Domestic Spying

ACLU Report: Obama administration expands domestic spying

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/oct2012/spy-o01.shtml
By Eric London
1 October 2012
Under the Obama administration, there has been a 60 percent increase in warrantless electronic surveillance by the Department of Justice, according to a report Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union. According to the report, the DoJ monitored 37,616 phones in 2011 alone.
“The report shows a dramatic increase in the use of these surveillance tools… [m]ore people were subjected to pen register and trap and trace surveillance in the past two years than in the entire previous decade,” the ACLU explains, making reference to two tactics used by the Department of Justice (DoJ) to monitor and track phone calls, email messages, and social networking website use.
The 37,616 phones being tapped by the DoJ alone is a staggering figure. The sharp increase over the past two years, and the huge number of people being monitored, give the lie to any claim that this spying is related to ordinary criminal investigations. Without a doubt, this figure includes political activists, members of left-wing political groups, and other opponents of government policy.
The ACLU report serves as a further indictment of Obama administration, which came to power in 2008 by riding a wave of popular hatred of the Bush administration’s expansion of police state measures. The Obama administration has not only kept Bush’s domestic spying programs intact—it has also greatly enlarged them.
It is worth noting at the outset that the ACLU report only takes into account surveillance figures obtained from the Justice Department. Given the absence of figures from the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Secret Service, and state and local police forces, the ACLU states that “the reports likely reveal only a small portion of the use of this surveillance power.”
During the same time period, the DoJ increased its tracking of email and social networking data by 361 percent. Though tracking email and social networking is still much rarer than phone tracking, the exponential increase seen over the past two years likely foreshadows further expansion.
Dean Boyd, an Obama administration spokesman, told NBC News that “as criminals increasingly use new and more sophisticated technologies, the use of orders issued by a judge and explicitly authorized by Congress to obtain non-content information is essential for federal law enforcement officials to carry out their duty to protect the public and investigate violations of federal laws.”
The ACLU report only covers wiretapping that the government claims is “non-content” related. In other words, the statistics cited above do not include content-related spying. The dubious distinction between “content” and “non-content” related spying is that, allegedly, “non-content” related spying only reveals who an individual is in communication with—not what the content of the communication is. However, there is no meaningful oversight over what the government does with information it obtains through supposedly “non-content-related” spying.
Irrespective of the content/non-content classification, the massively expanded domestic spying in either form is a blatant violation of the constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which protects the population from warrantless searches and seizures, as well as the First Amendment, which protects free speech.
The existing legal threshold for so-called “non-content” wiretapping is strikingly low. According to the ACLU report, the government needs only to “submit certification to a court stating that it seeks information relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.” There is no requirement for a judge to actually “consider the merits of the request.”
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals explained that its role in the process is “ministerial in nature” in a 1995 ruling. The historic requirement of “probable cause” is no longer required for the government to tap into the phones or personal emails of a US citizen.
The government initially refused the ACLU’s request under the Freedom of Information Act to release DoJ tallies of wiretapping from 2009 to 2011. The records were only released after the ACLU filed a lawsuit to compel the release of the records.
The ACLU report is only the latest confirmation of the massive increase in domestic surveillance launched by the Obama administration. Over the past year, it has been revealed that the Obama administration has authorized armed surveillance drones to begin flights over the US mainland, and it has constructed “bottomless” databases to house all of the information it has begun collecting on the American public.
In 2009, the New York Times revealed that the National Security Agency – an entity independent of the DoJ – was also intercepting personal communications between citizens.
In 2011, Obama signed a four-year extension of the PATRIOT Act, explaining, “It’s an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat.” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid backed the president, warning at the end of the extension deadline that “when the clock strikes midnight tomorrow, we would be giving terrorists the opportunity to plot attacks against our country, undetected.”
The New York Times reported that the administration made 1.3 million requests for subscriber information from cell phone companies in 2011 alone.
The administration has constantly sought to block all legal challenges to domestic surveillance programs by means of the authoritarian “state secrets” doctrine and references to the president’s so-called “Commander in Chief” wartime powers. Earlier this year, a federal judge threw out a case that challenged domestic spying on the grounds that “any practice, no matter how abusive, may be immunized from legal challenge by being labeled as ‘counterterrorism’ and ‘state secrets’.”

