BEHIND THE SCENES: Republican prep for a possible govt shut down, prepares an alternative route.


In an effort to keep the government afloat, Republican lawmakers have claimed that they are ready with another short-term spending bill if a compromise cannot be reach from both parties by April 8- the deadline of the current continuing resolution.

In a closed door meeting, Speaker John Boehner stated that this new stopgap bill would include $12 billion in domestic cuts and allow the government to operate for another week as well as include financing for the Department of Defense through the end of the budget year, September 30, 2011 in an effort to persuade Democrats to vote for the passage.

It is unclear as to what programs would be cut and I am suspecting that it will not be revealed until the last minute as the cuts are being kept under wrap so that the Democrats cannot prepare a rebuttal to them.

Either way, we need to stop issuing Continuing Resolutions and work on a real budget for the rest of the fiscal year. This is starting to get ridiculous and is causing too many fluctuations within business models as operational expenses are not concrete.

Copyright (c) April 4, 2011. All rights reserved.

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Tokyo flight triggers O’Hare radiation detectors


Federal officials found traces of radiation on a United Airlines jet that arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport from Tokyo Wednesday but determined that the plane’s cargo and passengers were safe.

Mayor Richard Daley acknowledged Thursday that passengers on a flight from Tokyo had set off radiation detectors at O’Hare, but he offered no details and said federal officials will be handling the situation.

“Of course the protection of the person coming off the plane is very important in regards to any radiation, especially within their families and anything else,” Daley said at a downtown news conference to discuss his trip to China this week.

Federal officials inspected a United Airlines jet and one other with Geiger counters after they arrived in Chicago from Narita International Airport Wednesday, sources told the Tribune. A person familiar with the search  said it was conducted by Customs and Border Patrol agents in the “guise of a random inspection.”

Though officials detected trace elements of radiation on two cargo containers on one of the planes, they later determined that the packages were safe, sources said. Officials also determined the jets were safe after inspecting for radiation.

The radiation plume forming over the Pacific from Japan’s nuclear crisis is a growing concern for U.S. carriers, who want to avoid contaminating aircraft surfaces and exposing passengers and employees to harmful radioactive isotopes.

For the first time in recent memory, maps used to guide aircraft around hazards such as storms and active volcanoes now carry a red radioactive sign to denote a no-fly zone over the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors.

Flight dispatchers Thursday were also given the coordinates of an area over the Pacific where airborne concentrations are of greatest concern, sources told the Tribune

The radiation alert in Chicago was first reported by the New York Post. The article had no details about the O’Hare incident but said another flight from Toyko also raised concerns at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Tests on the Dallas plane showed low levels of radiation on luggage and in the jet cabin’s filtration system.

Yet conflicting reports state that U.S. Customs and Border patrol agents did detect unusually  high radiation in the cargo hold of an American Airlines plane returning from Tokyo, but found that the source was a shipment of medical equipment.

From what I am understanding, Airline and government officials are reluctant to address their efforts to detect radiation contamination on U.S. aircraft at a time when some members of the public are jittery about possible fallout from Japan’s stricken nuclear plants.

Government officials don’t want to detail screenings routinely conducted for security reasons, sources said. Plus low-level radiation isn’t unusual on aircraft and may be linked to a variety of sources, including travel at high altitudes.

City Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino would say only: “We are aware that occurred yesterday. We are working with Customs and Border Protection on this issue.” She referred reporters to the Department of Homeland Security.

Following inquiries to press offices in Chicago and Washington, D.C.,  Customs and Border Protection said no flights coming into the U.S.  had tested positive for unsafe levels of radiation.

When I asked about specific radiation levels, they declined to comment stating that it is still being determined.

Copyright (c) March 17, 2011. All rights reserved.

CG Adm Thad Allen and Bureau of OEM support an independent drilling regulatory agency.


The hearing of the U.S. House Coast Guard and maritime transportation subcommittee came as news surfaced that the Obama administration may oppose a commission recommendation to create an independent regulatory agency because it could clash with reforms already being undertaken by the Interior Department.

If reports from an independent regulatory agency clashes with the government agencies, that is a GOOD thing. Do we not remember how MMS (Minerals and Management Services) were partially to blame for the lack of safety measures and protocol for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill?

