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

Saturday, September 28, 2019

week ending Sept 28

It's Official- Bank of America Now Calls What Is Coming “QE4” -  The first chart above, depicting the gap between the IOER and the Fed Funds rate, shows that the increases over the past week’s reserve drainage episode were more pronounced than last April’s episode, consistent with the idea that we are currently at a steeper part of the reserve demand curve than last April, according to JPM.The second chart shows a similar tightening trend in the secured interbank market, in this case measured by the SOFR (Secured Overnight Financing Rate), a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by Treasury securities that include all trades in the Broad General Collateral Rate plus bilateral Treasury repos. The secured overnight interbank market is much bigger than the unsecured one. But what is troubling is that secured overnight interbank market rates are more volatile, as the experience of this past week reminded us. Here too the increases in SOFR over the past week’s reserve drainage episode were more pronounced that last April’s episode, consistent with the idea that we are currently at a steeper part of the reserve demand curve than last April (it also begs the question just how valid of a replacement to LIBOR will SOFR be, if its volatility is so high as to rattle the hundreds of trillions in floating-rate debt linked currently to Libor and, started in 2020, to SOFR).One final observation: the ratio of reserves to banking system assets has collapsed over the past five years to its lowest level since the end of 2009 i.e. a ten year low...  The bottom line here is clear: despite $1.4 trillion in "excess" reserves, despite a $3.8 trillion Fed balance sheet, the liquidity in the system is not enough.So what is the proper level of liquidity measured by bank reserves?To answer that question, Panigirtzoglou asks rhetorically, what if the current ratio of 7.9% is too low and a ratio of around 10% seen at the beginning of the year is more appropriate? His answer: a 10% ratio would imply a level of reserves of $1.75tr, $360bn above current levels, which is in line with our calculation of $400 billion more reserves needed. This, to the JPM analyst, "is an important decision the Fed would have to make in its October meeting", as well as the following question: "Is there currently a need for an upfront and permanent injection of reserves, before dealing with the longer term issue of $160bn per annum balance sheet expansion perhaps needed over time due to banknotes in circulation and the organic expansion of the banking system?" As of this moment, Bank of America, Nomura, JPMorgan, Goldman and, last but not least, Simon Potter are all convinced that there is now a need for an "upfront and permanent injection of reserves." Which means it is just a matter of time before QE4 - as Bank of America's CIO Michael Hartnett now openly calls it - arrives, and pushes central bank balance sheets to new all time highs..

The Fed will be growing its balance sheet again, but don’t call it ‘QE4’- In the days, weeks, months and probably years ahead, the Federal Reserve will be conducting operations that look and sound a lot like what it did to pull the economy out of the financial crisis.  However, the process this time around will be different in the details. Where the Fed under the quantitative easing of a decade ago was buying assets to pull the economy out of the Great Recession, this time it will be looking to meet demand for cash as it tries to calibrate the proper level of reserves that banks need. It’s an important distinction as markets recover from a recent liquidity crunchthat was reminiscent of those dark days more than a decade ago. Last week, overnight repurchase, or repo, markets froze up and sent short-term yields soaring, a move that included the benchmark funds rate trading out of the range that the Fed’s trading desk targets.The Fed is in the process now of conducting overnight repurchase, or repo, operations to make sure that funding for overnight loans stays constant and the funds rate trades within its targeted range of 1.75%-2%. In announcing the program, officials noted that the last time such a process happened was 11 years ago, amid the grim days of the crisis when liquidity dried up and caused a panic on Wall Street.The similarity has not gone unnoticed. “Anytime you have anything juxtaposed to 2008, it tends to cause anxiety. What it did was suggest that the Fed doesn’t have a handle on this,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial. “They weren’t able to foresee this. That said, if they could come up with a facility for this, the issue will dissipate as a source of concern.”That facility has involved a series of repos where the Fed provides cash for safe assets, like Treasurys and agency debt, that will continue through at least Oct. 14. There has been such demand for the daily offerings that the New York Fed announced Wednesday that it will up the amount of the offering to financial institutions.Beyond that, the Fed will be looking to further expand its asset purchase programs and grow the balance sheet in what Chairman Jerome Powelldescribed last week as an “organic” process rather than QE4, or a fourth round of QE.  Regardless of how it’s done, markets will be looking to see the Fed undo what became known as “quantitative tightening” as it contracted its asset holdings, and to become less restrictive in monetary policy beyond lower interest rates.

 Former Head Of Plunge Protection Team Says Fed Has To Buy More Debt  -- Last Wednesday, as stocks hit session lows amid fears that the Fed was so polarized on further easing and with the Fed's dot plot suggesting no more cuts this year that odds of further rate cuts in 2019 dropped precipitously, Chair Powell catalyzed a dramatic rebound in risk assets when during his press conference  he said that "It is certainly possible that we’ll need to resume the organic growth of the balance sheet sooner than we thought." One day later, with the Fed engaging in overnight repos to unfreeze the clogged up plumbing in the repo market, the release of the Fed's weekly H.4.1 statement confirmed that Powell was spot on: the Fed had indeed resumed the growth of the Fed's balance sheet "sooner than we thought." Whether or not said growth is "organic" is the topic of a separate discussion, but as expected the week's rolling $75 billion overnight repo facility meant that the Fed's balance sheet posted its first substantial increase for the first time since the end of QE3 in 2014, rising by $75 billion to $3.845 trillion. The offsetting balance sheet liability was the Treasury General Account, or the cash the US Treasury holds at the Fed, which soared by a whopping $119 billion in one week, rising to $303 billion as of September 18, which increase frequent readers will recall, was precisely the catalyst we said at the start of August would precipitate a dollar shortage, and unleash a tantrum in the repo market. That's precisely what happened.Incidentally, we also said that since both overnight and term repos would be insufficient to resolve a problem that was ultimately a function of too few reserves in the system, that this would culminate with a return of open market purchases of securities by the Fed, i.e. QE. This, we now know, is what Goldman also now believes will happen some time around the November FOMC, with the bank predicting a roughly $15bn/month rate of permanent OMOs, enough to support trend growth of the balance sheet plus some additional padding over the first two years to increase the size of the balance sheet by $150bn, restoring the reserve buffer and eliminating the current need for temporary OMOs. That strategy would result in balance sheet growth of roughly $180bn/year and net UST purchases by the Fed (the sum of the red and grey bars) of roughly $375bn/year over the next couple of years.

What Has Frightened Wall Street Banks from Lending in the Repo Market?  -  Pam Martens - Last Friday the Federal Reserve Bank of New York made it clear that its interventions in the overnight repo lending market were going to be a longer-term action. Call it what you will, the Fed has effectively returned to quantitative easing (QE) where it buys up Treasuries, Federal agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS) from financial institutions in exchange for loans.According to the New York Fed, the program has now been extended to at least October 10 and likely thereafter in one form or another. The Fed will be pumping in $75 billion daily in overnight repo loans while infusing $30 billion in 14-day term loans three times this week for a total of $90 billion in term loans.The fact that there is one or more financial firms needing $30 billion on a two-week basis and can’t get it from anyone but the Fed isn’t confidence inspiring.The necessity of Fed interventions is being blamed on temporary forces like a loss of liquidity from corporations paying their taxes for the quarter and large Treasury auctions where primary dealers are forced to buy under contracts with the U.S. Treasury. But as we previously wrote, these explanations do not jive with the gargantuan deposit bases of four of the biggest banks in the world that call the United States home. As we reportedlast week:“As of June 30 of this year, the four largest banks on Wall Street (which are allowed to own Federally insured commercial banks as well as stock, bond and derivative gambling casinos known as investment banks) held more than $5.45 trillion in deposits. The breakdown is as follows: JPMorgan Chase holds $1.6 trillion; Bank of America has $1.44 trillion; Wells Fargo has $1.35 trillion; and Citibank is home to just over $1 trillion.“A number of excuses have been offered by the business press to explain why the New York Fed had to ride to the rescue yesterday but the very simple question is this: how can four banks with $5.45 trillion in deposits not be able to cough up $53 billion in overnight loans.”  The reference to $53 billion is the amount that was borrowed from the Fed during the first day of the intervention, Tuesday, September 17, from the $75 billion offered out by the Fed. Now that the Fed is offering $30 billion in additional two-week loans, the question is this: is one bank tapping the spigot more than others? Is a financial institution in distress? If so, shouldn’t the public know why?

These Are The Banks Where The Fed's $1.4 Trillion In Reserves Are Parked - Over the past few days there has been much confusion over the repocalpyse that shook the overnight funding market, and just as much confusion over the definition of reserves which some banks were unwilling to part with, other banks were desperate for, and in the end both Powell and the former head of the NY Fed's markets desk admitted that Quantitative Tightening had been taken too far, and the total amount of reserves in the system was too low and will be increased (welcome back QE). Yet while the book has yet to be written on the causes for last week's shocking move higher in repo rates, which sent general collateral as high as 10%, a record print in a time of $1.4 trillion in excess reserves, we can shed some clarity on the definition of "reserves." While there is a universe of semantic gymnastics when it comes to explaining what reserves are, the  most basic definition is quite simply "cash", however not cash in circulation but rather cash (and deposits) held in the bank's account with the Federal Reserve (which the US central bank's name comes from). This means that there should be a de facto identity between the total amount of cash in the US banking system and the amount of total (minimum required plus excess) reserves. Sure enough, if only looks at the Fed's weekly H.8 statement, which lists the "Assets and Liabilities of Commercial Banks in the United States", and adds across the various banking cash aggregates in the US, what one gets is precisely the total amount of reserves. This is seen in the chart below, which adds across the weekly cash for both small and large domestic commercial banks operating in the US (blue and red shaded areas) as well as foreign commercial banks (yellow shaded) operating in the US. The black line, meanwhile, shows the total amount of reserve balances with Federal Reserve Banks. By definition these two numbers have to be virtually identical, and sure enough, they are. Why is the above important? Because as the FT reported on Friday as part of its interview with the NY Fed's new, hapless and confused career-economist president, John Williams (who back in May inexplicably fired the man most intimately familiar with the plumbing of the US financial system, the NY Fed's market desk head Simon Potter), the NY Fed president said that it was "looking at why cash failed to move from banks’ accounts at the Fed into the repo market, where banks and investors borrow money in exchange for Treasuries to cover short-term funding needs."

The Real Story Of The Repo Market Meltdown -- Last week the financial system ran out of cash. It was a modern version of a bank run, and it’s not over yet. Stepping back, it reveals two big things about financial markets: first, US Treasuries are not truly “risk-free” assets, as most consider them to be, and second, big banks are significantly undercapitalized. The event doesn’t mean another financial meltdown is necessarily imminent—just that the risk of one is heightened—since the brush fire can be doused either by the Fed, or by the banks raising more equity capital. \ Somebody—probably a big bank—needs cash so badly that it has been willing to pay a shockingly high cost to obtain it. That’s the layman’s explanation of what’s happening. Interest rates have betrayed common sense—interest rates in the repo market should be lower than rates in unsecured markets, for example, because repos are secured by assets and thus supposedly lower-risk. But repo rates spiked way above unsecured lending rates last week, even for “risk-free” collateral such as US Treasuries.  Why was someone willing to borrow cash at a 10% interest rate last Tuesday, in exchange for pledging US Treasury collateral that yields only 2% or less? That trade lost someone a whopping 8% (annualized) overnight, but presumably the trade allowed the bank to stay in business for another day. As risk premiums go, 8% is shockingly high—for a supposedly risk-free asset! On the flip side, the better question is why banks weren’t willing to lend against “risk-free” collateral for an 8% “risk-free” gain? Banks are supposedly healthy and flush with cash, right? So why aren’t banks falling over themselves to rake in such easy, “risk-free” profits? Shockingly, the Fed admitted to asking itself this same question, as revealed in an extraordinary interview on Friday with New York Fed President John Williams in the Financial Times. The Fed has a theory about why. Many analysts do too. But almost no one is talking about the elephant in the room.  For every US Treasury security outstanding, roughly three parties believe they own it. That’s right. Multiple parties report that they own the very same asset, when only one of them truly does. To wit, the IMF has estimated that the same collateral wasreused 2.2 times in 2018, which means both the original owner plus 2.2 subsequent re-users believe they own the same collateral (often a US Treasury security). This is why US Treasuries aren’t risk-free—they’re the most rehypothecated asset in financial markets, and the big banks know this.  What it all means is that, while each bank’s financial statements show the bank is solvent, the financial system as a whole isn’t. And no one really knows how much double-, triple-, quadruple-, etc. counting of US Treasuries takes place. US Treasuries are the core asset used by every financial institution to satisfy its capital and liquidity requirements—which means that no one really knows how big the hole is at a system-wide level. This is the real reason why the repo market periodically seizes up. It’s akin to musical chairs—no one knows how many players will be without a chair until the music stops. Every player knows there aren’t enough chairs. Everyone knows someone will eventually lose.

The Fed Becomes the Repo Man - The first such action since 2008 — and we know what happened next. The Federal Reserve sold another $75 billion in overnight repurchase agreements (repos) on Wednesday, with demand dramatically overwhelming supply. And by the end of the day, the New York Fed announced increasing the overnight repos available from it to $100 billon and the 14-day repos from $30 billion to $60 billion.By Friday, as CNBC reports, supply exceeded demand. Borrowers undersubscribed both the overnight and 14-day repos.But what happened to spark the Fed to inject itself in the repo market?With quarterly taxes due, companies vacuumed cash out of the market. The demand for immediate cash butting heads with a decreased supply sent rates more than doubling from last Monday to Tuesday. Some rates reached 10 percent — more than quadruple the norm.Many interpreted the Fed intervening in the repo market as a canary in the coal mine. Rates doubling or even quadrupling indicates something ominous. Rates should trade at the Fed funds rate (2 percent to 2.25 percent). And the Fed normally does not involve itself in this market. The last time the Fed injected itself in the repo market came in 2008. This coincided with the financial crisis. The injection of funds into the repo market either strikes as a wise move to avert another such crises or foreboding of another such collapse.“Repo is a corner of the financial markets that is obscure to most people,” CNBC explains. “It is where institutions go when they need short term cash, exchanging some collateral, like Treasurys or mortgage securities, for a short term loan. It is considered the plumbing of Wall Street, and the worry is if it doesn’t work or shows stress, then it could lead to real stress in the financial system.” Bank of America economists interpreted the intervention thusly: “For all intents and purposes, this will be equivalent to QE [quantitative easing], with scheduled purchases of securities. We estimate that over the first year, the Fed would need to buy roughly $400bn of Treasury securities to achieve an appropriate level of reserves, plus a buffer.”

Fed Increases Size Of Liquidity Bailout After Brainard's Simple Imbalance Comments - Following the major 'over-subscription' for liquidity this morning, NYFed has decided to dramatically increase the scale of its bailout for both overnight and term repo: The 14-day term repo operation will have an aggregate limit of $60b (prior similar operation Tuesday had a $30b limit).The overnight repo operation will have an aggregate limit of $100b (most recent such operation Wednesday had a limit of $75b). This big increase comes just minutes after Fed Governor Lael Brainard tried to clam nerves by claiming that the recent spike in overnight lending rates, which prompted the central bank to inject billions of dollars of liquidity into the market, was the result of a “simple imbalance” of supply and demand -- and not a sign of deeper distress in credit markets.“It may simply be that we’re close to the lowest level of reserves that are necessary for the conduct of monetary policy,” Brainard said Wednesday in testimony before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions.“It does pose questions about whether reserves in the system do need to be allowed to grow again.”  . In 2008, “counter parties pulled away from each other,” Brainard added. “Today we’re in a different environment.”

Fed fix of repo market to be put to test Monday, as third quarter ends - The Federal Reserve has used open market operations to soothe the short-term funding market, and now its temporary fix faces a test as the third quarter ends.The Fed has used overnight and 14-day market operations to stabilize the repo market, used by financial institutions to fund themselves on a short term basis. The Fed was reacting to a sudden spike in rates Sept. 16 and 17, and it is under pressure to permanently resolve the issue, which seems to stem from a cash crunch in the overnight borrowing market, rather than a credit crisis.During the temporary panic in the overnight funds market, rates spiked to as high as 10%, and the Fed’s own benchmark federal funds rate briefly traded at 2.30%, 0.05 above the Fed’s target range on Sept. 17. The weighted average Treasury repo rate in the Fed’s operation was at a subdued 1.80% Friday. In the past several days, the Fed expanded its facilities, as they met high demand, but by Friday, both its $100 billion overnight repo and its $60 billion 14-day were undersubscribed.“Clearly things are calmer than they were last week, but there are still definite questions and concerns. We still do have relatively elevated rates whether it’s in Treasurys or mortgages [this week],” said Ralph Axel, U.S. rates strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “It’s still up for debate whether or not adding additional reserves at this point will matter for funding issues through the end of the year.”Repo is a corner of the financial markets that is obscure to most people. It is where institutions go when they need short term cash, exchanging some collateral, like Treasurys or mortgage securities, for a short term loan. It is considered the plumbing of Wall Street, and the worry is if it doesn’t work or shows stress, then it could lead to real stress in the financial system.The third quarter winds down on Monday, and the overnight, repo market as it’s known, could face strong demand as banks pull back on lending to spruce up their balance sheets to closeout the quarter. Market pros will be watching how much the Fed facility is used and whether interest rates become elevated again. There should be also be high demand due cash needs related to the settlement of $113 billion in Treasurys, auctioned Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.“If things get messy, the Fed will bump it up...If the Fed is getting this worked up about the end of Q3, it seems the Fed will take aggressive measures to make sure year end is okay,” said Michael Schumacher, director, rate strategy at Wells Fargo. High yields in repo make it difficult for borrowers to maintain the types of margins they need on certain types of investments. Major banks who are the primary dealers are the only institutions that can use the Fed facility, and they then would be lenders to other institutions that need capital. but they could also serve as a bottleneck since they are not required to report how the short term funds are being used.

PCE Price Index: August Headline & Core - The BEA's Personal Income and Outlays report for August was published this morning by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The latest Headline PCE price index was up 0.03% month-over-month (MoM) and is up 1.44% year-over-year (YoY). The latest Core PCE index (less Food and Energy) came in at 0.14% MoM and 1.77% YoY. Core PCE is below the Fed's 2% target rate.  The adjacent thumbnail gives us a close-up of the trend in YoY Core PCE since January 2012. The first string of red data points highlights the 12 consecutive months when Core PCE hovered in a narrow range around its interim low. The second string highlights the lower range from late 2014 through 2015. Core PCE shifted higher in 2016 with a decline in 2017 and 2019. The first chart below shows the monthly year-over-year change in the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index since 2000. Also included is an overlay of the Core PCE (less Food and Energy) price index, which is Fed's preferred indicator for gauging inflation. The two percent benchmark is the Fed's conventional target for core inflation. However, the December 2012 FOMC meeting raised the inflation ceiling to 2.5% for the next year or two while their accommodative measures (low FFR and quantitative easing) are in place. More recent FOMC statements now refer only to the two percent target.

Chicago Fed "Index Points to a Pickup in Economic Growth in August" ---From the Chicago Fed: Index Points to a Pickup in Economic Growth in August Led by improvements in production-related indicators, the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) rose to +0.10 in August from –0.41 in July. All four broad categories of indicators that make up the index increased from July, but three of the four categories made negative contributions to the index in August. The index’s three-month moving average, CFNAI-MA3, edged up to –0.06 in August from –0.14 in July.  This graph shows the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (three month moving average) since 1967.  This suggests economic activity was slightly below the historical trend in August (using the three-month average).

 Q2 GDP Third Estimate: 2.0% Annual Rate - From the BEA: Gross Domestic Product, Second Quarter 2019 (Second Estimate); Corporate Profits, Second Quarter 2019 (Preliminary Estimate) Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 2.0 percent in the second quarter of 2019, according to the "third" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the first quarter, real GDP increased 3.1 percent. The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the "second" estimate issued last month. In the second estimate, the increase in real GDP was also 2.0 percent. Downward revisions to personal consumption expenditures (PCE) and nonresidential fixed investment were primarily offset by upward revisions to state and local government spending and exports. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, were revised down..  PCE growth was revised down from 4.7% to 4.6%. Residential investment was revised down from -2.9% to -3.0%. This was at the consensus forecast. Here is a Comparison of Third and Second Estimates.

Second-quarter U.S. GDP left at 2%, slower economic growth seen persisting - The U.S. economy grew more slowly in the second quarter, updated figures confirm, and is slow growth is expected to persist through the end of the year largely because of the festering trade fight with China. Gross domestic product, the official score card for the economy, grew at a 2% annual pace from April to June, the government said Thursday. That was unchanged from the previous estimate. What happened: Consumer spending was exceedingly strong in the spring, though the government trimmed its estimated increase to 4.6% from 4.7%. Households spent a bit less on takeout and other prepared foods. Consumer outlays account for almost 70% of all U.S. economic activity in the U.S. Households have been buoyed by the strongest labor market in years, which has delivered rising wages and an extremely low unemployment rate. The decline in businesses investment was revised to 1.4% from 1.1%, reflecting a bigger drop in outlays on manufacturing-related structures. Heavy industry has been hurt by the trade fight with China, a strong U.S. dollar and faltering global economy that’s led to weaker exports. Adjusted pretax corporate rose at a 3.8% clip in the second quarter. Still good, but not quite as strong as the prior 5.3%. Government spending, meanwhile, increased at a 4.8% pace instead of 4.5% as previously reported. State and localities spent more on construction of roads and buildings. Most other figures in the GDP report were little changed. GDP is revised twice after the initial release to take into account new or more accurate information.Economists polled by MarketWatch predict the U.S will grow about 2% in each of the final two quarters of 2019. The biggest drag on growth is the ongoing trade fight with China. Unless that’s revolved soon, the U.S. economy is likely to remain constrained. The dispute has sapped exports, manufacturing, farming and business investment. A potential effort by Democrats to impeach President Trump won’t help.

Final Q2 GDP Revision Unchanged At 2.0% Even As Profit Growth Shrinks -- There were no surprises in today's second revision of Q2 GDP, which the BEA reported moments ago printed at 2.0%, just as expected, and unchanged from the 2.0% first revision estimate; the number, of course, was down from the 3.1% annualized GDP growth in Q1 which was not revised.The revised Q2 increase in real GDP reflected increases in consumer spending and government spending, while inventory investment, exports, business investment, and housing investment decreased. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, decreased. The increase in government spending reflected increases in both federal and state and local government spending.Similar to last month, the increase in consumer spending reflected increases in both goods and services that were widespread across major categories. After jumping an upward revised 4.7% in the first revision, personal consumption was modestly trimmed, rising to 4.6% currently, which was still tied for the highest PCE in almost five years, since Q4 2014, and up sharply from just 1.1% in Q1.Looking at the inflationary components of the report, the GDP price index rose 2.4% in 2Q after rising 1.1% prior quarter; largest increase in a year.Yet one number came in hotter than expected, with Core PCE rising 1.9% in 2Q after rising 1.1% prior quarter, and above the 1.7% expected and also as reported in the first revision.Nonresidential fixed investment, or spending on equipment, structures and intellectual property fell 1%. Finally, the BEA also reported corporate profits rose 3.7% in prior quarter, down from 5.1% previously, and noted the following:

  • Corp. profits up 1.3% Y/Y in 2Q after falling 2.2% prior quarter
  • Financial industry profits increased 0.6% Q/q in 2Q after rising 5.8% prior quarter
  • Federal Reserve bank profits up 9.9% in 2Q after falling 10.9% prior quarter

Secretary Esper and General Dunford Briefing - C-Span - Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Joseph Dunford briefed the press about sending military support to Saudi Arabia. The deployment was ordered in response to last week’s attack on Saudi oil facilities.

Russia Mocks U.S. For 'Fantastic,' 'Brilliant' Missile Defenses That Failed to Stop Saudi Oil Attack - Last weekend's drone and cruise missile attack against Saudi Arabian oil infrastructure managed to slip through a strong defensive net, much of it sold to the kingdom by the U.S. As the Saudis and Americans analyze how the Yemeni Houthis—or perhaps their Iranian backers—were able to get through the defenses, Russia is taking the opportunity to mock its U.S. rival by suggesting that America's weaponry has fallen behind its own.Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters Friday U.S. policy in the Middle East resembles more a "collapse" than a strategy.Saudi Arabia and several other regional allies use U.S.-made Patriot missile systems to protect their skies from foreign aircraft and missiles. Saudi Arabia has been under regular ballistic missile attack from Houthi forces since it entered Yemen's civil war in 2015. Though many of the missiles have been destroyed inflight, some have made it through to their targets, causing damage and casualties. The Houthis have also used drones to attack the radar arrays of the Patriot batteries, disabling parts of the net and allowing subsequent attacks to go unchallenged.Zakharova told the reporters that Russian officials "still remember the fantastic U.S. missiles that failed to hit a target more than a year ago," referring to the Patriots. "Now the brilliant U.S. air defense systems could not repel an attack," she added."These are all links in a chain. This self-exposure is happening in a specific region in the context of what the U.S. is doing and can offer the modern world," Zakharova claimed.After the weekend's attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin rubbed salt in the U.S. wound by offering to sell the Saudis Russian-made systems. "We are ready to help Saudi Arabia protect their people," Putin said. "They need to make clever decisions, as Iran did by buying our S-300, as [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan did by deciding to buy the most advanced S-400 air defense systems. These kinds of systems are capable of defending any kind of infrastructure in Saudi Arabia from any kind of attack."

This Is the Moment That Decides the Future of the Middle East - Since the end of World War II, three core interests have shaped U.S. Middle East policy: ensuring the free flow of energy resources from the region, helping to maintain Israeli security, and making sure no state or group of states can challenge American power in a way that would put the other two interests at risk. In other words, aside from the strategic, historical, moral, and political reasons for the “special” U.S.-Israel relationship, oil is the reason why the United States is in the Middle East at all. That’s why this moment—the aftermath of an attack on Saudi Arabia’s most significant crude-oil processing facilities—is so important. How the Trump administration responds will indicate whether U.S. elites still consider energy resources a core national interest and whether the United States truly is on its way out of the Middle East entirely, as so many in the region suspect. When the story broke on Saturday morning that Saudi Arabia’s processing facilities at Abqaiq and Khurais were attacked and that the likely culprits were Houthis, the debate among foreign-policy experts quickly became about Saudi Arabia’s culpability for suffering in Yemen, how much influence Iran has with the Houthis, and whom the Saudis were actually fighting. These questions only intensified after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo specifically accused Iran of the attacks. Speculation was that Pompeo—an Iran hawk—was being too cute by half, directly blaming the Iranians though Tehran was likely only indirectly responsible. This is not an unreasonable position, given Iran’s long history of avoiding direct confrontation in favor of supplying proxies with money, technology, and weapons to do their dirty work around the region. Others agreed with Pompeo that the Iranian role was clear, a position that grew stronger as reports surfaced that cruise missiles were used in the attacks. It was a robust, if not always edifying discussion. It also does not really matter. It is not just at moments of crisis that the United States has sought to ensure that the oil spigot remains open. Its entire approach to the region, from routine business of diplomacy to high-stakes affairs such as maintaining “dual containment” and even negotiating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has been geared toward making it safe for tankers to pass through the Strait of Hormuz.

'Your Presence Has Always Been a Calamity': Iranian President Demands US Get Out of Persian Gulf - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday that the only way to move toward lasting peace in the Middle East is for the United States and other Western powers to immediately leave the Persian Gulf, a call that comes days after the Trump administration announced the deployment of more troops to Saudi Arabia."Your presence has always been a calamity for this region, and the farther you go from our region and our nations, the more security would come for our region," Rouhani saidin a speech during a rally on Sunday.Rouhani also accused the U.S. and other nations of falsely blaming Iran for a recent attack on Saudi oil facilities, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called "an act of war.""Those who want to link the region's incidents to the Islamic Republic of Iran are lying like their past lies that have been revealed," said Rouhani. "If they are truthful and really seek security in the region, they must not send weapons, fighter jets, bombs, and dangerous arms to the region."To counter the U.S.-led "maritime coalition" purportedly formed to protect shipping in the Persian Gulf in the wake of tanker attacks—which the Trump administration also blamed on Iran on the basis of flimsy evidence—Rouhani said he will unveil a regional peace initiative titled the Hormuz Peace Endeavour (HOPE) at a U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York this week. "All countries of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz and the United Nations are invited to join," Rouhani said Monday before departing for New York.

If Iran is Responsible for Saudi Attack, So What? US in Another Undeclared War --Assume Iran is responsible for the attack on Saudi Arabia. Was it justified?There's an interesting article in the American Conservative regarding the attack on Saudi Arabia that temporarily took out 50% of Saudi oil refinery capability.Gareth Porter at the American Conservative makes a good case Evidence of Iran’s Role in Attack Doesn’t Matter. "A set of complex issues related to different Iranian and Houthi weapons systems and other forensic evidence surrounding the destruction at Abqaiq will be the center of attention in the coming days. The forensic evidence presented by the administration may be weak or persuasive, but in either case, it would be a strategic mistake for those who oppose the war in Yemen and America’s involvement in it to make this the story. It is obvious that whatever the precise nature of the strike, Iran likely played a role in both creating the drones and/or cruise missiles involved and in the strategic rationale for it.But one can argue that both the Houthis and Iran had legitimate reasons for carrying out such a strike.For the Houthis, it was to force Saudi Arabia to stop its systematic war on the civilian population in the Houthi-controlled zone of Yemen and its denial of its ability to obtain basic goods by air and sea; for the Iranians it was to force the United States to end its blockade of Iran’s economy through pressure on Iran’s customers.Saudi Arabia has violated the most fundamental principles of international law in its aggressive war to change the regime in Yemen, since it was not under attack by the Houthis when it launched that war. Efforts to end the conflict through resistance, negotiation, and strikes on lesser targets in Saudi Arabia had failed to halt what has been broadly regarded around the world as a criminal war. For Iran, on the other hand, the Abqiaq strike was an absolutely necessary step to signal to the United States that it cannot not continue its assault on the Iranian economy without very serious repercussions. And the timing of the strike is almost certainly the result of the sequence of aggressive, offensive U.S. moves against Iran’s most vital interests ever since the Trump administration tore up the deal on Iran’s nuclear program and reimposed U.S. sanctions.

Watch Tulsi Gabbard Wipe The Floor With A Well-Known War Hawk -  Thorn in the establishment Democratic presidential nominee Tulsi Gabbard appeared on Fox where longtime anchor Neil Cavuto sought to skewer her recent biting criticisms of the Trump administration for acting like "Saudi Arabia's bitch" and not with "America first" in mind (a US foreign policy trend spanning administrations over decades).  “Look Neil, I’m a soldier,” Gabbard began after Cavuto went on the offensive. “And I took an oath as a soldier as well as a member of Congress to support and defend our Constitution of the United States, to serve the American people.” “And it’s a huge disgrace to hear our commander-in-chief basically put us in a position —the American people, our men and women in uniform, our military assets — in a position where we are servants of the Saudi kingdom. Standing by and awaiting their orders on how we should proceed.” Specifically she had criticized the president's early remarks following the twin attacks on Saudi Aramco facilities last week, where Trump tweeted he's "waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!".   The Your World anchor thought she would back down after point blank saying “a president Gabbard would see Saudi Arabia as a bigger threat to our country than Iran.” “What I would like to see is Saudi Arabia ending their support for Al-Qaeda,” the Hawaiian Congresswomen retorted.  It got further heated from there:

    • “I’m sorry, that’s not what I asked,” Cavuto said, pressing.
    • “I know,” Gabbard said. “You’re turning my words around.”
    • “I want to just be very clear,” Cavuto said. “You have a higher opinion of Iran than Saudi Arabia?”
    • “No, that’s not what I’m saying.”
    • Cavuto asked Gabbard to expand.
    • “I’m focused on how we can best keep the American people safe. On how we can make sure that we have our national security intact,” she said.
    • “And the Saudis are a bigger threat to that safety than Iran?!” Cavuto said.
    • “The Saudis are directly supporting the very terrorist group that attacked us on 9/11 and that continue to pose a threat to the American people today!” Gabbard said.

Cavuto looked exasperated and speechless by the end of it, in surely what was an outside-the-establishment argument that he wasn't used to hearing, given the norm of Fox (which prior to 2017 had a significant chunk of its parent company 21st Century Fox owned by Saudi investors) consistently toeing the Saudi line on everything from Syria to Yemen to Iran.

 Iran Vows Major War Even If US Conducts Limited Strikes - Just after on Friday Pentagon leaders presented Trump with numerous "military options" for a response to Iran following last week's twin attacks on Saudi Aramco facilities, Iran has again put the US on notice that any "limited attack" will assuredly lead to major war.The briefing on “options” for responding to Iran were followed by a late Friday Pentagon announcement that it is deploying US troops to Saudi Arabia as a "first step" which could be followed by additional "kinetic" moves down the road. "As the President has made clear the United States does not seek conflict with Iran. That said we have many other military options available should they be necessary," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in the briefing. Iran on Saturday responded to the move by again declaring any potential "limited" US attack on Iran would certainly lead to rapid escalation. The head of Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Major General Hossein Salami, said in remarks broadcast on state TV that no such limited strikes would actually remain 'limited'. Gen. Salami said:  "Be careful, a limited aggression will not remain limited. We will pursue any aggressor." Clearly understanding Trump's deep reluctance to drag the United States into yet another costly Middle East quagmire, it appears the Iranians are telegraphing that if they can convince Washington that even a small, one-off strike on Iran could spark WW3, this could dissuade the US altogether from even limited, "kinetic" missions.

 US emphasizes diplomacy in standoff with Iran - The United States said Sunday it will make its case against Iran at the United Nations this week, insisting it wants to give diplomacy "every opportunity to succeed" in the wake of a devastating attack on a vital Saudi oil complex. Setting the stage for President Donald Trump's address to the annual UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put aside threats of US military retaliation against Iran for the attack. "President Trump and I both want to give diplomacy every opportunity to succeed," Pompeo said in an interview with ABC's "This Week." "Our administration's taking this on in a serious way and we are working diligently to see that this has a diplomatic outcome," he said. "But make no mistake about it, if we're unsuccessful in that and Iran continues to strike out in this way, I am confident that President Trump will make the decisions necessary to achieve our objectives." The United States has accused Tehran of carrying out the sneak air attacks that set aflame Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq plant and the Khurais oil field September 14, knocking out half the kingdom's oil production. Pompeo called it "one of the largest attacks on the global energy supply in history." But despite initial warnings by Trump that US forces were "locked and loaded," the US president quickly softened his rhetoric, brushing off Republican hawks who warned that the absence of a forceful response would be read as weakness in Tehran. Trump has so far ordered stepped up sanctions against Iran, and a relatively modest deployment of US troops to the Gulf, primarily focused on defensive missions like air and missile defense.

 Boris Johnson calls for new Iran nuclear deal, says Trump is the 'one guy' to get it done - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday called for a new nuclear deal with Iran, saying President Donald Trump is the “one guy” who can broker a better accord. Johnson chided the “many defects” of the Obama-era agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions but said he thinks there is “logic” in drafting a new agreement. “Let’s do a better deal,” Johnson said in an interview with “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt, his only with an American network. “I think there’s one guy who can do a better deal ... and that is the president of the United States. I hope there will be a Trump deal.” The Trump administration officially withdrew from the 2015 nuclear pact, known as the JCPOA, last year. Johnson’s comments come amid mounting tensions between Washington and Tehran after a recent attack on a major Saudi Arabian oil facility. Two U.S. officials familiar with intelligence assessments told NBC News last week that the strike originated geographically from Iranian territory. The prime minister said the United Kingdom was “virtually certain” Iran was behind the Sept. 14 oil field attack. “We have no other workable hypothesis about how that happened,” he said. “That presents the world with a very difficult scenario, very difficult position. How do we respond?” Iran has denied responsibility. Johnson, who is scheduled to meet with Trump at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week, praised his American counterpart as a “very, very brilliant negotiator.” He demurred about whether the two leaders had discussed potentially returning to the negotiating table with the Iranian regime, however, saying “you must ask the president about that.” The Conservative prime minister, known for his brash style and populist rhetoric, appeared to distance himself from Trump when asked to comment on comparisons often drawn between the two men. “I think they are peculiar,” Johnson said after a long pause. He then seemed to draw a contrast with Trump over the latter’s protectionist policies that run counter to traditional conservative economic principles, such as Trump’s trade tensions with China. “I come from a tradition that believes in free markets, free trade, all sorts of things that I hope would be shared by the president of the United States,” Johnson said. He added that he believes the two are “most different when it comes to Twitter.” “I got to be honest with you,” Johnson told Holt. “I don’t do as many tweets as the president does. I’m not a master of that medium.”

 In First, Iran Ready To Accept Changes To Nuclear Deal If Sanctions Lifted --Iran has again signaled its readiness to come back to the table, even if it means potentially pursuing the new 'Trump deal' after the president unilaterally withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal in May 2018. It's possibly the most the Iranians have been willing to compromise yet, considering previous statements have emphasized a full return of all parties to the original JCPOA. “If the sanctions are ended and there is a return to the (nuclear) accord, there is room for giving reassurances toward breaking the deadlock and the President (Hassan Rouhani) has even a proposal for small changes in the accord,” an Iranian government spokesman, Ali Rabiei, said on state TV Tuesday. This also comes after the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged Iran as well as his European allies to back a new "Trump deal" this week in what was also a change in course for Britain. “If it was a bad deal — and I’m willing to accept that, it had many, many defects — then let’s do a better deal,” the prime minister told NBC News. Previously Trump has said he wants to start over, calling the Obama-brokered 2015 deal a failure:“This deal if I win will be a totally different deal. This will be a totally different deal.”   However, based on the latest tweets by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, it doesn't look like Washington is ready to give up sanctions, a tall order for this administration or sanctions addicted Washington in general.

Rouhani says he rejected U.S. offer to lift sanctions made in message to Europeans (Reuters) - The United States sent a message to European leaders that it was willing to lift all sanctions on Iran, according to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who said he had rejected talks with Washington while punitive U.S. sanctions remained in place. Rouhani, speaking on his return from the United Nations General Assembly in New York said Germany, Britain and France had insisted on a joint meeting with U.S. officials. “The German chancellor, the prime minister of Britain and the president of France were in New York and all insisted that this meeting take place and America says that it will lift the sanctions,” Rouhani said, according to his official website. “It was up for debate what sanctions will be lifted and they (the United States) had said clearly that we will lift all sanctions,” his website quoted him as saying.  U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he had rejected Iran’s request to lift sanctions.  “Iran wanted me to lift the sanctions imposed on them in order to meet. I said, of course, NO!” he wrote. According to Rouhani, France and Britain pressed him to meet Trump, with French President Emmanuel Macron warning him it would be a lost opportunity if he did not. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested the Iranian leader should take the plunge. Iran has ruled out bilateral talks with the United States unless it returns to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, abandoned by Trump last year, and eases the crippling economic sanctions that he has since imposed on the Islamic Republic. Iran was ready for negotiations but not in an atmosphere of sanctions and pressure, Rouhani said.

 In UN Address, Rouhani Says Iran “Will Never, Ever Forget” Crimes of Trump— If U.S. troops pull out of the Persian Gulf and stops meddling in the region’s affairs, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday, then there is a chance for peace in the Middle East.“The security of our region shall be provided when American troops pull out,” said Rouhani. “Security shall not be supplied with American weapons and intervention.”The Iranian leader added that the U.S would also have to drop the sanctions put on Iran in violation of the Obama-era nuclear deal in order to return to the negotiating table. Rouhani said the sanctions were an attempt at a “silent killing of a great nation … particularly women and children ”“The Iranian nation will never, ever forget and forgive these crimes and these criminals,” Rouhani said.  In a statement, National Iranian American Council senior research analyst Sina Toossi said that the Iranian president’s speech should be seen as an opening.  “While Trump seeks a photo-op with Rouhani, confidence and trust must first be built to restore lost U.S. credibility with the parties to the nuclear deal,” said Toossi. “Rouhani gave Trump a face-saving way to abide by the accord’s framework, without formally returning to the deal.”  Al Jazeera reported that Rouhani and the Iranian delegation are in a stronger position this year than in previous years, evidenced in part by photos of Rouhani laughing with other world leaders.  The Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University in Qatar’s Merkan Kamrava told Al Jazeera that Rouhani is sending a signal to the international community that Iran wants to get back into the nuclear deal.  Rouhani delivered the remarks to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, a day after U.S. President Donald Trump appeared before the body and unleashed a fiery nationalist rant that attacked Iran, Venezuela, and China and took digs at efforts to reach international consensus on global issues. Trump’s speech was quickly overshadowed by the initiation of an impeachment inquiry against the president on Tuesday evening.In an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, Rouhani had made clear his belief that the U.S. remains the major force for instability and conflict in the Middle East. “Today, America, unfortunately, is the supporter of terrorism in our region,” Rouhani said, “and wherever America has gone, terrorism has expanded in the wake.”

US Gives Guaido $52 Million in Funding, Slaps Venezuela With New Sanctions— Self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido and the Venezuelan opposition have been given $52 million by the Trump administration.According to a Tuesday statement from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the funding will be destined for independent media, civil society, the health sector and the opposition-controlled National Assembly.In addition, USAID administrator Mark Green announced on Wednesday that the US will commit $36 million in aid to Venezuela, as part of a relief program led by the United Nations.  The Trump administration had previously diverted over $40 million in aid destined for Central America to fund the Venezuelan opposition. According to a USAID memo seen by the LA Times, the money was destined for salaries, airfare, training, propaganda, among other budget items. Guaido proclaimed himself president in January and has since led several attempts to oust the Maduro government, including a failed military putsch on April 30.The new aid package dovetails with a fresh round of US sanctions against Venezuela’s oil sector.Likewise announced on Tuesday, the new Treasury Department restrictions target four petroleum shipping companies and their respective vessels, which are allegedly involved in transporting oil from Venezuela to Cuba.The measures block the US-based assets of Cyprus-based Caroil Transport Marine Ltd., as well as Panamanian firms Trocana World Inc., Tovase Development Corp, and Bluelane Overseas SA. Also sanctioned are the Carlota C, the Sandino, the Petion, and the Giralt. In a statement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin railed against Cuba for continuing to import Venezuelan crude despite the Trump administration imposing an oil embargo in January.

Novelty Joke PM From Fake Country Meets With Trump, Silent On Assange - Caitlin Johnstone - Scott Morrison, the novelty joke Prime Minister from the imaginary nation of Australia, met with his boss Donald Trump today without any mention of the US government’s transnational conspiracy to imprison an Australian citizen for exposing American war crimes. The two imperial governors publiclydiscussed the possibility of Australia accompanying the US into a war with Iran, as well as the US trade war with China and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s brownface scandal, but there is no record of any mention of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.This is all unsurprising, given that Australia is Washington’s basement gimp. Now little more than aUS military/intelligence asset, Australia consistently aligns with Washington on all foreign policy issues and is no more of a sovereign, independent nation than Alaska or Hawaii. As Assange himselfsaid shortly before he was silenced and then imprisoned, “I love my birth country Australia but as a state it doesn’t exist.” “Were Assange imprisoned by the Chinese, Russian or Iranian regimes, the response would doubtless be very different,” the World Socialist Website recently observed of the Australian government’s silence on Assange. “Ministers would claim that they were making urgent diplomatic representations and they would piously speak about their responsibilities to Australian citizens unjustly imprisoned abroad. Such statements have been made by leading Australian government ministers over the past week, after it was revealed that three Australian citizens are imprisoned in Iran on espionage charges—the same allegations faced by Assange. Morrison and his colleagues have also protested against the imprisonment of Chinese dissident and Australian citizen Yang Hengjun by the Beijing regime.”

Rage Against the War Machine This October — March on the Pentagon— March on the Pentagon invites all those outraged by the War Machine, U.S. imperialism, and endless wars to join us in Washington D.C. on October 11 and 12. From the mind boggling cost which strips money from basic human needs like healthcare, education, clean water and more, the stomach churning death toll, the irreversible environmental impact, the fueling of militarized police, the uptick in right-wing domestic terrorism, the too often ignored contribution to climate change as well as the resulting and potentially deadly PTSD, substance abuse, domestic abuse and rape suffered by those who have served in the armed forces to the toll war takes on women across the globe—from rape and loss of children to raising one’s family as a refugee in a foreign land—there is something for everyone to be outraged about. If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.  This year, we will meet at the White House on Friday, October 11 at 11 am where we will rage against President Donald Trump and his administration. From there we will visit the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a war profiteer, Farragut Square where we will rage against the Democrats, the Atlantic Council, and we will end at the Washington Post where will we rage against mainstream media, Jeff Bezos, and Amazon where we will hold a brief rally and engage in an act of civil disobedience. Visibility and disruption are pieces of the puzzle of dismantling the war machine.  Learn more about the march here and RSVP on Facebook here.

Trade Talks Back On- Here's Why China Canceled Its Trip To Montana And Nebraska - The NYT reports today, "the delegation of Chinese agriculture officials that had planned to travel to Montana and Nebraska in the coming week didn’t cancel the trip because of any new difficulty in the trade talks" according to sources, and "instead, the trip was canceled out of concern that it would turn into a media circus and give the misimpression that China was trying to meddle in American domestic politics."Which is ironic, because it is hardly a secret that China is eager to delay the core of trade negotiations until after the 2020 elections, so as to avoid haggling with Trump while he is still president. Of course, by doing so China is indirectly "meddling" in domestic American politics, but for the sake of narrative let's ignore that and focus on what the NYT reports, namely that "the Chinese government has long taken the position that countries should not interfere in each other’s domestic affairs, a position developed partly in opposition to foreign criticisms of China’s human rights record."As the NYT additionally reports, both sides moved on Saturday to indicate that the negotiations continue, and points out that according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, fairly senior negotiators had “conducted constructive discussions” in Washington in recent days and had “agreed to continue to maintain communication.” The tone of the Xinhua statement was matched by a separate statement from the United States trade representative in Washington. “These discussions were productive, and the United States looks forward to welcoming a delegation from China for principal-level meetings in October,” the statement said. Both sides’ trade negotiators have continued to look for a resolution of their differences even as tensions ratcheted ever higher over the summer, several people familiar with the trade talks said. All insisted on anonymity, citing diplomatic sensitivities in the negotiations.

Trump surprised when Mnuchin says he asked China trade delegation to cancel farm tour - President Donald Trump was clearly surprised Monday — and asked “why?” — when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said U.S. officials asked members of China’s trade delegation to cancel a scheduled farm tour in the United States last week. American stock market indices plunged Friday on the news of the cancellation of a planned visit with farmers in Bozeman, Montana, and Omaha, Nebraska, after the Chinese delegation concluded trade talks in Washington.Trump was asked Monday how the cancellation could affect trade talks with China. The question came during a bilateral meeting at the United Nations between Trump, other administration officials, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.“Well, they’re starting to buy a lot of our ag product,” Trump said. “But Steven, could you maybe,” the president said, referring to Mnuchin.Mnuchin then said, “That was actually at our request they delayed that.”“So, we didn’t want there to be any confusion. They have started buying agriculture,” the Treasury chief continued. “They’re going to reschedule that at a different time. The timing didn’t work. But that was — that was purely at our request.” Trump then asked Mnuchin, “Why was that our request, just out of curiosity?” The president punctuated that question with a chuckle that seemed to indicate displeasure — or unease — more than humor. Mnuchin started to answer, “We didn’t want confusion around the trade issues.” Trump quickly interjected, “Yeah, but I want them to buy farm products.”  Mnuchin then responded, “There was no confusion, we want them to buy agriculture. They’ve committed to buy agriculture. And they’re doing that.” Trump added, “They’ve committed to buy a lot of agriculture, and they’re going to start, and they’ve started.” “And we should get them over there as soon as possible so they can start buying,” the president said.

U.S. trade regulators approve some Apple tariff exemptions amid broader reprieve  - U.S. trade regulators on Friday approved 10 out of 15 requests for tariff exemptions filed by Apple Inc (AAPL.O) amid a broader reprieve on levies on computer parts, according to a public docket published by the U.S. Trade Representative and a Federal Register notice. The move by U.S. officials could make it easier for both Apple and small makers of gaming computers to assemble devices in the United States by lowering the costs of importing parts.Apple did not say why it requested the exemptions, but the requests were for components such as partially completed circuit boards. Apple manufactures its Mac Pro computers in Texas, making the machine immune from tariffs, but such intermediate parts were subject to the levies. Apple did not immediately return a request for comment.

  In Trade-War Win For Trump, Apple Will Make New Desktop At Texas Factory - In what looks like another trade-deal victory for the Trump Administration, Apple announced on Monday that it would manufacture its Mac Pro Desktop at a factory in Austin, Texas. After the US government approved tariff waivers on 10 key components for the Mac Book Pro that the company sources from China. "Manufacturing of the new model was made possible after the US government approved on Friday Apple’s request for a waiver on 25% tariffs on 10 key components imported from China." Some analysts have warned that key components will still be made in China and exported to the US for final assembly in Austin, but the number of components for the new desktop increased by 2.5 times from the previous model.  In an interesting about-face for Trump, the president had previously signaled that he wouldn't grant the waivers, but has apparently decided to cave. We imagine the softening in his approach is related to the tit-for-tat pre-trade-talk detente going on new between  Washington and Beijing.  Trump had previously signaled that relief from tariffs on the Mac Pro would be rejected, saying in a July 26 tweet that “Apple will not be given Tariff waiver, or relief for." Mac Pro parts that are made in China. Make them in the USA, no Tariffs!" However, the president later told reporters that the two families “we’ll work it out.”Still, with five other requests pending before the DoC, Apple has plenty of reason to be anxious. So far, Cook has been spared from most duties. But products such as the Apple Watch, AirPods and iMac computers were hit by 15% tariffs earlier this month, while the iPhone, iPad and other major Apple products are set to be impacted later in December.

China Grants New Tariff Waivers For US Soybean Purchases -- Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures have been rising for the past 14 days, a total of +6.64%, on reports, China is granting new waivers to several domestic state and private companies to purchase U.S. soybeans without being subject to tariffs, according to Bloomberg. The companies received waivers for between 2 million to 3 million tons, sources told Bloomberg. Collectively, these firms bought 20 cargoes, or about 1.2 million ton of the soybeans from the U.S. Pacific Northwest on Monday.   It depends on the news source to the exact quantity, Reuters is reporting that Chinese importers only bought 10 cargoes, or about 600,000 tons, expected to be shipped from Pacific Northwest export terminals from Oct. to Dec.Bloomberg said state-owned buyers Cofco and Sinograin, as well as five other crushers, were awarded waivers this month to purchase U.S. soybeans. Sources said the waivers were granted after a meeting last week with working officials; purchases of agriculture products like soybeans are seen as kind gestures ahead of a trade meeting between U.S. and China next month.

China Prepares US Pork Purchases Ahead Of Trade Talks - China is on a meat-buying spree, increasing beef, pork, and poultry prices around the globe as the communist regime races to replenish its meat stockpiles after the so-called "pig Ebola" hit hog farms across the country, resulting in collapse in China's pig population. Seen as goodwill ahead of trade talks next month, sources told Bloomberg, China is ready to purchase more US pork products, although the reality is that China is desperate to buy pork from anywhere it can find it.   China had to dramatically reduce its pig herd, the world's largest, by at least 33% in the last year after the deadly African swine fever virus devastated its farm belt.  Chinese companies are speaking with Smithfield Foods, controlled by China's WH Group, and Tyson Foods, Bloomberg reported and could finalize a deal in the coming days, if not weeks, for an order that could be around 100,000 tons - a lot of the pork would be used to refill state reserves, sources said. Potential pork purchases from the US could be a sign of goodwill ahead of trade talks next month. But it seems that China has other concerns: with low stockpiles of meat, the Asian country has been quickly buying beef, pork, and poultry around the world, this year, straining global supplies, to avoid domestic problems as retail pork prices in the country jump 70%. The country is facing a historic pork shortage, sparked partially by the swine disease and a ban on US agriculture products.Faced with more food shortages, China granted new tariff waivers for US soybean purchases earlier this week.  Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in New York on Tuesday that China still wants all tariffs removed before they commit to a trade deal, something that the Trump administration will have difficulty in doing. 

China's August Rare Earth Exports To US Jump Amid Threat Of Export Ban - According to a new report from Reuters, China's exports of rare-earth magnets to the US in August jumped to the highest level in years, pointing to US firms scrambling to build stockpiles as China, the biggest rare-earth metals and alloys producer in the world, could slash flows of the minerals if the trade war continues to escalate into 2020. New data from the General Administration of Customs of the People's Republic of China shows shipments of rare-earth magnets to the US rose 1.2% MoM to 452 tons. Exports to the US were 6.2% more than last year, and the highest monthly total since Jan. 2017. Rare-earth exports to the US have been increasing since President Xi Jinping visited a magnet factory in May, with January to August shipments to the US up nearly 24% YoY to 2,984 tons. China accounts for 90% of the global production of rare-earth magnets. The minerals are used in everything from vacuum cleaners to automobiles and fighter jets, which suggests many US firms could be affected if China decides to block shipments of rare-earth magnets. Bloomberg sourced a recent Citigroup report that said a Chinese ban on magnet exports to the US would become "manageable if ex-China processing gets built out swiftly."

White House deliberates block on all US investments in China - The White House is weighing some curbs on U.S. investments in China, a source familiar with the matter told CNBC. This discussion includes possibly blocking all U.S. financial investments in Chinese companies, the source said. It’s in the preliminary stages and nothing has been decided, the source said. There’s also no time frame for their implementation, the source added.  Restricting financial investments in Chinese entities would be meant to protect U.S. investors from excessive risk due to lack of regulatory supervision, the source said. The deliberations come as the U.S. looks for additional levers of influence in trade talks, which resume on Oct. 10 in Washington. Both countries slapped tariffs on billions of dollars worth of each other’s goods. The discussions also come as the Chinese government is taking steps to increase foreign access to its markets.  Bloomberg News first reported earlier on Friday that Trump administration officials are considering ways to limit U.S. investors’ portfolio flows into China, including delisting Chinese companies from American stock exchanges and preventing U.S. government pension funds from investing in the Chinese market.

Trump considers delisting Chinese firms from U.S. markets: sources (Reuters) - President Donald Trump’s administration is considering delisting Chinese companies from U.S. stock exchanges, three sources briefed on the matter said on Friday, in what would be a radical escalation of U.S.-China trade tensions. The move would be part of a broader effort to limit U.S. investment in Chinese companies, two of the sources said. One said it was motivated by the Trump administration’s growing security concerns about the companies’ activities. Major U.S. stock indexes slipped on the news, which came days before China celebrates the 70th anniversary of the birth of the People’s Republic on Oct. 1, when the world’s No. 2 economy will shut down for a week of festivities. Shares of Hangzhou, Zhejiang-based Alibaba (BABA.N) ended down 5.15%. (JD.O) fell 5.95% and Baidu Inc (BIDU.O) declined 3.67%. The iShares China Large-Cap ETF (FXI.P) shed 1.15%.

Chaotic Mess- Global Shipping Industry Rattled By US Sanctions On China Tanker Firms - The global shipping industry was thrown a curveball on Wednesday when the U.S. imposed fresh sanctions on Chinese entities and people who it accuses of deliberately purchasing oil from Iran in violation of Washington's sanctions against Tehran, Bloomberg reported.  The U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions on five Chinese nationals and six entities, including a unit of COSCO Shipping Corp., who were knowingly violating restrictions on purchasing Iranian petroleum."And we are telling China, and all nations: know that we will sanction every violation," Pompeo said at a conference on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in NYC.Bloomberg spoke with oil traders who canceled bookings with sanctioned entities and let provisional charters lapse as they wanted to avoid being caught up in the fight between Washington and Tehran. Oil traders are concerned about the cargoes that have already been loaded on vessels and don't know if they have to transfer loads to unsanctioned tankers. It's a chaotic mess, traders said. "The sanctions this time are more direct and will have an immediate effect on anyone chartering sanctioned tonnage," said John Driscoll, chief strategist at JTD Energy Service Pte. "These latest moves are likely to add more inconvenience and result in higher costs. Anyone time-chartering tonnage from a sanctioned owner better have a Plan B."

US bill on Hong Kong democracy, which has angered China, gets approval in House and Senate committees -A US bill written to support democratic freedoms in Hong Kong by increasing pressure on Chinese authorities moved closer to becoming law on Wednesday after receiving approval by two congressional committees.The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, which Beijing has branded as interference in its domestic affairs, moved through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, setting the stage for votes in both chambers in the coming weeks.The bill passed the House committee in a unanimous vote, said Jeff Sagnip, policy director for Representative Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican who sponsored the legislation in that chamber. An identical version of the bill, sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, was approved by the Senate committee shortly afterwards.The legislation is intended to act as an amendment to the US-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, which kept US business and other ties to the city intact after its 1997 handover from Britain to China. If passed, the act would, among other mandates, require the US to sanction Chinese officials deemed responsible for “undermining basic freedoms in Hong Kong”.

 WTO: US Can Sanction Nearly $8 Billion of EU Goods Over Airbus Aid - The World Trade Organization will authorize the U.S. to impose tariffs on nearly $8 billion of European goods due to illegal state aid provided to aircraft maker Airbus SE, according to people familiar with the decision, a move that will likely trigger retaliatory measures from the European Union.The U.S. duties, which could hit as soon as October, will target planes and parts as well as luxury products, such as wine and spirits like Dom Perignon and Moet & Chandon -- and leather goods under labels such as Givenchy and Louis Vuitton, according to a list published by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.The people who spoke of the ruling asked not to be identified because the confidential WTO decision isn’t due to be published until Sept. 30. The verdict marks the latest chapter in the WTO’s longest-running dispute and will further test transatlantic relations, which have deteriorated under Trump’s “America First” strategy. And while the scope of this conflict is limited, Washington is separately mulling tariffs on auto imports, which would dramatically increase Europe’s stake in the American trade war. The EU is pursuing a similar case at the WTO over illegal subsidies the U.S. provided to Boeing Co., and has published a preliminary list of U.S. goods -- from ketchup to video-game consoles -- it will target in a $12 billion plan for retaliatory levies. A decision in that case is expected from the Geneva-based trade organization in the first half of 2020.

Why Is Iceland The Focus Of Washington's New Trade Strategy?  - Less than a month after his failed attempt to buy Greenland, Trump is now shifting attention to another Nordic nation—Iceland—but rather than offering to acquire the country, the U.S. administration is considering a sweet deal in free trade.  So while the name of the game is tearing apart free trade, a free trade deal with Iceland has another important benefit: It’s part of a broader plan to boost America’s presence in the Arctic region as a bulwark against Russia, and even China, as reported by Axios. As it stands, the U.S. and Iceland have no bilateral investment treaties or Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), though they do have a bilateral taxation treaty and a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA). Iceland currently ranks as the 94th country in total trade value with the US with a monthly total of $666. In July, US exports to the country totaled $383.71 million and Imports totaled $282.44 million, a surplus of $101.26 million.In June, the US Department of Defense said it planned to invest some $60 million in military construction in Iceland in 2020. Just in the last few months, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence have visited a country that normally would not have registered as a more than a blip on the diplomatic radar.   And it seems that Icelandic Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir has found some sort of common ground with Administration officials: fear of Russia and China.

US judge blocks Trump rule on migrant child detention - A US judge on Friday blocked a Trump administration rule that sought to detain migrant families indefinitely, saying it was inconsistent with a 1997 court settlement that governs conditions for migrant children in US custody.The 1997 settlement agreement, which originated in 1985 with a complaint brought on behalf of 15-year-old Salvadoran immigrant Jenny L. Flores, set standards for humane treatment of children in detention and ordered their prompt release in most cases.The Trump administration had hoped a new rule issued on August 23 would supersede that settlement.“This regulation is inconsistent with one of the primary goals of the Flores Agreement, which is to instate a general policy favoring release and expeditiously place minors ‘in the least restrictive setting appropriate to the minor’s age and special needs,’” Judge Dolly Gee wrote in her ruling.President Donald Trump has made cracking down on immigration a hallmark of his presidency, and administration officials have repeatedly referred to the Flores agreement’s standards as “loopholes” that attract migrants by forcing authorities to release people pending their immigration hearings. The new regulation would have allowed the administration to hold families in detention centers until their cases are decided, a process that can take months or years. It had been due to go into effect next month.

Trump Wants a Torture Proponent to Lead U.S. Human Rights Policy. The Senate Should Say No - Donald Trump has made no secret of his penchant for torture. It was, of course, a feature of his 2016 campaign. And while former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other senior foreign policy appointees have rejected the practice as unlawful and inappropriate, Trump has repeatedly nominated figures involved in or supportive of Bush-era torture for positions in both his administration and the federal judiciary. Now, the president has nominated yet another official with a pro-torture background—Marshall Billingslea, who serves as assistant Treasury secretary for terrorist financing. This time, however, the nomination contains a particularly searing irony. If confirmed, Billingslea would become the top U.S. executive branch official directly responsible for human rights policy: undersecretary of State for civilian security, democracy and human rights. Billingslea’s involvement in Bush-era torture should be disqualifying. It renders him incapable of effectively performing the important human rights work of the post for which he is being considered. And yet his nomination hearing is scheduled for Thursday. That the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would even consider Billingslea’s nomination highlights today’s low standard for Trump administration nominees. Given Billingslea’s record, hisnomination should not advance to a full Senate vote after his hearing. And if it does, senators should vote against his confirmation. Billingslea’s history promoting torture is well-documented. As a senior Pentagon official during the Bush administration, he advocated for the use of torture techniques, often in contrast to the sound advice proffered by top military lawyers. According to Major General Thomas Romig, who at the time was the Army’s judge advocate general, Billingslea dismissed Romig’s protests against the use of torture. “Guys, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. It’s time to take the gloves off,” Romig recounted Billingslea saying. Romig, who knew torture was illegal and could expose U.S. service members to criminal prosecution, responded, "Do you realize the implications of what you're saying?”

Billionaires Shouldn't Exist - Bernie Proposes Tax To Cut Billionaire Wealth In Half - On Tuesday, Sanders rolled out an 'ambitious' plan to tax the nation's ultra-rich, going far beyond his Democratic primary rival Elizabeth Warren's proposed wealth tax with what Sanders says would cut American billionaires' fortunes in half over 15 years. while Ms. Warren came first, Mr. Sanders is going bigger. His wealth tax would apply to a larger number of households, impose a higher top rate and raise more money.Mr. Sanders’s plan to tax accumulated wealth, not just income, is particularly aggressive in how it would erode the fortunes of billionaires. His tax would cut in half the wealth of the typical billionaire after 15 years, according to two economists who worked with the Sanders campaign on the plan. Mr. Sanders would use the money generated by his wealth tax to fund the housing plan he released last week and a forthcoming plan for universal child care, as well as to help pay for “Medicare for all.” -NY TimesSanders' plan would impose a graduated tax of 1% on assets over $32 million, 2% for households worth $50 - $250 million, 3% from $250 million to $500 million, 4% from $500 million - $1 billion and finally 8% on wealth over $10 billion. Over a decade, the tax would raise an estimated $4.35 trillion (less whatever can't be recovered from all the money quickly funneled into offshore trusts). Moreover, the estate tax rate would begin at 45% for assets over $3.5 million, rising to 77% for those with over $1 billion - a proposal which Sanders says would apply to 0.2% of the population. Sanders’ campaign said his wealth tax would slash U.S. billionaires’ wealth in half in 15 years, “which would substantially break up the concentration of wealth and power of this small privileged class.”“Enough is enough,” Sanders, a Vermont senator, said in a statement. “We are going to take on the billionaire class, substantially reduce wealth inequality in America and stop our democracy from turning into a corrupt oligarchy.” -Bloomberg"Let me be very clear: As president of the United States, I will reduce the outrageous and grotesque and immoral level of income and wealth inequality," Sanders told the Times, adding "What we are trying to do is demand and implement a policy which significantly reduces income and wealth inequality in America by telling the wealthiest families in this country they cannot have so much wealth." Asked if he thinks billionaires should exist in America, Sanders said "I hope the day comes when they don’t," adding "It’s not going to be tomorrow."

 Jeff Bezos would pay $9 billion a year in wealth taxes under Bernie Sanders’ plan - Jeff Bezos would pay about $9 billion in taxes this year under Sen. Bernie Sanders’ proposed wealth tax. As part of his presidential primary campaign and efforts to outflank the rise of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sanders announced a wealth tax that would hit multibillionaires like Bezos especially hard. The Amazon CEO would pay more in annual wealth taxes than the net worth of the 50 richest Americans as listed by Forbes. “I don’t think billionaires should exist,” Sanders told The New York Times. If his tax plan were put into effect, billionaires would lose half their wealth in 15 years, provided all other factors (like their stock prices or business values) remained constant. While Warren’s proposal also taxes billionaires at a higher rate than multimillionaires, Sanders’ plan, announced Tuesday, is far more punitive to those at the very top — reflecting the strong support for taxing the rich among certain voters. Warren’s plan would impose a tax of 2% of wealth over $50 million and 3% on wealth over $1 billion. Sanders’ plan starts at a lower wealth level – taxing those worth $32 million at 1% – so his tax would hit about 180,000 families versus about 75,000 households under Warren’s proposal. The sliding scale of the Sanders plan also quickly escalates for wealth over $500 million, which would be taxed at 4%. Wealth over $10 billion would be taxed at a rate of 8% — more than four times the highest wealth-tax rates that European countries once imposed. The high rates at the top are the main reason Sanders projects his tax would raise $4.35 trillion over 10 years, compared with Warren’s, which is estimated to raise $2.6 trillion. Here are some examples of the annual wealth tax bill that some of today’s top billionaires would pay, in addition to whatever income taxes, property taxes and payroll taxes they already pay:

Sanders Unveils Plan to Wipe Out All Medical Debt in US, Declaring, ‘The Very Concept Should Not Exist’ - Pledging to end the "immoral and unconscionable" practice of collecting debt from families who have endured an illness or hospital stay, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday unveiled his plan to wipe out all medical debt in the United States.The Vermont Independent senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate announced his proposal to eliminate the $81 billion in medical debt carried by American households days after asking his supporters on social media about the money they owe debt collectors due to medical emergencies or illnesses they experienced in the past.The Sanders campaign heard back from more than 50,000 people who shared stories of the debts that have proven impossible to pay off, sending their credit scores plummeting and affecting families' daily lives."The very concept of medical debt should not exist," Sanders said Saturday. "In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, one illness or disease should not ruin a family's financial life and future."Medical bills contribute to 66 percent of bankruptcies in the U.S., and one in six Americans have at least one past due medical bill on their credit reports. Nearly 80 million Americans report struggling to pay their medical expenses.Under Sanders's plan, in addition to eliminating all existing medical debt, the senator would establish a public registry to replace the three major credit report agencies, including Equifax, whose security breach left the personal and financial information of 140 million people exposed in 2017. The registry would "remove the profit motive from assessing the creditworthiness of American consumers."The senator would also bar medical debts from being included on credit reports and end the practice of credit checks for housing, job applications, and other non-lending practices."It is immoral and unconscionable that families across the country are finding themselves nearly broke or bankrupt because of crippling medical debt while the healthcare industry made more than $100 billion in profits last year," Sanders said in a statement. "My administration will  take on the greed of the healthcare industry."

