Two oil tankers attacked in Gulf of Oman

Attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman risk escalating conflict in the Middle East. It has already resulted in an increase in the price of oil.

Reuters: Tanker attacks in Gulf of Oman stoke fears over conflict and oil

Two oil tankers were attacked on Thursday and left adrift in the Gulf of Oman, driving up oil prices and stoking fears of a new confrontation between Iran and the United States.

The White House said President Donald Trump had been briefed and that the U.S. government would continue to assess the situation. Washington accused Tehran of being behind a similar attack on May 12 on four tankers in the same area, a vital shipping route through which much of the world’s oil passes.

Tensions between Iran and the United States, along with its allies including Saudi Arabia, have risen since Washington pulled out of a deal last year between Iran and global powers that aimed to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Iran has repeatedly warned it would block the Strait of Hormuz, near where the attacks happened, if it cannot sell its oil due to U.S. sanctions.

No one has claimed Thursday’s attacks and no one has specifically blamed them on any party.

Reuters:  U.S. calls attacks on commercial shipping ‘unacceptable’

The United States on Thursday called attacks on commercial shipping “unacceptable” and told the U.N. Security Council that the latest assaults on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman that left one ablaze and both adrift “raise very serious concerns.”

That’s stating the obvious.

“It’s unacceptable for any party to attack commercial shipping and today’s attacks on ships in the Gulf of Oman raise very serious concerns,” acting U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Jonathan Cohen told a council meeting on U.N. and Arab League cooperation on Thursday morning.

“The U.S. government is providing assistance and will continue to assess the situation,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned at the meeting that the world cannot afford “a major confrontation in the Gulf region.”

Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Sabah described the tanker attacks as a threat to international peace and security.

“This is the most recent event in a series of acts of sabotage that are threatening the security of maritime corridors as well as threatening energy security of the world,” he said.

Maybe some tariff threats will sort this out.

Last August: The US has reimposed sanctions on Iran. 

When President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in May, he also said the US would reimpose strict sanctions on Tehran.

Starting at 12:01 am on Tuesday, financial penalties that former President Barack Obama removed from Iran as part of the nuclear agreement snap back into place.

On November 4, even more sanctions that Obama lifted will kick back in. Those will hit Iran’s oil exports and energy sector, a key industry for the country; financial institutions working with the Central Bank of Iran; port operators and shipbuilding sectors; and the provisions of insurance and financial messaging services.

Or not.

The goal of the sanctions, according to the senior administration officials, is to cripple the Iranian economy to the point that the regime must end its support for terrorism and negotiate an end to its nuclear program with the US.

Another possibility was an escalation in tensions and unintended consequences.

Reuters:  Latest on tanker attacks south of Strait of Hormuz

Here is the latest from Reuters on attacks on two tankers on Thursday south of the Strait of Hormuz, through which almost a fifth of the world’s oil is shipped:

* Panama-listed tanker Kokuka Courageous was damaged in a “suspected attack” that breached the hull above the water line, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement said

* The ship was attacked twice in three hours before all the crew were evacuated, the president of Japanese owner Kokuka Sangyo told reporters

* There had been an engine room fire on the tanker, which was carrying a cargo of methanol from Saudi Arabia to Singapore

* A second ship, the Marshall Islands-flagged Front Altair, was “suspected of being hit by a torpedo” at around 0400 GMT, said Taiwanese refiner CPC Corp, which had chartered the vessel

* The Aframax-class tanker loaded with 75,000 tonnes of naphtha was on fire, said Norwegian owner Frontline

* Frontline said the Front Altair was afloat, denying a report by Iran’s IRNA news agency that it had sunk

Oil and the Middle east have long been problems that have been short on effective solutions.

Shameful, disgraceful attack on Golriz Gharaman by ‘David Hughes’

Green MP Golriz Gharaman has been the target of frequent attacks in social media. She highlighted this one that combines an attack on her with an attack on Muslims posted on Facebook yesterday:

The whole image (from Facebook):

That’s bad, and it’s sad to see this sort of thing continuing. Members of Parliament (or anyone) should not be targeted with this sort of scurrilous misinformation and abuse.

