Friday, December 29

EU has its own Serious Environmental Problem. (Killing Fish)

The EU is all big and demanding when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. After all, they have signed the Kyoto Protocol and the US has not. Never mind that many EU nations are failing to meet their Kyoto limits. As far as they are concerned, the EU is simply a better steward of the planet than the United States is.

Unless of course if your a fish.
EU ministers are meeting to set fishing quotas for 2007 amid renewed calls for a total ban on catching cod. The European Commission has recommended a 25% cut in cod and North Sea herring catches, lower plaice and sole quotas, and a six-month ban on anchovy fishing.

Scientists warned earlier this year that only a total ban on cod fishing would enable stocks to recover.

Environmentalists have urged ministers to listen to the warnings and "change course" on fisheries policies. - BBC
Here we have the EU, solely responsible for dealing with an internal environmental problem. There is nobody else to blame for failing to solving this problem. No need to deal with the UN or even to negotiate with the United States. So, this should be easy to solve.

Then again, there is going to be a harmed party, the fishermen, and they will fight to protect their livelihood, even if it may result in the long-term death of their industry.

However, European Commission spokeswoman Mireille Thom told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that it was also important to consider the fishing industry.

"Obviously ending fishing... on cod would be most likely to give results, but we don't live in an ideal world," she said.

"We have a fishing industry in Europe and the EU is committed to ensuring the future of that industry and therefore the approach that has been chosen so far is a gradual approach, trying to balance the need to protect and rebuild the cod stocks and allow a degree of activity for the fishing fleet." - BBC

So in an ideal word, fishing would be stopped in order to allow all of the remaining fish an opportunity to breed and increase the population of the species back to a level that would permit sustainable fishing.

This would kill the fishing industry now, which is not acceptable to member EU States. In an ideal world, the fishermen would be compensated for their loss by some sort of payment or subsidy but this is the European Union, which would not give away money like that. (They need to save all the money for farm subsidies.) Instead, they will make some token gestures simply because the current situation requires that they do something and hope that their inaction will somehow be rewarded and prevent the death of the fishing industry, with the death of the fishing grounds.

So, what about that recommendation to cut cod fishing by 25%. How do you think that went over?

UK Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw has called the commission's recommendations for a 25% cut "drastic", adding that he did not believe any European states would support the proposal.

Ross Finnie, Scotland's fisheries minister, added: "We have trimmed back so much, you get to a point where if you go too far you simply plunge the fleet into a non-viable position." - BBC

Here you have scientists calling for a full ban on cod fishing and the Government suggesting a reduction of only 25% without even explaining how they got to that number or even if that reduction would result in saving the fisheries. No matter, as the Fisheries Minister declares that EU Governments would never accept a partial reduction despite the scientific evidence that a total ban is required.

So what was the end result? A joke:

An opportunity to spare the endangered cod was squandered by EU fisheries ministers yesterday after a tactical blunder by Joe Borg, the fisheries commissioner.

Instead of setting a zero quota for cod, as scientists urged because of the risk of stock collapse, fisheries ministers decided to cut North Sea cod catches by 14 per cent, from 23,205 tons to 19,957 tons, at their annual talks in Brussels.

The most heated part of the discussions were about restrictions on days at sea — which experts say are the most effective way of controlling fishing effort – for whitefish boats and the small-mesh prawn fleet which kills cod as a "by-catch".

Ministers were astonished to find when they got to Brussels that Mr Borg had concluded a side-deal with the Netherlands, allowing the Dutch beam-trawl fleet a reduction of only eight per cent in its days at sea. Other ministers promptly demanded the same concession for their fleets — whatever they catch. (Comment: Of course they did. I am surprised that they didn't give cod fishing fleets MORE time at sea, because it is now harder to catch cod.)

Ministers then agreed to cut the days at sea for the cod fleet by between seven and 10 per cent, rather than the 15 per cent that Britain and some other member states had been prepared for.

A source close to the discussions said: "We were gobsmacked when we realized Borg had offered the Dutch this deal. They are the worst on by-catch of other species and on killing undersized plaice." - Telegraph, UK

EU Governments are quick to quote scientists when it comes to global warming, but why do they turn their backs on scientists demanding action in their own backyard. What good is it to beat back global warming only to live on a planet with no fish? Even stranger is that there are great examples in the US of how properly managed fisheries can thrive. (See "fishery management us" - Google Search) Maybe the cod would benefit from a little global warming. If melting waters rise sea levels, then perhaps cod would have more area in which to hide.

Tax the Fish
One approach to protect the cod was not mentioned in any of the discussions. That would be to put a high tax on cod fish. Somewhat along the lines of how the EU is discussing the taxing of products to cover the true global warming 'cost' to the environment. How much would the demand for cod be if it cost the end consumer 13 British pounds/19 Euros/$25 dollars a pound.

Ministers haggle over fish quotas - BBC
Endangered cod falls victim to EU blunder -

Monday, December 25

Maritime Monday 39

On behalf of Fred, welcome to this Christmas Edition of Maritime Monday.

For those who work on merchant ships, every day is a work day. Every day of the week for the entire time that they are signed onboard the ship, regards of what holidays may come and what religion the crew may observe.

This Weeks Photo:
Here is a picture of one of the Beluga Whales at the Coney Island Aquarium. There were about 15 people at the window, but this whale only took interest in me and followed me as I went from one side of the window to the other, while ignoring everyone else there. Everyone thought it was pretty amusing, but me. - Fred

Enjoy ship pictures? Do you take pictures of ships? Well then, is a site for you.

This Weeks Items:

Eagle Speak has the story of some of Santa's helpers who participate in 'Christmas Drop' the longest running humanitarian airdrop which reaches out to isolated islands in the Pacific.

Linkmeister has the importation of Christmas Trees to Hawaii. No shortage this year, but apparently some had a hard time finding a tree stand. It's just something that you have to adjust to when living on an island where most everything arrives by ship.