Soft Repression in China and America

“Soft Repression” By Cynthia McKinney

http://www.countercurrents.org/mckinney071012.htm
“Soft Repression”
By Cynthia McKinney
07 October, 2012
Countercurrents.org
This weekend, anti-war protests are taking place all over the world. I do believe that the position of the vast majority of the world’s people is one that is utterly tired of a hungry war machine ignited by gangster bankers concomitantly devouring the money resources of the world’s people. There is a growing awareness of exactly where the problem lies: it is not in the millions of working people who struggle every month just to make ends meet; it is not in the immigrant fleeing the intentional destabilization of her homeland; it is not in the descendants of Africans imported from Africa for enslavement; it is not in the right-wing White person misled to believe that individuals from the foregoing groups are his enemy; it is not in the group of people who pray to Allah; it is not in the people on the street this weekend demanding peace and an end to war. It is clear that those who helped construct this current society and now preside over it are also the ones who benefit from having things as they are today. Increasingly, more and more of us are paying an even higher price for them to continue their privilege because enough is never enough for them. Real change, then, requires not only changes in the names, color, ethnicities, languages spoken, religion, or gender of those who preside over the current political state of affairs. Real change requires dismantling the current political, economic, and social structures that serve only the interests of an elite to whom current elected office holders answer. In short, the kind of change that people thought they were voting for in 2008. I have consistently drawn attention to the need for this kind of deep, structural change. Therefore, this Open Letter addresses what is happening to me as I challenge a system that no longer serves the interests of the people and push for the kind of change that will really make a difference.
As I write this, I note the irony that I am currently conducting research in order to write a paper on the violent repression carried out by individuals acting on behalf of the United States government against certain political actors of the 1960s and early 1970s. It was during this research that I came across the notion of “soft repression” and immediately recognized myself in what I was reading. I said to myself as I read, “Hey, that’s me.” So, I decided to write this Open Letter in order to blow the cover off a secret that I have walked with for years.
“Soft repression” tactics include ridicule, stigma, and silencing. I have experienced and continue to experience each one of these types of targeting. I routinely receive hate mail and withstand very active organized attempts to ridicule, stigmatize, and eventually silence me. I routinely experience strange occurrences with my computer (typing by itself) and telephone (answered by someone before it even rings on my end), and more. Strange things happen to my friends and to the friends of my friends (like police stops for nothing, and worse, calls to remote immigrant acquaintances asking for information about me).
Not too long ago, I received a call from a lawyer with the ACLU who tracks politically-inspired civil liberties violations and he told me that my name came up in a Texas Fusion Center of the Department of Homeland Security document as someone, associating with former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and traveling to Lebanon with him, who should be surveilled for any attempts engaged in by me to push Sharia law for the U.S. It’s ludicrous, I know. It’s even more ludicrous that U.S. tax dollars are being spent to surveil people for this stupidity. But there it is.
More recently, Congresswoman Maxine Waters courageously asked the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Robert Mueller, at a Congressional Hearing if the FBI was surveilling me because she had documents that suggested that due to my political beliefs and inflammatory words uttered by others after my 2006 campaign election theft that placed blame for the unfortunate election results on Jewish Israel partisans inside the U.S.
I have been stalked (unfortunately, the prosecution occurred under a false identity as a Muslim Pakistani) and thank goodness to local authorities, the perpetrator spent time in jail until his high-priced lawyer bailed him out, and the individual with the false identity was convicted of stalking. Upon my return to the U.S. from Cape Town, South Africa at which the Russell Tribunal found that Israel practices its own unique form of apartheid, I was notified by my local FBI office that I was the subject of a terroristic threat, along with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama, by some poor hillbillies from the north Georgia mountains. The FBI offered to protect me from any other hillbillies who might get funny ideas.
Well, I’ve been through this before with the FBI, when a journalist called for my lynching on my way to vote. My alarmed
Congressional staff alerted the FBI–only for us all to learn, years later, that this particular “journalist” was on the FBI payroll at the time that he made those reprehensible remarks.
I have lived with this “soft repression” since, as a Member of Congress-elect in 1992, I refused to sign the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) pledge of support for Israel. I will begin to document and make public what has heretofore been covert activity carried out by bullies who pick on the weak. The members of my inner circle and I are extremely weak compared to the power and resources of those orchestrating and carrying out this “soft repression.”
What could they possibly be afraid of?
I will answer my own question: values whose time has come—truth, justice, peace, and dignity. Not only for the elite few, but also for the rest of us: everybody’s truth and everybody’s dignity.
I am honored to serve as a juror on the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. I am honored to serve with Angela Davis and Alice Walker and Dennis Means as the U.S. contingent of jurors here in New York City. Davis, Walker, and Means are giants in U.S. activism, demonstrating self-sacrifice, dignity, and great love for community. I have been with this Tribunal from its opening Session in Barcelona, where I was the only U.S. member. At these New York Sessions so far, we have spoken of colonialism, oppression, murder, and war with impunity. Therefore, I in no way want to equate the unusual events occurring around me with the violence of the situation faced by Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, the particular focus of this Tribunal. I seek merely to expose covert actions directed at me, and people close to me, that constitute bullying and soft repression that would otherwise go unnoted and whose purpose I surmise is to punish me for my values and political beliefs that favor justice and peace, and, most probably, to dissuade me from future political activities.
Their plan will not work. I believe in hearing everyone’s truths, especially from those whose voices have been shut down. I believe that we can only achieve justice when we are willing to face everyone’s truths. I believe that peace is achievable when justice is prevalent. And I believe that human and planetary dignity will exist during such time as we all live together in peace. My work, every day, is to advance this cause in the best way that I know, using the tools at my disposal at this time.
I have already received some requests for these documents that have been made available to me; I will make them available to anyone who asks.
Cynthia Ann McKinney is a former US Congresswoman and a member of the Green Party since 2007. As a member of the Democratic Party, she served six terms as a member of the United States House of Representatives. In 2008, the Green Party nominated McKinney for President of the United States. She is the first African-American woman to have represented Georgia in the House.

