Monthly Archives: October 2011

Norway: STX OSV to Build 4 PSVs for Island Offshore

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STX OSV Holdings Limited (“STX OSV”), one of the major global designers and shipbuilders of offshore and specialized vessels, announced that it has secured new contracts for the construction of four Platform Supply Vessels (PSV) for Island Offshore. 

The combined value of all four contracts exceeds NOK 1 billion. The first two contracts are expected to become effective in November 2011, and the remaining two in January 2012. All four contracts are subject to financing approvals.

The vessels will be of Rolls Royce’s UT 717 CD design. The overall length of each vessel will be 84.3 meters with a beam of 17 meters, and the deadweight will be approximately 3800 DWT.

Deliveries are scheduled from STX OSV Brevik in Norway in the third and fourth quarter 2013 respectively for the first two vessels, and in the first quarter 2014 for the other two vessels. The hulls of the vessels will be delivered from STX OSV Braila in Romania.

The Island Offshore Group is a leading provider of services to the offshore industry managing a fleet of 20 high quality vessels with an average age of less than four years, currently operating in Brazil, Mexico, USA and in the North Sea. STX OSV has delivered more than 25 vessels to Island Offshore over the past ten years, and already has four vessels under construction for this long-standing client prior to securing the new contracts.

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Killing Energy, Killing Jobs, Killing America

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By Alan Caruba

America has been under attack since Barack Obama took the oath of office on January 20, 2009. The primary target has been the nation’s ability to generate energy for electricity and transportation, without which this nation will slide into Third World status and economic decline.

This appears to be the goal of this administration from the President to his Secretaries of Energy and Interior, to his Director of the Environmental Protection Agency. There is no other rational explanation for what they are doing.

We are days away from the latest Environmental Protection Agency assault in the form of the “MACT” rule allegedly to reduce mercury and other emissions that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission says will reduce electricity generation in America by about 81 gigawatts in the years ahead. A recent Wall Street Journal editorial said “this could compromise the reliability of the electric system if as much as 8% of generating capacity is subtracted from the grid.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that eleven Governors have written the EPA to ask that it delay the final rule in November. Twenty-five state Attorneys Generals have filed suit “to lift a legal document known as a consent decree that the EPA is using as a fig leaf for its political goals.”

As but one example, in Illinois, Ameron announced the planned shutdown of its Meredosia and Hutsonville energy centers, The Meredosia center generates 369 megawatts. The Hutsonville center has a generating capacity of 151 megawatts.

The EPA, even before the Obama administration, has been using the 1970 Clean Air Act to bludgeon the nation’s ability to access the energy resources required to generate electricity, primarily coal that provides 50% of such generation, and oil that fuels our transportation capability.

In late October, James J. Mulva, the CEO of Conoco-Phillips, addressed the subject of the growing discoveries of natural gas being found throughout the nation. “More than 600,000 Americans already explore, produce, store and produce natural gas, according to consultancy IHS Global Insight.”

At least 15 states now produce shale gas and others may join them,” noting that the largest shale area, the Marcellus which covers much of the Northeast” “already supports 140,000 jobs in Pennsylvania alone.”

The Obama administration, beginning with the president’s admitted goal of shutting down as much of the coal industry as possible, has demonstrated his intention of deterring the provision of energy. When the BP Oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, the administration imposed a moratorium on all drilling. The decreased production cost 360,000 barrels a day in addition to lost jobs related to oil drilling in the Gulf. Rigs that are needed to drill have since been moved to other sites around the world.

The U.S. is home to more than 150 billion barrels of conventional oil that has the capability of generating thousands of new jobs if access to it was permitted. The most immediate result has been the rise in the cost of gasoline at the pump. Two courts ordered that the moratorium be lifted.

Oil companies currently pay more than $30 billion a year in federal, state, and local taxes. Meanwhile the Obama administration has been wasting billions in loan guarantees to essentially useless solar and wind power companies, the latest of which, Solyandra, will cost taxpayers millions when the solar panel producer went belly-up. Others will follow.

Meanwhile, the President crisscrosses the nations demanding higher taxes on companies engaged in coal, oil and natural gas. When Jimmy Carter imposed a windfall tax on oil companies many ceased to explore for new sources here, moving their efforts to other nations. Today, by withholding the necessary permits to produce energy in Alaska, the Trans Alaska Pipeline System is operating at one third of its capacity.

A proposed pipeline from Canada still awaits approval and, on November 6th, led by the Sierra Club, the largest protest against its tar sands is expected to draw thousands to Washington, D.C. to join hands and circle the White House to ensure the Keystone XL pipeline is kept from providing the U.S. with the oil extracted. The proposed pipeline would reduce the U.S. dependence on Middle East oil. The U.S. already has more than 50,000 safely operating oil pipelines to support our transportation and other needs.