National Public Radio has a story on Seaman's Church and their efforts to deliver Christmas packages to sailors around the world. Visit Seaman's Church site here and investigate how you can put a smile on a seafarer's face next Christmas through the Christmas at Sea Program. Even easier if you can knit! As a seafarer who was a recipient of one of those gifts while spending Christmas in the North Atlantic on the GALVESTON BAY, I know how much I appreciated it!

Helsingin Sanomat has important revelations concerning the 1994 sinking of the ferry M/S ESTONIA in the Gulf of Finland. The story also links to their previous coverage of the controversy surrounding the sinking. (While not being one to give any credibility to conspiracy theories, there are indeed serious problems with the official report on the sinking as well as some serious questions concerning the Government of Sweden's behavior during the aftermath.)

Marex Newsletter has the agreement between Suez LNG NA LLC and MARAD, the US Maritime Administration, to allow for the employment of US Licensed seafarers on Suez's Norwegian and Spanish flagged LNG Carriers. (This is important as there are no US-Flagged LNG Carriers and officers serving on LNG carriers must have LNG experience.)

Sailors, Mariners & Warriors League has coverage of the Russian Flag KAPITAN KAMRATOV, which is stuck in ice after rescuing seafarers from a Cambodia-Flag fishing trawler.

And Rightly So! has the conflict between saving whales and safe navigation and explains why the International Maritime Organization is involved in a change being instigated in US waters by the Coast Guard.

The International Marine Accident Reporting Scheme has video of a ship running aground in October 2005.

The National Park Service (US) has a list of "Large Preserved Vessels and Shipwrecks."

has the growing story of the EU's attempts to save offshore fish. Of course, politics will result in killing the fisheries.

Daily Clerks
has coverage of the recently approved 'London Array' offshore windfarm, which, if built, would be the world's largest. (Has a great illustration.)

Cruise Bruise has the amusing story of Celebrity Cruise's defense against a $100,000 fine for illegal dumping over a half-million gallons of wastewater by declaring that some of the dumping actually took place legally in Canadian waters (thanks to lax environmental laws). You can image that this has not gone over well in Canada.

Yahoo News has a reminder for WWII Merchant Marine Veterans living in Pennsylvania that the December 31st deadline to apply for a $500 cash bonus is fast approaching.

The Pilot Boat describes pilot boats as well as provides a primer on Shore Based Pilotage.

Steamship Mutual has a copy of the IMO and UNHCR's Rescue at Sea guide of "Principles and Practice as applied to migrants and Refugees."

I wonder if the UN received permission from these 'migrants' to use this photo in their publication.

Haight's Maritime Items has:

Winter solstice - The winter solstice occurs at or about 0022 GMT on Friday, December 22. For those of you who do not live in Greenwich – too bad! – it is going to happen regardless. Of course, if you reside in the southern hemisphere, this is actually the summer solstice, you lucky devils. For scientific information about this event, go to Wolfram. For cultural information, go to Candle Grove. - Dennis Bryant

Here is a story from Fairplay Daily News from 22 August 2005 which I believe is still relevant and still not generally reported:

French coast guard too expensive - THE creation of a US-style coast guard service in France would be too expensive, according to a report released last week at the French Senate. “Creating Coast Guards similar to those in operation in the US is beyond our economic means. We must therefore maintain our current coast surveillance system based on a co-operation between the prefectures, the navy, the ministry of transport and customs, with some improvements” the report says. The European Commission is currently working on a feasibility study to create coast guard services at a European level. But, as far as France is concerned, the report advocates a strengthening of the role for the ministry of transport at the expense of the Navy, which should allocate its budgets to more military missions. Lately, the Navy has doubled its deep-sea tug chartering budget with the delivery of two new surveillance tugs, Abeille Bourbon (at Brest) and Abeille Liberte (at Cherbourg) which will work in addition the ageing Abeille Flandre and Abeille Languedoc which have been re-deployed in the Mediterranean and in the Atlantic respectively. - Fairplay


Sunday, December 24

Merry Christmas!

Fred and family would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 21

The 'Rose Household Textiles' Nigeria Scam

We all get scam offers by email and instant messenger. I was contacted twice by yahoo messenger last week by two different people both claiming to work for two different 'Rose Household Textiles Ltd' companies based in the UK. I messed around with the first one for a couple minutes before telling her that I would report her to the FBI. When I was contacted a second time, I figured that I would play along a little further, get a check and then pass on a fake Western Union payment confirmation so some scammer would have fun demanding money in the UK that was not there.

I am surprised that people are still being fooled by various Nigerian scams. This is one as well, but not as well known.

It all starts when I get an offer to work via Yahoo Messenger:
Fred: (not my ID) What kind of work?

Scammer: Okay,the job is all about being a payment collector from my customers in the state, which would never affect you present state of working,and we're willing to pay you ($300) on each payment you receive from them on behalf of our company.And this payment is for the supply of fabric textiles materials we supply to them.the payment will be post to you.

Fred: I don't understand. What do I need to do?

Scammer: All you have to do is help us recieve payments from our customers and clients in the states.These payments are in cashiers check or money orders and they would come to you in your name and information and the reason for this is that you will be the one to cash the check or money orders , so all you need do is cash the check or money orders take out your payment which is $300 USD and wire the rest of the money to us via western union money transfer

Fred: Where do I wire the money? What is the name of your company.

Scammer: you will wire the money to England

Scammer: this is where you will send the money to via western union

Name: Geraldine Terry
Town: Hailsham,
City: East sussex,
Zipcode: Bn27 3jz,
Country: United kingdom
Wow! $300 just to cash a check and then wire the money. That sounds easy. That should be the first warning sign. The second warning sign is that they are ready to send checks for thousands of dollars to a complete stranger, with the checks in my name, not the name of the company. The third warning sign is that why wouldn't they require their 'customers' to wire the money directly. that would cost the sender about $40. Far less than the $300 they are getting ready to pay you. (In the email I was sent, I was also told to deduct the Western Union fee, whatever it was. Normally, it is the buyer who is responsible for wire fees.)

