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

Saturday, October 12, 2019

week ending Oct 12

Fed Extends Repos Until Nov 4; Dealers Brace for $193 Billion in Treasury Sales - The Federal Reserve will extend its cash injections into overnight lending markets for at least another month, after pumping in more than $330 billion since mid-September, as banks face a wave of Treasury bond sales this week amid a near-record budget deficit and ongoing concern over the strength of the world's biggest economy. The New York Fed said Friday it will extend its overnight repo operations until at least November 4, after earlier signalling they could end on October 10, as part of its broader effort to ease funding conditions in overnight lending markets and bring costs closer to its new Fed Funds target rate of 1.75% to 2.0%. A series of eight "term-repos", or lending operations that inject cash for longer periods of time, will also be conducted between now and November 4. "While the Fed was ultimately able to stabilize repo dollar funding rates through ad-hoc funding infusions, further repo market volatility could exacerbate global liquidity issues, potentially extending to other asset classes and players beyond the U.S. repo market," Fitch Ratings said in a report late last week. "Thus far, the effects of the recent repo pricing volatility appear de minimis to these U.S. borrowers," Fitch added. "However, continued illiquidity issues leading to higher or more volatile borrowing costs would be viewed negatively from a credit perspective and could lead to ramifications more globally." Since September 17, the Fed has conducted dozens of overnight repo operations, in which the central bank offers cash in exchange for eligible collateral such as Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities, from the twenty four so-called primary dealers in its banking system. The $2.2 trillion repo market, a key source of day-to-day financing on Wall Street, was rocked by a massive spike in overnight borrowing costs -- which spiked to 10% on the same day the Fed stepped in with its mid-September operation -- linked to a series of events, including quarterly tax remittances, which drained money market funds, and record Treasury bond issuance.

Dollar Shortage Returns As Repo Usage Rises To Highest In A Week, - One workday after the NY Fed took down only $38.55BN in collateral in its latest overnight repo operation, the funding market appears to again be getting tighter, and as the term repos are set to mature in the coming days, on Monday morning the NY Fed announced that it had accepted $47.05BN in collateral in its latest repo op, consisting of $36BN in TSYs and $11.05BN in MBS. And even though quarter end is long behind us - and traders are starting to worry about the upcoming year end, which back in 2018 caused a mini explosion in repo rates - this was the third consecutive increase in repo op usage, the highest in a week and the second highest since the start of the month. Of course, on Friday the Fed itself hinted that the funding shortage persists when it announced that not only will it continue $75 billion overnight repo operations until at least November 4, effectively making the "temporary" repo operation into a permanent funding fixture, but also announced 8 term repo operations starting tomorrow and continuing through Oct 29, sized between $35BN and $45BN. In short: don't expect any normalization in the funding market at least until such time as the Fed announced POMO/QE4 at which point the question will be just how much does the Fed's balance sheet have to expand by.

The Repo Market Incident May Be The Tip Of The Iceberg -- The Federal Reserve has injected $278 billion into the securities repurchase market for the first time. Numerous justifications have been provided to explain why this has happened and, more importantly, why it lasted for various days. The first explanation was quite simplistic: an unexpected tax payment. This made no sense. If there is ample liquidity and investors are happy to take financing positions at negative rates all over the world, the abrupt rise in repo rates would simply vanish in a few hours. Let us start with definitions. The repo market is where borrowers seeking cash offer lenders collateral in the form of safe securities.  Repo rates are the interest rate paid to borrow cash in exchange for Treasuries for 24 hours.Sudden bursts in the repo lending market are not unusual. What is unusual is that it takes days to normalize and even more unusual to see that the Federal Reserve needs to inject hundreds of billions in a few days to offset the unstoppable rise in short-term rates.Because liquidity is ample, thirst for yield is enormous and financial players are financially more solvent than years ago, right? Wrong.What the Repo Market Crisis shows us is that liquidity is substantially lower than what the Federal Reserve believes, that fear of contagion and rising risk are evident in the weakest link of the financial repression machine (the overnight market) and, more importantly, that liquidity providers probably have significantly more leverage than many expected.  In summary, the ongoing -and likely to return- burst in the repo market is telling us that risk and debt accumulation are much higher than estimated. Central banks believed they could create a Tsunami of liquidity and manage the waves. However, like those children’s toys where you press one block and another one rises, the repo market is showing us a symptom of debt saturation and massive risk accumulation.

Fed Chair Powell Announces QE4... But Don't Call It QE4 - Fed Chair Powell appears to have announced QE4 (but do not call it QE4!):Discussing the liquidity shortage and repo-calypse, Powell said: While a range of factors may have contributed to these developments, it is clear that without a sufficient quantity of reserves in the banking system, even routine increases in funding pressures can lead to outsized movements in money market interest rates. This volatility can impede the effective implementation of monetary policy, and we are addressing it. Indeed, my colleagues and I will soon announce measures to add to the supply of reserves over time.Consistent with a decision we made in January, our goal is to provide an ample supply of reserves to ensure that control of the federal funds rate and other short-term interest rates is exercised primarily by setting our administered rates and not through frequent market interventions. Of course, we will not hesitate to conduct temporary operations if needed to foster trading in the federal funds market at rates within the target range...."I want to emphasize that growth of our balance sheet for reserve management purposes should in no way be confused with the large-scale asset purchase programs that we deployed after the financial crisis.Neither the recent technical issues nor the purchases of Treasury bills we are contemplating to resolve them should materially affect the stance of monetary policy..." Roughly translated: Don't confuse balance sheet growth for "reserve management" with balance sheet growth for "stock market management" None of this should come as a surprise as we warned in September that "The Fed Will Restart QE In November: This Is How It Will Do It."...In the chart below, Goldman summarizes its projections of the Fed’s future gross Treasury purchases. The blue bars show reinvestment of maturing UST, which occur via add-on Treasury auctions. The red bars show reinvestment of maturing MBS, which occur via the secondary market.The grey bars are where things get fun as they show permanent OMOs to support trend growth of the Fed’s balance sheet, which will occur via intervention of the Fed's markets desk in the secondary market.Here, similar to Bank of America, Goldman assumes a roughly $15bn/month rate of permanent OMOs, enough to support trend growth of the balance sheet plus some additional padding over the first two years to increase the size of thebalance sheet by $150bn, restoring the reserve buffer and eliminating the current need for temporary OMOs.That strategy would result in balance sheet growth of roughly $180bn/year and net UST purchases by the Fed (the sum of the red and grey bars) of roughly $375bn/year over the next couple of years.

Fed Announces QE4 One Day After BIS Warns QE Has Broken The Market (see graphics) Following Fed Chair Powell's surprising announcement today that the Fed was resuming Permanent Open Market Operations after a 5 year hiatus, just as we said last month that it would (see "The Fed Will Restart QE In November: This Is How It Will Do It")...  ...  there was a brief debate whether the Fed's soon to be permanent expansion in its balance sheet is QE or not QE. The answer to this semantic debate simple: Powell defined Quantitative Tightening as removing reserves from the system. Thus, by that simple definition, adding reserves to the system on a permanent basis via permanent open market operations, i.e., bond purchases, is Quantitative Easing. Incidentally, the repo market fireworks were just a smokescreen: the real reason why the Fed is resuming QE is far simpler: the US has facing an avalanche of debt issuance and with China and Japan barely able to keep up, someone has to buy this debt. That someone: the Fed.  And just to shut up anyone who still wants to call the upcoming $400BN expansion in the Fed's balance sheet, as represented in the following chart by Goldman... ... QE-Lite, here is JPMorgan comparing what is coming with what has been: at a $21BN in monthly 10Yr equivalent TSY purchases, the "upcoming" operation is the same size as QE1.  Yet semantic bullshit aside, what is most infuriating about Powell's "shocking" announcement (which we previewed a few weeks ago) is that it took place just one day after the central banks' central bank, the Bank of International Settlements, finally caught up with what we first said in 2009 - for economists being only 10 years behind the curve is actually not terrible - and wrote that "the unprecedented growth in central banks’ balance sheets since the financial crisis has had a negative impact on the way in which financial markets function."  Ignoring the fact that central bank policies are responsible for such phenomena as Brexit and Trump, as it is the flawed monetary policy of the past decade that made the rich richer beyond their wildest dreams by expanding the biggest asset bubble in history, while destroying the middle class...  ... it is disgusting that even as the Fed's own supervisor admits that its balance sheet expanding policies have broken the market - something this "tinfoil" conspiracy blog has been saying since 2008 - the Fed is doing even more of the same, ensuring that the market will be more broken than ever! So what was this startling epiphany? According to the BIS, while the immediate impact of this massive balance sheet expansion had eased the severe market strains created by the 2008 financial crisis, there had been several negative side-effects. These included a scarcity of bonds available for investors to purchase, squeezed liquidity in some markets, higher levels of bank reserves and fewer market operators actively trading in some areas. In short: last month's repo crisis is a direct consequence of central banks' own actions. as Scott Skyrm explained earlier.

US Fed announces return to asset purchases - The US Federal Reserve will shortly resume purchases of short-term Treasury bonds in order to try to quell the turbulence that impacted a significant area of financial markets last month and threatened to cause longer-term problems. The move, which was foreshadowed in a speech by Fed chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday, has been taken in response to a marked spike in interest rates in the overnight “repo” markets. The market is one where banks and investors obtain overnight cash from the short-term money market to close off their books for the day in exchange for Treasuries and other high-quality collateral. Normally the market operates with little disturbance, but on September 16 and 17 the “repo” rate jumped to as high as 10 percent. This prompted an intervention from the New York Federal Reserve, responsible for controlling this market, making purchases of up to $100 billion worth of Treasury debt in order to restore stability. The measures brought the overnight rate down to the more normal level of around 1.8 percent, but in the absence of any official explanation for the spike, there were fears that the problem could emerge again without any long-term intervention. Announcing the decision at a speech in Denver, Powell said the new measures were not a return to quantitative easing—the purchase of long-term debt by the Fed following the financial crisis of 2008—because they were aimed at facilitating short-term financial operations, not at providing a financial stimulus. “I want to emphasise that growth of our balance sheet for reserve management purposes should in no way be confused with the large-scale asset purchase programs that we deployed after the financial crisis,” he told the annual meeting of the National Association of Business Economists. But the two issues are related. After the Fed began to reduce its balance sheet following the end of its quantitative easing program in an attempt to return to a more “normal” monetary policy, the cash reserves held by major banks started to fall as well. It was anticipated that there would still be sufficient reserves within the system to ensure the smooth functioning of the “repo” market.

 Fed’s Powell Admits a Bigger Bailout for Wall Street Is Coming; Fed’s Balance Sheet Ballooned by $176 Billion Since September -  Pam Martens -Yesterday, at a speaking event in Denver at the National Association of Business Economists, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell acknowledged that a larger, long-term bailout of Wall Street is coming. His two key points were buried in a subterfuge of puffery but came across loud and clear: “…my colleagues and I will soon announce measures to add to the supply of reserves over time.” And this: “As we indicated in our March statement on balance sheet normalization, at some point, we will begin increasing our securities holdings to maintain an appropriate level of reserves. That time is now upon us.”Let that final statement sink in for a moment. Under the previous Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen, balance sheet normalization at the Federal Reserve meant reducingthe Fed’s unprecedented $4.5 trillion balance sheet to get back to something near pre-crisis levels. Under Powell, normalization now means increasing the Fed’s balance sheet to as yet undefined heights.The Fed’s balance sheet had been bloated to the unprecedented level of $4.5 trillion by buying up bonds from Wall Street’s teetering banks during the financial crisis. The Fed likes to give its Wall Street bailouts fancy names to disguise their real purpose. This one was called Quantitative Easing or QE. From November 2008 until October 2014, the Fed deployed three rounds of QE – QE1, QE2 and QE3. The final one was known on Wall Street as QE-Infinity since it appeared to be open-ended.  On January 7, 2008, the Fed’s balance sheet stood at $881 billion. By 2015 and three rounds of QE it had spiraled out of control to $4.5 trillion. Yellen started her normalization program to shrink the Fed’s balance sheet in October 2017 by eliminating rolling over the Fed’s maturing Treasury securities and principal payments on agency mortgage-backed securities that the Fed had bought up from Wall Street banks. Powell’s Federal Reserve stopped that runoff this past August. The Fed is back to reinvesting its maturing bonds into new bonds to once again balloon its balance sheet.On top of that, beginning on September 17 of this year, the Fed has been funneling hundreds of billions of dollars a week in revolving loans to Wall Street securities firms (primary dealers) by intervening in the repurchase agreement (repo) market. Between September 11 and September 30, the Fed’s balance sheet has exploded by $176 billion – in just 19 days – to a total of $3.9 trillion. (See graph below from the Federal Reserve.)

FOMC Minutes Signal Governors Divided Over When To End Policy-Easing -- Having cut rates (as expected) and suffered dissents (2 hawkish, 1 dovish) at the September FOMC meeting, things have not gone exactly as planned for Mr. Powell and his pals. Stocks are weaker, the dollar is stronger, gold is flat (so they'll be happy, but remember the Golden Week seasonals), and the long-bond is ripping higher (in price)... And The Fed rate-cut appears to have perfectly top-ticked US Macro data also... Since The Fed cut rates in September, the market has shifted to demanding more, now pricing in 1.4 more rate-cuts by year-end, considerably more dovish than the 0.8 rate-cuts on the day they actually cut in September... But, as far as buying insurance for a worsening trade outlook, The Fed's timing was good... And don't forget that the Fed's balance sheet has started to re-inflate (NotQE)... And its liquidity bailouts have not stopped... As Bloomberg Economics noted: "A core focus in the meeting minutes will be to better assess not only the firmness of officials’ resolve to avoid substantial additional accommodation, but also the conditions which would lead them to potentially reconsider." So, under the hood, what is it that The Fed's tightly narrative-controlled Minutes wants us to understand (bearing in mind, of course, that Powell unveiled NotQE yesterday). Most notably, The Fed appears more divided than was assumed, and definitely have a more hawkish tilt to them - fearful of the market wanting more at a time when the economy/inflation does not necessarily need them is a notable discussion. Several participants cited considerations that led them to be concerned about financial stability, including low risk spreads and a buildup of corporate debt, corporate stock buybacks financed through low-cost leverage, and the pace of lending in the CRE market. Some participants judged that a prolonged inversion of the yield curve could be a matter of concern. Participants also noted that equity prices had exhibited volatility but had been largely flat, on balance, over the intermeeting period. As Bloomberg's Steve Matthews points out, "A few" - more than a couple but not a majority - thought the FOMC may need to push back against market expectations. And "several" - again, probably less than half - wanted the post-meeting statement to have more clarity about when the policy adjustments would likely come to an end. This part of the minutes is obviously somewhat hawkish: There is a good part of the committee feeling anxious about where things are headed and when this will end.

In the Midst of a Liquidity Crisis, the Fed Rolls Back Liquidity Requirements at Banks --Pam Martens --There was an outcry in Washington yesterday over the latest move by the Federal Reserve. While the New York Fed is pumping hundreds of billions of dollars each week into Wall Street because of a liquidity crisis, the Washington, D.C. based central bank, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, just changed its rules to lessen liquidity buffers at banks and rolled back other critical safeguards. The response from Gregg Gelzinis, policy analyst for Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress was swift. He released the following statement:“Today, the Federal Reserve eroded several critical banking protections put in place following the 2007-2008 financial crisis, further putting the economy at risk. The final rule threatens the safety and soundness of the banking system from multiple angles. Reducing the stringency of bank capital requirements, liquidity rules, and stress testing makes large bank failures more likely—while watering down living wills requirements magnifies the economic devastation caused by such failures.“The beneficiaries of these rollbacks are not small firms. Domestic regional banks, the U.S. operations of foreign megabanks, and even Wall Street banks all enjoy various levels of deregulation in this package… “When unchecked risk-taking leads to instability in the financial system, the pain will be felt by working families and taxpayers.”Federal Reserve Board Governor Lael Brainard strongly opposed the rule changes and released a detailed statement which noted the following:“The LCR [Liquidity Coverage Ratio] was designed as a baseline requirement appropriate for all large banking firms that is already tailored to bank size and business model, and the compliance burden is relatively low. Although S.2155 does not require us to weaken this critical post-crisis safeguard for large banks, for domestic banks in the $250 to $700 billion size range, who account for $1.5 trillion in assets overall, today’s rule will reduce the LCR requirement by 15 percent or $34 billion. For domestic banks in the $100 to $250 billion size range, who account for $1.9 trillion in assets overall, today’s rule would eliminate entirely their current modified LCR requirement, a reduction of the LCR requirement by $167 billion.” Despite the Federal Reserve’s highly publicized listening tour around America, it continues to feel like the nation’s central bank is deaf to the opinions of the taxpayers who were forced to bail out its hubris in the last financial collapse.

We're still taking better care of banks than people – Jared Bernstein - There's got to be some despairing people thinking: "I wish I were the repo market because then policymakers would help me the minute I needed help."  A few weeks ago, the “repo market,” an obscure but important corner of financial markets, experienced a significant disturbance. The Federal Reserve, tasked with managing the plumbing of this part of the system, jumped in and fixed the problem quickly and effectively. That’s all good, but a question that has lingered since the Great Recession and bank bailouts of 2009: Why do we immediately throw whatever it takes at banks and credit markets when something goes wrong but too often fail to reflect the same urgency when regular people are hurting economically? And what can be done to bring some balance to this picture? The repo — short for “repurchase” — market exists to ensure there’s enough liquidity in the system so that investors who have their cash tied up elsewhere can still quickly and cheaply borrow what they need to execute trades. In the repo market, an investment bank that needs a quick, temporary jolt of cash can borrow it by doing two things. First, it can put up safe collateral, such as treasury bills. Second, it can promise to repurchase those bills back at a slightly higher price very soon — as soon as the next day. The difference between the two prices is the repo rate (1.8 percent as of this writing). What happened in September was that lenders in the repo market were themselves short of cash, and thus the daily repo rate more than doubled. Starting the next day, the Federal Reserve injected (through loans) tens of billions into the system and things appear to have settled down (repo market volumes are typically north of a trillion dollars per day). The disruption, in other words, was a temporary problem of clogged pipes, not a long-term, structural deficiency. There are progressives who bridle at any sort of bank bailout, but I’m not one of them. Frozen, or even lastingly clogged, credit flows are the stuff of recessions, and it’s not the bankers who get hurt in downturns. But this incident still gave me pause. I marveled at the speed with which the Fed has thus far injected over $200 billion — close to 1 percent of GDP — of bank reserves, enough to quickly get the repo rate back down to where officials wanted it. It’s good that the Fed can rescue credit markets serving high finance. But where’s the urgency for Congress and state legislatures to help people stuck in failing labor markets?

Market may be expecting more rate cuts than the Fed will deliver, meeting minutes show - Some Federal Reserve policymakers expressed concern at their most recent meeting that markets are expecting more rate cuts than the central bank intends to deliver, according to minutes released Wednesday. The Federal Open Market Committee approved a quarter-point rate cut at the Sept. 17-18 meeting, putting the overnight funds rate in a target range of 1.75% to 2%. But documents released after the meeting also showed sharp divisions among members about the future path of policy. Minutes amplified those concerns, along with some worry that a market clamoring for easier monetary policy might be getting ahead of itself. The summary said that “a few participants” at the September meeting said prices in futures markets “were currently suggesting greater provision of accommodation at coming meetings than they saw as appropriate.” As things stand, markets are heavily betting that the Fed will follow up its rate cuts of July and September with another in October. Markets also see more reductions on the way in 2020. Because of the potential misunderstanding, “it might become necessary for the Committee to seek a better alignment of market expectations regarding the policy rate path with policymakers’ own expectations for that path,” the minutes said.In addition, the minutes noted that “several” participants thought the committee, in its post-meeting statement, should provide some guidance as to how long the Fed would remain accommodative due to concerns over tariffs. The final statement did not include that type of language. 

Fed Takes $31 Billion Securities In Overnight Repo As Not A QE Looms -- The NY Fed announced that it accepted $30.8BN in securities ($26.25BN in TSYs and $4.550BN in MBS) in its latest overnight repo operation, shortly after the latest overnight G/C repo rate printed at an "unstressed" 1.90% this morning. This was down from Tuesday's $37.5BN and was the lowest repo allotment since Sept 27. Of course, after Tuesday's speech in which Powell preannounced the return of POMOs, confirming that these "temporary" operations are set to become "not temporary" as the Fed grows permanently grows its balance sheet by purchases of Treasurys, reportedly Bills at first, the overnight POMO has now become just a placeholder until November when the new "not a QE" is set to begin and expand the Fed's balance sheet by about $20BN in 10 Year equivalents every month. As such, predictably the stress in the repo market is now effectively gone and the only question is what the final framework of the new POMO will look like, and specifically what the Fed will announce how many Treasuries the Fed will have to buy. But wait, didn't Powell say not to confuse what is coming with QE? Alas, as we first explained and then as Capital Economics confirmed, the Federal Reserve "will struggle to convince markets that a resumption of Treasury purchases to avoid future money-market turmoil is not another round of quantitative easing" according to Capital Economics chief U.S. economist Paul Ashworth: "Hard to communicate that effectively when the Fed’s organic balance sheet growth will be half the size of the ECB’s newly unveiled QE," Ashworth wrote in note Tuesday According to CapEcon, the Fed will need to buy $120b of additional Treasury securities per year to prevent any further decline in reserve balances. On top of that, Fed could also buy another $100b-$300b of Treasury securities in first year, to avoid mismatch of demand/supply in repo market like mid-September’s.

The Fed is extending its overnight funding operations through January 2020 - The Federal Reserve will be continuing its overnight funding operations through at least January and will buy Treasury bills through the second quarter of 2020, the central bank announced Friday. Following a disruption in short-term lending markets in mid-September that sent interest rates soaring, the Fed begin conducting its own operations to provide financial institutions with cash in exchange for ultra-safe assets like government bonds. Most recently, the Fed said the repo operation continue to Nov. 4. Friday’s announcement extends the Treasury bill purchases through the beginning of the year. The announcement comes as Chairman Jerome Powell also said that the Fed will be expanding the size of its balance sheet through further short-term T-bill purchases. Fed officials met by video conference on Oct. 4 to discuss “issues related to the recent pressures in money markets and monetary policy implementation,” according to a news release. Documents from the central bank state the overnight repurchase operations “at least through January” and will be buying T-bills “at least into the second quarter of next year.”

Repo Market Liquidity Unexpectedly Deteriorates As Funding Shortage Surges 35% - While the market has by now fully priced in that the Fed will resume "NOT A QE", i.e. POMOs, i.e., BS-expanding Treasury Purchases as soon as the October FOMC (but more likely November), with Bank of America writing today that the Fed needs a "bazooka of asset purchases," estimating that the central bank needs to add about $300BN of reserves to return to an "abundant’ level", and Goldman predicting that the Fed will unleash no less than $60BN in POMO for the first 4 month of "NOT A QE"... ... as it seeks to rapidly blow out its balance sheet to avoid any more repo tremors of the kind observed in September that sent the overnight G/C repo rate to 9.25%, there was a modest hiccup in this best laid plan this morning, when the New York Fed unexpectedly announced that use of its overnight repo facility surged by 35% in one day, with $61.55BN in securities submitted ($58.35BN in TSYs, $3.2BN in MBS) to today's op, up sharply from yesterday's $45.5BN While it could have been worse - the $75BN facility was not oversubscribed - it could have been better, as Wall Street indicated that the funding/reserve shortage spiked to the highest level since Sept 30, when $63.5BN in securities were submitted to the O/N repo facility. Separately, the Fed also announced that in today's 6-day Term Repo, $21.15BN in securities were submitted, or half the uptake in yesterday's 14-day repo. What to make of this? Well, with Wall Street now more than aware that the Fed will do everything it needs to to address the ongoing funding squeeze in the repo market, which in itself should be sufficient to ease the stress in overnight funding, this has so far failed to materialize. Worse, investors are becoming increasingly concerned that even with "NOT A QE", year end could see even more dramatic repo market fireworks than those observed on December 31, 2018. In such a case, with the Fed literally throwing the "NOT A QE" kitchen sink at the problem, and the problem failing to go away, just how will Powell preserve the illusion that he knows what is causing the broken plumbing in the repo market if the Fed can's unclog it even when using its "bazooka." We will find out soon enough.

Economists lower outlook, see rising risk of recession because of Trump’s trade war - The risk of a recession is rising, and the main threat to the economy is the Trump administration’s trade war, according to a survey released Monday by the National Association for Business Economics. “The rise in protectionism, pervasive trade policy uncertainty, and slower global growth are considered key downside risks to U.S. economic activity,” said NABE survey chairman Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist, Oxford Economics. A small majority of the Washington-based association of business economists also expects that the Federal Reserve will remain on hold through 2019, while 40% of the group saying they expect at least one more rate cut this year. The results of the survey, conducted the week of Sept. 9-16, come as many analysts see warning signs in the latest U.S. economic indicators, including a plunge in manufacturing activity to more than a 10-year low in September and a sharp slowdown in service-industry growth to levels last seen in 2016. Those reports last week heightened fears the economy may be flirting with a recession. Four in 5 of the 54 NABE economists surveyed said the economy is at risk of slowing further, up from the 60% who said so in June. In their latest survey, NABE panelists said they expect real gross domestic product will continue to expand at an average rate of 2.3% this year but will slow to 1.8% in 2020. That’s weaker than the group’s last forecast in June. The panel also expects industrial production to slow sharply from 4% in 2018 to just 0.9% in 2019. That represents a big downward revision from the previous estimate of 2.4% in the June survey. And the group expects corporate profits to grow just 1.7% this year, down sharply from the 4.6% forecast in June. Rising pessimism about corporate profits and a wider economic slowdown have rattled the stock market. Last week, Wall Street’s main indexes suffered big one-day drops after employment and manufacturing data suggested that the U.S.-China trade war is taking an increasing toll on the U.S. economy. Adding to those trade concerns, the Trump administration won approval Wednesday to slap import tariffs on $7.5 billion worth of European goods, threatening a further escalation of the trade war instigated by the White House 15 months ago.

Bob Shiller Warns Blooming Of Recession Narrative Will Doom Trump - A recession would doom President Trump’s reelection chances, according to Robert Shiller. But he said the chance of that happening before next November is less than 50%.  Shiller is a professor of economics at Yale University and a co-recipient of the 2013 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He spoke to advisors via a conference call that was sponsored by Barclays Investments. Barclays offers a number of index investment products based on Shiller’s cyclically-adjusted price-to-earnings (CAPE) ratio. Shiller’s political prediction is built on his work on narratives, which is the focus of his next and 13th book, Narrative Economics, available through the link on this page.The Trump narrative goes back 50 years, Shiller said, to when he began in the real estate industry. Trump knows that a recession doesn’t fit in to his theme of “make America great again.” There is enough evidence that recessions are bad news for incumbent presidents, he said.“A recession will spell the end of the Trump presidency,” Shiller said.But those who wish for a different president might not be as enthused by Shiller’s comments on the CAPE ratio. That ratio is at a historically high level (almost 30 in the U.S.) in part because of the Trump narrative, Shiller said. “Even those who don’t like him are inspired by his tough business attitude.” The Trump narrative has a powerful impact on growth stocks. A value narrative requires, “holding back from enthusiasm and buying boring stocks,” Shiller said. But the spirit of our times is not a value-investing spirit. “It’s much more fun to go to a Trump rally and invest in stocks that have a great story,” he said, “than to pull back on stocks.”

Q3 GDP Forecast: Just Undex 2% - From Merrill Lynch: Misses in construction spending and trade coupled with negative revisions to capex data sliced 0.3pp from 3Q GDP tracking this week, leaving us at 1.6% qoq saar. [Oct 11 estimate]  From the NY Fed Nowcasting Report:   The New York Fed Staff Nowcast stands at 2.0% for 2019:Q3 and 1.3% for 2019:Q4. [Oct 11 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 1.7 percent on October 9, down from 1.8 percent on October 4. [Oct 9 estimate]  CR Note: These estimates suggest real GDP growth will be just under 2.0% annualized in Q3.

Would you give up Google for $17,000 a year? The Federal Reserve wants to know — The Federal Reserve wants to know what the internet is worth to you. The answer could help the central bank solve one of the most puzzling paradoxes of the modern economy: The current expansion is the longest in history, yet productivity gains are weak and GDP growth, while steady, is far from stellar. In a speech this week, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell raised the possibility that the problem is with the data itself. GDP measures the value of products and services that are bought and sold. But many of the greatest technological innovations of the internet age are free. Search engines, e-mail, GPS, even Facebook — the official economic statistics are not designed to capture the benefits they generate for businesses and consumers. “Good decisions require good data, but the data in hand are seldom as good as we would like,” Powell said. Instead, Powell cited recent work by MIT economist Erik Brynjolfsson, one of the leading academics on the intersection of technology and the economy. In a paper with Avinash Collis of the National Bureau of Economic Research and Felix Eggers of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, the authors conducted massive surveys to estimate the monetary value that users place on the tools of modern life. The results? The median user would need about $48 to give up Facebook for one month. The median price of giving up video streaming services like YouTube for a year is $1,173. To stop using search engines, consumers would need a median $17,530, making it the most valuable digital service. The authors also conducted more limited surveys with students in Europe on other popular platforms. One month of Snapchat was valued at about 2.17 euros. LinkedIn was just 1.52 euros. But giving up WhatsApp? That would require a whopping 536 euros. Twitter, however, was valued at zero euros.

Federal deficit estimated at $984B, highest in seven years - The federal budget deficit for 2019 is estimated at $984 billion, a hefty 4.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and the highest since 2012, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said on Monday.The difference between federal spending and revenue has only ever exceeded $1 trillion four times, in the period immediately following the global financial crisis.The deficit, which has grown every year since 2015, is $205 billion higher than it was in 2018, a jump of 26 percent.The CBO has warned that the nation's debt is on an unsustainable path. Higher levels of debt increase borrowing costs, make it harder for the government to battle economic downturns and increase the share of future spending devoted to paying off interest costs.Since President Trump took office, the GOP has passed a massive tax cut package that reduced revenue, while Democrats and Republicans have agreed to increase spending year after year.Budget watchers note that the main drivers of the deficit, however, come from automatic spending programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid."Democrats and Republicans must be held responsible for the outrageous deficit reported today by the CBO," said Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs at the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks."This unsustainable situation is only going to get worse," he added.  The final Treasury Department figures for the fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, will be published later this month and could include worse news.

 Billionaires paid lower tax rate than working class for first time in US history: study - Billionaires paid less in taxes than the working class last year for the first time in U.S. history, a study found. Economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman found in their book-length study "The Triumph of Injustice" that the average tax rate paid by the richest 400 families in the country was lower than the rate paid by the bottom half of American households in 2018, The Washington Post reported. The wealthiest 400 families had a 23 percent tax rate, compared to the bottom half of households, which had a 24.2 percent tax rate. The richest 400 families had a 47 percent tax rate in 1980 and a 56 percent tax rate in 1960, while the working class's tax rate has remained relatively stable, according to the Post. Saez and Zucman, economists at the University of California at Berkeley, analyzed Americans' effective tax rates since the 1960s, including federal income taxes, corporate taxes, state and local taxes, and "indirect taxes," which refer to licenses for businesses and motor vehicles, the Post reported. The economists decided to examine the top 400 families because they have more money than the bottom 60 percent of households. Some economists have criticized the study, which is based in part on their previous work alongside noted economist Thomas Piketty, which they say overestimates the wealth disparity in the country. Jason Furman, an economist at Harvard, told the Post that the study is misleading because it doesn't include refundable tax credits, thus making tax burdens appear higher than they really are. The wealthy's taxes have declined over time from various actions by lawmakers, but the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act significantly lowered taxes for this group.

North Korea-US talks derailed in Sweden -- Long-delayed and highly anticipated North Korea-US denuclearization talks apparently broke down in Sweden late on Saturday.And on Sunday, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to promote a “long-term, sound and stable” relationship with North Korea, state news agency Xinhua said, as the two countries mark 70 years of diplomatic relations.North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also sent a message to Xi saying their countries’ “invincible friendship will be immortal on the road of accomplishing the cause of socialism,” Pyongyang’s state news agency KCNA said, according to AFP.In Stockholm on Saturday, in a repeat of the February Hanoi summit, where the North Korean delegation held a surprise late-night press conference to blame the US side for the failure to achieve a deal, chief delegate Kim Myong Gil blamed the Americans during an impromptu media briefing outside the North Korean Embassy. Stating that the US negotiators would not “give up their old viewpoint and attitude,” Kim said, according to newswires in Stockholm, “The negotiations have not fulfilled our expectations and finally broke off.”

Pompeo signs US-Greek military alliance and threatens Iran, Russia, China - Aggressive US and European foreign policy is intensifying the risk that great-power conflict over the Balkans and the Middle East can trigger global war. This is what emerges from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s six-day tour of Italy, ex-Yugoslav republics of Montenegro and Macedonia and Greece. After Trump aborted US military strikes on Iran in June ten minutes before they provoked all-out war between the United States and Iran, Pompeo’s tour focused on threatening Iran and its nuclear-armed allies, Russia and China. Pompeo traveled amid an explosive crisis in Washington and its relations with its nominal European and Turkish NATO “allies.” Much of his time on the trip was instead taken with questions on what he heard while on Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and whether it could be used to further the campaign to impeach Trump. Though Washington announced $7.5 billion in trade war tariffs against Europe during Pompeo’s tour, he did not bother to visit the three largest European economies: Berlin, London and Paris. The heart of Pompeo’s trip, however, was a relentless denunciation of Iran, Russia and China, and the signing of a US military treaty with Greece targeting these countries and an ostensible NATO ally of America, Turkey. Examining Pompeo’s remarks Saturday in Athens, it is impossible not to recall how, after the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, such Balkan conflicts triggered the outbreak of World War I. The Balkans, Pompeo declared, “remain an area of strategic competition.” He blamed the bloodshed and conflict provoked by three decades of US-led NATO wars in the region on Iran and its allies. Pompeo denounced “the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose terrorist proxies have destabilized the Middle East, turned Lebanon into a client state, and helped create a refugee crisis that continues to impact Greece to this day.” He also denounced “malign Russian influence, both within Greece and within your nation’s neighbors,” and China for allegedly “using economic means to coerce countries into lopsided deals that benefit Beijing and leave its clients mired in debt.” Pompeo’s brief for war is a pack of lies that does not even convince the secretary of state himself. It is not Iran that has set the Middle East aflame, but decades of NATO wars, US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and NATO’s use of Al Qaeda forces since 2011 for a proxy war for regime change in Syria. Then, in 2014, Berlin and Washington backed a fascist-led coup in Ukraine that plunged the country into civil war, nearly provoked war with Russia and led to an arms race in Europe.

We’re More at Risk of Nuclear War With Russia Than We Think - In the 1950s and 1960s, Americans genuinely and rightly feared the prospect of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Schoolchildren regularly participated in air raid drills. Federal, state and local governments prepared for operations in the event of a nuclear emergency. More than a few worried citizens built backyard bomb shelters and stockpiled provisions. Today, that old dread of disaster has all but disappeared, as have the systems that helped preclude it. But the actual threat of nuclear catastrophe is much greater than we realize. Diplomacy and a desire for global peace have given way to complacency and a false sense of security that nuclear escalation is outside the realm of possibility. That leaves us unprepared for—and highly vulnerable to—a nuclear attack from Russia. U.S. officials from both parties are focused not on how we might avoid nuclear catastrophe but on showing how tough they can look against a revanchist Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin. Summit meetings between White House and Kremlin leaders, once viewed as opportunities for peace, are now seen as dangerous temptations to indulge in Munich-style appeasement, the cardinal sin of statecraft. American policymakers worry more about “going wobbly,” as Margaret Thatcher once put it, than about a march of folly into inadvertent war. President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the United States and Russia might explore ways to manage their differences diplomatically has produced mostly head-scratching and condemnation. In my more than 25 years of government experience working on Russia matters, I’ve seen that three misguided assumptions underlie how the United States got to this point.The first is that American policymakers think that because neither side wants nuclear war, then such a war is very unlikely to occur. Russia would be foolish, we reason, to cross swords with the powerful U.S. military and risk its own self-destruction, and many Americans find it hard to imagine that modern cyber duels, proxy battles, information operations and economic warfare might somehow erupt into direct nuclear attacks. If the Cold War ended peacefully, the thinking goes, why should America worry that a new shadow war with a much less formidable Russia will end any differently?But wars do not always begin by design. Just as they did in 1914, a vicious circle of clashing geopolitical ambitions, distorted perceptions of each other’s intent, new and poorly understood technologies, and disappearing rules of the game could combine to produce a disaster that neither side wants nor expects.

'Buckle up': Abrupt Syria policy shift is sign of Trump unchained (Reuters) - Over the span of just a few hours, U.S. President Donald Trump upended his own policy on Syria with a chaotic series of pronouncements, blindsiding foreign allies, catching senior Republican supporters off guard and sending aides scrambling to control the damage. Trump’s decision on Sunday to remove some U.S. forces from northeastern Syria, opening the door to a Turkish offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in the region, provides a vivid example of how, with traditional White House structures largely shunted aside and few aides willing to challenge him, he feels freer than ever to make foreign policy on impulse. While Trump’s erratic ways are nothing new, some people inside and outside of his administration worry that the risk of dangerous miscalculation from his seat-of-the-pants approach may only increase as he moves into re-election campaign mode facing a number of unresolved, volatile international issues, including Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan. He also made clear on Monday that he was determined to make good on his 2016 campaign promise to extract the United States from “these endless wars,” although his plans for doing so are clouded by uncertainty. It comes as Trump is under growing pressure from a Democratic-led impeachment inquiry over his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate one of his political opponents, former Vice President Joe Biden. “There’s a real sense that nobody is going to stop Trump from being Trump at this stage, so everybody should buckle up,” said one U.S. national security official, who cited Trump’s firing last month of national security adviser John Bolton as a sign of the president being less restrained than ever by his top advisers. Trump’s policy whiplash on Syria started shortly after a phone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday in which he sought U.S. support for Ankara’s planned incursion. Afterward, the White House said that U.S. forces “will no longer be in the immediate area,” suggesting that Turkey could be given free rein to strike Kurdish forces long aligned with Washington in the fight against Islamic State.

Trump Talks Tough With Journalists But Lets Real Strongmen Like Turkey’s Erdogan Walk All Over Him -   Last week during the visit of the Finnish president, Trump acted out with a journalist,James Mason of Reuters who asked him a simple question. What exactly did Trump want from Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky during the notorious July telephone call? Trump did a bad de Niro impression, asking him, “You talking to me?” And then he browbeat the poor man going on about how bad the press is. Trump likes to play imaginary gangsters, likes to talk tough, likes to praise and kowtow before strongmen. But in the real world he is a milquetoast, letting other countries walk all over the United States.  A case in point. The White House itself is now announcing that Turkey is planning to invade the Kurdish-majority region of northern Syria to establish what Ankara calls a “security zone.” This is actually a plan for a monstrous sort of ethnic cleansing and population displacement, as Reese Erlich reported from Istanbul in a syndicated column carried here by Informed Comment. Trump clearly has signed off on this plan, apparently afraid to take Erdogan on. Why does it matter to the United States? In 2015, when Washington was looking around for someone to fight ISIL on the ground while the U.S. gave close air support, only one Middle Eastern player stepped up. It wasn’t Israel, which talks a good game about helping US security but has been almost entirely useless in every US-Mideast conflict since the Iran-Iraq War.  The only group that heeded the call was the Kurds of northern Syria, who are the ones who defeated the maniacal ISIL in eastern Syria, with US air support and with the tactical and strategic advice of 2,000 US special forcess personnel embedded among them. This solution, fixed upon by Barack Obama and then SecDef Ash Carter, proved extremely effective, and in 2017 Trump and his then SecDef James Mattis just continued the policy, so that the ISIL capital of Raqqa fell to the Kurds. But Turkey’s center-right pro-Islam government is terrified of the Syrian Kurds and their Democratic Union Party (DUP), with its “People’s Protection Units” (YPG) paramilitary.  So Erdogan’s solution is to invade Syrian Kurdish territory and drive the Kurds away from the Turkish border, and then to settle in their villages and homes some of the 2.5 million Arab Muslim refugees currently displaced to Turkey by the Syrian civil war.

Republicans, Foreign Policy Experts Condemn Trump’s Decision To Abandon Kurds --President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw support for Kurdish allies in northern Syria ahead of Turkey’s planned invasion of the region drew forceful backlash from both Republicans and Democrats, as well as foreign policy experts.The Kurds lead the Syrian Democratic Forces, the main ally to the U.S. in fighting the self-described Islamic State in Syria. Turkey has long wanted the U.S. to end its support for the Kurds, an ethnic group the Turkish government views as terrorists.The White House’s announcement Sunday to allow Turkey to invade northern Syria startled some members of Congress, who warned such a move could lead to a genocide of the Kurds and allow ISIS to creep back into the region.   Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a frequent cheerleader of the president, split with Trump on his Syria decision, calling it “shortsighted” and “irresponsible” during a phone interview with “Fox & Friends” on Monday.Graham, who helped to convince Trump to reverse his decision last December to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, tweeted Monday that abandoning our Kurdish allies would be “a stain on America’s honor.” He said he plans to introduce a Senate resolution opposing and asking for a reversal of Trump’s decision if he moves forward with it.

Trump threatens Turkey with 'extremely decimated economy' over Syria - President Donald Trump on Monday launched a harsh attack on NATO ally Turkey, threatening to destroy its economy if Ankara takes a planned military strike in Syria too far, even though the U.S. leader himself has opened the door for a Turkish incursion.Trump said he would “totally destroy and obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it took action in Syria that he considered “off limits” following his decision on Sunday to pull 50 American special forces troops from northeastern Syria.The U.S. withdrawal will leave Kurdish-led forces in Syria that have long allied with Washington vulnerable to a planned incursion by the Turkish military, which brands them terrorists.Trump’s stern words seemed to be aimed at placating critics who accused him of abandoning the Syrian Kurds by pulling out U.S. forces. The decision drew cr iticism from Democrats and a rare rebuke from some of Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Congress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds - President Trump is barreling toward a showdown with Congress over his decision to pull back U.S. troops in northern Syria despite widespread opposition. The announcement, which caught leadership and traditional GOP allies flatfooted, sparked a wave of condemnation, with Republicans calling it a “disaster in the making,” a “catastrophic mistake” and a “terrible decision.” Lawmakers are already weighing how to respond to Trump’s decision, setting the stage for a high-profile clash with Trump as soon as Congress returns from a two-week break on Monday. “Congress must and will act to limit the catastrophic impact of this decision,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a member of House GOP leadership, adding that Trump’s decision was having “sickening and predictable consequences.” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) warned that unless Turkey changes its behavior “everything is on the table,” including “suspending arms sales, to suspending economic aid to even considering their status in NATO.” Lawmakers, scattered across the country for a two-week break, are having behind-the-scenes talks about potential legislative action and publicly throwing out a myriad of ideas ranging from a resolution opposing Trump’s actions to sanctions against Turkey to inserting language into a mammoth defense policy bill. “Multiple committees are looking at possible legislative efforts to put the House on record against the President’s outrageous decision,” a House Democratic leadership aide told The Hill. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y) separately predicted that “Congress will take some form of action” given the “broad condemnation” sparked by Trump’s decision. Lawmakers are under growing pressure to mount a formal response after Turkey began airstrikes and shelling against Kurdish forces in northern Syria and, hours later, moved ground troops into the country after Trump pulled back U.S. troops. Lawmakers have warned for days that Trump’s decision could endanger the Kurds, who were integral to the U.S.-led fight against ISIS. Trump on Wednesday tried to distance himself from Turkey’s actions, saying the United States “does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea.” But he also said the United States should not be part of “endless, senseless wars.”

Republican anger grows as Trump disavows Kurds by saying they didn’t help during WWII- CNN -Republicans savaged President Donald Trump Wednesday for allowing Turkey to attack US allies in Syria as the President offered varying reasons for giving Turkey the green light, including the fact that Kurds did not fight alongside the US in World War II. Turkey launched its military operation to flush Kurds allied with the US out of northeastern Syria sparking outrage in Congress, creating rare bipartisan unity about the risks to the Kurds, US national security interests, regional stability and the fight against ISIS. Trump apparently gave Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the go-ahead on Sunday to proceed with his long-planned move against Kurdish fighters who make up part of the Syrian Defense Forces and who lost thousands of men fighting with the US against ISIS. As Turkish planes pounded Kurdish positions from the air and with artillery, CNN reporters on the ground in Syria reported smoke billowing from several large explosions as desperate civilians -- women, children and men -- fled the area on foot, some pushing others in wheelchairs, many crammed into the back of pickup trucks. With humanitarian groups reporting the bombardment could displace as many as 300,000 people, Erdogan's top adviser told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that Trump knew in advance about the scope of the Turkish attack. "President Trump and President Erdogan have reached an understanding over precisely what this operation is," Gulnur Aybet said from Ankara on Wednesday. "He knows what the scope of this operation is." The news trickling out of Syria fed increasing Republican anger, as lawmakers, former officials and analysts reacted throughout the day, and the US military stayed conspicuously silent. "News from Syria is sickening," Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking Republican in the House, tweeted Wednesday, echoing lawmakers across the spectrum. "Turkish troops preparing to invade Syria from the north, Russian-backed forces from the south, ISIS fighters attacking Raqqa. Impossible to understand why @realDonaldTrump is leaving America's allies to be slaughtered and enabling the return of ISIS." Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio noted that "at request of this administration the Kurds served as the primary ground fighters against ISIS in Syria so U.S. troops wouldn't have to." Then, he charged, the administration "cut deal with Erdogan allowing him to wipe them out. Damage to our reputation & national interest will be extraordinary & long lasting." Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland on Wednesday announced a framework to place immediate sanctions on senior Turkish government officials, ban all US military business and military transactions with Turkey, and immediately activate 2017 sanctions on the country until Ankara stops its operations against the Kurds.

Trump’s Withdrawal From Syria: Betrayal of Kurds or End to Endless War? - Yves here. Thank God for The Real News Network. This segment presents a measured discussion of Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria, with a focus on what this means for the key players in the region.

Colin Powell: The Republican Party Needs To ‘Get a Grip’ and Stand Up to Trump - Former Secretary of State Colin Powell called on the Republican Party to “get a grip” and criticized American foreign policy as “a shambles” last week.  Powell, a retired four-star general who served as secretary of state under George W. Bush, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George H.W. Bush, and national security advisor to Ronald Reagan, leaned toward Democratic candidates in recent years, expressing support for President Barack Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.When talking publicly about Donald Trump over the last few years, Powell has spoken in measured terms, saying in 2016 that he had decided to vote for Clinton because he felt that she was more qualified and later expressing concern on CNN that Trump might not be able to be a moral leader. However, he called then-candidate Trump a “national disgrace” in an email with a former aide that was hacked and leaked online. Speaking at a lecture with CNN columnist Fareed Zakaria and former Secretary of State Madeline Albright on Oct. 1, Powell criticized Republicans, calling on the Party to “get a grip on itself.”

 United States races to build critical minerals alliances: Andy Home (Reuters) - President Donald Trump’s offer to buy Greenland didn’t go down well with either the inhabitants of the world’s largest island or with Denmark, which administers it as an autonomous territory. The Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen described the idea as “absurd”, triggering a diplomatic fall-out as Trump decided to cancel a planned visit to Denmark. The idea may be many things but, from a U.S. perspective, it is not “absurd”. There are two completely rational drivers for eyeing up Greenland - its strategic location for North Atlantic shipping and its untapped mineral reserves. “They’ve got a lot of valuable minerals”, was White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow’s explanation of Trump’s latest real estate ambitions. As it stands, the United States will have to content itself with a more mundane memorandum of understanding, signed in June, to jointly fund and operate an aerial survey of Greenland’s Gardar province. Gardar “has great potential for new discoveries of a range of mineral commodities, including rare earth elements,” according to the U.S. Department of State. And that’s really the point. Greenland has flashed onto the presidential radar because the United States is rushing to build out new critical minerals supply chains to break its dependency on China. CHINESE DEPENDENCY The Pentagon has been worrying for years about the United States’ growing dependence on China and what it terms other “unreliable” countries for a broad spectrum of minerals. Such concerns were thrown into sharp relief in May, when Chinese president Xi Jinping used a visit to a rare earths magnet plant to send a thinly veiled warning about the potential costs to the United States of escalating trade tensions. Those costs are potentially very high indeed since the United States and the rest of the world are almost 100% reliant on China’s rare earths production and exports.

China Narrows Scope for Trade Deal With U.S. Ahead of Talks - Chinese officials are signaling they’re increasingly reluctant to agree to a broad trade deal pursued by President Donald Trump, ahead of negotiations this week that have raised hopes of a potential truce. In meetings with U.S. visitors to Beijing in recent weeks, senior Chinese officials have indicated the range of topics they’re willing to discuss has narrowed considerably, according to people familiar with the discussions. Vice Premier Liu He, who will lead the Chinese contingent in high-level talks that begin Thursday, told visiting dignitaries he would bring an offer to Washington that won’t include commitments on reforming Chinese industrial policy or the government subsidies that have been the target of longstanding U.S. complaints, one of the people said. That offer would take one of the Trump administration’s core demands off the table. It’s emblematic of what analysts see as China’s strengthening hand as the Trump administration faces an impeachment crisis -- which has recently drawn in China -- and a slowing economy blamed by businesses on the disruption caused by the president’s trade wars. People close to the Trump administration say the impeachment inquiry isn’t affecting trade talks with China. Any attempt to portray anything different is an attempt to weaken the U.S. hand at the negotiating table and, they argue, would be a miscalculation by the Chinese.

China ‘strongly urges’ US to remove sanctions and stop accusing it of human rights violations -- China’s Ministry of Commerce said Tuesday that it “strongly urges” the U.S. to stay clear of the country’s domestic issues, after the White House blacklisted a slew of Chinese companies due to alleged human rights violations against Muslim minorities in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang. “We strongly urge the U.S. to immediately stop making irresponsible remarks on the issue of Xinjiang” and to “stop interfering” in “China’s internal affairs, and remove relevant Chinese entities from the list of entities as soon as possible,” a spokesperson from the ministry said Tuesday in a statement, according to a Google translation. “China will also take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard China’s own interests,” the spokesperson said. The comment came after tensions between the U.S. and China rose ahead of the highly anticipated trade talks this week. The U.S. on Monday banned 28 Chinese companies from doing business with American firms without being granted a U.S. government license due to human rights issues. The Trump administration on Tuesday put visa restrictions on Chinese officials “who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention and abuse” of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang. “The United States calls on the People’s Republic of China to immediately end its campaign of repression in Xinjiang, release all those arbitrarily detained, and cease efforts to coerce members of Chinese Muslim minority groups residing abroad to return to China to face an uncertain fate,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday in a statement. Markets were bracing for stiff retaliation as Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said earlier Tuesday to “stay tuned” for China to fight back. Reports from China also said the Chinese delegation may cut short its planned stay in Washington and depart on Friday, dimming hopes for a trade deal. The tempered optimism sparked a sell-off in the markets with the Dow Jones Industrial Average tanking as much as 300 points.

 Top-level U.S.-China trade talks resume as irritants sour atmosphere - (Reuters) - The United States’ and China’s top trade negotiators were set to meet on Thursday for the first time since late July to try to find a way out of a 15-month trade war as new irritants between the world’s two largest economies threatened hopes for progress. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will seek to narrow differences enough to avoid a scheduled Oct. 15 tariff rate increase on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods. But the atmosphere surrounding the talks was soured by the U.S. Commerce Department’s decision on Monday to blacklist 28 Chinese public security bureaus, technology and surveillance firms, citing human rights violations of Muslim minority groups in China’s Xinjiang province. A day later, the U.S. State Department imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials related to the Xinjiang issue. If negotiations break down again, by Dec. 15, nearly all Chinese goods imports into the United States — more than $500 billion — could be subject to punitive tariffs in the dispute that erupted during U.S. President Donald Trump’s time in office. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in Sydney on Thursday that the tariffs were working, forcing Beijing to pay attention to U.S. concerns about its trade practices. “We do not love tariffs, in fact we would prefer not to use them, but after years of discussions and no action, tariffs are finally forcing China to pay attention to our concerns,” Ross said 

 China plans to restrict visas for US visitors with 'anti-China' links - China is planning tighter visa restrictions for U.S. nationals with ties to anti-China groups, people with knowledge of the proposed curbs said, following similar U.S. restrictions on Chinese nationals, as relations between the countries sour. China’s Ministry of Public Security has for months been working on rules to limit the ability of anyone employed, or sponsored, by U.S. intelligence services and human rights groups to travel to China. The proposed changes follow the introduction by the United States of tighter rules for visas for Chinese scholars in May. New U.S. visa restrictions announced on Tuesday, on Chinese government and Communist Party officials the United States believes responsible for the detention or abuse of Muslim minorities, had bolstered the case for the new Chinese restrictions, one of the sources said. “This is not something we want to do but we don’t seem to have any choice,” the source said. The Chinese rules would mandate the drafting of a list of U.S. military and CIA-linked institutions and rights groups, and the addition of their employees to a visa blacklist, according to the sources, who declined to be identified. The tighter restrictions come amid heightened concern in Beijing that the United States and other governments are using such organizations to incite anti-government protests in both mainland China and Hong Kong, and would also be in retaliation for the U.S. visa restrictions against Chinese researchers and officials, the first source said.

 U.S. Weighs Currency Pact With China as Part of Partial Deal The White House is looking at rolling out a previously agreed currency pact with China as part of an early harvest deal that could also see a tariff increase next week suspended, according to people familiar with the discussions. The currency accord, which the U.S. said had been agreed to earlier this year before trade talks broke down, would be part of what the White House considers to be a first-phase agreement with Beijing. It would be followed by more negotiations on core issues like intellectual property and forced technology transfers, the people said. The internal deliberations come as a team of Chinese negotiators, led by Vice Premier Liu He, arrived in Washington to resume trade talks with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin starting Thursday. It’s the first face-to-face talks between senior officials since July. The offshore yuan rose more than 0.3%, erasing an earlier loss. U.S. stock futures whipsawed Thursday morning in Asia amid uncertainty about the outcome of the negotiations. People familiar with the Chinese delegation’s arrangements said negotiators are currently scheduled to leave on Friday evening, though there could be changes depending on how the talks progress. One person said there may also be a meeting with Trump that day, though again it would depend on how the talks go. The signals heading into the talks have been mixed. President Donald Trump last week approved licenses for some American companies to sell nonsensitive goods to Huawei Technologies Co., the New York Times reported, citing people familiar with the move. While Trump committed to the move after meeting President Xi Jinping in June, no licenses have been issued yet.

China to Ask U.S. to End Sanctions on Its Biggest Shipping Company - China plans to ask the U.S. to lift sanctions on its biggest shipping company at high-level trade negotiations in Washington this week, people familiar with the matter said. Officials plan to raise the issue of penalties against the Dalian units of ChinaCOSCO Shipping Corp., which the U.S. accuses of knowingly violating restrictions on carrying Iranian petroleum, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing a private matter. Four other Chinese entities were also sanctioned last month along with COSCO. The people did not say if the Chinese delegation planned to seek relief for those companies. The U.S. decision to impose sanctions on Chinese shipowners including COSCO Shipping Energy Transportation Co. prompted a bidding war as charterers scrambled to replace vessels owned by targeted companies. It sent costs for ships with oil-carry capacities ranging from 650,000 to 2 million barrels to a 2019-high, while supertanker day rates for the Middle East to China route surged to its highest in probably 11 years. The penalties against the Chinese companies bar U.S. citizens and entities from dealing with the firms, effectively blocking them from American banks at the heart of the global financial system. China’s National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Commerce didn’t immediately respond to faxes seeking comment on the request. China COSCO Shipping did not respond to an email and fax.

Trump Touts U.S.-China Phase One Trade Deal, Delays Tariffs - The U.S. and China agreed on the outlines of a partial trade accord Friday that President Donald Trump said he and his counterpart Xi Jinping could sign as soon as next month. As part of the deal, China would significantly step up purchases of U.S. agricultural commodities, agree to certain intellectual-property measures and concessions related to financial services and currency, Trump said Friday at the White House. In exchange, the U.S. will delay a tariff increase due next week as the deal is finalized, though new levies scheduled for December haven’t yet been called off. The agreement marks the largest breakthrough in the 18-month trade war that has hurt the economies of both nations. Importantly, Trump said the deal was the first phase of a broader agreement. The president indicated he could sign a deal with Xi at an upcoming November summit in Chile. While the limited agreement may resolve some short-term issues, several of the thorniest disputes remain outstanding. U.S. goals in the trade war center around accusations of intellectual-property theft, forced technology transfer and complaints about Chinese industrial subsidies. Xi told Trump in a letter -- which the White House distributed on Friday -- that it’s important the countries work together to address each others’ concerns. “I hope the two sides will act in the principle and direction you and I have agreed to, and work to advance China-U.S. relations based on coordination, cooperation and stability,” the letter said. Chinese state news agency Xinhua said negotiators made efforts toward a final agreement, but stopped short of calling Friday’s outcome a deal. The Editor-in-Chief of China’s most prominent state-run newspaper Global Times, Hu Xijin, noted on Twitter that official reports from China didn’t mention Trump’s goal of signing the deal next month, which indicates Beijing wants to keep expectations low.

