped letting the prisoners go to showers. They refused to take away prisoners’ “slop buckets” even though they were overflowing with human waste. They took away all of their furniture except a foam mattress. All the men were allowed to receive from their families was a packet of tissues each month.

When the prisoners tried to slop their urine under their cell doors, the guards pushed it back in and they woke up each morning on foam mattresses soaked in urine. When prisoners threw their feces out the window, the guards threw it back into the cells. Eventually the men were reduced to lying naked in their cells, with their excrement smeared on the walls and their food waste heaped in the corner.

Surprisingly, each new punishment made the prisoners stronger. They went on monthly visits to their relatives and smuggled back small comforts including tobacco, ballpoint pen refills, cigarette papers (for writing on), educational materials (tiny writing on cigarette papers), and plastic wrap (to keep everything protected from bodily fluids when they were hidden inside the prisoner’s body). By smuggling, the prisoners also maintained contact with the outside movement. Their smuggled accounts of prison conditions became the raw material for a public support campaign.

Most importantly, over five years the prisoners built a publicity campaign that ensured that everyone in Ireland knew what was happening in the H-Blocks, despite a ban on supporters of the IRA or its political party Sinn Fein appearing in the public media. They built a “propaganda factory” where each prisoner wrote several letters a day on cigarette papers, and then smuggled them out to be sent to influential people the world over. Bobby Sands smuggled a message to the movement outlining a massive publicity campaign to support the prisoners. He wrote:

The idea to reach people is to pass a simple message to them. Our simple message to everyone will be “Smash H-Block” . . . We want to get this message to everyone, we want to make it impossible for people to forget it, no matter who they are or where they are, they shall see it, hear it. Backing this will be material on H-Block to stir people’s emotions and to arouse them and activate them.

Sands suggested that the movement would put up “millions of posters” and that the slogan “Smash H- Block” would be written and then re-written on every wall and bridge in Ireland and even in Britain, on highways and public buildings. People should see pictures of children in t-shirts or carrying signs that read “Don’t Let My Daddy Die in H-Block.”

And this is what happened. Despite the media blackout in Britain and in Ireland, the message of the IRA prisoners on protest was soon known by everyone. They saw it everywhere they went, even on the money that they spent in their local shops (people wrote “H-Block” on money before they spent it). And then the message spread through the huge Irish emigrant communities in North America, Britain, and Australia.

I spent six years researching a biography of Bobby Sands. When people ask me, “what is the most important thing you learned about Bobby Sands?” I tell them one simple thing. The most important thing about Bobby Sands is not how he died on hunger strike, it is how he lived. Through his energy, he built a movement and a community inside of the H-Blocks that the world could not ignore.

THEN, in that terrible time beginning in late 1980, Irish prisoners began to go on hunger strike to the death. A first hunger strike ended in failure in December 1980, when its leader told the prison authorities to feed a hunger striker who was dying. By the time Bobby Sands began a hunger strike in March 1981, the men who went on it knew that they would likely die.

There was no pressure on any prisoner to participate. Quite the opposite. The Commanding Officer of the IRA in the prison sent a letter to every man and woman who volunteered for the hunger strike, trying to talk them out of participating. The letter stated that if they began a hunger strike death was the likely outcome. They had to be sure of themselves because if they “backed down at the last minute,” they would do irreparable damage to the other hunger strikers. The letter said that there was no shame in withdrawing their name and that the hunger strike was entirely voluntary. Each prisoner should be sure that if they started to hunger strike they would continue, if necessary until death.

Ten prisoners died on the hunger strike, led by Bobby Sands. They won a clear moral victory. The world’s media overwhelmingly supported them. The New York Times said that Bobby Sands, who won election as a member of British parliament before he died, had “bested an implacable British prime minister.” National parliaments honored the hunger strikers with resolutions and moments of silence. Political prisoners in Chiapas in Mexico, who would later form the Zapatista movement, went on hunger strike following the Irish example in the summer of 1981. Nelson Mandela and young ANC prisoners in South Africa did likewise. This all happened because of dozens of Irish prisoners went on hunger strike, including the ten men who died. But it also happened because of the five years of struggle and building that the blanketmen and their supporters on the outside had accomplished, in spite of a hostile media and a ban on their representatives appearing in the public media.

