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

Saturday, September 7, 2019

week ending Sept 7

 Alan Greenspan says it’s ‘only a matter of time’ before negative rates spread to the US - It will not be long before the spread of negative interest rates reaches the U.S., former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said. “You’re seeing it pretty much throughout the world. It’s only a matter of time before it’s more in the United States,” Greenspan told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street ” on Wednesday. There are currently more than $16 trillion in negative yielding debt around the world as central banks try to ease monetary conditions to sustain the global economy. The 10-year sovereign bonds in Belgium, Germany, France and Japan — among others — are trading with a negative rate. U.S. Treasury yields are still well within positive territory but the Fed has already cut rates once and is expected to ease later this month. Market expectations for a rate cut in September are at 92.7%, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool. Greenspan’s comments come after New York Fed President John Williams called low inflation the “problem of this era” in a speech earlier in the day.

 Fed's Beige Book: Economic Growth "Modest", Labor Market "Tight" -- Fed's Beige Book "This report was prepared at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta based on information collected on or before August 23, 2019." On balance, reports from Federal Reserve Districts suggested that the economy expanded at a modest pace through the end of August. Although concerns regarding tariffs and trade policy uncertainty continued, the majority of businesses remained optimistic about the near-term outlook. Reports on consumer spending were mixed, although auto sales for most Districts grew at a modest pace. Tourism activity since the previous report remained solid in most reporting Districts. On balance, transportation activity softened, which some reporting Districts attributed to slowing global demand and heightened trade tensions. Home sales remained constrained in the majority of Districts due primarily to low inventory levels, and new home construction activity remained flat. Commercial real estate construction and sales activity were steady, while the pace of leasing increased slightly over the prior period. Overall manufacturing activity was down slightly from the previous report. Among reporting Districts, agricultural conditions remained weak as a result of unfavorable weather conditions, low commodity prices, and trade-related uncertainties. Lending volumes grew modestly across several Districts. Reports on activity in the nonfinancial services sector were positive, with reporting Districts noting similar or improved activity from the last report.... Overall, Districts indicated that employment grew at a modest pace, on par with the previous reporting period. While employment growth varied by industry, some Districts notedmanufacturing employment was flat to down. Firms and staffing agencies universally cited tightness across various labor market segments and skill levels, which continued to constrain growth in overall business activity. On balance, Districts reported that the pace of wage growth remained modest to moderate, similar to the previous reporting period. Districts continued to report strong upward pressure on pay for entry-level and low-skill workers, as well as for technology, construction, and some professional services positions. In addition to wage increases, some Districts noted other efforts—such as enhanced benefits offerings, work arrangement flexibility, and signing bonuses—to attract and retain employees.

Fed's Beige Book Finds US Economy Modestly Expanding ... So Time For Another Rate Cut - Back in July, just weeks before the first Fed rate cut in a decade, there was some confusion in the Fed's July 17, Beige Book, because instead of painting a gloomy picture of a US economy on the verge of recession, and thus in urgent need of rate cuts, the Fed instead described economic activity as "continuing to expand at a modest pace overall" with output generally stable and certainly not in need of urgent Fed intervention. Well fast forward to today when one month after the Fed did indeed cut rates for the first time since the financial crisis, and two weeks before the market expects Powell to cut as much as 50bps again, the Fed released its latest Beige Book, and once again instead of some dire picture of rapid economic contraction, reports from various Fed Districts suggested that "the economy expanded at a modest pace through the end of August", hardly a state one would associate with an urgent 25bps, let alone 50bps rate cut. And while "concerns regarding tariffs and trade policy uncertainty continued", the "majority of businesses remained optimistic about the near-term outlook." Furthermore, while reports on consumer spending were mixed, auto sales for most Districts grew at a modest pace, while "home sales remained constrained in the majority of districts due primarily to low inventory levels, and new home construction activity remained flat", once again  - hardly the stuff multiple rate cuts are made of. Among the various indicators suggesting a solid, stable, expanding economy, the Beige Book noted that:

  • Overall, districts indicated that employment grew at a modest pace, on par with the previous reporting period
  • While employment growth varied by industry, some districts noted manufacturing employment was flat to down
  • Districts continued to report strong upward pressure on pay for entry-level and low-skill workers, as well as for technology, construction, and some professional services positions
  • On net, districts indicated modest price increases since the last report
  • District reports on the impact of tariffs on pricing were mixed, with some districts anticipating that the effects would not be felt for a few months

So with all those things going for the US economy, the Fed is surely set to keep rates unchanged (if not, hike) right? Why of course not - after all the S&P remains a tragic 3% below its all time highs. To prevent that, ideally in perpetuity, as even the shoeshine boy knows by now the big debate on September 18 is whether the Fed cuts 25 bps or 50bps. And that's in a time when literally nothing is broken with the economy; one can't wait to see just how negative the Fed will push rates if and when the US economy does finally slide into contraction.

Peter Schiff- The Fed Is Unable To Delay A Recession Any Longer - According to Peter Schiff, the chief global strategist at Euro Pacific Capital, it was a “huge mistake” for the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates last month.   Schiff says there is no way for the Federal Reserve to stops the United States from going into a recession.“They never should have taken rates to zero in 2008 and held them there for 7 years,”the veteran economic analyst told RT. “Zero interest rates and quantitative easing have created problems in our economy that will take generations to fix. However, the healing will never get underway if the Fed goes right back to zero (which is where they are headed).”According to Schiff, it’s impossible to build a viable economy on the back of artificially low interest rates. “All it accomplishes it to push up asset prices, creating bubbles and malinvestments that hurt the economy. Relying on low interest rates for growth makes it certain that recessions will ensue when monetary policy tightens,” he added.Runaway government debt and the Trump tariffs provided the final push to tip us back toward an inevitable recession, Schiff said. He added:  “the Fed is not causing the recession; they are just unable to delay it any longer.”  Unfortunately, if interest rates are “allowed” to rise organically to levels that reflect a healthy economy, the interest payments on government debt will sink the government and that’s exactly why President Donald Trump is desperate for artificially low interest rates.

The Media Cannot Talk Us Into Recession - "The way the media reports the weather won’t impact whether the sun shines tomorrow. But the way the media reports on our national economy weighs on consumer sentiment, which feeds into consumer purchases and investments.”Those are the words of Tomas Phillipson, President Trump’s acting Council of Economic Advisers Chairman, as spoken to Jim Tankersley and Jeanna Smialek of the New York Times.Phillipson’s comment is a reminder that some conservatives can unsheathe the victim card as ably as their reliably outraged opponents on the left.The media can talk down the economy? What can Phillipson possibly mean? Why did Tankersley and Smialek so readily accept such ludicrous reasoning from Phillipson?Missed by those who view consumption as the driver of growth is that we all have theoretically infinite desires to consume that are logically only limited by our individual ability to produce. West Virginia isn’t poor relative to Texas because its people don’t consume as much; rather they consume less because they produce less. Consumption is a consequence of production, not a driver. Keynesians get it backwards. That’s what’s so unfortunate about Phillipson’s response. Not only is it sappy victimology, not only does it ascribe a power to the media that plainly doesn’t exist, but it also speaks to a misunderstanding of how economies work. Simply put, there’s never a problem of insufficient consumption.Consider Phillipson himself. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that he has savings. If so, his alleged failure to consume in no way detracts from consumption. Figure that banks would be quickly insolvent if they paid him a rate of interest on funds deposited, only to sit on the funds. More realistically, any money not spent by Phillipson is rapidly loaned out to those who will. But the bigger story here is that assuming what’s not serious, that the media could convince Americans that the economic sky is falling, this would if anything exist as a boost for the economy.

Q3 GDP Forecasts: Mid-to-high 1% - From Merrill Lynch:  We left our Q3 GDP tracking estimate unchanged at +1.9% (qoq ar). [Sept 5 estimate]   From Goldman Sachs: [W]e lowered our Q3 GDP tracking estimate by one tenth to 1.9% (qoq ar).. [Sept 4 estimate] From the NY Fed Nowcasting Report: The New York Fed Staff Nowcast stands at 1.5% for 2019:Q3 and 1.1% for 2019:Q4. [Sept 6 estimate].   And from the Altanta Fed: GDPNow: The GDPNow model estimate for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the third quarter of 2019 is 1.5 percent on September 4, down from 1.7 percent on September 3 [Sept 4 estimate] CR Note: These early estimates suggest real GDP growth will be around 1.5% to 2.0% annualized in Q3.

August 2019 Yield Curve Update -- I had a brief flirtation with optimism, but the last couple of months have seen a bearish turn.   This first graph is a graph comparing the Fed Funds Rate and the 10 year Treasury yield.  The orange line is the effective inversion line.  The zero lower bound means that long term yields have a kind of option value, biasing the yield curve upward.  This is my attempt at adjusting for that effect.  The yield curve is highly inverted. In the meantime, the Fed seems to be tepid about their recent dovish turn.  It would take quite an aggressive posture for them to get ahead of this.  For this to become less bearish, the 10 year yield would need to rise substantially.  It's unlikely to do that without an aggressively dovish move, which the Fed would signal with a sharp decline in the Fed Funds Rate.  I expect the long term rate to bounce around a bit, but it seems unlikely that it will push back away from inversion. The second graph shows the yield curve at various dates over the past few months.  It has flattened even as short term rates have declined.

The end of the dollar as we know it - Current uncertainty and worries are clearly reflected in the financial markets. Investors are fleeing into assets that are deemed safe, such as gold, U.S. Treasuries and the dollar. They still flock to the U.S. on a massive scale, whereas a lot of the current insecurity derives directly from the White House. At the same time, we are seeing more and more commentaries around the question of whether a shift is taking place, slowly but surely, from the dollar toward other currencies. JPMorgan recently wrote, “We believe the dollar could lose its status as the world’s dominant currency (which could see it depreciate over the medium term) due to structural reasons as well as cyclical impediments.” And this month, Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney claimed that the dollar’s status as a hegemon is putting the global economy under increasing strain and needs to end.  That the dominance of the dollar is being questioned is not surprising at the present juncture. Current and future U.S. policies look vague or nonexistent. Allies as well as enemies feel out of control as they have to wait and see what storms are brewing in the U.S. president's Twitter feed, about to be unleashed. Countries such as China and Russia are taking an increasingly assertive stance. The relative supremacy of the U.S. has been waning, and there are mounting doubts about whether the country will continue to support and shore up the international system that it has largely built up and shaped itself.   The power of the United States may be lessening in a relative sense, but the country has its tentacles in projects and countries virtually all over the world. Owing to the role of U.S. financial institutions, authorities and the dollar in SWIFT (the international payment system), non-U.S. businesses are terrified that they will incur billions of dollars in fines. They worry that this will happen as soon as there is even a tiny shred of evidence that can connect them to a country or corporation hit by sanctions from Washington. Therefore, many states are looking for ways to become less reliant on the dollar and the U.S. in general.

The Trump Narrative and the Next Recession   Robert Shiller  - US President Donald Trump concluded his remarks at the recent G7 summit by inviting the assembled leaders to hold next year’s meeting at his Doral country club near Miami, describing a fantasy-like world of “magnificent buildings” whose “ballrooms are among the biggest in Florida and the best.” It was yet another instance of Trump’s public narrative, which has been on a rising growth path for nearly a half-century.  So far, with his flashy lifestyle, the US president has been a resounding inspiration to many consumers and investors. But his personal narrative is unlikely to survive an economic downturn, because people pull back during such periods and reassess their views and the stories they find believable. One can observe this by searching Trump’s name in digital news sources, like Google Ngrams. His narrative has been slow to grow by contagion, but it has been growing for a long time, such that his domination of public discourse in the United States almost seems implausible. Part of Trump’s genius has been to pursue for a lifetime the features that have sustained narrative contagion: showcasing glamour, surrounding himself with apparently adoring beautiful women, and maintaining the appearance of vast influence. Trump had firmly embraced this career strategy by 1983, when an article in the New York Times entitled “The Empire and Ego of Donald Trump” reported that he was already, in that year, “an internationally recognized symbol of New York City as mecca for the world’s super rich.” Consider his interest in professional wrestling – a form of entertainment that attracts crowds who by some strange human quirk seem to want to believe in the authenticity of what is obviously staged. He has mastered the industry’skayfabe style and uses it effectively everywhere to increase his contagion, even going so far as to participate in a fake brawl in 2007. Now that Trump has established a contagious narrative, he continues to live out his TV show persona. At the Republican Party’s 2016 convention, after portraying the US as a declining power, he declared, “I alone can fix it.” Accordingly, he has fired his top officials at an unprecedented rate, ensuring that no one of independent stature remains part of his administration. This has established a new form of arbitrariness in the US government, the Trump whim, which, given the linkages of the US and global economies, can affect the entire world.

They are riding a rubber ducky into alligator-infested waters’ - President Donald Trump is staring down a series of trigger points that will determine whether he enters the 2020 campaign backed by his most valuable asset — a healthy U.S. economy — or empty-handed and further on the defensive.The White House faces a time crunch on several major policy fronts this fall. The president will need to appease farmers and factory workers about his ongoing trade standoff with China, in which he shows no sign of backing down. His administration is trying to cajole the Democratic-controlled House to approve a renegotiated trade deal covering the U.S., Mexico and Canada. And the Trump team must find a way to calm Wall Street to prevent investors from denting one of his proudest achievements — a surge in the stock market since his election.Trump’s economic record took another turn into dangerous territory Tuesday with a widely tracked gauge of the U.S. manufacturing sector contracting for the first time in more than three years, walloping the stock market and reigniting fears of a recession. It added to mounting concerns about a global economic slowdown under the weight of Trump’s trade war.More than at any point in his presidency, Trump’s biggest asset looks like it could become a liability.“The state of the economy is the single biggest factor in determining whether the president is reelected, and right now, it feels like they are riding a rubber ducky into alligator-infested waters,” said Michael Steel, a partner at Hamilton Place Strategies and former top aide to Republican House Speaker John Boehner.It all adds up to a make-or-break stretch for the Trump economy, which aides and advisers believe should play the starring role in the president’s pitch for reelection. On Tuesday, the Trump campaign hosted two economic roundtables at local small businesses in North Carolina to “showcase how President Trump’s economy continues to work for North Carolina’s business community and families alike,” the campaign said. Beyond winning concessions from China, the biggest political objective for 2019 remains getting the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, through Congress. A victory for the deal, which still faces heavy skepticism from progressive Democrats in the House, would remove one big piece of uncertainty for businesses with supply chains that run throughout North America. And it would give Trump a huge talking point for the campaign trail to show he was able to replace the prior North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA.

Summers and the Road to Damascus - In what constitutes a volte-face, Lawrence Summers openly admits that monetary policy is ineffective in the current environment of secular stagnation and argues that what is needed instead are “efforts by governments to promote demand through fiscal policies and other means.” Summers and co-author Anna Stansbury write that they have come to agree with “the point long stressed by writers in the post-Keynesian (or, perhaps more accurately, original Keynesian) tradition: the role of particular frictions and rigidities in underpinning economic fluctuations should be de-emphasized relative to a more fundamental lack of aggregate demand.” Summers and Stansbury are right in pointing out that the U.S. is suffering from a fundamental lack of demand. But they are wrong in believing that this is somehow only now showing up in a decline in the power of monetary policy to stimulate the economy. Monetary policy has never been robustly effective in promoting economic recovery or growth. While restrictive monetary policy, when credible, may be effective in slowing down economic growth and reducing inflation, this does not mean that monetary stimulus has the capacity to promote growth and raise inflation — if anything, post-2008 monetary policy experience provides an acid test of this asymmetry in policy effectiveness. Most of the time, the macro-economic impact of monetary policy has been swamped by the effects of other factors. This is illustrated by Figure 1, which plots U.S. real gross fixed investment (as a percentage of GDP) against the long-term real interest rate during the period 1980-2018. The gross fixed investment ratio stayed rather close to the average of 19.5% of GDP during these 38 years — varying between a minimum of 16.9% in 1982 and a maximum of 22% in 2005-2006. The real interest rate exhibits much greater variation: from a high of 8.1% in 1984 to a low of ‒0.1% in 2012.[1]

Report Reveals That ‘Like Everything Else’ About GOP Tax Scam, Program Purported to Help the Poor Really ‘Just Another Handout to the Rich’ - Urban policy experts along with progressive groups and politicians responded with outrage to a New York Times report published Saturday that detailed how the Trump administration's "signature plan" to help low-income communities across the United States with a multibillion-dollar tax break has "fueled a wave of developments financed by and built for the wealthiest Americans."The tax break was part of the legislation critics dubbed the GOP tax scam, which Republicans forced through Congress and President Donald Trump signed into law in December of 2017. Linking to the new report, the progressive advocacy organization MoveOn tweeted, "Like everything else about the GOP's 2017 tax scam, a program supposedly meant to benefit poor communities is just another handout to the rich."According to the Times:Among the early beneficiaries of the tax incentive are billionaire financiers like Leon Cooperman and business magnates like Sidney Kohl—and Mr. Trump's family members and advisers.Former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey; Richard LeFrak, a New York real estate titan who is close to the president; Anthony Scaramucci, a former White House aide who recently had a falling out with Mr. Trump; and the family of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, all are looking to profit from what is shaping up to be a once-in-a-generation bonanza for elite investors.The purpose of the program, as the Times explained, "was to coax investors to pump cash into poor neighborhoods" by allowing them "to sell stocks or other investments and delay capital gains taxes for years—as long as they plow the proceeds into projects in federally certified opportunity zones."However, instead of low-income communities reaping the benefits of such investments, "billions of untaxed investment profits are beginning to pour into high-end apartment buildings and hotels, storage facilities that employ only a handful of workers, and student housing in bustling college towns, among other projects," the Times reported.

The Messiahs of Hope Assure Us Everything Will Be OK in the End. But It Won't... - Chris Hedges -- There is nothing new to our story. The flagrant lies and imbecilities of the inept and corrupt leader. The inability to halt the costly, endless wars and curb the gargantuan expenditures on the military. The looting of a beleaguered populace by the rich. The destruction of the ecosystem. The decay and abandonment of a once-efficient infrastructure. The implosion of the institutions, from education to diplomacy, that sustain a functioning state. The world has seen it before. It is the familiar disease of the end of a civilization. At first it is grimly entertaining, even amid the mounting suffering. But no one will be laughing at the end.  Human nature does not change. It follows its familiar and cyclical patterns. Yes, this time, when we go down the whole planet will go with us. But until then we will be mesmerized by fools and con artists. What are demagogues like Donald Trump andBoris Johnson, positive psychologists and Candide-like prognosticators such as Steven Pinker other than charlatans who insist the tragedy facing us is not real? What are the technocrats and scientists arguing that education and Western civilization can turn us into rational beings other than shamans? What are the corporate titans who make their fortunes off the arms, chemical, fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries that are destroying the natural world other than high priests demanding human sacrifice? There is one human story. Dressed in new clothing and using new tools, we endlessly relive it. If we still read philosophy, literature, history, poetry and theology we would not be surprised that greed, hedonism and hubris have easily defeated empathy and reason. But because we do not, because we spend hours each day getting little bursts of dopamine from electronic screens, we think we are unique in human existence. We are unable to see that the climate conditions that allowed civilizations to flourish during the last 10,000 years will soon be replaced by a savage struggle to survive.  The only existential question left is how we will choose to wait out the finale. But to pose that question is to defy the cultural mania for hope, the yearning for collective self-delusion. If reality is grim, you banish it. You invent impossible scenarios of inevitable salvation. Which explains how we ended up where we are.

WaPo Warns USA Needs More Narrative Control As Pentagon Ramps Up Narrative Control - Caitlin Johnstone - Do you lay awake at night terrified that the Russians are able to control your mind with information warfare while the US government’s slavish devotion to democratic values leaves it powerless to stop them? Me neither. But according to The Washington Post, whose sole owner is a CIA contractor and Pentagon board member bent on hijacking the underlying infrastructure of the economy, we should be.WaPo columnist David Ignatius, who has been one of the more hyperbolic promulgators of western Russia hysteria in written media, has published an article titled “Why America is losing the information war to Russia” about a new book by former State Department undersecretary for public diplomacy Richard Stengel. Stengel and Ignatius engage in a joyful Red Scare frolic with the exuberance of two little boys with a box of spray paints, each trying to one-up the other in hysterical apocalyptic ominousness about the way evil, authoritarian governments like Russia have been able to weaponize information while freedom-loving democracies can only look on in passive despair.“The cruel paradox of the Internet, once hailed as a liberating force, is that it empowers governments that control information and enfeebles those that let it run free,” warns Ignatius.“[Authoritarian governments] have gone from fearing the flow of information to exploiting it,” cautions Stengel. “They understand that the same tools that spread democracy can engineer its undoing.” Unsurprisingly, at no point during this brotherly romp does Ignatius bother to make mention of the fact that Stengel is actually on record saying he supports the use of propaganda and believes the US government should be using it on its own citizens.  “Basically, every country creates their own narrative story and, you know, my old job at the State Department was what people used to joke as the ‘chief propagandist’ job,” Stengel said last year at an event organized by the shockingly ubiquitous narrative management firm Council on Foreign Relations.“I’m not against propaganda,” Stengel said. “Every country does it, and they have to do it to their own population, and I don’t necessarily think it’s that awful.” When an audience member objected to what he’d just heard, Stengel curtly dismissed him and ended the talk.

The Pentagon Wants More Control Over the News. What Could Go Wrong?  - Matt Taibbi - If there’s a worse idea than the Pentagon becoming Editor-in-Chief of America, I can’t remember it. But we’re getting there:From Bloomberg over Labor Day weekend: Fake news and social media posts are such a threat to U.S. security that the Defense Department is launching a project to repel “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks,” as the top Republican in Congress blocks efforts to protect the integrity of elections. One of the Pentagon’s most secretive agencies, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is developing “custom software that can unearth fakes hidden among more than 500,000 stories, photos, video and audio clips.”   DARPA is known for helping invent the Internet but also for developing lunatic privacy-invading projects like LifeLog, a program to “gather in a single place just about everything an individual says, sees, or does.”DARPA now is developing a semantic analysis program called “SemaFor” and an image analysis program called “MediFor,” ostensibly designed to prevent the use of fake images or text. The idea would be to develop these technologies to help private Internet providers sift through content.It’s the latest in a string of stories about new methods of control over information flow that should, but for some reason do not, horrify every working journalist.From the Senate dragging Internet providers to the Hill to demand strategies against the sowing of “discord,” to tales of hundreds of Facebook sites zapped for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” following advice by government-connected groups like the Atlantic Council, it’s been clear the future of the information landscape is going to involve elaborate new forms of algorithmic regulation. Stories about the need for such technologies are always couched as responses to the “fake news” problem. Unfortunately, “fake news” is a poorly-defined, amorphous concept that the public has been trained to fear without really understanding. The term surged into public view three years ago. Experts insisted Macedonian troll farms and pranksters like the late Paul Horner(who once conned Fox News into doing a story that Barack Obama was funding a Muslim culture museum) had an enormous impact on Trump’s victory.

Putin Reveals He Offered To Sell Trump Russia's Hypersonic Missiles - President Vladimir Putin on Thursday revealed a bizarre and unexpected exchange between he and Trump which Putin explained occurred last June at the G20 summit in Japan.  Putin said he was ready to sell the United States some of Russia's latest developing and most advanced weapons, including hypersonic missile systems, if Trump was willing to return to serious strategic arms talks after the US backed out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). As Bloomberg relates of the fresh comments made at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok“I told Donald, ‘if you want, we’ll sell them to you and that’s how we keep everything balanced right away’,” Putin said at the plenary session also attended by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Premier Narendra Modi. While the U.S. side argued it would soon have such weapons, Putin said “why waste money when we have already spent it and we can get something for it that doesn’t harm our security?” The context of the offer reportedly involved early speculation and discussion of how any future new arms agreement might account for Russia's developing hypersonic arsenal, and as the New START agreement is set to expire in 2021. Putin divulged the exchange in front of an audience that included Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Premier Narendra Modi. Last year Russia's defense ministry touted a range of experimental weapons it said could counter and evade any US anti-aircraft defense measures, including a nuclear-powered missile that could traverse the globe endlessly.

The Corporate Media Never Talks About US Imperialism - The New York Times and other establishment outlets like to paint North Korea as an irrational actor hell-bent on destroying the United States. But you can’t understand North Korea’s nuclear program without talking about US militarism. On Tuesday, the New York Times issued a front-page warning: North Korea has been conducting missile tests that show technological advances aimed at subverting US missile defense systems.Like so much reporting on US-DPRK matters, the article — coauthored by David Sanger and William Broad — manages to report something legitimately concerning (inflamed tensions between nuclear-armed countries is never a good thing) while conveniently ignoring the role that US militarism (excuse me, defense strategy) played in creating the problem in the first place.Sanger and Broad report that the recent North Korean tests reveal “greater range and maneuverability that could overwhelm American defenses in the region.” Some of the missiles, they note, are designed to defeat missile defense systems like Aegis and Patriot, which the United States supplies to Japan and South Korea. The DPRK’s new missiles — which could carry either conventional or nuclear warheads — therefore threaten US allies and “at least eight American bases in those countries housing more than 30,000 troops.”Pentagon stenographers like Sanger and Broad are unlikely to inquire why the United States has tens of thousands of troops and eight bases in Northeast Asia — one of which, Camp Humphreys, is the largest and most expensive US military base in the world. But defense journalists should at least acknowledge the risks of deploying missile defense technology in a region that is still technically at war — and where one of the belligerents has since developed a nuclear weapons program. Sanger and Broad remain mute on this point. Instead, they suggest — strangely — that North Korea’s missile tests are part of a “maximum pressure” campaign against the United States. Needless to say, the idea that a besieged international pariah is capable of pressuring the United States into anything is silly. But this is the foreign policy establishment we’re talking about, where diplomacy itself is viewed as a concession to Kim Jong-un.

A Society Is Only As Free As Its Most Troublesome Political Dissident - Caitlin Johnstone - A society is only as free as its most troublesome political dissident, which today means that you are only as free as Julian Assange. As long as you live in a society which can give rise to a coordinated multi-governmental campaign to lock up a journalist for the rest of his life based on bogus chargesbecause he exposed US war crimes, you are not free, and you should not agree to pretend that you are.  The old saying “actions speak louder than words” resonates with people because words can lie while actions cannot. And while the millionaire pundits of the billionaire media continually assure us with their words that we live in a free society, the actions of the people who wield official and unofficial power over us tell us that we actually live in a society which tortures and imprisons dissident journalists for telling inconvenient truths. The persecution of Julian Assange tells us so much more about our society than the authorized narratives we’re sold: The persecution of Julian Assange tells us about the real function of the mass media. The discrepancy between the news media coverage of the Assange benefit event and Richard Branson’s regime change propaganda party are just one of many, many examples we could discuss about the way those outlets reliably slant their coverage in favor of agendas which just so happen to align with the interests of the CIA and the US State Department. Every time Assange’s plight makes headlines, social media lights up with ambitious blue-checkmarked media aspirants posting snarky quips about him in an attempt to show the operators of the billionaire media just how far they’ll go to defend the status quo. We are told with words that the mass media are here to tell us the truth about what’s going on in the world, but we are told with actions the exact opposite. The persecution of Julian Assange tells us about the kind of society we actually live in. We are inundated from early childhood with feel-good slogans about freedom and democracy, which we are told must be spread to everyone on earth as forcefully as necessary even if we have to kill every last one of them. In reality we live in a society made of lies and led by liars, who violently persecute anyone who exposes the truth. These people are your oppressors. These people are your prison wardens. Their sneering faces tell you that you are free from behind prison bars, and that they’ll end you if you disagree. This is going to have to change.

 How one teenager took out a secure Pentagon file sharing site -  By last October, the Pentagon’s Vulnerability Disclosure Program had processed thousands of loopholes in the Department of Defense’s websites.  Then it received a report from Jack Cable. On Oct. 25, Cable, who worked for the Defense Digital Service and was a freshman at Stanford University, reported a problem to the department through the Pentagon’s HackerOne vulnerability disclosure page.  Typically, vulnerabilities sent to the DoD through a disclosure program operated by HackerOne, an ethical hacking company that manages reporting programs for various organizations, require a simple reconfiguration or software patch. Of the 16 problems reported to the DoD on the average day, 11 tend to require action by the Pentagon, Kris Johnson, director of the Vulnerability Disclosure Program (VDP) at the DoD’s Cyber Crime Center (DC3), told Fifth Domain in an exclusive interview. Cable has quite the list of accomplishments. In 2018, TIME Magazine ranked him as one of the Top 25 most influential teens. At age 17, he found 30 vulnerabilities in Air Force websites during the 2017 rendition of the “Hack the Air Force” competition. He ended up winning the contest. For this contest, Cable was trying to hack the Army’s file-sharing system that was used to send files too large to send over email. The system was formally known as the Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center Safe Access File Exchange (AMRDEC SAFE) and had been used since “around 2001,” according to an Army spokesperson.  But what Cable found in the DoD’s secure filing system stood out. He discovered a vulnerability known as an “insecure direct object reference,” which involves brute forcing reference numbers in the URL to access different files without authentication. For a secure file sharing system holding files up to 2 gigabytes, the implications would be severe if exploited. This is the story of SAFE’s mysterious disappearance and how defense organizations took down the system that was used to transfer approximately 11,000 packages a day, or 4.1 million files a year for 600,000 unique users.

France Presses Washington On $15BN Iran Credit Line To Save Nuclear Deal - As first unveiled on the sidelines of the recent G7 summit in France, President Macron is making a last ditch effort to create conditions to bring Tehran and Washington back to the nuclear negotiating table by offering Iran a $15 billion credit line as an incentive to come back into compliance with the nuclear deal. Iran's top diplomat, FM Zarif, was said to be open to it when it was first raised in Biarritz, France over a week ago but the plan's progress is now conditioned on whether the White House rejects it.Though this past week Iranian leaders again threatened to further breach uranium enrichment caps set by the 2015 JCPOA, Iran responded positively to the new trade mechanism involving the $15 billion credit line issued to the end of the year to help it conduct business. The proposal comes after Trump at the G7 publicly expressed rare openness to sitting down with Iran, saying of Macron's efforts to cool tensions toward dialogue, "If the circumstances were correct or right, I would certainly agree with that." Trump cited "good feelings" about Iran and its desire to escape currently escalating tensions. Reuters reports an Iranian delegation is in Paris negotiating with French officials over the details which would provide immediate sanctions relief. A source privy to the negotiations told Reuters, “The question is to know whether we can reach this $15 billion) level, secondly who will finance it, and thirdly we need to get at the very least the tacit approval of the United States. We still don’t know what the U.S. position is.”The Iranians appear to have fully endorsed the deal, with an Iranian official saying, “France has offered the credit line of $15 billion but we are still discussing it. It should be guaranteed that we will have access to this amount freely and also Iran should be able to sell its oil and have access to its money.”“President Macron is trying hard to resolve the issue and help to save the deal ... and we have overcome some issues and gaps narrowed but still there are remaining issues,” the Iranian official said further. Trump has reportedly softened toward the idea of a special credit line or alternative mechanisms which bring Iran back in conformity with enrichment limits; however, he's said to be firm on not walking back sanctions.

Iran Affirms $15BN Oil Sales Guarantee Could Save Nuclear Deal, Awaits US Decision - Iran's Fars News Agency has cited a top Iranian official who said that Tehran would return to its nuclear deal commitments only if it receives $15 billion for oil sales by the end of the year.  It appears President Macron's last ditch effort to create conditions to eventually bring Tehran and Washington back to the nuclear negotiating table by offering Iran a $15 billion credit line as an incentive to come back into compliance with the nuclear deal is making headway. However, the US would have to soften on its harsh 100% Iran oil sanctions to meet Tehran's conditions for the credit line. “Iran… will return to full implementation of the JCPOA only if it is able to sell its oil and to fully benefit from the income from these sales,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi on Wednesday. “The French proposal goes in that direction.” However, massive and significant obstacles remain - not the least of which is that Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani just issued new ultimatums to European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal. The European powers have another two months to save the JCPOA, Rouhani said in a speech Wednesday. Meanwhile as details of the $15BN credit line are hammered out, Iran said it's prepared to take further measures to walk away from its terms under the nuclear deal, likely in the form of another uranium enrichment cap breach, which would mark the third such purposeful violation designed to pressure Europe and Washington.  Rouhani had threatened to take the extra step by Thursday unless France and others act quick: “I think it is unlikely that we will reach a result with Europe by today or tomorrow ... Europe will have another two months to fulfill its commitments,” Rouhani said according to state sources.

 U.S. unveils unusual $15 million reward program targeting Iranian military group - The United States will pay people up to $15 million for information that disrupts the finances of an elite Iranian military force, the Trump administration announced Wednesday. The reward program — unusual in that it targets a foreign state entity — is the latest of many moves the U.S. has taken under President Donald Trump to pressure Iran’s Islamist regime. But it’s likely to further undermine efforts by Europeans and Trump himself to find a diplomatic opening with Tehran. Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, unveiled the reward program at the State Department. The announcement comes as Tehran has pledged to take more steps this week to reduce its commitment to the Iran nuclear deal, which is barely hanging on after the U.S. pulled out of the deal last year. The reward program’s goal is to get more information about the financial mechanisms of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which Trump has designated a terrorist group. Hook insisted that despite greenlighting such punitive moves, Trump still wants to negotiate a diplomatic solution to the standoff with Tehran. Trump “believes very much in bilateral diplomacy,” Hook said. There is widespread speculation that Trump will try to get a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the United Nations General Assembly later this month. But Iranian officials have rebuffed such overtures from Trump in the past. "Anything is possible," Trump told reporters on Wednesday.

US Now Cribbing Iran Policy From Nigerian Email Scammers  --The Financial Times details a US government Iran policy that's been reduced to top officials desperately sending emails which open like phishing scams:Four days before the US imposed sanctions on an Iranian tanker suspected of shipping oil to Syria, the vessel’s Indian captain received an unusual email from the top Iran official at the Department of State.“This is Brian Hook . . . I work for secretary of state Mike Pompeo and serve as the US Representative for Iran,” Mr Hook wrote to Akhilesh Kumar on August 26, according to several emails seen by the Financial Times. “I am writing with good news.”The “good news” was that the Trump administration was offering Mr Kumar several million dollars to pilot the ship — until recently known as the Grace 1 — to a country that would impound the vessel on behalf of the US. To make sure Mr Kumar did not mistake the email for a scam, it included an official state department phone number. Yes, the US is literally bribing ship captains to act as pirates on Washington's behalf with an email now being widely mocked online as sounding like a classic 'Nigerian prince' email scam. The Economist's Gregg Carlstrom aptly snarked of the unprecedented and unorthodox method: "it's like Brian Hook is cribbing Iran policy from Nigerian email scammers." Given the captain of the Iran-flagged Adrian Dayra didn't respond to the first "good news" email offering immense wealth and future comfort and prosperity, Hook persisted in a second round message:“With this money you can have any life you wish and be well-off in old age,” Mr Hook wrote in a second email to Mr Kumar that also included a warning. “If you choose not to take this easy path, life will be much harder for you.” Apparently a series of similar emails and messages have been sent to various ship captains, urging and intimidating them into helping disrupt all Iran-linked oil shipping networks.

 US Seeking Trump-Rouhani Talks Sept. 25 As Admin Ramps Up Pressure- Report - Has the White House gotten delusional on Iran (or likely has been for a long time)? Or does Trump really think this could happen without dropping sanctions?  After the president yesterday again told reporters "anything is possible" when asked about bilateral talks with Tehran's leadership at an upcoming UN General Assembly meeting in New York, Bloomberg has cited a report in Japan’s Kyodo News saying the US has indeed offered such talks, envisioned to happen on or around September 25.   According to the report, based on information from an unnamed US official: The United States has proposed a meeting between President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the fringes of the upcoming U.N. General Assembly in New York, according to a U.S. government source. The overture was reportedly made this week via French intermediaries, who have been meeting with an Iranian delegation in Paris to discuss Macron's proposed $15 billion credit line plan in return for Tehran's nuclear compliance.  The report continues: Washington's proposal has been conveyed to Tehran through countries such as France, which has been eager to mediate in the ongoing U.S.-Iran standoff over an Iran nuclear deal reached in 2015. Iran had not responded to the proposal as of Wednesday, the source said.Of course the key problem is the White House has stated in no uncertain terms it is not willing to walk back sanctions. On Wednesday - the very day the administration is said to have reached out to Tehran offering talks on the sidelines of the UN meeting - the US imposed fresh sanctions on any and all oil shipping networks with ties to Iran's IRGC or its proxies. This further included the State Department offering up $15 million for anyone with information on illicit Iranian and Hezbollah oil deals or shipping. The US is now also literally bribing ship captains.  "There will be more sanctions coming," US special envoy for Iran Brian Hook told reporters at the State Department. "We can't make it any more clear that we are committed to this campaign of maximum pressure."

US Waives Human Rights Conditions To Release $1.3BN In Military Aid To Sisi's Egypt - Aside from Saudi Arabia's MbS, the other long forgotten about Middle East autocratic ally of the United States known for arresting journalists, authors and activists is President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.The strongman known lately for aggressively cracking down on civil liberties, including muzzling journalists and throwing media figures and activists in jail, is also set to rule for another solid decade, given months ago Egyptian parliament approved constitutional changes to allow the sitting president to stay in power until 2030. The US this week moved to waive human rights rules in order to vote through sending military aid to Egypt, totaling $1.3 billion.Remember this the next time the State Department blathers about human rights violations in Venezuela, Iran or any other officially-designated “enemy” country https://t.co/mcwJUY9qki— Dan Cohen (@dancohen3000) September 6, 2019The Middle East analysis news site Al-Monitor cited a human rights violation exemption waiver in reporting the release of the $1.3BN in aid.US military aid to Egypt was set to expire Sept. 30 without the crucial waiver: In a memo sent to Congress and obtained by Al-Monitor, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo waived human rights conditions that apply to $300 million in US aid, calling the Arab nation “important to the national security interests of the United States” for providing access to the Suez Canal, overflight rights and fighting terror in the Sinai desert and along its borders with Libya and Sudan.

China, U.S. kick off new round of tariffs on each other’s goods (Reuters) - The United States began imposing 15% tariffs on a variety of Chinese goods on Sunday - including footwear, smart watches and flat-panel televisions - as China began imposing new duties on U.S. crude, the latest escalation in a bruising trade war. U.S. President Donald Trump said the sides would still meet for talks later this month. Trump, writing on Twitter, said his goal was to reduce U.S. reliance on China and he again urged American companies to find alternate suppliers outside China. A new round of tariffs took effect from 0401 GMT (12:01 a.m. EDT), with Beijing’s levy of 5% on U.S. crude marking the first time the fuel had been targeted since the world’s two largest economies started their trade war more than a year ago. The Trump administration on Sunday began collecting 15% tariffs on more than $125 billion in Chinese imports, including smart speakers, Bluetooth headphones and clothing. A variety of studies suggest the tariffs will cost U.S. households up to $1,000 a year and the latest round will hit a significant number of U.S. consumer goods. In retaliation, China started to impose additional tariffs on some of the U.S. goods on a $75 billion target list. Beijing did not specify the value of the goods that face higher tariffs from Sunday. The extra tariffs of 5% and 10% were levied on 1,717 items of a total of 5,078 products originating from the United States. Beijing will start collecting additional tariffs on the rest from Dec. 15.

Trump Heaps More Tariffs on China, Still No Deal in Sight - The Trump administration slapped tariffs on roughly $110 billion in Chinese imports on Sunday, marking the latest escalation in a trade war that’s inflicting damage across the world economy. China retaliated. The 15% U.S. duty hit consumer goods ranging from footwear and apparel to home textiles and certain technology products like the Apple Watch. A separate batch of about $160 billion in Chinese goods -- including laptops and cellphones -- will be hit with 15% tariffs on Dec. 15. President Donald Trump delayed part of the levies to blunt the impact on holiday shopping. Investors sought the safety of the yen as the currency markets opened for trading, with the Japanese exchange rate advancing 0.3% against the dollar. The New Zealand dollar slid 0.5%, the worst performance among the Group-of-10 currencies. The offshore yuan fell 0.15% to 7.1732 per dollar. While the Trump administration has dismissed concern about a protracted trade war, business groups are calling for a tariff truce and the resumption of negotiations between the world’s two-largest economies. Face-to-face talks between Chinese and American trade negotiators scheduled for Washington in September are still on, Trump told reporters Sunday after returning from Camp David. The president repeated the assertion that China, not the U.S., is “paying” for the tariffs, and said that farmers hurt by Beijing’s retaliation on U.S. agricultural goods are being made “more than whole” by federal payments. “We can’t allow China to rip us off anymore,” Trump added. China has repeatedly decried U.S pressure tactics, with signs that its officials are girding for a prolonged confrontation. “China’s determination to fight against the U.S. economic warmongering has only grown stronger, and its countermeasures more resolute, measured and targeted,” according to a commentary by the official Xinhua News Agency after the tariffs kicked in. One thing that “White House tariff men should learn is that the Chinese economy is strong and resilient enough to resist the pressure brought about in the ongoing trade war.” While Trump has repeatedly said China is paying for his tariffs, many companies and economists say that U.S. importers bear the cost -- and some of it is passed on to consumers. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office in August projected that by 2020, Trump’s tariffs and trade war will reduce the level of real U.S. GDP by about 0.3% and reduce average real household income by $580. That followed a JPMorgan Chase & Co. note to clients estimating that the latest round of tariffs will increase the average cost per U.S. household to $1,000 a year -- up from $600 for duties enacted last year. That estimate is in the low range because it was based on a duty rate of 10%, before Trump increased it to 15%.

President Trump ordered US firms to ditch China, but many already have and more are on the way - President Trump rattled Wall Street when he demanded U.S. firms move production out of China. But many have already taken steps to do so, and, in earnings calls just over the past month, dozens of chief executives have signaled plans to further diversify their supply chains amid the intensifying trade war. On Aug. 23, Trump took to Twitter, ordering American companies to “immediately start looking for an alternative to China” and urging them instead to start making their products in the U.S. In doing so, he cited the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) — passed in 1977 to deal with an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.” The president’s threat unsettled investors, sending stocks to session lows on a day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed more than 600 points. Trump doubled down on Friday, attacking General Motors for its significant presence in China and questioning whether the automaker should move the operations to the U.S. “Sometimes you’ve got to take stern measures,” White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the sidelines of the G-7 meeting in France. Kudlow added that American companies should heed the president’s call to leave China. No U.S. president has invoked the law as leverage in a commercial dispute, let alone to sever commercial ties with one of its largest trading partners. Indeed, over the past century, U.S. administrations have mainly deployed the IEEPA to prosecute drug trafficking or financial terrorism through sanctions or other economic penalties. It is not clear how, or under what authority, Trump could implement this directive. If he were to push further, companies would likely challenge the order, leading to litigation. And, even then, it’s uncertain how a court would rule. Some analysts argue that the law allows the president to carry out certain actions limiting companies’ business in China, by blocking future investments, even if it didn’t allow the Trump administration to outright order them to relocate. U.S. companies had already started taking steps to diversify production amid flaring tensions over the past year, but this latest command forces a myriad of industries to grapple with escalating trade uncertainty. President Trump said last week he would raise existing duties on $250 billion in Chinese products from 25% to 30% on Oct. 1. Additionally, tariffs on another $112 billion of Chinese goods, which took effect on Sunday, are now 15% instead of 10%. Weighed down by a protracted trade dispute over the past year, China has relinquished its top spot as America’s largest trading partner and now sits in third place. Few companies are planning to move completely out of China. Doing so would prove particularly disruptive for America’s industrial and technology heavyweights that rely on the Chinese manufacturing base as a critical part of their supply chain. China still makes roughly 25% of all manufactured goods around the world — in part because of the difficulty in finding a sufficient workforce on other countries’ factory floors.

Trump was so angry after China’s trade retaliation that he wanted to double tariffs - President Donald Trump wanted to double tariff rates on Chinese goods last month after Beijing’s latest retaliation in a boiling trade war before settling on a smaller increase, three sources told CNBC. The president was outraged after he learned Aug. 23 that China had formalized plans to slap duties on $75 billion in U.S. products in response to new tariffs from Washington on Sept. 1. His initial reaction, communicated to aides on a White House trade call held that day, was to suggest doubling existing tariffs, according to three people briefed on the matter. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer then enlisted multiple CEOs to call the president and warn him about the impact such a move would have on the stock market and the economy. He settled on a 5% hike in tariff rates on about $550 billion in Chinese products, which he announced in an Aug. 23 tweet after the market close. In the following days, both Mnuchin and White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Trump’s only regret was not raising tariffs higher.  The revelation that Trump wanted to double duties comes on a day when fears about the trade war between the world’s two largest economies helped to sink major U.S. stock indexes. Both the U.S. and China imposed new tariffs on some goods Sunday.Earlier Tuesday, Trump suggested he could take even more drastic action to crack down on China’s trade practices if he wins reelection next year without a new trade agreement in place. “Deal would get MUCH TOUGHER!” he wrote in a tweet.

China lodges WTO complaint against US over Trump tariffs - China has lodged a case against the United States with the World Trade Organization over U.S. import duties, the Chinese commerce ministry said on Monday. The United States began imposing 15% tariffs on a variety of Chinese goods on Sunday — including footwear, smart watches and flat-panel televisions — as China began imposing new duties on U.S. crude, the latest escalation in a bruising trade war. The latest tariffs actions violated the consensus reached by leaders of China and the U.S. in a meeting in Osaka, the commerce ministry said in the statement. China will firmly defend its legal rights in accordance with WTO rules, it said.

New tariffs on China could make appliances, shoes, clothes more expensive - Starting today, new, 15 percent tariffs imposed by the US on $115 billion in consumer staples imported from China will likely hike the prices on Chinese clothing, shoes, toys, toothbrushes, headphones, milk, pacifiers and bed linens.Household appliances from China, such as coffee makers, microwaves, toasters, irons and hair drivers, will also be affected. Previous tariff hikes had targeted non-consumer items from China, such as imported steel.The new tariffs do exclude such holiday shopping staples as cellphones, laptops and video game devices — those won’t hit until mid-December at the earliest, in time to stock up beforehand.  China said Thursday that it’s “willing to negotiate” with the US in an effort to stem the escalating tariff war.

Moment of truth approaching for Trump’s trade war - Asia Times – The already bitter trade war between the United States and China went a notch further on September 1, with the two economic superpowers imposing new tit-for-tat tariffs on each other’s goods. But despite bipartisan consensus that Beijing engages in unfair trade practices and agreement on need for a recalibration of trade ties, former US officials and market observers believe President Donald Trump is fast losing support for his trade war among American business executives, farmers and swing voters. And while there are reports that bilateral negotiations could resume later this month, the rhetoric on both sides signals more trade trouble ahead. A stinging editorial published on Sunday by Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua accused the US of “economic warmongering” in response to the new tariff increases of 15% on more than US$125 billion in China-made goods, including an array of consumer electronics, linens and footwear. Beijing, in turn, enacted a 5% levy on US crude and began imposing additional tariffs on $75 billion worth of American goods, including agricultural products like soybeans and pork. The defiant commentary described China as “an unbent nail” in the face of maximum pressure exerted by “trade hawks” in Washington. The Chinese economy, it said, is “strong and resilient enough to resist the pressure” brought about by the trade war, adding that Trump administration hardliners should “stop denying that their trade war is hurting the American people and businesses.”   Many analysts believe Beijing is better positioned to wait out the trade war, given that its domestic economic growth is largely driven by internal consumption. External trade accounts for around 20% of China’s gross domestic product (GDP), with as much as 80% of that total shipped to countries other than the US.

The US’s Trade War Fallacy  - The current trade war between the US and China is a fallacy. There is no trade war going on here. A real trade war exists when a country tries to protect its industries by placing tariff barriers on the import of cheaper goods from foreign countries, or provides subsidies to local manufacturers to artificially lower production costs in order to compete with imported products. Trade wars are about protectionism. These rounds of tariffs on goods from China are not protecting any US industries.In the current case many of the goods imported into the US are made by US corporations in China. Of the US$539 billion exports from China to the United States, a substantial portion is from US companies shipping inputs for assembly in China. Another 20 percent are OEM products produced for US corporations. The tariffs are not paid by China. They are either absorbed by US corporations, which reduces profits, or passed onto consumers who pay higher prices for goods, which adds to inflation.According to estimates made by JP Morgan Chase, the tariffs will cost the average American family around US$1,000 per year. This is expected to deeply dampen Christmas spending. The major US retailer Macy’s share value dropped by 13 percent late last week. Share prices of other US retailers also fell.The only thing that will hurt China is a reduction in demand for goods bound to the US, thus reducing some employment. However, China is reducing the value of its currency, the yuan, to compensate for the new tariffs. Trump’s tariffs may put pressure on companies exporting to the US from China to relocate to third countries. This is something that has been already happening due to rising Chinese labor rates. This could be seen as Trump’s “scorched Earth” move. If the US can’t produce the goods destined to the United States, China shouldn’t produce those goods. The motives of Trump’s advisers should be questioned on this.

 A light amid the gloom of the US-China trade war - Threatened 15% tariffs by the US on another $250 billion of China imports went into effect Sunday morning, as did new China tariffs on US crude oil, soybeans and pharmaceuticals.More increases are planned. President Donald Trump has announced that existing 25% tariffs on $250 billion of China imports will be increased to 30% on 1 October, and 15% tariffs on the remainder of China exports to the US will be imposed 15 December.China promises equivalent pain. Already China has dramatically cut back on US imports of soybeans and liquid natural gas. More and precisely targeted reprisals will follow, probably including cars. Talks between the US and China may resume in a week or two, but against a background of ill-will, increasing tension, and the likelihood that the entire goods trade between these two economic giants will be discouraged by punitive tariffs within four months. As Australia’s Reserve Bank Governor Phil Lowe pointed out at the recent Jackson Hole central banking symposium, the trade war is becoming a serious risk to the global economy. World trade is well down. The CPD World Trade Monitor calculates a decline in global trade volumes of 0.7% in the second quarter of this year, following a smaller fall in the first quarter. The WTO Trade Barometer suggests trade volume growth will remain weak through this third quarter. Trade between the US and China has led the decline. In the year to June, China’s goods exports to the US were down 13%, and US goods exports to China were down 17%. Along with the decline in trade, there has been an associated decline in world industrial production, and increasing hesitancy in global business investment.  For all the gloom, however, there are still signs that a deal may be possible. Sooner or later pretty much everything leaks in Washington, but not so far the mystery document at the heart of these economic negotiations between China and the US. This is the 150-page paper presented by the chief US negotiator, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, to his Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier Lui He, in Beijing at the end of April.China’s leadership asked for revisions on the paper, said by the American side to summarise the agreements reached after a year of talks. The US then protested that China was backing out of commitments already made, and the talks broke down. Four months and several rounds of threatened tit-for-tat tariff increases later, the world economy poised precariously on the lip of a serious downturn, the contents of that document remain secret.

Trump pressures China to make deal soon, or it’ll get tougher if he wins in 2020 -President Donald Trump pressured China on Tuesday to make a trade deal with the U.S. in the near future, warning talks will get much tougher if he is reelected in 2020. Trump said in a series of tweets: “We are doing very well in our negotiations with China. While I am sure they would love to be dealing with a new administration so they could continue their practice of “ripoff USA”($600 B/year),16 months PLUS is a long time to be hemorrhaging jobs and companies on a long-shot...And then, think what happens to China when I win. Deal would get MUCH TOUGHER! In the meantime, China’s Supply Chain will crumble and businesses, jobs and money will be gone!” Trump’s tweets came after new tariffs on both countries’ goods came into effect over the weekend. The U.S. imposed 15% tariffs on a variety of Chinese goods on Sunday, while China imposed new charges on U.S. products. The current trade war began last year and has rattled investor sentiment across the world. The conflict has also dampened the outlook for global economic growth. U.S. stocks fell sharply in early trading after Trump’s tweets were sent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was more than 250 points lower while the S&P 500 slid 0.7%. Trump later tweeted that the European Union and other countries treat the U.S. “VERY unfairly on Trade also. Will change!”

 Yuan Hits Record Low, US Futures Tumble As China Trade-Talks Stall - Having managed to scramble back up to almost unchanged, headlines confirming that US officials rejected China's request to delay Sept 1st tariffs and, more importantly, that US and China are now struggling to set a September meeting for trade talks, have sparked a plunge in US equity futures and offshore yuan.Bloomberg reports that Chinese and U.S. officials are struggling to agree on the schedule for a planned meeting this month to continue trade talks after Washington rejected Beijing’s request to delay tariffs that took effect over the weekend, according to people familiar with the discussions.The immediate reaction is a kneejerk back to last night's opening lows... And offshore yuan plunged to a new record low... As Gold spikes... "China is moving along, we’re doing very well," Trump told reporters over the weekend. “We are talking to China, the meeting is still on as you know, in September. That hasn’t changed -- they haven’t changed it, we haven’t. We’ll see what happens. But we can’t allow China to rip us off anymore as a country.”It appears he may have been exaggerating a little.

U.S., China agree to resume trade talks, markets jump - (Reuters) - China and the United States on Thursday agreed to hold high-level talks in early October in Washington, cheering investors hoping for a trade war thaw as new U.S. tariffs on Chinese consumer goods chip away at global growth. The new talks were arranged during a phone call between Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, China’s commerce ministry said in a statement. They would be the first in-person, high-level discussions since a failed U.S.-China trade meeting at the end of July prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to proceed with fresh tariffs on virtually all remaining Chinese imports so far untouched by the trade war. But there was no indication that the first round of these tariffs — a 15% duty on Chinese consumer goods imposed on Sept. 1 — would be rescinded or halt a planned Oct. 1 tariff increase on $250 billion worth of goods already levied at 25%.

China and US agree to meet in October for trade negotiations: Chinese Ministry of Commerce China’s Ministry of Commerce said Thursday that the leaders of the U.S. and Chinese trade talks held a phone call in the morning and agreed to meet in early October for another round of negotiations. Liu He, China’s top negotiator on trade, spoke with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the Commerce Ministry statement said, according to a CNBC translation of the Chinese-language text. In a statement to CNBC, a U.S. Trade Representative spokesperson confirmed the phone call, but not the October meeting. Beijing said he two sides agreed to hold another round of trade negotiations in Washington, D.C., at the beginning of next month, and consultations will be made in mid-September in preparation for the meeting, the statement said. “Both sides agreed they should work together and take practical actions to create favorable conditions for the negotiations,” according to a CNBC translation of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce statement. The USTR spokesperson only acknowledged that both countries “agreed to hold meetings at the ministerial level in Washington in the coming weeks” and that deputy-level meetings would take place in mid-September “to lay the ground work for meaningful progress.” Previously, both sides had indicated they would meet in September. However, trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies escalated in the last several weeks. The latest round of retaliatory tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of goods from each country took effect on Sunday.

Reliable China insiders hint that this round of trade talks could lead to a ‘breakthrough’ The previous 18 months of trade talks between the U.S. and China have only led to more tit-for-tat tariffs, but this time it might be different, according to Chinese sources who seem to have inside knowledge on the trade war.China’s Ministry of Commerce confirmed the two countries held a phone call Thursday and agreed to meet in early October in Washington. This would mark the 13th round of trade negotiations after both sides slapping tariffs on billions of dollars worth of each other’s goods.“There’s more possibility of a breakthrough between the two sides,” said Hu Xijin in a tweet Thursday. Hu is editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a tabloid under the People’s Daily, which is the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China. His Twitter account has been followed by many Wall Street traders and market participants for insight on the trade war. Hu has been spot on with the recent developments in the escalated trade dispute. Most recently, he had warned about the Chinese retaliation against President Donald Trump’s tariffs just hours before the Chinese made the official announcement.

China says it will buy more soybeans, but American farmers see a bleak future -- China’s surprise pledge last week to buy more American soybeans has failed to convince US farmers that brighter days lie ahead. In a meeting with Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Thursday, Liu He, China’s vice-premier and lead trade negotiator, told the US president and his advisers that China was committed to purchasing another 5 million metric tonnes of American soybeans. The announcement, which was not discussed or anticipated as part of the trade negotiations, was seen as an olive branch extended by China in the hope of moving the two sides closer to the finish line of a trade truce. Trump responded with a quip that the deal would “make our farmers very happy”. But US soybean farmers and exporters, acknowledging the news as “encouraging” and “positive”, stressed that the damage done to the industry from the trade war was far from over. “It’s a good movement,” said John Wesley Boyd, a mid-scale farmer from southern Virginia producing on 375 acres of soybean crop, who is also president of the Black Farmer's Association. “But I don’t see the pendulum swinging back towards me as a producer in the field.” Like Boyd, many American soybean growers were crushed by falling prices due to the sudden loss of their biggest buyer after the trade war began last year. China imported 88 million tonnes of soybeans last year, down from 95.5 million in 2017, according to Chinese customs data. Until 2018, the US was the largest exporter of soybeans to China, averaging at 30 million to 35 million metrics tonnes a year. That largely ended last summer when soybeans were caught in the crossfire of the trade dispute. 

  Farmageddon Is Real And Farmers Are Suffering - Farmageddon is real and very painful for a small segment of America. According to the Book of Revelation in the New Testament of the Bible, Armageddon is the prophesied location of a gathering of armies for a battle during the end times. Today many farmers living in America's farm belt are facing tough times with no end in sight. The trade war with China has taken a toll by bringing grain exports to a near halt.  This has caused grain prices to tumble adding to the list of blows hitting farmers. While the number of people employed on farms has declined over the decades farming remains a big business and has a huge impact on many communities. In these areas, the money flowing into local businesses as farmers sell their crops is evident in everything from truck sales to the little things common in everyday life such as dining out or getting a haircut.  The USDA's farm income forecasts are released three times a year. While little noticed by the average person living on the coast or in one of our many large cities this is a big deal. As mentioned earlier in this article farm income is not contained in a closed-loop but spills into other parts of the economy. Many areas in the heartland of America have not experienced the benefits showered upon Wall Street, because of this we should not be surprised if the gloom covering many areas of the country does not lift anytime soon. The chart to the right shows a "forecast of income" but fails to take the impact of the trade war into full consideration. Sadly, getting support to the average working farmer is more difficult than it might seem. A recent article in AgMag claims About 9,000 "city slickers," that means, people living in luxurious neighborhoods in large cities received a farm bailout from the Trump administration's recent effort to minimize the impact of the trade war on farmers. An updated Environmental Working Group (EWG) analysis of Department of Agriculture data revealed that many recipients of the relief money live not in farm country but in large cities or other decidedly non-rural locations. These urban recipients of the bailout include members of farm families, landowners, and investors that provide land, capital, equipment for farms or make operational decisions for how a farm is run.

China Is Using Fentanyl As Chemical Warfare Against US, Experts Say - After President Trump's recent disappointment at China's lack of progress in stalling fentanyl exports to the US, increasingly outspoken anti-China activist Kyle Bass is highlighting the potential return of 'Opium Wars' as an intentional attack on Americans. "The Opium Wars, beginning in the late 18th century, took China from the world's largest economy to less than half afterwards. China is using [the same] asymmetric chemical warfare against the United States. We lost 2,977 lives (net of the 19 hijackers who don’t matter) in the Sept 11th attacks. We now lose 50,000 people per year to opioid overdoses. That’s almost 7 deaths per hour every day every year. China is responsible for 90% of fentanyl coming into our country. Chinese killing of US citizens through fentanyl exports is the functional equivalent of more than 10 Sept 11th attacks each year. When will our entire government realize that china’s communist party is our mortal enemy? When will we disengage with the murderous regime?" And, as The Epoch Times' Bowen Xiao details, behind the deadly opioid epidemic ravaging communities across the United States lies a carefully planned strategy by a hostile foreign power that experts describe as a “form of chemical warfare.”

9 Arizona State students from China detained at LA airport, denied admission to U.S. -- Nine Chinese students who were returning to the U.S. as undergraduate students at Arizona State University were detained at Los Angeles International Airport, university officials said.The students were detained by Customs and Border Protection officials "over the last week," the university said in a statement Friday. The students were "denied admission to the U.S. to continue their studies" and were sent back to China, ASU said."We are working as quickly as possible to coordinate with the federal government to understand the circumstances surrounding these actions and to rectify the situation," ASU said. ASU said it has not been able to get answers on why the students were detained and sent back. When contacted by The Arizona Republic, customs officials responded that it was after regular business hours, so they couldn't immediately comment.Despite returning to China, they're still enrolled at ASU, working through ASU Online, an ASU official said. The university expects some of the detained students to graduate this semester, the official said. The detentions come amid an increasingly tense relationship between the U.S. and China. But problems for international students aren't just affecting Chinese students at U.S. universities. News outlets have reported delays and problems with visas for international students from other countries under the Trump administration. The New York Times reported students from various countries were facing issues with visas.

Trump administration diverts $3.6 billion for border wall from 127 military construction projects -  – The $3.6 billion list of Pentagon construction projects postponed by the Trump administration to pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border includes nine schools for troops' children and rebuilding money for military facilities damaged by hurricanes in Puerto Rico, according to a list of projects released Wednesday. The administration's transfer of money from defense projects to pay for President Donald Trump's long-sought border wall has drawn bipartisan criticism in Congress. The list of 127 projects to be cut could intensify that fight as lawmakers learn the fate of military spending in their home districts, though the administration doesn't need Congress' approval to go forward.    Utah's Republican senators, Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, blasted the delay in funding $54 million in projects in their state. The move undermines military readiness, Romney said. Lee called on Congress to rein in the president's authority.“Congress has been ceding far too much powers to the executive branch for decades and it is far past time for Congress to restore the proper balance of power between the three branches,” Lee said.  More than half the cuts – $1.8 billion – are to projects at overseas bases. The largest overseas reductions were $119 million for storage warehouses at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany  and $87 million for storage at Fairford Royal Air Force Base in the United Kingdom. The nearly $1.1 billion in cuts for U.S. bases include $95 million for an engineering center at the U.S. Military Academy in New York state; nearly $88 million for a pier and maintenance facility in Bangor, Maine; and $85 million for a Reaper-drone operations facility at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

 Pentagon begins second phase of diverting funds to Trump’s border wall - Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced Tuesday he had approved the diversion of funds from as many as 127 military projects to fund the construction of parts of the wall on the US-Mexico border demanded by President Trump. Esper formally notified both the Senate and the House of Representatives that the Pentagon was shifting funds appropriated by Congress for other purposes and using them to fund a project that Congress has refused to support. The action is in direct defiance of the US Constitution, which forbids the expenditure of funds except as directed by Congress, the branch of government that holds the “power of the purse.” During his 2016 election campaign, Trump had demagogically promised audiences at his campaign rallies that Mexico would pay for the wall, a pledge that was never taken seriously by his inner circle and which the Mexican government flatly rebuffed. Trump was unable to obtain funding for the wall from a Republican-controlled Congress during his first two years, but after Democrats won control of the House in 2018, he tried to force through funding for the wall with an unprecedented 35-day federal shutdown. The Democrats claimed that Trump had backed down by agreeing to an end to the shutdown, only to have the president issue an executive order declaring a national emergency on the US-Mexico border and directing the Treasury and the Department of Defense to shift $6.7 billion in funds already appropriated by Congress to pay for the building of the wall. After Congress passed a resolution of disapproval of the declaration of a national emergency, Trump vetoed it, and the Democratic-controlled House could not muster a two-thirds majority to overturn it. No one in the Democratic congressional leadership suggested that Trump’s open defiance of the Constitution was an impeachable offense. On the contrary, they warned that a future Democratic president might imitate Trump’s rule by decree, using the same executive powers to impose measures related to gun control or climate change without congressional consent. Rather than move immediately to impeachment, which would clearly have been warranted, the House Democrats joined in filing a series of lawsuits with state and local governments, civil rights and civil liberties groups, and property owners whose land would be seized for building the wall.

Trump administration walks back decision to end protections for migrants who receive medical care - The Trump administration reportedly said on Monday that it is reconsidering putting an end to a policy that enables migrants to not be deported while they or their family members get life-saving medical treatments. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) came under widespread backlash after it severed the “deferred action” program on Aug. 7 without notifying the public, The New York Times reports. USCIS had mailed letters to those who had applied for renewal — which must take place every two years — that said it was no longer taking renewal requests and gave immigrants 33 days to leave the country or face being deported, according to the Associated Press, which first reported the policy change. But on Monday, the USCIS told the Times that deportation proceedings hadn’t begun for anyone who got a letter, and officials would “complete the caseload that was pending on Aug. 7.” The statement did not clarify whether immigrants would continue to get renewal status granted or what would happen to the program after the pending caseload was sorted through, according to the Times.

On pardons, Congress shouldn't take a joke -  Once again, the prospect of a misguided presidential pardon is in the news, this time President Trump reportedly offered to pardon aides who break the law to hasten progress on border wall construction.   The pardon power is expansive, and presidents have used it legitimately in a wide variety of circumstances over the centuries. But the power is not a blank check for a president to circumvent the rule of law. Unfortunately, past presidents have crossed this line before, and Trump’s reported comments are just his latest that raise the question of whether he will join this dubious company. Congress must step in to ensure that the executive branch is faithfully executing laws, and it must stand ready to investigate any abuses of the pardon power. Following an April CNN report that Trump had told then-Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan that he would pardon him if McAleenan violated a court order by denying entry to asylum-seekers, the Project On Government Oversight wrote that the comment “sends a signal that such illegal activities have the President’s blessing, and that those who carry out their work in violation of the law can do so with impunity.”

 Courts back Trump administration as ICE continues to force-feed immigrants - Since Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) practice of force-feeding immigrants in its detention was revealed in January this year, the Trump administration has continued to find support within the judicial system for flouting basic democratic norms including the ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In January, the Associated Press reported on over a dozen hunger-striking immigrants at five different ICE detention centers for which the agency had been able to obtain a federal court order authorizing force-feeding. Eight months later there are multiple hunger strikers in ICE custody that are being subjected to the same brutal treatment with the backing of the courts. Ajay Kumar, an Indian asylum seeker from Punjab who fled due to political persecution by the Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, began a hunger strike on July 8 with three other men over their lengthy detention, now over one year. While Kumar is still being held in ICE’s El Paso detention center, the condition of the other three is unknown, as two have since been deported and one was transferred to another facility. Kumar’s attorney has not yet been able to locate them. Kumar has told the media that he fears for his life in India, warning that “If I go back to India, I will be tortured and killed. I can die here.” Dr Parveen Parmar, chief of the division of global emergency medicine at the University of Southern California, told the court reviewing Kumar’s case that Kumar had received “the worst medical care I have seen in my 10 years of practice.” Meanwhile, Evgenii Ivanov, a Russian man detained at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego since November of last year, began a hunger strike on Aug 4. His exact reasons for his strike are unclear, as he does not speak English and does not have an attorney. He has reportedly lost 27 pounds in under a month of refusing food. Federal Judge Dana Sabraw approved a request from ICE to restrain and forcibly feed and hydrate him in mid-August. Mergensana Amar, also a Russian immigrant, died in ICE custody at their Tacoma detention center after an attempted suicide around Thanksgiving of last year. Before his death he had started a months long hunger strike and was punitively placed in solitary confinement and threatened with force-feeding.

Now It's Official- US Visas Can Be Denied If You (Or Even Your Friends) Are Critical Of American Policies There have been several interesting developments in the United States government’s war on free speech and privacy. First of all, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP), which is responsible for actual entry of travelers into the country, has now declared that it can legally access phones and computers at ports of entry to determine if there is any subversive content which might impact on national security. “Subversive content” is, of course, subjective, but those seeking entry can be turned back based on how a border control agent perceives what he is perusing on electronic media.  Unfortunately, the intrusive nature of the procedure is completely legal, particularly as it applies to foreign visitors, and is not likely to be overturned in court in spite of the Fourth Amendment’s constitutional guarantee that individuals should “…be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Someone at a port of entry is not legally inside the United States until he or she has been officially admitted. And if that someone is a foreigner, he or she has no right by virtue of citizenship even to enter the country until entry has been permitted by an authorized US Customs and Border Protection official. And that official can demand to see anything that might contribute to the decision whether or not to let the person enter. Following the Israeli model for blocking entry of anyone who can even be broadly construed as supporting a boycott, the United States now also believes it should deny admittance to anyone who is critical of US government policy, which is a reversal of previous policy that considered political opinions to be off-limits for visa denial. DHS, acting in response to pressure from the White House, now believes it can adequately determine hostile intent from the totality of what appears on one’s phone or laptop, even if the material in question was clearly not put on the device by the owner. In other words, if a traveler has an email sent to him or her by someone else that complains about behavior by the United States government, he or she is responsible for that content.

Judge Rules Terror Watchlist Violates Constitutional Rights- CAIR Lawsuit -  The US government's watchlist of over 1 million people flagged as "known or suspected terrorists" is a violation of their constitutional rights, according to US District Judge Anthony Trenga of Virginia.  In a summary judgement granted to nearly two dozen Muslim US citizens backed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Trenga concluded that "There is no evidence, or contention, that any of these plaintiffs satisfy the definition of a ‘known terrorist," that the definition of "suspected terrorist" can be misconstrued based on innocent conduct, according to the Seattle Times. "The court concludes that the risk of erroneous deprivation of plaintiffs’ travel-related and reputational liberty interests is high, and the currently existing procedural safeguards are not sufficient to address that risk," wrote Trenga - a Bush II appointee. While the ruling was a win for the plaintiffs (CAIR called it a "complete victory"), Trenga is seeking additional legal briefs before deciding what to do about the watchlist itself. "Innocent people should be beyond the reach of the watchlist system," said Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. "We think that’s what the Constitution requires."

Why Has Trump’s Exceptional Corruption Gone Unchecked? NYT - Consider two scenarios about how Washington works. In one, a local activist decides to run for Congress. A friend hosts a fund-raiser for her at his law firm, where 10 partners each give the maximum legal individual donation, $2,800. After she wins, the host asks her to meet with a client, a constituent whose business would be affected by legislation her committee will soon vote on. She agrees to hear the company’s case against the bill. She never hears from anyone on the other side, which has no lobbyists, and she votes for an amendment that weakens the bill.In the second, a man elected to high office directs a meeting of foreign leaders to be held at a resort he owns. He ignores subpoenas, dangles pardons to staff members to encourage them to violate the law and to former employees to discourage them from cooperating with investigations. He appoints industry lobbyists to positions where they reverse regulations affecting their former employers. (This list could go on.)Both of these are stories of corruption. In both, the public interest is distorted by money. But are they aspects of the same story, just different corners of a single big swamp, one deeper than the other? Or are they different in kind, and not just degree? Donald Trump’s 2016 chant “Drain the swamp,” which most often seemed to refer to the independent institutions of government, has been embraced as a metaphor across the political spectrum and in the media to refer to the pervasiveness of corruption. In this version, the undifferentiated “swamp” matters more than the gradations along the wide scale from the new member of Congress desperate for campaign funds to the raw plunder of Mr. Trump, his family and allies. In a recent MSNBC series, “American Swamp,” for example, stories like the scenarios above are just consecutive segments. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders talk about a “rigged system” in which Trumpian corruption is only the most extreme manifestation of the distortion of democracy by wealth. Search for the phrase “Donald Trump promised to ‘drain the swamp’ but” and you’ll find dozens of mainstream articles that take seriously the idea that he actually set out to reform politics but, like naïve reformers before him, was dragged down into the fetid tide pool himself.

Deutsche Bank throws curve into Trump tax return fight -- Deutsche Bank's revelation that it has some tax returns related to President Trump has thrown a curve ball into the battle over the president’s financial documents. The bank has long been seen as a possible avenue to learn more about Trump's finances since it provided loans to his businesses for many years, even when other banks would not. Deutsche Bank’s disclosure that it has tax returns confirms that Democrats have an additional route — one some experts think is the most promising — to get tax documents that lawmakers in the party have long sought. “It shouldn’t take three years and multiple court cases to see a president’s tax returns,” Ryan Thomas, spokesman for the liberal group Stand Up America, said in an email. “But with the several lawsuits underway, these latest developments are a promising avenue to ensure that the American people get the transparency they deserve.” The House Financial Services and Intelligence committees issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank in April for a wide range of financial records — including tax returns — from Trump, his three oldest children and some of his business entities. Trump, in his personal capacity, has sued to block the bank from complying with the subpoenas, and the case is currently before the federal appeals court in New York. In a letter to the appeals court on Tuesday, the bank said it has tax returns responsive to the subpoenas. The bank redacted the name or names of the individuals and entities whose tax returns it has in the public version of the letter. That disclosure confirms that Democrats’ subpoenas of Deutsche Bank could be one route — and potentially one of the fastest — to obtaining Trump's tax returns.

