What is happening in Iran? Update 3/5/2011


As the world’s attention remains focused on the uprisings in the Arab world, Iran’s regime is now looking more vulnerable than in the past.

Tens of thousands of Iranians protested March 1, partially in response to the kidnapping and incarceration of the two leaders of the so-called Green movement and their wives.

The regime knows it has a problem; much like in the Arab world, the continuous and sporadic protests, which began Feb. 14 after more than a year, showed Iranians have overcome their fears.

Faced with the terrifying prospect of another Tahrir Square, the Iranian regime is choosing from a list of bad options.

Outraged at the failure to prevent protests on February 14, 20 and March 1, a staggering number of hardliners within the government have frenetically issued calls for the execution of Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Moussavi.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who certainly is the only authority able to command the arrest of the two opposition figures, must have felt the need to silence these outspoken loyalists calling for action, particularly because more protests erupted on March 1.

According to a number of observers, the government chose this time of the year, two weeks before the Iranian New Year, to arrest Moussavi and Karroubi hoping it would achieve two goals: first, the government continues to claim that large crowds on the streets are just holiday shoppers “going to buy supplies for the New Year.” Second, the government hopes that by March 20, demonstrators will go back to their homes to celebrate the Iranian New Year, or Norouz.

Until the kidnapping and incarceration this past weekend of Moussavi and Karroubi and their wives, the government had kept the two opposition leaders under house arrest. However, the protests in February apparently led the regime to believe the two were somehow continuing to coordinate demonstrations, despite the fact that their internet and telephone lines had been cut.

The timing of the abductions appears to be counterproductive.

The Coordination Council of the Green Path of Hope — a group of prominent dissidents who assumed leadership of the Green Movement following the house arrests of Karroubi and Moussavi — called for protests on March 1, and succeeded in mobilizing thousands of people in several major cities. The demonstrations, intentionally falling on Moussavi’s birthday, are intended to express condemnation of the treatment of the opposition leaders.

According to eyewitnesses in Tehran, a large number of people appeared on the streets of the capital but faced a massive deployment of armed police and plainclothes security forces with weapons drawn.

Moussavi’s website, Kaleme, has asserted that the government fired into a crowd at one point, and that the level of violence seen on March 1 is “unprecedented.”

Kaleme is also reporting that Karroubi and Moussavi have been moved to Heshmatiyeh Prison in Tehran, a military prison previously investigated and partially closed due to its poor conditions.

As a military prison, it remains out of the jurisdiction of government oversight, and answers only to the Supreme Leader.

Both Kaleme and Saham News, echoing the outrage of many Green supporters over the abductions, named Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in their headlines as responsible for directly ordering the secret detentions of the opposition leaders.

Until now, the websites avoided directly blaming Khamenei. But after the abductions of the men and their wives, the Green movement’s leadership has apparently now crossed a new red line and dared to name Khamenei as being responsible for Moussavi and Karroubi’s detention.

Prominent clerics are also speaking out against the regime’s action. Notable dissident Grand Ayatollahs Yousef Saanei, Assad Bayat-Zanjani, and Ali-Mohammad Dastgheyb, who have been the primary clerical targets of the government since their support for protests following the disputed 2009 presidential elections, have issued statements against the detentions.

Grand Ayatollah Saanei’s statement condemned the abduction of Moussavi and Karroubi in no uncertain terms: “These are actions and behavior that demonstrate the failure and political weakness of the perpetrators [of the detentions] and agents [of the government] to sway public opinion.”

The Grand Ayatollah’s statement is accurate in that the detentions represent multiple failures on the part of the Islamic Republic’s leadership to sway public opinion or head-off the renewed momentum of the Green Movement.

Unlike some Arab countries seeking to appease protesters, Iran’s government is reacting with increased force.

Iran’s Minister of Intelligence Heydar Moslehi went on state television last week to talk about “new evidence” against the “leaders of sedition.” He even accused senior advisors to Moussavi and Karroubi aides, Ardeshir Amir-Arjmand and Mojtaba Vahedi, of being operatives of the terrorist Mojahedin Khalgh Organization (MKO).

In Iran, any affiliation with the MKO could carry the death penalty.

Moslehi also upped the ante by labeling Moussavi and Karroubi “counterrevolutionaries.” The long-held title of “leaders of sedition” was no longer deemed to be severe enough. In Iran, counterrevolutionaries are usually executed, or at the very least, thrown into prison for a very long time. Moslehi’s remarks were chosen carefully to scare Green Movement supporters abroad, specifically those involved with the Coordination Council.

