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reality is only those delusions that we have in common...

Saturday, November 17, 2018

week ending Nov 17

  In Much-Anticipated Speech, Powell Gives Optimistic View Of Economy, Keeps Hawkish Outlook - Despite the recent market volatility, ongoing presidential criticism of the Fed's tightening bath, or the cornucopia of risks at hand - both known and unknown - Powell showed no indication of adjusting the Fed's gradual approach to normalization of rates and did not provide any new information around the nuances in other policy specifics.Powell said that he is content with the state of the economy, and was quick to take credit for the ongoing expansion: "I'm very happy about the state of the economy. Our policy is one reason the economy's in such a good place right now."The Fed chair confirmed that the tightening process will go on at a "gradual pace", saying that the Fed is avoiding "hiking too slowly or too fast" and is taking "both sides seriously so is gradually raising rates."Powell also touched on the Fed's quantiative tightening saying that the "balance sheet unwind is doing very well" and while it is "important to return the balance sheet to a smaller size" he conceded that "we don't know yet the equilibrium size of the balance sheet", although it safe to say that said size is not some $3 trillion higher than where it was pre-crisis. Still, one can argue with the semantics considering that despite the Fed's best intentions, the Fed Funds rate keeps rising to the top of the allotted corridor range and continues to trade on top of the IOER rate (which is likely why the Fed will once again tinker with the IOER increase during the December meeting).Powell also repeated what he said during Jackson Hole and the last press conference, admitting that the Fed does not know what the neutral rate of interest is, noting that the "debate on the neutral rate is aimed at highlighting risk management." The comment is seen as intended to keep the market focused on the Fed's "data dependent" and "gradual" commitments, rather than glued to the dot plot and thinking that the Fed measures "these things with any precision"The Fed chair also repeated what was previously said in the FOMC minutes, saying that there is a "rising chorus from business on trade", and warning that a "trade dispute could mean a little higher inflation" and is important to the economy. However, he offset this saying that he keeps a "wait and see" approach, stating that "we don't see much... it hasn't shown up in the data."

Empty chairs at Fed still the status quo — and could be for some time — The Senate is expected Tuesday to move one step closer to confirming Michelle Bowman, the Kansas state banking regulator, to the Federal Reserve Board. But the nominations for two other open Fed seats on the seven-person board are still in limbo. A crowded lame-duck session and lingering concerns among some senators about Brookings Institution fellow Nellie Liang and Carnegie Mellon professor Marvin Goodfriend both cast doubt how quickly their nominations will go forward — if at all. Bowman was nominated in April to serve as a statutorily mandated Fed governor with “community bank experience.” While her appointment has been relatively smooth, Liang and Goodfriend have both faced opposition, albeit for different reasons.  Observers said the slowdown may have something to do with the Trump administration and the GOP-controlled Senate not being on the same page about Fed nominees and the calendar for confirming them. “I think one needs to separate the two different parts of it — what the Trump White House will do and what McConnell and Senate Republicans might do,” said Ian Katz, an analyst for Capital Alpha Partners, referring to Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader. “Those two sides don't necessarily agree on all nominations.” Bowman was appointed as the Kansas banking commissioner in January 2017 and had previously served as a vice president at Farmers and Drovers Bank in Council Grove, Kan., since 2010. Liang, a former Fed official who helped develop the central bank's post-crisis supervisory program for large institutions, was nominated in late September. Goodfriend was nominated last November. Congress may not complete their nominations before the end of its current session. The nominations expire at the end of the current Congress, and so the White House would either have to renominate Liang and Goodfriend, or pick someone else for either vacancy.

Treasury Bonds Are Future Dollars -- J.D. Alt: In recent essays I’ve made reference to a new framing of what is actually happening when the U.S. Treasury issues a bond. It seems to me, this new framing goes to the heart of MMT and might well hold the key to a practical implementation of MMT principles in real world applications. The framing is this:  A U.S. Treasury bond is a certificate of issuance of future dollars.  A Treasury bond is NOT a promissory note promising to pay the bearer a certain number of dollars at some future date—with interest payments along the way or at the date of maturity. Such a promise, obviously, encumbers the federal government with the obligation to “come up with” the stated number of dollars when the future date arrives—to say nothing of the additional dollars to cover the interest. It is the perceived need to come up with these future dollars to make good on the “promissory note” that is precisely the fear and understanding that makes it politically difficult (if not impossible) to propose paying for public goods, services, and pressing social needs by issuing Treasury bonds. This perceived need to come up with future dollars is also what makes the “national debt clock” in NYC such a politically fraught (but fraudulent) tabulation—as if it represents future taxdollars that will have to be collected from American citizens.  The difference lies in the unique reality that, unlike a corporation or municipality, the U.S. Treasury, in concert with the Federal Reserve, has the legal authority and mandate to createU.S. dollars, as necessary, to meet the obligations of the U.S. sovereign government. And the way these necessary dollars are “created” is by the operation of issuing Treasury bonds, an operation which proceeds as follows:

An MMT View of the Twin Deficits Debate - Presentation by L. Randall Wray  - First let me say that I think the twin deficits argument is based on flawed logic.It runs something like this: the government decides to spend too much, causing a budget deficit that competes with private borrowers, driving interest rates up. That appreciates the currency and causes a trade deficit.The budget and trade deficits are unsustainable as both the private sector and the government sector rely on the supply of dollars lent by foreigners. At some point the Chinese and others will demand payment and/or sell out of dollars causing US rates to rise and the dollar to crash. While that’s a simplified summary, I think it captures the main arguments.Here’s the way I see it:

  1. Overnight rates are set by the central bank; deficits raise them only if the central bank reacts to deficits by raising them.
  2. Budget deficits result in net credits to bank reserves and hence put downward (not upward) pressure on overnight rates that is relieved by bond sales by the Fed and Treasury—or by paying interest on reserves. In other words, there’s no crowding out effect on rates. (Inaction lets rates fall.)
  3. Budget deficits result from the nongovernment sector’s desire to net save government liabilities. So long as the nongovernment sector wants to net save government debt, the deficit is sustainable.
  4. Current account deficits result from the ROW’s desire to net save US dollar assets. So long as the ROW wants to accumulate dollars, the US trade deficit is sustainable. So there is a symmetry to the two deficits, but not the one usually supposed.
  5. The US government does not borrow dollars from China. China’s net exports lead to accumulation of dollar reserves that are exchanged for higher earning Treasuries. If China did not run current account surpluses, she would not accumulate many Treasuries. All the dollars China has came from the US.
  6. If the US did not run current account deficits, the Chinese and other foreigners would not accumulate many Treasuries. This shows that accumulation of Treasuries abroad has more to do with the trade deficit than with Uncle Sam’s borrowing. (Compare the US with Japan—where virtually all the treasuries are held domestically.)
  7. A sovereign government cannot run out of its own liabilities. All modern governments make and receive payments through their central banks. Government spending takes the form of a credit by the central bank to a private bank’s reserves, and a credit by the receiving bank to the account of the recipient. You cannot run out of balance sheet entries.
  8. Affordability is not the question. The problem with too much government spending is that it diverts too many of the nation’s resources to the public sector—which causes inflation and leaves the private sector with too few resources.
  9. So, no, I don’t worry about sovereign government debt if it is issued in domestic currency—although I do worry about inflation and as well about excessive private sector debt as well as nonsovereign government debt.
  10. To conclude: We’ve reversed the twin deficit logic and emphasized quantity adjustments. The twin deficits are the residuals that accommodate the desired net saving of the domestic private sector and the ROW, respectively.
  11. Usually the domestic non-government sectors want to accumulate dollars so the only sector left to inject dollars is the US government. This means Uncle Sam runs a deficit because others want to accumulate dollars. The government also accommodates the portfolio desires of the non- government by swapping dollar reserves and bonds on demand.
  12. Finally if the ROW does not want dollars anymore, it can buy goods and services in the US. That will reduce the external deficit, stimulate domestic demand, and thereby reduce the fiscal deficit.

Pentagon Fails Its First-Ever Official AuditAfter generations of being a black hole down which money goes, never to return, a team of 1,200 auditors tried to give the Pentagon its first ever comprehensive audit, just to see where all that money went. Unsurprisingly, it went poorly, and was declared a failure.How bad the failure was is something of a mystery at this point, with officials refusing to disclose the exact results, or even ballpark how much money is unaccounted for. The only clue to the sheer scope of the matter is that they believe it will take “years” to sort out.And if there was one thing more dependable than the Pentagon failing an audit and missing an undisclosed, but vast, amount of money, it’s officials downplaying the matter. Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan told reporters that the Pentagon “never expected to pass it” in the first place. Indeed, Shanahan insisted that even though the Pentagon failed the audit, the fact that they even bothered to do an audit at all “is substantial,” and shows effort toward compliance. That said, he said the issue of audits is “irritating to me.”

 US Has Spent $5,900,000,000,000 on War Since 2001: Study — A new report from Brown University is aiming to provide a close estimate of the overall cost to the US government of its myriad post-9/11 wars and assorted global wars on terror. The estimate is that $5.933 trillion has been spent through fiscal year 2019.This is, of course, vastly higher than official figures, owing to the Pentagon trying to oversimplify the costs into simply overseas contingency operations. It is only when one considers the cost of medical and disability care for soldiers, and future such costs, along with things like the interest on the extra money borrowed for the wars, that the true cost becomes clear.That sort of vast expenditure is only the costs and obligations of the wars so far, and with little sign of them ending, they are only going to grow. In particular, a generation of wars is going to further add to the medical costs for veterans’ being consistently deployed abroad.Starting in late 2001, the US has engaged in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere around the world. Many of those wars have become more or less permanent operations, with no consideration of ending them under any circumstances.  Those wishing to read the report can find it here.

United States Budgetary Costs of the Post-9/11 Wars Through FY2019: $5.9 Trillion Spent and Obligated (PDF) The United States has appropriated and is obligated to spend an estimated $5.9 trillion (in current dollars) on the war on terror through Fiscal Year 2019, including direct war and war-related spending and obligations for future spending on post-9/11 war veterans (see Table 1). This number differs substantially from the Pentagon’s estimates of the costs of the post-9/11 wars because it includes not only war appropriations made to the Department of Defense – spending in the war zones of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and in other places the government designates as sites of “overseas contingency operations,” – but also includes spending across the federal government that is a consequence of these wars. Specifically, this is war-related spending by the Department of State, past and obligated spending for war veterans’ care, interest on the debt incurred to pay for the wars, and the prevention of and response to terrorism by the Department of Homeland Security. If the US continues on its current path, war spending will continue to grow. The Pentagon currently projects $80 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) spending through FY2023. Even if the wars are ended by 2023, the US would still be on track to spend an additional $808 billion (see Table 2) to total at least $6.7 trillion, not including future interest costs. Moreover, the costs of war will likely be greater than this because, unless the US immediately ends its deployments, the number of veterans associated with the post-9/11 wars will also grow. Veterans benefits and disability spending, and the cost of interest on borrowing to pay for the wars, will comprise an increasingly large share of the costs of the US post-9/11 wars. Table 1, below, summarizes the direct war costs – the OCO budget – and war-related costs through FY2019. These include war-related increases in overall military spending, care for veterans, Homeland Security spending, and interest payments on borrowing for the wars.

How the Generals Are Routing the Policy Wonks at the Pentagon - Frustrated by lack of influence and disheartened by U.S. President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, Department of Defense civilians are heading for the door, leaving key positions unfilled in a Pentagon increasingly run by active-duty or retired military officers.  The Office of the Secretary of Defense, or OSD for short, is the civilian arm of the department, crucial in assisting the secretary in policy development, operations planning, resource management, and more. OSD is traditionally a place where people spend entire careers—one former official likened it to “joining a priesthood”—but today it appears to be eroding at all levels. Interviews with a dozen current and former Department of Defense civilians reveal an increasingly hollow and demoralized workforce, with staffers feeling they no longer have a seat at the table. Civilian oversight of the military “was already weakening in the last administration, and I think it basically fell off a cliff,” said one former Defense Department official who requested anonymity. “It sucks to work in an office where nobody listens to you.”At least nine senior officials have left the department in the past year, including Sally Donnelly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s senior advisor, and Elbridge Colby, who co-led development of the department’s premier strategic planning guidance, the National Defense Strategy. Most recently, in October three senior leaders working on international policy departed: Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs Robert Karem, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Alan Patterson, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO Policy Thomas Goffus. Other key positions in OSD are vacant or filled in an acting capacity, including: chief management officer; deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia; assistant deputy of defense for strategic plans and capabilities; and undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.The attrition has caused concern outside the Defense Department as well. An independent, congressionally mandated review of the National Defense Strategy released this week highlighted the “relative imbalance of civilian and military voices” on critical national security issues, and urged the department to reverse this “unhealthy” trend.

The Best Way To Honor War Veterans Is To Stop Creating Them -  Caitlin Johnstone -  The US will be celebrating Veterans Day, and many a striped flag shall be waved. The social currency of esteem will be used to elevate those who have served in the US military, thereby ensuring future generations of recruits to be thrown into the gears of the globe-spanning war machine. Veterans Day is not a holiday to honor the men and women who have dutifully protected their country. The youngest Americans who arguably defended their nation from a real threat to its shores are in their nineties, and soon there won’t be any of them left. Every single person who has served in the US military since the end of the second World War has protected nothing other than the agendas of global hegemony, resource control and war profiteering. They have not been fighting and dying for freedom and democracy, they have been fighting and dying for imperialism, Raytheon profit margins, and crude oil. I just said something you’re not supposed to say. People have dedicated many years of their lives to the service of the US military; they’ve given their limbs to it, they’ve suffered horrific brain damage for it, they’ve given their very lives to it. Families have been ripped apart by the violence that has been inflicted upon members of the US Armed Forces; you’re not supposed to let them hear you say that their loved one was destroyed because some sociopathic nerds somewhere in Washington decided that it would give America an advantage over potential economic rivals to control a particular stretch of Middle Eastern dirt. But it is true, and if we don’t start acknowledging that truth lives are going to keep getting thrown into the gears of the machine for the power and profit of a few depraved oligarchs. So I’m going to keep saying it. If you tweet or retweet #SaluteToService the NFL will contribute a small amount of money to the veterans who've been flushed down the toilet by the bloodthirsty empire the NFL's immense wealth is built upon.

500,000 Killed by America’s Global War on Terror Just Scratches the Surface — The United States’ so-called War on Terror has killed about half a million people in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, according to a new estimate from the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute.“This new body count signals that, far from diminishing, the war is only intensifying,” Stephanie Savell, co-director of the project, pointed out in a piece for Axios. The overall death toll “is an increase of 113,000 over the last count, issued just two years ago.”The new report (pdf) estimates that since 2001, between 480,000 and 507,000 people have been killed because of war violence in those three nations—a tally that does not include “the more than 500,000 deaths from the war in Syria, raging since 2011, which the U.S. joined in August 2014,” and “indirect deaths,” or those killed by war’s impact on public health, such as limiting access to food, water, hospitals, and electricity. Over 480,000 have died due to direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, but the number of indirect deaths – because, for example, of war-related disease — is several times larger. See our paper at The “direct deaths” accounted for in the estimate include U.S. military, contractors, and Defense Department employees; national military and police as well as other allied troops; opposition fighters; civilians; journalists; and aid workers. About half of those killed were civilians—between 244,000 and 266,000 across Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Up to 204,000 of them were Iraqis. While the U.S. government has repeatedly underestimated the costs of waging war, since the project launched in 2011, its team has aimed to provide a full account of the “human, economic, and political costs” of post-9/11 U.S. military action in the Middle East, “and to foster better informed public policies.”This latest report comes on the heels of the U.S. midterm elections in which Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Looking forward, Savell suggested that “House Democrats will try to advance a national security strategy emphasizing restraint and accountability for the costs of the War on Terror.” Regardless of how Democrats in the House proceed, Neta C. Crawford, a Boston University political science professor who co-directs the Costs of War Project, argued in the report’s conclusion that there is a need to keep the public more informed about the consequences of the seemingly endless wars in the Middle East in order to drive demands for improving U.S. foreign policy.

Who’s the Real American Psycho? - Maureen Dowd, NYT. Donald Trump is running wild — and running scared. He’s such a menace that it’s tempting to cheer any vituperative critic and grab any handy truncheon. But villainizing Trump should not entail sanitizing other malefactors. And we should acknowledge that the president is right on one point: For neocons, journalists, authors, political hacks and pundits, there is a financial incentive to demonize the president, not to mention an instant halo effect. Only Trump could get the pussy-hat crowd to fill Times Square to protest Jeff Sessions’s firing. We make the president the devil spawn and he makes us the enemy of the people and everybody wins. Or do they? To what extent is lucrative Trump hysteria warping our discourse? Trump may not be sweaty and swarthy, but he makes a good bad guy. As with Nixon and Watergate, the correct moral response and the lavish remunerative rewards neatly dovetail.Even for Washington, the capital of do-overs and the soulless swamp where horrendous mistakes never prevent you from cashing in and getting another security clearance, this is a repellent spectacle. War criminals-turned-liberal heroes are festooned with book and TV contracts, podcasts and op-ed perches.Those who sold us the “cakewalk” Iraq war and the outrageously unprepared Sarah Palin and torture as “enhanced interrogation,” those who left the Middle East shattered with a cascading refugee crisis and a rising ISIS, and those who midwifed the birth of the Tea Party are washing away their sins in a basin of Trump hate. The very same Republicans who eroded America’s moral authority in the 2000s are, staggeringly, being treated as the new guardians of America’s moral authority. They bellow that Trump is a blight on democracy. But where were these patriots when the Bush administration was deceiving us with a cooked-up war in Iraq?

South Korea-U.S. military drills violate agreements: North Korea media (Reuters) - South Korea’s resumption of small-scale military drills with the United States violated a recent agreement aimed at lowering tensions on the Korean peninsula, North Korean state media said on Monday. About 500 United States and South Korean marines began military drills last week that were among joint exercises indefinitely suspended in June as Seoul and Washington focused on engaging with North Korea. The Korean Marine Exchange Program (KMEP) violated a Sept. 19 agreement signed by North and South Korea that called for a halt to “all hostile acts,” said the Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s official party newspaper. The joint two-week drills are “directly against the inter-Korean military agreement that promised to eliminate practical threats of war and fundamental hostile relations from the Korean peninsula,” the newspaper said. A spokesman for South Korea’s defense ministry on Monday rejected the North’s criticism, saying they are defensive exercises involving small units under the size of a battalion. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to work toward denuclearization at their landmark June summit in Singapore, where Trump promised to end joint, U.S. South Korea military exercises. But the agreement was short on specifics and negotiations have made little headway. Last week North Korea called off a planned meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York “because they weren’t ready,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Friday. North Korean media mentioned the canceled meeting for the first time on Saturday, when the Chosun Sinbo website reported that the talks could still be productive. But it repeated North Korean warnings that the country could restart its nuclear weapons development if the U.S. does not make more concessions. The biggest combat-readiness war game ever staged in and around Japan also went ahead last week, with the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan joining Japanese destroyers and a Canadian warship in the ocean off Japan — another key player in the effort to pressure North Korea.

 North Korea Expands Secret Missile Bases As Peace Talks Stall -  As it grows increasingly frustrated with the US's refusals to begin lifting economic sanctions in recognition of all the "progress" made during the Trump era, North Korea threatened a week ago to restart its nuclear program if the US doesn't acquiesce to its demands for a "gradual" lifting of economic sanctions accompanied by a similarly gradual program of surrendering the North's nuclear weapons. However, these threats rang hollow and failed to elicit a response from the Trump Administration. And now we know why: because Trump while is worried about letting what he sees as one of his biggest foreign policy achievements slip through his grasp, the US intelligence apparatus has long known that North Korea never really stopped enriching uranium and building missiles. Much fanfare followed North Korea leader Kim Jong Un's declaration, following a summit with his South Korean counterpart earlier this year, that the North would allow international observers to document the dismantling of a nuclear reactor, as well as several missile sites where the country tested the ICBMs that provoked so much anxiety back in 2017. But a report published by the New York Times on Monday definitively dispelled this myth by exposing a "secret" North Korean missile launch site near the South Korean border that would be capable of launching a nuclear warhead at the US. Little more than 50 miles north of the DMZ, Sakkanmol is one of the closest bases to South Korea, sitting about 80 miles away from the densely populated capital of Seoul. American troops are also in close range. The images, reportedly culled from the report highlighted the different structures at Sakkanmol, including a suspected ballistic missile operating base and an "unidentified military facility." They also highlighted support buildings and greenhouses. And while Sakkanmol is the focus of the report, it isn't the only missile base mentioned. One map seen by the Times revealed three belts of missile bases capable of firing everything short-range tactical missiles that could fire on Seoul, to the feared ICBMs that could reach American shores. In seemingly offhanded fashion, the report mentions that the North has between 40 and 60 nuclear warheads that could be loaded on a missile and blasted at the US.

 The New York Times’ Misleading Story on North Korean Missiles - North Korea is moving ahead with its ballistic missile program at 16 hidden bases that have been identified in new commercial satellite images…The satellite images suggest that the North has been engaged in a great deception: It has offered to dismantle a major launching site—a step it began, then halted—while continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others that would bolster launches of conventional and nuclear warheads. That is the ominous lede of a story by David Sanger and William Broad in The New York Times on Monday, November 12. Substituting tendentious hyperbole for sound reporting may convince editors to feature a story on page one, but it is a disservice to readers. The United States and North Korea have yet to conclude an agreement that inhibits deployment of missiles by Pyongyang, never mind requiring their dismantlement. Nor has Washington yet offered the necessary reciprocal steps that might make such a deal possible. In contrast, Adam Taylor’s story in Tuesday’s Washington Post posed the right question and reported the right answer: Are these bases evidence that North Korea is cheating on the agreement it reached in June, when President Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore? Analysts say the answer is no—although there are plenty of caveats. The New York Times story is based on a careful report by Joseph S. Bermudez, Victor Cha and Lisa Collins that makes no such claim. In fact, as the report acknowledges, the Sakkanmol Missile Operating Base and 15 others have long been observed by US intelligence, 13 of them by Bermudez himself. Far from “moving ahead with its ballistic missile program,” Bermudez notes that “only minor infrastructure changes were observed” at this particular site since Kim Jong Un came to power in December 2011. As for the New York Times’ claim that North Korea is “continuing to make improvements at more than a dozen others that would bolster launches of conventional and nuclear warheads,” while that is quite possible, the report by Bermudez, et al., does not support that contention. It says that Sakkanmol has Hwasong-5 and -6 (also designated Scud B and C) missiles based there since the early 1990s. It is conceivable that some of these short-range missiles may have nuclear warheads, but it seems more likely that the missiles are conventionally-armed and part of the DPRK’s effort to counter US-ROK conventional superiority.

U.S. and Saudi officials have heard tapes of Khashoggi’s killing, Turkey’s president says -  Officials from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Germany, France and Britain have listened to audio recordings related to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey's president said Saturday, in the first public acknowledgement of the existence of tapes of the slaying. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also told reporters that Saudi Arabia had to "act fairly" and disclose those responsible for the Oct. 2 killing of the Washington Post journalist to rid itself of "suspicion." Advertisement"We gave them the tapes. We gave them to Saudi Arabia, to America, to the Germans, the French, to the British, to all of them," Erdogan said before departing for Paris to attend ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. "They [Saudi officials] also listened to the conversations and they know. There is no need to distort this. They know for certain who among the 15 is the killer or are the killers," he said. He was referring to an alleged 15-member assassination squad that Turkey believes was sent to kill Khashoggi at the consulate where he had arrived to obtain papers to marry his Turkish fiancee. CIA Director Gina Haspel, who visited Turkey last month for information on the investigation, is reported to have heard the audio recordings of the killing. The existence of the recordings was leaked to the media but never openly confirmed until now. Turkey says Khashoggi, who was critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was strangled and dismembered at the consulate as part of a premeditated killing. Media reports have suggested that his body could have been chemically dissolved. Turkey is seeking the extradition of 18 suspects who have been detained in Saudi Arabia, so they can be put on trial in Turkey. They include the 15 members of the alleged assassination squad.Saudi Arabia had insisted for weeks after Khashoggi disappeared that he had walked out of the consulate, before changing its account to say he died in a brawl.

John Bolton Says "No Evidence" Implicating Crown Prince On Khashoggi Kill Tape - Hours after the New York Times reported that Turkey's long-rumored audio recording of Saudi journalist-turned dissident's murder inside the Saudi consulate included "strong evidence" that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the killing, National Security Advisor John Bolton said Tuesday that no such link existed, according to the Wall Street Journal. The recording didn't appear to implicate the Crown Prince, Bolton said. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said over the weekend that Turkey had shared the tape with the US, Germany, the UK, France and Saudi Arabia. The Times had reported that one member of the kill team could be heard telling his superior to "tell your boss" that Khashoggi was dead. Intelligence sources quoted by the Times said they believe "your boss" was a reference to MbS - though he wasn't named and there's still no direct evidence of his involvement. Bolton specified that he hadn't heard the recording himself and was merely referencing analyst reports: Mr. Bolton said he hadn’t personally heard the audio recording provided by Turkey but that U.S. officials believe it doesn’t appear to connect the crown prince to the murder. "That’s not the conclusion that I think the people who heard it have come to," he said at a media briefing in Singapore on Tuesday.Meanwhile, the Saudis have continued to deny MbS's involvement."We categorically deny the reporting referencing the crown prince in this matter or that he had any knowledge whatsoever of it," a Saudi official said Tuesday. "Despite our multiple requests, the Turkish authorities have not provided us with the recordings, however, they allowed our intelligence services to hear recordings and at no moment was there any reference to the mentioned phrase in those recordings." Bolton added that the US trusts Saudi Arabia to conduct its own investigation.

Treasury To Sanction 17 Saudis Over Khashoggi Killing - In the latest sign that the US government will defer to the Saudis regarding the investigation into exactly who was responsible for the death of Jamal Khashoggi, the Treasury is preparing to announce that it will levy sanctions against 17 Saudi nationals for their involvement in Khashoggi's killing. That's roughly equivalent to the 18 men who were initially arrested by the kingdom in connection with the "botched interrogation". Among those who are expected to be sanctioned are Saud Al-Qahtani, a former top aide to Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and former Saudi consul in Istanbul Mohammed Al- Otaibi. The report follows an announcement by the Saudi's public prosecutor that the kingdom would seek the death penalty against 5 Saudis who played a direct role in the killing. The Saudi prosecutor hinted earlier that a royal adviser had a coordinating role in the killing, and that he was now under investigation. Though he declined to release the name, suspicion immediately fell on Al-Qahtani. The impending US sanctions also followed comments from NSA John Bolton, who said the US didn't find any evidence of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's involvement in the killing from the audio tape of Khashoggi's death shared by Turkey. 

CIA Believes Saudi Crown Prince Ordered Khashoggi's Killing- WaPo - With Turkey's graphic recording of Khashoggi's final moments finally in the hands of US intelligence agencies, the Washington Post just confirmed what the New York Times first hinted at more than one month ago: That US intelligence agencies believe that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in what is just the latest example of the Trump administration and its intelligence agencies working at cross purposes (the first being, of course, the investigations that eventually coalesced into the Mueller probe). But instead of focusing on the recording of Khashoggi's murder, the CIA is reportedly in possession of another piece of evidence that it believes incriminates the Crown Prince: A phone call made by Khalid bin Salman, MbS's brother and the kingdom's ambassador to the US, to Khashoggi, during which he promised the journalist that he wouldn't be harmed if he visited the Saudi embassy in Istanbul to pick up the paper needed to marry his Turkish fiance. Even if MbS didn't plan Khashoggi's murder, Khalid's call to Khashoggi, which the CIA believes was made at the behest of his powerful brother, suggests that the prince was aware of the plot.In reaching its conclusions, the CIA examined multiple sources of intelligence, including a phone call that the prince’s brother Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, had with Khashoggi, according to the people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence. Khalid told Khashoggi, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post, that he should go to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents and gave him assurances that it would be safe to do so.It is not clear if Khalid knew that Khashoggi would be killed, but he made the call at his brother’s direction, according to the people familiar with the call, which was intercepted by U.S. intelligence.Fatimah Baeshen, a spokeswoman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, said the ambassador and Khashoggi never discussed “anything related to going to Turkey.” She added that the claims in the CIA’s “purported assessment are false. We have and continue to hear various theories without seeing the primary basis for these speculations.” The CIA’s conclusion about Mohammed’s role was also based on the agency’s assessment of the prince as the country’s de facto ruler who oversees even minor affairs in the kingdom. “The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” said a U.S. official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions.

US & UK Not Truly Committed to Ending Saudi ‘Total War’ on Yemen - Real News Network video & transcript -  Yemen is suffering from the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the entire world, and the U.S. and British governments have played a key role in bringing it to this horrific state. According to the U.N. Children’s Fund, Yemen is “a living hell, not for 50 to 60 percent of children. It is a living hell for every single boy and girl.” UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa made this shocking remark in a meeting earlier in November. After 43 months of war, however, the U.S. and the UK claim that they now want a ceasefire in this war. In late October, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis joined their British correspondent, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and together all of them called for a cease fire in Yemen within 30 days. That would be the end of November. Britain has also called for the UN Security Council to vote for an end to the war in Yemen. This comes after the gruesome killing of Jamal Khashoggi. . This has led to a kind of cooling of relations between Britain, the U.S., and Saudi Arabia. In response to this, the United States has said that it’s actually going to end in-air refueling for Saudi war planes bombing Yemen. However, even mainstream corporate media outlets have acknowledged the fact that even though the U.S. is going to end an era of fueling, other more significant forms of military support to Saudi Arabia will continue. As even CNN put it, “U.S. decision to stop refueling Saudi jets attacking Yemen means nothing.”. At the same time that the U.S. is calling for a ceasefire, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are, in fact, ramping up fighting inside Yemen at the port city of Hodeida. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have sent thousands of troops and launched a ground and aerial assault on this crucial city, which is the livesaving port for Yemen, where 80 percent of humanitarian aid comes into the country. So the fact that all of these things are happening at the same time has, of course, raised the question: are the U.S. and the UK truly committed to ending the war in Yemen? To explore this question we are joined by Larry Wilkerson. Larry is the former chief of staff of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. He is currently an adjunct professor of government at the College of William and Mary, and a regular contributor to The Real News Network.

House Leadership Aims to Stop Debate on US Involvement in Yemen War — On Wednesday, a measure is being advanced at the behest of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) aiming to derail House Continuing Resolution 138, a War Powers Act challenge which would force an end to the US military involvement in the Saudi-led War in Yemen.Under the War Powers Act, any individual lawmaker is intended to be able to raise the matter of an unauthorized war for debate and a vote on the floor. Efforts to do so have failed, however, as the House leadership has used the Rules Committee to sidestep the issue.This move to derail the debate is part of the first day of lame-duck House business, and Rep. Ryan and the other leaders seem to be hoping to turn the legal challenge of the war into a partisan issue. Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) accused the Republican leadership of shirking Congressional responsibility.Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), however, is hoping to drum up enough Republican support for the legal challenge to prevent this, arguing that the legality of the Yemen War deserves a full debate and vote in the House.

Republicans Used a Bill About Wolves to Avoid a Vote on Yemen War - Republican leaders in the House of Representatives undercut a bipartisan effort to end U.S. involvement in Yemen by sneaking a measure that would kill an anti-war resolution into a vote about wolves. On Tuesday night, the Republican-led House Rules Committee voted to advance the “Manage Our Wolves Act,” which will remove gray wolves from the endangered species list. The Rules Committee waived all points of order against the bill and voted to advance it to the floor. The catch: Republicans inserted language that would block a floor vote on whether to direct President Donald Trump to end U.S. involvement in the Saudi- and UAE-led intervention in Yemen. The intervention has been highly destructive, flattening homes, roads, markets, hospitals, and schools, and leading to the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. On Wednesday evening, the House approved the rule 201-187, largely on party lines, successfully blocking a vote on the Yemen resolution. In September, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., introduced the Yemen resolution, which would have directed the Trump administration to remove U.S. forces from “hostilities” related to the Saudi-led intervention. Because it invoked the 1973 War Powers Act, Khanna’s resolution was “privileged” under House Rules, meaning it could bypass a committee vote and, barring any interference from the powerful Rules Committee, get a vote on the floor. The Republican gambit caused Khanna’s resolution to be stripped of its “privileged” status, meaning that it did not come up for a vote on its own.

It's Not Enough - US Senate Proposes New Bill To Ban Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia - After previously on Thursday the Senate killed a proposal by Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) to block $300 million in US arms sales to Bahrain — a key Saudi coalition ally in the Yemen war — Senators proposed another bill that would suspend all US weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and block the refueling of Saudi warplanes bombing Yemen. Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee, led by Bob Menendez (R-New Jersey) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) introduced the “Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act of 2018” — also with the sponsorship of three Democrats — to hold the Saudis accountable for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Sen. Menendez had previously argued that Bahrain was a "critical ally" especially as the US Navy bases its Fifth Feel there, and that the missile systems the US provides the tiny GCC country had nothing to do with the military campaign in Yemen. One of Sen. Paul's supporters, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), argued that “It is long overdue that we end U.S. complicity in Saudi Arabia’s atrocities,” and said, “We must end all U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s genocidal war in Yemen now.” Paul's resolution failed 77-21 as it faced a veto threat from the White House and as its opposition argued Bahrain is the wrong target and needed US missile and anti-tank systems to curtail the threat from Iran. Menendez said the just announced sanctions against 17 Saudi nationals introduced by the White House were “not enough” in response to Khashoggi's death to ensure Riyadh properly investigates and ends its criminal behavior. Menendez described his bill as "putting teeth behind these demands with regular oversight, sanctions and suspension of weapons sales and refueling support.”

Saudi Arabia is slashing oil shipments to US, a tactic that boosts prices and may rile Trump --Saudi Arabia is slashing shipments of crude to the United States, a move that appears calibrated to boost oil prices after a swift and punishing sell-off. The move could put the kingdom at loggerheads with President Donald Trump, who wants to drive down energy costs for Americans and frequently accuses the Saudi-led OPEC cartel of jacking up oil prices. The Saudis are loading fewer barrels on ships bound for the United States this month, continuing a trend that began in September, according to an analysis by tanker-tracking firm ClipperData. The firm's loading estimate suggests that U.S. imports of Saudi crude oil could soon fall toward the lowest levels on record. Sending fewer barrels to the United States means U.S. crude stockpiles are more likely to drop, and shrinking inventories tend to push up oil prices. It's a tactic the Saudis used last year to amplify their main strategy for draining a global crude glut and propping up the market: cutting output alongside fellow OPEC members, Russia and several other producers. The maneuver shows how Saudi Arabia's efforts to manage the oil market have evolved. During the 2014-2016 oil price crash, traders closely monitored weekly U.S. stockpile data to see whether oversupply was shrinking or growing. As the world's biggest exporter, Saudi Arabia realized it could nudge the data in a direction that boosts the cost of crude. "It worked so well in 2017 for [the Saudis] to cut flows to the U.S. because people could see the inventories dropping because U.S. data is so timely and transparent,"

US has ‘gone rogue’ — Economist tells RT about SWIFT’s Iran cutoff - In pushing the SWIFT financial messaging system to exclude Iran, the US has “gone rogue,” economist Steve Keen told RT.   SWIFT cut a raft of Iranian banks - including the country’s central bank - off from its system on Monday, having come under pressure from the US to do so. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the move is “the right decision to protect the integrity of the international financial system.” Prof. Keen, an economist at Kingston University, told RT that while the global economy is too big to be badly affected by the move, the exclusion of Iran “will emphasise the danger of using a single national currency as the means for international payments.”“The USA is big enough to bully what should be an impartial means for monetary transactions between countries,” he added. “This should not be possible.” Unfortunately for Iran, it is possible. A Keynesian economist, Keen lays the blame with the American delegation who went to the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference, where the rules of the post-WWII economic order were decided.At the conference, British economist John Maynard Keynes proposed the creation of an International Clearing Union to regulate the balance of trade. The American team, led by Harry Dexter White, took a position of “absolutely no,” and Keynes’ dream died. “We are now seeing why Keynes was right,” Keen told RT. The SWIFT ban, the professor argues, should serve as a wakeup call to other countries that “the US has gone rogue, and cannot be allowed to dictate economic or political policy to the rest of the world.”

EU efforts to bypass US sanctions on Iran may be ineffective: John Bolton -- A European initiative aimed at bypassing U.S. sanctions on Iran is unlikely to meaningfully help the Islamic Republic, according to White House National Security Advisor John Bolton."We think the government is under real pressure and it's our intention to squeeze them very hard," Bolton told media in Singapore on Tuesday, expressing confidence that Washington's latest measures against Iran would put significantly pressure on its economy. "As the British say, squeeze them until the pips squeak."Several international corporations already decided to end their dealings with Tehran in May, when PresidentDonald Trump announced that he would be re-imposing sanctions on Iran."The position of some European governments is different from the position of their businesses," he said, suggesting that European firms were unlikely to do business with the Islamic state even if the initiative was introduced.The initiative — known as a "special purpose vehicle" — aims to facilitate payments related to Iran's exports and imports despite sanctions by the U.S.The bulk of European companies have more commercial links with the U.S. than with Iran, and it remains unclear how much impact the special purpose vehicle would have. The Iran nuclear accord was implemented in January 2016. Formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it removed international sanctions on the country in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. But when Trump abandoned the accord in May, European leaders scrambled to save the deal.

How Trump’s Game of Chicken With Iran Could Weaken the Dollar’s Role as the World’s Currency --Ever since the dollar replaced gold at the center of the global financial system, many outside the U.S. have complained about “dollar hegemony,”and the “exorbitant privilege” conferred on the U.S. by virtue of this hegemony. What do these phrases actually mean? Broadly speaking, both are used interchangeably as a euphemism for a handful of economic controls the U.S. has on the global economy, especially the fact that U.S. dollars remain the principal currency held as savings by foreign governments, companies and individuals. Another aspect of this is the industrialized world’s central payment system that has cemented the dollar’s central role in global finance, which is to say, the SWIFT system.The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, more commonly known by its acronym, SWIFT, is the dominant transmission network that connects more than 11,000 major financial institutions. It is a key component of this valued dollar liquidity as it provides the gateway to the Federal Reserve window (the means through which the world’s leading financial institutions borrow money). Although Brussels-based (and ostensibly neutral in a political sense), the board is dominated by U.S. financial institutions, and U.S. federal law gives the American government the capacity to shut down access to the system as part of its arsenal of potential sanctions. The U.S. has done that in the past with countries such as Cuba and, more recently, Iran.Here’s the problem with that: any attempts by the U.S. authorities to politicize or unilaterally shut down access to the SWIFT system as a means of securing U.S. policy objectives, as the US is doing today to Iran (and possibly Russia later)risks backfiring profoundly as far as preserving dollar hegemony. This is why:

  1. The more the U.S. seeks to sanction so-called “bad actors” by cutting off their access to SWIFT, the less the system itself will be viewed as a neutral international interbanking network, rather than an instrument of arbitrary U.S. power, and subject to the capricious whims of the U.S. government.
  2. As more and more countries begin to see SWIFT in these terms, it will inevitably induce moves to create an alternative. This will further diminish dollar liquidity, as well as enhancing liquidity for alternative currencies as they lend their support to this new system.

A $2bn Saudi Plan To Assassinate Iran's Leaders Involved Erik Prince And The Trump Transition Team -  An explosive New York Times story citing multiple unnamed sources familiar with the matter details how top Saudi intelligence officials conspired to assassinate Iranian leaders including Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) Quds force commander Qassim Suleimani in a plot wherein the Saudis mulled using private contractors, and even approached Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater and at the time adviser to the Trump transition team.The discussions took place around two years before the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as MbS was still deputy crown prince and defense minister, and was in the midst of ramping up intelligence operations outside the kingdom. During the March 2017 meeting about the plan to sabotage Iran’s economy, according to the three people familiar with the discussions, the Saudis asked the businessmen whether they also “conducted kinetics” — lethal operations — saying they were interested in killing senior Iranian officials. - NYT report.  According the Times report a group of international businessmen assisted then deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri (recently sacked over the Khashoggi murder) in shopping around the plan to private contractors and Western allies, specifically the United States, and ultimately aimed to "assassinate Iranian enemies of the kingdom" and try to "sabotage the Iranian economy". The program to use private operatives to wage a dirty tricks assassination and destabilization campaign against Tehran was pitched during initial secretive meetings for a contract that was worth $2 billion. According to the NYT report: During the discussion, part of a series of meetings where the men tried to win Saudi funding for their plan, General Assiri’s top aides inquired about killing Qassim Suleimani, the leader of the Quds force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and a man considered a determined enemy of Saudi Arabia. The Times identifies George Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman, and an Israeli named Joel Zamel, who has close ties to Israeli intelligence and owns a company called Psy-Group, as a couple of the key businessmen who attempted to move the plan forward. Notably both are witnesses in the Mueller investigation, but it's unclear if these late breaking revelations have anything to do with the probe.  Eventually, the businessmen would pitch the plan to the White House at a moment they thought they could gain a sympathetic ear in the then incoming Trump administration.

U.S. May Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Over S-400 Threat To F-35 - Turkish officials have repeatedly insisted that Ankara’s purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system poses no threat whatsoever to the NATO alliance. Last month, the Turkish defense ministry announced that delivery of S-400s to Turkey would begin in October 2019.The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform, and may impose sanctions against Ankara, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, citing a high-ranking source in Washington.“I can’t say for certain whether sanctions will be imposed on Ankara over the S-400 contract, but the possibility is there. The US administration is not optimistic about this issue,” the source said. While admitting that Turkey was a sovereign state and therefore had the right to make decisions on whom it buys its weapons from, the source stressed that from the perspective of these weapons’ integration with NATO systems, the S-400 was “problematic.”The source also characterized the deployment of S-400s in areas where US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters are set to fly as “a threat,” without elaborating.Emphasizing that negotiations between Washington and Ankara on the issue were “continuing,” the source said that there were also “positive tendencies” in negotiations between the two countries on the procurement of the Patriot system, Washington’s closest analogue to the S-400 in terms of capabilities.Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 km and altitudes of up to 30 km, the S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defense system in Russia’s arsenal. Russia and India signed a ruble-denominated contract on the delivery of five regiments of S-400s worth $5 billion late last month. Last week, the Saudi Ambassador to Russia said that talks on the sale of the system to his country were ongoing. In addition to Russia, S-400s are presently operated by Belarus and China, with Beijing expecting another delivery of S-400s by 2020.

Congress Likely to Shelve New Russia Sanctions as Clock Runs Out - Congress isn’t expected to pass legislation ordering new U.S. sanctions on Russia before the end of the year, as lawmakers focus instead on government spending measures, judicial nominations and a farm bill, key senators said. A bipartisan group of senators moved swiftly over the summer to assemble new proposals for Russia sanctions following President Donald Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. But as Congress enters the so-called lame duck period before newly elected lawmakers take office in January, time is running short for action on the bills. “We don’t have very much time,” John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s going to be a real race, unless everyone wants to stay here for Christmas.” Lawmakers were considering new sanctions legislation a little more than a year after the Republican-controlled Congress passed an aggressive measure that forced the Treasury Department to target wealthy people close to Putin -- so-called oligarchs. Trump, who has sought a warmer relationship with Putin, grudgingly signed it into law rather than face a possible override of his veto. The ruble jumped 1.5 percent to 67.1025 against the dollar as of 6:39 p.m. in Moscow on Wednesday, its strongest advance in two months and the best performance among emerging markets tracked by Bloomberg. Ten-year government bonds jumped the most since January 2016, cutting the yield 33 basis points to 8.70 percent. Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat who has been involved in talks on the sanctions legislation, also said Congress appeared to have no time left to pursue legislation this year.

Navarro tells Wall Street ‘globalist billionaires’ to end ‘shuttle diplomacy’ in U.S.-China trade war --White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Friday accused Wall Street "globalist billionaires" of trying to sabotage President Donald Trump's handling of trade relations with China.  "Consider the shuttle diplomacy that is now going on by a self-appointed group of Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers between the U.S. and China," Navarro said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  "As part of the Chinese government influence operations, globalist billionaires are putting a full-court press on the White House in advance of the G-20 in Argentina. The mission of these unregistered foreign agents … is to pressure this president into some kind of a deal," he said. The blustery language came ahead of a planned meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping later this month, which many hope will lead to a deescalation of trade tensions. However, Navarro seemed to downplay chances for major progress at the upcoming meeting. "How do you have a deal with somebody if they don’t even acknowledge your concerns," Navarro said.

White House Muzzles Peter Navarro After Larry Kudlow Smackdown - The White House has taken measures to minimize trade adviser Peter Navarro's public profile after a Tuesday clash with top economic adviser Larry Kudlow, according to CNBC, citing a person with knowledge of the matter.  Kudlow disavowed comments from Navarro, a known China hawk, who last week lambasted Wall Street influence in US-China trade negotiations. Last week, Navarro said a potential deal with China "will be on President Donald J. Trump's terms. Not Wall Street's terms." Navarro, who has taken an aggressive stance toward changes in the U.S. trade relationship with China, contended that "there will be a stench around any deal that's consummated" because of Wall Street's involvement. The comments helped to sink the stock market. -CNBC"He was not speaking for the president, nor was he speaking for the administration," Kudlow told CNBC on Tuesday. "His remarks were way off base. They were not authorized by anybody. I actually think he did the president a great disservice."Despite the barbs thrown by Kudlow, neither official is expected to leave the Trump administration anytime soon according to CNBC's source, however it was acknowledged that Trump "could also change his mind at any time about Navarro's role." Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are scheduled to meet later this month at the G-20 meeting in Argentina where the two leaders are expected to discuss trade. Trump - threatening to put tariffs on an additional $257 billion in Chinese imports, on top of $250 billion already in place - has pushed for Beijing to address rampant Chinese theft of American intellectual property, and to reduce the US trade deficit with China. According to journalist Bob Woodward's book, "Fear," this isn't the first time Navarro has been muzzled by the White House - as other officials such as chief of staff John Kelly has limited Navarro's access to Trump.

As Imports Of US Soybeans To China Plunge, Russian Farmers Pick Up The Slack - As was widely expected, China's decision to slap 25% tariffs on US soybeans has caused orders from Chinese importers to slow to a trickle as Chinese companies are slowly finding other markets to source the crops, which are typically ground into protein meal to feed China's massive population. And in addition to Brazil, which has seen exports to China rise as it surpasses the US as the world's largest producer of soybeans, Russia's nascent soybean industry is undergoing a boomlet at the expense of American producers. According to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the country's soybean producers could take over the market share that was effectively abandoned by the US when Trump launched his trade war with China, which, despite a tentative agreement for Trump to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping later this month, is showing no signs of slowing. As RT pointed out, China and Russia, which are already working together to increase bilateral trade denominated in their respective currencies, are also planning to work more closely to foster trade in agricultural goods, including pork, rice, poultry, fish. "Soybeans are in very big demand in China," Medvedev told reporters Wednesday during his three-day visit to China. "The Chinese market is huge as they import about 95 million tons of soybeans annually, including 30 million tons from the US." This comes as US shipments of soybeans to China reportedly shrank by more than 80% in September as the bite from the tariffs finally started to impact the market. "A certain part of the soy market has been made available. We agreed with the Chinese partners to hold a more active presence in this particular segment," Medvedev said, stressing that the step provides Russia with a good opportunity to boost soybean production. The latest federal data, through mid-October, shows American soybean sales to China have declined by 94 percent from last year’s harvest. Meanwhile, Russian exports are booming, with Russian farmers expected to harvest a record 3.9 million tons in the current season that ends in 2019.

 Frozen Out of China, American Farmers Refuse to Sell Their Soy - Caught smack in the middle of the U.S.-China trade war, America’s soybean farmers are taking a huge gamble. Rather than selling the crop right away as they pull it out of the ground -- as they do almost every harvest season to pay the bills -- they are instead stashing it in silos, containers, bins, bags, whatever they can get their hands on to keep it safe and dry. The hope is that over the next few months, trade tensions will ease, and China, the top market for the oilseed, will start buying from American farmers again, lifting depressed prices in the process. A bushel of soybeans fetched just $8.87 on Friday. Eight months ago, before trade tensions led to tariffs, it was about $2 more. The risks are great. While futures trading indicates higher prices next year, that could change depending on trade negotiations and rising supplies. Moreover, the crop could go bad on them. Soybeans are not corn. They don’t store nearly as well. If not kept super dry, they can take on moisture fast. Rot quickly follows, making them worthless -- and gross. “It smells like road kill,” said Wayne Humphreys, a farmer in Iowa. “It has the consistency of mashed potato, slick and mushy.” Still, Humphreys is going to put as much of his harvest in silos as he possibly can because he likes to time his sales to the market. “It gives you a certain amount of control,” he said. The scramble for storage comes just as soy production is reaching a record. American growers are trying to recover as overall farm income is projected to fall for the fourth time in five years. Chinese appetite for soybeans, used in everything from hog feed to cooking oil, had once been a bright spot. But with the onset of tariffs, the country’s imports of the oilseed from the U.S. have plunged, falling almost 90 percent in September from last year. For some farmers, there is little choice but to keep their harvest. Millions of bushels have nowhere to go. Terminals in Portland, a key outlet in the Pacific Northwest to ship to China, are rarely offering bids. Supplies are backed up at terminals and elevators, even as cold, wet weather in North Dakota has left many acres unharvested. The country’s soybean inventories are expected to more than double to about 955 million bushels by the end of this crop year, according to the USDA.

Odds on a Trade Truce: Soybean Edition -  Menzie Chinn - The gap between US and Brazil soybean prices is (finally) shrinking:  Source: CNBC.  CNBC notes: “Narrowing US-Brazil soybean price differentials imply greater market optimism on the potential for a Trump-Xi trade deal or at least a de-escalation of US-Sino trade tensions in advance of the G20. This positive sentiment stands somewhat in contrast to other asset markets, including equities,” the Citi strategists wrote. The gap last week was 13-15% while the tariff implies a wedge of 25%, given durable tariffs and no tariff evasion. Is the market justified in its optimism? This account from BI made me wonder.[A]s soybean prices plummeted in August, and Trump threatened to hit China with more tariffs, Aistrope dropped his chores and jumped on a plane to China for a trade mission arranged by the US Grains Council, a industry group financed in part with taxpayer money.  He spent 10 days traveling with other farmers, visiting two dairy farms and meeting importers at a large feed maker.They struck no deals; Chinese importers said they saw buying US soybeans as politically untenable even if their prices continue to fall. Aistrope was left to hope his visit might make a difference in winning buyers back if the trade war ends.That indicates to me that despite price discounts that have been and might be offered in the future, the Chinese government would exert tremendous “moral suasion” to dissuade importers from buying US soybeans. Further, the Chinese government is unlikely in my view (based on my untutored view of what “losing face” means) to capitulate in the absence of substantial concessions, concessions I do not see Mr. Trump offering.  In any case, we will see. It is an interesting experiment. Too bad some people have to suffer.

Kudlow Says U.S. and China Talking ‘At All Levels’ on Trade -  The U.S. and China have resumed contact “at all levels” over trade ahead of a planned meeting between President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said. There’s no certainty that China will cede to U.S. demands in trade negotiations, but “it’s better to talk than to not talk,” Kudlow said in an interview on CNBC Tuesday. A top Chinese negotiator, Liu He, will probably visit Washington shortly to advance “some informal talks,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said at a conference. “We are talking to them again,” Kudlow said. “We’re having communications at all levels of the U.S. and Chinese government” to prepare for the Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Argentina, taking place Nov. 30-Dec. 1. Kudlow added that he won’t make a prediction on the outcome of discussions. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Liu, the Chinese vice premier, spoke by phone on Friday, according to people briefed on the matter, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the topic. The conversation didn’t yield any concrete results, the people said. The phone discussion followed a call between Trump and Xi two weeks ago -- the first publicly disclosed call in six months. U.S. stocks struggled to hold early gains on Tuesday after oil prices slumped, just as hopes were rising for progress in the American-China trade dispute. Talks between the two nations have made little progress since May, when Trump halted a deal that would have seen China buy more energy and agricultural goods to narrow the trade deficit. In Beijing, Trump’s move was seen as an insult to Xi, who sent Liu to Washington for the negotiations, and cemented a view that Trump’s real goal was to thwart China’s rise.

China sends written response to U.S. trade reform demands - U.S. government sources (Reuters) - China has delivered a written response to U.S. demands for wide-ranging trade reforms, three U.S. government sources said on Wednesday, a move that could trigger more formal negotiations to resolve a withering trade war between the world’s top economies. U.S. President Donald Trump has imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese imports to force concessions from Beijing on the list of demands that would change the terms of trade between the two countries. China has responded with import tariffs on U.S. goods. Trump is expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Argentina at the end of November and in early December. The U.S. president has repeatedly railed against Beijing over intellectual property theft, industrial subsidies, Chinese entry barriers to American businesses and the U.S. trade deficit with China. Three U.S. government sources told Reuters on Wednesday that China had sent a response to U.S. demands on those and other issues, but gave no further details on its contents. It was unclear if the response contained concessions that would satisfy Trump’s demands for change. While two industry sources familiar with the contents of the response said it was largely a restatement of previous Chinese commitments, it was seen as a necessary starting point for continued negotiations. The two sides have been far apart during their months-long tariff dispute. One of the sources briefed on China’s response said it reiterated pledges Xi has made in recent speeches, and demanded that the United States lift tariffs, including those set by the Section 232 investigation into steel and aluminum imports. “They are not close to a favorable deal on trade. Not in the same universe,” the Washington-based source said. A U.S. team led by Treasury Under Secretary David Malpass discussed trade issues with a Chinese team via videoconference on Tuesday, a U.S. Treasury spokesperson said on Wednesday. 

Trump’s envoys issue ultimatums to China and other Asian countries - A series of Indo-Pacific summits in Singapore and Papua New Guinea this week has been overshadowed by belligerent accusations and demands issued by the Trump administration’s representatives, Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Advisor John Bolton. US President Donald Trump is himself boycotting the gatherings, instead sending his envoys to effectively veto any agreements struck by the region’s governments, particularly economic deals with China or settlements over contested territory in the highly-strategic South China Sea.Pence and Bolton insisted that China had to bow to far-reaching US economic and military demands, or face a new “Cold War.” They said Washington would not tolerate any regional agreements that cut across “US interests” or its escalating military activities. As these threats indicate, a conflict with China would almost certainly involve a military war, not just a “Cold War.”Pence even used his arrival flight, from Japan to Singapore, to provocatively fly over the South China Sea only 80 kilometres or so from the Spratly Islands, where China has erected defence facilities. He told the Washington Post journalist on his plane that the flight was a “freedom of navigation” mission.Over the past year, under the misleading banner of “freedom of navigation,” the Trump administration has stepped up naval and air force incursions within territorial zones around Chinese-claimed and occupied islets—confrontational operations that began under the Obama administration. “We will not be intimidated,” Pence said. “We will not stand down.” When the reporter asked him what would happen if Beijing did not agree to act in a way that could avoid a “Cold War” with the United States, Pence replied: “Then so be it. We are here to stay.”

With Trump sitting nearby, Macron calls nationalism a betrayal (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron used an address to world leaders gathered in Paris for Armistice commemorations on Sunday to send a stern message about the dangers of nationalism, calling it a betrayal of moral values. With U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin sitting just a few feet away listening to the speech via translation earpieces, Macron denounced those who evoke nationalist sentiment to disadvantage others. “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism: nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism,” Macron said in a 20-minute address delivered from under the Arc de Triomphe to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. “By pursuing our own interests first, with no regard to others’, we erase the very thing that a nation holds most precious, that which gives it life and makes it great: its moral values.” Trump, who has pursued “America First” policies since entering the White House and in the run-up to the congressional elections this month declared himself a “nationalist”, sat still and stony-faced in the front row as Macron spoke. There was no immediate response from either the White House or the Kremlin to Macron’s comments.

Angry Trump Slams Europe- US Must Be Treated Fairly Or Europe Must Protect Themselves - What was supposed to be a solemn visit to honor the 16 million soldiers who died during World War I alongside a coterie of world leaders in Paris was overshadowed by a mini-scandal surrounding President Trump's missing an Armistice ceremony at an American military cemetery for purely cosmetic reasons (Trump reportedly didn't want to get his hair wet during the ceremony which was held in pouring rain, though the White House maintained that he missed the beginning of the ceremony for security purposes). Given the media's focus on Trump's purported vanity at the expense of nearly every other detail from Trump's visit, it's hardly surprising that the president has returned to the US rather agitated, and decided to lash out at his European partners in a series of tweets Monday morning. While he said that his meetings with fellow world leaders were productive, Trump noted that it's "never easy" to raise the issue that the US foots most of the bill for military protections in Europe thanks to its outsize shouldering of the cost burden of funding NATO. Adding insult to injury, the US is paying "hundreds of billions of dollars" for the privilege of "losing hundreds of billions of dollars" with these countries on trade. Trump demanded that, going forward, the US must be treated fairly on military spending and trade. It is time, Trump said, for these countries to either pony up, or find a way to start protecting themselves.

Trump’s Tweets About Macron Show Aides Aren’t Reining Him In - President Donald Trump’s continued misguided tweets on the subject of a pan-European army suggest Europe really does face a threat from the U.S.: in particular, the ignorance at the very top of America’s political and military hierarchy. On Tuesday, Trump renewed an attack on Emmanuel Macron sparked by a misunderstanding of comments the French president made last week. @realDonaldTrump: Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two - How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!  6:50 AM - Nov 13, 2018   This was followed by some ambiguous praise for French nationalism and criticism of European import tariffs. But those are normal for Trump; as a resident of Europe, his intemperate tweets raise doubts about whether the president really is reined in by “adults in the room,” advisers who will somehow convince him that rash actions based on his misunderstandings are inadvisable.

As Trump Threatens Car Tariffs, Europe Prepares to Strike Back — Europe’s top trade diplomat is bracing for a trade war with the United States and said on Wednesday that the European Union was preparing to strike back if President Trump followed through with his threat to impose tariffs on Europe’s cars. The European Union and the United States are meeting this week to try to lay the foundation for trade talks that would reduce tariffs on a range of industrial goods. But as Mr. Trump and members of his administration vent about the pace of negotiations and continue dangling potential auto tariffs, the Europeans have begun drawing up a list of American products they would tax if the trade dispute escalates. “We have already suffered from the tariffs on steel and aluminum, and we think that they are deeply unjustified,” Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Union trade commissioner, told reporters in Washington on Wednesday. Europe has already challenged the United States at the World Trade Organization over its imposition of 10 percent tariffs on aluminum and 25 percent on steel and has retaliated with tariffs on American goods like peanut butter, whiskey and orange juice. “We would do the same were we to be targets of tariffs on cars and car parts,” Ms. Malmstrom said. Ms. Malmstrom said that she had prepared a draft list of American sectors that could face retaliation but that they needed to be approved by member states of the European Union. While she would not detail the products, she said that Europe could retaliate against a range of American goods, including autos and agriculture, and that the response would be fully compatible with World Trade Organization rules.

Greenspan Says Trump's Tariffs Are Insane – Mish - Throughout his career, Greenspan has mostly been a contrarian indicator. But he has been consistently right about trade. Alan Greenspan says Trump's Tariff Policies are ‘Insane’ and I agree.  Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan called President Donald Trump’s tariff policies “insane” and said “why we’re doing it probably is very deep in the psyche of somebody.”Responding to a question about China at an event in New York on Wednesday, he said both sides lose out in such a clash.“It’s an excise tax, and people think of tariffs other than what it is, it’s a tax and everybody engaged in warfare of this type, it would mean that you’re withdrawing credit or purchasing power from a whole series of countries,” Greenspan said at New York University. “There are victors and there are losers in a tariff fight, but that doesn’t say that a more important issue is both are losing, it’s just the winner loses less.”Greenspan also said the notion that China would outrace the U.S. in all economic respects “is a mistake,” pointing to their lower gross domestic product per capital. Greenspan is correct on that as well.

 Hoping for a trade war truce at G-20? Don't hold your breath - The Group of 20 (G-20) Leaders' Summit scheduled to convene on Nov. 30 in Buenos Aires will place President Donald Trump in the same room with President Xi Jinping of China. Cast in the spotlight of the media glare, observers will watch carefully the interactions between Trump and Xi and whether or not signs of a breakthrough will occur in the current trade war that embroils both countries. To unpack this, it may be good to draw a scorecard as to the impact on both the United States and China to date. China’s response to the imposition of import tariffs has been swift and targeted. A wide variety of American-made products have been hit with tariffs by China. Most notably, agricultural commodities, like soybeans, and energy products, like liquified natural gas (LNG), have borne the brunt of China’s retaliatory response. In the American farm belt, mountains of unsold soybeans lie in storage, waiting for a buyer. Banks that lend to the farm economy are signaling non-performing loans are on the rise, a sign that stress levels in the farm economy are rising. The over-supply of soybeans on global markets is compounded by the large-scale expansion of capacity in Brazil, where a landmass equivalent to the size of Texas has been converted to farmland over the past 10 years. In the U.S. oil patch, the LNG gas sector has taken a hit as Chinese energy firms have stopped purchasing American LNG gas and ramped up their LNG purchases from Qatar. The impact of the trade war on China’s economy is also starting to take hold. China’s overall economy is slowing down. The closely watched Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) has been trending downward since the start of 2018. A downward-sloping PMI suggests a slowdown in manufacturing activity. China’s banking sector is also signaling growing non-performing loans, an indicator of stress in the banking sector. Policy mandates emanating from Beijing all signal retrenchment and belt-tightening as China prepares for further impact of the ongoing trade war. Specifically, President Xi has directed the injection of more liquidity into the banking system to shore up deteriorating conditions, and he's urged banks to increase their lending to small- and medium-sized enterprises that are particularly exposed to the impact of U.S. tariffs. China has also put currency controls in place, making it hard for individuals and companies to convert yuan to dollars and move those dollars out of China.

Central American Migrants Are Not Your Enemy - To All Active Duty Soldiers: Your commander in chief is lying to you. You should refuse his orders to deploy to the southern US border should you be called to do so. Despite what Trump and his administration are saying, the migrants moving north towards the US are not a threat. These small numbers of people are escaping intense violence. In fact, much of the reason these men and women — with families just like yours and ours — are fleeing their homes is because of the US’s meddling in their countries. Look no further than Honduras, where the Obama administration supported the overthrow of a democratically elected president who was then replaced by a repressive leader. These extremely poor and vulnerable people are desperate for peace. Who among us would walk a thousand miles with only the clothes on our back without great cause? The odds are good that your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. lived similar experiences. Your family members came to the US to seek a better life. Some fled violence. Consider this as you are asked to confront these unarmed men, women, and children from Central America. To do so would be the ultimate hypocrisy. The US is the richest country in the world, in part because it has exploited countries in Latin America for decades. If you treat people from these countries like criminals, as Trump hopes you will, you will only contribute to the legacy of pillage and plunder beneath our southern border. We need to confront this history together. Above all else, we cannot turn these people away at our door. By every moral or ethical standard, it is your duty to refuse orders to “defend” the US from these migrants. History will look kindly upon you if you do. There are thousands, if not millions, of us who will support your decision to lay your weapons down. Our only advice is to resist in groups. Organize with your fellow soldiers. Do not go this alone. It is much harder to punish the many than the few. 

Pentagon chief heads to border as first refugees from caravan arrive --Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the US defense secretary, defended the Trump administration’s deployment of nearly 6,000 active duty US troops to the US border with Mexico to turn back refugees as a “moral and ethical mission” as well as good training for deployment to wars abroad.The Pentagon chief spoke Wednesday as he traveled to south Texas to review some of the active duty US troops who have been sent to the border with Mexico to block the entry of refugees and migrants fleeing conditions of repression, violence and grinding poverty in Central America.Accompanying Mattis was Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who, according to a Washington Post report is about to be fired from her post because of the belief on the part of Trump and some of his right-wing aides that she has been insufficiently ruthless in the implementation of the administration’s anti-immigrant measures. The visit coincided with the arrival at the US border of the first contingent from the main caravan that departed from Honduras on October 13. Nearly 400 Central American migrants reached Tijuana on Tuesday aboard nine buses. They were preceded by a smaller group of some 80 LGBT migrants who reached the border city two days earlier.The bulk of the migrants traveling in caravans—self-organized groups of men, women and children who have banded together for reasons of solidarity and security as they make the perilous trip through Mexico—are still over 1,000 miles away from the US border. Some are moving northward through the Mexican state of Sinaloa along the Pacific Coast route toward Tijuana. Approximately 1,300 are resting in a Mexico City sports stadium, with plans to get back on the road on Friday.

7-Eleven accused of weaponizing ICE raids to shed troublesome franchisees Most of America's 9,000 7-Eleven stores are owned by franchisees, many of them immigrants; the owners' contracts with 7-Eleven corporate allows the company to pull their franchises if they violate US law. The current CEO of 7-Eleven is Joe DePinto, a West Point grad who got the job in 2005 and has spent his tenure slowly tightening the screw on franchisees, demanding business practices that return more profit to corporate HQ at the expense of the independent operators. As the franchisees have felt the sting, they've fought back, suing the company over DePinto's policies. DePinto has become legendary for his dirty tricks campaign to get rid of his least-favored franchisees, from hiring private eyes to making secret recordings. Now the franchisees allege that DePinto has started snitching on his own franchisees to ICE, directing government immigration raids against 7-Eleven stores. If these franchise owners are found to have illegally hired undocumented immigrants, DePinto can cancel their franchise agreements and kick them out of the business and take over their stores. The evidence is circumstantial and 7-Eleven denies it, but ICE's raids on 7-Eleven stores have targeted owners who have made trouble for the company. When Carter Anderson paused and asked if anyone had questions, Serge Haitayan took a microphone. He owns a 7-Eleven on a highway lined by grape farms in Fresno, Calif. Last year he joined Sandhu in the lawsuit alleging 7-Eleven was wrongly treating them like employees. On July 16 of this year, three federal agents walked into the little store he’s operated for 28 years, giving him three days to produce employee records dating back a year. He did that, and he hasn’t heard from ICE since. “Why is immigration targeting 7-Eleven?” Haitayan asked Carter Anderson, drawing a rumbling of support. “Why?”

 654 Central American Migrants Detained After Crossing Arizona Border - 654 Central American migrants were apprehended over a two-day period this week after they crossed into the United States near the Lukeville, Arizona port of entry, according to Yuma Sector Border Patrol officials. Notably, however, they are not part of the Central American migrant caravans which have begun to arrive in Tijuana. As Breitbart's Bob Price reports, the mostly Guatemalan migrants exploited weaknesses in the older border wall infrastructure, while also crossing over the Colorado River in shallow areas.  The apprehensions began during the evening of November 12 after border agents observed approximately 55 Central Americans crossing the Colorado River. The migrants were taken into custody after walking around makeshift vehicle barriers set up because there is no other infrastructure that would otherwise deter pedestrian crossings. Just as quickly as #CBP #Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents put up new structural deterrents the smugglers cut it down #NationalSecurity #SouthwestBorder— CBP Arizona (@CBPArizona) November 14, 2018  While the 654 migrants apprehended on Monday and Tuesday are mostly from Guatemala, officials said they are not part of the larger caravans making their way northward through Mexico. Instead, they are part of the massively increasing numbers of migrants who cross the Arizona border on a near-daily basis.In October 2018, Border Patrol agents in the Yuma Sector apprehended 3,613 migrants who illegally crossed the border between ports of entry, according to the Southwest Border Migration Report published by CBP last week. This is up from 1,536 in October 2017 — an increase of more than 135 percent. –Breitbart On Wednesday we reported that the first waves of Central American migrants traveling in a caravan had arrived in Tijuana, while dozens of people began to scale the border fence with San Diego

U.S. Navy Refused to Help Sinking Migrant Boat That Capsized, Killing Dozens, Survivors Say The U.S. Navy faces allegations that one of its ships—the USNS Trenton—ignored distress calls from a sinking migrant dinghy that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea in June, killing 76 people. Survivors of the disaster claimed that the Trenton refused to come to their assistance until the packed migrant ship had already sunk, suggesting lives could have been saved had the Navy acted sooner. Prosecutors on the Italian island of Sicily investigated the allegations, made in a video published by La Republica in October, The Guardian reported. The U.S. Navy ship rescued 42 people when the dinghy sank, but survivors said the 76 deaths could have been averted. “We saw that ship, it was not far away,’’ one person said. “We saw the American flag. If they had rescued us when we were all still onboard, 76 people would not have died.” The small boat was traveling from Libya with 117 migrants aboard, many from sub-Saharan Africa. It had been at sea for days when it began taking on water in the early hours of June 12. “The sea was rough and our boat began to fill with water,” one survivor said, “and we suddenly saw a ship; it was an American ship.” Those aboard tried to get the Trenton’s attention for around an hour, the survivors said, but were unsuccessful. “We saw the American flag, and we tried to reach them, but as we approached, they seemed to avoid us and changed direction,” claimed one. Rescued migrants said the cruiser returned to the scene around half an hour after the dinghy capsized. “We clearly saw the same American ship that had ignored us approaching,’’ one man said. When they asked the sailors why they had not intervened before the dinghy capsized, the survivors claimed the Trenton’s crew said “it was not their job.”

All The Democrats' Investigations- House Ready To Let The Subpoenas Fly Early Next Year - As Nancy Pelosi made abundantly clear before her party wrested control of the House on Tuesday, the Democrats will waste little time before they "let the subpoenas fly" after taking control of the House in January. So many potential investigation threads have been reported in the media, that it can be difficult to keep track. We already know that Democrats are planning to investigate Trump's ties to his business and whether he profited off foreign dignitaries. Trump's tax returns are expected to be targeted (Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee could invoke an arcane Congressional rule to force the IRS to hand over Trump's returns), and - of course - his mysterious ties with Russia. And who could forget the FBI's handling of the expanded Kavanaugh background check, where Democrats suspect that the White House and/or Senate Republicans interceded to exclude certain key "witnesses" (none of whom are believed to have actually witnessed Kavanaugh sexually assault women). Well, to this list we can add a couple more possibilities. Because in an interview with Axios' new HBO Sunday politics show, incoming House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff revealed that Dems are planning to extensively investiagate whether Trump's blood feud with the US media drove him to commit potentially illegal acts. For starters, they're planning to investigate Trump's crackdown on the press following his White House briefing room battle with CNN's Jim Acosta (which resulted in Acosta having his credentials revoked), his efforts to browbeat the Postmaster General into raising shipping rates on Amazon packages (in an effort to get back at the Washington Post), and any role he might have played in the DOJ's decision to try and stop the merger of Time Warner and AT&T (Time Warner owns CNN).

Democrats Say Their First Bill Will Focus On Strengthening Democracy At Home - Democrats will take control of the U.S. House in January with big items topping their legislative to-do list: Remove obstacles to voting, close loopholes in government ethics law and reduce the influence of political money. Party leaders say the first legislative vote in the House will come on H.R. 1, a magnum opus of provisions that Democrats believe will strengthen U.S. democratic institutions and traditions. "It's three very basic things that I think the public wants to see," said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), who spearheads campaign finance and government ethics efforts for the House Democratic Caucus. He said H.R. 1 will "demonstrate that we hear that message loud and clear." But even Sarbanes admits the quick vote is just a first step. Republicans, who control the Senate, are unlikely to pass the bill and President Trump is unlikely to sign it. "Give us the gavel in the Senate in 2020 and we'll pass it in the Senate," Sarbanes said. "Give us a pen in the Oval Office and we'll sign those kinds of reforms into law."

 'A Staggeringly Bad Idea': Outrage as Pelosi Pushes Tax Rule That Would 'Kneecap the Progressive Agenda'  --Nearly three-quarters of the American public and a historic number of Democratic lawmakers support Medicare for All, but the House Democratic leadership is considering using its newly won majority to impose a rule that would "recklessly betray" the grassroots forces that put them in power by making single-payer and other progressive priorities impossible to enact. According to a list of Democratic proposals obtained by the Washington Post, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—who is currently fighting back against efforts to prevent her from becoming House Speaker—is pushing for a rule that would "require a three-fifths supermajority to raise individual income taxes on the lowest-earning 80 percent of taxpayers."In response, called the proposal "a staggeringly bad idea."Though the proposed rule is framed as an effort to protect the financial well-being of middle class Americans, Eric Levitz of New York Magazine pointed out that "while progressives are committed to increasing the discretionary income of the bottom 80 percent, that does not necessarily mean keeping their tax rates frozen at historically low levels.""A bill that required those households to pay a new, smaller monthly sum to the government—so as to fund a single-payer system that would actually reduce their cost of living by delivering radically cheaper healthcare services—could hardly be called regressive," Levitz notes. "And the same can be said for legislation establishing universal child care, paid family leave, or any other program aimed at easing the middle class's financial burdens."  "Equating support for middle-class families—with opposition to increasing their tax rates—is a conservative project, which Democrats have no business advancing," Levitz added. "If the party wishes to establish structural barriers to policies that would hurt the middle class, why not require a three-fifths majority to cut Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security?"

‘No Blame’? ABC News finds 17 cases invoking ‘Trump’ in connection with violence, threats or alleged assaults  - President Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to accept any responsibility for inciting violence in American communities, dismissing critics who have pointed to his rhetoric as a potential source of inspiration for some citizens acting on bigoted beliefs.   Little more than a week ago, he insisted he deserves "no blame" for what he called the "hatred" seemingly coursing through parts of the country, and outside of the White House on Friday, Trump accused news outlets of fomenting the very violence they've been asking him about.  But a nationwide review conducted by ABC News has identified at least 17 criminal cases where Trump's name was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.   Nearly all -- 16 of 17 -- cases identified by ABC News are striking in that court documents and direct evidence reflect someone echoing presidential rhetoric, not protesting it. ABC News was unable to find any such case echoing presidential rhetoric when Barack Obama or George W. Bush were in the White House.  The perpetrators and suspects identified in the 17 cases are mostly white men, as young as teenagers and as old as 68, while the victims represent an array of minority groups -- African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims and gay men.  Federal law enforcement authorities have privately told ABC News they worry that -- even with Trump's public denunciations of violence -- Trump's style could inspire violence-prone individuals to take action against minorities or others they perceive to be against the president's agenda.   While asserting that "fake" media coverage is exacerbating divisions in the country, Trump has noted that "a fan" of former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders opened fire on Republican lawmakers playing baseball in a Washington suburb last year.  "Nobody puts ... 'Bernie Sanders' in the headline with the maniac," Trump said last week. But there's no indication the shooter mentioned Sanders while launching his attack, and no criminal case was ever brought because he was fatally shot during his assault.  In identifying the 17 Trump-related cases, ABC News excluded incidents where charges were never brought and incidents of Trump-inspired vandalism.

CNN sues Trump administration over pulling Acosta press pass - CNN on Tuesday sued the Trump administration, demanding that it restore the press credentials of chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta. The suit escalates a long-running feud between President Trump and CNN and could test the limits of the president's ability to crack down on news organizations whose coverage he does not like. In the filing in Washington, D.C., District Court, CNN accuses Trump and other administration officials of violating Acosta's First and Fifth Amendment rights of free speech and due process, respectively, and asks a federal court in Washington to grant the "immediate restoration of Acosta’s press credentials." "While the suit is specific to CNN and Acosta, this could have happened to anyone," the cable network said in a statement. "If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials." Judge Timothy J. Kelly, a Trump appointee, will hold an initial hearing on the case on Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m., according to a court filing. Kelly ordered the Trump administration to respond by 11 a.m. to the network’s request for a temporary restraining order that would immediately return Acosta’s press pass, and the judge will consider the request during Wednesday's hearing. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed the legal action as "just more grandstanding from CNN" and pledged the administration "will vigorously defend against this lawsuit."

Fox News, other outlets back CNN’s lawsuit against Trump administration - Fox News joined a number of media outlets on Wednesday in announcing that they would back rival CNN’s lawsuit against the Trump administration.Fox News President Jay Wallace said in a statement that the network intends to file an amicus brief with a U.S. District Court in the lawsuit.CNN filed suit against the White House on Tuesday seeking the return of correspondent Jim Acosta’s press credentials, which were revoked last week after a testy exchange with President Trump during a press conference.“FOX News supports CNN in its legal effort to regain its White House reporter’s press credential. We intend to file an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court. Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized," Wallace said. "While we don’t condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the President and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people.”NBC News, The Associated Press, Bloomberg, Gannett, The New York Times, Politico, USA Today, The Washington Post and other outlets also plan to sign on to an amicus brief supporting CNN's lawsuit, according to a release from Ballard Spahr LLP, a law firm representing the outlets.