In January 2010, Thomas J. Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, warned that the Obama administration “continues to embrace Washington-dominated, command-and-control energy policies focused on mandates, subsidies, and political favors—not market forces.” He criticized “subsidizing one form of energy,” wind and solar, “while restricting the exploration of another,” warning that it “will lead to several measurable outcomes, increasing energy prices across the board, fewer jobs, and a weaker footing in the global economy..”

Nearly two years later, that warning has come true with a vengeance.

Oil, coal, or natural gas, it doesn’t matter to an administration and a president determined to restrict the amount of energy Americans need for their present and future needs. The result, in part, has been a stalled energy sector and a contributing factor in an economy with an estimated 20 million unemployed or under-employed.

The losses in income taxes and the taxes paid by this industry sector, in addition to the hideous borrowing and spending by the Obama administration is doing enormous harm to America and yet Barack Obama wants a second term in office.

Little wonder that Americans fear for the future of the nation.

 

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Meet The Mysterious Trading Firms Who Control The Price Of Commodities

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Eric Platt and Sam Ro

Welcome to the real world of commodities trading. Home to firms like Vitol and Trafigura, who trade more oil than Saudi Arabia and Venezuela can produce.

In a new report, 18 Reuters’ reporters and editors profiled 16 giant commodity companies that often go unnoticed. Combined, they generate annual revenue of $1.1 trillion.  The top five pull in $629 billion, rivaling the five largest financial institutions on the planet.

What they learned: They’re massively profitable. They disrupt markets. Government’s have little ability to police them. And they have ambitious plans to grow.

Click here to see the 16 largest commodity traders in the world >

The Congress-optional president

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Illustration: Congressional run around by Alexander Hunter for The Washington Times

By Phil Kerpen
The Washington Times

On Oct. 11, after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had taken extraordinary measures to stall an embarrassing vote as long as possible, the Senate decisively rejected President Obama’s “jobs” plan. The same day, in Pittsburgh, Mr. Obama explained to his union allies that he would move forward regardless. “We’re not gonna wait for Congress,” Mr. Obama explained. “We can act administratively without additional congressional authorization and just get it done.” Now we know that part of what he meant was yet another mortgage bailout – one that will cost bond investors billions – via subsidized refinancing.

This remarkable disregard for the rule of law and proper constitutional procedures fit a familiar pattern in this administration: What it cannot achieve legislatively it will attempt to do by regulatory fiat. Congress must actively assert its legislative prerogative or be relegated to the sidelines.

One year ago, the American people decisively rejected Mr. Obama’s big-government agenda in a landslide election. Surely, most voters thought that election would at least halt, if not reverse, the country’s profound lurch toward a larger, more intrusive and more expensive federal government.

Unfortunately, Mr. Obama has chosen to moderate his rhetoric only somewhat and his actual policies not at all. And Congress, institutionally weakened by decades of delegating legislative power, capped by two massive new grants of regulatory power to the executive branch in Mr. Obama’s health care and financial regulation bills, has thus far proven unwilling – at least on the Senate side – to stand up to him.

Consider that the day after last year’s election, Mr. Obama explained to the press corps that his signature cap-and-trade energy rationing legislation – which cost dozens of House Democrats their seats in Congress and was decisively rejected by the American people – was “one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way. It was a means, not an end.” He clearly instructed his Environmental Protection Agency to go ahead and act as if the cap-and-trade law had been passed, even writing its emissions abatement schedule into the EPA budget.

The month after the 2010 election, the Federal Communications Commission, chaired by Mr. Obama’s close friend and fundraiser Julius Genachowski, voted on a 3-2 party-line vote to impose net-neutrality regulations, the first economic regulation of the Internet in nearly a decade. It did this even though legislation for net neutrality had failed to gain any significant support in Congress and despite the fact that the decisive Comcastv. FCC court ruling had already made clear that the FCC lacked jurisdiction. What’s more, all 95 congressional candidates in last year’s election who pledged to support net neutrality lost. Zero for 95.

The union agenda, as expected, shifted to the National Labor Relations Board, the National Mediation Board and the Department of Labor. Via rulemakings by unelected and unaccountable federal bureaucrats, these agencies are now implementing nearly every aspect of the card-check legislation rejected by the last Congress. The NLRB is especially egregious, relying on a recess-appointed former union lawyer, Craig Becker, and an unconfirmed acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon. Mr. Solomon not only issued the now-infamous unfair labor practice complaint against Boeing for building a nonunion factory in South Carolina but is also suing four states for adopting state-level secret ballot protections.

Our Congress-optional president has been surprisingly open about his approach. Last month, at a gala for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, he said, “Until Nancy Pelosi is speaker again, I’d like to work my way around Congress.”

The sad irony in all this is that Mr. Obama campaigned against President George W. Bush’s executive excesses, promising a return to a constitutionally limited executive branch. Once elected, however, Mr. Obama discovered that presidential power is only a problem when someone you don’t like is the president.

