Sunday, September 26, 2010

Russian Energy Companies Subverting Democracy and Financing Global Warming Denialism

"Russia's LUKoil has serious pull in the Czech Republic, and has cultivated ties with many leading politicians...

Unlike Western firms, which lobby largely in their own interests, Russian state-controlled and private enterprises play an integral role in Kremlin foreign policy, and they're 'undoubtedly influencing the behavior of various Czech political parties and politicians,' [former President Vaclav] Havel said in an interview. 'I've seen several cases where the influence started quietly and slowly began projecting onto our foreign policy. I can only advise serious discretion and great caution."---RFE/RL (9-25-10)

Russia experts Gregory Feifer and Brian Whitmore have published an excellent article titled "Czech Power Games: How Russia Is Rebuilding Influence In The Former Soviet Bloc" (9-25-10). The article explains how Russian energy companies and the Russian government are subverting democracy and sponsoring global warming denialism. [See also "Why The Russia Spy Story Really Matters" (RFE/RL, 7-9-10)]

RFE/RL (9-25-10) reports:

One man's signature was all it would take to end eight years of tortuous negotiations and contentious national referenda. That effort had finally yielded the Lisbon Treaty, a new agreement among members of the European Union that would provide the community with its first constitution and president. The final hurdle was securing that one politician's signature, but European leaders were growing frantic last October because he wasn't answering his telephone.

Instead Vaclav Klaus, the Czech president, had embarked on an international tour to promote his new book, "Blue Planet in Green Shackles," an anti-global-warming manifesto in which Klaus -- who has denounced Al Gore as an "apostle of arrogance" -- dismisses manmade climate change as a myth.

Klaus's main destination was Moscow, where LUKoil, the giant Russian oil company, was paying for the book's translation. Speaking in the Kremlin, the Czech leader, his white hair closely cropped and mustache fastidiously trimmed, condemned the EU -- which he once compared to the Soviet Union -- as elitist and undemocratic.

It was an extraordinary state of affairs: a tiny new EU member impeding, if not quite derailing, a historic community development. Klaus eventually signed the Lisbon Treaty, but only after his protracted opposition had frayed the EU's already fragile unity. Critics of Europe's rudest politician, as he's been described, accused him of hijacking the treaty in order to steal the limelight.

Although most Czechs say their president genuinely believes in his anti-European tirades, many were dismayed. But Klaus's trip to Moscow raised eyebrows for another reason: to many observers, he appeared to be acting in the interests of the Kremlin, and not for the first time.

In the 1990s, Klaus promoted Czech oil and gas agreements with Russia before opposing a deal to buy gas from Norway as "economically unviable." (When Moscow cut off supplies flowing through Ukraine in 2006 and 2009, the deal helped enable the Czech Republic to avoid major energy crises.) In 1999, he joined the Kremlin's angry condemnation of NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia over Kosovo. A decade later as president, he appeared to back Russia's invasion of Georgia by declaring that the responsibility of Moscow's former Soviet neighbor was "unexceptionable and fatal.

A trained economist, Klaus has served as prime minister or president during most of the Czech Republic's postcommunist history. The staunch free-marketeer -- who keeps a photograph of Margaret Thatcher prominently displayed in his office -- oversaw the transition of a centrally planned economy into one of the former Soviet bloc's most successful markets before emerging as a leading voice of the country's right wing. So you'd be forgiven for thinking it somewhat of a paradox that he's come out on Moscow's side on almost every major issue.

Klaus's resistance to signing the Lisbon Treaty, despite being obligated to do so by Czech law, put him in step with the Kremlin yet again, this time over one of Moscow's biggest foreign-policy goals: splitting European unity. Klaus has backed Moscow so consistently over the years that jokes in Prague about his being a Russian agent prompt chuckles tinged with more than a little nervousness.

Journalist Jaroslav Plesl, who has investigated Russian influence in the Czech Republic, believes it doesn't matter whether the gossip contains any truth. "You don't need to see any documents, even if they exist," he says. "The Russians want the European Union to be as weak as possible, and for that purpose, Klaus serves their interests well."

But there are worries that Klaus, who refused requests for an interview, is just the tip of the iceberg. A growing number of Czech politicians across the spectrum appear to have ties to Russia in one or another form, and it's setting off alarm bells. Twenty years after the end of communism -- and four decades after the Red Army crushed the Prague Spring in 1968 -- a few lonely voices are warning that the Czech Republic and its neighbors are in danger of falling under Moscow's influence once again. This time, they say, the threat isn't from Russia's tanks but the one business in which Russia leads the world: energy.

That was the message from a group of prominent Central and Eastern European politicians led by former President Vaclav Havel, Klaus's predecessor and nemesis, who published an open letter to President Barack Obama last summer. The West, they wrote, should abandon its mistaken belief that the end of the Cold War and the expansion of the EU and NATO into the former Soviet bloc guaranteed their countries were "safe." [Read the full text.]

Weather Underground Terrorist Bill Ayers Denied Emeritus Status by the University of Illinois Board

"There can be no place in a democracy to celebrate political assassinations or to honor those who do so."---Christopher Kennedy in The Chicago Sun-Times (9-24-10)

In 1973, the Chicago Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers co-authored a communist tract titled Prairie Fire. The title is an allusion to Mao's saying that "a single spark can ignite a prairie fire." The book is dedicated to Sirhan Sirhan, who murdered Senator Bobby Kennedy on June 5, 1968 after he gave a campaign speech for President in Los Angeles.

Bobby Kennedy graduated from the University of Virginia Law School and served as Attorney General in John F. Kennedy's administration. During his tenure as Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy went after organized crime and helped craft the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This week, Prairie Fire's dedication came back to haunt the communist terrorist Bill Ayers. The Chicago Sun-Times (9-24-10) reports:

When retiring University of Illinois at Chicago Professor Bill Ayers co-wrote a book in 1973, it was dedicated in part to Sirhan Sirhan, Robert F. Kennedy's assassin.

That came back to haunt Ayers on Thursday when the U. of I. board, now chaired by Kennedy's son, considered his request for emeritus status. It was denied in a unanimous vote.

Before the vote, an emotional Chris Kennedy spoke out against granting the status to Ayers.

"I intend to vote against conferring the honorific title of our university to a man whose body of work includes a book dedicated in part to the man who murdered my father," he said.

"There can be no place in a democracy to celebrate political assassinations or to honor those who do so."

Later, Kennedy told the Chicago Sun-Times he and the board have not seen any signs of remorse from Ayers in the nearly 40 years since the dedication.

