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

Saturday, July 6, 2019

week ending Jul 6

 Trump intends to nominate Christopher Waller, Judy Shelton for Fed board  --President Trump announced Tuesday evening that he intends to nominate Christopher Waller and Judy Shelton to fill the two vacancies on the Federal Reserve board of governors. Waller is currently executive vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, while Shelton is the U.S. executive director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Both nominees will require Senate confirmation.Shelton was widely reported to be under consideration for a spot on the Fed board. She previously served as an economic adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign.She has been a critic of the Fed and shares Trump's view that the central bank should be slashing interest rates. Shelton has also voiced support for a monetary system backed by more than government assurances, similar to the gold standard.Trump's initial choices for the two vacant seats on the Fed board — Stephen Moore and Herman Cainwithdrew from consideration in late April and early May amid controversy over their past comments and behavior toward women.In both cases, GOP senators made clear the two men would not have the support to get through the confirmation process.Trump has been a sharp critic of the Fed, particularly Chairman Jerome Powell. The president has argued the Fed stunted economic growth by raising interest rates earlier in his term, blurring, according to critics, the traditional line between the White House and the independent central bank.  If confirmed, Shelton would be perhaps the most sympathetic Fed board member to Trump's demand to cut interest rates. After arguing for years against the Fed's recession-era rate cuts, Shelton has since backed up Trump's call for cheaper money amid the threat of an economic slowdown.

 Gold Surges After Trump Nominates Gold Standard Advocate Judy Shelton To Fed Board -  After several unsuccessful attempts to put his preferred candidates on the Fed's board, moments ago Donald Trump announced that he intends to nominate Christopher Waller, who is currently the Executive VP and Director of Research, at the St. Louis Fed, to the board of the Federal Reserve. Prior to his current position, Christopher served as a professor and Chair of Economics at Notre Dame.  However, the reason why gold is spiking after hours, is that shortly after tweeting the Waller nomination, Trump also confirmed the previously rumored nomination of Judy Shelton to the Fed board:I am pleased to announce that it is my intention to nominate Judy Shelton, Ph. D., U.S. Executive Dir, European Bank of Reconstruction & Development to be on the board of the Federal Reserve Judy is a Founding Member of the board of directors of Empower America and has served on the board of directors of Hilton Hotels.....Judy is a Founding Member of the board of directors of Empower America and has served on the board of directors of Hilton Hotels.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 2, 2019   Courtesy of Mish Shedlock we previously profiled Shelton, a Trump economic advisor and a gold standard advocate: This is what Bloomberg reported back in May: "The White House is considering conservative economist Judy Shelton to fill one of the two vacancies on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors that President Donald Trump has struggled to fill. She’s currently U.S. executive director for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and previously worked for the Sound Money Project, which was founded to promote awareness about monetary stability and financial privacy." On April 21, Judy Shelton had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal: The Case for Monetary Regime Change. But it is wholly legitimate, and entirely prudent, to question the infallibility of the Federal Reserve in calibrating the money supply to the needs of the economy. No other government institution had more influence over the creation of money and credit in the lead-up to the devastating 2008 global meltdown. And the Fed’s response to the meltdown may have exacerbated the damage by lowering the incentive for banks to fund private-sector growth. What began as an emergency decision in the wake of the financial crisis to pay interest to commercial banks on excess reserves has become the Fed’s main mechanism for conducting monetary policy. To raise interest rates, the Fed increases the rate it pays banks to keep their $1.5 trillion in excess reserves—eight times what is required—parked in accounts at Federal Reserve district banks. Rewarding banks for holding excess reserves in sterile depository accounts at the Fed rather than making loans to the public does not help create business or spur job creation.

Trump’s remarkably reasonable pick for the Federal Reserve  - President Trump still has two seats on the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors to fill.  Trump took another stab,announcing his intention to nominate Judy Shelton and Christopher Waller. Shelton is a thorough "dog bites man" pick — by which I mean her monetary policy views are a mess and seem to shift in accordance with whatever Trump wants. So of course the president wants her on the Fed. Waller, on the other hand, is definitely "man bites dog." One of the many things that repulsed everyone about Trump's two previous picks — Herman Cain and Stephen Moore — was their complete lack of relevant experience. You can debate how wise it is for Fed officials to be drawn exclusively from the insider track. But Trump's willingness to go outside that track is one of the defining characteristics of his administration. And the first thing that makes the Waller pick so striking is his insider pedigree. Waller's an economics PhD and a former professor at the University of Notre Dame. Since 2009, he's worked as the director of research for the Fed's St. Louis branch, where "his key research focus has been on monetary and macroeconomic theory and the political economy,"according to Bloomberg. In keeping with his mainstream pedigree, Waller is also on record as a staunch defender of the Federal Reserve's political independence from the executive branch. "The Federal Reserve System is a well-designed institution, created by Congress, that keeps the government from relying on the printing press to finance public spending," Waller wrote in 2011. "It is independent, credible, accountable, and transparent. It is a nearly 100-year-old success story that has served the nation well." That's an analysis you could certainly take issue with; in fact, I myself would take issue with it. But what's important for our purposes here is that while Trump surely isn't familiar with the substantive debate over this topic, his instinct has certainly been to hold the norm of Fed independence in contempt. Again, the choice to nominate Waller is striking because of how much he doesn't fit with Trump's revealed preferences in this regard. A related problem for Trump is that the Fed's entire institutional culture — and really, the economics profession as a whole — has leaned towards monetary hawkery for several decades now. Finding people who are both doves and have the background and credentials of a traditional Fed pick isn't impossible. But it's not straightforward either. Well, it turns out Waller's stint at the St. Louis Fed happened under that branch's president, James Bullard, whom Waller has worked closely with. Bullard stands out as a monetary dove, and even insisted the Fed should've cut rates already at its latest meeting in June. What we know of Waller's own paper trail on this topic isn't super deep yet. But he's written in defense of price level targeting as an approach to monetary policy. It's a somewhat complicated idea, but the upshot is that, if the economy has gone through a period where inflation has been stuck below the Fed's 2 percent target, then the central bank should be willing to let inflation rise above the target for a mirroring length of time to make up the lost ground.

Trump Says US Should Join Great Currency Manipulation Game By Devaluing Dollar - President Trump has never been a fan of the strong dollar. And after beating around the bush for months by demanding a 50 bp rate cut and more QE from the Fed, it seems the president is now explicitly calling on the US to artificially weaken the greenback by any means necessary.  In a tweet, Trump blasted China and Europe for playing a 'big currency manipulation game' and recommended that the US "MATCH" or risk being "the dummies who sit back and politely watch as other countries continue to play their games.China and Europe playing big currency manipulation game and pumping money into their system in order to compete with USA. We should MATCH, or continue being the dummies who sit back and politely watch as other countries continue to play their games - as they have for many years! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 3, 2019   Notably, the tweet calling for even more easing followed Trump's latest tweet celebrating new market highs.

It's Official- This Is The Longest Economic Expansion On Record - It's official: as of this moment, the US economic expansion is now the longest on record, entering its 121st month since the end of the 2009 recession (which according to the NBER ended in June of that year), and surpassing the previous 120 month record - the March 1991 - March 2001 expansion - which ended with the bursting of the dot com bubble. As Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid writes, since US business cycles have been tracked from 1854 there have been 34 expansions. The last four have all been long relative to the past and are all in the top six in terms of duration. The other two in this top six were the June 1938-cycle which was boosted by the WWII rearmament efforts, and the Feb 1961-cycle where the Fed were late to deal with ever increasing US inflation, leading to too loose monetary policy and an extended cycle.As part of a recent analysis, Deutsche Bank explains why this cycle – and the past four – have been so long relative to history, show various economic and market indicators from this cycle relative to the past to put the record-breaking expansion in some context, and predict what may happen next.It may come as a surprise to exactly nobody, that there is a distinct correlation between the rising length of the US business cycle - and ensuing economic and market crashes which terminate said expansion - and the advent of the Federal Reserve. Oh, and globalization has a lot to do with everything too.  As Deutsche Bank writes, during the earliest monitored business cycles, the US economy was predominantly agriculturally based. Indeed the share of employment made up from this sector was 59% in 1850 and only dipped below 30% by 1920 and below 10% by 1960. This likely made GDP more volatile as the economy was more exposed to the boom and bust crop cycles without much sector diversity. In addition, prior to 1913 there was no central bank and banking runs and panics were a fairly regular feature of the economic landscape.

Q2 GDP Forecasts: Around 1.5% --From Merrill Lynch: A widening in the trade deficit and slower than expected inventory build in May were mostly offset by strong vehicle sales in June. On net, the data cut 0.1pp from 2Q GDP tracking, leaving us at1.7% qoq saar. [July 5 estimate]   From the NY Fed Nowcasting Report:  The New York Fed Staff Nowcast stands at 1.5% for 2019:Q2 and 1.7% for 2019:Q3. [July 5 estimate].  And from the Altanta Fed: GDPNow: The GDPNow model estimate for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in thesecond quarter of 2019 is 1.3 percent on July 3, down from 1.5 percent on July 1. [July 3 estimate]   CR Note: These estimates suggest real GDP growth will be around 1.5% annualized in Q2.

 Tanks Roll into D.C. to Celebrate Independence Day - Real News Network. (video & transcript) As we approach this July 4th holiday, we’re on the verge of Trump’s “Salute to America,” but it has been for 200 years or so, a day full of family, parades, fireworks and barbecues to celebrate the United States of America’s birth. It is being turned into a parade of military might one might see in an authoritarian regime around the world. And that’s being coupled with Trump’s seizing the moment for a gigantic Trump rally on the mall, costing the parks and military budgets to spend millions with tanks and flyovers and more. Celebrating our nation is important, but this goes to the very heart of what dangers we might be sliding into, as I talked with Larry Wilkerson about the other day. We are joined by David Swanson today. He’s Co-founder of War is a Crime. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to have planes going overhead, the best fighter jets in the world and other planes too. And we’re going to have some tanks stationed outside. You’ve got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks, so we have to put them in certain areas. But we have the brand new Sherman tanks, so we have the brand new Abrams tanks—

Jingoistic Military Fetishization Is As American As Bald Eagle McNuggets  - Caitlin Johnstone - “Putin’s America,” tweeted Anand Giridharadas, a pundit who was genetically engineered in a Monsanto laboratory to appeal to NPR listeners on every possible level. Giridharadas used these words yesterday to caption a short video clip of two tanks being carted through the streets of DC in preparation for their appearance in a parade for Independence Day, a holiday in which Americans gather to eat hot dogs and drink Mountain Dew in celebration of the anniversary of their lateral transfer from monarchy to corporatist oligarchy.The military hardware parade is taking place at the behest of President Bolton’s social media assistant Donald Trump, and critics have been vocally decrying it as alien and un-American. Pundits like Giridharadas and Steve Silberman have been saying it’s something Russia would do. The Independentsaid it’s a spectacle you’d see in “authoritarian regimes such as North Korea, Iran and China.” Adam Best and Charles Pierce both likened it to something that would be done in a “banana republic”, an interesting choice of phrase for a gratuitous display of American military bravado given that term’s blood-soaked origins in US corporate colonialism.All of these people are of course being ridiculous. There’s nothing alien or un-American about Trump’s parade at all. Jingoistic fetishization of the military is as American as a deep-fried trademark symbol.

Democrats back Trump’s massive “World War III” military budget - For the third year in a row, the Democrats are voting for a massive increase in military spending, to put at the disposal of the fascistic Trump administration money it can use, not just to launch wars, but also to create a police state in America. Senate Democrats voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve the largest Pentagon budget ever, rejecting calls to stop President Trump from building “usable” nuclear weapons and retaliate for his misappropriation of Pentagon funds to carry out the crackdown on the border. Under Trump, the US military budget has gone from $619 billion in 2016 to $700 billion in 2018, $716 billion in 2019 and the $750 billion passed Thursday by the Senate. Defense spending now accounts for nearly 60 percent of the government budget, with everything from education, roads and bridges to scientific research and space exploration squeezed into the remaining two-fifths. If the Senate version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act passes in the House of Representatives, Congress will have granted Trump a total annual increase in the military budget of $131 billion, a figure more than twice as large as Russia’s $61 billion annual military budget. The Democratic-controlled House, for its part, is proposing a military budget of “only” $733 billion—another US record. In Thursday’s vote, 36 Democrats joined 49 Republicans to pass the largest military budget in American history. Only five Democrats voted against the bill, while six others, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, were too busy running for president to vote one way or another on a bill granting massive war-making powers to the fascistic president. The bill squarely targets China, placing sanctions on Chinese banks that do business with North Korea, while prohibiting federal funds from being used to purchase products from the world’s largest maker of passenger rail cars, the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation.

US Army Wants 500,000 Active Troops By 2020, Amid Threats Of War - The US Army wants 500,000 active duty military personnel by 2020, amid threats of war with Iran near the Strait of Hormuz and potential conflict with China across the South China Sea. The service's recruiting goals, however, first reported by Army Times, is facing significant difficulties with unhealthy, ineligible millennials."It's a difficult market because it's a very healthy job market," said Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. "This environment is as challenging as we've faced- 3.6% unemployment. We have no benchmark historically for the all-volunteer force."McCarthy told the Times that it would be difficult to reach the recruitment goal by year's end."We are on target, but it's close," McCarthy said. "We, statistically, can make it, but we're going to have to run through the finish line- undoubtedly a full sprint."McCarthy said Army officials are speaking with municipalities across the country to formulate a strategy to enhance recruitment at a local level. Army officials are shocked that a soaring stock market, booming job market, and low unemployment hasn't translated into higher recruiting numbers."That's coupled with all the other factors we talk about all the time: obesity, mental health, challenges with law enforcement," McCarthy said. "Things of that nature that would require waivers."McCarthy is expected to meet with trainers and NCOs at Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky, next week to strategize how future recruitment programs can attract more millennials. "You got to engage kids," McCarthy said. "It's the mentality that a recruiter needs to have to get someone to understand their story — why an opportunity to serve in the US Army would be a great thing."

Pentagon Slams Chinese Missile Tests In Disputed Waters As Coercive Acts - We reported previously that China's military announced it had closed off an expansive area of the sea near the Spratly Islands in the hotly contested South China Sea for a five-day military drill which began over the weekend and is set to go through middle of this week. This included active anti-ship missile tests, with at least one ballistic missile fired over the sea in an area claimed by multiple countries including US allies, and where the US Navy attempts to maintain "freedom of navigation" rights.  The Pentagon reacted swiftly to the reports, and denounced the missile tests as “coercive acts” and further condemned the drills as a violation of China's pledge for demilitarization in waters that have already witnessed multiple tense encounters with the US Navy and its allies. According to Bloomberg: Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Dave Eastburn said the tests near the Spratly Islands represented a “truly disturbing” violation of President Xi Jinping’s 2015 statement that China “does not intend to pursue militarization” in the water body. The provocative drill and first anti-ship missile test was initiated just as Trump and Xi were meeting at the G20 summit in Osaka, and as Washington and Beijing are restarting trade talks.

 US arms control office critically understaffed under Trump, experts say - A state department office tasked with negotiating and implementing nuclear disarmament treaties has lost more than 70% of its staff over the past two years, as the Trump administration moves towards a world without arms control for the first time in nearly half a century. The Office of Strategic Stability and Deterrence Affairs, normally a repository of expertise and institutional knowledge that does the heavy lifting of arms control, has been whittled down from 14 staffers at the start of the Trump administration to four, according to the former staffers. The state department declined to comment.The state department has instead focused its arms control efforts on “creating the environment for disarmament” (CEND)shifting the onus for disarmament from the nuclear weapons powers to non-weapons states.An invitation to a 2 July state department conference on the subject invites non-nuclear states to come up with “measures to modify the security environment to reduce incentives for states to retain, acquire, or increase their holdings of nuclear weapons”. The shift in approach comes as the administration claims to be conducting a review on whether to extend the New Start agreement limiting US and Russian strategic nuclear warheads, or find an alternative to it that would include China and new weapons systems.Vladimir Putin has said Russia is in favour of a New Start extension, but warned that time is running out. “If we do not begin talks now, it would be over because there would be no time even for formalities,” Putin told the Financial Times.

Air Force Accidentally Dropped Dummy Bombs On Florida After Hitting a Bird - An Air Force jet accidentally dropped three dummy bombs over Florida after hitting a bird on July 1. The incident is suspected to have happened at around 1:15 p.m. about 54 miles southwest of Moody Air Force Base about a mile-and-a-quarter west of Highway 129 near Suwannee Springs, said a media release by the Moody Air force Base in Central Georgia. “During a routine training mission, an A-10C Thunderbolt II assigned to the 23d Fighter Group suffered a bird strike which caused an inadvertent release of three BDU-33s, a small non-explosive training munition,” said the 23rd Wing Public Affairs. Authorities are investigating the incidence and no injuries or damages have been reported. The air force base said the dummy bomb released is a 25-pound training munition used to simulate the M1a-82 500-pound bomb. “It is approximately 22-and-a-half inches long and is blue in color. Although the training munition is inert, it is equipped with a small pyrotechnic charge and should not be handled,” it said. The authorities have cautioned people not to touch the munition if they come across it. “If the training munition is found, do not approach it, take note of the location, leave the area and keep others away,” said the 23rd Wing Public Affairs.

Trump steps into North Korea in historic meeting - Donald Trump has become the first sitting US president to set foot in North Korea, after meeting Kim Jong-un in the area dividing the two Koreas. Mr Trump and the North Korean leader posed for handshakes before talking for nearly an hour in the heavily fortified demilitarised zone (DMZ). Both countries agreed to set up teams to resume stalled nuclear talks. Their last summit broke down in February with no progress on denuclearisation in North Korea. Critics have dismissed the occasion - the two leaders' third face-to-face encounter in just over a year - as a political theatre and say North Korea still needs to show that it is serious in getting rid of its nuclear weapons. What happened at the DMZ? In a meeting apparently arranged after Mr Trump invited Mr Kim on Twitter on Saturday, they shook hands across the demarcation line between the Koreas before Mr Trump briefly crossed into North Korea, a symbolic milestone. "Good to see you again. I never expected to meet you at this place," a smiley Mr Kim told Mr Trump through an interpreter in an encounter broadcast live on international television. "Big moment," Mr Trump said, "tremendous progress." Looking relaxed, Mr Kim crossed into South Korea and alongside Mr Trump said: "I believe this is an expression of his willingness to eliminate all the unfortunate past and open a new future." The encounter had initially been billed as a short greeting but Mr Trump and Mr Kim ended up talking for almost an hour in a building known as the Freedom House, on the South Korean side. For a brief moment, Mr Trump and Mr Kim were joined by South Korea's President Moon Jae-in, an unprecedented three-way gathering.

After surprise Trump-Kim meeting, U.S. and North Korea to reopen talks (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korea on Sunday when he met its leader, Kim Jong Un, in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas and agreed to resume stalled nuclear talks. The meeting, initiated by a spur-of-the-moment tweet by Trump that Kim said took him by surprise, once again displayed the rapport between the two. But they are no closer to narrowing the gap between their positions since they walked away from their summit in February in Vietnam. The two men shook hands warmly and expressed hopes for peace when they met for the third time in just over a year on the old Cold War frontier that for decades has symbolized the hostility between their countries, which are technically still at war. Trump, escorted by Kim, briefly crossed a military demarcation line into the North side of the Joint Security Area (JSA), patrolled by soldiers from both Koreas. Moments later, they returned to the southern side and joined South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in for a brief chat, marking an unprecedented three-way gathering. Trump and Kim then held a closed-door meeting for nearly an hour. “We just had a very, very good meeting,” Trump said after the talks. “We’ll see what can happen.” He said both sides would set up teams to push forward stalled talks aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, adding “speed is not the thing.” Pope Francis, making his weekly address in St. Peter’s Square, praised the meeting. “I salute the protagonists, with a prayer that such a significant gesture will be a further step on the road to peace, not only on that peninsula, but for the good of the entire world,” he said.;

Hope for a Breakthrough in Korea - Ray McGovern - There is hope for some real progress in U.S.-North Korean relations after Sunday morning’s unscheduled meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, largely because Russia and China seem more determined than ever to facilitate forward movement. Sitting down before the talks began, Kim underlined the importance of the meeting.“I hope it can be the foundation for better things that people will not be expecting,” he said. “Our great relationship will provide the magical power with which to overcome hardships and obstacles in the tasks that need to be done from now on.” Trump was equally positive speaking of Kim: “We’ve developed a very good relationship and we understand each other very well. I do believe he understands me, and I think I maybe understand him, and sometimes that can lead to very good things.” Trump said the two sides would designate teams, with the U.S. team headed by special envoy Stephen Biegun under the auspices of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, to start work in the next two to three weeks. “They’ll start a process, and we’ll see what happens,” he said. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who met individually with President Trump at the G20 in Osaka, have been singing from the same sheet of Korea music — particularly in the wake of Xi’s visit to North Korea on June 20-21. Putin’s remarks are the most illuminating. In an interview with The Financial Times, Putin pointed to “the tragedies of Libya and Iraq” — meaning, of course, what happened to each of them as they lacked a nuclear deterrent. Applying that lesson to North Korea, Putin said, “What we should be talking about is not how to make North Korea disarm, but how to ensure the unconditional security of North Korea and how to make any country, including North Korea, feel safe and protected by international law. …”

Trump-Kim Denuclearization Talks Still Stalled Despite Korea Meeting – It was a historic photo-op no doubt, but the unprecedented and impromptu encounter between North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and U.S. president Donald Trump at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North from South Korea Sunday does nothing to significantly advance denuclearization talks stalled since February.Scurrying photographers and security men rushing to and fro formed the backdrop for the first off-the-cuff meeting between both leaders since Trump walked-out of their second summit in Hanoi in February after making an all or nothing demand Kim rejected.Trump shook hands with Kim at the DMZ. He later took 20 steps inside the communist country, becoming the first incumbent U.S. president to enter North Korea.“It’s a great honor to be here,” said Trump during his face-to-face with Kim at the DMZ. “I feel great.” “I never expected to meet you at this place,” said Kim about his meeting with Trump at the DMZ.Political analysts later said the 50 minute-long Kim-Trump DMZ tête-à-tête only achieved a promise to restart hampered denuclearization talks. Trump said both countries' negotiating teams might begin meeting in a matter of weeks.He said U.S. negotiators will be led by the current U.S. special representative for North Korea, Stephen Biegun. Trump wished Biegun luck. U.S. officials later said only low-level delegations will get the ball rolling. Trump has said again and again he's in no rush to immediately eliminate North Korea's nuclear weapons, which was his main demand in his first two failed summits with Kim.

 North Korea says US ‘hell-bent on hostile acts’ despite Trump-Kim meeting -- North Korea’s mission to the United Nations has accused the U.S. of being “obsessed with sanctions” and “more and more hell-bent on hostile acts” against Pyongyang. North Korea’s delegation to the UN said Wednesday that the country was responding to a letter sent to all UN member states late last month. In it, the U.S. — alongside the U.K., Germany and France — called on countries around the world to implement tougher sanctions on Pyongyang. The mission said the letter was sent by the U.S. on June 29, the same day President Donald Trump tweeted he would like to shake hands with leader Kim Jong Un during his visit to the demilitarized zone on the Korean Peninsula. “What can’t be overlooked is the fact that this joint letter game was carried out by the Permanent Mission of the United States to the UN under the instruction of the State Department, on the very same day when President Trump proposed for the summit meeting,” a press statement from the North Korea mission said. The meeting on Sunday, which saw Trump become the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in the isolated regime, culminated in the pair agreeing to resume talks aimed at getting Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Iranian oil minister: Iran is not ready to talk to the US until sanctions are lifted - Iran is not ready to engage in talks with the United States until sanctions are lifted, an Iranian oil minister told CNBC on Monday. “Iran is not ready to open discussions with United States,” said Iranian oil minister Bijan Zanganeh at the OPEC meeting in Vienna to CNBC’s Brian Sullivan. “If United States and the administration wants to change the environment between the two countries, firstly [it] should leave all sanctions put against Iranian oil and other areas. Then, [the U.S.] will see significant change in the environment and then we can do many things.” Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have escalated in recent weeks, following attacks on oil tankers and a U.S. drone near the Strait of Hormuz that the U.S. alleges were executed by Iran. Although Iran denies it carried out the tanker attacks and said the drone was in Iranian airspace, last week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing new sanctions on Iran in response to the downing of an unmanned U.S. drone. The Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel between the borders of Iran and Oman, accounts for approximately 30% of the world’s seaborne oil traffic. When asked if it is safe for tankers in the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz, Zanganeh emphasized that the oil market should be depoliticized. “I don’t know who has done against the ships in Oman but in [the] Iranian side, during the more than 100 years, we secured the market and we repeated it for many times that the market, the oil market, should be depoliticized,” said Zanganeh. “The oil market should be depoliticized for all,” he said. “Its not a tool to use against some countries to limit its export and others. Oil is oil.” Iran is OPEC’s third-largest oil producer prior to the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions.

Trump’s Lose-Lose Iran Strategy One can only guess what US President Donald Trump hopes to achieve in Iran. Does he have designs on a “better” nuclear treaty than the 2015 deal from which he withdrew the United States? Are he and his advisers assuming that if they pile up enough demands, the regime will be forced to submit, or even abdicate? Or are they setting the stage for an attempt at regime change through military force? In all likelihood, they themselves have no idea. That may be just as well, because none of the above is going to happen. To be sure, Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, as the 2015 nuclear deal is officially known) fulfilled one of his key campaign promises. The problem is that neither he nor his advisers seem to have considered what would come next. One of the few constants of Trump’s approach to policymaking is its focus on winning the approval of his core bloc of supporters. Given that he also campaigned against America’s foreign entanglements, it is safe to assume that these voters do not want the US to launch another war in the Middle East. A military conflagration with Iran would result in even more casualties, and prove to be even less winnable, than the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. For his part, Trump most likely wants to avoid war while still maximizing the pressure on the Iranian regime. The problem is that in the political environment of the Persian Gulf, the line between these two options is not particularly clear. Past experience shows that maximum pressure often creates the conditions for military confrontation. Trump, unlike his hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, claims that violent regime change is not one of the objectives of his Iran policy. Yet he is acting exactly as if the neoconservatives who led former US President George W. Bush into Iraq are still calling the shots.

Trump: Iran 'playing with fire' by exceeding uranium stockpile limit - President Trump said Monday that Iran is "playing with fire" after it announced earlier in the day that it had exceeded the amount of low-enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile under the Obama-era nuclear deal, from which Trump withdrew the U.S. last year. "They know what they’re doing," Trump said during a bill signing in the Oval Office. "They know what they’re playing with, and they’re playing with fire. So no message to Iran whatsoever." The International Atomic Energy Agency, the group that monitors Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear accord, confirmed Monday morning that Tehran has exceeded the stockpile limit. Monday marked the first time Iran is known to have breached the terms of the deal. Iran had agreed to cap its stockpile of low-enriched uranium at 300 kilograms, one of several restrictions on its nuclear activities, in exchange for the lifting of almost all international sanctions. Iranian officials said they are violating the terms of the deal because the U.S. withdrew and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. The violation adds to long-simmering tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which have been on the rise since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear agreement last year. European allies, Russia and China have remained committed to the pact, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

U.S. tells Europe: Choose between us and Iran, as new trading system launches — The U.S. special representative for Iran said Friday that European companies have a choice: Do business with the United States or do business with Iran, as Europe announced that a new system to allow trade with Tehran was in place.The comments by Brian Hook came as European countries made a last-ditch effort to prevent Iran from breaching the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, a move that could add to soaring tensions in the Persian Gulf.Europe has been scrambling to come up with a mechanism to persuade Iran to stay within the limits of the deal, as Tehran complains that it no longer sees the economic benefit of the accord after the Trump administration pulled out and reimposed sanctions on the nation. Iran has indicated that if it does not receive some form of sanctions relief, it plans to exceed the limit of 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of low-enriched uranium that the country is allowed to possess under the nuclear agreement.That threat added urgency to efforts by Britain, France and Germany to set up a complex barter system that would allow some trade with Iran to continue in order to keep Tehran from breaching the deal. The system is now operational, senior E.U. diplomat Helga Schmid said after a meeting of officials from the remaining E.U. signatories in Vienna on Friday. She said she expected more E.U. countries to join.  European officials argue that maintaining the nuclear deal is crucial for regional stability. The United States has blamed Iran and its proxies for recent provocations in the Persian Gulf region, including attacks on petrochemical tankers in the Gulf of Oman and the downing of a U.S. surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has denied involvement in the tanker attacks.

Iran Nuclear Deal: Better Late Than Never? - Monday has seen a curious coincidence that I have seen nobody else comment on regarding the  status of the JCPOA Iran nuclear deal.  On the one hand Iran has apparently now officially violated the agreement in terms of the amount of low level enriched uranium it has, going over the allowed limit, although it remains very far from obtaining in nuclear weapons. On the other the EU, more specifically and especially France and Germany, have gotten their alternative payment mechanism, Instex, operational.  This has been set up to allow European companies to deal with Iran without using dollars or the US-controlled SWIFT clearing system.  However, it is only initially going to deal with non-sensitive items like food and pharmaceuticals, not other goods, at least not now.  The Iranians have made it clear that for them to keep to the JCPOA the Europeans need to more fully offset the US sanctions.  That is not happening, not at least now, although the possibility is there. So, this may be too late, but maybe Iran will not get too far above the limits.  Maybe there is still a chance to more seriously offset Trump’s illegal sanctions.

Trump Tells Saudi Crown Prince He’s Done a “Spectacular Job”— President Trump praised Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Saturday during their meeting at the G20 summit in Japan. Trump told the crown prince, “You have done a spectacular job” and referred to him as, “a friend of mine.”A reporter asked the president if he brought up the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which occurred inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey, Trump said, “nobody so far has directly pointed a finger at the future king of Saudi Arabia.”  Trump’s comments contradict the CIA’s conclusion that the crown prince most likely ordered the execution. Agnes Callamard, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, released a report on the murder last week and said, “It is the conclusion of the special rapporteur that Mr Khashoggi has been the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law”

 Demanding End to ‘AIPAC-Created Status Quo,’ Progressive Jewish Group Pressures 2020 Democrats to Take Stand Against Israel’s Brutal Occupation - In an effort to pressure Democratic presidential candidates to take a stand against Israel's treatment of Palestinians, the youth-led progressive Jewish advocacy group IfNotNow has launched a new campaign arm with the goal of bringing Israel's brutal occupation "to the forefront of the 2020 elections." As Politico reported on Saturday, IfNotNow is "training organizers in the early primary state of New Hampshire" and "plans to 'bird-dog' presidential candidates at public events to create viral moments and prod the Democratic Party leftward on the issue of Israel.""In addition to pushing the candidates to adopt more progressive positions on Israel," according to Politico, "the group said it is hoping to draw public attention to the Democratic Party's changing attitudes on the topic and clarify candidates' stances on particular issues." Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) appears to have been the first 2020 presidential candidate confronted by IfNotNow members in New Hampshire. The group said the senator expressed support for their campaign.  Our members in NH just asked @BernieSanders if he’s also an anti-Occupation Jew and looks like the answer is YES!

How Trump’s ‘weaponized’ use of foreign aid is backfiring  - Aid groups working in Venezuela are eager to receive planeloads of humanitarian assistance from the United States, hoping to alleviate severe food and medicine shortages throughout the country.  But many of them don’t want the U.S. label attached to it. President Donald Trump has so closely linked U.S. humanitarian assistance to his attempt to oust Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro — even placing goods along the country’s border as an incentive for Venezuelans to revolt — that some groups are citing security concerns and asking U.S. officials if they can strip legally required U.S. branding from aid sent to Venezuela, three aid officials told POLITICO.Some organizations are looking at other options, such as seeing if the U.S. funding can be masked by routing it through the United Nations, or at ways to diversify their funding sources so that they can use more non-American aid to help Venezuelans, various aid experts said.The situation reflects broader fears that Trump’s unusually politicized approach to handing out U.S. aid worldwide is backfiring, tarnishing America’s brand and possibly risking the lives of people from Latin America to the Palestinian territories.“The Trump administration seems to have weaponized humanitarian assistance,” said Larry Sampler, a former career employee at the U.S. Agency for International Development. “We used to be able to say we’re not choosing sides, that all we’re doing is alleviating human suffering. We’ve lost that now.” Venezuela has been a particularly blatant example, aid officials say.

 America’s Economic Blockades and International Law - US President Donald Trump has based his foreign policy on a series of harsh economic blockades, each designed to frighten, coerce, and even starve the target country into submitting to American demands. While the practice is less violent than a military attack, and the blockade is through financial means rather than the navy, the consequences are often dire for civilian populations. As such, economic blockades by the United States should be scrutinized by the United Nations Security Council under international law and the UN Charter.  While Trump has so far eschewed a new war, he has continued US regime-change efforts by other means. Trump is often called an isolationist, but he is as interventionist as his predecessors. His strategy, at least so far, has been to rely more heavily on US economic power than military might to coerce adversaries, which creates its own kind of cruelty and destabilization. And it constantly risks flaring into outright war, as occurred with Iran this month. The Trump administration currently is engaged in three attempts at comprehensive economic blockades, against North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran, as well as several lesser blockades against countries such as Cuba and Nicaragua, and an intensifying effort to cut off China’s access to technology. The blockade against North Korea is sanctioned, at least in part, by the UN Security Council. The blockade against Iran is in direct opposition to the Security Council. And the blockade against Venezuela is so far without Security Council engagement for or against. The US is attempting to isolate the three countries from almost all international trade, causing shortages of food, medicines, energy, and spare parts for basic infrastructure, including the water supply and power grid. The North Korean blockade operates mainly through UN-mandated sanctions, and includes a comprehensive list of exports to North Korea, imports from North Korea, and financial relations with North Korean entities. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports that ten million North Koreans are at risk of hunger, partly owing to sanctions.  A recent detailed analysis of the draconian US sanctions on Venezuela shows their devastating impact. The US sanctions gravely exacerbated previous economic mismanagement, contributing to a catastrophic fall in oil production, hyperinflation, economic collapse (output is down by half since 2016), hunger, and rising mortality. US sanctions against Iran are in direct contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran. The effects have been devastating. The International Monetary Fund forecasts that Iran’s economy will shrink by 10% between 2017 and 2019, with inflation reaching 30% this year. Medicines are in short supply.

Trump is finished with the Afghan war - There could be several ways of interpreting the US State Department’s decision on Tuesday to designate the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, which imposes economic sanctions on the group and anyone affiliated with it. What is absolutely certain is that this is by no means an altruistic decision by Washington.The BLA is based in Afghanistan and has been waging a violent armed struggle against Pakistan for the past decade and a half upholding the right of self-determination of the Baloch people and demanding the separation of Balochistan province from Pakistan, apart from being involved in ethnic-cleansing of non-Baloch minorities in Balochistan.Curiously, the BLA’s timeline (starting from 2004) has been co-terminus with the US’ occupation of Afghanistan. It is inconceivable that the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan were unaware of the BLA’s subversive activities or who were its mentors. Islamabad has been shouting and screaming from the rooftop all this while that its adversaries exploited the group as a proxy to destabilise Pakistan.Put differently, the timing of the State Department decision banning the BLA is noteworthy. In fact, the US apprehends that an extremely dangerous situation is arising in Afghanistan even as the withdrawal of American troops accelerates. President Trump disclosed in an interview this week with Tucker Carlson on FOX television that the US troop level has come down to 9000 from 16000 already. Trump made no bones about the fact that he is finished with the war in Afghanistan. At one point in the interview, Trump bursts out, “I’d like to just get out.” Trump claims that he intends to keep a “very strong” intelligence presence in Afghanistan. He couldn’t care less anymore whether there will be a broad-based government in Kabul or a Taliban takeover. He’s well past that point of agonising. At one point, Trump implied to Carlson — who also happens to be an inveterate critic of America’s “endless wars” — that he no longer trusts the judgment or integrity of the military commanders.

 Turkey Says S-400s To Arrive Next Week; Erdogan Slams F-35 Cutoff As US Theft - A top Turkish official has confirmed that Russian delivery of its deadly S-400 air defense systems, anticipation of which over the past year has caused an unprecedented breach in US-Turkey relations, is expected imminently. The president of Turkish Defense Industries, Ismail Demir, confirmed that a huge development is expected next week: "I will not tell the exact date now, but you will see in the second week of July," Demir was quoted as saying by private Turkish broadcaster NTV. Addressing fears that it could radically alter the military balance in the Mediterranean, and amid accusations that the deal solidifies Russian influence over the Levant, the Turkish defense industries chief added, "However, we can use any weapon in our hand anywhere in Turkey whenever necessary." Amid threats of US sanctions on its NATO ally, and following Turkish counter threats of sanction on Washington which most western pundits have brushed off as unrealistic and laughable, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeatedly insisted over the past months that it is "a done deal," pledging Ankara is moving forward "no matter what the consequences will be" — and despite the disruption of Turkey's Lockheed purchased F-35 stealth fighter jets. This month is where it all appears to be coming to a head: the S-400s will be delivered, and the Pentagon last month established July 31 as the cutoff date for ejecting Turkey from the F-35 program.

 Intentional Massacre - US-Backed Libyan Warlord Blamed For Migrant Center Airstrike That Killed 44 -- A major airstrike on a migrant center in Tripoli, Libya has left at least 44 people dead and another 80 wounded in what is the current renewed civil war's single worst disaster yet. About 120 migrants were being held inside a hangar at a refugee site when the building took a direct hit from what's believed to have been an overhead jet belonging to warlord Khalifa Haftar's LNA forces. Another 600 people, including many women and children were in a building next to the site of direct impact when the strike happened Tuesday.  Though there's currently no independent confirmation of which side conducted the attack, the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli was swift to blame Benghazi-based General Haftar, whose Libyan National Army (LNA) has for months been attempting to take over the capital. The GNA condemned the airstrike on the migrant center as an "intentional" act that constituted a "war crime". Notably, the White House only months ago came out in support of Gen. Haftar, and he's long been considered the CIA's man in Libya. We reported the following in April:In a sharp reversal of longstanding US policy which recognizes only the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli as the legitimate authority over Libya, the White House on Friday said President Trump spoke by phone this week to Benghazi based commander Kalifa Haftar, pledging support to the general and his Libyan National Army (LNA) as it lays siege to the capital.  The White House statement said Trump “recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system.”"There was blood and body parts all over the place, and some people were being rescued from under the fallen building by the time I left," one eyewitness recounted.

Libya Attack: U.S. Blocks UN Security Council Condemnation of Migrant Camp Airstrike, Says Report The United States has blocked the United Nations Security Council from issuing a statement condemning the airstrike on a migrant detention center in Libya which left 44 people dead, according to a report in Germany. Deutsche Welle reports that British representations circulated a statement that condemned the air strike and called for a ceasefire when the council met Wednesday. However, the U.S. reportedly prevented the 15-member Security Council from issuing a statement. The U.S. State Department had earlier condemned the air strike, but didn't go as far as to call for a ceasefire. The air strike hit a detention center in Tripoli on Wednesday. Libya's UN-backed government in Tripoli blamed the attack on the insurgent Libyan National Army.

New Soros/Koch-Funded Think Tank Claims To Oppose US Forever War - Caitlin Johnston - A new Boston Globe article titled “In an astonishing turn, George Soros and Charles Koch team up to end US ‘forever war’ policy” reports that the two influential billionaires have chipped in a half a million dollars apiece to start a new DC think tank with the goal of doing the exact opposite of the sort of thing that billionaire-funded DC think tanks normally do.“Besides being billionaires and spending much of their fortunes to promote pet causes, the leftist financier George Soros and the right-wing Koch brothers have little in common,” the report begins. “They could be seen as polar opposites. Soros is an old-fashioned New Deal liberal. The Koch brothers are fire-breathing right-wingers who dream of cutting taxes and dismantling government. Now they have found something to agree on: the United States must end its ‘forever war’ and adopt an entirely new foreign policy.”“In concrete terms, this means the Quincy Institute will likely advocate a withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and Syria; a return to the nuclear deal with Iran; less confrontational approaches to Russia and China; an end to regime-change campaigns against Venezuela and Cuba; and sharp reductions in the defense budget,” the article reads.Responses to this news from Twitter’s blue-ticked commentariat have been largely supportive.“Great to see that avoiding really stupid, costly wars has support across party lines,” tweeted author and professor Max Abrahms. “Certainly understand skepticism of Soros and Koch money but with a platform of ending endless war and Trita Parsi at the helm, this sounds very promising and is sorely needed as we inch towards catastrophic nuclear war,” said journalist Dan Cohen.

Xi-Trump summit in Osaka brings trade truce, more talks and hope for Huawei - US President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to restart trade talks during their meeting in Osaka on Saturday.  China and the United States reached a trade truce after a high-stakes leaders’ summit on Saturday, with Washington agreeing to put on hold new tariffs on Chinese products and ease restrictions for American companies to sell to telecoms giant Huawei Technologies. During talks on the sidelines of the Group of 20 gathering in Osaka, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump also agreed to resume trade talks. Trump said the US would not impose new tariffs on US$300 billion worth of Chinese products “at least for the time being” – as the South China Morning Post and POLITICO reported earlier. In return, China would buy a “tremendous” amount of US goods to reduce the trade deficit, Trump said. Washington would “immediately” give China a list of the goods it wants to sell, the US president said at a press conference later in the day. The biggest surprise was his statement that US companies would be allowed to sell to Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei again, as long as the business did not involve parts that could threaten America’s national security.That could effectively end a ban announced in May on American firms selling to Huawei. The Chinese company relies heavily on its American partners to supply key components for its smartphones and other products. But Huawei products will still be banned from the US market.Trump said the decision on whether to remove Huawei from the US Commerce Department’s entities list would be left to a later date, adding he would have a meeting on Tuesday on the subject.“We are leaving Huawei towards the end. We are seeing what goes with the trade agreement,” he said, suggesting that a full lifting of the ban would depend on a deal being reached to end the trade war.

Trump ‘allows’ Huawei to buy some ‘non-national security’ tech… if China buys more US farm produce President Trump has allowed China’s Huawei to continue business with US tech giants – limited and with strings attached – following his “better than expected” talks with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. China has agreed to purchase “large amounts of agricultural product from our great Farmers” in return for his concessions on Huawei, the US president said, admitting that American big tech was lobbying for the lifting of the ban. At the request of our High Tech companies, and President Xi, I agreed to allow Chinese company Huawei to buy product from them which will not impact our National Security. Following the much-anticipated Xi-Trump meeting, which focused on resolving the ongoing trade conflict between the world’s largest economies and tensions around Huawei, Trump noted that he “agreed not to increase the already existing Tariffs that we charge China while we continue to negotiate.” “We have opened up negotiations,” Trump said, following the first sign of progress since the last round of talks broke down in May.

Road of US-China relations remains bumpy after Huawei reprieve The coming trade talks between China and the United States will continue to face uncertainties as the technological races between the two countries will continue after the possible withdrawal of US sanctions against Huawei, some Asia-based commentators say. The recent ceasefire between China and the US is only temporary as the two countries have already entered a long-term battle of trade disputes and technological races, Philip Yang, former deputy secretary general of Taiwan’s National Security Council (NSC), said in a commentary published in the United Daily News on Sunday. By allowing US companies to sell products and services to Huawei, US President Donald Trump can gain some bargaining chips as he can continue to press Beijing for more compromises in coming trade talks while at the same time easing opposition pressure of the US firms that were affected by the US sanctions against Huawei, Yang said. After the Huawei incident, Beijing has realized that it should not rely on US technology and markets in future, Yang said. To achieve self-supply and market autonomy, China needs to buy time to push forward its technological upgrade so it is willing to ease trade disputes for the moment, he added. However, such a ceasefire may not last long as Trump cannot just let Huawei go or he will face severe challenges from his political opponents, Yang said. Both disputes and compromises will be seen during the coming trade talks while the world will continue to see conflicts and confrontation in the new order set by China and the United States, he said. Last month, trade talks between China and the US collapsed as Trump decided to increase tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese products to 25% from 10% on May 10. A few days later, China’s Finance Ministry said the world’s second-largest economy would raise tariffs on US imports worth $60 billion in June. On Saturday, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a meeting on the sidelines of the Group of Twenty summit in Osaka, Japan, and agreed to resume trade talks. Trump later said the US would allow its firms to sell products and services to Huawei.

Trump Says U.S. ‘Winning’ Trade War After Reviving China Talks - President Donald Trump declared the U.S. was “winning” the trade war a day after reaching a temporary truce with Chinese President Xi Jinping. On a visit to South Korea following the Group of 20 summit in Japan, Trump said at a news conference that the Federal Reserve “has not been of help to us at all” in his trade spat with Beijing. “Despite that, we’re winning, and we’re winning big because we have created an economy that is second to none,” he said. The White House has yet to reveal details of Trump’s arrangement with Xi, leaving uncertainty about how the two countries will proceed. Trump said after the G-20 meeting that he would hold off indefinitely on tariffs planned for an additional $300 billion in Chinese imports while allowing U.S. companies to continue to do some business with China’s Huawei Technologies Co., one of the country’s most prominent firms. The move drew criticism back home, where many members of Congress agreed with the administration’s assessment that Huawei is a threat to national security and don’t want the company treated as a bargaining chip. The Commerce Department in May moved to place Huawei on a blacklist that would cut it off from American suppliers. U.S. officials have alleged the company’s products could be utilized for espionage by Beijing, a claim Huawei denies. “If President Trump has agreed to reverse recent sanctions against #Huawei he has made a catastrophic mistake,” Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said in a tweet. In addition to agreeing to re-start talks, Trump said Xi had also agreed that China would buy large amounts of U.S. agricultural goods. But Chinese official media reports said only that Trump hopes China will import more American goods as part of the trade-war truce.

 China appears to be the winner of the Trump-Xi meeting at G-20, experts say - U.S. President Donald Trump has touted his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the weekend as “far better than expected” — but several trade and investment experts said Beijing appears to have gained the upper hand in the trade war. Trump and Xi agreed at the G-20 summit in Japan to withhold from slapping additional tariffs on each other’s products as the two sides return to the negotiating table in a bid to finalize a trade agreement. In addition, Trump said he agreed to allow Huawei to purchase U.S. products and China will buy “large amounts” of American farm produce. Washington had earlier announced a ban that restricts Huawei’s ability to do business with U.S. firms due to national security concerns. Trump’s apparently softer stance on the Chinese tech giant was seen by some observers as a major concession that the U.S. has granted China. “It is looking like, so far, China is coming out as a winner from this G-20,” Francesco Filia, chief executive and chief investment officer at asset management firm Fasanara Capital, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Monday. “It’s not even clear what they gave up in order to get it,” he said, noting there was a lack of details about what the two leaders agreed on at the meeting. Trump standing down on some of his threats to China was “one of the most concerning outcomes at the G-20,” said Danielle DiMartino Booth, chief executive of research firm Quill Intelligence. “It looks as if he obviously gave a lot of ground back to China,” she told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Wednesday.

Commentary: Equality, mutual respect cornerstone of solving China-U.S. trade issues - Xinhua |  -- As Chinese President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, met last week in Osaka, Japan, the world has seen encouraging signals that trade issues between the two countries can be solved based on equality and mutual respect. The two leaders agreed to restart economic and trade consultations, while the U.S. side said not to add new tariffs on Chinese exports. By reaching the important consensus, the meeting has injected positive energy to the international community and the global market. As the world's two largest economies, China and the United States share common interests and enjoy enormous potential to cooperate in various fields. Since the two countries established diplomatic ties 40 years ago, their economic and trade cooperation has seen remarkable development. The trade in goods between the two countries surged by 252 times from 1979 to 2018. It is natural that there are divergences between the two countries. However, it should not be ignored that the economic and trade cooperation has significantly benefited both countries, as well as the whole world. Cooperation is the only right choice for the two countries. Only by strengthening mutual trust, promoting cooperation and managing differences, can the two countries address their trade issues. To push forward their negotiations and reach a deal between the two countries, it is an important precondition that the talks must be based on equality and mutual respect. The deal must be mutually beneficial. If one side forces the other side into an unfair deal, the negotiations will not go anywhere. In addition, the core interests and major concerns of both countries must be respected. China will unswervingly safeguard its core interests on issues concerning its sovereignty and dignity.

Last-Ditch Chipmaker Lobbying Blitz Convinced Trump To Drop Huawei From Blacklist - This should surprise absolutely nobody: Bloomberg reported Tuesday that President Trump's decision to allow some American chipmakers to continue doing business with Huawei followed an intense lobbying effort by industry group SIA - i.e. the Semiconductor Industry Association. The argument SIA used to convince the president was simple yet effective: sanctions against Huawei would make US chipmakers appear to be undependable partners, which could crimp their competitiveness against increasingly sophisticated international rivals. Before Trump left for Osaka, a team of lobbyists met with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to argue that the decision to add Huawei to the "entities list" - effectively blacklisting the firm by severely restricting what American firms are allowed to sell to Huawei - was short-sighted and could do serious harm to a critical American industry. The lobbyists turned Trump's national security argument - the idea that Huawei must be cut out of American markets because its products could enable Beijing to carry out mass espionage - on its head, arguing that cutting off US chipmakers from one of their largest international markets (China) would hurt long-term profitability as well as the company's CapEx spend. “Overly broad restrictions that not only constrain the ability of U.S. semiconductor companies to conduct business around the world, but also casts U.S. companies as risky and undependable, puts at risk the success of this industry, which in turn impacts our national security,” the group wrote last month. They added that the administration should take into account those factors when evaluating license applications from American firms. And as it so happens, their arguments found their way to President Trump, who parroted some of these points when he unveiled his plan to give Huawei a reprieve.

U.S. government staff told to treat Huawei as blacklisted -(Reuters) - A senior U.S. official told the Commerce Department’s enforcement staff this week that China’s Huawei should still be treated as blacklisted, days after U.S. President Donald Trump sowed confusion with a vow to ease a ban on sales to the firm. Trump surprised markets on Saturday by promising Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan that he would allow U.S. companies to sell products to Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. In May, the company was added to the so-called Entity List, which bans American firms from selling to it without special permission, as punishment for actions against U.S. national security interests. Trump’s announcement on Saturday - an olive branch to Beijing to revive stalled trade talks - was cheered by U.S. chipmakers eager to maintain sales to Huawei, the world’s largest telecoms equipment maker and a key U.S. customer. But Trump’s comments also spawned confusion among industry players and government officials struggling to understand what Huawei policy he had unveiled. In an email to enforcement staff on Monday that was seen by Reuters, John Sonderman, Deputy Director of the Office of Export Enforcement, in the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), sought to clarify how agents should approach license requests by firms seeking approval to sell to Huawei. All such applications should be considered on merit and flagged with language noting that “This party is on the Entity List. Evaluate the associated license review policy under part 744,” he wrote, citing regulations that include the Entity List and the “presumption of denial” licensing policy that is applied to blacklisted companies.

Commerce Department: Ignore Trump's Promise To Remove Huawei From Blacklist - President Trump reportedly promised President Xi that he would ease restrictions on s ales by US firms to Chinese telecoms giant Huawei when the two leaders met last weekend. But whether this was a serious offer, or just an expedient to guarantee fresh market highs for the Fourth of July, remained to be seen.During an interview with CNBC on Tuesday, Peter Navarro, a Trump advisor and one of his administration's most prominent trade hawks, tried to downplay the president's promise, saying the US would allow "lower tech" chip sales to Huawei, but kept up the same wary stance that the administration has maintained for the past year. Now, with just hours to go before the holiday and an early market close, Reuters has published details from an internal Commerce Department memo that laid the truth bare: Huawei should be treated like it's still on the entities list, mostly because it still is.  Here's more from Reuters:In an email to enforcement staff on Monday that was seen by Reuters, John Sonderman, Deputy Director of the Office of Export Enforcement, in the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), sought to clarify how agents should approach license requests by firms seeking approval to sell to Huawei.All such applications should be considered on merit and flagged with language noting that "This party is on the Entity List. Evaluate the associated license review policy under part 744," he wrote, citing regulations that include the Entity List and the “presumption of denial” licensing policy that is applied to blacklisted companies.He added that any further guidance from BIS should also be taken into account when evaluating Huawei-related license applications.

Ceasefire Crumbles? China Won't Buy American Soybeans Until Washington Provides 'More Clarity' On Huawei - Markets greeted President Trump and President Xi's decision to re-start trade talks with jubilation. But as we've been saying from the beginning, this doesn't mean a trade deal is a given - quite the opposite, actually.That's because Beijing and Washington have already begun to parrot some of their demands from before talks collapsed. And with Washington still unwilling to roll back all of the trade war tariffs, something that Beijing sees as non-negotiable, it could be a long time before the market gets the trade deal it so desperately seeks. In the latest sign that suspicions among senior Chinese officials continue to simmer, and that the hastily cobbled G-20 ceasefire is suddenly on the rocks (again), the South China Morning Post reported on statements from a government spokesman and state-run media claiming that the commentary on Taoran Notes, a popular economic news source on the mainland, said Beijing would reneg on its promise to buy tons of agricultural goods from the US if Washington "flip flops" again, and that talks would "go backward again" unless Washington is willing to remove all trade-war tariffs.“If the US flip-flops again in the negotiations, the promises to buy American agriculture products will also be overturned,” Taoran Notes said.It added that China would have to consider its domestic demand and the opinions of domestic companies before buying US agricultural products.SCMP's sources confirmed that American negotiators would return to Beijing next week for what would be the 11th round of talks between the two sides since the trade spat first erupted more than one year ago.If the issue of the US lifting its tariffs on Chinese goods can't be resolved (which it almost certainly won't be), talks could "break down immediately," one source warned, leaving Washington to slap tariffs on another $300 billion+ of Chinese goodsIf the negotiators are unable to resolve the issues, the talks could "break down immediately,"  with Washington going ahead with new tariffs on US$300 billion of Chinese products, the source warned.

Apple moves Mac Pro production from Texas to China  - Apple is manufacturing the new Mac Pro in China, marking a change from the previous Mac Pro that was made in the US. Apple made the previous Mac Pro in Austin, Texas, beginning in 2013. But with the new Mac Pro unveiled this month being made in China, Apple is "shifting abroad production of what had been its only major device assembled in the US as trade tensions escalate between the Trump administration and Beijing," The Wall Street Journal reported today. "The tech giant has tapped contractor Quanta Computer Inc. to manufacture the $6,000 desktop computer and is ramping up production at a factory near Shanghai," according to the Journal's sources. "Quanta's facility is close to other Apple suppliers across Asia, making it possible for Apple to achieve lower shipping costs than if it shipped components to the US."  Apple told the Journal that it designs and engineers the new Mac Pro in the US and that the computer includes some US-made components. "Final assembly is only one part of the manufacturing process," Apple said, according to the Journal.  President Trump has urged Apple to make more products in the US, and his administration plans 25% tariffs on products imported from China. Apple last week urged the US government to avoid issuing the new tariff, saying it would make production of iPhones, iPads, Macs, AirPods, and Apple TVs more expensive. We contacted Apple this morning and will update this story if we get a response.

HP, Dell & Amazon Join Manufacturing Exodus Leaving China --Though China wasn't the only Asian nation where manufacturing activity slumped last month, according to a slate of almost unilaterally disappointing PMI readings released earlier this week, the tend over the past year is increasingly clear: The trade war is President Trump's to win, as more tech companies resolve to move at least some production outside of the mainland. And in the latest warning to Beijing that the trade war is having a real, and perhaps irreversible, impact, Nikkei Asian Review reports that HP, Dell and Amazon are joining the wave of consumer-electronics manufacturers who are planning to shift production elsewhere.The burgeoning exodus, which also reportedly includes a half-dozen Apple suppliers (most notably Foxconn), Nintendo, Sony and others is threatening China's status as the global manufacturing hub. HP and Dell, the world's No. 1 and No. 3 laptop manufacturers, who are responsible for a combined 40% of the world's production, are planning to shift 30% of their production elsewhere. Lenovo Group, Acer and Asustek Computer are also evaluating plans to shift production elsewhere. And Amazon is planning to shift at least some of the production for its Kindle e-reader and Echo assistant. For all of these companies, the focus would mostly be on products bound for the US.

Amazon, Microsoft, Google plot to pull product manufacturing out of China, deepening the cold war engulfing tech - The US tech giants Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Dell, and HP are all gearing up to start shifting production away from China amid the trade war, Nikkei Asian Review reports. Citing multiple sources, Nikkei reports that the five companies have been scouting various other Asian countries as possible new homes for electronics production. This is the latest chapter in the tech cold war that has snowballed substantially amid President Donald Trump's trade war with China.   Nikkei reported last month that Apple was seriously consideringmoving 15% to 30% of its iPhone production out of China, an early sign US companies wanted to reduce their exposure to the country. Game consoles and smart speakers are the primary concern for the Silicon Valley giants Google, Amazon, and Microsoft — along with Sony and Nintendo. Amazon is looking at moving production of its e-readers and Echo smart speakers to Vietnam, Nikkei said. Microsoft is weighing up Thailand and Indonesia, presumably for production of the Xbox as well as its lesser-known Cortana speaker.Nikkei gave no details about where Google might consider moving production of its Google Home smart speakers. US tariffs pose an existential threat to video game consoles. Last week, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo wrote a joint letter to the US government asking that game consoles be left off any tariff lists because of the "disproportionate harm" tariffs would cause to US consumers and business. For Dell and HP, notebook computers are the main area where the companies are said to be looking to move production. The two companies shipped a combined 70 million notebook devices last year, according to Nikkei, most of which were made in China.

US Proposes An Additional $4 Billion In Tariffs On European Imports - As one US trade war - that with China - enters a fragile truce, another trade war is about to make a dramatic return.A little under three months after the US announced in early April that it would seek tariffs on roughly $21 billion of European goods over EU subsidies to Airbus aircraft, and which in turn was followed almost immediately by European threats of $12 billion in retaliatory tariffs on US products such as Ketchup, Orange Juice and Tobacco, moments ago the US trade representative proposed a supplemental list of products that could potentially be subject to additional duties in order to enforce U.S. rights in the WTO dispute against the European subsidies airplaneThis supplemental list adds 89 "tariff subheadings" with a trade value of $4 billion to the initial list published on April 12, which had an approximate trade value of $21 billion. USTR is adding to the initial list with the supplemental list in response to public comments and additional analysis.In the event the Arbitrator issues its decision prior to completion of the public comment process on the supplemental list, the USTR may immediately impose increased duties on the products included in the initial list, and take further possible actions with respect to products on the supplemental list. The supplemental list, as well as the schedule for a public hearing and written comments, are set out in a notice that will be published shortly in the Federal Register. And now we wait as Europe counters with its own expanded list of tariffs on US imports, sending the market surging on "hopes of an imminent trade war deal/ceasefire" between the US and Europe.

Trump Slaps 400% Tariff On Vietnamese Steel - If you thought the world was safe from further trade-war escalation after Trump vowed to postpone slapping tariffs on $300 billion+ of Chinese goods, think again.During an interview with Maria Bartiromo last week, President Trump accused Vietnam of being "almost the single worst abuser of everybody" and asserted that "Vietnam takes advantage of us even worse than China." This sudden turn in Trump's rhetoric contrasted with the praise he offered Vietnam back in February for trying to reduce its trade surplus with the US. According to the Office of the Trade Rep, trade with Vietnam amounted to nearly $60 billion. Though earlier this year, the Treasury Department stopped short of accusing Vietnam of manipulating its dong (for those who are unaware, that's the name of its currency).Shortly after the interview, reports that Trump was planning to slap tariffs on the small Southeast Asian nation surfaced. Now, in a series of preliminary rulings, the Commerce Department is slapping 400%+ steel tariffs on Vietnam. In its finding, the Commerce Department listed several steel products initially produced in South Korea and Taiwan that are then shipped to Vietnam for processing before being exported to the US to circumvent anti-dumping duties. In three preliminary circumvention rulings on Vietnamese steel, the Commerce Department said certain products produced in South Korea and Taiwan were shipped to Vietnam for minor processing before being exported to U.S. as corrosion-resistant steel products and cold-rolled steel. Customs officials have been ordered to collect cash deposits at rates as high as 456.23% on imports of the steel products produced in Vietnam using material from South Korea and Taiwan.

President Trump Said To Weigh Potential Aluminium Tariffs For Australia After G-20 -  President Donald Trump has continued to air concerns about Australian aluminum exports to the United States, once again reviving concerns that nearly let him to impose tariffs on the products about a month and a half ago, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.The aluminum trade was a topic of conversation between Trump and Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week at the G-20 summit. The discussion highlighted Trump's frustration at the strong increase in exports, which are up 350% in the first quarter of this year.  Trump then mentioned a "trade situation" with Australia in his public remarks but the concern about aluminum during the private talks was not revealed last week. Trump had agreed last year to an exemption from US tariffs on steel and aluminum after hearing arguments from former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Australian ambassador to Washington. But it has been reported as recently as early June that US officials want the exemption on aluminum to be removed because the exports have grown so quickly. Trump's trade advisors want the tariffs, but Defense Department and State Department officials cautioned against offending Australia.

US Trade Deficit Rises To 5-Month High of $55.5B in May - The U.S. trade deficit rose to a five-month high in May as the politically sensitive imbalances with China and Mexico widened. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the gap between the goods and services the U.S. sells and what it buys from foreign countries rose 8.4% to $55.5 billion in May, the highest since December. Exports increased 2% to $210.6 billion on rising shipments of soybeans, aircraft and cars. But imports climbed more — 3.3% to $266.2 billion — on an increase in crude oil and cellphones. The deficit in the trade of goods with Mexico rose 18.1% to a record $9.6 billion. The goods gap with China widened 12.2% to $30.2 billion. President Donald Trump has sought to reduce America’s persistent trade deficit, which he sees as a sign of economic weakness and the result of bad trade agreements crafted by naive U.S. negotiators. He has slapped tariffs on foreign steel, aluminum, dishwashers, solar panels and on thousands of Chinese goods. He also has renegotiated a trade pact with Canada and Mexico that awaits approval by Congress. And his team has conducted 11 rounds of talks with China aimed at pressuring Beijing to curb its aggressive push to challenge American technological dominance, an effort that allegedly includes cybertheft and forcing foreign firms to hand over trade secrets. Mainstream economists say the trade gap is the product of economic factors that don’t respond much to changes in trade policy: Americans buy more than they produce, and imports fill the gap. And a persistently strong U.S. dollar also puts American exporters at a price disadvantage overseas. So far this year, the goods-and-services deficit is $261.4 billion, up 6.4% from January-May 2018.

New Poll Shows Almost Half Of Americans Think Trump's Trade War Is Bad  - Despite the somewhat positive news that Trump would refrain from slapping new duties on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese goods - which would have sparked a full-blown trade war. Americans have recently become irritated with Trump's tariffs and his self-proclaimed label as Tariff Man, new IBD/TIPP polling shows, and first reported by Investor's Business Daily. The IBD/TIPP Poll covered 900 responses from June 20-27, 16% of respondents said Trump should increase tariffs if there's no China trade deal this summer. Another 33% said Trump should remove all tariffs on China, even if a near-term agreement can't be reached, while 44% said Trump should leave the duties in place.While the President continues to insist that China pays the tariffs, Americans are starting to become more spectacle that he could be deceiving them. Of all respondents, 46% said the economy is set to deteriorate if a near-term deal isn't reached, while 44% are convinced that China will be the biggest loser.The poll found that 45% believe tariffs on Chinese goods is slowing the economy, while only 26% believe they help.A National Bureau of Economic Research report shows that American consumers fully pay tariffs - and it's one of the main reasons why respondents are becoming increasingly pessimistic about the trade war. The 2018 report noted, "The U.S. experienced substantial increases in the prices of intermediates and final goods, dramatic changes to its supply-chain network" and reduced availability of imports. According to our reporting last month, a 25% tariff on $200 billion in Chinese goods would cost the average American household $831 per year, something that could anger many families as the overall economy is cycling down through summer.

 My Customers Don’t Pay Trump’s Tariffs - Wall Street Journal - When President Trump imposed 25% import tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, economists and trade pundits said the levies would pass through to U.S. consumers. As the owner of a consumer-electronics company that sources 90% of our products from China, I have a different perspective.Most American companies won’t roll over and pay 25% more for a product. They will demand lower prices from their Chinese factory sales representative.That’s what my purchasing department did. The moment the tariffs went into effect, we were on the phone with our Chinese factories, demanding price adjustments on our orders. Every single factory conceded.My company is established but it’s not enormous. So why were the Chinese factories willing to accommodate our demand for lower prices?

 Trump renews threat of mass immigrant raids “sometime after July Fourth” - Speaking at a news conference after the G-20 summit in Japan, President Donald Trump said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would soon carry out the mass round-ups of immigrants that he had originally ordered for June 23. “Unless we do something pretty miraculous,” he said, the raids would begin “sometime after July Fourth.” He added, “We will be removing large numbers of people.” The raids were set to begin June 23 in ten cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York City, Washington and Houston, with thousands of ICE agents to deploy into immigrant neighborhoods. They have orders to arrest not only specific targeted individuals, but any undocumented person they encountered in the course of the sweeps. ICE officials emphasized that they would seize entire families as part of the raids. Trump temporarily postponed the raids on June 22 after a telephone conversation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The leading congressional Democrat evidently pleaded with Trump to delay the raids until after passage of a $4.6 billion emergency appropriations bill providing money for the network of detention facilities along the US-Mexico border. It is highly likely that Pelosi argued that it would be more politically difficult for the Democrats to approve the plan if they had to vote amid widespread publicity over ICE agents smashing down doors, dragging away families, including babies and small children, and locking them up or deporting them summarily. The bill was passed last week with a majority of both Senate and House Democrats voting to provide the massive increase in funding for Trump’s concentration camps. Two days after the House vote that sent the legislation to the White House for Trump’s signature, the president announced that the raids would now proceed, as soon as next weekend. The passage of the funding bill makes the Democrats full partners with Trump in the savage repression of immigrants, which is a preparation for similar attacks on the working class as a whole. Trump paid tribute to Pelosi in his remarks in Japan. “She really worked with us,” he said.

ProPublica uncovers Facebook group for Border Patrol agents filled with derogatory posts targeting migrants, lawmakers - Nonprofit news organization ProPublica published a report Monday uncovering a Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents filled with derogatory posts targeting migrants and lawmakers.  Created in August 2016, the Facebook group is called “I’m 10-15,” referring to the code for "aliens in custody," and boasts roughly 9,500 members from across the country. The group is described as secret, and it is not immediately clear whether ProPublica was able to verify how many of the members are actually current or former agents.At least some of the posters were verified to be agents by ProPublica.In one post, group members reportedly joked about a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant who died in May while in custody at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas.Another post included a photo illustration of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who has been bombarded with sexist and racist comments since being elected last year, engaged in oral sex with a detained migrant. Another post included an illustration of a smiling President Trump forcing Ocasio-Cortez’s head toward his crotch. The agent who posted the image commented: “That’s right bitches. The masses have spoken and today democracy won.”

US Border Patrol agents joke about immigrant deaths in secret Facebook group with 9,500 members - A report published Monday by ProPublica revealed that US Border Patrol agents made sadistic, violent and racist jokes about immigrant deaths in a secret Facebook group with over 9,500 members.The ProPublica exposé came as President Donald Trump threatened mass immigrant raids after the Fourth of July. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of immigrants suffer brutal conditions in concentration camps operated by the fascistic Trump administration across the US-Mexico border, which the Democrats in Congress overwhelmingly voted last week to support with more than $4 billion in funding.Members of the secret Facebook group called “I’m 10-15”—a code used by Border Patrol agents to refer to the detention of migrants—made cruel jokes about immigrant deaths and posted sexually explicit images of Democratic members of Congress. ProPublica was able to link the identities of several of the participating members in the group with Facebook profiles belonging to Border Patrol agents, including a supervisor from El Paso, Texas.When one of the members posted a news article about the horrifying image of a drowned young father from Guatemala and his daughter, other group members joked about their deaths.“If he dies, he dies,” said one member. Another posted a mocking animated GIF of the Sesame Street character Elmo with the words, “Oh, well.”The photo showed 25-year-old Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, a Salvadoran migrant, drowned face-down in the Rio Grande river with his 23-month-old daughter Valeria. The mother watched as the two were helplessly swept by the currents. The death of the young father was only one among numerous immigrant deaths recently, including children and infants. In stark contrast to the dehumanizing attitude of the Border Patrol agents, the photo of the drowned father and daughter provoked mass revulsion and outrage internationally. It was the latest demonstration of the barbarism of the bipartisan war on immigrants being spearheaded by Trump.

'Spinelessness': Schumer and Pelosi Under Fire After Democrats Join GOP to Give Trump $4.6 Billion in Border Funding Without Protections for Children -  "I am looking for a new pharmaceutical drug that builds spines."That was Rep. Pramila Jayapal's (D-Wash.) reaction on Thursday after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi capitulated to Republicans and so-called moderate Democrats by agreeing to pass a $4.6 billion Senate border aid package that contains virtually no protections for immigrant children detained by the Trump administration."Skating under the radar are Schumer and Senate Democrats, who deserve just as much blame for their spinelessness, who gifted McConnell his leverage."  —Alexander McCoy, Common Defense   While Jayapal and other progressives were quick to note that Pelosi deserves criticism for approving the Senate legislation—which was strongly opposed by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and immigrant rights groups—they argued Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) should share the blame for failing to whip his caucus against the measure.On Wednesday, the Senate passed the $4.6 billion Republican border bill by an 84-8 margin. Thirty-three Democrats—including Schumer—voted yes, handing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) an easy victory.Progressive Democrats said Schumer's failure to fight the Republican legislation left the House with no leverage to negotiate stronger protections for migrant children, who arecurrently enduring horrific conditions in Border Patrol detention facilities in Texas and elsewhere.After Pelosi announced Thursday that she would "reluctantly" support passage of the GOP Senate bill despite progressive outrage, the legislation sailed through the House Thursday evening with the backing of 129 Democrats."Listen," Jayapal told reporters, "I think Leader Schumer and all the Senate Democrats have to understand that we need them to stand up and oppose." Jayapal also slammed Pelosi's decision to give in to McConnell and so-called "moderate" Democrats an interview with Politico, saying: "We can't say that we have a lawless administration or a president who should be in prison, or whatever people want to say about him, but then cave. You have to fight for what you believe."

9th Circuit rejects Trump admin request to allow use of military funds for border wall - The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday rejected the Trump administration’s request to temporarily halt a lower court order blocking the diversion of military funds for a border wall. In a 2-1 ruling, the panel of appellate judges found that “the use of those funds violates the constitutional requirement that the Executive Branch not spend money absent an appropriation from Congress.” The order applies to some of the military funds tapped by President Trump for a wall along the southern border. In the ruling, Judge Richard Clifton, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, and Judge Michelle Friedland, an Obama appointee, wrote that they believed the administration was not likely to succeed in appealing the lower court order. The administration had issued an emergency request to the 9th Circuit asking the judges to lift the lower court injunctions. But the judges on Wednesday denied that request. They ruled that officials had wrongly reallocated funds under Section 8005 of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2019, which allows for the reappropriation of funds for “unforeseen” military requirements. “Because section 8005 did not authorize DoD to reprogram the funds—and Defendants do not and cannot argue that any other statutory or constitutional provision authorized the reprogramming—the use of those funds violates the constitutional requirement that the Executive Branch not spend money absent an appropriation from Congress,” the opinion reads. The judges also stated that there is a “strong likelihood” that groups that are challenging the use of military funds for a border wall, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Sierra Club, will succeed in their efforts.

Bank of America will no longer do business with companies that run detention centers - Bank of America will end its association with companies that provide prisoner and immigrant detention services at both the state and federal levels. The move comes amid growing public concern about the nation's border policies.A spokesperson said Wednesday that Bank of America (BAC) has discussed the issue with its clients that provide those services. While the bank appreciates "steps they have taken to properly execute their contractual and humanitarian responsibilities," it ultimately decided to "exit the relationships.""Lacking further legal and policy clarity, and in recognition of the concerns of our employees and stakeholders in the communities we serve, it is our intention to exit these relationships," the spokesperson said.The Miami Herald previously reported that Bank of America was a financier of Caliburn — which the newspaper said runs a facility called Homestead under a US government contract. The Herald said the bank provided a $380 million loan to the company and a $75 million credit line. The paper indicated Homestead is not a prison, but "protesters say it functions as one. The minors held inside are not allowed to leave." Bank of America declined to comment Wednesday regarding the companies with which it had previously worked. Private prisons have been in the spotlight. On Friday, Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren called for private correctional and detention facilities to be banned. Shares of private prison operators dropped following her remarks.

Agents feared riots, armed themselves because of dire conditions at migrant facility, DHS report says — The government’s own internal watchdog warned as far back as May that conditions at an El Paso, Texas, border station were so bad that border agents were arming themselves against possible riots, countering Friday’s assertion by a top Trump administration official that reports of poor conditions for migrants were “unsubstantiated.”In an internal report prepared by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General and obtained by NBC News, inspectors noted during a May 7 tour of a border station in the El Paso sector that only four showers were available for 756 immigrants, more than half of the immigrants were being held outside, and immigrants inside were being kept in cells maxed out at more than five times their capacity.Border agents remained armed in holding areas because they were worried about the potential for unrest, the report said. Agents typically put their weapons in a lockbox when they enter holding areas, a DHS official said.  A cell meant for a maximum of 35 held 155 adult males with only one toilet and sink. The cell was so crowded the men could not lie down to sleep. Temperatures in the cells reached over 80 degrees, the report said."With limited access to showers and clean clothing, detainees were wearing soiled clothing for days or weeks," the report said.Medical concerns were also rising during early May, the report found. Agents reported taking sick migrants to the hospital five times a day, treating 75 immigrants for lice in a single day and trying to quarantine outbreaks of flu, chickenpox and scabies.At the time the inspectors visited the border station, two civilian staff members were buying food for over 1,000 people on their credit cards.“They’re spending $10,000 a day on cards not designed for that purpose,” the report said. While this particular El Paso facility, the name of which is redacted in the report, did have formula and baby food for children, it did not have soft mats for them to sleep on or clean clothing.

It's Time to Fight Back - Hundreds of #CloseTheCamps Rallies Planned Across the Country - Amid reports of severe abuse and neglect in the immigrant detention centers the Trump administration is running, human rights campaigners are planning hundreds of demonstrations on Tuesday to demand the closing of the prisons and the reunification of all families who have been separated by the government.MoveOn was joined by the ACLU, the Center for Popular Democracy, and other organizations in planning at least 184 events in cities and towns across the country. Beginning at 12:00pm local time and throughout the afternoon, critics of President Donald Trump's immigration policies will assemble outside their representatives' offices and at other public venues for the #CloseTheCamps protests."It's going to take all of us to close the camps," MoveOn wrote.The demonstrations are taking place a day after lawmakers including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) traveled to El Paso, Texas to visit a detention centers in the area.The delegation reported that the immigrants they spoke with were living in cramped cells where they slept on floors, had not had access to medications or been able to bathe in weeks, were in a state of emotional turmoil, and were exhibiting health problems including hair loss. "We're talking systemic cruelty [with] a dehumanizing culture that treats them like animals," Ocasio-Cortez said of what she witnessed in the camps.

 Thousands protest immigrant concentration camps across US - Thousands of people protested across the United States Tuesday with the slogan “Close the camps,” demanding the closure of the network of concentration camps in which immigrants are detained. Organized by the liberal group MoveOn and organizations focused on immigrant rights and human rights more broadly, the protests were a small but significant expression of the mass opposition to the brutal treatment of immigrants at the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).Almost 200 protests were planned across the US, in major cities and smaller towns alike. New York City, Boston, Minneapolis, Dallas, Las Vegas, Detroit, Houston, San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Portland and Seattle all saw protests, some with attendance in the hundreds. Protests were also planned in Stuart, Florida; Lubbock, Texas; Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; Lincoln, Nebraska; Biddeford, Maine; and Minocqua, Wisconsin. Most of the protests were simply called “Close the Camps,” but others indicated a growing recognition that the barbaric treatment of immigrants in concentration camps had broader implications: “Cut ICE/CBP funds: No more separated families and children’s camps” in Denver and “Family separation is torture” in Miami are just two examples.Many of the protests were in front of the offices of congressional representatives, largely demanding that they implement legislation to close the detention camps. Others were held in public squares or in front of detention centers, while at least one was held to “thank” supposedly pro-immigrant representatives for their positions. Newsweek reported that protesters demanded “three things from lawmakers on Tuesday: to close the camps, to stop funding all family detention and to reunite families. They also want members of Congress to bear witness to detention conditions and personally visit facilities this week while they are on recess.”

