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Rising Gas Prices Put Pressure on Obama Campaign & Economy

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Rising Gas Prices

The recent increase in gas prices has placed a tremendous amount of pressure on the Obama administration & the 2012 Obama Campaign. Peter Goodman of The Huffington Post reports that much of the price fluctuations are due to gas speculators, and not specific administration policy. Mr Goodman writes “But the supply-and-demand story of gas prices is largely a fairy tale. Academic experts, commodity specialists and members of Congress identify one thing that the president could do immediately to alleviate pain at the pump: He could unleash a serious-minded, subpoena-wielding probe aimed at frightening the Wall Street speculators who are responsible for most of the climb in gas prices.”

Speculating in gas prices has become a very popular investment option for many firms. Gas (or Oil) speculation involves an agreement to buy a set amount of oil at a certain price. The person agreeing to buy the oil is betting that the price will rise, while the person selling the oil is betting that the actual price in the future will be lower than what they paid for it. These artificial prices have contributed to the volatility in prices paid at the pump for the last 5 to 6 years.

On March 9th, Obama orders the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group to look into the rising prices. The goal of this group is to determine the factors that have caused the recent increases of the price per gallon Americans pay at the pump. Much of what his group is looking into is the effects of excessive speculation on both the short-term and long-term prices of crude oil and gas prices. Prior to March 9th, the task force was relatively dormant over the past 10 months.

Justice Department representative stated, “With the recent increase of gasoline prices, the working group is monitoring the situation, and if we find any evidence of criminal behavior or other misconduct, we will respond immediately.” According to The Boston Herald, financial speculators represent the vast majority of purchasers of oil futures contracts – around 65%. This is much higher than the historical average of these contracts.

The increased cost of oil and gas negatively impacts the US economy in a variety of ways. Not only are individuals forced to allocate more income to purchasing gas, but increased transportation costs also raise the prices of everyday goods. Most goods transported in the US are shipped by truck, and trucking companies pass along the higher costs of operation to manufacturers who then pass the costs on to consumers. Trucking jobs for owner operators also have pressure on them due to the rising gas prices by making harder to make ends meet.

In addition to the economy feeling the pressure the 2012 Obama Campaign is feeling the pressure from gas prices going up. Republicans are pushing new initiatives in Congress while Obama still trying to promote his “all-of-the-above” energy plan. According to USA Today President Obama ripped into Republicans mocking their “three-point plans for $2 gas” saying, “Why not $2.40? Why not $2.10?” It’s apparent the campaign trails are heating up and taking on the economy and rising gas prices all in one package.

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  1. James Hovland

    March 15, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    The election rules for 2012 are very simple and easy to understand. If gas prices fall and/or the economy does well, Republicans and their allies lose. If gas prices rise and the economy suffers, Obama may lose.

    Considering that both production and inventories are up and demand is down, it’s probably a good idea to at least entertain the idea that speculation might be part of the problem. Republicans may disagree, but since they have a vested interest in keeping gas prices high at least until November, we’ll just ignore their opinion for now and talk about it anyway.

    Regardless of whether speculative traders cause prices to rise or not, every dime of net profit the collective herd of speculative traders, investment banks, etc, takes from the oil markets, costs us at the pump. The exact amount they take is the exact amount they cost us. That’s a fact we don’t need to speculate about. Just crunch the numbers.

    We can’t just blame the traders though. Speculation in the financial news is what actually drives the markets. If you’re looking for a positive correlation between speculation and rising prices, that’s where you’ll find it. The speculative trader is just a tool, one that the GOP, the right-wing news and Wall Street have all worked very hard to keep in place. All while trying to hang the issue of rising gas prices around Obama’s neck.

    If the GOP doesn’t think this is going to come back to bite them, they’re even more ignorant than I had previously thought. Specifically, ignorant about the era in which we live.