It is imperative that we have an independent agency doublechecking the work of our government. It has been proven that the government oversight needs independent oversight. Too shun this idea is a slap in the face to the Gulf States and families of the oil rig victims.

After the April 20 accident, the Interior Department separated its regulatory arm from the royalty collection division reasoning that there could be a conflict of interest between the two operations. That came to no surprise to anyone closely following the MMS or the Interior Department and was actually a much needed relief.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement replaced the Minerals Management Service in the department as the industry regulator. The commission recommended that a new independent agency be formed to monitor regulation.

The seven-member panel wants an agency similar to how the FBI operates independently of the Justice Department, including having a director who is appointed for a time period in order to avoid any political interference.

Commission member Donald Boesch told the subcommittee the independent agency recommendation should be implemented.

Boesch also testified that the oil industry should pay for any step-up of industry enforcement. In response to subcommittee questions, Boesch said the commission recommendations would cost the oil industry from seven to 12 cents per barrel.

The tax would amount to a quarter of a cent increase on a gallon of gas and boost the regulation needed to police the industry.

A price that I, personally, would be willing to pay in order to avoid another explosion and catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

I urge an Independent Commission to commence and oversee the operations of oil drilling and environment affairs. There is simply too much to stake to leave it in the hands of the Federal Government.

Copyright (c) February 16, 2011. All rights reserved.

The Atlantic Coast and it’s attempt to make Wind Power the new normal.


The potential for capturing wind energy off the coast of Virginia received a huge boost with an announcement from the federal government that energy companies could be allowed to install wind turbines within 3 years.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar appeared with Energy Secretary Steven Chu in Norfolk to detail a quicker permitting process and the availability of $50 million in grants for research and development of the renewable energy source.

“The wind potential of the Atlantic Coast is staggering,” said Salazar, who pointed out that the nation’s only approved offshore wind farm is off the coast of  Cape Code, Massachusetts. A process that was eagerly awaiting approval for almost 10 years.

The Interior Department will issue leases by the end of the year or early 2012 in four zones off the coasts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.  

From there, companies could place turbines in the water, but industry leaders have said it would take longer than that because the turbines are still on the drawing board and the infrastructure, such as transmission lines, are not in place.

The zone under consideration for Virginia is about 12 miles off the coast of Virgina Beach. It’s part of an area a research consortium said could provide 3,200 megawatts of electricity, or roughly 10 percent of the state’s power use.

The turbines would not be visible from shore, much to the delight of residents of Virginia Beach. The area is also outside of NASA’s Wallops’ rocket-launching range and the Navy’s live-ordnance ranges. Two problems the Nantucket wind farm project encountered.

Federal grants for the project will be awarded over the next 5 years to companies that will design turbines and conduct environmental and economic research.

As outlined in my blog, Wind Farms- Courtesy of China, China is a top runner in the renewable energy market but that is no reason why Americans cannot step up to the plate and take control, especially since this project is on American soil.

The wind farm off the Atlantic coast, if it comes to fruition, will have the blessing of the National Wildlife Federation and other environmental groups which is rather significant as opposition parties of wind energy claim that there would be too many birds that would run the risk of being hurt in the endeavor for cleaner energy.

Offshore wind farms holds great potential to create jobs, cut pollution, and reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels. It is time for America to move forward boldly and responsibly with clean energy. I realize that there are more unknowns with green energy than there is with gas/oil production but the benefit far outweighs the speculation and willingness to stay in our comfort zone.

At a time that unemployment is at a whopping 9%, wind power development could prove to be a godsend not just to ease unemployment woes but also for a decrease in energy and gas costs as well as an increase in environmental benefits.

Copyright (c) February 16, 2011. All rights reserved.

 

Russian lawmaker, Ashot Egiazaryan, flees to the US.


A wealthy Russian lawmaker has fled with his family to the United States, where he says he fears assassination over accusations that some of Russia’s richest and most influential people swindled him in a real estate deal. Back home, he’s been charged with financial crimes.

Ashot Egiazaryan (pronounced Ah-shawt Yeh-gee-ah-zar-ee-AHN) says he is considering seeking asylum in the U.S. But after suing a Russian billionaire and several former business partners — including a close friend of Russian Prime Minister Vladmir Putin and Moscow’s former mayor — he said he doesn’t feel safe even in this country.