Are You Happy?

Chinese Blogger:
[If some stupid reporter asks if I am happy] I say: there are more than 200 countries in this world, about 20 of them have to pay fully for their own medical expenses, about 4 of them have Internet blocks, about 3 of them have household registration systems, about 2 of them have mandatory political education, 1 of them has their education industrialized, 1 of them has a compulsory one-child policy, 1 of them has their country’s destiny decided for some foreigners’ dads and mums.
Only 1 country has all the above features! 20% of the world population feeding 50% of the civil servants in this world. Are you happy?

Corrupt Chinese Officials?

Corrupt Chinese Officials?

Corrupt Chinese Officials?

You may have noticed that China is accused of having corrupt officials whenever one of them is prosecuted. Meanwhile, our own officials – including 100% of our elected officials who accept ‘campaign contributions’ – are presumed to be honest. Some day it would be amusing to support the proposition that China has the most honest national officials of any large country on earth. And, furthermore, that it is their honesty that accounts for China’s extraordinary progress, popular support, and trust.

Over 660,000 Officials Punished
BEIJING, Oct. 8 (Xinhua) – Anti-corruption bodies of the Communist Party of China (CPC) have punished more than 660,000 officials guilty of disciplinary violations in the past five years, senior leader He Guoqiang announced on Monday.
More than 24,000 officials were transferred to the judicial system for suspected crimes, said He, head of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.
Procuratorial and discipline inspection authorities across the country investigated more than 640,000 corruption cases from November 2007 to June this year. More than 630,000 of the cases have been resolved, according to He.
A series of major cases, including those involving former Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai, former Railways Minister Liu Zhijun and former Shenzhen mayor Xu Zongheng, were relentlessly pursued, said He.
Investigating corruption cases is a long-term task in the process of building a clean government, said the head of the commission.
He urged institutions to put the “handling of disciplinary violation cases” at the top of the agenda and to always crackdown on corruption.
The corrupt ones, no matter who are involved, will be relentlessly followed and will never be given a chance of escaping punishment in accordance with Party discipline and the law, He said.
The head of the commission noted that improvements have been made in the way various departments cooperate to prevent corrupt officials fleeing to foreign countries and to strengthen overseas arrest.
He also urged anti-corruption authorities to learn and grasp the effective measures in the past five years to promote the combat against corruption and to build a clean party and government.

Chinese Cheating on Their Statistics?

Chinese Cheating on Their Statistics?

Q: I am curious on how reliable the statistical sources provided by the Chinese authorities are and how an investor in emerging markets should best interpret the data. Lukas – Canada

Mark Mobius: From my experience, statistics in China can be just as reliable as statistics you can get in Canada or the U.S. China is a big country and the authorities need reliable data just like any government around the world. I believe the days are gone when the government deliberately wanted to manipulate the data for propaganda purposes. But even if you don’t believe the statistics, there are many ways to confirm and double-check. For example, we recently checked the export statistics of Brazil, Australia, the U.S., Germany and other countries in relation to China. Those numbers pretty much reflected the high growth and demand that we were seeing from the Chinese statistics. It’s always important to check and double-check statistics, because, even without manipulation, there can be statistical errors which creep into data, no matter what the source. Read more…

China is run by 8 engineers with help from 80 million Party members and 1.3 billion Chinese people. If you know an engineer you know how painfully honest they are about figures. And China’s leaders have no reason to lie since they’re not worried about being elected. In the USA, on the other hand,

things are different, as this post from the excellent blog, Econospeak, makes clear:

Words to Hide the Obvious in Economics
Posted: 18 Jul 2012 07:26 AM PDT
One way to reveal the history of the changes in the economic landscape is to study how official meanings to key concepts have been altered over time.  “Knowing things that ain’t so”, as Josh Billings once said, presents much more trouble for folks as their simply being “ignorant”.   Here are some words that I believe present great danger to the reader in their ability to hide the ‘obvious':

