SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- An Iranian Oil Ministry official says Iran will ask OPEC to call an emergency meeting to discuss oil prices if it slumps below USD 100 a barrel.
“To that effect, Iran’s oil minister [Rostam Qasemi] will have telephone conservation with OPEC president about an extraordinary meeting,” the official, who was not named, said Monday.
On Sunday, Qasemi said Iran wanted oil prices to stay above USD 100 per barrel, noting that “an oil price below USD 100 is not reasonable for anyone.”
Crude dropped to near USD 101 on Friday and ahead of the next meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on May 31.
Also on Monday, Iran’s former Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nowzari said USD 100 price would be a “fair price for both producers and consumers” although it is not realistic for crude oil.
“The oil price is always decided based on supply and demand,” said Nowzari, whom Iran has nominated for the post of OPEC secretary-general.
He noted that austerity measures enforced in some European countries have resulted in lower demand for crude oil in the global markets.
Nowzari stated that OPEC could play an effective role in this regard, noting that the organization has always adopted reasonable decisions in times of crisis.
London's Brent North Sea crude fell to USD 101.18 per barrel, the lowest since July 13, 2012.
Forecast downgrades for 2013 from OPEC, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Energy Information Administration (EIA) have rocked markets.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – At the official Galaxy S4 announcement in New York on Thursday, Samsung Mobile chief JK Shin mentioned the phone will hit store shelves at the end of April, but didn't say anything about the pricing.
Well, the beans have been sort of unintentionally spilled by the company’s website in the terms and conditions of an ongoing giveaway. There, each of the 48 Galaxy S4 phones that are up for grabs has been listed with an “approximate retail value” of $579.
However, the price is most probably before taxes, which are added at the point of sale. Still, the 16GB Samsung Galaxy S4 would be cheaper than the Apple iPhone 5, which currently retails for $649 SIM-free.
The official pricing of the S4 hasn’t been confirmed by Samsung yet so don't take it for granted, but $579 isn’t too far off what the Galaxy S3 cost last year when it was officially launched so.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –World demand for oil will reach its peak between 2035-2040, after which solar power or gas will take the lead a study by Royal Dutch Shell predicts.
After research into global energy prospects, Shell has come up with two possible scenarios called ‘Mountains’ and ‘Oceans’. The first one predicts slow international economic development and the markets largely controlled governments that will stimulate nuclear energy exploitation.
It also suggests that ecology-friendly natural gas will become the backbone of the world’s energy system substituting coal as the main fuel in electricity generation. In this case, there will be some changes in transportation, with trucks and cars largely powered by electricity and hydrogen, and CO2 emissions will be reduced.
The second forecast, ‘Oceans’, considers a more dynamic and ‘fluid’ global economy where reforms trigger a productivity growth and whose development will be determined largely by market forces and civil society, with a smaller role of government.
Energetically speaking, this scenario focuses on solar power that can become the dominant energy source overshadowing the traditional ones in 2060s-2070s as high energy prices unlock more expensive resources and technologies. Renewable energy could reach “60-70% saturation if the time horizon is extended still further,” Shell reported in its study. If this is the case, nuclear energy development will be restrained by the popular concern while coal will continue to be widely used in electricity generation, Shell experts predict.
“Despite their differences, in both scenarios energy consumption is about 80% bigger in 2060 than it is now,” said Jeremy Bentham, responsible for Shell’s Global Business Environment team.
Oil consumption has already lowered in some countries, for example in US, falling last year to its lowest level since 1996. The demand for oil has been declining every month except May, and at the end of the year decreased by 2.08% to 18.56 million barrels per day.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – "We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years," President Barack Obama observed in his much-watched, much-covered State of the Union message. So U.S. drivers might wonder why the price demanded at their neighborhood gas station has soared by about 45 cents in recent weeks.
The usual reaction to such a rapid increase has been an irritated glance in the direction of foreign oil producers. This time, however, analysis reveals that the primary pumper-uppers of pump prices reside much closer to home. They are the nation's oil refiners, the crucial middlemen who "crack" crude oil into gasoline, heating oil, and other derivative products. (See related quiz: What You Don't Know About Gas Prices.)
