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Month: January 2016 (page 1 of 6)

Providence Plans Ruadhan Well Offshore Ireland

January 29th, 2016 2:15pm Posted In: Recent News, News By Country, More Countries, Ireland

Providence Resources said it hoped to drill its Ruadhan prospect in the Porcupine Basin offshore Ireland in 2017, following encouraging seismic data.

On January 29, technical director John O?Sullivan said the new 3D data have confirmed the presence of a significant pre-Cretaceous structural closure near the proven Upper Jurassic Spanish Point gas condensate field. ?When taken in tandem with the previous studies carried out on our adjacent acreage, this latest interpretation supports the potential existence of an extensive and material Upper Jurassic gas condensate structural play fairway across the northeastern flank of the Porcupine Basin,” he said.

Anglo-Dutch major Shell had been drilling there 40 years ago, Providence said, but it did not drill through the overlying section owing to operational issues.

Further interpretation and mapping will be carried out to finalise the prospective resource potential associated with the Ruadhan prospect.

Providence has agreed to assign a 15% equity interest in license FEL1/14 to Chrysaor Holdings which is subject to final ratification and which will reduce Providence’s equity interest from 58% to 43%. The operator of the licence is Cairn with 38%.

William Powell

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Werner Herzog Is Ready for the End of the World

Werner Herzog?s new film Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World is a sprawling exploration into the past, present, and future of the web. The documentary, which premiered this week at the Sundance Film Festival, is strategically divided into ten chapters, hitting on everything from the perils of web addiction to the potential risks and rewards of artificial intelligence. Like many of Herzog?s celebrated documents of life, Lo and Behold is at its best when its filmmaker is curious and inquisitive, hungry for answers about the labyrinthine technocratic age.

Sitting across from Herzog, with his towering presence and unmistakable accent, is as intimidating as you might imagine. In conversation, though, he is generous and forthright?ready to speak his mind when it came down to the fundamental matters of love, survival, and death. 

Sam Fragoso: Do you enjoy festivals like this?

Werner Herzog: No, there?re too many of them, and too few good films. We have 4,000?5,000 festivals a year, but we only have three of four good films a year.

SF: What are the good films from last year?

WH: Act of Killing [a documentary Herzog executive-produced] and some of my stuff.

SF: How big of a role does technology play in your life?

WH: In my personal life, it has a reduced presence. For cultural reasons, I do not use a cellphone, for example. 

SF: What does that mean?

WH: It means that I do not want to be available all the time; I do not want to be dependent on information that I get through there. Sometimes there is shallow information that I need?Is there a traffic jam ahead of me? So, that?s fine. But, I?ll give you one example: I?ve been at the house of friends who have a teenaged daughter who sits at the dinner table and after five minutes puts her face down, and under the table, she?s texting, and throughout the next hour-and-a-half, she?s not there anymore. I mean physically, she?s present, and she?s texting.

SF: Does she represent the future to you?

WH: No, it?s one side of what?s coming. That has already materialized. I do not want to have a meal with people who are tweeting at the same time; it?s as simple as that. The internet I do use, mostly email, and it?s a fine instrument.

SF: With the mass consumption of technology, do you think we?re heading into a lonelier place?

WH: I think you are right, because it sounds like a paradox. The more tools of communication we have?it?s not only the internet and cellphone, it?s also television and radio, faxes used to be part of it. ? But the more available and the more massively our tools of communication have expanded, in reverse proportion, we have become more solitary and lonesome. Not solitary, because when you are out in a snowstorm in Utah, and you?re snowed in and you have a cellphone on you, you?re not isolated anymore, because you speak to the state trooper, and they send a helicopter to rescue you. Which is very fine that we have that. But at the same time, on an existential level it?s a deep solitude, it?s somehow enshrouding us, and this century, because of that, will be the century of solitude.

SF: Do you believe people would rather be alone than with other people?

WH: That?s one thing a renaissance of being unconnected and just in silence and alone may resurge: self-reading, deep reading, not just reading tweets, but ancient Greek drama, Tolstoy, a 850-page novel. And without that, we?ll never have a conceptual grasp of what the world is all about. And I have this dictum: Those who read gain the world, and those who are too much on the internet lose it.

SF: There?s a chapter in the film that dives into when, not if, Earth will be damaged by a sun flare. When your interview subject spoke so candidly about our fate, were you as horrified as I was?

WH: If you are conceptually prepared for it and if you do the right thinking, then yes, you can easily cope with it.

SF: How have you coped?

WH: In practical terms, everyone is talking about, Oh, it?s the end of cash money. Yes, in a way, [cash] disappears more and more. However, I advise you to have a stash of one- and five-dollar bills at home.

SF: Is that what you have?