Even that symbol of Bush-era executive power – the signing statement – has reached a new level of abuse under Mr. Obama. In April, Mr. Obama and House Republican leadership concluded tense negotiations on a funding bill to avert a government shutdown. Part of the deal the president specifically agreed to was language blocking funding for four of the president’s policy advisers – czars, colloquially. Mr. Obama agreed to the language but after the bill’s passage, he used a signing statement to explain that he would simply disregard it.

Now our Congress-optional president is moving forward on his latest bailout-and-stimulus scheme without congressional authorization. Enough is enough. Congress must assert its responsibility under Article I, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. It is Congress, not the president, that is vested by the people with legislative power. The Senate must do what the House has repeatedly done and stand up to this administration – or voters must elect a Senate that will.

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USA: EMAS Wins Gulf of Mexico Subsea Contract from BP

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EMAS, a leading global offshore contractor and provider of integrated offshore solutions to the oil and gas (O&G) industry and operating brand for Ezra Holdings Limited (Ezra or the Group), today announces that its subsea construction division, EMAS AMC, has been awarded a contract by BP Exploration & Production, Inc. (“BP”). EMAS AMC will perform subsea work in the Atlantis field located in Green Canyon block 743 in the Gulf of Mexico.

The project scope consists of the installation and replacement of subsea equipment comprised of manifolds, PLEMs (Pipeline End Manifolds), jumpers and associated hardware in 6,800 feet of water, as well as assisting BP with complete commissioning and start-up activities.

EMAS AMC’s CEO, Mr. C J D’Cort, said: “This project award is in recognition of our expertise in the deep water subsea installation market.”

This is the second contract awarded by BP to EMAS AMC for work on the Atlantis field. The first project was completed in 2010 along with the installation of subsea hardware for BP’s Thunder Horse project. EMAS AMC’s regional headquarters in Houston will execute the planning and installation activities for the BP project during the first half of 2012.

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"The Play": Cuero awakens to new shade of green

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By Dianna Wray

CUERO – DeWitt County Judge Daryl Fowler, a slight man in the high-ceilinged courtroom, stood at the front, adjusting his wire-framed glasses to address his audience. Everyone knew what they were there to discuss – The Eagle Ford Shale.

Judges, officials, high-powered oil company representatives and landmen from every corner of the Lone Star State gathered at the DeWitt County Courthouse a few months ago for the meeting. The room buzzed with the electric thrill of anticipation. This meeting was one of the most important of their careers. Future wealth and economic growth depended on it. Jobs depended on it. It seemed for these people, at this moment, that their futures were hung up right there in that ancient courtroom.

“This is happening, and it’s happening fast,” Fowler said, his voice cutting through the room as his eyes surveyed the audience. “It is imperative that we maintain an open dialogue and communication. We can’t ignore each other, or this thing will be a complete mess as it grows.”

There was a rustling in the room and chairs creaked as the audience nodded in agreement. Fowler had gathered them here. They settled down to tell each other’s stories, hear what everyone had to say.

As sun streamed in through the courthouse windows, officials traded tales about how their counties have handled the increase in traffic – the torn-up roads, the sudden influx of money – and listened intently as oil company representatives reassured them about their company’s intentions.

“We see this as long-term and we plan on being here for awhile, but you’re right, nothing lasts forever. But we plan to be around for a long time,” a Pioneer Natural Resources representative said from the crowd.

Fowler, a neatly dressed man who wears suits and cowboy boots and sports a mop of carefully combed graying hair, was elected county judge last year. Since taking office, he has worked hard to educate himself on the Eagle Ford Shale play. He reads everything he can about shale drilling and talks about hydraulic fracturing as if he were a petroleum engineer. When the Texas Railroad Commission, the entity that regulates oil and gas in the state, created an Eagle Ford Shale task force in May, Fowler was appointed to the board.

Though Cueroites have spent the past few decades embracing their role as a quirky small Texas town, they are in the midst of becoming something else – a boomtown in the rich tradition of the Old West. Far below Cuero lies the key to its transformation: a brittle hydrocarbon formation rich in oil and natural gas.

The Eagle Ford Shale formation is about 50 miles wide and 400 miles long, stretching from the Texas-Mexico border in the south to East Texas. The formation runs through a chunk of DeWitt County, a vein of black gold thousands of feet below.

The boom begins

Four years ago, Cuero was a community where everybody knew everybody, most people made their money in ranching or farming, and most of the children left as soon as they could.

The town was known, vaguely, in the state, as the “unofficial turkey capital of the world” and the place where chupacabras, mythological monsters who drink the blood of goats, had been sighted.

Then everything changed. Although turkey production had left years ago, the town was still the county seat of one of the top cattle producers in the state and prospered compared with most small Texas towns.

