Crude oil passes US$94.00 a barrel; sets new all-time record high

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Another record has been set in crude oil prices. The price of oil soared past US$94.00 a barrel. New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) crude oil for December delivery closed at US$94.23 per barrel, after peaking at $94.74, the highest price on record. In after hours trading futures have crossed over the $95.00 per barrel mark.

On the IntercontinentalExchange (ICE), December Brent Crude also rose to a record $90.63 after touching an all-time high of $90.94 with current futures are trading at over $91.00 a barrel.

Today’s rise is said to be mainly caused by the United States Department of Energy‘s inventory report that showed an unexpected drop in crude oil stockpiles. Last week, U.S. stockpiles were down nearly four million barrels of oil.

Tropical Storm Noel is also believed to be a cause of rising prices. Because of the storm, one-fifth of Mexico’s oil production was suspended while the storm passed, but production is expected to resume by the end of today.

Toyota accused of misleading public over recalls

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Toyota has been accused by a U.S. House of Representatives committee with misleading the public and investigators over its recent recalls.

The accusations, in a statement from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, claim that Toyota both relied on a flawed study in its assessment of the issue of sticking accelerator pedals at the heart of the recalls, and then made misleading statements about its response. According to the authors of the letter, Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak, Toyota dismissed, rather than investigated, the idea that the cars’ computers were at fault. In a statement, James Lentz, the president of Toyota’s American division, claimed that hardware issues were to blame, and that dealers were repairing the faulty part. Toyota also released a study commissioned from the research firm Exponent that said electronic systems were not to blame.

According to the House committee, however, the study involved only six vehicles, none of which had problems with their electrical systems, and was insufficient to produce an accurate result. “Our preliminary assessment is that Toyota resisted the possibility that electronic defects could cause safety concerns, relied on a flawed engineering report and made misleading public statements concerning the adequacy of recent recalls to address the risk of sudden unintended acceleration.”

The company is under a criminal investigation, and has received two subpoenas for documents from two House committees relating to the recalls, although whether they are directly related to the letter is unclear. The documents are related to accelerator issues in several models, as well as brake problems with the Prius hybrid car, and were served earlier in in February by a federal grand jury and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Toyota has released upwards of 75,000 pages of documents under the requests.

In a separate, though related, development, it has emerged that Toyota last year negotiated a limited recall for two models, the Toyota Camry and Lexus ES, that were affected by the accelerator recalls, saving the company an estimated $100 million. A confidential internal presentation in July 2009 made the claim, and a month later, a Lexus ES, one of the models under the limited recall crashed in California, killing four people. The claims apparently referenced a September, 2007 recall of floor mats that could trap gas pedals, the same problem that triggered a full recall of numerous Toyota cars to fix the same problem. In the same presentation, the company claimed to have avoided recalls of another model related to rust, as well as delaying new federal safety regulations.

Amélie Mauresmo wins Australian Open

Sunday, January 29, 2006

French tennis champion Amélie Mauresmo yesterday won her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in Melbourne. Mauresmo was winning 6-1 2-0 when her opponent, Belgian player Justine Henin-Hardenne, retired, citing a stomach complaint.

After winning a rally in the second game of the second set, Henin-Hardenne approached the umpire and complained of feeling unwell. She then consulted her trainer before returning to the court. After losing two points, she approached the net and told Mauresmo she was too ill to continue, ending the game in 52 minutes.

Henin-Hardenne apologized to her opponent, the tournament organisers and a disappointed crowd of 15,452 people. “I’m feeling very disappointed for sure to end the tournament this way. I am feeling very sick and couldn’t stay longer and continue,” she said.

She later told a press conference that she believed anti-inflammatory medication she had been taking for a shoulder injury had made her feel ill and left her with no energy. “I felt it when I woke up, but I tried. I knew at the beginning of the match that I could not win it,” she said.