Ghahraman confronted him on Facebook:

Golriz Ghahraman Given you know I’m not Muslim and my family had to leave Iran due to persecution by a purportedly Islamic regime, this is both a lie and hate speech. Be ashamed.

But he seems far from ashamed. He also posted further accusations, plus this:

As to your moronic charge of “hate speech”, fiddlesticks, you don’t even know what that might be beyond some infantile catch cry for your sycophants.

But I do love that we live in a liberal Democracy where we can have this discussion confident that we have the right to freedom of expression and the exchange of ideas enshrined in some of our most important legislation whilst being very well protected from the excesses that occasionally raise their ugly heads (an example of one such lying excess is attached for your elucidation).

Our laws around freedom of expression are very comprehensive, allowing us to exercise our God given right to freely express our ideas (New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990: Sec 14 reinforced by Sec 5 & 6) whilst protecting people from ugly excesses (Human Rights Act 1993: Sec 61 etc, sec 131, etc and Summary Offences Act1981: sec 3 & 4 etc).

We also have a range of legislation to protect people from defamation and libel as well as a huge body of legal precedents to tell us exactly where the courts have ruled the boundaries are and what crosses them.

So he thinks he is legally justified in posting this sort of thing.

You perhaps need to spend some time reading through the relevant Law Reports. They are truly as fascinating as they are educational.

I will never be ashamed for speaking out against hateful people who would destroy my country and deliver us to our enemies.

And he thinks he is morally justified. I think it is morally repugnant from David Hughes.

This is a shameful and n insidious religious and political attack.

According to some comments it has been reported to Facebook, but as of now it is still up, and getting some support amongst the criticism.

There does seem to be hate in Hughes’ speech, and it is likely to encourage or provoke more intolerance and fear and hate – it has attracted some support.

This David Hughes (if that is his name)  deserves to be shamed.

I think that at times Gharaman has gone to far in what she has promoted, and what she has supported in controlling ‘hate speech’, but with ongoing attacks like this it’s understandable that she might get frustrated and may want something done to stem this sort of dirty politics.


Note: comments on this post should be confined to the Facebook post and what it means for politics, religion and free speech, whether this sort of ‘free speech’ is appropriate, whether it should be limited by law, and what should be done about it.

Please don’t divert into general or historic criticism or commentary on Ghahraman or Muslims.

 

Mosque attack in Egypt

The blight of terrorism continues.

Independent:  Egypt mosque attack: Death toll rises to 235, the deadliest terrorist atrocity in the country’s modern history

The death toll in a militant attack on a mosque in Egypt’s north Sinai region has risen to 235, Egyptian state television reported, quoting the public prosecutor.

Militants targeted members of Egypt’s security forces attending Friday prayers at the Al Rawdah mosque in Bir al-Abed, near Arish city.

They opened fire from four off-road vehicles on worshippers inside the mosque during the sermon, blocking off escape routes from the area by blowing up cars and leaving the burning wrecks blocking the roads, three police officers on the scene said.

Resident Ashraf el-Hefny said many of the victims were workers at a nearby salt firm who had come for Friday services at the mosque, which had contained some 300 worshippers.

Targeting innocent people at prayer is a crap sort of thing to do.

President Sissi condemned the extremist attack on a mosque in the troubled Sinai Peninsula, calling it “criminal” and “cowardly” and expressing condolences to the victims and their families.

Cowards.

“Media attack on New Zealand’s democracy”

A post by Dr. Hans B. Grueber at ZealandiaBlog suggests that there is a Media attack on New Zealand’s democracy

It’s true that the only ones seemingly concerned about parliament being left in limbo since the election and politicians not fronting up or answering any questions of note are journalists.

Twenty five years ago New Zealand voted in a first referendum for the (more) democratic proportional voting system called MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) as recommended  by the Royal Commission after the most thorough investigation into all electoral systems around the world.