  •  Oil (2007 and after) “… the definition of “oil” was changed in 2007 to include synthetic liquids.[*]…” [1] [Not to confuse ‘oil’ with ‘energy’] “…there are at least 3 factors that are ignored in the total liquids graphs …. One – NGL’s and ethanol have only 70% the energy that crude contains. Two – the EROEI of all liquids is dropping – fracking and deep water drilling, just to name two, require much greater inputs per unit of return than does conventional on-shore. Three – the population continues to grow, so per capita available net energy is what matters. And as a corollary to that, the portion of the global population that is reliant upon and has lifestyle expectations based on readily available liquid energy grows every year, so the call on the decreasing net available energy grows even more rapidly than does population itself. Only a graph that takes into account energy density, net energy and population can accurately paint a picture of the global liquid fuel situation.” [2]
  •  Retirement age: In the United States, while the normal retirement age for Social Security, or Old Age Survivors Insurance (OASI), historically has been age 65 to receive unreduced benefits, it is gradually increasing to age 67. For those turning 65 in 2008, full benefits will be payable beginning at age 66.[**] In France, the retirement age has been extended to 62 and 67 respectively, over the next eight years.[***]  In Spain, the retirement age will be extended to 63 and 67 respectively, this increase will be progressively done from 2013 to 2027 at a rate of 1 month during the first 6 years and 2 months during the other 9.[****]  [3] [**]  Normal Retirement Age [NRA] http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/ProgData/nra.html  [***]  “Pension rallies hit French cities”. BBC News. September 7, 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11204528 [****]  “Spain to Raise Retirement Age to 67″. The New York Times. January 27, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/world/europe/28iht-spain28.html
  •  Inflation: “The government used the same calculation for the CPI from 1913 to 1980.  In 1980, after seeing hyperinflation in late 1970s, the government changed the calculation and dropped food and energy from the Core Inflation Index While the U.S. government repeatedly states that we currently [2011] have about 1% inflation, by using the older pre-1980 government calculation of inflation, we find that the true inflation rate is closer to 10.7% as of May 2011 based on the SGS “Alternate CPI” calculation from shadowstats.com. [4]
  •  Unemployment…estimated long-term discouraged workers… were defined out of official existence in 1994 [in the US]. Short term discouraged workers are not included in the US ‘monthly headline number’ (U3) but only in the government’s broadest measure of UE at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (U6). [5] “Employed Person” US term for an individual 16 years old or older who, in a given week, (a) works minimum one hour for an emolument or minimum 15 hours of unpaid work in a family business, or (b) who is not working but has a job or business from which he or she is temporarily absent, whether or not being paid for the time off. [6]
  • Capitalism (1955) capitalism, n. …. the concentration of capital in the hands of a few, or the resulting power or influence…… a system favoring such concentration of wealth.[7] “Capitalism” (1941) “…An economic system in which capital and capitalists play the principal part; specif., the system of modern countries in which the ownership of land and natural wealth, the operation of the system itself, are effected by private enterprise and control under competitive conditions.” [8]  READ MORE, AND SEE REFERENCES for this article
As always, your comments are welcome and encouraged. Issues like this need more than just one opinion. And do feel free to add links to useful sources and stories!

More on Chinese Statistics:

Xinhua Insight: China advances reforms for data accuracy – Xinhua | English.news.cn – interesting, long article on changes to data collection, quite forthright about the problems with the accuracy of official statistics// BEIJING, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) — Nearly 10 months after bypassing local governments to collect data directly from enterprises, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has moved to build backup repositories for deep data analysis and processing. With one disaster recovery system going into operation at the NBS office this month, the NBS will soon install another backup repository to ensure both data safety and deep analysis in the event of disasters. The two systems, along with the National Data Center, which went into service in February to collect data directly from 700,000 enterprises, mark a milestone reform in China’s statistical methodology

China Cheating on US Trade Deficit?

China Cheating on US Trade Deficit?

WHOSE BOXES?

According to figures released by the US Census, the overwhelming majority of the U.S. $727 billion trade deficit in goods for 2011 is due to “intra-firm” or “related party” trade: trade between two units of the same corporation.

This suggests that China is innocent of the many accusations of unfair trade and currency manipulation made against it.

Moreover, most companies manipulate the prices between their subsidiaries to minimize tax liabilities, (known as “abusive transfer pricing”) which is why America’s Fortune 500 companies pay an average of 9% on their incomes.

Here’s a summary of U.S. goods trade and related party trade with the world and selected countries, 2011. Billions of $$:

Country         Exports from US      Imports to US         Balance

World            $1480.4                   $2707.8                 – $727.4
Canada          $  280.9                   $  315.3                 –     34.5
Ireland           $     7.6                    $    39.4                 – $  31.7
Mexico          $ 196.4                    $  262.9                 – $  64.5

“Related party trade” is 27.6% of goods trade, but 95.0% of the trade deficit. And in countries where the U.S. has heavy foreign direct investment, like Canada, Ireland, and Mexico, the trade deficit for intra-firm trade is actually higher than the country’s overall trade deficit!

