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The Wall Street Journal has been running a terrific series of articles about corruption and human rights abuses in Kazakhstan, which the newspaper describes as “a strategic U.S. friend and energy producer.”
But there was a grimly funny side to the Journal‘s latest story today, in which members of Congress expressed surprise and shock over the possibility that President Nursultan Nazarbayev might possibly be a crook who has diverted billions of dollars into offshore bank account and and despot who rigs elections.
Congressman G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina told the Journal he was troubled by “very serious allegations” of corruption by Kazakhstan’s president, adding that the charges were “serious enough that we have got to look into it….We owe it to American companies doing business in Kazakhstan for them to know the truth.”
Yes, I can imagine that ExxonMobil and Chevron will be stunned to hear that President Nazarbayev is on the take. The news might even lead the oil giants to read the Justice Department’s indictment of American businessman James H. Giffen, who is still awaiting trial on charges that he funneled more than $78 million to Nazarbayev and former prime minister Nurlan Balgimbayev. The indictment says the money came from fees Giffen received from oil companies that won stakes in Kazakh oil fields.
I expect American oil companies will be withdrawing from Kazakshtan, just as soon as they get to the bottom of this.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Discussed in this essay:
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert. Henry Holt. 352 pages. $28.
The extinction symbol is a spare graphic that began to appear on London walls and sidewalks a couple of years ago. It has since become popular enough as an emblem of protest that people display it at environmental rallies. Others tattoo it on their arms. The symbol consists of two triangles inscribed within a circle, like so:
“The triangles represent an hourglass; the circle represents Earth; the symbol as a whole represents, according to a popular Twitter feed devoted to its dissemination (@extinctsymbol, 19.2K followers), “the rapidly accelerating collapse of global biodiversity” — what scientists refer to alternately as the Holocene extinction, the Anthropocene extinction, and (with somewhat more circumspection) the sixth mass extinction.
Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:
Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.
Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.
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Science’s crisis of faith