Exxon logo. | Photo: EFE
By: William Serafino
Venezuelan journalist William Serafino links the attacks against the Maduro government to ExxonMobil oil interests.
It’s April 18. The political climate is defined by a highly confrontational and warmongering tone of the Venezuelan opposition the day before a national sit-in (plantón) where, once again, violent acts were to be expected: destruction and confrontation with law enforcement.
President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech in the evening from Miraflores Presidential Palace. Along with Minister of Defense, General in Chief Vladimir Padrino Lopez, Vice President Tareck El Aissami and National Assembly member Diosdado Cabello announce the Zamora Plan to guarantee order and security in the country.
The decision was prompted after a U.S. State Department statement was released the same evening. The text openly supported the violence generated by clashes affiliated to the opposition agenda during the “plantón,” trying to intimidate key players of Venezuelan military and judicial institutions to allow these events so that they would avoid being the subject of incoming sanctions.
Among other important elements, the text pin pointed — without any evidence — the security apparatus, specifically the scientific police and the intelligence agency, of using torture and the state security forces to endorse the incursion of “collectives to repress the demonstrators.”
The anti-Chavista “planton” on April 19 left four people dead in different states of the country, including a sergeant of the National Guard in San Antonio de Los Altos, Miranda state.
Who is the head of the U.S. Department of State?
The current U.S. secretary of state — the foreign policy chief — is Rex Tillerson, a former general manager at ExxonMobil. Tillerson was the top manager of the company when former President Hugo Chavez made the decision to nationalize the Orinoco Oil Belt where the U.S. corporation had major projects.
Under Tillerson’s command, the U.S. company decided not to renegotiate its oil projects like the one belonging to Cerro Negro in Monagas with state-owned PDVSA, according to the new directives after nationalization. ExxonMobil sued PDVSA at the ICSID — the World Bank court to resolve investment disputes — seeking compensation in the amount of US$20 billion back in 2007.
After nearly a decade-long legal battle, reviews and appeals to various verdicts, on March 10, 2017, the ICSID decided that the lawsuit of ExxonMobil contained irregularities and freed PDVSA of paying any damages. The northern oil company suffered perhaps the biggest legal defeat of its history with this ruling in favor of the Venezuelan state.
Exxon Brand Politicians
ExxonMobil — as well as any other large international company from the United States — contracts politicians to exert influence within the structure of U.S. government according to their interests. So-called lobbying is legal in that country, and companies seeking to modify or pass laws for their benefit (tax exemption, removal of regulations, federal government subsidies, etc.) pay large sums of money to politicians (a large quantity of Republicans in the case of ExxonMobil) and lobby firms.
According to Open Secrets, in the 2016 cycle, the oil company invested financial resources to endorse more than a dozen politicians for these purposes. These included Donald Trump (current U.S. president, who appointed Rex Tillerson as secretary of state) with US$25,461, Marco Rubio with US$17,701 and Ed Royce with US$7,500.
Senator Marco Rubio from Florida and California Representative Ed Royce have not only introduced sanctions against Venezuela a key point in their legislative agenda, they have also met — on several occasions — with Venezuelan opposition leaders — such as Luis Florido, Lilian Tintori, Freddy Guevara, among others — to show them political support and diplomatic endorsement to the overthrowing agenda they lead on the ground.
Law S.3117: Financial support to Venezuelan opposition
According to Open Secrets, in 2016 ExxonMobil was one of the companies that paid (the website does not specify the amount) to lobby for the law S.3117 (Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs of the Law of Allocations of 2017), which establishes the funds and political objectives of the operations of the Department of State in key countries for the United States.
Money leaked to agencies such as the NED or USAID are based on that law. On May 3, 2017, under the leadership of Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan (another politician financed by ExxonMobil in 2016 with US$14,025), the law was sanctioned.
According to the official page of the Congress of the USA, the sponsor of this bill was South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who had the duty of lobbying for its execution according to the guidelines of its financiers.
The Senate report on the law highlights the importance of the U.S. State Department funding Venezuelan opposition groups (under the umbrella of “civil society” NGOs) with US$5,500,000 and other additional funds to bring political and economic reforms in Venezuela. At the same time, it stresses the importance that “regional organizations play in promoting reforms in Venezuela, in particular, the Organization of American States,” in addition to increasing the support of the Energy Security Initiative in the Caribbean to influence Negatively in the political and oil alliances of our country with the Caribbean.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson commented on April 19: “We are closely watching what happens in that country and working with others, especially through the OAS, to communicate our concerns to them,” surely referring to Uruguayan Luis Almagro as liaison and key operator of the American strategy for pressure within the organization.