After the hunger strike finally ended, the Irish prisoners regained political status. They soon had control over prison spaces in the H-blocks, which they ran again on collective lines. After they left prison, many prisoners took their politics into their communities, creating and participating in alternative Irish schools, housing projects, cooperatives, development organizations, arts groups, and the like.

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And the Irish hunger strikers were remembered around the world. The street in front of the British embassy in Tehran is still called “Bobby Sands Street.” Turkish prisoners conducted a horrific death fast between 2000 and 2006. They tell me that the code word they used for their action was “Bobby Sands.” In the US state of Ohio in 2011, three death-sentenced prisoners had been kept in total isolation for nearly twenty years. They read about Bobby Sands and the Irish hunger strikers and were encouraged to organize their own hunger strike for the right to have contact visits instead of visiting their loved ones behind security glass. They won their struggle after 12 days. In California, later in the same year, 6,000 prisoners went on hunger strike. Again, they read about Bobby Sands and his comrades in Ireland and they became convinced that they, too, could do something about the horrific conditions of isolation in which they had been held, some for more than twenty years. In both Ohio and California, the prisoners took an important message from Bobby Sands and his Irish comrades: they mobilized a public campaign outside of prison that would support them emotionally and put pressure on the government to listen to their just demands.

Hunger striking is a horrific thing. It is a slow and painful way to die. Those who choose to do it, do so because their conditions have become so intolerable that continuing to live in them is worse than going through this horrible ideal. It is their last step of resistance. They are moved by feelings of solidarity and love for their fellow prisoners, to a degree that the rest of us cannot imagine.

Fidel Castro perhaps came closest to expressing the enormity of the act of hunger striking, when he praised Bobby Sands and his comrades:

Tyrants shake in the presence of men who have such strength as to die for their ideals through sixty days of hunger strike! Next to this example, what were the three days of Christ on Cavalry as a symbol of human sacrifice down the centuries?

And now hunger strike has once again returned to Turkey. The experiences of Ireland and North America show that there is only one thing that can help them win their struggle: public knowledge and public support. Without it, they are on their own.

* Denis O’Hearn is Professor of Sociology at State University of New York – Binghamton and author of the definitive biography of Bobby Sands, Nothing but an Unfinished Song: Bobby Sands, the Irish Hunger Striker Who Ignited a Generation.

via Hunger Strike: The Irish Experience | Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle.

German Prosecutors May File Charges Over US, British Surveillance


 

Justice Minister: US Using ‘Cold War‘ Methods

Recent revelations about the NSA’s broad surveillance of German phone and Internet communications have fueled major concerns in the country, as Federal Prosecutors say they are preparing criminal charges against US and British spies involved.

Hessian prosecutors were the first to receive complaints about the matter, but that is likely to grow precipitously after German media outlets reported the US surveillance has collected more than half a billion phone calls and emails per month in Germany alone.

Though broad internal surveillance is also an issue in the US, the NSA’s policies don’t make spying on Germans illegal as such. The US lists Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand as “second party” nations exempt from surveillance, but considers Germany fair game. The program also explicitly targeted European Union diplomats.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said the US policy was “beyond comprehension,” and said that such “Cold War” methods were unacceptable toward allies. Officials are urging the EU to take direct action to stop the surveillance.

via German Prosecutors May File Charges Over US, British Surveillance — News from Antiwar.com.

Banks Manipulating Trades and Rigging Benchmarks in Foreign Exchange Markets


Are there any markets that have not been corrupted by lax regulation, and as a consequence by Banks who have been emboldened in their insatiable greed by the lack of effective enforcement of the rules and equal justice for all?

It is somewhat ironic that this news of routine price rigging comes on the revelation that Obama is replacing Gary Gensler, Chairman of the CFTC, for being too aggressive in seeking to regulate the Swaps markets and angering some foreign banks (read London trading operations of the big multinational banks).