Henin-Hardenne’s retirement gave Mauresmo her third victory by default in the tournament. She reached the fourth round after Dutch player Michaella Krajicek retired with heat exhaustion. In the semi-final, Mauresmo was again the beneficiary of a retirement when Belgian player Kim Clijsters retired with an ankle injury.

Until now, 26-year-old Mauresmo was the only former world no.1 to never have won a Grand Slam title. She said in a post-match interview that when she returns home to her base in Geneva, Switzerland, she will toast the win with a bottle of 1937 Château d’Yquem wine which she has been saving to celebrate her first grand slam title.

“I bought a bottle about three or four years ago. Very good one. Very old one also. I keep it. I thought, “You know, this one is going to be for my Grand Slam, my first Grand Slam title,”” she said.

Mauresmo’s win comes seven years after the then unseeded player reached the 1999 Australian Open final, the last time she has reached a Grand Slam final. She lost to Martina Hingis and was berated by the press and several players for her muscular build and for acknowledging her then partner, Sylvie Bourdon, believing if they were open about their relationship, people would be less inclined to gossip. At the time, Lindsay Davenport complained that playing Mauresmo was like playing against a male player. While Martina Hingis accused her of being “half a man.”

Henin-Hardenne’s retirement is the first time a player has retired from a women’s Grand Slam final since Brazil’s Maria Bueno retired in 1966 during a final against Australia’s Margaret Smith Court.

Mauresmo is now ranked world no.2 and is the first Frenchwoman to win an Australian Open since Mary Pierce won in 1995. Mauresmo takes home the Australian Open trophy and prize money of $AU1,220,000, while Henin-Hardenne walked away with the runner-up prize money of $AU610,000.

Jersey child abuse case ‘was not covered up’

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Frank Walker, the chief minister of Jersey, a United Kingdom Crown dependency off the coast of Normandy, France, denies that there was a cover up after a child’s remains were found.

The allegations of a cover-up stem from statements by Stuart Syvret. Syvret, the former Minister for Health and Social Services for Jersey, said that “It’s a continuum that we see. It’s a culture of cover-up and concealment and tragically the recent evidence is just the latest manifestation of that.”

It has come to light that Edward Paisnel, a notorious pedophile, used to visit the Haut de la Garenne children’s home dressed as Father Christmas. Paisnel in 1971, was given a sentence of 30 years for 13 counts of assault, rape and sodomy.

Syvret says he was dismissed from his ministerial position after highlighting the “torture” of 11 to 16-year-olds in the island’s care homes. He claimed he was “sacked for whistleblowing”.

Police are currently investigating twenty-seven cases of child abuse on the island and recently discovered the body of one child at a care home Haut de la Garenne in St. Martin, and with a potential six sites in the area where more bodies may be located. The home was closed in 1986 and since 2003 it has served as a youth hostel.

Jersey’s deputy police chief, Lenny Harper said “Part of the inquiry will be the fact that a lot of the victims tried to report their assaults but for some reason or another they were not dealt with as they should be.”

Harper added that “no evidence of a cover-up of any Jersey government” has been found. “We are looking at allegations that a number of agencies didn’t deal with things as perhaps they should.”

Syvret has encouraged the government of the United Kingdom to assign independent judges to oversee any cases that result from the investigations.

Builders originally uncovered a body at the care home in 2003 but it was only since an operation investigate child abuse started in 2006 that progress has been made. An ex-minister of the States of Jersey, the parliament of the island, has criticised the handling of the case, stating that abuse cases were mishandled.

Walker told senators that all necessary resources would be use to find the abusers. “None of us imagined that children in Jersey could be abused and mistreated in the way that is being suggested,” the BBC have quoted him as saying. “I express my shock and horror that these things have apparently happened within our island.”

Specialist police from the United Kingdom have been investigating after an enquiry turned up 140 sources verifying the claims of abuse.

Explosives stolen from California mine

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

According to the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Agency or ATF, at least 686 sticks of dynamite and at least 30 pounds of ammonium nitrate were stolen from Gold Mountain Mine Company in Big Bear City, California located in San Bernardino County. Fuel oil and mining equipment are also among the items stolen. When combined, the fuel oil and ammonium nitrate become combustible and authorities fear what could be done with the explosives.