Trump and Big Media: Clash or Collusion? - CNN’s Jim Acosta has had his White House press credentials suspended following a tense exchange with Trump on Wednesday. CNN, the White House Correspondents’ Association and others have denounced the move.CNN says it’s “Facts First.” That’s about as believable as Trump’s claim of “America First.” Some see aggressive journalism here. I see media logrolling, and “frenemies” at play.On a superficial level, I empathize with Acosta. At press conferences I try to ask tough questions. At State Department briefings, spokeswoman Heather Nauert has carefully avoided calling on me, especially afterthis exchange when she refused to say what State’s position was on torture and evaded criticizing Saudi Arabia and Israel.I was suspended from the National Press Club for a time (the ethics committee eventually overturned it) after confronting a Saudi autocrat at the start of the Arab uprisings. And this summer I was forcibly ejected from the Trump-Putin news conference in Helsinki for nothing more than carrying a sign with the subject of my question — a tactic I hoped would increase my chances of getting called on.Acosta seems eager for solidarity just now.  This is interesting in part because of how he and his network failed to extend that same solidarity to me that day in Helsinki. Among other things, after I was forced out of the room, while clutching my sign, “Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty,” Anderson Cooper asked Acosta what was going on. Acosta said I was being forced out and described me as“a man who identified himself with The Nation, a progressive publication. I’m not sure if that’s accurate, that’s how he represented himself.” He added, “He said the reason I’m being removed — talking about himself obviously — is that he had a sign.”  Acosta then speculated on live TV that, “It appears he was being removed from the room because he was carrying some kind of protest sign and he planned on causing a commotion.” Acosta suggested that I was a “journalist or posing as a journalist” who was “not willing to go on his own volition,” effectively implying I was to blame for the “scuffle” and that Finnish police were justified in removing me.

Copy-Paste Error Reveals Assange Has Already Been Charged in the US - Mere hours after the Wall Street Journal reported that the DOJ was preparing to indict Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange, the Washington Post discovered that Assange has already been charged under seal by the Eastern District of Virginia, which has been handling the yearslong probe into Wikileaks’ disclosures of classified government information.The revelation was apparently the result of a copy-and-paste error in another, unrelated, court filing, according to Seamus Hughes. That case involved Seitu Sulayman Kokayi, a 29-year-old who had been charged with both enticing a 15-year-old girl into sex by sending him pornographic images while also having “substantial interest in terrorist acts.” Assistant US Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer, urging a judge to keep the matter sealed, wrote that “due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged.” Later in the filing, Dwyer wrote that the charges would “need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested.”

Melania Trump leads new round of White House firing and fury - In this White House, no one knows when the ax will fall or who will be swinging it. A new day of firing and fury culminating in a staggering power play by first lady Melania Trump deepened already historic dysfunction in the administration on Tuesday, leaving top officials blindsided and confused. Even compared with the senior staff knifings, bureaucratic turmoil and raging chaos that passes for normality in President Donald Trump's White House,her sudden move against a top foreign policy official was a bombshell. In a public statement that came out of nowhere, the first lady's office warned that deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel, with whom she reportedly clashed over a recent Africa trip, "no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House." Her dramatic intervention sparked speculation that the first lady was at odds with her husband, was overstepping her role and that the East Wing was going rogue. Melania Trump had already said in an ABC interview last month that she didn't trust some White House staffers. Now, she is doing something about it. One person told CNN that, incredibly, Trump, chief of staff John Kelly and White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders had no idea the statement was coming. A source told CNN's Jeff Zeleny that Trump -- who often finds it difficult to fire people in person despite his schtick on NBC's "The Apprentice" -- had decided that Ricardel has to go, though she was being given time to clear her desk. But as is often the case in this poorly run White House, there was uncertainty over Ricardel's actual fate. It was not clear on Wednesday morning whether she had been officially dismissed, whether she would show up for work as usual or if she might be found a spot elsewhere in the administration.

Melania Trump's hidden hand just became not so hidden - Melania Trump is, without question, the most enigmatic and least-known first lady in modern memory. She is deeply private, rarely offering even the slightest glimpse into what she thinks about her husband's administration -- or the country as a whole. All of which is what makes what Melania did -- through her communications director Stephanie Grisham -- on Tuesday sooooooo fascinating. "It is the position of the office of the first lady that [deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel] no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House," said Grisham. And boom goes the dynamite!  Within hours, Ricardel, who had reportedly clashed with the first lady and her staff during a recent trip to Africa, was gone -- off the White House grounds and widely rumored to have been fired.   The removal of Ricardel may well signal the opening gambit in a broader staff shakeup in the White House, with chief of staff John Kelly and Kirstjen Nielsen, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, rumored to also be on their way out amid Trump's unhappiness with their respective performances.  But Ricardel's unceremonious ouster offers surefire proof of one thing: Cross Melania Trump and you are going to get got.

Top Dems Melt Down Over Whitaker-Mueller Unconstitutional Oversight - Top Democrats encouraged the Justice Department's top ethics official to disclose whether he thinks newly appointed acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker should recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation. In a Sunday letter signed by Democratic lawmakers Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Jerry Nadler, Dianne Feinstein, Adam Schiff, Mark Warner and Elijah Cummings, Whitaker should be disqualified from taking control of the special counsel investigation over comments he made in June and July, 2017. "Mr. Whitaker has a history of hostile statements toward Special Counsel Mueller's investigation, including televised statements suggesting the investigation be defunded or subjected to strict limitations in scope," reads the letter, pointing first to a June 9, 2017 statement by Whitaker during an appearance on a radio show in which he said "There is no criminal obstruction of justice charge to be had here. The evidence is weak. No reasonable prosecutor would bring a case." Then, in a July 26, 2017 statement, Whitaker said that he "could see a scenario where Jeff Sessions is replaced with a recess appointment and that attorney general doesn't fire Bob Mueller but he just reduces his budget so low that his investigations grinds almost to a halt." The letter goes on to note that Whitaker has referred to the special counsel investigation as "a mere witch hunt," as well as an opinion article he wrote entitled "Mueller's Investigation of Trump Is Going Too Far." 

Whitaker Dismissing Notion He’ll Starve Mueller’s Probe of Money - Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has told associates that the Justice Department under his leadership won’t cut the budget for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference, said a person familiar with the matter. It’s a signal that some of the worst fears that critics have about Whitaker’s potential to interfere with Mueller’s probe won’t come true in the immediate aftermath of the former DOJ chief of staff being chosen to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In July 2017, Whitaker said during an interview on CNN that he could envision a scenario in which an acting attorney general doesn’t fire Mueller but “just reduces his budget to so low that his investigations grind to almost a halt.” Whitaker’s telling associates he won’t follow that course now that he has the job, but will allow Mueller’s probe to continue. It’s unclear how close Mueller is to wrapping up his work as he faces growing calls from President Donald Trump and other Republicans to finish quickly. Mueller’s investigation cost more than $16 million during its first year, according to figures released by the Justice Department in May. According to the department’s most recent report, $10 million was spent from Oct. 1, 2017, through March 31. Mueller’s direct spending during that period was about $4.5 million; the rest reflects spending by Justice Department components in support of his investigation. The department said the components would have incurred those expenses even if the special counsel didn’t exist -- an indication of how embedded investigative activities are within the department. It’s unclear to what degree Whitaker could shut off funds for Mueller. The special counsel’s budget for fiscal 2019 has already been approved by the Justice Department.

Maryland Sues To Remove Whitaker As Acting Attorney General - Will the real attorney general please stand up?  As was widely expected following the publication of a New York Times story outlining the state's case, Maryland has challenged President Trump's appointment of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker in federal court, arguing that Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein should instead be elevated to replace Sessions. In effect, the state is using an unusual legal maneuver to force federal judge Ellen L. Hollander of the Federal District Court for the District of Maryland - a 2010 Obama appointee - to decide who is the legitimate attorney general. Two months ago, the state's attorney general sued Jeff Sessions in his official capacity as AG, seeking a declaration from the court that ObamaCare is, in fact, constitutional, even without the tax penalty component, which was repealed by Congress. The lawsuit was an attempt to stop a federal judge in Texas from throwing out the law in its entirety. Now, the state is asking Hollander to clarify who is the real attorney general so this person can stand in for Sessions as the object of Maryland's ObamaCare lawsuit. Because the government's enforcement of ObamaCare is set to change on Jan. 1 to reflect the removal of the tax penalty, the state is demanding that Hollander make this crucial ruling immediately to stop Whitaker from making illegitimate policy decisions as head of the DOJ. This will force Hollander to rule on whether Trump's invocation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, a 1998 law which stipulates that a president may temporarily fill a vacant position that normally requires Senate confirmation with any senior official who has been in the department for at least 90 days. By appointing Whitaker, Trump overruled the natural line of succession at the DOJ, which would have installed Rosenstein as the acting AG until another AG candidate could win approval from the Senate.

Bill to protect Mueller blocked in Senate - Legislation protecting special counsel Robert Mueller from being fired was blocked in the Senate on Wednesday. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) asked for consent to bring the legislation, which has stalled after being passed in the Judiciary Committee in April, to the Senate floor for a vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked his request. Under the Senate's rules, a senator can come to the Senate floor and ask for consent to get a vote or pass a bill. Any one senator can block their request. McConnell didn't explain his move from the floor but it came hours after he told reporters that he believed that Mueller should be able to finish his investigation and that he didn't believe the special counsel was in danger of being fired. "There's been no indication ... that Mueller investigation will not be allowed to finish and it should be allowed to finish. We know how the president feels about the Mueller investigation but he's never said he wants to shut it down," McConnell told reporters during a press conference. Flake, speaking after McConnell's objection, knocked President Trump's rhetoric on the Mueller probe, which is investigating Russia's election interference and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. "With the firing of the attorney general ... the president now has this investigation in his sights and we all know it," Flake said from the Senate floor. He added that Trump had accused Mueller of a witch hunt "without basis or fact." "How such an investigation can be the cause of controversy is beyond me. ...[And] presidents do not get to determine what gets investigated and what and who does not," Flake said.

Flake says he'll oppose judicial nominees until Mueller bill gets vote - en. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said on Wednesday that he will oppose any of President Trump's judicial nominations until legislation protecting special counsel Robert Mueller gets a vote."I have informed the majority leader I will not vote to advance any of the 21 judicial nominees pending in the Judiciary Committee or vote to confirm the 32 judges awaiting confirmation on the Senate floor until ... [the bill] is brought to the full Senate for a vote," Flake said from the Senate floor.Flake's threat will block the Judiciary Committee from approving judicial nominations and sending them to the full Senate without help from Democrats. Republicans hold a 11-10 majority on the panel and many of the most controversial nominees pass along party lines, meaning they would need either Flake's vote or a Democratic senator to flip.On the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has slightly more leeway. With a 51-49 majority, Flake would need a Republican colleague to join him and every Democrat to block a judicial nominee on the Senate floor.His decision comes after McConnell blocked Flake from bringing legislation to protect Mueller from being fired to a vote before the Senate. The bill has been stalemated amid opposition from GOP leadership after it cleared the Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan basis.

Mueller Investigation Not In Jeopardy Says Lindsey Graham After Meeting With Acting AG Whitaker -  Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been assured by Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker that he will not fire special counsel Robert Mueller, according to The Hill.  Graham and Whitaker met Thursday afternoon in the Senator's Russel Building office, where Whitaker - who replaced ousted AG Jeff Sessions, said he doesn't see anything wrong with Mueller's probe.  “As to the Mueller investigation, I’m confident that it is not in jeopardy,” Graham said following their meeting, adding that Whitaker doesn't think that Mueller's probe has exceeded any DOJ guidelines. "There’s no reason to fire him. I asked him, ‘Do you have any reason to [fire] Mr. Mueller? He said he has zero reason to believe anything is being done wrong with the Mueller investigation," said Graham, recalling the conversation. "There’s a regular-order process where the special counsel makes requests to the deputy attorney general and the attorney general. That’s the way the system works," added Graham, who explained that Mueller has obtained the necessary signatures from various senior Justice Department officials throughout various stages of his investigation.  Graham has co-authored legislation that would protect the special counsel from being fired without good cause. The bill codifies existing Department of Justice regulations requiring that a special counsel only be fired with proper justification by a senior Senate-confirmed Justice Department official.Trump appointed Whitaker to replace Sessions the day after the midterm elections. He has not undergone Senate confirmation to the position. -The HillWhitaker's appointment has received massive backlash from Democrats, who have pointed to comments he has made regarding the scope of Mueller's investigation - seemingly in stark contrast to what he has told Graham.

Mueller expected to issue more indictments soon: report - Special counsel Robert Mueller is expected to issue more indictments in the coming days as acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker settles into his new role overseeing Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, CBS News reported Tuesday.“I’ve spoken with many sources with knowledge of the Special Counsel investigation, and we do expect new indictments to be coming as soon as today,” CBS correspondent Paula Reid reported Tuesday. The special counsel has already charged four Americans once affiliated with the Trump campaign and more than a dozen Russians in his inquiry into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow in 2016. The report comes one day after Jerome Corsi, a conservative commentator and conspiracy theorist who is an associate of Roger Stone, stated his belief that he will soon be indicted.“I’m going to be criminally charged,” Corsi said during a YouTube livestream. “As of today, right now, I expect to be indicted.”Corsi also said he tried to cooperate with the investigation.Mueller is investigating Stone’s alleged contacts with WikiLeaks, the group famous for publishing classified government documents. Stone’s interactions with WikiLeaks came under scrutiny after the group released emails during the 2016 presidential election that had been hacked from the Democratic Party and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta. Stone has denied having any prior knowledge of the email dump, maintaining that the information he shared about a potential WikiLeaks release was all publicly available.The New York Times reported earlier this month that former Trump campaign officials told Mueller that Stone gave the impression that he had a direct line to WikiLeaks.  The fate of the Mueller probe drew renewed attention last week after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was resigning at President Trump's request. Trump announced that Whitaker would replace Sessions and would oversee Mueller's investigation, which had previously been supervised by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Trump ‘personally answers Mueller Russia questions’ - Donald Trump says he has finished answering questions about alleged Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential campaign.The US leader told reporters he had personally answered the questions "very easily", but his responses had yet to be submitted to the investigating team.Special counsel Robert Mueller has been looking into allegations of collusion between Mr Trump's campaign and Russia.Mr Trump strongly denies any collusion, calling the probe "a witch hunt".On Thursday, he took to Twitter to describe Mr Mueller as "conflicted", called the investigation "absolutely nuts", adding that those involved in the long-running probe "are a disgrace to our nation".The tweets came a week after he forced the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, replacing him with Matthew Whitaker, who now has the power to sack Mr Mueller or end the investigation. Speaking to reporters on Friday, he said the investigation had wasted "millions and millions of dollars" and "should never have taken place".Mr Trump also suggested the people who wrote the questions he agreed to answer "probably have bad intentions". "I'm sure they're tricked-up because, you know, they like to catch people," Mr Trump said, after making it clear he had written the answers to the questions.

Nancy Pelosi: Mueller Doesn’t Have to Indict Trump for Congress to Impeach Him - Nancy Pelosi really does not want to impeach Donald Trump—and she’s prepared to take all the heat from her party and from the new House Democratic majority she’s hoping to lead, unless she sees something wildly different emerge. But she said she won’t let Robert Mueller define the decision. “Recognize one point,” Pelosi told me during an interview in the conference room of her minority-leader suite in the Capitol late Friday: “What Mueller might not think is indictable could be impeachable.” Pelosi said people should pray for the country as long as Trump is in charge. She’s not sure of his mental condition. She thinks he’s degraded the Constitution and American values. She says the intelligence assessments are indisputable in showing that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. She thinks the firing of Jeff Sessions and the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general in a clear move against the Mueller probe “is perilously close to a constitutional crisis.” That’s not enough, she said. “You have to have evidence, evidence of the connection. Everything’s about the connection,” Pelosi explained. In other words, it comes down to a topic the president has notably refrained from tweeting about for weeks: collusion.

Burying The Other Russia Story- WSJ Editors Expose The House Democrats' Real Plan - With impeachment headlines rotating hourly from the Democrats' liberal media and subpoenas already flying across the aisle, The Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board seems to have decided some 'fair and balanced' perspective on what comes next is warranted and just how easy it will be for Adam Schiff to bury the 'real' Russiagate story... Via The Wall Street Journal,Arguably the most important power at stake in Tuesday’s election was Congressional oversight, and the most important change may be Adam Schiff at the House Intelligence Committee. The Democrat says his top priority is re-opening the Trump-Russia collusion probe, but more important may be his intention to stop investigating how the FBI and Justice Department abused their power in 2016. So let’s walk through what we’ve learned to date.Credit for knowing anything at all goes to Intel Chairman Devin Nunes and more recently a joint investigation by Reps. Bob Goodlatte (Judiciary) and Trey Gowdy (Oversight). Over 18 months of reviewing tens of thousands of documents and interviewing every relevant witness, no Senate or House Committee has unearthed evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the presidential election. If Special Counsel Robert Mueller has found more, he hasn’t made it public.But House investigators have uncovered details of a Democratic scheme to prod the FBI to investigate the Trump campaign. We now know that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee hired Fusion GPS, which hired an intelligence-gun-for-hire, Christopher Steele, to write a “dossier” on Donald Trump’s supposed links to Russia.Mr. Steele fed that document to the FBI, even as he secretly alerted the media to the FBI probe that Team Clinton had helped to initiate. Fusion, the oppo-research firm, was also supplying its dossier info to senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, whose wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion.House investigators have also documented the FBI’s lack of judgment in using the dossier to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against former Trump aide Carter Page. The four FISA warrants against Mr. Page show that the FBI relied almost exclusively on the unproven Clinton-financed accusations, as well as a news story that was also ginned up by Mr. Steele.The FBI told the FISA court that Mr. Steele was “credible,” despite Mr. Steele having admitted to Mr. Ohr that he passionately opposed a Trump Presidency. The FBI also failed to tell the FISA court about the Clinton campaign’s tie to the dossier.This abuse of the FBI’s surveillance powers took place as part of a counterintelligence investigation into a presidential campaign—which the FBI also hid from Congress. Such an investigation is unprecedented in post-J. Edgar Hoover American politics, and it included running informants into the Trump campaign, obtaining surveillance warrants, and using national security letters, which are secret subpoenas to obtain phone records and documents.

 CIA Whistleblower Says Brennan, Mueller, Strzok Targeted Him For Retribution With Undercover Sting-Op - A 15-year CIA veteran says he was systematically targeted for revenge by John Brennan and Robert Mueller after he exposed part of the CIA's waterboarding program, then later revealed the identities of two agency officers, according to the Daily Caller's Chuck Ross.  In a 2007 ABC News interview, John Kiriakou, now 54, revealed details of a 2002 incident in which the CIA waterboarded Saudi national Abu Zubaydah after mistaking him for al Qaeda's #3 official. Kiriakou later outed two CIA agents in subsequent interviews. Kiriakou’s nightmare began years before his interview with the FBI, in December 2007, after he revealed in an on-camera interview with ABC News that the CIA had waterboarded Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi national who the CIA falsely believed was al Qaeda’s No. 3 official. Kiriakou, the chief of counterterrorist operations in Pakistan, had helped capture Abu Zubaydah in March 2002.He resigned from the CIA in 2004 and joined the private sector. -Daily Caller         Kiriakou, who now hosts a radio show for Sputnik International and works as a whistleblower advocate, expressed remorse for sharing the names with reporters, and hav maintained that none of the outed CIA officers were threatened or harmed, and no confidential methods were xposed. An internal "crimes report" was submitted following Kiriakou's comments, which the George W. Bush Justice Deparment decided not to pursue.

James Clapper and John Brennan Should Not Escape Prosecution  — Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa released a statement saying that four years ago, he asked the Intelligence Community Inspector General to release two “Congressional Notifications” written by former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Grassley had had his requests to declassify the documents ignored repeatedly throughout the last two years of the Obama administration. He decided to try again because all of the Obama people at the CIA and DNI are gone now. This time, his request was approved. So what was the information that was finally declassified? It was written confirmation that John Brennan ordered CIA hackers to intercept the emails of all potential or possible intelligence community whistleblowers who may have been trying to contact the Congressional oversight committees, specifically to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Judiciary Committee. Simply put, Brennan ordered his people to hack into the Senate email system—again. Grassley is the longtime chairman of Judiciary Committee, and he was understandably appalled.  The CIA is required by law to inform the Congressional oversight committees whenever one of its officers, agents, or administrators breaks the law, when an operation requires Congressional approval because it is a “covert action” program, or whenever something happens at the CIA that’s potentially controversial and the Agency wants to save itself the embarrassment of explaining itself to Congress later. Brennan apparently ordered his officers to spy on the Senate. Remember, back in 2014 his officers spied on Intelligence Community investigators while they were writing the Senate Torture Report. This time, he decided to inform Congress. But Brennan and Clapper classified the notification. It was like a taunt. “Sure, I’m spying on Congress, which is illegal. But it’s classified, so what are you going to do about it?”Grassley went through the proper channels. And even though Brennan and Clapper essentially gave him the middle finger, he didn’t say anything until the documents were finally declassified.  John Brennan belongs in prison. He has flouted U.S. national security laws with impunity for years. That’s unacceptable. In these declassified notifications, he’s confessing to hacking into the Senate’s computer system. That’s a violation of a whole host of laws, from illegal use of a government computer to wire fraud to espionage. There ought to be a price to pay for it, especially in light of the fact that Brennan was the leading force behind the prosecutions of eight national security whistleblowers during the Obama administration, almost three times the number of whistleblowers charged under the Espionage Act by all previous presidents combined.

An Odor of Perfidy --Kunstler - I suspect there’s a hidden agenda behind the announcement in The Wall Street Journal op-ed by former Hillary Clinton aide Mark Penn that the Ole Gray Mare is actually eyeing another run for the White House in 2020. No, it’s not just that she would like to be president, as she averred on video last week in a weak moment, or that she has decided late in life to go full Bolshevik policy-wise. It is to establish her in the public mind as a serious candidate so that when she is indicted a hue-and-cry will arise that the move is a purely political act of revenge by the wicked Trump. Of course, she’s not a serious candidate because too many people recognize her naked corruption, and she’s carrying so much noisome baggage that her entourage looks like one of those garbage truck convoys hauling New York’s trash to flyover country. Prosecutors don’t even have to search very hard for evidence of her misdeeds. It’s smeared all over the swamp-scape in the established facts about the Steele Dossier and its engineered journey through the highest levels of the FBI and Department of Justice, and the wild machinations that ensued when the cast of characters in those places scrambled to cover their asses following the debacle of Hillary’s election loss.Little is known about what is going on inside the Mueller commission. But if, as it appears, the Special Counsel is still stalking Russian Facebook trolls and ignoring the slime-trail of  huggermugger left behind by Hillary & Company, then we are seeing one of the most fantastic failures of law enforcement in history. Still, there’s a possibility — low-percentage in my view — that Mr. Mueller might disclose a raft of charges against the Clinton gang and her errand boys.The trouble is that such charges may lead to the some of the highest former officials in the land, including former CIA director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and perhaps even the sacred former President Obama. Even Mr. Mueller himself is suspect in the 2009 Uranium One deal that conveyed over $150-million dollars from Russian banks into the Clinton Foundation coffers.

Hillary Clinton Ordered To Answer Additional Questions Under Oath About Private Email Server - A federal judge has ordered Hillary Clinton to respond to further questions, under oath, about her private email server. Following a lengthy Wednesday court hearing, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan (who is also presiding over fmr. National Security adviser Michael Flynn's case), ruled that Clinton has 30 days to answer two additional questions about her controversial email system in response to a lawsuit from Judicial Watch.  Hillary must answer the following questions by December 17 (via Judicial Watch)

  • Describe the creation of the system, including who decided to create the system, the date it was decided to create the system, why it was created, who set it up, and when it became operational.
  • During your October 22, 2015 appearance before the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Benghazi, you testified that 90 to 95 percent of your emails “were in the State’s system” and “if they wanted to see them, they would certainly have been able to do so.” Identify the basis for this statement, including all facts on which you relied in support of the statement, how and when you became aware of these facts, and, if you were made aware of these facts by or through another person, identify the person who made you aware of these facts.

Sillivan rejected Clinton's assertion of attorney-client privilege on the question over emails "in the State's system," however he did give Clinton a few victories:  The court refused Judicial Watch’s and media’s requests to unseal the deposition videos of Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills and other Clinton State Department officials. And it upheld Clinton’s objections to answering a question about why she refused to stop using her Blackberry despite warnings from State Department security personnel. Justice Department lawyers for the State Department defended Clinton’s refusal to answer certain questions and argued for the continued secrecy of the deposition videos. -Judicial Watch

Avenatti To Sue Tucker Carlson After Man Claims Assault; Tucker Says Daughter Called Whore, C-nt - Attorney Michael Avenatti has found his next wormhole into the national dialogue; investigating conservative foe and Fox News host Tucker Carlson over an October confrontation at a Virginia country club restaurant.  Avenatti tweeted a video Saturday showing Carlson in a verbal altercation with the man, writing: "We are investigating an alleged assault on a gay latino immigrant committed by T. Carlson and/or members of his inner circle at a club in VA in Oct. It likely includes underage drinking in violation of VA law. Link to a portion of the incident," adding "We are attempting to locate additional witnesses and to identify those depicted in the video. In particular, we need assistance identifying the balding man that grabs the man seated at the bar. We anticipate charges being filed. Anyone with knowledge, pls contact us." Carlson can be heard shouting: "Guys. Guys, get the fuck out of here," while an individual can be seen grabbing the man by the collar. "Hey. Hey! … There’s no excuse for violence," interjects another person, who asked "Did you see what he did?" Avenatti - who was recently referred to the Department of Justice for a criminal complaint by the Senate Judiciary Committee, is now representing the man.  Carlson responded in a statement through Fox News, saying that the incident began after the man at the bar called his teenage daughter a "whore" and a "cunt."  “On October 13, I had dinner with two of my children and some family friends at the Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville, Virginia. Toward the end of the meal, my 19-year-old daughter went to the bathroom with a friend. On their way back through the bar, a middle aged man stopped my daughter and asked if she was sitting with Tucker Carlson. My daughter had never seen the man before. She answered: ‘That’s my dad,’ and pointed to me. The man responded, ‘Are you Tucker’s whore?’ He then called her a ‘fucking cunt.’ My daughter returned to the table in tears. She soon left the table and the club. My son, who is also a student, went into the bar to confront the man. I followed. My son asked the man if he’d called his sister a ‘whore’ and a ‘cunt.’ The man admitted he had, and again become profane. My son threw a glass of red wine in the man’s face and told him to leave the bar, which he soon did.

Michael Avenatti arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, calls allegations ‘completely bogus’ - Michael Avenatti, the brash lawyer and cable news fixture who came to prominence after he sued President Trump on behalf of an adult-film star, was arrested Wednesday in Los Angeles on suspicion of domestic violence, police said. The Los Angeles Police Department said he was booked on a felony domestic violence charge, with a $50,000 bail. The incident happened Tuesday, department spokesman Jeff Lee said. Another police spokesman, Tony Im, told the Associated Press that the victim has visible injuries. But police gave few other details about the incident, saying in a tweet: “This is an ongoing investigation and we will provide more details as they become available.” Avenatti has made himself a virtual household name through his relentless media appearances as he represents adult-film star Stormy Daniels in two lawsuits against Trump. He has vowed to depose the president and said he is considering running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.In a statement released by his law office Wednesday, Avenatti said that the allegations against him were “completely bogus.” “I have never been physically abusive in my life nor was I last night,” he said. “Any accusations to the contrary are fabricated and meant to do harm to my reputation. I look forward to being fully exonerated.”  On Thursday, the attorney suggested in a tweet that far-right conspiracy theorist Jacob Wohl was to blame for the arrest. In a subsequent tweet, he criticized some of the coverage of his arrest.  There is a lot of inaccurate reporting out there. For example, (1) I have NOT been charged with anything, let alone a felony; (2) Lisa wasn't even with me Tues; etc. Numerous other "facts" being reported are completely bogus. Why is TMZ's news "standard" the new standard? — Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) November 15, 2018

Facebook Hired GOP Oppo-Research Firm to Link Protesters to George Soros: Report - Facebook reportedly used a Republican opposition-research firm and its connections to a Jewish civil-rights group to link the anti-Facebook movement to prominent liberal donor George Soros and claim that some criticism against the tech giant was anti-Semitic, The New York Times reports. Facing negative press, Facebook reportedly expanded its use of Definers Public Affairs, a firm founded by “veterans of Republican presidential politics,” to bash Facebook’s competitors and link Soros to anti-Facebook activists. A research document reportedly circulated by the firm this summer claimed Soros was an “unacknowledged force” behind the widespread condemnation of Facebook. A news site called NTK Network, an affiliate of Definers, also reportedly published articles that bashed Google and Apple for “unsavory business practices.” The Times reports that while NTK Network did not obtain large audiences, its content is often picked up by conservative sites like Breitbart. After one protest sign depicted CEO Mark Zuckerberg as an octopus encompassing the globe, a Facebook official also reportedly called on the Anti-Defamation League to flag the sign as anti-semitic. “Depicting Jews as an octopus encircling the globe is a classic anti-Semitic trope,” the organization wrote in a tweet that afternoon. “Protest Facebook—or anyone—all you want, but pick a different image.” Conservative outlets like the Washington Free Beacon reportedly echoed the ADL’s sentiments, which had also sought to link the anti-Facebook movement to “extreme anti-Israel groups.”

Mark Zuckerberg says he didn’t know Facebook hired a research firm that tried to discredit its critics by linking them to George Soros Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters he didn't know his company hired a opposition research firm that tried to discredit critics of Facebook by linking them to billionaire financier George Soros. The work performed by Definers Public Affairs — exposed in a bombshell New York Times report on Thursday — has come under extreme criticism, with many arguing it feeds into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Soros, who is Jewish, and Jews more generally. "Facebook has not only refused to effectively crack down on hate-spewing Nazis, The New York Times revealed it actually encouraged anti-Semitism by hiring degenerate right-wing propagandists to concoct conspiracies that tap into anti-Semitic biases," tweeted Democratic senator Ron Wyden. Facebook since said they were ending their relationship with Definers— and on a marathon 80-minute press call with reporters on Thursday, Zuckerberg insisted that he hadn't previously been aware that his company worked with the organization. "I learned about this relationship when I read the New York Times piece yesterday," the 34-year-old billionaire executive said. He refused to say who at Facebook was responsible for bringing the organization on board: "Someone on our communications team must have hired them."

Soros Responds To Alarming Facebook Exposé; Demands Thorough Investigation - Following a shocking exposé in the New York Times revealing how Facebook resorted to guerilla tactics to deflect blame amid their various scandals, including hiring Republican PR firm Definers which cast liberal critics as operatives for liberal financier George Soros, top representatives for the Hungarian-American billionaire have demanded answers.  While Facebook was under fire on Capitol Hill for allowing Russians to purchase advertising during and after the 2016 US election, liberal critics blamed the company for Hillary Clinton's loss - including activist protesters who put a public face on liberal opposition to the social media giant.Defenders sought to discredit the activists by linking them to Soros. A research document circulated by Definers to reporters this summer, just a month after the House hearing, cast Mr. Soros as the unacknowledged force behind what appeared to be a broad anti-Facebook movement.He was a natural target. In a speech at the World Economic Forum in January, he had attacked Facebook and Google, describing them as a monopolist “menace” with “neither the will nor the inclination to protect society against the consequences of their actions.” Definers pressed reporters to explore the financial connections between Mr. Soros’s family or philanthropies and groups that were members of Freedom from Facebook, such as Color of Change, an online racial justice organization, as well as a progressive group founded by Mr. Soros’s son. –NYT Responding to the Times report, Soros adviser Michael Vachon responded Thursday, stating "It is alarming that Facebook would engage in these unsavory tactics, apparently in response to George’s public criticism in Davos earlier this year of the company’s handling of hate speech and propaganda on its platform." The Times’ story raises the question of whether Facebook has used similar methods to go after other critics or public officials who have tried to hold Facebook accountable.

Jewish establishment terrified of Palestinians This is a very sad story. And it happens all the time now inside the American Jewish community, but it is particularly poignant right now. This week the Palestinian political cartoonist Mohammed Sabaaneh, whose spirit cracked in an Israeli prison, is having a tour of New York, New Jersey and D.C., all in leftwing spaces. Sabaaneh tells us a compelling story about Israel and its power; but will any big Jewish space host him? Of course not! Some day maybe, in 50 years. (Though Eli Valley is appearing with him; wonderful.) And meantime all week long in prestige Jewish spaces, what is the fare, but Israeli and American Jews wringing their hands about the future of Israel and the US Jewish relationship with Israel. The unending lament. First tomorrow night in New York at the Hebrew Union College, two Jews, Israeli and American, discuss: “A House Divided: Israel and Progressive American Jews.” Is either one of them even actually progressive? Former Israeli diplomat Ido Aharoni is founder of “the Brand Israel program,” which many Palestinians might see as the Brand Israel pogrom. Then on Wednesday in a White Plains synagogue, there’s “Can Judaism survive the 21st century?” featuring an Israeli and American Jew, Tal Keinan and David Gregory, surely speaking about their differences. Then on Thursday night in New York, “Across the Divide“: more fretting about American Jews abandoning Israel… And really the only question about all these events is, Do you think you can have a discussion of the Jewish/American-Israeli future without hearing from Palestinians? I don’t. It would be like having a discussion of the future of the American South in 1964 with a bunch of white people. It’s privileged and incomplete.  You can’t just keep having one event after another featuring American and Israeli Jews in American Jewish spaces bellyaching to one another about what Israel will do without American Jews. When half the population under Israel’s governance isn’t Jewish and have to have a say in the matter. These people really are terrified of Palestinians. American Jewish leaders have been demonizing Palestinians for 60 years and they believe their own shadow puppets, and so the comfort that American Jews have hosting black civil rights activists or radicals even is absent when it comes to hearing from Palestinians.

The Fiat News Index- Measuring How Media Tells You How To Think About News - Most criticisms of the media – especially those popularized during the “Enemy of the People” phase of the Donald Trump presidency – have focused on assertions of its bias. Bias certainly exists, but we’re not here to adjudicate that. We think identifying bias is very hard to do so systematically. It is even harder to do without injecting our own biases into the creation of whatever system we might use. Fortunately, the concept of fiat news we so often write about isn’t really about bias – or at least, it’s about far more than bias. Fiat news is about the press telling you how to think about issues. Fiat news is about the presentation of opinions as facts, regardless of whether they consistently favor one group or another. If you want a bit more of a primer, including why we call this fiat news, the original piece Ben wrote in 2017 is located here.We think there are some ways to measure this, so we’re going to try. And we’re going to do it in the open. Let me introduce you to the Fiat News Index.I’ve selected 20 of the largest and most prominent US-based news and commentary organizations. Using the tools and database from our friends at Quid, the Index measures the proportion of articles from a media outlet which use one of a range of words or expressions I selected. These words and expressions fall roughly into three categories: words that convey a causal link between two statements (Causal Expressions), words that seek to communicate the Common Knowledge element of a narrative (Common Knowledge Expressions), and words that communicate explicit value judgements (Value Expressions). These concepts will be familiar to readers of the recent In Brief, The Tells of Fiat News. The basic idea behind this framework is that writers, when using Causal Expressions, are communicating how you should perceive the relationships between facts and other facts, or between facts and certain conclusions and analysis. This conflation is a common way to present a judgment or opinion as objective fact. It is a writer coaching you on the logical path they wish you to follow. Sometimes that is innocuous, because sometimes the relationship between two ideas, two facts or two statements really is incontrovertible. Often it is not. When using Common Knowledge Expressions, the writer is encouraging you to think less critically about an assertion or argument. It is, after all, obvious to everyone else. Value Expressions are more straightforward and easily understood. They also look a bit more like an analysis of bias, although these words may just as easily be used to tell you how to think about what is good and what is bad without any element of structural favoring of one point of view.

Bug Bounty Hunter Ran ISP Doxing Service - Krebs on Security - A Connecticut man who’s earned bug bounty rewards and public recognition from top telecom companies for finding and reporting security holes in their Web sites secretly operated a service that leveraged these same flaws to sell their customers’ personal data, KrebsOnSecurity has learned. In May 2018, ZDNet ran a story about the discovery of a glaring vulnerability in the Web site for wireless provider T-Mobile that let anyone look up customer home addresses and account PINs. The story noted that T-Mobile disabled the feature in early April after being alerted by a 22-year-old “security researcher” named Ryan Stevenson, and that the mobile giant had awarded Stevenson $1,000 for reporting the discovery under its bug bounty program The Twitter account @phobia, a.k.a. Ryan Stevenson. The term “plug” referenced next to his Twitch profile name is hacker slang for employees at mobile phone stores who can be tricked or bribed into helping with SIM swap attacks. Likewise, AT&T has recognized Stevenson for reporting security holes in its services. AT&T’s bug bounty site lets contributors share a social media account or Web address where they can be contacted, and in Stevenson’s case he gave the now-defunct Twitter handle “@Phoobia.” Stevenson’s Linkedin profile — named “Phobias” — says he specializes in finding exploits in numerous Web sites, including,,, and Under the “contact info” tab of Stevenson’s profile it lists the account of “Ryan” and the Facebook account “Phobia” (also now deleted). Unauthorized SIM swaps also are often used to hijack so-called “OG” user accounts — usually short usernames on top social network and gaming Web sites that are highly prized by many hackers because they can make the account holder appear to have been a savvy, early adopter of the service before it became popular and before all of the short usernames were taken. Some OG usernames can be sold for thousands of dollars in underground markets. This week’s SIM swapping story quoted one recent victim who lost $100,000 after his mobile phone number was briefly stolen in a fraudulent SIM swap. The victim said he was told by investigators in Santa Clara, Calif. that the perpetrators of his attack were able to access his T-Mobile account information using a specialized piece of software that gave them backdoor access to T-Mobile’s customer database.

AI must be scrutinized by regulators, top Fed official warns — The Federal Reserve is paying close attention to how its responsibilities as a regulator relate to artificial intelligence, and it has already identified several risks that advanced technology might pose to banks, according to Federal Reserve Gov. Lael Brainard. Banks are increasingly interested in using machine-learning technology for a range of projects, and AI innovation is growing at a much quicker pace than expected, said Brainard, speaking Tuesday at a fintech conference in Philadelphia. “The potential breadth and power of these new AI applications inevitably raise questions about potential risks to bank safety and soundness, consumer protection or the financial system,” she said. “It is incumbent on regulators to review the potential consequences of AI, including the possible risks, and take a balanced view about its use by supervised firms.” Banks now view AI as having better capabilities for pattern recognition and predictive power than existing technologies, as well as the potential for cost efficiency and accuracy in processing, according to a June report from the Treasury Department. This could lead financial institutions to develop new algorithms to assess credit quality, or advanced models for stress testing and risk management and mitigation. However, as the technology rapidly develops, the Fed has identified several challenges that AI poses to banking, particularly in the areas of transparency and how it might explain the technology to customers, or even its own employees. “The challenge of explainability can translate into a higher level of uncertainty about the suitability of an AI approach, all else equal,” Brainard said. “So how does, or even can, a firm assess the use of an approach it might not fully understand?”

Wells Fargo says its promises to restore consumer trust were just ‘puffery.’ But they look more like lies - Michael Hiltzik -  Judges and regulators have ruled that when a business makes a claim that is either vague or so obviously inflated that people simply won’t believe it, that’s “puffery,” and not actionable in court. Wells Fargo, which is struggling to rebuild its reputation for integrity after a string of scandals involving consumer rip-offs, is testing the limits of the “puffery” defense. In a legal filing last week aimed at getting a shareholder lawsuit dismissed, the company asserted that statements that the bank was working to “restore trust” among its customers and “trying to be more transparent” about its scandals — statements made by its chief executive, Tim Sloan — were, well, just puffery.  The filing says these were generic statements “on which no reasonable investor could rely.” Therefore, even though the bank’s stock price fell sharply when evidence emerged that they were false, investors don’t have grounds to sue for their losses. “This is just another example of corporate actors making statements to the market, and then trying to avoid liability for the representations they made,” says Darren Robbins, the San Diego lawyer bringing the shareholder suit. If it sounds like a strange thing for a bank to say when it’s trying to present itself as a paragon of rectitude — in essence, “We can’t be sued because no one believed us anyway” — just wait. It gets stranger. Wells Fargo says that even though the statements by its management fall within the legal definition of puffery, that doesn’t mean they’re untrue. “Wells Fargo stands behind the statements it made regarding its commitment to transparency and rebuilding trust with its customers,” the bank told me by email. “These statements were true then and remain so today.” The lawsuit at issue concerns a scandal that erupted in public in July 2017, when it became known that for years Wells Fargo had been charging auto loan borrowers for unnecessary insurance on their vehicles. The lawsuit seeks class certification for all investors who bought the company’s stock from Nov. 3, 2016 — when Sloan announced at an investors conference that he was “not aware” of any undisclosed scandals in sales practices — through Aug. 3, 2018, the day before the bank formally disclosed the auto-loan issues in an earnings report.

Banks Warn Fed Inverted Yield Curve Would Tighten Lending Conditions -- Today the Fed released the Q3 edition of the Federal Reserve's Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey (SLOOS), which confirmed that lending standards remained accommodative irrespective of the flatter UST yield curve, and reported a modest easing in lending standards and terms for C&I loans, but also weaker demand for those loans. Banks also reported weaker demand for both commercial and residential real estate loans, echoing the softer housing data in recent months.The details:

  • The net percentage of banks reporting easier standards on loans to large- and medium-sized firms stayed flat at 16%, while standards for small firms were basically unchanged on net.
  • Terms on C&I loans eased somewhat for large- and medium-sized firms, as 27% of banks surveyed (in net terms) reportedly narrowed spreads of loan rates over the cost of funds; other terms, such as premiums charged for riskier loans, loan covenants, and collateralization requirements, all eased somewhat.

Despite the easier conditions, however, demand for C&I loans weakened somewhat, with "somewhat weaker" demand reported from both large and small firms. The net percentage of banks reporting decreased new business loan inquiries was 15%.At the same time, demand for CRE loans across a broad range of categories reportedly also weakened even as lending standards on CRE loans were largely unchanged.The same pattern was observed for residential mortgage loans, where banks reported that lending standards also eased on net in Q3 across most residential loan categories, even as demand was moderately weaker across all surveyed residential loan categories, including home equity lines of credit.One place where banks saw modest tightening in lending standards in Q3 in comparison with the beginning of 2018, was in credit card and auto loan applications: banks were less likely to approve loans for borrowers with FICO scores of 620; they were more likely than in Q1 to approve such consumer loans for borrowers with FICO scores of 720.

Dems' grilling of Fed's Quarles a preview of what could come — On the verge of controlling the Financial Services Committee for the first time since 2010, House Democrats on Wednesday made clear their concerns about proposed changes to the Federal Reserve Board's post-crisis supervision program. During his semiannual appearance before the panel, Fed Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles faced a battery of questions from members soon to hold the House majority who argued the agency’s proposal to modify supervisory standards for banks with more than $100 billion of assets would destabilize the financial system. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the ranking member poised to chair the committee after last week's midterm elections, asked Quarles to account for proposed changes that she said “ignore the lessons of the last crisis and would make our financial system less safe.” Quarles said those types of assessments were "off the mark" and stressed that the Fed and other regulatory agencies have attempted to ensure that the modifications do not reduce overall capital or liquidity in the financial system. Capital levels are “about right,” he said. “It has been a principle of ours as we focus on recalibrating … that we not reduce the resiliency, including the capital resiliency and liquidity resiliency, of the system," he said. "And I think we have done that.” Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., also criticized the Fed’s Oct. 31 proposal, specifically the proposed steps to eliminate the Liquidity Coverage Ratio and still-unfinished Net Stable Funding Ratio for banks with more than $250 billion in assets. The proposal refers to those institutions as "Category III" banks. “If a system is working, why do we want to deregulate? What evidence do you have that Category III banks are holding too much liquidity? How did you conclude that a regulation that hasn’t even been implemented was already too burdensome for the banks in Category III?” Quarles said that the Fed’s goal has not been to reduce liquidity. Rather, he said, the aim is to reduce compliance burdens on smaller institutions while keeping protections for larger institutions in place. Several Democrats also expressed concern about an ongoing review by the Fed, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. of the Community Reinvestment Act, a 1977 law that requires banks to extend services and loans to low- and moderate-income households in communities they serve. The OCC recently issued an "advance notice of proposed rulemaking" asking for public comment on CRA reforms, but the three agencies are expected to issue a joint proposal.

Quarles gets earful (again) on Fed's reg relief efforts — As has been the theme with the Federal Reserve's recalibration of post-crisis supervision, Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee warned the central bank's top regulatory official not to weaken prudential requirements, while Republicans called for more regulatory relief. In his second straight day of congressional testimony, Fed Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles was put on the defensive about a pending proposal to differentiate rules for banks with between $100 billion and $250 billion of assets from the largest institutions. The proposal is meant to implement the reg relief law enacted in the spring that was spearheaded by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo. At the hearing Thursday, the Idaho Republican praised the Fed's pending proposal but said the regulators still have work to do in refining the post-crisis regulatory regime. “Despite this positive step, the agencies have left a number of items unaddressed, including: the treatment of foreign banking organizations; additional details on stress testing, including the Fed’s Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review, or CCAR; and resolution planning,” Crapo said. Quarles said regulators are moving toward releasing a proposal for a community bank leverage ratio, and shortly thereafter will propose other steps, including tailoring for foreign banking organizations. "I view the tailoring for foreign banking organizations as a somewhat separate question from implementation of" the reg relief law, Quarles said. But Democrats on the committee said, with bank profits having been on the rise since the post-crisis rules were written, they were concerned that the Fed’s proposal goes beyond what members intended when writing the reg relief bill, known as S 2155. In addition to easing requirements for banks between $100 and $250 billion, the Fed proposal also would ease some standards for certain banks above $250 billion. “The Fed’s proposed rule loosens protections for banks with more than $250 billion in assets — not small community banks — we’re talking about the nation’s biggest financial institutions,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the committee’s ranking member. “Combined, these firms hold $1.5 trillion in assets. The Fed’s proposal also promises more goodies for the big banks, with rollbacks for large foreign banks expected in the next few months. This is despite the fact that the Fed’s own progress report said that foreign banks continue to violate anti-money-laundering laws and skirt Dodd-Frank requirements.”

The IMF just became the latest to warn about the $1.3 trillion ‘leveraged loan’ market -- The buildup of risky debt in corporate credit markets has caught the attention of the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve.  It's also been highlighted by global fund managers in the latest industry survey by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.Now the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has added to the clamor, warning that an unwinding of the market in so-called "leveraged loans" — credit from non-bank lenders to risky or highly-indebted companies — could have untold consequences for the global economy."With interest rates extremely low for years and with ample money flowing though the financial system, yield-hungry investors are tolerating ever-higher levels of risk and betting on financial instruments that, in less speculative times, they might sensibly shun," the IMF said."It is not only the sheer volume of debt that is causing concern. Underwriting standards and credit quality have deteriorated."As evidence, they cited research from credit-ratings agency Moody's showing the buildup of "covenant-lite" loan terms.Lighter covenants mean less protections for creditors in the event of a company not being able to make its repayments. This chart shows the buildup of covenant-lite loans in US debt markets.The IMF also warned that lenders could be issuing loans on dubious information from borrowers, noting that "weaker covenants have reportedly allowed borrowers to inflate projections of earnings. They have also allowed them to borrow more after the closing of the deal."While default rates have remained low, the recovery of investor capital from the companies that do fail has fallen sharply. "With rising leverage, weakening investor protections, and eroding debt cushions, average recovery rates for defaulted loans have fallen to 69% from the pre-crisis average of 82%," the IMF said.

Nonbanks' rapid growth poses risks to industry: FDIC's McWilliams — The head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. warned Thursday that the agency is closely monitoring banks’ exposure to loans shared with nonbanks, particularly as mortgages have moved outside the banking system. Bank lending to nonbanks has skyrocketed to $376 billion as of the second quarter from $56 billion in 2010, a 571% jump, FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams said during a conference on financial stability at the Treasury Department. “While mortgage origination activity has migrated to nonbanks, a portion of that risk remains with banks or could be transmitted back to the banking system through other channels,” she said. McWilliams noted a similar pattern in mortgage servicing, where nonbanks accounted for 41% of servicing rights held by the top 25 servicers in 2018, up from 5% in 2009. Part of the explosive growth in the nonbank space can be attributed to rapidly evolving technology and fintech firms offering easier ways to get loans online or through mobile devices, she said. But McWilliams stopped short of suggesting that new technology at banks and fintech firms creates greater risk in the financial system. “As we look at the migration of activity away from banks, regulators and policymakers should consider the risks and benefits,” said McWilliams, who is also on the Financial Stability Oversight Council. “Part of that process is asking questions: What happens to the systemic risk in the financial system when banking activities migrate to nonbanks? Are prudential banking and market regulators adequately positioned to deal with such shifts? How much exposure do banks have to nonbanks engaged in traditional banking activities?” Another question McWilliams is looking into is whether to allow fintechs to become more banklike by obtaining an industrial loan company charter from the FDIC. Several online lenders and fintech companies have applied for an ILC but withdrew this year with the intention of resubmitting later.

Spare small banks the burden of complex capital rules: FDIC chief -- Days before the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is set to propose a new new leverage ratio for community banks, the agency's chief said she wants to do even more to simplify capital requirements. The FDIC's board will meet Tuesday to propose a "community bank leverage ratio," or CBLR. Under the regulatory relief law enacted in May, banks below $10 billion of assets that exceed the ratio — measuring their tangible equity to average assets — can avoid other Basel-related capital requirements if they meet certain criteria. Regulators can set the new ratio between 8% and 10%. “The Basel III standards, which may be appropriate for internationally active banks, are unduly complex and unnecessary for community banks,” FDIC Chairman Jelena McWilliams said Friday in prepared remarks at a community bank conference hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. “We do not need 15 pages of regulatory reporting requirements for simple community banks to demonstrate capital adequacy. It is time to go back to basics.” More than 5,400 of the 5,542 banks insured by the FDIC have less than $10 billion of assets and could therefore qualify for the new ratio. As part of the proposal, regulators will also seek public comment on how to define tangible equity. But McWilliams added that she plans to “revisit the capital regime that applies to” banks that do not qualify or adopt the CBLR. Part of that plan, she said, includes finalizing a capital simplification rule proposed by the federal regulators in September 2017 that would ease the capital treatment for mortgage servicing assets as well as certain deferred tax assets and investments. “While the agencies have thus far delayed finalization in light of consideration of other changes to the capital regime, I see no reason to delay any further,” she said. “Finalizing the capital simplification proposal will provide certainty and clarity to community banks and take a step toward simplifying the risk-based capital rules.”

Our New Yorker Article: “Fake ‘Unicorns’ Are Running Roughshod Over the Venture Capital Industry” -- Yves Smith - Our new article is a revisitation of an important study on so-called venture capital unicorns that we posted on last year.   But as you’ll see, the study had bigger implication that I managed to miss on the initial write-up.You might think that a study demonstrating that venture capital-funded “unicorns” are overvalued, and by a stunning 48 percent on average, would shake up the industry. Yet “Squaring Venture Capital Valuations With Reality,” a paper announcing just that finding by Will Gornall and Ilya A. Strebulaev (professors at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, respectively), received only a perfunctory round of coverage from some important investment and tech publications when it was published.It’s no surprise that a study casting doubt on the worth of darlings like Lyft and Cloudflare didn’t move investors or change the venture capital industry. Trade press reporters don’t have much of a future if they take to biting the hands that feed them, and the investors with overpriced wares don’t want to admit they’ve been had, or, worse, that they’re part of the problem. But write-ups of this important paper, with its sensational finding, missed that the authors’ analysis is deadly for the venture capital industry as a whole.The median venture capital fund loses money. Only the top 5 percent of funds earn enough to justify the risks of investing in venture capital. The nature of venture capital is that the performance of those few successful funds in turn rests on the spectacular results of a small fraction of the investments in a particular fund. Gornall and Strebulaev’s finding that the performance of the winners — and even the also-rans — is overstated further undermines the already strained case for investing in venture capital. If you are Joe Retail and think this isn’t your problem, think twice. If you invested in high-growth mutual funds, your holdings probably include shares in large venture-capital-backed private companies.How does this pervasive overvaluation come about in the first place? Once you understand it, it’s breathtakingly simple. Story continues here.

PG&E has lost half its value this week as shareholders fear utility's role in California wildfires --PG&E's stock has lost more than half its value this week as shareholders flee the utility amid concerns that its equipment may be partly responsible for the most destructive wildfire in California's history.Shares plunged another 24 percent to under $20 per share on Thursday after PG&E lost 21 percent in the prior session. The exodus from the utility began in earnest on Wednesday after the company said that, if its equipment is found responsible for the so-called Camp Fire in Northern California, the costs would exceed its insurance coverage and impact its financial well-being.The plunge in the company's stock erased $3.7 billion in value on Wednesday as its market cap slid to $13.3 billion from $16.9 billion. The company's value fell another $3 billion Thursday to about $10 billion. It's now down 51 percent this week.PG&E, owner of Pacific Gas & Electric Co., said in a government filing Tuesday that its subsidiary has drawn down $3 billion from its credit line in anticipation of a fire-related liability. At least 56 people have died in the fire and a record 8,756 residences have been destroyed, according to official estimates.The conflagration is 40 percent contained and has burned more than 140,000 acres as of 7:18 a.m. PST. Though the cause of the Camp Fire remains under investigation, the utility company also said that it submitted an "electric incident report" to the California Public Utilities Commission on Nov. 8, just before the wildfire. The report indicated a power failure on a transmission line in Butte County at 6:15 a.m. PST that day. The fire was reported at approximately 6:30 a.m. PST, according to state records.

Any PG&E Bankruptcy Would Pit Bonds Against Burnt Out Homes Any PG&E Corp. bankruptcy filing could come down to a fight between bondholders who lent the company money and property owners whose homes were scorched by wildfires.The utility company has $18 billion of bonds that are unsecured, meaning the debt would have equal priority to get repaid in a bankruptcy as the roughly $30 billion in potential liabilities that analysts have estimated from 2017 and 2018 California wildfires. PG&E recently completely drew down its credit lines.The company hasn’t said it plans to file for bankruptcy, and is still rated investment grade. But some analysts say it may have to eventually reorganize under court protection to clear its fire-linked liabilities. Company's unsecured debt has equal priority as wildfire claims.  There is a trick that PG&E could use to improve investors’ status in bankruptcy, according to Andy DeVries, a CreditSights analyst. If PG&E were to take on at least $5 billion of new debt secured by PG&E’s assets, rules governing the existing bonds state that the unsecured notes would also become secured, he said. “It’s an odd situation where the bondholders might want the company to issue more secured debt if it puts them ahead potentially of wildfire claims,” DeVries said by phone.

 The Collapse Has Begun - GE Is Now Trading Like Junk - Two weeks after we reported that GE had found itself locked out of the commercial paper market following downgrades that made it ineligible for most money market investors, the pain has continued, and yesterday General Electric lost just over $5bn in market capitalization. While far less than the $49bn wiped out from AAPL the same day, it was arguably the bigger headline grabber.The shares slumped -6.88% after dropping as much as -10% at the lows after the company’s CEO, in an interview with CNBC yesterday, failed to reassure market fears about a weakening financial position. The CEO suggested that the company will now urgently sell assets to address leverage and its precarious liquidity situation whereby it will have to rely on revolvers - and the generosity of its banks - now that it is locked out of the commercial paper market.Indeed, shares hit levels first seen in 1995 yesterday and have only been lower since, very briefly, during the financial crisis when they hit $6.66 in March 2009. For a bit of perspective, Deutsche Bank notes that the market cap of GE now is $69.5bn and it’s the 80th largest company in the S&P 500. Yet in August 2003, GE was the largest company in the index (and regularly the world between 1993-2005) at a market cap of $296bn, $12bn more than Microsoft in second place. Since then, the tech giant has grown to be a $826bn company well over 10 times the size, while GE’s market cap peaked (ironically) during the dot com bubble in August 2000 at $594BN before tumbling first in the tech crash and then the GFC. But while most investors have been focusing on GE's sliding equity, the bigger concern is what happens to the company's giant debt load, especially if it is downgraded to junk.

Comcast should be investigated for antitrust violations, say small cable companies --An industry group wants antitrust regulators to investigate whether Comcast-NBCUniversal is abusing its power to hurt smaller television and internet service providers. The American Cable Association (ACA), which represents over 700 small and medium-sized cable operators, has asked US Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim to “immediately” open an investigation into Comcast’s practices. Comcast denied that the claims have merit, and the Justice Department hasn’t publicly responded. But the ACA has found a potential supporter in President Donald Trump — who tweeted about its claims this afternoon. The ACA claims Comcast has a uniquely powerful hold on the US cable industry because it controls a large chunk of “must have” programming like NBC’s regional sports channels. The group argues that the Comcast “has shown a willingness to harm rivals” in the past, even while bound by a 2011 consent decree that expired earlier this year. The letter is dated November 6th but was published today, after Fox Business Networks reported on its existence last week.ACA communications VP Ted Hearn says companies will only disclose Comcast’s alleged misbehavior as part of a confidential Justice Department investigation. “ACA member providers have extensive ongoing dealings with Comcast-NBCU and are naturally concerned that the media giant will engage in retaliatory actions should they publicly disclose information about how Comcast-NBCU has unreasonably disadvantaged them,” Hearn tells The Verge. “This process will enable the Department to conduct a thorough examination of the facts, and the Department can then disclose its results at the appropriate time.”

U.S. Chip Cards Are Being Compromised in the Millions  -A full 60 million U.S. cards were compromised in the past 12 months. While 93 percent of those were EMV chip-enabled, merchants continued to use mag stripes. Chip-and-PIN technology has become the de-facto standard for in-person credit- and debit-card transactions in the U.S. – but a lack of merchant compliance means that cards are still being compromised in the millions.Chip cards, which contain an embedded microprocessor that encrypts the card data, are a more secure alternative to magnetic stripe cards, in theory. They also implement the EMV standard, which stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, and is a global standard for chip cards’ compatibility with point of sale (PoS) terminals. They became the default type of card when the four major U.S. credit card issuers – Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover – decided to shift payment-card fraud liability to merchants in 2015, if they do not have an EMV payment system. The only exception to this is gas stations, which have until 2020 to make the switch (owing to the expense related to swapping out gas pumps). The massive Home Depot and Target data breaches also gave wings to chip cards, after millions of Americans saw their payment-card information compromised and demanded change.The counterintuitive reality, according to a study from Gemini Advisory based on telemetry data collected from various Dark-Web sources, is that 60 million U.S. cards were compromised in the past 12 months. Of those, 93 percent were EMV chip-enabled. Also, crucially, 75 percent, or 45.8 million, were records stolen from in-person transactions (“card-present” in the industry parlance). These were likely compromised through card-skimming malware and point-of-sale (POS) breaches at establishments like retailers, hotels and restaurants, the likes of which continue to make headlines. Both Chili’s and Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, for instance, were bitten by payment-card data breaches earlier this year. Further results show that the U.S. leads the rest of the world in the total amount of compromised EMV payment cards by a massive 37.3 million records.

 CFPB walks tightrope in effort to define ‘abusive’ practices - In trying to define "abusive" practices, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is developing rules of a road that has already been paved. The new standard, which was mandated through the Dodd-Frank Act, is more extreme than other types of consumer harm from earlier laws. Until now, the CFPB has fined companies under the abusive standard without defining it, building precedent through enforcement actions. Now that acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney has promised a clearer definition, industry lawyers say he has his work cut out for him. Clear guidance for a standard that has already been applied can be challenging, leading some to guess the agency will seek industry feedback on the definition before finalizing an approach. "It will be necessary for any notice of proposed rulemaking to ask a lot of questions versus presenting a developed set of proposed rules," "I think this is something that’s going to take a while to come through." The agency is expected to seek a narrower definition of what constitutes "abusive" than others believe Dodd-Frank allows. Mulvaney has said former CFPB Director Richard Cordray's decision to use the new standard without a prior rulemaking gave the agency too broad a mandate. "This is Mulvaney putting his money where his mouth is in not regulating by enforcement,"   “A proposed rulemaking would expand guidance around abusive by reining in the scope of abusive.” Under the Federal Trade Commission Act, regulators already had broad powers to punish firms for "unfair" or "deceptive" conduct. Dodd-Frank added the "abusive" standard. (The three categories are commonly referred to as UDAAP, or "Unfair, Deceptive or Abusive Acts and Practices.) However, even though Mulvaney has denounced the agency’s past practices, he has continued to use the CFPB’s broad authority under Dodd-Frank to target firms for UDAAP violations.

Brown defends CFPB independence, calls for focus on small-town issues - As he weighs a possible presidential bid, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, touched on a likely campaign theme Tuesday, saying both political parties have done a poor job dealing with small-town issues. "I would argue the Republicans give lip service to the smaller towns and the Democrats ignore the small towns. It’s troubling," Brown said during an appearance at Kroll Bond Rating Agency’s inaugural Bank Symposium Conference in Washington. The lead Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee noted the demographic shifts of the past two elections, in which Democrats do better with voters in big cities while the GOP wins rural voters. “The big metro areas are getting more and more Democratic and the smaller towns are getting more and more Republican,” he said. “We’re not talking to each other.” Brown reiterated during the conference that he is considering a presidential run. “My wife and I have begun to talk about this,” he said. “It’s pretty clear it’s going to be a competitive race.” If he runs, that could spell trouble for the biggest banks, which Brown has fiercely criticized in his role on the banking panel. Brown only touched briefly on that issue on Tuesday, saying the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau needs independence to avoid being compromised by lobbyists for large banks. “Any agency like that needs some arms-length from Congress,” Brown said. “Congress doesn’t always act responsibly on public issues — which I know will shock many people.” Brown said the agency has done a generally good job in its seven-year history, but he was quick to add its effectiveness has been compromised by acting Director Mick Mulvaney. “I see a different CFPB under Mick Mulvaney,” Brown said. “He is saying things and doing things to weaken its role.”

Senate one step closer to voting on CFPB nominee — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has filed a motion that could bring the administration's choice for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director up for a vote before the full Senate later this month. McConnell's cloture motion on the nomination of Kathy Kraninger moves the Senate one step closer to confirming a permanent director of the bureau following the departure late last year of former Director Richard Cordray. Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget, has been serving as the CFPB's acting director. The official time date of the cloture vote has yet to be determined but is expected to occur after the Senate goes into recess for Thanksgiving. If the cloture vote is successful, the Senate will have up to 30 hours to debate the nomination before voting to confirm Kraninger — now a senior OMB official — as director. Kathy Kraninger The cloture motion on the nomination of Kathy Kraninger moves the Senate one step closer to confirming a permanent director of the CFPB following the departure late last year of former Director Richard Cordray. Bloomberg News Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee cited Kraninger's experience in management and public service as reason to support her nomination, but Democrats on the committee, which include moderate Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., unanimously objected to advancing the nomination to the full Senate floor. Democrats criticized her role at OMB in the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the zero-tolerance immigration policy that separated children at the southern border from their parents. They also said she lacked relevant experience in consumer finance to lead the CFPB and didn’t adequately answer their questions during her confirmation hearing. If the Senate is unable to confirm Kraninger before the end of the current Congress, she would have to be renominated and Mulvaney could still stay on in an acting capacity for several months. The Federal Vacancies Reform Act limits the service of temporary appointees to prevent a president from evading Senate review. The law sets a 210-day deadline for acting officials, but that time is extended while a first and in some cases second nomination for the office is submitted to the Senate and the nomination is pending.

‘I lost my home because of a computer glitch’- Wells’ victims seek answers - Jose Aguilar was shocked, but also angry, when he received a letter of apology earlier this fall from Wells Fargo. Aguilar and his family lost their home in Chittenango, N.Y., in 2015 after trying time and again to get a mortgage modification from Wells. “I was denied, denied, denied, denied, denied, denied,” he recalled. Now the San Francisco bank was saying that it made a mistake. Aguilar’s application should have been approved. The 41-year-old father recounted how the foreclosure upended his kids’ lives, who moved to Florida after being uprooted from their home in upstate New York. Aguilar and his ex-wife have two boys, ages 9 and 15. Wells Fargo sent a $25,000 check, an amount that Aguilar saw as inadequate. “To me, it’s a slap in face,” he said. “It’s not going to repair my life. I mean, my kids have been traumatized.” Aguilar is one of hundreds of homeowners that Wells has identified as victims of a calculation error involving foreclosure attorneys’ fees. He took the $1.9 trillion-asset bank to court on Tuesday, filing a petition that aims to compel Wells to disclose additional information that could be used as the basis for an eventual lawsuit. The mortgage servicing errors add to the list of woes at scandal-plagued Wells. The bank’s critics say the mistakes are emblematic of a company that devotes insufficient resources to back-office operations and then litigates the resulting customer grievances aggressively. “This is a problem that goes back to the beginning of the Great Recession, and continues to plague customers of Wells Fargo,” said Timothy Blood, a San Diego attorney who filed a class-action lawsuit in 2010 that alleged the bank improperly denied applications for mortgage modifications. “They seem to constantly be making errors in processing loan modifications. That’s what their job is.”

CoreLogic: "Mortgage Delinquency Rate the Lowest Level in More Than 12 Years" -- From CoreLogic: CoreLogic Loan Performance Insights Find the Overall US Mortgage Delinquency Rate in August Fell to the Lowest Level in More Than 12 Years The report shows that, nationally, 4 percent of mortgages were in some stage of delinquency (30 days or more past due, including those in foreclosure) in August 2018, representing a 0.6 percentage point decline in the overall delinquency rate compared with August 2017, when it was 4.6 percent.  As of August 2018, the foreclosure inventory rate – which measures the share of mortgages in some stage of the foreclosure process – was 0.5 percent, down 0.1 percentage point since August 2017. The August 2018 foreclosure inventory rate tied with the April, May, June and July rates this year as the lowest for any month since September 2006, when it was also 0.5 percent. Measuring early-stage delinquency rates is important for analyzing the health of the mortgage market. To monitor mortgage performance comprehensively, CoreLogic examines all stages of delinquency, as well as transition rates, which indicate the percentage of mortgages moving from one stage of delinquency to the next. The rate for early-stage delinquencies – defined as 30 to 59 days past due – was 1.8 percent in August 2018, down from 2 percent in August 2017. The share of mortgages that were 60 to 89 days past due in August 2018 was 0.6 percent, down from 0.7 percent in August 2017. The serious delinquency rate – defined as 90 days or more past due, including loans in foreclosure – was 1.5 percent in August 2018, down from 1.9 percent in August 2017. This serious delinquency rate was the lowest for August since 2006 when it was 1.4 percent, and the lowest for any month since March 2007 when it was also 1.5 percent.

Mortgage delinquencies continue decline, but market risks loom -- The mortgage delinquency rate dipped to a 12-year low, but overvalued housing markets and eventual reversal in the unemployment rate present risk for future delinquencies, according to CoreLogic. About 4% of mortgages reached or maintained a state of delinquency or foreclosure in August, a drop off from 4.6% year-over-year and a month-over-month edge down from July's 4.1%. The foreclosure inventory rate inched down to 0.5% from 0.6% a year ago while staying static from a month before. The rate tied for the lowest monthly level since September 2006. "Declines in delinquency rates are good news for America's homeowners and mortgage lenders," Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic, said in a press release. "However, risks that create loan default like natural disasters, overvalued markets and an eventual rise in unemployment remain in the market. CoreLogic Market Conditions Indicator data has identified more than one-third of metropolitan areas are overvalued, putting them at risk of price declines and rising delinquencies if local job losses should occur," Martell continued. For now though, delinquencies are projected to carry on the downward trend. The serious delinquency rate decreased to 1.5% from 1.9% year-over-year. It marks the lowest August since 1.4% in 2006 and matched the lowest of any month since March 2007. Early-stage delinquencies also fell, going to 1.8% from 2% year-over-year.

Rebuilding high-risk homes from California wildfires could cost $18B - The 48,390 homes dubbed at extreme or high risk from the California wildfires burning through the state could cost $18 billion in reconstruction, according to a CoreLogic analysis. The Camp Fire, which has Northern California up in flames, is putting an estimated 31,394 homes, with a total reconstruction cost value of about $7.3 billion, at high or extreme risk as of Nov. 11. Southern California's Woolsey Fire, affecting areas from Thousand Oaks to Malibu, is putting 16,996 homes at extreme or high risk, with a reconstruction cost value of $11 billion. California wildfires The CoreLogic Wildfire Risk Score evaluates potential dangers to a property by considering slope, aspect, vegetation/fuel and surface composition, and the proximity of a home to higher risk areas that could affect it via windblown embers, according to the company. California homeowners and servicers linked to properties affected by the wildfires can exhaust a number of relief options. Homeowners may halt payments for up to 12 months without incurring late fees and without being reported to the credit bureaus, according to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac natural disaster relief policies. Servicers may suspend or reduce mortgage payments for up to 90 days without first having contact with the homeowner. Servicers must also suspend foreclosure or legal proceedings for properties believed to be affected. Because President Trump issued a major disaster declaration for Butte, Los Angeles and Ventura counties on Tuesday, the Department of Housing and Urban Development can now offer the following assistance: a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures of Federal Housing Administration-insured home mortgages; FHA insurance to houses destroyed or damaged to the point where reconstruction or replacement is necessary; and the ability for homeowners who lost their properties to purchase or refinance a house, along with repairs, through a single mortgage.

In Almost Every San Francisco Neighborhood, The Average Home Is Worth More Than $1 Million -- As luxury housing markets in New York City, Vancouver and San Francisco show signs of wobbling after nearly nine years of torrid price growth that has already more than compensated for the Bush-era housing collapse, a report by Trulia Analytics offered the latest insight into where some of the most painful retrenchment might occur for home owners and mortgage holders who risk seeing a large chunk of their net worth wiped out (the losses could be particularly painful if Nassim Taleb is right about the next debt crisis beginning in the housing market).In the report, Trulia examined which cities among the largest 100 US metro areas saw the largest increases in the number of million dollar homes, as well as the number of neighborhoods where the median home value is one million dollars.Unsurprisingly, the markets that saw the largest increases in the number of million-dollar homes were almost exclusively on the West Coast, with Long Island, NY the only east-coast market to crack the top ten. No markets in the midwest or south made the cut.But digging deeper into the data, this is possibly the most glaring stat to suggest that last year might have seen a pre-bust run-up equivalent to the rate of home appreciation in 2005 and 2006. Of the 838 million-dollar-neighborhoods currently in the US, more than 105 crossed the threshold in the past year alone. Seven of these were located in San Francisco, joining the 80 neighborhoods in the city that had already shared this designation. These new additions include South of Market, Portola, Ingleside and ever-popular Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhoods. Across SF, only 15 neighborhoods remain with a median home value below $1 million.

MBA: Mortgage Applications Decreased in Latest Weekly Survey -- From the MBA: Mortgage Applications Decrease in Latest MBA Weekly SurveyMortgage applications decreased 3.2 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending November 9, 2018.... The Refinance Index decreased 4.3 percent from the previous week reaching its lowest level since December 2000. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 2.3 percent from one week earlier reaching its lowest level since February 2017. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 5 percent compared with the previous week and was 3 percent lower than the same week one year ago. ... “Both home purchase and mortgage refinance applications decreased over the week, driven largely by declines in conventional applications. Mortgage rates increased over the week for most loan types, with the 30-year fixed rate mortgage increasing to 5.17 percent – the highest level since 2010.” ...The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($453,100 or less) increased to 5.17 percent from 5.15 percent, with points increasing to 0.55 from 0.51 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans.

 Higher mortgage rates pull down loan applications for new homes -- Borrowers buying new homes produced fewer loan applications than they did a year earlier due to October's rising interest rates. Loan applications for new-home purchases dropped 2.1% from October 2017, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's Builder Application survey. "While we have seen some monthly swings in new home sales in 2018, the year-to-date average sales pace is around 7% higher than the same period in 2017," Joel Kan, the MBA's associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting, said in a press release. "Additionally, the average loan size for a new home purchase application, at around $332,000, was at its lowest since July 2017." While applications for new-home loans were down year-to-year, they rose 11% from September. On a seasonally adjusted basis, October had an estimated 4.7% increase in new single-family home sales, going to 673,000 units from 643,000 units in September. On an unadjusted basis, there were 53,000 estimated new-home sales in October 2018, an increase of 6% from 50,000 new home sales in September, according to the MBA. Conventional loans accounted for 70.9% of new-home purchase applications in October. Federal Housing Administration loans comprised 17.1% and loans insured by the Department of Veterans Affairs represented 11.2%. U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Housing Service loans occupied the remaining 0.7% of October's new-home purchase applications. The average size of the loans sought in new-home purchase applications fell year-over-year to $331,732 from $339,534. It was also a month-over-month decline from September's $333,086.

Are consumers fed up with the housing market for the wrong reasons? - Consumers blame speculative home flippers and wealthy out-of-towners for soaring home prices, but the blame may be misplaced, given many economists' views about the broader factors at play. About 70% of consumers blame house flippers and speculative investors for pushing up home prices, while 66% say wealthy residents moving in from costly markets have increased housing costs to unsustainable levels, according to ValueInsured's 4Q Modern Homebuyer Survey. As a result, 59% of prospective homebuyers, including first-time and upgrade buyers, are planning to wait for a "meaningful" housing market correction before proceeding to buy a house, and 14% say they will call it quits altogether should a correction not occur, according to ValueInsured, a Dallas-based down payment insurance company. The results are curious, given that economists attribute rising prices to a housing inventory shortage brought about by reluctant homeowners unwilling to sell and inadequate levels of home construction, illustrating that consumers and the industry may not exactly see eye-to-eye on what's driving up property values. "The ValueInsured Survey revealed some concerning evidence about the changing psychology of the housing market," housing economist Robert Shiller said in a press release. "We will be watching these numbers as they unfold over the future." The idea that people are more skittish about housing is also echoed in Fannie Mae's most recent Home Purchase Sentiment Index, which showed how rising mortgage rates negatively affected consumer perceptions of home buying and selling during October. In the ValueInsured survey, about 66% of millennial buyers looking to purchase a starter home say they will wait for a market correction to buy a house, and 36% of move-up homebuyers planning to sell will also wait to purchase their upgrade until after a correction. The survey also found about 75% of Americans claim their local housing market is "cooling." Millennials in particular believe now is a good time to sell, but only 38% of those wanting to purchase a starter home believe it's a good time to buy, which is down eight percentage points from the same period a year ago. This is significant because the depletion of starter home inventory from the market put upward pressure on house values as homebuyers fought over little supply, pricing some out of the market entirely. The addition of this inventory will help support consumer affordability by offering more financially attainable homes, and help keep property prices at bay on supply growth. Still, 78% of urban residents and 72% of consumers overall report that home prices are still too high; these sentiments are up 13 and 10 percentage points, respectively.

AOC Rental Woes a Reminder of Worsening Conditions for Workers -- The media coverage of the fact that Alexandria Ocascio-Cortez can’t yet move to Washington because she can’t afford to rent an apartment is another Versailles circa 1788 moments. Washington has so long been expensive that even before working-class AOC stormed the barricades there have long been stories of Congresscritters who live in their offices in DC rather than rent an apartment. The most famous case is Paul Ryan. As Kentucky representative Andy Barr said in 2015, “I think there’s more than you might expect. There’s quite a few of us, particularly the younger members with young families back home in our districts. There’s quite a few — men and women.”Nevertheless, AOC’s disclosure had the effect of putting a sympathetic face on how housing costs chew up the budgets of young and not-so-young people. Yet is is hardly news that more and more people are living with their parents because they can’t earn enough to live independently. From MarketWatch:Over roughly the past two decades, rent prices have increased 61%, while incomes for younger households have only risen 31%, according to an Apartment List study. That explains why 7.9% of non-student millennials receive financial assistance from family members to pay their rents. A study from Zillow ZG, +3.01% estimated that 22.5% of millennials are living at home with their parents.Moreover, socio-economic status influences the reasons people choose to move. People with college degrees are more likely to move for a job, while people without higher education are inclined to move to find somewhere that is more affordable, another Apartment List study found.Americans are moving to new cities at the lowest rate since World War II, with just over 11% of people choosing to relocate in 2016 down from roughly 20% in the 1980s. And factors such as restrictive land-use laws, which have driven up housing costs along the coasts in particular, have made it far more difficult for people with fewer financial resources to make a move.