Rep. Castro secretly recorded a migrant facility in Texas. Here’s what he found -  Migrants at a southwest Texas detention facility don’t have access to drinking water and face other harrowing conditions, the chairman of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus said in an interview Thursday after leading a lawmaker visit to the center.Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said some migrant women at the detention facility do not have access to water, were subsisting on ramen noodles and granola bars, and in some cases, hadn’t bathed in more than two weeks.U.S. Customs and Border Patrol facilities are under-resourced and overcrowded, Castro said, arguing that the problems were exacerbated by the prolonged detention of asylum seekers in the U.S. under President Donald Trump.“Rather than moving [asylum seekers] out of facilities, the Trump administration is paying these contractors [who run the detention centers], some of whom are making billions of dollars, to keep these people there longer and longer,” Castro told the PBS NewsHour’s managing editor and anchor Judy Woodruff. “They need to be moved out of these facilities as quickly as possible, they’re being held way too long, unnecessarily.”Castro has called for more funding to manage the overflow of migrants in U.S. custody. But he said Thursday that additional money alone isn’t enough to fix the problem. “It’s not just a matter of pumping more cash into a broken system,” Castro said, “it’s also about changing these standards.”The comments come after Castro, whose twin brother Julian Castro is a 2020 Democratic candidate, led a tour Monday of several detention centers in Texas for over a dozen Democratic House members. He also secretly recorded the conditions, documenting women wrapped in sleeping bags sitting on a concrete floor.

Ocasio-Cortez, other Congress members threatened by border police --A delegation of more than a dozen members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus reported feeling unsafe and facing taunts and ridicule from Border Patrol agents during a visit Monday to immigrant detention facilities in Texas. The Democratic legislators included Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was specifically targeted in sexually obscene and violent posts on a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents’ secret Facebook page that was revealed in an exposé published Monday by ProPublica. In the course of their tour of facilities, the lawmakers reported horrific conditions and abuse of women detainees at Border Patrol stations in El Paso and Clint, Texas. The provocative treatment the legislators received from Border Patrol agents at the facilities demonstrates that the fascistic sentiments of current and former CBP agents expressed in posts on the Facebook page are pervasive throughout the immigration agencies. President Trump, with the complicity of the Democratic Party, is cultivating and encouraging these forces as part of his drive to terrorize and persecute millions of immigrant workers. This is being done in the face of broad popular sympathy for the immigrants and opposition to the erection of immigrant concentration camps. On Tuesday, thousands demonstrated across the country to demand the closure of the immigrant camps, a small reflection of the widespread hostility to Trump’s anti-immigrant and authoritarian measures.  The episode at the border on Monday took place just days after the Democratic Party ensured passage of a bipartisan measure handing the Trump administration an additional $4.9 billion to fund its border war, claiming it was motivated by a “humanitarian” desire to improve conditions at immigrant detention facilities. Ocasio-Cortez agreed to vote to bring the border funding measure to a floor vote after meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, assuring its passage.

AOC says migrants forced to drink toilet water after tense border visit -  Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claims Border Patrol agents are forcing migrants to drink out of toilets and live under other extreme conditions — while the officers sit back and laugh. “I see why CBP officers were being so physically &sexually threatening towards me,” the congresswoman tweeted Monday after leaving a US Customs and Border Protection facility in Texas.  “Officers were keeping women in cells w/ no water & had told them to drink out of the toilets,” she said. “This was them on their GOOD behavior in front of members of Congress.” The New York lawmaker was visiting a number of migrant detention centers scattered along the southern border on Monday with other congressional Democrats following reports of terrible conditions and repeated sexual assaults.  “Now I’ve seen the inside of these facilities,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “It’s not just the kids. It’s everyone. People drinking out of toilets, officers laughing in front of members Congress.”  She added, “I brought it up to their superiors. They said ‘officers are under stress & act out sometimes.’ No accountability.” Ocasio-Cortez claimed that she “forced” herself into a cell with a group of female migrants and began speaking to them.“One of them described their treatment at the hands of officers as ‘psychological warfare’ – waking them at odd hours for no reason, calling them wh*res, etc,” she said. “Tell me what about that is due to a ‘lack of funding?'”The freshman legislator was planning to visit detention facilities in Clint — where the Trump administration “was denying children toothpaste and soap,” she said. “This has been horrifying so far,” Ocasio–Cortez concluded. “It is hard to understate the enormity of the problem. We’re talking systemic cruelty w/ a dehumanizing culture that treats them like animals.”

Photo shows hybrid of toilet and drinking fountain in migrant detention centers, where women allegedly had to drink from the bowl - The CBP said migrants were using toilet units with in-built drinking fountains for clean drinking water.

The Inhumane Conditions at Migrant Detention Camps - The third week in June began with a broad political discussion on whether Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s designation of migrant detention centers as “concentration camps” was the correct nomenclature for holding rooms in which 41 detainees live in a cell built for eight. It ended with heinous reports of the conditions at said camps, where undocumented migrant children are being held away from their families in conditions “worse than jail,” according to physician Dolly Lucio Sevier, who wrote up a medical declaration obtained by ABC News after visiting Border Patrol holding facilities along the border in Texas. Here’s everything we’ve learned about conditions in the detention camps in recent weeks.  Sevier, a private-practice physician in the Rio Grande Valley, was granted access to a facility in McAllen, Texas in mid-June, after attorneys discovered a flu outbreak that sent five infants to a neonatal intensive-care unit. At the detention center — the largest such Border Patrol facility in the country — Sevier examined 39 children under the age of 18 facing conditions including “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.” All 39 exhibited signs of trauma. Sevier told ABC News that the teenagers she observed were not able to wash their hands while in custody, which she called “tantamount to intentionally causing the spread of disease.” Teen mothers in custody told her they were not able to clean their children’s bottles: “To deny parents the ability to wash their infant’s bottles is unconscionable and could be considered intentional mental and emotional abuse,” Sevier wrote. In summary, she determined that “the conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities.” In mid-June, attorney and children’s-rights advocate Warren Binford gained access to a Clint, Texas Border Patrol facility where 351 migrant children were detained; over 100 were under 13, and the youngest was just over 4 months. Binford reported that many of the kids had been held for three weeks or longer, and that guards had created a “child boss” who was rationed extra food in an attempt to control the other children. Binford described the Clint facility’s treatment of a lice outbreak to TheNew Yorker:  So, on Wednesday, we received reports from children of a lice outbreak in one of the cells where there were about twenty-five children, and what they told us is that six of the children were found to have lice. And so they were given a lice shampoo, and the other children were given two combs and told to share those two combs, two lice combs, and brush their hair with the same combs, which is something you never do with a lice outbreak. And then what happened was one of the combs was lost, and Border Patrol agents got so mad that they took away the children’s blankets and mats. They weren’t allowed to sleep on the beds, and they had to sleep on the floor on Wednesday night as punishment for losing the comb. So you had a whole cell full of kids who had beds and mats at one point, not for everybody but for most of them, who were forced to sleep on the cement.

Pediatricians Release Migrant Children’s Drawings of Their Time in US Border Prisons - — Pediatricians have shared harrowing images drawn by migrant children separated from their parents while in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention camps that show people in prison-like conditions.The drawings were released by a social worker at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas to the American Academy of Pediatrics, who released them on Wednesday to U.S. media outlets. The shelter is the first place where many families can take their first shower, receive a clean change of clothes and a hot meal after their arduous trek across the border.One drawing was by an 11-year-old boy from Guatemala, another was by a 10-year-old from Guatemala, and the third was by a different 10-year-old whose national origin is unknown. Dr. Sara Goza, the incoming president of the academy who toured the CBP camps last week told NBC News that the images reveal the dire and inhumane conditions in which the children are being confined. She explained:“Children do not belong in Customs and Border Protection facilities, or in any detention facilities.No amount of time spent in these facilities is safe for children.More children will continue to die if we do not make sure that every child who passes through federal custody is seen by a pediatric-trained medical professional.I personally toured two CBP facilities and did not encounter a single pediatrician at either one.”  The past president of the AAP, Dr. Colleen Kraft, corroborated Goza’s observations to CNN, explaining:“The fact that the drawings are so realistic and horrific gives us a view into what these children have experienced.When a child draws this, it’s telling us that child felt like he or she was in jail. ”

What a Pediatrician Saw Inside a Border Patrol Warehouse —Inside the Border Patrol warehouse on Ursula Avenue, Dolly Lucio Sevier saw a baby who’d been fed from the same unwashed bottle for days; children showing signs of malnutrition and dehydration; and several kids who, in her medical opinion, were exhibiting clear evidence of psychological trauma. More than 1,000 migrant children sat in the detention facility here, and Sevier, a local pediatrician, had been examining as many as she could, one at a time. But she wasn’t permitted to enter the area where they were being held, many of them in cages, and find the sickest kids to examine. Instead, in a nearby room, she manually reviewed a 50-page printout of that day’s detainees, and highlighted the names of children with a 2019 birth date—the babies—before moving on to the toddlers.  When it was almost time to leave, Sevier asked to see a 3-year-old girl, and then two other children. But by that point, the friendly and accommodating Border Patrol agent assisting her earlier in the day had been replaced by a dour guard, wearing a surgical mask, who claimed that he couldn’t find the toddler. “We can wait,” Sevier said, as she recalled to me in an interview. Her tone was polite but firm; she knew that she had the right under a federal court settlement to examine whomever she liked. “She’s having a bath,” Sevier recalled the guard as saying, a luxury one official told her is available only to babies removed from their guardians. In the facility’s standard cages, there is no soap or showering for the kids. Though 72 hours is the longest a minor can be legally confined in such a facility, some had been there almost a month. Sevier waited. Finally, the guard returned with news. He had found the girls after all. “We located the bodies,” he said, in paramilitary slang. “I’ll bring them right in.”  Sevier also began to worry about their mental health. She asked to see a 2-year-old from Honduras along with his teenage brother, who she hoped could provide the baby’s medical history. The older boy was excited because officials had kept them separate for more than two weeks. But when the guards brought the toddler over from the “day care” where the littlest detainees are held, he stared with wide eyes, Sevier recalled, and began panting heavily, hoarsely, and persistently for the rest of the encounter.

Border Patrol is confiscating migrant kids' medicine, U.S. doctors say --For the past year and a half, Dr. Eric Russell has been traveling from Houston to McAllen, Texas, every three months or so to volunteer at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center, a first stop for many asylum-seeking migrants who’ve been released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in the Rio Grande Valley.During his most recent visit to the clinic in April, when he saw more than 150 migrants, he noted a troubling new trend: a number of people reported that their medication had been taken from them by U.S. border officials.“I had a few adults that came who had high blood pressure, who had their blood pressure medications taken from them and, not surprisingly, their blood pressure was elevated,” Russell told Yahoo News. “There was a couple of adults that had diabetes that had their diabetes medicines taken from them, and wanted to come in because they were worried about their blood sugar. And, not surprisingly, their blood sugar was elevated.”For Russell, a pediatric emergency medicine physician, the patient who stood out the most during that visit was a boy of 8 or 9 with a history of seizures. According to his mother, the child had been on a long-term seizure medicine in their home country, but the medication had been taken from him upon entering the Border Patrol custody in McAllen and never returned.“The mom came to the clinic because she was concerned that he was going to have a seizure,” said Russell. He wasn’t sure exactly how long they’d been in custody — “usually it's a matter of days,” he said, “but with seizure medicines, that’s enough.”Fortunately, by the time they made contact with Russell, the boy had not yet had a seizure. But like most asylum-seeking families who pass through the respite center and other shelters like it along the border, McAllen was not their final destination but a stop along the journey — usually by bus — to join relatives or other sponsors elsewhere in the country. “My concern is, what’s going to happen if you put a 9-year-old child who has a history of seizures, without any seizure medicine on a bus for 3 days ... is that he’s going to have a seizure,” Russell said.

Trump’s Border Obscenities Will Shame America for Decades - We’ve now had several months of reports of inhumane and obscene conditions at the migrant detention camps managed by the Trump administration along the southern U.S. border with Mexico. The myriad, sordid details are already part of a larger stain on America’s collective ethos; they will disfigure the country’s reputation for generations to come.  Migrants forced to clean themselves with wet wipes or subsist on bologna sandwiches had developed constipation and other medical problems. They were so desperate to leave the detention centers, the report said, that when they saw inspectors they “banged on the cell windows, shouted, pressed notes to the window with their time in custody.” Detention camps meant to keep migrants for days while they awaited deportation or a transfer to longer-term facilities are now housing people for weeks on end.  “There were more than 200 of us in a single cage — seated on the floor, standing, however we could fit.” The same person said that “the stench inside overflowing toilets was so bad it made him gag and caused children to vomit.” In late June the New York Times reported that the Clint facility wasn’t providing migrants with toothbrushes, toothpaste or soap. “Children as young as 7 and 8, many of them wearing clothes caked with snot and tears, are caring for infants they’ve just met,” the Times wrote of the Clint camp. “Toddlers without diapers are relieving themselves in their pants. Teenage mothers are wearing clothes stained with breast milk.”  The department, according to another of its own reports, lied about maintaining a non-existent “central database” it claimed it was using to keep track of separated parents and children. U.S. Border Patrol agents didn’t tell migrant parents that they would be separated from their kids until after it happened, according to that DHS report.  Some Border Patrol agents have seemed content to bring a cold-blooded, racist approach to their work for quitesome time. On Monday, ProPublica, a non-profit investigative news organization, reported that a secret Facebook group for current and former agents with 9,500 members had circulated posts over the last three years that included agents joking about migrant deaths.

Trump dismisses furor over conditions for migrants - President Trump on Wednesday came to the defense of border agents and scoffed at Democratic lawmakers' furor after an internal watchdog report found detained migrants are living in dismal conditions in federal detention facilities. In a series of tweets, Trump credited Border Patrol with doing a "great job" and going "above and beyond." He blamed Democrats and existing immigration laws for ongoing issues at the border. He further claimed that many immigrants detained in the overcrowded facilities are "living far better now than where they came from, and in far safer conditions." "No matter how good things actually look, even if perfect, the Democrat visitors will act shocked & aghast at how terrible things are. Just Pols," Trump tweeted. "If they really want to fix them, change the Immigration Laws and Loopholes. So easy to do!" A short time later on Wednesday, Trump added: "If Illegal Immigrants are unhappy with the conditions in the quickly built or refitted detentions centers, just tell them not to come. All problems solved!"

Cartoonist loses job after image depicting Trump ignoring dead migrants to play golf  - A cartoonist says he has been dropped from a series of newspapers after his image depicting Donald Trump ignoring dead migrants to play golf went viral. Michael de Adder, a freelance political cartoonist in Canada, says he was let go by all major newspapers in the southeastern Canadian province of New Brunswick after his cartoon was shared by thousands on Twitter and Facebook.The cartoon shows Trump standing next to a golf cart, club in hand, staring at two migrants who lie face down in the water and asking: “Do you mind if I play through?”  For the image, Mr de Adder drew extensively on the shocking photo of the El Salvadoran father and daughter who were found dead in the waters of the Rio Grande last week, a haunting testimony of the dangers migrants go through when they try to cross the US-Mexican border In the photograph, which was taken by journalist Julia Le Duc, the two-year-old girl is tucked inside her father’s shirt, with her arm around his neck. Critics blasted the Trump administration for introducing border enforcement policies that caused deaths and humanitarian crises at the border.

Democrats Are Complicit in Trump’s Fearmongering About Immigrant Youth - "When They See Us,” Ava DuVernay’s miniseries about the wrongful convictions of the Central Park Five, was the most-watched series on Netflix during the first half of June. The runaway success of this painful series about Black and Brown boys who were caught up in a national hysteria about violent “wolfpacks” of dark-skinned youth is the latest moment in an ongoing societal reckoning with the racist mass incarceration policies of the ’80s and ’90s. As president, Trump uses similar methods to dehumanize young people of color in order to justify the cruelties of his immigration policies at and inside the border. Last month, Trump named as his choice to lead Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Mark Morgan, a man who last year told Fox News’s Tucker Carlson said he’d looked at the eyes of “so-called minors” in immigrant detention centers and determined “that is a soon-to-be MS-13 gang member.” It’s important to remember, however, that American racial panics have generally been bipartisan affairs. In fact, much of the current reckoning around mass incarceration has involved confronting Bill Clinton-era Democrats for their support of the 1994 Crime Bill, which funded states to lengthen sentences and build more prisons, and its accompanying “superpredator” rhetoric. Similarly today, many immigrant justice activists are raising concerns that, even as Democrats rightly decry the horrors that the Trump administration is carrying out against migrant families seeking asylum at the southern border, they are again “triangulating” to a middle ground that cedes too much to his racist logic about young migrants posing a threat. Recently, the Democrat-led House approved provisions that target youth who are alleged to be gang members and “public safety threats.” The provisions were tucked inside otherwise progressive immigration legislation that passed in early June — just as the country was watching “When They See Us.” The bill raises questions about whether we’re laying the basis for a new round of gang youth hysteria even as we condemn the last one.

As Trump Announces Mass Immigration Raid, Documents Show How ICE Uses Arrest Quotas -AS U.S. IMMIGRATION and Customs Enforcement, at the behest of President Donald Trump, plans mass raids following the July Fourth holiday, newly released documents shed light on the tactics the agency employs during such operations.The documents, released Wednesday by the immigrant rights groups Mijente, Just Futures Law, and Detention Watch Network, show that ICE officials are building arrest target lists for mass raids to meet specific numbers, even as the agency continues to internally and publicly stress a “public safety” rationale for immigration arrests.Most of the documents relate to a planned September 2017 ICE operation that was meant to target 8,400 noncitizens; ICE called off the raid after details were leaked to the media. But the documents also include information on five other ICE operations with similar objectives, pointing to how the agency repeatedly recycles its logistical plans.Immigrant rights groups from around the country filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act to collect information on the planned September 2017 raid, dubbed Operation Mega, and other similar operations. ICE did not respond to the FOIA requests, prompting litigation by the groups, through which they have obtained thousands of pages of documents over the last year. The groups are working on a comprehensive report about the information contained in the documents, but they decided to release the documents because ICE is poised to sweep up thousands of immigrants as soon as this weekend.

'We are not criminals or seeking a free ride in America': Undocumented workers at a Trump golf club request meeting with the president in a letter "You know we are hard workers and that we are not criminals or seeking a free ride in America," this was written in a letter addressed to President Donald Trump from undocumented workers who were formerly employed at Trump Organization golf clubs.The letter, which was made public in a Wednesday report by The Washington Post, featured 21 signatures from former employees, asking for a meeting with the president and the opportunity to stay in the US. They wrote that they are "modest people who represent the dreams of 11 million undocumented men, women, and children who live and work in this country."In their time at Trump National Golf Clubs, the undocumented workers wrote that they worked "very hard to make [the President's] golf clubs a success and to keep members and visitors happy." They also noted in the letter that Trump knew "many" of them and "will recall how hard [they] worked" for him, his family, and his golf clubs.Maids who cleaned Trump's clothes at the Bedminster golf course in New Jersey, were among those who signed the letter, along withJuan Quintero, personally worked for the president's sons at their homes, according to The Post.Some managers knew of their immigration status and hired them anyway, a few of the undocumented workers told The Post. But the Trump Organization said fake documents were used and undocumented employees were fired as soon as they found out. Sparked by the rhetoric used by Trump regarding immigration, undocumented former workers at Trump properties shared their stories with the The New York Times, The Post, and other outlets."We all pay our taxes, love our faith and our family, and simply want to find a place for ourselves to make America even better," the workers wrote in the letter.In the letter, the former employees described their relationships with their families, and how they hope to maintain those relationships by obtaining legal status in the US. The White House did not respond to The Post's request for comment.

Leaked Border Arrest Figures Reveal Dramatic Drop, Weeks After Mexican National Guard Deployed - It appears that Mexico's act of good faith to avoid tariffs may have begun to pay off.   According to leaked figures, US Border Patrol apprehensions of illegal immigrants dropped precipitously in June, weeks after Mexico announced the deployment of 15,000 National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border and froze the bank accounts of 26 human traffickers with "probable links with human trafficking and illegal aid to migrant caravans."  According to the preliminary figures, leaked to Axios, there were over 87,000 apprehensions in the month of June, a drop of nearly 35% vs. 132,887 apprehensions in May. Roughly 7,000 of the apprehensions were unaccompanied minors, 52,000 were family units, and 28,000 (roughly 1/3) were single adults according to the report. That said, Axios's Alayna Treene says that DHS officials told her border crossings are typically lower in hotter months, and that it would be difficult to gauge whether Mexico's troop deployment or other policies. On the other hand, one look at the above chart provides a clear look at seasonality going back to 2014.  Worth noting: These preliminary figures only capture the number of apprehensions (those who cross illegally) on the southwest border. They do not include the number of inadmissibles (those who migrate through ports of entry), which is normally included in the total migration data U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) releases each month. They are also subject to change given that they're continuously updated by CBP until the final figures are published. –Axios

 Mexico deploys National Guard, detains immigrants at record levels - Three weeks after reaching a deal with the US to halt the imposition of tariffs, Mexico has sharply escalated its persecution of Central American immigrants. Recent reports indicate that immigrant women and children are being held in overflowing concentration camps that are just as horrific as their US counterparts. At the same time, the Mexican financial oligarchy has doubled down on the militarization of the country to meet the apprehension quotas set by Trump’s fascistic advisors.In just one month, Mexican police and military have set into motion a high-gear system of roundups and raids that have increased deportations by one third. Some 22,000 people were deported in June, the highest monthly figure since early 2006. In the six months that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (popularly known as “AMLO”) has been in office, deportations have increased by 245 percent. In total, 82,132 people have been deported since the “leftist” administration was inaugurated.The number of immigrant detentions has also reached new highs. Some 29,000 immigrants were detained in June, up 23 percent from May. This means that Mexican authorities captured about 1,000 immigrants per day.The Mexican capitalists are eager to show a reduction in migrant numbers by a July 22 deadline established during the previous negotiations.The tragedies unfolding for immigrant families were on sharp display last week when the bodies of a father and his young daughter washed up in the border town of Matamoros, across the river from Brownsville, Texas. The same day, the bodies of a young woman, a child and two babies were found dead on the broiling Texas desert. For immigrants detained during their journey north, conditions are just as dangerous and horrific. Given that formal facilities to hold immigrants have rapidly run out of space, Mexican authorities are using open-air fields, sports stadiums, and other makeshift encampments to hold thousands of people. The head of the Mexican National Commission for Human Rights has (CNDH) reported that immigration centers are up to five times at capacity.

 Trump looking 'very strongly' at delaying census - President Trump said Monday he's looking “very strongly” at delaying the 2020 census if the administration is not allowed to add a citizenship question, an unprecedented move that would surely trigger new legal challenges. “We’re looking at that,” Trump told reporters at the White House when asked about a delay. “So you can ask other things, but you can’t ask whether or not somebody is a citizen? So we are trying to do that. We’re looking at that very strongly.” Trump first floated a delay of the census last week after the Supreme Court blocked the administration from including a citizenship question, demanding that the Commerce Department provide a more clear-cut explanation for the move. The president said it’s crucial the question be asked because “it’s very important to find out if somebody’s a citizen as opposed to an illegal.” He said, without citing evidence, that immigrants living illegally in the U.S. are “treated better than the coal miner” suffering from black lung. The high court’s ruling may preclude the question from being added to census forms. The Commerce Department has said it faces a July 1 printing deadline but that it could be pushed back to the end of October under extenuating circumstances. Legal experts have said delaying the census would violate the Constitution, which says it must take place every 10 years and must count all people living in the U.S. Under federal law, the census must begin by April 1, 2020.

Trump Says Citizenship Query Is ‘So Important’ for 2020 Census - The Justice Department is exploring ways to include a citizenship question on the U.S. census as President Donald Trump vows to fight on after the Supreme Court put the plan on hold. Even with the government off for the Independence Day holiday, Trump said officials are at work on the matter after a federal judge in Maryland gave the U.S. until 2 p.m. Friday to reach a definitive conclusion. The Washington Post and Axios reported that the administration was considering the option of an executive order, though it isn’t clear if that strategy would be successful. “So important for our Country that the very simple and basic ‘Are you a Citizen of the United States?’ question be allowed to be asked in the 2020 Census,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “Department of Commerce and the Department of Justice are working very hard on this, even on the 4th of July!” The Justice Department’s move Wednesday came a day after the administration said it was abandoning its plan to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census, an announcement Trump contradicted. "We at the Department of Justice have been instructed to examine whether there is a path forward, consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision, that would allow us to include the citizenship question on the census,” Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt told U.S. District Judge George Hazel in Maryland on Wednesday. “We think there may be a legally available path under the Supreme Court’s decision. We’re examining that, looking at the near-term options to see whether that’s viable and possible,” Hunt said.

 Trump says ‘absolutely moving forward’ with census citizenship question, despite claims to contrary - President Donald Trump on Wednesday branded as “FAKE” news reports that his administration was dropping plans to ask people if they are U.S. citizens on the 2020 census — despite officials in his own administration having said a day before that the question will not be asked. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and a Justice Department lawyer had both said Tuesday that the Census Bureau is in the process of printing the census questionnaire without the citizenship question. Their statements came five days after a Supreme Court decision that effectively blocked the question being added to the 2020 census questionnaire. The high court ordered the case challenging the question to be reconsidered by a lower court, leaving the Commerce Department with little or no time to have the dispute settled legally before this past Monday’s deadline for printing the questionnaires. But Trump, in a tweet Wednesday, said, “The News Reports about the Department of Commerce dropping its quest to put the Citizenship Question on the Census is incorrect or, to state it differently, FAKE!” “We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question,” Trump wrote.

Trump Explains Why He Wants Citizenship Question on Census as He Considers Executive Order - President Donald Trump said that it’s crucial to have the citizenship question on the 2020 Census for a range of issues. “You need it for many reasons. Number one, you need it for Congress, you need it for Congress, for districting, you need it for appropriations, where are the funds going. How many people are there? Are they citizens, are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons,” Trump told reporters in Washington on July 5. The president said earlier Friday that he was mulling an executive order that places the question on the census. Trump said that he spoke with Attorney General William Barr on Friday about the situation. President Donald Trump talks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before departing for his Bedminster, N.J. golf club in Washington on July 5, 2019. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo) “We have a number of different avenues. We could use all of them or one. We’re doing very well on that. We’re spending 15 to 20 billion dollars on a census. We’re doing everything. We’re finding out everything about everybody. Think of it: 15 to 20 billion dollars, and you’re not allowed to ask them, are you a citizen?” he said. “And by the way, if you look at the history of our country, it’s almost always been asked. So we’re fighting very hard against the system, that’s a very difficult system but we’ll make a decision. The attorney general is working on that right now.” Trump said that an executive order is one of four or five options that are on the table, also saying his administration could print the census now without the question and add it on later.

Rising Enthusiasm for Medicare for All’ Has Provoked Dramatic Surge in Industry-Backed Lobbying: Report - An analysis published Friday by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen shows that "rising enthusiasm for Medicare for All has prompted industry to increase its lobbying against the proposal dramatically," suggesting that powerful healthcare interests perceive the movement to replace the nation's for-profit system "as a politically viable threat."The new report—entitled Fever Pitch: Surge in Opposition Lobbying and Advocacy Validates the Credibility of the Medicare for All Movement (pdf)—reveals that "between the first quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, the number of organizations hiring lobbyists whose lobbying disclosure forms indicated that they worked on Medicare for All increased by nearly seven times, and the overall number of lobbyists hired increased ninefold."Public Citizen program associate Craig Sandler, the report's author, said in a statement Friday that "the increase in lobbying against Medicare for All serves as validation from our opposition that this movement has arrived."The report adds that "the diverse and powerful array of trade groups, conservative activist organizations, GOP-linked establishment groups, and healthcare industry interests launching an all-out advertising blitz against Medicare for All further reinforces this reality."Beyond the lobbying numbers, other key findings from Fever Pitch include:

  • Six of the seven organizations hiring the most lobbyists to work on Medicare for All in the first quarter of 2019 belong to the Partnership for America's Health Care Future, a new coalition dedicated to opposing single-payer healthcare proposals;
  • Nine of the 10 organizations hiring the most lobbyists on Medicare for All oppose it; and
  • Some of the most visible opposition to Medicare for All comes from major players in American conservatism, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Koch network, and GOP strategist and money-wrangler Karl Rove.

50 Million Adults Are Uninsured Every Single Year -- Everyone knows the American health care system is a disaster, but surprisingly few realize just how much of a disaster it really is. One reason for this is that the statistics we use to measure it completely miss how much anguish is caused by people constantly cycling in and out of insurance plans. In prior posts, I have tried to produce some figures that help illuminate the immense degree of “churn” in our system (I, II). In this post, I do the same thing, but with a new data source. What this source reveals is that, in a given 12 month period, 1 in 4 adults between the ages of 18 and 64 — 50 million people — face a spell of uninsurance. Normal estimates of uninsurance miss this fact because those estimates are either annual surveys that ask individuals if they were uninsured for the entire year (Census) or point-in-time surveys that ask people if they are currently uninsured (Gallup). The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a massive ongoing public health survey, asked precisely this question in 2014: “In the PAST 12 MONTHS was there any time when you did NOT have ANY health insurance or coverage?” The answer? In the 43 states using questions from the optional module, 75.6% of adults aged 18–64 years had continuous health insurance coverage, 12.9% had a gap in coverage, and 11.5% had been uninsured for >12 months. That’s right: one in four adults between the ages of 18 and 64 faced a spell of uninsurance in the prior 12 months, meaning that they were either uninsured for the entire 12 months or for some period of time during those 12 months. Based oncurrent population estimates, this is just under 50 million people and that’s not even counting children and elderly people.The following graph shows the difference between the Census whole-year estimate (2014), Gallup point-in-time estimate (2015Q1), and the BRFSS any-point estimate (2014).

 American Pride Hits New Low; Few Proud of Political System - Gallup -- As Americans prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, their pride in the U.S. has hit its lowest point since Gallup's first measurement in 2001. While 70% of U.S. adults overall say they are proud to be Americans, this includes fewer than half (45%) who are "extremely" proud, marking the second consecutive year that this reading is below the majority level. Democrats continue to lag far behind Republicans in expressing extreme pride in the U.S.These findings are explored further with new measurements of the public's pride in eight aspects of U.S. government and society. American scientific achievements, military and culture/arts engender the most pride, while the U.S. political system and health and welfare system garner the least. U.S. adults' extreme pride in being American has been steadily weakening in recent years, and the current reading, from a June 3-16 Gallup poll, marks the lowest point to date. However, the latest two-percentage-point decline from last year's 47% is not a statistically significant change. The highest readings on the measure, 69% and 70%, were between 2002 and 2004, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when the American public expressed high levels of patriotism and rallied around the U.S. government. Yet, since the start of George W. Bush's second presidential term in 2005, fewer than 60% of Americans have expressed extreme pride in being American.

There are Still Good Paying Jobs for People Without Skills, Just Read the Washington Post Opinion Page - Dean Baker --No folks, it's not a rerun of the Three Stooges, it is Washington Post columnists pretending to say wise things about economic policy. They apparently decided to work overtime to criticize the more progressive Democratic candidates, which is what Jeff Bezos pays them to do. (No, I have no idea if Bezos is especially pernicious among rich people, but if the Washington Post was owned by people who were not rich Steven Pearlstein, Charles Lane, and Fred Hiatt would not be getting paid to spout ignorance on its opinion pages.) I don't have time to deal with all the misinformation in these three columns, but let me just take some highlights from each.Pearlstein is very unhappy about the Democrats' big plans. For example, he is upset that a Medicare for All program will lead to some inefficient hospitals closing and some people losing jobs. Of course we will not be getting less health care, so this is just a story of people moving from one hospital to another facility. That can be traumatic, I would never minimize the seriousness of job loss, but almost 1.8 million people lose their job every month, and this is in an economy with 3.6 percent unemployment. How much does Pearlstein think Medicare for All will add to this?  Charles Lane is lecturing us again about the debt and deficits. Let's just deal with this one quickly. Lane says not a word about the trillions of dollars of patent/copyright rents (much of it for prescription drugs) that the government has committed the public to pay with its grant of monopolies. If Lane doesn't understand that these rents are equivalent to future taxes then he is far too ignorant to take seriously on the topic of debt. Alternatively, he is simply a dishonest propagandist.Fred Hiatt, the editor of the opinion page, tells us that "the Democrats agree with Trump in a surprising way." What's Hiatt's big surprise? Well, both Trump and the Democrats are telling ordinary people that they have been screwed. Of course Trump is acting to screw them even more and the Democrats say they want to reverse the process, but that is beside the point for Hiatt.

 Congress Sniffing Around Botched McKinsey Studies Depicted as Impairing Intelligence Agencies -  Yves Smith - After a series of scandals, yet more of McKinsey’s dirty laundry is getting aired. It’s bad enough that, to name a few of the rash of well-deserved critical stories, that the storied consulting firm is implicated in criminal fraud in South Africa, or that its work for the Saudi government resulted in the persecution of Twitter dissidents that McKinsey identified, or that a contract in Mongolia served as a vehicle for three officials to take illegal payments. But with the US intelligence apparatus, McKinsey looks to have committed a cardinal sin: doing work that was so shoddy that not only is the client complaining about it, but it can actually show that the engagement did harm.Mind you, it’s not as if poor quality consulting studies are unusual. Consulting often winds up being a lot like therapy, so the hired guns may not be providing the greatest advice, but the client executives come to rely on them anyhow, turing the advisors into enablers. As one fellow McKinsey consultant observed, “The problem with consulting is you are hired by the problem” and “The most profitable clients are the most diseased.”So it is not at all good to see McKinsey take organizations that are pretty competent, namely the CIA, NSA, and other intelligence, and make them worse off. From Politico: For the past four years, the powerhouse firm McKinsey and Co., has helped restructure the country’s spying bureaucracy, aiming to improve response time and smooth communication. Instead, according to nearly a dozen current and former officials who either witnessed the restructuring firsthand or are familiar with the project, the multimillion dollar overhaul has left many within the country’s intelligence agencies demoralized and less effective.

Elizabeth Warren Accuses Advisory Panel For FCC of Corruption  - A panel that provides policy advice to the Federal Communications Commission is "stacked with corporate insiders," Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said Monday. She cited a blog post by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), which showed more than half of all Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC)members are direct employees of private companies or of industry trade groups.  This could lead to allegations that rather than working for American consumers, the FCC is working for "giant telecom companies", Warren, a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, tweeted Monday. "This is the definition of corruption: industry members writing the rules to benefit themselves & their rich friends," she added in another tweet. Sen. Warren has called on FCC Chair Ajit Pai to "explain the extent to which CSRIC may be corrupted by corporate influence." POGO's analysis of membership looked at the affiliations of the 183 people who have served on the council since 2011. "In total, 124 members -- over 67 percent -- represented industry," POGO said. "And that figure is likely conservative because it does not take into account that some groups our methodology categorized as representing civil society or academia receive substantial financial funding from industry."

Buffett Donates $3.6 Billion To 5 Foundations In Biggest Gift Yet -  Apparently, incidentally auctioning off a one-hour lunch date to a crypto evangelist who, we imagine, used the opportunity to harangue Buffett about his bearish outlook on crypto didn't spoil the billion investor's appetite for charitable giving. Because on Monday, the Oracle of Omaha, 88, said he would give away $3.6 billion in Berkshire Hathaway stock to five foundations, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is overseen by Buffett's 'best bud' (at least when the cameras are rolling) Bill Gates.The gift is Buffett's biggest annual pledge yet.  These are the other beneficiaries of Buffett's generosity, according to CNBC:The Oracle of Omaha will convert 11,250 of his Class A shares into 16.875 million Class B shares. About 16.8 million of these Class B shares will be donated to five foundations: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, Sherwood Foundation, Howard G. Buffett Foundation and NoVo Foundation, the company said in a statement on Monday.   Here's a breakdown of Buffett's annual giving, courtesy of Bloomberg.

House Democrats sue Trump administration over president's tax returns --House Democrats filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court seeking access to President Trump’s tax returns, accusing the Trump administration of an “extraordinary attack” on Congress in preventing the disclosure of the president’s personal financial records.Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, filed the lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department after months of feuding with the administration over the returns.Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, who have denied Democrats’ demands for the returns, are named as defendants.“Defendants have mounted an extraordinary attack on the authority of Congress to obtain information needed to conduct oversight of Treasury, the IRS, and the tax laws on behalf of the American people who participate in the Nation’s voluntary tax system,” the 49-page lawsuit states. Jay Sekulow, an attorney for Trump, said in a statement: “We will respond to this latest effort at Presidential harassment in Court."  Mnuchin in May rejected a subpoena issued by Democrats on the committee. That rejection pushed Neal to seek a court battle that legal experts say might go all the way to the Supreme Court, given the central questions it poses about the scope of Congress’s ability to oversee the White House.The move also intensifies the expanding conflict over a range of oversight questions between Congress and the Trump administration, which has invoked privilege and sought to stonewall Democratic lawmakers’ investigations.“This is a big deal that goes to the core of our government’s checks and balances, and could for many years shape the relationship between the executive and legislative branches,” said Steve Rosenthal, a legal expert at the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank. House Democrats and legal experts have pointed to a 1924 law that explicitly gives lawmakers the authority to seek the records, but the Trump administration has characterized Neal’s request as a partisan maneuver to embarrass his political opponents. Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff, has said Democrats will “never” see Trump’s returns

US Congressman Justin Amash Quits the Republican Party --Michigan Congressman Justin Amash – you might remember him as the one and only Republican Congressman who has publicly expressed support for impeaching President Trump – just announced that he’s resigning from the Republican Party, presumably to start a #NeverTrump party of one. In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Amash claimed that he had become  “disenchanted” with the Republican Party. Instead of  putting the interest of ‘the people’ first, Amash said the party has become mostly self-serving for itself and its corporate backers. He also claimed that this political agenda had thrown the system of checks and balances in the federal government hopelessly out of whack (an interesting claim, considering how district courts have struck down most of the administration’s big immigration initiative, and the House is presently mulling over whether to try and impeach the president). True to Washington’s fears, Americans have allowed government officials, under assertions of expediency and party unity, to ignore the most basic tenets of our constitutional order: separation of powers, federalism and the rule of law. The result has been the consolidation of political power and the near disintegration of representative democracy. These are consequences of a mind-set among the political class that loyalty to party is more important than serving the American people or protecting our governing institutions. The parties value winning for its own sake, and at whatever cost. Instead of acting as an independent branch of government and serving as a check on the executive branch, congressional leaders of both parties expect the House and Senate to act in obedience or opposition to the president and their colleagues on a partisan basis. In this hyperpartisan environment, congressional leaders use every tool to compel party members to stick with the team, dangling chairmanships, committee assignments, bill sponsorships, endorsements and campaign resources. As donors recognize the growing power of party leaders, they supply these officials with ever-increasing funds, which, in turn, further tightens their grip on power. The founders envisioned Congress as a deliberative body in which outcomes are discovered. We are fast approaching the point, however, where Congress exists as little more than a formality to legitimize outcomes dictated by the president, the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader.

Gohmert calls Mueller an 'anal opening' ahead of testimony - Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) called former special counsel Robert Mueller an "anal opening" ahead of the former FBI chief's public testimony before Congress. “He’s done some irreparable damage to some things and he’s got to answer for them,” Gohmert told Politico. He is one of 25 Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees who get to grill Mueller during the back-to-back hearings scheduled later this month. The Texas lawmaker added that his reading of the former special counsel’s report did little to temper his animosity toward Mueller: “It reinforced the anal opening that I believe Mueller to be.”Lawmakers from both parties will have the opportunity to question Mueller for hours during back-to-back House hearings on July 17 about the findings of his 22-month investigation into Russia’s election interference in 2016 and potential obstruction of justice by President Trump. Democrats want to amplify the contents of Mueller’s 448-page report, which details efforts from Trump to gain control of and thwart the probe into his campaign’s contacts with Russia. The report did not find evidence to charge Trump campaign members or associates with conspiring with the Kremlin to meddle in the election.  Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice in the probe, saying he was precluded from doing so by a Justice Department opinion that says a sitting president cannot be indicted.

Russian oligarch’s story could spell trouble for Team Mueller  - Sometimes it is the quiet, elusive ones who come back to haunt you. And for ex-special prosecutor Robert Mueller, one of those might be a Russian billionaire named Oleg Deripaska. The oligarch who once controlled Russia’s largest aluminum empire has been an international man of intrigue in the now-completed and disproven Trump collusion investigation. Deripaska was a disaffected former business client of Donald Trump’s fallen campaign chairman Paul Manafort. He also was a legal research client of Trump-hating, Clinton-aiding British spy Christopher Steele. In his spare time, he was an occasional friendly cooperator with the FBI and its fired deputy director, Andrew McCabe. And, at the height of the Russia collusion hysteria, Deripaska was sanctioned by the Trump administration to financially punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for his meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.With the Russia case, in which he had so many connections, now completed, Deripaska is breaking his silence. And what he has to say could impact Mueller’s July 17 testimony before Congress.In a wide-ranging interview with me, Deripaska confirmed a story told to me more than a year ago by law enforcement sources: He was indeed interviewed by FBI agents in September 2016 during the early Russia probe, and he told them he strongly doubted the bureau’s theory that the Trump campaign, through Manafort, was colluding with Moscow to hijack the 2016 election.“I told them straightforward, ‘Look, I am not a friend with him [Manafort]. Apparently not, because I started a court case [against him] six or nine months before … . But since I’m Russian I would be very surprised that anyone from Russia would try to approach him for any reason, and wouldn’t come and ask me my opinion,' ” he said, recounting exactly what he says he told the FBI agents that day. “I told them straightforward, I just don’t believe that he would represent any Russian interest. And knowing what he’s doing on Ukraine for the last, what, seven or eight years.”

Mueller Report Gets the Trump Tower Meeting Wrong; Promotes Browder Hoax - A “key event” described in the Mueller Report is the Trump Tower meeting where a Russian lawyer met with the president’s son Donald Trump Jr, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Russiagaters have been obsessed with the meeting saying it was the smoking gun to prove collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to steal the 2016 election. Months after Mueller concluded that there was no collusion at all, the obsession has switched to “obstruction of justice,” which is like someone being apprehended for resisting arrest without committing any other crime.The Mueller report thus focuses instead on “efforts to prevent disclosure of information about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russians and senior campaign officials.”But the report on this topic is deceptive. Ironically, as it attacks Donald Trump and top campaign officials for lying, the report itself lies about the issue the meeting addressed.It wasn’t to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton, which the Russian lawyer did not have and never produced. That was a ploy by Robert Goldstone, a British music publicist whose job is to get what his clients want, in this case, a meeting. So, recklessly, he invented the idea of Clinton dirt as a bait-and-switch to get Trump’s people to come to it. He got the lawyer the meeting for her to lobby a potentially incoming administration against the Magnitsky Act, which is why she was in the United States in the first place.The Magnitsky Act is a 2012 U.S. law that was promoted by William Browder, an American-born British citizen and hedge fund investor, who claimed his “lawyer” Sergei Magnitsky had been imprisoned and murdered because he uncovered a scheme by Russian officials to steal $230 million from the Russian Treasury. It sanctioned Russians he said were involved or benefitted from Magnitsky’s death. It has since been used by the U.S. to put sanctions on other Russians and nationals from other countries. The lawyer lobbying against the act, Natalia Veselnitskaya, told Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort that Browder’s story was fake, a smokescreen to block the Russians from going after him for multi-millions in tax evasion. She argued the Magnitsky Act was built on this fraud. Manafort’s notes, included in the Mueller Report, trace what she said.

CrowdStrikeOut: Mueller’s Own Report Undercuts Its Core Russia-Meddling Claims - Aaron Maté - At a May press conference capping his tenure as special counsel, Robert Mueller emphasized what he called "the central allegation" of the two-year Russia probe. The Russian government, Mueller sternly declared, engaged in "multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election, and that allegation deserves the attention of every American." Mueller's comments echoed a January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) asserting with "high confidence" that Russia conducted a sweeping 2016 election influence campaign. "I don't think we've ever encountered a more aggressive or direct campaign to interfere in our election process," then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told a Senate hearing.While the 448-page Mueller report found no conspiracy between Donald Trump's campaign and Russia, it offered voluminous details to support the sweeping conclusion that the Kremlin worked to secure Trump's victory. The report claims that the interference operation occurred "principally" on two fronts: Russian military intelligence officers hacked and leaked embarrassing Democratic Party documents, and a government-linked troll farm orchestrated a sophisticated and far-reaching social media campaign that denigrated Hillary Clinton and promoted Trump. But a close examination of the report shows that none of those headline assertions are supported by the report’s evidence or other publicly available sources. They are further undercut by investigative shortcomings and the conflicts of interest of key players involved:

Jeffrey Epstein arrested on sex trafficking-related charges: reports - Financier Jeffrey Epstein was arrested in New York Saturday on charges related to sex trafficking, according to multiple reports. Epstein, 66, is expected to be arraigned in federal court on Monday on charges of molesting dozens of underage girls, sources told The Miami Herald.He was reportedly arrested by the FBI and is in custody in New York. His bail hearing is reported scheduled to take place Monday. "That bail hearing will be critical because if they grant him bail, he will disappear and they will never get him,’’ a source in New York told the Herald.The arrest was first reported by The Daily Beast. The Hill has reached out to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for comment. Both declined NBC 4's request for comment. Epstein has been accused of sexual assault by more than 30 girls. More than a decade ago he pleaded guilty to sex trafficking and was sentenced to serve just 13 months in prison, The Miami Herald reported. Epstein and his co-conspirators were given further immunity. The Herald's report also detailed former U.S. attorney and current Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta's role in the agreement.  Epstein is a friend of both President Trump and former President Bill Clinton

Lawmakers Target Pentagon Pedophiles With Bipartisan Child Porn Bill - Bipartisan legislation introduced by Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) aim to halt the use of Department of Defense (DoD) computer networks for downloading or distributing child porn.   Hundreds of government employees were implicated as part of ICE's 2006 "Operation Flicker" - which identified over 5,000 individuals who had used credit cards or PayPal to buy child porn, or subscribe to websites that offered the material. Of those, ICE identified 264 DoD employees or contractors who had purchased child pornography online.Nine of them had "Top Secret Sensitive Compartmentalized Information" security clearances, while 76 of them held clearances of Secret or higher.Here's the kicker: Of those 264 DoD suspects, just 52 were investigated by the Pentagon's Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), meaning the Bush administration willfully ignored over 200 suspected pedophiles working for the Defense Department.  The new bill, The End Network Abuse Act will require the Pentagon to enter into contracts with groups which will be involved in the effort, including law enforcement, social services, child protection services and trauma-informed healthcare providers. It would also provide for additional training and technical expertise among military investigators, according to The Hill.

 Twitter Can Now Censor the President  --Last week Twitter announced that it would no longer exempt most tweets by government officials from its rules regarding what it deems abusive behavior. Historically, tweets such as President Trump’s were allowed to remain up, even if the company determined that they violated its policies, due to their being in the “public interest” as an official communication by a head of state. Now, the company will hide and deprioritize those tweets -- and possibly even suspend accounts -- for language it deems outside its view of acceptable speech. Under the new policy to “protect the health of the public conversation on Twitter,” which went into effect June 27, tweets that, in Twitter’s eyes, represent threats of violence can result in a public official’s account (or that of a candidate for office) being suspended until he or she deletes the offending messages. Nonviolent tweets the company sees as violating its speech rules will be hidden behind an overlay that users must click through to view the tweet, as is the case with pornography and other “sensitive” content. The tweets will also be deemphasized by Twitter’s algorithms to massively reduce their discoverability.  International diplomacy frequently involves threats of military action, with many of Trump’s use-of-force statements singled out in the past as violations of Twitter’s policies. A company spokesperson clarified that under its new policy such tweets could result in the president’s account being suspended until he deleted them. If Trump tweeted that he would attack Iran if it struck U.S. forces or that the U.S. would seek the death penalty against a convicted terrorist, could that result in a suspension? The spokesperson answered that the company would review tweets on a case-by-case basis but refused to rule out taking action for such statements.

 A Trump campaign consultant is reportedly making fake websites for Democratic candidates — and it's working -  A digital consultant for President Donald Trump's 2020 re-election campaign used his spare time to create fake campaign websites for top Democratic candidates, The New York Times reported Saturday. The fake websites are similar in appearance to real ones, but paint the candidates in an unflattering light with images, videos, and quotes taken out of context alongside negative write-ups. The fake Joe Biden campaign website, for instance, has received more visitors than Biden's real website, partially thanks to search engine boosts from news media and Reddit.

Rebel Economist Breaks Through to Washington on How Shareholder Value Theory Rewards the Undeserving -- Ever heard that a corporation’s sole duty is to maximize value for shareholders? In the go-go ‘80s, business schools, government organizations, and most public companies took up this mantra. It stuck around. William Lazonick, emeritus professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, has long held that idea to be not only wrong, but disastrous to society — a cause of ills ranging from a vanishing middle class to stymied innovation. Finally America is listening, including the New Yorker magazine, which hails him as “The Economist Who Put Stock Buybacks in Washington’s Crosshairs.” Lazonick speaks to the Institute for New Economic Thinking about how he managed to break through the fog of false consensus. Lynn Parramore interview transcript)

Too Many Companies Drain Value From the Economy - Defenders of free markets have always portrayed them as rife with healthy competition. Striving to outdo each other in providing high-quality products to consumers at ever-lower prices, according to this narrative, companies only profit from the hard work they do and the risks they take. This means that corporate profits should grow roughly at the rate of the economy as a whole. As for stock prices, they can grow faster than profits if investors’ appetite for risk increases, or if interest rates go down.But skeptics of modern capitalism have an alternative narrative. Too many businesses, they say, extract value from the economy rather than add it. Using monopoly power, or favorable treatment from conflicted or ideologically friendly regulators, big corporations raise prices, push down wages and squeeze their suppliers to the benefit of their shareholders. Economists call this sort of value extraction economic rent. This is an important and timely debate, since during the past 15 years, corporate profits have taken in a historically large share of the value produced by the U.S. economy: And in recent years, stock valuations have increased faster than either profits or the economy itself: How much of this increase in market value was due to rent extraction, or to the expectation of future rent extraction? Economists Daniel Greenwald, Martin Lettau and Sydney Ludvigson believe they have an answer: Most of it. In a recent paper, they built a model of the economy in which the value created by businesses could be arbitrarily reallocated between shareholders and workers. They found that redistribution from workers to shareholders accounted for 54% of increased stock wealth. Falling interest rates, rising investor appetites for risk and economic growth comprised the remaining 46%.

Facebucks are the last thing the world needs - Is Facebook’s money – Libra – funny money, or a threat to all currencies? Or is it just a giant scam to transfer people’s cash into Facebook? Facebook’s proposed currency, Libra – or as National Public Radio put it, Facebucks – has created a storm. Some libertarians see Libra, a variant of a cryptocurrency backed by Facebook’s big bucks and the bevy of companies that it has put together, as moving society closer to the day when cryptocurrencies truly challenge all global currencies to fulfill economist Friedrich Hayek’s dream of The Denationalization of Money.  Or is it, perhaps, a clever way of taking in free cash without paying interest, and parking it wherever it wants? As a Hacker Noon article by Erasmus Elsner puts it, “Facebook has Found a place to Park its $40bn+ Cash Reserves and Everyone Thinks its [sic] about Crypto.” Buried in the Libra White Paper are a couple of sentences that say Libra will also enable a global digital identity for people. This, from Facebook? The same platform that is under fire for mass-scale violations of privacy and that has a platform that literally extorts its users for visibility, the “real” currency of the narcissistic digital age. If you want your posts to be seen, says Facebook, then you pay us.

Inside the Congressional Staff Meeting About Libra – anon - The briefing was fascinating. The lead representative, the head of policy for Libra, kicked it off by admitting that the whole endeavor required a “suspension of disbelief.” They were asked about the timeline, and said they hoped to have Libra operational in about a year, which they kept suggesting was a prolonged timeline, but didn’t seem lengthy to anyone in the room.They kept selling Libra as a means of providing banking services to 1.7 billion unbanked people around the world. When challenged on how they were going to do that, and asked directly whether they’d figure out how exactly a digital currency would be an answer for people who can’t access credit currently, they said, “The short answer is no.” The phrase “the miracle of blockchain” was used at one point.Facebook said that they assumed the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) or the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) would regulate Libra. Questions were asked about what basket of currency would be used and other practicalities, and the answers were fairly vague. Gemini, another cryptocurrency, was referred to as a “regulated exchange” because I guess there are 43 states that have some form of protections on it (with the implication being that that is adequate).We were assured that even if a Libra user used WhatsApp or Messenger, WhatsApp/Facebook would not access specific information about their transactions beyond that they were interested in or using Libra. That would of course be enough information to know a lot more about users.Another question asked was what protections were in place to prevent collusion between Libra’s 27 partners. The answer was that the partners were well aware of the “reputational risks” they might incur should they violate privacy laws, etc. It was also pointed out that some of the partners are direct competitors, as if that has ever prevented them from colluding in the past. Ultimately we need more than a briefing. Currency backed by reserves is coinage. Because Facebook is proposing to take over a role traditionally under the purview of central banks, not private companies, we should expect the skepticism we heard in the room from staffers to be publicly aired by House Financial Services Committee members on July 17.

Why Facebook’s answer to bitcoin and WeChat Pay, libra, is doomed to fail “Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg once said. Today Facebook is racing as fast as it can to break the global financial architecture, before the world’s big governments can shatter its existing business model. It will lose the race. Last week the US social media giant announced plans to launch a new “global currency” called libra. The idea is to use a smartphone app to create an international payments system for a new electronic currency, similar to bitcoin, to rival and even displace existing national currencies. You can see why “Zuck” is going down this path. A third of the world’s population is now signed up to Facebook’s social media and messaging services. This has allowed Facebook to exploit users’ data to sell targeted advertising on a vast scale.But the world’s governments are rapidly closing in. Just last week US President Donald Trump castigated European competition commissioner (and likely future EU chief bureaucrat) Margrethe Vestage for targeting Facebook. “She’s suing all our companies,” the US president complained. “We should be suing … Facebook.” With its existing business model under threat, Facebook is looking for new revenue streams. And for inspiration it is looking at China.   Specifically, it is looking at Tencent, and the Chinese gaming company’s WeChat Pay payments system. But while WeChat Pay allows users to send each other payments in yuan, Facebook is aiming to go a big step further, denominating its payments in a tailor-made electronic cryptocurrency called libra. Facebook hopes to avoid the wild swings in other cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, and to build trust in its own crypto, by backing libra with holdings of assets in major currencies like the US dollar.In this sense, libra will resemble the Hong Kong dollar, whose monetary base is fully backed by US dollar-denominated assets. But while the Hong Kong Kong dollar is pegged to the US dollar alone, libra will be pegged to a basket of major tradeable currencies, presumably including the euro, yen and pound as well as the US dollar. This means the value of libra will fluctuate against other major currencies. For ordinary consumers looking to pay for stuff in libra, the result will be that the libra price of goods and services – for example, a cup of coffee – will vary from day to day. This alone will likely be enough to kill the new project.

Thumbs Down to Facebook’s Cryptocurrency Joseph Stiglitz --Facebook and some of its corporate allies have decided that what the world really needs is another cryptocurrency, and that launching one is the best way to use the vast talents at their disposal. The fact that Facebook thinks so reveals much about what is wrong with twenty-first-century American capitalism. In some ways, it’s a curious time to be launching an alternative currency. In the past, the main complaint about traditional currencies was their instability, with rapid and uncertain inflation making them a poor store of value. But the dollar, the euro, the yen, and the renminbi have all been remarkably stable. If anything, the worry today is about deflation, not inflation.The world has also made progress on financial transparency, making it more difficult for the banking system to be used to launder money and for other nefarious activities. And technology has enabled us to complete transactions efficiently, moving money from customers’ accounts into those of retailers in nanoseconds, with remarkably good fraud protection. The last thing we need is a new vehicle for nurturing illicit activities and laundering the proceeds, which another cryptocurrency will almost certainly turn out to be.The real problem with our existing currencies and financial arrangements, which serve as a means of payment as well as a store of value, is the lack of competition among and regulation of the companies that control transactions. As a result, consumers – especially in the United States – pay a multiple of what payments should cost, lining the pockets of Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and banks with tens of billions of dollars of “rents” – excessive profits – every year. The Durbin Amendment to the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-reform legislation curbs the excessive fees charged for debit cards only to a very limited extent, and it did nothing about the much bigger problem of excessive fees associated with credit cards.

 Economist Nouriel Roubini Compares Crypto Coin Market to “Cocaine’s Drug Pushers” - By Pam Martens and Russ Martens -- While the Securities and Exchange Commission and Congress finesse a delicate dance around the potential criminality of Bitcoin trading and other cryptocurrencies, NYU Professor and economist Nouriel Roubini has launched a savage attack on the “currencies,” calling them “a joke,” a “scam,” a “sh*tcoin,” and no better than “cocaine drug pushers.”  Not to put too fine a point on it, but Roubini is also the man who correctly called the impending financial crisis that landed in 2008 while Federal regulators wore their blinders about the corruption and leverage building inside the largest banks on Wall Street.  Roubini, a long-time critic of Bitcoin, has launched his fiercest comments on cryptocurrencies in the past 24 hours on his Twitter page and in an interview on Bloomberg TV. In the Bloomberg interview, Roubini had this to say:  “Crypto currencies are not even currencies. They’re a joke…The price of Bitcoin has fallen in a week by how much – 30 percent. It goes up 20 percent one day, collapses the next. It is not a means of payment, nobody, not even this blockchain conference, accepts Bitcoin for paying for conference fees cause you can do only five transactions per second with Bitcoin. With the Visa system you can do 25,000 transactions per second…Crypto’s nonsense. It’s a failure. Nobody’s using it for any transactions. It’s trading one sh*tcoin for another sh*tcoin. That’s the entire trading or currency in the space where’s there’s price manipulation, spoofing, wash trading, pump and dumping, frontrunning. It’s just a big criminal scam and nothing else.”  Later in the interview, Roubini adds this: “There are millions of degenerate gamblers that are retail suckers, and they’re gonna create something where they can leverage not 10 times, not 50 times, but 100 times. It’s worse than those drug pushers who give you crack cocaine for free to get you addicted and then lead you to be broke….” (See the interview at 19:30 elapsed time on the Bloomberg video here.)

 The Real Threat From Facebook's Libra Coin - Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency is generating an immense amount of hype. Some hail it as the beginning of the end of sovereign fiat currencies. Others believe it will draw people into the cryptocurrency world, leading them inexorably to place their faith in the One True Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. And others worry about the effect on central bank monetary policy and the possibility that a run on Libra could trigger another financial crisis. I think this is all massively overblown. But there is one aspect that should worry everyone – and almost nobody is talking about. What about the threat Libra could pose to financial stability, or monetary policy? There is a not insignificant risk that in the event of a run on Libra, it will prove not to have the 100% reserve backing that it claims. If that happened, then people would not be able to recover some or all of their money. But that wouldn't necessarily mean central banks or governments would have to intervene. Those shouting about risks to financial stability seem to think that Libra would be so huge that central banks would be obliged to bail it out. The Eurodollar market on steroids.And this brings me to my real concern about the Libra project. Facebook’s business model since its inception has been to harvest and monetize data. I see no reason to assume that this has changed. So when I find, buried in Libra’s whitepaper, two sentences that imply Facebook’s real aim in creating Libra is to set the standard for global digital identities, my hair stands on end. As Dave Birch, director of Consult Hyperion and an expert on digital identity, puts it:There are no throwaway remarks in a Facebook white paper that has taken a year to put together. It’s in there for a reason. [Facebook] are actually going to try and fix the identity problem. Dave seems fairly sanguine about Facebook’s intention. But I am not. We now know just how damaging Facebook’s data harvesting can be. If Facebook became the standard setter for digital identities, it could gain access to all personal data. And that is what it wants. Not control of finance, control of data. And if you think your personal data would be digitally secure from harvesting simply because Facebook said so, you are the biggest sucker in the world.

Facebook Abused To Spread Remote Access Trojans Since 2015 - According to Check Point Research, a "large-scale" campaign has been operating under Facebook's radar since at least 2014 throughout a campaign related to politics in Libya.  The aim of the operation has been to spread RATs including Houdini, Remcos, and SpyNote. Tens of thousands of victims from Libya, Europe, the US, and China are believed to have been compromised. The threat actor behind the campaign has used the political turmoil in Libya to their advantage. Libya's National Army commander, Khalifa Haftar, has been impersonated for years and a page apparently operated by the public figure was actually a central point for the distribution of malware. The page impersonating Haftar was created in April 2019 and has since attracted over 11,000 followers. Posts were shared with political themes and links claiming to share leaked intelligence reports and material, but if someone interested in Libyan politics clicked on the URLs, they would instead be sent to malicious content.  Malicious VBE and WSF files for Windows machines, as well as malware-laden APK files for the mobile Android operating system, would then be downloaded and upon execution would install a Trojan.

Lending to nonbank lenders is growing — maybe too much - Amid warnings that the next financial crisis could be caused by rising levels of corporate debt, banking regulators have taken some comfort in the fact that the riskiest corporate loans are being made not by banks, but by private equity firms, hedge funds and other nonbank lenders. Yet banks could still be on the hook if the economy sours and those loans to already highly leveraged firms start to default. The reason: Many of those nonbank lenders are getting their funding from regulated banks that then keep the loans on their balance sheets. In just the last two years, bank loans to nondepository financial institutions have increased by 23%, to $850 billion at March 31, according to data compiled by FedFis. By comparison, total commercial loans on banks’ books have climbed 16% in that same time frame while residential mortgages have risen 10%. The question is, how great of a risk do those loans to nonbanks pose to banks? Some will say very little, arguing that banks’ balance sheets are healthy enough to absorb any losses from their exposure to leveraged lending. Observers point out, too, that not all loans to nonbanks are going to lenders that use the funds to make risky loans. They are also going to highly regulated companies, such as insurance companies, that rarely engage in risky lending. But others argue that the sheer increase in the volume of loans to nonbank lenders should be concerning to banks and regulators. “It tells you that there’s a lot of demand for these loans and it means that people in the whole lending chain are moving about too quickly,” said Mayra Rodríguez Valladares, a financial regulations consultant. “That exposes you to a lot of operational risk, with more errors made by people in the chain.” Another worry, said Steven Pearlstein, an economics and public affairs professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., is that there is scant data on the terms and rates of loans to other financial firms, or how borrowers are using the funds, making it extremely difficult to gauge banks’ exposure to leveraged lending. “We don’t know what’s going to happen to banks because we haven’t had a serious downturn during a credit cycle when banks had this much exposure” to loans made to nonbanks, said Pearlstein, who has raised these concerns in articles he has written for the Washington Post. Banking regulators, for their part, acknowledge the difficulties in monitoring the risks in leveraged lending. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, in a discussion of loans to nondepository financial institutions included in its Semiannual Risk Perspective issued in May, said that “most of the credit risk associated with leveraged loans is outside the federal banking system with much less transparency, making it more difficult to monitor.”

SCOTUS ruling means less deference for bank regulators in court — A Supreme Court ruling last week could put new limits on how federal banking regulators issue and interpret their own rules. At issue is a case, Kisor v. Wilkie, that at least partly turned on the latitude given to the Department of Veterans — and all agencies in general — to interpret their own regulations. Banks have long argued that so-called Auer deference gives too much power to agencies to interpret vague rules however they see fit. While the high court affirmed that deference, it narrowed it by saying it could no longer be applied automatically. Instead, the court defined certain criteria that must be met for a court to apply deference, including the determination that a regulation is “genuinely ambiguous” and that an agency’s interpretation is reasonable. “Now, if a regulation is ambiguous or very open-ended in terms of how it would apply to a particular fact pattern, the courts are instructed not to reflexively defer to an agency's own interpretation of its regulation ... so it could potentially influence the way that some agencies draft their rulemakings,” said Gregg Rozansky, the senior associate general counsel for the Bank Policy Institute. Banks in particular have been concerned about cases where agencies issue guidance, which is not subject to notice-and-comment, to clarify existing regulations in such a way that it creates new requirements. When banks challenge the guidance in court, however, judges have often deferred to the agencies. "Some have argued that where a court showed deference to an agency’s interpretation of a regulation that deference was tantamount to the creation of a new regulation rather than merely clarifying an existing one,” said Rozansky. The ruling clarifies that "guidance is not a rule and does not have the force of effective law," said Thomas Vartanian, executive director of the financial regulation and technology institute at George Mason University’s law school. But it is far from a complete overhaul. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the high court's four liberal justices in upholding Auer deference. The majority made it clear that the concept of giving latitude to agencies hasn't gone away, even if there are some restrictions. “When it applies, Auer deference gives an agency significant leeway to say what its own rules mean,” Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her opinion after the case was decided June 25. “In so doing, the doctrine enables the agency to fill out the regulatory scheme Congress placed under its supervision." Still, observers agreed that the ruling would have an impact, including serving as a wake-up call for agencies that previously had counted on deference to help defend a rule or guidance against a legal challenge.

The Fed and Wall Street Have their Worry Beads Out Over Deutsche Bank’s “Bad Bank” Idea --Pam Martens --According to press reports around the globe, there’s going to be a hot confab this Sunday by the Board of Deutsche Bank that will focus on the potential to create a so-called “bad bank” to hold some of Deutsche’s toxic assets along with discussions of cutting 15,000 to 20,000 employees from the payroll – meaning as many as one out of every five employees could get the axe. A big part of the job losses will hit Manhattan where Deutsche Bank has a heavy presence on Wall Street — which it plans to severely pare back.Here’s the short version on why the bank is contemplating these radical moves: Deutsche Bank has reported losses in three of the last four years; its share price has lost 90 percent of its value since February of 2007; as of the close of trading on Wednesday, Deutsche had $16.14 billion in common equity value versus $49 trillion notional (face amount) in derivatives; it’s had four different CEOs in just over four years; it can’t find a merger partner; and its home country of Germany, unlike the “throw money at the Wall Street mega banks” U.S. government, doesn’t seem inclined to hand a life line to Deutsche Bank’s sinking hulk. To wrap your mind around the concept of a “bad bank,” let’s look at what Citigroup did in January 2009.  Citigroup found itself teetering during the 2008 financial crisis. The U.S. government infused $45 billion in equity capital into its sinking carcass but its share price continued to collapse. Fellow banks on Wall Street refused to lend to it. So after reporting more giant losses for the fourth quarter of 2008, on January 16, 2009 Citigroup announced it was gathering up all of its toxic assets and shoving them into a “bad bank,” to be called Citi Holdings. By March, it had lost two-thirds more of its value. Today, after performing a 1-for-10 reverse split on May 9, 2011 (leaving shareholders with 1 share for each 10 shares previously held) Citigroup’s share price is still down 86 percent from where it traded in early 2007, before the financial crisis. And that’s not the worst part of this story.

Lunch Beers, Missing Bosses & Empty Desks: Deutsche Bank's NYC Employees Are Giving Up -  Even as he repeatedly insisted that Deutsche Bank's US investment-banking business is a critical part of the bank's identity and its long-term strategy for offering a European alternative to JP Morgan, Christian Sewing probably knew, on some level, that he wouldn't be able to survive as CEO if he didn't agree to some serious cutbacks.For their sake, let's hope most of the bank's front-office employees, the traders and salespeople who have powered DB's troubled US equities and rates-trading businesses, have been able to read the writing on the wall as well. According to a story published by Bloomberg on Monday, it looks like they have. Because the mood inside 60 Wall can best be described as resigned indifference.As reports of steep job cuts (as many as 20,000 personnel including hundreds of traders) swirl, the scene inside DB's main office in the US (it also has a large back-office presence in Jacksonville) has devolved into a tableau familiar to those who survived the financial crisis: Empty desks, boxes piled up in corner offices, traders and other more junior employees leaving for long, boozy lunches at 1 pm - and sometimes never returning for the day.Junior employees spend part of their days sending out resumes - and their bosses either don't care, or are actively encouraging them. Everybody - even the executives and managers - seems to be waiting for the next shoe to drop in Frankfurt (the German city where DB's global headquarters is located), according to Bloomberg.Begin on the 46th floor, overlooking the East River: brown boxes have been stacked in the offices of the senior-most executive in the Americas. More than 40 flights down, on the trading floor, seats sit empty at mid-morning. Computer screens are black. Some who remain are openly hunting for jobs at rival banks. Their bosses know, and don’t mind.   On a recent weekday, an executive spied junior traders enjoying beers at the nearby Full Shilling pub. It was just past 1 p.m. Older traders could be found at Cipriani on Wall Street, where the famous bellini cocktails are served in wood-paneled rooms or on a terrace between stone ionic columns. So it goes nowadays at Deutsche Bank in New York, where everybody, from the executives down, seems to sense that more bad news is coming from Frankfurt.

June 2019: Unofficial Problem Bank list increased to 76 Institutions, Q2 2019 Transition Matrix - Note: Surferdude808 compiles an unofficial list of Problem Banks compiled only from public sources.  . Here is the unofficial problem bank list for June 2019. Here are the monthly changes and a few comments from surferdude808: Update on the Unofficial Problem Bank List for June 2019. During the month, the list increased by three to 76 institutions after a removal and three additions. Assets changed by a nominal $322 million to $55 billion. A year ago, the list held 92 institutions with assets of $60 billion. This month, the action against First Southern Bank (f/k/a The Patterson Bank), Patterson, GA ($123 million) was terminated. Additions this month included The Farmers Bank, Carnegie, OK ($121 million); Home Bank of Arkansas, Portland, AR ($76 million); and State Bank, Green River, WY ($29 million). Also, thanks to a reader that identified an institution not included within the list – CornerstoneBank, Atlanta, GA ($219 million), that has been operating under a Consent Order since 2012. With the conclusion of the second quarter, we bring an updated transition matrix to detail how banks are transitioning off the Unofficial Problem Bank List. Since the Unofficial Problem Bank List was first published on August 7, 2009 with 389 institutions, 1,747 institutions have appeared on a weekly or monthly list since the start of publication. Only 4.2 percent of the banks that have appeared on a list remain today as 1,671 institutions have transitioned through the list. Departure methods include 984 action terminations, 406 failures, 262 mergers, and 19 voluntary liquidations. Of the 389 institutions on the first published list, only 6 or 1.5 percent, are still designated as being in a troubled status more than nine years later. The 406 failures represent 23.3 percent of the 1,747 institutions that have made an appearance on the list. This failure rate is well above the 10-12 percent rate frequently cited in media reports on the failure rate of banks on the FDIC's official list.

State AGs oppose CFPB efforts to roll back overdraft rule - Twenty-five state attorneys general are opposing efforts by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to roll back or amend a regulation designed to rein in overdraft fees. Instead, the state enforcement officials are seeking even stricter limits. New York Attorney General Letitia James sent a letter to CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger saying there is “no basis to believe” that the overdraft rule has harmed small banks and credits unions financially. The letter, signed by 25 Democratic state attorneys general and officials from the District of Columbia and Hawaii's Office of Consumer Protection, said there is no data to support a change by the bureau. "We are aware of no evidence or other basis to believe that the Overdraft Rule places any economic burdens or costs on smaller financial institutions, or indeed on financial institutions generally," state law enforcers said in the 10-page letter, dated July 2. "Any marginal reduction in earnings resulting from the imposition of fewer overdraft fees is not a basis for modifying a rule." The states attorneys general were responding to a CFPB proposal in May to review whether the overdraft rule should be amended or rescinded in order to minimize any significant economic impact on small banks and credit unions. The bureau is seeking public comment on the issue. The overdraft rule was first issued by the Federal Reserve Board in 2009 and required banks starting a year later to provide consumers with an opt-in notice to overdraft fees when opening a checking account. Banks also must explain overdraft fees, which can cost up to $35. The CFPB gained oversight of the rule after the agency was created in 2011. “We believe that any decision to rescind or roll back the requirements of the overdraft rule would be a serious and harmful mistake and urge the CFPB not to do so,” the letter said. In 2017, banks with assets of more than $1 billion collected over $11.5 billion in overdraft and nonsufficient-funds fees. The attorneys general called on the CFPB to release data collected in 2015 from more than 4,000 small financial institutions with assets of less than $550 million that could shed light on overdraft practices and consumer outcomes.

CFPB filed no fair-lending enforcement cases last year -- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau did not file any fair-lending enforcement actions in the 2018 fiscal year and did not refer any Equal Credit Opportunity Act violations to the Department of Justice. In a report to Congress released Tuesday, the agency did not identify any public enforcement actions for fair-lending violations during the fiscal year under former acting Director Mick Mulvaney, now the White House's acting chief of staff. The report said the CFPB does have a number of “ongoing fair lending investigations” of financial firms involving a variety of consumer financial products. In the 2017 fiscal year, the bureau announced two fair-lending enforcement actions and referred two matters to the Justice Department. It did the same in the 2016 fiscal year. In its report, CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger said protecting consumers from discrimination is one of the primary objectives of the Dodd-Frank Act and remains “an objective that the bureau takes very seriously.” Kraninger wrote in a message at the beginning of the report that the bureau intends to take fair lending “to a new level,” by exploring how financial technology companies can cater to low- and moderate-income consumers. “Under my leadership, the bureau will continue to vigorously enforce fair lending laws in our jurisdiction, and will stand on guard against unlawful discrimination in credit,” Kraninger wrote. “In addition to that core work, the bureau will continue to explore cutting-edge fair lending issues including how consumer-friendly innovation can increase access to credit to all consumers — and especially unbanked and underbanked consumers and their communities.” The CFPB continues to oversee compliance with four past fair-lending settlements: against BancorpSouth Bank in 2016 for allegedly denying home loans to African-Americans; Fifth Third Bank in 2015 for auto dealer markups; Honda Finance in 2015 for allegedly overcharging on auto loans; and Provident Funding in 2015 for allegedly overcharging minority borrowers on home loans. 

Court finds consumer has standing to pursue FACTA violation Public Citizen --Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA), retailers are prohibited from printing more than the last 5 digits of a credit card number or the expiration date on a purchase receipt. The law was enacted to combat identity theft, because receipts other could provide criminals with easy access to credit and debit card information. FACTA also includes a private right of action, allowing consumers to sue a business that prints a receipt that includes the prohibited information.Since then, however, efforts to enforce FACTA have faced a hurdle, as courts in several cases have held that the plaintiff lacked standing because receiving a receipt with some of the prohibited information did not cause injury. Some courts found no injury because the plaintiff kept and destroyed the receipt; others have found no injury because they did not see the harm in a receipt that included, for example, an expiration date.  The DC Circuit today issues a strong decision finding that a plaintiff had standing and explaining the importance of FACTA and the risks it protects against. In Jeffries v. Volume Services America, the court held that the injury suffered when a credit card purchase receipt is printed with more than 5 digits (there, all 16 digits) creates a real risk of harm to the concrete interests protected by FACTA.The opinion looks to the common law and to Congress's determination of harm in enacting the statute. The opinion is here.

US retail group offers to help antitrust investigators in going after Amazon and Google - A leading U.S. retail group, whose members include Walmart, Target, Best Buy and others, has penned a letter to the Federal Trade Commission that details its concerns over big tech companies’ dominance. The letter specifically calls out Amazon and Google for their control over the majority of internet product searches, how price and product information reaches consumers and other concerns.The letter, written by The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), urges the FTC to take a closer look at the big tech platforms. The group also offers to help in any antitrust investigations.“It should…be quite concerning to the Commission that Amazon and Google control the majority of all Internet product search, and can very easily affect whether and how price and product information actually reaches consumers,” write the RILA. “Moreover, these firms are extraordinarily adept at determining how small changes in the way in which information is conveyed affect consumer behavior — given that nearly everything they do is driven by big-data science and machine learning models,” the letter continues. “To put the matter as simply as possible, a firm does not need to have the power to control prices if it has the power to control effective access to price information,” it says.