The media are extremely slow learners. Over all these years they still  seem to be living in the old imperial First Past the Post world. For example they still talk about electorate and list MPs as if there was a difference. In the other MMP country Germany nobody makes that distinctions and never has. In our current debate we still hear the myth that electorate MPs are supposed to be first class while list MPs second class. The former being accountable and being able to be voted out by the people while the later (only) being accountable to their parties, which put them on the list. This myth could not be further from the truth.

As one scientist quipped in the US context that MPs in safe seats are less accountable to the public than the members of the Stalinist polit-bureau. The later having changed much more often under public pressure that safe seats under First-Past-the-Post. As I already said in a 1992 debate in safe National seats like Te Kuiti or Southland Clutha the party can put a blue ribbon around a sheep dog and it will be elected.

This year the blue ribbon around Toddy in Clutha Southland got fairly tatty, leading to him leaving Parliament with his tail between his legs. This was largelky due to the efforts of some of the media.

Not even a conspiracy

Still every election where the results are not to the liking of the neo-liberal media inevitably the electoral system is blamed.

Even the media are labelled ‘neo-liberal’ now. Was that the cause of or a result of the ‘neo-liberal’ revolution in the 1980s?

The New Zealand media in general do not even try to conceal their disdain for our electoral system and democracy. After this year’s election, which as usual under proportional representation didn’t produce a clear winner with over 50% of the vote they almost demanded that the party with the most votes – as it two weeks later turned out to be 44% – be given the right to form the next government.

The fact that 56% had voted against the old government wasn’t ever worth a mention.

I’ve seen something like that mentioned quite a bit. For someone promoting the merits of MMP to be treating it as a binary for/against vote is curious.

It isn’t a fact that “56% had voted against the old government”. There is no way of knowing the reasons why each of 2,591,896 people voted, especially the 186,706 who voted NZ First.

ACT voters, some Maori Party voters and others may not have specifically voted against the old government. Even some of those who voted for the Greens may not have cared who runs the next Government, they may simply have wanted to ensure that the Greens retained a voice in Parliament (I have voted exactly that way in the past)

It was actually 55.6% who didn’t vote for National. And 63.1% who didn’t vote for Labour, 92.8% who didn’t vote NZ First, 93.7% who didn’t vote Green.

We didn’t have a new government on election night, Oh My God !

The media wouldn’t even allow for the final results to come out before crying out about New Zealand being taken hostage by a party with only just over 7% of the vote. They are just taking their time to negotiate and make up their minds. These media, editors, commentators, and pundits assumed that the New Zealand people of voting age are still like little children who cannot wait and want to open the presents under the tree before Christmas day. The only ones who can’t wait are the media themselves. This is the age of instant gratification after all.

It does seem that it is mainly some of the media who are impatient for a new government.

Another media beat-up in the crazy assumption that it will scare the people is the fact that for an interim period after every election the old government continues as caretaker government in charge of running the day to day business of government. However they are not allowed to introduce any policy changes of make major decisions.

This is portrayed as a terrible thing as if the country would not happily function for a few weeks or even months without a proper government.

I haven’t seen the caretaker government portrayed as a terrible thing, although I have heard some concerns expressed about New Zealand not actively reacting on the international stage. However New Zealand’s lack of input will hardly be missed by most of the world.

The other MMP country Germany held elections on the same weekend. The far right neo-liberal party (FDP) represents the interests of the the business community, which according to the media here cannot live without the certainty of a new government. One of their representatives just appeared on the most influential political TV talkshow. When asked about a coalition before Christmas he replied that such serious negotiations could not be rushed. The host’s only reply was that they just would have to wait.

Belgium a few years back was without a new government for about 18 months after their election. The people loved it as no harm and damage was done to them unlike to us by successive neo-liberal governments over the last 33 years.

A caretaker government won’t change what has been done by successive “neo-liberal governments” over the last 33 years. Gruber keeps confusing two things, our current political limbo under MMP, and his apparent obsession with and opposition to neo-liberalism. It’s worth pointing out that seven of the “neo-liberalist” governments we have had have been elected under MMP.