Fearing the government would arrest Moussavi and Karroubi, leading opposition figures outside Iran remained silent and refused to give interviews to many broadcast television networks such as BBC Persian and Voice of America.

With nothing to lose following the abduction of Moussavi and Karroubi, leaders of the movement abroad have broken their silence and are asking for international pressure on the Iranian government.

The next few weeks will be extremely important.

There is a demonstration scheduled for every Tuesday, and the response amongst Green supporters is that they need to continued to raise their voice in order to be heard.

Copyright (c) March 5, 2011. All rights reserved.

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Democrats refuse to collect on overpayment from the UN.


Over the last few weeks, the United Nations (UN) reported that it was holding $179 million in funds that the United States (US)  has overpaid and placing the overpayment in the UN Tax Equalization Fund because the US Administration has not instructed the UN on how it wishes to dispose of them.

Collecting on this overpayment could result in 1) paying down our debt or 2) delivering the money straight back to the tax payers.

In addition, the bill noted that the Administration should also demand that the process for Tax Equalization Fund withholdings be revised to prevent (or at least reduce) future discrepancies leading to such large surpluses.

Either of those three options did not appeal to Congress, as this bill failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority needed under streamlined procedures in a vote tallied 259-169.

Peter Kind, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, spoke on the floor against the bill, saying the money had been committed to improve security at the Manhattan UN’s office against a possible terrorist attack.

Most of the money has been pledged to fix “really serious concerns” about UN security in Manhattan “that would result in many, many deaths if not corrected,” King told reporters. “I went to too many wakes and funerals on 9/11 to do that over again.”

Please note that King is from New York and retrieving our overpayment from the UN would negatively affect his state.

King and fellow New Yorker Michael Grimm were the only Republicans to oppose the measure as 167 Democrats voted against it.

“I don’t think they knew the security issue was in there,” King said regarding House leaders. King said the UN agreed last October to use $100 million of the fund to help New York improve security at its site and the State Department agreed to the deal.

Even if there is $100 million going towards homeland security which, by the way, is the first time I heard about this obvious kick back to New York.  There is still a remaining $79 million that is sitting uncollected.

It appears that the Democrats are not serious about helping Americans during touch economic times nor paying down our debt with their obvious disregard of free money.

It is said that the rest of the money will go toward future UN payments. However, what is needed now is a tax break for Americans. The Democrats fail to understand this concept, yet again.

Copyright (c) February 11, 2011. All rights reserved.

 

 

New oil fields found despite possible risks to the environment.


A new drilling technique is opening up vast fields of previously out-of-reach oil in the western United States, helping reverse a two-decade decline in domestic production of crude.

Now newer fields are showing promise, including the Niobrara, which stretches under Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas; the Leonard, in New Mexico and Texas; and the Monterey, in California and North Dakota.

By 2015, oil executives and analysts say, the new fields could yield as much as 2 million barrels of oil a day — more than the entire Gulf of Mexico produces now.

This new drilling is expected to raise U.S. production by at least 20 percent over the next five years. And within 10 years, it could help reduce oil imports by more than half, advancing a goal that has long eluded policymakers.

“That’s a significant contribution to energy security,” says Ed Morse, head of commodities research at Credit Suisse.

Oil engineers are applying what critics say is an environmentally questionable method developed in recent years to tap natural gas trapped in underground shale. They drill down and horizontally into the rock, then pump water, sand and chemicals into the hole to crack the shale and allow gas to flow up.

Because oil molecules are sticky and larger than gas molecules, engineers thought the process wouldn’t work to squeeze oil out fast enough to make it economical. However, drillers learned how to increase the number of cracks in the rock and use different chemicals to free up oil at low cost.

“We’ve completely transformed the natural gas industry, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we transform the oil business in the next few years too,” says Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy, which is using the technique.

Petroleum engineers first used the method in 2007 to unlock oil from a 25,000-square-mile formation under North Dakota and Montana known as the Bakken.

Production there rose 50 percent in just the past year, to 458,000 barrels a day, according to Bentek Energy, an energy analysis firm.

“It’s only been fleshed out over the last 12 months just how consequential this can be,” says Mark Papa, chief executive of EOG Resources, the company that first used horizontal drilling to tap shale oil. “And there will be several additional plays that will come about in the next 12 to 18 months. We’re not done yet.”

Environmentalists fear that fluids or wastewater from the process, called hydraulic fracturing, could pollute drinking water supplies. The Environmental Protection Agency is now studying its safety in shale drilling. The agency studied use of the process in shallower drilling operations in 2004 and found that it was safe.

