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New allegations of fraud concerning “clean coal”

Environmentalists have long objected to calling a coal-fired carbon capture and sequestration project “clean coal,” arguing that the label is misleading because it focuses on carbon dioxide pollution while ignoring other problems like acid rain and airborne contaminants. And carbon capture projects rely on continuing fossil fuel production, because the CO2 that’s captured is sold to oil companies who pump it into aging wells to coax more oil from the ground.

Politicians nevertheless continue to use the term. “My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” President Donald Trump said this spring. “We’re going to have clean coal, really clean coal.”

New Fraud Allegations Emerge at Troubled ‘Clean Coal’ Project As Southern Co. Records Multi-Billion Loss, Desmog  By Sharon Kelly • Tuesday, August 8, 2017 Southern Co. is accused of fraudulently misrepresenting the prospects for its troubled “clean coal” project in Kemper County, Mississippi in several legal filings this summer.

Southern announced in late July that it was shuttering the troubled “clean coal” part of Kemper after construction ran years behind schedule and the company spent $7.5 billion on the 582 megawatt power plant — over $5 billion more than it first projected.In a lawsuit filed today, Brett Wingo, a former Southern Company engineer, alleges he warned the company’s top executives that it would not be possible to meet key construction deadlines. Management responded by retaliating against him, the complaint asserts, and Southern continued to assure investors and the public that Kemper’s schedule and budget targets would be met, then blamed unpredictable factors like the weather when those goals were missed.

Wingo’s claim that Southern misled investors by concealing construction-related problems drew national attention in a front page New York Times investigation last year. In January, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concluded that Wingo had suffered a “continuing pattern of retaliatory treatment” and ordered Southern to reinstate Wingo, but the company has refused, according to a statement accompanying the lawsuit. (The case is “Brett Wingo v. The Southern Company, et al.,” Case No. 2:17-cv-01328-MHH in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Southern Division.)

A second less-noticed legal filing with Mississippi state regulators accuses Southern of misrepresenting Kemper’s prospects right from the outset, before construction even began. Those claims center on Southern’s projections for what it would cost to operate and maintain the plant once it was up and running, which the filing asserts were so low they were “indefensible”.

In an email to DeSmog, Wingo seconds those claims, saying that he believes management knew back in 2012 that its “operation and maintenance” (O&M) projections were off — but kept the accurate numbers under wraps for years.

“By hiding the true O& M costs for so long, apparently since 2012 and likely longer, Fanning basically ensured shareholders would be forced to absorb $6 billion in losses,” Wingo told DeSmog.

“In 2012, sunk costs on Kemper were only around $1 billion and the natural gas part of the plant substantially complete. It would have been a perfect time to stop a runaway train from running off the end of the tracks,” he added. “But history shows, that’s not what Fanning and Southern Company chose to do.”…….

 

Spending Money to Make Money

Why would a company want to build a power plant that’s too expensive to run? Part of the answer, critics say, is the way that utilities like power companies are regulated.

Because they are essentially regulated monopolies, the laws governing how utilities like power companies make money are different than most industries, as explained in a  2015 Wall Street Journal article titled “Utilities’ Profit Recipe: Spend More.”

“[U]tilities have another incentive for heavy spending; It actually boosts their bottom lines — the result of a regulatory system that turns corporate accounting on its head,” The Journal reported, explaining that as long as state-level regulators sign off on a project, regulated utilities get a fixed percentage of what they spend as a profit……..

Clean Coal?

Kemper was supposed to be an engineering feat, able to turn the world’s least efficient but most abundant form of coal, lignite coal, into a climate-friendly fuel. That’s “climate friendly” as compared to the kind of coal-burning power plants upon which the U.S. has historically relied for the bulk of its electricity……..

Environmentalists have long objected to calling a coal-fired carbon capture and sequestration project “clean coal,” arguing that the label is misleading because it focuses on carbon dioxide pollution while ignoring other problems like acid rain and airborne contaminants. And carbon capture projects rely on continuing fossil fuel production, because the CO2 that’s captured is sold to oil companies who pump it into aging wells to coax more oil from the ground.

Politicians nevertheless continue to use the term. “My administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” President Donald Trump said this spring. “We’re going to have clean coal, really clean coal.”

Asked about the prospects for new “clean coal” projects in general after Kemper’s shuttering, a top Department of Energy official was dubious. EIA chief Howard Gruenspecht noted the role of natural gas prices, as well as the lower price of oil, which hurts the price of carbon sold to enhance oil recovery.

“In some parts of the world, one could imagine perhaps some efforts there but the cost situation is very, very challenging, certainly in the United States,” Gruenspecht told DeSmog. “One does not have to have an issue with the technology itself, it’s very impressive, but it’s a question of whether things really pencil out or not — there are some significant challenges.” https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/08/08/southern-company-fraud-allegations-kemper-clean-coal-project?utm_source=dsb%20newsletter

 

August 19, 2017 Posted by | climate change, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

India’s Adani mining giant accused of corruption just as it seeks funds from the Australian government for coal mine

If true, one effect of the alleged scheme would have been to move vast sums of money from the Adani Group’s domestic accounts into offshore bank accounts where it could no longer be taxed or accounted for.

Adani mining giant faces financial fraud claims as it bids for Australian coal loan, Exclusive: Allegations by Indian customs of huge sums being siphoned off to tax havens from projects are contained in legal documents but denied by company, Guardian, Michael Safi in Delhi, 16 Aug 17, A global mining giant seeking public funds to develop one of the world’s largest coal mines in Australia has been accused of fraudulently siphoning hundreds of millions of dollars of borrowed money into overseas tax havens.

Indian conglomerate the Adani Group is expecting a legal decision in the “near future” in connection with allegations it inflated invoices for an electricity project in India to shift huge sums of money into offshore bank accounts.

The directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) file, compiled in 2014, maps out a complex money trail from India through South Korea and Dubai, and eventually to an offshore company in Mauritius allegedly controlled by Vinod Shantilal Adani, the older brother of the billionaire Adani Group chief executive, Gautam Adani.

Vinod Adani is the director of four companies proposing to build a railway line and expand a coal port attached to Queensland’s vast Carmichael mine project.

The proposed mine, which would be Australia’s largest, has been the source of years of intense controversy, legal challenges and protests over its possible environmental impact.

Expanding the coal port to accommodate the mine will require dredging an estimated 1.1m cubic metres of spoil near the Great Barrier Reef marine park. Coal from the mine will also produce annual emissions equivalent to those of Malaysia or Austria according to one study.

One of the few remaining hurdles for the Adani Group is to raise finance to build the mine as well as a railway line to transport coal from the site to a port at Abbot Point on the Queensland coast.

To finance the railway Adani hopes to persuade the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (Naif), an Australian government-backed investment fund, to loan the Adani Group or a related entity about US$700m (A$900m) in public money.

While it awaits the decision on the loan, in Delhi the company is also expecting the judgment of a legal authority appointed under Indian financial crime laws in connection to allegations it siphoned borrowed money overseas.

The Adani Group fully denies the accusations, which it has challenged in submissions to the authority.

The investigation

News of the investigation was first reported in India three years ago, but the full customs intelligence document reveals forensic details of the workings of the alleged fraud which have not been publicly revealed.

The 97-page file accuses the Adani Group of ordering hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of equipment for an electricity project in western India’s Maharashtra state using a front company in Dubai.

To read the pdf click here.

The Dubai company allegedly sold the exact same equipment back to Adani Group-controlled businesses in India at massively inflated prices, in some instances said to be eight times the sale price.

According to the allegations in the file, the effect of these transactions was that the Adani Group spent an average 400% more for the materials. That money was allegedly paid to a company Indian authorities allege was owned through a series of shell companies leading to a Mauritius trust controlled by Vinod Adani.

If true, one effect of the alleged scheme would have been to move vast sums of money from the Adani Group’s domestic accounts into offshore bank accounts where it could no longer be taxed or accounted for.

Because tariffs for using electricity transmission networks are determined partly by what they cost to build, if the DRI’s accusations are correct, the overvaluation of capital goods would have been likely to have led to higher power prices for Indian consumers……

The Australian loan

The Adani Group, or a linked entity, has reportedly been granted “conditional approval” for the US$700m (AU$900m) concessional loan from Naif, the Australian government investment fund.

But due to secrecy around the operation of the investment fund, it is not clear whether the loan application discloses the existence of the DRI notice or the ongoing legal proceedings, or whether the applicant is required to do so under the Naif’s anti-money laundering provisions……

The Guardian is publishing excerpts from the DRI file in the interests of ensuring Naif, as well as the public, have access to as much relevant information as possible in assessing whether Adani or linked companies would be suitable recipients of public money.

In a separate case last year, six Adani subsidiaries were listed among 40 other companies being investigated for allegedly running a similar price-inflation scheme. The companies are accused of inflating the price of coal imports from Indonesia to hide profits in overseas tax havens.

The DRI and the ED did not respond to a request to clarify the status of the investigations.

The alleged money trail…..

How Adani allegedly siphoned money from India….

Who controls the companies?

Key to the alleged fraud, according to investigators, is that EIF, the company subcontracted to purchase the equipment from manufacturers in South Korea and China, was directly controlled by the Adani Group and its associates…. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/16/adani-mining-giant-faces-financial-claims-as-it-bids-for-australian-coal-loan

August 16, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, India, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

How USA’s Argonne National Laboratory abused a small Australian boy, with plutonium injections

Paul Langley,  https://www.facebook.com/paul.langley.9822/posts/10213752429593121CAL-2, 14 Aug 175 yr-old Simon Shaw and his mum. Simon was flown from Australia to the US on the pretext of medical treatment for his bone cancer. Instead, he was secretly injected with plutonium to see what would happen. His urine was measured, and he was flown back to Australia.

Though his bodily fluids remained radioactive, Australian medical staff were not informed. No benefit was imparted to Simon by this alleged “medical treatment” and he died of his disease after suffering a trip across the world and back at the behest of the USA despite his painful condition. The USA merely wanted a plutonium test subject. They called him CAL-2. And did their deed under the cover of phony medicine.

“Congress of the United States, House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515-2107, Edward J. Markey, 7th District, Massachusetts Committees, [word deleted] and Commerce, Chairman Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance, Natural Resources, Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe] MEMORANDUM To: Congressman Edward J. Markey From: Staff Subject: The Plutonium Papers Date: 4/20/94

Staff Memo on Plutonium Papers

The medical file for Cal-2 also contains correspondence seeking follow-up from Argonne National Laboratory in the 1980s. Cal-2 was an Australian boy, not quite five years old, who was flown to the U.S. in 1946 for treatment of bone cancer. During his hospitalization in San Francisco, he was chosen as a subject for plutonium injection. He returned to Australia, where he died less than one year later.

Document 700474 is a letter from Dr. Stebbings to an official at the Institute of Public Health in Sydney, Australia, in an attempt to reach the family of Cal-2. This letter reports that the child was “injected with a long-lived alpha-emitting radionuclide.” Document 700471 is a letter from Dr. Stebbings to New South Wales, Australia (names and town deleted), inquiring about recollections of the boy’s hospitalization in 1946. The letter notes that, “those events have become rather important in some official circles here,” but provides few details to the family.

A hand-written note on the letter reports no response through October 8, 1987. Considering the history on the lack of informed consent with these experiments, it is surprising that the letters to Australia failed to mention the word “plutonium.”

The Australian news media has since identified Cal-2 as Simeon Shaw, the son of a wool buyer in New South Wales, and information on the injection created an international incident. The information in the medical file does indicate that at a time when Secretary Herrington told you that no follow-up would be conducted on living subjects, the Department of Energy was desperately interested in conducting follow-up on a deceased Australian patient.

