Monday, November 28, 2022

Debris analysis shows Iran-made drone attacked tanker -U.S. Navy

Debris fragments collected as evidence by a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal team aboard M/T Pacific Zircon from an Iranian-made Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicle, according to U.S. Navy

[1/4] Debris fragments collected as evidence by a U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal team aboard M/T Pacific Zircon from an Iranian-made Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicle, according to U.S. Navy, are seen in this photo taken on November 16, 2022 and released by U.S.Navy on November 22, 2022. Mark Thomas Mahmod/U.S. Navy Central Command/Handout via REUTERS 

WASHINGTON, Nov 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. military on Tuesday said debris analysis has concluded that the same type of Iranian drone that Tehran has supplied to Russia for its invasion of Ukraine was used to attack a commercial tanker off the coast of Oman a week ago.

The U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet published photos and details of its investigation into the attack on the Liberian-flagged Pacific Zircon tanker, including debris from the Shahed-136 drone itself.

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In a statement, the Navy said the drone ripped a 30-inch-wide (76 cm) hole into the back of the ship, and the explosive impact damaged a shipboard boiler, potable water tank and life raft.

"The Iranian attack on a commercial tanker transiting international waters was deliberate, flagrant and dangerous, endangering the lives of the ship's crew and destabilizing maritime security in the Middle East," Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the top U.S. Navy commander in the Middle East, said in a statement.

Gulf waters have in recent years seen attacks on tankers that have come at times of heightened regional tensions with Iran. In July 2021, a suspected drone attack hit a petroleum product tanker managed by an Israeli firm off Oman's coast. Iran denied accusations it was responsible.

Reporting by Phil Stewart Editing by Tomasz Janowski

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

BHP averts strike at world’s biggest copper mine

BHP averts strike at world’s biggest copper mine
In 2017, unionized workers at the mine staged a 44-day strike, the longest in Chilean mining history. (Image: Sindicato 1 Union.

Unionized workers at Escondida mine in northern Chile have accepted BHP’s (ASX, LON, NYSE: BHP) latest offer and will not move forward with a strike that was planned for November 28 and 30.

Workers at Sindicato 1, which represents more than 2,000 members, backed on Monday the agreement reached last week between union representatives and the Australian miner.

The deal, which was subject to vote, came after days of negotiations with union representatives, who had called for a strike on November 21 and 23 due to multiple “non-compliances, infractions and violations” allegedly committed by BHP.

“This proposal contains a series of concrete and verifiable measures to improve the hygiene and safety of workers,” the union said in a statement. “Especially an intense joint inspection program between the union and the company of all work areas.”

It noted the proposal also “set aside changes in operating practices the company was pursuing.”

With the deal, BHP has averted a strike at the world’s largest copper mine at a time of tight global supplies and high prices for the the orange metal, a key material needed for the world’s transition to a green economy.

The Escondida copper mine is responsible for about 5% of the world’s total copper output and Chile is the world’s top producer of the metal.

In 2017, unionized workers at the mine staged a 44-day strike, the longest in Chilean mining history. The labour action cost the company $740 million in losses and meant a contraction of about 1.3% of Chile’s GDP.

While Escondida is majority-owned and operated by BHP, Rio Tinto and a Japanese consortium that includes Mitsubishi Corp and JX Nippon Mining & Metals also holds stakes in the mine.

Chile’s state owned mining company Codelco, the world’s biggest copper producer, warned last week that global shortages of the metal may reach eight million tonnes by 2032, as soaring demand continues to offset new projects numbers.

After Republicans Win the House, Will They Investigate Hunter Biden’s China Connections?

 Hunter Biden attends a Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony honoring 17 recipients, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, on July 7, 2022. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Hunter Biden attends a Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony honoring 17 recipients, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, on July 7, 2022. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images) 

With Republicans regaining control over the House the focus is on if and how the promised investigations by lawmakers will materialize.

Prior to the Midterms, Republican lawmakers promised investigations into a variety of topics, such as COVID-19, the economy, the border crisis, as well as the foreign business dealings of President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

This article revisits what we know specifically regarding Hunter Biden’s activities in China and Ukraine, much of which came to light through the discovery of his laptop.

Through emails contained on this laptop, we learned that Hunter Biden was directed by the head of the board of directors of Ukrainian company Burisma to stop an active investigation into Burisma and its owner, Mykola Zlochevsky.

