Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Most Posts in A Year

I have now posted 207 times this year already which beats by 2008 record of 204.

This year’s quality is not as good but do “they” not say that big is beautiful?

Now that’s 2 posts despite struggling terribly with finding words to write.

Struggling to Write

Words not coming easily and so posts not coming.

Will post when the words are there.

Reminds me of something written 20 years ago in a different situation an extract of which I append below:

If only I write
And write and write
So much I tire my brain
Then, perhaps, the real will come
Behind the crap I've seen

Shit, crap  -  whatever
There's nothing in this pile
That doesn't deserve
To be crapped upon
Fuck the bloody lot

Fuck, fuck, fuck the lot
At least  -  constructive
Fuck, fuck   -  everything
Fuck off  -  everyone

At least the words are flowing
If not poetically
The ink flows down
And sense goes up
And out the bloody door

Now this is pointless
Fuck the lot
This is fucking shite
So stop the fucking nonsense
Don't bother to fucking write

But I did bother to write a few words tonight.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

W ……. ?

 

Where ……. ?

Why ……. ?

What ……. ?

What the ……. ?

Why the ……. ?

WHAT !!

Trafigura: Why ….. ?

Trafigura, the Looney-Trafigura papers are online (Looney, Trafigura), the BBC – Trafigura (BBC, Trafigura) papers are online but still you have not released the WSP environmental audit which was carried out in Abidjan following the illegal dumping, by Compagnie Tommy, of the waste from the Probo Koala.

Trafigura, why do you not release the WSP report?

 

Trafigura, away back in January, I asked you to release copies of your Reply in the BBC libel case and for the WSP report.  Your website states that both were available on request.  You refused then and you continue to refuse despite many requests. 

Trafigura, why do you refuse?

 

In fact, you do not reply to my emails other than once when you said you’d get back to me in due course which, of course, you didn’t.

Trafigura, why do you not reply to me?

 

Trafigura, you’ve seen my post on the BBC libel case written after the publication of the court papers, courtesy of Don’t Get Fooled.  You’ve read my post and you know this was a fair and balanced report. 

Trafigura, you’ve seen my post on the Looney case written after the publication of the court papers, courtesy of a friendly source.   You’ve read my post and you know this was a fair and balanced report. 

Trafigura, you will get a fair write-up: I’ve got form now.

Trafigura, why do you not release the WSP report …. NOW?

 

Trafigura, why ……. ?

Grey Day ….

GreyDay

                           [Absolutely ‘as–is’ pic]

….. on the Firth of Forth this morning.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Looney v Trafigura: Part 2 – Case Details

In Part 1 I described my interest in this case and here I give details of the case itself. 

On 8 January I posted as follows:

‘The Times, Telegraph and Guardian all reported that Trafigura and their lawyers, Carter-Ruck, were going to the High Court this afternoon.  In the words of The Times, “Trafigura, the oil trader, is seeking to prevent publication of details of a new £6 million claim that it faces in the High Court.


The global company is being sued by an Irish management consultant, Kieran Looney, whom it hired to improve its management programme.

He claims that Trafigura breached their agreement by terminating his contract and is seeking £6m. The company denies the allegations.


Now the oil trader is going to the High Court to ensure the documents are “sealed”, preventing the allegations being aired, although they have previously been publicly available.”  ‘


No newspaper reported the outcome of the court hearing and only one newspaper report was filed and that was more than 1 month after Trafigura's attempt to stop the court papers becoming public.

I have made the court papers available online: 

Looney's claims  here

Trafigura's defence here

and now I must thank my source who does not want any publicity.

My story of the case starts here.  Quotes from Looney's claims are in green and from Trafigura's defence in blue.

Basically the case is one of two companies falling out over a contract. 

Was it terminated properly or not? 

Was the programme working? 

Did Trafigura act in good faith or with deliberation? 

The two sides answer these questions differently and, therefore, the court will decide. 

I would guess that the details of most cases of this type are very dry and boring and this is probably the reason why so little has been made public.  Hopefully I’ll be sparing enough with the details not to bore you.

“Kieran Looney & Associates, is a niche executive consultant who licenses his intellectual property and delivers management development programmes, in particular a performance management System ...”.

Trafigura and Looney entered an agreement for Looney's company to provide services designed “to improve management systems which Trafigura recognised as deficient  …..  to maintain growth and improve efficiency by equipping senior managers with new skills and tools.” over a three year period at £3million per year! 

Yes!  £3 million pounds a year! 

More than £8000 per day of every day of the year.

Trafigura unsurprisingly contested Looney's assertion of the scale of the problems.  Details of these are available in the Morning Star article or in my online copies (see above).

Key within the dispute is Looney's intellectual property.  Understandably, this was so important to him that the agreement had a section which dealt specifically with Materials and their use and sharing thereof.  Trafigura used the materials in ways which were understandable but which breached the Materials Agreement: these breaches were resolved amicably.

Separately Trafigura had bought a pc-based performance management system (now called Trafitalent) for all employees but they used some forms which, according to Looney, were based on his copyrighted materials.  Sorry, this is getting complicated.

Then in October 2009, despite claiming that he was given positive feedback about his programme, Looney was told that Trafigura had terminated the contract and they paid the early termination fee of £1 million. 

Trafigura claimed:

“During the course of October  2009, Trafigura undertook (through various management discussions) a review of how the KL program was progressing including an assessment of the benefits to date and the possible further benefits … if the Agreement continued over the next 2 years.  There was concern that the KL program was too time-consuming and insufficiently flexible for it to be of real value.  There was also concern about having to deal on a personal level with Mr Looney.”

I should note here that Looney also found Trafigura difficult to work with.

For reasons I didn't understand Looney claims that Trafigura's termination wasn't valid and so he later terminated the contract and claimed what I assume is the  remains of the full 3 year fee.

He also claims that Trafigura may have deliberately used him for long enough to get the materials and knowledge they required to allow them to input these into the Trafitalent system.

Unsurprisingly, Trafigura deny this.

Where is the truth in this?  I don't know, I can't know.   Each side is made to sound perfectly reasonable and the other to be unreasonable.  I’m quite happy to leave this to the courts to decide.