    We have solutions. Regulating the markets is one. The government’s on it. We already have new regulations aimed at limiting excessive speculation that should help, we’re just waiting for them to be enforced. Well, kind of. We’re also fighting Wall Street in court and the GOP in Congress over their repeated attempts to block these regulations. For some reason, they don’t want speculative traders to have to change their investment strategies or play by the rules.

    There are other options. Our friends in the media might want to make good use of their connection power and share this among their peers. More often than not, prices rise on speculation that prices will rise. However, sometimes prices fall on speculation that prices will fall. The key is, it’s more about what the so-called experts and analysts in the financial news decide to focus on than anything else. Perhaps rather than waiting for someone to get it their head that the government should do something about them too, they could choose the small government option and correct the problem themselves. Or we can keep an eye out for those who are always so eager to explain why they’re bullish on oil and skin and salt them as needed. Perhaps with enough attention exposing them for what they are, they’ll see the error of their ways, get tired of being labeled as traitors and start speculating their way out of the hole they’re currently digging themselves into.

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Apps

‘Mahmee’ is a startup that wants to help new mothers through an app

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Photo: Mahmee website
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Mahmee aims to help new mothers to safeguard their health through an app that connects them to healthcare services and other resources to help women — especially women of color — prevent post emotional and physical health complications.

Founded in 2014, Mahmee is a HIPAA-secure care management platform that makes it easy for payers, providers, and patients to coordinate comprehensive prenatal and postpartum healthcare from anywhere.

The United States is one of the countries with the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, where thousands of women, especially women of color, experience pregnancy-related complications just before or in the year after childbirth. The annual maternity-related death in the U.S. reaches 700 deaths every year, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

This is the reason why Melissa Hanna, CEO of Mahmee and a co-founder, along with her mother, Linda Hanna, put up the business in order to health women to get better access to postpartum and prenatal healthcare. Linda Hanna has been a long-time nurse and lactation consultant, making her see the reality of maternal health in the country – which contributed to their drive to put up their business.

“We believe that comprehensive maternal healthcare is ongoing education and support that addresses the unique intersection of the physical and emotional aspects of pregnancy, postpartum and parenthood, as each individual experiences them,” reads the website of Mahmee.

The service the startup is offering includes an app that connects new mothers to doctors, health care professionals, and motherhood experts. Mothers can sign up on their own and get access to a team of experts, including maternity coaches, nutritionists, and lactation coaches. If their healthcare professional also has an account in the app, the patient and the healthcare professional can share information with each other through the app.

In 2019, the app already has more than 1,000 providers and organizations in its network. In July, the app received $3 million in new funding to grow its team. A huge portion of the new funding comes from the tennis superstar, Serena Williams, who last year shared her horrifying near-death experience after she gave birth to her daughter.

“The idea for Mahmee came about from watching my mom work in this field for years and years and realizing that there was a limited set of tools available to professionals like herself to create the impact that she wanted to have on mothers’ and babies’ lives,” said Melissa Hanna, CEO of Mahmee.

“And after watching her build out very successful programs for hospitals and health systems and all sorts of different experiences in the inpatient setting, we started talking about what could be done in the outpatient setting when patients are home with their families,” she added.

Melissa said in an interview that through the years, Mahmee has been helping new mothers who are experiencing prenatal anxiety and supporting them in preparing for their childbirth experience in the hospital. Some of those that they have helped experience postpartum bleeding and depression.

“In the past 12 months, we’ve had patients who’ve experienced severe blood loss and postpartum hemorrhaging. We’ve worked with families and with mothers that are experiencing prenatal anxiety and supporting them in preparing for their childbirth experience in the hospital. There have been patients who have experienced postpartum depression; in some cases, some very severe postpartum psychosis symptoms,” she said.

Furthermore, Melissa echoed the problem and how black women are the most affected by it. She said that there is a discrepancy on how black mothers and infants are being taken care of in the hospital.