The Caribbean bloc has played a key role in preventing U.S. allies from that organization definitively consolidate the international isolation of Venezuela.
But the attack on Venezuela reveals a geopolitical key: The U.S. urgently need to overthrow Petrocaribe not only to break the Venezuela’s international alliances but to transform the Caribbean into a powerful port to import liquefied U.S. gas (ExxonMobil is one of the leading exporters), leading to the continent’s energy and geopolitical domination. The coup against Venezuela is a maneuver to ensure the continent as an area of exclusive influence on the penetration of Russian and Chinese capital and investment.
Graham, during Juan Manuel Santos’ official visit to the White House in May, publicly offered war weapons to Colombia both to dissuade Venezuela and to prepare the neighboring country for an eventual “humanitarian emergency” or armed conflict.
Interest in Venezuelan Oil
As discussed previously, ExxonMobil’s oil reserves have suffered large reductions as a result of sanctions against Russia and the aging of strategic wells in the Middle East, a reality that affects its market capitalization and its dominance over the oil market.
This urgency leads ExxonMobil to seek extralegal procedures to conquer the huge reserves of oil and gas located in the Essequibo using the Guyanese government, an area claimed by Venezuela as part of its territorial sovereignty at the U.N.
But without a doubt, the incessant search for oil and gas in that territory expresses the superior objective of re-colonizing the Orinoco Oil Belt, in the format of “oil opening” that dominated Venezuela during the last stage of the 20th century. Conquering and securing the world’s largest oil reserves as a source of full supply, in a context of aggressive competition between oil companies and their geopolitical interests, is an increasingly urgent need the U.S. oil company wants to satisfy.
The crystallization of regime change is needed. Last month, sn important group of experts from the think tank Council of Foreign Relations elaborated a set of recommendations to the U.S. government within the framework of this purpose.
In short, the viable options for a change of government in Venezuela proposed by the CFR (which has shaped U.S. foreign policy since the beginning of the 20th century) are to increase sanctions against key Chavista leaders, to push diplomatically from the OAS using neighboring countries such as Colombia and Brazil, and to demand that China and Russia withdraw their support of the Venezuelan government to intensify isolation.
The Trump Administration has fulfilled the vast majority of the CFR proposals as political routes to support the coup d’état agenda in Venezuela. The sanctions against the Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami, the State Department’s pressures from the OAS and the latest sanctions against the Supreme Court are a sign of this commitment, or at least that the CFR does indeed influence certain decisions of the White House. The CFR is also funded by ExxonMobil.
Threat of sanctions against PDVSA
On Sunday, June 4, Reuters leaked comments from alleged White House officials regarding sanctions being assessed against the national oil sector.
According to Reuters, collaborators of President Donald Trump have been asked to present recommendations to sanction the Venezuelan oil sector “if necessary.”
Given that 95 percent of Venezuela’s foreign exchange earnings come from PDVSA, vital resources for the payment of foreign debt and imports of food and medicines, a possible oil embargo or, in its absence, sanctions that prevent oil exports to the U.S. and investment of foreign companies (threatened with suspension of licenses to operate in U.S. territory), would be a strong blow to the economic recovery plan of the Venezuelan government and the population at large by paralyzing an important income source.
A measure that could be politically costly to the U.S. (striving to convince the public that all efforts are for the well-being of the Venezuelan population) and a reversal of its effects in practice in the medium term, considering most likely oil sales to China or India would increase significantly, at the moment 60 percent of PDVSA’s export destinations.
It is not by chance that these threats are leaked when the Venezuelan opposition’s capacity for mobilization is showing signs of burning out, street violence hasn’t been capitalized into political victories inside the country or before the international community. If this cycle of political recession increases, ExxonMobil would be pressured to take action on its own. After all, they are the owners of the circus and have invested resources that they do not intend to waste.
Closing (in progress)
According to a report by The Daily Beast in early April, top executives of ExxonMobil and Shell met in Washington in the hope that Nicolas Maduro would step down to start privatization projects of the world’s largest oil reserves. It is possible that Reuter’s leak has relation to these meetings and the decisions that would have been taken there.
The coup d’etat against Venezuela was not decided by the Venezuelan opposition but by the largest oil company on the planet; the framework of action of someone like Freddy Guevara or Julio Borges is limited to their condition of subordinates. If intervention by delegation fails, direct intervention (on an economic and financial scale) using positions of power and spheres of influence in the U.S. government, are even less visible.
The oil company, which truly executes the bulk of the maneuvers, has the U.S. secretary of state, a portfolio of right-wing representatives and senators — including Donald Trump — with influence in Congress and lobbying firms to impose its political and economic interests as a U.S. foreign policy against Venezuela.
