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Purveyor's Journal
Purveyor's Journal
April 25, 2012

Iran Considers Halting Nuclear Expansion to Avert EU Oil Ban

Source: Bloomberg

April 25 (Bloomberg) -- Iran is considering a Russian proposal to halt the expansion of its nuclear program in order to avert new sanctions, the country's envoy in Moscow said.

"We need to study this proposal and to establish on what basis it has been made," Ambassador Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi said in an interview at the Iranian embassy in Moscow today. The Russian plan, announced by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov last week, would allow Iran to avoid a European Union ban on its crude that is scheduled to come into force in July.

Iran will ensure it maintains its right to produce nuclear energy, Sajjadi said. The U.S. and European Union allege Iran is seeking to build a bomb, not just make fuel for electricity production and medical research, as the country insists.

The EU is planning on July 1 to impose an embargo on crude from Iran, which accounts for about 4 percent of the world's supply, as it works with the U.S. to ratchet up pressure on the Persian Gulf state. Oil prices retreated from a one-week high, dropping more than $1 today on the report.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/04/25/bloomberg_articlesM317IU1A1I4H01-M31GH.DTL

April 24, 2012

Ford Back at Investment Grade After 6 Years in Junk

Ford Motor Co. (F)’s credit rating was raised to investment grade today by Fitch Ratings, ending six years of so-called junk status for the second-largest U.S. automaker.

Fitch lifted Ford to BBB-, the first level of investment grade, from BB+, the ratings company said in a statement. Fitch first cut Ford’s rating below investment grade Dec. 19, 2005, as rising fuel prices began curtailing sales of sport-utility vehicles and pickups that accounted for most of the automaker’s profit.

Returning to investment grade with Fitch and other ratings companies is one of Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally’s goals. That would reduce Ford’s borrowing costs and permit it to recover collateral, including the company’s blue oval logo, used to obtain financing that enabled Ford to avoid bankruptcy.

“The upgrade of Ford’s ratings reflects the automaker’s significantly improved financial performance, balance sheet repair, and product portfolio improvement that have taken place over the past several years,” Fitch said in the statement. “Since the last recession, Ford’s management has been heavily focused on increasing profitability, growing liquidity, lowering debt and reducing the company’s pension obligations.”



April 24, 2012

Americans' Confidence In The Economy Held Steady In April

(04-24) 07:37 PDT New York (AP) --

Americans' confidence in the economy held steady in April from the previous month despite rising job cuts and falling home values.

The Conference Board, a private research group, said on Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index is at 69.2, down slightly from a revised 69.5 in March. Economists were expecting a reading of 70, according to a FactSet poll of analysts. The current level is below February's 71.6, which is the highest level it's been in a year.

Consumer confidence is widely watched because consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. The current level is significantly below the 90 reading that indicates a healthy economy. But it's well above its all-time low of 25.3 in February 2009.

"Consumer confidence was virtually unchanged in April, following a modest decline in March," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, in a statement. "Overall, consumers are more upbeat about the state of the economy, but they remain cautiously optimistic."



April 24, 2012

Brooklyn DA Won't Release Names Of Orthodox Jewish Sex Offenders

Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes has consistently refused to divulge the identities of Orthodox Jews accused and convicted of sex crimes, giving a blanket exemption to sex offenders who commit their crimes in tight-knit Orthodox communities. Now his office has been compelled to formally explain why it won't name the accused and convicted. In response to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request by The Forward, Assistant District Attorney Morgan Dennehy argues that releasing the names of suspects would allow others in the community to identify their victims. She writes:

The circumstances here are unique. Because all of the requested defendant names relate to Hasidic men who are alleged to have committed sex crimes against Hasidic victims within a very tight-knit and insular Brooklyn community, there is a significant danger that the disclosure of the defendants’ names would lead members of that community to discern the identities of the victims.

But the Forward points out that last year Hynes announced the arrests of 85 Orthodox Jews on sex crimes charges since 2008, refusing to release the suspects’ names, citing the need to protect the victims. "Yet that same week, Hynes issued a press release publicizing the name of a non-Jewish man convicted of raping his girlfriend’s daughter," The Forward's Paul Berger notes. "Hynes released the man’s name, the neighborhood where he lived and the victim’s age, enough information for any neighbor to identify the girl."


April 23, 2012

Israel Punishes Palestinian Hunger-Strikers

By Jihan Abdalla | Reuters – 2 hrs 30 mins ago

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Israel has taken measures against some 1,200 Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike, denying them family visits and separating them from inmates not taking part in the protest, prison authorities said on Monday.

The open-ended strike, dubbed the "battle of empty stomachs" by organizers, began last Tuesday. The prisoners are demanding better jail conditions and for Israel to end detention without trial for Palestinians suspected of security offences.

"Privileges such as family visits have been revoked and items such as electronics have been confiscated," Sivan Weizman, a spokeswoman for the Israeli Prisons Authority, said.

Palestinian prisoners have long complained of the difficulty of securing family visits and the invasive searches visiting relatives have to go through.