Oh, just to complicate matters further one more snippet.  Trafigura have counter-claimed against Looney for breaking a Confidentiality Agreement by disclosing private Trafigura information to The Guardian.

Ah, this is getting too much for me.  I've spent too long reading both documents and I need a break!!!

[PS: If either Looney or Trafigura believe that I have misrepresented their views or case then please email me at the address at the bottom of the lower bar on the RHS.]

Sunday, 28 March 2010

NHS: Another Consultant Horror Story

Last Thursday’s post about Mr Toblerone and Jimmie was my first NHS post for some time but another has come along already.

For those who have recently become visitors let me refer you back to three posts from 2008 which described primarily Mrs Carr’s maltreatment by NHS Lothian [1, 2, 3].  Mrs Carr suffered terribly through deliberate inaction: despite two letters from our MSP the health board refused to answer her most basic but pertinent questions.

I acknowledge that I am not well-disposed to those within the NHS whom I believe are denying patients the treatment and support they need but I am delighted to acknowledge good treatment.  A few months ago at the end of a normal GP’s appointment I praised the new GP because he was outstandingly good.

In Jimmie’s story he met a consultant with the people skills of a cruise missile.

Today’s story was overheard but, even if the story were embellished a little and I have no reason to believe this to be the case, the actions of the consultant (Con) concerned were outrageous.

A patient, Johnnie, suffers from a very painful and debilitating condition.  Con wanted him to switch to a new drug but Johnnie, who had read on the web about this drug and its side effects, decided to stay with his current medication because he had few side effects with it.

Con was livid that Johnnie, a mere patient, should not take his advice although I guess he wasn’t actually giving advice.

Johnnie stood his ground and did not take on the new drug.  Whether this action prompted Con to behave so appallingly I don’t know but Con saw an area of red skin on the patients arm and said,

“That looks like AB cancer.  You need to get that removed immediately”

Now Con was not a cancer specialist and so shouldn’t have made any judgments about the patch of skin by eye but, even if he were, he should never have “diagnosed” in that way nor addressed the issue in this cold and brutal way. 

Where was his concern, his caring, his compassion?

Posted missing!  Possibly never there!

As it turns out, Johnnie saw a cancer specialist and he did not have AB cancer.

He did not have cancer.

But a disgrace of a consultant stepped way outside his expertise and left a patient, already in great pain, to fear for his life by his lack of skills or lack of interest or out of pure anger.

Each of these reasons should preclude a consultant from practising. 

NHS waken up!

We are people! 

Treat us as people!

Con, if you can’t do this, get out and find a job where you can’t cause damage.

But you won’t move on, will you?  Your NHS salary, your private salary, your ego will keep you there causing trouble.

Front End, Back End

Like the pantomime cow this bison looks as though he’s made up of two parts.  The back and front ends don’t match.

Who do you think is in the front end and who in the back end?

RIMG0290

I think the back end could be Blair: hiding behind a big bad bastard.

The front end -  Sir Alex Ferguson: do NOT mess with me.

Can you do better?

Sunday Morning Coffee with Carlos Nunez

Another departure for the show: I’ve concentrated on British, Irish and American performers but today we go to Spain.

I hadn’t heard of Carlos Nunez until last week but after a wee bit of research and lots of listening I can say quite safely that he is a virtuoso on the pipes – not the uilleann or Scottish bagpipes but on Galician pipes.

Let’s go straight into some music where he shows his prodigious talents.  Don’t forget your coffee but this is a very high tempo show so put your coffee somewhere safe when you’re listening.

Enjoy!

Jigs and Bulls

Wow!

_____

I should say also that for most of the videos I don’t know what tunes are being played.

Galicia is at the extreme North-west corner of Spain.  I must admit that I had never heard of it before but that’s probably not surprising.

Galicia There seems to be some dispute as to whether Galician music has Celtic roots but what isn’t in doubt is that there is now a strong link which has allowed Galician folk music access to a much wider audience.  Carlos Nunez has both taken advantage of this link and intensified it.

We see evidence of this in the next video.

Irish Dance Set  (with the Chieftains)

There is a phenomenal (drum) solo from 1m 37s to 3m 04s.

Phew! 

_____

I’ll give you a wee break so that you can untangle your legs while you listen to a slow tune.

Gabriel’s Oboe

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a performance video.

You’ll have noticed that the Galician pipes are less harsh than their Scottish brother.

_____

 

I hope you’re all sorted out now because we go off with another fast one which has Celtic roots.

Untitled       (with Donal Lunny, Sharon Shannon & Noilaig Casy)

_____

The Irish theme continues with another Nunez  - Chieftains combo and a slightly slower tempo.

Muiñeira de Chantada

_____

Cups, mugs safely down please before we move on.  Serious risk of an accident unless you sit very still.

Glass of Beer / The Clumsy lover / The Gravel Walk

Amazing!  Out of this world!

And we’re not finished yet!

_____

El Otro Finisterre

This sounds vaguely anthemic. but is gorgeous.

_____

Just two more to go and we stay with Spanish music now.

Amanecer

Beauty.  Simple!

_____

Unfortunately time has caught up with us once again and I have only one more piece to play for you.  I hope you enjoy this.

Pasacorredoiras

 

Virtuoso!!!!  Absolutely fabulous.

_____

Almost every week I discover music and artists new to me and I love sharing my music with you.  I hope you enjoyed today’s Spanish – Celtic show.

Well, that’s it for another week. I’m off to listen to this music again.   I hope you enjoyed your coffee and the music.   Tune in again next week and thanks for listening.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Clumsy’s Calum

My recent photo-posts have all been leading to this  - the least human of all my pics.

ClumsysCalum

This did start off as a normal photo but Clumsy’s skills have again revealed another of my facets.

Is there no end to Clumsy’s skills?

Is there a start to his skills?

Remembrance

This lady will appear, at some time, in my Sunday Morning Coffee show but, until then, here’s a taster.

Sarah McLachlan and “I Will Remember You”.

Enjoy ……

I will remember too!