"There's no evidence in any of his interviews or conversations that he regrets any of those actions -- that's a better question for him," he told the Sun-Times.

Kennedy, who was 4 when his father was killed in 1968, said the board's decision did not hinge on his own personal feelings.

"The decision was grounded in great university governance," he told the newspaper. "Obviously, there was a personal angle for me, but Ayers' actions were inconsistent with open dialogue and debate that should define any great university."

Ayers should not expect any change in that position.

"He asked for this privilege," Kennedy said. "He's not going to get it from me or that board."

Kennedy runs the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.

In his remarks to the board Thursday, Kennedy noted that emeritus status is a privilege and not automatic, and that Ayers had initiated the request.

"Our discussion of this topic therefore does not represent an intervention into the scholarship of the university, nor is it a threat to academic freedom."

Emeritus status at the U. of I. is purely honorific and does not include perks granted by some other schools, such as office space, insurance benefits and free parking.

University spokesman Tom Hardy said no one could recall the last time a request for emeritus status had been denied.

"It's highly unusual," he said.

Before he became a professor of education at UIC, Ayers was a co-founder of the radical anti-Vietnam War group the Weather Underground. The group participated in several bombings, and Ayers spent time on the run from the FBI.

Federal charges against Ayers were dropped, and he joined the UIC faculty in 1987.

The dedication to Sirhan Sirhan appeared in the book Prairie Fire. Sirhan was one of more than 150 "political prisoners" to whom the book was dedicated.

Ayers went on to contribute to Chicago's school reform program and was one of three co-authors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge grant proposal that won $49.2 million to study public school reform.

In the 2008 presidential campaign, Ayers' connections to Barack Obama became a lightning rod. Ayers has denied any close association with Obama.

Contacted by a reporter, Ayers declined to comment about the board's action, but when he announced his retirement in August, his former boss, Vicki Chou, dean of UIC's College of Education, told the Sun-Times, "He's done a spectacular job as a teacher here."

Kennedy told the board that he "is guided by my conscience and one which has been formed by a series of experiences, many of which have been shared with the people of our country and mark each of us in a profound way.

"My own history is not a secret. My life experiences inform my decision-making as a trustee of the university."

North Korea's Third Party Conference Gets Underway This Week

"The third party conference, due to begin on Tuesday, is expected to mark the beginning of the handover from an ailing Kim Jong-il, 68, who suffered a stroke two years ago, to his son Kim Jong-un, 27.

...[T]he congress will be held at a critical moment. Buffeted by economic and food crises and a pariah once again after its alleged sinking of a South Korean warship, the country is also under intense pressure from its closest ally, China, which is fearful of a complete North Korean collapse, to both introduce market reforms and make itself more accessible to the world.

...[A] number of analysts...believe that [Kim Jong-il's brother-in-law] Chang Sung-taek is being lined up to play a pivotal role in the succession, either as "regent", as facilitator of the succession period, or even as a leader should Kim Jong-un prove unpalatable in the long run."--U.K. Guardian (9-26-10)

The postponed North Korean Workers' Party Conference is now scheduled to begin on Tuesday, September 28, 2010. Kim Jong-il (68) has chosen his son Kim Jong-un (27) to be his successor; but he is young, and other contenders seem to be jockeying for the top post.

Most observers suggest that Chang Sung-taek, Kim Jong-il's powerful brother-in-law, will assume the role of regent; however, Yuriko Koike, Japan's former minister of defense and national security adviser, believes that Kim Kyung-hee, Kim Jong-il's sister and the wife of Jang Song-taek, may attempt to succeed her ailing brother. [For more background Kim Jong-il's younger sister Kim Kyung-hee, read the article by Yuriko Koike "A ruthless sister risks becoming North Korea's next ruler." The Daily Star (9-16-10). Kim Kyung-hee may also be a manager of North Korea's illicit tobacco, narcotics, and weapons trafficking operations which support the regime's intelligence operations and the wealthy Kim family.]

The U.K. Guardian (9-26-10) reports:

The poster for the first conference of the (North) Korean Workers' party to be held since 1966 depicts four striving, heroic figures. A rifle-bearing soldier leads the way, but only by the tiniest of margins, followed by an engineer in a hard hat. Behind them stride a technocrat clutching a rolled-up blueprint and a female farmer with a sheaf of wheat.

Taken together they represent a vision of proletarian certainty and confidence. But the reality in the world's most notoriously unpredictable state is wholly different. This week, hidden from the world, its future will be mapped out behind closed doors, with international implications. The country's leadership cadres will meet at a historic gathering in the vast 25 April Culture Hall in Pyongyang, where delegates will engage in a "revolutionary surge", rubber-stamping the emergence of a new politburo and the policies it will enact.

The third party conference, due to begin on Tuesday, is expected to mark the beginning of the handover from an ailing Kim Jong-il, 68, who suffered a stroke two years ago, to his son Kim Jong-un, 27.

"This is big stuff," said a western diplomat with wide experience of the workings of Pyongyang's elite. "This is the first Workers' party meeting on this scale in over 30 years. Maybe power can be handed over successfully, but it is a very risky time. This kind of forum is a catalyst. It is where you would see the old guard perhaps replaced with younger blood. The stakes are high."

The last such meeting of the party was the 1980 congress – a shorter event than this week's conference – at which Kim Jong-il, then 38, made his political debut with an appearance that confirmed he was in line to succeed his father, Kim Il-sung, the founder of modern North Korea. Delayed once this month – either because of damage to roads by recent flooding or because of disagreements over who should lead it – the congress will be held at a critical moment. Buffeted by economic and food crises and a pariah once again after its alleged sinking of a South Korean warship, the country is also under intense pressure from its closest ally, China, which is fearful of a complete North Korean collapse, to both introduce market reforms and make itself more accessible to the world.

It is not clear how many North Koreans have seen posters for the conference, released officially in July, or heeded their call to welcome it as an "auspicious event". In the muddy, impoverished northern city of Rason, earlier this month, no posters were visible.

Some South Korean analysts believe any decisions may be kept secret because the party's elite fear that giving too much away about life after Kim Jong-il could turn him into a lame duck and destabilise the country. And while much has been made of the formal confirmation of Kim Jong-un as successor to the family business of dictatorship, close observers of the country are far more intrigued by other manoeuvrings around Kim Jong-un's anticipated promotion.

Other senior figures have been reinforcing their positions. The most prominent is Chang Sung-taek, Kim Jong-il's powerful brother-in-law, whose faction appears to have been pushing aggressively to the fore in recent months. And while observers have predicted the danger of collapse in North Korea before – not least during the 1990s – they believe the country may be entering a period of increasing instability.