Black Knight Mortgage Monitor for May: Record Low National Delinquency Rate, Early Delinquency Rate Increasing - Black Knight released their Mortgage Monitor report for May today. According to Black Knight, 3.36% of mortgages were delinquent in May, down from 3.64% in May 2018. Black Knight also reported that 0.49% of mortgages were in the foreclosure process, down from 0.59% a year ago. This gives a total of 3.85% delinquent or in foreclosure.  Press Release: Black Knight Mortgage Monitor: In May, Adjustable-Rate Mortgage Prepayments Highest Since 2007; Prepays on 2018 Vintage Loans Up Three Times Over Past Four Months: Today, the Data & Analytics division of Black Knight, Inc. released its latest Mortgage Monitor Report, based upon the company’s industry-leading mortgage performance, housing and public records datasets. This month, the company took an in-depth look at the resurgence in mortgage prepayments spurred by lower interest rates and seasonal increases in home sale activity. “Overall, prepayment activity – largely driven by home sales and mortgage refinances – has more than doubled over the past four months,” said Graboske. “It’s now at the highest levels we’ve seen since the fall of 2016, when rates began their steep upward climb. While we’ve observed increases across nearly every investor type, product type, credit score bucket and vintage, some changes stand out. For instance, prepayments among fixed-rate loans have hewed close to the overall market average, rising by more than two times over the past four months. However, ARM prepayment rates have now jumped to their highest level since 2007 as borrowers have sought to shed the uncertainty of their adjustable-rate products for the security of a low, fixed interest rate over the long haul.”  “Likewise, while all loan vintages have seen prepayment activity increase, they are all dwarfed by 2018. Prepays among the 2018 vintages have jumped by more than 300% over the past four months and are now nearly 50% higher than 2014, the next highest vintage. As of June 27, there were 1.5 million refinance candidates from the 2018 vintage alone, accounting for one of every six such candidates in the market, matching the total from the 2013-2017 vintages combined. All in all, some 8.2 million homeowners with mortgages could now both benefit from and likely qualify for a refinance, including more than 35% of those who took out their mortgages just last year..”  Here is a graph from the Mortgage Monitor that shows the National delinquency rate over time.

The eviction crisis is starting to look a lot like the subprime mortgage crisis -Stable housing is increasingly out of reach for many Americans, as both rentalsand homes to own grow more expensive and options dwindle. Evictions may be one of the most visible manifestations.Now, a new study shows that not all evictions are created equal. Scholars at Georgia State University, in conjunction with a ProPublica journalist, examined “serial” eviction filings, or those done repeatedly by a landlord against a tenant. By comparing serial evictions to ordinary ones, the researchers found patterns of landlord behavior and intentions, some of which are reminiscent of the worst of the housing crisis a decade ago.As a reminder, nearly half of Americans are “rent-burdened,” which means that they spend more than 30% of their income on rent. Homelessness is on the rise. Nationally, as many as one in seven children may have experienced eviction in the last decade. And, just as the foreclosure crisis disproportionately hit African-Americans, so does the eviction epidemic. Black women in Milwaukee, for example, were evicted at a rate three times their share of the population, and black renters in metro Seattle were evicted four times as frequently as whites there, according to earlier research.The Georgia State authors compiled evidence that eviction proceedings can be predatory: “Filings can be the beginning of a forced removal process, but they are also frequently a tool used to enforce the collection of rent and fees,” they note. The authors cite several earlier local studies that demonstrate the phenomenon. Researchers in Baltimore, Cleveland and Dallas “found that some landlords viewed the additional revenue from late fees, enforced by the threat of an eviction filing, as a supplemental source of funding in addition to the regular rent roll.”

 MBA: Mortgage Applications Decreased Slightly in Latest Weekly Survey - From the MBA: Mortgage Applications Decreased Slightly in Latest MBA Weekly Survey  Mortgage applications decreased 0.1 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending June 28, 2019.... The Refinance Index decreased 1 percent from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 1 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 1 percent compared with the previous week and was 10 percent higher than the same week one year ago...“Purchase applications picked up slightly last week, as conventional and government activity were each up around 1 percent. Furthermore, in continuation of the gradual growth trend seen throughout the first half of 2019, purchase activity was almost 10 percent higher than a year ago,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “A still-strong job market, improving affordability and lower mortgage rates continue to support growth.”.. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($484,350 or less) increased to 4.07 percent from 4.06 percent, with points increasing to 0.36 from 0.35 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans.

30 Year Mortgage Rates at 3.875% --From Matthew Graham at Mortgage News Daily: Mortgage Rates Slightly Higher to Begin Risky Week - Mortgage rates were slightly higher to start the new week, which is a pretty good outcome considering the underlying events. On Friday, we anticipated a pick-up in volatility as rates were at risk of reacting to any meaningful trade news from the G20 summit or any surprises in economic data. [30YR FIXED - 3.875%]   This is a graph from Mortgage News Daily (MND) showing 30 year fixed rates from three sources (MND, MBA, Freddie Mac).   Go to MND and you can adjust the graph for different time periods

CoreLogic: House Prices up 3.6% Year-over-year in May --  The CoreLogic HPI is a three month weighted average and is not seasonally adjusted (NSA). From CoreLogic: U.S. Home Price Insights Through May 2019 with Forecasts from June 2019  Home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased year over year by 3.6% in May 2019 compared with May 2018 and increased month over month by 0.9% in May 2019 compared with April 2019 (revisions with public records data are standard, and to ensure accuracy, CoreLogic incorporates the newly released public data to provide updated results). The CoreLogic HPI Forecast indicates that home prices will increase by 5.6% on a year-over-year basis from May 2019 to May 2020. On a month-over-month basis, home prices are expected to increase by 0.8% from May 2019 to June 2019. “Interest rates on fixed-rate mortgages fell by nearly one percentage point between November 2018 and this May. This has been a shot-in-the-arm for home sales. Sales gained momentum in May and annual home-price growth accelerated for the first time since March 2018.”, Dr. Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist for CoreLogic. CR Note: The CoreLogic YoY increase had been in the 5% to 7% range for several years, before slowing last year.

74% Of US Housing Market Unaffordable For Average American - ATTOM Data Solutions published its 2Q19 US Home Affordability Report, which reveals median home prices last quarter weren't affordable for the average American in 74% (353 of 480 counties) of the counties analyzed.The most unaffordable counties, the reported noted, were in Los Angeles County, California; Cook County (Chicago), Illinois; Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona; San Diego County, California; and Orange County, California."Despite falling mortgage rates and rising wages, the cost of owning the typical home remains out of reach or a significant financial stretch for the nation's average wage earners," said Todd Teta, chief product office with ATTOM. House price appreciation outpaced weekly wage growth in 40%, or 192 of the 480 counties, including Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona; Riverside County, California; San Bernardino County (Riverside), California; Tarrant County (Dallas-Fort Worth), Texas; and Wayne County (Detroit), Michigan.

 Housing is providing another in a line of troubling signs pointing to an economic downturn - A Federal Reserve economist says the current housing backdrop is similar to recent economic slumps, with several metrics “consistent with the possibility of a late 2019 or early 2020 recession.” “Data on single-family home sales through May 2019 confirm that housing markets in all regions of the country are weakening,” the St. Louis Fed’s William R. Emmons said in a report posted on the central bank district’s site. “The severity of the housing downturn appears comparable across regions—in all cases, it’s much less severe than the experience leading to the Great Recession but similar to the periods before the 1990-91 and 2001 recessions.” Specifically, Emmons looked at sales numbers for the 12 months ended May 2019 compared with the average over the past three years. He uses December 2019 as the “plausible month for peak growth” in the current case, and then looks at how far back from the peak was the first month in which sales fell below their three-year average in the previous three recessions. The process may seem at least somewhat opaque, but Emmons said it has been a reliable indicator from the housing market for when the next recession is due — usually about a year away, according to historical trends.In the Northeast, for instance, August 2018 was the first month that sales fell below the region’s three-year average. That would be 16 months from the December 2019 assumed peak. In the previous recessions, the first negative month respectively came 23, 10 and 21 months before the peak. That would put the current pattern within the historical range, Emmons wrote. These charts look at how each region stacks up. The four lines each represent a recession; the deviation of the 12-month sales average toward the three-year average decreases until it goes negative; the charts then show how long it took before a recession hit:

Over 20 percent of homeless residents in Chicago are employed, with many holding a college degree -  The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) annual study released in July found that an astonishing number of homeless people in Chicago are employed and many have a college education. Using the most current census data, the CCH found that 86,324 Chicago residents were homeless in 2017. Of this number, 13,929 or 21 percent of homeless adults over 18 have a job, and 28 percent hold an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.The total number of homeless people in Chicago has risen significantly over the past several years. CCH found a total of 80,384 Chicago residents were homeless in 2016, and 82,212 in 2015. The 2017 numbers also reveal that the number of employed homeless residents has increased over the past two years, from 14 percent in 2015.  The numbers blow apart the myth that by working hard and earning a college degree, workers in the US can prosper under capitalism. Furthermore, it tears apart the political fiction fed to the US working class that the Democratic Party is more aligned with its interests than its counterpart in the Republican Party.  As in other states, crushing student loan debt in the state of Illinois has led to extreme financial insecurity for many college graduates in the state. The average student loan debt load for a college graduate in the state was more than $29,000 in 2017, rising 63 percent over a decade from 2006. The cost of housing in the city of Chicago is significantly higher than for the entire state of Illinois, which ranks 19th-highest for housing costs among all 50 states in the US. In Chicago and the five counties surrounding the city proper, a worker must earn $23.31 per hour during a 40-hour workweek to afford a 2-bedroom apartment for $1,212 per month, or 30 percent of total monthly income. For the state, the affordable housing wage is $20.85 per hour for a 40-hour workweek to afford a 2-bedroom unit at $1,084 per month. Although the minimum wage for the city of Chicago increased to $13 per hour in July, this is far below the hourly wage needed for a full-time worker to be able to afford housing in the city and surrounding area. Chicago’s lack of affordable units is a mounting crisis. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of affordable housing units in the city has steadily declined, leaving about two-thirds of the city with a net loss of affordable units. The majority of these areas have seen decreases anywhere from five to more than ten percent.

Construction Spending Declined in May - From the Census Bureau reported that overall construction spending declined in May: Construction spending during May 2019 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,293.9 billion, 0.8 percent below the revised April estimate of $1,304.0 billion. The May figure is 2.3 percent below the May 2018 estimate of $1,324.3 billion.  Both private and public spending decreased: Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $953.2 billion, 0.7 percent below the revised April estimate of $960.3 billion. ... In May, the estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of public construction spending was $340.6 billion, 0.9 percent below the revised April estimate of $343.7 billion. This graph shows private residential and nonresidential construction spending, and public spending, since 1993. Note: nominal dollars, not inflation adjusted. Private residential spending had been increasing - but turned down in the 2nd half of 2018 - and is now 26% below the bubble peak. Non-residential spending is 10% above the previous peak in January 2008 (nominal dollars). Public construction spending is 5% above the previous peak in March 2009, and 30% above the austerity low in February 2014. Year-over-year Construction SpendingThe second graph shows the year-over-year change in construction spending. On a year-over-year basis, private residential construction spending is down 11%. Non-residential spending is down slightly year-over-year. Public spending is up 11% year-over-year. This was below consensus expectations, however spending for April was revised up slightly. Another weak construction spending report.

Man Who Stayed At New Yorker Hotel For One Day In 2018 Now Claims He Owns The Whole Building - The New Yorker hotel is in the middle of a court battle with a man who allegedly filed a phony deed to try and usurp ownership of the entire midtown building, according to the New York Post. A man that wound up staying at the hotel for a year rent free under an obscure legal loophole is sparring with the owners of the hotel after, in June 2018, he stayed at the hotel for one night and then asked for a six-month lease under an obscure section of the city's rent stabilization laws. The hotel declined to offer 44 year old Mickey Barreto a lease, but he wound up going to housing court, where a judge ordered the hotel to let him back in. Barreto then convinced clerks at the city department of finance that the paperwork he was issued gave him not only a room, but ownership of the entire building. He filed a deed on May 28 that lists the building as a "religious structure" and claims that he had purchased it by court order for $189,336,000. Now, he claims to run "Mickey Barreto Missions" out of the address, has been demanding rent from two restaurant tenants, has tried to take over hotel operations and has attempted to get the building's bank accounts transferred to him. He even summoned the fire department at one point because of a nonexistent gas leak, trying to get the building evacuated.

Reis: Office Vacancy Rate increased in Q2 to 16.8% -- Reis reported that the office vacancy rate was at 16.8% in Q2, up from 16.7% in Q1 2019. This is up from 16.6% in Q2 2018, and down from the cycle peak of 17.6%.  From Reis Chief Economist Victor Calanog: The office vacancy rate rose slightly over the quarter to 16.8% from 16.7% in the first quarter and 16.6% a year ago. This represents a 50 basis point increase over the sector’s recent low of 16.3% in Q1 2017.Average asking and effective rents both increased 0.6% in the quarter. At $33.79 per square foot (asking) and $27.43 per square foot (effective), both measures of rent have increased 2.2% from the second quarter of 2018. These rates are in line with previous quarters....As of July 1 we have entered the 121st month in what is now a record-breaking run of economic growth – the longest period of economic expansion in recorded US history. However, despite a healthy job market and strong overall economy, the office market has moved - and continues to move - at a sluggish pace. With vacancies hovering at just 80 basis points below the sector’s cyclical peak of 17.6% in 2010, there is very little to prompt developers to build. Companies are investing in their own owner-occupied space – but few single- and multi-tenant market rate rentals are receiving financing without proof of robust pre-leasing. The office sector is contending with longer-term trends like mechanization and offshoring that are prompting employers to rethink their need for office space. With relatively flat national numbers, the widening gap between the stronger markets and weaker ones is particularly noteworthy. The underlying data shows that tech firms are fueling much of the growth in the stronger office markets, particularly in west coast metros, parts of Texas and parts of the east coast. 

Reis: Mall Vacancy Rate Mostly Unchanged in Q2 2019 - Reis reported that the vacancy rate for regional malls was 9.3% in Q1 2019, unchanged from 9.3% in Q1 2018, and up from 8.6% in Q2 2018. This is down slightly from a cycle peak of 9.4% in Q3 2011, and up from the cycle low of 7.8% in Q1 2016. For Neighborhood and Community malls (strip malls), the vacancy rate was 10.1% in Q2, down from 10.2% in Q1, and down from 10.2% in Q2 2018. For strip malls, the vacancy rate peaked at 11.1% in Q3 2011, and the low was 9.8% in Q2 2016. Comments from Reis:The neighborhood and community shopping center retail vacancy rate fell to 10.1% in the second quarter. In Q2 2018, the rate had risen 20 basis points to 10.2% and had remained flat at that rate through the first quarter of 2019. The second quarter marks the first time in which vacancies have declined since the first quarter of 2016.  Both the national average asking rent and effective rent, which nets out landlord concessions, increased 0.4% in the quarter. Last quarter, asking rent grew by 0.4%, while effective rent grew by 0.5%. At $21.39 per square foot (asking) and $18.73 per square foot (effective), the average rents have both increased 1.7%, from the second quarter of 2018. The Regional Mall vacancy rate was flat in the quarter at 9.3%. The mall vacancy rate had jumped 0.5% in the third quarter of 2018 due to Sears store closings and it had continued to rise each quarter through the first quarter of 2019. Last quarter saw the vacancy rate rise a further 30 basis points to its current level of 9.3%, hitting the highest rate for mall vacancy since the third quarter of 2011. This came in the midst of a number of chains announcing major store closures, such as JC Penney, Payless, Charlotte Russe and Gymboree. In the second quarter, vacancy for malls has remained flat and rent was up 0.2%.... As store closures continue to plague the retail sector, many still fear the “Retail Apocalypse.” Yet, the sector has so far been able to ward off the worst of the premonitions. This by no means indicates the sector is without ongoing challenges as a number of stores are still expected to close in the second half of the year and on-line shopping continues to offer stiff competition to brick and mortar stores. Older stores that are not keeping up with new business strategies or modernizing will likely continue to suffer and close in this tumultuous time.

America's Concealed Crisis- Fifty Years Of Economic Decline, 1969 To 2019 - What if the "prosperity" of the past 50 years is mostly a statistical mirage for the bottom 80% of households? What if whatever real gains (adjusted for real-world loss of purchasing power) accrued only to the top of the wealth-power pyramid, those closest to financial and political power? What if the U.S. economy and society shifted from "everybody wins" to "winner takes all" or at best, :winner take most"?  These are not "what if", they're reality. The working class, which as I have recently noted, now comprises the entire working populace other than the upper-middle class Misplaced Pride: Most of the "Middle Class" Is Actually Working Class (June 14, 2019), has lost ground over the past 50 years, from 1969 to the present.The keys to understanding the concealed crisis of decline are purchasing power relative to wages/earnings--how many goods and services can wages buy? For the average American household, wages have risen modestly while the purchasing power of those wages has plummeted.Furthermore, the quality of goods and services has in many cases declined sharply, so that even if prices have dropped, what you get for your money has fallen even further, effectively reducing the purchasing power of your wages. Case in point: appliances were once designed and built to last a generation or longer. Refrigerators, washers and dryers lasted for decades. Now the average appliance fails within a few years, and the electronic board--costing roughly a third of the entire appliance price--fails and must be replaced. With labor, the cost of the repair is so high, consumers often send the almost-new appliance to the landfill and buy a new (and soon to fail) appliance.Net-net, low quality reduces purchasing power even if price has declined.Then there's the big-ticket items: rent, housing, college, healthcare.Anecdotally, I've been told a young engineer in Silicon Valley could earn $20,000 a year and rent a modest apartment for $200. Now the young engineer makes $100,000 but rent for the modest flat is $2,500 per month: wages rose five-fold but rent rose 12-fold.This is a staggering loss of purchasing power.As for college, tens of millions of students completed their university training with zero debt--student loan debt as we understand it today simply didn't exist because it was unnecessary.The scarcity value of that college diploma has fallen precipitously over the decades, rendering most degrees that aren't part of artificial scarcity schemes essentially valueless. As for healthcare: we now have $100,000 operations that work miracles on one side and people being bankrupted by costs on the other, and tens of thousands dying of opioid drugs promoted by the status quo as "safe" and non-addictive. Where metabolic disorders (lifestyle diseases such as diabesity) were once a relative rarity, now up to a third of the entire population is at risk of chronic lifestyle diseases that are difficult and costly to manage--but oh so profitable to those delivering the meds and care.

Financial worries keep most Americans up at night - People tumble into bed each night across the U.S., hoping for pleasant dreams. Most would likely settle for no dreams at all, just as long as they can get some rest. But more than half of Americans toss and turn because of money issues, according to a new survey. Bankrate has found that 56 per cent of Americans lose sleep over at least one money issue, with nearly a third worried about everyday expenses. The online survey of more than 2,500 adults was conducted from May 29 to 31. Those most likely to lose sleep over money included Northeasterners, low-income earners and parents with children under 18, the survey found. Of those struggling to sleep, 63 per cent said they are confident they will be able to resolve their biggest issue, the study found. Embedded Image Gen X (aged 39-54) lost the most shuteye at 64 per cent, followed by millennials (aged 23-38) at 58 per cent and baby boomers (aged 55-73), who clock in at 54 per cent. The problem doesn’t affect only those with lower incomes. More than half of those making over US$80,000 reported losing sleep on financial issues, compared to 63 per cent of those who make less than US$30,000, according to the study. “When you’re wrestling with a big issue, it’s important to break it into manageable chunks” said Bankrate analyst Ted Rossman. “Simply getting started should help you begin to feel better and settle your racing mind.”

The Broke And Beautiful Life - Millennials Now Use High-Interest Loans To Pay For Weddings - Millennials, already the most indebted generation of all time, are now flocking to high-interest loans to tie the knot, reported the Washington Post. Demand for wedding loans has quadrupled in the past year, said David Green, chief product officer at Earnest, a San Francisco-based online lender, noting that couples spend approximately $16,000 on wedding loans and pay it off in three years. Interest rates range from 7% to 18%, is seen as a cheaper alternative to credit cards."People are carrying more debt, they want to get married but don't have the funds to do so," Green said.The explosive popularity of these loans, experts say, has been in the last three years, shows how the bride's parents aren't picking up the tab anymore, but more of a collective effort by parents, grandparents, and even the bride and groom. "Couples are getting married later, so they are more willing to pay," said David Wood, president of the Association of Bridal Consultants. "At the same time, their parents are older, they may be on a retirement income and not have the means to pay for the wedding either."

Amazon Can Be Held Liable For Third-Party Seller Products, Court Says A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled against Inc (AMZN.O) in a case that could expose the online retailer to lawsuits from customers who buy defective products from third-party vendors through its website. Numerous other courts, including two federal appeals courts, have held that Amazon cannot be held liable as a seller of products from third-party vendors. The new ruling from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, which reversed a lower court decision, appeared to be the first to buck that trend. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In addition to selling its own inventory, Amazon allows third-party vendors to list products for sale on its website. Such vendors may store their products in Amazon’s warehouses or ship them directly to customers. Amazon earned about $11 billion in revenue from services it provided to third-party sellers for the quarter ended in March. About half of the items sold on Amazon are from third-party companies, database firm Statista reported. Liability for defective products is generally governed by state law, and Wednesday’s decision is based on the laws of Pennsylvania, where the customer, Heather Oberdorf, lives. “It’s gratifying that the 3rd Circuit agreed with our argument and recognized that the existing interpretation of product liability law in Pennsylvania was not addressing the reality, the dominance that Amazon has in the marketplace,” said David Wilk, Oberdorf’s lawyer. Oberdorf sued Amazon in 2016 in a federal court in Pennsylvania, saying she was blinded in one eye when a retractable dog leash she bought through the company’s website from a third-party vendor snapped and recoiled, hitting her in the face.

 Amazon confirms it retains Alexa transcripts and voice recordings indefinitely - Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant may be useful, but the privacy concerns aren’t going away anytime soon. Now, in a fresh turn of events, the retail giant has confirmed that it keeps transcripts and voice recordings indefinitely, and only removes them if they’re manually deleted by users. The confirmation came to light after Delaware Democratic senator Chris Coons sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos back in May, requesting information about the company’s privacy and data security practices for Alexa devices. Privacy in the Internet of Things space has already been a hot topic. Earlier this April, Bloomberg published a piece about how thousands of Amazon employees listen to voice recordings captured in Echo speakers, transcribing and annotating them to improve the Alexa digital assistant that powers the smart speakers. Then in May, the retail behemoth came under further scrutiny for its data collection practices after CNET reported that Alexa assistant not only keeps your voice recordings, but also keeps a record of your voice transcriptions for improving its AI algorithms, with no option to delete them.  “The inability to delete a transcript of an audio recording renders the option to delete the recording largely inconsequential and puts users’ privacy at risk,” said Coons in his letter.  That’s not all. A coalition of children’s advocacy organizations led by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood filed a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission claiming that the Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition was retaining children’s data even after parents deleted the voice recordings. Although Amazon has denied that its devices are in violation of children’s online privacy protection laws, it acknowledged there was a bug, and has since fixed the issue. It also began rolling out a pair of Alexa commands that allows users to delete their voice recordings without using its website. In addition, the company said it had an “ongoing effort to ensure those transcripts do not remain in any of Alexa‘s other storage systems.” When the voice commands are manually deleted by a customer, Amazon claimed that it does delete their voice transcripts as well as Alexa’s response. But it said the company still retains other records of customers’ Alexa interactions, including records of actions Alexa took in response to the customer’s request. This includes using Alexa skills to hail an Uber, or order pizza from Domino’s. Amazon’s response points out that even developers of Alexa skills can keep a record of every transaction or routinely scheduled activity a user makes with an Echo device. “When a customer interacts with an Alexa skill, that skill developer may also retain records of the interaction,” the company wrote in its response.

May Trade Deficit at $55.52BThe U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services, also known as the FT-900, is published monthly by the Bureau of Economic Analysis with data going back to 1992. The monthly reports include revisions that go back several months. This report details U.S. exports and imports of goods and services. The U.S. monthly international trade deficit increased in March 2019 according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau. The deficit increased from $49.3 billion in February (revised) to $50.0 billion in March, as imports increased more than exports. The previously published February deficit was $49.4 billion. The goods deficit increased $0.5 billion in March to $72.4 billion. The services surplus decreased $0.2 billion in March to $22.4 billion. Here is an excerpt from the latest report: The U.S. monthly international trade deficit increased in May 2019 according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau. The deficit increased from $51.2 billion in April (revised) to $55.5 billion in May, as imports increased more than exports. The previously published April deficit was $50.8 billion. The goods deficit increased $4.4 billion in May to $76.1 billion. The services surplus increased $0.1 billion in May to $20.6 billion. Current Release Today's headline number of -55.52B was higher than forecast of -53.20B. Here is a snapshot that gives a better sense of the extreme volatility of this indicator.

Trade Deficit increased to $55.5 Billion in May --From the Department of Commerce reported: The U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis announced today that the goods and services deficit was $55.5 billion in May, up $4.3 billion from $51.2 billion in April, revised.May exports were $210.6 billion, $4.2 billion more than April exports. May imports were $266.2 billion, $8.5 billion more than April imports. Exports and imports increased in May. Exports are 27% above the pre-recession peak and down 1% compared to May 2018; imports are 15% above the pre-recession peak, and up 3% compared to May 2018.In general, trade had been picking up, but both imports and exports have moved more sideways recently. The second graph shows the U.S. trade deficit, with and without petroleum . The blue line is the total deficit, and the black line is the petroleum deficit, and the red line is the trade deficit ex-petroleum products. Oil imports averaged $60.56 per barrel in May, up from $57.16 in April, and up from $58.38 in May 2018. The trade deficit with China decreased to $30.2 billion in May, from $33.5 billion in May 2018.

AAR: June Rail Carloads down 5.3% YoY, Intermodal Down 7.2% YoY -- From the Association of American Railroads (AAR) Rail Time Indicators. Total U.S. rail carloads in June 2019 were down 5.3% (57,173 carloads) from June 2018, as just 4 of the 20 carload commodities the AAR tracks had carload gains. ... Last year was the best year ever for intermodal, but this year isn’t keeping up. In June 2019, U.S. intermodal originations were down 7.2% from June 2018, their fifth straight decline and the biggest percentage decline since April 2016. This graph from the Rail Time Indicators report shows U.S. average weekly rail carloads (NSA).  Red is 2019. Rail carloads have been weak over the last decade due to the decline in coal shipments.  Total U.S. rail carloads were 1.02 million in June 2019, down 5.3%, or 57,173 carloads, from June 2018. It was the fifth straight monthly decline. ... In 2019 through June, total U.S. carloads were 6.55 million, down 2.9%, or 195,168 carloads, from the first six months of 2018. Since 1988, when our data begin, only 2016 had fewer total carloads in the first half of the year.  The second graph is for intermodal traffic (using intermodal or shipping containers): U.S. intermodal originations totaled 1.08 million containers and trailers in June 2019, down 7.2%, or 84,002 units, from June 2018. The 7.2% decline was the fifth straight monthly decline and the biggest percentage decline since April 2016. … U.S. intermodal volume in the first half of 2019 was higher than every other year other than 2018 (see the middle right chart below), so it’s not like this year is a catastrophe.

BEA: June Vehicles Sales decrease to 17.3 Million SAAR - The BEA released their estimate of June vehicle sales this morning. The BEA estimated sales of 17.29 million SAAR in June 2019 (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate), down 0.6% from the May sales rate, and up slightly from June 2018.Sales in 2019 are averaging 16.9 million (average of seasonally adjusted rate), down 1.4% compared to the same period in 2018. This graph shows light vehicle sales since 2006 from the BEA (blue) and an estimate for June (red). This was above the consensus forecast for June. A small decline in sales to date this year isn't a concern - I think sales will move mostly sideways at near record levels.  This means the economic boost from increasing auto sales is over (from the bottom in 2009, auto sales boosted growth every year through 2016).  The second graph shows light vehicle sales since the BEA started keeping data in 1967. Note: dashed line is current estimated sales rate of 17.29 million SAAR.

New-Vehicle Sales Fall to 1999 Levels: How to Grow Revenues After 20 Years of Stagnation (Yup, You Guessed It) - Wolf Richter - Ford waited until today to report its second-quarter new-vehicle deliveries in the US. So now we know what happened to total US auto sales in the second quarter and in the first half this year, and it wasn’t pretty. New-vehicle deliveries, fleet and retail combined, fell 1.5% in Q2 compared to Q2 last year, to 4.5 million vehicles; and in the first half fell by 2.4% to 8.4 million vehicles. This puts new vehicle sales on track to fall below 17 million units for the year. This would be the worst level since 2014. According to my own estimates, new vehicle sales in 2019 will decline to 16.95 million units, roughly on par with 1999, in a horribly mature market, whose two-decade stagnation was interrupted by the excitement of a collapse and recovery back to stagnation levels:Ford [F], like GM, stopped reporting monthly vehicle sales, and now only reports on a quarterly basis. In the second quarter, reported this morning, sales fell 4.1% to 650,336 units. This put Ford into third place, behind GM and Toyota.   Carmageddon is the big shift where Americans refuse to buy new “cars” and instead are buying new pickups, SUVs, compact SUVs, and vans. And they have far higher price tags and profit margins than cars. Ford’s car sales plunged another 21.4% to just 110,195 units in Q2, continuing their multi-year collapse.Trucks (not including SUVs) are hot: Sales rose 7.5% to 324,243 units. But within that category, F-series pickups fell 1.3% to 233,787 units, getting cannibalized by Ford’s mid-size pickup, the Ranger, that it had brought back from the dead for the 2019 model year.But Ford’s SUV sales are cold, disconcertingly falling 8.6% to 215,898 units. Ford – along with other automakers – brags about how it is able to raise prices. It even explains its strategy in its report, meant for Wall Street, not consumers. It reported proudly that the average transaction price (ATP), which includes all incentives, for the 2019 Lincoln Nautilus SUV rose by $3,700, or 9%, to $44,300 in Q2, compared to the 2018 Lincoln MKX in Q2 last year.

U.S. factory orders fall for second straight month – (Reuters) - New orders for U.S.-made goods fell for a second straight month May while shipments barely rose, pointing to continued weakness in manufacturing. Factory goods orders decreased 0.7%, weighed down by weak demand for transportation equipment, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday. Data for April was revised sharply down to show factory orders falling 1.2% instead of slipping 0.8% as previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast factory orders falling 0.5% in May. Factory orders rose 0.9% compared to May 2018. Manufacturing, which accounts for about 12% of the economy, is struggling amid an inventory bloat, trade tensions between the United States and China, and a reduction in the production of Boeing’s (BA.N) 737 MAX aircraft. The weak factory orders data was flagged by a report last month showing the second straight monthly drop in demand for long-lasting manufactured goods in April, as well as a drop in manufacturing production. A survey on Monday showed a measure of national factory activity dropped to a near three-year low in June, with manufacturers expressing concern over the U.S.-China trade tensions. Transportation equipment orders dropped 4.6% in May after tumbling 7.6% in April. Orders for civilian aircraft and parts declined 28.2%. There were increases in order for computers and electronic products and machinery. The Commerce Department also said May orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, which are seen as a measure of business spending plans on equipment, rose 0.5% instead of the 0.4% gain reported last month. Shipments of core capital goods, which are used to calculate business equipment spending in the gross domestic product report, increased 0.6% in May instead of 0.7% as previously reported. Overall shipments of manufactured goods edged up 0.1% in May after dropping 0.6% in April.

The Manufacturing Sector is Rolling Over But Inventories Keep Piling Up - Factory new orders are down year-over-year and barely afloat excluding transportation. Inventories are a concern. The monthly report on Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories and Orders, shows strong signs of a manufacturing sector that has peaked.New orders for manufactured durable goods in May, down three of the last four months, decreased $3.1 billion or 1.3 percent to $243.5 billion, unchanged from the previously published decrease. This followed a 2.8 percent April decrease. Transportation equipment, also down three of the last four months, drove the decrease, $3.8 billion or 4.6 percent to $80.0 billion. New orders for manufactured nondurable goods decreased $0.5 billion or 0.2 percent to $250.1 billion.Shipments of manufactured durable goods in May, up following two consecutive monthly decreases, increased $0.9 billion or 0.3 percent to $254.2 billion, down from the previously published 0.4 percent increase. This followed a 1.6 percent April decrease. Machinery, up four of the last five months, led the increase, $0.3 billion or 1.0 percent to $33.4 billion. Shipments of manufactured nondurable goods, down following three consecutive monthly increases, decreased $0.5 billion or 0.2 percent to $250.1 billion. This followed a 0.4 percent April increase. Petroleum and coal products, also down following three consecutive monthly increases, drove the decrease, $1.3 billion or 2.4 percent to $54.7 billion.Unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods in May, down three of the last four months, decreased $6.3 billion or 0.5 percent to $1,171.1 billion, unchanged from the previously published decrease. This followed a 0.2 percent April decrease. Transportation equipment, also down three of the last four months, led the decrease, $5.7 billion or 0.7 percent to $803.7 billion. Inventories of manufactured durable goods in May, up ten of the last eleven months, increased $2.0 billion or 0.5 percent to $424.6 billion, unchanged from the previously published increase. This followed a 0.4 percent April increase. Transportation equipment, also up ten of the last eleven months, drove the increase, $2.2 billion or 1.6 percent to $138.5 billion. Inventories of manufactured nondurable goods, down two consecutive months, decreased $0.6 billion or 0.2 percent to $269.6 billion. This followed a 0.1 percent April decrease. Petroleum and coal products, down following four consecutive monthly increases, drove the decrease, $0.6 billion or 1.5 percent to $41.3 billion.Econoday finds some good news in the report: “Now the good news and that’s core capital goods orders (nondefense ex-air) which rose 0.5 percent for a 1 tenth upward revision from the advance reading. The Federal Reserve is focused on questions over the strength of business spending and this result should ease their immediate concerns.”

ISM Manufacturing index Decreased to 51.7 in June - The ISM manufacturing index indicated expansion in June. The PMI was at 51.7% in June, down from 52.1% in May. The employment index was at 54.5%, up from 53.7% last month, and the new orders index was at 50.0%, down from 52.7%. From the Institute for Supply Management: June 2019 Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®  “The June PMI® registered 51.7 percent, a decrease of 0.4 percentage point from the May reading of 52.1 percent. The New Orders Index registered 50 percent, a decrease of 2.7 percentage points from the May reading of 52.7 percent. The Production Index registered 54.1 percent, a 2.8-percentage point increase compared to the May reading of 51.3 percent. The Employment Index registered 54.5 percent, an increase of 0.8 percentage point from the May reading of 53.7 percent. The Supplier Deliveries Index registered 50.7 percent, a 1.3-percentage point decrease from the May reading of 52 percent. The Inventories Index registered 49.1 percent, a decrease of 1.8 percentage points from the May reading of 50.9 percent. The Prices Index registered 47.9 percent, a 5.3-percentage point decrease from the May reading of 53.2 percent.  Here is a long term graph of the ISM manufacturing index. This was slightly above expectations of 51.2%, and suggests manufacturing expanded at a slower pace in June than in May.

Markit Manufacturing: "New orders return to growth in June" -- The June US Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index conducted by Markit came in at 50.6, up 0.1 from the 50.5 final May figure. Markit's Manufacturing PMI is a diffusion index: A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector; below 50 indicates contraction. Here is an excerpt from Chris Williamson, Chief Business Economist at IHS Markit in their latest press release: "US manufacturers reported business conditions to have remained the toughest for nearly a decade in June. The past two months have seen the lowest readings since the height of the global financial crisis in 2009." [Press Release]  Here is a snapshot of the series since mid-2012. Here is an overlay with the equivalent PMI survey conducted by the Institute for Supply Management (see our full article on this series here, note that ).

ISM Non-Manufacturing Index decreased to 55.1% in June -- The June ISM Non-manufacturing index was at 55.1%, down from 56.9% in May. The employment index decreased to 55.0%, from 58.1%. Note: Above 50 indicates expansion, below 50 contraction. From the Institute for Supply Management: June 2019 Non-Manufacturing ISM Report On Business®The NMI® registered 55.1 percent, which is 1.8 percentage points lower than the May reading of 56.9 percent. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector, at a slower rate.This is the index’s lowest reading since July 2017, when it registered 55.1 percent. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index decreased to 58.2 percent, 3 percentage points lower than the May reading of 61.2 percent, reflecting growth for the 119th consecutive month. The New Orders Index registered 55.8 percent; 2.8 percentage points lower than the reading of 58.6 percent in May. The Employment Index decreased 3.1 percentage points in June to 55 percent from the May reading of 58.1 percent. The Prices Index increased 3.5 percentage points from the May reading of 55.4 percent to 58.9 percent, indicating that prices increased in June for the 25th consecutive month. According to the NMI®, 16 non-manufacturing industries reported growth. Although the non-manufacturing sector’s growth rate dipped in June, the sector continues to reflect strength. The comments from the respondents reflect mixed sentiment about business conditions and the overall economy. A degree of uncertainty exists due to trade and tariffs.”

Markit Services PMI: Growth Picks Up in June - The June US Services Purchasing Managers' Index conducted by Markit came in at 51.5 percent, up 0.6 from the final May estimate of 50.9. The consensus was for 50.7 percent. Markit's Services PMI is a diffusion index: A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector; below 50 indicates contraction. Here is the opening from the latest press release:Commenting on the PMI data, Chris Williamson, Chief Business Economist at IHS Markit said:“An improvement in service sector growth provides little cause for cheer, as the survey data still indicate a sharp slowing in the pace of economic growth in the second quarter. The PMI data for manufacturing and services collectively point to GDP expanding at an annualised rate of 1.5%."Trade wars and geopolitical concerns topped the list of companies’ worries about the year ahead, alongside forecasts of slower economic growth. Progress in US-China trade talks could therefore be key to helping lift confidence in coming months." [Press Release]  Here is a snapshot of the series since mid-2012.

US Composite PMI Hovers Near 3-Year Lows- Manufacturing Slowdown Spreads To Services - With the global composite manufacturing PMI tumbling into contraction, hope remains h igh that 'services' can save the world and Markit's Services PMI did indeed offer some hope today with a small rebound from May's 39-month lows. US Services PMI rose from 50.9 to 51.5 in June (up from the flash 50.7 print also) but remains very close to 3 year lows with business expectations dropping to 58.7 from 59.2 in May, this is the lowest reading since June 2016 (pre-Brexit vote). ISM Services bounced in May and was expected to slow in June, but slowed more dramatically, falling to 55.1 from 56.9, the lowest since July 2017. Three of the ISM survey's four components slipped, with employment dropping by the most in 16 months and new orders declining to the lowest level since December 2017.  Commenting on the PMI data, Chris Williamson, Chief Business Economist at IHS Markit said:"A major change since the first quarter has been a broadening-out of the slowdown beyond manufacturing, with the service sector growth now also reporting much weaker business activity and orders trends than earlier in the year."Hiring was hit as firms scaled back their expansion plans in the face of weaker than expected order inflows and gloomier prospects for the year ahead. Jobs growth was the weakest for over two years and future expectations across both services and manufacturing has slipped to the lowest seen since comparable data were first available in 2012."Trade wars and geopolitical concerns topped the list of companies’ worries about the year ahead, alongside forecasts of slower economic growth. Progress in US-China trade talks could therefore be key to helping lift confidence in coming months."Finally, Williamson notes the impact on GDP: “An improvement in service sector growth provides little cause for cheer, as the survey data still indicate a sharp slowing in the pace of economic growth in the second quarter.

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims decreased to 221,000 -- The DOL reported: In the week ending June 29, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 221,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 2,000 from 227,000 to 229,000. The 4-week moving average was 222,250, an increase of 500 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 500 from 221,250 to 221,750.  The previous week was revised up. The following graph shows the 4-week moving average of weekly claims since 1971.

First Look at June: ADP Says 102K New Nonfarm Private Jobs - Today we have the ADP June estimate of 102K new nonfarm private employment jobs, an increase over the ADP revised May figure of 41K. The 102K estimate came in below the consensus of 140K for the ADP number. The forecast for the forthcoming BLS report is for 153K new nonfarm private jobs and the unemployment rate to remain at 3.6%. Their forecast for the June full nonfarm new jobs is (the PAYEMS number) 160K.Here is an excerpt from today's ADP report press release:“Job growth started to show signs of a slowdown,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute. “While large businesses continue to do well, small businesses are struggling as they compete with the ongoing tight labor market. The goods producing sector continues to show weakness. Among services, leisure and hospitality’s weakness could be a reflection of consumer confidence.”Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said, “The job market continues to throttle back. Job growth has slowed sharply in recent months, as businesses have turned more cautious in their hiring. Small businesses are the most nervous, especially in the construction sector and at bricks-and-mortar retailers.” Here is a visualization of the two series over the previous twelve months.

ADP: Private Employment increased 102,000 in June --From ADP: Private sector employment increased by 102,000 jobs from May to June according to the June ADP National Employment Report®. ... The report, which is derived from ADP’s actual payroll data, measures the change in total nonfarm private employment each month on a seasonally-adjusted basis. “Job growth started to show signs of a slowdown,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute. “While large businesses continue to do well, small businesses are struggling as they compete with the ongoing tight labor market. The goods producing sector continues to show weakness. Among services, leisure and hospitality’s weakness could be a reflection of consumer confidence.”Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said, “The job market continues to throttle back. Job growth has slowed sharply in recent months, as businesses have turned more cautious in their hiring. Small businesses are the most nervous, especially in the construction sector and at bricks-and-mortar retailers.”  This was below the consensus forecast for 150,000 private sector jobs added in the ADP report.  The BLS report will be released Friday, and the consensus is for 165,000 non-farm payroll jobs added in June.

 I Haven't Seen This In Over 9 Years - Small Business Employment Collapses Like In March 2008 - After ADP printed the biggest miss since Feb 2010 in May (adding the lowest amount of jobs since March 2010), expectations for June have been ratcheted down to just a 140k growth in jobs.  May also saw a collapse in construction jobs and so all hope was that this 'blip' was transitory... it wasn't!  But, June's ADP print was +102k, an improvement over the May (which was revised up from +27k to +41k), but below expectations of a +140k job gain.  “Job growth started to show signs of a slowdown,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and co-head of the ADP Research Institute.“While large businesses continue to do well, small businesses are struggling as they compete with the ongoing tight labor market. The goods producing sector continues to show weakness. Among services, leisure and hospitality’s weakness could be a reflection of consumer confidence.”  Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said: “The job market continues to throttle back. Job growth has slowed sharply in recent months, as businesses have turned more cautious in their hiring. Small businesses are the most nervous, especially in the construction sector and at bricks-and-mortar retailers.”The biggest shock in today's number was the small businesses and goods-producing sector, which lost the most jobs (with mining and construction hardest hit). Goods-producers saw jobs contract for the 2nd month in a row... But it was the plunge in small business employment... And specifically companies with 1-19 employees, that cratered in both May and June: Why does this matter? Because as David Rosenberg pointed out, "the small business sector leads the cycle and employment here has plunged 61k in the past two months." Adding that he hasn't "seen this in over 9 years", the Gluskin-Sheff economist notes that he saw that "same decline in Feb-March of 2008 when the consensus was busy calling for a soft landing. This isn’t a repeat of 2016 by any stretch."

A Closer Look at Today's ADP Employment Report - In this morning's ADP employment report we got the June estimate of 102K new nonfarm private employment jobs from ADP, an increase over May's revised 41K. The popular spin on this indicator is as a preview to the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the ADP report includes a wealth of information that's worth exploring in more detail. Here is a snapshot of the monthly change in the ADP headline number since the company's earliest published data in April 2002. This is quite a volatile series, so we've plotted the monthly data points as dots along with a six-month moving average, which gives us a clearer sense of the trend. As we see in the chart above, the trend peaked 20 months before the last recession and went negative around the time that the NBER subsequently declared as the recession start. At present, the six-month moving average has been hovering in a relatively narrow range around 200K new jobs since around the middle of 2011. ADP also gives us a breakdown of Total Nonfarm Private Employment into two categories: Goods Producing and Services. Here is the same chart style illustrating the two. The US is predominantly a services economy, so it comes as no surprise that Services employment has shown stronger jobs growth. The trend in Goods Producing jobs went negative over a year before the last recession. Interestingly, the Goods Producing jobs saw an uptick in late 2016 that has continued. For a sense of the relative size of Services over Goods Producing employment, the next chart shows the percentage of Services Jobs across the entire series. The latest data point is below the record high. There are a number of factors behind this trend. In addition to our increasing dependence of Services, Goods Production employment continues to be impacted by automation and offshoring. For a better sense of the components of the two Goods Producing and Service Providing cohorts, here is a snapshot of the five select industries tracked by ADP. The two things to note here are the relative sizes of the industries and the relative trends. Note that Construction and Manufacturing are Production industries whereas the other three are Service Providing. Another view of the relative trends of the five select industries is an overlay of the year-over-year comparison.  For a longer-term perspective on the Goods Producing and Service Providing employment, see our monthly analysis, Secular Trends in Employment: Goods Producing Versus Services Providing, which is based on data from the Department of Labor's monthly jobs report reaching back to 1939.

June Employment Report: 224,000 Jobs Added, 3.7% Unemployment Rate --From the BLS: Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 224,000 in June, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 3.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Notable job gains occurred in professional and business services, in health care, and in transportation and warehousing....The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for April was revised down from +224,000 to +216,000, and the change for May was revised down from +75,000 to +72,000. With these revisions, employment gains in April and May combined were 11,000 less than previously reported.... In June, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 6 cents to $27.90, following a 9-cent gain in May. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.1 percent. The first graph shows the monthly change in payroll jobs, ex-Census (meaning the impact of the decennial Census temporary hires and layoffs is removed - mostly in 2010 - to show the underlying payroll changes). Total payrolls increased by 224 thousand in June (private payrolls increased 191 thousand). Payrolls for April and May were revised down 11 thousand combined. Year-over-year change employmentThis graph shows the year-over-year change in total non-farm employment since 1968. In June, the year-over-year change was 2.301 million jobs. The third graph shows the employment population ratio and the participation rate. The Labor Force Participation Rate was increased in June to 62.9%. This is the percentage of the working age population in the labor force. A large portion of the recent decline in the participation rate is due to demographics and long term trends. The Employment-Population ratio was unchanged at 60.6% (black line). unemployment rateThe fourth graph shows the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate was increased in June to 3.7%. This was above the consensus expectations of 165,000 jobs added, however April and May were revised down by 11,000 combined.

 Strong job growth is back: Payrolls jump in June well above expectations - Payroll growth rebounded sharply in June as the U.S. economy added 224,000 jobs, the best gain since January and running contrary to worries that both the employment picture and overall growth picture were beginning to weaken. The unemployment rate edged up to 3.7% as labor force participation rose, according to the Labor Department.Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had expected nonfarm payrolls to rise by 165,000 and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 3.6%. May’s initially reported growth of 75,000 had raised doubts about the durability of the record-setting expansion that began a decade ago. The May count was revised lower to 72,000.Federal Reserve policymakers have been watching the jobs numbers closely.Markets have been widely anticipating that the central bank will cut its benchmark interest rate later this month, regardless of what the June payrolls count showed. The stock market opened lower as investors contemplated what the report might mean for expectations that the Fed will be cutting interest rates later this month in an effort to stave off a widely expected economic slowdown through the year. Government bond yields surged, with the benchmark 10-year note up nearly 10 basis points to about 2.05%. The report “would seem to make a mockery of market expectations” for a quarter- or half-point cut at the July 30-31 meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, said Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. The level of job growth, he added, “is still much stronger than the levels that have usually prompted the Fed to cut rates in the past and, although we do still expect the weakening economy to prompt the Fed to loosen policy, the first rate cut will probably be delayed until September.”

June Payrolls Soar By 224K, Sending Rate Cut Odds Tumbling Despite Cooling Wage Growth -  With whisper numbers for the June payrolls well below the 160K consensus (perhaps as the market hoped the case for 2 rate cuts in July would be cemented), moments ago the BLS reported that last month 224K jobs were created, three times greater than the revised 72K jobs in May, and well above the 160K expected and above the highest Wall Street forecast. This was also the best monthly increase since January, and a number that has made 2 rate cuts at the Fed's July meeting virtually impossible, and even setting the scene for a Fed that may in fact be "patient" in three weeks, crushing market hopes for an imminent easing cycle.Just as notable, the Household survey was even more euphoric, rising by 247K to 157.005 million employed workers.The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for April was revised down from +224,000 to +216,000, and the change for May was revised down from +75,000 to +72,000. With these revisions, employment gains in April and May combined were 11,000 less than previously reported.Sure enough, the market implied odds of a July rate cut slumped quickly even as the wage growth number disappointed, as the BLS reported only 0.2% increase in average hourly wages in June, below the 0.3% expected, a number which also missed on a Y/Y bases, increasing 3.1% Y/Y in June, below the 3.2% expected. That said, May’s monthly gain revised higher, suggesting workers continue to wring solid wage increases from employers. Commenting on today's report, Torsten Slok of Deutsche Bank at Bloomberg TV: “It looks like rate cuts are off the table", although others like Renaissance's Neil Dutta disagreed: "Solid jobs, but...the unemployment rate rose, wage growth is flattening out, there is still residual slack in the jobs market. We tend to think July cuts are still more likely than not."There was no rebound in the recent modest drop in the average workweek for all employees, which was unchanged at 34.4 hours in June, same as last month, although in manufacturing, the average workweek edged up 0.1 hour to 40.7 hours, while overtime was unchanged at 3.4 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls held at 33.6 hours.The unemployment rate, which has become a secondary indicator, rose fractionally to 3.7%, from the 49 year low of 3.6% in May, and missing the 3.6% expectation, even as the unemployment rate for black dipped back to 6.0%, matching the all time record low offset by a modest increase in the unemployment rate for hispanics..

June jobs report: excellent establishment survey, mediocre household survey – Headlines:

  • +224,000 jobs added
  • U3 unemployment rate rose 0.1% from 3.6% to 3.7%
  • U6 underemployment rate rose 0.1% from 7.1% to 7.2%

Leading employment indicators of a slowdown or recession; I am highlighting these because many leading indicators overall strongly suggest that an employment slowdown is coming. The following more leading numbers in the report tell us about where the economy is likely to be a few months from now. These were all positive this month.

  • the average manufacturing workweek rose 0.1 from 40.6 hours to 40.7 hours. This is one of the 10 components of the LEI. 
  • Manufacturing jobs rose by 17,000. YoY manufacturing is up 167,000, a deceleration from last summer’s pace.
  • construction jobs rose by 21,000. YoY construction jobs are up 204,000, also a deceleration from last summer. Residential construction jobs, which are even more leading, rose by 4600, the first monthly decline in the past three.
  • temporary jobs rose by 4300.
  • the number of people unemployed for 5 weeks or less declined by -186,000 from 2,147,000 to 1,961,000. The post-recession low was two months ago.

Here are the headlines on wages and the broader measures of underemployment:

  • Not in Labor Force, but Want a Job Now: rose by 227,000 from 5.045 million to 5.322 million
  • Part time for economic reasons: declined by -8,000 from 4.355 million to 4.347 million
  • Employment/population ratio ages 25-54: unchanged at 79.7%. This remains a declined from the peak at the beginning of this year.
  • Average Hourly Earnings for Production and Nonsupervisory Personnel: rose $.04 from  $23.39 to $23.43, up +3.3% YoY. This is still a slight decline from the recent YoY% change peak.  (Note: you may be reading different information about wages elsewhere. They are citing average wages for all private workers. I use wages for nonsupervisory personnel, to come closer to the situation for ordinary workers.) 
  • Professional and business employment (generally higher-paying jobs) rose by 51,000 and  is up +1,482,000 YoY. 
  • the index of aggregate hours worked for non-managerial workers rose by 0.2%
  • the index of aggregate payrolls for non-managerial workers rose by 0.5%    
  • the  alternate jobs number contained  in the more volatile household survey rose by 247,000  jobs.  This represents an increase of 1,413,000 jobs YoY vs. 2,301,000 in the establishment survey. This survey, which has been negative three months this year, was a major disconnect from the establishment number. The household survey has a tendency to turn first, and this month it showed up in the establishment survey.
  • Government jobs rose by 33,000.
  • the overall employment to population ratio for all ages 16 and up was unchanged at 60.6% m/m and is up 0.2% YoY.          
  • The labor force participation rate rose 0.1% from  62.8% to 62.9% m/m and is unchanged YoY.

Comments on June Employment Report – McBride - The headline jobs number at 224 thousand for June was above consensus expectations of 165 thousand, however the previous two months were revised down 11 thousand, combined. The unemployment rate increased to 3.7%. Overall this was a decent report. Note: Temporary Decennial Census hiring for June is not available yet (something to watch).Earlier: June Employment Report: 224,000 Jobs Added, 3.7% Unemployment RateIn June, the year-over-year employment change was 2.301 million jobs. That is decent year-over-year growth. Wage growth was below expectations. From the BLS: "In June, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 6 cents to $27.90, following a 9-cent gain in May. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.1 percent." Wage growth was below expectations. From the BLS: "In June, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 6 cents to $27.90, following a 9-cent gain in May. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.1 percent. This graph is based on “Average Hourly Earnings” from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) (aka "Establishment") monthly employment report. Since the overall participation rate has declined due to cyclical (recession) and demographic (aging population, younger people staying in school) reasons, here is the employment-population ratio for the key working age group: 25 to 54 years old. In the earlier period the participation rate for this group was trending up as women joined the labor force. Since the early '90s, the participation rate moved more sideways, with a downward drift starting around '00 - and with ups and downs related to the business cycle. The 25 to 54 participation rate increased in June to 82.2% from 82.1% in May, and the 25 to 54 employment population ratio was unchanged at 79.7%. The number of persons working part time for economic reasons decreased in June to 4.347 million from 4.355 million in May.   The number of persons working part time for economic reason has been generally trending down.  These workers are included in the alternate measure of labor underutilization (U-6) that increased to 7.2% in June.This graph shows the number of workers unemployed for 27 weeks or more. According to the BLS, there are 1.414 million workers who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks and still want a job. This was up from 1.298 million in May.  Summary:The headline jobs number was above expectations, however the previous two months were revised down slightly.  The headline unemployment rate increase to 3.7%.   Wage growth was a little disappointing.  Overall this was a decent jobs report.   The economy added 1,033 thousand jobs through June 2019, down from 1,411 thousand jobs during the first half of 2018.   So job growth has slowed.

July jobs: nice pop on payrolls but flat wage growth  - Jared Bernstein - This jobs report is an important one in terms of assessing the impact of headwinds on the job market, but because it’s sort of a holiday, I’ll just offer up a truncated, bullet-point report. Toplines:

  • –Payrolls rose 224,000 last month, well above expectations for ~165K. Though we never want to over-weight one month of noisy data, that’s an important number, suggesting that building economic headwinds haven’t dented job creation much yet at all.
  • –Our monthly smoother shows average monthly job gains over 3, 6, and 12-month windows. Even including May’s weak 72K (revised) gain, the average over both the past 3 and 6 months has been around 170K jobs/month. That’s a slight downshift from the 12-month average but still a very solid number, one that should handily support the ongoing expansion.
  • –The unemployment rate ticked up to 3.7% (a statistically insignificant change, btw), but that was mostly due to more people coming into the labor force–the participation rate nudged up 0.1 ppts to 62.9%.
  • –That’s all good news, but the evolving wage story is less so. As the figures below reveal, our 6-mos rolling average of yr/yr nominal wage growth shows the trend (versus the noisier monthly values) is stalled or even trailing off a bit. This too, is an important finding, suggesting that a) there’s still “room-to-run” in this expansion as labor supply doesn’t appear to be tapped out, b) even with unemployment near 50-yer lows, too many workers still lack the bargaining clout they need.
  • –That said, nominal wage gains are beating consumer inflation, which is running a bit below 2%, so the buying power of paychecks is rising. Again, this combination of solid job gains, low inflation, and nominal wage growth around 3% should handily support the expansion in at least the near term.
  • –Gov’t added 33K jobs, and some are saying that’s related to hiring for the decennial Census. Such hiring does and will cause a temporary spike in payrolls, but federal gov’t employment was up only 2K last month. Local gov’t added 29K jobs, so this doesn’t look like a Census issue.
  • –Manufacturing had a better month in June, adding 17K jobs after being flat for most of the year. One month doesn’t change the recent trend, and the factory sector remains high on the watch list, as the trade war, stronger dollar, and our expanding trade deficit may put downward pressure on the sector in coming months.
  • –This is a tricky jobs report the Federal Reserve, which is meeting later this month and is expected to cut its benchmark interest rate. But with unemployment below their estimate of the “natural rate” (the lowest jobless rate believed to be consistent with stable prices) and average payrolls gains well north of the “equilibrium” level (the level required to keep unemployment from rising), they will not see a rate cut as an obvious necessity.
  • –Pushing the other direction–toward a rate cut–are below-target inflation and the absence of wage acceleration.
  • –So, it’s quantities versus prices! May the best variable win. While I carry a fairly hefty rate-cut bias, I’m not sure what I’d vote for were I at the FOMC table. Given the need for sustained rel wage growth for the majority of workers left behind during decades of rising inequality, I’m leaning toward “prices,” as in cut rates in the hopes of even lower unemployment and the possibility of bending the wage-growth curve back up. But I’ll think on it and get back to you later with a definitive call!

Lawsuit claims Philadelphia Energy Solutions failed to give workers ample warning of layoffs - A federal lawsuit has been filed on behalf of workers recently laid off from their jobs at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in south Philadelphia following an explosion and fire that destroyed part of the plant last Friday. The suit claims that on Wednesday, the company brought about 1,000 workers, including 614 union members, to a room and told them the layoffs would be effective Monday, with no severance pay. The lawsuit accuses the company of violating the federal WARN Act, which requires employers of more than 100 workers give 60 days notice of massive job loss, or provide severance pay. The lawsuit, filed today in Eastern District Court in Philadelphia, says the company’s actions deprived “workers and their families some transition time to adjust to the prospective loss of employment, to seek and obtain alternative jobs and, if necessary, to enter skill training or retraining that will allow these workers to successfully compete in the job market.”

Black workers are being left behind by full employment - Brookings  - The unemployment rate is 15.8% in Newark, N.J. It’s an alarming 17.4% in Detroit. And in Flint, Mich. more than a quarter of the population is unemployed. If these numbers referred to the white unemployment rate, our leaders would be doing everything possible to improve it. But these rates represent black unemployment, and no one is sounding the alarm. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released theirMay jobs report on June 7. Media attention focused on job figures, which fell below economists’ predictions. Although the economy generated fewer jobs than expected, analysts saw the unchanged unemployment rate of 3.6% as a reassuring sign amid fears of an impending recession.The stability of the national unemployment rate shouldn’t lull us into a false sense of economic security. The same metric forecasts a much different outlook for black people. Since the aggregate rate uses population-wide data, it does not account for differences among racial groups, geographic areas, and other specific characteristics that paint a much different picture of the economy.Although economists consider the U.S. economy to be approaching full employment – a situation when there are more jobs than people – black Americans are experiencing unemployment at Great Recession-era levels. For many black Americans, the unemployment rate is significantly higher now than during the recession. While the national unemployment rate is the lowest in 50 years, this figure primarily reflects white employment dynamics. Last month’s lower employment figures certainly should raise concerns of an economic downturn, but black communities are already in a recession. After analyzing American Community Survey data from 2017, we see significant disparities between black and white unemployment. Our research focuses on black-majority cities, or cities with a population of 50% or more black residents, including those who identify as mixed race or biracial. Black-majority cities range from large urban centers like Memphis, Tenn. and Baltimore to smaller municipalities like Wilkinsburg, Pa., and Ferguson, Mo.

 How a Top Chicken Company Cut Off Black Farmers, One by One - After years of working as a sheriff’s deputy and a car dealership manager, John Ingrum used his savings to buy a farm some 50 miles east of Jackson, Mississippi. The farm, named Lovin’ Acres, came with a few chicken houses, which didn’t really interest Ingrum. But then a man showed up from Koch Foods, the country’s fifth-largest poultry processor and one of the main chicken companies in Mississippi. Koch Foods would deliver flocks and feed — all Ingrum would have to do is house the chicks for a few weeks while they grew big enough to slaughter. The company representative wowed Ingrum with projections for the stream of income he could earn, Ingrum recalled in an interview. What Ingrum didn’t know was that those financial projections overlooked many realities of modern farming in the U.S., where much of the country’s agricultural output is controlled by a handful of giant companies. The numbers didn’t reflect the debt he might have to incur to configure his chicken houses to the company’s specifications. Nor did they reflect the risk that the chicks could show up sick or dead, or that the company could simply stop delivering flocks. And that growing concentration of corporate power in agriculture would only add to the long odds Ingrum, as a black farmer, faced in the United States, where just 1.3% of the country’s farmers are black. The shadow of slavery, sharecropping and Jim Crow has left black farmers in an especially precarious position. Their farms tend to be smaller and their sales lower than the national average, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While white farmers benefited from government assistance such as the Homestead Act and land-grant universities, black farmers were largely excluded from owning land and accumulating wealth. In recent decades, black farmers accused the USDA of discriminating against them by denying them loans or forcing them to wait longer, resulting in a class-action lawsuit thatsettled for more than $1 billion. Along with these historical disadvantages, black farmers say they have also encountered bias in dealing with some of the corporate giants that control their livelihood. In complaints filed with the USDA between 2010 and 2015, Ingrum and another black farmer in Mississippi said Koch Foods discriminated against them and used its market control to drive them out of business.

Busting Right-Wing Talking Point, ‘Groundbreaking’ Study Shows Federal $15 Minimum Wage Would Not Cause Job Losses in Low-Wage States - New research published Tuesday by economists at the University of California, Berkeley showed that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024 would significantly reduce poverty without causing job losses in low-wage states—a finding that further undermines fearmongering by conservatives and centrist Democrats.Anna Godoey and Michael Reich of U.C. Berkeley's Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics, the authors of the study (pdf), examined 51 minimum wage increases in 750 low-wage counties across 45 states between 2004 and 2016.The researchers found "substantial declines in household and child poverty" in low-wage areas—such as Mississippi and Alabama—without detecting any negative impact on employment or hours. "The results of our research show that we can raise pay to $15, even in low-cost states," Godoey said in a statement. "The data show that the minimum wage has positive effects, especially in areas where the highest proportion of workers received minimum wage increases."

 Real Per Capita Income by State ( 2012 $ ) -  You can not use inflation data like the CPI to compare living cost is one location to another.  So the BEA has constructed a database  of Regional Price Parities  ( RPP) that allow you do do that for all states and the some 383 Standard Metropolitan Areas in the USA. .  I was preparing to show them when BEA published the 2018 data.  But that data willnot be released until next year so I’m going ahead and showing the 2008 to 2017 data. Note, that in the tables for real per capita personal income by state for 2012 and 2017,  I have converted the data in 2012 $ to an index of personal income as a percent of the national average to facilitate comparisons.The first thing I noticed in the data is Connecticut and Massachusetts  at the top of the tables with per capita real incomes of 129.6% and 121.6% of the national average, respectively.  Even adjusted for the high cost of living they still have the highest real per capita income in the US.  I’ve long  though of these two states as prime examples of the post-industrial economy.They were the first industrial states and  went through major problems when the textile and shoe industries departed for cheap labor in the south — something quite like the rust-belt states are now experiencing. But that was decades ago and they have now developed economies based on education, finance, high technology and medical care.  The basis for each was  the state investing strongly in education throughout the decline of the old industries so that they had the trained labor force to take advantage of new opportunities.

Boeing’s 737 Max Software Outsourced to $9-an-Hour Engineerss -- It remains the mystery at the heart of Boeing Co.’s 737 Max crisis: how a company renowned for meticulous design made seemingly basic software mistakes leading to a pair of deadly crashes. Longtime Boeing engineers say the effort was complicated by a push to outsource to lower-paid contractors. The Max software -- plagued by issues that could keep the planes grounded months longer after U.S. regulators this week revealed a new flaw -- was developed at a time Boeing was laying off experienced engineers and pressing suppliers to cut costs. Increasingly, the iconic American planemaker and its subcontractors have relied on temporary workers making as little as $9 an hour to develop and test software, often from countries lacking a deep background in aerospace -- notably India. In offices across from Seattle’s Boeing Field, recent college graduates employed by the Indian software developer HCL Technologies Ltd. occupied several rows of desks, said Mark Rabin, a former Boeing software engineer who worked in a flight-test group that supported the Max. The coders from HCL were typically designing to specifications set by Boeing. Still, “it was controversial because it was far less efficient than Boeing engineers just writing the code,” Rabin said. Frequently, he recalled, “it took many rounds going back and forth because the code was not done correctly.” Boeing’s cultivation of Indian companies appeared to pay other dividends. In recent years, it has won several orders for Indian military and commercial aircraft, such as a $22 billion one in January 2017 to supply SpiceJet Ltd. That order included 100 737-Max 8 jets and represented Boeing’s largest order ever from an Indian airline, a coup in a country dominated by Airbus. Based on resumes posted on social media, HCL engineers helped develop and test the Max’s flight-display software, while employees from another Indian company, Cyient Ltd., handled software for flight-test equipment.

Boeing Loses Another 737 MAX Customer - Tajikistan’s Somon Air has dropped plans to lease a Boeing 737 MAX, blaming uncertainty about the timeline for its re-entry to service and shattered public confidence in the model. “The MAX has been put on hold,” chief executive Thomas Hallam told me, referring to a contract for a single leased unit that Air Lease Corporation (ALC) had been due to place with Somon this year. The unit in question was purchased by the lessor, so the lease cancelation will not affect Boeing's orderbook. However, it illustrates waning confidence in the MAX following two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia that claimed 346 lives and led to a worldwide grounding of the new aircraft type. Boeing is widely perceived to have bungled its response to the crisis by downplaying the severity of problems with its flight control systems and pressuring America’s aviation regulator to keep the model flying even after the second crash. Although Hallam believes that Boeing will be able to fix the flawed MCAS system that likely caused both crashes, he said senior figures in Tajikistan have voiced concerns about inducting the MAX. “There's been an order from the board of directors to stop the order,” he confirmed.

Most Americans Can't Afford To Pay Rent, Eat Food, Buy Stuff, Or Get Sick (And It's Just Going To Get Worse) A recent study found that more than 63 percent of American children and 55 percent of Americans live in “asset poverty”. This means they have few or no assets to rely on in the event of a financial emergencysuch as a job loss, a medical crisis, recessions, or natural disasters.In a press release, study co-author David Rothwell, an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, explained that when families lack assets such as vehicles, homes, savings accounts or investments, surviving a financial crisis is very difficult. “This is a dimension of financial security that we don’t think about that much, and it’s pretty high. The findings highlight the extent of financial insecurity among American families. These shocks ripple through the family and down to the children,” Rothwell said.The study was published in the journal Children and Youth Services Review earlier this year. Co-authors are Timothy Ottusch of the University of Arizona and Jennifer Finders of Purdue University.Living in poverty can have devastating impacts on children, as the press release explains:Rothwell studies poverty and its impact on families and children. Experiencing poverty in childhood can have lifetime impacts for those children; past research has shown that children who grow up in poverty are more likely to struggle in school, have lower job earnings throughout life and experience family instability as adults.A growing body of research suggests that parents’ asset levels also predict academic achievement, educational expectations, and the likelihood of college enrollment and graduation. Families with assets that can be used when income is disrupted are also likely to experience less financial stress and strain. Yet asset poverty is higher than income poverty for children and families. In a 2018 study of Canadian families, researchers, including Rothwell, found that asset poverty was two to three times more prevalent than income poverty. Families can have adequate day-to-day funds but be asset-poor and would likely struggle during a financial shock. (source)

Amazon’s meat grinder in the Dallas, Texas suburbs - Documents reviewed by the World Socialist Web Site establish that hundreds of workers have been injured at Amazon’s DFW7 fulfillment center in Fort Worth, Texas. Former Amazon worker Shannon Allen, who blew the whistle about conditions inside DFW7 in an exposé published on the WSWS last May, was one of 567 workers injured over a two-year period. She successfully demanded and obtained records relating to other injuries at the warehouse, which the company was required to maintain under federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. OSHA records relating to DFW7 indicate that there were 318 work-related injuries at the facility in the year 2017. In 266 of those cases, the injury was sufficiently serious to cause the worker to miss work days. There were 7,968 work days lost as a result of these injuries, in addition to 11,170 work days that injured workers spent at different jobs or with restrictions as a result of their injuries.In 2018, there were 249 injuries, 198 of them causing workers to miss one or more days of work. These injuries caused 7,815 lost work days and 5,896 days of work on job transfer or restriction.The DFW7 facility has a workforce that fluctuates between approximately 3,500 and 5,000, with additional workers being hired on for “Prime week” as well as the winter holidays.The vast majority of the incidents are described in the logs as “sprain/strain” injuries. But the catalog of injuries at DFW7 also includes concussions, broken bones, lacerations, “crushing/smashing” injuries to various body parts, “avulsion” (meaning skin torn off), “electrical shock,” “foreign body/puncture” injuries and “eye injury/vision loss/blindness” injuries, among others.

How Amazon and the Cops Set Up an Elaborate Sting Operation That Accomplished Nothing -- For Amazon, fear is good for business.If customers fear their neighbors, and fear they might steal a package, customers are less likely to be mad at Amazon if they don’t get a package they ordered. They’re also more likely to buy an Amazon-owned Ring doorbell camera, which is marketed as way of surveilling your stoop for package deliveries and package thieves—especially on Neighbors, the Ring-owned “neighborhood watch” app.New documents obtained by Motherboard using a Freedom of Information request show how Amazon, Ring, a GPS tracking company, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service collaborated on a package sting operation with the Aurora, Colorado Police Department in December. The operation involved equipping fake Amazon packages with GPS trackers, and surveilling doorsteps with Ring doorbell cameras in an effort to catch someone stealing a package on tape. The documents show the design and implementation of a highly elaborate public relations stunt, which was designed both to endear Amazon and Ring with local law enforcement, and to make local residents fear the place they live. The parties were disappointed when the operation didn’t result in any arrests.

The Pentagon has a laser that can identify people from a distance—by their heartbeat - MIT Technology Review - Everyone’s heart is different. Like the iris or fingerprint, our unique cardiac signature can be used as a way to tell us apart. Crucially, it can be done from a distance. It’s that last point that has intrigued US Special Forces. Other long-range biometric techniques include gait analysis, which identifies someone by the way he or she walks. This method was supposedly used to identify an infamous ISIS terrorist before a drone strike. But gaits, like faces, are not necessarily distinctive. An individual’s cardiac signature is unique, though, and unlike faces or gait, it remains constant and cannot be altered or disguised. A new device, developed for the Pentagon after US Special Forces requested it, can identify people without seeing their face: instead it detects their unique cardiac signature with an infrared laser. While it works at 200 meters (219 yards), longer distances could be possible with a better laser. “I don’t want to say you could do it from space,” says Steward Remaly, of the Pentagon’s Combatting Terrorism Technical Support Office, “but longer ranges should be possible.” The most common way of carrying out remote biometric identification is by face recognition. But this needs good, frontal view of the face, which can be hard to obtain, especially from a drone. Face recognition may also be confused by beards, sunglasses, or headscarves. Cardiac signatures are already used for security identification. The Canadian company Nymi has developed a wrist-worn pulse sensor as an alternative to fingerprint identification. The  Jetson extends this approach by adapting an off-the shelf device that is usually used to check vibration from a distance in structures such as wind turbines. For Jetson, a special gimbal was added so that an invisible, quarter-size laser spot could be kept on a target. It takes about 30 seconds to get a good return, so at present the device is only effective where the subject is sitting or standing.

Face-Reading AI Will Tell Police When Suspects Are Hiding Truth -- American psychologist Paul Ekman’s research on facial expressions spawned a whole new career of human lie detectors more than four decades ago. Artificial intelligence could soon take their jobs. While the U.S. has pioneered the use of automated technologies to reveal the hidden emotions and reactions of suspects, the technique is still nascent and a whole flock of entrepreneurial ventures are working to make it more efficient and less prone to false signals. Facesoft, a U.K. start-up, says it has built a database of 300 million images of faces, some of which have been created by an AI system modeled on the human brain, The Times reported. The system built by the company can identify emotions like anger, fear and surprise based on micro-expressions which are often invisible to the casual observer. “If someone smiles insincerely, their mouth may smile, but the smile doesn’t reach their eyes — micro-expressions are more subtle than that and quicker,” co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Allan Ponniah, who’s also a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in London, told the newspaper.

Soon, satellites will be able to watch you everywhere all the time - MIT Technology Review -- In 2013, police in Grants Pass, Oregon, got a tip that a man named Curtis W. Croft had been illegally growing marijuana in his backyard. So they checked Google Earth. Indeed, the four-month-old satellite image showed neat rows of plants growing on Croft’s property. The cops raided his place and seized 94 plants.  In 2018, Brazilian police in the state of Amapá used real-time satellite imagery to detect a spot where trees had been ripped out of the ground. When they showed up, they discovered that the site was being used to illegally produce charcoal, and arrested eight people in connection with the scheme.  Chinese government officials have denied or downplayed the existence of Uighur reeducation camps in Xinjiang province, portraying them as “vocational schools.” But human rights activists have used satellite imagery to show that many of the “schools” are surrounded by watchtowers and razor wire. Every year, commercially available satellite images are becoming sharper and taken more frequently. In 2008, there were 150 Earth observation satellites in orbit; by now there are 768. Satellite companies don’t offer 24-hour real-time surveillance, but if the hype is to be believed, they’re getting close. Privacy advocates warn that innovation in satellite imagery is outpacing the US government’s (to say nothing of the rest of the world’s) ability to regulate the technology. Unless we impose stricter limits now, they say, one day everyone from ad companies to suspicious spouses to terrorist organizations will have access to tools previously reserved for government spy agencies. Which would mean that at any given moment, anyone could be watching anyone else.

 Protestors threw milkshakes containing 'quick-drying cement' as far-left and far-right groups clashed in Portland, according to police - The Portland Police tweeted Saturday night that they had received reports that "some of the milkshakes thrown" during demonstrations from far-left and far-right groups in downtown Portland "contained quick-drying cement," and encouraged anyone "hit with a substance" to report it. Fighting between demonstrators and counter-protestors broke out in Portland on Saturday between members of far-right group the Proud Boys and far-left anti-fascist group Rose City Antifa. Another conservative demonstration taking place was organized on behalf of the "HimToo" movement. Police did not clarify whether milkshakes were thrown by any specific group or toward any specific target, but The Oregonian reported that some protestors whose affiliation is unclear threw eggs and milkshakes at police officers, and both police and protestors deployed pepper spray."Quick-drying cement" likely refers to a concrete mixture with a higher ratio of cement to gravel and water, so that the concrete sets faster (in about 20 to 40 minutes), as opposed to regular concrete, which takes 24 to 48 hours to dry. Fast-setting concrete mix can be bought in stores inexpensively and just requires water. It is unclear whether the concrete mixture was left to harden and then added to milkshake mixtures, or whether the powder itself was found in milkshakes. Portland police did not respond immediately to clarify. Andy Ngo, an editor of the conservative online magazine Quillette, tweeted that he was attacked by members of antifa while recording the demonstrations.. Ngo later tweeted he was in the ER, accompanied by pictures of lacerations and bruises on his face.

Constitutionality of $16 billion of Illinois bonds challenged – (Reuters) - The sale of $10 billion of general obligation bonds in 2003 and $6 billion in 2017 by Illinois was unconstitutional because the proceeds were used for loans to the state’s pension funds or to finance budget deficits, according to a court filing on Monday.A petition to file a taxpayer complaint against Illinois’ governor, comptroller and treasurer was filed in Sangamon County District Court seeking to stop $20 billion of future state payments, including interest, on about $14.5 billion of the debt that remains outstanding.State officials said the challenge was without merit.The petition said Illinois’ constitution permits the issuance of long-term debt only to fund “specific purposes” like capital improvements.“Simply obtaining cash to finance the state’s structural deficits or to speculate in the market is not a ‘specific purpose,’” it said.The pending lawsuit also cites Illinois’ credit ratings, the lowest among U.S. states at a notch or two above junk, and an “unsustainable” debt burden that includes a $ 133.5 billion unfunded pension liability.