We also know that soon after, Joe Biden, then vice president, demanded from Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko the firing of Ukrainian prosecutor Victor Shokin, who was overseeing the Burisma investigation.

But Hunter Biden’s involvement with Burisma and Ukraine is just one small part of the Biden family’s foreign dealings. 

Of particular note are Hunter Biden’s early, and ongoing, involvement with companies directly tied to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—ties that began over a decade ago.

For example, in 2009 Hunter Biden, Chris Heinz, and Devon Archer formed Rosemont Capital, an alternative investment fund for the Heinz Family, named after Rosemont Farm, the Heinz family’s 90-acre estate in Pennsylvania. 

Chris Heinz is the stepson of former Secretary of State John Kerry. Archer, a longtime Heinz and Kerry friend, was a fundraiser for Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. Rosemont Capital contained several funds, with Rosemont Seneca being the most important of these entities.

Rosemont would soon partner with the Thornton Group—headed by James Bulger, the nephew of former mob figure James “Whitey” Bulger. In 2010, Hunter Biden and Devon Archer traveled to China to “explore the possibility of commercial cooperation and opportunity.”

They apparently found plenty of opportunities.

According to Peter Schweizer, head of the Government Accountability Institute, the Thornton Group’s account of the meeting on their Chinese-language website was telling: Chinese executives “extended their warm welcome” to the “Thornton Group, with its US partner Rosemont Seneca chairman Hunter Biden (second son of the now Vice President Joe Biden).”

During their visit, Hunter Biden and Archer met with the most powerful government financiers in China despite Rosemont being a small firm with no track record. Their trip was particularly timely, occurring just hours before Joe Biden met with then-Chinese leader Hu Jintao in Washington as part of a Nuclear Security Summit.

Interestingly, it was Hu who was unexpectedly escorted out of the CCP Congress in October of this year.

In 2011, there was a second meeting between Rosemont Seneca and the same Chinese government fund managers. This time, the meeting took place in Taiwan. And once again, the timing of their meeting was auspicious as it took place just two weeks after Joe Biden had opened up a U.S.-China strategic dialogue with Chinese officials in Washington.

In December 2013, Hunter Biden flew with his father to China on Air Force Two. The vice president was meeting with the CCP’s new leader, Xi Jinping. During the visit, Hunter Biden helped arrange for Jonathan Li, CEO of Bohai Capital, a subsidiary of the Bank of China, to ‘shake hands’ with Vice President Biden.

Afterward, Hunter Biden met with Li, reportedly for a ‘social meeting.’ Ten days after the trip, Li’s Bohai signed a deal with Hunter Biden’s Rosemont Seneca Partners, to form a $1 billion joint-venture investment fund called Bohai Harvest RST. The “RS” referred to Rosemont Seneca. The “T” was for Thornton.

The deal was later increased to $1.5 billion. Funding came from the Bank of China and the China Development Bank—both of which are owned by the Chinese regime. The regime held an 80 percent stake in the joint venture and Hunter Biden received a 10 percent stake in the newly formed Bohai Harvest RST.

Notably, each of Hunter Biden’s early trips to China coincided with strategic foreign policy meetings between his father and the Chinese authorities. Shortly after he left the vice presidency Joe Biden wrote a recommendation letter for Li’s son to attend an Ivy League university in the United States.

Shortly after the formation of Bohai, on April 16, 2014, Joe Biden met at the White House with Hunter Biden’s business partner, Devon Archer. It isn’t known what was discussed at that meeting, but on April 21, 2014, Joe Biden traveled to Ukraine, offering not only his political support, but also $50 million in aid for Ukraine’s shaky new government.

During Joe Biden’s Ukraine visit, on April 22, 2014, it was announced that Archer had joined the board of Burisma. Hunter Biden also joined Burisma’s board sometime that month, although Burisma didn’t announce his appointment until May 12, 2014.

Hunter Biden had developed a unique habit of turning up in regions where his father, the vice president, was conducting foreign policy meetings—and then appeared to have been turning those visits into a variety of profitable business ventures.

According to a September 2020 Senate Report, sometime in 2015, Hunter Biden’s contacts with Chinese businessman Ye Jianming began in earnest. Ye was the founder of CEFC China Energy and a frequent figure in the Biden family’s financial dealings with China.