In an effort to determine the full extent of follow-up by the Department after 1986, your staff has requested, through the Department’s office of congressional affairs, the opportunity to speak with Dr. Stebbings, Dr. Robertson, and any other officials who may have been involved in the follow-up. So far, that request has been unsuccessful. It remains an open question as to what was the full extent of follow-up performed in the 1980s, and whether the efforts then would facilitate any further follow-up on subjects now. It seems appropriate for the Interagency Working Group to address these questions as its efforts continue.”

Source: National Security Archives, George Washington Universityhttp://www.gwu.edu/…/…/mstreet/commeet/meet1/brief1/br1n.txt

See also ACHRE Final Report.

NO MORE DUAL USE ABUSE OF AUSTRALIANS MR PRESIDENT. STOP FUNDING SYKES AND FLINDERS UNIVERSITY IN THE DOE QUEST FOR CHEAP CLEANUP OF URANIUM CONTAMINATED SITES.

Mr. President, you are wrong if you think you can do the same again re hormesis funding in Australia as the USA did with CAL-2. We have not forgotten and do not trust you or your paid agents in Australian universities such as Flinders.

August 14, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, civil liberties, radiation, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Belarus’ nuclear station – a Faustian bargain with Russia

Poland speaks out harshly against Belarusian nuclear plant Poland has lent its voice to a growing chorus of countries that won’t buy power from the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant that Moscow is building in Ostrovets because it considers the project to be unsafe, RIA Novosti reported, Bellona, August 9, 2017 by Charles Digges, “………Since the early 2000s, many in the West see Russia’s ambitions to built nuclear plants abroad as attempt to cast Moscow’s apron strings into the European Union.

By fully financing reactor builds, they say, the Kremlin is offering a Faustian bargain: energy independence in exchange for long-term debt and Moscow friendly politics.

The Moscow-leaning government of Viktor Orban in Hungary is a good example. Budapest relies on a Soviet-built nuclear power plant for 50 percent of its electricity, and recently signed a €12 billion deal for a second Russia-built plant. Budapest is now also less likely to pester Moscow over sensitive issues like Russia’s covert war in Ukraine.

That’s because Moscow has a habit of settling political disputes by shutting off the power and heat in places where it has built infrastructure. Disputes between Russia and Ukraine, which remain bitter, led to cuts in Europe’s gas supply from Russia during the winter in 2006 and 2009.

Lithuania’s law against the Ostrovet’s plant is Vilnius’s attempt to opt out of being a hostage to Moscow’s new zero-sum nuclear energy policy, and Poland seems to agree.

These boycotts against buying nuclear power have been enormously effective in shutting down other unpopular nuclear builds in the region.

A Russian nuclear plant in the Kaliningrad enclave was quietly shelved in 2011 when Poland declared it wouldn’t help out with financing.

Lithuania’s own plans for a nuclear power plant took a more tortured route. Since 2009, the country has been trying, unsuccessfully, to kindle investment interest in its own Visaginas nuclear power plant to replace the Soviet-built Ignalina station.

A decisive blow against that project came, however, when Poland, as it had done in Kaliningrad retracted financing offers. http://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/2017-08-poland-speaks-out-harshly-against-belarusian-nuclear-plant

August 11, 2017 Posted by | Belarus, Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Fossil fuel industries funded climate denial as a religious belief

Conservative groups, funded by fossil fuel magnates, spend approximately one billion dollars every year interfering with public understanding of what is actually happening to our world.

“Throughout the history of the church, people have always found ways to use God and scripture to justify empire, to justify oppression and exploitation,” Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, an organizer with a pro-environmental Christian group called Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA), told me. “It’s a convenient theology to hold, especially when we are called to drastic, difficult action.”

How Fossil Fuel Money Made Climate Change Denial the Word of God Brendan O’Connor, Splinter , 8 Aug 17  In 2005, at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C., the National Association of Evangelicals was on the verge of doing something novel: affirming science. Specifically, the 30-million-member group, which represents 51 Christian denominations, was debating how to advance a new platform called “For the Health of a Nation.” The position paper—written the year before An Inconvenient Truth kick-started sense of public urgency around climate change—included a call for evangelicals to protect God’s creation, and to embrace the government’s help in doing so. The NAE’s board had already adopted it unanimously before presenting it to the membership for debate.

At the time, many in the evangelical movement were uncomfortable with its close ties to the Republican anti-environmental regulation agenda. That year, a group called the Evangelical Alliance of Scientists and Ethicists protested the GOP-led effort to rewrite the Endangered Species Act, and the NAE’s vice president of governmental affairs Richard Cizik pushed for the organization to endorse John McCain and Joe Lieberman’s cap-and-trade bill. “For the Health of a Nation,” which Cizik also pushed, was an opportunity to draw a bright line between their support of right-wing social positions on abortion and civil rights and a growing sentiment that God’s creation needed protection from industry……..

At the behest of a group called the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, the board buckled, releasing a statement in February 2006 “recognizing the ongoing debate” on global warming and “the lack of consensus among the evangelical community on the issue.” Just days later, an outside group of 86 evangelical leaders, under the aegis of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, issued a “Call to Action” declaring that climate change was real and that “millions of people could die from it in this century.”

For his trouble, Cizik was targeted by a collection of hard right Christians, who petitioned the NAE board to muzzle him or force him to resign. “Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage, and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children,” their letter read. It also implied that Cizik, who had worked for the NAE for nearly three decades, supported abortion, giving condoms to children, and infanticide…….

The NAE did eventually endorse climate action in 2015. But it was too late. By that time, a corps of right-wing Christians, funded by fossil-fuel interests, had hijacked the public and political machinery of the evangelical movement. They are now in the White House, where the anti-environmental agenda is dominated by Christian fundamentalists like EPA Commissioner Scott Pruitt while the more moderate views of former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson are ignored. This is the story of how they did it.