Even as industries died, residents tried to make the best of things. Every October wild turkeys race each other down Esplanade Street as a part of the annual Turkeyfest, and the day after the festival ends, Cueroites are hard at work putting together elaborate Christmas light displays for the town’s famed “Christmas in the Park.”

But, as Eagle Ford Shale became a reality, and slick black crude began gurgling up from below, the town had a new role to play – suddenly, Cuero had power.

Like scouts blazing the trail to the West, the landmen came first. Back in 2009, when most of the people of Cuero had never heard of the Eagle Ford Shale, strangers began pulling into town. Their cars and trucks, sporting license plates from across the country, surrounded the DeWitt County Courthouse. They crammed themselves into the county clerk’s office, as many as 60 at a time jostling to get to heavy, bound books of old sales receipts and certificates of ownership all looking for the same thing – the people who own pieces of the Eagle Ford Shale.

Once landowners began leasing their mineral rights, the rest of the oil field crowd began to arrive, and oil and drilling companies tapping into the shale – Pioneer, Petrohawk, Geo Southern among others – chose to make Cuero their hub.

It wasn’t an obvious choice – Gonzales is also a county seat and there is a comparable amount of drilling going on there – but Cuero had something else to offer. Cueroites have seen ups and downs over the years, but they have never given up on their community. They have never been willing to see Cuero die the typical death of a small Texas town. Cuero Economic Development Executive Director Randall Malik pointed to that attitude and the ability to embrace the Eagle Ford Shale as the black gold rush swept into town.

Danny Barker, the regional facilities director for Pioneer, chose to build a 90,000-square-foot office building in Cuero because of the location, but Cuero’s attitude made it an easy choice, he said.

“Cuero already had the infrastructure, and they had a good attitude and seemed progressive in their approach to things, and that’s why we chose to build there,” Barker said.

Seemingly overnight, Cuero has transformed from a pit stop on the way between the Gulf Coast and Austin or San Antonio, to a town full of life and possibility.

Trucks roar through town; oilmen pack the restaurants; and the courthouse and the grocery store are expanding their hours to accommodate the flood of business.

Talking turkey

The first weekend in October, Mayor Sara Post Meyer rode through downtown Cuero in the annual Turkeyfest parade. Earlier that morning, she had cheered along with the rest of the onlookers as Cuero’s wild turkey mascot, Ruby Begonia, lost another race. Meyer smiled and waved alongside her grandchildren, just as she did the year before when she first took the reins as mayor.

Meyer, a retired high school government teacher, has the look of a vigorous grandmother, but her brown eyes are sharp and she holds her chin at a no-nonsense angle.

Cuero had always seen a little bit of drilling for oil and natural gas, but the Eagle Ford Shale took Meyer by surprise.

Across town, they had all noticed the landmen at the courthouse, and when a couple of oil companies offered to pay the courthouse employees overtime to stay open on Saturdays, Meyer knew something big was about to happen.

“That was when we thought, ‘OK, maybe something is going on here,’ but no one said, ‘Hey ‘y’all are about to be inundated,” Meyer said, with a laugh.

Sitting in her office, upstairs in the city administration building, she can’t hear the traffic, but the noise is a steady buzz in her ears the moment she steps outside. Since the boom began, the roar of 18-wheelers hefting through town has become a constant, as steady as the ocean.

The motels stay filled to capacity, and the Best Western, still so new the smell of fresh paint fills your nose when you walk in, is adding another wing to accommodate demand.

RV parks have mushroomed across the town.

When people began applying to build RV parks at the beginning of the year, Meyer said city officials were caught by surprise and were without any ordinance laws for the development. They had to scramble to put together ordinance laws that would protect property owners around the parks, but stay loose enough to entice people to further develop Cuero.

City coffers swell

It was this past year’s sales tax revenue that turned the murmurs of change into actual dollar signs.

Between 2010 and 2011, sales tax revenue already has jumped by more than 30 percent – and counting. Two years ago, Cuero took in a record-setting tax revenue of $1.2 million. So far this year, that total already has risen past $1.6 million with two months left in the year.

Fracking a well takes millions of gallons of water, and Cuero has started selling its water in bulk for the first time in history.

All of this growth has meant extra money for the city.

Suddenly, Cuero’s city government doesn’t have to issue bonds or scrimp to afford things. There are plans to build an animal control shelter, an updated recycling center and a new city administration building. Where it once would have required years to undertake these projects, the town may be in a position to do it all in a matter of months, Meyer said.

“It’s like going from being able to buy a pair of Nike shoes to being able to buy those high-heeled shoes with the red leather soles. Nike has been in my vocabulary, Manolo hasn’t,” Meyer said, smiling.

Dark side of the boom

Still, there are questions to wrangle with about the play. The town’s oil and gas ordinances – the rules that govern how and where oil companies can drill – haven’t been updated since the last flurry of oil activity in the 1950s. They are being reviewed and modified now, and the way they are written will go a long way toward determining the kind of town Cuero will be in the future.