London has become a favored haven for corrupt financial practices such as ‘the London Whale.’

I will suggest to you that this is still just the tip of the iceberg.  And for those who assert that there is no manipulation in the precious metals markets, despite all the odd price action and blatantly predatory selling raids, I would suggest that they are obviously lacking in something, exactly what I cannot say.

There will be no sustainable recovery until the impediments to honest price discovery and the pernicious tax of corruption is eliminated through greater transparency, equal enforcement of existing laws, and serious reform.

One can seriously wonder how confident they can be that the governments of the US and the UK, and of Europe as well, are seriously committed to performing the basic function of maintaining honest markets for their constituents.  If market confidence breaks, there will be hell to pay.

Even if they hide and tolerate this corruption for the sake of ‘confidence, ‘ markets have a significant role to play in the economy.  That function has become warped and perverted through corrupt practices, with serious real world results, which accumulate and worsen over time, with consequences that we have yet to discover.

 

“Traders at some of the world’s biggest banks manipulated benchmark foreign-exchange rates used to set the value of trillions of dollars of investments, according to five dealers with knowledge of the practice.

Employees have been front-running client orders and rigging WM/Reuters rates by pushing through trades before and during the 60-second windows when the benchmarks are set, said the current and former traders, who requested anonymity because the practice is controversial. Dealers colluded with counterparts to boost chances of moving the rates, said two of the people, who worked in the industry for a total of more than 20 years.

The behavior occurred daily in the spot foreign-exchange market and has been going on for at least a decade, affecting the value of funds and derivatives, the two traders said. The Financial Conduct Authority, Britain’s markets supervisor, is considering opening a probe into potential manipulation of the rates, according to a person briefed on the matter…”

via Jesse’s Café Américain: Banks Manipulating Trades and Rigging Benchmarks in Foreign Exchange Markets.

EU confronts U.S. over reports it spies on European allies


Reuters/Reuters – Broken antenna covers of Former National Security Agency (NSA) listening station are seen at the Teufelsberg hill (German for Devil’s Mountain) in Berlin, June 30, 2013. The United States taps half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany in a typical month and has classed its biggest European ally as a target similar to China, according to secret U.S. documents quoted by a German newsmagazine. The revelations of alleged U.S. surveillance programmes based on documents taken by fugitive former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have raised a political furore in the United States and abroad over the balance between privacy rights and national security. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynsk

By Ben Deighton and Annika Breidthardt

BRUSSELS/BERLIN (Reuters) – The European Union has demanded that the United States explain a report in a German magazine that Washington is spying on the group, using strong language to confront its closest trading partner over its alleged surveillance activities.

EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said on Sunday that U.S. authorities were immediately contacted about a report in Der Spiegel magazine that the U.S. spy agency had tapped EU offices in Washington, Brussels and at the United Nations.

“As soon as we saw these reports, the European External Action Service made contact with the U.S. authorities in both Washington D.C. and Brussels to seek urgent clarification of the veracity of, and facts surrounding, these allegations,” Ashton said in a statement.

“The U.S. authorities have told us they are checking on the accuracy of the information released yesterday and will come back to us as soon as possible,” she said.

France also asked for an explanation.

“These acts, if confirmed, would be completely unacceptable,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.

The U.S. government said it would respond through diplomatic channels.

“We will also discuss these issues bilaterally with EU member states,” a spokesperson for the Director of National Intelligence said.

“While we are not going to comment publicly on specific alleged intelligence activities, as a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.”

The Guardian newspaper said in an article late on Sunday that the United States had also targeted non-European allies for spying.

Citing a September 2010 NSA document, the British newspaper said that “Along with traditional ideological adversaries and sensitive Middle Eastern countries, the list of targets includes the EU missions and the French, Italian and Greek embassies, as well as a number of other American allies, including Japan, Mexico, South Korea, India and Turkey.”

Der Spiegel reported on Saturday that the National Security Agency bugged EU offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks, the latest revelation of alleged U.S. spying that has prompted outrage from EU politicians.