"Succession is always the Achilles' heel of regimes like this," said Aidan Foster-Carter, a North Korea expert at Leeds University, who has noted the flurry of changes at the top of the regime in the past year. "I'm sure this is a significant moment." He is one of a number of analysts who believe that Chang Sung-taek is being lined up to play a pivotal role in the succession, either as "regent", as facilitator of the succession period, or even as a leader should Kim Jong-un prove unpalatable in the long run.

As Andrei Lankov, an academic at Kookmin University in the South Korean capital of Seoul, argued in the Wall Street Journal, the very weakness of the untested and unfamiliar Kim Jong-un makes him extremely attractive to other members of the regime.

Tall, slender and intelligent, credited with being "cosmopolitan" and charismatic in the closed world of Pyongyang's senior political cadres, Chang Sung-taek has also been tipped by watchers for promotion this week at the party congress – perhaps to the position of party secretary. He is married to Kim Jong-il's sister, and his brother was a military commander in charge of the defence of Pyongyang. He retains close links to the military.

Purged briefly in 2004 and sent into internal exile for two years – possibly because of his growing power – Chang was reinstated in 2006. Significantly, he took over the reins of power when Kim Jong-il had a stroke in 2008. After his rehabilitation, Chang was described by Choi Jin-wook of the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul as having fewer enemies than other senior cadres "because when he purges people, they are not just sent away from Pyongyang, they are killed".

One of Chang's closest allies, the former premier Pak Pong-ju, regarded as a pragmatist by the South, and who attempted to introduce market reforms into North Korea's basket-case economy, has been promoted to a key industrial role. It has, perhaps, been his restoration that has been the most intriguing development, following the disastrous devaluation of the country's currency, suggesting that North Korea may once again be interested in market reforms.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Climate Scientists Respond

"On May 6, 2010, Mr. Christopher Monckton testified by invitation to the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mr. Monckton, who is not a scientist, gave testimony that was in stark contrast to that of the scientists who were present at the hearing as well as the many official statements produced by the world’s premiere scientific organizations, about the growing dangers of climate change.

Here, a number of top climate scientists have thoroughly refuted all of Mr. Monckton’s major assertions, clearly demonstrating a number of obvious and elementary errors.

We encourage the U.S. Congress to give careful consideration to the implications this document has for the care that should be exercised in choosing expert witnesses to inform the legislative process."---Climate Scientists Respond (September 2010)

UPDATE: Since the Guardian link for "Climate Scientists Respond," doesn't work for me, I am linking to a copy of the document from Skeptical Science as well as to their discussion (9-22-10) of the document.

The U.K. Guardian (9-21-10) has published a PDF document submitted to the U.S. Congress by 21 climate scientists (scroll down), including such scientific heroes as Dr. John Abraham and climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann, who is being defamed and persecuted on trumped-up fraud allegations by Virginia's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a global warming denialist who promotes junk science spread by propagandists for the fossil-fuel corporations.

"Climate Scientists Respond" (September 201o) refutes the attack on climate science made by the British charlatan Lord Christopher Monckton during his May 2010 testimony in the U.S. Congress.

Lord Monckton also spreads his pseudo-scientific propaganda on the Kremlin-financed English-language propaganda satellite channel---Russia Today. Kremlin propaganda outlets have a history of defaming U.S. scientists. For example, Izvestiya (3-19-92) reported:

[Russian intelligence chief Yevgeni Primakov] mentioned the well known articles printed a few years ago in our central newspapers about AIDS supposedly originating from secret Pentagon laboratories. According to Yevgeni Primakov, the articles exposing US scientists' "crafty" plots were fabricated in KGB offices.

The Guardian (9-21-10) reports:

A coalition of leading climate scientists yesterday filed a 48-page document to the US Congress refuting an attack on climate science made earlier this year by the Ukip deputy leader, Lord Christopher Monckton.

The detailed rebuttal addresses nine key scientific claims made by Monckton, a prominent climate sceptic, to a house select committee hearing in May. It includes the responses of 21 climate scientists who variously conclude that Monckton's assertions are "very misleading", "profoundly wrong", "simply false", "chemical nonsense", and "cannot be supported by climate physics".

Monckton, a former journalist and policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher, who has been the deputy leader of the UK Independence party (Ukip) since June, was invited by the Republican party to give evidence to the house select committee on energy independence and global warming.

His testimony included claims that increasing ocean acidification is not due to rising CO2 levels, that recent decades of warming were due to global brightening as opposed to rising CO2 levels, and that there is nothing unusual about recent rises in global temperatures. He concluded his testimony by stating that anthropogenic climate change is a "non-problem" and that the correct policy response was "to do nothing".

"For those without some familiarity with climate science, [Monckton's] testimony may appear to have scientific validity," said yesterday's response to Monckton's claims . "We have therefore undertaken the task of soliciting responses from highly qualified climate scientists in each of the areas touched upon in Monckton's testimony … In all cases, Monckton's assertions are shown to be without merit – they are based on a thorough misunderstanding of the science of climate change."

In response to the document, Monckton today told the Guardian: "It is unlikely that Congress will pay much attention to this. It displays a lamentable absence of quantitative detail, and a pathetic reliance on fashionable but questionable forecasting techniques that have long been compellingly contradicted by hard data."

The rebuttal was organised over the summer by five scientists, including Prof Michael Mann, the director of the Earth system science centre at Pennsylvania State University, and John Abraham, the associate professor of engineering at the University of St Thomas in Minnesota. Both scientists have sparred with Monckton in the past over his various claims about the veracity of climate science.

The document contains referenced responses from 21 leading climate scientists, including James Hansen, the director of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and David Easterling, the chief of the scientific services division at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Centre (NOAA).

The document, entitled Climate scientists respond, is the latest attempt by climate science community to conduct a co-ordinated fight back against the barrage of attacks and criticism it has endured since thousands of private email exchanges between leading climatologists were taken from University of East Anglia servers last November and published online.