At a town hall in Michigan last May, Republican Rep. Tim Walberg assured his constituents that, while the climate may be changing, they don’t need to be concerned. “As a Christian, I believe that there is a creator in God who is much bigger than us,” he told them. “And I’m confident that, if there’s a real problem, He can take care of it.”

 This idea—that whatever happens in God’s creation happens with His blessing—has deep roots in the American evangelical community, especially among the elite fundamentalists who walk the halls of power in Washington, D.C. For years, an evangelical minister named Ralph Drollinger has held weekly Bible studies for members of Congress, preaching that social welfare programs are un-Christian and agitating for military action against Iran. (In December 2015, he expressed his desire to shape Donald Trump into a benevolent, Christian dictator.) Drollinger also teaches that climate change caused by humans is impossible in light of God’s covenant with Noah after the Flood: “To think that man can alter the earth’s ecosystem—when God remains omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent in the current affairs of mankind—is to more than subtly espouse an ultra-hubristic, secular worldview relative to the supremacy and importance of man,” he wrote recently.

Conservative groups, funded by fossil fuel magnates, spend approximately one billion dollars every year interfering with public understanding of what is actually happening to our world. Most of that money—most of the fraction of it that can be tracked, anyway—goes to think tanks that produce policy papers and legislative proposals favorable to donors’ interests, super PACs that support politicians friendly to industry or oppose those who are not, or mercenary lobbyists and consultants, in some instances employing the same people who fought to suppress the science on smoking. In terms of impact, however, few investments can rival the return that the conservative donor class has gotten from the small cohort of evangelical theologians and scholars whose work has provided scriptural justifications for apocalyptic geopoliticsand economic rapaciousness.

“Throughout the history of the church, people have always found ways to use God and scripture to justify empire, to justify oppression and exploitation,” Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, an organizer with a pro-environmental Christian group called Young Evangelicals for Climate Action (YECA), told me. “It’s a convenient theology to hold, especially when we are called to drastic, difficult action.”

 Many of these soothsayers are gathered together in an organization called the Cornwall Alliance—formerly known as the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, the same group that mobilized against Cizik’s environmental proposal—a network with ties to politicians and secular think tanks across the conservative landscape. In 2013, Cornwall published an anti-environmentalist manifesto called Resisting the Green Dragon. “False prophets promise salvation if only we will destroy the means of maintaining our civilization. No more carbon, they say, or the world will end and blessings will cease,” it warns. “Pagans of all stripes now offer their rival views of salvation, all of which lead to death.” Members of the Cornwall Alliance and their ilk are not simply theoreticians but enforcers, stifling dissent in the wider American evangelical community, smothering environmentalist tendencies before they gain a following………

For almost 20 years, Beisner and members of the Cornwall Alliance have worked with establishment conservatives to bolster opposition to climate change: The Heartland Institute identifies him as a policy advisor on its web site, and he speaks regularly at the institute’s annual conference on climate change (though in an interview he curiously denied ever actually giving any policy advice to Heartland). The Heritage Foundation hosted the 2015 premierof Where the Grass is Greener, a documentary produced by the Cornwall Alliance. In May, Beisner and senior executives from Heartland, Heritage, and a slew of other billionaire-funded political entities like Americans for Prosperity and the Competitive Enterprise Institute sent a letter to Donald Trump urging him to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and asking him to stop funding United Nations global warming programs.

 Together, Cornwall, Heartland, and Heritage have been able to set the terms of the conservative conversation—evangelical or otherwise—about the climate. They determine what science is acceptable, which proposed solutions can be considered, and what the consequences of inaction might look like. “There’s a very strong connection between those institutions and the evangelical Right,” Rev. Hescox told me. “Their denial of the science—and really portraying this as a big government issue—is why there was so much pushback among evangelicals.”

The Cornwall Alliance, joined by scientists associated with organizations partly funded by ExxonMobil, continued hammering away at Christian groups that supported action on climate change. In 2008, it launched the bizarrely named “We Get It!” campaign, which targeted the Evangelical Climate Initiative and was endorsed by a slew of conservative organizations, including the Family Research Council and David Barton’s WallBuilders…..

Given that it is a relatively small operation with relatively low overhead, the money that the Cornwall Alliance receives is a vanishingly small fraction of the hundreds of millions spent by the Koch, the Mercer, or the DeVos families. (The Kochs are oil, coal, and gas scions; Robert Mercer is a hedge fund manager who, with his daughter Rebekah, fueled Trump’s rise; Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her husband Dick are long-time Republican donors).

Their money flows through a multitude of nonprofits, front groups, and donor-advised funds. (A donor-advised fund is a kind of money-laundering service for philanthropists who don’t want anyone to know where their money is going: They make a contribution to the fund, and then tell the fund where to send the money; as a nonprofit, the fund has to disclose all of the grants that it makes, but it does not need to disclose its own donors, nor what direction those donors attached to their money.) Donors Trust, the “dark money ATM” of the conservative movement, contributed $1,001,500 to the James Partnership between 2009 and 2015; in most years, this constituted around half of the Partnership’s total revenue………

…….billions are paying off. Not only have the people who funded Cornwall successfully stopped the government from pursuing policies that might make the lives of people who are living with the consequences of climate change a little bit better, but under the Trump administration their lackeys are actively working to dismantle what little progress has been made. When Drollinger teaches that God’s covenant with Noah means that the consequences of climate change not only will not but in fact cannot be as devastating as scientists believe, he echoes a lengthy essay published by the Cornwall Alliance in 2009 that lays out the same argument. Typical of the organization’s style, it appears to the casual observer like any policy paper drawn up at one of D.C.’s many think tanks and nonprofits; in reality, the document blends quotations from scripture with pseudo-scientific data—citing, for example, the Mercer-funded Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. During Pruitt’s confirmation hearing, Republican Sen. John Barrasso favorably cited Beisner and the Cornwall Alliance’s support for the Oklahoma attorney general……http://splinternews.com/how-fossil-fuel-money-made-climate-denial-the-word-of-g-1797466298

August 11, 2017 Posted by | climate change, Religion and ethics, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

South Africa: R80m in irregularities in nuclear contract

Energy minister investigates R80m in irregularities in nuclear contract https://www.timeslive.co.za/politics/2017-08-10-exclusive-energy-minister-investigates-r80-million-in-irregularities-in-nuclear-contract/?platform=hootsuite  BY JAN-JAN JOUBERT Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi has launched an investigation into several senior officials in her department for alleged nuclear tender irregularities amounting to R80-million.