WH: I don?t have it at the moment, but it would be my advice, because at least you can buy a few gallons of gasoline at the pump, or you can buy a hamburger at the hamburger joint. They cannot give you change for a 100-dollar bill. For the immediate necessities, you better have a stash of drinking water, a flashlight, a few dollar bills.

SF: Would you characterize yourself as optimistic?

WH: No, let?s not get into that.

SF: Fine, but?

WH: I would be a good outdoorsman. I could survive longer than the average man. I can make a fire, I would be a good hunter, I have traveled on foot, I could still survive a little bit longer than, let?s say, the average.

SF: Definitely longer than me.

WH: But you can?t drive your car, you?d have to walk and find some place where people live off the land. I think before we start talking about Carrington Joseph, we must realize you have just as much of a risk of Yosemite going up in a super volcano and plunging in a Dark Age.

SF: And this doesn?t worry you?

WH: No. It?s a philosophical question. I?ll do you: How do you settle the question of your own death? You cannot be scared.

SF: Have you always had this approach?

WH: I would say from a certain point in my life, I was not scared anymore.

SF: What point was that?

WH: I can only give you a simple answer: That man who scares me has to be born first. And I?ve been shot various times, not just once. So what?

SF: You know you?re the only filmmaker to make a movie on every continent?

WH: You shouldn?t say it loud. Because somebody is going to put me in the Guinness Book of World Records, and that would be my deepest embarrassment.

SF: A picture of you right next to the individual with the longest fingernails. But really, in a way, you have become this planet?s contemporary travel guide.

WH: I like to have companions, and to take them along, but it?s not like exploring different landscapes and going to Antarctica. Any idiot can go to Antarctica. But it?s a voyage, and you can see that in particular in my feature films. It?s exhilaration; it?s this kind of real storytelling and taking people along. That?s more important than enumerating, Yes I have shot in Australia, and yes, I have shot in Europe, and yes, I have shot in Mexico, and yes, I have shot in Antarctica.

SF: Don?t you feel you have a genuine grasp of life on Earth?

WH: No, no, any travel agent can go out and check the hotels.

SF: But you intimately spend time at these places.

WH: And I?m working with people, but it?s something different that?s more important?that I?ve traveled on foot, and it?s never translated into a movie, but understanding the world comes from someone who has been out on foot.

SF: On foot is important to you.

WH: At least for me, and I say this as a dictum: The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot. Period.

SF: Earlier, you mentioned exhilaration in your work. When are you most satisfied by your art?

WH: When I cook a steak really well.

SF: A steak?

WH: A beef steak. Really well done and sizzling in front of you, and you share it with your guests. Cooked to perfection, as it should be.

SF: What is it about that?

WH: There?s nothing more exhilarating.

SF: In making this film, what information were you most surprised by?

WH: I think nothing really surprised me because looking at what?s going on around you, you get a grasp of events that are happening or that are coming. But maybe the most surprising single thing was mind-reading: that you can read the radio waves that come from your brain from a short distance with an MRI scanner. You can read these brainwaves, where somebody who reads a text in English and somebody who reads the same text in Portuguese can create a different wave pattern that you can understand. There are certain structures that articulate themselves in a variety of grammars in different languages.

SF: And where does love fit into this equation?

WH: What about the dishwasher that falls in love with the fridge? Let?s put it this way: In the film, it can be seen and felt that I love everyone with whom I talk. There?s a great warmth and appreciation. But, otherwise, let?s say, real love occurs among ourselves as human beings. It has to be in a different film. Like Queen of the Desert, a feature film.

SF: At its core, Lo and Behold feels like a portrait of humanity.

WH: That?s why no one else had made this film so far. It needed me to step in and get into the mess. 

Read the report

Zak?s Demon House docu gets delayed (UPDATE: House destroyed)

Nearly two years ago, Zak Bagans, flashy ghost investigator from TV Ghost Adventures, bought the ?demon? house in Indiana days after it made sensational headlines in the tabloids and even in more reputable news outlets.

The story of Ammons family who lived in the house was that of a woman and her three children who claimed they experienced trouble in the house and were possessed by demons. The claims were a bit more complicated than that of a ?haunted? house. Frankly, the lack of evidence, Hollywood-sounding possession, deep religious beliefs of the family, and their difficult situation and prior rental problems, led DN to conclude this story was not credible. However, the media latched on to the accounts related by the grandmother, the minister, a policeman, and some medical personnel as solid witnesses. None of these reports was authenticated as unexplainable. I know that sounds like discarding eyewitness testimony, but if you are going to claim you are possessed by the devil and invoke supernatural causes, you had BETTER have some mighty impressive ducks in a row, more than I know what I saw-type stuff. No other investigators were apparently allowed into the house. 

Note the "figure" in the window. Photo: Hammond Police Dept.

