Can’t say gasoline report is all that surprising

THUMBS DOWN: Gas prices

An Oregon-based research company has uncovered some news that plays right into the hands of conspiracy theorists who believe the oil refineries manipulate gas prices.

McCullough Research found that two major refineries based in California were producing gas in May at a time the public was led to believe they were shut down for maintenance. The phantom refinery shutdowns happened to coincide with spikes in gas prices that were blamed on refinery outages.

Why can’t the federal government do a better job of policing oil refineries? Consumers shouldn’t have to rely on an Oregon research company to tell them what is really going on in the world of refinery operations.

Without increased transparency of the oil industry – and better, more timely information on market supplies and demand – sudden bumps in gas prices will continue to raise suspicion.

THUMBS UP: Turkey feeds

South Sound has some great traditions in place to feed the hungry and the homeless on Thanksgiving Day. This marked the 43rd year for Barb’s Family and Friends, an outpouring of good food and holiday cheer started by Barb O’Neill and carried on since her death by her son, Rodney O’Neill. The Thurston County Food Bank did its typical yeoman’s job handing out Thanksgiving food basket to hundreds of people last week. Also, Crazy Faith Ministries, an Olympia-based traveling ministry, converted a empty parking lot downtown into a Thanksgiving Day feast. Kudos to all who extend the spirit – and the food — of Thanksgiving to those in need.

THUMBS DOWN: Ferry captain

A state ferry captain is in hot water with authorities after missing his boat last Wednesday on the morning commute Whidbey Island to Mukilteo. He overslept in the wee hours of the morning, causing the ferry Kittitas to be 20 minutes late. The sleepy captain also fouled up the schedule for the Cathlamet because that’s where he was sleeping when that boat took off from the dock. There’s some explaining to do at Washington Department of Transportation headquarters.

THUMBS UP: Zoolights

Zoolights, the holiday lighting display at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, opened Friday in celebration of 25 years. Some half a million lights stretching 25 miles are lit up and arranged to wash away the gloomy nights leading up to New Year’s Day. It’s not only fun for the family, it’s a clever way for the zoo to boost attendance and income during what is otherwise a slack season at the zoo.

THUMBS DOWN: Dog assailant

A 25-year-old Port Orchard men will spend 45 days behind bars after pleading guilty to a charge of punching a 13-year-old arthritic dog that had to be euthanized after the attack. The assailant was supposed to be acting as a caretaker for the dog. Animal cruelty is one of the hardest crimes to fathom, and this case definitely is one for the animal cruelty record books.

THUMBS UP: City recycling

The City of Olympia has added six recycling bins to the downtown street scene in a bid to separate recyclable bottles, cans and newspaper from the regular trash. If downtown visitors can navigate the complicated parking pay stations, they should be able to figure out the new downtown recycling program.

THUMBS DOWN: Greenhouse gas

The United Nation’s chief weather agency has reported the levels of carbon dioxide – the key culprit in global warming, reached record high levels in 2011, up 40 percent since the start of the Industrial Age. Scientists say the bulk of the pollution is from burning fossil fuels. Climate deniers: Are you listening?

THUMBS UP: Declining jobless rate

The Thurston County jobless rate in October fell below 7 percent for the first time since 2008, suggesting South Sound employers and employees can see some light at the end of the gloomy economic tunnel. It’s encouraging news, but still a long ways from the 4.6 percent jobless rate in 2006. Another sobering thought: Our neighbors in Grays Harbor and Lewis counties still are struggling with 11.3 percent unemployment.

THUMBS DOWN: Show cancellation

Washington political junkies took a hit last week with KING 5 canceling its Emmy-award winning show “Up Front with Robert Mak.” The Sunday morning show ends its 11-year run this Sunday. A lack of advertising was the official reason offered for whacking the show. It goes without saying that local, in-depth coverage of politics and government will suffer.

THUMBS UP: Mortgage relief

Some 7,000 Washington borrowers in over their heads with mortgage debt have found relief through a historic settlement last February with five national banks to the tune of $521 million. Many more continue to suffer from the collapse of the housing market, but at least some underwater borrowers are recovering.