Yesterday, the widely anticipated announcement of the winners to Iraq's no-bid contracts was delayed. Today's New York Times reports that Iraq's oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani made the announcement at a news conference in Baghdad. Click here to read the entire article.
Expectation was that Iraq would award the contracts to a handful of western oil companies. Instead Iraq invited foreign companies to bid for contracts to develop key oil production fields.
The Financial Times in London reports that:
Iraq's oil minister, specified conditions that illustrate the extreme political sensitivity of allowing western oil companies into Iraq, where many people believe the US-led invasion of 2003 was designed to seize control of the country's resources. Click here to read the entire article.
Telecom political action groups gave twice as much money to Democrats who switched from opposing to supporting legal amnesty to Telecoms that aided the government's warrantless wiretapping program.
Last week Wired reported that Maplight.org had analyzed campaign donations and found that 94 of 220 Democrats who had previously voted against Telecom amnesty had switched their vote to support a bill that expands the government's ability to conduct wiretaps inside American Telecom facilities.
Media General News Service reported that AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and others sought immunity from prosecution for cooperation with the government's anti-terrorism wiretapping program. Click here to read the entire article.
The center for independent media, The Washington Independent, weighed in with their article, "FISA vote tied to telecom donation." Much is summed up with a quote from Mary Boyle, a spokeswoman with Common Cause: "We certainly know that contributions go a long way to gaining access and influence," she said. "The appearance is that money buys votes." Click here to read the entire aritcle.
Hey - Maybe it is time to lower the "talking-while driving" age!
What is it that makes a phone so dangerous? Why isn't listening to the radio or talking to a passenger equally deadly?
Is it possible that driving and phoning skills are a function of age?
If you are over the age of 35, you probably learned to relate to the phone differently than younger generations. Young people are far more familiar with multi-tasking, but for the middle-aged, we grew up relating to a phone that had a cord attached to the wall.
When middle-aged people talk on the phone, we tend to mentally revert to the "phone attached to the wall" mode. We get engaged in the conversation and start driving like old people ... really old people.
Just imagine for a moment, John McCain, Barack Obama, and Chelsea Clinton in a NASCAR style road race where each of them had to drive and answer tricky policy questions on a cell phone. Who do you think would win? I'm betting that Obama and McCain would come in dead last, with an emphasis on dead.
This is one area where young adults (not teenagers) have superior skills, because they have grown up learning how to multi-task. Perhaps younger people who have learned this skill should be exempted from laws that limit driving while talking. We don't allow people over the age of 40 to enlist in the military because of their advanced age, so why should they be allowed to use a phone while driving?
Just a thought.
With age comes wisdom, but youth could well come with the ability to talk on the phone while driving safely.
The Bureau of Land Management has struck a blow to the alternative energy industry by placing a moratorium on new solar projects on public lands.
The New York Times reports that BLM says an extensive environmental study is needed to determine how large solar plants might affect millions of acres it oversees in six Western States. Click here to read the entire article.
Memo to Congress:
Our troubled economy and skyrocketing energy prices are hurting some of our nation’s most vulnerable – our senior citizens.
Seniors on fixed incomes have seen their savings and the value of their homes diminished. Many depend on programs that provide home-delivered hot meals or meals at senior centers as well as transportation to medical appointments and social activities.
One example: The San Francisco Chronicle reported that drivers with the Alameda County Meals on Wheels program cover 1,600 miles a day delivering 2,200 meals to homebound seniors -- two-thirds of them 75 and older.
Executive Director Cindy Houts said: “Our programs are just reeling from the double whammy of increased fuel and food costs. It’s happening throughout the county and throughout the country.”
Locally, Meals on Wheels told KPBS that it has lost 30% of its drivers since the first of the year. This means fewer drivers must deliver to more homes (about 1,500 a week in San Diego).
These costs will be magnified further in the face of a population that is growing older and will need even more of these services.
Senior citizens on fixed incomes may increasingly become victims in this economy as they skimp on medication and medical care, scale down their daily nutrition due to rising grocery prices, and find themselves isolated at home because of rising gas prices and transit programs that are curtailed.
These factors can trigger depression and other medical problems that will cost our economy even more in terms of increased costs for medical treatment and early institutionalization of seniors who rely on these programs to maintain their independence. For America’s seniors in this economy, the “golden” years are in jeopardy and many will suffer in silence.
Cc: John McCain
Yesterday the San Diego County Water Authority had a busy day. First it suspended its artificial turf incentive program in response to a Centers for Disease Control health advisory that cited concerns about lead levels found in certain kinds of artificial turf recently tested in New Jersey.
The Water Authority says in a news release issued Thursday that it will suspend its program as a precautionary measure until more definitive information and a recommendation on the safety of artificial turf is made available by the CDC or other proper public health and consumer product regulatory agencies.
The Water Authority also is requesting the concurrent suspension of all other water agency artificial turf incentives within its service area. To read this news release, click here.