I told her that I was ready to make some easy money. She needed my name, (Fred), my address, (fake), my phone number, (I told her I would get a mobile and email her.) I figured that she would wait for me to give a phone number but I was surprised to hear that she was couriering a check for $3550.

In general, it is best not to respond to these people at all. You never know if they might be right around the corner, with weapons. But since I had, I now needed to act quickly. I contacted the overnight service and advised them that they had a package that was part of a check fraud scheme. The operator took down my information and said that their security department would contact me. I was surprised to get a call the next morning advising me that they had the package and that they notified the bank whose fraudulent check was inside. That is where the scam comes in. You deposit the check into your account. You withdraw the funds, minus your 'fee' and wire the funds as instructed. then 1-2 weeks later, you find out that the check bounced and your out the money. Sucks right.

The rest of the story will have to wait until sometime next year as the story still has some chapters to it. I removed the Yahoo name of the scammer because there are a number of them doing this. The name does not matter as THEY ARE ALL SCAMS. (If you really think it is real, cash the check and do not send the money to them. After all, the check is in your name, its yours.)

Here is another thing to keep in mind. Lets say that you wire a couple thousand dollars off 'for tax purposes' because you have won the 'Canadian Lottery' and the funds are seized by the FBI before they leave the country. Think you get the money back? Think again. Since the FBI did not seize it from you, it now belongs to them. After all, you gave it away. It was seized as wire fraud.

But at least the Nigerians didn't get it, right?


We all know that only the suckers answer the Nigeria fraud emails. Perhaps this is the wrong way to fight them. Maybe we should all reply back to the offers of simple money. A simple request for them to better explain what you need to do will in effect make them work harder to find the one real sucker that they are looking for.

Data Wales - Fake Job Scam

Update: 5 January 2007
Have you ever seen such a large Human Resources staff?

(Click to Enlarge)

The company I work for has over 100 employees and only one of them deals with Human Resources.

Excuse me if I not link to the company webpage.

And from their news section:

Employment Opportunity!!!

As part of the company measure to support people, Rose household textiles ltd is currently offering an EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY to people located in the United States of America and in Canada.

The company employs people through Emails or by Chat ranging from different chatting site locations like Yahoo Messenger, MSN (Now Windows Live), Google Talk, Aol, Jabber, ICQ etc....

You are advised to make sure you are talking to the right company personal, so as not to fall into the hands of Scam Artist who uses the company Identity for Scam.
Yes, be sure that you are talking to the right scammers!

World Powers Spain, France and China Reneg on Promised Tsunami Aid

Let me start by saying that even the US has failed to pay everything that it has pledged, only paying 38% of the aid that it has promised, but that is far and away better than what these other world powers have ponied up, or better put, not ponied up:

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: It's been almost two years since the Asian tsunami struck. More than 200,000 people were killed, a half-million were left homeless. But figures released by the UN reveal only half the aid money pledged has reached the devastated region. From London, Stephen Beard reports.

STEPHEN BEARD: The biggest shortfall is in the money promised by governments. Spain said it would give $60 million to help the disaster victims. France pledged $79 million and China $300 million. And yet, according to the UN, each of these countries has only coughed up about $1 million apiece. - Marketplace

I wonder just how that happens. Maybe aid organizations should ignore pledges made in the future and only announce the amounts that have actually been given. The US received a huge amount of pestering and criticism over it's initial donation totaling $350 million, but at least they have made a deposit to the bank account. In addition, USAID has been there since the start actually assisting in the recovery and remains there to this day. The $350 million does not include the $656 million that was also allocated by Congress for long-term via the "Tsunami Recovery and Reconstruction Fund". The two amounts total over $1 billion in aid.

What is the problem with France? This should be right up their alley. No military involvement required. No controversy, other than the current one for not paying. China's problem is that they should have provide moral support and the $300 million they pledged would be better spent back at home. Perhaps they were too quick in opening their mouth.

Spain? I will just blame their non-payment on the simple fact that the Socialists are in charge and have no intention of giving Tsunami victims another cent.

Tsunami victims still waiting for aid - Marketplace (Includes Audio Story)
USAID Rebuilds Lives After the Tsunami - USAID (Includes breakdown of the donation funds)

Tuesday, December 19

Two Year blogiversary

Fred Fry International has been around for two years!

The biggest event of the last year has been the addition of the weekly Maritime Monday roundup of news, events, happenings, accidents and everything else going on in the Maritime world. The latest edition can be found here.

You can find my first post titled "Seeing things in Black and white instead of in shades of gray." here.

Below are links to some of the posts made during the last year that you might find interesting:
World Trade Center Tribute - 11 September

Remembering the Soviet Union v.1 - 19 September
Full speed ahead into year III!
Feedback Welcome.

Monday, December 18

Maritime Monday 38

Welcome to this weeks Maritime Monday.

This Weeks Photos:
Here are two images of the STENA ARCTICA. Per Stena's website:

Today, the tanker Stena Arctica will be named in the Port of Göteborg. With its 117,100 deadweight tons, the vessel is not only the largest Swedish flagged ship in the Swedish merchant navy but also the world’s largest tanker with the highest class in service. Its hull is heavily reinforced and its propulsion system is considerably more powerful compared with normal tankers, thus enabling it to safely manoeuvre in the icy waters of the Baltic Sea. The Stena Arctica, together with additional ice-strengthened units and in cooperation with Sovcomflot – the largest shipping company in Russia – will mainly transport Russian crude oil from the Gulf of Finland to the Continent. - Stena Bulk

Registry details here at class society DNV.

More Stena images here.

This Weeks Items:

Eagle Speak has LNG at Sparrows Point Maryland. He also publishes he own weekly series titled "Sunday Ship History." Here is the latest installment covering Radar Picket Ships and Subs.

Sailors, Mariners & Warriors League has the keel-laying of the T-AKE class vessel USNS ROBERT E. PERRY.

MarEx Newsletter has more on the Massachusetts Maritime Academy Training Ship Conversion of the T/S ENTERPRISE, the different parties involved, and of course, the money involved.