The magazine followed up on Sunday with a report that the U.S. agency taps half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany in a typical month, much more than any other European peer and similar to the data tapped in China or Iraq.

It also uses data from Internet hubs in south and west Germany that organise data traffic to Syria and Mali.

Revelations about the U.S. surveillance programme, which was made public by fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, have raised a furore in the United States and abroad over the balance between privacy rights and national security.

The extent to which Washington’s EU allies are being monitored emerged is a particular concern in Europe.

“If the media reports are correct, this brings to memory actions among enemies during the Cold War. It goes beyond any imagination that our friends in the United States view the Europeans as enemies,” German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said.

“If it is true that EU representations in Brussels and Washington were indeed tapped by the American Secret Service, it can hardly be explained with the argument of fighting terrorism,” she said in a statement.

TAPPED GERMANS

Germany’s federal prosecutor’s office, which has authority in matters of national security, said it was looking into whether or not it should start an investigation. Criminal charges are expected to be filed, spokeswoman Frauke Koehler told Reuters.

Germans are particularly sensitive about government monitoring, having lived through the Stasi secret police in the former communist East Germany and with lingering memories of the Gestapo of Hitler’s Nazi regime.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has not commented on the latest report. Before a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this month, Merkel defended governments’ monitoring of Internet communications, however, and said that the U.S. cyber-snooping had helped prevent attacks on German soil.

She stressed during Obama’s visit that there were limits to monitoring, but stopped short of pressing the issue hard.

Martin Schulz, president of the EU Parliament and also a German, said if the report was correct, it would have a “severe impact” on relations between the EU and the United States.

He told French radio the United States had crossed a line.

“I was always sure that dictatorships, some authoritarian systems, tried to listen … but that measures like that are now practiced by an ally, by a friend, that is shocking, in the case that it is true,” Schulz said in an interview with France 2.

Some EU policymakers said talks for a free trade agreement between Washington and the EU should be put on ice until further clarification from the United States.

“Partners do not spy on each other,” the European commissioner for justice and fundamental rights, Viviane Reding, said at a public event in Luxembourg on Sunday.

“We cannot negotiate over a big transatlantic market if there is the slightest doubt that our partners are carrying out spying activities on the offices of our negotiators,” Reding said in comments passed on to reporters by her spokeswoman.

The European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee head Elmar Brok, from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, echoed those views.

“The spying has taken on dimensions that I would never have thought possible from a democratic state,” he told Der Spiegel.

“How should we still negotiate if we must fear that our negotiating position is being listened to beforehand?”

(Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold, Claire Davenport in Luxembourg and Laurence Frost in Paris, Tabassum Zakaria and Deborah Charles in Washington; Writing by Annika Breidthardt; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

via EU confronts U.S. over reports it spies on European allies – Yahoo! News UK.

Austerity News


There’s a good reason we haven’t rioted over all the austerity

Irish Independent
For the past five years the Irish people have been hammered almost senseless by austerity. And it’s not like we’ve sleepwalked through it: week in and week out the airwaves, papers and social media are on fire with frenzied analysis and furious reaction.
See all stories on this topic »

The Irish Economy – Brendan and Dermot Walsh on health and austerity

Dermot and Brendan Walsh have just published a provocative comment in the British Medical Journal on the link between health and austerity  [http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f4140/rr/651853]. Momentary relief from the deliberations on Anglo! The comment reads: Ireland is – after Greece – the country where the post 2008 structural adjustment programme, aka austerity, has been proportionately most severe. Yet there are […] read full article

