Despite a growing consensus that speculators are behind recent price increases, the government’s almost year-old oil speculation task force has done little more than talk about the problem. From the beginning of January to the end of February, the average retail price per gallon of gasoline jumped 42 cents from $3.30 to $3.72–a spike of 12.7% in just eight weeks. This year’s pain at the pump is eerily similar to last year’s, when gas prices jumped 77 cents from $3.19 to $3.96 in just eleven weeks between February 21 and May 9–a leap of 24.1%.
In response to last year’s problem, in April 2011, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder announced the creation of the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group, which was supposed to root out speculators who buy and sell oil futures based on the predicted price of oil. The trouble is, oil industry experts now estimate that financial speculators account for about 65% of the trading in oil futures contracts, up from 30% historically, leading many to conclude that the reversed ratio explains the high and volatile oil and gasoline prices. One analysis estimated that as much as 30% of the current price can be attributed to speculation. While the task force, which has met only four or five times, has been assisting a Federal Trade Commission investigation into gas prices since June 2011, a key problem is that most price speculation is legal, unless a trader relies on insider information or commits fraud, both of which can be difficult to prove.
Nevertheless, the fact that the U.S. today is producing more of its own oil than it has in years, and supply is actually outstripping demand, has many demanding action on gasoline prices. This year, however, the President is emphasizing his proposal to eliminate tax breaks that net the oil companies about $4 billion per year. Given the lack of success of the oil speculation task force, those tax breaks are probably safe for now.
To Learn More:
Whatever Happened to Task Force on Oil Speculation? (by Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Newspapers)
U.S. Use of Gasoline is Down, Yet Pump Prices are Up as Speculators Move In (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)
Gas Prices Up, but so Are Profits and Exports as Refiners Hold Back Production (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
- Obama’s Oil Speculation Task Force Has Met Just A ‘Handful Of Times’ Since Its Creation (thinkprogress.org)
- speculation is expensive! (dimitrisnowden.wordpress.com)
A response to Dahlia Scheindlin’s piece about Mahmoud Abbas’ comments on ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem.
I am going to have to totally disagree with my colleague Dahlia Scheindlin on her piece, Response to Abbas: we’ll be together in Jerusalem forever. Although I am also ignorant of the speech Abu Mazen gave in Qatar, except for what I read in the papers, Abbas was saying that Israel is instituting a policy of ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem, which the Israeli media framed as an attempt to deny ANY Jewish connection to the holy city.
Dahlia’s contention is that Israelis and Palestinians are fighting on the same side in a war between moderates and extremists, and that no matter what happens we will be in Jerusalem together, forever and ever.
Despite being a comforting sentiment, it is simply not true. ‘Extremist’ and ‘moderate’ alike in Israeli politics have equally perpetrated the crimes of the occupation, and it is often the most leftist among Israelis who refuse to admit that what happened in the post 1948 Israel is in complete continuity with what is taking place in the ‘occupied territories’ today. Indeed, it was the Israeli secular moderates who governed Israel uninterrupted from 1948 until 1977.
It is foolhardy to say that despite efforts at ‘Judaization’ in Jerusalem, there will always be strong Muslim and Christian links to the city. What about the 500 plus villages and towns that were wiped off the map in what is now Israel, and whose memory has been pretty much erased from history? We don’t only want a historical legacy, we want a living memory.
Shepherd Hotel in final stages of demolition. (Photo: Justin Randle)
It is always best to show instead of tell, so I will give an example. A friend of mine, originally from Nazareth, related a story to me a few years back from when she was a college student in the United States studying archaeology. She went home for a summer and was working on a dig in Israel. Her name is one of those ambiguous ones that could superficially pass as Jewish and she said that everyone assumed she was. At one point she was in the office of the head of the dig, who was examining a beautiful piece of Ottoman glasswork that had been dug up the day before. He turned to her and said: “Do you see this? This is not history,” at which point he tossed it over his shoulder into a pile of rubbish.
Today, Palestinian artifacts sit in Israeli museums and private homes. Books taken during the 1948 war are in Israeli libraries, while we have a resurgence of the “there is no such thing as a Palestinian” in public Western discourse. This was something that leftists like Golda Meir, and not right-wingers like Ze’ev Jabotinsky, actively pushed.