Friday, 26 March 2010

B or C

“Cut to ribbons
Smaller still
Shredded paper
Useless for all
Things of need

Millions of bits
Take on a form
But no substance
Therein. No
Skeleton here

A form now
And now and
Now and now.
Each formless
With any rebuff

No use now
No future
No history
No deeds to
Be done. So ...

...To bin or
To compost
To b or to c
No other choice
Now. 2bor2c?

Got It This Time

After 2 failed attempts I’ve finally got a photo which is I / me …. whatever.

You’ll notice that I’m unshaven with a glaikit look. This all ties in with what you know about me already.

Here you go then.

P1000601

Sorry that you had to find out my true likeness.

Definitely Something Weird

After the problems I had with the photo of me in my last post I tried again and again weirdness.  My photo has been partially distorted by means (or beings) of which I am unaware.

MeAllermuir

This was I near the top of Allermuir in the Pentlands, Arthurs Seat in the right background - the pic taken after we got to the top.

Again, blurriness but this time a glowing rainbow-tinged face and an arrow of rainbow light flashing through me.

What is happening?

Am I being measured for another world?

What Has Happened?

I’m so sorry!

I had finally come to the conclusion – and for me that takes a long long time – to let you see me as I am.  I selected the photo, taken on board a CalMac ferry to Colonsay -  a nice one or as nice as is possible when I am the subject, but something went wrong betwixt selection and embedding.

MeonCalmac

Not only has my face become blurry but I have an aura… or is a halo?  I’ll let you decide for yourselves.

I guess that there are reasons why I’m not mean to reveal myself that are way beyond my ken.

Of course, you may question whether this is the one and only CalumCarr or some other great man!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Rid the NHS of Toblerone!

No, not the triangular chocolate bar but consultants like Mr Toblerone (name changed to protect the guilty) who, despite ultra-high intelligence and probably ultra-high skills as a surgeon and researcher, has not even the people skills of a cruise missile.

What has he done … or not done?

Let me tell you Jimmie’s story (name changed to protect the innocent).

Jimmie has seen both sides of the NHS within the one hospital: one department where all the patients are treated with the utmost respect.  Jimmie said that were he royalty he couldn’t have been treated better and then the other ….

…… Jimmie has been seen by Mr Toblerone on quite a few occasions over several years for a particular pain, initially of unknown cause but now believed to be X, and his manner has almost always been off-hand, brusque, superior, uncaring, unsympathetic. 

Once when seen privately, Mr Toblerone was gushing: How are you, James?  Nice to see you again, James?  I bet you don’t know how much lucre you’re putting into my pocket, James. 

Surprisingly, once  - but only once - as an NHS patient, Jimmie found Mr Toblerone in a very relaxed mood, dressed casually rather than suit, shirt and bow-tie and showing interest and understanding.  This couldn’t, and didn’t, last.

A few days ago Jimmie had the misfortune to have an appointment with Mr Toblerone – an annual visit – and he was appalling.  Sub-standard doesn’t do it justice.

Mr T looking at handwritten notes and pc snapped, “Why are you here?”

Jimmie, “Mr A said that I should continue with an annual visit.”

Mr T:  “WHY?”

J:  “Because, Mr T, at times the pain is unbearable.”

Mr T: “But you only have mild X.”

J:  “Mr T, at home in my file I have a report from you stating that my X was so serious that you couldn’t complete a particular test?”

Mr T, flicking through notes, “Ah, serious.  Yes, you have Y.  X and Y they’re the same thing.  Patients find something on the web and think they know everything.”

J: “Mr T, today patients are better informed than they have ever been because of access to information on the web.  I’m looking for advice about how to handle the pain when it comes.”

Mr T:  “We offer surgery and two years ago you refused surgery.”

J:  “How can I deal with the pain when it becomes severe?”

Mr T:  “Surgery is all we have on offer.”

J, trying successfully to retain his composure, stood up, picked up his newspaper, said, “Mr T,this has been an unsatisfactory consultation” and walked out.

 

Why do I tell this story because it is mild in terms of some of the horror stories one hears? 

Because it is so run-of-the-mill, so ordinary, that it must be happening in hospitals across Britain.  Patients treated as though they are bricks, no intelligence, no needs other than to sit in front of a god of a consultant, as though they are an inconvenience to god.

The NHS is run for these gods and not for the patients.

And what happens if a Jimmie complains? 

Sod all for the Jimmies.

Circle the wagons!  We have an attack!  Oh, Mr Toblerone, how could this patient, whom you have treated so well over the years, be so ungrateful, so selfish, so blind, so unknowing, so ignorant as to complain about your manner.  God, Mr T, Jimmie has even complained that you didn’t know the details of his case.  How could you with all your responsibilities be expected to know that Jimmie’s X was serious?  We will knock this fool’s complaint back, don’t you worry, Mr T.

The NHS can introduce targets, systems, best practice, new technologies and none of it is worth anything as long as there are Mr Toblerones infecting the Service.

Rid the NHS of Toblerones whether they be executives, managers, consultants, doctors or nurses.

Cruise missiles cause damage wherever they go.

Let’s make sure we ban cruise missiles from the NHS.

Alone and Calm Again

P1000503

….. almost but not quite.

So often works out like this.

Alone and Calm

P1000492

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Is This Related to Andrew?

Andrew at his “Life’s Science” blog tells stories of his masters in the sky.

I wonder if this squint-eyed monster is of his race.

Andrews_Race

Are you one of them, Andrew, or do you just serve them?

We need to know!

Clumsy’s What Was This

Yesterday I posted “Clumsy’s What” with this picture
What1
and invited readers to guess what was the original.  No-one could guess because the reality is so far from this.
It’s time now to show the original picture which is
thisiswhat
You’re still none the wiser, are you?
Let me explain.  I took a photo at night  - out a bedroom window as is normal for me – looking over parts of Edinburgh.  The lights are actually street lights and I was unable to hold the camera still.  The “monkey” shapes show the movement of the camera repeated for each and every light.
How did I get to the top photo?  Quite easily but I have neither added nor removed anything from the picture.  All I have done is to repeatedly tweak some of the software controls.

High Praise for Clumsy’s Art

No, it isn’t, wasn’t, but was mocking in a pleasant and light-hearted way!

What was?   Hold on, I’ll tell you and show you.