“What we’re seeing now is the crisis of maternity and infant health care come to the surface because the stats around black mother and black infant mortality and morbidity are so inexcusable. There’s a huge discrepancy in how patients are cared for,” she added.

Melissa said that Mahmee also practices what is called “culturally competent care,” where “from day one our team is getting trained on how to listen to families’ concerns actively, and specifically to read between the lines of the things that are being shared by new mothers.”

In the end, Melissa and her mom only hoped for a future where new mothers are safe and well taken care of – no matter what color their skin is. And they hope that Mahmee, as an app, can democratize access to necessary healthcare attention to every mother in the United States.

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Startups

TuSimple self-driving trucks is the future of cargo delivery

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Cargo and mails have been delivered inside Arizona by self-driving trucks that people don’t even know about as UPS has only announced this week that they have been using TuSimple, a self-driving car startup, to move cargo around the state for quite some time.

The announcement comes with the disclosure that UPS has also made a funding venture to help the startup. Since May, TuSimple autonomous trucks have been hauling UPS loads on a 115-mile route between Phoenix and Tucson.

The shipping and cargo company confirms that this is the first time that they have used TuSimple’s autonomous trucks to deliver mails across the state.

TuSimple is a shipping and cargo startup that prides itself with autonomous and self-driving trucks, which, according to their website, would cut the average cost of shipping in a tractor-trailer by 30 percent. “Our proprietary AI is capable of long-distance highway driving, and complex surface street driving – enabling fully autonomous deliveries from one depot to another,” read’s TuSimple’s website.

They also advertise that they have road-safe autonomous trucks designed with an AI that is trained to respond to road incidents in the shortest possible time.

“At highway speeds, 1000 meters provides 35 seconds of time to react, enabling the system to make the safest and most efficient driving decisions,” reads the startup’s website. “Our perception system is designed to identify objects and obstacles, even in adverse weather conditions.”

The promising pitch of the startup has awakened the interest of huge shipping and cargo companies like UPS. In an announcement about their funding for the startup, UPS Ventures managing partner, Todd Lewis, said the venture arm “collaborates with startups to explore new technologies and tailor them to help meet our specific needs.”

The startup is also what shipping companies are looking at as a solution to the declining number of truck drivers in the United States.

“Long-haul routes with short turnaround times, such as this 22-hour journey, are well suited for self-driving trucks because they are normally accomplished with driving teams of two. Driving teams are challenging to recruit due to overnight driving requirements, the need to share close quarters with another person and a significant truck driver shortage,” said TuSimple in a press release.

In the partnership announcement from UPS, the shipping giant said that TuSimple has been helping them understand how to get to Level 4 autonomous driving where a vehicle is fully autonomous and able to reach a particular location. Right now, the TuSimple self-driving trucks still have an engineer and a safety driver tagging along the trip, but UPS is hopeful that with the help of the startup and the backing of huge shipping companies, they will be able to find a way to automize their delivery trucks fully.

Right around the time that UPS announced its partnership with TuSimple, the same deal was made between the startup and the United States Postal Service (USPS) to have a two-week pilot operation to deliver mail between Phoenix and Dallas, a 1,000-mile trip.

The pilot operation with USPS will involve five round trips totaling over 2,100 miles, estimated at about 45 hours of driving, and will pass through major interstates spanning Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

The partnership with huge shipping companies could help the San Diego-based startup be more commercialized, the founder said. “Performing for the USPS on this pilot in this particular commercial corridor gives us specific use cases to help us validate our system, and expedite the technological development and commercialization progress,” Dr. Xiaodi Hou, ‘TuSimple’s founder, said in a statement.

“It is exciting to think that before many people ride in a robo-taxi, their mail and packages may be carried in a self-driving truck,” added Dr. Xiaodi Hou.

The startup aims to be the pioneer in providing autonomous trucks to serve shipping companies in the U.S., and it aims to boost the shipping industry as well.