In the Bakken formation, production is rising so fast there is no space in pipelines to bring the oil to market. Instead, it is being transported to refineries by rail and truck. Drilling companies have had to erect camps to house workers.

The Bakken and the Eagle Ford are each expected to ultimately produce 4 billion barrels of oil. That would make them the fifth- and sixth-biggest oil fields ever discovered in the United States. The top four are Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, Spraberry Trend in West Texas, the East Texas Oilfield and the Kuparuk Field in Alaska.

Last month China’s state-owned oil company CNOOC agreed to pay Chesapeake $570 million for a one-third stake in a drilling project in the Niobrara. This followed a $1 billion deal in October between the two companies on a project in the Eagle Ford.

With oil prices high and natural-gas prices low, profit margins from producing oil from shale are much higher than for gas. Also, drilling for shale oil is not dependent on high oil prices. It is said this oil is cheaper to tap than the oil in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico or in Canada’s oil sands.

The country’s shale oil resources aren’t nearly as big as the country’s shale gas resources. Drillers have unlocked decades’ worth of natural gas, an abundance of supply that may keep prices low for years. U.S. shale oil on the other hand will only supply one to two percent of world consumption by 2015, not nearly enough to affect prices.

Still, a surge in production last year from the Bakken helped U.S. oil production grow for the second year in a row, after 23 years of decline. This during a year when drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, the nation’s biggest oil-producing region, was halted after the BP oil spill.

Within five years, analysts and executives predict, the newly unlocked fields are expected to produce 1 million to 2 million barrels of oil per day, enough to boost U.S. production 20 percent to 40 percent. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates production will grow a more modest 500,000 barrels per day.

At today’s oil prices of roughly $90 per barrel, slashing imports that much would save the U.S. $175 billion a year. Last year, when oil averaged $78 per barrel, the U.S. sent $260 billion overseas for crude, accounting for nearly half the country’s $500 billion trade deficit.

“We have redefined how to look for oil and gas,” says Rehan Rashid, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets. “The implications are major for the nation.”

While I am hesitant about the environmental concerns, this comes to a great relief when there is turmoil in the Middle East, which hosts the majority of  US’s oil/gas imports.

Some people may question my supporting of this measure as I am against deep water drilling and drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. My response to that criticism is that I speak on behalf of my state which resides off the Gulf of Mexico and could cause direct negative impact to the Gulf’s coast (as displayed after the Deepwater Horizon explosion in April 2010)and if spilled oil got into the Gulf Stream, it could affect the Eastern side of my state as well as the Eastern seaboard.

If the Western states support this measure, then to each state their own. I do acknowledge how not only would this increase our oil supply here in the United States but also how this would create thousands, if not millions, of jobs at a time where job creation is of the utmost importance. I pray that drilling is done in a responsible and safe manner so that we do not see a replay of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Copyright (c) February 10, 2011. All rights reserved.

Romney wins NH Straw Poll- What are your thoughts?


New Hampshire Republicans asked for their constituents for early preferences on their party’s 2012 presidential nominee in a straw sanctioned by the Republican State Committee.

The 493-member state committee met this weekend to choose a new state chairman to succeed John H. Sununu, a new representative on the Republican National Committee and other party offices.

Republicans will be asked to choose from among no fewer than 20 people in the straw poll, including New Hampshire’s own Judd Gregg, and will be given the option of writing in a name.

Candidates on the ballot were as follows (in no particular order):
Rep. Michele Bachmann
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
Pizza Mogul Herman Cain, Indiana
Gov. Mitch Daniels
Sen. Jim DeMint
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani,
Former Sen. Judd Gregg
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee,
US Ambassador to China, Jon Huntsmann, Jr.
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin
Rep. Ron Paul
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty,
Rep. Mike Pence
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney
Former Sen. Rick Santorum
Sen. John Thune
Real estate mogul, Donald Trump.

35% percent backed Romney, Paul garnered 11% percent, Pawlenty got 8% percent, Palin received 7% percent and Bachmann grabbed 5%.

The straw poll may provide an informal indication of who is favored by the most hard-core Republican activists more than a year before the nation’s first presidential primary.

The Florida vibe presents these top 5 Republican nominees for the Presidency. Some are better known than others but with the political atmosphere starting to churn- I believe that we will hear a lot more from the people noted below.

1. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney

2. Rep. Mike Pence

3. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour

4. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee

5. Sen. John Thune

What are your thoughts? Who would you like to see on the 2012 Republican ticket?

Published in: on January 24, 2011 at 1:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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