“This community is going to make a decision about whether they want to look like Luling, with pump jacks in the city limits, or do we keep them out,” Meyer said.

There’s also the question of whether to lease city property for drilling, and what to do with the money that it brings in.

“In North Texas, several of the cities did, and they were able to take the money and create a foundation that gave grants to nonprofits in the city. That would be great, as long as the integrity of the community wasn’t compromised,” she said, pausing at the thought.

But there are other concerns. Like Fowler, Meyer is determined to avoid the traps other communities have become ensnared in when shale drilling came to town. She has studied what happened in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and the problems people have dealt with as companies drilled for natural gas in the Barnett Shale in North Texas. She doesn’t want to see too-large a divide grow between people, like with the Bakken Shale in North Dakota.

Drilling in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania led to accusations of contaminated water, ruined farm land and stories of towns and cities wrangling to keep oil companies out. After land had been drilled in the Barnett Shale, homeowners watched their home values plummet and there were stories about water so full of natural gas it could be lit as it ran from the faucet. The Bakken Shale resonated with Meyer, because, even with all of the money coming from that play, the wealth didn’t spread in the community.

“We don’t want that to happen to us, where there are the haves and the have-nots,” she said.

Statewide attention

Texas Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones spoke to the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority at a meeting at the Chisholm Heritage Museum in June. Jones beamed at her audience as she looked out and talked with them about hydraulic fracturing.

“I’m here to reassure all of you that you have nothing to fear,” Jones said.

More than 100 people packed into the hall to hear what she had to say, and Jones, who is running for U.S. Senate in 2012, handled their questions with a reassuring tone and a benign smile that never left her face. Hydraulic fracturing was safe, she said. The chemicals are shot thousands of feet down into the earth and those chemicals will stay safely in the ground, far below the water table. It was the same speech she had been making as she traveled across the state, but the fact that Jones came through town at all was remarkable. She isn’t the first politician to find it worth her time to stop in Cuero in recent months, and she won’t be the last, Meyer said.

“They never would have darkened a door in Cuero, Texas, before this, but now they make a point to stop here” she said, shaking her head.

As thrilling as it all is, the city is trying to stay grounded about the reality of a boom, Meyer said. The law of gravity says that everything that goes up has got to come down, and the same goes for oil booms – history shows that for every boom there comes a bust.

Texas tea

That’s been the case since Texas became a source of oil at the beginning of the 20th century. Everyone laughed when a one-armed mechanic named Pattillo Higgins ran around Beaumont trying to scare up investors to drill for oil in the coastal plain, according to oil history expert Dan Yergin. They stopped laughing and started drilling themselves when the first Spindletop well came in, the first big oil find in Texas.

Beaumont, a sleepy little Texas town, flooded with fortune hunters, gamblers, oil field workers and men looking to make deals. The town’s population swelled and tents, saloons, gambling houses and whorehouses sprang up overnight. Beaumont was suddenly a town to be reckoned with, and the land and mineral rights went for thousands of dollars.

It was all because of the oil that had come roaring out of the ground. Without any regulation in place, oil came gurgling out of the ground and sank the market, with prices falling to 3 cents a barrel, cheaper than water in some places.

Then things turned the other way. Soon there were too many wells drilled too close together, and just as suddenly as it had started, oil production flagged and the boom ended.

Since then, the oil towns of West Texas and North Texas tell similar stories of fortunes coming and going as communities have lived and died by the price of oil.

“That’s what keeps me up at 2 o’clock in the the morning, knowing that it always ends,” Judge Fowler said.

Sitting in his office in the DeWitt County Courthouse, Fowler leaned back in his chair behind his heavy wooden desk. He keeps a 3-foot stack of newspapers and magazines about the Eagle Ford Shale play, and the issues that come with it, in the corner of his office. He has binders of business cards and county statistics on drilling in the Eagle Ford. Keeping up with the pipelines, the drilling, the news and the rumors takes effort, and he’s always working at it, to stay ahead of the curve.

“It could all change overnight,” Fowler said. “If oil goes to $50 a barrel, all the companies start rethinking their drilling plans. We try to be very aware of that.”

Paradise lost – or found

Sheriff Jode Zavesky moved to Cuero in 1997 because he and his wife were looking to live in a small town where everybody knows everybody. In Cuero, they got that.

Since shale became a byword, that has begun to change. If the traffic rumbling through town at all hours wasn’t a clue, Zavesky suddenly found he couldn’t step out of the sheriff’s office at 12:15 p.m. on a weekday and expect to get a table for lunch. If he did get a spot, the odds were good he wouldn’t recognize most of the people in the restaurant.

“I don’t think anybody realized the traffic problems the Eagle Ford Shale play would bring along with it,” he said.