Monckton has been among the most persistent and vociferous of critics, labelling climate science as the "largest fraud of all time" and arguing that it is being used to establish a "new world government". In May, when John Abraham published a rebuttal online of a speech made by Monckton last year, Monckton threatened Abraham with legal action. During his congressional testimony in May, Monckton was mocked by a Democratic congressman for claiming that he was a member of the House of Lords during a previous committee hearing appearance in 2009. Last month, the clerk of the parliaments, wrote to Monckton, a hereditary peer, stressing that he should stop referring to himself as a member of the House of Lords.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Deutsche Bank Issues Whitepaper on the "Climategate" Emails

"The paper’s clear conclusion is that the primary claims of the skeptics do not undermine the assertion that humanmade climate change is already happening and is a serious long term threat. Indeed, the recent publication on the State of the Climate by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), analyzing over thirty indicators, or climate variables, concludes that the Earth is warming and that the past decade was the warmest on record."---Deutsche Bank Whitepaper Addressing the Climate Change Skeptics

The Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia reports that Deutsche Bank has weighed-in on the "Climategate" emails. The whitepaper addressing the climate change skeptics is posted on a Deutsche Bank site as well as on the CRU site, which states:

Deutsche Bank report
Wed, 15 Sep 2010

A completely independent review of the CRU emails was undertaken by the Deutsche Bank and published in September 2010.

Use this link to read the Deutsche Bank report, entitled 'Climate Change: Addressing the Major Skeptic Arguments'.

The whitepaper begins:

16. September 2010

New DBCCA whitepaper addressing the climate change skeptics

The purpose of this paper is to examine the many claims and counter-claims being made in the public debate about climate change science.

For most of this year, the volume of this debate has turned way up as the ‘skeptics’ launched a determined assault on the climate findings accepted by the overwhelming majority of the scientific community. Unfortunately, the increased noise has only made it harder for people to untangle the arguments and form their own opinions. This is problematic because the way the public’s views are shaped is critical to future political action on climate change.

For investors in particular, the implications are huge. While there are many arguments in favor of clean energy, water and sustainable agriculture – for instance, energy security, economic growth, and job opportunities – we at DB Climate Change Advisors (DBCCA) have always said that the science is one essential foundation of the whole climate change investment thesis. Navigating the scientific debate is therefore vitally important for investors in this space.

For these reasons, we asked our advisors at the Columbia Climate Center at the Earth Institute, Columbia University, to examine as many as possible of the major skeptic claims in the light of the latest peer reviewed scientific literature and to weigh the arguments of each side in the balance. Although the scientific community has already addressed the skeptic arguments in some detail, there is still a public perception that scientists have been dismissive of the skeptic viewpoint, so the intention in this report is to correct the balance. The result is, we believe, a balanced, expert, and detailed assessment of the scientific case for climate change that will help investors navigate these extremely complex issues.

The paper’s clear conclusion is that the primary claims of the skeptics do not undermine the assertion that humanmade climate change is already happening and is a serious long term threat. Indeed, the recent publication on the State of the Climate by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), analyzing over thirty indicators, or climate variables, concludes that the Earth is warming and that the past decade was the warmest on record. Quantifying cause and effect or projecting future conditions is always incomplete in a system as complex as Earth’s climate, where multiple factors impact the observations. Conclusions are thus presented in terms of probabilities rather than dead certainties. This uncertainty is not always adequately explained in the public debate and, when discussed, can appear to bea challenge to the credibility of the field. However, uncertainty is an inevitable component in our understanding of any system for which perfect knowledge is unattainable, be it markets or climate.

To us, the most persuasive argument in support of climate change is that the basic laws of physics dictate that increasing carbon dioxide levels in the earth’s atmosphere produce warming. (This will be the case irrespective of other climate events.) The only way that warming can be mitigated by natural processes is if there are countervailing ‘feedback mechanisms’, such as cooling from increased cloud cover caused by the changing climate. A key finding of the current research is that there has so far been no evidence of such countervailing factors. In fact, most observed and anticipated feedback mechanisms are actually working to amplify the warming process, not reduce it.

Simply put, the science shows us that climate change due to emissions of greenhouse gases is a serious problem. Furthermore, due to the persistence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the lag in response of the climate system, there is a very high probability that we are already heading towards a future where warming will persist for thousands of years. Failing to insure against that high probability does not seem a gamble worth taking.

Climate Change: Addressing the Major Skeptic Arguments [PDF / 333 KB]

to overview

President Medvedev Creates a New Foreign Policy Body: The Russian Council for International Affairs

As I was perusing Barents (9-17-10), it came to my attention that the Kremlin is establishing a new foreign policy body called the Russian Council for International Affairs (Российский совет по международным делам).

According to Nezavisimaya gazeta (9-17-10), President Medvedev is "not too happy" with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has criticized the MFA for having "insufficient analytical capacities." Perhaps this is even what President Medvedev was alluding to when he observed, "We have serious lessons to learn from what has happened."

It is hard to argue with President Medvedev's tactfully phrased characterization of the Russian Foreign Ministry's so-called "think tank."

This summer, Andrei Areshev, a scholar affiliated with the "think tank" close to the Foreign Ministry, slipped a cog and claimed that U.S. scientists are causing global warming by targeting certain countries with "secret climate weapons." This fantastic libel was plastered all over the internet at warp speed.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (7-30-10) had a little fun with Dr. Areshev's feather-headed canard, and so did I.

Dr. Areshev, a Ph.D. historian, managed to make his undiplomatic and "insufficiently analytical" observations about our scientists' "secret climate weapons" while NASA satellites were hovering over Russia and pinpointing hundreds of forest fires so the Russians could put them out.

Not long after NASA's role was acknowleged, the Russian Foreign Ministry got smacked upside the head and thanked the U.S. for helping Russia battle the blazes.

No word on Areshev's fate, but perhaps he's been bundled off to the Twilight Zone. Still, I suppose his libels about U.S. climate scientists might pop up on facebook.

According to one unconfirmed report, Dr. Areshev has been spotted performing with ex-professor Ward Churchill in a Denver-area Casa Bonita.

According to RIANovosti (2-3-10), the think tank will have a fund called Gorchakova that helps non-governmental organizations work with the authorities to address international, ecological, and environmental issues:

Российский совет по международным делам и Фонд поддержки публичной дипломатии им.Горчакова станут дополнительной площадкой для взаимодействия неправительственных организаций (НПО) с органами власти в вопросе финансирования международных исследований, которые ранее по тем или иным причинам финподдержки не получали, заявил в среду помощник главы государства Сергей Приходько...

"Я думаю, что и фонд, и совет наладят сотрудничество не только на Западе, но и с партнерами в странах СНГ", - сказал помощник президента.

Он добавил также, что Совет по международным делам будет заниматься, в частности, и такими вопросами, как экология.

"Этот вопрос мы не можем решать селективно и защищать экологию только в России или, допустим, только в Китае", - сказал Приходько.