Kubayi’s office has confirmed that it is probing the possible violation of National Treasury regulations when the department awarded an R80-million contract to a nuclear transactional adviser‚ Mahlaka-A-Phalala (M-A-P).

“There are still investigations going on the matters raised in your questions and therefore we are unable to respond as it will jeopardise and weaken the case‚” said a short statement from Kubayi’s office in response to 29 questions posed by TimesLIVE.

The minister can expect heavy questioning on the matter from DA MP Gordon Mackay when she appears before Parliament’s portfolio committee on energy on Tuesday.

Mackay said this was further evidence why the government nuclear procurement was “captured”.

“The nuclear deal is a prime example of state capture. The DA will demand from committee chairperson Fikile Majola that the energy portfolio committee tackle this matter with extreme urgency when we reconvene next month‚ and question the investment.

“We will also demand to know why deputy director-general [Zizamele] Mbambo remains in his post‚ and will propose an ad hoc committee to get to the bottom of this mess‚” said Mackay.

According to documents TimesLIVE has seen‚ energy director-general Thabane Zulu‚ his deputy Zizamele Mbambo‚ procurement specialist Ndaba Ngwane‚ and chief financial officer Yvonne Chetty have signed a deviation request to sign off the deal.

Zulu has since been moved to head the Strategic Energy Fund while Ndaba has quietly exited the department.

Mbambo remains in his position despite awarding the contract‚ which a leaked document shows amounts to R80-million. The scandal started at the end of August last year‚ when one of the consulting firms in the nuclear build programme‚ M-A-P – against which no allegations are made – compiled a report finding that the department was not ready to issue a request for proposal for the intended nuclear new build programme‚ estimated to be worth R1-trillion.

On September 22‚ Mbambo and Ngwane asked Chetty and Zulu to approve a deviation from normal procurement processes‚ in practice allowing M-A-P to continue work on the development of a transactional adviser.

The next day‚ Chetty and Zulu agreed to the deviation‚ which Chetty warned was subject to the buy-in of the National Treasury and the office of the attorney-general.

However‚ Mbambo and Ngwane merely told M-A-P to continue with a second phase of the contract‚ the cost of which would grow by R80-million to R100-million by March despite the required governance processes allegedly not having been followed.

On September 27‚ then minister of energy Tina Joemat-Pettersson suspended all payments related to the transactional adviser to M-A-P until the department had submitted a verification report to her on all deliverables received.

According to sources close to the events‚ this decision was never communicated to M-A-P as a service provider.

Instead‚ Mbambo‚ Zulu and Ngwane continued to engage M-A-P and received work deliverables towards the procurement process without a contract and without all regulations being followed. Among the serious allegations that TimesLIVE put to the Department of Energy over the past 10 days is that M-A-P was not subjected to a competitive bid process.

Instead‚ section 16 (a) 6.6 of the Public Finance Management Act was used – despite warnings by the relevant tender committee that this was wrong – to keep paying M-A-P.

This was done despite the law only allowing for the cost of the project to be extended by 15% without an open tender process.

At the beginning of March‚ M-A-P‚ which remained ignorant of Joemat-Pettersson’s instruction to stop payments‚ went to see her about payments outstanding‚ adding R60-million to the initial R20-million contract.

M-A-P also revealed to Joemat-Pettersson that it had a copy of the deviation request approved by Chetty and Zulu as given to it by Mbambo and Ndaba‚ despite the strict rules regarding the leaking of internal documents.

The whole matter came to a climax on March 16 when the departmental tender committee met and reviewed M-A-P’s bills.

Mbambo was in hot water and held to account as the meeting continued on March 22.

During the meeting‚ it came to light that Mbambo had already on September 1 given verbal instruction to M-A-P to extend its contract by a further R80-million to R100-million.

In the end‚ the Department of Energy shifted funds from the sundries account and paid M-A-P R56-million of the additional R80-million by the end of the financial year (March 31).

Zulu said only the department could comment. Numerous efforts to contact Mbambo for comment failed last week‚ and Ngwane could not be tracked down.

August 11, 2017 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, South Africa | Leave a comment

U.S Government employees ordered not to use certain words, especially “climate change”

US Government department tells staff to not use term ‘climate change’ http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/us-government-department-tells-staff-to-not-use-term-climate-change/news-story/27acd486093634ad3db49ab5ebcb0b9d

A PUBLIC sector department has told employees to cease using the term ‘climate change’ and opt for other more benign words  insteadBenedict Brook@BenedictBrook, news.com.au , 8 Aug 17 GOVERNMENT employees in the US have been given a dictionary of accepted words to use — and “climate change” isn’t one of them.

In a directive reminiscent of George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, where people were only allowed to communicate in an ever diminishing language called “newspeak”, employees of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been told to ditch the word “climate change”.

They should use “weather extreme” instead.

The clampdown comes as President Donald Trump further distances the US from global moves to limit global warming. Last week, the US formally announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

In a series of emails received by the Guardian, the director of the USDA’s soil health department, Bianca Moebius-Clune, listed terms that should be avoided and the alternatives to be used instead.

As well as giving climate change the flick, staff were told to avoid the term “climate change adaptation” and instead opt for “resilience to weather extremes”.

