Oil Rises Above Water
April 15, 2021
The Good News
- Disney will let its workers sport tattoos and gender-neutral hairstyles (CBS)
- The Grim Compassion of Searching for Missing Migrants in the Desert (New Yorker)
“When the trumpet sounded, it was
all prepared on the earth,
the Jehovah parcelled out the earth
to Coca Cola, Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other entities.”
— Pablo Neruda, The United Fruit Company
Oil Rises Above Water
(Martin Zwick via Getty Images)
Winston Churchill was so mesmerized by Uganda’s beauty and biodiversity that he called it “the Pearl of Africa”. In western Uganda is the Albertine Graben region, part of the western arm of East Africa’s Great Rift Valley system. It’s an expanse of lush green vegetation, savannahs, and tropical forests containing more endemic mammals, birds, and amphibians than any other place on the continent. In the region are lakes Albert, Edward, and George, and five national parks including Murchison Falls, the largest game reserve.
Also in the Albertine Graben region is most of Uganda’s oil, first documented in 1925 along the shores of Lake Albert. In 2006, commercially viable oil and gas deposits were found in the Albertine Rift basin that straddles Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
By 2013 several oil wells dotted Murchison Falls, although oil extraction hadn’t begun in earnest. “You should bring your friends and family here before everything changes,” a park ranger told a journalist. “There is already a lot of activity at this early stage. The animals are moving further away. What will happen when drilling actually starts?”
Money from commercial oil production would certainly benefit an impoverished country. It’s expected to bring electricity to the 90% who live without it, revive the ailing primary education system, put beds in dilapidated hospitals, and finance an ambitious presidential initiative (Vision 2040) to put Uganda in the league of upper-middle-income countries. At the same time, studies show that oil mining will affect the ecosystem and destabilize the rich wildlife — not to mention its deleterious effects on climate.
Critics are also gravely concerned about opportunities for exploitation and corruption. Oil has always been an area shrouded in suspicion. At the onset of exploration, the government claimed production-sharing agreements were confidential and refused to release them to the public. After some pressure, parliament was given limited access to the agreements, but the public was still shut out.
Last fall the presidents of Uganda and Tanzania agreed to jointly construct the 900-mile East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) — the world’s longest electrically-heated crude oil pipeline — to transport oil from Uganda’s oil fields to Tanzania’s seaport on the Indian Ocean.
On Sunday, Uganda, Tanzania, and oil companies Total and CNOOC signed three key agreements paving the way for construction to start. The #StopEACOP alliance campaign condemned the decision to build the pipeline, saying it will displace 12,000 families and be a huge environmental risk at a time of climate emergency when the world needs to move away from fossil fuels. 38 civil society organizations across both East African countries signed a letter accusing the parties of failing to address environmental concerns over the pipeline and steamrolling over court and parliamentary processes.
The founder of Uganda’s Rise Up climate movement said the pipeline will worsen existing climate disasters in the most affected areas. “There is no future in the fossil fuel industry,” she said, “and we cannot drink oil.” (Guardian, Global Rights Alert, Reuters)
Leaf Our Trees Alone
(Matthew Bailey via Getty Images)
- Hundreds of activists, calling themselves the Rainforest Flying Squad, have been blockading logging roads across a swath of southern Vancouver Island since August, vowing to stay as long as it takes to pressure the provincial government to immediately halt cutting of what they say is the last 3% of giant old-growth trees left in the province. After activists stopped a crew of old-growth tree cutters, or “fallers,” from entering a logging area, the workmen went to court April 1 and obtained an injunction ordering the blockades taken down.
- In a letter released Monday, two chiefs of a First Nation in western Canada told protesters camped out on their traditional lands to pack up and go home. Pacheedaht hereditary chief Frank Jones and chief councilor Jeff Jones said their nation is worried about the “increasing polarization” over forestry activities and the anti-old growth logging movement.