Overall, this suggests that most of the U.S. trade deficit is due to U.S. corporations offshoring production and exporting the products back home. And, of course, tax-dodging at the same time. For a serious discussion of this issue, look at the excellent blog, Middle-Class Political Economist.

As always, your comments are welcome and encouraged. Issues like this need more than just one opinion. And do feel free to add links to useful sources and stories!

China Cheating on Intellectual Property?

Intellectual Property

After the American Revolution Americans copied British intellectual property–including copyrighted materials–shamelessly, much to the indignation of the Brits. After World War II Japan copied American goods and we complained bitterly about Japanese patent infringement.  For many years it was said that the Japanese were good at copying things but not inventing them.

Recently, we’ve heard similar complaints about the Chinese–for whom the whole idea of “intellectual property” is a completely new idea.  Considering that China invented most of the basic devices that we use today, we should have waited a little longer before complaining. What a difference a few years have made, as the stories below demonstrate.

It has also been an article of faith in the West that either Capitalism or “democracy” (or both) are essential prerequisites for innovation. Then China started inventing things again–after 200 years of Western invasion and civil strife–so new excuses must be invented.  Even the squabbles (and myths) about intellectual property are gradually passing into history. One of the leading foreign law firms recently ran this article in The China Law Blog:

Doing Business In China. Chamber of Commerce Survey Says:  It’s Not Such A Bad Thing.

By Dan Harris on May 8th, 2012

Finally getting around to reading AmCham’s 2012 China Business Climate Survey Report and the news/numbers are actually pretty good.  The numbers are not as good as last year’s, but considering the overall global economic situation, they are still quite good.  Some highlights: 92% of respondents forecast that their China 2012 revenues will either stay the same or surpass their 2011 revenues.  76% forecast they will increase.

39% report that their operating margins in China exceed their worldwide margins and an additional 29% report that they are “comparable.”
66% report that their primary goals and strategies for China are to “produce goods or services in China for the China market.”  This number is up 8% from 2010.
63% of those respondents who brought an IP infringement action in a Chinese court were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with “the level of cooperation from the Chinese courts.”

 

 
And you probably remember this headline:
A Chinese scientific research center has built the fastest supercomputer ever made, replacing the United States as maker of the swiftest machine, and giving China bragging rights as a technology superpower. Although the official list of the top 500 fastest machines, which comes out every six months, is not due to be completed by Mr. Dongarra until next week, he said the Chinese computer “blows away the existing No. 1 machine.” He added, “We don’t close the books until Nov. 1, but I would say it is unlikely we will see a system that is faster.” The race to build the fastest supercomputer has become a source of national pride as these machines are valued for their ability to solve problems critical to national interests in areas like defense, energy, finance and science… And typically, research centers with large supercomputers are magnets for top scientific talent, adding significance to the presence of the machines well beyond just cranking through calculations. [This was accomplished using off-the-shelf components and an extremely innovative Chinse backplane].

And this one?

HIGH-SPEED TRAIN
PARTS FOR GERMANY

Big high-speed train parts wait for shipment at a port in Tianjin yesterday. This was the first batch of big high-speed train parts China CNR Corp made for Siemens. It is China’s first export of such components to Europe. The combined value of components China CNR will supply to Siemens this year will total 11.55 million euros (US$14.35 million).

And this (amazing) one?
A Chinese is employed by Bosch to spy on a British technology company?!!!
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2222536/Bosch-sent-mole-British-rival-Dyson-steal-details-revolutionary-digital-motors.html

China Poised to Lead World in Patent Filings

By DAVID BARBOZA SHANGHAI — Having passed Germany (exports), Japan (gross domestic product) and the United States (auto sales) over the past year, China is now poised to lead the world in yet another category: patent application filings. A new study released this week by Thomson Reuters says that by 2011 China will most likely pass the United States and Japan in new patent applications.(NYT)

Or this one?:

China’s Huawei Seeks Most 2008 International Patents

Jan 27 (Reuters) – Huawei Technologies [HWT.UL], China’s largest telecoms equipment maker, was the world’s top international patent seeker last year, a United Nations agency said on Tuesday. It was the first time a Chinese company topped the list of applicants for World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) patent protection, which the Netherlands’ Philips Electronics (PHG.AS) had dominated for about a decade.

Or this?:

 

The Economist’s Innovation Awards Recognise Huawei

 

(Friday, Oct 22, 2010) 46% of Huawei’s 95,000 staff are engaged in R&D activities. Huawei is respected for the quality and innovation of its products: it topped the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s 2008 rankings for international patent applications, and was placed second in the 2009 rankings. Commenting on the award decision, Tom Standage, Digital Editor at The Economist said, “Huawei is the firm that is overturning the widely held preconception that Chinese companies are merely imitators rather than innovators.”

