Friday, December 19, 2014

Instructions For A Bad Day

Carrie Underwood - How Great Thou Art - American Idol

Just a closer walk with thee - Patsy Cline And Willie Nelson

Vietnam War Music - Run Through The Jungle

48,000 Federal Employees Potentially Affected by Second Background Check Hack - NextGov

The Office of Personnel Management is alerting more than 48,000 federal employees their personal information may have been exposed following a breach at KeyPoint Government Solutions, which conducts background investigations of federal employees seeking security clearances.
The total number of employees affected is 48,439, according to an email from OPM Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour obtained by Nextgov.
Seymour said OPM worked closely with the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the incident, “and while we found no conclusive evidence that [personally identifiable information] was taken by the intruder, OPM has elected to conduct these notifications out of an abundance of caution.”...

-bth: identity theft is the least of the issues for these federal employees.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fuel Mix by Decade - Zerohedge

Construction projects to eat up most of Iran’s military budget -Azernews

...IRGC budget has increased to 174 trillion rials (about $6.11 billion based on official rate of each USD at 28,500 rials in the budget bill), of that amount about 100 trillion rials (about $3.51 billion) is allocated to Khatam-ol Anbia Construction Headquarters, some 60 percent of IRGC’s total budget for next year.
Considering the fact that the headquarter carries out construction and development projects, the increase in the next year’s military budget is mainly amid to development projects rather than military purposes, head of Iran World Trade Center Mohammad Reza Sabzalipour told Trend Dec. 15.
The name of military entities Current budget law/ based on each USD at 26,500 rials Next year budget bill /based on each USD at 28,500 rials Y/Y change based on USD Y/Y change based on Iran's natural currency, rial
Defense ministry 791.67 million 934.95 million 18% 27%
Army Forces 1,973.04 million 1,863.47 million -4.5% 1%
IRGC 4,365.64 million 6,115.41 million 40% 50%
Basij Resistance Force 321.60 million 310.84 million -4% 1%
Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces 554.70 million 658.61 million 18% 27%
Total 8,006.65 million 9,883.30 million 23% 32.7%
Khatam-ol Anbia, affiliated with the IRGC is a giant company firm with 25,000 employees. It controls over 812 registered companies inside and outside Iran. Some 10 percent of
the company’s employees are IRGC members and the rest are contractors. The
company is also connected to Iran’s oil and gas industry.
However Sabzalipour forecasted that the administration would not be able to meet all the projected budget of the IRGC and its subsidiaries including Khatam-ol Anbia due to severe deficit in the budget.
Next year's national budget bill is based on an oil price of $72 per barrel and a projected average exchange rate of 28,500 rials to the U.S. dollar for the fiscal year, which means the government should sell one million barrels of crude oil per day to meet the main part of the budget, he added.
Considering the sharp fall of the crude price in current year, the administration will face severe deficit in current fiscal year’s (started on March 21) budget that will be transferred to next year and will impose double pressure on the next year’s budget, Sabzalipour said.
He explained that the current price of crude is $60 per barrel, even $10 less than the predicted figure in the budget for the next fiscal year.
The falling trend of oil price in global markets is expected to continue at least until the first quarter of 2015," he said, adding that the prices may drop to $45 per barrel, which will impose a higher deficit in the budget.
On the other hand, nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 is extended for seven months which means till summer various economy sectors will experience uncertainty which will prevent prosperity of the economy, Sabzalipour said.
So the administration’s expected incomes through customs and tax revenues also will not be materialized by 100 percent in the next fiscal year, he underlined...

-bth: worth reading in full.  Note IRGC budget surge 40% which probably tracks to Iraq intervention or Syria, but also as the article goes on to explain the $72 barrel price is already too high with current prices from Iran at about $60 namely to India and China and with some uncertainty on sanctions status.  One might  hope that a deal could be struck between the US and Iran over nuclear sanctions and some mutual accommodation reached, but one never knows as both parties seem willing to cut off their noses to spite their faces. Also it seems a lot of money is paid to the government to avoid military service 'absent soldiers'.  Very odd.  Hard to see how Iran can increase subsidies to Assad if at all under these conditions.  A further indication that financial attrition might impact Syria's Assad.

Syrian government struggles to fund war effort as economy tanks - WaPo via Concord Monitor

A year ago, the regime appeared to be turning the tide of the war, inflicting setbacks on rebels in strategic locations like the Qalamoun area near the border with Lebanon.
But Assad’s forces now appear bogged down on a number of fronts. Rebels still cling to parts of Aleppo and the capital, while in the south, the armed opposition is making advances.
“The Syrian army is overextended,” said Fawaz Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Many of the government’s revenue sources have vanished. Opposition groups control nearly half of the country and most of its oil installations, and industries such as tourism have been decimated.
Jihad Yazigi, editor-in-chief of the Syria Report, an economic news website, said Syrian gross domestic product has fallen to half of its pre-war level of roughly $60 billion.
With local industry battered by the fighting, the Syrian government must rely more on imports of items like oil and wheat. But the Syrian pound has lost three-quarters of its value in the past four years, making those goods increasingly expensive to bring in.
Once the imports arrive, it can be difficult to get them to market. Rebels regularly ambush supply routes, contributing to periodic shortages of flour for bread and natural gas for electricity. In both rebel- and regime-held areas, power outages now last as long as 23 hours a day.
The difficulties have forced the two sides to work together. Rebels control the main water supply for Damascus, but the government secures its flow into the capital with concessions on such issues as prisoner releases.
The Assad government is also being squeezed by Western economic sanctions. It has relied increasingly on Russia and Iran for help. Since the rebellion started, Iranian aid to Damascus may total as much as $10 billion, said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert and senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“Assad would not be financially solvent today without Iranian aid,” he said.
But the capture of parts of Iraq by the Islamic State over the summer severed important supply lines that had been used by Iran, a close ally of the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad....

-bth: as prices of oil continue to deteriorate, Russia and Iran will be increasingly stretched financially and their ability to support Assad will weaken.  Could it be that the Syrian conflict will become a war of financial attrition as well as military?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

U.A.E. Sees OPEC Output Unchanged Even If Oil Price Drops to $40 - Bloomberg

OPEC will stand by its decision not to cut output even if oil prices fall as low as $40 a barrel and will wait at least three months before considering an emergency meeting, the United Arab Emirates’ energy minister said...

-bth: This is going to devastate Venezuela, Russia, Nigeria, oil producing states in the US and Iran.