Secular Blasphemy has the story of a shipping container of mail finally being delivered to Russia after sitting in a Finnish Port since 1999. (I wonder what the storage fee for that cost!)

AutoBlog covers Mazda's decision to scrap all the Mazdas that were onboard the almost-capsized COUGAR ACE.

Molten Eagle has Russia's nuclear-powered lighthouses that are being targeted by thieves who then die due to the radiation exposure. One stolen emitter was even left at a bus-stop, radiating those lucky enough to be nearby. A complete summary of these RTGs (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators) and events involving them can be found at Bellona. In general, Russia's handling of nuclear material is inexcusable. In fact, it should be declared a crime against humanity.

The Daily Mail (UK) has a story titled "Call to cut sailors' 85-hour week." (Note: Sailors work seven days a week BUT most should not be working more than an average 12 hours/day. And No, you cannot always decline overtime especially when the captain calls 'all hands' for docking/undocking.)

Seattle Times has the story of Federal subpoenas delivered from Alaska to Trident Seafoods and Icicle Seafoods in Seattle and the At-Sea Processors Association. Apparently US Senator Ted Stevens and his son are being targeted in this investigation.

Offshore Shipping Online has recycling of single-hull tankers into heavylift vessels, in this case for Frontline Tankers.

Homeland Security Watch notes the sale of US Port Operations to a US entity. So I guess we can all feel a little safer. Which probably means that you should not look into this port threat.

Check out the website of the icebreaker USCGC POLAR SEA as it heads to Antarctica escorting supplies for McMurdo Base as part of Operation Deep Freeze 2007.

Divester has the adoption by the UN of a Sustainable Fisheries Resolution including calls to curb bottom trawling.

GreenPeace's Ocean Defenders Blog has news of Espersen's closure of their cod processing factory in Denmark due to a lack of cod.

No Hurry In JC (Jersey City) gives a realistic assessment about being a passenger on a cargo ship.

NewMexiken reminds us of the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party.

The website AISLIVE.COM has global tracking of merchant shipping. For example take this snapshot of traffic sailing through the Dover straits. It is one of those places where a 3 mile CPA (Closest Point of Approach) just does not work. My first trip through there was on a ship overtaking everyone by about 5 knots. The Second Mate was not used to that, with his past experience being on research vessels doing 2-3 knots with 'Restricted in Ability to Maneuver' lights burning bright. the Captain went ballistic when he found out that the 2/M had slowed down.

The website requires a subscription, but it is free. ( And yes, there are traffic lanes in the sea. Imagine what this picture would like like if there weren't.

Haight's Maritime Items has:

UK – seafarer pleads guilty to forgery - The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) issued a press notice stating that a seafarer applying to upgrade his license to Master (Unlimited) has pleaded guilty to forging documents to show sea time on two vessels in which he never actually served. He was sentenced to 200 hours of community service plus £250 costs. (12/14/06). - Dennis Bryant

Fairplay Daily News has:

Engineers face prison for dumping - SAN FRANCISCO 15 December – Two Greek engineers from the Athenian Tankers suezmax Captain X Kyriakou were indicted this week in federal court on oil dumping charges.

Chief engineer Artemios Maniatis, 55, and 1st engineer Dimitrios Georgakoudis, 29, were indicted by a federal grand jury on one count of violating the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, the same charge that a Texas federal judge recently ruled (in an unrelated case) cannot be applied for foreign-flagged vessels unless the dumping took place in US waters; like the ship in the Texas case, the 149,000-dwt Kyriakou is registered in the Marshall Islands.

In this matter, a whistle blowing crewman tipped off the Coast Guard early in November that the vessel had been using a “magic pipe” to dump oil on the high seas.

According to the statement from US Attorney Kevin V Ryan, the government is continuing to investigate the ship's owner, Free Seas Shipping, as well as its operator, Athenian Sea Carriers. If convicted, the two men could face up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution – with a portion of the fines going to the whistleblower. Lloyd's Register - Fairplay Homepage (Used with permission)

Submissions for future editions:
Please submit articles for inclusion in next week' edition using the following submit form at Blog Carnival. You are also welcome to email photos for inclusion in future editions as well as suggest area of coverage.

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Sunday, December 17

Nigeria - No more Diplomatic Immunity for Diplomats

Lets face it, Nigeria is a joke. To think that the Diplomats in your country are criminals is one thing in a place like London, but in Nigeria? Really, after oil, the largest source of income for Nigeria is Stupid Americans who think that a $50,000 facilitation fee will payoff in millions of stolen money.

At least those doing the scams have no problem in believing that African officials are stealing millions through corruption.

HENCEFORTH, foreign ambassadors coming to Nigeria will no longer enjoy diplomatic immunity as the rare privilege has finally been withdrawn by the Federal Government. The new tough stance by the government of Nigeria against the incoming diplomats is aimed at enhancing the dignity of Nigeria in the comity of nations in which the country prefers to be respected with her laws.

By the new directive meant to be strictly implemented by the Ministry of Aviation, any foreign head of government and ambassador coming to Nigeria would be thoroughly searched with the aim of preventing him from breaking the laws of the land. - Nigerian Tribune
Why does this sound like a way to demand bribes from even diplomats? But maybe there is a better reason for this action:

It was learnt that the ignominious treatment usually meted to Nigeria’s top government functionaries, including President Olusegun Obasanjo at different airports outside Nigeria, informed the new measure.

A top presidency source who pleaded anonymity, told Saturday Tribune that since Nigerian officials have not been enjoying diplomatic immunity in specific countries across Europe, mainly none of such countries has the right to the privilege in Nigeria also.
I have been to one meeting with Nigerian Officials. They showed up for the first day. They were nowhere to be found the second day. The UN paid for them to attend the conference. Money well spent, for sure.