The landlord did not support their claims, saying those living there before and after had no such issues. Into the scene strides Bagans to purchase what appears to be a small place in rough shape. But he believes in demons, the Bible and all that jazz, and he immediately concludes the place is for realz and dangerous. From early on, the potential for this story to be publicized was apparent. Off it rolled.

Bagans wrapped filming on his documentary called The Demon House in January 2015. The site Dread Central has some revealing tidbits in an update of November 2015. They report that movement on the film came to a halt as his crew was spooked, he said conditions in the house were unsafe and he called in a priest. (Oh, the drama.) Then, the former residents (not clear which ones) of the house were asked to return to the house and ?demonic activity surfaced, which lead to one of the females on site speaking in tongues and exhibiting signs of demonic possession.? The film, originally set to run in fall of 2015 is now scheduled for 2016. There have been no further details made available via the twitter feed. Since then, it?s been crickets.

So, was it problems with the crew? (Nick Groff left.) Was it problems with the site? Or did they find nothing and need to figure out how to gas it up a bit? Whatever is going on behind the scenes, we?ll likely not know. I?d predict it will be just like his TV show where the drama appears manufactured, the scenes are overacted, and the ?evidence? will only be impressive to those who already have an emotionally invested belief in the paranormal.

With the failure of ?Exorcism: Live!? maybe Zak got the message that this demon idea may be a harder sell than he thought. Ghost Adventures continues in its 11th season. There has been no word if it will continue. Groff has moved on to another worthless chunk of time on Destination America called Paranormal Lockdown which sounds like MTV?s Fear Supersized but less original.

According to Zak: ?There are things in this world that we will never fully understand. We want answers.? Well, they won?t come from a hyped-up TV documentary, I?m pretty certain about that.

UPDATE (20-Jan 2016) According to a local reporter, the house was torn down yesterday. There was no word of why (but we can think of various reasons besides ?demons?. It?s also not clear if this will be part of Zak?s documentary.

Photo: John Delano, Northwest Indiana Gazette

Photo: John Delano, Northwest Indiana Gazette


Young Voters Embrace Sanders, But Not Democracy

When it comes to democracy, the kids aren?t all right.

Research recently presented by Roberto Foa and Yascha Mounk shows growing disillusionment with democracy?not just with politics or campaigns, but with democracy itself.

This growth is worldwide, but it is especially strong among young Americans. Fewer than 30 percent of Americans born since 1980 say that living in a democracy is essential. For those born since 1970, more than one in five describe our democratic system as ?bad or very bad.? That?s almost twice is the rate for people born between 1950 and 1970.

I have written on democracy and democratic politics for decades, and I have been watching these trends over much of that time. In 2008, people like me breathed a sigh of relief as young people came out in droves to vote. It was great to see them participating in our political system.

But in 2014, voting rates for young people hit record lows.

Will things turn back around in 2016?

Those of us concerned about young people?s attachment to democracy are encouraged to see strong youth engagement in the ?outsider? campaigns of Donald Trump and especially Bernie Sanders. But there is still cause for concern.

Young people checking out of politics altogether as well as those attracted to Sanders? campaign are driven by their dissatisfaction with the status quo. In both cases, I believe their dissatisfaction is well-founded.

How did we get here?

There are good reasons why young people don?t respect American democracy.

The 112th Congress passed less legislation than any since 1947, and the 113th was second-worst.

The current 114th session is doing only slightly better. Children coming into adulthood have never seen democracy as anything but a system where politicians snipe at each other without end and without result.

Elections are supposed to be the way we change this. Yet while approval ratings for Congress hover around 10 percent, 19 out of every 20 members were reelected in 2014. Despite the people?s overwhelming disapproval, elections are not leading to change.

There are two main reasons for this, and neither gives young people much reason for confidence.

Barriers to change

First, the price of a congressional campaign has risen dramatically, costing ?on average twice as much as it did a quarter century ago.? The average was up to about $1.6 million in 2012. For any candidate who is not independently wealthy, these costs put a viable race out of reach. And of course, those with deep pockets are unlikely to back a challenger when they know prospects for success are that low.

More important, there is the matter of gerrymandering?state legislatures drawing district lines in order to render seats safe for U.S. representatives.

The term was coined early in the nineteenth century, so there is nothing new about this strategy. But the 2010 off-year election was a landslide for Republicans, giving them complete control of redistricting in almost half the states. As a result, Democrats were packed into as few districts as possible, while the Republicans were left to divvy up the rest of the state. Republicans were therefore able to win and keep more seats, but seats for both Democrats and Republicans became decidedly safer.

But government is not merely inefficient and unresponsive.

Elected officials themselves say that government is crooked, if not outright criminal. Senators Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders both repeatedly say that Washington is corrupt.