When talking about the cause of climate change, sorry “weather extremes”, saying people should “reduce greenhouse gases” is a big no-no. Rather, staff should talk in favour of “build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency”.

The email was dated 16 February but has only just come to light.

However, far from being a politically motivated reaction against the science of climate change, the instructions to staff may instead be a way for the Government department to continue its work without ruffling feathers in a White House averse to discussing global warming.

In the missive, Ms Moebius-Clune said that, “we won’t change the modelling, just how we talk about it — there are a lot of benefits to putting carbon back in the soil, climate mitigation is just one of them”.

The Guardian report added that public relations staff from the USDA had advised departments should “tamp down on discretionary messaging right now”.

The USDA denied it was limited discussion of climate change.

In a statement, the department said, “this guidance, similar to procedures issued by previous administrations, was misinterpreted by some to cover data and scientific publications.

“This was never the case and USDA interim procedures will allow complete, objective information for the new policy staff reviewing policy decisions.”http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/us-government-department-tells-staff-to-not-use-term-climate-change/news-story/27acd486093634ad3db49ab5ebcb0b9d

August 9, 2017 Posted by | civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Trump administration’s banning of the term “climate change” may backfire

The Trump administration’s solution to climate change: ban the term https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/08/trump-administration-climate-change-ban-usda, Bill McKibben
The US Department of Agriculture has forbidden the use of the words ‘climate change’. This say-no-evil policy is doomed to fail, 
 ‘Also blacklisted is the scary locution reduce greenhouse gases.’@billmckibben, 8 August 2017 .  In a bold new strategy unveiled on Monday in the Guardian, the US Department of Agriculture – guardians of the planet’s richest farmlands – has decided to combat the threat of global warming by forbidding the use of the words.

Under guidance from the agency’s director of soil health, Bianca Moebius-Clune, a list of phrases to be avoided includes “climate change” and “climate change adaptation”, to be replaced by “weather extremes” and “resilience to weather extremes”.

Also blacklisted is the scary locution “reduce greenhouse gases” – and here, the agency’s linguists have done an even better job of camouflage: the new and approved term is “increase nutrient use efficiency”.

The effectiveness of this approach – based on the well-known principle that what you can’t say won’t hurt you – has previously been tested at the state level, making use of the “policy laboratories” provided by America’s federalist system.

In 2012, for instance, the North Carolina general assembly voted to prevent communities from planning for sea level rise. Early analysis suggests this legislation has been ineffective: Hurricane Matthew, in 2016, for instance drove storm surge from the Atlantic ocean to historic levels along the Cape Fear river. Total damage from the storm was estimated at $4.8bn.

Further south, the Florida government forbade its employees to use the term climate change in 2014 – one government official, answering questions before the legislature, repeatedly used the phrase “the issue you mentioned earlier” in a successful effort to avoid using the taboo words.

It is true that the next year “unprecedented” coral bleaching blamed on rising temperatures destroyed vast swaths of the state’s reefs: from Key Biscayne to Fort Lauderdale, a survey found that “about two-thirds were dead or reduced to less than half of their live tissue”. Still, it’s possible that they simply need to increase their nutrient use efficiency.

At the federal level, the new policy has yet to show clear-cut success either. As the say-no-evil policy has rolled out in the early months of the Trump presidency, it coincided with the onset of a truly dramatic “flash drought” across much of the nation’s wheat belt.

As the Farm Journal website pointed out earlier last week: “Crops in the Dakotas and Montana are baking on an anvil of severe drought and extreme heat, as bone-dry conditions force growers and ranchers to make difficult decisions regarding cattle, corn and wheat.”

In typically negative journalistic fashion, the Farm Journal reported that “abandoned acres, fields with zero emergence, stunted crops, anemic yields, wheat rolled into hay, and early herd culls comprise a tapestry of disaster for many producers”.

Which is why it’s good news for the new strategy that the USDA has filled its vacant position of chief scientist with someone who knows the power of words.

In fact, Sam Clovis, the new chief scientist, is not actually a scientist of the kind that does science, or has degrees in science, but instead formerly served in the demanding task of rightwing radio host (where he pointed out that followers of former president Obama were “Maoists”). He has actually used the words “climate change” in the past, but only to dismiss it as “junk science”.

Under his guidance the new policy should soon yield results, which is timely since recent research (carried out, it must be said, by scientist scientists at MIT) showed that “climate change could deplete some US water basins and dramatically reduce crop yields in some areas by 2050”.    But probably not if we don’t talk about it. Bill McKibben is the founder of the climate campaign 350.org.

August 9, 2017 Posted by | civil liberties, climate change | Leave a comment

Trump’s “NewSpeak” on Climate Change

US Government department tells staff to not use term ‘climate change, A PUBLIC sector department has told employees to cease using the term ‘climate change’ and opt for other more benign words insteadBenedict Brook@BenedictBrook, news.com.au , 8 Aug 17,

In a directive reminiscent of George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, where people were only allowed to communicate in an ever diminishing language called “newspeak”, employees of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been told to ditch the word “climate change”.

They should use “weather extreme” instead.

The clampdown comes as President Donald Trump further distances the US from global moves to limit global warming. Last week, the US formally announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

In a series of emails received by the Guardian, the director of the USDA’s soil health department, Bianca Moebius-Clune, listed terms that should be avoided and the alternatives to be used instead.

As well as giving climate change the flick, staff were told to avoid the term “climate change adaptation” and instead opt for “resilience to weather extremes”.

When talking about the cause of climate change, sorry “weather extremes”, saying people should “reduce greenhouse gases” is a big no-no. Rather, staff should talk in favour of “build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency”.

The email was dated 16 February but has only just come to light.

However, far from being a politically motivated reaction against the science of climate change, the instructions to staff may instead be a way for the Government department to continue its work without ruffling feathers in a White House averse to discussing global warming.