US and China reach limited trade deal - The US and China have reached a partial and very limited agreement on trade following talks held in Washington on Thursday and Friday. It provides for a pullback by the US of a tariff hike on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods that had been threatened for next week. In return China has increased purchases of US agricultural products and agreed on the need for stabilization of the Chinese currency. The limited agreement was described by US President Trump as a “substantial phase one deal” following a meeting yesterday with Chinese vice-premier and chief trade negotiator Liu He at the White House. The full text will be finalised in discussions between US and Chinese officials over the next five weeks. China has agreed to purchase $40 billion to $50 billion worth of additional US agricultural products and gave a commitment to further open its economy to the operation of international financial services. It has also agreed to tighten control of intellectual property in response to continuous US allegations of theft. In addition, the two sides reported progress on other matters, without providing details, including intellectual property and currency movements. No agreement was finalised on a pact to deal with currency manipulation, but US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said discussions were “almost complete.” The reaching of a deal is the result of a shift by the Trump administration. In the lead up to the talks, Trump made clear on numerous occasions that he was not inclined to make a limited agreement and preferred a big deal or not one at all. But facing the possibility of a sharp fall on markets if negotiations had broken down and amid the ongoing pressure created by the Democrats impeachment investigation, Trump appears to have decided to claim a win. The markets responded enthusiastically with the Dow up 500 points at one point during the day, before finishing up by more than 300 points. For all the celebrations on Wall Street, however, the agreement is very limited, described by one financial analyst in a comment to the Financial Times as “cosmetic.” While China will make additional purchases of agricultural products, they may not even reach the level attained before the trade conflict broke out. Overall, the Chinese concessions have been described as “relatively minor”—essentially a repackaging of measures it had agreed to in previous rounds of talks. The US has made little movement. None of the existing tariffs will be removed or even reduced. The major component of deal is the US decision to suspend the threatened hike in tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods from 25 percent to 30 percent, which had been set to take effect next week. At this point, the agreement does not appear to include the withdrawal of a 15 percent tariff on more than $150 billion worth of Chinese consumer products, scheduled to come into effect on December 15.

NBA on Collision Course With China After Defending Free Speech - The National Basketball Association remains on a collision course with China after Commissioner Adam Silver defended freedom of expression, signaling that the league won’t back down in the face of outrage over a tweet about the Hong Kong protests. Hours after China’s state television and Tencent Holdings Ltd. said that they would halt airing and streaming preseason games in the country with 800 million fans, Commissioner Adam Silver told reporters Tuesday that the NBA won’t tell people what they can or can’t say. “It is inevitable that people around the world -- including from America and China -- will have different viewpoints over different issues,” Silver said in a separate statement issued before the press conference. “However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way.” His comments put the NBA in direct confrontation with Beijing, which has viewed any hint of support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong as a challenge to the nation’s sovereignty. Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team, triggered the controversy with his tweet Friday -- deleted later -- supporting the demonstrators. That sparked fury from supporters of the Communist government, casting a shadow over the NBA’s ties with one of its most promising markets.

Beijing Pulls The Plug- China Cancels NBA Broadcasts Amid Outrage Over Hong Kong Tweet -- Adding yet another layer of conflict to the US-China relationship (in addition to trade tensions, there's also Hong Kong and Taiwan, the South China Sea, etc.), China's state broadcaster, CCTV, said it would end broadcasts of NBA games in China, ensuring that the spat that exploded out of nowhere when Daryl Morey tweeted (then swiftly deleted) a message of support for the Hong Kong protesters. Despite the league's insistence that Morey didn't speak for either the Houston Rockets nor the NBA as a whole, Commissioner Adam Silver's later defense of Morey (after coming under intense public and political pressure) and his right to freedom of expression inflamed tensions with Beijing. And the Chinese state has decided to retaliate by effectively pulling the plug on the NBA in China, decimating viewership for one of the most popular leagues in the country. Every year, some 800 million Chinese watch NBA programming.

How one tweet derailed the NBA's China game plan -- Last Sunday night, Daryl Morey, the General Manager of the Houston Rockets, sat in his hotel room in Tokyo, where the Rockets were playing two pre-season games against the current NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors.Mr Morey - in a move that would reverberate around the sporting world and beyond - then fired off a tweet expressing support for the protestors in Hong Kong who have been taking to the streets for the past four months.While he hasn't explicitly admitted as much, it's safe to say he now regrets hitting that send button.Close to a week later, the fallout from that single, quickly-deleted tweet - which included the words "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong" - is still dominating the news cycle.We've seen posts from Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, an explanation of sorts from Mr Morey, and not one, but two statements on the matter by the National Basketball Association (NBA), none of which appears to have appeased Chinese fans and sponsors, who were furious that an outsider was stirring up an issue many there regard as non-negotiable. Freedom of speech, they argued, doesn't apply in certain areas and it wasn't Mr Morey's place to comment in the first place. To top it all off, the league's handling of the situation simultaneously managed to spark a backlash back at home, with US fans and politicians alike calling out the league for pandering too much to China.

 ICE arrests nearly 600 immigrants in enforcement surge, targeting “uncooperative” local jurisdictions - According to recent news releases from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), a total of 597 immigrants were arrested during an “enforcement surge” across the United States spanning five days, from September 21 to 25. The press release noted that the surge arrests were part of nearly 1,300 ICE arrests made that week, meaning that 700 ICE arrests took place over and above the five-day operation.The Trump administration’s coordinated attack on immigrants throughout 20 US states at the end of last month is the largest multi-state operation reported this year and is twice as large as the last five-day multi-state ICE operation in June, which arrested 299 immigrants across 12 states. Last month’s ICE roundup follows the ICE raids in August at multiple Mississippi poultry processing plants, which detained 680 workers.The operation saw the arrest of 97 immigrants across the Midwest; 82 immigrants in New York City, the Hudson Valley, and Long Island in New York; 80 across New England; 57 in Virginia and Washington, DC; 54 in New Jersey; 46 in Michigan and Ohio; 49 in north Texas and Oklahoma; 45 in south and central Texas; 45 in Pennsylvania; and 42 in Colorado and Wyoming.A majority of those arrested were from Mexico and Central America, but included immigrants from six continents. Among these were workers from Algeria, Brazil, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, India, Iraq, Israel, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Uganda, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.ICE branded the operation in its news releases as a mass arrest of “criminal aliens,” boasting that a significant majority of those arrested were convicted criminals or had criminal charges pending. But since ICE includes in its list of crimes “illegal entry and illegal re-entry” into the US, this means that any person is classified as a criminal simply for crossing the US border without the appropriate papers. It is noteworthy that ICE ended its news releases by issuing threats to local jurisdictions and areas which have declared themselves sanctuary cities, stating: “Local jurisdictions that choose to not cooperate with ICE are likely to see an increase in ICE enforcement activity.” This fascist-minded message to local authorities who do not actively cooperate with ICE by handing over any undocumented immigrants in custody is that ramped up attacks on local immigrant populations by the federal government will be blamed on any state or local entity that has given even verbal assurances of safety to immigrants.

 An 8-year-old just climbed an exact replica of Donald Trump’s ‘impenetrable’ border wall - (video) You know how Trump's border wall is "virtually impenetrable"? Yeah, not so much. And an eight-year-old girl has proven it. It all started with a man named Rick Weber, who owns a rock-climbing park in Kentucky. Taking the "impossible to climb" claim as a challenge, he decided to build an exact replica of Trump's wall. Honestly, we have no choice but to stan such dedication to discrediting Trump's wild claims. Weber plans to take his wall to "Rocktoberfest", a local rock climbing event. (Yes, these are apparently a thing and it's delightful.) But in the meantime, he decided to give eight-year-old Lucy Hancock a go on his creation. Apparently, she's into both climbing and politics, so she was all over the challenge. Her mother posted a video on Facebook showing Lucy climbing the wall like it ain't no thing, and people were absolutely living for it.

Trump Signs Proclamation Restricting Visas for Uninsured — Immigrants applying for U.S. visas will be denied entry into the country unless they can prove they can afford health care, according to a proclamation signed Friday by President Donald Trump.The new rule applies to people seeking immigrant visas from abroad — not those in the U.S. already. It does not affect lawful permanent residents. It does not apply to asylum seekers, refugees or children.But it would apply to the spouses and parents of U.S. citizens. That could have an impact on families who are trying to bring their parents to the U.S.The proclamation says immigrants will be barred from entering the country unless they are to be covered by health insurance within 30 days of entering or have enough financial resources to pay for any medical costs. The measure will be effective Nov. 3.The Trump administration is trying to move away from a family-based immigration system and into a merit-based system, and Friday’s proclamation is another effort to limit immigrant access to public programs. The Trump administration earlier this year made sweeping changes to regulations that would deny green cards to immigrants who use some forms of public assistance. The White House also directed officials to recover income-based welfare payments from sponsors, and proposed a rule requiring verification of immigration status for anyone seeking access to public housing benefits.

Legacy Systems Held DHS’ Biometrics Programs Back. Not Anymore. - The Homeland Security Department is retiring the decades-old system officials use to analyze biometric data, and its replacement is poised to both refine and significantly expand the agency’s application of the controversial technology.The new cloud-based platform, called the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology System, or HART, is expected to bring more processing power, new analytics capabilities and increased accuracy to the department’s biometrics operations. It will also allow the agency to look beyond the three types of biometric data it uses today—face, iris and fingerprint—to identify people through a variety of other characteristics, like palm prints, scars, tattoos, physical markings and even their voices.And by freeing the agency from the limitations of its legacy system, HART could also let officials grow the network of external partners with whom they share biometric data and analytics capabilities, according to Patrick Nemeth, director of identity operations within Homeland Security’s Office of Biometric Identity Management. “When we get to HART, we will be better, faster, stronger,” Nemeth said in an interview withNextgov. “We'll be relieved of a lot of the capacity issues that we have now ... and ten going forward from there we'll be able to add [capabilities].”The agency’s existing platform, the Automated Biometric Identification System, or IDENT, was stood up in 1994 to help federal law enforcement officials collect and process fingerprints, but in recent years officials retrofitted the system with facial and iris recognition tools. Today, IDENT houses identity data on more than 250 million different people, and it serves as the “workhorse” for the department’s expanding biometric identification regime, according to Nemeth.But as the agency rolls out facial recognition technology across U.S. airports and increases the use of biometrics at the border, officials are finding themselves constrained by their legacy tech.  “You can only take a 25-year-old system so far,” Nemeth said. “We need to have more throughput capacity, we need more storage, and you can't just keep adding to an old system. It's time to go back and re-architect it from the beginning for all that rapid access.”

US net neutrality's crushing defeat this week may end up saving it — On Oct. 1, the Washington DC circuit court of appeals rejected arguments to reinstate net neutrality protections repealed last year by the Republican-led US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Telecom companies will now only be subject to “light-touch” federal regulation and are free to block, slow, or otherwise discriminate against content and services. FCC Chairman and ex-Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai welcomed the ruling (pdf) as a “victory for consumers, broadband deployment, and the free and open Internet.”  Yet his counterpart, FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, declared just the opposite. The FCC was “on the wrong side of the American people and the wrong side of history,” Rosenworcel said in a statement (pdf). “Today’s court decision shows that the agency also got it wrong on the law.” While the court did uphold most of the FCC’s decision, it rejected the agency’s right to strip US states’ of their power to regulate net neutrality as they see fit. That may make all the difference.  This victory for the telecoms industry may have just actually delivered them into a hell they’ve tried to avoid for decades: a balkanized regulatory landscape even more restrictive than the one they just escaped. In its repeal, the FCC preempted states from imposing their own net neutrality laws. “No dice,” the majority opinion responded. If the US government chooses to abdicate regulatory authority, the judges argued, it can’t simultaneously take that authority from states.

Supreme Court clashes over meaning of ‘sex’ in LGBT discrimination cases - The justices of the Supreme Court clashed over the meaning of “sex” in heated oral arguments on Tuesday for a blockbuster set of cases concerning the rights of LGBT workers. The court heard the cases of three LGBT employees, two gay men and a transgender woman, who claim they were fired because of their identities. At issue was the meaning of Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act, which forbids discrimination because of “sex” but does not specifically refer to gender identity or sexual orientation. The case is among the most high profile of the term. While some states and localities have laws on the books protecting LGBT employees, those laws do not apply in about half the country. Arguments, which lasted two hours, concluded around noon. It was not immediately clear which side will garner a majority, though the outcome seemed to hinge on Justice Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s two appointees. Several of the court’s conservatives argued that expanding Title 7 to include discrimination against LGBT workers would be better handled by Congress. Attorneys for both sides have acknowledged that at the time the law was passed in 1964, its drafters likely did not envision that it would apply to gay or transgender individuals. Justice Samuel Alito, one of the court’s Republican appointees, noted that Congress has had time since the law was first passed to add protections for LGBT workers, and has declined to do so. If the court said the law applied to gay workers, “we will be acting exactly like a legislature,” he said. “This is the type of issue that is better left to Congress than the courts,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco, arguing in favor of the employers, told the court. The question, Francisco said, wasn’t whether Congress should bar discrimination against LGBT employees, but rather whether is had actually done so.

Trump Wins Emergency Stay Of Tax Returns Release Ruling As Appeal Begins  --A month after the Manhattan district attorney subpoenaed President Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, for his personal and corporate returns dating to 2011, The New York Times reports that Judge Victor Marrero of Manhattan federal court has just rejected Trump's legal team's argument that sitting presidents are immune from criminal investigations.
-- Update (1035ET): Things are moving extremely fast for the US judicial system. President Trump has won a last-minute reprieve in his effort to block a New York subpoena for his tax records, delaying a federal judge’s ruling from taking effect that would have forced his accounting firm to hand the records to the Manhattan district attorney beginning Monday afternoon.The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York granted the emergency stay.
-- Update (0925ET): Well that didn't take long. As expected, President Trump's legal team has, according to Reuters, filed an emergency appeal, sending the decision, we suspect, down the path towards a final showdown at the Supreme Court.

Federal appeals court rejects Trump’s bid to block House subpoena for his financial records - A federal appeals court in a split ruling Friday rejected President Donald Trump’s bid to block a subpoena for Trump’s financial records from the Democrat-controlled House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The 2-1 ruling by the U.S Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a federal district court judge’s decision denying Trump’s effort to stop the House committee from getting eight years’ worth of his financial records from the accounting firm Mazars USA. Friday’s dissent came from Judge Neomi Rao, who was appointed by Trump to the DC appeals court. The judges David Tatel and Patricia Millett voted to deny Trump’s appeal to block the House’s request to Mazars for various financial statement related to the Trump Organization, the Trump Corporation, and the Trump Old Post Office in Washingtom. “Contrary to the President’s arguments, the Committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply,” Tatel wrote in the majority opinion. Tatel also said that “we conclude that in issuing the challenged subpoena, the Committee was engaged in a ‘legitimate legislative investigation.’ ” The ruling does not mean that Trump’s financial records will immediately be released to the House committee, which had issued its subpoena for them on April 15. The appeals panel ordered that the effect of the ruling be put on hold until seven days after the disposition of a petition for a rehearing of the case by either the same panel or for a rehearing of the case by the entire lineup of judges in the DC Circuit. In addition to seeking a rehearing of the case at the D.C. Circuit Trump can ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take his appeal. Neal Katyal, a former acting U.S. Solicitor General — the lawyer who argues for the federal government at the Supreme Corut — said on Twitter that Trump could have a tough time getting the high court to overturn the decision given the fact that a federal judge and a highly respected appeals court have both ruled for the House.

Trump Orders 'Substantial' National Security Council Staff Cuts: Report - As House lawmakers intensify their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s alleged solicitation of election interference from Ukraine, he has ordered “substantial” staff cuts within the National Security Council, Bloomberg News reported late Friday.The outlet cited five individuals familiar with the plan, some of whom described it as an effort to downsize the administration’s foreign policy arm under Robert O’Brien, who was named national security adviser last month.The request was reportedly shared this week with senior NSC officials by both O’Brien and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.The White House did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for comment on the matter.The news comes amid mounting scandal over Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which he pressed Zelensky repeatedly to assist lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr with a corruption investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, based on unsubstantiated accusations. A whistleblower complaint filed in August by a member of the intelligence community states that Trump was essentially asking Ukraine to meddle in the  2020 election by investigating a political rival. There remains no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Bidens.The complaint also states that “multiple White House officials” said a transcript of the call was stored in a computer system managed by the NSC Directorate for Intelligence Programs, which is “reserved for codeword-level intelligence.”

2nd whistleblower comes forward after speaking with IG: Attorney -- Mark Zaid, the attorney representing the whistleblower who sounded the alarm on President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine and triggered an impeachment inquiry, tells ABC News that he is now representing a second whistleblower who has spoken with the inspector general. Zaid tells ABC News' Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos that the second person -- also described as an intelligence official -- has first-hand knowledge of some of the allegations outlined in the original complaint and has been interviewed by the head of the intelligence community's internal watchdog office, Michael Atkinson. The existence of a second whistleblower -- particularly one who can speak directly aboutevents involving the president related to conversations involving Ukraine -- could undercut Trump's repeated insistence that the original complaint, released on Sept. 26, was "totally inaccurate."  (MORE: White House subpoenaed by House Dems for documents in impeachment investigation) That original seven-page complaint alleged that Trump pushed a foreign power to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, and Biden's son, Hunter, and that unnamed senior White House officials then tried to "lock down" all records of the phone call. "This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call," the first whistleblower stated, in a complaint filed Aug. 12.Zaid says both officials have full protection of the law intended to protect whistleblowers from being fired in retaliation. While this second official has spoken with the IG -- the internal watchdog office created to handle complaints -- this person has not communicated yet with the congressional committees conducting the investigation.

There Is A Lot Of Speculation That John Bolton Is The "Second Whistleblower" --I knew that John Bolton was going to be trouble the moment President Trump hired him. Nothing good was ever going to come from having John Bolton as National Security Advisor, and fortunately Trump rejected almost every major recommendation that Bolton made during his entire tenure.  If Trump had gone along with Bolton’s agenda, we would probably be at war right now.   Being so close to the levers of power and being unable to move his agenda forward time after time was very frustrating for Bolton, and since he was fired by Trump he has been on a “revenge tour”.  But would Bolton go so far as to completely betray Trump by becoming the “second whistleblower” regarding the controversial phone call with the president of Ukraine?  There is now a lot of speculation among conservatives that this could be the case, and so far Bolton has not publicly denied being the “”second whistleblower”.  That doesn’t mean that Bolton is guilty, but if I was President Trump he would be the number one suspect on my list. Let’s start with the facts as we have them at this hour.  It is being reported that a “second whistleblower” has come forward, and that he is being represented by the same legal team that is representing the “first whistleblower”.  The following comes from Breitbart… Stephanopoulos said, “The first key witness testimony to Congress. the first release of text messages from administration officials confirming the pressure campaign or Ukraine outlined in the original whistleblower complaint. That public request from President Trump calling on China to investigate Joe Biden. A new request for documents from Vice President Pence. This morning more breaking news. ABC News has learned that the legal team representing the first whistle-blower is now representing a second whistleblower. Attorney Mark Zaid said he is a member of the intelligence community with firsthand information on some of the allegations at issue.”

The Ukrainegate ‘Whisteblower’ Isn’t a Real Whistleblower – Taibbi - Start with the initial headline, in the story the Washington Post “broke” on September 18th: TRUMP’S COMMUNICATIONS WITH FOREIGN LEADER ARE PART OF WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT THAT SPURRED STANDOFF BETWEEN SPY CHIEF AND CONGRESS, FORMER OFFICIALS SAY  The unnamed person at the center of this story sure didn’t sound like a whistleblower. Our intelligence community wouldn’t wipe its ass with a real whistleblower.Americans who’ve blown the whistle over serious offenses by the federal government either spend the rest of their lives overseas, like Edward Snowden, end up in jail, like Chelsea Manning, get arrested and ruined financially, like former NSA official Thomas Drake, have their homes raided by FBI like disabled NSA vet William Binney, or get charged with espionage like ex-CIA exposer-of-torture John Kiriakou. It’s an insult to all of these people, and the suffering they’ve weathered, to frame the ballcarrier in the Beltway’s latest partisan power contest as a whistleblower. I’ve met a lot of whistleblowers, in both the public and private sector. Many end up broke, living in hotels, defamed, (often) divorced, and lucky if they have any kind of job. One I knew got turned down for a waitressing job because her previous employer wouldn’t vouch for her. She had little kids.  The common thread in whistleblower stories is loneliness. Typically the employer has direct control over their ability to pursue another job in their profession. Many end up reviled as traitors, thieves, and liars. They often discover after going public that their loved ones have a limited appetite for sharing the ignominy. In virtually all cases, they end up having to start over, both personally and professionally.  With that in mind, let’s look at what we know about the first “whistleblower” in Ukrainegate:

  • He or she is a “CIA officer detailed to the White House”;
  • The account is at best partially based upon the CIA officer’s own experience, made up substantially by information from “more than a half dozen U.S. officials” and the “private accounts” of “my colleagues”;
  • “He or she” was instantly celebrated as a whistleblower by news networks and major newspapers.

That last detail caught the eye of Kiriakou, a former CIA Counterterrorism official who blew the whistle on the agency’s torture program.  When Kiriakou first saw the “whistleblower complaint,” his immediate reaction was to wonder what kind of “CIA officer” the person in question was. “If you spend a career in the CIA, you see all kinds of subterfuge and lies and crime,” he says. “This person went through a whole career and this is the thing he objects to?”

Ocasio-Cortez Calls Out WH Aides Reportedly 'Horrified' by Trump Conduct: 'History Will Judge Them by What They Did. And the Answer Is Nothing' --In response to a Washington Post story reporting that—according to anonymous former and current officials—aides to President Donald Trump have been "genuinely horrified" by his calls with foreign leaders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Friday night that the concerns of White House officials are meaningless without accompanying action.  "With respect to the betrayal of our country, it doesn't matter much how these aides felt," the New York Democrat said. "History will judge them by what they did. And the answer is nothing."Trump's phone call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, during which the U.S. president pushed for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, has sparked national outrage and an impeachment inquiry by House Democrats.But, according to the Post, Trump's conversation with Zelensky was no outlier."Starting long before revelations about Trump's interactions with Ukraine's president rocked Washington, Trump's phone calls with foreign leaders were an anxiety-ridden set of events for his aides and members of the administration," the Post reported Friday night. "They worried that Trump would make promises he shouldn’t keep, endorse policies the United States long opposed, commit a diplomatic blunder that jeopardized a critical alliance, or simply pressure a counterpart for a personal favor." One anonymous former security official told the Post that Trump was only "nice" to "people who could do things for him."  "Leaders with trade deficits, strong female leaders, members of NATO—those tended to go badly," the former official said.  According to the Post, "Trump's personal goals seeped into calls" with foreign leaders."He pestered Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for help in recommending him for a Nobel Prize," the Post reported, citing an official familiar with the phone call. In response to the Post story, Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, tweeted, "From the staffers hiding records of his calls to the Senators pretending he's fit for any office, so many are complicit in covering for the lunatic."

Profit, not politics: Trump allies sought Ukraine gas deal — As Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukrainian officials last spring to investigate one of Donald Trump’s main political rivals, a group of individuals with ties to the president and his personal lawyer were also active in the former Soviet republic.Their aims were profit, not politics. This circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company. Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two people with knowledge of their plans.Their plan hit a snag after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lost his reelection bid to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose conversation with Trumpabout former Vice President Joe Biden is now at the center of the House impeachment inquiry of Trump.But the effort to install a friendlier management team at the helm of the gas company, Naftogaz, would soon be taken up with Ukraine’s new president by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whose slate of candidates included a fellow Texan who is one of Perry’s past political donors.It’s unclear if Perry’s attempts to replace board members at Naftogaz were coordinated with the Giuliani allies pushing for a similar outcome, and no one has alleged that there is criminal activity in any of these efforts. And it’s unclear what role, if any, Giuliani had in helping his clients push to get gas sales agreements with the state-owned company.But the affair shows how those with ties to Trump and his administration were pursuing business deals in Ukraine that went far beyond advancing the president’s personal political interests. It also raises questions about whether Trump allies were mixing business and politics just as Republicans were calling for a probe of Biden and his son Hunter, who served five years on the board of another Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.On Friday, Trump told a group of Republican lawmakers that it had been Perry who had prompted the phone call in which Trump asked Zelenskiy for a “favor” regarding Biden, according to a person familiar with Trump’s remarks. The person, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity to describe a closed conversation among GOP officials, recounted that Trump said it was Perry who asked him to make the July call to discuss “something about an LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant.” Trump’s remarks were first reported Saturday by the news site Axios.

Polls begin to signal rising impeachment threat to Trump - Modern polling usually tells us how public opinion hasn’t moved. Despite last week’s hailstorm of bad news, President Donald Trump’s job approval rating stood virtually unchanged.So did the president’s backing from Republican elected officials in Washington. Except for Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and a few others, GOP members of the House and Senate have either defended the president’s actions concerning Ukraine and former Vice President Joe Biden or remained silent.Yet surveys in recent days show public sentiment evolving more than Trump’s steady topline would suggest. They also illuminate the potential for erosion among fellow Republicans, which could ultimately threaten the president’s ability to survive a Senate trial on articles of impeachment approved by the House.“If you’re the president you have to take that seriously,” says former Republican strategist Tom Davis, who once ran his party’s House campaign arm. “What moves this ultimately is public opinion. These members like their jobs.”Last week’s Monmouth University poll showed signs of movement within a broader portrait of stability. Buoyed by backing from 86% of Republicans, Trump’s approval rating remained unchanged: 41% of Americans approved of his job performance, 53% disapproved. At the same time, the share of Republicans backing a House impeachment inquiry doubled to 16% from 8% in August. A CBS News poll found 23% of Republicans backing an impeachment probe. In a USA Today survey, 30% of Republicans called it “an abuse of power” for Trump to ask Ukraine to investigate Biden. Even if they haven’t broken with their party’s president, those Republicans pose a particular danger to Trump, who once bragged that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York without losing support.  “The willingness to hear this out is a sign that you’re not a Fifth Avenue Republican,” says GOP strategist Liam Donovan. Others susceptible to change include the roughly 15% of voters who already disapprove of Trump but don’t yet back impeachment.

Republicans and Right-Wing Media Show Signs They’ll Break With Trump - Alexis Goldstein - The frantic pace of news about Trump’s attempts to solicit foreign interference in the U.S. election hasn’t slowed since the launch of the formal impeachment inquiry. The House released damning transcripts of texts between U.S. diplomats that describe withholding congressionally appropriated aid to the Ukraine in order to force an investigation into Hunter Biden. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, and White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney were all subpoenaed. On Sunday, a second whistleblower emerged who allegedly has firsthand knowledge of the Ukraine call in question. As the evidence continues to build, Republicans are effectively trapped: If they defy Trump, they enrage their base, which still supports Trump in large numbers. But if they defend Trump, they are binding themselves to his scandals, and they have no idea how deep this goes. And while their steps away from Trump are still tentative, some seem to be betting that what is yet to come in the scandals is worse than the wrath of the GOP base. Cracks in the Republicans’ united defense of Trump are showing up among GOP politicians. Three Republican senators have publicly condemned Trump’s request on the White House lawn for China to investigate Joe Biden. On October 4, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) tweeted that Trump’s “brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling” and “politically motivated.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said “the president made a big mistake by asking China to get involved in investigating a political opponent,” calling it “completely inappropriate.” And Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) also chastised Trump for his comments, saying he shouldn’t look to the Chinese government, but to “American courts.” And two Republican governors publicly support an impeachment inquiry into Trump: Phil Scott of Vermont and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts. Other Republican senators, while not condemning Trump’s actions, have stood up for the intelligence community whistleblower. Trumptweeted “I deserve to meet my accuser” and threatened the whistleblower, calling them “almost a spy” and suggesting that they should be punished for treason. A few days later, on October 1, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) rebuked Trump, saying, “This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected.” Then there are Republicans trying to have it both ways, by talking tough but then walking it back, or flailing back and forth between opposite approaches.

Matt Drudge, an influential figure in conservative media, sours on Trump as he faces impeachment -President Donald Trump, facing an ever-deepening scandal that threatens to swallow his presidency, appears to have lost a key ally in conservative media: The Drudge Report.The narrative-setting news aggregation website, founded in 1995 by Matt Drudge, has spotlighted an overwhelming amount of negative news for the Trump White House in the last several weeks. It's marked a major shift from how the outlet had previously covered the President."He's reacting to changing circumstances," a person close to the media mogul, who said Drudge had grown exasperated with Trump, told CNN Business.This should worry Trump as he faces an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives for pushing Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading Democratic presidential contender, and Biden's son Hunter.In the coming weeks and months, right-wing media will be crucial to whether Trump is able to survive the growing scandal. If he loses support in that space, it would offer Republicans wiggle room to turn on him, which could endanger his presidency.Drudge, who did not return requests for comment, is especially influential in conservative media, having the ability to shape or even create news cycles. Drudge's website has for years helped set the agenda and worked as a gravitational force that has drawn other media outlets to his preferred narrative. The power he has wielded has led observers to characterize him as the de-facto assignment editor of the conservative media."He's one of the dominoes that would have to fall for the right-wing media to allow Trump to be removed from office," said John Ziegler, a conservative who was an occasional guest host on Drudge's old radio show and writes columns on media for Mediaite. Drudge rarely reports or writes stories himself. Instead, he and his site serve as an aggregator, linking to other news organizations — and often providing them with large volumes of traffic. Drudge's views can be ascertained by looking at which stories he links to and how he frames those stories with his headlines.

US Ambassador Ordered Not To Testify In House Impeachment Inquiry; Schiff Cries Obstruction - US ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, has been directed by the Trump administration not to appear for a Tuesday morning interview scheduled in the House's impeachment inquiry, reports the New York Times.  Sondland was prominently featured in a text exchange revealed last week in which US diplomat to Ukraine, William Taylor, said in early September "As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign," referring to nearly $400 million in military aid withheld from Ukraine. Sondland made a phone call to Trump, who said that assertion was false. Sondland then texted back: "Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions," adding "The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind.""I suggest we stop the back and forth by text." The decision has riled the three House committees seeking to speak with Sondland, which may result in what Times suggests could be "potentially profound consequences for the White House and President Trump." House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) says the failure to deliver Sondland is obstruction - a charge itself which carries the potential for impeachment. Schiff also claims that the State Department is withholding text messages. "There was no indication that [Sondland] would be a no show. Not only is he being deprived of his testimony today, but we're also aware that the ambassador has text messages or emails on a personal device, which have been provided to the State Department — although we have requested those from the ambassador. And the State Department is withholding those messages as well. Those messages are also deeply relevant to this investigation and the impeachment inquiry," said Schiff.

‘Full halt’: White House says it will not cooperate with Trump impeachment inquiry - The White House said Tuesday that it will not cooperate with House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, claiming that the proceedings amount to “baseless, unconstitutional efforts to overturn the democratic process.”“You have designed and implemented your inquiry in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone said in an eight-page letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel. Read the full letter here or scroll down.“Put simply, you seek to overturn the results of the 2016 election and deprive the American people of the President they have freely chosen,” Cipollone added.He also accused the Democratic leaders of viewing the impeachment inquiry as “a means to undo the democratic results of the last election, but as a strategy to influence the next election” in 2020. A senior White House official told CNBC’s Eamon Javers that the letter signifies a “full halt” to cooperation with the impeachment inquiry.

CIA Whistleblower 'Professionally Tied' To 2020 Candidate; 2nd 'Whistleblower' Was First One's Source - A CIA employee who lodged a whistleblower complaint over President Trump's request that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden has a "professional relationship with one of the 2020 candidates," according to the Washington Examiner's Byron York - citing a source familiar with last Friday's impeachment inquiry interview with Inspector General Michael Atkinson.  Now we know why House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) won't release the transcript..."The IG said [the whistleblower] worked or had some type of professional relationship with one of the Democratic candidates," said York's source. "What [Atkinson] said was that the whistleblower self-disclosed that he was a registered Democrat and that he had a prior working relationship with a current 2020 Democratic presidential candidate," said a third person with knowledge of the testimony.  All three sources said Atkinson did not identify the Democratic candidate with whom the whistleblower had a connection. It is unclear what the working or professional relationship between the two was.In the Aug. 26 letter, Atkinson said that even though there was evidence of possible bias on the whistleblower's part, "such evidence did not change my determination that the complaint relating to the urgent concern 'appears credible,' particularly given the other information the ICIG obtained during its preliminary review."Democrats are certain to take that position when Republicans allege that the whistleblower acted out of bias. Indeed, the transcript of Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is a public document, for all to see. One can read it regardless of the whistleblower's purported bias. -Washington Examiner In short, a registered Democrat on the CIA payroll went to Adam Schiff's committee, who referred him to a Democratic operative attorney, who helped him file a whistleblower complaint on a form which was altered to allow second-hand information.

CIA Whistleblower Said To Have Worked With Biden When He Was VP -- There has been much speculation since it was revealed that the CIA employee who lodged a whistleblower complaint over President Trump's request that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden had a "professional relationship with one of the 2020 candidates."As the Washington Examiner's Byron York reported, a source told him that:"The IG said [the whistleblower] worked or had some type of professional relationship with one of the Democratic candidates."And now, as The Washington Examiner reports, according to intelligence officers and former White House officials, the 2020 Democratic candidate with whom the CIA whistleblower had a "professional" tie is Joe Biden.A retired CIA officer told the Washington Examiner, “From everything we know about the whistleblower and his work in the executive branch then, there is absolutely no doubt he would have been working with Biden when he was vice president."

Ukrainian President Insists Trump Did Nothing Wrong- There Was No Blackmail -  As Democrats and their media allies turn up the pressure on President Trump with this latest report about the president allegedly trying to do favors for his political allies (something that everyone in politics does, to one degree or another), perfectly timed to coincide with the NatSec meltdown over Trump's decision to let Turkey have northeastern Syria, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy once again denied that he had been blackmailed by Trump during the now-infamous July 25 phone call that's at the center of the Dems' impeachment crusade, Bloomberg reports. At a press conference in Kyiv, far from American soil, and well beyond Trump's jurisdiction, Zelenskiy insistently replied to a group of reporters that there never was any 'blackmail' from Trump, and that Trump must have known Zelenskiy doesn't possess the power to interfere in Ukraine's judiciary (as rooting out corruption was one of the tentpoles of his campaign). Democrats say Trump tried to use $400 million of military aide from the US as leverage to try to strong-arm Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian government to dig up some dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden and their shady business dealings in the country (these include Hunter's position on the board of a private gas company, and Joe's involvement in the ouster of a supposedly corrupt prosecutor). We've detailed many of Hunter's shady dealings here.Zelenskiy claims it's simply not so."There was no a blackmail," Zelenskiy told reporters at an all-day press event in Kyiv. "It wasn’t a subject of our talk."Zelenskiy said he wasn’t aware when he spoke with Trump that the US had put a hold on the military aid that Dems say was used to blackmail Zelenskiy (reports have shown otherwise: Zelenskiy reportedly wasn't aware of the hold until he discussed it during a later meeting in Warsaw with Vice President Mike Pence).Ukraine’s new chief prosecutor said that his office would review several important cases that were opened before he entered the office - including an investigation into the company upon whose board Hunter sat. So far, everything looks very preliminary.To be clear, Zelenskiy has said he's not against any prosecutions of the Bidens moving forward. He simply just doesn't want to meddle."I don’t want to meddle by any means in the elections of an independent country," he said. "I won’t do it."

Burisma paid Joe Biden $900,000 for lobbying – Ukrainian MP – Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden received $900,000 for lobbying activities from Burisma Group, Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada member Andriy Derkach said citing investigation materials.  Derkach publicized documents which, as he said, "describe the mechanism of getting money by Biden Sr." at a press conference at Interfax-Ukraine's press center in Kyiv on Wednesday.   "This was the transfer of Burisma Group's funds for lobbying activities, as investigators believe, personally to Joe Biden through a lobbying company. Funds in the amount of $900,000 were transferred to the U.S.-based company Rosemont Seneca Partners, which according to open sources, in particular, the New York Times, is affiliated with Biden. The payment reference was payment for consultative services," Derkach said.  He also publicized sums that were transferred to Burisma Group representatives, in particular Hunter Biden, a son of the former U.S. vice president."According to the documents, Burisma paid no less than $16.5 million to [former Polish President, who became an independent director at Burisma Holdings in 2014] Aleksander Kwasniewski, [chairman of the Burisma board of independent directors] Alan Apter, [Burisma independent director] Devon Archer and Hunter Biden [who joined the Burisma board of directors in 2014]," Derkach said."Using political and economic levelers of influencing Ukrainian authorities and manipulating the issue of providing financial aid to Ukraine, Joe Biden actively assisted closing criminal cases into the activity of former Ukrainian Ecology Minister Mykola Zlochevsky, who is the founder and owner of Burisma Group," he said."   Biden's fifth visit to Kyiv on December 7-8, 2015 was devoted to making a decision on the resignation of [then Ukrainian Prosecutor General] Viktor Shokin over the case of Zlochevsky and Burisma. Loan guarantees worth $1 billion that the United States was to give to Ukraine was the point of pressure. Biden himself admitted exerting pressure in his speech at the Council of Foreign Relations in January 2018, calling Shokin 'son of a bitch who was fired'," Derkach said. The timeline of events proves that the U.S. linked the Zlochevsky case to loan guarantees, he said.

Joe Biden 'Personally Paid $900,000 By Burisma' According To Ukrainian MP In Bombshell Admission -- Ukrainian MP Andriy Derkach revealed on Wednesday that former Vice President Joe Biden received $900,000 from Burisma Group for lobbying activities, citing materials related to an investigation. Via Interfax:Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden received $900,000 for lobbying activities from Burisma Group, Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada member Andriy Derkach said citing investigation materials.Derkach publicized documents which, as he said, "describe the mechanism of getting money by Biden Sr." at a press conference at Interfax-Ukraine's press center in Kyiv on Wednesday. -Interfax"This was the transfer of Burisma Group's funds for lobbying activities, as investigators believe, personally to Joe Biden through a lobbying company. Funds in the amount of $900,000 were transferred to the U.S.-based company Rosemont Seneca Partners, which according to open sources, in particular, the New York Times, is affiliated with Biden. The payment reference was payment for consultative services," said Derkach. Derkach also puiblicized sums of money transferred to Burisma Group representatives - including Joe Biden's son Hunter."According to the documents, Burisma paid no less than $16.5 million to [former Polish President, who became an independent director at Burisma Holdings in 2014] Aleksander Kwasniewski, [chairman of the Burisma board of independent directors] Alan Apter, [Burisma independent director] Devon Archer and Hunter Biden [who joined the Burisma board of directors in 2014]," Derkach added.  "Using political and economic levelers of influencing Ukrainian authorities and manipulating the issue of providing financial aid to Ukraine, Joe Biden actively assisted closing criminal cases into the activity of former Ukrainian Ecology Minister Mykola Zlochevsky, who is the founder and owner of Burisma Group."

Trump directed Perry, State Dept. officials to talk to Giuliani on Ukraine: report - President Trump instructed Energy Secretary Rick Perry and two top State Department officials to talk with his private attorney Rudy Giuliani about Ukraine, CNN reported Tuesday night. Two sources familiar with the president's orders told CNN that when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wanted to schedule a meeting with Trump, Trump told the officials to persuade Giuliani. Trump reportedly thought the country was still corrupt. "If they can satisfy Rudy, they can satisfy the President," a source familiar with the meeting told CNN. Giuliani's involvement as a private citizen in foreign affairs, specifically with Ukraine, was called into question in the whistleblower report that sparked an impeachment inquiry against Trump in the House. The report alleges that the attorney presented different foreign policies to countries than U.S. diplomats did. Perry, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and former special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker met with Trump on May 23, intending to inform the president that Zelensky was trustworthy and worth meeting with, sources told CNN. A meeting between the two leaders would signal to Russia that the U.S. favored a free Ukraine. "The President was very skeptical," Volker said to the House committees last week. "In the course of that conversation, he referenced conversations with Mayor Giuliani." Sources said officials wanted to correct the president's view on Ukraine but realized they had to interact with Giuliani to do so. An Energy Department spokesperson told CNN that Perry did speak to Giuliani but did not comment on what the conversations involved. When asked by CNN if he had spoken to Perry about Ukraine, Giuliani said, "Did Henry Kissinger ever call me about Ukraine. What about Colin Powell," before saying those conversations were privileged.

 Key diplomat defies Trump administration, says he will testify in House impeachment inquiry - Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, will appear for a deposition before House committees as part of the impeachment inquiry in spite of an attempt by the Trump administration to block his testimony.“After consultation with Committee Staff, his testimony is now scheduled for Thursday, October 17,” Sondland’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, said in a statement to NBC News on Friday.“Notwithstanding the State Department’s current direction to not testify, Ambassador Sondland will honor the Committees’ subpoena, and he looks forward to testifying on Thursday,” Luskin said.House Democratic leaders subpoenaed Sondland on Tuesday to testify and provide documents related to the impeachment inquiry, which has largely centered on President Donald Trump’s request to Ukraine’s president to “look into” unsubstantiated corruption allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.The subpoena was issued hours after Sondland was ordered by the White House not to appear for a scheduled deposition with the Democrat-led House committees leading the impeachment probe. It also came just after the White House said in a defiant letter to House leaders that it would not cooperate with the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.House Democrats fumed about the interference in the inquiry, which Trump has described as a “witch hunt” akin to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, which concluded earlier this year. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., accused the White House of “further acts of obstruction of a coequal branch of government.” “Ambassador Sondland has at all times acted with integrity and in the interests of the United States. He has no agenda apart from answering the Committees’ questions fully and truthfully,” Luskin said in the statement. But “federal law and State Department regulations prohibit him from producing documents concerning his official responsibilities,” he said.

McConnell tightlipped as impeachment furor grows - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is keeping a low profile amid the growing impeachment battle surrounding the White House overPresident Trump’s political dealings with foreign governments.McConnell made news in the first days of the two-week congressional recess, when he said he would have “no choice” but to move impeachment if the House sends over articles. Since then, however, he’s largely gone quiet, turning his attention to issues like opioid funding, getting money for Fort Campbell and judicial nominations. McConnell held an event last week in Kentucky with Defense Secretary Mark Esper, a day after Trump publicly floated that China and Ukraine should investigate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. But reporters were removed from the event before the audience was allowed to ask questions. The GOP leader also skipped taking questions from reporters this week when speaking at a Federalist Society meeting in Kentucky, as well as a separate event with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar touting a grant for the University of Kentucky. Asked about McConnell’s thinking and why he’s decided not to weigh in directly on Trump’s calls for Ukraine and China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a spokesman declined to comment beyond what McConnell has said on the record. The relative silence from McConnell — known for being a cautious but sharp strategist — comes as Republican senators dispersed across the country have offered different views on Trump. McConnell told Politico last month that Democratic criticism of a partial transcript of Trump’s call with Ukranian President Zelensky was “laughable,” but he’s offered no public comment since then directly responding to Trump’s suggestions of investigations by Ukraine. He also hasn’t weighed in on reports suggesting top administration and Cabinet officials are involved in the decision to temporarily block Ukraine aid. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham duped by Russian pranksters - Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was duped into phone conversations with Russian pranksters posing as Turkish officials back in August, his office confirmed to NBC News. "We have been successful in stopping many efforts to prank Senator Graham and the office, but this one slipped through the cracks. They got him," Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop told NBC. In recordings of the calls obtained by Politico, Graham bad-mouthed the same Kurdish allies he's accused President Donald Trump of betraying. "Your YPG Kurdish problem is a big problem,” Graham told the pranksters, one of whom was claiming to be Turkey's defense minister, according to Politico. The reference was to Kurdish fighters who had been armed by the U.S. to combat ISIS. "I told President Trump that Obama made a huge mistake in relying on the YPG Kurds,” Graham said, according to the report. "Everything I worried about has come true, and now we have to make sure Turkey is protected from this threat in Syria. I’m sympathetic to the YPG problem, and so is the president, quite frankly." He also urged the "minister" to drop plans to use a Russian anti-aircraft system, the report said. The pranksters — Russian shock jocks — got Graham back on the phone a few days later, and the South Carolina Republican told them he'd spoken to Trump about their call. "We want a better relationship with Turkey. That’s exactly what he wants," Graham told them, according to the report. "And this case involving the Turkish bank, he’s very sensitive to that," Graham continued. "The president wants to be helpful, within the limits of his power." Graham appeared to be referring to a case involving a Turkish-Iranian gold trader named Reza Zarrab, who was represented by Trump's current lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

DOJ asks judge to block House from Mueller grand jury material, says Watergate decision was wrong -- Justice Department lawyers on Tuesday used the example of Richard Nixon’s impeachment inquiry to argue that the House Judiciary Committee should be denied its request to obtain information about grand jury materials assembled under special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of President Donald Trump. Lawyers from the Justice Department surprised the judge, Beryl Howell, by arguing that the decision by former Chief Judge John Sirica to release normally secret grand jury materials to the House in 1974, when Nixon faced impeachment, was incorrect, and that those materials should have been kept from Congress at the time, according to NBC News. Those materials were considered the “roadmap” that led to Nixon’s expected impeachment that year. Nixon ended up resigning after before he was formally impeached. “Wow,” Howell said after hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., that the Justice Department now disagreed with Sirica’s ruling. “As I said, the department is taking extraordinary positions in this case,” the Howell said. The Judiciary Committee is seeking the Mueller grand jury information as part of its ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trump. That information would include transcripts of testimony by witnesses to the grand jury.

 If Mike Pence Becomes President the Neocons Will Stage a Comeback  - It remains improbable but less unlikely than a week ago: Mike Pence could become president. Now that an impeachment inquiry has been launched by congressional Democrats, Donald Trump is not proving his own best advocate. Instead of assembling a war room, he is relying on himself, retweeting messages about starting a civil war in America and suggesting that his antagonist, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, should be arrested for treason. It savors more of panic than a coherent strategy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell already allowed a unanimous consent request for the whistleblower documents to proceed. Today, McConnell piled Pelion on Ossa, announcing that if the House votes to impeach Trump, he would have no choice but to take it up.  So it’s not too soon to ask what a Pence presidency would actually look like. In contrast to Gerald Ford, who represented continuity with Richard M. Nixon’s policies, a President Pence would likely break sharply with the America First program. Pence’s entire record, particularly in the realm of foreign policy, is of a hawk. A Pence administration would represent a resurrection of the neoconservative wing of the GOP. Pence would be inclined to pursue an even harder line against Iran, North Korea and China, while dumping overboard as useless ballast Trump’s protectionist trade policies. Even a cursory look at Pence’s beliefs makes it clear that while he has rhetorically embraced Trump, his convictions remain unchanged. Writing in the Hill, Hady Amr and Steve Feldstein perceptively observed in 2017, “There is a high probability that Pence would explicitly embed religious morals in U.S. foreign policy and push an activist social conservative agenda.” A crusade for democracy and human rights might well be central to a Pence presidency. But perhaps the most revealing Pence statement came at West Point this past May. In contrast to Trump, who has preached that America should not function as an international policeman, Pence has counseled a very different strategy. At West Point, for example, he stated: “Some of you will join the fight against radical Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of you will join the fight on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific, where North Korea continues to threaten the peace, and an increasingly militarized China challenges our presence in the region. Some of you will join the fight in Europe, where an aggressive Russia seeks to redraw international boundaries by force. And some of you may even be called upon to serve in this hemisphere.”

Fed finishes overhaul of post-crisis supervisory regime — The Federal Reserve Board on Thursday was set to finalize a host of changes to its post-crisis prudential standards that hew closely to proposals the central bank issued last fall and April. The final rules most directly affect midsize and regional banks — with some changes for the largest institutions — easing requirements dealing with liquidity, living will submissions and the frequency of supervisory stress testing. The Fed, which worked in conjunction with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on a subsection of the rule, largely approved the rules as proposed. However, one key changes included walking back a proposal allowing banks to change aspects of their living wills automatically. Federal Reserve Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles said the final product benefited from feedback from banks and other stakeholders. The rules were initially proposed as part of the regulators' obligations under the 2018 regulatory relief bill sponsored by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo. The Fed's primary task was to reconsider prudential standards for banks between $100 billion and $250 billion of assets. The Fed then developed a four-tier methodology for the application of prudential standards for all banks over $100 billion of assets, placing banks in different categories based on size and riskiness. A related proposal also placed foreign-owned banking organizations and intermediate holding companies into categories tailored to their profile. The most rigorous standards will apply to so-called Category 1 banks, which are the eight U.S.-based Global Systemically Important Banks: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, BNY Mellon, State Street, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs. Those banks received virtually no relief in the plan and will continue to be subject to annual stress testing, the full Liquidity Coverage Ratio and biannual resolution plan submissions. The next tier, Category 2, would apply to banks with more than $700 billion of assets or more than $75 billion in cross-jurisdictional assets. They will face all of their existing prudential requirements except those exclusively reserved for the G-SIBs, such as the enhanced supplementary leverage ratio and a special G-SIB capital surcharge. Category 2 banks also would only have to submit resolution plans every three years. Category 2 currently includes only Northern Trust. Unlike banks in Categories 1 and 2, banks that fall into Categories 3 and 4 will see substantial regulatory relief. Category 3 banks are those with more than $250 billion of assets or more than $75 billion in cross-jurisdictional assets, weighted short-term wholesale funding, or off-balance-sheet exposure.  Category 4 banks — those with between $100 and $250 billion of assets — enjoy the greatest relief under the final rules.

Agencies sign off on final Volcker Rule changes — Five federal agencies have officially signed off on a regulation simplifying the Volcker Rule, they said Tuesday. The reforms will result in significant changes to the proprietary trading ban first proposed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and mandated in the Dodd-Frank Act. The new regulation, which the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency approved in August, is meant to streamline how firms determine which trades are prohibited. The final plan scrapped the so-called "accounting prong" that the regulators had proposed in 2018 but banks said would have unintended consequences. But supporters of the trading ban have said the new regulation, which will go into effect Jan. 1, goes too far in easing banks' compliance standards. “I am concerned the final rule would materially reduce the scope of covered activity, excessively rely on firms' self-policing, and narrow the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) attestation requirement, which together could substantially weaken the Volcker rule prohibition on proprietary trading,” said Federal Reserve Board Gov. Lael Brainard, who dissented from the board's vote, in a statement Tuesday. (The Fed voted to approve the new regulation on Oct. 3, according to the central bank's website.) The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission also signed off on changes.

FDIC to rescind four policies deemed outdated -- — The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is proposing to retire four "statements of policy" as part of an ongoing effort to explore ways to reduce the industry's regulatory burden. The four statements headed for the FDIC's chopping block include 1982 guidelines on how the Glass-Steagall Act applied to securities units of FDIC-regulated banks, two policies from the 1990s dealing with the treatment of certain holdings in a failed-bank receivership, and a 1997 statement on how the FDIC contracts with firms that have unresolved audit issues. The policy statement related to Glass-Steagall "was superseded in its entirety by the enactment of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act," the agency said in a notice published Sept. 30 in the Federal Register. In a letter Thursday to all FDIC-insured institutions, the agency said it "is reviewing all of its Statements of Policy and will identify opportunities for updates and additional streamlining." That review is consistent with a 2017 report submitted to Congress under the Economic Growth and Regulatory Paperwork Reduction Act. That law requires bank regulators to identify outdated or unnecessary rules. The public will be able to comment on the proposed rescission of the four statements until Oct. 30.

Fed Says It Will Offer $310 Billion More in Term Loans to Wall Street as Over 68,000 Job Cuts Planned at Mega Banks -- Pam Martens - One or more U.S. or foreign banks that are primary dealers to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is in need of longer-term loans that they are unable to get anywhere else – at least at an affordable rate of interest. That’s the only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn from the Fed’s announcement on Friday that it is extending its money pumping program to Wall Street until at least November 4 and will be offering an additional $310 billion cumulatively in term loans (most for 14-days at a time) as well as offering at least $75 billion daily in overnight loans. The Fed’s money sluicing operation that began abruptly on September 17 is taking on the distinct appearance of its machinations during the early days of the 2008 crash – a time when it also refused to name the banks that were receiving the money until a multi-year court battle and congressional legislation forced its hand. The open money spigot at the Fed comes at a time when global banks, including many that are among the Fed’s 24 primary dealer banks that are able to borrow from the New York Fed under its current repo (repurchase agreement) operations, have announced large job cuts. The most recent news came from the Financial Times over the weekend in a report that says HSBC is planning another 10,000 job cuts on top of the 4,700 it had previously announced.Another European bank that is heavily interlinked via derivatives with Wall Street, Germany’s biggest lender, Deutsche Bank, has seen its stock set new historic lows all year. (See Lordy, Deutsche Bank Is Having a Helluva Bad Month.) In July, itconfirmed plans to cut 18,000 jobs.According to a chart published by Bloomberg News on September 24, job cuts planned by global banks at that point tallied up to 58,200. That was before the Financial Times reported this past weekend another 10,000 job cuts at HSBC. Securities units at both HSBC and Deutsche Bank are among the Fed’s primary dealers that are eligible to participate in its current repo loan program. A major U.S. bank, Citigroup, is also culling hundreds of employees in its fixed income and stock-trading operations, according to a July 31 report in Fortune. The publication explained at the time that “Trading revenue at the five biggest U.S. banks on Wall Street dropped 8% in the second quarter, following a 14% slide in the first three months of the year — setting up global banks for their worst first half in more than a decade.” The loans currently being pumped out to Wall Street by the New York Fed (the most powerful of the Federal Reserve’s 12 regional banks) are being offered only to its primary dealers. What most Americans don’t realize is that a large number of these primary dealers are the securities units of foreign banks. (See primary dealer list below.)

Wild Swings in Repo Rates Raise Concerns About Bond Market’s Liquidity – WSJ -- Some investors are concerned that recent turmoil in a key short-term cash market where banks borrow to fund operations could exacerbate difficulties trading bonds.  Spikes in the cost of overnight loans using repurchase agreements, or repos, could hit bond trading in two ways, investors and analysts said. Rising repo rates make it more expensive for securities dealers to borrow money and to hold government bonds—actions they take frequently to facilitate client trades and manage their risks.

“Money Market Funds Have Not Seen This Level Of Net Inflows Since Global Financial Crisis”  - Late last month, we described a fascinating trend that is developing: the dash for cash ahead of the next market crash. Here is what we said:  "The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) warned over the weekend about an imminent financial crisis, while it was reported on Monday that billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer is building cash to take advantage of opportunities after the next crisis. On Tuesday morning, we noted how 200 institutions that manage a combined $4.1 trillion in assets, are becoming increasingly bearish ahead of 2020. Now Bloomberg is reporting that family offices around the world are stockpiling cash ahead of a market meltdown."To confirm the continuation of this trend, Lipper Alpha Insight's fund asset groups, including mutual funds and ETFs, show 3Q net inflows of money market funds increased by $221.5 billion, and for the year, rose to $349.7 billion. Senior research analyst at Lipper Pat Keon CFA said, "money market funds have not seen this level of net inflows since the global financial crisis."

The rise of the financial machines - Economist - The job of capital markets is to process information so that savings flow to the best projects and firms. That makes high finance sound simple; in reality it is dynamic and intoxicating. It reflects a changing world. Today’s markets, for instance, are grappling with a trade war and low interest rates. But it also reflects changes within finance, which constantly reinvents itself in a perpetual struggle to gain a competitive edge. As our Briefing reports, the latest revolution is in full swing. Machines are taking control of investing—not just the humdrum buying and selling of securities, but also the commanding heights of monitoring the economy and allocating capital. Funds run by computers that follow rules set by humans account for 35% of America’s stockmarket, 60% of institutional equity assets and 60% of trading activity. New artificial-intelligence programs are also writing their own investing rules, in ways their human masters only partly understand. Industries from pizza-delivery to Hollywood are being changed by technology, but finance is unique because it can exert voting power over firms, redistribute wealth and cause mayhem in the economy. Because it deals in huge sums, finance has always had the cash to adopt breakthroughs early. The first transatlantic cable, completed in 1866, carried cotton prices between Liverpool and New York. Wall Street analysts were early devotees of spreadsheet software, such as Excel, in the 1980s. Since then, computers have conquered swathes of the financial industry. First to go was the chore of “executing” buy and sell orders. Visit a trading floor today and you will hear the hum of servers, not the roar of traders. High-frequency trading exploits tiny differences in the prices of similar securities, using a barrage of transactions.  In the past decade computers have graduated to running portfolios. Exchange-traded funds (etfs) and mutual funds automatically track indices of shares and bonds. Last month these vehicles had $4.3trn invested in American equities, exceeding the sums actively run by humans for the first time. A strategy known as smart-beta isolates a statistical characteristic—volatility, say—and loads up on securities that exhibit it. An elite of quantitative hedge funds, most of them on America’s east coast, uses complex black-box mathematics to invest some $1trn. As machines prove themselves in equities and derivatives, they are growing in debt markets, too. All the while, computers are gaining autonomy. Software programs using aidevise their own strategies without needing human guidance. Some hedgefunders are sceptical about ai but, as processing power grows, so do its abilities. And consider the flow of information, the lifeblood of markets. Human fund managers read reports and meet firms under strict insider-trading and disclosure laws. These are designed to control what is in the public domain and ensure everyone has equal access to it. Now an almost infinite supply of new data and processing power is creating novel ways to assess investments. For example, some funds try to use satellites to track retailers’ car parks, and scrape inflation data from e-commerce sites. Eventually they could have fresher information about firms than even their boards do.

Billionaire Warren Buffett Is Predicting a Stock Market Crash; Is He Right? - Warren Buffett, one of the world’s most successful investors, appears to be battening down the hatches for a stock market crash.The Oracle of Omaha’s Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK) had cashed out nearly 60% of its investment portfolio at the end of June according to an SEC filing. The $122 billion cash pile is unusual for Buffett, who typically puts his money to work through acquisitions, stock buybacks or equity purchases. Berkshire Hathaway’s massive cash coffer has many wondering if a stock market crash is on the way. Buffett’s isn’t called “the Oracle of Omaha” for nothing; he successfully prepared for the last market crash back in 2008 by storing up excess cash which he later lent out to struggling firms like Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and General Electric (NYSE:GE). Buffett’s famed patience and eye for a bargain is likely at play here; he often measures the health of the market by looking at its capitalization compared to GDP. Just before the dot-com bubble burst the so-called “Buffett indicator” came in at 146% and in 2007 before the financial crisis hit the figure was 135%. Right now that ratio sits just above 140%. At 88 years old, Buffett is an investing legend— but is he still on top of his game? Berkshire Hathaway’s returns have trailed the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P 500 over the past five years, a fact that has led some to question Buffett’s judgement.