irisheconomy.ie

Agreement reached on austerity measures and reforms for European civil service

Invest in EU
They confirmed an agreement achieved on Tuesday (25) by representatives of the Parliament, theIrish Presidency and the Commission which was already supported by the Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee yesterday (24). Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič 
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Austerity: the elderly can be part of the solution to this economic mess
The Guardian
Will Hutton is rightly appalled by the stupidity of George Osborne and the coalition’s economic policies, which even Vince Cable and the Lib Dems are now beginning to realise are taking us in an accelerating downward spiral (“Blame austerity, not old 
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Portland’s Austerity Resistance Movement Sparks Changes to City
Bay Area Indymedia
This latest round of cuts promised to be the worst of several successive years of austeritymeasures. Each time city officials have told the public that “temporary” sacrifices need to be made now to enable the economy toå turn around tomorrow. Each 
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France to deepen austerity cuts next year – paper
Times of Oman
France to deepen austerity cuts next year – paper. by Reuters June 29, 2013 , 7 : 38 pm SAVE THIS ARTICLE. Share. Tweet. E-mail. Young French people demonstrate against President Hollande’s economic policies in Paris. Photo – Daniel Finnan via Flickr 
See all stories on this topic »
More Austerity Seen Coming For Greece
Greek Reporter
The newspaper Kathimerini said it had seen a revised memorandum between Greece and the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) which calls for new austerity measures unless revenues can be 
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The pain of mining austerity: 7000 Queensland coal jobs gone

MINING.com
Roughly 7000 coal sector jobs have disappeared from the Australian state of Queensland in just over a year, The Courier-Mail reported Saturday. “New market realities” including collapsing commodity prices, slowing Asian demand and diminishing profits 
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France in double-dip recession amid austerity measures: Analysts
Press TV
Analysts say French leaders are continuing with austerity measures and cuts although reports indicate that France is in a double-dip recession, Press TV reports. “France is in recession because President Francois Hollande has chosen austerity. But 
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Austerity starts at home, cut political salaries first: Lithuanian president

euronews
After a successful Irish EU presidency, which saw real steps taken on banking union and the bloc’s budget, euronews met with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaité to discuss which course she plans to chart for the European Union over the next six 
See all stories on this topic »
Austerity and the Mistaken Lessons of History
New Yorker (blog)
At this stage, when even the International Monetary Fund has turned against Osborne and called upon him to reverse course, I won’t bother retreading the arguments against austerity. Suffice it to say that compared with the behavior of the U.S. economy, 
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Austerity is like ‘bleeding’ the patient – and may be as deadly


Irish Independent
Retail sales, which were looking up only a few months ago, are falling, no doubt as a result of sustained austerity, which reduces disposable income, and uncertainty surrounding the property tax. Three things explain the decline. First, austerity is 
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Austerity Opera made to inspire next generation
Cotswold News
Two enterprising Midlands arts companies are staging a full-scale opera, based on Homer’s epics The Iliad & The Odyssey, on a budget that would barely pay for the wardrobe of most opera houses. Coventry-based Talking Birds Theatre Company and 
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Prince Charles: Taxpayers’ bill for austerity heir HALVES in one year
Mirror.co.uk
He’s not exactly surviving on bread and water, but Prince Charles has halved the amount of taxpayers’ money he has splashed out, figures revealed today. The public bill for the heir to the throne fell from £2.2million to £1.15million in the last 
See all stories on this topic »
Portuguese strike against austerity
RT
Portuguese strike against austerity. Thousands of people have been marching towards the parliament in Lisbon as trade unions, which represent around 1 million workers, staged a 24-hour strike. This protest was aimed against relentless austerity 
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The Austerity Bus arrives in Weston-super-Mare
ITV News
The TUC Austerity Bus has arrived in Weston for a rally organised by the union, Unison. Many of its members work at Weston General Hospital and say they are concerned at proposals to privatise it. The hospital has struggled with debt and new methods of 
See all stories on this topic »
Miners to offer austerity help to Durham’s former pit villages
The Northern Echo
The Durham Miners’ Association has called the first meeting to discuss the union’s response toausterity measures at the Glebe Centre, in Murton on Tuesday, July 2 at 5.30pm. It will discuss the impact of unemployment, benefit cuts and the so-called 
See all stories on this topic »

UK Labour Party Admits Austerity Plans

133624_600

Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now Syria: Cheer-leading Another Blood Bath in the Name of Peace


Lies, Perfidies and Tony Blair

“Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terrorism.”President Barack Obama, April 15th 2013.