US attorney general declares emergency for public safety in rural Alaska, freeing up $10.5 million to support police - U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr declared an emergency for public safety in rural Alaska on Friday and announced that the Department of Justice will provide more than $10 million in emergency funds as part of a sweeping plan to support law enforcement in Alaska Native villages. The department’s Emergency Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Program will immediately provide $6 million to the state to hire, equip and train rural police, and for mobile holding cells. Another $4.5 million will support 20 officer positions and be provided to Alaska Native organizations by the end of July. The announcement comes a month after Barr visited Alaska during a multiday trip to hear concerns from Alaska Natives and rural residents about a lack of police in rural communities and high rates of sexual assault and family violence. During a trip to a Western Alaska village in late May, Barr called the situation an “emergency” and vowed to do everything he could to help. “In May, when I visited Alaska, I witnessed firsthand the complex, unique, and dire law enforcement challenges the state of Alaska and its remote Alaska Native communities are facing,” Barr said in a statement from the Department of Justice. “With this emergency declaration, I am directing resources where they are needed most and needed immediately, to support the local law enforcement response in Alaska Native communities, whose people are dealing with extremely high rates of violence.”

 Georgia Court System Hit By Ransomware Attack -- Headlines started hitting the wires after 11 am Monday about a ransomware attack that has brought down Georgia Courts' digital information operations. Officials confirmed to WXIA Atlanta that the website for Georgia's Administrative Office of the Courts and Judicial Council of Georgia had been down all morning Georgia Courts spokesman Bruce Shaw said all systems hadn't been affected, but the network as a whole was taken down to quarantine the infection. Shaw said the IT department would be meeting with "external agencies" (FBI Atlanta) on Monday afternoon to asses the severity of the attack.Shaw didn't disclose how much the hackers demanded to unlock an unknown amount of computers from the crippling ransomware. There was no mention of what type of payment they required if it was cryptocurrency or US dollars.Government officials said private data isn't stored on the systems that were affected, and that no social security or other personal information was compromised. A ransomware attack is often software code that holds a user's computer hostage until a "ransom" fee is paid. Ransomware often infiltrates computers as a self-replicating malware that duplicates itself to spread to uninfected computers.

Target Will Offer Discount to Teachers for School Supplies -Target is offering a 15 percent discount from July 13-20 to help teachers buy classroom supplies. Teachers need to enter their teacher ID information on a verification form to confirm they are a teacher in order to get the coupon. Target said if more information is necessary, they will take any document that ties your name or email address to an education system. Interested teachers can also go in-store to a cashier for assistance.The discount also applies to people who work in daycare centers, early childhood centers and home schools.Teachers will receive their coupon through the email address they enter in the verification form. Some items that are excluded from the discount include electronics, backpacks and lunch bags.

Charter Schools Unleashed “Educational Hunger Games” in California. Now It’s Fighting Back. California has the highest concentration of charter schools in the U.S., with one in 10 students in the state educated in one of them. Since the legislature passed a charter law in 1992, these schools have enjoyed the “unqualified support” of every governor. No one was more gung-ho than Jerry Brown, California’s last chief executive, who founded two charter schools when he was mayor of Oakland. Both that unwavering support in Sacramento and the torrid pace of charter expansion — there are more than 1,300 charter schools in California today — are now likely to change. In one of his first acts as California’s new governor, Gavin Newsom convened a task force to evaluate the impact of the charters’ growth on public school districts. Earlier this month, in a series of bell-weather proposals that signal a U-turn for K-12 education in the state, as well as a growing nationwide backlash against charter schools, the task force recommended changes that could rein in the growth and increase much-needed oversight of these schools.This policy realignment also marks a setback for philanthropists who have waged a high-stakes battle to elect charter-friendly school boards and rapidly expand charter schools in California and elsewhere in the nation. Indeed, while the task force initially came under fire from public-school advocates for its relatively large number of charter-friendly appointees, its report is noteworthy for the number of recommendations that received unanimous votes from the committee. Chief among these is an effort to rein in an “extremely decentralized” authorization process inCalifornia, which allows 1,300 entities, including districts and counties—far more than any other state—to greenlight charters; this has led to a host of scandals, including most recently an $80 million scam. Other recommendations include giving charter authorizers greater leeway to consider the fiscal and “community impacts” of the schools, which are funded with tax dollars but privately managed, before approving new ones; under current law must approve any charter that meets basic requirements.

I Think, Therefore I Know: San Francisco Edition - Strange as it may seem, the biggest stumbling block on much of the left may be a crude philosophical error, dogmatic subjectivism. This is a position that holds that subjective experience is the highest form of knowledge, whose claims can’t be challenged by “lesser” criteria like logical analysis or empirical observation. To the extreme subjectivist, if I feel something to be true there is no legitimate counterargument: I think (or feel), therefore I know.This is at the heart of the current blowup over the mural at George Washington High School in San Francisco. It was painted in the 1930s by Victor Arnautoff, a member of the Communist Party and acolyte of Diego Rivera, under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration. To make his point about the centrality of racism and oppression in American history, he portrayed Washington as the slaveowner he was, with a group of slaves toiling away to make him rich. He also showed pioneers headed westward past the body of a dead Indian. Not surprisingly, Arnautoff got into trouble during the McCarthy era and was effectively hounded out of the world of public art.  But several groups and individuals who claim to speak for today’s oppressed think the mural glorifies racist violence and makes the high school an “unsafe” environment. The San Francisco School Board’s advisory group, The Reflection and Action Working Group, deemed Arnautoff “glorifies slavery, genocide, colonization, Manifest Destiny, white supremacy, oppression, etc.” One of the Board members said that efforts to save the mural from being painted over were reflective of “white supremacy”, since the artwork some want to save is “white property”, while its effects are harmful to “Black and Brown ppl [people]”. The head of the high school’s Indian Education Program asserts this and other Arnautoff murals “glorify the white man’s role and dismiss the humanity of other people who are still alive….” Others bring up the triggering effect of images that remind us of the brutality that permeates American history. What interests me is that none of these arguments draw in any way from an analysis of the impact of art on its viewers or empirical evidence of any sort; they are simply assertions from personal feeling. This is not to say that feelings don’t matter—of course they do—but surely they are not the only thing that matters.

Pistol Packin' Teachers Train To Neutralize School Shooters In Utah -  Utah school teachers have been training on how to respond to an active shooter - practicing techniques to neutralize assailants and keep students safe, according to the Associated Press.  The training is nothing new - as at least 39 states require some form of lockdown, active-shooter or similar safety drills, according to the Education Commission of the States. Utah requires that elementary schools conduct at least one safety drill per month, while secondary schools must have detailed emergency response plans on hand. While firearms training in the state is voluntary, Utah County Sheriff's Teacher's Academy has a waiting list for its next four-week program.  According to Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith, the popularity of concealed carry permits in the state means training teachers is even more important. Around half of the teachers brought their own guns to the shooting range to train. The Utah school psychologist weaved through a maze of dusty halls before spotting him in the corner of a classroom, holding a gun to a student’s head. She took a deep breath and fired three shots, the first time she’s ever used a gun. One bullet pierced the shooter’s forehead.“Nice work,” a police officer told her as they exchanged high-fives in front of cardboard props representing the gunman and student.Miramontes recently joined 30 other Utah teachers at a series of trainings where police instructed them on how to respond to an active shooter. Teachers went through the shooting drill inside a warehouse set up to look like a school, then moved outside to a shooting range. -Associated Press

Contract for more than 20,000 Chicago teachers expires - On June 30, the contract for more than 20,000 teachers and support staff expired in Chicago, the country’s third largest school system. Chicago has historically been ground-zero for the Democratic Party’s pro-business school “reform,” which has turned on across-the-board cost cutting, an assault on educators, including the destruction of seniority and tenure, and privatization through the expansion of charters. On July 1, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Jesse Sharkey held a morning press conference in which he called for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) officials to speed up the negotiations process that began in January under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Sharkey told the press gathered, “We’re being studied. We’re not being engaged. And that’s got to stop.” Earlier this year, the CTU called for the intervention of a federal mediator, one of multiple requirements prior to taking legal strike action established by Senate Bill 7, anti-worker legislation supported by Sharkey’s predecessor Karen Lewis that limited what teachers may bargain over (wages and benefits, mainly) and imposed bureaucratic obstacles to strike action. Now that the teachers’ contract has expired, the CTU has given no indication at what stage the negotiations are. Sharkey also told teachers to “start saving” for a strike. This is more of a threat against teachers than the city, however, since it implies that there will be little if any strike benefits forthcoming from the organization that has $15.5 million in assets. According to the Sun-Times, the CTU is asking for a meager 5 percent pay increase along with its routine call for support staff increases and reduced class sizes. The city’s Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday that the city would respond to the CTU’s offer, about which she offered no details. Conditions in Chicago Public Schools are not conducive to teaching or learning. Teachers at multiple Chicago charter schools have walked out on strike over classroom conditions and low wages, only to be sent back to work with no serious improvements in conditions.

Michigan Governor Whitmer ties fate of Benton Harbor High School to test scores -After an outpouring of public anger against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer's plan to shut down Benton Harbor High School (BHHS), the Democratic administration has announced a new, tentative agreement with the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education.This announcement came weeks after the city's school board membersrejected Governor Whitmer's original offer, under pressure from the massive opposition from teachers, students, parents and community members.Whitmer's original “offer” was an ultimatum: close down BHHS or the state would take control of and dissolve the financially plagued school district.The new offer ties the fate of the high school and possibly the district to performance benchmarks on standardized tests as well as financial obligations. Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad told ABC 57 in South Bend, Indiana that the academic test score performance benchmarks constitute an unrealistically rapid transformation of the district, and that they were “a trap.” While the details of the agreement have not been made public, the Detroit News reported a statement from Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown: “Representatives from the governor’s office and the Department of Treasury had a productive meeting with Benton Harbor school board members regarding a tentative joint plan that requires the district to meet attainable benchmarks and goals to show improvement in academic outcomes among Benton Harbor area students while stabilizing the finances of the district.”

Teen accused of rape deserves leniency because of his ‘good family’, judge says  - A judge suggested that a teenage boy accused of raping a drunk girl at a party should be treated leniently because he came from “a good family”, and cast doubt on whether such an attack amounted to rape at all.  Judge James Troiano in New Jersey made the remarks while ruling that the boy, who was identified only as “GMC”, should not face trial as an adult for allegedly raping a 16-year-old girl while recording the incident on his mobile phone. “This young man comes from a good family who put him into an excellent school where he was doing extremely well,” Troiano said. “He is clearly a candidate for not just college but probably for a good college. His scores for college entry were very high.” Troiano, 69, also noted that the boy was an Eagle Scout. Investigators said GMC sent a clip of the alleged rape to seven of his friends, and later sent a text adding: “When your first time having sex is rape.” Yet Troiano suggested that, in his view, the alleged incident was a sexual assault rather than a rape.

Betsy DeVos cancels Obama-era regulation aimed at holding for-profit schools accountable - At a recent financial aid conference, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that every school should help its students graduate with high-quality career prospects and minimal debt.  Students should be equipped, DeVos added, with information that allows them to be responsible consumers. “They need to have the best possible tools, data, advice and support,” DeVos said, at the Georgia World Congress Center in late November. Yet on Friday DeVos issued the final repeal of an Obama-era rule aimed at holding low-quality education programs accountable by forcing them to prove their graduates were able to repay their student debt. In the first round of debt and earnings data, released in 2017, more than 750 programs failed the gainful employment test. For example, graduates with an associate’s degree in graphic design from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh typically earn less than $22,000 a year and have over $40,000 in federal student loan debt, the Education Department found. Under the rule, schools that fail the test two years in a row are cut off from federal funding. Since the department is not conducting another debt-to-earnings analysis, no program will lose eligibility under this regulation.

Tufts To Remove Mural With Only White People To Attract A Diversity Of People - Massachusetts university has decided to take down a historical mural after students complained that the paintings depicting only white men eroded the school’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. Tufts University stated in a news release that the Alumnae Lounge mural, which depicts “the great names of men” who informed the school’s history, does not include “a single image of a person of color, for example, despite the fact that black students were enrolled at Tufts as early as the late nineteenth century.”“Students have told us that they don’t want to receive awards in Alumnae Lounge because they feel excluded, and that’s important to hear,” Tufts Senior Vice President Deborah Kochevar said, according to the news release.  “We want to attract a diversity of people to the university. But no less important, when they arrive, we want them to feel they belong here.”Members of Tufts’ Jackson College for Women donated the mural, as well as the lounge,  to the school. The mural will be archived and an online database for viewing and teaching purposes will be made available. The murals “make alumni of color invisible, and therefore tell an incomplete story,” Tufts Africana Center Director Katina Moore said, according to the news release.

Harvard awards fellowship to Rick Snyder, Flint’s poisoner-in-chief - Rick Snyder, the former Republican governor of Michigan and one of the chief conspirators in the lead poisoning of Flint’s water supply, has been named senior research fellow at the Taubman Center at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Snyder began his work at the university on July 1, and will “teach and study subjects related to state and local government,” according to a statement released by Harvard.The reaction to the appointment by many Flint residents was summed up by Deanna Avery, a Flint resident and nurse, who told the WSWS: “It is a disheartening choice. The man who was behind the poisoning of Flint is unconscious of human lives. He should not be appointed to anything but prison.”Harvard University’s welcoming of Snyder stands in marked contrast to the 2017 rescinding of a fellowship invitation to courageous whistleblower Chelsea Manning by the university’s Institute of Politics. At the time, she had been released from a military prison after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence after her sentence was commuted by Obama shortly before he left office. Michael Morell, former deputy director and acting director of the CIA, resigned his fellowship post at Harvard over the school’s decision to include Manning as a visiting fellow, declaring that he could not be part of an organization that “honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information.” Morell was joined by Mike Pompeo, CIA director at the time, who cancelled an appearance at the school to protest Manning’s appointment. Hours later, Manning was “disinvited.”

Two-Thirds Of College Grads Regret Their Diploma, Costs And Major - A new poll of nearly a quarter-million Americans has found fully two-thirds of them have buyer’s remorse about their diploma, their major and the higher education experience in general. How much longer do you think folks are going to keep paying such fees that produce such dissatisfaction and unhappiness?Not surprisingly perhaps, the new survey found the top regret was incurring immense debts for that higher education, a debt whose payments run on for many years, causing postponed marriages and families. An estimated 70 percent of college graduates this year finished school with loans to repay averaging $33,000.Even older baby boomers are incurring college debts as they return to school for training in new areas not affected by automation and other labor-saving methods. The survey by PayScale found that even Americans over age 62 had some $86 billion in unpaid debts, theirs or their childrens’.The second largest graduate regret was their choice of college majors. Sen. Marco Rubio has noted in speeches that the occupational demand for Greek philosophers has not been good for about 2,000 years.Three-quarters of humanities graduates expressed regrets over their choice of study areas, tied to their difficulty finding employment in those areas at higher paying jobs enabling them to pay down the debt.Most satisfied were majors in math, science, tech and especially engineering. More than a third of computer science grads and four-in-ten engineering grads had no regrets about their area choice of studies. Interestingly though, teachers expressed the least regrets over their career choices, second least to engineers, despite the chronically low pay of such educators.

Canceling all college debt will make us smarter and richer (Opinion) - Astra Taylor - On Monday morning, I gathered with other members of the Debt Collective in Washington DC to endorse the College for All Act of 2019. Sponsored by Reps. Ilhan Omar, Pramila Jayapal, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, the act would cancel all student debt and make all two- and four-year public colleges and universities tuition free, subsidized by a tax on Wall Street.The Debt Collective is a membership organization fighting for economic justice that has been advocating student debt cancellation and free college for years. Our demands were initially met with skepticism and incredulity. Now, we're standing at the Capitol, winning the battle of ideas.A growing number of people agree that eliminating student debt will improve millions of lives, advance racial and gender justice, and be a boon for our democracy and our economy. But even though loan cancellation is now at the center of public debate, it's far from a done deal. We need to continue to fight so that visionary proposals can become actual policy.  "Our privatized debt-for-education system has got to go," my Debt Collective co-founder Thomas Gokey said at the press conference where Sanders, Omar and Jayapal introduced the bill. Gokey warned that the proposed legislation is unlikely to become law unless the public turns up the heat. "No big change like this ever happens without mass mobilization; without ordinary people getting organized to take direct action and engage in civil disobedience," he said.  It may sound extreme, but civil disobedience -- or what we call economic disobedience -- is what got us this far, and it's what will get us across the finish line. In 2015 the Debt Collective launched the first student debt strike in history. Fifteen students who had been defrauded by the predatory, for-profit Corinthian Colleges chain publicly announced they would no longer pay their loans. Soon their numbers grew, and tens of thousands of people disputed their loans through an app the Debt Collective created with the help of legal experts. As a result of grassroots organizing, coupled with careful strategy, we eventually won changes to federal law and, through various channels, more than a billion dollars of debt relief -- more than$500 million in relief for borrower defense applicants so far and more than $500 million won through a Harvard Law School case against ITT Tech we assisted on.

No, Your Student Loans Should Not Be Forgiven!  - Loan forgiveness doubles down on the failed federal policies that led to the $1.6 trillion student loan crisis...Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts are making headlines with their plans to forgive student loan debt and make public colleges tuition-free.While many agree removing financial responsibility on the part of the student is bad policy, the 45 million Americans holding student loans undoubtedly see debt forgiveness as attractive.Burdensome student loan debt is indeed problematic. Studies show it has discouraged desirable economic activity such as starting a business or buying a home. But loan forgiveness will cause more problems than it solves.Both Warren and Sanders propose to pay for their plans by raising taxes. Why should American taxpayers have to pay off loans that students took on voluntarily? Two-thirds of Americans do not hold bachelor’s degrees. Their choice not to go to college, whatever the reason may be, in many cases may have involved a desire to avoid the high cost of higher education.These Americans are statistically less likely to earn as much as Americans who do hold bachelor’s degrees. It is regressive, or taking a larger percentage from low-income earners, to ask Americans who purposely avoided the high cost of college to pay for students who chose to take on mountains of debt. 

In re Engen: Nondischargable student loans create a “prison of emotional confinement” - In re Engen concerns Mark and Maureen Engen, a married couple who filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 13. Mr. and Mrs. Engen submitted a plan to pay creditors about $5,000 a month over five years. Under their plan, the Engens would completely pay off the first mortgage on their home, a car loan, and state and federal taxes. In addition, the Engens would make payments to nonsecured debtors who would only receive partial repayment.  In their plan, the Engens categorized their student-loan debt as a separate class of unsecured creditors and proposed to pay off this debt completely (without interest) before making payments on other unsecured claims (p. 529). The trustee in the Engens' case objected to giving student loans preferential treatment.In a well-reasoned opinion, Judge Berger approved the Engens' repayment plan over the trustee's objection and explained why it was appropriate to categorize student loans as a separate class of unsecured debt.First of all, Judge Berger explained, student-loan debt is a particularly onerous debt because it is quite difficult to discharge in bankruptcy.  Bankrupt debtors must file an adversary proceeding to discharge their student loans, and "[t]his bankruptcy litigation is sufficiently expensive and . . . so demanding, that debtors rarely even try to have student loan debt discharged" (p. 531, internal punctuation and citation omitted).Indeed, a debtor's attempt to discharge student-loan debt is generally "an exercise in futility," with debtors forced to overcome what amounts to an "assumption of criminality" in order to obtain relief (p. 57, internal citation omitted). In Judge Berger's opinion, the hardships associated with student-loan debt justify treating it as a separate classification in a Chapter 13 repayment plan. In fact, in some instances, lumping student loans with other unsecured debt would cause debtors to owe more on their student loans afterbankruptcy than before they filed for bankruptcy relief.

"Wealthy" Chicago Households On Hook For $2 Million In Debt Each Under 'Progressive Solution' To Pension Crisis - Chicagoans are buried under so much pension debt it’s impossible to see how their city can avoid a fiscal collapse without major, structural reforms. The futility of paying down those debts becomes obvious when you try to figure out just who’s going to pay for it all. The total amount of city, county and state retirement debt Chicagoans are on the hook for is $150 billion, based on Moody’s most recent pension data. Split that evenly across the city’s one million-plus households and you arrive at nearly $145,000 per household. That’s an outrageous amount, but it would be a clean solution if each and every Chicago household could simply absorb $145,000 in government retirement debt. The problem is, most can’t.  One-fifth of Chicagoans live in poverty and nearly half of all Chicago households make less than $50,000 a year. It wouldn’t just be wrong to try and squeeze those Chicagoans further, but pointless. They don’t have the money.  So if that won’t work, why not just put all the burden on Chicago’s “rich?” After all, Illinois lawmakers are pushing progressive tax schemes as the panacea for Illinois’ problems.  If households earning $200,000 or more are the target, they’ll be on the hook for more than $2 million each in government retirement debts.

 Google, UChicago Sued In Greatest Heist Of Patient Health Data In History - A former University of Chicago medical patient filed a class-action lawsuit against the University of Chicago and Google, claiming that the University of Chicago Medical Center is giving private patient information to the tech giant without patients' consent.  About two years ago, the university medical center partnered with Google with the hope of identifying patterns in patient health records to help predict future medical issues.Now, former patient Matt Dinerstein is filing a lawsuit on behalf of the medical center’s patients, alleging that the university violated privacy laws by sharing sensitive health records with Google from 2009 to 2016, aiding Google’s goal of creating a digital health record system, according to the Chicago Maroon.The suit alleges that the university deceived its patients by telling them that their medical records would be protected, but ultimately violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a federal law that ensures privacy and security for personal medical data. It also claims that UChicago violated state laws in Illinois that makes it illegal for companies to participate in dishonest client practices.  The complaint details Google’s alleged two-part plan: obtain the Electronic Health Record (EHR) of almost every patient at the UChicago Medical Center, then use the information to create its own lucrative commercial EHR system.

 Health care costs for the typical family of four top $28,000 this year, despite slower increases - Health care costs have been increasing at the lowest rate in the past two decades. The result? The total costs for a typical family of four insured by the most common health plan offered by employers will top $28,000 this year, according to the annual Milliman Medical Index. The estimate includes the average cost of health insurance paid by employers and employees, as well as deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. Despite the significant expenses for many households and employers, the slower rate of growth is good news, said Scott Weltz, a principal and consulting actuary in the Brookfield office of Milliman. “But every month, a family of four’s health care costs are going up $100 a month,” Weltz said. The costs have been going up by that amount — on average — for more than a decade. The Milliman Medical Index topped $20,000 in 2010. And two years ago it topped $25,000. This year, the cost for a family of four is estimated at $28,166. “The Milliman Medical Index is great because it gives you a snapshot of what people covered by employer-sponsored insurance get and what that coverage costs,” said Melinda Beeuwkes Buntin, a professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The index also estimates deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses.

Rural hospital closures leave residents with few options: 'It's a fight every day'  - Meachael Goney worked at the Jamestown Regional Medical Center in rural Tennessee for 46 years, but that wasn't long enough to guarantee her job security  In May, the federal government stopped sending the hospital reimbursements for treating patients on Medicare and Medicaid. In an attempt to turn the hospital's prospects around, a new CEO, Michael Alexander, was named. Not long after ABC News' Steve Osunsami visited the center for "This Week's" Critical Care health care series, a note was posted on its doors saying they were temporarily closed. The county was left without a hospital. The next two closest hospitals are between 45 minutes and an hour-long drive away. Across Tennessee alone, a dozen rural hospitals have closed since 2010, and, according to an analysis by The Tennessean newspaper,more than a dozen others are at serious risk of ging under. But it's not just a problem for Tennessee. In the last decade, more than 100 rural hospitals have closed across the country, according to the University of North Carolina's Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research. And an analysis by the management consultancy firm Navigant found that 21% of rural hospital in the United States are in danger of closing, too, if their finances don't improve.Rural hospitals face a variety of challenges. They tend to serve aging communities that suffer from poor health and require expensive treatments. There are often severe doctor shortages in rural areas, and gaps in insurance coverage if patients have insurance at all. And, several studies show that rural hospitals are closing at a faster rate in states that chose not to expand Medicaid coverage to poor residents under Obamacare. Tennessee is one of those states, and the residents of Jamestown and its neighboring communities fear losing their hospital could cost lives.

The Nonprofit Hospital That Makes Millions, Owns a Collection Agency and Relentlessly Sues the Poor — In July 2007, Carrie Barrett went to the emergency room at Methodist University Hospital, complaining of shortness of breath and tightness in her chest. Her leg was swollen, she’d later recall, and her toes were turning black. Given her family history, high blood pressure and newly diagnosed congestive heart failure, doctors performed a heart catheterization, threading a long tube through her groin and into her heart. Her share of the two-night stay: $12,019. Barrett, who has never made more than $12 an hour, doesn’t remember getting any notices to pay from the hospital. But in 2010, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare sued her for the unpaid medical bills, plus attorney’s fees and court costs. Since then, the nonprofit hospital system affiliated with the United Methodist Church has doggedly pursued her, adding interest to the debt seven times and garnishing money from her paycheck on 15 occasions. Barrett, 63, now owes about $33,000, more than twice what she earned last year, according to her tax return. “The only thing that kept me levelheaded was praying and asking God to help me,” she said. She’s among thousands of patients the massive hospital has sued for unpaid medical bills. From 2014 through 2018, Methodist filed more than 8,300 lawsuits, according to an MLK50-ProPublica analysis of Shelby County General Sessions Court records. Older cases like Barrett’s, which dates back nearly a decade, remain on the court’s docket.

New data shows depth of U.S. mental health crisis - U.S. suicide rates are at the highest level since World War II, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, per Bloomberg's Cynthia Koons.  From 2000 to 2006, the suicide rate in the U.S. increased by an average of about 1% a year. From 2006 through 2016, it increased by 2% a year. There were 1.4 million suicide attempts in 2017 and 47,000 deaths.Despite an improvement of material well-being, emotional distress in the U.S. has reached "crisis levels," according to the CDC.

  • Koons reports that the national mental health epidemic stems from various causes, including "genetic, social, and environmental factors."
  • It's reached the scale of "the global financial crisis" — and yet there is no groundwork in policy, manpower or in institutions to address it.

Obesity is now a bigger cause of deadly bowel, kidney, liver and ovarian cancer than smoking - Obesity is now a bigger cause of many types of cancer than smoking, scientists have revealed. Excess weight causes thousands of more cases of bowel, kidney, liver and ovarian cancer than cigarettes every year. And people who are dangerously overweight now outweigh smokers by two to one, experts say, with almost a third of British adults classed as obese. Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of cancer but the number of smokers is falling while obesity rates rise. The figures were released by Cancer Research UK in the midst of a 'fat shaming' row centred around their latest campaign raising awareness of the dangers of obesity.

The US Military Could Soon Ban Beer And Pizza In Favor Of A Mandatory Ketogenic Diet  -- The military could soon be mandating a ketogenic (keto) diet, according to the Military Times. This may mean foregoing beer and pizza in favor of salads for many service members, especially Navy SEALs. While the new diet could eventually be put into effect for all branches of the government, SEALS and other underwater specialists could be the first groups targeted for the change. Lisa Sanders, the director of science and technology at U.S. Special Operations Command, recently presented a study that recommends the keto diet, which works to deprive the body of glucose and forces it to burn stored fat.  In her presentation, she said: “One of the effects of truly being in ketosis is that it changes the way your body handles oxygen deprivation, so you can actually stay underwater at depths for longer periods of time and not go into oxygen seizures.”This discussion comes at a time of growing concern about obesity in the military. But there has been some pushback, including those who wonder whether the military has the legal and ethical authority to control its service-members' diet 24 hours a day. And while service-members are familiar with physical testing, it is possible that they could be soon be in store for daily ketosis testing. The plan is strict and service members may be tempted to cheat after hours and on weekends. Blood and urine tests can be used to assure that bodies are in a constant state of ketosis. Produce choices and meat quality of military dining facilities will come further into focus as a result of the changes, and the high carb and sugar content of MRE’s would also be a thing of the past.

Scumbags can program vulnerable MedTronic insulin pumps over the air to murder diabetics – insecure kit recalled Health implant maker MedTronic is recalling some of its insulin pumps following the discovery of security vulnerabilities in the equipment that can be exploited over the air to hijack them. Specifically, the manufacturer is recalling its MiniMed 508 and Paradigm insulin pumps, along with the CareLink USB control hub and some blood glucose monitoring devices used with the at-risk gear. America's medical drug watchdog the FDA also issued an alert this week over the holes, which can be leveraged by nearby hackers to execute commands on the pumps. These commands can, for instance, tell the pump to inject too much insulin, causing the patient to suffer hypoglycemia and pass out or enter a seizure, or too little insulin and cause the patient to develop serious life-threatening ketoacidosis. It's a bizarre way to kill someone right by you, of course, when hitting them over the head with a wrench will do it, but you never know. Medtronic said the recall is voluntary, and has offered patients who send in their pumps replacement equipment: the newer MiniMed 670G models that do not suffer from the vulnerability, dubbed CVE-2019-10964. Those who cannot obtain a new pump for whatever reason are advised to avoid connecting their pump to any non-Medtronic devices and to unplug the CareLink USB device when not in use. "The FDA has become aware that an unauthorized person (someone other than a patient, patient caregiver, or health care provider) could potentially connect wirelessly to a nearby MiniMed insulin pump with cybersecurity vulnerabilities," the drug agency said of the flaw. "This person could change the pump’s settings to either over-deliver insulin to a patient, leading to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), or stop insulin delivery, leading to high blood sugar and diabetic ketoacidosis."

Scientists Make Model Embryos From Stem Cells To Study Key Steps In Human Development - Scientists have created living entities that resemble very primitive human embryos, the most advanced example of these structures yet created in a lab. The researchers hope these creations, made from human embryonic stem cells, will provide crucial new insights into human development and lead to new ways to treat infertility and prevent miscarriages, birth defects and many diseases. The researchers say this is the first time scientists have created living models of human embryos with three-dimensional structures. The researchers reported their findings Monday in a paper published in the journal Nature Cell Biology. But the research is stirring debate about how far scientists should go in creating living models of human embryos, sometimes called embryoids. For decades, scientists have worked to understand some of the earliest steps that enable an embryo to develop into a fetus. But some of the most crucial ones have been a mystery. That's because they occur in a woman's womb and can't be studied. Scientists are prohibited from studying human embryos in their labs beyond 14 days of development. As a result, these very early stages of development have been "a complete black box," says Ali Brivanlou, a molecular biologist at Rockefeller University in New York who heads the lab where the new research was conducted. So Brivanlou and his colleagues decided to try to use human embryonic stem cells to create living models of human embryos they could study in the lab. "We came up with a model of human embryos that is developed outside of the womb and is not the product of the sperm and the eggs but is the product of human embryonic stem cells that self-organize into complicated structures," Brivanlou says.

A deadly, drug-resistant fungus has swept the globe—here’s how it spreads - Patients infected with a deadly, drug-resistant fungus are dripping with the dangerous germ, which pours into their surroundings where it lies in wait for weeks to find a new victim. That’s according to fresh data reported from the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology recently in San Francisco.   The data fills in critical unknowns about how the fungus, Candida auris, actually spreads. The germ is a relatively new threat, considered an emerging pathogen by experts—and it's emerging quickly with an unusual ability to lurk and kill in healthcare settings. It was first identified in 2009 in Japan. Studies since have tracked the globetrotting fungus backward and forward in time, from South Korea in 1996 to an outbreak in New York health facilities that began in 2013 and lasted until 2017. In all, C. auris has made an appearance inmore than 30 countries, usually leaving a body count wherever it goes. The fungus mostly sticks to healthcare settings, stealing into the blood of vulnerable patients where it causes invasive infections marked by nondescript fever and chills. It’s commonly resistant to multiple drugs, and some isolates have been found to resist all three classes of antifungal drugs, making it extremely difficult if not impossible to cure. Experts estimate thatC. auris infections have a fatality rate somewhere between 30% and 60%. It’s hard to say for sure because many of its victims are seriously ill before they get infected, making it tricky to determine an individual cause afterward. While the threat is clear, much about C. auris infections has been murky—including how it spreads from one victim to another. Researchers have found it loitering on hospital mattresses, furniture, sinks, and medical equipment, but they haven't determined how it got there. Once it is present, however, it’s a tough bug to annihilate. The fungal cells can form tight, hardy clumps that can live on plastics for at least two weeks and can go into a metabolically dormant phase for a month.

Swimming Pools Can Turn Your Sunscreen Into a Cancerous Toxin— Smothering yourself in sunscreen before getting into a swimming pool may actually be detrimental to your health, according to research. The study—which was conducted at Lomonosov Moscow State University—found that the combination of ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and chlorinated water cause ingredients in sunscreens to break down and produce toxic chemicals. These chemicals have been associated with causing immune system damage, infertility, and even cancer.  The world’s most popular sun-blocker, avobenzone, was the focus of the study. Researchers found the ultraviolet filter—which is commonly used in sunscreens, moisturizers, lip balms, and other cosmetic products—actually breaks down in chlorinated water.  “A generally safe compound transforms in the water and forms more dangerous products,” Researcher Dr. Albert Lebedev said.  Acetyl benzenes and phenols are two of the chemicals produced from the interaction; both of which are distinctly toxic.  Swimming pools that use copper salts to give the water its blue appearance, can spawn an even more harmful reaction. The copper salts cause ingredients in the sunscreen to break down into bromoform, a substance that has been linked to liver problems, kidney problems, and nervous system disorders. “It’s really important that we keep on scrutinizing the chemicals that we use on the skin, so this certainly needs to be looked into very carefully,” said Dr Emma Wedgeworth, British Skin Foundation spokesperson. “However, we know for certain that sun exposure is linked to skin cancers and that sunscreen, as part as safe sun behavior, can help reduce the risks of skin cancers. So I would urge people not to have a knee jerk reaction and avoid sunscreen altogether.”

FDA names 16 brands of dog food linked to canine heart disease - The FDA is investigating more than 500 reports that appear to link dog foods that are marketed as "grain free" to canine dilated cardiomyopathy. Sixteen brands of dog food may be associated with a heightened risk of heart failure in dogs, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA isn't suggesting that pet owners stop feeding their dogs the particular brands yet, but some vets are already advising against "grain free" foods.The FDA is currently investigating more than 500 reports that appear to link dog foods that are marketed as "grain free" to canine dilated cardiomyopathy. The FDA has been warning about the foods based on peas, lentils or potatoes since July 2018, but the statement released late last week is the first time the agency has identified the 16 brand names. The brands are ordered by the number of cases linked to them, which ranged from a high of 67 to 10: (list)Most of the reports were associated with dry dog food formulations, but raw food, semi-moist food and wet foods were included. The FDA has not suggested owners change their pets’ diets. While the vast majority of cases have been in dogs, there have also been some in cats.

EPA Move to Phase Out Animal Experiments Could Mean the End of Toxics Regulations  - THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY is moving forward with a plan to sharply reduce and ultimately phase out experimental testing on lab animals. In an undated internal memo sent in late June to assistant administrators, EPA chief Andrew Wheeler explained that the agency will cut its funding for experiments on mammals in half by 2025. The memo, which was reviewed by The Intercept, also said that the EPA plans to stop using mammal studies for the approval of new chemicals by 2035 and that it will aim to eliminate all mammal studies. Under the new plan, any animal study done after that point will require approval by the EPA administrator. The EPA is promoting alternative methods to gauge the threats posed by chemicals, such as computer modeling and tests on cells, which have been increasingly used in recent years. Yet no legal limits have ever been set using these alternative methods alone. Without the tests on rats, mice, and rabbits currently used to gauge the toxicity of chemicals and set safe levels, public health and environmental advocates worry that the policy shift will leave EPA unable to limit chemicals at all. “It effectively will mean you can’t regulate,” said Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  The internal announcement that EPA would speed the move away from animal testing coincided with the creation of a new section on the agency’s website that was published last week. Titled “Alternative Test Methods and Strategies to Reduce Vertebrate Animal Testing,” the newly released material details the EPA’s efforts to “reduce and replace testing on vertebrates.” On March 14, Wheeler signaled that he would be making the shift in a speech, broadcast internally to EPA staff, in which he described the animal testing issue as “important to me personally.” The chemical industry also appears to care deeply about the reduction of animal research, according to emails of EPA staff released in June in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The American Chemistry Council, the largest American trade group representing chemical manufacturers, has long supported reducing regulators’ reliance on animal research, which is time-consuming and expensive — in addition to being key to understanding the harms chemicals pose to people.

New EPA rule could expand number of Trump officials weighing in on FOIA requests  - More political appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could soon have the authority to weigh in on public information requests. The rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register as early as Wednesday and will not allow for a public comment period. According to the new language in the FOIA rule signed by EPA chief Andrew Wheeler last week, the administrator and other officials would be allowed to review all materials that fit a FOIA request criteria, known as responsive documents, and then decide “whether to release or withhold a record or a portion of a record on the basis of responsiveness or under one or more exemptions under the FOIA, and to issue ‘no records’ responses.” Lawyers outside the agency who specialize in FOIA requests say the “no records” response could lead to a situation where records seekers are being told there are no documents meeting their search criteria, even if they were found by EPA staffers who handle FOIA requests, with those documents ultimately withheld by political appointees. “It’s allowing political appointees to make the decision that records someone has presumably identified as being responsive are not actually responsive. That theoretically would allow sensitive documents, that the agency doesn't want to send you, to withhold those records -- and that should shake out eventually in a lawsuit if that's what's happening,”

Life Expectancy Falters In The UK- Slow Death But Fast Profits For The Agrochemical Sector -  A special report in the Observer newspaper in the UK on 23 June 2019 asked the question: Why is life expectancy faltering? The piece noted that for the first time in 100 years, Britons are dying earlier. The UK now has the worst health trends in Western Europe. Aside from the figures for the elderly and the deprived, there has also been a worrying change in infant mortality rates. Since 2014, the rate has increased every year: the figure for 2017 is significantly higher than the one in 2014. To explain this increase in infant mortality, certain experts blame it on ‘austerity’, fewer midwives, an overstrained ambulance service, general deterioration of hospitals, greater poverty among pregnant women and cuts that mean there are fewer health visitors for patients in need. While all these explanations may be valid, according to environmental campaigner Dr Rosemary Mason, there is something the mainstream narrative is avoiding. She says: “We are being poisoned by weedkiller and other pesticides in our food and weedkiller sprayed indiscriminately on our communities. The media remain silent.” The poisoning of the UK public by the agrochemical industry is the focus of her new report – Why is life expectancy faltering: The British Government has worked with Monsanto and Bayer since 1949. What follows are edited highlights of the text in which she cites many official sources and reports as well as numerous peer-reviewed studies in support of her arguments. Readers can access the report here.

Austrian parliament votes for ban on weed killer glyphosate — Austria’s parliament has voted for a ban on the weed killer glyphosate, a substance that has long been disputed in Europe and beyond. The Austria Press Agency reported that a majority supported the motion put forward Tuesday by the center-left Social Democrats. The center-right People’s Party of ex-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz opposed it, arguing that it would hurt farmers who use glyphosate correctly. Some lawmakers raised concerns the ban would fall foul of European Union law. In late 2017, the EU approved a five-year extension to the use of glyphosate. It is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, and Monsanto parent Bayer is currently engaged in legal battles in the U.S. in which plaintiffs claim that Roundup caused cancer. Bayer argues that studies have established that glyphosate is safe.

Everything You Need To Know About The Future Of Pesticides And Bees - Forbes - Seeing a bee in the city often results in panicked humans running away out of fear of being stung. But the bees are likely less interested in humans than they are in the wildflowers they’re circling around, which are likely a safe and pesticide-free place for the bees to feed. Contrary to what we might assume, researchers have found thaturban bees tend to live healthier lives than rural ones — they reproduce more, have more food stores, encounter fewer parasites and live longer. Pesticides are a tricky topic — while they are great for the crops they are meant to protect, they harm the bees that agriculture relies on. Their use sparked debate at the Forbes 2019 AgTech Summit, where beekeepers discussed the impact of these chemicals for bees, and the potential research still needed to understand their effects, and how technology, urban settings and regulation will affect the future of pollinators. Here’s everything they said — and you need to know — about how pesticides affect bees.

Cockroaches are becoming almost impossible to kill as they build resistance to insecticides, study finds - Cockroaches are known to be tenacious little pests that taunt humans with their resiliency. According to a new study, these vile bugs may been even more resilient than previously thought.  Researchers from Purdue University found German cockroaches — the most common species worldwide — are becoming increasingly resistant to almost all insecticides. Germancockroaches live exclusively in human environments, according to the study published in the journal Scientific Reports. They produce asthma-triggering allergens and can carry pathogens like Salmonella, Enterococcus, E. coli, and other antibiotic-resistant microbes. Insecticides are often used to combat these unwelcome house guests, but after testing multiple kinds, scientists realized cockroaches could have developed a resistance to their one-time foe, the exterminator. Many insects can can develop resistance to at least one kind of insecticide. Cockroaches, which live only about 100 days, can evolve very quickly. Those that develop the resistance can pass the gene down to new generations.To test the roaches' resistance, researchers tried three different insecticides on three different cockroach colonies over six months. All the products were store-bought from retailers and were E.P.A. registered. They were applied by licensed pest management professionals to the cockroach colonies in two low-rise housing developments in Indiana and Illinois. One colony got treated with all three insecticides, one at a time. Another colony was hit with a mixture of the insecticides. The third colony was hit with just one chemical that the roaches had low resistance to. Regardless of which treatment was used, most of the cockroach colonies did not decline in size. Even when the researchers used multiple insecticides at once, a technique exterminators often employ, the population size did not drop. Not only that, but resistance levels actually increased in most cases, the researchers found. The results suggest cockroaches are quickly evolving resistance to the three chemicals tested.  The researchers' grim conclusion is that roaches are becoming virtually impossible to get rid of. "Overall, the unexpectedly poor performance of a majority of treatments in the field study suggested significant levels of starting resistance and/or selection for higher-level resistance in 4–6 months," they write. ‘

This Fourth of July, You’ll See 70% More Algae Outbreaks Than Last Year -- Over the Fourth of July holiday, vacationers from coast to coast will have to look out for a potentially record-breaking number of algae blooms. So far this year there have been news stories about 107 algae outbreaks, compared to just 63 this time last year. That's a 70 percent increase. EWG's interactive map tracks news reports of blue-green algae blooms across the country since 2010, and this year is on track to have the most so far.  Recreating in or near water stricken by an algae bloom can lead to serious health consequences. Short-term exposure — whether through skin contact or ingestion — to the toxins sometimes produced by algae outbreaks has been linked to sore throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and liver damage. These outbreaks don't just affect peoples' health, they also hurt their wallets. Algae keeps people away from businesses near affected lakes, such as marinas and restaurants.  Lake Macbride, in Iowa, is an example of a lake surrounded by farmland that has algae bloom and E. coli problems. Lake Hopatcong, in New Jersey, is currently suffering the biggest bloom ever recorded in the state. Hopatcong Mayor Mike Francis says it could have devastating impacts on the health of residents and his town's economy.  In many cases, algae outbreaks are preventable. Reducing the amount of chemicals that run off farm fields can greatly reduce the number and severity of blooms in agricultural areas.

Protective Wind Shear Barrier Against Hurricanes on Southeast U.S. Coast Likely to Weaken in Coming Decades - It’s well-known that high wind shear—a large change in the wind speed and/or direction with height in the atmosphere—is hostile for hurricane development, since a strong vertical change in winds creates a shearing force that tends to tear a storm apart. For example, even though the Caribbean is warm enough year-round to support hurricanes, we almost never see hurricanes in the winter or spring, since wind shear is very high these times of year due to strong upper-level subtropical jet stream winds. When low wind shear occurs in summer or fall in the Atlantic’s main development region (MDR), from the coast of Africa through the Caribbean, an active period for major hurricane activity often results. But the major hurricanes that form in the MDR during these situations often have trouble maintaining their intensity when they reach the Southeast U.S. coast, since low wind shear in the MDR is typically accompanied by high wind shear along the Southeast U.S. coast. This high shear, typically associated with strong upper-level winds from the mid-latitude jet stream, helps protect the U.S. East Coast against strikes by full-strength major hurricanes. But research published last month led by Mingfang Ting of Colombia University, Past and Future Hurricane Intensity Change along the U.S. East Coast, found that the Southeast U.S. protective barrier of high wind shear is likely to weaken in coming decades due to global warming. The models showed that this reduced shear signal should start to appear as early as the 2020s or as late as 2050. Not all the news was bad in the study, though—the models also showed a strong increase in wind shear over the Caribbean, and a modest increase over the Gulf of Mexico. These increases in shear would tend to offer more hostile conditions for hurricanes, potentially offsetting the more favorable conditions for increased intensification that warmer ocean temperatures would provide.

Scientists found a seaweed patch stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to Africa - There’s a mass of seaweed in the Atlantic Ocean that last year, at its peak, was so large it stretched all the way from the Gulf of Mexico to West Africa. It’s the biggest bloom of seaweed ever recorded, according to a new paper published in Science. And it’s likely another example of how human activity is radically changing the surface of the planet. The giant seaweed mass is both expansive and heavy, weighing a whopping 20 million tons last year. It’s comprised of a macroalgae species called sargassum, a brown seaweed that forms little bubbles that look a bit like grapes. Large volumes of it washing ashore can be a pain for beach tourism. See: Those bubbles allow the seaweed to float on the surface, which in turn lets scientists track its distribution over time. The brown hue of the seaweed on the surface of the water can be seen by satellites. Satellite images have revealed that over the past 20 years, the mass of sargassum on the surface of the Atlantic has exploded dramatically. The following chart shows the density of sargassum in the Atlantic every July (the month when sargassum blooms peak) from 2011 on. You can see in July 2018, it was the densest, stretching clear across the ocean. The study authors call it the great Atlantic Sargassum belt, and suspect it’s likely the result of more nutrients, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus, running off the West Africa coast into the ocean in the winter. The belt is also being fed by the same nutrients, from fertilizer runoff and deforestation, running off into the Amazon River and into the ocean in the summer. The sargassum responds to those extra nutrients like many plants would: It eats them, and grows. The bloom sizes also continue to grow every year because there are sargassum seeds left over from the previous summer. So far, it’s looking like another huge Sargassum bloom is underway this summer. Many beaches in Mexico are currently blanketed in the stuff. (It costs Mexico’s beaches millions a year to deal with the increasing growth of the seaweed.)

Biggest Ever Seaweed Bloom Stretches From Gulf of Mexico to Africa A vast expanse of brown seaweed stretching across the Atlantic is a threat to tourism but a boon to marine life, U.S. researchers have said.A report by the University of South Florida, published on Thursday, showed satellite images of the biggest ever bloom of the sargassum seaweed, which last year extended from the U.S. and Mexico's Atlantic coast to Africa.The report, published in Science magazine, estimated that the giant patch grew to 8,850 kilometers (5,500 miles) wide and weighed 20 million tons.Researchers found that sargassum, which was previously confined to the Gulf of Mexico and the Sargasso Sea, has spread to the central Atlantic Ocean over the past decade.They said that some beaches in Florida and Mexico now have had so much sargassum that at times, swimmers are prevented from entering the sea. The increase in the stinking mounds of rotting seaweed at the waterline has led to an increase in complaints from tourists and sullied the reputation of many paradise resorts. Researchers said that 2019 looks set to be another record year of seaweed growth and that the phenomenon could become the new normal. The report's authors, meanwhile, blamed climate change, and the runoff of fertilizer into rivers and the sea, for the huge growth of the sea plant.In particular, the team noted that total fertilizer usage on Brazilian land around the Amazon had increased by 67 percent between 2011 and 2018. The thick seaweed also releases hydrogen sulfide gas, which smells like rotten eggs and can cause problems for those with respiratory issues.

In Hot Water: Warming Waters are Stressing Fish and the Fishing Industry - America’s inland streams, the Great Lakes, and coastal waters are heating up—spelling trouble for fish and the nation’s $46.1 billion dollar recreational fishing industry.  Data analyzed by Climate Central show that water temperatures in the Great Lakes and coastal surface waters are warming throughout the United States, as well as in many freshwater streams. Those warming waters are impacting the health of fish, their ecosystems, and the economies that depend on them.  Many fish are sensitive to temperature and can survive only in specific temperature ranges. As waters in oceans, streams, and the Great Lakes warm, fish seek out cooler waters in higher latitudes or elevation, or when possible, in greater depths. But there are limitations to how far north, or high in elevation, fish can travel before running out of water, let alone water in a suitable temperature zone. Also, water composition changes with rising temperatures. For example, oxygen levels drop and algae blooms grow.  In addition to the direct impacts of hotter water, rising temperatures contribute to more heavy rainfall, which leads to increased runoff that washes pollutants and nutrients into waterways.  Warmer winters and earlier springs also result in decreased snowpack, removing a source of cool water to replenish streams, rivers, and lakes in the Western U.S., accelerating the warming of waterways. Warmer waters impact fish in multiple ways. Toxins produced by algae blooms—which are occurring more frequently as temperatures rise—can stress or kill fish by clogging their gills or reducing oxygen levels in the water. Warmer waters also make fish more vulnerable to parasites and diseases. For example, new research shows that a virus which usually infects largemouth bass has also played a role in the decline of smallmouth bass in Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River by weakening their immune systems and allowing other infections to spread. And researchers have found evidence that inland fish are also moving north, changing the timing of migrations and spawning, and altering predator-prey ranges and interactions.

Bangladesh’s 65-day ban on fishing will hurt over 400,000 poor coastal families - The June-September monsoon is the peak fishing season in the Bay of Bengal for more than half a million poor Bangladeshi fishers. But this year, their wooden boats remain moored along the coast. For the first time, the government is enforcing a 65-day ban on all types of marine fishing to promote what the officials say is the conservation of spawning fish and crustacean species. In protest, many crews of artisanal boats took to the streets in May. Without other livelihood options, this ban will force them into more poverty and hardship, they said.As of June, Bangladesh has 253 trawlers – purpose-built to use trawl nets, owned by seafood industries and licensed to fish in areas beyond 40-metre depth in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Added to this, according to official estimates, there are almost 68,000 small marine boats including gillnetters, operated by fishers who are artisanal – meaning they do very low-tech, small-scale fishing to make ends meet. The monsoon ban on all marine fishing was written into law in 2015, but for four years it was only enforced on large trawlers. “Back then we decided not to enforce the ban on artisanal boats because livelihoods of a vast number of people were involved, we considered situations that you see are now unfolding,” said Mohammad Nazim Uddin. Speaking to The Third Pole at his Chittagong office, Nazim, an assistant director at the Marine Fisheries Office, said more than 16,500 people are registered with the agency as artisanal fishers.   According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, most of these coastal fisherfolk are landless. They live on public lands on the edge of the sea or riverine islands. Other than fishing, they have no livelihoods options to feed their families.

Sixth North Atlantic Right Whale Found Dead Prompts Concern From Researchers - Researchers are calling for urgent action following the death of a sixth North Atlantic right whale in Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence this year.  Considered one of the most endangered species of whale in the world by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, the North Atlantic right whale population is decreasing with only about 400 animals left in the world and just 100 breeding females. As the slow-moving baleen whales follow food sources, researchers at Dalhousie University say their behavioral and feeding patterns must be tracked in order to save the species."It could be that the whales are in different places or are choosing different routes into the Gulf and that made these measures somewhat ineffective. So, we have to go back and find out where the whales are, predict their distribution and take measures to protect them," said university marine biologist Boris Worm.  It appears the whales are shifting movements, making vessel speed and traffic restrictions in place to protect the whales less effective. Necropsies carried out this year suggest some of the whales died from collisions with ships — an increasingly common and fatal occurrence. Among the dead were Punctuation, a 40-year-old female named for comma-like propeller scarring on her head who had given birth to at least eight calves and grand mothered at least two in her lifetime, reports Mongabay. Nine-year-old Wolverine, named for three propeller markings on his tail, was the first to be found dead followed by two dead females, including Clipper. Canadian Fisheries and Oceans announced Tuesday in a tweet that Clipper also died from blunt force trauma due to a vessel strike. Most recently, a 34-year-old grandfather named Clipper was spotted floating in the Gulf last week. In all, six dead whales, two males and four females, have been spotted over the last month in Canada.

Japan Begins Commercial Whaling for First Time in 30+ Years - Commercial whaling ships set sail from Japan Monday for the first time in more than 30 years, The Guardian reported. Japan had been hunting whales in the waters off Antarctica for "research" purposes since 1987, according toBBC News. The hunts killed between 200 and 1,200 whales a year, and conservationists accused the Japanese government of using the hunts as a cover for commercial whaling, since much of the meat was eventually sold. Following its decision to leave the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in December 2018, Japan is ending the Antarctic hunts, but resuming commercial whaling in its own waters.The decision has prompted an international outcry. A group of NGOs, celebrities and activists including Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais and Dr. Jane Goodall signed an open letter to the nations involved in the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan urging them to pressure the Japanese government to abandon its whaling plans, asCBS News reported. "Today, all whale populations are vulnerable to non-hunting threats including bycatch, ship collisions, climate change, and chemical, litter and noise pollution, which will take their toll on these mammals long into the future," the letter said. "It therefore remains critical that co-ordinated global efforts are maintained to ensure the continued protection and survival of the world's whales. This includes maintaining the international ban on commercial whaling."

Hundreds of Sharks and Rays Entangled in Plastic Debris, Study Finds -- More than a thousand sharks and rays have become entangled in jettisoned fishing gear and plastic debris, anew study has found. The researchers behind the study warn that the plastic trapping the sharks and rays may cause starvation and suffocation. The research, published in Endangered Species Research by scientists at the University of Exeter, sought to bring light to a problem that is a major animal welfare concern, but has slipped under the radar compared to larger threats like commercial fishing, as a press release published by Science Daily reported. The entanglement causes tremendous suffering in animals that survive it. "One example in the study is a shortfin mako shark with fishing rope wrapped tightly around it," Science Dailyreported. "The shark had clearly continued growing after becoming entangled, so the rope — which was covered in barnacles — had dug into its skin and damaged its spine." In their research, the scientists pinpointed 1,116 sharks and rays caught in plastic. Yet, they suggest the true number could be higher, especially since examples of certain entangled species, like the whale shark, only existed on social media and not in published studies.  To understand the scale of the problem, they looked at published reports since 1940 and also looked at reports on Twitter since 2009. The review of academic papers revealed 557 sharks and rays entangled in plastic, spanning 34 species. An almost equal number were found on Twitter — 559 individual sharks and rays from 26 species including whale sharks, great whites and tiger sharks. The disparity between Twitter and academic research "emphasizes that entanglement is more than likely impacting a significantly greater number of species on a vastly larger scale than this review has presented," the researchers said, as Sky News reported.

Microplastics from homes and factories are ending up inside mussels off Chennai’s coast - Microscopic plastic particles and colourants have been detected inside the commercially important Asian green mussel Perna viridis from a fishing harbour in Chennai for the first time in a preliminary study. “Although, several research articles have reported the presence of microplastics even in market bivalves/fishes of natural coastal waters in Europe and Japan, the present results are surprising as this has been reported for the first time from India,” said S.A. Naidu, a project scientist at Chennai’s National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), Ministry of Earth Sciences and author of the paper. “Chennai harbour region is influenced by industrial, domestic and other land-based sources of microplastics.” The sheer scale of plastic pollution in the oceans is staggering: scientists estimate over 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic inundating the oceans. But while large plastic debris floating in the seas and oceans—that are increasingly being found in alarming quantities inside marine life such as sea turtles and whales, for example—can be spotted easily and scooped up, tiny bits of plastic, which are invisible to the naked eye, remain a pressing concern. Plastic waste dumped on land ends up in the ocean through river discharge as well as domestic and industrial waste. In the sea, ship spillages, fishing trawlers, and coastal gas platforms also leave behind a trail of plastic debris. Over time, much of the debris undergoes fragmentation and degradation into tiny particles, known as microplastics (less than 5 mm), by physical forces such as the waves and currents, ultraviolet radiation and microbial breakdown. Microplastics can remain afloat or sink to the seafloor and accumulate in sediments depending on their density. They can be ingested by both suspension and filter-feeders.

Canada waste returns home after Philippines′ war threat - More than 60 containers full of garbage have returned to the western shores of Canada after being stranded for years in the Philippines. The matter had sparked a diplomatic row and prompted threats of an armed conflict.  A container ship carrying waste that triggered a diplomatic feud between Canada and the Philippines arrived back home in the western Canadian province of British Colombia on Saturday.The 69 containers arrived at GCT Deltaport, near the city of Vancouver, where the contents are set to be incinerated in the next several days.The garbage had prompted Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to withdraw diplomats from Canada and threaten the country with war after Canada failed to retrieve the waste by a May 15 deadline.A Philippine court had ordered the repatriation after it emerged that the garbage had been mislabeled as recyclable plastics before it left Canada in 2013 and 2014.Canada agreed to take the waste back in late May. Other Southeast Asian countries have also struck out against several developed countries over their waste disposal in recent months.In May, Malaysia demanded that the United States, Japan, France, Canada, Australia and Britain retrieve 3,000 tons of garbage.The problem emerged after China stopped accepting waste last year, leading many other countries to take in the redirected rubbish.

US top of the garbage pile in global waste crisis - BBC News - The world produces over two billion tonnes of municipal solid waste every year, enough to fill over 800,000 Olympic sized swimming pools. Per head of population the worst offenders are the US, as Americans produce three times the global average of waste, including plastic and food. When it comes to recycling, America again lags behind other countries, only re-using 35% of solid waste. The study has been compiled by Verisk Maplecroft, a research firm that specialises in global risk, They've developed two new indices, on waste generation and recycling. They've used publically-available data, plus academic research to develop a global picture of how countries are coping at a time when the world is facing a mounting crisis, primarily driven by plastic. The waste generation index shows per capita rates of municipal solid waste, plastic, food and hazardous materials. Municipal solid waste is rubbish that's collected by local authorities from residential, institutional and commercial sources. While the world produces 2.1bn tonnes of this rubbish every year, only 16% is recycled while 46% is disposed of unsustainably. In the analysis, China and India make up over 36% of the global population and account for 27% of the waste. US citizens produce 773kg per head of population, roughly 12% of the global total. Their output is three times that of their Chinese counterparts and seven times more than people living in Ethiopia. Other European countries, including the Netherlands, Switzerland, France and Germany, feature on the list. The UK ranks 14th in the waste index generating 482kg of household waste per person every year. The US is the only developed nation with waste generation that outstrips its ability to recycle.

Plastic Watch: G20 Issues Pathetic Declaration - Jerri-lynn Scofield -The G20 on June 29 took action on plastic waste by committing to the Osaka Blue Ocean Vision, with the goal of stopping all plastic entering the oceans. If this is the best they can come up with, I almost wish they’d done nothing instead.For starters, the deadline for achieving this – 2050 – must be someone’s idea of a joke.Even this limited, slowly rolled out scheme is “voluntary”.And the means to the end? Invoking our old friend, the recycling fairy (see Plastic Watch: Recycling Woes and Waste Watch: US Dumps Plastic Rubbish in Southeast Asia for a discussion of some of the myriad problems with this approach).I kid you not.Here’s the relevant section of the G20 Osaka leader’s declaration, from the Japan Times: 39. We reiterate that measures to address marine litter, especially marine plastic litter and microplastics, need to be taken nationally and internationally by all countries in partnership with relevant stakeholders. In this regard, we are determined to swiftly take appropriate national actions for the prevention and significant reduction of discharges of plastic litter and microplastics to the oceans. Furthermore, looking ahead beyond those initiatives and existing actions by each member, we share, and call on other members of the international community to also share, as a common global vision, the “Osaka Blue Ocean Vision” that we aim to reduce additional pollution by marine plastic litter to zero by 2050 through a comprehensive life-cycle approach that includes reducing the discharge of mismanaged plastic litter by improved waste management and innovative solutions while recognizing the important role of plastics for society. We also endorse the G20 Implementation Framework for Actions on Marine Plastic Litter. Details are sketchy on how even these vague commitments would be achieved.

How much extra water is in Lake Erie now at its record high? - 79 days of flow over Niagara Falls - - Picture all the water that powerfully flows over the Niagara Falls at any one time. It would take doubling that flow for nearly three months to bring Lake Erie back down to normal levels.  That’s one way to get a handle on just how much extra water is in Lake Erie. Another way is to picture the entire state of Ohio covered by a half-foot of water.  As’s Laura Johnston reported on Monday, above-normal rain throughout the Great Lakes region has Lake Erie at a record high - 30 inches above normal - shrinking beaches, creating havoc for boat docks and causing a number of other issues. So the question was raised: how much more water than normal is sitting in Lake Erie?   Lake Erie normally covers 9,910 square miles (though more now that the water is high). Calculating things out based on 7.48 gallons of water per cubic foot, Lake Erie is about 5.2 trillion gallons above normal.  Join the crowd if you can’t picture what 5.2 trillion gallons means. This is where the Niagara Falls example comes in.  In boasting of the great flow of water, the Niagara Falls State Park website notes that normally 75,750 gallons of water per second flows over the American and Bridal Veil Falls, and 681,750 gallons per second over the Horseshoe Falls. Using those numbers, it would take 79 days to reach 5.2 trillion gallons.  The math is a little simpler to draw the comparison to the state of Ohio.  Lake Erie, at 9,910 square miles, is less than a fourth of the size of Ohio. So if you could somehow pump out the 30 extra inches of water depth in Lake Erie and dump it across Ohio’s nearly 45,000 square miles, it would cover the state with about 6.5 inches of water.

With any Midwestern rainfall this summer, the Missouri River could flood the lower basin region -  March storms in the Midwest caused significant damage to the levee system of the Missouri River and now any strong or frequent rainfall this summer could trigger flooding along the lower Missouri River, experts say. Kevin Low, service coordination hydrologist at the Missouri Basin River Forecast Center, a National Weather Service office, told CNN Friday that "it's been a very wet spring and it all started in March." During that month, more than 7 million people were under flood warnings because of the convergence of snowmelt, a "bomb cyclone" snowstorm and heavy rain in the heartland. Since March, Low said, "it really hasn't stopped raining. We've kind of moved on from snowmelt to rain events one after the other." Meanwhile, the March storm sent so much water into some of the Missouri River tributaries in such a short time that the water severely damaged the levee system, according to Eileen Williamson, deputy director of public affairs for the US Army Corps of Engineers. Some of the levees were "severely compromised, others breached," she said -- and now Missouri is probably most vulnerable to flooding because river waters remain higher there. Dan Armstrong, a supervisory hydrologic technician with the US Geological Survey's Central Midwest Water Science Center, said the current situation is unusual if similar in some ways to the 2011 Midwestern floods, "but in some locations the river levels are even higher" because of significant and frequent rainfall this past spring. He said he believes the lower Missouri River region, which "covers the area from downstream of Yankton, South Dakota, on down to St. Charles, Missouri, and on to the Mississippi River, is most vulnerable to flooding this summer. "At least thousands of residents could be affected," he said, adding that people in that vicinity should "pay close attention to weather forecasts and National Weather Service flood warning through the end of the summer." Low said no one knows when or where there will be flooding because it all depends on where the thunderstorms "set up." Still, the climate prediction center of the National Weather Service for the Missouri River Basin said chances are there will be "above normal" precipitation for the next three months,

June Finishes As Coolest In Several Years - The month of June is now in our rear-view mirror, and has concluded as the coolest June we have seen in quite a long time, which added to pressure on natural gas prices in the last few weeks due to how low the weather demand was. In fact, this June had the lowest total number of GWDDs since June 2004 in our dataset.  While this was just one factor influencing natural gas prices, it is a big one, and as such, it is no surprise to see the movement down in prices, especially the first half of the month, which was the coolest period.  In map form, we see much of the nation covered in "blue", as one would expect with such a low GWDD total.   This general type of pattern comes as no surprise, given the El Niño base state that was in control of the weather pattern, as that promotes cooler risks in summer in many of the areas that were cool this June. 
The El Niño state has shown some notable weakening in the last couple of weeks however, as shown by the daily region 3.4 anomalies.  Not coincidentally, the pattern has turned hotter, as we see from this week's modeled temperature anomalies.  This begs the question, is the weakening trend a sign of El Niño's demise, opening the door to more bouts of stronger heat as we move through the balance of summer, or is this just a blip that will soon reverse, preventing sustained above normal weather demand?

Heatwave cooks mussels in their shells on California shore - In all her years working at Bodega Bay, the marine reserve research coordinator Jackie Sones had never seen anything like it: scores of dead mussels on the rocks, their shells gaping and scorched, their meats thoroughly cooked.  A record-breaking June heatwave apparently caused the largest die-off of mussels in at least 15 years at Bodega Head, a small headland on the northern California bay. And Sones received reports from other researchers of similar mass mussel deaths at various beaches across roughly 140 miles (225km) of coastline.  While the people who flocked to the Pacific to enjoy a rare 80F (27C) beach day soaked up the sun, so did the mussel beds – where the rock-bound mollusks could have been experiencing temperatures above 100F at low tide, literally roasting in their shells.  Sones expects the die-off to affect the rest of the seashore ecosystem. “Mussels are known as a foundation species. The equivalent are the trees in a forest – they provide shelter and habitat for a lot of animals, so when you impact that core habitat it ripples throughout the rest of the system,” said Sones. “I would expect that this actually impacted the entire region, it’s just that you would have to have people out there to document it to know,” said Sones.  Years of research into ocean health has focused on rising water temperatures and the effects of acidification on marine life. Kelp and coral are suffering in warmer waters, starfish are melting, and shellfish are breaking down.  But there is less data on the impacts of these kinds of one-off extreme weather events in the open coastal air.

Up to 114 degrees in France: Record-breaking heat in Europe forces tourists to adapt — Europeans aren’t breathing a sigh of relief just yet following a day of record-breaking heat, with temperatures soaring once again on Saturday. The unusual heat has left many struggling to cope in the French capital where homes and buildings are not designed for steamy conditions or equipped with air conditioning.  The week-long blast of hot air from the Sahara sparked a massive wildfire in Spain and brought France its hottest day ever, with temperatures reaching 114.4 degrees in the southern town of Gallargues-le-Montueux. Records were also broken in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The situation is reflective of a global trend in extreme weather. "Between 2000 and 2016 the number of people exposed worldwide to heatwaves increased by an estimated 126 million," the World Meteorological Organization said in a statement Friday, adding that it puts people at risk of heat stroke, dehydration and cardiovascular diseases. Conditions did not relent on Saturday, with much of France expected to exceed 104 degrees yet again. French authorities nonetheless maintained an orange alert — the second-highest heat warning — for most of the country, reminding the public to stay hydrated and check on their neighbors over fears of conditions becoming lethal for both the very young and old. In 2003, a similar staggering heat wave killed 15,000 people in the country — prompting the significant public health awareness campaign this week.

Wildfires and power cuts plague Europe as heatwave breaks records(Reuters) - Hundreds of firefighters brought wildfires under control in southern France on Saturday as a stifling heatwave brought record-breaking temperatures to parts of Europe, killing at least six people. In the worst-hit Gard region, where France’s highest-ever temperature was registered on Friday at 45.9 degrees Celsius (114 degrees Fahrenheit), scores of overnight fires burned some 550 hectares (about 1,360 acres) of land and destroyed several houses and vehicles. “We came very close to a disaster,” Didier Lauga, prefect of the Gard, told reporters. “There are still firefighters in place in case fires break out again.” A psychologically unstable man was arrested after starting a blaze in one village, but the extreme heat was likely to blame for many of the fires, Lauga said. Fifteen firefighters and several police officers were injured in the Gard, where 700 firefighters and 10 aircraft were mobilized to contain the flames, emergency services said. In the neighboring Vaucluse region, authorities said a man who had been cycling in a mountainous area had died after collapsing due to the heat. The sweltering conditions were expected to ease on Saturday in southern France but highs were still forecast at close to 40 degrees. Further north, Paris was due to experience its hottest day of the heatwave with a high of 37-38 degrees predicted.The World Meteorological Organization said this week that 2019 was on track to be among the world’s hottest years, and 2015-2019 would then be the hottest five-year period on record.

French Station Breaks All-Time Heat Record by Astounding Margin - Not only was Friday, June 28, 2019 the hottest day in French history, it also featured record-breaking heat so extreme that only one other heat wave in world history can match it. The temperature at Montpellier-Fréjorgues airport hit 43.5°C (110.3° F) on June 28, 2019, breaking the station’s previous record by a truly incredible 5.8° C (10.4° F). The station’s period of record extends back 74 years, to 1946. Usually, when a station with a long period of record beats its all-time mark, the new record is at most a degree or two Fahrehneit beyond the old record. In rare cases, the new record will exceed the old one by five or more degrees. It is nearly unheard of for the record to be broken by more than 10°F. Indeed, weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera said in an email that there is only one other case in world history of a station with a long period of record having a heat wave with a larger spread between the first- and second-place marks: on July 6, 1936, the temperature in Steele, North Dakota, soared to 121°F (49.4°C), the highest temperature ever recorded in the state of North Dakota. Steele’s second highest temperature (except in the same heat wave in 1936) was only 110°F (43.3°C) in 1934. So, the temperatures in the 1936 heat wave beat the station’s second-place heat wave by an incredible margin of 11°F (6.1°C).   The 5°C (8°F) margin between the all-time heat record and the second-place heat mark was beaten at one other station in France on Friday: a 45.1°C (113.2°F) mark at Marsillargues, which beat the previous record of 39.7°C (103.5°F) set on Jun 21, 2003 by 5.4°C (9.7°F). According to Herrera, there are only a few other cases globally of heat records being broken by over 5°C (8°F). All of these occurred in the U.S. in 1936. In addition, in July 1983, Testy, Kazakhstan recorded a maximum temperature 5°C (8°F) higher than its second highest temperature, a difference that still stands today.

Relief in sight for France after heat more typical of Death Valley breaks all-time high - The extreme heat wave that is suspected of killing several people this week set an all-time high in France on Friday. Relief is on the horizon but not before one last blast of heat scorched much of western and central Europe on Sunday. The highest temperature ever measured across France in the entirety of record keeping was set on Friday afternoon. Temperatures soared to 45.9 C (114.6 F) at Gallargues-le-Montueux in southeastern France, exceeding the nation's previous all-time record high of 44.1 C (111.4 F) at Conqueyrac on 12 August 2003.A high near 46 C (115 F) is more typical of what is recorded in California's Death Valley in the United States this time of year. Parts of southeastern France were actually slightly hotter than Death Valley on Friday.Amid the unrelenting grip of dangerous heat, France's national weather service issued the first ever "red" hazardous weather warning for southeastern portions of the country on Friday. A “red” warning is the highest level out of a four-level alert system put into effect after the deadly 2003 heat wave that claimed 15,000 lives, according to the Associated Press. In neighboring Spain, officials suspect heatstroke caused a 17-year-old in Córdoba and a 80-year-old man in Vallodolid to die in recent days. Officials are also investigating whether the heat took a deadly turn in Italy, after the body of a 72-year-old homeless man was found near a train station in Milan on Thursday morning, according to BBC News. Temperatures have been soaring past 33 C (into the 90s F) daily since Monday.

Germany records all-time hottest June temperature - Germany set its all-time highest June temperature on Sunday, with 38.9 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit) recorded in the western state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The country has been baking in an early summer heat wave; however, Germany's all-time high of 40.3 degrees Celsius still stands. Fifty-seven runners at Hamburg's half marathon were hospitalized on Sunday after many collapsed in temperatures of up to 35 degrees Celsius, officials said. Some 141 runners needed treatment in what fire service officials described as "an emergency with mass casualties." Temperatures in the country's central Rhine-Main region and into eastern Germany were expected to reach up to 39 degrees on Sunday, according to the German Weather Service (DWD). As huge crowds gathered in Paris for the annual gay pride parade, firefighters sprayed water on revelers, some of whom used rainbow-colored fans and umbrellas to counter the heat, which was expected to hit 38 degrees.Heat-related deaths have been reported in Germany and France, mainly among the elderly. At least eight people drowned in bathing accidents across the two countries.  France's new record temperature of 45.9 degrees was set on Friday near the southern city of Montpellier, the Meteo-France weather service said. It is just the seventh European nation — along with Bulgaria, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Greece and North Macedonia — to record temperatures above 45 degrees. Meteorologists blamed a blast of hot air from northern Africa for the scorching early European summer, but temperatures are set to drop for the remainder of the week over much of Europe.

All-Time Heat Records Tumble in Europe, Caribbean - More than 30 locations in Central Europe—including towns and cities in Denmark, France, Germany, and Poland—set all-time heat records on Sunday as the continent’s historic June heat wave of 2019 shifted eastward. Three nations set all-time heat records for the month of June on Sunday: Germany, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein. The heat wave is easing on Monday, thankfully, as a cold front moves eastward over Central Europe. In a separate heat wave, Sunday was the hottest day in recorded history for the Caribbean nation of Cuba, which recorded an all-time heat mark of 39.1°C (102.4°F) at Veguitas. In Germany alone, there were 34 all-time heat records on Sunday, and at least 243 stations saw their hottest June temperature on record, according to statistics compiled by German meteorologist Michael Theusner. Many of the June records in Germany were broken by impressive margins of 1.5–2.5°C (2.7–4.5°F), which testifies to the exceptional nature of the heat (as already noted in France, where more than a dozen stations on Friday broke that nation’s previous all-time high).In Germany alone, there were 34 all-time heat records on Sunday, and at least 243 stations saw their hottest June temperature on record, according to statistics compiled by German meteorologist Michael Theusner. Many of the June records in Germany were broken by impressive margins of 1.5–2.5°C (2.7–4.5°F), which testifies to the exceptional nature of the heat (as already noted in France, where more than a dozen stations on Friday broke that nation’s previous all-time high). At the river Saale in Bernburg, Germany, a scorching high of 39.6°C (103.3°F) on Sunday was not only that station’s hottest temperature on any date in records going back to 1898, but the hottest temperature ever observed anywhere in Germany during any June. According to Theusner, the station’s previous all-time record was set just a year ago—with 39.5°C on July 31, 2018—and its previous June record was set just last Wednesday, with 36.5°C.

A strange, wavy jet stream is blasting Europe with heat. Scientists say this could be the 'new normal.' -An oppressive heat wave baked Western Europe this week, setting record high temperatures in France, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. In India, a severe drought has choked water supplies in the city of Chennai, exposing its 9 million residents to a major shortage. And after the United States’ wettest 12-month stretch on record, towns across the Midwest and the Great Plains are reeling from devastating floods. The reasons behind these extreme weather events are complex, but scientists believe they have a common trigger: profound recent changes to the jet stream, a ribbon of fast-moving air that flows from west to east over the Northern Hemisphere and controls weather systems. The jet stream is powered by temperature differences between the cooler polar region to the north and warmer air masses to the south. As it circles the planet, this river of air can become rippled in places. The resulting troughs and ridges can create unusual weather patterns, amplifying cold snaps in one region and intensifying blasts of heat in another. When the jet stream dips south, polar air fills in the trough, bringing heavy rains and cooler-than-usual temperatures, as has happened across much of the United States with a record-late arrival of spring and above-average precipitation. When the jet stream bulges northward, warmer air rushes into the ridge, leading to hot, dry conditions, as has happened this week in Europe. Image: Midwest Rivers Reach Major Flood Stage At Historic LevelsFloodwaters from the Mississippi River surround a home on June 1, 2019 in West Alton, Missouri.Scott Olson / Getty Images file Seasonal variations are normal, but since the early 2000s, as the planet has warmed, the jet stream has been behaving strangely. Jet stream winds, which naturally undulate, have become even more gnarled, and the big wavy patterns sometimes slow to a crawl, or even completely stall. A sluggish jet stream is cause for concern. When it slows or gets stuck, high- or low-pressure weather systems that correspond to the jet stream’s ridges and troughs intensify, stretching out rainy episodes, heat waves or droughts for days — or even weeks — at a time. Studies suggest that climate change is driving these new patterns, which means extreme temperatures could be more common in the future.