A new analysis released by the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. government's energy statistics and analysis agency, suggests that "about two-thirds of the rise in gasoline prices since the start of the year" can be traced to a rise in the "crack spread," a measure of refinery profit margins. In comparison, only about 15 cents of the rise is due to worldwide increases in crude oil prices. (See related: "Pictures—Oil States: Are They Stable? Why it Matters.")
A Double Boost
Larry Goldstein, trustee and director for special projects at the Energy Policy Research Foundation, explains that refiners have enjoyed two boosts to their profits in recent years, both driven by the use of hydraulic fracking. The first is the access they now have to cheap crude oil pumped from the Eagle Ford formation in Texas and the Bakken Shale oil deposits in North Dakota. (See related story: "The New Oil Landscape.")
A second windfall is the low cost of the natural gas that powers their refinery equipment. "No one could say that refineries are not doing well," Goldstein comments. "They are doing exceptionally well. They have access to the cheapest crude available, and they sell the product at world market prices." (See related story: "Crude Reality: Gas Prices Rocket Because They Can.")
True, the price of crude plus taxes explains most of the price at the pump. "It's basically simple for the most part," Goldstein explained, "but that doesn't mean the rest is trivial. It's not." And, he notes, the "last 20 percent is complicated."
How much are refiners prospering? Houston's Phillips 66, the largest U.S. independent refiner, reported earnings from refining up fivefold in the fourth quarter of 2012; for San Antonio, Texas-based Valero, net income was up an astounding 22-fold. Large diversified oil companies like Exxon and Chevron were able to report buoyant profits despite sagging returns on oil and natural gas production, thanks to the healthy income from U.S. refineries that analysts and investors long viewed as a drag on their operations.
But refiners note that profits vary significantly across the industry and from year to year. The maintenance outages that are currently reducing capacity, many of them planned years in advance, are necessary to keep plants operating safely, says Charles T. Drevna, president of the American Fuel and Petrochemicals Manufacturers, the industry's largest trade association. "Refiners have every incentive to get back to full production as quickly as possible," he said.
Location is another important factor in profits. Regional variations in refinery capacity and limitations on moving refined gasoline between regions exacerbate price differences across the country. Pipelines from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast are limited, and the only vessels permitted to move goods between U.S. ports are those built, owned, operated, and crewed by U.S. citizens and registered under the U.S. flag. That's what is currently depriving the East Coast of the full benefit of the cheap crude produced in the middle of the country and refined along the Gulf Coast. (See related story: "With Gas Prices High, U.S. Refinery Closures Hit Workers and Drivers.") Instead, East Coast consumers must pay the higher rates that prevail on the world market.
The EIA report also points to planned and unplanned maintenance at refineries as the source of a reduction in capacity of about 9 percent. Other factors include the changeover from winter grade products to summer grade products to meet U.S. emissions requirements, and very low profit margins for refiners prior to the current run-up.
"We have had a lot of bad luck on the refining front across the country," says Phil Flynn, senior market analyst for the PRICE Futures Group. Flynn points to additional factors, including the lasting impact of Hurricane Sandy and a shift by European refineries to producing more heating oil because of an extremely cold winter. That in turn has driven up prices differentially along the East Coast given the region's reliance on imports from Europe for supply.
But not everyone is satisfied with these explanations. Marc Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America, blames bad management and financial speculation. "The market," says Cooper, "is insufficiently competitive to make people behave better and plan better."
A Gasoline Stockpile?
One way to prepare for such circumstances would be to maintain a reserve of processed gasoline. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve currently holds crude oil to protect from a disruption in supply of raw materials, but it does not store refined products to deal with a tightening of refinery capacity. Since the Reserve's creation in 1975, the U.S. Department of Energy has repeatedly studied the idea of creating a reserve of refined products, but dismissed the idea in 1977, 1982, 1989, and again in 1998.