 Why Is JPMorgan Chase Always in the Middle of Scandalous News? Fake Gold Anyone? - If your bank is under a criminal probe for potentially rigging gold and silver markets, it doesn’t help your case to have $50 million in fake gold bars sitting in your vaults. Nonetheless, this is what Reuters reported last week: “In the last three years, bars worth at least $50 million stamped with Swiss refinery logos, but not actually produced by those facilities, have been identified by all four of Switzerland’s leading gold refiners and found in the vaults of JPMorgan Chase & Co., one of the major banks at the heart of the market in bullion, said senior executives at gold refineries, banks and other industry sources.”Last month there was another bizarre story making the wires about JPMorgan Chase owning a ship that was raided and found to contain 20 tons of cocaine. (See With Three Felony Counts Already, Did JPMorgan Chase Really Need to Own a Ship Containing 20 Tons of Cocaine?)Then there was that rash of deaths among its technology workers with another bizarre one occurring in March of this year; its nesting doll frauds involving Bernie Madoff; itsgambles in wild derivatives in London using deposits from its Federally insured bank;the book about its likeness to the Gambino crime family by two trial lawyers, and on and on. Some folks might be inclined to think at this point that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, there’s a very good chance it’s not a swan.

 Goldman is culling the ranks of its richest employees amid CEO David Solomon’s internal review - David Solomon is cleaning house atop Goldman Sachs. At least a dozen partners are in negotiations to leave the firm in coming weeks, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The move comes as Solomon, nearing his one-year anniversary as CEO of Goldman Sachs, is pushing ahead on an internal review of the firm’s businesses. That process, which requires executives to commit to hitting financial targets embedded in multiyear plans, ignited a shake-up among the bank’s long-time managers, said the person. Partners sit atop the hierarchy at Goldman Sachs, the only bank among the biggest U.S. firms to still use the term. It’s a throwback to when Goldman was a private partnership, meaning that partners committed their own money and reaped a percentage of the bank’s profits. Even though that arrangement ended with the bank’s 1999 IPO, partners are still the best paid at Goldman: They make at least $1 million in annual compensation, and often several times that much. They also have access to investment vehicles off-limits to other employees and attend exclusive networking events. The group of about 450 partners has swollen in recent years, and Solomon’s moves are seen as making the title more exclusive. It also will trim costs as the bank undertakes several expensive initiatives, including a push into consumer lending and wealth management for the masses.

August 2019: Unofficial Problem Bank list increased to 76 Institutions -- The FDIC's official problem bank list is comprised of banks with a CAMELS rating of 4 or 5, and the list is not made public (just the number of banks and assets every quarter). Note: Bank CAMELS ratings are also not made public. CAMELS is the FDIC rating system, and stands for Capital adequacy, Asset quality, Management, Earnings, Liquidity and Sensitivity to market risk. The scale is from 1 to 5, with 1 being the strongest. As a substitute for the CAMELS ratings, surferdude808 is using publicly announced formal enforcement actions, and also media reports and company announcements that suggest to us an enforcement action is likely, to compile a list of possible problem banks in the public interest.  This is an unofficial list, the information is from public sources and while deemed to be reliable is not guaranteed.  Here is the unofficial problem bank list for August 2019. Here are the monthly changes and a few comments from surferdude808:Update on the Unofficial Problem Bank List for August 2019. During the month, the list increased by a net of one institution to 76 banks after three removals and two additions. Aggregate assets were little changed finishing the month at $55.6. A year ago, the list held 82 institutions with assets of $57.3 billion. This month, FDIC terminated against Enterprise Bank of South Carolina, Ehrhardt, SC ($336 million) and Talbot State Bank, Woodland, GA ($60 million). Added this month was Citizens Bank & Trust Co., Marks, MS ($143 million); The First National Bank of Hope, Hope, KS ($83 million); and Independence Bank, East Greenwich, RI ($66 million).

‘Hundreds of other people could be implicated’ in Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell court documents - Still-secret court filings related to sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein and his alleged procurer Ghislaine Maxwell could implicate “hundreds of other people,” Maxwell’s lawyer said Wednesday during a court hearing.But finding out who some or all of those people are could take some time as both Maxwell’s lawyer and an attorney for women who claim the late wealthy financier Epstein sexually abused them told U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska they had not come into court with an agreement in place on how the documents should be unsealed.  Preska was clearly irritated with their lack of progress. Preska ended the hearing with a tentative plan to have the attorneys take the next two weeks to hash out a process for categorizing the thousands of pages of sealed documents.After that, the lawyers would have a week to designate which group of documents should be unsealed first, with a rolling week-to-week process thereafter to evaluate the material and argue over how much or how little should be disclosed publicly. There could be up to 10 different categories for the documents. Jeffrey Pagliuca, a lawyer for the British socialite Maxwell, said the documents include “literally hundreds of pages of investigative reports that mention hundreds of people.”  “There are hundreds of other people who could be implicated” in the documents, Pagliuca said.The hearing came nearly a month after Epstein, 66, killed himself in jail while awaiting trial on child sex trafficking charges related to his alleged abused of dozens of underage girls from 2002 through 2005 at his luxurious properties in New York City and in Palm Beach, Florida.  Epstein was a former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, and Britain’s Prince Andrew.

How CIA-Backed Palantir Is Helping Police Root Out 'Thought Crimes' - Palantir's technology was developed in warzones like Fallujah, where it was used to anticipate roadside bombs and attacks by insurgents. Now, it's being used on the streets of Los Angeles to root out criminals like something straight out of the movie "Minority Report." Unsurprisingly, the privately-held tech firm is backed by the CIA's venture-capital arm. Now, the company has gathered massive amounts of data on the American populace, which it farms out to police departments, who use it to track down criminals before they strike. But the company's technology isn't only used to track down common street thugs. It's also used to track and anticipate the crimes of white collar fraudsters like Bernie Madoff. Little is known about the company, which, unlike most tech startups, has no plans to go public. In 2013, CEO Alex Karp, Palantir’s CEO, explained that "running a company like ours would be very difficult" if it was exposed to the scrutiny that comes with being a public company. In other words, if the public became aware of what Palantir is doing, the backlash might dwarf the data privacy scandals that have roiled Silicon Valley in recent years. As of 2013, Palantir's client list includes the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, the CDC, the Marine Corps, the Air Force, Special Operations Command, West Point and the IRS. Roughly half of the company's business is with the government. Q-Tel, the CIA's VC arm, was one of the company's earliest investors. The company, which doesn't have an office, uses blockchain technology to protect its tools from sophisticated hackers. 

 ‘Information Gerrymandering’ Poses A Threat To Democratic Decision Making - Researchers led by Penn biologist Joshua B. Plotkin and the University of Houston’s Alexander J. Stewart have identified another impediment to democratic decision making, one that may be particularly relevant in online communities. In what the scientists have termed “information gerrymandering,” it’s not geographical boundaries that confer a bias but the structure of social networks, such as social media connections.Reporting in the journal Nature, the researchers first predicted the phenomenon from a mathematical model of collective decision making, and then confirmed its effects by conducting social network experiments with thousands of human subjects. Finally, they analyzed a variety of real-world networks and found examples of information gerrymandering present on Twitter, in the blogosphere, and in U.S. and European legislatures.“People come to form opinions, or decide how to vote, based on what they read and who they interact with,” says Plotkin. “And in today’s world we do a lot of sharing and reading online. What we found is that the information gerrymandering can induce a strong bias in the outcome of collective decisions, even in the absence of ‘fake news.’ “This tells us that we need to be cautious about relying on social media for communication because the network structure is not under our control and yet it can distort our collective decisions.”

Trump and Pence star in 'RuPaul's Drag Race' in horrifying deepfake (video) The rise of deepfakes is pretty terrifying. Sure, there have been a few that have amused the internet in recent weeks, like this deepfake of Bill Hader doing an impression of Tom Cruise. But as the technology behind them goes from strength to strength, so too will their ability to disseminate disinformation. Jimmy Kimmel explored the topic of deepfakes and gave us an idea of just how disturbing they can be. "Another threat to the election are what they call deepfake videos," said Kimmel. "They take clips and they manipulate them to make them look as if someone did or said something they did not do."The deepfake that Kimmel and his team likely made showed Trump as RuPaul and Pence as drag queen Brooke Lynn Hytes. In the name of all that is holy, please sashay away.

What You Need To Know About Fake Video, Audio And The 2020 Election - Security experts have warned about the prospect of a new era of high quality faked video or audio, which some commentators worry could have deeply corrosive effects on U.S. democracy.Here's what you need to know. What are "deepfakes?"  That's the nickname given to computer-created artificial videos or other digital material in which images are combined to create new footage that depicts events that never actually happened. The term originates from the online message board Reddit.  One initial use of the fake videos was in amateur-created pornography, in which the faces of famous Hollywood actresses were digitally placed onto that of other performersto make it appear as though the stars themselves were performing.  Members of Congress and security specialists have warned that the quality of these software-created fakes is improving significantly. One concern is that they could be used as part of an influence campaign and fool significant numbers of people, especially at a critical time in an election cycle, into believing something had happened that really hadn't. How difficult is it to create fake media?  It can be done with specialized software, experts say, the same way that editing programs such as Photoshop have made it simpler to manipulate still images. And specialized software itself isn't necessary for what have been dubbed "shallow fakes" or "cheap fakes." In the spring of 2019, a doctored video appeared of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that had been adapted from a real one. The manipulated video was slowed so that Pelosi appeared to be disoriented and slurring her words.Imagine it's the night before a big debate, or Election Day itself. Suddenly a video is everywhere that appears to show a candidate saying something outrageous, or engaged in some kind of inappropriate conduct. If the veracity of that material is unclear for the succeeding 12 or 24 hours or more, that could have an effect on voters' attitudes.  Or imagine the mirror image of this scenario: Suppose the clip appears and what it depicts is real — but the candidate involved denies what it contains and says it's a fake, citing all the discussion about fabricated media.  Other evidence might emerge proving that the activity in the video or audio was real, but what if all the facts weren't sorted until hours or days later?

Senator: Mark Zuckerberg should face “the possibility of a prison term” -Mark Zuckerberg has "repeatedly lied to the American people about privacy," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said in a recent interview with the Willamette Week, a Portland alternative weekly newspaper. "I think he ought to be held personally accountable, which is everything from financial fines to—and let me underline this—the possibility of a prison term." Wyden was talking to the Willamette Week about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 law that gives online platforms like Facebook broad immunity for content posted by their users. Wyden was the co-author of the law and has been one of its most ardent defenders ever since.The law has come under increasing criticism as concern has grown about toxic online content. Wyden isn't ready to scrap it, but he says that he's "looking for more ways to create market pressure on the big tech companies to take moderation more seriously."Wyden worries that more aggressive efforts to root out toxic content online would effectively "throw the First Amendment in the trash can.""I still think the basic frame of the shield—particularly for the little guy—is essential," Wyden said of Section 230's immunity provisions. "And I'm looking very aggressively for ways to shore up the sword, to get at the slime." Technology companies, Wyden argued, have "done practically everything wrong since the 2016 election." He said he recently told technology companies: "If you don't get serious on moderation, you're going to have a lot of people coming after you."

CEO Compensation Increased 940% Between 1978 and 2018, Workers’ Only by 12% -  Jerri-Lynn here. This Real News Network interview discusses a new Economic Policy Institute study, which shows that the dramatic increase in CEO compensation over the last forty years has had a large impact on increasing inequality. Absent the explosive rise in CEO compensation, worker pay could have doubled.'

The 2020s Will Begin With The Lowest Interest Rates In 5000 Years - BofA's periodic report on "The Biggest Pictures", published by Chief Investment Stategist Michael Hartnett, is always a treat, if for no other reason than the remarkable context it provides on some more contemporaneous themes such as rates, markets and core secular economic forces (such as the 4 deflationary Ds of Deleveraging, Debt, Demographics and Disruption). This time, it was doubly so because it summarized the bank's "alternative base case" (the "less than optimistic" one, not carted around by Savita Sumbranaian for CNBC purposes), which notes that while the bank remains bullish on the remainder of 2019, is confident that the wheels off this market finally fall off in 2020. This is how Hartnett explains his current investment philosophy. First the good news: We are bullish on risk assets in 2019 as bearish investor sentiment & the irrationality of central banks and bond markets allow an "overshoot" in credit & equity prices this autumn (note trade war thus far bullish via lower rates rather than recession). Now the not so good:We are bearish on risk assets in 2020 as recession/policy impotence/bond bubble risks induce Big Top in credit (spreads trough) & equities (multiples peak). This also means that when looking at the outcome for risk assets, there are two possibilities: a positive risk, and a negative one. As Hartnett explains, "the positive risk for markets is an orderly rise in bond yields and Great Rotation from bonds to stocks as policy makers successfully postpone recession." Should that fail to happen, "the negative risk for markets is a disorderly rise in bond yields as bond bubble bursts causing Wall St deleveraging & Main St recession."

A One-Year Treasury Bill Beat the Stock Market Over the Past Year - One year ago, investors could have purchased a one-year U.S. Treasury Bill with a yield of 2.47 percent. As of this past Friday’s closing price of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Treasury Bill would have beaten the performance of the Dow over the past year by more than three-quarters of a point (not taking into account dividends on the Dow stocks).On Friday, August 31, 2018, the Dow closed at 25,964.82. This past Friday, August 30, 2019, the Dow closed at 26,403.28 That’s a gain of 438.46 points in a year or a return of 1.68 percent versus earning 2.47 percent on a T-bill. You would have been saved yourself the agony of living through the 800-point market plunge on August 14 and the 3746-point rout in the Dow from the close of trading on November 30, 2018 until Christmas eve – marking the worst December performance since the Great Depression.

Trump Says Dow Would Be 10,000 Points Higher If He Caved On Trade - Just days after raising tariffs on some Chinese goods, President Trump insisted during a brief chat with a group of reporters in the Oval Office that the stock market would be trading at all-time highs well above any previous level - and that the Dow would be 10,000 points higher - if only he had not decided to press on with the trade war against China. However, Trump insisted that "somebody had to do this" and there would be long term benefits to the economy from stopping China from taking advantage of the US on trade. Trump says the Dow would be 10,000 points higher without the trade war, but "somebody had to do this" and take on China https://t.co/ajw7E2sXqt pic.twitter.com/0FgHCdpKPN — Bloomberg TV (@BloombergTV) September 4, 2019    Here's what he said. "Let me tell you, if I wanted to do nothing with China, my stock market, our stock market, would be 10,000 points higher than it is right now. But somebody had to do this. To me, this is much more important than the economy," Trump said. "It was out of control and they were out of control."

Wall Street’s Trading Secrets: This U.S. Senator Wants to Keep You in the Dark - Pam Martens - On July 29, those savvy market watchers at Themis Trading posted a report on their blog about how a Republican Senator from Louisiana (about 1400 miles from Wall Street) had taken a peculiar interest in the long-delayed system that would shine a bright light on who might be rigging stock trading on any particular day.The system is called the Consolidated Audit Trail (CAT) and the Securities and Exchange Commission has been stalling its creation for the entire 85 years the SEC has existed and been charged with investor protection. The idea of the CAT is to spot illegal and manipulative trading and pinpoint exactly what firms and individuals are placing the trades by looking at real-time data.A stock market without a CAT is nothing more than a thinly disguised wealth transfer system for the one percent and, apparently, Senator John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) wants to keep it that way.Kennedy was the lead signatory of a letter dated July 24, 2019 to Jay Clayton, the Chairman of the SEC. Instead of raising legitimate concerns that Wall Street’s Dark Pools and/or high frequency traders at hedge funds owned by billionaires are rigging U.S. stock markets and ripping off Main Street investors every moment the stock market is open, Kennedy’s aim is to resurrect the McCarthy era and find an enticing foreign foe – the Chinese Communist Party. (You can’t make this stuff up.) Kennedy, and the six other Republican Senators who signed the letter, don’t want trades to be linked to the individual making the trade because this information could be hacked by Communists. What is particularly laughable about this stalling maneuver is that if the Chinese Communist Party wanted to hack this personal information, it could do it through the checking accounts, credit card accounts, or brokerage accounts of these same Wall Street banks that are placing the retail trades. What is highly more likely is that Wall Street firms or hedge funds are using fake retail accounts to rig the market and this would show up in the Consolidated Audit Trail if personal information is disclosed.

US Private Debt Funds Prepare For Economic Downturn -- With the recent 2-10 curve inversion, the probabilities of a recession next year are climbing, which means private credit funds and business development companies (BDCs) are actively preparing portfolios for an economic downturn, reported Reuters. A downturn in employment, inflation, and industrials have stoked fears of a possible recession in the next 12 months. A drop in treasury yields, an overcrowded lending market, and macroeconomic deterioration are forcing debt funds to become more defensive in investment strategies in 2H19. "2018 was the year of asset compression, and we've had three straight quarters of asset spread widening that benefits us," said Grier Eliasek, chief operating officer at Prospect Capital on the BDC's recent earnings call."Some people have been predicting it (a downturn) for five years. I guess if you predicted five years ahead of time, you're right eventually. But eventually the cycle turns, and we want to have the strongest fortress to handle that," Eliasek added. Reuters notes increased recession risk has forced BDCs to pare down risky high-yielding assets and move into lower-yielding ones. Goldman Sachs BDC saw first-lien assets increase to 74.43% from 65.16% and second-lien assets fall to 18.48% from 20.71% over the second quarter. The BDC's total debt increased to US$842.8m from US$704.4m in that period. New Mountain Finance has steadily increased the proportion of its portfolio in first-lien assets to 52.75% and decreased its second-lien assets to 27.35% at the end of the second quarter, up from 39.48% in first-lien and 34.03% in the same period last year. Over that time, the firm's total debt has risen from US$1.2bn to US$1.7bn.Andrew Stewart, executive director-sales at MUFG Investor Service, said there'd been a rise of co-investment strategies that enable managers to increase deal diversity while continuing to underwrite large deals in an increasingly competitive market.The flight to safety started when the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates in July f or the first time since 2007. Private credit funds and BDCs invest in debt that is sometimes floating and move in real-time to policy changes.

Bond Flood- Record 20 Companies Issue $26 Billion In Cheap Debt In A Single Day -  After a turbulent August, when market volatility meant bond deals were few and far between while traders were soaking up the sun on various Caribbean islands, the bond market came back with a bang on the first trading day of September when a record 20 companies sold $26 billion of bonds on Tuesday alone, taking advantage of the plunge in borrowing costs over the past month to load up on cheap debt.  Investment grade companies such as media giant Disney, consumer giant Unilever, E&P icon Phillips 66, tractor maker Deere and industrial bellwether Caterpillar were among the 20 issuers tapping the market, according to Bank of America. Disney alone issued $7 billion of bonds across six maturities; its 30-year bond, the largest tranche at $2bn, sold for just 95 basis points above Treasury yields (a 7 basis point new issue concession) compared with an average of 124bp for an index of 30-year corporate debt. Other companies also took the opportunity to push out the average maturity of their debt by issuing longer-dated bonds: 12 of the bond issues had a maturity of 30 years, while ING went so far as to issue a "perpetual" bond. Some more details via the FT: CSX, the railway operator, raised $1bn in 10-year and 30-year bonds, in part to redeem debt due in October 2020. Deere & Co will use its $500m 30-year bond sale to help repay debt maturing next month. The bond sold at 95bp above Treasury yields. Yet while Tuesday marked a new high for daily issuer count (20 vs. the previous record of 17), it represented only half the $51.5bn record volume priced on Sep 11, 2013, according to Bank of America. Moreover Tuesday's dollar-volume is very much in the ballpark of what markets typically see after Labor Day. As a reminder, September is typically a busy month for bond issuance as bankers, investors and corporate treasurers return to their desks after a summer lull. This year it follows a particularly quiet period: only $84 billion of new investment-grade bonds were sold in August. What is also notable is that the new issuance "use of proceeds" appears to be shifting from supporting re-leveraging activities to refinancing in the currently low interest rate environment holds true as $18.7bn of today's issuance included commercial paper, term loan, short and long-term debt refinancing in the use of proceeds language.

Reinsurers Face Insolvency Risk As Analysts Fear Dorian's Insured Losses Could Top $40 Billion - Insurances companies could be in serious trouble now that Hurricane Dorian has spent a full day dragging across the Bahamas, according to a team of analysts at UBS. After battering the Caribbean island nation with gusts of up to 220 mph, the unprecedented Category 5 storm looks to be one of the most damaging storms in recent memory.  Now that Dorian has officially cemented its position as the second-strongest storm to form in the Atlantic in modern history, UBS analysts have updated their models to reflect a broader swath of losses. It's now believed the storm could cause total insured losses in the range of $5 billion to $40 billion, with a 'base case' of $25 billion, up from $15 billion a few days ago.  This could put solvency capital at risk for some firms, the team of analysts said, according to Sputnik.The analysts estimate the 2019 hurricane season could cause about $70 billion of natural catastrophe losses, which could erode excess capital and lead to higher premiums.Though they got some relief last year, insurers faced record bills from hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires in 2017, as Hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma hammered P uerto Rico and the Continental US...

The Extortion Economy: How Insurance Companies Are Fueling a Rise in Ransomware Attacks - On June 24, the mayor and council of Lake City, Florida, gathered in an emergency session to decide how to resolve a ransomware attack that had locked the city’s computer files for the preceding fortnight. “Our insurance company made [the decision] for us,” city spokesman Michael Lee, a sergeant in the Lake City Police Department, said. “At the end of the day, it really boils down to a business decision on the insurance side of things: them looking at how much is it going to cost to fix it ourselves and how much is it going to cost to pay the ransom.” Ransomware is proliferating across America, disabling computer systems of corporations, city governments, schools and police departments. This month, attackers seeking millions of dollars encrypted the files of 22 Texas municipalities. Overlooked in the ransomware spree is the role of an industry that is both fueling and benefiting from it: insurance. In recent years, cyber insurance sold by domestic and foreign companies has grown into an estimated $7 billion to $8 billion-a-year market in the U.S. alone, according to Fred Eslami, an associate director at AM Best, a credit rating agency that focuses on the insurance industry. While insurers do not release information about ransom payments, ProPublica has found that they often accommodate attackers’ demands, even when alternatives such as saved backup files may be available. The FBI and security researchers say paying ransoms contributes to the profitability and spread of cybercrime and in some cases may ultimately be funding terrorist regimes. But for insurers, it makes financial sense, industry insiders said. It holds down claim costs by avoiding expenses such as covering lost revenue from snarled services and ongoing fees for consultants aiding in data recovery. And, by rewarding hackers, it encourages more ransomware attacks, which in turn frighten more businesses and government agencies into buying policies.

 A Rare Smoking Gun - Judge Says Goldman And Four Other Firms Blatantly Price Fixed GSE-Backed Bonds --Goldman Sachs and four other financial firms are facing claims that they rigged the $550 billion market for bonds backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to Bloomberg. In the Southern District of New York, a proposed class action suit accuses the institutions of driving down the offer that they bought unsecured bonds at and "pumping" up the bid at which they sold them over the counter.  U. S. Southern District of New York Judge Jed S. Rakoff allowed the case to proceed against Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., BNP Paribas Securities Corp., Morgan Stanley & Co., and Merrill Lynch.  The judge concluded that traders from these banks engaged in price fixing by using industry chatrooms, which exist primarily so that banks, dealers and co-underwriters can work together on a limited basis to find opening prices for bond issuances. However, in this case, four chat logs instead offered evidence that the traders discussed how to avoid a "race to the bottom" on the secondary market.  The judge called it a "rare smoking gun". "This, on its face, is blatant price fixing," he continued, dismissing the bank's argument that those "authorized to coordinate on an opening price are allowed to have unrestricted pricing discussions during the syndication phase." The judge continued:  “If it is illegal to fix the secondary prices for bonds once they are on the market, it cannot be legal to fix such prices through conversations that occur right before.” The judge also rejected the idea that four isolated chats weren't sufficient enough to make up a conspiracy. Instead, the judge said that the tone of these four chats indicated that there were "many others".

 Treasury plan to overhaul Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac allows firms to keep more capital  – The Trump administration on Thursday released its first formal plan to overhaul the housing finance system and begin the process of removing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from government conservatorship, where they have been for the past 11 years. The plan would also allow the firms, which back more than half of the nation’s home mortgages, to keep more of their earnings. The objectives of the administration’s plan, according to Treasury officials, are to create a limited role for the federal government in the housing finance system, enhance taxpayer protections, and increase the role of private sector competition. Accomplishing all of this will take legislative and administrative action. The plan is 53 pages. It is long on broad, general proposals, but shorter on specifics. Recapitalizing the two mortgage giants and reinventing the $5 trillion housing finance market will be a lengthy and complicated process involving multiple stakeholders. “This plan addresses this last unfinished business of the financial crisis in a way that preserves what works in the current system, protects taxpayers, and reduces the influence of the Federal Government in the housing finance system,” the report says.While it is up to the Federal Housing Finance Agency, an independent regulator, to decide when to release Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from conservatorship, the Treasury plan offers a start to the process by suggesting a means to recapitalize the enterprises.

 Foreclosures sold to investors likelier to be owner-occupied in a year-- Properties sold directly to investors in a foreclosure sale were more likely to be occupied by an owner one year later, compared with those that reverted to the lender, an Auction.com study found. Owner-occupants were in a home on the same day one year after the scheduled sale date for 56% of foreclosures sold to a third party — typically a fix and flip investor — compared with 43% of properties the bank took back and became real estate owned. There are a couple of reasons for this, said Daren Blomquist, Auction.com vice president of market economics. "First, the majority of investors who buy at the foreclosure sale plan to rehab the property and resell it in a relatively short period of time — primarily to owner-occupants," he said. "This might not have been the case back in 2012 and 2013 when some of the larger institutional investors were using the foreclosure auction to help them quickly build up an inventory of rental homes, but now we are seeing more of the mom-and-pop investors at the auction. "Secondly, local mom-and-pop investors are typically very efficient at turning around homes located in their area and so are able to return those homes to the retail market faster than it takes a property to go through the traditional REO sales process," said Blomquist. Auction.com looked at various disposition strategies employed over the last year for more than 23,000 properties brought to a foreclosure auction in the second quarter of 2018 on its website. There were 9,291 properties sold at auction.   Nearly three-quarters of the properties that entered the REO inventory in the second quarter of 2018 resold within a year. The 26% that had not yet sold had been in REO inventory for an average of 428 days at the time of the analysis. Winning bids on properties sold at auction were 115.4% of the lender's credit bid (typically the amount owed on the loan) compared with 97.1% of the "Day 1 REO" sales and 99.5% of the MLS sales. But the net proceeds — adding in the holding, repair and sales costs — on the MLS sales were just 79.3%. It was 91.9% for Day 1 sales and 110.4% for the third-party transactions. Properties located in Opportunity Zones were garnering higher bids compared with the rest of the market.

Education would help millennial homebuyers take advantage of low rates --While millennials took advantage of mortgage rates falling to two-year lows, increasing their refinance share, teaching them about low down payment loan products would help grow home ownership for this group, according to Ellie Mae. The average 30-year note rate continued dropping to 4.19% in July, marking the lowest rate seen since November 2017. As a result, the share of millennial refis jumped to 23% from 8% a year ago and 14% in June. "We've seen interest rates for millennials drop consistently throughout 2019, but from April through June, the refinance market was essentially flat," Joe Tyrrell, chief operating officer at Ellie Mae, said in a press release. "In the months leading up to July, consumers believed that rates would continue to decrease, and they were correct. Now, millennials are reaping the rewards and locking in historically low rates." The time to close a loan fell to 41 days from 42 days the year prior, but bumped up a dayfrom June. About 74% of mortgages completed in July were conventional, and 22% wereFederal Housing Administration loans. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs accounted for 2%, while other unspecified loans occupied the remaining 2% of closed mortgages. Millennial homeownership could rise even higher if more mortgage knowledge were bestowed to them. "Lenders need to do a better job of educating potential homebuyers on various loan types, especially with rates as low as they are," said Tyrrell. "FHA loans, for example, have more flexible credit requirements and require smaller down payments, which should be perfect for cash-strapped millennials. However, that demographic is not taking advantage of these types of loans."

"Mortgage Rates Set Another Long-Term Low" - From Matthew Graham at Mortgage News Daily: Mortgage Rates Set Another Long-Term Low: Mortgage rates had to endure some paradoxical momentum and delayed reaction to the broader bond market rally lately, but now, it's payback time! Not only have mortgagees been able to move lower over the past 4 days, but they've done so even as Treasury yields remained flat. More simply put, 10yr Treasury yields ended the day just over 1.45% on last Wednesday. Today's comparable closing level of 1.46%. Mortgage rates, on the other hand, are down 0.08-0.11% over the same time frame, depending on the lender. While it's not a massive improvement versus Friday's latest levels, today's average offering is nonetheless the best in 3 years. [Most Prevalent Rates 30YR FIXED - 3.5% - 3.625%]

MBA: Mortgage Applications Decreased in Latest Weekly Survey - From the MBA: Mortgage Applications Decrease in Latest MBA Weekly Survey: Mortgage applications decreased 3.1 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending August 30, 2019.... The Refinance Index decreased 7 percent from the previous week and was 152 percent higher than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 4 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 1 percent compared with the previous week and was 5 percent higher than the same week one year ago....“Ongoing trade tensions between the U.S. and China led to volatile, yet declining Treasury rates last week, causing the 30-year fixed mortgage rate to fall to 3.87 percent, its lowest level since November 2016,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “Despite lower borrowing costs, refinances were down from its recent peak two weeks ago, but still remained over 150 percent higher than last August, when rates were almost a percentage point higher.”Added Kan, “Purchase applications increased 1 percent last week and were 5 percent higher than a year ago. Consumers continue to act on these lower rates, but the volatility in the market is likely leading some borrowers to pause refinancing and buying decisions.”…The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($484,350 or less) decreased to 3.87 percent from 3.94 percent, with points decreasing to 0.34 from 0.38 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The first graph shows the refinance index since 1990.

CoreLogic: House Prices up 3.6% Year-over-year in June  The CoreLogic HPI is a three month weighted average and is not seasonally adjusted (NSA). From CoreLogic: CoreLogic Reports July Home Prices Increased by 3.6% Year Over Year Home prices increased nationally by 3.6% from June 2018. On a month-over-month basis, prices increased by 0.5% in July 2019. (June 2019 data was revised. Revisions with public records data are standard, and to ensure accuracy, CoreLogic incorporates the newly released public data to provide updated results each month.)   Home prices continue to increase on an annual basis with the CoreLogic HPI Forecast indicating annual price growth will increase by 5.4% by July 2020. On a month-over-month basis, the forecast calls for home prices to increase by 0.4% from July 2019 to August 2019. The CoreLogic HPI Forecast is a projection of home prices calculated using the CoreLogic HPI and other economic variables. Values are derived from state-level forecasts by weighting indices according to the number of owner-occupied households for each state.“Sales of new and existing homes this July were up from a year ago, supported by low mortgage rates and rising family income,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic. “With the for-sale inventory remaining low in many markets, the pick-up in buying has nudged price growth up. If low interest rates and rising income continue, then we expect home-price growth will strengthen over the coming year.” This graph is from CoreLogic and shows the YoY change in their index.  CR Note: The YoY change in the CoreLogic index had been decreasing, but increased slightly in July compared to June.

Construction Spending Increased Slightly in July, Down 2.7% YoY -- From the Census Bureau reported that overall construction spending declined in July:Construction spending during July 2019 was estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,288.8 billion, 0.1 percent above the revised June estimate of $1,288.1 billion. The July figure is 2.7 percent below the July 2018 estimate of $1,324.8 billion. Private spending decreased and public spending increased: Spending on private construction was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $963.1 billion, 0.1 percent below the revised June estimate of $963.7 billion. ... In July, the estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of public construction spending was $325.7 billion, 0.4 percent above the revised June estimate of $324.3 billion. This graph shows private residential and nonresidential construction spending, and public spending, since 1993. Note: nominal dollars, not inflation adjusted. Private residential spending had been increasing - but turned down in the 2nd half of 2018 - and is now 25% below the bubble peak. Non-residential spending is 10% above the previous peak in January 2008 (nominal dollars). Public construction spending is at the previous peak in March 2009, and 24% above the austerity low in February 2014. The second graph shows the year-over-year change in construction spending. On a year-over-year basis, private residential construction spending is down 7%. Non-residential spending is down 3% year-over-year. Public spending is up 4% year-over-year. This was below consensus expectations. Another weak construction spending report.

Update: Framing Lumber Prices Down 20% Year-over-year -- Here is another monthly update on framing lumber prices.   Lumber prices declined from the record highs in early 2018, and are now down 15% to 25% year-over-year. This graph shows two measures of lumber prices: 1) Framing Lumber from Random Lengths through Aug 16, 2019 (via NAHB), and 2) CME framing futures.  Right now Random Lengths prices are down 22% from a year ago, and CME futures are  down 23% year-over-year. There is a seasonal pattern for lumber prices, and usually prices will increase in the Spring, and peak around May, and then bottom around October or November - although there is quite a bit of seasonal variability. The trade war is a factor with reports that lumber exports to China have declined by 40% since last September.

 If The Debt Machine Was Turned Off, The US Would Immediately Plunge Into Horrifying Depression, New Study -- A new study has discovered that we are far more dependent on America’s great debt creation machine than most of us would have ever dared to imagine.  Today, debt is involved in most of our major transactions.  In order to purchase a home, most of us go into debt.  The same thing is true when most of us buy a vehicle.  Total credit card debt is well over a trillion dollars, and total student loan debt is now over a trillion and a half dollars.  Corporate debt has more than doubled since the last financial crisis, state and local governments are absolutely drowning in debt and unfunded pension liabilities, and the federal government is more than 22 trillion dollars in debt. The Federal Reserve and the “too big to fail” banks are at the core of this insidious debt-based system, and it has been systematically destroying the bright future that our children and our grandchildren were supposed to have. But if we suddenly turned off America’s great debt creation machine at this point, our entire economic system would totally collapse because we have become so dependent on it.  In fact, a study that was just conducted by Bloomberg discovered that “gross domestic product per capita would plunge into negative territory” if the ability to borrow was suddenly removed…The nation’s health as measured by gross domestic product per capita would plunge into negative territory without its dependence on borrowed money, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In fact, the U.S. would fall almost to the bottom of a ranking of 114 economies by GDP per capita. Only Italy, Greece and Japan would fare worse. That’s a seismic shift from America’s comfortable No. 5 spot on a list based on conventional measures.Our massively inflated debt-fueled standard of living is completely and utterly dependent on the continual creation of more debt. In essence, this study found that without debt we wouldn’t have much of an economy at all.  In fact, Bloomberg says that U.S. per capita income would collapse from $66,900 a year to “negative $4,857”

BEA: August Vehicles Sales increased to 17.0 Million SAAR - The BEA released their estimate of August vehicle sales this morning. The BEA estimated sales of 16.97 million SAAR in August 2019 (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate), up 0.7%% from the July sales rate, and up 0.7% from August2018. Sales in 2019 are averaging 16.9 million (average of seasonally adjusted rate), down 1.2% compared to the same period in 2018. This graph shows light vehicle sales since 2006 from the BEA (blue) and an estimate for July (red).  A small decline in sales to date this year isn't a concern - I think sales will move mostly sideways at near record levels.  This means the economic boost from increasing auto sales is over (from the bottom in 2009, auto sales boosted growth every year through 2016). The second graph shows light vehicle sales since the BEA started keeping data in 1967.  Note: dashed line is current estimated sales rate of 16.97 million SAAR.

Walmart to dramatically step back from ammunition sales after 'horrific' shootings - Walmart said Tuesday it will discontinue all sales of handgun ammunition and sales of short-barrel rifle ammunition that can be used with military-style weapons, following two “horrific” shootings at Walmart stores this summer. It will also stop all handgun sales in Alaska, marking its complete exit from the handguns category.  The biggest retailer in the world also is asking customers at Walmart and Sam’s Club to no longer openly carry firearms in stores, in states where “open carry” is allowed, unless they are authorized law enforcement officers. Open carry legislation is currently on the books in more than 26 states, Dan Bartlett, executive vice president of corporate affairs, said during a call with members of the media.  Walmart said it won’t be changing its policy for customers who have permits for concealed carry. And it will be adding signage to stores in the coming weeks to communicate the updates.“We believe the opportunity for someone to misinterpret a situation, even in open carry states, could lead to tragic results,” CEO Doug McMillon said in a memo distributed to employees. “We hope that everyone will understand the circumstances that led to this new policy and will respect the concerns of their fellow shoppers and our associates.”Shares of gun and ammunition makers added to losses earlier in the day. Vista Outdoor’s stock closed down 6%. Smith & Wesson parent company American Outdoor Brands’ stock fell nearly 4.5%. Sturm Ruger & Company shares closed down 0.6%. Walmart shares ended the day up 0.3%.“We’ve also been listening to a lot of people inside and outside our company as we think about the role we can play in helping to make the country safer,” the CEO added. “It’s clear to us that the status quo is unacceptable.”McMillon said he will also be sending letters to the White House and congressional leaders, asking for action on “common sense measures.” He’s calling on the government to “strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger.” “Congress and the administration should act,” he said.

San Francisco Declares NRA 'Domestic Terrorist Organization' -- The NRA has just been branded a "domestic terrorist organization" by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.  Passed on Tuesday, the resolution "Declaring the National Rifle Association as a Domestic Terrorist Organization" rattles off a series of leftist anti-gun talking points, such as:

  • WHEREAS, The United States is plagued by an epidemic of gun violence, including over 36,000 deaths, and 100,000 injuries each year, and
  • WHEREAS, Every day approximately 100 Americans are killed with guns, and
  • WHEREAS, There has been more than one mass shooting per day in the United States in 2019, and
  • WHEREAS, The gun homicide rate in the United States is 25 times higher than any other high-income country in the world

The resolution then points to the July 28 Gilroy, California shooting, and continues "There have been at least three mass shootings since the events in Gilroy, and the number continues to grow. The resolution then blames the NRA for using 'its considerable wealth and organizational strength to promote gun ownership and incite gun owners to acts of violence," and accuses the organization of spreading "propaganda that misinforms and aims to decieve the public about the dangers of gun violence" while promoing "extremist positions."  The kicker - San Francisco says that the NRA "through its advocacy has armed those individuals who would and have committed acts of terrorism."

U.S. factory orders increase for second straight month - (Reuters) - New orders for U.S.-made goods rose for a second straight month in July as orders for transportation equipment increased by the most in nearly a year, but the gains were unlikely to be sustained as trade tensions erode business confidence. Factory goods orders jumped 1.4%, the Commerce Department said on Thursday. Data for June was revised slightly lower to show factory orders advancing 0.5% instead of climbing 0.6% as previously reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast factory orders would increase 1.0% in July. Factory orders gained 0.4% compared to July 2018. Pointing to underlying weakness in the sector, which accounts for about 11% of the economy, shipments of manufactured goods fell 0.2% in July after edging up 0.1% in the prior month. Unfilled orders at factories were unchanged after dropping 0.6% in June. Inventories increased 0.2% after rising 0.1% in June. Troubles in manufacturing have been highlighted by factories reducing hours and overtime for employees in July. Transportation equipment orders surged 7.0% in July, the largest increase since August 2018, after advancing 4.1% in June. Orders for civilian aircraft and parts increased 47.8% after soaring 101.4% in June. The strong gains in aircraft orders are likely temporary as Boeing’s 737 MAX plane remains grounded after two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. There were also increases in orders for computers and electronic products, and electrical equipment, appliances and components. But machinery orders fell 0.8% after rising 1.7% in June. The Commerce Department also said July orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, which are seen as a measure of business spending plans on equipment, increased 0.2% instead of the 0.4% rise reported last month. Shipments of core capital goods, which are used to calculate business equipment spending in the gross domestic product report, fell 0.6% in July instead of declining 0.7% as previously reported.

ISM Manufacturing index Decreased to 49.1 in August - The ISM manufacturing index indicated contraction in August. The PMI was at 49.1% in August, down from 51.2% in July. The employment index was at 47.4%, down from 51.7% last month, and the new orders index was at 47.2%, down from 50.8%. From the Institute for Supply Management: August 2019 Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business®  "The August PMI® registered 49.1 percent, a decrease of 2.1 percentage points from the July reading of 51.2 percent. The New Orders Index registered 47.2 percent, a decrease of 3.6 percentage points from the July reading of 50.8 percent. The Production Index registered 49.5 percent, a 1.3-percentage point decrease compared to the July reading of 50.8 percent. The Employment Index registered 47.4 percent, a decrease of 4.3 percentage points from the July reading of 51.7 percent. The Supplier Deliveries Index registered 51.4 percent, a 1.9-percentage point decrease from the July reading of 53.3 percent. The Inventories Index registered 49.9 percent, an increase of 0.4 percentage point from the July reading of 49.5 percent. The Prices Index registered 46 percent, a 0.9-percentage point increase from the July reading of 45.1 percent. "Comments from the panel reflect a notable decrease in business confidence. August saw the end of the PMI® expansion that spanned 35 months, with steady expansion softening over the last four months. Demand contracted, with the New Orders Index contracting, the Customers' Inventories Index recovering slightly from prior months and the Backlog of Orders Index contracting for the fourth straight month. The New Export Orders Index contracted strongly and experienced the biggest loss among the subindexes. Consumption (measured by the Production and Employment Indexes) contracted at higher levels, contributing the strongest negative numbers (a combined 5.6-percentage point decrease) to the PMI®, driven by a lack of demand. Inputs — expressed as supplier deliveries, inventories and imports — were again lower in August, due to inventory tightening for the third straight month and continued slower supplier deliveries. This resulted in a combined 1.5-percentage point decline in the Supplier Deliveries and Inventories indexes. Imports and new export orders contracted to new lows. Here is a long term graph of the ISM manufacturing index. This was well below expectations of 51.5%, and suggests manufacturing contracted in August.

Markit Manufacturing: "Manufacturing PMI lowest for almost a decade as export decline intensifies" -  The August US Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index conducted by Markit came in at 50.3, down 0.1 from the 50.4 final July figure. Markit's Manufacturing PMI is a diffusion index: A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector; below 50 indicates contraction.  Here is an excerpt from Chris Williamson, Chief Business Economist at IHS Markit in their latest press release:"The August PMI indicates that US manufacturers are enduring a torrid summer, with the main survey gauge down to its lowest since the depths of the financial crisis in 2009. Output and order book indices are both among the lowest seen for a decade, indicating that manufacturing is likely to have again acted as a significant drag on the economy in the third quarter, dampening GDP growth." [Press Release] Here is a snapshot of the series since mid-2012.

US Manufacturing Weakest In 10 Years As New Export Orders Collapse - With Flash PMI in contraction and ISM sliding fast, expectations were for a very modest rise in both measures of manufacturing in August as 'hard' US macro data picked up relative to expectations. The headline Markit Manufacturing PMI inched back into expansion with a final 50.3 print for August (after a 49.9 flash print), however, that is still the lowest since September 2009, with new export orders plunging at the fastest pace in 10 years. The headline ISM Manufacturing plunged into contraction, printing 49.1 (well below the 51.3 expectations) to the lowest since Jan 2016 as employment and new orders (seven year low) collapsed.ISM respondents expressed slightly more concern about U.S.-China trade turbulence, but trade remains the most significant issue, indicated by the strong contraction in new export orders. Respondents continued to note supply chain adjustments as a result of moving manufacturing from China. Overall, sentiment this month declined and reached its lowest level in 2019. "Business is starting to show signs of a broad slowdown." (Machinery)   "While business is strong, there is an undercurrent of fear and alarm regarding the trade wars and a potential recession." (Chemical Products)As Bloomberg notes, the latest downturn underscores how slowing global growth and an escalating U.S. trade war with China are taking an even bigger toll on domestic producers. Although manufacturing only makes up about 11% of the economy, there are concerns that entrenched weakness - and any layoffs that may result - could filter through to the rest of the economy and endanger the record-long expansion.Chris Williamson, Chief Business Economist at IHS Markit said:"The August PMI indicates that US manufacturers are enduring a torrid summer, with the main survey gauge down to its lowest since the depths of the financial crisis in 2009. Output and order book indices are both among the lowest seen for a decade, indicating that manufacturing is likely to have again acted as a significant drag on the economy in the third quarter, dampening GDP growth.“At current levels, the survey indicates that manufacturing production is falling at an annualised rate of approximately 3%. “Deteriorating exports are the key to the downturn, with new orders from foreign markets dropping at the fastest rate since 2009. Many companies blame slower global economic growth for weakened order books, but also point the finger at rising trade war tensions and tariffs. “Hiring has stalled as companies worry about the outlook: optimism about the year ahead is at its lowest since comparable data were first available in 2012. Similarly, price pressures are close to a three-year low, as crumbling demand has removed firms’ pricing power.”

Two sharply contrasting reports on the economy to start September -- We got two contrasting views of the economy this morning. First, the good news: residential construction spending increased in July. Below I show it in comparison with single family permits: Typically construction follows permits. In the past few years, it has been almost coincident with permits. This is more good news for the important and leading housing sector, indicating that the decline that started in early 2018 has ended. With the continued recent further decline in mortgage rates, I expect further advances, although possibly not strong. Now, the bad news: the ISM manufacturing index fell below 50 to 49.1. Worse, the leading new orders component fell to 47.2, the worst reading since the Great Recession: Typically it takes at least two readings below 48 for the ISM manufacturing index to indicate recession. But the new orders index is already at a level which has been consistent over the past 70 years with a recession in the very near future - although it is also consistent, as for example in 1966, with a slowdown only: Nevertheless, it does tip the balance of short leading indicators from neutral to slightly negative. The reports, combined, suggest that in Friday’s jobs report there should be a little improvement in residential construction jobs, but suggest a decline in manufacturing jobs - something that has been loudly telegraphed by the decline in the manufacturing work week in the past year.

Trucking Recession- Heavy-Duty Truck Orders Collapse, Production Slashed, Cancellation Orders Soar -  New reports from the trucking industry show the transportation recession continues to gain momentum through the end of summer, likely to continue through 2019 into 1H20. The US trucking industry had a blockbuster year in 2018, as high demand for freight allowed transportation companies to expand fleets. But since freight demand was artificial, sparked by importers pulling forward to get ahead of tariffs, the good times were destined to end and end rather sharply.   The Institute for Supply Management's purchasing managers index plunged to 49.1 in August, the first time a contraction has been seen since 2016. Prints below 50 suggest the manufacturing economy is shrinking. Data also showed new orders dropped to a seven-year low, while the production index hit 2015 lows.  A transportation/manufacturing recession is developing, but it didn't start overnight. The first signs of a slowdown began last summer when freight rates peaked last June, and have since collapsed 20% through this year, reported The Wall Street Journal. "There are more trucks than there are loads now," said Kyle Kottke, general manager for Kottke Trucking Inc. in Buffalo Lake, Minn. Production for new trucks is still elevated, as manufacturers fulfill orders placed last year, but new purchases and production volumes are starting to weaken. According to ACT Research, heavy-duty truck orders from the four largest truck makers in North America (Daimler Trucks North America, Paccar, Volvo Trucks USA, and Navistar International) collapsed 80% in July YoY. Orders in June plunged 69% from a year earlier.

Moody's: Railroads face $5B revenue loss in next decade as coal declines  Railroads could face $5 billion in lost revenue as utility coal shipments fall over the next decade, according to a new report from Moody's Investors Service. Moody's analysts expect utility coal demand in the U.S. to drop by more than half by 2030, falling by about 7% per year on average over the next decade, which would take a toll on coal producers as well as their transportation partners. If the decline is gradual, railroad companies may have more manageable credit effects, according to the Sept. 4 report. "The continuing erosion in thermal coal demand will significantly affect US freight railroads' coal shipments, highlighting that the environmental risks posed by coal extend from miners and users to transporters of coal," Moody's stated. "However, railroads are likely to offset some of the lost coal shipments with growth in other freight, especially intermodal freight, which is the transport of freight in containers using more than one mode of carrier, for example, using trains and trucks." Year-to-date coal rail traffic was down 6.7% through Aug. 24, according to the Association of American Railroads. CSX Corp. generated 18.3% of its 2018 revenue from coal, the largest percentage among the major coal railroads, according to the report. Coal accounted for about 13.7% of the company's total 2018 volume as well, and CSX shipped about 43% of its coal to the export market. BNSF Railway Co.'s coal business accounted for 16.8% of its 2018 revenue, while coal made up about 15.9% of Norfolk Southern Corp.'s revenue last year as well. Those three companies are likely the most exposed to a "broader secular decline" in the coal market, Moody's said. BNSF and Union Pacific are among the most exposed to weakening thermal coal demand, given their dependence on Powder River Basin mines, which are expected to face the most significant drop in utility coal demand, according to the report. Meanwhile, Canadian National Railway Co. and Kansas City Southern have the least exposure to the market's secular decline given their proportion of total revenue and volume. Coal accounted for 4.6% of Canadian Nationals and 6% of Kansas City Southern's coal revenue in 2018.

Boeing Gets Almost $1 Billion To Keep The A-10 ‘Warthog’ Flying - Three years ago, Congress delivered a little windfall to Boeing -- $100 million in new funding to upgrade the wings on some of the U.S. Air Force's oldest A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack airplanes.  Recently, the A-10 news got 10 times better for the aerospace giant.  Following up on the Senate's instruction to "maintain air superiority" by "encouraging the ongoing modernization of the A-10 fleet through fiscal year 2030 to continue providing unmatched airpower," the Pentagon last week awarded Boeing a $999 million contract to supply up to 112 new wing assemblies for the aircraft  nicknamed the "Warthog."     Fully delivering on that deal would provide enough assemblies to "re-wing" nearly half the 287 A-10s currently in the Air Force's inventory, according to Flightglobal's 2019 World Air Forces report, on top of the A-10s that were already upgraded in prior years.    That's certainly good news for fans of the A-10, who've fought for years to get the Air Force to commit to keeping its Warthogs operational. It's also good news for investors in the companies that keep the A-10 flying -- Boeing, first of all. While it's one of the nation's biggest defense contractors, its defense business currently delivers an operating profit margin of only 6.9%, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data -- barely half the profitability of the larger, commercial-aircraft side of the company.

ISM Non-Manufacturing Index increased to 56.4% in August --The August ISM Non-manufacturing index was at 56.4%, up from 53.7% in July. The employment index decreased to 53.1%, from 56.2%. Note: Above 50 indicates expansion, below 50 contraction. From the Institute for Supply Management: August 2019 Non-Manufacturing ISM Report On Business®  “The NMI® registered 56.4 percent, which is 2.7 percentage points higher than the July reading of 53.7 percent. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector, at a faster rate. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index increased to 61.5 percent, 8.4 percentage points higher than the July reading of 53.1 percent, reflecting growth for the 121st consecutive month. The New Orders Index registered 60.3 percent; 6.2 percentage points higher than the reading of 54.1 percent in July. The Employment Index decreased 3.1 percentage points in August to 53.1 percent from the July reading of 56.2 percent. The Prices Index increased 1.7 percentage points from the July reading of 56.5 percent to 58.2 percent, indicating that prices increased in August for the 27th consecutive month. According to the NMI®, 16 non-manufacturing industries reported growth. The non-manufacturing sector’s rate of growth rebounded after two consecutive months of cooling off. The respondents remain concerned about tariffs and geopolitical uncertainty; however, they are mostly positive about business conditions.”  This graph shows the ISM non-manufacturing index (started in January 2008) and the ISM non-manufacturing employment diffusion index. This suggests faster expansion in August than in July.

Markit Services PMI: "Slowest increase in new business since March 2016" - The August US Services Purchasing Managers' Index conducted by Markit came in at 50.7 percent, down 2.3 from the final July estimate of 53.0. The Investing.com consensus was for 50.9 percent. Markit's Services PMI is a diffusion index: A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector; below 50 indicates contraction.Here is the opening from the latest press release:Commenting on the PMI data, Chris Williamson, Chief Business Economist at IHS Markit said: “US businesses reported one of the toughest months since the global financial crisis in August, with growth of output, order books and hiring all slowing amid steep falls in both export and business confidence. “Only on two occasions since the global financial crisis have the US PMI surveys recorded a weaker monthly expansion, and these were months in which business was hit by the government shutdown and bad weather in 2013 and 2016 respectively. This time, trade wars and falling exports appear to be the main drivers of weakness, exacerbating fears of a broader economic slowdown both at home and globally.“At current levels, the August PMIs are indicating annualized GDP growth of 1.0%, putting the economy on course for growth of just below 1.5% in the third quarter. Such weak readings hint at downside risks to current third quarter growth projections, which generally point to an expansion of just over 2%.“A major factor behind the deterioration was the spreading of the manufacturing downturn to the service sector, via weakened household and business confidence. Jobs growth is also increasingly being affected by worries regarding the outlook. Overall jobs growth in August was the weakest since early-2012, commensurate with non-farm payrolls rising at a monthly rate of under 100,000.” [Press Release] Here is a snapshot of the series since mid-2012. Here is an overlay with the equivalent PMI survey conducted by the Institute for Supply Management, which they refer to as "Non-Manufacturing" (see our full article on this series here). Over the past year, the ISM metric has been significantly the more volatile of the two. The next chart uses a three-month moving average of the two rather volatile series to facilitate our understanding of the current trend. Since early in 2016, the ISM metric has shown stronger growth than the Markit counterpart.

Looking Ahead August NFP: Decennial Census Hiring and August Employment Revisions --  CR Note: Decennial Census will impact the August employment report. See: How to Report the Monthly Employment Number excluding Temporary Census Hiring.  From the Census Bureau: U.S. Census Bureau Announces the Start of First Major Field Operation for 2020 Census Today, the U.S. Census Bureau briefed the media on the launch of address canvassing, the first major field operation of the 2020 Census. Address canvassing improves and refines the Census Bureau’s address list of households nationwide, which is necessary to deliver invitations to respond to the census. The address list plays a vital role in ensuring a complete and accurate count of everyone living in the United States. ... “We were able to verify 65% of addresses using satellite imagery — a massive accomplishment for us,” said Census Bureau Geography Division Chief Deirdre Bishop during the briefing. “In 2010 we had to hire 150,000 people to verify 100% of the addresses in the field, this decade we will only have to hire about 40,000 employees around the nation to verify the remaining 35% of addresses.” The Census hiring will lead to some confusion in reporting. For the underlying trend, the correct method is to report the employment change ex-Census hiring.  And here is a look at historical employment revisions for August since 2005.  Note that most of the revisions have been up.   This doesn't mean that the August 2019 revision will be up, but it does seem likely.   I'm not sure why the BLS has underestimated job growth in August (possibly because of the timing of seasonal teacher hiring and the end of the summer jobs). Note: In 2008, the BLS significantly under reported job losses. That wasn't surprising since the initial models the BLS used missed turning points (something I wrote about in 2007). The BLS has since improved this model.

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims increased to 217,000 - The DOL reported: In the week ending August 31, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 217,000, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 215,000 to 216,000. The 4-week moving average was 216,250, an increase of 1,500 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 214,500 to 214,750. The previous week was revised up. The following graph shows the 4-week moving average of weekly claims since 1971.

ADP: Private Employment increased 195,000 in August - From ADP: Private sector employment increased by 195,000 jobs from July to August according to the August ADP National Employment Report®. ... The report, which is derived from ADP’s actual payroll data, measures the change in total nonfarm private employment each month on a seasonally-adjusted basis. .. “In August we saw a rebound in private-sector employment,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, vice president and cohead of the ADP Research Institute. “This is the first time in the last 12 months that we have seen balanced job growth across small, medium and large-sized companies.”   Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said, “Businesses are holding firm on their payrolls despite the slowing economy. Hiring has moderated, but layoffs remain low. As long as this continues recession will remain at bay.” This was above the consensus forecast for 150,000 private sector jobs added in the ADP report.

A Closer Look at Today's ADP Employment Report - In this morning's ADP employment report we got the August estimate of 195K new nonfarm private employment jobs from ADP, an increase over July's revised 142K. The popular spin on this indicator is as a preview to the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the ADP report includes a wealth of information that's worth exploring in more detail. Here is a snapshot of the monthly change in the ADP headline number since the company's earliest published data in April 2002. This is quite a volatile series, so we've plotted the monthly data points as dots along with a six-month moving average, which gives us a clearer sense of the trend. As we see in the chart above, the trend peaked 20 months before the last recession and went negative around the time that the NBER subsequently declared as the recession start. At present, the six-month moving average has been hovering in a relatively narrow range around 200K new jobs since around the middle of 2011. ADP also gives us a breakdown of Total Nonfarm Private Employment into two categories: Goods Producing and Services. Here is the same chart style illustrating the two. The US is predominantly a services economy, so it comes as no surprise that Services employment has shown stronger jobs growth. The trend in Goods Producing jobs went negative over a year before the last recession. Interestingly, the Goods Producing jobs saw an uptick in late 2016 that has continued. For a sense of the relative size of Services over Goods Producing employment, the next chart shows the percentage of Services Jobs across the entire series. The latest data point is below the record high. There are a number of factors behind this trend. In addition to our increasing dependence of Services, Goods Production employment continues to be impacted by automation and offshoring. For a better sense of the components of the two Goods Producing and Service Providing cohorts, here is a snapshot of the five select industries tracked by ADP. The two things to note here are the relative sizes of the industries and the relative trends. Note that Construction and Manufacturing are Production industries whereas the other three are Service Providing. Another view of the relative trends of the five select industries is an overlay of the year-over-year comparison.

August Employment Report: 105,000 Jobs Added Ex-Census, 3.7% Unemployment Rate - From the BLS: Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 130,000 in August, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.Employment in federal government rose, largely reflecting the hiring of temporary workers for the 2020 Census. Notable job gains also occurred in health care and financial activities, while mining lost jobs....In August, employment in federal government increased by 28,000. The gain was mostly due tothe hiring of 25,000 temporary workers to prepare for the 2020 Census.The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for June was revised down by 15,000 from +193,000 to +178,000, and the change for July was revised down by 5,000 from +164,000 to +159,000. With these revisions, employment gains in June and July combined were 20,000 less than previously reported....In August, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 11 cents to $28.11, following 9-cent gains in both June and July. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.2 percent. The first graph shows the monthly change in payroll jobs, ex-Census (meaning the impact of the decennial Census temporary hires and layoffs is removed - mostly in 2010 - to show the underlying payroll changes). Total payrolls increased by 105 thousand in August ex-Census (private payrolls increased 96 thousand). Payrolls for June and July were revised down 20 thousand combined.  This graph shows the year-over-year change in total non-farm employment since 1968. In August, the year-over-year change was 2.074 million jobs. The third graph shows the employment population ratio and the participation rate. The Labor Force Participation Rate was increased in August to 62.9%. This is the percentage of the working age population in the labor force.   A large portion of the recent decline in the participation rate is due to demographics and long term trends. The Employment-Population ratio increased to 60.9% (black line). The fourth graph shows the unemployment rate.The unemployment rate was unchanged in August at 3.7%.This was well below consensus expectations of 158,000 jobs added, and June and July were revised down by 41,000 combined.

August jobs report: for once, the underwhelming headline masked very good internals HEADLINES: 

  • +130,000 jobs added (+105,000 ex-Census)
  • U3 unemployment rate unchanged at 3.7%
  • U6 underemployment rate rose 0.2% to 7.2%
  • the average manufacturing workweek rose +0.2 from 40.4 hours to 40.6 hours. This is one of the 10 components of the LEI and is positive (note last month was -0.3 so on net this is still -0.1 hours from two months ago).
  • Manufacturing jobs rose by 3,000. YoY manufacturing is up 138,000, a deceleration from last summer’s pace.
  • construction jobs rose by 14,000. YoY construction jobs are up 177,000, also a deceleration from last summer. Residential construction jobs, which are even more leading, rose by 7,000.
  • temporary jobs rose by 15,400 (note this *may* reflect census hiring).
  • the number of people unemployed for 5 weeks or less rose by 6,000 from 2,201,000 to 2,207,000. The post-recession low was four months ago.
  • Not in Labor Force, but Want a Job Now: rose by 107,000 from 5.043 million to 5.150 million
  • Part time for economic reasons: rose by 397,000 from 3.984 million to 4.381 million 
  • Employment/population ratio ages 25-54: rose +0.5% from 79.5% to 80.0%. THIS IS A NEW EXPANSION HIGH.
  • Average Hourly Earnings for Production and Nonsupervisory Personnel: rose $.11 from  $23.48 to $23.59, up +3.5% YoY. This is still a slight decline from the recent YoY% change peak.  (Note: you may be reading different information about wages elsewhere. They are citing average wages for all private workers. I use wages for nonsupervisory personnel, to come closer to the situation for ordinary workers.)
  • June was revised downward by -15,000. July was also revised downward by -5,000, for a net change of -20,000.
  • Overtime fell -0.1 hours to 3.2  hours.
  • Professional and business employment (generally higher-paying jobs) rose by +37,000 and  is up +449,000 YoY. 
  • the index of aggregate hours worked for non-managerial workers rose by +0.3%
  • the index of aggregate payrolls for non-managerial workers rose by +0.8% 
  • the  alternate jobs number contained  in the more volatile household survey rose by 590,000  jobs.  This represents an increase of 2,274,000 jobs YoY vs. 2,074,000 in the establishment survey. 
  • Government jobs rose by 28,000 (up +3,000 ex-census).
  • the overall employment to population ratio for all ages 16 and up rose 0.9% to 60.9% m/m and is up 0.6% YoY.          
  • The labor force participation rate rose 0.2% to 63.2% m/m and is up 0.5% YoY.

SUMMARY: This reports was the mirror image of most others we have seen this year: the establishment report was mediocre, while the household report was excellent.The deceleration in jobs growth was well in evidence in the headline number. The last three months, ex-census hiring, has only been +147,000. But construction and manufacturing jobs both did increase. Non-supervisory wage gains increased to +3.5% YoY. On the other hand, if census hiring was included in the temporary jobs number, that decreased significantly.The household survey, on the other hand, was generally very strong. Almost 600,000 new jobs were added in that report, and the YoY gains now exceed the establishment report. The prime age employment to population ratio increased to its highest level since January 2008. It is only because of this big addition to the labor force that the unemployment rate stayed steady (vs. going lower) and the underemployment rate increased. Aggregate hours and payrolls both jumped.  So, despite the underwhelming headline number, this was overall a very good report.

Record 157,878,000 Employed in August; Record Low Unemployment Rate for Blacks - The number of people employed in the United States hit a record 157,878,000 in August, the 21st record set under President Donald Trump, according to the employment report released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's an increase of 590,000 from the record 157,228,000 employed in July. The unemployment rate held steady at 3.7 percent. For blacks, the unemployment rate dropped to a record low of 5.5 percent last month. And for Hispanics, the unemployment rate was 4.2 percent in August, which ties the record low set earlier this year.  In August, the civilian noninstitutional population in the United States was 259,432,000. That included all people 16 and older who did not live in an institution (such as a prison, nursing home or long-term care hospital). Of that civilian noninstutional population, 163,922,000 were in the labor force, meaning that they either had a job or were actively seeking one during the last month.That boosted the labor force participation rate to 63.2 percent, which matches the Trump-era high set this past January and February. That's a 0.2 percent gain from the 63.0 percent in July.Of the 163,922,000 who were in the labor force, 6,044,000 were unemployed, which put the unemployment rate at 3.7 percent for a third straight month.Among the major worker groups, BLS said, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.4 percent), adult women (3.3 percent), teenagers (12.6 percent), Whites (3.4 percent), Blacks (5.5 percent), Asians (2.8 percent), and Hispanics (4.2 percent) showed little or no change in August, although -- as noted above -- it's never been better for blacks and Hispanics.The economy added 130,000 jobs in August, boosted by employment gains  in the federal government, largely reflecting the hiring of temporary workers for the 2020 Census, BLS said. Notable job gains also occurred in health care and financial activities.The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for June was revised down by 15,000 to +178,000, and the change for July was revised down by 5,000 to +159,000. With these revisions, employment gains in June and July combined were 20,000 less than previously reported. After revisions, job gains have averaged 156,000 per month over the last 3 months.

Disappointing jobs report would have been worse without Census workers - Without the temporary hiring of Census workers, the disappointing August jobs report would have been even worse.The federal government hired 25,000 temporary workers in preparation for the 2020 Census in August, giving the overall jobs gain a big bump. Nonfarm payrolls increased by 130,000 last month, which fell short of Wall Street estimates for 150,000.Employment in federal government rose by 28,000 in total in August, the Labor Department said Friday. Private-sector employment was up by only 96,000, the lowest pace since February.The weakness largely came from the retail sector, which saw a net decline in workers of 11,100 in August alone. Trade, transportation and utilities also lost 11,000 jobs, and mining and logging lost 5,000 positions. “The weaker than expected job gains do make sense when looking at yesterday’s ISM and Markit figures on employment and just understanding how businesses respond to the slowing pace of growth and trade worries,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. “Companies have taken a time out on hiring until visibility becomes less cloudy, it’s only prudent.” The ISM gauge of U.S. manufacturing showed the sector contracted in August, its first decline since 2016.The overall labor market is still in good shape. The unemployment rate stayed at 3.7% as expected, and wage growth remained strong, with average hourly earnings increasing by 0.4% for the month and 3.2% over the year.Beside the big job additions ahead of the 2020 population count, professional and business services also added 37,000 jobs. Health care contributed 24,000 to the total number and financial services rose by 15,000

"Looks Like A Stagflation Report": August Private Payrolls Miss Huge, But Hourly Earnings Jump In our preview of the August jobs report we warned that while census hiring was a potential positive wildcard to today's print, it was the seasonals that were a major negative risk, with August jobs missing consensus in 8 of the past 10 annual prints. Well, make that 9 of the past 11 and even with census hiring, because moments ago the BLS reported that in August, a total of just 130K payrolls were added, with hiring for census accounting for 25,000 of the total, sharply below the 160k expected. Oddly, the picture presented by the Household Survey was vastly different, with the number of employed workers surging by 590K, to 157.878 million as the labor force soared by 571K, suggesting the US has a way to go before hitting full employment. On a year-over-year basis, the rate of growth payroll growth was just 1.4%, the lowest since August 2011. However, it was the private payroll subset that was especially disappointing with the 96K print far below the 150K expected, and far below last month's downward revised 131K. Worse, on a YTD basis, the number of private jobs created in 2019 is the worst going back at least 6 years. Additionally, as Bloomberg notes the one-month diffusion index, which shows the breadth of hiring, slumped to 53.5 in August for private employers. "That's the weakest since May 2016 and not a good sign for the job market." That was the bad news, the good news is that average hourly earnings, were stronger than expected on both a sequential and annual basis - rising 3.2% YoY and 0.4% MoM, for all workers even as the average workweek actually increased this time, rising from 34.3 to 34.4, in line with expectations. Earnings for production/non-supervisory workers also rose 3.5% YoY after 3.4% in July. Some more good news: the unemployment rate held steady at 3.7%, with the black unemployment dropping to a new all time low. Also in the good news column: the participation rate jumped from 63.0% to 63.2%, matching the highest since February. Looking at the composition of job increases in August, one thing that stuck out was that retail payrolls declined for a seventh straight month, matching the longest streak since 2009. Offsetting the Amazonification of America, manufacturers continued to add jobs, though at a slower pace with August factory payrolls rising 3,000 after a downwardly revised 4,000. Meanwhile, the leading indicator for future job growth, temporary help agency employment, jumped by 15,400 after falling the previous three months and raising concerns of broader labor-market weakness. Commentary on the report ranged from optimistic to pessimistic, with Deutsche Bank's Torsten Slok saying on Bloomberg TV that it "Looks like a stagflation report," calling the jump in U6 - a more expansive definition of the unemployment rate - concerning.

Payrolls slow and the trade war is hurting manufacturing. But underlying job market still solid. - Jared Bernstein - Payrolls rose by 130,000 last month and the unemployment rate held at 3.7 percent, close to a 50-year low and the same level as the past 3 months. Still, job growth is cooling (25,000 of this month’s gains were temporary decennial Census workers), as the pace of monthly gains, while still strong enough to support low unemployment, has slowed. Wage growth also stayed parked at about where it has been in recent months, and there’s some evidence that the trade war is taking a toll on factory jobs. However, the job market remains strong, real wages are growing, and consumer spending will continue to be supported by these dynamics.  To get a clearer take on the underlying trend in job growth, our monthly smoother shows the average monthly gain over 3, 6, and 12-month periods. This month, however, we add an extra bar to our usual smoother, as we believe it is important to begin to incorporate a recent BLS revision, based on more accurate jobs data, into our assessment of the US job market. This preliminary benchmark revision estimates that employers added 500,000 fewer jobs to US payrolls between April of 2018 and March of 2019 (BLS will officially wedge their final estimate into the payroll data by Feb 2020). The second bar includes the result of this revision, showing that over the past year, payroll growth was likely closer to 150K per month than 175K per month. To be sure, this is still solid payroll growth at this stage of the expansion and as noted below, in tandem with real wage growth, it’s strong enough job growth to support the recovery and keep unemployment around where it is. However, using the preliminary revised data, the pace of payroll gains has slowed from 1.6% last year to 1.3% this year. Clearly, that’s not a big deceleration, and it’s also not unexpected in a job market closing in on full employment. But it is a slower trend which I expect to persist. The trade war that the Trump administration has been waging is clearly taking a toll on the global economy. While its impact is greater in countries more exposed to trade, like Germany, than the US, our manufacturers have been hit by these new taxes (tariffs) on their imported inputs and by retaliatory tariffs on their exports.  Manufacturing employment has slowed since the Trump administration began ramping up tariffs at the beginning of last year. Last month, factory jobs rose just 3K and durable manufacturing employment was unchanged. Thus far this year, the factory sector has added 5.5K jobs per month on average, compared to 22K for all of last year. The product of manufacturing employment and weekly hours yields the aggregate hour index for the sector, a very good proxy for labor demand. The next figure looks at the year-over-year change in this index for blue collar and for all manufacturing workers. Starting about a year ago, a clear deceleration is evident, and for the non-managers—who comprise about 70 percent of the sector’s employment—total hours worked have outright declined in recent months (relative to a year ago). After slowing in 2018, manufacturing wages for blue-collar workers have picked up pace in recent months and are now growing at about the same rate of other mid-level workers. In sum, at least in terms of jobs and hours, the trade war is hurting manufacturing workers. I’m sure some will push back that this near-term pain is worth the longer-term gains from a “victory” in the trade war. I find this totally unconvincing, as victory apparently means getting China to be more accommodating to US multinationals. That is, were China to stop insisting on tech transfers, or issue more licenses to our multinationals, we’ll get more, not less, offshoring of US jobs.

Comments on August Employment Report --The headline jobs number at 105 thousand for August ex-Census (130K total including temp Census hires) was well below consensus expectations of 158 thousand, and the previous two months were revised down 20 thousand, combined. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7%. There was good news with the increase in the participation rate and employment-population ratio. But overall this was a disappointing employment report. Note: See: How to Report the Monthly Employment Number excluding Temporary Census Hiring. In August, the year-over-year employment change was 2.074 million jobs including Census hires (note: this will be revised down significantly in February with the benchmark revision). Wage growth was at expectations. From the BLS: "In August, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 11 cents to $28.11, following 9-cent gains in both June and July. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.2 percent." This graph is based on “Average Hourly Earnings” from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) (aka "Establishment") monthly employment report. Note: There are also two quarterly sources for earnings data: 1) “Hourly Compensation,” from the BLS’s Productivity and Costs; and 2) the Employment Cost Index which includes wage/salary and benefit compensation.The graph shows the nominal year-over-year change in "Average Hourly Earnings" for all private employees.  Nominal wage growth was at 3.2% YoY in August. Wage growth had been generally trending up, but has weakened recently.  Since the overall participation rate has declined due to cyclical (recession) and demographic (aging population, younger people staying in school) reasons, here is the employment-population ratio for the key working age group: 25 to 54 years old. In the earlier period the participation rate for this group was trending up as women joined the labor force. Since the early '90s, the participation rate moved more sideways, with a downward drift starting around '00 - and with ups and downs related to the business cycle. The 25 to 54 participation rate increased in August to 82.6% from 82.0% in July, and the 25 to 54 employment population ratio was increased to 80.0% from 79.5%.  From the BLS report: "The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) increased by 397,000 to 4.4 million in August; this increase follows a decline of similar magnitude in July. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs." The number of persons working part time for economic reasons increased in August to 4.381 million from 3.984 million in July.   The number of persons working part time for economic reason has been generally trending down. These workers are included in the alternate measure of labor underutilization (U-6) that increased to 7.2% in August.

Where The August Jobs Were- Who Is Hiring And Who Isn't... And The Retail Apocalypse -- Whether today's payrolls report was "stagflationary" or simply lousy, is debatable, but with just 96K private payrolls created in August (government added 34K jobs, the best "job category" in the month) one thing is certain: this was the 4th lowest private jobs print in the past 3 years. And yet, if one looks at the various job sectors, the emerging picture is hardly a dismal one, with 9 industries adding jobs, and 4 losing. Some of the highlights: US manufacturers continued to add jobs, though at a slower pace with August factory payrolls rising 3,000 after a downwardly revised 4,000. Meanwhile, the leading indicator for future job growth, temporary help agency employment, jumped by 15,400 after falling the previous three months and raising concerns of broader labor-market weakness. Separately, government added 34K jobs, "not great, not terrible", while low paying jobs in the education and health category were the second biggest addition in August, at 32,000; meanwhile Professional, Business and Service jobs added 21.6K (ex-temp). Below is a visual breakdown of all the main categories:  Looking at wage growth, below is the 3 month annualized growth in average hourly earnings in select industries:

  • Financial activities  5.2%
  • Information  5.1%
  • Wholesale trade  4.7%
  • Professional and business services  4.5%
  • Transportation and warehousing  4.5%
  • Retail trade  4.5%
  • Trade, transportation, and utilities  4.5%

Finally, digging into the numbers above, below we show the fine detail level for industries with the highest and lowest rates of employment growth for the most recent month. But the big surprise - or perhaps not - was retail, where the Amazonification of America is accelerating, in the process destroying the legacy brick and mortar sector, which peaked in Jan 2017, and has lost jobs for 7 consecutive months, and 8 of the past 9, as the legacy retail sector is getting gutted.

Here’s where the jobs are — in one chart - The August jobs report showed weaker hiring overall as continued strength in the service sectors struggled to offset anemic manufacturing gains and losses in the mining and extraction industry. The Labor Department’s report also notes that an unusual swell of government hiring — the second-best performer in term of net jobs gains in August — stemmed from the employment of temporary workers tasked with conducting the 2020 census. The government reported Friday that payrolls increased 130,000 during the month, 20,000 below the, 20,000 below the 150,000 economists polled by Dow Jones had forecast. The government also said wages increased at a solid clip, up 0.4% in August and 3.2% over the year. CNBC studied the net changes by industry for August jobs based on data from the Labor Department contained in the employment report. The professional and business sector — a consistent employment juggernaut over the last year — topped the list in August with a net gain of 37,000 payrolls, albeit well shy of the 66,000 clinched in July. Health care and social services, another key area of job growth including ambulatory outpatient care, hospitals and nursing, added 32,000. The government, which doesn’t tend to post big employment swings from month to month, added a hefty 34,000 positions in August thanks to the hiring of temporary workers ahead of the 2020 census. “In August, employment in federal government rose, largely reflecting the hiring of temporary workers for the 2020 Census. Private-sector employment was up by 96,000, with notable job gains in health care and financial activities and a job loss in mining.,” the Labor Department said in a release. Retail trade continued its streak of losses with a decline of 11,100 jobs for the month, bringing its 12-month swoon to 84,000. The mining and logging sector lost 5,000 jobs as a declines in metal ore mining, nonmetallic mineral mining and associated positions all slipped.

If You’re Over 50, Chances Are the Decision to Leave a Job Won’t be Yours - Many Americans assume that by the time they reach their 50s they’ll have steady work, time to save and the right to make their own decisions about when to retire. But as Steckel’s situation suggests, that’s no longer the reality for many — indeed, most — people. ProPublica and the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank, analyzed data from the Health and Retirement Study, or HRS, the premier source of quantitative information about aging in America. Since 1992, the study has followed a nationally representative sample of about 20,000 people from the time they turn 50 through the rest of their lives. Through 2016, our analysis found that between the time older workers enter the study and when they leave paid employment, 56 percent are laid off at least once or leave jobs under such financially damaging circumstances that it’s likely they were pushed out rather than choosing to go voluntarily. Only one in 10 of these workers ever again earns as much as they did before their employment setbacks, our analysis showed. Even years afterward, the household incomes of over half of those who experience such work disruptions remain substantially below those of workers who don’t. “This isn’t how most people think they’re going to finish out their work lives,” said Richard Johnson, an Urban Institute economist and veteran scholar of the older labor force who worked on the analysis. “For the majority of older Americans, working after 50 is considerably riskier and more turbulent than we previously thought.” The HRS is based on employee surveys, not employer records, so it can’t definitively identify what’s behind every setback, but it includes detailed information about the circumstances under which workers leave jobs and the consequences of these departures.

Auto union workers overwhelmingly vote to authorize strikes at GM, Ford, Fiat Chrysler– United Auto Workers members overwhelmingly granted union leaders authorization to strike during contract negotiations this year with General Motors, Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler, if needed. The union on Tuesday announced about 96% of members at each of the automakers supported the action. That’s slightly down from negotiations four years ago, when workers at GM and Fiat Chrysler supported a strike by 97% and Ford at 98%.  GM will lead the negotiations, which are expected to be the most contentious in at least a decade amid a slowdown in auto sales, a volatile trade environment and a widening federal probe into union corruption that led to UAW President Gary Jones’ home being searched last week by federal officials. Jones has not been charged as part of the multiyear probe, which has led to the convictions of eight union and company officials affiliated with Fiat Chrysler. Charges were also filed last month against Michael Grimes, a former UAW official assigned to the union’s GM department, for allegedly receiving $2 million in kickbacks from UAW vendors. The “strike authorization vote” is part of the union’s constitution and viewed as a rudimentary step in the negotiations. The voting results are historically almost unanimous in support of the authorization. The vote does not mean there will or will not be a strike.

“It’s our time”: US autoworkers denounce UAW corruption, vow to fight as contract deadline approaches - With the contract deadline for more than 150,000 US autoworkers at Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler less than two weeks away, workers are determined to beat back employer demands for concessions and win important gains. The continuing exposure of rampant corruption in the leadership of the United Auto Workers has only heightened workers’ resolve to fight. This has been expressed by near-unanimous strike authorization votes by workers at plants across the US. FBI agents raided the home of UAW President Gary Jones last week. This followed the indictment of Michael Grimes, the former top aide to UAW Vice President for General Motors Cindy Estrada. Grimes is accused to taking nearly $2 million in kickbacks for the manufacture of union promotional materials. Workers contacted by the WSWS Autoworker Newsletter expressed anger over the continuous demands by management for cuts despite booming profits. They pointed to the abuse of temporary part time (TPT) workers who have no contract rights and no guaranteed path to regular employment. A worker at the Ford River Rouge complex in Dearborn, Michigan said, “At least 45 percent of this place is made up of TPTs. I’m a TPT myself. I’ve been a TPT for three years, and many of us have been TPTs for multiple years. It forces me to work two jobs. We only get a guarantee of 30 hours; 40 hours when it is offered based on a call list. “This year’s contract is my first. We deserve a lot more; it’s not just Ford, its Chrysler and GM. This used to be the backbone of the state and the cities here. It used to be the main income for a lot of people; now you have jobs competing with autoworkers. It’s not the same like when my dad and my uncles worked here.

American Airlines mechanic charged with sabotaging a plane - An American Airlines mechanic has been arrested and charged with sabotaging an aircraft’s navigation system before a flight in July, forcing crew to abort takeoff from Miami, authorities said. An affidavit in federal court said the mechanic told law enforcement he was upset about stalled contract negotiations with the company and that the “dispute had affected him financially.” Flight 2834 was about to depart for Nassau, Bahamas on July 17 with 150 people on board, when an error message appeared after the engines were started up. The crew aborted takeoff and returned to the gate. The plane was taken out of service for maintenance, American Airlines said. Passengers deplaned and American provided a different aircraft for the flight. The mechanic told law enforcement officials he inserted a piece of foam into the inlet of the plane’s air data module, which measures the plane’s pitch, speed and other information, according to the affidavit. American returned the plane that aborted takeoff back to service after an inspection and “immediately notified federal law enforcement who took over the investigation with our full cooperation,” Scott said. The mechanic, Abdul-Majeed Marouf Ahmed Alani, has been suspended, the airline said. He is set to appear in court on Friday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami. Alani said “his intention was not to cause harm to the aircraft or its passengers” but to “cause a delay or have the flight cancelled in anticipation of obtaining overtime work,” according to the affidavit.’

 Why Does Teen Vogue Need a Labor Column? - Jerri-Lynn here. Why not? Labor issues are certainly as relevant a concern to its readers as many topics the magazine regularly covers.  The Real New Network originally published this interview with Kim Kelly. Please make time to read Kim Kelly’s latest Teen Vogue column, Labor Day Is a Government Scam. As the interview and the column make clear, she’s an astute observer of labor issues. I’ve added her regular column to my to-read list.

 How Amazon Hooked America on Fast Delivery While Avoiding Responsibility for Crashes -- In its relentless push for e-commerce dominance, Amazon has built a huge logistics operation in recent years to get more goods to customers’ homes in less and less time. As it moves to reduce its reliance on legacy carriers like United Parcel Service, the retailer has created a network of contractors across the country that allows the company to expand and shrink the delivery force as needed, while avoiding the costs of taking on permanent employees. But Amazon’s promise of speedy delivery has come at a price, one largely hidden from public view. An investigation by ProPublica identified more than 60 accidents since June 2015 involving Amazon delivery contractors that resulted in serious injuries, including 10 deaths. That tally is most likely a fraction of the accidents that have occurred: Many people don’t sue, and those who do can’t always tell when Amazon is involved, court records, police reports and news accounts show. Even as Amazon argues that it bears no legal responsibility for the human toll, it maintains a tight grip on how the delivery drivers do their jobs. Their paychecks are signed by hundreds of companies, but often Amazon directs, through an app, the order of the deliveries and the route to each destination. Amazon software tracks drivers’ progress, and a dispatcher in an Amazon warehouse can call them if they fall behind schedule. Amazon requires that 999 out of 1,000 deliveries arrive on time, according to work orders obtained from contractors with drivers in eight states. Amazon has repeatedly said in court that it is not responsible for the actions of its contractors, citing agreements that require them, as one puts it, to “defend, indemnify and hold harmless Amazon.” Just last week, an operations manager for Amazon testified in Chicago that it signs such agreements with all its “delivery service partners,” who assume the liability and the responsibility for legal costs. The agreements cover “all loss or damage to personal property or bodily harm including death.”

AOC Calls Out Barbara Boxer for Helping Lyft Fight Against California Labor Bill - New York Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called out former Sen. Barbara Boxer on Twitter Thursday for helping the ride-hailing company Lyft fight against a proposed state-level bill in California that aims to expand workers’ benefits and rights.Boxer — who retired from the U.S. Senate in 2017 — revealed in an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this week that she had accepted Lyft’s request to “advise them on how to find a compromise” over the bill, which would reclassifying some independent contractors, like drivers who work for the company, as employees.In the op-ed, Boxer argued the bill, known as AB 5, “could remove drivers from the road, take away their opportunity to support their goals and families, and make a service which many Californians count on less reliable.”But Ocasio-Cortez — responding to a tweet about Boxer’s op-ed — wrote on Twitter that former government officials “should not become corporate lobbyists, in letter or spirit.” “It’s an abuse of power + a stain on public service,” declared the freshman congresswoman. “I don’t care if it’s a Democrat doing it (both parties do). In fact, that makes it worse — we’re supposed to fight FOR working people, not against them.”  Proponents of AB 5 tout it as a crucial effort to extend basic labor protections to workers in the so-called “gig economy.” Three 2020 Democratic presidential primary candidates—Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Boxer’s successor—have come out in support of it.

American Airlines booted allergic black man from plane so dog could fly first class: lawsuit - According to a report from KWTX, a black man traveling first class on an American Airlines flight was booted from the plane after he complained that he was allergic to a fellow passenger’s support dog.   “I sat on the seat and there was a young lady sitting next to me who had a pet with her, a medium-sized dog in her lap,” Holcomb said in an interview. “As I sat there for a few minutes my eyes, my face everything began to fluster, so she looked over at me and she asked me if I was allergic to dogs.” Admitting that he was, he said the woman attempted to find another seat but could not be accommodated which led to flight attendants and then a pilot to become involved, telling him to move to another seat in the back of the plane.  According to Holcomb, the flight attendant, “Began to get really irate because he was insisting that I go to that seat.” “At that point (workers) told him you’re going to go to the rear of the plane or get off the plane.”  He then added, “Dana was taken off an airplane so a dog could fly first-class cabin.”Holcomb stated that woman did eventually find another passenger willing to switch seats with her, but that he was booted from the plane — as well as the airport — by American anyway and was accused of being “confrontational.” “They left with my medication, they didn’t even have the time to get my bags off the plane,” he told reporters.

 A cynical way to make poor people disappear  The Trump administration has proposed a change in the way the federal government measures poverty. On the surface, this proposal may appear to be an innocuous, technical adjustment. It’s not. Instead, this change would dramatically reduce the number of people who qualify for vital basic assistance programs, including Medicaid, children’s health care and food assistance. The first U.S. poverty measure was a simple calculation. In the mid-1960s, a Social Security Administration researcher took a Department of Agriculture survey of household food consumption and found that a typical family of three or more spent about one-third of its post-tax income on food. The SSA then used USDA’s “economy” meal plan—a diet that would be nutritionally adequate in temporary or emergency situations—and multiplied that cost by three. For about a decade, the “official poverty measure” was recalculated every year based on the USDA’s meal plans, but eventually the federal government began tying the poverty measurement to inflation, using the Consumer Price Index. Rather than updating the outdated measure itself, the proposal would change the inflation measurement to one that grows more slowly than CPI. That means that even if their incomes remain too low to meet basic living standards, fewer and fewer Americans would fall below the slower-growing poverty line over time. They would then cease to be eligible for public safety net programs designed to serve low- and moderate-income people, something the administration itself acknowledges in its proposal. According to a recent analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, at least 250,000 seniors would receive less help in paying for prescription drugs, 300,000 children would lose their health insurance and hundreds of thousands of people would lose food assistance. The effects of the Trump administration’s proposed change would go far beyond Medicaid and food assistance. In fact, over 80 federal programs and policies use some form of the official poverty measure, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program, public housing programs and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Millions of people who are struggling will lose access to these programs, causing greater poverty and hardship for millions of children and families.

Criminals Are Now Sexually Assaulting People By Hacking Their Internet-Enabled Dildos And Butt Plugs --In the Bluetooth and internet-enabled age, sexual assault can now happen from anywhere, at any time. That is, of course, assuming you walk around with an internet-enabled dildo shoved up your ass 24 hours a day. This phenomenon was recently covered, at length, in a Daily Star article where the subheading is actually, "Security expert showed how easy it is to hack a butt-plug".Internet-enabled vibrators and sex toys are meant for couples that seek to "spice up their love lives" using what is being called a "new generation of teledildonic devices". We swear, we are not making this up.Yes, gone are the pesky days of actually having to reach out and touch your partner to stimulate them. In this day and age, who has time for such an archaic act, when fulfilling your relationship sexual duties is now as easy as hitting the Staples "That Was Easy" button?  But with the good comes the bad, and the main problem is that some of the sex toys, including some that feature cameras, can be easily hacked, turning your private sexual encounters into an unwanted "gangbang" of sorts. Believe it or not, the idea of sex toys over the Internet isn’t a new one, either. It was first floated back in 1998, when it was patented by Warren J. Sandvick, Jim W. Hughes, and David Alan Atkinson. And back in 1993, David Rothchild predicted the basic idea in an essay. The word "teledildonics" was actually born in 1975. The diagram below shows the original patent for such a device.The devices use Bluetooth to allow sexual partners to control each other's pleasure remotely. Mellini showed how a hacker could easily gain access to a device and commit a wireless sexual assault. Yes, imagine standing in line to order your Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks when the ole' butt plug accidentally kicks in... Trend Micro also demonstrated how criminals could hack into a web connected vibrator at the CeBIT technology fair in Germany.

Our Kids Shouldn't Go to School Hungry - Nearly half of America's children live in low-income and poor families, and the majority of public school students qualify for free breakfast and lunch programs. Nearly 30 million children—more than the population of Texas—benefit from the National School Lunch Program.  The rollback of nutrition standards, for starters, appears to be a naked giveaway to the dairy industry, which complained that their profits were affected when school meals started cutting back on saturated fat.  In low-income households, it's often food that gets sacrificed to pay rent, utilities, and health bills. Parents or older siblings will go without so the youngest can eat. Or cheap non-nutritious food may be the only affordable option.   School lunch programs, linked to household income and eligibility to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as SNAP, or food stamps), have been critical for feeding kids. And the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act, which enjoyed bipartisan support when it passed in 2010, has made school lunches healthier by reducing sodium and saturated fats, and adding whole grains.  However, the Trump administration began a rollback of the nutrition standards in the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act over a year ago. And now, as part of a proposed new rule that would knock 3 million struggling families off SNAP, over half a million children would lose access to the free and reduced lunch program.  There's virtually no debate that kids need nutritious food to stay healthy and learn at school. Numerous and broad studies have shown that school meal programs reduce obesity, poor health, and food insecurity.  For the school lunch cuts, the Trump administration is using the phony justification that SNAP is rife with fraud. In reality, advocates say SNAP has the most rigorous standards of any federal program. Less than 1 percent of SNAP spending is estimated to be fraudulent—likely much lower than the Pentagon, which can't pass an audit, yet whose far bigger budget Trump keeps increasing. This proposed rule change seems a barely veiled attempt to take more money from effective safety net programs for those in need—while no expense is spared to ensure the extremely wealthy get tax breaks.

YouTube fined $170m in US over children's privacy violation - YouTube has been fined a record $170m (£139m) by a US regulator for violating children's privacy laws. Google, which owns YouTube, agreed to pay the sum in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The video-streaming site had been accused of collecting data on children under 13, without parental consent. The FTC said the data was used to target ads to the children, which contravened the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (Coppa). "There's no excuse for YouTube's violations of the law," said FTC chairman Joe Simons. He added that when it came to complying with Coppa, Google had refused to acknowledge that parts of its main YouTube service were directed at children. However, in presentations to business clients, the company is accused of painting a different picture. For example, the FTC said the tech firm had told Mattel: "YouTube is today's leader in reaching children age 6-11 against top TV channels." YouTube also regularly reviewed content for inclusion in its separate YouTube Kids app. Google will have to pay $136m to the FTC - the largest ever fine in a Coppa case - and a further $34m to the state of New York.

Harry Potter books removed from school library over spell fears --A Roman Catholic school in Tennessee has banished JK Rowling's universally popular series of Harry Potter novels from its library shelves after its pastor took exception to their portrayal of magic, warning the spells and curses the author describes are real and “risk conjuring evil spirits” when read.The Reverend Dan Reehill explained his decision in an email to the parents of students at St Edward Catholic School in Nashville, declaring that he had consulted with exorcists in the US and at the Vatican before outlawing the seven-volume tale of the boy wizard’s career at Hogwarts and his battle against Lord Voldermort and the forces of darkness. “These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception. The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text,” the Reverend Reehill wrote, apparently in all seriousness. Rebecca Hammel, the superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, told The Tennessean that the Reverend Reehill had indeed sent the email and has the final say on the matter, since the Catholic Church does not have an official position on Ms Rowling’s best-selling series.  “Each pastor has canonical authority to make such decisions for his parish school,” she said. “He’s well within his authority to act in that manner.”

 Schools begin in Denver amid sweltering heat and ongoing protests - Denver public school teachers, faculty, students and parents are protesting impossible learning conditions at local schools, as scorching heat broke local records. Sixty older Denver Public Schools (DPS) buildings, out of 207, have no air conditioning. The school year start dates have been set earlier and earlier, as school administrators demand increased preparation for standardized tests. This year, students were in their seats on August 19—when temperatures hit nearly 100 degrees in some parts of Denver. On Monday August 26, about 50 protesters sat-in at the Denver Public School Administrative building. Organizers described conditions in the buildings as unhealthy, even dangerous. Students are lethargic, distracted and sick, they reported. “It’s absolutely brutal,” teacher Lisa Yemma told Denver7 TV news. She told the media she is running her classroom’s window box fan continuously, but asked, “How can we create a safe learning environment for our students so that we’re not all sweating and we can actually focus?” “Teachers that I’ve talked to have said they’ve seen kids drip sweat onto their papers,” said Amy Duclos, a parent of a DPS student, according to Denver7. “The kids are getting headaches, getting nauseous. My daughter said one kid actually vomited in class. If this is what’s happening on these hotter days, then I don’t know if we’re fulfilling the mission of educating our children.” Duclos and other parents traveled to DPS schools delivering thermometers and fans. The administration was roundly denounced for its double standard, as $4.2 million in bond and mill levy money was recently approved to upgrade the Denver Public Schools administration building. Only three of the 60 schools without air conditioners are scheduled for that upgrade some time in 2020. For their part, the DPS administration said that adding air conditioning or heat mitigation in older buildings was too expensive. “If we were to look at doing that—about $200 million,” said DPS Deputy Superintendent of Operations Mark Ferrandino. “Three to four million dollars for air conditioning per school.” Instead, DPS spokesperson Will Jones said they are encouraging building managers to keep windows open at night.

Colorado Teen Suspended From School After Target Practice With Mom - A Colorado teen has been told he cannot return to school until authorities hold a “threat assessment hearing” after he went target shooting with his mother.  Nate Evans, a junior at Loveland High School in Loveland, Colorado actually got a visit from police after he posted video of his plinking with his mom Justine according to the Colorado 2nd Amendment group Rally For Our Rights.A report had come in to the police department about the video and they were told Nate was a threat.  After showing the videos to the police officers and explaining that they’d simply gone on a mother-son outing to train with their legally owned firearms, the police stated that they had done nothing illegal and were well within their rights.  They also determined Nate was not a threat to himself or anyone else, and went on their way.But it wasn’t over. Unfortunately, even after police determined that there was nothing nefarious about a mom taking her son out for some firearms training, the school district wasn’t convinced.  Justine immediately contacted the school assuming she could easily clear things up, especially since the police had already assessed the situation and realized no one had done anything wrong or made any threats.  She was wrong. The school not only refused to provide her with more information about the “threat”, but they refused to provide Nate with schoolwork so he doesn’t get behind.   This is a pretty clear abuse of the program “Safe 2 Tell”, which is designed to allow students to report potential threats to school safety. As Lesley Hollywood with Rally for Our Rights points out, the way the program currently works almost invites abuse. I spoke with Justine, as well as two different attorneys who specialize in Second Amendment issues.  The bottom line is the school is legally within their rights at this time.  According to the attorneys, the school has a protocol that must be followed when a report of a threat comes in through Safe 2 Tell or other means, even if the report is completely false – and there is nothing parents or students can legally do about it, even with a lawyer.  If the student is charged or further action is taken, that changes.  This is why students have dubbed Safe 2 Tell as “Safe 2 Swat”, referencing the act of “swatting“, a criminal harassment tactic of deceiving an emergency service into sending a police and emergency service response team to another person’s address.

A New High School Will Be Designed With Curved Hallways To Stop Mass Shooters -- The future design of American schools is rapidly shifting to protect students from mass shooters.A $48 million construction project at Fruitport High School, located in Fruitport, MI., will feature curved hallways to reduce a gunman's line of sight.Engineers designed "jutting barriers to provide cover and egress, and meticulously spaced classrooms that can lock on-demand and hide students in the corner, out of a killer's sight," reported The Washington Post.Fruitport Superintendent Bob Szymoniak told The Post that curved hallways in the school would reduce causalities of students and teachers if a shooter enters the facility. The overall layout of the new high school was designed with the history of America's mass school shootings in mind, that has left countless children dead over the years. Szymoniak cited the recent El Paso killings at a Walmart, shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.The construction at Fruitport is a new reality for the future of schools across the country. These designs are radically shifting schools into highly secured facilities, and even into prison-like buildings.  Parents have also been preparing for this new reality, they're buying record amounts of bulletproof clothing and backpacks in the last several years because they fear a shooter could enter their child's school at any time. Each classroom was built with a "shadow zone" where a gunman won't be able to see children cowering along a side wall, said Matt Slagle, the architect on the project.

 ‘Father Is Surgeon’: How Money Talked in USC Admissions Scandal - - Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported on emails sent among university officials at the University of Southern California (USC) that demonstrate how just heavily donations by  applicants’ families weigh in admissions decisions.The messages were filed Tuesday in a Boston federal court by a lawyer for two parents accused in the nationwide college-admissions cheating scandal. He claims USC wasn’t a victim of any scheme, but rather based admission decisions in part on expectations of donations from well-heeled families.There is a long-held assumption that money influences college admissions, but the 18 previously undisclosed documents, obtained during the discovery process in the case, appear to make the direct connection in stark terms.They include intricate spreadsheets color-coded by university officials to track “special-interest applicants”—applicants flagged for their connections to USC officials, trustees, donors or other VIPs—with direct references to past and prospective dollar amounts of gifts from their families.Also included are email exchanges about specific candidates whose qualifications were portrayed as questionable by admissions and other officials but whose family ties and bank funds won out.“VIP” students were described in spreadsheets with references like “given 2 million already,” “1 mil pledge,” “Previously donated $25k to Heritage Hall” and “father is surgeon,” the filings show.

Rate of US college students using marijuana reaches 35-year high - Marijuana use among college students spiked to its highest rate in 35 years, according to a study published Thursday by the University of Michigan. The study showed that in 2018, 43 percent of full-time college students ages 19-22 reported using marijuana at least once in the previous 12 months. One-quarter of students reported using marijuana at least once in the last 30 days.  According to the study, the annual and 30-day "prevalence levels" are at historic highs since 1983, when 45 percent of college students said they used marijuana in the last year and 26 percent reported in the last 30 days.  Among high school graduates of the same age who were not enrolled in college full time, 43 percent reported using marijuana in the last year, while 27 percent said they used marijuana in the last 30 days. Researchers said the reported use within the demographic marked the highest levels since the 1980s. The number of students who said they vaped marijuana in the last 30 days rose by 5.7 percentage points between 2017 and 2018, according to the study, with 5.2 percent of college students saying they vaped marijuana in 2017 compared with 10.9 percent of students who said the same in 2018. “This doubling in vaping marijuana among college students is one of the greatest one-year proportional increases we have seen among the multitude of substances we measure since the study began over 40 years ago,” said John Schulenberg, principal investigator of the Monitoring the Future Panel Study. Daily marijuana use among college students, defined as using marijuana on 20 or more occasions in the last 30 days, was at 5.8 percent, according to the study. Daily use has remained between 4 percent and 6 percent for the past five years, the report noted. Daily marijuana usage among non-college students was 11.1 percent, a trend researchers called “worrisome," as the brain is still developing at that age.

73% Of Republican Students Have Withheld Views In Class Fearing Grades Would Suffer -- "I’m a conservative, but my essays are very liberal..."  A survey of 1,000 Republican and Republican-leaning college students has found that nearly three-quarters of them have withheld their political views in class for fear their grades would suffer.The online poll was conducted in late August exclusively for The College Fix by College Pulse, an online survey and analytics company focused on college students. Only students who self-identify as Republican or Republican-leaning were polled.The question asked: “Have you ever withheld your political views in class for fear that your grades would suffer?” Seventy-three percent of students who identity as “strong Republican” reported that they had, while 71 percent of students who identify as “weak Republican” said yes. Even students who identify as Republican-leaning independents indicated they’ve kept quiet: 70 percent reported they have withheld their political views to protect their grades. Most surveys over the years have found that academia is dominated by professors who identify as liberal or who are registered Democrats.

 Student Debt Is Transforming the American Family NYT -   From the late nineteen-eighties to the present, college tuition has increased at a rate four times that of inflation, and eight times that of household income. It has been estimated that forty-five million people in the United States hold educational debt totalling roughly $1.5 trillion—more than what Americans owe on their credit cards and auto loans combined. Some fear that the student-debt “bubble” will be the next to burst. Wide-scale student-debt forgiveness no longer seems radical. Meanwhile, skeptics question the very purpose of college and its degree system. Maybe what pundits dismiss as the impulsive rage of young college students is actually an expression of powerlessness, as they anticipate a future defined by indebtedness. Middle-class families might not seem like the most sympathetic characters when we’re discussing the college-finance conundrum. Poor students, working-class students, and students of color face more pronounced disadvantages, from the difficulty of navigating financial-aid applications and loan packages to the lack of a safety net. But part of Zaloom’s fascination with middle-class families is the larger cultural assumption that they ought to be able to afford higher education. A study conducted in the late nineteen-eighties by Elizabeth Warren, Teresa Sullivan, and Jay Westbrook illuminated the precarity of middle-class life. They found that the Americans filing for bankruptcy rarely lacked education or spent recklessly. Rather, they were often college-educated couples who were unable to recover from random crises along the way, like emergency medical bills. These days, paying for college poses another potential for crisis. The families in “Indebted” are thoughtful and restrained, like the generically respectable characters conjured during a Presidential debate. Zaloom follows them as they contemplate savings plans, apply for financial aid, and then strategize about how to cover the difference. Parents and children alike talk about how educational debt hangs over their futures, impinging on both daily choices and long-term ambitions. In the eighties, more than half of American twentysomethings were financially independent. In the past decade, nearly seventy per cent of young adults in their twenties have received money from their parents. The risk is collective, and the consequences are shared across generations. At times, “Indebted” reads like an ethnography of a dwindling way of life, an elegy for families who still abide by the fantasy that thrift and hard work will be enough to secure the American Dream.

Cancelling Student Debt Reduces the Racial Wealth Gap - Since Elizabeth Warren proposed sweeping student debt cancellation in April, and Bernie Sanders put forth his own more extensive plan in June, members of the D.C. establishment have invented all sorts of reasons why cancelling student debt is privileged, actually. “[It’s] a big gift to a select group of people” opined Sandy Baum of the Urban Institute. Jason Delisle of the American Enterprise Institute said Elizabeth Warren’s plan suffers from a “fairness problem” because it “favors one class of students over those who never took out student loans.” And last fall, New York Times op-ed columnist David Leonhardt asserted that most student debtors are “doing just fine.”  Student debt cancellation, however, is progressive, not regressive; rather than favoring one elite class of people over another, it would in fact benefit the poorest. Lower-wealth households are likelier to have student debt, and even more so if they’re Black. As such, student debt cancellation would also help close racial wealth gaps.   Why are Black households more likely to have student debt? The fault lies partly with a higher education policy that has emphasized filling the labor market’s supposed “skills gap.” This has resulted in credentialization—ever-increasing degree requirements to do the same jobs—which has served to diminish the labor market value of those degrees purchased with student debt. As degrees have become increasingly worthless, many people have gone back to school, taking on more degrees and therefore more debt. And since Black students have less family wealth and face more discrimination in labor markets to begin with, the harm done by credentialization falls disproportionately on them.  But if cancelling student debt obviously and directly leads to closing racial wealth gaps, how did the narrative about student debt cancellation and racial wealth inequality go so far off the rails? How did we end up with elite higher-ed policy wonks and newspaper columnists describing the beneficiaries of student debt cancellation as affluent, privileged, and/or undeserving? It has to do with the same reason the federal student loan program was expanded so much in the first place: the ideology of “human capital” and its ghastly failson, the “skills gap.”

Starving Seniors: How America Fails To Feed Its Aging -  — Army veteran Eugene Milligan is 75 years old and blind. He uses a wheelchair since losing half his right leg to diabetes and gets dialysis for kidney failure. And he has struggled to get enough to eat.  “Many times, I’ve felt like I was starving,” he said. “There’s neighbors that need food too. There’s people at dialysis that need food. There’s hunger everywhere.” Indeed, 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. Even fewer seniors may have SNAP in the future. More than 13% of SNAP households with elderly members would lose benefits under a recent Trump administration proposal.

Private Equity and Surprise Medical Billing – synopsis: Surprise medical billing has become a critical issue facing Americans across the country because of purposeful corporate practices designed to increase profits. As hospitals have outsourced emergency rooms and other specialty care to reduce costs, private investors have bought up specialty physician practices, rolled them into powerful national corporations, and taken over hospital emergency services. The result: large out-of-network surprise bills. The hidden actors: Leading private equity firms looking for ‘outsized’ returns.

Sanders previews plan to cancel all past-due medical debt The Hill - White House hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Saturday previewed his upcoming plan to cancel all past-due medical debt.  Sanders, who will unveil the plan in full next month, has made the country’s health care costs a focal point of his progressive policy proposals.  Sanders's plan would cancel $81 billion in existing past-due medical debt, repeal parts of the 2005 bankruptcy reform bill and ensure that unpaid medical bills do not impact one’s credit score. Sanders has hit the 2005 bill for eliminating "fundamental consumer protections," accusing it of making it difficult for Americans to pay back medical debt by imposing stringent means tests.  “In the United States of America, your financial life and future should not be destroyed because you or a member of your family gets sick,” Sanders said in a news release previewing his plan.   "That is unacceptable. I am sick and tired of seeing over 500,000 Americans declare bankruptcy each year because they cannot pay off the outrageous cost of a medical emergency or a hospital stay," he continued. "In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, 42 percent of Americans should not be losing their entire life savings two years after being diagnosed with cancer."  Americans borrowed an estimated $88 billion to cover medical expenses in the 12 months before the April release of a Gallup and West Health report.  Health care has emerged as one of the chief fault lines in the crowded Democratic presidential primary, with 2020 contenders debating the merits of a "Medicare for All" platform, the role of private insurance plans and the staying power of the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act (ACA). Three top-tier contenders — Sanders, Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) — have proposed varying forms of Medicare for All.  Former Vice President Joe Biden, who leads the field of White House hopefuls in several national polls, has panned the single-payer proposals, suggesting instead that the federal government should expand the 2010 ACA to include a public option.

All Soda, Sugary or Diet, Linked to Early Death in New Study - Cutting soft drinks from your diet — even if they're artificially sweetened — might be one of the simplest ways to boost your health and longevity, according to a new study published this week.The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that drinking two or more glasses of sugary or diet soft drinks per day compared to one is associated with a higher risk of early death from all causes. For the study, around 50 researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer tracked more than 451,000 adults from 10 European countries — none of whom had already been diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, heart disease or stroke beforehand — for up to 19 years, making it one of the first of its kind in Europe.They found that men and women who had two or more glasses of sugary drinks per day had a higher risk of death from digestive diseases affecting the liver, pancreas, intestines and appendix. Drinking the same amount of artificially sweetened diet drinks daily was associated with a higher risk of dying from circulatory diseases. In general, drinking soft drinks was associated with Parkinson's disease, but the researchers found no link to cancer or Alzheimer's risk. The researchers looked at consumption of "fizzy soft drinks," "low calorie or diet dizzy soft drinks" and "fruit squash or cordials," CNN reported, with one glass being 8 fluid ounces. The study was limited by the fact that it only showed association and not causality, but its findings add weight to previous research suggesting that sugary drinks can significantly impact your health.

 This teen went blind and partially deaf after only eating Pringles, French fries and white bread for a decade --A British teenager described as a “fussy eater” went blind and partially deaf after noshing nothing but potato chips, sausages, French fries and white bread for the past decade, according to an alarming case study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine over the weekend.The 17-year-old, who wasn’t named in the report, had visited a general practitioner three years earlier complaining of fatigue. Tests at that time revealed he was anemic and had low levels of the vitamin B12, so he began taking vitamin injections and receiving diet advice. But his height and BMI were normal, so doctors didn’t suspect any greater nutritional issues. By the time he was 15, however, his vision and hearing had begun to deteriorate. Now at 17, he has suffered permanent vision loss, partial hearing loss, as well as bone weakness. So researchers at the University of Bristol examined his case. And after ruling out factors such as his BMI, family history, medications, or drug and alcohol use, they determined that his poor diet had damaged his optic nerve badly enough to cause blindness. In fact, he had developed a condition known as nutritional optic neuropathy (NON), which is more common in countries where extreme poverty, drought and war have led to widespread hunger and malnutrition. The damage to the eye can be reversed if nutritional optic neuropathy is caught early, but it was too late in this teen’s case. About two billion people worldwide are affected by nutritional deficiencies. In high-income countries like the U.S. and the U.K., however, they are usually caused by bowel problems (like celiac disease and Crohn’s disease) that mess with the absorption of important nutrients into the stomach, or drug use, or poor diet combined with alcoholism or smoking. It’s rare for purely dietary causes to lead to nutritional optic neuropathy in developed countries, although the researchers warned this kind of condition could become more common as more consumers choose junk food over more nutritious food, or as the rise of veganism (which cuts out fish, meat, eggs and dairy) leads to some people not getting enough vitamin D or B12 in their diets if they aren’t supplementing properly.

Death toll rises from mysterious lung illnesses linked to vaping, prompting CDC to sound alarm on e-cigarettes - At least three people have died from a mysterious lung illness doctors believe may be caused by vaping — a rising public health worry that has U.S. and state officials perplexed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.  A new patient in Indiana died, in addition to the previously reported deaths in Illinois and Oregon, Ileana Arias, CDC’s acting deputy director of non-infectious diseases told reporters on a media call. Officials are investigating a fourth death, she said. The CDC is urging people to avoid using e-cigarettes amid the outbreak. “Until we have a cause and while this investigation is ongoing, we’re recommending individuals consider not using e-cigarettes,” said Dana Meaney-Delman, who is overseeing the CDC’s response. “As more information comes about and we can narrow down the specific e-cigarette products, we intend to revise that.” Federal health officials are reviewing 450 possible cases linked to vaping across 33 states, including the 215 cases it has previously reported, Meaney-Delman said. It’s unclear what exactly is causing the disease, officials said Friday. Until they have more information, the CDC is urging consumers not to buy e-cigarette products off the street or add any substances that are not intended by the manufacturer, the agency said. Many of the patients who became sick said they vaped THC, a marijuana compound that produces a high. Some reported using both THC and e-cigarettes while a smaller group reported using only nicotine, Meaney-Delman said.  New York officials on Thursday said they are narrowing their focus to vitamin E acetate. Federal officials on Friday said it’s too early to pinpoint one substance. The FDA is analyzing more than 120 samples for the presence of a broad range of substances, including nicotine, THC, other cannabinoids, cutting agents, opioids, toxins and poisons, Mitch Zeller, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products, said on the call. Lab tests have shown a “mix of results,” and no one substance or compound, including vitamin E acetate, has shown up in all of the samples tested, he said. Doctors published detailed reports of the cases they’ve treated in the New England Journal of Medicine on Friday in hopes of defining the illness and helping other doctors recognize it.

Contaminant found in marijuana vaping products linked to deadly lung illnesses, tests show - State and federal health officials investigating mysterious lung illnesses linked to vaping have found the same chemical in samples of marijuana products used by people sickened in different parts of the country and who used different brands of products in recent weeks. The chemical is an oil derived from vitamin E. Investigators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the oil in cannabis products in samples collected from patients who fell ill across the United States. FDA officials shared that information with state health officials during a telephone briefing this week, according to several officials who took part in the call.  That same chemical was also found in nearly all cannabis samples from patients who fell ill in New York in recent weeks, a state health department spokeswoman said. While this is the first common element found in samples from across the country, health officials said it is too early to know whether this is causing the injuries.  Vitamin E is found naturally in certain foods, such as canola oil, olive oil and almonds. The oil derived from the vitamin, known as vitamin E acetate, is commonly available as a nutritional supplement and is used in topical skin treatments. It is not known to cause harm when ingested as a vitamin supplement or applied to the skin. Its name sounds harmless, experts said, but its molecular structure could make it hazardous when inhaled. Its oil-like properties could be associated with the kinds of respiratory symptoms that many patients have reported: cough, shortness of breath and chest pain, officials said. “We knew from earlier testing by New York that they had found vitamin E acetate, but to have FDA talk about it from their overall testing plan, that was the most remarkable thing that we heard,” said one official who listened to the briefing but was not authorized to speak publicly. The FDA also told state officials Wednesday that its lab tests found nothing unusual in nicotine products that had been collected from sick patients, according to another person who took part in the call. The investigation has been particularly challenging for health authorities. “We don’t know what we’re looking for,” an official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is leading the investigation, said last week.

Michigan Becomes First State To Ban E-Cigarette Sales, Citing Youth 'Health Emergency' -- Michigan has become the first state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes after its health department declared youth vaping a public health emergency. The ban is effective immediately and applies to all retail and online sales in the state, with businesses given 30 days to comply. According to The Washington Post, which broke the story early Wednesday, the ban will last for six months at which point lawmakers can renew it for another six months. Simultaneously there's reported legislation being developed to put in place a permanent ban. Surprisingly it was Michigan and not California or New York - both typically at the forefront of banning products over health fears - to be the first to take aggressive legislative action. San Francisco was the first city that recently enacted a ban on e-cigarettes. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) cited the state health department to say youth vaping was an urgent public health emergency which demanded immediate action.  “My number one priority is keeping our kids safe and protecting the health of the people of Michigan,” Whitmer said. Though ironically vaping has been marketed as a "safer" alternative to traditional cigarettes, critics say the variety of flavors are designed to appeal to young people.

Why fentanyl is deadlier than heroin, in a single photo - The opioid crisis just keeps getting worse, in part because new types of drugs keep finding their way onto the streets. Fentanyl, heroin’s synthetic cousin, is among the worst offenders. It’s deadly because it’s so much stronger than heroin, as shown by the photograph above, which was taken at the New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory. On the left is a lethal dose of heroin, equivalent to about 30 milligrams; on the right is a 3-milligram dose of fentanyl, enough to kill an average-sized adult male.  Fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is up to 100 times more potent than morphine and many times that of heroin. Drugs users generally don’t know when their heroin is laced with fentanyl, so when they inject their usual quantity of heroin, they can inadvertently take a deadly doseof the substance. In addition, while dealers try to include fentanyl to improve potency, their measuring equipment usually isn’t fine-tuned enough to ensure they stay below the levels that could cause users to overdose. Plus, the fentanyl sold on the street is almost always made in a clandestine lab; it is less pure than the pharmaceutical version and thus its effect on the body can be more unpredictable.  Heroin and fentanyl look identical, and with drugs purchased on the street, “you don’t know what you’re taking,” Tim Pifer, the director of the New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory, told STAT in an interview. “You’re injecting yourself with a loaded gun.”

Hormone therapy during menopause raises breast cancer risk for years, study finds - A sweeping new analysis adds to the evidence that many women who take hormone therapy during menopause are more likely to develop breast cancer — and remain at higher risk of cancer for more than a decade after they stop taking the drugs. The study, published Thursday in the Lancet, looked at data from dozens of studies, including long-term data on more than 100,000 women who developed breast cancer after menopause. Half of those women had used what’s known as menopausal hormone therapy, or MHT. The longer women took the medicine, the more likely they were to develop breast cancer. Experts say the findings could shape how women and their health care providers decide how to manage symptoms of menopause. “This is a consensus of many researchers and many studies all around the world. These are important new results,” said said Valerie Beral, a cancer epidemiologist at the University of Oxford and one of the lead authors of the new study. Women have long been prescribed synthetic versions to replace the hormones that decline during menopause. The medications — usually delivered in a pill, but sometimes in a patch, gel, or injection — provide women either estrogen or a combination of estrogen and progesterone. For many women, they help to tamp down symptoms of menopause, including osteoporosis. For years, research has suggested a potential link between MHT and an increased risk of breast cancer.  But there wasn’t much information on whether that risk persisted, or how it differed based on the type of MHT a woman took. So an international group of researchers pulled together data from dozens of studies — published and unpublished — to examine the issue more closely.  The researchers found that compared with women who never used MHT, women who did had a significantly higher risk of developing invasive breast cancer. They estimated that 6.3% of women who never used MHT developed breast cancer, compared to 8.3% of women who used the combination drug continually for five years. That’s roughly one extra cancer diagnosis for every 50 users.

 Cancer now ‘leading cause of death’ in rich countries  --Cancer has become the leading cause of death in rich nations, overtaking heart disease, according to the results of two landmark, decade-long global surveys of health trends released Tuesday.Heart disease remains the leading cause of mortality among middle-aged adults globally, accounting for more than 40 percent of deaths, the data showed.It was thought to have been responsible for around 17.7 million deaths in 2017. But in richer countries, cancer now kills more people than heart disease, according to the twin studies published in The Lancet medical journal."The world is witnessing a new epidemiologic transition among the different categories of non-communicable diseases, with cardiovascular disease no longer the leading cause of death in high-income countries," said Gilles Deganais, emeritus professor at Laval University, in Quebec. He said his team's study showed that cancer was the second most common cause of death globally in 2017, accounting for just over a quarter (26 percent) of all deaths.Deganais said that as heart disease rates fell globally, cancer could become the leading cause of death worldwide "within just a few decades". The study followed more than 160,000 adults, in high-, middle-, and low-income countries over the course of decade. It determined that people in poorer nations were on average 2.5 times more likely to die from heart disease than those in richer ones.  It conversely found that non-infectious diseases such as cancer and pneumonia were less common in low-income states than in richer ones. A second study, also by researchers in Canada, and looking at data from patients in the same 21 countries, found that so-called "modifiable risk factors" accounted for 70 percent of heart disease cases globally. These included diet, behavioural and socioeconomic factors, they said.

A doctor and medical ethicist argues life after 75 is not worth living -- In October 2014, Ezekiel Emanuel published an essay in the Atlantic called “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” Because Emanuel is a medical doctor and chair of the University of Pennsylvania’s department of medical ethics and health policy, as well as a chief architect of Obamacare, the article stirred enormous controversy.  Emanuel vowed to refuse not only heroic medical interventions once he turned 75, but also antibiotics and vaccinations. His argument: older Americans live too long in a diminished state, raising the question of, as he put it, “whether our consumption is worth our contribution.” Emanuel was born into a combative clan. One brother, Rahm, recently completed two terms as the controversial mayor of Chicago; another brother, Ari, is a high-profile Hollywood agent. But even given his DNA, Emanuel’s death wish was a provocative argument from a medical ethicist and health-care expert. Emanuel, now 62, talked with me about the social implications of longevity research and why he isn’t a fan of extending life spans. I was particularly curious to get his reaction to several promising new anti-aging drugs. (interview transcript)

What if aging weren’t inevitable, but a curable disease? -Since ancient times, aging has been viewed as simply inevitable, unstoppable, nature’s way. “Natural causes” have long been blamed for deaths among the old, even if they died of a recognized pathological condition. The medical writer Galen argued back in the second century AD that aging is a natural process. His view, the acceptance that one can die simply of old age, has dominated ever since. We think of aging as the accumulation of all the other conditions that get more common as we get older—cancer, dementia, physical frailty. All that tells us, though, is that we’re going to sicken and die; it doesn’t give us a way to change it.   But a growing number of scientists are questioning our basic conception of aging. What if you could challenge your death—or even prevent it altogether? What if the panoply of diseases that strike us in old age are symptoms, not causes? What would change if we classified aging itself as the disease?David Sinclair, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School, is one of those on the front line of this movement. Medicine, he argues, should view aging not as a natural consequence of growing older, but as a condition in and of itself. Old age, in his view, is simply a pathology—and, like all pathologies, can be successfully treated. If we labeled aging differently, it would give us a far greater ability to tackle it in itself, rather than just treating the diseases that accompany it.“Many of the most serious diseases today are a function of aging. Thus, identifying the molecular mechanisms and treatments of aging should be an urgent priority,” he says. “Unless we address aging at its root cause, we’re not going to continue our linear, upward progress toward longer and longer life spans.”

Biohackers are pirating a cheap version of a million-dollar gene therapy -  MIT Technology Review --Citing the tremendous cost of new drugs, an international group of biohackers say they are creating a knock-off of a million-dollar gene therapy.The drug being copied is Glybera, a gene therapy that was the world’s most expensive drug when it came on the market in Europe in 2015 with a $1 million per treatment price tag. Glybera was the first gene therapy ever approved to treat an inherited disease.Now a band of independent and amateur biologists say they have engineered a prototype of a simpler, low-cost version of Glybera, and they plan to call on university and corporate scientists to help them check, improve, and test it on animals.The group says it will start sharing the materials and describe their activities this weekend at Biohack the Planet, a conference in Las Vegas that hosts citizen scientists, journalists, and researchers for two days of presentations on body implants, biosafety, and hallucinogens.  “This was developed in a shed in Mississippi, a warehouse in Florida, a bedroom in Indiana, and on a computer in Austria,” says Gabriel Licina, a biohacker based in South Bend, Indiana. He says the prototype gene therapy cost less than $7,000 to create. Experts briefed on the biohacking project were divided, with some calling it misguided and unlikely to work. Others say the excessive cost of genetic treatments has left patients without options and created an incentive to pirate genetic breakthroughs. “It’s a fairly big deal to see biohackers turning their focus to gene therapies because the potential consequences can be quite large,” said Rachel Sachs, an associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis and an expert on drug pricing. “They may see themselves as serving the interests of the patient community.”

Smartphone Radiation: iPhones Emitting Double Reported Levels - A recent investigation has reignited debate over the safety of cell and smartphones.   The Chicago Tribune recently released findings of its own investigation into radiofrequency radiation emitted by popular smartphones, including several variations of the iPhone.Overall, Tribune reporters, using accredited lab tests that mimic human tissue, tested 11 models from four companies: Apple, Samsung, Motorola, and BLU.The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) — which regulates cell phones, among other things, in the U.S. — has set radiation standards for cell phones at 1.6 watts per kilogram averaged over 1 gram of tissue. Most of the phones the Tribune tested well exceeded that amount at 2 millimeters, or the distance your phone would be in your pocket."Radiofrequency radiation exposure from the iPhone 7 — one of the most popular smartphones ever sold — measured over the legal safety limit and more than double what Apple reported to federal regulators from its own testing," the Tribune reported. Radiofrequency (RF) radiation is of a concern because, according to the FCC, "It has been known for many years that exposure to very high levels of RF radiation can be harmful due to the ability of RF energy to heat biological tissue rapidly." Essentially, it operates the same way a microwave cooks food, and organs like the eyes and testes are particularly vulnerable because there's not enough blood flow to cool them down. But there are larger concerns over how much radiation the U.S. federal government allows cell phones to emit, especially after the Tribune's reporting found they often were in excess of that. The FCC's standards were set in 1996 and reflected the typical amount of use during that time and on a 200-pound man. But phones back then were just that — phones.  Now with unlimited games, applications, and social media, the average time spent on smartphones is now 3 hours and 10 minutes per day. And that's from people of all ages, sizes and genders. Some of that use borders on addiction.

 21 Million Americans Are Relying on Unsafe Drinking Water, Here's What We Can Do About It - Since the Flint drinking water crisis erupted five years ago, Americans have realized that many cities and towns struggle to ensure safe water. Currently residents of Newark, New Jersey are drinking bottled water after the city realized lead filters it handed out had failed.While most water systems in the U.S. provide reliable, high-quality drinking water, our research has shown that as of a few years ago, 21 million people in the U.S. relied on water from utilities with health violations. Why? Infrastructures are aging, environmental hazards are evolving and cities lack the funds to make fixes.No amount of lead in the body is safe, and children under age five are especially at risk. Lead poisoningcan damage the central nervous system, reduce IQ, delay growth and cause behavior and learning problems. Nearly half a million children in the U.S. have elevated blood lead levels. Exposure comes primarily from lead paint, but lead in drinking water also contributes. Our research group studies long-term trends in drinking-water quality and what factors cause unsafe water. Our studies have shown that this public health crisis can be corrected through better enforcement, stricter sampling protocols, revised federal regulations and more funding for state agencies.

PFAS toxins found in drinking water throughout Southern California - Wells of nearly two dozen Southern California water agencies have reportable levels of PFAS, a chemical family increasingly linked to cancer, liver and kidney damage, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, low fertility, low birth weight and ulcerative colitis.Seven of those agencies have shut down wells in the past year because of the presence of those chemicals and two more plan closures, an investigation by the Southern California News Group found. The state only this year began ordering testing for the chemicals, and a state law requiring that customers be notified about the presence of those chemicals won’t kick in until next year.  The substances are dubbed “forever chemicals” because they resist breaking down in nature.   Over the decades, these chemicals have been used to help waterproof and stainproof clothes, shoes, furniture and carpets, to make nonstick cookware, to fortify cardboard food containers and paper food wrappers, to improve the firefighting foam used at airports and to assist in the process of chrome plating. “PFAS is the climate change of toxic chemicals,” said Andria Ventura, toxics program manager for the advocacy group Clean Water Action. “They never go away. Virtually all Americans have them in their blood. Babies are born with them. … They’re some of the scariest things I’ve worked on.”   The Center for Disease Control has found PFAS in the blood of 98% of people 12 and older who were tested for the chemicals. Growing concern about the toxins led to the state to announce Aug. 23 that it was drastically lowering its required reporting threshold, making it likely that more water agencies will be reporting the toxins’ presence in upcoming months.

 Germany to Ban Glyphosate From End of 2023 - Use of glyphosate will be banned in Germany from the end of 2023, after a phased effort to reduce its application by farmers. The ban, agreed by the Cabinet on Wednesday, is part of an insect conservation program from Environment Minister Svenja Schulze. It includes a "systematic reduction strategy," which would initially prohibit use of the chemical in domestic gardens and allotments, and on the edge of farmers' fields. Germany's move comes after lawmakers in Austria passed a bill banning all use of the weedkiller, making the country the first to do so. Some 20 French mayors banned it from their municipalities last month — in defiance of their national government. Glyphosate — also the subject of legal claims over an alleged link with cancer — was developed by Monsanto under the brand name Roundup. The chemical is now out of patent and is marketed worldwide by dozens of other chemical groups. They include Dow Agrosciences and Germany's BASF. Worries about the chemical's safety came to light when a World Health Organization agency report concluded in 2015 that it probably causes cancer.

US Beekeepers File Suit Against Trump EPA Charging ‘Illegal’ Approval of Insecticide Linked to Mass Die-Off - A group of beekeepers joined forces on Friday against Trump's EPA by filing a lawsuit over the agency's move to put a powerful insecticide—one that scientists warn is part of the massive pollinator die-off across the U.S.—back on the market. The lawsuit (pdf) charges that the EPA's approval of sulfoxaflor—touted by its manufacturer, agro-chemical giant Corteva, as a "next generation neonicotinoid"—was illegally rendered as it put industry interests ahead of the health of pollinators and ignored the available science."EPA is harming not just the beekeepers, their livelihood, and bees, but the nation's food system.""Honeybees and other pollinators are dying in droves because of insecticides like sulfoxaflor, yet the Trump administration removes restriction just to please the chemical industry," said Greg Loarie, an attorney with Earthjustice, the legal aid group representing the beekeepers. "This is illegal and an affront to our food system, economy, and environment." According to a statement by Earthjustice:EPA first approved sulfoxaflor in 2013, but thanks to a lawsuit brought by Pollinator Stewardship Council, the American Beekeeper Federation, and Earthjustice, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision. The Court ruled EPA failed to obtain reliable studies regarding the impact of sulfoxaflor on honeybee colonies.In 2016, EPA re-approved sulfoxaflor subject to significant restrictions to reduce the risk to honeybees and other pollinators.  On July 12, 2019, without any public notice, the Trump administration removed these restrictions on sulfoxaflor and approved a host of new uses for the bee-killing insecticide.Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include beekeeper Jeff Anderson, the Pollinator Stewardship Council, and the American Beekeeper Federation."It is inappropriate for EPA to solely rely on industry studies to justify bringing sulfoxaflor back into our farm fields," said Michele Colopy of the Pollinator Stewardship  Council. "Die-offs of tens of thousands of bee colonies continue to occur and sulfoxaflor plays a huge role in this problem. EPA is harming not just the beekeepers, their livelihood, and bees, but the nation's food system."

 Armyworms continue their relentless attacks on crops worldwide - The fall armyworm is one of the most destructive pests in the world. The armyworm is actually the larval stage of the Spodoptera frugiperda moth, but it’s in this stage that the insect can wreak havoc on crops. The armyworm isn’t picky and can feed on more than 80 plant species. Researchers are racing to find ways to control and manage fall armyworm invasions,especially in countries in Africa where in recent years, the pest has destroyed billions of dollars worth of crops.  The fall armyworm is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas but was recently detected in Nigeria in 2016, according to the US Food and Agricultural Organization. By 2017, the fall armyworm spread to 28 countries in Africa.  Last week during trade talks between Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Trump, it was agreed that Japan would buy excess US corn because of armyworm infestations. There are now fears that the pest will spread to Australia and Europe. Predators in South America and the southern US help manage fall armyworm populations. It’s still not known how the armyworm spread to Africa but the damage it can do, even in one night, is considerable.  Roger Day from the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International office in Kenya has been monitoring the fall armyworms steady march across sub-Saharan Africa, and the pest has become a main priority. Day and a team of researchers estimated that uncontrolled armyworm infestations could cost $6.2 billion in crop damages.  “The caterpillars eat rice, sugar cane and maize, and can destroy a farmer’s entire crop in a night,” Day told New Scientist.

Chinese Demand Threatens To Wipe Out Kenyan Donkey Stocks As 'Pig Ebola' Outbreak Worsens - As African swine flu - better known as 'pig ebola' - continues to ravage Chinese pig farms, triggering a massive surge in pork prices, we've written about how consumers' search for alternatives to the dietary staple has turned duck farmers into millionaires overnight. But duck isn't the only protein alternative that Chinese consumers are buying up in droves as pork prices have climbed nearly 70% over the past year, to near-unprecedented levels.As China Dialogue, a China-based English-language publication, reports, surging demand for Donkey meat and skin in China is rapidly depleting donkey stocks in Kenya. If demand continues to climb, animal rights activists warn, the Kenyan Donkey could soon disappear from the East African country.  Over the past five years, four new donkey abbattoirs have opened up in Kenya to help meet rising demand in China. This, of course, predates the 'pig ebola' outbreak, as the Communist Party and state-backed agribusiness has struggled to source food for China's 1.4 billion consumers even under normal conditions.Though most US consumers would probably cringe at the thought of eating donkey, their meat is considered a delicacy in China. Their skins are also processed into a traditional remedy called ejiao that's used to treat everything from anemia to dizziness. Ejiao has also grown in popularity alongside China's growing prosperity. According to a report by the African Network for Animal Welfare, the slaughterhouses are operating at less than half of their capacity, as demand from China has already depleted the donkey population from around 1.8 million animals in 2009 to roughly half that level - about 900,000 - today.

Humans and Big Ag Livestock Now Account for 96 Percent of Mammal Biomass - A first-of-its-kind study published Monday shows that, when it comes to impacting life on Earth, humans are punching well above our weight.  The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first ever comprehensive census of the distribution of the biomass, or weight of living creatures, across classification type and environment. It found that, while humans account for 0.01 percent of the planet's biomass, our activity has reduced the biomass of wild marine and terrestrial mammals by six times and the biomass of plant matter by half. Humans account for about 36 percent of the biomass of all mammals. Domesticated livestock, mostly cows and pigs, account for 60 percent, and wild mammals for only 4 percent. The same holds true for birds. The biomass of poultry is about three times higher than that of wild birds.

Part cow, part… bacterium? Biotech company makes heifer of gene-editing blunder  -- A Minnesota-based gene-editing company is left red in the face after it took on bull genetics—and got slammed. The company, Recombinetics, set out years ago to genetically engineer Holstein dairy cattle to come without their troublesome horns, which farmers typically remove to keep themselves and other cows safe. In 2015, the company seemed to have succeeded, unveiling two hornless bulls, Spotigy and Buri. Recombinetics touted them as a bona fide, 100%-bovine success story.  Though Spotigy was sacrificed for research, Buri lived on to sire 17 offspring—one of whom graced the cover of Wired, as MIT Technology Review notes. And, until just a few months ago, Brazil was set to create a herd of hornless Holsteins from shipments of Buri’s sperm, Wired reported. But the plans were bucked after scientists at the Food and Drug Administration stumbled upon an utterly damning find earlier this year—Buri isn't all bull: he's a wee bit bacterium. When Recombinetics edited the cow cells that would later give rise to Buri, the company did so using bacterial DNA-editing machinery—which inadvertently got stitched into Buri's genome. Recombinetics' scientists used a standard method to get the TALENs into the cow cells—they delivered the TALENs via a loop of bacterial DNA called a plasmid. Usually, after the plasmid-encoded TALENs do their snipping, the plasmid's work is done and it doesn't hang around. But in Buri's case, the whole plasmid ended up inserting itself into the bull's genome, right next to the inserted stretch of DNA for hornlessness.  That means that Buri's genome contains the entire DNA sequence of the plasmid. And in addition to all the bacterial-editing machinery from the loop of DNA, Buri's genome includes the antibiotic resistance genes present on the plasmid, too—though they're unlikely to have any effect. The plasmid insertion is a big cow plop. But the fact that the company didn't find the problem itself is perhaps more embarrassing.  In their report on the case, FDA scientists noted that their find "highlights a potential blind spot in standard genome-editing screening methods."

Beyond Meat uses climate change to market fake meat substitutes. Scientists are cautious - As concerns mount over the dangers of a rapidly warming planet, upstart food companies are targeting a major climate-damaging food: beef. Beyond Meat and its privately held rival Impossible Foods have recently grabbed headlines and fast-food deals for their plant-based burgers that imitate the taste of beef. They’ve also turned the environmental benefits of abstaining from meat into a key marketing tool for their products — drawing some skepticism from environmental researchers who say plant diets are healthier and less carbon emitting than producing processed plant-based products.Animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse emissions, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, with 65% of those emissions coming from beef and dairy cattle. Scientists warn that climate change will trigger an international food crisis unless humans change the way they produce meat and use land.While companies producing imitation meat boast of the environmental benefits, some researchers point out that for people wanting to substantially lower their carbon footprint, having unprocessed plant-based diets instead of eating imitation products is healthier and better for the planet.Beyond and Impossible use different sources of proteins to create their meatless meats. Beyond primarily works with protein from peas, while Impossible uses genetically modified soy.“It makes sense to develop alternatives to beef, because we have to change our eating habits to more plant-based diets if we want to limit global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius. Impossible and Beyond tap into this market,” said Marco Springmann, a senior environmental researcher at the University of Oxford. “However, while their processed products have about half the carbon footprint that chicken does, they also have 5 times more of a footprint than a bean patty,” he said. “So Beyond and Impossible go somewhere towards reducing your carbon footprint, but saying it’s the most climate friendly thing to do — that’s a false promise.”

 Video: Chinese Company Makes Genetic Engineering Leap by Cloning Its First Cat -  According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, animals are cloned by removing a mature somatic cell from them. Researchers then “transfer the DNA of the donor animal's somatic cell into an egg cell, or oocyte, that has had its own DNA-containing nucleus removed.” Once the egg has developed into an embryo, it’s implanted into an adult female animal.  The company managed to successfully clone Garlic, a two-year-old British Shorthair cat who belonged to Huang Yu and that had died because of a urinary tract infection. In August 2018, Sinogene took cells from Garlic to use for its clone, which was born just a few weeks after the embryo with Garlic’s cells were implanted into a surrogate mother. “In my heart, Garlic is irreplaceable,” Huang told the New York Times. “Garlic didn’t leave anything for future generations, so I could only choose to clone.” However, upon seeing Garlic’s clone, Huang was elated, claiming the “similarity between the two cats is more than 90 percent.”According to Mi Jidong, Sinogene’s chief executive, the company began cloning pets in 2015 after a survey of around 1,000 participants revealed many were willing to pay for the service. Since then, the company has cloned more than 40 dogs, as well as some other pets. AFP reported that the company charges roughly $53,000 to clone a dog and $35,000 for a cat.“Whatever the origin of pets, owners will see them as part of the family. Pet cloning meets the emotional needs of young generations,” Mi is quoted as saying by AFP. China has been making strides in this area of science, cloning primates and producing super strong dogs. Chinese scientist He Jiankui of Shenzhen’s Southern University of Science and Technology even created the first genetically-edited, HIV-resistant babies last year, the Guardian reported.Although pet cloning remains illegal in many countries, it appears to be gaining popularity. In an interview last year with the New York Times, American singer Barbra Streisand revealed that two of her dogs were clones of another one, Samantha, that had died. “You can clone the look of a dog, but you can’t clone the soul. Still, every time I look at their faces, I think of my Samantha … and smile,” Streisand said in the interview.

 Scientists warn West Coast ocean heat wave could pose major risk to whales, salmon, sea lions - A heat wave forming off the west coast in the Pacific Ocean resembles a 2014-15 phenomenon that led to major disruptions to marine life along the western seaboard, federal scientists said Thursday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wrote in a blog post that a growing belt of warm water that stretches from Alaska to California "ranks as the second largest marine heatwave in terms of area in the northern Pacific Ocean in the last 40 years, after 'the Blob,' " referring to the 2014-15 heat wave. “It’s on a trajectory to be as strong as the prior event,” said scientist Andrew Leising of NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif.“Already, on its own, it is one of the most significant events that we’ve seen,"Leising added. The 2014-15 event had major effects on marine life on the West Coast, including "multiple" fishery disasters and a massive coastal algal bloom that ended crabbing and clamming efforts along the coast for months, according to the NOAA. Salmon numbers also declined during that time. Whales including humpbacks were forced closer to shore, resulting in entanglements with fishing lines, while thousands of sea lions were reportedly stranded on shore. Scientists are hopeful, however, that the heat wave could dissipate if a ridge of high pressure that allowed upper layers of the ocean to warm ends in the next few months. “It looks bad, but it could also go away pretty quickly if the unusually persistent weather patterns that caused it change,” said Nate Mantua, a scientist at NOAA's Southwest facility. At issue as to how long the heat wave will last is how deep the heat wave extends into the ocean. For now, scientists say just the top levels of the ocean have been affected by the warming. “There are definitely concerning implications for the ecosystem,”   “It’s all a matter of how long it lasts and how deep it goes.”

Hurricane Dorian ‘Off the Charts’ as It Batters Bahamas With 185 MPH Winds - Dorian came ashore in the Bahamas tied as the most powerful storm to hit land anywhere in the Atlantic.The hurricane brought 185 mile-per-hour winds, up to 30 inches of rain in isolated areas, and a storm surge that could top 23 feet and leave the islands devastated for years. The fate of Florida remains uncertain as the storm churns in the ocean just 155 miles away.The eye of Category 5 Dorian struck Elbow Cay about 12:40 p.m. with wind gusts of more than 220 mph (354 kilometers per hour) in addition to its sustained winds, and then moved onto Great Abaco Island, the U.S.National Hurricane Center reported. The storm is about 75 miles (121 kilometers) from Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. It is maintaining its peak winds of 185 mph.  Dorian tied the 1935 Labor Day hurricane, which crushed the Florida Keys, as the strongest storm ever to hit land anywhere in the Atlantic, said Maureen O’Leary, spokeswoman for the National Weather Service.“I wouldn’t want to be on the Abaco Islands, they are going to have 12 to 15 hours of hurricane force winds with only the eye as the respite,” said Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground, an IBM business. “Everything in that eye is going to get totaled, it is going to take them years, if not a decade, to recover.” Roughly 100,000 of the 370,000 Bahamas population live in areas that are going to be hit by the storm, according to Bahamas Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Kevin Peter Turnquest, adding in a response to queries that Abaco suffered “severe destruction of homes and infrastructure.”  While many people focus on winds, most hurricane deaths are caused by storm surge and drowning from flooding.

Hurricane Dorian unleashes 220-mph wind gusts as it slams Bahamas - Hurricane Dorian packed sustained winds of 185 mph with staggering 220-mph gusts as it made landfall in the Bahamas on Sunday, prompting President Trump to tweet that the churning monster “is looking like one of the largest hurricanes ever” as it moved within 205 miles of Florida.   Only four storms in the Atlantic have ever had higher sustained wind speeds, and none since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, AccuWeather reported, while the National Hurricane Center called Dorian “the strongest hurricane in modern records for the northwest Bahamas.”   The storm slowed its march over the ocean to just 7 mph as it approached the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, and could remain over the archipelago for 30 hours as it brings up to 30 inches of rain and storm surges of up to 23 feet, the hurricane center said.“It’s going to be very bad for the Bahamas,” said hurricane center director Ken Graham, calling Dorian a “very treacherous, very dangerous, life-threatening situation” for the islands.Forecasters said Dorian could veer north before slamming the Florida coast, but state officials were taking no chances — the Sunshine State remained under a state of emergency Sunday as Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a mandatory evacuation order for the coasts of Palm Beach and Martin counties.

South Carolina to evacuate coast as Hurricane Dorian closes in - South Carolina’s governor has ordered a mandatory evacuation of his state’s entire coast as Hurricane Dorian threatens.Gov. Henry McMaster’s order goes into effect at noon Monday, when state troopers will begin reversing lanes so that people can all head inland on major coastal highways.Authorities say the order covers approximately 830,000 people, many of whom will be evacuating for the fourth time in four years. McMaster says he knows some people won’t be happy having to leave their homes. But he says “we believe we can keep everyone alive.”   The National Hurricane Center forecasts the center of Dorian to stay off shore while paralleling the South Carolina coast starting Wednesday afternoon. But a small change in the forecast could send the eye and strongest winds into the state.

'It Is Pure Hell': Videos From Bahamas Show Devastation Left by Hurricane Dorian as Storm Heads Toward US - Videos posted online late Sunday and early Monday provided the first glimpse of the scale of destruction Hurricane Dorian—a historic Category 5 storm—left in its wake in the Bahamas as it slowly moves toward the southeastern coast of the United States,forcing nearly a million residents of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas to evacuate."I have seen utter devastation here... We are surrounded by water with no way out,"said ABC News correspondent Marcus Moore, who was on the ground in Marsh Harbour. "Absolute devastation, there really are no words," said Moore, surveying destroyed homes and buildings. "It is pure hell here on Marsh Harbour on Aboca Island in the northern part of the Bahamas." The Guardian characterized Dorian as "the biggest storm to hit the Caribbean island chain in modern times," with wind gusts reaching as high as 220 mph. During a press conference Sunday, Bahamian prime minister Hubert Minnis said Dorian "will put us to a test that we've never confronted before." "This is probably the most sad and worst day of my life to address the Bahamian people," said Minnis. "I just want to say as a physician I've been trained to withstand many things, but never anything like this." According to the National Hurricane Center, the storm remained at Category 5 strength Monday as it drifted over Grand Bahama Island, unleashing heavy rainfall and severe wind. "This is a life-threatening situation. Residents on Grand Bahama Island should not leave their shelter when the eye passes over, as winds will rapidly increase on the other side of the eye," the center said. "These hazards will continue over Grand Bahama Island during most of the day, causing extreme destruction on the island." Forecasters on Monday said the storm could get "dangerously close to the Florida east coast" as early as Monday night.

Bahamian Official Filmed Cat-5 Dorian As It Swallowed His Home -- Like many Bahamians, Michael Pintard, the country's minister for agriculture, hunkered down in his home to wait out what was a category 5 hurricane at the moment Dorian slammed the small Caribbean island's coast Sunday night.  The largest storm currently on the planet and the strongest to hit the Bahamas in recorded history had sustained winds of 180 mph, and some gusts ranging up to 220 mph as it made landfall there.  Pintard on Monday uploaded surreal video to the internet showing storm waters rising to above his windows, which are at least 20 feet above the ground, according to his estimate.  Minister of Agriculture and Marco City MP Michael Pintard, who lives on Grand Bahama, showing some utterly frightening footage of his home during the passage of Hurricane Dorian. pic.twitter.com/gugVsLMroB — Travis C-Carroll (@TravisCC) September 2, 2019"This is what I’m facing at the moment, and I have neighbors that are in a far worse position than me and my family," he said.The now viral clip shows the government minister's home being essentially swallowed up in the massive storm surge and flooding as Hurricane Dorian passed over Grand Bahama. "That’s water hitting my front window which is extremely high. Of course I’m already completely flooded out. That’s my kitchen window that water is hitting and that has to be a minimum of about 20 feet above the ground," he narrates amid the chaotic scene. "This is water by my back door that came from the canal that height has to be 20 to 25 feet above sea level. This is what I’m facing at the moment. I have neighbors who are in a far worse position than me and my family. That’s my bedroom water hitting there," Pintard says.Waters in some parts of the islands didn't appear to abate Monday as rescue operations are underway.  *  The images and videos out of Grand Bahama are getting worse. pic.twitter.com/lnQvmHz1SJ — Travis C-Carroll (@TravisCC) September 2, 2019 Footage from inside other homes in the Bahamas appeared to show families huddled in attics while water rose to roof level.  Find floatation devices and use hammers to escape your attics through the roof, officials in the northwestern Bahamas reportedly tell residents as they become overwhelmed with distress calls. More: https://t.co/e9ujsvGTmH pic.twitter.com/2vUrkZbNmA

Hurricane Dorian kills five in the Bahamas as it moves slowly on to Florida - The government of the Bahamas confirmed the death of five people Monday afternoon as massive Hurricane Dorian lashed both Grand Bahama and Abaco islands and came to a virtual standstill, causing “extreme destruction.” News reports said that storm surges grew 12 to 18 feet above normal tide levels with winds at 145 mph and gusts of up to 170 mph. Weather analysis showed that the hurricane had moved just 14 miles between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Monday, stubbornly thrashing the northern tier of the Bahamas, a collection of 700 islands, 31 of which have a combined population of 391,000 people. Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said the police confirmed the five deaths on Abaco Island, although no other details were made available. He also reported that “many homes, businesses and other buildings have been completely or partially destroyed” and that “downtown Grand Bahama is under three feet of water.” The International Federation of the Red Cross reported that as many as 13,000 houses have been severely damaged or destroyed and that flooding is believed to have contaminated wells with salt water on Abaco island. Sune Bülow, manager of the IFRC Emergency Operation Center in Geneva, said, “We don’t yet have a complete picture of what has happened. But it is clear that Hurricane Dorian has had a catastrophic impact. We anticipate extensive shelter needs, alongside the need for short-term economic support, as well as for clean water and health assistance.” Family members reported loss of phone contact with their loved ones in the Bahamas. Some residents posted videos of the devastation and reported that roofs had been blown off of homes and others had been completed destroyed by the high winds and water.

Hurricane Dorian is a powerful Category 4 hurricane — pummeling the Bahamas and heading “dangerously close” to Florida - A worst-case scenario is playing out the Bahamas. Florida and the Southeast US may be spared the worst. But uncertainties remain. On Monday, Hurricane Dorian slammed into the Abacos Islands in the Bahamas as an incredibly powerful Category 5 hurricane, with howling winds in excess of 185 mph and with gusts up to 220 mph. The storm brought with it a surge — coastal flooding — of 18-to-23 feet above normal tide. Dorian is estimated to be the second-most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, and ties the record for the most powerful storm to make landfall, according to the National Weather Service. Preliminary reports from the Abacos Islands show extreme devastation.The storm weakened slightly and was (very slowly) moving through Grand Bahama Island on Monday, with winds gusting over 200 mph and 18 to 23 feet of coastal flooding. Plus, the forward motion of the storm nearly stalled, moving west at just 1 mph. The slower a storm moves, the more time it has to destroy communities in its path. It’s a worst-case scenario for a hurricane. “Devastating winds and storm surge will continue to affect Grand Bahama Island through tonight,” the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned. “Everyone there should take immediate shelter and not venture into the eye.”As of Monday evening, the storm was sustaining 145 mph winds, making it an extremely dangerous Category 4 “major” hurricane.

Why Are Hurricanes Like Dorian Stalling, and Is Global Warming Involved? - Hurricane Dorian's slow, destructive track through the Bahamas fits a pattern scientists have been seeing over recent decades, and one they expect to continue as the planet warms: hurricanes stalling over coastal areas and bringing extreme rainfall. Dorian made landfall in the northern Bahamas on Sept. 1 as one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes on record, then battered the islands for hours on end with heavy rain, a storm surge of up to 23 feet and sustained wind speeds reaching 185 miles per hour. The storm's slow forward motion—at times only 1 mile per hour—is one of the reasons forecasters were having a hard time pinpointing its exact future path toward the U.S. coast. . Recent research shows that more North Atlantic hurricanes have been stalling as Dorian did, leading to more extreme rainfall. Their average forward speed has also decreased by 17 percent—from 11.5 mph, to 9.6 mph—from 1944 to 2017, according to a study published in June by federal scientists at NASA and NOAA. The researchers don't understand exactly why tropical storms are stalling more, but they think it's caused by a general slowdown of atmospheric circulation (global winds), both in the tropics, where the systems form, and in the mid-latitudes, where they hit land and cause damage.Hurricanes are steered and carried by large-scale wind flows, "like a cork in a stream," said Tim Hall, a hurricane researcher with NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and author of the study. So, if those winds slow down or shift direction, it affects how fast hurricanes move forward and where they end up.  Jim Kossin, co-author of the June study, said scientists suspect the overall slowing of winds is at least partly due to rapid warming of the Arctic. The temperature contrast between the Arctic and the equator is a main driver of wind. Since the Arctic is warming faster than lower latitudes, the contrast is decreasing, and so are wind speeds.  In a 2018 paper, Kossin showed that the increase in tropical cyclones stalling is a global trend.  Hurricane Harvey dumped 60 inches of rain on parts of Texas in 2017 and stalled over the Houston area for days. Hurricane Florence stalled in 2018, flooding parts of coastal North Carolina. Kossin said Hurricane Sandy, in 2012, also took an unusual path that may have been affected by shifting global wind patterns, turning west and slamming into New Jersey instead of being carried eastward, out to sea and away from land, by prevailing westerly winds.

Hurricane Dorian: Residents flee South Carolina coast ahead of storm  – Parts of historic Market Street in Charleston were under a foot of water and gusting winds blew rain sideways Thursday as Hurricane Dorian continued its unrelenting advance on the U.S. coast, days after devastating parts of the Bahamas.Hundreds of thousands of coastal residents of the Carolinas were packing up to flee their homes or were already gone. More than 220,000 homes and businesses across the state already were without power.  The historic storm, which dropped slightly to Category 2 status, was about 65 miles southeast of here at 11 a.m. ET Thursday with maximum sustained winds at 110 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.  “It is the water that kills people,” Gov. Henry McMaster said. “Water is the real danger. And it’s clear that we are going to have a lot of water.” The center warned the storm "continues to lash the coast of the Carolinas" and hurricane conditions are likely over portions of the area later Thursday. The center of the storm was forecast to move closer to the coast of South Carolina through the day and then move near or over the coast of North Carolina overnight and Friday.  Charleston was experiencing wind gusts in excess of 60 mph. Similar gusts were recorded elsewhere in the state and in North Carolina, the hurricane center said.Hurricane-force winds were extending outward up to 60 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 195 miles.

Stunning aerial footage from CNN shows the devastating Hurricane Dorian damage in the Bahamas - While tornados don’t cover nearly as wide an area as hurricanes, they are known for having more intense winds. But according to CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray, the damage inflicted by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas was so intense that it combined the worst of both worlds — a wide path like a hurricane, combined with the intensity of a tornado.A video aired by CNN on Tuesday showed an aerial view of the Bahamas’ Great Abaco Island following Hurricane Dorian. With the video playing, Gray commented, “It looks like tornado damage. This storm had the winds of an EF4 tornado. And imagine a tornado sitting on the same spot for several days; that’s the kind of damage that you’re seeing.” A Gray colleague at CNN agreed, commenting on the “wide swath of devastation” on Great Abaco Island. “It just goes on and on, and on,” she said — to which Gray agreed, commenting, “I think this damage is going to be so widespread.”

Vast destruction revealed as Hurricane Dorian leaves the Bahamas - In scenes reminiscent of the drowning of New Orleans 14 years ago, desperate survivors of Hurricane Dorian are stranded on rooftops and other structures on the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco, waiting for rescue in the wake of nearly two days of continuous battering by the giant storm.As the hurricane moved very slowly toward the northwest, and winds that had topped 185 miles per hour abated, it became possible for the outside world to glimpse the full impact of the storm on the low-lying islands in the northern part of the Bahamas, home to 73,000 people.The official death toll remains at seven, all on Abaco, but aerial photos showing that half of the houses on the two islands have been destroyed or suffered major damage and that nearly 60 percent of Grand Bahama remains under water suggest that the loss of life will be far greater.Much of the public infrastructure in the two islands is under water, including the airport on Grand Bahama. Vehicles and shipping containers were thrown about by the storm surge and by wind gusts of up to 220 miles per hour.According to one estimate, the storm surge from Dorian was as high as 23 feet—not counting waves and tides—while the highest point on Abaco and Grand Bahama is only 30 feet. Nearly every structure on the two islands was completely flooded up to the top of the ground floor.Large tracts of housing have been reduced to splinters. One Bahamian government official said that nearly three-quarters of all homes on Grand Bahama remained under water. This includes the second-largest town in the Bahamas, Freeport, with a pre-storm population of 27,000. Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas Sunday as a Category 5 storm and its eyewall remained over the two northern islands until early Tuesday, an unprecedented duration. It has since weakened to a Category 2, lingering off the east coast of Florida and moving slowly north toward Georgia and the Carolinas.

Dorian-Devastated Island With 50K Residents Now 70% Under Water - Hurricane Dorian has absolutely devastated Grand Bahama island, which is now 70% under water according to Bloomberg, citing government sources. The roughly 50-mile wide vacation destination in the Bahamas is home to approximately 50,000 people.   Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said that the damage to homes, businesses and other buildings is "unprecedented and extensive," while the National Emergency Management Agency has issued an "urgent plea" to owners of equipment such as jet skis, small boats and flatbed trailers to assemble at the Grand Bahama shopping mall to assist with the rescue.  The US Coast Guard along with the British Royal Navy have also been sent to the region.   There are “still many outstanding rescue missions,” on the island of Grand Bahama, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Kevin Peter Turnquest said, in reply to written questions. “It’s not looking good as we expect catastrophic damage.” –Bloomberg   BREAKING PHOTOS: What remains inside airport in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island - WPTV-TV pic.twitter.com/f0GM2JE1cI According to the Red Cross, 13,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed. When combined with nearby Abaco Island which lies just to the East, 45% of all dwellings are reported to have been obliterated, and 62,000 people do not have fresh water.

As Aerial Footage of Devastated Bahamas Emerges, Campaigners Ask How Much Destruction and Death Before Global Climate Action Taken? - As the National Hurricane Center announced Tuesday that Hurricane Dorian’s core was “finally moving away from Grand Bahama Island,” toward the Southeastern U.S. coast, footage of the storm’s devastation flooded the internet alongside calls for governments and the news media to recognize the here-and-now destruction of the climate emergency. Through Tuesday evening, the center warned, “dangerous winds and life-threatening storm surge” from Dorian would continue to ravage Grand Bahama—over which the storm stalled Monday after making landfall as a Category 5 hurricane on the Bahamas’ Abaco Islands Sunday. “There’s still hurricane-force winds and rain coming down on us, and yet these people are going out and pulling people from their houses, from on top of their houses, and saving their lives,”reported CNN‘s Patrick Oppmann, who is on the ground in the Bahamas.  Climate advocacy groups emphasized the importance of not only aiding those affected by this storm but also of pursuing bolder action to limit rising temperatures that scientists say are making hurricanes more devastating.  In the Bahamas, as many as 13,000 homes – or nearly half of all houses on the impacted islands – may have been severely damaged or destroyed by Dorian, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Flooding on Abaco “is believed to have contaminated wells with saltwater,” so some 62,000 people will need access to clean drinking water.  About 45,700 people in Grand Bahama and 14,500 in the Abacos may need food, a spokesman for the U.N. World Food Program told The Associated Press, which reported Tuesday on the region’s emerging humanitarian crisis. Bahamas Health Minister Duane Sands tells The Associated Press that Hurricane Dorian devastated the health infrastructure in Grand Bahama island and massive flooding has rendered the main hospital unusable. He said Tuesday that the storm caused less severe damage in the neighboring Abaco Islands and he hopes to send an advanced medical team there soon. Sands said the main hospital in Marsh Harbor is intact and sheltering 400 people but needs food, water, medicine, and surgical supplies. He also said crews are trying to airlift between five and seven end-stage kidney failure patients from Abaco who haven’t received dialysis since Friday.

Bahamas death toll rises to 30 after Hurricane Dorian - The death toll in the Bahamas in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian rose to 30, according to multiple reports. Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis told CNN about the increased fatalities Thursday evening. Previous reports indicated that 23 people had died due to the storm. The Bahamas's minister of health, Duane Sands, told The New York Times that the death count after the storm hit “could be staggering.” “We are embalming bodies so that we have more capacity as new bodies are brought in,” Sands said. “We need to get coolers into Abaco and Grand Bahama, because we believe that we may not have the capacity to store the bodies,” he added, referring to areas that were hit hardest by Dorian.  The storm has been weakened since it hit the Bahamas and was headed toward North and South Carolina on Thursday. The National Hurricane Center tweeted Thursday night that the wall of Dorian's eye was "very near" Cape Fear, N.C.

Hurricane Dorian Battering North Carolina With Flooding Rain, Storm Surge, High Winds, Tornadoes -  Hurricane Dorian is lashing North Carolina with storm surge flooding, rainfall flooding, high winds and tornadoes and will have impacts in southeast Virginia and southeast Massachusetts Friday and Saturday.Dorian's maximum sustained winds have ticked down slightly, making it a Category 2hurricane. Regardless of these small intensity changes, the hurricane's impacts will likely be similar.Tropical storm conditions continue in North Carolina with damage has been reported more than 50 miles inland. An observation from Federal Point, North Carolina, recently reported a sustained wind of 61 mph and a hurricane-force gust. The eyewall containing the strongest winds in Dorian is scraping along the North Carolina coast as Dorian accelerates northeastward.Given Dorian's continued movement, areas just up the coast from Emerald Isle, North Carolina, could experience the hurricane's most intense winds in this ring of convection closest to the center. Tornado watches are in effect for parts eastern North Carolina overnight. Isolated tornadoes are common mainly in outer rainbands when tropical storms and hurricanes affect land.Heavier rainbands continue to wrap in around Dorian into eastern North Carolina and the mid-Atlantic. Tropical-storm-force winds (39-plus mph) extend up to 220 miles from the center, while hurricane-force winds (74-plus mph) extend up to 60 miles from the center. Dorian may track close enough to bring a period of rain and some tropical storm-force winds to southeastern New England before it quickly races toward parts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland later Saturday into Sunday. Dorian is expected to strike Nova Scotia as a hurricane Saturday evening.

Dorian's floodwaters trap people in attics in North Carolina - — A weakened Hurricane Dorian flooded homes on North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Friday with a fury that took even storm-hardened residents by surprise, forcing people to retreat to their attics. Hundreds were feared trapped by high water, and neighbors used boats to rescue one another. Sheriff’s officials sent medics and other rescuers to Ocracoke Island — accessible only by boat or air — to reach those who made the mistake of defying mandatory evacuation orders along the 200-mile ribbon of low-lying islands that stick out from the Eastern Seaboard like the side-view mirror on a car. “There is significant concern about hundreds of people trapped on Ocracoke Island,” Gov. Roy Cooper said. “There are rescue teams ready as soon as they can get in.” Its winds down to 90 mph, Dorian howled over the Outer Banks as a far weaker storm than the brute that wreaked havoc on the Bahamas at the start of the week. Just when it looked as if its run up the Southeast coast was coming to a relatively quiet end, the Category 1 hurricane lashed communities with rain and surging seas, sending water coursing onto the main floors of elevated homes. Over and over, longtime residents said that they had never seen flooding so bad, or that things that had never flooded before were inundated. “The wall of water just came rushing through the island from the sound side. And it just started looking like a bathtub, very quickly,” said Steve Harris, who has lived on Ocracoke Island for most of the last 19 years. “We went from almost no water to 4 to 6 feet in a matter of minutes.”

Hurricane Dorian pulling away from the U.S., racing toward Nova Scotia - As Hurricane Dorian finally began to move away from the mid-Atlantic states, it picked up speed Friday night and began racing toward Nova Scotia where hurricane-force winds were soon to be felt.A hurricane warning was issued Friday afternoon for parts of eastern Nova Scotia, as Hurricane Dorian started pulling away from the U.S. coast and heading toward Canada. "On the forecast track, the center of Dorian should move move to the southeast of extreme southeastern New England tonight and Saturday morning, and then across Nova Scotia late Saturday or Saturday night,” the National Hurricane Center said at 8 p.m. The hurricane was still about 275 miles south-southwest of Nantucket Island, the 8 p.m. Friday advisory said. The storm’s forward motion accelerated to 24 mph on a course that could take it near southeastern Massachusetts and northeastern Maine as it closes in on eastern Canada. Dorian’s top winds remained at 90 mph and were expected to weaken Saturday, although they would retain hurricane-force as the storm approached Nova Scotia, according to the National Hurricane Center.“Hurricane Dorian will begin to race towards Atlantic Canada later today - severe impacts across the region during the weekend,” the Canadian Hurricane Centre said. Warning of severe winds, torrential rain and pounding surf, the Canadian Hurricane Centre issued the Nova Scotia warning, as well as a hurricane watch for Prince Edward Island, southwestern Nova Scotia, the Magdalen Islands, and southwestern Newfoundland.“Dorian will remain a very potent post-tropical system with hurricane or near hurricane force winds as it crosses Northern Newfoundland,” the Canadian Hurricane Centre said Friday.Dorian, which brought flooding, evacuations, tornadoes and torrential rain on its 700-mile trip up the U.S. coast, is expected to veer away later Friday. For the next few hours, however, the storm’s wide wind field and heavy rains were expected to continue roughing up North Carolina, Virginia and Delaware. The storm continued to produce top winds of 90 mph, putting at Category 1 strength, according to the 11 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center.

Fox News's Shepard Smith blasts Trump for Dorian map edit: 'Some things in Trumplandia are inexplicable'  - Fox News chief anchor Shepard Smith on Thursday roasted President Trump for repeatedly backing his own forecast about Hurricane Dorian’s path that incorrectly included Alabama. “Some things in Trumplandia are inexplicable,” Smith said. “Maybe he got some bad info from somebody, maybe he made a mistake, maybe he was confused, we don’t know. But he was wrong. And since, for days and days, he’s been insisting — with fake visuals in hand — that he was right.” Trump tweeted on Sunday that "in addition to Florida - South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated" by Hurricane Dorian. Trump repeated the statement later that day while at a briefing at Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters.The National Weather Service in Birmingham quickly corrected the president, saying this was not the case, and meteorologists have sincecalled him out for his assertion.Trump later attacked ABC News for reporting that he made an error and continued to defend his statements.“That could’ve been it — the end of it. Everybody makes mistakes,” Smith said. “Instead, the next day, the president blamed the media for his own inaccurate warning and then started to rewrite history on the matter.”On Wednesday, the president referred to a seemingly doctored map of Dorian’s original path that looped in Alabama with black marker.Trump then doubled down on his remarks Thursday, insisting on Twitter that “certain models strongly suggested” Alabama and Georgia would be hit by the hurricane and that “what I said was accurate!”   “Why would the president of the United States do this?” Smith said. “He decries fake news that isn’t and disseminates fake news that is. Think China pays the tariffs. The wall is going up. Historic inauguration crowds. Russia probe was a witch hunt. You need an ID to buy cereal. Noise from windmills causes cancer. It’s endless.”

“Precious hours were wasted”: Trump’s doctored map affected hurricane forecasters - On Wednesday, when President Donald Trump was showing off a doctored hurricane forecast in the White House Oval Office, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center were mortified. It was a critical moment for the federal tropical cyclone experts because Hurricane Dorian had begun to show signs of re-intensifying—it would later become a major hurricane again—and its track appeared increasingly likely to bring the storm's center ashore somewhere in the Carolinas. Two sources in the Miami-based hurricane center told Ars that Trump's "update" on Hurricane Dorian effectively paralyzed operations.After Trump spoke, the forecasters' cell phones buzzed with incessant distractions. Media briefings were stopped for the afternoon. "Precious hours were wasted," one official at the center told me. "We aren’t going to put out bad forecasts, but we need to keep the eye on the ball here." Instead of warning residents of the Southeastern United States about a re-strengthening Dorian just as it posed its greatest threat to the nation, the media subsequently pivoted to cover Trump's preposterous attempt to re-write the history of Dorian's forecast. As an American, I felt embarrassed. As a meteorologist, I was livid.

Artificial highlands aren’t enough to protect Kaziranga animals during annual floods The floodwaters in Assam have receded. Among the most telling images of the devastation it caused on helpless animals, was that of a group of one-horned rhinos huddled on a dry piece of land in the submerged Kaziranga National Park. Presumably exhausted, some of the animals were lying down, even as another tried climbing up from the surrounding water. There have been many other similar pictures of helpless animals standing atop highlands created inside the national park to offer succour during the annual floods. Kaziranga has 144 artificial highlands – of which 33 were sanctioned three years back – to bring down animal casualty during this yearly tragedy. But are these artificial highlands beneficial in the long-run, both for the national park’s fragile ecosystem and the animals? Environmentalists and other experts believe otherwise. More than 200 animals, including 18 one-horned rhinos, were killed in the floods in Kaziranga this year. An image of a tiger fleeing from the floods in Kaziranga National Park and taking refuge in a shop went viral on social media – indicating the animals’ level of desperation. Many such animals, guided by their instinct to climb up and survive, sought refuge on the artificial highlands. But are these highlands a long-term solution, given that Assam gets ravaged by floods every year, most times in not just one, but two or three waves? The 880 sq km Kaziranga National Park, with a core area of 430 sq km, is surrounded by the Brahmaputra on the North and the hills of Karbi Anglong in the South. Apart from being the world’s major stronghold of the one-horned rhino, Kaziranga is home to several globally threatened animal species like the tiger, Asiatic elephant, wild water buffalo, gaur, sambar deer, hog deer and the hoolock gibbon. The annual floods put immense pressure on these animal species for survival.

Coral reefs: breakdown in iconic spawning puts species at risk of extinction – new research --It’s rather tricky to reproduce if you’re stuck to the floor – unless you’re a coral. Their spectacular spawning events are a beautiful sight to behold. Once a year, they spill billions of sperm and eggs into the sea, peppering the deep blue with a palette of vivid reds, yellows, oranges, and whites.But according to new research, some corals are no longer reproducing with the same clockwork timing, adding yet another survival threat to the long list already befalling reefs.  The new research monitored mass spawnings on corals reefs in the northern Red Sea. The researchers compared spawning timings of five coral species between 2015 and 2018 to results from two other studies conducted on the same species in the 1980s. In the speciesAcropora eurystoma, they also measured various reproductive traits, such as the number of sperm and eggs within a colony, the number of colonies reproducing in a given area and the size of coral colonies in the area – an index of their age. Unfortunately, it’s not yet known exactly what is causing the apparent decline in spawning synchrony, making it difficult to put forward a solution to the problem. Increases in light pollution from coastal development and hormone pollution from contraceptive pills have recently been shown to disrupt the natural triggers for coral spawning. The same is true of water temperature, which has increased by 1.2℃ at the test site since the 1980s. However, further research is needed to establish whether these factors are causing corals to reproduce out of sync with each other.

Hunger for concrete eats away at mountains (AFP) - To feed the concrete demands of hotels, holiday homes and road-building, quarries are eating away at the mountains where his goats graze. From Cyprus to New Zealand, Lebanon and beyond, environmentalists worry about the proliferation of quarries in a world ever more greedy for concrete. Between 40 billion and 50 billion tonnes a year of sand and gravel are extracted around the world from mountains, rivers, coastlines and marine environments, the majority for construction, according to UN environment agency figures. Concrete consumption has tripled over the past 20 years and with the global population expected to grow by two billion by 2050, demand can only go up, the UN says. But the extraction process often comes with deforestation, air pollution and disruption of traditional human activities. Near the hut where Jamal makes traditional "hellim" cheese, trucks come to collect rock, kicking up clouds of dust and frightening the animals. On the quarried area of the mountain slope, vegetation has disappeared. A policeman asks the goat herder to stay back as an explosion triggers a huge cloud of smoke and part of the rock face collapses. On another mountain, Jamal was injured and lost animals to quarrying work. Rocks "rained down on us," he said. While he understands the "need for rock to build", he hopes the company running the site will help him find quieter pastures. With some 355,000 inhabitants according to Turkish Cypriot planning officials, the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) walks the line between development and conservation. "Today, the island is fed by tourism so we need hotels, guest houses, roads and airports. We don’t have any other choice than to exploit the quarries," Cenk Sarper, head of the Stone Quarries Union, told AFP.

 As India Hosts Global Desertification Meet, A Third Of Its Land In Crisis - Even as it prepares to host a global conference on rising desertification, India faces a growing crisis of land degradation: Nearly 30% of its land area, as much as the area of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra put together, has been degraded through deforestation, over-cultivation, soil erosion and depletion of wetlands.This land loss is not only whittling away India’s gross domestic product by 2.5% every year and affecting its crop yield, but also exacerbating climate change events in the country which, in turn, are causing even greater degradation, as we discuss later. How can countries slow down this loss of land and biodiversity that threatens global food security and hastens climate change, impacting 3.2 billion people all over the world?  This question will lead discussions at the 14th Conference of Parties (COP 14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), starting on September 2, 2019 in New Delhi. This is the first time India will host this biennial gathering of 196 countries, scientists, private leaders, industry experts and non-profits.Ahead of the event, India has pledged to restore 5 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. But this is just 1.5% of the country's geographical area, 28.5 percentage points less than the total land left degraded.For countries like India that are highly vulnerable to climate change, land degradation is a critical issue. Degraded land loses its capacity to absorb carbon-dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas (GHG) that is the biggest factor in worsening global warming. Over 600 million people risk the impact of climate change in India and if land degradation is not addressed, the problem could get more acute. The country is home to 18% of the world's population with only 2.4% of its land.

Amazon fires: Almost 4,000 new blazes started across Brazil in 48 hours - Almost 4,000 new forest fires were started in Brazil in the two days after the government banned deliberate burning of the Amazon, officials have revealed.Some 3,859 outbreaks were recorded by the country’s National Space Research Institute (Inpe) in the 48 hours following the 60-day prohibition on setting trees alight. Around 2,000 of those blazes were in the Amazon rainforest. The figures come as the latest blow in an environmental crisis that has caused panic across the world, and which led the agenda at the recentG7 summit in France. More than 72,000 fires had already been detected across Brazil between January and August – the highest number since records began in 2013 and an 83 per cent increase on the same period last year. Because it is the world’s largest rainforest, the fate of the Amazon – often called the “lungs of the world” – is widely considered by climate change experts as key to the future of the planet. It is a vital carbon store that slows down global warming while providing some 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen. Its destruction – deliberate or otherwise – reduces the ability of nature to suck carbon from the atmosphere. But Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who came into power promising to clear vast tracts of the rainforest for development, had, until last week, remained unmoved. He has systematically weakened institutions designed to protect the rainforest, while offering moral support to farmers wishing to turn the land into cattle ranches. And, although he has now placed a 60-day ban on burning and deployed 44,000 troops to fight the ongoing blazes, critics fear it is too little too late.

 Rain will not extinguish Amazon fires for weeks, weather experts say (Reuters) - Weak rainfall is unlikely to extinguish a record number of fires raging in Brazil’s Amazon anytime soon, with pockets of precipitation through Sept. 10 expected to bring only isolated relief, according to weather data and two experts. The world’s largest tropical rainforest is being ravaged as the number of blazes recorded across the Brazilian Amazon has risen 79% this year through Aug. 25, according to the country’s space research agency. The fires are not limited to Brazil, with at least 10,000 square kilometers (about 3,800 square miles) burning in Bolivia near its border with Paraguay and Brazil. While Brazil’s government has launched a firefighting initiative, deploying troops and military planes, those efforts will only extinguish smaller blazes and help prevent new fires, experts said. Larger infernos can only be put out by rainfall. The rainy season in the Amazon on average begins in late September and takes weeks to build to widespread rains. The rain forecast in the next 15 days is concentrated in areas that need it least, according to Maria Silva Dias, a professor of atmospheric sciences at University of Sao Paulo. Less precipitation is expected in parts of the Amazon experiencing the worst fires, she added.

After a Quiet Summer, 'Dangerous' California Wildfire Burns Equivalent of 753 Football Fields in Five Hours A fast moving wildfire burned through 753 football fields worth of Southern California in just five hours Wednesday, CNN reported.The Tenaja Fire jumped from 25 acres when it was first reported Wednesday afternoon to 994 acres just five hours later. As of 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the blaze had spread to 1,974 acres and was 10 percent contained,The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) reported. The fire-fighting agency said the blaze was moving at a "dangerous rate of speed," according to TIME. The fire broke out in La Cresta, California in Riverside County and was named for a road near where it ignited. It has since spread to other cities including Murrieta, California, a town of 104,000 people 80 miles south of Los Angeles. Since Wednesday, around 415 homes and 1,200 people had been evacuated, Riverside County Fire Department spokesperson Jody Hagemann told TIME. Others are waiting for an evacuation order.Schools in the Murrieta Unified School District were closed Thursday, and more area districts said they would close Friday, according to ABC7. Public health officials also warned residents to protect themselves from smoke by staying indoors as much as possible. "Ash and smoke can be hard on anyone to breathe, but especially those with lung disease," Riverside County public health official Dr. Cameron Kaiser said in a statement reported by TIME. "Everyone worries about the flames, but smoke can impact you even if you're miles away from the fire."

Air Force Jet Accidentally Fires White Phosphorus Rocket Over Arizona - What was supposed to be a routine Air Force training mission has grabbed headlines after a fighter jet accidentally unleashed part of its pay load over a desert in Arizona. An Air Force statement said an A-10C Thunderbolt II or 'Warthog' was conducting a training mission in a military area between Phoenix and Tucson when it mistakenly fired rocket. The aircraft "unintentionally released a single M-156 rocket" at about 10:40 a.m. during a training mission, the statement said.  The unauthorized release of the M-156 rocket in an area not designated for live fire landed over Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in a remote desert area, specifically at a remote desert wash near Mount Graham."This training area is not designated for munitions release," the Air Force said.“The rocket impacted in a desert wash in an uninhabited area” the statement added.An investigation said no injuries or structures were damaged in the incident.

Alaska: Log, Mine, Drill, Despoil - While fires rage in the Amazon and Anchorage, Alaska, registers record high temperatures,  the Trump administration plans to open the world’s largest intact temperate rain forest for exploitation. The Washington Post reported last week:  President Trump has instructed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to exempt Alaska’s 16.7-million-acre Tongass National Forest from logging restrictions imposed nearly 20 years ago, according to three people briefed on the issue, after privately discussing the matter with the state’s governor aboard Air Force One.The move would affect more than half of the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest, opening it to potential logging, energy and mining projects. It would undercut a sweeping Clinton administration policy known as the “roadless rule,” which has survived a decades-long legal assault.Trump has taken a personal interest in “forest management,” a term he told a group of lawmakers last year he has “redefined” since taking office.The Grey Lady’s editorial board laments:…Mr. Trump has breathed new life into bad ideas thought to be dead and buried or getting there. Together they demonstrate again how Mr. Trump, when faced with a choice between commerce and conservation, reflexively sides with the former, even when the economic case for conservation is strong.  Alaska has large tourism and fisheries industries. Tourism is Alaska’s second largest private sector employer, accounting for one out of every eight Alaskan jobs; seafood is second only to oil and gas as a source of Alaska’s exports. As for the Tongass, according to the NYT: The economic gains would be uncertain at best; the timber industry has been in steep decline for years, whereas renewed large-scale logging would inflict damage on two big moneymakers, tourism and the seafood industry. The Tongass is the spawning ground for about 40 percent of the wild salmon that populate the West Coast. At the end of the day the biggest loss may be the trees themselves and all the good things they do, which include storing and absorbing carbon dioxide, a major cause of global warming. Which, as we know, is the last thing on the president’s mind. This forestry decision follows on another July decision by Trump’s Environmental Protection Administration (EPA)to unblock the permitting process for the controversial Pebble gold, copper, and molybdenum mine. The EPA had suspended the permitting process in 2014. If this project finally goes forward, it would be the second largest such complex in the world.

Alaska’s Sea Ice Completely Melted for First Time in Recorded History - The country of Iceland has held a funeral for its first glacier lost to the climate crisis. The once massive Okjökull glacier, now completely gone, has been commemorated with a plaque that reads: “A letter to the future. Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.” This reality is reverberating across the globe, far beyond Iceland. Even when no literal funeral is being held, we are, in a sense, witnessing an ongoing funeral for the world we once knew.July was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth since record keeping began in 1880. Nine out of the 10 hottest Julys ever recorded have occurred since 2005, and July was the 43rd consecutive July to register temperatures above the 20th century average. In Greenland, scientists were stunned by how rapidly the ice sheet is melting, as it was revealed the ice there was not expected to melt like this until 2070. The melt rate has been called “unprecedented,” as the all-time single-day melt record was broken in August as the ice sheet lost a mind-bending 12.5 billion tons of water in one day. It is worth remembering that the Greenland ice sheet contains enough ice to increase global sea levels by 20 feet, and it is now predicted that it will lose more ice this year than ever before. Also for the first time in recorded history, Alaska’s sea ice has melted completely away. That means there was no sea ice whatsoever within 150 miles of its shores, according to the National Weather Service, as the northernmost state cooked under record-breaking heat through the summer.

Climate change: Greenland’s ice faces melting ‘death sentence’ Greenland's massive ice sheet may have melted by a record amount this year, scientists have warned. During this year alone, it lost enough ice to raise the average global sea level by more than a millimetre. Researchers say they're "astounded" by the acceleration in melting and fear for the future of cities on coasts around the world. One glacier in southern Greenland has thinned by as much as 100 metres since I last filmed on it back in 2004. Why does Greenland matter? Essentially because its ice sheet is seven times the area of the UK and up to 2-3km thick in places. It stores so much frozen water that if the whole thing melted, it would raise sea levels worldwide by up to 7m. No one is suggesting that could happen for hundreds or even thousands of years but even a small increase in the rate of melting in coming decades could threaten millions of people living in low-lying areas. Bangladesh, Florida, and eastern England are among many areas known to be particularly vulnerable to rises in sea level over the course of the century. And although the island of Greenland is remote, stretching from the north of the Atlantic high into the Arctic, its fate could have major implications for the severity of future flooding and may even alter coastlines and force communities to move inland.

Why the Arctic is smouldering - The Arctic is transforming before our eyes: the ice caps are melting, the tree-line is shifting northwards, starving polar bears wander into cities. The region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet due to climate change, largely due to changes in albedo – the loss of sunlight-reflecting ice and snow, replaced by sunlight-absorbing ocean and soil. This is driving a dangerous positive feedback cycle where heating spirals into more heating. And, now, the Arctic isn’t only losing its ice. It is being set ablaze. Gargantuan forest fires in Siberia, which burned for more than three months, created a cloud of soot and ash as large as the countries that make up the entire European Union. More than four million hectares of Siberian taiga forest went up in flames, the Russian military were deployed, people across the region were choked by the smoke, and the cloud spread to Alaska and beyond. Fires have also raged in the boreal forests of Greenland, Alaska and Canada.Though images of blazing infernos in the Arctic Circle might be shocking to many, they come as little surprise to Philip Higuera, a fire ecologist at the University of Montana, in the US, who has been studying blazes in the Arctic for more than 20 years.“I’m not surprised – these are all the things we have been predicting for decades,” he says. Higuera and his team predicted in 2016, based on sophisticated computer modeling, that fires in the boreal forests and Arctic tundra would increase by up to four times by 2100. A key tipping point, he says, is an average July temperature of 13.4C over a 30-year period. Much of the Alaskan tundra has been perilously close to this threshold between 1971 and 2000, making it particularly sensitive to a warming climate. The number of areas near to and exceeding this tipping point are likely to increase as the climate continues to warm in the coming decades, says Higuera. “Across the circumpolar Arctic, the take-home message is that there are distinct thresholds above which you start to see the tundra burning – it’s like a binary switch,” says Higuera. “This threshold relationship is part of what makes the Arctic so sensitive: areas will stay below this threshold for years, off our radar for fire activity – and then all of a sudden with a change in temperature it will start to burn.”

Climate change is altering winter precipitation across the Northern Hemisphere - A team of scientists has successfully teased out the influence of human-caused climate change on wintertime precipitation over the last century, showing that the warming climate altered wintertime rainfall and snowfall across the Northern Hemisphere. The study, led by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), used an innovative approach that relied on observations of precipitation and large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns, along with statistical techniques and computer climate simulations. This enabled the research team to identify the amount of average monthly precipitation in specific regions of North American and Eurasia that fell as a result of human impacts on the climate, rather than natural variability. "I thought this was quite revealing," said NCAR senior scientist Clara Deser, a co-author of the study. "Our research demonstrates that human-caused climate change has clearly affected precipitation over the past 100 years." The results show that warming temperatures associated with societal emissions of greenhouse gases spurred a noticeable increase in wintertime precipitation across widespread regions of northern Eurasia and eastern North America since 1920. The work may point the way to more detailed studies into the influence of climate change on precipitation changes year-round. Precipitation globally is projected to increase by an average of 1-2% per additional degree Celsius because a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor. But local changes may be highly variable, with some regions becoming dryer and others far wetter.

Acid oceans are shrinking plankton, fuelling faster climate change - Increasingly acidic oceans are putting algae at risk, threatening the foundation of the entire marine food web.Our research into the effects of CO₂-induced changes to microscopic ocean algae – called phytoplankton – was published today in Nature Climate Change. It has uncovered a previously unrecognised threat from ocean acidification.In our study we discovered increased seawater acidity reduced Antarctic phytoplanktons’ ability to build strong cell walls, making them smaller and less effective at storing carbon. At current rates of seawater acidification, we could see this effect before the end of the century. Carbon dioxide emissions are not just altering our atmosphere. More than 40% of CO2 emitted by people is absorbed by our oceans.While reducing the CO₂ in our atmosphere is generally a good thing, the ugly consequence is this process makes seawater more acidic. Just as placing a tooth in a jar of cola will (eventually) dissolve it, increasingly acidic seawater has a devastating effect on organisms that build their bodies out of calcium, like corals and shellfish.   Phytoplankton use photosynthesis to turn carbon in the atmosphere into carbon in their bodies. We looked at diatoms, a key group of phytoplankton responsible for 40% of this process in the ocean. Not only do they remove huge amounts of carbon, they also fuel entire marine food webs. Diatoms use dissolved silica to build the walls of their cells. These dense, glass-like structures mean diatoms sink more quickly than other phytoplankton and therefore increase the transfer of carbon to the sea floor where it may be stored for millennia.The more acidic the seawater, the more the diatom communities were made up of smaller species, reducing the total amount of silica they produced. Less silica means the diatoms aren’t heavy enough to sink quickly, reducing the rate at which they float down to the sea bed, safely storing carbon away from the atmosphere.On examining individual cells, we found many of the species were highly sensitive to increased acidity, reducing their individual silicification rates by 35-80%. These results revealed not only are communities changing, but species that remain in the community are building less-dense cell walls. Most alarming, many of the species were affected at ocean pH levels predicted for the end of this century, adding to a growing body of evidence showing significant ecological implications of climate change will take effect much sooner than previously anticipated.

 UN High Seas Treaty Looks Set to Founder - A two-week long meeting, the third in a series of four substantive sessions of an intergovernmental conference of 190 member states to agree a conservation treaty to regulate the high seas under UN auspices, finished last week on August 30, without “a serious commitment”, as reported by Inter Press Service (IPS) in Is the UN’s High Seas Treaty Heading Towards Troubled Waters?  The UN General Assembly has been meeting in New York  to agree  the final text of the new treaty on marine biodiversity – first proposed nearly 20 years ago — under the UN Law of the Sea treaty, to which the US never formally acceded. Its demise was a result of Reagan administration opposition  (details of which I will not reprise here as I want to keep this post short).  As I noted in two previous posts, prospects were never auspicious for this project when it launched in 2018 (see UN to Launch Talks on Treaty to Regulate High Seas and First Set of High Seas Treaty Negotiations Concludes in New York).  I was well aware of the longstanding efforts to codify the law of the high seas, as a mentor of mine, J. Daniel Nyhart, was an intellectual father of this project. Alas, as IPS reports: The world’s high seas, which extend beyond 200 nautical miles, are deemed “international waters” to be shared globally– but they remain largely ungoverned.“It’s a jungle out there”, remarks one diplomat, describing a virtually lawless wide-open ocean which has steadily undergone environmental destruction, including illegal fishing and overfishing, plastics pollutions, indiscriminate sea bed mining and degradation of marine eco systems. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that the world’s fisheries have continued to decline, with 33 percent of fish stocks “overfished,” resulting in devastating economic consequences for coastal nations and small island developing states (SIDS).  This sad prognosis is reinforced by others with a keen interest in biodiversity, as reported by Nature Wolrd News in New UN High-Seas Treaty Must Close Gaps In Biodiversity Governance: Thousands of marine species could be at risk if a new United Nations high-seas biodiversity treaty, now being negotiated in New York, does not include measures to address the management of all fish species in international waters, not just the commercial species...

 Billionaires prepping for an apocalyptic ‘event’ — but what happens to everyone else? - The Earth is in the midst of an environmental disaster. Humankind may not survive the Anthropocene.Climatologists and other scientists are warning that if the Earth’s temperature rises more than 2 degrees Celsius that the human race may have reached a point of no return in terms of stopping global warming and the catastrophes it will cause.Global warming is causing rising sea levels which threaten at least one billion people. Global warming is also generating a weather feedback loop which is causing hurricanes, blizzards, firestorms, and droughts to become more extreme. There is also a shortage of arable land and fresh water. Entire ecosystems are collapsing all over the planet.The world’s militaries are preparing to fight “resource wars.” These conflicts will likely kill many thousands (if not millions of people). Resource wars will also create a global refugee crisis as entire populations are displaced. As global warming melts glaciers in Antarctica, Siberia, Greenland and elsewhere there will also be a mad scramble by the United States, Russia, China, and other nations to secure rare earth metals and other resources.As the Earth’s climate and weather continues t o worsen who will live and who will die? The answer: the rich will find a way to survive while everyone else will experience gradations of misery and death depending on their socioeconomic status. This is the logical and predictable result of extreme inequality where 1 percent own half the planet’s wealth. This inequality is also a function of neocolonialism where the West continues to enrich itself by siphoning a huge amount of resources and other wealth away from the Global South and the “Third World” every year. Rich countries also benefit disproportionately from destroying the world’s environment.

Hundreds of young people join Greta Thunberg in climate protest outside UN -- Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg was joined by swelling and excited crowds of American teenagers at a protest outside the UN headquarters in New York on Friday, in a further blossoming of the youth environment movement given extra thrust by the Swede’s transatlantic boat crossing. Some US children said they were at their first ever climate demonstration; others said they had been passionate about the environment for a while but had been galvanized to act by Thunberg’s rising profile.On Friday afternoon, Thunberg and two young activists were spontaneously invited inside the UN for a meeting with a senior leader, described as “very supportive”. Just two days after Thunberg disembarked from a yacht in New York, following two weeks on rough seas crossing from the UK, young protesters dominated the crowd of up to 1,000 outside the United Nations skyscraper in Manhattan.They came together to demand politicians and older generations take urgent and comprehensive action to reverse the climate crisis.Carrying hand-drawn placards with messages such as “United behind the science” and “Act now or we will”, children and young people of all ages surged into a park in front of the flags of the world outside the UN on Friday morning.Thunberg sat cheerfully but pensively in the middle of the rally, which had a rather more earnest than festive atmosphere. Young speakers gave spontaneous speeches or led chants of “System change, not climate change” and “Don’t just watch us, join us”.Alexandria Villaseñor, 14, who has been protesting every Friday outside the UN since December, was in her usual spot and said she had been inspired by Thunberg’s school strike campaign.She said: “Greta being here will really galvanise students just because of how much of an inspiration she is. Everyone who’s been striking on Friday was really empowered by Greta and the action she was taking.” Thunberg held her trademark “skolstrejk för klimatet” (Swedish for “school strike for climate”) sign, which she was seen carrying from the racing yacht on Wednesday, after refusing to take a flight to the US because of the polluting emissions.

Attacks on Greta Thunberg, Say Allies, Show Just How 'Terrified' Reactionary Forces Have Become of Global Climate Movement  - Champions of Greta Thunberg—and the 16-year-old climate activist herself—hit back against malicious right-wing bullies over the weekend as she called her Asperger's syndrome diagnosis a "superpower" and her defenders said there is but one reason that people attack the person who has galvanized the global climate strike movement: they are afraid of her."The bile thrown at Greta Thunberg is motivated by one thing alone: this incredibly intelligent, eloquent and compassionate 16 year old has terrified some of the most hateful and reactionary so-called 'grown ups' on earth." —Owen Jones"The bile thrown at Greta Thunberg is motivated by one thing alone: this incredibly intelligent, eloquent, and compassionate 16-year-old has terrified some of the most hateful and reactionary so-called 'grown ups' on earth," said British political columnist activist Owen Jones. "She's achieved more [at age] 16 than they ever will." Following her recent arrival in the United States to attend rallies outside the United Nations and promote a week of international climate strike actions, taking place from Sept. 20 - 27, Thunberg on Saturday suggested that a fresh wave of criticismdirected at her from climate science denialists and right-wingers—including those mocking her Asperger's diagnosis—exposes much more about them than her. "I'm not public about my diagnosis to 'hide' behind it, but because I know many ignorant people still see it as an 'illness', or something negative," Thunberg added. "And believe me, my diagnosis has limited me before." In a column on Al-Jazeera English published Monday, writer Andrew Mitrovica came to the defense of Thunberg as he referred to those attacking her as "scientifically illiterate bullies." According to Mitrovica, agreeing with Jones, it is Thunberg's attributes—including her fearlessness and abilility to speak and act so matter-of-factly—that makes hers such a potent voice. He writes: She disdains celebrity. She makes no claim to heroism. She rebuffs efforts to idolise her. She isn't calculating or preoccupied with fame or ego. There is no artifice about her.  She speaks plainly, without affectation or embroidery.

This Climate Strike Is Part of the Disruption We Need - By Bill McKibben - Business as usual is what's doing us in.We live on a planet that finds itself rather suddenly in the midst of an enormous physical crisis. Because weburn so much coal and gas and oil, the atmosphere of our world is changing rapidly, and that atmospheric change is producing record heat. July was the hottest month we've ever recorded. Scientists predict with confidence that we stand on the edge of the sixth great extinction event of the last billion years. People are dying in large numbers and being left homeless; millions are already on the move because they have no choice.And yet we continue on with our usual patterns. We get up each morning and do pretty much what we did the day before. It's not like the last time we were in an existential crisis, when Americans signed up for the Army and crossed the Atlantic to face down fascism and when the people back home signed up for new jobs and changed their daily lives.That's why it's such good news that the climate movement has a new tactic. Pioneered last August by Greta Thunberg of Sweden, it involves disrupting business as usual. It began, of course, in schools: Within months, millions of young people around the world were striking for days at a time from their classes. Their logic was impeccable: If the institutions of our planet can't be bothered to prepare for a world we can live in, why must we spend years preparing ourselves? If you break the social contract, why are we bound by it?And now those young people have asked the rest of us to join in. After the l ast great school strike in May, they asked adults to take part next time. The date is Sept. 20, and the location is absolutely everywhere. Big trade unions in South Africa and Germany are telling workers to take the day off. Ben and Jerry's is closing down its headquarters (stock up in advance), and if you want to buy Lush cosmetics, you're going to be out of luck. The largest rally will likely be in New York City, where the U.N. General Assembly begins debating climate change that week — but there will be gatherings in every state and every country. It will almost certainly be the biggest day of climate action in the planet's history. (If you want to be a part — and you do want to be a part—go to globalclimatestrike.net.)

Flight Shame: The Climate Hazards of Air Travel - In mid-August, to much fanfare, sixteen-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg set sail from England on the Malizia II, a solar-powered yacht. With a small crew, she embarked on a journey across the Atlantic in order to attend the UN Climate Action summit in New York in September. Conditions on the vessel were austere, The New York Times reported. While aboard, Thunberg drank seawater made potable by a desalination machine; in lieu of a toilet, she used a bucket. Last Wednesday, after two weeks at sea, the yacht pulled into the North Cove Marina in Lower Manhattan, where it was greeted by a jubilant crowd.  Thunberg is the most celebrated of a small but expanding tribe of environmentalists who eschew air travel: “non-flyers,” as some of them call themselves. Non-flyers are not typically afraid of flying—at least not in the usual sense. They do not fear that a plane will malfunction but that it will function exactly as intended. If Thunberg had flown from London to New York and back, her share of the flight’s CO2 emissions would have amounted to roughly a ton: more than the average annual per capita emissions in fifty-six of the world’s countries, according to an analysis by The Guardian. In Thunberg’s native Sweden, two women have launched a campaign to encourage people to give up flying for a year. Reflecting these attitudes is a Swedish neologism: flygskam, or flight-shame.  Here in the US, Thunberg has given new life and luster to a crusade that has been building slowly for some years, mainly centered in academia. A growing number of environmentalist academics have pledged to cut back on flying or stop altogether, and a few are trying to persuade their colleagues and institutions to follow their lead. In 2015, Parke Wilde, a food economist at Tufts University, and Joseph Nevins, a geographer at Vassar, established a petition, asking universities to take measures to reduce flying by faculty, staff, and students “commensurate with the cuts suggested by climate science.” Aviation accounts for a relatively small fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions: a commonly cited figure is 2 percent, although some estimates are higher. But air travel is projected to rise sharply in the next few decades, and aviation is one of the sectors of economic activity least susceptible to greening.

Bernie Sanders’s $16.3T climate plan promises major waste and recycling shifts  - Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., announced a sweeping climate platform last week characterizing climate change as a "global emergency" and pledging $16.3 trillion to address the crisis – including via multiple waste and recycling initiatives. The plan, which builds on the Green New Deal, calls for the establishment of a nationwide recycling program as well as significant funding for food recovery and composting programs. It would also enact a national right-to-repair policy for farm equipment and make "massive" R&D investments, including in chemical recycling for plastics. Furthermore, the plan seeks to ensure a "just transition" for environmental justice communities and workers impacted or displaced by the closure of incinerators, hazardous waste sites and other polluting facilities. Landfills are not mentioned specifically.  Unveiled last Thursday in the wildfire-devastated town of Paradise, California, Sanders's platform is described by media outlets and political commentators as the "boldest," most aggressive climate plan yet released by a 2020 Democratic candidate. Sanders's plan aims to achieve 100% renewable energy for electricity and transportation by 2030 and complete decarbonization by 2050. It alsooutlines several elements pertaining to the waste and recycling industries, including:

  • A nationwide materials recycling program. Sanders's platform promises extensive R&D for renewable technologies – which, in order to prevent an "outsized" environmental impact from harvesting raw materials, requires the use of "as many recycled materials as possible." The proposal seeks to establish an extended producer responsibility program requiring large corporations to pay to take back goods from consumers – which will be processed in a national recycling program and used to "build the renewable energy equipment needed to transform our energy system."
  • A just transition for frontline communities. The plan shines a spotlight on communities "at the frontlines of the climate emergency," citing a New School report revealing that nearly 80% of U.S. incinerators are located in low-income communities and/or communities of color. It seeks to advance environmental justice principles by expanding EPA investigations into environmental racism; updating permitting rules for polluting facilities; and proposing tighter regulations on hazardous waste sites, chemical and industrial plants, and decaying infrastructure. Sanders also aims to make Green New Deal jobs and training resources – including for cleaner manufacturing and recycling – available to disadvantaged and/or displaced workers.
  • Expanded organics and sustainable agriculture infrastructure.The plan calls for a $410 billion investment in transitioning farms to "ecologically regenerative agricultural practices," including carbon sequestration and a national right-to-repair law for farm equipment (the latter of which was previously proposed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.). Moreover, it pledges a $160 billion investment in food waste reduction and composting programs.

Pete Buttigieg unveils $1.1 trillion climate change plan - Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg unveiled a $1.1 trillion climate change plan Wednesday morning, with a goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and creating over 3 million clean energy and infrastructure jobs in the next decade. The South Bend, Indiana, mayor’s plan contains three pillars:

  • building a clean economy by creating clean energy jobs, strengthening rural communities and protecting natural resources;
  • investing in disaster relief and prevention in vulnerable communities;
  • building America’s role on the international stage in combating climate change.

The proposal includes a $200 billion investment over 10 years in clean energy research and development, the creation of a $250 billion Clean Energy Bank to finance innovative technologies, a $250 billion fund matched with $250 billion in private investment with American companies to lead development of green technologies and a $50 billion seed fund for riskier and experimental ideas. Buttigieg is polling at 4.7% behind rivals Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, according to a RealClearPolitics average. He released his plan ahead of Wednesday night’s “Climate Crisis” town hall, where candidates will each have 40 minutes to explain their environmental policies in front of a live audience. Buttigieg is scheduled to be interviewed on his proposal at 10 p.m. ET.

 Democrats Propose Spending Trillions to Fight Climate Change - (AP) — Democratic presidential candidates are releasing their plans to address climate change ahead of a series of town halls on the issue as the party’s base increasingly demands aggressive action.New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Obama Cabinet member Julián Castro laid out their plans Tuesday. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar released hers over the weekend.The release of the competing plans comes as issues of climate and the environment have become a central focus of the Democratic primary. On Wednesday, 10 Democrats seeking the White House will participate in back-to-back climate town halls hosted by CNN in New York. A second set of climate-focused town halls will be televised by MSNBC later in the month. Liberals had demanded that the Democratic Party focus at least one debate on climate change, but a climate debate resolution was defeated at the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting last month. The issue is so urgent among Democratic voters that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee made action to limit the worst extremes of climate change the core of his presidential bid.   Warren’s clean-energy proposal builds on Inslee’s 10-year clean-energy plan in seeking to implement 100% clean-energy standards in three key sectors of the American economy. Warren says she will increase her planned spending on research and investment to cut carbon emissions to $3 trillion. She embraces tough deadlines for sharply cutting or eliminating the use of fossil fuels by the U.S. electrical grid, highways and air transit systems, and by cities and towns. That includes making sure that new cars, buses and many trucks run on clean energy — instead of gasoline or diesel — by 2030 and that all the country’s electricity comes from solar, wind and other renewable, carbon-free sources by 2035. Booker’s $3 trillion plan includes nearly a dozen executive actions to reverse Trump administration moves. He says that by no later than 2045, he wants to get the U.S. economy to carbon neutral — a point at which carbon emissions are supposedly canceled out by carbon-cutting measures, such as planting new forests to suck up carbon from the atmosphere. Booker also urges massive restoration of forests and coastal wetlands as carbon sponges and as buffers against rising seas. He sets a 2030 deadline for getting natural gas and coal out of the electrical grid. He would get there partly by scrapping all subsidies for fossil fuels, banning new oil and gas leases, phasing out fracking and introducing a carbon fee.

Elizabeth Warren Adopts $3 Trillion Climate Crisis Plan, Challenges All 2020 Candidates to Do Same -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced that she would adopt Gov. Jay Inslee's climate crisis plan and add in an $1 trillion in investments to help protect workers and to fund a dramatic shift in infrastructure away from fossil fuels if she is elected president, as CNN reported.Warren said her plan includes a "federal investment of $3 trillion" and "will leverage additional trillions in private investment and create millions of jobs," as reported by Fox Business."One of the most important of these ideas is the urgent need to decarbonize key sectors of our economy," Warren wrote on Medium yesterday. "Today, I'm embracing that goal by committing to adopt and build on Inslee's ten-year action plan to achieve 100% clean energy for America by decarbonizing our electricity, our vehicles, and our buildings. And I'm challenging every other candidate for President to do the same."Earlier this summer, Warren announced she would invest $2 trillion in her Green Manufacturing plan. That plan, which she also posted to Medium, seeks to pivot the American energy and manufacturing sector toward the $23 trillion market for renewable energy.Last week, Warren met with Inslee, who campaigned for president on the climate crisis issue but recently suspended his campaign after failing to gain traction in polls, as the New York Times reported."Jay didn't merely sound the alarm or make vague promises. He provided bold, thoughtful and detailed ideas for how to get us where we need to go, both by raising standards to address pollution and investing in the future of the American economy," Warren wrote on Medium yesterday. "While his presidential campaign may be over, his ideas should remain at the center of the agenda."

Bill Gates is funding chemical clouds to help stop global warming - Fires burning across the Amazon rainforest have renewed the debate about solutions to climate change. Bill Gates is backing the first high-altitude experiment of one radical approach called solar geoengineering. It’s meant to mimic the effects of a giant volcanic eruption. Thousands of planes would fly at high altitudes, spraying millions of tons of particles around the planet to create a massive chemical cloud that would cool the surface.“Modeling studies have found that it could reduce the intensity of heat waves, for instance, apparently it could reduce the rate of sea level rise. It could reduce the intensity of tropical storms,” said Andy Parker, project director at the Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative.The technology is not far from being ready and it’s affordable, but it could cause massive changes in regional weather patterns and eradicate blue sky.“These consequences might be horrific. They might involve things like mass famine, mass flooding, drought of kinds that will affect very large populations,” said Stephen Gardiner, author of “A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change.” Watch the video to learn how it would work and hear the debate around the ethics and efficacy of solar geoengineering.

 EPA moves on implementing landfill emissions rule, still hopes for delay - The EPA recently issued a final rule making today the deadline for states to submit compliance plans for the 2016 Emissions Guidelines (EG) landfill rule. So far, the EPA has received, and proposed to largely approve, plans from various agencies in five states.  The EPA also recently published a proposed rule to create a federal plan for state or tribal governments that haven't submitted their plans. This was mandated by a California federal judge in May, following a lawsuit from multiple state attorneys general over the federal agency's delayed action.  At the same time, federal lawyers filed a motion Monday asking the judge to vacate an existing order that obligates EPA to promulgate regulations for a federal plan by Nov. 6. The government argues the revised state plan submission deadline means it now has until Aug. 30, 2021 to issue that plan. This issue continues to be one of the most high-profile federal regulatory fights affecting the waste industry. Initiated by the Obama administration as part of a push to reduce methane emissions that contribute to climate change, the regulations have been treated with far less enthusiasm in the Trump era. The 2016 rule applies to any MSW landfill that accepted waste after Nov. 8, 1987 and commenced construction on or before July 17, 2014. According to the EPA's new federal plan proposal, this includes more than 1,900 sites in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The action was paired with 2016 New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for landfills that commenced "construction, reconstruction, or modification" after July 17, 2014.Per one of the EPA's latest publications, the NSPS and EG "are based on the Administrator's determination that MSW landfills cause, or contribute significantly to, air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare."  The industry – led by NWRA, SWANA, Waste Management and Republic Services – sought to challenge the NSPS and EG rules in court in 2016. Those efforts were rewarded in May 2017, when then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt granted a 90-day administrative stay on submitting state plans. Shortly after, the agency successfully moved to put the industry court case in abeyance pending resolution.

Trump Admin Reverses Standards for Energy Efficient Light Bulbs - The Trump administration is rolling back energy efficiency standards for light bulbs that would have kept millions of tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, CNBC reported Wednesday.The Department of Energy (DOE) announced Wednesday it would reverse a requirement that three-way, recessed can, candle-shaped and round bulbs switch from incandescent and halogen bulbs to more energy-efficient LED varieties. The requirement would have gone into effect in January 2020 and would have impacted bulbs that fill 2.7 billion U.S. sockets, nearly half the sockets in the country, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) explained.The DOE also said it would not update standards for bulbs still included in a light-bulb efficiency regulation, like common pear-shaped bulbs. Together, the two decisions will add $14 billion to yearly U.S. energy bills up to 2025 and consume at least 25 power plants worth of energy annually, the NRDC calculated."The Energy Department flat out got it wrong today," Alliance to Save Energy President Jason Hartke said of the rollback, as CNBC reported. "Instead of moving us forward, this rule will keep more energy-wasting bulbs on store shelves and saddle the average American household with about $100 in unnecessary energy costs every year. Wasting energy with inefficient lightbulbs isn't just costly for homes and businesses, it's terrible for our climate." The reversed regulation has its origins in a bill that passed Congress and was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007. That bill aimed to phase out incandescent and halogen bulbs by 2020, according to the NRDC. It was updated in 2017 to include the reflector, candle-shaped, three-way and round bulbs that the DOE is now excluding.

DOE has decided many lightbulbs don’t have to meet efficiency standards  - Among the stranger subjects that has been caught up in the political wars raging in the United States is the lowly lightbulb. Back in the George W. Bush administration, a law was passed that set efficiency standards for a variety of lightbulbs and allowed the Department of Energy (DOE) to expand the standards going forward. Almost immediately afterward, legislators who apparently find efficiency a threat to the American way of life had second thoughts, and they started undermining the law's implementation. As a result, the first real evaluation and update of the standards didn't take place until late in Obama's second term. Now, the Trump administration has officially thrown out the results of the work done by Obama's DOE and has issued a rule that prevents the standards from applying to a variety of bulbs. So how did lightbulbs become a political controversy? Back during the second Bush administration, bulbs were an obvious target for efficiency measures, given how poorly incandescents do on those measures and due to the fact that there were promising newer technologies—compact fluorescents and LEDs—that hadn't really put a dent in the incandescent markets. As a result, lightbulb efficiency standards were written into the Energy Independence and Security Act, passed into law in 2007. Unlike many laws that become controversial, this one was remarkably reasonable. It set efficiency standards through a very simple measure: how many lumens of light were produced per Watt of power. It focused initial standards on the bulbs with the largest percentage of the market: standard-sized screw-ins for lamps and fixtures. It also included mechanisms for reevaluating the standards and expanding them to additional types of bulbs as more efficient technology matured. Within a few years, however, the law had ended up stirring a public controversy. Part of this is the idea that a law banning incandescent lightbulbs fed into the conservative narrative of government overreach and intrusion. (Technically, incandescents would be allowed if they could be made to meet the standards, a subtlety that was often ignored.) And part of it seems to be the general attitude among conservatives that anything environmentally friendly is good for their political opponents and has to be resisted ("wrecking the planet to own the libs" appears like it may be a thing).

Trump Seeks to Revoke California Emissions Waiver -Jerri-Lynn Scofield - Multiple outlets are reporting that the Trump administration is poised to revoke California’s de facto authority to set nationwide car emissions and fuel economy standards, originally granted as a waiver to the 1970 Clean Air Act. According to the New York Times, White House Prepares to Revoke California’s Right to Set Tougher Pollution Rules:The potential challenge to California’s authority, which would be a stinging broadside to the state’s governor and environmentalists, has been widely anticipated. But what’s notable is that the administration would be decoupling its challenge to California from its broader plan to weaken federal fuel economy standards, the latest sign that its plans for that rollback have fallen into disarray. Since the early months of the administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Department have been pursuing one of Mr. Trump’s most consequential attempts to weaken regulations designed to fight climate change: A sweeping rollback of Obama-era rules designed to cut the emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases. The root of the dispute is the administration’s attempt to roll back tougher standards set by Trump’s predecessor. As the AP reports, Official: Trump to challenge California authority on mileage: The Trump administration has proposed freezing gas mileage requirements for automakers at 2021 levels, thus eliminating Obama-era regulations that require them to rise about 5% per year on average for the fleet of new cars sold in the U.S. A final proposal is expected next month.Trump’s own administration, in documents proposing to freeze the standards, puts the cost of meeting the Obama-era requirements at around $2,700 per vehicle.   Thwarting the proposed tougher standards was a top priority for carmakers when Trump became president, and they deployed lobbying muscle accordingly. As the Wall Street Journal reports in Trump Administration Expedites Challenge to California on Auto-Emission Rules: Within days of his taking office, car companies began lobbying Mr. Trump for relief on the Obama era standards, arguing they were too strict and didn’t take into account the shift in consumer preference for trucks and SUVs that burn more fuel. Executives, however, didn’t expect such a drastic rollback by the administration, which wants to freeze the Obama era fuel economy standards at 2020 levels, or roughly 37 miles a gallon.  The Trump capitulation didn’t pass muster with California, which under the authority of the 1970 waiver, de facto, sets the floor for nationwide standards, as carmakers don’t want to produce two versions of each model, one to comply with California standards, and another to be sold elsewhere. Twelve other states and the District of Columbia formally follow California’s lead, and adopt common standards (as does, IIRC, Canada). CBS News,Trump plans to revoke California fuel economy standards explains: California has had stricter fuel economy and auto emissions standards for decades. The state’s laws were enacted before the passage of the Clean Air Act to curb the automobile air pollution in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

Wall Street Journal and Senator Barrasso Still Peddling Koch's Electric Car Myths - Senator John Barrasso and the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) editorial board are once again attacking the federal electric vehicle tax credit, and are once again relying on easily debunked talking points born of the Koch network’s influence machine. Senator Barrasso has reportedly sent a letter to Republican colleagues in the Senate, advising them not to extend the electric vehicle (EV) tax credit. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board cheered Senator Barrasso’s act in an editorial published Tuesday. The deception and falsehoods are so rife in the WSJ editorial that it that begs for rebuttal. So here goes. The piece itself opens with a whopper.  “Washington has been underwriting EVs for nearly 30 years.” We asked the WSJ editorial board for a reference, but haven’t yet received a reply. The EV tax credit wasn’t introduced until 2009, and government research and development (R&D) spending on EVs was relatively small in preceding decades. In fact, in 1990, the federal government spent roughly $194 million on all energy efficiency programs, a small percentage of which may have been steered towards transportation electrification. It’s worth noting that this $194 million was less than half of the R&D support provided to both the nuclear industry and fossil fuel industries.  Possibly they are referring to California’s Zero Emission Vehicle mandate, introduced in 1990. But, of course, California isn’t “Washington,” and a mandate isn’t exactly “underwriting.”  Later, the board writes: “Itʼs hard to imagine a more blatant income transfer for the well-to-do. Electric cars are significantly more expensive than the average vehicle, with a starting price of around $36,000.”   Actually, according to Kelly Blue Book, the average price for a new vehicle in the United States was $37,577 in December 2018.

EV Makers Face One Major Problem -- If one listens to statements from carmakers with ambitious EV plans, one’s left with the impression that the world is in for a true automotive revolution and that those of us in their middle age right now will actually live to see a world with an almost entirely electric fleet. Alas, carmakers with ambitious EV plans have a vested interest in making such statements. Reality, as usual, tends to be different, and now these ambitious plans are facing a challenge: battery recycling costs. Battery recycling has been garnering increasing media attention precisely because of the ambitious plans of international carmakers who are promising dozens of new EV models within a few years, and eyeing millions - even tens of millions - in sales. Yet these millions in sales are contingent on several factors, among them price parity with ICE cars. The issue of battery recycling could compromise this price parity.  According to BloombergNEF, the surge in EV production would greatly increase the demand for battery raw materials. In the case of cobalt, demand will considerably exceed the current mined production. This trend naturally brings recycling to the fore as an alternative to mining new raw materials. However, recycling comes at a cost, too. It is this cost of recycling that could mess up carmakers price parity plans and that’s because for some minerals, it might become not an alternative to mining but a necessary substitute to it.“At some point it won’t make sense anymore to dig for raw materials, because enough batteries are available,” the managing director of a German battery recycling plant, Christian Hanisch, told Bloomberg recently. The problem, Bloomberg notes, is that the value of the minerals extracted through the recycling process does not cover the cost of the process itself. This means that the selling price of an EV would have to include the cost of recycling its battery. Batteries are already the most expensive component of electric cars, and automakers are actively seeking ways to reduce battery costs. Instead, they are now facing more costs. The average lifespan of an EV battery is about eight years or 100,000 miles. VW alone has plans to churn out 22 million EVs by 2028. By next year, in China alone there will be 5 million EVs on the road, according to government plans.

The Ugly Truth About Biofuels -It is a truth (almost) universally acknowledged that the world needs to stop consuming so many fossil fuels--and to do so in a big hurry--if we are to have any hope lowering global carbon emissions in time to curb catastrophic climate change and  to meet the goals set by the Paris climate agreement. In fact, according to an alarming 2018 study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in order to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial averages within this century, worldwide carbon emissions need to decrease by 45 percent by 2030 and be slashed all the way down to zero by the middle of the century--no easy feat.There are a huge number of alternative energy sources, from zero-emissions nuclear to solar and wind, and the world of renewable energy technology grows more diverse and advanced all the time. One of these alternative energies, however, may not be as clean or renewable as you may think.Biofuel seems like an obvious replacement for fossil fuels. It can be easily substituted for traditional fossil fuels without the cumbersome necessity of revamping the energy systems we already have in place. Take ethanol, for example, which you have already been using to fuel your car, as it is required by the government to be mixed into your gasoline. This is the beauty of biofuel--it’s so compatible with our current way of living, you may not even have known you were a biofuels user. This is also, however, exactly what’s wrong with biofuel. It doesn’t change a system that is clearly broken, dirty, and unsustainable. In many ways it’s just the same as the fossil fuels that we are so very problematically dependent upon. Like fossil fuels, biofuels need to be combusted, and therefore, like fossil fuels, biofuels (despite their very green-sounding name and eco-friendly connotation) create carbon emissions.   While biofuel has enjoyed a fair amount of support from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the United Nations has actually already acknowledged that biofuel, in many cases, does more harm than good. In the past, the UN has even tried to discourage the United States to reduce the country’s own biofuel production, which is itself a very sizeable industry backed by the country’s powerful corn lobby, because it is exacerbating the global food crisis. As Forbes has reported in the past, “Biofuels increase food prices (plus the volatility of those prices) and therefore don't have many of the positive benefits for humanity claimed by proponents. In fact, the UN has asked the U.S. to suspend its biofuel mandates because it was exacerbating the food crisis: a child dies from hunger every 10 seconds. For the U.S. and the world, 48 million Americans live in poverty, and over 80% of the globe is undeveloped, so the rising competition between ‘fuel and food” is a moral issue.’”

Hydropower giant Bonneville Power is going broke -- Nearly a century ago, America embarked on a great social experiment in the Pacific Northwest, charging up the Columbia River and erecting dams. Cheap electricity spurred the growth of cities like Seattle, Portland and Boise. Now the system is buckling. The Bonneville Power Administration, the independent federal agency that sells the electricity produced by the dams, is careening toward a financial cliff. BPA is $15 billion in debt, facing a rapidly changing energy market increasingly dominated by wind and solar and a desperate need to maintain aging infrastructure that's expected to cost $300 million to maintain and upgrade by 2023. "If this were a private company, you would be shorting BPA," "If it was a private-sector company, it would restructure. Or this would be a good time to declare bankruptcy." Hydropower no longer produces the region's cheapest electricity. In the past, the utility relied heavily on selling surplus power at high rates to states including California, often referred to as the utility's ATM. But starting around 2008, California invested in wind and solar, and soon it no longer needed BPA's power. Bonneville was left with virtually no customers for its extra power. As a result, BPA's rates have risen 30% since 2008. BPA currently charges its utility customers nearly $36 per megawatt-hour. On the open market, they could buy electricity for $22. BPA has survived so far because it inked 20-year contracts with its utility customers in 2008, before California and others shifted to solar, wind and natural gas. But those agreements end in 2028, and if BPA doesn't come up with a plan, its customers will buy cheaper electricity elsewhere. If even a few do that, BPA would likely have to raise rates even higher to cover costs, which could lead other customers to similarly head for the exits. And that, in turn, could force even higher rate increases. The economic term for that cycle, Jones said, is a "death spiral."

NOV lands contract to build massive offshore wind turbine installation ship -  Houston oilfield service company National Oilwell Varco has landed a contract to design and build one of the world's largest vessels for installing offshore wind turbines. A subsidiary of the Tokyo engineering and construction firm Shimizu Corporation awarded NOV a contract to design and build a ship that will be used to install turbines for a 9-gigawatt wind farm off the coast of Japan. The 28,000-ton ship will be made at the Japan Marine United shipyard in Yokohama where it will be designed to accommodate 130 people and include a crane that can move cargo up to 2,500 tons.Planning remains underway for 9-gigawatt offshore wind farm, which will include ultra-large-scale wind turbines that can each produce between 9 to 12 megawatts of electricity. Touted as the largest and most-capable offshore wind turbine installation ship in the region, NOV is expected to deliver the vessel in late 2022. With historical roots going back to 1862, NOV is headquartered in Houston and has more than 35,000 employees in 65 nations. NOV reported a $31 million loss on $8.5 billion of revenue in 2018. The company has not made an annual profit since 2014.

Iowa Dumping Old Wind Turbine Blades In South Dakota; So Much For Re-Cycling -- September 5, 2019 --North Dakota legislature is looking into this issue; they better move fast. Iowa is dumping wind turbines on unsuspecting landfills.  From The [Sioux Falls, SD] Argus Leader: Iowa wind-farms brought dozens of their old turbine blades to the Sioux Falls dump this summer. But City Hall says it won't take anymore unless owners take more steps to make the massive fiberglass pieces less space consuming.The wind energy industry isn't immune to cyclical replacement, with turbine blades needing to be replaced after a decade or two in use. That has wind energy producers looking for places to accept the blades on their turbines that need to be replaced.  For at least two wind-farms in northern Iowa, they've found the Sioux Falls Regional Sanitary Landfill to be a suitable facility to take its aged-out turbine blades."Decade or two." ??? Good reporting. Re-cycling? And millennials are worried about plastic straws. Well, good for them.

Texas power prices jump to record as heat bakes state (Reuters) - Spot power prices in Texas soared to a record high for Thursday as consumers cranked up their air conditioners to escape another brutal heat wave. Temperatures in Houston were expected to hit 99 degrees Fahrenheit (37 Celsius) on Thursday and 100 or more through Sunday before easing to the mid-90s next week, according to AccuWeather. The combination of heat and humidity will make it feel more like 108 F in Houston Thursday afternoon and above 110 over the weekend. The normal high in the city at this time of year is 92 degrees. Next-day power prices at the ERCOT North hub soared from $130 per megawatt hour (MWh) for Wednesday to an all-time high of $973.75 for Thursday, according to Refinitiv data going back to 2010. That tops the previous record of $751 on Aug. 15 during the last heat wave to hit the state. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), grid operator for much of the state, called on consumers to conserve energy on Thursday and Friday. "When electricity demand and heat reach levels like we expect ... we ask Texans to consider taking a few steps to help keep power flowing for all of us," ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness said in a news release. ERCOT demand peaked at 68,546 megawatts on Tuesday, a record for September, and was expected to top 69,700 MW on Thursday and 72,200 MW on Friday. The grid's all-time peak was 74,531 MW on Aug. 12. One megawatt can power about 1,000 U.S. homes on average, but as few as 200 during periods of peak demand. To make more power plants available for service, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state's environmental regulator, told ERCOT that generators would be allowed to exceed their air permit emission limits during the heat wave.

Sometimes, a Greener Grid Means a 40,000% Spike in Power Prices  -The road to a world powered by renewable energy is littered with unintended consequences. Like a 40,000% surge in electricity prices. Texas power prices jumped from less than $15 to as much as $9,000 a megawatt-hour this month as coal plant retirements and weak winds left the region on the brink of blackouts during a heat wave. It’s a phenomenon playing out worldwide. Germany averted three blackouts of its own in June and has seen prices both spike and plunge below zero within days as it swaps out coal and nuclear energy for wind and solar. In the U.K., more than a million homes lost power on Aug. 9, in part because a wind farm tripped offline.The recent stumbles serve as a warning shot to the rest of the world as governments work to displace aging nuclear reactors and coal-fired power plants with cheaper and cleaner renewable energy. Grid operators, policy makers and power providers are learning the hard way that losing massive, around-the-clock generators can be a challenge, if not carefully planned. “We have to have systems in place to make sure we still have enough generation on the grid -- or else, in the best case, we have a blackout, and in the worst case, we have some kind of grid collapse,” said Severin Borenstein, an energy economist at the University of California at Berkeley, where state officials have a goal of getting all power from clean energy resources by 2045.

The dark side of renewable energy -Rare earth metals, hard-to-find materials, with unfamiliar names such as lanthanum, neodymium and europium, are used in wind and solar energy projects, but dwindling supplies could hinder a roll-out of low carbon technologies and slow China's shift away from coal power. These compounds, which are highly toxic when mined and processed, also take a heavy environmental toll on soil and water, posing a conundrum for policymakers in China, the world’s biggest producer and consumer of rare earths.     In 2012 the Chinese government named the city of Ganzhou, in the southeastern province of Jiangxi, a “rare earths kingdom”; even though at that time but its rare earth reserves were already almost depleted.  According to a rare earths white paper issued by the State Council News Office in 2012, the reserves to extraction ratio for rare earth elements in southern China was 15. In other words, if mining continued at the existing rate, those reserves rich in medium and heavy rare earth elements (MHREEs) would only last for another 15 years. Three years later and 6,000 miles away in Paris, 190 countries signed the historic Paris Climate Agreement, including plans to introduce a greater share of wind and solar power in a “decarbonised” future. But few of the delegates gathered in Paris seemed to realise how important one small south-central Chinese city would be to achieving this target; as almost all the clean, smart and low-carbon technologies are reliant on rare earths. This prompts the questions: do we have enough rare earths to build the clean and smart future we’re imagining; can China, supplier of 90% of the global rare earths over the last 20 years, meet expected growth in demand; and what will the environmental consequences be.

Renewables Threaten German Economy & Energy Supply, McKinsey Warns In New Report -A new report by consulting giant McKinsey finds that Germany's Energiewende, or energy transition to renewables, poses a significant threat to the nation's economy and energy supply. One of Germany's largest newspapers, Die Welt, summarized the findings of the McKinsey report in a single word: "disastrous.""Problems are manifesting in all three dimensions of the energy industry triangle: climate protection, the security of supply and economic efficiency," writes McKinsey.In 2018, Germany produced 866 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, a far cry from its goal of 750 million tonnes by 2020. Thanks to a slightly warmer winter, emissions in Germany went down slightly in 2018, but not enough to change the overall trend. "If emissions reductions continue at the same pace as they did over the past decade, then CO2 targets for 2020 will only be reached eight years later, and 2030 targets will not be reached until 2046." Germany has failed to even come close to reducing its primary energy consumption to levels it hoped. McKinsey says Germany is just 39% toward its goal for primary energy reduction.

The decline of American coal is taking a toll on the railroad industry - No matter what President Trump says, coal in America isn’t coming back — and it’s bringing other industries down with it. Coal demand for electricity is likely to drop by more than 50% in 11 years, according to a report by the rating agency Moody's. In turn, revenue from transporting that coal around the country via trains is expected to drop $5 billion by 2030, or 5.5% of the railroad industry’s 2018 revenue. Coal’s dramatic decline is fueled by several factors: cheaper natural gas and renewable electricity, tougher environmental regulations in the Obama administration and the global shift to cleaner sources of energy in the face of climate change. Because of the industry's outsized dependence on coal, the fossil fuel’s decline is hitting railroads especially hard. Coal makes up 13% of total freight volume, which is the largest single freight commodity moved by rail.

  • 4 railway companies, led by CSX and Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF), get more than 10% of their revenue from coal and are thus most at risk for revenue hits.
  • CSX gets nearly 20% of its revenue from coal, while BNSF gets nearly 17%.
  • Moody’s says credit effects for U.S. railroad companies "are likely manageable if the [coal] decline remains gradual."

 While ‘zombie’ mines idle, cleanup and workers suffer in limbo – As the governor of West Virginia and other mine owners warehouse their operations and avoid cleanup, the Trump administration stifles attempts to write rules that could restrict the practice.  Their mines once fueled the coal and nuclear power plants that kept America’s lights on. Now, cheaper natural gas and renewables are helping push them into the red. But instead of properly closing the mines, their owners are idling them indefinitely, throwing workers into limbo and side-stepping legally mandated, but costly, environmental cleanup. Several dozen U.S. uranium mines and more than 150 coal mines sit idle and have not produced for years, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation. Also idled long-term are facilities such as processing plants, including more than 40 in the coal industry. Mine owners have exploited regulatory loopholes to warehouse their operations, changing the status of their permits on paper while little to no activity happens on the ground. Mining is a cyclical, boom-and-bust industry, so state and federal laws allow companies to pause work while prices rebound. In the coal industry, where the relevant permit status is usually called “temporary cessation,” this pause rarely has a cap — although regulators attempt to track the number that have been idled for at least three years. In uranium mining, where operations usually wait in “standby,” the limits differ by state — 10 years in Colorado but indefinitely in Utah if “good cause” is shown, for instance. But many of the mines identified in this investigation have remained “temporarily” paused for decades at a time, despite occasional increases in commodity prices. And most will likely never produce again. Uranium and coal are the mines most often idled for long periods, but the investigation also identified about 120 quarries and five Western gold mines paused for three or more years.

Appalachia’s Long, Proud Tradition of Labor Militancy -- Harlan County, Kentucky, may be one of labor’s most hallowed battlegrounds. Its soil has been soaked in the blood of union men and women time and time again since theearly 20th century, when major labor disputes between miners and greedy mine operators roiled the area. Now, almost a century after the infamous Battle of Blair Mountain in neighboring West Virginia, one of the biggest and bloodiest class war uprisings in U.S. history, suffering Appalachian coal miners have taken matters into their own hands once again. On July 29, about 50 coal miners in Cumberland, Kentucky, banded together to stop a moving train. They blocked the tracks, refusing to allow the train, carrying $1 million worth of coal, to pass, according to Newsweek. They did the same thing the next day, and the next — literally putting their bodies on the line. Their protest began because Blackjewel, the company where they had until recently been employed, filed for bankruptcy in early July without paying the approximately $5 million in back pay the company owes to 1,700 miners, an attorney for the group told CNN. The standoff has now stretched on for weeks. The miners are not only dealing with financial hardships, but are also in legal limbo, unable to access health care benefits or file for unemployment, Cumberland mayor Charles Raleigh told CNN. The community and local churches have pitched in to help, and a collective of local trans anarchist activists are on the ground providing mutual aid, but many miners are still struggling. The Blackjewel mine was reportedly not unionized, but its former workers have used the tried-and-true union tactic of collective action to fight for what they are owed. In doing so they’ve become part of a long, proud tradition of Appalachian labor militancy… It’s worth noting that miners aren’t the only union folks represented in the region; teachers in West Virginia and Kentucky made headlines with a series of wildcat strikes in 2018 and earlier this year as part of the wider #RedforEd movement.

Ameren announces controversial plan to cover its coal ash ponds — and leave material in the ground -When utilities burn coal for power, they’re left with coal ash — a byproduct that contains arsenic, mercury, and other contaminants. But where, and how, should the material be stored? That question has been the source of fierce debate in recent years, both nationally and around St. Louis. At Ameren’s coal-fired power plants in the region, decades of leftover ash fills massive storage ponds acres in size and dug up to 100 feet deep into the floodplains along major rivers — leak-prone sites that critics say pollute groundwater and adjacent waterways. But despite concerns and objections, that’s where Ameren’s legacy coal ash will remain, the St. Louis-based utility announced Friday, outlining a plan to cover its ash ponds while leaving the material in the ground and continuing to monitor groundwater. The decision is an outcome opponents fought hard — arguing instead for excavation of the coal ash — but feared was inevitable. Company officials framed the decision as the best overall move for the environment, neighboring communities, and for the utility’s customer base in terms of cost. “Some people suggested we’re walking away, and that’s absolutely not the case,”  “The objective of this is to prevent rainwater infiltration,” Wood said, adding that the “localized, limited plume (of pollution) in the basin will shrink and go away over time” — a process that he said would happen decades faster than if the sites were opened up for lengthy excavation projects. But critics are not convinced, and say that Ameren has chosen the path of least resistance and cost. “It seems to be the worst of the options that they had on the table,” said Peter Goode, an environmental engineer focused mostly on water issues for Washington University’s Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic — a pro bono legal practice that commonly tracks pollution disputes involving Ameren. “It’s disappointing but not surprising. They seem to be taking the easiest and least costly way to close their ash ponds.”

 West Michigan residents fear coal ash contaminating drinking water wells  - State environmental officials are reviewing claims by multiple West Michigan residents that a coal ash storage site near Lake Michigan is contaminating drinking water wells. The Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club this summer helped four homes near the J.H. Campbell coal plant outside Holland obtain water samples that tested for contaminants linked with coal ash pollution, including arsenic and lead. One home’s well tested arsenic levels at 2.5 times the federal safe level for drinking, according to a report provided to the Energy News Network. “Certainly we’re looking into this and hope to get a look at their data,” said Margie Ring, solid waste engineering coordinator for the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. Ring said this is the first instance the department has heard from residents claiming their wells may be contaminated from coal ash. Michigan has 37 coal ash ponds statewide, a majority of which show groundwater contamination levels exceeding federal pollution standards, according to a report last year by the Michigan Environmental Council. The four storage pits at Campbell are inactive, and the plant’s coal ash waste is sent to an onsite landfill or is reused in other products. State officials and Consumers Energy, the plant owner, have monitored groundwater around the Campbell plant for years and are planning to remediate pollution stemming from coal ash storage. Consumers has acknowledged coal ash residuals in groundwater at the facility, but utility and state officials say they have no evidence that it has migrated beyond the company’s property. “We don’t believe there are any impacts to groundwater off-site in terms of the drinking water supplies based on the information we have,” Ring said. She declined to comment on whether more residents should have their wells tested, saying more analysis is needed of the data so far. The Sierra Club says its recent testing — which advocates say has been shared with the state over the past month — disputes the state’s and Consumers’ claims.

Twenty-five-year-old miner crushed to death in Pennsylvania coal mine - Tanner Lee McFarland was killed Thursday evening when part of the wall and roof in the area of the mine he was working collapsed, crushing him under tons of coal and rock. McFarland, age 25, of Washington, Pennsylvania was killed around 6 p.m. Thursday while working at Consol Energy’s Enlow Fork Mine in Washington County, part of the company’s Pennsylvania Mining Complex. The mines are located about 60 miles south of Pittsburgh, near the West Virginia border. McFarland is survived by his wife Casey and their two-year-old son Gavin Lee. Tanner and Casey began dating in 2012 and were married in 2015. Casey is expecting their second child.In February of this year, the WSWS interviewed a miner who was especially concerned about the push for production in the mine at the expense of miners’ health and safety. (See: Miner warns of safety danger at United States’ largest underground coal mine)The miner explained that Consol was only looking to increase production and didn’t care about maintenance of the machines or the safety of the men. “Everyone in the mine is very mad and concerned,” he said. “It is all production, production, production but they are creating the conditions where something can happen.” In 2018, the three mines produced a record 27.6 short tons of coal, up 5.6 percent from the previous record of 26.1 short tons in 2017. The Enlow Fork Mine produced over 10 million short tons that year. Consol’s aim has been to produce more this year and the mine has been working at near 100 percent capacity.

 Environmentalists Say Feds Fail to Protect Crayfish From Coal Mining– Political appointees in President Donald Trump’s Interior Department have weakened protections for Appalachia’s endangered crayfish to benefit the coal mining industry, environmentalists claim in a federal lawsuit.The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Interior Department on Wednesday, arguing the Trump administration has allowed former coal lobbyists in the department to interfere in critical habitat decisions that are supposed to be based purely on science. The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of West Virginia, claims “political appointees” in the department rejected guidance on crayfish projections developed by its own regional office and chose to instead adopt recommendations by West Virginia’s environmental protection agency, which the plaintiffs say is heavily influenced by the coal industry. “Trump appointees have enabled a rubber-stamp system allowing mountains to be blown up and streams to be polluted without protection for endangered species or the human communities of Appalachia,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the center. Two species of crayfish – the Guyandotte River crayfish and Big Sandy crayfish – were listed as endangered in 2016 during the Obama administration. In June 2017, the Interior Department issued a new directive that allowed mining firms to avoid drafting protection plans for projects within 500 feet of a known crayfish stream unless a company survey found a crayfish listed under the Endangered Species Act. The directive was based on guidance set by West Virginia and a 1996 biological opinion on surface coal mining which the plaintiffs say does not comply with the Endangered Species Act because full adherence with its terms would jeopardize listed species and harm critical habitats.

Climate Change-Induced Factors Threaten India’s Coal-Based Energy Sector: Report -- India’s coal-fired power plants, which generate about 70% of the country’s electricity, are facing major risks due to over-capacity, low-cost renewables and water shortages, a new report has concluded.Climate change has exacerbated impacts as increasingly ambitious targets by the government have brought down the price of renewable energy alternatives and water shortages are growing due to erratic monsoons and an increase in extreme rainfall.“It is our conclusion that these issues, coupled with rising concern over climate change and increasingly ambitious government commitments to address it, will be an insurmountable hurdle for India’s coal sector,” the report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) said.According to the report, given the construction boom early on in the 2010s, the coal sector now has significant overcapacity. Coal-fired power capacity in India is now 20% higher than the level of peak demand and 50 gigawatts above average demand levels. Increased water stress in the country is another factor that is providing significant headwinds to the coal energy sector. Coal-fired power plants require large amounts of water for cooling purposes. Rapidly depleting levels of ground water, a decline in monsoon rain and increased instances of extreme rainfall have led to a shortage of water across the country. These issues are likely to worsen due to climate change and as a result, IEEFA concludes, the coal fired power sector could face shortages. Fierce competition from renewable energy sources – wind, solar and thermal power – are also contributing to stress in the coal sector, IEEFA has concluded. Solar and wind auction prices in India, at Rs 3.29 per kilowatt-hour, are now lower than the cost of coal-fired electricity which averaged at Rs 3.49 per kilowatt-hour during 2018-19.

Duke shuts Brunswick nuclear plant in North Carolina ahead of Hurricane Dorian — For the second time in a year, Duke Energy is shutting its two-unit Brunswick nuclear plant near Wilmington, North Carolina, in advance of the arrival of a hurricane. Plant operators told the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Thursday that the 1,978-MW station would be shut soon as required by regulations, an agency spokesman said. Hurricane Dorian was a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of 110 mph Thursday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center said in an update. The eye of the storm was just off the South Carolina coast and the forecast carries the storm along the North Carolina coast and possibly onto land briefly overnight before eventually moving out to sea, the center said. Brunswick plant spokeswoman Karen Williams said forecasts call for hurricane force winds to arrive at the site, and that Duke was preparing to shut the two units. While the units are designed to withstand heavy winds and flooding, US nuclear reactors must be shut as a precaution at least two hours before winds over 74 miles per hour are forecast to arrive. Plants also take steps such as securing debris, protecting entrances from water entry and staging personnel and supplies at plants. NRC is keeping two resident inspectors at Brunswick overnight in case access to the site is difficult during the storm, agency spokesman Roger Hannah said. The two Brunswick units shut September 14, 2018 in advance of the arrival of Hurricane Florence. Flooding in areas around the plant prevented workers from entering or leaving for several days and the units did not return to service for about eight days.

Residents skeptical of plans to dismantle Oyster Creek nuclear plant - Residents in Ocean County, New Jersey, are skeptical of plans to dismantle the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, which includes an accelerated timeline for removing the facility’s spent nuclear fuel and storing it indefinitely in casks onsite. More than 150 people attended a town hall Thursday night to grill representatives from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Camden-based Holtec International, which is overseeing the decommissioning process together with Canadian company SNC-Lavalin. They also implored U.S. Rep. Andy Kim, who hosted the event, and other elected officials in the audience to hold Holtec accountable. “You need to protect us,” said Barnegat resident Marianne Clemente, 73. Many questions focused on Holtec’s assertion it can decommission the plant in six to eight years thanks to new technology and streamlined processes. Exelon, the company that operated the plant, had proposed a 60-year timeline. “What technology miraculously got discovered to take you from 60 years to six years?” Clemente asked. Other residents raised concerns about the safety of storing spent fuel onsite — a virtual necessity given there are few alternative places to put the waste. Holtec wants to build an interim nuclear waste storage facility in New Mexico but is yet to win federal approval to do so, and the U.S. government has not established a permanent repository. “Do you have the research and the proof that you can monitor whether or not there is hydrogen gas build-up in those casks once they are sealed?” said Janet Tauro, an environmental activist with the group Clean Water Action.

Massachusetts Wants Halt to Entergy Nuclear Power Plant Sale - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission wrongly approved the sale and decommissioning of a Massachusetts nuclear power plant and should halt both immediately, the state’s attorney general told the commission in a Sept. 4 filing with the federal agency. Commission staff violated NRC regulations and the National Environmental Policy Act by approving the license transfer and exemption requests for the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station “even though it is clear today that insufficient funds exist” in the decommissioning trust fund to protect the public and the environment, Attorney General Maura Healey (D) said in the request to the NRC.

TMI closure: Exelon wants safety changes, including end to sirens, pills, evacuation zone  Like many others living near Three Mile Island, Diane Senseman of Elizabethtown comes in every year at about this time to get her free potassium iodide pills. “I believe in precaution,” Senseman said of her annual trek to pick up the pills — also known as KI pills — which are supposed to protect the thyroid gland in case of a radioactive leak from TMI. Picking up the pills each year is just one of the things Senseman has grown accustomed to that go with living near a nuclear power plant. There are others, such as hearing the sirens go off when they are tested twice a year, and that slick pamphlet that comes in the mail from Exelon each year to remind everyone living within 10 miles of TMI what they are supposed to do in case of an emergency. But that could all go away by early 2021, as part of Exelon’s planned shutdown of the Unit 1 reactor at TMI on Sept. 30. A statement provided to the Press & Journal by Exelon spokesman David Marcheskie states that “as plant conditions change, the already low risk to public health and safety is reduced even further, and an emergency plan tailored to those conditions allows for more effective emergency management.” Under requests Exelon has filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the company’s responsibility for emergency planning would not extend beyond the island itself. Off-site emergency planning no longer would be necessary, because by about Jan. 30, 2021 — 488 days after the Sept. 30 shutdown — conditions on Three Mile Island will have changed to where a release of radiation into the atmosphere in excess of safety thresholds established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will no longer be considered “credible,” Exelon has said in documents the company filed with the NRC. The shutdown, the company states, means Unit 1 no longer will be an operating nuclear reactor, but a non-operating plant in a “permanently defueled condition.” That’s a significant difference, in terms of the danger the plant poses to the public off-site, Exelon says. No evacuation zone or emergency planning requirements pertaining to such a zone would be necessary, because after Jan. 30, 2021, “any releases beyond the site boundary are limited to small fractions of the EPA PAG (Protective Action Guideline) exposure levels,” Exelon says. Off-site radiation monitoring systems no longer would be required beyond January 2021 “due to the decreased risks associated with defueled plants,” Exelon says. Instead, off-site radiation monitoring would be performed “as the need arises.”

C-10: Seabrook plant’s concrete degradation poses threat - -- A nuclear watchdog group is publicly setting the stage for its case against NextEra Energy with its expert comparing the Seabrook Station’s plan to address concrete degradation to treating cancer in the 19th and early 20th centuries.Newburyport-Mass.-based C-10 will go before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Sept. 24 at Newburyport City Hall, contesting a license amendment granted to allow the nuclear power plant to operate until 2050.The amendment C-10 contests addresses how NextEra will mitigate the alkali-silica reaction in Seabrook Station’s concrete over the coming decades. C-10 also opposed the plant’s 2010 application to have its license extended 20 years, from 2030 to 2050.C-10 recently issued a press release citing its consultant Victor Saouma, Ph.D., who called the approved methods to address ASR at the plant “very simplistic.”Saouma drew an analogy between Seabrook’s core reactor containment enclosure building and a patient suffering from cancer. According to Saouma, while modern cancer treatment includes specialists, advanced testing and monitoring, he likened NextEra’s approach to general practitioners (engineers) using a stethoscope for simplistic observation. He claims NextEra’s and the NRC’s experts, though competent engineers, have limited expertise about the effects of ASR in concrete and stated the “basic safety of the population living within 10 miles of Seabrook cannot be reasonably assured.

Tempers Flare Over Fukushima Plan To Dump Radioactive Water In Ocean --South Korea has fired off a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to express concerns over a Japanese plan to release radioactive water into the ocean which has been collected since the 2011 nuclear disaster, according to NHKAn official of South Korea's science ministry said on Thursday said that the letter expresses the country's serious concerns about the environment impact of such a release. The official also said South Korea asked the international nuclear watchdog to play a more active role on the issue. -NHKTokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operates the plant, is storing over 1.12 million tons of radioactive water on site, which is slated to reach capacity in 2022. The contaminated water has been treated using a system known as ALPS (multi-nuclide removal system), which removes 62 types of radioactive elements - not including tritium, before being stored stored in massive tanks on the Fukushima Daiichi grounds. The plan to release diluted wastewater into the ocean is one of several measures being discussed by an expert panel as possible ways to deal with the problem. Adding storage tanks is another option - which would kick the can down the road. the Japanese government is pushing to have the water released into the sea. But based on an investigation of 890,000 tons of Fukushima Daiichi water that had undergone ALPS purification (950,000 tons total), TEPCO announced in September 2018 that 750,000 tons – more than 80% – still included radioactive material above emission standards. Fukushima-area fishers continue to oppose the release of Fukushima Daiichi water in the ocean on that basis, and the Japanese government has yet to proceed with the discharge. -Hankyoreh.kr On Wednesday, the Japanese government announced that it had invited foreign diplomats to its Foreign Ministry in Tokyo for a briefing on the situation - the 103rd such meeting, yet the first one ever announced.  "Since the start [of the briefings], we have continued to provide information to diplomats in Tokyo about conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant since the East Japan earthquake," said the ministry.

Ohio's great Chinese power conspiracy theory - An entity dubbing itself "Ohioans For Energy Security" has a warning for the good people of the Buckeye State: "The Chinese government is quietly invading our American electric grid; intertwining themselves financially in our energy infrastructure." Before we get into the details of the one-minute ad in which a suitably ominous voice intones those words over much footage of President Xi Jinping, some context: Ohio recently passed legislation to subsidize struggling nuclear and coal-fired power plants, while also weakening incentives for renewable power and energy efficiency. The law benefits several incumbent power companies, especially FirstEnergy Solutions Corp., the bankrupt merchant-generation arm of utility FirstEnergy Corp. In response, opponents are busy gathering signatures for a petition to put a referendum aimed at scrapping the law on the November 2020 ballot. The ad warns Ohioans about such people approaching them to sign. And while the ad doesn't go on to say this, I think I am duty-bound to point out that those clipboard carriers will not necessarily be sporting identifying markers like Chinese-flag lapel pins or tee-shirts proclaiming "XI LOVES YOU!" As my Bloomberg News colleague Will Wade reports, Carlo LoParo, a spokesperson for OFES, explained that state-controlled Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd. has loaned money to several natural-gas-fired power projects in Ohio. Therefore, as those plants gain market share, so Beijing could gain undue influence over the state's power system. Having rejected "compelling," I'm struggling to find a word that adequately captures the class of logic on display there. Suffice it to say that loans made to power plants by a bank, state-owned or otherwise, do not actually grant that bank or its shareholders ownership of said plants, let alone influence over the grid they supply. Finance and power-market oversight just doesn't work that way. LoParo runs a local public relations firm and previously worked on behalf of a group funded by FirstEnergy Solutions that promulgated the bailout legislation. He says the ad was "produced in a way to get your attention," and I can only agree with him on that. W I also asked LoParo how OFES feels about Industrial and Commercial Bank of China's role as a lender to none other than FirstEnergy itself. An amended agreement from last October attached to the parent company's last 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission lists the Chinese bank as part of a 23-strong syndicate providing a $2.5 billion credit line to FirstEnergy and several of its subsidiaries. Surely having a Chinese bank provide credit to the actual owner of the grid presents a similarly sinister challenge? LoParo actually said he would "prefer" FirstEnergy not to take such funding.

ODNR Issues 15 Permits in Utica-Point Pleasant Shale– Fifteen permits for horizontal well drilling in the Utica-Point Pleasant shale were approved by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for the week ended Aug. 31, the agency reports.Ascent Resources Utica LLC was awarded nine of those permits: four in Belmont County, two in Harrison County and three in Jefferson County. EAP Ohio LLC, meanwhile, was granted two in Carroll County and three in Harrison County. And Triad Hunter LLC was awarded a single permit for activity in Monroe County. The ODNR also reported 12 active rigs in the state. As of Aug. 31, the agency reported 2,684 wells had been drilled in the state, with 2,266 active.No permits were awarded for activity in Mahoning, Trumbull or Columbiana counties.  Likewise, no permits were granted by the Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Agency for activity in Mercer or Lawrence counties.

Oil production increases 9.5% in Ohio's Utica Shale - Oil production in Ohio’s Utica Shale increased by 9.5% in the second quarter 2019, according to new data released on Tuesday by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  Oil production jumped from 4,488,104 barrels in 2Q 2018 to 5,813,755 barrels in 2Q 2019, Kallanish Energy reports.  Oil production in 1Q 2019 was 5,073,536 barrels.Ohio also reported that natural gas production increased by 0.8% from 2Q 2018 to 2Q 2019.Gas production went from 554,306,916,000 cubic feet in 2Q 2018 to 614,218,362,000 cubic feet in 2Q 2019.Gas production was 609,452,000,000 cubic feet in 1Q 2019.The quarterly Ohio report lists 2,365 horizontal shale wells, of which 2,317 reported oil or gas production during the quarter.The average well produced 2,509 barrels of oil and 265,092,000 cubic feet of natural gas. The typical well was also in production for 86 days during the quarter.Condensate and natural gas liquids are included in Ohio’s oil and natural gas totals and are not listed separately. The results are available at https://oilandgas.ohiodnr.gov/production.

Ohio's Utica Shale 2nd Quarter Production Totals Released -During the second quarter of 2019, Ohio's horizontal shale wells produced 5,813,755 barrels of oil and 614,218,362 Mcf (614 billion cubic feet) of natural gas, according to the figures released today by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).Compared to a year ago, oil production increased by 29.54% and natural gas production showed a 10.81% increase over the second quarter of 2018.The ODNR quarterly report lists 2,365 horizontal shale wells, 2,317 of which reported oil and natural gas production during the quarter. Of the wells reporting oil and natural gas results:

  • The average amount of oil produced was 2,509 barrels.
  • The average amount of natural gas produced was 265,092 Mcf.
  • The average number of second quarter days in production was 86.

All horizontal production reports can be accessed at oilandgas.ohiodnr.gov/production. Ohio law does not require the separate reporting of Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs) or condensate. Oil and gas reporting totals listed on the report include NGLs and condensate.

Oil and Gas Production in Utica Continues to Rise – Oil and natural gas production in Ohio’s Utica-Point Pleasant shale play rose in the second quarter, as 614.22 billion cubic feet of gas and 5.81 million barrels of oil were produced by wells in the state. Those numbers are up from 609.45 billion cubic feet of gas and 5.07 million barrels of oil in the first quarter, according to data from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ quarterly report. Regionally, Columbiana County once again dominated the production numbers as 10.92 billion cubic feet of natural gas came from wells in the county, along with 8,618 barrels of oil. In comparison, Mahoning County produced just 340.21 million cubic feet of gas and 2,139 barrels of oil and Trumbull County accounted for 127.83 million cubic feet of gas and 1,774 barrels.The top-performing natural gas well in Columbiana County was EAP Ohio LLC’s Sevek 18-12-3 210H well in Washington Township. The well produced 1.96 billion cubic feet of gas. Leading the county in oil production was the Chesapeake Exploration LLC Ayrview Acres 27-16-5 5H well with 971 barrels of oil.In Mahoning County, the Hilcorp Energy Co.CLL-2 6H well in Poland was top in natural gas production at 67.78 million cubic feet of has, while Northwood Energy Corp.’s Hendricks MAHN2AHSU well in Ellsworth Township led oil production in the county with 839 barrels.And for Trumbull County, Pin Oak Energy Partners had both the top-performing natural gas and oil wells, with the Buckeye 1H well producing 33.46 million cubic feet of natural gas and the Brugler 1H well producing 327 barrels of oil. Both wells are in Hartford Township.Activity in the Utica-Point Pleasant shale play continues to be concentrated in southeastern Ohio, as the ODNR report was made up mostly of entries for Belmont, Carroll, Guernsey, Harrison, Jefferson and Monroe counties. Leading the state in gas production was the Ascent Resources Utica LLC Gordon N CRC JF 3H well in Jefferson County’s Cross Creek Township, just outside of Stebuenville. The well produced 3.57 billion cubic feet of gas. And in oil production, Eclipse Resources I LLP’s Jupiter B Unit 3H in Guernsey County’s Millwood Township ranked No. 1 in production, accounting for 102,747 barrels.

Injection Well Safeguards Vital - Truck traffic seems to be the primary concern on the minds of some people living near a site where two injection wells to accept fracking waste from oil and gas drilling are to be located. But state officials considering permits for the project should be focused on what may go on underground. Out of sight, out of mind won’t work on this one.A New Jersey firm, Omni Energy Group LLC, is planning the injection wells on a site of nearly seven acres near the intersection of U.S. 40 and Ohio 331 in Belmont County. Plans are for two saltwater injection wells.Though some residents of the area worry about increased heavy truck traffic, Omni Energy CEO Gerard Russomagno says that should not be a problem. No more than six to eight trucks per hour are expected to carry fracking waste to the wells, he explained. Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials say permits for the project are under review. How long that may require is uncertain. “There is no ‘normal’ for this type of thing,” ODNR Public Information Officer Adam Schroeder added.Some means of disposing of the enormous quantity of wastewater generated by modern oil and gas drilling is essential. Injection wells — pumping the fluid into underground chambers — are a popular choice.But ODNR officials must look carefully at potential environmental impact. One concern is ensuring fluid from the injection well does not migrate into drinking water supplies.Another worry is earthquakes. ODNR officials concluded a series of quakes in the Youngstown area more than seven years ago was caused by injection wells. The phenomenon is not yet understood well, according to the U.S. Geologic Survey. But the need for some safeguards against injection well quakes is known. ODNR officials should insist such measures be followed to the letter at the Belmont County site.

Ohio's orphan well program needs contractors to do the job - ODNR has $25 million to plug old, potentially hazardous oil and gas wells. The state has millions of dollars to spend on plugging old and potentially hazardous oil and natural gas wells. Now, it’s looking for more contractors to do the work. Prolific shale wells and a change in state law have boosted the Ohio Department of Natural Resources fund for plugging so-called orphan wells. The orphan well program has nearly $25 million this fiscal year — $10 million more than the prior year — and is looking to have $28.1 million next fiscal year. “We’ve got a lot of money to spend, and we want to plug a lot of wells,” Rick Simmers, chief of ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas, told a group of plugging contractors Wednesday during a meeting at Portage Lakes State Park. “We need more contractors,” Simmers said. A similar meeting will be held at Salt Fork State Park in Guernsey County on Thursday. Orphan wells Orphan wells are oil and gas wells that weren’t plugged properly and don’t have an owner who could pay to do that work. The wells are health and environmental hazards because they can leak oil, natural gas and brine, and even cause explosions when natural gas collects in a building near a leaking well. Orphan wells have been found under a school, next to houses, in farm fields and even under a reservoir in Ohio. “You name it, we’ve seen it in terms of where they show up,” said Jason Simmerman, orphan well program engineering manager. ODNR has identified nearly 1,000 orphan wells in 71 counties. (Stark has seven while Summit has nine, Carroll has 13 and Tuscarawas has three.) But the actual number of orphan wells is unknown. ODNR estimates that more than 280,000 wells have been drilled in the state since the mid-1800s. The state has had a program to plug orphan wells since the 1970s.

Exclusive: Italy's Snam seeks US footprint with bid for Midwest gas pipeline – sources (Reuters) - Italy's Snam <SRG.MI> is working on a bid for a stake in a $6 billion natural gas pipeline in the United States in what would be the gas group's first foray outside Europe, four sources told Reuters. The Milan-based company, controlled by state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, is carrying out due diligence to buy a 33% stake sold by Energy Transfer LP <ET.N> in its Rover pipeline, one of the sources said.The 713-mile Rover pipeline can carry 3.25 billion cubic feet of gas daily from the Marcellus and Utica shale plays in Appalachia.It is backed by Energy Transfer with a 33% stake and two private equity firms - Energy & Minerals Group (EMG) and Blackstone Group <BX.N> - who have the remaining 67%.Snam, Europe's biggest gas pipeline operator which makes most of its money from gas transmission in Italy, is working with JPMorgan on the deal, the sources said.Snam and JPMorgan declined to comment while Energy Transfer was not immediately available for comment.Snam wants to build an international presence and sees potential to grow in the United States which has seen a boom in natural gas production as part of the shale revolution.Pipelines and other midstream infrastructure in the U.S. have consistently drawn interest from private equity firms as well as infrastructure and pension funds as they produce stable returns.Additionally, returns on pipeline investments in the United States are generally higher than in Europe where many grids are run with regulated tariffs. The Rover pipeline moves the natural gas from Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania to other parts of the U.S. Midwest and up into Michigan where it can also be piped into Canada.

Europe's Biggest Gas Pipeline Operator Looks To Get Hands On US Assets -Europe’s biggest gas pipeline operator, Italy-based Snam is crafting a bid for a piece of Energy Transfer Partner’s $6 billion natural gas pipeline, Reuters sources said on Friday.If successful, it would not only be Snam’s first US project, but it also be its first project outside Europe, as the US natural gas industry is going gangbusters.Snam is now conducting due diligence on buying a 33% stake, sold by ETP for the Rover pipeline, according to Reuters.Despite all the controversy surrounding oil and gas pipelines in North America—both in the United States and Canada, they remain an attractive investment.The Rover Pipeline travels a distance of 713 miles, starting in Southeastern Ohio, Western West Virginia, and Southwestern Pennsylvania, and then continues west through Ohio and then north into Michigan, according to Roverpipelinefacts.The pipeline has the capacity to move 3.25 billion cubic feet per day, transporting gas from the Marcellus and Utica.Rumors first surfaced that ETP was considering a sale of its 33% stake in the pipeline project in mid-July. At the time, it was thought that such a sale would netETP $2.5 billion, according to Bloomberg.  ETP has already ditched a 32% stake in Rover to Blackstone for $1.57 billion at a time when the pipeline, then just under construction, faced possible delays over environmental scrutiny and even some environmental-related work stoppages and lawsuits. The pipeline has done much to relieve the bottlenecks in the Utica and Marcellus regions, and has increased natural gas production in the area through the relief of some of these bottlenecks. Also relieving the transportation bottlenecks in the area are the NEXUS and Williams’ Atlantic Sunrise pipelines.

Pipeline Permit Scandal Highlights Confusion Amid Push to Build Plastics Plants - But with the arrival of Shell and its $6 billion plastics manufacturing plant, currently under construction in Beaver County, the conservation district assumed more serious responsibilities than throwing a maple syrup festival — including permitting the fossil fuel pipelines feeding the massive plastics complex. In a scathing audit issued on August 15 by state regulators, the Beaver County Conservation District (BCCD) earned exceptionally low marks, after auditors found troubling problems that may have played a role in a major pipeline explosion last year. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) audit highlights what can go wrong when state and local regulators are unprepared for the arrival of a powerful industry, illustrating the pressures when once-unobtrusive offices suddenly take on outsized importance amid a push to promote rapid development. Its findings could also spell trouble for Shell, which currently relies on permits authorized by the district for at least two pipelines connecting the company’s plastics plant to natural gas wells that will supply it with the raw materials to make plastics from fracked gas in the Marcellus Shale.The district, auditors wrote, “has shown a lack of sound judgement in recent years,” grading the program overall “unsatisfactory.” On August 20, the DEP yanked the Beaver County District’s authority to be involved in erosion and sediment control permits entirely, and said it would review the district’s authority over other permits.“DEP staff identified significant and consistent problems with BCCD’s recordkeeping, permit review, and inspections,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in a statement announcing the termination of the district’s authority.Environmental groups expressed outrage. “The improper issuance of pipeline construction permits in Beaver County without the proper review is an egregious o ffense,” said Joseph Otis Minott, executive director and chief counsel for environmental group Clean Air Council, “that put residents’ safety and the environment at great risk.”

Mariner East pipeline hit with $319000 in fines for Pennsylvania violations - State environmental regulators have hit Sunoco Pipeline LP with $319,000 in fines for violations related to construction of its Mariner East pipeline system, the latest among $13.5 million in penalties assessed on the contentious project since 2017.The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday that Sunoco had signed two consent agreements to settle complaints that it violated the Clean Streams Law and Dam Safety and Encroachment Act in 2017 and 2018. The company was cited for unauthorized discharges of drilling fluids, consisting of bentonite clay and water, while conducting horizontal drilling in 10 counties to excavate underground pathways for its pipeline. It was also cited for accelerated erosion and sedimentation at sites in Cumberland County in 2017. Sunoco Pipeline is a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) of Dallas. Sunoco’s $5.1 billion Mariner East system consists of two adjacent pipelines that transport natural gas liquids, such as propane, from Western Pennsylvania and Ohio to an export terminal in Marcus Hook. Construction of the third Mariner East pipeline is nearly completed, and it is expected to go into service by the end of the year. Patrick McDonnell, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said the DEP is committed to holding Sunoco and other companies to a high standard. "These actions, which resulted in violations of permits and laws that are meant to protect our waterways, are unacceptable,” he said in a statement. ETP signed the consent agreements on Aug. 20 and 21. “We are pleased to have resolved this issue with the DEP as we remain focused on safely completing construction of this important pipeline,” the company said in a statement. The Mariner East 2 project has been hit with 98 notices of violation since 2017, and Sunoco’s conduct has prompted a backlash of protest from neighbors and officials. Chester County Prosecutor Thomas Hogan is conducting a criminal investigation of Sunoco, and State Sens. Andy Dinniman and Tom Killion have introduced a package of legislation aimed at reforming Pennsylvania’s pipeline oversight.

Criminal defense counsel represents DEP in Mariner East probe - The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has engaged a criminal defense attorney to represent at least one employee with regard to a criminal investigation of the Mariner East pipeline project — a move several environmental attorneys said is unusual and possibly unprecedented for the regulatory agency. Since pipeline construction on the $2.5 billion project began in late winter of 2017, the 350-mile long statewide project has resulted in backyard sinkholes, contaminated drinking water, and polluted wetlands. In the summer of 2017, DEP, along with several environmental groups, agreed to a consent decree with Sunoco after dozens of drilling mud spills led to the pollution of high value wetlands and trout streams, and the loss of drinking water for residents of a Chester County community. The Chester County District Attorney opened an investigation into Energy Transfer, the parent company of pipeline builder Sunoco Logistics, in December 2018. At the time, Tom Hogan said possible charges related to pipeline construction through the county included risking a catastrophe and criminal mischief. In March, he convened a grand jury. A similar criminal investigation into the company has been opened by the prosecutor in neighboring Delaware County, with help from the state Attorney General’s office. The Attorney General’s office would not comment for this story.  The Department of Environmental Protection could be an integral part of such an investigation, since the agency issues the water-crossing and earth disturbance permits necessary for construction. It also enforces environmental regulations and special conditions outlined within those permits. DEP has entered into several consent orders and agreements with the company resulting from permit violations, and issued just under 100 separate notices of violations resulting in more than $13 million in penalties.

 EQT ends suit on drilling leases - — Oil and gas producer EQT has ended its suit against the state Department of Environmental Protection that aimed to have legislation forbidding deductions from certain drilling leases declared unconstitutional. EQT filed its motion on to dismiss the case on Friday. Judge Thomas Kleeh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia issued his order on Tuesday. This case was one of a trio of cases all dealing with deduction of pro-production expenses from royalty checks for mineral owners who had old-style flat-rate leases converted to percentage leases under 1982 legislation. This suit arose in April 2018 shortly after passage of Senate Bill 360, which was a response to the state Supreme Court’s about-face in one of the other related cases, called Leggett. In answering a question from a federal court, the Supreme Court in 2016 determined in “Leggett 1” that EQT could not deduct post-production expenses from royalties on the leases in question. Then in 2017, in “Leggett 2,” with a new justice on board, in changed its answer and said that’s OK. (Leggett 1 and 2 are the same case but are used to identify the different Supreme Court opinions.) Following Leggett 2, Senate Bill 360 prohibited those deductions. Leggett was stayed in February as this case and another, called Kay, worked through the system. Kay was a class action suit begun in 2013, alleging that EQT and its midstream and downstream chain of subsidiaries wrongly deducted post-production expenses and severance taxes from their royalty checks, and did not report the sale of natural gas liquids. It was settled in July, costing EQT $53.5 million.

After a year in the trees, opponents continue to block work on the pipeline — Along a 303-mile corridor of land stripped bare for a natural gas pipeline, the only trees left standing are here, on a steep mountainside in Montgomery County. And it is here, not coincidentally, that opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline are stationed high above the ground in a white pine and a chestnut oak. Meant to block construction of the deeply divisive project, the tree-sit marked its one-year anniversary Thursday in a patch of forest that has remained largely untouched as developers build the massive pipeline from northern West Virginia through Southwest Virginia to connect with a pipeline near the North Carolina line. From her vantage point in the woods, pipeline opponent Lucy Branham had no doubt that the two protesters, who sat in tree stands about 50 feet above her head, were making a difference in the fight. “All you have to do is look across the road,” Branham said, pointing to a spot on the other side of Yellow Finch Lane where a 125-foot wide easement for the pipeline had been cleared, right up to the edge of the occupied trees. “And here we have a beautiful, functioning forest,” she said. Neither of the masked tree-sitters — who are subject to a pending court action by Mountain Valley to have them removed — was willing to be identified. But they talked Thursday about why they are willing to live in 4-by-8-foot tree stands to block a pipeline that they say will change the planet’s climate with its reliance on a fossil fuel, pollute the steep slopes and pristine streams it bisects with sediment washed from construction sites, and mar the landscape in other ways. “The world’s on fire, and I think it’s a pretty terrible idea to continue the construction and the conditions that are making it that way,” the man in the white pine said. Since Sept. 5, 2018, a variety of protesters have taken turns sitting in tree stands built on a piece of private land condemned for the pipeline. Supporters in a ground camp send up food, water and supplies in plastic buckets suspended by ropes, while keeping their eyes peeled for anyone who might try to broach the blockade. A tangle of colored string stretching between trees and a barrier of wooden pallets makes any ascent to the tree-sits, already challenging on account of the steep slope, even more difficult. Although Mountain Valley is unable to cut the occupied trees and ones near them without risking the lives of the tree-sitters and possibly others, the joint venture of energy companies has been busy digging trenches and burying the 42-inch diameter pipe in other locations.

Utility to feds: No unsafe construction on Atlantic Coast -- The builders of the Atlantic Coast pipeline are contesting federal officials' allegations of unsafe construction practices on the line.

Exploded pipeline in Ky. was 60 years old — report -- Thursday, September 5, 2019 -- The piece of natural gas transmission pipeline that exploded in a fatal fireball last month was more than 60 years old, according to a report released yesterday on the incident in Kentucky.

  FERC approves service on Eastern Market Access Project »  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has given Dominion Energy approval to begin full service on the Eastern Market Access Project in Maryland and Virginia, Kallanish Energy reports. The $145 million project is designed to boost natural gas pipeline capacity by increasing compression and adding natural gas connections near Washington, D.C. The project was developed to help meet the growing demand of a local utility, Washington Gas Light Co. Another customer bowed out and that triggered a revision of the project’s plans. The project will provide about 150,000 dekatherms per day of firm transportation service and add 31,370 horsepower of compression. The facilities being added are in Loudon and Fairfax counties in Virginia and Charles County in Maryland. The Ferc approval was granted to Dominion Energy Cove Point LNG LP. The pipelines involved serve Dominion Energy’s Cove Point LNG liquefaction/export facility in Maryland’s Calvert County on Chesapeake Bay.

Fracking may be a bigger climate problem than we thought - As greenhouse gases go, methane gets less attention than carbon dioxide, but it is a key contributor to climate change. Methane doesn’t stay in the atmosphere as long as CO2 and is reabsorbed into terrestrial cycles via chemical reactions within 12 years or so. But while it’s up there, it’s much more potent, trapping heat at roughly 84 times the rate of CO2. Scientists estimate that around 25 percent of current global warming traces to methane. When it comes to reducing CO2 emissions, the chain between cause and effect is frustratingly long and diffuse. Reduced emissions today won’t show up as reduced climate impacts for decades. But with methane, the chain of causation is much shorter and simpler. Reduced emissions have an almost immediate climate impact. It’s a short-term climate lever, and if the countries of the world are going to hold rising temperatures to the United Nations’ target of “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial baseline, they’re going to need all the short-term climate levers they can get. In the real world, though, the news about methane is bad and getting worse. It turns out that a mysterious recent spike in global methane levels that’s putting climate targets at risk may be coming from US oil and gas fracking. If that’s true, it’s bad news, because there’s lots more shale gas development in the pipeline and the Trump administration is expected to release a proposed rule Thursday rolling back regulations on the industry, per the New York Times. There are two broad sources of methane emissions: biogenic (plant and animal-based) and fossil fuel production. The former is mainly about agriculture (cow burps, pig poop, rotting organic waste) and tropical wetlands. As for the latter, methane is leaked or deliberately “flared” (burned off) at virtually every stage of fossil fuel production and transport, a problem that is notoriously bad for fracked shale gas and tight oil. Robert Howarth and colleagues at Cornell have been arguing for years that natural gas methane emissions are much higher than the government estimates or the industry admits, high enough to wipe out its supposed climate advantage over coal. That is a controversial position, to say the least. (Estimates of methane leakage vary widely, but Howarth’s is at the very top end.) In his latest paper, Howarth is making a different point, springing from two facts he says previous studies have overlooked.  First, 63 percent of the total increase in global natural gas production in the 21st century has come from shale gas. And second, shale gas production using modern hydrofracturing techniques tends to produce lighter methane than conventional natural gas drilling. Howarth finds that if the lighter methane of shale gas production is explicitly accounted for, “shale-gas production in North America over the past decade may have contributed more than half of all of the increased [methane] emissions from fossil fuels globally and approximately one-third of the total increased emissions from all sources globally over the past decade.”

Ahead of Climate Forum, Bernie Sanders Urges All 2020 Democrats to Back Federal Fracking Ban - Just hours ahead of a televised climate forum with ten of the top 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls hosted by CNN on Wednesday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders urged all candidates in the race to back a federal ban on fracking—both on public and private lands—across the United States in order to address the urgent threat of the global climate emergency."Any plan that is serious about tackling the climate crisis we face must start with a ban on fracking. Senator Sanders gets this." —Seth Gladstone, Food & Water Watch"Any proposal to avert the climate crisis must include a full fracking ban on public and private lands," Sanders said in a statement."Fracking is a danger to our water supply. It’s a danger to the air we breathe. It causes earthquakes. It's highly explosive. Safe fracking is, like clean coal, pure fiction. But, most importantly, methane from natural gas contributes to climate change and is setting us on a path to disaster. When we are in the White House, we will end the era of fossil fuels, and that includes fracking." While all ten candidates set to participant in the CNN climate forum—including Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Beto O'Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, and Andrew Yang—have all put out their individual plans for addressing the climate crisis, only Sanders, according to this overview by theHuff Post, has called for such a complete and total fracking ban.

Julian Castro: Fracking to be phased out in favor of renewables - Presidential candidate and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro said he wants hydraulic fracturing to be phased out as part of climate plan that calls for the United States to get all its power from renewables by 2035. The Democratic Party presidential hopeful made the remarks during a Thursday evening event hosted by the San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists in San Antonio. Party nomination rivals Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris are calling for a nationwide ban on hydraulic fracturing, an oil & gas industry practice known as "fracking" that when paired with horizontal drilling, uses water, sand and chemicals to fracture shale geological formations.

Williams PA-NY Constitution natgas pipe could enter service in 2021  (Reuters) - Williams Cos Inc’s long-delayed Constitution natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to New York could enter service in a couple years after federal regulators found New York took too long to deny a needed water permit, analysts said on Tuesday. “Barring any permit reversals or unfavorable court decisions, we believe the project could enter service in 2021,” analysts at Height Capital Markets in Washington said in a report. Last week, the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ordered that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) waived the water quality certification required under the federal Clean Water Act for the New York portion of the pipe. FERC approved construction of Constitution in December 2014. FERC concluded that by failing to act on Constitution’s application within the time limit of one year, New York waived the certification requirements.

Williams finishes work on facility upgrades along Rivervale South to Market project - In order to meet growing natural gas demand in the northeastern region, Williams has completed upgrades and modifications to facilities along its Rivervale South to Market project in New Jersey. The project is responsible for 190,000 dekatherms of firm natural gas service and operations have included uprating 10.3 miles of existing Transco pipeline, adding less than a mile of new pipeline looping, and upgrading or modifying existing facilities, all in New Jersey. It is an extension of the existing Transco natural gas pipeline system used to fuel heating and power generation in the area. Work began earlier this year. “The demand for clean, reliable natural gas is at an all-time high, particularly in the northeastern markets where it has had a direct impact on significantly improving regional air quality,” Alan Armstrong, president and CEO of Williams, said “The Rivervale South to Market project will continue this progress in a manner that minimizes environmental impacts by enhancing and expanding our existing Transco pipeline infrastructure.” This portion of the project adds around 50,000 dekatherms per day. The bulk of work concluded in July when 140,000 dekatherms per day were pressed into service. These additions increase Transco pipeline’s system-design capacity to 17.2 million dekatherms per day, along a pipeline that runs from Texas to New York City.

New York says it will fight federal pipeline ruling - The state Department of Environmental Conservation intends to keep fighting against a planned gas pipeline that would terminate in Schoharie County, even though the agency’s 2016 denial was overturned last month by a key federal agency. “The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) ‎disagrees with FERC's decision that, once again, sides with the fossil fuel industry over protecting our environment. DEC will continue to vigorously defend our decision and our authority to protect New York State’s water quality resources,” the agency said in a prepared statement following the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s decision in August. In that decision, FERC ruled against the DEC because it had taken more than the specified one-year period to respond to the Williams Partners' application for water permits to cross dozens of streams along its proposed route. The federal agency took its cue from a federal district court in Washington D.C., which also concluded that the state should have responded during the allotted time frame. During earlier arguments though, there was a dispute about whether Williams had halted and re-filed the application or simply extended an earlier application. Williams said it halted and re-filed and the courts agreed. The Tulsa, Okla.-based pipeline firm wants to build a 125-mile-long, 30-inch natural gas line from Marcellus Shale gas fields in northern Pennsylvania to Schoharie County. The line would have the capacity for about 3 million homes. The company says it can help shield New Yorkers from price swings in gas. Williams spokesman Christopher Stockton said this isn’t the last hoop facing the pipeline project. The project still needs a green light from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a final approval from FERC as well as Pennsylvania regulators.

State Agency Voices More Concerns Over PennEast Pipeline Project - Once again, the state Department of Environmental Protection has found permit applications by PennEast Pipeline to be deficient, dealing a new if only temporary setback to the project. In a four-page letter to the company, DEP found its applications for a series of wetlands and flood hazard permits were lacking required information, with the agency giving PennEast 30 days to rectify the omissions. The 120-mile project has encountered numerous delays in review of its proposal, which involves a $1 billion new pipeline beginning in Luzerne County, Pa., crossing the Delaware River in Hunterdon County and ending just outside of Trenton. PennEast is one of the most controversial of nine new pipeline projects pending in New Jersey, most of which are intended to ship cheap natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formations in Pennsylvania to metropolitan and suburban markets in New Jersey. The project has stirred enormous opposition on both sides of the Delaware River, crossing more than 100 waterways in both states. A wide array of environmental and public interest organizations also are pressing Gov. Phil Murphy to declare a moratorium on new fossil-fuel projects in New Jersey in light of his stated goal of having 100 percent clean energy by 2050. PennEast is reviewing the agency’s letter and will quickly provide the data requested, according to Pat Kornick, a spokeswoman for the company, who added it is committed to working with the department as the review of its 24,000-page application moves forward. Failure to meet environmental standards Tom Gilbert, campaign director for Rethink Energy NJ, said it is not surprising PennEast’s application was deemed deficient, given the company’s track record. Its initial application was found wanting because homeowners along the route would not allow them on their property. “PennEast will ultimately be rejected because it cannot meet New Jersey’s strict environmental standards,’’ Gilbert said. Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, questioned whether the company will ever comply with the permit requirements. “Instead of going through another 30 days to fix a flawed permit, they should kick them out and start all over again,’’ he said.

PennEast: Hunterdon NJ freeholders again oppose natural gas pipeline – The Hunterdon County freeholders have unanimously reiterated their opposition to PennEast's latest pipeline permit application to the state Department of Environmental Protection. The freeholders' resolution said that the DEP has enough information to determine that the pipeline cannot be constructed in a manner that meets the stringent environmental standards required under state law and regulations. “Now that PennEast has re-submitted its permit applications to NJDEP, after being turned down over a year and a half ago, it is important for the Board to provide comment to NJDEP as to why approval of the permits is not in the public interest,” said Freeholder John E. Lanza. The freeholders originally passed a resolution opposing the pipeline in 2015. PennEast had no comment on the freeholders' action. After the DEP originally rejected the permit applications in January 2018, PennEast submitted a fresh application to the DEP in August. “The planned pipeline route disturbs a 53-acre well service area in Holland Township and over 2,000 acres of Hunterdon County farmland and conservation easements for which the taxpayers have paid millions of dollars to preserve, thereby destroying the easements,” Lanza said. When the freeholders first approved a resolution opposing the pipeline project in 2015, current freeholders Shaun Van Doren and Sue Soloway were not in office. Both Van Doren and Soloway both supported the resolution this week and thanked Lanza for giving them a chance to voice their opposition.

 Tis' The Season For Natural Gas Bulls To Be Jolly -- Okay, so it is a little early for Christmas references, but we have entered the time of year where the natural gas world is often kind to the bulls, which is something that has not been the case very often since the big run up in the first part of last winter, as prices declined to new multi-year lows. Notice how prices often rise after the beginning of September. This year, we actually got a head start with some rallying last week off price levels below 2.20 in prompt month. That rally has continued unabated this week, so far, with prompt month prices touching 2.45 in today's session, more than 10% higher than we saw early last week. Surely, with a rally this strong, the data must have shifted pretty strongly over the last week. Well, not exactly. Production remains quite high, posting above 93 bcf / day on numerous days. How about LNG? We did see new highs last week, but so far this week, LNG intake has actually declined. The difference must lie in exports to Mexico, as they have been rumored to increase any time now, as the Sur de Texas pipeline comes into service. No, nothing notable there either. Quite simply, this has been a cash-led rally, as we are getting later in injection season and storage tries to fill as much as possible heading into the cold season, and prices had been held down at levels that are very difficult to sustain for quite awhile. We have been playing for this move for awhile, with suggestions such as buying the October / January (V/F) spread, along with selling puts showing up in our weekly trade ideas over the last several weeks. The V/F spread has rallied nearly 14 cents over the last month. We cannot leave weather out of the discussion, as we finally saw the expected shift hotter over the holiday weekend, with demand solidly above normal for the next couple of weeks across the south, doing its part to hinder storage refill efforts. Lastly, we must mention the large short position that the market has held for the last several weeks, adding more fuel to the bullish fire as some of these shorts are forced to cover on the way up. 

US natural gas in underground storage rises 84 Bcf, nears five year average: EIA — US working natural gas volumes in underground storage rose 84 Bcf last week, much more than the market expected, as NYMEX Henry Hub futures fell slightly following the announcement. US storage stocks increased to 2.941 Tcf for the week ended August 30, the US Energy Information Administration reported Thursday morning. The injection was much more than an S&P Global Platts' survey of analysts calling for a 75 Bcf injection. It was also outside the survey range, as responses spanned from 69 to 83 Bcf. Overestimating demand in the EIA's East, Midwest, and South Central storage regions accounted for the miss, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics. The build was also more than the 64 Bcf injection reported during the corresponding week in 2018 as well as the five-year average of 66 Bcf, according to EIA data. As a result, stocks were 383 Bcf, or 15%, above the year-ago level of 2.558 Tcf and 82 Bcf, or 2.7%, below the five-year average of 3.023 Tcf. The October NYMEX contract was trading down a half cent to $2.44/MMBtu following the larger-than-expected storage injection. The prompt-month contract made impressive gains over the past week, rising more than 15 cents but strong supply continues to drive bulky builds. The largest injection occurred in the Midwest region, where facilities rose 37 Bcf to 827 Bcf. It is the only region with more gas in storage than the five-year average, albeit slightly at 1.3%. NGPL Chicago spot prices are 25 cents below Henry Hub. The expectation that Chicago prices could be 80 cents/MMBtu lower this winter than last, as indicated in the futures market, is one reason Platts Analytics is forecasting Midwest power demand to be 100 MMcf/d higher year on year, despite temperatures that were 2.5 degrees lower than the 10-year average last winter. Coal retirements and new gas builds also are adding to winter-on-winter gains. Platts North American Power Plant databank shows that 620 MW of coal generation has come offline since last winter, and 393 MW of new gas builds have come online. If gas replaced 60% of this coal generation, it would drive power demand higher by about 70 MMcf/d, assuming a heat rate of 7.5 MMBtu/MW. The new gas generation is likely to add only 50 MMcf/d of demand or so, assuming plants run at 75% capacity. US balances have remained mostly flat week on week for the week in progress, according to Platts Analytics. Both supply and demand made similar gains.

 Larger Than Expected Build In Today's EIA Report Mostly Shrugged Off -- Today's EIA release revealed that last week's storage build was a little larger than expected, with an injection of 84 bcf reported. After such a strong rally over the last week and a half, one would expect a correction based on the larger build, and we did see one, briefly, as prompt month prices fell to just under 2.39, but the decline was quickly bought back up, with the contract closing just a penny lower on the day at 2.435. Most of the curve, in fact, closed higher on the day, with only October and November contracts in the "red". Why the resilience in prices? There are a couple of things to mention. While the build was larger than forecast, it still was a little tighter in terms of supply / demand balances compared to the prior week. The number does little to alter end-of-season storage expectations, with most estimates in the 3.70 to 3.75 tcf range for the end of October. As we discussed yesterday, this rally has been predominantly a cash-led one, as storage looks to refill as much as possible in advance of the winter season. As long as cash remains strong, downside is somewhat limited. Forecast demand remains very strong for this time of year across key areas of the South, with mid summer-like heat in full swing in many areas, including widespread upper 90s to low 100s in Texas for the next several days. This can be visualized by looking at one of our new regional tools, focused on the Gas-Weighted Degree Day (GWDD) forecasts just for the south-central EIA region. Notice there is not much drop-off in southern GWDDs for another 7-9 days. This keeps demand for natural gas stronger than normal, and could continue supporting daily cash prices. But then there is the wind factor, as ERCOT winds are forecast to increase considerably by early next week. All else equal, while it remains hot, the increase in wind generation should take away some of the demand on the gas side, possibly allowing cash prices to ease off, and thus, impacting futures as well. Of course, this is just one piece to the complex puzzle that makes up the natural gas market.

Natural Gas Prices Finish With Nearly A 10% Weekly Gain -- We mentioned the other day how this time of the year often is much more "friendly" to natural gas bulls, and that has rang true and then some, with prompt month prices soaring higher again today, even testing the 2.50 level in today's trading session. This an important zone from a technical standpoint, which we will get to in just a moment. First, a look at our seasonality chart shows that this rally has almost been enough to completely close the gap between 2019 and the pack of prior years. In total, the front of the curve has gained nearly 35 cents over the last month, and about 45 cents from the early August lows. But let's get back to that important technical zone, highlighted in yellow, up above. This is the zone which acted as very strong support for three years, since the Spring of 2016, that finally broke a few months ago. As all of you chart technicians are aware, this broken support now acts as what should be strong resistance, meaning that, if there is any bearish catalyst, you could get more of a reaction to the downside off this level. Now, we are not about to imply that this means we will move lower next week. We still need that catalyst, which will likely have to come from the cash market. Our discussions all week have talked about the cash-led nature of this rally, as storage tries to refill as much as possible ahead of the cold season, with weather demand being strong enough to hinder those refill efforts thanks to intense heat in the South. After this weekend, southern demand finally will gradually tail off. Will this be enough to take some of the "heat" off Henry Hub cash prices and allow the 2.50-2.54 prompt month resistance to hold?

Southern N.E.'s Fossil-Fuel Infrastructure Builds Up — The Burrillville, R.I., power plant may have been derailed but there is still plenty of new and proposed natural-gas infrastructure in southern New England.The debate over expanding pipelines and related equipment occurs nearly every winter following cold spells that increase demand for the natural gas flowing through Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.The big appetite for the fossil fuel is due in part to New England’s rapid transition from coal and oil power to natural gas, increasing its share of electricity generation from 15 percent in 2000 to 48 percent in 2017. Rhode Island generates 93 percent of its in-state electricity from natural gas. Massachusetts generates 67 percent of its power from natural gas.With more power plants running on natural gas and more homes and businesses heating with it, there is less of the fossil fuel to go around during the coldest of winter days. During the frigid winter of 2013-14 supply was so low that natural-gas prices hit record highs and standby power plants in New Hampshire ran on jet fuel to meet demand.The solution, according to the fossil-fuel industry and its advocacy groups, is to increase the flow of “cheap” natural gas extracted from the Marcellus shale fracking region of Pennsylvania to southern New England. To do so, they say, New England needs new and bigger pipelines, storage facilities, and compressor stations to push the gas along.This past winter also had cold spells but, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, supply and prices were tamed by timely shipments of LNG to terminals in Boston, Everett, Mass., and the port of Saint John in New Brunswick. Environmentalists want a similar energy transition, but from fossil fuels to renewable energy and energy-reducing programs. All six New England states have goals to lower greenhouse-gas emissions and mandates for ramping up renewable-energy use. Natural gas is unsafe and increases pollution and climate emissions, according to opponents. ISO New England, the operator of the six-state power grid and forecaster of energy needs, has recently started to recognize the transformation from large conventional power plants to a hybrid power system made up of many smaller “distributed generation” energy producers. This new system includes a mix of renewables, energy-storage systems, energy-efficiency programs, electric vehicles, and the adoption of the so-called “smart” electric grid. But ISO New England has yet to abandon its enthusiasm for natural-gas infrastructure.

New York Times drops sponsorship of oil conference -The New York Times has scrapped plans to sponsor one of the world’s biggest oil industry conferences after pressure from climate campaigners including Extinction Rebellion. There were protests outside the newspaper’s offices in Manhattan this month over the Oil and Money conference, which is in its 40th year and which green groups have called a “climate crime scene”. The conference is due to take place next month at the InterContinental Hotel on Park Lane in London and will attract executives from the world’s biggest oil companies as well as senior Opec leaders and ministers from fossil fuel-rich Middle Eastern nations. According to the event’s website, keynote speakers this year will include Bob Dudley, the chief executive of BP, and Ben van Beurden, the boss of Royal Dutch Shell. A New York Times spokeswoman said the paper had “decided to end its relationship with the Oil and Money conference” because its subject matter “gives us cause for concern”. “We want there to be no question of our independence or even the potential appearance of a conflict of interest. Over the last several years [the New YorkTimes] has significantly expanded its reporting on climate change and its impact, as well as broader investigative and explanatory coverage of energy and environmental policy,” the spokeswoman said. Extinction Rebellion and other green groups staged protests at the newspaper’s headquarters over the summer calling for it to withdraw from the conference and “tell the truth about the climate emergency”. Extinction Rebellion has also called on the New York Times to include more climate change coverage in its pages and to use “climate emergency language”. Last week members of Extinction Rebellion joined Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate activist, and thousands of US schoolchildren at a protest outside the UN headquarters in New York. The school climate strike was Thunberg’s first in the US after she travelled across the Atlantic on a zero-carbon yacht to avoid the heavy greenhouse gas emissions caused by air travel.

BP evacuates non-essential staff from 4 Gulf of Mexico oil platforms - (Reuters) - BP on Friday evacuated non-essential staff from its four operated offshore oil production platforms in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, joining several other firms taking similar steps. The oil major said the evacuations covered its Atlantic, Mad Dog, Na Kika and Thunderhorse platforms. Oil and gas production continues unaffected at the four facilities, a spokesman said. (Reporting by Gary McWilliams Editing by Chris Reese)

Dorian-Hit Bahamas Terminal Appears Okay - The Buckeye Bahamas Hub appears to have sustained no significant damage from Hurricane Dorian. The largest petroleum products terminal in the Western Hemisphere appears to have sustained no significant damage from Hurricane Dorian, Buckeye Partners, L.P. reported Tuesday in reference to its Buckeye Bahamas Hub (BBH).  In a written statement emailed to Rigzone, Buckeye cautioned that its early conclusion about BBH’s condition following the catastrophic hurricane stems from “preliminary assessments, subject to physical verification.” The company added that it will conduct more conclusive “in-depth, on-the-ground inspections and assessments” of Dorian’s impact on BBH in the days to come.  Located near Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, the 80-tank BBH boasts approximately 26.2 million barrels of storage capacity and eight berths, according to Buckeye’s website. The facility, which Buckeye notes is the leading hub in the Caribbean region, provides storage, blending and other services for crude oil, fuel oil, vacuum gas oil (VGO), diesel fuel and gasoline and other components.

Dorian Damages Equinor's Oil Storage Terminal - Equinor ASA’s South Riding Point oil storage terminal was damaged as Hurricane Dorian wreaked havoc in the Bahamas, the Norwegian energy company said Thursday. “Our initial aerial assessment of the South Riding Point facility has found that the terminal has sustained damage and oil has been observed on the ground outside of the onshore tanks,” Equinor said in a company statement. While they said it’s too early to indicate any volumes, there are no current observations of any oil spill at sea. Equinor had 54 personnel at Grand Bahama at the time of Dorian’s arrival. The company said they worked at the South Riding Point oil storage terminal until the precautionary shutdown at noon on Saturday. Equinor said no personnel was on the terminal when the hurricane hit, and the company has since made contact with all of them and they are confirmed safe. “Equinor has mobilized oil spill response resources and they will arrive at South Riding Point as soon as possible. We are now working to establish a better overview of the situation, and on mounting a safe and timely response to the situation,” the company said. Equinor said it’s communicated its initial assessment to local authorities and will continue that communication. More updates will be provided once they gain access to the terminal area. Hurricane Dorian first made landfall Sunday in the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm. Buckeye Partners, L.P.’s petroleum products terminal – also located in the Bahamas – sustained no significant damage in the storm, the company said Wednesday.

Equinor reports onshore oil spill in Bahamas after hurricane (Reuters) - Equinor has discovered an oil spill at its storage terminal in the Bahamas in the aftermath of hurricane Dorian, the Norwegian energy company said in a statement on Thursday. “Our initial aerial assessment of the South Riding Point facility has found that the terminal has sustained damage and oil has been observed on the ground outside of the onshore tanks,” Equinor said. “It is too early to indicate any volumes. At this point there are no observations of any oil spill at sea,” it added. In preparing for the hurricane, Equinor shut down operations at the South Riding Point terminal on Aug. 31, and none of its staff were at the site during the storm. “We have informed the local authorities of our initial assessment and remain in dialogue with them,” Equinor said. “While weather conditions on the island have improved, road conditions and flooding continue to impact our ability to assess the situation and the scope of damages to the terminal and its surroundings.”

Delfin LNG loses partner, still plans floating export facility in Cameron Parish - Delfin LNG LLC, a Houston-based energy company with plans to build several floating liquefaction vessels and export terminals in Cameron Parish, has hit some bumps but its leadership is still bullish that it will export LNG some day. In June, Delfin LNG requested a 3-year and 6-month-long extension from the Federal Regulatory Commission for its permit, but was granted a shorter extension that expires in September 2020. That's when the company must have its export facility constructed and in operation. The Delfin facilities could produce up to 13 million tons of LNG per year across four floating vessels about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast — supplied by pipelines under the Gulf floor. In 2017, London-based Golar LNG signed a joint development agreement with Delfin LNG, but in late August Golar's CEO told investors that it decided against participating in the Gulf Coast project. "We just didn't make enough traction around the two critical customer and financing elements," Iain Ross, CEO of Golar told analysts during a conference call. "We need high-caliber customers you can reliably provide fleet gas and put together an uptick that underpins the financing of the project combined with co-investors to lift the project with us. We just didn't feel that the Delfin opportunity satisfied those criteria." But the chief operating officer of Delfin LNG, Wouter Pastoor, disagrees that the project isn't getting interest from investors. "We cannot speak to the issues at Golar or the disclosures it has made as part of its earnings announcement, but the Delfin Project is well established and has attracted significant global partners," Pastoor said in a recent email.

 FERC formally accepts Commonwealth LNG permit application - Federal regulators have formally accepted a permit application filed by Houston liquefied natural gas company Commonwealth LNG to build an export terminal in southwest Louisiana.Although the project had been listed in "pre-fling status" since August 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission accepted the company's formal application on Tuesday morning.Commonwealth LNG is seeking permission to build six liquefied natural gas production units known as trains on a 393-acre property along the Calcasieu Ship Channel about 50 miles south of Lake Charles. Located on the Cameron Parish side of the channel near the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico, the proposed export terminal will receive 390.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from a pipeline to make 8.4 million metric tons of LNG per year.

Corpus Christi crude loadings hit record as new Texas pipelines open -  (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil loaded onto vessels at Corpus Christi, Texas, last week hit an average 1 million barrels per day (bpd) following the opening of new pipelines from West Texas shale fields, according to consultancy RBN Energy. Crude pipelines owned by EPIC Midstream and Plains All American Pipeline LP, able to carry up to 1.07 million bpd combined, started operations last month, easing an inland bottleneck by funneling oil to the South Texas export hub. Last week’s record in Corpus Christi was nearly double July’s average of 525,000 bpd. Nearly half of last week’s loadings occurred at Moda Midstream LLC’s export terminal in Ingleside, near Corpus Christi, RBN Energy’s analysis of vessel-tracking data showed. Pipeline operators recently have cut tariff rates to the U.S. Gulf Coast, encouraging flows and reducing the spread between Midland and Houston oil prices. Crude inventories in Corpus Christi recently climbed almost 1 million to 12.7 million barrels in the week ended Aug. 23, with storage utilization reaching 52%, according to market intelligence firm Genscape.

Plastics industry accounts for one-fourth of Houston-area industrial air pollution, report finds - The plastics industry is responsible for nearly a fourth of the industrial air pollution in the Houston area, a share that is expected to rise as the number of new plants and expansions doubles in the next few years, a new study found.The Environmental Integrity Project identified 90 plants that either make plastics or their ingredients in the Houston and Port Arthur area and, using state data, found that in 2017 the plants emitted 55,704 tons of potentially health-damaging air pollutants.And while information is not available for all proposed projects in the coming years, the study and advocacy group estimate that just a third of them could emit up to 14,000 more tons of air pollutants per year. While air pollution in the region is not limited to plastics production, the group decided to focus on this industry because of the growth it is undergoing, said Ilan Levin, a group attorney, and also because it is a particularly toxic industry.The industry has seen immense growth in the United States in recent years as access to cheap natural gas fueled a huge industry-wide expansion, with Houston and the Gulf Coast region as its epicenter. The production of plastics emit greenhouses gases, as well as smog-forming pollutants like nitrogen oxides that can cause adverse health impacts.The shale boom in West Texas, where producers are pumping record amounts of crude oil, led to a slump in prices for natural gas, a byproduct of oil production and a major input for petrochemical products. At the same time, petrochemicals are projected to account for more than a third of the growth in world oil demand by 2030, and nearly half of the growth in demand by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency.For major petrochemical companies, such as Michigan-based Dow Chemical Co. and Houston-based LyondellBasell Industries, that meant cheaper supplies to make various chemicals and plastics and more demand for their products. Companies made huge investments in infrastructure to equip the Gulf Coast region for petrochemical exports through the Houston Ship Channel.More than $140 billion in new petrochemical capacity has been planned or added in the Gulf Coast region since 2010, according to the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group.

Permian Gas Flaring Dips for First Time Since 2017 - Natural gas flaring in the Permian dropped in the first quarter of 2019 – the first drop in one-and-a-half years, according to energy research firm Rystad Energy. While Rystad stated that previous quarterly estimates suggested gas flaring in the Permian reached record highs beyond 660 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) in fourth quarter of 2018 and first quarter of 2019, newly released final data is a different picture. There’s a downward revision for first quarter 2019’s flaring estimate by seven percent to 613 MMcf/d. Source: Rystad Energy“This is the first time that has happened over the past one-and-a-half years. Prior to this, gradual upward revisions of previous estimates were the norm,” said Artem Abramov, Rystad’s head of shale research. The Permian’s gas flaring is still three to four times higher than years past, Rystad maintains. “There are no signs of any significant reduction going forward,” said Abramov. “On the contrary, the preliminary natural gas flaring estimate for the second quarter this year shows a new all-time high. Texas Railroad Commission chairman Wayne Christian recently voiced concern over the practice, saying that too much gas is being burned off out of convenience rather than necessity, Bloomberg reported. This came after Texas regulators had a split vote over the flaring of natural gas.

Lotus Midstream's Fast-Growing Role In Permian Crude Transportation -  The Permian Basin has attracted more than its share of midstream start-up companies over the past few years, and for good reason. The region has experienced big gains in crude oil, natural gas and NGL production, and that’s put stress on the Permian’s already significant pipeline infrastructure and spurred the development of many new projects. One new midstreamer that’s made a big splash is Lotus Midstream, which, since it was formed in early 2018, has partnered with some of the Permian’s biggest players — including ExxonMobil and Plains All American — to advance the now-sanctioned 1.5-MMb/d Wink-to-Webster crude pipeline. It’s also acquired Occidental Petroleum’s (Oxy) Centurion pipeline system, which includes a lot of crude gathering pipe and is one of the two main takeaway links between the Permian and the Cushing, OK, hub. What’s Lotus up to, and how is it shaping Permian crude transportation? Today, we examine what has quickly become one of the largest midstreamers in the U.S.’s hottest shale play. Crude oil production in the Permian now tops 4.2 MMb/d, twice what it was only two and a half years ago. That phenomenal run-up in crude output for a while caused some serious pipeline-takeaway constraints and huge price differentials between the crude hub in Midland, TX, and hubs in Cushing and along the Gulf Coast — topics we’ve covered extensively in the RBN blogosphere. More recently, though, the focus has shifted to all the new crude gathering and takeaway pipelines being developed — and coming online — that already have improved things in a big way. In our 14-part Have It All blog series on Permian crude gathering systems, we reviewed many of the smaller-diameter pipeline networks in the region’s Midland and Delaware basins. In Hard Hat and a Hammer, we looked at the more than 600 Mb/d of incremental takeaway capacity that was added between the fall of 2018 and the spring of 2019 — these projects, in order of completion, include Plains’ new Sunrise II pipeline from Midland to Wichita Falls, TX; a 40-Mb/d expansion of Magellan Midstream Partners, Plains and OMERS Infrastructure Management’s BridgeTex Pipeline; a 45-Mb/d expansion of Enterprise Products Partners’ Midland-to-ECHO I pipeline; and the conversion of one of Enterprise’s Seminole NGL pipelines to what is now the 200-Mb/d Midland-to-ECHO II pipeline. We also looked at two new pipelines that within the past few weeks have added nearly 1 MMb/d of incremental capacity from the Permian to the Corpus Christi area: EPIC Midstream’s EPIC NGL Pipeline, which was temporarily repurposed to transport up to 400 Mb/d of crude oil until the company’s 590-Mb/d EPIC Crude Pipeline starts up in January 2020, and Plains’ 585-Mb/d Cactus II pipeline.

US oil and gas rig count falls, Permian takes biggest hit: Enverus DrillingInfo -  The US oil and gas rig count fell 21 to 966 on the week, according to Enverus DrillingInfo data released Thursday, with Permian Basin rigs taking by far the biggest hit.Permian rigs in the West Texas/New Mexico basin were down 15 in the past week, leaving 418. That is the lowest number since the first week of 2018.Overall, most of the week's rig count decline was in oil-oriented rigs, which were down 16 to 767, Enverus said. Gas rigs dropped by 8 to 191, while there was a three-rig gain in rigs not classified as either oil or gas.Of the other seven major named US basins, the Dry Marcellus, largely in Pennsylvania, was down by three to 26 rigs.Two basins lost a rig each: The Denver-Julesburg Basin, mostly in Colorado, is now at 26 rigs, while the SCOOP-STACK play in Oklahoma is at 65.But the Williston Basin in North Dakota and Montana, which encompasses the Bakken Shale, gained a rig for a total 59.Four other basins remained the same week on week: the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas stayed at 73, the Haynesville Shale of East Texas and northwest Louisiana remained at 52, the Wet Marcellus, also mostly in Pennsylvania, kept to 19 rigs and the Utica Shale, largely i n Ohio, held steady with 16 rigs. Permit approvals this week were down by 198 compared to last week, for total US approvals of 790. Permitting was down in virtually all basins; the largest single move was in the DJ Basin, down 243 to zero this week. In other basins, the Wet Marcellus was down 22 to 9, the Permian was down 21 to 106, the Eagle Ford was down 19 to 26, and the Williston was down 17 to 10. All other named basins were down by 11 or less, except in the Utica Shale, which recorded a five-permit gain for a total of 6.

Fracking's Dirty Water Problem Is Getting Much Bigger – DeSmog -- While fracking for oil and gas in the U.S. has contributed to record levels of fossil fuel production, a critical part of that story also involves water. An ongoing battle for this precious resource has emerged in dry areas of the U.S. where much of the oil and gas production is occurring. In addition, once the oil and gas industry is finished with the water involved in pumping out fossil fuels, disposing of or treating that toxic wastewater, known as produced water, becomes yet another problem.  These water woes represent a daunting challenge for the U.S. fracking industry, which has been a financial disaster, something even a former shale gas CEO has admitted. And its financial prospects aren't looking any rosier: The industry is facing another round of bankruptcies as producers are overwhelmed by debt they are unable to repay. This week, Bloomberg reports that the Permian region of Texas and New Mexico, a fracking hotspot, will need an estimated $9 billion of new investment to create 1,000 new injection disposal wells to deal with fracking wastewater over the next decade, citing a note to clients from financial services company Raymond James and Associates. “Most investors are simply unaware of the fact that as crude production grows, produced ‘dirty’ water grows even faster,”wrote Raymond James analyst Marshall Adkin. In July the industry analysts at Wood MacKenzie — who have been highlighting issues about water and fracking for some time — pointed to this factor, and its financial impacts, only getting worse, while also predicting wastewater output in the Permian would double in the next four years. “The entire Permian production cost curve is shifting as produced water volumes expand, posing a risk to production growth in the most prolific U.S. shale play,” wrote Wood MacKenzie. Meanwhile, Wall Street is aware of this fact and is viewing the water crisis in the fracking industry as another way to profit from fracking while investors lose their shirts. Natural Gas Intelligence reported that Raymond James noted this water problem was “offering substantial market opportunities.” In March, a headline on Reuters also emphasized this point: “Wastewater - private equity’s new black gold in U.S. shale.”So, from the perspective of private equity, the more wastewater, the better. In places like Texas and New Mexico, freshwater can be in short supply. That also presents a huge money-making opportunity for some.“Water is the new oil,” Laura Capper, a Houston-based oilfield consultant, explained to the publication Finance &Commerce. “The value of water has changed.” Big money is being spent to lock up the rights to freshwater in Texas, in order to sell those rights to oil and gas producers.

New Texas pipeline protest law is about more than pipelines - A law went into effect in Texas this week that increases penalties for demonstrators who interfere with oil and gas pipelines and other pieces of “critical infrastructure.” Oil and gas states have adopted such laws to crack down on demonstrations like the one at Standing Rock, where protesters disrupted construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. As the legislation was debated in Texas, attention focused on the impact it might have on opposition to the natural gas pipeline planned for the Hill Country.But the law applies to more than pipelines. It is now a felony in Texas to trespass on “critical infrastructure” in order to damage property or interfere with operations. Critical infrastructure includes pipelines, ports, feedlots, trucking terminals, dams, petrochemical plants and many other facilities. (Find a full list here.)The law counts as critical infrastructure a facility or pipeline “that is under construction and all equipment and appurtenances used during that construction.”It also allows groups to be sued or fined up to half a million dollars for supporting demonstrators.Industry groups support the law, saying it will increase safety around oil and gas infrastructure.“There are ways to protest, but don’t do it on a construction site because you could get hurt or hurt somebody else,” Allen Fore, a spokesman for pipeline company Kinder Morgan, told KUT before the law took effect.But opponents say the law is already having a chilling effect on legally protected protest. Daphne Silverman, a defense lawyer who has represented protesters, says the statute is overly vague when it comes to what constitutes trespassing, leaving it open to constitutional challenge.

The terminal that stores oil at Cushing continues to grow, as does the numbers of pipelines it uses - Analysts that closely track oil inventories at the Cushing terminal predict midstream companies by the end of next year will have the ability to move more oil out of the terminal than can be brought in. Still, much of the information provided by a Genscape webinar last week illustrates that the terminal, a collection of companies that store and ship crude and condensates, continues to play an important role in storing and distributing oil and other liquids to downstream users. The briefing was conducted by Genscape’s Hillary Stevenson, director of oil markets and business development, and Ryan Saxton, its director of midstream oil. Together, they discussed the terminal’s recent rapid growth in storage capacity and connectivity to both upstream fields and downstream export facilities, refineries and other end-stream users of what it stores. During the past 10 years, they said, Cushing’s operational capacity has nearly doubled, from about 55 million barrels in 2009 to about 99 million barrels, which is how much combined operators would be capable of storing once construction ends on a group of tanks now under construction. The terminal’s connectivity to both upstream suppliers and downstream users also has greatly expanded. In 2012, the terminal only had one pipeline coming to it that was capable of moving more than 500,000 barrels a day. None of that size was leaving the facility. Daily flows in averaged about 1.75 million barrels daily, while daily flows out averaged about 1 million barrels daily. In May, the terminal had three pipelines with capacities of at least 500,000 barrels of oil daily bringing product in, with two others that size capable of moving oil to the Gulf Coast. Daily flows to the terminal averaged about 3 million barrels a day, while daily flows out averaged about 2 million barrels a day.

Establishing The Value Of Crude Oil Storage In The Shale Era  - Here at RBN, we frequently receive questions about our thoughts on the value of storage. Whether it be crude, natural gas, or NGLs, we answer like any good consultant, “It depends.” What operational need does this storage serve? Where is it located? Does it have optionality for receipts and deliveries? These factors and many more can affect both the strategic and tactical value of a storage asset. Those assets that are integrated into midstream systems and facilitate movements from the upstream to the downstream are generally better poised for success. Those attempting to carve out a niche in isolation or relying on uplift purely from commodity price fluctuations … well, good luck to them. Today, we begin a series examining the value of — and changing markets for — crude oil storage. Crude oil storage is an integral part of the midstream sector, which (as its name suggests) occupies the market midway between the upstream production of crude and other hydrocarbons at the wellhead and the downstream refining or exporting of oil. As such, the role of crude storage is to facilitate the transfer of oil as it works its way down the line from the lease to the refinery or export dock. That includes moving the various grades of oil across distances, from Point A to B, over a period of time — days or a month or more — as price differentials and economics dictate. This is an important distinction because it means that midstreamers must employ different strategies to capture value in dynamic markets than buyers and sellers in the upstream and downstream sectors. Over time, upstream and downstream folks have had to adapt to manage the commodity price risk that they face. They’ve accomplished this through a variety of financial instruments and physical trades, including a combination of term contracts, spot transactions, physical forwards, futures, options and other derivatives.

Oil producer hopes to start drilling in St. Clair 'sometime next year' - After a lengthy search for oil or gas beneath St. Clair, Traverse City-based oil producer Dennis Schmude said he’s hoping to tap in “sometime next year.” But he still has to finish the local leasing and state permitting process before that happens. On Tuesday, St. Clair City Council members got a quick update from Randall Hansen, of Elexco Land Services, who is working with Schmude Oil. Hansen is in the process of securing leases with local landowners to authorize them to drill offsite for any minerals that might be under residents’ homes. Of the roughly 220 letters they sent out, he said, “As of last week, we’ve leased 150 parcels within in the city.” Schmude said on Wednesday, the arrangement will mean some upfront costs for property owners — he wouldn’t specify how much — and more if the venture is successful. He said they don’t need to get the OK and lease 100 percent with everyone they’ve reached out to, but they “just wanted everyone to share in it.” “And come to the party, and not everyone wants to come to the party,” Schmude said. “I think there’s a normal timidness in a lot of the landowners that we’ve approached in St. Clair,” he added. “It’s just a fear of the unknown, and once they get past the fear of the unknown, they realize we’re not going to harm their property, it’s, ‘Oh, yeah, why didn’t I sign this before?’” Schmude Oil began working with geophysical contractors to run seismic vehicles — sending vibrations into the ground to call back data — throughout the city three years ago. And Schmude said he’s got a good idea to confirm his hunch there was an untapped reservoir of resources beneath the community. Since then, he’s also identified several off-site locations from which to drill for the resources roughly 2,500 feet underground.

Clean up underway after oil discharged in White River in Indianapolis — Several agencies are still working to clean up after oil was discharged Tuesday into the White River. The Indiana Department of Emergency Management, Marion County Health Department, US Environmental Protection Agency, Citizens Energy and a Citizens Energy contractor were notified on Tuesday of the discharge through the city's combined sewer outfalls near Bluff Road and West Southeastern Avenue, Ryan Clem, director of communications for IDEM said. Booms were placed in the river by a contractor hired by Citizens Energy to contain the substance, Clem said. IDEM and federal agencies are still working to identify the source of the oil discharge, Clem said. As of Thursday, crews have not noticed any impacts to aquatic life, Clem said. Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council released the following statement Thursday evening: It is a fortunate that the spill appears to be contained & apparently did not harm aquatic life. But that the spill even happened calls into question if IDEM is devoting sufficient personnel to inspect facilities in a timely & thorough manner to prevent such situations. IDEM also needs to explain why an issued statement of the spill appeared to come two days after the spill; speed of transparency is crucial to maintaining public trust and avoiding risks to people & wildlife. This situation is a reminder that for the brand new White River Vision Plan to be truly realized, there has to be sufficient funding for our state agency (IDEM) to monitor, inspect, and enforce laws to keep the public safe; IDEM spending in 2017 was 17% lower than 2007, despite Indiana's population growing by more than 300,000 during this period of time.

Monmouth College's "Shale Play" Exhibit Explores Impact of Fracking — Monmouth College's first art exhibition of the academic year brings together photos and poetry to give focus to a current environmental issue. "Shale Play: Poems and Photographs from the Fracking Fields" features photographs by Steven Rubin and poems by Julia Spicher Kasdorf. It will be on display through September 15 in the Len G Everett Gallery in Hewes Library. Based on their book of the same title, "Shale Play" features 22 of Rubin's photographs and 12 of Kasdorf's poems that sketch the complex circumstances and the people affected by the fracking of the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. The exhibit is the first of two "Visions & Verse" events that celebrate collaborations between artists and poets. The second exhibit will be on display in the Everett Gallery during the spring semester. Kasdorf will be on campus for a gallery reception and poetry reading from 6-7:30 p.m. on Sept. 9. The reading will begin at 6:30 p.m. The exhibit, reception and poetry reading are all free and open to the public. "'Shale Play' brings together two powerful art forms in a documentary collaboration — something like the work of Dorothea Lange meeting the writing of James Agee — and the results are both chilling and moving," said Monmouth Associate Professor of English David Wright. "I'm so glad that we could bring this work to campus and share it with our students and our campus community."

 BP to pay $71,000 fine for northeast Iowa oil spill (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says BP North America must pay a fine of more than $71,000 for a diesel spill last year in northeast Iowa. The EPA on Tuesday announced the fine for violations of the Clean Water Act. BP owns a 2.5 million gallon fuel storage tank at Peosta that leaked about 60,000 gallons of fuel onto the ground and into the South Fork of Catfish Creek in August 2018. The EPA says it is requiring BP to upgrade the secondary containment system at the site to prevent future environmental contamination. EPA says it coordinated the investigation and plans for upgrades with the Department of Transportation and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. EPA anticipates the upgrade to be completed within six months. 

N.M.'s energy-industry boom to persist, analysts predict-- New Mexico's oil and gas industry is expected to keep growing at a rapid pace, resulting in more revenue for the state and billions of dollars in new infrastructure investments to get the commodities to market, according to a study commissioned by industry trade groups. The predictions were outlined in a report presented to state lawmakers during a meeting Tuesday in Roswell. The report, compiled by a national consulting group, was commissioned by the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute. Analysts estimate it will take $174 billion of new infrastructure to keep pace with expected growth through 2030. That would include investments by the industry in new pipelines, access roads, well-pad construction, processing plants and refineries. Ryan Flynn, executive director with the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, said he doesn't see it as an infrastructure challenge but rather as natural growth in investment that will come from "hitting a new normal of continually high production." "The new normal for the Permian Basin is going to be solid growth for the next decade or so." In its latest forecast, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said it expects the United States to pump about 12.3 million barrels of crude oil per day this year and 13.3 million barrels per day in 2020, both of which would be record levels. Much of the increase is expected to come from the Permian Basin as operators use hydraulic fracturing and other techniques to squeeze more oil and gas from shale formations.

Frac sand mining would devastate southern Utah tourism -  Kane County is one of those postcard communities where the vistas are stunning, where you can commune with Mother Nature in all her finest, where you can actually get away when you are looking to unplug your brain. There are deserts, mountains, farmlands to take in. There is an abundance of wildlife. You can hike, fish, hunt, lose yourself in the beauty. But along with nature’s charms, there is a certain kind of sand in Kane County that is used in fracking — a method of extracting oil and gas from deep, underground pockets that are pounded with water and sand to release fossil fuels.To get that sand, miners must first remove the topsoil. After stripping the topsoil, called the “overburden” in the industry, excavation begins on removing the sand, which involves heavy machinery and sometimes blasting, depending on how tightly the sands and silicates are packed.The sand then goes through washing, drying, screening, and sorting cycles before being shipped off for use in fracking. This process would change the vista in an area of natural beauty that brings in big tourism bucks and could upset the fragile ecological balance necessary for a sustainable agrarian economy. Its impact can be as deleterious as fracking, which leaves an environmental scar that can range from desecration of the landscape to earthquakes as it shatters fissures in the underground rock formations to help the ooze of oil from the shale. It pollutes the waters, chases off wildlife, and makes the idyllic calm of nature clang with steely equipment and the noise created when fracking fluid is pumped into a well under dangerously high pressure, which can exceed 9,000 pounds per square inch to bust up the materials and extract the sand. The sand is a certain kind of silica sand found only in a few places in the United States.

 Pipeline spill affects pastureland in western North Dakota (AP) — State environmental officials say a spill of produced water and oil has affected pastureland in western North Dakota.The North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality said Tuesday it was notified of the pipeline leak in McKenzie County. The pipeline is operated by Henry Hill Oil Services LLC.The spill happened about 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) west of Watford City on Friday and was reported the next day. The cause of the pipeline leak is unknown. Produced water is a mixture of saltwater and oil that can contain drilling chemicals. It’s a byproduct of oil and gas development.

ND environmental regulators reviewing open spill cases - North Dakota's top environmental regulator has instructed staff to review open spill cases to make sure they include updated information after his agency faced criticism for its reporting of a large gas plant incident. The effort was initiated after state Department of Environmental Quality Director Dave Glatt acknowledged this month that a 2015 natural gas liquid spill was much larger than initial reports suggested. With Gov. Doug Burgum's backing, Glatt said last week he was exploring ways to improve transparency. But first, Glatt said his staff are combing through records to "make sure that nothing fell through the cracks." "I turned back to the staff and said, 'Make sure that all the open files are updated,'" Glatt said Friday. "Sometimes those things have a tendency to slip a little bit when they're busy out there doing the site work." Open cases include new investigations and post-cleanup monitoring. The DEQ identified 821 open spill cases dating back to 2014 in a spreadsheet provided to Forum News Service Friday morning, and an initial review showed some reports appeared to lack up-to-date details. In 2015, Whiting Oil and Gas Corp. reported three barrels, or 126 gallons, of oil spilled at a McKenzie County well site. The company later told state officials that they "discovered the volume is greater than they initially thought" but didn't have an estimate at the time. The report hasn't been updated to include the volume of the spill. Meanwhile, Oneok Rockies Midstream reported in 2015 that a gallon of natural gas liquids spilled at a compressor station in McKenzie County, but a state inspector concluded Tuesday that the "spill is larger than first reported." The report doesn't specify an updated size, but it notes that the site was given a "no further action" status by the DEQ's groundwater protection program.

Top Interior official who pushed to expand drilling in Alaska to join oil company there - Joe Balash, a Trump appointee, had served as assistant secretary for land and minerals management until Aug. 30.  Last summer, Scott Pruitt left his job heading the Environmental Protection Agency and within a few months had started consulting for coal magnate Joseph W. Craft III. Three weeks after leaving the Interior Department, energy counselor Vincent DeVito joined Cox Oil Offshore, which operates in the Gulf of Mexico, as its executive vice president and general counsel. Now, Joe Balash — who oversaw oil and gas drilling on federal lands before resigning from Interior on Friday — is joining a foreign oil company that is expanding operations on Alaska’s North Slope. Balash, who served as the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for land and minerals management for nearly two years, confirmed in a phone interview Tuesday night that he will begin working for the Papua New Guinea-based Oil Search, which is developing one of Alaska’s largest oil prospects in years. On Wednesday, Oil Search officials said he would become senior vice president for external affairs in the company’s Alaska operations. The company is drilling on state lands that lie outside — but nearby — two federal reserves where the Trump administration is pushing to increase oil and gas development: the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. During his time at Interior, Balash oversaw the department’s preparations to hold lease sales on the coastal plain of the 19.3 million-acre refuge and to expand drilling on the 22.8 million-acre reserve to the west of the refuge. Both sites are home to large numbers of migratory birds as well as caribou, polar bears and other wildlife.

 U.S. Oil Production Stays Flat For The First Half Of 2019 -- EIA 914 came out today and US oil production declined slightly versus May. June production came in at 12.082 mb/d versus 12.115 mb/d. As a result, US oil production finished the first half of 2019 flat versus December 2018. But for those of you thinking that US shale production won't grow, you may have to think again. Our leading indicator has been able to predict the production figures, so our latest reading shows US oil production of ~12.45 mb/d in August with September around ~12.6 mb/d As you can see in our production matrix above, it's evident that US oil production started to spike in August. Keep in mind that July US oil production was impacted by hurricane-related shut-ins which amounted to ~300k b/d. The growth rate we are currently observing in Q3 2019 is around ~150k b/d per month with Q4 moving down to ~100k b/d per month. As a result, our projected US oil production exit is around ~12.95 mb/d. This will be a massive deceleration in US shale's growth rate as you can see above. By December 2019, we see US oil production growth y-o-y decelerating to just ~4% y-o-y.This will bode well for oil market balances going into H1 2020 as we expect the production profile to be flat again in H1 2020 with the growth weighted towards H2 again.For our US crude storage balance, this reaffirms our view that US crude storage will fall to ~380 mbbls by year-end. Our "lower US oil production forecast" scenario still has some remote possibility of coming to fruition, but we would put the odds at less than 25%.For our updated forecast scenario, we have US oil production exiting at ~13.15 mb/d with 200k b/d as plant condensate for an extra buffer. This storage outlook scenario would push the fundamental fair value of WTI to ~$70 to ~$75/bbl.

Interactive: Not all oil is equal – Presenting the Platts Periodic Table of Oil - Understanding crude quality has never been more important, following the dramatic rise in US shale output, which has transformed the composition of the global oil market.  There are hundreds of different grades and varieties produced around the world, from medium-sour Hungo in Angola to Norway's light-sweet Ekofisk and Mexican heavy-sour Maya crude.The Market Insight team at S&P Global Platts has created a "periodic table of oil" cataloguing 120 of the most important grades on international markets.The interactive chart below will for the first time allow readers to find key information in one place on region of origin, price, trade volumes, sulfur content, viscosity and trade flows.  Click here to access the interactive Platts Periodic Table of Oil

U.S. shale firms cut budgets, staff as oil-price outlook dims - (Reuters) - Oil producers and their suppliers are cutting budgets, staffs and production goals amid a growing consensus of forecasts that oil and gas prices will stay low for several years.  The U.S. has 904 working rigs, down 14% from a year ago, and even that is probably too many, estimated Harold Hamm, chief executive of shale producer Continental Resources, which has reduced the number of rigs at work. Bankruptcy filings by U.S. energy producers through mid-August this year have nearly matched the total for the whole of 2018. A stock index of oil and gas producers hit an all-time low in August, a sign investors are expecting more trouble ahead. (For a graphic on debt from energy bankruptcy filings by year, see here)   “You’re going to see activity drop across the industry,” Earl Reynolds, CEO of Chaparral Energy (CHAP.N), told Reuters at the EnerCom oil and gas conference last month. The Oklahoma energy firm has slashed its workforce by nearly a quarter, trimmed its spending plan by 5%, and agreed to sell its headquarters and use some of the proceeds to reduce debt. Investment bank Cowen & Co estimated last month that oil-and-gas producers spent 56% of their 2019 budgets through June, based on its review of 48 U.S. companies. It expects total spending this year to fall 11% over last year, based on proposed budgets. The slowdown in drilling is spurring cost-cutting in oilfield services, including staff cuts and restructurings at top firms Schlumberger and Halliburton Co. Schlumberger plans a writedown yet to be determined this quarter, noting its results in North America have been “under significant pressure,” CEO Olivier Le Peuch said on Wednesday.

Rig count slips below 900 for first time since 2017  - The number of U.S. rigs drilling for oil and natural gas slipped to fewer than 900 in the past week for the first time since 2017 as activity continues to slow across the oil patch. Oil prices gained on the news to notch daily and weekly gains. Despite steady declines in the number of rigs at work, however, weekly oil production in the U.S. remains near an all-time high at 12.4 million barrels per day, according to government data. In its weekly report Friday, Baker Hughes said the combined tally of oil and gas rigs at work fell by six in the past week to 898. That’s down 150 from a year ago. The number of active oil rigs was down four, to 738, while the number seeking gas fell by two, to 160. A year ago, 186 were at work. Texas and Oklahoma led the week’s declines. Oklahoma, which has seen its rig count plummet by 45 percent in 12 months, lost five rigs, leaving 75 at work. A year ago, its total was 137. Texas saw three rigs shut down, leaving 438 at work. That’s down from 528 a year ago. North Dakota was the only state to add to its rig tally. It gained three, to 54. By major play, Oklahoma’s Cana Woodford was the week’s big loser, with three rigs shut down to leave 42 at work. The West Texas-New Mexico Permian Basin lost two, to 427. The Kansas-Oklahoma Mississippian Lime lost one. Reflecting that state’s gains, North Dakota’s Williston added three rigs, to 54. The decline in the rig count, along with another report issued a day earlier showing smaller domestic crude supplies, helped boost oil prices to a daily and weekly gain. U.S. benchmark crude gained 22 cents, or 0.4 percent, to settle Friday at $56.52 a barrel in New York. That pushed it to a weekly gain of 2.6%. Brent crude, the international benchmark, rose 59 cents, or 1%, to close at $61.54 a barrel in London. For the week, it was up 3.9%. Oil has gained in the past week on news of heightened tensions in the Middle East, which could disrupt supplies, and optimism that the U.S. and China may come back to the negotiating table to hammer out a resolution to their yearlong trade dispute.

Schlumberger CEO outlines digital strategy, plans third quarter writedown - (Reuters) - Schlumberger NV’s newly-appointed Chief Executive Officer Olivier Le Peuch on Wednesday outlined his vision for the world’s largest oilfield services company, vowing to exit unprofitable businesses, restructure some units and focus on returns. In his first public remarks since taking office in July, the 32-year company veteran also warned the company would record a sizeable, non-cash charge to write down assets in the current quarter. He did not specify the size of the writedown. Le Peuch outlined plans to accelerate digital investments and to restructure and rename one of Kibsgaard’s major initiatives that invested in and ran customer oilfields. He also said the company would resize its North American onshore operations, which had grown under Kibsgaard. The costly investments in customer projects and the recent $430 million acquisition of hydraulic fracturing equipment unsettled investors and contributed to Schlumberger’s 69% share declined over the last five years. “The Schlumberger of tomorrow will not be the Schlumberger of today,” Le Peuch told investors at the Barclays CEO Energy-Power Conference in New York. Improved returns will take priority over revenue growth, he said.Oil and Gas Bankruptcies Grow as Investors Lose Appetite for Shale – WSJ --Bankruptcies are rising in the U.S. oil patch as Wall Street’s disaffection with shale companies reverberates through the industry. Twenty-six U.S. oil-and-gas producers including Sanchez Energy Corp. and Halcón Resources Corp. have filed for bankruptcy this year, according to an August report by the law firm Haynes & Boone LLP. That nearly matches the 28 producer bankruptcies in all of 2018, and the number is expected to rise as companies face mounting debt maturities.

"A Murderer's Row": Oil And Gas Bankruptcies To Accelerate As $137 Billion Debt Matures Over Next Two Years - Oil and gas companies are facing an onslaught of bankruptcies as the "shale revolution" appears to be coming to an unceremonious end, at least on Wall Street, according to the Wall Street Journal. Companies like Sanchez Energy Corp., Halcon Resources Corp. and 26 other oil and gas producers have all filed for bankruptcy this year, already matching the 28 industry bankruptcies from all of 2018. The number is expected to rise as debt maturities for those looking to cash in on the shale revolution and make bets on higher oil prices years ago are now looming. 5.7% of all energy companies with junk rated bonds are defaulting as of August, the highest level since 2017. The metric is "considered a key indicator of the industry’s financial stress."  The defaults are on the rise as companies struggle to service debt, bring in new money and refinance existing debt. The once-darling shale business model has been under significant scrutiny from Wall Street over the last 18 months, adding to the headwinds for many companies. Investor interest has faded after years of meager returns while, at the same time, companies struggle to meet their cost of capital with oil prices below $60/barrel. Private companies and smaller drillers have felt the most pain thus far. These companies "collectively generate a large portion of U.S. oil," and their distress is indicative of wider distress throughout U.S. shale.  Patrick Hughes, a partner at Haynes & Boone said: “They were able to hang in there for a while, but now their debt levels are just too high and they’re going to have to take their medicine.”

2020 Election Could Put Oil Out Of Business - The Democratic presidential candidates are gearing up for a lengthy town hall event on CNN covering climate change, where they will discuss a range of plans that will entirely upend the U.S. energy sector. In the last few months, the candidates have tried to outdo each other as they released ever more aggressive plans on energy and climate change, engaging in an arms race of sorts with trillion-dollar spending plans. The proposals range in scope, but they are undoubtedly bold visions for a clean energy transition. It was too long ago that a modest carbon tax was seen as controversial; now the baseline in the Democratic Party is a complete phase out of fossil fuels in the medium- to long-term. The Overton window has very much been moved.As Bloomberg noted, there are several issues that they all agree on. For instance, they will all rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, which, given the scale of the climate crisis, is child’s play. That’s the bare minimum and almost not worth mentioning, especially since it relied on voluntary commitments anyway. It was also done by the prior Democratic administration so it shouldn’t be seen as any sort of bold proposal for change.  More relevant for the oil and gas sector is the call to end subsidies for fossil fuels, which total as much as $14.7 billion annually, including deductions for intangible drilling costs; last-in, first-out accounting; master-limited partnership tax exemptions; and low-cost royalty and leasing rates on federal lands, among others. Some of this was also proposed by the Obama administration but stalled in Congress. It may give some oil executives a bit of heartburn to see their subsidies on the chopping block, but even if passed, these measures wouldn’t fundamentally disrupt the industry. But here is where it gets really tricky if you are an oil and gas driller. Many of the top tier candidates want to revoke the permits or otherwise block major long-distance pipelines, including Keystone XL, Dakota Access, Line 3, Line 5, and essentially any other project of this nature.  All of the candidates – at least all of the viable ones – have vowed to end drilling on federal lands. This was something Senator Elizabeth Warren came out with early on, and other candidates have followed suit. No new leases for offshore drilling, none for BLM land, etc. The candidates point out that to fundamentally transform the energy system, and to hit climate targets that are becoming exceedingly difficult to reach, oil and gas reserves need to be left in the ground. Some candidates want a ban on oil exports and a ban on fracking.

Trudeau’s oil pipeline tarnishes his climate credentials ahead of Canadian election (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has cast himself as a champion in the fight against climate change while pushing to expand an oil pipeline to help struggling producers, a contradiction that may hurt his re-election bid next month. Trudeau’s Liberal government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline for C$4.5 billion ($3.40 billion) last year to ensure the expansion would proceed. Months later, a court blocked the project because it said the government had failed to adequately consult indigenous peoples living along the pipeline’s path.Work recently restarted after the government reapproved the project in June, but the pipeline hit another snag on Wednesday when a federal court said it would allow six legal challenges by First Nation groups to go ahead.Canada is the world’s fourth-biggest producer of crude and the energy industry accounts for about 11% of annual nominal gross domestic product. But fierce environmentalist and indigenous opposition and years of regulatory delays have created an export pipeline impasse that has cost billions in investment dollars and thousands of jobs. Although the pipeline expansion is widely expected to increase Canadian crude exports, it has been a headache for Trudeau who promised to be a standard-bearer for global action on climate change when he took office four years ago and is counting on support from environmentalists in next month’s vote.

Canada's energy regulator to consider delay to Enbridge pipeline plan (Reuters) - Canada’s energy regulator on Tuesday responded to shipper complaints about Enbridge Inc’s plan to switch to fixed contracts on its Mainline pipeline network by announcing a fast-track process to gather comment on the proposal that could lead to its being delayed. The unusual move from the Canadian Energy Regulator (CER), which was until this week known as the National Energy Board (NEB), comes after a slew of letters from companies including Canadian Natural Resources Ltd and Suncor Energy asking the regulator to intervene. Enbridge is proposing to switch to long-term, fixed-volume contracts on 90% of the Mainline, which is North America’s largest oil pipeline network and ships the bulk of Canadian crude exports to the United States. Currently space is allocated on a monthly basis. Calgary-based Enbridge launched a two-month open season on Aug. 2 to solicit bids for committed capacity on the Mainline, a process that some producers have said should be delayed until the regulator approves the terms and tolls on offer. Typically a pipeline company would apply to the regulator for approval after an open season finishes.In a letter the CER said it will establish a fast-track process to gather comment from all interested persons by the middle of next month. The regulator is asking for comments addressing whether an open season should be held before or after the regulator considers the terms, conditions and tolls set by Enbridge. They should also address whether the CER has the authority to delay the open season. 

Understanding the link between fracking and earthquakes -- Researchers studying hydraulic fracturing have answered a longstanding question over how the practice can sometimes cause moderate earthquakes and may be able to use their model to forecast when quakes linked to fracking might occur. The team of seismologists and geophysicists from Dalhousie University and the University of Calgary conducted a new study aimed at understanding the physical mechanisms of earthquakes "induced" by hydraulic fracturing, a widely used method to stimulate extraction of hydrocarbons from the ground. They wanted to understand why these events were occurring, in spite of laboratory measurements suggesting they shouldn't happen in the type of shale rock undergoing stimulation. What they found is that the injection of fracturing fluids can lead to a slow slip on a fault. That can gradually put enough strain on another, distant section of the fault to cause it to slip suddenly and produce an earthquake. The study was published in Science Advances, a top-tier online journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "Work like this allows us to understand the phenomenon better and may ultimately lead to improved regulations and practices of hydraulic fracturing," said Dr. Garagash. "The developed physics-based model of fault slip in response to changes caused by fracking can lead to better prediction of this type of events, but also suggest new field monitoring and mitigation strategies." The team looked at so-called "felt events" or earthquakes that are large enough to be felt in nearby communities. That included a magnitude 4.2 earthquake earlier this year near Red Deer, Alta., and a 4.5 quake last year near Fort St. John, B.C. The researchers analyzed a set of seismic and geological data, some of which were collected during a magnitude 4.1 hydraulic fracturing-induced earthquake on Jan. 12, 2016, near Fox Creek in northwest Alberta.

Mexico Oil Hedge Gets Green Light-- Mexico’s Finance Ministry got the green light to hedge the country’s oil production for next year but is still fine-tuning the details, according to people with direct knowledge of the transaction. An internal committee just approved the decision that Mexico would lock in oil prices for next year in what’s considered Wall Street’s largest -- and most secretive -- annual energy deal, according to one person. The ministry will begin meeting with the central bank next week to start defining Mexico’s plan, the person said. The hedge will start soon, but it’s unclear how much will be hedged and at what price, another person said. Traditionally, Mexico takes a few days or weeks between deciding to go ahead with the hedge and starting to implement it. The people asked not to be named, as they’re not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The oil hedge, a multibillion-dollar deal which in the past typically covered between 200 million and 300 million barrels, has the potential to roil the market. Banks writing put options for Mexico -- contracts that give it the right to sell oil at a predetermined future price -- hedge themselves in the market by selling futures and swaps. This year, the process has been a bit trickier. Mexico is planning to change the pricing formula for its flagship Maya crude to reflect global reductions in fuel oil sulfur content that take effect in 2020. Earlier this month, Deputy Finance Minister Gabriel Yorio appeared to leave the door open to not hedging altogether when he said Mexico is evaluating it and would inform the public “if we do it.” In 2018, the hedge had already begun by mid-year, in 2017 Mexico took its first steps to do so in June. In 2016, it began in June. Prior to that, the usual hedging period had been late August to late September. Last year, the country spent more than $1 billion to lock in prices for 2019.

Fracking regulator requests 'extensive' data on tremors at suspended Cuadrilla site - The UK's Oil & Gas Authority has requested "extensive data and analysis" on seismicity around Cuadrilla's fracking facility in Lancashire, after the largest tremors to date were recorded at the site last week which far exceeded regulatory thresholds. The regulator (OGA) yesterday confirmed that hydraulic fracturing operations remain suspended at the Preston New Road site, following tremors during operations that included a 2.9ML quake on the Richter scale on August 26.   That tremor once again broke records as the largest to date recorded at the facility near Blackpool, and breached government's 0.5 Richter scale threshold which under current regulatory standards requires fracking operations to be halted for at least 18 hours. Cuadrilla issued an apology to local residents for the quake, and immediately suspended operations.  The OGA said it had now written to Cuadrilla seeking further information on the seismic events at the site in order to make a "full consideration of whether the assumptions and mitigations" in Cuadrilla's fracking plan "continue to be appropriate to manage the risk of induced seismicity" at the site."Hydraulic fracturing operations will remain suspended until the OGA's considerations are complete," it said.It is just the latest setback for Cuadrilla, which was initially forced to stop fracking at the site on 21 August after a 1.55ML event was recorded just days after operations began following a seven-month hiatus. The fracking firm at that time compared the "microseismic event" to "a large bag of shopping dropping to the floor".As well as breaching existing UK standards, last week's seismic event was also far higher than the fracking industry's own preferred threshold of 1.5 on the Richter scale which it has been lobbying the government to adopt, warning current tremor rules are undermining the commercial viability of the UK's nascent onshore oil and gas sector.  The government recently suggested it may be open to relaxing current seismicity limits for fracking after it considers the results of an industry review later this year, much to the consternation of environmental groups which argue stringent tremor rules are essential to ensure fracking well integrity, and that extracting shale gas threatens to undermine UK climate goals.

Anti-fracking trio given suspended sentences for breaking protest ban - Three anti-fracking activists have been given suspended prison sentences after breaking a ban on demonstrations which their lawyers argued “severely curtails the right to protest”. The trio were convicted after ignoring an injunction brought by the energy company Cuadrilla to protect its Preston New Road site near Blackpool, Lancashire. A week earlier Cuadrilla had to halt fracking at the shale gas site after triggering what is believed to be the biggest fracking-related tremor seen in Britain. Christopher Wilson, 55, and Lee Walsh, 44, were both given four-week sentences suspended for two years after being found in contempt of court for breaching the injunction. Katrina Lawrie, 41, received an additional two months suspended for two years. Friends of the Earth said the sentences were “disproportionate and harsh”. Last year three protesters jailed for their part in a much longer fracking protest ended up having their sentences reduced to conditional discharges on appeal – much lighter sentences – after judges ruled their jailing “manifestly excessive”. The latest three campaigners were found guilty three months ago of breaching the injunction during protests outside the site in Lancashire. On 24 July 2018, they and others had blocked the entrance for around three hours, Judge Mark Pelling told Manchester high court on Tuesday. Lawrie was given a longer suspended sentence because she had also stood in front of a delivery lorry on two other occasions, which the judge said caused “a serious risk of death or injury” to the driver. Lawrie had not apologised or given reassurances that it would not happen again, he noted.

Fracking protesters 'priced out' of Cuadrilla legal challenge -- An environmental group has been forced to withdraw its legal challenge to a wide-ranging injunction by the fracking firm Cuadrilla after being “priced out of court”. Three fracking protesters are facing court action after the energy company obtained the injunction restricting protests at its shale gas exploration site in Lancashire. The protesters, Katrina Lawrie, 41, Christopher Wilson, 55, and Lee Walsh, 44, were due to be supported by Friends of the Earth (FoE) in their bid to vary the terms of the injunction order. However, the environmental group said it has been frozen out of court proceedings after a high court judge refused to grant any costs protection. FoE had applied for financial protection on the basis that it was a public interest litigant. In environmental judicial reviews, a cap on legal costs is available and cost protection may also be obtained in non-environmental judicial reviews. However, a high court judge ruled that cost protection was unavailable on the basis that the case was private litigation between private parties. This meant if FoE lost the case it could face an £85,000 legal bill. The group said this was a financial risk it could not afford. The FoE campaigner Dave Timms said: “This ruling is a blow for civil liberties and access to justice. “The public’s right to peacefully protest has been severely and unlawfully restricted by Cuadrilla’s injunction – we should be allowed to challenge it without facing huge financial penalties. “We are effectively being priced out of justice. The cost ruling means that the rights of the wider public, who might be caught by disproportionate injunctions against persons unknown, cannot be represented in court by public interest organisations without taking on huge financial risk.”

  A $20B Fund in Denmark Dumps 10 Major Oil Companies -- A $20 billion fund in Denmark, MP Pension, is selling its stakes in the 10 biggest oil companies after deciding they haven’t done enough to live up to climate goals set out in the Paris accord. The divestment, which represents a total of 644 million kroner ($95 million), means MP will no longer hold shares in ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, PetroChina, Rosneft, Royal Dutch Shell, Sinopec, Total, Petrobras or Equinor, according to an emailed statement on Tuesday. MP said it reached its conclusion on the stakes because “the companies are still working against more demanding climate regulation -- despite the companies’ public support for the Paris Agreement.” The fund said the four European majors on the list -- BP, Shell, Total and Equinor -- had made the most progress and were “showing signs of transitioning,” as opposed to the other six. But none of the 10 companies has a business model compatible with the Paris Agreement, it said. The announcement comes as other major funds across the world review their holdings in oil and gas companies. The world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, which is based in Norway, is in the process of significantly reducing its exposure to fossil fuels, albeit at a less ambitious pace than initially announced. Norway has also made clear its decision is based on risk considerations, given the economy’s exposure to its oil industry, rather than climate concerns. MP, which is based outside Copenhagen, said it will assess over 1,000 oil companies before the end of 2020 as part of its goal of revamping its portfolio to be more focused on the climate. The divestments announced on Tuesday represent about two-thirds of MP’s stock holdings in oil, Anders Schelde, the fund’s head of investments, said.

Large oil spill in Mediterranean after fire at facility in Haifa Port - A large amount of oil is spilling into the Mediterranean Sea from a plant in Haifa Port after a massive fire in the facility on Thursday.

European Gas Prices Plunge To 10-Year Low - Natural gas prices in Europe are set to drop even lower than the current ten-year lows this fall. Storage facilities across the continent are fuller than usual for this time of the year. Natural gas suppliers are not expected to curb deliveries despite the low prices, abundant supply, and tepid demand. The winter heating season in October is set to begin with temperatures around or above seasonal norms, early forecasts suggest.  All these factors combine to create a perfect storm for natural gas prices in Europe, which are set for a further fall this fall, at least until winter comes, analysts and industry professionals tell Bloomberg.   Low liquefied natural gas (LNG) spot prices amid abundant supply and weaker Asian spot demand have helped Europe to fill its storage tanks to more than average levels this summer. Natural gas prices in Europe dropped to a ten-year low in early July as Russia and the United States continue to fight for market share. Thanks to the lowest natural gas prices in a decade, storage tanks in many European countries are higher than the five-year average well ahead of the coming heating season. Traders continue to ship LNG cargos to Europe, potentially waiting for trading opportunities when the winter season approaches and prices rise.   As of September 2, storage facilities in Europe were 92.95 percent full, according to data from Gas Infrastructure Europe. The levels of natural gas in storage now are much higher than what is typical for early September.At the same time, apart from maintenance at Norwegian gas export facilities, the biggest pipeline suppliers to Europe—Norway and Russia—aren’t restricting deliveries even in the face of prices at a ten-year low and the prospect of further price declines.Russia’s Gazprom admitted last week that its natural gas exports to Europe plus Turkey would drop this year from the record levels seen in 2018.Yet, the Russian gas giant—which holds around 33 percent of Europe’s natural gas market—is still fighting for market share, Niek van Kouteren, a senior trader with Dutch energy company PZEM, told Bloomberg. “When we have an opportunity, we make extra sales,” Gazprom Export’s deputy department head Mikhail Malgin told analysts at a conference call last week.

Argentina Pursues $5B LNG Project Despite Political Havoc - Argentina’s state-run oil company, YPF SA, is pushing ahead with plans to build a $5 billion natural gas export terminal despite the political and financial chaos racking the nation. The driller, which has led development of the nation’s Vaca Muerta shale trove, is in talks with potential international and domestic partners over designs for a liquefied natural gas facility. But the backdrop for those discussions has shifted dramatically after opposition candidate Alberto Fernandez beat market-friendly President Mauricio Macri in a key primary vote last month, sending shares of Argentine companies tumbling on concerns that a more protectionist government will take power. YPF executives, however, remain bullish about Argentina’s chances of becoming an established member of the small but growing club of LNG-exporting countries. “We can’t put the cart before the horse by distracting ourselves with current events,” said Marcos Browne, YPF’s executive vice president for natural gas and power. “This is the direction we need to move in.” Argentina faces stiff competition for LNG buyers as suppliers from the U.S. to Australia increase exports, adding to a global glut and sending prices for the fuel tumbling. But the YPF terminal could benefit from its location in the southern hemisphere, where seasonal gas use ebbs when it’s coldest in Asia and Europe, boosting heating demand in those regions. The Tango floating LNG facility, which chills gas into liquid for shipment overseas, has been ramping up production on Argentina’s Atlantic coast as it readies the nation’s first full cargo of the fuel, to sail at the end of October. Tankers will leave the Bahia Blanca port every 40 days or so until May 2020, when Argentina’s winter starts and domestic gas demand surges. Exports will resume this time next year. But the barge can only produce 500,000 metric tons a year of LNG, compared with global trade of about 290 million metric tons in 2017. A larger terminal that gives Argentina access to big importers in Asia is key to unlocking production in Vaca Muerta, where drillers face poor demand for much of the year.

Russia ups LNG race with green light on $21 billion Arctic LNG-2 project - (Reuters) - The $21 billion Arctic liquefied natural gas (LNG)-2 project led by Russian private gas producer Novatek won a green light on Thursday, the latest in a raft of new projects aimed at meeting a likely doubling of LNG demand over the next 15 years. Arctic LNG-2 is expected to launch in 2023 and will aim to export 80 percent of its LNG to Asia, Novatek Chief Executive Leonid Mikhelson, Russia’s richest businessman according to Forbes magazine, said after the project’s partners signed a final investment decision (FID) at an economic forum. At nearly 20 million tonnes per annum (mmpta) of LNG it would be largest single project to reach FID, according to Wood Mackenzie, and take total LNG volumes sanctioned this year to about 63 mtpa, beating the previous record of 45 mmtpa in 2005. Arctic LNG 2 will be the third LNG project for Novatek, which hopes to match Qatar in production of the super-chilled fuel. “Novatek is clearly driving home their ambitions to be a global LNG power house,” said Chong Zhi Xin, associate director of gas, power and energy at IHS Markit. “It adds another 12 million tonnes to their portfolio on an equity basis. They are emerging as one of the largest LNG suppliers in the market.” The project’s equity partners include French energy producer Total, China’s National Petroleum Corp [CNPET.UL], CNOOC and the Japan Arctic LNG consortium, made up of Mitsui & Co and state-owned JOGMEC, formally known as Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp.

Moscow Fuels Arctic LNG Race With Billions Of Dollars - Novatek, Russia’s largest private natural gas company, will receive a tax deduction of about US$600 million (40 billion rubles) from the regional budget of Yamal-Nenets and US$1.5 billion (100 billion rubles) from the federal budget to build an LNG export terminal in the autonomous region in northwestern Siberia, Russian daily RBC reported this week.The information, which was confirmed by Novatek, is the latest indication that Moscow is doubling down on liquefied natural gas at a time of growing demand for the commodity that will inevitably displace a portion of demand for one of Russia’s top export commodities, oil.Novatek, which last year overtook Gazprom in market capitalization, operates the Yamal LNG plant, which has a nameplate capacity of 17.4 million tons annually, and is building the Arctic LNG plant, which will add another 19.8 million tons when completed. Eventually, Novatek plans to operate total annual liquefaction capacity of 60 million tons.The Russia company is not going it alone. Its partners in Arctic LNG 2 include Total, CNPC, Japan Arctic LNG, and CNOOC. There were many reports that Saudi Aramco would buy into the project, but with 60 percent for Novatek and 10 percent for each of the minority partners, all the stakes have been divided-- and Novatek has said it would not reduce its 60-percent holding in the project.Novatek is widely seen as the spearhead of Russia’s international LNG expansion. Gazprom also produces LNG but on a smaller scale than the private company, for the time being. Earlier this year, in an interview with Bloomberg, Novatek’s chief financial officer Mark Gyetvay said Russia could emerge as one of the top four global LNG producers over the next few years.Bloomberg estimates that from April this year, the U.S. and Qatar could both have installed capacity of 100 million tons annually by 2030, sharing the top spot, with Australia following with 95 million tons annually and Russia coming fourth with 75 million  tons of LNG capacity.

 The First County to Abandon IMO 2020 Indonesia announced last week that it would not enforce the upcoming IMO 2020 rule requiring marine vessels to burn bunker fuels containing no more than 0.5 percent sulfur on its domestic shipping fleet.The country thereby became the first “rat” to jump from the IMO ship. Indonesia’s actions may have a noticeable impact on at least the Asian bunker fuel market.According to Reuters, the country made its decision in reaction to the high cost of new, cleaner fuels. Instead of complying with the IMO mandate, Indonesian-flagged vessels can keep burning high-sulfur fuels within Indonesian markets. Reuters added that this policy would continue until the domestic supply of low-sulfur fuel increases. As one official stated, “We always put forward national interest as consideration [sic] in making the decision.”

 Ruptured pipeline in Nigerias Delta state spilled oil (Reuters) - A pipeline that ruptured on Friday in Nigeria’s Delta state spilled oil, but has been contained, the head of state oil company NNPC said on Saturday. NNPC initially said the pipeline was carrying gas, but NNPC managing director Mele Kyari said on Twitter Saturday afternoon that it was the Abura Crude Trunk line. Local people in Otu-Jeremi in Ughelli South area of Delta state reported a pipeline explosion and told Reuters that oil was leaking from it. Kyari repeated NNPC’s assertion that there was no explosion. “It was a rupture on one of our pipelines,” Kyari said on Twitter, adding that engineers were at the site already. He said they had contained a spill and would fix the pipeline within three days. “There’s no cause for alarm,” he said. The pipeline is near Oil Mining Licence 34, owned by NNPC subsidiary Nigeria Petroleum Development Co. and ND Western. That license produces an average of 17,000 barrels per day of oil and condensates and 390 million standard cubic feet per day of gas. Gas processed from the field goes into the Escravos-Lagos Pipeline, which feeds Egbin power plant, the largest in Nigeria. It is also near NPDC asset OML 65, which produces as much as 12,000 bpd of crude oil from the Abura field.

Mangalore Port gears up to fight possible oil spill -Tridevi Prem, the dredging vessel that was abandoned by its crew members on Monday after she started taking in water in the pump room, sank off the New Mangalore Port outer anchorage in the wee hours of Tuesday. Fearing a possible oil spill as the vessel had 45 kilolitres of fuel, the port authorities have initiated a slew of measures to prevent it. Fortunately, the fuel is only white oil -- low-sulfur high-speed diesel -- and the port authorities have ruled out much impact on the environment. NMPT had deployed the dredging company Mercator based in Mumbai with a tender period of three years, but the company abandoned dredging in January. So, the port has engaged Dredging Corporation of India for the work from September this year. After the Tridevi Prem, anchored 2.5 nautical miles from the dock started taking in water on Sunday, its 13-member crew reported the flooding to the Indian Coast Guard and abandoned the vessel in the early hours of Monday. The abandoned vessel sank almost at the outer anchorage around 1 am on Tuesday. “However, the ship sunk except some portion which is visible. The port’s efforts to empty the fuel using a bunker barge did not succeed due to inclement weather and the swell,” he said. Explaining the efforts to contain any possible oil spill, the chairman said the dredging vessel has approximately 45 kl of high-speed low-sulfur fuel in its bunker. “Fortunately, the fuel termed as white oil is not harmful to marine life as it evaporates in the atmosphere. We were worried about the possible storage of black oil in the vessel which has higher viscosity and is dangerous to the environment. In this case, there is no black oil in the vessel but all the precautionary measures have been taken,” he said. 

OPEC is struggling to prove it can still arrest oil price declines in the age of Trump, expert says - OPEC is under intensifying pressure to show it still has the power to reverse a slide in oil prices, according to RBC Capital Market’s Helima Croft. The Middle East-dominated producer group has struggled to shore up crude futures this year, amid a deteriorating outlook for global growth and a protracted trade dispute between the U.S. and China. It has once again raised questions about whether OPEC really wields that much influence over world crude markets, particularly at a time when oil traders are constantly on alert for the next tweet from President Donald Trump. “It may prove easier to clean up the physical market than to overcome skepticism about the ultimate efficacy of its strategy in the age of Trump,” Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy, said in a research note. “OPEC’s burden is to show that it still has the appropriate tools to arrest price declines driven in no small part by White House policy.” Supply restraints and involuntary losses in Iran and Venezuela has seen OPEC’s share of the global oil market sink to its lowest level in years. Meanwhile, the U.S. has more than doubled oil production in the last decade to become the world’s largest oil producer. To be sure, the U.S. shale industry has expanded at such a rapid rate that it threatens to overwhelm OPEC-led efforts to mitigate demand concerns, swamping the global oil market with supply. Earlier this year, the head of EMEA oil and gas research at J.P. Morgan told CNBC that a gradual fall in oil prices over the coming years could prompt OPEC to reclaim some of its market share from the U.S. GP: US Oil workers Oil Boom in Texas's Permian Basin Workers extracting oil from oil wells in the Permian Basin in Midland, Texas on May 1, 2018. Benjamin Lowy | Getty Images International benchmark Brent crude traded at around $60.77 Thursday morning, up around 0.1%, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) stood at $56.27, little changed from the previous session. Brent futures have tumbled more than 20% from a peak reached in April, with WTI down over 17% over the same period.

Iraq is pumping record oil, creating a 'fully-blown migraine' for OPEC - OPEC’s second-largest oil producer hit record production figures in August with an output of 4.88 million barrels per day (bpd), according to the latest figures from S&P Global Platts.Iraq’s highest-ever production count has contributed to what may be OPEC’s first monthly output rise of the year, throwing a wrench into the 14-member organization’s plans to limit global oil supply and keep a floor under declining crude prices.“The recent increases in Iraqi production turned what was a sort of minor headache for OPEC into a fully-blown migraine,” Dave Ernsberger, global head of commodities pricing at S&P Global Platts, told CNBC on Thursday.The problem for the cartel, Ersnberger says, is twofold. “It makes it more difficult for OPEC to manage the perception that it will balance markets, as demand is currently under pressure.”It also creates “tremendous pressure” within OPEC itself, as these production gains come at the expense of Iran, he added: “Whenever Iranian production is under pressure and Iraqi production increases, keeping the peace within OPEC becomes incredibly difficult to do.”To put Iraq’s 4.88 million bpd figure in perspective, the country’s output five years ago was 2.96 million bpd, and between the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and 2010 it veered between less than half a million barrels per day to barely touching 2.5 million. After more than 15 years of conflict and a dire need to rebuild, Iraq’s government hails this growth as a success. Iraq’s crude oil exports also increased to 3.6 million bpd in August, from 3.56 million bpd the previous month, according to its oil ministry.

Debunking The Lower Oil Supply Will Raise Prices Narrative -  Gail Tverberg - We often hear the statement, “When oil supply is lower, oil prices will rise because of scarcity.” Now, we are getting to see first-hand whether oil prices really do rise, as oil supplies become more scarce.  Figure 1 shows that world oil supply hit a peak in November 2018 and has declined since then, mostly because of a decline in OPEC’s production. So, total oil production seems to be down for about eight months, relative to the peak in November 2018.  Despite this big cutback by OPEC in its oil production, prices have not responded as OPEC had hoped: In fact, as I write this, Brent oil price is currently quoted as $60.48, which is back in the range of December 2018 and January 2019 low prices. Also, reducing production doesn’t seem to be reducing inventories. Figure 3 suggests that they are now higher than they were before the reduction in oil supply took place.  Why aren’t oil prices rising and oil inventories falling, if oil production has fallen? The basic issue is that the economy is very much interconnected under the laws of physics, because energy is required for every activity that is considered part of GDP. Energy is required for any kind of heat or any kind of movement. Energy is even required for electricity. Without energy from the sun, food can’t grow; without supplemental energy of some kind (such as using electricity to heat an electric stove or burning animal dung or sticks), it becomes impossible to cook food or smelt metals.  One strange phenomenon that arises from the interconnected nature of the economy is the fact that the prices of all energy products (including those not listed on Figure 4) tend to move together.  This strange phenomenon arises because energy products are well-buried within every part of the world economy. A person’s job requires energy consumption. The tasks that governments do, such as building roads and schools, require energy consumption. Both transporting and cooking food require the use of energy products. Refrigerating food requires energy products. These energy uses, as well as many other everyday hidden uses of energy, aren’t things that we can easily cut back on.   Gasoline accounts for about 26% of world oil consumption, or about 8.7% of total energy consumption, based on the most recent BP energy data. Cutting back on the optional use of gasoline would not reduce total consumption very much. If it were possible to reduce gasoline consumption by 10% by voluntary cutbacks, it would still reduce world energy consumption by less than 1%. The strange pattern of the price changes shown on Figure 4 indicates that there is something affecting energy prices of many kinds, simultaneously. I would describe this as “affordability.” It has to do with how affordable finished goods and services are to the population in general, much more than it does scarcity. (Economists call this affordability issue “demand.”) If finished goods and services are affordable to a large number of consumers, as they were in 2008 and in 2012 and 2013, prices will be bid up to very high levels (Figure 4). If finished goods and services aren’t very affordable, a drop-off in prices, such as that experienced in November and December of 2018 (Figure 2), is likely to occur.

OPEC Abandons Whatever It Takes Strategy, Boosts Production -- OPEC’s production increased in August thanks to Iraq and Nigeria a Reuters survey found on Friday. OPEC’s August production has been estimated at 29.61 million barrels per day, which is 80,000 barrels per day over July’s production level. The production increase is surprising, given that Iran and Venezuela are producing less not by choice, and continue to face uphill battles when it comes to maintaining their oil production. Saudi Arabia, too, over complied with the production cut deal again as expected, but it raised production for August slightly over July. Overall, the group is still over complying with the production quotas. This brings OPEC’s compliance for August is now estimated at 136%, no thanks to Iraq and Nigeria, who lifted production by 80,000 barrels per day and 60,000 barrels per day, respectively. And even though Saudi Arabia is still over complying, it lifted production in August to produce 9.63 million barrels per day.  While Iraq, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia increased production in August, Iran’s production fell further—experiencing a 50,000 barrels per day loss for the month. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week said it had successfully removed 2.7 million barrels of oil per day off the oil market since it first sanctioned the country. Iran’s July oil and condensates exports for July fell to 120,000 barrels per day, Reuters said last week.  Iran’s production for July was 2.21 million bpd. This compares to an average daily production rate of 3.55 million barrels for all of 2018. Oil prices fell sharply on Friday, and news that OPEC’s production increased this month may press further down on prices. At 3:26pm EST, WTI was trading down 3.14% on the day at $54.93 per barrel, while Brent crude was trading at $58.88, down 2.66% on the day.

Oil Holds Losses on Growth Fears-- Oil held losses after its first monthly drop since May as a deepening trade war with no end in sight stoked global growth fears. Futures were steady in New York after closing down 2.8% on Friday to cap a 5.9% loss in August. U.S. tariffs on a further $110 billion of Chinese imports -- including footwear, apparel and certain technology items -- took effect Sunday. Additional Chinese levies on American products -- including agricultural goods and oil for the first time -- also kicked in. The outlook for Chinese manufacturing deteriorated further in August, the latest evidence of the impact the trade conflict is having on the global economy. Face-to-face talks between American and Chinese negotiators scheduled for this month are still on, President Donald Trump said Sunday, but investors see very little chance of a near-term breakthrough. Hedge funds last week raised bets by 14% that West Texas Intermediate crude will drop. “Remaining hopes of a last-minute deal have now come off,” said Howie Lee, an economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. in Singapore. “It’s the lack of light at the end of the tunnel that is depressing prices.” WTI for October delivery declined 3 cents to $55.07 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 7:28 a.m. in London after falling as much as 1.1% earlier. The contract lost $3.48 in August. Brent for November settlement fell 21 cents, or 0.4%, to $59.04 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe Exchange. The October contract, which expired Friday, lost 7.1% last month. The global benchmark crude traded at a $4.18 premium to WTI for the same month. The U.S. imposed previously announced 15% duties on a wide range of Chinese consumer goods. Another batch of about $160 billion of Chinese products -- including laptops and mobile phones -- will be hit with 15% levies on Dec. 15.

 Hedge funds cautious on oil, wait for economy- Kemp - (Reuters) - Hedge funds are becoming slightly more pessimistic about the outlook for oil and the economy, though position changes remain small owing to the holiday season in North America and Europe. Hedge funds and other money managers were small net sellers of petroleum futures and options last week for the third time in the last four weeks, according to an analysis of data published by regulators and exchanges. Fund managers sold a total of 26 million barrels in the six most important futures and options contracts, reducing their net long position to 525 million barrels in the week to Aug. 27. Funds sold NYMEX and ICE WTI (-20 million barrels), U.S. diesel (-4 million) and European gasoil (-5 million) though they were smaller buyers of Brent (+4 million) and left U.S. gasoline positions basically unchanged. Since 2013, when the time series starts for all six major contracts, the hedge fund community has always run a "structural" net long position in petroleum, concentrated in Brent and WTI. In this period, fund managers have NEVER been net short of either crude contract in the last six years, even when prices were plunging in 2014/15 (https://tmsnrt.rs/2zJcuV2).  Much of this structural net long position represents passive index-tracking positions as well as the predisposition of fund managers to be bullish towards their own asset class. Across all six petroleum contracts, the structural net long has been equivalent to around 491 million barrels (consisting of 587 million barrels of structural long positions minus 96 million barrels of structural shorts). Since structural positions do not change, in aggregate, it is more useful to focus on the remaining "dynamic" positions, which have a closer relationship with short-term price changes. Hedge fund managers are currently running a dynamic net long position of just 35 million barrels, down from a recent peak of 420 million in April. In effect, fund managers are neutral on the outlook for prices, with concern about the economy and oil consumption offsetting production restraint by Saudi Arabia and U.S. sanctions on Iran and Venezuela. Until economic uncertainty is resolved, either with clearer signs of recession or indications of renewed growth, portfolio managers are likely to remain on the sidelines.

Oil falls amid new round of tariffs in US-China trade war - Oil prices were lower on Monday after new tariffs imposed by the United States and China came into force, raising concerns about a further hit to global growth and demand for crude. Brent crude was down 27 cents, or 0.5%, at $58.98 a barrel by 0324 GMT, while U.S. oil was down 2 cents at $55.083 at barrel. The United States began imposing 15% tariffs on a variety of Chinese goods on Sunday — including footwear, smart watches and flat-panel televisions — as China put new duties on U.S. crude, the latest escalation in a bruising trade war. U.S. President Donald Trump said the sides would still meet for talks later this month. Trump, writing on Twitter, said his goal was to reduce U.S. reliance on China and he again urged American companies to find alternate suppliers outside China. Beijing’s levy of 5% on U.S. crude marks the first time the fuel had been targeted since the world’s two largest economies started their trade war more than a year ago. “The trade and tariff overhang is inescapable for oil markets, so while trade uncertainties persist, it will be difficult for oil to shrug off concerns about the threat to global demand,” said Stephen Innes, Asia Pacific market strategist at AxiTrader. South Korea’s exports tumbled in August for a ninth consecutive month, on sluggish demand from its biggest buyer, China, and depressed prices of computer chips globally, government data showed on Sunday. The bleak data clouded the outlook for Asia’s fourth-largest economy as a brewing trade dispute with Japan emerged as a new risk on top of the prolonged U.S.-China trade war. Elsewhere, oil output from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries rose in August for the first month this year as higher supply from Iraq and Nigeria outweighed restraint by top exporter Saudi Arabia and losses caused by U.S. sanctions on Iran, a Reuters survey found. In the United States, energy companies cut drilling rigs for a ninth month in a row to the lowest level since January last year.

Oil slips as U.S., China add more tariffs in trade war - (Reuters) - Oil prices weakened on Monday after new import tariffs imposed by the United States and China came into force, raising concerns about a further hit to global economic growth and demand for crude. International Brent crude futures LCOc1 settled down 59 cents to $58.66 a barrel, after trading as low as $58.10 during the day. U.S. benchmark WTI crude CLc1 was down 33 cents at $54.77 a barrel. Activity was thin because of the U.S. Labor Day public holiday. The United States began imposing 15% tariffs on a variety of Chinese goods on Sunday - including footwear, smart watches and flat-panel televisions - as China put new duties on U.S. crude, the latest escalation in a bruising trade war. U.S. President Donald Trump said the two sides would still meet for talks this month. Trump, writing on Twitter, said his goal was to reduce U.S. reliance on China, and he again urged American companies to find alternative suppliers outside China. “Even as President Trump has indicated that scheduled talks between the U.S. and China are still to proceed, the market is more and more resigned to a protracted standoff between the two countries and will be looking towards central bank easing to shore up risk appetite,”

Oil Markets Hit Hard By Trade War Escalation - Oil prices fell back on Monday on returning fears of a global economic slowdown. Higher tariffs took effect over the weekend. Also, China and the U.S. have not yet agreed to a schedule for trade negotiations, a further sign that the trade war is very far from a resolution. “It is still all about the economy,” Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity-markets strategy at BNP Paribas SA, told Bloomberg. “When it comes to U.S.-China trade tensions, any setbacks appear to lend support to the U.S. dollar and generate headwinds for commodities.” Last month China announced retaliatory tariffs on U.S. oil imports. Those levies took effect on Sunday.  Saudi Arabia has named Yasir al-Rumayyan, the head of the sovereign wealth fund, as the chairman of Saudi Aramco,replacing energy minister Khalid al-Falih. The decision was made as a preparation for the company’s public offering. Also, the government created a new ministry for industry and mineral resources, separating it out from the energy ministry. Together, the moves diminish the authority of al-Falih, although he will retain control of the energy ministry. Sources told Reuters that the government has been unhappy with the results of development under al-Falih. The Saudi economy has been slowing down amid production curtailments and low oil prices. Economists see GDP growing by 1.4 percent this year, down from 2.2 percent last year.   OPEC production rose by 200,000 bpd in August, the first collective increase since the OPEC+ cuts took effect at the start of the year. Gains came from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Iraq.    For the first time ever, ExxonMobil fell out of the top 10 in the S&P 500, a sign of the declining position of the oil major, but also a warning sign for the oil industry on the whole.   The latest EIA data shows monthly U.S. oil production falling to 12.082 mb/d in June, a slight decrease from the month before. The figures show a decline in some states, while only tepid growth in Texas. The data offers more evidence of a slowdown in production growth from the shale patch.  China has submitted a WTO complaint against the U.S. over tariffs. The complaint comes as reciprocal tariffs took effect on September 1 on a larger portion of goods.

Oil drops more than 2% as trade war rumbles and output swells - Oil prices fell more than 2% on Tuesday, weighed down by rising OPEC and Russian oil output as well as the protracted U.S.-China trade dispute that has dragged on the global economy. U.S. crude was down $1.80, or 3.27%, at $53.30 a barrel by 1305 GMT and Brent crude was down $1.28 or 2.18% at $57.38. “The gloomy mood has mainly been down to the U.S.-China stand-off in trade talks as the two countries continue the tit-for-tat measures of implementing import tariffs on each others goods,” said Tamas Varga of oil brokerage PVM. “This is the single most important flat price driver of late.” The United States this week imposed 15% tariffs on a variety of Chinese goods and China began to impose new duties on a $75 billion target list in a trade war that has rumbled on for more than a year. Though the trade conflict has intensified, U.S. President Donald Trump said the two sides would meet for talks this month. Meanwhile, South Korea’s economy expanded less than expected in the second quarter, with exports revised down in the face of the U.S.-China dispute, central bank data showed on Tuesday. A move on Sunday by Argentina to impose capital controls also cast a spotlight on emerging market risks. Output from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries rose in August for the first month this year as higher supply from Iraq and Nigeria outweighed restraint by Saudi Arabia and losses caused by U.S. sanctions on Iran. Russian oil productionin August rose to 11.294 million barrels per day (bpd), topping the rate cap pledged by Moscow in a pact with other producers and hitting its highest since March, data showed on Monday. Data due this week on U.S. inventory levels will be delayed by a day to Wednesday and Thursday because of the U.S. Labor Day holiday on Monday.

Oil Plunges As Trade War Rages - Oil prices tanked to multi-week lows early on Tuesday, the first full trading day after the new U.S. and Chinese tariffs and counter-tariffs entered into force and as signs emerged that both OPEC and its key partner in the production cut deal, Russia, boosted oil production in August.  As of 11:06 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, WTI Crude was down 3.23 percent at $53.23 and Brent Crude had fallen below $58 a barrel—to $57.59, down by 1.82 percent on the day.Market participants were again concerned about the repercussions of the U.S.-China trade war on global economies and oil demand growth. On Sunday, September 1, the U.S. imposed tariffs on Chinese goods, and China imposed tariffs on some U.S. goods, although Beijing left most of the tariffs for the December round of new tariffs.On the demand side, the market is worried about slowing economies and, by extension, slowing oil demand growth. On the supply side, too, bearish factors abound.According to a Reuters survey, OPEC’s crude oil production increased in August, thanks to Iraq and Nigeria. OPEC’s August production has been estimated at 29.61 million barrels per day, which is 80,000 barrels per day over July’s production level. Even though Saudi Arabia is still over-complying with its share of the cuts, it lifted production in August to produce 9.63 million barrels per day.In Russia, OPEC’s key partner in the OPEC+ coalition curbing output to support oil prices, oil production increased to 11.29 million bpd in August, up from 11.15 million bpd in July, and exceeding Russia’s cap under the deal. Rosneft boosted its oil production by 5 percent last month compared to the previous month, according to Russia’s energy ministry data cited by Reuters. Yet, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak affirmed that Russia was still looking to comply in full with its share of the cuts.

Oil sinks as manufacturing data feeds global economy worries (Reuters) - Oil prices fell on Tuesday, with U.S. crude futures down 2% after manufacturing data raised concerns about a weakening global economy, while the U.S.-China trade dispute continued to drag on investor sentiment. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 futures fell $1.16, or 2.1%, to settle at $53.94 a barrel. The session low was $52.84 a barrel, the lowest since Aug. 9. Brent crude LCOc1 futures lost 40 cents, or 0.7%, to settle at $58.26 a barrel. It sank as low as $57.23 a barrel, also the weakest since Aug. 9. Prices extended losses following data that showed U.S. manufacturing activity in August contracted for the first time in three years. Earlier, separate data showed euro zone manufacturing activity contracted for a seventh month in August. “That deterioration is continuing to undermine the demand growth outlook for oil,” Oil prices have fallen around 20% since a 2019 peak reached in April, hit by concerns the trade war would dent oil demand. The U.S.-China trade dispute “is the single most important flat price driver of late,” said Tamas Varga of oil brokerage PVM. On the supply side, Venezuela’s oil exports fell in August to their lowest level in 2019, internal reports and Refinitiv Eikon data showed, following tougher U.S. sanctions. Russian oil production C-RU-OUT in August rose to 11.294 million barrels per day (bpd), data showed on Monday, hitting its highest since March and topping the rate Moscow pledged under a pact with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Oil Prices Fall Amid Risk-Aversion Deja Vu - West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent crude oil declined Tuesday amid an undercurrent of déjà vu tied to concerns about international trade and an economic downturn.The October WTI shed $1.16 Tuesday to settle at $53.94 per barrel. The light crude marker traded within a range from $52.84 to $55.24.Brent crude oil for November delivery also faltered, losing 99 cents to end the day at $58.26 per barrel.On Monday, the Bloomberg news service reported crude oil futures declined amid ongoing pessimism about the likelihood of a resolution in U.S./China trade negotiations as new U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports – and new Chinese tariffs on U.S. imports – took effect over the weekend.The effects of the trade dispute carried over into Tuesday’s trading, Barani Krishnan, senior commodities analyst with Investing.com, told Rigzone.“Oil is selling off as it’s risk-aversion all over again from the trade war and recession fears,” said Krishnan, adding that other factors are at play. “By itself, the onset of September marks a seasonally weaker period for fuel demand as the peak summer driving period ends. And other key factors have worsened sentiment lately, among them the lack of Russian cooperation to OPEC production cuts.”Krishnan also commented that one should not assume that a period of weaker demand necessarily will translate into more gradual oil price movements. “Yet, what we could have hereon is more volatility,” Krishnan continued. “Historical data show that, despite U.S. crude draws entering a period of non-peak draws from September, the demand data on certain years has been exceptionally good late into the summer. If that happens again in 2019, we could have more price swings.”

Sluggish oil consumption to keep pressure on prices- Kemp -  (Reuters) - Global oil consumption is likely to increase by less than 1 million barrels per day this year, according to a downbeat but realistic assessment from BP's finance chief on Wednesday. Growth of less than 1 million barrels per day (bpd) would represent an increase of less than 1% in consumption and be the slowest growth since 2014 and before that 2012. In both those slow-consumption years, oil prices averaged above $100 per barrel in real terms, helping restrain fuel use. So far this year, however, prices have averaged less than $65, confirming just how weak demand is at present. BP's forecast is even lower than current predictions from the International Energy Agency (+1.1 million bpd), OPEC (+1.1 million) and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (+1.0 million). But it is consistent with the broad-based slowdown in global growth stemming from the trade war between the United States and China and a climate of increased uncertainty for businesses. Global GDP growth has been the primary driver of oil consumption for the last 50 years - with prices playing a secondary regulating role, forcing consumption into line with production in the short term. Global GDP increased by 3.0% in 2018 but is forecast to slow to just 2.6% in 2019, according to the World Bank (“Global economic prospects”, June 2019).  GDP growth of 2.6% would be the slowest since 2014 and before that 2012, when oil consumption increased by just 1% in both cases (https://tmsnrt.rs/2Q2ZcxR).  Since the World Bank produced its forecasts three months ago, however, most indicators have pointed to a further deceleration in growth. The most likely outcome is now that GDP growth will come in below 2.5%, perhaps significantly lower, the worst since the recession of 2008/09. By implication, oil consumption growth is likely to slip below 1% and 1 million bpd, in line with BP's latest forecast.

 Oil prices rise nearly 3% on positive economic data - Oil prices rose nearly 3% on Wednesday, boosted by a wider market pickup on positive news from China’s services sector, after three days of losses due to fears about a weakening global economy. Brent crude was up 2.66%, at $59.81 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures gained 2.66%, to $55.50 a barrel. Global markets rebounded after a private survey showed that activity in China’s services sector expanded at the fastest pace in three months in August as new orders rose, prompting the biggest increase in hiring in more than a year. China is the world’s second-largest oil consumer and largest importer. But U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday warned he would be “tougher” on Beijing in a second term if trade talks dragged on, compounding market fears that trade disputes between the two countries could trigger a U.S. recession. U.S. data released on Wednesday showed manufacturing activity contracted in August for the first time in three years, while euro zone activity shrank for a seventh month. Some analysts argued that the overall fundamentals of the oil market remained discouraging. Data due this week on U.S. oil inventory levels will be delayed by a day to Wednesday and Thursday because of the U.S. Labor Day holiday on Monday. U.S. crude stockpiles are expected to have declined for a third straight week, a Reuters poll showed on Tuesday. “Crude oil remains troubled by reports that production from OPEC, Russia and the U.S. all rose last month. This (comes) at a time when the strength of demand growth, due to trade war pessimism, has increasingly been called into question,” But supply looks set to stay constrained as Russian officials and OPEC sources indicated the countries would remain committed to their agreement to rein in production despite a shake-up in Saudi Arabia’s oil industry.

Oil Jumps 4% On Positive Chinese Economic Data - The bleak outlook on the overall global economy has combined with the trade war worries to pressure prices over the last few days, but today’s economic data that is just in from China have caused oil prices to surge on Wednesday afternoon.At 12:17pm EDT, WTI crude was trading up 4.21% for a gain of $2.27 on the day, at $56.21 per barrel. Brent crude was trading at $60.68, up 4.15% for a gain of $2.42 per barrel.The reason for the spike in oil prices was favorable economic data that came in from a private survey of China’s services sector, which showed that in August, it grew at the fastest rate in three months, which triggered a flurry of hiring activity to support it—the biggest increase in hiring in the sector in over a year.China, a major consumer of crude oil, imported 10.64 million bpd in April—a new record for China. And its H1 imports of crude represented an 8.8 percent rise year over year, or 800,000 bpd. The growth here accounts for almost all of the world’s demand growth for the year, so it makes sense that all eyes are on China’s economic data as well as the trade war with the United States.China’s August imports by its oil majors PetroChina and Sinopec increased 2.03 percent over July imports, which is larger than the increase seen in July of 1.25 percent. It is largely expected that the two oil majors will process even more crude oil this month, as refinery maintenance slows.  Oil prices are expected to react later today as well on API’s estimate on US crude oil inventories, and again tomorrow on EIA’s take on the inventory moves.

Oil Prices Spike Back Up - West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent oil futures posted solid gains Wednesday. The October WTI contract added $2.32 during midweek trading, settling at $56.26 per barrel. The benchmark peaked at $53.84 and bottomed out at $56.58. Brent crude for November delivery gained $2.44 Wednesday to settle at $60.70 per barrel. Steve Blair, senior account executive with the RCG Division of Marex Spectron, told Rigzone that a variety of factors continue to influence the petroleum complex.  He said that key drivers include:

  • Reports that some OPEC+ alliance members hiked their monthly production levels in August
  • A strong U.S. dollar
  • Ongoing and continuing tensions between the U.S. and China on trade tariffs
  • A potentially contracting U.S. industrial sector
  • Brexit

Like most of the petroleum complex, the October WTI continues to trade within a technical range stemming back to early August, noted Blair.  “Today’s substantial price spikes now bring this contract back toward the high end of the range close to the $57 level as well as a downtrend line of resistance, which is at the $57.57 level on today’s chart,” Blair said. “A close above resistance at $57.40 and above the downtrend line would indicate a breakout of this trading range. Such a breakout could see the market propelled to near the $60 level. Support seen around the $53.67 level with $52.85 below that.” Like the WTI, November Brent has also been occupying a wide trading range, said Blair. Referencing a Brent daily chart, Blair observed the Brent is near the higher end of the congestion range with resistance seen at the $61.35 level. “The downtrend line of resistance for this contract, however, is seen higher than is being seen in WTI relative to the congestion range,” said Blair. “There is firm resistance around the $62.68 level with the downtrend line just above that at the $62.93 level today. A breakout, meaning a close above these levels, should propel the market to near $64 and above. Support seen at $59 and again at $58.10.” Reformulated gasoline (RBOB) also finished higher Wednesday. October RBOB settled at $1.53 per gallon, reflecting a six-cent gain. Despite its midweek gain, however, Blair commented that October RBOB has been the “weakest link in the petroleum complex.”

WTI Tumbles After Surprise Crude Build -  Oil prices exploded higher today, helped by a weaker dollar, after the U.S. announced plans to intensify sanctions on Iran and Russia said it would trim production in September. But after last week's huge draws, all eyes are back on the inventory picture after a delay due to the Labor Day holiday this week...“Any kind of draw would be good,” as this would mean last week’s decline wasn’t a one-week event, according to Jan Stuart, global energy economist at Cornerstone Macro LLC. API:

  • Crude +400k (-2mm exp)
  • Cushing -238k (-2.4mm exp)
  • Gasoline -877k (-1.5mm exp)
  • Distillates -1.2mm (+500k exp)

After last week's yuuge draw, analysts continued to expect another draw for crude but a surprise build of 400k barrels spooked traders... “Right now, the market isn’t only following fundamentals. It’s very perceptive to the ongoing trade war,” and that’s affecting demand, said Paola Rodriguez-Masiu, an analyst at Rystad Energy. You can’t discard the possibility that China and the U.S. will continue to raise the levies again,” she added.WTI ramped all the way up to $56.50 at the highs today...

Oil prices slip after surprise build in US inventories - Oil prices fell on Thursday, giving up some of the strong gains of the previous session, after an industry report showed U.S. crude stockpiles rose last week, against analyst expectations of a decline. Brent crude was down 18 cents, or 0.3%, at $60.52 a barrel by 0040 GMT. On Wednesday, Brent rose 4.2 percent. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was down 23 cents, or 0.4%, at $56.03 a barrel, having risen 4.3% the previous session, the biggest percentage gain in nearly two months. “Oil bulls can’t seemingly catch a break after the rally sapping surprising build in the American Petroleum Institute oil inventory survey has throttled WTI upward momentum dead in its tracks,” said Stephen Innes, Asia Pacific market strategist at AxiTrader. U.S. crude stocks rose last week, while gasoline inventories decreased and distillate stocks drew, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute (API) showed on Wednesday. Crude inventories rose by 401,000 barrels in the week ended Aug. 30 to 429.1 million, compared with analysts’ expectations for a decrease of 2.5 million barrels. Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub fell by 238,000 barrels, while refinery crude runs fell by 306,000 barrels per day, API said. Oil prices surged on Wednesday after a survey showed that activity in China’s services sector expanded at the fastest pace in three months in August as new orders rose. China is the world’s second-largest oil consumer and largest importer. But as evidence mounts that the trade war between the United States and China is hitting economies worldwide, oil demand growth expectations have been trimmed.

WTI Extends Gains Above $57 After Bigger Than Expected Crude Draw…  WTI rebounded dramatically this morning (on headlines about talks resuming between China and US) from overnight weakness driven by a surprise crude inventory build reported by API. “Oil coat-tailed the overnight dialing down of global political tensions and the rotation out of defensive macro positioning,” Jeffrey Halley, a senior market strategist at Oanda Corp., said in a note. More direction will come from official U.S. crude-inventory data later on Thursday, he said. But after last night's API data, we suspect the algos will find it hard to ignore if DOE confirms a build.  DOE

  • Crude -4.77mm (-2mm exp)
  • Cushing -230k (-2.4mm exp)
  • Gasoline -2.396mm (-1.5mm exp)
  • Distillates -2.538mm (+500k exp)

After last week's huge draw, analysts still expect another draw (even after API reported a build) and DOE confirmed it (more than expected). For the second week in a row, there were inventory draws across the board... For US crude production, the market wasn’t expecting another rise after the 200k b/d gain seen for the week ending Aug. 23 because “its hard to keep pace of growth due to constraints in deploying human logistics resources to individual projects,” Bart Melek, head of global commodities strategies at TD Securities in Toronto, says. Production inched lower on the week, still notably decoupled from the plunging rig counts...

Oil Prices Edge Upward - West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent crude oil finished higher Thursday on a positive development in international trade. October WTI posted a slight gain Thursday, adding four cents to settle at $56.30 per barrel. The light crude marker traded within a range from $55.75 to $57.76. Brent crude for November delivery showed a relatively robust 25-cent gain, finishing the day at $60.95 per barrel. Both oil benchmarks maintained their respective four-plus-percent gains from Wednesday, bolstered by apparent signs of progress in trade talks between the United States and China, according to a Bloomberg posted to Rigzone earlier Thursday. Citing a statement from China’s Ministry of Commerce and confirmation from the Trump administration, the news agency reported that high-level officials from both countries will hold trade talks “‘in the coming weeks.’” Trade tensions between the United States and China, including the implementation of tariffs by both sides, have stoked concerns about demand for crude oil and myriad other products. Equities and energy commodities markets welcomed Thursday’s news that officials plan to return to the negotiating table. Thursday’s modest upward price movement extended to reformulated gasoline (RBOB). The October RBOB contract price gained one cent, settling at nearly $1.55 per gallon. Henry Hub natural gas, which on Wednesday had gained more than 11 percent since August 27, faltered during Thursday’s session. October gas futures fell by a penny to close at $2.435.

Bullish Sentiment Creeps Back Into Oil Markets -- Oil was down at the start of trading on Friday, but has shown more life this week after the U.S. and China agreed to hold trade talks in October. Jobs data from the U.S. Labor Department was slightly worrying, with employment gains slowing, but markets are increasingly confident that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates again this month.   Another bullish report from the EIA eased fears of an imminent recession. The agency reported strong drawdowns in crude oil, gasoline inventories, and a dip in production. Oil prices rose on the news.   In what would be a dramatic escalation in the standoff between the Trump administration and California over national fuel economy standards, the EPA is preparing to revoke the waiver granted to California that allows the state to set stricter fuel economy standards than the federal government. On a separate track, the EPA is in the midst of trying to water-down federal requirements for automakers. Just weeks ago, major automakers announced a plan to align their operations with the California standards, a blow to the Trump administration. “Going for preemption is the nuclear option,” said Jody Freeman, a Harvard environmental law professor. Mexico has initiated the process for its $1 billion oil hedging program by asking banks for quotes, according to Reuters. Mexico engages in an annual hedging program, locking in prices for the upcoming year, in the world’s largest sovereign derivatives trade. Mexico’s 2019 sales were locked in at $55 per barrel.   The frontrunner and likely future president of Argentina said on Thursday that “it makes no sense to have oil if multinationals take it,” a cryptic statement that will likely send a shudder through the oil industry in the country. “I have no problems with multinationals, but my main concern is to generate wealth for Argentina and the Argentines,” Alberto Fernandez said. Meanwhile, the economic and political crisis, which has led to price controls on oil and fuel, has severely damaged the prospects of Vaca Muerta development.  Chevron is laying the groundwork for an exit from Venezuela in the event that the Trump administration lets its sanctions waiver for the company expire. Bloomberg reports that Chevron updated some of its agreements with partners to remove penalties if Chevron decided on early termination.  According to Emirates NBD, OPEC is actually destabilizing the oil market, rather than stabilizing it. The production cuts have simply created one more source of uncertainty.

 Oil down but still set for weekly gain on US-China diplomacy - Oil prices fell on Friday as U.S.-China trade tensions continued to weigh on sentiment despite recent diplomatic progress. Brent crude was down 93 cents, or 1.53%, at $60.02 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was down $1.08, or 1.92%, at $55.22. Brent is still set to register its fourth consecutive weekly gain while U.S. crude is on track for a second weekly rise. Beijing and Washington on Thursday agreed to hold high-level talks in early October. The news cheered investors hoping for an end to a trade war that has brought tit-for-tat tariffs between the world’s two biggest economies, chipping away at economic growth. The prolonged dispute has had a dampening effect on oil prices, though they have risen over the year thanks partly to production cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia to drain inventories. However, analysts warn that market fundamentals remain bearish and depend heavily on a resolution to the U.S.-China trade saga. “If trade tensions escalate further, oil demand growth may soften even more, requiring much lower prices,” UBS oil analyst Giovanni Staunovo said in a note analyzing oil market trends for 2020. “On the other hand, unexpected supply disruptions in the Middle East or a surprise production cut by OPEC and its allies may push oil prices higher.” U.S. crude and product inventories fell last week, with crude drawing down for a third consecutive week despite a jump in imports, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said. Crude stocks dropped 4.8 million barrels, nearly double analyst expectations, to 423 million barrels, their lowest level since October last year. Oil prices on Thursday soared more than 2% after the EIA report, though they gradually trimmed gains on investor doubts over the chances that the trade talks will yield results.

Oil jumps after Fed says it will act to sustain U.S. growth - (Reuters) - Oil prices rose above $61 a barrel on Friday after the head of the U.S. Federal Reserve said the central bank will act “as appropriate” to sustain an economic expansion in the world’s biggest economy that has been pressured by uncertainty over global trade. Global benchmark Brent crude settled at $61.54 a barrel, up 59 cents, or 1%, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude ended 22 cents, or 0.4%, higher at $56.52. Both benchmarks had declined earlier on concerns over slipping U.S. job growth and continued U.S.-China trade tensions, despite recent diplomatic progress. The Federal Reserve has an obligation “to use our tools to support the economy, and that’s what we’ll continue to do,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said at the University of Zurich, sticking to a phrase that financial markets have read as signaling further interest-rate reductions ahead. The Fed cut rates by a quarter of a percentage point in July. Crude prices “are working back up right now,” said Bill Baruch, president at Blue Line Futures LLC in Chicago. Comments by Powell that indicate further interest rate reductions are one factor that would help keep “a bid in the market ahead of the weekend.” Oil prices had fallen earlier in the session as U.S. government data showed the nation’s job growth slowed in August for the seventh month in a row, with nonfarm payrolls expanding by 130,000, about 28,000 less than economists polled by Reuters had forecast. Global oil demand could grow by just 900,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2019 and 2020, UBS oil analyst Giovanni Staunovo said in a note analyzing oil market trends. Other forecasts of oil demand growth have been reduced to around 1 million bpd, down from earlier predictions of about 1.3 million bpd, analysts said.

U.S. oil futures up a second straight week - Oil futures ended higher on Friday, tallying a gain for a second week in a row. Prices got a boost from data Friday showing a third-weekly decline in the number of active U.S. oil-drilling rigs. That followed government data Thursday that revealed that domestic crude supplies have also fallen for three consecutive weeks. October West Texas Intermediate oil CLV19, +0.37% rose 22 cents, or 0.4%, to settle at $56.52 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. For the week, prices were up 2.6%, according to FactSet data.

Saudi Aramco to replace chairman in a push to get IPO moving - Saudi oil giant Aramco will be getting a new chairman to replace Energy Minister Khalid al Falih as the company moves ahead with its plans to go public.Falih had been spearheading the move towards an initial public offering but lately had been blamed for a slowing in the Saudi Arabian company’s movements towards diversification.Falih will be replaced by Yasser Othman Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Public Investment Fund, according to a tweet from Falih’s verified account. Falih congratulated Al-Rumayyan on the appointment, saying he was “wishing him every success,” according to a Google translation.The news comes just days after the Saudi government created a new ministry for industry and mineral resources, breaking it away from energy in a move seen as reducing Falih’s influence. However, he will remain the head of the energy ministry.The Wall Street Journal had reported that officials believe separating the duties will help accelerate the process to get the Aramco IPO moving ahead.A S audi Aramco spokesman said the company would “respond at the earliest opportunity” to a CNBC request for comment.

Saudi Arabia splits industry and mining from energy ministry  (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia created a new ministry for industry and mineral resources, separating it from the kingdom’s colossal energy ministry, and replaced the powerful head of the royal court, in a series of royal orders issued late on Friday. Bandar Alkhorayef, an investor and industrialist plucked from the private sector, was named to head the new entity, which will become independent on Jan. 1. The move appears to diminish the sprawling authority of Khalid al-Falih, who retains control of the energy portfolio and chairmanship of state oil giant Saudi Aramco. Falih had overseen more than half the Saudi economy through the super-ministry, which was created in 2016 to help streamline new reforms. But despite ambitious plans for industry and mining, the sectors have seen relatively little development. Two sources said Saudi industrialists were unhappy with a lack of results during Falih’s tenure. The separation followed meetings between those businessmen and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler, one source added. Industry and mining are critical to the young crown prince’s push to diversify the economy of the world’s top oil exporter away from crude, cut bloated state spending and create millions of jobs for young Saudis. Saudi economist Fawaz al-Fawaz said the split was a step in the right direction but still not enough. “There are scattered efforts in local content and military manufacturing and a constant lack of investment. We need more thought,” he said on Twitter. In a separate royal order, Fahd bin Mohammed al-Essa was appointed head of the royal court, a powerful gatekeeper position in the absolute monarchy. Essa was formerly the head of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s office at the defence ministry.

Oil Policy Unchanged as Saudi Energy Ministry Split -- The Saudi decision to shrink the energy ministry will leave the kingdom’s oil policy unchanged as the world’s largest crude exporter continues cutting output to balance markets, a person with knowledge of the matter said. With crude trading below Saudi Arabia’s break-even level, oil policy is now a top priority for Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih. He’ll now have more time to work on balancing the market after most of his domestic portfolio shifts to the new ministry. Saudi Arabia will split the vast energy, industry and mining portfolio that Al-Falih had run since 2016 into two separate ministries. The reshuffle, announced as part of a raft of royal decrees on Friday, sees Al-Falih keeping responsibility over energy policy and losing the industry and mining aspects of the role. The person who spoke about oil policy asked not to be identified because the information is confidential. Al-Falih has been the face of OPEC diplomacy over the past three years as the producers’ group has sought to counter the rising tide of U.S. shale oil that flooded markets. The kingdom will remain focused on curbing production to balance crude markets and prop up prices, said Edward Bell, commodities analyst at lender Emirates NBD PJSC in Dubai. “This is crunch time now for the next couple of months” as crude suppliers struggle to deal with the U.S.-China trade war and the potential adverse impact on the global economy, Bell said. “They can control the supply part of the picture, but weak demand and the perception of that is what’s dictating the price.” Saudi Arabia has cut production to less than 10 million barrels a day as part of its agreement with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to limit output. Al-Falih helped broker the deal that brought other producers like Russia into the effort to balance markets by curbing production. The Saudis are doing most of the heavy lifting to support the deal, pumping about 500,000 barrels a day less than they pledged.

Saudi airstrikes on Yemen prison kill more than 100 - Saudi coalition jet fighters carried out a series of airstrikes on a Houthi rebel-run prison in southwestern Yemen early Sunday morning, killing more than 100 and wounding another 40. The attack ranks among the worst in a long string of war crimes committed by Saudi Arabia, with the full backing of the American and British governments, in its four-year-long effort to reimpose a puppet government on the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula. Residents reported that seven separate airstrikes slammed into a former university building in the southwestern city of Dhamar which had been converted into a detention center by the Houthis, obliterating the structure and killing or wounding every single detainee. Members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) rushed to the scene of complete devastation to search for possible survivors and comb through the rubble for the bodies of victims. While the Saudi-led coalition justified the horrific attack by claiming the site had been used by the Houthis to store drones and missiles, the ICRC confirmed that the attack had in fact destroyed a prison where its representatives had previously visited detainees. “It’s a college building that has been empty and has been used as a detention facility for a while. What is most disturbing is that [the attack was] on a prison. To hit such a building is shocking and saddening—prisoners are protected by international law,” Franz Rauchenstein, the head of the ICRC’s delegation in Yemen told the Guardian . The Saudi monarchy, given the green light by Obama in March 2015 and now with the unyielding support of Trump, has been waging a bloody assault on Yemen in an effort to return its puppet President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi back to power after he was forced to flee the country in the face of an advance by the Houthis. The US claims the Houthi rebels are backed by Iran and that the war is a critical component of its efforts to counter Tehran’s influence in the region. Despite repeated assertions, the Trump administration has yet to provide any evidence to back up its allegations. Trump reaffirmed Washington’s support for the Saudi-led slaughter in Yemen in April when he vetoed a congressional resolution which would have required the Pentagon to end direct military support.

US 'Complicit in This Nightmare,' Says Sanders, After Trump-Backed Saudi Coalition Kills Over 100 in Bombing of Yemeni Prison -- In what was described as its deadliest attack on Yemen this year, the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition on Sunday killed more than 100 people with airstrikes on a detention center in Dhamar city, forcing aid workers to divert medical supplies intended for the nation's cholera epidemic to treat victims of the bombing. Franz Rauchenstein, head of the the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Yemen, which responded to the attack and searched for survivors under the rubble, called the bombing "disturbing" and a likely war crime.  "The location that was hit has been visited by ICRC before. It's a college building that has been empty and has been used as a detention facility for a while," Rauchenstein told AFP. "To hit such a building is shocking and saddening—prisoners are protected by international law." According to ICRC, there were around 170 people in the detention facility when it was attacked by the Saudi-led coalition. At least 40 survivors are being treated, and the rest are presumed dead. "Witnessing this massive damage, seeing the bodies lying among the rubble was a real shock," said Rauchenstein. "People who are not taking active part in combat should not die in such a way." Shortly following the bombing, United Nations special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths issued a statement demanding an investigation and accountability for the attack. "The human cost of this war is unbearable. We need it to stop," said Griffiths. "Yemenis deserve a peaceful future. Accountability needs to prevail."  The Saudi-led coalition's latest air raid comes months after President Donald Trump vetoed a War Powers resolution that would have ended U.S. military cooperation with Saudi Arabia's years-long assault on Yemen, which has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

How the U.S. Shattered the Middle East - Major Danny Sjursen -Yemen is a nightmare, a catastrophe, a mess—and the United States is highly complicit in the whole disaster. Refueling Saudi aircraft in-flight, providing targeting intelligence to the kingdom and selling the requisite bombs that have been dropped for years now on Yemeni civilians places the 100,000-plus deaths, millions of refugees, and (still) starving children squarely on the American conscience. If, that is, Washington can still claim to have a conscience. The back story in Yemen, already the Arab world’s poorest country, is relevant. Briefly, the cataclysm went something like this: Protests against the U.S.-backed dictator during the Arab Spring broke out in 2011. After a bit, an indecisive and hesitant President Obama called for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. A Saudi-backed transitional government took over but governed (surprise, surprise) poorly. Then, from 2014 to 2015, a vaguely Shiite militia from Yemen’s north swarmed southward and seized the capital, along with half the country. At that point, rather than broker a peace, the U.S. quietly went along with, and militarily supported, a Saudi terror-bombing campaign, starvation blockade and mercenary invasion that mainly affected Yemeni civilians. At that point, Yemen had broken in two. Now, as the Saudi campaign has clearly faltered—despite killing tens of thousands of civilians and starving at least 85,000 children to death along the way—stalemate reigns. Until this past week, that is, when southern separatists (there was once, before 1990, a South and North Yemen) seized the major port city of Yemen, backed by the Saudis’ ostensible partners in crime, the United Arab Emirates. So it was that there were then threeYemens, and ever more fracture. In the last few days, the Saudi-backed transitional government retook Aden, but southern separatism seems stronger than ever in the region.What makes the situation in the Arabian Peninsula’s south particularly disturbing is that supposed foreign policy “experts” in D.C. have long been hysterically asserting that the top risk to America’s safety are Islamist-occupied “safe havens” or ungoverned spaces. I’m far from convinced that the safe-haven myth carries much water; after all, the 9/11 attacks were planned in Germany and the U.S. as much as in, supposedly, the caves of Afghanistan. Still, for argument’s sake, let’s take the interventionist experts’ assumption at face value. In that case, isn’t it ironic that in Yemen—and (as I’ll demonstrate) countless other countries—U.S. military action has repeatedly created the very state fracture and ungoverned spaces the policymakers and pundits so fear?

US Sanctions Are Designed to Kill  - US sanctions are killing ordinary Iranians by the thousands. Through its control over the world banking system, America’s sanctioning power flouts international human rights law and poses a threat to the world. When President Trump reimposed sanctions in November 2018, it cut off Iran’s oil exports and access to the international financial system. At the time, he announced that Iran could either comply with new US demands or face “economic isolation.” Additional US sanctions imposed since then have specifically targeted a thousand individuals and entities with the goal of reducing Iran’s oil revenues to “zero.” More recently, Trump said that although “[Iran’s] economy is crashing . . . it’s very easy to straighten [it] out, or it’s very easy for us to make it a lot worse.” And so, according to Trump himself, the United States has the power to solve — or exacerbate — Iran’s current economic problems. What is left unsaid, including by much of the media, is that sanctions that “crash” the economy are an attack on the country’s civilian population and create widespread human misery. Indeed, they appear to be contributing to widespread shortages of medicine and medical equipment, particularly affecting cancer patients. In Venezuela, which is under a similar US sanctions regime, there have been similar effects, with more than40,000 people estimated to have died from 2017 to 2018 due to the “collective punishment” inflicted on them. Yet other statements from US administration officials often contend that sanctions have negligible economic or social effects on the general population of Iran. For example, the US State Department’s special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, recently denied that US sanctions on Iran affect the availability of medicine and agricultural products. In this argument, Hook divorces the connection between the economic damage caused by sanctions in Iran and the lack of basic necessities like medicine and food, preferring to instead lay blame on the Iranian government, not on what the Trump administration calls “targeted” sanctions.Are the sanctions causing Iran’s economic problems, or simply a way to punish individual actors? Answering this question requires an examination of the impact sanctions have on Iran’s economy and the mechanisms by which sanctions work — two important areas of inquiry that seldom receive attention in the US press.

Saudi Arabia Can Destroy Iran In 8 Hours, Brags Saudi Prince -  A Saudi prince posted on Twitter Thursday that Saudi Arabia’s military could destroy Iran in eight hours if they wanted to. Prince Abdullah bin Sultan bin Nasser Al-Saud tweeted a video on Thursday that showed some of the Gulf kingdom’s F-15 warplanes in comparison to Iran’s F-4 Phantom jets. "السعودية تستطيع تدمير #ايران في٨ ساعات"  طبعا هذا مقطع من عامان  أي قبل طائرات ال ف١٥ اس اي وقبل شراء وتطوير منظومات الدفاع الجوي والقوات البحرية والبرية والجوية بصواريخ متطورة ومتقدمة.  وما خفي اعظم..  >لا توجد اي قوة في العالم تستطيع ان تقف في وجه وحدتنا وعزمنا ونهضتنا والحمدلله.. pic.twitter.com/dn2WZx3OTB  — عبدالله بن سلطان بن ناصر آل سعود (@ASNA_20) September 4, 2019     In quotations, the prince tweeted:  “Saudi Arabia can destroy Iran in 8 hours.” And he further added, “What is hidden is greater. There is no force in the world that can stand up to our unity, our resolve, our renaissance and thank God.” The Saudi prince cited an earlier report on Saudi Arabia’s military capabilities. “Iran has no fighter jets that can reach Saudi Arabia,” according to an analyst interviewed on Channel 24 featured in the tweeted video.  Saudi Arabia has for the past years been America's #1 arms purchaser, with up to 70 percent of the kingdom's arsenal now coming from the United States, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

US Waives Human Rights Conditions To Release $1.3BN In Military Aid To Sisi's Egypt - Aside from Saudi Arabia's MbS, the other long forgotten about Middle East autocratic ally of the United States known for arresting journalists, authors and activists is President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.The strongman known lately for aggressively cracking down on civil liberties, including muzzling journalists and throwing media figures and activists in jail, is also set to rule for another solid decade, given months ago Egyptian parliament approved constitutional changes to allow the sitting president to stay in power until 2030. The US this week moved to waive human rights rules in order to vote through sending military aid to Egypt, totaling $1.3 billion.Remember this the next time the State Department blathers about human rights violations in Venezuela, Iran or any other officially-designated “enemy” country https://t.co/mcwJUY9qki— Dan Cohen (@dancohen3000) September 6, 2019The Middle East analysis news site Al-Monitor cited a human rights violation exemption waiver in reporting the release of the $1.3BN in aid.US military aid to Egypt was set to expire Sept. 30 without the crucial waiver: In a memo sent to Congress and obtained by Al-Monitor, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo waived human rights conditions that apply to $300 million in US aid, calling the Arab nation “important to the national security interests of the United States” for providing access to the Suez Canal, overflight rights and fighting terror in the Sinai desert and along its borders with Libya and Sudan.

Revealed: How a secret Dutch mole aided the U.S.-Israeli Stuxnet cyberattack on Iran --For years, an enduring mystery has surrounded the Stuxnet virus attack that targeted Iran’s nuclear program: How did the U.S. and Israel get their malware onto computer systems at the highly secured uranium-enrichment plant?The first-of-its-kind virus, designed to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, effectively launched the era of digital warfare and was unleashed some time in 2007, after Iran began installing its first batch of centrifuges at a controversial enrichment plant near the village of Natanz.The courier behind that intrusion, whose existence and role has not been previously reported, was an inside mole recruited by Dutch intelligence agents at the behest of the CIA and the Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad, according to sources who spoke with Yahoo News. An Iranian engineer recruited by the Dutch intelligence agency AIVD provided critical data that helped the U.S. developers target their code to the systems at Natanz, according to four intelligence sources. That mole then provided much-needed inside access when it came time to slip Stuxnet onto those systems using a USB flash drive.

'Good Morning, Donald': Iranian Minister Taunts Trump With Photo of Satellite After Launch Accident -- On Friday, US President Trump tweeted an uncommonly high-resolution photo of an apparent explosion at Iran's space centre, raising questions over whether it was supposed to be shared.Iran's Information and Communications Technology Minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, has tweeted a selfie with the Nahid-1 satellite after Donald Trump appeared to tease Tehran with an image of its failed launch.“Me & Nahid I right now, Good Morning Donald Trump!” Jahromi wrote Saturday alongside a picture in which he’s standing next to the solar-powered communication satellite, which is visibly undamaged.Jahromi earlier said that the satellite Tehran planned to launch was safe in a laboratory.Trump on Friday tweeted a highly-detailed aerial image that appeared to show the charred rocket launch pad and damaged vehicles at the Imam Khomeini Space Centre in Iran’s Semnan province, after an apparent rocket explosion at the site a day earlier.“The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations,” Trump wrote, extending his “best wishes” to Tehran. The tweet has raised concerns that POTUS could have disclosed sensitive military information, with some analysts suggesting the photo was taken by a highly-classified military satellite or a drone – which would mean that the US has either breached Iran’s airspace or has a drone so advanced it can fly well above national airspace.

Iran Offers EU Two Options To Keep Nuclear Deal In Place - Iran has offered the European Union two options to keep the nuclear deal alive as the EU keeps failing to find a way to support the Iranian economy amid U.S. sanctions. Bloomberg reports the options include either asking the United States to reinstate sanction waivers for the countries that import Iranian crude or providing a credit line to Tehran. The offer was made public by Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi.Araghchi said Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had shared the options with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron during a recent series of phone conversations.“What Mr. Rouhani has told Macron is that if Europe wants to preserve the nuclear deal then they must establish our ability to sell oil,” the Deputy Foreign Minister said. “There are two options or solutions -- one is for them to go to the Americans and get waivers again for oil buyers so they can buy oil from Iran, or if they cannot do that, they themselves should buy that level of oil, using a credit line.” The first option may be the less likely to succeed but the second one has a chance after President Trump said he was not against the idea of Europe providing Iran with “a letter of credit”, backed by oil, that would allow the country to meet pending payment obligations.France’s President has spearheaded efforts to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive and last weekend met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, during the G7 summit. Zarif’s arrival at the summit surprised the United States.Three unnamed sources told Reuters at the time that Tehran would demand increased oil exports if it was to discuss the nuclear deal. “As a goodwill gesture and a step toward creating space for negotiations, we have responded to France’s proposal. We want to export 700,000 bpd of oil and get paid in cash ... and that is just for a start. It should reach to 1.5 million bpd,” one of the sources said.

France explores a credit line for Iran, but needs Trump’s buy-in — European officials are looking at creating a multi-billion-dollar credit line for Iran to entice the sanctions-battered country to keep abiding by an international nuclear deal.But their efforts face resistance from U.S. officials who oversee those sanctions, even though President Donald Trump has publicly flirted with the idea as part of broader nuclear negotiations.French officials said this week they have been discussing the possibility of a credit line with both Iranian and U.S. officials. The talks come as Iran has pledged to take more steps to violate the nuclear deal within days, its latest retaliation for Trump’s decision to quit the agreement and reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran.In return for the credit line, Tehran would have to fully comply with the 2015 nuclear deal and commit to not threatening security in the Persian Gulf and not impeding freedom of maritime navigation. The country would also have to agree to future talks on Middle East security and on more long-term nuclear arrangements, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said Tuesday. The credit line would be guaranteed by Iranian oil.The exact value of the credit line, and which countries will contribute to it, remains under discussion, although Iranian officials have said it would be around $15 billion.“There is still a lot to figure out. It’s all still very fragile,” Le Drian said.  His remarks came a day after an Iranian economic delegation was in Paris for talks. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire was in Washington on Tuesday to meet with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and Lawrence Kudlow, a top economic adviser to Trump.

France Presses Washington On $15BN Iran Credit Line To Save Nuclear Deal - As first unveiled on the sidelines of the recent G7 summit in France, President Macron is making a last ditch effort to create conditions to bring Tehran and Washington back to the nuclear negotiating table by offering Iran a $15 billion credit line as an incentive to come back into compliance with the nuclear deal. Iran's top diplomat, FM Zarif, was said to be open to it when it was first raised in Biarritz, France over a week ago but the plan's progress is now conditioned on whether the White House rejects it.Though this past week Iranian leaders again threatened to further breach uranium enrichment caps set by the 2015 JCPOA, Iran responded positively to the new trade mechanism involving the $15 billion credit line issued to the end of the year to help it conduct business. The proposal comes after Trump at the G7 publicly expressed rare openness to sitting down with Iran, saying of Macron's efforts to cool tensions toward dialogue, "If the circumstances were correct or right, I would certainly agree with that." Trump cited "good feelings" about Iran and its desire to escape currently escalating tensions. Reuters reports an Iranian delegation is in Paris negotiating with French officials over the details which would provide immediate sanctions relief. A source privy to the negotiations told Reuters, “The question is to know whether we can reach this $15 billion) level, secondly who will finance it, and thirdly we need to get at the very least the tacit approval of the United States. We still don’t know what the U.S. position is.”The Iranians appear to have fully endorsed the deal, with an Iranian official saying, “France has offered the credit line of $15 billion but we are still discussing it. It should be guaranteed that we will have access to this amount freely and also Iran should be able to sell its oil and have access to its money.”“President Macron is trying hard to resolve the issue and help to save the deal ... and we have overcome some issues and gaps narrowed but still there are remaining issues,” the Iranian official said further. Trump has reportedly softened toward the idea of a special credit line or alternative mechanisms which bring Iran back in conformity with enrichment limits; however, he's said to be firm on not walking back sanctions.

Iran lifts more limits on nuclear programme as deal unravels - Iran is poised to begin work on advanced centrifuges that will enrich uranium faster as the 2015 nuclear deal unravels further after European nations failed to step up and counter devastating US sanctions.   Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered the removal of all limits on nuclear research and development - the third major step to scale down commitments to the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers."I, as of now, announce the third step," Rouhani said on state television late on Wednesday, just as the United States announced that it was imposing sanctions against an oil-shipping network with ties to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)."The atomic energy organisation [of Iran] is ordered to immediately start whatever is needed in the field of research and development, and abandon all the commitments that were in place regarding research and development."The nuclear deal - agreed on by Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the US and the European Union - gave Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for accepting curbs on its nuclear programme. Since the US unilaterally withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions in a "maximum pressure" campaign on Iran, Tehran has insisted it wants to save the pact but that the remaining signatories - especially Europe - must provide additional economic support. The announcement came hours after Rouhani threatened to take the step if Europe failed to provide a solution by Friday to allow Iran to sell its oil abroad after the US's withdrawal and sanctions."Iran's third step is of an extraordinarily significant nature," Rouhani said earlier during the day, without detailing what that would entail.In July, Iran reduced two other nuclear commitments: to keep its stockpile of enriched uranium below 300kg and a 3.67 percent cap on the purity of its uranium stocks.  A short time after Rouhani's statement, US officials announced new sanctions on Iran, this time aimed at a shipping network it said was run by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps to allegedly smuggle oil.The US also offered a reward of up to $15m for anyone with information that could disrupt the financing of the guards, signalling that it was not letting up pressure on Tehran.

No trade mechanism until Iran passes terrorism financing laws: French diplomat - (Reuters) - A European trade mechanism to barter humanitarian and food goods with Iran will not work until Tehran sets up a mirror company and meets international standards against money-laundering and terrorism financing, a French diplomatic source said. Britain, France and Germany, parties to a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran along with the United States, China and Russia, are determined to show they can compensate for last year’s U.S. withdrawal, salvage trade promised to Iran under the accord and still prevent Tehran from developing nuclear bomb capability. French President Emmanuel Macron has led those efforts and is trying to clinch a $15 billion credit line that would offset tough U.S. sanctions that have strangled Iran’s oil exports, but that requires getting some backing from Washington. In addition to that the Europeans have attempted for more than a year to set up the Instex trade mechanism, but it is still not operational. It would initially only deal with food and medical trade not Iran’s principal export - crude oil. “The Iranian mirror structure is not operational. The day they have signed the necessary FATF (Financial Action Task Force) conditions we’ll talk about it and the day that we are sure that the first transactions through Instex aren’t put under American sanctions, (then) we’ll talk about it again,” the diplomatic source said. France’s foreign minister said on Tuesday the mirror company had not been set up. But the clock is ticking. Iran’s president on Wednesday gave Europe another two months to save the deal and warned Tehran was preparing for further significant breaches of the accord’s caps on nuclear activity if diplomatic efforts ultimately failed.

Iran injects gas into advanced centrifuges, violating deal — Iran on Saturday said it now uses arrays of advanced centrifuges prohibited by its 2015 nuclear deal and can enrich uranium “much more beyond” current levels to weapons-grade material, taking a third step away from the accord while warning Europe has little time to offer it new terms.While insisting Iran doesn’t seek a nuclear weapon, the comments by Behrouz Kamalvandi of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran threatened pushing uranium enrichment far beyond levels ever reached in the country. Prior to the atomic deal, Iran only reached up to 20%, which itself still is only a short technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%. The move threatened to push tensions between Iran and the U.S. even higher more than a year after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the nuclear deal and imposed sanctions now crushing Iran’s economy. Mysterious attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, Iran shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone and other incidents across the wider Middle East followed Trump’s decision.

Iranian Tanker Adrian Darya Goes Dark Off Syria's Coast - The Adrian Darya 1 and its 2.1 million barrels of Iranian oil have gone dark, disappearing from satellite tracking off Syria's coast somewhere between it and Cyprus. According to its last signaling data the vessel is still full.  It's transponder signal switching off was somewhat to be expected given analysts early this week said it would likely "go dark" within days in order to attempt a ship-to-ship transfer of the oil to ultimately offload it to its buyer, still believed to be Syria. The #AdrianDarya1 has now gone presumably dark off the AIS grid as signals aren't arriving via terrestrial VHF listening stations or via Satellite-AIS. She's been offline for over 100 minutes. We'll wait and see because this sort of thing happens at times. No rumors, thanks. pic.twitter.com/cAD4csSe4V — TankerTrackers.com, Inc.⚓️ (@TankerTrackers) September 2, 2019  Crucially, there's still a US seizure warrant out for the Iran-flagged vessel after its release last month from UK/Gibraltar custody over Washington's objections. The US has since pressured Greece, Lebanon, and Egypt and its vital Suez Canal to not give the tanker any assistance or passage.  According to Bloomberg its lost signal placed the ship to the west of the Lebanon-Syria border as it was heading north.

Russia declares 'ceasefire' as Syrians try to storm border post  -Russia has announced a unilateral ceasefire in northwestern Syria, where Moscow-backed government forces have been waging a fierce offensive to capture the rebels' last major stronghold, from Saturday morning.The announcement came on Friday as displaced Syrian civilians tried to push through a border crossing to enter neighbouring Turkey, amid an increasingly deteriorating situation in Idlib provinceThe United Nations has warned that the military push risks further fallout for the three million residents of the province, half of whom are already internally displaced from areas previously captured by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. More than half a million civilians have been uprooted since the offensive began in late April, according to the UN, with over 500 people killed.Russia, which intervened in Syria's long-running conflict four years ago to back al-Assad, said on Friday that an agreement had been reached on "a unilateral ceasefire by Syrian government forces in the Idlib de-escalation zone, from 6am on August 31".The ceasefire aimed "to stabilise the situation" in Idlib, the statement said, urging anti-government fighters to "abandon armed provocations and join the peace process", the Russian Reconciliation Centre for Syria said in a statement.There was no immediate response from rebel groups. On Friday, Syrian troops captured several hills and small villages southeast of Idlib as they appeared to be trying to take as much ground as possible before the ceasefire went into effect.In the renewed offensive, Russia and its Syrian ally have stepped up aerial raids on northwestern Syria, sending reinforcements from elite army units and Iran-backed armed groups, according to opposition sources, army defectors and residents.The Russian-led alliance has taken the towns of Khwain, Zarzoor and Tamanah farms in southern Idlib, pushing closer into densely populated parts of the province. The advancements were the first major gains since the alliance seized the main rebel pocket in Hama province last week.

Syria's war: US 'targets al-Qaeda leaders' in rebel-held Idlib - The United States military has said it hit an al-Qaeda-linked training camp in northwest Syria's rebel-held Idlib province. The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement on Saturday its attack close to Idlib city targeted leaders that were "responsible for attacks threatening US citizens, partners, and innocent civilians." "The removal of the facility will further degrade [al-Qaeda's] ability to conduct future attacks and destabilize the region," the statement added, without mentioning what kind of weaponry was used. A war monitor said "at least 40" fighters were killed in what it called a missile attack. CENTCOM declined to say what kind of weaponry was used in the attack in Idlib, the last remaining bastion for anti-government rebels in Syria that has been the target of a Russia-backed government offensive since April.The air attack "targeted a meeting held by the leaders of Hurras al-Deen, Ansar al-Tawhid and other allied groups inside a training camp," the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday. Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting from Hatay, near the Syria-Turkey border, quoted sources on the ground as saying that the area targeted was "a training centre connected with al-Qaeda"."[The training centre] encouraged people from all ages - young boys to teenage men to older men - to come there for training," Smith said, adding that videos posted after the attack showed at least one wounded child.

Russia slams US for 'indiscriminate' attack in Syria's Idlib  -Russia, a major backer of Syria's government, has accused the United States of having "compromised" a fragile ceasefire in Syria's Idlib province by launching an attack on the rebels' last remaining bastion.The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Saturday it had hit an al-Qaeda-linked training camp in northern Idlib, targeting leaders that were "responsible for attacks threatening US citizens, partners, and innocent civilians".The Russian military said on Sunday that the US struck the region "without advance notice to Russia or Turkey", which have troops on the ground in Idlib. It described the attack as "indiscriminate".The raid caused "great losses and destruction", the Russian defence ministry added in a statement, accusing Washington of having "compromised the ceasefire in the de-escalation zone of Idlib".  Russia intervened in Syria's long-running conflict almost four years ago in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey has long backed rebels in Idlib. The two countries cosponsored a de-escalation agreement for Idlib that has been in place since last year but faltered in recent months.

Erdogan- We'll Flood Europe With Syrian Refugees Unless 'Safe Zone' Established - "We will be forced to open the gates. We cannot be forced to handle the burden alone," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Thursday while demanding that European countries give political support to his controversial 'safe zone' plan in northern Syria.Ankara is currently in tense negotiations with the United States over Erdogan's plan to militarily carve out a large swathe of territory along the Turkish-Syrian border which would serve as a buffer zone of sorts where US-backed Kurdish militias could not operate.Erdogan said one million refugees could settle in the new buffer territory, thus alleviating the crisis on Turkish soil, and ultimately for Europe as well. Turkey sees the YPG core of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as a terrorist extension of the outlawed PKK. Turkey has of late vowed to carve out the proposed 'safe' territory on a unilateral basis if it can't make progress with Washington.Also during the speech Turkey's president complained his nation “did not receive the support needed from the world” to help it cope with the refugee crisis through the eight-year long war.Erdogan issued a 'with us or against us' ultimatum to the world on Thursday:“You either support us to have a safe zone in Syria, or we will have to open the gates. Either you support us or no one should feel sorry. We would like to host 1 million refugees in the safe zone,” he said. It goes without saying that the territory in question is not his to control or dole out, and Damascus has slammed what it sees as a big Turkish land-grab.

Erdogan Stuns By Saying Turkey May Need Nuclear Weapons -  This is a first: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday suggested Turkey should seek its own nuclear weapons in comments sure to gain Washington's attention at a moment NATO's most controversial member is busy deploying Russia's S-400 anti-air defense system.   During a televised speech in which he ranted against rivals and moderates within his own Justice and Development Party (AKP) Erdogan said, “They say we can’t have nuclear tipped missiles though some have them. This, I can’t accept,” according to Turkey's Ahval news."I don’t accept this," he said. "The US and Russia have them. Every developing nation has them."  He pointed out that Turkey had in the past been unfairly denied weapons deals by allied nations, which led to Turkish ingenuity in producing its own weaponry.  Erdogan also reportedly invoked Israel's 'unofficial' or undeclared nuclear stockpile during his speech, saying that because Israel has nuclear weapons, "no one can touch them". Turkey is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1980, and further signed the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear tests for any purpose. The country  does store US-supplied NATO 'tactical nukes,' however.His comments were part of a broader theme attacking "rebels" within AKP who are seeking to possibly establish new political parties as "weakening" and splintering the nation.

New US Embassy's Massive 20-foot 'Defense Wall' Has Enraged Jerusalem Residents As if the US embassy's move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in recognition of the US designating the ancient city Israel's capital wasn't contentious enough, a local controversy has exploded after the soon to be completed embassy compound's perimeter wall began to be constructed. Both Arab and Jewish residents in the area are outraged at the mammoth 5.8 meter high 'defense wall' going up (or nearly 20 feet) in the south Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona.   Residents say the giant structure in their midst has marred the neighborhood and obstructed surrounding views. According to a report in Haaretz, the wall was originally slated to be 3.2 meters high, but weeks ago the US embassy petitioned Israel's Defense Ministry to double the height, which was granted. Neighborhood activists are also outraged at the ease of the wall's approval, given the normally very strict standards in place limiting any construction or upgrade to residential buildings, given the area is zoned for conservation. Haaretz further reports that every request of the Americans seems to have been granted based on special 'exemption' status: "The Americans demanded that an escape road be built, with a concrete wall around it, and queried the Foreign Ministry, which in turn approached the Finance Ministry" all of which was approved, according to the report.

Taliban take credit for Kabul attack as peace deal nears completion -- The Taliban took credit for an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday as negotiations between the insurgent group and the U.S. came close to reaching a conclusion, the Associated Press reported. Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahmi confirmed to the outlet that the target of the blast was the Green Village compound in the city. It is too early to know how many casualties resulted from the attack. At least 34 wounded people were taken to the nearby Wazir Akbar Khan hospital alone, according to AP. The attack came the same day that special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad showed a draft deal to Afghan President Ashram Ghani. The deal would reportedly have the U.S. withdraw nearly 5,000 troops from five bases in return for the Taliban not allowing militants to use Afghanistan to plan attacks on the United States or its allies. It still requires approval from Ghani and President Trump. The United States currently has roughly 14,000 troops deployed on a mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban, as well as conducting counterterrorism missions against groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS.

China And Iran Flesh Out Strategic Partnership - Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Zarif paid a visit to his Chinese counterpart Wang Li at the end of August to present a road map for the China-Iran comprehensive strategic partnership, signed in 2016. The updated agreement echoes many of the points contained in previous China-Iran accords, and already in the public domain. However, many of the key specifics of this new understanding will not be released to the public, despite representing a potentially material shift to the global balance of the oil and gas sector, according to a senior source closely connected to Iran's petroleum ministry who spoke exclusively to Petroleum Economist in late August.The central pillar of the new deal is that China will invest $280bn developing Iran's oil, gas and petrochemicals sectors. This amount may be front-loaded into the first five-year period of the deal but the understanding is that further amounts will be available in every subsequent five-year period, subject to both parties' agreement.There will be another $120bn investment in upgrading Iran's transport and manufacturing infrastructure, which again can be front-loaded into the first five-year period and added to in each subsequent period should both parties agree.Among other benefits, Chinese companies will be given the first refusal to bid on any new, stalled or uncompleted oil and gasfield developments. Chinese firms will also have first refusal on opportunities to become involved with any and all petchems projects in Iran, including the provision of technology, systems, process ingredients and personnel required to complete such projects.

Water Wars: A Song of Oil and Fire  - A tense standoff in the waters southwest of Vietnam is about to enter its seventh week.  Throughout May and June, Chinese Coast Guard vessels aggressively patrolled around Malaysian and Vietnamese oil drilling platforms. The situation escalated on July 3 when Chinese survey vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8 (English: “Marine Geology 8”) began surveying blocks of seabed on Vanguard Bank, a raised portion of the continental shelf within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the westernmost reef in the Spratlys. Vietnam responded by sending its own law enforcement vessels to the scene on July 4, although their attempts to close with Haiyang Dizhi 8 were blocked by the Chinese Coast Guard ships. On July 16, after nearly two weeks of tense maneuvering, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs finally issued a statement on the situation, reasserting Vietnam’s claim to its EEZ under the authority of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.  Two days later, on July 18, U.S. Adm. Philip Davidson, head of Indo-Pacific Command,criticized China for not responding to U.S. requests for crisis communications with China’s Eastern Theater Command. On July 19, Vietnam made a direct demand that Haiyang Dizhi 8 be removed from Vanguard Bank; the U.S. State Department alsoreleased a statement that day accusing China of “bullying behavior” and asserting that its “repeated provocative actions [...] threaten regional energy security.” China declined to confirm the presence of its ships in the area. On July 25,Vietnam issued another statement demanding an “immediate withdrawal” of Chinese ships from Vanguard Bank. Later that day, the Southern Vietnam Maritime Safety Assurance Corporation announced that drilling operations on Vanguard Bank would be extended from July 30 through Sept. 15. On July 26, the Chinese Foreign Ministry fired back, claiming sovereign rights over Vanguard Bank and accusing Vietnam of violating them. On Aug. 7, Haiyang Dizhi 8left Vanguard Bank and was seen at China’s base at Fiery Cross Reef (Mandarin:Yongshu; Tagalog: Kagitingan) for an apparent refueling, while two of its escorts remained inside Vietnam’s EEZ. Shortly thereafter, on Aug. 15, Haiyang Dizhi 8returned to Vanguard Bank, accompanied this time by five Chinese Coast Guard escorts. On Aug. 16, Vietnam responded with yet another demand that the small fleet vacate their EEZ. China has declined to back down: On Aug. 19, its Foreign Ministry officiallyreiterated the claim that all relevant waters are under Chinese jurisdiction. Whether the countries will allow the Sept. 15 end of drilling operations to quietly conclude the standoff remains to be seen.

Social Credit System- Facial Recognition Cameras Monitor Chinese Students' Behavior In Class -  A university in China has installed facial recognition cameras in classrooms that monitor students’ behavior such as nodding off or playing with their cellphones. China Pharmaceutical University in Nanjing, East China’s Jiangsu Province, is piloting the system in two classrooms and eventually plans to install it in every classroom. “The system can access every student’s personal information and monitor their behavior in class such as nodding off and playing with their mobile phones,” reports Global Times.The cameras can also record truancy, whether students are listening or not, how often they look up and down, and whether they leave early.Students complain the system is an invasion of their privacy, but school officials insist the cameras are necessary to encourage discipline. Under China’s Orwellian social credit system, all such systems are eventually planned to be centralized and linked to each citizen’s individual credit score, resulting in rewards and punishments for good and bad behavior.

Protesters Are Using Old Tools in New Ways - After the Sudanese military toppled dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir in April, it turned its attention to a new opponent: protesters demanding a civilian government. In a bid to cut off activists’ ability to communicate with one another and the outside world, leaders ordered the country’s internet shut down. This, they thought, would also shut down the movement.Instead, organizers communicated via handwritten notes, couriers, and face-to-face meetings—all time-honored tactics from the pre-internet age. By early July,internet access was restored, and on Aug. 4 the two sides agreed on a transition to civilian rule.Since the 2011 Arab Spring, it’s been difficult to talk about civil unrest without considering the catalyzing role of social media and the web. But in the political protests dominating global headlines this summer—from northern Africa to Russia, from Latin America to Asia—organizers are using physical tools as much as digital ones to propel and sustain their uprisings.This is in part because the same technological advances that made it possible to mass millions of people in the streets of Cairo have also enabled increasingly sophisticated government surveillance. “If we look at movements and governments as engaged in a contest, you expect to see a cycle of innovation and counter-innovation,” says Hardy Merriman, president of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, based in Washington. “What we’re seeing now is an incredible cycle of counter-innovation, and a lot of people are watching.”Encrypted messaging apps, social media mobilizing, and livestreaming have all done their part this time around. But organizers have learned that it doesn’t take technology to disrupt train service, snarl traffic, or create a striking image.

Fire and Tear Gas as Hong Kong Engulfed by Chaos - Chaos engulfed the heart of Hong Kong late Saturday, as police fired tear gas and water cannon at pro-democracy protesters who defied a ban on rallying, set fires, and hurled petrol bombs in some of the most intense clashes in months. Police had banned the demonstration on security grounds, and on Friday arrested several key activists and legislators in a dragnet on pro-democracy figures. But on Saturday afternoon tens of thousands of protesters under a colourful canopy of umbrellas -- many in their signature black T-shirts -- defied the order and marched through Hong Kong island chanting "reclaim Hong Kong, revolution of our times". As evening fell, violence ricocheted through the city's commercial centre, with a minority of hardcore protesters unleashing a barrage of petrol bombs and rocks at riot police. Thick, black smoke swirled from a large fire started by masked demonstrators at a barricade on a major thoroughfare, close to Hong Kong police headquarters. The fire was extinguished as demonstrators were pressed into the neon-lit shopping hub of Causeway Bay, under a hail of tear-gas rounds and sporadic firing of rubber bullets. Police -- some undercover, dressed as protesters -- made numerous arrests as the night deepened into a cat-and-mouse chase across the city. Ryan, a 19-year-old protester, needed first aid after he was hit by what he believed to be a rubber bullet. "I needed an ice pack for the wound," Ryan told AFP. "But I feel ok, think I will continue the fight tonight," he said. Video on social media showed people -- believed to be protesters -- being arrested en masse inside a train carriage at a metro station as they left demonstrations. Police later confirmed the arrest of "radical protesters" at two city stations..

Hong Kong protesters target airport but planes keep flying (Reuters) - Thousands of protesters blocked roads and public transport links to Hong Kong airport on Sunday in a bid to draw world attention to their fight for democracy for the Chinese-ruled city which is facing its biggest political crisis in decades. Planes were taking off and landing, with delays, but trains were suspended and approach roads to the airport impassable as protesters erected barricades and overturned trolleys at the airport and in the nearby new town of Tung Chung. Some passengers were forced to walk the last bit of their journey to the airport by foot, dragging luggage behind them. The MTR subway station in Tung Chung was closed and demonstrators smashed CCTV cameras and lamps with metal poles and dismantled station turnstiles. Police moved in and made several arrests. Chek Lap Kok, built around a tiny outlying island in the dying days of British colonial rule, is one of the world’s busiest and most efficient airports, reached by a series of bridges which were packed with traffic. “If we disrupt the airport, more foreigners will read the news about Hong Kong,” said one 20-year-old protester, asking not to be named. Black-clad demonstrators targeted the airport three weeks ago, jamming the terminal in sometimes violent clashes with police and prompting some flights to be canceled or delayed. Police said on Sunday protesters hurled iron poles, bricks and rocks on to the railway track near the airport station. By early evening protesters at the airport had left, but protesters in Tung Chung remained. “We have no idea how to leave. We’re stuck,” a masked protester said, as others looked for buses and ferries to get back home. Police and protesters had clashed overnight in some of the most intense violence since unrest erupted more than three months ago over concerns Beijing is eroding the autonomy granted to the territory when it was handed back to China in 1997. China denies the charge of meddling and says Hong Kong is an internal affair. It has denounced the protests and warned of the damage to the economy.

Masked protesters wreak havoc on Hong Kong airport and trash railway station, forcing desperate travellers to head to city on foot - Anti-government protesters brought chaos and vandalism to Hong Kong’s international airport again on Sunday, blocking access routes, forcing travellers to walk part of the way to the city, crippling train services and prompting a shutdown of the Tung Chung line by trashing the station. Their action, a “stress-test” campaign they called “suck with you” to force the government to respond to their demands after months of sustained demonstrations, caused airlines to delay and cancel flights, and left travellers with few options of getting to the airport or leaving it for the city. With transport in disarray as masked radicals prevented from entering the airport by a court injunction went on the rampage outside the terminal building, desperate travellers arriving in Hong Kong were forced to walk on the main road, lugging their suitcases all the way to Tung Chung and then onto the North Lantau Highway to Sunny Bay. The distance from the airport to Tung Chung is about 5km (3 miles), while Sunny Bay is a further 13km (8 miles) away from the town.Alongside these travellers were black-shirted protesters who had earlier caused mayhem outside the airport. Others managed to get onto airport buses that were leaving, but were now stuck on the Tsing Ma Bridge. The government issued a statement late on Sunday that severely condemned the vandalism and illegal acts of the protesters. Sunday’s protests followed a night of violence in the city after tens of thousands joined an illegal march during the day that descended into pitched battles with riot police who used tear gas and water cannons. Two lawmakers arrested for protest-related offences released on bail Live rounds were also fired by officers in desperate moments when they were under attack by violent mobs on Saturday. While the protesters’ actions disrupted travellers who were arriving or leaving the city, they did not succeed in paralysing the airport, unlike three weeks ago.

Hong Kong Police Storm Subway With Batons, Pepper Spray - — Protesters in Hong Kong threw gasoline bombs at government headquarters and set fires in the streets on Saturday, while police stormed a subway car and hit passengers with batons and pepper spray in scenes that seem certain to inflame tensions further in a city riven by nearly three months of pro-democracy demonstrations. Police had denied permission for a march to mark the fifth anniversary of a decision by China against fully democratic elections in Hong Kong, but protesters took to the streets anyway, as they have all summer. They provoked and obstructed the police repeatedly but generally retreated once riot officers moved in, avoiding some of the direct clashes that characterized earlier protests. Late at night, though, video from Hong Kong broadcaster TVB showed police using batons while on the platform of Prince Edward subway station and swinging batons at passengers who backed into one end of a train car behind umbrellas. The video also shows pepper spray being shot through an open door at a group seated on the floor while one man holds up his hands. It wasn’t clear if all the passengers were protesters or what precipitated the incident, which was widely shared on social media as another example of police brutality during the protests. Angry crowds gathered outside Prince Edward and nearby Mongkok station, where police also rushed in and made arrests. Protests erupted in early June in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese territory of 7.4 million people. A now-shelved extradition bill brought to the fore simmering concerns about what many in the city see as an erosion of the rights and freedoms that residents are supposed to have under a “one country, two systems” framework.

Hong Kong Protestors Using Mesh Messaging App China Can’t Block: Usage Up 3685% How do you communicate when the government censors the internet? With a peer-to-peer mesh broadcasting network that doesn't use the internet. That's exactly what Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters are doing now, thanks to San Fransisco startup Bridgefy's Bluetooth-based messaging app. The protesters can communicate with each other — and the public — using no persistent managed network. And it's led to swift growth for Bridgefy: downloads are up almost 4,000% over the past 60 days, according to Apptopia estimates (Apptopia is an app metrics company). The app can connect people via standard Bluetooth across an entire city, thanks to a mesh network. Chatting is speediest with people who are close, of course, within a hundred meters (330 feet), but you can also chat with people who are farther away. Your messages will simply "hop" via other Bridgefy users' phones until they find your intended target. While you can chat privately with contacts, you can also broadcast to anyone within range, even if they are not a contact. That's clearly an ideal scenario for protesters who are trying to reach people but cannot use traditional SMS texting, email, or the undisputed uber-app of China: WeChat. All of them are monitored by the state.

New research shows vast majority of Hong Kong protesters support more radical tactics - Three months on, there’s still no end in sight for the Hong Kong protest movement. What started as a demonstration against a bill to amend the city’s extradition laws has now morphed into a broader movement challenging the legitimacy of the government and seeking fundamental political reforms. Every weekend, hundreds of thousands of protesters – sometimes more than a million – are still taking to the streets. The protests draw Hong Kongers from all walks of life: students, doctors, lawyers, journalists, teachers, civil servants, and, most recently, family members of police officers. The discussions on internet forums and encrypted messaging apps remain vibrant, with innovative ideas for new protest actions emerging frequently. To better understand who the protesters are, as well as why and how they are protesting, I’ve conducted a series of large onsite surveys at 19 demonstrations since June 9, with researchers from other universities. We have so far surveyed more than 8,000 protesters with a response rate of over 85%. Our data show protesters tend to be young and highly educated. On average, half of our respondents are aged between 20 and 30. Around 77% said they had a tertiary (higher) education. Few said they were unemployed. Most respondents identified themselves as either democrats or localists. However, in the early stages of the protests, it is also notable that nearly 30% of respondents said that they were centrists or had no political affiliations. This dropped to around 15% by early August. When asked why they were protesting, the vast majority of respondents (more than 90%) cited two main motivations: the complete withdrawal of the controversial extradition bill and an independent inquiry into excessive use of force by police against the protesters. Interestingly, from July onwards, police violence has become a more pressing concern for respondents, with those who see it as “very important” rising from 85% to over 95%. Protesters have also increasingly said they are fighting for Hong Kong’s democracy, with those who see it as “very important” rising from 83% to 88%. The resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other major officials was considered the least important reason for protesting. This suggests that a change in leadership is not viewed as a solution to the political crisis. Instead, the protesters are seeking a fundamental reform of the entire political system.

China's Xinhua Issues Ultimatum- End Is Coming For Hong Kong Protesters - Following what many have described as the most violent weekend yet after 86 days, or 13 weeks of pro-Democracy protests in Hong Kong, which have led to the arrest of at least 1,117 residents, where the local police is now deploying water cannon in response to "rioters" using petrol bombs, China appears to have finally had enough and on Sunday, Beijing issued a stern ultimatum to not only Hong Kong protesters, but also the West on Sunday, reiterating that it will not tolerate any attempt to undermine Chinese sovereignty over the city."The end is coming for those attempting to disrupt Hong Kong and antagonize China," stated a commentary piece published by the state's Xinhua News Agency.According to the Nikkei, the ultimatum was directed at "the rioters and their behind-the-scene supporters" - which should be interpreted as China's latest accusation of Western meddling, with the article warning that "their attempt to 'kidnap Hong Kong' and press the central authorities is just a delusion," adding, "No concession should be expected concerning such principle issues."The commentary said three red lines must not be crossed:

  • no one should harm Chinese sovereignty,
  • challenge the power of the central authorities 
  • use Hong Kong to infiltrate and undermine the mainland.

"Anyone who dares to infringe upon these bottom lines and interfere in or damage the 'one country, two systems' principle will face nothing but failure," the piece declared. "They should never misjudge the determination and ability of the central government... to safeguard the nation's sovereignty, security and core interests."

Hong Kong's Carrie Lam Scrambles After Leaked Tape Reveals Desire To Quit - Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam is in full damage control mode after Reuters reported leaked audio from a closed-door meeting in which she said she would resign over the ongoing political crisis in the city.  "If I have a choice ...  the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology," Lam said during the private gathering, adding that her ability to resolve the crisis is now "very limited." Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets of the former British colony since mid-June in sometimes violent protests against now-suspended draft legislation that could have seen people sent to mainland China for trial in Communist Party controlled courts.Lam told business leaders last week that she had caused “unforgivable havoc” by introducing the bill and that if she had a choice she would apologize and resign, according to a leaked audio recording. -ReutersSpeaking on Tuesday in a televised news conference, Lam said that she "never tendered any resignation," however she did not deny the authenticity of the recording. "I have not even contemplated d iscussing a resignation with the central people’s government. The choice of resigning, it’s my own choice," she said, adding "I told myself repeatedly in the last three months that I and my team should stay on to help Hong Kong ... That’s why I said that I have not given myself the choice to take an easier path and that is to leave."

Hong Kong leader announces withdrawal of controversial extradition bill (Reuters) - Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Wednesday withdrew an extradition bill that triggered months of often violent protests so the Chinese-ruled city can move forward from a “highly vulnerable and dangerous” place and find solutions. Her televised announcement came after Reuters reports on Friday and Monday revealing Beijing thwarted an earlier proposal from Lam to withdraw the bill and she had said privately that she would resign if she could. “Lingering violence is damaging the very foundations of our society, especially the rule of law,” a somber Lam said as she sat wearing a navy blue jacket and pink shirt with her hands folded on a desk. It was not clear when the recording was made. The withdrawal needs the approval of the Legislative Council, which is not expected to oppose Lam. The bill would have allowed extraditions to mainland China where courts are controlled by the Communist Party. Its withdrawal is a key demand of protesters but just one of five. The move came after pitched battles across the former British colony of 7 million. More than 1,000 protesters were arrested. Many are furious about perceived police brutality and the number of arrests and want an independent inquiry. “The government will formally withdraw the bill in order to fully allay public concerns,” Lam said. “I pledge that the government will seriously follow up the recommendations of the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Council) report. From this month, I and my principal officials will reach out to the community to start a direct dialogue ... we must find ways to address the discontent in society and look for solutions.”

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s bombshell withdrawal of extradition bill draws more scepticism than hope for end to weeks of protest turmoil - Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor dropped a bombshell on Wednesday, announcing she would formally withdraw the hated extradition bill that sparked the city’s protest crisis – but her dramatic U-turn drew more scepticism than hope for an end to nearly three months of turmoil.Even though Lam was finally acceding to one of the demonstrators’ five demands, protesters and politicians alike argued the concession came too little, too late. Carrie Lam’s speech in full: Hong Kong leader speaks to city on protests.  Many doubted it would do much to ease roiling tensions fuelled by increasingly violent clashes between protesters and police over the past 13 weeks. Lam’s pro-establishment allies were among those leery of the move, fearful the flip-flop would affect their election chances in district council polls in November and Legislative Council elections next year. Barely three hours after she appeared on a televised message, a group calling themselves representatives of protesters dismissed her withdrawal of the bill as applying a “Band-Aid to rotting flesh”. All “five demands, not one less” had to be met before they would cease their actions, a protester representative said at a news conference outside the Legislative Council. The protesters want Lam to formally withdraw the extradition bill; set up a commission of inquiry to investigate police conduct in tackling demonstrations; grant amnesty to those who have been arrested; stop characterising the protests as riots; and restart the city’s stalled political reform process.

Hong Kong leader says China ‘respects and supports’ withdrawal of extradition bill (Reuters) - Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Thursday that China “understands, respects and supports” her government’s move to formally withdraw an extradition bill, part of measures she hoped would help the city “move forward” from months of unrest. In a press conference, Lam was repeatedly questioned on why it took her so long to withdraw the bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China despite increasingly violent protests, but she skirted the questions. “It is not exactly correct to describe this as a change of mind,” she said. She added that full withdrawal of the bill was a decision made by her government with Beijing’s backing. “Throughout the whole process, the Central People’s Government took the position that they understood why we have to do it. They respect my view, and they support me all the way,” said Lam, dressed in a cream suit and looking less tense than a televised appearance the day before. She withdrew the bill, which has plunged the Chinese territory into its worst political crisis in decades, on Wednesday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index .HSI surged more than 4% to a one-month high ahead of the announcement. On Thursday, the market was up 0.4% by midday.

Masked Men Firebomb Home Of Hong Kong Media Tycoon - Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam's attempt to pacify furious pro-democracy protesters by fully withdrawing the extradition bill that inspired the at-times-violent protests hasn't worked. Protesters took to the streets Wednesday night (local time) shortly after Lam withdrew the bill, and more rallies are scheduled for this weekend, including another sit-in at Hong Kong International Airport, which - if the recent past is any guide - will likely turn violent. An editorial in the Communist Party-controlled China Daily (via Reuters) warned that protesters have "no excuse" to continue the violent rallies after the "olive branch" from Beijing. And adding to the confusion surrounding the situation, the home of media tycoon Jimmy Lai was attacked early Thursday by two masked men who hurled firebombs before speeding off on a motorbike. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.  Lai's security guards responded by quickly putting out the fire, Bloomberg reported, before reporting the incident to police. Though it's not clear who orchestrated and ordered the attack, it's certainly possible that the incident was intended as a warning for Lai to keep quiet.Lai's publications, which include the Apple Daily newspapers, have drawn the ire of senior officials in Beijing over their overt stance in support of the protesters. Lai has been denounced as a traitor by the Chinese state media, and it's certainly possible that the attack was intended as an act of intimidation.It's also possible that government-aligned thugs staged the attack as a "false flag", and intends to blame protesters. Moreover, protesters may have staged the attack with the intention of blaming pro-government thugs.

 India school-leaving exam- The controversy that cost 23 lives -- At least 23 teenagers in the southern Indian state of Telangana have killed themselves since their school-leaving exam results were announced in April. BBC Telugu's Deepthi Bathini explains why the results have become controversial.  Thota Vennela enjoyed cooking, watching comedy shows and eating street food.  Her older brother, Venkatesh, 19, had recently taught her to ride his motorbike. "I was so happy that she could ride it like a professional biker," he says. The siblings fought over the bike and played pranks on each other, but they were close.  Venkatesh struggles to hold back tears as he pulls out his wallet to show his sister's photograph. On 18 April - the day she found out that she had failed her 12th class (school leaving) exams - Vennela consumed poison. She died hours later in a hospital.  "She kept repeating, how could I fail?" recalls her mother, Sunitha. "We consoled her and told her it was fine and she could apply for re-evaluation or take the exams again. But even at the hospital she kept saying, 'I should have passed'." Vennela was one of more than 320,000 students in Telangana who failed their school-leaving exams. All of them were enrolled in schools that teach a syllabus set by the state education board. (Some Indian schools also teach syllabuses set by a national education board.)  Higher education in India is fiercely competitive. And school-leaving exams are crucial for securing a spot in good universities - they are seen as a ticket to a well-paying job and a bright future. Top universities also conduct independent admission tests, but students who perform well in those can still lose their seat if they fail their school-leaving exams.  In the days following the announcement of the exam results, shocked students and parents protested, alleging there had been errors in marking and demanded the exams be marked again. As protests intensified, suicides by students who had failed the exams were reported from across the state.  A child rights group petitioned the state high court, which ordered the board to re-mark the answers of all those who had failed. The new results were announced on 27 May - the scores of 1,137 of the students who had failed were revised, and they were declared successful in the exams. One student who had initially scored zero marks in a subject, ended up scoring 99 when her answers were re-marked.

India's economy suffers car crash, pain spreads to villages - These are hard times for an area dependent on the fortunes of companies like Maruti Suzuki (MRTI.NS), the carmaker with the largest market share in India, and motorbike maker Honda Motor Co’s (7267.T) local unit. The auto and component makers in and around Manesar, have shed thousands of jobs. Nationwide, according to industry estimates, automakers, component manufacturers and dealers have laid off about 350,000 workers since the start of the year, in response to plunging car sales. Figures for August, like July, are expected to show a drop of more than 30%, making a 10th straight month of decline. As the crisis in the sector bites harder small businesses in the towns and villages around Manesar, home to one of the three plants where Maruti Suzuki cars are made, have seen a fall off in trade. “There are already fewer workers in the village and those who still have jobs are either not getting paid for working overtime or are not spending as much out of fear they may lose work and need the money,” said grocer Rahul Jain, his shelves stacked with toothpaste and soaps from fast-moving consumer goods companies like Hindustan Unilever (HLL.NS), Colgate-Palmolive (COLG.NS) and Dabur India (DABU.NS).

In India’s Slums, ‘Painkillers Are Part Of The Daily Routine’ — In the crowded waiting room of Dr. Sunil Sagar’s clinic, in the working-class neighborhood of Bhagwanpur Khera, a toddler breathes from a nebulizer. Fever is widespread, and the air quality in Delhi has reached “severe-plus emergency.” The patients sit, motionless, but there is somehow tremendous noise. The clinic is a squat cement building draped in wires, a red cross on the door. Sagar sits behind a desk in a small, open room, as a squad of assistants escort patients to him. He seems utterly unflappable. A father with a troubled look sits down next to the doctor, holding a baby. Sagar listens to the baby’s chest with a stethoscope, pulls out scrap paper and writes a prescription. The father hands over a few rupees, and Sagar places the bills into a money drawer under his desk. The entire exchange takes perhaps two minutes. Medicine in India is transactional. A well-liked doctor hands over a prescription at the end of every visit. Why else have I paid cash to see the doctor, if not for relief? The precariousness of daily life leaves little room for downtime. As the Indian government reluctantly loosens its prescription opioid laws after decades of lobbying by palliative care advocates desperate to ease their patients’ acute pain, the nation’s sprawling, cash-fed health care system is ripe for misuse. The sheer size of India’s system — tens of millions of doctors and pharmacies spread across the subcontinent — makes oversight difficult but presents a tantalizing opportunity for India’s burgeoning pain industry and multinational pharmaceutical companies seeking new markets. A popular spot to purchase these bulk drugs is the Bhagirath Palace in the Chandni Chowk market, one of India’s largest wholesale markets that dates to the 17th century. It is a dense maze where men — and it is almost entirely men — press their bodies into a current of commercial ecstasy, frequently thrown off course by honking auto rickshaw drivers. One after the next, stalls of drug distributors advertise on brightly painted signs “all types of medicines,” “life-saving anti-cancer drugs,” “deal in Glaxo … Johnson & Johnson.” Inside the stalls, boxes of medicine are stacked from floor to ceiling.

India state citizenship list leaves out almost 2M people - A 60-year-old woman died Saturday morning after throwing herself into a well in the eastern India state of Assam, because she mistakenly thought she was one of nearly two million people left off a list of recognized citizens. An hour after she was dragged out of the well, the final list was released and included the woman, Sayera Begum, and her husband and son.The citizens’ list was updated for the first time since 1951, as part of an effort to identify and deport undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh, which declared its independence from Pakistan that year.But its publication in many cases split families, leaving their futures in limbo.People left off the list fear of loss of citizenship and long stretches of detention. The government already detained thousands of people suspected of being foreigners in temporary camps which are housed in the state’s prisons. Those left off the list have 120 days to appeal to the Foreigner Tribunals.

India labels 1.9 million Assam residents “foreigners” as prelude to their mass expulsion - Almost two million residents of Assam, a state in India’s northeast, have been excluded from the Indian state’s reactionary National Register of Citizens (NRC). These de facto “foreigners” are now under threat of being herded into detention centres prior to their mass expulsion. Moreover, if India’s Hindu supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has its way, the process under which all of Assam’s more than 33 million residents have had to provide documentation demonstrating their right to citizenship to the authorities’ satisfaction, or be targeted for deportation, will be extended throughout the country—that is, to all of India’s 1.3 billion people. Almost all of the 1.9 million people who have been excluded from the NRC—some 6 percent of Assam’s population—are Bengali-speaking, and more than 90 percent of them are impoverished Muslims. Fearing mass protests against its attempt to declare a substantial fraction of Assam’s Bengali-speaking minority stateless, the BJP central government deployed more than 145 companies of the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) across the state prior to the publication of the “final” NRC list last Saturday. A preliminary NRC list published in July 2018 excluded 4.1 million people. The state unit of the BJP and its principal partner in Assam’s government, the ethno-chauvinist Asom Gana Parishad (AGP-Assam People’s Association), have criticized Saturday’s “final” NRC for not targeting far more Bengali-speakers for deportation. “The AGP is not satisfied at all about the number of exclusions … [it] is far too low and we cannot accept that,” declared party chief and Assam cabinet minister Atul Bora. The stated aim of the NRC is to root out and expel all those who cannot prove that they or their ancestors lived in India prior to March 24, 1971. Thus by design, the vast majority of those who have been deemed “foreigners” were born and have spent their entire lives in India, or at the very least have lived there for decades. However, human rights groups have documented numerous instances of people whose families have lived in Assam for generations, and thus fulfill the state’s reactionary citizenship criteria, but have nevertheless been excluded from the NRC due to the authorities’ communal malevolence and incompetence. The NRC process has sparked opposition and outrage in India and internationally, with even the western press, which never tires of celebrating India as the “world’s most populous democracy,” publishing critical reports.

India–Pakistan nuclear escalation: where could it lead? -- Nature --Nuclear tensions are escalating between south Asia’s two superpowers — India and Pakistan — following the Indian defence minister's announcement earlier this month that India may revoke its current commitment to only use nuclear weapons in retaliation for a nuclear attack, known as ‘no first use’. Some experts watching the situation have told Nature that the risk of a conflict between the two countries has never been greater since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.“It’s very explosive right now and I am really concerned it could get worse,” says Atta-ur-Rahman, professor of chemistry at the University of Karachi in Pakistan and a science adviser to Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan. Khan has talked up the risks of nuclear war between the two countries on several occasions since being elected a year ago.Vipin Narang, who studies nuclear proliferation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, says the statement from defence minister Rajnath Singh creates ambiguity in India’s no-first-use policy, and “essentially renders it meaningless”.Satinder Kumar Sikka, a condensed matter physicist who was part of India’s 1998 nuclear-weapons testing team, argues that India should be able to use nuclear weapons if there is an increased risk that Pakistan would do so first. “If we are threatened by Pakistan, we have every right to retaliate,” he says. Others caution against reading too much into the present war of words, emphasizing that a conventional war or a nuclear armed conflict will not be triggered just because of strong language from both sides. Nature examines the background for the latest escalation, what it means and what could happen next.

Annexation of Kashmir and India’s nuclear threat - During the BJP election campaign, in an elections rally, Narendra Modi asked, in the context of nuclear weapons: “What do we have then? Have we kept our nuclear bomb for Diwali?” – as reported in The Hindu 21 April 2019. He went on to add that India had the capability to launch nuclear attacks from land, air and sea. The aggressive tone towards Pakistan from Narendra Modi’s BJP government continued after Modi’s re-election. The nuclear weapons and Diwali reference was remembered again, when on 16 August India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh declared that India was thinking of reviewing its No First Use Policy (NFU) – which most recognised as a veiled nuclear threat especially if taken with Modi’s April statement. Certainly for Pakistan the message was clear, especially since the nuclear statement followed the Modi government’s illegal annexation of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJK) with the intent of altering the demography in the occupied State. This illegal move was accompanied by a curfew and complete communications blackout that still continues. Of course, the NFU statement has actually been a political ploy of Indian governments since 1999 when they stated their supposed NFU policy. Pakistan has never found this NFU claim by India to be credible. The farce of India’s NFU stands exposed. However, the threat of war spiraling into a nuclear exchange has never been as great as it is today. Why? To understand this, we have to see the linkage on how India has been building up the ante against Pakistan militarily as its annexation of IOJK and ethnic cleansing agenda of Muslims was being operationalised. Military ante is usually upped in stages and India has been climbing the escalation ladder for some time now and it has already threatened and done the following from the lowest rung going up the escalation ladder: At the non-kinetic level: Trying to get Pakistan on Financial Action Task Force (FATF) blacklist and thereby seeking to bankrupt Pak economically. Consistently seeking to link the narrative of “terrorism” with the Pakistani state while continuing with state terrorism in IOJK. At the kinetic level: India has been conducting low intensity conflict through acts of terrorism inside Pakistan as the Jadhav confessions and recovered documents have established beyond doubt. India has already begun non-contact warfare with the surgical strike in Balakot but that option ended in complete military failure followed by diplomatic-political failure when Pakistan returned the Indian pilot unconditionally. The limited military response by Pakistan also sent a clear signal to India that Pakistan had the capability to respond militarily at the level of threat initiated by India, at a time and place of its own choosing. India further upped the ante with the use of cluster bombs (contrary to the 1983 Inhumane Weapons Convention to which both Pakistan and India are Parties) and targeting of civilians across the LoC. This has been followed by daily attacks against civilians across the LoC.

Diverging Gulf Responses To Kashmir And Xinjiang Ripple Across Asia - Recent diametrically opposed responses to repression of Muslims by China, India and other Asian countries highlight deep differences among Gulf states that ripple across Asia.The different responses were evident in Gulf reactions to India’s unilateral withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy and Qatar’s reversal of its support of China’s brutal clampdown on Turkic Muslims in its troubled, north-western province of Xinjiang.The divergence says much about the almost decade-long fundamentally different approaches by Qatar and its main detractors, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, towards an emerging more illiberal new world order in which minority rights are trampled upon.The UAE and Saudi Arabia lead a more than two-year-long economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar in a so far-failed attempt to force the Gulf state to alter its policies.The feud and divergence reflect the Gulf states’ different efforts to manoeuvre an environment in which the United States has sent mixed signals about its commitment to Gulf security and China and Russia are seeking to muscle into US dominance of the region.In what was perhaps the most surprising indication of differences in the Gulf, Qatar appeared to reverse its tacit acquiescence in China’s clampdown, involving the incarceration in re-education camps of an estimated one million predominantly Turkic Uyghur Muslims.  Qatar did so by withdrawing from a letter it initially signed together with dozens of others countries expressing support for China’s human-rights record despite its clampdown in Xinjiang.In a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Ali Al-Mansouri, Qatar’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, advised the council that “taking into account our focus on compromise and mediation, we believe that co-authorizing the aforementioned letter would compromise our foreign policy key priorities. In this regard, we wish to maintain a neutral stance and we offer our mediation and facilitation services.”Signatories of the letter included Qatar’s detractors – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – as well as Kuwait and Oman, who together with the feuding Gulf states are part of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The withdrawal coincided with a US warning that kowtowing to China’s “desire to erode US military advantages” in the Middle East by using its “economic leverage and coercion” and “intellectual property theft and acquisition” could undermine defence co-operation with the United States. A Mass Citizenship Check in India Leaves 2 Million People in Limbo New York Times. And then there are the Rohingya, another stateless people. And when the waters rise, the Bangladeshis.

‘We risk everything’: Reporting Kashmir amid lockdown, harassment Al Jazeera - As the crippling lockdown in Indian-administeredKashmir nears a month, journalists in the region complain of harassment by authorities, with many accusing security forces of deleting their camera footage and pressure to report "normalcy". "This is a unique situation. None of us had seen anything like this in the past. Even in the worst of times in Kashmir, we were able to file our stories," said Muzaffar Raina as he waits to access his email at a Media Facilitation Centre in the main city of Srinagar. Since the night of August 4, the region's seven million residents have been placed under a curfew and denied telephone and internet access. Raina says the situation is "unprecedented". The restrictions were imposed to prevent backlash over India's Hindu nationalist government's decision to strip the country's only Muslim-majority state of its limited autonomy, triggering the worst political crisis in the region in more than 70 years.As the communications blackout made headlines globally, the administration set up a media centre at a private hotel in Srinagar to allow the journalists to work. The centre has five computers with an internet connection and just one landline phone for hundreds of journalists based in Kashmir as well as the ones who came from outside the region to report."We risk everything to tell a story. People trust us with their stories and it is heartbreaking to let them down in such a state." Ashiq said reporters are being stopped despite having a "movement pass" issued by the authorities. "They [paramilitary soldiers] told me they have been ordered not to allow anyone. Even with a pass, you are not sure if the next security picket would let you through," he said. A journalist from south Kashmir's Pulwama district, the hub of Kashmir's rebellion, said he has not filed any story since August 4, the day the latest clampdown started. "The forces do not allow us to work. People are reluctant to talk because they blame us for not showing the true story," he said on condition of anonymity. "So I preferred to be locked in my home. Taking out a camera was tough in this situation.

This Is What It’s Like Living Through Kashmir’s Communications Blackout For 29 days, the residents of Kashmir, the conflict-ridden state in northern India, have been living in a black hole. On midnight, Aug. 4, India's Hindu nationalist government abruptly wiped out the legal autonomy that the disputed region has enjoyed for decades, and shut down the region’s internet. It isn't the first time that internet services have been shut down in Kashmir. According to the Software Freedom and Law Centre, a New Delhi–based digital advocacy organization, this was the 55th internet shutdown in Kashmir in 2019 alone. But Kashmiris who spoke to BuzzFeed News said that the scale of this particular blackout was unprecedented — in addition to mobile internet services, landline and broadband services are frozen, and most local television channels have been turned off. Four weeks into the blackout, life in Kashmir has come to a standstill, with pharmacies running out of essential medicines, newspapers unable to function, and strict curfews making it impossible to move around after dark. And the situation doesn’t seem to be improving: On Friday, India imposed fresh restrictions on Kashmir, telling people to stay off the streets. To better understand what is happening to ordinary people, BuzzFeed News spoke to five Kashmiris who have been in and out of the region: a college student desperately trying to reach her parents, a restaurateur who turned his Instagram into a communications hub, a man desperately trying to ship medicine to his father-in-law, a startup founder cut off from the marketplace, and a college student trapped indoors. Here are their stories.

Kashmir: The misinformation spreading online -  The disputed territory has long been a flashpoint between two nuclear-armed neighbours – India and Pakistan. Both countries administer areas of Kashmir but claim the region in full. This disagreement has been the focus of periodic conflict for almost 70 years. “When they are not exchanging guns and shelling each other on the borders, they are exchanging verbal barbs and propaganda against each other,”   The stakes were raised further in August, when the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stripped the region’s special status, removing the right to frame its own laws.Anticipating unrest, India imposed a near-total communications shutdown across Kashmir. Telephone lines, internet and television networks were blocked and restrictions were put in place on movement and assembly. Monitoring organisation NetBlocks observed that connectivity fell from 100% to roughly 9% of nominal levels in Srinagar, the day before Kashmir was stripped of its special status.  “For the first ten to twelve days [after the shutdown], there was virtual silence. It’s not the first time that information has been impacted and affected but this time it was a deafening silence.”The Kashmir Times was unable to file a single report, or make any contact with their own staff, either at the bureau office in Srinagar or their reporters in the other remote districts of Jammu & Kashmir. Bhasin has filed a petition to the Indian Supreme Court to remove the curfew because of these difficulties.During the shutdown, security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir have been accused of carrying out beatings and torture. These allegations have not been verified with officials. The Indian army has called such claims "baseless and unsubstantiated".But while citizens in Kashmir have been unable to communicate, the rest of the world also relies on information online.Instead of limiting misinformation, there are also fears that internet outages add to already tense geopolitical conditions. Kaye told Euronews that open access is “really critical” to deal with the threats of misleading reports.“When you shut down communications, people are more willing to accept all sorts of information, in any form of video or text, because they are so hungry. They will perhaps even overlook some forms of information that might not be verifiable.”

Myths of Kashmir - The Indian government’s recent decision to revokeKashmir’s special semi-autonomous status has raised fears of yet another conflict with Pakistan over the disputed territory. But in order to understand the implications of the events unfolding in Kashmir – a heavily militarized geopolitical tinderbox situated at the crossroads of central Asia – it is essential to dispel the many myths and misunderstandings surrounding it.  The first myth relates to the name itself. While news reports focus on the “Kashmir region,” they often fail to note that Kashmir is only a small slice of the affected territory, called Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), which also includes the sprawling areas of Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan.Moreover, calling J&K a “Muslim-majority” region fails to reflect just how ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse it is. Indeed, while Kashmir is majority Muslim, Jammu is majority Hindu; and the vast, sparsely populated Ladakh is traditionally Buddhist. Gilgit-Baltistan is also predominantly Muslim – Shia Muslim, to be precise (though Pakistan’s government has for decades been encouraging Sunni Muslims to relocate there and gradually form a majority).J&K residents who speak the Kashmiri language (Koshur) are concentrated mainly in the Indian-administered, densely populated, predominantly Sunni-Muslim Kashmir Valley, which has become a hotbed of Pakistan-backed jihadists fighting to establish an Islamic emirate. In early 1990, the jihadists launched a rapid and bloody campaign of ethnic cleansing, which drove virtually the entire native Hindu community out of the territory. Since then, the Islamists have been systematically replacing the Valley’s syncretic traditions with Wahhabi/Salafi culture.Yet another common misunderstanding is that India and Pakistan are the only actors vying for control in J&K. In reality, the region is split among India (which holds 45%), Pakistan (which controls 35%), and China (which occupies 20%).Only India claims the entire region, as well it should: the princely state of J&K lawfully merged with the country under the 1947 Indian Independence Act, which partitioned British India into independent India and Pakistan. (Thus, the notion that in revoking Kashmir’s special status, India has effectively “annexed” the territory is just another myth.) The Pakistani- and Chinese-held portions of J&K are essentially the spoils of separate wars of aggression waged by Pakistan and China against India in the period from the late 1940s to the early 1960s.

 Sri Lankan university unions threaten indefinite national strike over wages and benefits - Unions covering all university employees announced yesterday that university teachers, non-academic workers and administrative officers will strike indefinitely on September 10 over a series of long-outstanding salary, pension and incentive payment claims. The Joint Committee of University Trade Unions (JCUTU), which covers non-academic workers, along with the university teachers association and the adminstrative officers union, issued the threat in response to growing anger by their members. It followed a two-day national strike beginning on August 28 by over 16,000 non-academic workers at 15 state universities. On the second day of last week’s walkout over 2,000 non-academic workers demonstrated outside the University Grant Commission (UGC) in Colombo. Non-academic workers from several state universities participated in the protest chanting slogans and holding placards written in Sinhala and Tamil. Protesting workers in Colombo The JCUTU wants university employees’ salaries brought into line with other government employees and the payment of all salary increases granted to government workers since 2015. It also wants a proper pension scheme for non-academic workers and increases in incentive payments. Non-academic workers walked out on July 30 over the refusal of university authorities to discuss the JCUTU’s demands. The JCUTC is made up of unions affiliated with the ruling United National Party (UNP), President Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and so-called independents. It has constantly insisted that limited industrial action and protests will force the government to implement its demands.

Argentina: Macri imposes currency controls as debt crisis deepens - Argentina’s government has imposed currency controls in a bid to stabilize financial markets, as Latin America’s third-largest economy faces a deepening economic crisis. The temporary measures, announced on Sunday, allow the government to restrict foreign currency purchases following a sharp drop in the super-sensitive peso. All companies must now request permission from Argentina’s central bank to sell pesos and buy foreign currency to make transfers abroad. In an official bulletin issued on Sunday, the government said currency controls were necessary “to ensure the normal functioning of the economy.” The latest move follows the surprise announcement on Wednesday that Argentina would seek to defer payments on roughly $100 billion of debt, which credit rating agency S&P classified as a default under its own criteria. The measures — which will remain in place until the end of the year — constitute a startling turnabout for President Mauricio Macri. Shortly after starting his term in December 2015, the embattled leader of South America’s second-largest country abruptly removed strict capital controls that had been in place since 2011. Macri’s government and the central bank are trying to shore up confidence in financial markets ahead of the presidential election on October 27.

US Military Surrounding Venezuela With New Deployment In Guyana - The US military has effectively surrounded Venezuela, ahead of a possible military intervention. We've reported in the past that the Pentagon is jointly working with Colombia, Brazil and other regional partners on how to crush Venezuela's economy so that President Nicolás Maduro would step down.  Now there's a new report that the US military has been deployed to the impoverished South American nation of Guyana, the first time in a decade. The country is located on South America's North Atlantic coast and borders Venezuela to the West.  The four-month-long deployment, led by the US Air Force, is called New Horizons humanitarian outreach – is intended to serve as "a stepping-stone toward a prolonged relationship" with the Guyana military forces, reported Military.comStrengthening Partnerships: @USAirForce #Airmen & @ForceGuyana members build a community center during #NewHorizons19 in #Guyana. The 3-month exercise trains U.S. military civil engineers & medical personnel as they provide care & services to local communities. #EnduringPromise pic.twitter.com/QYfBlNRneb  — U.S. Southern Command (@Southcom) June 13, 2019   The Air Force hopes relationships with the country can firmly develop amid the increasing influence of Russia and China in the region.  "Guyana is going to become a larger player in this region, both economically and politically in the future, so it's important that we are closely tied with them," said 12th Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Andrew Croft in an interview. "What we leave is an enduring, physical presence in addition to the partnerships that we build," Croft boasted, citing medical facilities and schools built in 1997 that are still being used today.

Brazil's Bolsonaro Bans Bic Pens Because They're French As Macron Feud Escalates -- As one of the most entertaining contemporary diplomatic spats drags on, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro (who, like President Trump, is known for his sometimes outrageous commentary) reportedly said Friday that he would no longer use Bic pens to sign official documents "because they're French."  Bolsonaro and French President Emmanuel Macron have been feuding since the latter criticized the former over his handling of the wildfire "crisis" in the Amazon. Macron started by accusing Bolsonaro of lying about who caused the wildfires, then Bolsonaro accused Macron of "insulting" him by raising a whopping $25 million from the G-7 to help with wildfire relief. Since then, the two have been regularly exchanging barbs, the AFP reports. And in the latest round, Bolsonaro said he would stop using pens made by the French company, and use pens made by Brazilian company Compactor instead.  When asked by reporters whether Bolsonaro was joking, or being serious, the Brazilian government declined to comment. If Bolsonaro truly does intend to abandon pic, it looks like the joke is on him: Most of the Bic ballpoint pens sold in Brazil are made at a factory in the Brazilian city of Manaus (which is situated in one of the country's Amazonian regions). Previously, Bolsonaro said he and his government would start using Bic pens, which are cheap and widely used, as part of their plan to cut back on government expenses and waste.

Five killed in attacks on foreigners in South Africa - Five people have been killed in xenophobic attacks in South Africa, police said, as President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed to clamp down on what he described as "acts of wanton violence" and the African Union and Nigeria sounded the alarm. Police fired rubber bullets and arrested 189 people in the township of Alexandra on Tuesday, a day after clashing with looters who local media said targeted foreign-owned businesses in several parts of the city. Most of the deceased were South Africans, police said. "I'm convening the ministers in the security cluster today to make sure that we keep a close eye on these acts of wanton violence and find ways of stopping them," he said in a post on Twitter. "There can be no justification for any South African to attack people from other countries." Rocks, bricks and rubber bullets strewed the empty streets of Alexandra on Tuesday, and Al Jazeera reporters at the scene saw police firing rubber bullets at a crowd of 50 people who were hurling rocks. About two dozen shops, owned by both foreigners and locals, were vandalised or looted. "They burnt everything," Bangladeshi shopowner Kamrul Hasan told AFP news agency in Alexandra, adding that his shop gets attacked every three to six months. "All my money is gone. If the [South African] government pays for my plane ticket, I will go back to Bangladesh," the 27-year-old said. Lungelo Dlamini, a spokesman for police, said the motive behind Tuesday's riots was not clear. "They are just criminals who are looting and taking advantage of the situation," he told Al Jazeera. 

South Africans Setting Fire To Other African Migrants In Wave Of Xenophobic Attacks - Xenophobic violence is flaring once again in South Africa, where black South Africans are setting fire to other African migrants and attacking foreign-owned businesses. “Rioters looted shops, created flaming barricades on roads and engaged in street fights with police, as attacks on immigrants and foreign-owned businesses increase,” reported RT. “Some 50 businesses were looted and damaged on Sunday alone. It’s the second outbreak of such violence in the country in the space of a week.” Shocking video shows black South Africans setting fire to other African migrants in the street. Pray for foreigners in South Africa. No one deserves this. pic.twitter.com/BELpzoyzux  — Zari (@ZariTheBosslady) September 2, 2019   The violence was sparked after a South African driver was shot dead by a drug dealer who was a foreign  national. The wave of xenophobic violence prompted the Zambian Ministry of Transport and Communications to instruct Zambian drivers not to travel through the country.

Lira Tumbles After Turkish Politician Gets 10 Year Sentence For "Insulting" Erdogan - At the end of week which saw Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan say his country should develop nuclear weapons, and further he'll flood Europe with Syrian refugees if the world doesn't back his 'safe zone' plan on Syrian territory, a Turkish politician is now headed to prison for merely "insulting" the president on Twitter. "A Turkish court convicted an opposition party branch leader Friday of engaging in terrorist propaganda and insulting Turkish government officials with a series of social media posts, a verdict the opposition immediately alleged was politically motivated," the Associated Press reports. Upon Friday's verdict Canan Kaftancioglu, head of the secular Republican People's Party Istanbul branch, received a whopping nine years and eight months prison sentence.  The Turkish lira suddenly tumbled as soon as news of the verdict hit Turkish media and grabbed international headlines:

Trade war accelerates trend towards global recession - There are increasing signs the world economy has entered a period of much slower growth and could be heading for a recession, including in the US, as the trade war against China intensifies and the Trump administration prepares attacks on other targets. Earlier this week, a key indicator of British manufacturing activity contracted in August for the fourth consecutive month to reach its lowest level in seven years. The IHS Markit purchasing managers’ index (PMI) dropped to 47.4 from 48 in July. A rise to 48.4 had been predicted, with a reading of less than 50 indicating more executives believe their economic activity is contracting rather than expanding. IHS director Rob Dobson said high levels of political uncertainty—a reference to the Brexit turmoil—together with ongoing global trade tensions had “stifled the performance of UK manufacturers.” “Companies scaled back production in response to the steepest drop in new order intakes since mid-2012,” he said. The British economy contracted by 0.2 percent in the second quarter compared with the previous three months, and a further contraction in the current quarter would see it officially in a recession. Dobson said the latest PMI data was “consistent with a quarterly pace of contraction close to 2 percent.” While the British economy is being adversely affected by the Brexit upheaval, the economic outlook is little better in the European Union. The export-dependent German economy, the world’s fourth largest and the euro zone’s main driving force, contracted 0.1 percent in the second quarter and the central bank has warned that a recession is likely. German retail sales fell further than expected in July. The Ifo Business Climate survey of German executives fell from 95.8 top 94.3 in August, the fifth straight month of falling sentiment. Clemens Fuest, the president of the Ifo Institute, which conducts the survey, said: “There are more indications of a recession in Germany. The last time that industrial companies demonstrated such pessimism was in the crisis year of 2009. Not a single ray of light was to be seen in any of Germany’s key industries.” Surveying the results of PMI data from around the world, the Wall Street Journal reported this week that global industrial production had fallen in the three months to June, and August surveys “point to weak inflows of new orders that suggest a significant rebound in output is unlikely in coming months.” The article noted that in a number of Asian countries, “surveys pointed to a decline in activity that mirrored that felt in Europe. The PMIs for Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Indonesia were below 50.” Economies in the Asia-Pacific region are being heavily impacted by the US-China trade war. South Korea has reported that its exports to China fell by 21.3 percent in August compared to the same month last year. Total exports have dropped by 13.6 percent compared to the same period a year ago. In Japan, capital spending by manufacturing companies dropped by 6.9 percent in the June quarter, the first decline in two years, largely as a result of a significant decline in exports to China.

It's Happening Again- Maersk Halts Asia-Europe Loop Amid Global Slowdown - Growth in the world continues to collapse into late summer, so much so that Maersk and Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) had to "temporarily suspend" their AE2/Swan Asia to North Europe loop until mid-November, removing 20,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) a week from trade, reported The Loadstar. Collapsing demand and plunging shipping container rates have led to pain for carriers who sail their vessels along the route. This is the second time Maersk and MSC have suspended the circuit, and the last time this happened was last fall. Maersk and MSC said it's working hard to "balance its network to match reduced market demand for the upcoming [Chinese factory shutdown] Golden Week."Maersk and MSC said the AE2/Swan suspension would "help us to match capacity with the expected weaker demand for shipping services" from Asia to Europe. Maersk and MSC said the service would resume "in line with demand pickup," suggesting the suspension could be extended into 1H20 as global trade isn't expected to pick up for the next six to eight months.

A European bank gets paid to borrow -- One of the common complaints about negative rates is that banks can’t pass them on to retail depositors, for now at least. But there are other people willing to pay to lend to a bank.   Austria’s Erste bank is today issuing a 10 year covered bond at a negative yield – which would make it the first time a bank in this market would be paid to borrow for that length of time. The spread is now set at 6 basis points over mid-swaps, a key benchmark, which would translate to a yield of around -0.2 per cent. That isn’t putting off investors -- institutions such as pension funds and insurance companies -- as the books are already in excess of €2bn. The covered bond market, a method of bank borrowing where the debt is secured against a pool of mortgages, is an important source of funding for the financial system in Europe.  It generally receives less attention than other markets because it doesn’t really exist in the US, which sets the tone for financial discussion globally, and which relies far more heavily on securitisation to fund mortgages (i.e., use them as collateral for borrowing). In Europe, covered bonds have been around since the 18th century. They’ve also been subjected to post-crisis central bank distortion longer than almost any market. The ECB started buying the instruments in 2009, in order to “support a specific market segment that is important for the funding of banks and that had been particularly affected by the financial crisis”. That initial move bought €60bn. In 2011, it then launched a second programme, which was supposed to buy €40bn, but only reached €16bn. The third covered bond programme came in late 2014. It was the beginning of QE in the later sense of the term.  The first covered bond (and the first one not issued by a government) to be issued at a negative yield came in 2016. There are now 11 other negative yielding covered bonds in the Eurozone. Joost Beaumont, an analyst at ABN Amro, helpfully provided us with this table.

Why Central Bankers May Be Hurting, Rather Than Helping, Lenders - As central bankers weigh up cutting interest rates deeper into negative territory, investors should consider when the risks of this trend will begin to outweigh its benefits.   With almost $17tn of negative-yielding debt already out there, I fear we have already hit the reversal rate — the point at which accommodative monetary policy “reverses” its intended effect and becomes contractionary for the economy.  Conventional macroeconomic models typically take banks and other intermediaries for granted. As a result, the overall benefits of cutting rates below zero may have been exaggerated.  Like steroids, unconventional policy can be highly effective in short dosages, but just as long-term usage of steroids weakens bones, so below-zero rates can weaken the financial system.  Negative rates erode banks’ margins and distort their incentives. They encourage lenders to seek out opportunities overseas rather than in their home markets. They also risk disrupting bank funding.  All these effects run counter to the central banks’ desire to ease credit conditions and support financial stability.  Japanese banks, and more recently their European counterparts, have illustrated some of the problems caused by cutting rates. Japan’s regional banks have among the lowest returns on assets of any around the world.  Larger banks have fared somewhat better, in part by lending more overseas. Japanese banks bought about a third of the higher-rated tranches of US collateralised loan obligations — investment vehicles that buy leveraged loans — in the past few years. Quantitative easing programmes have helped the global economy and enabled banks to repair their balance sheets. Low rates have improved the affordability of their loans, reduced bad debts and lifted the value of assets.  Japanese banks have relied upon capital gains from owning government bonds to offset pressures on profitability. But increased ownership of bonds can become a dangerous dynamic, a phenomenon known as a “doom loop”, magnifying the effects of swings in prices. Suppressing bad debts in the eurozone via QE has been useful for the banks, but this has largely come from indirect benefits, such as by reducing the difference in yield between German and, for example, Italian bonds. If central bankers really want to help increase the flow of credit, then buying the banks’ own debt as part of QE, which is still a taboo for the ECB, may be a better option than cutting rates further.   Banks have sought to offset negative rates by charging higher fees, repricing mortgage spreads and, in some cases, lending more aggressively. The longer the experiment lasts, the more Danish and Swiss banks are having to pass on negative rates to clients.  Pension funds’ asset allocations are increasingly being distorted by negative rates, too. One of the most striking consequences has been to encourage investors out of Japanese and more recently European markets and into US credit and equities instead. The thirst for yield has led to a self-reinforcing bid for longer-dated bonds. As most savers target a particular level of retirement income, the lower rates go the more they will need to save to hit their targets, reducing their ability to spend today.

Recession risks rise for Germany as industrial orders plunge -(Reuters) - Weaker demand from abroad drove a bigger-than-expected drop in German industrial orders in July, suggesting that struggling manufacturers could tip Europe’s biggest economy into a recession in the third quarter. Germany’s export-reliant economy is suffering from slower global growth and business uncertainty caused by U.S. President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ trade policies and Britain’s planned, but delayed, exit from the European Union. Contracts for ‘Made in Germany’ goods fell 2.7% from the previous month in July, data showed on Thursday, driven by a big drop in bookings from non-euro zone countries, the economy ministry said. That undershot a Reuters consensus forecast for a 1.5% drop. “The misery in manufacturing continues. The decline in new orders significantly increases the risk of a recession for the German economy,” VP Bank analyst Thomas Gitzel said. Germany’s gross domestic product contracted by 0.1% quarter-on-quarter in the second quarter on weaker exports, with the decrease in foreign sales mainly driven by Britain and below average demand from China.

French Businesses Wake Up to the Reality of a No-Deal Brexit - Jean-Marie Fabre began traveling to London from southern France about five years ago to sell his red wine, and Britain now accounts for around a fifth of his exports. A no-deal Brexit threatens to undo all his work. “I was starting to get good traction,’’ “It takes time and money to enter a market and nurture a commercial relationship, propose your products, organize tastings.’’ Fabre’s is one of many small to mid-sized French businesses waking up to the possibility that Britain will crash out of the European Union at the end of October, throwing trade into turmoil overnight. That risk escalated after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he’ll suspend Parliament from mid-September to mid-October -- leaving lawmakers less time to block a no-deal departure. While Britain stands to lose the most from such an outcome, France won’t be immune. A hard Brexit could shave 0.4% from annual growth in gross domestic product, said Ana Boata, senior economist at credit insurer Euler Hermes. That could rebound onto President Emmanuel Macron, who has shown little willingness to compromise with Johnson on Brexit and only recently began putting the virulent Yellow Vest protests behind him. “Jobs, the well-being of families, loans, investments are on the line,’’ said Alban Maggiar, European affairs deputy at CPME, an organization representing small and medium-sized French companies. Transport, agriculture and fishing are among areas most at risk, he said. France’s government now sees a British exit without a withdrawal agreement as the most likely scenario, an official close to Macron said last week. The finance ministry will hold a meeting Tuesday to brief businesses on Brexit, an official said. With no transition period, U.K. firms would have to start trading with the EU on World Trade Organization terms – causing goods to face tariffs at the border. France will stage a dress rehearsal for Brexit at the port of Calais on Friday, where customs officials and truckers will act as if Britain has already left, Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin told RTL radio. French authorities have recruited 700 additional customs officers and upgraded technology to smooth the transit of goods, he said. “It seems impossible to imagine that this market, which has been reliable for years, would just shut down overnight,’’ said Andre Sergent, who raises pigs in Brittany and exports a third of the cold cuts he produces to the U.K. He foresees the disarray lasting for as long as two years. France’s biggest firms have had years to map out strategies and adjust supply chains to deal with potential disruptions. Peugeot-maker PSA Group has warned it may move the production of Vauxhall cars from the U.K.’s Ellesmere Port plant to southern Europe. Airbus SE, with operations across Europe, has been stockpiling parts in the U.K. to avoid border tie-ups and planning for an airlift if necessary.

Investors pull billions from UK on prospect of no-deal Brexit - More than $4bn has been pulled from UK equity funds since Theresa May announced her decision to step down as Britain’s prime minister as fears mount that the UK is heading for a no-deal Brexit under her successor, Boris Johnson. Investors have withdrawn $4.2bn from UK equity funds since late May, according to EPFR, a data provider. Outflows since the Brexit referendum in 2016 have climbed to $29.7bn. Luke Ellis, chief executive of Man Group, the UK-listed hedge fund manager, said investors had put the UK into the “too hard to think about basket”. Neil Dwane, global strategist at Allianz Global Investors, said the UK stock market was “unloved, under-owned and cheap” and Mr Johnson’s positive rhetoric would fail to shift investors’ cautious stance. “Boris must first resolve Brexit. It will always get in the way until he does,” said Mr Dwane. Portfolio managers running 250 global equity funds with $450bn in assets have also reduced their UK exposure, with the average holding sinking to 7.9 per cent, according to Copley Fund Research. This is below the trough reached immediately after the 2016 referendum and down from a peak of 11.5 per cent in 2011 when Copley started the survey. As much as $2bn has been withdrawn from the UK by this group of managers over the past six months.  “We’re seeing a marked shift out of Britain and into mainland Europe by international fund managers,” said Steven Holden, chief executive of Copley Fund Research. The FTSE All-Share index has risen 20.5 per cent since the eve of the referendum in 2016, helped by sterling weakness to dollar earnings for many large international companies that are listed on the London market.  Arnab Das, a global market strategist at Invesco, said that the threat of a no-deal Brexit was increasingly being priced in by investors.  “The political dynamics have shifted from trying to negotiate unworkable compromises with the EU and within the UK parliament towards a fundamental reboot. That may lead to no-deal but there is also a significantly increased chance that there will finally be some sort of resolution to the thorny issue of Brexit itself,” said Mr Das.  No-deal fears also hit investor appetite for UK property funds, which suffered net withdrawals of £410m in July — their highest monthly outflows since January — according to Morningstar. “With the appointment of Boris Johnson as prime minister, a hard Brexit became increasingly likely and investors further shunned UK property assets,”

UK’s reputation takes global hit with Parliament shutdown (AP) — In parts of the world where Britain’s parliamentary system and adherence to the rule of law provided a model to emerging nations, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s brusque decision to shut down Parliament for crucial weeks ahead of the looming Brexit deadline is seen by some as proof that Britain, too, can be subject to a power grab. Johnson’s gambit may pay off if he is able to make Brexit a reality on Oct. 31 without doing grave damage to Britain’s economy, but the widely held perception that he is shuttering Parliament to squelch debate (despite his claims to the contrary) has been roundly condemned in key parts of the former British Empire, including some where Queen Elizabeth II is still accorded the status of head of state. Many Britons — politicians and the public alike — have a lofty view of the country’s role in world affairs, emphasizing its seat on the United Nations Security Council, its nuclear arsenal, and its traditional influence in trouble spots like the Middle East. But the prolonged impasse over Brexit, which was approved more than three years ago but still hasn’t taken place, has taken a toll on how much of the world views Britain’s vaunted political institutions. Nicholas Sengoba, a columnist in the former British colony of Uganda, said Johnson’s action shows that Britain is not immune to the abuse of power that has plagued some African nations. “The whole notion that a British prime minister cannot be as powerful as an African dictator has been stripped off,” he said. The prolonged Brexit stalemate in Britain has made the former colonial power “look extremely bad” because there is no clear leadership and no consensus on what the actual consequences of a “no deal” Brexit might be, he said. Britain’s longstanding reputation for openness and fair play has been tarnished by a years-long rift in the opposition Labour Party over whether party chief Jeremy Corbyn and his top advisers tolerate anti-Semitism — there has even been a police investigation of some party members — and a desire to keep foreigners from settling in Britain under liberal European Union regulations was at least in part responsible for the 2016 Brexit vote in favor of leaving the 28-nation bloc.

Leaked no-deal report says lorries could face 48-hour delays at Dover - Leaked government documents which reportedly say there could be 48-hour delays at Dover in the event of a no-deal Brexit have moved hauliers to warn of the “clear and present danger” to the UK supply chain. Sky News said it had seen documents which suggest vehicles could face a two-day delay at the Kent port in a no-deal scenario, and the revelation has led to industry insiders saying the government has “failed to deliver”. Rod McKenzie, the managing director of policy at the Road Haulage Association (RHA), said it came as absolutely no surprise to him that such a document existed, adding that there was still no sign of a new customs process with just weeks left before the UK is expected to leave the EU. He had not seen the Department for Transport documents (DfT), but said he understood they were more recent than the leaked Operation Yellowhammer files which contained predictions of a three-month “meltdown” at ports in the event of no deal. “The Road Haulage Association has been saying this for quite literally years now that if there is a no-deal Brexit, there will be very substantial queues at the border,” McKenzie said. “We have got a very, very serious problem with the UK supply chain if there is a no-deal Brexit on 31 October from where we are now. “This is a clear and present danger to the supply chain on which we all depend, and we are calling on the government in the clearest terms to make it clear what traders have to do to trade with the continent. This they have failed to do so far.” Sky News said on Sunday night that analysis commissioned by the DfT suggested that on the first day of a no-deal Brexit, the worst-case scenario would be a two-day maximum delay for freight and vehicles at Dover, and an average wait of a day-and-a-half. McKenzie said any delay at the ports would cause a “very, very substantial traffic jam”, adding: “What we are saying is that we urgently need clarity from this government, having not had it from the previous government, we urgently need clarity from this government of what traders have to do to get ready for a no-deal Brexit.”

Brexit: Michel Barnier rejects demands for backstop to be axed - The EU's lead Brexit negotiator has rejected Boris Johnson's demands for the Irish backstop to be scrapped. Michel Barnier said the backstop - intended to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland - was the "maximum flexibility" the EU could offer. Mr Johnson has previously told the EU the arrangement must be ditched if a no-deal Brexit was to be avoided. Meanwhile, the PM has told rebel Tories they face a "fundamental choice" of siding with him or Jeremy Corbyn. His comments come as some MPs who oppose a no-deal Brexit - including Conservatives - are planning to take action in Parliament next week. Former justice secretary David Gauke, who voted three times for the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons, will meet the prime minister on Monday to ask about the practicalities of securing a deal. "I want to hear from him as to what is his plan to deliver a deal, when are we putting forward proposals to deal with this backstop issue - which is the one issue he has identified as the problem within the Withdrawal Agreement," he said during an interview on Sky News' Sophy Ridge show. "I want to hear how he's going to address that, and I want to hear how he plans to deliver the legislation if we get a deal by 31 October - because at the moment, frankly, I can't see how he's got time to do that." The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement negotiated between Brussels and former prime minister Theresa May, which has been rejected by Parliament three times. If implemented, it would see Northern Ireland staying aligned to some rules of the EU single market, should the UK and the EU not agree a trade deal after Brexit.

Brexit: what just happened?  Insofar as Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson had a coherent Brexit policy, it was that which he articulated on 24 July in his first speech as prime minister in office. Summed up, he rejected the Withdrawal Agreement brokered by Mrs May's government and demanded that Brussels should re-open negotiations for a new deal, a precondition of which was that it removed the "anti-democratic" backstop. Given "the remote possibility" that Brussels refused to negotiate, we were then to prepare to leave without a deal.This was further amplified in Johnson's statement to the House of Commons the following day, when he declared his readiness "to negotiate in good faith an alternative, with provisions to ensure that the Irish border issues are dealt with where they should always have been: in the negotiations on the future agreement between the UK and the EU".  Whatever has passed formally or informally between HMG and the EU, there is no published communication – in any form - which sets out Johnson's statement as an official government proposal to the EU.Rather, we have been seeing something akin to diplomacy by megaphone, and it was only last weekthat Johnson's Brexit "Sherpa", David Frost, was dispatched to Brussels to meet senior EU officials "to discuss alternatives to the plan agreed with Theresa May".The development came amid a buoyant mood in Number 10. In the wake of talks between Johnson and the leaders of France and Germany, we had the prime minister in office talking about a willingness to "get this thing done", telling us that this was what "our friends and partners on the other side of the Channel want".Brexit, we were informed, was now regarded as an "encumbrance", with the reminder that Brussels tends to "come to an agreement right at the end", heightening anticipation in some quarters that a deal was in the offing. Yet, before this weekend, the signs were in the offing that no progress had been made. After a meeting in Helsinki with UK foreign minister Dominic Raab, Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney declared that "nothing credible" had come from the British government as an alternative to the backstop.Although any changes proposed by London could be the basis for a discussion in Brussels, above all else, they had to be "credible". Said Coveney, "It can’t simply be this notion of 'look we've got to have this backstop removed and we'll solve this problem in future negotiations', without any credible way of doing that". That was "not going to fly". The Irish government would not allow the backstop to be removed without a viable alternative. It should have come as no surprise, therefore, that Barnier should have written his piece yesterdaybut, in so doing, the European Union's chief negotiator has demolished any pretence that Johnson might have a credible (or any) Brexit policy – or, at least, one that encompasses any form of renegotiation.

Britain prepares for showdown as opposition lawmakers try to stop no-deal Brexit - Westminster is poised for high drama over the coming days, with market participants likely to closely monitor the political ramifications of a parliamentary showdown. U.K. lawmakers return from a summer recess on Tuesday, with less than 60 days to go before the world’s fifth-largest economy is scheduled to leave the European Union. It provides the first chance for rebel lawmakers to take steps to stop a so-called “no-deal” Brexit on October 31. “The overriding theme for the week will be the ongoing rift in the Conservative Party,” Kallum Pickering, senior U.K. economist at Berenberg Bank, said in a research note. “Do not be surprised if the first steps towards a snap election are taken.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to deliver Brexit on October 31 “do or die, come what may” even if that means leaving the bloc without a deal in place. He reiterated that sentiment Monday in a statement where he insisted the chances of striking a deal have increased and that Britain would not delay its exit from the bloc again. A no-deal Brexit is seen by many inside and outside of parliament as a “cliff-edge” scenario to be avoided at all costs. Leaving without a deal would mean an abrupt departure from the EU with no transition period allowing businesses to adjust to life outside the bloc. The leader of the opposition Labour party Jeremy Corbyn said Monday that this week could prove to be the “last chance” for lawmakers to stop a no-deal Brexit. Opposition lawmakers, as well as some members of parliament (MPs) from Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party, are poised to legislate over the coming days in a bid to stop the possibility of no deal. The new prime minister has threatened to expel Conservative lawmakers if they try to stop his Brexit plans this week, in an extraordinary attempt to dissuade MPs from voting against him. If Johnson followed through with this threat, it would eradicate his wafer-thin parliamentary majority and make his ability to govern very difficult. Johnson could then be tempted to hold a snap general election in a bid to break the deadlock. Rebel lawmakers determined to prevent a no-deal Brexit effectively have two options: change the law or change the government. On Tuesday, a broad range of lawmakers are expected to publish plans to try to put a block on a vital part of Johnson’s Brexit plan. Presently, MPs are not scheduled to hold any debates in parliament until September 9, but the Labour party has said it will try to secure an emergency debate this week.

 Brussels baffled by Boris Johnson’s Brexit progress claims - Brussels has responded with bafflement to Boris Johnson’s claims that progress is being made in the Brexit talks, with EU officials saying discussions are going nowhere. The prime minister and his cabinet have insisted that the outlines of a deal are in the making and that attempts by MPs to rule out a no-deal departure will kill that momentum. However, EU officials said that nearly two weeks after Johnson met the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, no alternatives to the Northern Irish backstop had been tabled. Instead, there had been a renewed clash over Brussels’ need for an immediately legally operable solution for the border. EU diplomats briefed by a European commission negotiator about the most recent talks in Brussels with the prime minister’s envoy, David Frost, were told on Tuesday that a no-deal Brexit has never been more likely given the lack of proposals from Downing Street. Sign up to our Brexit weekly briefing Read more “There was literally nothing on the table, not even a sketch of what the solution could look like,” said an EU official familiar with the latest talks with the British government. Advertisement In response to a question from Richard Corbett, the leader of Labour’s MEPs, the Finnish government, which holds the rolling presidency of the EU, confirmed that no new proposals had been tabled by the British government. The commission will launch a fresh attempt to get European businesses ready for a no-deal on Wednesday by warning that the proximity to 31 October and “the political situation in the UK have increased the risk” that Britain will crash out of the EU without a deal. It is understood the European commission official insisted on Tuesday to EU diplomats that Brussels was open to ideas from Downing Street, “but on the other hand we have been waiting for quite a while for different ideas and proposals and these haven’t come forward”. Downing Street has rejected the claims by rebel Conservative MPs including the former chancellor Philip Hammond that it is not taking the talks seriously, with Johnson’s spokesman insisting progress was being made. However, he declined to say when the UK might present concrete proposals on a replacement for the backstop.

Boris Johnson loses majority as MPs seek to stop no-deal Brexit – The governing Conservative Party lost its majority on Tuesday as one of its MPs defected to join the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats. The defection was the opening gambit in an acrimonious debate as British MPs sought to prevent Prime Minister Boris Johnson from taking the U.K. out of the European Union without a deal. Promoted by Phillip Lee sat on the opposition benches the prime minister stood to deliver a statement in the House of Commons and accused the Tories of deliberately using “political manipulation, bullying and lies” to push through its plans on Brexit. The move increases pressure on Johnson, whose majority was already looking shaky, but does not automatically trigger an election because that would require a separate vote. The debate in the House of Commons, presided over by the Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, played out as a battle between those who believed parliament had a solemn duty to intervene to prevent a no-deal Brexit; and those who believed parliament had a solemn duty to ensure Brexit took place without further delay. Both invoked the will of the people and cast themselves as their protectors. MPs hope to force the prime minister to delay Brexit by changing the law to require him to seek an extension from Brussels if no exit deal has been agreed between the U.K. and the EU by next month's European Council meeting. It is expected the government will put forward a motion calling for an election late Tuesday, with a vote Wednesday. This would need the backing of two thirds of MPs to trigger a snap election. “The prime minister has been very clear that should MPs tonight vote to trash the U.K.’s negotiating position, hand power over to the opposition then the next logical step for the prime minister — which he doesn’t want — would be via the Fixed Term Parliaments Act [to call] for an election and then the British public will decide who goes to Brussels to make that decision,” a No. 10 spokesperson said. However, to clear the Commons vote Labour would need to back the motion and the party's position was unclear for much of the day. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly called for an election, but now fears Johnson could set the national poll for a date later than the October 31 Brexit deadline, meaning the U.K. might quit the EU without a deal during the campaign.

British lawmakers win vote to debate bill authorising Brexit delay - MPs voted Tuesday evening to take control of parliament’s business and pursue the passage of a cross-party bill to prevent the Conservative government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson from leaving the European Union (EU) without a trade and customs deal. MPs backed the motion to allow a debate on the bill today by 328 votes to 301, a majority of 27. Twenty-one Tory MPs rebelled despite threats to withdraw the party whip and prevent them from standing for re-election for the party. Responding to the defeat, Johnson said he would table a motion Wednesday for a vote on holding a general election before October 17—the final date that European Union (EU) leaders are able to agree a deal with the UK on its exit terms. The emergency debate went ahead after the Speaker, John Bercow, allowed an application from Oliver Letwin, a fellow Tory Remainer. The bill sponsored by Labour Blairite Hilary Benn would force Johnson to request that the EU agree to delay Brexit until January 31, 2020 unless MPs had approved a new deal, or voted in favour of a no-deal exit, by October 19. It also mandates the EU to dictate further Brexit delays. Benn stated, “If the European Council agrees to an extension to the 31 January 2020, then the Prime Minister must immediately accept that extension. If the European Council proposes an extension to a different date then the Prime Minister must accept that extension within two days, unless the House of Commons rejects it.” Taking control of parliamentary business and passing the bill was the response of the “Rebel Alliance” of opposition parties, led by the Labour Party, to Johnson’s authoritarian move last week to prorogue parliament from September 9, 10 or 11 for five weeks. Johnson did this as opposition MPs made clear they would oppose a no-deal Brexit in this session of parliament. The representatives of the Remain wing of the ruling elite have been plotting how to prevent a no-deal Brexit since Johnson replaced Theresa May as prime minister in July. On Monday evening, Johnson in a televised address from Downing Street reiterated that there were “no circumstances in which I will ask Brussels to delay.” The debate took place in extraordinary circumstances, with the Tories losing their working majority of just one MP—even as Johnson made a statement to Parliament prior to the emergency debate on last week’s G7 Summit. Tory MP and former Justice Minister Phillip Lee crossed the floor of the House to join the Liberal Democrats.

Brexit: Thar She Blows -- Yves Smith -   We did say that Johnson’s plan to prorogue Parliament looked like it would backfire by unifying the opposition. That happened faster than we expected.   Even though Boris Johnson may wind up being the shortest-lived Prime Minister evah, the press coverage on Parliament’s efforts to stop a no-deal Brexit is generally out over its skis.  As most of you know full well, the Government lost its one-seat majority by virtue of the former health minister Phillip Lee, a former health minister, abandoning the Tories to join the Liberal Democrats. The loss turned into a rout as 21 Tory MPs stood up to the Government’s threat to deselect them to support emergency legislation to bar a no-deal Brexit. Perhaps most important is that the revolting Tories have seized control of the Parliamentary agenda. From the Financial Times: Last night’s vote saw the anti-no deal MPs seize control of the Commons order paper, allowing them to bring forward emergency legislation to block no-deal. MPs hope to rush it through all its Commons stages on Wednesday.  The problem is that the claim that the proposed legislation would stop a no-deal Brexit is false. All it does is kick the can down the road yet again. It would require the Prime Minister to seek an extension to January 31 if he had not secured an agreement with the EU by October 19. If the EU offers a different extension, Parliament has the right to reject it.  Johnson threatened to call for a general election, which the press treated as a damp squib, since Parliament has indicted it would not back one without its “no deal” legislation in place. Perhaps I have missed something, but I don’t see this great jab at Johnson as advancing the no Brexit cause as far as enthusiasts would have us believe. The only ways out of a no-deal are still passing the Withdrawal Agreement or revoking Article 50. Will a three month delay that includes the Christmas-New Year holiday change the political dynamic that much, particularly if there’s not been a general election? Despite the bluster, Labour doesn’t want a general election because it would lose too many seats, and on top of that, even though the LibDems would gain, they don’t want to be second fiddle in a Corbyn-led coalition. Vlade gave this take, based on a new HuffPost seat-by-seat analysis: Show Tories losing 6, Labour losing 20 seats. SNP gains 17, LD 9   So even with DUP, Tories would not be able to put together a government (321 seats). But neither could L+LD+SNP+PC+G (320). The only option there would be the discussed “Irish special”, where SF would trigger by-election in its seats allowing a non-partisan candidates stand, which would then mean a broad anti-Tory coalition could be done. But of course, does it solve anything?  No, as if there’s no govt by 31 Oct, who agrees to any EU extension? (the EU offers, the UK agrees, technically EU would hate to offer something that could be turned down, so practically UK asks, EU offers, UK agrees). But what happens if Parliament passes it’s “no no deal now” legislation and Johnson refuses to take the request for an extension to the EU Council in October? Remember only a heads of state participate; Parliament has no standing in that body. Does Parliament then vote through a general election? And what happens then with respect for the needed extension?

U.K. Lawmakers Batter Johnson Again, Defying Him on Brexit and Election - New York Times— Prime Minister Boris Johnson was battered again on Wednesday as lawmakers from his own party and the opposition pressed ahead to stop his plan for leaving the European Union without an agreement — and then turned down his call for an election. By the end of another tumultuous day in Parliament, Mr. Johnson’s government had been shredded by no fewer than three defeats. After opposition and rebel Tory lawmakers seized control of the Brexit process from Mr. Johnson on Tuesday, they doubled down on Wednesday by advancing a bill to block a withdrawal from the European Union without a deal. Then, just hours later, they rejected Mr. Johnson’s request for a snap election, at least until their no-deal Brexit measure becomes the law of the land. Mr. Johnson’s bid for a quick election drew 298 votes in favor, falling well short of the two-thirds needed. Many analysts believe that Mr. Johnson could still get his election soon, but the latest rebuff was a stark indication that he had lost control of Parliament. Sign up for The Interpreter Subscribe for original insights, commentary and discussions on the major news stories of the week, from columnists Max Fisher and Amanda Taub. It was a sobering day for Mr. Johnson, a politician whose bombast and supreme self-confidence finally met a wall of opposition amid a fierce backlash over his decisions to suspend Parliament for five weeks and to expel 21 lawmakers who rebelled against him on Tuesday. And with the purge, he may have fractured his Conservative Party. At the prime minister’s question session on Wednesday, former colleagues launched a barrage of barbs at Mr. Johnson. An opposition lawmaker won sustained applause when he accused the prime minister of voicing racist sentiments in an article he wrote last year. You have 8 free articles remaining. Subscribe to The Times Then members of parliament pressed ahead with a measure designed to prevent him from taking Britain out of the European Union on Oct 31 without a deal. Mr. Johnson lost two votes on that bill as it cleared the House of Commons. It then moved to the House of Lords, where Brexit supporters sought to stall the measure with a filibuster. Members of the unelected House of Lords brought food, drinks and bedding to Westminster in preparation for a session that could run through Thursday. Mr. Johnson insists that, while he wants an agreement with the European Union, he needs a no-deal option as a negotiating lever.

Brexit: Lords agree to push through bill preventing no deal by end of Friday - The House of Lords has voted in favour of getting the Benn bill ruling out a no-deal Brexit through all stages of parliament before it is suspended by Boris Johnson. Around 1.30am on Thursday following late-night debate, peers passed a business motion and were told the bill – which has been passed by rebel Tories and opposition MPs in the Commons – would be returned to the lower house by 5pm on Friday, ruling out the prospect of attempts at a filibuster. It could then be voted on again by MPs on Monday and presented for royal assent, the Lords heard. Peers are set to debate the Benn bill and amendments on Thursday. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, has told Boris Johnson that he will not agree to the prime minister’s request for an early election until the bill receives royal assent. The Benn bill to delay Brexit in order to prevent a no-deal departure - a bill Johnson said would “scupper negotiations” - passed all stages in the Commons on Wednesday. There were fears the bill could have been stalled in the Lords, with Labour peer and leading lawyer Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws accusing the Tory peer Lord True, who submitted a raft of amendments, of time-wasting. The Lords sat until 1.30am on Thursday when the chief whip Lord Ashton of Hydem said all stages of the bill would be completed by 5pm on Friday. “We have also received a commitment from the chief whip in the House of Commons that Commons consideration of any Lords amendments will take place on Monday and it is the government’s intention that the bill be ready for royal assent,” he told peers.

Brexit: a very good day  --Interviewed by ITV's Robert Peston last night, after the turmoil through the day in the Commons, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson had one simple message to deliver. "It's been a very good day", he said.Unavoidably, an irreverent version of certain poem came to mind concerning a boy standing alone upon a burning deck from whence all but he had fled. The explanation for this, in my version of the poem, was that he was the only person there who had no idea what was going on.And that was the odd thing about yesterday. We all know what happened. The political websites of the media are full of it, lovingly spelling out the step-by-step detail as events unfolded.In terms of the sheer wealth of events, the twists and turns, the convolutions and the plots, there has never been anything like it. The political journalists have never had it so good – for them, there has never been a better time to be alive. This was a day about which, in years to come, they will regale their grandchildren.But as to actually what is going on, this is anybody's guess. We have a Bill in progress which Johnson insists on calling Jeremy Corbyn's "surrender bill", aimed at forcing the Johnson's administration to do something he has promised not to do – to ask for a further extension to the Article 50 process. If the Bill was passed by the Commons, Johnson said he would demand a vote on a general election. The Bill did pass, and headed for the Lords where a valiant attempt was in preparation to talk it out. But, good as his word, Johnson called for a vote - which he won on paper by 298 votes to 56 - but didn't get his way as he failed to reach the two-thirds majority required.

Cornered Boris Johnson suffers triple Commons defeat Boris Johnson’s bid to trigger a general election next month has been blocked by MPs following a string of heavy defeats for the government in both houses of parliament. The prime minister was thwarted three times in the House of Commons: an attempt by opposition parties and Tory rebels to block a no-deal Brexit easily cleared its second and third readings, and Johnson later failed in his attempt to force a snap general election. Immediately afterwards, the prime minister called Jeremy Corbyn, “the first leader of the opposition in the democratic history of our country to refuse the invitation to an election”. But an early poll seemed increasingly likely after the Labour leader signalled that he would back Johnson’s call for a snap poll, but only once the bill opposing a no-deal Brexit bill has passed. The vote came just 48 hours after the prime minister told the public, “I don’t want an election, you don’t want an election”. The motion he tabled calling for an early poll was supported by 298 MPs, but that fell well short of the two-thirds required, with Labour MPs whipped to abstain. But Corbyn made clear explicitly that Labour is ready to support a similar motion, once Hilary Benn’s backbench bill to block a no-deal Brexit has received royal assent, which could happen early next week if it is not scuppered by Tory peers. Corbyn told MPs, “we want an election, because we look forward to turfing this government out.” But he claimed Johnson’s proposal for a 15 October poll was, “a bit like the offer of an apple to Snow White by the wicked queen”.

Brexit: Boris Johnson suffers second humiliating defeat in two days as MPs vote to block no-deal The bill to stop Boris Johnson crashing the UK out of the EU without a deal has been passed by MPs, in a further humiliation for the prime minister. The crucial legislation – to force the UK to seek a Brexit delay if no fresh agreement has been struck by 19 October – now heads to the House of Lords for a marathon sitting. Later, the prime minister faces another defeat, when MPs are expected to refuse to grant him the snap election he wants as his escape route from the crisis. The bill was given a third and final reading by 327 votes to 299, a majority of 28 – one fewer than an earlier second reading division. Hilary Benn, its Labour sponsor, immediately urged Mr Johnson not to try to wriggle out of what the Commons had decided, saying: “The House has spoken this evening. “This House expects him to uphold the law and to fulfil the obligations that will be placed upon him to prevent the UK from leaving the European Union on 31 October without a deal.”

Commons chaos: is no deal blocked? Is an election happening? – Q&A:

  • Have MPs now blocked a no-deal Brexit? No – not least because the backbench-launched bill on no deal could only ever obstruct it as an option, not entirely remove it. But the cross-party plan has passed all stages in the Commons, and will now head to the Lords on Thursday. Boris Johnson has maintained his unenviable 100% vote loss record as prime minister, begun on Tuesday night when MPs voted to take control of the agenda and tackle the bill. It passed the second and third readings in a single afternoon, by 327 to 299 and 329 to 300.
  • Was it amended to bring back Theresa May’s plan? Yes – and in yet another curious and dramatic twist, this happened without most MPs immediately knowing how or why. An amendment led by Labour’s Stephen Kinnock, which would resurrect May’s three times-rejected Brexit plan as a possible focus for any extension, looked likely to be defeated in a vote. However, the government did not provide any “tellers”, the MPs who count votes, for their side, the noes. That meant it was passed by default. Whether that was an accident or planned was not clear. However, the amendment did not stop the bill passing the third reading, so MPs seemed unbothered.
  • Is the Lords ready? Yes. After many hours of debate, more than 80 tabled amendments and other delaying tactics by opponents, peers agreed in cross-party talks to return the bill to the Commons by 5pm on Friday. The tortuous process – which did not end until 1.30am on Thursday – was not about the bill itself, just clearing the timetable for it to be heard. But with an in-built majority against no deal in the upper house, passing the bill was less of an obstacle.
  • Are we having a general election or not?   Johnson reacted to Tuesday night’s defeat by promising to call a vote on having an election on 15 October via the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, allowing governments to break the standard five-year period between polls. But under the act, this requires two-thirds or more of MPs to support the measure. Labour and opposition parties mainly abstained. The motion won by 298 votes to 44, nowhere near the 430-plus threshold.

‘Another mad day in Brexitland’: How Europe’s press reported on Boris Johnson’s humiliation in parliament  - Europe’s press has watched on with amazement at the continuing Brexitdrama in Britain. Viewed from abroad, the continent’s papers report Boris Johnson being put in his place by a parliament he tried to defy – fighting for survival after a strategic misstep barely six weeks into office. France’s daily Le Monde newspaper described Tuesday’s events as “another mad day in Brexitland”, writing: “In the space of a few hours, Britain’s new prime minister lost what remained of his majority in the Commons, failed to prevent a major rebellion in his own camp, and lost a crucial battle to no-deal opponents”. In Belgium, French-Language newspaper Le Soir’s editorial is headlined “Hard Brexit, back to reality” – and warns of a “stinging setback” for Mr Johnson. The country’s Dutch-language daily newspaper De Standaard, meanwhile, runs with the headline “Parliament crushes Johnson” and gleefully reproduces a Dutch-subtitled video of John Bercow telling Michael Gove to “be a good boy”. “The threats of Johnson’s political purge and exclusion of the ‘traitors’ from the Conservative Party have served nothing,” writes Italian newspaper La Repubblica. The paper’s London correspondent described strategist Dominic Cummings as “the Rasputin of Johnson’s extremist turn”. Another Italian newspaper, La Stampa describes Tuesday’s events as “one of the most dramatic days in the country since the Second World War”. The Irish Times’ chief political commentator wrote a column ahead of the vote headlined: “Welcome to the United Kingdom of Absurdistan”, which argues that “Britain’s democracy is built on feudalism and its unwritten constitution is feeble”. Another columnist following the defeat declares that Britain needs a history lesson and that it is “time to tell London about our shared history and responsibility”.El País, a Spanish daily newspaper, said the British parliament was not “not impressed with the popularity of Boris Johnson, nor intimidated by his bravado” – accusing the prime minister of “babbling” and ultimately “learning just how fiercely a parliamentary system reacts when its powers are threatened”. Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza notes that the defeat is considered a “humiliation” for the prime minister in the UK and in analysis adds: “The situation is the result of Johnson himself, who at the end of last week led to a sharp aggravation of the political dispute, asking the Queen to suspend the work of parliament for five weeks to prevent parliamentarians from blocking Brexit without an agreement.”

Johnson to say Brexit extension a betrayal of voters British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he would "rather be dead in a ditch" than delay Brexit beyond 31 October, as he urged opposition MPs who oppose his plan to support an early election. MPs in the House of Commons this week passed a bill that could stop Mr Johnson taking Britain out of the EU without a divorce deal with Brussels. But they also rejected his call for a snap election to resolve the political deadlock that has characterised the past three years since the 2016 referendum vote for Brexit. In a speech in northern England, Mr Johnson said "I'd rather be dead in a ditch" than ask the EU for a Brexit delay. "We must come out of the EU on 31 October," the Conservative leader said, just hours after suffering a fresh blow with the resignation of his brother from government. The speech, at a police academy in the city of Wakefield, also saw the apparent collapse of a police cadet standing behind him. The event was intended to be the first step of an election campaign, before MPs rejected the poll in a vote on Wednesday night. The vote left Mr Johnson in limbo, his Brexit plan in tatters but with no way out after his parliamentary majority was destroyed by a Conservative party rebellion over the issue. As a result, his government announced it would try again to force an election with a House of Commons vote on Monday, and he challenged the opposition Labour party to back it.

Eton College exam question asking students to justify the Army killing protesters resurfaces --An Eton College entrance examination question asking students to justify the Army killing protesters has resurfaced.The paper, from the 2011 King’s Scholarship Examination, imagines riots on the streets of London in 2040 after an oil crisis in the Middle East causes Britain to run out of petrol.In the scenario, the government deploys the army to stop the riots and succeeds - killing 25 protesters in the process of subduing the discontent.The prospective students of Eton are then asked to imagine they are the prime minister and write a speech to explain how they would convince the public that they did the right thing.  The full question goes: The year is 2040. There have been riots in the streets of London after Britain has run out of petrol because of an oil crisis in the Middle East. Protesters have attacked public buildings. Several policemen have died. Consequently, the Government has deployed the Army to curb the protests. After two days the protests have been stopped but twenty-five protesters have been killed by the Army. You are the Prime Minister. Write the script for a speech to be broadcast to the nation in which you explain why employing the Army against violent protesters was the only option available to you and one which was both necessary and moral. If you’re thinking “There’s no way that’s real…”, you can check for yourself on Eton College’s website. You can find the paper here as “General Paper 1” in the 2011 section. It’s also worth noting that the King’s Scholarship is for students between the age of 13 and 14, according to the college’s website. So Eton appears to have asked young boys how to justify police brutality against the general public… As you’d expected, people were amazed to find such a perfect example of what's wrong with one of Britain's most elite private schools.

Peaceful Iceland amazed at weapons in Pence security detail (AP) — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s arrival in Iceland with military jets and armed personnel set eyes popping Wednesday in a nation consistently ranked as the world’s most peaceful. The size and standards of the vice president’s security detail also required adjustments. The guards protecting Pence got backup from a police force that only allows elite “Viking SWAT” members carry guns. Icelandic authorities gave U.S. personnel special permission to carry firearms. Bomb-sniffing dogs were cleared to enter the country because of a strict quarantine for imported animals. Pence is the first U.S. vice president to visit Iceland, a country of just 350,000 people, since George H.W. Bush came to Reykjavik in 1983. The Reykjavik Metropolitan Police requested backup from police stations in neighboring towns and villages to meet U.S. manpower standards. “This is incredibly expensive,” Police Chief Asgeir Asgeirsson told the Morgunbladid daily newspaper. Before Pence’s arrival, U.S. Secret Service personnel spent weeks scouting locations. Icelandic President Gudni Th. Johannesson travels unaccompanied on private errands and is often spotted in a geothermal bath popular with locals. All the moving parts required for the vice president’s safety tied up transportation in the capital. Police closed off main roads to accommodate the convoy that drove from the airport to Reykjavik. Drivers lamented the traffic on social media. Satirical newspaper Fréttirnar mocked that “Americans intended to give every Reykjavik citizen a paralyzing drug during Pence’s visit.” Helicopters hovered over the government building where Pence met with Icelandic eland’s officials as snipers perched on neighboring rooftops. Ahead of Pence’s arrival, three CV-22B Osprey flew over southwestern Iceland, along with two C-130 Hercules and one Lockheed C-5 Galaxy.

Mike Pence accused of humiliating hosts in Ireland: 'He shat on the carpet' -- Missteps during Mike Pence’s visit to Ireland that included controversial praise of the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, have led to accusations of betrayaland “humiliation”. One Irish Times columnist concluded that the vice-president, a “much-anticipated visitor”, turned out to have “shat on the … carpet”.  Pence’s problems started with his decision to stay for two nights at Donald Trump’s golf resort in Doonbeg, County Clare, more than 140 miles from Dublin, necessitating costly and logistically complex travel. The move quickly drew fire from ethics experts and political rivals.  The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, called Trump’s properties a “cesspool of corruption” and accused the president of “prioritizing his profits over the interests of the American people”. “Pence is just the latest Republican elected official to enable President Trump’s violations of the constitution,” she said. A spokesman for the vice-president said the decision was partly based on the president’s suggestion Pence stay there, and partly on secret service concerns about costs and logistics. Questioned about the decision on Wednesday, Trump claimed he had “no involvement, other than it’s a great place”. But that was only the start of the controversy. The Irish Times columnist Miriam Lord responded to a tense meeting between the vice-president and the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, in which Pence urged the republic to protect the “United Kingdom’s sovereignty”. That Varadkar is gay and Pence a past champion of anti-LGBTQ legislation in Indiana also caused widespread comment.Pence laid on platitudes about being “deeply humbled” and “honoured” to be visiting Doonbeg, the home of his mother’s grandmother. But in Dublin he offered his hosts a clear lesson in his administration’s political priorities.“Let me be clear: the US supports the UK decision to leave the EU in Brexit,” Pence told Varadkar in a prepared statement. “But we also recognise the unique challenges on your northern border. And I can assure you we will continue to encourage the United Kingdom and Ireland to ensure that any Brexit respects the Good Friday agreement.”  Among media responses, Irish Central asked: “Did VP Pence betray Ireland in his Brexit comments during Irish trip?”

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