"Будут и другие вопросы, в том числе ядерного разоружения, ядерной безопасности", - сказал он.

Nezavisimaya gazeta (9-17-10) observes in the title that the new foreign policy body has its analogue in the scholarly American Foreign Policy Council:

Американский аналог для президентa
Российский совет по международным делам станет еще одной экспертной площадкой
2010-09-17 /
Элина Билевская

В ближайшее время будет сформирован Российский совет по международным делам. Новая структура создается в качестве альтернативной экспертной площадки МИДу. Глава государства Дмитрий Медведев не слишком доволен тем, как трудится это ведомство с точки зрения аналитической работы. Поэтому совет займется выработкой основ международной политики России, а также поиском и подготовкой дипломатических кадров. Одновременно заработает фонд имени Горчакова. Он будет спонсировать поездки российских экспертов на международные форумы.

Распоряжение о целесообразности образования Российского совета по международным делам Дмитрий Медведев подписал в начале февраля. Структура будет функционировать в виде некоммерческого партнерства.

Главная цель, которую поставил перед советом президент, – «содействие проведению в стране международных исследований, совершенствование подготовки специалистов в области внешней политики и регионоведения, а также организация взаимодействия российских научных организаций с иностранными экспертно-аналитическими центрами по вопросам международных отношений». Финансирование совета будет осуществляться из бюджета и внебюджетных источников. По сути дела, совет станет аналогом Американского совета по внешней политике (American Foreign Policy Council).

Его учредителями выступили МИД РФ и Минобрнауки, а соучредителями – Российская академия наук, МГУ, МГИМО, СПбГУ, Фонд «Русский мир». Помощник президента Сергей Приходько заявил тогда, что Российский совет по международным делам заработает в течение трех месяцев. Однако, несмотря на то что распоряжение главы государства появилось уже больше чем полгода назад, к работе структура до сих пор не приступила. Исполнительный директор правления фонда «Русский мир» Вячеслав Никонов рассказал «НГ», что совет еще до сих пор находится в состоянии формирования.

Впрочем, по информации «НГ», в ближайшее время все же будут образованы его руководящие органы, куда помимо руководителей ведущих российских вузов войдут и известные российские эксперты. В их числе, безусловно, сам Никонов, а также политолог Андраник Мигранян.

По словам Никонова, совет будет заниматься разработкой основных направлений международной политики России. По сути дела, у президента появится еще одна весьма внушительная экспертная площадка, которая будет готовить разного рода доклады о международных инициативах нашей страны. Кстати сказать, формат был опробован на недавнем Мировом политическом форуме в Ярославле. Там было презентовано целых четыре экспертных доклада, так или иначе касающихся места России в мире с точки зрения демократического развития и модернизации. Источник, близкий к администрации президента, рассказал, что суть проекта в том, чтобы наша страна могла сравнить себя с другими буквально по всем направлениям жизнедеятельности. К примеру, оценить, насколько либеральнее законодательство западных стран по сравнению с российским в отношении уличной активности граждан.

Впрочем, есть у этой затеи и еще один важный смысл. На июньской встрече с дипломатами президент Дмитрий Медведев раскритиковал их за косность и небольшую эффективность работы. Он обвинил сотрудников МИДа в медлительности и бессодержательности их сообщений. Глава государства заявил, что о событиях, которые происходят в мире, можно прочитать и в Интернете, причем гораздо быстрее, нежели получить соответствующую телеграмму от дипломата. Медведев подчеркнул, что в сообщениях должно быть больше аналитики и предложений о том, как действовать дальше. Кремлевский собеседник «НГ» пояснил, что мидовцы не слишком успешно справляются с задачами выработки и реализации внешней политики.

Аналитической работой и поиском новых инициатив как раз и займется альтернативная экспертная площадка – Российский совет по международным делам. Он должен будет компенсировать бюрократическую неповоротливость МИДа, которой так недоволен президент. В качестве основ современной международной политики России Медведев определил защиту национальных интересов и содействие комплексной модернизации страны, а также укрепление институтов российской демократии и гражданского общества.

Еще одно преимущество совета – в числе его учредителей ведущие вузы страны. По сути дела, новая структура станет кузницей новых дипломатических кадров, разделяющих незашоренные взгляды.

В начале февраля президент Медведев подписал еще одно распоряжение – о создании в России Фонда поддержки публичной дипломатии имени Горчакова. Цель фонда, учрежденного МИДом, – «поддержка публичной дипломатии и содействие участию российских неправительственных организаций в международном сотрудничестве, вовлечение гражданских институтов во внешнеполитические процессы». Никонов пояснил, что главная миссия фонда – спонсировать поездки российских экспертов на различные международные конференции. По его словам, сейчас представительство российского политологического сообщества на мировых форумах весьма ограничено. Между тем число конференций растет внутри самой России. Один из новейших форматов – Мировой политический форум в Ярославле, куда уже второй год подряд съезжаются эксперты всех мастей и рангов со всех концов света. По мнению Никонова, в этом смысле необходимо установить баланс, точка зрения России должна звучать и на различных заграничных форумах.

Член научного совета Московского центра Карнеги Алексей Малашенко приветствует создание новой экспертной площадки, поскольку она будет стимулировать появление свежих идей, которых пока не так много во внешней политике России. Другое дело, убежден эксперт, насколько деятельность нового Совета будет востребована властью. «Сейчас внешняя политика нашей страны во многом реактивная в отличие от США. Для примера: американский президент Барак Обама придумал перезагрузку, а мы должны на нее реагировать». По словам эксперта, в Штатах, как правило, разрабатывается много стратегий, мнения высказываются публично, еще до того, как будет принято то или иное решение. «А у нас аналитика приближена к власти на уровне комментариев, то есть первые лица страны что-то сказали, а эксперты начинают их заявления анализировать. Должно быть наоборот», – уверен Малашенко.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's Russian Soulmate: Attorney General Yuri Chaikov

Russian investigators are, for the first time, characterizing the suspicious 2003 death of Duma deputy and investigative journalist Yuri Shchekochikhin as a murder; still, I don't have a lot of confidence in Prosecutor General Yuri Chaikov (pictured above) because he ignores real crimes while campaigning for ridiculous new laws. Last year, he advocated criminalizing Great Patriotic War denial---something that is not really a problem in Nazi-ravaged Russia---instead of catching rapists, murderers, and assassins.

Attorney General Chaika's hypocritical posturing reminds me a bit of Virginia's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who piously claims that he is defending the health and safety of women from allegedly unsafe (for the woman) abortion clinics, while defaming, hounding, and persecuting a scientist who is telling us about the dangers to our health and safety posed by global warming.

