Daily Archives: December 13, 2011
Oil surged above $100 a barrel on speculation supplies will be disrupted after a report that Iran will hold drills to close the Strait of Hormuz and that the Federal Reserve may announce additional stimulus measures.
Crude advanced as much as 3.6 percent after the state-run Fars news agency reported the military maneuvers will be “soon,” citing Parvis Sorouri, a member of the parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee. The Strait of Hormuz is a bottleneck for oil exports from the Persian Gulf. The Fed is scheduled to release a statement on monitory policy later today.
“There have been a number of rumors floating around the market today,” said Tom Bentz, a director with BNP Paribas Prime Brokerage Inc. in New York. “I saw the Iran story yesterday but those headlines seem to have got traction this morning. There are also rumors for further action by the Fed, but where they come from I don’t know. In this electronic world things can jump quickly and trigger stops.”
Crude for January delivery gained $1.91, or 2 percent, to $99.68 a barrel at 11:07 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier, futures touched $101.25 a barrel. Prices have risen 9.1 percent this year.
Brent oil for January settlement increased $2.07, or 1.9 percent, to $109.33 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.
“There are no headlines to explain this move,” said Stephen Schork, president of Schork Group Inc. in Villanova, Pennsylvania. “One has to look at the usual suspects. It was probably a fat-fingered mistake or a margin call.”
Crude pared gains after an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Strait of Hormuz isn’t closed. The comments on the strait were made by people who don’t have an official title, said Ramin Mehmanparast, the spokesman.
Sorouri, in comments that first appeared yesterday on the website of the state-run Iranian Students News Agency, said “if the world wants to make the region insecure, we will make the world insecure.”
About 15.5 million barrels of oil a day, about a sixth of global consumption, flows through the Strait of Hormuz between Iran and Oman, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
“This is the kind of story that sends a shock wave through the market,” said Richard Ilczyszyn, chief market strategist and founder of Iitrader.com in Chicago.
The market also rose on speculation that the Fed will announce a third round of bond purchases in a tactic that has been dubbed quantitative easing. The Fed bought a total of $2.3 trillion in bonds in two rounds of quantitative easing from December 2008 until June 2011.
Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and his policy-making colleagues plan to meet today to discuss the outlook for an economy that has strengthened since their November meeting, lowering the jobless rate to 8.6 percent from 9.1 percent.
- Oil surges on speculation of supply disruption (business.financialpost.com)
- Oil Surge Begins (mb50.wordpress.com)
- Iran Military Practicing Straits Of Hormuz Closure (zerohedge.com)
- Crude shoots up along with stock rally (seattlepi.com)
- Report: Iran To Practice Closing Strait Of Hormuz (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
A former official from within the ranks of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is reporting that US and NATO forces have landed outside of Syria and are training militants to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, formerly a translator with the FBI, wrote over the weekend that American soldiers are among the NATO troops that have mysteriously and suddenly landed on the Jordanian and Syrian border. According to her, several sources internationally have confirmed the news, although the US media has been instructed to temporarily censor itself from reporting the news.
Additionally, Edmonds says that American and NATO forces are training Turkish troops as well, to possibly launch a strike from the north of Syria.
Edmonds writes that an Iraqi journalist based out of London has confirmed that US forces that vacated the Ain al-Assad Air Base in Iraq last week did in fact leave the country as part of President Obama’s drawdown of troops, but rather than return home, the soldiers were transferred into Jordan during the late hours of Thursday evening. Another source, writes Edmonds, informs her that “soldiers who speak languages other than Arabic” have been moving through Jordan mere miles from the country’s border with Syria. Troops believed to be NATO/American-affiliated have been spotted between the King Hussein Air Base in al-Mafraq and the Jordanian village of Albaej and its vicinity.
Nizar Nayouf, a correspondent for Edmond’s Boiling Frog Post whistleblower site, says an employee of the London-based offices of Royal Jordanian Airlines has further confirmed that at least one US aircraft transporting military personnel has brought American troops into Jordan in recent days. Nayouf, the former editor-in-chief of Sawt al-Democratiyya (Democracy’s Vote), had previously been sentenced to a decade behind bars for critiquing the Syrian government. He later won several human rights awards and the 2000 UNISCO prize for press freedom.