- However, Bill Jones, a Pacheedaht elder who has been an outspoken ally of the movement, released his own letter Tuesday alleging that Frank Jones wasn’t a true hereditary chief and didn’t represent the will of the Nation. So far the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have made no move to enforce the injunction. (Guardian)
Denmark’s Closing Time: You Don’t Have To Go Home, But You Can’t Stay Here
- Denmark has become the first EU country to strip 1,250 Syrians of their asylum status, forcing them to leave the country where they have built new lives and return to a still-shattered Syria. Those being told to go include high school and university students, truck drivers, factory employees, store owners, and volunteers in nongovernmental organizations.
- One 27-year-old woman has been living in Denmark since 2015 with her parents and four brothers. She is fluent in Danish and was studying chemistry and biotechnology at the Technical University of Denmark. Immigration authorities told her in February she must return to Damascus, while her parents and brothers are allowed to stay in Denmark.
- Another couple in their 50s were told they must leave, but their two sons, 20 and 22, can stay. The Danish government can’t forcibly deport the refugees, but those who don’t go voluntarily wind up in “departure centers” where they can remain indefinitely. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has said Denmark’s goal is to have “zero asylum seekers.” (NYT, $)
Additional World News
- Commons to vote on declaration of genocide in Xinjiang province (Guardian)
- Will Afghanistan Become a Terrorism Safe Haven Once Again? (NYT, $)
- Sea levels are going to rise by at least 2ft. We can do something about it (Guardian)
- The FBI wanted to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone. It turned to a little-known Australian firm. (WaPo, $)
- ‘Marry your rapist’ laws in 20 countries still allow perpetrators to escape justice (Guardian)
- Indigenous Party, Not on the Ballot, Is Still a Big Winner in Ecuador Election (NYT, $)
- China launches hotline to report ‘illegal’ comments about Communist party (Guardian)
- Libya releases man described as one of world’s most wanted human traffickers (Guardian)
- Fast food over fine dining: What spending data tells us about the pandemic recovery (Vox)
- How serious is the Johnson & Johnson blood clot risk compared to common medications? Experts explain. (Yahoo)
- Scientists haven’t figured out long Covid. Here are 5 of their best hypotheses. (Vox)
Preparations For Reparations
- Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) is the lead sponsor of HR 40, a bill that would establish a 13-member commission that would study the effects of slavery and racial discrimination, hold hearings and recommend “appropriate remedies” to Congress. Lee described the bill as “enabling legislation to address the deep-seated racism and historic and systemic elements of mistreatment of African Americans through the centuries.”
- Such legislation has been stalled in the House for 30 years, but the idea of reparations for African Americans has gained new traction amid America’s racial reckoning. The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Wednesday. If it’s reported out of committee, the legislation will receive its first floor vote since former Democratic Representative John Conyers introduced it in 1989.
- Utah Republican Representative Burgess Owens, who is Black, said it was impractical for the US government to pay reparations, and that it was also “unfair and heartless to give Black Americans the hope that this is a reality.” (NPR)
The Man Who Madoff With Everyone’s Money
- America’s most notorious Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff — whose story was well told in the documentary film Chasing Madoff (2011) and HBO’s The Wizard of Lies (2017) — died in a federal prison in North Carolina early Wednesday, apparently from natural causes. He was 82. Madoff left Queens for Wall Street with his brother Peter in 1960.
- By the 1980s Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities occupied three floors of a midtown Manhattan high-rise. There, with his brother and later two sons, he ran a legitimate business as middlemen between the buyers and sellers of stock. He used his expertise to help launch Nasdaq, the first electronic stock exchange, and became so respected that he advised the Securities and Exchange Commission on the system.
- Madoff attracted a devoted legion of investment clients — from Florida retirees to celebrities like famed film director Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon and Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax. What neither clients nor the SEC knew was that behind the scenes, in a separate office kept under lock and key, Madoff was secretly spinning a web of phantom wealth by using cash from new investors to pay returns to old ones.