Where Veteran Homelessness Is Rising And Falling - Despite the end of the Iraq war and efforts to enable the Afghan military to take over their country's security, the sight of a homeless U.S. veteran struggling to keep warm in a doorway will sadly remain common in major American cities this winter.  Over the past couple of years, the U.S. has made progress in reducing the number of homeless veterans.   After a slight rise last year, Statista's Niall McCarthy notes that the homeless population declined 5.4 percent over the past 12 months. There are currently about 38,000 homeless vets across the country, about half the amount counted in 2010.  Some states have had more success eliminating the problem than others, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development data. The following infographic shows where the homeless veteran population has increases and decreases at state level over the past year.  While Connecticut, Delaware and Virginia have effectively ended it, solutions are harder to come by in states with high property prices such as California.  Nevada has seen the number of vets sleeping rough fall by almost 88 percent but Mississippi has experienced a 79 percent increase.

NY Fed Q3 Report: "Total Household Debt Rises for 17th Straight Quarter" --From the NY Fed: Total Household Debt Rises for 17th Straight QuarterThe Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data today issued its Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit, which shows that total household debt increased by $219 billion (1.6%) to $13.51 trillion in the third quarter of 2018. It was the 17th consecutive quarter with an increase and the total is now $837 billion higher than the previous peak of $12.68 trillion in the third quarter of 2008. Furthermore, overall household debt is now 21.2% above the post-financial-crisis trough reached during the second quarter of 2013. The Report is based on data from the New York Fed’s Consumer Credit Panel, a nationally representative sample of individual- and household-level debt and credit records drawn from anonymized Equifax credit data...Mortgage originations increased to $445 billion from $437 billion in the second quarter. Mortgage delinquencies were roughly flat, with 1.1% of mortgage balances 90 or more days delinquent in the third quarter. Here are two graphs from the report: The first graph shows aggregate consumer debt increased in Q3.  Household debt previously peaked in 2008, and bottomed in Q2 2013. From the NY Fed: Aggregate household debt balances increased in the third quarter of 2018 for the 17th consecutive quarter, and are now $837 billion higher than the previous (2008Q3) peak of $12.68 trillion. As of September 30, 2018, total household indebtedness was $13.51 trillion, a $219 billion (1.6%) increase from the second quarter of 2018. Overall household debt is now 21.2% above the 2013Q2 trough. Mortgage balances shown on consumer credit reports on September 30 stood at $9.1 trillion, an increase of $141 billion from the second quarter of 2018. Balances on home equity lines of credit (HELOC), on a declining trend since 2009, decreased by $10 billion in the third quarter and are now at $422 billion, the lowest level seen in 14 years. Non-housing balances jumped by $88 billion in the third quarter, with auto loans increasing by $27 billion, credit card balances going up by $15 billion, and student loan balances seeing a seasonally typical $37 billion increase.The second graph shows the percent of debt in delinquency. There is still a larger than normal percent of debt 90+ days delinquent (Yellow, orange and red). The overall delinquency rate increased in Q3.  From the NY Fed: This increase was primarily due to a large increase in the flow into delinquency for student loan balances during the third quarter of 2018, while the flow into 90+ day delinquency for auto loan balances has been slowly trending upward since 2012.

US Household Debt Hits Record $13.5 Trillion As Delinquencies Hit 6 Year High - Total household debt hit a new record high, rising by $219 billion (1.6%) to $13.512 trillion in Q3 of 2018, according to the NY Fed's latest household debt report, the biggest jump since 2016. It was also the 17th consecutive quarter with an increase in household debt, and the total is now $837 billion higher than the previous peak of $12.68 trillion, from the third quarter of 2008. Overall household debt is now 21.2% above the post-financial-crisis trough reached during the second quarter of 2013. Mortgage balances—the largest component of household debt—rose by $141 billion during the third quarter, to $9.14 trillion. Credit card debt rose by $15 billion to $844 billion; auto loan debt increased by $27 billion in the quarter to $1.265 trillion and student loan debt hit a record high of $1.442 trillion, an increase of $37 billion in Q3. Balances on home equity lines of credit (HELOC) continued their downward trend, declining by $4 billion, to $432 billion. The median credit score of newly originating mortgage borrowers was roughly unchanged, at 760. Mortgage originations edged up to $445 billion in the second quarter, from $437 billion in the second quarter. Meanwhile, mortgage delinquencies were unchanged improve, with 1.1% of mortgage balances 90 or more days delinquent in the third quarter, same as the second quarter. Most newly originated mortgages continued went to borrowers with the highest credit scores, with 58% of new mortgages borrowed by consumers with a 760 credit score or higher. The median credit score of newly originating borrowers was mostly unchanged; the median credit score among newly originating mortgage borrowers was 758, suggesting that with half of all mortgages going to individuals with high credit scores, mortgages remain tight by historical standards. For auto loan originators, the distribution was flat, and individuals with subprime scores received a substantial share of newly originated auto loans. In what will come as a surprise to nobody, outstanding student loans rose $37BN to a new all time high of $1.44 trillion as of Sept 30. It should also come as no surprise - or maybe it will to the Fed - that student loan delinquencies remain stubbornly above 10%, a level they hit 6 years ago and have failed to move in either direction since...

AIA: "Architecture firm billings continue to slow, but remain positive in October" --  This index is a leading indicator primarily for new Commercial Real Estate (CRE) investment. From the AIA: Architecture firm billings continue to slow, but remain positive in October: Architecture firm billings growth softened in October but remained positive for the thirteenth consecutive month, according to a new report today from The American Institute of Architects (AIA).AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) score for October was 50.4 compared to 51.1 in September. With continued strength in new project inquiries, billings are expected to remain steady into the coming months."The effects of the 2018 hurricane season are the probable cause of the temporary contraction in billings in the Southern region,”  “This decrease in demand for design services is limited, and the region should rebound over the next several months."
• Regional averages: Midwest (57.8), Northeast (51.8), South (48.4), West (46.9)
• Sector index breakdown: mixed practice (52.7), multi-family residential (52.3), institutional (52.0), commercial/industrial (48.9)

Things Are Getting Worse - Mall Owners Hand Over The Keys To Lenders Before They Even Default - For years, traditional malls around the United States have been in a state of partial or full collapse thanks to "the Amazon effect": deteriorating conditions, bankrupt or cash-bleeding tenants, with some even transforming into homeless shelters as the retail industry "evolves". In other words, as Bloomberg writes, "things are getting worse for malls across America." So much worse, in fact, that their owners are simply walking away early from struggling properties, a trend that has sparked fears of material losses among mortgage bond investors.Investors in and lenders to malls across America are bracing for the fallout from the disappearance of the brick and mortar sub-sector of the industry. With the recent bankruptcy of retail giant Sears, mall operators are continuing to see accelerating defaults in the wake of numerous other retail bankruptcies from stores like Bon-Ton, Wet Seal and RadioShack, and many others, resulting in abrupt declines in rental and lease payments.And amid the ongoing collapse in what was once a staple source of shopping and entertainment for "middle America", many mall owners are simply turning over the keys to lenders even before their lease is over, according to Bloomberg. That puts the loan servicing companies in a position to either try to run the properties themselves or turn around and sell them. If they can’t make the debt payments, the new owners of the commercial mortgage backed securities in turn end up facing the consequences themselves.

Retail Sales increased 0.8% in October - On a monthly basis, retail sales increased 0.8 percent from September to October (seasonally adjusted), and sales were up 4.6 percent from October 2017. From the Census Bureau report: Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for October 2018, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $511.5 billion, an increase of 0.8 percent from the previous month, and 4.6 percent above October 2017. This graph shows retail sales since 1992. This is monthly retail sales and food service, seasonally adjusted (total and ex-gasoline). Retail sales ex-gasoline were up 0.5% in October.The second graph shows the year-over-year change in retail sales and food service (ex-gasoline) since 1993. Retail and Food service sales, ex-gasoline, increased by 3.6% on a YoY basis.  The increase in October was above expectations, however sales in August and September were revised down.

October Retail Sales: Up 0.8% MoM, Beats Forecast - The Census Bureau's Advance Retail Sales Report for October was released this morning. Headline sales came in at 0.8% month-over-month to one decimal and was better than the forecast of 0.6%. Core sales (ex Autos) came in at 0.67% MoM (to two decimals). Revisions were made to the last two months. Here is the introduction from today's report:Advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for October 2018, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $511.5 billion, an increase of 0.8 percent (±0.5 percent) from the previous month, and 4.6 percent (±0.5 percent) above October 2017. Total sales for the August 2018 through October 2018 period were up 5.0 percent (±0.5 percent) from the same period a year ago. The August 2018 to September 2018 percent change was revised from up 0.1 percent (±0.5 percent)* to down 0.1 percent (±0.2 percent)*.Retail trade sales were up 0.9 percent (±0.5 percent) from September 2018, and 4.3 percent (±0.5 percent) above last year. Gasoline Stations were up 16.2 percent (±1.6 percent) from October 2017, while Nonstore Retailers were also up 12.1 percent (±1.4 percent) from last year. [view full report] The chart below is a log-scale snapshot of retail sales since the early 1990s. The two exponential regressions through the data help us to evaluate the long-term trend of this key economic indicator.

Long Leading Indicators Of Easing Credit And Real Retail Sales Remain Positive For Now - Earlier this week the third-quarter Senior Loan Officer Survey was reported by the Federal Reserve. Since this is one of my long leading indicators, let's take a look. While I am at it, let's also update another long leading indicator, real retail sales per capita, because my suspicion has been that last autumn's strong increases, probably hurricane-related, would not be echoed this year.  First, banks eased lending conditions again in the third quarter (blue in the graph below). This is compared with the weekly Chicago Fed adjusted financial conditions index (red, *20 for scale). Note that easing is recorded as a negative number, so below zero = good: In the third quarter, credit remained loose. Note that the Chicago Fed's weekly index has been an excellent proxy (and has remained loose in the first six weeks of the fourth quarter).Interestingly, despite loose credit, large firms haven't been very interested in borrowing (in this case, below zero = bad): In the third quarter, this number sank to pre-recessionary levels. But note that this number has been negative for two years in the face of an acceleratingly positive economy! My suspicion is that the lack of demand reflects the desirability of the alternative route of equity financing that is available to larger firms. Of course, if equity fades, that avenue is shut off, and one suspects that credit may tighten at the same time. So this is worth a yellow flag. Now, let's turn to real retail sales per capita. These have gone flat for a year before the last two recessions. We did get a solid nominal retail sales reading of +0.8% in October, mainly reflecting vehicle demand and gas station sales. Note, of course, that the latter looks set to fade pretty significantly this month! Since inflation rose +0.3%, that makes the "real" retail sales number +0.5%, which is equal to the reading from one year ago.  My forecast that the autumn 2017 surge would not be repeated is bearing out so far. Now let's return to the absolute number and adjust for population growth. Here's what we get: Of course, we have had such flattish periods before during this expansion (for example, the last nine months of 2013, and from mid-2015 to mid-2016) without signaling any fundamental shift. So real retail sales per capita remain in a weak positive trend for now. I won't put up a yellow caution flag unless they turn negative on a 6-month basis - which is entirely possible next month - but not yet. In sum, while in general interest rate and housing long leading indicators are negative (or in a few cases, flat), the producer and consumer components remain positive although possibly weakening.

BLS: CPI increased 0.3% in October, Core CPI increased 0.2% --From the BLS:The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.3 percent in October on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.1 percent in September, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index rose 2.5 percent before seasonal adjustment. An increase in the gasoline index was responsible for over one-third of the seasonally adjusted increase in the all items index; advances in the indexes for shelter, used cars and trucks, and electricity also contributed. The increases in the gasoline and electricity indexes led to a 2.4-percent rise in the energy index. The food index, in contrast, declined slightly in October. The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.2 percent in October following a 0.1-percent increase in September. Along with the indexes for shelter and for used cars and trucks, the indexes for medical care, household furnishings and operations, motor vehicle insurance, and tobacco all increased in October. The indexes for communication, new vehicles, and recreation all declined.  The all items index rose 2.5 percent for the 12 months ending October, a larger increase than the 2.3-percent increase for the 12 months ending September. The index for all items less food and energy rose 2.1 percent for the 12 months ending October.

Consumer Price Index: October Headline at 2.52% - The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the October Consumer Price Index data this morning. The year-over-year non-seasonally adjusted Headline CPI came in at 2.52%, up from 2.28% the previous month. Year-over-year Core CPI (ex Food and Energy) came in at 2.14%, down from the previous month's 2.17% and above the Fed's 2% PCE target. Here is the introduction from the BLS summary, which leads with the seasonally adjusted monthly data:The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.3 percent in October on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.1 percent in September, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index rose 2.5 percent before seasonal adjustment.An increase in the gasoline index was responsible for over one-third of the seasonally adjusted increase in the all items index; advances in the indexes for shelter, used cars and trucks, and electricity also contributed. The increases in the gasoline and electricity indexes led to a 2.4-percent rise in the energy index. The food index, in contrast, declined slightly in October.The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.2 percent in October following a 0.1-percent increase in September. Along with the indexes for shelter and for used cars and trucks, the indexes for medical care, household furnishings and operations, motor vehicle insurance, and tobacco all increased in October. The indexes for communication, new vehicles, and recreation all declined.The all items index rose 2.5 percent for the 12 months ending October, a larger increase than the 2.3-percent increase for the 12 months ending September. The index for all items less food and energy rose 2.1 percent for the 12 months ending October. The energy index increased 8.9 percent, while the food index increased more modestly, advancing 1.2 percent over the last 12 months. [More…] The first chart is an overlay of Headline CPI and Core CPI (the latter excludes Food and Energy) since the turn of the century. The highlighted two percent level is the Federal Reserve's Core inflation target for the CPI's cousin index, the BEA's Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index.

Key Measures Show Inflation Softened Slightly on YoY Basis in October -- The Cleveland Fed released the median CPI and the trimmed-mean CPI this morning:According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, the median Consumer Price Index rose 0.2% (2.4% annualized rate) in October. The 16% trimmed-mean Consumer Price Index also rose 0.2% (2.7% annualized rate) during the month. The median CPI and 16% trimmed-mean CPI are measures of core inflation calculated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland based on data released in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) monthly CPI report.Earlier today, the BLS reported that the seasonally adjusted CPI for all urban consumers rose 0.3% (4.0% annualized rate) in October. The CPI less food and energy rose 0.2% (2.3% annualized rate) on a seasonally adjusted basis. Note: The Cleveland Fed released the median CPI details for October here. Motor fuel was up 43% annualized in October, but that will reverse in November.

U.S. prices of imports, exports both increase in October - (Xinhua) -- U.S. import and export prices both increased in October, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday. Prices for U.S. imports increased 0.5 percent in October after advancing 0.2 percent in September. It is also the largest monthly increase since a 0.9-percent rise in May. From October 2017 to October 2018, prices for U.S. imports rose 3.5 percent and have not recorded an over-the-year decrease in two years when the index declined 0.2 in October 2016. The price index for import fuels increased 3.3 percent in October after a 0.7-percent rise in September. The October rise was the largest monthly advance since a 6.1-percent increase in May. Higher prices for both petroleum and natural gas contributed to the advance in October. Prices for petroleum increased 2.8 percent in October after a 0.9-percent rise the previous month. Natural gas prices grew 24.6 percent in October, the largest monthly increase since a 25.7-percent advance in November 2017. Nonfuel import prices advanced 0.2 percent in October, after recording no change in September. The price index for nonfuel imports increased 0.7 percent over the past 12 months. The over-the-year advance was driven mostly by a 3.4-percent rise in nonfuel industrial supplies and materials, as well as higher prices for consumer goods and automotive vehicles.

Long Beach: "Port sees brisk holiday imports, slower exports" -- From the Port of Long Beach: October Cargo Strong in Long Beach For the second consecutive year, the Port of Long Beach has broken its October record for cargo, as volumes rose 5.4 percent compared to the same month in 2017. October 2018 was also the third-busiest month in the Port’s 107-year history. Marine terminals handled 705,408 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of container cargo in October. Inbound containers increased 7.4 percent, to 364,084 TEUs. Export TEUs totaled 119,837 TEUs, a 5 percent decline. Empty containers shipped overseas grew 8.5 percent, to 221,487 TEUs. Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said the results illustrate the evolving effects of the U.S.-China trade war. “Our higher import volumes suggest some retailers expect U.S. consumers will be big spenders this holiday season,” said Cordero. “Other importers are rushing shipments to beat escalating tariffs. At the same time, the trade war has clearly slowed American exports to China.” Imports are up, exports are down.   I'll post a graph once the Port of Los Angeles reports October traffic.

LA area Port Traffic in October; Record Imports - Container traffic gives us an idea about the volume of goods being exported and imported - and usually some hints about the trade report since LA area ports handle about 40% of the nation's container port traffic.The following graphs are for inbound and outbound traffic at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in TEUs (TEUs: 20-foot equivalent units or 20-foot-long cargo container).To remove the strong seasonal component for inbound traffic, the first graph shows the rolling 12 month average. On a rolling 12 month basis, inbound traffic was up 1.5% compared in October to the rolling 12 months ending in September.   Outbound traffic was up 0.7% compared to the rolling 12 months ending in September.The 2nd graph is the monthly data (with a strong seasonal pattern for imports). Usually imports peak in the July to October period as retailers import goods for the Christmas holiday, and then decline sharply and bottom in February or March depending on the timing of the Chinese New Year. In general imports have been increasing, and exports have mostly moved sideways over the last 6 or 7 years.

 U.S. Heavy Truck Sales up 18% Year-over-year in October - The following graph shows heavy truck sales since 1967 using data from the BEA. The dashed line is the October 2018 seasonally adjusted annual sales rate (SAAR).  Heavy truck sales really collapsed during the great recession, falling to a low of 181 thousand in April and May 2009, on a seasonally adjusted annual rate basis (SAAR). Then sales increased more than 2 1/2 times, and hit 480 thousand SAAR in June 2015.Heavy truck sales declined again - probably mostly due to the weakness in the oil sector - and bottomed at 366 thousand SAAR in October 2016. With the increase in oil prices over the last year, heavy truck sales increased too.  Heavy truck sales were at 515 thousand SAAR in October, down from the recent peak of 539 thousand SAAR in September, and up from 436 thousand SAAR in October 2017. With the recent decline oil prices, and softness in housing, heavy truck sales will probably decline over the next few months.

Industrial Production Increased 0.1% in October --From the Fed: Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization Industrial production edged up 0.1 percent in October, as a gain for manufacturing outweighed decreases elsewhere. As a result of upward revisions primarily in mining, the overall index is now reported to have advanced at an annual rate of 4.7 percent in the third quarter, appreciably above the gain of 3.3 percent reported initially. Hurricanes lowered the level of industrial production in both September and October, but their effects appear to be less than 0.1 percent per month. In October, manufacturing output rose 0.3 percent for its fifth consecutive monthly increase, while the indexes for mining and for utilities declined 0.3 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively. At 109.1 percent of its 2012 average, total industrial production was 4.1 percent higher in October than it was a year earlier. Capacity utilization for the industrial sector was 78.4 percent, a rate that is 1.4 percentage points below its long-run (1972–2017) average.  This graph shows Capacity Utilization. This series is up 11.7 percentage points from the record low set in June 2009 (the series starts in 1967). Capacity utilization at 78.4% is 1.4% below the average from 1972 to 2017 and below the pre-recession level of 80.8% in December 2007. The second graph shows industrial production since 1967. Industrial production increased in October to 108.5. This is 25% above the recession low, and 4% above the pre-recession peak. The increase in industrial production was below the consensus forecast, however the previous months were revised up.  Capacity utilization was above consensus.

Earlier: NY Fed Mfg "Solid", Philly Fed Mfg "Slowed" in November - Earlier: From the NY Fed: Empire State Manufacturing Survey: Business activity continued to grow at a solid clip in New York State, according to firms responding to the November 2018 Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The headline general business conditions index edged up two points to 23.3.…The index for number of employees moved up five points to 14.1, and the average workweek index climbed nine points to 9.2, indicating increases in both employment levels and hours worked.   From the Philly Fed: November 2018 Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey  Growth in manufacturing activity slowed in November, according to results from this month’s Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey. The survey’s broad indicators for general activity, new orders, shipments, employment, and work hours remained positive but fell from their readings last month. The firms remained generally optimistic about future growth.The diffusion index for current general activity decreased from 22.2 in October to 12.9 in November, its lowest reading since August … The firms continued to report overall higher employment. Almost 25 percent of the responding firms reported increases in employment this month, while 8 percent of the firms reported decreases in employment. The current employment index remained positive but declined 3 points to 16.3. The current workweek index fell nearly 15 points to 6.3, its lowest reading in two years. Here is a graph comparing the regional Fed surveys and the ISM manufacturing index:

Kansas City Fed: Regional Manufacturing Activity "Growth Edged Higher" in November From the Kansas City Fed: Growth in Tenth District Manufacturing Activity Edged Higher - The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City released the November Manufacturing Survey today. According to Chad Wilkerson, vice president and economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, the survey revealed that growth in Tenth District manufacturing activity edged higher, while expectations for future activity moderated slightly.“Firms reported a pickup in orders, production, and shipments in November, following some slowing in recent months” said Wilkerson... The month-over-month composite index was 15 in November, up from 8 in October and 13 in September. The composite index is an average of the production, new orders, employment, supplier delivery time, and raw materials inventory indexes. The increase in factory growth was driven by both durable and nondurable goods producers, particularly metals, aircraft, food, and plastics. Most month-over-month indexes rose modestly. The production, shipments, new orders, and order backlog indexes all increased to their highest levels since the middle of the year. The new orders for exports index inched up from 3 to 6, while the employment index eased somewhat.

US Business Inventories Grew in September - U.S. business inventories rose 0.3% in September to a seasonally adjusted $1.97 trillion, according to the Commerce Department. Here are the report’s topline figures:

  • -Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected a 0.3% increase from August.
  • -Factory inventories grew 0.5% in September from the previous month, retail inventories rose 0.1%, and wholesale inventories increased 0.4%.
  • -The overall inventories to sales ratio in September was 1.34, compared with 1.37 in September of last year.

 Small Business Optimism Index decreased in October -Note: Most of this survey is noise, but there is some information, especially on the labor market and the "Single Most Important Problem". From the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB): October 2018 Report: Small Business Optimism Index The Optimism Index shed a modest 0.5 points, with slight declines in five components, no change in four of them, and one increase, landing at 107.4...Job creation was solid in October at a net addition of 0.15 workers per firm (including those making no change in employment), unchanged from September. Sixteen percent (up 3 points) reported increasing employment an average of 3.3 workers per firm and 11 percent (unchanged) reported reducing employment an average of 2.9 workers per firm (seasonally adjusted). Sixty percent reported hiring or trying to hire (down 1 point), but 53 percent (88 percent of those hiring or trying to hire) reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill (unchanged). Twenty-three percent of owners cited the difficulty of finding qualified workers as their Single Most Important Business Problem (up 1 point), 2 points below the record high reached in August. Thirty-eight percent of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, equal to last month’s record high.

Seasonal Retail Hiring -- According to the BLS employment report, retailers hired seasonal workers in October at the lowest pace since the great recession. Typically retail companies start hiring for the holiday season in October, and really increase hiring in November. Here is a graph that shows the historical net retail jobs added for October, November and December by year. This graph really shows the collapse in retail hiring in 2008. Since then seasonal hiring has increased back close to more normal levels. Note: I expect the long term trend will be down with more and more internet holiday shopping.Retailers hired 123 thousand workers (NSA) net in October.   This suggests retailers are a little cautious about the holiday season - or they are having difficulty finding seasonal help.Last year there was a surge in seasonal hiring in November, and maybe that will happen again this year. Note: There is a decent correlation between October seasonal retail hiring and holiday retail sales.

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims increased to 216,000 --The DOL reported:In the week ending November 10, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 216,000, an increase of 2,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 214,000. The 4-week moving average was 215,250, an increase of 1,500 from the previous week's unrevised average of 213,750. The previous week was unrevised. The following graph shows the 4-week moving average of weekly claims since 1971.

BLS: Unemployment Rates Lower in 6 states in October, Texas and Washington at New Series Lows - From the BLS: Regional and State Employment and Unemployment Summary Unemployment rates were lower in October in 6 states, higher in 2 states, and stable in 42 states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Eighteen states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier and 32 states and the District had little or no change....Hawaii had the lowest unemployment rate in October, 2.3 percent. The rates in Texas (3.7 percent) and Washington (4.3 percent) set new series lows. (All state series begin in 1976.) Alaska had the highest jobless rate, 6.4 percent.

Goldman: Unemployment rate down to 3% in early-to-mid 2020 - A few brief excerpts from a Goldman Sachs research note:Following the remarkable momentum in job growth, we update our estimate of the breakeven payroll pace that stabilizes the unemployment rate and estimate how long it will likely take before we get there.We estimate the pace of breakeven payrolls at 90k per month, less than half the pace of realized job growth in recent months. ... Combined with our GDP forecasts, the analysis suggests that job creation will reach its breakeven pace in early/mid-2020, when the unemployment rate in our forecast is down to just 3%. CR Note: Goldman also thinks the Fed will raise rates by 25bps five more times in this cycle (maybe more).

By banning mandatory arbitration clauses and class and collective action waivers, Congress could restore a fundamental workers right – EPI - Last term, the Supreme Court dealt a significant blow to the fundamental right of workers in this country to join together to address workplace disputes. In Epic Systems v. Lewis, the Court, by a 5-4 majority, held that an employer may lawfully require its employees to agree, as a condition of employment, to resolve all workplace disputes on an individual basis in arbitration. Siding with employers and the Trump administration, the Court’s decision paves the way for the majority of workers in this country to be forced to sign away their right to pursue workplace disputes on a collective or class basis. Available data suggests that, unless Congress acts, more than 80 percent of workplaces will subject their workers to mandatory arbitration with class and collective action waivers within six years.Mandatory arbitration clauses rob workers of their right to take their employer to court for all types of employment-related claims, forcing workers into a process that overwhelmingly favors employers. Class and collective action waivers go one step further, forcing workers to manage this process alone, even though these issues are rarely confined to one single worker.Workers depend on collective and class actions to enforce many workplace rights. Employment class actions have helped to combat race and sex discrimination and are fundamental to the enforcement of wage and hour standards. Without the ability to aggregate claims, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for workers to find legal representation in these matters. This is particularly true for low-wage workers, whose cases are unlikely to involve large enough awards to attract attorneys to invest time in the case. Class and collective action suits allow workers to pool their claims, making it possible for an attorney to earn enough to make the case worth pursuing.Yesterday, Senate Democrats joined their colleagues in the House in responding to the Court’s misguided decision with the Restoring Justice for Workers Act. This critical legislation bans mandatory arbitration and class and collective action waivers in labor and employment disputes. The bill is an important first step towards shifting the balance of power between employers and workers. We must join together to demand that Congress pass the Restoring Justice for Workers Act.

Energy prices and real wage trends - Jared Bernstein --I’ve got a piece up in today’s WaPo on some of the economic and social implications of the recent tanking in oil prices. Obviously, such prices jump around, and OPEC is talking about reigning in supplies, so the negative trend could reverse. But the points of my piece are a) low oil may be a boon for consumers at the pump, but it’s inconsistent with sustainable growth, and b) especially post-midterms, it’s time to start talking about taxing carbon. I suggest raising the gas tax as a good start, which, as I show, is more bipartisan than you thought.The piece also has a figure showing the impact of changes in energy prices on the growth of real wages of middle-wage workers. I point out that the correlation between those two variables is much higher now than in the past.The “energy effect” in the figure is simply the difference between real wage trends with and without energy costs. The first figure below shows wages deflated both ways. The blue line is real hourly wages (production, non-supervisory workers), yr/yr, and the green line is wages deflated by the CPI without energy costs. Therefore, when the two lines are broadly coincident, as in the earlier decades, it implies changing energy costs weren’t much of a factor in real wage growth outcomes.The second figure shows the same CPI-deflated real wage trend but plotted against the difference between the two series in figure one, the idea being that wg/cpi – wg/cpi_no_energy nets out the energy impact.

Amazon is getting more than $2 billion for NYC and Virginia expansions+  Over the last year, Amazon has dangled in front of cities the possibility that they could host the company's "second headquarters"—a massive $5 billion facility that would provide 50,000 white-collar jobs. On Tuesday, Amazon confirmed what had been widely reported: nobody would be getting this massive prize. Instead, the expansion would be split in half, with New York City and Arlington, Virginia, (just outside Washington, DC) each getting smaller facilities that will employ around 25,000 people each.  Amazon's Seattle offices will continue to be the company's largest and will continue to be Amazon's headquarters by any reasonable definition. But pretending to have three "headquarters" undoubtedly makes it easier for Amazon to coax taxpayer dollars out of local governments. The announcement is underwhelming in other ways, too. The Washington, DC, area has been widely seen as the frontrunner since the competition was announced last year. When Amazon announced a list of 20 finalists, the region claimed three of those 20 spots, with separate entries for Northern Virginia; Montgomery County, Maryland; and the district itself. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post in 2013 and bought the largest house in Washington, DC, in 2016. Meanwhile, the New York metro area is home to the second-largest concentration of technology talent after the San Francisco Bay Area, and Bezos owns a home in Manhattan. Amazon listed Newark, New Jersey, in addition to New York City itself, among its 20 finalists—a sign that the New York area was also getting serious consideration.

NY Taxpayers To Pay $61,000 Per Amazon HQ2 Job - New York taxpayers will shell out $61,000 for each of the 25,000 jobs to be created over the next 15 years from Amazon's new split-model HQ2 plan. This works out to nearly double the $32,000 in tax incentives that Virginia residents will shoulder for the same number of jobs, according to Bloomberg. In the long run, the public expense, along with the number of jobs created, would likely be even higher in Long Island City - as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state and city will spend as much as $3 billion to secure as many as 40,000 jobs in what he described at a Tuesday press conference as "the largest economic development initiative that has ever been done by the city or the state." Not everyone is happy with New York's current plan to offer performance-based direct incentives of $1.525 billion and a cash grant of $325 million based on the square footage of buildings Amazon occupies over the next 10 years. "Amazon is one of the richest companies in the world...I also don’t understand why a company as rich as Amazon would need nearly $2 billion in public money for its expansion plans at a time when New York desperately needs money for affordable housing, transportation, infrastructure and education," said New York City Council speaker Corey Johnson. Virginia, meanwhile, will pay less to boost the Northern Virginia region economically in terms of billions of capital which will be needed to boost private investments around the new HQ2 - which will include office, residential and retail developments.

Amazon Rips Off 238 Cities, States and Provinces, Then Builds in NYC and DC -- Gaius Publius - The world’s leading monopolists, Jeff Bezos and Amazon, after much thought (or in fact, very little thought) have picked two cities for their new HQ2, their second national headquarters. Those two cities, of course, were the obvious choices from the start, the only two that made any sense at all.  If you were the world’s richest greediest person, looking to re-headquarter what aspires to be the world’s most powerful monopoly in cities with prime access to the nation’s greatest concentration of money and its greatest concentration of power, in which cities would you build? New York City and Washington, DC, of course. Amazon has switched gears and is now finalizing plans to have a total of 50,000 employees in two locations, according to people familiar with the decision-making process.The company is nearing a deal to move to the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, according to two of the people briefed on the discussions. Amazon is also close to a deal to move to the Crystal City area of Arlington, Va., a Washington suburb, one of the people said. Amazon already has more employees in those two areas than anywhere else outside of Seattle, its home base, and the Bay Area. The announcement of Amazon’s new HQ2 sparked a “frenzied bidding war” among cities eager to be taken to the cleaners by Bezos and his company, and there are dozens stories about those offers, all cast as outrages. For example, one of the losers — Atlanta, Georgia — offered this: A state-funded academy to train its employees. An exclusive lounge – with free parking – at the world’s busiest airport. A dedicated car on MARTA. And more than $2B in publicly-funded incentives. #gapol The winners were not the highest bidders, but nevertheless, they offered quite a bit more, beyond mere privileged access to the world’s greatest pool of money and its most plentiful supply of corrupt politicians. New York is giving, among other things, massive capital gains tax cutto Amazon investors … and, of course, ahelipad. Arlington, Virginia added something more politically useful, advance warning of FOIA requests so the company could file for pre-emptive “protective orders.”

As Bezos Earns $191000 Per Minute, Why Are NY and VA Giving Amazon Corporate Welfare? - Amazon has selected a pair of cities to host its new, expanded headquarters: Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia, and Long Island City in Queens, New York. Amazon’s decision came after a 14-month search that saw cities around the U.S. promise tax breaks, taxpayer-funded infrastructure and business-friendly ordinances in an effort to win what Amazon says will be $5 billion in new investment and thousands of jobs. Democratic Virginia Governor Ralph Northam called the Amazon headquarter “a big win for Virginia,” and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has similarly applauded Amazon’s decision. But many local politicians have openly criticized authorities in New York and Virginia for backing the deals, which will create a total of 50,000 jobs. We host a roundtable discussion about Amazon and corporate welfare. In New York, we speak with Ron Kim, member of the New York State Assembly. He recently co-wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times headlined “New York Should Say No to Amazon.” In Washington, D.C., we speak with Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a watchdog group on economic development incentives. And in Portland, Maine, we speak with Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. She is the author of “Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses.”

Longer-Run Effects of Anti-Poverty Policies on Disadvantaged Neighborhoods - We estimate the longer-run effects of minimum wages, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and welfare on key economic indicators of economic self-sufficiency in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Our strongest findings are twofold. First, the longer-run effects of the EITC are to increase employment and to reduce poverty and public assistance, as long as we rely on national as well as state variation in EITC policy. Second, tighter welfare time limits also reduce poverty and public assistance in the longer run; while the effect on public assistance result may be mechanically related to loss of benefits, the effect on poverty is more likely behavioral. It is harder to draw firm conclusions about minimum wages and welfare benefits. With some specifications and samples, the evidence suggests that higher minimum wages lead to longer-run declines in poverty and the share of families on public assistance, whereas higher welfare benefits have adverse longer-run effects. However, the evidence on minimum wages and welfare benefits is not robust – and the estimated effects of minimum wages are sometimes in the opposite direction, including when we restrict the analysis to more recent data that is likely of more interest to policymakers.

Giving Food To The Homeless Shouldn't Be A Crime - Government has long been characterized as inept. It’s easy to forget that sometimes it can be downright cruel.The latest example comes from Missouri, where the Kansas City Health Department is under fire after employees bleached food intended for the homeless because the people supplying it did not have the proper permit.On Sunday, officials from the health department, accompanied by armed police officers, stopped volunteers with Free Hot Soup Kansas City from feeding the homeless at four locations, claiming the food had not been inspected. "Officers and health inspectors demanded we destroy our food and we were violating health code violations by sharing meals with our friends," said Nellie McCool, who has participated in efforts to feed the homeless for years.The health department has defended its crackdown, claiming officials had previously informed the volunteer group that they needed to obtain a permit. "They were notified back in a meeting in September that they needed to get a permit, and they just outright said they refused to do that," said Dr. Rex Archer, Director Of Health for KCMO, according to KSHB, a local Kansas City outlet. McCool denies this.“We never had any kind of government official ever come and speak with anybody at any of the public parks," she said.  Regardless, according to the department’s write-up of the Sunday incident, officials destroyed the food, citing the lack of a permit, and insisted the action was taken to protect public safety. “This operation claims to care about folks, but if you care about folks, you want to prepare food safely,” Archer said, confirming that using bleach to destroy contraband food is standard policy. In a tweet elaborating on the agency’s position, officials claimed they blocked the volunteers because their gatherings are “open to the general public,” and the food is not stored at the “required temperature for food safety” when it is transported to serving locations throughout the city. McCool claims that Free Hot Soup Kansas City should be exempt from the regulations, arguing that they are not an official organization and were simply sharing food with friends in a picnic-like manner.

Black security guard who stops shooter is then shot and killed by police - A police officer responding to a shooting in a Chicago-area bar shot and killed a black security guard who had subdued and disarmed the shooter.On Sunday at 4 a.m. a group of drunken men were asked to leave Manny's Blue Room Bar, witnesses told local news station WGN9.Afterwards, someone from the group returned with a gun and opened fire. Security returned fire, witnesses told WGN9, and an armed security guard, Jemel Roberson, apprehended one of the men involved outside.  "He had somebody on the ground with his knee in his back, with his gun in his back like, 'Don’t move,'" witness Adam Harris told WGNTV.But an officer responding to the scene fired at Roberson and killed him."Everybody was screaming out 'Security!' He was a security guard," Harris said.The Midlothian police department confirmed to The Hill that two of its officers responded to the shooting and one opened fire."Upon arrival Officers learned there were several gunshot victims inside the bar. A Midlothian Officer encountered a subject with a gun and was involved in an Officer involved shooting.  The subject the Officer shot was later pronounced deceased at an area hospital," Chief Daniel Delaney of the Midlothian Police Department said in a statement.Delaney added an investigation into the shooting of the security guard is now taking place. Friends of Roberson told the news station that he planned to become a police officer and was an upstanding man.

After Protest, Booksellers Are Victorious Against Amazon Subsidiary — A worldwide strike by antiquarian booksellers against an Amazon subsidiary proved successful after two days, with the retailer apologizing and saying it would cancel the actions that prompted the protest. It was a rare concerted uprising against any part of Amazon by any of its millions of suppliers, leading to an even rarer capitulation. Even the book dealers said they were surprised at the sudden reversal by AbeBooks, the company’s secondhand and rare bookselling network. The uprising, which involved nearly 600 booksellers in 27 countries removing about four million books, was set off by the retailer’s decision to cut off stores in five countries: the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, South Korea and Russia. AbeBooks never explained its actions beyond saying it was related to payment processing. “AbeBooks was saying entire countries were expendable to its plans,” said Scott Brown, a Eureka, Calif., bookseller who was an organizer of the strike. “Booksellers everywhere felt they might be next.”The matter was apparently resolved when Sally Burdon, an Australian bookseller who is president of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, spoke with Arkady Vitrouk, chief executive of AbeBooks. In a Wednesday email to her members after their talk, Ms. Burdon said Mr. Vitrouk apologized for the platform’s behavior “a number of times” and said booksellers in the affected countries would not be dropped as scheduled on Nov. 30. “Arkady told us that ABE are very well aware of the mistake they have made,” she wrote in the email, which was viewed by The New York Times. “He stated that it was a ‘bad decision’ and that they deeply regret the hurt and harm they have caused.”

The Welfare Generation- Over Half Of America's Kids Live In Households Getting Govt Assistance -  Among American residents under 18 years of age in 2017, according to the Census Bureau, 51.7 percent lived in households in which one or more persons received benefits from a means-tested government program.That was down slightly from the 52.1 percent of Americans under 18 in 2016who lived in households receiving means-tested government assistance. (Also, because this new Census Bureau estimate is for 2017, it predates the significant economic and job growth the United States has seen in 2018).But in each of the last five years on record (2013 through 2017), according to the Census Bureau, at least 51 percent of Americans under 18 have lived in households receiving means-tested government assistance.In fact, the 51.7 percent in 2017 was the lowest percentage in any of the last five years on record.The programs the Census Bureau includes in its estimate of how many people are living in households receiving means-tested government assistance include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Supplemental Security Income, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, Medicaid, public housing, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the National School Lunch Program. The data on the number of people living in households in which one or more persons received means-tested government assistance comes from Table POV-26 of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, 2018 Annual Social and Economic Supplement.The table enumerates, by various characteristics, “[p]eople who lived with someone (a nonrelative or relative) who received aid.”“Not every person tallied here,” Table POV-26 says, “received the aid themselves.”

Students in Brooklyn protest their school’s use of a Zuckerberg-backed online curriculum designed by Facebook engineers - Students at a Brooklyn high school staged a walkout last week to protest teaching methods in their classrooms, which include a web-based curriculum program partially funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.Nearly 100 students participated in the protest at the Secondary School for Journalism in Brooklyn, the New York Post reported. They complained that the online program, called Summit Learning, resulted in coursework that required students to spend much of their day in front of a computer screen, made it easy to cheat by looking up answers online, and that some of their teachers didn't have the proper training for the curriculum.The program emphasizes students "work at their own pace" and follow "self-direction," according to the website. Summit Learning was first designed with the help of engineers from Facebook, and gets funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a nonprofit started by the Facebook CEO and his wife Priscilla Chan."You have to teach yourself," a freshman at the Secondary School for Journalism told the New York Post. "Students can easily cheat on quizzes since they can just copy and paste the question into Google."Students in Brooklyn protested not only the implementation of Summit Learning in their school, but also the "other wrongdoings" going on within school leadership, according to a blog post from a New York educational activist. Video from on Vimeo. Students at the Brooklyn high school haven't been the only ones to express dissatisfaction with Summit Learning, which has been adopted at 380 schools nationwide. Schools in the town of Cheshire, Connecticut — where Zuckerberg himself grew up — implemented Summit Learning last school year, but New York Magazine reported the switch was met with backlash from both kids and parents. The program was eventually shuttered at the school.

‘It’s torture’- critics step up bid to stop US school using electric shocks on children -- The world’s only known school for children and young adults with special needs that inflicts electric shocks to control their behavior is facing international pressure to have the controversial practice banned. For almost three decades the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, outside Boston, has been zapping many of its special-needs residents with a custom-designed electric shock machine known as the GED. Students are required to carry the devices in backpacks that deliver charges of up to 41 milliamps – 10 times the amperage used in most stun guns – to their legs, arms, hands, feet, fingers or torsos via electrodes on the skin. The shocks, administered by staff using remote controls and lasting up to two seconds, are intended to cause pain that will discourage the students from indulging in harmful or dangerous behavior. The school categorises the punishment as “aversive therapy” which it claims can help seriously troubled individuals avoid life-threatening injury, having been beyond the reach of other care regimes. A coalition of advocacy groups led by Disability Rights International have written this week to the human rights arm of the Organisation of American States (OAS), based in Washington, to request urgent action. The coalition is calling on the pan-American authority to demand that the US, which is one of its 35 member states, impose a federal ban on the method.  The petition argues that JRC’s use of electric shocks, in combination with restraints and isolation rooms, “constitute[s] cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and torture”. It cites the work of Juan Mendez, the UN’s former special rapporteur on torture, who in that role in 2013 released a report that concluded that the “rights of students of the JRC subjected to electric shocks and physical means of restraints have been violated under the UN convention against torture”.

New York teachers union pushes through concessions contract --With four months remaining before the current contract was due to expire, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the New York City affiliate on the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), pushed through a concessions-laden contract without giving educators adequate time to study and discuss its terms.While UFT President Michael Mulgrew falsely declared that the contract contained no givebacks, the deal continues the long pattern of concessions by including below inflation rate pay raises and higher out-of-pocket health expenses for the 129,000 teachers and support staff who live in one of the most expensive cities on the planet. Educators, who are still reeling from a five-year pay freeze imposed by the union in the 2009 contract, will only see raises of 2 percent in 2019, 2.5 percent in 2020 and 3 percent in 2021.On November 4, the UFT announced that the contract had been passed by 87 percent of those who voted with a two-thirds participation of eligible voters. The “yes” vote, however, was not a vote of confidence in the UFT. It was the result of the campaign of lies and deception and the widespread knowledge among teachers that the union would do nothing to fight for anything better even if they rejected the deal.Delegates from the schools were called to vote at an emergency assembly the day after the settlement was announced October 11. One of the chapter leaders at a Washington Irving campus high school in lower Manhattan, who did not want his name published, told the WSWS: “I felt disrespected. I received a draft only ten minutes before the emergency delegate assembly and did not have time to read it.” Above all, the UFT and the AFT were determined to prevent a strike by teachers in America’s largest school district because they feared that such a walkout would rekindle the wave of statewide teacher strikes, which spread across West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Kentucky and other states earlier this year.

New York teachers angry as union hides givebacks in new contract --Reporters from the World Socialist Web Site Teacher Newsletter spoke with New York City public school teachers following the vote on October 31 on the new contract . Many expressed anger at the three-year and seven-month long contract rushed through by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT).The newsletter spoke with teachers at several schools. None of the teachers interviewed wanted their names used, which highlights real concerns about possible victimization by the school administration or the union.An experienced social studies teacher whose previous school had closed declared: “Even though I have 28 years as a teacher, I have to be so careful because I started at a new school this year. I think the contract was rushed because the UFT wants to prevent any discussion of politics. They are like one of the arteries of the Democrats.”A teacher for 18 years, who is one of the chapter leaders in the Washington Irving campus building, which houses six “mini-schools,” said the contract “is a sellout by its tiered system for healthcare. Mulgrew claimed this was negotiated by the Municipal Labor Committee, so it is out of UFT control, but he sits on that Committee.” One teacher said he voted “no” on every contract except this one. However, he did not know about the health benefits cuts because they were not described in the summary he received, which is the only material on the contract he had read. He agreed that wage increases over the years did not keep up with inflation and is therefore a cut in real wages. He said teachers need a cost-of-living clause in the contracts.

16 Oklahoma educators elected to office on Tuesday - Oklahoma teachers, fired up over last spring's state budget battle and massive teacher walkout, put dozens of candidates on the ballot for Tuesday's midterm election. The Oklahoma Education Association said that 16 members of its education caucus -- current or former educators, administrators and support staff -- were elected to the state House and Senate. Nine are Republicans and seven are Democrats.The list includes a physical education teacher, a retired school counselor, a junior high principal and an elementary school music teacher. The winners were among 65 Oklahoma educators who ran for office on Tuesday, according to the teachers union.Six other educators were elected during the primary, runoff or by acclamation.  Tuesday's vote grew the education caucus in the Legislature from nine to 25 members."There are now more educators in the state legislature than ever before," the OEA said in a news release. "No matter how you look at it, public education won." Republican Kevin Stitt won the governor's race. He said he would not have signed a teacher pay raise the Legislature earlier approved after the walkout. He defeated former state Attorney General Drew Edmondson, a Democrat who was a teacher early in his career. Stitt called for a $5,000 bonus for new certified teachers, promised to raise salaries to be comparable to neighboring states and offered other education revisions. Oklahoma teachers walked out for nine days in April and flooded the state Capitol with protesters to demand better pay and increased education funding.  The state agreed to an increase of $479 million for teacher and support staff salaries for this school year.

Which College Produces The Most Billionaires - America’s wealthiest have made their fortunes in a wide variety of ways, but there is one thing many of these tycoons have in common: 80% of billionaires picked up a Bachelor’s degree at some point in their lives. As VisualCapitalist's Iman Ghosh explains, today’s chart visualizes data from Adview to show the educational paths and early working years of billionaires on the elite Forbes 400 list, a ranking of the 400 wealthiest people in the United States.  Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist Unsurprisingly, many U.S. billionaires got their start at Ivy League schools. Seven out of the top 10 billionaire-producing universities bear that prestigious designation. Here’s the full count of billionaire graduates from the top 10 universities: Billionaire graduates aren’t just limited to Ivy League institutions, however. California’s Stanford and USC also rank highly, having graduated 23 billionaires between them. Degrees in the fields of economics, finance, and business are obvious springboards into the Forbes 400 list, but it’s interesting to see that many went the arts and social sciences route. Politics, history, English, psychology, and philosophy are also among the ten most popular fields studied. It’s worth noting that degree classification can vary depending on the university and course in question. For example, a degree in mathematics could be considered a Bachelor of Sciences, or, Bachelor of Arts. Similarly, a Bachelor of Economics, or, a Bachelor of Social Sciences could be awarded to somebody who studied the subject of economics. While Harvard and Yale are highly coveted educational institutions, it’s the University of Pennsylvania that provides the most fertile breeding ground for billionaires. Here are some notable – and notorious – alumni, including those who attended its prestigious Wharton School: *In their sophomore years, Warren Buffett transferred out to the University of Nebraska, while Donald Trump transferred in from Fordham University.

‘Phenomenally saddening’: inside the sordid world of America’s for-profit colleges - In 2014, film-maker Alex Shebanow read about Corinthian Colleges, one of America’s largest for-profit college companies, while working on a documentary about student loan debt.Relying heavily on federal student loans, from which it took $1.4bn in yearly revenue, Corinthian was on the brink of collapse after the department of education halted the company’s flow of federal funding due to evidence of rampant fraud in its reporting of grades and job placements.Corinthian, a behemoth of the for-profit college industry that marketed its vocational and post-secondary programs to single mothers at or below the poverty line, was already under investigation by various federal agencies, the education department, and 20 different state attorneys general when it said it could not operate for more than a few days without an influx of cash. Internal documents revealed the for-profit specifically targeted “isolated” and “impatient” individuals with “low self-esteem”.It was this run-in with the sordid underbelly of the predatory for-profit college industry – and a multi-state investigation into a company, QuinStreet, that set up an ostensibly government-run website funneling veterans to for-profits – that inspired Shebanow to expand the scope of his project. The result is his new documentary Fail State, an expansive and infuriating account of the rise of profit-driven colleges, their devastating effects on low-income students, and the ways Republicans and Democrats have aided and abetted their treachery. “I don’t know how these people can sleep at night,” says Shebanow, whose work so impressed Dan Rather that the famed journalist signed on as an executive producer. “A lot of people don’t realize what’s percolating beneath the surface. It was crazy that no one had done a documentary on this until now and that it took a bunch of twentysomething film-makers to do it. I was always so worried someone was going to come out with a documentary of their own because the story is so big and important. I thought there was no way we were the only ones doing it. But somehow, that was the case.”

DeVos sued for allegedly failing to comply with judge’s order to cancel student debt - Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was sued Tuesday for allegedly failing to cancel student debt for people whose for-profit colleges have shut down.Last month a court ruled that the Obama-era debt regulations had to be implemented after more than a year of delays by DeVos.DeVos released a statement in October saying that the department would no longer be seeking to delay the rule.However, Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA), a California legal service group, has filed a lawsuit alleging that the Education Department is still collecting loans that it should have discharged.The president of the National Student Legal Defense Network, a group helping represent HERA, said in a statement released Tuesday that delays are hurting thousands of students.“Under current leadership, the Department of Education seems determined to deny student borrowers the financial relief to which they are entitled,” said Aaron Ament.“It has been nearly two years since these rules should have taken effect, and Secretary DeVos is still dragging her feet and hurting tens of thousands of borrowers through her inaction. The students we are trying to help have been doubly victimized — first by the for-profit colleges that deceived them, and now by the federal government that refuses to help.”The so-called borrower defense rule would require schools to put up a large sum of money each time a lawsuit is filed against it to protect taxpayers, should the institution fail.

Critics of VHA Aim to Privatize, Not Improve Health Care for Veterans - Real News video & transcript - Nearly 9 million people are dependent on the VHA, the Veterans Healthcare Administration, the largest integrated public health care system in the United States. The VHA is operating under increasingly difficult conditions, including intense public scrutiny. Why does the government want to privatize the care to veterans? Whose interest does that serve? Veterans, or the private sector healthcare?Senior Policy Fellow at the Veterans Health Care Policy Institute, patient advocate, and author Suzanne Gordon says the VHA, tasked with a challenging patient population, consistently outperforms the private sector in providing care for veterans. Joining us on Veterans Day to discuss her new book Wounds of War: How the VA Delivers Health, Healing, and Hope to the Nation’s Veterans is Suzanne Gordon. Thank you so much for joining us, Suzanne. You spent 32 years studying the private sector healthcare, and about six years studying the Veterans Administration. Could you give us a big picture view of the VHA? Help us understand how expansive it is, the type of care that veterans receive there, and your observations of how the system functions.

 CMS may allow hospitals to pay for housing through Medicaid - HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday said Medicaid may soon allow hospitals and health systems to directly pay for housing, healthy food or other solutions for the "whole person." In a speech supported by the Hatch Foundation for Civility and Solutions and Intermountain Healthcare in Washington, Azar said Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation officials are looking to move beyond existing efforts to partner with social services groups and try to manage social determinants of health as they see appropriate. "What if we gave organizations more flexibility so they could pay a beneficiary's rent if they were in unstable housing, or make sure that a diabetic had access to, and could afford, nutritious food?" Azar said in his prepared remarks. "If that sounds like an exciting idea ... I want you to stay tuned to what CMMI is up to." HHS spends over $1 trillion a year on healthcare for seniors and low-income people through Medicare and Medicaid, which far outstrips spending on other federal programs, Azar said. "We believe we could spend less money on healthcare—and, most important, help Americans live healthier lives—if we did a better job of aligning federal health investments with our investments in non-healthcare needs," he said.Azar didn't elaborate on when the model would be launched, but the program could help Medicaid enrollees who need housing.

Doctors post blood-soaked photos after NRA tells them to pipe down over gun restrictions US doctors are sharing haunting pictures of the aftermath of gun violence on social media after the National Rifle Association of America (NRA) told medical experts to "stay in their lane" when it comes to firearms restrictions.  Photos of blood-stained scrubs, graphic X-rays and moving selfies have flooded Twitter in response to a post from the NRA promoting a news release which took aim at medical professionals calling for gun restrictions. The NRA promoted the post in a tweet, which had attracted 3,000 likes but more than 20,000 replies. "Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane," the tweet read. "Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. "Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted no-one but themselves."Forensic pathologist Judy Melinek saw the tweet as she was preparing to perform an autopsy on a victim who died from a gunshot wound. Angered by the message, she fired off a reply before heading to the morgue.  By the time she finished her shift, the tweet had gone viral, attracting more than 500,000 likes since Friday.  During the two years she worked in the Office of Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York, Dr Melinek was also clinical instructor in forensic medicine at New York University and has written a book about her experiences.  Other doctors around the country also took to Twitter to vent about the NRA's stance:

Medical marijuana patients federally barred from buying firearms— A firearms expert said Missourians who get a medical marijuana card will not be able to buy a gun. "If you are able to get it, get a doctor's prescription, you will no longer be able to purchase firearms, not legally, not through a gun shop," firearms instructor Don Pind said. The federal form required with each gun purchase specifically says that using or possessing marijuana is illegal under federal law, regardless if it is OK for medicinal or recreational use in any state. Pind said he has seen it happen to Missourians who bought pot in Colorado, where it is legal. "They came back to Missouri, went to purchase a gun. You have to have a photo ID. When we run your name through the computer, it automatically connects you with buying marijuana in Colorado," Pind said. That's because dispensaries also check identification for marijuana purchases. The organizers of the medical marijuana amendment in Missouri acknowledge that this will be an issue, as it is in the other 31 medical marijuana states. "If you have to get a prescription, you have to go to a registered store to buy this. You're going to have to show ID to prove who you are. They're going to have to have records on it. Everybody's going to know it," Pind said.

Secret CIA Document Shows Plan to Test Drugs on Prisoners – ACLU - Thanks to an ACLU victory in federal court, we know much more about how CIA doctors violated the medical oath to “do no harm.” One of the most important lessons of the CIA’s torture program is the way it corrupted virtually every individual and institution associated with it. Over the years, we have learned how lawyers twisted the law and psychologists betrayed their ethical obligations in order to enable the brutal and unlawful torture of prisoners. Now we’ve won the release of a 90-page account of the CIA’s Office of Medical Services role in the CIA torture program — a secret history written by the top CIA medical official, whose identity remains classified. The history reveals that CIA doctors were hunting for a “truth serum” to use on prisoners as part of a previously secret effort called Project Medication. The CIA studied records of old Soviet drug experiments as well as the CIA’s notorious and discredited MK-Ultra program, which involved human experimentation with LSD and other drugs on unwitting subjects. The CIA doctors involved in Project Medication wanted to use Versed, a psychoactive drug similar to some of those used in MK-Ultra, on prisoners.After MK-Ultra was shut down, the CIA director testified in 1977, “It is totally abhorrent to me to think of using humans as guinea pigs.” But decades later, the agency decided to experiment on humans again, testing pseudoscientific theories of “learned helplessness” on its prisoners.

Ohio lawmakers pass controversial 'heartbeat' abortion bill - Ohio lawmakers on Thursday passed controversial legislation that aims to block women from getting an abortion after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. The Columbus Dispatch reported that Thursday's 58-35 vote marked the second consecutive session in which the House passed the bill. It passed the House and Senate in December 2016, but was vetoed by GOP Gov. John Kasich. “The point is, it’s time. It doesn’t matter if the governor is with us or against us,” one of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Christina Hagan (R), said. Governor-elect Mike DeWine (R) has said he would sign a so-called “heartbeat” bill, the paper notes. The bill, which would effectively prevent an abortion after six or seven weeks of pregnancy, does not grant exceptions in the event of rape or incest, the paper reported. Under the legislation, any doctor violating the bill could face fifth-degree felony charges, which carry up to one year in prison. The bill is now on its way to the Ohio Senate, where it would need 60 votes to override a potential veto, according to the newspaper. Earlier this year, Iowa lawmakers similarly voted to pass legislation seeking to prohibit any abortion after a heartbeat is detected. Nineteen states adopted a total of 63 restrictions to abortion last year, the highest number since 2013, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Jury delivers $25.5 million ‘statement’ to Aetna to change its ways -An Oklahoma jury has awarded $25.5 million to the family of a cancer patient denied coverage by Aetna, with jurors saying that the insurer acted "recklessly" and that the verdict was meant as a message for Aetna to change its ways.The award is believed to be the largest verdict in an individual "bad faith" insurance case in Oklahoma history, one court observer said, and could have major ramifications across the country for a form of cancer treatment called proton beam therapy.The case revolved around the 2014 denial of coverage for Orrana Cunningham, who had stage 4 nasopharyngeal cancer near her brain stem. Her doctors wanted her to receive proton beam therapy, a targeted form of radiation that could pinpoint her tumor without the potential for blindness or other side effects of standard radiation.  Aetna denied her coverage, calling the therapy investigational and experimental.  Orrana and her husband, Ron Cunningham, a retired Oklahoma City firefighter, had been together since 1987. He was determined to do whatever it took to get the love of his life the treatment she needed. The couple mortgaged their dream home and set up a GoFundMe page to help pay the $92,082.19 to get the therapy her doctors had prescribed at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas.However, Orrana died May 30, 2015, at the age of 54, in part from a viral infection that reached her brain.Ron Cunningham said this week's verdict was vindication for the suffering his wife went through. She had filed the initial paperwork to sue Aetna, saying that if her case helped save the life of one person, it would be worth it.

Parents Deliver Ashes of Diabetic Children to Price-Gouging Insulin Manufacturer - Nicole Holt-Smith arrived at pharmaceutical giant Sanofi’s research facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Friday carrying a powerful testament to the consequences of price gouging essential medicines under a for-profit health system: the ashes of her son, Alec. Alec Raeshawn Smith lived with Type 1 diabetes and lost health coverage under his parent’s insurance plan when he turned 26. He died last year after attempting to ration his insulin supply by cutting doses to make it last longer. Along with Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, Sanofi is one the three major insulin manufacturers accused of gouging diabetes patients worldwide who use the blood-sugar regulating hormone as a prescription drug in order to stay healthy. “Sanofi’s high prices are killing people like my son Alec,” Smith-Holt said in a statement before the action. “I’m sick of them listening to my story and then doing nothing. I’m not asking them to lower prices anymore, I’m demanding it.” Along with parents of two other young people who died rationing insulin, Holt-Smith attempted to deliver Alec’s ashes to Sanofi officials during a protest at the research facility on Friday. The parents were flanked by dozens of local diabetes patients, doctors, nurses and students affiliated with the Right Care Alliance, a grassroots group fighting for a health care system that puts people over profits. Police blocked protesters from approaching the Sanofi office, but organizers negotiated with them to allow the parents to deliver the ashes of Alec and Antavia Lee-Worsham, who also died while rationing insulin last year. Security guards then turned the parents away at the front door, threatening them with arrest. All of Sanofi’s employees had been sent home for the day.

Surgical robot BOTCHES surgery, kills man on operating table while doctors sipped lattes - In the name of scientific “progress,” Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital in the United Kingdom recently tried to pioneer the use of a surgical robot that it tasked with repairing a patient’s damaged heart valve, only to have the machine go completely bonkers and ultimately kill the man on the operating table. According to reports, this first-time-use robot not only physically assaulted a living medic while attempting to conduct its programmed surgery, but also implanted stitches into the patient’s heart in a manner that physicians present during the fiasco described as not being in “an organised fashion.”   A situation that can only be described as total chaos, with human surgeons, doctors, and nurses having to scream at each other in order to overcome the “tinny” sound coming from the robot as they were trying to control it, the attempted surgery ended up being nothing short of a complete failure. And in the end, retired music teacher and conductor, Stephen Pettitt, the guinea pig patient in this medical experiment, ultimately lost his life. During a hearing that followed this catastrophe, lead surgeon Sukumaran Nair admitted that he lacked proper experience in controlling and using the surgical robot, stating that he was “running before he could walk.”  Nair not only missed a critical training session in Paris that would have taught him how to properly use the surgical robot, but he also wasn’t present for another training sessions that later took place at his own hospital, claiming that he was busy with another surgery at the time. While supervisory experts were supposed to have been present for this surgery-gone-wrong, which should have prevented this type of nightmare from ever even occurring, they, too, were reportedly missing when things started to hit the fan. According to Thasee Pillay, Nair’s assisting surgeon, these overseeing proctors had apparently “gone to the coffee shop” right in the middle of the procedure, which prevented them from being able to take the reins once it became clear that Pettitt’s life was at risk from the surgical robot going rogue.

New study claims Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are linked to depression - Spending too much time on “social media” sites like Facebook is making people more than just miserable. It may also be making them depressed. A new study conducted by psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania has shown — for the first time — a causal link between time spent on social media and depression and loneliness, the researchers said. It concluded that those who drastically cut back their use of sites like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat often saw a marked improvement in their mood and in how they felt about their lives. “It was striking,” says Melissa Hunt, psychology professor at University of Pennsylvania, who led the study. “What we found over the course of three weeks was that rates of depression and loneliness went down significantly for people who limited their (social media) use.” Many of those who began the study with moderate clinical depression finished just a few weeks later with very mild symptoms, she says. The study, “No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression,” was conducted by Melissa Hunt, Rachel Marx, Courtney Lipson and Jordyn Young, is being published by the peer-reviewed Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

 More Americans Died From Drug Overdoses In 2017 Than Guns, Car Crashes, & Suicide Together -  Drug overdoses led to more deaths in the U.S. in 2017 than any year on record and were the leading cause of death in the country, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration report issued Friday. More than 72,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2017, according to the NIH — about 200 per day. That number is more than four times the number who died in 1999 from drug abuse: 16,849.The figures are up about 15 percent from 63,632 drug-related deaths in 2016.Since 2011, more people have died from drug overdoses than by gun violence, car accidents, suicide, or homicide, the DEA report stated.In 2017, 40,100 people died in vehicle incidents; 15,549 were fatally shot, not including suicide; 17,284were homicide victims, though an unspecified portion of this number includes gunshot victims; and nearly 45,000 committed suicide.The DEA attributed last year's uptick in deaths to a spike in opioid-related fatalities. The agency said 49,060 people died as a result of abusing opioids, up from 42,249 in 2016.Of those opioid deaths, synthetic opioids were responsible for nearly 20,000. More people died from them than heroin. The DEA report said synthetic fentanyl and comparable types of drugs are cheaper than heroin, making them more attractive to buyers. The DEA also found heroin-related drug overdoses had doubled from 2013 to 2016 because manufacturers illegally producing synthetic fentanyl have laced the heroin with opioids.

Massive global health study reveals “disturbing” trends  - Running for over a decade now, the annual Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study is a giant peer-reviewed assessment of global health trends. The results this year, published across a series of articles in the prestigious journal The Lancet, present some concerning trends, from a worrying plateau in global mortality rates to a decline in global fertility rates. Overall, the study found the world's population was increasing annually by over 87 million between 2007 and 2017, however global fertility rates are on the downturn.  Average births per woman have dropped by half since 1950, and over 90 countries are registering rates of less than two births per woman. This generally means that these countries are registering current birth rates at below replacement levels to maintain current populations.  "Although total fertility rates are decreasing,"  "the global population continues to grow as death rates decline and because of population 'momentum' in previous decades." The majority of countries with decreasing birth rates were found to be in Europe (Georgia, Poland, Romania, Greece, Spain, Portugal), while the highest birth rates were seen in sub-Saharan Africa. Niger represented the highest fertility rate of any country in 2017 with a single woman giving birth to an average of seven children in her lifetime.  In 2017 there were 55.9 million deaths recorded globally, and over half of those deaths (51.5 percent) could be attributed to four preventable risk factors: high blood pressure, smoking, high blood glucose, and high body mass index.  Going back to 1990, almost all of those top four risk factors were significantly less of a global health issue. In 1990, high body mass index was ranked as just the 16th most significant mortality risk factor, yet in 2017 it jumps to the fourth position. High blood sugar also jumped from 11th in 1990 to third in 2017. . Global deaths from opioid use increased from around 60,000 in 2007 to well over 100,000 in 2017. That's a global increase of over 75 percent in less than a decade. Another growing cause of global mortality is deaths related to conflict and terrorism. These are two of the fastest growing causes of death worldwide, increasing by around 118 percent over the past decade.   Women continued to display greater life expectancy than men in the latest GBD. In almost every country surveyed women lived, on average, longer than men. However, the disturbing caveat is that women tend to live more of their later years in poor health.

Ebola Outbreak "Worst In Congo's History" As Hundreds Dead; Risk Of Spread To Uganda "Very High"  -  The most recent Ebola outbreak spreading through the Democratic Republic of Congo is now the worst in the country's history, with 209 dead and 333 confirmed or probable cases, according to the DRC's health ministry.  According to The Express, efforts to contain the disease have been hampered by localized armed conflict and community resistance to health officials.  The outbreak, the second this year, began in North Kivu before spreading east to Ituri. Oly Ilunga Kalenga, the DRC’s minister of public health, said efforts to contain the deadly outbreak have been thwarted by violence against health officials and civilians as militant groups battle for control in the affected region. -ExpressTwo health workers were killed during the militant attack according to the minister, while 11 civilians and a soldier were killed last month in the city of Beni - the outbreak's epicenter.  And on Thursday, the United Nations announced that at least seven UN peacekeepers were killed by militants in at the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak.  "Our peacekeeping colleagues tell us that six peacekeepers from Malawi and one from Tanzania who are part of the U.N. peacekeeping operation in the DRC ... were killed yesterday, in Beni territory, in North Kivu," said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.  Meanwhile, a USAID worker speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity said "We are absolutely concerned about the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is occurring in an area of active conflict, so physical insecurity is a persistent challenge and complication to the ongoing response efforts."  As the rate of new cases has accelerated in recent weeks, neighboring Uganda began vaccinating at-risk health workers on Wednesday in case the virus crosses the border. Now neighboring Uganda is bracing for the virus to cross the 545-mile boundary it shares with DRC. The border is porous and heavily trafficked, with large numbers of local farmers, merchants, traders, and refugees constantly moving through the area. A checkpoint in the region receives 5,000 people on an average day, with the busiest ones swelling to 20,000 twice a week on market days. –Wired

New techniques may soon make designer babies a reality – are we ready? THE prospect of creating intelligent designer babies has been the subject of ethical debate for decades, but we have lacked the ability to actually do it. That may now change, thanks to a new method of testing an embryo’s genes that could soon be available in some IVF clinics in the US, New Scientist can reveal. The firm Genomic Prediction says it has developed genetic screening tests that can assess complex traits, such as the risk of some diseases and low intelligence, in IVF embryos. The tests haven’t been used yet, but the firm began talks last month with several IVF clinics to provide them to customers. For intelligence, Genomic Prediction says that it will only offer the option of screening out embryos deemed likely to have “mental disability”.    However, the same approach could in future be used to identify embryos with genes that make them more likely to have a high IQ. “I think people are going to demand that. If we don’t do it, some other company will,” says the firm’s co-founder Stephen Hsu.  Genomic Prediction is the first company to offer polygenic risk scores for embryos rather than adults. The firm is mainly promoting its tests as a way of screening out embryos at high risk of certain medical conditions. But the company’s polygenic test for “mental disability” is more controversial. It isn’t accurate enough to predict IQ for each embryo, but it can indicate which ones are genetic outliers, giving prospective parents the option of avoiding embryos with a high chance of an IQ 25 points below average, says Hsu.

Blood pressure drug recalled because it might give you cancer -  If you’re taking a medication to help regulate your blood pressure, you’re obviously at least mildly interested in maintaining good health, so it’s one heck of a sad coincidence that a whole bunch of blood pressure pills are now being recalled because they might actually give you cancer instead. Yikes.The medication in question is Irbesartan, which is sold in 75 mg, 150 mg, and 300 mg tablets produced by ScieGen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Samples of the medication have been found to contain the compound N-nitrosodiethylamine, which is thought to be a carcinogen, and that discovery has led to a voluntary recall of several lots of the drug with expiration dates ranging from September 19th to February 20th. The drug, which is sold under the labels Westminster Pharmaceuticals and Golden State Medical Supply, can be returned to whichever company is on the label via their individual recall programs. Emails and phone numbers of the companies, as well as lot numbers and expiration dates for the affected drugs can be found on the FDA’s recall page. The FDA is also offering advice on how patients should proceed: Patients who are on Irbesartan should continue taking their medication, as the risk of harm to a patient’s health may be higher if the treatment is stopped immediately without any alternative treatment. Patients should contact their physician or healthcare provider if they have experienced any problems that may be related to taking or using Irbesartan. If all of this sounds a bit familiar, it’s because the same contamination was found earlier this year in a different batch of blood pressure medications. That recall, which affected a whopping 55 different medications that contained the active ingredient valsartan, also contained the same carcinogenic compound found in this new recall.

FDA Seeking Nationwide Ban Of Menthol Cigarettes - Earlier this month, the FDA outraged American teenagers by banning flavored nicotine vaping products used with the increasingly popular Juul. And while many cynical observers quickly attributed the vape crackdown to heavy lobbying by Big Tobacco, as it turns out, the agency's crackdown on teenage nicotine use is shaping up to be even broader than many had expected.According to the Wall Street Journal, the FDA said Thursday that it will seek a "nationwide ban" of menthol cigarettes. If its successful, this would be a huge blow to the tobacco industry: Menthol-flavored cigarettes account for nearly one-third of the roughly 250 billion cigarettes sold annually in the US, and the industry has a long history of marketing them to minorities.But wary of the disproportionate impact that a Menthol ban would have on minority smokers, African American leaders like the Rev. Al Sharpton have warned that banning Menthols like the market-leading Newport brand would only create one more illict market that would inevitably give police one more reason to racially profile black people. In the US, 81% of black smokers and 46% of Hispanic smokers prefer menthols, compared with 29% of white smokers. Meanwhile, some 45% of children ages 12 to 17 who smoke say they smoke menthols, according to the data. Among black teens, that figure is 52%. Other African-American groups like the NAACP have praised the ban, saying it would help improve public health within the black community.

How NTP Controlled Coverage of Cell Phone Cancer Story - Much of the press coverage of the final NTP cell phone/cancer report was lousy. This time, the NTP seems to have wanted it that way. Reporters were given very little notice to join the NTP teleconference on the release of the report. Nor was there much time to prepare a story for publication. I received an email at 10:45 am on October 31 for a teleconference at 2 pm that same day. Many reporters missed the advisory and the call. Editors had little time to assign the story. Most of the major media outlets were missing.The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, ABC News, CBS News, Bloomberg, Associated Press and Science were all absent.  The news that the NTP now believes the cancer link is “real” was under embargo until the next day, November 1. That gave the news media less than 24 hours to prepare their stories, an unusually short time for a technically complex subject.There was one exception among major media outlets: The New York Times. It had two reporters, William Broad and Roni Caryn Rabin, on the call. As it happened, Broad, a long-time member of the science desk, was already working on the story. He was making background calls a week earlier; he even called me a couple of times. When I wrote Broad asking if he had had the benefit of a “hot tip,” he did not reply. There’s a long history of New York Times science reporters —Broad included— downplaying, if not outright dismissing, news of electromagnetic health effects. Anyone wanting to conceal the fact that NTP had found “clear evidence” that cell phone radiation could lead to cancer would likely leak the story to the Times.And the Times delivered. Here’s the headline from its Web site. You almost don’t have to read the story to dismiss the NTP’s ten-year, $30 million project as a waste of time and money. The gratuitous modifier “at least in male rats” could make you wonder why the NTP exists at all. Lost to the reader is the fact that animal studies are widely used by drug and chemical companies to determine toxicity. All agents that cause cancer in humans also do so in animals. And chemicals frequently affect one sex more than another; gender differences in cancer rates also exist in humans.

EPA Finds Replacements for Toxic 'Teflon' Chemicals Toxic - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released draft toxicity assessments for GenX chemicals and PFBS, both members of a larger group of chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). GenX and PFBS are being used as replacement chemicals for PFOA and PFOS, the original Teflon chemicals that were forced off the market due to their decades-long persistence in the environment and their link to serious health harms in exposed people and wildlife. EPA's assessment confirms what many have feared—taking PFOA and PFOS off the market and out of products has only led to industry replacing them with related PFAS chemicals that pose similar risks—a "regrettable substitution."PFAS chemicals have been used for decades to provide non-stick, stain- and water-resistant properties to products such as carpet, furniture, cookware and food packaging. They are also used in fire-fighting foams and industrially as surfactants, emulsifiers, and coatings. PFAS are lab-made, meaning they don't occur naturally. And they are extremely resistant to degradation in our environment. Some PFAS have been shown to build up in our bodies for years. PFAS chemicals have been linked to many different health effects including; kidney and testicular cancer, immune system dysfunction, developmental and reproductive harm, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, and liver damage.After decades of use, PFAS chemicals have poisoned our air, water, soil, and food. As a result, the blood of virtually all Americans is contaminated with these toxic chemicals. Some communities are struggling with drinking water tainted with PFAS levels hundreds to thousands of times higher than EPA's 'do not exceed' health advisory limit for PFOA and PFOS. And EPA's advisory does not even reflect the most recent science on PFAS. A recent CDC report generated health thresholds approximately 10 times stricter than the EPA's.In response to public pressure due to growing concerns about the health effects of PFOA and PFOS, industry voluntarily phased them out but unfortunately replaced them with alternative, often shorter chain versions of PFAS chemicals such as GenX and PFBS. Because short-chain PFAS are thought to be eliminated from our bodies faster than legacy PFAS, it was argued that they were safe. But the more these alternative PFAS chemicals are studied, the more evident it becomes that this is not the case.

Turkey Is Bad on Antibiotics—Pork and Beef, Even Worse -   Just a week before Thanksgiving, there's news that an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella, linked to raw turkey, is still spreading; it has sickened 164 people thus far, killing one. Each year, at least 2 million Americans suffer infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria, resulting in more than 23,000 deaths. Those numbers are rising according to experts.  While turkeys are given antibiotics more intensively than other livestock in the U.S., the size of the industry is much smaller than beef and pork—making those two the most problematic in terms of antibiotic consumption. The conventional U.S. livestock industry—in particular its beef, pork and turkey sectors—raises animals with very intensive use of antibiotics that are also important to human medicine ("medically important"). Most of these precious medicines are fed to groups of animals that aren't sick, a practice commonly although inappropriately used to compensate for stressful and unsanitary living conditions. This is unnecessary—several European countries ended uses in healthy animals years ago, and the European Parliament voted last month to ban them. And it is an important driver of the worsening antibiotic resistance crisis. The World Health Organization warns that if we want antibiotics to remain useful for treating people when they get sick, we simply must use them better and more responsibly. But our new analysis finds that the conventional U.S. meat industry remains a stubbornly high user of antibiotics. Specifically, we find:

  • Livestock consumption of medically important antibiotics in the U.S. has increased in intensity since 2009—meaning we're still using more of these drugs per kilogram of meat than we did then. That's in contrast to human medicine, where we saw a decline and then plateau in the same time period, suggesting the medical community is taking expert warnings of the looming resistance crisismore seriously than the meat industry.
  • It's also a striking contrast to Europe, as the U.S. livestock industry is using medically important drugs almost twice as intensively (95 percent more) than the industries in 30 European countries, collectively. And, in the case of pig and cattle production, the U.S. industries are using these precious antibiotics far more intensively than their counterparts in France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Denmark, all of which are major livestock producers—comparable in size to major livestock-producing states in the U.S..