Having learned nothing from the catastrophes of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, it seems President Obama, the equally clueless UK Prime Minister Cameron and his culturally challenged Foreign Secretary William Hague are cheer-leading another bloodbath in formerly peaceful, secular, outward looking Syria.

Having covertly provided arms and equipment to insurgents from numerous different countries for over two years, they have now moved to the overt stage, a move over which even arch hawks such as former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, and former Republican Senator Richard Luger, six term leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged caution.

Luger said such action would boost extremists, with Brzezinski dismissing Obama’s talk of “red lines” as thoughtless and risking: “a large-scale disaster for the United States.”

During Brzezinski’s time as National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter the decision was made to finance the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in response to Soviet deployment there. He’s had a bit of time to reflect on blowback and perhaps the 2,243 wasted US lives in that “graveyard of empires” – so far.

It seems however, the Washington and Whitehall regimes remain increasingly disconnected from reality. In spite of the plethora of gruesome images circulating on the internet of grinning terrorists holding up severed heads, cannibalizing body organs and summarily executing, they are to provide further arms to insurgency’s Hannibal Lecters. This, also regardless of the fact that Riad al-Assad, founder of the so-called “Free Syrian Army” is quoted as saying that suicide bombing is: “ an integral part of revolutionary action, of Free Syrian Army action.”

Meanwhile, less than a month after the murder of a soldier in London’s Woolwich by wanna be jihadists (with reported relationship with hard drugs) Britain’s increasingly rudderless ship of state allows entry to a controversial Saudi preacher, Muhamed Al Arefe, alleged to have made anti-Shia and anti-Semitic exhortations and who argues that a husband: “may use beatings to discipline his wife” as long as he beats her “lightly.”(i)

Informed friends from the Middle East charge bluntly that he recruits jihadists, as last week in visits Riyadh and Cairo. One added: “David Cameron may as well stand at the gate (of the Mosque) and hand out arms for the ‘good freedom fighters’ who will be heading to Syria after hearing Arefe’s sickening lies, sectarian incitement and calls for jihad against the ‘infidel regime.’ “

This was not a low key occasion. Arefe, spoke at the London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre, built on land donated by King George V1 to the Muslim Community of Britain. The Cultural Centre was officially opened by the King in 1944. The Mosque, completed in 1978, which can hold over five thousand worshippers in the main hall alone, was designed by renowned architect Sir Frederick Gibberd. Quite a platform for any recruiter.

However, Obama and Cameron hardly need to arm terrorists, they are seemingly doing fine, via the US-UK-NATO last mega screw up: Libya.

This week it was reported (ii, iii) that weapons are flooding in to Syria from a Libya awash with weapons, “with spy chiefs saying” that the country has become a supermarket “of the world’s illegal arms trade.”

“Up to 3,000 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) have gone missing since the conflict” with more than “one million tonnes of weapons belonging to Colonel Quaddaffi” looted after his terrible death at the hands of NATO’s “allies.”

Potentially that is enough SAMs to down 3,000 airliners.

The Daily Mail understands that, unsecured: “ … there are now more weapons in Libya than in the entire arsenal of the British Army” according to MI6 estimates.

One internet video showed a stockpile of SAMs, which can hit an aircraft flying at 11,000 feet, in the hands of the Syrian insurgents. Used from airport perimeters anywhere, the result could be tragedy.

However, Akhbar Alaan TV reports(iv) Benghazi has been supplying weapons to the Syrian terrorists for “over a year.” With pictures they: “show the shipments from Libya, via Turkey to the Syrian opposition.”

The TV station’s reporter states:

“Their own Libyan revolution was supported by NATO … But these former Libyan rebels say the world is abandoning the Syrian opposition. And because of that Benghazi decided to act …”

Further:

“All these weapons are donated by former rebel units in eastern Libya … According to the Libyan organizer they also have shipped around 120 SAM 7 surface to air-missiles to Syria.”

Rebel units were, of course aided by US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, who arrived in a cargo ship loaded with arms (news, websites) and was murdered with colleagues in Benghazi on 11th September 2012.