During the Republican presidential debate in Boulder, Governor Chris Christie said:

The government has lied to you and they have stolen from you.

If this is how people in government describe government, why should anybody have any confidence in the political system that put them there?

Civic education: bad or inadequate

But it is not simply a matter of what they have learned from politicians, it is also what they have not learned as students. In short, many young Americans have not learned how to be politically engaged.

Beginning in the 1990s, many school districts turned to ?service learning? as a replacement for traditional forms of civic education. Offering students the chance to help their neighborhoods through spring cleanups and food drives was seen as a way to instill community spirit.

And it worked. Millennials do indeed appear to be extremely generous and socially conscious. But service learning hasn?t promoted an interest in politics.

In fact, precisely because so many schools focus on service learning, many students have not learned how to connect underlying problems to politics: that is, through voting, organizing and petitioning. Acquiescing to students? distaste for politics, schools offer students a deficient understanding of what it means to be a citizen, thus reinforcing and sanctioning their attitudes.

Not all by accident

Finally, Republicans have endeavored to exclude young people from the voting process. According to NYU?s Brennan Center, between 2010 and 2014, at least 22 states passed laws that make it harder to vote.

Some of these restrictions, including shortened voting hours and new ID requirements, target college students and other young people.

Young people tend to vote Democrat, so these laws have the apparent and almost certainly intended effect of keeping Republicans in office. Of course, some young people see these restrictions as a challenge?no one is going to keep them from voting?but for those who are already disconnected, the extra hassle is just one more reason to check out from the process altogether.

Through words and deeds, then, we have taught young citizens that politics is not their concern, and that democracy is fool?s gold. Unfortunately for all of us, they have learned the lesson.

What happens next?

The 2016 campaign so far suggests that young people may not be democracy?s lost generation.

In fact, their learned distaste for democracy, paradoxically perhaps, may account for the strong interest young partisans show in Donald Trump and especially Bernie Sanders. Among voters under 45, Sanders holds a more than two-to-one lead over Hillary Clinton.

Seeing rampant evidence of inefficiency and hearing charges of corruption, they look to outsiders to radically alter the status quo. Whether these candidates are successful or not, their young followers might end up disappointed at the amount of radical change they see. Nevertheless, part of the reason for the success of these candidates is their ability to tap into young people?s deep discontent with democracy as they know it.

It would help if more candidates tried to engage young people. Even better would be if they directly addressed their discontent. Young people need to hear politicians acknowledge that politics has let them down. They also need to hear from candidates how they plan to restore their faith in democracy.

But we cannot simply rely on charismatic individuals to help students awaken their political selves. We must rather undertake the hard work of restoring their faith in democratic politics. Most importantly, we must recommit to a robust civic curriculum.

In the words of Jefferson:

The qualifications for self-government in society are not innate. They are the result of habit and long training.

To help students prepare for their role as voters, we need to help them learn how to take part in politics. Only after we have fulfilled our responsibilities can we judge young people for having failed to live up to theirs.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.The Conversation Read the original article.

Instructions Part 1

UNHCR says it is alarmed at plight of refugees and migrants at Bulgaria borders


The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said that it was extremely alarmed at reports of two dead bodies being found on the Bulgarian border with Serbia last week.

The UNHCR said that it was seeking further details after being alerted about the deaths by the Bulgarian Border Police. The two men, apparently, died of cold while trying to cross into Serbia from Western Bulgaria.

Initial details shared by the Bulgarian authorities indicate locals finding the bodies (one around January 20 and the second on January 23) in the mountainous areas along the border at separate locations in Western Bulgaria, following a very cold spell as temperatures dropped to -21 degree Celsius. The two were found dressed lightly.

The nationalities of both men are unknown and neither of them were known to the authorities. The two men are believed by UNHCR to be part of the refugee, migrant group movements passing through the irregular border points to seek safety in Europe.

?These recent tragic incidents once again highlights the risks that desperate people are forced to take in absence of legal avenues to seek safety in Europe,? said Montserrat Feixas Vihé, UNHCR?s Regional Representative for Central Europe.

Desperate people continue to arrive in Bulgaria, majority of them through the land borders from Turkey, UNHCR said. About 30 000 are estimated to have arrived last year ? a large proportion from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Many of those attempt to enter Serbia from Bulgaria through the border mountainous region, while trying to continue their journey onwards in Europe.

UNHCR said that it remains concerned about continuing reports of push-backs and allegations of abuse in Bulgaria for those who try to access asylum in the country. Many of those people, reported to be pushed-back, could be in need of international protection, who must have access to asylum in Bulgaria, the refugee agency said.

?Sadly, push-backs, putting up barriers and building fences in the way of a refugee population leaves people with no choice, but to hand themselves to ruthless smugglers and human traffickers,? UNHCR?s Vihé said.