 Richest 400 Americans paid lower taxes than everyone else in 2018 - According to an analysis by noted economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, previewed this week by New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, the wealthiest American households paid a lower tax rate last year than every other income group for the first time in the country’s history. Saez and Zucman, both professors at the University of California Berkeley, detail the phenomenon of declining taxes for the richest Americans in their soon-to-be released book, The Triumph of Injustice . The pair compiled a historical database composed of the tax payments of households in various income percentiles spanning all the way back to 1913, when the federal income tax was first implemented. Their research uncovered that in the 2018 fiscal year the wealthiest 400 Americans paid a lower tax rate—accounting for federal, state, and local taxes—than anyone else. The overall tax rate paid by the richest .01 percent was only 23 percent last year, while the bottom half of the population paid 24.2 percent. This contrasts starkly with the overall tax rates on the wealthy of 70 percent in 1950 and 47 percent in 1980. The taxes on the wealthy have been in precipitous decline since the latter half of the 20th century as successive presidential administrations enacted tax cuts for the rich, suggesting that they would result in economic prosperity for all. Taxes that mostly affect the wealthy, such as the estate tax and corporate tax, have been drastically cut and lawyers have been hard at work on the beliefs of their wealthy patrons planning out the best schemes for tax avoidance, seeking to drive tax rates as close to zero as possible. The impetus for the historical tipping point was the Trump Administration’s 2017 tax reform, which was a windfall for the super-rich. Supported by both the Republican and Democratic Parties, the two parties of Wall Street, Trump’s tax cuts were specifically designed to transfer massive amounts of wealth from the working class to the ruling elite.

Breaking News: Zuckerberg to Testify at House Hearing on Facebook’s Plan for Cryptocurrency --  Pam Martens -~ Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, announced that Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before the Committee at an October 23 hearing. Zuckerberg will be the sole witness at the hearing, which is entitled, “An Examination of Facebook and Its Impact on the Financial Services and Housing Sectors.” In July, Chairwoman Waters and other Committee Democrats sent a letter to Facebook requesting an immediate moratorium on the implementation of Facebook’s proposed cryptocurrency, Libra, and digital wallet, Calibra. Also in July, Waters convened a hearing entitled, “Examining Facebook’s Proposed Cryptocurrency and Its Impact on Consumers, Investors, and the American Financial System,” with testimony from Calibra CEO David Marcus. At the hearing Committee Members discussed a draft bill, the “Keep Big Tech Out of Finance Act.” The draft legislation prohibits large platform utilities, like Facebook, from becoming chartered, licensed or registered as a U.S. financial institution (e.g. like taxpayer-backed banks, investment funds, and stock exchanges) or otherwise becoming affiliated with such financial institutions. The bill also prohibits large platform utilities from establishing, maintaining, or operating a digital asset that is intended to be widely used as medium of exchange, unit of account, store of value, or any other similar function as defined by the Federal Reserve.

Senators Warn Visa, Mastercard to Think Twice About Joining Facebook’s Cryptocurrency Scheme - As anxieties mount over Facebook’s plan to launch a cryptocurrency called Libra, Capitol Hill lawmakers are facing increasing pressure to intercede. This week, that intervention has taken the form of ominous letters by Democratic members of the powerful Senate Banking Committee, who warn payment service companies to “expect a high level of scrutiny” if they take on the risks of Libra. It was additionally announced on Wednesday that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will be the sole witness at a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee later this month. These moves come amid reports about waning support among companies that committed funding to join the Libra Association, the Geneva-based nonprofit overseeing the project, and Facebook’s own failure to assuage concerns over the stability of the global financial system. In the letters, Sen. Sherrod Brown, the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Banking Committee, and Sen. Brian Schatz, another Democratic member, urge the CEOs of Visa, MasterCard, and Stripe—all of which are Libra Association member organizations—to proceed with caution. “We are concerned because key questions remain unanswered about the risks the project poses to consumers, regulated financial institutions, and the global financial system,” the letters say. “We urge you to carefully consider how your companies will manage these risks before proceeding, given that Facebook has not yet demonstrated to Congress, financial regulators—and perhaps even your own companies—that it is taking these risk seriously.”The letters go on to state that Facebook has failed to address how it will prevent its new digital currency from being used to finance crime and terrorism, or how it will protect consumers from risks currently faced exclusively by accredited investors. “Facebook is currently struggling to tackle massive issues, such as privacy violations, disinformation, election interference, discrimination, and fraud, and it has not demonstrated an ability to bring those failures under control,” they say.

Twitter Misused Private Security Info to Help Advertisers --Twitter says it inadvertently used private information, provided by users for the purpose of protecting their accounts, to help companies target them with ads.Users provided Twitter with their phone numbers and email addresses in order to enable certain security features, such as two-factor authentication, to prevent their accounts from being hijacked. Twitter, in turn, used that information to help advertisers reach specific audiences, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.“We cannot say with certainty how many people were impacted by this, but in an effort to be transparent, we wanted to make everyone aware. No personal data was ever shared externally with our partners or any other third parties,” the company said. The personal data was used in Twitter’s “Tailored Audiences” advertising system, which allows companies to upload lists of phone numbers and email addresses of people they wish to target with ads. Twitter then matches the lists with its own internal records.

When social media stops being social: How Twitter and Facebook have rendered Americans uncivil, insecure & addicted -,Social media can be a powerful weapon for truth in the right hands. Unfortunately, Twitter and Facebook have done their best to keep it out of those hands - and people are starting to call them out for the damage they've done. "It's hard to think of a company that's hurt this country more than Twitter," Fox News host Tucker Carlson said on Tuesday night, in conversation with congressman Devin Nunes (R-California), who is suing Twitter for allegedly permitting users to gang up on him. If you look at the hate, division and the cruelty that's now common, it wasn't common 10 years ago. Twitter's a huge part of that. Carlson may be unfairly singling Twitter out - Facebook and, to a lesser extent, YouTube have also contributed to the rapid deterioration of civil discourse in the US - but as a whole, the major social media platforms are transforming a huge cross-section of American internet traffic into petty groupthink-driven drama factories. Worse, their ubiquity has made them all but imperative to anyone who hopes to work in any public-facing profession. After all, only an antisocial person would consciously avoid social media! Twitter and Facebook keep users on their platforms by serving up more of what the user likes, creating an echo chamber that can be impenetrable, depending on how comfortable the user is with unfamiliar ideas. If one doesn't take care to interact with users elsewhere on the political spectrum, it's easy to believe that the entire country wants President Donald Trump impeached, or that the average Iranian is hungry for regime-change. Studies have confirmed that the echo-chamber phenomenon is strongest when it comes to political content, and users can make this worse by muting or blocking those they disagree with. When they do finally collide with reality, the awakening is seldom pleasant - as was the case in 2016, when blue-state liberals belatedly realized there was a whole other America they'd been ignoring, and it was upset enough to elect a reality-show personality as president.

 General Electric freezes pension benefits for over 20,000 employees - General Electric (GE) executives, at the behest of voracious shareholders and Wall Street hedge fund managers, announced Monday that they had made the “difficult decision” to freeze the pension benefits belonging to 20,000 GE employees beginning January 1, 2021. In little more than year, an additional 700 employees will also have their supplementary pension benefits frozen, while 100,000 employees, who have yet to start receiving any benefits but would eventually be eligible will be offered a one-time lump sum payment in lieu of any future benefits. This craven maneuver is expected to save the multinational conglomerate between $4 and $6 billion in net debt, while reducing future pension benefits by a further $5 to $8 billion. This enormous sum however is not nearly enough for the vampires on the trading floor or the executives running the company. Current CEO Larry Culp has previously stated his intentions to slash nearly $25 billion in GE's debt. Pension obligations, which GE has purposefully and criminally underfunded for decades, accounts for nearly half of the multinational conglomerate’s $54 billion debt. In a prepared statement, GE Chief Human Resources Officer Kevin Cox didn’t specify that his or any other executives’ benefits and compensation would be affected by the announced freeze. Instead the burden of returning GE to a more “favorable market position”—GE’s stock has fallen in value more than 32 percent over the last 12 months—would unwillingly fall on rank and file workers. The executive went on to state that “returning GE to a position of strength has required us to make several difficult decisions, and today’s decision to freeze the pension is no exception.” The “freezing” of a pension plan usually precedes the outright termination of the plan or benefit. As of 2012 GE has not offered a defined pension plan to any new employee. Current retirees receiving benefits will not be affected, for now. However, future benefits may be terminated at any time by the company.

CFPB launches task force to identify gaps in consumer finance law -- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is creating a task force of outsiders to research and identify potential conflicts and inconsistencies in consumer finance law. The bureau on Friday announced the creation of a seven-member task force with a chair and six members that will identify gaps in existing laws. The task force will produce research and provide legal analysis on "harmonizing, modernizing, and updating" the enumerated consumer credit laws. “An objective and independent evaluation of our current regulatory framework to identify where there may be gaps or where regulation should be simplified or modernized is needed to help us more effectively carry out our mission of protecting consumers,” CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger said in a press release. “As we work to set up the taskforce, we encourage interested individuals to apply to be considered to be part of the taskforce.” The CFPB currently employs a team of economists, market analysts and rule writers in its research, markets and regulations division. The agency said it modeled the task force on a national commission created after the passage in 1968 of the Consumer Credit Protection Act. That commission conducted original research and provided recommendations to Congress on the regulation of consumer credit. The bureau said it will select members of the task force who have “demonstrated records of both senior public service and expertise in consumer finance.” It is unclear whether political appointees will play a role. The CFPB said the task force will “bring on detailees from across the bureau and federal government.” Compensation also may be available to task force members, the CFPB said. 

 Pelosi, Waters defend CFPB's constitutionality in Supreme Court brief - With the Supreme Court poised to accept a case challenging the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters are defending the bureau as an independent agency. Pelosi and Waters, both California Democrats, filed an amicus brief this week defending the CFPB’s single-director leadership structure and language in the Dodd-Frank Act that states the bureau’s director can only be removed by the president “for cause.” At issue is whether Congress, in creating the CFPB, infringed on the authority of the president by concentrating so much power in the single head of an agency. Independent agencies have statutes that protect appointees from removal except in cases of “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.” ”As the lower courts have recognized in upholding the constitutionality of the for-cause provision," the brief stated, "Congress established the independent CFPB to curb fraud and promote transparency in consumer loans, home mortgages, personal credit cards, and retail banking." Last month, the Department of Justice and the CFPB’s own director, Kathy Kraninger, filed briefs arguing that the president should have more flexibility to be able to fire a sitting CFPB director. Republicans have long wanted a case to reach the high court to knock down the single-director leadership framework. A Supreme Court ruling could potentially impact other agencies with similar structures. 

Citi fined $30 million over how it handled foreclosed property — The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is fining Citigroup's bank subsidiary $30 million over claims that it repeatedly violated federal law for its balance-sheet practices concerning foreclosed property. In a press release, the OCC said that Citibank had “deficient processes and controls in the identification and monitoring of the [other real estate owned] ... holding period” over the last several years, with violations continuing to crop up as late as August 2019. “In assessing this civil money penalty, the OCC found the bank failed to meet its commitment to implement corrective actions, resulting in additional violations,” the agency said. According to court documents filed Wednesday, the OCC first flagged Citibank’s OREO practices in 2015. The bank committed to fixing those violations but subsequently submitted “numerous untimely requests” to extend the holding period for its OREO assets, according to the court filing. Two years later, the OCC followed up and told Citibank that its “internal controls governing OREO remain decentralized, ineffective, and inadequate,” according to the court filing. Citibank allegedly committed more than 200 violations between April 2017 and August 2019. However, over the last 12 months, Citibank has “significantly reduced its inventory of OREO assets,” according to the OCC’s court filing. The OCC will continue to monitor the bank’s progress, the agency said.

A few comments on WaPo story: "Federal government has dramatically expanded exposure to risky mortgages" First a few excerpts from the WaPo: Federal government has dramatically expanded exposure to risky mortgages The federal government has dramatically expanded its exposure to risky mortgages, as federal officials over the past four years took steps that cleared the way for companies to issue loans that many borrowers might not be able to repay.…Taxpayers are shouldering much of the risk, while a growing number of homeowners face debt payments that amount to nearly half of their monthly income, a threshold many experts consider too steep. Roughly 30 percent of the loans Fannie Mae guaranteed last year exceeded this level, up from 14 percent in 2016, according to Urban Institute data. At the FHA, 57 percent of the loans it insured breached the high-risk echelon, jumping from 38 percent two years earlier.  First, the standard maximum total debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is 36% for Fannie. This can be increased to 45% if certain criteria are meet (higher credit scores, higher reserves), and even 50% in some circumstances (using DU: Desktop Underwrite).   The article is pointing out that a larger percentage of borrowers now have total DTI above 36%, and that is a little concerning - since it means those borrowers are more leveraged. But this is nothing like lending during the bubble.  Remember the worst loans during the bubble were the private label loans that layered all kinds of risk. (note: Read Tanta's piece "Reflections on Alt-A").   We aren't seeing any of the crazy private label loans that we saw back then.  There are people trying to blame Fannie and Freddie, but in reality the GSE's were more victims than cause of the housing bubble. My view is Fannie and Freddie shouldn't be loosening standards, but I don't think these mortgages are that "risky".

Black Knight Mortgage Monitor for August: National Delinquency Rate near Series Low - Black Knight released their Mortgage Monitor report for August today. According to Black Knight, 3.45% of mortgages were delinquent in August, down from 3.52% in August 2018. Black Knight also reported that 0.48% of mortgages were in the foreclosure process, down from 0.54% a year ago.   This gives a total of 3.93% delinquent or in foreclosure.  Press Release: Black Knight Mortgage Monitor: Lower Interest Rate Environment Boosts Home Affordability to Nearly Three-Year High; Home Price Growth Flat in August  This month, Black Knight’s analysts examined the impact of recent interest rate declines on home affordability, finding yet another situation where rate shifts in either direction have profound impact. As Black Knight Data & Analytics President Ben Graboske explained, the current lower interest rate environment has provided a boost to potential homebuyers. “Back in November 2018, we were reporting on home affordability hitting a nine-year low,” said Graboske. “Interest rates were nearing 5%, pushing the share of national median income required to make the principal and interest (P&I) payments on the purchase of the average-priced home to 23.7%. While still below long-term averages, that made housing the least affordable it had been since 2009, spurring a noticeable and extended slowdown in home price growth. In the time since, rates have tumbled and the affordability outlook has improved significantly. That payment-to-income ratio is now 20.7%, which is the second lowest it has been in 20 months, behind only August of this year, and about 4.5% below the long-term, pre-crisis norm. To help quantify the boost this has given to homebuyers, consider that today’s prevailing 30-year rate has cut the monthly P&I payment to purchase the average-priced home by 10% – about $124 per month – from November. Put another way, the decline in rates since November has been enough to boost buying power by $46,000 while keeping monthly P&I payments the same. “Despite falling interest rates and steadily improving affordability over the preceding eight months, annual home price growth held flat in August at 3.8% after rising for the first time in 17 months in July. It remains to be seen if this is merely a lull in what could be a reheating housing market, or a sign that low interest rates and stronger affordability may not be enough to muster another meaningful rise in home price growth across the U.S. That the strongest gains in – and strongest levels of – affordability were in August and early September could bode well for September/October housing numbers. Here is a graph from the Mortgage Monitor that shows the National delinquency rate over time.

  Mortgage Applications Increase in Latest MBA Weekly Survey -- Mortgage applications increased 5.2 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending October 4, 2019.... The Refinance Index increased 10 percent from the previous week and was 163 percent higher than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 1 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 1 percent compared with the previous week and was 10 percent higher than the same week one year ago.... “U.S. Treasury rates moved sharply lower last week, as data showing weakness in the services sector was a sign that slowing economic growth is not confined to the manufacturing sector. This in turn caused a flight to safety by investors, resulting in mortgage rates dropping across the board, with the 30-year fixed rate decreasing nine basis points to 3.9 percent – the lowest level in a month,” said Joel Kan, Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting. “As seen a few times this year, the large drop in rates caused another surge in refinance applications. The refinance index increased 10 percent to its highest level since late August, with both conventional and government refinances experiencing an upswing.”The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($484,350 or less) decreased to 3.90 percent from 3.99 percent, with points decreasing to 0.37 from 0.38 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans.

Mall Vacancy Rate Hits 8-Year High Amid Record Number Of Store Closures --  As RetailDive writes, landlords across the US are rushing to fill vacant retail space and will have to scramble all the more as Forever 21 this week said it would add 178 stores to a closure count that has already surpassed last year's grim total. And while the retail vacancy rate in the third quarter declined to 10.1%, from the 10.2% of both last quarter and the third quarter last year, the average mall vacancy rate has reached an eight-year high, inching up 0.1% from last quarter to 9.4%, according to real estate research firm Reis. Both supply and demand for retail space decelerated in the quarter, "as fewer developers build traditional neighborhood and community shopping center space," wrote Reis Senior Economist Barbara Byrne Denham. "Still, tenants are leasing stores in what is getting built as shoppers prefer the new over the old in any market." Yet as market participants jostle for positioning, one thing is clear: vacancy rates are only going higher. As Goldman notes in a recent research report, retailers so far in 2019 have announced or completed a record 11,000+ store closures, already exceeding the annual numbers of the past few years with CoreSight Research projecting the figure to touch an all time high 12,000 by 2019 end.   Curiosuly, Reis' Denham downplayed that latest wave of closures and said the market can withstand it: "The retail sector has withstood numerous store closings, this latest one should not deliver a big blow," she said of the fast-fashion retailer's announcement. "Retail spending remains healthy as consumer spending keeps climbing in step with job growth. In short, the retail sector is poised to continue to grow at the current slow but steady rate." Still, the report underscored that regional malls are doing worse compared to strip-style centers. Such malls have traditionally been anchored by department stores, which have been falling like dominoes. Sears, J.C. Penney and Macy's have also exited malls as they shuttered hundreds of locations in the past few years.

Student, Car Loans Surge Most In Three Years (see graphs) While the total increase in US consumer credit in August was hardly a major outlier, rising by $17.9BN, below last month's $23.05BN if above expectations for a $15.25BN print, and pushing the total number to a new record high of $4.14 trillion, the components of the overall number were surprising. The first surprise was the revolving, or credit card, debt, which after surging by almost $10BN in July, the biggest one month increase since 2017, shrank by $1.9BN in August as consumers paid down their credit cards. This was the biggest monthly drop since March, and only the 8th monthly drop in this series in the past 7 years. Yet offsetting the drop in credit card debt was the surge in non-revolving debt, i.e. student and auto loans, which soared by $19.8BN. This was not only far above the consensus print, but it was the biggest monthly surge since August 2016, as consumers appeared to splurge in either colleges - unlikely in August - or cars, which is far more likely. Finally, putting these numbers in context, there were $1.606 trillion in student loans as of June 30, with $1.2 trillion due under auto loans. And while we don't expect any of these numbers go down at any point in the future thanks to record low interest rates which incentivize US consumers to take out even more debt, the bigger question is why was America's chronically strong consumer so aggressive in paying down credit card debt in August, and is this an indication that this biggest force in the US economy, which accounts for 70% of GDP, is starting to tap out.

BLS: CPI unchanged in September, Core CPI increased 0.1% -- From the BLS: The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) was unchanged in September on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.1 percent in August, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 1.7 percent before seasonal adjustment....The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.1 percent in September after increasing 0.3 percent in each of the last 3 months.... The all items index increased 1.7 percent for the 12 months ending September, the same increase as for the 12 months ending August. The index for all items less food and energy rose 2.4 percent over the last 12 months, also the same increase as the period ending August. Core inflation was below expectations in September. I'll post a graph later today after the Cleveland Fed releases the median and trimmed-mean CPI.

US Consumer Price Growth Slows As Used-Car Prices Plunge - Following the unexpected plunge in producer prices, analysts expected consumer prices to rebound in September, but it didn't as CPI was unchanged MoM and up 1.7% YoY (less than expected). Goods price inflation slowed as services prices rose..  Under the hood, used car prices plunged.  The index for used cars and trucks declined in September, falling 1.6 percent. The apparel index fell 0.4 percent in September after rising in each of the prior 3 months. Also declining in September were the indexes for new vehicles, for communication, for alcoholic beverages, and for personal care. The recreation index was unchanged in September after rising in August.     This is the third biggest drop in used car prices since the financial crisis... But shelter index continued to rise, increasing 0.3 percent in September following a 0.2-percent increase in August. The index for rent rose 0.4 percent and the index for owners’ equivalent rent increased 0.3 percent. The index for lodging away from home increased 2.1 percent in September after falling 2.1 percent in August.  Once again the promised surge in prices due to Trump's tariffs remain entirely absent from the headline index.

Rising old used car prices help push poor Americans over the edge (Reuters) - For America’s working poor, an often essential ingredient for getting and keeping a job – having a car – has rarely been more costly, and millions of people are finding it impossible to keep up with payments despite prolonged economic growth and low unemployment. More than 7 million Americans are already 90 or more days behind on their car loans, according to the New York Federal Reserve, and serious delinquency rates among borrowers with the lowest credit scores have by far seen the fastest acceleration. The seeds of the problem are buried deep in the financial crisis, when in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, automakers slashed production. A decade later, that has made a relative rarity of used 10-year-old vehicles that are typically more affordable for low-wage earners. According to data provided to Reuters by industry consultant and car shopping website Edmunds, the average price of that vintage of vehicle is $8,657, still nearly 75% higher than in 2010 despite some softening in prices over the last year. The average new car, in contrast, has seen a price rise of 25% in that same time period. “This is pinching people at the worst point possible,” said Ivan Drury, Edmunds’ senior manager of industry analysis. “If you need basic A to B transportation, you have to get an older car that needs more repairs and has more wear-and-tear issues.” Monthly auto payments for Americans making under $40,000 have remained flat since 2017, while those in higher wage brackets have seen their payments rise, according to a Cox Automotive Inc analysis for Reuters.

Update: Framing Lumber Prices Mostly Unchanged 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 mostly unchanged 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 7% from a year ago, and CME futures are up  1% 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.

September Producer Price Index: Core Final Demand Down 0.3% MoM --Today's release of the September Producer Price Index (PPI) for Final Demand came in at -0.3% month-over-month seasonally adjusted, down from 0.1% last month. It is at 1.4% year-over-year, down from 1.8% last month, on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. Core Final Demand (less food and energy) also came in at -0.3% MoM, down from 0.3% the previous month and is up 2.0% YoY NSA. Investing.com MoM consensus forecasts were for 0.1% headline and 0.2% core. Here is the summary of the news release on Final Demand:The Producer Price Index for final demand decreased 0.3 percent in September, seasonally adjusted, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Final demand prices rose 0.1 percent in August and 0.2 percent in July. (See table A.) On an unadjusted basis, the final demand index advanced 1.4 percent for the 12 months ended in September.In September, the index for final demand services decreased 0.2 percent, and prices for final demand goods dropped 0.4 percent.The index for final demand less foods, energy, and trade services was unchanged in September after rising 0.4 percent in August. For the 12 months ended in September, prices for final demand less foods, energy, and trade services advanced 1.7 percent. More… The BLS shifted its focus to its new "Final Demand" series in 2014, a shift we support. However, the data for these series are only constructed back to November 2009 for Headline and April 2010 for Core. Since our focus is on longer-term trends, we continue to track the legacy Producer Price Index for Finished Goods, which the BLS also includes in their monthly updates. As this (older) overlay illustrates, the Final Demand and Finished Goods indexes are highly correlated.

US producer prices post the biggest decline in eight months in September - U.S. producer prices unexpectedly fell in September, leading to the smallest annual increase in nearly three years, which could give the Federal Reserve room to cut interest rates again later this month. The weak producer inflation readings reported by the Labor Department on Tuesday came against the backdrop of a slowing economy amid trade tensions and cooling growth overseas. The Fed cut rates in September after reducing borrowing costs in July for the first time since 2008, to keep the longest economic expansion on record, now in its 11th year, on track. The producer price index for final demand dropped 0.3% last month, weighed down by decreases in the costs of goods and services, the government said. That was the largest decline since January and followed a 0.1% gain in August. In the 12 months through September the PPI increased 1.4%, the smallest gain since November 2016, after rising 1.8% in August. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the PPI nudging up 0.1% in September and advancing 1.8% on a year-on-year basis. Excluding the volatile food, energy and trade services components, producer prices were unchanged last month after jumping 0.4% in August. The so-called core PPI increased 1.7% in the 12 months through September after climbing 1.9% in August. The Fed, which has a 2% annual inflation target, tracks the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index for monetary policy. The core PCE price index rose 1.8% on a year-on-year basis in August and has undershot its target this year. Some economists expect the U.S. central bank could cut rates at its Oct. 29-30 policy meeting amid signs that the Trump administration’s 15-month trade war with China, which has weighed on business investment and pushed manufacturing into recession, was impacting the broader economy.

 Core U.S. Producer Prices Fall Most in More Than Four Years - A measure of underlying U.S. producer prices posted the biggest monthly drop in more than four years, adding to signs of tame inflation pressures that potentially offer Federal Reserve policy makers more leeway to lower interest rates. The dollar fell.Excluding food and energy, producer prices decreased 0.3% in September from the prior month, compared with forecasts for a 0.2% increase, a Labor Department report showed Tuesday. The gauge was up 2% from a year earlier, the smallest gain in two years. The overall producer-price index also dropped 0.3% from August and was up 1.4% from a year earlier, the least since November 2016. Key Insights:

  • The biggest monthly drop in the core PPI since February 2015 suggests weaker demand is forcing companies to lower prices and preventing them from passing along any higher costs resulting from tariffs. Subdued inflation, at the producer and consumer levels, provides space for the Fed to lower borrowing costs with little concern that price gains will surpass the central bank’s goal. Policy makers next meet Oct. 29-30.
  • The report, which measures wholesale and other business selling costs, reflected monthly declines in indexes for machinery and vehicle wholesaling, as well as fuels and apparel retailing. Transportation and warehousing prices also dropped, while the index for hospital outpatient care increased.
  • The U.S.-China trade war intensified in September when a new 15% tariff on about $112 billion of Chinese products took effect. This tranche, along with the batch that will impact about $160 billion worth of goods in December, more directly targets American consumers.
  • Analysts monitor this report to assess potential price pressures set to show up at the consumer level. A more closely-watched measure of inflation, the core consumer price index, is estimated to have risen 2.4% from a year earlier in data released Thursday, which would equal the August reading.
  • Producer prices excluding food, energy, and trade services -- a measure preferred by some economists because it strips out the most volatile components -- were unchanged from the prior month, and rose 1.7% from a year earlier.
  • The cost of goods fell 0.4% after dropping 0.5% the previous month. Services prices decreased 0.2% after a 0.3% gain in August.
  • Energy prices fell 2.5% from the prior month, dragging down the overall gauge, and food costs rose 0.3%.

Export Prices Tumble For 5th Month In A Row - So much for the trade war-driven inflation that anti-Trump-ers have screamed about, both import and export prices in September extended their annual declines to a fifth straight month.  Import prices rose 0.2% MoM (-1.6% YoY)   Export prices dropped 0.2% MoM (-1.6% YoY  The 5th straight month of annual deflation...  The most notable aspects of the import/export shifts are in consumer goods and autos (where fearmongering screamed about tariffs' impacts):

  • Consumer goods prices unchanged m/m after rising 0.1% in Aug.
  • Auto prices unchanged m/m after no change in Aug.
  • Agricultural prices dropped 1.8% m/m after dropping 2.3% in Aug.
  • Consumer goods export prices ex-autos 0.3% decline largest since Jan. 2017

As China exports the most deflation since July 2007... So, for now, Trump remains right, the US consumer is not paying higher prices due to his tariffs. But, given the lagged impact of China's credit impulse, is that about to change?

 Rail Recession- Carloads Tumble To Thee-Year Lows Amid Manufacturing Implosion - As manufacturing plummets to the weakest levels since September 2009 and new export orders collapse, the US railroad industry has jus seen carload volumes tumble to three-year lows, according to a weekly report from the Association of American Railroads (AAR), first reported by Bloomberg on Monday.  AAR's report showed a decline in carloads for 3Q19, down 5.5%, and one of the most significant drops in three years, indicating that the US economy continues to decelerate into ear-end. Most of the shipment declines were seen in autos, coal, grain, chemicals, and consumer goods, but there was a small improvement in crude oil shipments.  Bloomberg blames the trade war between the US and China for the rail recession.   "What's quite clear is that we're not yet at a trough. Trains have not yet bottomed," said Ben Hartford, an analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co. "We need to have some clarity in trade policy."The manufacturing recession is more widespread than the mid-cycle slowdowns in 2012 and 2015/16. The slowdown has been concentrated in manufacturing for well over a year, driven by a downturn in business investments in 2019. The rail slowdown is a direct result of a manufacturing recession. As of last week, there is an indication that the downturn has spilled over into service sector output and employment. Now, "there are no pockets of growth," said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Lee Klaskow, who said a "railroad recession" could be imminent in a recent report. "There's really nothing that's tapping me on the shoulder saying, 'Hey look at me. I'm going to be your next growth engine.'"

U.S. industrial energy use falls as manufacturers struggle: Kemp - U.S. industrial energy consumption is falling as manufacturing activity and freight movements decline, contributing to the surplus of natural gas and diesel, and intensifying downward pressure on prices. Total energy consumption by the industrial sector fell for the first time since the slowdown of 2015/2016, after growing rapidly last year, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show. Total consumption – including coal, gas, petroleum and electricity – fell slightly in the three months from April to June compared with the same period a year earlier. Industrial energy consumption is likely to have fallen even further since then, given statistical indicators showing manufacturing and freight movements continued to decline during the third quarter. In recent decades, there has been a close correlation between the Institute of Supply Management’s purchasing managers’ survey, the Federal Reserve’s industrial production index, and fuel consumption. Volumes of gas delivered to industrial users fell more than 1% in the three months from May to July compared with a year earlier. Gas deliveries to industry were down for the first time since the start of 2016, after growing at an annual rate of more than 4% in mid-2018. Diesel consumption was down by almost 2% year-on-year in May-July, a sharp turnaround from growth of 4% a year earlier. The slowdown in diesel mirrors a downturn in rail freight and a slowdown in road freight as the trade war with China and heightened business uncertainty have taken a toll on imports and the durable goods sector. The number of shipping containers hauled by the major railroads was down 6% in the three months from June to August compared with a year earlier. Truck tonnage was still up by around 4% year-on-year in June-August, but growth has halved since the middle of 2018, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Slack consumption from industrial users has come at a time when oil and gas output is still growing thanks to the lagged effect of last year’s drilling boom. The result has been a persistent oversupply of natural gas which has kept prices under pressure for much of the year as the market tries to rein in gas production.

Mixed Signals: Which Is More Relevant - The ISM Manufacturing Or Markit PMI Survey - A notable divergence has emerged between two key economic sentiment indicators: the ISM manufacturing survey and IHS-Markit PMI, which sent opposite signals of manufacturing activity in September, prompting some - such as Bank of America - to wonder which one is a more accurate indicator of the economy's current state. As BofA's Michelle Meyer writes in a Friday report, "both have pros and cons and in the end we find that the most prudent course of action is to monitor both along with a range of other manufacturing indicators." That said, on balance "the data show a weakening manufacturing sector but not a collapse as the ISM survey implied." Which indicator is better? As BofA notes, markets were roiled last week as the much-watched ISM manufacturing survey fell further into contraction territory. The index declined from 49.1 in August to 47.8 in September, a ten year low. In the ten minutes following the release, equity markets tumbled 0.5% before closing down 1.2% on the day. Meanwhile, another survey of manufacturing - the IHS-Markit PMI - showed that the manufacturing sector remained in expansionary territory in September. Although the two measures often diverge in terms of magnitude, it is rare for the two signals to get crossed (though not in China, where the official PMI survey has traditionally diverged and generally been weaker than the Caixing PMI). In the US, BofA calculates that the two have only sent opposite signals roughly 13% of the time since IHS-Markit's first print in May 2007. This divergence and the difference in the equity market response to the two indicators raise the question: which measure is the better gauge of manufacturing activity?   Fast forwarding to the results, BofA finds the coefficient on each survey index is statistically significant at the 5% level. Reducing the sample, however, results in only the employment and supplier deliveries components having statistically significant coefficients for both ISM and IHS-Markit PMI, suggesting that the 2008/09 recession skews the data. As expected, most of the models have a relatively low fit in the full sample and a nearly nonexistent fit in the reduced sample, which is somewhat problematic. There is one exception; the employment model has a reasonably strong fit over the full sample and a decent fit in the reduced sample. BofA thinks the consistency in the results across samples and measures suggests that it'd be prudent to look at both surveys when assessing the health of the manufacturing sector.

Small Business Optimism Index Decreased in September -Note: Most of this survey is noise, but there is some information, especially on the labor market and the "Single Most Important Problem". From the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB): September 2019 Report: Small Business Optimism Declines but Remains Historically HighThe small busine ss Optimism Index maintained a historically solid reading, but took a dip in September, falling 1.3 points to 101.8...Job creation was firm in September, with an average addition of 0.10 workers per firm compared to 0.19 in August. Net job creation has faded steadily since February’s 0.52 workers per firm to 0.1, no surprise as “finding qualified workers” to fill job openings hit a record high of 27 percent in August. Finding qualified workers remains a top problem, with 23 percent reporting it as their number one problem, down 4 points from August’s record high.  This graph shows the small business optimism index since 1986.

 Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims decreased to 210,000 -- The DOL reported:   In the week ending October 5, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 210,000, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 1,000 from 219,000 to 220,000. The 4-week moving average was 213,750, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised up by 250 from 212,500 to 212,750. The previous week was revised up. The following graph shows the 4-week moving average of weekly claims since 1971.

Payroll Data & Business Surveys Indicate Hiring Slump, Weak Growth And Profit Decline - In September, payroll employment rose close to consensus estimates and the jobless rate dropped to a 50-year low, easing fears, at least for the moment, of a broad slump in hiring and a deep economic slowdown.Yet, the employment headlines are misleading. The underlying details on payrolls show there is in fact a hiring slump underway, consistent with the results from recent business surveys of manufacturing and service sectors. Q3 GDP growth will be the weakest since 2015, putting downward pressure on corporate earnings.According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), payroll employment rose 136,000 in September, and with upward revisions to prior months payroll employment in Q3 averaged 157,000 a month, roughly matching the 152,000 gain of the prior quarter. On the surface, employment conditions look be on a steady course, and unchanged over the past several months.However, the payrolls of nonproduction and supervisory workers, which represents the bulk of the private sector workforce accounting for over 80% of the private payroll gains in the current economic cycle dating back to 2009, paints a much weaker picture of labor market conditions.In Q3, payrolls of production and non-supervisory workers showed an average monthly gain of 71,000 (less than half the overall payroll gain), well below the subpar average monthly gain of 98,000 in Q2, and represent the smallest quarterly gain since 2010.Equally important is the fact that the payrolls of production and non-supervisory workers in mining, manufacturing, retail trade, utilities, leisure and hospitality showed an outright decline in Q3. And the payrolls of production and non-supervisory workers in manufacturing and retail trade also posted a decline in Q2. The last time the payrolls of production workers in manufacturing and non-supervisory workers in retail trade declined for two consecutive quarters at the same time was 2009, during the Great Financial Recession.The big puzzle in the September employment data was the drop (0.2%) in the jobless rate to 3.5%, driven by a large gain in household employment. According to BLS, household employment rose 391,000 in September, and by 1.264 million over the past three months. The three-month gain in household employment is the second largest quarterly gain of the current economic cycle, and is nearly three times the Q3 gain in payroll employment.

Even High-Income Millennials Fear They’ll Need to Work Forever -- Half of high-income millennials ages 30 to 34 fear they’ll have to work forever because they won’t be able to save enough to retire.That’s one take-away from a recent study that focused on high-income millennials, those with a minimum annual income of $100,000 for single people or $150,000 for married or partnered millennials.The survey was conducted by the Spectrem Group, a wealth advisory company, and offers insight for the demographic that came of age during America’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.In particular, millennials that are now 30-34 years old -- meaning that they likely graduated from college in the depths of the downturn, when hiring in many industries had dried up -- are the most cognizant of or concerned about finances.That “middle” cohort, scarred by memories of a dismal employment market, are also far more willing to work at a job that they might not like than their younger or older peers.High-income millennials under 29, who graduated from college when the U.S. economy had started to recover, are more optimistic, the survey found: they’re more willing to hold out for a job they enjoy, and less worried about having to work forever. Insights:

  • Older high-income millennials are more concerned about having a job that pays well than a job that is fulfilling.
  • More than a third of millennials say firms that offered student loan payoff assistance influenced their career decision.
  • One quarter are concerned that retirement will be forced upon them or their spouse before they’re ready.

 BLS: Job Openings "Little Changed" at 7.1 Million in August --Notes: In August there were 7.051 million job openings, and, according to the August Employment report, there were 6,044 million unemployed. So, for the eighteenth consecutive month, there were more job openings than people unemployed. Also note that the number of job openings has exceeded the number of hires since January 2015 (almost 5 years). From the BLS: Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary The number of job openings was little changed at 7.1 million on the last business day of August, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the month, hires edged down to 5.8 million and separations were little changed at 5.6 million. Within separations, the quits rate was little changed at 2.3 percent, and the layoffs and discharges rate was unchanged at 1.2 percent. ...The number of quits decreased in August to 3.5 million (-142,000). The quits rate was 2.3 percent. The quits level decreased for total private (-144,000) and was little changed for government. Quits decreased in professional and business services (-76,000) and in other services (-67,000).  The following graph shows job openings (yellow line), hires (dark blue), Layoff, Discharges and other (red column), and Quits (light blue column) from the JOLTS.This series started in December 2000.Note: The difference between JOLTS hires and separations is similar to the CES (payroll survey) net jobs headline numbers. This report is for August, the most recent employment report was for September.Note that hires (dark blue) and total separations (red and light blue columns stacked) are pretty close each month. This is a measure of labor market turnover.  When the blue line is above the two stacked columns, the economy is adding net jobs - when it is below the columns, the economy is losing jobs.Jobs openings decreased in August to 7.051 million from 7.174 million in July.The number of job openings (yellow) are down 4% year-over-year.Quits are up 1.5% year-over-year. These are voluntary separations. (see light blue columns at bottom of graph for trend for "quits").Job openings remain at a high level, and quits are still increasing year-over-year.

 Job Openings Plunge To 17 Month Low As Slide In Hiring, Quitting Confirms Job Market Slowdown - Last month we concluded our analysis of the July Jolts by reminding readers that "JOLTS is 2 months delayed, so we wouldn't be surprised if next month's JOLTs is where the real ugliness lies." That's precisely what happened. Just in case the last few disappointing payrolls reports weren't sufficient to indicate that the US labor market is cooling rapidly, the latest JOLTS released today by the BLS confirmed that US workers are going through a decidedly rough patch, as the total number of job openings dropped again, sliding to 7.051 million, below the 7.250 million expected, and not only below the downward revised June print of 7.174 million (7.217 previously), but the lowest number in 17 months, since March 2018. Yet even with the slowdown in job openings, there was still more than 1 million more job opening than unemployed workers; in fact there have now been more US job openings than unemployed workers for a record 18 consecutive months. Unlike last month, though, when there was a modest improvement in the rate of hires and quits, in August the number of hires tumbled by 199K to 5.779 million, which still was modestly above where the payrolls implied number suggests: The drop in hiring meant that from an annual expansion, hiring once again slumped into the red, dropping by -0.8% in August, down from a +2.5% increase in June. Finally, in the latest indication of the slowing labor market, we saw the so-called "take this job and shove it" indicator - the total level of "quits" which shows worker confidence that they can leave their current job and find a better paying job elsewhere - reversed from last month's rebound, and in August the number of quits tumbled by 142K to 3.526MM from 3.668MM, and the biggest monthly drop since January. Overall, this was the ugliest JOLTS report in more than year, which perhaps was to be expected in light of last week's poor payrolls number.

GM furloughs more workers as union strike enters fourth week – The United Auto Workers’ strike against General Motors, now in its fourth week, is continuing to hit the automaker’s operations outside of the U.S.The company halted production of a V-8 engine and transmission at its engine plant in Ramos Arizpe, Coahuila, Mexico, and told about 415 of the factory’s 2,100 employees not to come to work on Monday, a company spokesman told CNBC on Monday. The temporary layoffs add to roughly 10,000 non-UAW workers in North America that have been furloughed because of the strike.GM last week idled a plant in Mexico that produces its highly-profitable Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500 pickups, temporarily laying off 6,000 workers. Prior to that, the company cut several operations in Canada and its jointly operated DMax engine facility in Ohio.The Buckingham Research Group on Monday estimated GM has lost about 153,000 units of production after three weeks, much of which it won’t be able to make up in the fourth quarter. GM’s stock opened Monday at $34.60, down 10% since the Friday before the strike began. Shares of the Detroit automaker are still up 4.4% for the year.

As strike enters fourth week, UAW says talks with GM have “taken turn for the worse”- After reporting for days that “good progress” was being made in talks with General Motors, the United Auto Workers suddenly reversed itself Sunday morning, declaring that “negotiations have taken a turn for the worse.” The statement from UAW Vice President Terry Dittes comes as the strike by 48,000 GM workers enters its fourth week. In a letter to autoworkers, Dittes, who heads the UAW’s GM Department, said the bargaining committee and UAW International Staff had given the company an “extensive package proposal” Saturday evening, which addressed “wages, signing bonus, job security, pensions, skilled trades, profit sharing, transfer rights.” GM’s response Sunday morning, Dittes wrote, “did not address our extensive package,” and “reverted back to their last rejected proposal and made little change.” He went on to say that the company’s proposal “did nothing to provide job security during the term of the Agreement” or other concerns. Declaring that the UAW “cannot be more disappointed,” Dittes wrote that the UAW “will continue to negotiate on behalf of you, your families and all workers in our country.” In an email to Scott Sandefur, Vice President of GM North America Labor Relations, Dittes was even more groveling towards the company, complaining that GM negotiators “didn’t even have a professional courtesy to explain why you could not accept or why you rejected our package proposal,” and saying that the “law and basic decency require no less.” While the UAW claims that GM has “reverted back to its rejected proposal,” in fact the company has never budged from its demands for half a billion annual labor savings. It has only left it up to the UAW to figure out how to package and sell the concessions to workers. The only laws GM is operating by are the laws of the capitalist profit system and the demands by its Wall Street backers. The powerful financial interests behind GM have made clear that the company must absorb the short-term losses of a strike, even if it is prolonged, in order to achieve vast cost savings and attain its strategic aims. This means defeating the strike, gutting workers’ health care benefits, and tripling the percentage of temps so GM can have the type of “flexible manufacturing workforce” needed for the highly competitive struggle to dominate the electric and self-driving markets of the future. The response of GM is further proof that the UAW does not have a strategy to win the strike. It has a strategy to defeat it.

GM Labor Talks Break Down, Set To Ignite US Manufacturing Recession  -One day after we reported that the ongoing UAW strike at GM - which is set to enter its fourth week - has unleashed recessionary shockwaves across the nation, chopping off $400 million in direct wages out of the US economy with half of that coming from Michigan, not to mention GM itself which analysts estimate has suffered more than $1 billion in losses so far as a result of the strike, the largest US automaker is now facing an even more acute crisis because as the AP reports that contract talks between General Motors and the United Auto Workers labor union aimed at ending the 21-day strike, collapsed after hitting a big snag over product commitments for U.S. factories, a union official wrote in an email to members."In a Sunday letter to union members, Terry Dittes, the UAW’s top bargainer for GM, said talks with the company had taken “a turn for the worse” in part because the union says GM reverted back to a previously rejected proposal with only minor changes, casting doubt on whether there will be a quick settlement in the contract dispute, which sent 49,000 workers to the picket lines on Sept. 16, crippling GM's factories.“The company’s response did nothing to advance a whole host of issues that are important to you and your families!,” Dittes wrote in the letter. "It did nothing to provide job security during the term of this agreement," Dittes also wrote, adding that "we, in this union, could not be more disappointed with General Motors who refuse to recognize the experience and talent of our membership." In a statement, GM said it continues to negotiate in good faith "with very good proposals that benefit employees today and builds a stronger future for all of us." The company says it is committed to talking around the clock to resolve the dispute. But Dittes wrote that while both sides had made progress on important issues two days ago, the talks now "have taken a turn for the worse." He said the union presented GM with a comprehensive proposal that addressed wages, job security, pensions, profit-sharing and other topics Saturday evening, only to receive the company’s counter offer Sunday morning. A person briefed on the talks said Sunday that the union voiced concerns about GM increasing production in Mexico, where it now builds pickup trucks, small cars and two SUVs. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are private, said both sides are far apart on guarantees of new products in U.S. factories. The deadlock is the latest sign the now 21-day strike at GM is likely to continue into a fourth week, extending a nationwide walkout that is already the longest at the company since 1970. The work stoppage has halted factory output at more than 30 U.S. plants, stifled production for auto-parts suppliers, resulted in temporary layoffs for thousands of non-UAW factory workers and stopped all of GM’s pickup truck production in North America.

 How GM Pits Younger Workers Against Older Workers  – As the GM strike enters its third week, 40-year-old African American Jerry Bradley throws a small red football around with his 6-year-old son as Buffalo Bills broadcasts blare from IPhones on the picket line. “It’s a gift and a curse. I work second shift so I don’t get a lot of time to spend with my kids cuz I’m at work Monday through Friday during the main hours that they would be home,” says Bradley.  Times have been tough for Bradley, who was converted just this year from temporary employment to permanent and makes only $17 an hour.  Many had been hopeful that General Motors and the UAW were close to an agreement as the UAW had announced on Friday that significant progress had been made.  However, on Sunday, GM announced that contract talks have “taken a turn for the worse.” In addition to failing to improve their offer on job security, GM is now taking back its offer to re-open two idled facilities as electric truck manufacturing plants; dashing the hopes for a speedy deal of many younger, more poorly paid workers like Bradley with fewer savings. “It’s getting to a point now where everybody is wondering what’s taking so long,” says Bradley. It’s Bradley’s first time in a union and the strike has been a learning experience for both him and his family. Often, his 6-year-old son will see the strike being covered on the morning news and ask his father questions about why he’s on the picket line.  “I try to explain it to them as best as I can that we need better medical care so that you can go to the doctor and that the big thing is the wage increase so that we can support our families,” says Bradley.  Jerry Bradley is one of many young, underpaid General Motors workers who is learning the hard lessons of solidarity on the picket lines.  For years, General Motors tried to pit younger workers, who are on a lower second-tier pay scale, against older legacy General Motors workers, making much more. Often, young temporary workers, who aren’t even on the second-tier, are pitted against older workers in some of the most manual, labor-intensive jobs.  Kevin is a 62-year-old General Motors employee who pushes a 300-pound cart with spare parts to provide support to workers on the assembly line.  “There is a lot of joint pain from twisting and moving carts around. It’s hard to stop once you get in motion, so your ankles are sore, your feet are sore from twisting,” says Kevin, who declined to give his last name. “I am at the age where you start to have arthritic type concerns just naturally because of aging, so it’s a lot harder for the older guys than the 21-year-old guys just starting out in the job,” says Kevin. “They don’t feel the pain yet, but what they don’t know that once they abuse themselves to that point, there is no going back.”

 Why Some Americans Won’t Move, Even for a Higher Salary - Mobility in the United States has fallen to record lows. In 1985, nearly 20 percent of Americans had changed their residence within the preceding 12 months, but by 2018, fewer than ten percent had. That’s the lowest level since 1948, when the Census Bureau first started tracking mobility.The decline in Americans’ mobility has been staggering, as the chart below shows. Mobility rates have fallen for nearly every group, across age, gender, income, homeownership status, and marital status.Declining mobility contributes to a host of economic and social issues: less economic dynamism, lower rates of innovation, and lower productivity. By locking people into place, it exacerbates inequality by limiting the economic opportunities for workers. A wide range of explanations have been offered to account for these substantial declines in mobility. Many consider the culprit to be the economic crisis, which locked people into declining-value homes; others attribute it to the huge differential in the housing prices in expensive cities. Some economists contend that job opportunities have become similar across places, meaning people are less likely to move for work; others see rising student debt as a key factor that has kept young Americans in their parents’ basements. Now, a new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York suggests that other, more emotional and psychological factors may be at work. The study uses data from the bank’s Survey of Consumer Expectations to examine the degree to which people’s attachment to their communities affects their willingness and ability to move. To get at this, they use data from the survey (which covers a monthly panel of 1,300 respondents and is nationally representative) to group Americans into the three mobility classes I identified in my bookWho’s Your City: “the mobile” who have the means, education, and capability to move to spaces of opportunity; “the stuck” who lack the resources to relocate; and “the rooted” who have the resources to move, but prefer to stay where they are.

Here's The Real Reason Why America's Seniors Won't Retire -- Forget about millennials working until they die. As we've repeatedly reported, there's a far more pressing retirement crisis gripping America. And it's the unprecedented number of contemporary workers of retirement age who are putting it off. Some are still reeling from losses during the financial crisis. Others never had enough socked away to begin with, and didn't start paying attention to their situation until it was too late. Seniors have many reasons for lingering in the workforce, either part-time or full-time, until after the age of 66 (the age at which American citizens can start receiving full Social Security benefits). In an attempt to learn more about the reasons seniors often delay retirement, Provision Living commissioned a study asking seniors about why they're delaying retirement. As it turns out, overwhelmingly, seniors decide to stay in the workforce after being eligible for social security for financial reasons. Though some claim they're still working for personal reasons like boredom or because they still enjoy working. According to the survey, it's a 60% to 40% split. For those who are still working, a slight majority say they're only working part-time, vs. full time. The average age of switching from full- to part-time? 61. Out of the seniors who are still working, a whopping 47% said they wish they were retired. Another 33% said they were happy still working, while another 20% said they're happy to work, but would like fewer hours.

 The Census Fails to Count 100 Million People as Living in Poverty - (video & transcript)- In this Real News Network interview, IPS Fellow Karen Dolan, who works with the Poor People’s Campaign, discusses her new study on poverty in the US.

Computer Science Now Counts as Math Credit in Most States – Is This a Good Idea? -  In 2013, a who’s who of the tech world came together to launch a new nonprofit called Code.org. The purpose of the organization was to get more computer science into schools.Billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates donated millions of dollars to the group. According to the organization’s last annual report, Code.org spent more than US$91 million between 2013 and 2018. Of that amount, $6.9 million went to advocate for state legislation across the country. As part of the organization’s mission to “make computer science count” in K-12 education, code.org takes credit for having influenced graduation policies in 42 states. Today, 47 states and the District of Columbia allow computer science classes to count in place of math classes like Algebra 2. Prior to the organization’s work, only a few states allowed computer science to count for math credit.In addition, 29 states passed legislation allowing computer science to count in place of a science course. When computer science begins to count as math or science, it makes sense to ask if these changes are helping America’s students or hurting them. As a computational physicist and education researcher who teaches college freshman introductory physics, I worry that allowing computer science to count as a required math or science course could make students substantially less prepared for college. I searched around for research on this topic and asked several colleagues but came up empty-handed. I also worry that a lack of math and science preparation in high school could artificially narrow the range of options for students who might otherwise have promising STEM careers. Certainly, computer science is important to teach in high school. I lead an effort called the STEMcoding Project where I have trained a few dozen high school math and science teachers to integrate coding into math and science, and I have worked with a few high school computer science teachers to integrate more science and math into their curriculum. When I consider computer science in schools, I want to know: What kind of computer science, how rigorous is the content, and what ends up being removed to make room for it? Although there are exceptions, most high school computer science curricula that I have seen have been light on math and science.

Harvard's systemic nepotism revealed: only 57 percent of admitted white students were on merit - Although a federal judge recently sided with Harvard University in a challenge to the school’s consideration of race in admissions, a new study published earlier this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research from the affirmative action lawsuit raises more questions about the degree to which the storied Ivy League university admits legacy students into its hallowed halls. The data, which spans from 2009 to 2014, was made available by the aforementioned lawsuit led by Students for Fair Admission (SFFA).“Detailed data on how universities practice holistic admissions are virtually never made available to researchers,” the researchers stated in the study. “Through the SFFA lawsuit, unprecedented access was given to how Harvard rates their applicants as well as how applicant characteristics, including these ratings, translate into admissions.” According to the study, 43 percent of white Harvard students admitted were legacy students, children of staff, on the dean’s interest list—meaning their parents or relatives have donated to Harvard—or were recruited athletes. Aside from admits in the four categories, which the study’s authors refer to as ALDCs, only 57 percent of white student admits were meritocratic-based decisions.  “Over 43% of white admits are ALDC, compared to less than 16% of admits for each of the other three major racial/ethnic groups,” the authors state. “Indeed, due in part to the nature of the sports that Harvard offers, recruited athletes alone make up over 16% of white admits.”The study also states that an estimated 75 percent of white students admitted from those four categories “would have been rejected” if it weren’t for falling into one of the four categories. Nearly 70 percent of all legacy applicants are white, yet the study stated that a white person’s chances of being admitted increased 7 times if they have family who donated to Harvard.

How to Succeed in Business? Major in Liberal Arts - The combatants in the U.S. education wars don’t agree on much, but there’s at least one concern that most reformers and educators across the political spectrum seem to share: fear that universities aren’t producing enough science, technology, engineering and math majors. But just asstates and school districts add new technology requirements and open STEM-oriented schools, leading technology companies are heading in the opposite direction, forming partnerships with liberal-arts colleges and seeking to hire their graduates. It’s a welcome development. Recent research suggests that contrary to the popular idea that majoring in art or literature is a route to personal penury and a contributor to industrial decline, there are actually plenty of science majors, except among low-income students. Moreover, while newly minted graduates with science and technical degrees enjoy a salary premium over their classmates in the humanities, that premium fades over time, in part because technological skills become obsolete faster. Liberal arts majors, by contrast, trained to be creative communicators and critical thinkers, are more adaptable. Corporations have good business reasons to embrace history, philosophy and English majors. Companies need well-rounded employees conversant in both digital and creative skills. With some additional training and investments by the government, companies can leverage both the liberal arts and digital know-how that is needed for increasingly complex technological systems. Leading business thinkers have long understood the importance of liberal arts. “Poets are our original systems thinkers,” Harman said more than a decade ago. “They look at our most complex environments and they reduce the complexity to something they begin to understand.”

My University Is Dying - And soon yours will be, too. - I live in a land of austerity, and I’m not just talking about the North Dakota scenery. On the campus where I work, though, austerity has many meanings and many guises. Some of them you can see, like the swaths of new grass that grow where historic buildings stood just last year, before they were demolished in the name of maintenance backlogs. Most, though, are invisible.   Starting in 2016, our state university system endured three successive rounds of annual budget cuts, with average 10-percent reductions resulting in a loss of more than a third of the system’s overall funding. Additional cuts, even, were on the table this past year. And while our state legislators ultimately avoided taking yet one more stab at the dismembered body of higher education, there has been no discussion of restoring any of those funds. The experience of living with the metastasizing effects of austerity grants me some insight into what has been going on in Alaska. In July, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced a plan to strip the University of Alaska system of 41 percent of its operating budget. He has since tempered this plan, opting instead for a 20-percent cut to be meted out over a period of three years. After weathering three straight years of forced retirements, self-protective “pivots” to administration, and personal waterloos on my own campus, I cannot help but grieve for my colleagues in Alaska. Some of them, I know, will lose their jobs, or else be coerced into giving them up, as my own colleagues have been (my department lost 10 tenured/tenure-track faculty members — half of its roster — in four years and has not been permitted to rehire). But some of them, I know, will not, and I grieve for them, too.   Back in 2013, when I was finishing up my dissertation and heading out “on the market,” I did so in the company of a number of other tenure-track hopefuls. The end of that year saw two of us packing up and heading off to new jobs: me to North Dakota, another to Alaska. A third colleague at a nearby school went off to Wyoming. What all of these states and all of these schools have in common, of course, are economies that rely on natural-resource extraction. When the budget cuts first hit North Dakota in 2016, our state legislature cited falling oil prices.   Oil production in the state has grown since then and now outpaces the boom rates of 2014, even. But our campus has not recovered. The same will be true in Alaska, where the governor’s veto was spurred by campaign promises touting higher household revenue from the state’s Permanent Fund, which pays out dividends from oil revenue to private citizens.

Stanford Strips Campus Buildings Of Names With Complex Legacies -  - Stanford University has now officially wiped itself clean of any major references to California Mission system founder Father Junipero Serra, reasoning that the historic mission system “inflicted great harm and violence.” Previously called “Serra Mall,” the university’s main street will now be called “Jane Stanford Way.” The “Serra Dormitory” will now be called the “Sally Ride House,” and a building previously dubbed the “Serra House” is now the “Carolyn Lewis Attneave House.” In 2018, a committee formed to address buildings named after people with "complex legacies." The committee ultimately decided to remove major references to the historical figure on campus because the California mission system “inflicted great harm and violence on Native Americans, and Stanford has several features named for Serra even though he played no direct role in the university’s history." All three sites in question have now been officially renamed. The choice to name the main road after Jane Stanford comes from the fact that no campus landmarks were named after her, reported The Stanford Daily. Stanford University was co-founded by Jane Stanford and her husband Leland Stanford, and as such the university is named “Stanford University.”  The campus is still home to buildings named after several known eugenicists, including Stanford’s founding president David Starr Jordan, who chaired the first Committee on Eugenics of the American Breeders’ Association which was responsible for California’s practice of forcibly sterilizing “feeble-minded” individuals residing in state mental hospitals and prisons.  Facilities named for known eugenicists Lewis M. Terman and Elwood P. Cubberley still hold their names. The committee has made no public announcement of making any change regarding the naming of these sites.