“The obvious concern is someone stole it, and what are they going to do with it? This is a quantity of explosives that could do significant damage. We need to recover these items,” said John D’Angelo, spokesman for the ATF.

The thieves cut locks on the gate that leads to the facility and then cut the locks on a metal storage bin and stole its contents and everything inside the facility. The man responsible for mining operations in the area does so as a hobby. The robbery was reported on May 3.

“We urge anyone who has information about this theft to contact ATF and the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. Our job is to keep the public safe. We take the theft of explosives extremely seriously, and we will relentlessly follow up every lead until we solve the case,” said John A. Torres who is the special agent in charge of the ATF in Los Angeles.

Authorities have offered a $25,000 reward for information about the crime that leads to an arrest and conviction.

Election in Moldova instigates rioting mob demanding recount

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Protests which began Monday escalated to a riot on Wednesday consisting of over 10,000 people in Chi?in?u, the capital of Moldova, protesting the results of Sunday’s 2009 Moldovan parliamentary election, which showed an apparent, narrow victory for the Communist Party (Partidul Comuni?tilor din Republica Moldova, PCRM). Demonstrators claim the victory was the result of electoral fraud.

The demonstration escalated to a “flash mob” of between 10,000 to 15,000 communicating via online tools like email, micro-blogging tool Twitter, and social-networking website Facebook. “We sent messages on Twitter but didn’t expect 15,000 people to join in. At the most we expected 1,000”, said Oleg Brega of the activist group Hyde Park.

Police deployed tear gas and water cannons, and fired blanks into the crowd. The rioters threw stones at the riot police and took control of the parliament building and presidential office. A bonfire was built out of parliamentary furniture and all windows below the 7th floor were broken.

Approximately one hundred protesters and 170 police officers are reported as injured. There have been conflicting reports as to whether a female protester died during the altercation.

193 protesters “have been charged with looting, hooliganism, robbery and assault,” said an Interior Ministry spokesperson. This announcement sparked another protest by those demanding the release for those detained.

There is wide speculation about who was to blame for the rioting.

President Vladimir Voronin has expelled the Romanian ambassador from Moldova, blaming Romania for the violent protests. “We know that certain political forces in Romania are behind this unrest. The Romanian flags fixed on the government buildings in Chisinau attest to this” said Voronin. “Romania is involved in everything that has happened.“ Voronin also blamed the protests on opposition leaders who used violence to seize power, and has described the event as a coup d’état.

Protesters initially insisted on a recount of the election results and are now calling for a new vote, which has been rejected by the government. Rioters were also demanding unification between Moldova and Romania. “In the air, there was a strong expectation of change, but that did not happen”, said OSCE spokesman Matti Sidoroff.

“The elections were fraudulent, there was multiple voting” accused Chi?in?u mayor Dorin Chirtoac? of the Liberal Party. “It’s impossible that every second person in Moldova voted for the Communists. However, we believe the riots were a provocation and we are now trying to reconcile the crowd. Leaders of all opposition parties are at the scene,” said Larissa Manole of the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) proclaimed the PCRM to have won 61 seats in initial counts, enough to guarantee a third term in power for Voronin, who has held the position since 2001. But the Central Election Commission has received evidence of election violations, according to RIA Novosti, and upon recounts conducted of disputed polls, the commission reported that the Communists achieved 49.48% of the Moldovian vote, giving them 60 parliamentary seats — one short of the total needed to win the presidential election. “The electoral commission also granted opposition parties permission to check voter lists, fulfilling one of their chief demands,” said Yuri Ciocan, Central Election Commission secretary.

Voronin will step down in May, however his party could elect a successor with 61 parliamentary seats without any votes from outside parties as well as amend the Constitution. With the PCRM garnering 60 seats, the opposition will have a voice in the presidential election for a new successor.