?These concerns have been raised with authorities in Sofia. UNHCR regrets that reports of push-backs and allegations of abuse continue to emerge and emphasises the need for a thorough investigation by authorities,? the agency said.



> To the article

Controversial Bulgarian ?national strike ? we?re here? protest proves to be a misnomer

little protest

Preceded by warnings by senior Bulgarian officials of an ?attempted coup? and allegations that ?football fans? for hire would seek violent confrontation, a January 28 2016 protest outside Parliament in Sofia billed as ?national strike ? we?re here? gathered a mere few hundred people, not even disturbing the afternoon flow of cars past the legislature.

The protest was not the work of the Protest Network, which emerged during the 2013/14 anti-government protests, nor of the Justice for All initiative by civil society that for months has been seeking to pressure politicians to get a move on with genuine judicial reform.

Rather, the January 28 event (or non-event, as its critics might prefer) seemed to have parallels with the February 2013 protests that at that time turned violent, prompting the resignation of Boiko Borissov as prime minister and the months of instability that followed.

Among those who pointed to such parallels were Borissov ? now again in office as head of government, his media office, senior figures in the government and the ruling party, and at least one observer.

Ahead of the January 28 gathering, everyone from the head of the government media office to the Interior Minister to senior police officers and at least one governing party MP said that they had information that there would be ?provocations? at the event.

Meanwhile, in yet the latest illustration that the ?invited?, ?interested? and ?going? figures on a Facebook page are seldom borne out in reality, the supposed 3000 who said they would attend turned into barely 300.

At least one Bulgarian media outlet consciously echoed the 2013 under-reporting, by media allied to the ruling axis of the time, of the anti-government protests then by using the same terminology, headlining the January 28 turnout as ?scant?. The difference was that this time around, the use of the term was accurate.

Before the event, media and social network users skeptically raised questions about who was organising the protest, which seemingly was about everything, but most notably wanting the resignation of the current government, among a raft of other nationalist and ?patriotic? stances generally associated with far-right and populist parties.

On the Facebook page of the event, skeptics also asked why the event was set to start at 3pm ? a time that most adults would be at work.

Media reports said that the application to hold the protest outside Parliament, from 3pm to 6pm, had been lodged by Boyan Rasate, leader of the minority fringe Bulgarian National Union, an extremist nationalist party with an unblemished record of never winning any seats in elections.

That Rasate had lodged the application was denied in a post on the Facebook page of the event, in which the organisers described themselves as representing more than 20 NGOs, more than 10 parties not represented in Parliament, more than 30 private sector companies and 200 people who had been ?working actively? for a fortnight to organise the event.

They did not say who they were, though.

Speaking to Bulgarian National Radio, Elena Vatashka, head of the Association of Bulgarian Football Fans, vehemently rejected allegations by the Prime Minister?s media advisor that ?football fans? had been recruited to cause trouble at the event.

Vatashka said that the situation was such that every day there were at least a few very good reasons for calling for a change in the government of Bulgaria, adding, ?I do not understand, after on Facebook daily there are posts about hundreds of events, why about today such crisis PR was activated by the Cabinet and the Ministry of Interior?.

On the morning ahead of the January 28 gathering, GERB MP Dessislava Atanassova told reporters that there ?official information? ? not just allegations ? that provocateurs and hired football fans were to incite trouble at the event.

She said that she suspected that certain groups of people or certain economic circles with economic of other interests were needlessly inciting tension against the background of all the scandals in the judicial system and in connection with the European Commission?s Cooperation and Verification Mechanism report that came out on January 27.

Asked to comment on allegations that Bulgarian businessmen Tsvetan Vassilev and Grisha Ganchev had paid the football fans to join the protest and incite disorder, Atanassova said, as quoted by local news agency Focus: ?I am not an investigating authority and I can not undertake the engagement to present any theories. All I can say is that the names in question were also mentioned in the affair around Corporate Commercial Bank. Over the past year the National Revenue Agency and the National Customs Agency collected more than 2.8 billion leva more. I guess this affected some people?s smuggling business.?

At a cabinet meeting on January 27, Borissov said that the mafia had an interest in bringing down the government, that there would be no parliament and no laws passed, ?because then the smugglers and the oligarchs will continue to take the billions that they are accustomed to receiving?. He pointed to increased VAT and other revenue collection in the past year.

Whatever the strident pre-event reaction on the part of the government, Iliyan Vassilev, formerly Bulgaria?s ambassador in Moscow, it was ?not so difficult? to discern that behind those organising the protest were ? in the terminology of latter-day Bulgarian political-speak ? ?Who?? and Russia itself.