More Democrats threaten impeachment over Trump's dealings with Ukraine - A slow but steady trickle of House Democrats are lining up this week to support the impeachment of President Trump if the White House refuses to cooperate in the investigation of Trump's dealings with Ukraine.Connecticut Reps. John Larson (D) and Rosa DeLauro (D) announced Monday evening that they'll back the impeachment effort if the administration stonewalls the Democrats' probe into reports that Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to examine corruption accusations against former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner in the primary race to challenge Trump in 2020."As with many of my colleagues, I have been reluctant to call for an impeachment inquiry because it would further divide the country, be perceived as overturning the 2016 election, and go to the United States Senate where Republicans would acquit President Trump regardless of the evidence," DeLauro said in a statement."But these actions regarding the 2020 election are a turning point.”Both DeLauro, a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Larson, the former head of the Democratic Caucus, have previously rejected impeachment in favor of the investigative strategy favored by Pelosi and other top Democratic leaders. By sounding a warning that they're on the cusp of supporting the liberal impeachment push, they've sent a signal that the allegations of Trump recruiting a foreign power to help his 2020 bid could be a tipping point in the impeachment debate. Neither lawmaker endorsed impeachment outright, but said they'll do so if Joseph Maguire, the acting director of National Intelligence, refuses to release a whistleblower report detailing Trump's July conversation with Zelensky when Maguire appears before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday. "This is a defining moment," Larson said in a statement. "If the Director refuses to comply at Thursday’s hearing, the Trump Administration has left Congress with no alternative but for the House to begin impeachment proceedings, which I will support.”

Trump authorizes release of transcript of controversial Ukraine call that mentioned Biden -President Donald Trump, facing growing calls by Democrats for his impeachment, said on Tuesday that he has authorized the release of the “complete, fully declassified and unredacted” transcript of a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump said the transcript of the call will be released Wednesday. News reports on that call — during which Trump talked about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter — have led an increasing number of House Democrats to demand impeachment proceedings against Trump because of suspicions the president tried to boost his chances of re-election by pressuring another country to probe a leading Democratic challenger. Biden said Tuesday that Trump should be impeached if he stonewalls efforts by Congress to get information about his contacts with Ukraine and other issues. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to announce a formal impeachment inquiry later Tuesday, NBC News report. Trump has been facing demands in recent weeks from Congress to release information about a complaint made by a whistleblower in the intelligence community, which is believed to relate to a call Trump had with a foreign leader this summer. Trump’s authorization of release of the transcript of the call with Zelensky did not immediately reduce pressure by Congress for information about his suspected linkage of military aid to Ukraine with a willingness by that country to investigate Biden. Nor did it convince Democrats to drop their demands for information about the unidentified whistleblower.

Trump asked Ukraine president in phone call ‘if you can look into’ Biden and his son - President Donald Trump asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to “look into” former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, during a phone call in July. “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great,” Trump said in the call, according to a memorandum of the conversation. Trump added: “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it, It sounds horrible to me.” In a five-page memorandum of the July 25 call, Trump mentioned Biden only once. Despite Trump’s promise to release the “fully declassified and unredacted transcript,” the memorandum notes that it is “not a verbatim transcript” of the discussion, according to a disclaimer in a footnote in the document.  The call lasted about 30 minutes, according to the memorandum.The conversation with Zelensky is reportedly a central part of the whistleblower complaint that spurred many Democrats to support an impeachment inquiry against Trump. Democrats are demanding that the DOJ release the full whistleblower complaint, and allow the whistleblower to testify to congressional committees.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had been reluctant to take impeachment steps, announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump on Tuesday. “The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said. Trump has maintained that the call with Zelensky was “perfect,” and that there was no “quid pro quo.” Department of Justice officials in the agency’s criminal division concluded that the call did not constitute a campaign finance violation, NBC News’ Pete Williams reported Wednesday. But Democrats have raised broader concerns about whether Trump solicited a foreign leader to dig up dirt on Biden, his potential rival in the 2020 presidential election. They are also concerned about why Trump reportedly decided to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine at least a week before the call with Zelensky.

Pelosi announces impeachment inquiry into Trump amid alleged abuses of power - The House will start an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump as a swell of Democrats denounce the president over alleged abuses of power, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday. Gathering pressure finally broke through the speaker’s reluctance to start impeachment proceedings. Concerns have mounted about the president’s efforts to push Ukraine to investigate the family of former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his top rivals for the presidency in 2020. At least 187 House members have now backed some action on impeachment, and the number ballooned this week as centrist Democrats and vulnerable freshman lawmakers joined their ranks. “The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said in remarks to the nation. “Therefore, today, I’m announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. I’m directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry.” GOP responds to Pelosi announcement House is opening impeachment inquiry Pelosi announced the inquiry after huddling with key House committee chairs, the Democratic leadership team and finally her entire caucus. Her change of heart on the issue came quickly. The speaker has long called impeachment “divisive” as her party tries not to rile up Republican voters ahead of a 2020 election in which Democrats hope to keep their House majority and deny Trump a second term in the White House. Trump quickly fired off four tweets in response to Pelosi. He saw the inquiry as another Democratic attempt to unfairly target him and distract from his successes in office. The president used the familiar “witch hunt” and “presidential harassment” refrains he deployed during the investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election and his possible obstruction of the probe. “So bad for our country!” Trump wrote of the impeachment proceedings. In the meeting with her caucus, Pelosi cited national security concerns in moving forward, according to NBC News. She called it a “moment of truth.” The speaker also told lawmakers the House would not set up a select committee on impeachment, meaning they will keep the investigation within their standing panels. Democrats will take a rare step by starting the formal process of removing a president from office. Only three American presidents before Trump have faced serious impeachment proceedings, and Congress has never booted one from the White House. Even if Democrats eventually impeach Trump, the GOP-held Senate may never find him guilty and remove him from office.

Trump slams Pelosi impeachment probe: ‘PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!’ -  President Donald Trump took to Twitter to rail against Democrats on Tuesday, seconds after after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry into his alleged violations of the law.  The president, in a series of tweets, called the move “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” and shared a video slamming impeachment as Democrats’ “sole focus.” Trump, who had delivered an address to the United Nations General Assembly hours earlier, lamented that “Democrats purposely had to ruin and demean” the work done at the U.N. “with more breaking news Witch Hunt garbage.” “So bad for our Country!” he tweeted. Pelosi, who had long resisted calls from within her caucus to move forward on impeachment, announced Tuesday that she has directed the six Democrat-led committees in the House to proceed with their already-open investigations of Trump “under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry.” The leaders of those panels include Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler — all of whom Trump has criticized in the past. “Can you believe this?” Trump wrote in a second tweet, singling out those leading Democrats. A growing number of Democrats have come out in favor of impeachment, or at least an impeachment inquiry, into Trump since the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s lengthy report on Russian election meddling, possible Trump campaign coordination with Russia and possible obstruction of justice by Trump himself. But those numbers surged in September, following reports from various media outlets that Trump had asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July phone call to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

House impeachment vote has suddenly become a real threat for Trump - Suddenly, Donald Trump has flipped political presumptions and sent House Democrats on a path toward the third presidential impeachment in American history. And this time, Trump can’t even count on the lockstep Republican support that has protected him throughout his three years in the Oval Office. It represents an astonishing turnabout since Robert Mueller’s public testimony two months ago seemed to drain energy from impeachment efforts. As Republicans found refuge in the special counsel’s refusal to press charges or explicitly recommend congressional action, Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled repeatedly that Democrats should focus on defeating Trump in 2020 elections rather than a politically risky impeachment effort. Yet Trump’s ever-bolder determination to defy constraints on presidential behavior has scrambled calculations on all sides. Day by day within the last week, his evolving public acknowledgement that he pressed a foreign power to investigate a 2020 rival has overpowered Democratic reticence. And as a result, House Judiciary Committee member Jamie Raskin, D-Md., told a reporter, “He’s going to have his constitutional reckoning.” Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani had called publicly this spring for Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, even though no evidence has emerged of wrongdoing by the former vice president in connection with his son’s business involvement there. Now, after a national security whistleblower’s complaint that the White House seeks to keep secret, Trump has conceded that he urged Ukraine’s leader to do so during a private phone call on July 25.

"Terribly Divisive": Tulsi Gabbard Refuses To Join Fellow Democrats' Calls For Impeachment -We've long commented that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is certainly the most interesting and 'outside-the-establishment-box' candidate on the Democrat side running for president a "Ron Paul of the Left" of sorts given her outspoken criticism of US regime change wars and standing against foreign policy adventurism as her central message. She even once met in 2016 with then President-elect Trump to discuss Syria policy and non-interventionism at a private meeting at Trump Tower just ahead of his being sworn into office, after which she said both agreed to resist "the drumbeats of war [on Syria] that neocons have been beating to drag us into an escalation...". And now she's resisting calls for Trump to be impeached, saying it would be "terribly divisive". She told "Fox & Friends" on Tuesday that she'll remain consistent to her message that the road to 2020 can only be found in a clear victory and mandate, saying it's for "the American people... making that decision" of who is in the White House, not impeachment.  "I believe that impeachment at this juncture would be terribly divisive for the country at a time when we are already extremely divided. The hyperpartisanship is one of the main things driving our country apart," Gabbard told host Brian Kilmeade.

GOP challenger Bill Weld: Trump committed treason and 'the penalty for treason ... is death' - Former Massachusetts governor and longshot candidate for the GOP nomination for president Bill Weld on Monday accused President Donald Trump of "treason" forpressing Ukraine's President to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and stated bluntly "the penalty for treason under the US code is death.""Talk about pressuring a foreign country to interfere with and control a US election, it couldn't be clearer," Weld said in an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "And that's not just undermining democratic institutions, that is treason. It's treason pure and simple.""The penalty for treason under the US code is death. That's the only penalty," Weld added. "The penalty under the Constitution is removal from office and that might look like a pretty good alternative to the President if he could work out a plea deal."Weld's comments come amid mounting scrutiny of Trump after he acknowledged discussing Biden and his son, Hunter, in a July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The call was part of a whistleblower complaint submitted to the Intelligence Community Inspector General, another person familiar with the situation told CNN.White House officials are now considering releasing a transcript of the call, multiple sources have told CNN. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.Article Three of the Constitution defines treason as "levying War against [the US] or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." The president, the Constitution says, "shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."  US code states individuals found guilty of treason "shall suffer death" or face imprisonment, a fine, and "shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States."

Whistleblower complaint is out: It alleges Trump abused power to influence 2020 election - The House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released a redacted version of the whistleblower complaint that has embroiled President Donald Trump in an impeachment inquiry and clouded his political future.The nine-page document details an “urgent concern” that the president is “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” It not only details Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president during which he asked his counterpart to investigate the Biden family, but also alleges administration efforts to “lock down” records of the conversation.The complaint, based on the accounts of more than half a dozen U.S. officials, implicates more than Trump. It calls his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani a “central figure” in the effort and says Attorney General William Barr “appears to be involved as well.” Read the complaint here.Concerns that the document would show Trump trying to get a foreign state to investigate one of his chief political rivals — and accusations that the White House improperly stonewalled efforts to see it — led House Democrats to accuse the president of abusing his power. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Tuesday that the chamber would start impeachment proceedings into Trump. Responding to the complaint Thursday, she said Trump “betrayed” his oath of office and accused the White House of a “cover-up.” Shortly after the document’s release, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testified about the complaint at the House Intelligence Committee. Members of congressional intelligence panels had a chance to review the document Wednesday. In a statement Thursday, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “Nothing has changed with the release of this complaint, which is nothing more than a collection of third-hand accounts of events and cobbled-together press clippings—all of which shows nothing improper.” She said the president released a memorandum summarizing the call Wednesday “because he has nothing to hide.”

An alleged cover-up, a secret server and more bombshells in Trump whistleblower complaint - Damning allegations against President Donald Trump and White House officials were exposed Thursday with the release by Congress of a complaint by a whistleblower who is a member of the U.S. intelligence community. Among them is the whistleblower’s belief that Trump’s actions were so obviously egregious that White House officials promptly launched a cover-up to minimize the chance that Trump’s efforts to have a foreign power dig up dirt on a leading Democratic presidential contender would become public.The complaint says that “more than half a dozen U.S. officials” provided information detailed in the report over a four-month period. Here are the biggest bombshell claims in the complaint:

  • Trump used the power of the presidency to pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to interfere in the 2020 election by launching an investigation of Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had served on the board of a Ukraine company.
  • Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was a “central figure” in that effort, who reached out to and met with key Zelensky advisers.
  • Officials told the whistleblower that Ukrainian leaders were led to believe that a meeting or call between Zelensky and Trump would depend on whether Ukraine’s president “showed willingness to ‘play ball’ on the issues” that Giuliani was raising.
  • Attorney General William Barr appeared to be involved in the effort to get Ukraine to cooperate with Trump’s desire for a probe of Biden.
  • White House officials were “deeply disturbed” by a July 25 phone call Trump had with Zelensky. There were discussions “with White House lawyers because of the likelihood,” in the minds of officials, “that they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain.”
  • Senior White House officials intervened to “lock down” records of the call with Zelensky, which “underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call.”
  • White House lawyers directed White House officials to remove the electronic transcript of the Zelensky call from the computer system where such transcripts normally are stored. That transcript then was loaded into a “separate electronic system” that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature. “One White House official described this act as an abuse of this electronic system because the call did not contain anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective.”

Read the full complaint:

Pelosi on Trump whistleblower complaint: ‘This is a cover-up’ - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cautioned Thursday against rushing to impeach President Donald Trump even as she said the president “betrayed” his oath of office.Speaking to reporters, the California Democrat responded to a newly public whistleblower complaint alleging Trump abused his power by asking Ukraine’s president to investigate the family of former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his chief rivals for the presidency in 2020. The document also detailed alleged White House efforts to “lock down” records of Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.“This is a cover-up,” Pelosi said after outlining the accusations in the complaint.The speaker, aiming to balance the concerns of liberals who have long agitated to remove Trump from office and centrists from swing districts who only this week backed action on impeachment, stressed that she wants a patient investigation into Trump’s conduct. She also aimed to show that House Democrats will still make policy despite their decision this week to start an impeachment inquiry, as Trump and his allies accuse the party of a politically motivated probe ahead of the 2020 election.Pelosi did not commit to timing on drafting or voting on articles of impeachment, which effectively constitute charges against the president. She said House committee investigations will determine the timing of the proceedings. She also contended the Office of the Director of National Intelligence “broke the law” by not immediately passing the August whistleblower complaint to congressional intelligence committees. Asked about the delay during a House Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday, acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire called the situation “unprecedented” and said it seemed “prudent to be able to check and ensure” before he sent the complaint to Congress.

Trump and House Democrats are ‘crossing the Rubicon’ with impeachment showdown, and nobody knows where it will lead - The Democratic decision Tuesday to launch an impeachment inquiry of President Trump pushed a strained nation to a new political brink, activating for the fourth time the U.S. Constitution’s most critical fail-safe with no certainty about where it will take the country. After years of circling each other in an increasingly bitter political clash, Trump and his Democratic opponents will now find themselves locked in a legal process designed to remove from power elected leaders who have betrayed the public trust. Both sides committed to emerge victorious from the fight. “I can’t tell you what will come from this. I don’t think anybody can,” said Dan Sena, who was executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2018. “But it is definitely going to be an X-factor going into the 2020 election.” [Why the Ukraine allegations broke the Democratic dam on impeachment] House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) spent much of the year beating back impeachment calls in her party, warning that a partisan process would be, in her words, “so divisive” and “not worth it.” As she told her colleagues in 2018, on the way to winning back control of the House, “You can’t get in a tinkle contest with a skunk.” But on Tuesday, she announced that everything had changed. Recent revelations about Trump’s efforts to pressure the president of Ukraine to help find dirt that would aid his own reelection were a “betrayal of his office.” She was ready to take the leap. “Use any metaphor you want: crossing the Rubicon, alea iacta est, a new territory, a new day has dawned,” she said, evoking the Latin phrase for “the die is cast,” reportedly uttered by Julius Caesar in 49 B.C. Pelosi’s dramatic declaration may go down in history as an understatement. Presidential impeachment is enshrined in clear terms in the founding documents, but its use in practice has less in common with a typical legal proceeding than with an atomic weapon, potentially setting off chain reactions that can dominate the nation’s attention for weeks, ripple through the political system for years and shift electoral outcomes in unexpected ways. That calculus is further complicated by the extraordinary nature of Trump, a rule-bending, norm-breaking spectacle of a leader, who has thrived by escalating conflicts even when the facts are not on his side. His 2020 reelection campaign, premised on the notion that liberal elites, Democrats and the media are conspiring against the American people, is now certain to prompt a new rallying cry.

House’s move toward impeachment leaves gaping questions about the road ahead - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s declaration Tuesday of an “official impeachment inquiry” was a moment of singular drama in the long-running clash between President Trump and congressional Democrats, but it left unsettled key questions about how that investigation will unfold. Among them: How sweeping will the probe be? How long will it last? Who will conduct it? And will Pelosi’s unilateral pronouncement — which was delivered with no immediate plans to ratify it with a House vote — do anything to change the course of existing investigations that have hit a stone wall of White House resistance? Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday gave only a cursory outline in her public remarks, noting that she would be “directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry.” In a closed-door meeting of Democratic lawmakers Tuesday, she was only slightly more voluble — promising an “expeditious” inquiry, according to lawmakers present. The lack of detail about the road ahead, according to interviews with more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers and aides, reflected both the speed with which once-wavering Democrats unified behind a formal impeachment probe — and the continuing divisions among them on how it should be conducted. According to the Democrats, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations, the House Judiciary Committee will continue playing the lead role in the proceedings, despite the desire of some Democrats to involve a broader swath of lawmakers and to at least partly sideline Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the panel’s fervently pro-impeachment chairman. In the days leading up to Tuesday’s announcement, Pelosi explored potentially establishing a special “select” committee, with members handpicked by House leaders, but backed away from that idea after the dispute generated protests from liberals and threatened to divide the caucus along ideological lines. Meanwhile, an even more fundamental dispute lingered — one that may not be resolved any time soon. Many Democrats are urging that the inquiry focus solely on the present outcry — Trump’s apparent admission that he urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look for wrongdoing by the son of former vice president Joe Biden while withholding delivery of U.S. foreign aid — and not on other alleged abuses, such as the potential obstruction of justice detailed by Robert S. Mueller III as special counsel, episodes of congressional stonewalling and instances of bigotry.

Trump Base Ignited Amid Impeachment Chaos; $5 Million Raised In 24 Hours --It's been a dramatic rollercoaster of a week in Washington, and it's only Wednesday.  What began as a MSM-fueled third-hand whistleblower rumor that President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden for pressuring Ukraine ended up with House Democrats launching an impeachment inquiry before looking at the underlying evidence.  Then it unraveled, and it's not going well for the left. The whistleblower was reportedly found by the intelligence community Inspector General to have 'political bias' and was in favor of a 'rival candidate' for US president. The claim that Trump pressured or threatened Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating Biden melted into a puddle of fake news after a transcript of the call revealed no such thing - and Zelensky himself said during a Wednesday press conference that "nobody pushed me." Now - as Nancy Pelosi predicted, Trump's base has been energized by what the right largely views as a continuation of the so-called 'witch hunt' against their President. The result? According to Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale, is an incredible $5 million raised by the GOP and Trump's campaign in 24 hours - a "Huge groundswell of support." In the 24 hours since news of Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment announcement, @realDonaldTrump’s campaign & @GOP have BLOWN OUT fundraising!✅$5 Million combined in 24 hrs✅Donors in all 50 statesHuge groundswell of support leading to Trump landslide in 2020!  — Brad Parscale (@parscale) September 25, 2019 One might think Democrats would begin to understand that continuing to push absurd claims - after their two-year Russia investigation was a bust, overshadows any legitimate criticism of Trump and allows him to keep pointing to the clown show.

30 Republican Senators might vote to impeach Trump if the ballot were secret, GOP source says - As many as 30 Republican senators would vote for the impeachment of US President Donald Trump over his request for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, said a top GOP strategist during a cable TV news segment Wednesday night.Mike Murphy, who helped run presidential campaigns for senators John McCain and Mitt Romney, said during an interview on MSNBC that a Republican senator told him their caucus would likely vote to remove the president if the votes could be kept anonymous.  With 33 Senate seats contested in the 2020 elections, Republican lawmakers risk infuriating pro-Trump voters with a vote to remove the president. At the same time, they could face the wrath of moderate swing voters who are far less supportive of the president.Of course, there is no prospect of a secret ballot. That means moderate Republican senators, such as Susan Collins of Maine, face a politically brutal choice as they run for reelection.  "These Senate Republicans, should the Democrats vote impeachment, which is far more likely than not, are going to be pinned down to a yes/no answer," said Murphy. In the past Murphy has been a fierce critic of the president.  "If they provide cover to Donald Trump for this, a clear violation of his role as president, we're going to lose in Colorado with Cory Gardner. We're going to lose Maine with Susan Collins. We're going to lose Arizona with Martha McSally. And the Democrats will put the Senate very much in play."

Republicans see impeachment backfiring. Democrats fear they may be right - Alarmed by a whistleblower’s revelations that Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the 2020 Democratic presidential front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives this week launched a formal impeachment inquiry into the Republican president. Among the public, interviews with more than 60 voters across four of the most important counties in the 2020 election showed Republicans largely confident the impeachment process will backfire and Trump will win re-election. Democrats, on the other hand, are worried they may be right. Marc Devlin, a 48-year-old consultant from Northampton County, Pennsylvania, said he expects the inquiry to “incense” supporters of the president. “This is my fear, that it will actually add some flame to his fire with his base,” he said. “I just fear ‘party over country.’” Throughout the 2020 election cycle, Reuters is monitoring voters in four areas that could determine the outcome of the Nov. 3 presidential contest: Pinellas County, Florida; Maricopa County, Arizona; Northampton County, Pennsylvania; and Racine County, Wisconsin. Given the sharply divided electorate and the rules in America’s state-by-state races that determine the winner in the Electoral College, those four states will be among the most targeted by presidential candidates next year.

‘Ukraine-Gate’ Will Endanger Biden, Not Trump - With the revelation by an intel community “whistleblower” that President Donald Trump, in a congratulatory call to the new president of Ukraine, pushed him repeatedly to investigate the Joe Biden family connection to Ukrainian corruption, the cry “Impeach!” is being heard anew in the land.But revisiting how this latest scandal came about, and how it has begun to unfold, it is a good bet that the principal casualty could be the former vice president. Consider. In May 2016, Joe Biden, as Barack Obama’s designated point man on Ukraine, flew to Kiev to inform President Petro Poroshenko that a billion-dollar U.S. loan guarantee had been approved to enable Kiev to continue to service its mammoth debt.But, said Biden, the aid was conditional. There was a quid pro quo.If Poroshenko’s regime did not fire its chief prosecutor in six hours, Biden would fly home and Ukraine would get no loan guarantee. Ukraine capitulated instantly, said Joe, reveling in his pro-consul role. Yet left out of Biden’s drama about how he dropped the hammer on a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor was this detail.The prosecutor had been investigating Burisma Holdings, the biggest gas company in Ukraine. And right after the U.S.-backed coup that ousted the pro-Russian government in Kiev, and after Joe Biden had been given the lead on foreign aid for Ukraine, Burisma had installed on its board, at $50,000 a month, Hunter Biden, the son of the vice president.Joe Biden claims that, though he was point man in the battle on corruption in Ukraine, he was unaware his son was raking in hundreds of thousands from one of the companies being investigated.Said Joe on Saturday, “I have never spoken to my son about his various business dealings.” Is this credible? Trump and Rudy Giuliani suspect not, and in that July 25 phone call, Trump urged President Volodymyr Zelensky to reopen the investigation of Hunter Biden and Burisma.

House panels subpoena Pompeo for documents related to Trump impeachment probe - Three House committees have subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for documents related to the Ukraine probe at the center of the chamber’s impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. In a letter to the top U.S. diplomat dated Friday, the heads of the House Foreign Affairs, Oversight and Intelligence committees requested relevant documents by Oct. 4. Democratic Reps. Eliot Engel, Elijah Cummings and Adam Schiff wrote that they sought the records as they investigate “the extent to which President Trump jeopardized national security by pressing Ukraine to interfere with our 2020 election and by withholding security assistance provided by Congress to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression.” The committee heads said they sent a separate letter to Pompeo alerting him that they have scheduled depositions for five state department officials over the next two weeks. Those officials are:

  • Former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch
  • Special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent
  • Counselor of the State Department T. Ulrich Brechbuhl
  • U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland

The subpoena to Pompeo caps a week of heightened scrutiny of the Trump administration after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the start of an impeachment inquiry into the president on Tuesday. The Democratic-held chamber has focused on Trump’s efforts to get the Ukrainian government to investigate Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden, a former vice president and one of Trump’s chief rivals for the presidency in 2020.

Trump-Ukraine whistleblower is a CIA employee who was detailed to the White House - The whistleblower who accused President Donald Trump of pressuring Ukraine’s president to interfere in the 2020 presidential election is a CIA employee who was detailed to the White House, NBC News reported Friday. That information about the whistleblower, who raised alarms about Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, was first reported by The New York Times on Thursday. The complaint and a memorandum of that call were both made public this week. The whistleblower’s lawyer, Andrew Bakaj, told the Times that “any decision to report any perceived identifying information of the whistle-blower is deeply concerning and reckless, as it can place the individual in harm’s way.” “The whistleblower has a right to anonymity,” Bakaj said. Mark Zaid, another lawyer for the whistleblower, told NBC News: “Publishing details about the whistleblower will only lead to identification of someone, whether our client or the wrong person, as the whistleblower. This will place this individual in a much more dangerous situation, not only in their professional world but also their possible personal safety.” In the complaint, which was made public Thursday by the House Intelligence Committee, the whistleblower said that more than half a dozen U.S. officials told him about the details of that phone call “in the course of my official duties.” But little else is currently known to the public about the whistleblower, whom Democratic lawmakers have said should be called to testify before Congress. Lawyers for the whistleblower have signaled that their client is willing to testify.

“Trump’s Call With the Ukrainian President” --The White House released this document on Wednesday, September 25, 2019. It details a July call between President Trump and President Zelensky of the Ukraine. About midway through it, there is a warning of the contents not being a “verbatim transcript.” I have taken some time to include the notes (red) which are found at the end of the post and have notated the particular passages to which the notes are detailing. If you need direction other than the notation at the end of the sentences, I can do so. I did not want to alter this more than what I did in adding the word “note.” It is a surprising transcript showing Trump’s boldness.

For Ukraine's leader, Trump memo on their call is a diplomatic car crash (Reuters) - For U.S. President Donald Trump, White House publication on Wednesday of a memo summarizing his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy fueled a domestic political crisis. For Zelenskiy, it was a far-reaching diplomatic disaster. Zelenskiy’s comments to the Republican Trump, disclosed in the summary, will likely irk U.S. Democrats, risking the bipartisan U.S. support Kiev requires while irritating France and Germany whom Zelenskiy criticized in the same exchange. Locked in a geopolitical standoff with neighboring Russia after Moscow annexed the Crimea region and backed pro-Russian separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine in 2014, Ukraine needs all the international friends it can get. It relies heavily on Washington for aid and diplomatic help, and European countries like France and Germany are trying to help bring about talks aimed at breathing life into a stalled peace process over eastern Ukraine. “Unfortunately the main consequence of this is that Ukraine could become toxic,” said Alyona Getmanchuk, director of the New Europe Center in Ukraine. “Maybe not as toxic as Russia became during the Mueller investigation, but toxic,” she said, referring to a two-year U.S. investigation into contacts between Trump’s successful 2016 election campaign and Russia. The timing of the latest scandal is awkward for Zelenskiy, who is keen to reinvigorate parts of a stalled peace deal over eastern Ukraine, something for which he needs European and U.S. diplomatic muscle. The White House memo summarizing the call shows Zelenskiy promised to reopen an investigation into a company that employed former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s son and voiced frustration about what he said was a lack of support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron when it came to enforcing sanctions on Russia. It also showed Zelenskiy had agreed with Trump that the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine - Marie Yovanovitch - was “a bad ambassador.”“Zelenskiy does not come out looking good from this - giving the ex-U.S. ambassador a kicking, Merkel and the Europeans a kicking, and then agreeing to do Trump’s dirty work on Biden,” 

High Drama in SEC House Hearing Ignored by Mainstream Media - Pam Martens - (video) On Tuesday, September 24, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Financial Services Committee, chaired by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, held a hearing with all five members of the Securities and Exchange Commission – the first time this has happened since 2007. One of the Commissioners is Hester Peirce, whom we described as a “Koch Fronted Regulatory Hit Woman” in an article we penned on March 17, 2016. She hasn’t disappointed.  Congresswoman Katie Porter of California, never dull and always brilliant (she’s a tenured law professor) subjected Peirce to a public shaming over her caustic remarks on ESG disclosures by corporations. (ESG is an acronym for environmental, social and governance.) Porter quoted Peirce as stating about ESG disclosures that “We ought to be wary of shrill cries from a crowd of self-appointed, self-righteous authorities, even when all they are crying for is the label.” Porter also said Peirce had told an audience that ESG really stands for “enabling shareholder graft,” meaning it allows shareholders to extort companies over environmental, social or governance issues. (See the full exchange at 3:25:45 on the video of the full hearing below.) Congressman Bill Foster of Illinois did an excellent job questioning SEC Chair Jay Clayton (who had been outside counsel for 8 out of 10 of the largest Wall Street banks prior to coming to the SEC) over the lack of progress at the SEC on the Consolidated Audit Trail or CAT. Foster explained that without one ID that identifies a Wall Street bank or trading firm, whether it is trading in the U.S. or from a foreign trading desk, there is no way to clearly see the source of  market manipulations. (As we reported in June, Goldman Sachs is trading in its own secretive Dark Pools on four continents.) Clayton danced around the fact that the CAT has still not come to fruition under his tenure at the SEC. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts questioned Clayton on the plan by some Republican members of Congress to gut the average American stockholder’s ability to bring a shareholder resolution to a publicly traded company. Currently the threshold is that the shareholder own $2,000 worth of the company’s stock. Under one of the plans being floated, a 1 percent share ownership, the shareholder would need to own $3 billion of General Motors stock to bring a shareholder resolution, Pressley explained. Clayton said $3 billion was too much but he wouldn’t commit to what level he thought was appropriate. Congressman Bill Posey of Florida was particularly harsh with Clayton’s bobbing and weaving tactics on the subject of the contemptible treatment that the victims of Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme have received. According to Posey, 21,000 victims of Stanford lost over $5 billion but have received only 4-1/2 cents on the dollar in restitution. The Stanford Ponzi scheme collapsed and Stanford was arrested over a decade ago. According to Posey,the receiver has recovered just $750 million of the $5 billion and half of that amount has gone to the receiver and his team in compensation. Even worse, said Posey, the receiver recently used his authority to bar individual investor claims against the banks that potentially aided and abetted Stanford.Clayton gave his typical dodgy answers to Congressman Posey, saying regarding the bar against claims on the banks that “minds can differ.” Clayton incensed the Congressman with the response that he had been “fully briefed on this issue.” Posey responded with this: “Do I have the understanding that you’re going to do more than observe it. Do you plan any engagement; do you foresee any engagement; do you foresee the calvalry coming to help the victims?”

Wall Street Bank Stocks Closed in a Sea of Red Yesterday as Fed Pumps in Another $105 Billion of Liquidity - Pam Martens - It was only a matter of time until the public perception of the Federal Reserve having to funnel billions of dollars a day to Wall Street banks as an emergency source of liquidity started to impact the share prices of those same banks. It all caught up with the mega banks yesterday as every single one of their stocks closed in the red. Notably, the German bank, Deutsche Bank, that is heavily interconnected to the behemoths of Wall Street through derivatives, lost the most ground yesterday, closing down 2.70 percent at $7.58 – just $1.14 above its all-time low of $6.44 that it set on August 15.The U.S. banks that were named as being heavily interconnected to Deutsche Bank via derivatives in a 2016 report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) closed as follows yesterday: Goldman Sachs lost 2.67 percent; Citigroup was down 2.37 percent; Morgan Stanley was off 2.34 percent; Bank of America fell 1.96 percent; while JPMorgan Chase gave up 1.30 percent by the closing bell.Among the insurers with exposure to Wall Street’s derivatives’ mess, Lincoln National also had a rough day, losing 1.77 percent.To put the losses by the Wall Street banks and Lincoln National into perspective, the broader stock market as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost only 0.53 percent yesterday, closing down 142 points at 26,807.77. It’s never a good sign when the banks holding trillions of dollars in Federally insured deposits are losing ground at four times the rate of the broader stock market.It is also quite notable that Wells Fargo, which is the third largest bank in the U.S. by deposits, fared far better than its peer banks yesterday, losing only 0.63 percent. That further suggests that the selloff was all about derivatives and shaky counterparties since Wells Fargo has the smallest exposure to derivatives among the largest Wall Street banks according to data from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. There is further proof that something is amiss with the largest banks on Wall Street. When the Fed offered its 14-day repo loans yesterday, there was twice as much demand as money offered by the Fed. The banks bid for $62 billion while the Fed was offering only $30 billion. The Federal Reserve announced last Friday that its repo loan program which began on Tuesday, September 17, has been extended to at least October 10 and likely thereafter in one form or another. The Fed will be pumping out $75 billion daily in overnight repo loans while infusing $30 billion in 14-day term loans two more times this week following its term loan action yesterday.

Insider Selling Hits 20 Year High As Stock Buybacks Soar - When it comes to the "fair value" of stocks, nobody knows it better than insiders, who tend to aggressively offload shares any time they see the price of their equity holdings as generously high. This, however, may be a problem for the broader market because according to research from Smart Insider, the market is now the most overbought since the first dotcom bubble, as "executives across the US are shedding stock in their own companies at the fastest pace in two decades, amid concerns that the long bull market in equities is reaching its final stages." As the FT reports, corporate insiders - typically CEOs, CFOs, and board members, but also venture capital and other early state investors - sold a combined $19BN of stock in their companies through to mid-September. Annualized, this puts them on track to hit $26BN for the year, which would mark the most active year since 2000, when executives sold $37bn of stock amid the giddy highs of the dotcom bubble. That 2019 total would also set a post-crisis high, eclipsing the $25bn of stock sold in 2017. For those wondering which insiders are scrambling to part with their equity holdings, the answer is simple: virtually everyone - from the VCs behind bungled, rushed IPOs of companies such as WeWork, Uber and Lyft, to iconic stakeholders including members of the Walton family, who have sold a combined $2.2BN of shares in the Walmart retail empire. Executives at Estée Lauder, the cosmetics giant, and clothing group Lululemon Athletica also appear among the most active sellers, according to Smart Insider.The reason investors care about insider stock sales is that it has traditionally been a handy marker for the confidence of executives in their own companies’ prospects, and the broader valuation of the market. Spikes in selling indicate that top figures in boardrooms around the country are taking advantage of high valuations in the US stock market.

Interest Rate Derivatives Trading Explodes to $6.5 Trillion/Day -- The volume of over-the-counter (OTC) interest rate derivatives traded globally soared by 141% in three years to $6.5 trillion per day in April 2019, according to the Bank for International Settlements’ new Triennial Survey of Global Derivatives Markets. In the prior survey period, April 2016, $2.7 trillion per day in trades were executed. Since 2001, the magnitude of trading volume has multiplied by a factor of 13, from $490 billion per day to $6.5 trillion per day, with a gigantic spike over the past three years: […] OTC derivatives are securities that are generally traded through a dealer network rather than on a centralized exchange such as the London Stock Exchange or the New York Stock Exchange.Some derivatives can be explosive, such as the credit default swaps (CDS) that brought Lehman Brothers and AIG to their knees in the last crisis, and which still remain a threat today, especially with the U.S. government this week bowing to Wall Street pressure to dilute regulation that had been designed after the crisis to reduce the risks of these instruments.Interest rate derivatives, whose value rises and falls depending on the movement of interest rates, or sets of interest rates, tend to be more straightforward. They are often used as hedges by institutional and retail investors, banks and companies to protect themselves against changes in market interest rates. If managed properly, they shouldn’t pose undue risks to the financial system. The BIS attributed much of this 141% three-year surge in trading of these instruments to increased hedging and positioning “amid shifting prospects for growth and monetary policy.” It also cautioned that some of the turnover in April 2019 was in shorter-term contracts, which are rolled over more often, leading to higher volume of trades. The 2019 survey also featured more comprehensive reporting of related party trades than in previous surveys. After adjusting for these trades, the actual increase in trading volumes since the 2016 survey is more likely to be around 120%, the BIS concluded. Here’s where most of the trading OTC interest rate derivatives took place:

  1. The City of London: $3.7 trillion per day or 56% of global trades were executed at trading desks in the United Kingdom, a 213% leap from the $1.18 trillion of average daily turnover in April 2016. Most of those trades took place in the City of London.
  2. The United States: $2.35 trillion per day, or 32% of the global turnover, up 9.8% from $1.24 trillion in 2016. Back in 2016, the U.S. had been for a brief moment the world’s biggest market in these instruments with a share of 41%.

 Bad actors targeting fintech aggregators: Fincen chief - Fraudsters are increasingly trying to exploit fintech data aggregators to avoid detection, the head of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network said Tuesday. Fincen Director Kenneth Blanco warned about a rising number of cyber criminals using "synthetic identities" to commit fraud with data stolen from aggregators. “In some cases, cybercriminals appear to be using fintech data aggregators and integrators to facilitate account takeovers and fraudulent wires,” Blanco said in a Tampa, Fla. speech. Fincen is a bureau of the Treasury Department. His remarks signal enhanced scrutiny of data aggregators' role financial tech by regulators. Firms that link individual customer data across various financial institutions have been able to keep a relatively low profile in Washington but that could be changing. Blanco said fintech platforms could be enabling bad actors to escape the notice of standard methods for identifying fraud. "By using stolen data to create fraudulent accounts on fintech platforms, cybercriminals are able to exploit the platforms’ integration with various financial services to initiate seemingly legitimate financial activity while creating a degree of separation from traditional fraud detection efforts," he said. "Some criminals are also monetizing stolen credit card information through fraudulent merchant accounts to charge victims’ cards, or are simply creating fraudulent user accounts on fintech platforms as part of identity theft or synthetic identity fraud." In April 2018, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority warned that giving aggregators access to financial data would open up banks and consumers to risk, including “potential vulnerability to cyber fraud, unauthorized transactions and identity theft.”

JPMorgan Chase Has Billions in CRE Loans Riding on WeWork Surviving --WeWork’s business model isn’t workable. Everybody understands that except the Wall Street bank that has the most to lose if WeWork’s initial public offering (IPO) of its stock doesn’t move forward. That bank is JPMorgan Chase, one of the two main underwriters of the IPO, along with Goldman Sachs.  WeWork’s business model is to take long-term leases in commercial office buildings and then sub-lease that space under short leases to small businesses, start-ups and freelancers – none of which are particularly known for their ability to pay rent in a downturn. WeWork is currently on the hook for more than $47 billion in long term leases while it has yet to figure out how to make a dime of profits. JPMorgan Chase is so interconnected with WeWork that to a number of minds WeWork looks like little more than a strawman for the bank and the bank’s biggest commercial real estate clients in New York City where WeWork is taking vacant space off the market at seismic speed. WeWork is now the largest office tenant in New York City. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., a federally insured bank, “has made loans and extended credit to Adam Neumann, CEO and co-founder of WeWork, totaling $97.5 million across a variety of lending products, including mortgages secured by personal property and unsecured credit lines and letters of credit,” according to the prospectus filed with the SEC for the recently aborted IPO.  Together with his wife, Rebekah, Neumann put a good chunk of those loans from JPMorgan Chase to work diversifying his asset base away from his speculative IPO and into five personal residences for his family in upscale communities. The tally for the homes comes to more than $80 million. JPMorgan Chase is also one of three banks that has given Neumann a $500 million line of credit, which he had drawn down to the tune of $380 million as of July 31, 2019. That whopping line of credit is secured by shares of stock in The We Company, the parent of WeWork. Unfortunately for JPMorgan Chase, the valuation for The We Company has been melting faster than a snow cone in July.  This raises the question as to what, exactly, is backing the $380 million that Neumann has drawn down from the banks. JPMorgan Chase also provided a $600 million loan in order for WeWork to be lauded in the press as having purchased the landmark Lord & Taylor building at 424 Fifth Avenue for $850 million. But 70 percent of the funds for the purchase of a troubled piece of real estate on Fifth Avenue came from JPMorgan Chase, not from the profits of WeWork’s grand business model.  In fact, WeWork has never made any profits in its nine years of existence and its losses are alarmingly out of control. The company lost $1.6 billion last year and its losses have spiraled to over $900 million in just the first half of this year.

Regulators finalize rule expanding exemption for home appraisals — The three federal banking regulators have issued a final rule raising the threshold for residential real estate transactions that require an appraisal from $250,000 to $400,000 in order to ease regulatory burdens and keep pace with home prices. The proposal was originally released in November by the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The agencies have said that increasing the threshold by $150,000 would make appraisal requirements less burdensome without threatening the safety and soundness of financial institutions. Under the final rule, residential real estate transactions that are exempt from an appraisal will be required to obtain an evaluation, a more streamlined version of an appraisal that can be completed without a license. But appraisers have argued that evaluations pose a risk to lenders and consumers, while appraisals can help lenders identify borrowers that might be over-leveraged. The final rule adopted Friday also includes the rural residential appraisal exemption outlined in the regulatory relief bill President Trump signed last May, and also requires institutions to review appraisals to ensure that they comply with the uniform set of appraisal standards. In a press release, the banking regulators said the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was consulted and agreed with the rationale to raise the appraisal threshold. “The Bureau concludes that, in light of the Banking Agencies’ conclusion on cost savings and other additional factors discussed below, including the existence of other consumer protections, the Threshold provides reasonable protection for consumers as a whole, notwithstanding some benefits that are unlikely to materialize for consumers receiving an evaluation in lieu of an appraisal,” CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger said in a letter concurring with the move.

Trump’s Fannie/Freddie Privatization Giveaway: Why GSE Reform Is Hard -- Yves Smith --Here we are, more than eleven years after the September Saturday when Hank Paulson announced that the government was putting Fannie, Freddie and the Federal Home Loan Banks in conservatorship, shoring them up financially by giving them a positive net worth guarantee. The intent has always been that the conservatorship would be temporary, and that the two mortgage giants, also called GSEs, for government sponsored enterprises, would win up being privately owned. The Obama Administration had a go at it, with plans proposed in 2011 that we criticized at the time for being a giveaway to banks as well as insanely taking two giants with complex operations and proposing to build new entities performing the same functions from scratch.The Trump Administration is trying to take advantage of the enrichment opportunity that Fannie/Freddie “reform” represents and proposed its own privatization scheme earlier this month. In a sign of the times, an issue that was hotly debated back when memories of the Fannie/Freddie implosion were still fresh got barely any press mention. But as we’ll discuss, it would be another official giveaway, with different winners than the Obama version.One reason for the lack of interest is that the Trump Treasury’s plan is likely to go nowhere. It calls for Congress to give the newly privatized GSEs a full faith and credit guarantee. Fannie and Freddie in their pre-crisis incarnations didn’t have one, and the cover pages of their prospectuses disavowed that they did, but enough investors believed otherwise that they were able to make it so. There is no reason for the Democratic-Party-controlled House to do the Trump Administration any favors by approving this scheme, which would give him a 2020 talking point and curry favor with hedge funds.Even Bloomberg hates the Trump GSE scheme. Its editorial board roused itself to give it a big thumbs down. While the Obama “reform” had lots of moving parts, the Trump one is simpler: make the GSEs private again, but with an explicit backstop. Even so, it took Treasury three years to come up with this scheme, which is even more of a “heads I win, tails you lose” deal than the pre-crisis Fannie and Freddie. There are handwaves in the Treasury outline about capitalizing them better and having vigilant oversight. If you believe the Trump administration would do anything remotely like the latter, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you, particularly since the hedge funds investors in GSE stocks are having some success in weakening their regulator. The Administration also wants private securitizations to play a bigger role. That simply is not going to happen. The FDIC under Sheila Bair got extensive input from mortgage investors and devised an elegant, four-point reform program that would have gotten them back into the pool. It was rejected by the sell side.

Fannie, Freddie recapitalization unlikely before 2020 election: KBW -- The recapitalization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac prior to the 2020 election is unlikely even if the net worth sweep ends, according to a Keefe, Bruyette & Woods report.  The report reiterates the laundry list generated from the Trump administration's housing finance reform report to explain why the recapitalization will likely take so long. The challenges include the Federal Housing Finance Agency's need to publish capital standards and Treasury's need to determine the commitment fee that the GSEs will pay for the ongoing government guarantee of their MBS.  Also cited as a challenge is a resolution regarding the qualified mortgage patch, which could cut the government-sponsored enterprises' volume by 30%. If the fate of the patch weren't known, it would be hard to forecast potential earnings for Fannie and Freddie, KBW said.  "Finally, there would need to be a very large capital raise, and we think the market could not accommodate that in 2020, given the issues noted above," said the report from analysts Bose George, Brian Gardner, Thomas McJoynt-Griffith and Eric Hagen.  FHFA Director Mark Calabria said he would like to give Congress a full term to act on the Trump administration report's recommendations, the analysts' added.  "Given this backdrop, we think GSE recapitalization is unlikely to happen until after the 2020 election and then it will obviously be dependent to a large degree on the outcome of the election," the KBW analysts said. "This dependence on the outcome of the election adds to our caution on the shares" of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In addition, it is likely the current common stockholders would see their holdings diluted, the KBW analysts said. Dilution is likely because of there is the potential for Treasury to convert its senior preferred shares in both companies to common stock, and because Calabria has said that taxpayers would receive additional shares in the GSEs in return for allowing them to build capital.

Freddie Mac: Mortgage Serious Delinquency Rate unchanged in August --Freddie Mac reported that the Single-Family serious delinquency rate in August was 0.61%, unchanged from 0.61% in July. Freddie's rate is down from 0.73% in August 2018. Freddie's serious delinquency rate peaked in February 2010 at 4.20%. This matches last month as the lowest serious delinquency rate for Freddie Mac since November 2007.  These are mortgage loans that are "three monthly payments or more past due or in foreclosure". I expect the delinquency rate to decline to a cycle bottom in the 0.4% to 0.6% range - so this is close to a bottom.

Black Knight's First Look: National Mortgage Delinquency Rate Decreased in August, Foreclosure Inventory Lowest Since 2005  From Black Knight: Black Knight’s First Look: Foreclosure Starts Hit 18-year Low in August; Mortgage Prepayments Continue to Rise in Lower Interest Rate Environment:

• August’s 36,200 foreclosure starts made for the lowest single-month total since December 2000
• The number of loans in active foreclosure inventory also fell; at 253,000, it’s the fewest since 2005
• Prepayment activity – typically a good indicator of refinance activity – continues to press upward, increasing 5% from July to reach a three-year high
• August’s prepayment rate was up 62% from the same time last year and 2.5 times the 18-year low hit in January
• Given a 30-45 day closing window, the month’s prepayment activity reflects June/July interest rates; as rates fell further in August and September, the peak in refinance-driven prepayments is likely still to come
According to Black Knight's First Look report for August, the percent of loans delinquent decreased slightly in August compared to July, and decreased 1.5% year-over-year. The percent of loans in the foreclosure process decreased 2.4% in August and were down 11.5% over the last year. Black Knight reported the U.S. mortgage delinquency rate (loans 30 or more days past due, but not in foreclosure) was 3.45% in August down from 3.46% in July. The percent of loans in the foreclosure process decreased in August to 0.48% from 0.49% in July.

Mortgage Applications Decrease in Latest MBA Weekly Survey - Mortgage applications decreased 10.1 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending September 20, 2019. .. The Refinance Index decreased 15 percent from the previous week and was 104 percent higher than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 3 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 4 percent compared with the previous week and was 9 percent higher than the same week one year ago....“U.S. Treasury yields trended downward over the course of last week, as the Federal Reserve meeting highlighted the elevated uncertainty in the economic outlook. However, despite falling yields, mortgage rates ticked up again and have risen 20 basis points over the past two weeks,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “The increase in rates led to fewer refinances, and activity has now dropped 17 percent over the last two weeks.” Added Kan, “Purchase applications also decreased, likely related to the two-week jump in rates, but still remained 9 percent higher than last year. The recent data on increased existing-home sales and new residential construction points to the underlying strength in the purchase market this fall.”... The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($484,350 or less) increased to 4.02 percent from 4.01 percent, with points increasing to 0.38 from 0.37 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans.

Refi Boom Crashes To An End On Modest Rate Rise -A very modest 10bps rise in 30Y mortgage rates over the last few weeks has crushed the housing market's refinance boom, and hit the new home application side too.Overall mortgage applications tumbled 10.1% last week - the most since the Xmas holiday week in 2016. This is actually the biggest drop for this time of year in at least 10 years.The drop was led by a 15.2% plunge in refinance applications, with new purchase applications also down 3.3%.Mortgage rates are up a mere 10bps - and remain near 3-year lows - but still the marginal mortgage applicant has backed away dramatically...But that move has killed the entire refinance boom... All of which should make housing market enthusiasts more than a little worried, as if the marginal mortgage applicant is this sensitive to rates - near record lows - then what happens if we see an upturn in growth (which is apparently priced into homebuilder stocks) and rates really rise?

FHFA House Price Index: Up 0.4% in July The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has released its U.S. House Price Index (HPI) for May. Here is the opening of the report:  U.S. house prices rose in July, up 0.4 percent from the previous month,according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI). House prices5.0 percent from July 2018 to July 2019.The previously reported 0.2 percent increase for June 2019 remains unchanged. [Read moreThe chart below illustrates the monthly HPI series, which is not adjusted for inflation, along with a real (inflation-adjusted) series using the Consumer Price Index: All Items Less Shelter.  In the chart above we see that the nominal HPI index has exceeded its pre-recession peak of what's generally regarded to have been a housing bubble. Adjusted for inflation, the index is now at 156.1.  The next chart shows the growth of the nominal and real index since the turn of the century.

Case-Shiller: National House Price Index increased 3.2% year-over-year in July - S&P/Case-Shiller released the monthly Home Price Indices for July ("July" is a 3 month average of May, June and July prices). This release includes prices for 20 individual cities, two composite indices (for 10 cities and 20 cities) and the monthly National index. From S&P: Charlotte Joins Top Three Cities in Annual Gains According to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index, covering all nine U.S. census divisions, reported a 3.2% annual gain in July, remaining the same from the previous month. The 10 City Composite annual increase came in at 1.6%, down from 1.9% in the previous month. The 20-City Composite posted a 2.0% year-over-year gain, down from 2.2% in the previous month. Phoenix, Las Vegas and Charlotte reported the highest year-over-year gains among the 20 cities. In July, Phoenix led the way with a 5.8% year-over-year price increase, followed by Las Vegas with a 4.7% increase, and Charlotte with a 4.6% increase. Seven of the 20 cities reported greater price increases in the year ending July 2019 versus the year ending June 2019.... Before seasonal adjustment, the National Index posted a month-over-month increase of 0.4% in July. The 10-City Composite remained flat and the 20-City Composite reported a 0.1% increase for the month. After seasonal adjustment, the National Index recorded a 0.1% month-over-month increase in July. The 10-City Composite posted a 0.1% decrease and the 20-City Composite did not report any gains. In July, 15 of 20 cities reported increases both before and after seasonal adjustment. “Year-over-year home prices continued to gain, but at ever more modest rates,”  “Charlotte surpassed Tampa to join the top three cities, and Seattle may be turning around from its recent negative streak of YOY price changes, improving from -1.3% in June to -0.06% in July. “Overall, leadership remains in the southwest (Phoenix and Las Vegas) and southeast (Charlotte and Tampa). Other pockets of relative strength include Minneapolis, which increased its YOY gain to 4.2%, and Detroit, which is closely behind at 4.1% YOY. The 10-City and 20-City Composites both experienced lower YOY price gains than last month, declining to 1.6% and 2.0% respectively. However, the U.S. National Home Price NSA Index remained steady with a YOY price gain of 3.2%, the same as prior month. Home price gains remained positive in low single digits in most cities, and other fundamentals indicate renewed housing demand. The first graph shows the nominal seasonally adjusted Composite 10, Composite 20 and National indices (the Composite 20 was started in January 2000).The Composite 10 index is up 0.9% from the bubble peak, and down 0.1% in July (SA) from June.The Composite 20 index is 4.6% above the bubble peak, and up slightly (SA) in July. The National index is 13.5% above the bubble peak (SA), and up 0.1% (SA) in July.  The National index is up 53.4% from the post-bubble low set in December 2011 (SA).

S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index: Inflation-Adjusted Indexes Down MoM -- With today's release of the July S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, we learned that seasonally adjusted home prices for the benchmark 20-city index were up 0.02% month over month which is cut to -0.2% with inflation adjustment. The seasonally adjusted national index year-over-year change has hovered between 4.2% and 6.7% for the last two-plus years. Today's S&P/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index (nominal) reached another new high. The adjacent column chart illustrates the month-over-month change in the seasonally adjusted 20-city index, which tends to be the most closely watched of the Case-Shiller series. It was up 0.02% from the previous month. The nonseasonally adjusted index was up 2.1% year-over-year. Here is an excerpt from the analysis in today's Standard & Poor's press release.“Year-over-year home prices continued to gain, but at ever more modest rates,” says Philip Murphy, Managing Director and Global Head of Index Governance at S&P Dow Jones Indices. Charlotte surpassed Tampa to join the top three cities, and Seattle may be turning around from its recent negative streak of YOY price changes, improving from -1.3% in June to -0.06% in July.“Overall, leadership remains in the southwest (Phoenix and Las Vegas) and southeast (Charlotte and Tampa). Other pockets of relative strength include Minneapolis, which increased its YOY gain to 4.2%, and Detroit, which is closely behind at 4.1% YOY. The 10-City and 20-City Composites both experienced lower YOY price gains than last month, declining to 1.6% and 2.0% respectively. However, the U.S. National Home Price NSA Index remained steady with a YOY price gain of 3.2%, the same as prior month. Home price gains remained positive in low single digits in most cities, and other fundamentals indicate renewed housing demand. According to the National Association of Realtors, the YOY change in existing home sales was positive in July for the first time in a number of months, and housing supply tightened since peaking in June.” [Link to source]  The chart below is an overlay of the Case-Shiller 10- and 20-City Composite Indexes along with the national index since 1987, the first year that the 10-City Composite was tracked. Note that the 20-City, which is probably the most closely watched of the three, dates from 2000. We've used the seasonally adjusted data for this illustration.

US Major City Home Price Growth Slumps To Weakest In 7 Years - S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller's 20-City Composite price index rose just 2.00% YoY in July - the weakest growth since August 2012. The MoM rise of just 0.02% notably missed expectations of a 0.1% rise and the drop from a revised 2.16% YoY was also a sizable acceleration in the decline. Nationally, home-price gains remained steady, rising at a 3.2% pace. “Year-over-year home prices continued to gain, but at ever more modest rates,” Philip Murphy, global head of index governance at S&P Dow Jones, said in a statement. “Gains remained positive in low-single digits in most cities, and other fundamentals indicate renewed housing demand.” With a six-month lag, there is hope though that the collapse in mortgage rates may help home prices rebound once again... All 20 cities in the index showed year-over-year gains except for Seattle, where prices were down 0.6% from a year earlier. Phoenix, Las Vegas and Charlotte reported the best annual gains among the 20 cities, led by a 5.8% gain in Phoenix.

Zillow Case-Shiller Forecast: Slower YoY Price Gains in August compared to July -- The Case-Shiller house price indexes for July were released yesterday. Zillow forecasts Case-Shiller a month early, and I like to check the Zillow forecasts since they have been pretty close. From Matthew Speakman at Zillow: July Case-Shiller Results and August Forecast: Summer Turning Point? Annual home price growth continued to cool in July, but more-recent data suggest the market may have begun to turn over the summer, showing modest acceleration in growth compared to earlier in the year.…The latest home sales and building data offer further proof that the recent bout of housing malaise may be nearing an end. August  existing home sales, starts and permits all easily exceeded industry expectations and posted some of their strongest readings in years. This strength, teamed with steady home builder sentiment, growing home construction employment and still-low mortgage rates, show the housing market still has plenty of fight as summer turns to fall. The Zillow forecast is for the year-over-year change for the Case-Shiller National index to be at 3.2% in August, unchanged from 3.2% in July. The Zillow forecast is for the 20-City index to decline to 1.8% YoY in August from 2.0% in July, and for the 10-City index to decline to 1.3% YoY compared to 1.6% YoY in July. This graph shows the year-over-year change in the 3-month moving average for the Chemical Activity Barometer compared to Industrial Production.  It does appear that CAB (red) generally leads Industrial Production (blue).

NAHB: "55+ Housing Market Remains Solid in Second Quarter" - This was released last month. This index is similar to the overall NAHB housing market index (HMI), but only released quarterly. The NAHB started this index in Q4 2008 (during the housing bust), so the readings were initially very low.  From the NAHB: 55+ Housing Market Remains Solid in Second Quarter Builder confidence in the single-family 55+ housing market remained solid in the second quarter with a reading of 71, edging down one point from the previous quarter due to softness in traffic of prospective buyers, according to the National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) 55+ Housing Market Index (HMI) released today. ... “Although the single-family HMI fell slightly, builder sentiment still remains strong for this segment of the market,” said Karen Schroeder, chair of NAHB's 55+ Housing Industry Council and vice president of Mayberry Homes in East Lansing, Mich. “In fact, the reading of 71 is just one point off from the all-time high of 72 from the previous quarter. We expect the 55+ housing market to continue on a positive path moving forward.” For the three index components of the 55+ single-family HMI, present sales remained even at 76, expected sales for the next six months increased one point to 78 and traffic of prospective buyers fell five points to 56.

"This Is The Most Alarming Trend In The Market": 1 In 4 Luxury NYC Apartments Remain Unsold Over The Past 5 Years -  Across the US, but especially in coastal cities like New York and San Francisco, the ultraluxury property market increasingly looks like a buyers' market. Ever since the market for condos peaked three years ago, it has been rapidly cooling off across the most popular urban markets. We've been documenting this trend for a few years now, and according to a new report by the website StreetEasy that was cited by the New York Times this week, there are now more than 16,200 condo units across 682 new buildings completed in New York City that have appeared since 2013, and 25% remain unsold, roughly 4,050, most of them in luxury buildings. The biggest difference between the the last recession and the conditions in today's market are that projects aren't stalling out today, perhaps due to the overabundance of cheap credit that has made virtually every unprofitable company into a "corporate zombie" which can continue existing largely thanks to record low interest rates. "I think we’re being really conservative," said Grant Long, StreetEasy's senior economist, noting that the study looked specifically at ground-up new construction that has begun to close contracts. Sales in buildings converted to condos, a relatively small segment, were not counted, because they are harder to reliably track. And there are thousands more units in under-construction buildings that have not begun closings but suffer from the same market dynamics." Projects have not stalled as they did in the post-recession market of 2008, and new buildings are still on the rise, but there are signs that some developers are nearing a turning point. Already the prices at several new towers have been reduced, either directly or through concessions like waived common charges and transfer taxes, and some may soon be forced to cut deeper. Tactics from past cycles could also be making a comeback: bulk sales of unsold units to investors, condos converting to rentals en masse, and multimillion-dollar “rent-to-own” options for sprawling apartments — a four-bedroom, yours for just $22,500 a month.

Home Flippers See Profits Shrink In Latest Sign Housing Boom Is Coming To An End - The US housing market is in the middle of modest rebound, but speculators might have played a bigger role in this comeback than many might imagine. According to ATTOM Data Solutions' report on home flipping during the second quarter, some 59,876 single family homes were flipped during the quarter, up 12.4% from Q1 2019, but down 5.2% from a year ago. Meanwhile, profits for home-flippers shrank but just a sliver when compared with the same period from a year ago, as well as the prior quarter. The homes flipped during Q2 represented 5.9% of total homes sold in the US during the quarter, down from a post-recession high of 7.2% from Q1. Those homes generated gross profits of $62,700, up 2% from Q1, but down 2% from a year ago. The typical gross flipping profit of $62,700 in Q2 2019 amounted to a return on investment of 39.9%, compared with the original purchase price. That's down from a 40.9% gross flipping ROI in Q1 2019, and down from a margin of 44.4% in Q2 2018. As the housing market has peaked, profitability has fallen six quarters in a row, as well as during eight of the last ten quarters. One housing-market analyst quoted in ATTOM's report explained how falling profits for home-flippers reflects a softening US housing market."Home flipping keeps getting less and less profitable, which is another marker that the post-recession housing boom is softening or may be coming to an end," said Todd Teta, chief product officer at ATTOM Data Solutions. "Flipping houses is still a good business to be in and profits are healthy in most parts of the country. But push-and-pull forces in the housing market appear to be working less and less in investors’ favor. That’s leading to declining profits and a business that is nowhere near as good as it was a few years ago."Despite the pullback in profits, more flippers are trying their hand at the investment strategy. Out of the 149 Metropolitan Statistical Areas analyzed by ATTOM, 104 (about 70%) saw a YoY increase in the rate of home flipping. Some areas reached new peaks during the quarter, including Charlotte, San Antonio, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City and Raleigh.

New Home Sales increased to 713,000 Annual Rate in August --The Census Bureau reports New Home Sales in August were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 713 thousand.  The previous three months were revised up combined.  June was again revised up to a new cycle high. "Sales of new single‐family houses in August 2019 were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 713,000, according to estimates released jointly today by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is 7.1 percent above the revised July rate of 666,000 and is 18.0 percent above the August 2018 estimate of 604,000. " The first graph shows New Home Sales vs. recessions since 1963. The dashed line is the current sales rate.Even with the increase in sales over the last several years, new home sales are still somewhat low historically. The second graph shows New Home Months of Supply. The months of supply decreased in August to 5.5 months from 5.9 months in July. The all time record was 12.1 months of supply in January 2009. This is in the normal range (less than 6 months supply is normal). "The seasonally‐adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of August was 326,000. This represents a supply of 5.5 months at the current sales rate." Starting in 1973 the Census Bureau broke inventory down into three categories: Not Started, Under Construction, and Completed. The third graph shows the three categories of inventory starting in 1973. The inventory of completed homes for sale is still somewhat low, and the combined total of completed and under construction is close to normal.The last graph shows sales NSA (monthly sales, not seasonally adjusted annual rate). In August 2019 (red column), 57 thousand new homes were sold (NSA). Last year, 47 thousand homes were sold in August.

August new home sales continue rebounding trend --Let me start out my look at this morning’s August new home sales report with my typical housing mantra:

  • Interest rates lead sales
  • Sales lead prices
  • Prices lead inventory

We saw all of that in this morning’s report. First, the trend of rising single family sales continues, and the three month average of this very volatile series (blue), shown in comparison with single family housing permits  was the highest since late 2007: Note, by the way, that new single family home sales have a tendency to lead every other metric, including permits - but they are much more volatile and heavily revised.Next, the median new home price (red) turned positive YoY, for only the second time since the slump that began last year, vs. the YoY change in sales (blue) which has been positive YoY for most of this year: Finally, here is the long term view of new home sales vs. new homes for sale, I.e., inventory (gold):  It’s easy to see that inventory only turns after sales do.   Now, here is the close up look of the past 5 years. Inventory turned down earlier this year, and at the moment is stable at that lower level. Note that I do not make use of “month’s supply” of inventory in my analysis, because it is clear that it turns up or down only as a result of sales turning up or down.In sum, August new home sales confirms that lower mortgage rates have caused sales to increase, prices appear to be beginning to follow, and inventory remains slightly reduced. As per my “housing choke collar” thesis, any quick continued increase in prices is likely to feed into a slowdown in sales.

A few Comments on August New Home Sales -- New home sales for August were reported at 713,000 on a seasonally adjusted annual rate basis (SAAR). Sales for the previous three months were revised up, combined. Sales for June were revised up to a new cycle high. Annual sales in 2019 should be the best year for new home sales since 2007. Earlier: New Home Sales increased to 713,000 Annual Rate in August.  This graph shows new home sales for 2018 and 2019 by month (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate). Sales in August were up 18.0% year-over-year compared to August 2018. Year-to-date (through August), sales are up 6.4% compared to the same period in 2018. The comparisons for the next four months are easy, so sales should be solidly higher in 2019 than in 2018. And here is another update to the "distressing gap" graph that I first started posting a number of years ago to show the emerging gap caused by distressed sales.The "distressing gap" graph shows existing home sales (left axis) and new home sales (right axis) through August 2019. This graph starts in 1994, but the relationship had been fairly steady back to the '60s. Following the housing bubble and bust, the "distressing gap" appeared mostly because of distressed sales. Even though distressed sales are down significantly, following the bust, new home builders focused on more expensive homes - so the gap has only closed slowly. I still expect this gap to close. However, this assumes that the builders will offer some smaller, less expensive homes. Another way to look at this is a ratio of existing to new home sales. This ratio was fairly stable from 1994 through 2006, and then the flood of distressed sales kept the number of existing home sales elevated and depressed new home sales. (Note: This ratio was fairly stable back to the early '70s, but I only have annual data for the earlier years).

NAR: "Pending Home Sales Grow 1.6% in August" - From the NAR: Pending Home Sales Grow 1.6% in August: Pending home sales increased in August, a welcome rebound after a prior month of declines, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Each of the four major regions reported both month-over-month growth and year-over-year gains in contract activity. The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI), a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, climbed 1.6% to 107.3 in August, reversing the prior month’s decrease. Year-over-year contract signings jumped 2.5%. An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity. ...All regional indices are up from July, with the highest gain in the West region. The PHSI in the Northeast rose 1.4% to 94.3 in August and is now 0.7% higher than a year ago. In the Midwest, the index increased 0.6% to 101.7 in August, 0.2% higher than August 2018. Pending home sales in the South increased 1.4% to an index of 124.4 in August, a 1.8% bump from last August. The index in the West grew 3.1% in August 2019 to 96.4, an increase of 8.0% from a year ago. This was above expectations of a 0.6% increase for this index. Note: Contract signings usually lead sales by about 45 to 60 days, so this would usually be for closed sales in September and October.

 Artificial intelligence can improve sales by four times compared to some human employees - Chatbots, which use artificial intelligence to simulate human conversation through voice commands or text chats, incur almost zero marginal costs and can outsell some human employees by four times, so why aren't they used more often? According to new research, the main contributor is customer pushback.Service industry outlets like American Eagle Outfitters and Domino's Pizza use chatbots, as well asonline services like Amazon and eBay. The machines don't have "bad days" and never get frustrated or tired like humans, and they can save money for consumers, but new research in the INFORMS journal Marketing Science says if customers know about the chatbot before purchasing, sales rates decline by more than 79.7%.The study authors, Xueming Luo and Siliang Tong (both of Temple University), Zheng Fang of Sichuan University, and Zhe Qu of Fudan University, targeted 6,000 customers from a financial services company. They were randomly assigned to either humans or chatbots, and disclosure of the bots varied from not telling the consumer at all, to telling them at the beginning of the conversation or after the conversation, or telling them after they'd purchased something. "Our findings show when people don't know about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots they are four times more effective at selling products than inexperienced workers, but when customers know the conversational partner is not a human, they are curt and purchase less because they think the bot is less knowledgeable and less empathetic," said Luo, a professor and Charles Gilliland Distinguished Chair at Temple University.

US consumer spending rises just 0.1% in August - — American consumers boosted their spending by just 0.1% in August, the smallest gain in six months, even as their incomes rose at a solid pace. Personal income increased 0.4%, up from a small gain in the previous month, the Commerce Department said Friday. A measure of inflation preferred by the Federal Reserve was flat, but excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices ticked up 0.1%. Consumers are a key driver of the economy as businesses have cut their investment spending and exports have slipped. August’s modest gain suggests the economy may slow in the July-September quarter compared with the beginning of the year. Consumer confidence is at historically high levels, but the Conference Board said this week that it slipped this month, in a sign that the U.S.-China trade war is raising economic uncertainties. The small increase in consumer spending was below most economists’ forecasts, and spending in July was revised slightly lower. In addition, a separate Commerce Department report showed that orders for long-lasting manufactured goods , such as autos and appliances, rose just 0.2% in August. And a key category that measures business investment fell, a sign that companies remain reluctant to invest in new equipment or to expand. Most economists say the reluctance stems from the uncertainty surrounding the trade war. President Donald Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on about $160 billion of consumer goods imports from China Dec. 15, though talks about the dispute are scheduled for next month. The disappointing data on consumer spending and business investment led many economists to slash their estimates for growth in the July-September quarter. Oxford Economics cut its forecast from an annual rate of 1.8% growth to just 1.3%. Economists at Morgan Stanley lowered theirs to 1.5% from 2.1%.

Personal Income increased 0.4% in August, Spending increased 0.1% -The BEA released the Personal Income and Outlays report for August:Personal income increased $73.5 billion (0.4 percent) in August according to estimates released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Disposable personal income (DPI) increased $77.7 billion (0.5 percent) and personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $20.1 billion (0.1 percent).Real DPI increased 0.4 percent in August and Real PCE increased 0.1 percent. The PCE price index increased less than 0.1 percent. Excluding food and energy, the PCE price index increased 0.1 percent. The August PCE price index increased 1.4 percent year-over-year and the August PCE price index, excluding food and energy, increased 1.8 percent year-over-year. The following graph shows real Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) through August 2019 (2012 dollars). Note that the y-axis doesn't start at zero to better show the change. The dashed red lines are the quarterly levels for real PCE.The increase in personal income was at expectations,  and the increase in PCE was below expectations.Note that core PCE inflation was up 1.8% YoY. Using the two-month method to estimate Q2 PCE growth, PCE was increasing at a 2.8% annual rate in Q3 2019. (using the mid-month method, PCE was increasing at 2.3%). This suggests slower PCE growth in Q3 than in Q2.

Real Disposable Income Per Capita in August -  With the release of this morning's report on August Personal Incomes and Outlays, we can now take a closer look at "Real" Disposable Personal Income Per Capita. At two decimal places, the nominal 0.41% month-over-month change in disposable income was trimmed to 0.38% when we adjust for inflation. This is up from last month's 0.20% nominal and up from the -0.04% real increase last month. The year-over-year metrics are 3.86% nominal and 2.38% real. Post-recession, the trend was one of steady growth, but generally flattened out in late 2015. Disposable income began a faster increase in 2012 and 2013 that continues. The first chart shows both the nominal per capita disposable income and the real (inflation-adjusted) equivalent since 2000. This indicator was significantly disrupted by the bizarre but predictable oscillation caused by 2012 year-end tax strategies in expectation of tax hikes in 2013. It will be interesting to see how the recent tax legislation affects the trend over time.  The BEA uses the average dollar value in 2012 for inflation adjustment. But the 2012 peg is arbitrary and unintuitive. For a more natural comparison, let's compare the nominal and real growth in per-capita disposable income since 2000. Nominal disposable income is up 96.3% since then. But the real purchasing power of those dollars is up only 38.1%.

Infuriating Report Reveals DMVs Across The US Are Selling Your Personal Info & Making Millions - Anyone who has ever had to stand in a long line to pay the state for the privilege of renewing your driver’s license knows how infuriating that experience can be. The bureaucratic high-horse mentality of many of the DMV workers is so brazen and overt that DMVs have earned a notoriously horrid reputation in every state. But more infuriating than long lines and power-tripping bureaucrats, however, it the fact that according to a new report, these power-tripping bureaucrats are selling your data to private entities. And they are making millions doing it.According to a scathing report from Motherboard, government-run motor vehicle departments across the country are taking your personal information—entrusted solely to them by you—and selling it to the highest bidder. These sales are netting DMVs across the county millions in profits.Ever wonder where all these spam calls for credit cards and vehicle warranties come from? Well now you have likely found the culprit, and it’s the government. While it is understood that DMVs can sell information for legitimate purposes to insurance companies, many of these sales were to nefarious entities, according to the report. When most people go to the DMV, they most likely think that their information is safe. However, according to the report, which was comprised of multiple public records requests, after you give your personal information to the DMV, they turn around and sell it to almost anyone who asks.This extremely personal information is easily obtained by private investigators, credit agencies, and data leeching companies like LexisNexis. According to its website, LexisNexis sells dozens of various reports to anyone who wants it, all of which contain information on you. “You need to learn what they’ve been doing, when they’ve been doing it, who they’ve been doing it with and how long it has been going on. You need to see proof with your own eyes,” says the website of Integrity Investigations, one private investigator company that purchases data from DMVs.

The Private Surveillance System That Tracks Cars Nationwide – Motherboard  - It’s not just the NSA with all of the surveillance power in America, there's a booming corporate-owned surveillance industry used by private investigators. In just a few taps and clicks, a secret surveillance infrastructure created by a private company can show any user on its interface where a car has been seen throughout the U.S.With an private investigator industry source, Joseph Cox showed how a powerful system called the ‘Digital Recognition Network’ (DRN) and made by an American company of the same name, is used by repossession agents, private investigators, and insurance companies to track cars in the U.S.Armed with just a car's license plate number, the tool—fed by a network of private cameras spread across the country, snapping photos of vehicles and plate numbers—provides users a list of all the times that car has been spotted all on an easily usable Google-Maps style interface. On this week’s CYBER we sit down with Joseph to discuss how it’s not just the NSA with all of the surveillance power in America, companies like DRN are yet another example of the booming private-spy infrastructure spreading across the country.

Private Companies Gathering Plate Data Are Selling Access To People’s Movements For $20 A Search -- License plate readers are everywhere. Their existence is predicated on the assumption that traveling on public roads strips drivers of their privacy. To a certain extent this is true. But automation allows government agencies to reconstruct peoples' lives and movements by simply typing in a plate number and accessing the billions of image/location data records stored by ALPR manufacturers like Vigilant.  But it's not just a government thing. The new market for plate readers is residential neighborhoods, with purchases being made by home owners associations and others who feel they have a right to know who's traveling in and out of "their" neighborhoods. Prior to this, though, ALPRs were already being utilized extensively by private entities. Insurance companies and repossession firms have been using plate readers for years, using them to track down vehicles after missed payments or those suspected of insurance fraud. Unlike the databases compiled by law enforcement agencies, these private databases can be accessed by nearly anyone for any reason. That's exactly what Motherboard did. It found someone willing to offer up their license plate as a lab rat to see how much data was being harvested by a repo company's plate readers and ran a search.Armed with just a car's plate number, the tool—fed by a network of private cameras spread across the country—provides users a list of all the times that car has been spotted. I gave the private investigator, who offered to demonstrate the capability, a plate of someone who consented to be tracked.It was a match.The results popped up: dozens of sightings, spanning years. The system could see photos of the car parked outside the owner's house; the car in another state as its driver went to visit family; and the car parked in other spots in the owner's city. Each was tagged with the time and GPS coordinates of the car. Some showed the car's location as recently as a few weeks before. In addition to photos of the vehicle itself, the tool displayed the car's accurate location on an easy to understand, Google Maps-style interface.  Unlike government databases, there are no rules protecting citizens from misuse or limiting long-term storage of plate photos. All that's preventing abuse is the limited language of each company's terms of service -- something these companies don't seem to spend too much time enforcing. Digital Recognition Network's (DRN) offering is "crowdsourced" from thousands of cameras mounted on hundreds of repo men's vehicles. It's a persistent, long-term database of vehicle movements controlled by a single company -- one that law enforcement also has access to, as if government agencies needed any more access to plate data.

Defiant Facebook Buys Startup Focused On 'Controlling Computers With Your Mind' -- Last week, Mark Zuckerberg visited Capitol Hill to try and 'win friends' in Congress. It was his first big trip back to Washington since the contentious House and Senate hearings last year, where the Facebook chief was accused of sometimes treating lawmakers with disdain (who can forget 'senator, we run adds'?).The timing of his trip is starting to make more sense. Thanks to a flurry of federal and state investigations, for the first time in its existence, Facebook is facing the very real risk of being broken up. Several lawmakers have asked whether breaking Facebook into Instagram, Whatsapp and Facebook wouldn't be better for consumers. Facebook agrees that something should be done to regulate social media and other Internet companies, but it doesn't think the bipartisan anti-trust movement that formed in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal is the right path.But given all of the scrutiny surrounding the company and its acquisition, Facebook has reportedly agreed to buy CTRL-Labs, a tech startup working on software to let people control a digital avatar using only their thoughts, for somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion, Bloomberg reports.The closely held four-year-old startup has dozens of employees and has raised tens of millions in venture capital. Its only product right now is a bracelet that measures neuron activity to try and determine a movement that a person might be thinking about, even if they aren't physically moving. The 'neuron activity' is then displayed on a screen.

 Big Tech ‘Nudges’ Our Behavior for Its Own Greed: Here’s a 4-Step Social Media Self-Defense Class Human nature—how we exist, how we live our lives—is at risk. That’s the premise of Shoshana Zuboff’s book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.Zuboff believes the tech giants have created a new form of capitalism. The surveillance capitalist “wants your bloodstream and your bed, your breakfast conversation, your commute, your run, your refrigerator, your parking space, your living room.”In the old propaganda system, media audiences were not the consumers but the products, sold to the real consumers, the advertisers. In surveillance capitalism, you are neither the consumer nor the product, simply raw material. The tech giants don’t need your consumption, or even your attention: they make their money by selling products that predict your behavior based on the trails of data that you throw off as you go about your daily business online (and, increasingly—with ubiquitous surveillance devices in the environment—offline as well).And once your behavior can be predicted, it can be changed. You are being hacked, Zuboff says, as the surveillance capitalists “nudge, tune, herd, manipulate, and modify behavior in specific directions by executing actions as subtle as inserting a specific phrase into your Facebook news feed, timing the appearance of a BUY button on your phone, or shutting down your car engine when an insurance payment is late.” Each new nudge-able behavior becomes a free asset for the taking, as opportunities are found to make money by controlling you. For example, insurance companies offer discounted premiums if you install a surveillance device in your car to monitor your good driving behavior. Once it’s in there, in Zuboff’s words, “the insurance company can set specific parameters for driving behavior. These can include anything from fastening the seat belt to rate of speed, idling times, braking and cornering, aggressive acceleration, harsh braking, excessive hours on the road, driving out of state, and entering a restricted area.” Amazon’s employees, called “athletes,”wear monitored devices to push them to higher levels of productivity. We fear being replaced by robots: surveillance capitalists make us into the robots.

WaPo No Longer Discloses Its Owner’s Uber Investment FAIR - A new California law threatens to upend Uber, but the Washington Post claimed the law doesn’t apply to the ride-hailing giant. This is convenient, since Post owner Jeff Bezos is not only a major Uber investor, but also founder and CEO of Amazon, which is likely to also be negatively impacted by the new law.The recently passed legislation requires companies to classify workers as employees if their work is central to the business. Throughout its decade of lawbreaking and staggering growth, Uber has classified its drivers as independent contractors, not employees. This has allowed the ride-hailing giant to avoid providing benefits and job protections, creating huge savings for Uber and financial hardship for many drivers.   The same language that the Washington Post print edition presented as legal fact appeared in an online version of the story (9/11/19) as Uber’s lawyer’s opinion. Despite California legislators’ clear intent that the new law applies to ride-hailing companies, the Post says it doesn’t. In a recent news story, Post reporter Faiz Siddiqui offered this questionable legal opinion as fact: The law compels companies to prove that contractors are performing work that is outside the core function of the business. Uber can meet that standard because it’s a technology platform for several types of marketplaces, though legal challenges are likely. That’s what appeared in the print version of the Post. The online version of the story (9/11/19) offers a similar legal opinion, only now attributed to Uber general counsel Tony West (who declared that Uber would defy California’s law): The law, [West] said, compels companies to prove that contractors are performing work that is outside the core function of the business. Uber, he said, can meet that standard because it’s a technology platform for several types of marketplaces, though he expects legal challenges going forward.

 Wisconsin couple describe the chilling moment that a hacker cranked up their heat and started talking to them through a Google Nest camera in their kitchen -- A Wisconsin couple said a hacker accessed their smart-home devices and terrorized them over a 24-hour period by cranking up their heat and talking to them through a camera.Samantha Westmoreland told Fox 6 News that the episode began when she arrived home after work last week and discovered their Google Nest thermostat was set to 90 degrees."It gives me the chills just talking about it," she told Fox.  Westmoreland said she didn't suspect a hacker was involved until she and her husband heard a voice talking to them through a Nest camera in their kitchen. The hacker also played vulgar music through the camera, according to the Fox report.  "My heart was racing," Westmoreland told Fox. "I felt so violated at that point." The couple said they believed that their wireless internet system was compromised, which enabled the hacker to gain access to their smart-home devices.This isn't the first time that users of smart-home devices have reported hacks.A Northern California family said in January that they experienced "five minutes of sheer terror" after their Nest camera was hacked and warned them of a North Korea missile attack. An Illinois couple later said a hacker talked to their baby and taunted them through a Nest camera. A couple in Houston reported a similar experience last year, saying a hacker announced through their Nest camera: "I'm going to kidnap your baby. I'm in your baby's room."

"Chemical Activity Barometer Rises in September" - Note: This appears to be a leading indicator for industrial production.From the American Chemistry Council: Chemical Activity Barometer Rises in September The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), was up 0.1 percent in September on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis following a 0.1 percent decline in August and gains averaging 0.2 percent per month during the second quarter. On a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer was flat at 0.0 percent (3MMA). “Although one month does not make a trend, the positive September CAB reading and upward revisions in the data are encouraging signs,” said Kevin Swift, chief economist at ACC. “The barometer indicates gains in U.S. commerce into the second quarter of 2020, but at a slow pace.”... Applying the CAB back to 1912, it has been shown to provide a lead of two to fourteen months, with an average lead of eight months at cycle peaks as determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The median lead was also eight months. At business cycle troughs, the CAB leads by one to seven months, with an average lead of four months. The median lead was three months. The CAB is rebased to the average lead (in months) of an average 100 in the base year (the year 2012 was used) of a reference time series. The latter is the Federal Reserve’s Industrial Production Index.\

Headline Durable Goods Orders Up 0.2% in August -The Advance Report on Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories, and Orders released today gives us a first look at the latest durable goods numbers. Here is the Bureau's summary on new orders:New orders for manufactured durable goods in August increased $0.5 billion or 0.2 percent to $250.7 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau announced today. This increase, up three consecutive months, followed a 2.0 percent July increase. Excluding transportation, new orders increased 0.5 percent. Excluding defense, new orders decreased 0.6 percent. Fabricated metal products, up four of the last five months, led the increase, $0.4 billion or 1.3 percent to $34.4 billion.Download full PDFThe latest new orders number at 0.2% month-over-month (MoM) was better than the -1.1% estimate. The series is down 3.0% year-over-year (YoY).If we exclude transportation, "core" durable goods was up 0.5% MoM, which was better than the Investing.comconsensus of 0.2%. The core measure is up 0.2% YoY.If we exclude both transportation and defense for an even more fundamental "core", the latest number is down 0.6% MoM and up 1.7% YoY.Core Capital Goods New Orders (nondefense capital goods used in the production of goods or services, excluding aircraft) is an important gauge of business spending, often referred to as Core Capex. It is down 0.2% MoM and down 0.3% YoY. For a look at the big picture and an understanding of the relative size of the major components, here is an area chart of Durable Goods New Orders minus Transportation and Defense with those two components stacked on top. We've also included a dotted line to show the relative size of Core Capex.

US durable goods orders - August 2019: US core capital goods orders unexpectedly fall in August - New orders for key U.S.-made capital goods unexpectedly fell in August and shipments rebounded moderately, pointing to continued weakness in business investment after it declined at its steepest pace in 3-1/2 years in the second quarter. The Commerce Department said on Friday orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, dropped 0.2% last month amid weak demand for electrical equipment, appliances and components, and computers and electronic products. Data for July was revised down to show these so-called core capital goods orders unchanged instead of gaining 0.2% as previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast core capital goods orders unchanged in August. Core capital goods orders increased 1.1% on a year-on-year basis. Shipments of core capital goods rose 0.4% last month. Core capital goods shipments are used to calculate equipment spending in the government’s gross domestic product measurement. Core capital goods shipments fell by an unrevised 0.6% in July. The Trump administration’s nearly 15-month trade war with China has been blamed for the downturn in business investment. Business investment declined at a 1.0% annualized rate last quarter, the biggest drop since the fourth quarter of 2015, the government reported on Thursday. Weak business investment is underscored by manufacturing, where output has contracted for two straight quarters. Manufacturing, which accounts for about 11% of the economy, is also being undercut by weak global demand and design problems at planemaker Boeing Last month, orders for electrical equipment, appliances and components dropped 1.3%, the most since November 2018. There were also decreases in orders for computers and electronic products. But orders for machinery rebounded 0.6%. There were also gains in orders for primary metals and fabricated metal products. Overall orders for durable goods, items ranging from toasters to aircraft that are meant to last three years or more, rose 0.2% in August after surging 2.0% in the prior month. Orders for transportation equipment fell 0.4% after jumping 7.2% in July. Motor vehicles and parts orders decreased 0.8% last month. Orders for non-defense aircraft and parts tumbled 17.1%. Boeing reported on its website that it had received only six aircraft orders in August after getting 31 orders in July.

 Richmond Fed: "Manufacturing Activity Softened in September" - From the Richmond Fed: Manufacturing Activity Softened in September: Fifth District manufacturing activity softened in September, according to the most recent survey from the Richmond Fed. The composite index dropped from 1 in August to −9 in September, as both shipments and new orders fell. However, the third component, employment, rose. Firms also reported a drop in backlog of orders and weakening local business conditions but were optimistic that conditions would improve in the coming months. Survey results indicated wage growth and a slight increase in employment in the manufacturing sector in September. However, firms struggled to find workers with the necessary skills, and the indicator for the average workweek hit a nine-year-low.  This was another weak report.

Kansas City Fed: "Tenth District Manufacturing Edged Down in September" -- From the Kansas City Fed: Tenth District Manufacturing Edged Down in September:  The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City September Manufacturing Survey revealed that Tenth District manufacturing activity edged down in September, and expectations for future activity moderated but remained positive. “Regional factory activity continued to decline in September, though not as much as last month,” said Wilkerson. “Although the employment index dropped further this month, firms as a whole indicated 2019 employment expectations have increased slightly since the beginning of the year.” ... The month-over-month composite index was -2 in September, up slightly from -6 in August and similar to -1 in July. The composite index is an average of the production, new orders, employment, supplier delivery time, and raw materials inventory indexes. The dip in manufacturing activity was driven by continued declines at durable goods plants, especially from decreases in nonmetallic mineral products, primary metal, computer and electronic products, and transportation equipment manufacturing. While the month-over-month employment index dropped further in September, the production and shipments indexes rebounded considerably. Year-over-year factory indexes were somewhat mixed in September, but the composite index was unchanged at -1. The future composite index remained positive, but slowed from 9 to 5, the lowest future composite index since May 2016. Another weak regional manufacturing report.

US Services PMI Bounce Disappoints As Employment Contracts Most Since 2009 --Despite Europe's abysmal PMI prints, US survey data was expected to rebound modestly in September as US macro data has dramatically surprised to the upside so far...August saw US Services catch US Manufacturing's cold (finally), and preliminary September data confirmed this rise - albeit with a disappointing bounce in Services.

  • U.S. Sept. Flash Manufacturing PMI Beat, printing 51.0 (Est 50.3)
  • U.S. Sept. Services Flash PMI Missed, printing 50.9 (Est. 51.4)

Still very small recovery compared to US macro... Commenting on the flash PMI data, Chris Williamson, Chief Business Economist at IHS Markit, said: “The survey indicates that businesses continue to struggle against the headwinds of trade worries and elevated uncertainty about the outlook. Although picking up slightly, the overall rate of growth in September remained among the weakest since 2016, commensurate with GDP rising in the third quarter at a subdued annualized rate of approximately 1.5%. Prospects also look gloomy, with inflows of new business down to the lowest since 2009 and firms’ expectations of growth over the coming year stuck at one of the most subdued levels since 2012. “Jobs are now also being cut across the surveyed companies for the first time since January 2010, as firms have become more risk averse and increasingly eager to cut costs. At current levels, the survey employment index is indicative of non-farm payroll growth falling below 100,000. “Price pressures have meanwhile also eased, with both input costs and average selling prices for goods and services dropping again in September, painting a picture of the weakest corporate inflationary pressures for a decade. “Key to the recent deterioration has been a further spill-over of the trade-led slowdown in manufacturing to the service sector. Inflows of new service sector business almost stalled in September to register the smallest rise since the survey began in 2009. A ray of light comes from manufacturing reporting some easing of headwinds, though factory conditions likewise remained among the toughest since 2009 to underscore the broad-based nature of the current lassitude.” Finally, we note that Services Employment fell to 49.1 in September, the lowest since December 2009, from 50.4 the prior month. This should not come as a huge surprise as we warned the cyclical top in employment had already hit. Still could be worse, could be Europe...

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims increased to 213,000 -- The DOL reported: In the week ending September 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 213,000, an increase of 3,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 2,000 from 208,000 to 210,000. The 4-week moving average was 212,000, a decrease of 750 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 500 from 212,250 to 212,750.   The previous week was revised up. The following graph shows the 4-week moving average of weekly claims since 1971.

More than eight million workers will be left behind by the Trump overtime rule: Workers would receive $1.4 billion less than under the 2016 rule --Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced its final overtime rule, which will set the salary threshold under which salaried workers are automatically entitled to overtime pay to $35,568 a year. The rule leaves behind millions of workers who would have received overtime protections under the much stronger rule, published in 2016, that Trump administration chose to abandon.  For quick details on the history of this rulemaking, see this statement. The two tables below show just how many workers this administration is turning its back on with this rule, and how much money workers will lose. Using the same methodology used by the Department of Labor in their estimates of the economic impact of the rule, I estimate that 8.2 million workers who would have benefited from the 2016 rule will be left behind by the Trump administration’s rule, including 3.2 million workers who would have gotten new overtime protections under the 2016 rule and 5.0 million who would have gotten strengthened overtime protections under the 2016 rule. As the table shows, this administration is turning its back on 4.2 million women, 2.7 million parents of children under the age of 18, 2.9 million people of color, and 4.6 million workers without a college degree.

Ending Temp Workers Is at Center of Auto Workers Strike - Yves here. This Real News Network segment focuses on the temp worker scam, and how it serves to undermine unions. But it is a much more pervasive practice. My ex-sister-in-law worked, ironically, for GM as a temp for seven years, and was managing a small admin function for obviously way less than if she’d been an employee. In IT, hiring tech professionals via bureaus who take a skim off the top and offer pretty much no value is another scam. So it’s good to see the abuses of temp arrangements get some overdue press.

 Counting on UAW to sabotage strike, GM not budging on concession demands -Officials from the United Auto Workers have been hunkered down late into the night with General Motors executives at the company’s downtown Detroit headquarters discussing how to beat back the resistance of striking workers and push through the automaker’s demands for sweeping concessions. The nationwide strike by 48,000 GM workers, now in its ninth day, has closed the automaker’s assembly and transmission operations and replacement parts distribution to car dealerships. It has already led to slowdowns and layoffs at assembly plants and parts suppliers across the US, Canada and Mexico.  On Monday, GM told more than 1,200 workers in Canada and the US that they were being temporarily laid off. This includes 525 production workers who are members of the International Union of Electrical Workers at the DMAX engine facility in the Dayton suburb of Moraine, Ohio. The factory is a joint venture between GM and Japan-based Izuzu Diesel Services, which produces diesel engines for GM’s highly profitable Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks.Seven hundred layoffs also hit GM’s St. Catharines, Ontario, powertrain plant, following the layoff of an estimated 4,500 workers in Canada Friday at GM’s Oshawa Assembly plants and various suppliers. Industry analysts say the vast majority of GM’s North American supplier plants will have to adjust production. Citigroup, in a note to investors last week, said Canadian-based Magna, American Axle, Lear and Aptiv are suppliers that will be most affected by the strike.GM has also laid off workers at its transmission plant in Silao, Mexico. Workers at the adjacent assembly plant, have heroically defied firings and threats by GM and the company-controlled union and refused to increase production of Silverado and Sierra pickups during the strike.Although layoffs are rolling through the North American production and supply chain, the UAW has refused to call out the more than 100,000 Ford and Fiat Chrysler workers who want to join the strike. The walkout “should include Chrysler and Ford,” a GM worker wrote in a comment to the WSWS Autoworker Newsletter, “Isn't this supposed to be the united autoworkers? Whatever is settled with us, they will get as well.” “The UAW should take all 3 out on strike,” another autoworker wrote. “And if the government threatens to intervene, they should march on Washington and Wall Street. Those parasitic bean counters should get a real job. Maybe then they would have a better appreciation for a living wage in manufacturing.”

 More layoffs at parts plants as GM, UAW strategize how to defeat strike - More parts suppliers announced furloughs today as the strike at General Motors continues into its second week. Hundreds of workers have been furloughed at Nexteer Automotive in Saginaw, Michigan and at Android Industries plants that supply GM assembly plants in Bowling Green, Kentucky; Arlington, Texas and Flint, Michigan. There have been 4,600 layoffs in Canada alone due to the strike, according to the Financial Post, a demonstration of the global integration of the auto industry’s supply chains. This includes more than 2,000 workers at the Oshawa Assembly plant on Ontario, which relies on parts produced in the United States. The plant was one of five North American facilities slated for closure by GM last year. Layoffs have also occurred at GM’s transmission plant in central Mexican city of Silao. The UAW is continuing its total information blackout on the contract talks. According to the Detroit News, GM and UAW negotiators have been continuing talks “with no sense of urgency,” with negotiators ending discussions at 8 p.m. most days. The newspaper argued that the information blackout was a “good sign”—“[n]egotiating publicly would mean that one side needs to garner public support against the other,” it said. In fact, what is taking place are not “negotiations” between adversarial parties but strategy sessions between GM and its UAW agents, many of whom, including union president Gary Jones, face federal bribery and corruption charges. The focus of the discussions are over how to force through major concessions, including increased use of temps, the maintenance of the hated tier system and greater out-of-pocket health care costs. If the negotiators are not apparently in any hurry to reach a deal to end the strike, it is because they understand that any attempt to shut down the strike could backfire and spark a rebellion by autoworkers. There are reportedly deep divisions within the UAW over how to proceed, with one faction arguing that the union will not be able to send workers back before voting on a contract, as they did after the 8-hour strike at parts supplier Faurecia in June. In the meantime, they can rely on the UAW’s $250 per week strike pay to wear down workers and starve them into submission.

Wage Growth For Men About 1/4% Per Year Since 2000, Women About 1/2% Per Year  Mish - Women are slowly catching up to men in median wages but growth has been pathetic across the board.  BLS data on real wages shows women are slowly catching up to men. That's the good news.The bad news is real wages for women have only risen at slightly over 1/2 of 1 percent per year for 19.5 years.Men performed even worse. Real wages for men have risen at a pathetic rate of about 1/4 of 1 percent per year in the same period.The featured images is from a set of Interactive BLS Graphs on Fred.The anecdotes and calculations are mine.I used an Annual Rate of Return Calculator to determine the percentages.   The numbers assume you believe the BLS' questionable rates of inflation.I don't because the BLS excludes housing prices and ignores asset bubbles. The BLS also dramatically understates health care costs. I discuss health care and incorrect BLS methodology in Another Surge in CPI Medical Care Costs. . Anyone buying their own insurance will not believe the purported 4.3% rise in the past year.

Candace Owens- White Supremacy Has Minimal Impact On Black Americans - Conservative black activist Candace Owens told a congressional panel on Friday that white supremacy has a minimal impact on the black community, and that America should instead focus on black-on-black crime and the breakdown of the family. "White supremacy is indeed real, but despite the media’s obsessive coverage of it, it represents an isolated, uncoordinated and fringe occurrence within America," Owens told lawmakers during a hearing on confronting white nationalism. "If we’re going to have a hearing on white supremacy, we are assuming that the biggest victims of that are minority Americans," she added. "And presumably this hearing would be to stop that and preserve the lives of minority Americans. Which based on the hierarchy of what’s impacting minority Americans, if I had to make a list of 100 things, white nationalism would not make the list.""We don't see hearings on those bigger issues brought up... Black-on-black crime, the breakdown of family I think is the number-one thing contributing to that," she added. "White supremacy and white nationalism is not a problem that is harming Black America."  Owens' comments come on the same day as the Department of Homeland Security added violent white supremacist extremism to its list of terror threats.

Watch- Drone Airdrops Drugs To Inmates At Ohio Jail - The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office released a new video from within an Ohio jail that shows the moment when a consumer drone buzzed overhead and dropped a bag of drugs to an inmate, reported WTHR Indianapolis News. The video, caught on a closed-circuit television system of the Cuyahoga County Jail, located in Cleveland, Ohio, shows several inmates in a fenced-off courtyard playing cornhole. One inmate is seen walking around the courtyard with his head in the air, apparently lining up a drop from the drone operator. The inmate is holding a shirt like a catcher's mitt as the drone operator releases the bag from an unknown altitude. The clumsy inmate missed the drop and tripped over the cornhole set, as the bag tumbled across the courtyard. Seconds later, he recovers the bag and walks away.  Authorities told WTHR, the incident took place over the summer, and the contents in the bag included marijuana and a smartphone. Prosecutors said the case is "under review," although no criminal charges have been filed. An air space map below shows drones are prohibited from flying over the Cuyahoga County Jail, located at 1215 W 3rd St, Cleveland, Ohio. The area is clearly marked in red, indicating the drone pilot broke Federal Aviation Administration laws.

Exponential growth in weapons lethality and the possibility of civic life - In 2017, I wrote a post documenting the increasing frequency and overall lethality of mass shootings in the United States. Since then, there have been many mass shootings, although none with a death toll exceeding that of the Las Vegas massacre. I concluded that at some point, increases in these events would be incompatible with the continuation of ordinary civic life. Life in cities — and civilian life generally — involves people gathering in public spaces. At some point, continued increases in the frequency and scale of mass shootings become incompatible with ordinary civic life. I don’t have a complete explanation for this trend of increasing massacres. But one factor – there are undoubtedly many others – is the improvement of firearms technology.   A recent paper by Alexander Kott, a US Army researcher, describes the increase in the lethality of military technology since 1300 CE. Military technology is relevant because civilian arms derive from military weapons. Here is the key graph. The vertical axis is hard to explain, so please bear with me. It is the logarithm of the ‘Figure of Regularity’ (FoR). Ignore the log scale for a moment and forgive the author the awkward name. What Kott wants to do is to develop a single metric that will allow him to compare the effectiveness of diverse weapon systems for land warfare. The FoR is empirically-derived. However, Kott suggests that for infantry weapons, FoR is proportional to the kinetic energy (KE) of the projectiles that a weapons system fires per second per unit of mass of the overall system. So, think of the vertical-axis units as KE * rounds/second/kg. KE is one-half the projectile mass times the velocity squared. An AR-15 fires a 4-gram bullet at 990 m/s, for a KE of about 1900 joules. Imagine a 15-pound dumbbell hitting you at 60 mph.  Kott’s graph shows that the FoR of land warfare weapon systems increases each century. In 2019, a single man can walk into a church and slaughter dozens of people in seconds. Not even the most skilled bowman could do that in 1319. But now recall that the graph plots log(FoR). This means that what the graph shows is that FoR grows exponentially. Also, the growth in FoR accelerates starting in the first half of the 19th century. Kott’s data suggest that in the modern era, KE * rounds/second/kg doubles every thirty years. Therefore, don’t just ask yourself whether you can tolerate the state of gun violence today. Ask yourself whether you will be able to tolerate it in the future. For many readers of this post, weapons lethality will double in your lifetime. For some of you, it will double twice.

Mattel Launches New Line Of Gender Neutral Dolls - Toy maker Mattel has announced it is launching a new line of “gender neutral” dolls, prompting some critics to accuse the company of trying to socially engineer children. “Kids can customize the new dolls with long or short hair, pants or skirts, or both. The dolls come in six different skin tones,” reports Fox Business.Kim Culmone, senior vice president of Mattel Fashion Doll Design, said the dolls were being released because “kids don’t want their toys dictated by gender norms.”“Toys are a reflection of culture and as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity, we felt it was time to create a doll line free of labels,” she said.  .. This is all about social engineering. If @Mattel wanted to make a doll without defined private parts, totally fine, its been done many times and gives kids options. That’s not what’s  going on here. This is social engineering masquerading as a toy.— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) September 25, 2019   An ad for the new product featured a boy with purple hair and one who was wearing an earring. Some respondents accused the company of trying to socially engineer kids, contributing to making them confused about gender.

Community Outraged After City Shuts Down Farm-Stand Run By Preschoolers  - It’s like something out of The Onion: city manager shuts down preschool farm stand out of fear that, if allowed, “we could end up with one on every corner.” Alas, this is not satire. It’s the current predicament facing the Little Ones Learning Center in Forest Park, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. In an area where access to fresh fruits and vegetables can be limited, this preschool has stepped up to prioritize growing and selling fresh produce from its school gardens. According to recent reporting in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Little Ones has often sold its produce with generous discounts to local food stamp recipients and other neighbors and has been acknowledged as a leader in the farm-to-school healthy food movement.That is, until the city shut down the bi-monthly farm stand program last month for zoning violations. Despite protests from community members, city officials are holding firm to their stance that allowing one farm stand could lead to an unruly proliferation of fresh produce.“Anywhere you live, you’ve got to have rules and regulations,” Forest Park City Manager Angela Redding said.  “Otherwise, you would just have whatever,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. That “whatever” is exactly the hope and promise that irks central planners. Whatever symbolizes what is possible when individuals and organizations spontaneously create new streams of value for their neighbors. Whatever are opportunities for mutual gain through voluntary exchange. Whatever are new inventions, new services, and new ways of living and being that augment our existence and improve our future.

 US policeman suspended for arresting two six-year-olds - A US police officer has been fired after arresting two six-year-olds at a school in Orlando, Florida. One of the two was handcuffed after throwing a tantrum and kicking a teacher, the girl's grandmother told US media. The officer, Dennis Turner, was fired as officials said he did not secure the necessary permissions to arrest the two. Prosecutors say they will try to erase the arrests from their records. Both children were charged with misdemeanour battery. Little about the other arrest - which was in a separate incident - has been made public. "The children will not be prosecuted, and just as importantly I am looking into options that may reverse the legal damage such as removing the arrest from the children's records," said State Attorney Aramis Ayala in a news conference. Police Chief Orlando Rolón said in a statement: "As a grandparent of three children less than 11-years-old this is very concerning to me. Our department strives to deliver professional and courteous service." Neither child has been identified by police, but the grandmother of one of the children said she suffered sleep apnoea which had contributed to her behaviour.

When the Ideologues Come for the Kids - Like any religion, wokeness understands the need to convert children. The old Jesuit motto (sometimes attributed to Voltaire) was, after all, “Give me the child for the first seven years and I will give you the man.” And so I was moved but not particularly surprised by George Packer’s tale of a progressive school banishing separate restrooms for boys and girls because this reinforces the gender binary. The school did not inform parents of this, of course: Parents only heard about it when children started arriving home desperate to get to the bathroom after holding it in all day. Girls told their parents mortifying stories of having a boy kick open their stall door. Boys described being afraid to use the urinals. Our son reported that his classmates, without any collective decision, had simply gone back to the old system, regardless of the new signage: Boys were using the former boys’ rooms, girls the former girls’ rooms. This return to the familiar was what politicians call a “commonsense solution.” It was also kind of heartbreaking.As an analogy for the price of progressivism, it’s close to perfect. Authorities impose an ideology onto reality; reality slowly fights back. The question is simply how much damage is done by this kind of utopianism before it crumbles under its own weight. Simple solutions — like a separate, individual gender-neutral bathroom for the tiny minority with gender dysphoria or anyone else — are out of bounds. They are, after all, reinforcing the idea that girls and boys are different. And we cannot allow biology, evolution, reproductive strategy, hormones, chromosomes, and the customs of every single human culture since the beginning of time to interfere with “social justice.” It’s also vital to expose children to the fact of their race as the core constituent of their identity. Here is an essay written by a woke teacher about the difficulty of teaching “White boys”: I spend a lot of my days worried about White boys. I worry about White boys who barely try and expect to be rewarded, who barely care and can’t stand being called on it, who imagine they can go through school without learning much without it impacting in any way the capacity for their future success, just because it never has before.  And when boys are labeled as “White” (note the capital “W”) and this requires specific rules not applied to nonwhite boys, they often — surprise! — don’t like it:

Teacher puts autistic student's desk in a bathroom stall - A Washington mother asked her autistic son’s teacher to give him a “quiet place” to work, only later to find out the 11-year-old’s desk was placed in the bathroom, reports CNN affiliate KOMO. “I was stunned,” says Danielle Goodwin. “I was so shocked, I just took the picture because I didn’t believe what I was seeing.” The picture, which Goodwin posted to Facebook, shows a desk placed over a toilet and a chair at a sink in a stall at the Bellingham school. “She also provided a camping mat and pillow for him to nap… on the bathroom floor,” Goodwin writes in the post. “My son was humiliated, embarrassed and disgusted at this inhumane suggestion that he work in a bathroom,” adding that her son Lucas threw up from the anxiety caused by the situation. Goodwin says her son has special needs and works best in peaceful spaces. When she asked if there was an alternative available, such as having Lucas work in the library, the teacher said no. “I was like, how is this happening?” Lucas tells KOMO. The bathroom is also particularly problematic for Lucas as he has an autoimmune disorder. “He can’t be around germs,” says Goodwin. “It smells and just the thought of my son working his school day away in a bathroom was disturbing to me.” Bellingham Public School Superintendent Greg Baker defended the decision by the Whatcom Middle School teacher, saying the bathroom is “not an active restroom,” and that the school lacked space and funding to accommodate Lucas. “We are all probably aware that state funding for schools is limited, particularly with regards to construction, and thus schools often have limited space to meet students’ instructional and social-emotional needs,” reads his statement. “My preliminary assessment is this idea was well-intentioned, but in the end we did not move forward with it.” The Goodwins are now in the process of filing a lawsuit, CNN reports.

A 16-year-old was fatally stabbed in a fight where dozens of teens filmed him with their phones instead of trying to help - High-school student Khaseen Morris was fatally stabbed outside a Long Island mall on Monday, BuzzFeed's Julia Reinstein reported. That night, he died of his injuries in the hospital. His sister, Keyanna Morris, told Buzzfeed in an interview that, "If they would've put their phones down, Khaseen would've probably made it." Bystanders posted videos to Snapchat and other social media platforms. At least 50 teens were participating in or watching the fight, said Nassau County Police. "Kids stood here and didn't help Khaseen — they would rather video this event. They videoed his death instead of helping him," Detective Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick said in a press conference, as reported by BuzzFeed. "Your friends are dying while you're standing there and videoing it. That's egregious."Police said nobody has been arrested in connection with the fatal fight, although police say that some teens have since identified potential suspects. Police said that the fight began over a girl, who was not present at the time of the stabbing. According to Keyanna Morris, Khaseen had walked a girl home from a party the previous week. Then, the girl's ex-boyfriend threatened Khaseen, and said that he wanted to fight him, his sister told BuzzFeed. The Morris family had just moved to town, where Keyanna Morris said that Khaseen was excited to start at a new school. Morris described her brother as peaceful; "At that point, he was just saying, if someone is going to fight me I'll protect myself, but I'm not gonna push for a fight." She told BuzzFeed that she didn't think anyone expected that there would be weapons at the fight. Keyanna Morris described how upsetting it was to see the video of the fight that killed her brother spread online. She and members of the community are reporting the videos in the hope they are taken down.

US universities see decline in students from China After a decade of booming enrollment by students from China, American universities are starting to see steep declines as political tensions between the two countries cut into a major source of tuition revenue. Several universities have reported drops of one-fifth or more this fall in the number of new students from China. To adapt, some schools are stepping up recruiting in other parts of the world and working to hold on to their share of students from China. University administrators and observers say trade conflicts and US concerns about the security risks posed by visiting Chinese students appear to be accelerating a trend driven also by growing international competition, visa complications and the development of China’s own higher education system. At Bentley University in Massachusetts, the number of new Chinese graduate students arriving on campus dropped from 110 last fall to 70 this time. Significant drops also have been reported this fall at such schools as the University of Vermont, which saw a 23 percent decline in Chinese student enrollment, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which had a 20 percent decrease. China sends more students to study in the US than any other country. Its 363,000 students represent one-third of all international students. But the numbers have leveled off in recent years, reflecting a trend among international students overall.

Second Parent In College Admission Scandal Gets Four Months In Prison - California businessman Devin Sloane is now the second parent to be sentenced to prison for participating in the largest ever college admissions scandal in the U.S., according to Reuters. Sloane was accused of offering bribes to help get his son into a prestigious university and was charged with fraud. The 53 year old Sloane was sentenced to four months in prison and was also ordered to pay a $95,000 fine and perform 500 hours of community service. Sloane said he wanted to do what was best for his son, telling the court: “There are no words to justify my behavior.”He had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and one count of honest services mail fraud.  Sloan's sentence was significantly harsher than the 14 day prison term given to Emmy-award winning actress Felicity Huffman, which we reported on earlier this month.Huffman was fined $30,000 and was ordered to perform 250 hours of community service. More than 50 people have been charged in the scheme where wealthy parents have been accused of offering bribes and other forms of fraud to guarantee admission to several universities for their children. The schools in question included names like USC, Georgetown, Stanford and Yale, among others.

Why Are So Many Top-Tier College Girls Turning To 'Soft Prostitution'- Are you a rich guy who wants to bang debt-laden college girls with all your extra money? Are you a struggling college girl facing decades of six-figure debt so you can follow your unsinkable dreams?  Great news; thanks to the internet, your bases are covered! As we've previously reported (here and here), 'soft prostitution' may have been going on for a long time - but its normalization is relatively new - and undoubtedly linked to the $1.5 trillion+ student debt problem.  As an example, according to 'sugar daddy / sugar baby' website SeekingArrangement, there are 1,304 students at Georgia State University signed up to be Sugar Babies right now - up from just 306 in 2018.  Given that there are 15,277 female students at Georgia State, - nearly one in ten girls at the college are willing to whore themselves out to make ends meet.  Of this list, several universities are considered top-tier - such as UCLA, University of Southern California, Columbia and New York University. According to, "Sugar Babies do not want to be in monotonous, traditional relationships prescribed by society — that no longer works today. Rather, she is seeking a modern relationship — one that is different and matches her ambition and drive — with a romantic partner who can play the traditional role of provider or gentleman, without placing unreasonable limitations on personal growth," according to the website.  Overall, there are 2.7 million US students signed up and 4.7 million worldwide.

Harvard Office of the General Counsel to Review Epstein Donations - Harvard’s Office of the General Counsel will conduct a review of billionaire donor and convicted sex offender Jeffrey E. Epstein’s donations to the University, Vice President and General Counsel Diane E. Lopez announced in an email to Harvard affiliates Friday afternoon.“This review, led by Harvard’s Office of the General Counsel, is ongoing,” Lopez wrote. “We will continue to work to gather facts, review relevant materials, and speak to people across the University with pertinent information.The message follows an email sent by University President Lawrence S. Bacow last week in which he detailed the gifts Epstein gave to the University and announced a review. Bacow wrote that the University has accepted nearly $9 million from Epstein between 1998 and 2007 and did not take a gift from him after his guilty plea in 2008. He also wrote that the University will donate $186,000 in unspent gifts to organizations that help victims of human trafficking and sexual assault.Lopez announced Friday that Harvard affiliates with knowledge of Epstein’s donations could send information to the Office of the General Counsel by email, or if they wished to remain anonymous, share information via the Harvard University Anonymous Reporting Hotline. The hotline may be used by anyone — not just University students, faculty, and staff. Those who wish to provide information through the anonymous hotline can do so by calling the office’s phone number or submitting a report online.

The Failure of Higher Education: A Tale of Two Diplomas - The catastrophe which is education in this country is not new.  For the majority of students in the United States, black students in particular, education has never meant anything more than a training to stay in one’s place. Over the past several decades, however, with the American Empire in an accelerating free-fall, American education, ever the handmaiden of society’s rich and powerful, has in tandem spiraled downward: our schools endlessly drill our children with boring and meaningless “worksheets”; we subsidize and celebrate the digital economy by “teaching” children with computers and computer programs; we script our teachers to guarantee a minimum of human interaction in the classroom; we strip our schools of art and music, making sure that our students never see beauty or truth in the world; and, of course, we drill our students for weeks and months on end with testing, and more testing, and still more testing, lest our students find any joy whatsoever in learning.  In short, our schools dull the intelligence and curiosity of our young people such that they will never question the meaningless and unpleasant lives they will be forced to lead in a society that is everywhere falling apart around them.In higher education, too, we see this dramatic narrowing of the already slim chances that any of our students will achieve a real education.  Our state legislatures, in the most telling example, cut state support for higher education requiring that university administrations jack up tuition, tuition that rises far more rapidly than does inflation.  Higher tuition yields both higher student debt and more students working twenty, thirty, or forty hours a week in paying jobs while they attend school. Our indebted students then must hew as closely as they possibly can to career paths which enable them to minimize and pay back their debts; and the long hours of minimum wage work taken on by our students all but guarantee that they cannot be serious students, cannot devote the hours they need to study and reflection, cannot, in short, do the work most necessary for them to become educated, mature, human beings.  But then educated, mature human beings do not fit well into our global economy. In the face of this disaster, our university faculty refuse to take any stand against the strangling of education in this country.  We mouth words in our classrooms about truth, and the search for truth, and the value and necessity of honesty and ethics, and democracy, and responsible citizenship. Privately, we condemn the various assessment schemes we’re compelled to carry out; privately, we denounce the rapid multiplication of educationally meaningless administrative and compliance positions on our campuses.  And privately, we bemoan the ignorance of our students, their lack of curiosity and their lack of academic preparation. But when it comes to denouncing all the various assaults upon education occurring across the entire spectrum of our educational landscape, when we are compelled to speak to the reasons why our students enter our universities uneducated, and still more seriously, why they leave our universities uneducated, we lose our voice. As more than one of my colleagues has said to me in explanation of his silence: “I don’t want to stick my neck out.”

US Army Smashes Recruitment Goals By Preying On Hopeless Millennials With Student Debt -  The US Army has finally discovered the secret formula, well not a secret anymore, in attracting snowflake millennials into the Army ahead of a possible shooting war with Iran and or down the road, with China. That is, target millennials who are suffering from the student debt crisis, reported Vice News. The Army smashed its 2019 recruiting goal, after falling short by 6,500 last year, said the head of Army Recruiting Command Maj. Gen. Frank Muth. He told reporters last week that much of the success was a new marketing strategy geared towards millennials with student debt. "One of the national crises right now is student loans, so $31,000 is the average," Muth told reporters. "You can get out [of the Army] after four years, 100 percent paid for state college anywhere in the United States." This year's recruitment push wasn't entirely based on patriotism, but instead, targeted millennials who wanted to escape from their insurmountable student debts.This is one of the first instances where the Department of Defense (DoD) hasn't used patriotism as a case to urge young adults to join the Army and or any other service. During the marketing campaign, the Army targeted young adults on social media, as shown in a tweet from Army recruiters in Chicago:   #PleaseAWomanIn5Words (or man). I'll pay your student loans! #ArmyTeamChicago — Army Chicago (@ArmyChicago) September 16, 2019    According to Vice News, Georgia Parke, a communications director for Bernie Sanders, criticized the new approach, indicating "if we cancel student debt who will fight the endless wars?

This Is A Disaster! Peter Schiff Blasts Government Interference In Student Debt Market -- During a recent podcast, Peter Schiff talked about the student loan debacle. In a nutshell, it’s the government’s fault. Democratic presidential candidates have been talking about the student loan crisis. And it is indeed a crisis. The total of the outstanding student loans in the US has more than doubled since 2009 when it was $675 million. The rate of delinquency on student loan debt pushed up to 9.5% in the first quarter of 2019, even as total student loan debt climbed to $1.49 trillion. Currently Americans owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. That’s more than their outstanding credit card balances. Democrats running for president have proposed government solutions, most involving forgiveness of most or all outstanding debt and making college “free.” The problem with this solution is it will actually make the problem they want to solve worse. Or actually, it will create a bigger problem than the problem that they’re trying to solve. But the most ironic aspect of the whole thing is that the problem was created by government.” Before the government got involved, college wasn’t all that expensive. It was government policy that made it unaffordable. And not only did it manage to dramatically drive up the cost of a college education, but it also succeeded in destroying the value of that degree. Before the government tried to solve this ‘problem,’ it really didn’t exist.” Peter isn’t just spouting rhetoric. Actual studies have shown the influx of government-backed student loan money into the university system is directly linked to the surging cost of a college education. Peter traces the federal government getting involved in education back to the GI Bill passed in 1944. In the 1960s, the federal government began guaranteeing student loans. Before that, there wasn’t a big market for them.  But when the government effectively cosigned student loans, they became one of the least risky loans to make. It’s like loaning money to the federal government.  Once colleges realized all of this money was coming their way, they recognized it was a money machine and they started raising tuition.  Universities became bloated. They built new facilities. They began competing for students and their student loan money. Meanwhile, well-meaning officials pushed the narrative that everybody needs to go to college. This increased the demand for a degree higher. And as economics 101 would predict, the cost continued to skyrocket. The only thing we succeeded in doing by keeping kids in school to get a college degree is we simply delayed by maybe four, five, or six years, when they enter the workforce. So, those five or six years when they could have been earning money and developing skills on the job, instead they’re developing no skills and they’re racking up a huge debt.”

American “economic refugees” are increasingly retiring abroad CBS - Cynthia and Edd Staton are thoroughly enjoying retirement in their 3,000 square-foot penthouse apartment. They have a housekeeper, eat out frequently, never fret about health care costs, and indulge in yoga classes and visits to the gym. It's a fine way to spend their golden years — in Ecuador. The Statons said the decision to retire outside the U.S. came in the wake of the financial crisis a decade ago, when their retirement nest egg lost value and they were faced with retiring at a lower standard of living than they had expected. More Americans have followed their lead. The number of retirees who draw Social Security outside the U.S. jumped 40%, to more than 413,000, between 2007 to 2017, according to the Social Security Administration.  To be sure, that's a fraction of the nation's 42 million retirees. But it reflects the financial realities for a growing number of baby boomers who are hitting 65 without enough money stashed away to maintain their standard of living. The median retirement savings for people in that age group is $152,000 — the highest of any working generation — but 1 in 5 say they haven't yet recovered from the recession and never may, according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.   Asia, Europe, and Central and South America are proving to be popular locations for American retirees who want to bail from the U.S. The decision often boils down to such factors as cost of living, health care options and whether there's an expatriate community. Americans who opt to retire outside the U.S. are driven by different motivations, said Dan Prescher, senior editor at International Living, a publication geared to people who want to live or retire abroad. Some are baby boomers who "now can have that great adventure they always wanted," he said. Others are what the Statons describe as "economic refugees," or Americans who are worried about managing retirement on a limited budget. 

 Starving Seniors: How America Fails To Feed Its Aging — Millions of seniors across the country quietly go hungry as the safety net designed to catch them frays. Nearly 8% of Americans 60 and older were “food insecure” in 2017, according to a recent study released by the anti-hunger group Feeding America. That’s 5.5 million seniors who don’t have consistent access to enough food for a healthy life, a number that has more than doubled since 2001 and is only expected to grow as America grays. While the plight of hungry children elicits support and can be tackled in schools, the plight of hungry older Americans is shrouded by isolation and a generation’s pride. The problem is most acute in parts of the South and Southwest. Louisiana has the highest rate among states, with 12% of seniors facing food insecurity. Memphis fares worst among major metropolitan areas, with 17% of seniors like Milligan unsure of their next meal. And government relief falls short. One of the main federal programs helping seniors is starved for money. The Older Americans Act — passed more than half a century ago as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society reforms — was amended in 1972 to provide for home-delivered and group meals, along with other services, for anyone 60 and older. But its funding has lagged far behind senior population growth, as well as economic inflation.The biggest chunk of the act’s budget, nutrition services, dropped by 8% over the past 18 years when adjusted for inflation, an AARP report found in February. Home-delivered and group meals have decreased by nearly 21 million since 2005. Only a fraction of those facing food insecurity get any meal services under the act; a U.S. Government Accountability Office report examining 2013 data found 83% got none. With the act set to expire Sept. 30, Congress is now considering its reauthorization and how much to spend going forward.Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only 45% of eligible adults 60 and older have signed up for another source of federal aid: SNAP, the food stamp program for America’s poorest. Those who don’t are typically either unaware they could qualify, believe their benefits would be tiny or can no longer get to a grocery store to use them.

Health Insurance Costs Surpass $20,000 Per Year, Hitting a Record - The cost of family health coverage in the U.S. now tops $20,000, an annual survey of employers found, a record high that has pushed an increasing number of American workers into plans that cover less or cost more, or force them out of the insurance market entirely.“It’s as much as buying a basic economy car,” said Drew Altman, chief executive officer of the Kaiser Family Foundation, “but buying it every year.” The nonprofit health research group conducts the yearly survey of coverage that people get through work, the main source of insurance in the U.S. for people under age 65. While employers pay most of the costs of coverage, according to the survey, workers’ average contribution is now $6,000 for a family plan. That’s just their share of upfront premiums, and doesn’t include co-payments,deductibles and other forms of cost-sharing once they need care. The seemingly inexorable rise of costs has led to deep frustration with U.S. health care, prompting questions about whether a system where coverage is tied to a job can survive. As premiums and deductibles have increased in the last two decades, the percentage of workers covered has slipped as employers dropped coverage and some workers chose not to enroll. Fewer Americans under 65 had employer coverage in 2017 than in 1999, according to a separate Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of federal data. That’s despite the fact that the U.S. economy employed 17 million more people in 2017 than in 1999. “What we’ve been seeing is a slow, slow kind of drip-drip erosion in employer coverage,” Altman said.

Wolf Richter: How Employees & Employers Get Bled by Health Insurance - The annual cost of the average health insurance family plan through employers — employer and employee contributions combined – rose another 4.9% in 2019, to $20,576. This is up 255% from 20 years ago, having soared five times faster than the Consumer Price Index (+52%).  Employees paid about 29% of the premium for family coverage ($6,015 annually, red portion) and employers paid about 71% ($14,561 annually, blue portion). Over the past 20 years, the employee contribution has increased by 290%. These are among the findings of the annual survey of over 2,000 companies, both small (3-199 employees) and large (200+ employees), including non-federal public employers, by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. Employers and employees both are groaning under the relentlessly ballooning weight of health insurance costs. And the numbers are large: 153 million Americans are covered by employer sponsored health insurance. At companies with few lower-wage workers, the employee contribution for family coverage was on average $5,968 annually. But at companies with many lower-wage workers, the employee portion for family coverage was $7,047 annually. “The single biggest issue in health care for most Americans is that their health costs are growing much faster than their wages are,” KFF CEO Drew Altman said. “Costs are prohibitive when workers making $25,000 a year have to shell out $7,000 a year just for their share of family premiums.” Many lower-wage workers cannot afford the contributions and forego the health insurance even if their companies offer it. As a result, at companies with many lower-wage workers, only 33% of the workers are covered by the employer’s health insurance, compared to 63% at the other companies. For single coverage of the employee only, the annual cost of the average health insurance premium — employer and employee contributions combined — rose 4.2% in 2019, to $7,188, with the employee paying 17% or $1,242 (up from 14% in 1999) and the employer paying 83% or $5,946 (down from 86% in 1999).

Who Advocates For Surprise Medical Billing? – Private Equity Hides Behind Physicians’ White Coats - The issue of surprise medical bills has gotten a lot of public attention in the last year or so.  Surprise medical bills are consequences of the complex US system for financing health care through private, usually commercial insurance.  Insurance companies typically have networks of hospitals, physicians, health care facilities etc.  Patients who receive care from “in-network” physicians or facilities typically pay lower out of pocket costs, such as co-pays and deductibles.  Surprise bills are usually generated when a patient goes to an in-network facility, like a hospital, but then receives care from some out of network entity or person at the facility, and hence incurs higher out of pocket costs.  In the last year, the US congress has struggled with what to do about surprise bills, which have become notorious.One odd aspect of this struggle has been the identity of advocates who oppose most proposed solutions for the problem, that is, who de facto appear to support surprise medical bills.  Some of these advocates appear to be physicians.  On one hand, as Axios reportedbriefly in October, 2018, there are those with obvious reasons to allow surprise billing to continue, such as emergency physicians.  The article notedTwo weeks after a handful of senators introduced legislation to curtail surprise medical bills, the American College of Emergency Physicians hired new lobbyists to handle the issue.  Axios further explained: Emergency doctors obviously want their seat at the table, because they stand to lose a lot of money if their ability to do balance billing vanishes or becomes limited.Of course, the new lobbying effort might make the emergency physician group look bad, since it seemed to be emphasizing its financial interests over those of patients, who have to pay the unexpected out of pocket charges:   However, more recently, more mysterious advocates for surprise bills appeared.  For example,Bloomberg reported in August, 2019: A shadowy group has spent more than $13 million since July advertising in states with vulnerable senators to oppose legislation that would rein in medical bills that take patients by surprise.The campaign by a group calling itself Doctor Patient Unity, playing out on television, radio, and on social media in more than 20 states, is helping muddy the congressional debate over how to combat surprise medical bills and could make it harder to pass legislation this year, congressional aides familiar with the issue said in interviews, speaking on condition of anonymity. The name of the wealthy group buying advocacy advertising implies it represents doctors, but it was not clear who was really behind it.  Thus it appears to be our newest example of dark moneyin health care.

Why Cheaper Drugs from Canada Likely Won’t Cure What Ails US -Yves here. It’s mind boggling that no Serious Person seems willing to suggest that the US emulate what most if not all advanced economies do with drugs: study the research to see which ones in various categories are at least pretty effective and forget the rest; nix minor reformulations designed to jack up prices and extend patent protection; bargain hard for the drugs you do buy. Oh, and in the US, make it illegal to advertise drugs on TV. US Big Pharma companies spend more on marketing than they do on R&D, and you can guarantee that “R&D” includes every bit of overhead they can dump there.And the “less R&D spending” threat is almost entirely a canard. For the better part of two decades, over 80%, and in many years, nearly 90% of FDA “new drug applications” are, as indicated above, for minor reformulations, like a once-a-day version to replace a three-times-a-day version. The NIH and other agencies fund a huge amount of R&D, including high risk basic research.  President Trump has called for ways to allow U.S. residents to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada. Many drugs are cheaper in Canada, thanks to government price controls in that country. Canada offers the same drugs at cheaper prices because the Canadian government, which foots the bill for prescription drugs, will not pay for a drug if a government review board believes the cost is excessive. This board, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, is a quasi-judicial agency. It was established by Canadian Parliament in 1987 under the auspices of the minister of health. If the board thinks a price is too high, it won’t pay. Faced with loss of the entire Canadian market if it doesn’t lower prices, manufacturers capitulate.Also, Canadians have different expectations about what is covered and what is not. Canadians accept that their health care resources are finite.In addition, there are price caps after a drug appears on the Canadian market. The price charged each successive year is allowed to rise only with the rate of inflation. In the U.S., even generic drug prices can rise precipitously with little advanced warning. The result is that drug manufacturers get the best deal they can from Canada and other countries with price controls as long as they have reasonable profitability and make most of their profit from U.S. consumers.

Jeffrey Epstein Paid Doctors To Drug 'Sex Slaves'- Report - Victims of dead pedophile Jeffrey Epstein say he paid doctors and psychiatrists to dope them up with anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications, according to a new report in the Miami Herald.   "There were doctors and psychiatrists and gynecologist visits. There were dentists who whitened our teeth. There was a doctor who gave me Xanax. What doctor in their right mind, who is supposed to protect their patients, gives girls and young women Xanax?" said victim Virginia Giuffre, who was recruited into Epstein's world when she was just 16-years-old. Giuffre sat down with fellow accusers Sarah Ransome and Marijke Chartouni to discuss their experiences - just three of the 60 victims uncovered by the Miami Herald's Julie Brown. Ransome - a South Africa native who successfully sued Epstein and his former partner, Ghislaine Maxwell, finds it hard to believe that high-profile people in Epstein's orbit had no idea what was going on. "I find it so funny with all these people, after Jeffrey was arrested, saying ‘we didn’t know — we didn’t see anything," she said. "Jeffrey was always surrounded by girls, always. And these weren’t normal girls. You could see it in our faces. ... We were damaged, we were medicated. How can you sit in front of a group of girls with Jeffrey and say ‘we just didn’t know it’? You had to know."

Sacklers threaten to scrap opioid deal if they aren’t shielded from lawsuits  - Lawyers for OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma filed a new complaint late Wednesday threatening that the company’s mega-rich owners, the Sackler family, could pull out of a proposed multi-billion-dollar opioid settlement deal if a bankruptcy judge doesn’t shield the family from outstanding state lawsuits. Purdue’s lawyers argue that if the lawsuits continue, the Sacklers will have to waste “hundreds of millions of dollars” on legal costs that could otherwise go to claimants in the settlement. The family's lawyers added that in that event, the family “may be unwilling—or unable—to make the billions of dollars of contributions” to the proposed settlement. State attorneys general, however, argue that the tactic is yet another move designed to shield the Sacklers and their ill-gotten wealth. “This filing isn’t a surprise. It’s yet another effort by Purdue to avoid accountability and shield the Sackler family fortune, and we will be opposing it,” Maura Healey, the attorney general of Massachusetts, told the New York Times. Purdue Pharma filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections Sunday, September 15 as part of a proposed global deal to settle around 2,000 lawsuits, mostly from state and local governments. The complaints are over Purdue’s alleged role in fueling the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdoses with its aggressive and misleading marketing of highly addictive painkillers. The epidemic killed nearly 400,000 Americans between 1999 and 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On average, 130 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose.  Purdue’s lawyers say that the proposed settlement deal will value between $10 billion to $12 billion in time. Purdue would be restructured to a “public benefit trust” while turning over assets and providing addiction treatment and anti-overdose drugs. The deal involves the Sackler family giving up ownership of the company and kicking in at least $3 billion of their own funds to the settlement. Their contribution could potentially be as high as $4.5 billion, depending on what they get from the sale of their international company, Mundipharma.

 Abortion Rates Fall To Lowest Level Since Procedure Was Legalized In 1973 --A new study released on Wednesday by the Guttmacher institute shows that abortion rates have fallen to their lowest level since the procedure was legalized in 1973, according to the BBC.  The study shows that abortion rates declined 7% from 2014 to 2017 and that, in 2017, 862,320 abortions were performed. This is lower than 2011 by about 200,000 abortions and down from a high of 1.6 million in 1990.The institute says that the lower number isn't necessarily a result of new laws or conservative politicians trying to restrict access. Rather, it offers several different theories as to why the rate could be plummeting. First, it suggests that better reproductive healthcare could be part of the reason. The authors of the report found that better access to contraception and improvement in female contraception, like IUDs and implants, may have contributed to the decline. These forms of contraception are now covered by insurance companies due to the 2009 Affordable Care Act. Elizabeth Nash, a policy manager for the Guttmacher Institute said that the report shows the national average. She pointed out that even though the average distance traveled for an abortion was 34 miles, some women were forced to travel much further. "Some people are going hundreds of miles while some people are living in cities where they can take the bus or the train," she said.Second, the report suggests that at-home abortions could be contributing to the rate falling. Despite 95% of all procedures taking place in clinics, use of the abortion pill accounted for 39% of abortions in 2017, up from 20% in 2014. These abortions are harder to track. Increased legal restrictions may also be part of the reason the rate is dropping. Between 2011 and 2017, 32 states enacted a total of 394 new restrictions on abortions. Some of the "harshest restrictions to date" have been passed by conservative leaning states in 2018, even though some have been blocked by courts temporarily.  Anti-abortion advocates believe that the legal restrictions are helping slow the abortion rate.

 Global Warming May Dwindle the Supply of a Key Brain Nutrient - Glaciers continue to melt. Sea levels are on the rise. And now scientists believe the changing climate may put our brains at risk. A new analysis predicts that by 2100, increasing water temperatures brought on by a warming planet could result in 96 percent of the world's population not having access to an omega-3 fatty acid crucial to brain health and function. That molecule is called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. It is the most common fatty acid in the mammalian brain and plays a key role in the survival and function of our neural cells, especially during the organ's development. Data suggest that not having enough of the compound may increase the risk of conditions such as depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and impair cognition in people with early dementia.Our bodies do not make much DHA, so, for the most part, we obtain it through diet. Plants and meats have modest amounts of the fatty acid, but the most abundant source by far is fish (or fish-derived supplements). Fish obtain DHA by consuming algae. The authors of the new study predict that rising temperatures could disrupt algal DHA production and lead to a 10 to 58 percent reduction in availability of the compound, depending on the geographic region.    Their predictions show that larger countries with rapid population growth in East and Southeast Asia — including China, Japan and Indonesia — will face the most severe DHA shortages. Most African countries — especially landlocked ones — will also end up falling below recommended DHA intake, whereas nations with small populations and active fishing industries, such as Norway, Chile and New Zealand, will likely maintain access to adequate omega-3s.

How the global fish market contributes to human micronutrient deficiencies  -- Fish are a source of micronutrients that help to prevent nutrient-deficiency diseases, which are a leading cause of infant deaths worldwide. Determining whether the consumption of locally caught fish could reduce the incidence of nutrient-deficiency diseases in countries particularly affected by this problem requires having access to the relevant data. Writing in Nature, Hicks et al.1 report their assessment of the nutritional content of 367 species of fish. For 43 countries, the authors mapped the relationship between the fish-derived nutrients available from fisheries’ catches and the prevalence of nutrient-deficiency diseases in communities living within 100 kilometres of the coast. Hicks and colleagues focused on six crucial micronutrients: calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, omega-3 and vitamin A. They also considered protein content. Using some previously available data, the authors generated a model that could correctly predict the levels of these nutrients in different species of fish. By mining databases containing information about fisheries’ catches taken between 2010 and 2014, the authors gathered information about the amount and type of fish caught in each country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) — the area of its coastal waters over which it has sovereign fishing rights. Hicks and colleagues used their model to estimate the nutrients available from these fish catches and thus determine the spatial pattern of this nutrient availability in global fish catches. In developing countries around the tropics, fish add the missing micronutrients and proteins to what would otherwise be an unbalanced diet. In many developing countries, fish are the food source2 that provides the majority of the inhabitants with most of the micronutrients studied by the authors.  Hicks and colleagues’ data demonstrate that fisheries’ catches in some developing countries should be enough to meet the key micronutrient needs of their populations.  In some cases, ensuring that even a fraction of a country’s total fish catch is retained for local consumption could have a substantial impact on public health. This is particularly true for children under five years old, during a crucial stage of their development when micronutrient deficiencies have a severe effect. For 22 of the countries that Hicks and colleagues studied, 20% or less of the fish caught could provide enough key micronutrients to meet the needs of all children under five years old.

Researchers find lead in turmeric - It's billed as a health booster and healing agent, but it may be the source of cognitive defects and other severe ailments. A new Stanford-led study reveals that turmeric—a commonly used spice throughout South Asia—is sometimes adulterated with a lead-laced chemical compound in Bangladesh, one of the world's predominant turmeric-growing regions. Long banned from food products, lead is a potent neurotoxin considered unsafe in any quantity. A related analysis published recently confirms for the first time that turmeric is likely the primary contributor to elevated blood lead levels among Bangladeshis surveyed.  "We know adulterated turmeric is a source of lead exposure, and we have to do something about it."   Many traced the issue to the 1980s when a massive flood left turmeric crops wet and relatively dull in color. Demand for bright yellow curry led turmeric processors to add lead chromate—an industrial yellow pigment commonly used to color toys and furniture—to their product. The practice continued as a cheap, fast way to produce a desirable color. As a potent neurotoxin, lead increases the risk of heart and brain disease in adults and interferes with children's brain development. About 90 percent of children with elevated blood lead levels live in lower-income countries, and resulting cognitive damages are associated with nearly one trillion dollars in lost productivity annually.

Officials cover up lead in water crisis in Newark, New Jersey - On Monday, New Jersey and Newark officials announced preliminary filter testing results in Newark’s Pequannock water service area for removing dangerous amounts of lead in the water. Democratic Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka and Democratic Governor Phil Murphy declared that the filters distributed to residents in 2017 were “doing their job to protect our residents from the risks of lead.”  Officials stated that testing results have revealed 97 percent of homes with PUR filters had water lead levels under 10 parts per billion (ppb) and that a detailed report will be released in the coming weeks. The claim that the filtered water is safe to drink is a deadly lie. Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, noted in a statement responding to the remarks of Baraka and Murphy: “The CDC and the EPA said there should be no traces of lead in the water. The private well drinking act sets the standard for houses on wells for 5ppb. 10ppb but it is still way too high and that will have serious health impacts on children and the people of Newark. It shows we are doing too little too late.” Lead is a deadly neurotoxin which can cause organ damage, weakness and anemia. It is especially harmful to children and pregnant women which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends lead levels in water to be below 1 ppb. Most of Newark’s water is far above this recommended level. Newark residents receive water from two treatment facilities, the Pequannock Water Treatment Plant (WTP) for western Newark and the Wanaque WTP for eastern Newark. But filters were distributed only in October 2018 and only to Newark residents serviced by the Pequannock WTP even though, according to the National Resources Defense Council, in 2014 ten percent of households serviced by the Wanaque WTP had lead levels above 15 ppb.  The 30,000 residents who are serviced with water by the Wanaque WTP have never received filters and were excluded from the recent testing. Many residents who did receive filters had faucets incompatible with the equipment and faced installation difficulties. The city provided no assistance in filter installation. In addition, a significant portion of residents do not read English and couldn’t possibly have interpreted the filter installation instructions by themselves. As a result, some residents had loose filters which leaked lead-contaminated water, were running hot water through them, which damaged the filters, or did not know how to replace filter cartridges.

World Health Organisation Says Tanzania Is Withholding Info On Suspected Ebola Cases - In a statement on Sunday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) accused the government of Tanzania of deliberately withholding information about suspected cases of Ebola virus disease, the Washington Post reported. The allegation follows reports of multiple cases throughout the nation, beginning in the capital city of Dar es Salaam, after which WHO said it was shut out from blood tests and informed by Tanzanian officials that the Ebola virus had been ruled out. According to WHO, Tanzanian officials have not offered alternative diagnoses for the cases. However, it has received “unofficial reports” that a 34 year old doctor returning from Uganda who died on September 9 in Dar es Salaam tested positive for Ebola, while a second person tested negative. The status of a third possible case is unclear, the Post wrote, and the WHO statement is the “most pointed rebuke toward any government yet” in dealing with an ongoing outbreak that began in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo last year. “... Clinical data, results of the investigations, possible contacts and potential laboratory tests performed for differential diagnosis of those patients have not been communicated to WHO,” the agency wrote in the statement. “This information is required for WHO to be able to fully assess of the potential risk posed by this event.”  As the Post noted, Tanzania has never before reported any cases of Ebola, and its heavily tourism dependent economy could suffer if the virus is confirmed to have spread there. Theongoing outbreak in the DRC began in August 2018 has involved over 3,000 reported casesand resulted in over 2,100 deaths, but has largely been contained within two provinces and is now being fought with newer, more advanced drugs. However, WHO officials have “pursued potential cases in the outbreak that [have] travelled as far as Dubai and China,” according to the Post.On September 15, according to Al Jazeera, Tanzanian Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said that the government had investigate two cases and found that the “patients did not have Ebola. There is no Ebola outbreak in Tanzania as we speak, people should not panic.” However, the network noted that Mwalimu did not clarify whether those two cases included the deceased doctor.

Gene-Editing Unintentionally Adds Bovine DNA, Goat DNA, and Bacterial DNA, Mouse Researchers Find  - The gene-editing of DNA inside living cells is considered by many to be the preeminent technological breakthrough of the new millennium. Gene-editing has many potential uses. These include altering cells to treat human disease, altering crops and livestock for breeding and agriculture.  Chinese researcher He Jiankui claims to have edited human babies to resist HIV by altering a gene called CCR5.  For most commercial applications gene-editing’s appeal is simplicity and precision: it alters genomes at precise sites and without inserting foreign DNA. This why, in popular articles, gene-editing is often referred to as ‘tweaking’. The tweaking narrative, however, is an assumption and not an established fact. And it recently suffered a large dent. In late July researchers from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) analysed the whole genomes of two calves originally born in 2016. The calves were edited by the biotech startupRecombinetics using a gene-editing method called TALENS (Norris et al., 2019). The two Recombinetics animals had become biotech celebrities for having a genetic change that removed their horns.  The calves are well-known because Recombinetics has insisted that its two edited animals were extremely precisely altered to possess only the polled trait. However, what the FDA researchers found was not precision. Each of Recombinetics’ calves possessed two antibiotic resistance genes, along with other segments of superfluous bacterial DNA. Thus, apparently unbeknownst to Recombinetics, adjacent to its edited site were 4,000 base pairs of DNA that originated from the plasmid vector used to introduce the DNA required for the hornless trait. The FDA finding has attracted some media attention; mainly focussed on the incompetence of Recombinetics.   But FDA’s findings are potentially trivial besides another recent discovery about gene-editing: that foreign DNA from surprising sources can routinely find its way into the genome of edited animals. This genetic material is not DNA that was put there on purpose, but rather, is a contaminant of standard editing procedures. These findings have not been reported in the scientific or popular media. But they are of great consequence from a biosafety perspective and therefore for the commercial and regulatory landscape of gene-editing. They imply, at the very least, the need for strong measures to prevent contamination by stray DNA, along with thorough scrutiny of gene-edited cells and gene-edited organisms. And, as the Recombinetics case suggests, these are needs that developers themselves may not meet.

MIT Media Lab, already under scrutiny for Epstein connections, dumped chemicals in excess of legal limit - — Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab have dumped wastewater underground in apparent violation of a state environmental regulation, according to documents and interviews, potentially endangering local waterways in and near the town of Middleton.Nitrogen levels from the lab's wastewater registered more than 20 times above the legal limit, according to documents provided by a former Media Lab employee. When water contains large amounts of nitrogen, it can kill fish and deprive infants of oxygen. Nine months ago, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection began asking questions, but MIT's health and safety office failed to provide the required water quality reports, according to documents obtained by ProPublica and WBUR. This triggered an ongoing state investigation. After ProPublica and WBUR contacted MIT for comment, an institute official said the lab in question was pausing its operations while the university and regulators worked on a solution. Tony Sharon, an MIT deputy vice president who oversees the health and safety office, didn't comment on the specific events described in the documents.The state's investigation adds to recent scrutiny of the Media Lab for accepting donations from Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender who was charged with trafficking minors before he died in jail last month. Joichi Ito, the director of the Media Lab, has resigned, and students have called for the resignation of MIT President L. Rafael Reif, who signed off on at least one of Epstein's gifts. The lab responsible for the dumping is the Open Agriculture Initiative, one of many research projects at the Media Lab. Led by principal research scientist Caleb Harper, who was trained as an architect, the initiative has been under fire for overhyping its "food computers": boxes that could supposedly be programmed to grow crops, but allegedly didn't work as promised.

Trump Threatens to Veto First Ever Congressional Action on “Forever Chemicals” -- A handful of multibillion-dollar chemical companies have waged war on our bodies and our environment for nearly 70 years without our knowledge or consent. Although the federal government — tasked with protecting the public and upholding the law — became aware of this chemical assault 20 years ago, it chose to conceal the truth,downplay the threat, and expand the use of a class of chemicals known to endanger the health of present and future generations.  PFAS are a class of nearly 5,000 synthetic chemicals that make products water- and grease-resistant. They are in non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain-resistant carpets, lubricants, firefighting foams, paints, cosmetics and paper plates our kids eat off at schools. Humans are exposed to PFAS through contaminated food, air, dust, rain, soil and drinking water. Termed “forever chemicals,” PFAS can take thousands of years to break down in the environment and can remain in our bodies for decades. PFAS are now in the blood of 99 percent of Americans and have contaminated the drinking water of as many as 110 million Americans — particularly those living near chemical manufacturing facilities, airports and military bases. Even the smallest exposure to PFAS can cause a variety of cancers, thyroid disease, hormone disruption, decreased fertility and other serious health issues. Yet, Trump’s EPA and Department of Defense (DoD) remain dependable PFAS defenders. The EPA has yet to set a safe, enforceable drinking water standard for PFAS, has colluded with the chemical industry to keep health risks secret, and has approved the use of more than 600 new PFAS chemicals in the last 10 years. The DoD has long been aware that PFAS in firefighting foam endangers the health of soldiers, their families and surrounding communities. But again, the life of U.S. soldiers are not as valued as the chemicals that kill them. As of August 2017, there are more than 400 known or suspected military sites contaminated with PFAS. A recent report found PFAS water contamination at 130 military bases across the country — nearly two-thirds had more than 100 times levels considered safe. Nonetheless, the DoD supports the continued use of PFAS despite the availability of safer alternatives, opposes spending the $2 billion in PFAS cleanup costs needed on and around military bases and has pressured the EPA toweaken cleanup standards.

Just One Tea Bag Can Release Billions of Microscopic Plastic Particles Into Your Drink, Study Finds - From Arctic snow to the deep sea, microplastics have been found in some unusual places. Now, it turns out they could be lurking at the bottom of your cup of tea!  McGill University chemical engineering professor Nathalie Tufenkji decided to test tea bags after she was given one in a Montreal cafe that looked like it was made from plastic. "I said, 'Oh God, I'm sure if it's plastic it's, like, breaking down into the tea,'" she told CBC News. So she asked her graduate student Laura Hernandez to purchase several tea bag brands from Montreal stores. The scientists then tested them to see if they left any plastic particles behind. The results, published in Environmental Science and Technology Wednesday, far surpassed the researchers' expectations. "We were shocked when we saw billions of particles in a single cup of tea," Tufenkji told CBC News. In total, the researchers found that steeping a plastic tea bag at 95 degrees Celsius released around 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics into a single cup. That's much more than other foods and beverages commonly contaminated with plastics, Tufenkji told New Scientist. "We think that it is a lot when compared to other foods that contain microplastics," she said. "Table salt, which has a relatively high microplastic content, has been reported to contain approximately 0.005 micrograms plastic per gram salt. A cup of tea contains thousands of times greater mass of plastic, at 16 micrograms per cup." Whether or not this is actually a problem for human health is uncertain. The World Health Organizationconcluded last month that plastic particles in drinking water were a "low" risk to humans at their current levels. But the report also said more research was needed, especially on the health impacts of chemical additives and of microplastics less than 150 micrometers in diameter, which could enter the body's tissues. Plastic tea bags are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and nylon, which are approved as food packaging, according to CBC News. In order to assess their potential toxiciity, Tufenkji and her team did an initial test of how the plastic particles impacted water fleas. "The particles did not kill the water fleas, but did cause significant behavioural effects and developmental malformations," Tufenkji told New Scientist.

Delicate Wash Cycle Uses More Water and Releases 800,000 More Microplastics - The delicate wash cycle uses much more water than other settings, which triggers the release of hundreds of thousands of plastic microfibers, which travel down the drain and potentially into marine waterways, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. Researchers at Newcastle University in the UK found that the delicate cycle, which uses about twice as much water as other settings, releases an average of 800,000 more plastic microfibers than lower-water volume settings. The findings that water volume is the greatest determinant of plastic microfiber release upend the previous wisdom that it was agitation that led textiles to shed their microfibers, according to the study."Our findings were a surprise," said Grant Burgess, a marine microbiologist who led the research, to the Guardian. "You would expect delicate washes to protect clothes and lead to less microfibers being released, but our careful studies showed that in fact it was the opposite. If you wash your clothes on a delicate wash cycle the clothes release far more plastic fibers. These are microplastics, made from polyester. They are not biodegradable and can build up in our environment." That build up is worrying to scientists, who have discovered microplastics everywhere, from the bottom of the ocean to the seemingly pristine arctic snow and ice. Millions of plastic microfibers are shed every time we do a load of laundry that has clothes made of nylon, polyester or acrylic. The fibers are so tiny that they easily slip through the drain filter and out of the washing machine where they can enter rivers, streams and eventually the oceans where they are swallowed up by the animals living there, as the Irish Times reported.

Wrapping the Planet in PLASTIC is Underway - The garden vegetables remains crisp for three days at your local market. Wrap it in polyethylene shrink wrap and its longevity extends to 14. That, in short, explains the rapid growth of plastic food packaging, projected to become a $370 billion market next year. With those numbers, it comes as little surprise that the way humans buy and consume food is having such a tangible impact on the oceans. Nine of the Ocean Conservancy’s top ten items retrieved from its annual beach cleanups are related to food and drink. Food packaging remains the second most common trash item collected during the group’s annual beach cleanup in 2018. And now for the first time, plastic forks, knives, and spoons have made the list, according to the group’s new report. Aside from food packaging—more than 3.7 million individual wrappers were collected—the list of disposable plastics includes straws, stirrers, cutlery, bottles and caps, grocery bags and other plastic bags (for food and other uses), lids, cups, and plates. The exception is cigarette butts, which contain plastic filters, and has remained the No. 1 item for many years. “Cigarette butts are a separate issue and they win the race every year,” says George Leonard, the Ocean Conservancy’s chief scientist. “If you run down the rest of the top ten list, what strikes me is that the vast majority are not recyclable. To the extent we talk about recycling as a solution to ocean plastic problems, it would have to get to 50 or 90 percent, which is a huge lift and gets complicated very quickly,” he says. The 2018 cleanup also drew more than a million people for the first time. They collected more than 23.3 million pounds of trash on beaches in more than 120 nations, and catalogued nearly a million separate items, creating a snapshot of nearly everything humans make and use. The cleanup collection included more than 69,000 toys, more than 16,000 appliances, a chandelier, an artificial Christmas tree, a garage door, and a cash register. The organization is conducting an extended analysis of data, looking for global patterns that could inform the effort to keep plastic trash out of the oceans, Leonard says.

90% Of Plastic Waste Polluting Earth's Oceans Comes From Asia and Africa - Despite westerners being lectured by climate activists like Greta Thunberg, a study has found that around 90 per cent of plastic waste polluting earth’s oceans comes from Asia and Africa. During her U.S. tour, Thunberg cited “horrifying pictures of plastic in the oceans,” as one of the primary reasons why Americans should listen to her.However, researchers at Germany’s Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research discovered that a small number of rivers account for the vast majority of plastic pollution and none of them are located in western countries. “The 10 top-ranked rivers transport 88-95 percent of the global load into the sea,” Dr. Christian Schmidt, a hydrogeologist who led the study, told the Daily Mail. “The rivers with the highest estimated plastic loads are characterized by high population – for instance the Yangtze with over half a billion people.”Out of the top ten rivers that produce the most pollution, eight are in Asia and two are in Africa. The Yangtze River in China and the Ganges River in India were responsible for the most plastic pollution.While westerners are being told to alter their lifestyles and have fewer children to save the planet, virtually nothing is being said about or to the people in the countries responsible for the vast majority of pollution.This is probably one of the main reasons why many in the west remain skeptical about the true motives of the environmentalist movement.

India to Ban Single-Use Plastics; Global Recycling Market Still Chaotic -  Jerri-Lynn Scofield - In June 2018, prime minister Narendra Modi announced that India will ban single-use plastics by 2022. Canada and the European Union have promised to ban some single-use plastics by 2021. Last month, Modi promised to elaborate on the scope of India’s ban on 2nd October, the 150th anniversary Mahatma Gandhi’s birth.Even the most casual visitor to India would be aware of its serious waste management problem, where waste disposal remains the responsibility of the informal sector. In 2012, Katharine Boo won a Pulitzer Prize for Beyond the Beautiful Forevers, an account of life in Annawadi, a settlement on the outskirts of Mumbai, some of whose residents make their living by waste picking. If you’ve not read this book – please do. I recommend it highly.Despite the efforts of these residents of Annawadi – as well as thousands of other Indians – huge amounts of plastics foul India’s rivers. Ten rivers that carry 90% of plastics waste into the oceans are located in Asia, according to the World Economic Forum, and two of these, the Indus and the Ganga, flow through India.The issue isn’t whether better waste disposal – of which control over plastics comprises a key element – is necessary in India. Per the FT:“The situation in India is so severe that the ban is really required,” said Sourabh Manuja, an environmental engineer at The Energy and Resources Institute. But the details of what exactly will be banned next month are still not known. Over to the Economic Times:According to Reuters, the government could ban six items, including bags, cups, straws and certain sachets. Another news report pegged the number of items to be outlawed at twice as many. These reports have pushed industry lobbies to issue statements highlighting the adverse impact of a ban and to take out advertisements in newspapers in defence of plastic. The composition of plastics waste in India differs from that in many Western Countries. PET water bottles, for example, are single-use plastics elsewhere, but in India, 90% of these are reused. Moreover, India already recycles more of its trash than the global average. Economic Times:  India’s plastic recycling rate is 60 per cent , three times higher than the global average of 20 per cent , and India’s per capita plastic consumption — at 11 kg in 2014-15 — is less than half the global average of 28 kg.  Bt that still leaves a lot of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled . The most common is multilayered plastic (MLP) packaging, used for potato crisps, , biscuits, chocolates, etc., and include single-use sachets of common toiletries (which are supplied to guests at hotels geared to domestic travellers rather than foreign tourists). Other forms or single-use plastics include grocery bags, straws, cups, glasses, cotton buds, and takeaway packaging.  A telling issue will be whether India tackles to problem of plastics package, which currently comprises a third of its  plastic consumption, according to the Economic Times.

When smog travels from South Asia to the United States  -  As we head for a hiking trip up in the Rocky Mountain National Park, Neil, our bus driver, points to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s electronic alerts that urge those sensitive to high ozone levels to avoid prolonged exposure between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 24, 2019. Ozone is the main component of smog and excessive ground-level ozone can worsen lung and heart disease, trigger asthma attacks and lead to early deaths. People most at risk from breathing air containing ozone include people with asthma, children, older adults, and people who are active outdoors, especially outdoor workers. The ground-level or “bad” ozone is a colourless gas that forms when sunlight strikes various human-created pollutants. This ozone is different from the naturally occurring ozone in the upper atmosphere which blocks harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. In Colorado, which for years has failed to meet the U.S. government’s standards for ozone thresholds, Neil explains why people avoid pumping gas in the heat of the day. He says ozone “cooks” (forms) at high temperature (from precursors nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and volatile organic carbons) and the vapours from gasoline can contribute to its formation.  Denver saw the return of its dreaded ‘brown cloud’, an unhealthy mix of ozone, smoke, and other particles from human activities: a stark reminder of the state’s dependence on cars and the impact of its oil and gas industry.But even as Colorado works on ramping up controls in the oil and gas sector, the role of foreign pollutants — particularly from a rapidly-developing Asia — in disrupting local air quality standards, has been fueling debates. Specifically, in the western part of U.S., there is a lot of debate whether we can blame upwind states and continents for the local pollution, notes Gabrielle Pfister of theNational Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), which is now generating high-resolution, experimental, 48-hour forecasts of air pollutants across the contiguous United States.  In 2004, NASA scientists announced that a giant, smoggy atmospheric “brown cloud” that forms over south Asia and the Indian Ocean has “an intercontinental reach and has effects around the world.” According to the University of Colorado, Boulder researcher Owen Cooper, most of the pollution is high above the surface and it never reaches the surface of North America. While ozone from other countries does impact the surface air in the U.S., it is not the major contributor to ozone pollution events.  Cooper explained that ozone from Asia drifts across the Pacific Ocean to North America all year long, but the pathway is fastest and most direct during March, April and May. This is the time when the jet stream is in a favourable position to loft pollution from the surface of Asia into the free troposphere and transport it to the western U.S.A and Canada.

$1m a minute: the farming subsidies destroying the world -- The public is providing more than $1m per minute in global farm subsidies, much of which is driving the climate crisis and destruction of wildlife, according to a new report.Just 1% of the $700bn (£560bn) a year given to farmers is used to benefit the environment, the analysis found. Much of the total instead promotes high-emission cattle production, forest destruction and pollution from the overuse of fertiliser. The security of humanity is at risk without reform to these subsidies, a big reduction in meat eating in rich nations and other damaging uses of land, the report says. But redirecting the subsidies to storing carbon in soil, producing healthier food, cutting waste and growing trees is a huge opportunity, it says. The report rejects the idea that subsidies are needed to supply cheap food. It found that the cost of the damage currently caused by agriculture is greater than the value of the food produced. New assessments in the report found producing healthy, sustainable food would actually cut food prices, as the condition of the land improves. “There is incredibly small direct targeting of [subsidies at] positive environment outcomes, which is insane,” said Jeremy Oppenheim, principal at the Food and Land Use Coalition (Folu), the collaboration of food, farming and green research groups that produced the new report. “We have got to switch these subsidies into explicitly positive measures.” He said the true global total was likely to be $1tn a year, as some subsidies are difficult to quantify precisely: “That trillion dollars of public funding is available and is a massive, massive lever to incentivise the farming community across the world to act differently.” A series of major recent reports have concluded the world’s food system is broken. It is driving the planet towards climate catastrophe while leaving billions of people either underfed or overweight, 130 national academies of science and medicine concluded in November. But Oppenheim said: “We couldn’t find any examples of governments using their fiscal instruments to directly support the expansion of supply of healthier and more nutritious food.”

Judge temporarily blocks logging in nation’s largest national forest - A federal judge on Monday temporarily halted the Trump administration’s plans to open up thousands of acres in the nation's largest national forest to logging. The decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska placed a preliminary injunction on the logging of 42,500 acres of temperate rainforest in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. It comes days before the administration was set to begin reviewing bids and offering contracts for the logging of old-growth timber in the forest. The court ruled that “Plaintiffs have demonstrated that they are very likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary injunctive relief,” according to the ruling. The order temporarily blocks the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) from allowing the “cutting of trees, road construction, or other ground-disturbing activities” in the covered areas. The court additionally banned the opening of any bids or awarding of any contracts related to loggin in Tongass. The USFS was scheduled to take and review bids on an initial sale of 1,156 acres of trees on Sept. 24. “Based on the foregoing, Plaintiffs have established that they will suffer irreparable harm if the harvest — particularly of old growth trees — authorized by the Twin Mountain Timber Sale occurs,” the court wrote of its decision to grant the injunction. The USFS announced plans to open up the 2.2 million acres of forest to sales in March. Under the plan, more than 42,000 acres would be eligible for logging, with the remaining acres open to road construction. Environmental groups filed a lawsuit in May to block the plans. “Today’s preliminary ruling is a victory for wildlife and proper management of our nation’s irreplaceable forests. Moving forward with this initial sale would have ignited 15 years of clearcutting that would further destroy and fragment the remaining ancient forest habitat on Prince of Wales Island,” said Patrick Lavin, senior Alaska representative at the Defenders of Wildlife.

Inside the Trump Administration’s Chaotic Dismantling of the Federal Land Agency - Early this month, workers at the Washington headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management gathered to discuss a Trump administration plan that would force some 200 people to uproot their lives or find other jobs. With a vague plan that keeps changing as officials describe it — and no guarantees that Congress would fully fund their relocations — the employees were being detailed to distant locations in the West like Grand Junction, Colorado, and Reno, Nevada. Many career staff saw the move as part of a wider Trump administration effort to drive federal employees out of their jobs. Acting White House chief of staff Mike Mulvaney has described that approach as a “wonderful way to streamline government.” The hemorrhaging has already begun. After an hour of exasperated questions from employees, Steve Tryon, a deputy assistant director, told the room he had taken an assignment elsewhere in the Interior Department, the BLM’s parent agency. The post, he explained, had a chance of leading to a permanent placement in Washington.“I have two kids in high school. One’s a senior and one’s a sophomore. If I don’t get another job, I’m moving to Grand Junction or Denver without them. And that’s that. That’s my Plan B. Move to Denver without my family.” . It was just one painful choice of many that will be made in coming months, as anticipated departures hollow out the agency that protects nearly 250 million acres of public lands and stands between oil and gas companies and the natural resources that can enrich them. The top BLM official, acting director William Perry Pendley, has offered contradictory accounts of who will be forced to move and how these changes will affect the agency’s accountability to Congress and the public. ProPublica reviewed internal memos and an accounting of which Washington jobs are being transferred to existing BLM offices in places like Reno, Salt Lake City, Utah, and the proposed new headquarters in Grand Junction. Employees, who formally learned of the plan two months ago, received assignment letters this week, detailing specific locations in the West, where most BLM properties are located.

Zimbabwe's Access to Water Is in Peril -The 2 million residents of Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, and its surrounding areas found themselves without water on Monday and Tuesday when the authorities abruptly shut down the city's main water treatment plant, raising fears of cholera outbreaks and other water borne diseases, as the AP reported.Zimbabwe's crumbling economy has left the local government without enough money to import the necessary water treatment chemicals to allow the water to run. The Harare City Council deputy mayor Enock Mupamawonde told reporters that the local authority required 40 million Zimbabwe dollars a month ($2.7 million) for water chemicals — well short of the 15 million Zimbabwe dollars it collected in monthly revenue, asReuters reported. He said the money shortage meant the council had to close its Morton Jaffray treatment plant outside of Harare. "It (the shutdown) is due to the non availability of foreign is devastating to say the least," Mupamawonde told reporters as he urged President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government to declare the water crisis a national disaster, according to Reuters. He also told reporters that officials were working to secure a week's supply of chemicals from Bulawayo, the country's second-biggest city, to resume operation and they hoped to get water running in homes by late Tuesday, according to CNN.The Morton Jaffray treatment plant did resume pumping water yesterday, which brought some relief to residents, as Reuters reported. "The secured quantities will only last seven days during which period other quantities will be secured. We are currently engaging all stakeholders, including the government to find a lasting solution to the water crisis," said Mupamaonde on Tuesday, as CNN reported.Zimbabweans have endured a harsh drought this year after an abnormal El Niño season. Water levels in the country's polluted reservoirs have dropped precipitously, leaving cities and towns without the ability to provide water to their residents. Earlier this summer, the country's two largest cities started rationing water to their residents, allowing some people to have running water only once a week, as EcoWatch reported.

The drought is now so severe it is biting in even the greenest corners of the country - Farmers along Australia's normally green eastern coast are reeling from the worst drought they have ever seen and face a tough summer if it doesn't rain in the next few months. But the region has been in drought for two years now and farmers say it is starting to bite. "We normally get 40 inches of rain [a year] and I think we are up to around 8 inches," fourth-generation beef farmer Tony Saul told 7.30. "And that might be all we're going to get for the year." He is standing in a dry river bed that stretches for hundreds of metres through his property near Kempsey. It's usually full of water where his cattle drink. "This is the longest and the driest it's been since I can remember and I've been here for my whole life," Mr Saul said. "We've had dry periods — you know, it might be dry for three or four months. "But it's been dry for 12 months here and the big concern is we've just been through our wet period of the calendar year."

‘In for a roasting’: Australia ‘on brink’ of ‘apocalyptic’ conditions - The Arctic is on fire. Now, Antarctica is suddenly experiencing a heatwave. And that means a looming rainfall apocalypse for Australia. According to a recent report by senior researchers from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, we’re in for higher than normal spring temperatures. And less rain. It’s all because of record warm temperatures in the air swirling above Antarctica.It’s producing a domino effect.The stratospheric “polar vortex” has been disrupted. It could even reverse direction.It’s pushing stormy Southern Ocean wind streams over Tasmania, New Zealand’s South Island and South America’s Patagonia. This is away from its regular route over the Australian mainland. And that means NSW and southern Queensland — already in parts devastated by bushfires so early in the season — are set to face worsening conditions and an even more catastrophic bushfire season. “The warming began in the last week of August when temperatures in the stratosphere high above the South Pole began rapidly heating,” the article published in The Conversation reads. Four senior Bureau of Meteorology forecasters compiled it.“Thanks to improvements in modelling and the Bureau’s new supercomputer, these types of events can be forecast better than ever before.”It foresees a looming stronger-than-usual melt of sea ice.It foresees a shift in the typical wind temperatures and patterns coming off the Antarctic continent. “In the coming weeks the warming is forecast to intensify, and its effects will extend downward to earth’s surface, affecting much of eastern Australia over the coming months,” the forecasters warn.

 Endless Summer? NOAA Predicts U.S. Will Have Above Average Autumn Heat ---Most of the U.S. will likely see higher than normal temperatures this autumn, according to a three-monthforecast projected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  The entire nation will experience warmer weather now through December, but those with the greatest temperature increases include northern Alaska, the Southwest and the Four Corners Region of New England, according to USA Today. It's a continuation of a warming trend observed for the last few decades. "During the past 30-35 years, there has been an underlying warm-up in the climate," NOAA meteorologist Anthony Artusa told the publication. "Unless we can predict climate factors or drivers that can override this warm trend (such as El Niño or La Niña), it's best to go with trends."  Through the end of this week, temperatures will be between 10 and 20 degrees above average across the Deep South and into the Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic, reports The Weather Channel. NOAA's three-month outlook suggests that through the end of the year, there is a 30 to 50 percent chance that states on both the east and west coasts, the Gulf of Mexico, southern border states and Alaska will see temperatures above normal. Parts of the Midwest and around the Great Lakes are expected to see temperatures near normal. Precipitation is expected to juxtapose that outlook, with the Great Lakes region and parts of the northern Midwest having a high chance of above-average rain and snowfall. Meanwhile, most of California and western Nevada will see lower-than-normal precipitation through the end of the year.   "The overall retreat in the Beaufort Sea is about as extreme as our analyses have shown in the last 20 years,"wrote the National Weather Service in Anchorage. As the Washington Post reported, Alaska's most northern town saw temperatures above freezing since June 25.  July 2019 was the hottest month on record for the planet with polar sea ice melting to record lows, according to an August statement released by NOAA. Globally, July was 1.71 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average of 60.4 degrees, making it the hottest July since modern records began 140 years ago. A newly released analysis of preliminary findings by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) found that sea ice coverage in the Arctic dropped 1.6 million square miles (4.15 square kilometers) over the course of the summer, tying 2019 as the second-lowest year along with 2007 and 2016. The record for lowest sea ice extent is still held by 2012.

30 years after Hugo tore it down, SC coast builds back in the danger zone - When Hurricane Hugo hit Georgetown County 30 years ago, the big storm pounded a barren sand spit at the south end of Litchfield Beach, chewing up dunes and eroding the oceanfront, before cutting through South Carolina on a trail of destruction. At the time, no one said much about Hugo’s impact on the narrow spit because not much was there. Then in the late 1990s, construction workers arrived on the property, building the first grand home in a row of new oceanfront houses. Today, about three-dozen houses perch precariously on the sand spit, between the Atlantic Ocean on one side and a tidal creek on the other. Some are fortified by an unapproved seawall, built as protection from the rising seas. Despite causing $7 billion worth of damage on Sept. 21-22, 1989, Hugo did little to discourage new or more intense development on many stretches of the state’s coast. In places where small beach cottages once stood, magnificent new houses have been erected. Tidal creeks just off the oceanfront are booming with development. And in some vulnerable spots, high-rise condominiums tower above the ocean. All this is occurring as sea level rises and more powerful storms lash the coast, and as S.C. legislators dismantle regulations to control coastal development. The coastal buildup is a big issue for an array of reasons. It’s potentially dangerous because more people are living in the path of storms and rising seas, but building too close to the coast also threatens to pull money from the pockets of taxpayers. When people lose homes, condos and hotels along the coast, the federal government often winds up bailing out wealthy property owners through insurance, beach renourishment funding and emergency services. People familiar with the post-Hugo development say the state didn’t learn many lessons about building near the sea.   If a storm like Hugo hit today, smacking the coast directly and plowing through the state to Charlotte, it would cause an economic loss of $16 billion, according the University of South Carolina’s hazards research institute. That’s mainly because of the increased population and residential development on the coast, USC researchers say.

Houston Cleans up After Imelda's Devastating Rains - Authorities confirmed a fifth death this weekend linked to devastating rainfall from Tropical Storm Imelda as the Houston area struggles to recover from last week's intense flooding. Around 60 residents were rescued by boat Friday after the storm dropped as much as 43 inches of rain in some areas. Cleanup crews are still surveying damages in the area to determine if the county is eligible for FEMA funds to mitigate the impacts. Extreme rainfall is a classic signature of climate change: the number of record-breaking rainfall events globally has significantly increased in recent decades, and the fingerprint of global warming is documented in this pattern. As reported by the Associated Press: The National Weather Service said preliminary estimates suggested Jefferson County was hit with more than 40 inches (102 centimeters) of rain in a span of just 72 hours, which would make it the seventh-wettest tropical cyclone to hit the continental U.S."The issue is that you can't get 40 inches of rain in a 72-hour period and be fully prepared for that," Jefferson County spokeswoman Allison Getz told the Associated Press on Friday. "At this point we haven't been able to fully assess what's happened."Getz said dozens of people have traveled to the county with boats in tow from Louisiana and other parts of Texas to assist with rescue efforts, an outpouring of support reminiscent of volunteer efforts during Harvey. In nearby Chambers County, preliminary estimates indicate about 800 homes and businesses sustained some level of damage from floodwaters, county spokesman Ryan Holzaepfel said. Emergency personnel rescued about 400 people during the deluge, mostly from homes, he said. For a deeper dive:  AP, Houston Chronicle, LA Times, Texas Tribune, Fox News. Background: Climate Signals

In this crippled part of the Bahamas, US medics can smell more bodies than they can find – CNN - It takes just seconds here to be overwhelmed by the stench of death. More than two weeks after Hurricane Dorian wiped out entire neighborhoods, East Grand Bahama still looks like a war zone. The carnage is so widespread that even police officers can't bear to see it. "Police say they don't want to go there. It's too hard on them to go see their own people," said Patricia Freling, a Florida nurse who's volunteering in East Grand Bahama. "They think there will be a lot of bodies. So we are preparing for everything." Freling is part of a US medic team on an aid trip to Grand Bahama -- a once gorgeous island of 51,000 residents before Dorian pulverized it. The team includes paramedics, nurses, a counselor and a retired US Marine. Mental health counselor Betsy Rosander is used to difficult circumstances. But today is different. "I think we are going to be seeing some real tough stuff," she said. "Most people have not wanted to come here," Brittany Reidy said. "But we said, 'Take us to the worst part.'" During the team's hour-long drive from Freeport to the east end of Grand Bahama, the medics smell the carnage before they see it. "That is the smell of dead bodies," Reidy said from the back of a pickup truck.The official death toll across the Bahamas is 52. But that number is expected to skyrocket, with 1,300 people still missing two weeks after the hurricane. Some may be trapped under mountains of rubble where houses once stood. Others may have been washed away in the storm surge, their bodies only recently surfacing on land. 

Slow-Moving Atlantic Storms Like Imelda and Dorian are Growing More Common - Dr. Jeff Masters --  Tropical Storm Imelda, the fifth-wettest tropical cyclone in continental U.S. history, made landfall as a minimal tropical storm with 40 mph winds southwest of Galveston, Texas, on September 17, less than two hours after getting named. At landfall, Imelda was traveling northward at just 5 mph, and it maintained a generally northward motion at between 3 and 7 mph for the next 48 hours, gradually weakening. This excruciatingly slow pace allowed Imelda to dump rains of up to 43.39” over southeast Texas, causing catastrophic flooding that killed five. Imelda’s price tag will undoubtedly be in the billions. This year’s strongest storm, Hurricane Dorian, also moved agonizingly slowly at landfall when it pounded The Bahamas. Dorian meandered at less than 2 mph as a Category 5 hurricane over Grand Bahama Island and Great Abaco Island, causing catastrophic storm surge, wind, and fresh-water flooding. Damage is estimated at $7 billion or higher—a huge fraction of their $12 billion GDP, and by far the most expensive disaster in Bahamian history. According to CSU’s Dr. Phil Klotzbach, Dorian tracked only 25 miles in 24 hours—the second shortest straight-line distance tracked by an Atlantic major hurricane in a 24-hour period since 1950. .  Joining Dorian and Imelda in the slow-motion catastrophic Atlantic storm club in recent years were Hurricane Florence of 2018 and Hurricane Harvey of 2017. Florence killed 53 and caused over $24 billion in damage to the southeast U.S. after hitting North Carolina as a slow-moving Category 1 hurricane. Hurricane Harvey, which meandered over southeast Texas and the adjacent waters for days, killed 89 and was the second most expensive hurricane of all-time, with $128 billion in damages. Both hurricanes unleashed all-time record rains over their landfall regions due to their very slow motion, with Harvey’s 60.58” setting the all-time U.S. rainfall record for a tropical cyclone. From August 22 - 25, 2018, Category 5 Hurricane Lane slowed from a forward speed of 9 mph to 3 mph just west of the Big Island of Hawaii, which recorded the second-highest rainfall on record from a U.S. tropical cyclone: 58.00”. Though Lane never made landfall, its rains made it Hawaii’s third costliest hurricane ever, with damages of $250 million.

'Oceans Are Sending Us so Many Warning Signals': New UN Climate Change Report -- It's time for low-level coastal communities to head for the hills. Once-in-a-hundred-years sea level events will be an annual occurrence by 2050. The oceans will rise three feet by 2100, fish will struggle to survive, ocean currents will weaken, snow and ice will start to vanish, and we will need to brace for stronger and wetter hurricanes and harsher El Niño weather systems, according to a new UN report released Tuesday, as the AP reported. The report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders in policymaking, warns that warming seas are contributing to a drop in fish populations, and ocean oxygen levels are dropping while acidity levels are starting to spike, which threatens fragile marine ecosystems. The warming waters are also fueling wetter and more intense hurricanes and cyclones, as The New York Times reported. The fact is ocean surface temperatures have been warming steadily since 1970, and for about the past 25 years, they've been warming twice as fast.  "The oceans are sending us so many warning signals that we need to get emissions under control," said Hans-Otto Pörtner, a marine biologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany and a lead author of the report, to The New York Times. "Ecosystems are changing, food webs are changing, fish stocks are changing, and this turmoil is affecting humans." The IPCC's Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate includes contributions from more than 100 scientists from 36 different countries. It highlights the bleak state of the most remote parts of the world, where rapid thawing of ice sheets and glaciers is changing the landscape of the polar regions and will affect people and animals all around the globe for decades. This report is unique because for the first time ever, the IPCC has produced an in-depth report examining the furthest corners of the earth — from the highest mountains in remote polar regions to the deepest oceans," said Ko Barrett, vice chair of the IPCC, as CNN reported. "We've found that even and especially in these places, human-caused climate change is evident." Half of the world's largest cities and nearly 2 billion people around the world live on the coasts. If global heating is restricted to just 2 degrees Celsius, scientists still predict $7 trillion in damage every year and millions of migrants, according to a new study published last week, as The Guardian reported. The report found that of the major ice sheets, Greenland is melting the fastest. When it melts completely, it can add 17-23 feet to sea levels, according to a NASA study published earlier this year. The report found that Greenland has averaged an annual ice loss of 275 gigatons from 2006 to 2015. The Anatarctic ice sheet also saw its ice loss mass triple from 2007 to 2016 compared to the previous decade, as CNN reported.

 To Save Our Oceans, We Have to Change What We Do on Land - For decades, oceans have served as the planet’s carbon garbage dump, soaking up 90 percent of the excess atmospheric heat generated since 1970 and a third of our greenhouse gas emissions. Now the 71 percent of the Earth that makes life on land possible has reached a frightening tipping point that threatens human existence, according to a landmark report issued Wednesday by the United Nations-supported Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. The findings suggest severe consequences for both humanity and nature, according to Ko Barrett, the panel’s vice chair, who spoke at a press briefing on Tuesday. “This report highlights the urgency of timely, ambitious, coordinated and enduring action,” said Barrett, who is also the deputy assistant administrator of oceanic and atmospheric research at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “What’s at stake is the health of ecosystems, wildlife, and importantly, the world we leave our children.” Even if greenhouse gas emissions magically ceased today, so much heat is already baked into marine ecosystems that the ocean would continue to warm, sea levels would keep rising, and acidification and deoxygenation would persist for decades to come, noted Nate Bindoff, a report author and oceanographer at Australia’s University of Tasmania.  The report comes as the ocean faces growing threats from overfishing, plastic pollution, and seabed mining. The key findings are alarming: Ocean warming has doubled since 1993. The frequency of marine heat waves, which are devastating the world’s coral reefs, have doubled since 1982 and are intensifying. Reefs remain at high risk of extinction even if global temperature rise is kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as called for by the Paris climate accord. Extreme flooding of coastal areas will likely occur at least yearly by 2050. Fish populations face collapse thanks to a combination of ocean acidification, loss of oxygen, and warming of the ocean’s surface, which blocks the flow of nutrients to and from the deep sea.  Alas, there’s more: Sea levels will continue to rise as the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets accelerates throughout this century. If emissions are kept in check, sea levels could rise by an estimated 1 meter (3 feet) by 2300. But if carbon emissions climb unrestrained, sea levels could increase by several meters – without factoring in the potential collapse of Antarctic ice sheets.

Hundreds of India villages under water as Narmada dam level rises -- Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated his 69th birthday at the controversial Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD) in his home state of Gujarat. But 186km upstream in Barwani town on the banks of the Narmada River in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh state, the mood was anything but celebratory.Nearly 2,000 men, women and children, riding bikes and packed in tractors and trucks, rallied in Barwani, a town of about 55,000 people, against submersion of their homes, property and businesses due to the dam. The country's biggest dam has led to mass submergence after the authorities recently raised the water level to its maximum height of 138.68 metres.  Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a grassroots movement agitating for the rights of the indigenous people displaced by the dam, said at least 178 villages in Madhya Pradesh have partially or fully submerged after the dam's water level was raised.However, the state government has yet to put out a specific number of villages submerged so far, which it says is fewer than the number cited by the NBA.Protesters gathered at Kasrawad bridge on Narmada River alleged the dam's water level was raised before the schedule to mark the birthday of Prime Minister Modi, who had pushed for it when he was the chief minister of the Gujarat state. They waved blue NBA flags and posters featuring the prime minister that said: "Mera janam din, tumhara maran din", meaning "my birthday is your day of death". Slogans such as "Modiji ek kaam karo, Sardar Sarovar mei doob maro" (Mr Modi, do one thing, drown in the Sardar Sarovar) were raised as people dumped Modi's effigy into the Narmada waters.The submergence has already killed three people. On August 22, Laxman Gopal, a 62-year-old farmer from Jangharva village in Barwani, died of a heart attack after a tiff with policemen who were evicting his niece from the submergence site. On August 7, two men were electrocuted while travelling in a boat.

As global leaders meet, the Amazon rainforest burns - The fires that burned through the Amazon rainforest last month sparked international outcry and offers of help, but as world leaders meet in New York, the planet's largest rainforest remains engulfed in flames. The latest satellite data from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) shows 131,600 fires burning since January within the country, where 60 percent of the Amazon lies. The fires, which are mostly caused by humans with the goal of clearing land for farming and cattle ranching, are having a grievous effect on the forest: the rate of deforestation in the Amazon has nearly doubled since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro came to power on January 1, with the equivalent of 110 football fields of land being cleared every hour. "It's sad to see Brazilians attacking me for fires in the Amazon, as if they hadn't always existed," Bolsonaro wrote on Facebook Thursday. We "remain below the average of the last 15 years. But I'm accused of being a Nero, who sets fires everywhere." Yet fires are at a seven-year high, according to INPE data, and despite a slight drop at the start of the month, the number of active fires recorded in Brazil from the start of the year to September 19 was up 56 percent over the same period in 2018. Nearly half of the blazes are in the Amazon. Environmental groups have little faith that Bolsonaro will change tack. The government "wants to show that it is doing the best for the forest. In fact, it is doing its utmost for deforestation," said Greenpeace's Astrini. "Brazil is running a campaign to show that it is taking care of the Amazon. It's a lie," he said.

At Least 500 Jaguars Lost Their Lives or Habitat in Amazon Fires -  The fires ravaging the Amazon forest in Brazil and Bolivia this year have burned key habitats of at least 500 adult, resident jaguars as of Sept. 17, rendering them dead or homeless, say experts at Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization.  "The number of homeless or dead jaguars has undoubtedly increased since Panthera's estimate was released, and will continue to increase until the rains come," Esteban Payan, Panthera's South America regional director, told Mongabay in an email.   Panthera researchers used the total area of jaguar habitat burned, taken from burned areas reported by the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and the Environmental Secretariat of the Governor's office of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. They combined this with a jaguar density estimate of 2.5 jaguars per 100 square kilometers (39 square miles) derived from a 2018 study authored by jaguar experts.  In Bolivia in particular, the fires have so far destroyed more than 2 million hectares (4.9 million acres) of forest in one of South America's key "catscapes," a region that Panthera has identified as having the highest predicted density of cat species on the continent. Some parts of Bolivia's catscape are home to eight cat species, including the jaguar, puma (Puma concolor), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), margay (Leopardus wiedii), oncilla (Leopardus tigrinus), jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi), Geoffrey's cat (Leopardus geoffroyi) and Pampas cat (Leopardus colocola). Some researchers estimate that millions of animals have likely been lost to the Amazon fires this year. But given the widespread and destructive nature of the fires this year, the exact number of jaguars killed is difficult to calculate. Panthera researchers, however, predict that hundreds of jaguars will starve or turn to killing livestock in neighboring ranches as a consequence of the fires, "where they will be hunted down," Payan said.

Amazon deforestation is driven by criminal networks, report finds - Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is a lucrative business largely driven by criminal networks that threaten and attack government officials, forest defenders and indigenous people who try to stop them, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. Rainforest Mafias concludes that Brazil’s failure to police these gangs threatens its abilities to meet its commitments under the Paris climate deal – such as eliminating illegal deforestation by 2030. It was published a week before the UN Climate Action Summit. Amazon's indigenous warriors take on invading loggers and ranchers Read more Ricardo Salles, Brazil’s environment minister in the government of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, has argued that poverty drives degradation, and that development of the Amazon will help stop deforestation. But the report’s author, Cesar Muñoz Acebes, argues that Amazon needs to be better policed. “As long as you have this level of violence, lawlessness and impunity for the crimes committed by these criminal groups it will be impossible for Brazil to rein in deforestation,” he said. “These criminal networks will attack anyone who stands in their way.” The report documents 28 killings in which it found evidence that “those responsible were engaged in illegal deforestation and saw their victims as obstacles”. Victims included indigenous people, forest residents and environmental agents, and only two cases went to trial. It cites “serious flaws” in investigations of six killings. More than 300 killings were counted by the Pastoral Land Commission, a not-for-profit group connected to the Catholic church, over the last decade in the Amazon, of which just 14 went to trial.

Massive Mont Blanc Glacier in Danger of Collapsing Soon - Authorities have closed roads and evacuated buildings in the Italian Alps after scientists warned Wednesday that a massive chunk of a glacier is in danger of collapsing. Experts say a 250,000 cubic meter section of the Planpincieux glacier on Grande Jorasses peak of the Mont Blanc massif could break off at any time as the glacier's movement has increased rapidly. "This phenomenon once again testifies that the mountain is in a phase of strong change due to climatic factors, therefore it is particularly vulnerable," Stefano Miserocchi, the mayor of Alpine resort town Courmayeur, said in a statement.The announcement comes on the heels of a devastating UN report on the state of the world's oceans and ice, which finds that glaciers are increasingly endangered due to climate change, threatening the world's high mountain economies and communities that rely on glacial melt and snow runoff for agriculture and drinking water — and bringing more wildfires to places like the Arctic.As reported by NBC News Digital:The glacier, which spreads 1,327 square kilometers (512 square miles) across the mountain, has been moving up to 50 centimeters (nearly 20 inches) a day. "There are no models to tell us if it will fall entirely or in pieces," the mayor told Sky TG24. "We need to keep an eye on the monitoring." He emphasized that even if a large chunk of the glacier collapses, no residents would be at risk, just the area of road that has been closed. For a deeper dive:  AP, NBC, USA Today, New York Times, The Guardian

Something strange is happening to Greenland's ice sheet - National Geographic - When the remnants of Europe’s second summertime heat wave migrated over Greenland in late July, more than half of the ice sheet’s surface started melting for the first time since 2012. A study published Wednesday in Natureshows that mega-melts like that one, which are being amplified by climate change, aren’t just causing Greenland to shed billions of tons of ice. They’re causing the remaining ice to become denser.“Ice slabs”—solid planks of ice that can span hundreds of square miles and grow to be 50 feet thick—are spreading across the porous, air pocket-filled surface of the Greenland ice sheet as it melts and refreezes more often. From 2001 to 2014, the slabs expanded in area by about 25,000 square miles, forming an impermeable barrier the size of West Virginia that prevents meltwater from trickling down through the ice. Instead, the meltwater becomes runoff that flows overland, eventually making its way out to sea.As the ice slabs continue to spread, the study’s authors predict more and more of Greenland’s surface will become a “runoff zone,” boosting the ice sheet’s contribution to global sea level rise and, perhaps, causing unexpected changes. “We're watching an ice sheet rapidly transform its state in front of our eyes, which is terrifying,” says lead study author Mike MacFerrin, a glaciologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Arctic sea ice shrinks to 2nd-lowest mark on record --Arctic sea ice shrank to its second-lowest level on record last week, according to statements released Monday by the National Snow and Ice Data Center and NASA.  Sea ice affects Arctic communities and wildlife such as polar bears and walruses, and it helps regulate the planet’s temperature by influencing the circulation of the atmosphere and ocean. "If you decrease the amount of sea ice, you start warming up the Arctic, and when you start warming up the Arctic, you start changing the circulating of the jet stream, which brings weather to us here," NASA scientist Nathan Kurtz said.  Sea ice extent was measured at 1.6 million square miles Sept. 18. That's 811,000 square miles below the average, tying with both 2007 and 2016 for second-lowest level on record, the data center said. “This year’s minimum sea ice extent shows that there is no sign that the sea ice cover is rebounding,” Claire Parkinson, a climate change senior scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement.September is the month Arctic ice reaches its lowest "extent" of the year, toward the end of the Northern Hemisphere's summer. According to NASA, it was a very warm summer in the Arctic, with average temperatures 7 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

Global Climate in 2015-2019: Climate change accelerates - WMO Press Release - The tell-tale signs and impacts of climate change – such as sea level rise, ice loss and extreme weather – increased during 2015-2019, which is set to be the warmest five-year period on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have also increased to record levels, locking in the warming trend for generations to come.The WMO report on The Global Climate in 2015-2019, released to inform the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit, says that the global average temperature has increased by 1.1°C since the pre-industrial period, and by 0.2°C compared to 2011-2015.The climate statement – which covers until July 2019 - was released as part of a high-level synthesis report from leading scientific institutions United in Science under the umbrella of the Science Advisory Group of the UN Climate Summit 2019. The report provides a unified assessment of the state of Earth system under the increasing influence of climate change, the response of humanity this far and projected changes of globalclimate in the future. It highlights the urgency and the potential of ambitious climate action in order to limit potentially irreversible impacts.An accompanying WMO report on greenhouse gas concentrations shows that 2015-2019 has seen a continued increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and other key greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to new records, with CO2 growth rates nearly 20% higher than the previous five years. CO2 remains in the atmosphere for centuries and in the ocean for even longer. Preliminary data from a subset of greenhouse gas observational sites for 2019 indicate that CO2 global concentrations are on track to reach or even exceed 410ppm by the end of 2019.“Climate change causes and impacts are increasing rather than slowing down,” saidWMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, who is co-chair of the Science Advisory Group of the UN Climate Summit.“Sea level rise has accelerated and we are concerned that an abrupt decline in the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, which will exacerbate future rise. As we have seen this year with tragic effect in the Bahamas and Mozambique, sea level rise and intense tropical storms led to humanitarian and economic catastrophes,” he said.“The challenges are immense. Besides mitigation of climate change, there is a growing need to adapt. According to the recent Global Adaptation Commission report the most powerful way to adapt is to invest in early warning services, and pay special attention to impact-based forecasts,” he said.“It is highly important that we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, notably from energy production, industry and transport. This is critical if we are to mitigate climate change and meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement,” he said. “To stop a global temperature increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the level of ambition needs to be tripled. And to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees, it needs to be multiplied by five,” he said.

Rising energy use to push CO2 far above target through 2050 (Reuters) - Global energy consumption will rise nearly 50% by the middle of the century, according to projections published by the U.S. government's Energy Information Administration (EIA) this week. Energy consumption is set to increase by 15% in the industrialised member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and by almost 70% in non-OECD economies by 2050. The projections highlight the enormous policy and technology challenge of providing more energy, especially in developing countries as living standards rise, while simultaneously reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. EIA projections show increased consumption of energy from all sources, including oil, gas, coal, nuclear and renewables, by 2050 (“International Energy Outlook”, EIA, Sept. 24). The projections show the fastest growth in renewables (+166%) and natural gas (+44%) but also continued increases in nuclear (+36%), oil (+22%) and even coal (+12%). Declining consumption of coal, oil and nuclear in the OECD countries will be more than offset by increases in the faster-growing economies of the developing world. Long-term, multi-decade projections are notoriously error-prone because they are sensitive to small changes in assumptions about population growth, economic growth and energy intensity, as well as changes in technology. But producing them is a good intellectual discipline. They provide a useful framework for thinking about the various forces driving change and the policy challenges involved in altering them. 

Goldman Sachs released a 34-page analysis of the effects of climate change. And the results are terrifying. - Goldman Sachs released a report on the effect of climate change on cities around the world and the results made for grim reading.   The bank's Global Markets Institute, led by Amanda Hindlian, warned of "significant" potential risks to the world's largest cities, which are especially vulnerable to more frequent storms, higher temperatures, rising sea levels, and storm surges.  Cities generate about 80% of global GDP and are home to more than half of the world's population, a share that Goldman says, citing the United Nations, is projected to reach two-thirds by 2050. About 40% of the global population lives within 100 kilometers of a coast, it says, and 1 in 10 live in areas less than 10 meters above sea level.Goldman highlighted three cities which would be subject to those storm surges and in the future could face harmful flooding — New York, Tokyo, and Lagos. Miami, Alexandria, Dhaka, and Shanghai face major flood risks due to being less than 11 meters above sea level.  Goldman's researchers said that when starting the study they took a broad consensus that human activity, namely emission of greenhouse gasses "is causing the earth to warm in ways that are affecting the climate."Natural ecosystems would be damaged, and risks to human health would rise, as well as pressures on food and drinking  water. Agriculture would also be massively affected: "Warmer temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns could reduce yields and nutritional quality as well change growing seasons and agricultural zones around the world." Goldman gave some fairly stark warnings about potential outcomes:

  • More frequent, more intense, and longer-lasting heatwaves.The consequences will affect human health, productivity, economic activity, and agriculture. "Higher surface temperatures could exacerbate the warming process by causing permafrost to melt, releasing further methane and CO2 into the atmosphere."
  • Destructive weather events, including storms, winds, flooding and fires. It's not just New York, Tokyo and Lagos. "Other major low-lying coastal or already flood-prone cities include Shanghai, Dhaka, Mumbai and Karachi – each of which has a population of 15 million people or more."
  • Changing disease patterns. "Warmer temperatures could cause disease vectors to migrate from the tropics to regions where people have less immunity; this is true not only for viruses like malaria and dengue fever but also for water-borne and food-borne diseases."
  • Shifting agricultural patterns and food shortages. "Livestock could be affected by higher temperatures and reduced water supplies. Ocean acidification is likely to put stress on aquatic populations and affect current fishing patterns. Some of these changes are already underway. Some climate scientists, for example, estimate that coral reefs will be all but extinct over the course of the century due to ocean acidification."
  • Water. "Half of the world's population will live in water-stressed areas as soon as 2025," Goldman notes, citing the World Health Orgnization. "Even in non-stressed areas, the quality of surface water could deteriorate as more rain and storms drive erosion and the release of toxins. These dynamics could affect everything from the availability of drinking water for people to a shortage of water for livestock and crops (with negative effects for the food supply) to decreases in hydroelectric power generation."

Why Your Carbon Footprint Is Meaningless - Almost every good deed you’ve been asked to do to fight global warming is counterproductive. Individual behavior change isn’t action—it’s distraction. But worse than that: every carbon offset bought by a well-meaning liberal is another get-out-of-jail free card for the fossil fuel industry and the other major contributors to global climate destruction. It shifts the blame from the actual causes of climate change to fake ones, and shifts attention away from meaningful actions to meaningless, psychological ones. And by making real solutions harder to achieve, the mistaken focus on individual behavior change makes global warming worse.First, if you run the numbers, it’s obvious that even if every do-gooder in the world changed their light bulbs to fluorescents, stopped going on vacation, and bought carbon offsets for every art project they built at Burning Man, none of this would make a dent in global carbon dioxide emissions. There just aren’t enough bleeding hearts to go around.Moreover, individual behaviors are not the major causes of global warming. The major drivers are collective enterprises like power grids, industry, and transportation systems. Cutting back on flying while allowing cars and trucks to operate as usual is like drinking diet soda with a bacon double cheeseburger. Their benefit is negligible, and totally negated by the much, much larger problems that are going unchecked.Fighting global warming takes systemic change, collective action, and cooperation (witting or not) among much larger populations, not just those motivated (and privileged) enough to make changes by themselves. It takes legislation to shift the most carbon-intensive industries—energy production, transportation, and food production—who will not change on their own. And it takes real solutions for China and India, who are rapidly approaching United States levels of resource consumption, and who have no intention of missing out on the benefits that Europe and the U.S. have enjoyed (itself an offensive, colonialist notion). Let’s look at some of the numbers.

Most American teens are frightened by climate change, poll finds, and about 1 in 4 are taking action - Washington Post - In a coastal town in Washington state, climate change has a high school junior worried about the floods that keep deluging his school. A 17-year-old from Texas says global warming scares him so much he can’t even think about it. But across the country, teens are channeling their anxieties into activism. “Fear,” said Maryland 16-year-old Madeline Graham, an organizer of a student protest planned for this week, “is a commodity we don’t have time for if we’re going to win the fight.”  A solid majority of American teenagers are convinced that humans are changing Earth’s climate and believe that it will cause harm to them personally and to other members of their generation, according to a new Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Roughly 1 in 4 have participated in a walkout, attended a rally or written to a public official to express their views on global warming — a remarkable level of activism for a group that has not yet reached voting age. The poll by The Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) is the first major survey of teenagers’ views since the explosion of the youth climate movement last year. Inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, whose year-long “strike” in front of the Swedish Parliament and carbon-neutral sailboat voyage across the Atlantic have made her an activist icon, growing numbers of teens have been skipping school on Fridays to protest on behalf of something they say is more important.

No future, no children: Teens refusing to have kids until there's action on climate change - A Canadian teen's pledge not to have children until her government takes serious action against climate change is drawing support from young people around the globe.Emma Lim, 18, launched a climate change movement this week called "#No Future, No Children" that includes a website where other teens can take her pledge."I am giving up my chance of having a family because I will only have children if I know I can keep them safe," she says on her website. "It breaks my heart, but I created this pledge because I know I am not alone. ... We’ve read the science, and now we’re pleading with our government."By Thursday afternoon more than 1,200 kids had signed on. Jacob Diercks, 18, lives near the North Sea in Meldorf, Germany. He signed onto the pledge, saying that in his lifetime he has seen the North Sea warm considerably. He said farmers there are in trouble due to flooding and summers so hot they burn the fields. "​I see it as irresponsible to bring children into such dangers," he wrote. "Our government is doing too little to protect the climate and thus our region."In Stockholm, Sweden, 18-year-old Isabelle Axelsson signed on."I am taking this pledge because I don’t want to give birth to a child that will feel the same climate anxiety and fear as I do," she wrote. "I don’t want any more children to have to face the consequences of our inaction." Lim writes that she always imagined herself being a mother someday. She says she loves children so much she has worked as a nanny. But she is concerned about the world she would be bringing her children into.

Four million’ join students in climate marches, building pressure on leaders - More than four million people have taken part in an unprecedented wave of climate protests across the world, organisers said, in the most powerful message to governments yet to take serious action. The global strike was billed as the largest climate protest in history days before  world leaders gather in New York for a three-day climate action summit convened by UN secretary general António Guterres starting Saturday. Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly young people, some accompanied by parents, gathered in Foley Square in front of the Thurgood Marshall courthouse in downtown Manhattan in September heat, waving colourful hand-painted placards. “Cooler is cool”, “Remember when the earth was cool” and “The earth should not be hotter than me” read some of the signs, encapsulating a sense that climate action was now utterly mainstream. The protest marched through the streets of New York to Battery Park, at the southern tip of Manhattan, to hear from Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. The social movement she inspired in such a short amount of time culminated in a powerful message to governments that to remain relevant to young voters, their actions need to change. Organisers said protests around the world had mobilised more than four million people in 163 countries. That number could not be independently verified. Amazing images flooded social media, those are shared below. At the summit on Monday, politicians will make their response by announcing their plans for greater ambition.

‘How Dare You!’ Greta Thunberg Rebukes World Leaders - After rallying 4 million people into the streets on Friday in the biggest global climate strike yet, Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg brought her message inside United Nations Headquarters today with a furious speech that repeatedly demanded of world leaders, “How dare you?” Seated alongside UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and two other young climate activists, Thunberg opened the UN Climate Action Summit by blasting the assembled heads of government with a speech that was equal parts “J’accuse” and hardball politics. “My message [to world leaders] is that we’ll be watching you,” Thunberg began. Then, as tears of rage and grief overtook her, the founder of the global climate strike movement all but shouted, “I shouldn’t be here. I should be back home, at school…. You come to us young people for hope. How dare you! You have stolen my childhood and my dreams. And I am one of the lucky ones. People all over the world are suffering and dying. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”“For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear,” Thunberg continued. “How dare you look away and say that you are doing enough!” Noting that the world’s carbon budget for a 1.5 degree Celsius future will be exhausted within 8.5 years if current trends continue, according to the scientists of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, she repeated, “How dare you pretend that this can be solved with business as usual?” Predicting that none of the speeches from world leaders today would wrestle with those imposing numbers, Thunberg declared that world leaders are “still not mature enough to tell it like it is.” The fury returning to her face, she warned, “You are betraying us…. If you choose to fail us, then I say, ‘We will never forgive you.’”As Thunberg’s speech appeared live on one internal UN video feed, a second feed showed Donald Trump arriving at the UN—but not for the Climate Action Summit. In a clear snub, the White House instead reserved a conference room where Trump would attend a conference on religious freedom along with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. Greta Thunberg, for her part, made it clear that she and other young activists will take no prisoners as they demand emergency action against climate breakdown. In a challenge to Trump and all leaders who are not stepping up at this decisive moment in human history, Thunberg warned, her eyes flashing, “We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now, is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

 Teenager Thunberg angrily tells U.N. climate summit 'you have stolen my dreams' (Reuters) - Teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg on Monday opened the United Nations Climate Action Summit with an angry condemnation of world leaders for failing to take strong measures to combat climate change - “How dare you,” she said. Days after millions of young people took to the streets worldwide to demand emergency action on climate change, leaders gathered for the annual United Nations General Assembly aiming to inject fresh momentum into stalling efforts to curb carbon emissions. A visibly emotional Thunberg, 16, said in stern remarks at the opening of the summit that the generations that have polluted the most have burdened her and her generation with the extreme impacts of climate change. “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you,” said the Swedish teenager, her voice quivering. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” Thunberg said, adding that the plans that leaders will unveil will not be enough to respond to the rate of the planet’s warming. Thunberg has galvanized a new wave of climate change activism through her weekly Fridays for Future school strikes, which she began with her weekly, solitary protests outside of the Swedish parliament. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had warned governments ahead of the event that they would have to offer action plans to qualify to speak at the summit, which is aimed at boosting the 2015 Paris Agreement to combat global warming. In his opening remarks, he tried to capture the urgency of climate change and called out the fossil fuel industry. “Nature is angry. And we fool ourselves if we think we can fool nature, because nature always strikes back, and around the world nature is striking back with fury,” Guterres said. “There is a cost to everything. But the biggest cost is doing nothing. The biggest cost is subsidising a dying fossil fuel industry, building more and more coal plants, and denying what is plain as day: that we are in a deep climate hole, and to get out we must first stop digging,” he said.

'How Dare You!': Greta Thunberg Rages at 'Fairytales of Eternal Economic Growth' -In a speech to the United Nations Climate Action Summit Monday, Swedish youth climate activist Greta Thunberg lit into world leaders for their "empty words" around solving the climate crisis and said decades of inaction have left her generation without a future. "People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosytems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth," said Thunberg. "How dare you!" Thunberg delivered her remarks during a panel on the climate crisis after she was asked what she thought of the worldwide climate strike movement that she began, alone, 13 months ago. But the youth activist wasn't interested in rehashing the past or praise from politicians. "I shouldn't be standing here," said Thunberg. "I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to me for hope? How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words." "For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear," Thunberg continued. "How dare you continue to look away, and come here saying that you are doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight." On Monday, Thunberg also joined with 16 youth activists to present the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child with a "landmark complaint" alleging the world is not living up to its responsibilities under the treaty to provide "a world worth inheriting to the future," according to Fridays for Future organizer Alexandria Villaseñor. In her remarks to the panel on Monday, Thunberg put world leaders on notice. "We will not let you get away with this," said Thunberg. "Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not."

Greta Thunberg Rips World Leaders at the U.N. Over Climate Change YouTube.

‘You Are Failing Us’: Greta Thunberg Rips Into World Leaders for Lack of Climate Action, Glares at Trump - Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who was instrumental in launching the Fridays for Future school strike movement, refused to let world leaders off the hook in an emotional speech at the start of the UN Climate Action Summit Monday. "This is all wrong," Thunberg said, according to a transcript published by The Guardian. "I shouldn't be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to me for hope? How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!"  UN Secretary General António Guterres had asked attending countries to present plans for reducing emissions 45 percent over the next decade, but Thunberg suggested this goal did not go far enough. She said there was only a 50 percent chance that achieving it would limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels."Maybe 50 percent is acceptable to you. But those numbers don't include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of justice and equity," she said. "They also rely on my and my children's generation sucking hundreds of billions of tonnes of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist. So a 50 percent risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the consequences."Thunberg's comments came three days after four million people around the world attended the largest youth-led climate protest yet, something she alluded to at the end of her speech. "You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not," she concluded.

Video of Greta Thunberg crossing paths with Trump at UN goes viral - Video of Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg crossing paths with President Trump following her forceful speech at the United Nations on Monday quickly went viral across social media. The encounter between the two came after Thunberg accused leaders of failing her generation during a blistering speech at the U.N. General Assembly climate summit. As Trump arrived for this week's U.N. General Assembly, cameras caught Thunberg, an activist who inspired the worldwide youth movement to combat climate change, staring directly at Trump. It remains unclear what exactly she was reacting to. Her reaction quickly gained widespread attention, though, with many suggesting that Thunberg was glaring at the president in way that showcased her anger with the president and his stances on climate change. Thunberg said last month that Trump "obviously" doesn't listen to science when assessing global warming. "If a picture is worth 1,000 words then this GIF is worth 100,000," the news organization NowThis tweeted.  Others joked that the glare evoked one you'd give your "worst enemy" and that the look said "a lot." A headline on New York Magazine humorously read: "Greta Thunberg Accidentally Warms Globe With Her Scorching Glare."

Macron Slams Greta Thunberg After Teenage Activist Sues France Over Climate - But Leaves Out China - French President Emmanuel Macron slammed Greta Thunberg after the 16-year-old climate activist filed a legal complaint accusing five countries of inaction on global warming in violation of the 30-year-old UN Convention on the Rights of a Child. Germany, France, Brazil, Argentina and Turkey.  Notably, she left out China - which is the world's worst polluter by total volume.   After browbeating the UN for 'stealing her childhood' on Monday, Thunberg tweeted "Today at 11:30 I and 15 other children from around the world filed a legal complaint against 5 nations over the climate crisis through the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child."  Thunberg's complaint calls out nations that have ratified the UN treaty, yet - according to her - have not upheld their obligations. And again, she's said nothing about pollution from China or India.   In response to the Swedish activist, French President Emmanuel Macron told Eruope1 that her stance was "very radical" and likely to "antagonize societies."  "All the movements of our youth — or our not-so-young — are helpful," said Macron, adding "But they must now focus on those who are furthest away, those who are seeking to block the way."  The head of state stressed that he didn't feel "that the French government nor the German government, currently, were blocking the way."  Macron also said he wanted young people to "help us put pressure on those who are blocking the way" and to "partake in very clear action." -Business Insider

 How 16-year-old Greta Thunberg’s rise could backfire on environmentalists - Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden is the new face of the environmentalist movement, thanks to a pair of impassioned speeches to the U.S. Congress and the United Nations.  But while personalizing a movement, especially with the innocent face of a child, is usually PR gold, Greta’s ascendancy to the forefront of environmental activism could end up being a major negative to the movement – and the environment. Just how inspiring or even persuasive you find Greta’s speeches and overall activism likely depends on where you stand on the political spectrum. There are plenty of politicians and regular voters claiming to be inspired by her words and passion. There are also lots of observers expressing general alarm at what they see as an indoctrinated child being coerced by adults to make their political arguments with her youth as a shield from any criticism.Her story signals a clear change in environmental movement tactics, and just how much more divisive and ineffective that change is likely to be.Greta, and the adults guiding her, are seeking to shift almost all the focus from personal responsibility to governments and big corporations to enact environmental reform. Their argument is that individual people can’t do much to save the world from climate change disaster when energy companies and governments focused mostly on economic growth don’t care enough to make the big changes. The adult version of that argument emerged earlier this month when Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren basically mocked personal conservation efforts. Warren told a climate town hall audience and later tweeted that the fossil fuel industry wants the public to discuss issues like plastic straws, lightbulbs, and cheeseburgers so they can continue to get away with producing most of the emissions blamed for climate change.

Could Climate Change Fuel the Rise of Right-Wing Nationalism? - Two trends have defined the past decade and both have been on display at this year’s session of the United Nations General Assembly.  One has been the escalating effects of climate change, which were the focus of the United Nations’Climate Action Summit. Forest fires, floodsand hurricanes are all rising in their frequency and severity. Eight of the last 10 years have been the warmest on record. Marine biologists warned that coral reefs in the U.S. could disappear entirely by the 2040s. The other trend has been the surge of right-wing nationalist politics across Western nations, which includes Donald Trump’s election in the U.S., and the rise of nationalist political parties around the world. Indeed, the first four speeches of the United Nations general debate were given by Brazilian right-wing populist Jair Bolsonaro, Trump, Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and far-right Turkish President Recep Erdogan. These two trends are rarely discussed together. When they are, their correlation is sometimes viewed as an unfortunate coincidence, since many nationalist politicians actively obstruct climate change solutions. However, our new research suggests that these two trends may be closely related, and not in the way you might think. The effects of climate change – and the way it makes societies feel threatened – may be one of the elements fueling the rise of right-wing nationalism.

Elizabeth Warren's Climate Risk Disclosure Act Tries to Do What the SEC Didn't - The Green New Deal has been the focal point of the climate debate among the Democratic presidential candidates. Less publicized is the Climate Risk Disclosure Act, a proposal from Senator and presidential contender Elizabeth Warren, that seeks to frame climate change as a threat to the public markets.The idea: force companies to publicly disclose how their valuation would fare should climate change continue versus how they would do should temperature rise be capped at 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels, the benchmark outlined in the Paris agreement. "The Climate Risk Disclosure Act empowers investors to make smart decisions about where to invest their money by requiring that public companies be straight about how climate change and related policies will affect their bottom lines," said Sen. Warren in an exclusive statement sent to Cheddar. "Shareholders weighing this new information will compel big companies to speed up the transition to a clean energy economy, reducing the odds of an environmental and financial disaster without spending a dime of taxpayer money."First proposed in 2018, and reintroduced with changes earlier this summer, Warren's bill would use the Securities and Exchange Commission to force publicly-traded companies to confront their own position within the climate crisis — and share that information with investors. The law, the Senator's office explains, would also have companies reveal their direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions, share the total fossil fuel assets they own or manage, and outline their climate change risk management strategies.It's certainly not the only climate proposal from the Massachusetts senator, but the Climate Risk Disclosure Act does appear fundamentally Warren-esque in its hope to use regulatory agencies — in this case, the SEC — to push the free market toward a less environmentally-destructive future.Notably, the legislation was co-sponsored by several other presidential hopefuls, including Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. It has also won the endorsement of sustainability advocacy organizations, including the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (Ceres) and the U.S. Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (US SIF). Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) introduced the bill in the House, where it just passed the House Financial Services Committee.

The Green New Deal will be tremendously expensive. Every penny should go on the government’s tab. Although its seeds are freshly planted, the Green New Deal (GND) resolution has already regenerated the US policy landscape.By coupling concrete, evidence-based goals with policy proposals that explicitly support these goals, Green New Dealers have shown not only courage but savvy.Advocates of the GND reject "soft denialist" suggestions that the climate crisis is merely a technical problem we can fix by "unrigging" old markets, manufacturing new markets, or implementing isolated taxes. This recognition has helped shift the discussion toward ambition — and toward survival.In support of this evolution, most advocates embrace another cold, hard truth: Only the federal government holds the fiscal tools powerful enough to achieve a just transition.Accordingly, people who truly want to see a GND in our time should fully embrace the power of the public purse. Instead of focusing on financial returns or relying on failed ideas like public-private partnerships, the GND should be financed through public spending and nothing else.From the onset, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — one of the GND's most visible supporters — has demanded our elected officials approach the crisis as straightforwardly as possible, just as policymakers responded to World War II.The analogy is on point. During the war, Treasury economistslearned an important lesson: Ultimately, the US federal government is constrained not by financial resources but by the physical resources (like labor and machinery) that it can marshal with its spending.It doesn't mean elected officials should ignore the effects of new spending; rather, Congress should appropriate as much public money as necessary to accomplish GND projects, while avoiding the widespread shortages of goods and services that may result from the creation of excess purchasing power. This framework aligns with theactual goals of the GND rather than distractions— like boosting financial returns on investment. Some GND advocates want the explicitly transformational agenda to appear less costly and less "invasive." Whether they do this out of concern for the "price tag," a "socialist label," or both, matters little. They want to "leverage markets," "unlock the potential" of private capital, and otherwise minimize the ostensible burden of the GND on government balance sheets. Their proposals typically involve the federal government either substituting public spending for public "lending," via a national development bank or a network of public banks, or taking "equity stakes" in private companies (thereby granting the federal government the right to a percentage of future profits, as well as influence, but not ownership, over the private businesses.)

Jeff Bezos unveils sweeping plan to tackle climate change --Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled a sweeping new plan on Thursday to tackle climate change, committing the retail giant to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement 10 years ahead of schedule. In what he is calling the “Climate Pledge,” Bezos also promised to measure and report the company’s emissions on a regular basis, implement decarbonization strategies and alter its business strategies to offset remaining emissions. Bezos expects 80% of Amazon’s energy use to come from renewable sources by 2024, up from a current rate of 40%, before transitioning to zero emissions by 2030. “We want to use our scale and our scope to lead the way,” Bezos said at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. “One of the things we know about Amazon as a role model for this is that it’s a difficult challenge for us because we have deep, large physical infrastructure. So, if we can do this, anyone can do this.” The plan calls for other companies to join Amazon in pledging to have net zero carbon emissions by 2040 — a decade ahead of the Paris accord’s goal. As part of the announcement, Amazon has agreed to purchase 100,000 electric delivery vans from vehicle manufacturer Rivian. Bezos said the first electric delivery vans will be on the road by 2021, and he estimates 100,000 vehicles will be deployed by 2024. The move builds on Rivian’s $700 million investment round in February, which was led by Amazon. Amazon has invested $440 million in Rivian, the announcement said.

Google to Invest $2 Billion in Wind and Solar Energy -Ahead of the UN climate summit and the global climate strike, the world's largest search engine announced that the tech behemoth will make its biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy yet, signing on to a series of agreements that will increase Google's wind and solar investments by 40 percent, as Quartzreported.Google struck 18 clean energy deals that span the globe, from the U.S., Chile and Europe. The agreements mean that Google will purchase energy from solar farms in South Carolina, North Carolina and Texas. It will use solar and wind power to run its data centers in Chile, as Cnet reported.NoneAbout half of the new investment will be in Europe, including projects in Finland, Sweden, Belgium and Denmark, according to the Guardian.The company's CEO Sundar Pichai said it's "the biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history," in a blog post. Google will buy 1,600 megawatts, or 1.6 gigawatt, of clean electricity in its new energy deals, as Cnet reported.Added it to Google's existing purchases of clean energy, the new investment will allow Google to purchase 5.5 gigawatt of clean energy."Together, these deals will increase our worldwide portfolio of wind and solar agreements by more than 40 percent, to 5,500 MW—equivalent to the capacity of a million solar rooftops," wrote Pichai in his blog post. "Once all these projects come online, our carbon-free energy portfolio will produce more electricity than places like Washington D.C. or entire countries like Lithuania or Uruguay use each year."Pichai added that the deals will "spur the construction of more than $2 billion in new energy infrastructure," including millions of solar panels and hundreds of wind turbines across three continents, as the Guardianreported. "This means we're not buying power from existing wind and solar farms, but instead are making long-term purchase commitments that result in the development of new projects," he wrote in his blog post.

Casper Regional Landfill begins burying turbine blades -- One wind farm in Glenrock and two from the Saratoga area have partnered with the Casper Regional Landfill to dispose of their old wind turbine blades. More than 900 blades will be brought to the landfill beginning now until the end of next spring. The Casper Solid Waste Manager, Cynthia Langston, said that though most turbine blades can be reused, there are some that are simply un-recyclable. “Ninety percent of the turbines are completely reclaimed, recycled, and reused, but there is ten percent that is fiberglass, so those are coming to us from three different farms in the state.” Langston said that though the motor houses can be crushed, the blades are too strong. To save space, they cut each blade into three separate parts before transporting them, then stack them on each other to be buried. Langston said that Casper was the only facility in the region that could handle such a project. “So Casper happens to be, I think it is, the biggest landfill facility in the state of Wyoming. These blades are really big, and they take up a lot of airspace, and our unlined area is very, very large, and it’s going to last hundreds of years.” She also mentioned that Casper is the only landfill in the state that has the certification to show that it is environmentally responsible, but being conscious for the Earth isn’t the only reason Casper decided to bring the project to the city. They are making a pretty large profit from the deal; $675,485 to be exact. “So the revenue from the special projects, um, that go in the unlined area, help with the whole cost of our facility so it keeps all of our rates low.  Keeping prices low is important to the CRL, as they are the lowest price landfill in the state, much in thanks to these types of special projects.

Banned wind turbine infrasound articles became too hot for the Sierra Club to handle -- After working without any compensation for months to uncover the most revealing, current scholarly studies, and thought-provoking news reports on the known health hazards associated with infrasound from industrial wind turbines, a two-part series of articles that was written at the Sierra Club’s request was suddenly retracted from one of their club’s magazines. Moreover, it was announced that the reason would not be revealed until December. This was a shocking outcome, especially considering that the articles had been the idea of the magazine’s editor, who along with a recruited author had painstakingly scrutinized, double-checked, and triple-checked every one of the extensive sources for the two-part article, and had verified not only the legitimacy of the sources, but also authenticated the interpretation of those reports. While the first part of the series – which delved into the potential health hazards of infrasound on wildlife, house pets, and farm animals – had been considered a completely acceptable report for months, one week after the second part of the series was published online – which focused on the potential human health hazards of wind turbine produced infrasound – both articles immediately became the target of a mysterious set of “editors” (plural) for a publication that had only an editor (singular) prior to the banning of that series. Apparently, the compilation of too many eye-opening pieces of evidence of infrasound danger in too little word space may have created too much truth for comfort for some of the Sierra Club’s largest money donors, who had purchased their positions as foundation directors, all of whom profit greatly from the promotion of costly and hazardous so-called green energy schemes (see the last portion of this article on how billionaire directors use the Sierra Club as a lobbying front, blatantly exchanging green hype for greenbacks in a well-orchestrated and highly successful scheme to increase their vast corporate profits). Therefore, not only was the article retracted, but a campaign to discredit the two-part report is also currently underway. The following is an account of the unfolding treachery of the Sierra Club, as documented in the email conversations between the author and the editor of the Desert Report magazine, where the travesty occurred …

Vermont Tech to shut down $4.2 million digester for lack of compost - Vermont Technical College will stop running its $4.2 million anaerobic digester in Randolph this December, citing problems with availability of food residuals. The college made the decision public on Sept. 13, said Amanda Chaulk, director of marketing and communications for Vermont Tech.   The shutdown decision was based on economic, not technological, challenges, said Chaulk. Vermont Tech did not have enough food scraps to operate the digester at full capacity, which they attribute in part to delays in requiring haulers to collect compost.  An anaerobic digester can turn food into energy. When the VTC digester went online in 2014, the college anticipated that there would soon be a statewide “distribution system in place for getting residential scraps to digesters like ours,” said Chaulk. She said Vermont Tech also anticipated that the Salisbury anaerobic digester, which is being constructed now, would increase competition for the limited “feedstock” needed to run the digester.

Expanding biogas production – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) have reintroduced bipartisan legislation to encourage investment in biodigester systems, while establishing a market for farmers who already have a surplus of waste materials that can be used for biogas production. Brown and Roberts’ bill, the Agricultural Environmental Stewardship Act, will help expand the market for biogas by providing a 30 percent investment tax credit to help offset the upfront costs associated with building biodigester systems.Right now, farmers across the country have a surplus of organic material like manure, food scraps, agricultural residue, wastewater solids and liquids. All of which can be used to produce biogas that can be used to produce heat, electricity, fuel and can be injected into natural gas pipelines. It can also be used to process wastewater up stream, which reduces runoff and containments that impact potable water in a number of communities, especially those around Lake Erie.“Ohio farmers are struggling to safely dispose of livestock waste that could be used for renewable energy,” said Sen. Brown. “This legislation will encourage investment in the technology needed to convert these waste materials into natural gas that can be used to power households and businesses across the country.” “This legislation promotes a commonsense way to turn waste into energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs and grow the economy,”

Trump's billion-dollar gambit: An ethanol deal to meet the demands of farmers and Big Oil - The Trump administration appears to be moving toward a deal to placate ethanol interests who have blamed the president’s deregulatory push for forcing the closing of 17 ethanol plants. It’s a deal where the administration is trying to do damage control and balance the demands of farmers and oil companies, two of Donald Trump’s most loyal constituencies. The deal, still not yet reduced to a written bill, is likely to help oil companies that have been given permission to stop blending ethanol with gasoline at some of their refineries to make up the lost production at other plants, said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group for ethanol producers. The negotiations have happened in at least two recent White House meetings — one between President Donald Trump and Republican senators from farm states, including Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, The other, on Sept. 11, was between company executives and White House staff. There is still no timetable for when the plan will be finalized. The rules at issue are called small refinery exemptions, which the Trump administration has expanded at the behest of oil companies and to the consternation of ethanol interests. The exemptions let so-called small gasoline refineries — including some owned by oil giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron —out of their obligations to produce ethanol under the renewable fuel standards rules approved by Congress in 2005 and 2007 to address climate change. Because ethanol emits less carbon than conventional gasoline when burned, the renewable fuels standard requires that refiners include 15 billion gallons of ethanol in their products annually. That’s enough for most of the nation’s gasoline to include 10% ethanol, which is usable in every new passenger vehicle sold in the U.S., Cooper said. The U.S. Department of Energy says flex-fuel vehicles can use 15% ethanol fuel or 85% ethanol fuel, with the more ethanol-rich blends being more popular in farm states near where ethanol is produced. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency each year allocates each refinery’s quota for ethanol production in a rule implementing the statute. After that, however, the agency has been granting retroactive waivers to excuse refineries from their legal duty. The so-called SRE exemptions, which have been granted retroactively, reduce the market for ethanol to between 13 billion and 14 billion gallons annually, Cooper said.

BIOFUELS: Trump wants to limit RIN prices to help oil refiners: source -- President Trump has told senators he favors limiting prices on biofuel credits to help petroleum refiners, according to an industry source briefed on yesterday's White House meeting.

Backed by Over Two Dozen Cities and States, California Sues Trump Admin for Revoking Authority to Adopt Strict Emissions Standards California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, backed by top legal officials representing more than two dozen cities and states, sued the Trump administration Friday for revoking the Golden State's authority to set its own greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and trucks.  The Environmental Protection Agency, under the Obama administration, issued a waiver in 2013 that allowed California to develop state emissions standards that are stricter than federal ones. California's standards have since been adopted in whole or part by several other states and the District of Columbia."Over the past 50 years, the EPA has granted 100 waivers to California," according to Becerra's office. "Thanks to California's vehicle emissions program, the state has reduced emissions by hundreds of thousands of tons annually, encouraged the development of emission controls technologies, and paved the way for stronger federal standards."While President Donald Trump was fundraising in California on Wednesday, he tweetedabout revoking California's waiver. The administration finalized that move on Thursday and unveiled its "One National Program Rule."The new lawsuit (pdf), filed in the U.S. District Court for D.C., challenges the Trump administration's attempt to kill the stricter standards and replace them with a new emissions rule jointly drafted by the EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an agency under the Department of Transportation."Two courts have already upheld California's emissions standards, rejecting the argument the Trump administration resurrects to justify its misguided Preemption Rule. Yet, the administration insists on attacking the authority of California and other states to tackle air pollution and protect public health," Becerra said in a statement. "The Oval Office is really not a place for on-the-job training," Becerra added. "President Trump should have at least read the instruction manual he inherited when he assumed the presidency, in particular the chapter on respecting the Rule of Law. Mr. President, we'll see you in court."

23 states sue Trump to keep California's auto emission rules(AP) — California sued Friday to stop the Trump administration from revoking its authority to set greenhouse gas emission and fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, enlisting help from 22 other states in a battle that will shape a key component of the nation’s climate policy. Federal law sets standards for how much pollution can come from cars and trucks. But since the 1970s, California has been permitted to set tougher rules because it has the most cars and struggles to meet air quality standards. On Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration withdrew California’s waiver. The NHTSA action does not take effect for 60 days, but state leaders did not wait to file a lawsuit. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has clashed with President Donald Trump on several fronts, vowed the state “will hold the line in court to defend our children’s health, save consumers money at the pump and protect our environment.” The Trump administration’s decision does not just affect California. Thirteen other states, plus the District of Columbia, have adopted California’s standards. A spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declined to comment on the lawsuit. But Thursday, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said the rules “were making cars more expensive and impeding safety because consumers were being priced out of newer, safer vehicles.” “We will not let political agendas in a single state be forced upon the other 49,” Chao said. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said its authority to set nationwide fuel economy standards pre-empts state and local programs. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra cited a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that rejected the NHTSA’s argument that greenhouse gas emission standards under the Clean Air Act interfered with its ability to set fuel economy standards. “The Oval Office is really not a place for on-the-job training. President Trump should have at least read the instruction manual he inherited when he assumed the Presidency, in particular the chapter on respecting the Rule of Law,” Becerra said in a statement.

 Pence’s eight-car motorcade ruffles feathers on Michigan’s Mackinac Island, where cars are banned - Vice President Pence's arrival in Michigan with an eight-vehicle motorcade to attend the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference over the weekend ruffled some feathers on an island where cars are generally banned, the Detroit Free Press reported. The conference took place on the state’s Mackinac Island, which has a population of around 500 people, according to the 2010 census, that is known for its ban on vehicles. The ban first took effect in the late 19th century, Time magazine reported.According to the Detroit Free Press, the vice president’s motorcade is the first ever to arrive in the community, where residents generally commute by bike or snowmobile in colder weather. However, residents can be granted a temporary vehicle permit in certain circumstances.It has long been custom for the president and vice president to travel with several armored vehicles by motorcade as a security measure.However, the sight of the vice president’s motorcade on Mackinac Island prompted some criticism from local Democratic leaders. Former state Senate candidate Julia Pulver (D) tweeted a video of the vice president’s motorcade and wrote, “For those not from MI, you should understand what a huge transgression this is.”  “Our #MackinacIsland has been a car free haven forever, a piece of history frozen in time. Tell anyone from MI @VP just drove not 1 but 8 CARS on this island & watch their blood boil,” she continued. 

DOE allocates $56.5M toward clean coal-fired energy research - More than 30 companies, universities and research entities will receive $56.5 million in funding for development projects focused on advanced coal technologies. The U.S. Department of Energy announced the winners in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects ranging from innovative uses of domestic coal, steam turbine technologies, coal-fired power plants and energy efficiencies, among other tracks. The funding is broken into six award categories. Award winners and research partners include Thermosolv, Battelle Memorial Institute, George Washington University, Ramaco Carbon LLC, University of Illinois, Ohio University, H Quest Vanguard Inc., University of Kentucky, General Electric, Rice University, Siemens, Clemson University, Gas Technology Institute, Infinite Cooling Inc. and West Virginia University Research Corp., among others. The first funding opportunity award is for $10 million for 10 projects focused on develop innovative uses of domestic coal for upgraded coal-based feedstocks used to produce power and make steel. The second funding opportunity award is for $11.9 million on advancing steam turbines for coal boilers. The two projects selected seek to improve the performance of steam-based power cycles. The third funding opportunity award is for $9.3 million for 10 projects working to improve performance economics for the existing and future coal fleet. This group support DOE’s Crosscutting Research Program covering a rnage of fossil energy uses. The fourth funding opportunity award is for $5 million for five projects working on development and deployment of innovative systems for improving efficiency and environmental performance. The fifth award funds three projects with up to $15 million on recovering rare earth elements and critical materials from domestic coal-based resources via conventional extraction, separation and recovery processes.The sixth and final award allocates $5.3 million to two projects supporting DOE’s program to improve characterization and prediction of subsurface fluid movement and enhance real-time measurement of critical subsurface properties.

TDEC to conduct testing on Bull Run mystery dust Anderson County mother Amie Deaver had one question for Tennessee’s environmental regulators Thursday as she scooped up her own samples of the particulate matter falling from the skies in her neighborhood.“Why is (the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation) letting (the Tennessee Valley Authority) do their own testing?” she asked in an interview with Knox News.She’s not alone. A growing number of residents living within a few miles of TVA’s Bull Run coal-fired power plant are reporting the discovery — for days now — of a substance similar in appearance and texture to forms of coal ash waste produced there. Both TVA and TDEC say monitoring equipment at the Bull Run Fossil Plant show no reason to think the particulate matter that has been coating houses, cars, mailboxes and driveways is coming from the plant or related to coal ash.  At least a half dozen nearby residents, including Deaver, say they were told this week that TDEC — the state agency tasked with regulating TVA’s coal ash storage and protecting the environment — would be investigating. Some gave TDEC samples.  On Thursday morning, TDEC told Knox News regulators were going to allow TVA to test the samples.

As coal companies fail, the workers are being left with nothing - Peggy Stanley can give you a rough running tally of the money that Blackjewel Mining owes her husband. First, there are the paychecks. One was supposed to be sent out mid-July, after the company filed for bankruptcy, but it never came. There’s also the one that was sent out in the middle of June but bounced two weeks later when the company ran out of funds, causing the Stanleys’ account to be frozen. Peggy estimates those checks amount to around $5,000. There’s also the money in their 401k, which the couple has been unable to access. And then there’s the mining equipment, the $400 worth of supplies in his locker that had been stolen. And for John and Peggy, who are in limbo as they wait for news about John’s job, every little bit of money counts right now.“We’re wondering how we will pay the next bill or get food,” Peggy said. The meltdown at Blackjewel, which currently owes millions of dollars to more than 1,000 workers in four different states, shows just how tenuous the coal industry can be for workers.Six coal companies filed for bankruptcy in the last year, putting workers in dire straits. In 2018, only around 80,000 people nationally were employed at coal mines—the lowest level on record. The collapse of coal threatens not just miners, but their neighbors in mining communities. A recent analysis identified 26 counties so dependent on coal for employment and tax revenue that they risk “fiscal collapse” because of the continuing decline of the industry. Around half of the big coal companies that have filed for bankruptcy since 2012, according to the Sierra Club, have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Unlike Chapter 7, which immediately shuts a company down, Chapter 11 allows companies to continue operating as they restructure.

Former Blackjewel Miners End Railroad Blockade In Kentucky -The nearly two-month blockade of a Kentucky railroad track is coming to an end as unpaid coal miners end their protest in order to take new jobs, start classes, or move away from their coal-dependent communities. When coal company Blackjewel abruptly declared bankruptcy in July, it left some 1100 Appalachian coal miners in Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia without pay. On July 29, five miners blockaded a train full of coal preparing to leave a Blackjewel facility in Harlan County, Kentucky. The miners’ rallying cry was “No Pay, No Coal.” But after 59 days on the tracks, the protest is coming to an end. Felicia Cress is married to a former Blackjewel miner, and has been at the protest since the first day. “This happened because we got shafted, which happens all the time,” Cress said. “You got these rich people that s*** on these poor people, and people just overlook it.” Felicia’s husband is currently looking for work. She said her bank has threatened to foreclose on her home unless she finds money for her mortgage payment by Saturday.

Appalachia's Deep History of Resistance - When a group of Kentucky miners decided to block a coal-laden train from leaving a bankrupt mine in July, they weren’t just laying claim to missing paychecks.The miners in Harlan County won attention across the United States for their willingness to put their bodies on the line for their beliefs. In doing so, they’re invoking the long-entrenched spirit of civil disobedience and direct action in the Appalachian Mountains. The mine wars of the early 20th century led to the rise of American unions in the 1930s and 1940s, but it’s not just coal miners who have laid claim to a history of activism.The first day of the Harlan County train blockade, July 29, 2019, also marked the 89th day of a 24/7 protest in Kingsport, Tennessee, over a monopolistic health care provider’s move to downgrade a hospital’s emergency services and close its neonatal intensive care unit, where sick newborns are treated. And July 29 was the 328th day of the Yellow Finch Lane tree-sits in Montgomery County, Virginia, where two anonymous tree-sitters and a small support camp block construction of a 303-mile, 42-inch wide pipeline being built to move natural gas from the fracking fields of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in northern West Virginia to a terminal just north of Danville in southern Virginia. From there, the gas would be sent on to the East Coast, and perhaps overseas.These ongoing actions aren’t recent aberrations. In 2018, more than 20,000 teachers in all of West Virginia’s 55 counties went on strike for two weeks to secure better pay and benefits—and in the end were successful. That action inspired similar teacher strikes in Kentucky, Oklahoma, and elsewhere.In the mid-’00s, activists trying to stop mountaintop removal coal mining—a form of surface mining that uses explosives to blow off ridge tops to expose underground coal seams—regularly took part in direct actions, chaining themselves to equipment, disrupting stockholder meetings, and blocking access to mine sites and facilities. These activists run the gamut in terms of age, class, race, ethnicity and hometowns. Women tend to be more prevalent in these actions than men, but everyone shares the frustration of fighting against a system that feels rigged, where other options are blocked, and the only thing left to do is to fight using one’s body.

Audit alleges W.Va. DEP violated state law for nearly a decade | WCHS -In a report presented to the joint Post Audit Committee, legislative auditors contend that the state Division of Environmental Protection has been skirting a law designed to make sure that coal mine reclamation bonds are on solid financial ground. Coal companies have to get the bonds to guarantee the land will be repaired once the mining is over. But, the audit report says the DEP ignored a stipulation that said insuring agencies have to be approved by the U.S. Treasury with a T-Listing. That certifies the insurers have suitable assets and financial practices. First Surety Corporation got into the business in 2006 and insures hundreds of bonds worth about 48 million dollars. However, the agency does not have the financial credentials that auditors say the law requires. "The legislature is very committed to requiring a T-Listing for these bills, surety bonds and so forth, that protect the land in West Virginia as its being mined for coal," West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael, (R) Jackson, said. The DEP's general counsel says the agency interprets the law as having two paths to insure the reclamation bonds. One is for a company to have a T-Listing, the other is by the permission of the West Virginia Insurance Commissioner. Carmichael questioned the lawyer about the DEP's stance. "Mr. President, my testimony is that the agency thought that there were two avenues pursuant to that rule by which a company would be allowed to submit surety bonds to the state," Jason Wandling, General Counsel for the W.Va. DEP said. "And one of those avenues would be, would not include T-Listing?" Carmichael asked. Wandling replied, "That's correct Mr. President." "I'm at a loss as to how you obtain that understanding of it," Carmichael said.

Federal judge orders Justice companies to pay $35M in 2012 lawsuit  — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s family companies have been ordered to pay $35 million in a lawsuit over a coal mining contract.On Monday, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Kentucky Gregory F. Van Tatenhove entered amemorandum opinion and order.The judgment stems from a 2012 lawsuit filed by New London Tobacco Market Inc., which said Justice’s companies, James C. Justice Companies Inc. and Kentucky Fuel Corp., had breached a contract to mine coal. Among other things, Justice’s companies were accused of failing to pay minimum royalty payments and monthly retainer fees, and committing fraud.In an amended complaint filed September 2017, Justice’s companies were accused of transferring assets “with the intent to hinder, delay or defraud Plaintiffs as creditors of Justice Companies.” The lawsuit mentions a series of properties Justice’s companies transferred, including land in North Carolina and South Carolina.Lawyers for New London Tobacco Market Inc. believed, they wrote, that Justice’s companies intended to “convert real property to cash or other assets that will be difficult to trace or that can be dissipated or hidden, with the intent to hinder, delay or defraud Plaintiffs and other creditors.” The $35 million judgment is specifically for lost retainer fees, lost tonnage royalties, compensatory damages and punitive damages. As of June 26, 2019, Justice’s companies owed $970,000 in unpaid retainer fees, which increase by $10,000 on the first of each month — meaning they now owe $1 million. They also owe nearly $17 million in lost tonnage royalties, $20,000 for compensatory damages and $17 million in punitive damages.

Top energy regulator agonizes over the downfall of coal country – CNN -Neil Chatterjee, America's top energy regulator, grew up in the heart of coal country. Now, he's agonizing over the collapse of the coal industry, and there's not much he can do to save it."It is really, really difficult for me to watch," Chatterjee, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, told CNN Business in an interview. The Republican from Kentucky said he's seen firsthand the "devastating impact" that the closure of coal-fired power plants and mines can have on local communities."People are left with no resources. There's not a Walmart or Burger King for 30 miles where they can get alternative employment," said Chatterjee, who was appointed to FERC, which regulates interstate power, in 2017 by President Donald Trump.The pain goes beyond those directly employed by coal, spreading to indirect jobs that support the industry and even to the local real estate market."The only asset that people in these communities often have is their homes," Chatterjee said, "and their homes lose value because no one wants to move to an area without hope for economic prosperity." Yet Chatterjee, a former aide to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, stressed that his hands are tied. FERC is an independent agency run by bipartisan commissioners. Chatterjee has pledged to make decisions based on the facts, not personal feelings.

McConnell’s Record on Coal Has Become a Hot Topic in His Senate Campaign - — Mitch McConnell staked his last Senate campaign, five years ago, in large part on his support for the coal industry and coal miners. But McConnell's unwillingness to shore up the fund that supports miners with black lung disease or their pension fund, even after dozens of his constituents traveled 10 hours by bus this summer to his Washington office, has allowed a well-funded opponent to seize on what should be McConnell's strength: coal. "Coal miners risked their lives to fuel our country and our growth into a world power," Democrat Amy McGrath says in a recent attack ad. Borrowing a union battle cry that still echoes in the hills and hollows around here after more than 80 years, McGrath says: "The question for anyone in Congress is, which side are you on?" In an indication that it struck a nerve, McConnell's campaign quickly hit back with his own ad, asserting that "Kentucky coal country knows that Mitch fights and wins for miners." As the coal economy of eastern Kentucky has collapsed in recent years after decades of decline, there's a growing impatience expressed even by some local Republicans and community activists with McConnell's leadership on behalf of sick and out-of-work coal miners and their struggling towns in his home state. McConnell has propped up a dying coal industry as the economic engine of the region, instead of going all in on supporting economic diversity that could provide a future for communities. He failed to support legislation that would reclaim mine land for economic development. He shied away from a bipartisan coalition in his state that is nurturing tech, medical and even solar jobs. He led the Republican effort to cut taxes on the coal companies — taxes that would help struggling miners. And he has not pushed to shore up a badly underfunded miners' pension fund.

Fracking ban could have unintended consequence of boosting coal – OpEd - A big environmental talking point this election season is a call to ban fracking. The argument is supported by the likes of Sens. Bernie Sanders(I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). This week, a group of Hollywood stars, political activists and 500 grassroots groups sent a letter to the United Nations asking the General Assembly to endorse a global ban on fracking. In some political circles, activists believe that decreased fracking would reduce carbon emissions. Those activists are actually wrong.Fracking produces natural gas, and when we use more natural gas we decrease our use of coal to produce electricity. We are in the midst of a natural gas boom, in large part because it is produced as a byproduct of fracking for oil. The natural gas produced through fracking has become abundant, cheap and a more environmentally friendly replacement for coal.  In 2016, more than 31 percent of electricity in the United States was produced by burning coal in power plants. Natural gas is the best option to replace coal power generation quickly and transition to cleaner emissions. The best way to put pressure on utilities to make that transition is to keep pushing the price of natural gas lower so that coal cannot compete.According to a new report from IHS Markit, natural gas prices in the United States could fall to an average of $2 or less per thousand cubic feet next year. This incredibly low price for natural gas is being driven by an increase in associated gas, or gas that is produced and captured from oil wells. We have also seen an increase in pipelines built in fracking regions to transport that natural gas. Without the pipelines, the producers have to flare the natural gas, meaning they burn it off at the well. This is both wasteful and bad for the environment.  The United States is producing so much natural gas that we can even afford to export it to other countries while keeping prices low for utilities at home. Liquifying and transporting natural gas abroad is now a growing business for the United States with new liquefaction. America’s LNG export capacity is expected to reach over 10 billion cubic feet per day in 2020, which is almost double the export capacity in 2018. There’s an obvious economic benefit to selling our abundant and inexpensive natural gas to the world, but there are also environmental and geopolitical benefits.

Nuclear energy too slow, too expensive to save climate: report(Reuters) - Nuclear power is losing ground to renewables in terms of both cost and capacity as its reactors are increasingly seen as less economical and slower to reverse carbon emissions, an industry report said. In mid-2019, new wind and solar generators competed efficiently against even existing nuclear power plants in cost terms, and grew generating capacity faster than any other power type, the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR) showed. “Stabilizing the climate is urgent, nuclear power is slow,” said Mycle Schneider, lead author of the report. “It meets no technical or operational need that low-carbon competitors cannot meet better, cheaper and faster.” The report estimates that since 2009 the average construction time for reactors worldwide was just under 10 years, well above the estimate given by industry body the World Nuclear Association (WNA) of between 5 and 8.5 years. The extra time that nuclear plants take to build has major implications for climate goals, as existing fossil-fueled plants continue to emit CO2 while awaiting substitution. “To protect the climate, we must abate the most carbon at the least cost and in the least time,” Schneider said. The WNA said in an emailed statement that studies have shown that nuclear energy has a proven track record in providing new generation faster than other low-carbon options, and added that in many countries nuclear generation provides on average more low-carbon power per year than solar or wind. It said that reactor construction times can be as short as four years when several reactors are built in sequence. Nuclear is also much more expensive, the WNISR report said. The cost of generating solar power ranges from $36 to $44 per megawatt hour (MWh), the WNISR said, while onshore wind power comes in at $29–$56 per MWh. Nuclear energy costs between $112 and $189.

Residents voice concerns about Seabrook Station's safety — Dozens of area residents urged nuclear officials to take serious precautions when reviewing the monitoring of the Seabrook, New Hampshire, nuclear power plant's degrading concrete. A crowd of 100 people turned out in City Hall Auditorium for a two-hour public comment session Monday night hosted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. The hearing was dedicated entirely to public comment. The session precedes a hearing to be held in City Hall Auditorium this week at which the board will review a contention from local whistleblower group C-10 on Seabrook Station's concrete. C-10 monitors the safety of the Seabrook plant because six Massachusetts communities — Amesbury, Merrimac, Salisbury, Newburyport, Newbury and West Newbury — are within a 10-mile radius of the plant and are considered part of the New Hampshire plant's emergency planning zone. The plant sits about 17 miles northwest — as the seagull flies — from parts of Gloucester and Rockport. The hearing was open to public viewing Tuesday in City Hall Auditorium. On Wednesday, the board will move into closed session and continue to meet through Friday, if necessary. Concrete degradation was first discovered at the plant in 2010 and is a result of alkali-silica reaction, or ASR, a chemical process that causes small cracks. The final contention the board will consider is: “The large-scale test program, undertaken for NextEra (Energy) at the Ferguson Structural Engineering Laboratory, has yielded data that are not representative of the progression of ASR at Seabrook. As a result, the proposed monitoring, acceptance criteria and inspection intervals are not adequate.”

Duke subsidiary gets OK to recover $258 million spent on nixed nuclear project — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has cleared Duke Energy Carolinas to recover roughly $258 million in costs associated with the cancelled Lee Nuclear Station project in South Carolina under an amortization plan that veers from the commission's normal policy. The proposed cost recovery methods were "a reasonable compromise that provide savings to the wholesale customers ... and result in a reasonable sharing of the cancelled" project's costs among those customers, FERC said in a Wednesday order (ER19-2468). The requested recovery of 50% of prudently incurred costs for the nuclear project's development will be collected through wholesale formula rates of 14 power purchase agreements between DEC and its affected wholesale customers. Those customers include electric cooperatives and municipal utilities with service territories within the Duke subsidiary's balancing authority area. Extensive negotiations produced a settlement with the affected wholesale customers that allowed each customer to select either a 12-year amortization period for their portion of the costs of the Lee project or a one-time payment to DEC for the full load-ratio share of the project's costs. Commission policy generally dictates that cost recovery spans the life of the plant, which for the two-unit Lee facility would be 40 years, the length of the combined construction and operating license issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in December 2016. However, FERC has "recognized that, under 'unusual circumstances,' agreements that do not conform to Opinion No. 295's 'life of the plant' amortization period requirement can be proper so long as the result is 'a reasonable sharing of costs,'" the Wednesday order said. The commission agreed with DEC that the negotiated deal would significantly lessen the rate impact to DEC's electric cooperative and municipal utility wholesale customers.

Pollution permits from troubled nuclear plant under review The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is considering whether to allow a troubled nuclear fuel factory on Bluff Road to continue discharging contaminants from its industrial process into the air and the Congaree River. DHEC says pollution released from the Westinghouse nuclear fuel plant will be within safe limits, and in some cases, discharge limits will be tougher than they have been before at the 50-year-old factory. But skeptics aren’t so sure new pollution permits are warranted — at least not for now. Westinghouse has a recent history of spills, leaks, small explosions and the buildup of nuclear materials, all of which have made some neighbors in eastern Richland County nervous. At a meeting held Thursday night by DHEC, Gadsden resident Frank Woods urged the department to move deliberately on the permits until it knows more about the extent of the problems and pollution that have plagued the atomic fuel factory on Bluff Road. He said Westinghouse has not been forthcoming about its problems historically. ““They are not reporting when things go wrong,’’ he said. “They have a history of not being honest and open with the public, or with DHEC. We can’t just give them another permit to continue to do what they are doing now. That is unacceptable to me.’’ Thursday’s meeting was unusual because proposals to renew long-standing pollution discharge permits don’t typically attract attention for many industries, including Westinghouse. The company first received a wastewater discharge permit in the mid 1970s. But recent mishaps have heightened awareness. Neighbors of the nuclear fuel rod plant worry about how groundwater pollution and accidents might threaten their community.

State Rep. Mehaffie took money from Exelon PAC -- Exelon Generation, First Energy and other entities associated with the nuclear industry have spent a combined $6.5 million in lobbying expenses in Pennsylvania since the third quarter of 2018, according to Citizens Against Nuclear Bailouts. CANB provided the numbers to the Press & Journal in response to comments made by state Rep. Tom Mehaffie, R-Lower Swatara Township, during a press conference held Friday marking the shut down of Three Mile Island. “Special interests … have been against us through this whole fight and have put millions and millions of dollars into a PR campaign that says ‘no nuke bailout,’ that have done things to benefit themselves and not think about the people of Pennsylvania,” said Mehaffie, who in March introduced legislation in the state House aimed at creating a subsidy credit to preserve TMI and other nuclear power plants in the state. CANB opposes the legislation as an unwarranted “bailout” of the nuclear industry in Pennsylvania, citing an “independent report” from a former PJM Interconnection chief economist who says that four of the state’s five nuclear power plants — all but TMI — are expected to remain profitable through at least 2028. CANB said its figures for lobbying expenses by Exelon and the others comes from the lobbying directory database of the Pennsylvania Department of State website. According to the figures provided by CANB, Exelon spent $587,337 in lobbying expenses in Pennsylvania in the third quarter of 2018, $435,292 in the fourth quarter, $988,059 in the first quarter of 2019 and $1,463,640 in the second quarter of 2019. Exelon’s lobbying expenses exceeded that of the other industry players referred to by CANB, including First Energy Solutions Corp., Talen Energy, Nuclear Powers Pennsylvania, Nuclear Matters, Nuclear Energy Institute and the Pennsylvania Rural Electric Association. Exelon and these other entities combined reported $684,787 in lobbying expenses for the third quarter of 2018, $573,878 for the fourth quarter, $2,372,110 for the first quarter of 2019 and $2,883,376 for the second quarter of 2019, according to CANB.

France to give millions of residents iodine pills while EDF spots problems in six nuclear reactors - France will soon start distributing radioactivity-blocking iodine pills to an additional 2.2 million people living near the country's 19 nuclear power plants. Separately on Wednesday EDF acknowledged manufacturing problems in six reactors while one in Normandy was shut down due to signs of corrosion.The ASN nuclear safety authority had announced in June an extension of the safety radius to 20 kilometres (12 miles) of each plant, up from 10 kilometres set in 2016, when some 375,000 households were prescribed the pills.The watchdog said Tuesday that affected residents will receive a letter in the coming days with a voucher to collect stable iodine tablets from pharmacies, as well as information on what to do in case of a nuclear accident."If radioactive iodine is released into the environment, taking stable iodine is one of the most effective ways of protecting the thyroid," the ASN said in a statement.The thyroid, which produces hormones regulating the body's metabolism, is particularly at risk from cancer caused by exposure to radioactive iodine released in nuclear accidents.On the same day, but not linked to the distribution of the Iodine pills, Energy giant EDF announced that it recognized manufacturing problems on six active nuclear reactors in France, but they were still deemed "fit for use"."At this stage of the technical instruction on these components, EDF considers that the discrepancies noted do not call into question the service suitability of the equipment and do not require immediate treatment", read the EDF statement.

Government sells coal leases for Wayne National Forest land (AP) — The federal government is holding a competitive lease sale for coal underneath nearly 500 acres inside Ohio’s Wayne National Forest. The Bureau of Land Management-Eastern States says Wednesday’s sale involves seven tracts in Perry and Morgan counties that contain an estimated 1.4 million tons of sub-surface mineable federal coal. The offering comes in response to a lease application by CCU Coal and Construction, formerly Westmoreland Coal Co. The company already operates an adjacent privately-owned underground coal mine that covers over 8,500 acres and produces 1.2 million tons of coal a year. In 2018, the mine employed 155 and supported 400 total jobs. Wednesday’s bid opening will deliver each tract lease to the highest bidder, provided the amount is above the fair market value and other bid requirements are satisfied.

Ohio's Nuclear Bailout Is Inspiring An Unprecedented Campaign. But Why Now? | WOSU Radio – audio (WOSU radio) Chances are, you’ve seen the ads with a stomping Chinese army and a narrator warning that China wants to take over Ohio’s electric grid.Observers and fact-checkers call the ads misleading. Yes, the Chinese government invests in Ohio’s energy market, but so do many other foreign entities. And all voter information is public, so the Chinese government already has access to it, if it wanted it.In a referendum fight, these types of ads usually show up the weeks before an election, when the question is already on the ballot.  Not this time.The law,  House Bill 6, adds an 85 cent monthly fee to the electric bill of most Ohio customers. That fee will provide $150 million a year to FirstEnergy Solutions to prop up two unprofitable nuclear power plants in northern Ohio. It also lets utilities add subsidies to boost two failing coal power plants.Supporters of the nuclear and coal plant subsidies don’t even want the referendum on the ballot. They’ve gone as far as to hire third-party petition blockers to shadow signature gatherers and try to convince people not to sign.Ohio State University political science professor Herb Asher says the magnitude of this campaign is unparalleled. “We’ve never seen this kind of concerted effort to really use scare tactics to try to deter people from signing petitions,” Asher says.According to the Columbus tracking firm Medium Buying, after spending $9.5 million on broadcast ads to win legislative passage of the bailout, supporters have paid for an additional $3.5 million in radio and TV ads to stop the petitions. That doesn't count the thousands of dollars spent on mailers and petition blockers.  Medium Buying president Nick Everhart says in two decades of political consulting around the country, he can’t remember such bold and bizarre tactics. “They’re waging a campaign against a ballot issue that does not exist, that’s happening on an election cycle that’s down the road,” Everhart says. “So it’s almost like they are attacking and going after a ghost.”

Who’s behind the Chinese conspiracy ads against Ohio’s nuclear referendum?  -The video ad starts like a horror film trailer.“They” are “coming for our energy jobs. The Chinese government is quietly invading our American electric grid.” Troops march in Tiananmen Square and Chinese President Xi Jinping appears as the announcer’s deep voice speaks.   “Don’t sign the petition allowing China to control Ohio’s power.”   The ads have circulated in recent weeks along with a massive print and mail campaign, all attempting to undercut a potential referendum on FirstEnergy power plant subsidies. The ads imply that signing the petition would give voters’ personal information to the Chinese government — a conspiracy theory that has been substantiallydebunked. Yet questions remain about where the money is coming from to fund both the petition drive for a public vote on FirstEnergy’s subsidies and the inflammatory campaign against it by a group called Ohioans for Energy Security.“The group operates largely in the shadows in terms of their funding,” Dave Anderson, policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute, said of Ohioans for Energy Security. The ads aim to prevent a referendum on a new law, House Bill 6, which will add charges to electric customers’ bills to subsidize nuclear and coal plants while gutting the state’s clean energy standards.  Ohio lawmakers passed the law in July, and a group called Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts began working on a referendum initiative soon after. Ohioans’ right to seek a referendum on legislation is guaranteed by Article II of the state’s Constitution. On Aug. 30, the group got a go-ahead from the Ohio secretary of state to start collecting signatures for the referendum petition. Even before that approval came, Ohioans for Energy Security began its aggressive ads aiming to keep voters from getting a say on the bill’s coal and nuclear bailouts.  And less than a week later, FirstEnergy’s bankrupt generation subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions, filed a lawsuit asking the Ohio Supreme Court to stop the referendum petition effort. FirstEnergy Solutions stands to lose roughly $900 million in subsidies for its nuclear plants if voters eventually reject HB 6.  It’s not clear who’s behind Ohioans for Energy Security, and the group isn’t required to disclose the funders for any of its anti-referendum ads during the petition drive. The group has filed incorporation papers with the Ohio Secretary of State, which serve to limit its legal liability under state law.   Those papers, filed on July 30, show attorney Donald Brey as the sole “authorized representative.” Patrick Pickett signed on behalf of statutory agent IW Agent, LLC. Pickett and Brey are both partners at the Isaac Wiles law firm in Columbus, which shares its business address with IW Agent. The group’s lawyers won’t answer questions about its funding.

Dark-money campaigns have no place in our democracy - Editorial - Akron Beacon Journal - It’s a pretty simple concept. If you’re a person or company spending money to support a candidate or ballot issue and sway the opinions of Ohioans, your donation should be recorded and publicly released. That’s how voters would learn, for example, that an incumbent mayor had accepted a large donation from a developer seeking approval of a new project. Voters would be better informed about the incumbent’s behavior regardless of how they eventually vote. The good news is that Ohio already has laws on the books for candidates and political action groups seeking to place referendums before voters. Unfortunately, there are also numerous loopholes due to inaction by state lawmakers and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling. That’s why you’re hearing so many “dark money” complaints about the horrendous and false advertising being aired by Ohioans for Energy Security in support of the bailout of Akron-based FirstEnergy Solutions, the bankrupt subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. Under current law, Ohioans for Energy Security does not have to disclose the identity of any of its funders, which presumably includes FirstEnergy Solutions. Thus, the funders remain in the dark, hidden from the sunshine of public disclosure. But if the group seeking to place the FirstEnergy bailout before voters succeeds, it would eventually be required to disclose its donors, which presumably includes natural gas interests. Advocates for open government correctly surmise that requiring funding disclosure for all groups would drastically increase the odds of groups such as Ohioans for Energy Security conducting more truthful campaigns without all of the scare-mongering evident in recent weeks. “In general, we think it would be less inflammatory if we could know who these individuals [contributing to the campaign] are,” said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, at a news conference last week.

Pro-nuclear bailout group is now circulating its own, unofficial petitions -—As opponents of Ohio’s new nuclear bailout law work to gather enough voter signatures to hold a referendum on overturning it, supporters of the law are now circulating their own, unofficial petitions in favor of keeping it.Ohioans For Energy Security, the main group opposing a House Bill 6 referendum, is gathering the signatures to show the Ohio General Assembly how much public support it has, according to group spokesman Carlo LoParo.But backers of the referendum call the move a ploy to confuse voters and suck up the labor pool of petition circulators.The new pro-HB6 petition urges state lawmakers to "immediately enact legislation" prohibiting any foreign national, company, or government from holding a majority stake in any electric generation, supply or distribution company in Ohio. Such a measure fits in neatly with the theme of Ohioans For Energy Security’s massive ad campaign that the Chinese government is behind the referendum effort to infiltrate Ohio’s energy grid (a misleading claim that’s based on the fact that a Chinese government-owned bank has helped finance some Ohio natural-gas power plants). The petition isn’t an attempt to seek an initiated statute (in which voters force lawmakers to consider a piece of legislation), LoParo said. Rather, he said, it’s a more informal effort that "shows grassroots support for a new law.” LoParo said the petition effort is “absolutely not” an attempt to hurt their opposition’s efforts to collect the roughly 266,000 valid signatures needed by Oct. 21 to place a referendum on the 2020 ballot. “Nowhere on this petition does it reference House Bill 6, does it reference any repeal effort,” LoParo said. “This is very common in legislative initiatives – groups have been doing this for a very long time."

 Fracking Health Registry To Track The Effects Of Drilling In Ohio –  (NPR podcast) The U.S. is a top producer of natural gas and crude oil, mostly due to the growth in fracking. But many people who live near fracking sites are concerned about possible health issues ⁠— issues that aren't being tracked by states or the federal government. In Ohio, residents have taken matters into their own hands and started their own fracking health registry, Julie Grant (@JulieIGrant) of The Allegheny Front reports. This story is part of The Allegheny Front's special series "Who's Listening?" investigating fracking in Ohio. This segment aired on September 26, 2019.

Barnesville resident concerned about air quality -A resident asked Village Council to pay for air quality monitoring after voicing concerns that state and local regulatory agencies are failing to do their part to protect the public from the hazards of natural gas and oil fracking in the area. Jill Hunkler addressed council during a regular meeting held Sept. 16, saying that after her family and others smelled “strong hydrocarbon odors” on Sept. 4 and 9, she spoke with Trevor Irwin of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. She said he told her they were smelling methyl mercaptan resulting from a problem with a safety valve on a nearby pipeline. Hunkler said Irwin told her they were in no danger from the chemical and that she should contact her local fire chief when she requested that the air in the area be tested for contaminants. Hunkler further said that Dave Ivan, Belmont County Emergency Management Agency director, contradicted Irwin’s claim, telling her that local authorities do not have the ability perform those tests.  “I think we ought to keep the county involved in this. I mean if we’ve got an EMA director, I would like to think that the county would have something set up and not just us,” Councilman Scott Gallagher said before confirming with Fire Chief Tim Hall that Barnesville Fire Department does not have the equipment needed to conduct the air monitoring.  Hall said department members were out on the dates in question in the vicinity of The Flower Gardens on Gardner Street where they did notice the reported odor, but said that it dissipated quickly.“We did what we could do,” he said. Mayor Dale Bunting expressed dismay that news of the problem was spread widely through social media and stressed the importance of going through the proper channels to report and deal with potentially hazardous situations. “It’s the EPA’s problem. I don’t want you getting on Facebook and telling people we have an issue when we ain’t even sure we’ve got an issue. We have a Belmont County Emergency Management unit. If there’s a hazard, why wouldn’t they get in touch with us? If there’s an issue with the public, that’s our job, the safety of the community, and we need to know this stuff, but we don’t need to catch it from there,” Bunting said, referring to a printed copy of a Facebook page where Hunkler had posted about the situation.

Settlement Reached Over Proposed Ohio Cracker Plant Air Permit - Environmental groups have reached a settlement agreement with a petrochemical company in Ohio to beef up air pollution controls at a proposed petrochemical plant along the Ohio River.Thailand-based PTT Global Chemical America and South Korea-based Daelim Industrial Co. have proposed building a multi-billion dollar ethylene cracker plant on a 500-acre tract of land in Belmont County, Ohio, just a few miles from Moundsville, West Virginia.The plant would crack apart ethane — which is produced during natural gas fracking — into smaller molecules used in plastics and chemical manufacturing. The plant would produce an estimated 1.5 million tons of ethylene annually.An air permit issued by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency last December allowed the plant to emit 400 tons of volatile organic compounds and produce the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions of putting about 365,000 cars on the road annually.Three environmental groups, the Sierra Club, Freshwater Accountability Project, and Earthworks, challenged the air permit in January arguing pollution from the plant could harm communities and that the air pollution controls mandated by Ohio EPA were not sufficient. The settlement signed Monday requires the company to use technology to find pollution leaks and repair them. The company would also install a weather station on site and create a website available to the public with emissions data.In a statement, environmental groups praised the improvements, but remained opposed to the plant, which would be the second such facility in the region. About 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, Shell Chemical’s Monaca cracker plant is under construction. It’s slated to produce 1.6 million tons of ethylene each year and permanently employ about 600 workers when done, according to the company.

WV's U.S. representatives introduce resolution to promote creation of Appalachian Storage Hub — West Virginia’s three representatives in the U.S. House have introduced legislation that would promote the creation of a proposed Appalachian Storage Hub. Rep. David McKinley was the lead sponsor while Reps. Alex Mooney and Carol Miller, all R-W.Va., cosponsored House Resolution 4433, the Appalachian Regional Energy Hub Initiative Act. If passed, the resolution would direct the Appalachian Regional Commission to provide funds to help in the hub’s creation. Long advocated for by representatives and experts in and around West Virginia, the proposed facility would be used to store large amounts of natural gas liquids for future use. In a news release announcing the resolution, McKinley pointed to Hurricane Harvey, which two years ago slammed the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana, where a wide majority — about 95 percent — of the country’s ethylene production is located. Advocates such as Sen. Joe Manchin have listed this as a concern of national security, arguing that an attack or natural disaster in the area could cripple U.S. energy infrastructure, a point with which McKinley agrees. “Investing in our energy infrastructure will help grow our economy and make America more secure,” McKinley said. “The development of a storage and distribution hub for natural gas liquids in Appalachia would create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, spark new investments and bring billions of dollars in revenue to the region. “Through American ingenuity and research, we have emerged as a leading producer of energy. We need to use our resource to attract value added manufacturing. We must make this project a priority so that we can ensure that our domestic supply is not at risk.” McKinley also noted that the project has seen support from U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Energy Giants Spend Big on Lobbying to Clear Pipeline Path Through National Forests Appalachian Trail - A trio of utility giants building a natural gas pipeline that would cut across the Appalachian Trail has spent more than $109 million lobbying federal lawmakers and officials since the $7.8 billion project was unveiled five years ago, according to a MapLight analysis.The controversial 600-mile-long project, which is being compared to the Dakota Access Pipeline because of its stiff opposition from Native and local communities, would bisect the fabled trail, as well as the Blue Ridge Parkway and a pair of national forests. Appeals courts have thrown out seven separate permits for the project, with sentiment running so high that one judge wrote an opinion using a quote from The Lorax to blast the U.S. Forest Service for its failure “to speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”Despite the setbacks, the utilities have continued to press their case, hoping the rulings can be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court or Congress. The companies -- Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, and Southern Co. -- have described the Atlantic Coast Pipeline as “a critical infrastructure project that will strengthen the economic vitality, environmental health, and energy security of the Mid-Atlantic region.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which separately has spent almost $361 million lobbying since the project was announced, estimates economic losses of $91.9 billion and 730,000 lost jobs if the pipeline isn’t built.The battle over the pipeline highlights the shifting landscape for power companies, which have been presenting natural gas as an energy source that can serve as a bridge fuel during the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, even while the effects of climate change become more apparent. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline would transfer as much as 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas daily from West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania shale fields to facilities in Virginia and North Carolina. Opponents, however, warn that a pipeline leak or rupture would present potentially calamitous risks for large parts of Appalachia and add the pollution equivalent of 14 million additional cars. The project also has drawn criticism for its use of eminent domain to acquire land for the pipeline and its route, which would include a terminus in Robeson County, N.C., home to the largest Native tribe east of the Mississippi River. “This isn’t just a bad idea,” Jonathan Jarvis, former National Park Service director, wrote in a Politico opinion piece last month. “It’s an unprecedented one.”

West Virginia Emerging as a Natural Gas Powerhouse  | Rigzone - As it turns out, Pennsylvania is not the only Marcellus shale state with amazing production results. Long a mainstay of U.S. coal production, neighbor West Virginia has quickly become the 7th largest U.S. natural gas producer. Since the shale revolution took flight in 2008, gas output in the state has boomed more than sevenfold to 1.8 Tcf in 2018. West Virginia’s gas production has reached a record for 10 straight years and now accounts for 5-6 percent of total U.S. output. Ranked fourth nationally, West Virginia today holds around 35 Tcf of proven gas reserves. Overlying the Utica play as well, shale now accounts for 95 percent of West Virginia’s gas output. In particular, two of the state’s largest producers, Southwestern Energy and EQT, have impressively responded to a lower priced environment in the shale-era by deploying constantly evolving technologies and operational efficiencies.  New pipelines have come online to ship West Virginia’s gas to markets in the Northeast, Midwest, southern Canada, and the Gulf Coast. The state now has over 4,000 miles of interstate and intrastate gas pipelines. Per EIA, West Virginia has 31 underground natural gas storage fields that have a storage capacity of 535 Bcf that accounts for almost 6 percent of the nation’s total. The proximity of this gas to high demand markets makes West Virginia a key supplier to surrounding areas during the winter months when usage peaks 40-60 percent.  Indeed, West Virginia still gets 90-95 percent of its electricity generation from coal, with only 2 percent coming from gas. This is in contrast to fellow Appalachian shale giants Ohio and Pennsylvania, two longtime coal states that seek to displace with more gas. This lower domestic reliance on gas will allow West Virginia to remain critical in supplying gas to other states and even LNG export facilities to nations abroad.

''Too Much Too Fast'' Gas Glut Crushes Shale Drillers-  Appalachian shale drillers are getting squeezed by low prices, and a supply glut may mean that there is little prospect of a pricing rebound anytime soon.Earlier this month, IHS Markit put out a press release entitled, “U.S. Natural Gas Price Will Fall to Levels Not Seen Since 1970s.” The firm said that persistent oversupply from the Marcellus would be “reinforced” by a surge in associated gas production from the Permian basin. That could keep average natural gas prices below $2/MMBtu next year, which would nominally be the lowest since 1995, but in real terms it would be the lowest since the 1970s.The market is set to see falling prices despite structural increases in demand from new gas-fired power plants and LNG export facilities. IHS noted that U.S. demand has climbed by 14 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in annual consumption since 2017, but supply has expanded by even more than that amount since the start of 2018.“It is simply too much too fast,” Sam Andrus, executive director of IHS Markit, said in a statement. “Drillers are now able to increase supply faster than domestic or global markets can consume it. Before market forces can correct the imbalance, here comes a fresh surge of supply from somewhere else.” The bust in gas prices create significant dangers for gas-focused shale companies. “With the news from IHS Markit that natural gas prices in the United States will drop below $2 MMBtu in 2020 and remain low through at least 2024, if not longer, heads must be exploding in the board rooms of oil and gas producers throughout the U.S. and Canada,” Tom Sanzillo and Kathy Kipple wrote in a commentary for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

Natural Gas Seasonality: Bullish Or Bearish? - The start of the fall season has often been a happy time for natural gas bulls, as traders look ahead to the upcoming winter, pushing prices higher as the market prices in risk premium in the event of a colder than normal winter. This shows up well in our seasonality chart, which shows a long-term tendency for rallies from late September into October. But there is one contrarian item that jumps out on that chart. Notice the trend just over the last 5 years actually favors a *lower* move in prices from now through late October, bucking the long-term seasonal trend. Why the change in trend? Some of it is tied into the weather patterns, as an average of the last five October months is quite warm. While the start of October can contain enough CDDs to be marginally bullish if the South is hot, warmth in October quickly becomes bearish, as HDDs become more important to the demand picture, and a warmer pattern can significantly reduce the HDD count. Will this year follow the path of the last five years, or follow the more bullish longer-term seasonal trend? So far, the market has gotten a head start on selling, as prices have moved more than 15 cents off last week's highs. The weather pattern also remains in warm mode in the key natural gas consumption regions, seemingly following along with the bearish trend in recent years. It is important to note, however, that day 15 is October 8th, meaning that we do not yet "see" much of October in the modeling. While there is no imminent turn colder on the way, we only need to look back at last year to find a pattern that quickly flipped from very warm in key areas to very cold in the middle of October. 

Natural-Gas Prices Slide After Storage Data. Front-month natural-gas futures drop 3% to a three-week low.  Natural-gas prices fell Thursday after government data showed U.S. stockpiles rose more than analysts expected.  Front-month natural-gas futures declined 3% to $2.428 per million British thermal units, a three-week low, after the Energy Information Administration, or EIA, reported that natural-gas inventories last week surged by 102 billion cubic feet, compared with the 89 billion cubic feet that analysts surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had predicted. “We had thought the number would be smaller because a lot of the country has been experiencing unusual, late-season heat,” said Kent Bayazitoglu, director of market analytics at Gelber & Associates. Natural-gas demand tends to rise when more people use their air conditioners in the summer and heaters in the winter.

NYMEX October natural gas plummets on expiry day on bearish storage report — The NYMEX October natural gas futures contract settled 7.4 cents lower Thursday, rolling off the board at $2.428/MMBtu, following a larger-than-expected US storage draw. The front-month contract traded in a range of $2.39/MMBtu to $2.54/MMBtu Thursday. "It's getting hit right now because of the high natural gas storage injection. This [should not] be unexpected. [We] have to realize natural gas has had a terrific percentage run in shoulder season," said Jay Levine, an independent analyst and principal at EnerJay. C "August lows fell to [around] $2.04/MMBtu and went up to $2.71/MMBtu in October, which is a significant percentage run. We had a very substantial move off of the lows in a shoulder period - for not much of any reason. I know we're falling at around $2.40 today, but that's still up 20% higher than in August. Obviously, the 102 Bcf storage injection doesn't help," Levine said. The US Energy Information Administration reported a bearish injection of 102 Bcf into US storage facilities in the week that ended September 20. The consensus expectations of an S&P Global Platts survey of analysts were for a build of 93 Bcf. The most recent week's total is the largest storage injection in September in the past three years. US dry gas production is expected to continue to increase as the shoulder season begins, rising from 89.2 Bcf on Thursday to an average of 90.1 Bcf/d in the period eight to 14 days hence, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics. "Looking into winter, [we] shouldn't be discouraged. I think natural gas is acting appropriately. I'm not surprised that we've come down considerably from the recent highs, because we went up so high from recent lows when natural gas dropped to $2.04/MMBtu in August." said Levine.

Natural Gas Prices Decline For The Second Straight Week - It was another down week for natural gas prices, with the new prompt month November contract barely settling over the 2.40 level in today's session, down more than 30 cents from its high trade early last week. natural gas commodity weather The bulk of this week's decline came yesterday, with the biggest push lower coming in the wake of another very bearish EIA report, the second in as many weeks. This one showed that we injected a massive 102 bcf for the week ending 9/20. The number reflected supply / demand balances that were looser than any of the last 10 weeks. In fact, the two loosest numbers in this 10 week span were in the most recent two reports. Isolating the same gas week in prior years shows very loose balances as well. With two bearish misses in a row, one wonders if there is more production coming out of Texas than is currently showing up in the data, possibly related to the Gulf Coast Express pipeline coming into service. It certainly has not been due to lack of weather demand, as the week ending 9/20 was easily still hot enough to drive demand to above normal levels, thanks to some record heat in the South. In the near-term, demand will remain at elevated levels as well, with more record heat expected in the South, and some early season cold in the West, adding in some HDDs. Notice in the 11-15 day portion of that chart that demand lowers to normal / slightly below normal levels. That is not something bulls want to see. But will it last? Recall just last year we saw a very warm pattern flip cold in the middle of October and hold for six weeks, so we will be monitoring the signals closely.

'Smart' Appalachian Operators Can Handle Sub $2 Natural Gas -  The Appalachian Basin is one U.S. hydrocarbon prospection patch that just keeps on giving natural gas – be it via conventional or unconventional means. It’s what the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) describes as the ‘Appalachia Effect.’For the number crunchers in the market that effect has translated into an uptick in production from 7.8 Bcf/day in 2012 to 23.8 Bcf/day in 2017. That’s a higher natural gas yield than any other OPEC producer, and the primary reason the U.S. has been propelled up the market leaders’ board, with the Appalachian Basin accounting for nearly 50 percent of headline American production. And there’s more on the way, for the EIA’s latest outlook projects the region’s production to rise to 50 Bcf/day by 2050, with a veritable who’s who of the industry wanting in on the act. Conventional production aside, rising shale gas output from the basin’s Marcellus and Utica shales combined is already lending credence to the projection.Everyone from Range Resources to Chesapeake, EQT Production to CNX Gas Co., is vying for hydrocarbon molecules in the basin that stretches from Ohio to Pennsylvania. But while reference cases and projections are one thing, operating reality is quite another. Anecdotal and empirical evidence suggests many players are worried about possible sub-$2 MMBtu Henry Hub prices, thus cutting production and divesting assets; a pricing prospect the region faced back in 2012 for broadly similar reasons – oversupply and difficulty in moving the product to market courtesy of pipeline access and capacity issues.What’s more, natural gas power burn demand across the U.S. Northeast is expected to dip by around 10 percent over the coming months, going by S&P Global Platts’ projections. This could add further seasonal pressure to already existing headwinds. According to Moody’s, many regional players will cut growth investment and manage their businesses within operating cash flow. This has only become visible in recent months after slower activity in the fourth quarter of 2018 meant the likes of CNX built a backlog of inventory that kept investment up in the first quarter of 2019.

WV budget shortfalls result of downturn in coal exports, gas prices, pipeline jobs - Sharp downturns in coal exports and natural gas prices, along with court actions halting construction of two major natural gas pipelines, have pushed the 2019-20 West Virginia budget into a deficit early on, Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow told legislators Monday. Muchow said the budget assumed a 1.2 percent downturn from record tax collection of $4.75 billion in 2018-19, but finished the first two months of the budget year down 6.8 percent from the same point last year. Muchow blamed the current $49.8 million budget shortfall on a 50 percent drop in coal exports, a 48 percent drop in natural gas prices and the loss of 4,000 gas pipeline construction jobs. “The energy sector is pretty soft right now,” Muchow told the interim Joint Committee on Finance. Most of the year-to-date revenue shortfall comes down to severance taxes missing estimates by $26.8 million and personal income tax collection coming up $21.78 million short, because of the downturn in high-paying construction jobs, he said. He also said steel production has dropped nationally, reducing demand for metallurgical coal.

Natural gas royalties projected to jump in Pennsylvania - Last year's double-digit increases in production and higher prices for the region's natural gas combined for larger royalties for Pennsylvania landowners in 2018, according to a new state report. The Independent Fiscal Office estimated residents' income from natural gas royalties rose by double digits for the second year in a row for a total of $1.64 billion, which is the highest in the nine-year period of the Marcellus Shale boom. The estimate released Monday said that was higher than the $1.05 billion for the 2017 tax year, which itself was up 64 percent from 2016's $645 million. The 2016 total had been the lowest point since 2010 and two years of declines due to lower natural gas prices and the previous slowdown in the industry. "Compared to 2017, the average spot price (for natural gas) at major Pennsylvania hubs increased by more than one-third, while total output increased by 14 percent," the IFO said in its report. "If those gains were passed through to landowners, then royalty payments would increase by roughly 50 to 55 percent." It's an estimate because the IFO doesn't get actual data from either the companies or the landowners themselves about the amount of royalty payments, which by law have to be at least 12.5 percent and are an average 13.5 percent. Royalty income are along with copyright and patent income so it has to be estimated. In 2017, the county with the highest amount of royalty payments was Washington County, with an estimated $264 million. It was followed by Susquehanna ($204 million), Greene County ($129 million) and Butler County ($115 million).

Natural gas driller announces name change - A small but growing natural gas producer based in Southpointe is changing its name to better reflect the future of its business. Huntley & Huntley Energy Exploration LLC, which was formed in 2012 by traditional natural gas company Huntley & Huntley and majority owned by private equity firm Blackstone, will announce Wednesday that it has changed its name to Olympus Energy. The rebranding doesn't change the fundamentals of the company but it makes sense for the stage of growth the natural gas producer is in today, President and CEO Christopher Doyle told the Business Times. The company doesn't have the scale of better known publicly traded companies like EQT Corp. and Range Resources Corp. But Olympus Energy has, mostly under the radar, acquired 100,000 acres of Marcellus and Utica shale acreage and drilled and completed 10 Marcellus wells, in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. The company isn't drilling right now but it expects to restart in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Chester County amps up pressure on Sunoco, calls Mariner East pipeline a nuisance - The Chester County prosecutor, amping up pressure on Sunoco’s Mariner East pipeline, said on Tuesday his office plans to sue the $5.1 billion project as a public nuisance.  Chester County District Attorney Thomas P. Hogan notified the pipeline’s owner, Energy Transfer LP, that his office plans to file a civil nuisance action in 60 days unless the company corrects several problems, including exposed underground pipes and leaks, or “inadvertent returns,” of drilling fluid during the pipeline’s construction. Most of the incidents mentioned by the DA were already cited in 98 violations notices filed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) against the cross-state project, which aims to carry Marcellus Shale natural gas liquids by several underground pipelines to Sunoco’s export terminal in Marcus Hook.  Energy Transfer, in a statement, said it believes it was already “well on our way" to resolving the issues cited by the district attorney. “To that end, we have completed all required remediation as a result of inadvertent returns or other construction related discharges from the Mariner East 2 project in Chester County consistent with our approved permits,” the company said. "We also have resolved associated claims with the DEP through agreed upon consent agreements. In addition, the company is under an order issued by the DEP to cover any exposed areas of pipes, including the two pipes in Chester County, which is subject to a schedule of work.”

Sunoco still needs DEP approvals to restart pipeline work at Lisa Drive, Chester County - Sunoco overcame one roadblock to completion of its controversial Mariner East pipelines when the Public Utility Commission recently lifted an injunction against construction in a Chester County township, but the company still needs environmental officials to end a statewide ban on new permits and to approve permit modifications at the site. Sunoco must obtain clean-water approvals from the Department of Environmental Protection before it can resume construction at Lisa Drive in West Whiteland Township where sinkholes along the pipeline route prompted the PUC to halt construction in 2018.The DEP has yet to approve two requested permit modifications and a “re-evaluation plan” for the site, as ordered by a court in an effort to prevent any more drilling mud spills, or “inadvertent returns,” dozens of which plagued the project during 2017 and 2018.The company’s work at Lisa Drive is also affected by DEP’s ban on new clean-water permits for the project, imposed in February this year after the explosion of a western Pennsylvania pipeline operated by Sunoco’s parent, Energy Transfer, in 2018.A DEP spreadsheet shows 32 sites across the state, including Lisa Drive, where the department has yet to give final approval for Sunoco’s re-evaluation plans, which take a fresh look at local geology to assess whether the pipelines can be built safely. None of the missing approvals will be given until the permit ban is lifted, said DEP spokeswoman Elizabeth Rementer. She did not immediately respond to questions on what might lead DEP to lift its ban, or when that could happen.

Philly fire department personnel no longer at PES site 24/7 - The site of a refinery explosion and fire that rocked South Philadelphia in June and led to the refinery’s shutdown is now under control. That means Philadelphia Fire Department personnel will no longer remain on site 24/7.Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said Tuesday that only trace amounts of thedangerous chemical hydrofluoric acid remain at the damaged Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery. “It was a very novel event so we were dealing with a lot of unknowns, and I’m happy we can place this under control,” said Thiel. “Although it remains a dynamic and fluid situation.”

NJ’s decision deadline on Transco gas pipeline pushed back a month - The state Department of Environmental Protection has extended the application deadline another month for permits related to the 26.8-mile Northeast Supply Enhancement of the Transco natural gas pipeline in Old Bridge, Sayreville and the Raritan Bay.The decision comes just days after protests of a worldwide youth movement that demands leaders address climate change.According to opposing environmentalists, the project would bring the natural gas process of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, into the Raritan Bay. The enhancement also includes a compressor station that would emit carbon-dioxide, one of the main suspected causes of climate change.   The Oklahoma-based Williams natural gas supplier requested the extension for applications concerning waterfront development and coastal land use permits. The deadline had been Wednesday and now is Oct. 25.A third permit involving flood hazards is due Oct. 29 and one for freshwater wetlands work has no deadline, the DEP said. The state previously had denied Williams all the permits but allowed the company to reapply.

Gas Pipeline Gains OK To Burrow Beneath Chesapeake And Ohio Canal - Running an 8-inch diameter natural gas pipeline beneath Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park has been given the go-ahead from the National Park Service, which said the pipeline shouldn't cause an impact to the park. The permit authorizes Columbia Gas to run 553 feet of 8-inch-diameter natural gas transmission pipeline under the national historical park. The pipeline is to be placed via horizontal directional drilling at a depth between 116 and 148 feet below the ground surface of the park near Hancock, Maryland. The proposed pipeline is part of Columbia Gas’s Eastern Panhandle Expansion Project, an approximately 3.37-mile natural gas transmission pipeline that runs through Fulton County, Pennsylvania, Washington County, Maryland, and Morgan County, West Virginia. A right-of-way permit is required to authorize Columbia Gas to construct the pipeline under Park Service land. The Park Service says it will issue the permit once Columbia Gas completes an appraisal of the property that is accepted by the Interior Department. The National Park Service's finding of no significant impact determination was made based on an environmental assessment performed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. 

Doctors' group says compressor station would be unsafe - — A group of physicians says no “regulatory framework” can make Weymouth’s proposed 7,700-horsepower natural gas compressor station safe for residents due to soil contamination at the site and expected air and pollution from the facility. Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility released a report Tuesday assessing health concerns related to existing soil and groundwater contamination at the proposed site and exposure to air and noise pollution from the compressor station proposed by Algonquin, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy-Enbridge. Algonquin received initial approval for the compressor station in January 2017 from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The company still needs several state permits. The state issued an air-quality permit for the project in January, a week after the Metropolitan Area Planning Council released a health-impact assessment that found the compressor station would be unlikely to affect health and noise in the area. Gov. Charlie Baker ordered the study in July 2017 amid strong local opposition from officials and residents who said the plant would vent pollution and toxic gases and that it could explode in the densely populated neighborhood. Martin Suuberg, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, upheld the air-quality permit in August and rejected an earlier appeal from the four communities and a citizens group, which together had argued that the proposed station would worsen air pollution in the Fore River Basin and endanger the lives of nearby residents. Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility echoed those concerns in its report, which challenged many of the findings in the health-impact assessment and concludes that the project is dangerous to human health.

Michigan AG: Utility self-dealing with pipeline will cost ratepayers millions --The Michigan attorney general’s office is putting its weight behind a legal challenge alleging improper self-dealing by the state’s largest electric utility. The appeals were filed in March by the Sierra Club and Michigan Environmental Council. They claim that DTE Energy is using a planned natural gas power plant to bolster a natural gas pipeline co-owned by a subsidiary company.DTE has denied any improper conflict of interest, and state regulators have concluded the contracts are not a violation. The environmental groups’ case asks the Michigan Court of Appeals to review that decision.The intervention by Attorney General Dana Nessel lends credibility to the groups’ appeals and could complicate DTE Energy’s efforts to expand its natural gas infrastructure in the state. The office filed briefs in support of the environmental groups on Aug. 30. In 2012, DTE Gas first identified plans to contract with the then-anticipated Nexus Gas Pipeline, a 255-mile connection to move natural gas from eastern Ohio to southeastern Michigan and Ontario, Canada. The pipeline is co-owned by affiliates of DTE Energy and Enbridge. In 2017, DTE Energy filed plans with state regulators to build the Blue Water Energy Center, a 1,100-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant aimed at powering 850,000 homes in southeastern Michigan. As Nexus sought financing for the pipeline, DTE was recruited as an “anchor shipper,” meaning it’s a primary off-taker of the gas and can secure lower prices for supply. DTE Gas and DTE Electric account for a combined 10% of the pipeline’s capacity. That amounts to a conflict of interest, environmental groups said. They filed a challenge before the Michigan Public Service Commission in late 2017.

 Enbridge to install 54 underwater steel supports for controversial Line 5 - -- Enbridge Energy is beginning a project to install 54 underwater steel supports to help protect the controversial Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. Enbridge announced Tuesday, Sept. 24 that a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit had been granted to install the supports. The supports are intended for areas of Line 5 that do not rest directly on the lake bed. Enbridge in early August self-reported that a span of unsupported pipeline had grown beyond a 75-foot limit as outlined in an easement agreement with the state. Enbridge officials say the supports are not new. Since 2002, the company has installed 147 supports that, according to Enbridge, “have performed well in enhancing the safety of the line.” Work on the new supports comes as Enbridge continues a legal battle over planned construction of a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac that would house a rebuilt Line 5. Enbridge is suing the state over the validity of 2018 agreements with the then-Gov. Rick Snyder administration that approved tunnel construction. Meanwhile, state Attorney General Dana Nessell in June filed a lawsuit to shut down Line 5 as a public nuisance that violates environmental rules.

OIL AND GAS: 'A muddy mess.' Ill. landowners fight FERC over pipeline -- Farmers in Illinois are battling the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over a new gas pipeline they say is destroying their land. FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee says the agency is "properly resolving" the issue.

Wisconsin weighs felony for actions against pipelines (AP) — A bipartisan proposal making it a felony to trespass or damage oil or gas pipelines in Wisconsin is moving through the state Legislature, despite complaints Thursday from opponents that it would violate free speech rights. The bill heard by a state Assembly committee builds upon a 2015 state law that made it a felony to intentionally trespass or cause damage to the property of an energy provider. The latest proposal expands the definition of energy provider to include oil and gas pipelines, renewable fuel, and chemical and water infrastructure. Those found guilty could face up to $10,000 in fines and six years in prison. The Wisconsin measure has broad support from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, organized labor unions, utilities, the state chamber of commerce and a variety of trade groups representing farmers, restaurants, the paper industry and others. Supporters downplayed its intent, calling it the fix to an oversight from the earlier law. Democratic state Rep. Jason Fields, of Milwaukee, is a co-sponsor of the bill and gave a passionate defense of the measure against critics who say it stifles free speech rights and will make it more difficult to combat climate change. Fields, who is black, said to be effective protesters need to follow the non-violent model set by Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, Ghandi and others. “I don’t like the Ku Klux Klan but I don’t have the right or option to go destroy their property," Fields testified.... I don’t care who you are. Destruction of property is a no-no.”

Minnesota regulators to chart next steps for Enbridge Line 3 project — State regulators next week are set to decide what steps they should take next in weighing the construction of a crude oil pipeline across northern Minnesota. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday, Oct. 1, will take up the environmental impact statement for the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement project and consider what additional hearings might be needed to revise the statement. The Minnesota Court of Appeals in June ruled the environmental review of the proposed pipeline project was "inadequate" because it did not consider the effects of an oil spill in Lake Superior’s watershed. But the court said many other points disputed in the final environmental impact statement, including the pipeline’s impact on tribal resources, met required standards. Tribal and environmental groups asked the state Supreme Court to review the other disputed points, but the court last week denied the request to take up the case. The move sends the proposal back to state regulators at the Public Utilities Commission for revisions. Briefing documents filed Tuesday, Sept. 24, note the commission could ask the state Department of Commerce to revise its environmental assessment of the project to include the potential impact of an oil spill into the Lake Superior watershed and submit that to the commission within 60 days or agree to another appropriate action. The Public Utilities Commission in 2018 approved the $2.6 billion project that would replace Enbridge's existing 50-year-old Line 3 and carry 760,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Enbridge terminal in Superior, Wis.

One killed in Wayne County oil tank explosion - One person was killed when two oil storage tanks exploded Friday morning in Wayne County, according to Sheriff Jody Ashley. Capt. Lance Chancellor, with Powers Fire and Rescue, said the explosion was reported at 8:22 a.m. at an oil operating site near the intersection of Fred West Road and Gatlin Road. Chancellor said the site is run by Tellus Operating Group, a Ridgeland-based company that operates hundreds of oil and gas wells in Louisiana and Mississippi, according to the company’s website. Chancellor said there were five workers at the site when the tanks exploded, including two TOG subcontractors. Wayne County Coroner David Pugh said Randy Ducksworth Sr., 59, was killed in the blast. Chancellor said Ducksworth was one of the TOG subcontractors working at the site. Once firefighters arrived on the scene, it took them about 30 minutes to extinguish flames that sparked during the explosion. Chancellor said the fire also spread to a nearby wooded area. The investigation into what caused the explosion is ongoing. Clarke Thomas, Health, Safety and Environmental Compliance Manager with TOG, said the company will cooperate fully as the investigation moves forward.

MDEQ cleaning oil spill at site of deadly explosion in Wayne Co. . (WDAM) - The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality is working to clean up an oil spill that happened when two storage tanks exploded in Wayne County on Friday, killing one man. Officials with MDEQ said they discovered Saturday that some oil did escape from containment as a result of the explosion that killed 59-year-old Randy Ducksworth Sr. MDEQ said no water sources have been affected by the spill and cleanup is expected to be complete in a few days. While MDEQ crews are cleaning up, the investigation into what led to the explosion at the oil operating site is ongoing. Capt. Lance Chancellor, with Powers Fire and Rescue, said the tanks exploded around 8:22 a.m., killing Ducksworth and sparking a fire that spread to a nearby wooded area. It took firefighters about 30 minutes to extinguish the flames after arriving on scene. Chancellor said there were four other workers at the site when the explosion happened. No other injuries were reported. The site is run by Tellus Operating Group, a Ridgeland-based company that operates hundreds of oil and gas wells in Louisiana and Mississippi, according to the company’s website. Ducksworth was a subcontractor working for TOG.

Landowners appeal 'blank check' for La. pipeline -- Monday, September 23, 2019 --Landowners in Louisiana are asking a federal appeals court to review how the state handles eminent domain in oil pipeline projects, after a judge last year allowed a pipeline to cross through their land without their prior consent.

Residents concerned about pipeline for new LNG export facility, but others see economic driver -- A proposed 283-mile pipeline that would cross 14 parishes from Richland to Plaquemines to feed a planned natural gas export facility has raised concerns from more than 120 residents and one Indian tribe. About a dozen proponents, ranging from business owners to local politicians, have sent letters to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in favor of the project as an economic development driver, while concerns were focused on the environment, impact on tribal land and African American communities, the potential use of state legal provisions that allow land to be taken from opposing owners at market rates and the market saturation of LNG projects. Venture Global LNG, which has two other liquefied natural gas export facilities planned in Louisiana, said the construction of the 283-mile Delta Express Pipeline would enable subsidiary Delta LNG to export up to 24 million tons of natural gas each year by 2024 from Plaquemines Parish. The project is expected to cost $8.5 billion, support 2,000 temporary construction jobs and create about 250 full-time permanent jobs once completed. The 42-inch wide pipeline also would include four compressor stations in Richland, Concordia, Pointe Coupee and Lafourche parishes. The Delta Express would begin in Alto, southeast of Monroe, near a natural gas pipeline intersection then head south, disturbing about 6,000 acres of land along the way. The company said it plans to restore about 2,700 acres after the project is built. That concerns representatives of Healthy Gulf, an environmental activist organization in New Orleans, in particular the possible destruction of wetlands deep in south Louisiana that offer a physical barrier during hurricanes and tropical storms. The organization also was skeptical of potential market saturation for LNG, with a half-dozen export terminals competing with each other for customers. "There's no market for all of these projects being built," Scott Eustis, community science director of Healthy Gulf, said during the Belle Chasse community meeting where FERC collected public comments. "They are all in a race to see who can build it first."   The federally recognized Tunica-Biloxi Indian Tribe in Avoyelles Parish hired an attorney to voice concerns about the pipeline crossing tribal lands. The tribe wants FERC to expand its review of the pipeline to include impacts on archeological surveys, future tanker traffic and remediation if an explosion or spill or spill were to happen.

Group alleges permit violations during pipeline construction through Atchafalaya Basin - The Atchafalaya Basin is one of the many areas that has helped Louisiana earn its name as the Sportsman’s Paradise. Helping to protect the Basin - Dean Wilson and the Atchafalaya BasinKeepers. “We have more life around us right now than any other place you can go in North America,” said Wilson. ”We are entrusted, and we are so lucky to have one of the most beautiful wetlands in the entire world, the most {sic} swamps in the world is protecting millions from flooding and then we allow these companies to come in and do this." Wilson is talking about the pipelines that are running through the heart of the basin. "You’re not supposed to block waterways, not even under construction,” Wilson said. Specifically, he has set his sights on the recently finished Bayou Bridge Pipeline. "Every 500 feet, you've got to put a 50 feet gap to keep the water flowing north to south.” On a tour of the Basin, Wilson pointed out what he said are permit violations by Energy Transfer, the main subsidiary of the pipeline. He primarily focused on the buildup of land, which he said was left behind by the construction of the pipeline and is now damming off several the bayous. “Any fish you have in there is trapped in there. So they can’t get out,” said Wilson. “And also, it is, you block water flow. Water flow, you ruin water quality, water quality affects fish. It can kill fish.” Wilson said if these alleged violations are not fixed, he plans to take the company to court. “It’s completely illegal,” said Wilson. “It’s very, very upsetting.”

When the Ground Gives Way - The sinkhole that led residents to abandon the Louisiana town of Bayou Corne first opened on August 3, 2012, as a “slurry hole” the size of a tennis court. The cave-in announced itself with a massive burp of diesel oil coming from below the earth. Seven years later, residents I spoke with remember waking to the diesel smell, which gave them headaches and made them vomit. Over the course of the next several years, the hole grew steadily as the ground continued to subside, belching oil and swallowing whole trees like a subterranean monster in a bad science-fiction movie. It became a 40-acre expanse of polluted water, its surface big enough to fit the roof of the New Orleans Superdome four times over. A mile-deep cavern had given way, after decades of industrial salt mining had enlarged it past the point of structural integrity. The odor came from the layer of diesel known as a “fluid blanket” that is routinely used  to protect cavern roofs from groundwater erosion — although this cavern failed not at its roof, but far underground. The sinkhole’s ruthlessness, as it shook the ground and sucked down trees, leaving an oily mess behind, still seems to some observers like a parable for the shoddy way that industry has treated Louisiana’s fragile wetlands and the banks of Mississippi River, which over the past century have become one of America’s major energy corridors. “It’s what we have allowed for years: manmade pollution and destruction of natural resources in Louisiana,” Lt. General Russel Honoré told me. In 2012, outraged by what was happening in Bayou Corne, Honoré founded an environmental alliance called the GreenARMY, seeking to address not only the sinkhole but pollution, along with saltwater intrusion caused by the lattice of oil-company canals dug into coastal zones. According to Honoré, the company that operated the Bayou Corne mine, Texas Brine, should never have begun work; their permit was approved despite an initial determination that the site was risky. “The state of Louisiana told them they didn’t have confidence in them drilling there. But they drilled anyway. How can an LLC from Texas find a way around a drilling permit? It goes to show how industry can come to Louisiana and we don’t hold them accountable.”

In first for energy industry, Freeport-McMoRan to settle Louisiana lawsuits aimed at restoring coast - Lawyers representing coastal Louisiana parishes have negotiated their first settlement with one of the oil and gas companies accused in court of damaging the state’s coast, a potentially ground-breaking move in the effort to find funds for coastal restoration. The settlement, with mining giant Freeport-McMoRan Inc. and its subsidiaries, will result in payments totaling up to $100 million in cash and environmental credits over many years, according to John Carmouche, an attorney with the Baton Rouge-based firm of Talbot, Carmouche & Marcello. The deal represents a possible breakthrough in the years-long push by coastal parishes, and the lawyers representing them, to force oil and gas companies to contribute toward restoring land lost to the Gulf of Mexico over the past century. The lawsuits charge that oil and gas firms failed to follow state law in drilling wells, building canals, disposing of waste and restoring the land and wetlands to the condition they were in before oil and gas operations began. It's unclear whether other oil and gas firms might follow Freeport's lead. The company's wells account for only 4% of the wells drilled in the coastal zone since 1911, Carmouche said, suggesting that the $100 million could be just a fraction of any broader settlements, should they come to pass.

Chevron Okays GOM Waterflood -- Chevron Corp. reported Thursday that it has sanctioned a waterflood project in the St. Malo field, located in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) approximately 280 miles (451 kilometers) south of New Orleans, La. “The St. Malo field is a world-class asset that is positioned for highly economic brownfield development,” According to Chevron, the waterflood project should boost recovery from St. Malo by more than 175 million barrels of oil equivalent. The company added the brownfield development – its first such project to extend the life of a field in the deepwater Wilcox trend – calls for two new production wells, three new injector wells and topsides injection equipment for the Jack/St. Malo floating production unit. St. Malo is located in 6,900 feet (2,103 meters) of water and began production in December 2014, according to Murphy’s website. Chevron estimates the field will be productive for another 30 years. St. Malo was developed along with the nearby Jack field. In 2018, the fields produced 139,000 total barrels per day of liquids and 21 million total cubic feet per day of natural gas, Chevron’s website states. 

Top offshore regulator's calendar shows oil and gas ties -- Scott Angelle, President Trump's chief offshore oil and gas regulator, had dozens of meetings and phone conversations with oil and gas interests after joining the Trump administration in 2017, according to documents viewed by E&E News

Equinor struggles to clean up oil spill - Equinor CEO Eldar Sætre told newspaper Aftenposten on Monday that the company remains unsure how much oil spilled out of the tanks that collectively held 1.8 million barrels when the hurricane hit the South Riding Point terminal on Grand Bahama. A company statement issued on Tuesday reported that more than 6,000 barrels have been recovered so far. Sætre said that most of the oil spilled was lying in the containment area around the tanks. He confirmed that oil was also flung into the surrounding area “where we have less of an overview” in terms of how much oil is involved and “how the picture looks.” Aftenposten’s reporter was at the scene nine days after the hurricane, before any clean-up operations had begun. She reported how trees were covered with oil, and that there were “dams of oil all over.” A forested area around the terminal area was “completely black, covered with oil,” and the ground was covered with oil as far as 400-500 meters outside the tank area. After delays in procuring clean-up equipment and getting it shipped to the site from the US mainland, Equinor reported that more than 250 people and “large-scale equipment” are now involved in oil recovery efforts. “The terminal area is currently on track to be cleaned from free-standing oil within two to three weeks,” Equinor stated. Plans for “how to address the outside area” were being developed “in dialogue with local authorities.” Both local employees, others hired in from the local area and international workers were engaged in the clean-up this week, with work due to continue using vacuum trucks, absorbents and other equipment. The spill has raised alarm among local environmentalists who fear the oil lying on the ground will seep into the groundwater. That would set off the second recent major environmental disaster caused by a Norwegian company, following the contamination of drinking water around Norsk Hydro’s aluminum plant in Brazil, which also suffered damage from a severe storm.

Major GB oil spill- 75 million gallons of oil spilled - An estimated 1.9 million barrels of crude oil or 75 million gallons of oil was spilled from Equinor’s oil facility in Grand Bahama, according to Minister of the Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira. While speaking to reporters yesterday, Ferreira added that 6,000 barrels or 252,000 gallons of oil has been recovered. “Of the 6,000 barrels collected, some of it can be reused. But of course, it’s going to have to be reprocessed because it may be mixed with water and other debris,” he said. “There is about 12,000 cubic meters of sludge so that will be shipped out of the country for disposal to the United States pursuant or under the Basel Convention because under the convention, we have to confirm what we are actually sending to the U.S. and they have to agree to accept it. But it will be disposed of out of the country. “There is about 750 cubic yards of contaminated soil and rock aggregate because the Bahamas doesn’t have much soil. So anytime you scrape soil, you always scrape rock. “That mixture will be treated by way of delusion injection of microbes and aeration and disposed of at the Grand Bahama landfill.” Ferreira added that Equinor has quadrupled its staff to address the issue. “They went from having a staff of about 50. Now they have 200 plus persons on the ground involved in recovery and remediation,” he said. “Those persons are housed in two offshore vessels that are on site. The equipment that has been mobilized, in addition to booms and skimmers, they have about 13 vacuum trucks, two helicopters and of course, two boats. So that’s ongoing. “The ambient air, there in order to protect the recovery team, is being monitored for benzene. “Benzene is a compound that’s not safe to breathe. That’s being monitored by an external third party for independent modification.” In terms of cleanup costs and just how much Equinor has lost, that’s still being calculated. 

Texas LNG to face three opponents in contested case hearing - Houston liquefied natural gas company Texas LNG will face three opponents in an upcoming hearing to obtain a state air pollution permit and build an export terminal at the Port of Brownsville. The State Office of Administrative Hearings held a preliminary hearing for the case in downtown Brownsville on Thursday morning. An official overseeing the hearing ruled that the City of Port Isabel, the retirement community of Long Island Village and the Laguna Heights community group Vecinos Para el Bienestar de la Comunidad Costera will all have legal status to testify against and oppose the company's permit application during a Nov. 20 contested case hearing in Brownsville.Texas LNG is seeking permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to build an export terminal capable of producing up to 4 million metric tons of LNG per year along the northern shore of the Brownsville Ship Channel. Texas LNG is the smallest of three liquefied natural gas export terminals proposed to be built at the Port of Brownsville. The projects represent nearly $40 billion of investment, thousands of construction jobs, hundreds of permanent jobs and an opportunity to boost U.S. exports. Citing safety and environmental concerns. a coalition of shrimpers, fishermen, environmentalists, neighbors and community groups working under the banner Save RGV From LNG opposes the projects. Texas LNG and the two other projects are still waiting on federal permit decisions, but environmental reviews expressed concern about the cumulative traffic, noise and habitat fragmentation they would have on the endangered ocelot, jaguarundi and aplomado falcon when combined with other projects in the area. FERC officials wrote in an environmental review that the impacts of Texas LNG could be overcome as a single project through the proper mitigation efforts.

Activists Say New Laws To Protect Critical Infrastructure Aim To Silence Them | WAMU Greenpeace activists in Texas recently rappelled off a key bridge over the Houston Ship Channel, unfurling streamers and hanging in midair in a scene that looked kind of like high-rise window washers meets Cirque de Soleil. Their aim was to protest the oil and gas that funnels through the waterway every day by disrupting bridge and water traffic.“The reason we’re here is because the era of fossil fuels needs to end,” said protester Rico Sisney in a Facebook Live video he recorded as he swung from a wire off Houston’s Fred Hartman Bridge.  The Houston channel stretches from the city to the sea, and is home to refineries from global oil companies such as Exxon Mobile and Shell. More oil is exported through it than anywhere else in the country. The group had intended to stay for 24 hours to block that flow. But before the day was over, sheriff’s deputies rappelled down, tied themselves to the activists, and forcibly lowered them to waiting police boats where they were arrested. In all, 31 of the climate activists are now the first to be charged under a new law aimed at protecting the state’s pipelines, ports, refineries and other facilities deemed “critical infrastructure.” At least nine states have recently enacted similar laws in the name of safety to protect oil, gas and other energy projects. But critics say their real aim is to curb direct action protest in the era of climate change.The protesters face federal charges, but the state law they’re accused of breaking carries even steeper prison time — up to two years. Their case could test the law’s constitutionality not only in Texas, but in other states that have adopted similar rules. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, nine states have adopted similar laws over the last few years. The laws that increases penalties for certain crimes, making trespassing on and disrupting critical infrastructure a felony.

Documentary “Blowout” Follows Climate Cost of Oil Boom from Fracking to Exports - naked capitalism - (video and transcript) Jerri-Lynn here: Timely reminder that Trump didn’t create the climate crisis – although he’s certainly making it worse. As the RNN touts this interview, “ [t]he new film follows the U.S. oil supply chain, covering health, climate and environmental justice impacts. And it points to the president who was central to creating the current reality: Barack Obama.”

Like fine whisky, Texan oil exporters tout unblended crude (Reuters) - The United States is selling more oil overseas than ever, and refiners in Europe and Asia are scrutinizing the quality of that oil after some shipments of U.S. crude contained impurities or contaminants that made it difficult for overseas refiners to process. Two U.S. shipments were even refused by South Korea last year. Overseas buyers are demanding barrels that travel directly from wells to export terminals with little blending, to minimize problems introduced when crude passes multiple transport systems. Like that single malt Scotch, the biggest sellers of U.S. crude are touting so-called “neat” barrels, delivered direct from the shale patch to the Gulf, as a way of boosting the allure of the country’s flagship Midland, Texas crude. “What we’re hearing from our customers around the world is they want pure Midland WTI blend,” said Ben Luckock, co-head of oil trading at Trafigura. The United States has become a top exporter of crude after ending a 40-year ban on exports in 2015, shipping more than 3 million barrels per day to buyers in China, South Korea, and across Europe. To combat concerns about quality, producers and merchants are marketing barrels that come direct from the Permian Basin in West Texas and New Mexico, and pass from the wellhead through a pipeline straight to export facilities, as a way of distinguishing from barrels that first go north to the U.S. primary storage outpost in Cushing, Oklahoma. “Quality reputation is crucial. Buyers ask about how well quality has been managed,” 

City of Kyle Considers Settlement With Kinder Morgan -- A multi-billion dollar natural gas pipeline could soon be one step closer to coming to Central Texas. In July, Kinder Morgan filed a lawsuit against the City of Kyle for passing an ordinance regulating how pipelines can be installed in the city. The ordinance would impact the installation of the Permian Highway Pipeline, which is set to cut through the city. “We asked them to bury the pipeline 13 feet deep, which will allow for us to put our wastewater lines or water lines and our streets over the top of their pipeline,” said Kyle Mayor Travis Mitchell. Mitchell said that Kinder Morgan’s lawsuit against the city argues that the City of Kyle doesn’t have the authority to pass that ordinance because the federal Pipeline Safety Act specifically prohibits cities from regulating pipelines on the basis of safety. Mitchell disagrees, saying the ordinance is necessary to ensure the city can provide basic city services to its residents. “This ordinance is not designed to stop them. It's designed to regulate them in such a way that we can at least continue moving forward as a city with our infrastructure planning,” said Mitchell.

Kinder Morgan starts natural gas pipeline to Corpus Christi ahead of schedule - Houston pipeline operator Kinder Morgan is starting a new pipeline to move natural gas the from the Permian Basin to Corpus Christi ahead of schedule. In a statement, Kinder Morgan said its 448-mile Gulf Coast Express Pipeline will begin full commercial service on Wednesday. Fully booked under long-term contracts, the natural gas transmission will move 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from the Waha hub in West Texas to the Agua Dulce hub in South Texas. Midstream Moves: Kinder Morgan exits Canada in deal valued at $2.5 billion The 42-inch diameter pipeline was designed to move natural gas from the Permian Basin to the Agua Dulce hub, where it can either be exported on other pipelines to Mexico or liquefied natural gas export terminals along the Gulf Coast.

Railroad Commission of Texas shuttering 1,700 abandoned wells in fiscal 2019 - The Railroad Commission of Texas shuttered 1,700 abandoned oil and gas wells over the past year, up from 1,300 over the same period last year, the Railroad Commission reported Friday. The number of wells plugged exceeds the goal of 979 set by the Texas Legislature for fiscal 2019, according to a statement released by the Railroad Commission, whose fiscal year runs from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31. The commission spent $34.9 million plugging the wells, compared to $23 million last year, spokeswomen Ramona Nye told the Business Journal. Industry permitting and regulatory fees are used to pay for plugging wells. The funds to clean up the oil fields surrounding those wells are generated by suing operators that have failed to plug their wells and through sales of equipment on abandoned sites. No taxpayer money is used, according to the commission. The agency's 2018 oil field cleanup report showed more than 13,700 wells were inactive and unplugged as of August 2018. Of that number, more than 4,600 were in Eagle Ford Shale counties. That report was released in January 2019. A new report showing the locations of wells closed during fiscal 2019 will be released next January, Nye said. While the commission beat its well closure targets for fiscal 2018 and 2019, the number of wells waiting to be plugged hit a 10-year high in 2018. Not all those wells were considered abandoned, and some may still be plugged by their operators. As of fiscal 2018, there were nearly 6,300 abandoned wells reported by the commission. There are also an unknown number of abandoned wells for which the state has no records.

Texas rig count lowest level in over two years as industry sheds jobs - The number of active oil and gas rigs in the U.S. fell again this week as an energy slowdown takes hold and Texas energy employers shed jobs. The number of active rigs fell by 18 to 868 nationwide, the lowest level since May 2017, according to the Baker Hughes North America rig count. Across Texas, operators took a net seven rigs out of service, bringing the number of operating rigs to 423, the state's lowest level in more than two years. At the same time, the Texas energy sector is also shedding jobs. The mining and logging industry, which in Texas is dominated by the oil and gas industry, shed 1,800 jobs last month, cutting back its workforce for the third consecutive month, according to seasonally adjusted data reported by the Texas Workforce Commission on Friday. Oil prices were little changed on Friday, at about $58.96 per barrel at 12:00 p.m. central.

Texas oil and gas activity declines in third quarter - Activity in Texas' oil and gas sector declined in the third quarter, according to a survey of oil and gas executives by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. A measure of business activity in the sector fell deeper into negative territory, indicating a contraction in the industry. The business activity index fell to -7.4 in the third quarter from -0.6 in the second . Negative survey readings indicate contracting activity. Oilfield service firms drove the decline, with executives reporting activity in the industry has significantly contracted to -24 in the third quarter, after reporting an expansion in the prior quarter. Still, oil and gas producers continue to pump. Production increased for the 12th consecutive quarter, though oil production eased up a bit. On average, executives surveyed expect oil prices will be $56.92 per barrel by year-end 2019.

Dallas Fed Energy Survey - -- Activity in the oil and gas sector declined in third quarter 2019, according to oil and gas executives responding to the Dallas Fed Energy Survey. The business activity index—the survey’s broadest measure of conditions facing Eleventh District energy firms—fell to -7.4 in the third quarter from -0.6 in the second quarter. Oilfield services firms drove the decline, with their business activity index slumping to -21.8 from 6.6. Negative survey readings indicate contraction; those above zero suggest expansion. Oil and gas production increased for the 12th consecutive quarter, according to exploration and production executives. The oil production index was at 15.7 in the third quarter, a tick down from the second-quarter reading of 17.4. Meanwhile, the natural gas production index fell to 6.5 from 13.4. Among oilfield services firms, the equipment utilization index plummeted 27 points to -24.0 in the third quarter, its lowest reading since 2016 and suggestive of a large contraction in equipment utilization. Input costs continued rising but at a significantly slower pace, with the index plunging to 5.6 from 27.1. Meanwhile, the prices received for services index fell further into negative territory, to -18.5 from -12.1, suggesting a further decline in oilfield services prices. The operating margins index remained negative but less so, rising to -24.0 from -32.8. The aggregate employment index slid to -8.0 from -2.5, suggesting employment declined modestly for a second quarter in a row. Meanwhile, the aggregate employee hours worked index declined to -2.4 from 3.1. The index for aggregate wages and benefits, which fell to 6.2 from 14.5, shows a further slowing of wage growth. The aggregate company outlook index improved to zero from -4.5; the zero reading suggests outlooks remained unchanged during the third quarter after worsening during the second quarter. However, company outlooks for oilfield services firms remained negative at -14.8. While uncertainty continues to intensify, slightly fewer firms noted rising uncertainty this quarter than last, and the index fell 12 points to 38.

Secret Survey: U.S. Shale In A State Of 'Deep Anxiety' -- The financial stress sweeping over the U.S. shale sector has led to a sharp contraction in activity. Oil and gas activity in Texas and parts of New Mexico declined in the third quarter, with the Dallas Fed’s business activity index reporting a reading of -7.4, down from -0.6 in the second quarter. A negative reading signals contraction while a positive reading indicates expansion. Falling deeper into negative territory indicates that shale drillers in the Permian further cut drilling activity over the last three months. A slowdown in drilling is an even larger problem for oilfield services companies, who provide the equipment, manpower and drilling services that oil companies need. A producer may be able to do more with less, but that “less” falls on the service providers, who have been hit hard. The Dallas Fed said that the business activity in the oilfield services sector fell to -21.8 in the third quarter, down from 6.6 in the second.Another reading demonstrated the pain for oilfield services. The Dallas Fed’s “equipment utilization index” plunged to -24 from 3, and the figure for the third quarter was the lowest since the oil market’s nadir in 2016.Problematic for shale drillers is that costs still grew, although at a much slower rate. The “input cost” index stood at 5.6 in the third quarter, an indication of slowing cost increases compared to the 27.1 reading in the second quarter. But the bad news for the industry is that the reading was still in positive territory.Employment is also weakening. The employment index fell to -8.0 from -2.5, meaning that the Permian likely saw job losses for the second quarter in a row. When surveyed by the Dallas Fed, 42 percent of the executives from 142 oil and gas firms said that low prices was their most significant constraint on growth. Another 20 percent said the lack of access to capital, followed by 13 percent of which said investor pressure to generate free cash flow. Only a small percentage of respondents said that infrastructure bottlenecks and labor shortages were the top constraint on their growth.

Permian Child Wells May Cut Oil Recovery By 20% - Oil producers drilling so-called parent-child wells in the Permian Basin are risking the loss of 15% to 20% of the crude that can ultimately be recovered from those wells by spacing them too close together, according to a Houston-based investment bank. The analysis from Houston-based investment bank Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. -- contained in a 61-page presentation seen by Bloomberg -- is the latest salvo in the debate on the spacing of so-called parent-child wells in the Permian, the most prolific oil patch in the U.S. When drilled too close to the initial “parent” well, output from a “child” can be much less prolific. But producers risk leaving oil in the ground if the spacing is excessive. In much of the Permian, a region that stretches across West Texas and New Mexico, the amount of oil that can be recovered from child wells is on average about 20% to 30% lower than that of the parent, the analysis shows. That means overall production from a particular area could be some 15% to 20% lower than projections made by producers. “Child wells get progressively worse relative to their parent well with tighter spacing,” according to the analysis. In a note to clients Friday, Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Bob Brackett said parent-child interference could end up decreasing overall production by a million barrels a day. “But it’s back end loaded,” he said. 

EIA releases latest international energy outlook, predicting rise in Texas natural gas production - World energy consumption is projected to grow 50% by 2050 and, with it, natural gas production in Texas, according to a new report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.Economic growth in Asian countries, particularly China and India, is projected to account for more than half the rise in energy consumption worldwide over the next 30 years, according to a report released by the EIA Tuesday. The industrial sector — which includes agriculture, manufacturing and construction — is and will remain the largest consumer of energy globally, increasing its consumption 30% by 2050, the EIA projects.With the increased consumption will come increased production and generation from nearly every energy source. Fossil fuels will continue to meet most of the world's energy needs, though renewable energy is predicted to be the fastest-growing source of new energy, according to the report. Among fossil fuels, natural gas consumption is predicted to increase the most.The U.S. will remain the top natural gas producer through 2050, increasing production by 50% through rising extractions in the shale plays of Appalachia and Texas, according to the EIA. Though the report doesn't specify which of Texas' three major plays will account for most of that rising production, an earlier report from the agency indicates that West Texas production will continue to rise well past 2021 even while production in South and East Texas flattens.Texas-based liquefied natural gas plants could also play a role in increased natural gas consumption worldwide. America's rise as a net exporter of gas will be driven mostly by LNG export facilities, according to the report. Many of those facilities are awaiting federal permits and will lie along the Gulf Coast, including in Brownsville and Corpus Christi. The predicted rise in natural gas, petroleum and coal consumption would also lead to increased carbon dioxide emissions. Emissions of CO2, a greenhouse gas, will increase 0.6% per year starting in 2018 if energy consumption follows the path predicted by the EIA. That's lower than the yearly 1.8% increase from 1990 to 2018 but not enough to stop global temperatures to increasing beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Fracking natural gas, oil produces waste water. Solutions in U.S. vary - The extraction of oil and natural gas through hydraulic fracturing — or fracking 1— from the plains of southeast New Mexico and West Texas takes water. A lot of water. It also produces a lot of waste water 2. This waste water, called produced water 3 in the energy industry, is high in salt and toxic for human consumption. It can also contain heavy metals and chemicals that could contaminate New Mexico and Texas' scarce and depleting freshwater supplies. What are oil and gas companies in southeast New Mexico and the Permian Basin 4doing with this waste water? Mostly, injecting it back into the ground via disposal wells in areas where researchers say it's relatively safe from causing harm.But as fracking activity in the Permian Basin continues to grow amid calls to strengthen domestic energy resources, so too does the need for more disposal wells today and long-term solutions tomorrow. “If you look at the geology in southeast New Mexico, there’s a lot of optimism that there’s a lot of capacity to store this water,” said Matthias Sayer, vice president of legal for NGL Energy Partners, which operates more than 100 saltwater disposal (SWD) 5facilities in the Permian. “I don’t think it’s fully understood. These volumes are unprecedented."  The Permian Basin’s growth was driven by fracking, which uses a combination of water and sand pumped into underground formations to break up rocks known as shale 6 and extract oil and natural gas.For every barrel of oil — about 45 gallons per barrel — produced through the practice, half a barrel of produced water is generated, per a 2015 study by Duke University. Experts estimated that ratio could have increased in recent years to up to four or five barrels of water per barrel of oil as wells age and deeper shale is targeted. “Production is not going away right now. That water-oil ratio will only grow,” Sayer said. “There’s definitely a connection between the economics and the environment. For now, Sayer said SWDs are the “easy answer,” but new solutions will be needed in the future to conserve water and address a growing industry.

 SCOOP/STACK drilling activity tumbles to three-year low: Enverus— Drilling activity in the SCOOP/STACK - a play once considered to be the next Permian Basin - slowed this week to a pace not seen in nearly three years. Rig count across the neighboring central Oklahoma shale basins dipped by another four, falling to just 57, data published Thursday by Enverus/DrillingInfo showed. The recent slowdown in drilling there has accompanied weaker oil prices this year, which in recent months have averaged around $55-$57/b at the benchmark WTI. Those prices are down from late 2018 highs at nearly $75/b, S&P Global Platts data shows. In 2019 alone, the number of active drilling platforms in the SCOOP/STACK has declined by nearly 44%, falling from a January high of 105 rigs. The pace of drilling in central Oklahoma had already reached its zenith in the second quarter 2018 when the rig count there briefly hit 116. This year, though, higher well costs, varying rock quality and increasingly unpredictable, often disappointing, rates of return have seen major acreage holders, such as Chesapeake, Cimarex, Devon, Marathon and others, move in droves to pause their drilling activity - particularly in the STACK of Kingfisher County. In September, half-cycle internal rates of return in the STACK were estimated at 17% and in the SCOOP at less than 11%, data from S&P Global Platts Well Economic Analyzer shows. Of particular concern for many operators is the rock formations. Although many pilot wells drilled in central Oklahoma at first appeared similar to those found in the Permian Basin, upon deeper exploration, those formations have been weighted more heavily toward gas. In the STACK, gas comprises about 42% of the production mix. In the SCOOP, gas accounts for about 47% of the recoverable resources, Platts Analytics data shows. The downshift in SCOOP/STACK drilling activity was accompanied by a broader pullback from the US oil and gas industry, which saw the total nationwide rig count fall by nine to a 29-month low at 945. As has typically been the case in recent weeks, oil-directed drilling accounted for most of this week's decline, with oil rigs falling by a net seven and gas rigs dropping by three. Along with the SCOOP/STACK, the Eagle Ford also witnessed a notable slowdown this week with rig count there also declining by four to 75 rigs. Drilling activity there is now hovering just above a 30-month low of 73 rigs seen in early September. Among the other major oil basins, rig counts in the Bakken of North Dakota and the Denver-Julesburg of Colorado were both down by two this week, falling to 56 and 22 rigs, respectively.

2 earthquakes rattle Kansas, Oklahoma Saturday - Two earthquakes rattled Oklahoma and Kansas early Saturday morning. The U.S. Geological Survey confirms a:

  • 2.7-magnitude quake at 3:25 a.m. 12 miles west of Perry, Okla.
  • 3.0-magnitude quake at 3:31 a.m. 4 miles north of Caldwell, Kan.

No significant damage has been reported. Kansas has seen an uptick in earthquake activity this past month, especially in Reno County.  The Cosmosphere will host a free public presentation with the U.S.G.S. regarding a recent string of local earthquakes and if oil and gas production are connected to it. For more details,click here.

Digging Deeper: Eight Questions About Southern Red Sands — A proposed mine for sand used in oil and gas extraction has stirred tensions and spurred questions in this small town just north of the Arizona border since the City Council voted in July to provide water to the project. The mine’s opponents say local officials did not fully evaluate the mine’s potential impact on the area’s water, air and traffic. They also argue that the mine, which would produce at least 700,000 tons of sand per year, could threaten the city's aquifer and Best Friends Animal Society, a neighboring animal sanctuary that is the city’s largest employer. Meanwhile, speculation and distrust have surrounded the company behind the mine, Southern Red Sands. The company, which has described itself as a start-up, has the financial backing of Gardner Company, the Salt Lake City-based real estate developer. Its chief executive, Chad Staheli, says his company is complying with all regulations. With the protest period for the city’s water service agreement ending on October 2, KUER looks at the origins of the company.  Southern Red Sands has two full-time employees. The rest of the team consists of consultants and contractors, CEO Chad Staheli said in an interview with KUER.  The company began, however, in February 2018 with a different name, Integrated Logistics, according to business records filed with the state. The organizer of the company was J.T. Martin, a former Salt Lake City Council member and high-ranking executive of Integrated Energy Companies. Known as IEC, the energy company provides services to oil and gas companies in the Uintah Basin, among other functions. The company’s chairman is Kem C. Gardner.  The principal investor in Southern Red Sands is Gardner Company. The company describes its real estate portfolio as one of the largest in the state. Staheli said the only other investor is Vere Capital — a small investment management company he helped start seven months before he joined Southern Red Sands.

Grand Junction BLM will share a building with oil, gas companies -— The Bureau of Land Management’s new headquarters here will share an office building with oil and gas groups, provoking strong criticisms from environmentalists and a defense from the senator who orchestrated the headquarters move to Grand Junction. The Interior Department announced Friday it has leased part of a four-story building at 760 Horizon Drive in this Western Slope city. According to online records, the building’s other tenants include Chevron and Laramie Energy — oil and gas companies that the BLM could provide leases to and regulate.“To say it’s concerning is an understatement,” said Jim Ramey, state director for the Wilderness Society. “It really struck me that on the same day as an international climate change strike, the BLM has no shame announcing that it’s going to set up shop with fossil fuel companies.”The announcement also came a day before Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, an architect of the BLM’s headquarters move, arrived in Grand Junction and spoke to Club 20, a western Colorado business group. The club’s annual fall gathering had many oil and gas sponsors, including Chevron, the Colorado Petroleum Council, the American Petroleum Institute, Caerus Oil and Gas and Trapper Mining. Environmentalists protested outside.Gardner touted the BLM’s move to Grand Junction during his prepared remarks Saturday, reiterating his claims that it will lead to better and faster decision-making within the Interior Department. In comments to reporters after the event, he defended the BLM’s new office space.

 Boulder county commissioners plan to appeal fracking cases (AP) — Boulder County commissioners say they intend to appeal a Colorado district court decision dismissing the county’s legal claims against an oil and gas drill company. The Daily Camera reports that the county filed three lawsuits aimed at blocking planned fracking operations by Crestone Peak Resources. However, a Boulder County District Court judge dismissed the lawsuits. Commissioners on Tuesday said they intend to appeal. In addition, the county plans to use new regulatory authority that requires oil and gas companies obtain approval from county commissioners before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission can green-light the drilling permit. Crestone spokesman Jason Oates says the company remains confident the project to drill 140 wells in unincorporated Boulder County will be approved.

Revealed: how the FBI targeted environmental activists in domestic terror investigations -  Helen Yost, a 62-year-old environmental educator, has been a committed activist for nearly a decade. She says she spends 60 to 80 hours a week as a community organizer for Wild Idaho Rising Tide. She’s been arrested twice for engaging in non-violent civil disobedience. Yost may not fit the profile of a domestic terrorist, but in 2014 the FBI classified her as a potential threat to national security. According to hundreds of pages ofFBI files obtained by the Guardian through a Freedom of Information Act (Foia) lawsuit, and interviews with activists, Yost and more than a dozen other people campaigning against fossil fuel extraction in North America have been identified in domestic terrorism-related investigations. The investigations, which targeted individual activists and some environmental organizations, were opened in 2013-2014, at the height of opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline and the expansion of fossil fuel production in North America. In its July 2014 file on Yost, the FBI cited federal anti-terrorism legislation prohibiting “attacks and other violence against railroad carriers” as the primary justification for opening the investigation. Violation of the law can lead to up to 20 years in prison. Activists who engage in non-violent civil disobedience and are charged with minor offenses such as trespassing are typically released within 48 hours. The FBI characterized Yost as being driven by a “desire to stop fossil fuels which, in her political view, are destroying parts of the US, specifically Montana, Idaho and Washington”. In addition, the FBI discussed the case with the US attorney’s office in Idaho, local law enforcement, and BNSF Railway, which operates the main rail line delivering coal and oil to export terminals in the Pacific north-west. According to the FBI file, the bureau opened the investigation based on information that Yost “was organizing and planning on conducting illegal activities against railroad companies from Montana into Idaho and Washington”.  Yost said Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) never organized direct action protests to disrupt oil train traffic passing in the region.  WIRT did participate in a series of community-led events and workshops in July and August 2014 opposing the transport of oil and coal by rail. “Investigators may have conflated several community events to assume such fictitious allegations,” Yost said in an email. Yost, who was contacted by an FBI agent when the case was still active, said she was not surprised by the agency’s actions. Surveillance was a form of suppression, she said, and this was another attempt to criminalize the actions of “normal people” working to protect natural resources. But she remains undeterred.

California tells SoCalGas to boost gas in storage before winter (Reuters) - The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has told Southern California Gas Co (SoCalGas) to take immediate steps to increase the amount of gas it has in storage to maintain reliable service this winter. "To maintain reliable delivery to ... customers during the winter, SoCalGas should take immediate action to increase injections at all available storage facilities," CPUC Executive Director Alice Stebbins said in a letter to SoCalGas made available on Friday. Officials at SoCalGas, a unit of California energy company Sempra Energy, were not immediately available for comment. Gas supplies have been tight in Southern California for years due to pipeline limitations and reduced availability of SoCalGas' biggest storage field at Aliso Canyon in Los Angeles, following a leak at the underground cavern between October 2015 and February 2016. The CPUC "continues to be concerned about the current status of (SoCalGas') storage inventory, system operations, and ability to provide natural gas this winter," Stebbins said. SoCalGas had about 72.1 billion cubic feet (bcf) of gas in storage on Monday, compared with 80.5 bcf at this time last year and a five-year (2014-2018) average for Sept. 23 of 84.9 bcf. One billion cubic feet of gas is enough to supply about 5 million U.S. homes for a day. In July 2018, the CPUC increased the amount of gas SoCalGas could store in Aliso to 34 bcf from 24.6 bcf. That is well below Aliso's peak capacity of 86.2 bcf. Before the Aliso leak, SoCalGas' four storage facilities - Aliso, Honor Rancho, Playa Del Rey and La Goleta - could hold about 135.3 bcf. But with limitations on Aliso, the four fields can hold around 83 bcf. Moreover, the low amount of gas in storage is being exacerbated by ongoing pipeline maintenance.

Oil Giants, Under Fire From Climate Activists and Investors, Mount a Defense – NYTimes - From the deck of a boat in New York harbor, the chief executive of Equinor squinted toward a stretch of sea where his oil company will soon build a giant wind farm. “We are doing all we can” to fight climate change, said the executive, Eldar Saetre. Hours later, at a hotel where Mr. Saetre and fellow oil executives were gathering to defend their industry — a major contributor to global warming — climate protesters weren’t buying it. Using lights, they projected “MAKE BIG OIL PAY” on the facade. On Monday, as world leaders gathered at the United Nations climate summit and discussed the urgency of slashing carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, 13 of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies presented their defense at a forum across town. But most of their proposals appeared designed to perpetuate the use of oil and gas for decades to come, rather than transition quickly to cleaner options. The companies promised a program to invest in technologies to scrub carbon dioxide from the air, although big questions remain about scaling up that technology. They also promised to cut down on leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from wells and pipes, and reaffirmed support of a tax on the burning of oil, gas and coal. “The change that needs to take place — the trillions of dollars of investment — is only going to come from companies with resources and scale,” said Ben van Beurden, chief executive of Shell.“This is certainly a first step. It’s a down payment. But this is a time we need a Hail Mary pass, not these modest steps,” said Andrew Logan, senior director for oil and gas at Ceres, whichworks with investors to address the impact of climate change on their holdings.According to the United Nations, oil and gas production needs to fall by about 20 percent by 2030 and by almost 55 percent by 2050 in order to stop Earth’s temperature rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. That is the target set by the 2015 Paris Accord, a landmark agreement among most of the world’s nations to fight global warming. However, new data from the financial think tank Carbon Tracker indicates that, since 2018, major oil companies have invested at least $50 billion in fossil fuel projects — like Shell’s $13 billion liquefied natural gas project in Canada and BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Equinor’s $4.3 billion deepwater oil project in Azerbaijan — that would not be financially viable if the world were to meet the 1.5-degree target.

 Oil May Still Be Needed for Decades Despite Climate Push-- While global leaders meet in New York to discuss solutions to climate change, the U.S. government has offered a sober assessment of the world’s ability to wean itself off fossil fuels. Although renewables will be the fastest-growing energy source through 2050, oil consumption will still be key to meeting energy demand for decades, according to a report released Tuesday by the Energy Information Administration. Fossil fuel use will keep climbing for the next 30 years, the report said. “Even though you see a very aggressive change in renewables uptick, it is just not growing fast enough to meet the demand and we don’t see demand tapering off,” EIA Administrator Linda Capuano said in Washington. Petroleum and other liquids will see their use increase through 2050, even as their share of global energy demand declines to 27% from 32% over that period. Natural gas, meanwhile, is seen as the fastest growing fossil fuel, increasing by 1.1% a year. After initially falling, coal’s use will pick up towards 2050. “Global energy consumption continues to outpace renewables growth and, while their shares decline, fossil fuel consumption, including coal, are projected to increase to meet demand,” Capuano said at an event held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The agency’s International Energy Outlook 2019 contains modeled projections rather than forecasts and assumes current laws and regulations remain unchanged.

When it comes to acknowledging humans’ role in climate change, oil and gas industry lawyer says ‘that ship has sailed’ -- In a closed-door meeting of oil and gas executives this summer in Colorado Springs, industry lawyer Mark Barron offered a bold proposal: Energy companies must accept that fossil fuels are helping to drive climate change.“It doesn’t matter whether it’s real, or not real, or what the issues are,” said Barron, who heads the energy litigation arm of Baker Hostetler. “That ship has sailed from a political perspective.”Barron added that any American younger than 40 had grown up learning that climate change is “an existential crisis that we need to address.” The recording of the June 24 meeting of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), which was obtained by The Washington Post, highlights a growing schism between the Trump administration and key players in the fossil fuel industry. Even as Trump officials work to repeal federal restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, some oil and gas executives say they have no choice but to press forward with plans to address climate change.As world leaders and activists converged in New York City this week for an international climate summit, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative — whose members account for 30 percent of global petroleum production — highlighted their investments in technology to curb greenhouse gas emissions.Last month, three energy giants — BP, ExxonMobil and Shell — said they would continue to cut emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, even though the Environmental Protection Agency announced that the government would no longer require them to do so. The month before, four automakers struck a deal with California pledging to reduce their vehicles’ carbon footprint for the next several years even if the administration eases federal mileage standards.The burning of petroleum accounted for 45 percent of the United States’ energy-related carbon emissions last year, according to the Energy Information Administration, while natural-gas burning contributed 31 percent.

Fracking Ban Proposed By 2020 Dems Would Kill Millions of Jobs - Washington Free Beacon - A proposed fracking ban put forward by leading Democratic presidential candidates would have a devastating impact on U.S. jobs, energy independence, and even national security, according to several studies.  Reports from the American Petroleum Institute, Independent Petroleum Association of America, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce painted a stark picture of the economic fallout from ending fracking, a process which has transformed the United States into the top oil and natural gas producer in the world. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), and Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) are among eight remaining 2020 candidates who have called for an all-out ban on fracking, despite the fact that the drilling method has put the United States on a path to energy independence. The practice has also led to cleaner energy alternatives and lower carbon emissions, a key goal of climate change activists.  Environmental opponents argue fracking's positives are offset by issues such as contamination of drinking water, air pollution, methane leaks, links to causing earthquakes, and the lowering of proximate property value.  ‘A ban … would destroy more than 14 million jobs'   A 2016 report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found the economy would suffer dramatically if lawmakers banned fracking.  "A fracking ban would be a disaster for the U.S. economy, exceeding the economic harm caused by the financial crisis, the housing bust, and the Great Recession—combined," the report said. "Those concurrent events cost the United States around 8 million jobs. A ban on fracturing would destroy more than 14 million jobs, all while raising costs for families and considerably reducing American energy security." The spike in energy prices would raise the cost of living by $4,000 a year, and household incomes would drop by $873 billion. The report concluded the U.S. gross domestic product would be reduced by $1.6 trillion. Texas (1,499,000 jobs lost), Pennsylvania (466,000), Ohio (397,000), and Colorado (215,000) would see more than a combined 2.5 million jobs lost from a fracking ban alone over that span, the report said, taking into consideration its effect on energy prices, incomes, manufacturing, and energy security.

Millennials Really Do Ruin Everything, And Big Oil Is Next -- It sounds harsh, but it’s true: millennials really do ruin everything. And the oil industry will be no exception. From talent acquisition to courting investors, to finding new end uses for petroleum, the oil industry is facing a whole new set of challenges—one that extends far beyond geopolitical risk premiums and barrel prices.  Oil companies who are quicker to adapt to this changing of the guard will have first pick of investment dollars and top talent, while those who are slow to change will get the leftovers.   Read some headlines (or some memes if that’s more your speed). There are hundreds of headlines and one-liners that tell of the serial killing nature of millennials. The death knell has tolled so far for straws, napkins, diamonds, home buying, cable television, stock trading, and even breakfast cereal—at least as we once knew it.   Some of those on the dead-to-me list are there simply because they have been replaced with new technology that is simply more convenient, like the shift from cable TV to Netflix. Others wound up on the list because they were shunned by the generation that likes to take the high ground. And it is this high ground that has placed the oil industry in the millennial crosshairs. The image, quite simply, of the oil industry can be summed up with a single word: “dirty”. Oil companies wishing to woo the millennial workforce and investment dollars will have to work overtime to shed this moniker. Millennials are not just about taking the high ground. If you look at their buying and investment choices, it’s not just about shunning things that are bad for the environment, bad for things or people who are exploited, or detrimental to their health. Much of the time, millennials are about what’s practical or convenient. Online shopping, grocery delivery, next-day delivery, Uber Eats, Peloton, etc., are all great examples of goods and services that have met millennials where they are, instead of banging their head against the wall and trying to convince millennials they have what they want.  Companies who fail to live up to the generation’s lofty moral ground may still be able to meet their expectations for ease of use and convenience. For oil, this is tricky, because end use is multifaceted and intertwined in the transportation, plastics, and asphalt sectors—all of which the oil industry should be helping to prop up by meeting millennial needs within these sectors.

Rio Cobre oil spill leads to shutdown of NWC treatment plant - An oil spill in the Rio Cobre Valley in St. Catherine has resulted in the National Water Commission (NWC), shutting down the Spanish Town Treatment Plant. A news release from the NWC says contaminated raw water did not enter its facility or pipelines. The Water Commission says it is monitoring the situation and will make adjustments to supply the affected areas. Several communities will experience no water or low water pressure until conditions are favourable to restore inflows to the plant. They include Spanish Town, Westmore, Hampton Green, Lakemore Gardens, Job Lane, White Water Meadows, Sydenham Gardens and the Willowdene Housing Scheme.

Colombian fracking moratorium does not block 'investigative' projects: court - (Reuters) - Colombia’s top administrative court on Tuesday clarified that a moratorium on fracking it upheld last week does not prevent “investigative” pilot projects, surprising both oil companies and environmental activists. Magistrates from the Council of State, which rules on administrative matters, had maintained a temporary moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, amid ongoing arguments in a wider case about the technique. “The court advises that the reach of this decision does not impede the development of comprehensive investigative pilot projects ... made by the expert commission convened by the national government,” the council’s president, Lucy Bermudez, said in a statement. An expert commission in February recommended that three pilot projects be strictly monitored before the country decides whether non-conventional techniques for extracting oil and gas can be widely used. Regulations for development of non-conventional deposits were suspended in Colombia late last year as part of the lawsuit, filed against the energy ministry by an environmental lawyer. State-run oil company Ecopetrol (ECO.CN), which is a co-defendant in the suit and had asked the court to lift the suspension, saw its request to start a pilot project paused in July pending the court’s decision.

Four Colombia fracking projects could bring $5 billion in annual investment - (Reuters) - Four fracking pilot projects in Colombia could bring in $5 billion annually in investment once they are in the production phase, industry leaders said on Tuesday, as the country awaits regulation that will allow the projects to begin. The potential use of fracking in the Andean country has sparked impassioned debate, with environmental groups saying it could damage water supplies and cause earthquakes, while supporters say it is a key to energy self-sufficiency. The top administrative court, the Council of State, is hearing a case on whether hydraulic fracturing, which breaks up rock formations with pressurized liquid, should be allowed but it has said pilot projects recommended by an expert commission can go ahead. Four pilot projects — one run by coal company Drummond [DRMND.UL] and the others by oil companies Ecopetrol, Exxon Mobil and Conoco Phillips — will generate billions of dollars in investment over the next few years, the head of the private Colombia Petroleum Association, or ACP, said. “In the first phase of the four pilots they will require investments of around $600 million per year - so we’ll surely have two, even up to three years, with investment of that amount and once we pass to the production phase they will require investments of around $5 billion per year,” Francisco Lloreda told journalists.

Buyers of Venezuelan Oil Need to Go to Panama City-- Buyers of Venezuelan crude used to visit the building across from Petroleos de Venezuela SA’s headquarters in Caracas. Not anymore. Now, the place to go is a helix-shaped skyscraper popularly known as “The Screw,” in Panama City that houses a Rosneft Oil Co PJSC office, according to people with knowledge of the situation. The office, staffed by three oil traders, two of whom used to work for PDVSA, helped Rosneft to handle 70% of all oil exported by Venezuela in August, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Rosneft has taken on a more active role in trading Venezuelan oil after the U.S. tightened sanctions earlier this year against the South American nation in a bid to oust President Nicolas Maduro. As China National Petroleum Corp.’s subsidiary PetroChina Co. Ltd., the biggest taker of Venezuelan crude prior to sanctions, halted loadings in August and September, Rosneft was allocated larger shares of Venezuelan crude, and so has Cuba and PDVSA’s subsidiary Nynas AB, which owns refineries in Europe. Client ComplaintsPDVSA and Rosneft have been partners in oil-producing ventures in Venezuela and since 2014 Rosneft has loaned about $6.5 billion to PDVSA in exchange for oil. After initial delays, PDVSA caught up with payments and reduced the outstanding debt to $1.1 billion in the second quarter. The crude loaded as payment is being resold to refiners in China and India. Rosneft-backed Nayara Energy Ltd., based in Mumbai, has adjusted its diet and is taking more Venezuelan barrels. 

 Brazil says oil in spill along northeast beaches not Brazilian - (Reuters) - Brazil’s environmental agency Ibama said on Thursday that an analysis of a vast oil spill along the country’s northeastern beaches showed the spilled crude did not originate in the country. Ibama said in a statement that it had been investigating the spill in several beaches in some northeastern states since Sept. 2. Local media showed pictures of sea turtles coated in black tar by the slick. The spill spans over 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) of Brazil’s northeast coast, affecting wildlife and polluting some of the postcard beaches in one of the nation’s top touristic destinations, such as Praia do Futuro, in the state of Ceara, and Maragogi, in Alagoas state. Brazil’s state-controlled oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA said in a statement that it had concluded after a molecular analysis of the oil that the crude spilled was not produced nor sold by the company. Crude oil is tested before export to make sure it complies with the standards of the refinery it is being shipped to. Crude oil from different fields can be identified according to a series of chemical signatures, including levels of sulfur and nitrogen, acidity and viscosity. . An ANP statement said there were no reports of spills by any operator of oil drilling rigs in the country.  Ibama said that beaches in the states of Rio Grande do Norte, Maranhao, Ceara, Paraiba, Pernambuco, Alagoas and Sergipe were affected. Some marine turtles were contaminated by the oil. They were rescued alive in the state of Rio Grande do Norte and sent to rehabilitation centers. Other animals were found dead, Ibama said, without disclosing species or numbers.

 Govt to impose heavier penalties for sea pollution - THE Ministry of Works and Transport has introduced stricter measures to control ocean pollution to effectively manage potential oil spills. Works minister John Mutorwa tabled amendments to the Prevention and Combating of Pollution of the Sea by Oil Act in the National Assembly last Tuesday. The amendments include the introduction of a new, broadened definition of “harmful substance” to include any oil-based substances, an expansion of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) prohibited area, and increased penalties for illegal activities within that area. “This act is no longer sufficient to effectively manage the current oil pollution risk scenarios, which are primarily driven by the growth and significance of the port of Walvis Bay [and] increasing offshore gas and oil exploration activities in Namibian waters,” Mutorwa stated. The last amendment to the act was enacted in 1991, and saw increased fines imposed for certain offences. The new amendment proposes even stricter fines and prison sentences, with some increasing five-fold. The bill proposes that offences such as failing to report the discharge of harmful substances into the ocean, or operating within the prohibited area without a pollution safety certificate, carry a maximum fine of N$40 000, a jail term of not more than a year, or both. Currently, these offences carry a fine of N$10 000, imprisonment for no longer than six months, or both. More severe offences – such as discharging harmful substances within the prohibited area – would attract a maximum fine of N$1 million, imprisonment for not more than two years, or both.

Offshore Senegal Discovery Could Support LNG Project - Kosmos Energy reported Monday that the Yakaar-2 appraisal well offshore Senegal confirms a world-scale natural gas resource.Drilled to approximately 15,748 feet (4,800 meters) in roughly 8,202 feet (2,500 meters) of water with the Valaris DS-12 drillship, Yakaar-2 encountered approximately 98 feet (30 meters) of net gas pay in high-quality Cenomanian reservoir similar to that of the Yakaar-1 exploration well, Kosmos stated. The company added that Yakaar-2, drilled approximately nine kilometers from Yakaar-1, proved up the southern extension of the field.“The Yakaar-2 appraisal well demonstrates the scale and quality of the Yakaar resource base,” Kosmos Chairman and CEO Andrew G. Inglis said in a written statement.Kosmos stated the Yakaar-2 results underpin the company’s view that the Yakaar-Teranga resource base has the potential to support an LNG project for domestic and export markets. BP operates the project, which includes Kosmos and PETROSEN. A Yakaar-Teranga LNG project would represent the companies’ second such development off the Senegal-Mauritania border. They also plan to produce LNG from their Greater Tortue Ahmeyim project.

Indonesias Pertamina stops oil spill off Java - Indonesia's state oil and gas company PT Pertamina said on Monday it had stopped an underwater leak from an oil well off West Java over the weekend after more than two months of spillages. The company aims to permanently plug the leak next week, but the clean-up effort for beaches nearby is expected to last until at least March next year. The spill, from the YYA-1 well in Pertamina's Offshore North West Java (ONWJ) block, started on July 12 and was declared an emergency three days later. An environmental group said the spill has affected at least 13 villages, threatening the livelihoods and health of thousands of people. On Monday, Dharmawan Samsu, Pertamina's upstream director, told reporters that Pertamina had connected a relief well, which should contain the leak, and aimed to permanently plug the leaking well by Oct 1. "With this completion, we can soon focus on recovery efforts for the affected area," he said. "We will renovate public infrastructure and clean the environment to restore the ecosystem." More than 42,000 barrels of oil have been recovered offshore since the spill, Taufik Adityawarman, a Pertamina official said, as well as 5.7 million bags of mixed sand and oil from beaches. Pertamina has promised to compensate residents affected by the spill, mostly fishermen from villages near the well. Adityawarman said so far only 30% of the compensation money has been distributed. The company has estimated output from the ONWJ block this year of 29,000-30,000 barrels of oil per day and 110 million standard cubic feet of natural gas per day.

 Leaking oil well to be plugged next week- Pertamina - Upstream oil and gas company Pertamina Hulu Energi (PHE), a subsidiary of state-owned energy company Pertamina, says it expects to permanently seal its leaking offshore oil well near Karawang regency, West Java, early next month. “We estimate that by 10 a.m. on Oct. 1 – inshallah [God willing] – the well will be cemented and locked. If our drilling team works ahead of schedule, then alhamdulillah (thank God), but this is our hourly timeline,” said oil spill incident commander Taufik Adityawarman. He told reporters in Jakarta on Monday that PHE’s relief well intercepted the leaking well on Sept. 21 and was pumping, up to Monday, a heavy liquid to suppress spurting fluids. Over the next eight days, PHE is to pump a second liquid into the leaking well that cements the heavy liquid and, thus, permanently plug the leak. Taufik added that PHE had collected 42,000 barrels of oil from the sea and 5.74 million sacks of oil-and-sand mix from the shore by Sunday. The recovered oil is being stored in containers in Marunda subdistrict, North Jakarta. “As technical experts, we want the oil to be recycled into the system but the ones who decide whether the substance is oil or toxic waste are our friends at the Environment and Forestry Ministry,” he said. Pertamina upstream director Dharmawan Samsu said that the company spent between US$7.5 million and $10 million to drill the relief well. The oil spill was caused by a gas well kick – the release of gas caused by low pressure in a wellbore – on July 12 that worsened two days later.

Aramco’s Repairs Could Take Months Longer Than Company Anticipates, Contractors Say – WSJ  - The Saudi Arabian Oil Co. is in emergency talks with equipment makers and service providers, offering to pay premium rates for parts and repair work as it attempts a speedy recovery from missile attacks on its largest oil-processing facilities, Saudi officials and oil contractors said. It may take many months—rather than the maximum 10 weeks company executives have promised—to restore operations to full working order, they said.

Saudi switches crude grades, delays oil supplies to buyers in Asia (Reuters) - State oil giant Saudi Aramco has switched crude grades and pushed back crude and oil products deliveries to customers by days after the attacks on its supply hub severely reduced its light oil production and led to output cuts at its refineries. Crude oil loading delays were widespread as most buyers have received Aramco’s request to push back shipments in October by 7-10 days, several sources with knowledge of the matter said, giving the producer more time to maintain exports by adjusting supplies from inventories and its refineries. At least three supertankers that loaded crude in Saudi Arabia this week for China and India had their crude grades switched from light to heavy oil while more buyers in Asia have been asked to delay shipments and switch grades in September and October, according to sources with knowledge of the matter and data from Refinitiv and Kpler. Unipec, the trading arm of Asia’s largest refiner Sinopec , will lift Arab Heavy crude instead of Arab Light and Arab Extra Light onboard Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) Caribbean Glory and Xin Lian Yang this month. Sinopec declined to comment. VLCC Kalamos will also load Arab Heavy instead of mostly Arab Extra Light for Indian Oil Corp. IOC does not comment on commercial matters. The sources declined to be named as they were not authorised to speak to media. Saudi Aramco is drawing down Arab Heavy crude from its inventories to replace oil grades, said an oil analyst who also declined to be named. “Saudi always destocks oil in July and August. So the current inventory level would be around 170 million to 175 million barrels,” the analyst said. “This could last 25 days in theory. In practice, it may be even less.”

China has enough oil inventories to last about 80 days: NEA (Reuters) - China has around 80 days of oil in storage, including those in its strategic petroleum reserve (SPR), oil storage at oil firms and commercial stocks, a National Energy Administration (NEA) official said on Friday. China, the world’s biggest importer of crude oil, will complete building the second phase of its strategic oil storages in 2020, Li Fulong, NEA’s head of development and planning, told a news conference. Li said China had enough oil to last about 80 days, slightly less than the 90 days recommended by International Energy Agency for its members. Beijing has not joined the IEA. Based on January-August import levels, 80 days’ worth of oil imports by China would equate to about 788 million barrels, according to Reuters calculations. China rarely releases oil inventory information. It last gave an update on its emergency oil stockpile in December 2017. NEA director Zhang Jianhua told the same news conference that recent attacks on oil facilities in top exporter Saudi Arabia would not impact China’s oil supply. “It is not that we depend on one certain country or region. Looking at the current situation, even if Saudi Arabia is attacked, it will not affect China’s crude oil supply,” Zhang said, adding China could “import large amounts of oil and gas” from the United States if there was no trade war.

 "Suspiciously Well Placed": First Images Of Crippling Damage To Giant Khurais Oil Field Revealed  - Much of the attention concerning the crippling damage to Saudi Aramco facilities struck in last week's aerial attack ultimately blamed on "Iranian sponsorship" by US and Saudi officials has focused on Abqaiq processing plant, but on Friday the first on the ground images from the kingdom's giant Khurais oil field the country's second largest have been revealed, showing scorched infrastructure, ruptured pipelines, and "a mess of oil melted to asphalt, twisted and charred metal grates" according to an on site Bloomberg report. And yet Aramco has remained insistent that the field will return to pre-attack output levels this month, after the company reported losing half its daily output in the aftermath of the early Saturday attacks, impacting a whopping 5% of total global supply. Per Bloomberg, Khurais has a capacity of 1.45 million barrels a day, processing all oil on site; however the attack took out four 300-foot towers essential to the production process.  Like at the Abqaiq processing plant nearer the coast, the strikes whether by drones or ballistic missiles (debris showed by the Saudi Defense Ministry this week featured both) appeared remarkably precise. The Saudis have counted a total of twenty-five drones and missiles used in the twin attacks, after statements by Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed ten drones were used.  Bloomberg reports of the recovery progress at Khurais: The Khurais field and processing plant resumed 30% of production within 24 hours of the strike and will produce 1.2 million barrels a day by the end of September, Fahad Al Abdulkareem, general manager for Aramco’s southern area oil operations, said at a briefing on Friday. Workers are at the site 24 hours a day to speed the repairs, according to the company. The precision nature of the strikes, which Washington has claimed can only point to Iranian involvement given the level of sophistication needed to conduct such an operation, is even more evident at the Abqaiq facility.  Given the sheer distance the drones would have to travel, whether from Yemen or possibly Iran, combined with 18 precision strikes on the 70-year old but state of the art Abqaiq facility, a number of analysts are questioning whether the operation had inside the kingdom help.

Clear Risk of Slower Saudi Output Restart - There is clear risk of a slower restart of Saudi Arabian oil production despite the optimistic guidance by Saudi Aramco. That’s according to Rystad Energy Chief Oil Market Analyst Bjornar Tonhaugen, who made the statement in a post published on Rystad’s website on Wednesday. “In our view, there is a clear risk of a slower resumption towards full capacity,” Tonhaugen stated. “Repairs to the damaged spheroids and stabilization towers involve, to our understanding, access to expertise and spare parts which would take time to procure,” he added. Unless repairs happen much quicker than Rystad expects, the company estimates that the Abqaiq processing facility will only reach 90 percent capacity by mid-November, Tonhaugen revealed. “The outage would then be reduced to 0.5 million barrels per day (MMbpd) for the month of November at 5.2 MMbpd production. For now, we expect production to remain slightly below full capacity for December,” the Rystad representative continued. Saudi Aramco President and CEO Amin Nasser announced Tuesday that the company’s production capacity would be fully restored by the end of September.

Is Aramco Lying About Its Damaged Oil Infrastructure? -Repairs at the Khurais field and the Abqaiq processing facility may take several months rather than the ten weeks tops that Aramco had initially estimated, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing foreign contractors working with the Saudi state giant. Aramco, the contractors told the WSJ, is in urgent talks with equipment manufacturers and service providers and is willing to pay premium rates for faster delivery and installation. Still, the repairs work could last months because the equipment has to yet be manufactured, delivered and installed, and this could take as long as a year, the WSJ’s Summer Said noted, quoting Saudi officials.The report suggests initial expectations by Aramco may have been overoptimistic. As a result, we could see another spike in prices soon: the attacks on Khurais and Abqaiq took off a combined 5.7 million bpd from global oil markets.Last week, Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman tried to reassure traders as hetold media more than half of the lost production had been restored. By the end of September, bin Salman said, Saudi Arabia would have 11 million bpd in production capacity and by the end of November, it would have 12 million bpd.Yet, according to the Wall Street Journal’s sources, this is not likely to be the case as the equipment that will replace the one destroyed by the attacks would have to be made to measure, and this takes time.Bloomberg estimated earlier this month that Saudi Arabia has about 50 million barrels of oil in storage at home plus another 80 million barrels stored abroad. This will be enough to keep its exports going at regular rates, but some expect a supply gap to open up late next month. Uncertainty is growing as a result of conflicting reports: first media reported Saudi Arabia had asked Iraq for light crude to insulate itself from a supply gap, and then Riyadh said it had never done that. Now, the official position continues to be that repairs will take a few weeks, with the WSJ report suggesting that this might not be the case.

Risk of Further Saudi Attacks High - The risk of further high-impact attacks against Saudi energy infrastructure is high. That’s according to Torbjorn Soltvedt, principal MENA analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, who made the statement in an analysis piece sent to Rigzone on Thursday. “For Saudi Arabia, the bottom line is that the risk of further serious attacks will persist even if the situation does not escalate,” Soltvedt said in the report. “Only a significant reduction in regional tensions or a neutralization of Iran’s asymmetrical capabilities can meaningfully reduce the threat level. Unfortunately, prospects for either are poor,” he added. The recent attack highlighted a vulnerability at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure that cannot be easily remedied, according to Soltvedt, who added that the cost of inaction and poor conditions for diplomacy leave a militarized response as the most likely next step. “The severity of the 15 September attack and the problems associated with inaction make it likely that Saudi Arabia will lean towards some form of military response, most likely in coordination with the United States,” Soltvedt stated. “The cautious approach taken over the last few months means that Saudi Arabia now faces the challenge of changing course rapidly and jumping several rungs on the escalation ladder,” he added. Soltvedt went on to say that the Saudi political leadership will want to avoid a full-blown war with Iran “at all cost”. Saudi Aramco revealed over the weekend that emergency crews contained fires at the company’s plants in Abqaiq and Khurais, “as a result of terrorist attacks with projectiles”. The company confirmed that these attacks resulted in a production suspension of 5.7 million barrels of crude oil per day. Saudi Aramco President and CEO Amin Nasser announced Tuesday that the company’s production capacity would be fully restored by the end of September. According to Rystad Energy Chief Oil Market Analyst Bjornar Tonhaugen, however, there is clear risk of a slower restart of Saudi Arabian oil production despite the optimistic guidance by Saudi Aramco. 

Oil prices could go much higher if there is a military escalation after Saudi attack The growth of the U.S. as both oil producer and exporter is helping cap a spike in crude prices following attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, but the price could go sharply higher, depending on the duration of the disruption and whether it escalates into a military conflict. The weekend attack on Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq processing facility and another plant knocked 5.7 million barrels of Saudi production off line and underscores a new realization of vulnerability in world oil production. That is 5% of global oil output and about half of Saudi’s production, but Saudi Arabia has sufficient supplies to maintain its current export level for about a month. Oil prices initially spiked nearly 20% in trading Sunday evening but were up just about 14.5% in U.S. trading Monday, the biggest one-day move since February 2016. Brent was trading at $68.45 per barrel in late trading. “What the market is pricing is geopolitical risk premium and tail risk. Something like this has never happened before. There have been attempts, but those were foiled,” said Amarpreet Singh, Barclays energy analyst. “Something like this to Saudi supply has absolutely never happened, even during the Gulf War.” Houthi rebels, aligned with Iran, claimed responsibility for the attack, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran was responsible. Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said an investigation into the incident shows Iranian weapons were used in the attack. President Donald Trump presided over a national security meeting at the White House Monday morning on the topic of Iran, NBC News reported from sources. Trump told reporters Monday afternoon that he was in no rush to respond to the attacks on Saudi oil facilities. He also said “it was a very big attack” that could be met with a much larger attack. Trump said Pompeo is going to Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. has been in touch with European countries including France, which is still a party to the nuclear agreement with Iran.

Saudi oil disruption could hit China hardest - Saudi Arabia claims its oil production infrastructure, 60% of which was knocked off-stream in a pre-dawn drone attacks on September 14, will be running at full throttle again by month’s end, an assessment few energy industry analysts view as feasible. While the Middle East waits to see how the US and Saudi Arabia ultimately respond to the attacks blamed on Iran, the impact on Asia’s oil markets is coming into clearer view, with China looking the most vulnerable to any prolonged disruption to Saudi supplies. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter, the de facto leader of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cartel and the world’s third largest crude oil producer after the US and Russia. The Asia-Pacific, home to some of the world’s largest net oil-importing nations, is increasingly dependent on Saudi oil to fuel their fast-growing economies. Last year, China imported 459.3 million tons (mt) of crude oil, a 10.1% year on year rise worth a record-breaking US$239.2 billion. That represented a 20.2% share of total global consumption, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). In 2018, the US imported 247.8 mt of crude oil, while India was the third largest crude oil importer at 226.6 mt, followed by Asian industrial heavyweights South Korea (151.3 mt), and Japan (149.3 mt), according to industry data. But the attacks have put China’s reliance on Saudi Arabian crude oil exports into particularly sharp relief. In 2018, Saudi Arabia was China’s second largest oil supplier, providing 12.4% of its imports at a value of around $30 billion.

Europe gasoline exports to Mideast surge after Saudi attacks – (Reuters) - Gasoline exports from Europe to the Middle East and Asia are set to surge this week after recent attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities crippled output at the kingdom’s refineries. Over 400,000 tonnes of gasoline and gasoline blending components have been booked in the past week for loading between Sept. 21 and Sept 26 out of northwest Europe with Mideast Gulf delivery options, shipping data shows. The flow is the equivalent of around 500,000 barrels per day. It is unclear where the cargoes will end up, but traders said that Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil company Aramco is seeking to buy large volumes of refined oil products. Europe’s exports of gasoline and blending components to Saudi Arabia averaged 60,000 bpd in the first five months of the year, according to data analytics firm Vortexa. “A flurry of gasoline bookings that emerged this week for Europe to Middle East voyages could see more European gasoline make its way to Saudi Arabia,” Vortexa said in a note. Traders said the rise in shipping bookings was related to a sharp increase in demand following attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure on Sept. 14, which knocked out around 1 million bpd of Saudi Arabia’s refining capacity.

Saudi Arabia to restore full oil output by next week: source - (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has restored more than 75% of crude output lost after attacks on its facilities and will return to full volumes by early next week, a source briefed on the latest developments told Reuters on Monday. Saudi oil production from its Khurais plant is now at more than 1.3 million barrels per day, while current production from its Abqaiq plant is at about 3 million bpd, the source said. The Sept. 14 attacks on the two giant plants caused raging fires and damage that halved the crude output of the world’s top oil exporter, by shutting down 5.7 million barrels per day of production.Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and the chief executive of state oil company Aramco, Amin Nasser, have said output will be fully back online by the end of September.The attacks sent oil prices up 20 percent although they came off after the kingdom pledged to bring back output swiftly. On Monday, prices stabilized at $64 per barrel, paring earlier gains, following comments by the source.The kingdom has managed to maintain supplies to customers to the levels they were at prior to the attacks by drawing from its huge oil inventories and offering other crude grades from other fields, Saudi officials said.Saudi said it would ensure full oil supply commitments to its customers. The kingdom ships more than 7 million bpd to global destinations every day, and for years has served as the supplier of last resort to markets.No casualties were reported at the sites even though thousands of workers and contractors work and live in the area.The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday repairs at the plants could take months longer than anticipated.Thousands of employees and contractors have been pulled from other projects to work around the clock in bringing production back. Aramco is shipping equipment from the United States and Europe to rebuild the damaged facilities, Aramco officials told reporters on Friday.

Saudi attacks leave hedge funds unmoved despite battle of the bots (Reuters) - Hedge fund managers remain cautious about the outlook for oil prices despite a short-term surge following the recent attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil installations. Amid record trading volumes, oil prices posted a record one-day rise on Sept. 16, the first trading day after the attacks. However, most of this was probably attributable to short-term computerised market-making programmes ("bots") taking intra-day positions rather than fund managers shifting their strategic view. Prior to the attacks, hedge fund managers had increased their bullish positioning in petroleum significantly as hopes rose for a trade truce between China and the United States. But the attacks themselves have not added much to this economy-driven relief rally with the oil price rise flushing out some of the weaker bearish shorts but doing little to encourage the creation of new bullish long positions ( Hedge funds increased their net long position in petroleum futures and options by just 23 million barrels in the week to Sept. 17, an unexceptional amount and down from an increase of 122 million barrels the previous week. Across the six most important petroleum futures and options contracts, portfolio managers reduced short positions by 17 million barrels but added just 5 million barrels of new long positions. Funds were net sellers of ICE Brent (-9 million barrels) but buyers of NYMEX and ICE WTI (+11 million barrels), U.S. gasoline (+8 million), U.S. diesel (+5 million) and European gasoil (+8 million). For each of the five contracts with net buying, short covering was a more important factor than establishing fresh long positions in contributing to the increase in net length. In Brent, the contract with the most direct exposure to any loss of production caused by the attacks on Saudi Arabia, fund managers actually sold 9 million barrels of previous long positions. For oil bears who remained downbeat about the economic outlook, the surge in prices proved painful, forcing some to close out positions which accelerated the price spike. Most oil bulls, however, saw the price surge as temporary and no reason to increase long positions, while a small minority found a reason to realise profits on positions already accumulated before the attacks. 

Oil prices struggle amid economic despond- Kemp  (Reuters) - Oil prices are sinking again as concerns about the health of the global economy and petroleum consumption replace fears about the vulnerability of Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure as the main focus for traders. Recent economic data has painted a mixed picture about whether the global economy is flatlining or pulling out of the slowdown that hit during the second half of 2018 and the first half of this year. But the broadest indicators of business activity and investor sentiment continue to suggest an economy growing well below trend. Investors are positioning themselves defensively in case growth slows further. Global manufacturers reported that new export orders fell in August for the 12th month running and the decline is accelerating. ( The JPMorgan purchasing managers’ sub-index for new export orders last month fell to its lowest since the mid-cycle slowdown in 2012 and before that the recession of 2009. World trade volumes fell during the second quarter compared with the same period last year at the fastest rate since the post-crisis recession, according to the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis. Oil consumption among the top 18 consuming countries, each using more than 1 million barrels per day, rose by just 0.9% in the second quarter compared with the same period in 2018. Oil consumption by the top consumers was growing well below the trend rate of 1.5% per year that prevailed between 1998 and 2018, data from the Joint Organisations Data Initiative showed. In the United States, new orders for non-defence capital goods excluding aircraft, a proxy for business investment, were up less than 0.5% in the May-July period versus a year earlier. Business investment spending was growing at the slowest rate since the mid-cycle slowdown or mini-recession of 2015/16 and well below the average rate over the last 20 years. 

Oil Prices Rise as Reports Suggest Saudi Needs More Time to Recover - Oil prices rose on Monday in Asia following reports that full recovery of Saudi Arabia’s oil fields hit by the drone attack may take many months. U.S. Crude Oil WTI Futures gained 1.0% to $58.69 by 11:30 PM ET (03:30 GMT). International Brent Oil Futures also rose 1.0% to $64.95. The Wall Street Journal reported that complete recovery from the attack earlier this month, which knocked out half the nation’s out output, will take more than the 10 weeks Saudi previously promised. Citing an unnamed Saudi official, the report said the kingdom is “still in a frantic search for spare parts.” The situation is not “as rosy as you might think,” the official said. Meanwhile, state oil company Saudi Aramco reassured the market on Friday that it will have 11 million bpd of capacity back online by November, well above its current actual output level. Aramco also named UBS Group, Deutsche as bookrunners for its initial public offering (IPO), Reuters reported citing sources familiar with the matter. Reuters added that the company planned meetings with analysts this week ahead of its expected IPO in late November.

Oil ends higher as Middle East tensions outweigh pressure from Saudi output recovery  -Crude-oil futures ended higher on Monday, finding support from growing tensions in the Middle East even as Saudi Arabia has reportedly restored much of the output lost to attacks over a week ago that damaged its oil facilities.Late last week, the U.S. said that it would deploy more troops to Saudi Arabia following the Sept. 14 attacks on oil facilities. Also last week, President Donald Trump tweeted that he had ordered the U.S. Treasury to “substantially increase” sanctions on Iran.Tensions in the Middle East are “at risk of rising once more, and that should keep prices lively throughout this week,”   “Geopolitical instability to a historically volatile region would risk additional shocks higher to the value of oil.”   West Texas Intermediate crude for November delivery CLX19, -0.54%  on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 55 cents, or 1%, to settle at $58.64 a barrel, while November Brent crude BRNX19, -0.71%, the global benchmark, climbed by 49 cents, or 0.8%, to $64.77 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. Oil prices found earlier support from news that the Saudis restored around 75% of the crude production lost in the attacks on its oil facilities, Reuters reported, citing a source briefed on the latest developments. The damage had initially disrupted 5.7 million barrels a day of Saudi oil production, or about 5% of world output. Early Monday, however, a report by The Wall Street Journal that said it may take the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., popularly known as Aramco, several months to fully restore operations. Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Saudi energy minister, had said last week that his country would resume normal production of 9.8 million barrels by the end of this month, though some Aramco officials pointed to a 10-week timeline for full recovery.The market has been “getting mixed messages about how fast Saudi’s oil production can recover from last weekend’s attack,” said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Price Futures Group.“We are also getting mixed messages on the state of the global economy with weak manufacturing data coming out of Europe,” he said. Data Monday showed that manufacturing sentiment in the eurozone, the purchasing managers index, fell to an 83-month low of 45.6 in September, from 47 in the prior month. Economists polled by FactSet expected a 47.3 reading, with any reading below 50 indicating worsening conditions.

Oil drops to lowest since Aramco attacks after Trump scolds China (Reuters) - Oil prices plunged more than 2% on Tuesday to their lowest since the Sept. 14 attacks on Saudi Arabia’s key oil facilities, after U.S. President Donald Trump rekindled fears the U.S.-China trade conflict that has crimped energy demand is far from over. In a United Nations address, Trump accused China of unfair trade practices, including “massive” market barriers, currency manipulation and intellectual property theft, a few days after officials from the world’s two largest oil-consuming economies held inconclusive trade talks in Washington. “Hopefully we can reach an agreement that will be beneficial for both countries,” Trump said. “As I have made very clear, I will not accept a bad deal.” Brent crude futures LCOc1, the international standard, settled $1.67, or 2.6%, lower at $63.10 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate futures CLc1 ended at $57.29 a barrel, down $1.35, or 2.3%. Trump “ratcheted up the U.S.-China trade war again,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC in New York. “It wasn’t a constructive tone in trying to get that resolved, and we know how sensitive oil prices are to the back and forth.” The U.S. president’s address left the oil market with the grim impression that “it’s not a deal that’s going to get done quickly,” which could continue to hamper global oil demand growth, said Robert Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York. U.S. stocks fell, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq poised for the biggest declines in a month, as calls for impeachment of Trump gained momentum, while weak consumer confidence data added to worries over the prolonged Sino-U.S. trade war. [.N] .DJI A private sector report showed U.S. consumer confidence fell by the most in nine months in September.

 Oil falls 2.2% after Trump ratchets up US-China trade war -Oil prices fell 2% on Tuesday as U.S. President Donald Trump fanned market fears that Sino-American trade tensions are far from settled amid ongoing negotiations, a grim sign for oil demand growth. Trump sharply criticized what he called China’s unfair trade practices in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly, saying he would not accept a “bad deal” between the United States and China. “He ratcheted up the U.S.-China trade war again,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC in New York. “It wasn’t a constructive tone in trying to get that resolved, and we know how sensitive oil prices are to the back and forth.” Brent crude futures fell $1.35, or 2%, to $63.42 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures were down $1.12, or 1.9%, at $57.52 a barrel. “Not only has China declined to adopt promised reforms, it has embraced an economic model dependent on massive market barriers, heavy state subsidies, currency manipulation, product dumping technology transfers and the theft of intellectual property and also trade secrets on a grand scale,” Trump said. U.S. stocks fell, as well, reversing earlier gains following Trump’s comments and a private sector report showing U.S. consumer confidence fell by the most in nine months in September. 1/8.N 3/8 <.DJI> Sluggish economic data in leading European economies and Japan also weighed on crude prices, analysts said. “We continue to see a constant revision downward for 2019 oil demand,” with many forecasters predicting demand to grow around 1 million barrels per day (bpd) or less

Oil prices fall after an unexpected rise in inventories - Oil prices fell for a second day on worries that fuel demand could fall after U.S. President Donald Trump doused recent optimism over China-U.S. trade talks, at a time of rising U.S. crude oil stockpiles. Brent crude futures were down $1.72 to $61.38 a barrel on Wednesday, erasing all gains made after an attack on Saudi oil facilities sent the benchmark up around 20% last week. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude dropped to $55.71 a barrel, down $1.58. U.S. commercial crude oil inventories (excluding those in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) increased by 2.4 million barrels from the previous week, according to the Energy Information Administration. “Focus will return to faltering oil demand concerns as there is unlikely to be any quick resolution to U.S.-China trade differences to positively shift economic expectations,” global oil strategist at BNP Paribas Harry Tchilinguirian told the Reuters Global Oil Forum. “Barring a repeat attack on Saudi infra-structure, oil will weaken further.” Trump criticised China’s trade practices at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday and said he would not accept a “bad deal” in U.S.-China trade negotiations. China is the world’s largest oil importer and second-largest crude user. The United States is the largest consumer of oil. Trump also said he saw a path to peace with Iran even as he denounced Iran for “bloodlust”, cooling other risk premiums built into oil prices. Others, like OCBC economist Howie Lee, saw more potential upside, pointing to the possibility that buyers of Saudi crude could be made to look for supplies in the spot market and push prices higher again if Saudi stocks run out.  

WTI Extends Losses After Big Build In Crude, Cushing Stocks Soar Most Since Feb -- WTI has accelerated its losses overnight following API's surprise crude build and Saudi Arabia's claims that it has now restored production at the Abqaiq and Khurais oil processing facilities to the levels they were operating at before recent attacks.“With the oil market reassured that no material disruption to Saudi supply to its customers has occurred following the drone attacks on the Abqaiq processing facility, the oil price pursues its retreat from last week’s highs,” said Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodities strategy at BNP Paribas SA. Putting inventories back in the spotlight - although the impact of Storm Imelda is likely to make the numbers a little more noisy than normal...


  • Crude +1.38mm (-600k exp)
  • Cushing +2.3mm - first build in 13 weeks
  • Gasoline +1.9mm
  • Distillates -2.2mm


  • Crude +2.41mm (-600k exp)
  • Cushing +2.256mm - biggest build since Feb 2019
  • Gasoline +519k
  • Distillates -2.978mm

A bigger than expected crude build and major rise in stocks at Cushing dominated the inventory data in the last week (though Storm Imelda may confuse numbers)… US Crude Production rose back to record highs as the rig count continues to crater...

Oil falls 1.4% on surprise US crude build, Trump’s China trade comments Oil prices dropped about 2% on Wednesday, logging a second straight day of losses after U.S. crude inventories unexpectedly rose and on worries that demand could fall after U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments about trade talks with China. A rally in the dollar, which moves inversely with oil, also weighed on oil as a Democratic-led chamber was launching an official presidential impeachment inquiry. Brent crude futures shed 1.03%, to $62.45 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude fell 1.4%, to $56.49 a barrel. “The complex is seeing significant downside pressure today off further reduction in risk appetite related to lack of progress on the U.S.-China trade front as well as the impeachment inquiry that appears poised to reduce appeal for risky assets,” “Adding to the mix was some bearish ... data featured by a counter seasonal U.S. crude build.” U.S. crude inventories unexpectedly rose 2.4 million barrels last week, the Energy Information Administration said, instead of declining 249,000 barrels as analysts forecast. Trump said on Wednesday that a deal to end a nearly 15-month trade war with China could happen sooner than people think. Global markets had weakened on Tuesday after Trump criticized China’s trade practices at the United Nations General Assembly and said he would not accept a “bad deal” in U.S.-China trade negotiations. China is the world’s largest oil importer and is second-largest crude consumer after the United States. Trump also said he saw a path to peace with Iran, cooling other risk premiums built into oil prices, particularly after the Sept. 14 attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities that halved its output. Both the kingdom and the United States have blamed Iran for the attack. “The geopolitical risk premium has all but vanished and bullish catalysts suddenly appear in short supply across the oil market,” 

Oil slides as Saudi supply rebound weighs - Oil fell on Thursday for the third straight day as Saudi Arabia’s moves to restore output quickly after attacks on its oil installations promised yet more oil supply. Brent crude futures were down 72 cents, or 1.1%, at $61.67 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 79 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $55.70 a barrel. “There has been not much joy for oil bulls in recent days as either sluggish stock market performance, recovering Saudi oil production or unexpectedly disappointing U.S. inventory data hindered any attempt to push prices higher,” Tamas Varga of oil brokerage PVM said. Prices were weighed down by the faster-than-expected recovery of Saudi output after the drone and missile strikes on two of its oil-processing plants, as well as a surprise 2.4-million-barrel build in U.S. crude inventories last week. The world’s top oil exporter has restored its production capacity to 11.3 million barrels per day, sources briefed on Saudi Aramco’s operations told Reuters. But U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday signalled that a resolution to the trade dispute with China might be near, which could eventually boost fuel demand. A day after delivering a stinging rebuke to China over its trade policies, Trump said Beijing wanted to make a deal and it “could happen sooner than you think”. Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also signed a limited trade deal that would open Japanese markets to $7 billion of U.S. products annually. “The oil market has seemingly returned to business as usual,” said Norbert Ruecker, head of economics and next-generation research at Julius Baer. “Instead of the attack-related fallout including disruption and geopolitical risks, the soft economy and stagnant oil demand are back in focus.” Crude futures were pressured by sluggish economic data in leading European economies and Japan. A firmer dollar, which registered its sharpest daily gain in three months overnight and held steady in Asian trade, also weighed on oil as it makes dollar-traded fuel imports more costly for countries using other currencies.

Oil prices head for big weekly loss as supply fears wane - Oil prices fell on Friday and were heading for a weekly loss on a faster than expected recovery in Saudi output while slowing Chinese economic growth dampens the demand outlook. Brent fell 93 cents to $61.81 a barrel, while U.S. crude slipped by 65 cents to $55.76. Both were down almost 4% over the week, representing WTI’s biggest weekly loss in 10 weeks and Brent’s biggest in seven. Brent and WTI were also hit by a Wall Street Journal report citing unnamed sources saying that Saudi Arabia had agreed a partial ceasefire in Yemen, said analysts in the Reuters Global Oil Forum. Brent is just above its level before attacks on Saudi facilities on Sept 14, which initially halved the kingdom’s production. Sources told Reuters this week that Saudi Arabia had restored capacity to 11.3 million barrels per day. Saudi Aramco has yet to confirm it is fully back online. “The risk premium is deflating further,” said Saxo Bank’s Ole Hansen. The International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Friday that it might cut its estimates for global oil demand for 2019 and 2020 should the global economy weaken further. “If the global economy weakens, for which there are already some signs, we may lower oil demand expectations,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol told Reuters. In China, the world’s second-largest economy and biggest importer of crude oil, industrial companies reported a contraction in profits in August. A surprise 2.4 million-barrel build in U.S. crude inventories last week also weighed on prices. Key oil freight rates from the Middle East to Asia rocketed as much as 28% on Friday in the global oil shipping market, spooked by U.S. sanctions on units of China’s COSCO for alleged involvement in ferrying crude out of Iran. The COSCO vessels are equal to about 7.5% of the world’s fleet of supertankers, Refinitiv data showed.

Oil Slides As Middle East Tensions Fade -- Oil is set to close out the week with the largest weekly loss in months. Crude fell on news that Saudi Arabia has declared a partial cease-fire in Yemen, raising hopes that several years of war could come to an end. It would also dial down tension with Iran.   Saudi Aramco has promised to restore production at the Abqaiq and Khurais facilities by Monday, but oil traders are not so sure. “I would like to see real evidence that they are going to resume [production] in the coming weeks,” a Middle East oil company official, told S&P Global Platts. Middle East-based petroleum engineer Einstein Millan Arcia added: “I seriously doubt Saudi Aramco's capability to recommission such facilities [by September 30] considering the depth of the damage and all the associated testing protocol needed prior to restart.”  After some reports suggested that Saudi officials were considering delaying the IPO of Aramco, it now appears that the government is pressing forward and even accelerating the effort. The offering could come as soon as November.. Despite assurances that there would be little interruption in exports, a report from Petro-Logistics, reported on by Reuters, estimates that Saudi oil exports averaged 5.875 mb/d in the 10 days after the Abqaiq attack, down 1.494 mb/d from prior.  Low oil prices and a slow but unfolding energy transition is cutting into the returns for the oil industry. ExxonMobil’s return on invested capital (ROIC) was 25 percent in 2011, but was less than 10 percent last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, the ROIC for Vestas Wind Systems was negative 5 percent in 2011, but averaged 22 percent over the last five years.

 Oil settles lower, loses nearly 4% for the week - Oil futures finished lower Friday, as news reports tied to Iran sanctions, a cease-fire between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and the U.S. considering limits on investor portfolio flows into China pressured prices, contributing to a loss of nearly 4% for the week.Oil prices had been trading lower as The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Saudi Arabia had moved to impose a partial cease-fire in war-torn Yemen, as Riyadh and Houthi militants try to bring an end to a four-year war that is become a flashpoint in a regional confrontation with Iran.“Soon after, prices dropped sharply again on claims by Iranian President [Hassan] Rouhani that the U.S. has offered to lift all sanctions if Iran is willing to resume negotiations,” said Balint Balazs, commodity analyst at Schneider Electric. Reuters reported that Rouhani said the U.S. sent a message to European leaders that it was willing to lift all sanctions, but that he rejected talks with Washington while the sanctions remained in plac. However, Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, was quoted as calling Iran’s claims “baseless.” Trump also tweeted: “Iran wanted me to lift the sanctions imposed on them in order to meet. I said, of course, NO!” Prices for oil fell closer to session lows after Rouhani’s reported comments, then pared those losses after Trump’s denial.

Oil prices post weekly loss as supply fears wane (Reuters) - Oil prices fell on Friday and posted a weekly loss on a faster-than-expected recovery in Saudi output, while investors also worried about global crude demand amid slowing Chinese economic growth. During a volatile session, Brent crude LCOc1 futures fell 83 cents, or 1.3%, to settle at $61.91 a barrel, after dropping to a session low of $60.76 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 futures fell 50 cents, or 0.9%, to settle at $55.91 a barrel. It hit a session low of $54.75 a barrel. Brent fell 3.7% for the week, its biggest weekly loss since early August. WTI lost 3.6%, its steepest loss since mid-July. Crude futures fell along with other higher-risk assets after news the U.S. government is considering the possibility of delisting Chinese companies from U.S. exchanges, a source briefed on the matter said on Friday. The move would be a radical escalation of trade tensions between the U.S. and China. Earlier in the session, futures fell after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the United States offered to remove all sanctions on Iran in exchange for talks. However, U.S. President Donald Trump then said he had refused the request by Tehran. “We’ve really been following headline to headline,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst with Price Futures Group in Chicago. Also weighing on prices, a Wall Street Journal report citing unnamed sources said Saudi Arabia had agreed a partial ceasefire in Yemen, said analysts in the Reuters Global Oil Forum.

The Reason Saudi Is Switching From Sweet Oil To Sour Oil To Meet Export Contracts -- September 26, 2019 There has been at least one post on Saudi switching from sweet oil to sour oil to meet its export contracts, and folks on twitter noted that fairly early on. Japan was one of the first countries to be affected according to tweets.  Today from a reader, a comment posted elsewhere:The Abqaiq refinery...  The 250-hectare complex can process 7 million barrels of oil a day. The chief purpose of Abqaiq is to remove hydrogen sulfide from crude oil and reduce the vapor pressure, making the crude safe to be shipped in tankers. Abqaiq is the world's largest facility for this stabilization. Hence, damage to that fits in with their switch from sweet to sour crude exports.

Saudi Arabia prepares to offer its first ever tourist visas two weeks after terror attacks DUBAI ⁠— Saudi Arabia will for the first time offer tourist visas to a range of nationalities as it pushes ahead with plans to make tourism a pillar of its economy. The announcement of the visa regime, scheduled for Friday and the details of which are forthcoming, comes just two weeks after terror attacks claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels shut down half of the kingdom’s oil production. “For the first time we are opening up the adventure, heritage, and history for people who will visit KSA as tourists,” Ahmad Al-Khateeb, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in an interview before the plan’s unveiling. The kingdom’s goals, as part of its Vision 2030 agenda, include increasing the economic contribution of tourism from a current 3% to 10% of GDP by 2030 and bringing international and domestic visits to 100 million annually by the same time. Currently Saudi Arabia’s foreign tourism market relies almost exclusively on religious pilgrims coming to the country for Hajj. The government expects those numbers to reach 30 million annually by 2030. While the plan is a milestone in the kingdom’s efforts toward diversifying its hydrocarbon-dependent economy, its announcement comes at a precarious time. Tensions between Saudi Arabia and its regional Shia archrival Iran have reached the boiling point, with Riyadh accusing Tehran of being behind the Sept. 14 drone and missile attack on some of its largest oil facilities, a charge Iran denies.

Beneath Contempt - Craig Murray -- The ruling caste of Saudi Arabia present the most striking example in world history of the extreme combination of avarice and personal cowardice. They are gagging for a war with Iran so long as somebody else fights it for them. Due to a dispute over who ought to have been Caliph 1400 years ago they are absolutely champing at the bit for somebody to massacre the Shia in the Shia heartland, provided they don’t have to do the massacring. It is not that they object to blood on their pure white robes, they often get that when executing a bound prisoner or raping the housemaid. But the thought of their own blood being spilt is an abomination. Let some helpful young Israelis or Americans risk fighting the Iranians, while the Saudi rulers sniff their cocaine in their London penthouses.It is not that Saudi does not have its own military – bombing civilian Shia Houthis from a great height with no chance of retaliation is great sport. And there were some actual Saudis in some of the tanks sent in to massacre the unarmed democracy demonstrators of Bahrain. But the world’s greatest spender per capita on weapons systems has no intention that its own elite should do any fighting. No matter how relentlessly Israel, abetted by the United States, persists in the slow genocide of the Palestinian people, Saudi will always remain a firm US and Israeli ally, because the biggest coward always hides behind the biggest bully. From that position Saudi Arabia will use all its money and influence to promote military action against Iran – by others.The British government, having armed, supplied, trained and lent special forces to the enduring Saudi massacre of Houthi civilians in Yemen, is horrified and full of condemnation that the Houthis have the temerity to hit back at an oil facility. The attack by drones was a brilliant bit of assymetric warfare that shows money is not everything in war. For US Vice President Mike Pence, after meeeting Mohammed Bin “Chopper” Salman, to denounce this attack as “An act of war” is pretty otiose. There are many thousands of mutilated or orphaned Houthi children who could have told him there was a war on, had he bothered to talk to them rather than their oppressor. It is an act of massive folly for the West to get drawn in to the Sunni/Shia small wars that rage across the Middle East and risk blowing them into something much larger. We do not have a “side” in an Islamic sectarian divide which everybody should be seeking to heal, not to exacerbate.  The demonisation and crippling by sanctions of Iran, with its profound and ancient culture and massive human capital and economic potential, is a major mistake.

Saudis Pound Yemen After Houthis’ Truce Offer - — Officially, Saudi Arabia expressed surprise and a little caution over Friday’s offer by Yemen’s Houthi movement of a joint truce. The weekend, however, left little doubt as to the Saudi answer to this overture.At least 27 Saudi airstrikes were reported against targets in northern Yemen in just the last 24 hours. The Houthis described the attacks as a “dangerous escalation,” and reiterated they’d meant to get everyone together for a peace process.Yemeni media reports the airstrikes as chiefly hitting farms, as well as telecommunications sites in Yemen’s far north, damaging communications and further crippling the very limited agriculture industry of Yemen, a nation that imports almost all of its food. The Houthi offer for a truce puts the Saudis in a difficult position, as recent Saudi actions are clearly informed by major Houthi drone attacks on Saudi oil sites, but the Saudis officially are blaming those attacks on Iran, meaning they’d just as soon not acknowledge that the Houthis, or the war, are a thing at all while trying to drum up support for moves against Iran.

Five civilians killed in air strikes by Saudi-led coalition in Yemen   (Reuters) - Yemen’s Houthi movement said early on Monday that five civilians from one family were killed in air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Omran province in Yemen, according to the Houthi owned Al-Masirah TV. Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis said the Saudi-led coalition carried out air strikes on a mosque that the family went to when the strikes began. Two children from the same family are missing, with searches for them going on under the rubble of the targeted mosque, the TV report said. There was no immediate confirmation from Saudi Arabia.

US-made bomb used in deadly strike in Yemen: Amnesty  - The international human rights group Amnesty International has denounced that a US-made precision-guided munition was used in a Saudi and Emirati-led air strike carried out on a residential home in Yemen’s southwestern city of Ta'izz. The air strike killed six civilians – including three children in Warzan village in the directorate of Khadir in late June this year. Among the six civilians killed in the attack were a 52-year-old woman. Amnesty International says it has investigated tens of sites affected by Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes since the beginning of war on Yemen in March 2015. The international human rights group it has frequently discovered U.S. munitions amongst the rubble of civilian markets, homes and hospitals in the war-ravaged Yemen. According to Amnesty International, the munition used in the Warzan attack was a Paveway laser-guided bomb manufactured in the US by a company called Raytheon. The London-based organization has argued that arms-supplying states cannot bury their heads in the sand and pretend they do not know their weapons are used to carry out attacks against civilians or civilian objects. The United Nations Human Rights council estimates that the conflict in Yemen will have killed over 233,000 Yemenis by year end both as a result of the fighting and the humanitarian crisis. 

How Yemen’s Houthis are bringing down a Goliath - Pepe Escobar - “It is clear to us that Iran bears responsibility for this attack. There is no other plausible explanation. We support ongoing investigations to establish further details.” The statement above was not written by Franz Kafka. In fact, it was written by a Kafka derivative: Brussels-based European bureaucracy. The Merkel-Macron-Johnson trio, representing Germany, France and the UK, seems to know what no “ongoing investigation” has unearthed: that Tehran was definitively responsible for the twin aerial strikes on Saudi oil installations. “There is no other plausible explanation” translates as the occultation of Yemen. Yemen only features as the pounding ground of a vicious Saudi war, de facto supported by Washington and London and conducted with US and UK weapons, which has generated a horrendous humanitarian crisis.   So Iran is the culprit, no evidence provided, end of story, even if the “investigation continues.” Hassan Ali Al-Emad, Yemeni scholar and the son of a prominent tribal leader with ascendance over ten clans, begs to differ. “From a military perspective, nobody ever took our forces in Yemen seriously. Perhaps they started understanding it when our missiles hit Aramco.” Al-Emad said: “Yemeni people have been encircled by an embargo. Why are Yemeni airports still closed? Children are dying without treatment. In this current war, the first door [to be closed against enemies] was Damascus. The second door is Yemen.” Al-Emad considers that Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayed Nasrallah and the Houthis are involved in the same struggle. I talked and broke bread – and hummus – with Al-Emad, in Beirut, during the New Horizon conference among scholars from Lebanon, Iran, Italy, Canada, Russia and Germany. Although he says he cannot get into detail about military secrets, he confirmed: “Past Yemeni governments had missiles, but after 9/11 Yemen was banned from buying weapons from Russia. But we still had 400 missiles in warehouses in South Yemen. We used 200 Scuds – the rest is still there [laughs].” Al-Emad breaks down Houthi weaponry into three categories: the old missile stock; cannibalized missiles using different spare parts (“transformation made in Yemen”); and those with new technology that use reverse engineering. He stressed: “We accept help from everybody,” which suggests that not only Tehran and Hezbollah are pitching in.

The drone attacks in Saudi Arabia have changed the nature of global warfare -  Patrick Cockburn - The devastating attack on Saudi oil facilities by drones and missiles not only transforms the balance of military power in the Middle East, but marks a change in the nature of warfare globally. On the morning of 14 September, 18 drones and seven cruise missiles – all cheap and unsophisticated compared to modern military aircraft – disabled half of Saudi Arabia’s crude oil production and raised the world price of oil by 20 per cent. This happened despite the Saudis spending $67.6bn (£54bn) on their defence budget last year, much of it on vastly expensive aircraft and air defence systems, which notably failed to stop the attack. The US defence budget stands at $750bn (£600.2bn), and its intelligence budget at $85bn (£68bn), but the US forces in the Gulf did not know what was happening until it was all over. Excuses advanced for this failure include the drones flying too low to be detected and unfairly coming from a direction different from the one that might have been expected. Such explanations sound pathetic when set against the proud boasts of the arms manufacturers and military commanders about the effectiveness of their weapons systems. Debate is ongoing about whether it was the Iranians or the Houthis who carried out the attack, the likely answer being a combination of the two, but perhaps with Iran orchestrating the operation and supplying the equipment. But over-focus on responsibility diverts attention from a much more important development: a middle ranking power like Iran, under sanctions and with limited resources and expertise, acting alone or through allies, has inflicted crippling damage on theoretically much better-armed Saudi Arabia which is supposedly defended by the US, the world’s greatest military super-power.If the US and Saudi Arabia are particularly hesitant to retaliate against Iran it is because they know now, contrary to what they might have believed a year ago, that a counter-attack will not be a cost-free exercise. What happened before can happen again: not for nothing has Iran been called a “drone superpower”. Oil production facilities and the desalination plants providing much of the fresh water in Saudi Arabia are conveniently concentrated targets for drones and small missiles. The trump card for the US, Nato powers and Israel has long been their overwhelming superiority inairpower over any likely enemy. Suddenly this calculus has been undermined because almost anybody can be a player on the cheap when it comes to airpower.

Saudi Arabia vows to respond to oil attacks with ‘necessary measures’ - Saudi Arabia says it will respond with "necessary measures" to attacks on two oil facilities as it reiterated the accusation that Iran was behind them. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said the weapons used were Iranian and vowed to release the full findings of the investigation. Iran denies involvement in the attacks. Earlier, a senior Iranian military official said Iran was ready to destroy any aggressor after the US announced it was sending troops to Saudi Arabia. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have said they were responsible for the drone and missile strikes on 14 September that affected the global oil supply. Tensions between the US and Iran have escalated since US President Donald Trump abandoned a deal limiting Iran's nuclear activities last year and reinstated sanctions. Speaking to reporters in Riyadh, Mr Jubeir said Saudi Arabia was in consultation with its allies and would take necessary and suitable measures after its investigation was complete, without giving details of possible actions. He repeated that the strikes targeting the Abqaiq oil facility and the Khurais oil field had come from the north and not from Yemen but did not give a specific location, and urged the international community to take a stand. "The kingdom calls upon the international community to assume its responsibility in condemning those that stand behind this act, and to take a firm and clear position against this reckless behaviour that threatens the global economy," he said.

Iran says it will destroy any aggressor (Reuters) - Iran will pursue any aggressor, even if it carries out a limited attack, and seek to destroy it, the head of the elite Revolutionary Guards said on Saturday, after attacks on Saudi oil sites which Riyadh and U.S officials blamed on Tehran. “Be careful, a limited aggression will not remain limited. We will pursue any aggressor,” the head of the Guards, Major General Hossein Salami, said in remarks broadcast on state TV. “We are after punishment and we will continue until the full destruction of any aggressor.” U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday approved sending American troops to bolster Saudi Arabia’s air and missile defences after the Sept. 14 attacks. Iran denies involvement in the attack, which was claimed by Yemen’s Houthi movement, a group aligned with Iran and currently fighting a Saudi-led alliance in Yemen’s civil war.Trump’s move drew fire in Washington on Saturday from U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who called it his “latest outrageous attempt” to circumvent Congress. “These unacceptable actions are cause for alarm,” Pelosi said in a statement accusing Trump of turning “a blind eye” to Saudi violence against innocent Yemenis, human rights abuses and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “The United States cannot enable more brutality and bloodshed,” she added. “Congress will do our job to uphold the Constitution, defend our national security and protect the American people.” Meanwhile, Amirali Hajizadeh, who heads the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace branch, said any attacks on Iran would receive “a crushing response”, the official news agency IRNA reported.

Iran’s Ultimate Middle East Power Play - There was little doubt by late September 2019 that Iran’s clerical leadership was truly in command of the dynamic of the transformation of the Persian Gulf region. The crux of the Iranian regional strategy – including the Iran-sponsored rôle of the Houthi pre-dawned unmanned aerial vehicle strikes on Saudi Arabian oil facilities on September 14, 2019 –became increasingly clear as the shock of those strikes began to be absorbed.Tehran was playing a masterful game, delicately balancing between its publicized confrontation with the US in the Persian Gulf and its real quest for a regional power status. The Iran-proxy strike on Saudi Arabia and the ensuing threats to the US served both as a demonstration of the impotence of Saudi Arabia and its guardians, and as a diversion of attention away from the crucial and successful Iranian surge westward to the Mediterranean.The Iranian declaratory threats of escalation remained focused on the Persian Gulf and particularly on warning the US against intervention. The Houthi strike reiterated anew the inherent vulnerability of Saudi Arabia, as well as its inability and unwillingness to act unilaterally against Iran. Tehran has long insisted that the US is reluctant to act against Iran, and every passing day reinforces the veracity of the Iranian message. Hence, Tehran argues, all regional states and entities should take notice of the inherent power of Iran and Iran’s proxies, as well as of the absence of US protection. Iran urges these states and entities to use the Houthi strike as an excuse to bring the current crisis to an end under conditions favorable to Iran.

Iran accuses foreign forces of raising Gulf ‘insecurity’ - President Hassan Rouhani said at an annual military parade that Iran would put foward a peace plan to the United Nations President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday denounced the presence of foreign forces in the Gulf and said Iran will present a peace plan, after its arch-foe Washington ordered reinforcements to the tense region."Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region," Rouhani said before a military parade commemorating the Iran-Iraq war.Rouhani also said Iran would present a peace plan to the United Nations within days."In this sensitive and important historical moment, we announce to our neighbours that we extend the hand of friendship and brotherhood to them," he said.Rouhani and top military brass saluted as row after row of soldiers marched past them in tight formation, followed by an array of homegrown military hardware. Rouhani called on the foreign powers to "stay away" from the Gulf. "If they're sincere, then they should not make our region the site of an arms race," he said.

Iran President Warns of Persian Gulf Region 'on the Edge of Collapse' - Iran's president warned world leaders Wednesday that security in the energy-rich Persian Gulf could collapse quickly with a "single blunder," and he accused the United States of engaging in "merciless economic terrorism" against his country. On the same day as President Hassan Rouhani spoke, the U.S. ramped up oil-related sanctions on Iran, imposing penalties on six Chinese companies and their chief executives for continuing to transport Iranian crude. Rouhani said in his speech to the annual United Nations General Assembly that the U.S. was engaging in "international piracy" against his country by re-imposing economic sanctions after Washington withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Iran "will never negotiate with an enemy that seeks to make Iran surrender with the weapon of poverty," Rouhani said in his highly anticipated speech. "Stop the sanctions so as to open the way for the start of negotiations." Iranian state television broadcast Rouhani's speech live across the country of 80 million people, many of whom are struggling under the weight of crippling U.S. sanctions that have sent the Iranian economy into freefall and limited Tehran's ability to sell its oil abroad. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Treasury Department announced the latest sanctions, which freeze any assets the firms may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with them, "We're telling China and all nations, know that we will sanction every violation of sanctionable activity," Pompeo said at an event for United Against Nuclear Iran, a lobby group opposed to the nuclear deal. 

British tanker Stena Impero free to leave: Iran ambassador to UK  (Reuters) - The detained British-flagged tanker Stena Impero is “free to leave,” Iran’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Hamid Baeidinejad, said on Twitter on Monday. “The British-flagged tanker ‘Stena Impero’, pursuant to the completion of the judicial and legal process, is now free to leave,” he wrote. The seizure on July 19 of the ship, two weeks after Britain detained an Iranian tanker off Gibraltar, ratcheted up tensions in the region in the wake of attacks on other merchant vessels that Washington blamed on Tehran.Iran denied responsibility for those attacks, which took place along a vital international oil shipping route.An Iranian government spokesman said on Monday that all legal steps had been completed for the release of the detained tanker but that he did not know when the vessel would be released, Iranian media reported. “The legal work and administrative procedures for the release of the English tanker have been completed but I have no information on the time of the release,” said government spokesman Ali Rabiei, according to semi-official news agency ILNA.

17 killed in US airstrike in southern Libya -At least 17 people have been killed in a US airstrike in southern Libya in the third such air raid in the North African state in a little more than a week.The US Africa Command (AFRICOM) claims Daesh terrorists were targeted by the Thursday airstrike.These US airstrikes over the last eight days are the first in Libya in over a year.An earlier US air raid had killed 11 on Tuesday, and a September 19 attack killed eight. The US military says all those killed were affiliated with Daesh militants.The United States has been carrying out such airstrikes in several Muslim countries under the pretext of fighting militant groups.In a Friday statement, the AFRICOM said it did not believe that the recent attack left any civilian casualties, but reports on the ground indicate that civilians are usually the main victims of such attacks.Scores of Libyans protest against a new US airstrike on a desert area in the country’s southwestern town of UwaynatThe Libyan Government of National Accord, based in the northwest of the country, is currently fighting forces led by Khalifa Haftar, a strongman and US citizen who rose to prominence in the northeast of the country amid the civil war that followed the death of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The recent US airstrikes, however, have been confined to the sparsely-populated southwest, away from the conflict between Haftar and the Government of National Accord.

'US calls anyone it kills in Libya a suspected militant' -- (video) Political commentator Ian Williams says the deadly US drone strike in Libya could be another attack on civilians that Washington misrepresents as suspected militants.

Afghan forces kill up to 40 wedding guests during raid - An airstrike has killed a large number of civilians, with some reports saying as many as 40, as they celebrated a wedding in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, Afghan officials have said. The group were hit during commando raids by Afghan and foreign forces in Musa Qala district, that the Afghan defence ministry said targeted “foreign terrorists”. Details filtered out slowly because the area is under Taliban control, but Abdul Majid Akhundzada, a member of the Helmand provincial council, said that the majority of the dead from the 11pm airstrike were women and children. Many of the dead were in a car and minibus carrying wedding guests. In addition over a dozen wounded victims were taken to the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah. “Some 40 people were killed and 18 others were wounded and were brought to the hospital, all the victims were civilians,” he told Agence France-Presse. He described it as “joint airstrike operation by Afghan and foreign forces.” The latest deaths come after months of rising civilian casualties caused by Afghan forces and their international allies, as they intensified military efforts against the Taliban. In the first half of this year, the United Nations found that pro-government forces killed more civilians than the Taliban and other militant groups.

Air Force testing vegan napalm — The U.S. Air Force is testing an improved,vegan version of the classic Cold War throwback weapon napalm, according to Air Force officials. The new weapon is expected to be able to burn the enemies of the United States to death while assuaging serious moral and environmental concerns. “Napalm is just a mix of a gelling agent and a volatile petrochemical,” said Louie Fleischer, a supervisory technical support specialist with the 96th Test Wing. “Historically, we’ve used animal-based gels. But now that the Department of Defense systemically rejects the commodity status of animals,  we are testing plant-based alternatives. They’re working out pretty well.”   U.S. use of napalm has been limited since President Barack Obama signed the UN Convention on Certain Chemical Weapons in 2009, but former Obama administration officials predict that the Air Force’s new version will be used more often in the future. “Obama’s real concern about napalm was how it oppressed animals who had never voluntarily enlisted,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s former foreign policy vizier. “I think the country will have fewer qualms about napalm now that it’s plant-based.”

A Half-Decade Late, New York Post Admits is ISIS Run by NATO Member Turkey — It’s that time once again: over the weekend Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan for perhaps the twentieth time warned his army is making preparations to act on its southern border with Syria, saying it will take unilateral steps to create a “safe zone” amid accusations the US is dragging its feet implementing agreements to push Syrian Kurdish forces from the border. This as yet another ‘conspiracy theory’ gets belatedly confirmed as conspiracy fact by the mainstream. The New York Post asks “Why isn’t the media covering Turkish President Erdogan’s ties to ISIS?” well, it’s at least been endlessly reported here and other places for about the past half decade. Better late than never, we suppose. The report details:The evidence of Erdogan’s direct, personal and institutional support for ISIS and related jihadi groups is so extensive, the wonder is why the American media is not paying more attention to it.The report doesn’t merely stop at saying NATO-member Turkey had an indirect or remote relationship with ISIS, but points out that Turkish intelligence service (MIT) while under the immediate oversight of Erdogan has been directly weaponizing and funding the terror group. Barely surveying the tip of the iceberg in terms of the total mountain of evidence to have emerged over the years, the NY Post assertsIt’s Erdogan’s commitment to global jihad, and specifically, to ISIS terrorists. Since 2012, the Turkish intelligence service, MIT, under Erdogan’s direction, has been providing resources and material assistance to ISIS, while Turkish Customs officials turned a blind eye to ISIS recruits flowing across Turkey’s borders into Syria and Iraq. Scores of ISIS fighters captured by pro-U.S. Kurdish forces in northern Syria showed Turkish exit stamps on their passports, and otherwise boasted of the direct assistance they had received from Turkish authorities. The report further cites a recently captured ISIS fighter, who told his Kurdish captors, “Turkish intelligence knows everything.”

 Jordan, Egypt, Iraq Reject Any Annexation Plan in Palestine - King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, and Iraqi President Barham Saleh held a trilateral summit in New York on Sunday that focused on the importance of bolstering coordination among the three countries. The summit, attended by senior officials from the three countries, covered means to enhance economic, trade and investment cooperation to serve mutual interests and Arab causes, a Royal Court statement said. King Abdullah welcomed holding the next ministerial meeting among the three countries in Amman to follow up on progress in cooperation. The summit was held on the sidelines of The King's visit to New York to attend the 74th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations (UNGA). At the conclusion of the summit, the three countries issued a joint communiqué, which highlighted the topics discussed by the three leaders, including means to bolster cooperation and coordination, as well as regional challenges, according to the statement. The three leaders reaffirmed their support for a comprehensive political solution to the Palestinian cause that guarantees the rights of the Palestinian people, foremost of which is their right to an independent, viable Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, based on the two-state solution, international law and relevant UN resolutions, and the Arab Peace Initiative.

Arab parties throw support behind Gantz as they seek to block Netanyahu — In a historic move, an alliance of Arab Israeli parties recommended a prime ministerial candidate to President Reuven Rivlin for the first time in almost three decades, saying in consultations Sunday that it would support a bid by former army chief of staff Benny Gantz to replace Benjamin Netanyahu. The process of selecting Israel’s next prime minister has entered its second stage, with eyes firmly on the country’s largely ceremonial president as he looks for a way out of a deadlocked election result to avert a third vote. Arab parties traditionally refrain from recommending a candidate during consultations as an ideological protest of Israel’s ongoing military occupation of the Palestinians. The last time an Arab party backed a candidate during consultations was in 1992, when Yitzhak Rabin became prime minister. Rabin later signed the historic Oslo accords with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. “We will recommend Benny Gantz as prime minister,” Joint List leader Ayman Odeh said during a meeting with Rivlin on Sunday. “We want to return to be legitimate political actors and bring an end to the Netanyahu government.” Rivlin held consultations with representatives of four of the nine political blocs that make up Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. He is scheduled to meet with the rest of the factions Monday and then decide whether Netanyahu or Gantz will get the first chance to form the next government. Also breaking with precedent was Avigdor Liberman, the hawkish former defense minister. He has been loyal in the past to Netanyahu but said he could not support the long-serving leader this time because Netanyahu has aligned himself closely with religious and right-wing parties. Liberman said he wouldn’t recommend Gantz, either, after he was supported by the Joint List.

 Clashes in Egypt's Suez on second day of protests against el-Sisi - Security forces in Egypt have clashed with hundreds of protesters in the port city of Suez, according to media reports, firing tear gas and live rounds to disperse crowds calling for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to quit. The unrest on Saturday came a day after thousands of people took to the streets in several Egyptian cities in a rare show of dissentagainst el-Sisi, who has overseen a broad crackdown on dissent including the jailing of thousands of dissidents and the effective banning of protests. A protester in Suez told the AFP news agency about 200 people headed to the city's central area for a second night in a row, where they were met by security forces and armoured vehicles. "They [security force] fired tear gas, rubber and live bullets and there were injuries", the man who declined to be named told the AFP. Another resident, who also preferred to remain anonymous, said the tear gas was so thick it had reached her apartment block a few kilometres away. "My nose started burning up. The smell was seeping through the balcony. I also saw some youth run and hide in our street", the woman said. Protests were also reported in Giza, the capital Cairo's twin city, and in the northern town of Mahalla. Al Jazeera is banned from reporting inside Egypt. Meanwhile, a heavy security presence was maintained in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicentre of Egypt's 2011 revolution that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. Egypt's stock exchange also suspended trading for 30 minutes on Sunday after the EGX 100 index fell by 5 percent.

‘Leave, Sisi!’: All you need to know about the protests in Egypt  -Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across several cities in Egypt, in a rare show of dissent against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Gathering in Cairo's Tahrir Square late on Friday, the demonstrators chanted slogans such as "the people demand the fall of the regime" and "leave Sisi", echoing the chants that rang out in the same place more than eight years ago and which brought down longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. In Alexandria, hundreds marched to the waterfront, chanting "rise up, fear not, Sisi must go", while in the port city of Damietta, protesters tore down a large poster of the president, a former general who has presided over a broad crackdown, jailing thousands of dissidents and banning protests. The protests came as el-Sisi headed to the United States to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Protests were reported in at least eight cities, with the largest crowds gathering in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. Videos and photos of the protests were shared on social media with the hashtag #Tahrir_Square, which was trending worldwide on Friday. Unauthorised protests are not allowed in Egypt and police cracked down swiftly, firing tear gas at protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square. At least four people were arrested in the capital, while a journalist was arrested in the city of Mahalla, according to the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms. The AFP news agency, citing a security source, said at least 74 people were arrested. No casualties were reported. Al Jazeera is banned from reporting from inside Egypt. 

Protests in Egypt shake al-Sisi’s bloody military dictatorship --The recent events in Egypt bring back memories of the revolutionary uprisings that brought down the long-standing imperialist-backed Egyptian dictator, Hosni Mubarak, in 2011. Numerous demonstrations reportedly took place throughout Egypt last weekend. This time, they are directed against General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who seized power in 2013 and has brutally subjugated the country ever since. Chants of “Irhal, Irhal” [Leave, Leave], “The people want the overthrow of the regime” or “Say it! Don't be afraid! Sisi must go” echoed through numerous Egyptian cities over the weekend. The protests began in the capital, Cairo, where on Friday evening several hundred demonstrators gathered on Meidan al-Tahrir, the central square of the Egyptian Revolution. They quickly spread to other regions, far from the capital. Thousands of mostly young demonstrators took to the streets in the coastal cities of Alexandria and Damietta, in Mansoura and in Suez, the metropolis at the entry of the Suez Canal. So far, there have been no reports of the strikes or factory occupations that spread like wildfire eight years ago. But there were also protests in important industrial cities such as Mahalla al-Kubra, the centre of the Egyptian textile industry in the Nile delta.  The regime reacted nervously and brutally. In Cairo, heavily armed security forces dispersed the demonstrators on Saturday morning, and armoured vehicles sealed off Tahrir Square. In other cities, too, protests were broken up by force. According to the limited reports that are available, there were over two hundred arrests. Videos on social media showed emergency forces hunting down peaceful demonstrators and attacking them with tear gas and rubber bullets. In Suez, where demonstrators gathered again in the central Arbaeen Square during the night of Saturday to Sunday despite massive police violence, the security forces even used live ammunition. “They (security forces) fired tear gas, rubber and live bullets and there were injuries,” a man who took part in the demonstration and did not want to be identified told AFP. Another resident reported that the tear gas was so thick that it had reached her apartment a few kilometres from the city centre: “My nose started burning up. The smell was seeping through the balcony. I also saw some youth run and hide in our street.” The immediate trigger for the protests was a series of videos published by Egyptian actor and contractor Mohamed Ali, who lives in Spain, on his Facebook account. In them he accuses Sisi of embezzling public money for personal purposes and of building expensive palaces for his family, while the mass of the population lives in bitter poverty. It is time for the Egyptian population to rise up, he said, as it is “numerically stronger than the army and police.”

 Lawyers: 3 Egyptian activists detained amid wave of arrests— Egyptian security forces arrested three political activists known for their outspoken criticism of Egypt's government and president, defense lawyers said Wednesday, amid an intensified crackdown on dissent following small but rare anti-government protests over the weekend. The demonstrations erupted over corruption allegations earlier this month against the military and President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, by an Egyptian businessman living in self-imposed exile. El-Sissi, who is currently attending the United Nations General Assembly, has dismissed the corruption allegations as "sheer lies." Police quickly dispersed the protests, but they signified a startling eruption of street unrest. Demonstrations have been almost completely silenced in recent years, with those who dare take to the streets being quickly arrested and receiving lengthy prison sentences. Attorneys Nour Farahat and Khaled el-Masry identified the three detained activists as Hazem Hosny, Hassan Nafaa and Khaled Dawoud. Hosny and Nafaa are political science professors at Cairo University and were arrested Tuesday. Hosny also was a spokesman for the 2018 presidential campaign of Sami Annan, who served as chief-of-staff for former president Hosni Mubarak. Annan was detained in January last year.

Israel: Wounded Netanyahu in desperate battle for political survival after poll blow -Israel’s president is set to begin two days of consultations with political parties after a deadlocked election last week plunged the country into uncertainty over who will lead the next government. Near-final results from Tuesday’s poll showed the opposition chief, Benny Gantz, marginally ahead of the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, with his Blue and White party taking 33 seats out of parliament’s 120. The ruling Likud party has 31. Critically, neither side appeared able to forge a majority government, even with support from allies in smaller parties. On Sunday afternoon President Reuven Rivlin will meet both leaders in an attempt to break the stalemate or face the possibility of a potential third round of elections in less than a year. Rivlin holds a largely ceremonial post but is also responsible for choosing the candidate he believes has the best chance of forming a government. Usually, the decision is clear, and often goes to the leader of the largest party, but the muddied result has created an impasse. Despite being Israel’s longest-serving leader and having a reputation for political sorcery, Netanyahu is fighting a tough battle. On Thursday he acknowledged his plan had failed. “During the elections, I called for the establishment of a rightwing government,” Netanyahu said in a video message. “But unfortunately the election results show that this is not possible.” After leading the country for 10 consecutive years, Israeli media has questioned whether his era was over. His biographer, Anshel Pfeffer, wrote that, while he may still cling on, “the Netanyahu magic has been broken”. Fearing defeat, the prime minister has called for his opponent to join him in a unity government, hinting that he might be willing to accept a power-sharing arrangement with Gantz. There is a precedent in Israel for political rivals to serve together after Yitzhak Shamir and Shimon Peres rotated the role of prime minister in the mid-1980s. However, Gantz, a former military chief, swiftly rejected Netanyahu’s offer and said he should lead because his alliance won the most seats. “We will not be dictated to,” he warned.Israel has held two elections in five months after Netanyahu failed to cobble together a coalition following a similar result in April. Rather than give the opposition a chance to do so, he instead pushed to dissolve the Knesset, triggering repeat elections and giving himself another opportunity. The gamble has left him in an apparently worse position and the stakes are much higher. In two weeks’ time he will face pre-trial hearings for three corruption cases against him. A majority in the Knesset could give Netanyahu – who denies any wrongdoing – immunity from prosecution.

Netanyahu Tapped By Israel's President To Form Government After Deadlocked Election - It looks like he's held on after last week's deadlocked election, prior rumors of his political death notwithstanding. Longtime Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been tapped by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday to form a new government.The longest serving prime minister in Israel's history has now been given 42 days to form the country's next government; and if he fails, the opportunity will fall to his rival - Blue and White Party centrist Benny Ganz. Rivlin said that Israel doesn’t want more elections, something which could theoretically happen for a third time in only a year should neither Netanyahu nor Ganz be successful.  Facing three different allegations of corruption, Netanyahu is fighting for more than just his political future but serious potential criminal charges which can go away only if he remains in the prime minister's seat.The president tapped the Likud leader after talks with Gantz to form a broad unity government broke down in the wake of the inconclusive election, and after both failed to agree on a power-sharing pact.Netanyahu will have to cobble together 61 seats in order to form a majority government, even as he faces a pretrial hearing next week related to the attorney general's bribery and fraud allegations.

Israel bans entry for most players on Gaza soccer team - — Israel has denied travel permits to most players on a Gazan soccer team which had hoped to cross through Israel and into the West Bank to play a local championship final against a rival Palestinian club.Khadamat Rafah is set to play Balata FC in the West Bank on Wednesday. But without the hard-to-obtain Israeli travel permits, the game is unlikely to take place as scheduled.“We think that this is clear evidence that this Israeli occupation is cruel but from our side we keep raising it at all the levels of FIFA. We insist that this is our right and we’ll continue exerting every effort to allow this team to do this match,” the head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, told The Associated Press. The soccer team’s predicament highlights the daily difficulties Gazans face under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, imposed after the Islamic militant group Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007. Citing security grounds, Israel has greatly restricted movement of Gazans and requires travelers such as students and medical patients to obtain permits to leave. Critics say these are increasingly harder to come by and are withheld arbitrarily. Israel disputes this and says it grants tens of thousands of permits for Gazans with no militant ties. Under the Palestinian Football Association’s terms, the winners of the Gaza league play the West Bank champions in a two-leg final, one in the Gaza Strip and one in the West Bank. The Gaza game took place earlier this year and this week’s game, which had already been delayed for two months over access to permits, was to take place near the West Bank city of Nablus. The winner of the final game goes on to compete in the Asian Champions League.

Chilling video shows Chinese police transferring hundreds of blindfolded, shackled prisoners - Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs has described chilling drone footage published online appearing to show hundreds of blindfolded and shackled men in China as "deeply disturbing". The footage appears to show Uighur Muslim men at a train station being transferred, presumably to detention camps, by Chinese police. Human rights groups accused China's ruling Communist Party of holding up to one million mainly Uighur people in "concentration camps" in the northwest Xinjiang region. China vehemently denies the allegations. The footage, which could not be independently verified, was published to YouTube last week by a newly created account calling itself War on Fear. Clips were also posted to Twitter by the handle @warcombatfear. "Our aim is to fight fear," the video description said. "The people of today's society always live under the supervision of the government with high technology. People lose their freedom. The leaders of the Communist Party of China called them patriotic and loved the people. In fact, they only love the party and only love power." It added, "These videos were taken in China. This is the long-term suppression of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Chinese government in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region." A European security source told Sky News they believe the footage is real and may have been taken earlier this year. "We've examined the footage and believe it to be genuine," they said. "It shows up to 600 prisoners being moved — they're shackled together, have shaved heads, are blindfolded and have their hands locked behind their backs. This is typical of the way the Chinese move this type of prisoner."

 Hong Kong protests: police use court orders to obtain protesters’ digital fare payment details in another weekend of petrol bombs, tear gas and fires on the streets Hong Kong police have used court orders to obtain digital fare payment details and CCTV camera footage of anti-government protesters from the city’s largest bus company, according to sources. The revelation came on Saturday as the city entered its 16th straight weekend of protests sparked by the government’s now-withdrawn extradition bill, with more clashes between radicals throwing petrol bombs and police firing back with tear gas and sponge grenades. A senior police source said the court orders required the KMB bus company to hand over Octopus e-payment card transaction records and footage for specific bus routes on certain days over the past months. “The court orders are case-specific. One of the cases involves protesters getting on a KMB double-decker on route 42C heading to Lam Tin station on September 3,” the source said.Anti-government protesters struggle with anti-riot police in Tuen Mun. Photo: Sam TsangAnti-government protesters struggle with anti-riot police in Tuen Mun. Photo: Sam Tsang Anti-government protesters struggle with anti-riot police in Tuen Mun. Photo: Sam Tsang Hong Kong police have used court orders to obtain digital fare payment details and CCTV camera footage of anti-government protesters from the city’s largest bus company, according to sources. The revelation came on Saturday as the city entered its 16th straight weekend of protests sparked by the government’s now-withdrawn extradition bill, with more clashes between radicals throwing petrol bombs and police firing back with tear gas and sponge grenades. A senior police source said the court orders required the KMB bus company to hand over Octopus e-payment card transaction records and footage for specific bus routes on certain days over the past months. “The court orders are case-specific. One of the cases involves protesters getting on a KMB double-decker on route 42C heading to Lam Tin station on September 3,” the source said. That was the night protesters boarded a bus in Wong Tai Sin after a rally at Tamar Park. Police entered the bus in Kowloon Bay to check the bags and ID cards of around 20 people. Another source said KMB had already surrendered the required information, which did not include the actual names of the Octopus users, only their card numbers, meaning police would have to seek further details from the card company itself. .

Anti-government protesters rampage through Hong Kong as police struggle to keep up - Anti-government protesters went on an escalated rampage across Hong Kong on Sunday, taking over shopping centres where they targeted mainland Chinese-linked businesses and vandalised shop fronts, trashing metro stations, blocking roads, hurling bricks and petrol bombs at police, setting fire to barricades and desecrating China’s national flag. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them and made several arrests, but diehard activists mostly stayed one step ahead of them, descending on one location and swiftly retreating to strike at the next, as the city marked the 16th straight weekend of protest chaos. The protesters had planned to cripple the city’s international airport by blocking access routes, but were thwarted by a heavy police deployment along road and rail approaches. The Airport Express train service would only take passengers with flight tickets from Hong Kong station directly to the airport, skipping stations in between to avoid protesters.Police also set up a cordon at a toll plaza leading to Tung Chung, stopped vehicles for inspection, and boarded buses to check passengers. Protesters vented their frustrations yet again on MTR stations, vandalising the facilities and forcing four of them to shut down. In an escalated campaign, they also occupied shopping malls – New Town Plaza in Sha Tin, V Walk in Sham Shui Po, Metroplaza in Kwai Fong, and Elements in West Kowloon.

South Korean Exports Collapse 21% - Biggest Drop In A Decade Having "stabilized" at a dismal level on contraction, South Korean exports' collapse just took another leg lower as the battle with Japan sparks the biggest drop in trade since 2009. Exports (for the first 20 days of September):

  • to China -29.8%;
  • to U.S. -20.7%;
  • to EU -12.9%;

But as the trade war crushes chip exports (contracting 39.8%), the ongoing dispute with Japan is accelerating the overall collapse:

  • Exports to Japan -13.5%
  • Imports from Japan -16.6%

Sending overall exports (for the first 20 days of September) down 21.8% YoY...

‘We refuse to return to New Order’: Students protest against controversial bills - Thousands of students in at least nine cities across Indonesia took to the streets on Monday demanding an end to what they claimed were ongoing attempts to roll back two decades of political reform in the country. In scenes reminiscent of the student movement that led to the downfall of the New Order Era in 1998, the university students amplified their demands for the government and the House of Representatives to hold off the passage of a number of controversial bills, including a revision to the Criminal Code (KUHP), arguing that the bills threatened democracy and civil liberties. In the capital, thousands of activists and students from various universities thronged in front of the House’s compound on Jl. Gatot Subroto in Central Jakarta, blocking road access to Slipi, West Jakarta, as they called for lawmakers to listen to the voice of the people who have rejected controversial articles in the bills. The protesters chanted and held up banners with slogans ranging from “Reformasi Dikorupsi” (Reform Era is being corrupted) to “Mosi Tidak Percaya” (motion of no confidence), which reflected their dwindling faith in lawmakers and the government “We declare our motion of no confidence in the House. We are deeply disappointed because our aspirations have fallen on deaf ears and lawmakers do not take out concerns seriously,” said University of Indonesia (UI) Student Executive Body (BEM) chairman Manik Marganamahendra, one of the students participating in the protest. The widespread protests on Monday followed a smaller protest staged by hundreds of university students in front of the House last Thursday. In all the rallies, the students have raised the same demands while also criticizing the recent trends emerging in the country that activists fear are examples of the alarming state of Indonesian democracy. The students particularly demanded that the House halt the planned passage of the KUHP bill, which contains a number of contentious articles ─ including restoring a ban on insulting the President ─ that critics have warned could threaten democracy and put civil liberties at risk. The protesters also slammed the House and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration for, among other things, passing the controversial revision to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Law, which has neutered the antigraft body’s investigative powers and undermined its independence.

India builds detention camps for up to 1.9m people ‘stripped of citizenship’ in Assam - The Indian government is building mass detention camps after almost two million people were told they could be effectively stripped of citizenship.Around 1.9m people in the north-eastern state of Assam were excluded when India published the state’s final National Register of Citizens(NRC) list in August. Those excluded from the register will have to appeal to prove they are citizens. The UN and other international rights groups have expressed concern that many could be rendered stateless. The citizenship list is part of a drive to detect illegal immigrants in Assam. The Indian government claims that the migrants have arrived from neighbouring Muslim-majority Bangladesh. Critics say that the register has upended the lives of Muslims who have lived legally in the state for decades. Those appealing to be put on the register will need to provide documentation, such as birth certificates, dating back decades. Record keeping in parts of rural India is poor and many, including those building the camps, have been caught out by the NRC’s stringent requirements. “We don’t have birth certificates,” Malati Hajong, one of the labourers working at a site near the village of Goalpara, told the Reuters news agency. The Goalpara camp is one of at least 10 planned detention centres, according to local media reports. It is around the size of seven football pitches and designed to hold 3,000 people.

The realpolitik of Modi and MbS --If China’s engagement with Gulf countries has gathered much attention from Middle Eastern policy circles over the last five years, another parallel development has occurred in its shadow. Under the premiership of Narendra Modi, the Indian government is developing strategic ties with the Peninsula, particularly with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.  These ties go beyond the obvious economic motivations – such as India’s energy demands and the massive Indian diaspora in the region – to include security co-operation. As Modi enters his second term, there are reasons to believe this India-Gulf rapprochement, far from being temporary, may re-define the nexus between the Peninsula and South Asia for the near future.The logic behind reinforcing Indian-Gulf relations seems initially evident. Although an old phenomenon, the presence of Indian workers in the Arabian Peninsula accelerated with the oil boom of the seventies. Today, about 8.5 millions of Indians reside in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and 55 percent of remittances into India comes from the Gulf.A common saying among the Indian diaspora in the Gulf is that Dubai is the fifth largest Indian city. Additionally, the secure flow of commodities through the waters of the Gulf is a genuine national interest for India: the latter imports about a third of its crude oil supply from the GCC. On the GCC side, investors view India’s economic growth as an opportunity for new projects, particularly infrastructure projects involving Gulf companies like the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) or DP World.

Trump taken aback by Modi's 'aggressive statement' against Pakistan - US President Donald Trump did not expect ‘aggresive’ statements from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the laters Houston rally.“I heard [a] very aggressive statement yesterday and I have to say I mean I was there [and] I didn’t know I was going to hear that statement… from India… from Modi,” said Trump while speaking to the media alongside Prime Minster Imran Khan.Trump also seemed surprised that Modi’s statement was “very well received” within the room of some “59,000” people.“But it was a very aggressive statement and I hope they’re [India and Pakistan] going to be able to come together and do something that’s smart and good for both.”“There is always a solution,” he added.When asked if he agreed with Modi terming Pakistan as the “hub of terrorism”, Trump shifted focus to Iran being a threat to world peace.“I have heard Pakistan has made great progress in combatting terrorism under this [Imran] leader. There is no other solution. The only other way would lead to death, chaos, and poverty. And he [Imran] understands it.”The US president also attempted to dodge questions regarding human rights violations in the occupied valley Kashmir. “Of course, I’d like to see everything workout. I want everything to be humane. I want everybody to be treated well,” he said finally in reply to a question. At this point, PM Imran interjected that he intended to bring up the issue of Kashmir in private. “But it needs to be said that eight million people are under siege by 900,000 thousand Indian troops for the past 50 days. It is a humanitarian issue.”

Pakistan Threatened India With Nuclear War And No One Noticed  - A nuclear-armed state threatened another nuclear armed-state with nuclear war and no one's talking about it... In a recent interview with Al-Jazeera, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan made some controversial statements regarding the use of nuclear weapons against India.First, Khan started off by saying he was anti-war—a “pacifist.” He then developed his stance, stating that “when two nuclear-armed countries fight, if they fight a conventional war, there is every possibility that it is going to end up into nuclear war.” However, this scenario, as Khan described, is “the unthinkable.”Khan went on to say: “If say Pakistan, God forbid, we are fighting a conventional war, we are losing, and if a country is stuck between the choice; either you surrender or you fight ‘til death for your freedom, I know Pakistanis will fight to death for their freedom. So when a nuclear-armed country fights to the end, to the death, it has consequences.” Granted, Khan spoke to RT not long after in an attempt to provide a disclaimer to these eye-opening statements. But for all intents and purposes, the nuclear elephant in the room is no longer hiding.

Kashmir: SC Seeks Probe Into Alleged Illegal Detention of Children  -In its first significant intervention in the region since the recent clampdown, the Supreme Court has asked the Juvenile Justice Committee (JJC) of the Jammu and Kashmir high court to look into the allegations of illegal detention of children by security forces in the state – which has been under a lockdown for over a month following the Centre’s decision to read down Article 370 on August 5.The court has asked the JJC to submit its report within a week.On September 20, a three-judge bench of the apex court led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi passed the order after hearing a petition filed by child rights activist Enakshi Ganguly and former chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Shanta Sinha. The plea sought judicial intervention following media reports about “illegal detention of children in Kashmir”. Some media reports had said that children detained in the state were as young as ten.The petitioners had sought a court’s directive to the government to file a status report and order the JJC to oversee incidents of detention of children. The bench said it would not yet make any comment on the allegations but added that it did raise “substantial issues and alleged detention of children”. Though solicitor general Tushar Mehta, as the Centre’s representative, reportedly objected to the court issuing a notice in this regard and mentioning the words “detention of children” in the order as it could have “huge and wide repercussions”, the court did not relent.The government had claimed that only one juvenile was taken into custody and was handed over to the Juvenile Justice Board on realising his age.In the previous hearing of the case, the petitioners’ lawyer, Huzefa Ahmadi had also alleged that the state high court had become inaccessible to common people since August 5, when the lockdown began. The bench then sought a report from the state high court chief justice in that regard. On September 20, though the court didn’t reveal the contents of Chief Justice Gita Mittal’s report, it did say that it didn’t support Ahmadi’s statement in the court.“But we have conflicting reports too. However, since the issue is about alleged detention of children, we will ask the HC’s Juvenile Justice Committee to inquire,” the CJI stated.

 Young boys tortured in Kashmir clampdown as new figures show 13,000 teenagers arrested A new report claiming thousands of Kashmiri children have been incarcerated has cast doubt on claims life is returning to normal in the state. After visiting Kashmir, activists found around 13,000 boys have been detained since its autonomous status was revoked on Aug 5. The report, led by the National Federation of Indian Women, detailed claims that boys - some as young as 14 - had been imprisoned for up to 45 days. It also claimed that families were paying up to 60,000 rupees (£678) for their children’s release. The Muslim-majority state has been under a rigid curfew and communications blackout since Article 370 and Article 35A were removed last month. The Jammu and Kashmir government said there is “no centralised figure” for numbers of Kashmiris who have been arrested during the crackdown. On Monday, however, the Chief of Staff of the Indian Army said any stories of disruption were a "narrative being driven by separatists." Krishna Saagar Rao, chief spokesperson of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) told the Telegraph it had detained Kashmiri politicians to ensure stability in the state. “Politicians in the Kashmir valley were plotting to create unrest amongst people by instigating them,” said Mr Rao. According to government data, over 200 local politicians have been detained, including former Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah. Official data on the number of children imprisoned has not been released. It is also unclear why minors have been arrested, although it is believed some have been detained for throwing stones at army personnel.

Global Carmageddon Continues- Mexico Total Vehicle Exports Crushed 12.7% In August In short, it looks like all hell is breaking loose for the auto industry, which continues to show signs of a profound global recession. First, we saw Chinese auto sales fall 14 times in the last 15 months under the weight of a trade war and a far overextended consumer. U.S. auto sales have followed suit and are expected to continue to fall 2.2% percent in the back half of 2019. General Motors has found itself dealing with its first UAW strike in 12 years and now, the warning bells are also starting to be audible from Mexico. Mexico saw its total vehicle exports collapse 12.7% in August, a sharp drop for one of the biggest exporters of vehicles in the world, according to new data from FreightWaves. Companies like Ford, Honda, Fiat-Chrysler, Toyota, BMW, GM, Kia, Mazda, Nissan, Volkswagen, and Audi all have manufacturing plants in Mexico.  Manufacturers shipped 281,811 units in August compared to 322,779 in August 2018, according to data from the Mexican National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) and the Mexican Association of the Automotive Industry (AMIA). AMIA President Eduardo Solís Sánchez is blaming the decline on "lower demand from the U.S., Canada and Brazil". The three counties combined represent 90% of all Mexican auto exports.While exports are still up 1.5% year to date, auto production has fallen almost 1% to 2.6 million units.  Solis said during a recent press conference: “There are brands that have indicated changes in their production lines [Nissan and Mazda] and others that after a drop in demand for the models have had to make adjustments. Even [Honda] said publicly that it will close a shift because of the low demand it is having for its HR-V model.”

The Return of Fiscal Policy - - As we enter the last quarter of 2019 (and of the decade), cyclical indicators point to a slowing world economy amid wide-ranging structural challenges. Among the countries feeling the worst effects of the global trade tensions is Germany, where policymakers finally are waking up to the glaringly obvious need for productivity-enhancing, investment-based fiscal stimulus. Similarly, beneath all the chaos caused by Brexit, the United Kingdom is also looking at its fiscal-stimulus options. So, too, is China, as it searches for measures to reduce its vulnerability to disrupted trade and supply chains. Policymakers around the world are coming to realize that it is neither wise nor feasible to rely constantly on central banks for economic-policy support. In today’s environment of low – and in some cases negative – interest rates, the case for shifting the burden from monetary to fiscal policy is more apparent.  Earlier this month, the European Central Bank decided to pursue interest-rate cuts and another round of quantitative easing (QE) – a move that appeared to accelerate a sharp sell-off in global bond markets. Yet in announcing the decision, ECB President Mario Draghi echoed a growing chorus of commentators now calling for more fiscal-policy measures.  Owing to its excessive dependence on exports, the German economy is flirting with recession despite firm domestic demand (by Germany’s lowly standards). I have long argued that Germany’s economy is not as structurally sound as it seems, and that a shift in its policy focus is long overdue. For over a decade, Germany has adhered to a narrow fiscal framework and focused constantly on reducing government debt. But now even German policymakers are recognizing the need for a change. The country’s ten-year bond yields are well below zero, its debt-to-GDP ratio is below 60%, its current-account surplus is obscenely high (nearing 8% of GDP), and its infrastructure is deteriorating. Since 2008, the US current-account deficit has fallen by half, to below 3% of GDP, and China’s has fallen from 10% of GDP toalmost zero. Yet Germany’s external imbalance has continued to grow, threatening the stability of the eurozone as a whole. A major German fiscal expansion could start to reverse this trend. It also would likely have positive multiplier effects for private investment and consumption, thus creating export opportunities for other struggling eurozone members. Moreover, a shift in Germany’s fiscal-policy approach could open the door for a loosening of eurozone fiscal rules. European governments need to have the option of pursuing a more active role in the economy, so that they can invest in the sources of long-term growth and lead the process of decarbonization.

Four Collision Courses for the Global Economy by Nouriel Roubini - In the classic game of “chicken,” two drivers race directly toward each other, and the first to swerve is the “loser.” If neither swerves, both will probably die. In the past, such scenarios have been studied to assess the risks posed by great-power rivalries. In the case of the Cuban missile crisis, for example, Soviet and American leaders were confronted with the choice of losing face or risking a catastrophic collision. The question, always, is whether a compromise can be found that spares both parties their lives and their credibility. There are now several geo-economic games of chicken playing out. In each case, failure to compromise would lead to a collision, most likely followed by a global recession and financial crisis.

  • The first and most important contest is between the United States and China over trade and technology.
  • The second is the brewing dispute between the US and Iran.
  • In Europe, there is the escalating brinkmanship between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the European Union over Brexit.
  • Finally, there is Argentina, which could end up on a collision course with the International Monetary Fund after the likely victory of the Peronist Alberto Fernández in next month’s presidential election.

In the first case, a full-scale trade, currency, tech, and cold war between the US and China would push the current downturn in manufacturing, trade, and capital spending into services and private consumption, tipping the US and global economies into a severe recession. Similarly, a military conflict between the US and Iran would drive oil prices above $100 per barrel, triggering stagflation (a recession with rising inflation). That, after all, is what happened in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War, in 1979 following the Iranian Revolution, and in 1990 after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.A blowup over Brexit might not by itself cause a global recession, but it would certainly trigger a European one, which would then spill over to other economies. The conventional wisdom is that a “hard” Brexit would lead to a severe recession in the United Kingdom but not in Europe, because the UK is more reliant on trade with the EU than vice versa. This is naive. The eurozone is already suffering a sharp slowdown and is in the grip of a manufacturing recession; and the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, and Germany – which is nearing a recession – do in fact rely heavily on the UK export market.With eurozone business confidence already depressed as a result of Sino-American trade tensions, a chaotic Brexit would be the last straw. Just imagine thousands of trucks and cars lining up to fill out new customs paperwork in Dover and Calais. Moreover, a European recession would have knock-on effects, undercutting growth globally and possibly triggering a risk-off episode. It could even lead to new currency wars, if the value of the euro and pound were to fall too sharply against other currencies (not least the US dollar).A crisis in Argentina could also have global consequences. If Fernández defeats President Mauricio Macri and then scuttles the country’s $57 billion IMF program, Argentina could suffer a repeat of its 2001 currency crisis and default. That could lead to capital flight from emerging markets more generally, possibly triggering crises in highly indebted Turkey, Venezuela, Pakistan, and Lebanon, and further complicating matters for India, South Africa, China, Brazil, Mexico, and Ecuador.

'Vaguely Troubling'- BIS Warns Of Financial Disaster Amid $17 Trillion In Negative-Yield Debt - When the central bank for central banks publishes its quarterly review, the world should take note.Claudio Borio, Head of the Monetary and Economic Department at the BIS, published the BIS Quarterly Review, September 2019 on Sunday, revealing how the increasing acceptance of negative interest rates has reached "vaguely troubling" levels. The statement comes after the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank (ECB) cut interest rates to flight a global manufacturing slowdown -- Borio said that the effectiveness of monetary policy is severely waning and might not be able to counter the global downturn, in other words, JPMorgan Global Composite PMI might print sub 50 for a considerable period of time. "The room for monetary policy maneuver has narrowed further. Should a downturn materialize, monetary policy will need a helping hand, not least from a wise use of fiscal policy in those countries where there is still room for maneuver."The BIS, known as the 'central bankers' bank,' said the recent easing by the Fed, ECB, and PBOC, has pushed yields lower across the world, contributing to the more than $17 trillion in negative-yielding tradeable bonds.  From Germany to Japan, 10-year government debt rates have plunged into negative territory, in recent times.  "Against this backdrop, sovereign bond yields naturally declined further, at times driven by the prospect of slower economic activity and heightened risks, at others by central banks' reassuring easing measures. At one point, before the recent uptick in yields, the amount of sovereign and even corporate bonds trading at negative rates hit a new record, over USD 17 trillion according to certain estimates, equivalent to roughly 20% of world GDP. Indeed, some households, too, could borrow at negative rates. A growing number of investors are paying for the privilege of parting with their money. Even at the height of the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2007-09, this would have been unthinkable. There is something vaguely troubling when the unthinkable becomes routine," Borio warned.

Negative Interest Rates Are The Price We Pay For De-Civilization - Do central bankers really think negative interest rates are rational?  "Calculation Error," which Bloomberg terminals sometimes display, is an apt metaphor for the current state of central bank policy. Both Europe and Asia are now awash in $17 trillion worth of negative-yielding sovereign and corporate bonds, and Alan Greenspan suggests negative interest rates soon will arrive in the US. Despite claims by both Mr. Trump and Fed Chair Jerome Powell concerning the health of the American economy, the Fed's Open Market Committee moved closer to negative territory today — with another quarter-point cut in the Fed Funds rate, below even a measly 2%. Negative interest rates are just the latest front in the post-2008 era of "extraordinary" monetary policy. They represent a Hail Mary pass from central bankers to stimulate more borrowing and more debt, though there is far more global debt today than in 2007. Stimulus is the assumed goal of all economic policy, both fiscal and monetary. Demand-side stimulus is the mania bequeathed to us by Keynes, or more accurately by his followers. It is the absurd idea, that an economy prospers by consuming and borrowing instead of producing and saving. Negative interest rates turn everything we know about economics upside down.Under what scenario would anyone lend $1,000 to receive $900 in return at some point in the future? Only when the alternative is to receive $800 back instead, due to the predicted interventions of central banks and governments. Only then would locking in a set rate of capital loss make sense. By "capital loss" I mean just that; when there is no positive interest paid, the principal itself must be consumed. There is no "market" for negative rates. The future is uncertain, and there is always counterparty risk. The borrower might abscond, or default, or declare bankruptcy. Market conditions might change during the course of the loan, driving interest rates higher to the lender's detriment. Inflation could rise higher and faster than the agreed-upon nominal interest rate. The lender might even die prior to repayment. Positive interest rates compensate lenders for all of this risk and uncertainty.

One Of The Biggest ECB Hawks Unexpectedly Resigns In Opposition To Draghi's Massive Easing - One of the biggest hawks on the ECB executive board and governing counsel, Germany Sabine Lautenschlaeger, unexpectedly announced her resignation from the European Central Bank Executive Board more than two years before the official end of her term. The German policymaker is stepping down on Oct. 31, the ECB said in a statement late on Wednesday. While the statement provided no reason for her decision, some - such as the WSJ - suspect that the departure of the outspoken hawk is in protest to outgoing ECB president Mario Draghi's recent decision to launch massive easing, including cutting rates to -0.50%, and resuming open-ended QE, despite an "unprecedented revolt" from Europe's core economies, including Germany, France, Austria and the Netherlands.Lautenschlaeger was a board member since January 2014 and during her tenure served a full 5-year term as the vice-chair of the Supervisory Board of the Single Supervisory Mechanism."President Mario Draghi thanked her for her instrumental role in helping set up and steer Europe-wide banking supervision, a key pillar of banking union, as well as her unwavering commitment to Europe", Draghi said in a brief statement published on the ECB's website, republished below in its entirety.

"Simply Awful": German PMI Plunges To 7-Year Low As Manufacturing Recession Accelerates, Spreads To Services - Weakness in euro-area manufacturing hit a climax this morning as German private sector activity plunged to a seven-year low. The Germany Manufacturing PMI slumped in September, dropping to 41.4, down from 44.7 in August, printing below the lowest sellside estimate (consensus of 44.4); worse, the German manufacturing recession is now spreading to the services sector, where the formerly resilient services PMI also slumped from 54.8 to 52.5, also missing the lowest analyst estimate, and collectively, resulting in the first composite PMI print below 50, or 49.1 to be precise, since April 2013. The rate of decline was one of the sharpest in seven years. Key findings of the report indicate business conditions across Germany continue to deteriorate with no end in sight.

  • Flash Germany PMI Composite Output Index (1) at 49.1 (Aug: 51.7). 83-month low.
  • Flash Germany Services PMI Activity Index(2) at 52.5 (Aug: 54.8). 9-month low.
  • Flash Germany Manufacturing PMI(3) at 41.4 (Aug: 43.5). 123-month low.
  • Flash Germany Manufacturing Output Index(4) at 42.7 (Aug: 45.8). 86-month low.

Commenting on the flash PMI data, Phil Smith, Principal Economist at IHS Markit said that "The manufacturing numbers are simply awful. All the uncertainty around trade wars, the outlook for the car industry and Brexit are paralyzing order books, with September seeing the worst performance from the sector since the depths of the financial crisis in 2009.  "Another month, another set of gloomy PMI figures for Germany, this time showing the headline Composite Output Index at its lowest since October 2012 and firmly in contraction territory. "The economy is limping towards the final quarter of the year and, on its current trajectory, might not see any growth before the end of 2019.  "With job creation across Germany stalling, the domestic-oriented service sector has lost one of its main pillars of growth. A first fall in services new business for over four-and-a-half years provides evidence that demand across Germany is already starting to deteriorate."

Danske Bank Executive Ensnared in Money-Laundering Scandal Found Dead - The former head of Danske Bank in Estonia, the unit at the center of a $220 billion money-laundering scandal, was found dead after disappearing from his home on Monday. Aivar Rehe, who was chief executive officer of the branch until he left in 2015, had been reported missing from his home in greater Tallinn. Police had warned that the 56-year-old was a suicide risk. Rehe’s body was found near his home, the police said in a statement on Wednesday. “This place had been checked earlier by his family. The body has no signs of violence, neither does anything point to an accident.” The police said no more details would be provided, out of courtesy to the family, and there would be no investigation into Rehe’s death. The case has dominated Estonian media since the former executive disappeared. Rehe, known as a workaholic, joined the bank a year before its 2007 takeover by Danske. He was previously at the Estonian Tax and Customs Board. He wasn’t a suspect in the laundering probe and wasn’t among a group of Estonian bankers detained by police last year. Valdo Poder, operations chief of the Northern Police Prefecture, told the public broadcaster ERR on Tuesday that Rehe’s “actions, domestic situation, and the information we have gathered from his family” all pointed to the possibility of suicide.

Brexit: The perils of progress on the backstop -On Monday, Boris Johnson held a two-hour lunch with Jean-Claude Juncker in Luxembourg. Afterwards, the European Commission said it was up to the UK to bring forward solutions that met the objectives of the Irish backstop. "Such proposals have not yet been made," said the statement.On Wednesday, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier told the European Parliament: "It is not good enough to explain why the backstop needs to be removed. We need legally operational solutions to reply precisely to each of these problems [which Brexit creates on the island of Ireland]."Later that day, the Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, gave Boris Johnson until 30 September to produce written proposals. "If not by then, then it’s over." On Thursday, Downing Street issued a blunt response. "We will table formal written solutions when we are ready, not according to an artificial deadline, and when the EU is clear that it will engage constructively on them as a replacement for the backstop."At midday on Thursday, the European Commission confirmed it had received what the UK called "a series of confidential technical non-papers which reflect the ideas the UK has been putting forward".Around 5pm, President Juncker recorded an interview with Sophie Ridge on Sky News, to be broadcast on Sunday, in which he suggested a deal could be reached by 31 October.The interview was seized upon by sections of the UK media as a softening of the EU’s position. The Daily Telegraph reported that Juncker had "confirmed that he was prepared to get rid of the backstop".Fuelling the sense of movement, Leo Varadkar told reporters on Thursday: "If I were to assess the situation, I would say there is a real willingness to find a deal. We were in touch today. I’m going to meet [Mr Johnson] next week in New York and try to get a deal."The rhetoric has tempered and the mood music is good." Less than 24 hours later, however, Simon Coveney told the Today Programme on the BBC: "We need to be honest with people and say we’re not close to that deal now." Then on Friday evening, RTÉ News reported on the details of the UK proposals, as outlined in the "non-papers" and via talks between Steve Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, and Michel Barnier.

 Brexit: Past the Event Horizon - Yves Smith -  A Brexit crash out looks baked in. Johnson has stuck to the path we deemed most likely: first making a show of meeting EU leaders and then engage in negotiation theater to keep up the appearance that a deal might be possible so as to keep Parliament at bay. But even with Johnson overplaying his hand via his proroguing stunt and jolting the opposition into a higher gear, the odds seem awfully slim of steering out of no deal Brexit. And the irony is Johnson may actually believe that he’s engaging in brinksmanship that will force the EU to capitulate to the UK’s demands on the backstop. Or that his Government, chock full of Project Leave campaigners, really is grotesquely incompetent even by the low standards set by Theresa May’s ministers (of which Johnson was a prominent member)The very fact that not much is happening save a lot of posturing by UK pols is a sign that the action is taking place in the wrong theater. To recap what most of you likely know: last week, Finland and France demanded that the UK present its proposals for the Irish backstop by September 30 or not bother. This is a wee bit more serious than you might think, since the Finnish Prime Minister is now the head of the EU Council. And in fact, this deadline is later than the time it would take to negotiate a deal (charitably assuming the UK served up something workable) and get it in final enough for for the EU Council to consider it. In other words, in the highly unlikely scenario that the UK and EU were on track to a new arrangement, it’s inconceivable that it would be finalized, approved by the EU Council, and then approved by the various parliaments where approvals were necessary by October 31. Johnson would need to get an extension, which would be a Brexit Party wet dream.Johnson is not so clueless that he has missed the timing problem. From Richard North: Johnson is said to have told colleagues that he did not expect to find a “legally operable” solution before the crunch talks with the EU on 17 October, the date when a deal is supposed to be put to bed.Johnson is thus suggesting that both sides will need to flesh out details after the European Council, leaving the EU having to agree in principle a deal without knowing the details. One can see that going down about as well as a bucket of cold sick.There was further confirmation that Johnson isn’t serious about negotiating with the EU, or is deluded enough think the EU is willing to break the Single Market because the UK insists on it. Despite the bluster about not being bullied by meanie France and Finland, the UK did show up in Brussels last week with what it said were backstop proposals. Sort of. The dismissive way that the UK’s Brexit negotiators treated their EU counterparts suggests that they aren’t just going through the motions for the benefit of the domestic audience. They might also be trying to goad an EU official to make an angry remark which would then be spun as EU bias or desperation.

Billions of euros,millions of jobs – carmakers’ no-deal Brexit warning grows more dire A month before Britain is due to quit the European Union, the bloc's car-makers have joined forces to warn of billions of euros in losses in the event of a no-deal Brexit, with production stoppages costing 50,000 pounds a minute in Britain alone. Britain is scheduled to quit the EU on Oct. 31, but businesses have grown increasingly concerned at Prime Minister Boris Johnson's apparent lack of progress toward a new withdrawal deal to replace the proposals of his predecessor Theresa May, which the British parliament rejected three times. In a statement, groups including the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, the European Association of Automotive Suppliers and 17 national groups warned of the impact of "no-deal" on an industry which employs 13.8 million people in the European Union including Britain, or 6.1% of the workforce. "The UK's departure from the EU without a deal would trigger a seismic shift in trading conditions, with billions of euros of tariffs threatening to impact consumer choice and affordability on both sides of the Channel," they wrote in Monday's statement. "The end of barrier-free trade could bring harmful disruption to the industry's just-in-time operating model, with the cost of just one minute of production stoppage in the UK alone amounting to €54,700 ($60,000)." If the two sides revert to World Trade Organization trading rules, the likely consequence of a disorderly Brexit, the groups warned that tariffs will kick in that will add 5.7 billion euros to the EU-Britain car trade bill. The European car industry is dependent on heavily integrated cross-border supply chains, which rely for their effectiveness on a zero-tariff, almost border-free environment within the EU's custom union. Britain's car industry, which is almost entirely foreign-owned, is exceptionally vulnerable, as it is dominated by factories owned by German, French and Japanese automakers. Government/Legal

With an election looming, this chaotic conference is the last thing Labour needs - “It’s a good job there’s not an election coming,” a Labour MP quipped sarcastically as he surveyed the wreckage of the party’s Brighton conference. There is an election coming soon. Yet, bizarrely, Labour is behaving as if it is already lost. As rival camps jockey for position in the election’s aftermath, Jeremy Corbyn’s allies are trying to ensure the left retains its grip on the party. That’s the only explanation for the botched attempt to abolish the deputy leader’s post held by Tom Watson, the figurehead of Labour’s centrists, and for a rule change that will allow the left-dominated national executive committee (NEC) to choose the acting leader if the leader steps down, instead of Watson taking over by default, as Margaret Beckett and Harriet Harman did when their respective leaders stepped down. The fin de siecle atmosphere was reinforced by the spectacular resignation letter of Andrew Fisher, Corbyn’s director of policy, with a blast at the intolerance of the clique around the leader for showing “lack of professionalism, competence and human decency”. He added: “I no longer have faith we will succeed.” Although Fisher will stay for the election, his exit shows that the Corbyn inner circle is shrinking. “It’s over, and they know it,” one MP critic told me. Instead of the pre-election unity the leadership hoped for, it has disunity. The sea air here in Brighton is thick with talk of plots to remove Corbyn. They won’t happen with the election so close, but had Watson’s job been abolished, there could have been a formal split, with scores of MPs walking out of Corbyn’s party altogether. Labour is a powder keg ready to ignite, and the successful defenestration of Watson could have been the spark. Corbyn was wise to make a tactical retreat, but plenty of damage was still done; behind the scenes, tensions are now out in the open. As Watson told a fringe meeting: “This is, honestly, a battle for the soul of the Labour Party.”With an election looming, it’s a terrible look for voters. Meaty policy announcements – free personal social care for pensioners, free prescriptions and a 32-hour average working week – are being eclipsed by the battle over whether Corbynism can survive after Corbyn.

Brexit: All Eyes on Boris - Yves Smith - Even though yesterday was an earthshaking day in UK politics, with the Supreme Court delivering a stunning rebuke to Boris Johnson and repudiating the Queen’s ultimate authority by nullifying the proroguing of Parliament, it’s not clear how much of a difference this development makes for the Brexit trajectory. Per Clive’s hot take: Great! Now Parliament can get back into session again. I’m sure it can’t wait to leap back into action and put through a… umm… err… well, it can now… hmm… let me see… anyway, it will now doubt resolutely (…tumbleweed…) Which was consistent with Politico’s view many hours later, via its morning European newsletter:  Brexit-skeptical MPs can resume harrying the government with urgent questions to ministers. They can keep demanding answers about the progress of the Brexit talks and the government’s preparations for no deal. All that scrutiny will be launched from what MPs regard as the moral high ground from today onwards. They can, in short, increase political pressure. MPs have already managed to rush through legislation which they said would prevent Johnson from taking the U.K. out of the EU without a deal. So on the face of it, Johnson’s best option is still to strike an agreement with the EU that can win enough parliamentary support to allow the U.K. to leave on October 31. One clear winner is Speaker John Bercow, who looked like the cat that swallowed the canary after the Supreme Court verdict was read out. Johnson has clearly lost, as his curtailing his UN visit to rush back to the UK attests. But has he been mortally wounded, or does he still have a path to his October 31 Brexit? The Supreme Court decision is quite clear that the judges saw the length of the proroguation and the Government’s failure to ‘splain why it needed so much time as acting in bad faith and clearly intended to thwart Parliamentary oversight. The vacating of the prorogue does not preclude Johnson from attempting a shorter prorogue of say four or five days to come with a Queen’s Speech laying out his agenda. That might have even been useful as an attempt at face-saving had Johnson not kinda-sorta said Parliament was getting in his way.The forces opposed to Johnson want an extension to Brexit and presumably hope to defenestrate him after October 31. Nigel Farage would hope to make great inroads with the Tories who supported Johnson for his commitment to delivering Brexit do or die. However, Labour’s Brexit waffles and its increasingly visible civil war means many of its MPs would still not vote for a general election. And the Brexit Party threat would mean that the Tories would have reason to use the 1922 Committee process to get rid of Johnson and try again to install a replacement that would stick. But Johnson would continue to be Prime Minister during the contest, and he couldn’t be stopped from running to keep his post if he didn’t want to leave.

 Parliament Returned For A Toxic Day Of Frustration, Bitterness, And Fury -- Parliament was recalled on Wednesday after the Supreme Court ruled that Boris Johnson's suspension was unlawful. Few had any idea of what would follow — but no one could have predicted the deep tension and outpouring of fury that would eventually unfold. MPs were summoned back to Westminster from their constituencies, while the prime minister flew back early from New York where he had been addressing the United Nations.  Commons Speaker John Bercow kicked off proceedings. "Order! Colleagues. Welcome back to our place of work," he said pointedly. Opposition MPs cheered as Bercow declared that the court ruling meant that parliament had not been prorogued (the formal suspension of parliament) but, in fact, simply adjourned.That is important as it means that parliament simply picks up where it left off when Johnson suspended parliament two weeks ago – legislation which looked doomed is now back in play, including bills ontackling domestic abuse and reforming archaic divorce laws.There was a busy day ahead: two urgent questions, followed by five government statements including from the prime minister himself.First up, Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general. He had to answer questions about parliament's unlawful suspension. He seized his big moment, delivering an impromptu rip-roaring speech laying into Labour for failing to back a general election. "This parliament is a dead parliament!" Cox declared, sparking memories ofMonty Python. "It should no longer sit. It has no moral right to sit on these green benches."He went on: "This parliament is a disgrace! They could vote no confidence at any time but they’re too cowardly, they could agree to a motion to allow this House to dissolve but they’re too cowardly!"This parliament should have the courage to face the electorate but it won’t, it won’t, because so many of them are really all about preventing us leaving the European Union. But the time is coming when even these turkeys won’t be able to prevent Christmas!”

Brexit: Gaming It Out --  Yves Smith - The BBC and others are reporting what should come as no surprise to Naked Capitalism readers: Boris Johnson’s efforts to force crunch negotiations over the October EU Council meeting are not going to happen because they were never going to happen. The EU doesn’t do treaties that way. Donald Tusk in New York stated that the Government needs to come up with shortly after the Tory conference ends, which would seem to mean the end of next week at the very latest. In the meantime, it delivered a fourth non-paper.Reuters reports that Barnier told EU 27 ministers that it is still waiting for a proposal and “workable ideas”. The UK press is still digesting Boris Johnson’s stunning slap at an MP who criticized Johnson for calling the Benn Act a “surrender bill” in light of the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox. The Telegraph says that EU officials saw the performance and are “in despair” at the spectacle of Johnson alienating Parliament. In the meantime, Richard North describes how the supposedly urgent need to get Parliament back in business is belied by MPs collectively being missing in action. From his site:In what must qualify as the understatement of the century, the Speaker observed at the beginning of business in the Commons yesterday that, “I think there is a widespread sense across the House and beyond that, yesterday, the House did itself no credit”. BrexitCentral’s daily e-mail is full of fevered thoughts as to how Johnson could defy the Benn Act. I’m skipping over the hyperventilating in the long editorial section at the top:   Some interesting points:
– The EU would loathe to break precedent that it deals only with executive, not legislative, as that would drag it into domestic politics (not just in the UK)
– but refusing to say what it would do if the PM would refuse and extension and the UK court would order someone else to accept it; the court can’t order a Queen (she’s technically above law), but it can ask her prettily.
– hope for elections later this year with a deal by the end of the year (so sounds like it could say yes to an end-of-the-year extension)

British travel firm Thomas Cook collapses, stranding hundreds of thousands - - The world’s oldest travel firm Thomas Cook (TCG.L) collapsed on Monday, stranding hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers around the globe and sparking the largest peacetime repatriation effort in British history. The liquidation marks the end of one of Britain’s oldest companies that started life in 1841 running local rail excursions before it survived two world wars to pioneer package holidays and mass tourism. The firm ran hotels, resorts and airlines for 19 million people a year in 16 countries. It currently has 600,000 people abroad, forcing governments and insurance companies to coordinate a huge rescue operation. Chief Executive Peter Fankhauser said it was a matter of profound regret that the company had gone out of business after it failed to secure a rescue package from its lenders in frantic talks that went through the weekend. The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said Thomas Cook had ceased trading and the regulator and government had a fleet of planes ready to start bringing home the more than 150,000 British customers over the next two weeks. “I would like to apologize to our millions of customers, and thousands of employees, suppliers and partners who have supported us for many years,” Fankhauser said in a statement released early on Monday morning. “It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful.”

Thomas Cook passengers bed down on airport floors and benches as 156,000 stranded holidaymakers await rescue around the world and the Government’s £100m Operation Matterhorn gets under way Thousands of stranded Thomas Cook passengers will be repatriated on Tuesday as the massive rescue operation continues into its second day. While the mission to bring back 156,000 stranded holidaymakers is underway, some passengers were seen sleeping in airports as they awaited their rescue flights. Operation Mattherhorn is attempting to bring back every single stranded Thomas Cook passenger to Britain - from 18 different countries and 52 different airports around the world. There are more than 1,000 repatriation flights planned, which will cost at least £100 million to fund. The rescue effort started on Monday, when around 15,000 holidaymakers were flown home on an estimated 61 flights, after the travel company went bust. The other 150,000-plus tourists will be brought home over the next two weeks in a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) flight programme.

 Brexit’s role in Thomas Cook’s demise - Thomas Cook's dramatic collapse follows years of mismanagement at the tour operator and a failure to keep pace with online rivals. Brexit didn't help either. Analysts say it was one of several factors that led to the 178-year old travel company's demise, which has left 150,000 UK holidaymakers stranded abroad and cost thousands of employees their jobs. Thomas Cook said Monday that it had been forced into liquidation after failing to reach an agreement with banks and its major shareholder, China's Fosun Tourism, on a £1.1 billion ($1.4 billion) rescue plan. Before being suspended, the company's shares were down 90% this year. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, said in a blog post that the steep drop in the value of the pound following the 2016 Brexit referendum had piled the pressure on the heavily indebted and "struggling" Thomas Cook. "All of the travel industry costs are in dollars — for example fuel maintenance and airplane leasing. With the weaker pound, the cost of everything has skyrocketed. For Thomas Cook, this has proved terminal," Branson said, adding that he was "saddened" to see the end of "the pioneer of organized travel." The roughly 20% fall in the pound's value also meant less spending power for UK travelers abroad. That led them to demand better deals, independent aviation analyst Chris Tarry told CNN Business. This hurt margins at Thomas Cook, which sold flights on its own airline, along with hotel rooms, from brick-and-mortar stores. "Brexit squeezed demand and made what Thomas Cook were trying to upsell on — that is, the heritage and service — less relevant to consumers. With a less ideal cost base, they couldn't compete simply on price with new entrants," said Richard Clarke, an analyst at Bernstein.

Damning evidence on Prince Andrew could be in Russian hands: MI6  - As if Prince Andrew’s embarrassing ties to a Jeffrey Epstein “sex slave” weren’t bad enough, British spymasters now worry Russia may have obtained scandal-related “kompromat” on the randy royal.Incriminating evidence of the prince’s alleged 2001 tryst with then-17-year-old Epstein “slave” Virginia Giuffre could be in Russian hands, fears MI6, the British intelligence service.The agency’s concerns center on the curious case of John Mark Dougan, an ex-Marine and former Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy who now lives in Russia, The Times of London reported Saturday.Dougan, who moved to Moscow and sought asylum there in 2016, had worked for the sheriff’s office in 2005, the year it began an investigation into Epstein. The billionaire pedophile had owned a Palm Beach mansion.Now, almost 20 years after Andrew’s alleged tryst, a “security source” tells the Times that MI6 is concerned Dougan may still have inside information concerning Epstein and Prince Andrew.Dougan claimed on Facebook in July he still possessed confidential documents no one had seen, the Times said.And Dougan is known to have had contact with Pavel Borodin, a senior Russian government official who is sometimes referred to as President Vladimir Putin’s “mentor,” the Times said.