Palestine and Palestinians came very close to being wiped off the map and out of history by a deliberate campaign, in which the historical legacy of Palestinians was seen as a threat to the emergence of Israeli and Jewish claims.
As much as it is unpleasant to recognize, the longer this conflict continues the erasure of history, of buildings, of people and of memory are steadily realized and supplanted.
We can say times have changed. That today’s moderates and extremists are different from the past. But this defies reality.
“Let’s cast off the notion of a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians already, which I sometimes feel is a brilliant decoy of the far right.” says my colleague.
What kind of wishful thinking this is? Go tell that to the Palestinians in Nabi Saleh, who have their homes raided in the middle of the night, and their young children taken out of bed to have their identities checked.
This is precisely the problem. There are those Israelis who want to dismiss what is happening as a fantasy, all while the bulldozers are rolling in the background.
Those Israelis don’t like that they are being fought on both sides, from Palestinians and from the right-wingers who are steadily gaining power. So, we Palestinians should stand back, or better yet, cheer you on while you go up against them and lose, all the while our land is confiscated and our history erased. I think its time those Israelis joined the Palestinian side, and not the other way around. Forget the self-aggrandized intellectual discourse that takes place in the cafes of Tel Aviv, and immerse yourself in the reality of what is being done in your name.
- Homes Destroyed, Lives Shattered: Criminal Displacement in Occupied Palestine (alethonews.wordpress.com)
By HELEN REDMOND | March 5, 2012
National Public Radio.
National Pay or Play Radio.
Spring Pledge Drive, 2012.
Hosts beg and cajole on air hour after hour, day after day for money.
They creatively and with cool music in the background alternately shame and praise listeners to pony up part of the paycheck.
And promise membership cards, mugs, and messenger bags in return.
NPR is your radio station.
Send money; get “unbiased” reporting.
Send money; hear the views “of all sides.”
According to Gabriel Spitzer.
And Melba Lara.
And Scott Simon. Host of Weekend Edition. Saturday.
Simon supported the war in Afghanistan.
Simon: “It seems to me that in confronting the forces that attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, American pacifists have no sane alternative now but to support the war. I don’t consider this reprisal or revenge, but self-defense: protecting the world from further attacks by destroying those who would launch them.”
Simon says. Sir, yes, sir.
Simon’s salary: $300,648.
Steve Inskeep. “My job is to bring an unvarnished view of what’s happening around the world every day…”
The tone of Inskeep’s voice changes when he interviews Palestinians, Pakistanis, and Iranians vs. Israelis, Saudi’s, CEOs, and US government officials.
Hostile, disbelieving, aggressive for the former.
Cordial, obsequious, passive for the latter.
Inskeep’s salary: $331,241.
I admit I listen and I don’t pay.
Because NPR doesn’t air the views of all sides.
All things are not considered.
The so-called “experts” NPR interviews are pro-government, pro-war, and promote the ideas of right-wing think tanks. A faction of former national security advisors, defense department officials, ambassadors, ex-pentagon generals, and military commanders.
Inside the DC beltway.
The government to K-street, to think tank, to NPR pipeline.
Those are the opinions and views heard in the vast majority of stories.
I know because after stories air, I google the website the expert represents.
The websites use words like: nonpartisan, principled, independent, strong, pragmatic, quality, benchmarking, innovative, strategic, impact.
Distinguished, deep thinkers thinking about good governance, rule of law, nuclear proliferation, counterterrorism, cybersecurity, 21st century defense, metrics, kinetics, energy security, failed states, nation building, geoeconomics, transparency, emerging markets, saving behavior, managing global order.
Like the Brookings Institution.
An NPR story titled: Technological Innovations Help Dictators See All.
Weekend Edition host Rachel Martin. Sunday. She interviewed an expert.
John Villasenor. Senior Fellow.
Martin asks: “Give us some real-world examples. How could this play out in a country like Syria?”
Villasenor: “Well, in countries like Syria, there’s no reason to expect that governments won’t take advantage of every possible technological tool at their disposal to monitor their citizenry. Smartphones, and the apps that run on smartphones, very often track location in an authoritarian country.”
C’mon Rachel! Syria?
How many Syrians do you think own Smartphones?
How many Americans do you think own Smartphones?
The American surveillance state intercepts and stores 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications every day!
Why not talk about that?
They didn’t talk about that.
