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09 August 2014

Press review 09-08-2014 - Beholding cahos in confort

Iraq is back to the front pages and for the wrong reasons. In another twist of events, the Islamic State (IS) started attacking cities in the autonomous Kurdish region, openly engaging - and defeating - the peshmerga. What had so far been a safe heaven for non-Sunni refugees has suddenly turn into hell.

The IS is now pushing in three different fronts: to the west in Syria, to the north-east against the Kurds and to the south-east against the Shiites; it still holds the initiative in all of these. This is the most serious war of the XXI century, for its barbaric nature, for the large territories it extends to and for the number of countries involved: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, US, plus Turkey Jordan and Saudi in high alert.

Remarkably, there is no visible impact on Iraq's petroleum exports. So far the only impact on the comfortable lifestyles of the west are the gory images circulating through the so called social media.

06 August 2014

Ubuntu Shopping Lens deemed legal by UK data privacy office

It was almost two years ago that the infamous Shopping Lens feature was added to a beta preview of Ubuntu 12.10. Plenty of folk did not like the idea of having their Ubuntu suddenly transformed into an online shop; the inadvertently fashion in which the feature was announced only dumped more wood on the fire.

Throughout the following weeks the row focused on the awkward matching of unsolicited advertisements with free and open source software. In the meantime I started wondering if something far more serious could be at stake. Regarding previous experiences with data collection in my professional career and after carefully re-examining the European Directive on data privacy, I made public a series of concerns that lead me to a mini-saga, and Canonical to consider the matter in a totally different way.

This is a short story of this mini-saga and how it finally came to an end last week.

02 August 2014

Press review 02-08-2014 - Shooting one's toes

The downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 is taking the central role in events relevant to Europe's energy predicament. The propaganda machine from both sides keeps raging. Russia is persistently blamed by the western media, often with circumstantial evidence that is soon retracted. The Russian media tried a series of awkward explanations until the Russian military released evidence of two Ukrainian jet fighters following the Malaysian aircraft within minutes of its destruction. A series of tweets from a mysterious air controller of Spanish ascendency in Kiev seem to corroborate the presence of Ukrainian fighters, as so several eye witnesses (briefly reported by the BBC). The western media that took notice claim this air controller does not exist.

Irrespective of whom committed this abhorrent crime, its purpose seems to have been served. It prolongs the war, increases the strain on the European economy and most importantly, puts an end to the efforts towards a peaceful solution to the crisis.

27 July 2014

Press review 27-04-2014 - Canary in the Gold mine

"An image worth a thousand words". They really exist, coming by now and then, usually in the form of a graph. This week I stumbled upon one of such images, that greatly explains what is happening with the resource industries today. I often point to gold as an example of a depleting resource, throughout the last decade its price increased five fold, but extraction rates hardly moved. But most importantly, during the same period, discoveries of new high grade deposits fell down to almost nothing.

19 July 2014

Press review 19-07-2014 - Raging wars

There are moments like this, when war seems to burst everywhere at the same time. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Libya, Ukraine, all filled up front pages throughout the week; and these are just the conflicts the media picks up, there is plenty of other gory stuff going on in Africa, for instance. Tension mounts in a world that is definitely going through a period of re-distribution of power and influence.

In Ukraine the conflict deepened significantly with the killing of hundreds of foreign civilians. The western media blames it on the russophone separatists, while the Russian media blames it on the Ukrainian army. As Aeschylus long ago wrote, "truth is the first casualty of war". Along the way, adequate supplies of gas to Europe the coming winter seem ever more menaced.

Apart from Ukraine, Iraq remains the most threatening case to our energy predicament. The picture is starting to look really bleak for the Baghdad government. Lacking foreign intervention a victory in this war seems a remote possibility.

12 July 2014

Press review 12-07-2014 - Peak Oil in Russia

This week no energy relevant developments came out of Iraq. The Islamic State seems to be still consolidating its territories, facing scant opposition from the Baghdad government. But the spectacular advances seem to be done with, at least for now. Few western media outlets are able to properly report the situation, with gory news now focusing on Israel and Gaza.

The news meat-grinder has recently been profuse in news regarding the breakaway of the BRICS from the IMF and other OECD controlled institutions. This was a setting trend but that has been accelerated by the backlash of the US spying programme and, more importantly, by the intervention of NATO in Ukraine.

In the midst of all this comes almost unnoticed what is probably the most important energy news of 2014: Petroleum extraction in Russia has definitely peaked. Russian authorities are openly bracing for the ensuing decline in exports and revenues. This was one of the points I recently raised supporting the hypothesis of a return to price volatility.