Cuccinelli's global warming denialism and his persecution of the climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann may have something to do with the fact that the elder Cuccinelli spent his career as a lobbyist for the natural gas industry and his marketing and advertising company gave over 96,000 dollars to his son's campaign.

Cuccinelli's links to the gas lobby suggest a conflict of interest. The FBI investigated Congressman Weldon because he was a shill for the Russian-American natural gas company Itera, and Weldon's daughter got 500,000 dollars in "consulting fees."
Sometimes it happens that professional services are really bribes.

As the Union of Concerned Scientists has noted, "Cuccinelli falsely maintains [in his July 13, 2010 court filing] that climate scientists are primarily motivated by money, and suggests they are skewing their research results to attract grants."

The Catholic Church also maintains that global warming is happening. Is the Holy Father also a greedy liar?

Christians are called to be stewards of the earth; so God sends us great scientists to educate us. I don't like it when well-heeled global warming denialists like Attorney General Cuccinelli grind our scientists into the dirt and call it conservative!

Perhaps Cuccinelli should seriously consider relocating….to Russia! If there's no global warming, living in a country that is 60% permafrost should pose no problem.

Last winter when Russia's President Medvedev was in Tomsk, he claimed that global warming was “some kind of tricky campaign made up by some commercial structures to promote their business projects.”

Time (8-2-10) observes:

Two months before Copenhagen, [Russia's] state-owned Channel One television aired a documentary called The History of a Deception: Global Warming, which argued that the notion of man-made climate change was the result of an international media conspiracy. A month later, hackers sparked the so-called Climategate scandal by stealing e-mails from European climate researchers. The hacked e-mails, which were then used to support the arguments of global-warming skeptics, appeared to have been distributed through a server in the Siberian oil town of Tomsk, raising suspicion among some environmental activists of Russia's involvement in the leak....

"Broadly speaking, the Russian position has always been that climate change is an invention of the West to try to bring Russia to its knees," says Vladimir Chuprov, director of the Greenpeace energy department in Moscow [More here]. Case in point: when Medvedev visited Tomsk last winter, he called the global-warming debate "some kind of tricky campaign made up by some commercial structures to promote their business projects."

In Russia, global warming denialists like Lord Monckton are invited to deny the scientific facts about global warming on the Kremlin-financed English-language propaganda channel Russia Today.

Attorney General Cuccinelli would fit right in. After all, the Russian natural gas lobby doles out the big bucks there, too.

Attorney General is not a conservative. There is nothing conservative about hijacking the Attorney General's office and turning it into a "freebe" for the natural gas lobby; there is nothing conservative about interfering with the judgments of the world's great scientific bodies; and there is nothing conservative about endangering the lives of the world's people by suppressing the facts about climate change and global warming.

Today Pope Benedict Travels to Birmingham to Beatify Carinal John Henry Newman

"On the final day of his visit [to Great Britain], Benedict travels to Birmingham to beatify Cardinal John Henry Newman. Follow live updates from Cofton Park."---The Guardian (9-19-10)

The Guardian (9-19-10) reports that the Holy Father's homily honored the British people by praising Britain's heroic fight against Nazism:

"For me, as one who lived and suffered through the dark days of the Nazi regime in Germany, it is deeply moving to be here with you on this occasion, and to recall how many of your fellow citizens sacrificed their lives courageously resisting the forces of that evil ideology," he said.

On Cardinal Newman he said: "He is worthy to take his place in a long line of saints and scholars from these islands."

Fortunately, we can follow the story of the Holy Father's beatification of John Henry Newman (1801-1890) with the Guardian's live updates. (Click "on" for updates.)

The German Pope, who was drafted into the German Army as a teenager in the closing days of WWII, but deserted, rightly recognizes Britain's greatest hour. The article titled "Pope pays tribute to Britons who resisted nazism" notes:

Newman became a central figure in [Pope Benedict's] intellectual development while he was still studying for the priesthood. In particular, he has since written, he and his fellow seminarians were impressed by Newman's insistence on the supreme importance of conscience as a moral guide – a potent message in stricken, late 1940s Germany.

Wikipedia describes Pope Benedict's life during the Nazi regime:

Following his 14th birthday in 1941, Ratzinger was conscripted into the Hitler Youth — as membership was required by law for all 14-year old German boys after December 1939[9] — but was an unenthusiastic member who refused to attend meetings.[10] His father was an enemy of Nazism, believing it conflicted with the Catholic faith. In 1941, one of Ratzinger's cousins, a 14-year-old boy with Down syndrome, was taken away by the Nazi regime and killed during the Aktion T4 campaign of Nazi eugenics.[11] In 1943, while still in seminary, he was drafted into the German anti-aircraft corps as Luftwaffenhelfer.[10] Ratzinger then trained in the German infantry, but a subsequent illness precluded him from the usual rigours of military duty. As the Allied front drew closer to his post in 1945, he deserted back to his family's home in Traunstein after his unit had ceased to exist, just as American troops established their headquarters in the Ratzinger household. As a German soldier, he was put in a POW camp but was released a few months later at the end of the war in the summer of 1945. He reentered the seminary, along with his brother Georg, in November of that year.

The Holy Father's homily at Crofton Park appears in the Catholic Herald (9-19-10). I have posted the homily below.

Read the Wikipedia entry to learn about Cardinal Newman and check out the Vatican's official website.

Papal Visit 2010: Pope’s homily at Cofton Park – full text (Catholic Herald, 9-19-10):

This day that has brought us together here in Birmingham is a most auspicious one. In the first place, it is the Lord’s day, Sunday, the day when our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead and changed the course of human history for ever, offering new life and hope to all who live in darkness and in the shadow of death. That is why Christians all over the world come together on this day to give praise and thanks to God for the great marvels he has worked for us. This particular Sunday also marks a significant moment in the life of the British nation, as it is the day chosen to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. For me as one who lived and suffered through the dark days of the Nazi regime in Germany, it is deeply moving to be here with you on this occasion, and to recall how many of your fellow citizens sacrificed their lives, courageously resisting the forces of that evil ideology. My thoughts go in particular to nearby Coventry, which suffered such heavy bombardment and massive loss of life in November 1940. Seventy years later, we recall with shame and horror the dreadful toll of death and destruction that war brings in its wake, and we renew our resolve to work for peace and reconciliation wherever the threat of conflict looms. Yet there is another, more joyful reason why this is an auspicious day for Great Britain, for the Midlands, for Birmingham. It is the day that sees Cardinal John Henry Newman formally raised to the altars and declared Blessed.