The western part of Moldova was a part of Romania from the Romania’s independence until the region was detached by the USSR in 1940 to form the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. On independence in 1990 the country sought union with Romania but the eastern, Russian- and Ukrainian-inhabited areas of the country declared themselves independent from Moldova and formed the state of Transnistria and movement toward union was halted.

Moldova is Europe’s poorest country, where average income is less than $250 (£168) a month. The country’s neighbours are Romania and Ukraine. Romania is a European Union (EU) state.

Bush addresses nation on economic crisis; Congress debates bailout

Thursday, September 25, 2008

United States President George W. Bush addressed the nation on the economic financial crisis from inside the White House saying the economic situation is “serious” and is “in danger” of becoming “a long and painful recession.”

“We are in the midst of a serious financial crisis and the federal government is responding with decisive action,” Bush said in his televised speech.

Bush called for the United States Congress to pass a US$700 billion bill intended to keep struggling companies afloat. He asked the two presidential candidates along with leaders from both parties of Congress to join him for a conference on Thursday.

Last Friday, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson called for a bailout plan that would allow for the United States government to purchase devalued mortgage backed securities, resulting from the subprime mortgage crisis, from troubled financial institutions. Paulson has said that the plan could cost up to $700 billion. Congressional leaders have said that some form of the plan will pass; however, there is considerable debate over several key issues.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said that Bush “believes it is important for the American people to fully understand the depth of the crisis in our financial markets, how that crisis affects them, and the urgent need to agree on a solution.” Bush has been criticized for waiting too long to speak in prime time.

John McCain suspended his campaign to return to Washington and work on the bailout bill. Barack Obama has called for another form of the bill to pass and said that Congress should not package the bailout bill with any other bills — such as an economic stimulus plan.

Meanwhile, Congress has held a second round of hearings on the proposed bailout bill. Paulson and Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke testified in front of the House Financial Services Committee. They felt it was a serious problem in need of an immediate solution.

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Rep. Barney Frank, Chairman of House Financial Services Committee, says it is “clear” that the financial bailout bill will pass.

Director of the Congressional Budget Office Peter R. Orsza said while testifying before Congress that “ironically, the intervention could even trigger additional failures of large institutions, because some institutions may be carrying troubled assets on their books at inflated values.”

The bailout plan has been called a “blank check” by many, with members of both parties divided on the issue.

Toyota recalls 1.7m cars after new concerns

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Car manufacturer Toyota is to recall almost 1.7 million cars in two simultaneous recalls, that include the Toyota Avensis and Lexus IS 250, after concerns over fuel systems, which, if combined, amount to the biggest Toyota recall for six years.

Japan’s transport ministry stated it was possible for slight cracks to appear in fuel pipes in Avensis models, which may widen if the cars continue to be used. In the United Kingdom, Toyota GB are offering free repairs, which are expected to take around four and a half hours each. The Lexus IS 250 is involved in a separate recall, with around 280 thousand models outside of Japan being recalled over a faulty fuel pressure sensor, which can possibly come loose, causing a fuel leak.

The Managing Director of Toyota GB stated “We are committed to putting the customer first and have a total focus on the quality of all our products. We will liaise with our customers to carry out the repair procedures as efficiently as possible, with minimal disruption”.

Toyota has recalled over 16 million cars globally since late 2009.

Kerik nominated as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security

Thursday, December 2, 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. President George W. Bush nominated Bernard B. Kerik, the police commissioner of the New York Police Department during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, to succeed Tom Ridge as the Secretary of Homeland Security.

Kerik resigned as police commissioner two months following the terrorist attacks, citing the desire to spend more time with his family, but has since kept a very high profile. Following the invasion of Iraq, he chose to lead the training of Iraqi law enforcement. He campaigned for President George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election and delivered a prime time speech at the Republican National Convention.

Among other security qualifications, he has served in the U.S. Army, as narcotics detective in the NYPD and as private security worker in Saudi Arabia.

Kerik faces the daunting task of running the DHS, an agency assembled from 22 other agencies with over 180,000 employees.

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