Ghana Production To Average 200,000 BPD In 2017

Ghanaian oil production will average 200,000 barrels per day in 2017, despite a two-month shutdown at one of the small African nation’s major production facilities. The Jubilee floating, production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) facility will go offline in September and October for repairs on a damaged turret, according to Mohammed Amin Adam, deputy secretary of energy for petroleum. The Tullow-operated FPSO shut down operations in March-April 2016 as well, due to an unrelated technical problem at the 68,500-barrel-per-day facility.…

Kenya Delays Much-Awaited First Oil By Three Months

First oil from Kenya will arrive in international markets three months later than projected, according to an announcement from the nation’s energy minister on Thursday. Minister Charles Keter said the government chose to postpone the shipment as it negotiates better revenue-sharing agreements with local communities. The news comes after a series of attacks on workers who were preparing roads that will be used to truck the oil to coastal areas. “We do not want to start the export without having a clear picture of revenue sharing, we have to…

Mosul’s fall won’t stop Daesh spreading fear

Iraqi officials have declared that Daesh’s caliphate is finished. On June 29, after months of urban warfare and US air strikes, Iraqi forces say they are on the verge of expelling the militants from their last holdouts in Mosul. “Their fictitious state has fallen,” an Iraqi general told state TV after troops captured a symbolically important mosque in Mosul’s old city. In Syria, US-backed rebels are moving quickly through the eastern city of Raqqa, another capital of the self-proclaimed caliphate. With the imminent fall of the last two urban centers under Daesh’s control in Syria and Iraq, the group has now lost much of its territory. On 21 June, the militants destroyed the historic Grand Mosque of al-Nuri, where three […]

Trump ‘proud’ of leaving Paris climate deal

Agence France Presse
Fri, 2017-07-07 06:40

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Thursday strongly defended his decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord, declaring himself “proud” of the move.
“In order to protect American jobs, companies and workers, we’ve withdrawn the United States from the one-sided Paris Climate Accord,” Trump said to applause, during a speech on the future of the US energy sector.
“I will tell you we’re proud of it,” he said. “And when I go around, there are so many people that say thank you. You saved the sovereignty of our country.”
“And maybe we’ll be back into it someday, but it will be on better terms,” he vowed. “It will be on fair terms.”
Climate change has become a major bone of contention between the United States and its Western allies, and the issue is set to loom large when Trump meets Group of 20 leaders in Hamburg, Germany next week.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared headed for a collision course with Trump, vowing Thursday to seek a clear commitment to fight global warming from at the July 7-summit, and calling the 2015 Paris deal “not negotiable.”
The Paris Agreement commits signatories to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, which is blamed for melting ice caps and glaciers, rising sea levels and more violent weather events.
Trump — who on the campaign trail labeled climate change a Chinese hoax — on June 1 announced America’s shock withdrawal from the accord, which he dubbed a “bad” deal.
The United States is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China.

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Report: Russian hackers spoke about Clinton e-mails, Flynn

Associated Press
Fri, 2017-06-30 07:00

WASHINGTON: Russian hackers discussed during the 2016 presidential campaign whether they could obtain e-mails pilfered from Hillary Clinton and ultimately get them to an adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, according to a report published Thursday by The Wall Street Journal.
The Journal said investigators probing Russian meddling in the election have examined intelligence agency reports about how hackers wanted to get e-mails from Clinton’s server to an intermediary and then to Mike Flynn, a retired lieutenant general and senior adviser to Trump who went on to serve briefly as his national security adviser. The newspaper also references a Republican operative who was convinced e-mails missing from Clinton’s server were in the hands of Russian hackers, and who implied in conversations that he was working with Flynn.
The newspaper said it was not clear whether Flynn played any role in the quest of the operative, Peter W. Smith, who died shortly after speaking with the newspaper. The Journal said Flynn did not respond to requests, the White House declined comment, and the campaign said Smith never worked for it and that any such action undertaken by Flynn, if true, was not on its behalf.
Congressional committees and special counsel Robert Mueller are investigating Russian influence in the election and potential coordination with the Trump campaign. Russia has been blamed for pilfering e-mails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and of the DNC.
But the newspaper said Smith and the hackers were focused on some 33,000 e-mails that Clinton said had been deleted and that Smith believed, with no proof, were acquired by hackers. Officials have said there is no evidence Clinton’s private e-mail server was hacked.
Smith told the newspaper that he was unsure of the authenticity of e-mails hackers eventually did send to him and he told them to pass them to WikiLeaks, the same outfit that published the e-mails taken from Podesta and the committee.
“We knew the people who had these were probably around the Russian government,” Smith told the newspaper. He died on May 14 at 81, about less than two weeks after being interviewed.
In e-mails Smith sent to potential recruits for his project, and which the newspaper reviewed, he referenced Flynn and Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn, several times.
Mike Flynn was fired after less than a month because of revelations that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

