Iran Threatens To Lock Down Oil Supply Amid Talk Of Sanctions

Iranian leaders said Tuesday that if the United States imposes sanctions being set up against their country, it will cut off all oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital supply route through which one-fifth of the world’s oil supply is shipped.

According to The New York Times, the declaration was made by Iranian First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, as President Barrack Obama prepares to sign legislation that could substantially reduce Iran’s oil revenue to keep the country from pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

The Obama Administration has been working in recent months to put in place a plan to cut off Iran from global energy markets without risking higher fuel prices. The Iranian economy is already weak, and oil exports account for much of the country’s revenues so Iranian officials are worried about the sanctions.

“If they impose sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, then even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of Hormuz,” Rahimi said, according to Iran’s official news agency.

The White House said that the disruption would not be tolerated there is talk that the Obama Administration is working on a plan to keep the supply route open in the event of crisis. Some officials speculate that the latest sanctions are setting the stage for violent confrontation between the United States and Iran.

 

Occupy The Iowa Caucus

Protesters aligned with the OWS movement have said that they plan to occupy the Iowa caucus.

“The 99 percent have woken up and we’re not going to take it anymore,” said Occupy activist Stephen Toothman, of Des Moines, according to The Daily Caller.

The OWS group is reportedly working to decide which candidates they will target as the GOP hopefuls make their way across the State in a campaign dash. According to the article, hundreds of Occupy activists from as many as 10 States are expected to participate in a “People’s Caucus” near the Capitol to plot activities between now and the Jan. 3 caucuses.

A statement on the Occupy Des Moines website says, “We are excited to announce the First in the Nation Caucus Occupation. This winter, presidential campaign headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa and political events throughout the state will be occupied. Occupy Des Moines will not interfere with or disrupt caucus voting on Jan 3. We are not targeting voters.”

The activists say their tactics will include interrupting candidates at events and camping out at their Iowa campaign offices. Many people fear the OWS group will tarnish Iowa’s reputation for civil political discourse ahead of the caucus.

More Powerful Version Of Heavily Abused Opiate To Hit Market

Drug makers are in the process of developing a more powerful version of the second most highly abused drug in the Nation.

The new pharmaceutical will contain up to 10 times the amount of the highly addictive painkiller hydrocodone as existing medications such as Vicodin. Four companies have begun patient testing, and one of them — Zogenix — has plans to apply early next year to begin marketing the drug, Zohydro, according to The Associated Press.

Many addiction experts are worried that the release of new pills will spark another narcotic epidemic in the United States similar to that following the release of OxyContin, which became known as “hillbilly heroin.”  

“I have a big concern that this could be the next OxyContin,” said April Rovero, president of the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse. “We just don’t need this on the market.”

OxyContin was designed to deliver measured time-release doses, but addicts quickly learned that by crushing the tablets they could achieve an instant, powerful high. OxyContin is the most-abused medicine in the Nation, and hydrocodone is second, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s annual count of drug seizures sent to police drug labs for analysis.

Prescription drug makers earn a combined $10 billion a year legally pushing powerful opiate narcotics.

Tea Party Express Offers Support To Michele Bachmann

The Sacramento, Calif.-based Tea Party Express offered support for Michele Bachmann in the 2012 Republican Presidential primary race, but did not officially endorse the candidate.

According to Roll Call, the California-based Tea Party Express said in a statement that, while it has not endorsed any candidate, it remains committed to backing the conservative candidate best positioned to beat President Barrack Obama in 2012. The group said it wants a competitive primary, beginning with the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3 and in all of the States that follow, to jump-start that process.

“While the Tea Party Express has not endorsed a presidential candidate at this time, Michele Bachmann garners strong Tea Party support because of her work and commitment to restoring fiscal responsibility to Washington, D.C.,” Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer said. “Let’s let the voters in Iowa choose the leading candidates to go forward from the many excellent candidates we have.”

While Bachmann’s campaign claimed last week to be in a “statistical dead-heat” with Iowa frontrunner Ron Paul (19 percent), she actually followed Mitt Romney (18 percent) and Newt Gingrich (16 percent) with only 15 percent voter support, according to The Des Moines Register.

Obama To Request More Borrowing

President Barack Obama is expected to ask Congress to raise the Nation’s borrowing limit by $1.2 trillion this week, marking the third and final increase from a deal negotiated over summer.

The Treasury Department says that the increase is needed because the Federal government will be within $100 billion of its current spending limit by Friday. The newest increase will bring the amount of money borrowed by the U.S. government to fund its operations to $16.4 trillion and allow it to keep borrowing until after the 2012 Presidential election.

The enormity of the debt has fueled intense partisan debate in Congress over spending and taxes. Congress could reject the President’s request, but he can veto its objection. If Congress takes no action, the spending measure will take automatic effect after Jan. 14, according to The Associated Press.

Congressional Royals Far Outearn Constituent Proles

Over the past few decades, the wealth gap between lawmakers and their constituents has widened, says a recent report by The Washington Post.

Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of a member of the House of Representatives more than doubled from $280,000 to $725,000, adjusted for inflation in 2009 dollars and excluding home ­equity. During the same period, the median household income of Americans as a whole declined slightly from an already much lower $20,600 to $20,500, the article says.

The article explains that the growing wealth of Congress may have something to do with the high cost of campaigning, as wealthy individuals are more easily able to contribute to their own campaigns and gain office. Individuals running for Congressional office routinely spend into the millions campaigning, to achieve a position that pays $174,000.

The report on the growing Congressional-constituent wealth gap comes soon after a recent Congressional insider-trading scandal came to light. Lawmakers are involved in things like former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi buying stock in an initial public offering that earned hefty returns while she had access to insider information about pending legislation likely to impact those values.

A Gallup survey from last week found that only 11 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing.

Saudi Schools Teach Extremism

Textbooks used to teach Saudi Arabian children go beyond the basic reading and writing that Western schoolchildren are accustomed to; youngsters in the kingdom are learning to cut off the hands and feet of thieves, kill homosexuals and work toward the complete annihilation of Jewish people.

The textbooks, many of which issued for the 2010-2011 Saudi school year, teach 9th and 10th graders that women are weak and irresponsible and homosexuals should be put to death “because they pose a danger at society.” The books also encourage jihad. One text reads in part: “The hour (of judgment) will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them. … There is a Jew behind me come and kill him,” according to Fox News.

Ali Al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, told Fox the textbooks are both a Saudi and an American problem. “If you teach 6 million children in these important years of their lives, if you install that in their brain, no wonder we have so many Saudi suicide bombers.”

In 2006, Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Prince Turki al-Faisal vowed that the country was eliminating the hate-teachings in its educational system, but there is no evidence that the country has or intends to change the violent texts.

 

Acupuncture Could Relieve Your Holiday Stress

If the holiday season has left you filled with hard-to-overcome stress, researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center say the alternative health answer to letting go may be acupuncture.

The researchers say an animal study that found acupuncture significantly reduces levels of a protein in rats linked to chronic stress may help explain the sense of well-being that many people receive from this ancient Chinese therapy.

“It has long been thought that acupuncture can reduce stress, but this is the first study to show molecular proof of this benefit,” said the study’s lead author, Ladan Eshkevari, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Georgetown’s School of Nursing & Health Studies, a part of GUMC.

The study used four groups of rats for a 14-day experiment: a control group that was not stressed and received no acupuncture, a group that was stressed for an hour a day and did not receive acupuncture, a group that was stressed and received “sham” acupuncture near the tail, and the experimental group that was stressed and received acupuncture to the Zuslanli spot on the leg.

The Zuslanli point is said to help relieve a variety of conditions, including stress. That acupuncture point for humans is on the leg below the knee.

The researchers measured levels of neuropeptide Y (NPY) in the rats. NPY is a peptide that is secreted by the sympathetic nervous system in humans as well, and is responsible for the fight or flight response to acute stress. They found NPY levels in the experimental group came down almost to the level of the control group signifying stress release resulting from the treatment.

 

European Drug Companies Push For End Of Use Of Their Products In Executions

The drug company that makes the powerful sedative used in executions in many States is selling the product to another manufacturer, and says that the drug—pentobarbital—was never intended for executions.

Lundbeck Inc., a company based in Denmark, said a distribution system intended to keep the drug out of the hands of prisons will remain in place as Akorn Inc., located in Lake Forest, Ill., acquires the drug.

Lundbeck intended to sell off pentobarbital earlier but delayed the sale because of controversy over its use in executions. By retaining ownership of the product, the company could restrict its use for capital punishment, according to The Associated Press.

Europe and European companies have acted in recent years to prohibit the use of drugs for executions. Lundbeck, like other companies whose drugs took on an unintended role in U.S. executions, had asked U.S. prisons to stop using their product for capital punishment.

Last Tuesday, the European Union said it would place new restrictions on the sale of lethal injection drugs to countries that have yet to abolish capital punishment.

 

Pakistan Not Convinced By Defense Report

The Department of Defense issued a report and apology to the Pakistani government last week regarding a NATO airstrike that resulted in the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan has rejected the report calling it “short on facts.”

“Pakistan’s army does not agree with the findings of the US/NATO inquiry as being reported in the media,” a statement from the Pakistanis said, according to Russia Today.

A vital U.S. supply route to Afghanistan was blocked by the Pakistanis in response to the November killings. Soon after the U.S. report and apology, the State Department said it hoped that Islamabad would lift its blockade on the transportation of military cargo to Afghanistan through its territory.

Pakistan’s response is likely to worry Washington since the country is of critical importance to the United States in the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan not only provides a key route for supplies, but is important for peace negotiations with the Taliban which have recently been part of the American agenda.

Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said the future relationship between the Pakistani and U.S. militaries will likely be defined in a “very stern, formal way … with well-defined limits of cooperation,” according to The Associated Press.