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29 March 2014

Press review 29-03-2014 - Propaganda

The reasons behind the coup d'état in Ukraine are becoming ever more evident. The propaganda machine made in USA is running flat out, trying to sway Europe as a whole to its side. Vladimir Putin is regularly compared to Adolf Hitler and the annexation of Crimea to the Nazi expansionism that lead to the second World War. But it is in Kiev that modern swastikas are seen, not in Moscow. The US and the UK push the sweet "shale gas" discourse, as if they could ever replace the energy Europe imports from Russia. For now all we can do is hope the chaos into which the Ukraine is immersed does not end up by itself cutting these vital economic ties.

One of the remarkable outcomes of this crisis is the revival of the transatlantic trade agreement. The multiple espionage scandals related to the activities of the American and British intelligence agencies had put negotiations on hold, the European companies being in clear competitive disadvantage with their information harvested en masse. This is the first big victory of the US in this crisis, and might not be the last.

Deutsche Wella
Free trade as a weapon against Putin
Antje Passenheim, 23-03-2014

After the Crimea crisis, minds in Brussels have re-focused on making the largest free trade agreement in the world a top priority for the European Union. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) pact between the 28-member bloc and the United States is more important than ever, Republican Congressman Charlie Dent told DW.

"I think we should seize this moment to move aggressively to enact the TTIP agreement to better align the US and the EU," the Pennsylvania Congressman said.

"I think that's important to strengthen that economic alliance at this critical time, to the extent that better economic ties can only add to our overall security strategy. And that would further isolate Mr. Putin economically."
Some weeks ago Le Figaro asked why Vladimir Putin (and Russia) seem to be so popular amongst French internauts. Although this newspaper considers this to be just the echo of a minority, it acknowledges something notable: the demonisation of Russia and its authoritarian president is not really being successful.
Le Figaro
Pourquoi il y a tant de commentaires pro-Poutine sur le Web
Maxime Bellec, 07-03-2014

Une partie de cette réaction s'explique par la sympathie pro-russe que l'on retrouve surtout en France au sein des mouvements gaullistes et souverainistes. Ce courant est pétri de la tradition géopolitique française de «l'alliance de revers» entre la France et la Russie, et exprime une vision des relations internationales structurée par la puissance et l'indépendance des nations, contre le projet fédéraliste et atlantiste. Mais c'est une explication bien commode pour ceux qui veulent caricaturer le sentiment «pro-russe». En réalité, ce qui est frappant dans les réactions à la crise ukrainienne, ce n'est pas tellement le nombre de témoignages «pro-russes», mais plutôt le refus implicite de beaucoup de gens de se plier à l'injonction médiatique désignant la Russie de Poutine comme le camp du Mal. Il s'agit d'une révolte intellectuelle, qui relève d'une lame de fond de rejet de l'ordre idéologique régnant. Internet facilite cette révolte en libérant l'expression, et nous assisterons dans les années qui viennent à un soupçon de plus en plus systématique, par principe, à ce qui sera présenté comme la pensée obligatoire sur tel ou tel sujet.
A poll this week shows that a clear majority of Germans accept the actions taken by Russia in Crimea. If the US is winning the economical war, it is certainly loosing in the propaganda front.
Deutsche Wella
Using Germany's Ostpolitik for Crimea crisis
Ben Knight, 27-03-2014

Part of the reason for this more cautious take could be Germany's tradition of Ostpolitik, the strategy of rapprochement employed by Chancellor Willy Brandt in the 1970s. The idea has since become so central to Brandt's Social Democratic Party it is what Liana Fix, of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), calls "part of its ideology." As Bettina Vestring points out in a DGAP blog-post, Steinmeier himself, now in his second stint as foreign minister, grew up with Ostpolitik.

To some extent, this has also spread to Germany's general public, who are instinctively sympathetic to Russia - one poll found that 54 percent of Germans think that the West should simply accept Putin's annexation of the Crimea. "I'm not quite sure where this comes from," said Fix. "There is an element of anti-Americanism, a reaction to Iraq, the NSA, and all these things. But there is also a feeling that Germany is in between and that we have to be the mediator."
Meanwhile Ukraine is being pretty much left on its own. The goal was never the sway this remote country one way or the other, rather to open the rift between Europe and Russia. NATO now waves with IMF "aid", demanding "reforms" in exchange. Even if anything resembling a legitimate government comes out of the elections in May, the country will be left between a rock and a hard place.
McClatchy DC
Ukraine defense chief resigns; most soldiers in Crimea expected to switch to Russia
Matthew Schofield, 25-03-2014

The military’s disorganization was a reflection of a general sense that Ukraine’s government - which came to office unexpectedly when former President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country last month and is expected to govern only until elections in May - is falling apart. Many fear that as organized as the Russians were in taking control of Crimea, they might not even need a military option to plunge Ukraine deeper into crisis, being able to further destabilize the country with a continuing depiction of an out-of-control anti-Russia government.