University emails reveal breadth of FBI campaign against researchers’ ‘wholesale theft’ of trade secrets for China --The FBI has been reaching out to universities across the country as the US tries to stem what American authorities portray as the wholesale theft of technology and trade secrets by researchers tapped by China. The breadth and intensity of the campaign emerges in emails obtained by The Associated Press through records requests to public universities in 50 states. Agents have lectured at seminars, briefed administrators in campus meetings and distributed pamphlets with cautionary tales of trade secret theft. In the past two years, they’ve requested emails of two University of Washington researchers, asked Oklahoma State University if it has scientists in specific areas and asked about “possible misuse” of research funds by a University of Colorado Boulder professor, according to the emails.  The emails reveal administrators routinely requesting FBI briefings. But they also show some struggling to balance legitimate national security concerns against their own eagerness to avoid stifling research or tarnishing legitimate scientists. The Justice Department says it appreciates that push-pull and wants only to help separate the relatively few researchers engaged in theft from the majority who are not. Senior FBI officials told AP they’re not encouraging schools to monitor researchers by nationality but instead to take steps to protect research. They consider the briefings vital since they say universities haven’t historically been as attentive to security as they should be.  “When we go to the universities, what we’re trying to do is highlight the risk to them without discouraging them from welcoming the researchers and students from a country like China,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the Justice Department’s top national security official. The threat, officials say, is genuine. A University of Kansas researcher was recently charged with collecting federal grant money while working full-time for a Chinese university, and a Chinese government employee was arrested in a visa fraud scheme allegedly aimed at recruiting US research talent. The Justice Department launched last year an effort called the China Initiative aimed at identifying priority trade secret cases and focusing resources on them.

Judge warns DeVos: 'I'm not sending anyone to jail yet' but it's an option - A federal judge in San Francisco rebuked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for continuing to collect debt payments from students after she had been ordered to stop by a court order, Bloomberg reports. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim was far from happy with DeVos in a hearing that took place Monday in San Francisco.“At best, it is gross negligence,” Kim told lawyers representing the department at the hearing. “At worst, it’s intentional flouting of my order.” “I'm not sending anyone to jail yet, but it's good to know I have that ability," she noted. "There have to be some consequences for the violation of my order 16,000 times." The number 16,000 refers to the total count of students from the now-defunct for-profit Corinthian College that were contacted about repaying federal loans that were supposed to be forgiven.In May 2018, Kim issued a court order that instructed DeVos to stop collecting loans from the former students. Instead, the Department of Education seized payroll and tax refunds from nearly 2,000 students, the vast majority of whom have not yet been refunded their money.According to Forbes, the Borrower Defense to Repayment program that was restructured by the Obama administration in 2016 allows students to apply for debt forgiveness if their college engaged in deceptive or predatory practices. However, when DeVos became Education Secretary in 2017, she essentially gutted the rule.Justice Department attorney Charlie Merritt, who represents DeVos and the Education Department, told Kim that the agency takes "responsibility" and "will bring ourselves into full compliance."In addition to the criticism, Kim agreed to lift a hold on the original lawsuit filed by the Corinthian College students. The hold had been in place since President Trump filed an appeal of Kim's original decision in July 2018.  "I'm so concerned about this violation of the order that I think the stay is gone,” Kim noted in the hearing

GE to freeze pension plans for about 20,000 US employees in a bid to cut debt - General Electric said on Monday it was freezing pension plans for about 20,000 U.S. employees with salaried benefits, as the industrial conglomerate makes another drastic move to cut debt and reduce its pension deficit by up to $8 billion. Since taking over a year ago, Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp has carved out a number of measures to streamline the company and raise cash to pare debt. He has also chopped the company’s dividend to a penny. GE and its finance arm had total borrowings of about $105.8 billion as of June 30, with industrial net debt at $54.4 billion. The company said it will also freeze supplementary pension benefits for about 700 U.S. employees who became executives before 2011. GE’s pension plan has been closed to new entrants since 2012. GE said the freeze is effective Jan. 1, 2021, and both moves are expected to help lower net debt between $4 billion and $6 billion

Decades-Old Code Is Putting Millions of Critical Devices at Risk - In early August, the enterprise security firm Armis got a confusing call from a hospital that uses the company's security monitoring platform. One of its infusion pumps contained a type of networking vulnerability that the researchers had discovered in a few weeks prior. But that vulnerability had been found in an operating system called VxWorks—which the infusion pump didn't run.Hospital representatives wondered if it was just a false positive. But as Armis researchers investigated, they started to see troubling signs of a connection between VxWorks and the infusion pump's operating system. What they ultimately discovered has disturbing implications for the security of countless critical systems—patient monitors, routers, security cameras, and more—across dozens of manufacturers.Today Armis, the Department of Homeland Security, the Food and Drug Administration, and a broad swath of so-called real-time operating system and device companiesdisclosed that Urgent/11, a suite of network protocol bugs, exist in far more platforms than originally believed. The RTO systems are used in the always-on devices common to the industrial control or health care industries. And while they're distinct platforms, many of them incorporate the same decades-old networking code that leaves them vulnerable to denial of service attacks or even full takeovers. There are at least seven affected operating systems that run in countless IoT devices across the industry. "It's a mess and it illustrates the problem of unmanaged embedded devices," says Ben Seri, vice president of research at Armis. "The amount of code changes that have happened in these 15 years are enormous, but the vulnerabilities are the only thing that has remained the same. That's the challenge."

 How Private Equity Makes You Sicker - Eileen Appelbaum - Hahnemann, a 171-year-old institution in Center City Philadelphia that serves primarily low-income patients of color, closed on September 6 in one of the more egregious cases of private equity wealth extraction. In 2018, Paladin Healthcare, an entity owned by private equity baron Joel Freedman, bought Hahnemann as part of a small hospital portfolio. He made no improvements for 18 months, and then closed the facility with the intention of selling the real estate, which is set in a “gateway location” for gentrification.“This seems to have been [Freedman’s] plan all along, to buy this place, let it fail, and shut it down.” McHugh said. Local politicians in Philadelphia and even presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke out, savaging Freedman as an avatar of greed. But the condemnations did nothing to stop the closure. Freedman’s lucrative scheme could become a trend, where private equity firms find hospitals in urban areas attractive to developers and strip the assets.The Hahnemann tragedy represents a new wrinkle in the concentration of the hospital industry: the emergence of private equity as a driving force. Private equity firms are using borrowed money to assemble medical empires across the country. Not only do consolidated hospitals harm patients with higher prices and worse outcomes, but the shaky financial pictures that result habitually lead to massive cost-cutting and closures of unprofitable facilities, which put entire communities at risk of losing access to medical care. It’s the same value-extraction strategy private equity specializes in, only this time it’s quite literally a matter of life or death.

The Surge In Surprise Medical Bills Bankrupting Americans Can Be Blamed On Private Equity == Surging "surprise" medical bills in the U.S. are private equity's fault, a new FT opinion piece claims. These "surprise" medical bills continue to be a major talking point in the U.S. and are likely to be a key issue during the upcoming 2020 Presidential race. The term refers to invoices that are generated after a patient is admitted to the hospital and treated, without their knowledge, by someone not in their insurance plan.   And a recent Stanford study shows that these "surprise" bills continue to become more ubiquitous. They are up from about 33% of visits in 2010 to almost 43% in 2016. For inpatient stays, the number is even more alarming: the jump goes from 26% to 42%, with the average cost per patient rising from $804 to $2,040. It's an issue that only adds to the overwhelming debt bubble we have again created in the U.S.  The opinion piece notes that these rising costs come not from hospitals, but rather from the "backwaters of the financial markets":The prices of junk bonds issued by “physician services companies” have been sliding in the past month as their owners weigh the possibility and costs of political intervention. These point to the real source of the problem: private equity’s silent colonisation of parts of the healthcare profession. A recent paper by two US academics highlights how private equity activity has driven up the price of healthcare for American consumers. The problem is a result of "the interplay of buyout strategies (which pile leverage on to companies and emphasise financial returns) and the business of treating people, where sick patients have no power to shop around and outcomes come first," the piece notes.

New Vaccines Are In Our Future That Will Literally Change Your DNA The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has launched efforts to create a vaccine that would protect people from most flu strains, all at once, with a single shot. This shot would be a DNA-based vaccine that will literally change your body’s DNA.  With mandatory vaccinations increasingly being legislated, this bodes a very dangerous health future. Politicians and Big Pharma are pouring a lot of money into this and at first glance, it may appear that your health and well-being are their concern.  That could not be further from the truth. Massachusetts Senator and big spender, Ed Markey, has introduced a bill that would shovel no less than a billion dollars toward the universal flu-vaccine project. Here is a sentence from an NIAID press release that mentions one of several research approaches: “NIAID Vaccine Research Center scientists have initiated Phase 1/2 studies of a universal flu vaccine strategy that includes an investigational DNA-based vaccine (called a DNA ‘prime’)…” –Technocracy.News  This is horrifying if you know what the phrase “DNA vaccine” means. It refers to what the experts are touting as the next generation of immunizations. Instead of injecting a piece of a virus into a person, in order to stimulate the immune system, synthesized genes would be shot into the body. This isn’t traditional vaccination anymore. It’s gene therapy. In any such method, where genes are edited, deleted,  or added to living organisms, there are always “unintended consequences.” These vaccines will permanently alter your DNA.  Once injected, there’s no going back either. The reference is the New York Times, 3/15/15, “Protection Without a Vaccine.” It describes the frontier of research—the use of synthetic genes to “protect against disease,” while changing the genetic makeup of humans. This is no longer science fiction: By delivering synthetic genes into the muscles of the [experimental] monkeys, the scientists are essentially re-engineering the animals to resist disease.  “The sky’s the limit,” The New York Times  [That was three years ago.]

As US vaping-related lung illnesses soar, FDA found negligent in enforcing e-cig regulations - According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of October 1 there have been 1,080 cases of lung injury arising from e-cigarette (e-cig) use, up from the 450 cases confirmed in early September. Casualties have been documented in 48 states and 1 US territory, the US Virgin Islands. Eighteen deaths have been confirmed in 15 states. According to an October 3 New York Times report, additional deaths have been cited in a total of 16 states. This is an increase from five reported deaths a month ago. The recent explosion of cases over the last two to three weeks includes a combination of 275 new cases as well as prior unrecognized cases of unusual pneumonia-like illnesses that have now been reclassified lung injuries caused by vaping. The CDC has reported more than 3.6 million adolescents in the US have used e-cigs. A report issued by the NIH’s drug abuse section highlights the dramatic rise in vaping among teenagers; 37.3 percent of 12th graders reported they had vaped in the past 12 months. The prevalence of vaping among teenagers in 2011 was near zero. By 2017 it had become the most common use of any tobacco-like product in this age group. The number of adolescents vaping in 2019 is double that in 2017. In the cohort of people with lung injuries, each affected individual has reported having vaped within the month of falling ill and most note using products containing THC, the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis. The CDC and medical officials believe THC has played a role in the outbreak. The exact chemical compound causing these illnesses remains elusive at present. The CDC remarks, “No single product or substance has been linked to all the lung injuries.” Seventy percent of those affected are male, and 80 percent are under the age of 35. One-third of them are under the age of 21 and 16 percent under the age of 18, the cut-off ages for the legal sale of e-cigs depending on the state. In a recent publication in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) this month, the Mayo Clinic reported their findings on lung tissue biopsies from 17 subjects, 11 of which met CDC criteria for a confirmed diagnosis of vaping-related lung injury. According to their findings, the injuries resemble those that occur with inhalation of noxious chemical fumes, suggesting a similar mechanism of injury.

  Workers in stone fabrication industry worldwide at high risk of deadly lung disease, CDC finds -  --Last month, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report which detailed the results of an investigation into 18 cases of silicosis, a deadly occupational lung disease for which there is no cure, among workers in the stone fabrication industry across the US states of California, Colorado, Texas, and Washington from 2017 to 2019. Two of the cases reportedly resulted in death.Silicosis is characterized by intense scarring and inflammation of the lungs. Patients who suffer from silicosis bear many of the same symptoms as those diagnosed with pneumonia and tuberculosis, such as shortness of breath, persistent cough, fever and bluish skin. In 2013, silicosis killed 46,000 people around the world. No cure is known, yet some experimental treatments such as inhalation of powdered aluminum and corticosteroid therapy have been used.The report found that most of the cases were in workers under 50 years old, with several under the age of 40. The disease is caused by inhaling tiny particles of crystalline silica, which are released into the air when workers cut, grind and sand pieces of marble, granite and engineered stone for finishing, particularly for use in the fabrication of kitchen and bathroom countertops. Workers also inhale the dust when cleaning and sweeping workplaces where the dust accumulates. The CDC report found the most severe cases of silicosis to be found in workers who work with engineered stone. Engineered stone is a manufactured quartz-based composite material that can contain over 90 percent crystalline silica, compared to less than 45 percent in natural granite. The report also noted that the popularity of engineered stone for use in manufacturing countertops has spiked in recent years, noting an 800 percent growth in demand for quartz surface imports to the United States between 2010 and 2018.

Diseases like West Nile, EEE and flesh-eating bacteria are flourishing due to climate change - An outbreak of a deadly and rare brain disease has killed at least 11 people in the United States so far this year. Scientists say the mosquito-borne illness, Eastern equine encephalitis, may be worse because of unseasonably warm temperatures. It’s one of just several diseases scientists worry are being affected by climate change. The nation’s changing climate patterns are bringing heatwaves, flooding, warming waters and droughts. These in turn alter the environment and the microbes, viruses and insects that inhabit it in ways that can cause them to increase or appear in new areas and at different times than before. While it’s difficult to attribute any particular disease event to global warming, it’s safe to say that climate change will change disease dynamics, said Erin Mordecai, a professor of biology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who studies the ecology of infectious disease.  One is Eastern equine encephalitis virus, or EEE, which kills a third of all people who get it. A mosquito-borne virus, it tends to come in cyclical waves with large outbreaks occurring many years apart. This is the biggest outbreak since the 1950s or 1960s, said Mordecai.  What is known is that the mosquitoes which transmit the virus thrive in warmer temperatures and die off at the first hard frost. The Earth just had its warmest September on record. The past five years have been the warmest since modern record-keeping began according to NASA.  Earlier springs, later falls and hotter months in between contribute to higher mosquito populations and a greater chance of infection.  “The longer the breeding season, the more baby mosquitoes that are going to hatch and the more your chance of getting bitten,” Other illnesses that might be getting worse because of climate change include:

  • Dengue fever. Transmitted by mosquitoes, some cases of dengue fever can result in a rare hemorrhagic form that can kill. Dengue was once known as “breakbone fever” for the severe muscle and joint pain it can cause.  There have been outbreaks in Hawaii, Florida and Texas. And there is some concern it might spread because of longer mosquito breeding seasons caused by warmer weather.
  • West Nile virus is transmitted by infected mosquitoes and ticks. In a tiny percentage of cases it causes brain inflammation that can take weeks or months to recover from and sometimes causes permanent effects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is spread through the bites of infected mosquitoes and ticks. Last year, 167 people died from it, according to the CDC.
  • Vibrio vulnificus is a bacteria that lives in warm brackish water. It’s actually erroneously described as “flesh-eating” because it releases enzymes that can rot flesh and shut down internal organs. Infection can occur after handling or consuming seafood or coming into contact with seawater. The number of cases in areas where it was once rare, such as New Jersey and Delaware, has been increasing.
  • Naegleria fowleriis a single-celled organism that’s commonly found in soil, as well as warm freshwater lakes, rivers and hot springs. On very rare occasions it can enter the body through the nose, where it can travel to the brain and destroy brain tissue. Such an infection is called primary amoebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM for short, and is almost always fatal.   It first appeared in Minnesota in 2010.
  • Ticks that can carry Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Babesiosisare all expanding into higher latitudes as temperatures rise. This is creating a larger area across which they can be transmitted.

Pesticides likely caused 'Havana syndrome' that affected Cuba-based diplomats- A new interdisciplinary study on the "Havana Syndrome" led by Dr. Alon Friedman M.D. of Ben-Gurion University and Dalhousie University Brain Repair Center in Nova Scotia, Canada, points to overexposure to pesticides as a likely cause for neurological symptoms among Canadian diplomats residing in Havana, Cuba in 2016. This is the first study of its kind focused on Canadian diplomats.The "Havana Syndrome" was the name given to the symptoms initially believed to be acoustic attacks on U.S. and Canadian embassy staff, first reported in Cuba. Beginning in August 2017, reports surfaced that American and Canadian diplomatic personnel in Cuba had suffered a variety of health problems including headaches and loss of balance, as well as sleep, concentration, and memory difficulties.To ensure Dr. Friedman and his team's findings are properly interpreted and understood, Dr. Friedman elected to discuss his research in advance of peer-reviewed publication with the Canadian Broadcasting Service which obtained a draft report to the Canadian government, leaked by an unknown source.The research will be presented at Breaking the Barriers of Brain Science Symposium in New York on Sunday, October 27. A copy of the paper is posted at http://www.medRxiv.org. The study details the nature of the injury, specifies the brain regions involved, including the blood-brain barrier and suggests a possible cause in the form of "cholinesterase inhibitors," with "organophosphorus insecticides" being a likely source. Cholinesterase (ChE) is one of the key enzymes required for the proper functioning of the nervous systems of humans, invertebrates and insects.

China’s Breeding Giant Pigs That Are as Heavy as Polar Bears - In a farm deep in the southern region of China lives a very big pig that’s as heavy as a polar bear. The 500 kilogram, or 1,102 pound, animal is part of a herd that’s being bred to become giant swine. At slaughter, some of the pigs can sell for more than 10,000 yuan ($1,399), over three times higher than the average monthly disposable income in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi province where Pang Cong, the farm’s owner, lives.While Pang’s pigs may be an extreme example of the lengths farmers are going to fill China’s swelling pork shortage problem, the idea that bigger is better has been spreading across the country, home to the world’s most voracious consumers of the meat. High pork prices in the northeastern province of Jilin are prompting farmers to raise pigs to reach an average weight of 175 kilograms to 200 kilograms, higher than the normal weight of 125 kilograms. They want to raise them “as big as possible,” said Zhao Hailin, a hog farmer in the region. The trend isn’t limited to small farms either. Major protein producers in China, including Wens Foodstuffs Group Co, the country’s top pig breeder, Cofco Meat Holdings Ltd. and Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Co. say they are trying to increase the average weight of their pigs. Big farms are focusing on boosting the heft by at least 14%, said Lin Guofa, a senior analyst with consulting firm Bric Agriculture Group. The average weight of pigs at slaughter at some large-scale farms has climbed to as much as 140 kilograms, compared with about 110 kilograms normally, Lin said. That could boost profits by more than 30%, he said. The large swine are being bred during a desperate time for China. With African swine fever decimating the nation’s hog herd -- in half, by some estimates -- prices of pork have soared to record levels, leading the government to urge farmers to boost production to temper inflation. Wholesale pork prices in China have surged more than 70% this year, while pig inventories plunged 39% in August from a year earlier.

Billions Face Shortages Of Food And Clean Water Over Next 30 Years as Nature Fails - National Geographic - As many as five billion people, particularly in Africa and South Asia, are likely to face shortages of food and clean water in the coming decades as nature declines. Hundreds of millions more could be vulnerable to increased risks of severe coastal storms, according to the first-ever model examining how nature and humans can survive together.“I hope no one is shocked that billions of people could be impacted by 2050,” says Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer a landscape ecologist at Stanford University. “We know we are dependent on nature for many things,” says Chaplin-Kramer, lead author of the paper “Global Modeling Of Nature’s Contributions To People” published in Science.That nature is in sharp decline was made clear in the first-ever global assessment of biodiversity released earlier this year. Human activity has resulted in the severe alteration of more than 75 percent of Earth’s land areas and 66 percent of the oceans, putting a million species at risk of extinction, according to the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Human well-being is dependent upon nature’s contributions, also known as ecosystem services. The new model looked at three of nature’s contributions or services: providing clean water; coastal protection, or crop pollination. The model reveals that the future declines in those services will hit people in Africa and South Asia hardest because they are more directly dependent on nature, says Chaplin-Kramer in an interview. People in wealthier countries can buffer the impacts though imports of food and infrastructure. To look at clean water, the model mapped plants that grow near lakes and rivers. Depending on topography, climate, runoff, and other factors, estimates can be made of how much excess nitrogen fertilizer from upstream farm fields remains in waterways. When overlaid with maps of drinking water sources for people, it estimates the potential exposure to nitrate pollution. Other studies that measured actual levels of pollution were used to validate the model, says Chaplin-Kramer. In a similar fashion, maps of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrasses, and salt marshes that can protect coastal erosion and storm surges were overlaid with maps of where people live on coasts.

 What's killing America's apple trees? - Not long after Mark Boyer planted the apple orchard he co-owns in Schellsburg, Pennsylvania, the trees started to die. First, their leaves turned yellow. Then, their trunks shed bark. In two short weeks, they were completely dead. And once the physical signs started to appear, there was nothing Boyer could do to stop the progression. Whatever was killing his trees was already too far along.  Whatever it was, it had no particular season. It happened during the spring, as the trees blossomed, or later in the fall, when they were laden with fruit. Some trees even died after the final harvest, just before winter set in.  To make matters worse, there was no discernible pattern. Five healthy trees could surround a single dead one, suggesting that the problem wasn’t spreading through leaves or soil. Boyer first spotted trouble in 2011. By 2013, it was much worse.   Around the same time, Kari Peter, a plant pathologist specializing in tree fruit, noticed a few trees dying at random in her own orchard, but didn’t think too much of it—apple trees die all the time. It wasn’t until 2014 that a grower approached Peter with concerns about a mystery illness that was affecting young trees. By the latter half of the year, more and more growers had gotten in touch. “And then I heard from New York that they were seeing something similar, and also from North Carolina,” she says.   Peter called the phenomenon Rapid Apple Decline, a name that describes the short timeframe between the appearance of symptoms and the collapse of the tree. (It’s also known as Sudden Apple Decline.) In the years since the term was coined, scientists still haven’t figured out exactly what’s going on. But the phenomenon persists. Last month, the Allegheny Front, a public radio program covering environmental issues in Western Pennsylvania, reported that up to 80 percent of the orchards in North Carolina have been affected by the decline. The problem is impacting growers as far north as Canada. And there are no signs it will disappear on its own.  Peter joined forces with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to rule out all the usual suspects. The deaths don’t appear to be caused by insects or common fruit tree diseases. And she didn’t quite buy the prevailing theory that tough winters had weakened the orchards because she’d first noticed the problem in a year when the winter had been mild. So-called “winter injury” might have been a contributing factor, but it didn’t seem to tell the whole story.   The phenomenon got weirder and weirder. Bruce Hollabaugh, co-owner and production manager for Hollabaugh Bros. in Biglerville, Pennsylvania, tested his trees when the deaths started plaguing his farm, and ruled out most familiar pathogens. But, oddly, Hollabaugh says, he noticed the whole tree wasn’t dying. “The final thing that was really puzzling was that in almost all cases, the tree was only dead on top, but the root system wasn’t dead,” he says. 

The Pinyon-Juniper Ecocide - A core goal of modern civilization, as proven by its actions, always is to wipe out all uncontrolled natural life* and replace it with its own domesticated creations, social and technical/biological/genetic.** Throughout the campaign, the goal always is total control and domination. Natural and wild is anathema and must be exterminated. Socially and conventionally domesticated is good. Technologically domesticated is much better. This is a big part of the reason why the genetic engineers and their cult fanboys never care about the fact that GMOs, crop or animal, don’t work and that every claim made for them is a lie: These claims really are nothing but propaganda and have nothing to do with the real domination goals.] This extends even to the most marginal habitat. The orcs’ fondest desire always is to destroy the desert community and replace it with agriculture (or, more recently, solar electricity factories). No one really thinks the pinyon-juniper forest habitat can be suitable for these, but it can be made the target of expanded industrial grazing. Thus after the government uses public money to physically destroy the forest it salts the earth with herbicides and plants forage grass. All pure corporate welfare to accompany the ecocide.  The pinyon-juniper forest is critically important for maintaining the physical cohesion of the soil and retaining the scarce moisture of the arid region. It is superbly adapted to its environment and its loss always brings on ecological havoc.Today as in the past this havoc is being wrought by the assaults of the government’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and various economic interests, especially cattle grazers.“The BLM “treatments” in the Great Basin, both proposed and ongoing, include “lop and drop,” mastication, herbicides and chaining. Chaining involves attaching a huge anchor chain from a battleship between two tractors and dragging it along the desert floor, ripping trees and bushes from the ground, wrecking delicate soil crusts, and killing or injuring countless other creatures in their dens, nests and hideouts. The extent of the damage is unknown, as it is not being adequately tracked.” This massacre goes on for zero rationally explicable benefit to anyone. The government gives such bogus justifications as reducing erosion (but ripping up the roots and soil greatly increases erosion) and reducing wildfires (but the natural fire cycle of the forest is as much as hundreds of years, while the cheatgrass which colonizes the destruction zone is extremely flammable; the ecocide greatly increases the fires).

Watch Bulldozers Plow Protected Cacti for Trump's Border Wall in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument - There is an outcry in Arizona after footage captured border wall construction bulldozers plowing over iconic cacti that are protected in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument — a monument created to protect Organ Pipe and Saguaro cacti, as Newsweek reported.  The video depicts the bulldozers running roughshod over the national monument and clearing saguaros in a rush to build a costly and unnecessary wall on the U.S. southern border.  "Saguaros are being bulldozed for the #BorderWall in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument," wrote Laiken Jordahl, Border Lands Campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity, on Twitter with a video of the destruction. "Trump's reckless border hysteria is destroying our environment and killing the very species this national monument was designated to protect."  Kevin Dahl who works at the National Parks Conservation Association shot the video. He told Newsweek that he was heartbroken and outraged by what he witnessed. "At that point, what they were doing was destruction, not construction," he said. The actions Dahl witnessed stand in sharp contrast to a video posted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that shows an appropriate relocation process, where a cactus is carefully removed with designated extraction tools, as opposed to a bulldozer plowing it over, according to Newsweek.  "We're watching the destruction of Arizona's most iconic species to make way for a useless border wall that most Arizonans oppose," Jordahl wrote to EcoWatch. Dahl watched the crews level saguaros and several other desert plants and then pile them up into slash piles. The destruction he witnessed was on the west side of the park where a 78-mile strip of Trump's wall is slated to stand.However, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which runs up against the border with Mexico already has a significant amount of fencing. As the Earther blog at Gizmodo reported, that includes five miles of fence to keep pedestrians out and another 25 miles of posts that act as vehicle barriers. E arther classified the actions as "wanton destruction."  While the current fencing respects the wildlife and the migratory patterns of native desert animals, Trump's border wall does not.  Running roughshod over the fauna in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument presents another set of problems since the site is both a U.S. National Monument and a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The park is also sacred land to Indigenous groups like the Tohono O'odham Nation, as Dahl told Newsweek. Jordahl summed it up succinctly on Twitter. "Trump's #BorderWall is under construction through the most pristine Sonoran Desert ecosystem anywhere on the planet — Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument," he wrote. "Endangered species, Indigenous sacred sites & wilderness lands are being destroyed before our eyes."

Dead Baby Turtle Found With 104 Pieces of Plastic in Stomach - A baby sea turtle that washed ashore in Boca Raton, Florida last week had 104 pieces of plastic in it stomach. The plastic products ranged from wrappers to balloons to bottle labels to twist ties used to cinch trash bags, as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. The Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton shared a photograph on Facebook of the turtle next to all the pieces of plastic that it had ingested. "It was weak and emaciated. I could just tell it wasn't doing well," said Emily Mirowski, a sea turtle rehabilitation assistant at the center, who examined the turtle before it died, as CNN reported. "As she cut into it, it was just like, whoa. Every time she cut through there was more plastic coming out of its stomach," said Whitney Crowder, the Nature Center's sea turtle rehabilitation coordinator, as the Guardian reported. "It's washback season at Gumbo Limbo and weak, tiny turtles are washing up along the coastline needing our help," the Facebook post reads. "Unfortunately, not every washback survives. 100% of our washbacks that didn't make it had plastic in their intestinal tracts. This turtle, which would fit in the palm of your hand, had eaten 104 pieces of plastic. This is a sad reminder that we all need to do our part to keep our oceans plastic free." Turtles washing up and suffering malnutrition from plastic consumption are so common that Gumbo Limbo Nature Center put a cooler in front of its building for residents to safely drop them off for rehabilitation. That's how the loggerhead came to the center's attention, according to CNN."Just this morning, we have 60 washback turtles sitting in our hatchling tank. Six have died already," said Crowder to the Guardian last week.At the center, the rehabilitation staff gives the turtles a diuretic in an attempt to flush the plastic out of their system, according to the Guardian."We give them a small amount of fluids everyday to get them hydrated," said Mirowski to CNN. "Then we hope they'll pass the plastic naturally. The important thing is getting them hydrated to get their appetite back." If they are nursed back to health, they are brought back out to sea where they run the risk of eating plastic again."It's extremely depressing. You definitely have to put your blinders on just to push through the day, but I try to stay positive," said Crowder to the Guardian.

Greenpeace Report: How Companies Still Have it Wrong on Plastic Pollution “Solutions” -- Greenpeace published a report last week on corporate responses to the burgeoning plastic pollution crisis that minced no words: In response to public motivation to resolve the global plastic pollution crisis, some of the world’s largest companies that produce massive amounts of wasteful, single-use plastic packaging have started to admit that they need to act. Some have made commitments that seem aspirational, but closer scrutiny shows that they are mostly continuing on the same track by investing in false solutions that fail to move us away from single- use plastic, diverting attention away from better systems, perpetuating the throwaway culture, and confusing people in the process. This is a transformative moment for our society. The world’s largest companies should not remain stuck in the past by promoting false solutions but instead should urgently reprioritize corporate business models, and follow the lead of people all over the world by kicking o a just transition away from a throwaway economy. Not only is plastic pollution its own environmental catastrophe, but it contributes to the other threat to planetary survival: climate change: It has also been estimated that, by the end of 2019 alone, globally, plastic production and burning will emit the equivalent of 189 coal-fired power plants (report , p. 3, citations omitted). Faced with these threats, the sensible thing to do would be drastically curtail the production and use of much plastics, particularly unnecessary, single use plastic, no? Alas, that’s not what’s happening:  Despite the increasing scientific understanding of the irreversible damage plastic can cause to our environment and communities, plastic production is projected to increase. The fossil fuel industry intends to increase production by an additional 40% over the next decade, and plastic could account for 20% of the total global oil consumption. Companies including Shell and ExxonMobil have invested a combined $180 billion since 2010 into plastic production, using cheap natural gas from hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) in the United States. Petrochemical companies are expanding plastic production operations on the Gulf Coast of the United States, where communities have long been fighting the toxic effects of oil and gas refining.European companies are also hungrily exploiting the natural gas rush, with the Ineos Corporation making the biggest petrochemical investment in the EU in 20 years, into plastic production infrastructure, including a “virtual pipeline” to flood Europe with cheap fracked gas from the US to make plastic, a plan which has generated an international outcry. In Asia, it’s also reported that petrochemical producers including Sinopec, Petronas and Hengli Petrochemical are investing billions of dollars into expanding plastic production (report, p. 3, citations omitted). Greenpeace identifies fast-moving consumer goods companies (FMCGs) – Nestle, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Coca Cola and Mondelez – as the source of the most frequently identied branded plastic pollution collected worldwide. And what are these companies doing to fix the problem? Why their chasing our old friends, the recycling fairy and the technofix fairy, for a magic sparkle pony solution, so that everyone can more or less go forward and operate as before (see these previous posts, Plastic Watch: Debunking the Technofix Fairy, Biodegradable Bags Don’t Degrade, Recycling Woes: Indonesia Sends Waste Shipment Back to Australia, and Plastic Watch: Recycling Woes):

Red Tide That Plagued Florida for 15 Months Is Back - The red tide that plagued Florida for 15 months — killing marine life and causing respiratory problems for humans — is back, The Associated Press reported Saturday.  Scientists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute announced Friday that samples of water taken off the shore of Collier County turned up high concentrations of the toxic algae that causes the tide, according to The Associated Press. There were also reports of dead fish and respiratory problems in the area. The news comes only about eight months after the state's longest red tide this decade finally faded away in February, according to The Tampa Bay Times. That red tide began in November 2017, killed thousands of fish, turtles and marine mammals and harmed the economy of coastal towns that rely on tourism. At its peak, it touched all three of Florida's coasts. This red tide is currently only impacting the state's southwest coast. In addition to Collier County, Lee County also tested positive for low concentrations of the algae, The Associated Press reported. It is not yet known how long this bloom will last or where it will spread, according to The Tampa Bay Times. The University of South Florida's College of Marine Science predicted it would move northwest in the next few days, The Fort Myers News-Press reported.  Red tides are caused by the organism Karenia brevis. The Tampa Bay Times explained how these tiny organisms create such big problems:  Small, scattered colonies of microscopic Red Tide algae live in the Gulf of Mexico all year long. Usually their numbers are so tiny that no one notices. But every now and then, usually in the late summer or fall, the algae population 10 to 40 miles offshore explodes into something called a bloom. During a bloom the algae multiply rapidly and spread across the water's surface, staining it a rusty color that gives the phenomenon its name. Then winds and currents carry it toward shore, where it can be fed and prolonged by pollution from fertilizer, sewage spills and leaky septic tanks. So far, this red tide has killed hundreds of fish. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned that those in the Naples area who have chronic respiratory illnesses or are especially sensitive to red tide will face breathing irritation, The Fort Myers News-Press reported.

Climate change is raising quite the stink in Florida  - A major UN report released this week shows the sea level is rising around the globe, which means people who live in coastal cities face real risks from losing their property, and in some cases their live, to the rising ocean and the intense storms these warmer waters bring. And it will make it harder for more than 60 million people in the United States to flush their toilets. About 1 in 5 US households rely on septic systems, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. It's a type of sanitary system that has worked since ancient Egyptian times, but the climate crisis and septic systems don't mix, studies show. These systems will be incredibly vulnerable to sea level rise and heavy rains. The climate crisis has brought both. In areas with drought, it may also be difficult to get the volume of water needed to keep the tanks functioning, studies show.Many systems are clustered in coastal areas that are already expecting sea level rise, including around Boston and New York. Nearly half of New England homes depend on them.Florida also has a disproportionate share. It's home to 2.6 million systems, or about 12% of all the septic systems in the country, the Florida Department of Health estimates. Miami-Dade County alone is home to more than 105,000 septic systems.  Other cities have built levees and sea walls. That won't work in Florida"Sea level rise is not a registered voter. It doesn't have a party. It's something that is going to affect everyone," said Rebeca Sosa, vice chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County Commission, who spearheaded a study on septic tank vulnerability in the county.She knows it's not a glamorous political issue, but with a lot of her residents living on Social Security checks, they're not going to have the extra funds to deal with the issue."Our job right now is to make sure that we make the state and the federal government understand ... that we need help, so we can help those who are not going to be able to pay to have sewer lines." A county report predicts that within the next 25 years, 64% of the tanks could break and need repairs every year. The report found there are likely 1,000 properties already failing under current conditions.

Climate Change Threatens the World’s Fisheries, Food Billions of People Rely On - The world's already overtaxed fisheries are being stressed to their limits by climate change, putting at risk a critical component of the world's diet. As temperatures rise, fish populations are projected to plummet and disappear in some regions, especially in the tropics.In a major report published Sept. 25 by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists examined the interconnected web of the planet's oceans and icy landscapes, delivering a series of grim projections on the chaotic impact of climate change on super-charged storms, rising seas and the ecosystems that sea life depends on.They also looked at the consequences for global diets and the role oceans play in feeding the world.  Fisheries are often overlooked when researchers and policymakers focus on land-based agriculture as the primary food source for a growing global population, yet fish are an essential protein source for 3.2 billion peopleand provide 17 percent of the world's animal protein. ."The changes in the oceans will have direct impacts on people who are depending on these systems for food," said William Cheung, a professor from the University of British Columbia and a lead author of the report's chapter covering fisheries. The scientists determined that the sustainable fish catch—the amount of fish that can be caught without decimating populations—could drop by as much as a quarter by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current trajectory."The current science suggests that as the ocean warms and loses oxygen, the body size of animals will be reduced, the distribution of fish will change and the surface production of phytoplankton is going to decline,"

Florida is in for more dead corals, sea rise and floods, says new UN climate report - Oceans have spared the world the worst of climate change, but those days may be over soon, according to a new United Nations report on climate change.The ripple effect for Florida, whose economy depends on the bright blue waters that ring the state, could include more dramatic flooding, faster, as well as a scary new phenomenon that’s killing coral reefs and reefs.The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, released Wednesday, said the ocean’s days of soaking up excess carbon and insulating the world from the worst impacts of climate change are numbered. “It is virtually certain that the global ocean has warmed unabated since 1970 and has taken up more than 90% of the excess heat in the climate system,” scientists wrote. In a world with carbon dioxide emissions run rampant, the new report paints a bleak picture, said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University professor and coordinating lead author for the sea level rise chapter of the report, which includes the results of thousands of scientific papers reviewed by more than 100 scientists.

In the Mountains, Climate Change Is Disrupting Everything, from How Water Flows to When Plants Flower — With ominous orange-gray smoke clouds seething on the western horizon, it's easy to understand how Colorado's highest city and other mountain communities are directly threatened by global warming.Mountain snowpack is shrinking and melting earlier in the spring. Warmer and longer summers dry out vegetation and increase the threat of wildfires in western mountain forests, where the fire season has lengthened by at least a month since 1979.The growing wildfire risk is just part of an accelerating cycle of global warming impacts in the world's mountain regions, according to a new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that includes a section focused on mountains for the first time in more than 20 years.  "Snow cover duration has declined in nearly all regions, especially at lower elevations, on average by five days per decade," the mountain chapter of the IPCC report says. On average across Western North America, the European Alps and High Mountain Asia, temperatures are warming by 0.54 degrees Fahrenheit per decade.That's melting glaciers and changing mountain river flows, disrupting plants and wildlife, and increasing the risk of extreme rockslides, avalanches and mountain floods caused by rain falling on snow.Taken together, global warming impacts represent an existential threat to millions of people in the Andes, the Himalaya, the European Alps, and the U.S. Mountain West including Alaska, said Heidi Steltzer, a biologist at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, and a lead author of the mountain chapter. "Shrinking glaciers and snow harm Indigenous Peoples and rural communities greatly. Concern, commitment and action on climate change should not depend on which places, species or people are impacted. Instead, they should be motivated by compassion," Steltzer said.

As Temperatures Rise, “Flash Drought” Takes Hold across South - Meteorologist Eric Luebehusen had a tough week at the end of September. He called it a “living hell.” As a member of the Agriculture Department team that compiles the U.S. Drought Monitor, Luebehusen created what looked like an omelet on a map of the United States. Yellow and brown swirls covered much of Texas and swaths of the Southeast, with splotches of red mixed in. “Here you have a divergent signal where many of these folks have had near-historic wetness and drought all within 60 to 90 days,” he said, describing a kind of weather whiplash. “People went from really wet to really dry, really fast.” Luebehusen plotted what experts call a “flash drought.” While not fully understood, these quick-developing droughts might be another signature of climate change. Experts say a flash drought often begins as a pin-sized swelter in one county, then expands like an amoeba across the landscape. The droughts are often accompanied by erratic precipitation over sharply defined geographic areas. The downpours can be extraordinarily intense, just as climate change is transforming routine rain events into mega-storms. On Luebehusen’s drought map for Sept. 24, two small areas popped out like red ripe tomatoes in Shelby County, Ala., and Dallas County, Texas. Both were experiencing “extreme drought,” one category shy of the highest rung on the drought severity scale. In Shelby County, a fast-growing suburb of Birmingham, more than 200,000 people experienced near-record temperatures and extreme dryness, what scientists call D3 drought. Less than 30 miles away, Birmingham was at D0, or “abnormally dry,” but not in drought. The same thing happened in Texas, where moisture and temperature gauges in Dallas County measured dangerously dry conditions, while seven surrounding counties were not in a drought.The term “flash drought” first appeared in a 2001 research paper by Svoboda and was not widely used until after 2012, when a fast-forming drought enveloped the Great Plains, he said.

Extreme 'Flash Drought' in Southeast Means Big Trouble for U.S. Farmers -  While the northern reaches of the continental U.S. are finally starting to feel a little chill, the Southeast is dealing with something very different.The United States Drought Monitor releases an update once a week with a map of the drought situation across the country. Its report this week echoes what farmers in the Southeast have been saying: We have a problem.According to the Drought Monitor, the Southeast is enduring temperatures between nine and twelve degrees above normal. From Virginia through Northern Florida, and especially in states such as Kentucky and Georgia, temperatures are reaching record highs. Chattanooga, Tennessee hit its highest temperature ever for this week, breaking 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It's the same story for Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina: 100 degrees in October, something the area has never before recorded.For much of the region, the Drought Monitor says the conditions are a moderate drought at minimum. Large chunks are much worse than that, rating as a "severe" drought, with some pockets even hitting a bright-red "extreme" drought level. "Outside of coastal areas impacted by recent tropical weather, almost the entire region is abnormally dry or worse," reads this week's report.Agriculture, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, is struggling in the Southeast as well. At the "severe" drought level, corn pretty much shrivels and dies. Rivers are shriveled, which makes it difficult to transport agricultural goods via barge. Grass is essentially dead, which means that those with grazing livestock have to spend money on hay, as well as, of course, water. And, as WFPL notes, even if farmers can get in to harvest their corn or soy crops, the weather stress makes them fetch lower prices than usual.There will, according to weather predictions from the Drought Monitor, hopefully be some precipitation soon, at least in the parts of the Southeast that border the Midwest. But there's no guarantee, and it may be too late at a crucial time of the year for farmers.

Unheard Of For October - MidWest Farms Face Imminent All-Out Blizzard Farmers in the middle of the country are about to get hit by what could potentially be the worst October blizzard in U.S. history.  According to USA Today, “the massive size and intensity of this snowstorm is unheard of for October”.  In other words, we have never seen anything like this in the month of October ever before.  Such a storm would have been disastrous enough in a normal year, but this has definitely not been a normal year for Midwest farmers.  As I detailed extensively in previous articles, endless rain and horrific flooding made planting season a complete and utter nightmare for many Midwest farmers this year.  Millions of acres did not get planted at all, and planting was seriously delayed on tens of millions of other acres.  As a result, corn, soybeans and other crops are simply not ready to be harvested in many parts of the Midwest, and now an unprecedented winter storm is barreling directly toward our heartland.This is a very, very serious situation. Normally, most corn in the Dakotas and Minnesota is considered to be “mature” by now, but this year we are facing a completely different scenario. According to the latest USDA Crop Progress Report, only 22 percent of the corn in North Dakota is considered to be “mature” at this point… Many farmers continue to wait on the sidelines to get into the fields. With freezing temperatures, heavy snowfall, and high winds set to hit the northern Plains this week, the corn in North Dakota is only 22% mature vs. a 75% five-year average, according to Monday’s USDA Crop Progress Report.Also, South Dakota corn is rated 36% mature vs. an 80% five-year average. Minnesota farmers have a corn crop that is just 39% mature vs. an 83% five-year average. And now here comes an “all-out blizzard”.  Accuweather is specifically using that term to describe this historic storm…An unusually far-reaching snowstorm for early October will stall, strengthen and evolve into an “all-out blizzard” over the Dakotas and then will send a blast of cold air across much of the Plains and Mid west.Heavy snow has already fallen on the northern Rockies and was progressing southeastward along with a charge of cold air. Snow and slippery travel were also being reported in parts of Washington state, including around Spokane where new daily snowfall record for Oct. 8 was set. Spokane International Airport recorded 3.3 inches of snow Tuesday, shattering the previous record for the day, which was a trace set in 1981.

Australia’s vast carbon sink releasing millions of tonnes of CO2 back into atmosphere - Australia’s mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrass meadows are absorbing about 20m tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, according to a major new study that is the first to measure in detail the climate benefits of the coastal ecosystems. But the study, published in the journal Nature Communications, warns that degradation of these “vegetated coastal ecosystems” was already seeing 3 million tonnes of CO2 per year being released back into the atmosphere. The study reveals Australia’s vast coastlines represent between 5% and 11% of all the so called “blue carbon” locked up in mangroves, seagrasses and tidal marshes globally. Some 44 scientists from 33 different research institutions collaborated on the study, which found the coastal ecosystems stored between 4,000m tonnes and 6,300m tonnes of CO2. Australia’s annual emissions hit a record high in 2018 of 558.4m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. “When these ecosystems are damaged by storms, heatwaves, dredging or other human development, the carbon dioxide stored in their biomass and soils beneath them can make its way back into the environment, contributing to climate change. “Globally, vegetated coastal ecosystems are being lost twice as fast as tropical rainforests despite covering a fraction of the area.” Coastal ecosystems store carbon in their soils as well as in the plants themselves and, once absorbed, the carbon can be locked away for thousands of years if undisturbed. They are able to absorb at up to 40 times faster than forests. “They also protect the coasts from erosion, are important nurseries for fisheries and they clear up the water so it’s very important for several reasons that we preserve these ecosystems,” Serrano said. He said the ecosystems were being impacted by coastal developments, dredging and by climate change.

Shocked scientists find 400km of dead and damaged mangroves in Gulf of Carpentaria - A cascade of impacts including rising sea levels, heatwaves and back-to-back tropical cyclones has created 400km of dead and badly damaged mangroves in the Gulf of Carpentaria, a scientific monitoring trip has discovered.Prof Norman Duke, of James Cook University, spent 10 days monitoring 2,000km of coastline from a helicopter, as well as conducting land-based checks at 32 estuaries along the coastline between Weipa, Queensland, and Cape Barrow in the Northern Territory.In 2015, the remote area suffered what is thought to be the worst mass dieback of mangroves ever recorded. The cause, Duke said, was a combination of extreme heat, a temporary drop in sea level at the time caused by atmospheric pressure, and drought.Duke and colleagues returned for a second follow-up monitoring trip to find devastating impacts of two cyclones had created a 400km stretch of dead and damaged mangroves.In December 2018, Cyclone Owen battered the gulf’s coast and then, just three month’s later, the category 4 Cyclone Trevor struck just to the south of Owen’s impact area.  “We are getting these compounding effects that we just didn’t expect,” Duke told Guardian Australia.“The mangroves hit in the 2015 dieback are already vulnerable because they are just recovering. Now you have all this dead wood that becomes like projectiles. It was a shock to me to see the damage.” For hundreds of kilometres, Duke says what would usually be a landscape of lush green mangroves has been replaced by struggling dull grey trees with stripped foliage.

More than 1,600 die in India's heaviest monsoon season for 25 years (Reuters) - The heaviest monsoon rains to lash India in 25 years have killed more than 1,600 people since June, government data showed on Tuesday, as authorities battled floods in two northern states and muddy waters swirled inside a major city.The monsoon, which typically lasts between June and September, has already delivered 10% more rain than a 50-year average, and is expected to withdraw only after early October, more than a month later than usual. The extended rains have wreaked havoc, with northern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states the worst hit in the latest spell of intense downpours, killing 144 people since last Friday, two officials said. In Patna, Bihar’s riverside capital city that is home to around two million people, residents said they were wading through waist-deep water to buy essential items like food and milk. Ranjeev Kumar, 65, a resident of Patna’s Ashiyana neighbourhood, told Reuters by telephone that the entire area was stranded by the water. “The government is not doing any rescue and the situation is very serious here,” he said.

Rain check: How the monsoons went from 33% deficient to 10% higher than normal, all in three months -- In a normal year, the monsoon begins to withdraw from the Indian subcontinent on September 1. But this year, the withdrawal is likely to start on October 10, more than a month late, according to Indian meteorological department.Even though the department predicted a near-normal monsoon back in April, the entire season has been remarkable in its unpredictability. First, the monsoon winds arrived one week late in Kerala, slowing down further as they travelled up the peninsula, reaching Mumbaithree weeks later.The delayed onset of the monsoons initially meant a rainfall deficit of 33% in June. But the season is ending with 10% higher rainfall than the long term average.This is largely because of concentrated bursts of heavy rain in short periods of time, say scientists. The extreme precipitation has caused destructive floods in as many as eight states. At the start of August, 80 people died in Karnataka. Nearly the same number perished in Bihar towards its end of September. The average rainfall recorded for the months of June-September, taken over 50 years from 1951-2000, comes to 88 cm of rain. This year, the country as a whole received 97 cm of rain. This is 110% of the long period average. The cumulative rainfall departure from normal – which is how much the rain departed from the long period average for June 1 to that week – shows the deficit was very high in the first three weeks of the season.It then made up very quickly to normal and above-normal in most districts by its seventeenth week.

Typhoon Hagibis- Biggest Japan storm in decades makes landfall -- At least five people are reported dead and others are missing as Japan endures what could be its worst storm for 60 years.The eye of Typhoon Hagibis made landfall shortly before 19:00 local time (10:00 GMT), in Izu Peninsula, south-west of Tokyo.It is now moving up the eastern coast of Japan's main island, with wind speeds of 225km/h (140mph).More than 270,000 homes have lost power, Japanese outlet NHK reports.Kyodo News agency said five deaths had been confirmed in different areas.   Two people died after homes were swept away by landslides - a man in Tomioka, Gunma Prefecture, and a woman in Sagamihara near Tokyo.A man in his 60s was found dead in an inundated apartment in Kawasaki, south-west of Tokyo, while a woman fell into a waterway and drowned in Tochigi, Kyodo said. Another victim, a man in his 50s, was found dead in an overturned car in Chiba.  Kyodo said 11 people were reported missing and more than 90 had been reported injured. More than seven million people have been urged to leave their homes amid severe flood and landslide warnings, but it is thought only 50,000 are staying in shelters. "Unprecedented heavy rain has been seen in cities, towns and villages for which the emergency warning was issued," JMA forecaster Yasushi Kajiwara told a press briefing.Japan's Meteorological Agency (JMA) has warned that half a metre of rain could fall on the Tokyo area between midday on Saturday and Sunday. Many bullet train services have been halted, and several lines on the Tokyo metro were suspended for most of Saturday.

Hurricane Dorian Was Worthy of a Category 6 Rating -  Dr Jeff Masters - Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes are rare. Only 7% of the 243 hurricanes observed since accurate satellite measurements began in 1983 have reached that catastrophic intensity. And it is truly exceptional to see a category 5 hurricane as strong as Hurricane Dorian, which powered ashore on Great Abaco Island in The Bahamas on September 1, 2019, with sustained winds of 185 mph and gusts up to 220 mph. Winds of this strength would make Dorian worthy of a category 6 rating, if it existed.  The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which is used to rank hurricane winds on a scale of one to five, stops at category 5: sustained 1-minute average wind speeds of at least 157 mph (70 m/s). If we were to add a category 6 to the scale, we must consider that the scale is not quite linear. Winds for a category 2 hurricane span a range of just 15 mph, for example, but winds for a category 4 storm span a range of 27 mph. Regardless of this non-linearity, a one-category increase in intensity on the scale results in approximately four times more wind damage, according to the National Hurricane Center. If we graph the scale (Figure 1 below), it is apparent that a category 6 should probably start at winds of 180 - 185 mph. A category 7 hurricane would have winds of at least 210 - 215 mph. By this logic, Hurricane Dorian would rate as a category 6 hurricane. Only one hurricane in world history would rank as a category 7: Hurricane Patricia of 2015, which peaked with 215-mph sustained winds off the Pacific coast of Mexico. If one uses 185-mph winds as the threshold for category 6, only five Atlantic hurricanes in recorded history would qualify. If we lower the threshold to 180 mph, there are a total of eight that would rate as a category 6:  Dorian’s 185-mph winds over Great Abaco and Grand Bahama islands tied it with the 1935 Labor Day hurricane in the Florida Keys as the strongest landfalling Atlantic hurricane on record. Dorian caused catastrophic damage, thanks in great part to its very slow motion of less than 5 mph over The Bahamas for the 27 hours it spent at category 5 strength. This slow motion and extreme intensity allowed Dorian to subject The Bahamas to the most fierce and prolonged battering by an Atlantic hurricane of any populated place in recorded history. Preliminary damage estimates in The Bahamas are $7 billion—over 50% of their $12 billion GDP. The death toll as of this writing is 56, with approximately 600 people still missing.

Sea-level rise threatens 13 million Americans. Can FEMA help?  - Entrepreneur and presidential hopeful Andrew Yang caught flak at the second Democratic debate in July for saying that the time has come to move Americans living in the path of sea-level rise to higher ground. “You can run but you can’t hide” doesn’t make a particularly good presidential slogan. After all, admitting defeat and letting nature take its course isn’t exactly our first instinct as human beings.  Managed retreat — abandoning areas that become so threatened by sea-level rise that they are, for whatever reason, considered not worth saving — has been a far less popular idea than adaptation strategies like flood gates, levees, and pumps. (Just look at Miami.)  But in many respects Yang’s realism is spot on. If the world keeps burning fossil fuels as usual, between four and 13 million Americans will see their homesinundated by sea-level rise this century. In the future, managed retreat will become unavoidable.Don’t take Yang’s word for it. That’s one of the conclusions of a new study in Science Advances — the first to evaluate how managed retreat is functioning in the United States on a national scale. The study’s authors analyzed the Federal Emergency Management Administration’s voluntary buyout program — an initiative that allows owners of flood-prone properties to sell their homes and land to local governments, usually in the aftermath of a disaster. The aim of the program is to get vulnerable people and assets out of flood plains and to ensure that at-risk property doesn’t go back on the market so some other unfortunate soul ends up buying a house that floods once a year. So far, a little more than 40,000 people in 49 states have taken advantage of the program. That’s not a lot of households, and the study found that the number of buyouts overseen by FEMA has actually gone down over the past three decades.

 GAO: Federal Agencies Not Funding Grid Recovery Projects in Puerto Rico - Hurricanes Irma and Maria damaged Puerto Rico’s electricity grid in 2017, causing the longest blackout in U.S. history. It took roughly 11 months after the hurricanes for power to be restored to all of the customers with structures deemed safe for power restoration. Federal agencies provided about $3.9 billion to help restore electricity service, which included temporary or partial repairs. Now that electricity service has been restored, local entities face the longer-term and more expensive task of grid recovery to more fully repair and rebuild the grid. Federal programs provide opportunities to incorporate resilience into disaster recovery efforts and the federal government has appropriated billions in funding to support electricity grid recovery in Puerto Rico. However, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review has found that as of July 2019, federal agencies have not funded grid recovery projects in Puerto Rico. Federal agencies can support long-term electricity grid recovery efforts in Puerto Rico by providing funding and technical assistance and coordinating among local and federal agencies. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are the primary federal funding sources for grid recovery. The Department of Energy (DOE) can provide technical assistance to local and federal entities to support grid recovery efforts. The role of coordinating federal efforts falls at FEMA’s door. GAO reported on October 8 that neither FEMA nor HUD had funded long-term grid recovery projects in Puerto Rico, but DOE had provided technical assistance. It noted that “progress on grid recovery efforts has been hindered in part because FEMA has not provided clear written information on what will be eligible for funding”. For example, FEMA has new authorities to fund projects that enhance resilience and restore grid infrastructure to the latest industry standards, but has not defined resilience or specified what standards it will accept. Consequently, it is unclear which technologies and approaches are eligible for funding.

Millions Brace for Unprecedented Power Cuts in California - It was a once-unthinkable move: purposely shutting off power to millions of people and plunging a major metropolitan area into darkness.And yet, on Wednesday, utility PG&E Corp. began cutting electricity to almost 800,000 California homes and businesses -- representing roughly 2.4 million people -- to prevent wildfires as high winds are forecast to whip through the state. The outages will hit 34 counties, including much of the San Francisco Bay area, triggering a scramble by residents to prepare for what may be days without power. For PG&E, forced into bankruptcy by devastating fires that its equipment has ignited over the past two years, there is no alternative. The shutoff is a key strategy for preventing its power lines from sparking another deadly -- and costly -- conflagration. It’s largely unprecedented. Never before have California utilities intentionally put so many people out of power for their own safety. Nor have they darkened heavily populated cities in addition to rural areas.“This is unprecedented in terms of what all of us are facing as a community,” PG&E Vice President Sumeet Singh said at a media briefing Tuesday night. “We are doing everything we can to minimize the impact on our customers’ lives.”The shutoff will occur in three phases, with the first impacting 513,000 customers from midnight Wednesday, the company said in a statement. The second stage will occur around noon and affect 234,000. The last phase is being considered for the southernmost portions of PG&E’s service area, impacting 42,000.  As California’s climate warms and dries, the massive blackouts could become a new, annual ordeal. The shutoff warning came two years to the day after wildfires tore through Napa and Sonoma counties, and 11 months after one of PG&E’s transmission lines triggered the Camp Fire, which leveled the town of Paradise and killed 86 people. “We have a grid that was built to manage a set of circumstances that don’t exist anymore,” said Michael Wara, director of the Climate and Energy Policy Program at Stanford University. “We are having to adapt to new circumstances brought about by climate change.”  He estimated PG&E’s blackout for two days could have an economic impact of as much as $2.6 billion.

Unprecedented power outages begin in California as winds bring critical fire danger - Los Angeles Times— In an unprecedented move, Pacific Gas & Electric early Wednesday began shutting off power to about 800,000 customers across Northern California in an attempt to avoid wildfires caused by winds damaging power equipment.The first power cutoffs, expected to affect 513,000 customers, began shortly after midnight in several counties around Sacramento, including Placer and Yuba, amid strengthening winds and continued to roll out into the early morning hours. The blackouts will impact 34 counties in Central and Northern California. It would be the biggest power shutdown so far as utilities across the state attempt to reduce wildfire risk due to heavy wind. Utilities malfunctions have been tied to some of the state’s most destructive fires, including last year’s Camp fire, which devastated Paradise, Calif., and the 2017 wine country blazes.  “It is a very blunt way of approaching the situation, but at the same time, there’s an understanding of why it’s being undertaken,” said Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt, who noted PG&E’s announcement came on the second anniversary of the 2017 firestorm. “We have vulnerable populations, our elderly and young children. We’re mostly concerned about them.”   The shut-down will be PG&E’s third in the last two months, the utility said. Power was restored within a day during the previous two events, but those were also for much smaller slices of its customer base.  “It is very possible that customers may be affected by a power shut-off even though they are not experiencing extreme weather conditions in their specific location,” the utility said in a statement. “This is because the electric system relies on power lines working together to provide electricity across cities, counties and regions.” Southern California Edison announced it, too, was considering preventive power outages. The utility said that given the anticipated possibly strong Santa Ana winds, power could be cut off to more than 106,000 customers in parts of eight Southern California counties. Edison’s possible outage would primarily affect customers in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Also under consideration are areas in Ventura County and portions of Kern, Tulare, Inyo and Mono counties.