April 23, 2012

Turkey Says Israel Not Welcome At NATO Summit

Reuters – 5 hrs ago

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey has refused to allow Israel to take part in a NATO summit next month because the Jewish state has not apologized for the 2010 killing of Turkish activists in a raid on a ship taking aid to Palestinians, a Turkish official said on Monday.

Relations between the regional powers deteriorated sharply after Israeli commandos raided the Mavi Marmara aid vessel in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and killed nine Turks in clashes with activists.

Last September, Turkey expelled Israel's envoy and froze military cooperation after a U.N. report on the raid failed to prompt an apology from Israel.

"We did not give our consent on that issue," a Turkish official told Reuters when asked if Turkey was blocking Israel's participation in a NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21.



April 22, 2012

Israeli PM Criticizes Obama For Diplomacy With Iran


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched an unexpected attack this week on the world’s six major powers led by President Barack Obama over how they were conducting nuclear talks with Iran. The attack underscored the fact that relations between the Israeli and U.S. leaders are as bad as they ever were, just as the presidential election in the United States gets into full swing.

Indeed, indications are that not only is Mr. Netanyahu more comfortable with the views on Iran held by Mitt Romney, the leading Republican candidate who is sure to be Mr. Obama’s opponent in this year’s election, but also with Mr. Romney as a person.

Mr. Netanyahu accuses the world powers of stringing out their talks with Iran over its nuclear program. His criticism came one day after the first meeting between Iran and representatives from the so-called five-plus-one countries: the five members of the United Nations Security Council – Russia, China, France, Great Britain and the United States – plus Germany.

“My initial impression is that Iran has been given a ‘freebie,’” Mr. Netanyahu said, referring to the five-week hiatus before the second round of the talks and complained that the gap will allow Iran “to continue enrichment [of uranium] without any limitation, any inhibition.”



April 22, 2012

Democrats Plan To Bring Debate Over 'War On Women' To The Senate Floor

By Alexander Bolton - 04/22/12 07:09 AM ET

Senate Democratic leaders plan to bring the debate over the so-called war on women to the Senate floor this week.

Senate Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said the Violence Against Women Act would come up for debate before lawmakers leave Friday for a weeklong recess.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has filed a cloture petition on the legislation so Democrats can take it up immediately after finishing postal reform legislation.

Republicans are expected to vote against the legislation because of provisions extending special visas to illegal immigrants who are the victims of abuse and protecting victims in same-sex relationships.



April 22, 2012

Gen. Dempsey: US In For 'Wild Ride' In The Middle East Over The Next Decade

By Carlo Munoz - 04/22/12 06:58 AM ET

America is heading into an increasingly tumultuous decade in the Middle East, punctuated by repeated popular uprisings that will continue to dismantle long-standing power structures in the region, according to the Pentagon's top uniformed officer.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he believes the fallout from the ongoing Arab Spring movement will eventually lead to a more democratic Middle East.

"I think getting from here to there is going to be a wild ride. And so I think we're in for 10 or 15 years of instability in a region that has already been characterized by instability," Dempsey told members of the House Armed Services Committee during Thursday's hearing.

That approaching period of increased instability comes as the Pentagon is beginning to shift its focus from the Middle East to the Pacific. The move was a key tenet in the White House's new national security strategy issued in February.



April 22, 2012

Argentina's Oil Grab Is Timely Retort To Rampaging Capitalism

Will Hutton
The Observer, Saturday 21 April 2012

Suppose the British government knew that a key shareholder in Centrica, our last great British energy company and owner of British Gas, was to sell its stake to Gazprom, so making Russian state ownership inevitable. I hope that, in this scenario, the government would expand the provision of the Enterprise Act that allows Britain to block takeovers that are against the national interest to include gas and nuclear power. (The act is currently confined to defence, financial services and the media.) I'm pretty certain that Centrica chairman Sir Roger Carr, also president of the CBI, shares the same view. No country can be indifferent to the ownership of strategic assets and thus the use to which they might be put. Its first obligation is to the well-being of its citizens.

The Argentinian government was faced with just this dilemma last week. YPF is its national oil and gas company, which it sold to the Spanish oil company Repsol for $15bn in 1999 as part of its privatisation drive. It has not been a great deal for either party. Argentinian oil and gas production has slumped, exploration for new reserves has been run down and this oil-rich country is now an oil importer, with Repsol accused of looting the company and betraying its obligations.

Repsol's excuse is that Argentinian price controls are absurdly tough. It has wanted to sell its holding for some time and last July finally found a potential buyer: the Chinese state oil company Sinopec. On Monday, fearing that the deal was about to be done, the Argentinian government seized the lion's share of Repsol's stake to get majority control. Better that YPF is owned by the Argentinian government than the Chinese Communist party is their reasoning.

Many governments would have done the same. Ownership matters. Yet Argentina has been roundly condemned – the EU, Spain, Mexico and even Britain have all weighed in. The Economist thunders that President Cristina Fernández's antics must not go unpunished; nationalisation is a sin beyond redemption. The inference is that Repsol should have been allowed freely to dispose of its shares to whichever buyer and at the best price it could achieve. Argentina and its citizens have no right to intervene.



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