An NPR story titled: As Drones Evolve, More Countries Want Their Own.
Talk of the Nation host Neal Conan interviewed an expert.
The Brookings Institution Senior Fellow:
“And so, you know, unfortunately we have a long history of machines essentially engaging in killing, and so I think when people are designing – figuring out how to use drones, we have to keep in mind that, you know, there’s already been a precedent of these things and try to improve upon that.”
You lost me. Precedent? Improve on what?
Villasenor didn’t mention that American drones have killed hundreds of civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Conan doesn’t ask.
For experts like Villasenor, civilian deaths are unfortunate but inevitable collateral damage in the war on terror.
I think they’re crimes against humanity.
Drone attacks are remote control terrorism.
That is my opinion.
But I’m no expert.
And NPR doesn’t want to hear my side.
Council on Foreign Relations.
An NPR story titled: Obama sends 30,000 More Troops to Afghanistan.
All Things Considered host Michele Norris interviewed an expert.
Max Boot is the “Jeane J. Kirkpatrick” Senior Fellow for
National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Norris: “…based on what you heard tonight, do you think the president went far enough?”
Boot: “I mean, the parts that I really liked and I thought were terrific were when he talked about that we have a vital national interest in Afghanistan. We have to be there to prevent a cancer from, once again, spreading throughout that country.”
The US military counterinsurgency won’t let cancer metastasize in Afghanistan.
But the troops can’t save everyone. Millions of Afghans are at the end stage.
There is no morphine to kill the pain.
An article by Max Boot on the recent clashes in Afghanistan over the burning of Qurans.
Title: Afghans Don’t Hate Americans.
The Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow:
“Many Americans seem to be saying that if the Afghan people don’t want us there, why should we stay? That’s dubious logic because we are not in Afghanistan as a favor to the Afghan people. We are there to protect our own self-interest in not having their territory once again become a haven for al-Qaida.”
I think the American people are right.
The US military shouldn’t stay in Afghanistan.
That’s not dubious logic.
It’s smart logic.
I think Afghans hate the troops for occupying their country and killing their people.
I can understand that. I would, too.
I don’t believe Afghans hate all Americans.
Like Max Boot and other Senior Fellows at right-wing think tanks.
Who want to continue the war, occupation, targeted assassinations, sanctions, night raids, kill-capture operations, and drone strikes.
But I’m no expert. Nor are the American people.
And NPR doesn’t want to hear our views.
We didn’t write two books about war like Boot did:
War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today.
The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power.
Check out the search engine for stories at NPR’s website.
Search for the following: American Enterprise Institute, Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Center for a New American Security, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Royal United Services Institute.
A ton of hits.
A ton of expert opinion and analysis of the world.
You’ll be amazed.
Or maybe you won’t.
The voices and views of one side.
I listen, but I won’t pay.
Helen Redmond is an independent journalist. She writes about health care and the international war on drugs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
- New Report: “Recording Everything” Details How Governments Can Shape the Dynamics of Dissent (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Iceland’s former Prime Minister Geir Haarde is to go on trial over charges of leading the country, once proud of its oversized banking sector, to bankruptcy in 2008.
Haarde is accused of negligence in failing to prevent financial collapse in the small island country. The 60-year-old former premier, however, rejects the accusations, calling them “political persecution.”
The trial is set to begin on Monday at 0900 GMT and to last 10 days, until March 15, but it is unclear how quickly a verdict can be expected after that.
He is one of four politicians blamed in a 2010 report for their roles in banking sector collapse when the country’s all major banks failed in a matter of weeks.
Some argue that Iceland’s economic crisis was the result of global crisis and the government could not have predicted or prevented it.
But parliament voted in September 2010 that he was the only one who should be tried on charges related to the crisis.
- 2 Former Executives of Failed Icelandic Bank Charged With Fraud (dealbook.nytimes.com)
- Icelandic Anger Brings Debt Forgiveness in Best Recovery Story (2012indyinfo.com)
PALO ALTO (California) – In their recent visit to Iran, the high-level officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) missed a golden opportunity to resolve one of the lingering questions about Iran’s nuclear program, due to the personal intervention of the IAEA Director-General, Yukiya Amano, whose reports have raised suspicion of a “possible nuclear dimension.”