As wildfires, power outages spread throughout California, tens of thousands ordered to evacuate - High winds and extremely low humidity resulted in massive wildfires throughout the Los Angeles and Riverside county areas in Southern California on Friday. The Los Angeles fire, known as the Saddleridge fire, has burned through more than 7,500 acres of the San Fernando Valley and has charred or destroyed at least 25 homes. The fire, which broke out Thursday night, moved at a rate of 800 acres an hour at its peak intensity and is currently only 13 percent contained. Mandatory evacuations were issued to roughly 23,000 homes in an area covering more than 100,000 residents. Weather forecasts predict that while conditions are steadily improving, winds up to 50 miles per hour and low humidity still pose a significant challenge for firefighters. Officials expect that it will take at least several days to get the blaze completely under control. The fires in both Los Angeles and Riverside have been intense enough to prompt a state of emergency declaration by California governor Gavin Newsom. In Riverside, 89-year-old Lois Arvickson died in the Sandalwood Fire, which has destroyed more than 76 structures as of this writing, including a number of homes. Neighbors reported seeing Avrickson get in her car to leave; however, the car was found still in the driveway when investigators arrived after the fire passed through the area. The Sandalwood Fire has grown to more than 820 acres and was only 10 percent contained as of Friday evening. The blaze has led to the evacuation of more than 500 residences. A significant portion of the destroyed homes were located in the Calimesa Mobile Home Park, which was completely obliterated as a result of the fire and which was also where the deceased Arvickson lived. Two other Calimesa residents have also been reported missing. Another two fires are also currently moving through the Riverside Area including the 75-acre Wolf Fire and the 450-acre Reche Fire. The two are at 25 and 40 percent containment respectively.

PG&E shutdown latest: Over 300,000 still without power, restoration is underway - Pacific Gas and Electric Company reported more than half of customers impacted the shut-off in Northern and Central California have had their power restored."About 426,000 out of a total 738,000 customers have been restored, including full restoration in Humboldt, Siskiyou and Trinity counties," PG&E said in a news release. "About 312,000 customers remain without power."The 312,000 customers equates to nearly 1 million residents when you consider three people on average per household. As of 10 p.m. Thursday, PG&E had identified 11 instances of weather-related damage to equipment in areas where the power was turned off.  The company is working to repair the systems. Nearly All of the 34 counties affected by PG&E's mass power outage have been cleared for restoration, except portions of Butte, Plumas and Yuba counties as well as Kern County, where a third phase of a power shut-off was implemented late Thursday morning impacting about 4,000 customers. Critical fire weather is forecast in Kern County into early Friday.

California governor says 'greed' to blame for power outage as more than 300,000 remain in the dark - An angry California Gov. Gavin Newsom slammed the state's largest utility over its power shutoffs, saying they're the result of years of mismanagement and greed. Pacific Gas & Electric intentionally cut power to almost 800,000 customers in Northern California on Wednesday to prevent wildfires caused by high winds downing live power equipment -- a process the utility had warned they'd be more aggressive about this year. While the company has since restored power for many affected areas, more than 300,000 remain without electricity."This is not ... a climate change story as much as a story about greed and mismanagement over the course of decades," Newsom said. "Neglect, a desire to advance not public safety but profits." Students walk back into class after a recess at a school in San Jose, California. They relied on sunlight after a Pacific Gas & Electric power shutdown turned out the lights. Meanwhile, the same powerful winds are moving into Southern California, where a local utility company has started turning off the lights for thousands of people. Southern California Edison cut power to almost 24,000 customers as winds picked up in the region Thursday."The highest we've seen so far is 64 miles per hour in Warm Springs in the mountains of LA County," said Keily Delerme, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. "The most concerning thing is the combination of the winds and dry conditions."Some school districts have canceled classes Thursday and Friday.

California Hit By Dual Shock: LA Gas Prices Spike Above $5 As Residents Learn Solar Panels Don't Work In Blackouts -  According to Fox5NY, citing figures from AAA and the Oil Price Information Service, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline in Los Angeles County was $4.25 on Wednesday, 4.5 cents higher than one week ago, 57.6 cents more than one month ago and 37.1 cents greater than one year ago. It has also risen 86.4 cents since the start of the year. What is more troubling is that as California gas prices reached the highest level in the state since 2015, some Los Angeles area gas stations are charging more than $5 a gallon. The gas price spike started last month after Saudi Arabia oil production facilities were attacked, and accelerated after three Los Angeles-area refineries slowed or halted production due to maintenance issues and no imported gasoline was available to make up for the shortfall, according to Jeffrey Spring, the Automobile Club of Southern California's corporate communications manager. The shortage was made worse after local refineries cut back production of summer-blend gasoline in anticipation of switching to selling the winter blend beginning Nov. 1.But wait, there's more: America's most "environmentally conscious" state got a harsh lesson in electrical engineering when many of the tens of thousands of people hit by this week's blackout learned the hard way that solar installations don't keep the lights on during a power outage.That, as Bloomberg reports, is "because most panels are designed to supply power to the grid, not directly to houses. During the heat of the day, solar systems generate more juice than a home can handle. However, they don’t produce power at all at night. So systems are tied into the grid, and the vast majority aren’t working this week as PG&E cut power to much of Northern California to prevent wildfires." Of course, the only way for most solar panels to work during a blackout is pairing them with batteries, however as Tesla has found out the hard way, that market is just starting to take off and even so it's having a very difficult time making headway. The largest U.S. rooftop solar company, Sunrun, said hundreds of its customers are making it through the blackouts with batteries. Alas, the total number of those affected - and without power - is in the hundreds of thousands.

Unsustainable California: No Easy Remedy for PG&E Blackouts, Fire Risks - 10/10/2019 -Yves Smith --The massive PG&E blackouts, cutting power to millions of Northern California users on Wednesday, not just individuals but businesses and critical facilities like hospitals and services like traffic lights, demonstrates how vital infrastructure in the US is at third-world levels. And it’s not just our tatty airports but also bridges and roads and water mains.First, on the scale of the blackout. From NBC, PG&E slammed for cutting power to millions of Californians: Pacific Gas & Electric Corp., or PG&E, began shutting off power in phases early Wednesday to about 500,000 customers in northern and central parts of the state, including sections of the San Francisco Bay Area. A second wave, affecting about 250,000 customers, began in the afternoon.Because customers include businesses in addition to individual homes, PG&E said the shutdown could affect as many as 2 million Californians. And it said customers wouldn’t be reimbursed for lost business, housing alternatives or spoiled food and medicines. And the economic consequences, from Gizmodo:Michael Wara, director of the Climate and Energy Policy Program, tweeted that the PG&E blackout could result in anywhere from $65 million to $2.5 billion in losses over the entire planned outage area. That low end of the spectrum only looks at costs to residential losses while the high end includes commercial and industrial impacts and lost productivity. Oh, and the backup generators that some hospitals, businesses, and even homes use? Most are diesel powered and diesel generators are dirty. And emergency fuel demand could outstrip supply. From Renewable Energy World earlier this year: The expected shutdowns in California are driving a huge and sudden demand for backup power. This demand has spurred a move towards large-scale deployment of diesel generators across the state. While diesel generators may represent the simplest short-term solution, there are several obvious reasons that Californians should find this response problematic. First of all, these diesel generators will be a terrible source of pollution. Secondly, activation of diesel generators for extended duration during outages will necessitate broad diesel refueling operations, for which the supply of fuel will not be sufficient.

California wildfire prompts power outages, evacuations in bay area - A wildfire fueled by Santa Ana winds has closed two freeways, is threatening homes and has forced evacuations around Los Angeles. Fire officials say the Saddleridge fire had consumed more than 4,600 acres by 3 a.m. Friday. It broke out after 9 p.m. Thursday along the 210 Freeway and jumped the highway. Flames also crossed the 5 Freeway. The highways were closed because of heavy smoke. Authorities have ordered mandatory evacuations in the Granada Hills, Porter Ranch and Oakridge Estates neighborhoods. Several homes were seen burning in Granada Hills, and the LA fire department said an "unknown number" of homes were potentially threatened. There were no reports of injuries. The blaze comes as hot, dry winds are raising concerns that the region's largest utility could widen power shutoffs to prevent its equipment from sparking wildfires. Hot, dry winds sweeping into Southern California raised concerns that the region's largest utility could widen power shutoffs Friday to prevent its equipment from sparking wildfires. Southern California Edison turned off electricity to about 20,000 people but warned that thousands more could lose service as Santa Ana winds gained strength. Meanwhile Winds gusted dangerously as forecast in Northern California before weather conditions eased and the lights started to come back on. Planned blackouts affected millions and Pacific Gas & Electric faced hostility and second-guessing for its widespread shutoffs. Over 500,000 PG&E customers were still waiting for power to come back on as of Thursday night.

Saddleridge Fire explodes in Southern California, burning dozens of homes and prompting mandatory evacuations - CBS News - A wildfire exploded overnight in Southern California, burning dozens of homes and prompting mandatory evacuations. High winds driving the flames were expected to last for hours.The fire started Thursday night in Sylmar, northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Fueled by dry conditions and wind gusts of up to 70 mph, the Saddleridge Fire had consumed more than 4,600 acres by 3 a.m. Friday, fire officials said. It's one of eight active wildfires burning in California days after power was shut off to hundreds of thousands of people in an effort to prevent fires. The Saddleridge Fire broke out after 9 p.m. along the 210 Freeway and jumped the highway.Flames also crossed the 5 Freeway. The highways were closed because of heavy smoke.There were no reports of injuries, but authorities ordered mandatory evacuations in the Granada Hills, Porter Ranch and Oakridge Estates neighborhoods. Several homes were seen burning in Granada Hills, and the Los Angeles Fire Department said an "unknown number" of homes were potentially threatened.A blaze also ripped through a mobile home park in Calimesa, a city about 65 miles east of Los Angeles, destroying dozens of residences. The fire began when a trash truck dumped burning garbage into dry grass, CBS News correspondent Errol Barnett reports.

California: north and south battle wildfires as preventive shutoffs hit millions - A mobile home community in southern California fell victim to a rapidly spreading wildfire on Thursday, as millions of people in the state were left without power amid a high fire threat.  The fire in the Calimesa area of Riverside county near Los Angeles was one of several blazes statewide fed by hot, dry winds, officials said.The fire quickly destroyed about two dozen homes, as crews with air support scrambled to contain it. A county fire department statement reported “numerous medical emergencies” at Villa Calimesa mobile home park, but there were few further details. Authorities say the blaze was sparked when a trash truck dumped a load of burning garbage along a road. The area was not listed among the latest communities where utility companies has cut power in an effort to prevent wildfires caused by windblown wires. Utility companies in northern and southern California had shut off power to nearly 2m people starting Wednesday, amid fears that high winds in the forecast could bring down power lines and spark deadly wildfires.Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) started turning out the lights over a large section of northern and central California on Wednesday, in outages that wereunprecedented in scopeThe deliberate outages by PG&E in northern California forced schools and businesses to close and otherwise disrupted life for many people, bringing criticism on the company from the governor and customers alike.Power was out for many customers in the San Francisco Bay area as well as wine country north of San Francisco, which was hit hard by wildfires in 2017 and the region north of Sacramento devastated by the November 2018 Camp fire. That included parts of the agricultural Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada foothills – where the Camp fire, blamed on PG&E transmission lines, killed 85 and virtually incinerated the town of Paradise. Police ordered evacuations early on Thursday as a fast-moving wildfirespread in the hills of a San Francisco Bay area community. Firefighters in the Moraga-Orinda area responded to the scene near the St Mary’s College campus. The school did not immediately appear threatened but 100 homes were initially evacuated, before the order was lifted for about 50 of the homes some hours later. As conditions calmed by Thursday evening, PG&E said power was restored to about 228,000 customers in parts of the San Francisco Bay area, the Sierra foothills and Humboldt county. Some 510,000 people in northern California remained in the dark.

Intense Forest Fires Threaten to Derail Indonesia’s Progress in Reducing Deforestation -- Indonesia's forest fires have made headlines globally over the past few weeks. This year's forest fires haveaffected millions of people. Schools have closed in some areas due to unsafe levels of air pollution, while many people are suffering from respiratory illnesses. The haze has spread so far as to affect Singapore and Malaysia. While forest fires are cyclical, typically occurring in Indonesia every year from July through October, this year's season is the worst since 2015, when fires resulted in $16 billion in economic losses and spewed more greenhouse gas emissions daily than the entire U.S. economy. The fires — most of which have been set intentionally to clear land — threaten to derail progress Indonesia has made in curbing its deforestation in recent yearsAccording to data displayed on Global Forest Watch (GFW) Fires, there have been 66,000 fire alerts from January through the end of September. While this is much lower than fire levels in 2015 — which saw more than 110,000 alerts at the end of September — it far exceeds forest fires levels in 2016, 2017 and 2018.This year’s fires jeopardize Indonesia’s progress in reducing deforestation.Of the countries historically most responsible for the world's deforestation, Indonesia is the only one that's actually reduced its deforestation rate in recent years. This year's fires season could derail this promising trend. According to annual tree cover loss data on Global Forest Watch, Indonesia's deforestation rate declined significantly in 2017 and 2018, after a record-high in 2016. National policies like the forest moratorium and peatland restoration plan played a big role, but these years also benefited from wetter conditions associated with the La Niña weather pattern. While farmers set fires every year to clear land, the blazes are less likely to spread or rage out of control during wet years than they are during dry years. With the return of El Niño this year and its warmer, drier conditions, it's unclear if Indonesia will see further declines in deforestation this year.

 Report Shows ‘Stunning and Dramatic’ Scenes of Thawing Permafrost in Siberia That ‘Leaves Millions on Unstable Ground’  -The latest installment in a Washington Post series on "hot zones" around the world that are already enduring "extreme climate change" focuses on the federal Russian republic in eastern Siberia called Yakutia, part of which "has warmed by more than 3 degrees Celsius since preindustrial times—roughly triple the global average."  Rising global temperatures from human activity are causing the world's permafrost—a mix of soil, rocks, and sand that remains frozen for two or more consecutive years—to thaw and release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, further warming the planet.  In Siberia, according to the Post, "the permafrost that once sustained farming—and upon which villages and cities are built—is in the midst of a great thaw, blanketing the region with swamps, lakes, and odd bubbles of earth that render the land virtually useless."  The report, entitled "Radical Warming in Siberia Leaves Millions on Unstable Ground," was published Thursday as part of the newspaper's "2°C: Beyond the Limit" seriesPost journalist Chris Mooney, who co-authored Thursday's report with Anton Troianovski, detailed some key takeaways in a lengthy Twitter thread Friday. (embedded) Although there are global implications for thawing permafrost, "this story is about what is happening locally," Mooney wrote, "which is also very stunning and dramatic."  For the 5.4 million people who live in Russia's permafrost zone, the new climate has disrupted their homes and their livelihoods. Rivers are rising and running faster, and entire neighborhoods are falling into them. Arable land for farming has plummeted by more than half, to just 120,000 acres in 2017. In Yakutia, an area one-third the size of the United States, cattle and reindeer herding have plunged 20 percent as the animals increasingly battle to survive the warming climate's destruction of pastureland.  The thawing has helped fuel "migration from the countryside to cities and towns," they reported. The population of Yakutsk, the republic's capital city, has soared 20 percent in the past decade, but it "offers no escape from the warming climate."

The atmosphere and Arctic sea ice: Who’s the dog, and who’s the tail? - In recent years, a popular debate has been occurring within the climate community regarding how much of an effect, if any, the rapid warming of Earth’s frozen cake-topper we call the Arctic, and the corresponding reduction in Arctic sea ice, has been having on winter across the mid-latitudes where most of us live.  The debate arose because, while winters have in general warmed during the last century, some regions have shown a weak cooling trend for certain periods. A cooling trend, from around 1990 through 2013 in landmasses across the mid-latitudes, has been noted in previous research (Cohen et al 2014). It seems these cooling trends have generally weakened or disappeared when data has been updated to the present, but recent winters with bouts of record cold keep the debate alive.  The answer to the debate could have large ramifications for our ability to forecast the winter year in and year out. And I know that is something that concerns all of you, based upon the plethora of winter-related comments you leave on our posts. In new research from across the pond in England, a team of scientists found that even though a lack of sea ice occurs at the same time as cold mid-latitude winters, it doesn’t cause those cold mid-latitude winters. In scientific jargon-ese, “correlation does NOT mean causation.” The real driver, they say, is an atmospheric circulation pattern across higher latitudes, which drives both low amounts of sea ice and the spilling of cold air into the mid-latitudes. But in order to come to that conclusion, the scientists first had to untangle those multiple, messy climate influencers.

Iceberg larger than Los Angeles breaks off Antarctic shelf - - An iceberg larger than Los Angeles is now floating off Antarctica. The 600-square-mile chunk of ice, named D-28, broke away from the Amery Ice Shelf last week -- the first major event of its kind in nearly 60 years.  Scientists first noticed a rift in the region in the early 2000s and predicted the rupture would eventually happen. They do not think the breakaway is linked to climate change.Instead, experts believe the event was simply part of the ice shelf's normal cycle.   But the 315-billion-ton iceberg could disrupt global shipping -- so it will be tracked.

Earth just experienced its hottest September ever recorded - Following the hottest summer on record, 2019 continues to head for the history books. Last month was officially the hottest September on record, just slightly hotter (.04 degrees Fahrenheit) than the previous record-holder, September 2016. Last month was 1.02 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the average September from 1981-2010 and about 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the preindustrial level, according to data released Friday by the Copernicus Climate Change Service, an organization that tracks global temperatures.  According to AFP, the organization is treating the two months as joint record-holders because the difference is negligible. September follows a record-setting summer, which recorded the hottest June and July, and the second hottest August. This July was the hottest month on record since record-keeping began 140 years ago.  Most of Europe, parts of the U.S., Iran, Afghanistan, Mongolia, northern China and parts of the Arctic all experienced significantly hotter than average Septembers, the organization said. Temperatures in Norway, Sweden, southwestern parts of Russia and parts of Antarctica were lower than average.

September 2019 Was Earth's Hottest September on Record - September 2019 was the hottest September on record, the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service reported Friday. This makes it the fourth month in a row this year to be the hottest or near hottest of its kind. June 2019 was the hottest June on record, July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded and August was the second-hottest August, according to Copernicus data reported by The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang."The recent series of record-breaking temperatures is an alarming reminder of the long-term warming trend that can be observed on a global level. With continued greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting impact on global temperatures, records will continue to be broken in the future," Jean-Noël Thépaut, director of Copernicus at the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, said in a statement reported by The Washington Post. September 2019 was 0.57 degrees Celsius warmer than the average for the month from 1981-2010,Coepernicus found. It was also about about 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the preindustrial average, according to The Washington Post. It was only around 0.04 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than September 2016, meaning the two months were "virtually on a par," Copernicus said. However, The Washington Post pointed out that in 2015 and 2016, there was a powerful El Niño event driving up temperatures. No such event occurred this year.Places that saw higher than average temperatures this September included much of Europe, much of the Arctic, most of the U.S., Iran, Afghanistan, Mongolia, northern China, central South America, South Africa, southwestern Australia and West Antarctica, Copernicus announced. Marine temperatures were also higher than average, especially over the northeastern Pacific and many seas in the Arctic and Western Antarctic. Only southwestern Russia, the Central Asian Republics and parts of Antarctica saw temperatures markedly below average. Norway, Sweden and far-eastern Europe also saw below average temperatures.

 East Siberian Sea Is Boiling With Methane --Russian scientists on an Arctic expedition have discovered, for the first time, methane "boiling" on the surface of the water that is visible to the naked eye. Forget high-tech detection devices, the methane is so pronounced that it can be scooped from the water in buckets, as Newsweek reported.The research team from Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) found the methane leak east of Bennett Island in the East Siberian Sea. The methane bubbles, which create a boiling appearance, spanned an area over 50 feet, as the Telegraph reported. The concentration of atmospheric methane in that spot was 16 parts per million, more than nine times higher than the atmospheric average.While the observed area is too small to cause any problems, it does spell trouble for ships if the problem gets worse. Methane leaked into the atmosphere may cause larger swaths of water to boil more violently, which can topple oil and gas rigs in the seas and lead to spills.The gas, which is not as prominent as carbon dioxide, is 28 times as effective at trapping heat than CO2, making it a dangerous greenhouse gas, according to New Atlas.While a lot of methane is released into the atmosphere from livestock and from fertilizer run-off, this methane manifested from underwater permafrost degradation, according to a TPU statement.Permafrost locks up a tremendous amount of methane. If the permafrost gets weaker and allows the methane to seep out, there is potential for further warming, according to IFL Science. "This is the most powerful seep I have ever been able to observe," said lead scientist Igor Semiletov, who has participated in 45 Arctic expeditions, in a TPU statement this week. "No one has ever recorded anything similar."   Danish climatologist Jason Box succinctly summarized the concern for scientists five years ago. After Stockholm University scientists noticed methane bubbles rising from the sea floor, Box tweeted, "If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is released to the atmosphere, we're f***ed," as IFL Science reported.

Vast methane 'plumes' seen in Arctic ocean as sea ice retreats  -Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane - a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide - have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region. The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years. In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Igor Semiletov of the International Arctic Research Centre at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, who led the 8th joint US-Russia cruise of the East Siberian Arctic seas, said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed. "Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we've found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It's amazing," Dr Semiletov said."I was most impressed by the sheer scale and the high density of the plumes.  Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them," he said. Scientists estimate that there are hundreds of millions of tons of methane gas locked away beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. One of the greatest fears is that with the disappearance of the Arctic sea ice in summer, and rapidly rising temperatures across the entire Arctic region, which are already melting the Siberian permafrost, the trapped methane could be suddenly released into the atmosphere leading to rapid and severe climate change.

Letter signed by “500 scientists” relies on inaccurate claims about climatescience -- Published in clintel.nl, by Alberto Prestininzi, Benoit Rittaud, Christopher Monckton, Fritz Vahrenholt, Guus Berkhou, Ingemar Nordin, Jeffrey Fos, Jim O'Brien, Morten Jodal, Reynald du Berger, Richard Lindzen, Rob Lemeire, Terry Dunleavy, Viv Forbes on 23 Sep. 2019.   Six scientists analyzed the letter and estimate its overall scientific credibility to be 'very low'.   A majority of reviewers tagged the article as: Biased, Cherry-picking, Inaccurate, Misleading.  This letter presenting a short list of claims about climate change boasts a list of “500 scientists and professionals” who have co-signed it. The claims contradict or misrepresent the evidence uncovered by geoscientists, failing to provide support for its conclusions downplaying the threat of climate change. The letter claims, for example, that climate models ignore the benefits of increased CO2 on plant growth. This is false, as many climate models simulate the response of vegetation to increased CO2—and the climate change it causes. And while some outlets described the co-signers as experts in climate science, most are not. As noted in an analysis below, a significant portion of the co-signers are either engineers or professionals in non-technical fields. Only 10 identified themselves as climate scientists. Similar letters have sought to establish credibility with large numbers of co-signers in the past, but evidence is what counts in science.

These hardcore activists are preparing to shut down Europe in the name of preventing climate change — Earlier this year, a little-known environmental group, Extinction Rebellion, brought London to a standstill. They’re now aiming to paralyze at least four other European capitals next week while holding other protests in the United States and more than 60 other countries worldwide to demand immediate, sweeping action against climate change.The group officially launched last October with a small protest outside Parliament featuring a speech from Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg. But Extinction Rebellion really won worldwide attention this April when eye-catching protests brought London to a crawl for almost two weeks. Activists occupied major traffic hubs around the clock, superglued their bodies to buildings and trains, and marooned a full-sized pink boat in the middle of a major business district.  The April protests ended with more than 1,000 arrests, and, despite scoffs from conservatives and stern warnings from law enforcement officials, the group's strategy worked. Within weeks, the House of Commons adopted a resolution declaring a climate “emergency.” The action was symbolic — and far short of the dramatic pledge to cut carbon emissions that Extinction Rebellion has demanded — but it was a huge success just to get climate change on the agenda at a time the government was near collapse over the Brexit impasse. Small-scale protests have occurred worldwide under the Extinction Rebellion banner regularly. Next Monday marks the official start of what Extinction Rebellion is calling the “International Rebellion.” It likely won’t draw thehundreds of thousands of people who joined September’s climate strikes led by Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement. But Extinction Rebellion works on a different model of change. Instead of getting everyone to join them for marches, its organizers are focused on mobilizing a passionate minority that is willing to engage in nonviolent direct action, putting their bodies on the line to halt business as usual until their demands are met. “Even though there were only a few of us, we couldn’t deal with the reality that humanity was racing towards the precipice of extinction and doing fuck all about it. This is our chance to really act differently,” said Robin Boardman, a 21-year-old who dropped out of college to help start Extinction Rebellion, during a Thursday press conference in London. “I am prepared to go out on the streets and do everything I can to create that change. I’m prepared to go to jail if it means it.”

'Not What Democracy Looks Like': Outrage as UK Police Use Battering Ram to Raid Extinction Rebellion Building -London police on Saturday raided a building Extinction Rebellion activists were using to store supplies ahead of a climate demonstration planned for Monday, a preemptive action environmentalists condemned as an unlawful crackdown on a peaceful protesters.The Guardian reported that "10 people—seven women and three men—had been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance." Video of the raid, which shows police using a battering ram to break into a south London building, quickly went viral Saturday as activists and British lawmakers expressed alarm at the aggressive tactic."This is not what democracy looks like," tweeted Extinction Rebellion London.Labour MP Clive Lewis called the police raid "plain wrong.""No petroleum company warehouse has ever had a battering ram used on it by the police," said one Twitter user.  Richard Ecclestone, a former police officer who joined Extinction Rebellion, said in astatement that "these tactics are very questionable and are arguably infringing on our rights to peaceful protest, and indeed our efforts to preserve people's right to life that is currently being jeopardized by the government failing to act on the climate and ecological emergency that they know exists."In a press release Saturday, Extinction Rebellion said the police "used evidence-gathering laws to seize bins, food, and disabled toilets."According to Extinction Rebellion London, authorities also seized disability ramps and other items aimed at making protests sites "accessible and safe for all."

 Extinction Rebellion Blocks Berlin Traffic in Worldwide Day of Protests - Climate activists from Extinction Rebellion (XR) blocked roads around Berlin's Victory Column near the Brandenburg Gate early on Monday morning as the first wave of demonstrations in a day of "civil disobedience" got underway in the German capital. The climate movement delivered a series of tweets documenting proceedings in Berlin.XR said: "The sun is rising and at the Victory Column 1000 rebels are finally demanding serious measures from our government in the fight against the #Klimakrise! (climate crisis)" German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Helge Braun, condemned Rebellion's approach."We all share an interest in climate protection, and the Paris climate targets are our standard in this," he told ZDF television. "If you demonstrate against or for that, that is ok, but if you announce dangerous interventions in road traffic or things like this, of course that is just not on."Meanwhile, Berlin police appealed to motorists to exercise caution and avoid the obstructed streets. "Please be careful and make a detour around the area," police said after a number of protesters blockaded the Big Star roundabout in the central Tiergarten park.Some 60 events were planned around the world on Monday and in Germany they were keen to kick off proceedings early. Protesters had already set up a camp over the weekend in front of Chancellor Merkel's office and the Reichstag. Police said 135 people had been arrested by 12:30 (1130 UTC) in London on Monday, in addition to seven people being arrested the previous day "on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance" after the kick-off ceremony near Marble Arch in the city-center.

Climate activists block traffic in Berlin as protests heat up - Opposition leaders and environment activists condemned German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government Monday for watering down a new climate protection law, as "Extinction Rebellion" protestors blocked traffic in Berlin. Key elements of a September climate deal struck within Merkel's coalition government were absent from a draft law published by the environment ministry, including a binding goal of "climate neutrality" by 2050 and a powerful oversight role for an independent commission of experts. "This is an anti-democratic scandal for climate policy," Left party MP Lorenz Goesta Beutin told AFP, adding that Germany now risked breaching the 2015 Paris Agreement, which committed almost all countries to reducing climate-altering carbon emissions. Monday's new pitched battle over the climate law comes as "Extinction Rebellion" protesters, who call for direct action and civil disobedience to pressure governments into more drastic environmental protection, blocked a major roundabout in the heart of Berlin. Police confirmed that around 1,000 people had blocked the busy "Großer Stern" intersection in the Tiergarten park from four am. Even within the coalition, some among Merkel's junior partners the social democrats (SPD) were riled by the draft law, set to be passed to parliament by ministers Wednesday. "If (Merkel's conservatives) further weaken the climate package, it will be nothing more than a paper tiger," said Karl Lauterbach, a left-wing contender in the SPD's leadership race. Defending its draft law, the environment ministry pointed to carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction goals across economic sectors -- principally transport, construction, agriculture and waste -- that will tighten annually until 2030. "The climate protection law that we will pass in the coming days will anchor exactly these national climate goals for 2030" which the country committed to in Paris, Merkel's chief of staff added. Ministers have acknowledged the country will fail in its aim to reduce emissions by 40 percent of 1990 levels by next year, while tens of thousands of young people have taken to the streets every week for months in "Fridays for Future" demonstrations. But Merkel's coalition of centre-right conservatives and centre-left social democrats are keen to preserve social peace, with an eye on "yellow vest" protests that hobbled France last year over higher fuel taxes.

Climate Activists Block Roads, Stage Protests Worldwide - Activists with the Extinction Rebellion movement blocked roads and staged demonstrations in big cities around the globe Monday, part of a wide-ranging series of protests demanding much more urgent action against climate change. Demonstrators stopped traffic in European cities including Berlin, London, Paris and Amsterdam. In New York, activists smeared themselves — and emblems of Wall Street — in fake blood and lay in the street. In some cities, activists chained themselves to vehicles or pitched tent camps and vowed not to budge. “You might come from a variety of different groups, but we all stand against a system that’s destroying the planet and mankind, and we’re looking to change that because we can’t just have little changes, we want a real big change,” said Pierrick Jalby, a 28-year-old nurse from eastern France who joined the demonstration in Paris. “We don’t want reforms, in fact, we want a revolution.” Members of Extinction Rebellion, a loose-knit movement also known as XR that started last year in Britain, have staged a series of flashy protests this year to demand action on manmade climate change, often featuring marchers in white masks and red costumes and copious amounts of fake blood. In Berlin on Monday, around 1,000 people blocked the Grosser Stern, a traffic circle in the middle of the German capital’s Tiergarten park dominated by the landmark Victory Column. That protest began before dawn. Another 300 people blocked Berlin’s central Potsdamer Platz, placing couches, tables, chairs and flowerpots on the road. Over the weekend, demonstrators had set up a tent camp outside German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office to prepare for the protests, reflecting dissatisfaction with a climate policy package drawn up last month by her government.Around 1,000 protesters blocked the area around Chatelet in central Paris and vowed to stay at least the night in the makeshift camp they had pitched. Some were seated, some chained to a barrel. Demonstrators playing steel drums marched through central London as they kicked off two weeks of activities designed to disrupt the city. London police said some 135 climate activists had been arrested. Extinction Rebellion said protesters were arrested as they blocked Victoria Embankment, outside the Ministry of Defense.

Climate Change Activist Climbs on Plane, Others Stop Traffic  — Protesters in New York City brought traffic to a standstill in the city’s busiest hub and an activist in London climbed atop a plane as climate change demonstrators entered the fourth day of rallies around the world. Protesters transported a green boat on a trailer into Times Square and then sat down and refused police orders to move. The boat bore the logo of the activist group Extinction Rebellion. It also had the words “Act Now” written on it and a string of brightly colored flags. Some of the demonstrators carried signs in the shape of orange rescue lifebuoys, with the words, “Save our Future.” The New York Police Department made dozens of civil disobedience arrests and removed the vessel some time later, which led to re-opened area streets and brought the traffic back to normal. In London, a climate change activist scaled a British Airways plane at London City Airport. Extinction Rebellion identified the activist as a former Paralympic cyclist. A video streamed by the group showed the activist clinging to the fuselage. British Airways says that customers were booked onto alternative flights to Amsterdam. In a separate incident, BBC Newsnight political editor Nicholas Watt tweeted that his flight from London to Dublin had been grounded after a protester stood up to deliver a lecture on climate change just as it was to take off. Activists sought to shut down London City Airport on Thursday as part of their wave of protests worldwide.

Climate Alarmists Superglue Themelves To Street, Get Arrested After Bringing Times Square To Standstill -- Approximately 62 climate protesters were arrested after supergluing themselves to a lime green boat they parked in a busy Times Square intersection in New York City. The demonstrators donned life jackets painted with slogans, telling police "This is a climate emergency," when asked to disperse. The Thursday morning stunt by environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion (XR) caused two hours of gridlock before the green boat was towed away - after protesters were freed using chemicals.  Protesters also glued themselves to King's Bridge - only for one to discover that it isn't easy to take off a backpack once your hand is stuck to the street. BREAKING: Protestors now supergluing themselves to Kings Bridge @9NewsMelb @9NewsAUS pic.twitter.com/jPFvxLslF5— Sam Cucchiara (@SamCucchiara9) October 9, 2019 Meanwhile, a concurrent XR protest in London snarled traffic at Heathrow, delaying flights as one activist climbed on top of a plane.

Extinction Rebellion funded by charity set up by one of Britain's richest men   - One of the UK’s wealthiest men is a major financial backer ofExtinction Rebellion, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.  Sir Christopher Hohn, who is worth £1.2 billion, gave £50,000 to the group, because there is an “urgent need” for people to wake up to climate change.The charity he co-founded, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, also donated more than £150,000. None of its money was spent on civil disobedience, it was said on Thursday night.  The donations emerged as police said more than 1,000 people had been arrested for taking part in the “international rebellion” which has brought chaos to parts of London since Monday.On Thursday, activists began a planned three-day shutdown of City Airport. Mr Hohn told The Telegraph: “I am a personal funder of Extinction Rebellion. I recently gave them £50,000 because humanity is aggressively destroying the world with climate change and there is an urgent need for us all to wake up to this fact.”Other major donors include the Climate Emergency Fund, a collection of US philanthropists including oil heiress Aileen Getty. British rock group Radiohead have also given £300,000. Despite some public criticism of the group's tactics and the disruption that they are causing their finance team revealed that since Saturday their crowd funding campaign had received massive support.

Misogyny, male rage and the words men use to describe Greta Thunberg --- Greta Thunberg obviously scares some men silly. The bullying of the teenager by conservative middle-aged men has taken on a grim, almost hysterical edge. And some of them are reaching deep into the misogynist’s playbook to divert focus from her message. It is not a rhetorical accident that critics of Thunberg, nearly 17, almost always call her a “child”. This infantilisation is invariably accompanied by accusations of emotionality, hysteria, mental disturbance, and an inability to think for herself - stereotypically feminine labels which are traditionally used to silence women’s public speech, and undermine their authority. In Australia, Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt has called Thunberg “freakishly influential … with many mental disorders”. Sky News commentator Chris Kenny described her as a “hysterical teenager” who needs to be cared for.Overseas, male commentators have used similar pejorative terms - describing her as a “mentally-ill Swedish child”, unstable and a “millenarian weirdo”. One claimed Thunberg needed a “spanking”; another likened her activism to “medieval witchcraft”.Obviously these men find Thunberg triggering. But why? At a deep level, the language of climate denialism is tied up with a form of masculine identity predicated on modern industrial capitalism – specifically, the Promethean idea of the conquest of nature by man, in a world especially made for men. By attacking industrial capitalism, and its ethos of politics as usual, Thunberg is not only attacking the core beliefs and world view of certain sorts of men, but also their sense of masculine self-worth. Male rage is their knee-jerk response.

Viral Video About Eating Babies at AOC Town Hall Was Staged by Pro-Trump Group -LaRouche PAC, a far-right group that supports Donald Trump, has taken credit for trolling Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during a town hall meeting yesterday. An operative with LaRouche made headlines overnight after standing up at AOC’s town hall in Queens yesterday and saying that humanity should eat babies, among other ridiculous things, to address the climate crisis.Viral video from the incident shows a woman posing as a supporter of AOC and wearing a shirt that reads, “Save the Planet, Eat the Children.” Many people clearly thought she was mentally disturbed, but LaRouche PAC, a fringe organization that believes climate change is a hoax, was behind the stunt, according to the group’s Twitter account.“I think your next campaign slogan has to be this: We have got to start eating babies,” the unnamed woman says, according to video captured by C-SPAN.“I’m so happy that you are really supporting a Green New Deal, but it’s not enough,” the woman told Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez as others in the room looked on in confusion. “Even if we were to bomb Russia, we still have too many people, too much pollution. So we have to get rid of the babies. That’s a big problem. Just stopping having babies is not enough. We need to eat the babies.” AOC can be seen trying to calm the woman down, repeatedly saying “it’s okay,” and ignoring the comments about babies. While the woman’s reference to “bombing” Russia may seem odd, the group supports both President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. “It was us,” the LaRouche organization tweeted late Thursday, in response to a question about whether the woman was serious. “Malthusianism isn’t new, Jonathan Swift knew that. Sometimes, only satire works.”

Investors get lost in Big Oil's carbon accounting maze (Reuters) - Wide variations in the way oil companies report their efforts to reduce carbon emissions make it difficult to assess the risk of holding their shares as the world shifts away from fossil fuels, senior fund managers say. Investors have poured money into so-called sustainable funds, which take into account companies’ environmental, social, legal and other standards, and funds are under pressure from their customers and authorities to make those standards robust. Fund managers are also applying environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria more widely in traditional investments to help them judge how companies will fare over the long term. There is a growing realization that some companies’ profits will shrink faster than others as governments prioritize low-carbon energy to meet the U.N.-backed Paris agreement’s goal of cutting emissions to “net zero” by the end of the century. But oil and gas companies are among the biggest dividend payers, and major funds are reluctant to divest from them, arguing that by staying in they are in a better position to pressure companies to improve. “Do investors have the data that we need? No, I don’t think we have the data that we need at all,” “Disclosure is not necessarily so we can seek to change the numbers, but so we can start understanding and pricing the risks,” .

The Literal Gaslighting That Helps America Avoid Acting on the Climate Crisis – McKibben - We’re clearly in a climate moment: it’s possible that more marchers have walked more miles in the past month than in the previous decade combined; more words have been written, more pictures published, more speeches given, more promises made, more hope expressed and anger declared. But, if the United States is going to act as it must in the years ahead, it needs to shed more than its current President. It also must stop telling itself a persistent fable about its own conduct: namely, that it has made great progress already in cutting its greenhouse-gas emissions. It hasn’t. I started obsessing about this myth in mid-September, on a day when I was sitting behind Greta Thunberg, as she testified before a House of Representatives committee hearing. All eyes were focussed on the Swedish schoolgirl, who confounded the chamber by offering not testimony but a copy of the landmark 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a simple gesture that seemed temporarily to disarm the representatives. But politicians seem never to be at a loss for words for long, and so they took their allotted minutes to, in effect, illustrate their misconceptions of the essential truth of the climate debate. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican of Illinois, went first, patiently explaining to Thunberg that, “while some may say that the United States needs to be the leader of combating climate change, I would say that we already are. Since 2005, global emissions have increased by twenty per cent, but the United States’ emissions have decreased by more than the next twelve emission-reducing countries combined.”  The problem with this claim is that it is not true. The crucial distinction that politicians are missing about our climate predicament is this: what we have reduced over the past twenty years is our emission of carbon dioxide, and we did that mostly by replacing coal-fired power plants with gas-fired power plants. Burning gas produces less carbon dioxide than burning coal. But carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas. The second most important contributor to climate change is methane—CH4. And, when you frack the countryside for natural gas to burn in power plants, lots of methane leaks out at every stage of the process, from drilling to combustion. So: less carbon dioxide, more methane.

Miners rate social licence, climate change as top concerns. Really? (Reuters) - The top concern among global miners, for a second year running, is how to keep a social licence to operate, especially amid rising pressure for the industry to tackle climate change. But knowing what the main challenge is, and knowing what to do about it appear to be two different things. A survey of global mining companies by consultants EY showed that 44% of executives ranked maintaining a social licence to operate as their leading concern, with preparing for the workforce of the future the next most important challenge. The social licence refers to how much a company’s business practices are accepted by employees, interest groups and the overall public. “The sector is facing greater scrutiny from end consumers, demanding a transparent ethical supply chain as well as a lower carbon footprint,” the report said. “Shareholder activists are also driving many miners, particularly those with coal assets, to reshape their portfolios by either reconfiguring existing operations or executing divestments,” EY said in the report, published last month. There is little doubt that public scrutiny of mining is on the rise, with heightened focus not only on coal miners, but also on metal ore producers, even those needed to drive a global shift toward cleaner renewable energy generation and battery storage. But while companies have stepped up their public commentary on climate change and their roles in mitigating the warming of the planet, it’s still hard to get a sense that this is indeed the top concern of global mining companies. If winning over community support for mining and showing the industry can be a leader in combating climate change is the number one priority, it would be logical that mining chief executives spent much of their time focused on the issues.

Why carbon taxes may need to be far higher than we’d planned - Economists largely agree that one of the most effective ways of tackling climate change is taxing carbon pollution. Few things beat higher prices in reliably pushing companies and consumers to shift to more environmentally friendly practices and products.But a new economic analysis flips some of the traditional thinking about a carbon tax, concluding that the price should fall rather than rise in the decades ahead. It should also start far higher than many previous studies and policy proposals suggested.Notably, a plan put forth by former US secretaries of state James Baker and George Shultz in 2017 proposed a carbon fee that would start at $40 a ton and increase every year at 5% above inflation, in line with conventional views rooted in some of the earliest and most influential climate-economy models.But the new model, published September 1 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concludes it would be much more effective to start with a price well above $100. That tax would tick up a bit further in the first decade or so, before slowly sliding downward for the next few centuries.Why?  In basic terms, the so-called EZ-Climate model attempts to merge the tools of financial economics into climate economics, which ends up placing a higher estimated cost on uncertainty—and higher value on averting risks. The higher the price is at the start, the more rapidly nations and businesses will develop and deploy cleaner ways of doing things, says Gernot Wagner, an author of the paper and associate professor at New York University’s Department of Environmental Studies. That also means the price on carbon can start to decline sooner, as more and more of the economy shifts to systems and sources that no longer pump out emissions. But in addition, the world will simply learn more about the exact impacts of climate change, and what it takes to address them. “Uncertainty resolves itself over time,” Wagner said in an email, so we no longer have to pay a higher price for it.

Energy bills will have to rise sharply to avoid climate crisis, says IMF -  Avoiding dangerous global heating will require governments around the world to impose stringent taxes on fossil-fuel usage that will mean a 43% jump in household energy bills over the next decade, the International Monetary Fund has said.  The Washington-based Fund said the battle against climate change could only be won if the average carbon tax levied by its member states increased from $2 (£1.63) a ton (907kg) to $75 a ton.  The IMF said governments worried about a political backlash against big increases in the cost of heating homes and motoring, and should use the extra revenue raised from the tax to compensate consumers. “For example, they should introduce a carbon tax set to rise quickly to $75 a ton in 2030. This would mean household electric bills would go up by 43% cumulatively over the next decade on average – more in countries that still rely heavily on coal in electricity generation, less elsewhere. Gasoline would cost 14% more on average.” Calculations by the IMF’s economists show that a $75-a-ton carbon tax would also lead – once inflation has been taken into account – to an average 214% increase in the cost of coal and a 68% increase in natural gas. For the UK, the increases would be 157% for coal, 51% for natural gas, 43% for electricity and 8% for petrol. “Without substantial mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures are projected to rise by around 4C above preindustrial levels by 2100 (they have already increased by 1C since 1900),” the IMF said.“Global warming causes major damage to the global economy and the natural world and engenders risk of catastrophic and irreversible outcomes such as rising sea levels, extreme weather events (already more frequent) leading to loss of life and the possibility of much higher warming scenarios.” The IMF said it was calling for a substantially higher carbon tax because the carbon dioxide from fossil fuels accounted for almost two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions and was the most immediately practical to control. But the authors of the fiscal monitor said that without compensation to offset the impact on business and consumers, there was likely to be strong political resistance. The French president Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to cut France’s CO2 emissions through higher fuel prices prompted nationwide protests from the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) movement.

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry Says He’s Not Resigning-- Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Monday contradicted news reports of his impending resignation from last week, and disputed new reports of his involvement in Trump administration activities with Ukrainian government officials at the heart of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Perry’s comments at a Vilnius, Lithuania press conference are his first since Thursday’s reports from Politico and The Washington Post, citing multiple anonymous sources saying that he intended to resign in November. “They’ve been writing the story that I was leaving the Department of Energy for at least nine months now,” Perry said.“One of these days they'll probably get it right. But it’s not today. It’s not tomorrow. It’s not next month,” he added, directly contradicting last week’s reports. Perry, a former Texas governor and one of Trump’s few remaining original cabinet officials, has seen his name drawn into the Trump impeachment investigation in the past week. Last Monday, he was named alongside Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani in a subpoena from House Democrats, demanding records of his May visit to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's inauguration, as well as DOE records regarding the phone calls between Trump and Zelenskiy at the heart of the impeachment investigation.  Perry has claimed no knowledge of the June conversation at the heart of the investigation, in which Trump sought Zelenskiy's commitment to investigate leading Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden and his five-year stint as a board member of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma. The Trump administration had withheld $400 million in U.S. military aid geared to help the country combat Russian aggression in the week before the conversation.   In a Friday interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Perry said that during conversations with Trump officials including attorney and key Ukraine scandal figure Rudy Giuliani, state department official Kurt Volker, U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland and others, “not once, as God as my witness, not once was a Biden name, not the former vice president, not his son, ever mentioned.”

Federal policy could unlock new value from rooftop solar and home batteries - Rooftop solar panels and home battery systems could play a significant role in balancing the nation’s electric grid, but federal regulators need to adopt policies to help make that happen, according to a clean energy group’s recent report. So-called distributed energy resources — customer-managed generation and storage systems spread across the grid — are often too small to participate in the regional wholesale markets where utilities buy most of the electricity they sell to customers. These markets, facilitated by grid operators like PJM and MISO, were designed for big, centralized power plants to sell power to utilities. Each day, generators bid their prices to provide power so utilities can sell electricity to customers at lower costs. While some grid operators allow for limited participation of distributed energy resources, most operators either haven’t outlined clear procedures for participation or their policies inadvertently discourage resources from participating. Industry stakeholders say regulators can set a clear path for resources like solar panels and batteries to be grouped together by organizations known as “aggregators.” Grouped together, they could compete with larger generators and earn revenue so developers can lower prices for customers, accelerating the adoption of clean energy on the grid, according to the authors of the new report from Advanced Energy Economy. The report describes how policy guidance from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees the wholesale markets, could open the door for more participation of aggregated distributed energy resources in the markets. Right now, customer-managed storage, and storage paired with generation like solar, are the resources developers seem most interested in aggregating for wholesale participation, said Jeff Dennis, managing director and general counsel at Advanced Energy Economy. But “what we have found is that wholesale markets often contain barriers” to distributed energy resource participation “that are either explicit or implicit,” he said. “And most often they’re implicit.” Participation isn’t necessarily prohibited, but it’s often limited to demand response. It’s not clear under current policy how aggregated distributed resources “can provide services that they’re capable of providing,” Dennis said. While regional grid operators have been examining the issue and clarifying interconnection requirements for distributed energy resources, they’re missing overall direction from the federal commission, he said. An overarching directive from the commission could set a clear path forward for operators and speed up their policy developments, but so far, the process at the federal level has been slow.

Klobuchar says Trump's 'vague promise' on biofuels is too little, too late - Minnesota Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar today said President Trump should not get credit for offering “a vague promise to undo the damage” his administration’s oil industry waivers have done to the biofuels industry. “To me, it’s too little, too late,” Klobuchar said late this morning. Two northwest Iowa ethanol plants and a biodiesel plant in southeast Iowa stopped production after the EPA waivers were granted. Klobuchar said rural economies across the Midwest were damaged when the Renewable Fuels Standard wasn’t followed and oil refineries were exempted from the requirement of adding ethanol to gasoline. “They’ve already lost four billion gallons of ethanol toward the standard across this country,” Klobuchar said. If she’s elected president, Klobuchar said she’ll ensure the federal ethanol and biodiesel production goals are met, so the renewable fuels industry can grow. “Oil has been having their way for way too long,” Klobuchar said. “I would stop the subsidies on ‘big oil’ that make it very unfair and then I would also make sure we have incentives in place to move to cellulosic and other forms of ethanol.”

Trump's 15-billion-gallon plan for ethanol is a mistake - The White House seems prepared to backtrack on its policy to reduce fuel standards and decrease ethanol mandates. Just this summer — only two months ago — the Environmental Protection Agency granted exemptions to 31 petroleum refineries that allowed them to avoid the expense of mixing ethanol in gasoline. This was a major victory for the refineries, the oil industry, drivers and consumers of food. Basically, it was good for everyone but farmers and ethanol producers. But now, the EPA is reversing course and requiring the use of even more ethanol in our country’s gasoline supply.When policymakers, led by the Bush administration, crafted the ethanol mandate in 2007, oil prices were high. At that time oil demand growth was outpacing supply, and the government feared permanently high gas prices. Policymakers believed that adding additional ethanol to the gas would preserve some of our oil supply, combat high prices and maybe help the environment. However, policymakers are notoriously bad at predicting the future.In just a few years, the shale revolution began and eventually the price of oil dropped precipitously. Many drivers came to realize that they did not want to put ethanol-blended gas in their car. Even at the standard blending rate, which is 10 percent or less, ethanol is unwanted by many drivers. Some gas stations sell gasoline with 15 percent or even 85 percent ethanol fuel now, but only cars engineered for that mix can use itIn 2016, as much as 90 percent of the cars on the road could not handle a blend of more than 10 percent ethanol without experiencing a decline in fuel economy.The heavy reliance on ethanol for fuel is also a contributor to our increasing food costs. In the U.S., ethanol is typically made from corn. This diverts the corn supply away from its many uses in food preparation, from corn we eat to livestock feed to the corn syrup in almost every processed food product.   There is also a mistaken belief that ethanol use in our gas blends is a complete positive for the environment. In fact, ethanol mandates have required more production of corn. This has resulted in deforestation and algae blooms from fertilizer, particularly in the heartland and down to the Gulf of Mexico. Furthermore, the process of farming ethanol ingredients is so carbon dioxide-intensive that it offsets the benefits of burning less oil.

Tesla Advises Customers Hit By California Blackout to Charge Up - Before PG&E Corp.’s massive blackout swept across Northern California, Tesla Inc. issued a politely worded but urgent message to its many area customers: charge up your car, now. Customers tweeted photos Wednesday of the notice popping up on the touch screens of their electric cars, advising them to top off their batteries while they still could. Utility owner PG&E began shutting off electricity to parts of the region early Wednesday to prevent its power lines from sparking fires during an expected windstorm. “A utility company in your area announced they may turn off power in some areas of Northern California beginning October 9 as part of public safety power shutoffs, which may affect power to charging options,” the notice read. “We recommend charging your Tesla to 100% today to ensure that your drive remains uninterrupted.” The notice wasn’t Tesla’s only response to the outages affecting the automaker’s San Francisco Bay Area home. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk tweeted that the company was adding solar arrays and batteries to its charging stations as fast as possible.

Proposals would dam Little Colorado River for hydropower (AP) — The Little Colorado River cuts across the northeast corner of Arizona, emptying its waters into the much-larger Colorado River after a more than 330-mile journey. Few people wander in the remote region where it crosses the Navajo Nation, aside from river rafters traveling through the Grand Canyon, tribal members and occasional hikers. That solitude in a lonely stretch of desert would be pierced by workers, roads and possibly more tourists if a long-term plan by a recently formed Phoenix-based company that wants to put in dams for power generation comes to fruition. The proposals are reigniting the same concerns brought up years ago with a failed plan to build a gondola to ferry people into the Grand Canyon on the Navajo reservation: protecting tribal sacred sites, endangered fish and serenity. Pumped Hydro Storage LLC is seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for preliminary permits to study the sites east of Grand Canyon National Park over three years. None of it will move forward without permission from the Navajo Nation. Navajo President Jonathan Nez said he’s been briefed by tribal economic development officials about the proposals to create four reservoirs — two of which would be directly on the Little Colorado River — but hasn’t talked with anyone from Pumped Hydro Storage. “With any project or proposal that is presented to the Navajo Nation, we weigh the pros and cons in terms of employment opportunities, economic development, water resources, environmental impact and other factors,” Nez said. “We are ever mindful that we must respect our environment. The local Navajo communities must be informed, and their voices must be heard.” A public comment period on the permit applications runs through Nov. 22

WVU awarded $5 million to continue rare earth project, build acid mine drainage treatment facility – The West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University has been awarded $5 million by the U.S. Department of Energy to scale up its Rare Earth Recovery Project, which will include building a facility at a new acid mine drainage treatment plant near Mount Storm.The funding received the full support of West Virginia’s five congressional delegates and will help continue ongoing research of the project, which began with a pilot plant in 2018.Rare earth elements are used to power everything from smartphones to the nation’s missile guidance system, and they come from acid mine drainage sludge in Appalachia.With the new funding, the WVWRI will partner with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Special Reclamation to design and build the plant, Rockwell Automation to provide sensor and control technology, and TenCate Corporation to engineer materials for rare earth element extraction.  Rare earth metals consist of the 17 chemically similar elements at the bottom of the periodic table, such as cerium and scandium. They’re often found in other minerals, within the earth’s crust or in coal and coal byproducts.   Ziemkiewicz initially helped jumpstart the project by examining 120 acid mine drainage treatment sites throughout West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio. His team found that acid mine drainage could produce up to 2,200 tons of rare earth elements per year in those states.

Researcher: Rare earth minerals key to state's future — With steam coal being replaced by natural gas and renewables, and a slowdown in metallurgical coal mining for steelmaking, a researcher at West Virginia University sees another use for the state’s coal mines. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute at WVU, spoke to members of the press Monday at WVU’s Academic Media Day in Morgantown. The institute is part of WVU’S Energy Institute. Ziemkiewicz’ presentation focused on a possible use for West Virginia’s coal mines as sources for rare earth elements. These elements are used in the manufacturing of electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, computers, and other modern technologies. Rare earth elements are also used in many clean-energy technologies, such as wind turbines and electric vehicles. Magnets produced from rare earth elements are used for military applications. In the last several years, the search for rare earth minerals has become more important as consumers, governments, scientists and the military rely more on technological devices. According to the Rare Earth Technology Alliance, 17 elements are considered rare earth elements. A report from the U.S. Geological Survey states China produces more than 95 percent of the world’s rare earth elements. But the trade war launched by President Donald Trump in June 2018 raised concerns about China possibly tightening its rare earth element supply. Among those concerned is Ziemkiewicz, but he thinks West Virginia coal mines might hold the answer to the lack of a domestic supply of rare earth elements. Ziemkiewicz said the key is acid mine drainage, which he said often contains rare earth elements. In some cases, acid mine drainage can produce more elements than current commercial deposits available around the world. The water institute estimates there is as much as 666.4 grams per ton of rare earth elements in the sludge leftover from acid mine drainage in southern West Virginia mines. Mines in the northern part of the state have as much as 750.6 grams per ton. “We have something of a strategic advantage,” Ziemkiewicz said. Ziemkiewicz, citing the state Department of Environmental Protection’s OMEGA acid mine drainage treatment site outside of Morgantown as an example, said the site could have nearly $1 million in rare earth elements in its sludge. Acid mine drainage would give producers ready access to rare earth elements instead of having to blast open rocks to obtain the valuable elements. Ziemkiewicz said mines continue to produce acid drainage long after the mine themselves have closed and the price of the elements is less susceptible to fluctuation unlike coal. Panning for rare earth elements at old mines would also have a side benefit: improving the health of streams and waterways. According to Ziemkiewicz, mines in northern and southern West Virginia produce more than 800 tons of rare earth elements each year, which could be easily ramped up to 1,000 tons per year — valued at $245 million annually — due to infrastructure already in place at the mine sites. The U.S. produces more than 16,000 tons of the elements per year from the only rare earth element mine located in California.

Massachusetts rejects National Grid EV plan, advocates say oil interests sowed disinformation | Utility Dive - The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) on Sept. 30 rejected most of National Grid's estimated $166.5 million Phase II electric vehicle proposal, which included 17,700 level 2 port and 300 direct current fast charging ports.  Regulators want two years of analysis from the utility's Phase I EV program, which was approved in September 2018, so National Grid will not be able to re-file Phase II plan until 2021. The decision was a part of an order setting new rates for National Grid.  DPU did allow National Grid to implement three aspects of its proposal, including a residential off-peak charging rebate, a fleet advisory services plan and co-location of fast charging with solar and/or energy storage, estimated to cost around $9 million.Massachusetts regulators stressed they remain committed to clean transportation and emissions reductions goals, but said it was not necessary to immediately approve National Grid's plan."We are not persuaded that something less than a full approval of National Grid's proposal will negatively impact these goals," regulators said. "As the company gains experience from its Phase I EV Program and the limited portion of the Phase EV II Program granted in this proceeding, National Grid may file future EV proposals under the umbrella of the grid modernization proceeding."Multiple parties raised concerns about the fast approval of National Grid's Phase II plan absent analysis of the first phase, including the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, the state's Attorney General's office and the American Petroleum Institute (API), which some groups found troubling."The oil industry was in the mix, and it is important to note they have a broader strategic disinformation campaign," Samantha Houston, analyst for the Clean Vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who has written about oil industry disinformation techniques told Utility Dive. "They are clearly threatened that EVs could undermine their market share." API's "deceptive behavior" included comparing National Grid's EV proposal to other utility plans using "nonsensical metrics," and "gloss[ing] over numerous factors about those cost metrics that render the comparisons meaningless," according to Houston's blog post.