“TuSimple is aiming to boost the $800-billion U.S. trucking industry by increasing safety, reducing carbon emissions and transportation costs, and optimizing logistics for fleet operators. With a 1000 meter vision range, TuSimple autonomous trucks are safer because they can see more and react faster than humans – rain or shine, day or night,” reads a press release.

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B2B

Alibaba’s Joe Tsai buying Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center for $3.5 billion

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Joe Tsai buys Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center
Photo: RISE | Flickr | CC BY 2.0
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Joe Tsai is reportedly buying the Brooklyn Nets and the Barclays Center for around $3.5 billion. The agreement could be announced as soon as Friday.

The Taiwan-born Tsai is among the 18 co-founders of Alibaba. He currently sits as the executive vice-chairman of the company. Forbes estimates his worth to be around $9.9 billion. He is Alibaba’s second-largest shareholder after Jack Ma. The Yale-educated businessman is presumed to take on an even bigger role once Ma steps down from Alibaba. 

The deal would give Tsai control of the Brooklyn Nets. In May 2018, Tsai was able to buy 49% of the Brooklyn Nets from Mikhail Prokhorov for $1 billion.  

Upon closing the deal last year, Prohorov welcomed Tsai into the organization and said: “We are excited to have Joe as a partner. He brings tremendous global experience, a passion for basketball, and shares our vision for the development of the Nets”

In last year’s deal, Tsai was given the option to buy the remaining stake of the team in 2021. However, it seems that the deal would be coming earlier than expected. Prohorov currently owns 59% of the basketball franchise. 

If the deal between Tsai and Prohorov has been finalized, this would give the former full ownership of the team — two seasons earlier than anticipated.  With the team’s valuation of $2.35 billion, this deal would make it the highest price ever paid for a sports team franchise in history.  

The current record is held by David Tepper and Tilman Fertitta. Tepper bought the NFL’s Carolina Panthers in 2018 for $2.2 billion. In 2017, the owner of multi-brand corporation Landry’s, Fertitta bought the Houston Rockets for the same amount.  

The ownership of the Brooklyn Nets is not the only deal that Tsai is reportedly making with Prokhorov. In a separate deal, Prokhorov is selling his stakes in the Barclays Center to Tsai. The arena is where the Nets play during their home games. This follows the NBA’s preference for the team and the arena where they play to be under one ownership. If both deals are combined, it would amount to a record-breaking $3.5 billion.

Joe Tsai is no stranger to sports team ownership. Before buying his stakes of the Nets, Tsai bought box lacrosse team — San Diego Seals. In January 2019, he headed a group that bought the WNBA’s New York Liberty from The Madison Square Company. A month after, Tsai joined The Raine Group and The Chernin Group in investing in a new lacrosse league — the Premier Lacrosse League.  

With the Nets deal, this would make Tsai as the eight richest sports team owner in the world. In the NBA, he becomes second only to the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Steve Ballmer.  

The change in the principal owner of the Brooklyn Nets comes after the team’s good run in the NBA last season. The team made it to the playoffs for the first time in four years.  

Before the new NBA season starts, the Brooklyn Nets have already gotten the services of two free agents — Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.  With the addition of the pair to the team roster, attendance is expected to increase. Last season, the Nets ranked 14th in terms of attendance with an average 14,941 per game. 

While Tsai’s take over of the Nets is still subject for approval by the NBA, this move is seen as something positive and beneficial to and for the league. The NBA is currently growing at a rapid speed in China. To add, Joe Tsai is part of NBA China’s board. NBA China conducts the league’s business in the country.  

With the NBA’s growth in the country, it has become such a massive business. The NBA has become China’s most popular sports league. With its growing fanbase, the NBA has also expanded its reach by opening NBA stores in China. In April of this year, the NBA opened its biggest official store outside of North America in Beijing.

Dubbed as the “Joe Tsai effect,” the Brooklyn Nets will be joining the Los Angeles Lakers in the 13th edition of the NBA China Games. The two teams will play two preseason games in Shanghai and Shenzhen in October.

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