According to the New York Times, Qatari C-17 cargo planes, capable of carrying a payload of over seventy tonnes, have picked up a weapons shipment at least three times this year, which were then delivered to the Turkish-Syrian border to be handed on to the “rebels.”

British-Libyan arms dealer Abdul Basit Haroun – who was a property developer in Manchester, UK for twenty years, until 2011 – has told Reuters that weapons are reaching Syria not alone by numerous flights, but on ships, concealed amongst humanitarian aid. Haroun has claimed that the authorities know about the shipment: “everybody knows.”

Further, Libyan Assembly Member Tawfiq Shehabi has said he supports the activities of people like Haroun, who was a brigade commander during the Libyan uprising: “After the end of the (uprising) he became involved in supporting the Syrian revolution … he does a good job of supporting the Syrian revolution.”

Claims are that permission for shipments is sought from and sanctioned by, Turkey. The UN has criticized Libya for proliferating weapons at an “alarming rate” and for “enriching the arsenals of a range of non-State actors, including terrorist groups.”(v)

Reuters interviewed Haroun and a reporter was taken to a container of weapons being prepared for delivery to Syria: “ … stacked with boxes of ammunition, rocket launchers and various types of light and medium weapons.”

Arms are flown in to “neighbouring countries on chartered flights”, several to Jordan as well as Turkey: “weapons were then transferred over the border.” (vi)

In Libya, the versatile Mr Haroun: “helps the government with state security, according to interior ministry spokesman Majdi al-Ourfi.”

Quite an own goal, NATO.

But no lessons have been learned. On Saturday (22nd June) the ridiculously named, eleven nation “Friends of Syria”, meeting in Qatar, agreed to supply: “all the necessary material” to the insurgents. Britain, with the US, is of course cheer-leading.

This in spite of warnings from such as Charles Lister, analyst at HIS – Jane’s Terrorist and Insurgency Centre – of the danger that weapons “almost invariably end up in the hands of” terrorists and extremists, and possibly even back in Britain.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the former head of the army, said last week he was: “very much in the camp of those who would not wish to be involved and intervene in any shape or form”, with Major General Julian Thompson, who commanded British forces in the Falklands War in 1982, saying it was: “absolutely ridiculous” to contemplate another intervention …and getting involved with something else” whilst still mired in Afghanistan after nearly twelve years.

“Our information from Doha says that five countries have decided to start arming us immediately, and four other countries will give us logistical and technical support and, at a later stage, arm the Free Syrian Army,” a spokesman for the opposition fighters, Loay Al Mikdad, said in an interview with Qatar’s Al-Jazeera TV.

Incredibly, with not a glance towards legality, the Doha plotters: “repeated their call for the establishment of a transitional governing body to which full executive powers would be transferred … Bashar Assad has no role in the transitional governing body or thereafter.”

However, Syria is a founding Member of the UN, one of the fifty one countries who signed to the Charter on 26th June 1945. Member States of the United Nations are bound by the UN Charter.

Article 2 (4) states:

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

Article 2 (1) The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign      equality of all its Members.

Article 2 (2) All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful  means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.

Further:

The UN’s 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States directs:

“No state or group of states has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other state.

“Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the state or against its political economic and cultural elements are in violation of international law.”

Recalling the duty of States to refrain in their international relations from military, political, economic or any other form of coercion aimed against the political independence or territorial integrity of any State,

“Considering it essential that all States shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations,

“In accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations, States have the duty to refrain from propaganda for wars of aggression.

Every State has the duty to refrain from organizing or encouraging the organization of irregular forces or armed bands including mercenaries, for incursion into the territory of another State.

“Every State has the duty to refrain from organizing, instigating, assisting or participating in acts of civil strife or terrorist acts in another State or acquiescing in organized activities within its territory directed towards the commission of such acts, when the acts referred to in the present paragraph involve a threat or use of force.”

End Note. Lest we Forget.