Or this, from MIT’s Technology Review?:

The ability to teleport photons through 100 kilometres of free space opens the way for satellite-based quantum communications, say researchers
Or this, from Rice University?

Chinese Researchers Power Line-Voltage Light Bulb With Nanotube Wire

ScienceDaily (Sep. 7, 2011) — Cables made of carbon nanotubes are inching toward electrical conductivities seen in metal wires, and that may light up interest among a range of industries, according to Rice University researchers.
A Rice lab made such a cable from double-walled carbon nanotubes and powered a fluorescent light bulb at standard line voltage — a true test of the novel material’s ability to stake a claim in energy systems of the future.
The work appears this week in the Nature journalScientific Reports.
Highly conductive nanotube-based cables could be just as efficient as traditional metals at a sixth of the weight, said Enrique Barrera, a Rice professor of mechanical engineering and materials science. They may find wide use first in applications where weight is a critical factor, such as airplanes and automobiles, and in the future could even replace traditional wiring in homes.
The cables developed in the study are spun from pristine nanotubes and can be tied together without losing their conductivity. To increase conductivity of the cables, the team doped them with iodine and the cables remained stable. The conductivity-to-weight ratio (called specific conductivity) beats metals, including copper and silver, and is second only to the metal with highest specific conductivity, sodium.
Yao Zhao, who recently defended his dissertation toward his doctorate at Rice, is the new paper’s lead author. He built the demo rig that let him toggle power through the nanocable and replace conventional copper wire in the light-bulb circuit.
Zhao left the bulb burning for days on end, with no sign of degradation in the nanotube cable. He’s also reasonably sure the cable is mechanically robust; tests showed the nanocable to be just as strong and tough as metals it would replace, and it worked in a wide range of temperatures. Zhao also found that tying two pieces of the cable together did not hinder their ability to conduct electricity.
The few centimeters of cable demonstrated in the present study seems short, but spinning billions of nanotubes (supplied by research partner Tsinghua University) into a cable at all is quite a feat, Barrera said. The chemical processes used to grow and then align nanotubes will ultimately be part of a larger process that begins with raw materials and ends with a steady stream of nanocable, he said. The next stage would be to make longer, thicker cables that carry higher current while keeping the wire lightweight. “We really want to go better than what copper or other metals can offer overall,” he said.
The paper’s co-authors are Tsinghua researcher Jinquan Wei, who spent a year at Rice partly supported by the Armchair Quantum Wire Project of Rice University’s Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology; Robert Vajtai, a Rice faculty fellow in mechanical engineering and materials science; and Pulickel Ajayan, the Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and professor of chemistry and chemical and biomolecular engineering.
The Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America, the Department of Energy and Air Force Research Laboratory supported the project.

My point being that China has only just begun to stir. We can expect much, much more from the old dragon who, like Rip van Winkle, has been asleep for two centuries…

China And Japan in the South Seas

Deconstructing Japan’s Claim of Sovereignty over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands

The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 53, No. 1, December 31, 2012.

Ivy Lee and Fang Ming

“The near universal conviction in Japan with which the islands today are declared an ’integral part of Japan’s territory‘ is remarkable for its disingenuousness. These are islands unknown in Japan till the late 19th century (when they were identified from British naval references), not declared Japanese till 1895, not named till 1900, and that name not revealed publicly until 1950.” Gavan McCormack (2011)1

Abstract

In this recent flare-up of the island dispute after Japan “purchased” three of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, Japan reiterates its position that “the Senkaku Islands are an inherent part of the territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based upon international law.”  This article evaluates Japan’s claims as expressed in the “Basic View on the Sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands” published on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan.  These claims are:  the Senkaku/Diaoyu island group was terra nullius which Japan occupied by Cabinet Decision in 1895;  China did not, per China’s contention, cede the islands in the Shimonoseki Treaty; Japan was not required to renounce them as war booty by the San Francisco Peace Treaty; and accordingly Japan’s sovereignty over these islands is affirmed under said Treaty.  Yet a careful dissection of Japan’s claims shows them to have dubious legal standing.  Pertinent cases of adjudicated international territorial disputes are examined next to determine whether Japan’s claims have stronger support from case law.  Although the International Court of Justice has shown effective control to be determinative in a number of its rulings, a close scrutiny of Japan’s effective possession/control reveals it to have little resemblance to the effective possession/control in other adjudicated cases.  As international law on territorial disputes, in theory and in practice, does not provide a sound basis for its claim of sovereignty over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, Japan will hopefully set aside its putative legal rights and, for the sake of peace and security in the region, start working with China toward a negotiated and mutually acceptable settlement.