Ye was also chairman of the board for CEFC’s subsidiary, the China Energy Fund Committee. Although CEFC reportedly remained a “private company” until state-owned enterprises assumed control of it in 2018, the company received financing from the China Development Bank, “hired a number of former top officials from state owned energy companies,” and had “layers of Communist Party committees across its subsidiaries.” The company was also reported to have had “intelligence ties” within China. The company was effectively controlled by the Chinese regime.

CEFC was a large, fast-growing company with the backing of the Chinese regime–ranking #229 on the Global Fortune 500 list in 2016, with $42 billion in revenue in 2015. The company owned several thousand gas stations in Europe, many of which were purchased from Kazakhstan’s state oil company. CEFC also owned a million-ton oil storage system in Spain and France that served as a major conduit that extended China’s connections with the world oil supply. CEFC was an integral part of Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative, which was designed to spread China’s influence and control across the world. Ye was dubbed the “Belt and Road billionaire” in the press.

In December 2015, Ye flew to Washington and apparently met with Hunter Biden—a recent report by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) noted that an entry in Hunter Biden’s diary listed a scheduled meeting with Ye on Dec. 7, 2015. One of Hunter Biden’s former associates told the New York Post that Hunter Biden brought Ye to a Christmas party in order to introduce him personally to Joe Biden.

Around this same time, future whistleblower Tony Bobulinski entered the picture. He had been brought in by James Gilliar, a long-time associate of Hunter Biden’s. Gilliar had told Bobulinksi he needed his help in structuring a joint venture for the Biden family, Hudson West III. A few months later, in March 2016, Gilliar disclosed the proposed partner for the company CEFC, telling Bobilinski, according to a New York Post report, “This is the capital arm of one belt, one road.”

Hunter Biden’s associations with Ye would continue into early 2018 when Ye was detained by the Chinese authorities and disappeared from public view. Grassley and Johnson noted in their report that “records obtained by our offices show that Ye became very close with Hunter Biden.”

In February 2017, Hunter Biden and Ye met at a hotel in Miami, where Ye offered the younger Biden $10 million a year for three years for “introductions alone.” It was at this same meeting that Ye presented Hunter Biden with a 3.16 carat diamond with an estimated value of $80,000.

As Grassley and Johnson note in their report, “nine days later, on February 23, 2017, a Shanghai based company … that was affiliated with CEFC China Energy, sent a $3,000,000 wire” to Robinson Walker, a company associated with Hunter Biden’s business associate, Rob Walker.

Another $3 million was sent on March 1, 2017. Although it is not yet known with precision what happened with the $6 million, it is known that Hunter Biden received regular payments from Walker’s company, along with more than $500,000 from Walker directly. Both of the $3 million wire transfers were flagged by the Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement network in a “suspicious activity report.”

In August 2017, Hudson West III was officially formed with Ye injecting $5,000,000 in capital. Hunter Biden contributed no capital to the new venture, although he owned 50 percent of the new company. The operating agreement of Hudson III stipulated that Hunter Biden would receive $100,000 per month and Joe Biden’s brother, James, would receive $65,000 per month. Hudson West also made large credit card payments for items purchased by the Bidens. The Bidens appeared to provide one service for all the cash they were receiving—assistance in attempts to gain U.S. Visas for Ye and his family.

In November 2017 a payment from CEFC to Hudson West of $1 million was made. A few months later, Hunter Biden’s private company, Owasco, was paid $1 million in order to represent Patrick Ho, a business associate of Ye’s who would later be “charged and convicted of international bribery and money laundering offenses stemming from his work for the CEFC-backed China Energy Fund Committee,” according to the Senate report. Ho is the individual that Hunter Biden would later refer to in an email as “the [expletive] spy chief of China.” At the time of Ho’s arrest in the United States, his first call was to James Biden, who would later claim Ho’s call was intended for Hunter Biden.

After the formation of Hudson West, Hunter Biden hired a woman named JiaQi (Ja-Chi) Bao. Her involvement with Hudson West was far more extensive than initially thought. According to a letter sent by Representative James Comer (KY-R), “Documents obtained by Committee Republicans reveal that Bao was also working for CEFC employees linked to the CCP.” Comer noted that Bao “appeared to be effectively running the joint venture under Hunter Biden’s name. She produced yearly reports and business plans for Hudson West III, the joint venture Hunter Biden created with the Chinese firm, CEFC.”