According to a source close to the Iranian nuclear negotiation team in Iran, during the two-day visit on February 20-21, the IAEA team headed by Herman Nackaerts, the Deputy Director-General for Safeguards, was informed that even though the purpose of the visit was for discussion of a framework to resolve the “ambiguities,” they were invited to visit the site at Marivan, cited in the November 2011 IAEA report for suspected “high explosive” tests pertaining to nuclear weapons — a charge denied by Tehran. Instead of accepting this invitation, and thus putting to rest one of IAEA’s stated concerns, the IAEA team declined the offer after consulting with Mr. Amano in Vienna. Amano ordered the team to return to Vienna immediately.
According to sources in Tehran, if Amano had permitted his team to inspect the Marivan site, then he would have had to mention the agency’s finding in his report due next week. “By personally intervening to torpedo a chance to lay to rest a key IAEA suspicion about Iran, unfortunately once again Mr. Amano proved his bias,” maintains the Tehran source.
Mr. Amano has been criticized in the past as being supportive of U.S. interests regarding Iran’s nuclear activities. On his appointment as head of the IAEA, Mr. Amano was referred to by U.S. diplomats as being “a friend” to U.S. interests, according to secret diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks in 2010.
In addition to failing to mention Iran’s offer to the IAEA inspection team to visit facilities at Marivan, Mr. Amano disingenuously complained of Iran’s failure to allow the IAEA team to inspect the military base at Parchin, despite the fact that in his own November 2011 report on Iran, he admits that the purpose of a visit would be “to discuss the issues identified.” This has led to Western media coverage describing Nackaerts’ trip as a “failure,” and blaming it on Iran’s “intransigence.”
Iranian witnesses suggest otherwise, indicating that the two sides made substantial progress on a six-step “draft modality” that would address the agency’s lingering concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. Although no final agreement was reached at the February meeting, Tehran insists that an agreement is still on the table and Iran is willing to implement it. The agreement includes a framework calling for “practical steps” to further Iran-IAEA cooperation, covering a future inspection of Parchin, which incidentally has been previously visited by the IAEA without ever finding anything “unusual.”
“We have had three rounds of negotiations with Mr. Nackaerts, twice in Tehran and once in Vienna, and we are getting very close to finalizing an agreement, barring any negative intervention by certain powers that manipulate the IAEA to perpetuate a crisis environment surrounding Iran’s peaceful nuclear program,” says a Tehran source on condition of anonymity.
Tehran has expressed its readiness to engage in a new round of nuclear talk with the representatives of the “5+1″ nations (i.e., the UN Security Council’s Permanent Five plus Germany). From Iran’s perspective, for the coming talks to be successful the other side needs to be more attuned to Iran’s “confidence-building initiatives” such as the offer to IAEA to inspect a suspected site. Clearly, Mr. Amano must explain why he refused the offer and failed to make public Iran’s invitation.
According to recent admissions by various top US officials, including Defense Secretary Leon Paneta, the United States has no evidence that Iran is attempting to produce nuclear weapons. This means the Iran nuclear crisis is a “crisis of choice” rather than “necessity,” and its resolution requires dexterous diplomacy on the part of both sides.
This is not a time for military threat and intimidation. Given the admission by the IAEA, and reflected in its various reports, there is no evidence of military diversion in the development of nuclear material in Iran. All of Iran’s uranium enrichment activities — allowed under the articles of the Non-Proliferation Treaty — are covered by the IAEA’s routine inspections, as well as surveillance cameras. And Iran’s President Ahmadinejad has offered to suspend the 20 percent enrichment in return for an external supply of nuclear fuel for Iran’s medical reactor.
A prudent Western nuclear strategy toward Iran, one that would respect Iran’s nuclear rights, would continue to insist on Iran’s nuclear transparency, but refrain from threatening Iran with military strikes and or coercive “crippling sanctions.” Iran, like all other nations, has “inalienable rights” that are expressly recognized under the articles of the NPT.
Kaveh Afrasiabi was an advisor to Iran’s Nuclear Negotiation Team (2004-2006), a former political science professor at Tehran University, and author of several books on Iran’s foreign and nuclear policies, including After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran’s Foreign Policy, Iran’s Nuclear Program: Debating Facts Versus Fiction, Iran’s Foreign Policy After September 11, and Iran Phobia and US Terror Plot, A Legal Deconstruction.