Traffic accidents, tickets, DWIs – the number of vehicles coming through town doubled in six months, and the DeWitt County Sheriff’s Office and the Cuero Police Department have worked hard to cover all of the traffic problems that have burbled to the surface along with the increase in the population.

The worst of it has been the increase in new commercial truck drivers, Zavesky said.

Thousands of barrels of oil are pumped out of the shale a day. Soon, pipelines will crisscross the county as if someone had dumped a box of dry spaghetti on the map, but for now companies need truck drivers to move the oil to refineries, so anyone with a commercial license can get behind the wheel employed as a truck driver.

“It takes experience to become a real trucker. We’re getting a bunch of people who have only been driving for six months. Inexperience causes accidents,” Zavesky said.

Good timing

Despite the drawbacks Zavesky has seen, he has joined in with those who have a sparkling vision of a new vibrant Cuero. Zavesky and his wife, Gina, have even taken the opportunity to get in on the action. They are opening a restaurant, Ruby’s Diner, at the end of November in the American Legion Hall.

The space is covered in dust and construction grime, but Zavesky already can see an American diner filled with familiar faces taking in some good food and atmosphere. It’ll be a return to the Cuero where every face is familiar, he hopes. But it was the shale drilling that made the Zaveskys step up and give their idea a try.

“It’s a double-edged sword. We’ve loved our community because you know your neighbor. Because of everything, we’re growing exponentially, so there’s bound to be changes in our community,” Zavesky said.

During a Fourth of July church picnic at the Cuero City Park, Cory Thamm, the official caretaker of Ruby Begonia, unloaded the wild turkey and sat her down where everyone could see. Children ran over to peer at the bird’s bright feathers, and the black-eyed bird looked at them through her cage.

“Why’s there a turkey here?” a woman asked.

Thamm’s eyes widened, and he couldn’t keep the surprise from his voice.

“That’s Ruby Begonia,” he exclaimed.

The woman’s expression didn’t change.

“Oh,” she said, turning and walking toward the hamburger line.

“She must be from out of town,” Thamm muttered, looking down at Ruby Begonia.

Meyer admitted change is inevitable, but she thinks Cueroites will hold onto their traditions, the shared knowledge of their history that marks them as unique.

“It’ll be wonderful, however long it lasts, and when it does go away, if it goes away, we’ll deal with it. We’re going to look differently as a community, and we’re going to be different, but I think we’ll stay the same at the core,” Meyer said

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Did the idea of legal war die along with Gaddafi?

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By: By Scott Horton

As Muammar al-Gaddafi’s corpse rotted in a Misrata meat locker, Barack Obama’s gambit on Libya was being widely acclaimed in Washington as a foreign-policy success — and a politically daring one. The US president’s own secretary of defense and key military advisors, after all, were against the operation; many of his Republican critics, meanwhile, had advocated for a more forward American military role, reminiscent of Iraq. Spurning both, Obama opted for a carefully calibrated effort that emphasised the support of key allies, enabling a popular uprising that steadily peeled away support from a loud but teetering dictator. In the end, the effort cost no American lives and less than $2 billion, which Sen. Lindsey Graham reports the Libyans are willing to repay. The future remains unclear about the sort of government Libya will see in Gaddafi’s wake — but it’s quite clear that the operation burnished the reputation of the United States with Libya’s population, as was evident by the American flags hoisted in Benghazi and Tripoli last week. Compared with the cost and doubtful outcomes in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the Libya campaign looks — for now, at least — like a stroke of genius.

But seen through the lens of the law, the victory is a distinctly Pyrrhic one. When he was elected, Obama promised an America that, in a sharp break from its very recent past, would lead by example and reinvigorate its respect for the rule of law, both at home and on the international stage. Obama’s conduct of the war in Libya points to a White House that is perhaps more cautious than its immediate predecessor in foreign military exploits, but just as assertive in the area of executive prerogative. It is a gloomy precedent — and one that will make necessary humanitarian actions in crises such as Syria’s less, not more, likely to happen.

The Libya operations have to be assessed at two separate levels of legality. The first is domestic and involves the constitutional interplay between the executive branch and Congress in the realm of war powers. American legal thinking about the respective roles played by Congress and the president can be divided roughly into three camps. The first and more conservative view, dominant among constitutional scholars, holds that the president has the power to respond to an attack on his own or to take urgent steps to defend the country, but that he must secure Congress’s consent in some form before using US arms in hostilities abroad on a more sustained basis. To protect its rights against encroachment by the executive, Congress enacted the War Powers Resolution in 1973. Compliance with or circumvention of the resolution continues to this day to be a key field of tension between the White House and Congress.