Just under a week a go an Anonymous left a comment on my first official “Clumsy’s Art” post here.  In that post I showed a normal photograph taken looking down Loch Craignish from Ardfern and then the tweaked Clumsy’s picture – shown below.

P1000157-1

My mysterious commenter said,

“Now I know how JoLoMo gets his colour ideas :)
http://bit.ly/aBZTaj

In my ignorance I didn’t know who JoLoMo was and so I followed the link which didn’t tell me.  A Google search showed JoLoMo was John Lowrie Morrison  - one of Scotland’s best loved contemporary artists.  Well that is what his own website says!

I then found a slideshow of his paintings of Crinan and its surroundings which is very close, as the crow flies, to Loch Craignish.  You can view that slideshow here or if you prefer click on this link http://bit.ly/cFfMar.

I can see what my commenter meant but I think I’m just a teeny weeny bit behind JoLoMo in technique.

Of course, you may think differently.

PS JoLoMo’s paintings are brill.

The Rich Boys: An Ultra-Secretive Network Rules Independent Oil Trading

I had never heard of “The Rich Boys” nor even of Marc Rich until a month or so ago when I stumbled across an excellent Business Week Investigation report from 2005 written by Marcia Vickers.

Now I know.

Perhaps you’ll be interested too.

I’ve appended only an extract of the article but by the time you reach the end of the extract if you want to read more I’ve left a link to the original article.

“The Rich Boys 

An ultra-secretive network rules independent oil trading. Its mentor: Marc Rich


One brisk day last fall, globe-trotting oil executive Benjamin R. Pollner was leaving his luxury prewar apartment building on Manhattan's Park Avenue when detectives from Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau's office approached. They began asking him about his alleged involvement in the unfolding U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal. Pollner, a tall, lean sixtysomething who wears European-cut clothes and a world-weary visage, was taken aback, say investigators familiar with the incident.

He snapped that he was in a hurry to make an overseas flight and refused to answer questions. Before hopping into a car that whisked him off to John F. Kennedy International airport, Morgenthau's investigators say Pollner delivered a parting shot: "I did nothing in New York or the U.S. that would be considered illegal." To them, Pollner was admitting he had done something wrong -- just not in their jurisdiction. Pollner, who runs Taurus Petroleum mainly from offices in Geneva and London, hasn't set foot in the U.S. since, investigators believe. He didn't reply to several calls and e-mails.


On the morning of Apr. 14, David Bay Chalmers Jr., 51, who owns privately held oil-trading company Bayoil U.S.A. Inc., emerged handcuffed and bleary-eyed from his high-security mansion in Houston's ritzy River Oaks neighborhood. He had just been indicted by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for conspiracy, wire fraud, and trading with a country that supports terrorism -- Iraq -- during the U.N. program. Chalmers has pleaded not guilty.


Another trader, Patrick Maugein, nonexecutive chairman of London's SOCO International PLC oil-trading company, has been under scrutiny by the U.N. for his alleged role in a complex oil-smuggling scheme during Oil-for-Food, the U.N. program that allowed Iraq to sell oil for humanitarian purposes during a period of strict sanctions. Although many deals were legitimate, Saddam Hussein at times demanded illegal surcharges for the right to buy oil at below-market prices. Friends of Saddam's regime allegedly received sweetheart oil allocations, investigators say. Maugein denies violating sanctions or paying illegal surcharges.


LEARNING FROM EL MATADOR
What do the three men have in common, aside from their dubious deals with Iraq? They all belong to the ultrasecretive informal network of traders who dominate global independent oil trading. They don't necessarily act in concert with each other, but they often chase the same opportunities. They are the Rich Boys. All operate in the world of onetime fugitive billionaire Marc Rich, the most-wanted white-collar criminal in U.S. history until his controversial pardon on President Bill Clinton's last day in office in 2001.


Rich came to prominence in the 1970s, when he worked at Phillips Bros. (later Phibro), then the biggest trader. With veteran partner Pincus "Pinky" Green, he pioneered "combat trading" -- getting trading rights from countries in turmoil. Rich, called El Matador for his killer instinct, did the deals. Pinky, "The Admiral," arranged shipping.


Traders soon learned the art of the Rich deal: Do whatever it takes. After Rich and Green left Phibro in 1973 to form their own company, they bought a house in the South of France and "stocked it with hookers from Paris and flew in oil guys who spent a week at their expense," says a former U.S. oil executive who knows Rich. "They got the oil contracts they wanted." A former Rich partner corroborates this. Green, who retired in 1992 after heart surgery, could not be reached for comment.


Rich is notorious for trading with Iran during the hostage crisis, South Africa during apartheid, and Cuba and Libya during U.S. trade embargoes. In 1983 he fled to Switzerland after being indicted by the Justice Dept. for racketeering, trading with the enemy (Iran), dodging a $48 million corporate tax bill, and other violations that could have resulted in 300 years of jail time. Rich's companies pleaded guilty to some charges and paid about $200 million in fines, penalties, and taxes, but the case remained open until the pardon. "Rich's philosophy is that no law applies to him," says Morris "Sandy" Weinberg Jr., the former U.S. prosecutor who pursued and indicted Rich in 1983.


Over the years, Rich has mentored scores of traders. Although the 70-year-old is past his peak in the business, according to industry experts, his protégés are thriving. "You could call it the University of Marc Rich," says a Senate investigator. As Alaskan and North Sea oil production declines, new supplies increasingly come from some of the most corrupt or politically unstable places on earth, such as Equatorial Guinea and Sudan. These are the new frontiers where major U.S. oil companies fear to tread because of sanctions, embargoes, and antibribery and anti-terrorism laws. But it's where these traders, many like characters out of the James Bond flick Goldfinger, make good money, especially when oil tops $60 a barrel.


Governments and law enforcers have long been suspicious of some Rich Boys. In a six-month investigation, BusinessWeek has pieced together the first comprehensive look at their sprawling and deliberately elusive operations.

Our findings:


-- Rich has spawned the most powerful informal network of independent commodities traders on earth. He did it primarily by funding spin-offs and startups around the globe for decades, and by training scores of traders who have set up their own shops. Although Rich no longer maintains stakes in most of these outfits, he has helped create a network that, in sum, is far more formidable than his own company in the 1970s and 1980s, when it was the world's premier commodities trader.