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Beijing’s South China Sea outposts nearly set for missile deployment: report

Agence France Presse
Fri, 2017-06-30 05:33

WASHINGTON: Three of Beijing’s outposts on contested South China Sea reefs are close to being ready for the deployment of military assets including mobile missile launchers, a US think tank reported Thursday.
Analizing satellite photographs, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said Beijing’s Fiery Cross Reef base in the Spratly Islands now has 12 hardened shelters, four more than seen in February, with retractable roofs that can house missile launchers.
At Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reef bases, China has expanded its communications and radar arrays with multiple radar towers on each.
And new construction of “very large underground structures, four at each reef, is underway, which AMTI said a likely designed to house munitions and other essential goods.
“Major construction of military and dual-use infrastructure on the ‘Big 3’ … is wrapping up, with the naval, air, radar and defensive facilities that AMTI has tracked for nearly two years largely complete,” the group said.
“Beijing can now deploy military assets, including combat aircraft and mobile missile launchers to the Spratly Islands at any time.”
AMTI, part of the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, said the air bases on the three islands, and a fourth on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands, allow Chinese military aircraft to operate over almost the entirety of the South China Sea.
In December AMTI reported that large anti-aircraft guns and other defense systems had been installed ont he islands.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea despite partial counter-claims from Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.
But the United States has warned it against militarizing the region or threatening international sea lanes.
“We oppose China’s artificial island construction and their militarization that features in international waters,” US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Sydney in early June.

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Special Report: Philippine police use hospitals to hide drug killings