In the missive, Ms Moebius-Clune said that, “we won’t change the modelling, just how we talk about it — there are a lot of benefits to putting carbon back in the soil, climate mitigation is just one of them”.

The Guardian report added that public relations staff from the USDA had advised departments should “tamp down on discretionary messaging right now”.

The USDA denied it was limited discussion of climate change.

In a statement, the department said, “this guidance, similar to procedures issued by previous administrations, was misinterpreted by some to cover data and scientific publications.

“This was never the case and USDA interim procedures will allow complete, objective information for the new policy staff reviewing policy decisions.”http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/us-government-department-tells-staff-to-not-use-term-climate-change/news-story/27acd486093634ad3db49ab5ebcb0b9d

August 9, 2017 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Trump’s pattern of non stop lying is much the same as Putin’s

A Chilling Theory on Trump’s Nonstop Lies, His duplicity bears a disturbing resemblance to Putin-style propaganda, Mother Jones  “26 hours, 29 Trumpian False or Misleading Claims.”

That was the headline on a piece last week from the Washington Post, whose reporters continued the herculean task of debunking wave after wave of President Donald Trump’s lies. (It turned out there was a 30th Trump falsehood in that time frame, regarding the head of the Boy Scouts.) The New York Times keeps a running tally of the president’s lies since Inauguration Day, and PolitiFact has scrutinized and rated 69 percent of Trump’s statements as mostly false, false, or “pants on fire.”

Trump’s chronic duplicity may be pathological, as some experts have suggested. But what else might be going on here? In fact, the 45th president’s stream of lies echoes a contemporary form of Russian propaganda known as the “Firehose of Falsehood.”

In 2016, the nonpartisan research organization RAND released a study of messaging techniques seen in Kremlin-controlled media. The researchers described two key features: “high numbers of channels and messages” and “a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions.”

The result of those tactics? “New Russian propaganda entertains, confuses and overwhelms the audience.”

Indeed, Trump’s style as a mendacious media phenomenon resonates strongly with RAND’s findings from the study, which also explains the efficacy of the Russian propaganda tactics. Here are the key examples:

RAND: “Russian propaganda is produced in incredibly large volumes and is broadcast or otherwise distributed via a large number of channels.”

Trump is known for his high-volume use of Twitter, tweeting about 500 times in his first 100 days in office, using both his personal account and the official @POTUS account. His tweets often become the subject of news stories and sometimes provoke entire news cycles’ worth of coverage across the mainstream media……..

Trump is also a prolific liar on stage: Of the 29 false statements the Washington Posttracked last week, five came in a speech to Boy Scouts, two came from a news conference, and a whopping 15 came from a rally in Youngstown, Ohio. (Seven others came from, where else, his personal Twitter feed.)

The deluge matters, notes RAND: “The experimental psychology literature suggests that, all other things being equal, messages received in greater volume and from more sources will be more persuasive.”

RAND: “Russian propaganda is rapid, continuous, and repetitive”

Trump often repeats misleading statements in rapid, successive tweets……..

Why the technique works: RAND explains that “repetition leads to familiarity, and familiarity leads to acceptance.”

RAND: “Russian propaganda makes no commitment to objective reality”

Phony news stories are a staple of Vladimir Putin’s Russia—and as Mother Jones has detailed, Trump and his team have been caught repeating several that originated in Russian news outlets.

Trump also has a habit of repeating false statements that can be very easily checked—such as lies about the number of bills he has signed. …….

RAND: “Don’t expect to counter the firehose of falsehood with the squirt gun of truth.”

The Washington Post has called Trump “the most fact-checked politician.” Yet, the RAND research found that pointing out specific falsehoods was an ineffective tool against the propaganda techniques they studied in Russia because “people will have trouble recalling which information they have received is the disinformation and which is the truth.” …..http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/08/trump-nonstop-lies/

August 5, 2017 Posted by | Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Another lot of faked nuclear power test results at Vt Yankee

Vt. Yankee: More faked test results, 
VERNON — Entergy Nuclear has uncovered an additional problem area in which a former radiation technician failed to conduct safety tests and then falsified documents about it.

In a report filed last week with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Entergy said it would not fight an earlier safety violation uncovered by an NRC investigator last year at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon.

That finding alleged the same radiation technician failed to test equipment which monitors workers’ radiation exposure.

The technician first lost his access to Vermont Yankee, and then was fired, Entergy said in its formal response to the NRC.

Entergy said it conducted its own investigation into the radiation technician’s work to make sure there weren’t other problem areas, and discovered another area where the person claimed to have conducted tests but didn’t.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said Thursday the new information means the NRC will conduct its own investigation in the second instance of falsified inspection reports. “We’re going to do a follow-up inspection,” he said.

The second problem area was a required survey of a chemistry lab drain line. Entergy said it uncovered evidence the drain was not tested on Sept. 27, 2016, and Oct. 30, 2016, as claimed in a document signed by the technician.  Entergy Nuclear has uncovered an additional problem area in which a former radiation technician failed to conduct safety tests and then falsified documents about it.

In a report filed last week with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Entergy said it would not fight an earlier safety violation uncovered by an NRC investigator last year at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon.

That finding alleged the same radiation technician failed to test equipment which monitors workers’ radiation exposure.

The technician first lost his access to Vermont Yankee, and then was fired, Entergy said in its formal response to the NRC.

Entergy said it conducted its own investigation into the radiation technician’s work to make sure there weren’t other problem areas, and discovered another area where the person claimed to have conducted tests but didn’t.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said Thursday the new information means the NRC will conduct its own investigation in the second instance of falsified inspection reports. “We’re going to do a follow-up inspection,” he said.

The second problem area was a required survey of a chemistry lab drain line. Entergy said it uncovered evidence the drain was not tested on Sept. 27, 2016, and Oct. 30, 2016, as claimed in a document signed by the technician.

Earlier this summer, the same technician was faulted by the NRC in a June 26 report for “a willful decision not to perform” required daily calibration checks of radiation safety equipment…….