In 2000, however, Congress created the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve, which now holds about two million barrels of heating oil to protect from a severe supply interruption to the region. The stockpile was tapped for the first time after Hurricane Sandy caused extensive infrastructure damage in the Northeast. Several bills that would create a national gasoline reserve have been introduced in Congress; Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey and Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, both Democrats, proposed such legislation in previous sessions. At present, there are no such bills before Congress.
Stockpiling gasoline in a reserve has been dismissed mainly because of the traditional surplus of supply available in Europe and the higher cost of storing and maintaining a reserve of gasoline compared to the cost of storing crude oil. Cooper says, "If you go back to Katrina, the Europeans were going to respond by sending some product our way. Why? They have the product reserve."
Cooper thinks the broad economic costs of refinery disruptions support giving gasoline stockpiles a try. When these disruptions occur, "we don't get cost benefit analysis. We get these remarkable stories of bad luck," Cooper says. "In this interconnected world, we need to plan for bad luck."
Private companies are unlikely to build such reserves, Goldstein points out. Stockpiling gasoline doesn't make economic sense for private firms because prices don't predictably go up in a way that would make a return on investment likely. Indeed, analysts at the EIA and elsewhere don't believe the current pressure on U.S. gasoline prices will last long. (And it's always worth recalling that, even after the recent run-up, gas prices in the U.S. remain low compared with those in European Union countries, where prices now average 1.55 euros per liter, or $7.72 per gallon.)
Flynn, for one, sees a radically different outlook for gasoline buyers down the road. "From a long-term perspective, I am freaking totally excited. I think we're at the end of an era of high gasoline prices," he says. With the U.S. on track to become one of the biggest producers of oil, and downward pressure on diesel prices as buses, taxis, and lighter duty truck fleets switch over to natural gas, Flynn foresees more refinery capacity available to process gasoline. (Related: "Natural Gas Nation: EIA Sees U.S. Future Shaped by Fracking") "That's going to take the heat off some of our refiners," he notes. And cool down tempers at the pump as well.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The price of Brent oil has jumped to its highest level in five months, a day after the United States imposed new illegal sanctions against Iran.
On Thursday, the price of a barrel of European benchmark Brent for delivery in March rose to USD 117.83 in London trading, the highest level since mid-September.
The price hike came a day after the United States imposed new sanctions on Iran’s energy sector in a new attempt to force the Islamic Republic to halt its nuclear energy program.
On Wednesday, the US Treasury Department announced new sanctions targeting Iranian oil revenue. The sanctions prevent Iran from gaining access to earnings garnered from its crude exports.
The sanctions require the importing countries to keep their payments at home and only release them in return for purchases of goods from them by Iran, to effectively lock up Iranian oil revenue overseas.
Iran responded by condemning the measures as yet another act of hostility from the US government.
The US has spearheaded several rounds of Western sanctions against Iran in recent years, based on the unfounded accusation that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.
Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
In addition, the IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities but has never found any evidence showing that Iran's civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.-www.shfaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- Last week, an article began circulating on Facebook about the collapse of higher education.
"The adjunct crisis (of many decades) makes the New York Times," tweeted Karen Kelsky, an anthropologist who runs The Professor Is In, a service where graduate students pay for advice on how to game the job market. The article depicts a bleak world of impoverished professors, diminishing career prospects and subpar courses providing "less educational quality to the students who need it most".
It was several days later that everyone realised that the article was from 2007 - and that the situation had changed so little that even experts like Kelsky could not tell the difference.
For the past decade, American higher education has been marked by the explosion of debt and the erosion of opportunity. As college presidents' salaries balloon into the millions of dollars and schools spend record amounts on lavish infrastructure, contingent faculty subsist on poverty wages while students take outmassive loans in the pursuit of career stability they rarely find.
In 2012, student debt surpassed $1tn for the first time. Tuition has skyrocketed to the point that some schools cost more annually than the average household income. Grade inflation is so rampant that more than 43 percent of grades given out at four-year universities are A's. Within the classroom and outside of it, knowledge and ability are devalued over the rote accumulation of accolades - marks and degrees that reveal less about the promise of the individual than the decay of the system.