 Monsanto Owner Bayer Hit With Surge In Lawsuits After Losing California Cancer Case - German pharmaceutical and chemical giant Bayer has disclosed that 9,300 plaintiffs are suing them as of the end of October, alleging that that Roundup weed killers cause cancer. Bayer acquired the product in their $63 billion purchase of Monsanto. The plaintiffs claim that weed-killing products containing glyphosate have made them ill, and that the company knew or should have known the health risks, yet failed to adequately warn consumers of them. Monsanto claims that the compound is safe to use. "We continue to believe that we have meritorious defenses and intend to defend ourselves vigorously in all of these lawsuit," said Bayer CEO Werner Baumann - however he added that "more lawsuits are to be expected." "Glyphosate is an indispensable chemical for modern agriculture that is safe to use, very effective and saves resources," said Baumann. "When used appropriately, glyphosate is a completely safe and good product ... completely safe." In August, a San Francisco jury disagreed - awarding $289 million in damages to former school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, however he walked away with $78 million after the judge reduced his award. Bayer said there were 8,700 lawsuits pending against the company as of the end of August - which could cost the company billions in damages in the coming years. In September, 2017 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that glyphosates were not likely carcinogenic to humans, based on a decades-long assessment. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO)'s cancer arm issued an opposite statement - warning that glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans."

Hormone-Disrupting Weed Killer Taints Tap Water for Millions in Corn Belt - Seasonal spikes of atrazine–a weed killer that can disrupt hormones and harm developing fetuses–contaminate drinking water in corn-growing areas of the Midwest and beyond, according to an analysis of federal records by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data show that in some Corn Belt communities, atrazine levels can spike three to seven times above the legal limit in late spring and early summer. But by avoiding water testing during peak periods, some water utilities stay in compliance with drinking water regulations—and don't have to tell customers they were exposed to a hazardous chemical in their tap water. "Our investigation found that nearly 30 million Americans have atrazine in their tap water," said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., EWG senior science advisor for children's environmental health. "But many may never know, because outdated federal policies allow utilities to test for atrazine before or after the spike."  EWG's investigation is the most comprehensive analysis to date of national data on the pervasive contamination of drinking water by this chemical. EWG found that last year, utilities in Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky and Ohio had atrazine spikes much higher than the federal legal limit of three parts per billion, or ppb. The two highest spikes were reported in Evansville, Ill., at 22 ppb, and Piqua, Ohio, at 16 ppb.But the Safe Drinking Water Act, last updated in 1996, only requires the reporting of annual averages of testing for the chemical. That means the utilities don't have to tell the EPA or their customers they exceeded the legal limit for multiple days or weeks during the growing season.Atrazine is the second-most heavily used herbicide in the U.S., with more than 70 million pounds sprayed in 2016. It is used mostly to control weeds in cornfields, but it is also applied to sorghum, sugarcane and other crops.Studies show that atrazine and similar chemicals harm the reproductive system and disrupt the nerve and hormone systems, affecting the brain, behavior and hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and dopamine. Even short-term exposure to elevated levels of atrazine can pose health risks to expectant mothers and their babies, including an increase in the risk of preterm delivery and lower birth weight.

Leading researchers call for a ban on widely used insecticides --Public health experts have found there is sufficient evidence that prenatal exposure to widely used insecticides known as organophosphates puts children at risk for neurodevelopmental disorders. Public health experts have found there is sufficient evidence that prenatal exposure to widely used insecticides known as organophosphates puts children at risk for neurodevelopmental disorders. In a scientific review and call to action published in PLOS Medicine, the researchers call for immediate government intervention to phase out all organophosphates. "There is compelling evidence that exposure of pregnant women to very low levels of organophosphate pesticides is associated with lower IQs and difficulties with learning, memory or attention in their children," said lead author Irva Hertz-Picciotto, professor of public health sciences, director of the UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center and researcher with the UC Davis MIND Institute. "Although a single organophosphate -- chlorpyrifos -- has been in the national spotlight, our review implicates the entire class of these compounds," Hertz-Picciotto added.  People can come into contact with these chemicals through the food they eat, the water they drink and the air they breathe. As a result, organophosphate pesticides are detected in the vast majority of U.S. residents, according to Hertz-Picciotto. While existing limits on organophosphates have reduced exposures, the review authors said this isn't enough. Based on more than 30 epidemiologic studies and scores of experimental studies in animals and cell cultures, they believe the evidence is clear: Exposure to organophosphates before birth, even at levels currently considered safe, is associated with poorer cognitive, behavioral and social development. "It should be no surprise that studies confirm that these chemicals alter brain development, since they were originally designed to adversely affect the central nervous system," Hertz-Picciotto said.

Dieldrin dilemma: How dated science and fish-eating advisories may be putting brains at risk - Six years ago, I worked at the Illinois Natural History Survey testing roadkill otter carcasses for contaminants that build up in the bodies of animals that eat fish. One of the contaminants we found was dieldrin – a banned pesticide formerly used on corn crops. Since otters and people share a habit of eating self-caught fish, I wondered about the science used to protect people from the potential dangers of dieldrin. I collected pieces of information from the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, state agencies, and scientific studies. It became apparent that some states, including Illinois, still rely on an antiquated FDA standard for dieldrin that allows for people to be exposed to hundreds of times more dieldrin in fish than the EPA recommends. Other state agencies rely on EPA science that's half a century old – from a time when scientists were still in the dark about all of dieldrin's health effects. In the 1950s, corn farmers, mostly those in the Midwest, began treating crops with the pesticide aldrin, which morphs into dieldrin in the environment. At the same time, people started using dieldrin to control termites and Japanese Beetles. In 1962, Silent Spring highlighted the use of dieldrin in Illinois. Environmental and potential human health concerns including cancer led the EPA to limit the use of aldrin and dieldrin in 1974; all uses were banned in 1987. In the decades since then, studies uncovered dieldrin's toxicity to the brain, including links between dieldrin and Parkinson's Disease. But just how much dieldrin may be "too much" for the brain remained unknown. That changed this year when a study used cell cultures from newborn rats to determine the amount of dieldrin that permanently changed the developing brain networks. This new information may be the key to finally incorporating dieldrin's effects on the brain into fish consumption advice. But will state agencies be able to use it?

Florida’s monarch butterfly population takes a tumble  - A 37-year survey of monarch populations in North Central Florida shows that caterpillars and butterflies have been declining since 1985 and have dropped by 80 percent since 2005. This decrease parallels monarchs' dwindling numbers in their overwintering grounds in Mexico. While the drivers of the decline are not clear, the researchers said shrinking native milkweed populations and a boost in glyphosate use in the Midwest are part of the problem. Monarch caterpillars hang in the shape of a "j" just before beginning metamorphosis. Only about 2 percent of monarch eggs survive to this stage of growth.

A giant insect ecosystem is collapsing due to humans. It's a catastrophe - American biologist Terry Erwin calculated that there would be more than eight million species, just of beetles, in the tropical rainforest canopy; and as beetles make up about 40% of all the arthropods, the grouping that contains the insects and the other creepy-crawlies from spiders to millipedes, the total number of such species in the canopy might be 20 million; and as he estimated the canopy fauna to be separate from, and twice as rich as, the forest floor, for the tropical forest as a whole the number of species might be 30 million.    Erwin’s findings make two things indisputably clear. One is that there are many, many more types than the million or so hitherto described by science, and probably many more than the 10m species sometimes postulated as an uppermost figure; and the second is that this is far and away the most successful group of creatures the Earth has ever seen.   And it is their success – staggering, unparalleled and seemingly endless – which makes all the more alarming the great truth now dawning upon us: insects as a group are in terrible trouble and the remorselessly expanding human enterprise has become too much, even for them.  The astonishing report highlighted in the Guardian, that the biomass of flying insects in Germany has dropped by three quarters since 1989, threatening an “ecological Armageddon”, is the starkest warning yet; but it is only the latest in a series of studies which in the last five years have finally brought to public attention the real scale of the problem.   Insects are vital plant-pollinators and although most of our grain crops are pollinated by the wind, most of our fruit crops are insect-pollinated, as are the vast majority of our wild plants,  Furthermore, insects form the base of thousands upon thousands of food chains, and their disappearance is a principal reason why Britain’s farmland birds have more than halved in number since 1970. Some declines have been catastrophic: the grey partridge, whose chicks fed on the insects once abundant in cornfields, and the charming spotted flycatcher, a specialist predator of aerial insects, have both declined by more than 95%, while the red-backed shrike, which feeds on big beetles, became extinct in Britain in the 1990s.  Ecologically, catastrophe is the word for it.

Heatwaves can ‘wipe out’ male insect fertility - Heatwaves severely damage the fertility of male beetles and consecutive hot spells leave them virtually sterilised, according to research. Global warming is making heatwaves more common and wildlife is being annihilated, and the study may reveal a way in which these two trends are linked. The scientists behind the findings said there could also be some relevance for humans: the sperm counts of western men have halved in the last 40 years. Researchers studied beetles because their 400,000 species represent about a quarter of all known species. Insect populations are plunging worldwide as temperatures rise, falling by about 80% in 30 years in Puerto Rico’s rainforest and by 75% in German nature reserves.   Insects are such an integral part of life, as pollinators and prey, that scientists say their decline could lead to “ecological Armageddon”. Little is known about the precise causes of the decline, though climate change, habitat destruction and global use of pesticides are considered probable factors. The research, published in the Nature Communications journal, found that exposing beetles to a five-day heatwave in the laboratory reduced sperm production by three-quarters; females were unaffected.“Beetles are thought to constitute a quarter of biodiversity, so these results are very important for understanding how species react to climate change,” said Kris Sales, at the University of East Anglia, who led the work.Other research has shown that heat can damage male reproduction in humans as well as cows, sheep and other mammals. “There could be relevance for human fertility,”

Tickborne diseases such as Lyme hit record highs in the U.S., CDC says The number of infections carried by ticks has hit a record high in the United States, according to a new report. Nearly 60,000 people were diagnosed with a tickborne infection, mostly Lyme disease, in 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. And that’s almost certainly just a fraction of the true count. “The true number of cases is probably 10 times that,” said Dr. John Aucott, director of the Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Research Center and chair of the federal Tick-Borne Disease Working Group. The working group issued a report Wednesday saying states and the federal government need to spend more to track, prevent and treat these infections as they affect more and more people.“There are more cases. Every year, the geographic distribution expands,” Aucott told NBC News. Congress told the Health and Human Services Department to set up the working group as part of the 2016 21st Century Cures Act. This is the group’s first report. It’s clear that ticks are infecting more people as the bugs themselves spread, Aucott said. It’s also clear that much more work is needed to keep track of these infections and to help people suffering from them. “We heard comments from hundreds and hundreds of patients. It is obvious that this is a real problem, that people are really suffering.”

Lyme Disease Expected to Surge - Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, and it is transmitted to humans by blacklegged ticks, and it can cause untold misery for those infected.   Untreated, it can spread to the joints, the heart and nervous system producing long-lasting, debilitating symptoms.  About 300,000 Americans are diagnosed annually with Lyme, with cases concentrated in the Northeast and upper Midwest, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The incidence of the disease has doubled in the U.S. since 1991, according to the EPA. And it's about to get much worse, thanks to climate change. "Warmer temperatures are making cold places suitable habitats for ticks, so new places are having Lyme disease cases, and endemic areas are having more cases than the average," said Edson Severnini, co-author of a new study that predicts the incidence Lyme disease will rise around 21 percent by mid-century.   "Tick-borne diseases are an important public health concern and the incidence of these infections is increasing in the Unites States and worldwide,"  "Lyme disease is a classic example of the link between environmental factors and the occurrence and spread of disease."Ticks spend most of their lives in environments where temperature and humidity directly affect their survival. For this reason, the EPA uses Lyme disease as an indicator of climate change. Higher temperatures spur ticks to venture farther in search of hosts, such as deer, which are more plentiful after warmer winters. "The Lyme disease vector tick needs deer to complete its life cycle, so this means that more ticks will be completing their life cycle, and consequently the tick population will increase," Severnini said. "Also, as temperature rises, people may engage in more outdoor activities, increasing exposure to ticks."

France Looks to Curb Palm Oil and Beef Imports to Halt Deforestation - In a significant move to combat worldwide deforestation, the French government unveiled a national strategyon Wednesday that looks to curb imports of soybean, palm oil, beef and beef products, cocoa, rubber, as well as wood and its derivatives.The new plan, a joint effort from five French ministries, identifies these items as contributing the most to "imported deforestation"—meaning these products are directly or indirectly tied to forest degradation. For instance, the production of palm oil—a common vegetable oil found in chocolate, baked goods, soaps, biofuel and much more—has cleared much of Malaysia's and Indonesia's tropical rainforests and is a driver of wildlife habitat degradation, human rights violations and climate change.Between 1990 and 2015, the world's forested area has shrunk by a staggering 129 million hectares—an area almost equivalent in size to South Africa, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.What's more, clearing so much forested area has led "to an 11 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissionsand significant consequences in terms of preserving biodiversity and natural habitats," the French ministries noted in a joint statement."European countries bear an important responsibility, since a third of this deforestation is due to the consumption of agricultural products by the countries of the European Union," the statement added.They proposed 17 measures aimed at ending deforestation caused by the import of unsustainable products by 2030.Such measures, according to Reuters, include financial aid to encourage exporting countries or regions to respect non-deforestation criteria; the launch of a "zero deforestation" label for consumers by 2020; and a 2019 push for a European policy on imports posing a risk for forests. "The objective of this strategy is to bring each actor (producers, companies, investors, consumers) to change their practices to reduce deforestation," the ministers explained.

Half of the world’s annual precipitation falls in just 12 days, new study finds - Currently, half of the world's measured precipitation that falls in a year falls in just 12 days, according to a new analysis of data collected at weather stations across the globe.  By century's end, climate models project that this lopsided distribution of rain and snow is likely to become even more skewed, with half of annual precipitation falling in 11 days.These results are published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.Previous studies have shown that we can expect both an increase in extreme weather events and a smaller increase in average annual precipitation in the future as the climate warms, but researchers are still exploring the relationship between those two trends."This study shows how those two pieces fit together," said Angeline Pendergrass, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the lead author of the new study. "What we found is that the expected increases happen when it's already the wettest—the rainiest days get rainier."The findings, which suggest that flooding and the damage associated with it could also increase, have implications for water managers, urban planners, and emergency responders. The research results are also a concern for agriculture, which is more productive when rainfall is spread more evenly over the growing season.

How the Farm Bureau’s Climate Agenda Is Failing Its Farmers - The Farm Bureau is among the most potent political forces in Washington, skillfully parlaying the American farmer into an enduring influence machine. Its agenda encompasses taxes and trade, health insurance and school lunches. The group's lobbying also touches many environmental issues: water pollution, fracking, biofuels and biodiversity. Conservative to the core, it mirrors the Trump administration's ideology almost perfectly.Nowhere do their agendas align more completely—and with more profound consequences—than on the challenge of climate change.Both oppose any binding international, federal or local action that would regulate the emissions of greenhouse gases, or impose a market price or tax on them. Both refuse to embrace the core tenets of climate science.And on those points, the Farm Bureau rarely compromises."They're like the NRA," said Andrew Holland, who worked for former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. Like the gun lobby, the Farm Bureau derives its clout from member activism. "They get their members ginned up about something and then they call the Hill."For decades, the Farm Bureau has derailed climate action, deploying its political apparatus and 6 million members in a forceful alliance with conservative groups and the fossil fuel industry.It calls itself the "voice" of American agriculture, but the Farm Bureau has left its own members ill-prepared to cope with intensifying droughts, rain, heat and storms that threaten their livelihoods. The group's agenda has blocked farmers' opportunity to benefit from the agricultural transformation the climate crisis demands. In this series of articles, InsideClimate News explores how the farm lobby has wielded its influence to undermine climate treaties and regulations. In tandem with fossil fuel allies, it sowed uncertainty and denial about the causes of global warming and the urgency to bring it under control. Embracing taxpayer-funded subsidies to insure farmers against the mounting risks, it has nurtured an unsustainable consolidation of agriculture that discourages climate-friendly farming.

Ohio’s watershed moment: How to fix Lake Erie algae - The western tail of Lake Erie brims with life. Warm, shallow waters along the Ohio-Michigan border teem with bass, bluegill, and walleye, sustaining a billion-dollar fishing industry. Millions of people from Cleveland to Detroit draw their drinking water from this nook of the lake. Yet every summer, nasty blooms of toxic algae put the entire system at risk.Scummy blankets of blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, have appeared at alarming scales since the early 2000s, killing plants and fish and straining water treatment facilities. Four years ago, algal blooms were so bad that residents of Toledo were told not to drink or use tap water for three days. Scientists say they know theprimary source of the blooms: phosphorus and nitrogen that wash off farms in northwest Ohio and flow into the lake. What’s less clear is how policymakers and farmers will act to stem the nutrient pollution.A high-profile effort by the state’s Republican governor, John Kasich, to tackle toxic algae is in limbo after months of contentious meetings, political infighting, and strong resistance from the state’s agricultural interests. The delays mean that his successor, Mike DeWine, another Republican, will be responsible for carrying out or discarding Kasich’s vision.Kasich is pushing to declare eight watersheds in northwest Ohio as “distressed,” a maneuver that would enable regulators to adopt rules for curtailing agricultural runoff across some 7,000 farms. This summer, he issued an executive order that tasks a state commission with approving the “distressed” designations. But that commission recently decided to put off a decision until February — after Kasich leaves office.If upheld, the order would start by requiring farmers to lay out detailed strategies for applying chemical fertilizers and spreading manure. Water quality experts say these “nutrient management plans” are a practical first step toward jumpstarting conservation efforts across all of the region’s farms and replacing today’s scattered patchwork of initiatives. “All of the large-scale watershed models suggest that you’re going to have to have everyone in the watershed changing something about their (fertilizer) management,” The problem, Johnson says, is not that a few renegade soybean growers or dairy farmers are dumping lots of fertilizer and manure into watersheds. It’s that small amounts of nutrients — less than 1 percent of the fertilizer applied each year — wash off some 4 million acres of land. These trickles combine to make a river of phosphorus that feeds the harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie every year.

Why won’t red tide go away? After Hurricane Michael, toxic algae has again spread- Just before Hurricane Michael made landfall last month, a ferocious red tide that had scoured Florida’s Gulf Coast for a year, depositing countless dead sea turtles, dolphin and other marine life on beaches before spreading to the Atlantic coast, had finally started to wane. In most places, with the wet season winding down and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers easing up on releasing polluted water from Lake Okeechobee, the toxic algae that had become a key election year campaign issue had dropped to relatively low levels. Fish kills were down and so were the coughing fits among beach-goers. But in the weeks following the storm, red tide that is already considered the worst in a decade has roared back. On Monday, state wildlife officials logged high to medium levels along beaches from Clearwater to waters off Everglades City and in the Panhandle. Fish kills were reported in nine counties from the Panhandle around the tip of the state to the Space Coast. Along the Atlantic coast, levels capable of killing fish and causing respiratory distress remained along Cocoa Beach and in Martin County, but had dropped from Friday to Monday along other stretches of the Treasure Coast. Why that is remains a little bit of mystery. Red tides have many factors at play, and remain tricky to predict. But it’s likely a combination of wind, pollution and the tiny algae that cause the blooms, one of the few with the ability to swim, conspired to revive the tide. 

 Cape Cod’s Gray Seal and White Shark Problem Is Anything but Black-and-White -- On a sunny Saturday in mid-September, 26-year-old Arthur Medici was boogie-boarding in the waves off Wellfleet, Massachusetts, when a great white shark bit his leg. Despite the efforts of a friend who pulled him ashore and the paramedics who rushed him to the hospital, Medici died from his injuries.  Medici is the first person to die from a shark bite on Cape Cod in 82 years. (Another incident, which occurred in nearby Truro in August, was not fatal.) Medici's death is also this year's only shark-bite fatality in the U.S. and one of just five reported worldwide in 2018. All of which is to say, it's still extremely unlikely for a human to be killed by a shark. Statistically speaking, you are much, much more likely to be killed by bees, lightning or government execution. Still, in the wake of Medici's death, some local officials are calling for a cull—but not of sharks. They want to go after gray seals, the sharks' prey. Seals have inhabited Cape Cod for some 4,000 years, but for the past century or so, they've been scarce in this part of the world. New England fishermen in the 19th century saw the animals as competition for their cod harvest and killed as many as 135,000 of them between 1888 and 1962. Hard to believe, but the Massachusetts government offered a $5 bounty for every seal nose produced as recently as the 1960s. Not so surprisingly, gray seals nearly disappeared from the area around that time. In 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection Act made killing gray seals and other marine mammals illegal, and since then, the Cape's seal population has rebounded to as many as 50,000. In addition to the seals being part of the Cape's food web, evidence suggests that the animals play a role in transporting nitrogen and other nutrients out of the sea and onto shore via their excrement. The thing is, now that the seals are back, so are the sharks.

The plastic backlash: what’s behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference? Plastic is everywhere, and suddenly we have decided that is a very bad thing. Until recently, plastic enjoyed a sort of anonymity in ubiquity: we were so thoroughly surrounded that we hardly noticed it. You might be surprised to learn, for instance, that today’s cars and planes are, by volume, about 50% plastic. More clothing is made out of polyester and nylon, both plastics, than cotton or wool. Plastic is also used in minute quantities as an adhesive to seal the vast majority of the 60bn teabags used in Britain each year. Add this to the more obvious expanse of toys, household bric-a-brac and consumer packaging, and the extent of plastic’s empire becomes clear. It is the colourful yet banal background material of modern life. Each year, the world produces around 340m tonnes of the stuff, enough to fill every skyscraper in New York City.  But for some reason it is only very recently that people have really begun to care. The result is a worldwide revolt against plastic, one that crosses both borders and traditional political divides. In 2016, a Greenpeace petition for a UK-wide plastic microbead ban hit 365,000 signatures in just four months, eventually becoming the largest environmental petition ever presented to government. Protest groups from the US to South Korea have dumped piles of what they say is unwanted and excessive plastic packaging at supermarkets. Earlier this year, angry customers in the UK posted so many crisp packets back to their manufacturers, in protest at the fact they weren’t recyclable, that the postal service was overwhelmed. Prince Charles has given speeches about the dangers of plastic, while Kim Kardashian has posted on Instagram about the “plastic crisis”, and claims to have given up straws. At the highest levels of government the plastic panic can resemble a scrambled response to a natural disaster, or a public health crisis. The United Nations has declared a “war” on single-use plastic. In Britain, Theresa May has called it a “scourge”, and committed the government to a 25-year plan that would phase out disposable packaging by 2042. India claimed it would do the same, but by 2022.  Julian Kirby, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told me he had “never seen anything like it in nearly two decades of campaigning”. Friends of the Earth only started a plastic programme in 2016; Greenpeace didn’t have a dedicated plastic team until 2015.

The world’s plastic problem is bigger than the ocean  - There are an estimated five trillion pieces of plastic floating on and in the world's oceans. The massive pool noodle will move through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, driven by the wind and currents and picking up the plastic it encounters along the way. Ocean Cleanup, the organization that developed the device, promises "the largest cleanup in history." If it works, the device – blandly named System 001 – could make a dent in the enormous amount of ocean-borne plastic. But once that plastic is collected the options are not good.  Recycling plastic is only possible if it can be meticulously separated into its various chemical types. What people generally describe with the single word "plastic" encompasses seven main types of materials – the ones used to make soda bottles, trash bags, cling wrap, shopping bags, yogurt containers, fishing nets, foam insulation and non-metal parts of many household appliances. Recycling each of these types, which you might know by their acronyms – such as PETE, LDPE, PVC, PP and HDPE – requires a different chemical process.That's why many household recycling programs ask residents to sort their plastics – and why communities that let people put recyclables of all types into one big bin employ people and machines to sort it after it's collected.  Sorting won't be easy with the plastic in the ocean. All the different kinds of plastic are mixed up together, and some of it has been chemically and physically broken down by sunlight and wave action. Much of it is now in tiny pieces called microplastics, suspended just below the surface. The first difficulty, but by no means the last, will be sorting all that plastic – plus seaweed, barnacles and other sea life that may have attached itself to the floating debris.

Ecocide Equals Genocide -- The economic civilization fights for the wholesale poisoning of the ecology and destruction of biodiversity. The attack is most aggressive on the front which is the original battlefront of civilization itself, agriculture. Modern poison-based agriculture long has been proven an agronomic failure, and it’s long been proven to increase hunger rather than alleviate it. Socially, agronomically, ecologically it’s purely destructive. We know the corporations, regulators, academia and corporate media don’t advocate poisonism for agronomic reasons. We know they’re willfully, intentionally committing ecocide and giving people cancer for the sake of nothing but power, profit, and destruction of biodiversity for the very sake of this destruction, since monoculture in itself (political, cultural, biological) is a totalitarian goal of the system. In 2017 the Monsanto Tribunal condemned Monsanto for these crimes, including ecocide. The proposition that ecosystems have the same rights as humans follows rationally from any coherent concept of human rights, such as that upon which the Nuremburg tribunal based its jurisprudence. This is because humanity is inextricably part of the overall ecology. Therefore it’s both rationally and morally meaningless to conceive any human right, on a community or individual level, other than as part of a combined human-ecological right. At the same time “the individual” is a false construction in itself, a vestige of classical liberal/bourgeois ideology. In reality the individual can exist only within ecological and community contexts. Therefore individual rights can exist only within the context of ecological rights. Most important of all, if genocide is a crime against humanity, then any broad-based destruction of the ecology is equally such a crime against humanity since humanity is inextricably part of and dependent upon the ecology.  Ecocide, in addition to being evil in itself, is equal to genocide.

Entire cities evacuate as hellish wildfires whip through California -  A trio of rapidly expanding wildfires are burning in California, marking the latest in a string of harrowing climate-related disasters in America.As of Sunday night, the Camp Fire has killed at least 29 people and destroyed 6,713 buildings in and around the Northern California city of Paradise, but those numbers could still increase as officials continue their surveys. More than 200 people remain missing, warned the local sheriff’s office. It’s now the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in state history.In Southern California, low humidity combined with strong offshore Santa Ana winds prompted the National Weather Service to issue an “extremely critical” fire weather alert, its highest warning for wildfire risk. Two fires there are rapidly expanding towards the coast causing the city of Malibu to evacuate. Meteorologists warn of another round of intense, dry winds beginning Sunday that could fan the flames even further.These are firestorms — towering, fast-moving walls of flames hundreds of feet high — the kind of fires that are not only uncontrolled by firefighters, but uncontrollable. In Southern California, fire burning through wind-whipped palm trees on Thursday resembled a hurricane.“This is the new normal,” Los Angeles County Fire Captain Erik Scott told a local television station. “When we have conditions like this, when it’s such incredible wind, that brings us into a different caliber.” Acting California Governor Gavin Newsom has requested an emergency presidential disaster declaration from Trump to speed the flow of federal aid to victims. Meteorologists marveled at the “gut-wrenching” rate of spread Thursday’s fires exhibited. At one point, the Camp Fire was consuming 80 football fields worth of land per minute, fueled by winds of up to 50 mph. That fire grew more than 20-fold in about six hours just before it overtook the town of Paradise, home to about 27,000 people. By nightfall, the fire had expanded in size to 70,000 acres, and was just 5 percent contained. A reporter’s video caught a fire tornado on camera, an exclamation mark on a truly hellish scene:By all accounts, the scrambled evacuation of Paradise was harrowing. There were reports of people abandoning their vehicles trapped in heavy traffic, clutching children and running for safety under blackened skies. At least one cluster of about 70 people were airlifted from a Walgreens. Video from the exodus is nightmare-inducing, and is difficult to watch. During the height of the blaze, firefighters completely surrendered firefighting duties in order to focus on rescuing people.

Dead in cars and homes: Northern California fire toll at 29 - The dead were found in burned-out cars, in the smoldering ruins of their homes, or next to their vehicles, apparently overcome by smoke and flames before they could jump in behind the wheel and escape. In some cases, there were only charred fragments of bone, so small that coroner’s investigators used a wire basket to sift and sort them. At least 29 people were confirmed dead in the wildfire that turned the Northern California town of Paradise and outlying areas into hell on earth, equaling the deadliest blaze in state history, and the search for bodies continued Monday. Nearly 230 people were unaccounted for by the sheriff’s reckoning, four days after the fire swept over the town of 27,000 and practically wiped it off the map with flames so fierce that authorities brought in a mobile DNA lab and forensic anthropologists to help identify the dead. Meanwhile, a landowner near where the blaze began, Betsy Ann Cowley, said she got an email from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. the day before the fire last week telling her that crews needed to come onto her property because the utility’s power lines were causing sparks. PG&E had no comment on the email, and state officials said the cause of the inferno was under investigation. As the search for victims dragged on, friends and relatives of the missing called hospitals, police, shelters and the coroner’s office in hopes of learning what became of their loved ones. Paradise was a popular retirement community, and about a quarter of the population was over 65. Tad Teays awaited word on his 90-year-old dementia-stricken mother. Darlina Duarte was desperate for information about her half-brother, a diabetic who was largely housebound because he had lost his legs. And Barbara Hall tried in vain to find out whether her aunt and the woman’s husband, who are in their 80s and 90s, made it out alive from their retirement community. Megan James, of Newfoundland, Canada, searched via Twitter from the other side of the continent for information about her aunt and uncle, whose house in Paradise burned down and whose vehicles were still there. The blaze was part of an outbreak of wildfires on both ends of the state. Together, they were blamed for 31 deaths, including two in celebrity-studded Malibu in Southern California, where firefighters appeared to be gaining ground against a roughly 143-square-mile (370-square-kilometer) blaze that destroyed at least 370 structures, with hundreds more feared lost. 

Shares of California utilities plunge as wildfires rage --Shares of California utility companies plunged Monday as deadly wildfires scorched thousands of acres and continued to threaten life and property, and as state regulators opened investigations.Pacific Gas & Electric shares tumbled as much as 27 percent. They climbed partly back in the afternoon, closing down 17 percent but trading up more than 2 percent in the aftermarket. Edison International shares closed down 12 percent.Both utilities are grappling with power outages affecting tens of thousands of customers, and said they have submitted initial incident reports to state regulators. Hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated or forced to flee the affected regions.The Mercury News reported that state regulators were looking at the utilities' facilities in the affected areas "to asses the compliance" with applicable rules and regulations. PG&E and Edison have reported that their electrical infrastructure malfunctioned near the heart of the two fire-ravaged areas in the state, the paper said.  There are the Woolsey and Hill fires, which have burned through areas near Los Angeles, including Malibu, Westlake Village and Thousand Oaks. And the Camp Fire in Northern California has killed 29 people, now the most destructive in state history, according to the Los Angeles Times. The parent company of public utility Southern California Edison said wildfires left more than 23,000 customers without power in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Over the weekend, Southern California Edison said it has submitted "an initial safety incident report on the Woolsey Fire." The Mercury News said PG&E had reported an outage on a transmission line near the area where Cal Fire officials believe the Camp fire originated shortly before it was first detected. And Edison reported an issue on a substation circuit shortly before Cal Fire estimates the Woolsey fire began.

California wildfire deadliest and most destructive in state history - The death toll from wildfires ravaging Northern and Southern California has risen to 31. Thousands of homes and structures have been destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee from the spreading inferno.The most destructive fire is in the north—the Camp Fire, which started under the power lines at Poe Dam in Butte County. Fueled by high winds and dry weather, the blaze quickly engulfed the nearby communities of Pulga and Concow, before reaching Paradise, a town of 26,000, shortly after students were beginning their school day. The entire city was forced into a panicked and unprepared evacuation. By Friday morning, Paradise had burned to the ground.  Harrowing pictures and video have been posted on social media of cars racing to escape as walls of flame bear down on all sides. Others had to abandon their cars and try to escape the flames on foot, while some did not make it.With the death toll at 29, it is the deadliest wildfire in state history, the number of fatalities greater than the Griffith Park blaze in Los Angeles in 1933. At least two hundred more are missing.The Camp Fire is also the most destructive in state history. At least 6,453 houses have been destroyed, along with Paradise’s hospital and retirement home. Both the destruction and the death toll are expected to rise as the fire continues to burn and officials begin to sort through the wreckage.The Camp Fire erupted on the same day as the Hill and Woolsey fires in southern California, which together have forced the evacuation of over 260,000 people. Two deaths have been attributed to the fires in the south. President Donald Trump responded to the fires by threatening to cut off federal funding. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests,” he declared in a tweet on Saturday. “Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

Hurricane-force gusts will fuel one California fire while another blaze leaves 42 people dead - As one wildfire keeps inflicting more tragedy in Northern California, millions of people in Southern California will face treacherous fire conditions Tuesday. About 21 million people are under red flag warnings in Southern California, including in Los Angeles and San Diego, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said. The area has been ravaged by the Woolsey Fire, which has charred more than 93,000 acres and destroyed 435 structures. But on Tuesday, hurricane-force gusts -- meaning 74 mph or greater -- will hit canyons and ridgetops, fueling an already catastrophic blaze, Hennen said."Single-digit humidity along with very dry vegetation will lead to the potential of explosive fire growth," he said.So far, two people have died from the Woolsey Fire -- both in Malibu. But the tragedy is even worse in Northern California, where the Camp Fire has left 42 people dead. It's now the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state's recorded histor

44 dead in California fires as the Camp Fire becomes the deadliest in state history -An additional 13 sets of human remains were discovered Monday in Northern California, bringing the death toll from the Camp Fire to 42, making it the deadliest wildfire in the state's history, the sheriff of Butte County said. The increased death toll comes as first responders battle blazes on both ends of the state, and brings the statewide death toll to 44. Fierce winds continue to threaten lives and homes in Southern California's Woolsey Fire, which has killed two people so far. The strongest Santa Ana winds in the south may bring gusts near hurricane force on Tuesday, CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said. Meanwhile, firefighters made progress Monday in containing the Camp Fire, which razed the town of Paradise, where most of the dead have been found. Harrowing stories of escapes and close calls are trickling out of the region.   In some areas of the state, rescue efforts have turned into cleanup and recovery as residents return to what's left of their gutted homes in neighborhoods littered with charred remains of cars, trees and buildings. President Trump on Monday approved a request for a Major Disaster Declaration that will provide the state with federal resources.A Malibu resident who has lived through many wildfires said she has never seen one touch so many parts of the city at once. "Every community neighborhood has been devastated," the woman told CNN affiliate KCAL/KCBS.

‘The whole town is gone:’ drone video reveals the scale of fire destruction in Paradise – YouTube

‘No fresh air’: wildfire smoke sets apocalyptic haze over San Francisco Hundreds of miles from the wildfires that have torn through swaths of California and killed dozens, a thick cloud of smoke has enveloped the normally picturesque Bay Area in a dystopian haze. As the Camp Fire in northern California claims its place as the most destructive blaze in the state’s history, the heavy smoke billowing in from the fire has created a ghost town in its own right, casting an eerie glow over a region typically celebrated for its clear air quality. Experts warned residents on Monday that as the Camp Fire rages on, the smoke is expected to continue its onslaught through the end of the week, making it difficult to breathe and unhealthy to remain outdoors for long periods of time. “What we’re telling people is the best thing you can do is to be indoors,” said Walter Wallace, a spokesman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. Many have heeded this advice since the smoke began making its way into the area early on Friday, adding to the apocalyptic feel brought on by the haze. Playgrounds and parks usually bustling with activity were left abandoned under sunlight filtered through a smog that tinged the light in odd sepia tones. Some of those who did wander outside walked around with air masks on their faces, like extras in a horror film about a deadly virus. Altwarg, the general manager of Markus Supply Hardware in Oakland, had spent the weekend dealing with a sudden high demand for face masks at his store. “We sold everything we had on Saturday,” he said. One team purchasing the masks in bulk was Mask Oakland, an impromptu group of volunteers that had come together to pass out N95-particle grade masks to the homeless in the East Bay. With public health experts warning people to stay indoors, J Redwoods, one of the founders of the group, said more needed to be concerned about those who don’t have that option.

Woolsey fire is among largest on record in Los Angeles County - Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said the Woolsey fire is among the largest blazes on record in the county dating back 100 years. The fire has torn through almost 150 square miles of the county land, from Bell Canyon to the Pacific Ocean in Malibu. The devastation in Malibu Creek State Park is extensive. Much of the landscape is charred black, although the campground and parking lots remain intact. The fire swept through the area at tremendous speed, turning much in its path into ash. On Tuesday, fire crews continued to battle the burn area just southwest of the park. Smoke billowed over the hills southwest of the junction at Malibu Canyon Road and Piuma Road. 

In stunning loss, 83% of Santa Monica Mountains federal parkland burned in Woolsey fire - The Woolsey fire burned about 83% of national park land in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a stunning loss of a cherished open space area for Southern California. The Santa Monica Mountains, which stretch from Hollywood Hills to Point Mugu in Ventura County, have long offered Southern Californians a respite from the city below with the range’s array of hiking trails, waterfalls and rock pools. And its sprawling ranch land has given Hollywood real-world ties to the frontier life it exhaustively depicted on screen. The Woolsey fire destroyed more than 400 structures but also took a deep toll on landmark areas of the mountain areas.  Wildfires decimated the historic park tucked inside the Santa Monica Mountains a day earlier — taking with it markers of its proud past as a backdrop for television shows and movies such as “Planet of the Apes.” Flames consumed the set of the long-running TV series “MASH.” The same went for the Reagan Ranch, named after the former president and actor who used to own one of three parcels that comprise the 44-year-old park’s footprint along with Bob Hope and 20th Century Fox. About two miles west saw the destruction of the Peter Strauss Ranch, named after an Emmy Award-winning actor. The ranch featured a swimming pool and amphitheater and was the site of art exhibits and performances by country stars Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. All that remained of the ranch house was a few stone walls and a chimney.  Public access to the mountain range has been hard fought. It was propelled by the establishment of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy in 1980 by the state. Funded with bond measures and led by an ambitious executive director, Joe Edmiston, the agency has preserved tens of thousands of acres of land along the range.  The powerful group has also advocated against too much residential development. Last year, Edmiston called for the limiting of recovery funds for rebuilding homes in fire-prone areas.

California Fire Experts To Trump: Malibu Is Not a Forest - Donald Trump was slammed over the weekend for criticizing California’s “forest management” while firefighters and residents were battling three major wildfires. But experts also pointed out to the president that places like Thousand Oaks, Malibu and Paradise were not “forests.” On Saturday, Trump wrote: There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)  The Hill and Woolsey fires in Ventura and Los Angeles County have destroyed thousands of structures in southern California, one of the most highly populated areas of the United States.“There are no forests to manage here,” UCLA geography professor Martin MacDonald, who was forced to evacuate from his Southern California home, told The Daily Beast on Sunday.MacDonald called Trump’s tweet an “insult and so uninformed. It was a statement made with insensitivity and ignorance.”Pasadena fire officials had a similar message for Trump:Mr. President, with all due respect, you are wrong. The fires in So. Cal are urban interface fires and have NOTHING to do with forest management. Come to SoCal and learn the facts & help the victims. . @IAFFNewsDesk Fire Assn. (@PFA809) November 10, 2018  Gov. Jerry Brown’s office said the president’s comments were “inane and uniformed.”“Our focus is on the Californians impacted by these fires and the first responders and firefighters working around the clock to save lives and property — not on the president’s inane and uninformed tweets,” Brown’s Press Secretary Evan Westrup said in a statement Sunday. Also, the federal government manages close to 60 percent of the forests in the state, and most of the rest are privately owned by families, companies and Native American tribes.

Forced out by deadly California fires, then trapped in traffic — Thousands of residents in the wooded town of Paradise did what they were told to do when the morning skies turned dark and an inferno raged across the hills: They got in their cars and fled. What happened next was the vehicular equivalent of a stampede, packing the roads to a standstill. In the hours after the devastating wildfire broke out around Paradise on Thursday morning, tree-lined streets in the town swiftly became tunnels of fire, blocked by fallen power lines and burning timber. Frantic residents, encircled by choking dense smoke and swirling embers, ran out of gas and ditched their cars. Fire crews struggling to reach the town used giant earthmovers to plow abandoned vehicles off the road as if they were snowdrifts after a blizzard. By Sunday night, the Camp Fire had matched the deadliest in California history, the Griffith Park Fire of 1933, with 29 fatalities. Seven of the victims in Paradise died in their vehicles. Farther south near Los Angeles, where another vast fire continued its destruction, a mass evacuation was also all but halted at times by snarled roads. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said that two bodies had been found severely burned inside a stopped vehicle on a long, narrow driveway in Malibu.At a news conference late Sunday, Sheriff Kory L. Honea of Butte County said that 228 people were still unaccounted for in Northern California; state officials said they were not aware of anyone missing in connection to fires in the south. Statewide, about 149,000 were still under orders to leave their homes. Again and again in California’s battle with wildfires, roads have emerged as a major vulnerability for those escaping. There was only one way out of Paradise for residents fleeing the fire, the four-lane road known as Skyway, which quickly became paralyzed by traffic, a situation similar to what residents of Malibu endured along the Pacific Coast Highway, another choke point. 

42 Dead in California's Camp Fire, Deadliest in State History - The Camp Fire in Northern California is not only the most destructive in state's modern history, it's also the deadliest.The death toll climbed to 42 as of Monday, according to Cal Fire.Sadly, the total number of deaths could grow. Butte County sheriff Kory L. Honea said more 228 people remain missing in the area, Reuters reported."My sincere hope is that I don't have to come here each night and report a higher and higher number," Honea said at a press conference Monday night.The inferno has burned 117,000 acres of land, destroyed 6,453 residences, 260 commercial buildings and is only 30 percent contained. Three firefighters have been injured.The Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise on Thursday, surpasses the death toll of the 1933 Griffith Park fire in Los Angeles that killed 29 people."Forecasted low relative humidity and dry fuel moistures combined with steep rugged terrain will continue to impede control operations," Cal Fire said about the Camp Fire on Monday.California has been terrorized by a string of devastating wildfires. Last year's Tubbs Fire, which burned parts of Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties, killed 22 people (the third deadliest in the state) and burned 5,636 structures (the second highest number of structures), the San Francisco Chronicle tallied.The ongoing wildfires in both Northern and Southern California have been whipped by strong winds, years of prolonged drought that have dried vegetation, and climate change, experts have said.Nearly 9,000 firefighters are battling the fires throughout the state, Reuters reported.The Woolsey Fire in Southern California's Ventura County has killed two people, burned 93,662 acres and is 30 percent contained, Cal Fire reported Monday evening. President Trump—who threatened to withdraw federal funding and criticized California officials for "gross mismanagement" of forests in an ill-informed and widely criticized tweet—has approved a disaster declaration in the state. This will unlock federal funding and other resources.

Yet Another Trillion-Dollar Unfunded Liability, California Wildfires Edition - Yesterday an entire California town burned down. Paridise, CA has (had) 27,000 residents and over 1,000 buildings, and now it’s pretty much gone. A fire started nearby on a windy day and within hours everything was ash and cinders.  That fire and several others are still expanding across the state, threatening tens of thousands of homes. The sets of the TV show WestWorld are gone. Malibu has been evacuated. And dry, windy conditions persist, so the story is nowhere near over.  If this sounds familiar, it’s because massive, sometimes uncontrollable California wildfires are now an annual occurrence, due in part to gradual warming and persistent drought which combine to suck the moisture out of vegetation and turn the landscape into a tinderbox. Here’s a chart showing the recent take-off in the number of fires reported in the state (2013 was most recent year I could find, but the trend is clear – and since then the number of fires has apparently soared).  The reason this rates coverage in a financial blog is population. We’ve been moving millions of people into a place that has always had and always will have wildfires. California’s population is now about four times what it was in 1950, and the influx continues.  Fire is a crucial part of that and many other ecosystems, clearing out dead plants to make room for living. But add 40 million humans along with their buildings and vehicles, and a healthy, resilient semi-desert becomes a hellscape. A very expensive hellscape. What does it cost to rebuild a town of 27,000 people from scratch? A back-of-the-envelope calculation (1,000 buildings at $100,000 a pop, 15,000 cars at $25,000 per, $10,000 per person for roads, sewers, landscaping, etc) yields several hundred million dollars. For one little town. Is California budgeting for this? Are the insurance companies? Is Washington? All probably say they are, but only the insurance companies actually are – and even they are probably under-reserved for the past few years’ natural disasters.

2 Electric Utilities Reported Problems Minutes Before Deadly Wildfires Began - Minutes before the deadly Camp and Woolsey fires started in Northern and Southern California on Thursday, utilities reported problems with electricity lines in the same areas where the blazes sprang up, according to filings with the state regulatory commission. Together, the two fires have been blamed for 44 deaths and have consumed more than 200,000 acres of land, as of around midday Tuesday. The Camp fire is now the deadliest wildfire in state history, responsible for at least 42 deaths. The cause of the two fires is still under investigation — and likely will be for months, given the complexity of the cases and the devastation at the scenes. A spokeswoman for the California Public Utilities Commission says it is investigating the blazes in coordination with the state Cal Fire agency, and that it will be taking the two Electric Safety Incident Reports from Thursday into account. California requires utilities to report equipment malfunctions with 24 hours. The first report came from Pacific Gas & Electric, which sent an official notice to the California Public Utilities Commission describing an outage on one of its transmission lines at Pulga Road in Butte County, at 6:15 a.m. local time. For comparison, Cal Fire says the Camp fire began at 6:33 a.m. on Pulga Road. The next report came from Southern California Edison, which said a 16 kV circuit at its Chatsworth substation had relayed at 2:22 p.m., two minutes before Cal Fire says the Woolsey fire started. The utility said the substation is near E Street and Alfa Road in Ventura County — which is also where Cal Fire says the fire began

Investigations point to energy corporation’s negligence in California wildfire --An investigation is now underway that will assess the culpability of Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) in starting the Camp Fire, now the deadliest wildfire in the history of California.The company acknowledged Tuesday that it had submitted an “electric incident report” to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on November 8, moments before the wildfire broke out. The report detailed a power failure on a transmission line in Butte County at 6:15 a.m., 15 minutes before the fire was reported as starting in the same area.More than 100 people are still listed as missing by the Butte County Sheriff’s Office after the fire destroyed the town of Paradise, California Thursday morning. The official death toll stands at 56, while Butte County officials have said they expect more bodies will be found. One quarter of the population of Paradise, a town of 27,000, are senior citizens, and 73 of the missing persons are 65 years or older.In a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday, PG&E stated that if its equipment was found responsible for starting the fire, the cost of the damage would exceed its insurance coverage and hurt its financial standing. The company’s shares fell 21 percent on the following day. Its stock has fallen by 53 percent in total since the fire broke out.Affected residents have filed a lawsuit against PG&E at the San Francisco Superior Court, accusing the company of negligence. “Rather than spend the money it obtains from customers for infrastructure maintenance and safety,” states the official complaint, “PG&E funnels this funding to boost its own corporate profits and compensation.” Oakland attorney Michael Danko, representing the plaintiffs, claims to have “overwhelming” evidence that PG&E is to blame. In addition to the incident report the company filed to the CPUC, Danko cites “witnesses who saw the fire start on a transmission line” as well as a resident who received an email from the utility a day before the fire broke out notifying her of sparking lines.

California fires update- Death toll in Camp Fire rises to 63 – CNN - The number of missing in Californian wildfires has soared to 634, as authorities added hundreds of names to the lists of the unaccounted for Thursday, in what has become thedeadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state's history. Butte County Sheriff and Coroner Kory Honea said Thursday evening the death toll from the Camp Fire in northern California had grown to 63 people. Seven sets of remains were discovered Thursday, he said. At least two other people have been killed in another, separate wildfire in Southern California, putting the state's death toll at 65 since the two blazes began last week. On Friday hundreds of rescue personnel -- deputies, National Guard troops and coroners -- dressed in white overalls sifted through smoldering rubble and checked mangled cars, searching for human remains.Honea said the number of names on the missing list soared after investigators added information from callers who rang the dispatch center on the day the fire erupted and reported people who were missing in the chaos.Some of the names on the Butte County list appear more than once and it's not clear if any are duplicates. Officials have said it's hard to determine the number of missing, because some people may have evacuated and can't be reached with cell phone service unreliable due to the fire."There are a lot of people displaced and we're finding a lot of people don't know we are looking for them," Honea said.The fire turned the hard-hit town of Paradise into ash and debris and also devastated the nearby communities of Magalia and Concow. Honea said three sets of remains were found Thursday in Paradise, three in Magalia and one in Concow.Honea has invited relatives of the missing to visit the sheriff's office in Oroville so authorities can collect DNA samples from them. The DNA will be used to help identify fire victims, Honea said.

Smoke Is a Big Health Risk as California Wildfires Rage On - Dozens of people are dead, hundreds more missing and entire communities have been destroyed.  But even hundreds of miles from the fires, much of the state is blanketed in dangerous smoke. For more than a week, the air quality in San Francisco, Los Angeles and other major cities has been classified as "unhealthy" or "very unhealthy."The wildfires are releasing tons of pollutants into the air that will linger long after the fires are put out. Hazardous chemicals that may be present in building structures or products—such as asbestos insulation, vinyl materials, plastics, electronics casings and flame retardants—are released into the air as these things burn, creating airborne carcinogens.The extremely fine particles in soot and smoke harm our lungs. The particulates can trigger symptoms like difficulty breathing, coughing and headaches, or worsen respiratory diseases, like asthma. They also can damage the heart, circulatory system and brain.Health experts agree that the best defense is to stay indoors. Although the poor air quality puts everyone at risk, children, the elderly and people with asthma, cardiovascular or respiratory diseases are particularly vulnerable. People in these groups should take extra precautions. Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy can affect thyroid hormone levels in the developing fetus, and may contribute to reduced birth weight, preterm birth and a greater risk of chronic health conditions later in life.

Air-Fouling Smoke Continues across California; 2009 Report Warned of Potential Fire Disaster - Smoke from the catastrophic Camp Fire continues to plague much of central and northern California, bringing dangerously high levels of fine particulate pollution (PM2.5, particles less than 2.5 microns or 0.0001 inch in diameter). Hourly levels of PM2.5 were in the red “Unhealthy” range at more than 30 official EPA monitors across the region Thursday morning, with seven stations reporting purple “Very Unhealthy” conditions.Two stations near the Camp Fire recorded PM2.5 levels on Thursday morning well into the maroon “hazardous” range—the highest level of danger on EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI) scale. At this level, EPA warns that “this would trigger a health warnings of emergency conditions." Chico had PM2.5 levels at a suffocating 333 μg/m3 for several hours on Thursday morning, which is nearly ten times higher than the 24-hour PM2.5 standard of 35 μg/m3. Cal Fire announced on Thursday evening that the Camp Fire has taken at least 63 lives and destroyed at least 11,862 structures. There are now 631 people unaccounted for, a major leap from previous numbers. One of the biggest problems in evacuating the Paradise region is sheer geography. As NPR reporter Paige St. John put it, “The problem in Paradise is that you can't get out….Once they needed to move and you had an entire town that needed to get out all at once, the roads quickly turned into parking lots.”   A route called the Skyway connects the Upper Ridge to Paradise, then continues toward the Central Valley as a broad, four-lane divided highway. Many people used the Skyway as an escape route from the Camp Fire.  The multi-pronged wildfire risks of Paradise and surrounding areas were studied in 2009 by one of the grand juries that are routinely impaneled each year to investigate civil and criminal matters for Butte County. In 2008-09, the county’s grand jury looked into wildfire and safety considerations in response to devastating fires in June 2008 across the Sierra foothills that make up the northeast half of the county. The 2008 blazes, including the Humboldt Fire, burned more than 93 square miles (59,500 acres) in Butte County and destroyed at least 74 homes in the Paradise area.   In contrast to the Camp Fire, which moved into Paradise from the northeast, the Humboldt Fire approached town from the southwest. “By some miracle, the Humboldt Fire Incident did not cross the West Branch of the Feather River,” the jury noted in its report. “Had this occurred, property damage could have been huge and thousands of lives could have been threatened in Paradise and the Upper Ridge.”

California's Deadliest Fire Now Blocking Sun; Temps Drop By 10 Degrees As "Hazardous" Air Chokes Residents - California's deadliest fire in state history has generated so much smoke that it's blotting out the sun - which has caused surface temperatures to drop by as much as 10 degrees Farenheit, according to the US National Weather Service.   The smoke from the Camp Fire, which has burned 140,000 acres, claimed at least 56 lives, and is 40% contained, is so bad that anyone in the cities of Chico or Gridley who venture outdoors without a surgical-grade respirator are putting themselves in danger, according to BloombergCurrent air quality across much of the region is very poor. Check with and your local air quality board for more information. #CAwx   The air in the immediate vicinity of the fire is considered “hazardous” -- the worst it can be -- and the poorest in the U.S. AirNow has an “unhealthy” rating for the air from Sacramento to Livermore, and it’s only a little better for San Francisco.  The smoke is so thick “it prevents the sunlight from reaching the surface,” said Hannah Chandler-Cooley, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sacramento. “It prevents surface heating.” –Bloomberg Will a surgical mask help protect you from #wildfire smoke? How about a bandana? Nope. You’ll need a special #N95 respirator mask – and you’ll need to wear it correctly: @KHNews #Sacramento #CampFire The poor air quality is expected to stick around through next week before the weather patterns shift - which will potentially blow smoke to the East, Chandler-Cooley told Bloomberg by telephone

California wildfires- Air quality rated ‘world’s worst’-- Northern California's air quality has become the worst in the world, according to monitoring groups, as the state battles devastating fires. Air quality network Purple Air said on Thursday the air is now worse than smoggy cities in India and China. Schools have cancelled classes, flights have been delayed, and internet searches for smoke masks are soaring. At least 63 people have died in the Camp Fire - the state's deadliest and most destructive blaze. The number of missing people has jumped to more than 600, local authorities said, doubling the size of the list in a day. Three more people have also died in the Woolsey Fire, further south. President Donald Trump will travel to California on Saturday to survey the damage and meet those affected. The Camp Fire - which broke out eight days ago - swept through a swathe of the north at high speed, leaving residents little time to escape. The AirNow website ranks the air around San Francisco and Oakland as "very unhealthy", meaning everyone in the area could experience more serious health effects. Around Elk Grove and Sacramento, it is classed as "hazardous" - the whole population is likely to be affected, their website states.  A San Francisco Chronicle reporter tweeted that breathing in San Francisco was equivalent to smoking nearly a dozen cigarettes. In Paradise, which was destroyed by the wildfire, it is closer to smoking 22 cigarettes.

California fire: Death toll rises in Camp fire as survivors look for their way forward -As the death toll from the Camp fire rose to 71 on Friday and the number of missing jumped to more than 1,000, an army of searchers scoured the rubble in the ongoing effort to locate more victims. Eight more bodies were found Friday, and the number of people unaccounted for jumped from 631 to 1,011 as authorities continued to comb through 911 calls, emails and other reports of missing people. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said, however, that the list of the missing is dynamic and may include people who were counted twice, whose names were misspelled or who may not know they were reported missing. The Camp fire, already the state’s worst fire on record, has burned 146,000 acres and destroyed 12,263 structures. Officials said it could take weeks to complete the search for victims and identify them. Thousands of residents are without homes and living in shelters and tent cities. The relentless rise in the number of dead and missing comes as President Trump plans to visit both Northern and Southern California on Saturday to tour the burn areas. Although the president and Gov. Jerry Brown have clashed on numerous policies — and Trump was roundly criticized last week for erroneously blaming the fires on poor forest management and threatening to cut off funding to California — the two have pledged to work together after the devastating wildfires. As the fire’s massive toll continued to come into focus Friday, many Paradise residents struggled to complete day-to-day tasks. The question of how to rebuild their lives in Paradise — if they decided to do so at all — was never far from their thoughts.  They’re not even sure when they’ll be able to go back to sift through the ashes to look for any belongings that may have survived.

Camp Fire's Missing Person List Climbs To 1011, Statewide Death Toll At 74 - The number of names on the missing person’s list for Northern California’s Camp fire grew to 1,011 Friday night, nearly doubling the number reported Thursday, though fire officials warned that the list may include duplicate names. Search-and-rescue officials also discovered eight more bodies in the Camp fire’s aftermath, bringing the death total to 71. Three bodies have been recovered in the Woosley fire in Southern California, making the state’s death toll now 74. “I want you to understand that this is a dynamic list. It will fluctuate both up and down every day,” Butte County Sheriff-Coroner Kory L. Honea said of the missing person’s list Friday night. The wildfire has scorched 146,000 acres, destroyed over 15,000 structures and is now 50% contained. Honea said the number of people grew significantly Friday because law enforcement now has more resources to address missing person reports, including a newly established call center and more time to review reports that were emailed to law enforcement. Honea also noted that the list may include misspelled names and names of people who are not actually missing. “In the initial hours of this extraordinarily chaotic event, as people were calling in, talking about people that they couldn’t find ... that information was being entered in as rapidly as possible by public safety dispatchers,” he said. The Camp fire is considered the most deadly and destructive wildfire in the state of California. Investigators continue to scour the town of Paradise and the surrounding areas, searching for additional remains and assessing the damage.

California fire survivor says he saw friend die - A Northern California man who led a caravan of vehicles that was overcome by flames from a wildfire says he saw his friend die. Greg Woodcox told The Associated Press Monday that he heard his friend scream as the heat blew out windows. Four other people in the vehicles died. They were among at least 29 people who have lost their lives in a wildfire that decimated the town of Paradise. Woodcox said he was too exhausted to talk more by phone. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, the 58-year-old Woodcox said he was in a Jeep ahead of the other vehicles and ran when the flames overtook them. He said he followed a fox to a path down a steep embankment, and he survived by submerging himself in a stream for nearly an hour. A newspaper says firefighters and state employees are clearing brush and spreading water to prevent damage to a Northern California reservoir and dam if a wildfire passes through. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the work was underway Monday at Lake Oroville while the fire is still about 10 miles from the reservoir’s power plants and water-supply facilities. State Department of Water Resources spokeswoman Erin Mellon said officials were closely monitoring the blaze. The fire has killed at least 29 people and destroyed the town of Paradise. Spillways at the 770-foot Oroville Dam crumbled and fell away during heavy rains in early 2017, prompting thousands to flee over fears of a possible catastrophic release of water. A $1.1 billion reconstruction project was completed last month. 

What We Do And Don’t Know About Santa Susana Nuclear Site After The Woolsey Fire - The Woolsey Fire, now one of the largest recorded fires in L.A. County's history, has burned a good portion of the former Santa Susana Field Lab, which was once home to a nuclear reactor and numerous rocket tests. The site is still riddled with radioactive waste and other toxic compounds.  Many of our audience members want to know if there's a risk of those hazardous materials being spread by the fire.  Here's what we know. Public health officials say they found "no evidence of discernible radiation" in areas they tested. Still, experts who have studied the site say there are many unanswered questions. The Santa Susana Field Lab was a research facility on a 2,850-acre site in the hills above the San Fernando and Simi valleys. Built in 1947, it was used to test experimental rocket systems and was home to 10 nuclear reactors. In July 1959, one of those reactors suffered a partial meltdown. Workers tried to repair it. When they couldn't, they were ordered to open the reactor's large door, releasing radiation into the air that likely spread to nearby communities such as Simi Valley, Chatsworth and Canoga Park. Six weeks after the meltdown, the Atomic Energy Commission issued a statement saying that there had been a minor "fuel element failure" but there had been "no release of radioactive materials" into the environment. In 2017, reporter Joel Grover of NBC4, our media partner, documented all of this in "L.A.'s Nuclear Secret," an eight-part series exposing the reactor incident and subsequent cover-up.  Boeing bought most of the site in 1996 and soon closed the Santa Susana Field Laboratory. The company says it's turning the area into an "open space habitat" although the site is still a toxic mess.  A 2012 EPA report didn't paint a pretty picture. Approximately one out of every seven samples contained "concentrations of radioactive materials exceeding background levels." More than 80% of these were man-made radionuclides. This echoed a 1989 Department of Energy report that found there were contaminants in both the soil and the plants. Dan Hirsch, who retired last year as the director of UC Santa Cruz's program on environmental and nuclear policy, says Santa Susana has maybe 100 different toxic chemicals in the soil. They include "a mix of radioactive materials like plutonium, strontium-90 and cesium-137 and a witch's brew of toxic chemicals such as PCBs, dioxins, heavy metals like mercury and chromium-6 and volatile organic compounds like PCE."

Kim Kardashian’s Private Firefighters Expose America’s Fault Lines - As multiple devastating wildfires raged across California, a private firefighting crew reportedly helped save Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s home in Calabasas, TMZ reported this week. The successful defense of the $50 million mansion is the most prominent example of a trend that’s begun to receive national attention: for-hire firefighters protecting homes, usually on the payroll of an insurance company with a lot at risk.    The insurance companies AIG and Chubb have publicly talked about their private wildfire teams. AIG has its own “Wildfire Protection Unit,” while Chubb—and up to a dozen other insurers—contract with Wildfire Defense Systems, a Montana company that claims to have made 550 “wildfire responses on behalf of insurers,” including 255 in just the past two years. Right now in California, the company has 53 engines working to protect close to 1,000 homes.The TMZ story feels uniquely 2018—financial capitalism, inequality, KimYe, the fires of Armageddon—and it is, for Americans at least. “If the idea of private firefighting strikes us as an oddity nowadays, it should,”Benjamin Carp, a historian at Brooklyn College CUNY, told me. “While other societies throughout history have relied on private firefighting companies to protect the property of the upper classes … for the most part, we … have accepted the idea that fighting fire ought to be a public good.”

Hurricane Michael is looking even more violent on closer scrutiny — Gage Wilson and David Segal, technicians for the U.S. Geological Survey, were roaming the obliterated city of Mexico Beach when they spotted the missing sensor.  It was a barometer that USGS employees had deployed in advance of Hurricane Michael, a pressure gauge housed inside a two-inch-diameter aluminum tube. The USGS desperately needed that sensor to make an accurate estimate of the storm surge that barreled through Mexico Beach. Eleven days after Michael hit, demolishing most buildings in this seaside town, Wilson and Segal found the shiny cylinder, propped up vertically in front of the splintered ruins of a house as if hoping someone would find it. Using data from that instrument and another sensor that had been nailed to a pier piling, the USGS on Oct. 25 concluded the storm surge at Mexico Beach had reached 15.55 feet, half a foot higher than the previous estimate. If you add the waves on top of the surge, the water level here reached 20.6 feet, or close to the height of a two-story building.  “It might be the severest hurricane to hit the U.S. for as long as I’m still alive,”  Mike Brennan, chief of the hurricane specialist unit at the National Hurricane Center, said Hurricane Michael was violent in two really different ways. “You had the violence of the winds, the Category 4 winds in the eyewall there, but then you had the violent storm surge that was obviously powerful enough to wipe buildings off their foundation,” Brennan said. In a storm as intense as Michael, the eyewall’s winds are equivalent to an EF3 tornado, strong enough to destroy solidly constructed homes and lift cars off the ground. The extreme wind damage in Panama City, on the left side of the eyewall, raises the possibility that Michael generated hurricane “mini-swirls,” which are like tiny tornadoes, roughly the diameter of a couple of houses, and can create momentary wind speeds in excess of 200 mph.  Although Michael was officially a Category 4 hurricane, with 155 mph sustained winds when it made landfall, that could potentially be revised upward, to Category 5 — 157 mph and higher — in the ongoing National Hurricane Center analysis. To the untrained eye, the damage along this coastline looks like it came from a Category 13, what some observers likened to the effect of a nuclear bomb.

El Niño has an 80 percent chance of forming this winter, scientists predict   - Climate troublemaker El Niño has an 80 percent chance of developing this winter, federal scientists announced Thursday. "The official forecast favors the formation of a weak El Niño," NOAA's Climate Prediction Center said in its monthly forecast.. The center gives it an 80 percent chance of continuing through the winter. The chances have increased since early October, when climate scientists gave it a 70 to 75 percent chance of forming. El Niño is a natural climate pattern that's defined as unusually warm seawater in the central Pacific Ocean. It affects weather patterns in the USA and around the world. Although forecast to be on the weak side, El Niño "may still influence the winter season by bringing wetter conditions across the southern United States and warmer, drier conditions to parts of the North,” Mike Halpert, deputy director of the prediction center, said in a statement last month. This episode has a 55 to 60 percent chance of lasting into the spring, the CPC said. The entire natural climate cycle is officially known as El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which swings between warmer and cooler seawater in the tropical Pacific. The cycle is the primary factor government scientists consider when announcing their winter weather forecast. The cooler pattern, known as La Niña, was dominant the past two winters. The most recent El Niño occurred during the winter of 2015-16. That was a particularly strong episode, which led to weather-related crop damage, fires and flash floods, Reuters said. The forecast released Thursday said the government's ENSO alert system remains as an "El Niño Watch." Once El Niño develops, the alert level will rise to "El Niño Advisory," 

 India is suffering the ‘worst water crisis in its history’ World Economic Forum - India is suffering "the worst water crisis in its history", according to a June report by government policy think tank NITI Aayog. Worsening water shortages - for farmers, households and industry - threaten the lives and incomes of hundreds of millions of Indians, and the economic growth of the country, the report said. An estimated 163 million people out of India's population of 1.3 billion - or more than one in 10 - lack access to clean water close to their home, according to a 2018 report by WaterAid, an international water charity. The port city of Chennai needs 800 million litres of water a day to meet demand for water, according to official data. At the moment, the government can provide only 675 million litres, according to the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board. Like many Indian cities, Chennai and its suburbs plug that gap by buying water, encouraging residents to dig backyard borewells, or using private wells. In particular, Chennai depends on more than 4,000 private water tankers for its everyday water needs. The government also runs a "dial a tanker" service to meet demand. According to the Chennai Private Water Tanker Lorry Association, which has more than 1,000 members, each tanker makes up to five trips a day, ferrying water from the outskirts of the city to apartments, hotels, malls and offices. Altogether, the tankers deliver 200 million litres of water a day to Chennai, according to the association. "There are neighbourhoods that depend on tankers throughout the year with no access to government water pipelines," said Shekhar Raghavan, director of the charity Rain Centre, which encourages rainwater harvesting and water conservation in urban areas. That, he said, has "given rise to the water mafia, which has total control over who will get how much water in the city".

The Seafloor Is Disappearing - Much of the deep sea has never been explored close-up by humans. Some submarines have plumbed its depths, but reaching the ocean bottom is a complicated and expensive journey, challenging because the seabed lies under more than three miles of water, which exerts huge amounts of pressure. "We know more about space than about the bottom of the oceans in our own planet, even though more than two-thirds of the surface of the Earth is covered by marine sediments,"  Olivier Sulpis, a researcher and doctoral student at McGill University's department of earth and planetary sciences and his colleagues found a way to study it without actually going there. They recreated its environment in the lab, building little boxes filled with sediments overlain by sea water, keeping them in the dark. They duplicated sea water temperature and chemistry, as well as the composition of the sediment. By mimicking seabed conditions,   Normally, the seafloor is chalky white, largely made up of calcite formed from the skeletons and shells of planktonic organisms and corals. Calcite neutralizes carbon dioxide acidity, keeping seawater from becoming too acidic. But these days, at least in certain hotspots such as the North Atlantic and the southern oceans, the ocean's chalky bed is turning murky brown, the result of human activities that are causing carbon dioxide levels in the water to become too high and the water too acidic, according to new research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Eventually, the researchers predicted, the calcite won't be able to keep pace with acidification, dissolving before it can do its job. "The calcite at the bottom of the ocean is like a big anti-acid pill," Sulpis said. "It dissolves when there is too much CO2 and this neutralizes excess CO­2 in the process. If the seafloor runs out of calcite, the ocean loses its anti-acid pill, and we could go towards a scary state of runaway ocean acidification."

 Ice Sheets in Greenland, Antarctica Could Reach Catastrophic 'Tipping Points' if We Don't Limit Warming - Scientists just gave us another terrifying reason to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels: If temperatures push much beyond that point, both Greenland and Antarctica's ice sheets could reach a point where nothing can stop them from melting.An international team of researchers published this chilling finding in Nature Climate Change Monday. The researchers set out to study how the ice sheets would fare in a warming world, and the results were urgent."A big take-away is that the ice sheets, like many components of the climate system, likely have tipping points. Once they reach a certain amount of warming (~1.5 - 2.0°C), positive feedbacks kick in and commit us to long-term ice sheet mass loss and sea level rise," study author and Rowan University School of Earth and Environment Assistant Professor Luke Trusel explained on Twitter.If these tipping points are tipped, it would be catastrophic for coastal communities and low-lying islands. The ice sheets combined contain enough water to raise sea levels by 65 meters (approximately 213 feet), according to a press release from the Netherlands Earth System Science Center (NESSC), one of the groups involved with the research.  To put that in perspective, this animation shows what the world would look like after just six meters (around 20 feet) of sea level rise.

'Mini Ice Age' Looms As NASA Scientist Warns Lack Of Sunspots Could Bring Record Cold - “The sun is entering one of the deepest Solar Minima of the Space Age,” wrote Dr. Tony Phillips just six weeks ago, on September 27, 2018.  The lack of sunspots on our sun could bring about record cold temperatures, and perhaps even a mini ice age. Our sun was not expected to head into a solar minimum until around 2020, but it appears to be heading in that direction a little early which could prove to be bad news for warm weather lovers. But a prolonged solar minimum could mean a “mini ice age.” The last time there was a prolonged solar minimum, it did, in fact, lead to a mini ice-age which was scientifically known as the Maunder minimum.'s Mac Slavo writes that sunspots have been absent for most of 2018 and Earth’s upper atmosphere is responding, says Phillips, the editor of “The bad news,” according to Phillips, is: “It also delays the natural decay of space junk, resulting in a more cluttered environment around Earth.”“It could happen in a matter of months,” says Martin Mlynczak of NASA’s Langley Research Center on the cold snap that may be coming. “If current trends continue, it could soon set a Space Age record for cold,” says Mlynczak. “We’re not there quite yet,” he said. However, “months” is not all that far away. Data from NASA’s TIMED (Thermosphere Ionosphere Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics) satellite shows that the thermosphere (the uppermost layer of air around our planet) is cooling and shrinking, literally decreasing the radius of the atmosphere. This reduction of solar activity could result in a global cooling phase. “The thermosphere always cools off during Solar Minimum. It’s one of the most important ways the solar cycle affects our planet,” said Mlynczak, according to The New American. The new NASA findings are in line with studies released by UC-San Diego and Northumbria University in Great Britain last year, both of which predict aGrand Solar Minimum in coming decades due to low sunspot activity.

Every president since JFK was warned about climate change - John F. Kennedy was warned about "climate control" in February 1961, becoming perhaps the first American president to learn about people's impact on planetary temperatures. The warnings never stopped. Every president since then has been exposed to similar scientific findings. Sometimes it was called "climatic change," other times it was "air pollution." The history of cautionary messages with the West Wing is documented in hundreds of records submitted in Juliana v. United States, a court case against the federal government. The files show an arc of steadily improving climate science and a clearer picture of damages, even as presidents diverged on how to address the problem.

A lot of House Republicans who said they believe in climate change lost reelection -  There are a handful of House Republican lawmakers who say they are serious about confronting climate change, despite President Trump's dismissive stance toward the science that humans are permanently warming the planet.Or at least, there were. Many of the most prominent Republicans with ideas about how to address climate change — or even acknowledging the world is warming at all — lost their reelection bids on Tuesday.At the top of that list is Rep. Carlos Curbelo. Over the summer, the South Florida Republican, who represents a coastal district vulnerable to sea-level rise, introduced legislation designed to discourage the burning of fossil fuels — coal in particular — by making it more expensive to rely on them through a tax on carbon dioxide emissions. The bulk of the revenue would be funneled to fund new infrastructure.  That effort wasn't enough to save him from Tuesday evening's blue wave, which put Democrats in control of the House for the first time since 2010. Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell eked out victory in a district that Hillary Clinton won by 16 points.  "He's a good friend," said GOP Rep. Francis Rooney, who represents another coastal Florida district. "I'm just so sorry that he lost. I think we've lost a really important voice, for both parties quite frankly." Curbelo was among more than a dozen members of a bipartisan climate group to lose reelection. Another seven members of the House Climate Solutions Caucus are retiring from Congress at the end of the year. The losses Tuesday revived a debate among environmental activists about whether the caucus — which has been dogged by critics for lacking solutions — should cease to exist. The 2018 election is a moment of reckoning for those within the GOP who want, unlike the party writ large, to address what many scientists and Democrats say is the the world's most pressing environmental crisis.  Many of the House members to lose their seats were moderates representing swing districts where climate change is important to the independent voters they represent.

Trump Regional EPA Pick Indicted on Ethics Charges - When it comes to the people he chooses to protect the nation's environment, President Donald Trump sure knows how to pick'em. In his brief stint at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt wracked up an impressive amount of truly bizarre scandals, including blowing thousands of taxpayer dollars on "tactical pants." Ryan Zinke, the man he put in charge of public lands,, might also be on his way out over shady dealings. Now, it emerges that the man he put in charge of the EPA's Southeastern regional office has been indicted on ethics charges in Alabama.  A grand jury in Alabama's Jefferson County indicted the regional administrator Trey Glenn, along with his business partner Scott Phillips, for ethics violations related to their attempt to prevent the EPA from cleaning up polluted sites in North Birmingham, reported Tuesday. Specifically, they worked to stop the EPA from listing the city's 35th Avenue site on its Superfund National Priorities List, further explained.   Glenn and Phillips worked with the law firm Balch & Bingham and its client Drummond Company, which the EPA had eyed as a responsible party that might have to pay for cleanup, to stop the listing. This happened while Phillips was serving as Alabama Environmental Management Commissioner. At the same time, the pair co-owned and worked together at a company called Southeast Engineering & Consulting. Alabama ethics law prohibits a lobbyist or a lobbyist's client from giving gifts to a public official, including a job. So the two are rightly in big trouble.

High Stakes, Entrenched Interests And The Trump Rollback Of Environmental Regulations --Since his days on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump has promised to roll back environmental regulations, boost the use of coal and pull out of the Paris climate agreement — and he’s moving toward doing all those things.He has pushed ahead with such action even as a report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in October concluded that without much stronger measures to reduce the use of fossil fuels, a warming planet will witness the spread of tropical diseases, water shortages and crop die-offs affecting millions of people.Supporters of the administration’s changes — some of whom are skeptical of accepted science — say the administration’s moves will save money, produce jobs and give more power to states.But critics say new strictures on scientific research and efforts to overturn standards for protecting air, water and worker safety could have long-term, widespread effects that would upend hard-won gains in environmental and public health.The Trump administration’s many environmental proposals vary widely in target and reach.  Among such efforts:

  • The Environmental Protection Agency recently argued it needs until 2020 to decide on a controversial Obama-era directive expanding to smaller streams and waterways the types of wetlands protected by the federal Clean Water Act. That directive might mean fewer pollutants released into tributaries of larger waterways, from which millions of people get their drinking water. But the controversial rule has been fought by farming, mining and other industry groups that say it is too restrictive.
  • The EPA also sought to delay by nearly two years standards to protect workers and emergency responders at chemical plants, part of an Obama-era rule in response to a 2013 fire at a Texas fertilizer plant that killed 15 people. Industry says that the rule is costly and that providing information about chemical storage at plants could raise security concerns.
  • In March 2017, then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt rejected a petition filed in 2007 by environmental groups seeking to ban a commonly used pesticide, chlorpyrifos, which the groups say harms health, particularly citing developmental damage to children and fetuses. The agency said it needed more time to study the chemical.

All three of those delays were blocked by federal court judges, although the administration may decide to appeal, so final outcomes are unclear. But one thing is clear: Everyone is likely to spend a lot of time in court.