-- The Rich Boys' often controversial activities are on the rise. They buy oil from places where corruption is extensive: Some of the Rich Boys have been named in scandals in Nigeria and Venezuela. They also sell oil from pariah states to U.S. refiners.

-- Although Rich testified in writing in March, 2005, to a House committee investigating the U.N. program that he was not in any way active in the Oil-for-Food program, documents suggest that he bought Iraqi oil in 2001 from various front companies, which BusinessWeek has identified. This took place just one month after his pardon. If so, it seems that Rich may have misled Congress. The CIA, the Senate, and others have concluded that from September, 2000, until September, 2002, buyers in the Oil-for-Food oil program had to pay illegal surcharges that Saddam used in part to buy weapons, though no documents show Rich made such payments. Some investigators believe Iraqi insurgents are now using that money.

-- One company from which Rich bought crude during this period was a front for extremist Russian and Ukrainian organizations. All were pro-Saddam; one was a staunch supporter of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. Another company was tied to a major money launderer for Saddam.


To reach these conclusions, BusinessWeek traced crucial connections from a number of official inquiries and documents. Key among these documents: shipping tables from the Middle East Economic Survey (MEES), the preeminent authority on tanker activity in the Middle East. These detail the ports, tankers, destinations, and buyers of Iraqi crude. Other insights came from a 2004 CIA report on Iraq, data from Switzerland's Federal Commercial Registry Office, and the many inquiries launched into Oil-for-Food. The Justice Dept., six congressional committees, a U.N. commission, Morgenthau's office, and several countries, including Switzerland, are all investigating the program. Extensive interviews with dozens of oil traders, government investigators, and energy experts around the globe helped form a clearer picture of how the network operates.”

Makes one wonder, doesn’t it, about the murky business of international trade?

Trafigura is mentioned in the full article but I must point out that, subsequently, Trafigura wrote to Business Week clarifying their position.  I have linked to their letter and provided a link to a downloadable version of their short letter.

Links:

Link to original Business Week article
Downloadable pdf of original article

Link to Letter from Trafigura to Business Week clarifying Trafigura’s position.  5th letter on page
Downloadable version of letter

Link to Additional information from Marcia Vickers given to the US Senate Judiciary committee January 2009 [Note: this link appears to be broken]
http://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B1SaJS6SnFZMYjJkMTVjNjMtOGFmYy00M2M2LTgxZDMtMDUyZDAwNWZiNjM2&hl=en

Calling 83.244.128.25

Hello 83.244.128.25

How are you?  You’ve been visiting quite a lot recently as has your “neighbour”, 83.244.128.26 although (s)he hasn’t been around for a few days - mainly Trafigura posts.

I’m delighted to have you visit as often as you do although you do screw up my visitor stats in a positive way.  Every page you look at logs you as a unique visitor:  probably you don’t have cookies enabled.  Not a problem though.  Just inflates my stats.

IP Address       83.244.128.25 [Label IP Address]
Country          United Kingdom
Region            London
City               London
ISP                Customer Allocation - Internet Service

There’s just one thing.  Sometimes you visit me by doing a Google search for “Callum Carr”.  I know it’s not my real name but there is only one “L” in my Calum.

If you could switch to the proper spelling that would be great.

Surprisingly, if you search for “Callum Carr” as you do I am No. 1 hit on Google.

If you use “Calum Carr” I’m third …

… but if you use “CalumCarr” as one word, as I do, I’m back to No. 1 again.

I hope you enjoy your visits.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Clumsy’s What?

What1

Clumsy doesn’t know what this is / was?  You can’t know either and will never guess but you can say what you think this looks like now.

Trafigura Reply in BBC Libel Now Available

Thanks to Richard Wilson of Don’t Get Fooled Again for obtaining, I assume from the High Court, Trafigura’s reply in the BBC Libel case.  Not only has he obtained the document he has allowed me to post about and release it at the same time.  THANK YOU, RICHARD!

Trafigura’s Reply to the BBC’s Defence is available here.  For completeness the BBC’s Defence is also available here.

What is still missing is Trafigura’s original claim.  Those who read the BBC’s defence will notice that it refers to paragraphs in Trafigura’s claim.  Guess that’s the next document to get.

I’ve had a quick look at both documents and my untutored view is that the BBC case is weak and Trafigura’s strong.

Trafigura have involved experts from many fields including shipping, chemistry, modelling, toxicology, tropical medicine, veterinary science and psychiatry.  They present a solid case for the waste being unable to cause any serious illness or effect beyond the malodour.  Other experts may find holes – even lots of holes – in the overall analysis but on first reading their case is evidence–based and well-made.  Having read their Reply I am at a loss to understand why Trafigura would not release this document to me and why they continue to refuse to release copies of the WSP environmental audit of Abidjan.

The BBC case appears weak to me.  For example, they state in Para 3,

“It is denied that the programme meant or was understood to mean that the dumping caused "numerous" miscarriages or "very severe illness with long term chronic effects in tens of thousands of people".  It is admitted that the programme alleged that Trafigura was culpably responsible for causing or permitting the unlawful dumping of highly toxic waste with an obvious potential to cause serious harm to public health as in fact it did.   It is further admitted that the actual consequences alleged in the programme included miscarriages and injury to health of tens of thousands of people including sixteen deaths.  It is averred that in the present context the notion of a "significant number of deaths" lacks ethical meaning.  Any death is "significant" and scandalous if caused by the illegal dumping of waste (as indeed is any substantial injury to public health).”

Either I do not understand this paragraph or it is talking nonsense.

Where the BBC case seems relatively stronger and Trafigura’s relatively weaker is in the knowledge and intentions of Trafigura prior to the illegal disposal of the waste by Compagnie Tommy.  Here Trafigura defend themselves but state that they had not made any claim against the BBC in these areas.

“20. The BBC has chosen to justify allegations of which complaint has not been made in this action, namely criticisms of Trafigura's conduct before Tommy dumped material from the Probo Koala around Abidjan and criticisms of Trafigura's public response after that dumping.
21. Because very serious allegations against Trafigura, its employees and its representatives have been made in those parts of the plea of justification, they are answered below.”