Critics of American higher education often point to a culture of greed - one that rewards presidents over professors and luxury over learning. But while the system may be structured on greed, it is powered by fear. Professors fear losing their jobs if they protest a crumbling system, while students fear searching for a job without a degree. Seeing no other options, they check the boxes and write the checks.
In recent years, MOOCs - massive online open courses - have been proposed as an alternative. MOOCs make higher education accessible and affordable, proponents argue, eliminating the financial barriers that derail equal access to knowledge. They fail to see that MOOCs have an inherent weakness. Higher education today is less about the accumulation of knowledge than the demonstration of status - a status conferred by pre-existing wealth and connections. It is not about the degree, but the pedigree.
'Access' and class
On December 5, a study was released showing that more than 50 percent of faculty positions in political science departments were filled by graduates from 11 schools, out of the 116 schools that offer doctorates. Most of the 11 schools were located in the most expensive cities in America.
Robert Oprisko, the author of the study, argues that institutional prestige has trumped individual merit. "It's about access. It's about class," he says. "Access" in higher education means the ability to supplement the meagre funding offered on merit with personal resources. For wealthy students, attending a funded programme in an expensive city is easy. For the rest of the population, it means taking on debt - debt that new statistics reveal is disproportionately held by disadvantaged groups.
A new survey released by the National Science Foundation shows that black PhD recipients are carrying the majority of the graduate debt burden - an average of $34,055 versus the $17,138 by white PhD recipients (these figures do not take into account debt from undergraduate education, although that is also disproportionate). 12.6 percent of black PhD recipients owe more than $90,000 by the time they earn their degree; only 5.2 percent of white students do.
What happens to these students after they graduate? They enter a job market which has collapsed for everyone - 34.5 percent of PhD recipients were unemployed upon graduating in 2011, an increase from 28.4 percent in 2006. But not everyone was unemployed equally. The National Science Foundation foundthat while 31.8 percent of white PhDs had "no definite commitment for employment or postdoctoral study", this was true for 40.5 percent of black PhDs, 39.6 percent of Asian PhDs, and 39.6 percent of Hispanic PhDs.
As the market tightened after the 2008 economic crash, the hiring gap between minorities and whites widened. The ethnic group most likely to take on massive debt is also the ethnic group least likely to find a job. This is hardly the road to equality that proponents of higher education envisioned.
As I have previously argued, higher education in the United States is no longer a path out of poverty, but a road into it - a fact to which administrators seem oblivious. Speakers at the annual meeting of the Council of Graduate Schools blamed the debt crisis on students not "living cheaply enough", a baffling admonition to adults struggling to afford rent and health care on less than $20,000 per year, much less cover the entry costs to academia (in some fields, applicants must pay to see job listings).
One could argue that these problems are limited to a small segment of the population. But when a graduate degree is considered mandatory in so many professions that shape society, who can obtain it and how - and at what cost - matters to everyone.
In Washington, one analyst argues, a PhD is a mandatory stepping stone to a career in policy. As higher education becomes unaffordable, the category of people willing and able to earn advanced degrees narrows, and the expectations and priorities of this class disproportionately influence the broader population.
We already see this in the normalisation of unpaid labour and in the unemployment crisis. A system that rewards pre-existing personal wealth produces leaders oblivious to those who do not share their fortune. As Paul Krugman remarked, "Influential people in Washington aren't worried about losing their jobs; by and large they don't even know anyone who's unemployed."
Educators are aware that this system is unfair, but the solutions they propose - like MOOCs - often serve to reaffirm inequalities. The very premise of the MOOC, academic Aaron Bady notes, is flawed: "'Access' wouldn't even be a problem if we didn't expect mass higher education to still be available," he writes. "Americans only have the kind of reverence for education that we have because the 20th century made it possible for the rising middle class to have what had previously been a mark of elite status, a college education."
The term "status" is critical. MOOCs may spread knowledge and spur insight, but they do not provide the true value of the American university degree - the status it confers upon the recipient. Unlike in the 20th century, an elite degree is not necessarily a sign of achievement. An elite degree shows that the recipient is of a social class willing and able to pay for it.