And it’s worth remembering that if the incoming government 33 years ago had done nothing for some time, and hadn’t taken drastic action, some fairly severe damage to the country is likely to have occurred.

The media still stuck in the First-Past-the-Post world ignore the fact that all this is totally normal under any proportional system in the world. They are seriously suggesting the we, the people, didn’t know what we were doing when we voted over the last 25 years not only once but three times for MMP – a far more democratic system than we had before.

More democratic, which has resulted in more representative Parliaments, but I wouldn’t say far more, and still misused and abused by parties and politicians when it suits their ambitions for power.

Concerted Attack

Following the mainstream media including the state owned broadcasters you cannot but conclude that we are witnessing a concerted attack on our electoral system. Not only do we read and hear comments by editors, political reporters and media personnel of the above nature. The media also give overwhelming space to totally outrageous and false comments in the letter pages and give a platform to anti MMP campaigners of ‘Dirty Politics‘ fame to spread their old disinformation and lies.

It seems we have been watching the Media attack on New Zealand’s democracy.

I think Grueber is right that some of the media has been overly critical of what our eight MMP election has delivered – a headline and scandal vacuum – but it nothing like a concerted attack.

Some journalists have actually suggested tweaks to our MMP, like lowering the threshold, and having a clearer system for forming a new government. I think both would be good improvements to the already better than most system of democracy that we have.

And a healthy democracy needs a critical media, even if they don’t always get things right, aren’t as balanced as they should be and get too excited about things that don’t matter much, like not having a new government for a few weeks.

Our system of democracy is pretty good, our governments over the last 33 years have in the main been pretty good (they will always annoy some of the people some of the time), and our media does a fairly good job most of the time.

We can be critical of the media, as they can be critical of our politicians and aspects of political system, but attacking media for an “attack on New Zealand’s democracy” is in a way an attack on our democracy as the media are an important part of it.

Journalists complaining about nothing much happening is not something most voters will care about.

Better that we look at how we can improve our way of doing democracy.

London Finsbury Park Mosque attack

Tensions have been raised and complicated by what is being treated as a terrorist attack with a van that hit people coming out of a mosque in London.

BBC:  ‘Major incident’ as van hits worshippers

Summary

  1. One man has died and 10 people have been injured
  2. Home Secretary Amber Rudd says it is being treated by police as a “terrorist incident”
  3. Muslim Council of Britain says van intentionally ran over worshippers
  4. A 48-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder
  5. The Metropolitan Police describe it as a “major incident”
  6. The area was busy with worshippers leaving evening prayers at Finsbury Park Mosque

Alleged attacker ‘acted alone’ – police

Asked about reports of a number of suspects running away from the van, the Met police said that was a key line of inquiry at the start of investigation.

“But from what we are seeing and what witnesses are reporting to us there was nobody else in the van, it appears that this time this attacker attacked alone,” Dep Asst Commissioner Basu said.

“This is not to say we are not investigating the full circumstances of how he came to be where he was but at this point in time there was nobody else in the van.”

Not the first terror attack against Muslims

This is not the first time that Muslims have been targeted in an apparent act of terrorism in the UK – and all the signs are that this terrible incident is nothing short of that.

The threat from extreme right-wing groups has been growing in recent years – 16% of all terror arrests in the year to March were classed as “domestic extremism”.

Those who have turned to violence have tended to go for visible Muslim targets – namely mosques.

In 2013 an extreme right-wing Ukrainian man murdered a Muslim grandfather in Birmingham and tried to bomb three mosques.

The following year saw the jailing for 10 years of a man from the north-west who was researching bomb-making and mosques to target.

And just last December the Home Secretary banned “National Action”, a group whose supporters have been investigated for planning violence.

It was probably just a matter of time before there was some sort of retaliatory attack in response to Muslim suicide attacks, but again innocent people have been targeted.

Difficult times for people in London and throughout England.

Any attack like this that targets random and innocent people must be condemned, no matter who the perpetrator is and no matter who the targets are.