Fri, 2017-06-30 07:19

MANILA: The residents of Old Balara hid in their homes when gunfire erupted in their Manila district last September. They didn’t see the police operation that killed seven drug suspects that night.
But they witnessed the gory aftermath and it haunts them still.
That night, Herlina Alim said she watched police haul away the men’s bodies, leaving trails of blood. “They were dragged down the alley like pigs,” she said. Her neighbor Lenlen Magano said she saw three bodies, face down and motionless, piled at the end of the alley while police stood calmly by.
It was at least an hour, according to residents, before the victims were thrown into a truck and taken to hospital in what a police report said was a bid to save their lives. Old Balara’s chief, the elected head of the district, told Reuters he was perplexed. They were already dead, Allan Franza said, so why take them to hospital?
An analysis of crime data from two of Metro Manila’s five police districts and interviews with doctors, law enforcement officials and victims’ families point to one answer: Police were sending corpses to hospitals to destroy evidence at crime scenes and hide the fact that they were executing drug suspects.
Thousands of people have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office on June 30 last year and declared war on what he called “the drug menace.” Among them were the seven victims from Old Balara who were declared dead on arrival at hospital.
A Reuters analysis of police reports covering the first eight months of the drug war reveals hundreds of cases like those in Old Balara. In Quezon City Police District and neighboring Manila Police District, 301 victims were taken to hospital after police drug operations. Only two survived. The rest were dead on arrival.
The data also shows a sharp increase in the number of drug suspects declared dead on arrival in these two districts each month. There were 10 cases at the start of the drug war in July 2016, representing 13 percent of police drug shooting deaths. By January 2017, the tally had risen to 51 cases or 85 percent. The totals grew along with international and domestic condemnation of Duterte’s campaign.
This increase was no coincidence, said a police commander in Manila, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity. In late 2016, he said, police began sending victims to hospitals to avoid crime scene investigations and media attention that might show they were executing drug suspects. A Reuters investigation last year found that when police opened fire in drug operations, they killed 97 percent of people they shot.
The Manila commander said police depended on emergency room doctors being too focused on the patients to care about why they were shot. The doctors “aren’t asking any questions. They only record it: DOA,” he said.
But five doctors told Reuters they were troubled by the rising number of police-related DOAs. Four said many drug suspects brought to hospital had been shot in the head and heart, sometimes at close range – precise and unsurvivable wounds that undermined police claims that suspects were injured during chaotic exchanges of gunfire.
Oscar Albayalde, Metro Manila’s police chief, said he had never heard of officers taking dead suspects to hospital to cover up crime scenes. “We will have that investigated,” he told Reuters. If that investigation showed police were “intentionally moving these dead bodies and bringing them to the hospitals just to alter the evidence, then I think we have to make them explain.”
Duterte’s office declined to expand on Albayalde’s response to Reuters’ questions.
According to police reports about the incidents, suspects shot during operations were “immediately rushed” to hospital. “The most important (thing) is the life of the person,” said Randy Llanderal, a precinct commander in Quezon City. The police reports reviewed by Reuters showed Llanderal had led or joined operations in which 13 drug suspects ended up dead on arrival.
Llanderal said all suspects were shot in self-defense during legitimate operations.
The Manila police commander, a retired senior officer and some doctors believe there is a cover up. Hospitalizing drug suspects who have been shot allows police to project a more caring image, said the Manila commander. The retired officer agreed. “It is basically a ploy to make the public believe that the police are mindful of the safety and survival of suspects,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Manila commander said his officers were instructed to shoot at “sensitive areas.” Suspects who survived were shot again to finish them off or smothered with their own clothing, he said.
A Reuters examination of the Old Balara incident and similar operations also suggests that the purpose of hospital runs was to destroy evidence rather than save lives. Police manhandled gunshot victims and showed no urgency in getting them medical treatment, said three sets of family members and other witnesses.
Removing bodies makes it harder to work out what really happened. “You obliterate the crime scene – the evidence,” said Rizaldy Rivera, an agent at the Philippines’ National Bureau of Investigation who has investigated allegations of police brutality. Police forensic investigators at the scene, said Rivera, must carry out their work on what is effectively a “tampered crime scene.”
Scene of Crime Operatives, or SOCO units as police forensic teams are called, process crime scenes and conduct autopsies. Aurelio Trampe, the police general who oversees SOCO, said police officers haven’t been removing bodies to alter crime scenes. He said they have the discretion to disregard crime-scene investigative procedures “just as long as they could save lives.”
SOCO can still collect evidence from bodies once they reach the hospital, but doesn’t always do so. Instead, said SOCO forensic chief Reynaldo Calaoa, that task falls to a police investigator assigned to the case. That investigator often hails from the same station as the colleagues who killed the suspect.
Such practices can leave the system open to abuse, said Raquel Del Rosario Fortun, an independent forensic scientist and chair of the University of the Philippines Manila pathology department.
“They do the shooting, they do the killing — and they investigate themselves,” she said. “Impunity, that’s what’s happening.”

Cold to the touch
Old Balara is part of Quezon City, the largest of the 17 cities and municipalities that make up Metro Manila, and the most populous city in the Philippines.
Old Balara district chief Franza said police insisted his staff of volunteer security guards bring drug-war casualties from operations to the hospital – even when it was clear they were dead. Because he has assisted the police by transporting casualties, the victims’ families have accused him and his staff of complicity in the killings, he said.
In March, Franza decided he had had enough. Keep responding to police calls, he told his staff, but don’t take a body to hospital without the go-ahead from SOCO crime scene investigators. “I decided not to take action which I think is not proper,” said Franza.
The seven victims from Old Balara arrived at East Avenue Medical Center stacked in a flatbed truck and another vehicle, said Jerome Paez, an attending physician at the emergency room that night. Most had been shot in the head and many also had multiple gunshots in their chests, he said. None were breathing or had a pulse.
“All of them were cold to the touch,” said Paez, who has dealt with 21 drug suspects pronounced dead on arrival.
The victims had been refused admission earlier at Quezon City General Hospital’s emergency room, a 15-minute drive away, because they were already dead, said district chief Franza. The hospital told Reuters it had no record of receiving patients from Old Balara that night.
The Old Balara bodies were already in the morgue of East Avenue Medical Center by the time the mother of victim Elmer Gayoso arrived. She asked Reuters to withhold her name, saying she feared retribution from the police.
Gayoso had been shot through the head and the heart, she said, and the headshot had destroyed his face. She said her husband identified him by scouring his corpse for familiar childhood scars. The wounds were so grave that she didn’t believe that the police took Gayoso to the hospital to save his life.
“That was their pretense,” she said, weeping.
The killings also troubled Paez, the ER doctor. “We documented everything, just in case in the future it is needed for investigation,” he said.
Even if doctors at East Avenue Medical Center suspect a new arrival is dead, hospital protocol requires them to try to resuscitate the patient, said Paez. This is costly and wastes time at a big public hospital teeming with patients. In a recent visit by Reuters, old people wearing oxygen masks lay unmoving on gurneys. New patients arrived every few minutes.
Asked about the number of drug suspects arriving dead at hospital, the acting director of the East Avenue Medical Center, Victoria Abesamis, said: “I cannot categorically say that the police are bringing these dead bodies because they want to cover up. I think I will give them the benefit of the doubt.”

