China buying oil from Iran — paying with RMB

China is buying crude oil from Iran using its currency the yuan, an Iranian diplomat has said…

The Financial Times cited unidentified industry executives in Beijing as saying most of the oil that goes from Iran to China is handled by the Unipec trading arm of Sinopec China’s second-largest oil company, and through another trading company called Zhuhai Zhenrong.

Fayyaz also confirmed that Iran was spending the currency on goods and services imported from China…

The trade is worth as much as $20bn-$30bn annually according to industry estimates, but a share of it is in barter form. Zhuhai Zhenrong, for example, pays Iran for its oil by providing services such as drilling, these people add.

“The global financial crisis accelerated the shift from the west to the east,” said the chief executive of one bank in Dubai. “Such measures [as the U.S. sanctions against Iran] will now enhance the acceptability of the renminbi as a transaction currency…”

The renminbi purchases began some months ago. Initially the non-barter portion of the transactions were settled in Beijing through renminbi accounts but now, as a result of U.S. pressure, domestic banks such as Bank of China have stopped dealing with Iran, the oil executives and bankers said.

Instead, much of the money is transferred to Tehran through Russian banks, which take large commissions on the transactions…

Beijing has been trying to get its trading partners to use the renminbi, in effect transferring the exchange rate risk to its counterparties, since the price of crude is set in U.S. dollars. It also frees Beijing of the need to hold as many dollars in its reserves.

Iran sells 21 percent of its crude oil exports to China, making Beijing crucial to Tehran’s ability to withstand unilateral U.S. sanctions.

This caught my eye because I have always felt that part of the Bush/Cheney reasoning behind the invasion of Iraq was Saddam Hussein’s decision to walk away from the PetroDollar.

The American dollar has been the dominant currency for oil trades for decades. Only the gradual political split away from the dominance of Western banks and Anglo-American corporations offered an opportunity for countries selling their raw materials to settle accounts in a currency other than the dollar. In Iraq’s case – they decided on the Euro. We know what followed.

China’s RMB is well on the way to becoming an international currency and it strikes me as some sort of convoluted but appropriate response that Obama’s continued dedication to Israel’s policies in Palestine, obedient application of sanctions on Iran – are laying the groundwork for speeding up the process of acceptance of the yuan.

The 2012 list of the World’s Most Ethical Companies

The Ethisphere Institute, a leading international think-tank dedicated to the creation, advancement and sharing of best practices in business ethics, corporate social responsibility, anti-corruption and sustainability, announced today the sixth annual selection of the World’s Most Ethical Companies, highlighting a record 145 organizations that show leadership in promoting ethical business standards.

This year’s list covers more than three dozen industries, from aerospace to wind power, with 43 of the WME winners headquartered outside the U.S…

“Each year the competition for World’s Most Ethical Companies intensifies as the number of nominations submitted for consideration grows,” said Alex Brigham, Executive Director of Ethisphere. “This year’s winners know that a strong ethics program is a key component to a successful business model, and they continue to scrutinize their ethical standards to keep up with an ever-changing regulatory environment. Corporate ethics has become much more important globally, as well, and that is reflected in the truly global nature of this year’s honorees.”

There have been 23 companies that have been honored each of the six years the WME has been awarded, including Aflac, American Express, Fluor, General Electric, Milliken & Company, Patagonia, Rabobank and Starbucks, among others.

Like me, you may be surprised at the inclusion of a few of these firms. But – in the case of two of the award winners who surprised me – my experience and knowledge of their workings is at least 30 years out of date. Hey, think of the changes in pop music, politicians, TV entertainment, news coverage over the last 30 years.

As poorly as those cultural entities have diminished, you shouldn’t be surprised that there are companies that decided to go the other way – and become more ethical, better firms to work for or deal with.

You can view the full list over here. And, yes, I’m just as certain you may feel that one or more of these companies absolutely shouldn’t have been included. 🙂

World’s biggest box of pasta — a half ton — includes delivery

Shoppers can buy a half-ton box of pasta from Thursday at supermarkets in Turkey, but not in the world’s spaghetti capital of Italy.

Too heavy and too big for the shopping trolley, delivery is included in the price.

Italy’s Barilla, the world’s biggest pasta maker, and Turkey’s Migros Ticaret supermarket chain teamed up to produce the mega box of penne pasta, which sells for 999 Turkish lira, for charity.

Guiness World Records have declared the cardboard box – at 1-and-a-half meters high and well over a meter wide – the biggest pasta box ever produced

The boxes will be sold at supermarkets in Istanbul, Edirne and the resort port city of Bodrum. All revenues from the sales of the massive cartons will go to the United Nations Children’s Fund — UNICEF.

Barilla is one of my favorite pasta brands. I must admit it. It was great news when they decided to build factories in the United States.

Republican moderates no longer a dying breed — they are dead

Republican moderates are no longer a dying breed. With Tuesday’s defeat of Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, they are dead.

Known as Richard Nixon’s favorite mayor when he ran Indianapolis back in the 1970s, this rock-solid Republican is no longer Republican enough. As defined by the Tea Party, Lugar was “Obama’s favorite senator,” a reference to Lugar’s welcome to the newbie from Illinois in 2005. Of course, Lugar voted against most of his “friend’s” agenda, including against President Barack Obama’s health-care law, but never mind.

In the Tea Party’s Republican Party, it is no longer enough to vote conservatively. You must have the demeanor of a zealot.