 

Trump: standing up to hate and intolerance

Doing what a president needs to do – speaking against hate and intolerance, and against violence.

Politico: Trump in tweet: Portland attack ‘unacceptable’

President Donald Trump on Monday morning condemned the attacks in Portland, Oregon, where two people were killed after trying to intervene as a man delivered an anti-Muslim rant directed at two women on a train.

The tweet was sent after Trump arrived to give remarks at the Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day.

On Saturday, three men were allegedly attacked after they tried to stop a suspect, Jeremy Joseph Christian, from verbally disparaging the women, one of whom was wearing a hijab.

 

Westminster attack: “clearly an interest in jihad”

London’s metropolitan police deputy assistant commissioner “Whilst I have found no evidence of an association with IS or AQ, there is clearly an interest in jihad.”

In a statement Khalid Masood’s mother says she is “deeply shocked, saddened and numbed by the actions my son has taken” and “I do not condone his actions nor support the beliefs he held that led to him committing this atrocity”.

Guardian: Westminster attacker Khalid Masood had interest in jihad – police

Khalid Masood, who killed four people in the Westminster attack, had a clear interest in jihad and his method echoed the rhetoric of Islamic State leaders, Scotland Yard has said.

Metropolitan police deputy assistant commissioner Neil Basu, senior national coordinator for UK counter-terrorism policing, said on Monday there was no evidence yet that Kent-born Masood, 52, had discussed his plans with others.

“His attack method appears to be based on low-sophistication, low-tech, low-cost techniques copied from other attacks, and echo the rhetoric of IS leaders in terms of methodology and attacking police and civilians, but at this stage I have no evidence he discussed this with others.

“There is no evidence that Masood was radicalised in prison in 2003, as has been suggested; this is pure speculation at this time. Whilst I have found no evidence of an association with IS or AQ [al-Qaida], there is clearly an interest in jihad.”

There does appear to be at least an interest in the methods and aims of ISIS and Al Qaida, even if there was no direct association.

Masood’s mother, Janet Ajao, released a statement:

“I am so deeply shocked, saddened and numbed by the actions my son has taken that have killed and injured innocent people in Westminster. Since discovering that it was my son that was responsible I have shed many tears for the people caught up in this horrendous incident.

“I wish to make it absolutely clear, so there can be no doubt, I do not condone his actions nor support the beliefs he held that led to him committing this atrocity. I wish to thank my friends, family and community from the bottom of my heart for the love and support given to us.”

It would be a terrible thing for a parent to have their child involved in this sort of despicable attack. She has lost a son in one of the worst possible ways, and has to live with the stigma of the attack.

Police: London attacker acted alone

BBC: London attacker Khalid Masood acted alone, say police

Westminster attacker Khalid Masood acted alone and there is no information to suggest further attacks are planned, Metropolitan Police have said.

Deputy assistant commissioner Neil Basu said in a statement: “We must all accept that there is a possibility we will never understand why he did this.”

More detail from the Guardian: Westminster attacker acted alone and motive may never be known, say police

In the most detailed breakdown yet of events on Westminster Bridge and parliament on Wednesday, police said that the entire attack, in which Masood had killed four people before being shot dead, lasted a mere 82 seconds.

After four days of intensive inquiries across England and Wales, involving hundreds of officers, the Metropolitan police said they had so far failed to establish the reason for the attack. It is continuing to look at whether Masood was prompted by online propaganda by Islamic State, which has claimed he was a “soldier”, or whether he had some other sense of grievance.

But deputy assistant Metropolitan police commissioner Neil Basu said: “We still believe that Masood acted alone on the day and there is no information or intelligence to suggest there are further attacks planned.”

The security services do not like the term “lone wolf”, feeling that it glamorises an attacker, and instead prefer “lone actor”. Although 11 people were arrested in the aftermath of the attack, eight have since been released, with no further action to be taken. A 58-year-old man remained in custody on Saturday and two more have been released on bail.

Police are investigating media reports that Masood checked his encrypted messaging service WhatsApp – or even sent a message – just before the attack, which hinted at others being involved. The police statement confirming that he was a lone actor does not appear to support suggestions that he had been in touch with an accomplice.