The question ?Who?? was popularised at the time of the June 2014 protests against the then-administration that were prompted by the appointment of controversial business person Delyan Peevski as head of the State Agency for National Security. Initially formulated as the question about who was behind Peevski?s nomination, it has become a byword for undue covert influence in Bulgarian public life.

In a commentary article on the Mediapool website, Vassilev said that there was no way to organise a ?national? protest without strong financing. He added that bogus stories on various issues in the media in recent weeks had been paving the way for the January 28 protest. These ?info bombs? were intended to instill a sense of uncertainty.

And while for many the toppling of Borissov would be welcome, ?this is not about an individual but a major operation to change our orientation or at least destabilise us to the point we have no control?.

?This is the Bulgarian version of what was organised in Montenegro and Moldova,? Vassilev said, pointing to recent large-scale protests that stirred up political instability in those countries.

He said that the January 28 protest was not a complete copy-paste of the events of February 2013, but there was more than one similarity, such as distracting from the EC report to shift the public agenda and debate.

?Since ?Who?? cannot relinquish control over the judiciary and key sections of the Bulgarian economy, the security services ? it responds from the street,? Vassilev said. With ?Who??, Moscow was strong enough to cause an earthquake in an effort to cause a blockage of reforms and the derailment of Bulgaria?s Euro-Atlantic path.

Vassilev added that it was not sure how many people would be on the street on January 28 ?or that this is the main protest that ?Who?? will organise?.

As the late afternoon came, there were no squibs outside Parliament, bar a rather small damp one, while some reporters at the scene said that the police presence outnumbered that of the protesters.

The vast majority of MPs had gone home, and ahead of the gathering dusk, Bulgaria?s media got a lot more interested in the government announcement that Prime Minister Borissov had asked Education Minister Todor Tanev to resign over a complicated scandal involving the school syllabus.

At the protest, one participant held aloft a sign reading ?this parliament does not represent Bulgarians?. It is an open question who the few hundred outside it represented.

  • Update: Some time after 5pm, the group moved in front of Parliament, bringing an end to the flow of traffic. Bulgarian National Radio reported that 10 people had been arrested, one in possession of a gas pistol, one in possession of a knife, and the rest because ? in violation of Bulgarian law ? they were not carrying identification documents. All of those arrested were either from Bourgas or Vidin.
  • By 6pm, what remained of the crowd dispersed, normal traffic resumed and the large police contingent trooped off into the night.



online site

Real-deal ?boy next door? medium? Or Hollywood hype?

Hollywood-Medium_Tyler_Henry-221x300Back in July, I caught wind of yet another psychic medium ?reality? show in development. This one seems tailor-made for Hollywood. Or, should I say? ?tyler-made?? The eight-episode hour-long series ?follows 19-year-old ?celebrity medium? Tyler Henry, as he balances his unique abilities with trying to be a regular teenager.? He?s 20 now. Still, wouldn?t you think you?d need to hone those skills a bit, being so young? Producers probably thought he could be the new and improved James Van Praagh.

The show, first called ?Hollywood Teen Medium?, now just ?Hollywood Medium? focusing on the good-looking, clean-cut kid with the nice smile, premiers on E! (Entertainment Channel) on January 24 at 10PM. And, the promotion machine is in full swing!

Tyler Henry seems to have appeared out of nowhere to wow celebs like the Kardashians (who seemed a bit too easily wowed by just shiny things). But that?s all we have from Tyler. He?s not shown the world what he says he can do. Susan Gerbic writing at Skeptical Inquirer online looked into this psychic newcomer to see what?s what. It isn?t any less icky than the usual psychic swill. It?s a good story about psychic awakening. He says he just wants to help people (don?t they all) including parents of suicides (that makes him, as Susan says ?people who prey on families when they are the most desperate and vulnerable?). Some may argue that his kind of help during bereavement is actually beneficial. Others say he is just another (albeit innocent looking) ?grief vampire? like the late and often mistaken Sylvia Browne or the several other psychics who get rich taking money from those who fervently believe psychics can talk to their lost loved ones.

Critical thinkers (which EVERYONE should be when it comes to such extraordinary claims) should question why Tyler is doing a TV show instead of what would seem to be a higher purpose of demonstrating his powers to scientists who could learn about life after death. There are even some mediumship researchers actively testing and certifying mediums for experiments. They would appreciate someone with genuine skills in order to demonstrate the reality of psi and further knowledge of consciousness and human potential. But, I?d bet there isn?t as much money and fame in that as with a nifty TV show and exposure to credulous celebs. Thursday, Tyler appears on the Dr. Phil show. He?s touting his appearance on his Facebook page saying it was ?One of the most heartfelt readings I?ve ever done.? Yeah, well, Dr. Phil is a pushover. It?s hardly a ?skill? to guess at celebrities lives and concerns and sound credible. So, how about a test where the medium is masked as to the identity of the target dead person and the intended sitter? How about the medium be blinded from sensory cueing? Or the reading scored by independent, blinded parties? [1] Oh I know, that is NO FUN. Science doesn?t work well for TV shows because it?s a long, careful, thoughtful process that weeds out garbage claims. That would not be good for E! They want you to believe, damn the facts that don?t support it! It?s entertainment!