"Educational success in the United States maps all too precisely upon wealth," notes one MOOC analyst. "Money is a major factor." Students of MOOCs will not be able to succeed on merit. Rather, they will face the same disadvantages held by degree-holders from low-ranked schools, who are often shunned in elite professions. For the lower classes, meritocracy in education is dead. Meritocracy has become the ability to owe and borrow money. Meritocracy is access to credit.
The American higher education system will collapse, but it will not be because of MOOCs. It will be because of time. Right now members of the first generation to take out massive student loans are having children of their own. In the next 10 to 15 years, these children will be the right age for college. But will they go?
Many of today's young parents are underemployed and drowning in debt. They are working in jobs that have no relation to their degrees. They will be paying off their college loans well into old age. Will they be able to afford their children's tuition as rates rise exponentially? Will they advise their children to take out loans and live like they did?
Today's young adults know all too well the value of a college degree. The question is whether they will want their children to pay the same price.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Former premier and intelligence chief Ahmad Obeidat joined thousands of Jordanians on Friday to protest fuel price hikes, demanding regime reform and the resignation of Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur.
"The people want to reform the regime. We demand reform and change. Nsur, out before the people revolt," chanted the protesters led by Obeidat's National Reform Front which includes opposition Islamists.
"The people want the downfall of the (fuel) prices. Together, let's reject the decision to raise the prices," read a banner carried by the demonstrators, gathered near Gamal Abdel Nasser Circle, close to the city centre.
Police said 3,000 people took part in the protest, while Islamists put the number at around 20,000. According to an AFP estimate, the demonstrators numbered around 10,000.
Demonstrators gave police flowers, but a limited number called for "the fall of regime," which is punishable by imprisonment under Jordanian law.
Obeidat however stopped them.
"We did not come here today to flex muscle. We came here to defend our constitutional rights. We will stick to our demand of reforming the regime," he told the crowds.
"We want comprehensive reform. We insist on rejecting the general election and any polls under this current bad electoral law."
The National Reform Front and Muslim Brotherhood have said they will boycott Jordan's January 23 vote.
Earlier in November, the government raised fuel prices by up to 53 percent, sparking a series of nationwide protests, rioting and clashes that killed one person and wounded dozens.
Nsur, who formed his government on October 11, has defended the price hike as "unavoidable" given Jordan's $5-billion (3.9-billion-euro) budget deficit and said the measures would save $42 million by year end.
Jordanians have held Arab Spring-inspired protests since last year, demanding reforms and a tough anti-corruption fight.- www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Austerity Britain is experiencing a nutritional recession, with rising food prices and shrinking incomes driving up consumption of fatty foods, reducing the amount of fruit and vegetables we buy, and condeming people on the lowest incomes to an increasingly unhealthy diet.
Detailed data compiled for the Guardian, which analysed the grocery buying habits of thousands of UK citizens, shows that consumption of fat, sugar and saturates has soared since 2010, particularly among the poorest households, despite the overall volume of food bought remaining almost static. Food experts and campaigners called for government action to address concerns the UK faces a sustained nutritional crisis triggered by food poverty, which is in turn storing up public health problems that threaten to widen inequalities between rich and poor households.
The data show consumption of high-fat and processed foods such as instant noodles, coated chicken, meat balls, tinned pies, baked beans, pizza and fried food has grown among households with an income of less than £25,000 a year as hard-pressed consumers increasingly choose products perceived to be cheaper and more "filling".
Over the same period, fruit and vegetable consumption has dropped in all but the most well-off UK households, and most starkly among the poorest consumers, according to the data. It estimates the number of people who regularly achieve the "five-a-day" fruit and vegetable guideline has declined by 900,000 over the two years to May 2012.
The food campaigner Laura Sandys, who is Conservative MP for South Thanet in Kent, one of the UK's most deprived constituencies, said the findings demonstrated that the country faced a "major and growing" nutritional crisis. Sandys called for the government and the food industry to introduce measures to tackle food poverty, which she said would only intensify as food prices continued to rise and household incomes declined.