Then, the Water Authority increased the 2009 water rates by 11.9 percent. In a news release issued yesterday the Water Authority states that regionwide, they estimate that the rate increase's impact on the average household's monthly water bill will be $3.42. To read this news release, click here.
The U.S. Energy Department has released its Annual Energy Outlook 2008 report with projections to 2030 this week. The following excerpt is under the title, Oil Production:
There is considerable uncertainty surrounding the future of unconventional crude oil production in the United States. Environmental regulations could either preclude unconventional production or raise its cost significantly. If future U.S. laws limited and/or taxed greenhouse gas emissions, they could lead to substantial increases in the costs of unconventional production, which emits significant volumes of CO2. Restrictions on access to water also could prove costly, especially in the arid West. In addition, environmental restrictions on land use could preclude unconventional oil production in some areas of the United States.
Click here to find all of the reports.
Today, Jim Jelter of Marketwatch covers the reports in his column. He says:
The Energy Department reasons that much of the supply tightness currently gripping the market, whether real or imagined, is likely to ease as major new oil fields come on line in Brazil, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia and even here in North America. That would signal a fundamental shift in the supply-demand picture, even though output would need to increase by about 12 million barrels a day -- over half the 20 million barrels of oil the U.S. currently burns in a day -- to keep pace with global demand.
Investors have a choice in the weeks and months ahead. They can either pay attention to underlying fundamentals in the marketplace or, like Macbeth, they can continue to listen to witches playing on their innermost fears and succumb to madness. Click here to read more from Marketwatch.
On July 1st, 2008 California Vehicle Codes 23123 and 23124 take effect, prohibiting the use of handheld cellular phones while driving. There is no grace period and officers will be able to issue citations starting July 1st. The law, spawned by safety concerns about cell phone usage while driving, severely restricts handheld cellular phone usage.
Drivers 18 and older can use cell phones only with a hands-free device, such as Blue Tooth, while talking, but both ears cannot be covered. In addition, dialing while driving is discouraged, although it is not prohibited, so long as a hands-free device is used while speaking. Using a handheld telephone’s speaker function is also allowed while driving.
A first violation is punishable by a $20 fine and subsequent violations are $50. However, if a driver is cited for other violations, a first offense is $76 and a second offense is $190, according to the Uniform Bail and Penalty Schedule.
Citations for cell phone violations while driving are reportable and WILL appear on your driving record. However, a citation for using a cell phone while driving will NOT result in a violation point.
Although text messaging is not specifically prohibited, an officer may pull drivers over for unsafe driving. Some argue that text messaging is, in fact, more dangerous than using a cell phone while driving, and criticize the law for omitting any specific reference to text messaging.
For minors, the law is even more stringent, completely banning any use of cell phones, pagers, laptops or any other electronics, including hands-free devices, to communicate while driving. According to the California Highway Patrol, this is because statistics show teen drivers are “more likely than older drivers to be involved in crashes because they lack driving experience and tend to take greater risks.”
Officers can pull over drivers under the age of 18 for driving while using a handheld cell phone. An officer may not, however, pull over a minor for using a hands-free device because this is a secondary, rather than a primary violation.
In any event, a handheld cellular phone can be used during an emergency to call the police, fire department or other emergency services. In addition, the law does not apply to passengers.
- Before running out to purchase a hands-free device, check to see if your cell phone originally came with one.
- If not, most electronic stores sell hands-free devices, with the simplest around $5, to the more expensive BlueTooth option.
- Remember, most cell phones include a loudspeaker option, which you can use to communicate, hands-free, while driving.
- There may also be bargains online, such as here and here. You may even want to search eBay.
- It may also be wise to simply consider not using your cell phone while driving!
Iraq's no bid oil contracts are being scrutinized by Senators Charles E. Schumer, John Kerry, and Claire McCaskill. Filing a letter today with the State Department is a step in a right direction to shed light on what potentially can be very lucrative contracts. Read more from The New York Times.
More importantly, the no-bid deals could inflame sectarian tensions in Iraq. Read more from The Washington Post.
The New York Times reported Thursday that BP, Exxon Mobil, Shell, and Total were in the final stages of negotiations on the no-bid contracts.
Hands off the cell phone or pay the fine is expressed in a San Diego Union Tribune article written by staff writer Pauline Repard. She presents the difference in rules for teens and adults and points out how ironic it is that legally adult drivers are not barred from sending text messages even though they are barred from talking on the phone while driving. Californians can kiss $97 per offense good-bye if they get caught not following the rules. It does seem odd that one can drive while eating a double-decker cheeseburger, drinking a milkshake, putting on make-up, shaving, disciplining kids in the back seat, and letting the dog sit in your lap. As long as you're obeying the rest of the rules of the road, you aren't stopped. It seems odd that this single aspect was chosen to enforce when the rationale was supposed to be paying total attention to the road.
Oh well, I guess I'm not privy to the logic of the state or federal government. But, I'm going to follow the law and not give another $97 to the state or to the local municipality.