Basu, who is the senior national coordinator for UK counter-terrorism policing, said: “Even if he acted alone in the preparation, we need to establish with absolute clarity why he did these unspeakable acts to bring reassurance to Londoners, and to provide answers and closure for the families of those killed and the victims and survivors of this atrocity.

Unless they have left recordings and writings behind dead men tell no tales.

Car attack in Melbourne

There has been what appears to be an attack by car in Melbourne, with the current toll at three dead and about twenty injured. It is not thought to be a terror attack.

Sky News:  Three pedestrians killed by car in Melbourne

Three people are dead and many others injured after a man deliberately drove into a crowd in Melbourne’s Bourke St mall.

Up to 20 others are injured and a man has been arrested after a car struck pedestrians at the Elizabeth St end of the mall.

Victoria Police say they have arrested a suspect and that the indicent is thought to be connected to a stabbing earlier on Friday.

Officers told the media that the incident is not thought to be terrorism-related.

Attacks like this are horrific no matter who carries them out and no matter what their motive is.

UPDATE: The suspect has been shot and is in hospital with non-life threatening injuries

The incident was related to a stabbing in the Melbourne suburb of Windsor earlier today that left the man’s brother in a critical condition, police said.

Police say following the Windsor stabbing, the man took a woman who is known to him hostage, but she managed to escape.

Berlin attacker may be still at large

Twelve people were killed in the horrendous truck attack in Berlin, and another 48 injured, 18 of them severely.

While it looks like an Islam extremist related attack there’s some uncertainty. Police arrested a Pakistani asylum seeker but admit he may not be the attacker.

RNZ: German police say arrested man may not be Christmas market attacker

German authorities say they cannot be sure if a man in custody was behind the truck attack on a Berlin Christmas market that killed 12 people.

Police arrested a Pakistani asylum-seeker but have said he may not be the attacker and the real perpetrator could still be on the run.

The Pakistani man was captured in a park after reportedly fleeing the scene. He has denied involvement.

The 23-year-old arrived in Germany from Pakistan at the end of last year.

“According to my information it’s uncertain whether he was really the driver,” Police President Klaus Kandt told a news conference.

Berlin police tweeted that they were “particularly alert” because of the denial.

Die Welt newspaper quoted an unnamed police chief as saying: “We have the wrong man. And therefore a new situation. The true perpetrator is still armed, at large and can cause fresh damage.”

The truck belonged to a Polish freight company and its rightful driver was found dead in the vehicle. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said a pistol believed to have been used to kill him had not yet been found.

“We have to entertain the theory that the detainee might possibly not have been the perpetrator,” federal prosecutor Peter Frank told reporters.

The style of attack and the target suggested Islamic extremism, he said.

That’s an obvious assumption to make.

The attack makes things even more difficult for Angela Merkel, already having difficulty with the influx of refugees and asylum seekers into Germany.

Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters: “There is much we still do not know with sufficient certainty but we must, as things stand now, assume it was a terrorist attack.”

She added: “I know it would be especially hard for us all to bear if it were confirmed that the person who committed this act was someone who sought protection and asylum.”

The attack fuelled immediate demands for a change to Ms Merkel’s immigration policies, under which more than a million people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere have arrived in Germany this year and last.

“We must say that we are in a state of war, although some people, who always only want to see good, do not want to see this,” said Klaus Bouillon, interior minister of the state of Saarland and a member of Ms Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).

Horst Seehofer, leader of the CDU’s Bavarian sister party, said: “We owe it to the victims, to those affected and to the whole population to rethink our immigration and security policy and to change it.”

It’s not going to be easy to change things quickly. There are already a large number of  immigrants in Germany, and Europe’s open borders make it easy for people intent on inflicting death and mayhem to move from country to country.

And when individuals or small numbers of Islamic terrorists launch successful attacks – and it’s impossible to prevent them completely – it raises tensions and makes things more difficult for the majority of Muslims who are not involved in extremist acts.