The second, traditionally liberal view, advanced by Democratic administrations going back perhaps as far as Harry Truman, was presented most concretely in a series of memoranda authored by Walter Dellinger, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in Bill Clinton’s administration. Dellinger chose not to tackle the traditionalists head-on. Rather, he suggested that there was a species of conflict short of war that was not really covered by the obligation to consult Congress. Dellinger argued that the president could act unilaterally when there was some compelling national interest that militated for action and the deployment would not amount to war in the sense discussed in the Constitution.

The third perspective, associated with Berkeley law professor and George W. Bush-era OLC staffer John Yoo and a number of other neoconservatives, argues that the traditional view is a fundamental misunderstanding of the constitutional order and that the president always has the authority to act unilaterally. The most authoritative statement of this perspective may well be in the OLC memorandum that Yoo wrote to justify Bush’s decision to commence hostilities in Iraq in 2003. It’s noteworthy that notwithstanding Yoo’s opinion, Bush still felt compelled to seek specific votes in Congress to authorise military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Having obtained these votes, Bush never had cause to put the Yoo theorem to the test. But Yoo’s argument does present the ultimate legal pushing of the envelope in the area of presidential war powers.

Obama probably could have secured congressional authority for his operations in Libya at the outset of the conflict — a fact suggested by resolutions adopted before the commencement of hostilities encouraging him to act — but he opted not to do so. Instead he relied on a memorandum authored by the OLC’s Caroline Krass. Following carefully in the footsteps of the earlier analysis by Dellinger, Krass argued that “preserving regional stability” in North Africa and “maintaining the credibility of United Nations Security Council mandates” were important national interests of the United States that warranted the Libya operations. She also concluded that the nature of the operations — involving no deployment of ground forces and only a limited measure of US engagement, in concert with Nato and other allies who would bear the brunt of the effort — supported a conclusion that this was not what the Constitution meant by “war.”

That second point is, of course, by far the more problematic, considering the notorious difficulty at the outset of any conflict of gauging the level of effort ultimately required. However, on this point, Krass was borne out by the facts: Although the United States took the lead in the first weeks, its role did in fact recede as the conflict wore on, with France and Britain taking centre stage. Disorganised rebels assembled under the banner of the National Transitional Council, which steadily expanded its authority over the bulk of Libya’s territory and accumulated international recognition.

However, the first prong of the Krass analysis couldn’t be more doubtful. The notion that “preserving regional stability” in North Africa was a matter of US national interest was squarely rejected by Defence Secretary Robert Gates and other senior Pentagon brass and can’t be squared with prior authoritative statements of policy towards the region; the best argument that Krass could muster was the suggestion that Italy and other US allies in southern Europe would have to cope with waves of refugees from Libya. Recent reports have suggested, moreover, that Krass’s criteria were marginal at best in the actual decision-marking. As Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings reported in a recent lively portrait of the Obama administration’s internal debate over Libya, concerns that a Gaddafi victory would deflate the Arab Spring movement, coupled with a sense that the revolutionaries’ success could be ensured with a minimal commitment of blood and treasure, was at the core of Obama’s call. There is thus a disconnect between the conjectural reasons used to justify the OLC memo and the actual reasons that reportedly drove Obama’s decision to support the venture.

The Obama team also stepped around the War Powers Resolution. It issued brief reports to Congress after hostilities had been commenced, but it did not recognise the resolution as being applicable to the Libya campaign. The Obama view was not, as Republican administrations since Nixon have asserted, that the resolution was an unconstitutional intrusion on presidential prerogatives. Rather, it took aim at the resolution’s definition of “hostilities” — a term consciously adopted to include actions far short of war — and argued that the operations in Libya could not be viewed as covered. State Department Legal Advisor Harold Koh advanced this view in a hearing before Congress on June 15, the same date on which the Obama team delivered its report on actions in Libya.

At this point, US involvement in the Libyan campaign consisted of “occasional strikes by unmanned Predator UAVs,” the report argued. The administration was trying to saddle the term “hostilities” with the relatively narrow constitutional sense of the word “war,” but Congress plainly opted to use “hostilities” in order to capture a far wider array of military actions. As various scholars have noted, “hostilities” has a well-established meaning in international humanitarian law: “the (collective) resort by the parties to the conflict to means and methods of injuring the enemy.” House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin shared the same assessment: The notion that lethal drone strikes are not “hostilities” under the War Powers Resolution “doesn’t pass a straight-face test.”

Obama’s engagement with the Constitution and domestic law thus consisted of a rubber-stamp legal opinion from the OLC that made policy assumptions publicly contradicted by senior administration national security spokesmen, and a series of cute word games to deny application of the War Powers Resolution. Congress, moreover, failed to stand up for its prerogatives either by explicitly authorizing the campaign or by challenging it. Congressional leaders were too obsessed with partisan gamesmanship and too indifferent to the fate of their own constitutional powers to do either. The Libya campaign thus turns into another vindication of executive war-making powers, and a demonstration of Congress’s institutional lack of gravitas when dealing with minor foreign conflict.