In Venezuela, not only political power is disputed, but the organization of a new political, financial and energy geography on a continental and planetary scale, within highly belligerant political environment. The fall of Venezuela, for ExxonMobil, is fundamental for that disputed center of geopolitical gravity to distance itself from Russia and China, taking control in a region with the greatest natural and energetic resources of the planet.
Determining who the adversary is is key to understanding what we are currently facing.
Photo: Wikipedia, ASIMO is physically anthropomorphic (file photo)
By Prof Zulfiqarali Premji
The fourth industrial revolution has begun and advances in automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are coming fast and furiously. These advances will result in job losses as businesses in many countries incorporate artificial intelligence and/or robotics into their operations to cut costs and improve efficiencies. Some refer to this economic shift as the fourth industrial revolution.
Jobs will be lost, jobs will evolve and this revolution is going to be ageless, it’s going to be classless and it’s going to affect everyone. Major companies are going to employ fewer people to get a lot more done with more precision and better quality.
We have no precedent for the speed or the all-encompassing nature of this disruption. In the past people could move from one kind of routine job to another. But what’s coming means that when one kind of routine job becomes obsolete, robots will also perform those other routine jobs. In his book Rise of the Robots, Martin Ford said, “This time many workers will have to switch from routine, unskilled jobs to non-routine skilled jobs to stay ahead of automation.”
In 2013 a University of Oxford study concluded that nearly half of US jobs were at risk for automation, and a 2015 report by Forrester Research predicted that by 2019, some one-quarter of all job tasks will be off-loaded to software robots, physical robots, or customer self-service automation.
In the automotive and automobiles sector, over 60 per cent of salaried workers in Indonesia and 73 per cent in Thailand face a high risk from robotic automation.
In the electrical and electronics sector, over 60 per cent of salaried workers in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are at high risk from robotic automation.
In the textile, clothing and footwear sectors, 88 per cent of workers in Cambodia, 86 per cent of workers in Vietnam and 64 per cent in Indonesia face job disruption due to body-scanning tech and 3D printing.
Job losses arising from automated vehicles are perhaps the most frequently discussed topic in the press. While 10 years ago many people believed that driverless vehicles were nothing but a pipe dream, today many auto and truck manufacturers are pushing to have fully automated vehicles for sale by 2020 or shortly thereafter. A few companies can already install driverless technology in existing cars and trucks. Estimates are that more than 3 million truck and public delivery driving jobs could be eliminated in the U.S. by these advances.
Scientists and doctors are also using AI to read X-rays, analyse gene mutations, make better use of scientific studies, and enhance doctor’s clinical knowledge beyond their first-hand experience. AI is also being used to identify diabetic retinopathy in patients and study traumatic brain injuries.
Automation potential by industry (in descending order): Accommodation and food services, Manufacturing, Agriculture, Transportation and warehousing, Retail, Mining and Construction.
Jobs at Risk of Automation (in descending order): Receptionists/clerks, Paralegals/legal assistants, Retail salespersons, Taxi drivers/chauffeurs, Security guards, Cooks and fast food, bartenders, Computer programmers, Reporters, Musicians, Lawyers, primary school teachers and Doctors
The notion that we can go to college for four years and then spend that knowledge for the next 30 is over. If you want to be a lifelong employee anywhere today, you have to be a lifelong learner. And that means: More is now on you. And that means self-motivation to learn and keep learning becomes the most important life skill.
That’s why education-to-work expert Heather E. McGowan likes to say: “Stop asking a young person WHAT you want to be when you grow up. It freezes their identity into a job that may not be there. Ask them HOW you want to be when you grow up. Having an agile learning mind-set will be the new skill set of the 21st century.”
Some are up for that, some not; and many want to but don’t know how, which is why the College Board has reshaped the PSAT and SAT exams to encourage lifelong learning (LLL).
Learning should not stop at school because LLL learning is one of the most effective ways to deal with change, and change is constant, change in our personal lives, change in our work lives, change in our local communities, governance, associations and organisations. Learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.
So the tough news is that more will be on you. The good news is that there are emerging systems everywhere to enable anyone to learn at any time.
It’s clear that thriving countries today won’t elect a strongman. They’ll elect leaders who inspire and equip their citizens to be life long learners who can own their own futures.
Four Tanzanian children living with Albinism, whose limbs got hacked off in brutal superstition-driven attacks back home, have had prosthetic limbs attached.
At only 15, Rutema one of the boys, who speaks with difficulty, has undergone horror after one of the attackers chopped his arm and fingers on the other hand and even tried tried to pull out his tongue and teeth.