Mass. investigating National Grid's management - State utility regulators have ordered a broad investigation into the management of National Grid in a rare move born of concerns that one of the state’s largest electricity providers failed to communicate about the potential for severe delays in solar power installations. The Department of Public Utilities is also questioning National Grid’s management of its electric vehicles program and whether the company’s cybersecurity plan adequately takes into account benefits for customers who are paying for the technology upgrades. The independent management audit was ordered as part of a 586-page decision issued late last month in which the Department of Public Utilities approved a $90.4 million increase in National Grid’s base distribution rates. In blunt terms, regulators said the rare, but not unprecedented, audit was necessary to examine “potential management problems through to the highest levels of the organization.” The Department of Public Utilities released its decision on National Grid’s request for a rate increase on Sept. 30. The approved increase was $41.8 million less than what National Grid requested, and is the first adjustment to the utility’s rates since 2016. The department also approved an increase in the monthly residential fee to $7 from $5.50. Regulators, however, said they were “troubled” that the company had not informed the Department of Public Utilities of the potential for a major study of transmission infrastructure in central and western Massachusetts. The decision said the “cluster study” has the potential to delay the interconnection of up to 900 megawatts of solar power, which is more than half of the state’s target for solar development under the renewable energy program known as SMART. “The company’s failure to meaningfully engage with the department and stakeholders prior to the commencement of the cluster study raises serious concerns about management decisions made at the company, whether these decisions serve the public interest, and about the efficiency and timeliness of communications between personnel performing the work and management,” the Department of Public Utilities decision stated.

Pines councilwoman urges EPA not to roll back Obama-era rule on disposal of coal ash -- Cathi Murray doesn't want to see other towns suffer the same fate she says hers has as a result of unrestricted dumping of coal ash. Murray, a town councilwoman and middle school teacher, said the dumping of coal ash years ago in an unlined landfill, in road beds and on some residential properties, has devastated the Town of Pines, just west of Michigan City. Murray traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to share that message and warn the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that other communities could suffer a similar fate if the agency finalizes a proposed rollback of rules on the storage and disposal of fly ash from coal-fired electric generation plants. Nearly 20 years ago, elevated levels of boron and molybdenum were found in residential drinking water wells in Pines, according to the EPA. Some 30 homes and businesses were provided with an alternative water source, and NIPSCO and other responsible parties entered into an agreement to install a municipal water line. Murray said 38 homes remain without municipal water. Residents were told their groundwater was not at risk, but many of them don't believe it, she said. "Our town is only 2 square miles," she said. "It defies logic." The source of the contamination was identified as a state-permitted landfill in the town, called yard 520, which received coal ash from NIPSCO's nearby Michigan City plant. The landfill was owned and operated by NIPSCO, according to the EPA. Further investigation revealed elevated levels of arsenic and thallium in soil at properties where fly ash from NIPSCO's plant was used as fill material, including a property were arsenic was found to be 1,200 times the safe level, she said. Of more than 170 properties sampled, 20 required soil removal, NIPSCO said. Work on all but two properties has been completed, according to the company.

TVA leaders update start of coal ash removal, groundwater treatment process at retired Allen Fossil Plant – We now have a clearer idea on when Tennessee Valley Authority leaders plan to move out all the coal ash from the Allen Fossil Plant, which sits above Memphis’ main drinking water supply. But we don’t know where just yet. TVA retired the plant last year, but taking out the tons of coal ash will take years. TVA leaders say the project is underway to eventually move out all of the coal ash, some of which sits above the fence line, and drain out and treat the groundwater at the retired facility in southwest Memphis. It sits above the Memphis aquifer, the region’s main drinking supply. “Drinking water is safe. It’s not being impacted by this coal ash at the Allen facility,” TVA President & CEO Jeff Lyash said. Two weeks ago, TVA crews began draining out the first priority – the east ash pond. Two years ago, testing there and in nearby groundwater found arsenic and other chemicals. That prompted more monitoring wells and additional testing to prevent toxins from reaching the aquifer deep underground. “As we remove this ash and as we monitor and remediate groundwater, I want people to be confident that we are not, today, or will not at any time, going to harm the drinking water or harmfully impact the environment,” Lyash said. By mid to late summer of next year, TVA leaders will begin moving dry ash to a still to be determined site. Starting in 2022, the retired plant will be torn down for new development.

America's coal consumption set to plunge to 42-year low – CNN -President Donald Trump's mission to revive America's coal industry is failing. US power plants are expected to consume less coal next year than at any point since President Jimmy Carter was in office, according to government forecasts released on Tuesday.Although Trump has tried to boost coal by slashing environmental regulations and installing aformer coal lobbyist to lead the EPA, coal keeps losing ground to cleaner and cheaper alternatives. Power companies are rapidly retiring coal-fired power plants and replacing them with dirt-cheap natural gas and increasingly affordable renewable energy."It's just simple economics. Coal is not cost competitive," said Frank Nicklaus, a partner at Greentech Capital Advisors, a boutique investment bank focused on sustainable technology. Coal used for US power generation is expected to decline by 14% this year to 545.8 million metric tons, according to the US Energy Information Administration.Coal consumed by the electric power sector is projected to plunge below 500 million short tons in 2020 for the first time since 1978, according to the EIA. That would mark a decline of 27% since 2016, President Obama's last full year in office. "The US power sector's move away from coal is contributing significantly to decreases in US coal production," Linda Capuano, the EIA's administrator, wrote in the report.

Blackhawk Mining announces closure of facilities in southern West Virginia -  — Three underground coal mines and two preparation plants in Logan and Mingo counties have been idled by Kentucky based company Blackhawk Mining and its subsidiaries.Blackhawk announced Tuesday afternoon saying the affected operations are the Washington Underground Mine, Muddy Bridge Underground Mine, Buffalo Underground Mine, Fanco Preparation Plant and Loadout in Logan County and Mingo 1 Preparation Plant and Mingo 2 Scaggs Loadout in Mingo County. “It’s sad and it’s disturbing,” Bill Raney, the President of the West Virginia Coal Association told MetroNews of his reaction to the news.“It’s just a matter that the coal market is what it is. It’s an international marketplace.”Raney said it’s simply the reduction in supply that led to the closings, that Blackhawk said will result in 342 individuals losing positions.“Nobody is bothered by it more than the folks at Blackhawk,” he said. “That’s the last thing in the world they wanted to do. When the price of the product doesn’t meet what it costs to produce then you just can’t keep producing it.”

Bankrupt coal companies owe $1 million to KY governments - Subsidiaries of a coal company previously operated by former University of Kentucky Board of Trustees member Jim Booth owe hundreds of thousands of dollars to local governments in Eastern Kentucky, much of which would go to local school systems if the companies paid their taxes, according to records from county courthouses. In Pike County, several companies under the umbrella of Cambrian Coal, which declared bankruptcy in June, owe a combined $932,000 in delinquent taxes that would be distributed to the county government, schools, library, health department and the state. In Perry County, one Cambrian subsidiary owes $109,000. “Let’s hope that we can recover that money — it’s money that our schools need and this court needs, and the health department, and all your other taxing districts depend on that revenue,” said Pike County Judge-Executive Ray Jones. “There’s a lot of uncollected taxes throughout Eastern Kentucky, and it’s getting harder and harder to fund county governments.” Booth was Cambrian’s CEO until he resigned two weeks before the company filed for bankruptcy. The company has entered multiple agreements to sell nearly all of its mines, equipment and other assets in Eastern Kentucky, and multiple layoffs have occurred since the sale agreements were formalized, according to Cambrian President Mark Campbell.

Bankrupt Kentucky coal producer under investigation for fraud - The federal government began a fraud investigation into coal company Blackjewel LLC prior to the company’s sale last week of two Wyoming coal mines, according to court documents. The document filed Saturday indicates the investigation also preceded Blackjewel’s July bankruptcy filing, The Casper Star-Tribune reports . Blackjewel owes the federal government about $50 million, court documents said. After failing to obtain funding from a key creditor, the insolvent company shut down its mining operations. The court filing explained the government has been investigating Blackjewel’s potential violations of the False Claims Act, which holds corporations liable for defrauding the government. The government asked a West Virginia federal bankruptcy court to delay discharging Blackjewel of its debts, which would allow the investigation to continue. A federal judge approved the sale of the Wyoming facilities to Eagle Specialty Materials without Blackjewel’s debt obligations. Coal company Contura Energy, the current permit holder for the Wyoming mines, agreed to pay $90 million as startup capital to take over the mines and assume cleanup obligations. In turn, Eagle Specialty Materials will pay Blackjewel $16.2 million. The ongoing investigation will not affect the purchase of the mines, but the federal government will likely not be able to recover the money owed to it, said Joshua Macey, a Cornell University law professor.

Trump's pledge to save US coal is failing, leaving coal country in crisis - Pledges by President Donald Trump to save the U.S. coal industry and boost so-called clean coal technology are proving to be no match for the free market. Competition from lower-cost natural gas and renewables has led to a wave of bankruptcies and layoffs as coal production declines.Government forecasts from the U.S. Energy Information Administration call for a 10% drop in coal production nationwide year-over-year in 2019, with further declines expected next year. In the past five years, output is down 27%.The cuts come as power companies drastically reduce their coal use, retiring coal-fired plants or converting them to natural gas. Last year alone, utilities retired 13 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity — the equivalent of about 25 power plants — according to the EIA. That is the second-highest annual figure on record. The agency projects another 17 gigawatts to go offline by 2025. Coal stockpiles at U.S. power plants are at their lowest level in a decade. Trump administration efforts to prop up the industry, which include replacing the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with the new Affordable Clean Energy Rule, giving states more flexibility to keep coal-fired power plants open, have thus far made little difference. That is because the economics increasingly favor natural gas and renewables. A 2018 analysis by Lazard, a financial advisory and asset management firm, put the cost of coal power at between $60 and $143 per megawatt-hour. But newer technologies, like fracking, make natural gas considerably cheaper, at $41 to $74 per megawatt-hour. Wind energy is even cheaper, at $29 to $56.

N.J. forms panel to oversee Oyster Creek decommissioning operations - A newly established panel will monitor the ongoing decommissioning operations at the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station and solicit public input, New Jersey officials announced. Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe established the Oyster Creek Safety Advisory Panel to evaluate Holtec International’s work on the Lacey Township site and the obligations it assumed when it acquired the nuclear plant from Exelon in July 2019. The plant went offline last September. In a prepared statement, Gov. Phil Murphy said the panel will provide assurances to the public that the decommissioning work is compliant and allow community input. “Providing the public with an opportunity to participate in the robust public input process is critical to ensuring transparency during the decommissioning process,” he said. The panel, which will meet at least twice a year, will consist of McCabe, the New Jersey State Police Superintendent, the Director of Homeland Security and Preparedness, and the Board of Public Utilities president. Additional details about the panel’s operations are in development, officials said. The announcement comes after more than 150 people attended a town hall to grill representatives from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Holtec International in late August. 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 had proposed a 60-year timeline.

Federal regulators outline what's needed to bring Fermi 2 back into compliance  — Federal regulators say they have outlined what steps need to be taken for the Fermi 2 nuclear reactor building to be brought back into compliance during its next shutdown.The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission primarily raised concerns about a doughnut-shaped component called the torus, a part beneath the reactor vessel which is designed to absorb energy from the reactor or to supply water to safety systems during an accident. In an Oct. 4 letter to Paul Fessler, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer for the plant’s owner-operator, DTE Energy Co., the NRC said degraded torus coatings inside Fermi 2’s containment building must be scraped away and replaced with “a qualified coating capable of withstanding design basis accident conditions.” “Partially filled with water, the inside of the torus is coated with paint to prevent corrosion,” the NRC said. “If the coating were to separate from the torus wall, the resulting debris could potentially affect the flow of water to safety-related equipment.” The letter, signed by the NRC’s Midwest regional administrator, Darrell Roberts, said regulators are willing to let the work be phased in as part of the next refueling outage, so long as the shutdown begins as scheduled on April 30 or sooner.

Utility Giant Sets Up Critical Test For Top 2020 Democrats On Nuclear Power -- One of the nation’s largest utilities last month announced plans to request new licenses for 11 nuclear reactors, setting up a critical new test for Democratic presidential candidates on how to achieve zero-carbon energy generation.Duke Energy, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, said it plans to submit its renewal applications for reactors at six power plants in the Carolinas starting in 2021, which could put those decisions in the hands of a new White House if a Democrat unseats President Donald Trump next year.As it stands, it’s unclear where the top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination would stand on relicensing. Despite intense focus on energy and climate policy, on which there are clear divisions among the candidates, the issue of nuclear power has largely been ignored in the Democratic debates. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and businessman Andrew Yang are all in, pledging to keep open safe plants and invest heavily in researching advanced reactors. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who promised to halt construction on new reactors and issue a moratorium on nuclear plant license renewals. The views of the candidates in between are less certain. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) endorsed erstwhile climate candidate Jay Inslee’s proposal, which calls for keeping existing nuclear plants open. But at a CNN town hall last month, she vowed to start “weaning ourselves off nuclear energy” with the goal of shutting down existing plants by 2035.   Former Vice President Joe Biden, long a critic of the nuclear industry, proposed new funding for advanced reactors but hasn’t taken a definitive position on extending the lives of existing nuclear plants. Warren and Biden, now the top two in several polls, gave “unclear” responses to The Washington Post’s survey on nuclear energy.

Five states have implemented programs to assist nuclear power plants - In late July 2019, Ohio became the fifth state in the United States to enact policies that provide for compensation or other assistance for in-state nuclear generating plants. Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York have implemented similar support programs for some of their nuclear power plants since 2017. All five state states have unbundled, retail-choice electricity markets where generators do not receive cost recovery from state regulatory commissions. Nuclear power is a significant source of in-state electricity generation in each of these five states.Collectively, the 14 reactors at the 10 plants receiving state support account for 9% of the utility-scale generating capacity in those five states and 13% of the nation’s nuclear generating capacity. Because nuclear power plants tend to operate at higher capacity factors than other generator types, these plants’ shares of their states’ or the national electricity generation is larger than their shares of capacity. Declining prices for electric power in wholesale markets have placed economic pressures on many nuclear power plants in the United States and led to several plant closures. Eight nuclear power plants have retired since 2013. The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania closed at the end of September, and another five U.S. reactors are scheduled to retire by the end of 2025. In states with more traditional state-regulated power markets, the cost of electricity generation is regulated by state commissions, which can offer power plants protection from rising costs. In states with retail choice, plant owners generally do not have that protection, and some owners have indicated that they are unable to recover all costs of operation in today’s relatively low-price wholesale market. The support programs for nuclear power in the five states allow the owners to make up for unrecovered costs, which are usually funded by surcharges to electricity customers or by permission to participate in clean energy markets previously restricted to renewables.

Floating Nuclear Power Plants Are Ready To Shape Global Energy Market - On September 14, the Akademik Lomonosov floating nuclear power plant reached the port city of Pevek in Russia’s Chukotka after covering a distance of more than 4,700km from Murmansk. After connecting to power grids there, it will become a fully-fledged energy producing facility, supplying electricity to the city of Pevek and the Chukotka Autonomous Region. This will include replacing the capacity of the Bilibino Nuclear Power Plant, which will be finally stopped in early 2020.The Akademik Lomonosov is the lead project for a series of low-power mobile transportable power units. Floating nuclear power plants (FNPPs) in the Far North and the Far East are a new class of energy sources based on Russian nuclear shipbuilding technologies. The station is equipped with two KLT-40S icebreaker-type reactors which are capable of generating up to 70 MW of electricity and 50 Gcal/h of thermal energy in the nominal operating mode. This is enough to ensure that energy consumption demands are satisfied for a city with a population of about 100 000 people.The Akademik Lomonosov has a length of 144 meters and a width of 30 meters. It has a displacement of 21 500 tones and a crew of 69 people. The reactors were designed by OKBM Afrikantov and assembled by Nizhniy Novgorod Research and Development Institute Atomenergoproekt. The reactor vessels were produced by Izhorskiye Zavody. The turbo generators were supplied by the Kaluga Turbine Plant.The FNPP’s planned service life is 40 years. The operating time of reactor installations between reloading of the core is three years. All nuclear fuel and radioactive material handling systems are located inside the FNPP. The core reloading and storage of spent fuel is carried out on board the FNPP. The FNPP can carry sufficient enriched uranium to power the two reactors for 12 years. Then, it, with its spent fuel, should be towed back to Russia, where the radioactive waste will be processed. In addition, such power units allow creating powerful desalination plants on their bases.

Ohio Lawmakers Passed HB6 Earlier This Year, But the Battle Over the Energy Legislation is Still Heating Up -- Most pitched battles over legislation happen while lawmakers are cooking up a bill, during hearings at the State House and protests outside of it.But a law called House Bill 6 passed by lawmakers this summer to shore up the financial situation of two Ohio nuclear plants, a coal plant in the state and another in Indiana — all while rolling back the state's clean energy regulations — is proving to have a rowdy afterlife.Groups opposed to HB6 have launched an effort to get it repealed via a statewide ballot initiative, including hiring boots on the ground to collect petition signatures toward that end. Meanwhile, the law's supporters are fighting back, launching commercials and hiring their own crews to argue the law's merits — sometimes using questionable tactics and information critics say is misleading or false. The law is controversial. An unusual combination of fiscal conservatives, oil and gas companies, environmental groups and others have decried the $150 million per year between 2021 and 2027 ratepayers would provide to First Energy Solutions, a bankrupt subsidiary holding two nuclear power plants — Perry Nuclear Power Plant outside of Cleveland and Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station outside of Toledo — owned by Akron-based parent company First Energy Corp. That monthly surcharge will cost users between 85 cents for some residential customers and $2,400 for the state's largest industrial users. First Energy says without the subsidy, the plants will go bankrupt, though First Energy has not supplied lawmakers with particulars about the financials of the plants and there is some dispute about their financial precarity. Other experts who watch the industry, however, have said that the plants probably are in financial distress, pointing out they are often passed over on bids to provide energy on what is called the regional capacity market — that is, contracts to provide extra energy as needed. Ohio's nuclear plants haven't been able to match prices from renewable energy and natural gas plants of late in that market. Another $1.50 a month from residential customers and up to $1,500 per month for commercial users will go to provide $20 million a year to the coal plants, which are run by the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation. Those plants provide power in mostly rural areas and are also floundering financially, OVEC says.

In Ohio, Shady Front Groups Fight Dirty To Attack Grassroots Campaign Against $1 Billion Nuke/Coal Bailout -An ugly political war is raging in Ohio, pitting consumer and environmental advocates against big utilities and dark-money front groups that want to make electricity customers pay more than $1 billion to bail out failing nuclear and coal-fired power plants. The bad guys are fighting dirty, using deceitful scare tactics and alleged cash payoffs that are now under investigation by the state attorney general, to derail the anti-bailout campaign. It’s a fight for the future of energy that could erupt in other states as utilities seek public subsidies to prop up their outdated, inefficient, dirty and dangerous power plants against competition from cheaper and cleaner solar and wind power. Figures compiled by EWG show that in the past three years, five states have handed utilities more than $15 billion in taxpayer-funded bailouts of failing nuclear plants. This summer, Ohio utility interests spent almost $10 million to push through legislation to slap a surcharge on ratepayers’ monthly electricity bills in a move to subsidize two nuclear plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions and two coal plants owned by Ohio Valley Electric Corp. Not only are the plants not needed to provide a secure supply of electricity but the bill would also effectively stop state renewable energy and efficiency mandates for utilities.Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill. But a grassroots group, Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, wants to let voters decide whether to overturn the law. The anti-bailout campaign has until Oct. 21 to collect more than 265,000 signatures to put a referendum on the November 2020 ballot. The bailout surcharge would be on hold until the vote. But two shadowy front groups ­– Generation Now and Ohioans for Energy Security, both of which have refused to reveal their funding sources – are trying to keep the question off the ballot. Last month, Ohioans for Energy Security unveiled a TV ad that used ominous military imagery and voice-of-doom narration to imply falsely that because Chinese banks had lent money for natural-gas plants that would benefit if the nukes and coal-burners were closed, the anti-bailout campaign is helping Beijing “meddle in our elections”: Although FirstEnergy Solutions says it has no connection to Ohioans for Energy Security, Bloomberg reported that two people featured in the ad had, in an earlier video, identified themselves as employees of the utility.

Ohio House Bill 6 repeal campaign files federal lawsuit challenging state’s referendum rules - cleveland.com — As the clock runs out on their efforts to gather the signatures needed to put Ohio’s nuclear bailout law on the November 2020 ballot, the campaign seeking to repeal House Bill 6 is turning to the courts for help.  In a federal lawsuit filed Monday, Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts alleges Ohio’s laws are unconstitutional, arguing they’ve subjected their campaign workers to harassment and eaten into the 90 days the group has to block a law from taking effect.  It also says the rules are unfair because they don’t apply to the opposition, since Ohio’s issue-campaign regulations only apply once an issue makes the ballot.The repeal campaign’s attorneys have asked the court to give them another 90 days to collect signatures, and to immediately block Ohio officials from enforcing the rules while the case is pending. Judge Edmund A. Sargus, the top federal judge for the U.S. District of Southern Ohio, has scheduled a phone conference for the case on Wednesday morning, court records show.“The committee’s referendum petition and associated activities have been confronted and challenged by an organized, well-funded and overly aggressive opposition effort with support from the power companies that stand to benefit financially from HB6,” the lawsuit reads. “The tactics against the committee and its supporters and efforts have involved harassment, assault and bribery of petition circulators. These illegal activities have further cut into the 90 days given to exercise their referendum rights and secure the right to a referendum by the Ohio electorate.”  (Scroll down to read the lawsuit, or click here for a PDF.)

ODNR Issues 10 Permits in Utica-Point Pleasant Shale - – The Ohio Department of Natural Gas issued 10 permits for horizontal drilling in the Utica-Point Pleasant shale last week. Half were awarded to Antero Resources Corp. for wells in Seneca Township in Noble County. Three were awarded to Equinor USA Onshore Properties Inc. for sites in Salem Township in Monroe County. And two were granted to EAP Ohio LLC for wells in the German Township, Harrison County. As of Oct. 5, the ODNR had issued 3,177 permits for horizontal drilling in the shale play, with 2,707 wells being drilled. Of those, 2,339 are active. No permits were awarded in Mahoning, Trumbull or Columbiana counties. Nor were any permits issued in Mercer or Lawrence counties in Pennsylvania, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

Report: Ohio Counties Have Received Nearly $142 Million in Real Estate Property Taxes from Utica Shale Production - Eight of Ohio’s top Utica Shale development counties collected more than $141.9 million in real estate property taxes on oil and natural gas production since 2010, according to an updated report by Energy In Depth and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.The Utica Shale Local Support Series report entitled, “2019 Update: Ohio’s Oil and Gas Industry Property Tax Payments,” analyzes the economic impacts of oil and natural gas real estate property (or ad valorem) taxes paid in these counties from 2010-2017: Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Guernsey, Harrison, Jefferson, Monroeand Noble.Data was collected through Freedom of Information Act requests, and builds on EID and OOGA’s previous 2017 reports on real estate property taxes and road use management agreements.The Utica Shale Local Support Series shows the real dollars being paid to Ohio’s communities. As Harrison Hills Superintendent Dana Snider said:  “Harrison Hills has experienced a great working and supportive relationship with the oil and gas industry. Part of that support comes from the ad valorem tax, which in large part comes to the district. Those dollars have allowed us to reinvest in our students, staff and facilities to provide a state of the art, nurturing and creative learning environment that our community is proud of.”  Here are the key findings of the 2019 updated report:

Pipeline protection bill stomps on civil rights - Columbus Dispatch - You’d think the oil and gas industry would be satisfied, now that it has pushed all of its measly opposition aside, crisscrossed Ohio with pipelines and fracked up the countryside with its well pads. But no, there are still citizens to be muzzled. Senate Bill 33 has been oozing its way around the Statehouse for months. It passed the Senate in May and now resides in the House Public Utilities Committee. It aims to bolster laws already on the books by tailoring them to specifically address “critical infrastructure facilities” and to target interlopers at those facilities with enhanced penalties.Critical infrastructure, according to the bill, includes everything from water plants to telecommunications towers. But it is the gas and oil industry that is driving legislation like SB 33 across the U.S. Since high-profile protests of the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline in 2016, the industry’s full-court press is working; nine states have increased criminal penalties by drafting legislation very much like SB 33. If SB 33 were to become law, it would be a first-degree misdemeanor to “knowingly enter or remain on a critical infrastructure facility,” a crime that is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. If violators “knowingly destroy or improperly tamper with a critical infrastructure facility,” they would face a third-degree felony punishable by up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine. That’s the same punishment faced by a felon caught carrying a gun.   And in what would have the most chilling effect on free speech if SB 33 becomes law, organizations that are deemed “complicit” with any acts of destruction or tampering could face a fine of as much as $100,000. That might be chump change to a natural-gas pipeline operator, but it could be a lethal blow to a local grassroots environmental group.“This is designed to discourage protest,” Gary Daniels, chief lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, told Dispatch Reporter Marty Schladen last week.  The wording of SB 33 is as murky as that gray sludge the pipeline companies spilled all over the landscape back when they were assembling their lines with all the care of a sugar-addled toddler cramming and jamming his way through a bucket of giant Legos. Is it tampering to block a driveway to a well pad? To hang a protest banner on a section of pipeline, or to simply stick a sign in the ground? Is it tampering to scuff your boots in the dust of a pipeline right of way when the industry doesn’t particularly like what you’re saying through that megaphone of yours?

Clean-up process begins at former injection well site in Alex Township - Athens NEWS - A state-ordered clean-up of an oilfield waste disposal site in Alexander Township is under way, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil & Gas Management confirmed on Friday.“Vac (vacuum) trucks are in the process of that clean-out,” Adam Schroeder confirmed in an email Friday morning. “They’re moving along, and our inspector is watching and making sure it’s done to the letter of the law.”This past summer, the ODNR oil and gas division ordered operators of temporary injection-well storage pits to take steps toward draining them of residual oilfield and fracking wastes, properly disposing of the “technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material” in the pits, and ensuring the pits’ physical integrity going forward. One of these “concrete pits constructed below ground surface for temporary storage of saltwater and oilfield wastes” is the Ginsberg well, an open-air cement storage pit located a stone’s throw away from Ladd Ridge Road in Athens County’s Alexander Township. The NEWS was alerted to the clean-up process last week after receiving word from a neighbor who reported seeing renewed truck traffic going to and fro the Ginsberg site.  After the ODNR Oil & Gas division’s order in July, a news release from the Athens County Future Action Network (ACFAN, sometimes using the term “Fracking Action Network”) appeared to applaud the move toward stronger regulation of the temporary storage pits such as the Ginsberg well, with the release’s headline declaring “Constant Pressure Constantly Applied Finally Made a Difference.” However, in the same release, Roxanne Groff, a member of ACFAN, cautioned that “final victory” won’t happen “until these pits and wells are closed.” She added, “Drilling holes and injecting toxic radioactive waste in our ground must stop. We hope that this long overdue ODNR mandate will result in operators shutting down their dangerous waste dumps.”  ODNR’s Schroeder said Friday that the clean-up of the Ginsberg well, during which waste material is sucked out of the temporary storage pits, “is progressing well” and should be completed in a matter of weeks, providing the weather doesn’t interfere. (That was before the heavy rain earlier this week.) Asked Monday morning where the waste material will be taken, Schroeder responded, “The waste will be taken to an approved facility, Austin Masters Services in this case, where it will be processed and solidified before being sent to a landfill. The division (or Oil and Gas Resource Management) will receive a manifest of these activities once they occur.”

Utica Summit hears Shell cracker update - Thousands of workers continue to build Shell’s new petrochemical plant in western Pennsylvania. When completed, the plant will turn ethane gas produced by Utica and Marcellus shale wells into plastic pellets used in everything from packaging films to hardhats. Michael Marr, business integration lead for Shell Appalachia, said workers had finished erecting major parts of the plant, but some 6,000 electricians, pipefitters and welders would be there for the foreseeable future connecting the pieces. Marr declined to give a more precise completion date. Shell is the first company to start building a cracker in the region. Thailand-based PTT Global Chemical is exploring a similar project in Belmont County. Charles Zelek, senior economist for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy, said the Appalachian Basin isn’t getting the most value from its ethane. In January, the region sent some 900,000 barrels of ethane per day into natural gas pipelines to be burned as fuel — enough to supply 10 multi-billion-dollar crackers, Zelek said, citing data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Another 250,000 barrels of ethane per day will be exported from the region this year, he said. But for the Appalachian Basin to support more cracker plants, it has to have large-scale storage facilities. Several have been proposed, but none have been built, Zelek said. The Shell cracker is supplied by a system of pipelines that act as virtual storage. Cracker capacity is projected to grow over the next decade, with $227 billion worth of projects up for grabs. The Appalachian Basin is competing with the Gulf Coast and Canada for those projects, and will need to have crackers in place by 2030 to capture that market, Zelek said. Because it takes seven to 10 years to design and build a cracker, “we need to be starting on new facilities sooner than later to beat the market,” he said.

Report: Amount of Marcellus, Utica natural gas higher than in 2011 - The amount of recoverable natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in the Appalachian Basin is significantly greater than previously thought, according to a new estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey. The USGS said in its latest assessment that the shale formations, both of which cover Western Pennsylvania, contain an estimated mean of 214 trillion cubic feet of “undiscovered, technically recoverable continuous resources of natural gas.”The 2019 estimate represents a significant increase from previous USGS assessments of both shale formations. In 2011, the USGS estimated a mean of 84 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Marcellus shale, and in 2012 the USGS estimated about 38 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Utica shale. Advancements in drilling techniques and new geological knowledge account for the increased estimates, USGS said.“Since our assessments in 2011 and 2012, industry has improved upon their development techniques for continuous resources like the shale gas in the Appalachian Basin,” said Walter Guidroz, program coordinator for the USGS Energy Resources Program. “That technological advancement, plus all of the geological information we’ve gained from the last several years of production, have allowed us to greatly expand our understanding of these formations.”The natural gas is defined as continuous because, in both formations, it is spread throughout the assessed rock layers instead of being concentrated in discrete accumulations, USGS said. Production techniques like directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are required to produce these resources. The USGS assessments are for “undiscovered, technically recoverable resources,” meaning they have been estimated to exist based on geology and other data, and they can be produced using current standard industry practices and technology.

USGS: Appalachian Formations Hold Estimated 214 Tcf of Gas - Journal of Petroleum Technology - The Marcellus Shale and Point Pleasant-Utica Shale formations of the Appalachian Basin hold an estimated mean of 214 Tcf of undiscovered, technically recoverable continuous resources of natural gas, according to an updated assessment from the US Geological Survey (USGS).  The Marcellus, Point Pleasant, and Utica extend into parts of Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. USGS assessments are for remaining resources and exclude known and produced oil and gas. The new numbers—about 97 Tcf of gas for the Marcellus and 117 Tcf of gas for the Utica-Point Pleasant—represent large increases from previous USGS assessments of both formations. In 2011, the USGS estimated a mean of 84 Tcf in the Marcellus, and in 2012 the agency estimated about 38 Tcf in the Utica.  Seeing the USGC estimates for the Marcellus rise from 2 Tcf to almost 100 Tcf in less than 20 years shows “the effects American ingenuity and new technology can have,” said USGS Director Jim Reilly.  The Marcellus also holds an estimated 1.5 billion bbl of natural gas liquids (NGLs), while the Point Pleasant-Utica also has an estimated 1.8 billion bbl of oil and 985 million bbl of NGLs, according to the USGC estimates. Undiscovered resources are those that have been estimated to exist based on geology and other data but have not yet been proven to exist by drilling or other means. Technically recoverable resources, meanwhile, are those that can be produced using today’s standard industry practices and technology. This is different from reserves, which are quantities of oil and gas that are currently profitable to produce. The latest assessment of the Marcellus can be found here.

Pennsylvania Cancer Patients: They Were Fracking Directly Across From School - – Former Pennsylvania elementary school classmates Nicole Stewart and Grace Lipscomb were shocked when they learned that they had both been diagnosed with the same rare childhood cancer. Stewart, now 19, found out that she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 16. After finishing chemotherapy, she heard that her former grade-school classmate Lipscomb, also now 19, had just been diagnosed with the same extremely rare disease. Because only about 8,000 cases of Hodgkin’s are diagnosed in the United States each year, both girls found it odd that cancer could afflict two kids at the Fort Cherry Elementary School in the small town of McDonald, Pennsylvania, which has a population of only around 2,000 people Stewart and Lipscomb are not alone. Since 2008, at least 67 cases of childhood cancers, many of them rare, have been documented in their home county of Washington and the neighbouring counties of Greene, Fayette and Westmoreland.Such uncanny coincidences have led many residents of these rural communities to question whether something in the environment is making children sick. Many residents of their town and nearby rural communities southwest of Pittsburgh are concerned that the fracking industry, which has exploded in the area since 2008, could be causing such illnesses. Lipscomb was told she had Hodgkin’s just two years after her own mother had been diagnosed with a rare, non-genetic breast cancer. "It's all happening in the same school district. There's also a lot of people who have asthma in our school district too", she said. Hydraulic fracturing is a highly volatile process in which a toxic mix of chemicals is injected at high pressure into the earth to break up rocks and extract the natural gas trapped inside. The process produces waste that includes multiple substances that are known to be harmful to human health, including benzene, toluene, xylene and ethylbenzene. Washington County now has nearly 1,200 active fracking wells, and production here has helped transform Pennsylvania into the nation’s No. 2 natural gas state. But Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has documented more than 4,000 fracking violations in Washington County, including failure to properly dispose of residual waste and pollution, hazardous well venting and pollution of local waters with toxic substances.

Canon-Mac parents want deeper investigation of suspected childhood cancer cluster - Holding the funeral-home portrait of her son Curtis who died in 2011 from Ewing's sarcoma, Cindy Valent came to a hearing Monday night about the suspected cancer cluster in Washington County with a direct request: Find out why so many youth in southwestern Pennsylvania have contracted the rare and deadly form of cancer, and whether it has anything to do with the natural gas industry.  Valent, who now lives in Beaver County, used to live in Cecil less than a mile from two other youth with Ewing's. Curtis Valent was diagnosed in 2008 with the form of bone cancer. He died at age 23 on Jan. 1, 2011, soon to graduate from Robert Morris University and recently engaged. “They've got to do an investigational study of all these kids that had it to find out what they have in common," Valent said of the recent rise in Ewing's sarcoma that led the Pennsylvania Department of Health to investigate whether there's been a definable cluster of Ewing's and other cancers in Washington and Westmoreland counties. The Health Department study found that there wasn't a definable cancer cluster nor a significant rise in the number of childhood cancers at Canon-Mac or in the region. There have reportedly been six cases of Ewing's in the Canon-McMillan School District since 2008. Valent and a number of other parents, including family members of others with Ewing's, say they want to know whether the drilling of natural gas wells and hydraulic fracturing have had an impact. They spoke out at a hearing Monday night at Canon-McMillan High School that featured two Department of Health officials and a UPMC researcher, questioning the study's methodology, whether all cases were accounted for in the study, and also the fact that environmental factors weren't taken into account in the investigation. The causes of Ewing's remain unknown. Janice Blanock and Kurt Blanock lost their 19-year-old son,Luke Blanock, three years after being diagnosed with Ewing's. Janice Blanock urged Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Health to dig deeper. "We don't know what caused our son's cancer. However, taking into consideration the high number of rare cancers in Washington, Greene, Westmoreland and Fayette counties ... It should seem obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense, sincere heartfelt concerns, and true courage that we need to be looking at environmental issues and triggers," Janice Blanocksaid.Luke Blanock's sister, Carla Marratto, expressed concern that drilling and hydraulic fracturing could be a factor.  "What came into this area that boomed, right before that," Marratto said. "No one was going to say it anyone's speech. No one's going to say it ... This area was polluted by fracking."

State suspends gas driller’s license for failure to pay impact fees - Pennsylvania suspended a Texas energy company’s license to operate two Somerset County gas wells because it has failed to pay almost $95,000 in impact fees and related costs for 2014, 2015 and 2016. The state Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday ordered Xtreme Energy Co. of Victoria to cease operations immediately on its two wells — Hillegas and Menhorn — located south of Somerset in Brothers Valley Township. The suspension will remain in effect until the impact fees and penalties are paid, the state said. This is the first time the department ordered a gas well owner to cease operations over not paying the impact fees, said Lauren Fraley, a spokeswoman for the DEP in Pittsburgh. The state distributed almost $252 million in impact fees in 2018, according to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, which collects the fees. The impact fees, distributed to state, local and county governments, are determined on a multi-year fee schedule based on the average price of natural gas, according to state Act 13 which authorized the fees. “They (municipalities) rely on those fees,” Fraley said. The PUC recommended to DEP on Sept. 10 that it withdraw Xtreme Energy’s permit to operate those two wells. The PUC’s enforcement and investigation bureau had investigated the matter, dating back to April 2017. Xtreme Energy had agreed in a May 2019 settlement with the PUC to pay $94,684 by July 17. Xtreme did not pay the fees nor did it appeal a June 17 order requiring the payment, the PUC said.

Pennsylvania Senator Daylin Leach Proposes Constitutional Amendment To Ban Fracking - (KDKA) — A Pennsylvania senator says the damage caused by fracking outweighs any economic benefit. Fracking for natural gas in the Marcellus shale has been a source of jobs and dollars for many in Southwest Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania State Sen. Daylin Leach, a Philadelphia Democrat, is proposing a constitutional amendment to ban fracking throughout the commonwealth after a visit to this area. He said toured Washington County fracking sites, met with people who live near those sites and heard their stories. “At the end of the day, we want industry to do well,” Leach told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Thursday. “But that can’t be our top priority. We can’t do that at the expense of people’s health.” Leach cites cases of cancer, skin and respiratory problems, and even dead animals. But the president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition disputes those claims. “The Department of Health has studied and will continue to study it. To date, they’ve not found a single link that would provide validity to that kind of report or that kind of a statement,” said Dave Spigelmyer. Spigelmyer says the abundant natural gas here has reduced home gas bills by 70 percent. “We’ve got incredible job growth in our commonwealth,” Spigelmyer said. Spigelmyer says this constitutional amendment is short-sighted and has broad implications. “You not only kill the natural gas industry, you kill the oil industry as well,” Spigelmyer said.

Gas drillers, owner of pipeline that exploded in Beaver County stuck together, even as they spar - Hours after Energy Transfer’s new Revolution pipeline slid down a steep Beaver County hillside and exploded — bringing sudden daylight to a Center Township neighborhood before sunrise on Sept. 10, 2018 — the company drafted two letters. Energy Transfer’s senior vice president for business development signed his name and sent copies of each to its clients, PennEnergy Resources LLC and EdgeMarc Energy Holdings LLC. The first letter announced that Revolution, a 40.5-mile natural gas gathering pipeline, had begun commercial operations on Sept. 9, thereby satisfying the deadlines set in the company’s contracts with the drillers. The second said that commercial operations on the pipeline had been suspended by what in legal terms translates to an “act of God,” an event outside of the company’s control. Neither of those things made sense to Greg Muse, PennEnergy’s COO, whose Moon-based company was awaiting the start of the Revolution pipeline service to ferry gas from wells in Beaver and Butler counties. Two days later, he told the pipeline firm that he disagreed with each premise. This kicked off a year of negotiations with Texas-based Energy Transfer, whose inability to stabilize the ground after the Beaver County explosion prompted environmental regulators to suspend the review of all new and pending permits. The 24-inch-wide Revolution pipeline remains out of commission with no timeline for a restart. As PennEnergy tried to work things out with Energy Transfer behind the scenes, the case against the pipeline firm was being built in different corners of the state. Pennsylvania environmental regulators were conducting discovery in two cases dealing with the Revolution pipeline. The Pennsylvania attorney general’s office launched an investigation into the explosion, the scope of which is “unknown,” Energy Transfer disclosed to investors in August. And Canonsburg-based EdgeMarc filed for bankruptcy — citing the Revolution explosion and Energy Transfer’s treatment of it as the precipitating event. Proving that the letters Energy Transfer had sent on the day of the explosion were false quickly became the centerpiece of EdgeMarc’s bankruptcy proceedings. Now PennEnergy has joined the fray. It filed a lawsuit asking a judge to declare, once and for all, that Energy Transfer hadn’t in fact placed the new pipeline into commercial operations and that the damage to the pipeline lays at the hands of the company. “The explosion was not an ‘act of God,’” PennEnergy’s complaint, filed in the Court of Common Please of Allegheny County, asks a judge to declare. “The explosion occurred in an area where the pipeline was constructed on a dangerously steep slope, which was a known landslide area, when fill material that [Energy Transfer] had placed on top of its pipeline slid, causing a landslide that ruptured the pipeline — all circumstances within ETC’s reasonable control.”

Hellbenders have their day in court - Six years after a plan for a drilling waste-disposal injection well was first revealed in northern Indiana County and after area residents banded together against it, lawyers waged another battle Friday in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. The dispute centers now on whether a home rule form of government passes Constitutional muster and empowers Grant Township to prohibit the dumping of fracking waste in its environment. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection sued the community of 700 people in 2017 and after two years of trading arguments on paper — a case log that now extends 11 pages — attorneys argued their points in a 17-minute hearing at the state’s courtroom in Pittsburgh. Lawyer Rick Watling asked the judges to rule that the ban on oil and gas waste fluid disposal in Grant’s Home Rule Charter is unlawful because Grant only has police powers to limit land uses through its zoning powers (under the Municipalities Planning Code). The DEP’s position is that its guiding laws, in this case the state Gas and Oil Act, have the upper hand over regulations imposed at the local level. Watling asked the judges to dismiss the township’s counter claims in the case. Karen Hoffman, a Philadelphia-based attorney representing Grant Township and its board of supervisors, argues that home rule invokes state statues as its basis of authority. Pennsylvania General Energy (PGE) prevailed late last year in a federal lawsuit charging that the township violated the company’s civil rights when it enacted a “community bill of rights” ordinance that included a ban on injection wells. Township residents including an environmental protection group, the East Run Hellbenders Society, have warred against the uncertain integrity of a depleted former natural gas well as a vessel for holding the waste from other drilling operations. Without a guarantee that injected waste wouldn’t leak into underground water supplies that feed the residents’ drinking water walls, and into the surface water streams known as favorite for fishermen in the region, the township has taken up the expense of a legal fight to protect its irreplaceable resources.

Courts Question Pipeline Builders’ Use of Eminent Domain to Take Land - A recent federal court ruling could give states more authority to oppose natural gas pipeline projects by limiting the controversial use of eminent domain—the mandatory sale of private or state-owned land for public use. That ruling and two others involving eminent domain come amid growing opposition to pipeline projects, whose benefits to the public and risks to the environment and climate are increasingly being questioned. As the Trump administration tries to clear the way for more fossil fuel pipeline construction, a diverse coalition of environmental advocates and landowners are gaining traction in their efforts to fight new pipeline projects by focusing on property rights. They argue that pipeline developers should not be allowed to take land through eminent domain because the developers are private companies and the shipment of oil or gas shouldn't be considered a public use or benefit. The most significant of the recent rulings involves the question of whether a state can be forced to sell state-owned land to a private company for a proposed pipeline. The case involves New Jersey and the PennEast pipeline, which would transport natural gas from the Marcellus shale region of Pennsylvania.In January 2018, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) determined the PennEast project would serve the public interest and approved it. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal challenged the decision and later joined six other attorneys general in urging the commission to consider the climate impacts of new pipelines as part of the certification process.  The proposed route for the PennEast pipeline would cross two parcels of state-owned land in New Jersey. When the state refused to grant easements for the pipeline, PennEast sued to try to take the land under the power of eminent domain.  In its lawsuit, PennEast argued that allowing New Jersey to deny the sale of state land "would leave states with unchecked veto power over interstate natural gas pipeline projects." A federal appeals court sided with the state, ruling on Sept. 10 that PennEast cannot force the sale of state-owned land on the grounds that private parties cannot sue states in federal court. The judges wrote that their determination applies not only to two parcels of land that the state owns outright, but also to 40 additional parcels of land where the landowner has an "easement" agreement with the state to preserve the land for recreational, conservation or agricultural use.

U.S. Supreme Court takes up fight over $7.5 billion natural gas pipeline - (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear an appeal by Dominion Energy Inc and President Donald Trump’s administration of a lower court ruling that halted construction on a $7.5 billion natural gas pipeline due to run underneath a section of the popular Appalachian Trail in rural Virginia. The administration and companies involved in the project have asked the justices to overturn a ruling that found that the U.S. Forest Service lacked the authority to grant a right of way for the pipeline. Environmental groups had sued to stop the pipeline after the Forest Service gave the green light for the project through protected National Park Service land. The December 2018 ruling by the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals put a stop to construction of the 600-mile (965-km) Atlantic Coast Pipeline, intended to run from West Virginia to North Carolina. Dominion Energy leads a consortium of companies in the project that also includes Duke Energy Corp. At issue is the Forest Service’s decision to allow the pipeline to cross underneath the 2,200-mile (3,500 km) long Appalachian Trail - a popular hiking route in the eastern United States stretching from Georgia to Maine - in the George Washington National Forest. “The Supreme Court’s acceptance of our petition is a very encouraging sign and provides a clear path forward to resolve this important issue,” said Aaron Ruby, a Dominion spokesman.

Supreme Court denies appeal of eminent domain for Mountain Valley Pipeline - The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from a group of Virginia landowners whose property was taken by eminent domain for the Mountain Valley Pipeline. (Roanoke Times)

Supreme Court won't hear cases on pipelines' eminent domain, ban on Calif. utilities putting wildfire costs in rates - The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear two cases closely watched by environmentalists.The first one concerns Mountain Valley Pipeline developers' use of eminent domain. "The high court declined to consider landowners' plea that the builders of the 300-mile pipeline through West Virginia and Virginia should not be able to begin construction on their property without first paying 'just compensation,' as guaranteed under the Constitution," Niina Farah and Pamela King report for Energy & Environment News. The second case involves whether privately owned utilities that states have held liable for wildfires can recoup damages by raising rates on their customers. "The case stems from the California Public Utilities Commission's denial of San Diego Gas & Electric Co.'s request to recover $379 million in costs from wildfires that the company said have become the 'new normal' in the Golden State," Farah and King report.

Police remove, arrest protester who attached himself to Mountain Valley Pipeline helicopter - Virginia State Police say they arrested a Mountain Valley Pipeline protester Monday morning. Police found the protester attached to a contracted pipeline helicopter at a work site on Cove Hollow Road, near Route 460 in Montgomery County, according to the Virginia State Police. Authorities removed and arrested Galen Sol Shirman-Grabowski, 24, of Tuscon, Arizona. Pipeline security found Grabowski masked and attached to the rotor mast of the helicopter by a Sleeping Dragon device, refusing to leave. There was a banner on the helicopter that said, "DOOM TO THE PIPELINE," according to Appalachians Against Pipelines. Grabowski is the 18th "pipeline fighter" to lock his or her body to Mountain Valley Pipeline equipment in 2019, according to Appalachians Against Pipelines. Grabowski was charged with the following:

  • Tamper/damage an aircraft (felony)
  • Prohibition of wearing of masks in certain places (felony)
  • Obstructing justice, without force (misdemeanor)
  • Entering property of another for the purpose of damaging it (misdemeanor)
  • Breaking, injuring, defacing, destroying or preventing the operation of vehicle, aircraft or boat (misdemeanor)
  • Injuring property (misdemeanor)

Officials catch Mountain Valley Pipeline workers transporting water to seed grass during drought - A senator and delegate catch Mountain Valley Pipeline officials transporting thousands of gallons of water to seed grass during drought. Senator Stephen Baldwin and Delegate Jeff Campbell received word that Mountain Valley Pipeline was transporting thousands of gallons of water multiple times a day up the mountain to seed grass. Right now, the state of West Virginia is experiencing a drought and the State is currently in State of Emergency, due to dry grounds and low water. Industrial water usage is required to be restricted, due to the state of emergency that is in effect. Both Baldwin and Campbell contacted West Virginia State Police who visited the site today. The company told them they would not be using the limited local water any longer during this drought. Baldwin says, “When our citizens and farmers are conserving water for the common good, it’s a shame that anyone would so blatantly disrespect our communities. I want to thank the WVSP for their quick response.”

Gas-fired power projects on the rise in WV - — While the old adage says coal is king in West Virginia, natural gas is beginning to play a larger role in the state’s energy generation landscape. Plans for a significant natural gas-fired power plant project are underway in Harrison County, and Longview Power has recently announced its intention to construct a new facility housing one gas-fired and one solar-powered plant in Monongalia County. The Harrison County project, developed by ESC Harrison and Caithness Energy, will be a 625-megawatt combined-cycle facility with one combustion turbine generator connected to a heat recovery steam generator. The facility will occupy 13 acres of a planned 110-acre industrial park on a former 212-acre surface and underground mining site in the Montpellier area of Clarksburg. Construction will cost about $615 million and is estimated to be complete in 2020. ESC Harrison projects it will produce an $880 million economic impact during construction and $287 million per year thereafter. It will provide 400 construction jobs, 30 full-time plant operations jobs and about 700 jobs tied to maintaining and servicing the plant. It’s expected the plant will provide enough power for about 425,000 homes through the PJM Interconnect grid. PJM is the regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia. In June, developers announced they had entered into an engineering, procurement and construction services contract with Connecticut-based Gemma Power Systems. Caithness President Ross Ain said the company was chosen based on its experience with similar projects.Longview’s proposed facility, to be called the Longview Power Clean Energy Center, is planned for a piece of property near Maidsville in Monongalia County adjacent to the property of a current Longview coal-fired plant.

Duke climatologist seeks a halt on gas-fired power plants, Atlantic Coast Pipeline - One of the world’s leading climate scientists said the state’s long-range clean energy plan doesn’t go far enough to curb a potent greenhouse gas.In a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper dated Thursday, Drew Shindell, Nicholas Professor of Earth Science at Duke University, takes aim at methane, a gas more efficient than carbon dioxide at holding heat. Shindell said in the letter that the state should place a “permanent moratorium” on natural gas infrastructure in the state, including new gas plants planned by Duke Energy and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which the power company is developing with other partners. Natural gas is mostly methane, and it can leak when it is extracted from the ground or flows through pipes. “In addition to causing possibly irreparable climate damage, such infrastructure is likely to saddle consumers with much greater costs than would a more rapid transition to 100% renewable energy, while also causing additional harm to already vulnerable communities,” wrote Shindell, one of the scientists who helped coordinate sections of International Panel on Climate Change reports in 2013 and 2018. About two dozen former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists and administrators endorsed the letter.Shindell co-wrote the letter with two former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrators and NC WARN, a nonprofit focused on climate change and a Duke Energy critic.

Will Virginians be able to resist the Atlantic Coast Pipeline? -- When the government has seized Virginians’ land and homes in the past, communities suffered. -- This week, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will consider Dominion Energy’s much-delayed bid to construct the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 600-mile, $7.5 billion project that would carry natural gas from West Virginia to the East Coast. At the heart of the case is a request from Dominion to run its pipeline across the federally protected Appalachian Trail. In 2018, the U.S. Forest Service granted Dominion permission to cross the trail, but later that year, a lower court overturned the permit. If the Supreme Court decides the Forest Service acted within its jurisdiction, Dominion will be allowed to continue construction of its pipeline.Dominion Energy praised the court’s decision to hear the case, saying it now sees “a clear path forward to resolve this important issue.” The Trump administration has backed the energy giant’s efforts.Backers of projects like the pipeline frame this as a chance to get the government out of the way of private industry operating for a public good (energy independence). But for people in central Virginia, the push for a pipeline is a story of government interference, part of a century of struggle between government authorities and vulnerable populations that have been displaced from the land.ADOne of the largest land seizures in the history of the state took place in the same forest that Dominion now contests. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the state of Virginia used eminent domain — which allows the government, or private companies in conjunction with the government, to seize land, compensate the owner and then use that land to benefit the public good — to acquire 190,000 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Promising public good in the form of wilderness protection and tourism revenue, the state seized or condemned the homes and farms of about 465 families in rural Appalachia. Two thousand people were removed from land they had tended for generations. The state donated the forest to the federal government, and in 1936, the government opened Shenandoah National Park. Young men from the Civilian Conservation Corps, the New Deal work relief program, cleared the property and left the Cliser family’s belongings on the side of the road. For the descendants of those homesteaders pushed out of the hills, the sting of eviction still lingers. The pipeline has sparked resistance from environmental groups, which have emphasized that construction would require a clear-cut path as wide as a football field to slice through the protected parkland. The Southern Environmental Law Center has argued that the project “threaten[s] people’s health, endangered species, iconic landscapes, and clean water.”But the environmental arguments are entwined with the same anxieties over property rights and land use that have animated Virginians for decades. Urban and rural communities alike have their own collective memories of the encroachment of government-backed industry. Those memories are reflected in the diverse coalition that has come together to fight the pipeline.That unusual coalition is up against powerful forces: the Trump administration, a big energy company and a Supreme Court dominated by conservative justices. But for more than a century, the people of central Virginia have been battling the government over their right to control their land, farms, parks and city neighborhoods. Whatever happens in the Supreme Court this term, they’ll keep fighting.

GOP Lobbyists Behind Gas Industry 'Empowerment Alliance' Oppose Green New Deal - The Real News Network - Steve Horn -  There is a new group in support of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and in opposition to the Green New Deal—and it’s run by figures with long-held institutional ties to the Republican Party and fossil fuel industry. Called The Empowerment Alliance, it joins a few other campaigns funded by the fossil fuel industry lobbying against Green New Deal. Registered as a 501(c)(4) political action committee (PAC) and incorporated in Delaware on August 23, The Empowerment Alliance has not revealed its funders, but its Executive Director James Nathanson and its spokesman Terry Holt have ties to the upper echelon of the national Republican Party. “The American people deserve to know the consequences of radical and unachievable polices [sic] like the Green New Deal, and The Empowerment Alliance is going to advance that dialogue through the media with research and voter engagement,” said Nathanson in a press release announcing the group on September 27.  Nathanson is a veteran of Republican Party politics who formerly served as the political director of the Republican National Committee and the Ohio director for the 1988 George H.W. Bush campaign.  On its website, The Empowerment Alliance touts gas as a cleaner, greener fossil fuel. “Natural gas is the cleanest of fossil fuels and can be used in many ways to help reduce the emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere,” reads the site. “Burning natural gas in the place of other fossil fuels emits fewer harmful pollutants, and an increased reliance on natural gas can potentially reduce the emission of many of these most harmful pollutants. But natural gas production is a major emitter of methane, a greenhouse gas more 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide during its first 20 years in the atmosphere, and 28 times more potent over a 100 year period. According to an article about The Empowerment Alliance published by Politico, the group’s spokesman is Terry Holt, a lobbyist and former press secretary for  Rep. John Boehner, who works for the firm HDMK. Holt has previously served as a spokesman for the coal industry public relations group Americans for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE),and also worked as the spokesman for the George W. Bush 2004 re-election campaign. From 2000-2004, Holt served as a senior advisor for the Republican National Committee, according to his LinkedIn profile. The Alliance has chosen not to disclose its funders, Holt said, out of fear of potential “eco-terrorists.” “Because of violence and trespassing and other criminal behavior, the Empowerment Alliance is going to protect its donors from that kind of risk,” he told the publication EnergyWire. “We are offering donors this protection out of the concern that we would have should they come forward and the scrutiny of some of these eco-terrorists.”

US Natural Gas Reserves Continue To Soar - Ever since the U.S. shale revolution took flight in 2008, it's been a consistent theme: not just rising natural gas production but also rising proven natural gas reserves. In fact, over the past decade, the U.S. Department of Energy reports that our proven gas reserves have ballooned nearly 85% to almost 450 trillion cubic feet (Tcf). It's all turned the previous pre-shale notion that reserves were dwindling and production was in permanent decline on its head.Not even the industry itself ever envisioned how fast our natural gas business would be transformed, thanks to shale. ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond infamously stated in 2005: "Gas production has peaked in North America." Not quite good sir: led by shale, North American output is up 50% since then to past 105 Bcf/d, or some 30% of the global total. What's even more amazing is that this boom in gas production and reserves has happened under a low-price environment, which typically work to hamper both. In other words, we have even more natural gas than advertised. Indeed, don't forget that reserves are just subsets of the massive gas resource that we have. Reserves only illustrate what can be produced today under prevailing technologies and prices. As time goes along, and technologies advance and prices rise, more of the resource gets lifted into the reserve category, able to be produced today. Just like renewables, the oil and gas industry is always getting better. A shout out to my alma mater: Penn State "Researchers unearth cost-effective method for finding shale gas."For example, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) last week announced that our primary production area of the Marcellus and Point Pleasant-Utica Shale plays in the Appalachian Basin contains an estimated 214 Tcf undiscovered, technically recoverable continuous resources of natural gas. What's amazing is that the latest USGS data on Appalachia is more than 75% higher than its most recent study in 2011, which concluded that the Marcellus held 84 Tcf and the Utica 38 Tcf. This is just another example of how quickly our assessments of U.S. oil and gas fields continue to grow, as our appraisal technologies improve and our ability for E&P expands. To illustrate perfectly, nearly 25 years ago, the USGS estimated that the Bakken shale oil play in North Dakota had just 150 million barrels to produce...in total. Incredibly, however, as development has ensued, the mighty Bakken is now producing more than three times that amount...every year!