Sandys, who set up the Smarter Consumer Commission earlier this year to address food poverty, said: "We have to start to look at food as an important policy area and accept that many families are not going to be able to feed themselves in the way they have done, because of food price inflation, and lack of food skills."
Data for the Guardian's Breadline Britain investigation was collected by the consumer analyst Kantar Worldpanel, which operates a panel of 30,000 UK households across all income categories. The participating households electronically scan every grocery item they buy each week, enabling Kantar Worldpanel to build up a detailed, constantly updated picture of food purchasing habits.
Giles Quick, Kantar Worldpanel director, said: "We should worry about the child who goes to bed having not eaten a meal that evening but we should also worry about the much greater number of children who go to bed filled with food that is nutritionally poorThis problem affects many millions of homes on a regular basis. Left unchecked it is gradually creating a major social and public health problem."
Mary Creagh, shadow environment secretary, said the findings were "a big wake-up call" for ministers. "We need action to tackle what is an epidemic of nutritional poverty. We face a perfect storm of stagnant wages and high food prices at a time when the government is cutting huge holes in the social welfare net, and the impact will be felt most by the most vulnerable: children, women and the elderly."
The data, which captured consumer food buying habits up to June 2012, showed lower income groups were nutritionally most affected. The rising price of food – up 32% over the past five years according to official figures – meant the least well-off consumers focused their increasingly stretched food budgets on frozen and processed products at the expense of fresh fish, meat and fruit.
Food choices of poorer households were driven primarily by price and were more likely to be influenced by two-for-one style price promotions, most commonly associated with processed food products. Spending on chilled ready meals was up 25% in the past two years. "Feeding the family on a special offer pizza or ready meal represents a cheaper alternative to more complex, freshly cooked meals containing multiple ingredients," said Quick.
Fruit and vegetable consumption has fallen since 2010 across all households and almost all regions of the UK, but most markedly in the poorest households, and in north-west England. In Scotland, five-a-day intake has marginally increased since 2010, the data shows. This was attributed by Quick to the Scottish government's maintenance of a sustained social marketing campaign to encourage healthier choices.
Since May 2010, fruit and vegetable intake has decreased among consumers at all the leading supermarkets, excepting discounters such as Lidl and Netto, according to the data. Quick said price was the key factor: "Health is simply not seen as a priority when budgets are tight.
"Fruit and vegetables are much more likely to be consumed as a part of a home-cooked meal, and home cooking declines as working hours lengthen as families struggle to make ends meet and retain their jobs."
The findings echo official government statistics released last month, which showed the lowest income households started to buy less food in 2007, after the first of a series of food price rises. Over the past five years, the retail price of processed food has risen 36%, including a 15% rise in the year to 2012. Fruit prices have risen by 34% since 2007, and vegetables by 22%.
Liz Dowler, professor of food and social policy at the University of Warwick, said poor diet in early life stored up health problems for the future.
"Children who go hungry and who fill up on monotonous diets based on highly processed carbohydrates, little fresh vegetables and no fruit, are likely to have poor nutritional status – particularly insufficient micronutrients [vitamins and minerals] which are essential for building good immunity, enabling efficient metabolism and full body functioning."Professor Tim Benton of the Global Food Security programme, which brings together government departments and academic research councils, said the implications of rising food prices needed to be urgently addressed. "We have seen three food price spikes in five years. I can't see how that will go away – it can only get worse."
Sandys has set out a 10-point plan to address food poverty issues, including establishing a national food affordability index to monitor food prices and nutritional changes, mandatory food education in the early years schools curriculum, and a review of the effectiveness of the coalition's Change4Life healthy eating campaign.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the Israeli regime will pay a price -- sooner or later -- for the children it has killed in the latest wave of attacks against the Gaza Strip.
Speaking at Egypt’s Cairo University on Saturday, Erdogan said Israel has once again committed every type of inhumane act to turn the region into a bloodbath, adding that Turkey strongly condemns such acts, the Anatolia news agency reported.
He also vowed to support the Palestinians and demanded that Israel end the assaults.