Traffic on the Useful Idiot Highway to Syria

Lets start with a Wikipedia definition of what a useful idiot is just so that we are all on the same page:
In political jargon, the term "useful idiot" was used during the Cold War by anti-communists to describe Soviet sympathizers in western countries (particularly in the United States) and the alleged attitude of the Soviet government towards them. The implication was that the person in question was naïve, foolish, or in willful denial, and that he or she was being cynically used by the Soviet Union, or another Communist state. The term is still in use and used more broadly to describe someone who is perceived to be manipulated by political movement, terrorist group, or hostile government, whether or not the group is Communist in nature. - Wikipedia
Next, we now have a number of Members of Congress rushing off to Syria to ask Syria'a President Bashar al-Assad to help us stabilize Iraq. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida was the first to get on the highway and beat all the traffic for his heart-to-heart with one of the biggest reasons why there is instability in the Middle East.

(Senator Nelson Provides Syria with encouragement to continues destabilizing the Region. - AFP)

Here are some comments about his trip from the White House:
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House sharply criticized a US senator's trip to Syria "not helpful" and "not appropriate" and warned Damascus not to see the visit as an indirect overture from Washington.

"Even lending a further specter of legitimacy to that government undermines the cause of democracy in the region," spokesman Tony Snow said after Democratic Senator Ben Nelson met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"The Syrians have been adventurous and meddlesome in Iraq, and in Lebanon, and working against the causes of democracy in both of those countries," Snow said. "It's absolutely vital that the democracies succeed in both places."

"And therefore, the Syrians should have absolutely no doubt that the position of the United States government is the same as it has been," he said, as US President George W. Bush bucked pressure to discuss Iraq with Syria. - Yahoo News
If I was President Assad, the first thing I would get from this meeting is the confirmation that my actions are having the desired effects. The second thing I would get is that, for some reason, Democrats see me as some sort of partner-in peace in solving the 'middle east crisis' or if they think I am to blame, they will never say to in public, especially since they can't say it in a private meeting. So at least in the short-term I could even increase my efforts, like in toppling the Government in Lebanon while at the same time rearming Hezbollah. This will also provide more to talk about when you greet your next Democrat Senator arriving off the useful idiot highway. Senator John Kerry.

Senator Kerry took a detour to Egypt, just to make sure that his trip did not fall in the shadows of Senator Nelson. I look forward to seeing the photo of the meeting. For those who can't wait, here is a photo from the last meeting in January, 2005, when Kerry was one of the last Senators to visit Syria in an attempt to foster dialog.

(Dances with Dictators: Kerry looks to pass the 'Global Test' on Iraq.)

I guess Kerry considers Assad one of those foreign leader friends he alluded to during the 2004 elections. With friends like that, it's good that he is only a Senator. Of course the good Senator is taking some heat for going to Syria. So here is his explanation why the trip is a good idea:

"It's important to engage in some kind of discussion," added Kerry, on a nine-day tour that also includes stops in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and the West Bank.

"It's important to ask questions, to probe, and to get a feel for what the dynamics are, and I'm confident that I can share those with the administration." -

I wonder if the Senator bothered to get a briefing on how Syria is destabilizing the region before he headed off. Did he bother to probe the reasons why the US thinks Syria is a destabilizing factor? My guess is that he ran off to Syria without a clue of why we consider Syria a problem. If meeting with Assad is such a good idea, then why not meet with former members of the Iraq Regime still hiding in Syria. I am sure they too have ideas on how to stabilize Iraq. Maybe he will ask the Army while he visits Iraq today. Then again, looking at the pictures of the visit, probably not.

Traveling with Senator Kerry is Democrat Senator Dodd of Connecticut. That is a odd move for Senator Dodd as he is considering a run for President in 2008, and a picture of him sitting with Assad is hardly a vote-winner, especially if it turns out that Syria is 'convicted' of the assassination in Lebanon currently being investigated by the UN or implicated with directing the fall of the Lebanese Government which recently resulted in the assassination of a member of Parliament.

Senator Arlen Specter is currently the only Republican on the useful idiot highway. Here is how Senator Specter reasons that a trip is in order:
Specter says the situation in Iraq is so dire that it is time Congress step up to the plate and see what it can do. He says he and other Republicans are concerned that the administration's policies in the Middle East are not working.

The visit, coming on the heels of a trip by Florida Senator Bill Nelson, would be a direct affront to the White House. The United States has limited diplomatic ties with Syria because of its support for Hezbollah and Hamas, which the U.S. deems terrorist organizations. -
I doubt that any of the Senators will bring up Hamas or Hezbollah during their meetings. After all that would hardly be conducive to generating constructive dialog. This is why we currently have limited contact with Syria, because they have already been delivered the message to stop assisting these terrorist groups. So far they have declined to respond. But now, they have some members of Congress they can call on to defend them the next time the White House wants to turn the screws on Syria.

And that only does harm to the US and those people that these Senators claim to represent.

Victor Davis Hanson has thoughts about Iraq and includes the following about the rogue Senators circumventing official foreign policy:
Nota bene: Senator Nelson just returned from talking in Mr. Assad’s Syria—the serial murderer of Lebanese reformers, the clearinghouse for Hezbollah, the refuge for the killers of Americans in Iraq—with assurances that Syria wishes to be a stabilizing factor in the region.

Sen. Kerry in Cairo just praised Hosni Mubarak, lauding him by chastising President Bush’s failure to listen to this voice of reason and his criticisms of the United States. And why not listen to such advice, since this autocrat has been the recipient of billions in American aid, while squelching all reform for some thirty years in the bargain?

No doubt Kerry also lectured Mubarak about once hyping the WMD threat (“Mubarak lied, thousands died?”). Remember, the Egyptian strongman, as part of his reservations about Iraq, had warned our generals that American troops would be targeted with gasses of all sorts by Saddam.

Kerry also called for new talks with Iran—a rogue state presently in the middle of uranium enrichment, supplying IEDs to the militias in Iraq, promising to wipe out Israel, and hosting a Holocaust denial love fest in Teheran. Surely if the senator once denigrated our own soldiers as terrorizing Iraqis he can at least say that Iranians do the same? - VDH

I don't understand why this is so difficult. Dialog just encourages them to act bolder. See the YEARS of useless negotiations the EU3 endured in a useless attempt to stop the Iranians from continuing their nuclear bomb program. Even the Iranians admitted that it was just to delay talk of sanctions.

Useful idiots indeed.

Update: 20 December 2006

Senator Kerry has had his meeting with President Assad of Syria.

(AP Photo/Sana)

Makes you wonder who is keeping their distance from who? It sure looks like they were getting ready to have a productive meeting.

Now take a look at this picture. Just how much did this trip actually cost. I figured that he would either be traveling first class or even borrowing the wife's jet. But no, he stuck al of us with the bill. In the series of pictures is a number taken while Kerry was touring the old district. So was all this just some lame excuse to get a taxpayer-paid Christmas shopping trip?

AP Photo/ Bassem Tellawi)

Saturday, December 16

Let me be the First to decline Time's "Person of the Year" Award

I would like to be the first to decline Time's Person of the Year Award.
NEW YORK -- Congratulations! You are the Time magazine "Person of the Year."

The annual honor for 2006 went to each and every one of us, as Time cited the shift from institutions to individuals _ citizens of the new digital democracy, as the magazine put it. The winners this year were anyone using or creating content on the World Wide Web. - Washington Post

Great. The next thing you know is that we will have to send $10,000 to a bank account in Nigeria to collect the prize.

Feel free to give my award to President Carter.

Norway and France: Revise Diplomatic immunity to Deal with Corruption

Provided that they can manage to do what they are attempting to do, then this can't be anything but good for the global community. The only problem I can see that would prevent this would actually be the diplomats themselves.

Press release
No.: 162/06
Date: 13.12.06

Erik Solheim promotes French-Norwegian anti-corruption proposal

Today employees in international organizations enjoy diplomatic immunity which can protect them from being prosecuted for corruption. “We cannot allow a form of immunity that in practice gives protection to people who have been involved in corruption, for example in the UN system,” said Minister of International Development Erik Solheim.

Mr Solheim is taking part in the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in Jordan today. He took the opportunity to promote a joint French-Norwegian proposal for a review of the practice of immunity and certain other privileges enjoyed by employees in international organizations such as the UN and the World Bank.

As the situation is today, these privileges can impede the effective prosecution of corruption and thus in practice provide protection contrary to the provisions of the UN Convention against Corruption.

“The intention behind the immunity granted to employees in public international organizations is to enable them to carry out their duties in difficult situations such as conflicts and wars. It doesn’t make any sense if this protection means in practice that such employees cannot be charged for receiving bribes. We have to look into this in order to ensure the credibility of international efforts against corruption. This is why France and Norway have jointly put forward a proposal to start work on drawing up measures to ensure that the Convention against Corruption also applies to employees in international organizations,” said Mr Solheim.

The conference programme focuses on issues relating to the establishment of a mechanism to assist in the effective implementation of the Convention, technical assistance and asset recovery.

“Asset recovery is a key issue. We in the developed countries have a particular responsibility here. Enormous amounts of stolen money are concealed in tax havens and in protected bank accounts in our part of the world. We cannot accept this any longer. Laws and rules will have to be amended. This is why this question must be on the political agenda at presidential level,” said Mr Solheim.

International Development Minister Erik Solheim can be contacted via Press Contact Narve Solheim, tel.: +47 4829 9690. - Foreign of Foreign Affairs, Norway

This is great news. There is no lack of corruption in the international 'Diplomatic' community, ESPECIALLY WITHIN THE UN. Take the following:

A senior United Nations official has pleaded not guilty to charges that he steered millions of dollars in UN contracts to a businessman representing an Indian company and was rewarded with a discounted luxury apartment in New York.

A judge in Manhattan Federal Court ordered that the official, Sanjay Bahel, of India, be released on $US900,000 ($1.2 million) bail with personal sureties of $US75,000 in cash, a luxury car and the title to his apartment.

A Federal magistrate in Miami released businessman Nishan Kohli after he posted $US1 million bail.

The US attorney for Manhattan, Michael Garcia, charged Mr Bahel with taking a bribe from Mr Kohli in exchange for helping to secure approval of more than $US50 million in contracts for Mr Kohli’s clients. - (November 2006) The
Drug Smuggling:

A U.N. employee used U.N. diplomatic pouches to smuggle illegal drugs as part of a ring that brought 25 tons of contraband into New York in the past year and a half, federal prosecutors and the FBI said yesterday.

The shipments of khat — an illegal stimulant grown in East Africa — were received by a mail clerk employed by the United Nations, Osman Osman, who sent them across America, according to an indictment unsealed yesterday.

Prosecutors say Mr. Osman, a Somali citizen who had been employed at the United Nations for 29 years, was an important cog in the largest khat trafficking enterprise America has known. Forty-four defendants were named in yesterday's indictment, and 14 were still at large, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office said. - (July 2006) The New York Sun

Jean-Bernard Mérimée, France's former United Nations ambassador, has been charged with corruption and bribery of foreign officials as part of a French investigation into suspected irregularities in the Iraq oil-for-food programme.

Mr Mérimée was released on bail of €150,000 (£102,000, $180,000) after being questioned by an investigating magistrate as part of his three-year inquiry into more than 11 French officials and businessmen suspected of having received oil vouchers from Saddam Hussein's regime. - (October 2005)

That is just the tip of the iceberg. Then you have the everyday UN Diplomat caught driving Drunk (Morocco and Russia), beating his kid (Kenya), and so on. You would think that countries would be sending the best to act on their behalf at the UN. Well, no such luck. Even sadder is that these are the people that the world is depending on to make the planet a better place to live. Too bad that many diplomats are only concerned about taking advantage of the benefits afforded to them, as Diplomats, to advance their own personal businesses.

Normally, diplomatic immunity does not extend to a diplomat's own country (A US Diplomat has no immunity in the US.). A UN employee, as opposed to a diplomat to the UN, gets his immunity through the UN itself and travels under a UN Laissez-Passer. His immunity would extend even his own country, as he is in service to the UN. While an employee's own country can most likely ignore any immunity conveyed to one of their own citizens, there is nothing forcing that citizen to return home. Their immunity applies to even how the organization operates.
The UN and its agencies are immune to the laws of the countries where they operate, safeguarding UN's impartiality with regard to the host and member countries. Hiring and firing practices, working hours and environment, holiday time, pension plans, health insurance, life insurance, salaries, expatriation benefits and general conditions of employment are governed by UN rules and regulations. This independence allows agencies to implement human resources policies which may even be contrary to the laws of a host- or a member country. For instance, a person who is otherwise eligible for employment in Switzerland may not be employed by the International Labour Organization (ILO) unless he or she is a citizen of an ILO member state. - Wikipedia
Technically, it is up to the UN to drop immunity to let other countries prosecute crimes by UN employees. That can be a problem as even former employees are extended UN Diplomatic Immunity by continuing to employ them with a symbolic $1 yearly salary.

'Former' UN employees pulling a $1 salary from the UN include Benon Sevan and Iqbal Riza, both implicated in the Oil-for-Food fraud. While the men listed above have had their immunity pulled out from under them, these two have not, thanks to the direct protection of the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, himself. The question is, will the new Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon clean out the UN's ranks of all of those who are hiding from prosecution?

This is an important matter. The world for some reason looks up to the UN like it operates at some higher level. However, that is only possible if it is staffed with 'better' people. If you pack the organization with criminals than they will take advantage of that as well and turn it into nothing better than organized crime, a mafia of sorts. That is basically what has happened with the UN human Rights Council. Its members include China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia and the Ukraine, all States that are hardly shining examples of countries with a high standard of human rights. This proposed change will not fix the Human Rights Council, but it will be a first step in the right direction.

Monday, December 11

Maritime Monday 37

Welcome to this week's edition of Maritime Monday.

This week's Photos:
Here are two photos of the MIGHTY Servant 3 which sank last week. (Click to photos for the story behind each photo.)

The vessel was operated by the Dutch heavy transport company Dockwise. Here is the press release about the sinking. Here is the vessel's homepage.

RigZone has a photo of the MIGHTY SERVANT 3 as it was sinking.

Cargo Law is also promising pictures here.

This Weeks Items:

EagleSpeak has a summary of the USCGC STORIS, the oldest active cutter in the US Coast Guard.

Sailors, Mariners & Warriors League has the verdict for four involved in the terror attack on the USS ASHLAND and the USS KEARSARGE. The Jordanians are not messing around with terrorists. They sentenced the four to Death.

Navy Newsstand (US) has the story of a steam leak on the USS FRANK CABLE result in a number of serious injuries with one resulting in death.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has coverage of the forced removal, under gunpoin,t of the crew of the Bahamas-Flagged CELTIC SEA in Ecuador. As it so happens, the owner is currently running for President of Ecuador.

Marine Log has the European Commission's approval of a 4.2 million Euro state subsidy to modernize the German shipyard Volkswerft Stralsund which is owned by A.P. Moller-Maersk.

The Map Room
has an example of amazing carelessness (read: stupidity) when an ambulance crew in the UK drives 200 miles in the wrong direction while trying to get back to the hospital 20 miles away all because they were following the GPS. (and ignoring road signs, local knowledge, etc.)

Helsingin Sanomat covers Turkey's offer to open one port and one airport to ships and aircraft registered in Cyprus and the EU's rejection of the offer. (Some members have not rejected it.) Currently Cyprus registered craft are not welcome in Turkey as part of the longstanding dispute over Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus.

Scandinavian Shipping Gazette has an article concerning the need for Tallink to integrate the services of it's new purchases, Silja Line and SUPERFAST FERRIES, noting the problems that the Finnish Unions are causing on Estonian-Flag vessels.

American Shipper has a summary of the innovative 40 foot 'standard' container, with no doors in an attempt to prevent cargo theft. (See the box designer's (Cakeboxx) website here)

Ocra Worldwide has news of Dubai Ports "DP World" plan to invest almost $3 billion in a new port terminal in London, calling it the "London Gateway Port."

Professional Mariner Magazine has the story of some concerns over the number of offshore wind farms near shipping lanes.

SteelJaw Scribe has coverage and photo of the intentional sinking of the USS VALLEY FORGE, the first AEGIS-Class vessel to meet this fate.

The BBC has a story on the increasing amounts of plastics in the world's oceans in both big and small pieces. So make sure your trash ends up in a trash can! has the for sale listing for the 128 foot NANTUCKET LIGHTSHIP, built in 1950 with an interior conversion done in 2004. It can be all yours for only $6.995 million.

RigZone has the US approval of plans to deploy the first FPSO in the Gulf of Mexico.

Islands Business has Tuvalu's concerns over less US fishing vessels taking advantage of a treaty between Tuvalu and the US to fish their waters. It is an issue of both losing fees as well as the difficulty in forging new treaties with other nations to allow their vessels to fish due to participation in a regional alliance. has the summary of attempts to build an aircraft carrier during WWII out of blocks of ice.

Cruise Bruise has the engine problems on the Holland America Line MS RYNDAM which has forced it to anchor in Tampa Bay shortly after sailing. (Unclear what the present situation is.)

The Miami Herald has the CDC's recommendation that Royal Caribbean's FREEDOM OF THE SEAS not sail due to problems with the norovirus for a third cruise in a row. It will now spend an extra two days in Miami. (No word on where the passengers will be staying during that time.) has the capture of the Venezuela-Flag Fishing Vessel OLIANA ONE which was carrying 2.9 tonnes of cocaine by the UK's Royal Navy with assistance of an USCG boarding party.

Marex Newsletter covers problems with Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s current training ship the T/S ENTERPRISE.

Navy News (UK) has the story of the first batch of Russian submariners to attend the Submarine Escape Training Tank in Gosport, UK. (Be sure to click on the picture to get an idea of the scale.)

In a clear example that the EU is effected by market forces, Green Consumer Guide has a story that illustrates just how helpless the EU is at protecting it's own environment, setting catch quotas for fish species that it's own scientists are calling for ending all commercial fishing of as the stocks have collapsed. See also the WWF article here.

Haight's Maritime Items has:

DHS – Secure Freight Initiative - The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the Department of Energy issued a joint press release stating that they have launched the first phase of the Secure Freight Initiative. This will involve the deployment of a combination of existing technology and proven nuclear detection devices to six foreign ports: Port Qasim (Pakistan); Puerto Cortes (Honduras); Southampton (United Kingdom); Port Salalah (Oman); Port of Singapore (Singapore); Gamman Terminal at Port Busan (South Korea). The devices, when installed, will be used to screen shipping containers bound for the United States. (12/7/06). - Dennis Bryant (Maritime Industry Homepage)

Fairplay Daily News has:

Disappointment for Indian owners - MUMBAI 06 December – The Indian government has decided not to amend the Merchant Shipping Act to allow foreign officers to be employed on Indian flagged vessels. Indian ship owners, facing a shortage of trained officers for their ships, had asked the government to lift the ban on employment of foreign officers on Indian-registered vessels operating in domestic trades. They argued that a large number of Indian officers had been encouraged to work on foreign vessels through better pay and tax incentives; Indian companies could not compete. However, the government has responded that the shortage only relates to senior officers such as captains and chief engineers, and wasn’t as acute as the owners claim. The government says it is confident the shortage can be eased by raising the standard of training in the country’s maritime institutes and by training more officers. - Fairplay Homepage

Submissions for future editions:
Please submit articles for inclusion in next week' edition using the following submit form at Blog Carnival. You are also welcome to email photos for inclusion in future editions as well as suggest area of coverage.

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Saturday, December 9

Easy Solution to Seattle's 'Holiday Tree' Complaints

First, there is only one holiday tree that's put up at this time of year and that one is called a Christmas Tree. But OK, if other people want to call them holiday trees, then fine, go right ahead. But this is ridiculous:
All Holiday trees at Sea-Tac Airport were removed this morning after several community member complaints. They say the trees don't represent all cultures and religions...The trees will not go up again...the airport policy on decorations will be reviewed after the holidays. - 710 KIRO
This other source was a little more specific about the complaints.
The Port allowed holiday decorations to remain but decided to take down all the Christmas trees after a Jewish religious leader complained they were offensive. - KOMO-TV
I have two suggestions on how Seattle can respond to people who complain like that, without telling them to go F-off. First, you can thank them for the feedback and tell them that they better hurry up before they miss their flight. Or, you can invite local community leaders from these other religions that are complaining that 'they are being left out' to come in and decorate their own holiday tree. The Jewish community can decorate their holiday tree with Jewish ornaments and Muslims can decorate their holiday tree with Islamic ornaments.

It's kind of hard to complain when your responsible for putting the holiday tree up. with that in mind, the airport can simply hand each complainer their own bare tree and invite them to decorate it as they see fit.

Of course, the complaints can go both ways!
Shalom Gil:

I have a problem. My kids from my first marriage are 9 and 15 and are Catholic. I converted to Judaism four years ago. I am now married to a wonderful Jewish man.

My children are supportive of MY choice for my own religion but have made it clear to me that they are Catholic and will not change at this point. I don't press that issue. They do however, share candle lighting on Fridays when they are here with me (every other week) and they do celebrate the other holidays with me as far as getting together for dinners but not going to synagogue or anything like that. We always have a seder on Passover and we do celebrate Hanukkah with some presents and celebrate Rosh Hashanah.

Now that they are getting older, they are saying that I don't share THEIR holidays with them, like allowing a Christmas tree in the house. What makes this year especially difficult is that they are here with me this Christmas season and they are feeling cheated in a certain way. Usually they are with their Catholic father over the season and I have never really had to directly deal with this issue. Now I am and I don't know what to tell them.

I have told them that this is a Jewish home and that we don't have a tree. But now they are angry and hurt because I have not acknowledged them in their religion. I admit -- I am feeling guilty. They do participate with me all of the time -- how do I do the same for them? Honestly -- I feel like I have abandoned them somewhat by not freely allowing them their religion when they are with me. Please help me if you can. I need some direction on this issue. Thank you. - Being Jewish - Note: © Copyright Gil Mann (Click the link to read the answer)

Life's a bitch, isn't it.

Update: 12 December 2006

It seems that Seattle's one-Rabbi war against holiday trees is about to be concluded:

SEATTLE (Reuters) - A local rabbi is receiving hate mail and angry phone calls after Seattle airport officials took down its Christmas trees in response to his request to include a giant Menorah in the airport's holiday decorations, his lawyer said on Monday.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport removed its Christmas trees on Saturday after Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky threatened to sue the Port of Seattle, which operates the airport, if it did not include a menorah into its holiday decorations. - Reuters

At least the public managed to figure out who was the correct person to complain to. Even better, the complaining managed to bring about resolution to the conflict. (At least for now.)

Harvey Grad, the rabbi's attorney, said it was never Bogomilsky's intention to have the trees removed and the rabbi was "saddened" by the port's decision to remove all holiday decorations instead of including the Menorah for Hanukkah.

"We are not part of the war on Christmas," said Grad. "All we asked for was inclusion and now we're getting hate mail and angry messages."

The Chabad of Greater Seattle asked the airport to put the trees back and will not pursue any legal action even if the airport does not include the menorah into this year's holiday decorations. - Reuters

See, here is the Rabbi's problem. He should not have demanded that a Menorah be included. Instead he should have requested that the airport include a 'holiday candelabra'. After all, a Menorah is clearly religious. (See the wikipedia entry here.)
He also should have treated the Menorah as a completely different issue. By linking it to the trees, he managed to have all blame for their removal directed at him, and rightly so. Threatening to sue was the other major mistake. although, that did propt rapid action to rectify the problem, just not as he had intended.

Rabbi gets hate mail over airport Christmas trees - Reuters
War on Christmas Hits Sea-Tac - Stop the ACLU
Holiday Tree? I Don't Think So. - 29 November 2005