Appalachian natural gas production growth could be reaching its zenith— Amid continued tepid natural gas prices, producers in the Appalachian Basin region have begun reducing their drilling, although the lower activity has not yet slowed the pace of continued strong production from the basin. But this trend could change, as operators facing the prospect not only of "lower for longer" gas prices, but possibly weaker oil prices as well in 2020, could begin to plan for even more dramatic decreases in drilling activity in coming months. As far as production, both the Marcellus and Utica are showing somewhat similar growth trends, S&P Global Platts Analytics data shows. The Marcellus Shale has seen its production grow by about 1 Bcf/d from the start of 2019, from 23.56 Bcf/d in January to 24.54 Bcf/d October 9. In the Utica Shale play, production is just about back up to levels seen in late August before output fell off in early September. The play saw 7.12 Bcf/d of production October 9, up from 6.57 Bcf/d in early January, according to Platts Analytics. The production gains in the basin have continued even as natural gas prices in the region have tanked over the same period, with no signs of a rally occurring anytime soon. Spot prices at two of the region's most important pricing points, Columbia Gas Appalachia and Dominion South, have declined from around $2.50/MMBtu to a little more than $1.00/MMBtu currently. The number of rigs operating in the Marcellus and Utica plays has begun to decline, although the Utica rig count decline has flattened out a bit, with the basin having the same number of rigs, 15, as in early September, Platts Analytics data shows. However, the rig count decline isn't expected to have any meaningful impact on production trends in the near term, partially because of the ability of producers to bring into production the backlog of drilled but uncompleted wells, or DUCs, in the basin. Improved initial production rates for those wells that are brought online also appears to be driving the sustained production gains, Platts Analytics found. The continued strong production coming out of the Appalachian Basin, coupled with robust gas production in the Permian Basin, where most of the gas is produced in association with oil production, is leading to an abundant supply of gas across the continent, which in turn is helping to continue to suppress gas prices.  Yet there are signs that the continued production growth in the Appalachian Basin is nearing its zenith, as earlier this year producers in the region announced they would begin to cut back on their drilling activities in the second half of the year. In announcing its Q2 results, Southwestern Energy said it planned to lower its average rig count from six rigs in the first half of the year to two rigs by the end of the third quarter.  Last month, EQT announced it was laying off almost a quarter of its workforce, eliminating 196 positions and reducing the number of departments within the company from 58 to 15.

Michael Bloomberg's $500 million plan to halt the growth of gas is 'irresponsible,' BP boss says - Outgoing BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley believes Michael Bloomberg’s $500 million plan to halt the building of gas-fired power plants in the U.S. is “irresponsible.” Speaking to CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick at the Oil & Money conference in London Wednesday, Dudley said: “Every scenario I look at, we cannot carpet the world with renewables fast enough.” In June, Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, said that he would donate $500 million to a co-ordinated campaign called “Beyond Carbon.” The campaign, according to its website, is designed to get the U.S. “on the path to a 100% clean energy economy.” In doing so, it plans to prevent the growth of natural gas and close every coal-fired power plant in the U.S. In a separate speech to those in attendance at the Oil & Money conference, Dudley said that while Bloomberg’s efforts “may be well intentioned,” they were also “misguided.” “They rest on a false equivalence between gas and coal. And an assumption that an all-electric economy will emerge just as soon as we close the alternatives,” Dudley said. When asked by CNBC why he referenced Bloomberg in his speech, Dudley replied: “Because I think it is irresponsible.” “I think it means well (but) it is not going to work in so many countries.” A spokesperson for Michael Bloomberg was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC Wednesday afternoon.

Natural Gas Fell Back Into The Buy Zone - Natural gas is one of the most volatile commodities that trade on the futures exchange. The range since 1990, when the energy commodity began trading on the NYMEX division of the CME, has been from a low at $1.02 to a high at $15.65 per MMBtu. The market has matured dramatically over the past three decades. Massive discoveries of natural gas reserves in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions of the US and technological advances in extracting the gas from the crust of the earth have increased the supply side of the fundamental equation. Since necessity is the mother of invention, natural gas demand has moved significantly higher at the same time. Gas has replaced coal when it comes to generating electricity in the US. At the same time, natural gas in liquid form now travels by ocean vessel around the globe, whereas it was confined to travel by pipeline in past years. The demand side of the equation has grown alongside the supply side. Increased liquidity in the natural gas market has compressed the price range. However, the price traded in a range from a high at $4.929 to a low at $2.029 per MMBtu between November 2018 and August 2019. As we move closer to the peak season for demand each day, the price was below the $2.30 per MMBtu level at the end of last week. Natural gas is back in the buy zone as the injection season will end in mid-November, and inventories will begin to decline. In early August, the price of nearby natural gas futures on the NYMEX division of the CME dropped to a low at $2.029 per MMBtu. During the injection season, when inventories were climbing, many market participants believed that the price would fall below the $2 level for the first time since 2016 and challenge the March 2016 low at $1.611 per MMBtu. However, the price never probed below the psychological level, and it took off on the upside. By mid-September, the price of the energy commodity recovered to a high at $2.71, a move of over 33.5% in six weeks. Natural gas is combustible in its physical form, and the price action reflected the characteristics of the energy commodity. The weekly chart highlights that the price fell as fast as it climbed, reaching a low at $2.207 per MMBtu last week. The move to the downside caused the price momentum and relative strength indicators to trend lower, but they remain on either side of neutral territory on the weekly chart as of Friday, October 4. The total number of open long and short positions in the natural gas futures market at 1.215 million contracts is has moved lower over the past weeks.

Odds Of Durable Early Season Cold Lessen, Sending Natural Gas Prices Lower - Various weather model runs late last week hinted at a potential pattern change to a colder regime, giving some life to natural gas prices in the wake of Thursday's EIA report. The prompt month November contract at one point had moved nearly 20 cents off its Thursday intra-day low. But over the weekend, odds of a sustainable colder pattern took a hit, as models shifted toward a warmer pattern once again by the 20th. There is still a cold shot focused in the middle of the U.S. late this week into the early part of next week, but it is expected to lift out rather quickly. The reason for the change lies in a big shift in the projected pattern on the Pacific side of the pattern. Here is what the 12-16 day upper air forecast from the GFS-Ensemble looked like 3 days ago: natural gas commodity weather Notice the low heights (blue colors) back near the Aleutians, and a downstream warm ridge over the West, which pushes a colder trough into the eastern U.S. Now let's look at the same model's forecast from today, valid the same dates: natural gas commodity weather As you can see, that is a very different look compared to the prior image, with a cooler trough now in the West, which allows the East to warm back up. After a bump up in demand centered on this weekend, forecast GWDDs drop off quickly again thereafter. natural gas commodity weather This lack of durability in any colder pattern helped send natural gas prices back lower today, with the November contract closing nearly 5 cents lower on the day. natural gas commodity weather We recognize that it is still early for weather to be the primary driver of price action, but in this particular case, it is applicable, given that there has been no major change in the supply / demand balance as of yet, so it stands to reason that lower risks of cold when compared to weather models back on Friday can have a market impact.

Weaker Cash And Unimpressive Demand Keeps Pressure On Natural Gas Prices - After a couple of "up" days at the end of last week, natural gas prices declined for the second day in a row this week, with the prompt month November contract settling back under the $2.30 level today. Prices initially were slightly higher early this morning, as the overnight weather models gained some forecast demand. Here, you can see the forecast demand profile from those overnight runs compared to 24 hours earlier: One thing that sticks out is that even with the gain in demand, it remains rather unimpressive overall. We also are finally seeing cooler weather in the South, contributing to weaker daily cash prices. In our morning outlook to clients, we highlighted both the tame demand picture along with the risk of weaker cash prices, maintaining a "slightly bearish" stance, feeling like the bump in prices was not likely to last. This worked out well, as prompt month prices moved as low as $2.266, but did close off those intra-day lows. The midday weather models also gave back some of their overnight demand gains, which we had mentioned as a risk as well. Here is the 12-16 day pattern from the overnight GFS Ensemble: The midday run shifted warmer in this time frame: Now that we are closer to the time of year when weather becomes the primary factor that drives natural gas volatility, keeping up to date with potential weather changes is very important in the world of natural gas.

EIA Report Meets Expectations, But Natural Gas Prices Continue To Fall - Today's EIA report showed an injection of 98 bcf for the week ending 10/4. This was almost dead-on our forecast. It was well within the range of the various market estimates as well, so we should expect prices to have no reaction to this report, right? Well, not exactly. While it was the market expectation, it confirms very loose supply / demand balances remain in place, as seen by looking at the last 10 weeks' demand vs storage change. In short, we simply have too much supply. Production has returned back near its all time highs. Weather demand has been stout more often than not dating all the way back to the end of June, but has been unable to prevent large builds in natural gas storage thanks to these record supply levels. And even the weather demand is set to tail off significantly, with well below normal demand projected out in week two. Is this simply a hopeless scenario for natural gas bulls? Perhaps not, as prices around the 2.20 level in prompt month are quite low with the full winter season still to come, but the weather pattern needs to deliver some enhanced demand in the not-too-distant future in order to stimulate any buying in the commodity. In addition, the lower prices could alter the supply / demand balances enough to stop the bleeding, again, pending what happens with the upcoming season's weather pattern.

NYMEX November natural gas inches lower after bearish storage report - The NYMEX November natural gas futures contract inched lower Thursday following the latest bearish weekly US storage report. November traded 1.6 cents lower Thursday, settling at $2.218/MMBtu, trading in a range between $2.202/MMBtu and $2.274/MMBtu. The US Energy Information Administration reported an injection of 98 Bcf into storage facilities in the week that ended October 4. A survey of analysts by S&P Global Platts found consensus expectations for an injection of 94 Bcf. "[We] saw a big number this morning, and it showed that the market is oversupplied," said Kent Bayazitoglu, senior market analyst at Gelber & Associates. "We think that the opening of the Gulf Coast Express Pipeline is a big part of that. It's allowing for more production and we're starting to see the impact of it." Kinder Morgan's Gulf Coast Express Pipeline entered full commercial service on September 25, adding takeaway capacity for the Permian Basin and making another 2 Bcf/d of supply available to the market. US dry gas production is predicted to gradually increase over the coming weeks, averaging 90.3 Bcf/d in the period eight to 14 days hence, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics. Dry gas production continues to hover above the year-to-date average of 88.1 Bcf/d. The National Weather Service predicted warmer-than-average temperatures across the entire US in its most recent outlook for November, December and January, with those prospects adding to the pressure on prices. Total US demand is forecast to decrease over the next few weeks. Demand is expected to total 70 Bcf Thursday, according to Platts Analytics, and average 67.3 Bcf/d in the period eight to 14 days forward.

Kentucky gas pipelines: Noise investigated in Adair County - Officials in Adair County, Kentucky, said they are investigating noises coming from a natural gas pipeline that runs through the area. The Adair County Emergency Management agency said in a news release Thursday the county sheriff was notified Sept. 24 of a noise coming from the Columbia Gulf Transmission Pipeline in the area of Knifley Road and Robinson Ridge Road. That area, in the unincorporated community of Knifley, is approximately 100 miles southeast of Louisville. The Columbia Gulf Transmission Pipeline is owned by TC Energy, a Calgary, Alberta-based energy infrastructure firm that was formerly known as TransCanada. TC Energy is the firm behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and is trying to advance that project after several years of delays stemming from lawsuits and protests over its anticipated environmental impact. The Columbia Gulf Transmission Pipeline carries natural gas over 3,300 miles through Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky and is interconnected to "virtually every major pipeline system in the Gulf Coast" and to additional Midwestern lines, according to TC Energy's website. A TC Energy spokesperson told The Courier Journal in an email Friday afternoon that engineers conducting tests on site "determined that the sound heard by nearby residents is being caused by sound waves reverberating along the pipe." "These sound waves do not pose a safety issue, and we want to ensure residents that after extensive assessment, the integrity of our pipe and system are safe to operate," the spokesperson said. "…We will continue to actively monitor the situation and investigate possible ways to address the noise levels." Adair County officials said they have met with TC Energy personnel on several occasions since the initial noise notification and are in "constant contact" with the firm's government relations and community affairs division.

350NH holds rally against Granite Bridge gas pipeline - - Opponents of the proposed Granite Bridge pipeline held signs and rallied Saturday in front of the old Town Hall. The effort led by 350NH pushed back against Liberty Utilities’ proposed 27-mile, 16-inch liquefied natural gas pipeline from Manchester to Exeter. The project would include a 150- to 170-foot high, 200-foot diameter tank capable of storing 2 billion cubic feet of gas in an abandoned quarry in Epping. According to Liberty’s estimates the project cost is $414 million. The project is before the state’s Public Utilities Commissions and a consultant it hired is not recommending approval of the pipeline, saying Liberty Utilities had not done enough to demonstrate it was the best option for meeting future energy needs. “That cost will be passed on to taxpayers,” said Annette Hanson, a 350NH member. “And why would we build such a project? Pipelines are dangerous - they explode. There have been incidents in Keene, Lawrence, Mass., and Farmington, Maine, to name a few. The project would cross the Lamprey River two times and if there are leaks, it will contaminate not only the river, but also the Great Bay estuary.” Heather Warr of 350NH said the group is working to create regional chapters including one in Exeter to fight the project.

Mayor, Lawmakers Object to $143M Gas Explosions Settlement   (AP) — Elected leaders in Massachusetts are demanding revisions to a plan to divide up a $143 million class action settlement from last September's natural gas disaster.Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera and four state lawmakers have proposed a new payout plan that includes $20 million for public safety improvements in light of a recent major gas leak in Lawrence.But utility company Columbia Gas says the settlement proposal is "not related at all" to the most recent leak.And lawyers who filed the class action lawsuit say they "do not have the option" to reallocate funds to government agencies since they aren't a party in the suit and have already settled their claims with Columbia Gas. An Essex County Superior Court judge heard arguments in the case Monday and is expected to rule later.

Hurricane Dorian spilled more than a million gallons in the Bahamas - Nearly 1.5 million gallons of oil have spilled since Hurricane Dorian destroyed an oil storage facility on Grand Bahama Island last month. The worst part? Equinor, the company that owns the oil facility, still isn’t done cleaning up the mess, which means the final total will be higher than it is right now. Erik Haaland, a press officer with Equinor, confirmed to Earther on Monday that the Norway-based company had recovered 35,000 barrels of oil as of Sunday. That amounts to 1.47 million gallons—and the company still hasn’t released a final estimate of oil lost.The number of barrels recovered thus far is nearly three times the amount the company said it had lost a week ago. The amount of lost oil stood at 12,000 barrels, which equals 504,000 gallons, Eskil Eriksen, another company press spokesperson, told Earther last week.The Equinor South Riding Point oil facility sits on the southern coast of Grand Bahama Island near the town of High Rock. It stored 75 million gallons of oil, Romauld Ferreira, the Bahamas’ environment and housing minister, told local news. But it remains unclear how much of that oil has been spilled into the environment. Enough has spilled to paint the on-site containers and leave a pungent smell throughout the area, according to those who have visited. And he clean-up effort has required 250 people and heavy machinery (such as vacuum trucks) on the ground. At more than a million gallons, the Grand Bahama Island spill one of the more significant single spills in recent history.  So far, authorities have noted that some birds and a goat were “impacted,” as local news reported. The facility sits along the ocean, and the company had spotted some oil offshore, though it hasn’t confirmed that the oil belongs to its facility. Oil is no good for marine ecosystems, especially the coral reefs that exist along the island’s coast. It’s no good for terrestrial ecosystems, either. Oil is toxic as hell—for plants, animals, and people.

5 million gallons of oil spilled from Bahamas storage facility... {weather New numbers released by an oil company in the Bahamas show that an estimated 5 million gallons of oil spilled from a Grand Bahama Island storage facility damaged during Hurricane Dorian.Equinor, the Norwegian company that owns the facility, revealed the numbers in a press release Wednesday. The company had previously said about 1.5 million gallons of oil had been recovered in cleanup efforts at the site, but had not released an estimate of the overall scope of the spill. Dorian's 185 mph winds blew the lids off six crude oil storage tanks at the Equinor facility. The company said the amount of oil spilled equaled about 6% of the total amount stored there."Most of the spilled volumes are within or near the terminal area," the news release said. "More of the oil will be recovered over the coming weeks as work progresses to empty containment berms surrounding the tanks."The calculation of oil spilled versus oil recovered will likely never fully match. This is due to the evaporation of oil and other natural processes."The Bahamas government has said that what was believed to be an oil slick in the ocean nearby was actually seaweed, and Equinor said aerial surveys have not shown any oil in the ocean. The statement from the government earlier this week said oil had spread to wooded areas 7 miles inland.  A reporter from WSVN.com who recently visited the area saw plants and insects covered in oil. Workers from Equinor were using backhoes and rakes to remove the damaged trees. The company said it had 250 workers involved in the cleanup. Both the national government and Equinor have come under fire in the wake of the spill. Environmentalists say it's a sign of things to come, and that facilities like Equinor's pose hazards in the wake of climate change.  "We're increasingly being shown that the behavior of these climate-linked extreme weather events is breaking records all the time," Jack Shapiro, project leader with Greenpeace's climate change leadership campaign, told the Huffington Post. "And with that is the evidence that there's no fossil fuel infrastructure that can truly be considered safe."

US Plans GOM Lease Sale for March 2020 - The Department of the Interior's Land and Mineral Management and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management are proposing a regionwide lease sale in March 2020 for 78 million acres in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Land and Mineral Management and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) are proposing a regionwide lease sale in March 2020 for 78 million acres in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico.Lease Sale 254 will include about 14,585 unleased blocks, located from three to 231 miles offshore, in the Gulf’s Western, Central and Eastern planning areas in water depths from nine to more than 11,115 feet. The following are excluded from the lease sale:

  • Blocks subject to the congressional moratorium established by the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006
  • Blocks adjacent to or beyond the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone in the area known as the northern portion of the Eastern Gap
  • Whole blocks and partial blocks within the current boundaries of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

It will be the sixth offshore sale under the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. The program includes 10 regionwide lease sales for the Gulf. Lease Sale 253, which was held Aug. 21, yielded almost $159.4 million in high bids for 151 tracts. “Offshore energy development is about furthering America’s energy security, ensuring fair market value to the taxpayers and producing domestic energy in an environmentally responsible manner,” said acting assistant secretary for the Department of Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond. “We all benefit from a strong offshore energy program, which provides thousands of well-paying jobs, as well as affordable and reliable energy Americans need to heat homes, fuel our cars and power our economy.”

Oil leak reported at Belle Chasse refinery; more than 50,000 gallons spilled, contained -  More than 50,000 gallons of crude oil leaked last week from the Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery in Belle Chasse, about 25 miles south of New Orleans, authorities said Tuesday. The leak, discovered Oct. 2, has been contained and is undergoing cleanup. Much of the oil seeped into the refinery's stormwater system. On Tuesday, the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator's Office said that nearly all the oil had been recovered. None of the oil escaped the refinery site, and no injuries were reported, state oil-spill responders said. The refinery's response team had located and secured the leak by Thursday morning, a refinery spokesman said. No impacts to the Mississippi River or to any wildlife were reported. The refinery is working with state wildlife officials to minimize the impact. The cause is under investigation. The 2,400-acre facility was built in 1971. It can process 10 million gallons of crude oil per day. It receives oil from the Gulf of Mexico via pipeline and ships.

Coast Guard responding to October 7 oil spill in North Pass (Reuters) - The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) on Wednesday said it is responding to an oil discharge, which occurred earlier this week, in North Pass, Louisiana. “An estimated 840 gallons of oil was released into the marsh and surrounding waterway. The source of discharge has been secured,” the USCG said in a statement. The Coast Guard said it received a report of oil discharged from a pipeline seal owned by Texas Petroleum Investment Co. in North Pass on Monday.

Oil spill at ITC Deer Park facility closes Houston Ship Channel for three hours - An oil spill at Intercontinental Terminals Co.'s Deer Park facility closed the Houston Ship Channel for nearly three hours on Saturday afternoon.The Coast Guard was called at 1:30 p.m. to ITC's Dock 1 near Deer Park, where inspectors found a punctured locomotive fuel tank had spilled up to 300 gallon of diesel into the waterway.Vacuum trucks, skimmers and a containment boom were deployed to the area, and the Houston Ship Channel from Tucker's Bayou to Lt. 133 was closed between 1:45 p.m. and 4:35 p.m. on Saturday. "At this time, there is no impact to the Houston Ship Channel," according to the Coast Guard, which added it will continue to monitor recovery efforts.

EP Energy files for bankruptcy amid struggles - Houston's EP Energy filed for bankruptcy protection Friday morning, the latest of a recent string of energy companies to pull the trigger on Chapter 11 bankruptcy.EP Energy is a Texas oil and gas producer that has struggled for years, finally reaching the tipping point amid continued depressed crude oil pricing and looming debt payments.EP Chief Executive Russell Parker said the company has debt restructuring deals with several creditors and will work with the remaining ones to develop a complete reorganization so the company can cut down on its debt load and return to viability. EP Energy, which focuses on South Texas' Eagle Ford shale and West Texas' Permian Basin, was warned near the beginning of the year that it had six months to develop a plan and regain compliance while continuing to trade on the world's largest stock exchange. Instead, EP's stock plunged further from just below $1 per share in January down to just pennies for most of this year. EP Energy still employed about 370 people in March, but that's less than half of the nearly 800 employees back in 2014.

US buyers seek crude grades that once made up blended WTI | S&P Global Platts (podcast) - International buyers of US crude exports are increasingly seeking specific grades that once made up the blended pool of West Texas Intermediate.Buyers can request these "neat" barrels, thanks in part to new pipelines from the Permian to the Texas Gulf Coast that allow shippers to separate different grades into batches. Jenna Delaney, S&P Global Platts Analytics' team lead of North American oil analytics, and Laura Huchzermeyer, Platts managing editor for America's crude oil, tell us how the US crude stream is getting lighter, what international buyers want in a WTI barrel, and about the emergence of new streams like West Texas Light and West Texas Condensate.

Texas Pipeline Expansion Would Avoid Aquifer --- Enterprise Products Partners L.P. (EPD) reported Friday that it will expand its Midland to ECHO crude oil pipeline system. The firm stated the project will link its 6 million-barrel Midland, Texas, storage facility to its ECHO Terminal in Houston through its Eagle Ford system in South Texas. EPD noted that its wholly owned affiliate, M2E4 LLC, has secured long-term agreements supporting the new pipeline construction. “The proposed route for this pipeline would originate from our Midland terminal and tie into our Eagle Ford system in South Texas,” A.J. “Jim” Teague, CEO of Enterprise’s general partner, said in a written statement. Teague added the new pipeline would bypass a major Texas groundwater source. “The route would avoid the Edwards Aquifer, including its recharge and contribution zones,” he said. According to EPD, the pipeline – set to begin service in the first half of 2021 – will boast an initial capacity of 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) but can be expanded to 540,000 bpd. The company added that its Houston crude oil distribution system includes more than 45 million barrels of storage and roughly 4 million bpd of export capacity via EPD’s marine terminal network. Also, EPD noted the system links to approximately 4.5 million bpd of refining capacity in the Houston, Texas City and Beaumont/Port Arthur areas. Besides providing new Permian crude takeaway capacity, the pipeline will help EPD to optimize its entire four-pipeline Midland to ECHO system, the company stated. It noted that it expects to achieve $60 million in annualized cost savings primarily by significantly reducing the use of costly drag-reducing agents and managing pump operations. 

New Permian Oil Pipelines Fail to Deliver Immediate Export Boost - Newly commissioned Permian Basin crude pipelines have yet to boost U.S. crude exports, as the ongoing U.S-China trade war weighs on demand from Asia. The U.S. Census Bureau said exports averaged 2.73 million barrels a day in August, up just 40,000 barrels from a month before. That’s despite the start of two widely anticipated crude pipelines from West Texas to the Gulf Coast. Plains All American LP’s began service on its Cactus II crude pipeline in August and loaded cargoes for export that month. EPIC Pipeline Co LP started operations on its oil pipe in August as well. But the lines, with a combined capacity of over 1 million barrels a day, may not be in full use.“A lot of capacity will eventually be online from those pipes, but it would take some time before all of that becomes available. We shouldn’t expect to see all of that show up in one month,” said John Coleman, an analyst at consultant Wood Mackenzie.Also, the U.S.-China trade war which has in part weakened global oil prices is affecting demand as well as production. Total U.S. crude production in July fell to the lowest levels since February, according to government data. Chinese buyers reduced their purchases in U.S. crude for August ahead of the start of a 5% tariff on American oil. “The U.S.-China trade war is adding to concerns of a weakening economic cycle,” said Fernando Valle, an oil analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “Chinese auto sales and industrial production are slowing and consequently the demand for crude from the single-largest importer in the world.”

Goodnight Midstream lands $500 million to expand oil field water operations - Dallas pipeline operator Goodnight Midstream landed $500 million in private equity funds to expand the company's oil field water operations. Tailwater Capital, a Dallas-based private equity firm has committed more than $500 million for Goodnight Midstream to expands its operations. Focused on moving freshwater and oilfield wastewater, Goodnight is active in Bakken Shale of North Dakota, the Permian Basin of West Texas and Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas. "With this capital flexibility, we will continue to meet the increasing demand from our customers for scalable produced water infrastructure solutions and remain focused on providing safe, reliable and environmentally sustainable produced water logistics services to our customers," Goodnight Midstream Co-Founder and CEO Patrick Walker said in a statement. The $500 million investment comes at a time when more oilfield wastewater — which is known in the industry as either produced water or saltwater — is being moved to disposal sites by pipeline rather than 18-wheelers. /p>

City of Kyle Reaches Settlement with Kinder Morgan — A multi-billion-dollar natural gas pipeline will soon be to coming to Central Texas. On Friday during a special called meeting, Kyle City Council approved a settlement agreement with the Permian Highway Pipeline, LLC, and Kinder Morgan Texas Pipeline, LLC. The agreement allows Kinder Morgan to construct the Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP) through the boundaries of the City of Kyle. It also provides protections for the city regarding how the pipeline affects existing infrastructure and future development projects. In July, Kinder Morgan filed a lawsuit against the City of Kyle for passing an ordinance regulating how pipelines can be installed in the city. The ordinance required Kinder Morgan to bury the pipeline 13-feet deep, to allow the city to put its wastewater lines or water lines streets over the top of the pipeline. Kinder Morgan sued the city saying that state and federal law prohibits cities from regulating pipelines. The City of Kyle amended the ordinance on September 11 to address some of the claims that its ordinance was inconsistent with state and federal law. “To be clear, this settlement has nothing to do with re-routing the pipeline out of the Hill Country,” said Travis Mitchell, Mayor, City of Kyle. “We still share in the concerns of thousands in our community who fear the impacts of the PHP on our safety and our environment. Settling this case has no bearing on those risks, which would have remained in full force either way.” “In a perfect world, this pipeline would have been routed through unincorporated areas of Texas — preferably those areas already established with oil infrastructure — minimizing the effect on landowners, local governments and our environment,” said Mitchell. “Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. Our city council and city staff have worked diligently with Kinder Morgan to develop this framework that will provide protections to the city that otherwise are not granted through current state and federal regulations. One such protection born from the settlement is that Kinder Morgan is no longer legally allowed to convert the pipeline from natural gas to crude oil. As I see it, this negotiated point can be celebrated by all who have stood with us for the last year.”

Why an oil and gas giant paid millions to a small Texas town --An American oil and gas pipeline giant paid millions to a small suburb of Austin, Texas to run a pipeline through the city after a settlement was reached last week. Houston-based Kinder Morgan agreed pay the City of Kyle, Texas $2.7 million, intended to protect the City from “undue” financial burdens associated with the Permian Highway Pipeline (PHP) which would run from the Permian Basin in Midland to the export markets along the Gulf Coast.In July, the Kyle City Council passed an ordinance that placed stricter regulations on the pipeline’s construction within the city limits, and Kinder Morgan subsequently sued the city while pointing to federal law that allegedly prohibits municipalities from regulating pipelines. The settlement was approved by the City on Oct. 4, but Kyle Mayor Travis Mitchel said the local residents still have concerns as to the line’s impact on the local community.“To be clear, this settlement has nothing to do with re-routing the pipeline out of the Hill Country,” said Mitchell said. “We still share in the concerns of thousands in our community who fear the impacts of the PHP on our safety and our environment.“Settling this case has no bearing on those risks, which would have remained in full force either way.”  Mitchell said he and the City would have preferred the line be routed through unincorporated areas of Texas rather than the town of about 39,000 per a 2016 estimate from the U.S. Census.  The settlement also calls on Kinder Morgan to work on alleviating remaining concerns for impacts to local infrastructure and bars the company from converting the natural gas line to crude oil.

Shale Jobs Drying Up in Permian Basin- It’s right there on country-music station 96.1 FM in Odessa, Texas, where commercials for shale-patch jobs used to fill the airways. Those kinds of radio ads have fallen by two-thirds, said Marks, the general manager for ICA Broadcasting LLC, which runs five stations in the area. Signs of a slowdown permeate the Permian Basin, the 55 million acres (22.3 million hectares) in West Texas and New Mexico whose abundant oil and widespread fracking fueled America’s quest for energy independence. Dragged into the downdraft of this year’s 19% drop in drilling are orders for everything from giant earth movers that build well-site roads to chemicals used to kill bacteria during hydraulic fracturing. Rig counts are down, hotel proceeds are declining, home sales are slowing and fewer jobs are available than just last year. “If you can’t wring out any costs savings then you’ve got to buy less stuff if you want to get your costs down, and that’s the phase we’re entering into,” said Jesse Thompson, senior business economist at the Houston branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “You’ve seen this work its way through on the manufacturing side as quickly if not more quickly than we saw in the rig count on the oilfield services side.” Through August, Permian employment has grown at an annualized rate of 0.7%, far less than the 11.4% growth of the same period last year, the Dallas Fed said Wednesday in its latest monthly report. Unemployment in August, the latest period available, is at 2.3%, inching up from the region’s low of 2% in May. Caterpillar Inc., which makes a wide range of equipment for the industry, such as generators and pumps used by drillers in the field, blamed the Permian for its lower second-quarter sales in oil and gas equipment. The company warned investors in July that annual profit will probably come in at the lower end of its forecasted range, in part because it has cut expectations for West Texas revenue. Last month, oil explorers slashed drilling work by the most in a single week since January 2016, when crude prices were headed to their lowest in 12 years. The number of Permian crews, who come in after the drilling teams to get wells ready for production, has tumbled every week since the end of July and now sits at a 30-month low. With fewer workers drilling and fracking, hotels are taking a hit. Revenue per available room declined 32%, year over year, in August, and year to date is down 21%, according to STR Inc., a research and consultant firm that tracks tourism data. By comparison, the figure for the U.S. as a whole, year to date, is a rise of 1.1%.

More Than 50% Of The Mighty Permian’s 2018 Oil Production Has Vaporized - As dark clouds gather on the financial horizon, big trouble is brewing in the U.S. Shale Oil Industry.  While most Americans are focused on the Mainstream media’s coverage of the ongoing Washington D.C. circus, the real threat to the domestic economy lies in the country’s oil heartland.  And, if we look at what is taking place in the United States’ largest shale oil region, the signs are troubling. The Permian Oil Basin in Texas and New Mexico accounts for nearly half (46%) of the total U.S. shale oil production.   According to the data from Shaleprofile.com, Permian’s oil production peaked in May at 3.43 million barrels per day.  Due to the massive decline rate, production in the Permian has stalled this year.The chart below shows the Permian oil production declining even though more wells continue to be brought online.  Unfortunately, there aren’t enough wells being added to offset the tremendous decline rate.  You will notice how quickly the oil production that was added in 2018 (Light Blue color) has declined in just half a year:  To give you a better idea of the huge decline rate in Permian oil production, let’s only focus on 2018 and 2019 in the following charts.  But, before doing so, I wanted to let everyone know that this information would not be possible without the data from Shaleprofile.com.  I highly recommend that you check outShaleprofile.com and consider subscribing to the service if you want to be able to access more details in the shale industry.  It’s worth its weight in gold.Let’s look at the Permian oil production just for 2018.  Permian oil production brought on in 2018 peaked in December at 2,136,000 barrels oil per day (bopd) or 2,136K bopd, and declined to 1,056K bopd by July 2019. That is a STUNNING 50.5% decline in just seven months: The next chart shows the Permian oil production that was brought online from Jan-July 2019 increased to 1,308K bopd, or 1.3 million barrels per day:  Unfortunately, the 2,493 wells completed so far in 2019 haven’t been enough to show much overall oil production growth in the Permian.  If we combine both 2018 and 2019, here is the result: Even though the companies drilling and completing wells in the Permian added 2,493 new wells so far in 2019, overall production from these two years only increased by a net 221K bopd (221,000 bopd).  Thus, of the 1,308K bopd of the new output brought on in 2019, 1,087K bopd was already lost due to the massive decline rate of 2018’s production.

 Chevron CEO touts Texas growth, urges industry improvements on emissions - The CEO of Chevron touted the company's Texas growth - from the Permian Basin to Houston refining and chemicals - and urged the energy sector to take the lead on emissions reductions to help combat climate change. Speaking at the Greater Houston Partnership's annual "State of Energy" luncheon, Chevron Chief Executive Mike Wirth praised the Houston area as a place to do business and grow. "I think this area will be the center of the energy universe for a long time to come," Wirth said. Chevron just recently bought the Pasadena Refinery in the region, continues to expand its petrochemical footprint in Baytown and Sweeny through its Chevron Phillips Chemical joint venture, and keeps growing offshore in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. Another major area of growth is in the booming Permian Basin in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. Noting that Chevron was criticized a few years ago for moving slowly in the Permian on its large legacy acreage, Wirth said that was by design. "What is in our wheelhouse is methodically planning and executing," he said, and doing "factory drilling – the same thing over and over again." Chevron has emerged as the second-largest producer in the Permian. Chevron would have claimed the top spot this year if it had won the bidding against Houston's Occidental Petroleum to buy The Woodlands-based Anadarko Petroleum. Instead, Oxy paid $38 billion for the honor and Chevron walked away with a $1 billion breakup fee from Anadarko. Rival Exxon Mobil is by far the most active driller in the Permian and quickly playing catch up. Wirth also noted that Chevron took it slow in the Permian in part so it could have all the pipeline hookups in place to reduce emissions and flaring - the burning off of associated natural gas collected during oil production. Chevron in recent years already has reduced its flaring of methane from natural gas production from about 4 percent down to less than 1 percent - better than industry averages in the region. "The industry should be out and in front on this," Wirth said about reducing emissions 

 Recent decrease in U.S. crude oil production was geographically isolated, likely temporary --Monthly U.S. crude oil production fell by 276,000 barrels per day (b/d) in July 2019, based on the latest data in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Petroleum Supply Monthly. This hurricane-related decrease was the largest decline in monthly crude oil production in more than a decade. The decline was temporary and geographically isolated to the Federal Offshore Gulf of Mexico. EIA expects that U.S. crude oil production will continue to increase through the remainder of 2019.Crude oil production in the Federal Offshore Gulf of Mexico fell by 332,000 b/d in July when some production platforms were evacuated in anticipation of Hurricane Barry. According to information from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), 283 offshore oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico (about 42% of the regional total) were evacuated in mid-July as Barry approached.BSEE estimated that about 70% of Gulf of Mexico crude oil production was shut in (i.e., not operating) at the peak of the disruption as a result of the evacuation. Excluding the Federal Offshore Gulf of Mexico, U.S. crude oil production in the rest of the United States rose by a combined 56,000 b/d in July, partially mitigating the disruption. Historically, many of the largest monthly declines in U.S. crude oil production were the result of hurricanes. Hurricanes Gustav and Ike led to crude oil production falling by more than 1 million barrels per day in September 2008. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita led to a similar month-on-month decline in September 2005.By comparison, Hurricane Barry’s disruption occurred relatively early in the hurricane season and had less of an effect on total U.S. crude oil production. As onshore U.S. crude oil production has grown, the Gulf of Mexico’s share of the national total has fallen from a high of 29% in 2009 to 16% in 2018.

 US oil, gas rig count falls by 12 this week to 919: Enverus/DrillingInfo— The US oil and gas rig count fell by 12 rigs to 919 this week, continuing a downward trend since late 2018 as drilling activity gradually slowed in most of the domestic large unconventional basins, according to Enverus/Drilling Info data, released Thursday. And with the prospect of stagnant or slightly lower oil prices going forward, analysts believe the rig count could continue ticking down, analysts said, even though operators have increasingly been able to produce more oil with fewer rigs. "Operators are finding themselves now in a similar spot to when we started the year: a weaker crude price environment coupled with the continued push to satisfy investors," through reining in capital budgets and returning more cash to shareholders, said analyst Sami Yahya of S&P Global Platts Analytics. Since the recent US rig count peak of 1,233 last November, more than 300 oil and gas rigs, or 25%, have left domestic fields as oil prices have zig-zagged and in the last couple of months, dropped from former levels in the high $50s/b to low $60s/b. In the last four weeks alone, industry has dropped 30 rigs. Oil prices have dropped in October to the low $50s/b as demand remained jittery after a drone attack on Saudi oil infrastructure last month sent prices up to the high $50s/b. This week, WTI averaged $52.65/b, down $1.89, while WTI Midland averaged $53.50/b, down $1.90, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics data. The Bakken Shale Composite price was $47.04/b on average, down $1.01. Gas at Henry Hub in Louisiana averaged $2.25/MMBtu, down 12 cents, while at Dominion South, the price averaged just $1.10/MMBtu, down 30 cents. The latest Dallas Federal Reserve Bank energy survey in late September found low crude and natural gas prices to be respondents' biggest concern, followed by limited capital and credit. "Unless there is a material pullback, the environment is static around $55/b,"  This week, just three of the eight large named US basins saw rig gains. The gas-prone Haynesville Shale in East Texas/Northwest Louisiana picked up three rigs ro 56, while the Denver-Julesburg Basin in Colorado and Utica Shale of Ohio each gained one rig. That raised the total in the DJ to 25 and the Utica to 16, Enverus said. Otherwise, decreases were seen in all other basins. The largest this week was in the Permian Basin of West Texas/New Mexico, which fell by five rigs to 412. Two other basins, the SCOOP-STACK in Oklahoma and the Williston Basin in North Dakota/Montana, each fell by three rigs. That left the Oklahoma play with 53 rigs and the Williston with 56. The Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas declined by two rigs, leaving 70, while one rig left each of the Marcellus Dry and Marcellus Wet basins, for a total 25 in Dry and 17 in Wet.

Wisconsin tribe says 'remove Line 5' despite Enbridge offer of $24M - A tribe in Northern Wisconsin still wants Line 5 off their land, despite a $24 million offer from Enbridge.The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa sued Enbridge Energy earlier this year, asking them to immediately shut down the portion of the Line 5 oil pipeline that runs through their reservation.The tribe says easements allowing Enbridge to operate the pipeline have expired. The company disputes that. Last week, Enbridge offered Bad River $12 million to settle the lawsuit and $2 million a year to keep operating the pipeline on their land for the time being. The company also said it’s exploring rerouting Line 5 outside the reservation and promised an extra $10 million to the tribe if that happens. In an email statement, Enbridge spokesman Ryan Duffy said the company would also still be interested in keeping Line 5 on the reservation permanently. "Enbridge remains open to discussing a settlement with the band based on a longer-term operation of Line 5 within the reservation where the band and Enbridge could commit to on-going cooperation on maintenance, including band employment and economic development opportunities," But the Bad River Band just wants the company to leave the watershed. In a statement on his Facebook page, Tribal Chairman Mike Wiggins says he won't use the term "rejection" in regards to the settlement offer, because that might imply there was some kind of negotiation process. "When it comes to the Bad River Tribe and Enbridge’s latest public manipulation strategy, to throw monetary terms around in the media, our Tribal Council's position has never wavered," says Wiggins. "Enbridge’s expired leases were rejected and our litigation is rooted in the protection of the Bad River Watershed hydrology. Whatever that ends up looking like for Enbridge is their problem. Decommissioning and removing the whole of Line 5 sounds like a great start."

Fires, explosions and toxic releases: Front Range residents fight fracking boom - For Barb Binder, the bad news arrived with a knock on the door. That’s when she learned from a local activist that a patch of open public space across from her “forever home” in Broomfield County, theDenver suburb where she and her husband planned to retire, was about to become an industrial site. Initially, she was comforted by the thought that state officials would not possibly allow residential hydraulic fracturing – or fracking, as it is known – to begin if it was not safe. But two years on Binder feels naive for being so trusting. She believes her asthma has become worse since the construction near her home began, and blames the drilling mud that has been used on the site. And then there is the constant worry. “I had to educate myself about exactly what’s involved in industrial-scale fracking,” she says. “It meant looking at the dangers – the fires, the explosions, the toxic releases, and recognising: ‘Oh my God, I am going to be living right next to this.’” Binder now spends most of her free time opposing the plans of Extraction Oil and Gas, the Denver-based company that has plans to construct 84 wells around her neighbourhood, 16 of them “literally” – she says – in her backyard.She is not alone. Since the advent of the fracking boom in oil-rich Colorado – where there has been a fivefold increase in oil and gas production since 2008 – new wells and production sites have sprung up around residential neighbourhoods in the Front Range faster than environmental researchers can track them.There are 40,000 active and inactive wells across the Denver basin, and new permits issued every month for more. They are built close to schools, playgrounds, and clusters of family homes. The boom has coincided with anecdotal tales of ill-effects – from children’s nosebleeds to asthma – and a health study that shows more children being born with congenital heart defects in areas of Colorado with high-intensity oil and gas activity compared with areas where there is low or no activity.  And there have been accidents. In 2017, two men were killed, and a woman and child injured, after a house in Firestone, Colorado, exploded because of a leak of “fugitive gas” from an uncapped pipeline that was connected to a gas well near the home. Erin Martinez, who lost her husband and brother in the blast, has moved house again after a new well began construction across from her home.

Trump's fast-tracking of oil pipelines hits legal roadblocks – (Reuters) - The Trump administration’s effort to cut red tape and speed up major energy projects has backfired in the case of the three biggest U.S. pipelines now planned or under construction.  All three have been stalled by successful legal challenges by environmental groups alleging the administration failed to apply the regulatory scrutiny required under the law. The Republican administration tried to accelerate permits for two multi-billion-dollar natural gas lines and jumpstart the long-stalled Keystone XL crude oil pipeline that would start in Canada. Judges halted construction on all three over the past two years, ruling that the administration granted permits without conducting adequate studies or providing enough alternatives to protect endangered species or national forests. The delays have caused the two giant gas pipelines - Dominion Energy Inc’s Atlantic Coast and EQM Midstream Partners LP’s Mountain Valley - to increase their cost estimates by hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the companies. The Atlantic Coast pipeline may never be completed unless the U.S. Supreme Court overturns a lower-court decision blocking its planned route, analysts said. Lawsuits alleging regulatory lapses are not new, but they were unsuccessful during the administration of Trump’s predecessor, Democrat Barack Obama. Plaintiffs lost five separate lawsuits alleging regulatory failures during Obama’s administration, according to a Reuters review of court filings for major interstate gas pipes built since 2010. “Environmental groups definitely have been going after these pipelines more aggressively,” said Amy Vazquez, Houston-based partner at the law firm of Jones Walker, who specializes in energy litigation. “It’s probably because they’re having a fair bit of success.”

Flurry of Keystone XL pre-construction activity resumes - The Canadian company that wants to build the Keystone XL crude-oil pipeline has informed a court that it will spray weeds, haul pipe, move work-camp modular housing and cut down trees beginning this month in South Dakota and Montana in preparation for construction of the pipeline next year. On Sept. 20, TC Energy filed a status report with a federal court in Montana that is handling an ongoing lawsuit about the proposed pipeline. The status report notes that a federal appeals court lifted the Montana court's injunction against the project in June. "Thereafter TC Energy (formerly TransCanada) returned to planning for the pre-construction activities so that construction of the Keystone XL pipeline could begin in 2020," the status report says. Meanwhile, litigation concerning the project remains pending, and opponents of the project have pledged to keep fighting against it. In South Dakota, the state Water Management Board began two days of hearings Thursday on several water permits requested for the project, for purposes such as directional drilling, hydrostatic testing, dust control and work-camp supply. The status report filed in Montana federal court says some pre-construction activities, which had been suspended while the injunction was in effect, will resume on privately owned land this month. TC Energy plans to eradicate weeds along the pipeline right-of-way in South Dakota and Montana by dispatching workers to hand-spray herbicides. At pipe yards in South Dakota, TC Energy plans to resume groundskeeping activities and transportation of pipe to the yards by train and truck.

For Indigenous Women, More Pipelines Mean More Threats of Sexual Violence Later this month, the South Dakota Water Management Board will be holding five hearings on water permits needed for the Keystone XL pipeline expansion, which will cross several rivers as it makes its way from the tar sands in Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska. If the pipeline expansion is approved — it’s been on hold for nearly a decade — it will affect several tribal and First Nations communities along its route. Tribal activists fear this will bring not only economic and environmental impacts, but also sexual violence. Angeline Cheek, a community advocate on the Fort Peck Reservation in Northeastern Montana, is vehemently opposed to the extension. As proposed, Keystone XL would cross just a few miles from the western side of the reservation. On the eastern side, across the North Dakota border, are the Bakken oil fields.Cheek’s organization provides workshops and information to reservation residents on the dangers of man camps in the Bakken area. Man camps are large company-owned housing units that people who come to work in the oil fields can move into. With the Bakken oil boom, these man camps have increased in the region. Population growth because of an extractive industry leads to a surge of individuals — mostly men — who are paid well and living temporarily in rural areas they aren’t otherwise connected to. Since the boom, violent crime, sex trafficking, and rape cases have increased, according to tribal police and local activists. Though the group has received support from some tribal programs and the broader community, tribal leadership has not signed onto the community safety plan. “I have relatives here who I don’t want to go missing,” Cheek said. “The tribe needs to start thinking ahead. …The tribe should be doing the work I’m doing. They should be thinking of preventative ways to keep the community safe.” National attention turned to the Bakken in 2012, when Sherry Arnold, a white teacher, was raped and murdered by two men who came to the Bakken in search of work. Yet many Native victims don’t receive this kind of support,  Cheek said. “When something happens to an Indigenous person, to a Native person, why isn’t that being heard? We’re just another number.”

Keystone construction activities put on hold - Many Keystone XL pipeline pre-construction activities that were scheduled for this month have now been put on hold, attorneys for TC Energy have reported.Late last month, attorneys for the Canadian company filed a status update in a lawsuit in Montana federal court. The update said the company would soon begin spraying weeds, hauling pipe, moving work-camp modular housing and cutting down trees in South Dakota and Montana in preparation for construction of the pipeline next year. That update, which was filed Sept. 20, noted that an injunction against the project had been lifted in June. On Thursday, lawyers for TC Energy backtracked and wrote, "Subsequently, TC Energy informed counsel that it is continuing to assess the appropriate timeline for conducting preconstruction activities.""With the exception of weed eradication," the new status update said, "which is already complete, and the orderly winddown of certain road upgrade work," further preconstruction work will not occur until, at the earliest, after a hearing scheduled today in a related lawsuit in federal court.

Montana AG Fox seeks to intervene in lawsuit in support of Keystone XL pipeline ~ Montana Attorney General Tim Fox petitioned U.S. District Court in Great Falls Monday to intervene in a lawsuit that seeks to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. Fox wants to enter the lawsuit in support of the pipeline. In a written statement, Fox – who is running for the Republican nomination for governor – said the pipeline “will bring jobs and economic development to Montana.” “The obstructionist litigation against it has dragged on for far too long,” he said. “It’s time to settle the matter and begin construction.” If eventually constructed, the pipeline would begin in Alberta, Canada, and connect to an existing pipeline in Nebraska. It Montana, it would run through Phillips, Valley, McCone, Dawson, Prairie and Fallon counties and would include an “on ramp” allowing transport of Montana oil to refineries. In July, conservation groups sued the Army Corps of Engineers for its “rubber-stamp approval” of a permit for the pipeline. Filed by Northern Plains Resource Council, Bold Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth says wildlife, the lawsuit contends that streams and wetlands would be harmed by the Keystone XL. The lawsuit contends “that no federal agency has yet completed the requisite analysis” of the 1,200-mile pipeline and infrastructure.

Swedish teen climate activist rallies crowd in South Dakota (AP) — A 16-year-old environmental activist from Sweden urged politicians Monday at a South Dakota appearance to listen to indigenous people on climate change. Greta Thunberg spoke at a rally in Rapid City that attracted hundreds of people. She spoke out against the proposed path of the Keystone XL pipeline through South Dakota, which she said is “not morally defensible.” “Indigenous peoples have been leading this fight for centuries,” Thunberg said. “They have taken care of the planet and they have lived in balance with nature and we need to make sure that they’re voices are being heard. We need to listen to them because they have knowledge that is valuable right now.” Also speaking was Tokata Iron Eyes, a 16-year-old from Pine Ridge who planned the rally and invited Thunberg to speak at the Pine Ridge and Standing Rock reservations. “We are marching for our lives, we are marching for climate justice and we are marching for indigenous rights at the same time — because those two things go hand in hand,” Iron Eyes said. “There’s no one without the other. Indigenous people need to be in the forefront of the climate movement because we are the frontline communities who are suffering the most from this crisis and Greta knows that.”

We’re Just Starting to Learn How Fracking Harms Wildlife - In January 2015 North Dakota experienced one of the worst environmental disasters in its history: A pipeline burst, spilling nearly 3 million gallons of briny, saltwater waste from nearby oil-drilling operations into two creek beds. The wastewater, which flowed all the way to the Missouri River, contained chloride concentrations high enough to kill any wildlife that encountered it.It wasn't the first such disaster in the state. In 2006 a spill of close to 1 million gallons of fracking wastewater into the Yellowstone River resulted in a mass die-off of fish and plants. Cleanup of that spill was still ongoing at the time of the 2015 spill, nearly a decade later. Spills like these highlight the dangers that come with unconventional fossil-fuel extraction techniques that go after hard-to-reach pockets of oil and gas using practices like horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing (otherwise known as fracking). But events like these massive spills are just the tip of the iceberg. Other risks to wildlife can be more contained, subtle or hidden.   But those consequences are very real for a vast suite of animals including mussels, birds, fish, caribou and even fleas, and they're as varied as the species themselves. In some places wildlife pays the price when habitat is destroyed. Elsewhere the damage occurs when water is sucked away or polluted. Still other species can't take the traffic, noise and dust that accompany extraction operations.All this damage makes sense when you think about fracking's outsized footprint. It starts with the land cleared for the well pad, followed by sucking large volumes of water (between 1.5 and 16 million gallons per well) out of rivers, streams or groundwater.Then there's the sand that's mined for use during the fracturing of underground rock to release natural gas or oil. There are also new pipelines, compressor stations and other related infrastructure that need to be constructed. And there's the truck traffic that surges during operations, or the disposal of fracking wastewater, either in streams or underground. "Studies show that there are multiple pathways to wildlife being harmed," said ecologist Sandra Steingraber, a distinguished scholar in residence at Ithaca College who has worked for a decade compiling research on thehealth effects of fracking. "Biodiversity is a determinant of public health — without these wild animals doing ecosystem services for us, we can't survive."

Oil spill reported in McKenzie County -- The North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality has reported a produced water and oil spill in McKenzie County. A leak in a tank resulted in about 400 barrels of produced water, which is a by-product of oil and gas development, and about 200 barrels of oil to be released. The tank is located on a well pad about 11 miles Northeast of Grassy Butte and is operated by White Rock Oil & Gas. Most of the spill was contained to the well pad, but an unknown amount of the spill did leave the pad, impacting Badlands terrain. The cause of the leak is unknown at this time. Personnel from the NDDEQ are inspecting the site and will continue to monitor the investigation and remediation.

As the Bakken booms, North Dakota eyes plastics - As pump jacks pull more and more oil out of shale rock buried deep below the western part of the state, an increasing amount of natural gas travels up through the wells with few obvious destinations in North Dakota.  Oil producers burn off some of the gas at well sites because the state has maxed out its processing plants and pipelines that carry the rest of it to market, often out of state. While the bulk of North Dakota gas is methane, it’s also rich in hydrocarbons like ethane, propane and butane, which are known as “natural gas liquids” because they can take on a liquid form under certain pressures and temperatures.  “If you look at the other shale plays, the Bakken is at the top of the pack,” North Dakota Pipeline Authority Director Justin Kringstad told the state’s Industrial Commission last week.  The Bakken might be richer in natural gas liquids than gas produced in places such as the mid-Atlantic and the Gulf Coast, but North Dakota lacks something that those areas do have: a petrochemical industry that uses substances such as ethane to make products like plastics or fertilizers.   The potential to do the same in North Dakota has a lot of people involved in energy here talking. “What you hear from the companies when you start poking around is there’s somewhere between five and 10 companies that are actively looking for projects over the next five to 10 years worldwide,” Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford said. North Dakota faces competition from places like Texas, where a company could leverage an old, defunct industrial site and tap into existing infrastructure, he said. Then there’s the Utica and Marcellus shale plays in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia that produce vast quantities of natural gas.  Alberta, Canada, is home to the petrochemical industry as well, and state officials have not only made trips there this year but are in talks with “a few” companies about setting up shop in North Dakota, Sanford said. He declined to name the companies, citing nondisclosure agreements.

Trump Admin to Open 725000 Acres of California to Oil & Gas Drilling - Democracy Now! -  In the United States, the Trump administration moved Friday to open more than 720,000 acres of California land to oil and gas drilling. Environmentalists have vowed to sue to block what would be the first federal fossil fuel lease sales since 2013. Clare Lakewood, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “Turning over these spectacular wild places to dirty drilling and fracking will sicken Californians, harm endangered species, and fuel climate chaos.”

US government opens California land to oil, gas drilling — The federal government has opened 725,000 acres in Central California to oil and gas drilling on land that has been off-limits since 2013. The Bureau of Land Management issued its final decision Friday to allow oil and gas leases on plots that are mostly in the Central Valley, but also include parts of the Central Coast. The plan announced in May is part of a Trump administration goal to make the U.S. energy independent that has been criticized as a giveaway to industry. Environmentalists who successfully blocked the Obama administration from opening the land to drilling criticized the new development. The Center for Biological Diversity called the effort reckless and says it will continue to fight the government. The BLM says additional approval will be required for before any drilling.

Trump opening California public land to fracking, gas leases. Is it 'reckless'? - The Trump administration has finalized its plans to open hundreds of thousands of acres of federal land in Central California to oil and gas leasing, paving the way for more fracking to soon begin in the state. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved the oil and gas exploration plan "based on the administration's goal of strengthening energy independence and the BLM support of an all-of-the-above energy plan that includes oil and gas underlying America's public lands," it said in its record of decision released Friday. The agency received more than 400 objections of its proposed leasing plan over a 30-day protest period, according to its final report. BLM officials ruled that none of them was valid. According to the decision, oil and gas drilling can move forward on more than 700,000 acres of public land and mineral estate in Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Stanislaus Counties. The agency's plan could result in up to 37 new oil and gas wells drilling on new land leases over the next 20 years, primarily in Fresno, Monterey and San Benito counties. BLM estimates that the oil and gas industry directly supports 3,000 jobs and $623 million in tax revenue within those counties. BLM, which is a division of the Department of Interior, is also considering a proposal to conduct new oil and gas development on 1.6 million acres of public land in Southern California. The planning area, which covers Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties, includes about 400,000 acres of public land and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate, according to the report. BLM has not yet finalized that proposal. While California remains one of the largest oil producing states in the nation, production has steadily declined over the last three decades. Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney at the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity, called the decision on the Central California leasing proposal "reckless." "Turning over these spectacular wild places to dirty drilling and fracking will sicken Californians, harm endangered species and fuel climate chaos. We'll fight tooth and nail to make sure it doesn't happen," Lakewood said in a statement from the group. The Center for Biological Diversity was behind the lawsuit that effectively halted BLM oil and gas leasing in California since 2013. A U.S. District Court ruled that BLM failed to consider the environmental impacts of fracking when evaluating drilling leases, forcing the federal government to restart the planning process.

Will California’s Brand As The Denizen Of Green Energy Be Tarnished By Allowing New Drilling In Its Coastal Areas? The Trump administration has decided once again to butt heads with the state of California. The issue now is not over vehicle fuel standards but rather, it is about drilling off-shore in public areas. The measure would give oil and gas producers access to 725,500 acres from central to northern California. The move is consistent with the president’s positions on increasing domestic oil and gas supplies. But it makes a stronger political statement than it does a practical one: while companies can apply for leases to drill, they must still overcome legal and regulatory hurdles. In other words, environmental groups will contest this in court even before any entity may try and get a permit to drill. And all that risks is topped by the fact that drilling is unproven in those waters. Moreover, “In California, we're already well on our way to energy independence and we're doing it in the smart way. This is 2019, not 1920. We don't need to jeopardize our health or our environment to develop the energy sources we need,” California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.   Specifically, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management said on Friday that up to 37 new oil and gas leases will be developed over 20 years in the contested region. The move would end a six-year moratorium that began in 2013 when a federal judge ruled that the fossil fuel companies had not given adequate attention to the environmental impact from hydraulic fracturing. In May 2019, though, the bureau completed its examination and concluded that any future drilling would be both safe and wildlife-friendly. It emphasized that its decision does not authorize any production — just the ability to apply for leases. The bureau also said that 3,000 jobs and $620 million in tax revenue could be generated from allowing drilling off the coast of central California.

Northwest fight creates 'big fear' in U.S. oil industry -- Oil companies and several states are pressing federal officials to overturn a Washington state law aimed at improving the safety of crude shipped by rail, saying it could create chaos in the nation's transportation system and affect other industries. But environmentalists say the law is critical for preventing fires and deadly explosions.

 Elizabeth Warren’s Fracking Proposal Has Shale Investors Weighing E&P Risk - The prospect of Elizabeth Warren becoming the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, or the 46th president of the U.S., has energy investors worrying about risks to hydraulic fracturing. “What happens if Elizabeth Warren becomes president and bans fraccing?” was the most common question Sanford C. Bernstein received during recent marketing, analysts led by Bob Brackett said in note Tuesday. They don’t currently have a good answer. Concern on Wall Street has been rising along with Warren’s poll numbers, with sectors such as financials, health care and industrials as well as energy identified among those at risk from her policy proposals. In early September, Warren tweeted that she would ban fracking “everywhere” if she becomes president: The former part of Warren’s plan would have a modest longer-term impact given the “mature state” of areas such as onshore Alaska or the federal Gulf of Mexico, according to Bernstein. However, a fracking ban would offer “much more immediate consequences,” and be “incredibly bullish for both global oil prices and U.S. natural gas prices.” Federal leasing changes could have the most impact on shale drillers such as EOG Resources Inc. and Devon Energy Corp., Brackett said. Kosmos Energy, Hess Corp., Apache Corp. and ConocoPhillips may have little to worry about from a fracking ban, however. Still, any impact from a Warren win may be short-lived. “We have a government with checks and balances,” Brackett noted, pointing to processes which have caused executive orders to be moderated. He also highlighted the ability of E&Ps to re-allocate capital to mitigate effects. And, as RBC Capital Markets wrote earlier this week, most of the sectors seen to be at high risk “are already deeply undervalued versus the broader market.”