Copyright © 2012 Kaveh L. Afrasiabi
- Amano’s New Report on Iran’s Nuclear Program (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Iran honestly cooperating with IAEA: Britain’s former IAEA envoy to Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- How the Media Got the Parchin Access Story Wrong (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Nuclear experts reject IAEA Iran report (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The Palestinian News and Information Agency, WAFA, issued a report on Monday documenting the violations committed by Israeli forces against Palestinian journalists during February 2012.
The report stated 11 journalists were injured during the 25 violations. The majority of injuries were a direct result of the military firing tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. 11 other cases of detention and arrests by Israeli troops against journalists were documented by WAFA.
WAFA noted in its report that the Israeli military attacked three Palestinian Media companies during the month of February. During the incident Israeli troops stormed the offices of WATAN TV,and AL Qudes Educational TV in Ramallah. On 29th February staff working there were detained, computers were taken along with broadcast equipment leaving the two stations off-air.
According to the Report most injuries journalists sustained happened while they were covering anti wall protests in West Bank villages. Soldiers used tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets against unarmed civilians. The report noted that Israeli soldiers deliberately opened fire during these protests at journalists, clearly violating international law.
- Israeli Troops Break Into Homes, Offices of Three Palestinian MPs (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Inside the TV channel raided by Israel (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel raids Ramallah TV stations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Union condemns Israel extending journalist detention (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli soldiers raid office, home of detained journalist (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli forces attack press with ‘total impunity’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
A Palestinian student was in critical condition on Monday after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister when Israeli troops attacked a protest near Ramallah, medics said.
Medics at Ramallah’s main hospital confirmed that 20-year-old Mohammed Abu Awad was in intensive care after an Israeli soldier shot a tear gas canister at his head.
Palestinian security sources said the student had been injured as Israeli troops attacked a peaceful rally in support of a hunger-striking female prisoner near the Atara checkpoint, five kilometers north of Ramallah.
They initially said he had been hit in the head by a bullet during the protest, which was attended by about 40 people.
The Israeli military claimed the protest has been a “violent and illegal riot” near Birzeit.
“Palestinian demonstrators threw rocks at an IDF (army) post. Soldiers responded with riot dispersal means,” a spokeswoman said.
Israeli troops are regularly accused of deliberately firing tear gas canisters at close range, directed at the heads of protesters to cause maximum damage.
Mustafa Tamimi, 28, died of his wounds when an Israeli soldier shot a tear gas canister at his face at a peaceful rally in Nabi Saleh in December 2011.
An American Jewish student, Emily Henochowicz, 22, lost an eye at a similar West Bank protest in 2010, again after an Israeli soldier fired a tear gas canister at her face from close range.
No Israeli soldier or officer was reprimanded after either incident.
The students were demonstrating in solidarity with Hanaa al-Shalabi, a prisoner who has been on hunger strike since February 16 to protest against being held by Israel without charge, a procedure known as administrative detention. … Full article
- 13 injured in Nabi Saleh demonstration (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli Troops use Gas to Suppress Anti-Wall Protests (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- More deaths and injuries from US tear gas in Palestine, around the Middle East, and in Oakland (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli excuses on death of Mustafa Tamimi don’t hold up (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Protester seriously hurt by gas canister (alethonews.wordpress.com)
March 5, 2012
The Lebanese army on Sunday arrested a group of Syrian armed men who had entered Lebanese territory via the border town of al-Qaa, seizing a car and a large cache of weapons.
In addition, the Syrian forces started bombing the tunnel which connects the Syrian town Jose with the region of al-Qaa in the Lebanese territory.
“The tunnel was used, facilitated by “Future” party, to the smuggling of arms and fighters to Syria,” NNA reported.
In the same issue, al-Binaa newspaper reported that “39 armed Syrians were arrested by the Lebanese army in al-Qaa region.
In parallel, the Daily Star Lebanese paper reported Monday that “around 13 French officers are being held by Syrian authorities in central Homs city.”
“It was not clear why the officers were in Syria, when they had arrived or whether they were part of a larger contingent in the city,” the paper informed.
Stating that the “French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said there was no confirmation of French armed forces being held in Syria,” the paper’s sources stressed that “Paris and Damascus were working to reach an agreement on what to do with the officers.”