Lawmakers deny being anti-Russia, as Russian President Vladimir Putin claims. But Russian reports that the interim Ukrainian government is unstable ring true, they acknowledge.

“Most think it must be a joke that they are our enemy, though this joke has gone on for a long time,” said Zhraniya, the parliamentarian. But he quickly added, “Is the Ukrainian government stable? Of course it’s not.”
And the gas trapped in the source rocks of America is not a way out for Europe, not even remotely. The propaganda around these resources is nothing but a mermaid chant, that European leaders must resist as Odysseus did.
European Tribune
Can US Fracked Gas Save Europe?
ManfromMiddletown, 20-03-2014

There is a low, but rising, rumble from the right. Last week, GOP House Speaker John Boehner let loose the argument that all the US needs to do to free Europe from dependence on Russian gas imports is to export fracked gas.

Cue the talking heads parroting the meme that the Obama administration is aiding and abetting our once, and again, Soviet Russian nemesis by keeping all that sweet fracked gas trapped in North America. Just one problem. Even a cursory examination of the facts reveals that the scenario envisioned by Boehner et al, the US replacing EU imports of Russian gas, isn't even a remote possibility. Let's lay out the facts of the case.
And just to close this story some hints on the damage the American espionage programme is having on the country's industry.
Fallout From Snowden Hurting Bottom Line of Tech Companies
Claire Cain Miller, 21-03-2014

Microsoft has lost customers, including the government of Brazil.

IBM is spending more than a billion dollars to build data centers overseas to reassure foreign customers that their information is safe from prying eyes in the United States government.

And tech companies abroad, from Europe to South America, say they are gaining customers that are shunning United States providers, suspicious because of the revelations by Edward J. Snowden that tied these providers to the National Security Agency's vast surveillance program.
Another country left on its own after NATO "intervention" is Libya. Its persistent presence in this review is not an obsession, just the reflex of a deteriorating situation.
Arab News
Libyan army in heavy fighting with oil port rebels
Ayman Al-Warfalli, 22-03-2014

Libyan rebels occupying oil ports clashed with troops on Saturday after attacking an army base where reinforcements were preparing for an offensive to break the blockade, local residents said.

Anti-aircraft gunfire and explosions were heard late at night and again after dawn on Saturday in Ajdabiya, the hometown of rebel leader Ibrahim Jathran, whose fighters seized three ports in summer to demand a greater share in Libya’s oil wealth.

Fighting broke out just hours before the return to Libya of an oil tanker seized on Sunday by US commandos in the Mediterranean after it had loaded crude at one of the ports Jathran’s men have occupied.
Petroleum production is hitting rock bottom in the country (if Libya can still be called that). It is now less than 10% of what it was under the Khadafi regime.
Libyan Oil Output Plunges to Six-Month Low as Elephant Halted
Maher Chmaytelli, 24-03-2014

Libya’s oil production plunged to the lowest in about six months after protesters seeking jobs and development projects halted a western oilfield run by Eni Spa. (ENI)

Demonstrators forced the Elephant field to halt today, cutting the nation’s production to 150,000 barrels a day from 230,000 barrels yesterday, Mohamed Elharari, a spokesman for National Oil Corp., said by phone from Tripoli. Paolo Scaroni, Eni’s chief executive officer, met with Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah Theni today to discuss increasing production in the North African country.

Protesters in the Western Mountain range, south west of the capital Tripoli, shut a valve on a pipeline that carries crude from Elephant to the Mellitah oil export terminal, Elharari said. The disruption is compounding a rebellion in the east, depriving the country from most of its oil production. Curtailed Libyan supply has bouyed the price of Europe’s Brent crude this year, according to analysts at banks including Commerzbank AG.
Neighbouring Lybia is a country hardly heard or seen in the news (except for those living in France), but that is in fact one of our most important neighbours: Algeria. It will likely surpass Norway as the second largest energy supplier to Europe in the coming years (the first is, yes you guessed it, Russia). Nevertheless, petroleum and gas production in Algeria is starting to define a clear decline. The following article provides capital insight on these trends, just one other headache for Europe to tackle in the coming years.
Energy Matters
Post-peak Algeria?
Euan Mearns, 21-03-2014

Algerian exports of oil and gas, mainly to Europe, peaked in 2005 and have since fallen by 24% / 628,000 barrels oil equivalent per day [1]. Those countries thinking of switching supplies from Russia had best not look to Algeria, N Africa’s biggest gas producer and exporter.