That Middle East “Peace Envoy” Tony Blair [left] who lied his way in to the destruction of Iraq, kissed his welcoming host Colonel Gaddafi then betrayed worthy of any Judas, had also entertained President Assad.

In 2002, when Bashar al Assad visited Britain, meeting the Queen, the Prince of Wales, and dined with Blair at Downing Street, it was considered bestowing an honor on the President.

“According to documents, on Nov. 14, 2002, a desk officer covering Syria and Lebanon at the Foreign and Commonwealth office wrote: “You should be aware that President Bashar of Syria will visit the U.K. as a guest of government … This will include an audience with the queen. I have been advised that we need to consider whether the queen should bestow an honor on him.”(ix)

Blair is, of course, cheer leading for Syria’s destruction:

“A spokesperson for Tony Blair defended the actions of the government under the former PM, stating: “Engagement with Syria and Assad in 2002 was absolutely right …  Mr. Blair has said many times since that the situation has changed and Assad now has to go.”

Notes

..

VIA

Shell Fights to Keep Oil Futures Probe Documents Secret


Screen-Shot-2013-05-21-at-14.40.38-300x202

Shell lawyers are panicking about the prospect of being compelled to hand over secret information to a US court hearing a case about alleged manipulation of the crude oil futures market. Shell mentions the protection of trade secrets. In my experience, that is probably trade secrets Shell has stolen from someone else, inevitably a smaller company, or an individual who made the mistake of trusting Shell and its sham business principles. 

By John Donovan

A Shell insider source has brought to my attention certain current litigation in the USA in which Shell Oil Company has involvement as one of a number of third parties.

Shell lawyers are panicking about the prospect of being compelled to hand over secret information to a US court hearing a case about alleged manipulation of the crude oil futures market.

For obvious reasons, the timing is rather unfortunate for Shell.

The case is:

U.S. COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION, Plaintiff,

-against-

PARNON ENERGY INC., ARCADIA PETROLEUM LTD, ARCADIA ENERGY (SUISSE) SA, NICHOLAS J. WILDGOOSE AND JAMES T. DYER,

Defendant.

(Case 1:11-cv-03543-WH)

In recent days lawyers acting for Shell have filed a flurry of documents with the court, all are bundled together in the pdf file I have compiled.

As can be seen from these extracts from pages 4 and 5 of the 8 page submission, Shell really does not want to hand the information over.

Extracts

1. Shell objects to each document request to the extent it seeks to impose obligations beyond those required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Local Rules for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, and/or any other applicable rule or court order.

2. Shell objects to each document request to the extent it seeks the production of information that constitutes proprietary information, trade secrets or other confidential research, development or commercial information of Shell. Disclosure of such information would cause substantial economic harm to Shell. Further, such information is neither relevant to any issue in this lawsuit nor reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

3. Shell objects to each document request to the extent it seeks, or can be construed to seek, the disclosure of information protected from discovery by the attorney-client privilege, the evaluation privilege, the work-product doctrine or any other applicable privilege, exemption, or immunity recognized under federal, state, or intemationallaw.

4. Shell objects to each document request to the extent that it requires the production of documents for which Shell requested confidential treatment pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act under CFTC Rule 145.9, 17 C.F.R. § 145.9.

5. Shell objects to each document request to the extent that it is overly broad, unduly burdensome, vexatious, or harassing.

6. Shell objects to each document request to the extent it calls for a legal conclusion.

7. Shell objects to each document request to the extent that it seeks documents not relevant to the claims or defenses of any party and is not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

8. Shell objects to each document request to the extent that it requires the production of documents that contain private information about individuals.

9. Shell reserves all objections that may be available to it at any hearing or trial or on any motion to the use or admissibility of any information provided or documents produced, as well as the right to object to further discovery relating to the subject matter of any information or document provided.

Shell mentions the protection of trade secrets. In my experience, that is probably trade secrets Shell has stolen from someone else, inevitably a smaller company, or an individual who made the mistake of trusting Shell and its sham business principles.

Via

http://royaldutchshellplc.com/2013/06/26/shell-fights-to-keep-oil-futures-probe-documents-secret/

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