But in the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Philadelphia in the United States, Rutema and three other children have found a new lease of life.
“So the first time the Tanzania kids came in, there was not a lot of conversation, they were extremely shy. They kind of huddled together in a pack. And they were scared. They had traveled around the globe to come see us and they weren’t used to us and we weren’t used to them, and there were a lot of awkward moments. And then as they got to know us and they started to open up to me and to the staff and to the therapists. And now when they come you can see it looks like they’re home, said Dr. Scott Kozin, Chief of Staff at the hospital.
The children are getting treatment with support from the Global Medical Relief Fund (GMRF), a New York-based charity that hosts children from around the world who have been injured in conflict or disaster.
“When they first came, I think it was a matter of trust, you know, and for them to warm up and feel comfortable with you, and that was towards the end of the last trip. Now of course this time, they’re much more open,” said the founder Elissa Montanti.
Albinism is a congenital disorder affecting about one in 20,000 people worldwide who lack pigment in their skin, hair and eyes, but it is more common in sub-Saharan Africa.
United Nations officials estimate at least 75 albinos were killed in Tanzania between 2000 and 2015 but the numbers could have be higher in rural areas.
Lander Armas Neomar Alejandro passed away while operating a mortar that exploded on his chest during an opposition protest that had become violent.
The Venezuelan Ministry of Internal Affairs, Justice and Peace reported on the death of the 17 year old Lander Armas Neomar Alejandro on Wednesday in the municipality of Chacao, Miranda state, resulting from the handling of a mortar during an opposition protest against the Venezuelan government.
The young man who was known as “Neon” by his friends, died after a handheld mortar exploded during operation. He was transferred to the Avila Clinic.
Officials of the Body of Scientific Criminal Investivations (CICPC) are at the site investigating.
In opposition protests that have turned violent, protesters have been found utilizing various weapons, some of which are homemade.
Last week, Venezuelan special operation forces carrying out a search operation seized weapons including an AT4 anti-tank bazooka, C4 explosives, gas masks, grenades, helmets, mortars, military uniforms and bulletproof vests in the Bello Campo neighborhood in Caracas.
Over 70 people have been killed in the ongoing protests and clashes between Venezuela’s right-wing opposition and government forces.
1. Lander Armas Neomar Alejandro (17) has just died after an explosion of a homemade weapon (morter) that he was using. Source: Twitter
This photo attrributed to Neomar Lander, taken by @philipick, demonstrates that the young man that was carrying a morter would be the same one that died #7junio. Source: Twitter
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud shakes hands with US President Donald Trump during a reception ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 20, 2017. (File photo: Reuters)
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday thanked King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud for doing a great job in countering terrorism and fighting those who fund terror groups.
During a speech in Ohio on infrastructure, Trump talked about investment in Saudi Arabia and his recent trip to Riyadh, praising King Salman’s stance in the fight against terrorism, stating that King Salman will stop the funding of extremist groups.
“The Riyadh summit provided an opportunity for historic action with Saudi Arabia and 50 countries to fight terrorism and defeat it,” he said.
Trump spoke by phone with King Salman on Tuesday, stressing the need to unite the Arabian Gulf.
Trump expressed the need for unity in the region to fight extremist ideology and terrorist financing. And the importance of the Gulf being united for peace and security in the region.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg © Stephen Lam / Reuters
Facebook is famous for pushing technological boundaries with its innovations, but its latest inventions may well leave worried users hitting the dislike button.
A patent filed and approved by the US Patent and Trademark Office details how the emotions of a Facebook user could be predicted based on “characteristics of a keyboard input.” Put simply, the firm would read a person’s emotions based on speed and pressure of how they tap the keys.
The patent, entitled ‘Augmenting text messages with emotion information’, proposes that features can be added to texts to reflect the feelings of the sender.
Perhaps the most alarming of Facebook’s pending patents is ‘Techniques for emotion detection and content delivery.’ The application details Facebook’s desire to watch its users through their smartphone cameras or webcams.
The filing outlines the number of home and leisure items that now contain cameras, and goes on that state that “current content delivery systems typically do not utilize passive imaging information.”
“Thus, a need exists for a content delivery solution that takes advantage of available passive imaging data to provide content to a user with improved relevancy,” the filing reads.
The proposed system would capture the target’s image, identify the user’s emotion and store the data. Based on this, Facebook could determine which emotions a piece of content elicits and use the data to target its users.
Another patent proposal based on facial recognition and published last month focuses on the generation of emojis based on the facial expression of the user. For example the user can take a selfie and the system would produce an emoji expressing the same emotion.