 Climate change made Europe’s mega-heatwave five times more likely - After a series of unusually hot summers, France and other parts of Europe last week experienced another intense heatwave that broke temperature records across the continent. For one group of climate scientists, the event presented a rare opportunity to rapidly analyse whether the heatwave — which made headlines around the world — could be attributed to global warming. After a seven-day analysis, their results are in: climate change made the temperatures reached in France last week at least five times more likely than they would be in a world without global warming. The scientists with the World Weather Attribution project decided to take action when they saw the heatwave coming, and ended up performing a near real-time analysis while at a climate conference in Toulouse, France. As they met at the International Conference on Statistical Climatology, the city and most of the country baked — the southeastern town of Gallargues-le-Montueux broke national temperature records, hitting 45.9 °C on 28 June. To find out whether global warming has affected the likelihood of a real event, scientists look at existing weather records and compare them with models, including simulations of how the weather would behave in a world that wasn’t warming. The concept has matured since it was conceived more than a decade ago, but it is probabilistic by nature.“Some say the uncertainties are too big,” says Otto. “There are indeed caveats, mostly to do with imperfect climate models. But even with large uncertainty bars, we think it is useful to provide quantitative evidence for how climate change is affecting extreme weather.” Using their models, the researchers calculated that the average temperatures reached over the hottest three-day day stretch in France — around 28 °C — were at least five times more likely because of climate change.

Climate Change is Devastating India With Heat Waves and Water Shortages --Jerri-Lynn here. India is experiencing a massive drought, affecting about half of its territory. Its sixth city, Chennai – formerly called Madras – ran out of water last week. These satellite images from The Hindu illustrate how the city’s reservoirs have shrunk since 2016.Summer temperatures have been higher than normal, topping 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) in many places. The monsoon has arrived throughout most of the country, but so far, rains have been below average. Prospects for agricultural production look bleak. As the Economic Times reports:Rainfall in the first four weeks has been among the worst ever while its distribution has been as poor as in the drought year of 2014, but the situation is improving as themonsoon has revived in the past week, and crop planting can quickly reach normal level if the country gets good rainfall in the next two weeksAs in 2014, the first of two successive years of poor monsoon, June rainfall has been normal or excessive in only about a quarter of the districts, with the rest being largely dry. This is bad for agriculture as half of the total farmland depends entirely on rains for water.Total rainfall so far in June is 35% below average, but it is already much better than the deficit of 43% last week. As a result, crop planting — which was 12% below normal a week ago — is now about 10% less than normal for this time of the year. The progress of the monsoon, which delivers about three-quarters of India’s annual rainfall, is a key determinant of agri output and rural incomes. In this Real News Network interview, political economist Shouvik Chakraborty discusses how India’s climate disasters are fueled by government resource mismanagement and fossil fuel consumption policies. (video & transcript)

India staring at a water apocalypse - A combination of climate change, bad policies and political apathy is steadily pushing India into a catastrophic water crisis that threatens stability in South Asia.Recent studies document that glaciers feeding the Indian subcontinent’s rivers will recede rapidly, while rapid ground water depletion poses an existential challenge to agriculture.The southwest monsoons remain the biggest source of water in the subcontinent. The monsoons lead to a combination of water sources supporting human habitats that includes glaciers, surface irrigation and ground water. But redundancy and surplus have gone missing from this once abundant system. Taking their place are galloping shortages.Even the best-case scenarios are “scary,” water researcher Aditi Mukherjee told Asia Times. Mukherjee is one of the editors of a landmark study that was published earlier this year. It predicts a terrible loss of the glaciers that dot the Hindu Kush-Himalaya region. “The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment” says that even if urgent global action on climate change is able to limit global warning to 1.5 degrees centigrade, it will still lead to a loss of a third of the glaciers in the region by the year 2100.If the temperatures rise by 2.7 degrees centigrade, then half the glaciers will be gone. And if the current rate of global warming continues and temperatures rise by 6 degrees centigrade, then two-thirds of the glaciers will melt away. This has major implications for India, China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. While the nearly 250 million who live in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya region will be most impacted from the outset, another 1.65 billion people who depend on the glacier-fed rivers are primarily at risk.

 A historic drought in India is so severe that it's now visible from space - A historic drought in Chennai, the sixth-largest city in India, is so severe that it’s now visible from space. The city’s 4.6 million citizens are rationing every drop of water, restaurants are closing early and companies are scaling back their operations as Chennai tries to survive a heat wave with 99 per cent less water than it had at the same time last year. The state government is shipping in water on trucks, but those trucks can’t replace the now dried-up lakes that once fed the city. Everyone is asking the same question: When will the monsoons start? Satellite footage released earlier this month shows the city’s four reservoirs, including nearby Lake Puzhal, have severely shrunk since last June. The reservoirs have a capacity of 318.8 billion litres, but they are down to a collective 651 million litres, according to government data reported by the Hindustan Times. The reservoirs have been reduced to 0.2 per cent of their capacity, according to state government data.The city typically relies on the heavy rainfall of monsoon season to replenish its water supply, which comes from four lakes and groundwater reservoirs in the region. The monsoons usually start in June but they’ve been delayed this year, leaving citizens with little water amid blistering temperatures that exceed 40 C each day. The problem dates back to last year, when Chennai saw a major shortfall in its monthly rainfall. The city received 80 per cent less rain than average in December alone, according to India’s weather office.Temperatures in Chennai typically peak in May and June, around the same time that rainfall starts picking up. February, March and April are typically drought season, while the heaviest monsoon rains come in October, November and December.

19 dead in Mumbai after highest rain in 24 hours since 2005 flood - Officials said on Tuesday the death toll in the wall collapse incident in Mumbai’s Malad went up to 19 as the city received the second highest July rain over a 24-hour period in 44 years after the 2005 flood. The heavy rains have disrupted road, rail and air traffic in the financial capital, prompting officials to shut schools and offices, though financial markets were open. Six more people were killed in Maharashtra’s Pune after a wall of an educational institute in collapsed on Tuesday and three others died in a similar incident in Thane district, taking the death toll in rain-related accidents in the state to 27. Officials in Mumbai said the compound wall of BMC’s reservoir at Pimpri Pada near Shivneri High School on Rani Sati Marg in Malad (East) collapsed on a few shanties late on Monday night, trapping several people. The incident was reported at around 1am on Tuesday after which the Mumbai Fire Brigade (MFB) and NDRF officials reached the spot. A woman, who was trapped along with a child, under the debris was rescued and sent to a hospital, officials said. They said 72 more people have been admitted to several hospitals, where the condition of at least four is said to be critical.

Heavy rains prompt evacuation of hundreds of thousands in Japan - Japan has ordered hundreds of thousands of people on the southern island of Kyushu to take shelter in evacuation centres and other safe areas as heavy rains threatened to trigger landslides and cause other damage. Some parts of southern Kyushu have received up to 1,000mm of rain since Friday, and forecasters expect as much as 350mm rainfall in some areas by midday on Thursday, Japan's NHK broadcaster said on Wednesday. The southwestern island of Shikoku, meanwhile, is expected to see up to 250mm of rain by Thursday morning. Ryota Kurora, a weather forecaster, warned of mudslides, flooding and swollen rivers in the southern region at a news conference on Wednesday morning. Evacuation orders were issued for almost 600,000 residents of Kagoshima city alone and thousands more in two smaller cities in the same prefecture on Kyushu, the broadcaster said.Another 310,000 residents of the island were advised to find shelter, Kyodo News reported. In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said residents should "take steps to protect their lives, including early evacuation" and he ordered the military to prepare for rescue operations if needed. Abe was criticised for the government's slow response in July last year when heavy rains triggered landslides and floods, killing more than 200 people in Japan's worst weather disaster in decades. A heatwave that followed, sweeping across Japan for a period of nearly two weeks with temperatures reaching record highs, killed more than 1,000 people, according to the Health Ministry. 

In pictures: The aftermath of deadly Siberian floods - At least 18 people have died in floods that have devastated the Siberian region of Irkutsk, according to Russian authorities. Rising water levels have driven several thousand people from their homes and fears are rising for eight missing people. The severe flooding was caused by torrential rains that hit the region last week. The water levels of some rivers quickly rose over more than two metres. Up to 30,000 people lost electricity, with water also damaging roads. A state of emergency was declared, with about 3,300 homes and nearly 10,000 people affected. The damage to the region is currently estimated at about 1.1bn rubles ($17m). Russia's President Vladimir Putin visited the region over the weekend, instructing Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu to bring in troops to help deal with the flood. Around 1,000 servicemen and 300 military units were sent to the affected area.

Mexico hail: Ice 1.5m thick carpets Mexico’s Guadalajara - Six suburbs in the Mexican city of Guadalajara were carpeted in a thick layer of ice after a heavy hailstorm. The ice was up to 1.5m (5ft) thick in places, half-burying vehicles. Local officials also reported flooding and fallen trees, but no-one is thought to have been hurt. The storm hit very quickly, between about 01:50 (06:50 GMT) and 02:10 local time, when the air temperature dropped suddenly from 22C to 14C. Presentational grey line You may also be interested in: The city had been basking in temperatures of more than 30C. It has been hit by hail storms before, but seldom this heavy. Image copyright AFP Aftermath of freak hailstorm in Mexico's Guadalajara, 1 July 2019 Presentational grey line What causes a hailstorm? Hailstorms form when warm, moist air from the surface rises upwards forming showers and storms. Temperatures higher up, even in summer, can get well below 0C and so ice crystals form along with something called "supercooled water" which then grows into pellets of ice. The authorities say 200 homes have been damaged and dozens of vehicles swept away in the city and surrounding districts. State governor Enrique Alfaro described it as incredible, according to AFP news agency. "Then we ask ourselves if climate change is real. These are never-before-seen natural phenomena," he said. According to BBC Weather, the hail probably melted on contact due to the high temperatures forming a layer of water upon which more hail could land and float. This combination of water and hail likely moved down slope, with obstacles such as buildings blocking the flow and allowing more ice to accumulate on top. The actual hailstones were relatively small, less than 1cm in diameter, and nothing like the golf-ball sized hail seen at times in severe storms in the US.

 Guadalajara Hit By Freak Hail Storm; Cars Buried, Hundreds Of Structures Damaged - (pics) Guadalajara, Mexico was struck by a freak hail storm on Sunday, burying vehicles and trapping residents in ice pellets up to two meters (6.5 ft) deep, according to AFP. "I've never seen such scenes in Guadalajara," said state governor, adding "Then we ask ourselves if climate change is real. These are never-before-seen natural phenomenons." "It's incredible!" Guadalajara, located north of Mexico City and with a population of around five million, has been experiencing summer temperature of around 31 Centigrade (88 Fahrenheit) in recent days. While seasonal hail storms do occur, there is no record of anything so heavy. At least six neighborhoods in the city outskirts woke up to ice pellets up to two meters deep. -AFP As children threw rock-hard ice balls at each other, Mexican Civil Protection personnel and state soldiers cleared the roads using heavy machinery. Approximately 200 hopes and businesses reported hail damage, while around 50 vehicles were swept away in mountainous regions. Some were buried completely under the deluge of pellets. No casualties were reported, however two people exhibited "early signs of hypothermia" according to the Civil Protection office.

Devastating Crop Losses Are Literally Happening All Over The Globe -  If what some experts are telling us is true, a global food crisis appears to be inevitable.  Even during good years we have a really difficult time feeding everyone on the planet, and now a major climate shift appears to be happening.  Our sun has become exceedingly quiet, and many experts believe that this is a sign that a solar minimum is now upon us.  Of course we have seen solar minimums happen quite regularly in the past, and if this is just a normal solar minimum then conditions should begin to return to normal after a couple of years.  Unfortunately, evidence continues to mount that we have entered what is known as a “grand solar minimum”.  In fact, Professor Valentina Zharkova says that what we are facing is a “super grand solar minimum”, and if that is true we are going to be facing climate chaos like we have never seen before.  During previous “grand solar minimums” the globe was gripped by devastating famines and vast numbers of people died.  Could a similar scenario potentially be in our future? Ice Age Farmer has compiled a “Grand Solar Minimum Crop Loss Map” which you can view right here, and I appreciate our friends at ANP for pointing it out to us.  Ice Age Farmer’s map shows that there are literally dozens of locations all over the globe right now that are reporting significant crop losses, and this is really unlike anything we have ever seen before.  Some parts of our planet are dealing with horrific drought, but in the middle of the United States it just won’t stop raining.  In some areas of the world it is too cold, while others are experiencing record heat.  Everywhere we look we see extremes, and the behavior of our sun is the primary reason this is happening.

Alaska's heat wave fuels dangerous smoke, melts glaciers - (Reuters) - Alaska’s heat wave is driving wildfires and melting glaciers, choking the state’s biggest cities with smoke and bloating rivers with meltwater. In Anchorage, home to about 40 percent of Alaskans, the National Weather Service issued a dense smoke advisory on Sunday warning against prolonged outdoor activity, along with advisories for the elderly and the sick to stay indoors. The culprit is the Swan Lake wildfire to the south in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, which has burned since a June 5 lightning strike and consumed more than 68,000 acres, fire managers said. To the north, in Fairbanks, fire officials ordered evacuations in two areas and told residents in a third to be prepared to leave because of the Shovel Creek Fire, which had grown to 5,568 acres by Sunday. “People should GO, evacuate NOW. Leave immediately. DO NOT delay leaving,” the evacuation order said. In all, there were 354 wildfires covering 443,211 acres in Alaska as of Sunday morning, according to state and federal fire managers. Along with the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, which had multiple active fires, iconic spots with fires burning include Denali National Park and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Record warmth and near-record warmth in most of the state has created flammable conditions from the Canadian border in the east to the Bering Sea coast in the west. Anchorage was one of the areas that saw record-breaking heat in June, which followed a record-warm spring for Alaska as a whole.  Melting glaciers and mountain snowfields are bloating rivers and streams across a large swath of south central Alaska, the NWS said.

Alaska’s Warming Waters Spell Trouble for Residents and Wildlife - An unseasonably warm May followed by record-breaking June temperatures melted Alaskan ice far earlier than normal this year, alarming residents and scientists alike, the Associated Press reports. Sea surface temperatures in the Chukchi and North Bering seas are nearly 10 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1981-2010 average, reaching into the lower 60s. The warm ocean temperature has profound effects on the climate system, food web, communities and commerce,   "The northern Bering & southern Chukchi Seas are baking," Thoman wrote in a tweet.  Kotzebue and Norton sounds in northwest Alaska were warmest but the heat extended far out into the ocean. The last five years have produced the warmest sea-surface temperatures on record in the region, contributing to record low sea ice levels.  "The waters are warmer than last year at this time, and that was an extremely warm year," Thoman said, as the Anchorage Daily News reported. The warming temperatures are part of an emerging crisis for communities along the state's western and northern coastlines, Thoman told CNN. Birds and marine animals are showing up dead and sea temperatures are warm enough to support algal blooms, which can make the waters toxic to wildlife. This has dire consequences for towns that depend on fishing for their economy and their sustenance. "Much of what the people eat there over the course of the year comes from food they harvest themselves," "If people can't get out on the ice to hunt seals or whales, that affects their food security. It is a human crisis of survivability." Ice cover around Alaska usually lasts until June. This year, it disappeared in March.

Anchorage, Alaska Hit 90 Degrees for First Time on July 4th  -  Fourth of July fireworks were canceled in Anchorage, Alaska Thursday as America's "coolest city" hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time in recorded history.Alaska has had an unusually warm spring and early summer, The New York Times reported. It experienced its warmest March on record, and this June is likely to be its second-warmest ever. National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Bob Clay told The New York Times that the city could break its 85 degree record and see temperatures into the 90s Friday, Saturday or Sunday. That milestone came earlier than Clay predicted."At 5pm this afternoon, #Anchorage International Airport officially hit 90 degrees for the first time on record," NWS Anchorage tweeted Thursday afternoon. The 90 degree reading came after the record was first broken with a reading of 89 degrees, KTUU reported. High temperatures were also recorded at unofficial gauges in Anchorage on Thursday: Merrill Field recorded 90 degrees and the Campbell Creek Science Center reached 91 degrees. The heat caused the city to cancel its fireworks display out of concerns it would spark wildfires. Fires have burned around 650,000 acres in the state so far this year, which equals the amount of land usually burned in an entire season, The New York Times reported.

This was the hottest June in history, and summer is just getting started  --If sometime during the past month you wiped sweat from your brow and thought, “Damn, it’s hot!” then congrats, your body knows what’s up. This past month was the hottest June ever recorded on planet Earth, according to the European Union’s Earth observation program, which announced the new record on Tuesday.The unprecedented heat brought death, destruction, and misery to huge swaths of the planet. By the middle of June, more than 35 people had died as temperatures soared past 120 degrees Fahrenheit in India. France set a new national temperature record: 115 degrees. Multiple wildfires broke out in Spain, one of them, a 10,000-acre blaze, might have started when heat caused a pile of manure to burst into flames. One European heat map turned such a violent shade of red it looked like an open-mouthed skull in mid-scream (you have to see it to believe it). And, get this: Summer is just getting started.In Europe, June temperatures were 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal, according to the European program called Copernicus. Globally, temperatures were about a fifth of a degree higher than normal for the month, beating out the record set in 2016. Here’s another worrisome finding from the report : If you compare the last several days of June to the average for the same several days between 1981 to 2010, temperatures this year were around 10 to 18 degrees F higher than normal over much of Western Europe — France, Germany, northern Spain, northern Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic.

PG&E Update: Utility Blamed For More Fires -- PG&G is being blamed for another round of small fires that occurred this month in California. The utility’s powerlines are being blamed for the fire that burned more than 2,000 acres in Monterey County, California, as well as two other small fires in the state. A PG&E transformer reportedly went up in flames in Marin County, California, igniting a brush fire, earlier in June. Yet, another fire was allegedly caused by PG&E wires as it burned a house and an acre of land. While the three fires were smaller in magnitude than the California wildfires that PG&E has admitted liability for, they point to the company’s need for a more aggressive safety plan. The hot and dry weather in California may have made the fires unavoidable, but PG&E has already warned that it is behind in its safety work, Yahoo News reported.

California hit by biggest earthquake in 20 years - Southern California has been struck by its strongest earthquake in two decades, causing damage and fires. The epicentre of the tremor, which had a 6.4 magnitude, was near the city of Ridgecrest, about 150 miles (240 km) northeast of Los Angeles. Firefighters said they were providing medical assistance and dealing with fires in and around the city. People from the Mojave Desert to the Pacific coast reported feeling the quake, which hit on Independence Day. There was significant damage in the town of Ridgecrest, south west of the epicentre, Professor John Rundle, a local geophysicist, told the BBC. He added that it was fortunate the had quake happened far away from major population centres. The Ridgecrest Regional Hospital has been evacuated, the Kern County Fire Department tweeted. The service is currently working on nearly two dozen incidents ranging from medical assistance for minor injuries to fires. Brad Alexander, a spokesman for California Governor's Office of Emergency Services, said that fire engines and search and rescue teams were going to assist in the Ridgecrest area, where he believed there were a number of buildings on fire. "This may not be over. There could be more earthquakes happening in the area and anyone listening that's in that region should be prepared to drop cover and hold on," he warned. The city's mayor, Peggy Breeden, told CNN that a state of emergency has also been declared in the city. Ms Breeden said that some people had been struck by objects falling from buildings and gas lines had been broken. "We are used to earthquakes but we're not used to this significance," she said.

California earthquake: Map shows high number of aftershocks - The strongest earthquake to hit Southern California in nearly 20 years prompted one city to declare a state of emergency Thursday, and shook residents from Las Vegas to Orange County. The quake, with a magnitude of 6.4, was centered near Ridgecrest, a high-desert community about 150 miles north of Los Angeles. At least 159 aftershocks of magnitude 2.5 or greater were recorded after the earthquake, according to USGS Seismologist Robert Graves. It is a higher than normal number, but not unprecedented, he said. The largest of them were magnitude 4.6. Noted seismologist Lucy Jones called it a “robust” series and said there is a 50 percent chance of another large quake in the next week. Jones said there is a 1 in 20 chance that a bigger earthquake will hit within the next few days. “It’s certain that this area is going to be shaking a lot today, and some of those aftershocks will probably exceed magnitude 5.” Jones said the quake, named the Searles Valley Quake, was preceded by a magnitude 4.2 foreshock. Ridgecrest has announced a state of emergency, Mayor Peggy Breeden said. As the mayor spoke to CNN earlier in the day, an aftershock interrupted the interview. “As I understand, we have five fires,” the mayor said. “We have broken gas lines.” Footage from Ridgecrest showed firefighters hosing down flames rising from homes. There were also power outages in the city of 28,000 residents. The forecasted high temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the National Weather Service said. 

Another, Even Bigger, Quake Just Hit Southern California, Gas Leaks/Fires Reported -- As we detailed earlier, the strongest earthquake to hit southern California in nearly 2 decades has also resulted in an unusual number of aftershocks, seismologists are saying. The quake has already prompted one city to declare a state of emergency Thursday and affected residents from Las Vegas to Orange County, according to the Mercury News.  The quake registered a 6.4 on the Richter scale and was centered about 150 miles north of Los Angeles. An astounding 159 aftershocks of magnitude 2.5 or greater have been recorded already. This is a higher than normal, with the largest aftershocks registering at 4.6.  Seismologist Lucy Jones called it a "robust" series of aftershocks and says there’s a 50% chance of another large quake in the next week. She also said there is a 1 in 20 chance that a bigger earthquake will hit within the next few days.  She commented that earthquakes actually increase the risk of future quakes. Update: Less than 12 hours after seisomologist Lucy Jones warned of another large quake, a massive 7.1 quake just hit 17km NNE of Ridgecrest.  This continues the swarm of aftershocks that has hit all day... (Seismologists at Cal Tech said Friday afternoon that there had been around 1,400 aftershocks since Thursday’s 6.4-magnitude quake, with 17 of those with a magnitude of 4 or above.) The quake hit at 2319ET less than 24 hours after the largest quake (6.4) in over 20 years struck the same region. The news and accompanying video started to surface on Twitter at around 11:30pm EST on Friday night. The Dodgers even played their baseball game through the quake:  One person on social media reported feeling dizzy and his dog threw up. Chandeliers and hanging plants swayed. Pools sloshed. Electrical wires rocked. Even Northern California residents noted their pools making waves and Vegas residents felt the shake. NBC LA reports gas leaks and fires have been reported. The San Bernardino County Fire District tweeted that calls were coming in from northwestern communities and that people were reporting "homes shifted, foundation cracks, retaining walls down."

‘It’s getting warmer, wetter, wilder’: the Arctic town heating faster than anywhere - People settle in the world’s northernmost town, Longyearbyen, for many reasons. But there is also, in many cases, a pioneering urge. This has always been the case in this group of Arctic islands, lodged halfway between the north pole and mainland Norway. Historically, the first residents were whalers, who arrived 400 years ago and helped to hunt the bowhead close to extinction. Then came coal miners, who dug pits, fed furnaces and shipped fuel across oceans. More recently came high-end tourism workers catering for “last chance to see” cruises through the disappearing Arctic ice. Now, a growing body of academics and diplomats are here to examine how Svalbard and its people adapt to living on the frontier of climate breakdown. Nowhere on the planet is heating faster. This was the message of a report commissioned by the Norwegian Environment Agency, unveiled in February to a stunned audience in Longyearbyen, the archipelago’s de facto capital. People knew things were bad, but it was only when they heard the forecast that they realised how bad. A local reporter described how people at the meeting fell silent when they heard the statistics, which sounded like the “gloomy horror scenario of a bad thriller”. Since 1971, temperatures here have risen by 4C, five times faster than the global average. In the winter, when the changes are more marked, it has gone up by an astonishing 7C. These are increases that the rest of the world is not expected to experience until the 22nd century. They are far ahead of most computer simulations. Yet there is still more to come. On current trends, Svalbard will hit 10C of warming by 2100.

‘Precipitous’ fall in Antarctic sea ice since 2014 revealed - The vast expanse of sea ice around Antarctica has suffered a “precipitous” fall since 2014, satellite data shows, and fell at a faster rate than seen in the Arctic.The plunge in the average annual extent means Antarctica lost as much sea ice in four years as the Arctic lost in 34 years. The cause of the sharp Antarctic losses is as yet unknown and only time will tell whether the ice recovers or continues to decline. But researchers said it showed ice could disappear much more rapidly than previously thought. Unlike the melting of ice sheets on land, sea ice melting does not raise sea level. But losing bright white sea ice means the sun’s heat is instead absorbed by dark ocean waters, leading to a vicious circle of heating. Sea ice spreads over enormous areas and has major impacts on the global climate system, with losses in the Arctic strongly linked to extreme weather at lower latitudes, such as heatwaves in Europe. The loss of sea ice in the Arctic clearly tracks the rise in global air temperatures resulting from human-caused global heating, but the two poles are very different. The Arctic is an ocean surrounded by continents and is exposed to warming air, while Antarctica is a freezing continent surrounded by oceans and is protected from warming air by a circle of strong winds.Antarctic sea ice had been slowly increasing during the 40 years of measurements and reached a record maximum in 2014. But since then sea ice extent has nosedived, reaching a record low in 2017.“There has been a huge decrease,” said Claire Parkinson, at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in the US. In her study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, she called the decline precipitous and a dramatic reversal. “We don’t know if that decrease is going to continue,” she said. “But it raises the question of why [has it happened], and are we going to see some huge acceleration in the rate of decrease in the Arctic? Only the continued record will let us know.”

June 2019, one hell of a month -- Arctic Sea Ice by Neven - I'm going to be talking about melting momentum (for those not familiar with the concept, here's the archive). But I want to start off with something else.    Every melting season, the entire North American coast clears of ice at some point, making it possible to sail from Bering Strait to M'Clure Strait (western exit/entrance of the Northwest Passage central route). Back in 2016, there was a chance of this happening record early, but it didn't pan out. This year it did, four weeks earlier than any other year in the Concentration Maps section of the ASIG. The event was reported by Rick Thoman (ACCAP) and Lars Kaleschke (University of Hamburg), both providing some great graphs and animations (see here). But just one event does not a record melting season make. What does make a melting season, is melting momentum. Here follows a barrage of maps and graphs, with short commentary, to give you an idea of how the 2019 melting season stacks up so far (click on the images for larger versions).We'll have a quick look at May first. May was quite sunny, but at this time of year, clear skies don't contribute as much to melting momentum as one would think. (even if May 2019 was warmest/non-coldest on record for Arctic SAT). In fact, it's cloudy, moist conditions that affect the ice first through melt onset, causing the snow layer on the ice to melt. This then refreezes, but is easier to melt later on, creating the first melt ponds.The image below shows melt pond fraction for May 2012, 2017, 2018 and this year. One can clearly see that this last May was similar to the previous two years, whereas 2012 already had some melt ponding going on. As always, the big question was whether 2019 would be able to catch up with years like 2007, 2011 and 2012 during this crucial month. This is entirely determined by weather patterns, and so below is a comparison for June, showing surface air temperature (SAT) anomaly and mean sea level pressure (SLP) maps from the NOAA ESRL Daily Mean Composites website (2019 runs up to June 27): When it comes to air temperatures, 2019 is blowing all the other years out of the water. That relentless heat dome over the Siberian side of the Arctic has simply been merciless, and I would be mightily surprised if June 2019 doesn't turn out to be the warmest on record as well (after May). As for SLP, the other years may show more of a classic Arctic dipole (high pressure over the American side of the Arctic, low pressure over Siberia), but 2019's high pressure area is vast, and coupled with relatively low pressure over the Kara Sea, there's a steep pressure gradient, causing strong winds that a) pull all that warm air over the ice, and b) push the ice towards the North Pole, leaving open water in its wake.

The Poisons Released by Melting Arctic Ice - The organic-rich permafrost holds an estimated 1,500 billion tonnes of carbon. “That’s about twice as much carbon in the atmosphere, and three times as much carbon than that stored in all the world’s forests”, says Natali. She explains that between 30% and 70% of the permafrost may melt before 2100, depending on how effectively we respond to climate change. “The 70% is business as usual, if we continue to burn fossil fuels at our current rate, and 30% is if we vastly reduce our fossil fuel emissions… Of the 30-70% that thaws, the carbon locked up in organic matter will begin to be broken down by microbes, they use it as fuel or energy, and they release it as CO2 or methane.” The Northern Hemisphere winter of 2018/2019 was dominated by headlines of the “polar vortex”, as temperatures plummeted unusually far south into North America.  What such stories masked, however, was that the opposite was happening in the far North, beyond the Arctic circle. In November, when temperatures should have been -25C, a temperature of 1.2C above freezing was recorded at the North Pole. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world (in part due to the loss of solar reflectivity). But methane and CO2 are not the only things being released from the once frozen ground. In the summer of 2016, a group of nomadic reindeer herders began falling sick from a mysterious illness. Rumours began circling of the “Siberian plague”, last seen in the region in 1941. When a young boy and 2,500 reindeer died, the disease was identified: anthrax. Its origin was a defrosting reindeer carcass, a victim of an anthrax outbreak 75 years previously. The 2018 Arctic report card speculates that, “diseases like the Spanish flu, smallpox or the plague that have been wiped out might be frozen in the permafrost.” A French study in 2014 took a 30,000 year-old virus frozen within permafrost, and warmed it back up in the lab. It promptly came back to life, 300 centuries later. (To read more, see BBC Earth’s piece on the diseases hidden in ice.) Adding to this apocalyptic vision, in 2016 the Doomsday Vault – a sub-permafrost facility in Arctic Norway, which safeguards millions of crop seeds for perpetuity – was breached with meltwater. And listed amongst the membership of The Global Terrestrial Network for Permafrost, is Swedish Nuclear Waste Management who presumably also rely on a permanently frozen permafrost (when BBC Future approached them for comment on this point, they did not respond).

Antarctica Lost Sea Ice 4x the Size of France in 3 Years - A swath of Antarctica's sea ice larger than four times the size of France has melted since 2014, AFP reported Tuesday. The rapid decline, revealed in a study of satellite data published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, marks a stunning reversal for the South Pole: Between 1979 and 2014, its sea ice was actually expanding. Then, it lost 2.1 million square kilometers (approximately 810,815 square miles) in three years, falling from 12.8 million square kilometers (approximately 4.9 million square miles) to 10.7 million square kilometers (approximately 4.1 million square miles)."It went from its 40-year high in 2014, all the way down in 2017 to its 40-year low," study author and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center climatologist Claire Parkinson told AFP.That also means that Antarctica rapidly caught up with the fast-melting Arctic. In four years, it lost as much sea ice as the Arctic lost in 34, The Guardian reported. Scientists are still uncertain if the melting trend will continue or reverse again, and whether the climate crisis is to blame. Parkinson told New Scientist that there was a similar rapid melt period in the 1970s followed by an expansion of ice, and the ice did begin to increase again between 2017 and 2018 before dipping to a new low record low for this time of year.

Climate change could put these colleges underwater--why they're staying put  - The leaders of Texas A&M University's seaside Galveston campus had a choice to make. It was 2008, and Hurricane Ike had just devastated the Gulf Coast, forcing the university to move its students 145 miles inland to College Station for a semester. Should the school retreat inland and close down its former campus? Or would it build more structures and place an emphasis on coastal resiliency?“Of course, it’s Texas A&M, and they said, 'Let’s double down,' " said Sam Brody, a professor at the university and the director of the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores. Now, the university is committed to a future in Galveston – despite models that say 90% of the city’s inhabitable land could be underwater in 80 years.  Texas A&M in Galveston’s decision mirrors the situation that many colleges in high-risk coastal areas are grappling with.  A 2018 study from the Union of Concerned Scientists, a climate watchdog group, detailed the danger that cities face due to chronic flooding. As Earth's temperatures increase and ice melts, rising sea levelscould leave major portions of U.S. cities underwater in a matter of decades.  But in colleges located in these threatened seaside regions, from Texas to Florida to New Jersey, administrators and scientists say they have no plans to move. Instead, they are raising buildings and constructing protective barriers in hopes of making their campuses safe for the foreseeable future. “A lot of people have this perception that because sea-level rise is happening so slowly, it really won’t be a problem until later in the century,” said Kristina Dahl, a climate scientist and the lead analyst behind the UCS study. “But for many places, especially on the East and Gulf Coast, they could see significant impacts in just the next 30 years or so.”

Airplane Contrails' Climate Impact to Triple by 2050, Study Says - Those thin white clouds that jet engines draw across the sky are leaving their mark on the climate. A new study warns that the global heat-trapping effect of contrail clouds will triple by 2050 unless airlines and airplane builders dramatically reduce emissions or air traffic patterns change. Air travel is growing so fast that current efforts to curb the climate-harming effects of airplane pollution won't be able to keep up with the expected increase in the formation of heat-trapping clouds, scientists wrote in a study published Thursday in the European Geosciences Union (EGU) journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics."Given the increasing rate of air traffic we see now, there's not much we can do to keep the climate impact constant," said Ulrike Burkhardt, a co-author of the study and a climate researcher at DLR, the German Aerospace Center. Air travel affects the climate in two distinct ways: through the greenhouse gases released as airplanes burn fuel, and through the heat-trapping effect of the condensation that forms as hot gases and soot from partially burned jet fuel activate water particles that then freeze and form contrails. Those clouds can persist for more than half a day, and under certain atmospheric conditions, they can merge and spread across thousands of square miles, expanding the heat-trapping effect across wide areas. "Usually people say clouds are cooling the surface. For lower clouds that's true. They reflect sunlight. But high clouds that are optically thin are most likely to warm the atmosphere," Burkhardt said. The prevalence of tiny ice crystals intensifies the heat-trapping effect. In the short term, the climate impact of the clouds formed by jet exhaust is greater than the warming effect of aviation's greenhouse gas emissions.

Committed emissions from existing energy infrastructure jeopardize 1.5 °C climate target - Nature. Abstract: Net anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions must approach zero by mid-century (2050) to stabilize global mean temperature at the levels targeted by international efforts1–5. Yet continued expansion of fossil-fuel energy infrastructure implies already ‘committed’ future CO2emissions6–13. Here we use detailed datasets of current fossil-fuel-burning energy infrastructure in 2018 to estimate regional and sectoral patterns of ‘committed’ CO2 emissions, the sensitivity of such emissions to assumed operating lifetimes and schedules, and the economic value of associated infrastructure. We estimate that, if operated as historically, existing infrastructure will emit about 658 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 (ranging from 226 to 1,479 Gt CO2 depending on assumed lifetimes and utilization rates). More than half of these emissions are projected to come from the electricity sector, and infrastructure in China, the USA and the EU28 countries represent approximately 41 per cent, 9 per cent and 7 per cent of the total, respectively. If built, proposed power plants (planned, permitted or under construction) would emit approximately an additional 188 (range 37–427) Gt CO2. Committed emissions from existing and proposed energy infrastructure (about 846 Gt CO2) thus represent more than the entire remaining carbon budget if mean warming is to be limited to 1.5 °C with a probability of 50–66 per cent (420–580 Gt CO2)5, and perhaps two-thirds of the remaining carbon budget if mean warming is to be limited to below 2 °C (1,170–1,500 Gt CO2)5. The remaining carbon budget estimates are varied and nuanced14,15, depending on the climate target and the availability of large-scale negative emissions16. Nevertheless, our emission estimates suggest that little or no additional CO2-emitting infrastructure can be commissioned, and that infrastructure retirements that are earlier than historical ones (or retrofits with carbon capture and storage technology) may be necessary, in order to meet the Paris Agreement climate goals17. On the basis of the asset value per ton of committed emissions, we estimate that the most cost-effective premature infrastructure retirements will be in the electricity and industry sectors, if non-emitting alternative technologies are available and affordable4,18.

Existing fossil fuel plants will push the world across a dangerous climate limit, research finds -  A new study finds we’ve already installed enough fossil fuel infrastructure to commit to more than 1.5 degrees Celsius of planetary warming, even without new planned installations. The world’s existing power plants, industrial plants, buildings and cars are already numerous enough — and young enough — to commit the Earth to an unacceptable level of warming, according to new research published Monday. This fossil fuel infrastructure merely needs to continue operating over the course of its expected lifetime, and the world will emit over 650 billion tons of carbon dioxide, more than enough to dash chances of limiting the Earth’s warming to a rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius (or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s a level of warming that has become increasingly accepted as a scientific line-in-the-sand. And it gets worse: Proposals and plans are currently afoot for additional coal plants and other infrastructure that would add another nearly 200 billion tons of emissions to that total. Some of these are now actually under construction. In other words, human societies would need not only to cancel all such pending projects but also timeout existing projects early, in order to bring emissions down adequately. “1.5°C carbon budgets allow for no new emitting infrastructure and require substantial changes to the lifetime or operation of already existing energy infrastructure,” concludes the study in Nature. The globe currently emits more than 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually from fossil fuel burning and cement manufacturing, based on 2017 figures from the Global Carbon Project. An additional roughly 5 billion tons are contributed through land use changes, most prominently deforestation. Thus, in total, humanity is currently causing over 41 billion tons of carbon dioxide to enter the atmosphere each year.The most recent estimate of the so-called carbon budget is that since the beginning of 2018, we can only emit between 420 and 580 billion tons at most if we want to ensure a 50 to 66 percent chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That amounts to between 10 and 14 years at current emissions, with one year, 2018, already used up and another, 2019, halfway gone.

The mythical economic data on climate change (1): Nordhaus’s 1994 survey of “experts”  - Steve Keen -  As part of my critique of mainstream economics work on climate change, I'm going through each of the 14 data points that Nordhaus used to fit his damage function to "data" in the manual to his DICE program {Nordhaus, 2013 #5673}. These came from a survey paper by Tol in 2009: "The Economic Effects of Climate Change" {Tol, 2009 #5683}. Nordhaus later revised his function, given errors he belatedly spotted in Tol's table {Nordhaus, 2017 #5584}, but there were many errors he didn't see that I'll cover first before turning to his 2017 paper. The paper in question here is:  Nordhaus, W. (1994). "Expert Opinion on Climate Change." American Scientist 82(1): pp. 45–51.For context, Figure 1 shows Tol's table, highlighting the numbers he gave for this paper (which are erroneous), while Figure 2 shows all the numbers Nordhaus used, with this pair—a 3 Kelvin (K) increase in temperature, and a 4.8% fall in GDP)—highlighted. Figure 1: Tol's summary table of damage estimates, with Nordhaus 1994b highlighted.  As it stands, this is the most extreme prediction given for the damages to GDP from climate change—though because of errors in Tol's table and the errors in Nordhaus's methodology, it is both too high, and not high enough.

G20 summit: World leaders agree on climate deal - World leaders attending the 2019 G20 summit in the Japanese city of Osaka on Saturday agreed to a climate change deal similar to that signed in Argentina last year. Speaking at the conclusion of the summit, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the leaders had found common ground on climate change despite "big differences" in the members' views. "We will have a similar text to Argentina. A 19+1 declaration," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters on the sidelines of the G20 meeting. As at the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, the new declaration states that the US reiterated its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement "because it disadvantages American workers and taxpayers." The document said the signatories to the Paris Agreement reaffirmed their commitment to its full implementation. To help achieve climate change prevention, the G20 nations "will look into a wide range of clean technologies and approaches, including smart cities, ecosystem and community based approaches, nature based solutions and traditional and indigenous knowledge," the final document read. Merkel praised the agreement, telling reporters in Japan that "this process cannot be turned around." Merkel added that some leaders present in Osaka had already indicated they were willing to increase their commitments to curb greenhouse gases by aiming for "net zero" emissions by 2050. "In our view, climate change will determine the destiny of mankind, so it is imperative that our generation makes the right choices," said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a news conference with his French counterpart and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres following the climate change talks.

U.S. remains outlier as G20 split over tackling climate change - (Reuters) - After much wrangling, the Group of 20 major economies on Saturday agreed to disagree on fighting climate change, with the United States dissenting from a commitment to carry out the 2015 Paris climate change agreement.  In a communique at the end of a two-day summit in Japan’s western city of Osaka, the grouping said “signatories to the Paris Agreement” reaffirmed their commitment to its full implementation, referring to the 19 members aside from the U.S. The United States withdrew from the Paris pact because it “disadvantages American workers and taxpayers,” the grouping added in a subsequent section, adopting a two-part approach used at last year’s summit in Buenos Aires. The division reflects tussles over global warming that have repeatedly stymied international forums since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the landmark accord to limit the effects of climate change. Even before the summit started, the differences over climate change became apparent when President Emmanuel Macron said France would not accept a final text that omitted the Paris pact. In that accord, 200 nations agreed to limit the global average rise from pre-industrial temperatures to below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F). Current policies put the world on track for a rise of at least 3 degrees C by the end of the century, the United Nations said in a 2016 report, however.

Four countries have declared climate emergencies. But give billions to fossil fuels - The UK, Ireland, Canada and France have all declared climate emergencies. But between them they give billions of dollars to support the fossil fuel industry at home and abroad. Fossil fuel subsidies can come in the form of tax breaks, financial incentives and support for companies exporting abroad. The UK, which was the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency following declarations by Scotland and Wales, spent an annual average of $11 billion in fossil fuel subsidies between 2015 and 2016, according to data from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). The same data shows that France, which enshrined the climate and ecological emergency as part of draft legislation that could see the country agree to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, spent an average $8.02 billion a year in fossil fuels subsidies during the same period. For Canada, that figure was $7.73 billion. The government of Justin Trudeau has been accused of sending out mixed signals after approving a pipeline expansion on the day after declaring a national climate emergency. This data is the latest update from ODI, there is no indication they have been significantly curtailed in the years since. That is despite the UK, France and Canada having pledged to phase-out fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 as part of commitments made under the G7 in 2016. Governments of the G20 have also agreed to end fossil fuel subsidies a decade ago but no phase-out timeline has yet been agreed.

G20 countries triple coal power subsidies despite climate crisis - G20 countries have almost tripled the subsidies they give to coal-fired power plants in recent years, despite the urgent need to cut the carbon emissions driving the climate crisis. The bloc of major economies pledged a decade ago to phase out all fossil fuel subsidies. The figures, published in a report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and others, show that Japan is one of the biggest financial supporters of coal, despite the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, having said in September: “Climate change can be life-threatening to all generations … We must take more robust actions and reduce the use of fossil fuels.” The annual G20 meeting begins in Japan on Friday. China and India give the biggest subsidies to coal, with Japan third, followed by South Africa, South Korea, Indonesia and the US. While the UK frequently runs its own electricity grid without any coal power at all, a parliamentary report in June criticised the billions of pounds used to help to build fossil fuel power plants overseas. Global emissions must fall by half in the next decade to avoid significantly worsening drought, floods, extreme heatwave and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. But emissions are still increasing, with coal-fired power the biggest single contributor to the rise in 2018. “It has now been 10 years since the G20 committed to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies, yet astonishingly some governments are actually increasing the amount they give to coal power plants,” 

Planting Billions of Trees Is the 'Best Climate Change Solution Available Today,' Study Finds - Planting more than 500 billion trees could remove around 25 percent of existing carbon from the atmosphere, a new study has found. What's more: there's enough space to do it.The study, published in Science Friday, set out to assess how much new forest the earth could support without encroaching on farmland or urban areas and came up with a figure of 0.9 billion hectares, an area roughly the size of the U.S., BBC News reported. That makes reforestation "the most effective solution" for mitigating the climate crisis, the researchers concluded."Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today and it provides hard evidence to justify investment," senior study author and ETH-Zürich Professor Tom Crowther said, as BBC News reported. "If we act now, this could cut carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by up to 25 percent, to levels last seen almost a century ago."The new trees would remove around 200 gigatonnes of carbon, or two thirds of what humans have pumped into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.

Adding 1 billion hectares of forest could help check global warming - Global temperatures could rise 1.5° C above industrial levels by as early as 2030 if current trends continue, but trees could help stem this climate crisis. A new analysis finds that adding nearly 1 billion additional hectares of forest could remove two-thirds of the roughly 300 gigatons of carbon humans have added to the atmosphere since the 1800s.  “Forests represent one of our biggest natural allies against climate change,” says Laura Duncanson, a carbon storage researcher at the University of Maryland in College Park and NASA who was not involved in the research. Still, she cautions, “this is an admittedly simplified analysis of the carbon restored forests might capture, and we shouldn’t take it as gospel.”  The latest report from the United Nations’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changerecommended adding 1 billion hectares of forests to help limit global warming to 1.5° C by 2050. Ecologists Jean-Francois Bastin and Tom Crowther of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and their co-authors wanted to figure out whether today’s Earth could support that many extra trees, and where they might all go.   They analyzed nearly 80,000 satellite photographs for current forest coverage. The team then categorized the planet according to 10 soil and climate characteristics. This identified areas that were more or less suitable for different types of forest. After subtracting existing forests and areas dominated by agriculture or cities, they calculated how much of the planet could sprout trees.  Earth could naturally support 0.9 billion hectares of additional forest—an area the size of the United States—without impinging on existing urban or agricultural lands, the researchers report today in Science. Those added trees could sequester 205 gigatons of carbon in the coming decades, roughly five times the amount emitted globally in 2018.

India plants 66 million trees in 12 hours as part of record-breaking environmental campaign - Volunteers in India planted more than 66 million trees in just 12 hours in a record-breaking environmental drive.About 1.5 million people were involved in the huge plantation campaign, in which saplings were placed along the Narmada river in the state of Madhya Pradesh throughout Sunday. India committed under the Paris Agreement to increasing its forests by five million hectares before 2030 to combat climate change. Last year volunteers in Uttar Pradesh state set a world record by planting more than 50 million trees in one day.  Observers from Guinness World Records also monitored Sunday’s plantation and are expected to confirm in the coming weeks that the effort set a new high.  The campaign was organised by the Madhya Pradesh government, with 24 distracts of the Narmada river basin chosen as planting sites to increase the saplings’ chances of survival. Volunteers planted more than 20 different species of trees. Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the state’s chief minister, described the efforts as a “historic day”.  He said volunteers including children and the elderly had planted 66.3 million saplings between 7am and 7pm, adding in a tweet: “By planting trees we are not only serving Madhya Pradesh but the world at large.”

Amazon destruction accelerates 60% to one and a half soccer fields every minute - Amazon deforestation accelerated more than 60% in June over the same period last year, in what environmentalists say is a sign that the policies of President Jair Bolsonaro are starting to take effect. The rate of rainforest destruction had been stable during the first few months of Bolsonaro's presidency but began to soar in May and June, according to Brazil's National Institute of Space Research (INPE), a government agency whose satellites also monitor the Amazon. 769.1 square kilometres were lost last month - a stark increase from the 488.4 sq km lost in June 2018,INPE's data showed. That equates to an area of rainforest larger than one and a half soccer fields being destroyed every minute of every day. More than two-thirds of the Amazon are located in Brazil and environmental groups blame far-right leader Bolsonaro and his government for the increase, saying he has relaxed controls on deforestation in the country."   Over the past six months, Bolsonaro and his environment minister have been devoting themselves to the dismantling of the Brazilian environmental governance and neutralizing regulatory bodies", Carlos Rittl, executive secretary of the environment NGO network Observatorio do Clima (Climate Observatory) told CNN.Greenpeace called Bolsonaro and his government a "threat to the climate equilibrium" and warned that in the long run, his policies would bear a "heavy cost" for the Brazilian economy. "Bolsonaro already accounts for gigantic setbacks for the environment and for Brazil's image", Márcio Astrini, a spokesman for Greenpeace in Brazil said in a statement on Friday. CNN asked the Brazilian Environment Ministry for comment on the recent numbers but has not received a response.

The hard truth about being a 21st century tree in California - The number, so far, is over 147 million dead. California's expansive forests have experienced a profound tree die-off since 2010, exacerbated by a long drought between 2012 and 2015. These pine trees are tough, though, and have evolved to withstand parched years in the drought-prone Golden State. But not drought like this, which was amplified by the planet's relentless, accelerating warming. "The rules are changing," said Nathan Stephenson, a U.S. Geological Survey forest ecologist who monitors trees in California's Sierra Nevada mountain range."It wasn't just dry — it was warmer," added Craig Allen, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.New research, published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, illustrates how trees in the state's sprawling Sierra Nevada mountains hung on to life before succumbing to drought. The great forest die-off is tied to a drying up of the deep, deep soil, up to some 50 feet below ground. California trees withstood a lack of rain for two to three years by drawing on this deep-seated water. But, unfortunately for many trees, those last reserves were eventually exhausted, too. "It was only after this moisture was depleted that the forest became extremely stressed and ultimately began to die off," said Mike Goulden, a lead author of the study who researches terrestrial ecosystems at the University of California,  Irvine.

U.N. Report: ‘Human Rights Might Not Survive’ Climate Crisis - A United Nations watchdog on poverty and human rights is the latest to call attention to the looming threat of a “climate apartheid.” In a report presented to the Human Rights Council on Friday, U.N. special rapporteur Philip Alston writes that climate change is an “unconscionable assault on the poor.”He cites a World Bank estimate that climate change could push at least 120 million more people into poverty globally by 2030 unless immediate action is taken. This is backed up by a study from Stanford University published earlier this year, which found that the disparity in per capita income between the richest and poorest nations is roughly 25 percent larger now than it would be if human-caused climate change weren’t at play.“We risk a ‘climate apartheid’ scenario where the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger, and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer,” Alston said in a statement. Global warming tends to exacerbate economic and racial inequities — an effect that’s been described as a new form of ‘apartheid’ by the likes of Desmond Tutu, the South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate, for the past decade.The recent U.N. report adds that global warming will have far-reaching effects on just about any humanitarian issue — housing, migration, and more. “Human rights might not survive the coming upheaval,” the report concludes. The U.N. Human Rights council appoints dozens of special rapporteurs to serve as independent watchdogs. They investigate human rights abuses and report back to the council on specific issues. Alston is one of several special rapporteurs who have focused on climate change in recent years.

Greta Thunberg thanks oil cartel OPEC for climate change criticism -- Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg has welcomed criticism fromOPEC’s secretary general, describing it as the “biggest compliment yet” to a growing movement of young protesters demanding action over climate change.“Thank you!” Thunberg said Thursday in response to thinly-veiled criticism from a prominent fossil fuel leader.“Our biggest compliment yet!”Thunberg was catapulted to fame for skipping school every Friday to hold a weekly vigil outside Swedish parliament last year.Protesting against political inaction over climate change, the 16-year-old sparked an international wave of school strikes — also known as “Fridays for Future” — with millions of other children following suit in cities around the world.Earlier this week, energy ministers from the world’s most powerful oil-producing nations met in Austria to thrash out a deal restricting the amount of crude flowing into the global market.Speaking in Vienna shortly after a meeting of the oil producers’ club and its allied partners on Tuesday, OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo reportedly said that “unscientific” attacks by climate activists were “perhaps the greatest threat to our industry going forward.” Barkindo told AFP that as extreme weather events linked to climate change became more common, there seemed to be a “growing mass mobilization of world opinion … against oil.”

 Police Tear-Gas Climate Activists in Paris on 'Hottest Day in History of France' - French riot police tear-gassed climate protesters in Paris on Friday as the county sweltered under record heat.Activists with Extinction Rebellion (XR) were occupying a bridge over the Seine to demand the French government declare a climate emergency and take necessary action to avert planetary catastrophe."We need to civilly disrupt because, otherwise, nothing is going to be done," a British woman who took part in the protest told Euronews.  Video shows the police teargassing the protesters at a close range and then forcibly trying to remove them from the scene.350 Europe described the display of police violence as "shocking." Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teen who ignited the School Strike for Climate movement, said on social media: "Watch this video and ask yourself; who is defending who?"The action also drew praise from the U.S.-based Sunrise Movement, who gave props to the protesters for "putting their bodies on the line for climate justice."The XR action took place as temperatures hovered in near 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32° C) in Paris — far cooler than in some other parts of the country.The French meteorological agency said that temperatures topped 45° C (113° F) for the first time on the books, with the threshold being passed in three cities. The steamiest reading was in Gallargues-le-Montueux, where it hit 45.9 °C (114.6° F) in the late afternoon.

Paris police use pepper spray against seated climate change protesters - (video) In the latest act of police violence in France, dozens of riot officers surrounded a group of peaceful climate change protesters sitting on and blocking a road in Paris on Friday, dousing them in pepper spray and assaulting them. The police attack occurred on the Pont Sully, which crosses the Seine River. A group of around 50 protesters were sitting on the bridge and blocking traffic. As the police began dousing them in pepper spray, they raised their hands above their heads and shouted “nonviolent.” The police then charged the group with shields raised and began dragging them away. Videos of the event show the police using pepper spray against those who come to pour water on protesters who have already been sprayed. Paris police pepper spraying peaceful protesters. Begins at 7:53.  For the next 10 minutes, the police stroll around the group, spraying into their faces from 20 centimeters away and ripping protective goggles off them, as dozens of onlookers stand and film with their phones.The scene in Paris, videos of which have been shared thousands of times and triggered an outcry on social media, recalls the police’s pepper spraying of University of California Davis students protesting social inequality and tuition fee increases in November 2011. It occurs amid the Macron administration’s massive mobilization of riot police over the past six months to violently repress “yellow vest” protesters opposing social inequality, austerity and the slashing of taxes for the super-rich.

‘Madrid Central’ protest: Thousands oppose suspension of anti-pollution plan - Thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Madrid on Saturday to oppose the newly elected conservative mayor's decision to reverse car pollution restrictions. The People's Party-run city hall has provoked an outcry by suspending a ban on most petrol and diesel cars in Madrid's centre. The policy aimed to ensure the city complied with the EU's clean air rules. But PP mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida, who took office on 15 June, has shelved the scheme, introduced last November by Madrid's former left-wing mayor. The new mayor has been backed by other parties, including centrist Ciudadanos and the far-right VOX. They oppose the plan, known as "Madrid Central". In heatwave conditions, demonstrators thronged the streets of the Spanish capital on Saturday, calling on the mayor to reinstate the ban.

China launches its longest extra-high voltage power line -Xinhua (Reuters) - China’s has launched its longest extra-high voltage (EHV) power transmission line, connecting the far western region of Xinjiang and the eastern province of Anhui, state-backed Xinhua News reported on Tuesday. The project aims to help meet increasing power demand in industrialised eastern regions and reduce the amount of wasted electricity in the west. As part of Beijing’s anti-pollution campaign, new coal-fired power utilities have been banned in the smog-prone east of the country. The 3,324-km (2,065-mile) transmission line, with voltage of 1,100 Kilovolt (kV), is designed to transmit 66 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity a year, Xinhua reported. Most of the electricity transmitted via the line will come from the Zhundong coal-fired power plant in northern Xinjiang, which has installed power generation capacity of 28 gigawatts (GW). China has been promoting cross-region electricity transmission lines, especially EHV projects as they have bigger transmission capacity and smaller line losses compared to ordinary lines. According to the State Grid Corporation of China, the country had 18 EHV lines with overall transmission length of 27,570 km by the end of June.

UAE Switches On World's Largest Solar Farm - The United Arab Emirates have launched the largest single solar power farm in the world, the 1.18-GW Noor Abu Dhabi, Endgadget reports citing a tweet by the Abu Dhabi government. The facility, which dwarfs the largest solar farm in the United States - the 569-MW Solar Star - is only comparable to solar parks, which combine several separate solar farms. It can supply electricity to 90,000 people, according to official information, from as many as 3.2 million solar panels. As a result, it would offset emissions amounting to 1 million metric tons, which is the equivalent of removing 200,000 cars from the road. True to its reputation as being a large spender on various cutting-edge projects, the UAE is not stopping at Noor Abu Dhabi. Earlier this year, the Abu Dhabi Minister of Climate Change and Environment announced another, bigger, solar project. It would have a capacity of 2 GW, the official said without going into any further detail. The only project that would be bigger than this one, is Saudi Arabia’s 2.6-GW planned facility in Mecca. While the Middle East is hardly the first location that springs to mind when one thinks about solar power and other renewable energy sources, the region has been changing, slowly but surely. The International Renewable Energy Agency released a report in February saying the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council alone had plans to install as much as 7 GW in renewable power generation capacity by the early 2020s. An earlier report from IRENA said GCC could save some 354 million barrels of oil equivalent by switching to renewables for domestic consumption by 2030. That would constitute a 23-percent decline in domestic oil and gas consumption with more of the commodities going for exports: Saudi Arabia is pursuing this strategy of reducing domestic consumption of fossil fuels with a view to boosting exports.

 New Solar + Battery Price Crushes Fossil Fuels, Buries Nuclear - Forbes - Los Angeles Power and Water officials have struck a deal on the largest and cheapest solar + battery-storage project in the world, at prices that leave fossil fuels in the dust and may relegate nuclear power to the dustbin.Later this month the LA Board of Water and Power Commissioners is expected to approve a 25-year contract that will serve 7 percent of the city's electricity demand at 1.997¢/kwh for solar energy and 1.3¢ for power from batteries."This is the lowest solar-photovoltaic price in the United States," said James Barner, the agency's manager for strategic initiatives, "and it is the largest and lowest-cost solar and high-capacity battery-storage project in the U.S. and we believe in the world today. So this is, I believe, truly revolutionary in the industry."It's half the estimated cost of power from a new natural gas plant.Mark Z. Jacobson, the Stanford professor who developed roadmapsfor transitioning 139 countries to 100 percent renewables, hailed the development on Twitter Friday, saying, "Goodnight #naturalgas, goodnight #coal, goodnight #nuclear." The anti-nuclear activist Arnie Gunderson, who predicted storage prices under 2¢/kwh four years ago on the night Elon Musk unveiled the Tesla Powerpack, noted Saturday that his 2015 prediction was too high. He too said, "Goodbye coal, nukes, gas!"

Solar project threatens historic mansions, landscapes along Rapidan River - The stately homes withstood armies’ fighting, encampment and occupation during the Civil War, and still stand today. Restored by their owners, they have storied pasts and anchor former plantations near the Rapidan River, named by a Colonial governor for Queen Anne of England, in an area on the Rapidan that’s mostly untouched by time and steeped in early history, including that of Indians and African-Americans. The countryside also yields many accounts from the War Between the States. “Where else in the country do you have a Civil War laboratory like this? Nothing has changed,” Civil War historian Clark “Bud” Hall said during a visit to the mansions of Algonquin Trail. Change could be coming, though, as county officials consider allowing a utility-scale solar plant to be built on 807 acres of agriculturally zoned parcels along the rural route. Cricket Solar LLC, the project’s developer in Irvine, California, says the green initiative will generate enough electricity to power 15,000 homes a year. The Culpeper County Planning Department is reviewing revisions to an application submitted in December by Cricket that would place more than 270,000 solar panels in the Raccoon Ford area. Landowners who have signed contracts on their land for the project say the development will allow them to keep their farms. It is impossible to preserve all of Culpeper’s history, they said. But neighbors of the Cricket Solar site—some of whom plan to speak during Tuesday night’s Board of Supervisors public comment session—are mounting a campaign against what they say is an industrial project that belongs elsewhere.“The owners want to protect their investment, want to pass the homes down in the family,” said Hall, who has spent years researching and documenting the homes and the area’s past. The village of Raccoon Ford and its river crossing are where violent clashes between North and South played out along the Rapidan River during the Civil War. “This kind of threat chills them to the bone,” Hall said of the solar project. “It’s shotgun, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Decarbonizing US Power Grid Would Cost Up To $4.5T - The transition to a 100 percent renewable U.S. power grid would need investment of up to $4.5 trillion over the next 10 to 20 years. That’s according to new analysis from Wood Mackenzie (WoodMac), which estimates that about 1,600 gigawatts (GW) of new wind and solar capacity would be needed to produce enough energy to replace all fossil fuel generation in the country. About 900 GW of new storage would also be needed to ensure wind and solar generated power is available exactly when consumers need it, WoodMac pointed out. Allowing 20 percent of the power mix to come from existing natural gas-fired generation would reduce renewable energy costs by roughly 20 percent and energy storage costs by at least 60 percent, WoodMac found. “The mass deployment of wind and solar generation will require substantial investments in utility-scale storage to ensure grid resilience is maintained,” Dan Shreve, head of global wind energy research, said in a company statement. "The challenges of achieving 100 percent renewable energy go far beyond the capital costs of new generating assets. Most notably, it will need a substantial redesign of electricity markets, migrating away from traditional energy-only constructs and more towards a capacity market,” he added. In a live blog following the United States’ presidential primary debate on Thursday, the American Petroleum Institute (API) said promises of an imminent energy landscape powered entirely by alternative fuels “might make for an applause line but it’s less likely to make for plausible policy”. “Instead of throwing the baby out with the bath water, America’s policy leaders should pursue energy policies that value the resilience of a diverse energy portfolio,” the API stated in the blog.

July 2019 - Kunstler - Behold, the stupid fucking idea du jour! The Penn15 Tower proposed for mid-Manhattan — as if the city needs another megastructure that will be transformed from an asset to a liability overnight in the long emergency ahead. Penn15 will be nearly the same height as the Empire State Building. The gimmick in this one is a series of “green walkways” and “tree-filled” lounging terraces “suspended thousands of feet in the air.” Here is the reckless delusion of our age made manifest in architecture. It takes a special lack of sensibility to chill out in a lounge chair up there, by which I mean there is something in human neurology that seeks a sense of groundedness and enclosure. What this building expresses is a grandiose wish to defy natural human instincts — in exactly the same way that our society wishes to defy the realities of dwindling energy resources and extreme indebtedness. As a side-note, just imagine the watering systems required to keep all those plants green. And the engineering necessary to keep that water from structurally compromising the building. Imagine yourself in this setting. (Pass the Xanax!)

Coal ash concerns prompt Chapel Hill police to consider new department location  (WNCN) – Concerns about coal ash contributed to the Chapel Hill Police Department’s desire for a new station. Town planners are in negotiations for a location at University Place mall, next to the Silverspot Cinema. The new municipal facility will include a police headquarters, administrative offices for the fire department and the parks and recreation department, as well as public space for members of the community to use.Dwight Bassett, the town’s economic development officer, said the current building on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard was constructed in the 1980s. “Probably wasn’t the best construction when it was built. The building has a lot of issues. It’s not quite big enough, to say the least,” Bassett said.  “The police station is sitting on a coal ash site, and we’ve been trying to work out how we’re going to deal with that remediation. It just seems like there’s bound to be a better place for our police station than back on top of that coal ash.” Inspectors determined coal ash was dumped at the site by Bolin Creek back in the 1970s after dirt was excavated for construction projects in prior decades.

Major Appalachian Coal Company Files For Bankruptcy Protection --In the latest sign of problems for the U.S. coal industry, one of the country’s largestcoal producers has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  mWest Virginia-based Revelation Energy LLC and its recently-formed affiliate, Blackjewel LLC, began the bankruptcy reorganization process in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of West Virginia on Monday. The companies, owned and controlled by Milton, West Virginia, resident Jeff Hoops, a longtime coal executive, employ about 1,700 employees across its Central Appalachian coal mining holdings and two large Wyoming coal mines, which were acquired in 2017. In court documents, Revelation Energy listed 24 metallurgical coal mines and processing and prep facilities in Virginia, Kentucky, and West Virginia, as principal assets that employ 1,100 workers. The Appalachian mines have an estimated 600 million reserve tons of coal. Last year, the company mined 3.3 millions tons. The federal government’s Energy Information Administration said in 2017 that the companies’ combined output made them the country’s sixth-largest coal producer.

Chubb bans coverage for coal, a first for big U.S. insurance firms - Chubb became the first of the big U.S. insurers to announce a ban on coverage for coal companies. Chubb, facing increasing pressure from environmental action groups, said Monday it will no longer sell insurance to new coal-fired power plants or sell new policies to companies that derive more than 30% of their revenues from thermal coal mining. Up to now, U.S. insurers have resisted joining the growing movement in Europe to stop selling insurance to coal-based power plants and coal mines because of the environmental damage they cause. “Chubb recognises the reality of climate change and the substantial impact of human activity on our planet,” said Evan Greenberg, Chubb’s chief executive. The company, which is officially based in Switzerland but does much of its business in the U.S., will also stop making new investments in companies that have a big exposure to thermal coal mining or coal-based energy production. Joseph Wayland, Chubb’s general counsel, said that the decision was driven by business interests as well as broader environmental concerns. “As a global insurer we are impacted by climate change, in everything from increasing fire risk to flooding,” he said. “Climate change ... can be seen in the increasing severity and frequency of natural catastrophes.” Over the last two years, insurers have been hit by a series of large natural catastrophe claims. According to Swiss Re, the insurance industry faced $76 billion of losses from natural catastrophes in 2018, the fourth-highest sum on record. Not all of the catastrophes can be directly linked to climate change, but modelling specialists say that some of them, such as the series of wildfires that hit California last year, are made more likely by warmer temperatures. Chubb’s decision could increase the pressure on other big U.S. insurers such as AIG and Travelers to act.

The Trump administration protested when Kenya halted a coal-fired power plant - When the Kenyan government had second thoughts about allowing the country’s first coal-fired power plant, the Trump Administration’s representative in the country protested. U.S. Ambassador Kyle McCarter, a Trump appointee who previously served as a Republican state senator in Illinois, went on Twitter to argue in a string of tweets that coal is environmentally sound, that the plant would boost the country’s economy and that a critical analysis of the plant from a clean energy think tank amounted only to the work of “highly paid protestors.” “Coal is the cleanest, least costly option,” U.S. Ambassador Kyle McCarter wrote from his official Twitter last week. “Investors will come.” It’s unclear what lobbying — if any — McCarter has engaged in behind the scenes to promote the coal-fired power plant, but the voice of the U.S. government, which contributed more than a $1 billion in foreign to Kenya in 2017, carries weight within the country, and the White House has said that similar tweets from President Donald Trump are “official statements.”  Regardless of whether McCarter’s tweets were approved by the State Department ahead of time, they reflect the Trump Administration’s support for growing the coal industry internationally even as scientists warn that the energy source is one of the biggest contributors to climate change and growth in its use could make it all but impossible to keep the planet from warming to catastrophic levels.

 Oyster Creek nuclear plant sale to Holtec is complete -- Oyster Creek Generating Station is now in the hands of Holtec International, which completed the purchase of the now-defunct nuclear facility on Monday.  Oyster Creek, before it shut down in September, was one of the nation's oldest nuclear power plants. Camden-based Holtec plans to decommission this half-century-old facility and profit off the reactor's nearly $1 billion decommissioning trust fund, money set aside for dismantling the reactor. Under the agreement, Holtec subsidiaries Oyster Creek Environmental Protection International LLC will serve as owner and Holtec Decommissioning International will oversee decommissioning. Holtec purchased the power plant for an undisclosed amount from Exelon Generation of Chicago. Exelon had originally planned to take the plant down slowly over the course of 60 years in a process that would have allowed some of the facility's dangerous radioactivity to degrade to safer levels. But Holtec's proposal seeks to complete the decommissioning within a mere 10 years. The company says its new spent fuel storage systems enable hot, radioactive fuel to be removed from the plant's cooling pool and placed into storage casks years earlier than originally planned.

Russia Launches Floating Chernobyl Bound For The Arctic - Next month, the world’s first floating nuclear power unit (FPU) dubbed ‘Academik Lomonosov’ will be towed via the Northern Sea Route to its final destination in the Far East, after almost two decades in construction. Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant has two KLT-40S reactor units that collectively generate 70 MW of energy.  A year ago we noted video of the beginning of the ships' voyage (from St.Petersburg to Murmansk) The vessel is now expected to be towed “along the Northern Sea Route to the work site, unloaded at the mooring berth, and connected to the coastal infrastructure in Pevek,” added the press release.Pevek is a small Arctic port town and the governmental center of Chaunsky District in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Russia, located on Chaunskaya Bay.Once the floating nuclear power plant is moored and connected to the coastal infrastructure in Pevek, the nuclear reactors aboard will be used to power 100,000 homes in the region, a desalination plant, and critical energy infrastructure assets. Rosatom said the floating power plant “will replace the Bilibino nuclear power plant and Chaunskaya TPP that are technologically outdated,” and become the most northerly nuclear facility in the world.  However, the floating nuclear power plant has been extensively criticized by antipollutionist — Greenpeace has called it a “floating Chernobyl.” “Nuclear reactors bobbing around the Arctic Ocean will pose a shockingly obvious threat to a fragile environment, which is already under enormous pressure from climate change,” Greenpeace nuclear expert Jan Haverkamp said in a statement.

China, Russia Looking to Build Nuclear Plants in Argentina - Argentina, the first Latin American country to adopt nuclear power when the Atucha I plant began operation in 1974, has plans to expand its nuclear generation, with Russia and China vying to implement their technology. Argentina and Russia set up a working group to site and build a nuclear plant, government officials said on May 28. That was just weeks after the administration of Argentine President Mauricio Macri and China’s National Energy Administration agreed on financing for the Atucha III nuclear plant near Buenos Aires, which is expected to come online in 2021. The financing deal, which includes a $10 billion loan from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), covers an estimated 85% of the plant’s expected construction cost. The Atucha III project is part of an agreement signed in 2015 by former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a deal that supported using Canadian technology in Argentina’s existing nuclear plants, along with backing at least three new plants using Chinese technology. China has pushed for using its Hualong One technology at Atucha III. The Hualong One is a pressurized water reactor currently being tested at the Fuqing nuclear power plant in China’s Fujian province.

Workers Evacuated After Radioactive Threat – Workers were evacuated from part of Dounreay after radioactive contamination was detected there, it has emerged. The incident occurred on June 7 but site bosses only publicly released details at a meeting of Dounreay Stakeholder Group on Wednesday evening. Site managing director Martin Moore said human error was to blame for the episode which is the subject of an in-house probe. He said no harm had come from what turned out to be an “insignificant” level of low-level contamination. The alarm was sounded as the worker sought to leave a former reprocessing plant within Dounreay’s fuel cycle area. After follow-up surveys identified further ‘hotspots’ in the plant, all personnel were moved out. Mr Moore said: “The contamination was very local but it wasn’t in a place it should have been, normally. “The levels were insignificant but they should not have been there so we cleared the area and then had a controlled re-entry.” He added: “It came down to a lack of due diligence in monitoring around one of the barriers. 

Watching the End of the World  - Twenty years on, we have yet to find a good use for all these homemade planet-killers, even as the United States and Russia modernize their arsenals with newfangled hypersonic boost-glide systems, uranium-tipped torpedo drones, and low-yield “tactical” gravity bombs.And yet we don’t make movies about nuclear war any more. In early 2018, just days before that false ballistic missile alert in Hawaii, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published an essay to that effect by an eighth-grader named Cassandra Williams. Agitated by a class on the subject at her middle school in Dubuque, Iowa, Williams searched out old films she’d never seen or heard of and found herself “completely stunned” by The Day After, the 1983 television feature that dramatized the results of Russian missiles raining on Middle America. Citing “the unpredictable behavior of North Korea and our current U.S. president”, she identified an urgent need for updated equivalents with upgraded special effects—the better to show her peer group what might yet actually happen. “You can read about it, and you can hear about it, but actually seeing it is a different story,” she wrote. “Thousands of people vaporized in less than a second, buildings toppling on people faster than they can react . . . If you want to get a millennial’s attention, make a movie about it. There are plenty of dystopian movies today, but far too few about nuclear war.”

Ohio lawmakers miss deadline to pass new state budget - Gov. Mike DeWine on Sunday signed a short-term funding measure to keep the state government open for 17 days after House approved it earlier in the night,’s Andrew Tobias reports. The embarrassing development marks the first time since 2009 the legislature has missed a legal deadline to get a budget in place. Also delayed: House Bill 6, which would give hundreds of millions in ratepayer money to FirstEnergy Solutions to keep two Northern Ohio nuclear power plants open. While FirstEnergy Solutions has said it must have a decision on the subsidies by Sunday so it can decide whether to purchase new nuclear fuel or move to close the plants, Ohio Senate Energy and Public Utilities Chair Steve Wilson on Saturday said he needed more time than that to review dozens of potential amendments. “I respect that that’s their position," Wilson said of FirstEnergy Solutions’ claimed deadline. “However, I’m not going to move forward on this bill until I’m sure all components of it take the ratepayer into account.”

FES: Time's running out for Davis-Besse refueling | Toledo Blade— With the fate of the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants hanging in the balance over the outcome of controversial legislation aimed at keeping them in business, the plants’ owner-operator said Monday the Ohio General Assembly needs to make up its mind soon if it wants to keep Davis-Besse on track for uninterrupted service. June 30 was the deadline to purchase uranium to refuel Davis-Besse’s reactor core next spring. In its statement, though, FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. said it can regroup and adjust for an “increased financial burden” for missing that deadline if a decision is made soon. “Given the expectation that the legislation will be passed in the coming weeks, we have communicated our commitment to doing everything possible to accommodate this process, which will come with increased financial burden associated with missing the June 30 fuel purchasing deadline for Davis-Besse,” the company said.

New county gas agreement readies for next shale boom - Mahoning County now has rights to any Utica shale deposits underneath county-owned land in Canfield under a new lease agreement with Ohio Valley Energy. “Under the current old leases, the gas company actually has the rights all the way from the surface to the center of the Earth,” Tim Tusek, the assistant county prosecutor who worked on the arrangements, told county commissioners Tuesday. “The best part is there is a real possibility the Utica development will come back to this area, and when it does, the commissioners will be in a position to be able to benefit from it,” Tusek said. The five shallow Clinton sandstone wells are beneath about 270 county-owned acres along Columbiana-Canfield Road, just west of the Canfield Fairgrounds. That land is also leased by Mill Creek MetroParks for the Mahoning County Experimental Farm. The county’s original lease for the wells was signed in 1984 and is set to expire this month. The new agreement with Ohio Valley Energy extends the lease another 15 years and offers the county rights to any minerals below and a 15-percent royalty payment from each sale of oil and gas Ohio Valley produces there.

JobsOhio commits $30M to potential Belmont County petrochemical plant - The state’s economic development arm has awarded its largest grant ever for site work for a massive, multibillion-dollar petrochemical plant being considered in eastern Ohio.The $30 million JobsOhio grant is another in a series of steps being taken to determine whether Thai chemical company PTT Global Chemical America and its South Korean partner, Daelim Industrial Co., should proceed with the project in Belmont County. The company has committed $65 million to this phase, according to JobsOhio.If the companies go forward, they would build one of the largest economic development projects in state history, one with thousands of construction jobs and probably several hundred permanent jobs once construction is completed.“JobsOhio’s revitalization grant will support initial site-preparation work, which will begin later this month,” said Matt Englehart, JobsOhio spokesman. “While this is an important and positive step for the project, no final investment decision has been made. JobsOhio and our partners will continue closely collaborating with PTTGC America and Daelim as they work toward a final investment decision.”The companies said in a statement, “There is not a timetable for that decision at this point. Obviously, both companies are extremely grateful to JobsOhio for its support.”Economic development officials announced in 2015 that PTT was considering the site along the Ohio River near Shadyside in Belmont County for the project.The plant would take ethane, a component of natural gas, and break it down to produce ethylene, which is used in chemical manufacturing. The county is an attractive site because of its proximity to the plentiful natural gas of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The plant would be built on the site of FirstEnergy’s former R.E. Burger power plant, which closed in 2011.JobsOhio previously spent $14 million to help clean up the 168-acre site that PTT bought in 2017.

Yale Researchers Discuss Controversial Richland Well - Yale University researchers came to Ohio University East to share their thoughts on a proposed injection well in Richland Township, but many local residents in attendance were left with more questions than answers. During the college presentation, crowds gathered to hear presentations from speakers, including Nicole Deziel, assistant professor of epidemiology with Yale University. Deziel conducted an air and water quality study in 2016, and is conducting a study on drinking water in Monroe and Belmont counties, which will conclude in August. They also heard from John Stolz, director of the Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University. Deziel opened by describing the fracking process, which involves drilling more than a mile below the ground and pumping large quantities of water under high pressure, fracturing it and freeing the oil and gas, along with brine and underground materials such as arsenic, lead and radioactive compounds. Deziel said this wastewater must be managed and disposed of. Deziel said her study was motivated by the fast-paced expansion of the oil and gas industry and the growing number of people living within one mile of a non-conventional well, or with a water source within one mile to such a well, and concerns of contamination and health risks. Deziel added that she was concerned with such issues as spills, leaks and deteriorating casing. During her 2016 study, she analyzed water in 66 homes and observed their proximity to a well. She added that while some chemicals were found in drinking water, all were well below U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. She also said she could not be certain of the source of the chemicals.Amanda DeShong of St. Clairsville inquired about other dangers such as skin contact contamination from showers, and inhalation of vapor.  Deziel said standards are set by ingestion, and that while some studies indicate increase skin irritation and respiratory problems among people near such wells, the precise cause could not be determined.