I Introduction

A cluster of five uninhabited islets and three rocky outcroppings lies on the edge of the East China Sea’s continental shelf bordering the Okinawa Trough, extending from 25̊ 40’ to 26̊ 00’ of the North latitude and 123̊ 25’ to 123̊ 45’ of the East longitude,2 roughly equidistant from Taiwan and the Yaeyama Retto.  Both Japan and China lay claim to this island group.  Known as the Senkakus, or Senkaku Retto, Japan claims the islands are “clearly an inherent territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based upon international law.”3  Rich in fishing stock and the traditional fishing grounds of Chinese fishermen, China has called the islands Diaoyutai,4 meaning “fishing platform,” or Diaoyu Dao, meaning fishing islands, since their discovery in the 14th century. Read more…

China And Japan in the South Seas

China And Japan in the South Seas Have you wondered why you haven’t seen a map of those pesky islands in the South China Seas? The ones that Japan is claiming?

Take a look at the map on the right. The red dot is the Diayoyu or Senkaku Islands. The yellow area is the Shirakaba/Chunxiao gas field, of which Japan claims half.

Without knowing any history, doesn’t it look like those are China’s?

Once you know the history, you’ll see that there’s really no serious argument, historically or legally, about ownership.

But since we’ve never even seen a map amidst all the press coverage, most folks will think what they’re supposed to thing: that China is “sabre-rattling” and being “aggressive”.

There’s a good article from a very good website, The Oil Drum, about why the two countries are squabbling. Here’s a taste:

“The recent post on Chinese claims to territory in the China Sea mentioned the rush to plant flags on different islands in the South China Sea portion as a sign of the ongoing nature of the disputes that continue to develop in the region. That status has continued with protests this last weekend in China over Japanese flag-wavingover an island in the East China Sea. The islands are called Diaoyu or Senkaku, depending on whether the report is Chinese or Japanese. 

CNOOC, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, and the company designated to handle their offshore deals, has been producing oil and natural gas from the field since at least March of 2011Back then:

“China has complete sovereignty over the Chunxiao oil and gas field and administrative authority,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters at a regular news briefing.

The gas field is 7 minutes flying time for the new Chinese air base at Shuimen.

CNOOC has just released their Mid-year Review noting that they are on track to produce between 330 and 340 million barrels of oil equivalent (mboe) this year. They have 10 new discoveries and 18 successful appraisal wells, and have signed an agreement to co-operatively develop coalbed methane onshore in China. (Their realized gas price is $5.90/kcf, up from $4.92 over the same period last year.) However, they are running about 4.6% down in production y-o-y, which they blame partly on the production outage at the Penglai 19-3 oilfield, in Bohai Bay, due to the oil spill last year. The shut-down reduced overall company production by 40,000 bd, from a field which has been producing atsome 160 kbd.

The field, the largest offshore discovery in China is run in partnership with ConocoPhillips, came on line in 2002 and was the site of another small spill this June. Production at Penglai 19-3 was restarted in March, with the intention of ramping up to close to the original flow volumes.

Read more at The Oil Drum…

Inland Growth

Inland Growth

According to an Economist Intelligence Unit survey, which incorporates data from the National Bureau of Statistics, growth in Beijing last year was just 8.1 percent, Shanghai 8.2 percent and in Guangzhou, a key center for China’s exports, although holding up at 11 percent, was down from the 2010 level of 13.2 percent.

By contrast, the inner and western regions are motoring ahead. Growth in Chongqing, the huge metropolis in the west of China, was 16.4 percent, Sichuan 15 percent, Yunnan province in Southwest China 13.7 percent and Changsha, the capital of the central province of Hunan, 14.5 percent.

Liu Qian, deputy director of the China Forecasting Service at the Economist Intelligence Unit in Beijing, says the faster growth in part reflects that many companies are relocating there.

“With wages increasing in many of the coastal provinces, manufacturing companies have been looking for alternative locations and have been particularly attracted to some of the inland provinces. Not only are wages cheaper there but also many of them have pretty good universities,” she says.

“An additional advantage for provinces like Hunan, Henan and Anhui, for example, is that they are not very far away from the coast. So with improving infrastructure, it is relatively easier to ship goods out.”

A report by Boston Consulting Group, Big Prizes in Small Places, China’s Rapidly Multiplying Pockets of Growth, highlights the business potential of China’s inner regions.

It forecasts the number of middle class and affluent consumers in China that will come from third-tier cities, which predominate in these areas, will more than treble from 27 million households in 2010 to 92 million in 2020.

Waldemar Jap, partner and managing director of BCG, based in Hong Kong, says there is a tendency to see people from inner China as peasants with little spending power.

“Many of them are, in fact, relatively rich since these areas have relatively high per capita incomes. It has to be remembered that many of these inner provinces are not that far from the coastal provinces,” he says.