Trump administration to cut air pollution from heavy-duty trucks - Donald Trump’s administration plans to cut air pollution from heavy-duty trucks, marking one of its first moves to regulate US industry rather than roll back environmental standards. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will start writing a rule to require new trucks produce less nitrogen oxide, which contributes to smog and particulate matter pollution that causes breathing problems, asthma attacks and early deaths. The standards were last updated nearly two decades ago, and environmental advocates lauded the effort but said the details will matter. EPA acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, told reporters in a call ahead of the formal announcement on Tuesday that the agency will also “cut unnecessary red tape” for truck makers. And the agency is weighing a separate proposal to nix air pollution limits for trucks with rebuilt engines, which critics say is a massive loophole that will lead to dirtier air. “All the other rules I’m aware of appear to cause increases in air pollution,” said Paul Billings, senior vice-president for public policy at the American Lung Association. “This one does appear to be designed to reduce air pollution … but it’s really important to understand the specifics of what deregulatory action the acting administrator is talking about and what the air quality and public health impacts of those actions would be.” Billings said with available technology, trucks could reduce their nitrogen oxide pollution by about 90%, although it’s not clear what standard the EPA would propose. Any rule could take years to finalize and nearly half a decade to go into effect. It would only apply to new trucks, so the pollution improvements would only happen as old trucks are taken off the roads. Wheeler said his agency is not required by law to regulate heavy-duty trucks but is doing so “because it’s good for the environment”. He said the trucks would otherwise account for a third of nitrogen oxide pollution from transportation by 2025. The EPA has meanwhile slashed regulations for other sources of pollution. Wheeler noted his agency has initiated 28 deregulatory actions and is developing an additional 49 more. That includes rescinding a rule to shift away from coal-fired power, which will could be replaced by a proposal that EPA acknowledges could cause 1,400 more early deaths a year. Among other efforts, the agency is also working to roll back limits on methane pollution from the oil and gas industry and mercury emissions from coal plants, as well as fuel economy standards for cars.

Spain bans petrol cars, fracking, fossil fuel subsidies – aims for 100% renewables - Spain is proposing to ban fossil fuel subsidies, dump investments that encourage dirty energy use and will also drive lighter diesel and petrol vehicles off the road. And it has dusted off its renewable energy targets and is now aiming for 100 per cent renewables by 2050. It marks a significant turnaround for one of Europe’s larger coal-mining, gas-importing and auto-manufacturing countries. Fracking would also be banned nationwide. In a draft of country’s Law on Climate Change and Energy Transition, published on Tuesday, the five-month-old socialist government proposes to reduce Spain’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% by 2030 and 90% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. The 2030 goal would amount to a 37% reduction from current levels, which Madrid called more ambitious than any other EU country. This is Spain’s first national law on emissions reduction and clean energy goals. “Our proposal is to reduce Spain’s current greenhouse gas emissions by a third in just a decade, which we consider an international milestone and a sign of our firm commitment to the fight against climate change,” said Spain’s ecological transition minister Teresa Ribera, who took office in June as a member of prime minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist and Workers’ Party government. The draft will now be negotiated with other parliamentary parties. The government aims to present a bill to parliament before the end of the year. Under the plan, all new fossil fuel subsidies would be frozen and a phase out begun on a timetable yet to be agreed. The same freeze and phase out would occur for fossil fuel investments held by the government. The proposal would give investors and other economic players the “clear and predictable signals” needed to reduce Spain’s emissions, Ribera added. The transition “will generate progress and stable, quality employment, and presents great economic opportunities that Spain must take advantage of”, she said. 

Israel Aims To Ban Gasoline, Diesel Vehicles By 2030  -2030 seems like a long way off, but it’s really just around the corner. And when the bell tolls at midnight on December 31, 2030, you may not be able to buy a gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicle in Israel. After that date, all passenger cars will be electric and all trucks will be powered by electricity or compressed natural gas, if a proposal currently under consideration gets approved by the government. A final decision is expected by the end of this year. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz tells Reuters the biggest challenge will be creating a “critical mass” of electric and CNG powered vehicles before the deadline arrives. “We are already encouraging [the transition] by funding…more than 2,000 new charging stations around the country,” he says. The plan was set in motion one day after the United Nations issued its latest climate assessment that finds nations must do far more than they are currently doing in order to stave off warmer global average temperatures that will put the environment at risk. Israel has recently discovered large reserves of natural gas within its borders. It intends to shut down all its coal-fired generating stations and convert them to natural gas as soon as possible. Natural gas may not be as clean as renewables like wind and solar, but its emissions are lower than those from burning coal.

The Real Influence Of IMO 2020 - If ship owners, oil refiners and traders had been hoping for a stay of execution concerning the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) impending rule on sulphur limits in bunker fuel, they will have been sadly disappointed October 26. Rather than accept proposals designed to ease the shift from 3.5% to 0.5% sulphur in marine fuel from January 1, 2020, the IMO instead tightened compliance by adopting a ban on the carriage of non-compliant fuels in ships without exhaust scrubbers. It means that the huge oil market shake up that is ‘IMO 2020’ is going full steam ahead on schedule, and that compliance – a factor with significant bearing on its impact – will be at the higher end of expectations. But is a seemingly small regulatory change in an industry far from the public view really such a big deal? Yes. Various estimates suggest IMO 2020 will involve a transfer in value of over $1 trillion between 2020-25. On the winning side: refiners, low sulphur crude producers, oil-fired power generators and some industrials; on the losing side, freight carriers, high sulphur crude producers and consumers. The change in specifications is global. Bunker fuel usage is around 5-6 million b/d, roughly 6-7% of the world oil market. Not only that but 0.5% sulphur fuel oil is a new product. Refiners have to reconfigure their kit to produce it, while ship owners will be running it through engines unused to the new specifications.

20,000+ Students to UN: Publicize Key Facts to Prevent Global Collapse -- 24,500 students representing every country in the EU have added their names to the list of young people fighting for a future for themselves and the earth.The students, who organize under the banner of Our Future Uncompromised and attend the prestigiousSchola Europaea network of international schools, are calling on the United Nations (UN) to "stop withholding" crucial scientific information that they say could help avert the duel catastrophes of resources depletion and climate change, the students announced Thursday in an email sent to EcoWatch."If this science isn't known by the public, governments won't act at the scale required and global collapse is certain," student representative Carolina Teixeira wrote in the email.The students' demands come in the form of a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and other key UN and EU leaders. The students want the UN to publicize four key facts that are currently deeply buried within UN data:

  1. The goals of the Sustainable Development Objective and Climate Stabilization Objective agreed to in 1987 and 1992 respectively.
  2. The fact that nothing meaningful has been done to achieve either objective.
  3. The per capita responsibility by nation for these failures.
  4. The actions that need to be taken for the objectives to succeed.

The students have asked the UN to "prominently publish" the facts in their letter, but the UN has so far refused their request. "The UN has failed to reveal to the public the undisputed scientific realities that nothing meaningful has been, is, or is intended to be done to prevent unsustainable development including climate change from inevitably resulting in global social and economic collapse," the students wrote in their email.

UK’s backup power subsidies are illegal, European court rules - The UK’s scheme for ensuring power supplies during the winter months has been suspended after a ruling by the European court of justice that it constitutes illegal state aid.Payments to energy firms under the £1bn capacity market scheme will be halted until the government can win permission from the European commission to restart it.The scheme subsidises owners of coal, gas and other power stations so the plants are ready to ensure that electricity for businesses and homes is available at peak times in winter.The UK has also been blocked from holding any capacity market auctions for energy firms to bid for new contracts to supply backup power in the future. National Grid said ministers had instructed it to indefinitely postpone auctions that had been planned for early 2019.The government said it was disappointed by the judgment but insisted that power supplies were not at risk.On Thursday, the ECJ ruled that the European commission had failed to launch a proper investigation into the UK’s capacity market when it cleared the scheme for state aid approval in 2014.  The ruling renders the capacity market unlawful for a “standstill period” while ministers seek state aid approval from the European commission. It is not clear how long that will take, but it could be many months.

France has enough power supply for the winter, but with no margin - RTE said in its winter and medium-term outlook that up to 2020, electricity demand and supply is expected to be balanced but without any margin, due to the expected shutdown of some thermal power generation units. RTE’s director of operations Jean-Paul Roubin said analysis showed that under normal weather conditions, demand was expected to remain stable with peak demand seen at around 85 gigawatts (GW), the same level as last winter. Roubin said French nuclear power supply was expected to increase this winter compared with last year due to fewer outages, while hydro power supply was also expected to be stable. But between mid-January and the end of February supply could be tight if there is a prolonged cold spell because EDF has planned maintenance outages at five nuclear reactors. Two reactors could be halted for several weeks. This situation could lead to after market measures including calls to industrial users and consumers to curb consumption, increased imports from neighbours and lowering voltage on the network.

Coal Demand Bounces Back in 2017 After Two Years of Decline - Demand for coal rose for the first time in two years in 2017 with China and India burning more than anyone else, a blow for environmental groups hoping to limit use of the dirtiest fossil fuel. The International Energy Agency’s annual World Energy Outlook published on Tuesday indicates coal will remain a key fuel to provide heat and light through 2040. Key Takeaways

  • Global coal demand will begin to flatten by 2040, according to the IEA’s central scenario which tracks energy use on the assumption that governments will implement current and announced policies. In its most environmentally friendly outlook, the Paris-based institution says demand will ease to 2.28 billion tons in 2040 from 5.36 billion tons last year.
  • Coal’s share of global energy demand would have to fall to 12 percent by 2040 to make a substantial dent in global warming, down from about 27 percent currently and the 22 percent under the IEA’s central forecast.
  • Asia is driving demand, especially India and the nations in the southeast of the continent. That’s helping make up for industrial nations such as Canada, Germany and the U.K. that are working to phase out the fuel.
  • Investment in new coal-fired power plants was at its lowest in a decade in 2017. Large investors and insurers are moving away from coal in growing numbers as public pressure to meet global climate targets gets ever stronger. Assicurazioni Generali SpA, Allianz SE and AXA SA andStandard Chartered Plc are among those to have made public their ambitions to exit coal.

 Water withdrawals by U.S. power plants have been declining - Water withdrawals by U.S. thermoelectric power plants reached 52.8 trillion gallons in 2017, continuing a decline in withdrawal volumes since 2014. The water intensity of total U.S power generation—the average amount of water withdrawn per unit of total net electricity generated—fell from 15.1 gallons per kilowatthour in 2014 to 13.0 gallons per kilowatthour in 2017. Thermoelectric power plants withdraw water from sources such as rivers or lakes to cool equipment used during the process of generating electricity. After withdrawal, the water is either consumed, meaning it is lost to evaporation or blowdown during generation, or the water is diverted or discharged back into a body of water. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, electric power generators are the largest source of U.S. water withdrawals and account for about 40% of total water withdrawals in the United States.  Thermoelectric power plants require cooling water to cool and condense steam that is used to drive steam turbines. In 2017, the total volume of water withdrawn by thermoelectric power plants in the United States was more than twice the amount that flows over the Niagara Falls each year.  The decline in water withdrawals by thermoelectric generators has mainly been driven by changes in the electricity generation mix. Between 2014 and 2017, the coal share of U.S. electricity generation fell from 39% to 30%, while the natural gas share increased from 27% to 32%, and nonhydro renewables increased from 7% to 10%. Electricity generation from renewable resources such as wind and solar requires almost no water, and combined-cycle natural gas power plants, which account for much of the natural gas-fired generating capacity added in the past two decades, require less water on average than a coal-fired power plant.

IEA says gas to overtake coal in energy mix by 2030 - The Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA) said natural gas is set to overtake coal as the second-largest fuel in the global energy mix by 2030. In its World Energy Outlook 2018, IEA said the industrial consumers will make the largest contribution to a 45 percent increase in worldwide gas use. Trade in LNG is set to more than doubles in response to rising demand from developing economies, led by China. Russia will remain the world’s largest gas exporter as it opens new routes to Asian markets, but an increasingly integrated European energy market will give buyers more gas-supply options, IEA said. Higher shares of wind and solar PV in power systems are expected to push down the utilization of gas-fired capacity in Europe, and retrofits of existing buildings are expected to help bring down gas consumption for heating. However, gas infrastructure will continue to play a vital role, especially in winter, in providing heat and ensuring uninterrupted electricity supply. Oil and gas environmental footprint IEA noted in its World Energy Outlook 2018 that natural gas and oil continue to meet a major share of global energy demand in 2040. “Our first comprehensive global estimate of the indirect emissions involved in producing, processing and transporting oil and gas to consumers suggests that, overall, they account for around 15 percent of energy sector greenhouse gas emissions (including CO2 and methane),” IEA said.

Connected and vulnerable: Climate change, trade wars and the networked world --The increasing connectedness of the global economic system has long been touted as the path to greater prosperity and peaceful relations among nations and their peoples. There's just one hitch: Complex systems have more points of failure and also hidden risks that only surface when something goes wrong.For example, our dependence on cheap shipping to move commodities and finished goods has resulted in a system vulnerable to environmental disruption, particularly climate change, and to rising political and military tensions.The extreme drought in Germany last summer, the warmest ever recorded in the country, has resulted in such low water in the Rhine River that shipping has been greatly curtailed. Ships can only be loaded lightly so as to avoid running aground. Consequently, many more barges and other vessels have been pressed into service to carry the lighter but more numerous loads along the river. This has driven up the cost of shipping considerably. In addition, fuel tankers have not been able to reach some river ports resulting in scattered fuel shortages. Some industrial installations along the river have had to reduce operations.The natural inhabitants of the river have also suffered as die-offs of fish and other marine life have spread along the river.A world away trade tensions between China and the United States are resulting in an unexpected threat to the preparedness of the U.S. military. The neoliberal program of free trade embraced by one U.S. president after another regardless of party has resulted in curious vulnerabilities for the military.Because of the hollowing out of American manufacturing—as much of it migrated to China's low-cost labor market—the military can no longer fulfill certain needs from U.S. or even European manufacturers. Instead, the only place to source certain supplies is China, a country many now consider a potential military adversary of the United States. Complicating the issue are recent U.S. trade sanctions against the Chinese. This could lead the Chinese to retaliate by withholding crucial goods such as rare earth metals over which it currently has a virtual monopoly and which are essential for modern electronics. This is a political and military problem. But it illustrates the fact that complexities can trip us up because of both human-created and natural events.  Back in the United States the connectivity offered by the electric grid has become a huge liability for California utilities whose power lines have been implicated in past wildfires and who paid dearly for starting them. The combination of dry trees coming in contact with power lines and high winds which can down lines has forced utilities currently dealing with huge wildfires in their service areas to turn off gas and electric service in some places as a precaution. So frightened were investors about the potential liability facing California utility PG&E Corp. that the company's shares lost 16.5 percent of their value on Friday.

IAEA urges quick plan on Fukushima radioactive water cleanup — Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency urged the operator of Japan’s tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant on Tuesday to urgently decide on a plan to dispose of massive amounts of treated but still radioactive water stored in tanks on the compound. A 13-member IAEA team told reporters in Tokyo after a weeklong review that managing nearly 1 million tons of radioactive water is critical to the plant’s safe and sustainable decommissioning. The IAEA team said in a preliminary report that hundreds of tanks currently used to store the water over large areas of the plant’s compound can only be a temporary solution and must be removed “urgently.” The cores of three reactors at the plant suffered meltdowns following a massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of northeastern Japan. Radioactive water has leaked from the damaged reactors and mixed with groundwater and rainwater at the plant. The water is treated and stored in large tanks. More than 7 ½ years since the accident, officials have yet to agree on what to do with the radioactive water. A government-commissioned panel has picked five alternatives, including the controlled release of the water into the Pacific Ocean, which nuclear experts say is the only realistic option. Fishermen and residents, however, strongly oppose the proposal. That option faced a major setback this summer when the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., acknowledged that the water, which it said had been carefully treated, was not clean enough. It said the water contains cancer-causing cesium and other elements in excess of allowable limits for release into the environment. 

 Estimating India’s nuclear weapons-producing capacity - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists - How many nuclear weapons India can make is an important question in South Asia, determining the foreign and military policies of a number of countries in the greater region, and a concern for the world at large. But coming up with a reliable answer is tricky. Most estimates, such as those of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, get the raw material for their reports on a given country—such as the endowment’s study, “A Normal Nuclear Pakistan”—by relying on a relative handful of sources, such as the yearbooks of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the International Panel on Fissile Materials, and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, to name some common examples. Bearing in mind the relative paucity of original source material, a 2015 estimate by the Institute for Science and International Security concluded that India’s stockpile of fissile material was only sufficient to make approximately 75-to-125 nuclear weapons. But two recent analyses have produced much larger estimates. In 2016, Syed Muhammad Ali estimated in his book Indian Unsafeguarded Nuclear Program: An Assessment that India has sufficient material and technical capacity to produce between 356 and 492 plutonium-based nuclear weapons. A year later, in a discussion paper for Harvard University’s Belfer Center, Mansoor Ahmed concluded that India has the capacity to produce up to 2,686 nuclear weapons. What accounts for most of these dramatic differences, from the low double-digits to a high in the thousands? It is the possibility, all-too-easily discounted, that India could use civilian reactor-grade fissile materials in its nuclear weapons, and how efficient such an approach could be. Experts claim there are good reasons to assume it is extremely unlikely for India to draw upon its civilian reactors to make fissile materials for its nuclear weapons. For one thing, it is difficult and expensive to reprocess the plutonium in the spent fuel from a civilian nuclear reactor for use as the vitals of a nuclear weapon. And “India in particular has historically had trouble achieving consistent operations in its reprocessing facilities,” And don’t forget that these are unsafeguarded reactors, which by definition means that IAEA inspections are not allowed—so the outside world cannot rule out the possibility that these reactors could be used for military purposes.

Injection-well critics urge county to take stronger action - Athens NEWS - Athens County residents and activists packed the small conference room where the Athens County Commissioners meet last Tuesday morning to plead for help addressing a proposed fourth injection well on the K&H facility in Torch, near the county’s eastern border.   K&H Partners, LLC, of Parkersburg, West Virginia, has applied for a 4th Class II injection well within a half mile of the existing K&H facilities in Torch. According to a fact sheet provided by Groff, who is also a member of the Buckeye Environmental Network, the proposed well has been requested to take up to 20,000 barrels of oil-and-gas fracking waste every day, or 840,000 gallons, which is 7.3 million barrels a year, or 306.6 million gallons of waste. Each of the existing three wells in that area already can take up to 20,000 barrels of waste a day, according to Groff. With the new well in place, she maintained, the K&H facility could be injecting more than 613 million gallons of fracking waste into the area each year. “That is intolerable, it’s outrageous,” Groff said. “It’s not enough that it’s another injection well,” Groff argued, “but all of these wells are within less than a half mile from each other.” The number of barrels a well can take per day is controlled by the pressure of the injection, she said, which is not to exceed the legal allowance set by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). For that reason, Groff argued that it’s possible that the new well could take more than the amount stated on the application. Another concern shared by the injection-well opponents at Tuesday’s Commissioners meeting is an increase in the number of trucks that have been idling at a state of Ohio rest area in Torch. Trucks used to transport fracking waste-water “are pulling into the rest area and using that rest area as a staging area before they go up to the tank site,” Groff said. “... As many as 20, 30,” or more “in one day.”

Environmental groups up in arms about bill they say targets legitimate protests - Athens environmental activists and the Buckeye Environmental Network are raising the alarm about an Ohio Senate bill that seeks to severely punish people found to have trespassed onto “critical infrastructure facilities” such as oil and gas wells and pipelines.Specifically, the boards of the Athens County Fracking Action Network (ACFAN) and the Buckeye Environmental Network are warning that Senate Bill 250 could be passed by the Ohio Legislature during the lame-duck session between now and the end of the year.  “S.B. 250 is being crammed down the throats of Ohio citizens,” local activist Roxanne Groff charged in a statement over the weekend. “There has been little if any effort to inform the public about this bill that would intentionally thwart efforts of individuals and groups, who have as one of few tools to raise their voices and educate others the right to free speech and protest. The very idea of making non-profit and citizen community groups pay outrageous fines and be charged as criminals for support of these constitutional rights is egregious and terrifying.” Senate Bill 250, introduced by Ohio Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, has been amended since the last time The NEWS reported on it earlier this year, but the intent largely remains the same: It ramps up the criminal penalty for “knowingly” engaging in “aggravated trespassing” on public and private utility infrastructure (previously the bill had made that charge a first-degree felony, whereas it’s currently a first-degree misdemeanor under Ohio law; under the new substitute bill, it’s listed as a third-degree felony). The bill also proposes to increase the fines for these third-degree felony charges to 10 times the maximum currently allowed (currently, it’s $10,000 – so, one felony charge under the provision could mean a fine of $100,000). The bill also proposes that any organization found “guilty of complicity in a violation” of the new trespassing law would be punished with a similar fine.  Meanwhile, the bill also proposes stiffening criminal mischief charges (typically a third-degree misdemeanor) relating to a “critical infrastructure piece” up to a first-degree felony, with a similar fine and “complicity” structure proposed.

Nearly a year after federal approval, PennEast Pipeline still faces uphill battle  - early a year after getting a federal nod for a natural gas pipeline, PennEast still has a way to go before it can begin construction on the utility that would cut through the Lehigh Valley on its 120-mile path from Luzerne County to New Jersey. PennEast officials say they still plan to start construction next year, despite outstanding permits required from several state and federal agencies and pending eminent domain lawsuits. Even with the hurdles, legal experts say the pipeline isn’t likely to go away. But PennEast faces an uphill battle thanks to an unprecedented level of opposition from landowners who have blocked access to surveys of their properties, and particularly strong opposition in New Jersey where the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection rejected PennEast’s applications for water permits in February, citing a lack of survey data. What’s at stake for the consortium of PennEast investors is a $1 billion project with the potential for a significant return on investment, experts say. “Most of these recent pipelines have a 14 percent return on equity, which is at least 3 to 4 percent higher than any other utility investment, and in fact, higher than most investments at all,” she said. New Jersey eminent domain attorney Timothy Duggan of Stark & Stark, which has several law offices throughout the state, thinks there’s a “very real possibility” the pipeline won’t be constructed along the projected path because so many environmentally sensitive properties are involved. “Because so many people said ‘no’ and held their ground, PennEast doesn’t have the ability to submit the necessary information. I think that’s what’s different about this case. [PennEast] picked an area where there are environmental groups, townships and people who are really concerned about the impact,” Duggan said. He believes there’s likely less push back in Pennsylvania because of the money to be made from fracking, which goes on in the Marcellus shale region of the state.

Understanding why fracking wastewater contains radioactive waste -RESEARCHERS at Dartmouth College, US, have released a study explaining the transfer of radium to wastewater during hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas extraction. An understanding of the mechanisms involved could lead to the development of strategies to mitigate wastewater production. During hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, fluid is pumped underground at high pressure to break apart rock and create fractures which oil and natural gas can flow through. A common practice is to use “slick water”, which is a combination of water, a proppant – typically sand – and a mixture of chemicals. After the hydraulic pressure has been dropped the proppant holds the fractures open. Friction reducers, usually a polyacrylamide, are a critical component added to increase fluid flow. Other chemicals, such as biocides, surfactants, and scale inhibitors can also be added. Once the pressure has been dropped slick-water returns to the surface as wastewater which is salty and highly toxic. It contains toxins such as barium (Ba) and radioactive radium (Ra). As Ra decays it releases a cascade of other elements, such as radon, that collectively generate high radioactivity.  Taken together, the twin studies published in Chemical Geology are the first to help to explain the mechanics that result in the high salinity and Ra content of fracking wastewater. Before the release of these studies researchers were uncertain if radioactive Ra came directly from the shale, or if it came from naturally occurring brines present deep in Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale. 

 Using Marcellus gas in area becomes a priority - More and more people are recognizing the potential Marcellus and Utica Shale natural gas could have if the gas and associated natural gas liquids were used in Pennsylvania, rather than being exported to other areas of the U.S. — and internationally.PIOGA, the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, a 100-year-old trade group originally founded to represent conventional drillers, recognizes its members must expand their outlook past drilling and producing. Last Friday, PIOGA hosted "Marcellus to Manufacturing," a day-long program in Pittsburgh which brought current and potential natural gas-related companies together to hear how firms are and can capitalize on gas, and how Pennsylvania’s state government can help make investment a reality. One of the primary reasons Shell selected the western Pennsylvania site for the first cracker built in the Appalachian Basin in decades was abundant, inexpensive gas. “We’re seeing facilities being built now, that if they had been built 10 years ago, would never have been built here,” according to Andy Huenefeld, price risk manager, for Kinect Energy Group. “They would have built elsewhere for low labor costs. Now, they are building here for low energy prices.” With more companies looking for property to build facilities and take advantage of low and abundant natural gas, brownfield sites, former industrial or commercial sites where future use is affected by real or perceived environmental contamination, are getting a closer look. One of the drawbacks of western Pennsylvania and West Virginia is a dearth of flat land. Brownfield sites, some of which may date back to the early 20th century, are flat, located near a river and often offer rail and road availability.

 U.S. approves part of TransCanada WB XPress natgas pipe for service (Reuters) - U.S. federal energy regulators on Wednesday approved a request by TransCanada Corp’s (TRP.TO) Columbia Gas Transmission unit to put the eastern facilities of its $900 million WB XPress natural gas pipeline into service in West Virginia and Virginia. WB XPress is one of several pipelines designed to connect growing output in the Marcellus and Utica shale basins in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio with customers in other parts of the United States and Canada. The 1.3-billion cubic feet per day (bcfd) WB XPress project was designed to increase gas capacity in Virginia and West Virginia. The project includes construction of 2.9 miles (4.7 km) of new pipeline, two compressor stations and replacement of 26 miles of existing pipeline. One billion cubic feet is enough gas to power about 5 million U.S. homes for a day. New pipelines built to remove gas from the Marcellus and Utica basins have enabled shale drillers to boost output in the Appalachia region to a forecast record high of around 30.4 bcfd in December from 26.9 bcfd during the same month a year earlier. That represents about 37 percent of the nation’s total dry gas output of 83.2 bcfd expected on average in 2018. A decade ago, the Appalachia region produced just 1.6 bcfd, or 3 percent of the country’s total production in 2008. Separately, TransCanada has said it plans to complete its $3 billion Mountaineer and $600 million Gulf XPress projects by the end of the year. Mountaineer is designed to increase gas capacity in West Virginia by 2-bcfd. Gulf XPress is designed to move 0.88 bcfd of gas from Appalachia to the U.S. South.

West Virginia’s Natural Gas Industry Keeps Pushing to Whittle Away Payments to Residents - For decades, Arnold and Mary Richards collected monthly royalty checks — most recently from $1,000 to $1,500 — for the natural gas sucked up from beneath their West Virginia farm by small, old wells. So in 2016, when EQT Corp. drilled six new gas wells, the Ritchie County couple expected to see their royalty payments skyrocket. The much-larger wells would collect far more natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation, which is fueling the boom in the state’s gas industry. The Richards’ checks did grow considerably. But the couple also saw something they didn’t expect: EQT was cutting the size of those new checks. EQT began deducting for what it said was the cost of transporting the gas, for processing the gas and even for state taxes. All told, since November 2016, the Richardses calculated they were missing about $235,000 in royalties. The Richardses had looked closely at their lease agreements. The agreements stated that EQT would give them 12.5 percent of the revenue generated from the wells. They didn’t say anything about allowing deductions. So the Richardses went to court, filing a federal suit against the company in February 2017. “I only want the royalty that is due us, according to our lease,” Mary Richards told a jury in Clarksburg this September. Arnold and Mary Richards are the latest among thousands of West Virginians who have watched the state’s natural gas producers whittle away at royalties promised to them, according to a review of court records by the Charleston Gazette-Mail and ProPublica. Sometimes, the companies deduct a variety of “post-production” costs from gas proceeds, as appears to have happened in the Richards’ case. Other times, they’ve avoided paying full royalties by creating shell companies that, at least on paper, buy the gas at reduced prices. These practices have gone on for decades. While the state Legislature and courts have both tried to ensure that residents are getting their fair share, gas companies have simply shifted their tactics. 

ACP and MVP are Polluting the Land and Streams in West Virginia - As battles over two major natural gas pipelines play out in court, state regulators have continued to cite the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline for environmental problems. The Mountain Valley Pipeline has received 19 violation notices from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection for failing to comply with the project’s West Virginia/National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System general water pollution control permit. The violation notices date back to early April, and the most recent was issued in early October, according to the DEP’s database. The violations happened in several West Virginia counties, including Greenbrier, Harrison and Doddridge. The pipeline is approved to span 303 miles from Wetzel County, West Virginia, into Pittsylvania County, Virginia. In many cases, a DEP inspector visited the site of construction and warned the site operator to take measures to comply with its permit. Then, the inspector wrote up a Notice of Violation, telling developers to provide a written response to the violation within 20 days. The violations don’t come with a monetary penalty. In the most recent case, an inspector followed up on a citizen complaint in Monroe County and found sediment was flowing off the right-of-way. The inspector, Jason Liddle, issued a Notice of Violation, citing three sections of the permit the pipeline builders had violated. Liddle also wrote that developers had violated state legislative rules governing water quality standards by letting “distinctly visible settleable solids in pond and stream.” Photos that accompany the Notice of Violation show muddy water and sediment deposits. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would also start in northern West Virginia and span 600 miles into North Carolina, has been cited twice for problems in Upshur and Randolph counties. Neither pipeline company responded to inquiries about the violations. These are the kinds of problems residents feared from the very beginning, said Joan Walker, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. “Absolutely, we saw it coming,” she said. “There’s no safe way to build these fracked gas pipelines in any terrain, especially in mountainous terrain in West Virginia and Virginia. This is not a surprise, this is what we warned about in hundreds and hundreds of public comments to FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission], this is what we feared would happen and sadly it’s playing out that way.”

Atlantic Coast Pipeline costs reach $7B - Construction Dive - During the company's third quarter 2018 earnings call with analysts, Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good said estimated costs for the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline under construction between West Virginia and North Carolina have increased from $6.5 billion to $7 billion.   Good said the projected $500 million in additional costs were a result of permitting delays and an August stop-work order issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which was rescinded after right-of-way issues through national park lands were resolved. The project's Virginia water quality certificate went into effect last month after the state's Department of Environmental Quality approved the pipeline's erosion and sediment control plan, and the company has requested FERC permission to start full construction activities there. The Duke Energy chief added that future bad weather or potential "judicial or regulatory" delays could add more costs and require additional schedule time.   Currently, crews are working on mainline construction in West Virginia and North Carolina and engaging in tree-felling activity in those states and Virginia. Duke plans to put the pipeline into service in phases, with all stations and significant segments ready in late 2019 in order to meet that winter's demands. The company plans to have the remaining sections in service by mid-2020.  At the same time that Duke and its partners were working on meeting Atlantic Coast Pipeline regulatory demands this summer, Mountain Valley Pipeline developers and construction crews were dealing with similar issues — cost increases and delays. FERC slapped the 300-mile, West Virginia-to-Virginia natural gas line with a stop-work order in August, citing right-of-way issues, but lifted that order by mid-September. Mountain Valley officials attributed a similar $500 million of cost increases to forced work-stoppages and permitting delays, but added another $500 million for preparation in the run-up to Hurricane Florence and for the erosion repair and sediment control work necessary after previous excessive rainfall. As of late September, costs for the pipeline, initially estimated at $3.5 billion, had increased to about $4.6 billion.

 NC lawmakers will hire investigators to look at governor’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline fund - North Carolina lawmakers voted Wednesday to hire private investigators to look into whether Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration improperly issued a state permit to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline this year on condition of securing a $57.8 million contribution from the energy consortium that’s building the natural gas pipeline.While Cooper’s office dismissed the move as a political stunt, the lawmakers were praised by an environmental activist group that has fought the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and has been frustrated by Cooper’s silence. The Republican co-chairs of the subcommittee that focuses on the pipeline said a professional investigation is required because Cooper’s office has refused to answer key questions this year on how and why the deal was negotiated. Lawmakers said the deal’s time line, as reconstructed through public records, suggests the pipeline permit was initially withheld by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to strong-arm the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to pay for a “slush fund” that the governor could dole out for pet projects.“These questions are serious,” said subcommittee co-chairman Sen. Harry Brown, a Republican representing Onslow and Jones counties. “They go to the very heart of honest government.” Under the pipeline deal, Cooper, or anyone he delegated, would control the $57.8 million environmental mitigation fund, which would finance economic development projects and would also finance environmental reclamation projects to compensate for natural habitat damage caused by building the underground pipeline. However, the Republican-controlled state legislature dismantled the governor’s fund earlier this year and redirected the money to be paid to schools located along the pipeline’s planned path in eight counties. Even though the fund is now moot, lawmakers have pressed the issue and created the special subcommittee.

Mountain Valley submits application for pipeline extension from Pittsylvania to N.C.  — The developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have taken the first formal step in seeking federal approval for a 73-mile extension of the natural gas pipeline into North Carolina. An application filed Tuesday with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission details Mountain Valley’s plan for a new project that will begin in Pittsylvania County, at the end point of a 303-mile pipeline the company is currently building in West Virginia and Virginia. Called MVP Southgate, the underground pipeline would run to Alamance County and provide gas to PSNC Energy, a local distribution company that plans to expand a system that serves more than 563,000 customers in North Carolina. Mountain Valley’s application makes official a proposal announced in April. Although the regulatory process is just beginning, reaction has fallen into the same opposing camps that formed during years of controversy over the original pipeline’s route. In touting the pipeline’s economic benefits and reliable supply of natural gas, Mountain Valley pointed to endorsements it has garnered from such organizations as the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce and the state’s Economic Development Commission. “Many employers rely on natural gas to fuel their operations and construction of the MVP Southgate project will bolster efforts to attract and retain businesses in North Carolina,” chamber executive Gary Salamido was quoted as saying in a news release from Mountain Valley. Opponents, meanwhile, have questioned the need for the pipeline, the use of eminent domain to obtain private land along its route, and the “irreparable damage” it would cause to the environment, according to written comments submitted to FERC. Of particular concern to some Pittsylvania residents is a plan to build a compressor station, which will use two gas-driven turbines to produce the 28,915 horsepower needed to move gas at high pressure through the pipeline. The facility would be about 3 miles east of Chatham. Noise and air pollution generated by compressor stations were cited by opponents in 2015, when Mountain Valley considered building one for the current pipeline in either Montgomery County or Roanoke County. Those plans were later withdrawn. 

Center for Constitutional Rights is suing Bayou Bridge Pipeline– Judge Keith Comeaux will be hearing a pre-trial on Friday regarding the constitutionality of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in the Atchafalaya Basin. Loyola University law professor Bill Quigly told KATC that the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Atchafalaya Basin Keepers say they are suing Energy Transfer Partners on behalf of hundreds of landowners in the Atchafalya Basin. Quigly claims that ETP violated constitutional law by excavating and building on a 38 acre parcel of land in the basin without getting proper legal consent from the landowners. The Center for Constitutional Rights will also be challenging the constitutionality of Louisiana’s eminent domain law for pipelines. They argue the law is unconstitutional because it does not require pipeline companies to gain permission from a government agency before claiming eminent domain in Louisiana. They explained that most states require pipeline companies to gain permits from their Public Service Commissions before claiming eminent domain and then building. Quigly also argues that ETP will have to prove that the Bayou Bridge Pipeline is beneficial for the public good, a stipulation for claiming eminent domain. Louisiana Bucket Brigade Founding Director, Anne Rolfes adds that ETP does not have the ability to prove that the pipeline benefits the public good.

Louisiana landowners sue Bayou Bridge pipeline for trespassing and damage - Landowners in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin have filed suit against the company building the controversial Bayou Bridge pipeline for trespassing and property damage, claiming that it did not obtain legal authority before running stretches of the nearly completed pipeline through their property.It’s the latest legal skirmish in a long battle between Louisiana activists and Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), which is also behind the the more well-known Dakota Access pipeline, and one that advocates hope might shutter the nearly completed 160-mile stretch of pipe before it goes live. “I’m outraged that private individuals have trespassed on this land and have destroyed it – a private company who acts as though they are above the law,” said Katherine Aaslestad, one of three landowners named in the suit. “My objective is to be a steward of the land, to protect it from the devastation caused by pipeline development … and to encourage other landowners to stand up for their rights.”According to landowners, the pipeline construction involved the cutting down of numerous trees and the accumulations of sediment left over from digging the trench where the pipeline runs.The company was in the process of trying to use the controversial doctrine of eminent domain to “expropriate” the land, which allows the government to seize land for the public good. But according to the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the company never actually finished the legal process of having the land turned over before starting to build. Construction in the 38 acres owned by landowners in the suit occurred over this summer. “The corporation didn’t even wait for permission from the court to construct the property. They didn’t even wait to get compensation [for], or written permission from all the co-owners,” said CCR attorney Bill Quigley. “They trespassed onto this property and constructed this pipeline without legal authority to do so,” he continued.

Report: 90% of Pipeline Blasts Draw No Financial Penalties -- A striking report has revealed that 90 percent of the 137 interstate pipeline fires or explosions since 2010 have drawn no financial penalties for the companies responsible.The article from E&E News reporter Mike Soraghan underscores the federal Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's (PHMSA) weak authority over the fossil fuel industry for these disasters.The government levied a mere $5.4 million in fines for the 13 pipeline explosion and fire cases in the last eight years, the analysis found. "That's less than one day of profits for one major pipeline company, TransCanada. It's $2 million less than what [TransCanada CEO Russ Girling] made last year," Soraghan explained in a tweet. One of the country's largest natural gas pipeline accidents—the 2010 San Bruno, California pipeline explosion that resulted in eight deaths—fell under state jurisdiction rather than PHMSA. California authorities imposed a record $1.6 billion fine against Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E).

Husky Energy reports oil spill at White Rose Field - There has been an oil spill at the White Rose Field. Husky Energy released a statement just before 5:30 saying they are responding to an incident at the White Rose Field. Just after noon today, Husky Energy says the SeaRose experienced a loss of pressure in a subsea flowline as they were preparing to restart production after yesterdays wind storm. A quantity of oil has been lost to sea. Although the exact volumes have yet to be confirmed, current estimates are that 250 cubic meters has been released. The standby vessel Atlantic Hawk was dispatched to investigate and confirmed an oil sheen on the water. Tracker buoys have been dispatched from the Atlantic Hawk and the SeaRose, and Husky Energy says a PAL observation flight is underway. The company says sea states are currently preventing containment and recovery operations. However, as per Husky Energy’s oil spill response plan, all appropriate authorities have been notified. Onshore staff and contractors have been called in.

Haynesville's Gigantic Gas Resurgence Could Be A Winner In LNG Export Race - Ever since producers took some big financial beatings after prices plummeted a few years ago, the Haynesville Shale play has positioned itself for an economic resurgence. For those following natural gas production in the U.S., this should not come as a surprise. It has a lot going for it. Consider the following:

  • It’s a behemoth of a gas field that produces enormous wells. It’s been known for some time that the Haynesville has potential, but that is being realized further as more experience is developed among operators. For example, long lateral wells (some now stretch nearly two miles each) can produce up to 24 bcf of natural gas. Compared to the nearby Eagle Ford Shale, whose wells produce 12-15 bcf of natural gas, the Haynesville wells are big. In today’s low gas price environment, this matters quite a bit.
  • The formation is more naturally pressurized than many others. This means, among other things, that more gas is produced in the first year. This is important, considering how expensive it is to drill these wells, and in turn, it means higher rates of return for investors (since time can erode returns according to present value theory).
  • Breakeven prices have fallen. According to Chesapeake, which has the largest acreage position in the Haynesville, breakeven prices are currently between $2.00–$2.25 mcf. Even with price differentials of about $0.60 to Henry Hub, this provides an opportunity for profitable wells. Two or three years ago, this was considered an improbability.

Currently, the ability to export LNG is relatively trivial. The continental U.S. has only two facilities operating with less than 4 bcf of capacity per day. That’s about to change. The Gulf Coast alone has nearly 8 bcf per day capacity under construction and another 6.8 bcf per day has been approved. Over 26 bcf per day has additionally been proposed.  Facilities are being proposed up and down the coast from Brownsville, Texas to Pascagoula, Mississippi.In the race to chase efficiencies, the Haynesville’s proximity to the Gulf Coast provides a big opportunity for investors. At a recent conference, Tom Petrie, a leading energy investment banker, gave some estimates of transportation costs from proximate U.S. gas basins. Not surprisingly, the Haynesville was by far the cheapest at $0.25 per mcf.

US LNG player Cheniere fires up Corpus Christi production - US LNG player Cheniere said Wednesday it started producing liquefied natural gas from the first train at its Corpus Christi liquefaction and export terminal in Texas as the facility is preparing to ship its first-ever cargo of the fuel.As previously reported by LNG World News, the 170,000-cbm FSRU Golar Tundra, which is being used as an LNG carrier in the spot market, arrived at the Corpus Christi plant’s jetty on Sunday.An event to mark the commissioning of the Corpus Christi facility will take place at the Port of Corpus Christi on November 15.The Golar Tundra is expected to depart the facility with the first shipment “sometime soon”, according to a Platts report. The destination of the cargo is currently unknown.Cheniere has previously secured an approval from the US Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC) to load and export commissioning cargoes at its Corpus Christi plant. However, the company has yet to receive an approval from the regulator for the start of commercial service.Cheniere already owns and operates the Sabine Pass LNG export facility in Louisiana, one of only two facilities currently exporting US shale gas-sourced LNG.The Corpus Christi facility is the company’s second LNG export facility and the third such facility in the US.Corpus Christi is a three-train liquefaction project, with each train expected to have a nominal production capacity of about 4.5 million tonnes per year of LNG. The liquefaction project is the first large-scale LNG export project to be built in Texas, with a cost of approximately $15 billion.

Permian Drillers Prepare To Go Into Overdrive In 2019 In recent months, pipeline capacity shortage in the Permian has been the center of shale drillers and oil analysts’ attention as much as the surging production from this fastest-growing U.S. oil region that has helped total American crude oil production to exceed 11 million bpd for the first time ever.Many of the big U.S. companies—including supermajors Exxon and Chevron—boosted their Permian oil production in the third quarter as they have firm capacity commitments and integrate Permian production with downstream operations.Many smaller drillers, however, are going on a ‘frac holiday’—as Carrizo Oil & Gas said in its Q3 earnings release this week—in some of their Permian acreage by the end of this year, to sit out the worst of the pipeline constraints, and to be ready to return to completions next year.The majority of company executives and industry analysts expect that the Permian bottlenecks and the wide WTI Midland to Cushing price differential are transitory issues that will go away by the end of 2019, when many of the new pipelines out of the Permian will have started operations.  Until then, some smaller drillers like Carrizo are on a ‘frac holiday’ this month and next. Commenting on the Q3 performance, Carrizo’s President and CEO S.P. “Chip” Johnson said that the company had been drilling more in the Eagle Ford than in the Permian in order to capture higher pricing from the Eagle Ford oil. “We expect our activity to remain weighted to the Eagle Ford Shale until the second half of 2019, when we plan to begin moving rigs back to the Delaware Basin,” Johnson said. In the earnings call, he noted that the shift to the Eagle Ford “shielded us from the dramatic widening of differentials in the Permian Basin during the quarter.”

Permian Pipes Are Coming, But The Workers Aren't - Ryan Byrd worked five years in oilfields from China to West Texas. But after the worst price rout in a generation left him jobless, he’s not ready to jump back into the mix. His advice to others looking to the oil patch for fat checks: "Just be prepared to one day wake up, go to work and find that the job is not there." Welcome to the next big Permian Basin bottleneck. A pipeline shortage slowed output this year, leading to a record 3,722 drilled-but-never-opened wells. But three major conduits set to open in 2019 are expected to solve that. The newest snag: Finding hundreds of workers over the next 18 months to open those wells, at a time when the firing of 440,000 workers between 2014 and 2016 remains a fresh and painful memory. “It’s a huge concern for 2019,"  . "It’s frankly today a bigger concern than oil prices, because oil prices are fine where they are. The availability of labor is not." By the time the new pipelines are fully in service, potentially adding more than 2 million barrels a day of capacity, the number of unfracked wells could reach 7,000. Now, there’s 174 fracking crews in the Permian, with roughly 20 to 30 workers each. Colin Davies, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, expects that count to fall even lower. But once the pipes open, Davies believes as many as 100 more crews may quickly be needed. Schlumberger Ltd., the world’s biggest oilfield services company, said on a conference call last month that it was trying to hold tightly to some of its experienced oilfield workers by looking at shifting them to other jobs until they’re needed back in the Permian field. And the industry is starting to recruit broadly, focusing on areas well outside the Permian so as not to cannibalize companies and communities close to the oilfields. But it’s not an easy proposition. After being fired in the oil rout, many former oilfield workers, like Byrd, have settled into other jobs with much less volatility. Meanwhile, the U.S. jobless rate is at its lowest level in years.

Cleanup completed from refinery spill on South Side - A spill of about 50 gallons of flammable liquid at a South Side refinery that entered the San Antonio River appears to have been quickly and almost entirely removed, officials said Friday.The circa-1955 plant at 7811 S. Presa St., now owned and operated by Calumet Specialty Products Partners, has had a history of occasional fires and spills, but had not had a significant spill in nearly three years, San Antonio River Authority officials said.Shortly before noon Thursday, Calumet reported that naphtha, a hydrocarbon mixture used in fuels and solvents, leaked from a valve into a tributary leading to the Mission Reach of the river, just north of Mission San Juan.   Amanda Nasto, environmental investigation specialist with SARA, said three temporary floating barriers known as containment booms were placed by Calumet to keep the spill from moving downstream. Absorbent pads were used to remove the contamination. “I’d say we got 99 percent of it,” Nasto said. “We’re not seeing anything, and we’re not smelling anything.”  As a precaution, Calumet placed a fourth boom by a tunnel outlet leading into the river that will likely be removed late Saturday, in advance of possible rain, she said. There was no known impact to wildlife from the spill. More than four years ago, a spill at the plant on March 4, 2014, of more than 8,000 gallons of jet fuel, including about 420 gallons that entered the river, resulted in the documented deaths of two ducks. A second spill, on April 11, 2014, involved 1,008 gallons, including 126 gallons that entered the river. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality later assessed a $29,780 fine against Calumet for not contacting the state agency until nearly 12 hours after the second spill.

Oklahoma Supreme Court sides with industry in fight over oil-field water regulation The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with the energy industry, ruling against officials in Kingfisher County who blocked companies from using temporary lines to transport produced, treated or recycled water in one of the state’s hottest oil fields.Last spring, Kingfisher County Commissioners stopped issuing permits for temporary pipes placed in easements alongside county roads to pump water to and from drilling and oil-field sites, citing liability concerns and environmental hazards posed by leaks.Oil companies said the ban was expensive and unnecessary and could worsen truck traffic and force drillers to use fresh water instead of recycled oil-field water for hydraulic fracturing.The Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association filed a lawsuit in August, arguing the ban was unreasonable and challenged the commissioners’ authority to regulate the water lines.The chief legal counsel for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the state’s oil and gas regulator, agreed with that argument in a legal opinion and cited a 2015 law that crimped local governments’ ability to prohibit oil-field operations.Oklahoma’s high court agreed. In a 6-3 ruling and order, justices voided Kingfisher County’s water line ban and said the Corporation Commission has “exclusive authority” to regulate the transportation and storage of oil-field water.. “A patchwork of local ordinances and regulations creates unnecessary confusion, thwarts innovative solutions, and threatens environmental protections and public health,” OIPA-OKOGA spokesperson Cody Bannister said in a statement. “Using temporary water lines is an industry-standard practice that has numerous environmental benefits, including reducing truck traffic and supporting water recycling efforts.”

Drilling overwhelms agency protecting America’s lands - Wayne Smith was incredulous as he surveyed an area he leases for grazing, now cleared of grass and cluttered with above-ground pipelines, a drill pad for multiple wells and other oil and gas infrastructure. “I still pay a grazing lease right there,” Smith said in May, pointing to a government map showing there should be no more than 17 acres of development on the site instead of the 125 acres he saw in front of him. “Now, what’s my cow going to eat?” This isn’t what’s supposed to happen on publicly owned land the federal government oversees. The Bureau of Land Management can lease the same property to more than one party at once, but if New Mexico ranchers request it — as Smith did — the agency has instructed its field offices to contact them before such a build-up occurs. Smith said no one notified him. Violations, from oil spills to haphazard land restoration, are becoming more common in this hotbed of oil and gas activity, according to ranchers and conservation groups. One sign of the area’s increasing appeal for drilling: A September federal oil and gas lease sale brought in a record-breaking $972 million. Jim Stovall, a local BLM official, admitted at a meeting in May that his team doesn’t have the resources to enforce all the rules on the books, according to five people who heard his remarks.But the Trump administration’s priority is to speed up oil and gas permitting and to open tens of thousands of additional acres to drilling here. For years, the industry in New Mexico has had outsize access to local BLM officials — federal employees relying on the private sector for everything from money to expertise. Now, it’s getting assistance from Washington.“We want to make the BLM a better business partner for the oil and gas industry,” Michael Nedd, then-acting director of the agency, said last year at the Carlsbad Mayor’s Energy Summit. Conservationists, ranchers and others worry that allowing more drilling without addressing the problems already created by ramped-up production could threaten one of the most biologically diverse deserts in the world, put local water supplies and the global climate at risk and scar the land so it can’t be used for other purposes afterward.Government officials say accelerating permitting will bring much-needed jobs and money. New Mexico is heavily dependent on oil and gas revenue, and the permitting process, some say, has been hijacked by anti-development interests.

Trump: Keystone XL court ruling ‘a disgrace’ - President Trump slammed a federal judge’s late Thursday ruling that blocked the Keystone XL oil pipeline, calling it “a disgrace.” “It was a political decision made by a judge. I think it’s a disgrace,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House Friday morning, heading to France. “48,000 jobs. I approved it. It’s ready to start,” he added. The State Department has estimated that the project would provide up to 42,000 temporary construction jobs, but just 35 direct permanent jobs once completed. Trump indicated that his administration would appeal the ruling from Montana federal Judge Brian Morris to the San Francisco–based Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which has often ruled against his administration. “I guess it’ll end up going to the 9th Circuit, as usual,” he said. “We’re slowly putting new judges in the 9th Circuit. Everything goes to the 9th Circuit, everything.” Trump signed an executive order that led to Keystone’s approval days after he took office in January 2017. Morris revoked TransCanada Corp.'s federal permit to build the Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline, stopping the company’s plans to start construction next year.  The judge said the Trump administration’s State Department didn’t adequately review the environmental impacts of the pipeline and didn’t justify why it reversed the Obama administration’s 2015 rejection of the project.

Keystone XL Ruling Could Just Be Symbolic-- TransCanada Corp.'s $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline may face another eight months of delay after a court ruling raised issues with a four-year-old environmental review. A Montana federal judge Thursday found that the 2014 environmental assessment by the Obama administration fell short. President Donald Trump used that review in a March 2017 decision allowing the project to proceed. Now, the government must consider oil prices, greenhouse-gas emissions and formulate a new spill-response strategy before allowing the pipeline to move forward, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris wrote in a ruling. TransCanada first proposed the 1,179-mile (1,897-kilometer) pipeline expansion in 2008. Designed to haul crude from Canada's oil sands to refiners on the U.S. Gulf Coast, Keystone XL became a focal point for environmental opposition to fossil fuels. The conduit would help alleviate bottlenecks that have driven oil prices in Western Canada to as much as $50 a barrel below the U.S. benchmark. On Friday, TransCanada said it's reviewing the ruling and that it remains "committed to building this important energy infrastructure project."  Adding greenhouse-gas impacts and other aspects of Morris's ruling to the government review probably will add at least eight months to the project's timeline, . "This is the world's longest tug of war, with Western Canadian oil prices as the rope," Wood Mackenzie analyst Zachary Rogers said in a note. While the court's decision is "definitely a major setback in terms of timing, this is unlikely to be the nail in the coffin for Keystone XL." That's because the ruling is "largely symbolic" and requires only that the State Department "spill a little more ink,". "We do not view this ruling as a major risk for the pipeline and expect the State Department can resolve all the deficiencies identified by the court," she said. Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Brandon Barnes characterized the ruling as "not that big of a deal" and said the issue may be cleared up even before a pending Nebraska Supreme Court decision is resolved. 

Pipeline vandals are reinventing climate activism -  IT’S PRETTY EASY to paralyze America’s oil infrastructure. All Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein needed was a set of 3-foot-long green-and-red bolt cutters. And a willingness to go to jail for years.On October 11, 2016, as they pulled up to an oil pipeline facility in the farm fields outside Leonard, Minnesota, the pair were bent on taking direct action to address climate change, since, they figured, the US government had failed to do anything about it. “This is the only way we get their attention,” Klapstein said on video before she got out of the car. “All other avenues have been exhausted.”By “their,” she meant policymakers and oil companies (and, by extension, you and me). Johnston, now 52, is a poet and cofounder of the Seattle chapter of climate action group For years, she’d done all the things law-abiding climate change activists do: filed petitions, lobbied legislators, hosted speakers, wrote letters, blockaded refineries, and tried to block Shell from moving their drilling rigs into the Arctic. Klapstein, 66, is a retired attorney from Bainbridge Island, Washington, whose job was to protect fishing rights for the Puyallup tribe. With her group, the Raging Grannies, her actions includedblocking oil trains while chained to a rocking chair. They’re both white, middle-aged. Law-abiding folks. Except when they’re mad. It was a cold morning, aspens shaking their dull gold under heavy skies. A fellow activist, Ben Joldersma, livestreamed to Facebook as the two women cut the chains around fenced enclosures containing large shut-off valves for two oil pipelines owned by the Canadian multinational Enbridge. The pipes carry crude oil from deposits of tar sands (also referred to as oil sands) in Alberta, transporting it to Lake Superior. Because making petroleum products from this goo—called bitumen—releases more global-warming emissions than most other oil sources, the activists were going to do what they could to keep it in the ground.

Big Oil v the planet is the fight of our lives. Democrats must choose a side - David Sirota - The world’s leading scientists issued a report warning of total planetary dystopia unless we take immediate steps to seriously reduce carbon emissions. Then, oil and gas corporations dumped millions of dollars into the 2018 elections to defeat the major initiatives that could have slightly reduced fossil fuel use. Though you may not know it from the cable TV coverage, this was one of the most significant – and the most terrifying – stories of the midterms. For those who actually care about the survival of the human race, the key questions now should be obvious: is there any reason to hope that we will retreat from “drill baby drill” and enact a sane set of climate policies? Or is our country – and, by extension, our species – just going to give up? Before answering, it is worth reviewing exactly what happened over these last few months, because the election illustrates how little the fossil fuel industry is willing to concede in the face of a genuine crisis. While the dominant media narrative has been about Democratic voters euphorically electing a House majority and yelling a primal scream at Donald Trump, the loudest shriek of defiance was the one bellowed by oil and gas CEOs. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that we have only 12 years to ward off an ecological disaster, those oil and gas executives’ message to Planet Earth was unequivocal: drop dead. That message was most explicit in Colorado, where a drilling and fracking boom is happening in the middle of fast-growing suburbs. With oil and gas companies seeking to put noxious derricks and rigs near population centers, local activists backed a ballot measure called Proposition 112 that aimed to make sure new fossil fuel infrastructure is set a bit farther away from schools, hospitals, residential neighborhoods and water sources. The initiative was an angry response to a state government so awash in fossil fuel campaign cash that it has blocked legislation to merely allow regulators to prioritize the health and safety of residents when those regulators issue permits for drilling and fracking.  Despite scientists warning that fracked natural gas threatens to worsen climate change, oil and gas operatives in the state promoted cartoonishly dishonest claims that burning fossil fuel “is cleaning our air and improving health”. As Colorado’s local media effectively erased the term “climate change” from its election coverage, the industry managed to defeat the measure by outspending its proponents 40-to-1. In the process, fossil fuel companies’ scorched-earth campaign was a clear statement that in the face of an environmental cataclysm, oil and gas moguls will not accept even a tiny reduction in their revenues.

Phillips 66 and Bridger Pipeline LLC Announce Open Season for Rockies and Bakken Crude Oil Pipeline System; Phillips 66 Announces Open Season for Cushing Crude Oil Pipeline System -- Phillips 66 and Bridger Pipeline LLC announce a joint open season for the proposed Liberty Pipeline, which will provide shippers the opportunity to secure crude oil transportation service from the Rockies and Bakken production areas to Corpus Christi, Texas. The Liberty Pipeline is expected to have an initial throughput capacity of 350,000 barrels per day (BPD) with the ability to expand further depending on shipper interest in the open season. The pipeline is anticipated to be placed in service in the fourth quarter of 2020.Phillips 66 also announces an open season for the proposed Red Oak Pipeline, which will provide shippers the opportunity to secure crude oil transportation service from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Corpus Christi, Houston and Beaumont, Texas. The Red Oak Pipeline is expected to have an initial throughput capacity of 400,000 BPD with the ability to expand further depending on shipper interest in the open season. The pipeline is anticipated to be placed in service in the fourth quarter of 2020. Both the Liberty Pipeline and the Red Oak Pipeline open seasons will commence at 12 p.m. CST on Nov. 12, 2018. Prior to participating in the open seasons, interested parties must execute a confidentiality agreement to govern the receipt of the open season documentation.

Crudes from Rockies and Bakken May Get New Routes - Phillips 66 and Bridger Pipeline LLC will launch open seasons next week for transportation service on a pair of crude oil pipelines that could carry Rockies and Bakken production to the Texas Gulf Coast, the companies announced Friday. At noon Central time on Nov. 12, 2018, the companies will kick off joint open seasons for capacity on the proposed Liberty and Red Oak pipeline proposals. The Liberty Pipeline, with an initial throughput of 350,000 barrels per day (bpd), would ship crude from the Rockies and Bakken production areas to Corpus Christi, Texas, Phillips 66 and Bridger stated. In addition, Phillips 66’s Red Oak Pipeline would initially transport 400,000 bpd of crude from Cushing, Okla., to Corpus Christi, Houston and Beaumont, Texas. Phillips 66 and Bridger anticipate that both pipelines would go into service during Fourth Quarter 2020. 

Officials See North Dakota Oil Production Increasing To Over 2 Million BOPD -- November 12, 2018 -A long, long time ago Bentek forecast that the Bakken would eventually produce 2.2 million bopd. I have often used that forecast and have said many times on the blog that, unfettered, the Bakken would produce 2.2 million bopd.  The story has been previously posted, but there are some new data points in this Bismarck Tribune article:Justin Kringstad, director of the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, projects the state’s oil productionwill increase from 2 million to 2.3 million barrels per day.During a North Dakota Industrial Commission meeting in September, officials discussed the need for more oil pipeline capacity to accommodate growing volumes.“We really want to see another large oil export pipeline,” Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, said during the meeting.Without sufficient pipeline capacity, rail transportation of crude oil will increase. In August, 73 percent of Bakken crude oil was transported by pipeline, 18 percent by transported by rail, 6 percent was refined in the state and 3 percent was trucked to Canadian pipeline.

Judge orders moratorium on offshore fracking in federal waters off California - In a victory for the ocean, a federal judge on November 9 ordered the Trump administration to cease issuing permits for offshore fracking and acidizing in federal waters — waters over 3 miles from shore — off the coast of Southern California. U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez ruled that the federal government violated the Endangered Species Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act when it allowed fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and acidizing in offshore oil and gas wells in all leased federal waters off Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Gutierrez issued an injunction prohibiting the two responsible federal agencies, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), from approving any plans or permits for the use of well stimulation treatments (WSTs) off California. Hydraulic fracturing is a well stimulation technique that uses a pressurized liquid to fracture rock. Acidizing is another well stimulation technique that entails pumping acids into a well in order to dissolve the rock, increasing the production by creating channels in the rock to allow oil and natural gas to reach the well. “Stopping offshore fracking is a big victory for California’s coast and marine life,” said Kristen Monsell, oceans program legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re glad the Trump administration lost this round in its push to expand dangerous oil operations off California. This decision protects marine life and coastal communities from fracking’s toxic chemicals.” This order is an important step in addressing the expansion of fracking off California, although it doesn’t impact state waters within 3 miles from shore, where most of California’s offshore oil wells are located. Fortunately, litigation has prevented fracking from taking place in state waters for several years.

U.S. judge bars Trump administration from OKing fracking off California coast - A federal judge barred the Trump administration Friday from approving oil companies’ requests to use the high-pressure drilling technique known as fracking in offshore wells along the Southern California coast until a review of the possible effects on endangered species and state coastal resources. In lawsuits by the state and environmental groups, U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez of Los Angeles said federal agencies that issue underwater drilling permits must consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, about the possible impact of fracking chemicals on sea birds and otters, before approving any permits for its use off Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties. He said the agencies must also present their plans to the California Coastal Commission, which reviews offshore projects for possible harms to coastal areas. Oil companies say fracking is harmless, and it was permitted in federal lands and waters under President Barack Obama, when the lawsuits were filed.   Environmental advocates contend it causes water and air pollution and have urged Gov. Jerry Brown, unsuccessfully, to ban its use on California lands. Besides offshore fracking, the suits challenge government approval of acidizing, the injection of acid into a well to increase oil production.   Gutierrez’s ruling did not criticize the drilling techniques, and in fact upheld the government’s assessment — begun under Obama, completed under Trump — that concluded their continued use offshore would have “no significant impact” on the environment. But he said the permit-issuing agencies had failed to consult adequately with the Fish and Wildlife Service about threatened species, and had failed to consult at all with the Coastal Commission. Any need by the government and oil companies to approve drilling permits with fracking or acidizing “is outweighed by the interest of the people of the state of California” in having their commission “review the proposed action for consistency with California’s coastal management plan,” Gutierrez said.

Taxpayers May Soon Be on the Hook for a $2 Billion Fracked Gas RefineryNorthwest Innovation Works (NWIW), a proposed fracked-gas-to-methanol refinery in Kalama, Washington, would be the largest of its kind in the world. The project's investors include the Chinese government and a New York-based private equity firm with $15 billion in capital—a fact that's prompted critics to ask: Why should American taxpayers be liable for the refinery's $2 billion construction? According to government documents obtained by Columbia Riverkeeper, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting its eponymous waterway, NWIW is applying for a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy (DOE) to cover the project's completion. Despite being heavily redacted, a draft DOE presentation obtained by Riverkeeper nevertheless provides insight into NWIW's financing and the costs that may be borne by United States taxpayers. The presentation identifies the size of the refinery's proposed loan guarantee to be more than $2 billion; should the DOE accept NWIW's application, taxpayers nationwide could be on the hook for that entire amount.  "A federal loan guarantee means that the U.S. government—ultimately taxpayers—would agree to pay back NWIW's creditors if NWIW can't repay the loan that it took out to finance the construction of the refinery," says Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, a senior organizer with Riverkeeper. Those creditors include the Chinese government. As the draft DOE presentation outlines, the Chinese government is one of the principle backers of NWIW. The first investor listed in the presentation is Pan-Pacific Energy, which was established by Shanghai Bi Ke Clean Energy Technology in 2013. The majority shareholder in Shanghai Bi Ke Clean Energy Technology is the Chinese Academy of Science Holdings, which the DOE presentation describes as a "wholly owned state company." In other words, a significant portion—if not the majority—of NWIW will be owned by the Chinese government, while the risk of financing its construction could be put on U.S. taxpayers. If completed, NWIW would become part of an extensive operation to provide methanol to China. Pipelines from Canada and the Rocky Mountains would deliver fracked gas to the refinery for conversion into liquid methanol. NWIW's proposed location in the Port of Kalama—in Southwest Washington on the Columbia River, which empties into the Pacific Ocean—has access to a natural shipping route to China, where methanol is used to manufacture plastics or burned as fuel.

 U.S. crude oil and natural gas production increased in 2017, with fewer wells - The total number of wells producing crude oil and natural gas in the United States fell to 991,000 in 2017, down from a peak of 1,039,000 wells in 2014. This recent decline in the number of wells reflects advances in technology and drilling techniques. EIA’s updated U.S. Oil and Natural Gas Wells by Production Rate report shows how daily production rates of individual wells contributed to U.S. total crude oil and natural gas production in 2017.Wells classified as nonhorizontal in the report—most of which are vertical wells—have decreased from 940,000 in 2014 to 864,000 in 2017. Horizontal wells are relatively less common, but they are growing as a share of the total: the 99,000 horizontal wells drilled in 2014 accounted for 10% of the total. In 2017, 127,000 horizontal wells accounted for 13% of total wells drilled.Although horizontal wells are more expensive to drill than vertical wells, they contact more reservoir rock and therefore produce greater volumes. Only 1% of vertical wells produced at least 100 barrels per day (b/d) of crude oil in 2017, but 30% of horizontal wells produced at least 100 b/d. As these relatively prolific horizontal wells became more common, production growth continued even as the well count fell.Even with fewer wells, U.S. oil production grew from 8.7 million b/d in 2014 to 9.3 million b/d in 2017. During that same period, U.S. natural gas gross withdrawals increased from about 78.7 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) to 83.4 Bcf/d. Since 2017, crude oil and natural gas production has continued to grow, most recently measured at 11.3 million b/d and 85.2 Bcf/d in August 2018, respectively. In EIA’s report, wells are grouped into 26 production volume brackets, ranging from less than one barrel of oil equivalent per day (BOE/d) to more than 12,800 BOE/d. Most of the U.S. oil and natural gas production comes from wells producing between 50 BOE/d and 1,600 BOE/d. In 2017, wells within this range accounted for 9% of the overall count of wells but 62% of crude oil production and 63% of natural gas production.

Chevron, Exxon and other big firms now outpace smaller drillers in fracking -  Smaller, nimbler companies pioneered the U.S. shale boom. But as American production scales up, those frackers are losing ground to Big Oil, The Wall Street Journal reports. Giant companies such as Chevron Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp. are increasing shale production faster and with fewer complications than their smaller rivals. Their superior size and deeper pockets give them an edge in planning large drilling projects and locking in the pipeline and labor deals needed to ensure profitability.Exxon doubled its shale rigs across the U.S. from the end of last year through September and became the most active driller in the country, according to industry tracker RigData. Chevron’s output in the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico rose 80% for the year ended in September, eclipsing some of the small producers that spent years building up their fracking positions. Size also helps larger companies weather volatility in the oil markets, where U.S. crude prices have plunged more than 20% in the past month to about $56 a barrel. The bigger companies kept spending in check as oil rallied earlier in the year, making them less vulnerable to the recent selloff. As a result, Exxon shares have fallen only 4% in the past 30 days, compared with the 17% decline in the index of smaller producers, according to FactSet.

US Shale Oil Production To Hit Record High In December, EIA Says - U.S. crude oil output from seven major shale basins was expected to hit a record of 7.94 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in December, according to a monthly government forecast released on Nov. 13. The total oil output from the basins was expected to rise 113,000 bbl/d, driven largely by increases in the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico, where output was forecast to climb by 63,000 bbl/d to about 3.7 million bbl/d in December, the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA) said. Output was also expected to rise in each of the other basins, except for the Haynesville, where it would remain unchanged at 43,000 bbl/d. U.S. natural gas production, meanwhile, was projected to increase to a record 75.1 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in December. That would be up more than 1 Bcf/d over the November forecast and would be the 11th monthly increase in a row. A year ago in December output was just 63.9 Bcf/d. EIA November 2018 Drilling Productivity Report Oil & Natural Gas Production (Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration) The EIA projected gas output would increase in all the big shale basins in December. Output in the Appalachia region, the biggest shale gas play, was set to rise 400 million cubic feet per day to a record 30.4 Bcf/d in December. Production in Appalachia was 26.9 Bcf/d in the same month a year ago.

US shale oil forecasts too optimistic, even IEA agrees - Since it first came on stream a decade ago, US shale oil has been hailed as the great black hope for a world still reliant on fossil fuels, despite the worsening effects of climate change. Concerns about the depletion of Middle East oil reserves have been somewhat offset by the resurgence of US oil production, which last month reached 11.6 million barrels per day (bpd), up 20 percent on the previous year. That's already more than a third of the 32 million barrels produced globally per day. The US, whose oil industry peaked in 1970s and was thought to be in terminal decline, has now overtaken Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world's largest oil producer. Advances in fracking technology have made it possible to drill in tight shale in the North American Permian Basin, which lies under the US states of Texas and New Mexico, as well as further afield. Permian is forecast to become the most lucrative oil patch in the world over the next decade, potentially overtaking Saudi Arabia's Ghawar field. Energy analysts Wood Mackenzie predicts the region will account for two-thirds of the increase in US oil production and contribute one-quarter of world's oil production increase over the next 10 years. Although many oil industry insiders believe the US shale boom is so powerful it can plug a potential supply crunch that the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned will lead to a global shortage of oil in the mid 2020s, others believe the expansion has been overhyped and that some of most lucrative shale wells may have already peaked.

U.S. set to produce half of world's oil, gas output by 2025, IEA report finds — Relentless American shale development is set to allow the U.S. to leapfrog the world’s other major oil and gas producers, with the potential for the country to account for roughly half of global crude and natural growth by 2025, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday.In its annual World Energy Outlook report, the IEA said its main projection scenario through to 2040 foresees the U.S. accounting for nearly 75% and 40% of global oil and gas growth, respectively, over the next six years. Growth is expected to be driven primarily by shale fracking, which should lead U.S. shale oil supply to more than double, reaching 9.2 million barrels a day by the mid-2020s, the agency said.“The shale revolution continues to shake up oil and gas supply, enabling the U.S. to pull away from the rest of the field as the world’s largest oil and gas producer,” said the Paris-based organization that advises governments and corporations on energy trends. “By 2025, nearly every fifth barrel of oil and every fourth cubic meter of gas in the world come from the United States.” The use of hydraulic fracturing to drill for oil in shale rock — known as fracking — has dramatically reshaped the global oil industry over the past decade, and it has allowed the U.S. to rival the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries for market share. Shale was largely behind a glut of American oil that flooded the market over four years ago, leading oil prices to fall to $30 a barrel from more than a $100 a barrel in late 2014. U.S. shale oil production is expected to plateau in the mid-2020s, the IEA said in its central outlook scenario, ultimately falling by 1.5 million barrels a day in the 2030s as a result of resource constraints.

US shale needs to add another 'Russia' to prevent global oil shortage, IEA warns --U.S. shale oil producers would need to add the equivalent of Russia's entire crude oil production within just seven years to head off a global shortage, according to a global energy watchdog. The International Energy Agency (IEA) said Tuesday there will be robust demand growth for oil over the next few years driven by the rise in industry, aviation, and petrochemical needs.  But Fatih Birol, the executive director of the Paris-based group, told CNBC's Street Signs that because of the current low number of newly approved drilling projects in countries such as Saudi Arabia or Russia, the world can expect a supply crunch developing by the mid-2020s.The economist said while some have pointed to the ability of U.S. shale oil to make up the difference, that theory would be severely tested as between now and 2025, the U.S would need to add more than 10 million barrels per day."In other words, the U.S. needs to add one single Russia in seven years time in order to avoid a major tightening in the markets," said Birol before adding, "It can happen but it would be be a small miracle."The group's annual World Energy Outlook, published on Tuesday, predicted energy demand to grow by more than a quarter between 2017 and 2040. That figure doubles if there is no improvement from current levels of energy efficiency.In the near term, however, concerns about oversupply have sent oil prices skidding lower.  Oil prices fell by around 1 percent on Tuesday, with Brent crude sliding below $70 and WTI below $60 per barrel, after U.S. President Donald Trump put pressure on OPEC not to cut supplies to prop up the market. Both oil price benchmarks have shed more than 20 percent in value since early October. Birol told CNBC that while it was not his job to comment on the opinion of Trump, there was some merit to keeping prices at lower levels. But Birol said he was hearing from "lots of different corners" that it is time to go back and cut the production and push the prices up.

As Of October 2018, The US Is Now Energy Independent - While the main event this weekend was the latest OPEC+ meeting which saw member states of the oil cartel and their allies scramble to promise that oil production will be cut if oil prices continue to drop due to excess supply now that Iran's oil exports may rebound thanks to waivers granted to its main trading partners by the Trump administration, a just as important event to take place was the news of record oil production levels in North America. Helped by higher prices, total oil production has hit a record level in the US, reaching a combined 15.9 million b/d (crude oil and NGLs) in the past month and almost 2mn b/d above last year. This number is broken down into 11.35mn b/d of crude oil and 4.57 mn b/d of natural gas liquids (NGLs). As a reference, the US will likely consume about 20.7mn b/d of oil and other liquid fuels in 2018. The surge in US and also Canadian output has pushed total North American crude production volumes above 20 mn b/d. The larger-than-expected surge in North American oil volumes has come primarily from the Permian, Canada's oil sands, and more recently, the Gulf of Mexico. In contrast to the fast growth experienced by its Northern neighbors, Mexican oil output continues to fall as the effects of the latest energy sector reform have yet to be translated into output. Notably, this surge in North American oil production is only set to accelerate, and according to Bank of America forecasts US crude oil volumes alone will exceed 12MM b/d in 2019. It is this sky high production in the US, coupled with incremental barrels coming from Saudi Arabia and Russia, that together with the Iran wildcard is starting to impact oil market balances. As such, crude oil inventories are starting to increase once again and has led to the recent bear market in oil prices. Of course, as anyone with a passing interest in the energy sector knows, the faster than expected growth in the US, coupled with more barrels coming from Saudi Arabia and Russia following a challenging meeting last July, is starting to impact oil market balances. OPEC has worked long and hard to rebalance the market in the past two years, and it will hardly be threatened by some jawboning by the US president. But the biggest surprise from the recent data, and the biggest threat for OPEC is something different, the same thing that according to Bank of America could make the next OPEC price war a lot more costly to the cartel just as the US has continued to isolate itself from global oil price swings. The reason: as of October, the US is now energy independent for the first time, which is a seismic change considering that just 10 years ago, America was spending 3% of GDP buying foreign energy in 2008, but its energy trade balance is now positive. And, as BofA calculates, "whether measured in in BTU/oil barrels equivalent or in US dollars, we estimate that the reversal in energy balances from a deficit into a surplus happened in October 2018."

US Set to Export Petroleum Like It's 1949 - The dramatic increase in U.S. oil and natural gas production over the past decade has limited the growth of the country’s domestic merchandise trade deficit by lowering net petroleum imports. In fact, the United States is poised to become a net-exporter of petroleum for the first time since at least 1949. Those are two takeaways from a new IHS Markit report, “Trading Places: How the Shale Revolution Has Helped Keep the U.S. Trade Deficit in Check.” IHS Markit contends that the total 2017 U.S. merchandise trade deficit was nearly $250 billion lower than it would have been otherwise had the petroleum trade deficit remained at the 2007 level. To provide some context, the business information provider points out the trade deficit figures for 2007 and 2017 were $809 billion and $796 billion, respectively. It estimates that the U.S. petroleum trade deficit in dollars fell from approximately $320 billion to roughly $75 billion during the same period. Furthermore, it predicts that the U.S. petroleum trade balance will improve further – by approximately $50 billion – between 2017 and 2022. “The improved U.S. trade position in petroleum has been a counterbalancing force helping to keep the U.S. trade deficit in check over the past decade,” IHS Markit Vice Chairman Daniel Yergin said in a written statement emailed to Rigzone. “The resurgence of domestic oil and gas production has flipped the trade position of several products along the energy value chain on their heads, while that of other products, such as crude oil, have been significantly reduced.” “The United States moving from net imports to being a net petroleum exporter would be an IHStoric shift, something not achieved since at least the Truman administration,” added David White, senior vice president and division head for energy and chemicals with IHS Markit. “It speaks to the profound and continued impact that the U.S. shale boom has had in terms of investment, job creation, manufacturing, GDP and now trade.” Although IHS Markit presents a positive outlook for U.S. energy exports, it cautioned that recent trade friction between the U.S. and China “could introduce new risks and therefore alter the trajectory of global energy trade and energy demand.” The consultancy noted that China is a growth market for U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas, crude oil, natural gas liquids (NGL) and gas- and NGL-based chemicals. 