Obviously in any case like this one side will say, “Black” and the other “White” while both might say privately and honestly that the truth is a shade of grey.  There is little of any grey in these documents.

Where is truth in this matter?  I don’t know but, certainly, Trafigura has a body of detailed analysis to defend their position.

Will this be enough to give Trafigura a better name? 

I doubt it. 

The BBC’s Defence and Trafigura’s Reply cannot both be taken as fact.  I assume public perception of Trafigura is more resistant to change than is the legal perception.   Neither view can completely objective. In fact, the degree of objectivity in both is unknown and it must be noted that court cases may determine truth but that is not their primary objective.

Where does the Trafigura affair go from here?

I imagine that there will still be controversy over the validity of Trafigura’s claims about the relative harmlessness of the waste but the focus, I think, will be on their knowledge and intent before the dumping of the waste and on the sweetening of the PMI coker naphtha in Norway and, possibly, elsewhere.

I can also see others looking at the possibility that there is a trade in gasoline to West Africa which does not meet the required standards.  There is already speculation that this is happening [here and here] but I do not suggest that Trafigura or any other company is involved in this trade.

Trafigura: New Document Opening at 8PM

At 8pm tonight a new Trafigura document will be available online both through this site and Don’t Get Fooled Again to whom I am hugely grateful for allowing me to share in the opening.

Also at this time I will publish a post on the document.

Key to Life

Key1

If only it were so simple.

Questions for Trafigura

In my recent post - “Trafigura: Beyond Abidjan” -  I quoted from 3 NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) articles based on information they had gathered for a programme to be broadcast in mid-September 2009.  As part of the information gathering NRK asked 23 questions of Trafigura.  Those questions and email exchanges are available here.

I don’t know if Trafigura has replied to any but, if they have, I don’t know the answers and, so, I pose NRK’s questions once more.  I hope Trafigura will answer them now or, if answered previously, furnish us with their answers.

“In connection with a broadcast for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation we would like to ask for
an interview with Trafigura regarding the following:

1. Trafigura is charged in Norway for illegal import of waste to Norway. What is your comment to this?


2. In e‐mail from Naeem Ahmed 27.12.05 he refers to the leftovers after caustic washing as “toxic caustic”. Why do you then claim it was slop onboard the Probo Emu?


3. Why were the company Saybolt not allowed to inspect the waste tank onboard the Probo Emu when she arrived in Sløvåg?


4. Why where there representatives from Trafigura present in Sløvåg when Probo Emu discharged her waste in October 2006?


5. Can you confirm the price quoted in e‐mail from Naeem Ahmed to James McNicol dated 27.12.05, of $ 200‐250/kg to dispose of the caustic waste in Rotterdam?


6. In e‐mail from Naeem Ahmed dated 27.12.05 he claims there are only one specialist disposal company in Rotterdam, but the waste can not be moved across EU borders. Why did you then choose to send Probo Emu to Vest Tank and why did you not notify Norwegian environmental authorities and apply for import?

7. In internal e‐mails the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation have from employees in Trafigura the product on board the Probo Koala and Probo Emu is not called slop but waste.  Why have you later claimed that it was slop?


8. In e‐mail from Naeem Ahmed dated 28.12.05 he says that the operation of caustic washing is no longer allowed in EU, US and Singapore. Why did you after this enter into a contract with Vest Tank for them to do the caustic washing in Norway?


9. Why have you not made yourself available for questioning by the Norwegian police as requested by them in the case of illegal import of waste on the Probo Emu?


10. In an e‐mail 28.12.05 Mr. Ahmed describes how caustic waste at Alexelas terminal in Paldiski in the matter of 5‐6 weeks destroyed the tanks. In Sløvåg the waste was stored from November 2006 to May 2007. Did you tell Vest Tank of the risks regarding the destruction of their tanks?


11. Naeem Ahmed claims in the same e‐mail that it is “inherent to remove caustic waste in tanks after 3 to 4 days max”. Did you inform Vest Tank of this?

12. Vest Tank claims you did not tell them that
a. Probo Emu came to Norway with toxic waste
b. you did not tell them that caustic washing was not allowed to do in the EU as stated in Naeem Ahmeds e‐mail of 28.12.05
c. you did not tell them that the caustic waste could destroy the tanks as they did in Paldiski if the waste was stored for a period of more that 5‐6 weeks or 3 to 4 days according to two different e‐mails


13. Vest Tank now intend to sue you for damages. What is Trafiguras reaction to this?

14. What is Trafiguras connections to Odfjell terminals in Rotterdam? Have you done caustic cleaning there?

15. When did representatives from Odfjell put you in touch with Vest Tank?


16. Did you tell Odfjell that you intended to send waste to Sløvåg and did they know you planned to do caustic washing at site in Sløvåg?


17. What happened during the discharge of Bow Prospers cargo in La Skhirra in Tunisia in March 2006?


18. In e‐mail from Naeem Ahmed to David Foster dated 24.03.06 it is suggested to leave out the presence of di‐enes from the La Skhirra report. Why is that?


19. Was there di‐enes also present in Sløvåg?


20. In e‐mail from Naeem Ahmed dated 27.12.05 he is not sure that the caustic waste in Fujairah was disposed of in a legal way. How was it disposed of?

21. At what scale did you do caustic washing in Fujairah?


22. In e‐mail from Leon Christophilopolpus dated 18.04.06 he says you are reduced to perform washing on board ships. Why where you not allowed to do this washing in Fujairah any more?


23. Was there any kind of octane increasing agent added to the coker gasoline prior to the caustic washing in Sløvåg?”

I don’t know what lies behind NRK’s questioning nor do I imply any wrong-doing on Trafigura’s part but I do believe that there is sufficient public interest into this subject that Trafigura should answer the questions posed.

I ask and I wait.

JD’s Choice 2

JD is a regular visitor and commenter although I know nothing about him other than JD is Scottish and male …. and has a similar taste in music to me.  Every so often he leaves a Youtube link and every time I’ve loved the music.  It was JD who left the link to the MountnMonkeys.