The latest wave of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip has claimed at least 46 lives since November 14. Ahmed al-Ja'abari, the popular and influential leader of the Hamas military wing, the Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades, was assassinated in an Israeli attack on his car on Wednesday.
On Friday, Ahmed Abu Jalal, a field commander of the Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades, was killed in an Israeli airstrike on the district of Maghazi in central Gaza.
Israeli aircraft bombed Hamas government buildings in the Palestinian territory on Saturday, after Israel's cabinet authorized the mobilization of up to 75,000 reservists, preparing for a possible ground invasion.
The Israeli military frequently carries out airstrikes and other attacks on the Gaza Strip, saying the actions are being conducted for defensive purposes. However, in violation of international law, disproportionate force is always used and civilians are often killed or injured.
Gaza has been blockaded by the Israeli regime since 2007, a situation that has caused a decline in the standard of living, unprecedented levels of unemployment, and unrelenting poverty.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Press TV
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Why are gas prices so high? This question popped up Tuesday night during the second presidential debate, but neither President Obama nor former governor Mitt Romney directly answered it. Instead, they debated their energy policies, which analysts say have little immediate effect on prices at the pump.
The candidates talked about the need to expand domestic oil and gas production, boost energy efficiency and develop renewable energy.
What they didn't say is that U.S. gas prices are largely determined by something else: global crude oil prices, which depend on myriad factors such as economic sanctions on Iran, spare oil capacity in Saudi Arabia and auto use in China — factors over which they have little control.
"Politicians don't like to admit they don't have control over everything," says Daniel Weiss, an energy expert at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a non-partisan advocacy group that favors a clean-energy agenda.
"A non-answer probably reflects the complexity of the issue," adds Branko Terzic, a former commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission who now heads the Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions. He says prices also vary within the United States because of localized conditions such as oil supply, refinery capacity and transportation.
"High gasoline prices in California are due to a fire at a major oil refinery and a power failure — not a lack of oil," says Weiss, adding Romney's "drill, baby, drill" proposals may boost domestic supply but won't necessarily bring down gas prices. "Even though Canada produces nearly all of its oil, it too had high gasoline prices this year due to high worldwide oil prices."
Pain at the pump seems particularly peculiar this year, because the United States is not only producing more crude oil but also using less of it — leading to a steep drop in net oil imports since 2005.
Although U.S. production of oil and petroleum products has increased 20% since 2008, it was still only 11% of the world's supply last year and 53% of what the nation used, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In other words, it's just not enough to sway global crude oil prices — and gas prices.
Yet high gas prices — averaging $3.76 for a gallon of regular nationwide but exceeding $4 in seven states, according to AAA — remain a potent pocketbook issue. Whenever they've surged this year, Romney has criticized Obama for them. In 2008, when he was running for president, Obama partly blamed then-president George Bush for that year's surge in prices.
"The reality is that presidents have very little to do with near-term fluctuations in gasoline prices," Frank Verrastro, director of the energy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told a U.S. Senate panel earlier this year.
"High gas prices are bad for incumbents," Weiss says, because presidents can exert only limited control over them. He says they can urge, but not order, regulators to crack down on Wall Street speculators who inflate crude oil prices and can — in cases of extreme supply disruption — sell oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
During Tuesday's debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Romney suggested Obama had more control. "The proof of whether a strategy is working or not is what the price is that you're paying at the pump," Romney said, adding that gas prices would be lower if Obama's energy strategy worked.
"When the president took office, the price of gasoline here in Nassau County was about $1.86 a gallon. Now, it's $4 a gallon," Romney said, calling for an increase in domestic energy production.
Obama said gas prices were lower at the beginning of his administration because "the economy was on the verge of collapse." He said that "the most important thing we can do" to lower prices "is to make sure we control our own energy."
After citing the U.S. boom in oil, natural gas and coal production during his administration and his doubling of car fuel-efficiency standards, Obama said he's pushing for more renewable power and energy efficiency. "That's how we're going to reduce (oil) demand and that's what's going to keep gas prices lower." www.shafaqna.com/English