US oil firm's bid to drill for oil in Arctic hits snag: a lack of sea ice -  Plans to establish the first oil drilling operation in US Arctic waters have hit an ironic snag – a lack of sea ice caused by rapid warming in the region. Last month, the Trump administration approved the go-ahead of the Liberty project to extract oil from beneath the Beaufort Sea, off Alaska’s north coast. The drilling would be the first of its kind in federal waters in the Arctic and follows Trump’s reversal of an Obama-era ban on fossil fuel activity in the polar region. But in order to get to the oil, Hilcorp Energy, the Texas-based company behind the project, has to construct a temporary gravel island about five miles offshore so it can drill in shallow water. This nine-acre structure requires an expanse of landfast sea ice, or ice that forms each winter and attaches to the coast, which would then be covered in gravel and then concrete. However, a recent lack of shoreline ice has complicated Hilcorp’s plan to extract up to 70,000 barrels of oil a day, totaling around 150m barrels over two decades, from the site. A spokesman for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which oversees offshore leasing, said Hilcorp originally forecast it would take a year to construct the island. But this plan has now been revised due to thinning sea ice, as first reported by Alaska Public Media. “To safely transport gravel offshore in the Arctic, the ice along the route of the ice road must be of adequate thickness,” the BOEM spokesman said. “Over the last few years, that thickness has not developed until unusually late in the season.” . The region experienced its warmest winter on record earlier this year, with scientists and local communities reporting an unusually late freeze-over of the Arctic ocean. The Arctic contains year-round ice as well as fluctuating seasonal ice, which Hilcorp is relying upon for its drilling operation. In September, Nasa reported the annual minimum sea ice extent was the sixth lowest on record, with the Arctic sea ice area declining by about 13% a decade. 

Not Enough Ice to Drill the Arctic! Offshore Oil Drilling a 'Disaster Waiting to Happen' - Last month, the Trump administration approved the first offshore oil drilling development in federal Arctic waters, which environmentalists fear will ramp up carbon pollution that fuels climate change.But here's the ultimate irony: Hilcorp Alaska's project—which involves building a 9-acre artificial drilling island in the shallow waters of the Beaufort Sea—has been delayed because of the effects of climate change,Alaska Public Media reported.Hilcorp's Liberty Energy Project requires land-fast sea ice, or ice that's attached to the coastline each winter, as a foundation for the artificial island. The process involves pouring gravel through holes in the ice and through the water column to the sea floor and building the island structure from the bottom up.But the region's unusual warmth has caused ice to form later and break up earlier, Andy Mahoney, a sea ice researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, explained to Alaska Public Media.That means that the ice isn't simply thick enough to transport the construction materials. "To safely transport gravel offshore in the Arctic, the ice along the route of the ice road must be of adequate thickness," a spokesman for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which oversees offshore leasing, told the Guardian. "Over the last few years, that thickness has not developed until unusually late in the season." Hilcorp initially thought it would only need one year to build the gravel island, but now it is saying it could take two years to complete the project, Alaska Public Media reported. In October, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke touted that Hilcorp's oil and gas project was a part of his plan for "American energy dominance." But environmentalists worry that it will further stress the increasingly fragile region. The Arctic is warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the globe. In recent years, we've seen more ice melting each summer, and less ice forming each winter. As EcoWatch mentioned previously, this past Arctic winter was the warmest on record, and the high temperatures likely affected the thickness of the area's ice. Arctic sea ice hit its second-lowest winter peak in the 39-year satellite record, measuring 14.48 million square kilometers on March 17—or just 60,000 square kilometers larger than the 2017 record, and 1.16 million square kilometers smaller than the 1981-2010 average.

Oil pucks and pellets; Canada eyes new ways to move stranded crude - (Reuters) - Canada's biggest railroad says it is attracting interest from oil producers in its effort to move crude in solid, puck-like form, as clogged pipelines divert more oil to riskier rail transport. Congested pipelines have stranded much of Canada's crude in Alberta, driving discounts to record-high levels.  The latest blow to the sector landed on Thursday, when a U.S. court ruled construction must stop on TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL pipeline. But crude movement by rail is costly and prone to spills and sometimes disastrous accidents, such as the 2013 derailment at Lac Megantic, Quebec that killed dozens of people. Enter CN's patented Canapux product, which is solidified crude encased in plastic, named to evoke the country's most popular sport, hockey. The railroad argues that solid crude, never before commercially shipped in the world, can be transported more cheaply, efficiently and with less environmental risk than liquid crude in tank cars. Since it floats, Canapux is easier to recover from a spill into a water body.  Interest from crude producers, buyers and transport companies picked up after a Canadian court in August overturned Ottawa's approval for the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion, said James Cairns, CN's vice-president of petroleum and chemicals."There have been a lot more discussions about, 'How do we get this done?'" Cairns said. "Conversations are much more advanced than they were." CN is seeking commercial partners to build a pilot plant that will process 10,000 barrels per day of undiluted heavy crude into Canapux. The plant, to be built either at the Alberta crude storage hub around Edmonton or on an oil producer's site, is estimated to cost less than C$50 million ($37.8 million). It could be running as soon as 2020, Cairns said.CN's oil pucks would move in gondola cars, which weigh less than tank cars, allowing the railroad to load them with more crude. They also do not require diluent, an ultra-light oil that is mixed with crude when it is shipped in liquid form by rail or pipeline. As a result, Canapux' shipping costs would knock off nearly half the expense of rail transportation in liquid form, according to CN.  Other entrepreneurs have pursued similar ideas for several years, from semi-solid blobs to pellets.

Canada's Crude Problem: Lots of Oil With Nowhere to Go; Trapped in the country, Canadian oil has never been cheaper compared with U.S. prices - Canada, the world's fourth-largest producer of crude oil, missed out on a recent global recovery in energy prices, and is now taking it on the chin as prices fall. Crude prices in Canada briefly dropped below $16 a barrel on Friday, after a U.S. federal judge blocked construction of a key pipeline needed to transport oil from Alberta to Nebraska. That means Canadian crude is going for a fraction of supplies elsewhere, even as U.S. prices have tumbled 21% from last month's highs to about $60 a barrel . In October, Canadian crude traded at its largest-ever discount to U.S. oil of more than $51, according to S&P Global Platts. Because of the steep discount, Canadian producers are leaving 40 million Canadian dollars, or $30.65 million, a day on the table, according to an estimate from Alberta's finance department. Energy accounts for nearly 11% of the country's nominal GDP, according to government figures. Earlier this year, higher demand for fuel , coupled with lower production from major exporters, pushed oil prices to four-year highs. U.S. oil prices rose to $76 in early October, while Brent, the global benchmark, briefly surpassed $86. But congested pipelines and rails have prevented Canada from getting its oil to market, and analysts say storage facilities in Edmonton and Hardisty, Alberta, are brimming over with barrels. "At $85 Brent, it certainly didn't feel like a bull market in Calgary," The Canadian market was dealt a fresh blow Thursday, when a federal judge ruled that TransCanada Corp. couldn't advance its Keystone XL pipeline without a supplemental environmental review. Completed, the pipeline would carry up to 830,000 barrels a day to Nebraska, where it could then be carried to the Gulf Coast. A TransCanada spokesman said the company is reviewing Thursday's ruling and reiterated the company's support for the project. Meanwhile, Canada is producing more oil than ever. According to the International Energy Agency, Canadian production climbed to a record 5.3 million barrels a day in August. Many producers ramped up crude output as prices rose, only to find that the infrastructure needed to move it couldn't keep up. "If everybody grows, then everybody needs a new pipeline," said Rusty Braziel, a former trader and principal consultant at RBN Energy LLC. "Growth has just come on so much more quickly than most people were predicting."

Canadian Oil Patch Loses Patience with Country's Lack of Support --- The Canadian oil patch is losing patience with the country’s lack of support for the industry. The plunge in global crude prices is being exacerbated in Canada by a lack of pipeline capacity, sending the country’s oil prices to a near record discount to the U.S. and energy stocks reeling. Gas producers can’t even catch a break: while U.S. gas has surged about 19 percent in the past week amid an expected cold stretch, Canadian prices have actually dropped 14 percent. “Globally, we’ve politicized energy so much," Darren Gee, chief executive officer of Peyto Exploration & Development Corp., a Calgary-based gas producer, said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Toronto office Wednesday. Environmental and regulatory concerns have added an “entire layer of risk that people just don’t know how to assess.” Gee joins other executives and investors lamenting the country’s inability to get its energy to global markets. The Keystone XL and Trans Mountain oil pipeline projects are facing fresh environmental scrutiny while gas exports are largely handled by only one pipeline company, TransCanada Corp., said Gee. An analyst with one of the largest foreign holders of Canadian energy stocks, Capital Group Cos., warned in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently that investors and companies will continue to avoid the Canadian energy sector unless more is done to improve market access.  Canada’s main energy index is down 11 percent over the past 12 months compared with a 3.4 percent drop for U.S. energy stocks. While the government bought the Trans Mountain project in an effort to get more oil flowing to the Pacific coast, Gee holds out little hope of progress. Trudeau’s government has “absolutely no interest in having that pipeline built or expanding this basin," Gee said.The government’s seeming indifference to the patch’s plight is likely to foment political friction in Alberta, he said. “I’m quite afraid that we’re going to see a separatist agenda in the west and a lot of separatist movement because of the energy industry. I’m afraid for Canada for that reason," Gee added. 

In race to fill LNG supply gap, project goalposts have changed - The race is on for liquefied natural gas (LNG) producers to build export terminals as demand soars, but the criteria for financing such mega-projects have shifted as traditional relationships with LNG consumers have begun to disintegrate. Royal Dutch Shell’s final investment decision (FID) taken last month for a $30 billion LNG Canada project was a shot in the arm for the LNG industry, which is emerging from almost three years of low prices and investment. As a vote of confidence in the LNG market, Shell’s decision is expected to get the ball rolling on a wave of approvals for dozens of similar projects around the world that have been planned for years but not yet finalized. But the FID represented a different financing structure, unreliant on commitments from large buyers as previous mega-projects had been, such as the recently commissioned Ichthys facility in Australia or the U.S. Sabine Pass plant. Instead, Shell will absorb the cost into its budget and will effectively worry about the ultimate buyers later - as one of the largest corporate purchasers of LNG in the world, it can absorb the new volumes into its global portfolio. Demand for LNG is there - it is expected almost to double to 550 million tonnes a year (mtpa) by 2030, leaving room for plenty more export terminals despite an influx of fresh supply from new, mostly U.S., terminals. But projects have struggled to find offtakers as the world’s biggest buyers in Japan and South Korea seek nimbler terms while others such as India and Pakistan are less creditworthy. “I don’t know what the buyers are waiting for because the golden opportunity to sign up for deals was yesterday,”. Aside from 50 mtpa of supply due from U.S. projects under construction, 17 new U.S. terminals like Texas LNG need FIDs. Other plans dot the world from Qatar’s expansion to plants in Russia and Mozambique as well as Southeast Asia. HEADACHES Of all these projects, only a handful in the United States will ultimately be built and for others, the ability for the operator to absorb LNG into its portfolio will be key. “The projects that we might see now are the ones that don’t rely on offtake agreements,” said Frank Konertz, LNG analyst at S&P Global. Irrespective of price, long-term offtake commitments are risky today because the global LNG market is undergoing fundamental changes as it grows and increases liquidity. It needs to solve quandaries such as the pricing mechanism for LNG, traditionally linked to oil, and absorb new technology that shifts the commercial calculations of trading the gas.

Fracking firm boss says it didn't expect to cause such serious quakes- A senior executive at the fracking company Cuadrilla privately said this summer it did not expect to cause earthquakes that would be serious enough to force it to halt operations. But despite that confidence, the company has triggered 37 minor quakessince it started fracking for gas at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire three weeks ago. Two of those have been powerful enough to exceed a regulatory threshold that requires fracking to stop, and on a third occasion the company voluntarily ceased operations when it neared the limit. Cuadrilla has said such tremors are to be expected from fracking, which involves pumping water, sand and chemicals 2km underground at high pressure. Under government regulations, fracking must stop if a 0.5-magnitude earthquake is registered. But during a tour of the site in June, Matthew Lambert, the government and public affairs director at Cuadrilla, said: “Because we are managing that risk I don’t really accept that we are likely to cause seismicity above that level [an apparent reference to 0.5-magnitude] and we will not be causing seismicity which will damage property.” He described the system of monitoring seismicity as “highly regulated” and said the company had to “manage that risk” of causing tremors, a recording of the discussions shows. The Green party said the comments, made months before earthquakes that breached the regulatory limit, showed Cuadrilla was “obviously in way over their heads”. Jonathan Bartley, the co-leader of the Green party, said: “They were unaware they would cause tremors anywhere near this strong, and they evidently don’t know how to stop them.”

Tory ministers meet fracking giants almost once a month –  Tory ministers have met fracking giants almost once a month, damning new research reveals today. Labour accused the government of working "hand-in-hand with the fracking industry" after exposing the huge list of official contacts.  Ministers from six departments have held 31 meetings with fracking industry representatives in the last three years, according to analysis of government records by Labour. That included 13 meetings with Indeos, five with UK Onshore Oil and Gas and five with Cuadrilla, which temporarily halted fracking in Lancashire last month amid a string of earth tremors. Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said: “It’s a scandal that the Government is determined to force through fracking at any cost and against the wishes of local communities.“The Tories are working hand-in-hand with the fracking industry while ignoring all the evidence and failing to give a fair hearing to local people affected. “Fracking has got to stop and the next Labour government will ban it.” The meetings were disclosed in numerous transparency files published by the government and assembled by Labour. Labour claimed ministers had "not had a single meeting" with anti-fracking campaigners from the affected areas in the UK. But the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy insisted there had been at least one meeting. A spokesman said: “Ministers and officials regularly meet with representatives from across the energy industry.

Anti-fracking seniors armed with tea and fruit cake risk jail with protest - When it comes to determined eco-revolutionaries, there are surely Nan better than these unlikely white-haired warriors. Armed with flagons of tea and fruit cake, and dressed in flowing white robes, they are fighting for their grandchildren’s future. And their foes are the frackers of shale gas company Cuadrilla. The grans in Suffragette outfits are waging war at a site in Lancashire where drilling caused 34 mini earthquakes in October. And their message to Cuadrilla is: “We’re not for shale.” The quakes – registering up to 1.1 on the Richter scale – have only served to strengthen resolve among the battling grans. Many of them have been campaigning to stop fracking near the village of Little Plumpton ever since a field was earmarked for it in 2014. Since then they’ve laid down in roads to stop lorries, with one 84-year-old protestor claiming to have been manhandled by police. Their leader has even been threatened with prison and they’ve been branded alcoholics and “unemployed anarchists”. 

 Anti-fracking activists arrested after gluing themselves to government's energy headquarters - Over twenty people have been arrested after anti-fracking protesters glued themselves to the entrance of the government's Energy department offices.Extinction Rebellion campaigners blockaded the Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) headquarters in Westminster today in protest at the government's perceived complicity in today's "ecological crisis".Some 22 protesters have so far been arrested, according to the group, with more expected after they blocked the public highway and prevented department staff from accessing the building. Some demonstrators glued their hands to the doors of the building in Victoria Street, near Parliament Square, in a deliberate attempt to be arrested, according to some reports. At its latest update the Met said six people were arrested on suspicion of criminal damage and two for obstructing the highway - but officers are yet to provide an updated number.One protester climbed the revolving doors to the building and wrote the words "frack off", while others displayed campaign umbrellas reading "rebel for life" and "tell the truth".The group said one of its members, Simon Bramwell, an outdoors-man and bush-craft instructor, was one of those arrested for spraying the windows with nonpermanent paint, including their symbol of ah hour-glass..Mr Bramwell gave a video interview as he prepared for the protest, knowing he would be arrested, but the thought of "what we're heading for" scared him more.He said: "We're at a bit of impasse at the moment that it's really really all or bust at the moment."My primary fear is that my mum might die while I'm inside. I don't like having my freedom taken away from me. Ruth Jarman of the Christian Climate Action group was said to be the first to be arrested, and another was Father Martin Newell, 50, a long-time Catholic activist who has taken part in civil disobedience actions around the globe.

‘I’m Putting My Life On Hold’: 22 Climate Activists Arrested - Extinction Rebellion, which launched itself into the public consciousness with a civil disobedience action outside London's Parliament Square a little under two weeks ago, coordinated another action Monday in which activists blocked the entrance to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS),The Guardian reported. Protesters super-glued their hands to the entry gates to the staff door and lay in the streets to block traffic outside the building."The IPCC report in October gave us six to 12 years, and this is known to be a conservative report. If we don't respond with a war-style effort now we are all fucked, all of us. My heart is breaking and I've got to do something, and I'm putting my life on hold," protester Bell Selkie told The Guardian.Selkie, a 48-year-old farmer from Wales, locked and glued herself to the doors of the building, said climate change had had a clear impact on her harvests.One protester used wash-off spray chalk to write "frack off" above the main entrance to the building. The UK's Conservative government has approved two controversial fracking wells in Northwest England.Extinction Rebellion said 22 people were arrested at Monday's action, and police confirmed that at least eight had been detained, BBC News reported. Everyone has since been released, according to Extinction Rebellion's Twitter feed. Protesters said Monday's action was the kick-off to a week demonstrations that will culminate with what they are calling "Rebellion Day" on Saturday.

Big Oil sees 'huge potential' in LNG — but warns it is still too expensive for consumers -- The liquefied natural gas (LNG) market has massive potential, leading energy executives said Monday, but warned the commodity is still too expensive for many consumers around the world. It comes at a time when the race is on for LNG producers to build export terminals amid soaring demand for the commodity. Speaking at an industry event at the ADIPEC oil summit in Abu Dhabi, Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Italian oil and gas giant Eni, said: "LNG has huge potential.""But one of the problems with it, one of its fragile points, is the price. It is very expensive."The global LNG market is currently going through of a flurry of fundamental changes, as demand continues to grow and market liquidity increases.But, the demand for LNG is evident — it is reportedly expected to nearly double to 550 million tonnes a year by 2030.One of the key reasons for LNG's fast-growing demand, according to BP CEO Bob Dudley, is the U.S. sourcing an "abundance" of gas supplies in recent years.Dudley also said he agreed with Eni's Descalzi regarding the cost of LNG too, saying it remained an issue for consumers worldwide."It has really become famous for how expensive it is" Dudley said Monday, adding companies had typically spent a lot of money on LNG investment projects without getting a great deal in return. "One of the issues shaping the industry is some countries are going to have to choose between low price coal and low carbon LNG. That problem has not been solved," Dudley said.

Here Comes Mother Nature As Prices Surge On Projected Chilly Temperatures --Highlights of the Natural Gas Summary and Outlook for the week ending November 9, 2018 follow. The full report is available at the link below.

  • Price Action: The December contract rose 43.5 cents (13.2%) to $3.719 on a 38.7 cent range ($3.824/$3.437).
  • Price Outlook: The market gapped higher on a massively bullish weather update indicating well below normal temperatures in the week ending November 16. Demand ended the week near 90 bcf and will head even higher if the weather forecasts prove accurate, possibly reaching 100 bcf next week. From these price levels, the market is increasingly vulnerable to pullbacks on moderating temperature forecasts. However, as long as forecasts in general remain below normal, prices are headed higher.  CFTC data indicated a 12,851 contract increase in the managed money net long position as longs added and shorts covered This is the largest net long position since February 13. This is the largest long position since June 12. Total open interest rose 103,989 to 3.903 million as of November 06. Aggregated CME futures open interest rose to 1.521 million as of November 09. The current weather forecast is now cooler than 9 of the last 10 years. Pipeline data indicates total flows to Cheniere’s Sabine Pass export facility were at 3.3 bcf. This flow volume suggests feed gas is entering Train 5. Cove Point is net exporting 0.8 bcf.
  • Weekly Storage: US working gas storage for the week ending November 2 indicated an injection of +65 bcf. Working gas inventories rose to 3,208 bcf. Current inventories fall (582) bcf (-15.4%) below last year and fall (617) bcf (-16.1%) below the 5-year average.
  • Supply Trends: Total supply rose 0.1 bcf/d to 81.5 bcf/d. US production rose. Canadian imports fell. LNG imports rose. LNG exports rose. Mexican exports fell. The US Baker Hughes rig count rose +14. Oil activity increased +12. Natural gas activity increased +2. The total US rig count now stands at 1,081 .The Canadian rig count fell (2) to 196. Thus, the total North American rig count rose +12 to 1,277 and now exceeds last year by +167. The higher efficiency US horizontal rig count rose +6 to 935 and rises +159 above last year.
  • Demand Trends: Total demand fell (1.1) bcf/d to +72.6 bcf/d. Power demand fell. Industrial demand fell. Res/Comm demand fell. Electricity demand rose +117 gigawatt-hrs to 68,752 which trails last year by (1,301) (-1.9%) and trails the 5-year average by (516)(-0.7%%).
  • Nuclear Generation: Nuclear generation fell (646)MW in the reference week to 75,812 MW. This is (8,368) MW lower than last year and (5,257) MW lower than the 5-year average. Recent output was at 81,543 MW.
  • The heating season has begun. With a forecast through November 23 the 2018/19 total cooling index is at (378) compared to (340) for 2017/18, (177) for 2016/17, (218) for 2015/16, (387) for 2014/15, (347) for 2013/14, (362) for 2012/13 and (315) for 2011/12.

Total U.S. natural gas stocks end refill season at lowest level in 13 years --Working natural gas in underground storage in the Lower 48 states as of October 31, 2018, totaled 3,208 billion cubic feet (Bcf), according to interpolated data from EIA’s Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report released on November 8. Inventory levels for the Lower 48 states and in each of the U.S. natural gas regions ended the refill season at their lowest levels since October 2005, and these levels were considerably lower than their previous five-year averages. Although the natural gas storage injection, or refill, season is traditionally defined as April 1 through October 31, additional injections may occur into November. The South Central region saw the largest margin between the five-year range and working natural gas storage levels at the end of October, reaching 932 Bcf, 159 Bcf (15%) lower than the previous five-year range. The Pacific saw the largest percent difference between the end-of-season levels and the five-year range, at 264 Bcf, or 54 Bcf (17%) lower. Other regions were 3% to 7% lower than the previous five-year range. A low starting inventory level and below-average net injections of natural gas into storage contributed to working natural gas stocks ending the refill season at this relatively low level. Lower-than-average temperatures in April 2018 resulted in uncharacteristic, continued withdrawals from storage during the month. Working natural gas stocks ended the withdrawal season this year on March 31 at 1,360 Bcf—the fourth-lowest level reported since 2005.. Although net injections recovered in the following months, the net increases in working natural gas for the injection season were lower than the five-year average. From April 1 through October 31, 2018, EIA estimates that net injections totaled 1,848 Bcf. Injections were 269 Bcf (13%) lower than the five-year average, despite being 97 Bcf (6%) higher than injections last year. This level was the fourth-lowest net injected volume for the refill season since 2005.

Natural gas stocks end refill season lower than the five-year minimum in all regions - Working natural gas in storage in the Lower 48 states as of October 31 totaled 3,208 billion cubic feet (Bcf), according to interpolated data from EIA’s Weekly Natural Gas Storage Report released November 8. Inventories as of October 31 were 598 Bcf (16%) lower than the five-year (2013–17) end-of-October average and 569 Bcf (15%) lower than last year. This level is the lowest end-of-refill season level for working gas stocks since 2005, and inventory levels in all regions were lower than their five-year minimums. Although the natural gas storage injection season is traditionally defined as April 1 through October 31, injections often occur into November. A low starting inventory level and below-average net injections of natural gas into storage both contributed to working natural gas stocks ending the refill season at this relatively low level. Working natural gas stocks ended the withdrawal season this year on March 31 at 1,360 Bcf—the fourth-lowest level reported since 2005. From April 1 through October 31, 2018, EIA estimates that net injections totaled 1,848 Bcf. Injections were 269 Bcf (13%) lower than the five-year average, despite being 97 Bcf (6%) higher than injections last year. This level was the fourth-lowest net injected volume for the refill season since 2005. The years that had lower net injections volumes—2016 (1,516 Bcf), 2017 (1,742 Bcf), and 2012 (1,456 Bcf)—were the only years where working gas levels were higher than 2,300 Bcf at the beginning of the refill season.  Lower-than-average temperatures in April 2018 resulted in uncharacteristic, continued withdrawals from storage during the month. Although net injections recovered in the following months, the net increases in working natural gas for the injection season were lower than the five-year average in almost all regions in the Lower 48 states. The South Central and Pacific regions posted the largest differences. In the Pacific region, net injections into storage fell 33 Bcf (26%) lower than the five-year average. In the South Central region, reported net injections totaled 201 Bcf (39%) lower than the five-year average, with about 85% of the shortfall occurring in the nonsalt facilities in the region. In the East and Midwest regions, net injections were each 18 Bcf lower than the five-year average (3%). The only region that matched its five-year average was the Mountain region.

Colder Weekend Model Trends And Continued Cash Strength Keep Natural Gas Incredibly Strong - It was another strong day in the natural gas complex, as though the December contract settled significantly off its highs a colder European weather model run later in the day sent prices right back up over the $3.9 level. The March contract was the strongest on the day as traders moved bullish risk further along the curve. We identified this early in the day and warned clients in our Note of the Day that any AM pullback was unlikely to sustain and $3.75 support would be firm. Our Note concluded, "...[t]he market has tightened on recent cold, and we are not sure weaker Week 2 cold trends can break $3.9 again yet, but GWDD adds should at least add support near $3.75." We ended up being able to break $3.9 again this afternoon after double-testing $3.75. This came after our Slightly Bullish AM Update where we saw bullish weather trends over the weekend likely to keep prices bid today. Prices did in fact get right back up to the $3.9 level this afternoon on a bullish European ensemble model run following a $3.75 test on warmer American model guidance. This came despite modest warmer trends earlier in the day on some medium-range model guidance. The natural gas market continues to remain incredibly weather-sensitive, with any risks of increased cold in the long-range quickly spiking prices higher. Strong cash prices have helped too, as they took another leg higher today with cold peaking Wednesday. Since the settle prices have shot higher, too, moving in much closer to where cash prices traded on the day.

November 15 Natural Gas Storage Report: Final Injection -Last week, the number of total degree-days (TDDs) jumped by around 35% w-o-w, as heating demand went up across the U.S. – particularly, in the Central and Midwest parts of the country. However, we estimate that total energy demand (as measured in total degree-days – TDDs) was some 12% below last year’s level. The latest numerical weather prediction models are showing above normal HDDs and TDDs over the next 15 days (November 13-November 28). Consumption-wise, the latest weather models are bullish in absolute terms, but not as bullish as previously. Total demand is expected to average 97.0 bcf/d over the next 15 days (some 20% above 5-year average), supported (in part) by strong exports – specifically, into Mexico – but also by strong LNG sales. Natural gas consumption is also supported by a number of non-degree-day factors such as higher nuclear outages. As of Tuesday, there were a total of15,000 MW of nuclear power generation offline (-700 MW from Monday, but +9% vs. 5-year average). Although the deviation of nuclear outages from the historical norm has been moderating lately, the absolute figures are still high.   Other non-degree-day factors, such as coal-to-gas switching is no longer providing any additional boost to consumption.  Overall, while total demand remains strong, its deviation from historical norm is declining. We currently estimate that it will drop to 8% by November 23, before growing again (see the chart below). At the same time, we estimate that total natural gas supply will remain at no less than some 16% above 5-year average over the next 30 days (at least).  U.S. Energy Information Administration should report a smaller change in natural gas storage this week compared to the week prior. We anticipate to see an injection of 30 bcf (6 bcf smaller than the comparable figure in the ICE’s latest report for the EIW-US EIA Financial Weekly Index, 43 bcf larger than a year ago and 11 bcf larger vs. 5-year average for this time of the year). The natural gas rally from mid-September and especially from October 31 is almost entirely built on very bullish expectations. Indeed, we currently expect annual storage deficit to expand by 136 bcf over the next four weeks (five EIA reports). Our projection for the next three reports is bullish compared to ICE figures (as has been the case from Nov. 1 - see the chart below). At the same time, however, our EOS index is mostly in line with market expectations. As of this morning, it stood at 1,397 bcf (13 bcf below ICE figures and 43 bcf above the comparable results from March 2018).

EIA Oct '18 Drilling Report: Shale Gas Output Up 1 Bcf/d – Again - The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) monthly “Drilling Productivity Report” (DPR) said that in October the country’s seven major shale plays would produce an amazing, all-time high of 73 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of natural gas production (see EIA Sep ’18 Drilling Report: Shale Output Flies Past 73 Bcf/d). Last month, EIA said that in November shale gas output would rise a dramatic 1 Bcf/d to 74 Bcf/d (see EIA Oct ’18 Drilling Report: Shale Gas Output Up Another 1 Bcf/d). And now, it’s happened again! EIA issued the the latest DPR yesterday and said that in December, shale gas output will go up ANOTHER 1 Bcf/d, to 75 Bcf/d.In addition to new all-time highs for natural gas production, shale oil production will also hit a new, all-time high, of 7.9 million barrels per day.Month after month production in the Marcellus/Utica region, called “Appalachia” in the report, goes up roughly 1/3 Bcf/d. And yes, it happens again for December. EIA predicts Appalachia production will hit 30.4 Bcf/d–a full 40% of all shale gas production in the U.S.–up 403 million cubic feet per day (far more than 1/3 Bcf) from last month. Again, we’re speechless. Below are the three charts the EIA doesn’t include in the official PDF of the report (for whatever reason). We think these are the three best charts they issue each month. Note the third chart above, DUCs (Drilled but UnCompleted wells). A DUC happens when drillers put the initial hole in the ground, including the lateral, but they don’t finish the job by fracking the well and bringing it online into production.In our region the DUC number went down by 19 (down 22 the month before), indicating we’re drilling fewer new wells and completing and bringing online already-drilled wells instead. We’re burning off our DUC inventory. That’s been a trend for a number of months.

Natural Gas Goes Limit Up - For the second time in 2018 the prompt month natural gas contract went 30 cents limit up as bullish weather risks combined with continued fear about low storage levels to shoot the winter natural gas complex higher. It was the March contract that made the largest move higher today, as it was the original contract to go limit up this morning. It settled up over 40 cents on the day. This was not particularly a surprise to our subscribers, as in our Afternoon Update yesterday and our Morning Update again this morning we reiterated slightly bullish sentiment given continued cold weather risks and low storage fears. Our sentiment was "Slightly Bullish" as GWDD additions were not particularly impressive, but $4.1 was still one of our targets eyed for the day. Our intraday Note of the Day warned as well that gas prices were likely to set a new high later in the day following a mid-morning pullback. These trends came with only modest overnight GWDD additions. However, storage levels remain incredibly low, making the market uniquely sensitive to any colder weather trends, and long-range blocking signals continue to indicate cold is at least likely to get locked in across the Northeast. Other balance dynamics are not helping the bear natural gas case either, with LNG exports continuing to sit near highs. Today we also published our Seasonal Trader Report with our 5-month GWDD forecast for clients, as well as hosting our live subscriber-only chat on Enelyst to discuss the latest dynamics in the natural gas market. Of note was the development of a -NAO block downstream, which we noted would be crucial for determining how weather trends into late November and accordingly how gas prices move (image GEFS model spread forecast courtesy of the Climate Prediction Center/NOAA). 

Lagging Gas Storage Finally Triggers Market Reaction- With only a few weeks until the official end of the natural gas storage injection season, the reality of the low level of supplies has suddenly awoken gas prices from their months-long slumber. While this should not be a surprise, the fact it has taken nearly all year for this to happen has been the surprise. The apparent disconnect between weak gas prices and low weekly storage injections may be a signal that there are shifts underway in the natural gas market not well understood by the participants. In particular, it may be the traders who disproportionately help establish gas futures prices that are failing to understand the gas market’s new subtilties. Spot and future natural gas prices reflect the views of producers, consumers and speculators about the health and direction of the market. When gas prices are very high, as they were during the cold weather experienced at year-end 2017, it was a signal that consumers and speculators believed the sharp storage drawdowns meant that producers needed much higher gas prices as an incentive to develop additional supplies, and keeping us from freezing in the dark! A blast of early warm weather dispelled that view quickly. Gas prices hit rock bottom Feb. 15 this year at $2.49 per Mcf.   Since then, they have struggled to climb above $3/Mcf, until now. Natural gas production for September is estimated to be 13 percent above a year ago, providing comfort to consumers. In addition, the number of drilled by uncompleted wells has been rising throughout 2018, partially due to the pipeline congestion in the Permian Basin that has capped the growth in oil and gas output. DUCs have also grown in more gas-prone regions such as the Eagle Ford and Haynesville. While growing DUCs in the Permian draw the attention of the oil market, the basin is a significant producer of associated natural gas, which has bedeviled the gas market this year. Overall, the total number of DUCs since the start of 2018 is up about 15 percent as of September. Rising DUCs provides a measure of comfort for consumers who see them as an assurance of future gas supply. Another trend that has may have lulled the gas market into its price slumber has been the lack of growth in electricity consumption, as the public has become more efficient in its use of power. Since 2010, electricity generated by utilities has been in a slow, but steady, decline.    A last ingredient in the natural gas price puzzle is the internal shifts underway in the gas market. The major disruption in the market in recent years has been the emergence of the Marcellus/Utica supplies, now the nation’s largest gas basin. This low-cost gas was trapped for years due to a lack of sufficient demand coupled with insufficient pipeline takeaway capacity to move the gas to other regional markets. . Now, this cheap gas is flowing in all directions, meaning it may be having more of an impact on Henry Hub spot prices than people recognize.

Natural gas prices rocket higher on cold weather forecast, jumping as much 20 percent - Natural gas prices surged to a more than four-year high in panicky and volatile trading Wednesday, after the latest cold weather forecasts raised fears that the U.S. is heading for a potentially colder-than-expected winter with too little gas supply. Futures for December settled up 18 percent at $4.837 per mmBtus but had been up as much as 20 percent in an early morning rush of panic buying. Prices also rose across futures contracts that that would cover the winter months through March, indicating that prices could be pressured all winter by dwindling supply, which is at a 15-year low for this time of year. CME Group said trading in natural gas futures hit an all time daily volume record of more than 1.2 million contracts, as the price had its biggest one day jump in years. The price for the front month futures for Decemeber is now the highest since Feb. 26, 2014. "Overnight, there was another round of cold trends, and that kind of lit the fuse and everything exploded," said Jacob Meisel, chief weather analyst at Bespoke Weather Services. "Some of the later overnight weather models trended much colder...the six to 10 and 11 to 15 day [forecasts] both saw rather significant cold trends. It wasn't like we were looking at periods of very major sustained warming. We've just been continually trending colder and colder." Meisel said the price could get to $7 or $8 per mmBtus, if the months of December and January are very cold. "This looks like a capitulation move today, but if cold weather really takes off, the sky is the limit," said Meisel. Just a few weeks ago, the market was expecting warmer weather for November and natural gas was trading at less than $3 in September. "This cold is widespread and goes deep into the heart of Texas and across the Midwest and Northeast,"  As forecasts have been adjusted for colder temperatures, natural gas prices have been on a tear, and are now up 49 percent since the start of November. Government data last week showed the amount of natural gas in U.S. storage facilities rose by 65 billion cubic feet to 3.208 trillion cubic feet, 15 percent below the year-ago level and 16 percent below the five-year average. That was also the lowest amount of gas in storage during a first week of November, since 2003, according to Kilduff.

Natural Gas Goes Ballistic - It was a natural gas trading day for the record books, as the December natural gas contract shot around 18% higher on the day for the largest move since February 2003.   For the third day in a row the March contract led the day higher, though to a lesser extent today.   Colder forecasts were a large culprit for this most recent move as well. In our AM Update we noted significant GWDD additions in the medium-range and long-range. This appeared to lead to a significant stop-out of a short position just before 7 AM Eastern this morning that sent prices soaring.   Accordingly, by the time our Morning Update was out prices had already soared over $4.9 and had become to come back. We highlighted that from these levels risks were mixed through the day, and noted that while the market seemed "untradeable" intraday given recent volatility we would look for "some weakness off the cash market later" which verified well through the morning session. We also noted significant bullish trends across all major weather models and indicators we tracked that seemed to justify the move, and warned that 12z model guidance had continued bullish risks as well.  Sure enough, the 12z GEFS trended significantly colder again and shot the December contract up near highs (images courtesy of Tropical Tidbits).  With storage levels so low and weather driving so much demand in winter, weather is taking front and center in the natural gas market here. However, traders are still awaiting tomorrow's EIA print, which should show the last storage injection of the season as GWDDs only modestly ticked up last week.   Many traders will look past tomorrow's injection as they prepare for what could be a withdrawal approaching triple digits next week. Yet tomorrow's injection may be the first clue we get of whether a triple digit withdrawal may be in play, though we note the market has markedly tightened this week on significant cold. This has helped power burns increase quite a bit today compared to past years. 

U.S. natural gas prices leap to four-year high amid low stocks (Reuters) - U.S. natural gas prices have leapt to the highest level for more than four years as the market tries to conserve scarce gas stocks in the face of unusually cold weather settling across much of the country.Futures prices for gas delivered at Henry Hub in January 2019 have surged to more than $4.50 per million British thermal units, up from just $3.28 at the start of the month, and the highest since July 2014.Gas stocks are at the lowest seasonal level for 15 years and around 15-16 percent lower than at the same point last year and the five-year average, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.While most forecasters have been predicting a relatively mild winter across the northern United States because of the El Niño developing over the Pacific, temperatures have recently fallen far below the seasonal average. Until the end of the first week in November, temperatures had been slightly milder than the long-run average and in line with the start of winter in 2015, 2016 and 2017.Since then, however, temperatures have plunged well below normal across most of the lower 48 states pushing cumulative heating demand up sharply ( than average weather is expected to persist across most northern and eastern population centres for the next week according to the U.S. government's Climate Prediction Center.If the forecast is correct, this will be the first colder than average start for over three years and increase the pressure on already-stretched gas supplies.

Cold US Weather Lifts Spot Natural Gas Prices To Nearly $5 -- Cold weather blanketing much of the U.S. this week boosted spot natural gas prices for Nov. 15 to their highest since January in several regions, while natural gas futures slid 10% as investors took profits after a rally that had lifted them to their highest levels in nearly four years.Front-month gas futures rose as high as $4.929 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) on Nov. 14, their highest since February 2014.Traders said the cold this week would force utilities to start withdrawing gas from storage caverns that are already around 16 percent below normal for this time of year, prompting concerns of possible gas shortages in some parts of the country later this winter. Next-day prices for Nov. 15, meanwhile, rose to their highest since January at the Henry Hub benchmark in Louisiana, Dominion South in Pennsylvania and Chicago citygate. Next-day gas at the Henry Hub rose to $4.57/mmBtu, their highest since January for the fifth day in a row, due to cold weather nationally and as demand at nearby LNG export terminals rose to new highs with the start of new liquefaction trains.Cheniere Energy Inc. (AMEX: LNG) expects new liquefaction trains at its LNG export terminals in Sabine Pass in Louisiana and Corpus Christi in Texas to enter service in the near future.

US natural gas storage levels building - Working gas in underground storage across the US Lower 48 was 3.2 tcf as of Nov. 9, up 39 bcf from the previous week, the US Energy Information Administration reported in its Weekly Gas Storage Report.Stocks were 528 bcf less than for the same period last year and 601 bcf below the 5-year average of 3.8 tcf. Separately, EIA has forecast dry gas production will average a record 83.2 bcfd in 2018 and climb to 89.6 bcfd in 2019.

EIA Storage Report Misses Bearish as Weather-Focused Natural Gas Futures Swing Lower - The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a somewhat larger than expected 39 Bcf injection into U.S. natural gas stocks Thursday, giving bears further encouragement with a volatile futures market already pulling back sharply on forecasts. With natural gas futures on a run of extreme volatility amid concerns over historically low inventories and a robust start to the heating season, Thursday’s report did not appear to generate any immediate momentum in either direction. Over the last few days, forecast changes have coincided with big price moves as the market has keyed in on the weather outlook, including a 73.6 cent rally during the previous session. Warmer trends overnight heading into Thursday’s session had the December Nymex contract trading about 55 cents lower when EIA’s report crossed trading desks at 10:30 a.m. ET. In the minutes following the report, the prompt month continued to trade around $4.240-$4.300/MMBtu. By 11 a.m. ET, the December contract had slid to around $4.133, down 70.4 cents from Wednesday’s settle. The 39 Bcf build for the week ended Nov. 9 compares to a 13 Bcf withdrawal recorded a year ago, while the five-year average is a 19 Bcf injection. Prior to Thursday’s report, major surveys had pointed to a build in the mid- to low-30s Bcf, with estimates ranging from 28 Bcf to 42 Bcf. Intercontinental Exchange EIA financial weekly index futures had settled Wednesday at a build of 36 Bcf. Prior to release of the report, Bespoke Weather Services said it had viewed risks as skewed lower. “The market consensus seemed a bit lower too, so we see this number as still slightly bearish coming in above the consensus for a second week,” the firm said. “The build in the East was a bit of surprise, but otherwise the large salt build fit our expectations as we raced to fill storage ahead of the coming winter season. Total Lower 48 working gas in underground storage stood at 3,247 Bcf as of Nov. 9, 528 Bcf (14.0%) below last year and 601 Bcf (15.6%) below the five-year average. By region, the South Central injected 25 Bcf for the week, including 19 Bcf into salt and 6 Bcf into nonsalt. The Midwest saw an 11 Bcf injection, while 4 Bcf was refilled in the East for the week. The Pacific posted a 1 Bcf net build, while Mountain region saw a net withdrawal of 1 Bcf, according to EIA. 

Natural Gas Gives It All Back -- After rocketing higher in a wild short-covering rally that was the finale of a short H/J spread explosion, the prompt month December natural gas contract shot back over 16% lower today to settle below Tuesday's close, thereby giving back everything gained yesterday and then some. In our intraday Note we outlined that weakness focused most in the winter strip indicated that if 12z model guidance sustained GWDD losses from overnight weather models further downside was possible despite the December contract already being down 70 cents. Sure enough, that proved accurate as the December contract settled even lower and the later winter contracts led the way further down. It was a wicked reversal in the Z/F December/January contract spread which had recently approached its historical range. The move started overnight on some warmer weather model guidance that we confirmed in our AM Update, where we outlined "sellers should begin to return" and we see "increasing bearish risks with gas prices above 4.5..." Admittedly, our confidence was very low in the report, and we saw a bounce risk on any major colder trends in 12z model guidance, but it was clear sizable 0z GWDD losses would increase selling through the day. We also outlined to look for cash weakness to extend any sell-off, which occurred this AM into the EIA print. Yet again the EIA print missed just 3 bcf to our estimate, despite a number of other estimates clustered lower in the mid 20s to low 30s. The EIA announced that in fact 39 bcf of gas had been injected last week, compared to our expectation of 36 bcf. In our EIA Rapid Release right after the data report we warned clients we saw this number as "Slightly Bearish," as even though it was not far from our expectations it confirmed a rather loose market on a day where prices were already retracing significantly. Of course, next week's EIA print will show a lot more about balances when real cold arrives, but today's print certainly caught many off-guard. Then afternoon model guidance confirmed some of the temporary warmer trends that overnight guidance showed, seemingly helping send gas prices another leg lower. The warmer 6-10 Day Climate Prediction Center forecast today shows that well. We had been looking for these slightly warmer trends for a little while; in yesterday's Afternoon Update we highlighted that "...any weakening of the -NAO would allow the far more mild Pacific flow to take over..." which could finally reverse gas prices, and that is what seemed to happen on overnight model guidance. Still, the extent of the reversal was simply massive. 

 Cold Early December Risks Send Gas Flying Again - The volatility appears here to stay in the natural gas complex, as the December contract shot 6% higher and continued upwards post-settle on continued risks that the month of December starts quite cold. The theme of March leadership continued as well, with the March contract logging the largest gain again today after it led Tuesday and Wednesday as well. In our intraday Note to clients today we warned to look for this March strength intraday as a signal that prices would remain strong, which verified well with the March contract very strong into the close with prices going out near the highs. It was a wild week in the natural gas complex overall, though, with prices shooting higher earlier in the week before Wednesday's absolute blowout, followed by a full retrace of Wednesday's explosion yesterday. Overnight we noted yet another increase in bullish weather risks in the long-range, leading us to see "more support" and an "initial cash bump" for prices today off increased long-range cold risks. We also warned that while overnight models were actually a bit less bullish in the medium-range with some warm risks, Week 3 cold risks were likely to increase on models today and 12z model guidance would increase those cold risks in the long-range, which played out on a colder 12z European model run. Admittedly it was an extraordinarily volatile week, and after we held Slightly Bullish sentiment in reports Monday and Tuesday we turned Neutral the last few days due to extremely low confidence in the face of enormous volatility. Still, we did well to identify the key trends driving the market and the price bias each day as we saw increasingly cold long-range risks responsible for the spike today (and had warned of more upside risks still Tuesday night). . Now, headed into the weekend, traders are looking to the latest weather models and trends to see where the next 30-50+ cent move could be. Climate Prediction Center forecasts do not look particularly cold in the long-range, but they were also made before colder European model guidance was released (which was then incorporated into our Pre-Close Update).

NYMEX December natural gas contract bounces back 23.4 cents to settle at $4.272/MMBtu — The NYMEX December natural gas futures contract partially recovered Thursday's losses, increasing 23.4 cents Friday to settle at $4.272/MMBtu. The contract traded between $3.907/MMBtu and $4.345/MMBtu. Total US demand - including exports to Mexico and LNG feedgas - decreased 8.1 Bcf Friday to 99 Bcf, S&P Global Platts Analytics data showed. All demand sectors across the US decreased except for LNG feedgas, which continued to increase. As the third LNG export facility in the lower 48 states comes online in Corpus Christi, Texas, and Train 5 at Sabine Pass in Louisiana continues its commissioning, an additional 400 MMcf/d of feedgas demand was tacked on Friday to 4.6 Bcf. Further along the curve, the spread between the March and April 2019 contracts -- a so-called "widow-maker" because of its extreme volatility and risk -- narrowed to $1.176/MMBtu in midday trading. This spread settled at $1.584 Wednesday and at 80.2 cents Thursday. Before the strong increases seen earlier this week, the spread had averaged 35.70 cents since the start of November. Most of the difference has come from March 2019 price swings, with the April 2019 contract remaining relatively unchanged this week. These contracts traded Friday at $3.967/MMBtu and $2.809/MMBtu, respectively. David Thompson, executive vice president at PowerHouse Brokerage, said the market is "shaking out and settling" with the volatile price swings taking place lately. "In this new range, the market will find what is an acceptable market value," he said. US temperatures have increased, with the past seven days averaging 42.85 degrees Fahrenheit, Platts Analytics data showed. Temperatures are forecast to increase to 46 degrees over the next seven days before rising further to 49.86 degrees through November 30.

 Nord Stream 2 Could Still Be Derailed By U.S. Sanctions --The potential for more tensions in relations between the U.S. and Russia continue to mount. Late last week, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said that Washington could still impose sanctions related to the building of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would bring Russian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea. Perry made his comments in Warsaw as the Trump administration tries to convince EU members to sign LNG deals with U.S. producers to offset over reliance on Russian pipeline gas. On Thursday, Polish state-run gas firm PGNiG signed a long-term LNG deal with U.S.-based Cheniere Marketing International. Poland has been fervent in its resistance to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as well as working to reduce its reliance on geopolitically charged Russian gas. Moscow, for its part, has cut gas supply to Europe in the past during cold winter months to exert its influence in the region.Warsaw and Washington also signed on Thursday a joint declaration on enhanced energy security cooperation. “This is also a clear signal that the U.S. strongly supports a pro-Poland and pro-Europe energy security policy,” Perry said. “Energy security in turn requires energy diversity. That is the reason we oppose the Nord Stream 2 project which would further increase the dangerous energy dependence many European nations have on the Russian federation,” he added.Poland consumes around 17 billion cubic meters of gas annually, more than half of which comes from Russian energy giant Gazprom under a long-term deal that expires in 2022. However, Poland has said that it would not renew the gas supply deal, making the country race against time to replace the contract with new gas volumes.When asked at a news conference whether Washington could impose sanctions on companies working on the project, Perry replied: “I saw no signals where we would ever get to the point where we can support Nord Stream 2.” He added that “sanctions were an option that the president maintained.” The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has also been a point of contention between Trump and Germany as well. In a televised meeting with reporters and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg before a NATO summit in Brussels earlier this year, Trump said it was “very inappropriate” that the U.S. was paying for European defense against Russia while Germany, the biggest European economy, was supporting gas deals with Moscow.

U.S. calls on Hungary and neighbors to shun Russian gas pipelines  --U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry called on Hungary and its neighbors to reject Russian gas pipelines which Washington says are being used to cement Moscow’s grip on central and eastern Europe. “Russia is using a pipeline project Nord stream 2 and a multi-line Turkish stream to try to solidify its control over the security and the stability of Central and eastern Europe,” Perry added during a visit to Budapest. U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is seeking to encourage the purchase of gas from the United States or other suppliers rather than increasing purchases from Russia. “(The) United States strongly opposes these projects and we urge Hungary and its neighbors to join us in rejecting them.”

US Confident It Can Compete In Europe's Gas Market - As American LNG costs continue to fall, and as Europe looks to untangle itself from Gazprom, U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports are quickly becoming a welcome alternative to Russian gas supplies. The United States is all too happy to help Europe increase its energy security by diversifying its natural gas supplies - in which Gazprom holds more than a third of the market. These were the key messages from U.S. officials and LNG developers at this week’s gas conference in Berlin. Germany is the end-point of the controversial Gazprom-led Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which will follow the existing Nord Stream natural gas pipeline between Russia and Germany via the Baltic Sea. The U.S. opposes the project, as do EU institutions and some EU members such as Poland and Lithuania. Germany, however, supports Nord Stream 2 and sees the project as a private commercial venture that will help it to meet rising natural gas demand. At the conference this week, Woodward Clark Price, Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. embassy in Berlin, said that U.S. LNG is becoming increasingly competitive, due to continuously falling costs.“US LNG will become even more cost-competitive and attractive. We are confident US LNG can compete [in Europe] -- even on price,” S&P Global Platts quoted Price as saying at the event.Lower pipeline gas price compared to LNG has long been Russia and Gazprom’s key selling point. The U.S. is ready to help Europe to diversify its energy supply, Price noted. “We want to enhance a more secure energy situation in Europe so that no one country or corporation can disproportionately influence Europe,” Price said, in an obvious reference to Russia and Gazprom. Paul Corcoran, CFO at the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline operating company, said that pipeline gas is cheaper than LNG and due to this, 75 percent of Europe’s LNG import capacity stays unutilized.“Russian gas is still very well placed against US LNG,” Corcoran said at the Berlin conference.At the same time in which Nord Stream 2 and U.S. LNG executives discussed the competitiveness of gas supplies to Europe, some 300 miles east of Berlin in Poland’s capital, Warsaw, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry was witnessing the signing of a 24-year LNG deal under which U.S. Cheniere will deliver growing volumes of LNG to Poland’s PGNiG. “American energy is empowering Europe and diversifying markets,” Secretary Perry said.

LNG Hunt Less Likely as Milder Asia Winter Seen -- Prospects for a milder winter in Asia may make the frenzied seasonal hunt for liquefied natural gas less likely this year and hurt the outlook for prices, which have tumbled for the past seven weeks. Weather across North Asia is expected to be warmer this winter than last year, according to four forecasters surveyed by Bloomberg, who added temperatures could come in at or above historical averages. That could weaken demand for the fuel, with storage levels in Japan, China and South Korea near multiyear-highs. Asia’s LNG users have been stocking up on gas well ahead of the winter season to avoid a supply crunch like last year, when freezing temperatures exacerbated a Chinese-backed drive to promote cleaner-burning gas over coal and pushed prices to the highest levels since 2014. Snow in Japan last winter also compelled the country’s largest utility to purchase power from rivals as heating demand skyrocketed. “With warmer weather expected now, the demand pull from China would be even less,” Xizhou Zhou, an analyst at IHS Markit, said by email. “The kind of tightness in the market we had seen last year will unlikely repeat.” Spot LNG prices in North Asia have slumped for seven weeks in the longest losing streak since January 2016, mirroring a slide in oil that has given up most of its gains this year. Buyers across the region are so well-stocked with the fuel that some are considering selling or swapping cargoes. “Last winter was persistently cold, especially in Japan, as a result of northerly flow bringing cold air down from Siberia; we do not expect the same pattern to recur,” said Richard James, a senior scientist at World Climate Service. “We expect the winds over east Asia to be directed generally from the southwest this winter, which will bring much warmer conditions on average.” El Nino, the warming in Pacific Ocean sea-surface temperatures, has emerged and there’s a high chance of it continuing through the Northern Hemisphere spring, the Japan Meteorological Agency said on Friday. The weather pattern tends to cause warmer temperatures during winters in Japan. More weather forecasts: Weather volatility is expected to be high, especially in the second half of the winter, as warm spells alternate with a few outbreaks of unusual cold, according to World Climate Service. Japan, South Korea and the North China Plain are forecast to have near normal winter weather, according to Radiant Solutions.

South Korea’s October LNG imports up almost 38 pct - South Korea, the world’s third buyer of liquefied natural gas (LNG), received 3.79 million tonnes of the chilled fuel in October, a rise of 37.9 percent year-on-year. Compared to the previous month, LNG imports rose 12.7 percent, according to the customs data. The data shows that South Korea paid an average of $11.14 per million British thermal units for LNG last month. This compares to $8.12 per mmBtu in October last year. Qatar, the world’s top LNG producer, remained the dominant source of South Korean imports with 1.15 million tonnes of the chilled fuel imported from Qatar in October, a rise of 34.6 percent on year. US was the second-largest LNG supplier to Korea last month with 606,414 mt, followed by Australia with 589,101 mt. The remaining volumes imported into South Korea last month were sourced from Malaysia, Oman, Indonesia, Russia, Nigeria, Angola, Trinidad and Singapore, the customs data shows. Worth mentioning here, South Korean state-owned Korea Gas recently reported a year-on-year jump of 37.9 percent in its domestic sales. The company sold 2.59 million tonnes of the chilled fuel which compares to 1.87 million tonnes in the corresponding month last year.

China overtakes Japan as world’s top natural gas importer (Reuters) - China has overtaken Japan to become the world’s top importer of natural gas, as Beijing’s crackdown on pollution boosts its demand for the more environmentally friendly fuel, while the restart of nuclear reactors in Japan reduces its LNG imports. China’s total natural gas imports over January to October this year via pipeline and as liquefied natural gas (LNG) were at 72.06 million tonnes, up a third from the same period last year, according to Reuters calculations based on General Administration of Customs data. Japan, on the other hand, imported about 69.35 tonnes of LNG over that period, according to ship-tracking data from Refinitiv Eikon, down 17 percent for the same 10 months of 2017. Japan imports all of its gas as LNG. China’s push to switch away from coal to natural gas is key to its rapid gas demand growth, said Edmund Siau, gas analyst with energy consultancy FGE. “Meanwhile, nuclear reactors continue to restart in Japan, which reduces demand for gas-fired power generation and consequently LNG demand,” Siau said. China - already the biggest importer of oil and coal - is the world’s third-biggest user of natural gas behind the United States and Russia, but it has to import around 40 percent of its total needs as domestic production can’t keep up with demand. China still lags behind Japan on LNG imports but could overtake its North Asia neighbour in the early 2020s, FGE’s Siau said. China’s surging demand pushed it past South Korea as the world’s second-biggest LNG importer in 2017. China last year started to move millions of households and many industrial facilities from coal to gas as part of efforts to clean its skies, sparking an unprecedented rally in overseas import orders. Its three biggest LNG suppliers are Australia, Qatar and Malaysia. Pipeline imports come from Central Asia and Myanmar, and a pipeline connecting China to Russia is under construction.

China still wants LNG this winter, but not every last drop (Reuters) - The liquefied natural gas (LNG) market in Asia appears to be coming to terms with the likelihood that China will still buy robust volumes over winter, but not quite at the rate it did last year.   In the winter of 2017-18 China’s unrestrained appetite for the super-chilled fuel drove spot prices to what was then a three-year high, upending a market that had previously believed a supply surplus was looming. However, this time around China appears to be managing its winter demand in a more orderly fashion. That means while it will still likely increase cargoes in the coming months, it won’t be trying to suck every available drop of LNG from the market. Having been caught short of natural gas last winter, China has taken steps to ensure that the coming winter will see adequate supplies. It has boosted storage facilities and domestic output, while maximising use of pipelines from Asia and LNG terminals are being maximised. China has expanded use of natural gas in winter, primarily for heating as part of its policy of burning less coal in order to improve air quality. Domestic natural gas production rose 6.2 percent to 116.17 billion cubic metres (bcm), equivalent to about 86 million tonnes of LNG, in the first nine months of the year compared with the same period last year, according to official data. Natural gas imports from both LNG and pipelines were up 33 percent in the first 10 months of the year to 72.06 million tonnes. State-controlled oil and gas major Sinopec said on Monday that it will boost its supply of natural gas for the heating season by 18 percent from last winter to 18.17 bcm, and that its three LNG receiving terminals are fully booked for December and January. PetroChina, another state-controlled oil and gas major, said on Monday that the Central Asia-China pipeline will operate at 100 percent capacity this winter and supply a record 160 million cubic metres of natural gas per day. 

India Ready To Import More U.S. Oil And Gas - India is ready to import more crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States to expand bilateral trade, India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said on Wednesday.Speaking after a meeting between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on the sidelines of an ASEAN summit in Singapore, Gokhale said, commenting on the topics discussed:“There was a lot of discussion on energy, this is a new sector in the Indo-US relations. We have begun importing oil & gas from United States.”“It is expected to be valued about $4 billion this year and we expressed our readiness to import more oil and more gas from the United States as a way of expanding our trade,” Gokhale added.Two months before the U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil were re-imposed, India—Iran’s second-biggest oil customer after China—said that it would be looking at the economics—and not the politics—of importing U.S. crude oil, and Indian imports of American oil should not be seen as a replacement for Iranian barrels.India was one of eight Iranian oil buyers that received waivers to continue importing Iran’s oil at reduced volumes until May next year. This year, India has become a regular customer of U.S. crude oil, with American crude exports significantly rising from May 2018 onwards, EIA data shows. According to the latest available EIA data, the U.S. sent 196,000 bpd of oil to India in August, up from 102,000 bpd in July, but down from the current high of 261,000 bpd from June.

Pakistan's Insatiable Appetite For Energy -  Riaz Haq - Pakistan's consumption of oil and gas has rapidly grown over the last 5 years, an indication of the nation's accelerating economic growth. Pakistan is among the fastest growing LNG markets, according to Shell 2017 LNG reportPakistan Oil Consumption in Barrels Per Day. Source: Oil consumption in Pakistan has shot up about 50% from 400,000 barrels per day in 2012 to nearly 600,000 barrels per day in 2017. During the same period, Pakistan's gas consumption has risen from 3.5 billion cubic feet per day to nearly 4 billion cubic feet per day, according to British Petroleum data. Pakistan is among the fastest growing LNG markets, according to Shell 2017 LNG report.  The country has suffered a crippling energy shortage in recent years as demand has risen sharply to over 6 billion cubic feet per day,  far outstripping the domestic production of about 4 billion cubic feet per day. Recent LNG imports are beginning to make a dent in Pakistan's ongoing energy crisis and helping to boost economic growth. Current global oversupply and low LNG prices are helping customers get better terms on contracts. Pakistan Gas Consumption in Billions of Cubic Feet Per Day. Source: .    Every modern, industrial society in history has gone through a 20-year period where there were extremely large investments in the energy sector, and availability of ample electricity made the transition from a privilege of an urban elite to something every family would have. It seems that Pakistan is beginning to recognize it. If Pakistan wishes to join the industrialized world, it will have to continue to do this by having a comprehensive energy policy and making large investments in the power sector. Failure to do so would condemn Pakistanis to a life of poverty and backwardness.

Anadarko allocates $200m for Mozambique LNG - US independent Anadarko Petroleum aims to spend about $200 million on its planned Mozambique liquefied natural gas (LNG) export project in 2019 as it is looking to make a final investment decision. Anadarko said on Thursday revealing the company’s 2019 capital investment that the investment will be allocated toward Anadarko’s portion of the costs associated with ongoing site preparation for the shared Mozambique LNG onshore facilities. Anadarko said it remains on track for the project’s FID consideration in the first half of next year, adding that it plans to adjust its capital-investment expectations associated with the Mozambique LNG project at the time of project sanction. Anadarko and its partners have discovered more than 75 Tcf of natural gas resources in the Prosperidade and Golfinho/Atum complexes in Mozambique’s Offshore Area 1, which will be used to feed an onshore LNG terminal on the Afungi peninsula in Cabo Delgado province. The discovered reserves in Mozambique are sufficient to support two initial LNG trains, as well as to accommodate expansions, including additional trains capable of producing about 50 mtpa, according to Anadarko.

Gas flaring continues scorching Niger Delta - In Nigeria's Niger Delta, gas flares are killing crops, polluting water and damaging human health. The Nigerian government has promised to tackle the problem — but new data shows flaring has even gone up.Flames as tall as 10-storey buildings burn day and night in the village of Ebedei, in Nigeria's Niger Delta. But the heat from these fires is neither soft nor warm, it's fierce and prickly. The constant noise sends wild animals fleeing, and people must shout to be heard over the roaring flames. Fields of crops, once green, have turned yellow or stopped growing entirely. The village no longer enjoys the respite of cool or darkness of night. In the oil-rich Niger Delta of southern Nigeria, 2 million people live within 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) of a gas flare. Below the flames, oil is being extracted. With the oil comes gas — considered by the oil industry to be a dangerous waste product to burned off in a process called gas flaring. And this flaring is on the rise again, despite promises to reduce it.Benjamin Nwaiku lives beside the constant flame of a gas flare. In 2001, he retired from his job in the oil industry in Lagos and moved back to his hometown of Ebedei, to become a farmer and raise his seven children. But in 2009, small Nigerian operator Platform Petroleum erected a flow station adjacent to his house to extract oil. He quickly became concerned about the possible effects on his health and that of his children. "We are living under the shade of hazard because of this flaring," Nwaiku said. His fears have a legitimate basis. Exposure to air pollutants released by gas flaring have been linked to cancer and lung damage, as well as neurological and reproductive problems.

Nigeria To Lift Crude Oil Production To 1.8 Million Bpd In 2019 - Nigeria will raise its crude oil production to 1.8 million bpd in 2019 from around 1.6 million bpd currently, the head of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) told Reuters on Tuesday.The African OPEC member also aims to increase its production of condensate—a type of ultra light oil—to 500,000 bpd next year from 400,000 bpd now, NNPC Group Managing Director Maikanti Baru said.The Nigerian state-controlled oil company also expects to sign this month agreements with various consortia to help it overhaul the old and inefficient oil refineries in the country, Baru told Reuters.   Following a wave of militant violence in 2016 and early 2017, Nigeria’s oil production started to recover in the latter half of 2017, when attacks on oil infrastructure subsided.This year, after some hiccups and pipeline outages during the spring and early summer, Nigeria’s crude oil production was on the rise in August and September.Nigeria’s crude oil and condensate production, however, dropped in October to 2.09 million bpd, oil ministry data showed last week, with output down by some 70,000 bpd compared to September, due to increased sabotage attacks on oil infrastructure by oil thieves.The NNPC warned earlier this month that sabotage attacks on oil pipelines were on the rise, while analysts also warn that violence may return in Nigeria’s oil industry ahead of the general elections in February.  According to OPEC’s November Monthly Oil Market Report published on Tuesday, Nigeria’s crude oil production dropped by 17,000 bpd from September to stand at 1.751 million bpd in October.

Nigeria: Shell decries frequent sabotage of pipeline, spills in Bayelsa - Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) on Monday decried the high rate of vandalism on its pipeline network at its oilfields in Bayelsa resulting to oil leaks and pollution of the environment.Mr Bamidele Odugbesan, the Media Relations Manager at SPDC told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the oil firm expressed regrets at the incessant spills and was committed to maintaining environmentally sustainable operations.He said that although, the May 17 oil spill on the Trans Ramos Pipeline was traced to equipment failure, many other leaks were predominantly caused by sabotage."The rate of spills on the Trans Ramos Pipeline is very worrisome, for instance between April and May 26, spill incidents were reported on that line and out of these, 18 of them were caused by sabotage, eight were operational," he said. Odugbesan said that SPDC had recovered more than 95 per cent of spilled oil from the spill incidents on the Trans Ramos Pipeline (TRP) which runs across Bayelsa and Delta states.

Trump Admin-approved Iran Oil Buyers Line Up -- Armed with waivers to keep importing Iranian oil without running afoul of U.S. sanctions, some of the Islamic Republic's top customers are preparing to buy. The exemptions mean at least some supplies from OPEC's third-biggest producer will keep flowing into international markets, after its exports plunged almost 40 percent since April -- the month before Washington announced the curbs. In a bid to keep customers, the state-run National Iranian Oil Co. has been offering record discounts on its crude. Almost all major buyers of Iran's oil had negotiated with the U.S. for the waivers, arguing that cutting purchases to zero would affect their energy industries and boost fuel costs. U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has defended the exemptions and said the Trump administration's campaign to pressure Iran has already reduced exports by over 1 million barrels a day and they'll continue to shrink. India, China and South Korea, three of Asia's top four buyers, got waivers allowing them to purchase a combined 860,000 barrels a day. The levels for Japan, Italy and Greece are yet to be confirmed. Turkey got waivers for about 60,000 a day, far less than it bought in 2017. A summary of plans by some of Iran's biggest oil customers and what they may buy under the waivers is set out below. This story will be updated as new information becomes available. The exemptions have been granted for 180 days, and will be reviewed toward the end of the period. 

SWIFT Cuts Off Iran Central Bank As Tehran Sells 700,000 Barrels To Anonymous Direct Buyers - As reported last week, shortly after SWIFT caved to US pressure and defied the EU announcing it would cut off a selection of Iranian banks, on Monday, the US Treasury said the Iranian Central Bank has been officially cut off the SWIFT financial messaging system. The disconnection, which comes at a time when Iran's economy is reeling and its currency is tumbling as a result of restricted oil exports (albeit offset by numerous temporary waivers for top Iranian oil clients), will made it far more difficult for the Islamic Republic to settle import and export bills.Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the move is “the right decision to protect the integrity of the international financial system", and comes after several days planning by SWIFT.I understand that SWIFT will be discontinuing service to the Central Bank of Iran and designated Iranian financial institutions. SWIFT is making the right decision to protect the integrity of the international financial system.— Steven Mnuchin (@stevenmnuchin1) November 8, 2018As previously discussed, SWIFT said it would begin cutting off access to several unspecified Iranian banks. More than 70 Iranian and Iranian-linked financial institutions were sanctioned, including a host of banks that allegedly provided services to Hamas and Hezbollah, and others that provided services to the Iranian armed forces. While the US could not directly force SWIFT to cut off Iranian banks, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had warned that penalties would be applied to SWIFT and any other firms that refused to comply with the latest sanctions, effectively forcing SWIFT to pick between compliance with US demands or angering top EU officials. It picked the former.

India mulls barter system to satisfy Iran’s basmati appetite amid sanctions - The payment system with Iran is being relaxed further for basmati rice exports. This comes after the US allowed India to continue importing crude oil from Iran and develop the Chabahar port. Now, India is finalising guidelines for exporting basmati rice to its largest importer — Iran — on a rupee payment basis. The move has come as a positive development for exporters who are paying a higher price for procuring basmati. Last year, India exported $4.17 billion worth of basmati rice and Iran was the largest buyer of rice (at $905 million). In the first five months of 2018-19, exports have already crossed $2 billion and Iran continuous to be the largest buyer for India followed by Saudi Arabia. When the US announced sanctions against Iran, farmers had already increased area under basmati but exporters were cautious. However, the recent exemption for Iran followed by easing of the payment crisis has lifted the sentiments of basmati exporters. “Higher paddy price this season has put some pressure on the retail price, especially if you consider that there is recession in the global market. However, there has been some stabilisation now and we expect a good basmati export cycle this year,” Kohinoor Foods joint managing director Gurnam Arora told Business Standard. He further said that the ‘Iran issue’ had also been resolved to a large extent and traders have been allowed to barter deals and consignments valued in rupee terms. “The guidelines are being formulated and we are confident that Iranian basmati imports would start soon.”

Why a strategic port in Iran was exempted from sanctions  -- A port in Chabahar, Iran’s southernmost city, was exempted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from sanctions, which he called “the toughest ever put in place”, in a move to help a US ally. India has been developing the port since 2003 in a strategic bid to link to Central Asia through Iran and Afghanistan while bypassing its neighbor and rival Pakistan.The sanctions exemption for the port also aims to help the Afghan economy, according to Pompeo, as the country remains the world’s top poppy producer and still relies heavily on international aid. The port could help the war-torn country’s economy by reducing poppy production in its southern provinces, which largely underwrites the Taliban insurgency, and thus cut its dependence on aid. These upshots could help the US untangle itself for a war now past its 17th year.US sanctions were reimposed on Iran after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in May, opening the way for a medley of old and new sanctions, which are explicitly aimed at Iran’s banking and energy sectors.The exception for Chabahar port should obviously appear as doubtfully benevolent from a US administration that has been patently blinkered when it comes to preserving US interests, even when doing so has disconcerted long-time allies like Canada and the EU. However, in developing Chabahar, a cautious show of interest by China to enter the foray might be the real reason why the US had to carve out what must have been a painful exception.An entry by the Chinese would be deeply disquieting for its regional rivals especially as its investors already have a foothold in Chabahar. Concerns arising due to India losing its grip on the project and a handing over of the port’s development to China, which was last proposed by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in a visit to Islamabad in March this year, has led to a proposal by even Japan – a friend and foe to India and China respectively – to express its interest in developing the sea outlet.

Indonesia interested in OPEC membership again -- Net oil importer Indonesia could reactivate its OPEC membership if it can successfully raise its crude oil production and reduce consumption by boosting the amount of biofuels used in its transportation sector, an official said Monday. Indonesia’s state-owned oil company Pertamina earlier this year began taking over operations at the country’s oil fields from foreign companies, under a government plan to consume more of its crude domestically and reduce its imports, as the rupiah depreciates against the dollar. To further cut its import bill, Indonesia on September 1 began requiring all diesel fuel sold domestically to contain 20% biodiesel. The country also has plans to boost the amount of ethanol blended with gasoline, though it has not blended much to date.

OPEC expects global energy demand to skyrocket through 2040, thanks to India and China - Global energy demand is set to skyrocket over the next two decades, OPEC said in its latest annual outlook, with India and China the most important contributors to this growth. In the influential oil cartel's 2018 World Oil Outlook (WOO), the group said it expects total primary energy demand to surge around 33 percent from 2015 levels. Driven almost entirely by developing countries — most notably India and China — demand is expected to increase at an average annual growth rate of nearly 2 percent, reaching 365 million carrels per day (bpd) in 2040. "Energy demand in India and China in this period is forecast to increase by 22 million bpd and 21 million bpd, respectively, which is more than 50 percent of the energy demand growth in developing countries during this period," OPEC said in the report. At present, energy market participants are increasingly concerned about a slowdown in the global economy, escalating trade tensions, emerging market countries' currency weakness and the potential fallout this could have on oil demand. Last month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut its outlook for the world economy in 2018-19 by 0.2 percentage points to 3.7 percent. Fears of a slowdown in global growth, and by extension oil consumption, have prompted sharp falls in equity and crude prices in recent weeks. Yet, while oil consumption threatens to disappoint energy market participants on the downside, production in U.S. shale fields continues to defy expectations. This, in turn, has reinforced the market management challenge for OPEC and its partners. Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said Monday that OPEC and its allies had conducted an analysis which showed a 1 million bpd drop in crude supplies from October levels could soon be required to balance the market.

Global oil demand under growing threat from electric cars, cleaner fuel (Reuters) - Electric vehicles and more efficient fuel technology will cut transportation demand for oil by 2040 more than previously expected, but the world may still face a supply crunch without enough investment in new production, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Tuesday. Oil demand is not expected to peak before 2040, the Paris-based IEA said in its 2018 World Energy Outlook. The IEA’s central scenario is for demand to grow by around 1 million barrels per day (bpd) on average every year to 2025, before settling at a steadier rate of 250,000 bpd to 2040 when it will peak at 106.3 million bpd. “In the New Policies Scenario, demand in 2040 has been revised up by more than 1 million bpd compared with last year’s outlook largely because of faster near-term growth and changes to fuel efficiency policies in the United States,” the agency said. The IEA believes there will be around 300 million electric vehicles on the road by 2040, no change on its estimate a year ago. But it now expects those vehicles will cut demand by 3.3 million bpd, up from a previous estimated loss of 2.5 million bpd in its last World Energy Outlook. “... Efficiency measures are even more important to stem oil demand growth: improvements in the efficiency of the non-electric car fleet avoid over 9 million bpd of oil demand in 2040,” the IEA said. Oil demand for road transport is expected to reach 44.9 million bpd by 2040, up from 41.2 million bpd in 2017, while industrial and petrochemical demand is forecast to reach 23.3 million bpd by 2040, from 17.8 million bpd in 2017.    All global oil demand growth will stem from developing economies, led by China and India, while demand in advanced economies is expected to drop by more than 400,000 bpd on average each year to 2040, the IEA said. The IEA, which advises Western governments on energy policy, maintained its forecast for the global car fleet to nearly double by 2040 from today, growing by 80 percent to 2 billion. On the supply side, the United States, already the world’s biggest producer, will dominate output growth to 2025, with an increase of 5.2 million bpd, from current levels around 11.6 million bpd.   GRAPHIC: Oil supply outlook -  GRAPHIC: Oil supply and demand outlook -IEA -

OPEC and allies warn surging oil output is poised to leave crude market oversupplied  -  The oil market looks poised to swing into oversupply next year as growing global crude output swamps shaky demand, a committee of allied producer nations said on Sunday. The committee of several OPEC members and other crude exporters says a larger group of roughly two dozen nations may have to launch a fresh round of output cuts in order to keep the oil market balanced. The announcement comes as rising supply and a weaker outlook for demand have contributed to a sharp pullback in oil prices that has plunged U.S. crude into a bear market. The committee's communique sets up a potential agreement to throttle back production when the entire group meets next month. Last month, the committee tasked with monitoring compliance to the oil alliance's production quotas said the group may have to reverse course and begin cutting output again. On Sunday, it said the current situation "may require new strategies to balance the market.""The Committee reviewed current oil supply and demand fundamentals and noted that 2019 prospects point to higher supply growth than global requirements, taking into account current uncertainties," the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee said."The Committee also noted that the dampening of global economic growth prospects, in addition to associated uncertainties, could have repercussions for global oil demand in 2019 – and could lead to widening the gap between supply and demand." Saudi Arabia, OPEC's biggest producer and the world's top crude exporter, intends to cut shipments by 500,000 barrels a day in December, Khalid al Falih, the country's energy minister said on Sunday. Falih told CNBC on Sunday the market overreacted last month when it sent oil prices to four-year highs. He said the more than 20-percent pullback in prices over the last five weeks shows investors are now overreacting in the other direction.

Falling oil prices show markets are getting it wrong — again, Saudi Arabia energy minister says -- OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia believes the energy market has overcorrected in recent weeks.It comes as the world's top oil exporter grapples with a sharp drop in crude prices, amid cooling supply fears about the impact of U.S. sanctions on Iran.Speaking at the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) meeting in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih told CNBC's Steve Sedgwick: "All along we said that the market overreaction to the announcement on sanctions was driven by fear rather than by real shortages.""Markets get it wrong occasionally as they did a few weeks ago on one side and they're doing it again on the other today, but ultimately the pendulum will swing to a reasonable middle," he added.Saudi Arabia's energy minister also said the wider OPEC and non-OPEC alliance would not shy away from another round of production cuts over the coming weeks — if the group decided there was a need for such action.The next full OPEC meeting, when any policy decision will be voted on, is scheduled to take place in Vienna, Austria on December 6.   About two dozen exporting nations began capping their output in 2017 in a bid to drain a global crude glut. The group agreed in June to restore some of that output, and producers with spare capacity have been pumping more oil since then.Energy market participants had expected Saudi Arabia and Russia to recommend further productions cuts on Sunday. Instead, Riyadh and Moscow went only so far as to suggest it was a possibility.The comments come after a significant drop in oil prices in recent weeks, as crude futures benchmarks have tumbled approximately 20 percent or more since climbing to a peak in early October. International benchmark Brent crude settled at $70.18 on Friday, down almost 1 percent, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) fell for the 10th straight session to close at $59.87. The collapse in prices constitutes a stunning reversal from last month, when crude futures had hit nearly four-year highs as traders braced for potential shortages once U.S. sanctions on Iran came back into force. Saudi Arabia's al-Falih said it had become clear that this previous spike in oil prices was "an emotional overreaction." "I think the decisions that came out in Washington with granting the waivers … (And) with the volumes starting to show themselves and weekly inventory data, the market flipped from overreacting from one side to overreacting on the other side."