Since the uprising of rebel forces opposing al-Assad’s regime over Syria nearly a year ago, American officials have been critical of the country’s government but insist that they have otherwise distanced themselves from becoming involved in the protests. Following the deaths of dozens of protesters in the spring of 2011, the United States imposed strict sanctions against the official government of Syria.
Navi Pillay, the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, revealed this week that the uprising in Syria has caused over 5,000 deaths since it began in early 2011. In the case of the crackdown against former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, NATO involvement began only one month into the uprising. Nine months later, the total death toll of the Libyan Civil War is estimated to be close to 30,000.
In her report, Edmonds says that NATO troops have been training soldiers just outside of Syria since as early as May, and that US media is prohibited from reporting on it until today. The Turkish paper Milliyet also reports that defected Syrian colonel Riad al-Assad is preparing troops to take over the Syrian government as well.
- US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion? (promoteliberty.wordpress.com)
- Report: Foreign Troops Begin to Spread Near the Villages of Al-Mafraq – thanks to VK (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
- US Special Forces Mass On Syrian Border (colonel6.com)
Written by Geoffrey Ramsey
An independent analysis of U.S. government figures showed that the total amount of cocaine confiscated in one year was bigger than the U.S. estimate of global production — but the response from the White House was far from satisfying.
According to Narcoleaks, an Italian NGO which monitors anti-drug operations worldwide, the Obama administration’s estimates of global cocaine production are unrealistically low. In a strongly-worded press statement released last week, the group questioned the State Department’s assertion that the world production of the drug in 2009 amounted to 700 metric tons.
As the report points out, this clashes with a recent statement from the U.S. Coast Guard, which claimed that 771 metric tons of cocaine were sent to the U.S. in 2011. It also jars with the group’s estimate that 744-794 metric tons of cocaine will have been seized globally by the end of the year. Narcoleaks said that this discrepancy amounted to an “embarrassing contradiction,” and called on the Obama administration to clarify it.
The group also took on the recent claim by U.S. drug officials that Peru has outstripped Colombia as the world’s top producer of cocaine. According to Narcoleaks, this was disproved by the recent discovery of a cocaine lab in Colombia which police claimed could produce between 500 and 800 kilos of cocaine HCl per day. If this is accurate, the group pointed out, it would mean that the lab churned out between 182 and 292 metric tons of cocaine per year, accounting for almost the country’s entire cocaine output, according to a U.S. estimate which put it at 270 tons.
However, it is far more likely that the output of the lab was simply misquoted on the National Police’s website. Local press accounts quoted General Luis Alberto Perez, head of Colombia’s Anti-Narcotics Police, as giving that figure as the weekly production, not daily. Additionally, the amount of time that the cocaine lab had been operating is not known, so it is not necessarily possible to extrapolate an annual production rate. Considering its size, it seems unlikely that this lab would have been able to operate clandestinely for very long.
Still, Narcoleaks’ skepticism of the U.S. figures is not without cause. Just the Facts’ Adam Isacson also questioned the State Department’s estimate in March, noting that the estimate of 2009 world cocaine production is equal to the amount that the agency claims was seized in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru or the U.S., plus the estimate of cocaine which passed through Venezuela, leading to the unlikely conclusion that the world’s entire cocaine output was either seized, or was trafficked via Venezuela.
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) responded to Narcoleaks’ allegations on its blog, claiming that the organization’s analysis was “systematically flawed.” According to the ONDCP, seizures cannot be compared to global production estimates, because cocaine becomes increasingly diluted the further it travels along the supply chain. While this is true, it is unlikely to account for the entire gap, as Narcoleaks has pointed out.
The White House office also stressed that the administration’s estimates were “just that — estimates,” and should not be taken as hard facts. As the ONDCP argues: “our estimate of potential cocaine production of about 700 metric tons (of pure cocaine or about 850 metric tons of export quality cocaine) is actually the midpoint of a range — there may have been more or less actually produced.”
This caution is a reminder of the uncertainties inherent in tracking the flow of narcotics worldwide. Because of the shadowy nature of drug trafficking, it is simply not possible to come up with exact figures on production. Still, policymakers in the U.S. and around the globe make major political decisions based on these estimates. Even in countries that are relatively small players in the hemispheric drug trade, the drug-related declarations of the U.S. government carry a lot of weight. This was illustrated recently when the government of Guyana issued a triumphant press release celebrating its absence from a U.S. government list of major transit nations, despite other official claims the country exhibits “marginal commitment and capacity at all levels of government.”