I thank Archbishop Bernard Longley for his gracious welcome at the start of Mass this morning. I pay tribute to all who have worked so hard over many years to promote the cause of Cardinal Newman, including the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory and the members of the Spiritual Family Das Werk. And I greet everyone here from Great Britain, Ireland, and further afield; I thank you for your presence at this celebration, in which we give glory and praise to God for the heroic virtue of a saintly Englishman.

England has a long tradition of martyr saints, whose courageous witness has sustained and inspired the Catholic community here for centuries. Yet it is right and fitting that we should recognise today the holiness of a confessor, a son of this nation who, while not called to shed his blood for the Lord, nevertheless bore eloquent witness to him in the course of a long life devoted to the priestly ministry, and especially to preaching, teaching and writing. He is worthy to take his place in a long line of saints and scholars from these islands, St Bede, St Hilda, St Aelred, Blessed Duns Scotus, to name but a few. In Blessed John Henry, that tradition of gentle scholarship, deep human wisdom and profound love for the Lord has born rich fruit, as a sign of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit deep within the heart of God’s people, bringing forth abundant gifts of holiness.

Cardinal Newman’s motto, cor ad cor loquitur, or “Heart speaks unto heart”, gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God. He reminds us that faithfulness to prayer gradually transforms us into the divine likeness. As he wrote in one of his many fine sermons, “A habit of prayer, the practice of turning to God and the unseen world in every season, in every place, in every emergency – prayer, I say, has what may be called a natural effect in spiritualising and elevating the soul. A man is no longer what he was before; gradually… he has imbibed a new set of ideas, and become imbued with fresh principles” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, iv, 230-231). Today’s Gospel tells us that no one can be the servant of two masters (cf Lk 16:13), and Blessed John Henry’s teaching on prayer explains how the faithful Christian is definitely taken into the service of the one true Master, who alone has a claim to our unconditional devotion (cf Mt 23:10). Newman helps us to understand what this means for our daily lives: he tells us that our divine Master has assigned a specific task to each one of us, a “definite service”, committed uniquely to every single person: “I have my mission,” he wrote, “I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place… if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling” (Meditations and Devotions, 301-2).

The definite service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing “subjects of the day”. His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilised society, and into the need for a broadly based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world. I would like to pay particular tribute to his vision for education, which has done so much to shape the ethos that is the driving force behind Catholic schools and colleges today. Firmly opposed to any reductive or utilitarian approach, he sought to achieve an educational environment in which intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment would come together. The project to found a Catholic university in Ireland provided him with an opportunity to develop his ideas on the subject, and the collection of discourses that he published as The Idea of a University holds up an ideal from which all those engaged in academic formation can continue to learn. And indeed, what better goal could teachers of religion set themselves than Blessed John Henry’s famous appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity: “I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it” (The present Position of Catholics in England, ix, 390). On this day when the author of those words is raised to the altars, I pray that, through his intercession and example, all who are engaged in the task of teaching and catechesis will be inspired to greater effort by the vision he so clearly sets before us.

While it is John Henry Newman’s intellectual legacy that has understandably received most attention in the vast literature devoted to his life and work, I prefer on this occasion to conclude with a brief reflection on his life as a priest, a pastor of souls. The warmth and humanity underlying his appreciation of the pastoral ministry is beautifully expressed in another of his famous sermons: “Had Angels been your priests, my brethren, they could not have condoled with you, sympathised with you, have had compassion on you, felt tenderly for you, and made allowances for you, as we can; they could not have been your patterns and guides, and have led you on from your own selves into a new life, as they can who come from the midst of you” (“Men, not Angels: the Priests of the Gospel”, Discourses to Mixed Congregations, 3). He lived out that profoundly human vision of priestly ministry in his devoted care for the people of Birmingham during the years that he spent at the Oratory he founded, visiting the sick and the poor, comforting the bereaved, caring for those in prison. No wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as his body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here. One hundred and twenty years later, great crowds have assembled, great crowds have assembled once again to rejoice in the Church’s solemn recognition of the outstanding holiness of this much-loved father of souls. What better way to express the joy of this moment than by turning to our heavenly Father in heartfelt in heartfelt thanksgiving, praying in the words that Blessed John Henry Newman placed on the lips of the choirs of angels in heaven:

Praise to the Holiest in the height
And in the depth be praise;
In all his words most wonderful,
Most sure in all his ways!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Russian Authorities Reopen the Shchekochikhin Case

"[Yuri Shchekochikhin] was elected to the Russian State Duma from the liberal Yabloko party in 1995. He was a member of a Duma committee on the problems of corruption, and was a UN expert on the problems of organized crime...

Shchekochikhin contacted the FBI and got an American visa to discuss the [Three Whales] case with US authorities [7]. However, he never made it to the USA because of his sudden death."---Wikipedia [Search Google for Shchekochikhin or Щекочихин]

In September 2006, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (9-26-06) reported on the Three Whales corruption scandal, which had the potential to threaten the administration of then-President Putin. Mr. Putin is currently Prime Minister and the chairman of Russia's ruling political party United Russia (Единая Россия, Yedinaya Rossiya).

The investigation of the Three Whales scandal was prematurely shut down by the Procurator's Office after a few Russians were punished or died unexpectedly. The Russian Procurator General (Attorney General) is nominated to by the President and appointed by a vote of the majority of Federation Council of Russia (the Upper House of Russia's Federal Assembly). When Shchekochikhin died, the President was Vladimir Putin. Now the President is Dmitry Medvedev.

This week, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (9-16-10) and Moscow Times (9-17-10) report that Russian investigators plan to reopen the case of the suspicious July 2003 death of the Russian investigative reporter and State Duma deputy Yuri Shchekochikhin, who was investigating the Three Whales corruption scandal when he died after a brief, mysterious illness a few days before he was scheduled to travel to the U.S. and meet with the FBI. The Guardian (7-9-03) penned his obituary.

RFE/RL says the "police" are reopening the investigation into Shchekochikhin's suspicious death. "Police" means the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Militsiya). The press release announcing the reopening of the case comes from the Investigative Committee in the Procurator's (Prosecutor's) Office, also called the Attorney General of Russia (See press release below).