Russia warns OPEC against 'hasty' policy changes, says oil market volatility could be here to stay --OPEC and non-OPEC exporters must stick to a consistent message if they are to avoid exacerbating wild swings in the oil market, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Sunday."There is a lot of volatility in the market. And what's more this volatility could remain," Novak told CNBC's Steve Sedgwick, according to a translation."Therefore, right now we shouldn't be making any hasty decisions. We need to look at the situation very carefully to see how it will develop so that we don't end up changing our course by 180 degrees every month."His comments come shortly after top exporters at the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) meeting in Abu Dhabi said they would not shy away from another round of production cuts.This appeared to an abrupt turnabout from OPEC's September meeting, when some of the world's leading oil producers were talking about pumping extra oil onto the market in order to help soothe intensifying supply shock fears.The group said Sunday it would "continue closely monitoring" oil market conditions, before adding that "new strategies" could be implemented to balance the market in 2019.Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said Sunday that the OPEC and non-OPEC alliance would collectively decide whether reducing global output would be necessary over the coming weeks. The next full OPEC meeting, when any policy decision will be voted on, is scheduled to take place in Vienna, Austria on December 6.

Saudi Arabia's energy minister says there are no plans to abolish OPEC -- Saudi Arabia is not preparing for a break-up of OPEC, Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said Monday, adding the group will continue as the global central bank for oil markets for a long time.It comes shortly after reports surfaced Thursday suggesting Saudi Arabia's top government-funded think tank had been studying the potential impact on oil markets should the influential 14-member alliance breakup."There is no consideration whatsoever to eliminate OPEC," al-Falih said at the ADIPEC oil summit in Abu Dhabi on Monday."The reason they call them think tanks is because they want to think outside the box," he added.On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter, that the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in Riyadh was trying to understand how energy markets would respond to a world without OPEC. The reported study comes less than a month before OPEC and non-OPEC members are scheduled to re-convene in Austria, Vienna in order to vote on its next policy decision.

Saudi Arabia and Russia have a 'long-term relationship' despite output U-turn, Dan Yergin says --- Saudi Arabia and Russia are the world's most influential oil producers right now, along with the U.S., but the kingdom appears to be going its own way, announcing half a million barrel output cut from December.With a lot at stake for the oil producers, however, the relationship should remain close, according to oil market expert Daniel Yergin."I think it's intended to be a long-term relationship and it started off about oil prices but you see it taking on other dimensions, for instance, Saudi investment in Russian LNG (liquefied natural gas) and Russian investment in Saudi Arabia and I think this is a strategic relationship because it's useful to both countries," IHS Markit vice chairman Dan Yergin told CNBC on Monday.While Saudi Arabia and Russia are close, particularly given their pact in late 2016, along with other OPEC and non-OPEC producers to curb output by 1.8 million barrels per day in order to support prices, oil markets have changed since that deal - and largely thanks to that deal. Oil prices have recovered almost too well with the U.S. criticizing OPEC (of which Saudi Arabia is the de facto leader) for higher prices and markets have been fluctuating on concerns over both a potential decline in supply (due to U.S. sanctions on Iran) and a potential oversupply – due to an increase in production from Saudi Arabia, Russia and the U.S. in recent weeks --- that led prices to fall around 20 percent since early October.  On that note, Saudi Arabia pumped 10.7 million barrels per day in October, Russia pumped 11.4 million barrels per day and the U.S. also an estimated 11.4 million bpd. Yergin told CNBC's these "big three" producers were changing the face of the global oil market. "It's the big three, it's Saudi Arabia, Russia and the U.S., this is a different configuration in the oil market than the traditional OPEC-non-OPEC (one) and so thinking is having to adjust so there's that new relationship … and the world is having to adjust." Also speaking to CNBC Monday, BP Group Chief Executive Bob Dudley said that the "OPEC-plus agreement (between OPEC and non-OPEC producers including Russia) and coalition is a lot stronger than people speculate. I think Russia doesn't have the ability to turn on and off big fields (which) can happen in the Middle East ... But I fully expect there to be coordination to try to keep the oil price within a certain fairway," he said.

Saudi Arabia to ship less oil in December as it floats cut talks possibility (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia plans to reduce oil supply to world markets by 0.5 million barrels per day in December, its energy minister said on Sunday, as the OPEC power faces uncertain prospects in its attempts to persuade other producers to agree a coordinated output cut. Khalid al-Falih told reporters that Saudi Aramco’s customer crude oil nominations would fall by 500,000 bpd in December versus November due to seasonal lower demand. The cut represents a reduction in global oil supply of about 0.5 percent. Saudi Arabia has increased output by just about 1 million bpd this year under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump and other consuming countries to help balance the market to compensate for lower supplies from Iran due to U.S. sanctions. But since Iran’s customers were given generous waivers to continue buying crude, concerns grew about market oversupply and oil prices fell to below $70 per barrel on Friday from $85 a barrel in October. “We have been increasing production in response to demand,” Falih told reporters in Abu Dhabi ahead of a joint OPEC, non-OPEC market monitoring committee meeting. “I’ll tell you a piece of news which is (that) December nominations are 500,000 barrels less than November. So we are seeing a tapering off part of it is year end, part of it is maintenance.... so we will be shipping less in December than we are in November.” Saudi Arabia is discussing a proposal that could see OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers cut output by up to 1 million bpd, two sources told Reuters earlier on Sunday, as the world’s top oil exporter grapples with a drop in crude prices. The sources said any such deal would depend on factors including the level of Iranian exports after the United States imposed sanctions on Tehran but granted Iran’s top oil buyers waivers to continue buying oil. Russian participation was key to helping OPEC rebalance the market during 2017-18. But Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Sunday he wasn’t certain the market would be oversupplied next year. He said the oversupply for the next few months would be seasonally driven while by mid 2019 the market could be balanced again and demand could even exceed supply.

Analysis shows need for a production cut of 1 million bpd, Saudi Arabia says -- Khalid Bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih, Saudi Arabia's energy minister and president of OPEC, speaks as Alexander Novak, Russia's energy minister, left, listens during a news conference following the 172nd Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday, May 25, 2017.OPEC and its allies have agreed that technical analysis of the energy market shows a need to cut oil supply from 1 million barrels per day (bpd) from October levels, Saudi Arabia's energy minister Khalid al-Falih said Monday.Speaking at the ADIPEC oil summit in Abu Dhabi on Monday, al-Falih said: "If all things remain equal, and they almost certainly will not as things will change — it is a dynamic market — then the technical analysis we saw yesterday … tells us that there will need to be a reduction of supply from October levels approaching a million barrels."His comments follow a meeting between some of the world's top exporters at the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) meeting on Sunday, which showed two of the world's biggest oil producers were at odds over what the OPEC and non-OPEC alliance should do next.Saudi Arabia said shortly after the JMMC meeting that while it would not overreact to falling oil prices, it would be prepared to reduce crude output in the near-term if necessary.This appeared to be an abrupt turnabout from OPEC's September meeting, when some of the world's leading oil producers were talking about pumping extra oil onto the market in order to help soothe intensifying supply shock fears.Meanwhile, Russia has urged OPEC and its partners to proceed with caution, saying the group must be careful not to make any "hasty" policy decisions.The next full OPEC meeting, when any policy decision will be voted on, is scheduled to take place in Vienna, Austria on December 6. "The consensus is we are going to do whatever it takes to balance the market. If that means trimming supplies by a million (bpd), we will," Saudi Arabia's al-Falih said Monday.

 OPEC+ Floats 1 Million Barrel Production Cut After Oil Price Tumbles Into Bear Market - With oil prices entering a bear market last week, tumbling 21% from recent highs as it became clear that Trump will significantly water down Iran oil export sanctions by granting waivers to its 8 largest clients even as US inventory stockpiles are once again rising amid almost weekly records in US oil production, OPEC and its non-OPEC allies - which is pretty much everyone except US shale producers - are starting to sweat, and during today's meeting in Abu Dhabi they hinted that an oil output cut to limit excess production may be coming. Speaking to reporters, Oman’s Oil Minister Mohammed Al-Rumhy said that "a number of global producers agree they should pump less oil in 2019, and a reduction of 1 million barrels a day would be a good number" according to Bloomberg. Others echoed his sentiment, floating a range of cutbacks, however the most often cited number was a decrease in output by as much as 1 million barrels a day, roughly the amount of Iranian oil production that is expects to continue flowing thanks to the recent sanction waivers. "I think probably there is support that right now there is too much oil in the market and stock, inventories are building up," Al-Rumhy told reporters today in the UAE capital. Of course, OPEC can not be seen as responding to every political whim in the White House, especially if it will result in higher gasoline prices and an angry Donald Trump, so a technical committee representing the coalition framed the need for a production cut in the context of its projections according to which the global oil surplus - which hit unprecedented levels in 2015 - will resurface in 2019 if they continue pumping at current rates, according to delegates cited by Bloomberg. Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih - clearly cognizant of the political risks of Riyadh being singled out as the reason for the next oil price spike - said ahead of Sunday’s meeting in Abu Dhabi between OPEC+ member that it was “too premature” to discuss cutting output. Even so, he hinted that it was only a matter of time before the Saudis agreed, and while he hedged that OPEC+ "won’t respond to weekly oil market gyrations", and that "it’s too early to talk about oil cuts" Al-Falih also noted that a "gradual trend of rising stockpiles is emerging" and will "cut output if persistent glut emerges."

Trump warns OPEC against cutting oil production: 'Prices should be much lower based on supply' --President Donald Trump on Monday tweeted that he hopes OPEC does not cut oil output, the same day Saudi Arabia's energy minister said the cartel and its allies may need to throttle back production by about 1 million barrels per day. "Hopefully, Saudi Arabia and OPEC will not be cutting oil production. Oil prices should be much lower based on supply!" he wrote on Twitter. See the tweet.The tweet marks Trump's latest attempt to influence OPEC policy on Twitter. The president has tweeted at the 15-nation producer group several times this year, blaming it for rising oil prices and ordering its members to take steps to tamp down the cost of crude.Trump's latest broadside comes on the heels of a sharp pullback in oil prices that has seen U.S. crude plunge into a bear market and post its longest losing streak on record. Prices tumbled over the last five weeks as global equity markets sold off, crude supplies rose and the outlook for growth in oil demand weakened.The sudden drop in oil prices from four-year highs just last month has forced OPEC and a group of crude exporters including Russia to rethink how they are managing the market.On Sunday, a committee representing the group said oil supply is growing faster than demand, suggesting the alliance may have to launch a fresh round of production cuts. The same day, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al Falih said the kingdom's oil shipments would fall by 500,000 bpd in December. On Monday, Falih told an oil conference in Abu Dhabi that technical analysis suggests "there will need to be a reduction of supply from October levels approaching a million barrels" from the alliance.   Trump began tweeting at OPEC in April, two months before the group's June oil policy meeting. His latest tweet comes just weeks before the alliance's next gathering.

Trump keeps people guessing 'on many fronts' and its impacting oil markets, BP CEO says --  President Donald Trump is one factor among many impacting oil markets right now, according to Bob Dudley, the chief executive of oil giant BP."He's (Trump is) keeping people guessing on many, many fronts and it also impacts the oil markets," Dudley told CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe," but he added that the U.S. president was not the only factor affecting prices."It's more than that (the Trump administration). There's uncertainty in the supply from Venezuela, there's still disruptions in Libya, for example, there's a lot of uncertainty out there," Dudley said.Dudley's comments at the ADIPEC energy conference in Abu Dhabi come at a pivotal moment for oil markets with Saudi Arabia performing an about-turn this weekend by announcing a 500,000 barrel per day production cut in December. The surprise move comes after it had ramped up production this summer along with other major producers Russia and the U.S. due to concerns over a decline in supply once sanctions on Iran came into effect in November. The measure, taken by the defacto leader of OPEC, is seen as a way to halt a 20 percent slump in prices seen since early October on the back of the surge in production.

Hedge funds enforce correction to oil market's course- Kemp (Reuters) - Hedge funds have sold the equivalent of almost half a billion barrels of crude oil and refined products in the last six weeks, as worries about slowing demand replaced earlier concern over sanctions on Iran.  Hedge funds and other money managers cut their combined net long position in the six major petroleum futures and options contracts by another 108 million barrels in the week to Nov. 6.  Portfolio managers have sold 479 million barrels of crude and products since the end of September, the largest reduction in any six-week period since at least 2013 and probably the largest ever in a comparable timeframe (  Funds now hold fewer than four bullish long positions for every short bearish one, down from more than 12:1 at the end of September and the lowest ratio since August 2017.Most of the adjustment has come from the long side of the market, as formerly bullish hedge funds liquidate positions accumulated in the second half of 2017 and earlier in 2018.The number of bullish long positions has fallen to just 849 million barrels, from 1.195 billion six weeks ago and a record 1.625 billion at the start of the year.Bullish positions are now at the lowest level since September 2016, according to an analysis of position data published by regulators and exchanges.But some fund managers have begun to turn outright bearish, with short positions now up to 228 million barrels from just 96 million barrels six weeks ago.Heavy selling by funds has helped push oil prices down more than $15 per barrel (17 percent) since Oct. 3. And since most hedge fund positions are held in contracts near to maturity, the selling has had a disproportionate impact at the front end of the futures curve, pushing crude futures prices deep into contango.

Oil prices rise by 1 percent after Saudi Arabia announces December supply cut - Oil prices rose Monday, breaking an extended losing streak, after Saudi Arabia's energy minister said OPEC and its allies may need to cut crude production by about 1 million barrels a day to prevent the market from swinging into oversupply. The evidence is building that OPEC and a group of exporters including Russia will agree to throttle back output when they meet next month. The alliance of roughly two dozen producers have cut their output since January 2017 in order to drain a global crude glut. They agreed in June to restore some of that production to rein in rising commodity prices. However, crude futures have pulled back sharply during the last five weeks, with U.S. crude sinking into a bear market. "Production cuts might be necessary to stem this tide, so we expect a sharp change in tone between now and December meeting from Russia/OPEC indicating that they will cut output,"  Brent crude rose 91 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $71.09 a barrel by 10:41 a.m. ET (1541 GMT) on Monday. The international benchmark for oil prices settled at $70.18 on Friday, its weakest closing price in seven months. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude, was up 77 cents, or 1.3 percent, at $60.96. WTI posted its longest losing streak in more than 34 years on Friday, falling for 10 straight days and settling 21 percent below its 52-week high. Crude futures got swept up in a broader market sell-off that saw investors shed risk assets in October. Rising oil supplies from the United States, OPEC and Russia and forecasts for weaker-than-expected demand growth have kept pressure on the market. The Trump administration's decision to allow eight countries to continue importing some Iranian crude despite U.S. sanctions on Iran has also eased concerns about supply shortages. The steady loss of Iranian barrels since President Donald Trump announced the sanctions in May pushed oil prices to nearly four-year highs last month.

Oil prices fall, with U.S. benchmark below $60 and down a record 11 sessions in a row --Oil prices declined on Monday, giving up earlier gains to push the U.S. benchmark below $60 a barrel for the first time since February, down a record 11 sessions in a row, after President Donald Trump said he hopes OPEC doesn’t cut crude production.The move lower marks a reversal from earlier gains in prices, which had found support after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies signaled a tepid willingness to again cut production amid hefty global supply.“The combination of the weak stock market and the Donald Trump tweet had oil give up its gains,” said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Price Futures Group. “Oil is in a weakened technical position and we had lighter than normal volume due to the Veterans Day holiday.”And, “let’s face it—OPEC and Trump are going at it,” he said.Trump said in a tweet Monday that he hopes Saudi Arabia and OPEC won’t cut oil production and said oil prices should be much lower based on supply. West Texas Intermediate crude for December delivery fell 26 cents, or 0.4%, to settle at $59.93 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest finish for a most-active contract since February.That was also the 11th straight session decline—a record streak of session losses based on data going back to 1983 when WTI started trading, according to Dow Jones Market Data. Prices lost 4.7% for last week, tallying their fifth straight weekly drop. Saudi Arabian representatives said Sunday that the Kingdom would slash its exports unilaterally next month, as a broader OPEC alliance debated—but didn’t agree to—a collective production cut.

OPEC knocks down oil demand forecast for the 4th consecutive month -- OPEC continued to reduce its forecast for oil demand in its latest monthly report, issuing its fourth consecutive downward revision to consumption growth for 2019.The 15-member oil cartel forecasts the world's appetite for crude will grow by 1.29 million barrels per day in 2019, down 70,000 bpd from its projection last month. The group has revised its outlook lower every month since July, when it initially forecast growth of 1.45 million bpd for next year.Meanwhile, the cartel now sees output from non-member nations increasing by 2.23 million bpd next year, up 120,000 bpd from its last forecast."Although the oil market has reached a balance now, the forecasts for 2019 for non-OPEC supply growth indicate higher volumes outpacing the expansion in world oil demand, leading to widening excess supply in the market," OPEC said. "The recent downward revision to the global economic growth forecast and associated uncertainties confirms the emerging pressure on oil demand observed in recent months."The warning adds further evidence that OPEC and a group of allied oil exporters could launch a fresh round of supply cuts when they meet in a few weeks. OPEC, along with Russia and several other nations, began cutting output in January 2017 to drain global crude stockpiles and end a punishing oil price downturn. The alliance agreed in June to restore some of that production after it took more barrels off the market than it intended.With oil prices plunging into a bear market in recent weeks, the group is now considering reversing course. On Monday, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al Falih said the producers may need to cut nearly 1 million bpd from October levels.OPEC's total output increased by 127,000 bpd in October to 32.9 million bpd, according to independent sources cited by the group in its monthly report. Saudi Arabia raised its output by 127,000 bpd to 10.6 million bpd in October, according to both independent figures and data provided by the kingdom.  That is notable because it falls short of the level the Saudis telegraphed. Last month, Falih said the kingdom would pump 10.7 million bpd, near a November 2016 record right before the production agreement started.

'OPEC is not effective,' says Malaysia's prime minister --The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries hasn't been effective in stabilizing oil prices, which have been more dependent on U.S. shale production than the actions of the intergovernmental group, saidMalaysianPrime Minister Mahathir Mohamad."OPEC is not effective. They are always at loggerheads with each other so they cannot make decision," Mahathir told CNBC's Sri Jegarajah in a Monday interview. The Malaysian leader was asked whether the group should take further action to stabilize oil prices."What is more important is the production of shale oil from America," he added.Those comments by the Malaysian leader came less than a month before OPEC and non-OPEC members are scheduled to meet in Vienna, Austria to vote on their next policy decision. Those major oil producers began cutting production in January 2017 to drain a global crude glut that sent oil prices from over $100 per barrel to under $30.Oil prices did recover, but trade tensions between the U.S. and China, rising interest rates and currency weakness in emerging markets have raised concerns about a slowdown in global economic growth and oil demand. Malaysia is an oil producing country. Consequently, analysts at Fitch recently said a decline in oil prices will undermine the country's effort to cut its debt given its dependence oil revenue. But Mahathir said Malaysia's economy is more diversified than what's commonly thought.

Oil falls as Trump raps OPEC's supply cut plan, global markets skid --Oil prices fell sharply on Tuesday, deepening a rout that has plunged the energy complex into a bear market as growing supply is poised to swamp demand next year.The latest drop came after U.S. President Donald Trump urged OPEC and Saudi Arabia to maintain their current policy of gradually increasing output. OPEC and its oil market allies are mulling a fresh round of production cuts following a collapse in oil prices over the last six weeks.U.S. light crude fell $2.15, or 3.7 percent, to $57.78, hitting its lowest level since December 2017. Tuesday's decline extended U.S. crude's record losing streak into a 12th consecutive session. Brent dropped $2.40 a barrel, or 3.4 percent, to $67.72 by 10:08 a.m. ET (1508 GMT). The international benchmark for oil prices hit a fresh low going back to April.

Oil Price Tumbles As Trump Says OPEC Shouldn't Cut Production - Having surged higher at last night's futures open on the heels of headlines about Saudi's about-face on production, President Trump has reversed those gains as he tweeted: “Hopefully, Saudi Arabia and OPEC will not be cutting oil production. Oil prices should be much lower based on supply!,” Hopefully, Saudi Arabia and OPEC will not be cutting oil production. Oil prices should be much lower based on supply!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2018  Sending WTI back to unchanged...  “If we believe that Saudi Arabia will cut supply we’ll see what happens in December, but this will tighten up the market and should rally things up a bit,” said Bart Melek, head of global commodity strategy at TD Securities in Toronto.“I wouldn’t be too surprised to see crude head back closer to recent highs, maybe not to the October levels, but certainly off the recent lows.” For now, that's not happening.

Oil prices tumble as traders look beyond Iran- Kemp (Reuters) - Oil prices have fallen sharply since passing a cyclical peak at the start of October, amid surging production and mounting concerns about the state of the global economy and the outlook for consumption growth in 2019. Front-month Brent futures prices have dropped by more than $17 per barrel (20 percent) over the last five weeks while WTI futures prices have declined for a record 11 days in a row. OPEC and its allies, who were talking about increasing production as recently as October to offset the impact of sanctions on Iran, are now openly discussing the need for output cuts to avert a build-up in stocks. Some commentators have expressed surprise at the rapid turn round in the market outlook for under- to oversupply but in fact such shifts have been fairly common. The prospective reimposition of sanctions on Iran masked a big shift in the market outlook in recent months as non-OPEC oil production accelerated while consumption growth showed signs of slowing. Once the threat of severe sanctions was lifted, at least for the time being, the market refocused on the deteriorating supply-demand background and prices have adjusted downwards. 

Oil Prices Fall To One-Year Lows -- Oil fell yet again on Tuesday, with the string of losses starting to mount. WTI fell below $60 and Brent fell below $70, hitting fresh one-year lows in the morning. Saudi Arabia is trying hard to stop the price declines, but it is going to need to convince OPEC+ to do more at the upcoming meeting in three weeks’ time.   OPEC cut its oil demand forecast for 2019, the fourth consecutive month that it has done so. The cartel now only sees demand rising by 1.29 mb/d in 2019, down another 70,000 bpd from last month’s forecast. At the same time, non-OPEC supply is expected to grow by a massive 2.23 mb/d next year, an upward revision of 120,000 bpd. “Although the oil market has reached a balance now, the forecasts for 2019 for non-OPEC supply growth indicate higher volumes outpacing the expansion in world oil demand, leading to widening excess supply in the market,” OPEC said.  Total OPEC production jumped in October, as Saudi Arabia and the UAE more than offset the declines from Iran. Iran saw production fall by 156,000 bpd, and Venezuela suffered another 40,000-bpd monthly decline. But Saudi Arabia added 127,000 bpd and the UAE added 142,000 bpd. Combined the entire group’s production edged up by 127,000 bpd. As the market expected supplies to tighten due to Iran sanctions, the increase has helped push down crude oil prices. OPEC is scrambling to stop the slide in oil prices. Saudi Arabia announced that it would cut exports by 500,000 bpd in December, and it is working with OPEC+ to engineer a collective cut of about 1 mb/d, which could be on the table at the upcoming meeting in Vienna in early December. The cuts are needed as the market is suddenly awash in fresh supplies. “The market now increasingly looks concerned about the prospect of too much supply,” Norbert Ruecker, head of macro and commodity research at Swiss bank Julius Baer, told Reuters. . Last year, the five largest oil majors saw their “proven reserves life” fall to the lowest level in a decade. The majors slashed costs after the oil market downturn in 2014, and that has translated into several years in which they have produced more oil than they have discovered, leading to a significant decline in life of their reserves. The flip side of that is that investors no longer prioritize growth above all. Companies that have continued to pursue growth, such as Exxon, seen their share prices lag their peers, the Wall Street Journal writes.

Oil price slumps 7% to one-year low as rout extends to 12 days -- Oil's slide accelerated on Tuesday, with U.S. futures suffering their steepest one-day loss in more than three years due to ongoing worries about weakening global demand and oversupply. U.S. futures closed down 7.1 percent, for a record 12th straight decline and the lowest since November 2017. More than 980,000 contracts changed hands, as funds shed positions. "It's like a run on the bank,"   "It's getting to the point where it doesn't seem to be about fundamentals anymore, but a total collapse in price." Traders said the selling was an extension of Monday's, which was triggered after U.S. President Donald Trump posted a tweet meant to put pressure on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries not to cut supply to prop up prices. Trump's tweet followed weekend reports that Saudi Arabia was considering a production cut at the December OPEC meeting, on increased alarm that supply has started to outpace consumption. Speculators have pulled back on heavy bets on an oil rally, a process that continued Tuesday, traders said. As of last week, hedge funds and other money managers had reduced their long position in oil contracts to their lowest since August 2017. Traders said that recent weakness in equities has fanned concerns about global growth, which is also contributing to declines in oil. U.S. crude futures settled down $4.24 a barrel, or 7.1 percent, to $55.69 a barrel. It was the largest one-day percentage decline for the contract since September 2015. U.S. crude has lost 28 percent since its early October peak. Brent ended down $4.65, or 6.6 percent, to $65.47 a barrel, the largest one-day loss since July. Brent has lost 25 percent since peaking at a four-year high in early October. It now sits at levels not seen since March. In its monthly report, OPEC said world oil demand next year would rise by 1.29 million barrels per day (bpd), 70,000 bpd less than predicted last month and the fourth consecutive forecast cut. Output, however, rose by 127,000 bpd to 32.9 million bpd, OPEC said. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Monday that OPEC agreed there was a need to cut oil supply next year by around 1 million barrels per day from October levels to prevent oversupply.

Crude Crashes As Saudis Abandon OPEC Production Curbs - For the first time since the Vienna OPEC deal in 2016, Saudi Arabia is no longer complying with the quota as Bloomberg calculates that in October, the Kingdom boosted crude production above its starting point for oil cuts. According to secondary data, Saudi output in October was 10.63m b/d, higher than the 10.502m b/d in September. The spike, which not significant in volume terms was meant as a signal: as a reminder, as part of OPEC+ supply cuts, Saudi Arabia agreed to curb production by 486k b/d below the starting point of 10.544m b/d, which was its October 2016 output. And while Saudi Arabia had fully complied with OPEC+ agreement in every month through May, since then it had continued to cut supply, but by less than it pledged to curb. Then, in October, the data showed the first time Riyadh had increased output above the starting point. The market reaction was violent: WTI Crude has crashed over 5% on the news, and amid fears that a supply glut may be coming (even as global growth fears stoke demand anxiety): As a result, WTI has now retraced 60% of the two-year uptrend... ... and is now down over 6% YTD to its lowest since Dec 2017.

What's The Real Reason Behind Oil's Collapse - The answer to that question, naturally, depends on who is asked.If one listens to OPEC and other oil-exporting nations, the main culprit is supply - whether with or without Iran's output - and the marginal price is set by whether supply is in excess or deficit. One thing that OPEC+ always assumes is that demand is stable, and most likely rising.On the other hand, if one listens to Wall Street firms, such as Goldman for example which have been urging their clients to keep buying crude all the way down into this historic plunge (as Goldman's prop trading desk has been selling), the reason for the sharp drop has little to do with supply and everything to do with market technicals and the underlying market structure. In a note released overnight, Goldman's chief commodity strategist Jeffrey Curie writes that "driving the most recent leg of the oil sell-off has instead first been momentum trading strategies and second, increased selling of crude oil futures by swap dealers as they manage the risk incurred from existing producer hedging programs in a falling price environment."Yet another theory is that a "whale" fund had been massively long - and wrong - oil while shorting nat gas, and the result has been a two week liquidation of the pair trade, as both legs have been unwound. While all these arguments have merit, the real reason for oil's precipitous plunge - according to Bloomberg Intelligence - is neither.Observing that Brent crude has lost $21 a barrel at yesterday’s close from its high this year on Oct. 3, Bloomberg's Ziad Daoud calculates that weaker demand accounts for $18, or 85%, of the price decline, while supply is responsible for the remaining 15%.

Worried by oil slump, OPEC and partners discuss larger supply curbs: sources (Reuters) - OPEC and its partners are discussing a proposal to cut oil output by 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd), three sources familiar with the issue said, although Russia may not be on board for such a large reduction. Worried by a drop in oil prices due to slowing demand and record supply from Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is talking about a U-turn just months after increasing production. Such a shift could anger U.S. President Donald Trump, who urged OPEC on Monday not to cut supply. It also risks handing market share to the United States, while the sources said Russia might not be willing to back such a move. A steep slide in prices has surprised many oil market participants. Brent crude has fallen from a four-year high of $86 a barrel in early October to $66 on Wednesday. Just weeks ago, some trading firms were talking of $100 oil. The sources, who declined to be identified by name as the talks are confidential, said a cut of 1.4 million bpd - equal to 1.4 percent of world demand - was one option discussed by energy ministers from Saudi Arabia, non-OPEC Russia and other nations in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. “I believe a cut of 1.4 million bpd is more reasonable than above it or below it,” one of the sources said. OPEC and a group of non-OPEC nations, led by Russia, have been cooperating to limit oil supply since the start of 2017. They partially unwound their reduction in June after pressure from Trump to lower prices. The OPEC-led deal got rid of a glut that built up in 2014 as supply from the United States and other countries outside the group soared. OPEC production rose too, after the then Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi blocked an OPEC curb on supplies to preserve market share. This time, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih has publicly spoken of a need to lower supplies by 1 million bpd, showing price support is trumping market share. OPEC meets on Dec. 6 to set policy for 2019. A new round of OPEC-led supply cuts in 2019 would further support U.S. shale oil production, potentially repeating the cycle that played out in 2014. 

Oil rebounds, set to break record losing streak, as OPEC discusses supply cut - Oil rose on Wednesday, recouping some of the previous session's slide, on the growing prospect of OPEC and allied producers cutting output at a meeting next month to prop up the market. Prices rallied after Reuters reported OPEC and its partners are discussing a proposal to cut output by up to 1.4 million barrels per day, a larger figure than officials have mentioned previously. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures rose $1.24, or 2.2 percent, to $56.93 per barrel by 11:10 a.m. ET (1610 GMT). WTI fell 7 percent to a one-year low on Tuesday. International benchmark Brent crude oil futures were up $1.80, or 2.8 percent, at $67.27 per barrel. Brent plunged 6 percent to settle at an eight-month low in the previous session. Crude oil has lost over a quarter of its value since early October in what has become one of the biggest declines since a price collapse in 2014. "While the focus was on the Iran embargo and Venezuela's output struggles over the past months, i.e. the risks of too little supply, the market increasingly looks concerned about the prospects of too much supply," Swiss bank Julius Baer said. Oil markets are being pressured from two sides: a surge in supply from OPEC, Russia and other producers, and increasing concerns about a global economic slowdown. In its monthly report the Paris-based International Energy Agency said the implied stock build for the first half of 2019 is 2 million bpd. The IEA left its forecast for global demand growth for 2018 and 2019 unchanged from last month at 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) and 1.4 million bpd, respectively, but cut its forecast for non-OECD demand growth, the engine of expansion in world oil consumption. OPEC has been making increasingly frequent public statements that it would start withholding crude in 2019 to tighten supply and prop up prices.

NOPEC to Take Gloves Off, Production Cuts In 2019 -OPEC, in cooperation with non-OPEC member Russia, are currently discussing the option to put another production cut in place. During the recent Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee meeting of OPEC ministers in Abu Dhabi, a consensus was formed between an overwhelming majority of its members that the current oil market situation again substantiates a production cut in 2019. As stated before the implementation of the U.S. sanctions on Iran and the Midterm 2018 elections in the United States, Saudi Arabia, UAE and non-OPEC member Russia are worried about a new oil glut in the market if no proactive measures are taken. A possible 1-million barrels per day (MMbpd) production cut already is in the offing to stem the perceived oil glut currently building. Some even expect that a production cut will be necessary above this initial figure. Looking at the current buildup this could reach a level of 1.5-2 MMbpd if no other actions are taken. Saudi Arabian, Russian and Emirati oil officials will do more market analysis in coming weeks, as it is still unclear what the effects will be of the Iran sanctions being put in place by the Washington Administration. An effective U.S. sanctions regime is expected to bring Iranian exports below the 1 MMbpd level, but at present this hasn’t been reached. Iran’s pro-active production and export strategy, which was boosted by a silent increase in export volumes, has been partly behind the current increase in oil volumes in the market. China and others have been taking in additional volumes, which were not being reported. Saudi Arabia and Russia, supported by the UAE and others, also have been trying to grab part of the Iranian oil market in a response to the U.S. sanctions. The Kingdom has also been politically correct in showing its willingness to support U.S. President Trump’s calls for production increases by opening up the taps. However Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Russia could have been playing a political game by partly supporting Trump’s call for lower oil prices, in a move to give him an election boost during the 2018 Midterm Elections. This is at present in the past, and Riyadh even unilaterally stated that it already is cutting exports by 500,000 barrels per day this month, with possible other cuts being considered. Khalid Al Falih and Russia’s Novak have already been discussing a possible schedule for new production cuts. The gloves will be off again, and Big Oil is looking for a continuation of its market dominance, whatever Washington, Beijing or New Delhi are stating.

Oil Market Report » OMR Public – IEA - Highlights

  • The outlook for global oil demand growth is largely unchanged at 1.3 mb/d in 2018 and 1.4 mb/d in 2019, as a weaker economy is largely offset by lower oil prices. OECD demand is expected to increase by 355 kb/d in 2018, slowing to 285 kb/d in 2019.
  • Oil demand is slowing in several non-OECD countries, as the impact of higher year-on-year prices is amplified by currency devaluations and slowing economic activity. Our non-OECD demand forecast has been revised down by 165 kb/d for 2019.
  • Global oil supplies are growing rapidly, as record output from Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US more than offsets declines from Iran and Venezuela. October output was up 2.6 mb/d on a year ago. Non-OPEC output will grow by 2.4 mb/d this year and 1.9 mb/d in 2019.
  • OPEC crude output rose 200 kb/d in October to 32.99 mb/d, up 240 kb/d on a year ago. Losses of 0.4 mb/d from Iran and 0.6 mb/d from Venezuela were offset by increases from others. The call on OPEC crude falls to 31.3 mb/d in 2019, 1.7 mb/d below current output.
  • After a refine products stocks build of 0.7 mb/d in 3Q18, October refining margins plunged to the lowest levels since 2014. Global refinery throughput is also likely to exceed refined product demand both in 4Q18 and into 2019.
  • OECD commercial stocks rose counter-seasonally by 12.1 mb in September to 2 875 mb. In 3Q18, stocks increased by 58.1 mb (630 kb/d), the largest gain since 2015. OECD holdings are likely to exceed the 5-year average when October data is finalised.
  • ICE Brent prices hit a four-year high of over $86/bbl at the beginning of October but have since fallen back to below $70/bbl. Brent and WTI futures curves have flipped to contango. Except for gasoline and naphtha, product prices did not match the drop in crude prices.

 Global oil supply will outpace demand throughout 2019 - Global oil supply will outpace demand throughout 2019, the International Energy Agency forecasted in its latest Oil Market Report. Since midyear, oil supply had increased sharply with gains in the Middle East, Russia, and the US more than compensating for falls in production in Iran, Venezuela, and elsewhere, IEA said. New data show that the pace has accelerated, and this higher output, in combination with Iranian sanctions waivers issued by the US and steady demand growth, implies a stock build in this year’s fourth quarter of 700,000 b/d, according to IEA. Already, oil stocks of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have increased for 4 continuous months, with products back above the 5-year average. Storage tanks are filling up as global oil supply far outpaces demand, prompting talk of a possible 1 million b/d production cut by members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and certain other non-OPEC producers. ICE Brent prices hit a 4-year high of more than $86/bbl at the beginning of October but have since fallen back to below $70/bbl. Brent and West Texas Intermediate futures curves have flipped to contango. Except for gasoline and naphtha, product prices did not match the drop in crude prices. Since May, when US sanctions were announced, and Vienna Agreement producers began to unwind cuts, global oil output has soared by a net 1.8 million b/d. The US, with its relentless growth, has provided more than 1 million b/d, Saudi Arabia has ramped up by 620,000 b/d, and Russia has increased by 445,000 b/d. Such record-setting rates have more than made up for declines from Iran (-480,000 b/d), Venezuela (-140,000 b/d), and seasonal declines in Canada (-200,000 b/d) and Kazakhstan (-100,000 kb/d).

Global oil market faces surplus throughout 2019 as demand growth slows - Global oil supply will outpace demand throughout 2019, as a relentless rise in output swamps growth in consumption that is at risk from a slowing economy, the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday.  In its monthly report the Paris-based IEA left its forecast for global demand growth for 2018 and 2019 unchanged from last month at 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) and 1.4 million bpd, respectively, but cut its forecast for non-OECD demand growth, the engine of expansion in world oil consumption.For the first half of 2019, based on its outlook for non-OPEC production and global demand, and assuming flat OPEC production, the IEA said the implied stock build is 2 million bpd.Output around the world has swelled since the middle of the year, while an escalating trade dispute between the United States and China threatens global economic growth.On Wednesday, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that OPEC and its partners are discussing a proposal to cut oil output by up to 1.4 million bpd for 2019 to avert an oversupply that would weaken prices.Since early October, the oil price has fallen by a quarter to below $70 a barrel, its lowest in eight months, which may protect demand to an extent, the IEA said."While slower economic growth in some countries reduces the outlook for oil demand, a significant downward revision to our price assumption is supportive," it added.The agency raised its forecast for oil output growth from countries outside the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to 2.4 million bpd this year and 1.9 million bpd next year, versus its previous estimate of 2.2 million bpd and 1.8 million bpd, respectively. The United States will lead output growth. The IEA estimates total U.S. oil supply will rise by 2.1 million bpd this year and another 1.3 million bpd in 2019, from a current record of more than 11 million bpd.

Crude’s Collapse Is Sending Shockwaves Across Global Markets Investors have gone from contemplating the prospect of oil at $100 to sub-$50 in less than two months. No wonder global markets are playing catch-up. From stocks and bonds to currencies, assets worldwide are gripped by a crude awakening. Monday saw oil’s largest one-day drop in three years, securing its longest losing streak on record. Early trading jitters on Wednesday suggested the sell-off may not be over, though West Texas Intermediate later climbed after OPEC President Suhail Al Mazrouei said the group and its allies would do what is needed to balance the market. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index dropped on Wednesday, with oil and gas companies among the big losers. There could be more pain in store. The performance of energy shares relative to the broader index has yet to hit year-to-date lows despite elevated price swings in the oil-market complex. In the U.S., energy stocks were the biggest drag on the S&P 500 Index on Tuesday as the benchmark gauge reversed a gain of more than 1 percent to finish in the red. The jump in volatility of the oil price will feed into already bruised U.S. stocks, according to Macro Risk Advisors. The corporate bond market had taken the slide in crude on the chin but Tuesday’s rout may force investors to pay closer attention. U.S. investment-grade debt was already facing the worst year since 2008, and energy securities make up some 15 percent of the BBB rated universe.

U.S. oil prices halt 12-session, record-setting streak of declines - Oil prices finished higher on Wednesday, with U.S. benchmark crude putting an end to its record 12-session streak of declines, as traders weighed rising crude supplies against lingering questions about demand. Natural-gas futures, meanwhile, saw a spectacular climb of about 18%—their biggest in more than 14 years—as cold weather forecasts continued to feed concerns about tight U.S. supplies. West Texas Intermediate oil for December delivery rose 56 cents, or 1%, to settle at $56.25 a barrel, after settling Tuesday at $55.69 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That was the lowest front-month contract finish since Nov. 16, 2017, and biggest one-day percentage decline, at over 7%, in more than three years, according to Dow Jones Market Data. Global benchmark Brent crude was now down about 23% from its peak in October, with January Brent added 65 cents, or 1%, to $66.12 a barrel Wednesday. The contract tumbled 6.6% to settle at $65.47 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe Tuesday, officially joining its U.S. counterpart in a bear market, defined as at least a 20% pullback from a recent high. “The dramatic selling across the oil markets in recent days has come to a brief pause” Wednesday, “but many remain stunned by the acceleration in aggressive momentum that has transpired over the past couple of sessions,”  “We have not seen such a disastrous day for the oil markets in terms of negative momentum like the one on Tuesday in around three years,”  However, “I think what we need to accept moving forward is that traders are waking up to the significant threat that slowing global growth in 2019 will weaken demand for commodities like oil.”At the same time, more signs of strong supply data may drive price action as the U.S., Russia and Saudi Arabia are pumping crude at record levels, causing global supply to significantly outrun demand, a monthly update from the International Energy Agency showed Wednesday.  IEA also said crude output from the world’s three biggest producers is holding global supply steady, at around 100.7 million barrels a day last month. That’s 2.6 million barrels a day higher than the same period last year. Some analysts think oil’s move has been too dramatic in a short period, with a still-unfolding production picture.

 WTI Tumbles Back Below $56 After Bigger Than Expected Crude Build - After bouncing modestly today following oil's worst day in almost 4 years yesterday, amid fund liquidation rumors, supply glut fears (Saudi production surge) and demand concerns (global economic slowdown, cough China cough), traders could be forgiven for ignoring the small matter of tonight's API crude inventory data.A lot of folks threw in the towel and got as bearish as can be so now it was ripe for us to at least attempt to move back higher,” said John Kilduff, a partner at New York-based hedge fund Again Capital LLC. Signals of impending supply cuts “helped stock the bullish spirits back in here for the first time in a while.” API:

  • Crude +8.79mm (+3.2mm exp) - bigest build since Feb
  • Cushing +726k (+2.5mm exp)
  • Gasoline +188k
  • Distillates -3.224mm

This is the 8th weekly crude build (and Cushing) in a row and the biggest crude build since Feb (if it holds for tomorrow's DOE data).  WTI was hovering just above $56 ahead of the inventory data (well off the day's highs above $57), but kneejerked back to a $55 handle on the print.

Did Ya'll See This? API US Crude Oil Inventory --- Up Another Whopping 9 Million Bbls -- November 14, 2018 -- Link here.The American Petroleum Institute reported late Wednesday that U.S. crude supplies rose by 8.8 million barrels for the week ended Nov. 9, according to sources.The API data, which was released a day later than usual because of Monday's Veterans Day holiday, also showed gasoline supplies edged up by 188,000 barrels while distillate stockpiles fell 3.2 million barrels, sources said.Inventory data from the Energy Information Administration will be released Thursday. Analysts polled by S&P Global Platts expect the EIA to report a climb of 2.3 million barrels in crude supplies.   Absolutely incredible.

Oil rises despite jump in US crude stockpiles and production - Oil prices held onto gains on Thursday, despite the U.S. government reporting a large increase in the nation's stockpiles of crude, marking the eighth consecutive week of inventory increases.U.S. commercial crude stockpiles rose by 10.3 million barrels in the week to Nov. 9, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report. That compared with analyst expectations for an increase of 3.2 million barrels in a Reuters survey.Meanwhile, stockpiles of gasoline fell by 1.4 million barrels, while inventories of distillate fuel, which includes diesel and heating fuel, dropped by 3.6 million barrels.  Brent crude oil futures rose 80 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $66.92 a barrel by 11:26 a.m. ET (1626 GMT), while U.S. crude futureswere up 63 cents at $56.88. The gains put the benchmarks on pace for their second consecutive increase, but concern over the prospect of an oversupplied market next year remained in spite of OPEC's message that it may cut crude output.The oil price has lost about a quarter of its value in only six weeks in the face of soaring production led by the United States as well as a slowing global economy.U.S. production hit a new record at 11.7 million barrels per day, according to preliminary figures subject to revision in the EIA report on Thursday."With inventories likely to build in 1Q19, prices could remain under pressure in the near term," Bernstein Energy analysts said in a note.OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, is considering a cut of up to 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) next year to avoid the kind of build-up in global inventories that prompted the oil price to crash between 2014 and 2016. "(A cut) helps, but based on my balances, I think we'll need to see 1.5 million bpd at least for the first half of the year. Words aren't going to work.The market is going to need to see action as well," The International Energy Agency (IEA) and OPEC this week warned of a sizeable surplus at least in the first half of 2019, and possibly beyond, given the pace of growth in non-OPEC production and slower demand in heavy consumers such as China and India.

Oil market roiled by too much gasoline, not enough diesel: Kemp (Reuters) - Global oil markets are increasingly over-supplied with light distillates, such as gasoline, while there are not enough middle distillates, such as diesel, which has opened a big price differential between the two fuels. To keep meeting healthy demand for mid-distillates, refiners are processing high volumes of crude and creating a glut of gasoline. U.S. gasoline prices for delivery in June 2019 are trading just $7 per barrel above benchmark Brent futures for the same month, compared with a premium of $18 per barrel for low-sulfur distillate fuel oil. Early in October, the gap in cracking margins was much narrower, with premiums of $14 and $17 per barrel over Brent respectively, but since then gasoline prices have slumped amid fears of over-supply. Gasoline prices have been hit by a combination of record refinery processing in the third quarter and flattening consumption from U.S. motorists which have left the market carrying record stocks for the time of year. Diesel prices, on the other hand, have been supported by strong demand from the freight, manufacturing and mining sectors as well as from oil and gas drillers themselves. Distillate prices are also being supported by the prospect of even higher consumption from the start of 2020 when new pollution regulations on bunker fuels used in the shipping industry come into force. Regulations adopted by the International Maritime Organization will require shipping firms to switch from using heavy fuel oil to middle distillates unless they install expensive scrubbers to clean up their sulfur emissions. Differential growth in light and middle distillate consumption is not a new problem ( Gasoline and diesel consumption are driven by different factors which means that growth rates differ more often than they are the same. Gasoline consumption is more weighted toward private motorists while distillate is geared toward commercial freight transport, aviation, manufacturing, farming, mining and oil and gas production. Gasoline is weighted regionally toward the United States and Japan while distillate is weighted more toward Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. As a result, gasoline use tends to be steadier across the business cycle while distillate consumption varies much more with the state of the economy.

'Duped,' 'tricked' and 'snookered': Oil analysts say Trump fooled Saudis into tanking crude prices - Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia pulled off a challenging U-turn in global oil market policy, convincing a fractious group of two dozen nations to hike output and undercut the oil market rally that was filling their coffers.The Saudis undertook this unpopular task at least in part to help its allies in the White House — and for its troubles, the kingdom was rewarded with a series of blistering tweets from President Donald Trump and the biggest pullback in oil prices since the historic downturn of 2014.Oil market analysts say it now appears that Trump hoodwinkedSaudi Arabia, fooling the U.S. ally into pushing the oil market into oversupply and sparking a roughly 25 percent drop in crude prices. That accomplished Trump's goal of driving down energy costs for Americans, but left nations dependent on oil income like Saudi Arabia with the prospect of shrinking revenues.The analysts say Trump essentially bamboozled the Saudis by threatening for months to implement sanctions against Iran so strictly, the Islamic Republic's exports would go into free fall. But when the administration's deadline for oil buyers to quit Iranian oil arrived on Nov. 4, Trump instead dolled out six-month exemptionsto some of the country's biggest customers."They got sort of tricked here," said John Kilduff, founding partner of energy hedge fund Again Capital. "The Russians and the Saudis in particular ramped up production, ramped up exports ahead of what was supposed to be severe sanctions on Iran, and when the administration gave the eight waivers to Iran's largest buyers, it undercut that whole equation.""So now we've tripped into an oversupply situation almost overnight because of the severe reaction by Russia and the Saudis to cover for Iran losses, which never materialized." To be sure, the sanctions have shrunk Iran's exports by about 1 million barrels per day. Few thought the Trump administration would actually achieve its stated goal of cutting its rival's shipments to zero. But the sanctions, backed by the administration's hawkish rhetoric, cut Iran's exports more quickly than many anticipated. The market also expected another big drop after the Nov. 4 deadline passed. That fear fueled a rally that sent oil prices to four-year highs.

OPEC+ Said to Weigh Bigger Production Cut-- OPEC and its allies are considering cutting oil output by more than the 1 million barrels a day Saudi Arabia proposed earlier this week as the group is increasingly worried about the potential for oversupply, people familiar with the matter said. The talks are preliminary, however, and the size of the final production cut will largely depend on the starting point the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its partners use, said one of the people, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private. In the most recent agreement, the alliance used 2016 output figures as the baseline number, but now they are discussing updating the starting point to a level closer to current production, the person said. The final decision will be taken when producers meet in Vienna in early December. OPEC’s biggest producer, Saudi Arabia, said on Monday that oil producers need to cut 1 million barrels a day, reversing a June decision to boost supply to contain a price rally. The group and its allies first agreed to limit their production starting in January 2017 to drain a global glut. If the so-called OPEC+ group agrees again to reduce output, the baseline should be a recent production level, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said when ministers met on Nov. 11 in Abu Dhabi. Depending on the final baseline for the production cuts, the reduction could be in the range of 1 million to 1.5 million barrels a day, one of the delegates said. Despite Saudi Arabia’s pledge to cut production, the decline in prices has accelerated this week. Brent crude oil fell 6.6 percent yesterday to just over $65 a barrel. At the start of October, it had reached $86 a barrel. The benchmark recovered to about $67 on Wednesday. OPEC+ will cut or adjust production as needed to balance the market, United Arab Emirates Energy Minister Suhail Al Mazrouei, also OPEC’s current president, said in a Bloomberg TV interview on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi. Oil production is above expectations and OPEC+ needs to change its strategy, he said. Yet Saudi Arabia still has work to do persuading other major producers -- notably Russia, the largest non-OPEC nation in the alliance -- to agree to curbs. “I would not want to focus purely on production cuts,” Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said in a Bloomberg television interview on Sunday. “We have to wait and see how the market is unfolding.” 

Brent crude is going back to $75 after likely OPEC supply cut, Goldman commodities chief says --The commodities chief at Goldman Sachs says the oil market sell-off is likely nearing its end and forecasts Brent crude will soon return to $75 a barrel. Oil prices have lost about a quarter of their value in just six weeks, plunging the energy complex into a bear market. Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil prices, dipped below $65 a barrel this week, tumbling from a four-year high near $87 over the last six weeks.The market has pinned the pullback on a broader stock market sell-off in October, forecasts that see oil demand growing less than originally anticipated, and rising oil supplies from major producers.But Jeff Currie, head of commodity research at Goldman Sachs, believes supply and demand is only part of the story. He says investor positioning and one trading strategy in particular are largely responsible for deepening the oil market rout in recent days. That suggests the worst losses for crude futures are likely in the rear view mirror."Our base case is we'll bounce around here," Currie told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" on Wednesday. "I like to think about it like a pinball machine, but eventually the momentum is going to be to the upside."Currie says concerns about deteriorating demand for oil are "overblown." More pressing, he says, is the surge in output from the United States and Libya, and the Trump administration's decision to allow eight countries to keep importing Iranian crude despite U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic.Those factors added about 1 million barrels per day to the market, he said, but they still does not justify a more than 20 percent pullback in oil prices.Currie believes the rapid decline over the last few days was driven by momentum trading, a strategy in which traders buy or sell assets as the price moves decisively higher or lower. That momentum selling largely accounts for U.S. crude prices falling below $60 a barrel and toward $55, according to Currie.At that point, another quirk of the market kicked in. When oil fell to about $55, it triggered selling by swap dealers, who had sold options to oil producers giving them the right to sell the commodity at that price level. Historically, this environment can last for three to four weeks, Currie says. However, rising volatility in oil markets will discourage momentum traders, who like low volatility markets that are either trending higher or lower.

Putin completely satisfied with oil price of $70 per barrel - -One should ensure the optimal oil price for consumers and producers, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a press conference in Singapore.  "One needs an optimal price for both producers and consumers. The price that we've had just recently - about $70 per barrel - is fine with us," Putin said adding that one should not restrict oil output. Putin also said that the Russian budget was calculated on the price of $40 per barrel. "This gives us an opportunity to feel confident, to work calmly and achieve very good results, which are reflected in macroeconomics," Putin said noting that this year Russia's budget will "most likely" have a surplus. With a minimum external debt of 15% of GDP and a positive trade balance of $100-120 billion, there is a "good base" to achieve higher GDP growth rates and deal with structural changes. On November 13, oil prices fell by almost seven percent - by $4.65. January futures for Brent closed at $65.47 a barrel, whereas December futures for WTI crude also fell by $4.24 to $55.69 per barrel. However, on November 14, oil prices (Brent) climbed higher than $66 per barrel. See more at

Oil Prices Mixed In Choppy Trade -  Oil prices were mixed in choppy trade Thursday amid concerns about oversupply and fears surrounding potential slowdown in the global economy. Global benchmark Brent crude rose 0.23 percent to $66.27 per barrel while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down about half a percent at $55.97 per barrel. Analysts expect slower growth in oil demand from both China and the U.S. next year, given the concerns about a possible slowdown of the global economy and associated uncertainties. In its monthly report earlier this week, OPEC revised its forecast for 2019 oil demand lower for the fourth consecutive month. The oil cartel expects oil demand to grow by 1.29 million barrels per day in 2019, down 70,000 bpd from its projection last month. At the same time, supply has been surging amid a massive increase in U.S crude oil production. Russia and Saudi Arabia are also pumping crude at record levels. With American Petroleum Institute (API) reporting a sizeable crude oil inventory build for the week ending on November 9th, traders now await the EIA's weekly report on petroleum inventories for further direction.

Wow! EIA: US Crude Oil Inventories Jumped 10.3 Million Bbls -- Even More Than API Estimate -- Now At 442.1 Million Bbls -- November 15, 2018 - Weekly petroleum report, EIA: posted. Yesterday's API report showed a whopping 9 million-bbl increase. Today, EIA validates that estimate:

  • US crude oil inventories: surged 10.3 million bbls -- most I have ever seen; this must be a record
  • US crude oil inventories: now back to 440 million bbls -- near the level at which the industry said "we" needed to re-balance a few years ago
  • US crude oil inventories: 5% above 5-year average
  • US crude oil inventories: no evidence to suggest the trend will change
  • refineries operating at 90.1% capacity; unchanged from last week; at lower end of capacity
  • distillate fuel up by a whopping 8% from same period last year
Natural gas fill rate. Link here. Small print in the graphic below:
  • natural gas inventories are 528 Bcf less than last year at this time
  • natural gas inventories are 601 Bcf less than the five-year average
  • at 3,247 Bcf, total working gas is [well] below the five-year historical range

Oil Algos Panic-Buy Despite Biggest Crude Build In 21 Months, Production Surges - After bouncing modestly following a record 12-day losing streak into a bear market, last night's API-reported surprisingly large crude build spooked WTI back down once again. Those losses have been reversed after a sudden plunge at 5amET, since then WTI is a one way street higher (above $57). “The fact that U.S. crude-oil stocks are still rising sharply shows that the oil market is already oversupplied,” Commerzbank AG analyst Eugen Weinbergwrote in a report.  DOE:

  • Crude +10.27mm (+3.2mm exp) - biggest build since Feb 2017
  • Cushing  (+2.5mm exp)
  • Gasoline -1.41mm
  • Distillates

This is the eight weekly crude build in a row (and the largest build since February 2017)... Overall, US Crude inventories have risen for 8 straight weeks, rebounding back to the 5-year average (and well above the 1980-2014 normal range)...

Upset by Trump's Iran waivers, Saudis push for deep oil output cut (Reuters) - When U.S. President Donald Trump asked Saudi Arabia this summer to raise oil production to compensate for lower crude exports from Iran, Riyadh swiftly told Washington it would do so.  But Saudi Arabia did not receive advance warning when Trump made a U-turn by offering generous waivers that are keeping more Iranian crude in the market instead of driving exports from Riyadh’s arch-rival down to zero, OPEC and industry sources say.Angered by the U.S. move that has raised worries about over supply, Saudi Arabia is now considering cutting output with OPEC and its allies by about 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) or 1.5 percent of global supply, sources told Reuters this week. “The Saudis are very angry at Trump. They don’t trust him any more and feel very strongly about a cut. They had no heads-up about the waivers,” said one senior source briefed on Saudi energy policies. Washington has said the waivers are a temporary concession to allies that imported Iranian crude and might have struggled to find other supplies quickly when U.S. sanctions were imposed on Nov. 4. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Nov. 5 that cutting Iranian exports “to zero immediately” would have shocked the market. “I don’t want to lift oil prices,” he said. A U.S. source with knowledge of the matter said: “The Saudis were going to be angry either way with the waivers, pre-briefed or even after the announcement.” A U.S. State Department official said: “We don’t discuss diplomatic communications.” The U.S. shift toward offering waivers adds to tension between the United States and Saudi Arabia, as Washington pushes for Riyadh to shed full light on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey. “The Saudis feel they were completely snookered by Trump. They did everything to raise supplies assuming Washington would push for very harsh Iranian sanctions. And they didn’t get any heads up from the U.S. that Iran will get softer sanctions,” said a second source briefed on Saudi oil thinking.

Russia wants to steer clear of any OPEC-led oil production cut: sources W (Reuters) - Russia wants to stay out of any oil-production cuts being touted by some of its partners in an OPEC-led supply pact, two high-ranking Russian sources told Reuters. Worried by a drop in oil prices due to slowing demand and record supply from Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is talking about a policy U-turn just months after increasing production. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday avoided giving a direct answer on whether production should be limited, but said he had discussed the situation in global oil markets with U.S. President Donald Trump. “We need to be very accurate here, each word matters,” Putin told reporters in Singapore. “But the fact that the cooperation (with OPEC) is needed is obvious and we will cooperate.” This week, Trump said he hoped Saudi Arabia and the rest of OPEC would not cut production. Putin said an oil price of around $70 per barrel suited Russia. A steep slide in prices has surprised many oil market participants. Brent crude has fallen from a four-year high of $86 a barrel in early October to $66 as of Thursday. Just weeks ago, some trading firms were talking of $100 oil. “I think (oil) production should not be lowered. Yes, we have done this in the past but this was not the right systematic approach,” a senior Russian government source said. “Oil production in Russia has been on the rise in recent years, by around 100,000 barrels per day each year, and it will continue to do so in future.” Earlier this week, three sources familiar with the issue said OPEC and its partners were discussing a proposal to cut oil output by 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd), although Russia may not be on board for such a large reduction. Another source familiar with Russian thinking said Moscow may support smaller cuts, most likely by other producers. “We think 1 million bpd (cuts) is more realistic, not 1.4 million bpd ... But who is going to do this is another question,” the source said. Putin said last month that Russia was able to add another 200,000–300,000 bpd to its production. Russia pumped 11.41 million bpd in October, a post-Soviet high. October’s level was proposed by Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih as the reference point for any cut. 

 Oil prices stable on expected OPEC cuts, but surging US supply drags --Oil rose on Friday on hopes that supply cuts will be agreed at OPEC's meeting on Dec. 6, but failed to recoup recent losses on oversupply concerns that have shaved more than a fifth off the Brent crude benchmark since early October.Brent was up 85 cents at $67.47 a barrel by 0929 GMT. It has been recovering for three sessions since hitting an eight-month low on Tuesday but is still on course for a weekly loss of about 4 percent.U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures rose 55 cents to $57.01 a barrel after their steepest one-day loss in more than three years on Tuesday.With WTI set for a weekly loss of about 5.3 percent, both benchmarks are poised to chalk up their sixth consecutive weekly drop."The trend is down - stick with it," PVM technical analyst Robin Bieber said.Prices were mainly supported by expectations that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would start withholding supply soon, fearing a repeat of the 2014 price rout.Some analysts said an extended rally is possible with support from U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil once current waivers expire, as well as lower Venezuelan production and uncertainly over Libyan output."We are likely from December onwards to have at least 1 million barrels a day less of crude exports," Harry Tchilinguirian, global head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas, told the Reuters Global Oil Forum.Tchilinguirian said he would not be surprised if Brent hit $80 a barrel this year.OPEC's de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, wants the cartel to cut output by about 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd), around 1.5 percent of global supply, sources told Reuters this week.The Saudis would ideally have Russia participate but Russia has yet to commit to any renewed joint action.

Oil Rebounds On Hopes Of OPEC+ Action - Oil prices posted some gains on Thursday and in early trading on Friday, rising on the hope that OPEC+ might agree to a production cut in early December.  The IEA said in its latest Oil Market Report that the OPEC+ coalition had largely succeeded in heading off the tightening oil market. Major oil producers within OPEC+ may not be that pleased with the price decline, but the IEA welcomed the surge in supply. “Rising stocks should be welcomed as a form of insurance, rather than a threat,” the agency said Wednesday.  Reuters reports that Saudi officials were reportedly caught off guard by the degree to which the Trump administration offered waivers on Iran sanctions. The waivers to eight countries will largely allow Iran to continue exporting oil and it effectively caps the potential outages from Iran in the short run. Those waivers are widely cited as one of the most important drivers in the recent oil price meltdown, something that Riyadh is not happy about. Saudi Arabia ramped up supply on the understanding that Iran’s exports would be going offline. Saudi sources told Reuters that the Saudi government feels betrayed by the Trump administration and that they are more determined than ever to engineer a production cut in order to put a floor beneath prices. Riyadh already announced that it would cut exports by 500,000 bpd in December. A senior Russian official told Reuters that Russia was not keen on reducing output, despite reports that OPEC+ is considering such an option. “I think (oil) production should not be lowered. Yes, we have done this in the past but this was not the right systematic approach,” a senior Russian government source said. Russian President Vladimir Putin was more careful and non-committal in recent comments, saying only that Russia will continue to cooperate with OPEC.  The Trump administration deserves a lot of blame for the recent plunge in oil prices, according to Citibank. The waivers on Iran sanctions, U.S. shale growth, Trump’s tweets about OPEC, and the trade war with China have all contributed to a declining oil price. “The oversupply in the market is a made-in-America phenomenon,” Citi’s Ed Morse told Bloomberg. “It’s the unexpected consequences of American policy and the unintended impact of technological changes that made this historically unprecedented arena for production growth blossom.”

Rig Count Inches Higher Despite Oil Price Slide -- Baker Hughes reported a 1-rig increase for oil and gas in the United States this week—a far more tempered figure after last week’s 14-rig increase. The total number of active oil and gas drilling rigs to 1,082 according to the report, with the number of active oil rigs increasing by 2 to reach 888 and the number of gas rigs falling by 1 to reach 194. The oil and gas rig count is now 167 up from this time last year. Crude oil prices picked up earlier in the trading day as data showed that Saudi Arabia has been slashing oil exports to the United States in an effort to lessen transparent stockpiles here in the States. The WTI benchmark was trading up 1.09% (+0.62) at $57.30 at 11:39 am EST, with Brent trading up 1.10% (+0.73) at $67.35. Both benchmarks are dollars below this time last week Earlier in the week, oil prices saw the largest daily loss in year, but the fall was arrested by OPEC’s talks about even more production cuts on the horizon—possibly a cut of 1 million bpd—although nothing official has been announced. Canada’s oil and gas rigs for the week increased by 1 rigs this week after losing 2 rigs last week, bringing its total oil and gas rig count to 197, which is 11 fewer rigs than this time last year, with a 1-rig increase for oil rigs, and no change to the number of gas rigs. The EIA’s estimates for US production for the week ending November 9 were for an average of 11.7 million bpd­—a brand new record high that has contributed in part to the lower prices. By 1:08pm EDT, WTI was trading up 0.51% (+$0.29) at $56.97. Brent crude was trading up 0.62% (+$0.41) at $67.03 per barrel, still down week on week.

Oil Poised for Sixth Weekly Loss-- Oil is poised for a sixth weekly loss, trading near $57 a barrel as lingering concerns over a supply glut continue to weigh on the market. Futures in New York rose 1.1 percent on Friday, trimming the weekly drop to 5.2 percent. Government data on Thursday showed American crude inventories rose the most in 21 months last week as output hit a record high. With the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries seeing declining demand for its oil, the group and its allies are said to be considering bigger-than-expected cuts despite criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump. Oil is in a bear market after plunging from a four-year high in October on concerns over a glut, following surprise American waivers allowing some Iranian oil flows to continue even after its sanctions against the Islamic Republic took effect. Meanwhile, the outlook for demand remains uncertain due to ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China. And speculation is swirling over the output strategy of OPEC and its allies including Russia before they meet in Vienna in early December. “It remains to be seen whether oil markets have bottomed out with a price slump coming to a pause” with various reports pointing to a loosening supply and demand balance, Jun Inoue, a senior economist at Mizuho Research Institute Ltd., said by phone from Tokyo. “The prospect of OPEC and allies cutting production and maintaining it for a certain period of time could increase as their December meeting approaches, supporting prices.” West Texas Intermediate for December delivery traded 61 cents higher at $57.07 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 4:53 p.m. in Tokyo. The contract advanced 21 cents to $56.46 on Thursday. Total volume traded was about 9 percent below the 100-day average. Brent for January settlement rose $1 to $67.62 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The contract has dropped 3.5 percent this week. The global benchmark crude traded at a $10.18 premium to WTI for the same month. The dollar staying near an 18-month high has also reduced the appeal of commodities priced in the U.S. currency.

Oil prices suffer sixth weekly loss in a row --Futures prices for U.S. oil settled flat on Friday as global crude gained, but both benchmarks suffered sizable losses for a sixth week in a row. Talk of production cuts among major oil producers provided some support to prices, but a supply build, including in the latest U.S. data out Thursday, has pushed the market down for the week. Evidence of weakening global economic growth and the decision by the Trump administration to grant waivers to major buyers of Iranian crude following the enactment of sanctions added further pressure. Sanctions had been expected to keep most Iranian oil off the market. December West Texas Intermediate crude settled unchanged at $56.46 a barrel, down from a high near $58. Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Price Futures Group, said the resumption of oil exports Friday from the Kirkuk region in Iraq was behind a brief turn lower for oil prices. Exports from the region had been halted since federal forces retook control of it more than a year ago, according to the Financial Times. Prices for the U.S. benchmark were down 6.2% for the week. A late-week recovery for WTI allowed the benchmark to halt what had been a record 12-session streak of declines, which took it on Tuesday down to $55.69 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was the lowest closing price for a front-month contract since Nov. 16, 2017, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The December contract expires at Monday’s settlement. Global benchmark January Brent added 14 cents, or 0.2%, to $66.76 a barrel on Friday. Its close at $65.47 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, also on Tuesday, meant it officially joined its U.S. counterpart in a bear market, defined as at least a 20% pullback from a recent high. The contract saw a roughly 4.9% retreat from where it finished last Friday. Supply concerns continue to drive trading. On Thursday, the Energy Information Administration reported that domestic-crude supplies rose for an eighth straight week—up 10.3 million barrels for the period ended Nov. 9. Crude stocks at Cushing, Okla., the delivery hub for Nymex oil futures, saw another large build last week, while U.S. production rose to another record, analysts noted. “Price reaction to the U.S. inventory data shows that negative news is now largely priced in ...this was the eighth consecutive weekly rise in U.S. crude oil stocks, during which time stocks soared by a total of 48 million barrels. This highlights the need for OPEC to cut production,”

NATO Commits Long-Term to Military Training Mission In Iraq - NATO has committed to a long-term military training effort in Iraq, where the Iraqi Security Forces are still struggling against pockets of ISIS fighters in several areas despite declaring victory over the terror group nearly a year ago, a British officer with the U.S.-led coalition said Tuesday. Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika, deputy commander for strategy for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, also announced that the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces had renewed a stalled offensive in northeastern Syria against an estimated 1,500-2,000 fighters of the Islamic State in and around the town of al-Tanf. In a video briefing from Baghdad to reporters at the Pentagon, Ghika said the new, open-ended NATO training mission in Iraq would begin early next year and would essentially involve teacher-on-teacher instruction. "It's going to focus its efforts on the institutional education establishments, such as the National Defense University, the Staff College, the institutional structure of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense," Ghika said. In addition, the NATO instructors will be involved with some of the schools "which are building military capability in areas such as engineering, such as infantry fighting and things like that," Ghika said. The NATO instructors "will focus themselves on teaching the Iraqis, who will be instructing in those schools, rather than actually instructing in some of the combat skills," he said. He declined to say which NATO countries would be participating or how many personnel they would contribute. Last December, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared "final victory" over ISIS, but Ghika described recent fighting in widely separated areas of the country. Ghika said the Iraqi Security Forces were now conducting Operation Last Warning, which he said was "a series of coordinated military efforts" that began in the Anbar region, targeting small pockets of ISIS fighters, and has broadened to include the whole country. 

Saudis Close to Crown Prince Discussed Assassinations Before Khashoggi Killing - NYT - — Top Saudi intelligence officials close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman asked a small group of businessmen last year about using private companies to assassinate Iranian enemies of the kingdom, according to three people familiar with the discussions. The Saudis inquired at a time when Prince Mohammed, then the deputy crown prince and defense minister, was consolidating power and directing his advisers to escalate military and intelligence operations outside the kingdom. Their discussions, more than a year before the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, indicate that top Saudi officials have considered assassinations since the beginning of Prince Mohammed’s ascent. Saudi officials have portrayed Mr. Khashoggi’s death as a rogue killing ordered by an official who has since been fired. But that official, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, was present for a meeting in March 2017 in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, where the businessmen pitched a $2 billion plan to use private intelligence operatives to try to sabotage the Iranian economy.The interest in assassinations, covert operations and military campaigns like the war in Yemen — overseen by Prince Mohammed — is a change for the kingdom, which historically has avoided an adventurous foreign policy that could create instability and imperil Saudi Arabia’s comfortable position as one of the world’s largest oil suppliers.

New Images Of Alleged “Torture Kit” Used On Saudi Journalist NBC (video).

Saudi Arabia Seeks Death Penalty for Five Khashoggi Murder Suspects - Saudi public prosecution says five out of 21 defendants have been found guilty of killing Khashoggi – but that Mohammed bin Salman wasn’t involved.— Saudi Arabia is seeking the death penalty for five people convicted of killing prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi media reported on Thursday. According to a press statement read by the deputy Saudi public prosecutor and spokesman Shaalan al-Shaalan, 11 defendants in the Khashoggi trial have been convicted in relation to the murder, which took place on 2 October at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.   Saudi authorities had said that 21 suspects were detained as part of the murder investigations. But the public prosecution said in its Thursday statement that only 11 of them had been indicted thus far, five of whom were charged with “ordering and committing the crime”.The prosecution made no direct mention of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – commonly referred to as MBS – who, despite Saudi denials, is widely believed to have had knowledge of the plan to kill Khashoggi.The Saudi version of events does not explain the presence of a forensic doctor specialised in speedy autopsies and equipped with a bone saw at the consulate.The statement added that the sacked deputy chief of Saudi intelligence, Ahmed al-Assiri, had formed a team to repatriate Khashoggi to his home country, and that a former royal adviser had taken part in preparing the operation.“The leader of the mission to repatriate Khashoggi decided to kill him when he failed to convince him to return,” Shaalan said. In response to Saudi findings, Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said that Ankara is “not satisfied” and that it still believes the murder was pre-planned. He reiterated Turkey’s call for an international investigation.

French remarks on Khashoggi affair prompt Turkish anger (Reuters) - Turkey reacted with fury on Monday after French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said President Tayyip Erdogan was playing a political game over sharing intelligence about the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Le Drian had questioned remarks by Erdogan at the weekend in which he said Turkey gave tapes relating to Khashoggi's killing to the United States, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France and Britain. Le Drian said he was not aware that France had any tapes. Asked if Erdogan was lying, he said: "He has a political game to play in these circumstances". That prompted a furious response from Ankara, which insisted it had shared evidence with Paris and said Le Drian's comments were unacceptable. "Our intelligence shared information with them on Oct 24, including the voice recordings," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. "It is very impudent for them to accuse our president of playing political games." "What's behind the remarks of the French foreign minister? I wonder if they are trying to cover up the murder," he added. The furious Turkish remarks towards France were the most direct public expression yet of a concern in Ankara that Western countries with close commercial relations with Riyadh might soft-pedal their response to the Khashoggi killing. Seeking to clarify Le Drian's comments, a senior French diplomat later said the minister never commented on intelligence shared between countries and that he was neither confirming or denying French officials having listened to recordings. "What counts for us is to establish the complete truth ... whatever one may think of the recordings the entire truth can't be based on the Turkish recordings. We are still waiting for elements from the Saudis," the diplomat said. The dispute between Ankara and Paris may hinge on Erdogan's account that Turkey "gave" recordings to the other countries. Turkish officials said instead that France had been allowed to hear a recording, and blamed France for the misunderstanding. "If there is miscommunication between the French government’s various agencies, it is up to the French authorities – not Turkey — to take care of that problem," Erdogan's communications director Fahrettin Altun said.

Turkey's Sea Bandit Threats Are Indirectly Aimed Against The US - Turkish President Erdogan warned against so-called “sea bandits”. He was speaking in regards to the controversial issue of energy exploration in disputed Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean territories along his country’s maritime borders with Greece and Cyprus, the latter of which is comprised of a northeastern third that declared itself the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” and is only recognized by Ankara.  The Turkish leader threatened that his country “will not allow bandits in the seas to roam free just like we made the terrorists in Syria pay”, which strongly implies its intentions to militarily defend it and its ally’s interests against the much weaker forces of Greece and Cyprus, despite the first-mentioned being a “fellow” member of NATO. It’s more than likely bluster at this point, but his eyebrow-raising rhetoric draws attention to some very important trends. The first is that maritime tensions along Turkey’s western and southern peripheries have been heating up, partially due to Israel’s prospective plans to build an “EastMed” gas pipeline connecting the self-proclaimed “Jewish State” with Italy via Cyprus and Greece. Not only could drilling take place off of the divided island, but its internationally recognized government could also receive a windfall of revenue by facilitating this pipeline’s transit across its maritime territory, funds that might be withheld from the northeastern region pending an official resolution of the conflict on Nicosia’s terms. The second trend that President Erdogan’s polemics seem to address is the increasing sense that his country is being “contained” along its maritime and mainland borders, the first of which was just touched upon while the second deals with the Syrian Kurds and Armenia. It’s well known that Ankara regards the PYG-YPG as terrorists and has militarily intervened against them twice in Syria, while there’s a looming unease that the new pro-Western Color Revolutionary government of Nikol Pashinyan in Armenia might move uncomfortably closer to the US in the coming future.

Saudi Journalist Tortured To Death After Online Identity Exposed By Regional Twitter HQ - Another Saudi journalist was reported tortured and killed at the hands of Saudi authorities last week, but this time the Saudis may have actually had assistance from Twitter in uncovering the identity behind a controversial account which led to the detention of the journalist. Arabic news source The New Khaleej was the first to report that Saudi journalist and writer Turki Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Jasser died after being tortured while in detention after his initial arrest last March. According to the report his arrest came after it was learned that he administered the Twitter account Kashkool which was known for highlighting human rights violations and crimes committed by the royal family and government officials. The Twitter account is still online after it stopped tweeting to its 183,000 followers early lost March prior to that it appeared to tweet frequently in Arabic and sometimes in English. The New Khalieej report was the first to reveal that authorities identified Al-Jasser's online identity using informants in Twitter’s regional office located in Dubai. And following up on the story, the UK's highest circulation newspaper Metro late last week published an explosive report that quickly went viral as it cited sources confirming leaked information out of Twitter's offices in the region led to the arrest of the dissident journalist.  According to the Metro report: "They got his information from the Twitter office in Dubai. That is how he was arrested,"

Yemen – Holding Hodeidah Is The Houthi’s Last Chance - The UAE and its mercenaries have renewed a large attack on Hodeidah. Should they capture it they will control all supplies to the Houthi areas. The Saudis and the UAE seem to use the 30 days Trump has given them for maximum gain.  The city and its port are the only way left to provide food to some 20 million people living in the capital Sanaa and the northern highlands. Should Hodeidah fall, the Houthi and their allies will have to submit to the Saudis or see their people die of starvation. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), which works in Hodeidah, notes: There is now only one viable overland route from Hodeidah city to Sana'a, and a very high risk that further aerial or land attacks on roads or bridges could sever access roads between the cities entirely, cutting the last remaining supply route for food, fuel and medicine to many of the estimated 20 million Yemenis who depend on imports through Hodeidah to meet their basic needs. Currently the Houthi try the same tactic that broke earlier UAE attempts to conquer Hodeidah (upper left). They cut the long UAE supply line coming from the south along the western coast over which the attacking force (red) is provided with food, fuel and ammunition. If the latest news is correct they achieved that in two places. bigger It is relatively easy to interrupt the logistic line for a few hours. It is far more difficult to hold the blocking positions. The landscape along the coast is flat and the UAE proxy forces have tanks, artillery and air support, all of which the Houthi lack. They are mountain infantry fighters and have no means to defend themselves on flat land. They will have to resort to constant surprise attacks in different locations along the supply line to keep the UAE forces off balance. They are somewhat successful (pics) with that. It is not known if they have the manpower and ammunition reserves to maintain such attacks for long.