Last night he left me this from Celtic Connections 2010!

New to me but absolutely fabulous.

I hope you like this too.

Thanks, JD!

Monday, 22 March 2010

Highwaymen Times Three

Times 1

The original Highwaymen singing “Michael” 2007.

Times 2 and 3

The Highwaymen  - Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and Johnnie Cash"! - singing “Highwayman” (1990)

The Story of My Life

 

Squint

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Trafigura: Beyond Abidjan

All must know the story of Trafigura, the cheap Mexican coker naphtha which they had caustic washed on the Probo Koala and the waste product from that process which was dumped illegally by Company Tommy in Abidjan.  The story of this coker naphtha continues beyond the Abidjan incident to show the path of the coker naphtha from Mexico, to Norway, Estonia and then on to West Africa as gasoline.

I have not uncovered any new sources of information but I have pulled together stories from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) and from Afrol News.  The 5 base articles are listed below and are available as a pdf file here.

1  Vest Tank sweetened coker gasoline http://nrk.no/programmer/tv/brennpunkt/1.6104693
2  A small pawn in the game http://www.nrk.no/programmer/tv/brennpunkt/1.6104888
3  Coker gasoline – low quality http://nrk.no/programmer/tv/brennpunkt/1.6105347
4  Bad gasoline trade ring to West Africa exposed   http://www.afrol.com/articles/29488
5  Dangerous gasoline offloaded in Nigeria, Ghana   http://www.afrol.com/articles/29529

Normally I’d be a bit worried that Trafigura might take a tough line with me but, given that this information has been available online for a long time, I’m not worried.  Even better insurance is that I emailed Trafigura and their PR company  (Bell-Pottinger) in mid-February saying,

All 5 articles have been available online for sometime and, so, I imagine that Trafigura is unconcerned about my repeating statements made within these articles.  Can you confirm that this is so?  Also do you have any comments to make on the content of any or all of these articles which you want me consider including in my post?
Should you not get back in touch with me before I post I will assume that you have no concerns about my repeating any statement in these articles and that Trafigura has no comment of its own to make.”

I haven’t heard from them in over a month ergo they have no worries and no comments.  I’ve put my emails online too …. just in case.  You’ll find them here.

Now to the story.

We start not at the beginning but on 24 May 2007 in the small Norwegian town of Slovag (population < 1000) when

a tank belonging to the enterprise Vest Tank in Sløvåg municipality exploded.  The explosion generated an intense sulphurous stench, which has caused illness among the local population ever since. 

This was the starting point for NRK to investigate.

Through agreements with major foreign operators, the enterprise Vest Tank’s tank facility in Sløvåg became an important link in an international production of, and trade with, extremely low quality gasoline. The final product was of such poor quality that it was illegal to sell in Europe. Instead, this bad gasoline was shipped to West Africa. Norwegian authorities proved to be completely unaware of these activities.

During 2006 and 2007 Trafigura shipped 150,000 tons (6 shipments) of Mexican coker gasoline to Vest Tank who caustic washed the material, as was done on board the Probo Koala, giving sweetened gasoline plus aqueous waste.  I’ll come back to the sweetened gasoline later but, for now, I concentrate on the waste. According to NRK,

On May 24, Tank 3 exploded. The reason was a Vest Tank blunder. They intended to get rid of caustic material and sulphur left at the bottom of the tank. By pumping in hydrochloric acid, the waste was supposed to be transformed into salt and water. Instead, a carbon filter was ignited, and the tank blew up. The sulphur contained in all the ship cargoes was released, causing continuous illness among the local inhabitants.”

According to NRK, the relevant Norwegian authorities were unaware of the activities at Sløvåg.

NRK claim that waste from the sweetening process was exported from Sløvåg describing how a ship laden with 30,000 tons of gasoline from England took on 5400 tons of Sløvåg desulphurisation waste, mixed the two products and sailed to West Africa.

A smart way of getting rid of waste by incorporating it into another product!

NRK state that it is illegal to export such waste from Europe to developing countries.  I wonder what is the legal position when the waste, whose export would otherwise be illegal, is mixed to make another product whose export is legal.  I suspect Trafigura may be in the clear legally on this point.

What of the sweetened product?  NRK explains,

After the sweetening in Sløvåg, five of the six ships headed for the seaport town of Paldiski in Estonia. In Paldiski, they discharged their cargoes at the terminal of the oil company Alexela, a company partly owned by Trafigura. Incidentally, Alexela bought up Vest Tank in Sløvåg after the explosion. In Paldiski, the cargo was unloaded, and the Estonian customs service relate that a substance designed to increase the octane level is mixed into the gasoline. The unusable residue product coker gasoline had now turned into low quality gasoline.
The Estonian customs state that the quality is so low, it renders it illegal to sell in Europe. The gasoline is reloaded on board a ship, then dispatched to West Africa. In Europe, the maximum approved sulphur level in gasoline is 50 ppm. In West Africa, 5000 ppm is the approved limit
.

Clearly there is nothing illegal in producing fuel of a standard which is acceptable in some markets but not in others.  The Afrol articles, later, have more to say about legality.

Experts consulted by NRK claim that gasoline made by the process described above is

so poor that it changes composition when exposed to sunlight. It has to go through several processes in a refinery in order to end up as an acceptable product.

NRK’s last statement is,

By means of the sweetening in Sløvåg and octane increasing in Estonia, Trafigura gained an acceptable gasoline for the African market. Coker gasoline from the USA, cleansed and processed in Sløvåg and Paldiski, ended up in West Africa.”

Afrol take up the story,

West Africans complaining about deteriorating quality of gasoline marketed in their country have proven to be right. A network to export illegal poor quality fuel into West Africa, headed by Trafigura, the company behind the toxic scandal in Côte d'Ivoire, is being exposed in Europe. A chemical tank explosion in a remote Norwegian fiord; a dubious refinery in Estonia without imports and exports; the intoxication of shipping inspectors in the Netherlands; the great toxic scandal in Côte d'Ivoire; and rising frustration and protests among car owners all over West Africa - all tracks lead back to the Dutch-registered giant shipping company Trafigura.”