A better response to Narcoleaks’ criticisms might be for the U.S. government to work with academics and specialists to try to tweak the estimates to account for the apparent inconsistency, and leave all political considerations out of it.
- FOLLOWING THE COCAINE TRAIL: How The White Powder Gets Into American Hands (businessinsider.com)
- Most cocaine produced in Colombia; upto 95.5% (peavyblack.com)
- Obama commutes sentence of crack cocaine dealer (thegrio.com)
- Why It’s No Longer Raining Cocaine in the Dominican Republic (time.com)
Closure of key choke point would send oil prices skyrocketing to $300-$500 a barrel
Paul Joseph Watson
Monday, December 12, 2011
The Iranian Army has refused to comment after a member of the country’s National Security Committee said today that Iran was to practice closing the Strait of Hormuz, the most important choke point for oil shipments in the world.
“The legislator, Parviz Sarvari, told the student news agency ISNA: “Soon we will hold a military manoeuvre on how to close the Strait of Hormuz. If the world wants to make the region insecure, we will make the world insecure,” reports Reuters.
The Straight of Hormuz, just 34 miles wide at its narrowest point, is a key transport passage for petroleum exporting countries from the Persian Gulf, with the 15.5 million barrels of oil that pass through it each day representing 33% of the world’s total oil shipments.
The Iranian military refused to comment on the report, but Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the shipping channel in the event of a US or Israeli-led attack, a potential action the United States has characterized as an act of war.
Following speculation that sanctions would be placed on Iranian oil exports, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast warned last week that oil prices would soar above $250 dollars barrel.
In response , US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated, “Any disruption of the free flow of commerce through the Persian Gulf is a very grave threat to all of us and a red line for the US.”
Experts have forecast that a 30 day closure of the Strait of Hormuz would send oil prices skyrocketing to between $300-$500 dollars a barrel, a level that would trigger global economic instability and cost the U.S. nearly $75 billion in GDP.
As we reported last week, the United States has deployed a total of three warships to the Middle East, along with several other attack boats, as tensions in the region escalate.
The United States now has a total of five major aircraft carriers deployed around the world, the same number of warships that were in action shortly before the invasion of Iraq in early 2003.
- Middle East Update – US Troops are In Jordan – Straights of Hormuz! Rumors confirmed! (lamarzulli.wordpress.com)
- Iran’s Leader: Iran is controlling US ships that pass strait of Hormuz (showdownmideast.com)
- It’s On: Iran Closes Straits Of Hormuz, Oil Explodes (zerohedge.com)
- Iran Military Practicing Straits Of Hormuz Closure (zerohedge.com)
If China is not actually preparing for conflict in the South China Sea over disputed archipelagos and islets and their rich offshore resources, from fish to hydrocarbons, then consider the comments made on 6 December by Chinese President Hu Jintao to the Central Military Commission, as reported by Xinhua. Hu said that China’s navy should “make extended preparations for warfare,” adding that the navy should “accelerate its transformation and modernization in a sturdy way, and make extended preparations for military combat in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security. Our work must closely encircle the main theme of national defense and military building.”
Is Beijing’s big nautical stick about to be deployed against other Southeast Asian nations contesting China’s South Sea sovereignty claims?
At issue are the Spratly islands’ 750 islands, islets, atolls and cays, which China, along with the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, are claimed by all. While there are no native Spratly islanders, about 45 archipelago’s islands are now occupied by Vietnamese, Chinese, Taiwanese, Malaysian and Filipino forces, hardly a recipe for concord.
Whatever China’s intentions, what is beyond doubt is the exponential growth of the Chinese navy, which can now field 66 submarines, an undersea arsenal the Chinese government is intending to increase to 78 by 2020 as planned, putting it roughly equivalent to the U.S. Navy’s submarine forces in numbers, if not in quality. Furthermore, China’s defense budget is growing nearly 10 percent annually and China’s first aircraft carrier, a renovated Soviet vessel, has begun its second set of sea trials from its Yellow Sea port in Dalian in northeastern China. The 990-foot-long former Soviet Kuznetsov-class carrier, originally called the Varyag and now apparently renamed the Shi Lang, was completely overhauled and is currently based in China’s northeast Dalian port. It is perhaps not coincidental that “Shi Lang” was a famous 17th century Chinese admiral who conquered Taiwan.