When CEFC’s Ye was detained in China in March 2018, Bao sent Hunter Biden an email explaining that “Ye’s situation changed” and that Hunter Biden needed to take as much money as he could from Hudson West III because if he failed to do so, the money would become “nobody’s money.” At the time of Bao’s email to Hunter Biden, Hudson West III still had about $3.5 million in the company’s account. Comer also noted that Bao encouraged Hunter Biden to push his father to run for president “months before he announced and then supplied the Biden family campaign advice related to China.”

As a final postscript to this story, in September 2018, Hunter Biden’s own bank sent an email asking some very pointed questions about the incoming wire transfers from Hudson West to the Bidens. Now we will see if the House Republicans follow through on their promises of a full investigation.

Biden Admin Authorizes Chevron to Resume Oil Pumping in Venezuela

The Chevron logo is displayed at a Chevron gas station located in Alameda, Calif., in this file photo. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Biden administration authorized on Nov. 26 Chevron Corp.’s joint venture to resume oil pumping in Venezuela.

“The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued Venezuela General License (GL) 41, authorizing Chevron Corporation to resume limited natural resource extraction operations in Venezuela,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.

The goal of the authorization is to “alleviate the suffering of the Venezuelan people and support the restoration of democracy,” according to the statement.

The Biden administration’s decision comes after the Nicol├ís Maduro regime and opposition political alliance Unitary Platform resumed talks in Mexico City.

This was the first negotiation between the two parties since October 2021.

The two sides also announced progress including a humanitarian agreement focused on education, health, food security, flood response, and electricity programs that will benefit the Venezuelan people and a commitment to continuing talks on the Venezuela 2024 elections.

The announcements by the two parties are important steps in restoring democracy in Venezuela, the Biden administration stated.

Gas station venezuela
A view of a gas station of the Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA in Caracas, Venezuela, on Aug. 20, 2018. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

According to the newly issued license, Chevron can resume operations in the socialist country through its joint venture with Venezuela’s state-run oil company, PDVSA. The oil produced by the joint venture can be sold to the United States if it’s sold to Chevron first.

Profits from the sale of energy would be directed to paying down debt owed to Chevron, rather than providing profits to PDVSA.

PDVSA won’t make profits from the operations, the Treasury Department claimed.

Chevron confirmed the receipt of General License No. 41.

“We reiterate our commitment to conducting our business in compliance with the framework provided. OFAC’s decision brings added transparency to the Venezuelan oil sector. The issuance of General License No. 41 means Chevron can now commercialize the oil that is currently being produced from the company’s Joint Venture assets. We are determined to remain a constructive presence in the country and to continue supporting social investment programs aimed at providing humanitarian relief,” the company said in a statement.

Republicans: Why Venezuela?

President Joe Biden’s move confirmed various media reports about the new authorization, which was criticized by Republicans.

“Why is Joe Biden so obsessed with killing oil and gas jobs in America and creating them in Venezuela?” Rep. Thomas Tiffany (R-Wis.) responded to a report about the general license.

Tiffany is a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Biden has reason to grant Chevron a wider operating license, with U.S. shale production gains slowing, Russia’s oil exports shrinking under sanctions, and Saudi Arabia signaling possible OPEC output cuts.

Energy prices have been soaring since Biden came to the White House. He tried to calm down the market before the Nov. 8 midterm elections by releasing more than 200 million barrels of the nation’s emergency oil reserves, driving the Strategic Petroleum Reserve down to its 1984 level.

However, those releases are due to end soon.

Chevron’s Operations in Venezuela

Venezuela holds about 300 billion barrels of oil reserves, the world’s largest, but hasn’t been able to hit its production targets because of underinvestment, poor maintenance, a lack of supplies, and U.S. sanctions.

Biden’s administration had signaled that any easing of Venezuela sanctions, including granting Chevron a broad license to revive oil output and regain trading privileges in Venezuela, would come only if the two sides had progressed in political talks.

Epoch Times Photo
An oil tanker is seen at Jose refinery cargo terminal in Venezuela in this undated file photo. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

Chevron is a partner with PDVSA in several oil joint ventures that pump and process crude oil for export. Combined, the ventures had produced about 200,000 barrels per day before U.S. sanctions and a lack of financing cut their output.