Do we really need another psychic show like Hollywood Medium? No. The proliferation of craftily edited shows that convince viewers that these self-proclaimed psychics communicate with your dead relatives DOES, unfortunately, play into the fervent hopes of many people that this is genuine. It?s TV, it?s manufactured for an audience. Psychical researchers and skeptics have been pining for good evidence of psychic powers for 100 years and haven?t found any that convinces the scientific community. However, people so want so badly to believe that they just do. That?s simply not good for society, resulting in innocent but naive people getting swindled and taken for a depressing ride.

Today?s ?just want to help? psychics like Tyler say that they aid people in the bereavement process, allowing them an easier acceptance and transition of their loved ones? death. Or, do they ultimately make it harder, offering false hope and pretend messages from beyond that inhibit the natural grief and eventual acceptance process? Some people DON?T let go; they continue to attempt to speak to those they lost and suffer for it.

Tyler is keeping up with the Kardashians

Tyler is keeping up with the Kardashians

TV psychics are just about the worst. They become celebrities in their own right for playing a role that has no basis in reality.

If these psychics REALLY want to help, they must show their claimed skills to scientists so we all might benefit some day, not just those who can pay hefty fees and grab a precious reading with you. It?s a safe bet they won?t go that noble route. Being a TV star is too good of a opportunity.

  1. Beischel & Zingrone (2015). ?Mental Mediumship? in Parapsychology: A Handbook for the 21st Century, Edited by Cardena, et al., 301-312.

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Highlights from the Seventh Republican Debate

The Republican candidates?sans Donald Trump?met at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines on Thursday evening for their final debate before the Iowa caucuses on Monday. Below are the most memorable moments of the night. You can also follow along at our blog, Minutes, for coverage and analysis as the debate unfolds. 

Ted Cruz Imitates Donald Trump

In her first question to Ted Cruz, Megyn Kelly asked about Trump, the real estate mogul conspicuously absent from the stage. Cruz replied by stepping into his shoes. ?I?m a maniac, and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat, and ugly,? Cruz said. ?And Ben, you?re a terrible person. Now that we?ve got the Donald Trump portion out of the way, I want to thank everyone on this stage for showing the respect to show up and make their cases to the people of Iowa.?

With his thanks to Iowans, the Texas senator was subtly hitting Donald Trump, who called Iowans ?stupid? last year. The Cruz campaign has been attacking Trump on the airwaves for the last week with ads that show Trump asking, ?How stupid are the people of Iowa??

?If I?m elected president, keep an eye on the tarmac,? Cruz said Thursday night. ?Because I?ll be back.?

Cruz Defends His Carpet-Bombing Strategy

As the debate pivoted to foreign policy, Ted Cruz faced a question from Fox News?s Chris Wallace about whether his promises to ?bomb ISIS into oblivion? was simply tough talk or a legitimate strategy for toppling the Islamic State in the Arab World. ?It is not tough talk,? Cruz replied. ?It is a different fundamental military strategy than what we?ve seen from Barack Obama.?

But the New Republic?s Alex Shephard points out that the plan overlooks the scores of civilian casualties that would result from bombing major ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria. ?Cruz?s ?carpet bombing? schtick has all of the hallmarks of cynical campaign rhetoric,? Shephard wrote. ?Cruz can talk all he wants about glowing sand, but he?s refusing to engage with the consequences of carpet bombing for a reason: there would be tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of civilian casualties.?

Megyn Kelly Tries to Browbeat Chris Christie into Supporting Racial Profiling

Chris Christie?s most significant contribution to the 2016 race thus far has been the introduction of the Ferguson Effect, the myth that heightened scrutiny of police violence is responsible for a nationwide spike in crime. So it was perhaps commendable on Thursday that Christie refused to take Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly?s bait and advocate for the indiscriminate profiling of Muslims.

Recently, Kelly has suffered her share of misogynist attacks at the hands of Donald Trump and the horde of unicorn-fetishizing basement dwellers he calls a support base. The exchange with Christie was her way of reminding the viewing public that when she?s not being targeted for sexist backlash, she?s still the same mouthpiece who once saw the need to remind children of the ?fact? of Santa Claus?s whiteness.

Prior to Thursday?s debate, the New Republic?s Jeet Heer wondered how Fox News would adjust to Donald Trump?s absence. It seems fair to say that, with or without Trump, the Fox shtick doesn?t change much. 