Trained shooter
Lawrence Bello and three other doctors at East Avenue Medical Center interviewed by Reuters also expressed unease about handling dead-on-arrival cases from police operations.
Bello said the police would sometimes deliver bodies that were already displaying rigor mortis, which sets in several hours after death. East Avenue would get two or three such bodies per month, he said.
Bello has dealt with 20 cases where suspects were dead on arrival following a police operation, according to Quezon City Police District data. One of them, Bello said, had a single gunshot wound. The bullet had entered below the chin and exited through the top of the head. Bello said he found the injury “quite questionable.”
Such an injury is usually associated with victims of suicide or execution, said Homer Venters of Physicians for Human Rights, a group based in New York that investigates mass atrocities. “It is very hard for that to happen when a person isn’t fully compliant,” he said. Venters didn’t examine the body that Bello referred to.
Patel Mayuga, another ER doctor at East Avenue Medical Center, has pronounced 10 victims of police shootings dead on arrival, according to Quezon City Police District data. Suspects who are dead on arrival usually have “clean shots” in the forehead or chest, suggesting the killings were intentional, said Mayuga. “If they are shot in the chest or head, there was time for the attacker to prepare,” he said.
Many other drug suspects brought to hospitals in Quezon City by police were also shot in the head and heart, often from less than a meter away, four doctors told Reuters.
One January evening, police delivered five bodies in a small jeepney bus to the state-run Novaliches District Hospital in Quezon City. The floor of the jeepney bus was puddled with the victims’ blood and excrement, recalled Lawrence Laguno, the ER doctor on duty. According to police, the victims had all pulled guns and opened fire on undercover officers during an anti-drug operation. They missed, and the police returned fire.
“All suspects were seriously injured,” said the police report. “Thereafter, wounded suspects were rushed to Novaliches District Hospital for medical treatment but pronounced dead on arrival by attending physician, Dr. Lawrence Laguno.”
Laguno told Reuters that all five men had been shot in the head and chest, with almost the same entry and exit wounds – injuries that looked to him both deliberate and impossible to survive. “It’s unusual to have the same five patients with almost the same injuries,” said the doctor. “It was a trained shooter. They knew what they were doing.”
Venters of Physicians for Human Rights said it is “incredibly rare” to sustain a tight grouping of gunshot wounds in a shootout. Venters, a medical doctor, has overseen research and investigations into extrajudicial killings. When bullets enter a body from the same direction and plane, it shows the target wasn’t moving, he said. “Either they were surprised and shot, or they were subdued and shot.”
Willie Saludares, acting chairman of the emergency room at East Avenue Medical Center, said doctors didn’t follow up on questionable cases, since how patients were killed wasn’t their concern. “I’m sorry to sound too cold, but that’s the way it is,” he said. “I am only concerned about the health of the patient. I’m not doing investigative work.”
Nor, it seemed, were others. Saludares said that state agencies that investigate police killings, such as the Commission on Human Rights or the National Bureau of Investigation, didn’t come to interview him. Saludares also said he was uncomfortable speaking freely and feared losing his job.

Chito Gascon, chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, said that if specific cases were brought to the agency’s attention, its investigators should pursue them and secure testimony from doctors. But the Commission was stretched, he added. “The CHR, given its current capacity constraints, is only able to investigate and document a fraction of all the deaths that have been reported by the media,” he said.
The National Bureau of Investigation didn’t comment.