Enter Resolution 1973, which the Security Council adopted on March 17. There were three provisions at the core of the resolution: a call for an immediate ceasefire and an end to violence against civilians; the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya; and authority to use “all necessary force” to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas while prohibiting the deployment of a “foreign occupation force.” As the resolution was adopted, forces loyal to Gaddafi were preparing an assault on Benghazi, the rebel stronghold. Gaddafi himself made statements threatening the violent taking of the city and the “house-by-house” extermination of anti-government protesters.

His comments were sufficiently unhinged, and the threat of a bloodbath sufficiently clear, that the Arab League lined up in support of the resolution and even Russia and China — which had threatened a veto of the resolution — switched their position to abstain instead. Gaddafi embraced the ceasefire call, but his forces continued their attacks on civilians unabated — satisfying the resolution’s preconditions for the use of military force.

While much of the military operations in Libya were plainly within the mandate of Resolution 1973, some aspects exceeded it.

For instance, attacks fairly early in the conflict targeted command-and-control centres of the Gaddafi regime. Such steps would be routine in wartime and would plainly be authorised under the laws of armed conflict. But it’s not so clear that they were authorised by Resolution 1973, the authority of which rested on the doctrine of “responsibility to protect” (R2P): the notion, adopted by the UN in 2005, that intervention is justified to protect a civilian population from harm, even at the hands of its own leaders. After all, strikes were mounted against military positions far away from the attacks on civilians and with no apparent linkage to them. Moreover, as the war progressed, the posture of the fading Gaddafi regime became increasingly defensive.

The final weeks of the campaign put this in sharpest perspective, as Gaddafi and his final core group of retainers withdrew to his hometown of Sirte, ultimately fleeing in a convoy that was fired upon by Nato aircraft and an American Predator drone, destroying two vehicles.

Libyan authorities have denied an independent autopsy that might show conclusively the cause of Gaddafi’s death — which may have been shots fired after he surrendered and was in rebel custody — but the role played by Nato in his final moments points to the near perfect inversion of the mission. Instead of protecting civilians from attack by Gaddafi and his forces, they were attacking a fleeing and clearly finished Gaddafi.

At this point, some members of the Security Council clearly feel they got suckered. They voted for a resolution to protect the people of Benghazi from slaughter and saw their authority invoked to depose Gaddafi and install a new government. That will have consequences for future humanitarian crises. Russia and China have now blocked Security Council resolutions targeting Syria. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has made clear that Russia supports demands for reform in Syria and abhors the use of violence against demonstrators, but has been equally clear that Russia cannot risk a repeat of the Libyan example.

Nato’s operations in Libya began as a valid demonstration of the use of military force to protect civilians. But they evolved quickly into an exercise in regime change. In the wake of Libya, the Security Council is unlikely to embrace another R2P operation anytime soon. And that is bad news for the people of Damascus and Hama, as well as for advocates of the responsibility to protect.

Foreign Policy

Chomsky: US drone killings are state terror

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The U.S. policy of targeting terror suspects in foreign countries using unmanned aerial vehicles amounts to “state terror”, leading academic Professor Noam Chomsky has said.

“There is no justification for targeted assassination,” Chomsky said in an interview with PublicServiceEurope.com which was published on Friday.

“There were things going on before, under the last president, but the Obama administration has extended earlier procedures to a global assassination campaign directed at people suspected of encouraging others to carry out what the U.S. calls terrorist acts. What are called ‘terrorist acts’ also raises rather serious questions — and that’s an understatement,” he said.

Asked if he believed Obama’s foreign policy in relation to drone strikes had been worse than that of his predecessor George W Bush, Chomsky said: “In terms of state terror and that’s what I would call this, I have to say yes — and that has already been pointed out by military analysts.”

“The Bush administration policy was to kidnap suspects and send them to secret prisons where they were not treated very nicely, as we know. But the Obama administration has escalated that policy to you don’t kidnap them, but you kill them. Now remember, these are suspects — even in the case of Osama bin Laden.” defencemanagement.com

FACTS & FIGURES

Since 2001, the U.S. government is known to have used drones to mount lethal attacks in at least six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. commondreams.org

The Washington Post has reported that the Obama administration is building a constellation of secret drone bases in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, including one site in Ethiopia. Antiwar

Bombing raids by robotic unmanned U.S. aircraft dramatically increased under President Barack Obama. Dawn

Human rights groups have raised concerns that the use of drones by the CIA has allowed the conduct of a secret assassination campaign abroad without public scrutiny and little oversight by lawmakers in Congress. AFP

The U.S. drone campaign is deeply unpopular among anti-American Pakistani public and the government has publicly demanded an end to the attacks. AFP

Barack Obama’s administration authorized the assassination of the radical cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, a rare move against an American citizen. Al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen on October 14.

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