“I do think it’s possible than an assassination attempt can be mounted against me here,” he said flanked by lawyers in a conference room a few blocks the White House.  The interview with The Associated Press was his first with Western media and came a few weeks after one of his relatives was gunned down in the Russian city of Astrakhan on Dec. 7, an attack he claims is connected with his suit.

The struggle over the Moskva Hotel, a prime piece of Moscow real estate, is now being waged in a civil court in Cyprus, the London Court of International Arbitration, on the Web and on Capitol Hill. It provides a rare insider’s view of the often ruthless world of money, power and politics in Russia, where wealth and connections can sometimes trump property rights and the rule of law.

The case could become a headache for the Obama administration. The U.S. is counting on Moscow’s support in areas such as Iran and North Korea.

If the 45-year-old Egiazaryan seeks to remain in the U.S., the administration could face a difficult choice: risk angering the Kremlin by sheltering a high-ranking Russian official charged with financial crimes, or force a fugitive to return and face a legal system that even Russian officials recognize is riddled with corruption and cronyism.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev came into office in 2008 pledging to battle what he called Russia’s “legal nihilism.” Yet- at this point,   many inside and outside Russia see more rhetoric than reform. The respected watchdog group Transparency International’s latest rankings place Russia 146th out of 180 countries in its corruption index, just ahead of  Sierra Leone but behind Kenya.

For two years, Egiazaryan stated that he was subjected to groundless police raids, personal smears and anonymous death threats as he struggled to hang onto his $2 billion stake in a project to tear down the Moskva, an old Soviet hotel a few dozen steps from the Kremlin, and reconstruct it as a five-star luxury establishment.

He says he was forced to hand over his share in the hotel in June 2009 after a campaign of intimidation that included raids by armed police on some of his partners and businesses and threats of criminal prosecution. He said he was the target of anonymous threats, including threats to behead his children.

Last September, shortly after Egiazaryan arrived in the U.S., his lawyers filed a civil suit in a court in Cyprus charging the billionaire Russian investor Suleiman Kerimov with leading a hostile takeover of the Moskva hotel project.

The court ordered a freeze on about $6 billion in Kerimov’s assets as well as the assets of several of Egiazaryan’s former partners in the project. They include Moscow’s canny and colorful former mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, and Arkady Rotenberg, Putin’s longtime judo partner.

A New York lawyer representing Kerimov in this country, Eliot Lauer, denied the allegations. “They are total fabrications,” he said.

Lauer said Egiazaryan transferred his interest in the Moskva Hotel as part of a legitimate business deal. “He was overextended,” Lauer said. “He was deep in debt and he was facing financial ruin.” A year later, Lauer said, Egiazaryan “concocted this scheme” to regain control.

Within weeks of the suit, Egiazaryan was stripped of his legislative immunity by his fellow deputies in parliament, charged with fraud by Russian prosecutors and put on his country’s wanted list. Several of his Russian properties have been seized.

In coming weeks, the judge in Cyprus is expected to rule on a defense challenge to the asset freeze.

The dispute spilled into cyberspace. An anonymous website appeared detailing a long list of allegations against Egiazaryan. He fought back with two websites of his own, including http://www.ashot-egiazaryan.com, where he has published documents that he said support his allegations that he is the victim of persecution.

Egiazaryan compared himself to other business and political figures who have run afoul of Russia’s political elites — including Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Yukos Oil chairman who has twice been convicted of financial crimes. Many Russian human rights activists say Khodorkovsky’s prosecution was politically inspired.

Two of Khodorkovsky’s most prominent supporters, rights advocates Lyudmila Alexeyeva of the Moscow Helsinki Group and Lev Ponomarev of Russia’s For Human Rights, wrote to key U.S. lawmakers Jan. 29, urging them to raise questions with the State Department  and Department of Homeland Security about Egiazaryan’s continuing presence in the U.S.

Egiazaryan’s refuge in America has me on high alert.  If he has people coming after him, by direct association, they will be coming after the United States putting our citizens safety and security on the line.

Yet I remain puzzled- If Egiazaryan stated that he doesnt feel safe in the United States then why he is putting our country in danger?

Copyright (c) February 7, 2011. All rights reserved.