“They were not breathing”
Police say they don’t shoot to kill and that saving lives is paramount. But 17 witnesses interviewed by Reuters say their behavior at crime scenes suggests the opposite.
In September, in a district called Nagkaisang Nayon, precinct commander Llanderal led an operation that added six dead-on-arrival cases to the Quezon City body count. According to a police report, the suspects — five men and a woman — opened fire on undercover officers posing as drug buyers. They missed, and the officers returned fire.
“When the smoke cleared,” said the report, “all suspects sustained gunshot wounds on their body. Immediately thereafter, all suspects were rushed to Novaliches District Hospital for medical treatment but (were) pronounced dead on arrival.” None of the officers were injured.
Llanderal acknowledged that removing the bodies disturbed the crime scene, but insisted the suspects were alive. “They were still moving. All of them!” he said.
Bereaved relatives and other witnesses told Reuters the bodies were taken to hospital an hour or more after the shooting, and that none of the victims showed signs of life. “They weren’t moving. They weren’t breathing,” said Feliciano Dela Cruz, the local district chief.
“It’s not possible they were alive,” said Jocelyn Ceron, 47, whose husband, Ronaldo, was among the dead. “We saw them thrown in the back of a truck.”
Ceron said Ronaldo’s body had six bullet wounds: three in the chest or torso, one in the leg, and one in each hand. Relatives said the other bodies each bore at least six gunshot wounds. Ceron showed Reuters photos of the crime scene.
Llanderal confirmed that the photos were taken by police investigators and showed the immediate aftermath of his operation. One photo shows a woman lying face down in a blood-smeared alleyway. Others show a tiny room in which five men lie slumped in pools of blood or on the floor; two guns are clearly visible.
Reuters shared the crime scene photos with Fortun, the independent forensic scientist. “Based on the pictures, they are apparently very dead,” Fortun said of the six victims.
For so many bodies to be crammed into a tiny room “doesn’t seem consistent” with police claims that the suspects were shot while fleeing during a gunbattle, she added.
Relatives of Ronaldo Ceron believe the police executed him and others in cold blood. A neighbor called Maricol Amacna said she heard one of the men begging, “Don’t kill me, sir!” The Commission on Human Rights says it is investigating the killings.
The police have dismissed allegations of wrongdoing as “useless and baseless,” and have issued commendations to Llanderal and his men for “the extraordinary courage you have displayed in the successful operation…which resulted in the neutralization” of the suspects.
Llanderal denied executing drug suspects. “In police operations, we don’t know where the bullets may hit,” he said. “Some suspects retaliate, fight us. We are only defending ourselves.”
(Additional reporting by Manuel Mogato)

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US accuses Iran of ‘repeatedly violating’ UN resolution on nuke deal

Agence France Presse
Fri, 2017-06-30 05:11

UNITED NATIONS: The United States on Thursday accused Iran of “repeatedly and deliberately” violating a UN resolution that endorsed the landmark 2015 nuclear deal and said the Security Council had failed to respond.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley pointed to “repeated ballistic missile launches, proven arms smuggling,” purchases of missile technology and a violations of a travel ban on Iranian military officials as proof that Iran was not upholding its international obligations.
“The Security Council has failed to take even minimal steps to respond to these violations,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley told a council meeting called to discuss Iran.
“These measures are here for a reason. This council should be here to enforce them,” she said.
The Security Council adopted resolution 2231 two years ago to endorse the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, lifting economic sanctions in exchange for curbs to Tehran’s nuclear program.
The resolution called on Iran not to test ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and an arms embargo remained in place.
In a report to the council, UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman said the council was divided over whether Iran’s launch of a medium-range missile in January 2017 was a violation.
Following the seizure of an arms shipment by France in the Indian Ocean in March 2016, UN experts examined the weapons seized and confirmed that they were “of Iranian origin and were shipped from Iran,” Feltman said.
Haley recalled that the US administration is reviewing the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which President Donald Trump has described as “disastrous.”
Feltman praised the deal as a “diplomatic achievement” while European Union Ambassador Joao Vale de Almeida said it was a “pillar of the international non-proliferation agenda” that “needs to be preserved and fully implemented.”

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US travel ban on six mainly Muslim countries takes effect

Agence France Presse
Fri, 2017-06-30 06:01

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on refugees and travelers from six mainly Muslim countries came into effect late Thursday, after the Supreme Court allowed it following a five month battle with rights groups.
The Trump administration says the ban is necessary to block terrorists from entering the country, but immigrant advocates charge that it illegally singles out Muslims.
The 90-day ban on visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen will allow exceptions for people with “close family relationships” in the United States, which the government has defined narrowly, excluding grandparents and grandchildren, aunts and uncles and others.

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