Following oil sanctions on Venezuela in 2019, Chevron got an exemption to trade its Venezuelan crude to recoup billions of dollars in pending debt. Those privileges were suspended by then-President Donald Trump a year later as part of his “maximum pressure” strategy to oust Maduro, whose 2018 reelection wasn’t recognized by the West.

The United States this year began considering Chevron’s request to expand operations with more urgency as Washington sought oil to replace supplies hit by sanctions on Russia, as well as OPEC’s decision to cut output.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Biden Admin Quietly Greenlights Plan to Build Huge Gulf Oil Terminal

 U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to reporters in Bali, Indonesia on Nov. 16, 2022. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to reporters in Bali, Indonesia on Nov. 16, 2022. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images) 

The Biden administration has quietly approved plans to build a new crude oil terminal in the Gulf of Mexico off Texas, seemingly in contradiction to the president’s climate agenda.

The Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration approved the application (pdf) for Enterprise’s Sea Port Oil Terminal, one of four proposed offshore oil export terminals, on Monday.

According to the application, the port will be located offshore of Freeport, Texas. It will have 4.8 million barrels of storage capacity and add 2 million barrels per day to the U.S. oil export capacity.

In its 94-page decision (pdf), the Maritime Administration said that it had approved the application because the construction and operation of the port is “in the national interest and consistent with other policy goals and objectives.”

“The construction and operation of the Port is in the national interest because the Project will benefit employment, economic growth, and U.S. energy infrastructure resilience and security,” the administration wrote. “The Port will provide a reliable source of crude oil to U.S. allies in the event of market disruption and have a minimal impact on the availability and cost of crude oil in the U.S. domestic market.”

crude oil pump jack
The sun behind a crude oil pump jack in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas, on Nov. 22, 2019. (Angus Mordant/Reuters)

Protests Over Planned Oil Terminal

The decision states that the project will expand on an existing Enterprise Crude Houston operated terminal located in Houston and will generate 62 permanent jobs over 30 years. Additionally, 1,400 temporary construction jobs will be created, with the majority of the workforce being hired from existing labor pools in Texas and Louisiana, according to the application.

The Environmental Protection Agency quietly issued its approval (pdf) of the project in October but stressed that “more emphasis is needed to ensure that environmental justice and climate change considerations are included in the project for the protection of overburdened communities.”

Protests broke out shortly after on the Gulf Coast, The Texas Tribune reported, with climate activists condemning the move, and pointing to the fact that President Joe Biden has prioritized issues such as climate change and clean energy incentives during his time in office. Biden has vowed to cut carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030.

Ahead of the U.N. climate conference in Egypt this month, the White House said that Biden was set to “announce new initiatives to strengthen U.S. leadership tackling the climate crisis and galvanize global action and commitments,” and that the United States is “acting to lead a clean energy future that leverages market forces, technological innovation, and investments to tackle the climate crisis.”

Epoch Times Photo
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers a speech on stage during for a meeting, as part of the World Leaders’ Summit of the COP26 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 2, 2021. (Evan Vucci/POOL/Getty Images)

‘Peak Hypocrisy for President Biden’

Greenpeace promptly took aim at the Biden administration’s decision regarding the new oil terminal, stating that the new terminal would “emit over 300 million tons of carbon dioxide every year polluting the air and water of Brazoria and Harris counties in Texas while creating serious health threats for everyone living there.”

“It is peak hypocrisy for President Biden and Secretary [of Transportation] Pete Buttigieg to shorten the fuse on the world’s largest carbon bomb by greenlighting additional oil export terminals right after lecturing the world about increasing climate ambitions at COP27,”  the independent global campaigning network added.

The approval of the Sea Port Oil Terminal would facilitate the safe and efficient long-term loading of large crude carriers while simultaneously slashing oil transportation costs and reducing ship collision risks among other issues, according to officials.

In a separate statement, Kelsey Crane, senior policy advocate at Earthworks, a national organization aimed at ending oil and gas mining pollution, said, “President Biden cannot lead on combating climate change, protecting public health or advocating for environmental justice while simultaneously allowing fossil fuel companies to lock-in decades of fossil fuel extraction.”

The Epoch Times has contacted the Department of Transportation for comment.