China is applying some not so subtle gunboat diplomacy to advertise its new maritime capabilities. Last month a delegation composed of 42 military attaches from 37 countries including the United States, Canada, Britain and Germany make a two-day-long goodwill visit to the North China Sea Fleet of the Navy of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, visiting a ship-borne aircraft regiment of the aviation force under the North China Sea Fleet.
Their Chinese hosts demonstrated a number of capabilities, including platform-based flying and overland rescue. Lest the attaches be in any doubt about the Chinese Navy’s new capabilities, they also visited the Shenyang guided-missile destroyer.
But at least one contestant in the South China Sea is rising to the challenge. Later this month the Philippine Navy will deploy its biggest and most modern warship, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, to the South China Sea, which Manila labels the West Philippine Sea.
Regional diplomats are still trying to defuse the situation. Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa said that the Bali Concord III, signed last month, could serve as a guide for East Asian countries in dealing with the dynamic situation in the South China Sea, commenting, “We are aware of the dynamic situation in the South China Sea. However, we must remember that now we have the Bali Concord III that was signed by the heads of state/government during the East Asia Summit last November 19.”
Washington’s take on the squabble? Pentagon spokesman George Little said, “They (China) have a right to develop military capabilities and to plan, just as we do.”
Translation for Manila, Ho Chi Minh City, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur and Bandar Seri Begawan – you’re on your own. It’s worth remembering that the People’s Republic of China fought two brief but savage border wars with both India (1962) and Vietnam (1979.)
For those with a sense of history, today is the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which occurred prior to a declaration of war. For those with a greater sense of history, Dalian is close to the Chinese port of Lushunkou. Previously known as Port Arthur, it was the major base of the Russian Navy Pacific Fleet and attacked on 8 February 1904 by the Imperial Japanese Navy.
Without a formal declaration of war.
By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com
Source – Oilprice.com
By Ben Coxworth 16:39 December 7, 2011
Much as some people loathe it, I’ve always kind of liked the Subaru Baja. It has the quirky short-bed car/truck look of the Hummer, but isn’t anywhere near as large and nasty as that vehicle. Well, the designers at smart have taken the “little Hummer” idea to the extreme, with the for-us concept. Premiering next month at the North American International Auto Show, the two-seater electric car looks pretty much like a smart fortwo … with a little cargo bed in back.The for-us is a little larger than the fortwo – 613 mm (24 inches) longer, and 50 mm (2 inches) wider on each side. Its drive system consists of a 55-kilowatt magneto-electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery pack, delivering 130 Nm (95.88 ft lbs) of torque. Its top speed is reportedly over 120 mph (193 km/h), although there’s no word on range.
The 900-mm (3-foot) rear cargo area could presumably handle a rough, tough mountain bike or two, although it’s designed to accommodate a couple of smart ebikes – there’s even a docking station, to keep their batteries charged. The idea is that the car(?) could be driven to a pedestrian zone or municipal trail system, at which point the bikes would take over.
One of the for-us’ snazzier features is a powered retracting tailboard, which pulls back to allow the tailgate to lie flat, in turn allowing for easy access to the cargo area. The vehicle also features a rear-view camera, which is viewed through a smartphone mounted on top of the instrument panel.
Source and more photos
- smart for-us concept puts a mega-pickup spin on the fortwo (gizmag.com)
- Official: Rinspeed expands capacity with Smart ForTwo-based Dock+Go concept (autoblog.com)
- World’s Smallest Pickup Truck? (foxnews.com)
The NEW ELECTRIC HUMMER HX-T™
It’s more like the “Honey, I shrunk the kids” version.
The car, which is only sold in Europe at the moment, gets more than 60 miles on a single charge, The company gives owners the option of upgrading to a lithium-ion battery that will boost the range to more than 100 miles.
The Hummer HX doesn’t have the roomy interior that its forefather had. It only has room for two people, and it doesn’t have a ton of cargo space either. But you can’t really blame it, since its only 9 feet long (roughly half as long as the H2).
According to MEV, General Motors planned to release the Hummer HX model in the United States, believing that it “would have saved them.” However, after the brand was shut down, My Electric Vehicle stepped in to buy the design.
There isn’t a ton of information on how fast this thing goes, but it’s got plenty of options, including a convertible, heated seats, DVD system and 18-inch rims. It also comes in burnt orange and other terribly bright colors.
Read More: Source