UAE backs ‘early’ UN peace talks to end Yemen conflict The United Arab Emirates on Wednesday backed the "early convening" of planned United Nations peace talks about the conflict in Yemen. Anwar Gargash, UAE's foreign minister, wrote on Twitter that "we welcome early convening of UN-led talks in Sweden." "At UNSC meeting on Friday, Coalition will urge all parties to take advantage of window of opportunity to restart political process. We look forward to hosting [UN special envoy] Martin Griffiths this week in Abu Dhabi." The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, is leading the Arab-coalition of troops in the war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. The UN said it planned to reconvene peace talks in Sweden by the end of the year. The last attempt in Geneva collapsed when the Houthi delegation failed to arrive. The United States has assisted the coalition forces, but recently announced plans to end in-air refueling of their planes, which had been the most concrete form of support for the war.

Saudi Crown Prince “Tried to Persuade Netanyahu to Go to War in Gaza”: Report -- War was among scenarios suggested by damage-limitation task force established to advise Saudi crown prince in aftermath of Khashoggi killing. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attempted to persuade Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to start a conflict with Hamas in Gaza as part of a plan to divert attention from the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, sources inside Saudi Arabia have told Middle East Eye. A war in Gaza was among a range of measures and scenarios proposed by an emergency task force set up to counter increasingly damaging leaks about Khashoggi’s murder coming from Turkish authorities, according to sources with knowledge of the group’s activities. The task force, which is composed of officials from the royal court, the foreign and defence ministries, and the intelligence service, briefs the the crown prince every six hours, MEE was told. It advised bin Salman that a war in Gaza would distract Trump’s attention and refocus Washington’s attention on the role Saudi Arabia plays in bolstering Israeli strategic interests.It also advised bin Salman to “neutralise Turkey by all means” – including attempts to bribe Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with offers to buy Turkish arms and statements by the crown prince attempting to shore up relations between Riyadh and Ankara.  In comments made at last month’s Future Investment Initiative, bin Salman claimed Khashoggi’s murder was being used to drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and Turkey. He said that would not happen “as long as there is a king called King Salman bin Abdelaziz and a crown prince called Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia”.Khashoggi was brutally killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, in an operation which Turkish authorities believe was carried out by a hit squad whose suspected members contained several members of bin Salman’s personal bodyguards. Saudi officials have denied that the crown prince has “any knowledge whatsoever” of Khashoggi’s killing. Some of the task force’s other recommendations were leaked to a close confidant of bin Salman, Turki Aldakhil, the general manager of the Al Arabiya news channel. He revealed “more than 30 potential measures” that Riyadh could take if Washington imposed sanctions. He said the kingdom was capable or doubling or tripling the price of oil, of offering Russia a military base in the north of the country, and of turning to both Russia and China as its main arms suppliers. Two weeks after the murder, Saudis government sources also noted an abrupt change of tone in Netanyahu’s remarks about Hamas during negotiations with Qatar aimed at easing the blockade on the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu told his cabinet meeting on 14 October: “We are very close to a different kind of activity, an activity that will include very powerful blows. If it has sense, Hamas will stop firing and stop these violent disturbances, now.”

Israel Conducts Daring Special Forces Raid Deep Into Gaza, Kills Top Commander - Major Israeli operations occurred in the Gaza Strip in the night hours of Sunday during which Palestinian medical sources say at least 6 people have been killed in what was a daring Israeli elite forces raid that breached about 3 kilometers into Palestinian territory.Palestinian officials confirmed an Israeli special forces raid on a group of Hamas commanders in the city of Khan Younis, which the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) say killed suspected Hamas terrorists, including a senior commander in its military wing. Israeli media sources uploaded a military video of the brazen raid into Gaza:תיעוד התקיפות בעזה-   Hamas sources say the group returned fire upon Israeli soldiers, resulting in unconfirmed reports circulating that one IDF soldier was either nabbed or killed.  Responding to the early reports, the IDF denied that one of its soldiers had either been killed or captured. Hamas meanwhile acknowledged that a top Qassam Brigades commander, Nour Baraka, was killed by Israeli special forces who entered the area by driving what it described as a “civilian vehicle”. Gaza's Interior Ministry reported at least one other Hamas commander killed in the shootout which began when the Israeli commandos ambushed the Hamas location in a drive-by shooting.  The Israeli military confirmed that “an exchange of fire broke out during security activities by the IDF in the Gaza Strip region,” but did not elaborate further. Israeli warplanes and drones began striking the Gaza during the raid.

The Short War With Gaza Exposed Israel’s Weakness - Last week a ceasefire was agreed upon between Palestinian factions in Gaza and Israel:The aim of the change, in a plan mediated by Egypt and with money supplied by Qatar, is to provide much-needed relief for Gaza, restore calm on the Israeli side of the border and avert another war.On Sunday night Israeli special forces broke the ceasefire by invading Gaza under disguise. Such incursions happen quite often but are usually left unreported. The invaders wore civilian clothing and some were cloaked as women. Their cars arrived at the house of a local Qassam commander but suspicious guards held them up. A firefight ensued in which 7 Palestinians and 1 Israeli officer were killed. It is not clear what the intent of the Israeli raid was. A car left behind held what appeared to be surveillance equipment. The intruders fled back to Israel.It is likely that rivalry within the Israeli government was behind this provocation:[T]he perception that Israel, by allowing the fuel and cash shipments into Gaza, was paying off Hamas set off acrimonious wrangling between two rival right-wing members of Israel’s security cabinet. Earlier Sunday, Education Minister Naftali Bennett called the cash infusion “protection money.” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused Mr. Bennett of having supported such payments and of having opposed in recent weeks the more aggressive military reprisals against Hamas that Mr. Lieberman favored. ..By night’s end Mr. Netanyahu had cut short his trip [to Paris] and was flying back to Israel in response to the Gaza hostilities. Did Lieberman order the incursion to undercut Netanyahoo ceasefire and his rival Bennet?

Celebrities Raised $60 Million for the Israeli Military Before It Bombed Gaza — Just two weeks before Israel pounded Gaza with bombs last night, over 1,200 celebrities came together to raise a record-breaking $60 million to support the Israeli Defense Forces and Israel’s occupation of Palestine at a gala called Friends of Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF).The Israeli jets bombing the Gaza Strip targeted the Al-Aqsa TV headquarters and killed at least five Palestinians.At least 214 Palestinians have been killed and over 18,000 wounded since beginning the Great Return March on the 30th of March this year, coinciding with the Trump administration’s decision to move Washington’s embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy Palestinian city of Jerusalem Al-Quds.Despite their support for seemingly progressive politics at home, these celebrities apparently see no contradiction in supporting the U.S.-backed Israeli occupation of Palestine and blockade of Gaza — the world’s largest open-air prison, which Israel has bombed to rubble.Ninety percent of Gaza’s main water supply is unfit for consumption (including agricultural use) due to contamination from sewage. Meanwhile, children must pass through military checkpoints and risk death to attend school each day. Here are some of the most prominent celebrities who attended the gala last weekend to support the Israeli occupation and its ongoing assault on the Palestinian people.

Noam Chomsky Warns of the Rise of ‘Judeo-Nazi Tendencies’ in Israel  — Prominent Jewish intellectual Noam Chomsky has raised concerns over what he believes is the rise of “Judeo-Nazi tendencies” in Israel. Speaking to i24NEWS last week, the renowned political dissident, linguist and scholar repeated warnings given by Yeshayahu Leibowitz, an Israeli public intellectual, biochemist and polymath, concerning the dehumanising effect of Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine on the victims and the oppressors.

The Twisted Logic of the Jewish ‘Historic Right’ to Israel - Haaretz. I enjoy the vacillations of Chaim Gans, even if I don’t always understand them.  In the article, “From rabid Zionism to egalitarian Zionism” (November 9), Gans writes, “because, according to [Sand], there is purportedly no genetic continuity between ancient and modern Jewry, it follows that the Jewish nationhood engendered by Zionism is a total fabrication, a nationhood created out of thin air.”  If my assumption that Gans has perused my books is correct, he appears to have read them both too quickly and at a diagonal. Since the publication of my first book "The invention of the Jewish people" a decade ago, I have made a point of emphasizing that it’s not only Jews who don’t possess a common DNA – neither do all other human groups that claim to be peoples or nations – besides which I have never thought that genetics can confer national rights. For example, the French are not the direct descendants of the Gauls, just as the Germans are not the offspring of the Teutons or of the ancient Aryans, even if until a little more than half a century ago many idiots believed just that. One trait that all peoples have in common is that they are retroactive inventions with no distinctive genetic "traits." The acute problem that genuinely disturbs me is that I live in a singular political and pedagogical culture that continues persistently to see the Jews as the direct descendants of the ancient Hebrews.  The founding myth of Zionism – which proceeds in an unbroken line from Max Nordau and Arthur Ruppin, to worrisome geneticists in several Israeli universities and at Yeshiva University in New York – acts as the principal ideological glue for the nation’s everlasting unity, and today more than ever. The justification for Zionist settlement/colonization (choose your preferred term – they mean the same thing) is the meta-paradigm that is expressed in the declaration of the establishment of the state, namely: “We were here, we were uprooted, we came back.”   Even when I believed, mistakenly, that the “Jewish people” was exiled by the Romans in 70 C.E. or 132 C.E., I didn’t think that this conferred on the Jews some sort of imagined “historic right” to the Holy Land. If we seek to organize the world as it was 2,000 years ago, we will turn it into one big madhouse. Why not bring Native Americans back to Manhattan, for example, or restore the Arabs to Spain and the Serbs to Kosovo? Of course, such twisted logic of “historic right” will also commit us to supporting the continued settlement/colonization of Hebron, Jericho and Bethlehem.

11 Wars In Iraq, Afghanistan, And Pakistan Killed 500,000 People- Brown University Study - A shocking new study produced by Brown University finds that between 480,000 and 507,000 people were killed during America’s Post-9/11 Wars. The study examined the three "war on terror" conflicts of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan the latter an extension of the Afghan war and focus of US drone attacks. The half million figure accounts for both combatant and civilian deaths from direct fighting and war violence, however the number could be much higher as the study didn't account for the perhaps far higher number of civilians killed through infrastructure damage, such as hospitals or water supplies becoming inoperable, or other indirect results of the wars. Tragically, civilians make up over 50% of the roughly 500,000 killed, and the study estimates further that both US-backed foreign forces and opposition militants each sustained over 100,000 deaths.  In terms of American forces, the report finds that over 60,000 US troops were either killed or wounded within the three post 9/11 conflicts. This includes 6,951 US military personnel killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since US invasions of those countries in 2001 and 2003.  Concerning the now seventeen year long "forgotten war" in Afghanistan, the study concluded, according to VOA: Fatalities in Afghanistan, as of October 2018, stood at about 147,000 people, including Afghan security forces, civilians and opposition fighters. The figure also included the deaths of 6,334 American soldiers and contractors, as well as more than 1,100 allied troops.Notably the Brown study explicitly calls out the US government's attempts to "paint a rosy picture" of the wars which has shielded the true scope of American and foreign civilian casualties from the American public.

Displaced victims of worst Afghan drought in years fear harsh winter (Reuters) - For all the billions of dollars spent since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, Afghanistan remains a desperately poor country, lacking basic infrastructure, including electricity and paved roads across most of its territory. Struggling after decades of war, Afghanistan is now facing an acute food shortage in many regions, with 2.6 million people enduring emergency-level food insecurity, one stage short of outright famine, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. With his crops failing and his animals dying of thirst, Mahiuddin left Kolari village, in an area under Taliban control, for the more stable province of Herat, joining some 223,000 people displaced in western Afghanistan. The exodus underlines the deep environmental problems facing Afghanistan, much of which consists of dry, rugged and inhospitable terrain subject at various times to both drought and deadly flash floods made worse by deforestation. International aid groups say that without urgent help, 10.6 million people, more than a quarter of Afghanistan’s population, could be “food insecure” by next year, with 2.9 million facing emergency-level insecurity. With much of Afghanistan’s agricultural land degraded, and many areas lawless after years of war, food insecurity has added to the suffering without generating the same headlines as the fighting. “The tent is so cold and I have two small children,” said Abdul Wakil from the northern province of Faryab, who arrived four months ago at a camp outside Herat. “I turn to one side to warm up and then turn to warm the other.” Already the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported the first deaths among displaced children because of the cold in Herat and Badghis. Officials say relief efforts have been hampered by a lack of coordination between central and local government and aid organisations, with displaced people spread out over 10 main camps and dozens of smaller settlements around Herat. “Our food stocks are empty and we have asked the central government to provide us assistance. Once we receive help from central government, we will distribute food to displaced people,” he said. 

Iran could be the key to cementing India and Japan ties - US President Donald Trump has elevated India and Japan to the top of his list of strategic partners in the Indo-Pacific region. At the same time, US efforts to isolate and redirect Iran away from its nuclear weapons programs resulted in another round of sanctions being implemented in early November. Iranian sanctions complicate matters for New Delhi and Tokyo in their relationship with Washington, as neither shares the intense US dislike for Tehran. x Iran will continue to ship oil in lesser amounts to eight nations including India, China, Japan and Turkey after 180-day waivers were approved by the US in early November. Both Japan and India want to ensure their access to Iranian oil and LNG supplies. Japan now obtains 5% of its imported oil from Iran, while India is second only to China as a purchaser of Iranian oil. With Japan and India seeking to retain ties with Iran, the US faces challenges as it attempts to seal off Iran economically and politically from the rest of the world. Creating an effective alliance with its Indo-Pacific partners such as Japan and India would be much easier if their interests converged, a very rare phenomenon. A key case may be Chabahar Port on the southern coast of Iran, which India is spending up to $500 million to develop. Chabahar is the most reliable way to connect India to Afghanistan after Pakistan sealed India off from all the direct East-West overland routes years ago. India has already started to build the related railroad and highway infrastructure. And India is bearing the cost not only financially, but also in lives lost – dozens of Indian workers were killed by the Taliban in the initial phases of the project. “Beyond oil, Iran and Chabahar are important to India because they allow India access to Afghanistan and Central Asia to circumvent Pakistan,” said James Dorsey, a senior fellow focusing on the Middle East and North Africa at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore. “That access is important to India in and of itself as well as in terms of India’s response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.”

China wants a new world order. At the U.N., NGOs secretly paid cash to promote Beijing’s vision. -- When Patrick Ho was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Nov. 18, 2017, the former Hong Kong government official asked Biden for a lawyer. Ho was going to need a good one. The U.S. Department of Justice was planning to indict him for using his connections at the United Nations to bribe a U.N. General Assembly president along with several African government officials.  The arrest attracted media attention because of Ho’s link to a powerful Chinese energy conglomerate, CEFC China Energy. Ho ran the energy company’s think tank, China Energy Fund Committee, an NGO affiliated with the U.N. that had offices in New York, Virginia and Hong Kong.The former Hong Kong official was indicted on a number of foreign bribery and money-laundering charges, but the investigation surrounding Ho, his nonprofit and its parent company, and the United Nations wasn’t about just corruption. A flurry of recent court filings reveal that the government collected at least some of Ho’s communications under a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a secret order used to monitor suspected foreign agents. And records related to the case — including documents submitted by Ho’s own attorney — now connect Ho’s alleged payments to promotion of a major Beijing foreign policy push called the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature venture advancing investment and infrastructure projects around the world. Belt and Road isn’t about only inking business deals; it offers a sweeping vision of a China-centric political and economic global order, one in which countries depend on China, not the West, for prosperity. China’s influence operations have been getting high-level attention in the Trump administration, particularly as it attempts to fend off allegations of collusion with Russia. In September, speaking at the United Nations, President Trump himself accused China of meddling in U.S. affairs, and in a high-profile speech on China the following month, Vice President Mike Pence asserted that the United States believes Beijing is seeking to “interfere in the domestic policies of this country” as part a wide-scale influence operation.

In China, Desperate Patients Smuggle Drugs. Or Make Their Own. NYT. Mr. Zhang has no medical experience and no background in making drugs professionally. He did this out of desperation. His mother suffered from lung cancer and required expensive drugs that China’s ambitious but troubled health care system couldn’t provide. He was aware of the risks. The drug he was making hadn’t been approved by regulators in China or the United States. Mr. Zhang had bought the raw ingredients online, but he wasn’t sure from whom, or whether they were even real. It’s a desperation born out of necessity. China’s aging population is increasingly stricken with deadly diseases like cancer and diabetes, but many can’t find or afford drugs. The country’s rudimentary insurance system doesn’t begin to cover the ever-rising prices of treatments and drugs. Coverage also depends on where somebody lives, and some rural residents still lack access to certain drugs. Despite a costly new safety net from the government, illness remains the leading reason Chinese families fall below the poverty line, according to official figures. Many of China’s problems are self-inflicted. Major bureaucratic hurdles keep lifesaving drugs out of the reach of millions who need them. Drug approvals, while accelerating, remain dauntingly backlogged. Until October last year, pharmaceuticals approved in the United States and Europe had to go through an extensive vetting process in China. Even now, foreign-made drugs have to clear another hurdle before insurance companies will pay for them.

 Underperforming Chinese workers made to drink urine, eat bugs (Reuters) - Workers at a Chinese home renovation company who failed to complete their tasks had to drink urine, eat cockroaches or get whipped by a belt. Others had to shave their heads or drink water from a toilet bowl and had their salaries withheld by a month, according to images and videos on Chinese social media cited by state media. The punishments were all publicly meted out in the presence of other staff, state media said, citing workers who had quit the company in the southwestern province of Guizhou. Forgetful staff who did not wear leather shoes to work or failed to turn up in formal attire were given 50 yuan ($7.20) fines. Their misdemeanors were duly recorded in little white slips. But most staff chose to stay despite the punishments, which started this year, state media said. Three managers at the company were jailed from five to 10 days on the charge of humiliating others, according to a social media post by the local public security bureau. Labor conditions in China have often been described by activists as harsh and unforgiving, with workers having to work excessive hours and live in cramped quarters on meager wages. At the Guizhou company, many of the punished showed little outward sign of unhappiness, according to state media, choosing instead to accept their fate. 

US tells China to remove missile systems in South China Sea - China has been warned by the United States to dismantle its missile systems shield deployed in the disputed Spratly Islands chain in the South China Sea. The move, believed to be the first time Washington has directly addressed the issue, came in a statement following high-level talks at last week’s second annual US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue. Trade war tensions were expected to dominate the meetings in Washington. But it was the military buildup in the South China Sea which was brought into sharp focus during discussions between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and their opposite numbers, Beijing’s leading diplomat Yang Jiechi and Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe. “The United States called on China to withdraw its missile systems from disputed features in the Spratly Islands, and reaffirmed that all countries should avoid addressing disputes through coercion or intimidation,” the US statement said. Concerns have been growing among Southeast Asian nations and Washington that China was slowly establishing an air defense zone around previously uninhabited islands, reefs and atolls in one of the world’s most important sea lanes.

Malaysia’s bold play against China - WaPo - — In the coming days, as world leaders travel to Singapore for the annual Southeast Asian summit, China will likely have a rather unpleasant development on its mind: increasing pushback across Southeast Asia of its growing economic influence, led by none other than Malaysia, a traditionally China-friendly nation. When Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad made a surprise return to power earlier this year at the age of 92, it precipitated a qualitative shift in Sino-Malaysian relations as he pushed for more transparent and equitable economic deals with Beijing. As Mahathir said at the time, he views China’s leadership as “inclined towards totalitarianism” and unashamed to “flex [its] muscles” in order to “increase [its] influence over many countries in Southeast Asia.” He characterized the new assertiveness in China’s behavior as “very worrisome,” particularly for smaller neighbors such as Malaysia. And he lashed out at China’s major infrastructure deals, even warning against its “new colonialism” during an August trip to Beijing. Up to $40 billion in Chinese infrastructure deals are now up in the air, having been suspended, cancelled or considered for cancellation. These include the $20 billion East Coast Rail Link project by China Communications Construction Company; the $10 billion Melaka Gateway project co-developed with PowerChina International and the $2.5 billion natural gas pipeline project led by a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation. Mahathir has also imposed new restrictions on large-scale Chinese real estate investments such as the $100 billion Forest City, which was almost exclusively marketed to mainland buyers. For the new Malaysian government, any major investment should be inclusive and transparent. As Liew Chin Tong, Malaysia’s deputy defense minister, told The WorldPost, his country welcomes Chinese investments — so long as they create quality jobs for locals. “If investment into [a country] doesn’t bring jobs, you will eventually see a domestic political problem,” he said. As Mahathir actively seeks to counter China’s influence, he is turning his country into the region’s new face of resistance against the Middle Kingdom. And where Malaysia goes, the region will likely follow.

Imelda Marcos convicted on seven counts of graft in the Philippines - On Friday November 9, a Philippine court found the 89-year-old Imelda Marcos guilty of seven counts of graft stemming from the 1970s when she held power as first lady and joint dictator of the country alongside her husband Ferdinand Marcos. The case against Imelda Marcos was filed at the beginning of the 1990s, shortly after her husband's death in 1989. The ruling that has been handed down against Marcos after three decades of protracted delays is an expression of the sharp crisis of political rule in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte. Marcos was sentenced to up to 77 years in jail and a warrant was issued for her arrest, but she has been allowed to remain free on bail pending what is likely to be an endless series of appeals. Marcos was convicted of the theft of $US200 million during her rule as Governor of Metro Manila and minister of Human Settlements during the martial law regime of her husband. There is overwhelming evidence that both she and her husband opened a number of Swiss bank accounts in the names of a variety of front organizations where they salted away the wealth they pilfered over the course of their decade and half of rule. The $US200 million, which she was convicted of stealing, is likely but a fraction of this plunder. The Marcoses oversaw a brutal dictatorship which lasted from 1972 to their ouster in 1986. They maintained their hold on power through an apparatus of police and military repression, which killed thousands of workers and peasants and arrested and tortured tens of thousands. Washington was responsible for creating and maintaining this dictatorship. Every American president, Democrat and Republican alike, from Nixon to Reagan, backed the regime, arming it, funding it, and ensuring that its leading military figures received training from the CIA.

Delay in Mega Asian Trade Deal Comes as Boon to Modi Govt in Run-Up to 2019 - The deadline for the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has been pushed back to 2019, a development that provides relief to the Modi government in the run-up to the general elections.The Centre is struggling to build domestic consensus over joining the 16-member Asian free trade agreement, with key industries and ministries like steel and textiles vehemently opposing India’s entry.The Modi government could have found itself facing electoral backlash if it had agreed to tariff concessions that RCEP entry requires.Now, sources tell The Wire, the Centre can choose to stagger negotiations on tariff concessions beyond the next elections to insulate it from industry and trade union protests that are likely to emanate from India joining the Asian free trade pact.The deadline for the launch of the envisaged free trade area was extended as trade ministers could not agree on the terms of the agenda for the RCEP summit scheduled later this week, commerce ministry sources said. Commerce minister Suresh Prabhu, who is currently in Singapore to attend the RCEP trade ministers’ meeting, welcomed members’ decision to defer the launch deadline.“The future lies in RCEP,” Prabhu told reporters, saying “every country will benefit from it”, according to the Strait Times. The task of expeditiously concluding RCEP negotiations has assumed urgency for member countries because of President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy, which has led to a dilution of US commitment to trade multilateralism.

India’s ruling BJP turns up Hindu nationalist heat with renamings, statue plan (Reuters) - From getting rid of some Muslim names of places to promising a “grand” statue of the Hindu god Ram, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party is making passionate appeals to its hard-core Hindu nationalist base in the most politically important state ahead of a national election next year. A near clean-sweep in Uttar Pradesh, the northern state of 220 million people that sends the highest number of lawmakers to the lower house of parliament, helped Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win its biggest mandate in three decades in 2014. Political strategists say keeping its mainly Hindu base intact in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere would be crucial to repeat such a performance, but there are also concerns that the BJP has been turning up the heat on divisive religious issues. Yogi Adityanath, a robe-wearing Hindu priest who is the BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, on Tuesday changed the name of Faizabad district to Ayodhya, the place where Hindus believe Lord Ram was born thousands of years ago. Before the change, Ayodhya was the name of a town in Faizabad. Last month, he changed the name of Allahabad, where three rivers considered holy by Hindus meet, to the Hindu name Prayagraj. Both Faizabad and Allahabad were Islamic names given to places hundreds of years ago by India’s then Muslim rulers. “Ayodhya is our honor, prestige and pride,” Adityanath said at an event in the town, declaring the name change amid loud cheers from the audience. “Ayodhya is identified with Lord Ram.” He said the state would decide on a location for a statue of Ram that could become an Ayodhya landmark. He also promised to open an airport in the district that would be named after Ram.

India’s banking system is flirting with a Lehman moment The Economist When narendra modi was elected prime minister of India in 2014, his plan was to revive its gdp growth rate back to the near-double-digit figures seen in the mid-2000s. Few would have guessed that the biggest threat to that goal was the financial industry. For several years state-run banks have failed to get to grips with a $100bn mountain of dud loans. Now panic has seized parts of the privately run system. One bank boss says the situation is as bad as the Asian crisis of 1998 or the global crash of 2008. In September il&fs, a financial firm that owns and finances roads and power plants, defaulted on some of its $13bn of debt. The contagion has struck India’s shadow banks, which rely on $250bn-300bn of borrowing to fund themselves. Their market value has collapsed by a median of 40% this year. A bitter row about how to respond has erupted between the government and the Reserve Bank of India (rbi), the largely independent central bank. Over a billion people depend on an emergency being avoided.India’s financial system has both Chinese and American characteristics; it faces a blend of a slow-motion banking crisis at government-run lenders, plus a high-speed liquidity run of the kind that hit Wall Street in 2008. That the industry has taken on a hybrid character over time reflects the conflicting aims of the forces that shaped it. The state wants pliant banks, ready to lend to the rural poor and to infrastructure projects, and that will buy government bonds. The rbi emphasises stability, so is paranoid about wheeler-dealers taking risks or ripping off the vulnerable. Entrepreneurs want capital and to start financial-services firms themselves. And consumers want loans and whizzy new banking technologies. About half the system, measured by loans, consists of state-run banks. They are usually listed but the government appoints their top brass and often influences them to disastrous effect. Another 25% comes from private banks; some of which are among Asia’s best-run lenders—hdfc Bank and Kotak trade on about four times their book value, compared with below one times for the zombie state banks. The other quarter is from a motley crew of 50-odd shadow banks that have expanded quickly. They are less heavily regulated and lend in particular areas such as housing. They are usually prohibited from taking deposits so fund themselves with debt. Last, there are innovative digital firms, such as Paytm, a mobile-payments firm. Overall, the system straddles the 19th and 21st centuries, featuring subsiding bank branches protected from the monsoon by tarpaulins, but also virtual mobile chatbots.

Facebook deletes WSWS post on Sri Lanka -On Monday, Facebook removed a post on Sri Lanka by the World Socialist Web Site’s official Tamil-language Facebook page. The alleged reason was violation of unspecified restrictions in Facebook’s “community standards,” which is no explanation at all. The Tamil language, spoken by 74 million people, is the language of the ethnic Tamil minority in Sri Lanka and South India, as well as a large global diaspora. The move is the latest in the crackdown on left-wing, anti-war and socialist organizations by US-based technology monopolies including Google, Facebook and Twitter. As these companies integrate themselves ever more closely into the American state apparatus, they are increasingly weaponized to promote US imperialist aims all over the world. At the center of this drive is the suppression of socialist political viewpoints.This is not the first time that the World Socialist Web Site’s Tamil-language Facebook page has been targeted by Facebook. On two separate occasions, Facebook removed the “share” option from public meetings promoted by the page.The World Socialist Web Site has been a central target of internet censorship more broadly, with its search traffic falling by more than 75 percent after Google announced a change to its search algorithm aimed at limiting “alternative viewpoints.”Amid a deepening political crisis in Sri Lanka, the United States is seeking to exclude Chinese influence in the island country, located off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. The country of 21 million sits astride the world’s most heavily trafficked west-bound trade route and boasts a busier port than any in the United States. On October 26, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena removed Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister and replaced him with former president Mahinda Rajapakse. Washington has made clear that the appointment of Rajapakse is unacceptable, due to his “excessively close ties to China,” as the New York Times put it.

Nigerian army posts Trump video to justify shooting protesters - Nigeria’s army has posted a video of Donald Trump saying soldiers would shoot migrants throwing stones to justify opening fire on a group of Shia protesters this week.“Please watch and make your deductions,” said the army in a post on its official Twitter account.In the video, the US president warns that soldiers deployed to the Mexican border could shoot Central American migrants who threw stones at them while attempting to cross illegally.“We’re not going to put up with that. They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back,” said Trump on Thursday. “I told them [troops] consider [a rock] a rifle. When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexican military and police, I say consider it a rifle.” Nigeria’s defence spokesman, John Agim, told Agence France-Presse that the army posted the video in response to criticism that its security forces had acted unlawfully.The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) said 49 of its members were killed after the army and police fired live bullets at crowds who marched near and in the capital, Abuja. The army’s official death toll was six.Amnesty International said on Wednesday it had strong evidence that police and soldiers used automatic weapons against IMN members and killed about 45 people in an “unconscionable use of deadly force by soldiers and police”.The US embassy in Nigeria said on Thursday it was concerned and called for an investigation. “The video was posted in reaction to the Amnesty International report accusing the army of using weapons against pacifist [Shia] protesters,” Agim said.

Some governments really are like households - Frances Coppola - In my last post, I said that the fact that a government can buy anything that is for sale in its own currency is not sufficient to confer monetary sovereignty. A country which is dependent on essential imports, such as foodstuffs and oil, for which it must pay in dollars is not monetarily sovereign. Some people disputed this on the grounds that such a country could earn the dollars it needs through exports. So I thought I would write a post discussing how realistic this is in practice. Strictly speaking, the only country in the world that can always pay for everything it needs in its own currency is the United States. However, most developed  countries that issue their own currencies have deep and liquid FX markets that enable them to exchange their currencies freely for other currencies; many also have swap lines with the Federal Reserve. Eurozone countries don't issue their own currencies, but the bloc as a whole issues the world's second reserve currency. It is not going to run out of the means to buy imports.  In practice, therefore, developed countries can generally use their own currencies to pay for imports. But this is not true of developing countries - and most countries in the world are developing countries. In my view, a definition of monetary sovereignty that does not work for most countries in the world is not much use. A developing country with poor creditworthiness and a thinly-traded currency is unlikely to be able to pay for imports in its own currency. It must obtain what used to be known as "hard currency," usually dollars. A country that must obtain FX to buy essential imports is effectively using the currency of another country even if it issues its own currency with a floating exchange rate. The government may be able to buy everything that is for sale in its own currency, but it is not able to buy everything the country needs. For that, it is dependent on external finance.

World's Largest Shipper Warns Of Early 2019 Slowdown --The world’s largest shipper A.P. Moller-Maersk sounded the alarm on Wednesday by announcing there would be a tremendous “price to be paid” for President Trump's trade war as global demand has now plummeted to its lowest level in more than two years.Chief Executive Soren Skou told the Financial Times that it expected global container trade to decline by .5% to 2% in 2019 and 2020 due to increased tariffs between the US and China."The impact right now on US-China trade is that Chinese imports to the US have gone up and US exports to China have gone down...Obviously, there will be a price to be paid sometime in the first quarter . . . There will be no real impact until after Chinese new year [in February],” Skou said in an interview.The demand outlook for 2019 looks rather gloomy, as top US importers have been quickly stocking up on Chinese goods before new import tariffs take effect on January 01, this could mean that container demand plummets sometime between January and March 2019 - something that Skou warned about above.The US has introduced tariffs of 10% to 25% on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports, prompting Beijing to retaliate with tariffs of their own. Trump has threatened China with a full-blown trade war in 2019, a move that would crush the global economy. In August, we first reported that freight data via Goldman identified global trade momentum was slowing since late 2017, and that July readings suggested an alarming continuation, and in some cases acceleration, of this trend. The deceleration in shipping rates has closely tracked a tightening in global financial conditions, particularly evident in EM data, which in turn has largely been a manifestation of the ongoing escalation in the trade war.

Ukrainian politician dies after fascist acid attack - On Monday, November 5, Ukrainian activist and politician Kateryna Handziuk died from injuries suffered during a horrific acid attack carried out by members of the fascist Right Sector Volunteer Corps last July in the city of Kherson. Handziuk, 33, suffered burns on 40 percent of her body and had been hospitalized since the attack. She had undergone numerous surgeries in an attempt to save her life prior to her death. Despite reports in the Western press praising her as a devoted “anticorruption activist,” Handziuk had a long history of involvement in right-wing politics and was complicit in the support of the very fascistic forces that are now carrying out blatant attacks on journalists, government officials and ethnic minorities and that ultimately ended up murdering her. In the weeks prior to the attack, Handziuk had come into conflict with the local veterans’ organization after protests were held against an alleged corruption scheme involving illegal logging in the Kherson region bordering the Crimean peninsula. A counter-protest was led by war veterans and right-wing elements who accused the anticorruption protestors of being “pro-Russian” activists stirring up trouble. In Facebook posts Handziuk later charged the right-wing counter protestors with protecting corrupt Kherson officials and called them “anti-Maidan.” In an online back and forth with the right-wing thugs, one of them cryptically warned Handziuk, “Sit there quietly. Your time is coming.”  Since January 2017 alone, 55 journalists or activists have been physically attacked, and six journalists have been killed in Ukraine since the 2014 coup, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Training kids to kill at Ukrainian nationalist camp (AP) — The campers, some clad in combat fatigues, carefully aim their assault rifles. Their instructor offers advice: Don’t think of your target as a human being.So when these boys and girls shoot, they will shoot to kill.Most are in their teens, but some are as young as 8 years old. They are at a summer camp created by one of Ukraine’s radical nationalist groups, hidden in a forest in the west of the country, that was visited by The Associated Press. The camp has two purposes: to train children to defend their country from Russians and their sympathizers — and to spread nationalist ideology.“We never aim guns at people,” instructor Yuri “Chornota” Cherkashin tells them. “But we don’t count separatists, little green men, occupiers from Moscow, as people. So we can and should aim at them.”VIDEO: Children as young as 8 train at Ukrainian nationalist camp. (AP Video) The nationalists have been accused of violence and racism, but they have played a central, volunteer role in Ukraine’s conflict with Russia — and they have maintained links with the government. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Youth and Sports earmarked 4 million hryvnias (about $150,000) to fund some of the youth camps among the dozens built by the nationalists. The purpose, according to the ministry, is “national patriotic education.”Ministry spokeswoman Natalia Vernigora said the money is distributed by a panel which looks for “signs of xenophobia and discrimination, it doesn’t analyze activities of specific groups.”

Macron wants Europe to buy its own military hardware — Europe must increase military spending, but the money should go to European, not American companies, French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview in which he delivered a rebuke to Donald Trump’s self-proclaimed nationalism. Responding to a question in an interview about the political differences between himself and the American president, he said: “I’m not a nationalist, which is very different, for me, from being a patriot.” Promoted by The interview, on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria Global Public Square,” was taped before Sunday morning’s event at the Arc de Triomphe to commemorate the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I. But it suggested that Macron at least partly had Trump in mind when he delivered one of the most powerful lines in his speech at the ceremony, saying: “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism.” With Trump sitting front and center in the audience of scores of world leaders, Macron added: “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism by saying, ‘our interest first, who cares about the others?’” In the CNN interview, Macron was asked about Trump’s tweet, shortly after arriving in Paris on Friday night, accusing Macron of being “very insulting” by calling for the creation of an EU army to help protect against threats, including Russia, China and even the United States. By mentioning the U.S., Macron was specifically referring to Trump’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, as well as more broadly to Trump’s pullback from transatlantic cooperation, including on the Iran nuclear deal. “I don’t know, I’m not the one to comment on his tweet,” Macron said. “I always prefer having direct discussion or answering questions [than] making my diplomacy through tweets.”

Merkel Defies Trump, Backs Macron's Call For European Army - Two days after French president Emanuel Macron snubbed President Trump, slamming nationalism as the antithesis of patriotism during a closely watched speech with Trump sitting just a few feet away, and which prompted a flurry of provocative and taunting tweets by the US president demanding that Europe pay for its own defense (or else Paris would now be speaking German), Germany’s Angela Merkel set out her own vision of a more assertive European Union, one which aligned with that of Macron and included a European army. After spending the weekend commemorating the end of World War I in Paris alongside more than 60 global leaders and witnessed first hand the tensions between Trump and France’s Emmanuel Macron, the normally understated chancellor took an uncharacteristically bold stance as she addressed EU lawmakers in Strasbourg. In Paris, Merkel defended her world view against the U.S. president’s barbs as he sparred with Macron. And, as Bloomberg reports, she went a step further in the EU parliament on Tuesday, telling deputies they need to adapt to a world in which Europe’s traditional allies may no longer guarantee the continent’s security. “We should also work on the vision of one day creating a genuine European army,” Merkel said. “The times in which we could unconditionally rely on others are over.” While most europhile lawmakers applauded, the comments drew loud jeers from euroskeptic lawmakers at the margins of the chamber. Meanwhile, as reported earlier, on Tuesday Trump unleashed another torrent of tweets, grousing about the perceived slights from his weekend in Paris. At 6:50 a.m. in Washington, he tweeted another attack on the French leader, mocking the idea of a European army and implying that the French had needed the U.S. to rescue them from the Germans in both world wars. Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two - How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not! 

Farage Blasts Merkel's EU Army- European Project Set Up To Halt German Domination - Nigel Farage began his epic tirade by thanking Mrs. Merkel for her immigration policies, "without you, we've never had made it over the line with Brexit," adding that many of the euroskeptic parties from the left, right, and center across Europe will be back in the European Parliament "directly as a result of your [Merkel's] asylum policy." Then Farage turned his attention to Merkel's call (along with Macron) for an EU army: "It's a European Union that is now to become an empire - a militarized European Union... 100 years on from the Armistice, we should be genuinely worried - the idea that this new militarized union is somehow a recipe for peace means you should all re-read history..." "The European project was set up to stop German domination. What you've seen today is a naked takeover bid! Brexit becomes a necessity after this." Full speech below: 

 French Authorities Seize Ryanair Plane On Runway Over Unpaid Bills, 147 Passengers Kicked Off- A Ryanair plane scheduled to fly to London was seized by French authorities on Thursday over the low-cost airline's failure to pay local authorities €525,000 euros (US$595,000) in subsidies, reports the Daily Mail. The dispute arose after French subsidies paid to Ryanair between 2008 and 2009 in exchange for providing flights between Angouleme and London were deemed illegal. The airline had paid approximately half of the subsidies, leaving an outstanding balance. The French civil aviation authority halted the departing Boeing 737, removing 149 London-bound passengers before seizing the plane. The de-planed travelers had to wait five hours before being able to resume transportation from the Bordeaux-Merignac airport on another Ryanair plane. "This measure was taken as a last resort by the French authorities after several reminders and attempts to recuperate the money failed," said the DGAC civil aviation body, adding "By this action, the government reaffirms its intention to guarantee the conditions of fair competition between airlines and between airports." Until Ryanair satisfies the outstanding balance, the plane "will remain immobilized," said one official, adding that it was "regrettable" that the passengers on board the plane had to wait five hours.

French teachers mobilize against Macron’s attacks on education -- Teachers across France struck on November 12 against the 2019 education budget of the government of Emmanuel Macron. It was the first time the trade unions have called a national education strike since 2011.The first day of action involved close to one in two secondary and one in four elementary school teachers, according to union officials. The ministry claimed a far lower figure of 10 percent participation in the strike. Approximately 4,000 teachers protested in Paris; 1,000 in Marseille; 2,500 in Lyon; 850 in Nantes; 800 in Caen and 700 in Clermont-Ferrand, according to the police prefectures.The educators are opposing the cutting of 2,650 positions in public middle schools and high schools, another 550 positions in the private sector, and 400 administrative positions. These cuts are outlined in the national education budget of 2019 that was discussed yesterday in the National Assembly, under conditions where the education ministry’s own statistical agency predicts that the number of secondary students will increase by 40,000 each year between 2019 and 2021. To compensate for the destruction of full-time positions, Minister of Budget, Public Accounts and Civil Service, Gérald Darmanin, proposes to utilize more contract teachers in place of recruiting more teachers via examinations. This has provoked opposition among teachers, who fear the destruction of existing labour protections and a massive increase in precarious work in the national education system.  Caroline, a high school teacher, said she came to “protest against the job cuts forecast for next year, in particular at high schools.” Concerning contract positions, she explained, “these are already common. There are many different tiers between associate teachers, contractors and certified teachers. This has created inequalities because we are not paid the same, even though we are performing the same work in the same conditions.”

Italy gets support from Germany over budget spending plan- Germany's finance minister has told CNBC that he can understand some of the reforms that Italy says it wants to spend its budget on. Italy's populist government is at odds with the European Commission in Brussels after submitting a budget proposal for 2019 that incurs a deficit of 2.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The previous Rome administration had submitted a far less costly 0.8 percent deficit proposal. For the first time in history, a draft budget proposal from an EU member has been rejected by commissioners, but on Tuesday the German Finance minister, Olaf Scholz, told CNBC's Annette Weisbach that there were some aspects of Italian spending plans that anyone could understand. Speaking at the SZ Wirtschaftsgipfel Economic Summit in Berlin, Scholz said a complete lack of support for long-term unemployed in Italy was "a bit astonishing" and a change of policy in that area could be considered. "If they, the Italian government is working on questions like this, we can understand this," said Scholz. The finance minister cautioned however that in doing this, Italy would also be expected to be very cautious with its budget. "If you have a very high amount of sovereign debt it is absolutely necessary that you are cautious and this is what the Italian government will have to be," he said. Italy is expected to resubmit its budget on Tuesday but CNBC has learned that the Italian Finance Minister, Giovanni Tria, won't be meeting with the country's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte until late in the evening. CNBC has also learnt from sources that the Deputy Prime Ministers Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio will attend that meeting.

 With Looming Deadline Italy's Populists Defy EU, Warn Of Suicide , Massacre For Italy - After the latest GDP data showed that Italy's economy didn't grow at all during the third quarter amid a spreading European slump that's likely inspiring panic in Brussels, the country's emboldened populist leaders are refusing to surrender in what has become a political game of chicken with the EU over a proposal that calls for an expansion of Italy's budget deficit to 2.4% to fund pension benefits, welfare programs and tax cuts. Ahead of a Tuesday deadline to resubmit its budget proposal, which Brussels rejected last month, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was said to be holding a last-minute meeting with the two men who are really running Italy, Deputy PM's Matteo Salvini, of the anti-immigrant La Lega, and Luigi Di Maio, of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement where, according to local media reports, they were expected to - paradoxically - discuss lowering the country's growth forecast from 1.5% to 1.0-1.2%% in order to get a budget deal (it wasn't immediately clear how expecting even slower growth would bolster their case). However, while Salvini reportedly had a "positive" meeting with Conte on the budget, Di Maio reportedly skipped that meeting and, in a series of interviews given Monday and Sunday, the M5S leader appeared to dig in his heels, telling reporters at Montecitorio that giving up on the populist government's fiscally stimulative agenda would be tantamount to economic "suicide" that would likely bring about a recession, according to Italian newswire ANSA. "The only way to respect EU parameters is to make a suicidal budget law that would bring on a recession," newswire Ansa cites Italy Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio as saying. Di Maio said he was agreeing with comments from Finance Minister Giovanni Tria.

Italy budget- Rome rejects European Commission demands - The Italian government has defied the European Commission (EC) by sticking to its big-spending budget plan. Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said a deficit target of 2.4% and a growth forecast of 1.5% were unchanged. The EC - worried about the impact of high spending on already high levels of Italy's debt - had told Rome to revise the budget or face possible fines. It had set Tuesday as a deadline to Italy's governing populist parties to respond to its objections. The EC's warning to Italy, the eurozone's third-biggest economy, is an unprecedented move with regard to an European Union member state. In a statement, he said the government would stick to the budget's main parameters. Meanwhile, Luigi Di Maio, the deputy PM from the Five Star Movement coalition partner, said: "We have the conviction that this is the budget needed for the country to get going again." The government has vowed to "end poverty" with a minimum income for the unemployed. Other measures include tax cuts and scrapping extensions to the retirement age - fulfilling several key campaign promises from the election in March. A defiant Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte insisted earlier that the budget deficit would go no higher than 2.4% of GDP in 2019, although the target is three times than that of the previous government. 

Euro Slides After Italy's Salvini Says No Change To Budget Proposal; Midnight Deadline Looms -- With the midnight deadline for Italy to resubmit its budget proposal to Brussels fast approaching, one of the two men who are effectively running Italy has just offered the clearest suggestion yet that Italy will not change its deficit and growth projections for its 2019 budget plan - setting Europe's third-largest economy on a path that could lead to billions of fines from Brussels and the prospect of a feared 'Italeave'.In comments at the palace of the prime minister, where members of Italy's council of ministers have been holed up on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister and La Lega leader Matteo Salvini told a group of reporters that Italy would move forward with its budget plans, regardless of what Brussels thinks, according to Italy's ANSA newswire.Reiterating the long-held position of the Italian government, Salvini said Italy's fiscal stimulus is essential to creating more jobs, offering better pension benefits and cutting taxes for many - but not all - Italians. If Italy doesn't submit a new budget proposal with a deficit below 0.8% of GDP, in accordance with EU fiscal rules, the European Commission could seek to punish the populist government by levying billions of euros in fines, a burden that would further strain the finances of a country with the second-largest debt burden in Europe relative to GDP (second only to Greece). Salvini's comments followed remarks from his co-Deputy PM Luigi Di Maio, the leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, as well as the more measured Economic Minister Giovanni Tria, who both have said that cutting the stimulus would be tantamount to "suicide" for the Italian economy. And presumably disappointing Q3 growth print, which suggested that the Italian economy stagnated last quarter, have only strengthened the populists' resolve.

Italy’s Banks Leap Aboard a Burning Ship - Banca Carige SpA, a mid-sized lender based in Genoa, has been under pressure from the European Central Bank to strengthen its capital base. Investors were reluctant to meet these demands, leaving the bank at the risk of resolution (an orderly failure, in other words). On Monday, the rest of the Italian banking system came to the rescue. Carige issued up to 400 million euros ($450 million) in subordinated debt, which should be enough to appease the ECB. A finance industry fund said it would buy up to 320 million euros, should Carige not find enough takers. Italy’s banks have clearly decided that a failing bank is the last thing they need. The recent increase in government bond yields is putting pressure on their large stock of sovereign debt. With the risk of a slowing economy and rising funding costs, little wonder they don’t want any new shocks.

European Central Bank In Panic Mode As Economy Stalls - The eurozone could not borrow from the momentum of the U.S. economy in the third quarter as economic growth slumped to a tepid 0.2%, the slowest rate in more than four years. With the 19-nation currency bloc beginning to stagnate, and the heavyweights failing to post significant gains, Brussels is in panic mode, likely leaning on the European Central Bank (ECB) for further stimulus. Economists originally anticipated growth of 0.4%. But global trade woes, tumbling business confidence, Italian distress, and the gradual dissipation of an accommodative monetary policy all contributed to the poor numbers in the July-September period. Italy fell into stagnation, failing to record any growth. Rome has been contending with a debt crisis, sending the yield (interest rates) on government bond prices higher. Officials are embroiled in a contentious battle with the EU because their borrowing plans violate the trade bloc’s rules. There is now talk of a Keynesian-style fiscal stimulus to rev up the national economy. France, which endured a terrible first half, reported a 0.4% increase, lower than the market forecast of 0.5%. The economy gained on surging business investment, household consumption, and net trade. While the figures are commendable, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire did not help matters when he suggested that the eurozone is not prepared to contain a new financial crisis, adding that “it is in no one’s interest that Italy be in difficulty.” Germany, the economic engine of the eurozone, will not publish its Q3 numbers until mid-November. But the Bundesbank has warned that growth might have flat-lined in the previous quarter. Researchers do predict a recovery for Berlin in the final quarter of 2018, driven by a resurgence in the automobile sector and falling unemployment. The data sent the euro plunging to an intraday low against the greenback.

German Economy Shrinks For First Time In 3 Years As Car Production Collapses - After notching a tepid growth rate in the prior quarter, the Bundesbank's warnings that the economic engine of Europe faltered during the third quarter have proved accurate.In what was its worst GDP print in three years, Germany saw its economy contract 0.2% in Q3, putting Europe's strongest economy on the bring of a technical recession and providing the clearest sign yet that economic growth in the euro area stalled just as the ECB was preparing to end its massive bond buying program with an eye toward raising interest rates late next year, according to Bloomberg.While the hope is that the setback is related largely to new emissions tests that temporarily disrupted car production, the data will feed into fears that the euro area’s expansion has faltered as the Continent faces down risks including Italy's confrontational populism, the looming Brexit, and the ongoing US trade conflict (which threatens to hammer the German auto industry if Trump changes his mind and decides to pursue tariffs). But analysts have found at least one scapegoat to blame the contraction: according to Bloomberg, Germany's economic ministers hope the contraction was largely driven by new emissions tests that temporarily disrupted car production. Data from the VDA German carmakers’ association appears to bear that out, as the agency said September production plunged 24% compared with a year earlier. At least one analyst said they expect auto production to rebound, as a second quarter of declining growth would be "highly unlikely" especially as that would put Germany in a recession."The good news is that the economy will expand at a decent clip so long as auto output doesn’t take another leg down - and that’s highly unlikely. We expect a material rebound as industrial production picks up a bit further through the quarter."Germany's Economy Minister Peter Altmaier echoed that view during a speech in Berlin, saying the GDP figures were "not particularly pleasing but were also not a secret," and that it's no catastrophe, we had similar numbers in 2015." If anything, the data showed us that the expansion "is a tender flower" that must be protected (the implications of which, we imagine, were not lost on Draghi).

Global Auto Industry Collapse Continues As October EU Data Shows No Relief - The outlook for the global automobile market has been increasingly dire lately, especially after a third quarter that saw sales drop in many major markets across the globe, including China. Now, the latest data from Europe suggests that the difficulties may be nowhere close to over despite optimistic fourth quarter guidance by companies like Volkswagen and Daimler AG. Deliveries of new passenger cars were down 7.4% in the EU and the European Free Trade Association in October from the year prior. This adds to a 23% drop that occurred during September according to data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, and which was so acute it led to the first negative GDP print for Germany since 2015. Despite the ongoing sales weakness, which many attribute to one-time events, some analysts – like those at EY Consultancy - still expect the market to turn around in the fourth quarter. They argue that new emissions testing cited by many companies as the reason for disappointing sales, will only have a temporary effect.At the same time, Citigroup analyst Angus Tweedie thinks the downside is not over for companies like BMW and Daimler AG, according to Bloomberg. In a note titled "The Golden Age Ends With a Crash", Tweedie wrote that "Heading into 2019 we see few remaining avenues of maneuver, and with volume growth slowing in most markets believe the scale of pressures will become obvious."  Meanwhile, ongoing challenges like the slowdown in China have been exacerbated by trade wars, casting a cloud over the industry. However, one of the main potential threats, tariffs on imports from the EU, has been alleviated for now, as we wrote yesterday. Following the data release, European automakers like Daimler, VM, and BMW were all trading lower between 1% and 2%.

Angela Merkel and the future of the EU -- European Union leaders fear Angela Merkel's weakened power could be a liability for the bloc. When it comes to political heavyweights in Europe, the German chancellor has long been top of the list.  Capable of acting — that seems to be the magic word if you listen to the conversations taking place within European Union offices in Brussels. Numerous EU officials, but most of all the European Commission, are intent on making sure there is no doubt about the stability of the German government. EU politics will not suffer, the Brussels politicians say; it's business as usual, Germany has a stable government and a chancellor capable of taking action. But nevertheless, many in the EU see Chancellor Angela Merkel's partial withdrawal from politics as the self-declared loss of power for the most influential European leader. Ever since news broke that her current term as chancellor would be her last, there have been furrowed brows in Brussels.  Beyond Merkel's speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, most EU member states will link the chancellor deciding to step down as leader of her conservative CDU party with three key questions: What does that loss of power mean for Europe? What is going to happen to Europe's problems if Merkel is weakened? And what is going to happen — and suddenly, that seems to be a possibility — if Merkel disappears entirely from the European political scene?

Jeremy Corbyn meets head of MI6 for first time amid snap election fears Jeremy Corbyn has met with the head of MI6 for the first time in anticipation of a snap election triggered by the collapse of the Brexit negotiations, The Telegraph has learnt. The Labour leader recently met with Alex Younger, the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, during which the importance of the agency’s work and the severity of the threats facing Britain were made clear to him. A Whitehall official with knowledge of the meeting said: “The feeling was that the time had come for Mr Corbyn to become acquainted with the workings of the intelligence establishment.” According to a senior security source, the Labour leader met Mr Younger at the organisation's headquarters in Vauxhall, south London, where he received a detailed briefing on the service's organisational and operational structure. They said the meeting was an "acquaintance" session designed to give the Labour leader a better understanding of the challenges facing Britain's overseas intelligence agency. They added that Mr Younger had been keen to explain that MI6 was subjected to rigorous political oversight, and that its operations were undertaken within a strict legal framework at the behest of the democratically-elected government of the day. "The main purpose of the meeting was to provide an overview of the organisational structure of the intelligence service and to explain the important role of intelligence-gathering within government," they continued."Officers thought it was important to stress to Mr Corbyn that MI6 did not pursue its own agenda.”Mr Corbyn spent years as a backbench MP attacking the integrity of the intelligence services, and has in recent months sought to cast doubt on the reliability of their work by highlighting their involvement in events leading up to the Iraq War.

‘We must vote against the deal’: Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Brexiteers unite with the DUP and publicly vow to torpedo Theresa May’s Brexit plan if it threatens the Union as four Remainer ministers ‘prepare to resign’ - The DUP and Jacob Rees-Mogg's group of Brexiteers have united and vowed to vote down Theresa May's Brexit deal. Fifty-one Tories have already signed a pledge opposing Mrs May's Brexit proposals - with concerns a no-deal insurance plan will lead to a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Now, the DUP and The European Research Group of backbenchers, chaired by Mr Rees-Mogg, have released an extraordinary joint declaration that they will stop a Brexit deal getting through Parliament if the Union is threatened. Steve Baker, the group's deputy chairman and Sammy Wilson, the DUP Brexit spokesman, wrote in The Sunday Telegraph: 'We share the Prime Minister's ambition for an EU free trade agreement, but not at any price and certainly not at the price of our Union. 'If the Government makes the historic mistake of prioritising placating the EU over establishing an independent and whole UK, then regrettably we must vote against the deal.' They added: 'If Parliament is forced to reject the Government's deal, then we will once again have called the bluff of vested interest lobbyists and Whitehall scaremongers.' The extraordinary moves ramps up pressure on Mrs May as she battles to agree a deal with the EU that will be acceptable to a majority of MPs.

Brexit shows that idiots and incompetents are in charge in UK - Recent history provides two extreme examples of government incompetence. Decisions made by people who had no idea what they were doing. Elected politicians incapable of paying attention to details. The blanket guarantee provided by the Irish government to banks and the British guarantee of “no hard Border” have eerie similarities: poor decisions made by people who were operating way out of their league. Making stuff up as you go along. Taking decisions based on mental tosses of a coin, saying stuff before engaging the brain: all this is the currency of modern policy-making. The advent of artificial intelligence is welcome: any form of intelligence would be an improvement. Politics requires never admitting to anything. Never own up to mistakes, never ever say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not sure’. Say anything you like – anything at all, any old rubbish will do – but never show weakness. As John Wayne said, never explain, never apologise. Was anyone shocked this week when UK Brexit secretary Dominic Raab inadvertently acknowledged that he is an idiot? Talking about Brexit’s impact on the availability of stuff in shops, he was quoted as saying that he hadn’t realised that Dover was important to British trade. “I hadn’t quite understood the full extent of this....but if you look at the UK, at how we trade in goods, we are particularly reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing....” He also told us that Britain is, apparently, an island, and would, therefore, experience one or two logistical difficulties with imports and exports once it leaves the world’s largest free-trade area. Almost simultaneously the health secretary issued an appeal to people not to stockpile drugs. Participating in an outbreak of honesty, the UK’s culture secretary revealed that he does not read very much. If he did he would have noticed the leaking of the deal that will be necessary if there is a no-deal Brexit. And the new backstop to the Border backstop. And the leaked draft deal that everyone hates.

IMF says no-deal Brexit to cause 8% hit to UK economy The UK economy could face a long-run hit of up to 8 per cent of GDP in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the International Monetary Fund has warned. That’s the equivalent of around £6,000 per British household. “A scenario in which future trade between the UK and the EU is governed by [World Trade Organisation] rules is estimated to bring about output losses of around 5 to 8 percent compared to a no-Brexit scenario in the long run (with an average of about 6 per cent),” the IMF said. However its economists also warned that this assumed a smooth transition to WTO rules and that the impact of a chaotic no-deal Brexit in the short-term next March could be more severe, leading to a “sharp fall in asset prices”, a “hit to consumer and business confidence” and another sterling depreciation. “Directors emphasised the importance of a timely agreement with the EU, accompanied by an implementation period to avoid a cliff-edge exit in March 2019 and to allow firms and workers time to adjust to the new relationship”. Delivering its full annual health check on the UK on Wednesday, the Washington-based Fund also said that the British economy would be around 3 per cent weaker even if it successfully secured a “Canada-style” free trade deal with the rest of the European Union “due to lower trade, migration and productivity”.

The UK’s financial services profession is surprisingly resilient to Brexit woes The looming shadow of Brexit is hard to shake off and financial services, like most UK businesses, doesn’t like uncertainty. But despite the talk of doom and gloom with jobs disappearing in this part of the financial sector, surprisingly perhaps, we are seeing a different picture. The Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) is the professional body for those working in the wealth, capital markets and financial planning professions. We provide entry-level qualifications which are a useful hard indicator for the number of new staff entering the UK financial services profession, which in itself is a useful barometer of its current health and confidence. Figures for new CISI qualifications taken in the last 12 months to 31 October 2018 show that these sectors of the UK financial services profession have recovered strongly from its low point in March 2017. Data to October 2018 indicates that this profession has expanded significantly and is now at its highest level since April 2015 and the second highest level for well over five years. Just prior to and immediately following the Brexit vote, we saw firms significantly reduce their recruitment programme by 15 per cent or over 4,000 jobs. Over the last two years, as confidence has returned, business has expanded, more staff have been hired and we have seen an increase in demand for entry level qualifications in every month since March 2017. It is likely that there was a small increase in examinations as firms prepared to become Mifid compliant, however this probably reduced the severity of the fall rather than accounts for the recovery, as firms needed to be compliant by the start of Mifid (i.e. January 2018) and therefore needed to ensure that their staff met the requirements by then. The scale of the surge in recruitment suggests that the profession is surprisingly resilient given that many firms are activating contingency plans in case of a hard Brexit and some are opening small satellite offices in other European jurisdictions.

Brexit: A State Change Nigh? - Yves Smith -  Perhaps the happy talk from Theresa May will be proven correct, that the Brexit talks are in an endgame and May was hopeful of securing a deal in the next 48 hours and getting her Cabinet to agree so as to be able to hold a special EU summit on November 25. But May’s choice of metaphor may have been a subconscious tell. The endgame in chess leads to a checkmate or stalemate. And the negotiations look as stuck on the EU-UK and intra-UK fronts as they ever have, perhaps even worse. The EU nixed the UK’s proposal for determining when a backstop was no longer needed. Fishing rights are in play. And RTE  sounded further cautionary notesa senior EU official has cast doubt on any breakthrough in the Brexit negotiations this week, despite speculation that a British cabinet meeting could approve a deal in the coming days.Speaking to RTÉ News, the official said that the implications of a UK-wide customs arrangement is still dividing Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet, and that as a result an emergency EU summit in order to approve the Withdrawal Agreement was unlikely this month.There have been fevered reports that EU and UK negotiators are within clinching distance of a deal, but those reports are often contradicted by other dispatches which are less optimistic…. The main sticking point is the UK-wide customs arrangement, which Mrs May wants as something that will supersede a Northern Ireland-specific backstop. The EU official suggested that the so-called level playing field issues which the EU wants clarity on before offering the temporary customs union – such as EU environmental, labour and state aid rules – are causing the hold up,  On top of that, the Telegraph and Buzzfeed report that at a regularly scheduled Cabinet meeting tomorrow, ministers led by Brexit secretary Dominic Raab will urge May to embrace a “no deal” Brexit. From Buzzfeed: the group of senior ministers will make clear to the prime minister that they could not support a deal that breaches their two red lines.They are doubling down on their demands that the EU drops its Northern Ireland-only “backstop to the backstop” and that the deal must include a “break clause” mechanism that would allow the UK to unilaterally leave a UK-wide customs arrangement. The renewed cabinet opposition to the emerging draft Brexit treaty has increased the chances of Britain leaving without a deal. EU sources told BuzzFeed News they would not give in to UK ministers’ demands. If the choice is between a unilateral break clause and no deal, then it is no deal, a senior EU government official said. Another mini-revolt against May is that MPs of both major parties are demanding that she publish the full text of the legal advice to the Government, and not a summary as she had insisted.

EU, UK officials reach agreement over text on Irish border EU and UK negotiators have agreed a text that deals with the Irish border, RTÉ News understands. The text was agreed at around 9pm last night and then transmitted to Downing Street. While two well-placed sources have confirmed that the text was "as stable as it can be", they say it would not be correct to say that the negotiations have "concluded". According to both sources, there will be one backstop to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. The backstop will come in the form of a temporary UK-wide customs arrangement, with specific provisions for Northern Ireland, which go deeper on the issue of customs and alignment on the rules of the single market than for the rest of the UK. It is understood the text has an agreed review mechanism. While the text is regarded as "stable", it is understood there is further shuttling between London and Brussels. RTÉ News understands that while the main backstop focuses on a UK-wide customs arrangement, there will be specific provisions within the text and within annexes for Northern Ireland, should the UK-wide arrangement not prove sufficient to avoid a hard border. British ministers are being given sight of the text this evening ahead of a cabinet meeting tomorrow afternoon. Cabinet meeting tomorrow to discuss text A Government spokesperson has said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called a Cabinet meeting for 9.30am tomorrow to consider developments. Cabinet was notified by the Taoiseach this morning to be on standby for another meeting on Brexit this week at short notice.

Draft Brexit deal ends Britain’s easy access to EU financial markets (Reuters) - The United Kingdom and the European Union have agreed a deal that will give London’s vast financial centre only a basic level of access to the bloc’s markets after Brexit. The agreement will be based on the EU’s existing system of financial market access known as equivalence - a watered-down relationship that officials in Brussels have said all along is the best arrangement that Britain can expect. The EU grants equivalence to many countries and has so far not agreed to Britain’s demands for major concessions such as offering broader access and safeguards on withdrawing access, neither of which is mentioned in the draft deal.”It is appalling,” said Graham Bishop, a former banker and consultant who has advised EU institutions on financial services. The draft text “is particularly vague but emphasises the EU’s ability to take decisions in its own interests.... This is code for the UK being a pure rule taker.” Britain’s decision to leave the EU has undermined London’s position as the leading international finance hub. Britain’s financial services sector, the biggest source of its exports and tax revenue, has been struggling to find a way to preserve the existing flow of trading after it leaves the EU. Many top bankers fear Brexit will slowly undermine London’s position. Global banks have already reorganised some operations ahead of Britain’s departure from the European Union, due on March 29. Currently, inside the EU, banks and insurers in Britain enjoy unfettered access to customers across the bloc in all financial activities. Equivalence, however, covers a more limited range of business and excludes major activities such as commercial bank lending. Law firm Hogan Lovells has estimated that equivalence rules cover just a quarter of all EU cross-border financial services business.

Tony Blair: The deal isn’t a compromise, it’s a capitulation = video - Tony Blair savaged Theresa May's Brexit deal, saying it amounted to "capitulation" to the European Union. The former prime minister, a prominent Remain campaigner, said the plan would give the European Union a veto over divergence from Brussels' rules

Brexit agreement: Theresa May faces MPs’ questions - Theresa May faces a grilling from MPs later over the draft Brexit agreement the UK has reached with the EU.  The PM secured her cabinet's backing for the deal after a five-hour meeting but Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has just resigned over it.She has also faced a backlash from Tory Brexiteers and her Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) backers, amid suggestions of moves to force a no-confidence vote. Labour will announce later whether or not it will back the deal.However, leader Jeremy Corbyn said he did not believe the agreement - set out in a 585-page document - was in the national interest. Speaking on Thursday morning, the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said he still saw Brexit as a "lose-lose" situation.But he added: "As much as I am sad to see you leave, I will do everything to make this farewell the least painful possible, for you and for us."Mr Tusk also confirmed that "if nothing extraordinary happens", an emergency EU summit will take place on 25 November to "finalise and formalise" the Brexit agreement.  Junior Northern Ireland Minister Shailesh Vara has become the first person to resign as a result of the draft agreement:

Brexit deal threatens survival of May government - The draft agreement struck between the European Union (EU) and Prime Minister Theresa May’s negotiating team has been denounced on all sides. May’s fate depends most immediately on the size of a rebellion by the hard-Brexit wing of her party. But based on anything other than the most optimistic assessment, there is little likelihood of her proposal passing in parliament—threatening her future and that of the Conservative government. May was only able to get Cabinet approval for her proposed agreement on the terms of British withdrawal from the EU after a five-hour meeting Wednesday and she did not allow a formal vote. High-profile resignations followed—of Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey.May has responded by insisting that there is no alternative path to Brexit, that there must be a “backstop” agreeable to Brussels to ensure tariff-free access to the Single European Market and to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. She has urged hard-Brexiteers not to vote her deal down and risk either a second referendum or a snap general election that could bring Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party to office. Even if she is successful in dividing opponents within her own government and party, she would still require the support of a section of the Labour Party in parliament to get the deal through.The influential leader of the Tory’s anti-EU European Research Group, Jacob Rees Mogg, has put in a letter of no confidence in May to the chair of the party’s 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady. Two other Brexiteers, Sheryll Murray and Henry Smith, followed suit. Triggering a leadership contest would necessitate 48 MPs handing in letters and Mogg intimated that they were “not there yet,” but could be within weeks. This expressed much less confidence than the numbers that were predicted last month, indicating that some Brexiteers have listened to the demands of business that European trade must be preserved and suggesting May might survive a challenge. In any eventuality, with May opposed by all the opposition parties, her coalition partners in the Democratic Unionist Party and dozens of Tory MPs, the crisis over Brexit can only deepen. Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf warned that the impasse was historic, as “Britain cannot at present resolve its relationship with the continent … Comparisons with the 1956 Suez crisis do not get close to the mark. This is a far more significant mess than that.”

Some of the main provisions of the draft EU-UK proposed Brexit deal --The 585-page European Union-United Kingdom draft agreement contains these provisions: The UK will pay the EU £39 billion to cover all its financial obligations in a “divorce” bill. Following the exit date of March 29, 2019, there will be a 21-month transition period, for government and businesses, under which the UK will remain under the jurisdiction of EU rules and the European Court of Justice.The agreement states that the EU and UK will seek to ensure that a long-term trade deal can be finalised by the end of 2020. However, this period may be extended, with the UK having to continue paying into the EU during the transition period required. As it stands this transition is indefinite with the agreement referring to possibly “extending the transition period up to [31 December 20XX].”There is a legal guarantee to ensure the Irish border remains open after Brexit, with the UK remaining in a customs union with the EU until a broader EU-UK trade deal can be finalised. If no long-term trade deal can be agreed, with no extension of the transition period, a “backstop” would be triggered. This would keep the UK in a single customs territory to ensure that after Brexit there is no hard border re-established (with physical infrastructure and checks) between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK and would not be an EU member, and the Republic of Ireland, which remains an EU member.The backstop can only cease to apply if “the [European] Union and the United Kingdom decide jointly” that it is no longer necessary, meaning the UK will not have a unilateral right to bring the backstop to an end.The temporary customs union allows the UK no competitive advantage, as it “includes the corresponding level playing field commitments and appropriate enforcement mechanisms to ensure fair competition between the EU27 and the UK.”The powerful City of London finance sector loses the current access they have to the EU’s single market, and instead will use an “equivalence” system allowing only basic access, with an agreed review process to be set. Rather than banks and insurers located in the UK having unfettered access to customers across the EU bloc in all financial activities, equivalence only covers a limited range of business. It excludes major activities such as commercial bank lending. Under current equivalence rules, access is not fixed and can be cut off by the EU within 30 days in some cases.

Theresa May’s terrible Brexit deal has united the UK in horror - Martin Wolf, FT -- Congratulations! UK prime minister Theresa May has succeeded in uniting her deeply divided nation. Everybody agrees on one thing: the deal she has come up with is terrible. For Remainers, it is evident that this quasi-permanent halfway house, which will keep the UK inside the EU’s customs area and divide Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK indefinitely, would be far worse than continued EU membership. For Leavers, it is equally evident that this very same halfway house would be far worse than a clean break. Unity is achieved at last in the midst of Britain’s civil war over its future relationship with Europe: both sides oppose what has been agreed. There are two possible reactions to this outcome. The first is to argue that a deal that unites the country in horror is exactly what should have been expected and is, in fact, the least unsatisfactory imaginable outcome. It allows the UK to leave, without crashing out, and leaves room for subsequent negotiations on the future relations with the EU. The very fact that nobody is satisfied makes it the least unreasonable compromise on how to move forward. Nobody wins completely; and nobody loses completely. The second reaction is that this deal should not and — more importantly — will not be ratified. It should not be agreed, because everybody agrees it is unsatisfactory. It will not be ratified, for the same reason. If so, a way will need to be found to move forward that avoids a brutal rupture with the EU, with all the damaging economic and political consequences of that outcome. But that way, whatever it turns out to be, must also preserve the UK as a functioning constitutional democracy. Squaring that circle would, in the event of a rejection of the deal reached with the EU, necessarily be the dominant focus of British politics. It would also unavoidably reopen the issue of Brexit for the other 27 members of the EU. This might mean another referendum, a general election, a request for postponement of the departure and an attempt at a renegotiation, or some combination of these. The one certainty is that, one way or the other, Brexit will haunt the UK’s economy and politics for the indefinite future. Britain cannot at present resolve its relationship with the continent. This is the one clear truth. Comparisons with the 1956 Suez crisis do not get close to the mark. This is a far more significant mess than that.

‘Soft’ Brexit agreement not a done deal, warn EU leaders - France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, has welcomed the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement but warned Paris would be vigilant on its final terms, amid mounting concern from EU member states that the UK was being given too soft a deal. An agreement was “good news for the French economy, good news for all French firms,” Le Maire told French public television on Thursday. “It’s in everyone’s interest that Brexit should go ahead smoothly.” However, he stressed France would be “cautious” over formally signing off the divorce deal to ensure it “guards French and European interests”. If the UK stayed in a customs union, as envisaged until an agreement on future trade was negotiated, “we must be sure it respects all EU rules”, he said, including on taxation and environmental standards. The deal “must not weaken our common market”. Any toughening of the terms of the draft agreement by the EU would be bad news for Theresa May, who faced a wave of resignations on Thursday by Brexit-backing ministers on the grounds the deal conceded too much ground to Brussels. Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, said she was “very happy that, after lengthy and not always easy negotiations, a proposal could be reached”. The Dutch foreign affairs minister, Stef Blok, said the Netherlands would study the draft text “very carefully”, paying “extra attention to agreements on a level playing field and fishing … The customs union as backstop plan demands close examination”. France, Spain and Denmark voiced their concerns at a meeting with the European commission on Wednesday, saying the UK was being given a customs union without sufficient guarantees against future undercutting of EU firms and EU standards. The Netherlands has raised similar worries. EU ministers meeting on Monday are likely to demand that the price the UK pays for a customs union, included in the withdrawal agreement as the only mutually acceptable mechanism for avoiding a hard border across the island of Ireland or down the Irish sea, must be higher.

 May Appoints Little-Known Junior Minister To Brexit Secretary Post - Those who speculated that May might assume the role of Brexit Secretary herself were half-right.Theresa May has appointed pro-Brexit MP Stephen Barclay, previously the minister of state at the department of health and social care, as her new Brexit minister. However, May is stripping the Department for Exiting the European Union of its primary responsibility and taking charge of Brexit negotiations herself. Mmmm... 'Steve may be a lovely man but this appointment just epitomises the utter farce of this govt and how toxic the Brexit post has become. Across the party there is total despair' - Barclay is well liked and seen as on his way up for sure, but it's certainly a big jump— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) November 16, 2018   This might look like it’s Harry Styles leaving a film premiere, but it’s actually backbench Conservative MP Steve Baker leaving the BBC Politics office.— Joey D'Urso (@josephmdurso) November 16, 2018 Barclay is set to become May's third Brexit secretary in 6 months following the resignations of David Davis (who quit over Chequers) and Dominic Raab (who quit on Thursday over the draft plan).

Labour MPs Should Vote Against Theresa May’s Brexit Deal. It Is a Poison Pill - naked capitalism - Yves here. Due to the hour, I am running this Brexit post with less of introduction than I might otherwise. Recall that we flagged Shadow Brexit Minister Kier Starmer’s “No deal is a bluff” messaging as perhaps the talking point of the week or just astonishingly badly informed.We’re now seeing the Starmer lines being taken up more broadly. This is occurring as Tony Blair is making noise everywhere that will give him a microphone about having a second Brexit referendum. So at best, this strategy is a way to give Labour MPs a principled cover for voting down May’s deal. Notice that this post is explicitly pressuring Corbyn to follow the Blairite’s strategy and was set before May and the EU presented the draft agreement. Corbyn was fairly negative immediately before May’s presentations about the deal and ever more so afterwards.But the worst is that it appears that the Blairites really believe what they are saying, that if they vote down Brexit, May will be forced to retreat and withdraw the Article 50 notice. Notice this post doesn’t even try to pretend the EU would agree to move back the Brexit date by the better part of a year to allow the UK have a second referendum. In other words, a push is on for Labour to unite and play a game of chicken with May.

University Alerts Students to Dangers of Leftwing Essay - An essay by a prominent leftwing academic that examines the ethics of socialist revolution has been targeted by a leading university using the government’s counter-terrorism strategy. Students at the University of Reading have been told to take care when reading an essay by the late Professor Norman Geras, in order to avoid falling foul of Prevent. Third-year politics undergraduates have been warned not to access it on personal devices, to read it only in a secure setting, and not to leave it lying around where it might be spotted “inadvertently or otherwise, by those who are not prepared to view it”. The alert came after the text was flagged by the university as “sensitive” under the Prevent programme. The essay, listed as “essential” reading for the university’s Justice and Injustice politics module last year, is titled Our Morals: The Ethics of Revolution. Geras was professor emeritus of government at the University of Manchester until his death in 2013. He rejected terrorism but argued that violence could be justified in the case of grave social injustices. Waqas Tufail, a senior lecturer in criminology at Leeds Beckett University who wrote a report about Prevent last year, described the case at Reading as “hugely concerning”.Ilyas Nagdee, black students’ officer for the National Union of Students, said the case again highlighted “misunderstanding of the [counter-terrorism guidance].” The strategy, itself controversial, is meant to divert people before they offend, and requires universities to monitor students’ and academics’ access to material that could be considered extremist. The scheme has repeatedly come under fire since its remit was expanded by the coalition government in 2011. Critics argue that it has curtailed academic freedom by encouraging universities to cancel appearances by extremist speakers and for fostering a “policing culture” in higher education.Tufail added: “This text was authored by a mainstream, prominent academic who was well-regarded in his field, who was a professor at Manchester for many years and whose obituary was published in the Guardian. This case raises huge concerns about academic freedom and students’ access to material, and it raises wider questions about the impact of Prevent.” The text was identified as potentially sensitive by an academic convening the course. “This is almost worse because it means academics are now engaging in self-censorship,” Tufail said.