Water quality studied in two counties - Martins Ferry Times Leader— Disease detective work is how the lead researcher studying water in Monroe and Belmont counties this summer describes her field. Nicole Deziel is an assistant professor at Yale University’s School of Public Health and will have a team in place this summer in Ohio to collect data concerning the quality of drinking water surrounding oil and natural gas development. The study began last year with samples taken in Pennsylvania and has now moved to Ohio to tally any health effects on families where homes are served by a private well or spring, and their groundwater is sourced in proximity to oil and gas production.   Deziel’s team is asking for participants to offer one to two hours of their time for a home visit and allow the joint effort from Yale and MIT to collect more data on drinking water, sample and test for more chemicals and potentially influence the national discourse concerning regulations.“The question is whether or not the unconventional oil and gas industry could be impacting the chemistry or quality of the water,” Deziel said. “We’ll be looking at whether people who live near more unconventional oil and gas wells may or may not have elevated levels of certain chemicals. We’ll be doing some chemical analysis of the chemicals to see how likely they are to come from oil and gas or not. Many of the chemicals that we’re measuring have numerous other sources or are naturally occurring. “We are testing for quite a range of environmental chemicals ranging from things like inorganic compounds, which include things like arsenic and lead, to volatile organic compounds like benzene. There are about 100 different entities we are testing for.” The U.S. EPA reported in 2016 that more data is needed to understand if there are any adverse effects from oil and gas development and the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on surrounding water tables and ultimately public health. But according to Jeffery Kephart, water superintendent for the city of Marietta, Ohio, many of the volatile organic chemicals Deziel is looking for are found not just in fracking processes, but also in many household products such as gasoline, paint cleaners/thinners, cleaners, cigarettes, soaps, polishes and carpets. Kephart noted that other chemicals the Yale study is looking for can also be byproducts of water treatment processes, including trihalomethanes that come from chlorine used for disinfecting purposes and have measurable levels deemed safe by state and national agencies for consumption.

Fracking in Ohio: Citizens stepped in to protect water when the state did not -Ten years ago, the fracking industry was already booming in Pennsylvania, but people in Ohio were just starting to hear about it. Many were excited that it would help eastern Ohio’s struggling rural economy.But Leatra Harper worried that the tradeoff would be their health and the environment.Harper says her grandfather died from black lung. And his father had worked to unionize coal miners.“I don’t know if this is in my DNA but I was just brought up that right is right and wrong is wrong,” she said.  Harper started the FreshWater Accountability Project, to protect Ohio waters from the next energy industry – natural gas. “If there’s something you can do, that’s on you.”Each fracked well uses millions of gallons of water, mixed with sand and chemicals. Much of this brinewater can flow back to the surface as wastewater. Harper heard that a company, Patriot Water Treatment, had started working with the city of Warren, to send frack waste through their sewage treatment plant. She calls it the beginning of her “…trip down the rabbit hole with the fracking industry.”      Patriot would treat frack wastewater, most of it from Pennsylvania and West Virginia, in its own treatment plant to remove heavy metals, and other pollutants before sending through the city sewers to Warren’s treatment plant, which would essentially dilute the wastewater. From there, it would be released to the Mahoning River. The Mahoning joins the Shenango River in Pennsylvania, and forms the Beaver River – which is the drinking water supply for Beaver Falls and other communities.It wasn’t long into the fracking boom when elevated concentrations of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) known to be in fracking wastewater were found in the rivers in Western Pennsylvania. One pollutant in particular, bromide, forms chemicals linked with cancers and birth defects when mixed with disinfectants in drinking water treatment plants.In 2011, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection requested that drillers voluntarily stop sending wastewater to public sewage plants and commercial treatment facilities in Pennsylvania. Harper, who had started the FreshWater group, wanted Warren, Ohio to follow Pennsylvania’s lead.

GlobalData: Susquehanna county drives natural gas production in Marcellus Shale in US -- The majority of the drilling and production activity in the Marcellus shale continues to take place in northeast and southwest of Pennsylvania, especially in Susquehanna and Washington counties, according to GlobalData.  The company’s latest report, ‘Marcellus and Utica Shales in the US, 2019 – Gas Shales Market Analysis and Outlook to 2023’ reveals that Marcellus and Utica formations produced around 31 billion ft3/d of natural gas in May 2019 and the production is forecast to reach approximately 35 billion ft3/d by the end of 2023.The major natural gas producing counties in Marcellus and Utica shale plays are Susquehanna, Washington, Bradford and Greene counties in Pennsylvania and Doddridge county in West Virginia.Located in close proximity to the major industrial hubs on the US East Coast, Marcellus and Utica shale plays in the Appalachian basin have witnessed steady natural gas production growth over the last five-six years.Andrew Folse, Oil & Gas Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Fracking activity in Marcellus and Utica formations is driven by large demand for natural gas from the nearby populated areas. As in the case of other unconventional shale plays, operators in Marcellus and Utica shales continue to drill longer laterals beyond 12 000 ft and some as long as three miles.”The Appalachian has seen a clear trend for larger scale developments by key operators by increasing the surface of contiguous acreage and allowing for more production by well recovery. Folse continues: “Marcellus and Utica plays continue to receive premium for their natural gas compared to the benchmark of Henry Hub. Over the past three years, this region has received an average US$0.40 premium over Henry Hub. At the same time, operators have become more efficient in optimising costs reaching a lower break-even price. With the demand continuing to grow in the region and consistent premiums over Henry Hub, the Appalachian Basin will continue to drive natural gas production in the US.”

 The Mariner East Pipeline Battle in Southeastern Pennsylvania -- This newspaper has spent an inordinate amount of time – to say nothing of newsprint – covering what we have come to refer as The Battler of Mariner East. Mariner East is the massive, multi-billion dollar project being built by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners to move hundreds of thousands of barrels of highly volatile liquid gases such as ethane, butane and propane from the state’s Marcellus Shale regions to a facility in Marcus Hook. ETP is parent company of what used to be Delco’s iconic Sunoco. Sunoco Pipeline is actually constructing the pipeline, which traverses the full 350-mile width of Pennsylvania.That route takes it through densely populated neighborhoods in both Delaware and Chester counties, in close proximity to schools and senior centers.And directly into intense criticism from residents who question the safety of such actions, the wisdom of this routing, and the preparedness and ability to respond in the case of an accident.It’s difficult to straddle the middle ground on a story like this.There is no questioning the economic upside, despite neighbors and foes of the pipeline insistence on doing just that.There also is no doubt about the concern of the neighbors, both on what this project has done to some of their neighborhoods and what might happen in the event of an accident.We certainly have given enough coverage to the critics. That would include a move by Delaware County Council last week to call on Gov. Tom Wolf and the state Department of Environment Protection to issue a moratorium and shut down all Mariner East work in the region.That would include shutting down the lines that are currently up and operating, as well as halting construction. As you might expect, that did not sit especially well with local unions, the folks who are manning those construction projects. A couple hundreds of them showed up this week at the Media Courthouse to vent their feelings, and let council know exactly where they stand.  Yeah, we covered that angle of the story as well. You can read it here.

Dominion cancels gas pipeline, blames FERC - Dominion Energy Inc. on Friday abandoned a pipeline project to bring Marcellus Shale natural gas to market, faulting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for its failure to act on the application. "The project has been adversely impacted" by FERC's inaction, Dominion said in a statement, informing the commission that customers for the project had pulled out. FERC's processing of pipeline applications has been bumpy since the agency in May of last year ended its practice of considering the upstream and downstream greenhouse gas impacts of gas projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Dominion's cancellation of the Sweden Valley Project comes days after FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said after an agency meeting that the gas industry is "largely satisfied" with the way the agency is moving to advance projects.

TC Energy in $1.3B Deal to Sell Midstream Assets - Canada-based TC Energy Corporation has entered into an agreement to sell its U.S. midstream assets to UGI Energy Services, LLC for $1.275 billion (USD), the company announced Tuesday. The assets are held by TC Energy (formerly known as TransCanada) subsidiary Columbia Midstream Group and will be sold to UGI Corporation’s subsidiary. Columbia Midstream Group operates in the Appalachian Basin and owns four natural gas gathering systems and an interest in a company with gathering, processing and liquids assets. “The sale of Columbia Midstream Group advances our ongoing efforts to prudently fund our industry-leading portfolio of high-quality natural gas pipeline, liquids pipelines and power generation projects, while maximizing value for our shareholders,” TC Energy CEO Russ Girling said in a company statement. Girling added that with other company operations, TC Energy is “well-positioned to fund [its] $30 billion secured capital program in a manner consistent with achieving targeted credit metrics in 2019 and thereafter.”

West Virginia officials remain hopeful about promised $84 billion Chinese investment | S&P Global Platts— West Virginia officials are still hopeful that China Energy will eventually make good on its promise of investing $84 billion in the state's natural gas and petrochemical industries, despite the ongoing US-China trade dispute, the state's secretary of commerce said Monday. Following a visit to Beijing by a group of West Virginia officials last month, "we understand what China Energy is about," Secretary Ed Gaunch said in an interview Monday. "From my standpoint, we've moved the relationship further ahead." This relationship concerns a memorandum of understanding that China Energy had signed in November 2017, during a visit by President Trump to Beijing in the early days of his administration. In that MOU, China Energy had said it hoped to invest up to $83.7 billion in shale gas development and chemical manufacturing in West Virginia over a 10-year period. The terms of that agreement have never been made public, and since that initial announcement, the giant Chinese energy company has not made any discernible moves to make good on its commitment. The possibility of the investment ever taking place has further been called into question by the trade tensions between the US and China that have risen substantially in the months since the deal was first announced. Nevertheless Gaunch was optimistic about the possibility of future Chinese investment in the state's midstream gas and petrochemical industries. "At some point in the not-too-distant future we are hopeful that they will announce a project or more than one project." The visit of the trade delegation to China is just the latest contact between representatives of China Energy and West Virginia's state officials and industry representatives."They've been here 22 times over the last 22 months," he said. Gaunch acknowledged that the MOU does not commit the Chinese energy company to any specific midstream natural gas or petrochemical manufacturing projects, although he said discussions have focused on storage-related projects. "The MOU is so general. It's hard to put a finger on exactly what they're talking about," he said. From the standpoint of the West Virginia delegation, Gaunch said state and industry officials are focused on taking advantage of the state's bounty of "wet gas" to develop a local petrochemical storage and manufacturing industry.

Companies, county officials wait to see fallout from natural gas tax decision - Earlier this month, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled in a case in which local tax departments and gas companies battled over the way property taxes should be calculated. But the companies and counties are still trying to figure out how they’ll be affected by the court’s decision. “Where we’re at is, we have had a chance to look at it, and we’re not sure that we fully understand it. We haven’t met with the tax department,” said Al Schopp, regional senior vice president and chief administrative officer of Antero Resources, the state’s biggest gas producer.

Landowners ask justices to nix companies' 'quick take' power -- The Supreme Court will soon have a new shot at examining an unusual wrinkle in pipeline land seizures that some legal experts say saps private landowners of their constitutional rights. Unlike standard eminent domain proceedings, which require just compensation in exchange for acquiring land, immediate possession or "quick take" power allows developers to take private property months or years before paying. Although Congress did not convey quick-take authority to pipeline developers in the Natural Gas Act, several appellate courts have interpreted the law to allow those firms to take property to build their projects before landowners ever receive a dime. "The courts seem to think this is inevitable, that eminent domain is one of those things that's going to happen whether the property owner wants it or not," said Robert Thomas, a land-use and appellate lawyer at Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert. The distinction is important, legal experts say, because immediate possession of property can rob landowners of their ability to negotiate a fair price, which the condemner then has the option to either pay or decline. Property owners also have no way to recoup lost wages if a seizure interferes with their ability to earn money from their land before the court determines appropriate compensation. Jeffrey Simmons, a partner at the firm Foley & Lardner LLP who has represented pipeline condemners, said the fact that so many appellate courts have agreed with this approach indicates the process is permissible. Any delays in the condemnation process, he said, can cost pipeline builders millions of dollars, which adds urgency to their request. The Supreme Court will soon have the opportunity to review a quick-take case involving the Mountain Valley pipeline through West Virginia and Virginia. Givens v. Mountain Valley Pipeline will challenge a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that a lower court properly allowed developers to obtain immediate possession of property in the project's path.

Pipeline protester removed from perch atop MVP excavator — The person clinging to an excavator parked in the construction zone of the Mountain Valley Pipeline was barely visible. A crowd of fellow protesters, blocked from getting any closer to the scene, stood at the edge of Bradshaw Road, yelling, chanting and using megaphones to be heard. “We love you up there,” one person shouted. Others then joined in a refrain: “One, two, three; f--- the MVP,” they chanted. Around midday Friday, Virginia State Police used a mechanized lift to remove Michael James-Deramo from the boom of the excavator, to which he had chained himself about six hours earlier. He was charged with two misdemeanors: entering private property to damage it and preventing the operation of a vehicle. James-Deramo, 26, of Blacksburg, is a former community organizer for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and has been active in fighting the 303-mile natural gas pipeline, which is under construction in West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. In a statement released by Appalachians Against Pipelines, James-Deramo said he grew up in the area, playing in the forests as a child and hiking the mountains as he grew older. “We have watched as this pipeline has wreaked havoc — from Brush Mountain to Peters Mountain, from Four Corners Farm to Bottom Creek — not just havoc on the land, but on the lives and mental well-being of individuals, and the sanctity of place and safety,” he said.

Virginia legislators promoting Atlantic Coast Pipeline have personal investments  -  Virginia State Senator Bill DeSteph is a staunch advocate for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. He hasn’t just endorsed the project – he’s actively campaigned for it. DeSteph is listed on the pipeline’s website as a supporter. He co-chairs a caucus that in March 2016 sent Virginia’s two U.S. Senators a letter backing the pipeline. In September 2016, he even co-authored an op-ed in the pages of the Virginian-Pilot that promoted the project.But DeSteph has another important tie to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline: he owns more than $250,000 worth of Dominion Energy stock. Dominion is the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s top owner. It is building the pipeline and will operate it.DeSteph’s decision to use his public platform to advance a controversial pipeline project that he stands to personally profit from reflects a larger trend in Virginia. According to financial disclosures filed with Virginia’s Ethics Council, several other members of the Virginia General Assembly who have strongly advocated for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline also own significant amounts of company stock in the pipeline’s owners.These State Senators and Delegates have written op-eds in support of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, signed letters backing the pipeline that were sent to U.S. Senators or federal regulators, or are officially listed on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s website as endorsers – all this, even as they individually own thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in Dominion stock. Dominion is also a top donor to many of these elected officials. That state legislators, some quite prominent, are invested in the pipeline’s main owners, even as they use their elected offices to advocate for the pipeline, raises serious concerns over conflicts of interests. The legislators are using their platform, given to them by voters, to advance a contentious project that they stand to personally profit from.

Are Investors Finally Waking up to North America's Fracked Gas Crisis? – DeSmog - The fracked gas industry's long borrowing binge may finally be hitting a hard reality: paying back investors.Enabled by rising debt, shale companies have been achieving record fracked oil and gas production, while promising investors a big future payoff. But over a decade into the “fracking miracle,” investors are showing signs they're worried that payoff will never come — and as a result, loans are drying up. Growth is apparently no longer the answer for the U.S. natural gas industry, as Matthew Portillo, director of exploration and production research at the investment bank Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co., recently told The Wall Street Journal.“Growth is a disease that has plagued the space,” Portillo said. “And it needs to be cured before the [natural gas] sector can garner long-term investor interest.”Hints abound that gas investors are no longer happy with growth-at-any-cost. For starters, several major natural gas producers have announced spending cuts for 2019.After announcing layoffs this January, EQT, the largest natural gas producer in the U.S., also promised to decrease spending by 20 percent in 2019.Such pledges of newfound fiscal restraint are most likely the result of natural gas producers' inability to borrow more money at low rates.As DeSmog has reported, the historically low interest rates following the 2008 housing crisis were a major enabler of the free-spending and money-losing attitudes in the shale industry. Wall Street has funded a decade of oil and gas production via fracking andincentivized production over profits. Those incentives have worked, with record production and large losses.  However, much like giving mortgages to people without jobs wasn’t a sustainable business model, loaning money to shale companies that spend it all without making a profit is not sustainable. Wall Street investors are now worried about getting paid back, and interest rates are rising for shale companies to the point that borrowing more money is too financially risky for them. And because they aren't earning more money than they spend, these companies need to cut spending.

NASA just made a stunning discovery about how fracking fuels global warming -- A new NASA study is one final nail in the coffin of the myth that natural gas is a climate solution, or a “bridge” from the dirtiest fossil fuels to low-carbon fuels like solar and wind. NASA found that most of the huge rise in global methane emissions in the past decade is in fact from the fossil fuel industry–and that this rise is “substantially larger” than previously thought. And that means natural gas is, as many earlier studies have found, not a climate solution.   mNatural gas is mostly methane, a potent greenhouse gas. And methane emissions are responsible for about a quarter of the human-caused global warming we’re suffering today. So scientists have been scrambling to figure out why methane emissions have been soaring in recent years after leveling off around the year 2000. The total methane in the air has been rising by 25 teragrams (27.5 million U.S. tons) a year, which NASA helpfully explains is the weight of some 5 million elephants. Many studies have estimated that leaks from oil and gas production, particularly fracking, are a major driver of rising methane emissions. “A review of more than 200 earlier studies confirms that U.S. emissions of methane are considerably higher than official estimates,” as one 2014 Stanford University analysis explained. “Leaks from the nation’s natural gas system are an important part of the problem.” But, NASA notes, other research groups have estimated that the rise in methane emissions was due to a rise in “microbial production in wet tropical environments like marshes and rice paddies.” The problem was that this estimate was almost “large enough to explain the whole increase by itself” — and so was the estimate of increased methane emissions from oil and gas production.  After a very deep dive into multiple ground and satellite datasets, NASA determined that a third source of methane emissions — global fires — had been declining much more rapidly than previously realized (see animation below). With wildfire emissions way down, it was now possible for both fossil fuel emissions and wetland emissions to be up. Indeed, the researchers found that some 17 teragrams of the 25 teragram annual increase is from fossil fuel production, 12 is from wetlands or rice farming, while fires are decreasing emissions by 4 teragrams (17 + 12 – 4 = 25).

Prices Rise On Anticipation Of Increased Power Burns -Highlights of the Natural Gas Summary and Outlook for the week ending June 28, 2019 follow. The full report is available at the link below.

  • Price Action: The spot price rose 12.2 cents (5.6%) to $2.308 on a 16.9 cent range ($2.364/$2.195).
  • Price Outlook: After last week witnessed both a new weekly high and low, this week again witnessed a rare inside week on a 16.9 cent range. Of the 1,017 weeks since 2000, there have been 118 with both a new weekly high and low compared to just 99 where neither a new high nor low was established. The July index price of $2.291 may lift temperature adjusted-power demand and physical pipeline data will be closely monitored for indication how this price impacted the supply/demand balance.  CFTC data indicated a (34,566) contract increase in the net short managed money position as longs liquidated and shorts added. This is the largest net short position since November 17, 2015, 2016. This is the lowest long position since ICE data was added in early January 2010. Total open interest fell (114,312) to 3.480 million as of June 25. Aggregated CME futures open interest fell to 1.295 million as of June 28. The current weather forecast is now warmer than 6 of the last 10 years. Pipeline data indicates total flows to Cheniere’s Sabine Pass export facility were at 3.5 bcf. Cove Point is net exporting 0.7 bcf. Corpus Christi is exporting 1.190 bcf. Cameron is exporting 0.500 bcf.
  • Weekly Storage: US working gas storage for the week ending June 21 indicated an injection of +98 bcf. Working gas inventories rose to 2,301 bcf. Current inventories rise 227 bcf (10.9%) above last year and fall (172) bcf (-7.0%) below the 5-year average.
  • Supply Trends: Total supply fell (0.5) bcf/d to 83.5 bcf/d. US production rose. Canadian imports fell. LNG imports fell. LNG exports rose. Mexican exports fell. The US Baker Hughes rig count was unchanged +0. Oil activity increased +4. Natural gas activity decreased (4). The total US rig count now stands at 967 .The Canadian rig count rose +5 to 124. Thus, the total North American rig count rose +5 to 1,091 and now trails last year by (128). The higher efficiency US horizontal rig count fell (6) to 840 and falls (86) below last year.
  • Demand Trends: Total demand rose +0.9 bcf/d to +69.4 bcf/d. Power demand rose. Industrial demand fell. Res/Comm demand fell. Electricity demand rose +4,005 gigawatt-hrs to 81,189 which trails last year by (6,158) (-7.1%) and trails the 5-year average by (5,184)(-6.0%%).
  • Nuclear Generation: Nuclear generation rose 512 MW in the reference week to 91,815 MW. This is (2,744) MW lower than last year and (877) MW lower than the 5-year average. Recent output was at 95,220 MW.

The cooling season is beginning. With a forecast through July 12, the 2019 total cooling index is at 1,001 compared to 2,402 for 2018, 1,995 for 2017, 1,909 for 2016, 1,358 for 2015, 1,272 for 2014, 1,835 for 2013, 3,312 for 2012 and 2,067 for 2011.

Lower 48 natural gas injections into underground storage fields have been on a record-setting pace - During the first 12 weeks of the 2019 summer refill season, which traditionally ranges from April 1 to October 31, net injections of working natural gas into underground storage fields in the Lower 48 states have set a record pace. Weekly net injections for the weeks ending April 5 through June 21, 2019 have totaled 1,171 billion cubic feet (Bcf), averaging about 98 Bcf per week. Cumulative net injections have exceeded the five-year average by 41%, reducing the current five-year average deficit by 314 Bcf. As a result, working natural gas stocks narrowed to 171 Bcf lower than the five-year average as of June 21, 2019. Continued strength in natural gas production and relatively mild temperatures throughout most of the Lower 48 states contributed to these gains in natural gas storage stocks. So far this summer, natural gas production is up 7.3 Bcf per day (Bcf/d) compared to last summer at this time. Natural gas consumption (including net natural gas exports to Mexico and LNG feedstock) is up 2.6 Bcf/d, increasing the amount of natural gas available for injection, according to OPIS PointLogic’s July 1, 2019 supply and demand balance data. The figure below compares cumulative net injections into working gas storage for the first 12 weeks of 2019 to the same period for each refill season since 1994, when the history of the weekly data series began.

  • At this early stage of the refill season, which typically runs about 31 weeks, cumulative 2019 net injections (red line) exceed all previous refill seasons.
  • The next-largest injection up to this point was the 2015 refill season (blue line), which totaled 1,045 Bcf through the first 12 weeks of the year.
  • The record-setting refill season of 2014 (yellow line) had reached only 1,002 Bcf at this stage of that refill season.

El Niño: Fluctuating Or Fading Away? - We continue to track the status of our El Niño event, as the direction it takes can influence the temperature patterns in the U.S, and therefore impact demand for natural gas. El Niño in summer generally translates to cooler temperatures and lower gas demand.   This worked out well for the month of June.    Recent weeks have brought about a stark weakening of our El Niño event, however, as seen in the latest NOAA data.   Despite the weakening, we still have warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific out near the Date Line.    Zonal wind anomalies are turning back westerly as well in this region, which simply means a weakening of the trade winds. We have highlighted this in the black box below, as well as the last two times this has occurred in red.  These "westerly wind bursts" often tilt conditions more in the El Niño direction. The following image shows the buildup in heat content with each of the last two westerly bursts that were highlighted above.  As such, one would expect to see some "bounce back" with the El Niño state in the near future. However, subsurface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific have cooled significantly the last few weeks, with a lot of cooler than normal water showing up.  Could that be an indication that impact from this current westerly wind burst will be muted, potentially signaling the end of the El Niño base state? This is an important issue to tackle, as a re-strengthening of El Niño would keep the risk for hotter weather and higher natural gas demand mitigated, while a change in base state would increase the risk for higher late summer heat, and stronger gas demand.

US natural gas in storage set to increase by 79 Bcf: survey - S&P Global — Most analysts expect the US Energy Information Administration will report another above-average gas storage build for the week ended June 28. The EIA is expected to report a 79 Bcf injection for the week ended June 28, according to a survey of analysts by S&P Global Platts. Responses to the survey ranged from an injection of 68 Bcf to 90 Bcf. The EIA plans to release its weekly storage report on Wednesday at 10:30 am EDT. It is releasing the report one day early due to the July 4 holiday. A 79 Bcf injection would be more than the 76 Bcf build in the corresponding week last year, as well as the five-year average injection of 70 Bcf. While the injection still looks to be more than historical norms, it should be much closer to the five-year average and the smallest injection reported since April 5. An injection within expectations would increase stocks to 2.380 Tcf. The deficit versus the five-year average would shrink to 164 Bcf and the surplus to last year would expand to 315 Bcf. The build looks to be less than the week prior, when the EIA reported a 98 Bcf build. It would still mark the fourteenth consecutive above-average build. The EIA is set to announce a bearish injection this Thursday, even as power burn demand has begun to ramp up into the hottest month of the year, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics. Despite US inventories starting out last winter at record lows, the recent boom in production out of the Northeast and associated gas out of the Permian have resulted in a historic build-up through the first half of the summer. This week's build was supported by some of the largest week over week production gains seen through all of 2019, in addition to the balance of imports and exports adding 0.2 Bcf/d to the supply side of the US equation, according to Platts Analytics. Modeled production estimates from the Northeast, Texas and Rockies regions all added around 2 Bcf of supply to the week, softening some of the tightness brought on by population-weighted average US temperatures climbing 3 degrees. An uplift in exports could provide some relief to the oversupplied market, which has led to depressed cash and futures prices at Henry Hub. The remaining summer strip was trading at an average of $2.23/MMBtu on Wednesday afternoon.

'Fairly Neutral' EIA Injection Keeps Natural Gas Futures Steady - The Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday reported an 89 Bcf weekly injection into U.S. natural gas stocks, slightly higher than consensus, and the futures market mostly took the news in stride. The 89 Bcf injection, covering the week ended June 28, comes in higher than both the 76 Bcf injection EIA recorded for the year-ago period and the five-year average 70 Bcf. The August Nymex futures contract had been trading higher Wednesday morning, up to around $2.276/MMBtu in the lead-up to EIA’s report, which was moved up to 12 p.m. ET because of the July Fourth holiday. In the minutes after the 89 Bcf figure crossed trading screens, the front month traded as low as $2.249 before recovering to around $2.255. By 12:30 p.m. ET, August was back up to $2.274, in line with the pre-report trade and up 3.4 cents from Tuesday’s settlement. Prior to Wednesday’s report, major surveys had pointed to a build in the mid-80s Bcf, with expectations ranging from 76 Bcf to as high as 103 Bcf. Intercontinental Exchange EIA Financial Weekly Index futures settled Tuesday at 85 Bcf, while NGI’s model predicted a build of 88 Bcf. Bespoke Weather Services viewed this week’s EIA report as “fairly neutral.” “Balance-wise, it is a little looser than the balances from last week’s reported 98 Bcf build,” Bespoke said. “We expected to see this slight loosening based on the data last week. This week’s data is mixed, with stronger burns plus higher supply. We also have to consider potential holiday impact as well, so confidence will be lower on next week’s number.” Both production and demand continue to grow, with July potentially on track to set a monthly record for gas burn as liquefied natural gas (LNG) and Mexico-bound exports increase, Genscape Inc. analyst Eric Fell said during a discussion hosted by energy-focused chat platform Enelyst. Total Lower 48 working gas in underground storage stood at 2,390 Bcf as of June 28, 249 Bcf (11.6%) higher than year-ago stocks and 152 Bcf (minus 6.0%) below the five-year average, according to EIA. By region, the Midwest posted the largest weekly build at 30 Bcf, followed by the East, which refilled 27 Bcf. The Mountain region posted a 7 Bcf injection week/week, while the Pacific injected 10 Bcf. In the South Central, 14 Bcf was injected overall for the week, with an 18 Bcf injection into nonsalt offsetting a 4 Bcf pull from salt stocks, according to EIA.

Natural Gas: Volatility Increases After A Strong Rally - The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its weekly storage report on Wednesday morning. The report revealed an inventory build of 89 BCF for the week ending June 28, which fell within the trading range of 76 BCF to 103 BCF, but fell slightly more than consensus estimates of 85 BCF. The build of 89 BCF for the week ending June 28 is compared to the 76 BCF build from a year ago and the five-year avg. build of 70 BCF. Despite the bearish report with injection being above last year, consensus, and the five-year average, the bigger story on Wednesday was the shift to a hotter weather pattern in the 8-15 day time period. Stockpiles stand at 2,390 BCF vs. 2,141 BCF a year ago and the five-year avg. of 2,542 BCF. That's 249 BCF higher than last year and 152 BCF less than the five-year avg. Figures 1 and 2 below are both depictions (table and graph) of Thursday's EIA natural gas storage report for the week of June 24-28.  Natural gas futures jumped over 6% or nearly 20 cents over the past couple of trading sessions amid a hotter weather outlook  On Wednesday, the front-month August natural gas futures contract settled higher nearly 2%, or 5 cents ($0.050), to $2.290. The September contract also settled higher 4.6 cents ($0.046) to $2.263.  On Wednesday, the United States Natural Gas ETF (UNG), which is the unleveraged 1x ETF that tracks the price of natural gas, finished up 1.82% to $19.61.  UNG's leveraged exposure ETFs, the VelocityShares 3x Long Natural Gas ETN (UGAZ) and the ProShares Ultra Bloomberg Natural Gas ETF (BOIL), were seen higher Wednesday 5.87% and 3.45% at $15.68 and $13.50, respectively. Meanwhile, UNG's high-beta leveraged inverse ETFs, the VelocityShares 3x Inverse Natural Gas ETN (DGAZ) and the ProShares UltraShort Bloomberg Natural Gas ETF (KOLD), were seen lower 5.32% and 3.38% at $166.03 and $31.46, respectively. The front-month August natural gas futures contract finished Friday up 4.85%, or 12.8 cents ($0.128), to $2.418. The September contract also settled higher 12.6 cents ($0.126) to $2.389. Figure 3 below is a chart depicting the price trend of the front-month August contract over the past 24 hours.

Hotter Weather Trends Send Natural Gas Prices Soaring Higher - Natural gas prices are ending the week with a very strong rally, as the August contract currently is up a whopping 13 cents on the day.  What is causing such a rally in prices? The answer is a notable hotter shift in the weather pattern, as seen in our early morning GWDD outlook / changes.  Looking at the maps, while the most persistent heat lies out west in the 6-15 day period, there is a lack of cooler anomalies anywhere, which is keeping national demand elevated.  Zooming in on the chart at the bottom right of that image shows that the projected GWDD total for this July is getting close to the levels seen in July 2018, which was one of the hottest / highest demand Julys on record.  While this definitely represents a hotter July than the market was prepared for last week, or even to start this week, the magnitude of the rally was exaggerated due to the large short position that had built up in the market in recent weeks.  Many of these new shorts have had to cover heading into the weekend. This sets the market up for potentially another very interesting week next week, as we see if the weather pattern can hold these hotter changes, add to them, or revert back somewhat cooler.

Analysis: Every US storage region continues to inject natural gas at above-average pace -  Natural gas in underground storage to could continue filling at an above-average pace throughout the remainder of the summer in nearly all regions, keeping prices down at multiple hubs across the US. Since the beginning of this year’s injection season, Northeast storage facilities have posted substantial weekly inventory builds, largely erasing running inventory deficits relative to historical averages. This has been aided both by strong regional production and weak seasonal demand, and comes despite dismal seasonal spreads that traditionally provide the price signal to inject now and withdraw later. Starting with Week 14 of this year, and extending through the most recent Week 25, both the Dominion Transmission and Columbia Gas Transmission systems have seen storage inventories rise at a much faster clip than usual. In the case of Dominion, inventories have risen by a cumulative 102 Bcf, which is 23% greater than the five-year average cumulative build of 83 Bcf at Dominion’s storage facilities, and 46% greater than the 70 Bcf added to storage over the same period in 2018, . Likewise, on Columbia, storage inventories grew 82 Bcf from Week 14 through Week 25 this year, which is 23% more than the average 67 Bcf inventory increase on the system in the previous five years, and 40% more than the 59-Bcf inventory increase over the same period in 2018. Pacific Gas and Electric storage inventories started summer at a 10-year low of 64 Bcf, which at the time was 45 Bcf below 2018 levels, according to Platts Analytics. The large deficit to the previous year’s already low inventory level left PG&E with a low likelihood of closing the 45 Bcf gap this summer. But with below-average demand this spring and well above average pipeline receipts, PG&E has been able to close the original deficit to just 1 Bcf. While inventories are still 27 Bcf below the five-year average, the PG&E city-gate forwards for both the balance of summer and upcoming winter have fallen 36 cents/MMBtu and 35 cents/MMBtu, respectively, since April 1. Some upside risk to prices may materialize in the third quarter as PG&E has historically withdrawn gas during July and August to meet peak summer cooling demand. The Midwest, currently sitting with 497 Bcf in storage, has injected an average of 3.3 Bcf/d so far this summer, which is 126% above the five-year average, according to Platts Analytics. If the region keeps injecting this much more than the five-year average, it will reach the five-year maximum by mid-October, well before the November 6 average end of injection season. In fact, since 2011, October 31 is the earliest the Midwest has ever ended injection season. Elevated Rockies production coupled with nearly flat regional demand to last year has allowed the Rockies to average storage injections of 590 MMcf/d so far this summer, 130 MMcf/d stronger than last year, according to Platts Analytics. Southeast storage inventories have surged since the start of the injection season, assisted by maintenance at Sabine Pass, helping inventories surpass 2018 levels and shrinking the deficit to the five-year average. At the start of injection season, storage inventories sat at 208 Bcf, trailing the five-year average by 106 Bcf and 88 Bcf behind 2018 levels, prior to making significant gains. Inventories were able to build by 100 Bcf in April, ending at 305 Bcf, passing up 2018 stocks that sat near 294 Bcf.

Pa. refinery: Who will clean up decades of pollution? -- -   The explosions that destroyed part of the historic oil refinery on Philadelphia's south side have thrown a wrench into the ongoing effort to clean up decades' worth of soil and water pollution at the site.Sunoco Inc., the plant's former owner, agreed to clean up the contamination in the early 2000s, and it agreed to continue that effort after it sold the operation to a partnership known as Philadelphia Energy Solutions in 2012.The blasts on June 21 did so much damage that the new owners announced they'll likely close the refinery, the biggest on the East Coast (Greenwire, June 26).That leaves city, state and federal officials to oversee what will likely become a two-track cleanup involving two different companies. For now, Sunoco's effort to clean up the historical pollution is on hold because of the fire and explosions.Officials at EPA and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) were scrambling last week to figure out what responsibility Philadelphia Energy Solutions and other parties bear for environmental problems caused by the fire. The U.S. Chemical Safety Board said the site is so unstable that its investigators haven't been able to inspect the damage (Greenwire, June 28).The outcome is crucial because the legacy pollution is already affecting a drinking water aquifer that stretches under the Delaware River into New Jersey. The cleanup could also shape Philadelphia's future by determining whether the refinery, which sits on 1,300 acres near the intersection of the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers, can be reused for something besides heavy industry."No one ever kind of reimagined what could be at that site," said Christina Simeone, a senior researcher fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Kleinman Center for Energy Policy who wrote a paper about the refinery's problems.

Refinery explosion: How Philly dodged a catastrophe -- The alarm sounded around 4 a.m. and the plant dispatcher began broadcasting across every channel at the sprawling Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery in South Philadelphia. There was a leak. In Unit 433. “As soon as they said Unit 433, we’re coming out of our chairs,” said an operator at the refinery who was working that shift. “That’s the unit you don’t want to leak.” The reason: 433 uses highly toxic hydrofluoric acid.. A major accidental release could suddenly send a dangerous cloud of hydrogen fluoride drifting over South Philadelphia and other heavily populated neighborhoods.  “He was still transmitting the script when the first explosion rattled our blockhouse," recalled the operator, who asked not to be named. “You heard the tone of his voice change and he stumbled and then he changed it to a report of a fire, instead of a leak. It was like a fireball and there was smoke and vapor and horrendous noises and debris.”  At 4:05 a.m., the Philadelphia Fire Department struck the first alarm. That wouldn’t be the only explosion at the refinery that morning. In the end, it was the most serious refinery accident here in decades. The June 21 explosion and fire caused no deaths but had the potential to have been catastrophic. In a bitter irony, the only fatality to result from the fire appears to be that of the facility itself, which is now set for permanent closure. What follows is a reconstruction of that event as experienced by refinery workers on the scene that morning as well as firefighters and city officials charged with responding to it.

Another One Bites The Dust - Market Impacts Of Philadelphia Energy Solutions' Refinery Shutdown - Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) announced last week (on June 26) that it was shutting down its 335-Mb/d refinery in Philadelphia, PA. This announcement came just five days after a major fire destroyed a portion of the refinery, which turned out to be the last straw for the facility that has been struggling financially for many years. Today, we consider the various market impacts that will likely follow the closure of the PES refinery, including its effect on fuel supply, where the closure leaves refinery production capacity in the region and how the refined product supply will need to adjust in response.  While fires can occasionally occur at refineries, this incident apparently caused significant damage to the alkylation unit and ultimately forced the entire facility to shut down. Whether the incident caused damage to other process units or infrastructure at the refinery — or whether it was more of a containment problem for alkylation feedstock — is not known at this time. The fire in the alkylation unit provides evidence of just how important every process unit is in a refinery.  Refineries function as a system, and without key process units and logistics in place, an interruption on one process unit can cause major ramifications to other processes that are dependent on that unit. In the case of the PES alkylation unit, it causes a reaction between volatile pressurized liquids isobutane and butylene (“mixed C4 streams”; note some refineries also use propylene feed) to make the premium gasoline blendstock, alkylate. Isobutane and butylene are both contained within mixed C4 streams produced inside the refinery by process units that crack molecules, such as fluid catalytic crackers (FCCs), cokers, hydrocrackers, etc.; these components are individually worth much less than gasoline. Without an alkylation unit, PES would be forced to either sell these mixed C4 streams at a significant loss or perhaps reduce refinery throughput due to limited storage capacity. In other words, those streams must go somewhere and without the logistics in place, the operation of the refinery is compromised.

Contamination from Philadelphia refinery that exploded could pollute New Jersey groundwater. Here’s how.The Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery operations, part of which exploded and burned June 21 in South Philadelphia, has for decades sat atop plumes of underground water lurking beneath the sprawling 1,400-acre site and beyond.Although the groundwater is contaminated, it is not viewed as a direct threat to the city’s drinking-water supply. Philadelphia pulls its drinking water from the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers, upstream from the refinery. And no one can withdraw groundwater without city approval. But could the polluted plumes migrate to New Jersey underground? Christina Simeone posed the question in her detailed look at the PES facility in September for the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. The PES refinery complex sits at the confluence of the Schuylkill and Delaware, and close to where the huge aquifer flows just under the surface.Simeone’s report was referenced widely after the fire. Now a doctoral student in Colorado, she is the former director of policy and external affairs at Kleinman. She is also a former director of the PennFuture Energy Center for Enterprise and the Environment, and a former official at the state Department of Environmental Protection.“I think there’s enough here to be asking questions,” Simeone said in a phone interview. Simeone’s report contained a section on the refinery’s historic impact on the Potomac-Raritan-Magothy underground aquifer system, which holds billions of gallons of fresh water. Known as PRM, the aquifer runs under the refinery complex — and under the Delaware River, eastward into New Jersey. The aquifer’s outcrop — where it is closest to the surface — is at the Delaware River. The aquifer is a main supply for drinking water in Gloucester and Salem Counties. Gloucester County is directly across the river from the refinery. With increased population growth and development in the counties, withdraws are expected to increase, according to the USGS. The PRM aquifer — composed of upper, middle, and lower aquifers separated by rock or earth — is also a source of drinking water in Camden County.

Michigan AG sues to shut down Enbridges oil pipeline in Great Lakes - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel sued on Thursday Enbridge to shut down the dual oil pipelines running under the Straits of Mackinac because, she said, the 66-year-old pipelines “present an unacceptable risk to the Great Lakes.” Nessel, a Democrat, also filed on Thursday a motion to dismiss Enbridge’s lawsuit from early this month that seeks to enforce agreements between the company and the administration of the previous Michigan Governor, Republican Rick Snyder, which had authorized Enbridge to build a tunnel and continue operating Line 5.    The new Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, however, ordered in March the suspension of all work on the tunnel. The order followed an opinion by the new AG Nessel, who said the bill that allowed the construction of the tunnel violated the state constitution because “it went beyond what the bill’s title reflected.” Nessel threatened in April to “use every resource available” to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline, and made good on that promise today.  “I have consistently stated that Enbridge’s pipelines in the Straits need to be shut down as soon as possible because they present an unacceptable risk to the Great Lakes,” Nessel said in a statement on Thursday. “Governor Whitmer tried her best to reach an agreement that would remove the pipelines from the Straits on an expedited basis, but Enbridge walked away from negotiations and instead filed a lawsuit against the state,” Nessel added. “The continued operation of Line 5 presents an extraordinary, unreasonable threat to the public because of the very real risk of further anchor strikes, the inherent risks of pipeline operations, and the foreseeable, catastrophic effects if an oil spill occurs at the Straits,” said the Michigan AG. “We were extraordinarily lucky that we did not experience a complete rupture of Line 5 because, if we did, we would be cleaning up the Great Lakes and our shorelines for the rest of our lives, and the lives of our children as well,” she noted. 

Oil spill still leaking into Gulf of Mexico 15 years later, study finds   — For 15 years, oil from one particular spill has been leaking into the Gulf of Mexico. A new federal study estimates that each day, about 380 to 4,500 gallons of oil are flowing at the site where a company’s oil platform was damaged after a hurricane. That’s about a hundred to a thousand times worse than the company’s initial estimate, which put the amount of oil flowing into the ocean at less than three gallons a day. The report, released this past week and written by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and one at Florida State University, also contradicted assertions from the Taylor Energy Company about where the oil was coming from. The leak started in 2004, when an oil platform belonging to the Taylor Energy Company was damaged by a mudslide after Hurricane Ivan hit the Gulf of Mexico. A bundle of pipes and wells sank to the ocean floor and became partially buried under mud and sediment. To respond to the leak, Taylor Energy tried to cap nine of the wells and place containment domes over three of the plumes in 2008.But after local activists observed more oil slicks near the site of the Deepwater Horizon Spill in 2010, the Taylor oil spill started getting national attention. And last May, the U.S. Coast Guard installed a containment system that has been collecting 30 barrels, or about 1,260 gallons, a day to help catch the oil that’s continuing to surge in the ocean.Taylor Energy liquidated its oil and gas assets and ceased production and drilling in 2008, and says on its website that it exists solely to respond to the spill. It maintains that any oil and gas now leaking at the site is coming from oil-soaked sediment and bacterial breakdown of the oil. The federal government’s study suggests otherwise. “This shows it is in fact coming from the reservoirs, from these oil pipes, and not from the remnant oil at the bottom of the ocean,” Andrew Mason, one of the study’s authors, told CNN.

Cost Overruns Threaten Offshore Development - Even with funding based on a thorough engineering definition, operators could still see a cumulative $111-billion cost overrun. The prospect of oil prices remaining at about $60 a barrel, combined with impressive cuts in development and operational costs since 2014, have encouraged E&P companies to accelerate development of their offshore projects including Mad Dog Phase 2 in the Gulf of Mexico, the Azeri–Chirag–Gunashli in the Caspian Sea and the Tortue and Bonga Southwest field off the coast of West Africa. Indeed, Rystad Energy expects sanctioning of offshore field projects to rise to around $100 billion a year over the next four years, or double the annual average of 2015-18. But, rushing the final investment decision, especially for tailor-made designs, can increase uncertainty over the final cost by as much as 20 percent either way. Consequently, “for offshore operators, that means the expected variation for projects to be sanctioned during the period from 2019 to 2023 could be as high as $220 billion” according to a June 2019 study by Rystad Energy. Quite naturally, the success rate of sanctioned projects around the world varies widely. As Rystad Energy demonstrates, even taking into account funding based on a thorough engineering definition, operators could still see a cumulative $111 billion cost overrun. Indeed, Rystad has found cases in which accelerating a sanctioning decision without proper engineering definition can often result in actual costs exceeding target costs by up to 50 percent. Matthew Fitzsimmons, VP, Cost Analysis at Rystad Energy, notes that “even if oil prices stay above $60 per barrel over the next five years, final investment decisions could take longer to reach” to allow for sufficient time to mature the engineering definition and “ this will lower the uncertainty that their funding estimates will carry.” He warns that “failure to do so will not only have an adverse impact on the operator’s ability to control cost overruns but also the minority share owners of the field.” For example, the cost estimate for Shell’s huge Prelude FLNG project was $11 billion back in 2011. Nonetheless, due to the unforeseen mega engineering and fabrication challenges posed by this pioneering venture, development costs ballooned to around $15 billion – an increase of more than 36 percent. The scale of this cost overrun caused the major to cancel its order for another three FLNG units worth around $4.6 billion from Samsung Heavy Industries.

Weatherford Starts Voluntary Chapter 11 Process - Weatherford International plc, Ltd and LLC revealed Monday that they have initiated financial restructuring by commencing voluntary cases under chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to “effectuate” a "pre-packaged plan of reorganization”. Financial restructuring implemented through the pre-packaged chapter 11 process will reduce Weatherford’s long-term debt by more than $5.8 billion, according to Weatherford. The proposed restructuring contemplates $1.75 billion in new financing and up to $1.25 billion in additional post-emergence financing. Weatherford’s other entities and affiliates are not included in the chapter 11 cases. Weatherford expects to file Bermuda and Irish examinership proceedings collectively with the chapter 11 cases in the coming months. Company operations are continuing without interruption and with no expected impact on customers, vendors, partners or employees, Weatherford revealed. Back in May, Weatherford announced that it had executed a restructuring support agreement with a group of its senior noteholders that collectively held, or controlled, approximately 62 percent of the company's senior unsecured notes. In its fourth quarter results statement released back in February, Weatherford reported a net loss of $2.1 billion. During the same period in 2017, the company reported a net loss of $1.9 billion. Weatherford has not yet released financial results for 2019.

Shell Reports Two Deaths at GOM Platform - Shell reported that two fatalities occurred Sunday morning at the company’s Auger Tension Leg Platform (TLP) in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico (GOM) approximately 214 miles (340 kilometers) south of New Orleans. One of the inviduals was a Shell employee and the other worked for the oilfield services firm Danos, according to a Shell written statement emailed to Rigzone. A second Shell employee sustained a non-life-threatening injury and was treated at a nearby hospital and released, the company added. Shell said the incident occurred at approximately 10 a.m. Central time during a routine and mandatory test of its lifeboat launch and retrieval capabilities at the platform. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) are investigating the incident and are receiving full cooperation from Shell, the company stated. Moreover, Shell noted that it will conduct a separate internal probe. According to Shell, company representatives have informed family members of individuals involved and are providing support. The company also stated that names are not being released out of respect for the families and their privacy.

Two killed at Shell deepwater platform, investigation underway - Two workers were killed Sunday during a training exercise gone wrong at Royal Dutch Shell's Auger platform in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, and a federal investigation is already underway.  The accident occurred Sunday morning during a routine safety exercise of the platform's lifeboat launch and retrieval capabilities, Shell said, although the company isn't discussing how the incident occurred. But there was no leak or release of oil involved.One of those killed was a Shell employee and the other was a contractor with the Louisiana-based Danos oilfield services firm. Another Shell worker was injured, treated at a local hospital and released.  The U.S. Coast Guard and the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said they have launched an investigation into the matter. Shell will conduct an internal investigation as well.

Nearly $3B Raised for Louisiana LNG Projects - Venture Global LNG, Inc. reported Thursday afternoon that it has raised $675 million of additional capital from institutional investors, bringing total committed capital raised for its South Louisiana LNG export projects to more than $2.8 billion. Venture Global will earmark most of the new funding toward its Plaquemines LNG liquefaction terminal south of New Orleans, the company noted in a written statement emailed to Rigzone. The facility, which will be located along the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Parish, La., will be capable of producing 20 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of LNG. The latest capital infusion builds upon $855 million Venture Global had already raised as well as the $1.3 billion equity commitment the firm received in May from Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners for its Calcasieu Pass LNG project in Cameron Parish, La. In a joint statement, Venture Global Co-CEOs Mike Sabel and Bob Pender said that early works at the Plaquemines facility should start later this year. As Rigzone reported earlier this month, Polish Oil and Gas Co. (PGNiG) has signed an agreement with Venture Global to buy more LNG over two decades from the Plaquemines and Calcasieu Pass terminals. Construction is underway for the Calcasieu Pass project. Venture Global is awaiting a final order for Plaquemines from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The company stated that it expects to clear that regulatory hurdle by Aug. 1, 2019.

US May Become Third Largest Seller of LNG - This year, the U.S. will surpass Malaysia to become the world’s third largest seller of LNG. The country could even eclipse Qatar and Australia to take the top spot by 2024. This is truly staggering growth considering that LNG exports from the contiguous 48 just began in February 2016, when Cheniere Energy’s flagship Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana first came online. U.S. LNG has thus far reached over 30 nations, with South Korea, Mexico, Japan, and China receiving the most. By the end of 2019, the U.S. will have doubled its export facilities to six. And the country will have expanded its capacity to ~9 Bcf/d, more than 20 percent of current LNG demand. Although China has now put a 25 percent tariff on U.S. LNG, the expectation is that the trade war will eventually be worked out, reopening the door to the world’s most vital incremental customer.  The EIA expects annual U.S. output to grow non-stop at 1-2 percent for decades to come, double the domestic consumption rate. U.S. LNG is expanding the short-term, spot market, now accounting for just 30 percent of global trade. This is helping to increase flexibility and liquidity in the market, importantly giving the less wealthy nations a better chance to participate. While it still represents just 12-14 percent of global gas usage, LNG is the fastest growing traded commodity. Trade has been rising 8-10 percent per year in recent years and growth will remain in the 4-7 percent range for as far out as current modeling goes. As for U.S. gas users, LNG exports are a bullish factor and will put a floor under domestic prices. However, numerous studies indicate that a coming U.S. LNG export surge of 15-20 Bcf/d would likely only increase domestic prices 10-15 percent in the mid-term, and perhaps even less in the long-term. Exports will actually keep price increases in check because they beget more gas production. The comparison that some U.S. industrial groups make to Australia, where an LNG export boom led to domestic gas shortages and spiked prices, is a faulty one. Australia has been exporting over 60 percent of its production, while the U.S. should top out at below 20 percent. . Ultimately, if U.S. LNG exports do increase domestic prices too much, they will simply limit themselves by pushing buyers to look for cheaper sellers.

 America's liquefied natural gas boom may be on a collision course with climate change - America's liquefied natural gas boom has a climate change problem, according to a report released on Monday. The US energy industry is scrambling to build dozens of expensive export terminals that can be used to ship cheap natural gas to China and other fast-growing economies that want to move away from coal. While those investments make sense today, they will likely be derailed in the longer run by a combination ofplunging renewable energy costs and rising climate change concerns, according to the Global Energy Monitor, a network of researchers tracking fossil fuel projects.Those dual forces will make many LNG projects "unprofitable in the long term," putting much of the $1.3 trillion of investments in the sector at risk, the report said.The problem is that the LNG boom will create harmful methane emissions — a greenhouse gas that is roughly 30 times more harmful than carbon dioxide emissions. Both coal and natural gas produce CO2 emissions, though natural gas creates far less than coal. If the proposed LNG expansion goes forward, the climate impact would be twice as damaging as the current installed base of coal in the United States, the Global Energy Monitor told CNN Business. "We know that LNG is not a good answer climate-wise," Ted Nace, founder and director of the Global Energy Monitor, said in an interview. "It might even be pretty foolish financially — for all the reasons that coal turned out to be a bad investment 10 years ago." Nace said that natural gas can no longer credibly be viewed as a bridge fuel between coal and renewables because of methane leaks. These accidental emissions occur during drilling, in the pipelines or during delivery.He said that's why the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has called for reducing natural gas in the coming decades in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels."If you have leakage of methane along any step of the way, you can really undermine your case for this being a good solution carbon-wise,"

Ineos Selects Chocolate Bayou for New EO Unit - INEOS Oxide reported Tuesday that it will build a new ethylene oxide (EO) unit and associated downstream ethylene oxide derivatives (EOD) facility at the company’s Chocolate Bayou Works manufacturing site south of Houston. In a written statement, INEOS noted that adding the EO and EOD capacity at Chocolate Bayou will reinforce on-site integration. Moreover, the company also stated that the availability of additional land near the new unit will allow third parties to co-locate and consume EO via pipeline. INEOS Olefins and Polymers USA already operated two olefin crackers, two polypropylene units and two cogen facilities at Chocolate Bayou, a 2,400-acre complex that INEOS’ website notes boasts the second-largest hydrocarbons cracker in the United States. Also, INEOS Oligomers is building a new linear alpha olefins unit and an associated downstream poly alpha olefins unit at the site.

US E&P Workers Getting Paid More in 2019 - Engineering technicians/analysts, reservoir engineers and workers in geoscience disciplines are enjoying higher salaries in 2019, according to a report from CSI Recruiting. Crude production in the U.S. has continued to break records this year as drillers find ways to be more efficient. And at the end of 2018, industry recruiters expressed that they planned on recruiting more in early 2019, according to a survey conducted by Rigzone. With the exception of places like the Permian Basin, exploration and production (E&P) workers haven’t always fared as well as their counterparts in other sectors (i.e. midstream, downstream) regarding employment following the downturn. But CSI Recruiting’s 2019 E&P Salary Report reveals a positive hiring outlook for upstream workers in 2019. The report, now in its 15th year, analyzes data from more than 3,200 full-time, salaried E&P workers currently employed in the U.S. CSI Recruiting president Jeff Bush said for the first several weeks of January, the phones at their Colorado and Texas offices began to ring and companies who were actively hiring during that time period found “strong candidates across skill sets with reasonable compensation expectations and a willingness to make a change.” Still, he cautioned that the hiring process would be slow in 2019. “We are anticipating periods of time – weeks, perhaps a month or two – where little hiring occurs, as the industry pauses over a pricing dip or summer vacations impact decision-making,” he said. “We’re optimistic for 2019, although battle-tested enough to know it will be another year of swings in sentiment and activity level.”

Increasing uncertainty leads to flat oil and gas market  - Energy sector activity was flat in the second quarter after three years of growth, according to a press release by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas on their energy survey. The statement said the business activity index, a measure of conditions among Eleventh Federal Reserve District energy firms, indicates activity levels were largely unchanged from the prior quarter. Exploration and production and oilfield services firms drove the decline. “Results from this quarter’s survey indicate a further slowdown in the oil and gas sector, with employment and business activity essentially unchanged from last quarter,” said Michael Plante, Dallas Fed senior research economist, in a prepared statement. “Increasing pessimism and a surge of uncertainty suggest a potentially challenging near-term outlook, especially for oil field service firms.” Oil and gas production increased but at a slightly lower rate, the statement said. Meanwhile, the index for capital expenditures indicated a slight reduction in capital spending among exploration and production firms. In the 2019 Dallas Energy Survey, Plante said the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas asked a question to see how budgets for 2019 may have been revised since the start of the year. “Many firms are under pressure to maintain capital discipline for various reasons,” Plante said in a statement. “By and large, companies are maintaining budget discipline, with most reporting either no change or slight adjustments up or down.” The survey also found that services firms saw operating margins decline, the employment index dropped, executives were more pessimistic about future conditions and that expectations for oil and gas prices are slightly lower than expected.

U.S. diesel consumption hit by economic slowdown (Reuters) - U.S. consumption of diesel and other middle distillate fuels is decelerating in line with the wider slowdown in manufacturing and construction activity. Consumption of distillate fuel oil was up by 3% in the three months from February to April compared with the same period a year earlier, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Consumption growth has fallen from more than 5% year-on-year in the three months from August to October and the trend is slowing despite short-term volatility (“Petroleum Supply Monthly”, EIA, June 28). Distillate fuel oils are mostly used in manufacturing, freight transport, construction, mining, oil and gas production, and farming - as well as small amounts for home and commercial heating, especially in the U.S. northeast. Distillate consumption is therefore most heavily exposed to the business cycle and the recent slowdown is consistent with business surveys and government data showing the rate of economic growth is decelerating. Farm diesel consumption has been hit by heavy rains and flooding across the Midwest which has delayed or even cancelled the traditional planting season. Midwest distillate consumption was up by just 2% in February-April compared with the same period a year earlier, down from peak growth of more than 4% in August-October. But the distillate slowdown cannot be wholly or mainly attributed to the farm sector’s severe weather problems ( Fuel consumption has slowed even more sharply in the states along the East Coast to less than 1% in February-April down from almost 7% in August-October. Gulf Coast and West Coast consumption growth also shows signs of levelling off or slowing after accelerating for much of last year. Slowing distillate consumption growth is consistent with a broad range of other indicators pointing to a sharp slowdown in manufacturing and a downturn in construction and freight transportation. 

Keystone XL pipeline opponents pursue new legal challenge(AP) — Environmentalists asked a federal judge on Monday to cancel approvals issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, opening another front in the legal fight over a long-delayed energy project that President Donald Trump has tried to push through to completion. Attorneys for the Northern Plains Resource Council, Sierra Club and other groups filed the latest lawsuit against the $8 billion tar sands pipeline in Montana, where they’ve previously won favorable rulings in related cases. First proposed in 2008, Keystone XL was rejected by President Barack Obama but revived under Trump. An appeals court last month lifted an injunction that had blocked construction. That came after Trump issued a new permit for the project, in a bid to nullify a legal challenge that had been based on a previous permit from his administration. A separate lawsuit challenging the president’s actions on the permit is pending in federal court. Monday’s lawsuit gives pipeline opponents another avenue to delay or stop it should Trump’s permit be upheld. Both cases are assigned to Judge Brian Morris in Great Falls — the same judge who issued the injunction recently overturned by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Green groups sue to stop Keystone XL construction - Various environmental groups on Monday sued the federal government over allowing the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, arguing the project violates environmental law. The Sierra Club, Northern Plains Resource Council, Bold Alliance and other groups filed a suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, saying that it violated the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it issued a nationwide permit to allow the construction of the TransCanada Corp. gas pipeline. The suit argues specifically that the federal government’s permit to allow the construction of the pipeline between Canada and the U.S. was done “without assessing its significant direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental effects and by using the Permit to approve most of Keystone XL’s water crossings without analyzing its project-specific impacts.” “Incredibly, the EA [environmental assessment] does not evaluate the risks or impacts of oil spills into waterways at all,” the suit reads. A federal court ruled last winter that the U.S. State Department violated environmental laws by failing to supplement its 2014 environmental impact statement in light of a new pipeline route through Nebraska. Another ruling placed a stay on construction from going forward. But the Trump administration in late March rescinded that 2017 Keystone permit, issuing a new one in its place. The administration argued the new permit, which aimed to circumvent the environmental impact statement issues, nullified the construction moratorium. A White House spokesperson told The Hill at the time that the new permit "dispels any uncertainty."

As Local Control of Fracking Dawns Colorado Towns Become Battlegrounds - The image that Dr. Maureen Barrett displayed on the projector screen looked a bit like paint splatter, a splotch of red against a green background. It took a moment for her audience — a crowd of about sixty residents of east Boulder County, packed into the small conference room of a rural fire station late last month — to process what they were seeing. When they did, some gasped. “That’s downtown Longmont,” said an alarmed voice. The map on the screen showed some of the results of an air-quality modeling study that Barrett, an atmospheric scientist and engineer from Evergreen, performed for the residents of Niwot and Gunbarrel, two small communities that could be impacted by a massive fracking project planned along the far eastern edge of Boulder County. Using emissions and meteorological data recorded at other fracking sites along the Front Range, Barrett modeled the levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a hazardous air pollutant, that surrounding areas could experience during the drilling process. “The shaded area is the area that the model shows, for any one hour, that the concentrations will exceed the level of the ambient air-quality standard,” Barrett told the crowd. “We’re looking at basically an eight-mile extent of violations of the NO2 one-hour ambient air-quality standard, just from drilling.”The audience, full of people who live within or just beyond the map’s shaded area, had gathered at the headquarters of the Boulder Rural Fire Protection District to hear the results of Barrett’s research. And while she noted caveats to some of her findings, there wasn't much good news in the presentation.

State puts an end to oil leases off Carpinterias beaches - Local environmental groups are celebrating the end of four oil and gas leases in state waters directly offshore of the city of Carpinteria, terminated by the California State Lands Commission on June 28. The leases were purchased by Carone Petroleum Corporation in 1997, at which time Carone proposed to develop the leases by slant drilling from federal Platform Hogan. For more than 20 years, the Environmental Defense Center (EDC), a public interest environmental law firm, has been representing the Carpinteria Valley Association, Get Oil Out! and Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter in opposition to this proposal, as well as a similar proposal by Venoco, to develop the Paredon project. With the termination of the Paredon leases offshore Carpinteria and the Venoco leases offshore Ellwood, the Carone leases were the last active leases in state waters offshore Santa Barbara County. “The coast of Santa Barbara County is finally free from the threat of oil drilling in state waters,” said Linda Krop, Chief Counsel of EDC. “The termination of state oil leases also sends a strong message to the federal government that our communities are doing everything in our power to prevent oil and gas development off our coast.” The Carone leases were located immediately adjacent to the city of Carpinteria, in close proximity to the public open space at Carpinteria Bluffs, the seal rookery and near homes and agricultural fields. An oil spill from development of these leases would have had a devastating impact on the community, wildlife and public beaches. The termination of the leases means that this area will never be at risk for oil development.

State budget funds study on cutting petroleum supply, demand - In a clear threat to one of Kern County's economic pillars, California took a tentative first step toward cutting in-state oil and gas production with Gov. Gavin Newsom's signature last week on a budget that includes $1.5 million for finding ways to reduce petroleum supply and demand.The budget bill signals Newsom may take a more aggressively anti-oil approach than did his predecessor, former Gov. Jerry Brown. Recent state initiatives have set ambitious goals for weaning California off oil and gas, but despite pleas from environmental activists, none have directly limited production.The bill's language suggests the administration wants to tread lightly on places like Kern that rely on oil production for jobs and tax support, saying the study should identify ways to manage "the decline of fossil fuel use in a way that is economically responsible and sustainable." Workforce training and enhanced economic diversification programs are among Sacramento's ideas for accomplishing those goals.Environmental activist groups welcomed the budget item as potentially leading to climate change protections and help for communities they say suffer physical harm from living near petroleum production. Others urged Newsom to take more immediate steps to curtail oil production in the state."It’s good that Governor Newsom is interested in doing a study on how to move the state off of fossil fuels. It is important, and it should happen," Alexandra Nagy, California director at Food & Water Watch, said in a news release. "But it also should not be a reason to delay action now on several things that Governor Newsom has the power to do right now."

The Fracking Industry's Flaring Problem May Be Worse Than We Thought – DeSmog - In 2018, the oil and gas industry operating in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale burned off record amounts of natural gas, largely obtained via hydraulic fracturing (fracking). This process, known as flaring, costs the industry money — it literally burns one of the products being pumped out of the ground — but more importantly, the resulting release of globe-warming emissions of carbon dioxide and methane spells disaster for the climate.And a new analysis of satellite evidence indicates the industry is likely underreporting how much gas it is actually flaring in the Permian Shale, with implications for other oil fields.According to the Bismarck Tribune, the amount of gas flared in North Dakota in October was enough to heat 4.25 million homes in America. And while the fracking industry in North Dakota is flaring the most gas in the nation, it's not the only place this is a growing issue. Flaring reportedly also doubled in 2018 in the booming Permian Shale in Texas and New Mexico, with an estimated $1 million a day of gas burned off. In addition, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) recently analyzed satellite data and concluded that the industry is likely underreporting the actual volumes of gas flared in the Permian. EDF says that the real numbers are closer to double what the industry reports. This increase in flaring is just one more example of how the oil and gas industry has recklessly pushed forward with the so-called “shale revolution,” producing record amounts of oil while losing money and showing blatant disregard for the environment and climate along the way. It is also an excellent example of how federal and state regulators are allowing this to happen.  Flaring has alway been a part of oil production, conventional or otherwise. Natural gas often is found with oil reservoirs and when adequate infrastructure doesn't exist to capture both the oil and gas, the gas is flared, or burned, while the oil is captured and sold. (Natural gas is primarily methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and burning it transforms the methane to water and carbon dioxide, which is perhaps the best-known greenhouse gas.) A new report from the Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota suggests that North Dakota should capture the gas and store it underground, a common method of storing gas. But as the Aliso Canyon disaster made clear when an uncontrolled leak spewed methane from a gas storage facility in southern California for several months, the approach is not without its risks. However, it is the cheapest option.

ND oil spill --The North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality (NDDEQ) has been notified of a crude oil release resulting from a fire on a well pad in Bottineau County. The fire is believed to have started from a lightning strike. The well is operated by RIM Operating, Inc. The incident occurred approximately 5 miles northwest of Lansford. A mist of crude oil sprayed off the pad due to one of the tanks exploding. Initial estimates indicate less than 300 barrels of crude oil were released, with the majority contained on the pad.  Personnel from the NDDEQ have inspected the site and will continue to monitor the investigation and remediation.

US Drillers Drop Five Rigs -- The U.S. dropped five oil rigs and gained one gas rig for a net loss of four rigs this week, according to weekly data from Baker Hughes, a GE Company. This brings the nation’s overall rig count to 963, which is 89 less than the count of 1,052 one year ago. New Mexico led all states, adding three additional rigs this week. Alaska added two rigs and West Virginia added one rig. Oklahoma led all states in declines with a drop of five rigs this week. Louisiana dropped four rigs and Texas dropped one rig. Texas has now dropped rigs seven out of the last eight weeks. Among the major basins, the Cana Woodford and the Haynesville each dropped two rigs while the Permian added two rigs and the Marcellus added one. Currently, the Permian has 443 active rigs, which accounts for almost half of the nation’s total rig count.

As oil drilling nears in Arctic refuge, 2 Alaska villages see different futures -  David Smith Jr. opposes oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He's worried about harm that could come to the Porcupine caribou herd. Nathan Gordon Jr., says development can be done responsibly, and that drilling and caribou can, and do, co-exist on the North Slope. These are decades old arguments often heard in Washington, D.C., but they've moved from hypothetical to urgent since Congress legalized oil development in the northern slice of the refuge in 2017. The Trump administration is pushing to let oil companies bid on land there by the end of the year. And for Smith and Gordon, that drilling would happen, essentially, in their backyard. Smith lives in Arctic Village, an indigenous Gwich'in community of about 150 just south of the refuge. Residents say the caribou herd that often gives birth in the refuge is essential to their way of life. Gordon is from Kaktovik, an Inupiat town of 250 and the only village surrounded by the coastal area where drilling could take place. Residents have already benefited from oil development elsewhere on the North Slope and some see more drilling as an opportunity. Arctic Village has long been the face of opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, often called ANWR, and no one is ready to admit defeat.

We're fracking the hell out of the U.S.A. Can a president slam on the brakes? -- U.S. Route 285, cutting through the Texas-New Mexico border, is perilous. People die. The remote highway is bustling, often dangerously so, because the U.S. fracking revolution is in high gear, and nearly-endless bounties of liquid gold lie beneath the West Texas ground. Overall, U.S. crude oil production andexports have both hit record highs. America is also now the world leader in natural gas production. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide — a major product of burned fuel — is now rising at rates that are unprecedented in historic and geologic time. Already, levels of the heat-trapping gas are the highest they've been in at least 800,000 years — though it's probably millions of years. Earth, understandably, is feeling the heat. Eighteen of the 19 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000.  Jay Inslee — the presidential candidate running a climate change-focused campaign — proposed an ambitious solution on Monday: rapidly phasing out the extraction of fossil fuels in the U.S., which includes ending fossil fuel drilling on federal land, terminating "outrageous" taxpayer-footed subsidies to fossil fuel business (at the tune of some $26 billion a year), and pursuing a complete, nationwide ban on fracking."American fossil fuel production is stepping on the accelerator at just the moment that it should be hitting the brakes," reads Inslee's "Freedom from Fossil Fuels" proposal.A fracking ban, or a significant curbing of fracking — which involves injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into the ground to break open hard-to-reach pockets of oil — is meaningful because the prohibition would keep bounties of carbon-rich oil buried. But can any president, however influential, truly outlaw the practice, or diminish its climate impact?

Fracking Creates A Glut Of Fossil Fuels & A Mountain Of Debt -- To hear officials in the Trump administration tell it, fracking is a fantastic gift to the American people because it allows the US to be the largest oil and gas producer in the known universe.  Steve Schlotterbeck, former chief executive of EQT, one of the largest shale gas fracking companies in the US, has a different perspective. At a petrochemicals conference in Pittsburgh recently, he shocked his audience by telling them that fracking has been an “unmitigated disaster” for shale companies.“The shale gas revolution has frankly been an unmitigated disaster for any buy-and-hold investor in the shale gas industry with very few limited exceptions. In fact, I’m not aware of another case of a disruptive technological change that has done so much harm to the industry that created the change. While hundreds of billions of dollars of benefits have accrued to hundreds of millions of people, the amount of shareholder value destruction registers in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The industry is self-destructive.”Writing for Oil, Nick Cunninham says, “The message is not a new one. The shale industry has been burning through capital for years, posting mountains of red ink. One estimate from the Wall Street Journal found that over the past decade, the top 40 independent U.S. shale companies burned through $200 billion more than they earned. A 2017 estimate from the WSJ found $280 billion in negative cash flow between 2010 and 2017. It’s incredible when you think about it — despite the record levels of oil and gas production, the industry is in the hole by roughly a quarter of a trillion dollars.“In a little more than a decade, most of these companies just destroyed a very large percentage of their companies’ value that they had at the beginning of the shale revolution,” Schlotterbeck said. “It’s frankly hard to imagine the scope of the value destruction that has occurred. And it continues. Nearly every American has benefited from shale gas, with one big exception — the shale gas investors.”’

Shale Fight Makes OPEC Accept Lowest Market Share Since 1991 - For almost three decades, OPEC has always pumped at least 30% of the world’s crude oil, creating an informal floor for Saudi Arabia and its allies in the cartel. The level has survived everything from wars and economic crises to terrorist attacks and diplomatic spats. Yet, with OPEC set to extend output cuts for the rest of the year and potentially into early 2020, its share of the oil market is all but certain to drop below 30% for the first time since 1991, according to Bloomberg News calculations. The sliding market share of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which meets in Vienna on Monday, highlights how the cartel keeps giving ground to rising U.S. shale production in pursuit of higher prices.  Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed on Saturday to push for an extension of the current OPEC+ production cuts for the rest of the year and potentially all the way to March 2020, making the outcome of next week’s gathering in Vienna of OPEC and non-OPEC oil ministers all but a foregone conclusion. As Saudi Arabia pursues a policy of higher oil prices, it and the rest of the OPEC cartel are giving up market share to rivals including U.S. shale producer.   OPEC nations are bearing the burden of the market-share loss unevenly. Under U.S. sanctions, Tehran and Caracas have seen their production collapse, lightening the effort other members had to make to support high oil prices. Since December, Iranian and Venezuelan output has fallen by almost 1 million barrels a day, hitting its lowest level in about 40 years, according to Bloomberg News estimates. Other OPEC nations have avoided trouble by simply flouting the rules, virtually pumping at will. Iraq, for example, produced 4.7 million barrels a day in May, matching a record it set in December. But Saudi Arabia, the group’s most important member, is having to make deeper cuts than initially planned, reducing output recently to 9.7 million barrels a day, well below the level of 10.3 million a day it agreed with its OPEC partners.

THE UNITED STATES A NET OIL EXPORTER?? The Dirty Little Secret - The United States became a net oil exporter for the first time in 75 years, or so they say.  While the U.S. may indeed be exporting more petroleum than it imports from time to time, there’s a dirty little secret behind the data.  And one of those secrets overlooked by some energy analysts and the press is that the U.S. still imports 7 million barrels per day of oil. So, why would the United States continue to import 7 million barrels per day (mbd) of oil if it is indeed… a Net Oil Exporter??  Good question.   According to the EIA, the U.S. Energy Information Agency, the U.S. first became a net oil exporter during the week of Nov 30th, 2018 by exporting 211,000 barrels per day more than it imported.   ”  As we can see, the U.S. had an even higher amount of net oil exports this past week at 675,000 barrels per day.  Regardless, the U.S. has been a net exporter for three weeks out of the past seven months. However, if we look into the details of this data, we will find out that the United States isn’t exporting this oil and petroleum because it “WANTS” to, but because it’s “FORCED” to. There’s a big difference.   Let’s start with the growth of U.S. oil production.  While U.S. shale oil production first began to ramp up in 2008, this chart shows the increase in total oil production since 2014  :U.S. crude oil production increased by 3.6 million mbd, or 42% in the past five years.    However, while our domestic oil production has increased significantly, our usage of petroleum in the transportation sector is only up 5% during the same period:  If we are producing a great deal more oil than we did in 2014, then why are U.S. crude oil imports nearly the same as they were five years ago? Here we can see that total U.S. crude oil imports currently average 7.1 mbd (2019) versus 7.4 mbd in 2014. If we consider that U.S. oil production has surged by 3.6 mbd since 2014, then why haven’t our crude oil imports DECLINED more significantly???  Well, part of the answer can be found in the following chart: The main increase of U.S. oil production comes from a very light grade of shale oil.  Extremely light tight shale oil has an API Gravity rating of 40-50 degrees.  And in the past three years, the production of U.S. 40-50 API oil has increased by 2.1 mbd.  And where does the majority of this extra light tight shale oil come from?   It comes from North Dakota, Texas and New Mexico, via the Bakken, Eagle Ford, and Permian Shale Oil Fields (the chart is shown in thousand barrels per day):  These three states are producing 4.5 mbd of the very light tight shale oil (40-50 API) produced in the United States.  To understand the different oil grades, simply put, the lower the API rating, the heavier the oil.  Heavy Canadian oil sands have an API rating of 20-25, while medium grade conventional is 30-35 API, and much of the shale oil is very light at 40-50 API. Unfortunately, U.S. refineries are set up for a much lower grade conventional oil of 31-33 API Gravity:

'Don't get used to it': OPEC's free pass for US shale will be short-lived, JP Morgan says - A gradual fall in oil prices over the coming years could prompt Saudi Arabia and OPEC to reclaim some of its market share from the U.S., according to the head of EMEA oil and gas research at J.P. Morgan. Saudi Arabia and OPEC are “there to support oil while they are effectively pregnant with all this economic growth and capital they have got to deliver. But, having said that, what we are saying to the bulls is: Don’t get used to it,” J.P. Morgan’s Christyan Malek told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Thursday. Earlier this week, OPEC and 10 other allied producing partners agreed to keep 1.2 million barrels a day off the market for another nine months. The energy alliance, sometimes referred to as OPEC+, has been reducing output since 2017 as part of a sustained bid to prop up crude prices. The Middle East-dominated group has succeeded in keeping crude futures near $60 a barrel, albeit five years after oil prices last traded above $100. But, a protracted period of production cuts has seen its share of the global oil market sink to the lowest level in almost three decades. Meanwhile, the U.S. shale industry has expanded at such a rapid rate that it threatens to overwhelm OPEC-led efforts to mitigate demand concerns, swamping the global oil market with supply. When asked whether he believed OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia could change this dynamic and eventually outlast the U.S. shale industry, Malek replied: “I think, at the moment, with OPEC and Saudi focusing on fiscal (and) economic policy, they are absolutely two feet in the value camp.” “This value proposition, the fact they are giving shale a free pass so to speak is short-lived… I mean three of four years ago, who would have thought that they would be happy with $60 to $70?” “The bar keeps falling, it is just very gradual. In a few years’ time I expect $50 to be an okay oil price, at which point that could see Saudi and OPEC reclaim that market share and then it becomes more competitive,” Malek said.

 Shale Patch Struggles 5 Years After Crude Collapse - It’s been five years since crude started a precipitous drop that eventually saw it hit a low of $26 a barrel. While prices have recovered some of the lost ground, shale producers are still feeling the pain. Oil’s 76% collapse from almost $108 a barrel in June 2014 was the worst plunge since the financial crisis of 2008. Below are some data points on how the industry has fared since. In 2014, oil and gas companies made up almost 11% of the S&P 500 Index. Now, that’s just over 5% as some investors appear to have given up on the sector. Shareholder antipathy stems at least in part from questions over the profitability of shale drilling. While the five big, publicly traded integrated major producers -- BP Plc, Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Total SA -- resumed generating free cash flow as a group in 2017, independent U.S. drillers only became cash-flow-positive (based on an average of 12 such companies compiled by Bloomberg) in 2018 -- and they were back in the red in the first quarter of 2019. One fundamental difference is that independents get most, if not all, their crude from shale wells, which go through a much quicker drop-off in production than conventional wells. That compels them to constantly spend on new prospects to keep growing. After oil prices dropped at the end of last year, investors doubled down on their demands for drillers to slash capital budgets. It’s not just capital spending, though. Shareholders are now asking independent producers to trim the fat. General and administrative costs, the bulk of which come from salaries, have been creeping up in the last couple of years. While the larger players have been able to weather the 2014 crude collapse and another price downturn late last year, some smaller companies weren’t so lucky. The energy sector has made up almost a quarter of all U.S. bankruptcies in the past year.

Oil sector cutting spending as Wall Street turns its back -- Rising production. Weakening demand. Skeptical investors. The U.S. energy sector, while not entering a downturn, is facing an extended period of lower oil prices, lower profits and tighter spending, ultimately leading to slower growth, fewer companies and fewer jobs in Houston and across the oil and gas industry. In less than a year, the fundamentals of energy markets have shifted dramatically, from forecasts of looming shortages to worries about mounting supplies. Even with OPEC’s agreement this week to extend production cuts into next year, oil markets remain worried about deteriorating global energy demand and record U.S. production. Crude has struggled to break out of the $50-to-$60-a-barrel range, despite heightened tensions in the Middle East and the output reductions by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Some companies can still make money at those levels, but not enough to fuel significant expansions or satisfy increasingly impatient investors. Wall Street already has turned its back on the sector, unhappy with its lackluster returns but also increasingly focused on challenges to the industry— and earnings — from climate change, renewable energy and electric vehicles. The S&P Energy index is down more than 16 percent in the past 12 months even as the broaders S&P 500 index has gained 9 percent. After the the recent oil crash that ended in 2016, the door for funding oil and gas companies was wide open as banks and investors became eager to finance the land rush in West Texas’ booming Permian Basin and get in on the rebound. But the land rush proved costly, and many companies, loaded with debt, have yet to turn a meaningful profit. “We’ve done pretty much a 180-degree turn,” said Brian Lidsky, senior director at the Austin-based research firm Drillinginfo. “That door started to shut in 2018 and now the lock has been put on.”

Drillers Fighting for New Life  - For the oilfield services industry, it’s no longer about merely navigating a downturn. It’s now about survival. Five years after crude began its plunge to less than $30 a barrel from more than $100, the companies that drill and frack wells are living in a new world. The producers they work for have become increasingly efficient and cost-conscious, reacting to shareholder demands for payback and a crude market that’s recovered only part of that brutal decline. Meanwhile, the service companies that handed out discounts in the downturn are barely holding on. Schlumberger Ltd. and Halliburton Co., the two biggest, have each fallen by more than 65% since crude started tumbling, and Weatherford International Plc on Monday filed for bankruptcy. Contrast that with the oil producers, collectively down less than 50%. When crude began recovering in March 2016, the servicers started refortifying. But with their customers keeping a lid on spending, the gear began to pile up. In February, Rystad Energy, an industry consultant, estimated that supplies of U.S. fracking gear -- the pumps that blast water, sand and chemicals underground to release crude in what has become the most expensive part of drilling -- will exceed demand by about 68% by year’s end. At the same time, producers have enjoyed an output boom in recent years, doing more with less by using new methods and technology. Shortened horizontal drilling times and longer laterals that require fewer wells to be drilled are taking a toll on servicers. In June 2014, the U.S. pumped 8.4 million barrels of crude using 1,545 drilling rigs. Last month, it produced about 12.2 million barrels, 45% more, with just 788 rigs. 

U.S. Oil Companies Find Energy Independence Isn't So Profitable -  Oil companies are producing record amounts of crude oil and natural gas in the United States and have become major exporters. Yet the companies themselves are finding little to love about this seeming bonanza. With a global glut driving down prices, many are losing money and are staying afloat by selling assets and taking on debt. The value of oil and gas stocks as a proportion of the S&P 500 over the last six years has dropped to about 4.6 percent, from 8.7 percent. “It’s really a psychological punch in the gut,” said Matt Gallagher, chief executive of Parsley Energy, which has productive shale fields in the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico and has tripled output over the last three years. His company’s shares have tumbled to about $19 a share, from $38 in late 2016. Domestic oil production has increased by more than 60 percent since 2013, to over 12 million barrels a day, making the United States the biggest producer of oil and natural gas in the world and slashing imports.  Oil executives say the United States is set to become an even bigger factor because a further five million or so barrels of daily crude oil production are on the way in the next few years.  In years past, investors might have celebrated Occidental Petroleum’s proposed acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum, which has some of the most lucrative oil fields in the country. Instead, Occidental’s shares have fallen by about 10 percent since that deal in early May. In the last four years, roughly 175 oil and gas companies in the United States and Canada with debts totaling about $100 billion have filed for bankruptcy protection. Many borrowed heavily when oil and gas prices were far higher, only to collectively overproduce and undercut their commodity prices. At least six companies have gone bankrupt this year, and Weatherford International, the fourth-leading oil services company, which owes investors $7.7 billion, is expected to file for bankruptcy protection on Monday.   Weatherford’s chief executive, Mark A. McCollum, seemed exasperated. “I don’t waste a lot of time thinking or planning how to fail,” he said. “The elephant in the room for the entire sector is we’re not generating returns that our investors expect.” One concern is that the industry will be forced to leave oil and gas in the ground as climate change prompts environmental restrictions on drilling or a shift to alternative fuels. “The psychology has turned,” “When you talk to investors they are concerned about oil companies spending money on something that will be in decline. There are more concerns that electric cars and hybrid cars are going to get more and more popular.”

U.S. oil production growth slows but OPEC+ should be wary (Reuters) - The once booming expansion rate of U.S. oil production has begun to slow in response to the downturn in prices since the end of the third quarter of 2018, government production figures show. U.S. crude and condensates production rose to a record 12.16 million barrels per day (bpd) in April, an increase of 1.69 million bpd or 16% compared with the same month a year earlier. But the growth rate has slowed since peaking in the third quarter of 2018, according to monthly output data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration ("Petroleum Supply Monthly", EIA, June 28). Total crude and condensates production was up by just 1.52 million bpd year-on-year in the three-month period from February to April, down from a peak growth rate of almost 1.97 million bpd in August-October 2018. Onshore production from the Lower 48 states, most of it from shale plays, grew by just 1.34 million bpd year-on-year in February-April down from 1.81 million bpd in August-October. Slowing output growth is evident across all major oil-producing shale plays as firms ease the rate of new drilling and well completions in response to lower prices ( ). In the Permian Basin's Spraberry shale play, annual production growth has slowed to 300,000 bpd in March-May from 425,000 bpd in August-October. Also in the Permian, Wolfcamp shale play production growth has slowed to 380,000 bpd from 490,000 bpd, while Bonespring growth is down to 130,000 bpd from 190,000 bpd. Further north, in the Bakken, growth has slowed to 190,000 bpd from closer to 230,000 bpd, according to EIA estimates based on state agency figures. Lower prices are gradually dampening the frenzied drilling and fracking boom in 2017 and 2018 and helping eliminate the forecast over-production in the global oil market. Across the United States, the number of rigs drilling for oil has fallen by 95 or almost 11% since November and is down by 65 or 8% since the same point last year, according to oilfield services company Baker Hughes. The slowdown in drilling is the worst since the slump in oil prices between 2014 and 2016, confirming the pressure on U.S. shale producers. Employment in oil and gas drilling was still rising in May, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which could be revised in the coming months. But employment in support activities along the supply chain has been drifting down steadily since September 2018 ("Current employment survey", BLS, June 2019). Changes in oil prices generally filter through to drilling with a lag of three to four months and start affecting production with a total lag of nine to 12 months. 

 The Plastics Backlash has Some Oil Giants Worried - Recycling and bio-plastics are set to impact the future of global oil and gas demand. Faced with sooner than anticipated peak demand from transportation, industry, buildings and the power sector, BP Plc, Total SA and Exxon Mobil, amongst others, are investing in factories and refineries that convert fossil fuels into plastics and chemical feedstocks--a sector that is, according to the BP Energy Outlook 2019 “the single-largest projected source of oil demand growth in the next twenty years.” Indeed, the EIA expects U.S. demand for feedstock to increase from 40 million metric tons a year today to 60 million by 2040. Royal Dutch Shell PLC is thought to have invested at least $6 billion in a chemical processing plant to produce ethane and polyethylene feedstocks in Western Pennsylvania. Similarly, Exxon Mobil plans to spend $20 billion over the next decade on a series of petrochemical complexes and refineries on the Gulf Coast. Likewise, traditional crude oil producers and refiners see a bright future in chemicals and plastics. For example, Saudi Aramco, is planning to invest some $100 billion over a decade, aiming to convert about 2-3 million barrels of crude oil per day directly into petrochemical products. Indeed, Saudi Aramco recently forked over $70 billion to acquire Sabic, a Saudi petrochemical giant, to help it become “the leader in energy and chemicals” according to Amin Nasser, Aramco CEO. It is not just oil companies that see a future in chemicals. Oil refineries are being built to focus on chemical products rather than fuel. For example, China’s Hengli Petrochemical Co. and Rongsheng Petrochemical Co. will devote as much as half of their capacity to chemicals, mostly paraxylene, a material that China imports to make polyester and plastic bottles. That’s a sharp increase from the 10 percent chemical production at a typical refinery and as much as 20 percent at modern refineries integrated with chemical plants. Black Swan Event?Quite unexpectedly, the oil industry's recent investments into increasing plastic and chemical feedstock capacity is not looking as bright, as this strategy is threatened by the worldwide consumer response to plastic polluting oceans and clogging rivers as highlighted by government discussions in Europe, India, China and some U.S. states to ban single-use plastics.

New Shipping Fuel Rules Rocking the Oil Market-- They may still be six months away, but new rules on marine fuels are already sending shock-waves through the little-known world of refinery feedstocks. The price of these low-sulfur, heavier oils -- that refineries make and then reprocess into transport fuels like gasoline and diesel -- has jumped in Europe in recent weeks because the shipping industry is starting to drive up demand for the products. The surge benefits some refineries while hurting others. "We’re moving from an old norm to a new norm," said Steve Sawyer, senior analyst at energy consultant Facts Global Energy. "The market is paying a higher premium for low-sulfur material than it did before because people are looking to stockpile low-sulfur bunker fuel." Refiners typically run feedstocks -- in particular straight-run fuel oil and vacuum gasoil -- through upgrading units, converting them into more valuable transport fuels. That means there’s historically been a link with prices for the finished fuels. That relationship is now being disrupted by the need to produce cleaner marine fuels before a 0.5% sulfur cap stipulated by the International Maritime Organization that starts in January. Straight run fuel oil with 0.5% sulfur recently turned more expensive than Brent crude in northwest Europe for the first time in five years, according to Jan-Jaap Verschoor, director of Oil Analytics, a firm that tracks margins across the global refining industry. The price hike for the feedstock makes sense as refiners buy up the product in preparation for ramping up production of next year’s marine fuel, he said. The market for very low sulfur fuel oil, or VLSFO, is already heating up in Europe. Along with Italy’s Saras SpA, Israel’s ORL Refineries Ltd. has already sold its first cargoes while tanker owner Euronav NV has been buying up 0.5% product for storage in the Mediterranean Sea on one of the world’s biggest vessels. At least one company has also switched its holding tanks to low-sulfur fuel oil from high sulfur.

 Latest Weapon Of US Imperialism- Liquefied Natural Gas - One of the most important energy battles of the future will be fought in the field of liquid natural gas (LNG).Suggested as one of the main solutions to pollution, LNG offers the possibility of still managing to meet a country’s industrial needs while ameliorating environmental concerns caused by other energy sources. At the same time, a little like the US dollar, LNG is becoming a tool Washington intends to use against Moscow at the expense of Washington’s European allies. To understand the rise of LNG in global strategies, it is wise to look at a graph (page 7) produced by the International Gas Union (IGU) where the following four key indicators are highlighted: global regasification capacities; total volumes of LNG exchanged; exporting countries; and importing countries.  From 1990 to today, the world has grown from 220 million tons per annum (MTPA) to around 850 MTPA of regasification capacity. The volume of trade increased from 20-30 MTPA to around 300 MTPA. Likewise, the number of LNG-importing countries has increased from just over a dozen to almost 40 over the course of 15 years, while the number of producers has remained almost unchanged, except for a few exceptions like the US entering the LNG market in 2016. There are two methods used to transport gas. The first is through pipelines, which reduce costs and facilitate interconnection between countries, an important example of this being seen in Europe’s importation of gas.  The second method of transporting gas is by sea in the form of LNG, which in the short term is more expensive, complex and difficult to implement on a large scale.  This process adds 20% to costs when compared to gas transported through pipelines. Less than half of the gas necessary for Europe is produced domestically, the rest being imported from Russia (39%), Norway (30%) and Algeria (13%). In 2017, gas imports from outside of the EU reached 14%. Spain led with imports of 31%, followed by France with 20% and Italy with 15%. The construction of infrastructure to accommodate LNG ships is ongoing in Europe, and some European countries already have a limited capacity to accommodate LNG and direct it to the national and European network or act as an energy hub to ship LNG to other ports using smaller ships.

Is This The Beginning Of A New Oil Crisis In Canada? - Canada is desperately trying to build the much-delayed Trans Mountain Expansion, but even as it tries to advance the ball on one front, another pipeline has found itself in the crosshairs. Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline carries more than a half a million barrels of oil and products per day from Alberta, across the border into the U.S., and ultimately to refineries back in Canada at the major refining and petrochemical hub of Sarnia, Ontario. The 540,000-bpd pipeline may be in trouble, however. The state of Michigan just launched a lawsuit, which could force Enbridge to shut the pipeline down. Michigan is concerned about the possibility of a leak from the aging pipeline, which crosses under the Straits of Mackinac. A leak could threaten drinking water and spoil the scenic Great Lakes. Governor Gretchen Whitmer promised to stop the “flow of oil through the Great Lakes as soon as possible.” Enbridge has been trying to build a replacement for the pipeline, which is nearly 70 years old. But the replacement proposal has been a huge point of contention. Michigan’s attorney general is hoping to shut it down. The risk the state most fears is an anchor strike. “The location of the pipelines...combines great ecological sensitivity with exceptional vulnerability to anchor strikes,” Michigan AG Dana Nessel said. An anchor strike occurred in 2018 and was viewed as a near disaster. “This situation with Line 5 differs from other bodies of water where pipelines exist because the currents in the Straits of Mackinac are complex, variable, and remarkably fast and strong.” Enbridge argues that it inked a deal with the former Michigan governor last year, which would have allowed Enbridge to build a tunnel underwater to house the pipeline and allow the system to continue to operate. The new Democratic administration has tossed that agreement aside.

Canada aboriginal pipe dream might end Trudeau's Trans Mountain nightmare (Reuters) - An indigenous-led group plans to offer to buy a majority stake in the Trans Mountain oil pipeline from the Canadian government this week or next, a deal that could help Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mitigate election-year criticism from environmentalists.  Redmond The group, called Project Reconciliation, aims to submit the C$6.9 billion ($5.26 billion) offer as early as Friday, managing director Stephen Mason told Reuters, and start negotiations with Ottawa two weeks later. Project Reconciliation said the investment will alleviate First Nations poverty, a watershed for indigenous people who have historically watched Canada’s resources enrich others. Expansion would triple capacity of the pipeline carrying crude from Alberta to British Columbia’s coast, helping resuscitate an industry depressed by low prices and congested pipelines. Trudeau’s government, which bought the pipeline last year after its owner, Kinder Morgan Canada, gave up on trying to get the expansion approved, has already been touting First Nations participation. A deal ahead of an October election could ease criticism from voters who have complained of broken promises on the environment and aboriginal rights. Still, not all First Nations groups are on board. Some in British Columbia have pledged to keep fighting expansion of Trans Mountain, even with blockades and protests, saying ownership makes no difference to the risk of oil leaks.

Some BP Oil Won't See Light of Day-- Oil companies are under increasing pressure to bring fuel to market faster and cheaper, leading BP Plc to conclude some of its resources “won’t see the light of day,” according to its head of strategy. Some of the “more complicated to extract” resources in the British oil major’s portfolio may have to be sold or stay in the ground, said Dominic Emery, the company’s group head of strategy. They’re going to be too expensive and too time-consuming to get out, and the industry is under pressure to shorten the duration and size of projects, he said. Part of the shift is due to climate change, which has caused investors to pressure BP to stick to lower-carbon projects. It’s also due to an oil price that’s half what it was five years ago, meaning some projects “simply don’t make money.” “There are classes of resources that are kind of much further out and more complicated to extract,” Emery said in an interview. “There’s no doubt that some of those resources won’t come out the ground.” Emery didn’t quantify the volume of BP’s resources that may stay put. The oil major said in an investor presentation last year it has 25 billion barrels of resources, 40% of which have been “booked and proved.” Emery said only unproved oil resources are at risk of being stranded. While he also didn’t clarify which resources are the most complicated to extract, research from consultants Rystad Energy AS and Wood Mackenzie Ltd. tend to point to ultra-deepwater, remote or extremely carbon-heavy projects, such as oil sands, as the longest-term and most expensive.

Anti-fracking activists breached injunction, judge rules - Three anti-fracking protesters have been found to have breached an injunction designed to stop them demonstrating outside a fracking site in Lancashire, which they say has a “chilling effect on the right to peaceful protest”.The trio were taken to court by Cuadrilla, which last year became the first firm to start large-scale fracking in Britain. The energy firm said it took legal action to prevent “dangerous, disrespectful and illegal activity” at its Preston New Road site near Blackpool.Katrina Lawrie, Lee Walsh and Christopher Wilson were found in contempt of court at Manchester high court on Friday after taking part in a “lock-on” at the site on 24 July last year. It took police six and a half hours to separate the protesters as they sat locked together at the entrance to the site.  Lawrie was found to have breached the injunction on one further occasion, in August last year. The lock-on came less than a fortnight after a judge granted an injunctionpreventing “persons unknown” from trespassing on the shale gas exploration site and surrounding farmland, as well as prohibiting unlawful obstruction of the site entrance and adjacent main A583 road.  “There can be no doubt that the respondents breached the injunction. It is beyond reasonable doubt that they intended to slow or stop the traffic,” said Pelling, who granted the original Cuadrilla injunction last year. He adjourned sentencing for the three protesters and the environmental group Friends of the Earth to seek a variation of the terms of the injunction. They argue it is strikingly similar to a “draconian and anti-democratic” injunction taken out by Ineos, one of Cuadrilla’s rivals, which was subsequently overruled by judges as it was found to be “too wide and insufficiently clear”.

 Cuadrilla Using Shale Site to Explore Hydrogen - Cuadrilla Resources Ltd. is looking at ways to produce hydrogen from its stalled shale gas exploration site in northwest England to benefit from U.K. policy pushing the green fuel. The firm said it will study how hydrogen can be produced from its wells to heat homes and power public transport to help develop a commercial use of the greener gas that a key climate report highlighted as crucial to hitting the net zero climate target by 2050. “The north of England can become both a major gas producer and a major hydrogen hub – perhaps the center of the hydrogen revolution in the U.K.,” Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive officer told Bloomberg News in an email. Still in its infancy, the aim of the project is to make shale gas more cost competitive and a lower emissions source of hydrogen than imported liquefied natural gas, he said. The U.K. government’s climate advisers said in their landmark report earlier this year that hydrogen will need to be used in heating systems instead of natural gas in order to dramatically cut emissions to net zero. The government is fully behind the development and deployment of hydrogen into its networks with several funding schemes available. However, a commercially viable way to produce hydrogen is yet to emerge.

Ineos Awards Wood Contract for Belgium Cracker -- INEOS has awarded Wood a contract for its landmark project to build a propane dehydrogenation (PDH) unit and ethane cracker at Antwerp, Belgium, Wood reported Monday. Under the contract, Wood will act as program management partner for the duration of the project and oversee the execution of the new petrochemicals complex, the company stated. Wood added that the contract will be delivered effectively immediately by the company’s multidisciplinary capital projects team in Reading, U.K. and onsite in Antwerp. “We are delighted to support INEOS as part of an integrated project management partnership to deliver this strategically important development for the European petrochemicals industry,” Dave Stewart, CEO of Wood’s Asset Solutions unit in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, commented. “We will bring our renowned project management capability in delivering large-scale capital projects and extensive track record of providing engineering, procurement and construction services globally, to this contract.” According to a Jan. 14, 2019, announcement from INEOS, the 3 billion-euro Antwerp facility represents the largest investment the company has ever made and will be Europe’s first new cracker in two decades. INEOS has also stated the complex could be a “game-changer” for Belgium’s economy and reverse a years-long decline in Europe’s petrochemicals sector.

Venezuela Plans on Shutting Fields to Boost Oil -- Venezuela’s state-owned oil company is taking an unusual step to try and increase production: shut fields. Starting in July, Petroleos de Venezuela SA will prioritize 13 fields in the Faja, a 55,000 square-kilometer (21,235 square-mile) strip north of the Orinoco River containing heavy crude oil that former president Hugo Chavez turned into the nation’s oil flagship project, according to a document seen by Bloomberg. The other 20 fields -- many producing less than 500 barrels a day -- will be considered inactive, the document showed. PDVSA is struggling to turn around a slide in Venezuela’s oil production that has only steepened after the U.S. imposed sanctions on sales of naphtha, a compound needed to help tar-like crude from the Orinoco Belt move through pipelines. The restructuring follows PDVSA’s decision to turn oil upgraders into blending facilities in May. Output has fallen to 741,000 barrels a day, after bring further hobbled in March by a series of blackouts. “This is an emergency plan as a result of the lack of naphtha and light crude,” said Antero Alvarado, managing partner of consultant Gas Energy Latin America. “This will affect total production output, as some fields will be shut temporarily.” PDVSA declined to comment.

Mysterious Trader Dodges US Sanctions To Buy Maduro's Oil - A new report from Bloomberg exposes how international traders can skirt around US sanctions to buy and sell Venezuelan oil, which allows the Maduro regime to remain in power. Dragoslav Ilic, a Serb with a Panamanian trading company, trades Venezuelan oil and avoids US sanctions in global markets by bartering oil and reselling to third parties. MS Internacional Corporation exchanges crude for gasoline and gasoline components, allowing the Maduro regime to supply heavily subsidized fuel to his faithful supporters.   Bloomberg notes, until the last several months, no one in the business has ever heard of Ilic or his company.  Francisco Monaldi, a professor at Rice University's Baker Institute, said the emergence of new traders reminds him of those who helped the Venezuelan government survive the strike of 2002–2003. "These tiny trading houses are doing the same, helping out the regime to either get cash or gasoline or dilutents to produce crude oil," Monaldi said. Along with new trading houses, Russia's state-controlled oil company Rosneft, Indian refiners and China are supporting Petróleos de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA) with billions of dollars in loans for the chance to purchase oil. The mystery trader has been in the headlines: Ilic was accused -- and acquitted in a drug-trafficking scandal in Argentina about a 12 years ago. The scheme was known as Vinas Blancas, or White Vineyards, in which drug runners would smuggle Colombian cocaine to Europe in wine bottles.

Colombia calls temporary halt on fracking - Colombia’s State Council dismissed much of a report of mainly oil industry representatives and ordered a new study of the risks and opportunities of fracking. President Ivan Duque appointed the commission of experts in December last year to investigate whether the controversial oil extraction technique is desirable, according to Colombia Reports.

Peru LNG Facility Hits Milestone  -- Okra Energy, LLC on Wednesday reported the small-scale natural gas liquefaction facility in Peru that applies the company’s technology has achieved a liquefied natural gas (LNG) production milestone. The modular and scalable LNG plant in Colan, Piura province – Peru’s first such facility and one of only five such plants in Latin America – has produced and delivered more than 3 million gallons of LNG, Okra noted in a written statement emailed to Rigzone. The company added the technology enables the northwestern Peruvian region to tap and utilize its natural gas reserves, even when no pipeline infrastructure exists. According to Okra, the LNG plant can service off-grid markets via a “virtual pipeline” of shipments. Andrea Ravenat, Okra's chief operating officer, told Rigzone that LNG - taking up just one-six hundredth the volume of natural gas - is easy to transport to destinations without pipeline access. "ISO (intermodal) containers enable the transport of LNG via truck, rail and/or ship, enabling the convenient and affordable delivery and storage of energy for factories, power grids and industries," she said. Okra also stated that all of the Colan plant’s LNG output – nearly 20 percent of Peru’s available LNG supply – has been presold for manufacturers and gas distributors and that subsequent liquefaction trains are under contract. The firm also noted that pending contracts for additional plants demonstrate the demand for natural gas in Latin America’s manufacturing sector. 

Oil Giants Shell and Exxon Mobil Eye Somalia - Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil are looking to return to Somalia ahead of an oil block bid round later this year, the oil ministry said. Shell and Exxon Mobil had a joint venture on five offshore blocks in Somalia prior to the toppling of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in the early 1990s. The country has experienced instability since Barre left and is battling Al Shabaab, an Islamist group that frequently carries out bombings in the country. The exploration and development of the five offshore blocks was suspended in 1990 under what is known as a "force majeure", but Shell and Exxon have accrued rentals to the government since then, Shell said in a statement. Exxon declined to comment and referred inquiries to Shell. The troubled country currently does not produce any oil but production could transform the economy as early stage seismic data has shown there could be significant oil reserves offshore. "(An) agreement was signed in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on June 21, 2019 and settles issues relating to surface rentals and other incurred obligations on offshore blocks," the ministry said.

Nigeria's Crude Oil Export Drops By 1.6 Million Barrels in May- Nigeria's crude oil export fell by 1.6 million barrels in May, representing a 6.8 per cent decline from data for April export, according to figures obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The CBN, in its economic report for May, put oil export for the period at 1.37 million barrels per day (mbd) or a cumulative of 42.5 million barrels, as against 1.47 mbd or 44.1 recorded the preceding month, The allocation of crude oil for domestic consumption was 0.45 mbd or 13.5 million barrels in the review month, according to the report obtained yesterday. In addition, Nigeria's crude oil production, including condensates and natural gas liquids, was 1.82 mbd or 56.4 million barrels (mb) in the reviewed month. This also represented a decline of 0.01 mbd or 5.2 per cent compared with 1.92 mbd or 57.6 million barrels (mb) produced in the preceding month. The average spot price of Nigeria's reference crude oil, the Bonny Light (37° API) rose to $73.70 per barrel in the reviewed period, compared with $73.03 per barrel recorded in April 2019. This represented an increase of 0.9 per cent, in contrast to the level in the preceding month. The rise in crude oil price was attributed largely to the growing tensions across the Middle- East, which threatened crude oil supply; escalating trade war between the US and China; supply losses from Venezuela, Libya and Iran and compliance with supply-cut pact by most OPEC member countries. The UK Brent at $72.05/b and the Forcados at U $73.90/b exhibited similar trend as the Bonny Light, while the price of WTI at $58.32/b declined

Nigeria's Aiteo Eastern to Spend $5B to Boost Output - Nigeria’s largest independent oil producer plans to spend as much as $5 billion to boost its oil and natural gas production in the next five years. Aiteo Eastern E&P Co. plans to drill new oil wells and re-open existing ones as it seeks to raise production, Chief Executive Officer Victor Okoronkwo said Tuesday in an interview in Abuja, Nigeria. It will also seek to increase its stake in a joint venture with Nigeria’s state oil company. “We have a development plan which has been submitted to our joint venture partner NNPC,” he said. The Nigerian government has made changes to how operators can raise funds, moving away from the so-called cash call model whereby partners contribute in line with their stake in a joint venture. That gives operators more freedom to secure financing. Nigeria is also cutting its holdings in joint ventures in order to raise cash. “Our expectation is that in line with the joint venture agreement between us and the federal government, the existing partner will have the right of first refusal,” Okoronkwo said. Aiteo has a share of 45% in Oil Mining Lease 29, with state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. holding the remainder. Aiteo is among Nigerian producers that bought oil leases from majors such as Royal Dutch Shell Plc when overseas operators curbed operations in the West African nation due to oil attacks on infrastructures. The repeated halting of its Nembe Creek Trunk Line, which runs to Shell’s export terminal for Bonny crude, has cost Aiteo and the government at least $2 billion in revenue over the last two years, Okoronkwo said.

Oil spill found in Walvanit River  - The pumping of water at Padosem Water treatment plant was halted for some time on Sunday morning after oil spill was found in Walvanit River.    Officials later found that the oil spill occurred at Sanquelim.  The authorities immediately stopped pumping water to the Padosem water treatment plant. Later, pumping of water resumed.

Russia agrees with Saudi Arabia to extend OPEC+ oil output deal (Reuters) - Russia has agreed with Saudi Arabia to extend by six to nine months a deal with OPEC on reducing oil output, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, as oil prices come under renewed pressure from rising U.S. supplies and a slowing global economy. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Sunday that the deal would most likely be extended by nine months and no deeper reductions were needed. Putin, speaking after talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, told a news conference the deal - which is due to expire on Sunday - would be extended in its current form and with the same volumes. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers, an alliance known as OPEC+, meet on July 1-2 to discuss the deal, which involves curbing oil output by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd). The United States, the world’s largest oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia, is not participating in the pact. “We will support the extension, both Russia and Saudi Arabia. As far as the length of the extension is concerned, we have yet to decide whether it will be six or nine months. Maybe it will be nine months,” said Putin, who met the crown prince on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Japan. Falih, arriving in Vienna for the OPEC+ talks, told reporters when asked about Saudi preferences: “I think most likely a nine-month extension.” Asked about a deeper cut, Falih said: “I don’t think the market needs that.”

Russia Completes Its OPEC Takeover With Deal With Saudis - The trouble with bringing new people into your club, especially if they are bigger than you, is that they might just take over. OPEC is learning that lesson. Three years ago, suffering a collapse in oil prices, OPEC sought outside help to cut oil supplies in order to drain excess inventories that had built up over the previous two years. It eventually succeeded in securing the help of a group of non-OPEC countries. Most of them added little to this new OPEC+ club. The output cuts they offered were, in many cases, going to happen anyway, as a result of natural declines through a lack of investment or dwindling reserves. The one big exception was Russia. President Vladimir Putin -- and make no mistake, the decision was his, not the oil minister’s -- pledged that Russian oil companies would reduce output by 300,000 barrels a day. Russia’s participation did more than add real barrels to the output curbs. It also brought the country that was then the world’s largest oil producer into the supply-management club. But there was a price to pay and it was one that OPEC members might have foreseen. Russia was never going to accept being told how much oil it could produce by outsiders. That simply didn’t fit with Putin’s view of his country’s place in the world. Russian Rules Move on three years and Russia’s takeover of OPEC is almost complete. Output decisions are no longer negotiated between the group’s oil ministers in suites in Vienna’s luxury hotels and announced to the waiting world from the OPEC headquarters around the corner. They’re thrashed out in advance by Putin and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince. Putin’s announcement from Osaka on Saturday that he and Prince Mohammed Bin Salman had agreed to extend the current output deal to at least the end of the year has made the forthcoming gathering in Vienna almost redundant.

OPEC set to extend oil production curbs by nine months - OPEC and its allies looked all but certain to extend oil supply cuts by nine months, after several members of the Middle East-dominated producer group endorsed a policy designed to support oil prices amid a weakening global economy. Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih reportedly said most OPEC members would like to see a nine-month deal extension. A deal is now subject to approval from non-OPEC allies at a meeting on Tuesday, with Iraq’s oil minister saying he did not anticipate any complications. Earlier in the day, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh told reporters he had “no problem” with supporting oil supply cuts by nine months. Tehran, which had been OPEC’s third-largest producer prior to the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions, has previously objected to policies put forward by arch-rival Saudi Arabia. “It is going to be an easy meeting as my stance is very clear,” Zanganeh told reporters in Vienna, Austria. OPEC is set to debate an extension of oil production cuts during its meeting on Monday, before getting the deal endorsed by non-members, such as Russia, on Tuesday. The producer group and its allies have been reducing oil output since 2017 to prevent prices from sliding amid soaring production from the U.S. — which has become the world’s top producer this year ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. is not a member of OPEC, nor is it participating in the supply pact. Washington has demanded Riyadh pump more oil to compensate for lower exports from Iran after slapping fresh sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program. Oil prices rose sharply, with international benchmark Brent crude trading at $66.28 per barrel, up around 2.4%. Meanwhile, U.S. crude futures stood at $59.95 per barrel, more than 2.5% higher.

Oil jumps over 2% as Saudi Arabia, Russia back supply cuts -(Reuters) - Oil prices rose more than $1 a barrel on Monday after Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iraq backed an extension of supply cuts for another six to nine months ahead of an OPEC meeting in Vienna.  Front-month Brent crude futures for September touched an intraday high of $66.44 a barrel and were up $1.57, or 2.4%, at $66.31 a barrel by 0436 GMT. U.S. crude futures for August rose $1.36, or 2.3%, to $59.83 a barrel after earlier hitting a peak of $60.10, the highest in over five weeks. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies look set to extend oil supply cuts until the end of 2019 after top producers on Sunday endorsed a policy aimed at propping up the price of crude. OPEC, Russia and other producers, an alliance known as OPEC+, meet on Monday and Tuesday to discuss supply cuts. The group has been reducing oil output since 2017 to prevent prices from sliding amid a weakening global economy and soaring U.S. output. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday he had agreed with Saudi Arabia to extend existing output cuts of 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) by six to nine months. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the deal would most likely be extended by nine months and no deeper reductions were needed. “While this needs to be ratified by the remaining members of the OPEC+ group, this appears to be a fait accompli,” ANZ analysts said in a note. Stephen Innes, managing partner at Vanguard Markets in Bangkok, said oil prices could also be supported in the medium term because of geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and as China’s central bank eases monetary policy to offset the impact from U.S. tariffs.

US oil surges above $60 as OPEC+ poised to extend supply cut - Oil prices surged on Monday as OPEC and its allies looked on track to extend supply cuts until at least the end of 2019 at their meeting in Vienna this week. U.S. crude futures for August climbed $1.65, or 2.8% to $60.12 a barrel, after earlier hitting their highest in over five weeks at $60.28. Iran - under U.S. sanctions alongside OPEC ally Venezuela - on Monday joined top producers Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Russia in supporting a policy aimed at propping up the price of crude amid a weakening global economy. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other producers, an alliance known as OPEC+, meet on Monday and Tuesday to discuss supply cuts. The group has been reducing oil output since 2017 to prevent prices from sliding amid a weakening global economy and soaring U.S. production. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday he had agreed with Saudi Arabia to extend existing output cuts of 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) by six to nine months. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the deal would most likely be extended by nine months and no deeper reductions were needed. “If Russia, Saudi Arabia and the other key OPEC members keep production at the levels they produced in H1-19 they will ensure that the global oil market is not flowing over. They will only have to pay a small restraint while reaping a nice oil price of $60-70 a barrel,” said SEB’s Bjarne Schieldrop. “OPEC as a whole is losing market share. But this burden is not evenly distributed as it is Venezuela and Iran who are taking almost all the pain.”

OPEC extends oil cut to prop up prices as economy weakens (Reuters) - OPEC agreed on Monday to extend oil supply cuts until March 2020 as the group’s members overcame their differences in order to prop up the price of crude amid a weakening global economy and soaring U.S. production. The move will likely anger U.S. President Donald Trump, who has demanded OPEC leader Saudi Arabia supply more oil and help reduce prices at the pump if Riyadh wants U.S. military support in its standoff with arch-rival Iran. Benchmark Brent crude LCOc1 has climbed more than 25% so far this year after the White House tightened sanctions on OPEC members Venezuela and Iran, slashing their oil exports. OPEC and its allies led by Russia have been reducing oil output since 2017 to prevent prices from sliding amid soaring production from the United States, which has overtaken Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s top producer. Fears about weaker global demand as a result of a U.S.-China trade spat have added to the challenges faced by the 14-nation Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. “Saudi Arabia is doing its best to achieve oil prices at $70 per barrel despite what Trump wants. But they haven’t accomplished that even with Iranian and Venezuelan oil exports dropping. And the reasons for that are weak demand and U.S. shale growth,” 

Oil Futures End Higher As OPEC Decides To Extend Output Cuts -- Crude oil futures ended notably higher on Monday, despite giving up a substantial portion of its earlier gains. Oil's surge was due to OPEC's decision to extend its current 1.2 million barrel per day output cuts for another nine months instead of the expected six month extension. Final details will be out after the cartel's meeting with Russia and other top nonmember producers on Tuesday, the second day of the meeting in Vienna. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures ended up $0.62, or 1.1%, at $59.09 a barrel, after hitting a high of $60.28 a barrel earlier in the session. Brent Crude oil futures moved past $65.00 a barrel mark. On Friday, WTI crude oil futures for August ended down $0.96, or 1.6%, at $58.47 a barrel. WTI oil futures gained 1.8% last week, and climbed up more than 9% in June. Want to stay ahead of FDA Decisions, Rulings, Recalls ? Signup for our Newsletter. Oil prices rose sharply Monday morning, reacting to reports that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) may continue to cut production till 2020 in order to bolster oil prices. Reports also suggested that Russia and Saudi Arabia will likely agree with the decision. Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih reportedly said most OPEC members would like to see a nine-month deal extension. Reports about Iran breaching its nuclear agreement played a role as well in lifting oil prices. Reuters quoted Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying that Iran breached the limit of its enriched uranium stockpile set in 2015. Zarif reportedly confirmed that Iran had gone over the relevant limit of 300 kg of uranium. Oil's uptick was also supported by the U.S.-China trade truce that came about after the U.S. President Donald Trump and the Chinese President Xi Jinping met on the sidelines of the G20 summit on Saturday.

Oil prices get a lift from short-covering- Kemp - (Reuters) - Hedge fund managers have started to cover some of the bearish short positions in oil they established since late April, amid hopes for interest rate cuts and a trade truce between China and the United States. Hedge funds and other money managers increased their net long position in the six major petroleum futures and options contracts by 19 million barrels in the week to June 25. Last week’s rise was the first after money managers cut their combined net long position by 389 million barrels over the previous eight weeks, a significant turnaround ( ). Position changes were driven by short-covering. Portfolio managers sold 2 million barrels of former long positions, but they also bought back 21 million barrels of previous shorts. Hedge fund long positions outnumbered shorts by a ratio of 3.69:1 on June 25, up from just 3.31 two weeks earlier, though still down from a recent high of 8.68 on April 23. Hedge funds continued to sell Brent (-17 million barrels) but were net buyers of NYMEX+ICE WTI (+11 million), U.S. gasoline (+11 million), U.S. heating oil (+11 million) and European gasoil (+3 million). Benchmark U.S. crude futures prices have risen by almost $8.70 per barrel (17%) since touching a recent low on June 12. The catalyst for fund buying has been a combination of rising expectations for interest rate cuts; a U.S./China trade truce; threats to tanker traffic; and indications OPEC+ will extend output cuts through the end of 2019. However, the main reason is that the hedge fund community had become very bearish over the previous two months – reversing its earlier bullishness since the start of the year. 

Oil price 'could easily be $75' if trade truce boosts demand, expert says - The success, or failure, of trade talks between the U.S. and China will be a decisive factor in the oil price outlook this year, despite OPEC’s decision to extend production cuts, oil market expert Amrita Sen told CNBC on Tuesday. “I know (Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Khalid) Al Falih said that the second-half of the year (demand) outlook looks better but so much depends on the trade deal, on the truce between the U.S. and China, and global demand has slowed down considerably,” Sen who is a chief oil analyst at Energy Aspects told CNBC Tuesday. “China (demand for oil) hasn’t collapsed at all, it’s still growing slower, but it’s just that lack of confidence, companies have just stopped investing and placing orders and we’ve seen very weak numbers out of other parts of Asia and Europe as well,” she added. Sen hoped that a “truce” between the U.S. and China on its trade dispute reached at the weekend by President Trump and President Xi, in which they agreed to hold off on any new trade tariffs on each other’s imports while trade talks resume, could restore confidence that would fuel oil demand. “But if that doesn’t come back quickly, all of the second half (of 2019) and into 2020 things will be weak,” Sen told CNBC’s Dan Murphy in Vienna, where oil producing group OPEC and its non-member allies like Russia are meeting currently. A potential interest rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve this year and the incentive to forge strong economic growth in the U.S., ahead of the 2020 presidential election, could provide extra impetus for oil market demand, Sen said. “There will be some momentum to solve some of these trade wars. If demand is good I think oil prices have a lot of upside here and into next year,” she said. “If demand growth is even 1 million barrels per day I think we could easily be $75 (the price per barrel) if not slightly higher because the physical crude market is still tight.” In its last June monthly report, OPEC predicted oil demand growth to rise by 1.14 million barrels per day in 2019. The majority of oil demand growth is projected to come from India, followed by China.

The Big Minus at the Heart of OPEC-Plus - “OPEC+” is now the accepted nomenclature of the cobbled-together club of oil producers that has been trying to bolster prices since late 2016. As a brand, it has the advantages of a certain familiarity, expansiveness and positivity. It also rather oversells the product. Monday’s meeting of the OPEC bit of things ran very late (the pluses are due to meet Tuesday). This is notable for two reasons. First, the delay reportedly stemmed largely from haggling among delegates about a proposed OPEC+ charter to enshrine cooperation among them. Second, the most salient decision, about whether or not to extend supply cuts, had been taken already by Saudi Arabia and Russia at the weekend’s G-20 gathering in Japan. Once Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and President Vladimir Putin – representing almost half the group’s output between them – had agreed on extending supply cuts, the wider meeting was just a formality. Having everyone schlep to Austria anyway does help with oil demand, one supposes. But there’s something inescapably farcical about a meeting convened after the main decision has been publicized, but which then runs late because the delegates can’t agree on a declaration of harmony. The second iteration of the OPEC+ supply cuts, which got underway in January, called on 21 countries – including 10 OPEC members – to keep about 1.2 million barrels a day off the market. Iran, Libya, and Venezuela – beset by sanctions, civil conflict and economic collapse, respectively – are exempt. When you look at the actual breakdown of cuts since then, however, it reinforces the sense that the group’s meetings are more theater than anything else at this point. Consider that half the members subject to the agreement are tasked with the equivalent of a cover-charge to get into the club: cutting output by just 20,000 barrels a day or less. Having more countries sign up no doubt makes for a better group photograph. But the idea that anyone is actually tracking South Sudan’s compliance with its commitment to keep all of 3,000 barrels a day offline tends to detract from the vaunted seriousness of the operation. (Reader, South Sudan isn’t complying.) The group as a whole has done better, keeping an average of 1.33 million barrels a day off the market through May, for compliance of 111%. But the burden falls very unevenly. Saudi Arabia accounts for more than half the total barrels withheld, with compliance of 216%. Trusted partner Russia, on the other hand, has met only 64% of its (smaller) pledge – and even that’s partly due to contamination problems on a major pipeline. But it’s the exempted countries – OPEC-minus? – that really show up the whole project. No quotas are enforced for Iran, Libya and Venezuela, of course. But taking 3% off their October 2018 output – which is roughly how the others were set – provides a proxy for what they might have been expected to contribute. On that basis, these three really punch above their weight:

OPEC's Barkindo says warmer ties with Russia haven't changed decision-making on oil supplies - OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo said Tuesday that while his relationship with Russia is “strong,” the decision-making process at OPEChasn’t fundamentally changed.The oil-producing cartel has officially agreed to extend production curbs until March 2020 and has also formalized a charter to strengthen its alliance with non-OPEC producers — most notably Russia.The deal appears to have been rubber-stamped before OPEC’s Vienna meeting when Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman met at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, over the weekend.That has led to some suggestion that OPEC’s new charter is now ignoring the voice of original member countries in order to keep Moscow happy. Barkindo told CNBC’s Dan Murphy in Vienna on Tuesday that in fact member countries were pleased by Moscow’s interventions.“The Russian federation has been a reliable and dependable bridge between OPEC and non-OPEC,” Barkindo said.The OPEC leader said his organization had worked with Russian officials to “literally rescue” the oil industry from a downturn and many had doubted that oil supply caps could ever hold. “There is now a very strong working bond between us and Russia, and this goes right up to the top, to the leadership,” he said.

OPEC head: Climate activists are the ‘greatest threat’ to oil industry - What’s one of the world’s most powerful cartels afraid of? A bunch of meddling kids.Climate activists and their “unscientific” claims are “perhaps the greatest threat to our industry going forward,” said Mohammed Barkindo, the secretary general of OPEC (the cartel representing 14 countries with 80 percent of the world’s oil reserves) earlier this week.He might have been talking about protesters more broadly, but the rest of his statement suggests that young people are being particularly irksome. Barkindo said some of his colleague’s children are asking them about the future because “they see their peers on the streets campaigning against this industry.” (I guess the birds and the bees isn’t the most uncomfortable conversation parents are having with their kids in OPEC households.) This is, of course, heartening news for climate activists. Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swede famous for starting a movement of youth strikes calling for climate action, thanked OPEC for the compliment.Barkindo is right that climate advocates are winning over the hearts and minds of the people. Surveys show that 57 percent of Americans now think fossil fuel companies are at least partially responsible for climate change. Meanwhile, support for policies that would cut into fossil fuel companies’ bottom lines, like transitioning to renewable energy infrastructure, is increasing as approval for expanding fossil fuel infrastructure and offshore drilling declines. As for climate activists’ “unscientific claims,” it’s unclear if Barkindo had a particular statement in mind, but the science pretty unequivocally supports demands for urgent change. Global emissions need to be drastically cut by 2050 to avoid more than 1.5 degrees C of warming, and to do that we need to use way less fossil fuels. It’s not just public opinion that’s turning against the fossil fuel industry —insurance companies and investors are increasingly opting to put their money elsewhere. But that’s not the fault of some upstart kids: It’s because science and common sense are showing fossil fuels are a bad investment, especially in the long run. Recent figures estimate that climate change could cost the world economy as much as $69 trillion by 2100.

Oil prices slip as demand worries outweigh OPEC supply cuts - Oil prices slipped on Tuesday as worries that a weakening global economy would dent demand for the commodity outweighed OPEC’s decision to extend supply cuts until next March. Brent crude futures for September delivery had dropped 33 cents, or 0.5%, to $64.73 a barrel by 0034 GMT. They climbed more than $2 a barrel on Monday before paring gains later in the day. U.S. crude futures for August had fallen 48 cents, or 0.8%, to $58.61 a barrel, after touching their highest in over five weeks on Monday.“After 2-1/2 years of production cuts, the effects of rolling over production cuts is losing steam,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York, adding that markets remained nervous on how demand will pan out over the next few months.“The trade war is not likely to get resolved any time soon and while central banks globally are expected to deliver fresh stimulus in the coming months, economic activity is continuing to trend lower.”The U.S.-China trade conflict has pressured global markets, stoking worries about demand for commodities such as crude oil.The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed on Monday to extend oil supply cuts until March 2020 as the group’s members overcame their differences in order to try to prop up the price of crude.OPEC is slated to meet with Russia and other producers, an alliance known as OPEC+, later on Tuesday to discuss supply cuts amid surging U.S. output.Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday he had agreed with Saudi Arabia to extend global output cuts of 1.2 million barrels per day, or 1.2% of world demand, until December 2019 or March 2020. Russia reduced oil production in June by more than the amount agreed in a global deal to cut output, the energy minister and industry sources said on Monday, as the sector still felt the impact of a contaminated crude crisis that crippled exports.

US oil plunges 4.8% on demand worries even as OPEC, allies extend cuts - Oil prices fell about 3% on Tuesday, even after OPEC and allies including Russia agreed to extend supply cuts until next March, as weak manufacturing data had investors worried that a slowing global economy could dent oil demand.  Brent crude futures fell $2.61, or 4.01%, to $62.45 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell $2.84, or 4.8%, to $56.25 a barrel, after touching their highest in more than five weeks on Monday.The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers such as Russia, a group known as OPEC+, agreed on Tuesday to extend oil supply cuts until March 2020 as members overcame differences to try to prop up prices.The extension comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday he had agreed with Saudi Arabia to prolong the pact and continue to cut combined production by 1.2 million barrels per day, or 1.2% of world demand.   “There seems to be some disappointment that OPEC didn’t make a larger production cut. Or a sense that demand is really bad,”  Signs of a global economic slowdown, which could hit oil demand growth, means OPEC and its allies could face an uphill battle to shore up prices by reining in supply.   “It was the bare minimum OPEC could agree on in order to prevent a major meltdown in prices. Member countries noted that global oil demand growth for this year has fallen to 1.14 mbpd (million barrels per day) whilst non-OPEC supply is expected to grow by 2.14 mbpd,”  “It appears that the supply side of the oil equation is supportive for oil prices but demand concerns are forcing oil bulls to keep at least part of their gunpowder dry.”

Bigger-Than-Expected Crude Draw Fails To Revive Oil's Worst OPEC Reaction Since 2014 -- (graphs) Oil suffered its worst reaction to an OPEC meeting since 2014 today, plunging almost 5% prompting OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo to tell reporters in Vienna that, "the drop in crude prices on Tuesday was an 'anomaly'."  Not everyone agreed.“There are concerns that demand might slow to where it overpowers supply,” Bart Melek, head of commodity strategy at Toronto’s TD Securities, said in an interview. The “gloomy” data, especially from China, “is very much part and parcel of what we’re seeing.”  API

  • Crude -5mm (-3mm exp)
  • Cushing +882k (-1.26mm exp)
  • Gasoline -387k (-2.2mm exp)
  • Distillates -1.7mm (=1.0mm exp)

After last week's huge crude draw, expectations were for another decent-sized draw and API reported a bigger than expected crude draw…   WTI rolled over at a key trendline level... But was unable to hold a modest rebound after the API print…

Oil Continues Freefall Despite Large Crude Oil Inventory Draw - The American Petroleum Institute (API) reported another large crude oil inventory draw of 5 million barrels for the week ending June 27, a more ambitious draw than analysts had predicted, at 2.484-million barrels.Last week, the API reported a draw of 7.55-million barrels. A day later, the EIA estimated that US inventories had drawn down by a much larger 12.8 million barrels. The net build is 21.69 million barrels for the 27-week reporting period so far this year, using API data. Oil prices were trading down significantly on Tuesday despite OPEC’s success at pulling a deal together to extend the production cuts into 2020. The hard-fought battle won, OPEC was unable to offset the dampened mood brought on by grim oil demand prospects and an unsettled US-China trade row.   At 12:56pm EST, WTI was trading down by $1.92 (-3.25%) at $57.17—just $1.00 over last week’s levels. Brent was trading down $1.69 (-2.60%) at $63.37—also up roughly $1 over this time last weekThe API this week reported a 387,000-barrel draw in gasoline inventories for week ending June 27. Analysts estimated a larger draw in gasoline inventories of 2.175-million barrels for the week.Distillate inventories fell by 1.7 million barrels for the week, while inventories at Cushing rose by 882,000 million barrels.US crude oil production as estimated by the Energy Information Administration showed that production for the week ending June 21 fell again this week to 12.1 million bpd, the third such drop in as many weeks, and 300,000 bpd off the all-time high. By 4:41pm EST, WTI had fallen nearly 5% on the day to $56.29 while Brent traded at $62.59.

Oil prices unimpressed by new OPEC cuts agreement - Crude prices weakened on Tuesday and Wednesday despite a deal by oil producing countries to continue with production curbs.The 14-nation energy cartel, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and non-members which support its aims agreed a nine-month extension to output limits first imposed at the end of 2016.But key crude benchmarks turned downwards, with Brent losing 0.46% to $64.76 a barrel and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) losing the same percentage, 0.46%, to $58.82.This morning, Brent was down 0.18% at $62.29 a barrel, and WTI closed last night at $56.25.Both are markedly lower than they were three months ago. On 2 April, Brent traded at $69.37, while WTI changed hands at $62.58.A squeeze on prices is coming from two directions – the slowing of the world economy and the rising output of America’s shale oil industry.This presented a sombre backdrop for the two-day summit in Vienna held Monday and Tuesdayinvolving OPEC and the so-called NOPEC group of oil producers.In a statement after the meeting, OPEC said: “It was noted that economic bearishness is now increasingly prevalent, with major challenges and mounting uncertainties related to ongoing trade negotiations, monetary policy developments, as well as geo-political issues. “It was also observed that oil demand growth for 2019 has been revised down.”

Oil prices steady on extended supply cuts, US stocks draw - Oil prices edged higher on Wednesday after a steep fall in the previous session, supported by extended output cuts by OPEC and its allies despite concerns that a slowing global economy could crimp demand. An expected large draw in U.S. crude oil inventories also underpinned sentiment after a bigger-than-expected stocks fall in a private survey. Brent crude futures for September delivery were trading up 36 cents, or 0.6%, at $62.76 a barrel by 0244 GMT. U.S. crude futures for August were up 29 cents, or 0.5%, at $56.54 a barrel. Both benchmarks fell more than 4% on Tuesday as worries about a slowing global economy overshadowed OPEC supply cuts. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other producers such as Russia, a group known as OPEC+, agreed on Tuesday to extend oil supply cuts until March 2020 as members overcame differences to try to prop up prices. “The OPEC+ meeting showed the members sticking together in tough times, characterized by weakening global demand outlook, aiming for a more balanced oil market, despite clear market share implications,” said Amarpreet Singh, analyst at Barclays Commodities Research in a note. “This is supportive of oil prices, in our view, even as the market remains squarely focused on weak macro signals.” Ahead of government data due later on Wednesday, industry group the American Petroleum Institute (API) said that U.S. crude inventories fell by 5 million barrels last week, more than the expected decrease of 3 million barrels. The OPEC+ agreement to extend oil output cuts for nine months should draw down oil inventories in the second half of this year, boosting oil prices, said analysts from Citi Research in a note. “Keeping cuts through the end of 1Q aims to avoid putting oil into the market during a seasonal low for demand and refinery runs, as well as providing time to assess the impacts of IMO 2020,” they said.

WTI Tumbles After Smaller-Than-Expected Crude Draw -  Oil prices are up modestly overnight, after yesterday's worst post-OPEC reaction since 2014, as API's notable crude draw sparked optimism for this morning's official inventory data.“Clearly, there is no getting away from economic bearishness and cooling demand fundamentals,” PVM Oil Associates Ltd. analyst Stephen Brennock wrote in a report.“This morni ng, however, has provided a reprieve from the selling frenzy as those searching for a bullish catalyst pin their hopes on another drawdown in U.S. oil inventories.” DOE:

  • Crude -1.085mm (-3.5mm exp)
  • Cushing +652k (-1.26mm exp)
  • Gasoline -1.583mm (-2.2mm exp)
  • Distillates +1.408mm (+1.0mm exp)

After last week's massive crude draw (and API's overnight draw), expectations were for a notable draw from DOE but it disappointed with only a 1.09mm draw (-3.5mm exp). US crude production has been the talk of the global energy markets this week as OPEC+ desperately try not to admit their impotence and rose modestly last week...

Oil Markets Not Impressed By Small Crude Draw - A day after the American Petroleum Institute’s estimated a 5-million-barrel crude oil inventory draw and failed to reverse oil prices’ fall, the Energy Information Administration failed at that, too by reporting only a moderate draw.The authority reported a draw of 1.1 million barrels for the week to June 28, after a draw of 12.8 million barrels for the previous week—an inventory change of such magnitude it strengthened prices for the rest of the week. At 468.5 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories were 5 percent above the upper limit of the five-year average, the EIA also said, adding refineries processed 17.3 million bpd last week, unchanged from the previous week’s daily processing rate.Gasoline inventories shed 1.6 million barrels last week, with production averaging 9.9 million bpd. This compared with an inventory draw of 1 million barrels the week before and average daily production 10.5 million bpd.In distillate fuels, the EIA reported an inventory build of 1.4 million barrels for the last week of June, with production standing at 5.3 million bpd. A week earlier, distillate fuel inventories fell by 2.4 million barrels and production was the same at 5.3 million bpd.Last week, the EIA said U.S. crude oil production had surged to 12.16 million bpd during May, a record-high cementing the country’s place as the world’s top crude oil producers. While in line with the Trump administration’s energy dominance strategy and in favor of drivers, the news is not particularly good for the companies that made this level of production possible. Most shale oil companies are burning cash with only a handful of them generating a positive cash flow. This casts a shadow over the long-term sustainability of the industry, which basically needs to keep pumping to pay its debts right now, according to some industry insiders.

Oil prices fall on signs of slowing US demand, economic concerns - Oil prices fell on Thursday, weighed down by data showing a smaller-than-expected draw on U.S. crude stockpiles and worries about the global economy. Front-month Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were down 49 cents or 0.77% at $63.33 per barrel by 0830 GMT. Brent closed up 2.3% on Wednesday. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 47 cents or 0.82% at $56.87 per barrel. WTI closed up 1.9% on Wednesday. Markets appeared unmoved by the detention in Gibraltar by British Royal Marines of a supertanker possibly carrying Iranian crude oil bound for Syria, as tensions between Iran and the United States have flared over mysterious attacks on tankers in the Gulf of Oman in recent months. “Gains were capped by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reporting a weekly decline of 1.1 million barrels in crude stocks, versus the 3 million barrels forecast by analysts and 5 million barrels reported by the API a day earlier,” Cantor Fitzgerald Europe said. “Also providing headwinds were signs of a recovery in oil exports from Venezuela in June and growth in Argentinian output in May,” it added. U.S. inventories fell less than expected as U.S. refineries last week consumed less crude than the week before and processed 2% less oil than a year ago, the EIA data showed, despite being in the midst of the summer gasoline demand season. That suggests oil demand in the United States, the world’s biggest crude consumer, could be slowing amid signs of a weakening economy. New orders for U.S. factory goods fell for a second straight month in May, government data showed on Wednesday, adding to the economic concerns. The weak U.S. data followed a report of slow business growth in Europe last month as well.

US oil rises, but gain kept in check amid weak economic data -- U.S. benchmark crude prices rose slightly on Friday, but its gains were capped by weak economic indicators while Brent oil jumped, supported by tensions over Iran and this week’s decision by OPEC and its allies to extend a supply cut deal until next year. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 28 cents, or 0.5% at $57.65 per barrel. There was no settlement price on Thursday because of the Independence Day holiday in the United States. Front-month Brent crude futures were up $1.05, or 1.7%, at $64.36per barrel. Both benchmarks were set for their biggest weekly falls in five weeks. In a protracted trade war between the United States and China that dampened prospects of global economic growth and oil demand, representatives of both countries are resuming talks next week to resolve the deadlock. “The truce between the United States and China is not translating into anything in the real economy in the short term,” said Olivier Jakob, Petromatrix oil analyst. “The negotiations still have to happen and until then we will be still looking at very weak manufacturing PMIs,” he said referring to Purchasing Managers’ Indices which indicate companies’ optimism about their sector. German industrial orders fell far more than expected in May, and the Economy Ministry warned on Friday that this sector of Europe’s largest economy was likely to remain weak in the coming months. In the United States, new orders for factory goods fell for a second straight month in May, government data showed on Wednesday, stoking economic concerns. The U.S. Energy Information Administration on Wednesday reported a weekly decline of 1.1 million barrels in crude stocks, much smaller than the 5 million barrel draw reported by the American Petroleum Institute earlier in the week and analyst expectations.

Oil prices rise on Iran tensions, OPEC output cuts –   Brent crude futures settled at $64.23 a barrel, up 93 cents, or 1.47%. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) CLc1 settled at $57.51 a barrel, up 17 cents. The U.S. market was closed on Thursday for a national holiday. Both benchmarks were down for the week as concerns about a slowing global economy outweighed risks to supply. Brent recorded a 3.3% weekly loss and WTI shed roughly 1.8%. The U.S.-China trade war has dampened prospects of global economic growth and oil demand, but talks resume next week in a bid to resolve the deadlock. “The complex is maintaining a heavy feel that was set into motion earlier this week by mounting expectations of a global economic slowdown that will be impacting oil demand,” German industrial orders fell far more than expected in May, and the Economy Ministry said this sector of Europe’s largest economy was likely to remain weak in coming months. The U.S. Labor Department said nonfarm employers added 224,000 jobs last month, the most in five months. However, new orders for U.S. factory goods fell for a second straight month in May, government data showed, stoking economic concerns. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allied producers such as Russia, known as OPEC+, supported prices by extending their deal on supply cuts. Tension in the Middle East also offered support, particularly to Brent. “Brent is pricing in more of the geopolitical risk than WTI,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. Iran threatened to capture a British ship after British forces seized an Iranian tanker in Gibraltar over accusations the ship was violating EU sanctions on Syria. [nL8N2461KI] “If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, it is the authorities’ duty to seize a British oil tanker,” a Revolutionary Guards Commander wrote on Twitter.

US oil prices edge higher, but still end lower for the week - U.S. oil futures edged higher on Friday, but still marked their first weekly loss in three weeks as upbeat monthly U.S. jobs data failed to ease worries about a slowdown in energy demand. August West Texas Intermediate oil rose 17 cents, or 0.3%, to settle at $57.51 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It was up a second straight session, but posted a weekly loss of roughly 1.6%, following two consecutive weeks of gains.

Iran says it has breached 2015 nuclear deal’s stockpile limit - Iran has breached the limit of its enriched uranium stockpile set in a 2015 deal with major powers, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday, according to the ISNA news agency, defying a warning by European co-signatories to stick to the deal despite U.S. sanctions. Zarif confirmed that Iran had exceeded the relevant limit of 300 kg of uranium hexafluoride (UF6), but Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said Iran’s steps to decrease its commitments to the nuclear deal were “reversible.” The International Atomic Energy agency (IAEA) said that its inspectors were verifying whether Iran had accumulated more enriched uranium than allowed. “Our inspectors are on the ground and they will report to headquarters as soon as the LEU (low-enriched uranium) stockpile has been verified, a spokesman for the U.N. agency said. Enriching uranium to a low level of 3.6% fissile material is the first step in a process that could eventually allow Iran to amass enough highly-enriched uranium to build a nuclear warhead. Last Wednesday, the IAEA verified that Iran had roughly 200 kg of low-enriched uranium, just below the deals 202.8 kg limit, three diplomats who follow the agencys work told Reuters. A quantity of 300 kg of UF6 (uranium hexafluoride) corresponds to 202.8 kg of LEU. After talks on Friday in Vienna, Iran said European countries had offered too little in the way of trade assistance to persuade it to back off from its plan to breach the limit, a riposte to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision last year to quit the deal and reimpose economic sanctions.

Iran breaches uranium stockpile limit set by nuclear deal (AP) — Iran has broken the limit set on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, international inspectors and Tehran said Monday, marking its first major departure from the unraveling agreement a year after the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the accord.The announcement by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and later confirmation by the U.N. nuclear watchdog puts new pressure on European nations trying to save the deal amid President Donald Trump’s maximalist campaign targeting Tehran. Iran separately threatened to raise its uranium enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels on July 7 if Europe fails to offer it a new deal.It also further heightens tensions across the wider Middle East in the wake of Iran recently shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone, mysterious attacks on oil tankers that America and the Israelis blame on Tehran, and bomb-laden drone assaults by Yemen’s Iranian-backed rebels targeting Saudi Arabia. Those rebels claimed a new attack late Monday on Saudi Arabia’s Abha airport that the kingdom said wounded nine people, including one Indian.The European Union urged Iran to reverse course and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the action “a significant step toward making a nuclear weapon.” Iran long has insisted its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, despite Western fears about it.At the White House, Trump told reporters Iran was “playing with fire,” and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the international community to require Iran to suspend all enrichment, even at levels allowed under the nuclear deal. “The Iranian regime, armed with nuclear weapons, would pose an even greater danger to the region and to the world,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Iran breached its uranium stockpile limit under the nuclear deal. Here's what that actually means – Iran has now exceeded its internationally-agreed stockpile limit of low-enriched uranium, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Monday, breaching a key tenet of the 2015 nuclear deal that the President Donald Trumpadministration abandoned last year. Zarif said Iran has surpassed 300kg (661 pounds) of uranium hexafluoride (UF6), the equivalent of 202.8kg of low-enriched uranium, Iran's limit under the nuclear deal. Uranium enriched to the low level of 3.67% fissile material, allowed under the deal, is the initial step in a complex process that could, over time, enable Iran to accumulate enough highly-enriched uranium to build a nuclear warhead, according to experts. Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi, however, said that Iran's breaches of the deal were "reversible".But what does exceeding a certain amount of low-enriched uranium actually mean? How much closer does this bring Iran to nuclear bomb-making capability? Nuclear experts interviewed by CNBC say this is far less threatening than it sounds."Even once Iran crosses the 300kg threshold, they are still a long way off from having a stockpile sufficient to produce a bomb," Anne Harrington, professor of international relations and a specialist in nuclear nonproliferation at Cardiff University in Wales, told CNBC in an email.That's because low-enriched uranium is only 3.67% U-235 ⁠— the uranium isotope needed to create a nuclear weapon ⁠— and is impractical for use in a weapon, Harrington explained. "At 3.67% they would need to stockpile approximately three times the current limit to have enough material for one bomb, and that material would need to be further enriched." You still need to fit it into a device, you need precision engineering to design the core, you also need

Iranian president says Iran to drop more of nuke commitments (Xinhua) -- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said here Wednesday that the Islamic republic will abandon more of its nuclear commitments in the coming days if the parties to the Iranian 2015 international nuclear deal fail to observe their commitments. Iran will increase the percentage of its enriched uranium to higher purity from July 7 on, Rouhani was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency. "As of July 7, our uranium enrichment will not be limited to 3.67 percent of purity," he said. "We will increase it based on our needs." After one year of U.S. unilateral exit from the Iranian landmark nuclear deal, Iran withdrew from implementing part of the nuclear deal on May 8 and threatened to take more actions in case Tehran's interests under the pact cannot be guaranteed. At that time, Iran set a 60-day deadline for the Europeans to help the Islamic republic reap the economic benefits of the deal. Rouhani, who was talking in a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, also said that Iran's Arak heavy water nuclear reactor, which was agreed to be redesigned under the 2015 nuclear agreement, will resume its previous activities after July 7 if the other signatories to the deal fail to uphold their end of the deal, according to Press TV. Under the Iranian nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to redesign the 40-megawatt Arak research reactor to cut its potential output of plutonium. Rouhani said Iran's imminent move concerning the Arak reactor could only be reversed "if they (the other signatories) act on all of their commitments concerning the facility." Moreover, the Iranian president slammed the EU-designed payment channel as an "empty" mechanism. "Empty Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) is of no use to us ... it is void and nothing is in it" to protect Iran's interests under the 2015 nuclear deal, he said.

 ”Maximum Pressure” Campaign Fails To Kill Off Iran’s Oil Exports -  U.S.-Iran tensions are once again heating up, even as Iran has so far managed to stabilize oil exports at lower levels.Iran has officially breached the limits of low-enriched uranium as part of the 2015 nuclear deal, according to inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency. A few weeks ago Iran announced its intention to increase uranium stockpiles, stating that it no longer made sense to remain in an agreement that the U.S. has already pulled out of. There is also little to gain for Iran to continue to adhere to the nuclear deal if it nonetheless faces crippling U.S. sanctions.As a result, the Trump administration’s stated desire of its “maximum pressure” campaign – to constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions – is predictably having the opposite result. On Monday, the White House issued a statement, calling Iran’s decision “a mistake,” before bizarrely claiming that there “is little doubt that even before the deal’s existence, Iran was violating its terms.” Then, the statement went on to say: “We must restore the longstanding nonproliferation standard of no enrichment for Iran,” which, to be clear, was not the standard in years past. Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif mocked the statement on Twitter. For his part, President Trump has gone back and forth, warning last month that Iran faced “obliteration” if the two went to war, while also saying that he was willing to meet and negotiate with Iran without any preconditions. He also notably pulled back from a military strike last month, to the chagrin of some hardliners in Washington. On Monday, as Iran breached uranium stockpile limits, Trump said Iran was “playing with fire.” Notably, China and some officials from Europe were not pleased with Iran’s decision to breach limits of the nuclear agreement. French President Emmanuel Macron expressed “his attachment to the full respect of the 2015 nuclear accord and asks Iran to reverse without delay this excess, as well as to avoid all extra measures that would put into question its nuclear commitments.” Last week Macron warned Iran’s President that violating the terms of the nuclear agreement would be unwise. The UK voiced similar concerns. Europe has tried to offer enticements to keep Iran within the terms of the nuclear deal, setting up a special financial entity to allow European companies to continue to do business with Tehran. But Iranian foreign minister Zarif said that the efforts are insufficient, especially since it does not allow Iran to continue to export oil.   On Monday, he went further. “Our next step will be enriching uranium beyond the 3.67% allowed under the deal,” he said. “The Europeans have failed to fulfil their promises of protecting Iran’s interests under the deal.” However, he also noted that Iran’s actions were “reversible,” suggesting that Iran could pullback if European efforts proved more fruitful.

Stopped Clocks: The European Union Gets War With Iran Exactly Right - Regular readers of my contributions to this site may have noticed that I am in no way a fan of the European Union. Yet even with the EU, the stopped clock principle applies: they have to be right sometimes. And when Federica Mogherini, high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy,said that everyone should tread carefully when it came to the attack on the oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, she was absolutely correct.Mogherini stated: “We are living in crucial and delicate moments, where the most relevant attitude to take—the most responsible attitude to take—is, and we believe should be, maximum restraint, and avoiding any escalation on the military side.”This month, one of the EU’s top advisors on security questions declared that no military intervention from the European side should take place. This echoes French President Emmanuel Macron saying that France had no place in such interventions, as well as German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling for a peaceful solution to the Iran problem. Seventy-four percent of German opposed a military intervention in Syria last year. In 2002, 71 percent of Germans opposed the war in Iraq, as did 64 percent of the French. During anti-Iraq war protests that took place on February 15, 2003, 100,000 people demonstrated in Brussels, 75,000 in Amsterdam, between 100,000 and 200,000 in Paris, between 300,000 and 500,000 in Berlin, 150,000 in Athens, 60,000 in Budapest, and well over 600,000 people in Rome. And in the United Kingdom, more than one million showed up to protest in London. The UK’s participation in the Iraq war dragged the reputation of Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Labour Party through the mud. A subsequent inquiry made the former UK leader subject to public prosecution because the legal basis for military action was “far from satisfactory.” Blair’s involvement in Iraq has made it difficult for any party in Westminster to legitimate any war to its constituents, most of whom feel that the unholy coalition of Blair and Bush tricked them into a war they should never have been a part of. This is a major reason why the British House of Commons voted down David Cameron’s 2013 attempt to intervene militarily in Syria.

Iran Bitcoin Miners Set Up Shop In Mosques Amid Gov't CrackdownIranian bitcoin miners are moving into mosques as the government launches an energy crackdown, social media users revealed on June 25. CoinTelegraph's William Suberg reports that Iran, which offers free energy to mosques, now has around 100 miners occupying places of worship, generating much-needed income of around $260,000 a year. “This money goes a long way in Iran’s choked sanctioned economy,” Oxford University researcher Mahsa Alimardani explained on Twitter. Despite its increasingly troubled economic situation, Iran remains uncoordinated when it comes to cryptocurrency policy. Last year, the central bank officially forbade lenders from servicing crypto businesses, at the same time as officials said they would consider launching their own digital token. Now, after bitcoin mining allegedly contributed to a 7% spike in power consumption in June, 1,000 miners have been seized, Cointelegraph reported on Tuesday. “Two of these bitcoin farms have been identified, with a consumption of one megawatt,” Reuters additionally quoted Arash Navab, an official from the energy industry in Yazd province, as telling state television. Tehran had previously recognized domestic cryptocurrency mining as an industry. However, as CoinTelegraph's Ana Alexandre notes, an Oxford researcher told the BBC that Iranians are increasingly turning to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin as a means of skirting sanctions.

The wife of the Emir of Dubai has run away to London, reportedly after learning disturbing details about a failed escape attempt by another princess -- The wife of Dubai Emir Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum has fled the country and is hiding in London, reportedly driven away by chilling details about the capture of a princess who tried to flee in 2018.Princess Haya bint al-Hussein fled to her $107 million (R1.5 billion) town house in Kensington Palace Gardens in mid-June. She is now bringing a case for divorce against her husband, the vice president of the United Arab Emirates, sources close to the princess told the BBC. She has brought her son Zayed, aged 7, and daughter Al Jalila, aged 11, to London with her, the Daily Beast reported.That the princess had escaped the royal household was first alleged by senior Jordanian journalist Osama Fawzi on his YouTube channel on June 22.A spokesman for the UAE government told Business Insider: "The UAE government does not intend to comment on allegations about individuals' private lives."According to the BBC, Princess Haya, the daughter of King Hussein of Jordan, fled after learning details about the disappearance of one of her husband's 23 daughters last year.   Princess Latifa reportedly spent seven years planning her escape from Dubai, enlisting the help of a former French spy, her Finnish martial arts teacher, and an escape boat flying a US flag to deter pursuers.  The princess, aged 32 at the time, got within touching distance of Goa, 1,200 miles (1,900 km) away on India's west coast, but was chased down by Emirati commandos and returned to Dubai in March 2018. She has not been heard from since, with activists fearing she has been jailed indefinitely.  Before she fled Princess Latifa made a video detailing alleged abuse and trauma at the hands of her 69-year-old father. She entrusted the tape to her lawyer, who was instructed to release it if her escape attempt went wrong, (embedded here)

 Saudi Arabia holds Iranian oil tanker in Jeddah – Saudi Arabia is holding an Iranian oil tanker in the port of Jeddah, sources in Tehran said yesterday. The tanker docked in Jeddah for emergency repairs following “engine failure and the loss of control” two months ago. Now the Saudi authorities are demanding that Iran should pay $200,000 for every day that the vessel has been in dock, Russia Today has reported. Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh told reporters on Wednesday that officials at the National Iranian Oil Tanker Company are following up on the matter. The problem, he insisted, will be solved soon. “The issue has financial implications for Iran,” the minister added, “but we are more concerned about a possible environmental disaster in the region.” A number of Iranian officials have criticised the Saudi demand, which they describe as “illegal”.

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes kill all eight members of family in Yemen - A pair of airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition on Monday killed at least eight civilians — all members of a single family — in Yemen’s northwestern Amran province near the capital, Sanaa, security officials said. The airstrikes, which hit sites in the al-Barid neighborhood in the city of Amran, also wounded over 20 people, the officials said. Also Monday, the Saudi-led coalition claimed that one of their airstrikes killed at least 41 Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, including eight Lebanese Hezbollah members who were fighting with them, in Yemen’s northern Saada province. Meanwhile, in the port city of Hodeida, officials and witnesses said hundreds of families have been forced to leave their homes in the surrounding province, about two weeks after the coalition launched an assault to take Hodeida from the Houthis. A convoy of at least 50 vehicles, carrying hundreds of people, has left the city, heading to the southwestern city of Taiz, they said. All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media while the witnesses feared for their safety. The Saudi-led coalition launched the campaign to retake Hodeida earlier this month, with Emirati troops leading the force of government soldiers and irregular militia fighters backing Yemen’s exiled government. Saudi Arabia has provided air support, with targeting guidance and refueling from the United States. Hodeida, home to 600,000 people, is some 150 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of Sanaa. The campaign to take Hodeida threatens to worsen Yemen’s humanitarian situation as it’s the main entry point for food, humanitarian aid and fuel supplies to the country. Aid groups fear a protracted fight could force a shutdown of the port and potentially tip millions into starvation. Some 70 percent of Yemen’s food enters via the port, as well as the bulk of humanitarian aid and fuel supplies. Around two-thirds of the country’s population of 27 million relies on aid and 8.4 million are at risk of starving,

Yemen's Houthis attack Saudi's Abha airport, injuring civilians - A Yemeni rebel attack on a civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia wounded nine civilians on Tuesday, a Riyadh-led coalition said, the latest in a series of attacks on the airport. "The terrorist attack on Abha airport  ... led to the injury of nine civilians, including eight Saudi citizens and one carrying an Indian passport," the military coalition said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. Earlier, the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels said they "launched a wide operation aimed at warplanes at Abha international airport" with drones, according to their Almasirah television channel.Abha airport has come under repeated missile and drone attacks in the past several weeks. On June 12, a rebel missile attack on Abha airport wounded 26 civilians, drawing promises of "stern action" from the Saudi-Emirati coalition.And on June 23, another rebel attack on Abha airport killed a Syrian national and wounded 21 other civilians, according to the coalition. The Houthis have stepped-up attacks in recent weeks against Saudi Arabia, which has been running a bloody military campaign in the Middle East’s poorest country since 2015.The Houthi rebels took control of vast swaths of the country, including the capital Sanaa, in late 2014, forcing the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi from power.The raids come amid heightened regional tensions after Washington - a key ally of Riyadh - accused Iran of shooting down a US drone over international waters and of carrying out attacks on oil tankers in the strategic Gulf of Oman. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly accused Iran of supplying sophisticated weapons to Houthi rebels, a charge Tehran denies.

 Israel Ready to Join a US War Against Iran — Israel has spent decades talking up the potential for a war against Iran, and invested heavily in lobbying the US to be hostile toward Iran. Recent talk of the US attacking Iran and starting such a war has Israeli hawks, unsurprisingly, crossing their fingers.Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz says the country is continue to encourage Trump to “press ahead” against Iran, but is also concerned Iran might “accidentally” stumble out of a limited war into a full “military conflagration.”Since Israel will definitely be involved in that war, Katz says that Israel “continues to devote itself to building up its military might” for the event that they are drawn into a US-Iran War, a war that to be clear Israel has been trying to con the US into starting for many years.  European nations are still trying to prevent such a war, and trying to save the P5+1 nuclear deal, which the US has withdrawn from, and which Israel has opposed from the start. Iranian officials express hope for such a deal, so long as the Europeans can ensure sanctions relief.

Netanyahu Says Israel Preparing Large-Scale Gaza Military Operation -  With his political campaign continuing to be built on him being the farthest right-wing, and most hawkish candidate, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed a meeting of the security cabinet in which the army was told to prepare for a wide-scale military campaign inside the Gaza Strip. It’s unlikely that such an instruction to the Israeli Army has any meaning at all, since Israel is seemingly always on the verge of invading the Gaza Strip for some reason or other, and probably is never not making such preparations. Netanyahu said policy toward the Gaza frontier is to either invade Gaza or “restore the calm.” Despite talk of “difficult situations,” it’s not clear anything is really going on in Gaza beyond what usually is. Indeed, it’s not clear what Netanyahu’s “Gaza situation” is, beyond another opportunity for him to talk up the idea of a massive military offensive, a threat which tends to be politically popular within Israel, and which officials feel the need to bring up as a possibility every so often.

 Israel’s Supreme Court Throws Out Petition for Palestinian Child Prisoners to Call Parents— Israel’s Supreme Court has refused to hear a petition filed by a human rights organisation which requested that Palestinian child prisoners be allowed to call their parents while in detention.  Israeli non-profit “HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual” filed the petition to the Supreme Court, arguing against Israeli procedures which subject those Palestinian minors classified as “security prisoners” to the same restrictions as adult prisoners. This includes refusing them permission to call their parents while in detention, which HaMoked argues can cause severe psychological damage to the children. However, the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed the petition, claiming the case should have first been brought to a lower court on behalf of one or more specific prisoners.  Israel’s treatment of child prisoners has long been criticised by human rights organisations. HaMoked argues that the IPS’ handling of Palestinian minors is “contrary to the language and spirit of Israeli law relating to minors in custody […] and contravenes international law, primarily the Convention on the Rights of the Child [UNCRC], to which Israel is signatory”.

 Stray Syrian Missile Slams Into Northern Cyprus Following Israeli Raid --An unexpected and rare result of the overnight Israeli airstrikes on Syria, which left as many as six Syrian civilians and an equal number of troops dead, via the BBC: A stray Russian-made missile apparently launched by Syria hit the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus overnight, officials say. Foreign Minister Kudret Ozersay said the air defence missile was thought to have been launched during suspected Israeli air strikes on Syria. The projectile struck a mountainside north of Nicosia, 225km (140 miles) from the Syrian coast, sparking a fire. During the middle of the night air raid which involved Israeli jets reportedly firing from over Lebanese airspace in what's being considered the largest Israeli attack this year, the Syrian military said it intercepted multiple inbound missiles. Footage from the resulting fire after the errant missile slammed into a mountainside in Cyprus: Reports suggest it was a Soviet-era S-200 surface-to-air missile previously supplied by Moscow that struck some 12 miles north of Nicosia in the Turkish-occupied part of the country, or the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.  According to a breaking AFP reportSyria said Israeli jets attacked several military sites near the capital Damascus and the central city of Homs early Monday, killing several people. State news agency SANA said that Syrian air defense had intercepted several of the incoming missiles that were fired from Lebanese airspace. Syria reported its aerial defense systems were active during the assault, which further caused damage to multiple civilian homes in the Damascus suburb of Sahnaya, according to SANA.

Russian Military Intervenes After Deadly Clashes Between Syrian & Turkish Armies - The Russian military quickly intervened to prevent a deadly confrontation between the Syrian and Turkish forces on Saturday.The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) first opened fire on the militant-held Sheir Magher area after the Turkish-backed rebels fired several artillery shells towards their positions in northwestern Hama. The Sheir Magher area is where the Turkish observation post is located in northwestern Hama. Following the Syrian Army attack on the Turkish observation post area, the Russian Armed Forces quickly intervened to prevent further hostilities, a source near the front-lines told Al-Masdar News.The source added that the Russian Armed Forces are currently present in the northwestern countryside of Hama, with many of their soldiers deployed to the towns of Mhardeh and Al-Sqaylabiyeh.  Earlier this week, the Syrian Army killed a Turkish soldier in the Sheir Magher area after the former was responding to an attack by the militants in northwestern Hama. The Turkish Armed Forces later retaliated by shelling the Syrian Army checkpoints near Sheir Magher – no casualties were reported. That prior deadly incident involved the Syrian Army striking a Turkish observation post in the same area, resulting in the death of one soldier and hospitalization of three others. In retaliation, the Turkish military attacked a couple of the Syrian Army checkpoints in northwestern Hama. Following the incident, the Turkish authorities summoned the Russian military attache in Syria and demanded that they control the Syrian Army in northwestern Hama.

 Syria & Iran To Defy Sanctions By Building Railway From Tehran To Mediterranean - Iran is preparing to begin construction on a large railway that links their capital city of Tehran to the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, the Director of Syrian Railways Najib Al-Fares said on Wednesday.According to Fares, the new railway will promote regional trade between Syria, Iraq, and Iran. The new project is expected to be funded by the Iranian government, with support from both Syria and Iraq. The Director of the Iraqi Railway Company, Jawad Kazim, said that Iraq had previously signed contracts to implement projects with Iranian companies, but most were delayed.For Syria, the new railway system is expected to help ease their economic issues that have derived from the U.S.-led sanctions on the Levantine nation.During the signing of the minutes, [Iranian Deputy Minister and Chairman of Roads Maintenance and Transport Organization] Shahram Adamnejad said that the tripartite meeting resulted in positive outcomes among the three sides, affirming that the goal of the negotiations is to activate the Iranian-Iraqi-Syria load and transport corridor as a part of a wider plan for reviving the Silk Road as the three countries have an old experience in the international trade. — Syria's SANAWhile this should be beneficial for all parties, this new railway system will face heavy criticism and possibly military attack from the U.S. and its allies, most notably Israel.Tripartite meeting of Iran, Iraq, Syria on railways coop. — Mehr News Agency (@MehrnewsCom) July 1, 2019 Israel has paid close attention to the Iranian developments in Syria and has often acted when they suspect weapons are being transported across borders.

British Marines Seize Oil Tanker Suspected of Bringing Iranian Oil to Syria— British Royal Marines seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar on Thursday. They suspected the tanker was headed to Syria, which would be a violation of US and EU sanctions. The Grace 1 oil tanker was believed to have started its journey in Iran.“That refinery is the property of an entity that is subject to European Union sanctions against Syria,” Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said. “With my consent, our port and law enforcement agencies sought the assistance of the Royal Marines in carrying out this operation.”About 30 Royal Marines boarded the tanker, some descended down on ropes from a helicopter, others came alongside the tanker in a speedboat. The U.S. and EU have imposed a series of sanctions against the Syrian government, resulting in an acute fuel shortage this past winter. Syrians struggled to heat their homes, the Assad government had to set up oil rationing and any country that tried to relieve them of the shortage was threatened with U.S. sanctions.

Memo to the US – The Winds Are Shifting  -- Ilargi: The ‘official’ storyline : at the request of the US, Gibraltar police and UK marines have seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar. The super-tanker, 1000 feet (330 meters) long, carrying 2 million barrels, had stopped there after sailing all around the Cape of Good Hope instead of taking the Suez canal on its way, ostensibly, from Iran to Syria. And, according to the storyline as presented to and in the western press, because the EU still has sanctions on Iran, the British seized the ship. Another little detail I really appreciate is that Spain’s acting foreign minister, Josep Borrell, said Madrid was looking into the seizure and how it may affect Spanish sovereignty since Spain does not recognize the waters around Gibraltar as British. That Borrell guy is the newly picked EU foreign policy czar, and according to some sources he’s supportive of Iran and critical of Israel. Them’s the webs we weave. He’s certainly in favor of Palestinian statehood. But we’re wandering…why dock in Gibraltar? Because no problems were anticipated there. However, the US had been following the ship all along, and set this up. A trap, a set-up, give it a name. I would think this is about Iran, not about sanctions on Syria; that’s just a convenient excuse. Moreover, as people have been pointing out, there have been countless arms deliveries to Syrian rebels in the past years (yes, that’s illegal) which were not seized. The sanctions on Syria were always aimed at one goal: getting rid of Assad. That purpose failed either miserably or spectacularly, depending on your point of view. It did achieve one thing though, and if I were you I wouldn’t be too sure this was not the goal all along. That is, out of a pre-war population of 22 million, the United Nations in 2016 identified 13.5 million Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance; over 6 million are internally displaced within Syria, and around 5 million are refugees outside of Syria. About half a million are estimated to have died, the same number as in Iraq.  And Assad is still there and probably stronger than ever. But it doesn’t even matter whether the US/UK/EU regime change efforts are successful or not, and I have no doubt they’ve always known this. Their aim is to create chaos as a war tactic, and kill as many people as they can. How do you define terror, terrorism? However you define it, ‘we’ are spreading it.

Iran threatens British shipping in retaliation for tanker seizure - (Reuters) - An Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander threatened on Friday to seize a British ship in retaliation for the capture of an Iranian supertanker by Royal Marines in Gibraltar. “If Britain does not release the Iranian oil tanker, it is the authorities’ duty to seize a British oil tanker,” Mohsen Rezai said on Twitter. The Gibraltar government said the crew on board the supertanker Grace 1 were being interviewed as witnesses, not criminal suspects, in an effort to establish the nature of the cargo and its ultimate destination. U.S. President Donald Trump, while not specifically mentioning the supertanker incident, repeated a warning to Tehran: “We’ll see what happens with Iran. Iran has to be very, very careful,” he told reporters at the White House. British Royal Marines boarded the ship off the coast of the British territory on Thursday and seized it over accusations it was breaking sanctions by taking oil to Syria. They landed a helicopter on the moving vessel in pitch darkness. The move escalates a confrontation between Iran and the West just weeks after the United States called off air strikes on Iran minutes before impact, and draws Washington’s close ally into a crisis in which European powers had striven to appear neutral. A U.S. State Department spokeswoman said, “We welcome international partners’ resolve in upholding and enforcing these sanctions.”

UK shouldn’t be ripping off the people of Libya by spending Gaddafi’s billions – Prof. Richard Wolff -The British government wants to start spending the money earned in taxes from frozen assets of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Professor Richard Wolff insists it’s the Libyan people who should get their money back. British lawmakers proposed handing over £17 million earned in taxes from the frozen assets to the victims of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) attacks. This follows a parliamentary report disclosure last month that the UK Treasury took millions of pounds in tax over the past three years from £12 billion of Libyan assets linked to Gaddafi. While lawmakers are trying to clarify if it’s legal to receive money in taxes from the frozen funds of another state, Professor Richard Wolff says the money belongs to the Libyan people and must be returned. “They deserve every bit of the wealth they created and they ought to have that wealth available to them as soon as it possibly can be turned over… because that’s how we run this world. We don’t give over to other countries the wealth produced in our country,” the economist and co-founder of ‘Democracy at Work’ told RT. According to him, the “British should be the most sensitive to all of this because they had the British Empire which for a century or more and in some cases for several centuries ripped off the wealth of vast parts of the world – India, Africa, and so on.” Wolff said “they [the UK] should not be doing this again, especially since they have been involved in some of the political maneuvers that overthrew Gaddafi in Libya, and that threatened the government in Venezuela.”

Libya: Haftar bans flights, boats from Turkey  - Libya's renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar has banned commercial flights from Libyato Turkey and ordered his forces to attack Turkish ships and interests in the country, spokesperson Ahmed al-Mismari has said.Turkey supports Libya's United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli which on Wednesday retook Gharyan, a strategic town south of the capital, from Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA)."Orders have been given to the air force to target Turkish ships and boats in Libyan territorial waters," al-Mismari said on Friday, adding that "Turkish strategic sites, companies and projects belonging to the Turkish state (in Libya) are considered legitimate targets by the armed forces".Al-Mismari said Turkish aircraft "provided air cover" and bombed LNA positions in the fight for Gharyan."All flights to and from Turkey are also stopped and any Turkish (nationals) on Libyan territory will be arrested," he said. Turkey has supplied drones and trucks to forces allied to Tripoli-based Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, while the LNA has received support fromFrance, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, according to diplomats. The LNA, which is allied to a parallel government in the east, has failed to take Tripoli but it has commanded air superiority. It has several times attacked Tripoli's functioning airport. The capture of Gharyan this week has been seen as a major setback for Haftar's forces and their campaign to capture the capital. Al-Mismari said his forces had lost 43 soldiers in the battle for Gharyan.

Deadly attack hits Tripoli migrant detention centre: Official - At least 40 people have been killed in an air raid at a detention centre for refugees and migrants in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, according to health and emergency officials. Malek Mersek, a spokesman for the state emergency medical services, said 80 others were wounded in the attack late on Tuesday, which hit the centre located next to a military camp in the eastern suburb of Tajoura. The United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) blamed the raid on the forces of Libyan renegade General Khalifa Haftar, whose forces have been fighting to seize Tripoli for the past three months. Speaking to state radio al-Wasat, Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha blamed Haftar's forces, saying that the GNA did not have an aircraft such as the one that carried out the bombing. "This crime came after the statements of the air force commander of Haftar's Libyan National Army, Muhammad al-Manfour, and therefore it is he who bears its legal and moral responsibility." On Monday, Manfour said aerial bombardment will be stepped up because "traditional means" to "liberate Tripoli" had been exhausted, and urged residents to stay away from what he called "confrontation areas". Reporting from the scene after the air raid, Al Jazeera's Mahmoud Abdelwahed said rescuers were searching for survivors as ambulances rushed in to transfer those wounded to medical centres. "It's very tragic here, dead bodies are still under the rubble," he said.

Air strike hits Libya migrant detention center -  At least 44 people were killed and 130 more were wounded in an attack on a migrant detention center in a suburb of Libyan capital Tripoli late on Tuesday, according to the United Nations mission. United Nations Libya envoy Ghassan Salame condemned the strike, saying it "clearly amounts to the level of a war crime." Doctors Without Borders said the detention center in the eastern suburb of Tajoura held 126 migrants. Pictures from the scene showed many bodies strewn among rubble on the ground and African migrants undergoing emergency surgery after the strike. "The absurdity of this ongoing war has today reached its most heinous form and tragic outcome with this bloody, unjust slaughter," Salame said in a statement. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for an independent investigation into the circumstances of the air strike. UN's human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the attack could amount to a war crime because the fighting sides knew that civilians were detained inside the building.

U.S. Considers Allowing China To Import Oil From Iran  -The U.S. Department of State is discussing allowing China to import oil from Iran as payment for a Chinese company’s investment in an Iranian oilfield, Politico reported on Wednesday, citing U.S. officials and sources.  The Trump Administration is discussing issuing China a waiver to a 2012 U.S. act on Iranian sanctions that would allow Beijing—Iran’s single biggest oil customer—to import oil from Iran, three U.S. officials told Politico. The discussions revolve around giving China a waiver to import Iranian oil in exchange for investments that China’s Sinopec has made in an oilfield in Iran. U.S. administration officials have offered Sinopec to grant a waiver for the repayment in oil in official correspondence between the Chinese company and the U.S. Department of State, a source familiar with the matter told Politico.   The report that the U.S. is mulling over a kind of lenient treatment of Chinese imports of Iranian oil comes days after numerous media reports pointed to China already receiving Iranian oil cargoes despite the U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil, while the official U.S. position continues to be driving Iran’s oil exports down to zero as soon as possible.Now that there are no sanction waivers for Iranian oil buyers, the United Stateswill sanction any imports of crude oil from Iran, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, said on Friday, reiterating comments he made last month amid reports that China has already imported its first crude oil cargo from Iran that breaches the U.S. sanctions.“We will sanction any illicit purchases of Iranian crude oil,” Hook said. Hook added that the U.S. would be looking to check reports that Iranian crude oil tankers have departed and arrived in China after the U.S. removed all sanction waivers for all Iranian crude oil customers. Last week, an analysis of TankerTrackers showed that Iran had delivered the first crude oil to a Chinese refinery complex since the United States removed as of May the sanction waivers for Iran’s oil buyers. 

China separating Muslim children from families - China is deliberately separating Muslim children from their families, faith and language in its far western region of Xinjiang, according to new research. At the same time as hundreds of thousands of adults are being detained in giant camps, a rapid, large-scale campaign to build boarding schools is under way. Based on publicly available documents, and backed up by dozens of interviews with family members overseas, the BBC has gathered some of the most comprehensive evidence to date about what is happening to children in the region. Records show that in one township alone more than 400 children have lost not just one but both parents to some form of internment, either in the camps or in prison. Formal assessments are carried out to determine whether the children are in need of "centralised care". Alongside the efforts to transform the identity of Xinjiang's adults, the evidence points to a parallel campaign to systematically remove children from their roots. China's tight surveillance and control in Xinjiang, where foreign journalists are followed 24 hours a day, make it impossible to gather testimony there. But it can be found in Turkey. In a large hall in Istanbul, dozens of people queue to tell their stories, many of them clutching photographs of children, all now missing back home in Xinjiang. "I don't know who is looking after them," one mother says, pointing to a picture of her three young daughters, "there is no contact at all."

China Forcing Tourists To Install 'Spy' App That Steals Personal Data -  Earlier this year, the Human Rights Watch exposed how police in a Chinese region called Xinjiang used a smartphone app to monitor (and oppress) its people. The app monitors everything, from flagging use of banned apps such as WhatsApp to gaining access to contacts, text messages, and almost everything else on a user’s smartphone. And this data would then be used by the police to decide which individuals to question or detain."This is yet another example of why the surveillance regime in Xinjiang is one of the most unlawful, pervasive, and draconian in the world."However, a new investigation carried out by Motherboard, The Guardian, the New York Times, and others, has now revealed that smartphone surveillance in Xinjiang is imposed on tourists as well.According to the report, foreigners crossing into Xinjiang are “forced to install a piece of malware on their phones that gives all of their text messages as well as other pieces of data to the authorities.” The malware, named Feng Cai or BXAQ, scans the target device’s files against a huge target list of over 70,000 files, including things like Islamic extremist content, and even things like installed copies of the Quran, “innocuous Islamic material, academic books on Islam by leading researchers, and even music from a Japanese metal band.”

China Slumps Into Full-Blown Manufacturing Contraction Following Awful Asian PMI Prints - Now that the Osaka G-20 has come and gone, and while nothing has been resolved in the US-China trade war, at least there has been no escalation and China is safe from US tariffs on the remainder of its exports to the US, which in turn has given algos a dose of optimism that all is well pushing S&P futures just shy of 3,000, things in the real world are going from bad to worse.One day after China's official NBS manufacturing PMI on Sunday printed unchanged at 49.4 in June, below expectations of an increase from May..... with most of the key sub-components sliding to new cycle lows:

  • production index 0.4 lower at 51.3,
  • new orders sub-index was 0.2 lower at 49.6
  • employment sub-index edged down 0.1pp to 46.9.
  • imports sub-index down to 46.8, from 47.1,
  • new export order index down to 46.3, vs. 46.5 in May

... the other Chinese PMI, the Caixin Manufacturing PMI, hammered expectations as it unexpectedly slumped back into contraction. Falling from 50.2 in May to 49.4 in June, the Cixin PMI – which differs from the official, NBS report by shifting away from SOEs and large enterprises and instead focusing on small and medium businesses – was below the critical 50.0 threshold which divides contraction and expansion, for the first time in four months.

Hundreds of thousands protest on the streets of Hong Kong - More than half a million people took to Hong Kong’s streets yesterday to demonstrate against the anti-democratic methods of the city’s administration and to mark the anniversary of Britain’s handover of its former colony to China on July 1, 1997. Yesterday’s march was the third mass protest against proposed legislation to allow extraditions from Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland. On June 16, an estimated 2 million people—over a quarter of the city’s population—joined a protest and march despite Hong Kong’s top official, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, announcing that discussion of the bill would be suspended indefinitely. Yesterday’s huge protest testifies to the widespread hostility to the Lam administration and fears that the legislation could be used to extradite political dissidents to China and to intimidate critics and opponents in Hong Kong itself. The protesters demanded the complete withdrawal of the legislation, Lam’s resignation and the cancellation of charges against demonstrators in previous protests. Hundreds of younger protesters forced their way into Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) chamber on Monday evening, daubing graffiti on the walls and defacing pictures. Shortly after midnight, police used teargas to disperse demonstrators gathered outside, then stormed the building and ejected the remainder of the occupiers. Reportedly most protesters had left the LegCo chamber. The number of arrests and injuries is not known at this stage. The youthful protesters had ignored pleas not to occupy the LegCo by conservative opposition politicians—the so-called pan-democrats who represent layers of Hong Kong’s corporate and professional elites concerned that the extradition legislation threatens their interests. The pan-democrats have in the past shown their willingness to compromise and do deals with the pro-Beijing administration and legislators who dominate the Legislative Council. The umbrella grouping, the Civil Human Rights Front, which has called the mass protests, blamed Lam for failing to meet any of the demands. “She has not shown any sincerity to respond or to communicate so far,” it said, adding that her refusal had “pushed youngsters towards desperation.”

Hong Kong: Protesters storm and deface parliament on handover anniversary - BBC News - Protesters have forced their way into the central chamber of Hong Kong's parliament after an hours-long siege. Dozens of demonstrators broke through the glass of the Legislative Council (LegCo) building earlier in the day. Hundreds then entered the building, spray-painting messages on the walls and carrying supplies for those occupying the premises. At midnight, (16:00 GMT) hundreds of police charged towards the building after warning protesters to clear it. Police fired tear gas into the remaining crowd outside the building as they advanced. Earlier on Monday evening, police warned that protesters must clear the building or face "appropriate force". Most of the demonstrators had left the building by then – though a few still remained in the central chamber.Extensive damage was done to the building, with portraits of political leaders torn from the walls and furniture smashed. Inside the central legislative chamber, one protester sprayed black paint across the emblem of Hong Kong on the rear wall - while another raised the old British colonial flag.The unrest followed a peaceful protest involving hundreds of thousands over a controversial extradition law.Pro-democracy demonstrators had taken to the streets on the anniversary of the city's handover from UK to Chinese rule. This is the latest in a series of protests against a controversial bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China.

Hong Kong police fire tear gas in running battles after protesters trash legislature (Reuters) - Hong Kong police fired tear gas early on Tuesday to disperse hundreds of defiant protesters, some of whom had stormed and ransacked the city’s legislature hours earlier on the anniversary of the city’s 1997 return to Chinese rule. Police arrived in a convoy of buses near midnight as about 1,000 protesters, furious at a proposed law that would allow extraditions to China, were gathered around the council building in the former British colony’s financial district in a direct challenge to authorities in Beijing. Earlier, protesters wearing hard hats, masks and black shirts had used a metal trolley, poles and scaffolding to charge again and again at the compound’s reinforced glass doors, which eventually gave. Scores of them poured into the building. Police fired several rounds of tear gas as protesters held up umbrellas to protect themselves, trying to block their advance. Plumes of smoke billowed across major thoroughfares and between some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. The extraordinary violence marked an escalation in the weeks-long movement against the extradition law, which the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, had argued was necessary but suspended in mid-June after protest marches that drew hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets. Lam called a news conference at 4 a.m. (2000 GMT) to condemn what were some of the most violent protests to rock the city in decades. It was not clear if any arrests were made.

China targets Hong Kong’s divisions to undermine protests - With Hong Kong demonstrators now demanding democratic elections in addition to the complete withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill, mainland China is trying to drive a wedge between the movement's more radical elements and the rest of the city.Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who is backed by Beijing, on Tuesday condemned "the extreme use of violence and vandalism by protesters who stormed into the Legislative Council building" the day before."I hope [the] community at large will agree with us that with these violent acts that we have seen, it is right for us to condemn it," she said.Hong Kong police were checking IDs of bus and taxi passengers at the tunnel between Hong Kong Island, where the LegCo building is located, and Kowloon early Tuesday, local media reported. Authorities were likely tracking those who were at the building earlier.Mainland media are also breaking their silence on the Hong Kong protests and criticizing Monday's events. The Communist Party-linked Global Times published an opinion piece Tuesday describing "extreme chaos and violence," and called the protesters' actions "nothing short of mob-like behavior."Despite the demonstrators' hopes, Group of 20 leaders largely steered clear of Hong Kong at their recent summit. In addition, the U.S. decided to resume trade negotiations with China. Beijing has less incentive to pull its punches on Hong Kong now that the city is unlikely to become a major issue on the international stage.Fissures are already starting to emerge within Hong Kong. A separate pro-democracy group hosted a rally on Monday, which marked the 22nd anniversary of the city's handover to China. It was attended by 550,000 people and ended without much incident. About 76% of participants at that rally supported the demonstrators who stormed LegCo, but 14% did not, with some expressing concern about the amount of destruction at the building.

 Hong Kong protests: China says protesters 'trample rule of law' China has accused protesters who vandalised Hong Kong's parliament on Monday of "serious illegal actions" that "trample on the rule of law". A group of activists occupied the Legislative Council (LegCo) building for several hours after breaking away from a peaceful protest. Hundreds of police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators. The Chinese government urged the city to investigate the "criminal responsibility of violent offenders". Hong Kong, a former British colony, is part of China but run under a "one country, two systems" arrangement that guarantees it a level of autonomy. Its citizens enjoy rights not seen on the mainland. Monday's disorder followed weeks of mass protests over a controversial extradition bill, which critics have said could be used to send political dissidents from Hong Kong to the mainland. The Chinese government said the ransacking of parliament was a blatant challenge to the "one country, two systems" formula. So far, Beijing has reacted to the protests from a distance, but Monday's violence could be a catalyst for Beijing to push for tighter control over Hong Kong, says BBC World Service Asia-Pacific editor Celia Hatton.

Core Hong Kong Protesters 'Prepared To Die For Their Cause' During Riots - A core group of radical protesters who led the violent siege of Hong Kong's legislature on Monday were willing to die for their cause as martyrs, according to SCMP. Approximately ten 'diehards' with a 'bring it on' attitude had no qualms about facing police batons, rubber bullets or worse, as they broke into and trashed the Legislative Council building.   "The protesters at the front were willing to sacrifice themselves. They turned so violent, hoping police would use aggressive force against them or shoot them with rubber bullets or beanbag rounds," said SCMP's source, adding "If the individuals were badly injured or even killed, all the blame would have been placed on police so as to spark global condemnation, and eventually bring the whole administration down." Hong Kong leadership expects the radical group to organize future protests in order to spark future clashes with the police that may lead to their desired outcome. They were among the dozens of protesters against the government’s now-suspended extradition bill who had already been identified and would be the target of a police operation to arrest those responsible.The Post was told that officers from the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau were also trying to identify those behind this group. –SCMP Hong Kong police made their first arrest on Wednesday after searching for those who used makeshift battering rams to smash the glass in front of the legislature - many of whom were wearing masks to avoid identification. 

Hong Kong protests: China tells UK not to interfere in 'domestic affairs' China has warned the UK not to "interfere in its domestic affairs" amid a growing diplomatic row over the recent protests in Hong Kong. Its UK ambassador said relations had been "damaged" by comments by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and others backing the demonstrators' actions. Liu Xiaoming said those who illegally occupied Hong Kong's parliament should be "condemned as law breakers". The ambassador was later summoned to the Foreign Office over the remarks. A Foreign Office spokesman said Sir Simon McDonald, permanent under secretary and head of the diplomatic service, told the ambassador his comments were "unacceptable and inaccurate". Earlier, Prime Minister Theresa May said she had raised concerns with Chinese leaders. Weeks of mass protests in the territory over a controversial extradition bill exploded on Monday, when a group of activists occupied the Legislative Council building for several hours after breaking away from a peaceful protest - raising the colonial-era British flag. Critics say the extradition bill could be used to send political dissidents from Hong Kong to the mainland. Demonstrators have also broadened their demands to include the release of all detained activists and investigations into alleged police violence.

Chinese Ambassador To UK Summoned Over "Unacceptable Remarks" After Hong Kong Protests - One day after Beijing lashed out at the US and Britain for "gross interference" in Hong Kong protests, the diplomatic tiff between China and the "democratic west" over the Hong Kong confrontations escalated on Wednesday when China's ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, was summoned to the Foreign Office after telling the UK to keep its "hands off Hong Kong and show respect".Foreign Office source: Chinese ambassador summoned to the FCO later today. PUS Sir Simon McDonald will set out UK’s view that comments from Chinese Foreign Ministry & Chinese Ambassador in response to remarks by Foreign Secretary on Hong Kong are both unacceptable and inaccurate.— James Landale (@BBCJLandale) July 3, 2019The ambassador also warned that "They forget that Hong Kong has now returned to the embrace of the Motherland" and added that the UK was "interfering" in China's affairs in Hong Kong and "should seriously reflect on the consequences of its words and deeds", to wit:“In the minds of some people, they regard Hong Kong as still under British rule. They forget ... that Hong Kong has now returned to the embrace of the Motherland. I tell them: hands off Hong Kong and show respect,” Liu added. “This colonial mindset is still haunting the minds of some officials or politicians." The Chinese diplomat also said those who illegally occupied Hong Kong's Parliament should be "condemned as law breakers".

Global Chip Supply In Jeopardy As New Trade Feud Erupts Between Japan And South Korea - On Tuesday, Japan unexpectedly announced that it was considering imposing stricter export controls on more items bound for South Korea, in an apparent effort to raise pressure on Seoul to help resolve a bilateral dispute over compensation for wartime labor. The envisaged plan comes in response to what Tokyo views as Seoul’s failure to address the months-long dispute properly and prevent it from hurting mutual trust between the two neighbors. Expanding the list of items, possibly to include electronic parts and related materials that can be diverted to military use, will likely exacerbate bilateral tensions, according to the Japan Times, and some within the government remain cautious about taking further steps, even though Japan has already announced that effective today, it will require manufacturers to file applications when they export to South Korea three materials used in the production of semiconductors and displays for smartphones and TVs. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday defended the government’s export controls. “We cannot give the preferential treatment that has been afforded until now, as the other country has not kept its promise,” he said during a nationally televised debate with leaders of other political parties, a day before official campaigning begins for the July 21 Upper House election. “This does not go against WTO agreements at all.” Meanwhile, Seoul, which regards the move as conflicting with the spirit of free trade, has threatened to launch a complaint against Japan at the World Trade Organization.

Russia-India-China share a room with a view - The most important trilateral at the G20 in Osaka was confined to a shoddy environment unworthy of Japan’s unrivaled aesthetic minimalism. Japan excels in perfect planning and execution. So it’s hard to take this setup as an unfortunate “accident.” At least the – unofficial – Russia-India-China summit at the sidelines of the G20 transcended the fate of an interior decorator deserving to commit seppuku. Leaders of these three countries met in virtual secrecy. The very few media representatives present in the shabby room were soon invited to leave. Presidents Putin, Xi and Modi were flanked by streamlined teams who barely found enough space to sit down. There were no leaks. Cynics would rather joke that the room may have been bugged anyway. After all, Xi is able to call Putin and Modi to Beijing anytime he wants to discuss serious business. New Delhi is spinning that Modi took the initiative to meet in Osaka. That’s not exactly the case. Osaka is a culmination of a long process led by Xi and Putin to seduce Modi into a serious Eurasia integration triangular road map, consolidated at their previous meeting last month at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek. Now Russia-India-China (RIC) is fully back in business; the next meeting is set for the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September. In their introductory remarks, Putin, Xi and Modi made it clear that RIC is all about configuring, in Putin’s words, an “indivisible security architecture” for Eurasia. Modi – very much in a Macron vein – stressed the multilateral effort to fight climate change, and complained that the global economy is being ruled by a “one-sided” dictate, emphasizing the necessity of a reform of the World Trade Organization. Putin went a step ahead, insisting, “our countries are in favor of preserving the system of international relations, whose core is the UN Charter and the rule of law. We uphold such important principles of interstate relations as respect for sovereignty and non-interference in domestic affairs.” Putin clearly underlined the geopolitical interconnection of the UN, BRICS, SCO and G20, plus “strengthening the authority of the WTO” and the International Monetary Fund as the “paragon of a modern and just multipolar world that denies sanctions as legitimate actions.” The Russia-India-China contrast with the Trump administration could not be starker.

Sudan braces for ‘millions march’ as defiant protesters regroup -- Across Sudan, defiant protesters are preparing to return to the streets on Sunday for what social media users are calling a "millions march". The protesters are demanding power be handed over to a civilian-led government and justice for all lives lost at the hands of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) during a recent crackdown in the wake of the removal of then-President Omar al-Bashir's removal from power.The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) on Twitter called on people to take to the streets on Sunday, saying "let's be loud on the streets again, and let's make the demonstrations on June 30th a prominent new page in the last chapter of the falling regime and its rigged council's drama". The rally will be the first mass demonstration since the assault on protesters at a sit-in at the military headquarters in Khartoum almost a month ago. Months of protests and the sit-in came to a deadly head on June 3, as Sudanese security forces violently dispersed the crowds outside the military headquarters in the capital.More than 100 people have been killed and more than 500 wounded, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD), while a Health Ministry official cited a much lower death toll of 61. Protesters say the sit-in provided a safe space for people from all regions of Sudan to express themselves through different methods, including discussions, collective chants and art. After what protesters are calling the "June 3rd massacre", a sense of mourning and anger further fuelled their demands.

‘Millions march’: Sudanese renew protests to demand civilian rule At least seven demonstrators in Sudan have been killed and more than 180 injured as tens of thousands poured onto the streets across the country to pressure the country's ruling generals to hand over power to a civilian-led administration and seek justice for the scores of victims of a deadly military crackdown. Dubbed the "millions march", Sunday's mass demonstrations were the first since security forces on June 3 killed more than 100 people during the bloody dispersal of a protest camp outside the military headquarters, the focal point of the protesters' months-long struggle for democracy. Protesters who spoke to Al Jazeera, which was banned by the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) from reporting in the country just a few days before the sit-in's dispersal, said there was a "huge turnout" in the capital, Khartoum, despite a widespread internet blackout. "They said they wanted to make their demands heard," said Al Jazeera's Hiba Morgan, reporting from Juba, the capital of neighbouring South Sudan. "People are also saying that the military and the riot police are using tear gas, live ammunition and stun grenades to try and disperse the crowd." The state news agency SUNA reported late on Sunday that the death toll had climbed to seven, with 181 wounded, citing a health ministry official. The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, which is linked to the protest movement, earlier said at least five civilians, including four in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman, had been killed. "There are several seriously wounded by the bullets of the military council militias in hospitals of the capital and the provinces," it added. Earlier in the day, reports said a protester had been shot dead in Atbara, the birthplace of the uprising that led to al-Bashir's removal. Images posted on social media appeared to show heightened security around the capital. The feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the group blamed by protesters for the June 3 killings were deployed in pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns in several Khartoum squares.

  'Our revolution won': Sudan's opposition lauds deal with military - Sudan's ruling generals and a coalition of protest and opposition groups have reached an agreement to share power during a transition period until elections, in a deal that could break weeks of political deadlock since the overthrowing of autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April.Both sides agreed to establish a joint military-civilian sovereign council that will rule the country by rotation "for a period of three years or slightly more", Mohamed Hassan Lebatt, African Union (AU) mediator, said at a news conference on Friday.Under the agreement, five seats would go to the military and five to civilians, with an additional seat given to a civilian agreed upon by both sidesThe ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the civilian leaders also agreed to launch a "transparent and independent investigation" into the violence that began on June 3 when scores of pro-democracy demonstrators were killed in a brutal military crackdown on a protest camp in the capital, Khartoum.TMC deputy head General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who is widely known as Hemeti, welcomed Friday's deal, which, he said, would be inclusive. "We would like to reassure all political forces, armed movements and all those who participated in the change from young men and women … that this agreement will be comprehensive and will not exclude anyone," added Dagalo, who also heads the feared paramilitary unit Rapid Support Forces (RSF) accused by the demonstrators of crushing the sit-in outside the military headquarters.

The Mass Extinction No One Is Talking About  - “Every two weeks, the world loses a language. Out of approximately 7,000 languages spoken on earth today, at least half will have fallen silent by the end of this century,” artist Lena Herzog told an audience at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in the spring of 2018. In a world in which English increasingly dominates global conversations and cultures, every part of Herzog’s statement will seem staggering: the vast diversity, the rapid loss, the impending extinction. Perhaps more surprising, however, are the reasons this mass linguistic disappearance is taking place. As Herzog explained in her speech, which she reads aloud in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” this extinction is no accident. Rather, it is the outcome of a human history in which concentrated hegemonic powers required the erasure of any form of communication that precluded their understanding and, crucially, their control. “[Power] has also always known that it would be difficult, if not nearly impossible, to control various minority populations and tribes because of the language and cultural barrier,” Herzog says. “Thus, it has obliterated these other languages as much as it could, either by simple genocide or by squeezing other cultures out, absorbing them and vanishing them, sometimes intentionally, mostly, as a by-product of conquest, cultural absorption, or domination. … The sophistication in messaging in [the United States] is unparalleled by anything any authoritarian or totalitarian state could have ever created.”

 Months After Failed Coup, Venezuelans Losing Patience With Guaido — In late April, Juan Guaido launched an attempted coup in Venezuela, one which the US figured would be an easy success to sweep him into power after months of insisting he was the legitimate ruler. As July starts, Guaido seems no closer to power than ever. New reports suggest that some Venezuelans, even those who supported Guaido, are growing impatient with the whole regime change idea, and his support is starting to dry up as it becomes increasingly apparent that Maduro will retain power. The US-backed coup idea didn’t work, and that was effectively the only real plan they had. Unilaterally declaring regime change was clearly never going to work, and since Guaido wasn’t even running for president in the last election, failing to get the military to overturn the vote was really his last major shot. The Venezuelan public is catching up to something President Trump apparently figured out awhile ago, as indications are that he was already getting bored of the Venezuela issue because of the lack of progress.

Outcry after reports Brazil plans to investigate Glenn Greenwald - Brazil’s Bar Association, journalists and opposition lawmakers have reacted with outrage to reports that the country’s federal police plan to investigate the bank accounts of an American journalist who published leaked conversations between prosecutors and the graft-busting judge who is now Jair Bolsonaro’s justice minister.The rightwing site the Antagonist (O Antagonista) reported on Tuesday that federal police had asked a money-laundering unit at Brazil’s finance ministry to investigate the “financial activities” of Glenn Greenwald.Police declined to comment on the allegation but confirmed an investigation had been launched into the hacking of cellphones that led to the leaks.“This seems to me like an attempt to intimidate the journalist,” said Kennedy Alencar, a leading political commentator on CBN Radio. “If there is an investigation for doing journalism it is illegal and it is an attempt at intimidation,” said Pierpaolo Bottini, a professor of penal law at the University of São Paulo who heads the press freedom unit at the Brazilian Bar Association.Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, won a Pulitzer prize for leading the Guardian’s reporting on National Security Agency (NSA) spying revealed by Edward Snowden before co-founding the Intercept website in 2014.Last month, the publication’s Brazilian edition launched the first in a string of bombshell articles which appeared to show prosecutors in the sweeping Operation Car Wash corruption inquiry colluding with Sérgio Moro, the judge who became a hero in Brazil for jailing powerful businessmen, middlemen and politicians. The leaked records – which the Intercept said it received from an anonymous source – have had an explosive impact on Brazilian politics and dominated headlines for weeks.On Sunday, leaks published in the Folha de S Paulo newspaper cast fresh doubts over key testimony in the case against former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for graft and money laundering. Lula’s conviction removed him from last year’s presidential race.After the far-right candidate Bolsonaro won, he made Moro his justice minister.Moro refused to say whether federal police – which he controls – were investigating Greenwald during a tumultuous hearing on Tuesday at Brazil’s congress.He defended the corruption investigation, attacked “sensationalist” r eporting and said the Intercept leaks were an “empty balloon” that failed to prove any wrongdoing.

Michael Hudson Discusses the IMF and World Bank: Partners In Backwardness -  (interview transcript) This is Guns and Butter, June 26, 2019. [*Edited and annotated version.]  The purpose of a military conquest is to take control of foreign economies, to take control of their land and impose tribute. The genius of the World Bank was to recognize that it’s not necessary to occupy a country in order to impose tribute, or to take over its industry, agriculture and land. Instead of bullets, it uses financial maneuvering. As long as other countries play an artificial economic game that U.S. diplomacy can control, finance is able to achieve today what used to require bombing and loss of life by soldiers.I’m Bonnie Faulkner. Today on Guns and Butter: Dr. Michael Hudson. Today’s show: The IMF and World Bank: Partners In Backwardness. Dr. Hudson is a financial economist and historian. He is President of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trend, a Wall Street Financial Analyst, and Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. His most recent books include “… and Forgive them Their Debts: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year”; Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economy, and J Is for Junk Economics: A Guide to Reality in an Age of Deception. He is also author of Trade, Development and Foreign Debt, among many other books. We return today to a discussion of Dr. Hudson’s seminal 1972 book, Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire, a critique of how the United States exploited foreign economies through the IMF and World Bank, with a special emphasis on food imperialism.

BIS Warns Slowdown Is Worsening And Spreading As Central Banks Run Out Of Ammo - Every six month or so, the Bank of International Settlements, also known as the central banks' central bank, publishes some dire warning about the increasingly precarious state of the global financial system - largely as a result of an unprecedented monetary experiment that is now pushing on a string - and every six months or so the world's most important central bankers congregate on 18th floor of the circular BIS tower in Basel where they decide to ignore all the warnings and double-down on policies that haven't worked in a decade, with the expectation that they will work this time (or at least make the world's richest even richer, while destroying the middle class).Well, today is one of those days, because at midnight on June 30, the BIS published it Annual Economic Report for the year 2019, and of course, this report too and the speech delivered alongside the Annual General Meeting in Basel by Agustin Carstens, will be summarily ignored by those who matter, until the next financial crisis strikes and everyone is shocked how there were no signals indicating the arrival of what will soon be the greatest financial catastrophe in world history. Of course, the BIS won't make any such dire predictions - the last thing it needs is to be accused of sowing the panic that unleashes a crisis - it will however warn that after a failed attempt by central banks to renormalize monetary policy, governments must step in to stimulate their economies and fix policy imbalances that have forced central banks to use up most of their firepower: The continuation of easy monetary conditions can support the economy, but make normalization more difficult, in particular through the impact on debt and the financial system,” the BIS warned.  As a result of central banks going all in again in what some have dubbed the last rate to the bottom, “the narrow normalization path has become narrower.”

 Global Manufacturing PMI Crashes To 7-Year Lows As New Orders Slump - It's a bloodbath. No matter where you look, global manufacturing surveys are signaling growth is over (and in most cases, outright contraction is upon us).JPMorgan's Global Manufacturing PMI fell to its lowest level for over six-and-a-half years and posted back-to-back sub-50.0 readings for the first time since the second half of 2012. June data signalled a mild decrease in global manufacturing employment for the second month running (but every sub-index declined in June). Of the 30 nations for which a June PMI reading was available, the majority (18) signalled contraction. China, Japan, Germany, the UK, Taiwan, South Korea, Italy and Russia were among those countries experiencing downturns. The US, India, Brazil and Australia were some of the larger industrial nations to register an expansion. Commenting on the survey, Olya Borichevska, from Global Economic Research at J.P.Morgan, said: “The global manufacturing sector downshifted again at the end of the second quarter. The PMI surveys signalled that output stopped growing, as inflows of new business shrank at the fastest pace since September 2012. This impacted hiring and business optimism, with the latter at a series-record low. Conditions will need to stage a marked recovery if manufacturing is to revive later in the year.” So, we ask you, which market do you think is getting things right? Bonds or stocks? It's not rocket science!!

Commentary: Global economy heading for trouble as manufacturing and construction shrink - (Reuters) - Global manufacturing and construction sectors have already entered a downturn; the service sector is all that now stands between the economy and a full-blown recession. Global manufacturers reported new export orders fell for a 10th month running in June, with the most widespread decline for six years, according to the JPMorgan global purchasing managers survey. Even in the United States, which has escaped relatively mildly so far from the downturn hitting Europe and Asia, there are now clear signs growth has stalled across the manufacturing and construction industries. U.S. manufacturers reported only a small increase in activity in June, with the net positive balance the lowest for almost three years, according to the Institute for Supply Management ( ). U.S. manufacturers’ new orders have been decelerating for more than a year and were flat for the first time since the end of 2015, which suggests activity is likely to slow further in the short term. Durable goods orders for non-defence capital equipment excluding aircraft were up by just 2.1% in the three months from March to May compared with a year earlier, less than a third of the growth rate a year ago. Private sector construction activity is falling, with the value of new buildings and structures put in place down by 4.1% in the three months from March to May compared with the same period a year earlier. Residential construction activity was down by more than 8% year-on-year in the three months from March to May, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  

Euro zone factory activity contracted for fifth month in June: PMI (Reuters) - Factory activity in the euro zone shrank faster last month than previously thought in a broad-based downturn, according to a survey on Monday that suggested there would be no quick turnaround. The downbeat data will likely add to calls for the European Central Bank to ease monetary policy as it also highlighted weakening inflationary pressures. IHS Markit’s June final manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) was 47.6, below an earlier flash reading of 47.8 and May’s 47.7, marking its fifth month below the 50 level separating growth from contraction. An index measuring output change, which feeds into a composite PMI due on Wednesday and is seen as a good gauge of economic health, spent its fifth month below the breakeven mark, registering 48.5. It was 48.9 in May. “Euro zone manufacturing remained stuck firmly in a steep downturn in June, continuing to contract at one of the steepest rates seen for over six years,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit. “The disappointing survey rounds off a second quarter in which the average PMI reading was the lowest since the opening months of 2013.” Indicating there will be a slow start to the second half, new orders fell for a ninth month, stocks of new materials were depleted again, backlogs of work were run down and headcount was reduced for a second month. To try to encourage demand, factories barely increased their prices in June. The output prices PMI fell to 50.6 from May’s 51.6, its lowest reading since September 2016. Inflation in the euro zone was stable at 1.2% in June, a long way from the 2% the ECB would like it near, official data showed on Friday. “The downturn is also increasingly feeding through to lower inflationary pressures, as producers and their suppliers compete on price to retain customers and generate sales,” Williamson said.

More Than a Fifth of All European Flights Delayed in May - More than a fifth of all European flights were delayed in May despite the introduction of measures aimed at preventing disruptions that wreaked havoc on travel during last year’s busy summer season. Monthly data from regional air traffic authority Eurocontrol show 22.1% of flights were delayed compared with 24.5% the same month last year, according to a statement Friday. Flights over central and eastern Germany were among the most delayed. Strikes by traffic controllers and staff at airlines including Ryanair Holdings Plc led to delays and cancellations during May and the summer months of 2018, costing carriers hundreds of millions of euros. Since then, airlines, airport operators and traffic control authorities have introduced a raft of measures to ease congestion aimed at preventing a repeat. These include allowing pilots to fly at lower altitudes to avoid particularly crowded areas. Yet the latest data indicates little improvement. "The report for May shows that punctuality improved compared with May 2018; but we are still seeing over 10% of flights more than 30 minutes late," Eurocontrol Director General Eamonn Brennan wrote on Twitter. More than 15% of flights passing through the so-called Karlsruhe UAC zone in Germany were delayed due to capacity constraints or a shortage of controllers. The country’s DFS air traffic control authority has said it plans to hire more staff to handle rising air traffic, but has warned of a dearth of prospective candidates and long training times needed for new hires. Deutsche Lufthansa AG is the worst hit by congestion in Germany. The airline is bracing for another summer of crowded airspace and jammed security lines at its hub airports, 

 Italy migrant boat: Rescue captain accused of trying to sink police boat - Italy's far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has accused the captain of a ship carrying rescued migrants of trying to sink a police boat. Carola Rackete was arrested at the Italian port of Lampedusa after a two-week stand-off with police at sea. Her vessel, Sea-Watch 3, was banned from docking, but it eventually entered the port on Friday night. On Saturday, Mr Salvini called Ms Rackete a "rich, white, German woman" who had committed "an act of war". "She tried to sink a police launch with officers on board at night," he said. "They say 'we're saving lives', but they risked killing these human beings who were doing their job, it's clear from the videos." Mr Salvini added: "A vessel weighing hundreds of tonnes tried to ram... a police launch with officers aboard, who managed to get out of the way to save their lives. That's a criminal act, an act of war." Ms Rackete could face a 10-year jail term if convicted of attacking a police boat. She had rescued 53 migrants off the coast of Libya on 12 June, who were drifting on an inflatable raft in the Mediterranean sea.

Boat With 86 Migrants Capsizes Off Libya, Most Feared Dead - Yet another immense tragedy involving migrants out of Libya following Tuesday's deadly airstrike on a Tripoli migrant center believed carried out by forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Haftar, which had killed at least 44 and wounded close to a hundred more: a boat carrying 86 people which embarked from Libya has sank in the Mediterranean overnight.   Per a breaking Associated Press report, the numbers of drowned and missing are staggeringThe U.N. migration agency says a boat carrying 86 migrants from Libya sank in the Mediterranean overnight, and just three people on board survived, with 82 missing.  The shipwreck late Wednesday off the Tunisian city of Zarzis came a day after a deadly airstrike on a Libyan detention center that killed at least 44 migrants.  A Tunisian fishing vessel was the first reported on the scene, and was only able to four out, with most of the migrants remaining missing and presumed dead. The shipwreck late Wednesday off the Tunisian city of Zarzis came a day after a deadly airstrike on a Libyan detention center that killed at least 44 migrants. — AP

 Madrid threatens migrant rescue ship with massive fines - The acting Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is threatening the migrant rescue charity boat Proactiva Open Arms with huge fines if it continues rescuing migrants. It is part of the mounting assault on migrants throughout the world by capitalist governments, which, facing mounting domestic political opposition, are promoting nationalism and xenophobia. The letter addressed to Open Arms, leaked to Europa Press, was signed by Benito Núñez Quintanilla, the general director of the Merchant Navy, an agency of the Ministry of Development. Quintanilla warned the NGO it would commit serious legal “violations” if it attempted to re-launch its rescue campaign. He threatened Open Arms with fines of €300,000 to €901,000 if the organisation continued to rescue migrants adrift in the Mediterranean Sea. The government also threatened to “make effective” the stranding of the rescue boat in port if it continued their activities in the sea “without authorization,” also threatening to suspend the boat’s license if the NGO makes “serious or very serious breaches of maritime safety.” The letter was sent the same day Carola Rackete, the 31-year-old German sea captain of the refugee rescue ship Sea Watch 3, was arrested by the Italian government and its fascistic interior minister, Matteo Salvini. Rackete’s supposed “crime” was to rescue 52 African refugees, including pregnant women and children, stranded in the Mediterranean Sea on June 12, and provide their safe transfer to the Italian territory of Lampedusa. Proactiva Open Arms reacted to arrest by announcing on Twitter, “we were blocked for six months [by the PSOE government]. We are not taking it anymore. We are raising our anchors and leaving. We prefer to be prisoners than accomplices [to migrant deaths in the Mediterranean].” The boat had just unloaded humanitarian aid to the refugee camps in Greece and was anchored in Naples when Rackete was arrested. It is now near the Libyan coast. The following day Salvini threatened the boat, saying: “Let Spain bring them back or, otherwise (obviously with good manners) we will do it.”

Mayor, doctors and social workers arrested in scheme to brainwash children into believing they had been abused and sell them - Italian police have arrested 18 people, including a mayor, social workers and psychologists for allegedly “brainwashing” children into believing their parents had abused them, in a scheme to take them away from their families and sell them to foster parents. Authorities in the central Italian city of Reggio Emilia revealed how a network of carers allegedly used hours of psychotherapy sessions and electroshocks to convince children their parents had sexually abused them and “alter their memory ahead of the trials”, Italy’s Ansa news agency reports. They then allegedly sold the children on to friends and acquaintances in a scheme worth hundreds of thousands of euros. The investigations, codenamed “Angels and Demons”, started in the summer of 2018 after police received a series of reports of wrongdoing that initially proved false. The 18 arrested include Andrea Carletti, mayor of Bibbiano, a town of about 10,000 near Reggio Emilia, as well as politicians, doctors, social workers and psychologists. 

Italian Socialist Elected President Of Europe's Parliament  - A vote in the European Parliament, which began its new five-year term on Tuesday, elevated Italian socialist politician David Sassoli to the position of president of the EU Parliament, Reuters reports. Of course, the anointing of a socialist to lead the European Union's biggest body of lawmakers won't exactly assuage the concerns of everybody who has worried that the EU Is beginning to too closely resemble another nominally Democratic 'union' of supposedly independent republics. Sassoli will succeed another Italian, conservative politician Antonio Tajani, who had served as speaker since 2017. Sassoli is a 63-year-old politician from Florence, who previously worked as a journalist before entering politics. He has been a lawmaker in the European Parliament for a decade.Sassoli's election follows the nomination of Christine Lagarde as the new head of the ECB, Ursula von der Leyen as president of the European Commission, Charles Michel as president of the European Council and Joseph Borrell - a Spanish socialist - as high representative for the union of foreign affairs and security policy. As parliamentary president, Sassoli's is the first of the EU's top jobs to be formally filled (Lagarde and the rest have all been nominated, but they must now be confirmed by the parliament). He will hold the job for half of the parliament's five-year term, meaning the socialists and center-left will likely control the bloc for the first half of its term. In the second half, control will pass to the center-right.

Surprise finish, uncertain consequences, in race to choose new EU leaders  --Coalition politics demands time and patience, but in selecting German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen to be the next Commission president, EU leaders went for a quick fix — and the bloc may now pay a steep price.The leaders’ decision came Tuesday evening, just 48 hours after an initial compromise package, put forward by Council President Donald Tusk on behalf of the leaders of Germany, France, the Netherlands and Spain, crashed and burned without ever leaving the runway.That failed package was at least centered on the Spitzenkandidat, or lead candidate, system and therefore based largely on names that had been under discussion in Brussels and throughout Europe for months, along with their relative pluses and minuses.By contrast, the hastily constructed package adopted on Tuesday evening, with Germany notably abstaining on the choice of the first German EU chief since Walter Hallstein left office in 1967, contained several surprises. Negative reaction was quick and brutal.Put succinctly: the Spitzenkandidat system died while the backroom deal, long a trusty approach of the EU, lives on. "They're jumping for the quick fix," an EU diplomat said. "This whole city wants a quick fix, so embrace your pain, make it a part of you and know that the next round will be another disappointment." In the unkindest analysis, the leaders chose von der Leyen, a largely unknown quantity in Brussels who has been dogged by misspending and mismanagement allegations in Berlin, not because of the leadership skills she will bring to the EU's top job as Commission president, but because she filled more banal criteria: compensating Germany and the conservative European People's Party for being denied their first choice — the conservative lead candidate Manfred Weber.

‘This is not democracy’: European parliament unites to condemn selection of new EU Commission president behind closed doors The European parliament’s political groups have united to condemn the selection of the next European Commission president, branding the process an undemocratic stitch-up by national governments. EU leaders chose Ursula von der Leyen as their pick to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as the leader of the European Union’s executive branch despite the fact she was not on the ballot paper as a candidate and has no manifesto. The European Council effectively ignored the European parliament’s spitzenkandidat, or “lead candidate” system, which was supposed to inject an element of democracy into the selection of commission president – instead nominating the defence minister, who is largely unknown outside Germany. “I’m not going to congratulate the council. President Tusk, I cannot support how things were done and the lack of respect that you’ve shown to other institutions,” said Gonzalez Pons, spokesperson for the dominant centre-right EPP group in the parliament. The EPP’s criticism of the process is notable because Ms Von der Leyen, a member of Angela Merkel’s CDU party, is actually a member of the EPP. Mr Pons continued: “The future of Europe can no longer be decided behind closed doors. The spizenkandidat process is not about one person or one name – the citizens of Europe want to elect the person who is governing Europe. This is not revolutionary, this is democracy.

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, was just nominated for the top job at the European Central Bank - Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, was nominated to become the next president of the European Central Bank by the European Union Council on Tuesday. If Lagarde is confirmed, she will succeed Mario Draghi in the top job at the ECB. "I am honored to have been nominated for the Presidency of the European Central Bank," Lagarde said in a statement. "In light of this, and in consultation with the Ethics Committee of the IMF Executive Board, I have decided to temporarily relinquish my responsibilities as Managing Director of the IMF during the nomination period." Leaders have been discussing who to nominate since Sunday,Bloomberg reported. The decision was a challenging one because there are multiple top jobs that will turnover before the end of the year.Lagarde, 63, would be the second French national to hold the position if she is confirmed. She has been at the IMF since 2011 — becoming the first woman to serve as the managing director — and was previously the finance minister of France. The nomination comes as somewhat of a surprise to many. In recent months, speculation has surrounded the potential candidacy of German central bank head Jens Weidmann, French ECB members Benoît Coeuré and François Villeroy de Galhau, and former Finnish central banker Erkki Liikanen, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Are Europe’s new leaders up to the job? Brussels appointment process raises serious legitimacy questions Every six years, in tandem with the European parliamentary election, the EU changes the management of its top jobs. This, in turn, affects the composition of its institutions. The five key places to be filled are the European Commission president, the European Council president, the president of the European Parliament, the head of the European Central Bank, and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs. EU treaties, plus political expediency, help ensure balance in terms of geography, large vs. small states, party affiliation and gender in filling posts. But this time around, the process of post selection has been disappointingly unclear, and lacked democratic legitimacy. Nor have the results been remotely representative of the EU as a whole. Initially, the selection method of the top job, the European Commission president, looked relatively well managed. The last couple of months saw the preferred “spitzencandidates” (and a few others, like Michel Barnier) representing the larger party groupings of the European Parliament trotting around Europe attending hustings to outline their European visions in the hope of being elected to the post. Heads of EU member states, meanwhile, had numerous intergovernmental summits, discussing known runners and unknown riders. All of this is par for the course. Taken together, the “electoral package” yields names that have been discussed across Europe for weeks, if not months. In the end,, however, EU leaders discarded all the key candidates for the Commission and other top jobs. They have instead opted for a hastily-assembled line up of entirely new individuals in a backroom deal. The quick fix may have assuaged national interests and helped beat the clock in terms of getting folks into position, but it could yield serious problems. There are questions about how suitable some of these people are for the roles they’ve been awarded. Any yet they are taking office at a time when Brussels needs the very best.

France's Richest People Have Seen Their Net Worth Rocket 35% This Year - Despite the civil unrest in France to start the year, the country's richest citizens still had a fantastic start to 2019, according to Bloomberg.  Amidst protesters taking to the streets to demand higher wages and better pensions, the 14 people from France on the Bloomberg Billionaire's Index added a combined $78 billion to their collective net worth since the beginning of 2019. That is an astounding 35% increase. The figures will likely serve as additional fuel for protests over income inequality in the country.  France's pace was more than double China’s richest, who saw growth of 17% for the first six months of the year. The richest in the U.S. saw their wealth grow 15% during the first half the year.  Outside of France, the other highest returns came from Thailand at 33% and Singapore, who came in at 31%. The richest in Japan saw their wealth grow 24%. The only Nigerian on the list, Aliko Dangote, saw his wealth up 60% so far in 2019. Specifically in France, luxury businessmen Bernard Arnault and Francois Pinault, combined with cosmetics heir Francoise Bettencourt Meyersedit combined to make up $53 billion of the growth. The demand for luxury goods from China has continued even though there has been uncertainty from the ongoing trade war. Arnault’s LVMH shares are up 45% this year, making the company the second best performer in France's CAC 40 index. He joined Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates as the only people that have fortunes of over $100 billion.

For The First Time Ever, German Bund Yields Drop Below The ECB's Deposit Rate - For the first time ever, the yield on the German 10Y Bund, considered as Europe's go to safe asset, dropped below the ECB's -0.40% deposit rate, as consensus forms that the ECB will cut rates by at least 10bps in September, if not sooner especially with Christine Lagarde - widely perceived as just as dovish as Mario Draghi if not more - set to head the ECB. “The markets are really saying we expect more from the ECB,” Marilyn Watson, head of global fundamental fixed-income strategy at BlackRock told Bloomberg TV. “We expect yields to go lower still.” The inversion is notable because while the ECB can buy bonds that yield less than the deposit rate, priority is given to those that still offer a premium.... although in Germany, only 15% of the entire bond universe still has a positive yield as 20-year yields also turned negative this week and the 30Y set to follow soon.This latest curve inversion, which signals that a European recession is looming, has spurred investors to buy riskier assets such as 30 Year Italian bonds, which yesterday saw their biggest one day gain since Draghi's 2012 "whatever it takes" speech.

 Germany’s Deutsche Bank slashes 20,000 jobs - Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest financial institution, plans to slash up to 20,000 jobs. The onslaught will affect more than a fifth of the bank’s 91,500 employees.The bank informed its supervisory board and the regulatory authorities about its planned jobs massacre last week. Details were leaked to the media over the weekend. The final decision could be taken on July 7, when the supervisory board is due to meet.The plans confirm that workers in the service and banking sectors, like their counterparts in industry, are paying with their jobs, wages and working conditions for the preparations for trade war and military conflict.The details of the planned layoffs are still being finalised, and some of the figures could change. But media reports suggest that the main target will be the loss-making corporate and investment division, where 38,000 workers are currently employed, many of them outside Germany. “The trade in securities—above all with shares and government bonds—is to be reduced significantly outside Europe and closed completely in some areas,” wrote theSüddeutsche Zeitung, based on sources in the financial sector.However, important parts of the bank’s headquarters in Frankfurt will also be affected, as well as the research department, where experts analyse capital markets. The bank has been attempting to reduce personnel in the private and business banking divisions for some time.Due to financial reasons, the job cuts will take place over several years. Buy-outs, early retirement packages and so-called social plans for laid-off workers are being prepared. In this, the bank’s board of directors can rely on the loyal cooperation of the trade unions and works councillors, especially Verdi. Over the past three years, they have signed off on the destruction of 13,000 jobs, including 7,000 in the past year alone.It was revealed on Friday that the trade unions have agreed to another 2,000 job cuts at Deutsche B ank’s subsidiary Postbank. Some 1,300 jobs will be cut due to the integration of Postbank into Deutsche Bank, and a further 750 jobs will go in Deutsche Bank’s private and business banking divisions in Frankfurt and Bonn.

Deutsche Bank's Restructuring Plan To Cost Staggering €5 Billion - After talks with Commerzbank collapsed, one of the key questions on the mind of most long-suffering DB shareholders has been 'can Deutsche even afford the type of restructuring that CEO Christian Sewing has promised?' It appears we now have an answer - and that answer is 'no'. According to the Financial Times, DB's plan to drastically shrink its investment banking division will not only drive the perennially imperiled German banking giant to a net loss this year (after it barely squeaked out a profit last year) and cost as much as €5 billion ($5.65 billion), according to three sources.That's equivalent to roughly one-third of the bank's market cap. The FT report was published one day after WSJ reported that the bank is in talks with several US rivals, including Citigroup, to sell off much of its US investment-banking business. The bank has also said it plans to lower its common equity tier-one ratio to free up more cash - but whether regulators will tolerate this remains to be seen.The restructuring plan, which will reportedly be put before the bank's advisory board on Sunday, will involve shedding as many as 20,000 jobs, while dumping as many as €50 billion ($56.5 billion) in assets (remember all those 'bad bank' jokes?)As a reminder, among the largest banks in the US and Europe, DB ranks dead last in terms of price to book, leaving its shareholders with little appetite to absorb more equity pain.

For The First Time Ever, German Bund Yields Drop Below The ECB's Deposit Rate - For the first time ever, the yield on the German 10Y Bund, considered as Europe's go to safe asset, dropped below the ECB's -0.40% deposit rate, as consensus forms that the ECB will cut rates by at least 10bps in September, if not sooner especially with Christine Lagarde - widely perceived as just as dovish as Mario Draghi if not more - set to head the ECB. “The markets are really saying we expect more from the ECB,” Marilyn Watson, head of global fundamental fixed-income strategy at BlackRock told Bloomberg TV. “We expect yields to go lower still.” The inversion is notable because while the ECB can buy bonds that yield less than the deposit rate, priority is given to those that still offer a premium.... although in Germany, only 15% of the entire bond universe still has a positive yield as 20-year yields also turned negative this week and the 30Y set to follow soon.This latest curve inversion, which signals that a European recession is looming, has spurred investors to buy riskier assets such as 30 Year Italian bonds, which yesterday saw their biggest one day gain since Draghi's 2012 "whatever it takes" speech.

Given history of slurs, minorities fear Boris Johnson leadership -- Boris Johnson, a leading right-wing politician with a history of making racial slurs around the world and upsetting ethnic, religious and sexual minority communities in Britain, is the favourite to become the next prime minister.  And as the Conservative Party leadership race tightens, his past comments have come back to haunt him. Johnson becoming PM would be "a disaster for minorities", according to David Lammy, an MP for the main opposition Labour Party and an equal rights campaigner."Not only did he play a leading role in the 2016 Leave campaign (for the Brexit referendum), which whipped up fear of foreigners and led to a rise in hate crimes, in the past Johnson has referred to black people as picaninnies, mocked Muslim women as letterboxes and bank robbers and referred to gay men as bumboys."Other incidents include him describing Papua New Guinea as a place of "orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing", and joking about dead bodies in Libya following their civil war.Confronted over his comments about Muslim women at a leadership launch event, Johnson remained unrepentant. "The public feels alienated from us all as a breed of politicians because too often they feel we are muffling and veiling our language. I will continue to speak directly," he said.

Brexit Radicals --  Yves Smith -  If the Tories move Brexit from indeterminism to consummation, it will represent the end of an era for the UK and may have much broader ramifications. But the repercussions likely depend on choices yet to be made. Absent a remarkable turn of fortune, Boris Johnson will become Tory party leader. Both Johnson and his fellow candidate Jeremy Hunt have sworn fealty to delivering Brexit on October 31 or at the very worst, a short period of time thereafter. As we’ll discuss, plenty of influential parties, including some Tory MPs, oppose a crash-out (which is the only type of Brexit that can happen on a tight timetable, given the antipathy to the Withdrawal Agreement that is the only deal with the EU on offer). But as May’s astonishingly long survival showed, a Prime Minister wields considerable power, most importantly over the Parliamentary timetable. It is hard to see how pro-Remain and less rabid Brexiteers could wrest the steering wheel from the new Prime Minister to change the current trajectory.  Hunt, who had been trying to sound more reasonable and better prepared than Johnson (a low bar), has now become sanguinary: This is consistent with the UK being on a path to a crashout; the only open question seems to be the timing. Ian Dunt’s assessment of Hunt at is too delicious not to pass along:Hunt simply has no qualities to recommend him. Presentationally he is extremely drab, a politician in the form of a brown carpet. He always looks slightly frightened. No-one has ever been inspired, or amused, or even outraged by him.His politics, if indeed he has any, are all over the place. He seems like a fairly pleasant nice-but-dim figure, and tries to overcompensate for this by aiming too fiercely for what he presumes is a Tory comfort zone.Admittedly, Johnson is so famously devoid of scruples that he could conceivably make a wild reversal once he becomes Prime Minister. But he has been a vociferous Euroskeptic for so long, and the Conservative party members are on the whole such fervent believers in the Brexit cause that it is hard to see how he could make a dramatic course change. On top of that, the Tories feel the hot breath of the Brexit Party on their necks. One school of thought is that Johnson would call a general election both to take advantage of Labour’s current weakness and buy some time with Brexit. But it’s not hard to see that during the campaign, Farage would charge Tory leaders with putting party interests over their promise to deliver Brexit. Readers have argued that Johnson could offer Farage some seats (by having the Tories not contest them) in return for being a coalition partner. But be careful what you wish for; look at how the DUP flexed its newly-found muscles. Farage, who has been salivating to play on a bigger political stage, would be even more keen to be seen as shaping the course of events. There’s been an uproar at the Brexit Party’s adoption of fascist imagery in a rally in Birmingham a few days ago. From the Mirror’s Internet flummoxed by ‘Nigel Farage’ rave at Brexit Party rally: Nigel Farage held a Brexit Party ‘rave’ complete with glow sticks and air raid sirens…. Many made comparisons with World War Two and some even compared the mass rally to Fascists.

Corbyn takes Labour to ALL-TIME polling low: Just 18% would vote for the party in a general election as they slump to fourth place Labour descended into panic today as a poll found its support has slumped to 18 per cent - equalling a joint worst under Gordon Brown during the financial crisis. Shock research by YouGov put the party in fourth place after dropping two points in a week - behind the Tories, Brexit Party and Lib Dems. The dramatic findings will heap pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to shift position on Brexit, after months spent desperately flannelling over whether to support a referendum or honour the 2016 national vote. Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth delivered a stark warning that the leader's dithering had now reached the 'end of the road'. 'We've come out in favour of a public vote on whatever deal, but I think we need to clarify that the Labour Party would campaign for Remain if there is a public vote,' he said. According to the poll for The Times, only 25 per cent of Remain voters say they will back Labour, compared with 40 per cent at the end of April and 48 per cent at the start of 2019..

Without a transformation on Brexit, Labour’s election chances are dead - It’s a strange experience to become enemy number one for Britain’s biggest trade union: the machine can strike at any time. At 10:30 last Sunday morning, Unite’s general secretary declared, unprompted, on The Andrew Marr Show, that I had “lost my marbles” over Brexit and should “stop putting pressure” on Jeremy Corbyn. I fear Len McCluskey’s annoyance will intensify when those fighting to commit Labour to an unambiguous Remain position succeed. He and his allies have turned support for Brexit into an existential issue. For them — as Unite official Howard Beckett put it in a recent New Statesman piece — without a commitment to delivering Brexit, Labour becomes “Corbyn without Corbynism”. And that is what, for many of us on the Labour left, this argument is really about: who gets to define what a left-wing Labour Party stands for? Five hundred thousand members, or a few officials at Unite’s HQ and their protégés in Corbyn’s office? Labour was right, after the 2017 general election, to respect the referendum result. There was no concrete Tory Brexit plan laid out; there was every prospect of negotiating a Norway-style deal; and the toxic xenophobia of the 2016 referendum campaign had dissipated. Three years on from the referendum, the political dynamics have changed dramatically. Since July 2018 it has been clear that no form of Brexit acceptable to the Tory party can get through parliament. The only Brexit MPs could vote for is unpalatable to the Tory right. Among the right-wing electorate, support for a no-deal Brexit has grown. As defined by who wants it, Brexit is now a right-wing project.

Tesco faces Brexit deadline headache - Planning for the new Brexit deadline is "more difficult" because the supply network will be full of Christmas stock, Tesco's boss has warned. Dave Lewis told the BBC that the new deadline of the end of October meant there would be "less capacity" for stockpiling longer-life items. A no-deal Brexit could mean tariffs and delays at the border that interrupt supplies of some food, he said. But Mr Lewis said leaving the EU could also provide opportunities for the UK. Mr Lewis said the supermarket chain had bought extra stock of long-life items in preparation for 29 March - when the UK was initially expected to leave the EU - but said it would be harder to make similar preparations this time round. "We'll do whatever is practical depending on how things develop between now and then. "But the challenge will always be those things which are shorter life - fresh produce. That's what the UK imports quite a lot of," he said.

The Royal Family Is Costing UK Taxpayers More Than Ever - Taxpayers in the United Kingdom are paying more money than ever for the Royal Family. The latest Sovereign Grant accounts were published early last week and they show that the monarchy cost £67 million ($86 million) in 2018-19 - a 41 percent increase on the previous financial year. Statista's Niall McCarthy notes one interesting aspect of the accounts is that Frogmore Cottage cost £2.4 million of public money to renovate. The official residence of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the cottage was given to the couple as a gift by the Queen. In a nutshell, the complicated system of funding the monarchy works when the UK government makes a payment called the Sovereign Grant to the Royal Household every year. Its value is determined by how uch money the Crown Estate real estate portfolio has brought in. That total added up to £82 million this year with a sizeable chunk of that money added to cover renovation work at Buckingham Palace. Of that total, the monarchy spent £67 million on official duties including travel as well as other costs such as staff and property maintenance. Maintenance and the renovation of Buckingham Palace are the key reasons the total is so high this year.

From buy buy to bye-bye for crypto derivatives in the UK - Fresh from the Financial Conduct Authority on Wednesday: a proposal to ban the sale, marketing and distribution of derivatives and exchange traded notes linked to"cryptoassets" for retail consumers. The rationale for the ban is the following (our emphasis): We believe that retail consumers can’t reliably assess the value and risks of derivatives (contracts for difference, futures and options) and exchange traded notes (ETNs) that reference certain cryptoassets. This is due to the:

  • inherent nature of the underlying assets, which have no reliable basis for valuation
  • prevalence of market abuse and financial crime (including cyberthefts from cryptoasset platforms) in the secondary market for cryptoassets
  • extreme volatility in cryptoasset prices movements
  • inadequate understanding by retail consumers of cryptoassets and the lack of a clear investment need for investment products referencing them

We think these issues will cause retail consumers harm from sudden and unexpected losses if they invest in these products. We estimate a ban could reduce harm by £75m to £234.3m a year for retail investors. That estimate (£309.3m) is no doubt an approximation based on some FCA knowledge of how much retail investors have lost (in what they feel is unfair circumstances) to date. But the ban isn't a forgone conclusion just yet. The FCA is offering a consultation period during which time crypto derivative firms will be able to make their case as to why the ban should not be pursued. Thus far, the list of who might be affected runs as follows:

  • firms issuing or creating products referencing cryptoassets
  • firms distributing products referencing cryptoassets, including brokers and investment platforms, and financial advisers
  • firms marketing products referencing cryptoassets
  • operators of trading venues and platforms
  • retail consumers and consumer organisations

Associated documents confirm this includes entities offering CFD-type exposures: the number-one way in which UK punters have been getting exposure to crypto assets the past few years.

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