The Field Piles on Cruz Over Immigration

Cruz has been preparing for this campaign since the moment he stepped foot in the U.S. Senate. His record has been painstakingly calibrated to shore up his bonafides with the Christian far-right, and on no issue is that more apparent than immigration.

As the New Republic?s Brian Beutler has pointed out, Cruz went so far in fighting comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate that he outsmarted himself, pushing for a poison-pill bill that appears to signal support for a pathway to citizenship.

That?s how it?s being portrayed by his opponents on the campaign trail, anyways, especially Marco Rubio, whose immigration reform legislation Cruz eventually helped tank. On Thursday, Rubio reiterated his go-to line of attack, calling immigration the ?lie that Ted?s campaign is built on,? and accusing Cruz of trying to ?out-Trump Trump.?

Rand Paul joined in as well, saying that Cruz thinks he?s the only one who?s ?perfect? on the issue.

The episode revealed the brilliance of Donald Trump?s decision to pull out of the debate. Without having to lift a finger himself, he got the rest of the field to go after his closest competitor in Iowa on the issue that?s been the motivating force for the whole Trump phenomenon. It would appear Marco Rubio had it wrong. In the end, nobody trumps the Donald.

The Mere Existence of Donald Trump?s Veterans Rally Was More Exciting than the Rally Itself

Trump?s debate counter-programming was surprisingly boring. Without the company of his fellow candidates Trump didn?t have a focus to his bluster, and because he was trying to maintain an air of respect for the sake of the veterans he didn?t pull out any of his crazier stump speeches. Instead, Trump acted as a master of ceremonies, introducing other speakers like hangers-on Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, war hero John Wayne Walding, and Diamond and Silk, the ?Stump 4 Trump? sisters. There were a few flashes of classic Trump: He made fun of Jeb Bush, was interrupted by some protesters, and talked a lot about how happy he was that there were so many cameras at the event.

But nothing really astounding happened during the rally. The fact that Trump abandoned the debate remained the most exciting thing about the evening. It was also a very canny strategy: All those cameras were from local Iowa affiliates who didn?t have the rights to air the debate and chose to cover the rally instead. Boring or not?and regardless of whether actually raises any money for veterans?Trump?s rally was emblematic of his campaign as a whole. He did what he wanted, the establishment was horrified, and the people loved it.

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Increased optimism in construction, service industries boost view of Bulgaria?s business climate ? poll

business climate bulgaria to beginning of 2016-crop

A regular poll by Bulgaria?s National Statistical Institute (NSI) has found slightly increased optimism about the country?s business climate, boosted by brighter views on the outlook in the construction and service industries.

In January 2016, the total business climate indicator increased by 0.6 percentage points compared to December 2015, the NSI said on January 28.

The NSI customarily seeks out opinions among managers in four categories of sector ? industry, construction, retail and the service sector.

In ?industry?, views were largely unchanged from those in December 2015. However, managers expectations about the outlook for the next three months were ?more moderate?.

For the full story, please click here.




UK BG Group Shareholders Approve Takeover

January 28th, 2016 4:50pm Posted In: Recent News, News By Country, United Kingdom, Market News

BG shareholders approved the proposal to be bought by Anglo-Dutch major Shell at the shareholders’ meeting January 28 by a vote that was almost unanimous ? over 99% of the counting votes cast. The day before, Shell’s shareholders gave their approval, with 83% of the votes being in favour.

It was the first major takeover upstream since the wave of mergers in the early 2000s, from which Shell remained on the sidelines.

Welcoming the BG vote, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said BG “adds attractive deep water and integrated gas positions and will act as a catalyst for accelerating the re-shaping of our business. We now look forward to delivering the benefits of the combination as quickly as possible following completion.?

“Following today?s approval of the scheme and the special resolution by BG shareholders, completion of the combination remains subject to the satisfaction or waiver of the remaining conditions set out in the scheme document, including the court sanctioning the scheme at the court hearing,” BG said. The hearing is set for February 11 and, subject to sanction, the takeover will become effective February 15. 

The deal shrinks competition in LNG supply by merging two of the biggest traders of equity cargoes free from destination clauses; and consolidates deepwater production off Brazil. Shell also has coalbed methane resources in Queensland that could now be directed towards BG’s pioneering CBM-LNG export terminals. 

When the deal was announced last April the oil price still had much further to fall, but the share component of the deal has softened the impact of the weaker oil price, both companies being worth much less now than when the terms were agreed. But the longer the oil price remains low, the longer the deal will take to pay off, and Shell’s shareholders will be considering their future commitment and watching with interest to see what prices the necessary disposals will fetch. Midstream and downstream sales might be the first candidates, given the upstream problems.

William Powell

Natural Gas Europe welcomes all viewpoints. Should you wish to provide an alternative perspective on the above article, please contact  

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