The man who defeated Lugar, Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, is purity itself. Not for him to dignify a Democrat by talking to him. He loves the “broken” version of Congress: ideologically extreme, scornful of compromise, unmoved by facts or evidence, dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. Mourdock is not one to let cooperation darken his door. “I feel more frustrated with Republicans than Democrats,” he says. “It is not bipartisanship we need. It is principle.”

The Lugar-Mourdock race was the Tea Party’s marquee contest this cycle, the one that promised annihilation of an infidel. The Tea Party hoped to mount a challenge to Utah Senator Orrin Hatch’s re-election bid, but its favored candidate chose not to run and Hatch moved sharply right. Going after Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine would have been satisfying, but she decided to retire.

That left only a Republican icon from the heartland. Many of Lugar’s accomplishments required some element of that hated principle, bipartisanship. The Tea Party worked to make everything good he did look bad…

More than Lugar’s votes, there is his mild manner. Even when behaving as the Tea Party requires, Lugar did it without the requisite bombast and disdain for the other side…

…Famously frugal, Lugar stopped keeping a residence in his home state, sleeping at a hotel on trips home. He counted the family farm as his residence and didn’t bill the government for trips there…

Mocking, exaggerated, courting confrontation — Mourdock is what Republicans long for…

The language of bigotry, the ideology of hatred, foolishness as sectarian as every year’s apostle of doom predicting the end of life on Earth…these are the characteristics accepted as requisite by the Kool Aid Party – and, now, what they have kludged into the defining qualities of the GOP.

The sophisticates of the Republican Party look down their Brahmin noses upon the Tea Party types as they did on George Wallace and the John Birch Society nutballs who infested that party back in Goldwater days. And I think they’re willing to accept the same Goldwater level of defeat as an opportunity to reform the party more in the mold of Nixon and George the Elder.

Perhaps not. But, I think the Wall Street crowd, the Oil Patch Boys are too used to power and control to want to spend the time building a new traditional Republican Party. They’re willing to take a bye for four years and dribble the Tea Party leftovers out the exhaust pipe of history after this election – or the next.

House Republicans whine about reducing spending on healthcare and education – then add billions to military spending

Pentagon chief Leon Panetta warned lawmakers last month not to pick apart piece by piece the finely balanced 2013 defense budget he sent to Capitol Hill earlier this year.

But lawmakers in the Republican-led House of Representatives are doing exactly that.

The House Armed Services Committee began work on Wednesday on a defense policy bill that would authorize nearly $4 billion in spending above the amount Panetta requested in the Pentagon budget he had proposed…

While the House Armed Services Committee authorizes spending levels, it does not control actual funding. The panel that controls the purse strings – the House Appropriations Committee – is also looking to boost defense spending over the levels recommended by Panetta, by about $3.1 billion…

Both House panels would use the funds to stave off cutbacks proposed by the Pentagon. Where Panetta sought to delay or eliminate some weapons systems, lawmakers are trying to save them. Where Panetta sought to reduce the size of the armed forces over time, lawmakers are trying to slow the pace…

The proposed budget is about $45 billion less than what the Pentagon had planned, just a year ago, to spend during the 2013 fiscal year. To meet the new targets, Panetta and the military service chiefs intend to cut the size of the armed forces by about 103,000 troops, mainly soldiers and Marines…

This is a zero-sum game,” Panetta told a briefing last month. Because of the spending constraints approved by Obama and Congress, “any change in any one area of the budget and force structure will inevitably require offsetting changes elsewhere…”

The House panels are moving to block the proposed elimination of some of the Air Force transport aircraft. And they are seeking funds to modernize three Navy cruisers to stave off their retirement, saying the vessels are needed because of the Pentagon’s recent shift in strategic focus to the Pacific.

What are these clowns shoveling? Some of them are kissing military butts in their own districts – classic War Pork. Let’s fight a non-existent threat in the Asian Pacific so we can spend a couple hundred million dollars here and there instead of mothballing bloody useless cruisers.

Some are stoking their post-Congressional careers straight into the military-industrial creep-complex they’ve been voting contracts to for years.

When push comes to shove the programs these corporate flunkies will cut will be programs designed to aid ordinary American citizens: students, seniors, healthcare for all segments of the population. All to keep non-consumable hardware afloat on taxpayer dollars.

Cut the bloody Pentagon budget by serious amounts. Close down the hundreds of military bases we’re paying for around the globe. It’s costing us more than $100K per year for every member of the armed forces stationed outside our border. That’s for the troops not engaged in war. You can double and triple the numbers for Afghanistan.

The Queen introduces a bill to aid online spying — on you!

The Queen has formally announced plans to greatly increase surveillance of the internet by intelligence agencies and the police, in plans that are being labelled a “snooper’s charter” by civil liberties groups.

She said the government would introduce “measures to maintain the ability of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access vital communications data under strict safeguards to protect the public”.

The plans were “subject to scrutiny of draft clauses”, the Queen added, caveat understood to have been inserted in her speech at the insistence of Libs Dems. They are concerned by the impact the Communications Data Bill will have on individual freedom and privacy, and feared detailed debate would be steamrollered in Parliament.

The Government did not reveal any technical details about its plans, which are designed to make it easier to discover who has contact whom, when and where, via internet services such as Facebook, Gmail and Skype. But a document released alongside the Queen’s Speech makes it clear that internet and mobile providers will be expected to intercept and store the relevant data for 12 months

Liberty, the human rights group, said it would campaign against the proposals, which it branded a “snooper’s charter”…

The Home Office said that the new system would offer “a proper avenue of complaint” for those who think they have been unlawfully spied upon.

I’m not entirely certain what that means in the UK – but, out here in the [former] colonies it means the government is telling you to go screw yourself and the horse you rode into town on. You have no rights.