When I copied this extract I was glad that I had given Trafigura the opportunity to read, to comment and to warn me off.

Afrol continue,

An entire cynical industry has developed to produce dangerous low octane gasoline with very high sulphur values from waste products, smuggling it through European facilities, shipping it in great tankers to West Africa, where shipments are brought  ashore by smaller vessels, bribing local inspectors to accept illegal fuel standards.”

………

“Upon arrival in the Gulf of Guinea, the giant Trafigura vessels anchor up off the coast to handle pre-arranged deals with local traders. Smaller vessels transport the fuel onshore. In the 'NRK' documentary, sales to Côte d'Ivoire, Togo and Cameroon were especially mentioned.  In an interview with 'NRK', Dutch citizen Arend van Campen told how he managed to bring poor fuels onshore in West Africa when earlier working as the representative of the supplier onboard Trafigura vessels. If authorities take samples and find that qualities are not according to specifications, the representative "would be able to hopefully convince them to accept the cargo anyway .. by making them change their mind," Mr van Campen said. He claimed never to have bribed any West African inspector, but said this could happen on such transports.”

I must make clear here there is nothing in Mr van Campen’s statement which states as fact, nor even implies, that anyone connected with Trafigura was involved in any bribing of any officials.

Very importantly the article states,

The extension of this speculative trade is yet to be exposed.”

The second Afrol article is a speculative piece.

A vessel from the shipping company Trafigura, "High Land", is currently in the Nigerian port of Lagos, loading off what is allegedly [Calum’s emphasis] dangerous and poor gasoline, aimed at West African consumers. The vessels last stop was in Tema, Ghana, where it probably also loaded off bad gasoline. 

Afrol News has been given documentation about the movements of the giant vessel "High Land", flying the Marshall Islands' flag and owned by the Dutch-registered company Trafigura, a giant shipping company accused of being responsible for the toxic scandal in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. The vessel on 27 February this year left the Estonian town Paldiski. On other occasions, Norwegian state broadcaster 'NRK' has documented, Trafigura vessels have used a Paldiski-based chemical plant to chemically manipulate waste products from oil production to produce a fuel-like substance marketed as gasoline for vehicles in West Africa. Most earlier transports from Paldiski to West Africa have gone directly to the port of Lomé, Togo. There, smaller vessels typically have offloaded quantities of 5,000 to 10,000 tonnes of the fuel, transporting it to neighbour countries in West Africa such as Cameroon and Côte d'Ivoire, where local inspectors are manipulated into accepting the load as "gasoline" for the local market.”

and they say

Also, it is expected that several other supply chains exist to this lucrative trade.”

Trafigura, according to afrol News, say that,

Trafigura, for its sake, claims it is victim to “defamation” following the documentary. In a written statement, the Dutch company points out that it “does not engage in illegal operations and requires that its subcontractors and chartered vessels do not do so either,” adding that it still remains to be proven the company has any responsibility for the Côte d'Ivoire toxic disaster.

Trafigura, through their spokesperson, Neil Cameron of Bell-Pottinger, said,

all leading global oil traders prepare different gasoline specifications to suit the needs of different markets around the world,"

and so focus should not rest solely on Trafigura. 

He said that allegations of misconduct, 

"in relation to imports of gasoline into West Africa"  were "utterly without foundation,".

 

The pathways uncovered by these reporters show how Trafigura moved from very cheap coker naphtha to what they hoped would make millions.

Trafigura are in the spotlight now but I would guess that many many companies in different industries see equivalent methods of increasing profits.  If only we could shine a light on all of them.

Thank you to all who have opened up this affair for us to see.  You have done us a great service.

Sunday Morning Coffee with the MountnMonkeys

Welcome to another Sunday Morning Coffee music show but this show has a major difference.  We move away from the stars, the incredibly talented, the TV programme and return to where music lives, music belongs: with ordinary people, playing together, passing on tunes and skills, enjoying their music in their own homes. 

Real music.  That’s what I celebrate today and I celebrate all those who play and jam at home, with friends, but I do so in the company of The MountnMonkeys.

Never heard of The MountnMonkeys?  Don’t worry, neither have they.  As far as I am aware they don’t have a name: they just enjoy a jam. 

Why then “The MountnMonkeys”?  Because one of the players posts their videos under the  name of  “MountnMonkey” and, so, I christened them.  They all live in and around Huntington in West Virginia.

Get your coffee, sit back and enjoy real live music at home, or in the kitchen or garage.

Black Mountain Rag

Fiddle: Jim Marshall
Mandolin: Mike Marshall (Jim's son)
Lead Guitar; Ron berry (Mountnmonkey)

Real garage music! And a lovely bright start.

_____

Those 3 players are major figures in all the videos.  occasionally we get a wider view and see just how many are playing.

Midnight on Water

Earl (cat) makes a brief but silent appearance in this video of a beautiful tune.

_____

We move back to the garage and on to the fastest brightest blues I’ve ever heard but I don’t care.  It’s brill!

East Tennessee Blues

Thanks, boys!

_____

We have our first vocal now with Ron singing of an old man, with his dog, whose time is almost up.

My Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane

_____

We add a second fiddler now who is well-known in Huntington for his skill, his knowledge and his teaching – Tom Kingery.

Billy Williams

I have no idea who was Billy Williams but from this tune I don’t think he could ever have been described as dour.

______

Bluegrass Romp

I feel like one now. That has lifted my spirits …. high!  Yes!!!

_____

Only two more from The MountnMonkeys and we hear now another lively tune.

Virginia Darling

Another magic tune and mandolin solo.

_____

We come to the end of this weeks show with another song from Ron.

Life is like a Mountain Railroad

_____

I hope you enjoyed today’s show with a difference. 

Music is for us all and by us all.  The stars are great but below them are many many people who make great music without any hopes of stardom.  Real music is here.

Thanks Ron, Jim, Mike and all your unseen friends who are an important part of your music.  If you want to hear more of The MountnMonkeys then visit Ron and his friends here.

Well, that’s it for another week. I’m off to listen to this music again.   I hope you enjoyed your coffee and the music.   Tune in again next week and thanks for listening.