Vermont Yankee shut down in December 2014 and is in the early stages of decommissioning. Entergy is transferring its spent nuclear fuel from a cold-water pool to an air-cooled steel and concrete cask storage facility.

susan.smallheer @rutlandherald.com    http://www.rutlandherald.com/articles/vt-yankee-more-faked-test-results/

August 5, 2017 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Wikileaks’ misleading story about USA’s Special Counsel Robert Mueller

Wikileaks Says Robert Mueller Gave Russia Nuclear Material – But That’s Not The Whole Story, Chris York Senior Editor, HuffPost UK, 29 July 17 Wikileaks has released a classified US State Department from 2009 that appears to prove Special Counsel Robert Mueller, head of the Trump/Russia probe, once supplied the Russians with nuclear material.

The claim, if true, would be a hugely damaging revelation that would throw the whole investigation into chaos and incri

Only it isn’t and Wikileaks knows it.

The text and tweet released by Wikileaks more than suggests Mueller is guilty of a serious crime, passing on nuclear material to the USA’s superpower rival.

6. (S/Rel Russia) Action request: Embassy Moscow is requested to alert at the highest appropriate level the Russian Federation that FBI Director Mueller plans to deliver the HEU sample once he arrives to Moscow on September 21. Post is requested to convey information in paragraph 5 with regard to chain of custody, and to request details on Russian Federation’s plan for picking up the material. Embassy is also requested to reconfirm the April 16 understanding from the FSB verbally that we will have no problem with the Russian Ministry of Aviation concerning Mueller’s September 21 flight clearance.

But the section it omitted from the tweet changes the entire context of Mueller’s actions.

It reads:

2. (S/NF) Background: Over two years ago Russia requested a ten-gram sample of highly enriched uranium (HEU) seized in early 2006 in Georgia during a nuclear smuggling sting operation involving one Russian national and several Georgian accomplices. The seized HEU was transferred to U.S. custody and is being held at a secure DOE facility. In response to the Russian request, the Georgian Government authorised the United States to share a sample of the material with the Russians for forensic analysis.

This text is included in the document linked to in the tweet but it’s clear many people did take it at face value…….http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/wikileaks-russia_uk_597df631e4b02a4ebb75ffec

July 31, 2017 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, USA | Leave a comment

Corruption probe into Amec Foster Wheeler (UK govt’s choice for subsidy for SMRs)

Serious Fraud Office launches probe into Amec Foster Wheeler,Telegraph,   Amec Foster Wheeler is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office over its dealings with Unaoil over possible bribery and corruption through payments to middlemen.

The energy support services group rushed out a regulatory announcement on Tuesday evening confirming the formal launch of a probe by the watchdog.

In May the company signalled it could be in the SFO’s sights in documents relating to its £2.2bn merger with peer Wood Group.

Circulars detailing risks to deal revealed that a Wood Group business “engaged Unaoil and that the joint venture made payments to Unaoil under agency agreements”.

Agency agreements are widely understood to mean payments to third parties which can be used to pay bribes, though there is no indication that this happened with Wood’s joint venture.

At the time Amec said it was co-operating with the SFO, but the regulator’s staff have now decided to launch a formal investigation as a result of what they have discovered.

Unaoil is at the centre of a global corruption scandal with allegations that it paid bribes to secure deals. Petrofac has already been dragged into the scandal with its executives questioned by the SFO, though the company has said previously it has not found any evidence of wrongdoing…..

If the investigations turn into full-scale prosecutions they could result in heavy fines which could deal a huge blow to the merged Amec-Wood business, as they would come after the tow had merged  the companies could be liable for huge fines…..Both Amec and a spokesman for Unaoil declined to comment. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/07/11/serious-fraud-office-launches-probe-amec-foster-wheeler/

July 29, 2017 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, UK | Leave a comment

Inquiry into Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)’s spending, held behind closed doors

NFLA 25th July 2017, The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) has written today to the Energy
Minister Greg Clark asking why his announced inquiry into the failings of
the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) in having to pay as much as
£100 million of public money for a flawed contract process – over
cleaning-up Magnox nuclear reactors – is being done behind closed doors.
It is also asking when the inquiry will be completed and whether it will be
fully discussed in Parliament and further afield.
http://www.nuclearpolicy.info/news/why-inquiry-nda-magnox-contract-tendering-process-behind-closed-doors/

July 28, 2017 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, UK | Leave a comment

Corruption in the cobalt industry in Congo

FT 26th July 2017, Behind every clean electric car there is cobalt. And behind cobalt is the
Democratic Republic of Congo.

Cobalt is a critical element in lithium-ion
batteries used in electric cars. Such batteries already consume 42 per cent
of the metal and demand will soar as the world switches from petrol and
diesel cars to electric ones. This week, Britain followed France in declaring a ban on such vehicles from 2040. Soon, almost anyone in the rich world will be able to drive safe in the knowledge that they’re being kinder
and gentler to the planet.

Did I mention the Democratic Republic of Congo?
Some 60 per cent of the world’s cobalt comes from this central African
country, one the size of western Europe and with gargantuan problems to
match. Some industry analysts are predicting a 30-fold increase in cobalt
demand by 2030, much of which will come from Congo. Cobalt prices doubled
in the past year alone.

You might imagine the average Congolese would be
thrilled by the prospect of the coming bonanza. But if history is any
guide, the average Congolese will gain little – save perhaps from militia
violence and perhaps a dangerous, poorly paid job. In Congo, they say, you
can find every element in the periodic table. But this abundance has not
done its people much good. A recent report by Global Witness found that 30
per cent of revenue paid to state bodies by mining companies from 2013 to
2015 – about $750m – simply vanished.

https://www.ft.com/content/427b8cb0-71d7-11e7-aca6-c6bd07df1a3c

July 28, 2017 Posted by | AFRICA, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment