Pro-Big Oil Trump fights hungry people, not coronavirus

This 5 December 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

How cuts to food stamp program could increase ‘poor outcomes’ for the food insecure

The Trump administration is making some major changes to the food stamp program, known as SNAP. On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture finalized a new rule expected to end access to the benefit for nearly 700,000 people by enforcing tougher work standards and limiting exemptions. The Urban Institute’s Elaine Waxman joins Amna Nawaz to discuss.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION WON’T POSTPONE FOOD BENEFIT CUT Since last week, Democrats have called on President Donald Trump’s administration to delay a planned food benefit cut because of the rapidly expanding coronavirus outbreak, but administration officials have said no. Starting next month, rules will tighten for unemployed adults who don’t have minor children or disabilities, a policy that will shrink food benefit enrollment by 700,000, or about 2% annually. [HuffPost]

LOW-INCOME COLLEGE KIDS ARE WALKING A KNIFE’S EDGE A growing number of colleges and universities have canceled in-person classes this semester to combat the spread of COVID-19. For the tens of thousands of students who rely on their schools for housing and food, this disruption is going to be particularly painful. “It’s going to be so financially stressful … some of these students are not going to return to college,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University. [HuffPost]

TOP DISEASE EXPERT: THE SYSTEM IS ‘FAILING’ Seven weeks have passed since the first U.S. case of coronavirus was announced, and the government is failing to account for what could be thousands of additional infections because of ongoing problems with testing. “The system is not really geared to what we need right now,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert at the National Institutes of Health. “That is a failing. It is a failing, let’s admit it.” [AP]

CDC ONLY TESTED 77 PEOPLE THIS WEEK An examination of state and federal records by Yahoo News finds that American states are, on average, testing fewer than 100 people per day for COVID-19 — while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had tested fewer than 100 people total in the first two days of this week. “This is not a problem we can test our way out of,” a top CDC official said. In a nation of 320 million, testing every person will be impossible. [HuffPost]

OUTBREAK COULD MAKE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE WORSE The biggest piece of advice coming from public health officials amid the current pandemic is to practice social distancing and, if necessary self-isolate. For some, these measures are inconvenient but ultimately doable. But for others, such as victims of domestic violence for whom work is a necessary respite from the unpredictability of their partner’s abuse, there can be more immediate danger inside the home than outside it. [HuffPost]

Disneyland to close amid pandemic.

THE ABSURDITY OF TRUMP’S BID TO BAIL OUT OIL AND GAS The White House’s nascent effort to bail out oil and gas producers struggling with plunging oil prices could become a political boondoggle, legal and industry experts say, given the difficulty of finding congressional support for offering federal dollars to an industry plagued by reckless financing and devastating effects on the climate. [HuffPost]

More Coverage Of The Coronavirus

Britain: Coronavirus sparks fear for older and ill prisoners in overcrowded jails: here.

Britain: Kids on free school meals could go hungry if schools close due to coronavirus, charities warn: here.

Scottish landlords should not evict tenants struggling to make ends meet as a result of coronavirus: here.

China sends medical experts to support Italy and Spain’s fight against coronavirus. Rome blasts the EU for ignoring its pleas for help: here.

Coronavirus, oil and money

This 9 March 2020 video says about itself:

Bernie Sanders Joins a Roundtable Discussion Regarding Coronavirus

CAMPAIGNING WHILE CORONAVIRUS SPREADS: Bernie Sanders joins a roundtable discussion in Detroit, Michigan regarding the coronavirus outbreak. As large public events and gatherings are being cancelled across the country, campaign rallies featuring Sanders, Biden, and Trump are continuing as planned. As each of the presidential contenders would be the oldest to assume office, they are also each within the most vulnerable age group to a coronavirus infection.

TRUMP’S NEW CHIEF OF STAFF SELF-QUARANTINES Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the incoming White House chief of staff, said he would quarantine himself after potentially coming into contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference last month. His office said he was tested out of an “abundance of caution”, and he would isolate himself for two weeks. President Donald Trump, who also attended the conference, has not been tested. [HuffPost]

TRUMP FLAILS WITH MISINFORMATION AS CRISIS DEEPENS Trump took to Twitter Monday as financial markets tanked on the coronavirus and oil price collapse. First, the president hailed the oil sell-off as good news because consumers will pay less at the pump. Then the president sought to downplay coronavirus fears by emphasizing that “life & the economy” don’t shut down for the seasonal flu each year. Trump’s lies about the coronavirus may finally catch up with him. [HuffPost]

PLUMMETING OIL PRICES COULD FORCE A RECKONING The dramatic fall of oil prices could upend the American fracking industry, analysts said, as panic over the coronavirus outbreak lessened global demand and Saudi Arabia and Russia flooded the market with new supply. Oil prices suffered the steepest tailspin since the United States began bombing Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War. [HuffPost]

Editorial: Saudi slashing the oil price is a desperate gamble: here.

U.S. WARNS COMPANIES NOT TO MAKE FALSE VIRUS CLAIMS U.S. regulators warned seven companies to stop selling products with false claims that they can treat the new coronavirus. Those warned included The Jim Bakker Show. Last month, the disgraced former televangelist‘s program aired an episode in which a guest promoted silver particles in liquid, claiming it had been eliminated previous coronavirus strains in hours. [HuffPost]

Indian Wells Tennis Is First Large U.S. Sporting Event Canceled Over Coronavirus Fears: here.

ITALY LOCKS DOWN ENTIRE COUNTRY Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced all of Italy is on lockdown as the country tries to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The northern part of the country was already on lockdown. The new lockdown goes into effect on Tuesday and lasts until April 3. The country, which has about 60 million people, had over 9,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and at least 463 dead as of Monday. [HuffPost]

Unexploded bombs threaten Libyan civilians

This 23 January 2014 video from Switzerland says about itself:

ENI Has No Plans to Exit Libya

Paolo Scaroni, the chief executive of Italian oil major ENI, discusses with [Rupert Murdoch’s] Wall Street Journal‘s Deborah Ball at the World Economic Forum the challenges and opportunities facing the oil and gas sector. Photo: Getty Images

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Monday, February 17, 2020

Unexploded bombs threaten civilians in Libya as truce “hangs by a thread”

UN REPRESENTATIVE to Libya Stephanie Williams has dismissed the UN-backed arms embargo as “a joke”.

The country is spiralling into an increasingly deadly situation as battle rages between the … Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli and General Khalifa Hiftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which controls large parts of the east.

After foreign ministers met in Munich on Sunday, Ms Williams warned: “The situation on the ground remains deeply troubling. The truce is holding only by a thread … the economic situation continues to deteriorate.”

In January a Berlin conference of world leaders agreed to stop sending weapons to the competing Libyan forces in a bid to de-escalate the situation and find a political solution.

But the embargo has been repeatedly breached, in particular by Turkey, which has sent equipment and thousands of jihadist fighters from the battlefields of Syria to support the Western-backed GNA.

‘Western-backed’ is not completely correct. The Italian government and Italian Big Oil corporation ENI support the GNA. But French President Macron, European Union and NATO ally of the Italian government, and French Big Oil corporation Total support warlord Khalifa Haftar.

“The arms embargo has become a joke, we all really need to step up here,” Ms Williams said.

Talks on how to police the influx of weapons into Libya continued yesterday. They were marked by some reluctance to launch another naval mission in the region.

“It’s complicated because there are violations by land, sea and air, but it needs to be monitored and there needs to be accountability,” Ms Williams insisted.

UN Mines Action Service spokesman Bob Seddon warned of the increased danger posed by “explosive remnants of war”.

He said: “It is estimated that there are between 150,000 to 200,000 tonnes of uncontrolled munitions across Libya.”

Remnants of cluster munitions are alleged to have been found on the battlefields.

At least 900 civilian deaths have been attributed to explosives, the campaign group Action on Armed Violence said.

The foreign ministers of all 27 EU countries agreed to launch a new military mission in Libya on Monday: here.

Fortress Europe’s dirty secret. EU condemned for its continued support of the Libyan Coastguard after the Star reveals the EU’s own reports were warning about the mistreatment of refugees in Libya: here.

Exclusive: Revealed: EU to continue supporting the Libyan Coastguard despite its fears of human rights abuses: here.

Canadian First Nations fight against fossil fuel pipeline

This 13 February 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

The Wet’suwet’en Fight Against New Pipeline Spreads Across Canada with Blockades & Occupations

A major anti-pipeline struggle continues in Canada, where protests have broken out across the country in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders whose sovereign land in northern British Columbia was raided last week and over the weekend by Canadian police. Dozens were arrested in the days-long raid of unceded indigenous territories, where hereditary chiefs have been in a protracted battle to protect their land from the construction of TransCanada’s 400-mile, $4.7 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline. The raids took place about 700 miles north of Vancouver and sparked outrage across the country. In Ontario, a Mohawk solidarity protest has shut down the Canadian National Railway for days, halting travel for tens of thousands of passengers. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for a quick resolution to the protests on Wednesday. In New York, protesters on Wednesday gathered for a sit-in outside the United Nations headquarters in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders.

For more, we go to Wet’suwet’en territory, where we’re joined by land defender and matriarch Molly Wickham. Her clan, the Gidimt’en Clan, was raided last week by 60 heavily militarized officers with assault rifles and dogs. And in Toronto, we’re joined by Pamela Palmater, Mi’kmaq lawyer and member of the Eel River Bar First Nation in New Brunswick. She is the chair in indigenous governance at Ryerson University.

BP oil spill, worse than once thought

This February 2015 video from the USA says about itself:

BP Oil Spill 5 Years Later: Wildlife Still Suffering | msnbc

Ed Schultz continues his investigation into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill five years on, as it continues to wreak havoc on the Gulf Coast.

By Maria Temming in the USA, 12 February 2020:

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill spread much farther than once thought

Simulations show the extent of toxic oil pollution in the Gulf of Mexico from the 2010 disaster

Nearly a decade after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, computer simulations suggest that the toxic pollution extended much farther than satellite images first indicated.

Those images, taken after the spill dumped nearly 800 million liters of oil into Gulf waters, helped to determine which areas would be temporarily closed for fishing (SN: 4/3/15). Scientists’ observations since then had suggested that the oil had spread farther (SN: 7/31/14).

The new analysis confirms that fact with computer simulations, which considered ocean currents, oil evaporation and other factors to map the spill’s true expanse. Satellites appear to have overlooked at least 30 percent of the hazardous pollution, says biological oceanographer Claire Paris-Limouzy of the University of Miami.

The simulations uncovered vast ocean swaths where oil concentrations were high enough to endanger marine life, but dilute enough to have been overlooked by satellites, Paris-Limouzy and colleagues report online February 12 in Science Advances.  Water and sediment samples from around the Gulf supported the findings.

In the immediate aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill, satellite observations that could detect high oil concentrations (brown) helped determine where to close fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico (black dashed line). But computer simulations of the spill indicate that lower oil concentrations invisible to satellites but still toxic to marine creatures (yellow) crept outside the boundaries of the fishery closures. Meanwhile, even lower, nontoxic levels of oil pollution (blue) spread even more widely

In the immediate aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill, satellite observations that could detect high oil concentrations (brown) helped determine where to close fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico (black dashed line). But computer simulations of the spill indicate that lower oil concentrations invisible to satellites but still toxic to marine creatures (yellow) crept outside the boundaries of the fishery closures. Meanwhile, even lower, nontoxic levels of oil pollution (blue) spread even more widely.

Satellite images had shown oil mostly in a northern and central patch of the Gulf. But the simulations suggest toxic levels of oil pollution cast a much wider stain on the ocean. Fishery closures covered about 94 percent of the polluted region observed by satellites, but only about 70 percent of the hazardous area identified by the new analysis — missing spots near Texas and Florida. Some of those waters remained closed to fishing for years.

Computer simulations could similarly estimate toxic but invisible portions of future oil spills, providing better guidance on where to close fisheries or send cleanup crews.

A Decade Later, Gulf Residents Suffer From BP’s Toxic Legacy.

AN AUSTRALIAN BP refinery worker who was fired for allegedly comparing his employers to Hitler successfully won back his job today: here.

European Union fossil fuel deal with Azerbaijan dictatorship

This video says about itself:

Why Azerbaijan Is Getting Poorer Despite An Oil Revolution

All the President’s Oil (2001): After the fall of the Soviet Union, millions poured into Azerbaijan’s oil industry. But only a select few reaped the rewards. Presented by Marcel Theroux.

The oil-rich Azerbaijan ought to be a textbook example of the benefits of globalisation. Multinationals from across the globe have poured in cash to exploit its oil wealth, and now a tidal wave of money is hitting Azerbaijan. But who are the winners? The oil companies of course – but the comfortable contemporary wisdom says that riches will also trickle down to the whole Azeri population, creating a contented, prosperous nation at the centre of a troublesome region that includes Iran and Russia. But it isn’t happening. Forget the cosy platitudes of globalisation. Think corruption, nepotism, despotism, warlords…

By Ben Cowles:

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

EU approves funding for fossil fuel projects linked to Azerbaijan’s dictatorship

THE European Parliament voted in favour of funding gas infrastructure projects today, including a controversial pipeline linked to the brutal dictatorship in Azerbaijan, a day after a fresh crackdown on civil rights activists in the country.

MEPs rejected a resolution that would have blocked the European Union from providing upwards of €25 million (£21m) for cross-border fossil fuel infrastructure.

“This a hypocritical decision that fails to reflect the scale of the climate impacts that we are already experiencing and the urgent need to keep fossil fuels in the ground,” said Clemence Dubois of environmental charity

“The EU has made a number of big announcements over the past few months, declaring a climate emergency and proposing a green deal, but today’s vote shows that many MEPs and EU institutions are not yet ready to walk the talk,” Mr Dubois said.

“In November, the European Investment Bank pledged to end fossil fuel finance by 2022, but today’s decision activates a loophole that will allow the world’s largest international public lender to pump billions of euros into new climate-wrecking fossil gas projects.”

One such fossil gas project that the EU has pumped millions of euros into is the Southern Gas Corridor, a 2,200-mile enterprise costing around £34 billion, bringing gas from Azerbaijan to Italy.

Snap parliamentary elections held in the small south Caucasian country on Sunday produced another majority for the party of President Ilham Aliyev, whose family has ruled since 1993.

Around 30 people who gathered outside the Electoral Commission yesterday to protest at the dubious election results were beaten by police.

Ulviyya Guliyeva, an independent journalist at the scene, told the Star what she saw.

“For the first two hours, [the police] did nothing. And then they saw that a lot of people were joining the protest, so they began to kick and punch everyone. They beat and detained everyone.”

Ms Guliyeva was bundled into the back of a police van along with protesters and other journalists.

“When we were in the police bus, they said that we were opposition journalists.

“To them, criticising the police or the state is on equal terms with being a member of the opposition.”

INVESTIGATIONS are under way into today’s suicide attempt by a woman who was hounded after displaying a feminist slogan at an International Women’s Day demonstration in Azerbaijan: here.

Trojan horse against BP polluters sponsoring museum

BP or Not BP? activists bring a Trojan Horse into the British Museum to protest at the institution’s continued support for BP

By Marcus Barnett in London, England:

Friday, February 7, 2020

Environmental activists criticise British Museum’s BP sponsorship deal with Trojan Horse protest

PROTESTERS in London walked a Trojan Horse into the British Museum today to protest at the institution’s continued support for BP.

Activists belonging to the pressure group BP or Not BP? walked the 13-foot-tall horse through the museum’s gates in protest at the sponsorship of its new exhibition about Troy by the oil company.

The National Galleries Scotland and the Royal Shakespeare Company no longer receive money from BP, which paid no corporation tax in Britain this year.

However the British Museum has publicly stated that it is “proud” to receive money from them.

The group of 15 protesters inside the horse planned to stay in the museum’s forecourt overnight, ahead of a mass demonstration planned for 1pm on Saturday outside the gates.

BP or Not BP? spokeswoman Helen Glynn said: “The Troy exhibition has inspired us to create this magnificent beast, because the Trojan Horse is the perfect metaphor for BP sponsorship.

“On its surface the sponsorship looks like a generous gift, but inside lurks death and destruction.

“This is our 40th performance intervention at the British Museum. For eight years our peaceful creative protests have been dismissed and the museum has continued to back BP.

“Now the planet is literally burning.”

London Greenpeace action against BP polluters

London Greenpeace activists outside BP headquarters

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Greenpeace blockades BP on boss’s first day

Activists place solar panels and oil barrels outside firm’s central London HQ

GREENPEACE activists blocked BP’s headquarters with solar panels and oil barrels today to mark the first day in the job of the oil giant’s new boss.

The campaigners took along 500 solar panels to the central-London building early this morning as Bernard Looney prepared to take up his new role as chief executive.

Some protesters sat underneath the panels after they were prevented from installing them on the pavements and roads near the offices in St James’s Square.

Others locked themselves to oil barrels bearing the BP logo in front of the building’s doors to prevent entry.

Protester Richard George said: “This morning, police managed to block our solar installation — but BP are trying to block the transition to clean energy on a global scale.

Their lobbyists have the ear of governments around the world, they spend millions blocking action to fix the climate emergency and billions on drilling for more oil and gas to make it worse.

“Floods, droughts, forest fires and hurricanes all over the globe start right here, with the plans made in BP’s headquarters.

“Their new CEO needs to accept that if BP wants to keep trading in the 21st century, they need to switch to 100 per cent renewable energy.

“We’re not going to settle for a green-themed rebrand, solar panels on their petrol stations or wind turbines on their oil rigs.

“The only realistic response to the climate emergency is to cut emissions. BP need to stop wasting billions drilling for more oil and gas that we simply can’t burn and produce a plan to get out of the oil business entirely.”

NATO governments fighting about Libyan oil

This 19 January 2020 video says about itself:

On the eve of the international summit in Berlin to relaunch the peace process in Libya, supporters of Khalifa Haftar, the eastern Libyan commander, have hit hard.

On Saturday morning, his forces blocked the country’s main oil terminals in order to economically cripple the … Government of National Unity in Tripoli.

In a press release, the National Oil Company reported a halt of exports in the ports known as “oil crescent”.

By Alex Lantier in France:

War tensions mount between NATO powers over Libya, Mediterranean

31 January 2020

Following the January 19 Berlin conference on Libya, war tensions between NATO powers over Libya and the Mediterranean continue to mount, after Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited Paris on Wednesday for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron. The Berlin conference has set the stage not for peace, but only for stepped-up imperialist military interventions to divide up the profits to be extracted from Libya and the entire region.

With Mitsotakis, Macron announced the dispatching of French warships to the Aegean Sea and the formation of a French-Greek military alliance, while denouncing Turkish policy in Libya. Amid explosive border tensions and conflicts over eastern Mediterranean natural gas deposits between Turkey and Greece, Paris is threatening to support Greece in a war with Turkey.

Macron accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of “not respecting his promises” in Berlin, saying that “at this very moment” Turkish ships were taking Syrian Islamist mercenaries to Libya. “We have seen in recent days Turkish vessels arriving on Libyan soil … in violation of explicit engagements taken by President Erdogan at the Berlin conference,” Macron said. He added, “This threatens the security of all residents of Europe and the Sahel.”

Macron, who has backed warlord Khalifa Haftar in the civil war provoked by the 2011 NATO war in Libya, said he “condemns with the greatest firmness the recent accord” between Turkey and Haftar’s main rival, Fayez al-Serraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA).

During the Macron-Mitsotakis conference, anonymous intelligence officials told French media that Rafale jets flying from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle had detected Turkish ships transporting heavy armored vehicles and mercenaries into Libya’s capital of Tripoli, held by the GNA. They also alleged that the ships transporting the troops and hardware were escorted by one of several Turkish frigates cruising in Libyan waters.

Macron maintained a hypocritical and self-interested silence on French-backed Egyptian and United Arab Emirates (UAE) weapons shipments to France’s Libyan proxy, Haftar. “The position of Paris remains totally inflexible,” Le Monde wrote. “Marshal Haftar, who more or less controls most of Libya’s territory, must be taken into account and his demands—disbanding Islamist ‘militias’, giving more oil revenue to the eastern Libyan region of Cyrenaica—are not negotiable.”

Macron also announced a “strategic security partnership” between France and Greece and declared that he “condemns the intrusions and provocations of Turkey” in Greek airspace and waters. France will rotate its warships through the eastern Mediterranean to ensure that at least one French frigate is in the area at all times. The purpose of the stepped-up French naval presence, Macron added, is “to fully ensure the security of a region that is strategic for Europe.”

Mitsotakis hailed the deal with France, saying: “Greece and France are pursuing a new framework of strategic defense.” Details of the Franco-Greek military alliance are to be announced in coming weeks. However, it appears French warships will likely patrol gas-rich waters off Cyprus, where the Greek Cypriot government has given French energy giant Total exploration rights.

While Mitsotakis called the French warships “guarantors of peace” in the Aegean, it is clear that the danger of military conflict between major NATO allies is very real. Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said his staff is “examining all scenarios, even that of military engagement” with Turkish forces at flashpoints like the Aegean Sea or Cyprus.

Turkish officials responded by denouncing the French intervention in the eastern Mediterranean. “If France wants to contribute to the implementation of decisions taken at the [Berlin] Conference, it should first stop supporting Haftar,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy declared in a statement. “The main party responsible for all Libya’s problems since the beginning of the 2011 crisis is France,” Aksoy added, noting that France “unconditionally supports Haftar to have its say over the natural resources in Libya.”

NATO’s 2011 war against Libya launched a bloody scramble for profits and strategic advantage in the region that has had disastrous consequences. After the Berlin conference, the imperialist powers are again recklessly intensifying their military intervention. As France, Russia, Egypt, and the UAE intervene to back Haftar in Libya while Italy, Turkey and Qatar back Serraj, the danger of a major regional war over Libya or the eastern Mediterranean is ever greater.

The scramble for Africa and the Mediterranean is intensifying deep and explosive divisions among the major NATO imperialist powers. Last year, France withdrew its ambassador to Italy as tensions mounted between Paris and Rome over Libya.

While Washington has not taken a public position on Greece or Libya, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed deals last October to build major new US military bases in Greece, saying Washington needs them “to help secure the eastern Mediterranean.” White House spokesman Judd Deere claimed that tensions between NATO powers forced Trump to call Erdogan on Monday. During the call, Trump reportedly stressed the “importance of Turkey and Greece resolving their differences in the east Mediterranean.”

Faced with the prospect of US and French military build-ups in Greece, sections of the Turkish bourgeoisie close to Erdogan are calling for closer ties with Berlin to counteract Paris.

The pro-government Daily Sabah call for an outreach to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who it said needs close cooperation with Turkey to power German industry and keep Middle Eastern refugees from reaching Europe. “Let’s give credit where credit is due: Merkel’s foreign policy is far more reasonable than French President Emmanuel Macron’s approach,” it stated, adding, “Merkel knows that the US abdication of its global responsibilities compels Europeans to take care of themselves and, by extension, to work with Erdoğan’s Turkey.”

It concluded, “To improve Germany’s relations with Turkey and keep the upper hand in Libya, Merkel needs to overcome two obstacles: French and Greek adventurism. Macron undermines Libyan peace and stability by throwing his weight behind Haftar … Germany has to stop France and Greece. Let’s see if Merkel will manage to wrap up her political career by completing this urgent mission.”

As imperialist wars spread across the Middle East and Africa, Macron is pursuing a reckless policy in defense of French imperialist interests. On the one hand, he is continuing neo-colonial wars and intervention in Mali and the broader Sahel, south of Libya, supposedly to fight Islamist militias. At the same time, he is bidding to obtain for French oil firm Total a lion’s share of Libyan oil, should Haftar conquer the country, and of eastern Mediterranean gas via deals with the Greek Cypriot government.

This poses a growing risk of an outright military confrontation with Turkey, as Macron is launching an alliance with Greece amid explosive Greek-Turkish tensions. Britain’s Guardian newspaper wrote that, “Friction between the two neighbours has not been so acute since the invasion of Cyprus in 1974” by Turkey, which led to war with Greece. It added that, for Mitsotakis, “hostile relations with Turkey have eclipsed all other issues on the agenda of his near seven-month-old government.”

While he claimed the war danger is “slim, not least because it would be too much of a lose-lose situation,” University of Piraeus Professor Aristotle Tziampiris told the Guardian that “the chances of a [hot] incident, by design or accident, are very real and that is what is worrying us all.”

Turkey’s Erdogan Libyan anti-refugee scandal

This 3 January 2020 video says about itself:

Turkey’s recent maritime deal with Libya’s Government of National Accord [one of several governments] has caused tensions in the eastern Mediterranean. The agreement, which mapped out a sea area between Turkey and Libya, would allow Ankara access to oil shale deposits in the region.

Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and the European Union have expressed opposition. Athens said it clearly ignored the presence of the Greek island of Crete while Egypt dismissed the deal as “illegal”. Despite opposition, Ankara still sent the agreement to the United Nations a week after it was signed. And Turkey’s energy minister later said the country will begin “exploration of oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean.”

By Ben Cowles:

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Turkish naval ship aids pushback of refugees to Libya

Meanwhile, NGOs remain the only ships in the Mediterranean to rescue people fleeing the war zone

A TURKISH naval ship aided the return of refugees to war-torn Libya today after pulling around 30 people from a dinghy in the central Mediterranean Sea in the morning.

Turkey’s National Defence Department tweeted a video today of one of its ships, the Gaziantep, coming across a refugee dinghy, its crew boarding the visibly-dazed survivors onto their vessel before returning them to a smaller military ship that it said was the Libyan Coastguard.

German refugee-rescue charity Sea Watch said that its plane, Moonbird, documented the capture.

“Turkey, a signatory to the [European Convention on Human Rights] and a member of Nato, has thus become complicit in yet another serious violation of human rights,” Sea Watch tweeted.

The UN refugee agency’s (UNHCR) special envoy for the central Mediterranean, Vincent Cochetel, said that the rescue was appreciated, but “all returns to Libya from international waters are contrary to international maritime and human rights law.

“It applies to all countries and all military forces present in the Mediterranean. Returns to Libya [equal] risks of torture, arbitrary detention, slavery [and] risks to life.”

The Gaziantep was taking part in a Nato operation called Sea Guardian at the time of the rescue.

One of the many tasks of the Mediterranean-based Nato mission, its website states, is “providing support … to [the European Union’s anti-human-trafficking military mission] Operation Sophia.”

In April last year, the EU pulled all of Operation Sophia’s ships from the Mediterranean under pressure from Italy’s then far-right coalition government, leaving a small collection of NGO ships as the only actors carrying out refugee rescues off the Libyan coast.

“Turkey shows that it does not believe in human rights,” Axel Steier, co-founder of the German refugee rescue charity Mission Lifeline, told the Star today.

“We are seeing people with Turkey’s consent being kidnapped to Libya.

“The truth is that Nato members can do what they want. All other states are watching and there are no consequences.

“The system is simply completely degenerate and refugees, especially, suffer extremely.”

Meanwhile, the Open Arms, a ship run by the Spanish NGO of the same name and the only rescue ship off the Libyan coast, found another group stranded in the Mediterranean this afternoon.

The ship was alerted by the activist network Alarm Phone of the boat in distress this morning.

“[We] rescued a small vessel in danger with 45 people, in poor physical condition,” Open Arms wrote above a tweeted video of the rescue.

“A five-year-old boy, injured. We now have 282 people on board and medical cases that may require evacuation.”

Alarm Phone later praised the actions of the civil refugee-rescue fleet.

“Moments ago, Open Arms carried out a successful rescue operation! 45 people are now safely on board.

“Moonbird was once more crucial to monitor the distress situation from above! Civil fleet to the rescue once again, with phones, aircraft and ships!”

This morning, the NGO ship operated by SOS Mediterranee and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the Ocean Viking, disembarked over 400 refugees in Taranto, Italy.

SOS Mediterranee’s Director of Operations Frederic Penard told the Star: “The Ocean Viking conducted five rescues in less than 72 hours.

“We had to cover hundreds of nautical miles to search for multiple boats in distress while crews were already taking care of hundreds of people on deck.

“All these rescues occurred at night, in very challenging conditions.

“While Europe was sleeping, the boats we found were overcrowded, near capsizing or breaking after having spent hours at sea with no assistance.

“Without civil rescue ships, the area of the Mediterranean Sea would mostly be left unattended.

“On Sunday, the Libyan coastguards themselves admitted that they were not in a capacity to conduct operations that day.

“The situation in the central Mediterranean this past weekend has shown again a dire need of search-and-rescue capacity and co-ordination to save lives.”

Journalists jailed in Turkey after revealing name of intelligence official killed in Libya: here.

THE SYRIAN Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) says Turkey has so far sent more than 4,500 allied Takfiri terrorists from Syria to Libya, after the Turkish parliament passed a bill earlier this year to allow the government to deploy forces to the North African country to intervene in the ongoing war: here.