The Algerian economy is dominated by oil and gas production and exports. The country is a member of OPEC and is one of the more stable countries in N Africa.

[...] From 1965 to 2005 Algeria witnessed an immense rise in oil and gas production from 27 to 166 million tonnes oil equivalent per annum in 2005 (0.54 to 3.32 million barrels oil equivalent per day). But since 2005 oil production has declined and gas production has been static / in slow decline. This combined with rising domestic consumption has given rise to a steep drop in exports of both oil and gas [1]. This is one marker for the squeeze on global energy supplies since 2005.
Rigzone published a remarkable piece on Saudi Arabia that dives into the deep geo-political embroilment the kingdom is falling into. Plenty of food for thought - when reading be mindful of the recent alignment of the kingdom with Israel and the possible support it is providing to Sunni organisations in the region.
Musings: The Challenges Facing Saudi Arabia Include More Than Oil
G. Allen Brooks, 21-03-2014

The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently issued a call for Saudi Arabia to sustain its current oil output during the upcoming seasonally weak global oil demand period in order to rebuild global crude oil inventories following the harsh winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the uptick in developing country oil needs. The IEA estimates that Saudi oil production in January was 9.76 million barrels a day (b/d), down about 60,000 b/d from December’s output level. Saudi’s sales for January, which includes volumes from storage, averaged 9.92 million b/d, down 70,000 b/d from December. A challenge for the Kingdom may come after March when it shuts down the Shaybah field, currently producing 750,000 b/d of light oil, to hook in new production facilities enabling the field to boost production to 1 million b/d in April 2015.

The call for Saudi to sustain its nearly 10 million b/d output to ease a potential global price spike reflects the belief that the Kingdom will take direction from its customers about its oil output policy. As we have found in the past, this belief may not prove accurate, although it has generally been correct. Saudi is caught in the middle of a rapidly changing Middle East geopolitical environment. These tensions surfaced with the first Arab Spring, but they often drop off the radar screen due to other geopolitical developments such as the East-West struggle over the Ukraine.
And now time for news from the Cumputerwelt. Some great insight here on how some exploits are built in software produced by American companies.
Guido Stepken
About Microsoft vs. LINUX security

Last few days i sat in a strategy conference. I was invited to show some exploits, how NSA or other 'forces' could get behind a firewall, opening a channel, transporting data into the internet.

Took my old notebook - Windows XP installed from scratch during the session (all M$ original software from recovery DVD), surfed to some porn sites. A parallel network sniffer connected, showing the traffic between this M$ machine and internet (via firewall). Suddenly, shortly after downloading some "pretty girls pictures" magically a data stream opened from this M$ machine towards the internet. Even closing the browser didn't help. Target server - unknown, no forward, no reverse DNS. "traceroute" blocked after a few hops!

Opening same homepage with my Google Android 4.4.2 Nexus tablet, nothing happened. Network sniffer quiet. Then i downloaded these pics - opened 'gallery', the Android pic viewer - black pics. No image.
Why do folk still use Microsoft software? A clear answer is far from obvious. This week a major vulnerability was made public that allows code injected into RTF files to be promptly executed by several of the products from this company. I have not decided yet what is worse the exploit or the patch that fixes it: simply ending support to the RTF format. During my last days in college (before I started using LaTeX) I used RTF heavily, since it seemed the only way to guarantee interoperability between the different Word versions available at the Faculty plus what I had at home. As far as I know RTF is still broadly used by third party software, also to guarantee interoperability.
Microsoft reveals zero-day attacks against Word
Larry Seltzer, 24-03-2013

Microsoft announced today that an unpatched vulnerability in Microsoft Word is being exploited in the wild.

All versions of Microsoft Word, both Mac and Windows, and several related programs like the Word Viewer and Word Automation Services on Microsoft SharePoint Server are also vulnerable, but the current attacks are directed at Microsoft Word 2010. Exploits such as these are often version-specific, and in targeted attacks, such as this appears to be, the attacker may already know which version he needs to exploit.

Microsoft also says that Microsoft Outlook could also be exploited with such an RTF file if Word were set as the viewer for Outlook. In the default configuration Word is the viewer in Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013.
The Spring is out en force, enjoy your weekend.

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