The current Prosecutor General, Yuri Chaika, was nominated by President Putin in 2006 and confirmed by the Federation Council. The main site of the Procurator's office did not issue a press release about the reopening of this case, but I have no idea if that is significant. Perhaps Mr. Chaika is so busy capturing Great Patriotic War deniers that he has not had time to update his site. According to the press release, investigators claim to have "new evidence that requires investigation" and that the investigation was reopened "on the grounds of a crime under part 1 of article 105 of the Criminal Code" [Article 105. Murder].

It is very significant that the investigators are, for the first time, characterizing Shchekochikhin's suspicious death as a murder; still, I don't have a lot of confidence in the Prosecutor General Yuri Chaikov because he ignores real crimes and advocates new laws for imaginary crimes instead. Last year he advocated criminalizing Great Patriotic War denial---something that is not really a problem in Russia---instead of catching rapists, murderers, and assassins. Chaika's posturing reminds me a bit of Virginia's Attorney General Cuccinelli, who claims that he is defending the health and safety of women from allegedly unsafe (for the woman) abortion clinics, while defaming and persecuting a scientist who is telling us about the dangers of global warming.

The State Duma is the lower house of Russia's bicameral legislative body, the Federal Assembly of Russia; so Yuri Shchekochikhin might be described as the Russian equivalent of a Congressman and an investigative journalist. He seems to have developed sources within law enforcement agencies and once published an interview with the Lieutenant General in the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Militsiya) Alexander Gurov. Having sources in the police can be a very dangerous thing for a Russian journalist.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs, or Militsiya, is Russia's civilian police agency. According to Wikipedia, the Militsiya reports to the President, but not to the Prime Minister. That's a possibly very interesting fact, if true. See more about Gurov on the issue of corruption in RUSSIAN CORRUPTION: AN EVIL TO ERADICATE OR A NECESSARY “LUBRICANT”? (7-30-08).

It is remotely possible that Martin's Cruz Smith's fictional Russian Militsiya detective Arkady Renko is modeled on Alexander Gurov, but who knows. In those fictional novels, the Militsiya and the KGB (now the FSB) are not always on the same page, to put it mildly.

If Russian investigators in the Procurator's office are serious about getting to the bottom of Shchekochikhin's death, their investigation may also expose the criminal activities of very powerful officials in the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Office of the Prosecutor General. The investigation is being opened for a second time, so it is hard to know how seriously to take this press release; still, the admission from investigators in that Shchekochikhin's death was a murder seems fairly significant, assuming the authorities attempt to make a case against the real killer/s and not someone else.

The Prosecutor General of Russia is the Russian version of the Attorney General. If the late Yuri Shchekochikhin was correct, the fox was guarding the hen house, something Virginians are beginning to get a taste of. In Russia, some of the police the investigate the crimes, and some of the police perpetrate the crimes and then murder snoopy citizens who get wind of what is going on.

Duma Deputy Shchekochikhin was also a deputy editor for the liberal opposition newspaper Novaya gazeta (English or Russian versions), so the paper will be following this investigation. Dmitri Muratov of Novaya gazeta plasters President Medvedev's photo and the link to Medvedev's declaration (4-13-09) on the front page of the English edition every day. Novaya gazeta also has a page devoted to Shchekochikhin's memory. On the front of the paper at the bottom there are also links to stories about their two other murdered journalists, Igor Domnikov and Anna Politkovskaya.

Wikipedia notes:

[Shchekochikhin] was elected to the Russian State Duma from the liberal Yabloko party in 1995. He was a member of a Duma committee on the problems of corruption, and was a UN expert on the problems of organized crime. He was a vocal opponent of the First and Second Chechen Wars.

Investigators say evidence has been uncovered that suggests Shchekochikhin may have been murdered. There are long-standing suspicions that he was poisoned with a radioactive substance because of his investigative research.

Shchekochikhin investigated the Russian apartment bombings as well as the Three Whales corruption scandal and its connections to members of the the the domestic security agency (the FSB or Federal Security Service) and the money-laundering scandal at the Bank of New York (BONY).

Wikipedia notes:

The FSB is engaged mostly in domestic affairs, while espionage duties were taken over by the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (former First Chief Directorate of the KGB). However, the FSB also includes the FAPSI agency, which conducts electronic surveillance abroad.

Shchekochikhin died of a brief illness a few days before he was scheduled to fly to the U.S. and meet with FBI investigators to share information about the BONY money-laundering scandal. I have written about the mysterious death of Shchekochikhin as well as the Russian apartment bombings in several posts on my blog.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (9-16-10) reports:

Police are reopening the case of a Russian opposition journalist and politician seven years after his mysterious death.

Interfax news agency reports today that a spokesman for the investigators said that Yuri Shchekochikhin might have been murdered.

The journalist worked for the opposition newspaper "Novaya Gazeta," which also employed investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered in 2006.

Shchekochikhin died in July 2003 of what was at the time described as water on the brain.

Political allies voiced the suspicion he had been poisoned because of his reporting about corruption.

Moscow Times (9-17-10) reports:

Investigators on Thursday reopened for a second time a criminal inquiry into the mysterious 2003 death of investigative journalist and State Duma Deputy Yury Shchekochikhin.

The Investigative Committee said in a statement that it had uncovered new evidence that suggested Shchekochikhin had been murdered.

The statement offered no further details.

Investigators initially ruled out foul play and said Shchekochikhin had died from an unspecified allergic reaction.

They reopened the case in 2008 and exhumed Shchekochikhin's body. But in April 2009, they said no evidence had been found of murder and Shchekochikhin had died of toxic epidermal necrolysus, also known as Lyell Syndrome, a severe skin disease.

Shchekochikhin's colleagues at the opposition-minded Novaya Gazeta newspaper maintain that he had been poisoned with a rare toxin and have led their own investigation into his death.

When he died, Shchekochikhin was spearheading a parliamentary investigation into a furniture-smuggling case at Tri Kita that implicated senior officers from the Federal Security Service and the Prosecutor General's Office. Former Tri Kita owner Sergei Zuyev was sentenced to eight years in prison on smuggling charges in April.

The press release issued by Investigative Committee of the Procurator's Office of the Russian Federation (9-16-10) states:

Возобновлено расследование уголовного дела по факту смерти Юрия Щекочихина

16 сентября 2010 года, 16:30

В связи с поступившими в распоряжение следствия новыми данными, требующими проведения дополнительных следственных действий, в Главном следственном управлении Следственного комитета возобновлено расследование уголовного дела, возбужденного по факту смерти депутата Государственной Думы Федерального Собрания Российской Федерации Юрия Щекочихина по признакам преступления, предусмотренного ч. 1 ст. 105 УК РФ.