- In 2008 the business was exposed as a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that had wiped out people’s fortunes and ruined charities and foundations. Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009 to securities fraud and other charges, admitting he had swindled thousands of clients out of billions of dollars in investments. By then he was so hated he had to wear a bulletproof vest to court. Madoff apologized, but the judge sentenced him to 150 years behind bars. (Politico)
Additional USA News
- Syphilis Is Raging Again And Dating Apps, Meth Offer Reasons Why (NPR)
- Biden rolls back Trump’s anti-abortion curbs on family planning funds (Politico)
- US climate research outpost abandoned over fears it will fall into sea (Guardian)
- Montaire agrees to $204 million settlement for Delaware pountry plant problems (WaPo, $)
- Military claims of racism: Black National Guardsman made to wear chain (USA Today)
- As Interior becomes a battlefield for President Biden’s climate agenda, Sen. Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.) weighs in (WaPo, $)
Policing In America
- Minneapolis’ Little Earth neighborhood creates their own patrols after police retreat (WaPo, $)
- What to do instead of calling the police (Vox)
- Wrongfully arrested man sues Detroit police over false facial recognition match (WaPo, $)
- Maryland becomes first state to repeal police bill of rights, overriding Hogan veto (Politico)
- Protesters and police clash for a third night after Daunte Wright’s death as prosecutors weigh charges against officer (CNN)
- Judge’s ruling reinstates pension for Cariol Horne, former Buffalo police officer who intervened in arrest (WaPo, $)
The Trouble With Tech Terms
- The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is a large open international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers concerned with the evolution of the Internet architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet. The group is made up of about 7,000 volunteers from around the world; it has just two full-time employees, an executive director and a spokesman. The technical work is done in working groups organized by topic into several areas, such as routing, transport, security, etc.
- The IETF has created rigorous standards for the internet and for itself. Its standards are hashed out during fierce debates on email lists and at in-person meetings. The group encourages participants to fight for what they believe is the best approach to a technical problem. Disagreements are not resolved by taking a vote, but through continued efforts to reach a consensus. The methodology has managed to create elegant solutions for engineering problems.
- In October 2018, an IETF working group tackled a thorny issue: getting rid of computer engineering terms that evoke racist history. An Internet-Draft was submitted that was titled: Terminology, Power and Oppressive Language. The purpose was to argue for and describe alternatives to avoid certain objectionable terminology. Specifically detailed were “two sets of terms that are normalized on the technical level but oppressive on a societal level.” The two sets are: Master-slave and Blacklist-whitelist. Numerous suggestions were made for alternative words to substitute.
- It was an earnest endeavor and an honest proposal. But now these many months later it has stalled, as members of the task force have debated the history of slavery and the prevalence of racism in tech. The fight over terminology reflects not only the intractability of racial issues in society, but the vagaries in reliance on informal consensus to get things done.
- Meanwhile some companies and tech organizations have forged ahead to abandon objectionable terms. Without guidance from the Internet Engineering Task Force or another standards body, engineers simply decide on their own. And without consensus on what new terms to use, the possibility is raised that important technical terms will have different meanings to different people — a troubling proposition for an engineering world that needs broad agreement so technologies work together. (IETF; NYT, $)
- Purple revolution: India’s farmers turn to lavender to beat drought (Guardian)
- With a New Museum, African Workers Take Control of Their Destiny (NYT, $)
- The UAE is partnering with Japanese company ispace to launch a moon rover in 2022 (CNN)
- Stolen Roman Statue Discovered In Belgium Shop By Off-Duty Art Cops (NPR)
- Coinbase soars to $85.8 billion valuation in landmark market debut (WaPo, $)
- Women take the floor: an exhibition that shifts the male gaze of art history (Guardian)
- These Ants Shrink Their Brains for a Chance to Become Queen (NYT, $)
- Harrods stops selling Ganesha handbag after backlash from Hindus (Guardian)
' title="RECOMMENDED FOR YOU"]