“What we are telling our clients is that they are going to be a battlefield and a very significant growth driver over the next five years. In some ways they hold the key to the billion consumer market that everyone has been talking about for years.”

A major question is for how long the marked disparity in growth between the coastal and developing inland regions will continue.

“I think it is quite likely to continue for 10 years or so,” says Liu at the EIU.

Feeding China: Some Very Good News

Feeding China: Some Very Good News

Farmer-friendly policies enable China to feed itself
nglish.news.cn   2012-08-29 21:48:08
NANCHANG, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) — Wang Shixue still remembers the days when the taxes he paid on his half acre of land amounted to more than his earnings from it.
“In 1999, I got 1,250 yuan (197 U.S. dollars) from farming but had to pay 1,500 yuan in 13 kinds of tax to the government, including agriculture tax, animal slaughter tax and education tax,” says Wang, 40, a farmer in Yuandu Town, Fengcheng City of east China’s Jiangxi Province.
Unable to bear the taxes, many farmers gave up the trade and let their land become barren, which led Chinese grain output to drop from 500 billion kg in 1998 to 430.7 billion kg in 2003.
“Who Will Feed China?,” a book published by American environmental analyst Lester Brown in 1995, continues to focus the world’s attention on Chinese food safety and the impact of low agricultural production not only on China’s own population but on the world’s. The situation in the years immediately following its publication went some way to justifying Brown’s fears.
Today, however, China has emphatically calmed the panic through a series of corrective government policies. Wang’s annual earnings from his 2011 harvest stood at 200,000 yuan, as the government’s purchasing price for grain grew from 70 yuan per 50 kg in 2004 to 120 yuan per 50 kg in 2012.
This summer, China has seen a bumper harvest in wheat and rice, marking year-on-year increases of 8.4 million tonnes and 9 million tonnes, respectively, in the country’s summer grain purchasing, according to Nie Zhenbang, former head of China’s State Administration of Grain.
It has been a long road to this point for Wang and the people of Yuandu. To voice their anger at tax burdens, a group of villagers attacked the Yuandu Town government compound in August 1999, a key moment in giving a warning to the policy makers.
“This event directly prompted the tax reform in Chinese rural areas,” according to Chen Yongqiang, a researcher with the Jiangxi Provincial Rural Reform Leading Group Office.
China started a process of rural tax reduction in 2001 and completely abolished all rural taxes in 2006, ending its 2,600-year history of taxation on farmers.
After leaving the land to his elderly parents, Wang Shixue worked as a carpenter in the city to support his three children.
As taxes eased, he senses the business oppotunities beneath the land. In 2003, dozens of villagers, still resigned to their agricultural land not being profitable, signed agreements with Wang allowing him to grow crops on 23 acres of fields for free.
One had to pay 90 yuan for one mu (0.16 acres) of land as tax at that point. However, Wang, despite paying a total of 13,000 yuan in tax in 2003, made 8,000 yuan as profit, the first gain from farming in his lifetime.
His profits have grown steadily as China’s government began to give subsidies on farming in 2004 and set up a minimum purchasing price for grain.
Wang received about 3,000 yuan as subsidies in 2004. The sum grew to 30,000 yuan in 2011. Not only does he benefit from subsidies on seeds and other conventional farming fundamentals, but also subsidies when buying motorcycles.
“In 1999, a million farmers in Fengcheng City paid 240 million yuan in taxes,” points out Wang Shangping, head of the city government’s financial bureau. “In 2011, they received subsidies of 175 million yuan.”
China invested 4 trillion yuan in rural sectors from 2006 and 2011. Subsidies on grain production, seeds, agricultural machinery purchases and agricultural materials grew from 30.95 billion yuan in 2006 to 140.6 billion yuan in 2011.
To expand his business, Wang rented another 40 mu (6.6 acres) of land in 2011 at an annual price of 230 yuan per mu. He reaped 75,000 kg of rice in the first half this year and sold it for 210,000 yuan.
Looking to the future, he has invested more than 50,000 yuan this year to build water channels. The succesful farmer still wants to add to his rented land but it is getting increasingly difficult as more people are joining him in considering farming a viable business now.
As Chinese have become keener to farm, China embraced an eighth consecutive year of grain production growth last year, with an output of 571.2 billion kg.
The annual per capita income of Chinese farmers has also increased from 2,662 yuan to 6,977 yuan in 2011.
Experts say China has been maintaining a self-sufficient grain strategy and over 95 percent of rice and wheat has been produced domestically during recent years, which has helped the country resist the influence of global fluctuations.
“The consecutive grain output increases brought by the preferential policies and successfully coping with the 2007-2008 global food crisis have proved that the Chinese people are able to feed themselves,” says Li Guoxiang, a researcher with the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Social Science Academy.