Capital Flight Is Killing The US Shale Boom - The growth in U.S. shale production is grinding to a halt as low prices put drillers in a financial vice.The slowdown has been unfolding for much of 2019, but the latest slide in oil prices is another blow to cash-strapped companies. Share prices for many E&Ps are down sharply. For instance, Devon Energy’s stock is down 20 percent since mid-September; EOG Resources is off by 17 percent and Pioneer Natural Resources is down by more than 13 percent. Many other companies have seen similar declines.Rig counts have fallen by 20 percent since last year, drilling is down, hotel rates are down, and employment is in decline. “If you can’t wring out any costs savings then you’ve got to buy less stuff if you want to get your costs down, and that’s the phase we’re entering into,” Jesse Thompson, senior business economist at the Houston branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, told Bloomberg.As Bloomberg noted, annualized employment grew only 0.7 percent through August, compared to 11.4 percent for the same period in 2018. The unemployment rate has ticked up from 2 to 2.3 percent. The number of fracking crews has fallen to its lowest level in 30 months.For embattled shale drillers, there is another imminent hurdle that they must clear. For the first time since 2016, Permian shale drillers could see their access to borrowing slashed. Lenders periodically reassess the borrowing base that they offer to oil and gas producers, a so-called “credit redetermination” period. According to a survey of financial institutions as well as oil and gas firms by law firm Haynes and Boone, the industry is set to see “a decrease in credit availability for producers and a strong interest in alternative sources of capital.”In other words, lenders are turning o ff the spigots.

Will the Fracking Revolution Peak Before Ever Making Money? - This week, the Wall Street Journal highlighted that the U.S. oil and gas shale industry, already struggling financially, is now facing “core operational issues.” That should be a truly frightening prospect for investors in American fracking operations, but one which DeSmog has long been warning of.  This one line from the Journal sums up the problems: “Unlike several years ago, when shale production fell due to a global price collapse, the slowdown this year is driven partly by core operational issues, including wells producing less than expected after being drilled too close to one another, and sweet spots running out sooner than anticipated.”  As we have reported at DeSmog over the last year and a half, the shale oil and gas industry, which has driven the recent boom in American oil and gas production, has been on a more than decade-long money-losing streak, with estimated losses of approximately a quarter trillion dollars. Those losses have continued in 2019.  This failure to generate profits led to the Financial Times recently reporting that shale investors are having a “crisis of faith” and turning away from U.S. oil and gas investments. That’s been bad news for frackers because the entire so-called “shale revolution” was fueled by massive borrowing, and these companies are increasingly declaring bankruptcy, unable to pay back what they borrowed because they haven’t been turning a profit. Scott Forbes, a vice president with leading energy industry research firm Wood Mackenzie, also has noted the structural problems in the finances of the fracking industry, referring to the current business model as “unsustainable.”  When DeSmog first began reporting on the failed finances of the fracking industry, publications like the Wall Street Journal were writing about the optimistic financial future for shale companies. A year and a half later, that optimism has died. But all of these dynamics played out before the industry ran up against “core operational issues.” Over the last 10 years, the fracking industry has made impressive gains with technological improvements that have resulted in lower costs and higher performing wells. But despite these improvements, shale companies have failed to be profitable, and two years ago, industry analysts at Wood MacKenzie were warning about the limits of technology in overcoming geology. More recently, the industry’s attempts to extract more oil and gas out of the shale — dubbed Fracking 2.0 by the Wall Street Journal — have flopped. Even the longest drilled wells have not made money, indicating a limit to optimal well length. Likewise, attempts to drill many wells in the same area — so-called cube development — haven’t been the financial savior the industry needs either.

TD raises fracking concerns in Port of Cork's deal with US firm for LNG imports - The Port of Cork says there is "a lot of groundwork to complete" when it comes to finalising a deal to import gas through Cork harbour. In 2017, the port signed a memorandum of understanding with US company Next Decade and its partners to explore a joint development opportunity for a new Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) and associated liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal infrastructure in Ireland. The LNG would be sourced from Next Decade’s proposed Rio Grande LNG export facility at the Port of Brownsville in South Texas. Announcing the deal in 2017, the Port of Cork said it would provide "a source of competitively-priced energy to Ireland and its partners". Last week, the Government was accused of hypocrisy as it backed proposals for a Kerry-based Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import terminal that would, if approved, facilitate the import of fracked gas from the United States. It came just a short time after the country introduced a domestic ban on gas fracking. Cork North-Central TD, Mick Barry, has raised further concerns about existing agreements, specifically raising the matter of the Port of Cork's deal with Next Decade. The Solidarity TD said: "People in Cork have a particular interest in this issue. The privatised Port of Cork has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a US company to explore the question of importation of LNG from the US to Cork.

Equinor starts production at giant Johan Sverdrup oilfield (Reuters) - Oil and gas firm Equinor has started production at its giant Johan Sverdrup oilfield in the North Sea, the largest offshore development in Norway since the 1980s, the Norwegian company said on Saturday. The Phase 1 development of the 2.7 billion barrels of oil equivalents field is expected to reach plateau production of 440,000 barrels of oil equivalents per day (boepd) during the summer of 2020, the company added in a statement. Sverdrup is expected to reach its full output of 660,000 boepd when its Phase 2 development is put on stream at the end of 2022. “At peak, this field will account for around one third of all oil production in Norway and deliver very valuable barrels with record low emissions,” said Eldar Sætre, president and chief executive of Equinor. Equinor has previously said it expected cash flow from operations of around $50 a barrel in 2020, based on a real oil price of $70 a barrel, partly as a result of the phasing of tax payments in the ramp-up phase. Equinor’s Chief Financial Officer Lars Christian Bacher told Reuters in September that Sverdrup, with expected operating costs below $2 a barrel, was “probably the best oilfield development in the world”.

Pipelines From Russia Cross Political Lines - The New York Times — President Trump said “it really makes Germany a hostage to Russia.” Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said it would encourage Russian “military adventurism.” Radoslaw Sikorski, the former Polish defense minister, compared it to the infamous 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that allied the Nazis with Stalin’s Soviet Union.That seems like a lot of heavy breathing for a pair of natural gas pipelines known as Nord Stream 2, which follow the route and would double the capacity of an existing pair of pipelines, Nord Stream, which started working in 2011 and are running at full capacity.The pipelines run from Russia directly under the Baltic Sea to Germany, bypassing Poland and Ukraine and denying those countries some transit fees. Gazprom, which is majority owned by the Russian government, owns 51 percent of Nord Stream 1 and all of Nord Stream 2 AG, which is developing and will operate the new pipelines.Critics, including those from the United States, which would like to sell Europe more liquefied natural gas, say they are not simply concerned that Germany will become too dependent on Russian gas as it weans itself from nuclear power and coal. They also fear that Russia’s larger intention is to starve Ukraine of an important chunk of income. Russia is waging a kind of war in the eastern part of Ukraine after annexing Crimea in 2014.So the play of politics and geopolitics is as much a part of the Nord Stream story as any argument made about economics, climate change or the diversity of European energy supplies. “Nord Stream is politically sensitive because it fractures Europe strategically between the interests of Germany and the interests of everyone else,” said Kristine Berzina, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund in Brussels. “That creates a lot of mistrust and tensions with Poland and Ukraine.”While Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz have threatened to impose economic sanctions on companies involved in building Nord Stream 2, the project is likely to be completed close to schedule early next year. More than 2,000 kilometers (about 1,240 miles) out of a total of about 2,400 kilometers of pipe have already been laid, according to Sebastian Sass, who represents Nord Stream 2 AG, the pipeline company, to the European Union.

India's Reliance to resume Venezuela oil loadings after four-month pause - (Reuters) - Indian refiner Reliance Industries Ltd (RELI.NS) is scheduled to resume loading Venezuelan crude in October after a four-month pause, according to sources and internal documents from PDVSA seen by Reuters, a move that could help Venezuela’s state-run company drain its large oil inventories. The United States in January imposed the toughest sanctions yet on Venezuela’s oil industry, depriving the OPEC member of the main destination for its crude exports. In August, Washington added to the sanctions pressure by threatening non-U.S. companies with punitive action if they “materially assist” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government. The measures have scared away several of PDVSA’s largest customers and tanker operators, causing a fast accumulation of unsold crude that forced the Venezuelan company last month to reduce output. A Reliance representative said on Wednesday it has been supplying Venezuela with fuels permitted under U.S. sanctions, including diesel, and thus it “is able to recommence crude sourcing” in exchange for the refined products. “These are actions compliant to U.S. sanctions as crude sourcing against supply of permitted products is allowed,” the representative said in a email to Reuters.

Petrobras removes 133 tonnes of oil from Brazils beaches (Reuters) - State-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro has collected 133 tonnes of oil along Brazil’s northeastern shoreline, Chief Executive Roberto Castello Branco said on Tuesday, in an unexplained mystery he said was worrying. Speaking with lawmakers, he said the company had not identified any of its own oil in its analyses. He also said that, in order to maintain stable production, Petrobras, as the company is known, needed new reserves of 1 billion barrels per year, at a cost of $3 billion.

Petrobras says Brazilian beaches polluted by Venezuelan oil - Xinhua | English.news.cn: (Xinhua) -- Brazil's state-controlled oil and gas giant Petrobras has concluded that the oil polluting over 100 beaches in Brazil's northeastern coast originates from Venezuela, said local media on Tuesday. After a one-month analysis of samples from the oil, Petrobras found that the oil is not of any type produced, transported or sold in Brazil, but a blend of Venezuelan oil. Petrobras CEO Roberto Castello Branco called the oil spill "something extraordinary," ruling out a tanker cleaning operation as the possible cause due to the amount of crude collected. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday that there is a country "in the government's radar" as the probable origin of the oil, but did not specify the name of the country. Earlier on Tuesday, he reaffirmed his stance but still did not name Venezuela or any other country as the source. Within a month, 140 beaches in northeastern Brazil were affected by an oil spill. Brazilian authorities have collected over 100 tons of oil from the beaches, and investigated ships recently passing Brazil's northeastern coast.

Colombia Trasandino pipeline damaged in bombing (Reuters) - Colombia’s Trasandino pipeline was damaged in a bomb attack, state-run oil company Ecopetrol (ECO.CN) said on Saturday, spilling crude into a nearby river. The attack took place in Orito municipality in Putumayo province, the company said in a statement. The pipeline was not functioning at the time of the attack, which affected the Guamues River, Ecopetrol said. It is the nineteenth attack this year on the Trasandino. Although Ecopetrol did not name the group responsible for the attack, the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, regularly bomb oil infrastructure.

Oil pipeline attacked in Colombia, Guamues River contaminated -- An attack on the Transandino pipeline in Colombia has caused an oil spill that is contaminating the Guamues River, Colombia's oil giant Ecopetrol has announced. According to the company, the attack was carried out at around 1:39 pm local time (18:39 GMT) on Saturday, in the municipality of Orito, in Colombia's Department of Putumayo. "The attack caused a rupture of the pipeline and oil spill in the sector, which affected the Guamues River," Ecopetrol said in a statement, released on Twitter. The company has notified the local Risk and Disaster Management authorities and is taking emergency measures to prevent a further contamination of the environment. Ecopetrol did not say who was behind the attack. According to the company, the Transandino pipeline has come under 19 attacks this year. 

 Ecuador’s Petroamazonas suspends operations at three oilfields amid protests (Reuters) - Ecuadorean state-run oil company Petroamazonas EP suspended operations at three oil fields in the Amazon region on Monday, the country’s energy ministry said, as protests against austerity measures convulse the country. Taken together, the suspensions could reduce crude output by 59,450 barrels per day (bpd) if not lifted, the ministry said in a statement posted on Twitter. It added that the suspension took place after the fields were “taken” by “individuals not affiliated with the operation,” without providing any details. “At the moment no staff have been retained, as those responsible for each field are maintaining conversations with the people in a peaceful manner,” the statement read. A removal of fuel subsidies by market-friendly President Lenin Moreno has sparked the Andean country’s worst unrest in years, with 477 people arrested in five days of protests and thousands of indigenous demonstrators marching toward the capital Quito from the countryside. At the Sacha field, Petroamazonas shut wells because it was unable to transport crude, which the ministry said would result in a loss of 45,600 bpd. The company also shut wells at several locations in the Auca field in Orellana province, and closed down a power generation facility at the Libertador field.

Oil Thieves Cause Fire On Nigerian Oil Block - A fire has broken out on an oil lease in the southeastern state of Imo in Nigeria, during what preliminary investigation believes to be illegal bunkering activity by thieves, Nigerian media reported on Friday. The Nigerian Petroleum Development Company Limited (NPDC), the upstream unit of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), has reported a fire at its Oil Mining Lease (OML) 20 in the state of IMO, NNPC said on Friday, as carried by the news outlet This Day. According to the preliminary investigation, illegal oil theft has caused a spark that ignited the fire in the oil block, Mansur Sambo, the Managing Director of NPDC, said in statement. The fire has been put out, NPDC said. Neither NNPC nor NPDC disclosed how much oil has been leaked or stolen and whether there have been shut-ins of oil production on the oil lease as a result of this incident. Earlier this week, NNPC raised the alarm that oil pipeline vandalism in Nigeria is soaring, with the number of incidents of breached pipelines surging by 115 percent in July compared to June. Pipeline vandalism, as well as pipeline sabotages by militants in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta area, has plagued Nigeria’s oil production and exports for years. Over the past year and a half, militant activity has subsided, allowing Nigeria to boost its crude oil production, and also making Africa’s largest oil producer a full-fledged participant in the production cuts of the OPEC+ coalition. But since it became part of the pact in January 2019, Nigeria has been one of the largest overproducers and non-compliant OPEC members in the deal. 

S.Sudan warns of more oil spills after pipeline rupture - South Sudan's petroleum ministry warned Monday of more oil spills from poorly maintained facilities, after a pipeline leaked 2,000 barrels of oil in the north of the country.Activists have long warned of the consequences to residents and the environment fromoil spills in the area, where facilities have been battered by war and some lay dormant for years until a peace deal was signed in 2018.Petroleum Minister Awou Daniel Chuang told journalists that 2,000 barrels of oil had leaked two weeks ago from a pipeline in the Unity Oil Fields, managed by a consortium of Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and local oil companies.He said the leak had been contained and "what is left for us now to clean is the soil in that area.""Of course we know that the production has been down for the last five years and the pipeline was empty and probably was filled with water (that) can expedite the process of corrosion within the pipeline," said Chuang."That is why we will all suspect that ruptures will happen from time to time..." he added.The area in question is remote and the extent of the spill difficult to verify.While the minister mentioned only an area of 400 square metres was impacted, local officials told AFP a river used by residents of three counties has been heavily polluted."It affected all three counties of greater Rubkona that is Gwit East Rubkona, Budang County, and Bentiu and the oil has polluted the main river," said regional lawmaker Gabriel Tap.Gatiek Both, the commissioner of Budang county, confirmed steps have been taken to control the leak leakage but said the impact was devastating."This spill is badly affecting the area. Trees and the grass are dying and fish and some animals because it is rainy here, the water washes the oil into water sources where there are fish and animals."

OPEC crude output plunges on Saudi attacks, sanctions -- OPEC's crude production in September registered its steepest month-on-month fall in almost 17 years, according to an S&P Global Platts survey. Attacks on Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq processing facility and Khurais field caused its crude output to plummet to 8.45 million b/d in September, which, combined with the effects of US sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, caused OPEC production to tumble to 28.45 million b/d, according to the survey. That is a 1.48 million b/d fall from August, the largest month-on-month shrinkage for the producer group since a Venezuelan strike in December 2002 caused much of state-owned oil company PDVSA's operations to grind to a halt. The September figure, which measures production at the wellhead, is also OPEC's lowest since May 2009, which came five months after the organization agreed at an extraordinary meeting to implement its deepest output cuts to shore up cratering oil prices due to the global financial crisis. OPEC is almost three years into its latest commitment to cut production -- forged with Russia and nine other non-OPEC allies. Though Saudi Arabia, as the group's de-facto leader, has in most months voluntarily slashed its output more than it pledged to, the attacks on September 14 caused the biggest involuntary outage in its history and brought its production down to its lowest since January 2011, according to Platts survey archives. As a result, compliance among the 11 OPEC members with quotas under the 1.2 million b/d OPEC/non-OPEC production cut accord, which runs through March 2020, surged to 308%. Saudi officials have sought to reassure the market in recent days its production has now been restored to pre-attack levels of around 9.9 million b/d, but the initial aftermath took some 5.7 million b/d of output capacity offline, forcing the kingdom to draw on its considerable oil inventories to keep customers supplied. With the repairs at the Abqaiq crude processing facility -- the world's largest -- expected to take months, Saudi Arabia has already begun to inform customers that some cargoes of Arab Light and Arab Extra Light may be substituted with lower value grades of Arab Medium and Arab Heavy. The kingdom has blamed the attacks on Iran, which has denied involvement. Iran has threatened crude flows through the Persian Gulf in retaliation for harsh US sanctions -- backed by Saudi Arabia -- that have crippled its oil exports.

OPEC Oil Production Drops After Attacks On Saudi Installations - The OPEC oil cartel saw its crude production fall in September, mostly due to production falling in Saudi Arabia following attacks on its oil infrastructure, according to its monthly oil report released on Thursday.The Organization for the Petroleum Exporting Countries said its production fell to an average of 28.49 million barrels per day (mbd) in September, a drop of nearly 1.32 mbd, according to secondary sources. Production by Saudi Arabia, the cartel's biggest producer and the world's top exporter, fell by 1.28 mbd to just over 8.56 mbd.September 14 attacks on Saudi state-owned Aramco facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais initially halved the kingdom's crude output and sent global energy markets into a tailspin. Abqaiq is the world's largest oil processing facility and Khurais is a major oil field.The attacks were claimed by Yemen's Huthi rebels. Saudi leads a military coalition against the Iran-backed Huthis, which have carried out dozens of cross-border drone and missile attacks on Saudi targets, including oil facilities.Washington has concluded that the strikes were launched from Iranian soil and that cruise missiles were used. Tehran denies its involvement.OPEC also once again trimmed its forecast for the growth in global oil demand, to 0.98 mbd from 1.02 mbd, although that was due to downward revisions to demand in the first half of the year.Also revised lower was demand for petrol and diesel in the United States. The cartel held its forecast for demand growth next year steady at 1.08 mbd.

OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report October 2019 -- The OPEC Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR) for October released Thursday provides OPEC's outlook for crude oil market developments for the coming year with key developments impacting oil market trends in world oil demand and supply.  MOMR Highlights:

  • In 2019 world oil demand growth revised down marginally by 0.04 mb/d to 0.98 mb/d
  • In 2020 world oil demand is forecast to grow by 1.08 mb/d, in line with last month’s projections.
  • Non-OECD countries are projected to be the largest contributor to world oil demand growth
  • Total world oil demand isanticipated to average 99.8 mb/d in 2019 and 100.88 mb/d in 2020.
  • Non-OPEC oil supply growth forecast for 2019 revised down by 0.16 mb/d from the previous assessment to a level of 1.82 mb/d. This is due to downward revisions mainly in the US, as well as in Norway and the UK
  • US oil supply growth has now been revised down to 1.67 mb/d y-o-y.
  • 2020 non-OPEC supply forecast remains subject to many uncertainties including oil price levels, capital spending, infrastructure constraints, as well as drilling and completion activities, particularly in the US.
  • In September, OPEC crude oil production decreased by 1,318 tb/d to average 28.49 mb/d, according to secondary sources.
  • Demand for OPEC crude in 2019 was revised up by 0.1 mb/d from the previous report to stand at 30.7 mb/d, which is 0.9 mb/d lower than the 2018 level.
  • Demand for OPEC crude in 2020 was also revised up by 0.2 mb/d from the previous report to stand at 29.6 mb/d, which is around 1.2 mb/d lower than the 2019 level

OPEC’s Largest ‘Overproducer’ Just Got Its Production Quota Raised Nigeria may face an easier task to finally fall in line with its share of the OPEC+ production cuts after OPEC has recently raised the African producer’s oil output ceiling.  OPEC has raised the quota for Nigeria to 1.774 million bpd, three OPEC delegates familiar with the matter told Reuters.Until now, Nigeria’s cap as part of the deal was 1.685 million bpd.According to one of OPEC’s sources, the higher quota given to Nigeria is due to the fact that the cartel had not factored in the newly launched production from the Egina ultra deepwater field which Total started up at the beginning of the year, expecting to pump 200,000 bpd at peak output.Nigeria has argued that production from Egina is not part of the OPEC+ cuts.   Africa’s largest oil producer was formally included in the OPEC+ production cuts and compliance tracking this January, after being exempt from those cuts in the previous two years because of militant violence that frequently crippled its oil production and exports. But since it became part of the deal, Nigeria has been one of the largest overproducers and non-compliant OPEC members in the deal. Nigerian overproduction has offset some of the cuts of its fellow OPEC members at a time when the oil market continues to be oversupplied with rising U.S. production and faltering oil demand growth.. Iraq and Nigeria—the two rogue members of OPEC that haven’t been complying with their share of the production cuts in recent months—pledged in September to fall within their respective caps while the cartel and its allies are trying to rebalance the oil market. Nigeria has promised to reduce its oil production by 57,000 bpd.  Nigeria is ready to make the sacrifice and cut its oil production deeper if OPEC and allies decide in December that it is necessary to deepen the cuts, Nigerian Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, told Bloomberg in an interview last week, vowing that Nigeria would fully comply with its share of the cuts from October.

Saudi Aramco says full oil production capacity will return by end of November — Saudi Arabia’s full oil production capacity will be recovered by the end of November, Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser told CNBC on Wednesday. “By September we will be, in terms of production capacity, at 11.3 (million barrels per day), by end of November we will be at 12 million barrels per day (bdp), which is our maximum sustained capacity,” Nasser told CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick during the Oil & Money Conference in London. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest exporter of oil. The OPEC kingpin has been pumping significantly below that 12 million bpd level as part of a coordinated agreement OPEC and non-OPEC producers to lower output and keep a floor under falling oil prices. Aramco’s revenues were not reduced in the wake of the attacks, Nasser noted, and put its October production figure at 9.9 million bpd. The CEO of the world’s largest oil company expressed his concern over an “absence of international resolve” against the perpetrators of September 14 drone and missile attacks on Aramco facilities that forced the company to shut down half of its production and sent crude prices up nearly 20%. “An absence of international resolve to take concrete action may embolden the attackers and indeed put the world’s energy security at greater risk,” Nasser said. The attacks had “no impact” on the planned public listing of the state oil giant, the CEO added, saying that if anything, they strengthened the company’s position with regard to the offering. The Saudi Aramco initial public offering (IPO), which has seen multiple delays since it was first suggested in 2016, would be the world’s largest. “We are ready whenever the shareholders decide it is the time to list,” Nasser said. Aramco is expected to file its IPO prospectus by the end of this month, according to reports.

China's CNPC pulls out from $4.8 bil Iranian gas project — China's CNPC has pulled out from Iran's $4.8 billion South Pars gas project, Iran's oil minister said on Sunday, after France's Total abandoned the deal last year amid looming US sanctions on Tehran. Iran's Petropars will now develop the Phase 11 of the gas project, which was signed in 2017. CNPC was supposed to take Total's 50.1% stake in the project on top of its initial 30% share. "The phase 11 of South Pars gas field has been decided. Petropars alone will continue development of this phase," Bijan Zanganeh was quoted as saying by the ministry's Shana news service. "Yes, it has stepped aside," Zanganeh said when asked if the Chinese company had pulled out of the project. Total left the project last year as the US re-imposed sanctions on Iran after Washington pulled out from a nuclear deal with Tehran. The project is aimed initially at meeting domestic gas demand, with potential for exports in later years. Production capacity is forecast at around 2 Bcf/d of gas, coming on stream in 2021. When fully operating, the scheme is also expected to deliver around 70,000 b/d of condensate. Zanganeh said that the Iranian contractor will install the first jacket in phase 11 by March in addition to a platform with gas extraction capacity of 500 MMcf/d. When asked why Iran had not abandoned the CNPC deal after Total's pull-out, Zanganeh said: "We wanted to attract foreign investment for this phase. In addition, the pressure boosting platform was important for us and Petropars was due to learn the job alongside these companies." Iran shares the giant offshore South Pars gas field with Qatar, where it is called the North Field.

Iranian oil exports hinge on US-China trade talks This week, should high-stakes negotiations between Beijing and the Trump administration fail to produce a breakthrough on trade, blacklisted Iran could stand to benefit from the decoupling.“The degree to which they [the Chinese] are willing to openly defy the US sanctions is a function of larger US-China trade issues,” said James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies and Middle East Center in Singapore.  “The more the US and China move towards ‘decoupling’ – or less interdependence, greater self-reliance and ultimately, perhaps, separate economic worlds – the easier it gets to defy the sanctions.” The Trump administration broke with the Beijing-backed Iran nuclear accord in May of last year, granting six months notice before sanctions on Tehran’s petroleum sector would be reimposed for a goal of “zero” exports.Eight governments, including China – long Tehran’s chief oil customer, were granted temporary waivers to import Iranian oil. Those expired in May.Since then, Beijing has worked to circumvent the sanctions, first publicly via the state-owned Bank of Kunlun. Kunlun announced it would halt those transactions in December, but Iranian petroleum continues to reach Chinese ports. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, long expressed his lack of trust in the West, even as he begrudgingly accepted the brokering of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2015.But last year, as major European companies like Total ran for the exits before the snap-back of US sanctions, Khamenei issued a stern directive.“The supreme leader directed the diplomats, the armed forces – all the branches of the Islamic Republic of Iran – that you must go and make our best relations with the East,” said Hesam Razavi, former senior international editor at Iran’s Tasnim news agency. Of all the eastern powers, from Moscow to Delhi, it is Beijing that is most critical to Iran’s ability to move its oil.

COSCO Dalian's ships shut off tracers after U.S. sanctions announced (Reuters) - About one-third of the oil tankers owned by COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) have shut off their ship-tracking transponders since the United States imposed sanctions on the company for allegedly shipping Iranian crude, shipping data showed. From Sept. 30 to Oct. 7, a total of 14 COSCO Dalian ships, six of which carry some oil, stopped sending location data from their automatic identification system (AIS), ship tracking data on Refinitiv Eikon showed. The U.S. imposed the sanctions on Sept. 25. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) requires AIS transceivers be fitted to commercial and passenger vessels for safety and transparency purposes. The devices can be turned off manually by a ship’s crew for legitimate reasons such as avoiding detection in piracy or high-risk zones. However, the transponders are often shut off to conceal a ship’s location when illicit activities occur. “It is becoming a cat-and-mouse game, with the U.S. ratcheting up the sanctions while the Iranians (and their Chinese or other buyers) find novel ways to circumvent these” including frequent ownership changes, complex corporate structures and shutting off the AIS transponders, said Bruno Vickers, the senior director for Asia at political risk group GPW in Singapore. “Turning off transponders is a tried and tested tactic that the Iranians have used before, creating a fleet of ghost ships that cannot be tracked. It’s not ideal for ship safety and undoubtedly there will be increased U.S. surveillance of suspect cargoes,” he said.

OPEC leaves 2020 oil-demand forecast unchanged, cuts 2019 view - The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in its monthly report on Thursday forecast world oil demand to grow by 980,000 barrels a day in 2019, down 4,000 barrels a day from its September estimate. OPEC, however, left its outlook for 2020 demand growth unchanged at 1.08 million barrels a day. OPEC sees total world oil demand averaging 99.8 million barrels a day in 2018 and 100.88 million barrels a day in 2020. OPEC, meanwhile, revised down its forecast for non-OPEC oil supply growth by 160,000 barrels day to 1.82 million barrels a day, mainly reflecting downward revisions for the U.S., as well as Norway and the U.K. For 2020, non-OPEC oil supply growth was revised down by 5,000 barrels a day to 2.2 million barrels a day year-over-year due to downward revisions for Kazakhstan and Russia.

Saudi Arabia confounds with September output figure - Saudi Arabia has told the Opec Secretariat that its crude production fell by 660,000 b/d last month to 9.13mn b/d, underlining its swift recovery from the 14 September drone and missile attacks on key oil infrastructure. The average estimate from secondary sources, including Argus, pegged Saudi output at 8.56mn b/d in September. Argus' estimate was 8.4mn b/d. The divergence between Saudi Arabia's self-reported figure and secondary sources is unusually wide in Opec's latest Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR). Opec's previous 12 MOMRs have shown a much closer correlation, with the average secondary sources' estimates of Saudi production ranging from 99.1pc to 100.3pc of the official figure. For September, the secondary sources were at 93.8pc of the Saudi direct communication. State-owned Saudi Aramco chief executive Amin Nasser admitted yesterday that the pace of the output recovery "surprised many" and that "optimum flexibility and fail-safe redundancy built in… proved essential". The mid-September air strikes on the Abqaiq processing plant and the 1.45mn b/d Khurais field briefly shut in 5.7mn b/d of production. Saudi Arabia said its crude production capacity has reached 11.3mn b/d and that it is on track to hit pre-attack levels of 12mn b/d by the end of November. "Considering the progress so far we might even beat that target", Nasser said. Beyond the Saudi production number, Opec's latest MOMR has little in the way of surprise revisions, although there is a notable 160,000 b/d cut in the forecast for non-Opec supply growth for this year, to 1.82mn b/d. This is driven by a downward revision in the US. "A further slowdown in US oil production is likely as shale producers, under pressure from their investors, continue to cut spending, in particular for exploration and production and seem to be pacing their drilling plans for the rest of the year," the MOMR said. Opec revised lower its forecast for non-Opec supply growth for next year, by 50,000 b/d from the previous report to 2.2mn b/d. It pared back its projection for global oil demand growth this year by 40,000 b/d from last month's MOMR to 980,000 b/d, and kept its 2020 growth forecast unchanged at 1.08mn b/d. This would take average total demand above 100mn b/d. Opec now forecasts demand for its crude at 30.7mn b/d this year, around 100,000 b/d higher than last month's MOMR. It revised up its forecast for call-on-Opec crude next year, by 200,000 b/d to 29.6mn b/d. Argus' estimated total Opec production at an average of 29.9mn b/d in the first nine months of this year.

Nigeria lands higher oil output target in OPEC+ cut deal - (Reuters) - OPEC has granted Nigeria a higher oil output target under an OPEC-led deal to limit oil supply in a move unannounced by the group, following efforts by Africa’s largest exporter to tweak the agreement to accommodate its expanding oil industry. The country’s allocation was increased to 1.774 million barrels per day (bpd) from 1.685 million bpd at the last OPEC meeting in July, three OPEC delegates with knowledge of the matter said. “It’s happened,” one of the delegates said. “I’ve not heard of any other changes to the agreement.” The quota increase will mean Nigeria will see an improvement in its compliance with the supply cut accord, but it is still pumping more crude than the new target according to OPEC’s own figures and industry surveys. Nigeria’s petroleum ministry and OPEC did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment. Abuja has had a dismal record in delivering its share of the cut, overshooting by 400% in August according to the International Energy Agency. OPEC put Nigerian production at 1.866 million bpd in August - far above the new quota.

Hedge funds sell more oil as economic outlook worsens: Kemp (Reuters) - Hedge funds sold petroleum futures and options for the second week running as the post-attack bounce in oil prices evaporated and attention shifted to the deteriorating condition of the global economy. Hedge funds and other money managers sold the equivalent of 96 million barrels in the six most important futures and options contracts linked to oil prices in the week to Oct. 1, the largest reduction in nearly four months. Fund managers have sold a total of 111 million barrels in the two most recent weeks, reversing purchases of 144 million barrels in the two weeks before that, a period that included the attack on Saudi oil installations. If the attacks on oil processing facilities had a relatively modest and fleeting impact on oil prices and positions, it was entirely unwound in just a fortnight (https://tmsnrt.rs/2VlK8dx) . In the most recent week, portfolio managers sold NYMEX and ICE WTI (-64 million barrels), Brent (-17 million), U.S. gasoline (-6 million), U.S. heating oil (-5 million) and European gasoil (-4 million). Fund selling in NYMEX and ICE WTI was the highest in any one-week for more than two years, as managers abandoned expectations of a sustained post-attack spike in prices. After the sales, funds held a net long position across all six contracts amounting to 532 million barrels, essentially back to their position at the end of August and the start of September. If relatively passive structural long positions in crude are stripped out, the fund community’s dynamic net long position was just 41 million barrels, not much different from 8 million at the beginning of September. Concerns about the prospects for oil consumption are dominating the market rather than fears about output disruptions. Traders are becoming more pessimistic about the prospects for an early truce in the trade conflict between China and the United States – with mounting fears continued skirmishing will push both economies into recession. Political tensions look set to remain high throughout the remainder of 2019 and 2020 as the United States enters a bitter impeachment investigation and then a presidential election campaign. At the same time, global motor manufacturers are reporting weakening production and sales, depressing both global economic growth and oil consumption.

Bullish Oil Bets Hit 8-Month Low-- As temperatures cool, so does enthusiasm for oil. With the end of the summer-driving period taking away a key factor supporting demand, hedge fund bets on a crude price rally in New York and London have plunged to the lowest in eight months, data released Friday show. Meanwhile, U.S. gasoline consumption is at its lowest since March. “We are heading into a seasonally weak demand period,” said Rob Haworth, who helps oversee $151 billion at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Seattle. “The biggest driver is gasoline consumption.” The prospect of less crude being processed into fuel in the coming months comes amid mounting concern that global growth is slowing down, with the U.S. and China locked in a tit-for-tat trade war. West Texas Intermediate futures in New York and Brent crude in London have slumped more than 15% since an attack on Saudi premises sent prices surging in mid-September. The combined net-bullish position on both benchmarks, or the difference between wagers on a rally and bets on their rout, shrank 17% to 388,710 futures and options in the week ended Oct. 1, according to data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and ICE Futures Europe. That’s the least bullish since February. Further price declines may put Saudi Arabia and Russia in the tough position of weighing further production cuts that would compromise their market share. “Can they afford to cut more?” Haworth said. “That will be determined by prices.”

Oil prices up more than 1% as US-China trade talks loom, supply issues mount -- Oil prices rose around $1 on Monday, buoyed by hopes of progress in U.S.-China trade talks and supported by challenges to supply facing major exporters. Brent crude rose 91 cents or 1.5% to $59.25 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was at $53.73, up 92 cents or 1.7%. Both futures contracts ended last week with a more than 5% decline after dismal manufacturing data from the United States and China, with the trade row between the world’s top economies undermining global economic prospects. U.S. and Chinese officials meet in Washington on Oct. 10-11 in a fresh effort to work out a deal, which U.S. President Donald Trump said his administration had a “very good chance” of achieving. On the supply side, deadly anti-government unrest has gripped Iraq, the second-largest producer among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Iraq’s oil exports of 3.43 million barrels per day (bpd) from Basra terminals could be disrupted if instability lasts for weeks, Ayham Kamel, Eurasia Group’s practice head for Middle East and North Africa, said in a note. “Any oil production disruption would occur at a time when Saudi Arabia has lost a significant part of its energy system redundancies (spare capacity),” he said. The major Buzzard oil field in the British North Sea was also shut for pipe repair work, China’s CNOOC said on Friday, while Shell maintains force majeure remains on exports of Bonny Light crude in Nigeria. Still, Total’s giant Johan Sverdrup offshore oil field started up in the North Sea this month with a goal of achieving 440,000 bpd at peak production. Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) said on Sunday it would close the Faregh oil field at Zueitina port for scheduled maintenance from Monday until Oct. 14. But analysts said the resumption in Saudi Arabian production after Sept. 14 attacks could undermine a price rally.

EIA cuts global oil demand expectations, lowers oil-price forecasts - The U.S. Energy Information Administration on Tuesday cut its growth expectations for global oil demand and lowered 2020 price forecasts on West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil prices. In its monthly energy outlook report, the government agency said it revised its expected global oil demand growth to 840,000 barrels per day this year, about 50,000 barrels per day lower than the September forecast. For 2020, it cut the oil demand growth estimate to 1.3 million barrels per day, down 100,000 barrels from the previous view. The EIA also forecast an average WTI price of $54.43 a barrel for 2020, down 3.7% from the forecast issued in September. For Brent, it cut its forecast by 3.3% to $59.93 for next year. U.S. domestic crude output, meanwhile, is forecast at 13.17 million barrels a day next year, down 0.5% from the previous view. November WTI crudeCLX19, -0.55% was down 63 cents, or 1.2%, at $52.12 a barrel. December Brentuk:lcoz19 lost 54 cents, or 0.9%, to $57.81.

Trade Talks Loom Over Oil - U.S.-China trade talks resume on October 10, a high stakes negotiation that leaves the global economy in the balance. Bloomberg reported that China is likely going to attempt to narrow the talks, removing any proposal of reforms to industrial policy and intellectual property. With the Trump administration on the backfoot due to a weakening economy and a mushrooming impeachment investigation, Beijing may believe it has the upper hand. That does not bode well for a trade breakthrough.   Turning back on a longstanding partnership with Kurdish allies, President Trump said that Turkey was free to launch an invasion to sweep aside Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria. The move sparked a bipartisan rebuke, denouncing Trump for abandoning allies.  CNCP has exited a $5 billion natural gas project in Iran due to pressure from U.S. sanctions. Iran had hoped that CNPC would take over from Total, which withdrew in the face of sanctions last year. The departure of CNPC is another blow to the Iranian economy.  Secretary of Energy Rick Perry reportedly attempted to install two U.S. executives onto the board of Ukraine’s Naftogaz, sweeping him into the center of the impeachment inquiry in the United States. He has denied any involvement.. Saudi Arabia and Iran are tentativelyopening a diplomatic avenue to de-escalate tension, dramatically reducing the odds of a hot war. The New York Times reports that the Trump administration’s refusal to attack Iran led to the thaw, as Riyadh came to the conclusion that it cannot count on Washington. “The anti-Iran alliance is not just faltering, it’s crumbling,” Martin Indyk, a distinguished fellow at Council on Foreign Relations and a former senior diplomat, said Thursday on Twitter. “MBZ has struck his deal with Iran; MBS is not far behind.”  While oil futures over the next few years remain subdued, a new report says that the market could tighten up significantly in the 2020s, cutting against a narrative of peak demand and oversupply. “[W]e are increasingly confident that failure of demand growth to crater, much less peak, constitutes the next big 'surprise' in the oil market,” Rapidan Energy said in a note. Spare capacity is “too low to cap prices, much less mitigate geopolitical risk.” The consultancy is skeptical of the mass adoption of EVs and says demand will continue to rise. 

Oil falls slightly on concerns over US-China talks, weak demand signals - Oil prices fell slightly on Tuesday as Washington’s blacklisting of more Chinese companies dampened hopes for a trade deal between the two countries, although unrest in Iraq and Ecuador lent some support to crude prices. Both Brent crude and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude had risen by more than 1% earlier in the day. Brent was down 45 cents, or 0.8%, at $57.90 a barrel and WTI was down 12 cents, or 0.2%, at $52.63. Investors are treading cautiously before U.S.-China trade talks in Washington on Thursday. Prospects for progress dimmed after U.S. President Donald Trump said a quick trade deal was unlikely. Washington is also moving ahead with discussions over possible restrictions on capital flows into China, with a focus on investments by U.S. government pension funds, Bloomberg reported. “The (energy) complex will be forced to focus more succinctly on global oil demand deterioration as it negotiates through the monthly series of Agency reports the rest of this week,” Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates, said in a note. “We are not ruling out a quick upward price reversal.” Oil prices were also pressured by weak economic data after U.S. producer prices fell unexpectedly in September, weighed down by lower costs of goods and services, which could give the Federal Reserve room to cut interest rates again this month. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Tuesday cut its 2020 world oil demand growth forecast by 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.30 million. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Tuesday warned of a risk of complacency among countries. Without action to resolve trade conflicts and support growth, global economic deceleration could turn into “a more massive slowdown,” she said. “The market’s focus remains on trade tensions and oil demand concerns, ignoring the elevated geopolitical tensions in the Middle East and lower OPEC production in September,” said UBS oil analyst Giovanni Staunovo. “Growing recession risks have capped the upside of oil prices.”.

Oil eases on concerns over U.S.-China talks, weak demand signals (Reuters) - Oil prices slid on Tuesday as Washington’s blacklisting of more Chinese companies dampened hopes for a trade deal between the two countries, although unrest in Iraq and Ecuador lent some support to crude prices. Early in the session, both Brent crude LCOc1 and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) CLc1 rose more than 1%. But at settlement, Brent was down 11 cents, or 0.2% at $58.24 a barrel while WTI CLc1 fell 12 cents, or 0.2%, at $52.63. Prices extended losses slightly in post-settlement trade after American Petroleum Institute data showed U.S. crude inventories rose by 4.1 million barrels in the week ended Oct. 4, far surpassing the 1.4 million barrels analysts had forecast. Investors were cautious ahead of U.S.-China trade talks in Washington on Thursday. U.S. President Donald Trump said a quick trade deal was unlikely. Washington is moving ahead with discussions over possible restrictions on capital flows into China, with a focus on investments by U.S. government pension funds, Bloomberg reported. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) cut its 2020 world oil demand growth forecast by 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 1.30 million. The oil market “will be forced to focus more succinctly on global oil demand deterioration as it negotiates through the monthly series of agency reports the rest of this week,” Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates, said in a note. Oil prices were also pressured by an unexpected decline in U.S. producer prices in September, which could give the Federal Reserve room to cut interest rates again this month.

Oil prices extend slide to 3rd straight day, US-China trade doubts grow - Oil prices slipped for a third consecutive session on Wednesday as the prospect of the United States and China striking a trade deal in talks this week dimmed, raising uncertainties for global economic growth and oil demand. U.S. industry data showing a bigger-than-expected rise in stockpiles at the world’s top oil producer also depressed prices: Brent crude futures fell 27 cents, or 0.5%, to $57.97 a barrel by 0148 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude was at $52.38, down 25 cents or 0.5%. Negotiators from the world’s top two economies will meet in Washington on Thursday and Friday in the latest effort to hammer out a deal aimed at ending a long-running trade dispute that has slowed global economic growth. But tensions between the pair rose this week after the United States imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials for the detention or abuse of Muslim minorities, while a row escalated over comments by a leading U.S. National Basketball Association official in support of protests in Hong Kong. The issues have set markets on a risk-aversion course, said Howie Lee, an economist with Singapore’s OCBC bank, even though the global oil market remains in a supply deficit which should in theory support prices at above $60 a barrel. “The market is just over-bearish at the moment, too focused on the demand side of the equation,” Lee said. That has even overshadowed the threat of losing at least a third of Ecuador’s oil supply amid anti-government protests in the member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that have seriously affected oil output. Ecuadorean state-run firm Petroamazonas estimates it could lose some 188,000 barrels per day (bpd), or more than a third of its crude production, due to unrest at its facilities. In the United States, meanwhile, crude stockpiles rose by 4.1 million barrels in the week ended Oct. 4 to 422 million, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed on Tuesday. Analysts had expected an increase of 1.4 million barrels, a Reuters poll showed.

WTI Holds Overnight Gains After Record Crude Production, Big Product Draws --Oil prices extending gains from API's reported big product draws overnight and hopes of progress in US-China talks:  Market will also be looking out for impact of higher global freight rates on U.S. crude exports because of U.S. sanctions on Cosco, says Bob Yawger, director of the futures division at Mizuho Securities USA.  “The tanker shortage has increased tanker rates by 100% in many cases, and hence prices out U.S. exports” But for now, all eyes (and algos) will be on inventory data.  API

  • Crude +4.13mm (+1.7mm exp)
  • Cushing +1.24mm
  • Gasoline -5.94mm
  • Distillates -3.98mm

DOE:

  • Crude +2.93mm (+1.7mm exp, +1.4mm whisper)
  • Cushing +941k
  • Gasoline -1.213mm (-900k exp)
  • Distillates -3.943mm - biggest draw since March 2019

As refinery maintenance season starts, product inventories should remain subdued and distillates saw a notable inventory draw (the biggest since March) as the crude build came in lower than API reported (4th crude build in a row)... In fact, while crude inventories rose, almost all others fell.

Syria Fears Send Oil Prices Higher - Turkey’s military invasion into northeastern Syria has moved crude prices higher after this week’s trading failed to move WTI below the $52 per barrel mark. With a further Middle Eastern imbroglio looming, the list of geopolitical risks continues to increase – Iran’s occasional overtures towards the United States have been falling on deaf ears, while Venezuela seems to have no chance of sanctions being removed while Maduro is in place. Following a somewhat unexpected flareup, the global heavy sour shortage might witness a further aggravation as Ecuador struggles to placate its rioting populace, triggered by President Moreno’s move to end fuel subsidies – the situation is so bad that Moreno has already moved his administration out of the capital (Quito remains overruns by riots) into Guayaquil.  Some 0.2mbpd of heavy sour will be gone from the global markets if Ecuador cannot regain control of its Petroamazonas oil subsidiary. Wednesday afternoon saw global benchmark Brent trading at $58.5-58.8 per barrel, whilst US benchmark was assessed around $53-53.2 per barrel.  Chinese crude imports have dropped month-on-month to 9.92mbpd, down from 9.97mbpd in August 2019, on the back of an overall (much larger) Asian crude imports decrease.  Aggregate Asian crude imports have suffered more from the Saudi production outage, reaching a 6-month low of 24.04mbpd in September, down 1.09mbpd month-on-month.

U.S. oil settles with a loss as Fed minutes raise economic worries, crude supplies rise a 4th week - U.S. oil futures settled slightly lower Wednesday, giving up earlier gains, as minutes from the Federal Reserve’s September meeting raised worries about the economy and government data revealed a fourth straight rise in domestic crude supplies.Prices had moved higher earlier in the trading session on the back of optimism over U.S.-China trade negotiations, and as the U.S. government also reported a fall in petroleum-product stocks.A news report said Beijing was open to a limited trade deal, but analysts noted that sentiment around the negotiations, with high-level talks set to resume in Washington on Thursday, has tended to swing sharply between optimism and negativity.West Texas Intermediate crude for November delivery  on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell by 4 cents, or 0.08%, to settle at $52.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after trading as high as $53.74 during the session. December Brent crude BRNZ19, +2.03% added 8 cents, or 0.1%, to end at $58.32 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. Prices for the U.S. benchmark turned lower right around the release of the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s September meeting. The minutes showed that Fed officials were more worried about the U.S. economy. There was even talk about possible recession, with several Fed officials noting that the probability of a recession “had increased notably in recent months.” The minutes “reflected rising concern for global growth and suggested that geopolitical threats, uncertainties in business outlook and sustained weak investments could damp[en] income and consumption,”Manish Raj, chief financial officer at Velandera Energy Partners, told MarketWatch. “Concern for slowing consumption weighed in on already weak market sentiments in light of [the] EIA reported crude inventory build-up.” The Energy Information Administration reported that U.S. crude supplies climbed for a fourth week in a row, by 2.9 million barrels for the week ended Oct. 4. They were forecast to increase by 2.4 million barrels, according to analysts polled by S&P Global Platts. The American Petroleum Institute on Tuesday reported a rise of 4.1 million barrels, according to sources. “A drop in refining activity to the lowest level since mid-February has yielded a build to oil inventories, despite lowly net imports,” said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData. “We are in the depths of fall maintenance, but both strong exports and weak imports have helped limit the build.”

Oil prices drop as hopes for US-China trade progress wilt - Oil prices fell on Thursday on concerns of lower fuel demand as talks this week between the United States and China, the world’s two largest oil users, are not expected to help end the trade war between them, adding to anxieties about the global economy. China, the world’s biggest oil importer, has lowered their expectations for talks on Thursday and Friday to end the 15-month-old trade dispute with the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump is set to raise the tariff rate on about $250 billion of Chinese goods to 30% from 25% on Oct. 15 if some signs of progress are not seen. The trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies has disrupted global supply chains and slowed the growth of both countries, limiting the growth of their fuel consumption. Global benchmark Brent crude futures fell 11 cents, or 0.2%, to $58.21 a barrel by 0354 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were down 11 cents, or 0.2%, at $52.48 per barrel. “Should U.S.-China trade negotiations take a turn for the worst, market pessimism will impose sharp negative pressures on oil prices, said Benjamin Lu, commodities analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore. Prices were also weighed down by a report of rising stockpiles in the United States, which is also currently the world’s biggest oil producer. U.S. crude stocks rose 2.9 million barrels in the week to Oct. 4, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday, more than double analysts’ expectations of an increase of 1.4 million barrels. Additionally, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) quietly adjusted its production pact to allow Nigeria to raise its output, adding more supply. OPEC granted Nigeria raised the quota to 1.774 million barrels per day (bpd) from 1.685 million bpd, three OPEC delegates with knowledge of the matter said. OPEC member Venezuela will also increase its exports despite U.S. economic sanctions that have curtailed shipments from the country. .

Oil prices steady as latest U.S.-China trade talks loom - (Reuters) - Oil prices rose on Thursday, buoyed by comments by the head of OPEC that the organization could take action to balance oil markets and will decide in December on supply for next year. Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo did not specify whether the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would extend a pact to rein in production to stabilize prices, but the comments appeared to inspire hope in the market. “Barkindo was sending a signal that OPEC was serious about supporting prices,” said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group. “Between this and a possible China trade deal, the momentum has shifted.” Global benchmark Brent crude futures settled up 78 cents or 1.3% at $59.10 a barrel. In post-settlement trade, Brent extended gains to rise $1 on the day to $59.32 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were up 96 cents, or 1.8%, at $53.55 a barrel. A December meeting between OPEC plus allies including Russia would take “decisions that will set us on the path of heightened and sustained stability for 2020,” Barkindo said. “Barkindo’s comment reminds markets that if oil prices do not fall off a cliff over demand concerns, we could ... see OPEC+ extend their production cuts throughout the majority of 2020,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York. Separately, Saudi Arabia told OPEC its monthly oil output fell by 660,000 bpd in September after major attacks on its energy facilities, while OPEC lowered its 2020 forecast for non-OPEC supply growth.

Oil rises on hopes for deeper OPEC output cuts, US-China trade talks - Oil prices climbed early on Friday, building on gains in the previous session, after producer club OPEC hinted at making deeper cuts in supply while optimism was revived over talks between the United States and China to end their trade war. International benchmark Brent crude futures were at $59.26 a barrel by 0251 GMT, up 16 cents, or 0.3%, from their previous settlement. Brent settled up 1.3% at $59.10 a barrel on Thursday. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 16 cents, also up 0.3%, from their last close to $53.71 per barrel. In the previous session, WTI settled 1.8% higher at $53.55 a barrel. On Thursday Mohammad Barkindo, Secretary-General of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), said all options were on the table, including a deeper supply cut to balance oil markets. A decision would be taken at a December meeting between the OPEC and its partners, he said. OPEC lowered its 2019 global oil demand growth forecast to 0.98 million barrels per day (bpd), while leaving its 2020 demand growth estimate unchanged at 1.08 million bpd, according to OPEC’s monthly report. Beyond OPEC, trade talks between the United States and China also remained on the market’s radar as the world’s top two economies seek to resolve a more-than-a-year-long trade row that has slowed global economic growth and curbed fuel consumption. “Oil bought into the upbeat tone from the bilateral talks as well, for better or for worse, and was also boosted by fighting talk on prices by the OPEC secretary-general,” said Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at OANDA in Singapore. Top U.S. and Chinese negotiators wrapped up the first of two days of scheduled trade talks on Thursday, with business groups expressing optimism that the two sides might be able to ease tensions and delay a U.S. tariff hike set for next week. “The United States is the largest global consumer of oil while China, the biggest driver of year-on-year oil demand growth,” said Stephen Innes, Asia Pacific market strategist at AxiTrader. “The most significant sentiment driver hinges on the outcome of the trade talks which, if (they) end on a positive note, could go along way to begin to repair the economic damage done ... these economic powerhouses would need more oil,

Iran oil tanker hit by two missiles off Saudi coast: Iranian state media (Reuters) - An Iranian-owned oil tanker was struck by two missiles off the Saudi port of Jeddah on Friday, Iranian state television reported, quoting the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) which owns the vessel. The tanker was set ablaze and suffered heavy damage and was leaking crude about 60 miles (96 km) from Jeddah, according to Iranian media. The alleged attack is the latest incident involving oil tankers in the Red Sea and Gulf region, and is likely to ratchet up tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which operates in the region, said it was aware of media reports about the tanker, but did not have any further information at this time.

Explosion sets ablaze Iranian oil tanker off the coast of Saudi Arabia, Iranian state media says - An explosion damaged an Iranian oil tanker traveling through the Red Sea near Saudi Arabia on Friday, Iranian media reported. There was no immediate word from Saudi Arabia on the reported blast. State television said the explosion damaged two storerooms aboard the unnamed oil tanker and caused an oil leak into the Red Sea. It did not elaborate. The state-run IRNA news agency and others relied on an online news report for their stories, while the semi-official ISNA news agency quoted an anonymous source with direct knowledge of the incident. All reports said the reported explosion happened off the coast of Jiddah on the Red Sea. Lt. Pete Pagano, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet overseeing the Mideast, said authorities there were “aware of reports of this incident,” but declined to comment further. The reported explosion comes after the U.S. has alleged that in past months Iran attacked oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, something denied by Tehran. The explosion could 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. The 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.

Oil rises 2% after reports of Iranian tanker attack -  (Reuters) - Oil prices rose more than 2% on Friday after Iranian media said a state-owned oil tanker was attacked in the Red Sea near Saudi Arabia, while optimism surrounding the U.S.-China trade war lifted sentiment. Brent crude futures LCOc1 gained $1.41, or 2.4%, to settle at $60.51 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 futures rose $1.15, or 2.2%, to settle at $54.70 a barrel. The gains were tempered by the International Energy Agency’s forecast for weakened demand in 2020. Still, Brent and WTI were headed for their first weekly increases in three weeks. Brent rose 3.7% for the week, while WTI gained 3.6%. The Iranian Suezmax crude tanker was struck in the Red Sea off Saudi Arabia’s coast on Friday, Iranian media said, with various reports differing on the level of damage caused. The National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) said the ship was damaged but stable and denied reports it had been set ablaze. “We estimate that the tanker event is worth about $1/bbl of risk premium that could easily be erased within a couple of sessions if no blame is assessed and no follow up incidents develop,” Jim Ritterbusch, president of oil trading advisory firm Ritterbusch and Associates, said in a note. Iranian oil exports are under U.S. sanctions that have diminished Iran’s impact on the global supply picture. Tensions in the Middle East have escalated in the wake of attacks on tankers and U.S. drones in the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping artery for the global oil trade. The United States is sending more troops - potentially thousands - to Saudi Arabia in the wake of the attacks on Saudi Aramco facilities. It did not specify how those troops would be used. Both benchmarks recorded their biggest daily rise since Sept. 16, the first trading day after attacks on Saudi installations knocked out more than half of the kingdom’s crude output and temporarily pushed oil prices up by about 20%.

Oil up nearly 4% for week on reported progress in U.S.-China trade talks, rise in Middle East tensions - Oil prices climbed Friday to tally a weekly gain of nearly 4%, as reported progress in U.S.-China trade negotiations eased worries about energy demand, and news of an explosion on an Iranian tanker fed tensions in the Middle East, raising the potential for crude-output disruptions in the region.West Texas Intermediate crude for November delivery climbed $1.15, or 2.2%, to settle at $54.70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange—a two-week high—with the front-month contract ending 3.6% higher for the week.The global benchmark, December Brent crude added $1.41, or 2.4%, to $60.51 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe, for a weekly gain of 3.7%. Both benchmarks had posted losses in each of the previous two weeks in a row.The U.S. and China reached a tentative, partial agreement on Friday that may lead to a truce in the trade war, according to a Bloomberg News report, citing people familiar with the matter. Under the pact, China would agree to some agricultural concessions, while the U.S. would provide some tariff relief, the report said. The news provided an added boost to U.S. stocks, feeding risk-on sentiment that further fueled a rise in oil prices.Prices had already been moving higher on news of an explosion on an Iranian tanker, which sustained damages after being hit by missiles that were launched from the Saudi Arabian port of Jeddah, according to the state-run IRNA news agency, citing Iran’s National Iranian Tanker Co. The stricken vessel was identified as the Sabity, according to those reports. Reports of the Iran tanker blast come amid allegations that the country has been behind attacks in recent months on oil tankers close to the Strait of Hormuz, a well-known oil choke point. Officials in the U.S and Saudi Arabia believe Iran was behind a missile attack on Saudi oil facilities last month, though Tehran has denied involvement in any attacks.

Coalition airstrikes on Yemen decrease after Saudi positive signal at Houthi truce offer -(Xinhua) -- Airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition against Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen have largely declined over the past three days, according to official reports from both sides on Sunday, just two weeks after the rebels offered a truce to the kingdom to end war. The number of coalition airstrikes have declined from an average of 40 each day in the previous weeks to nearly six during the past three days, the reports showed. There were no reports of casualties during the past three days. On Friday, Saudi Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman said on Twitter that "the truce that announced from Yemen is viewed positively by the kingdom, and that what the kingdom seeks." The Houthis two weeks ago offered a truce initiative to Saudi Arabia, saying they were halting missiles and drone attacks against Saudi Arabia as a gesture of "good will" towards what the Houthis called "a comprehensive halt of war." The offer came a week after the Sept. 14 missile-and-drone attack on the Saudi-owned largest oil producer Aramco that knocked out half of Saudi oil outputs. Riyadh blamed Iran for standing behind the attack, which Tehran denied. Saudi Arabia has been leading an Arab military coalition against Iran-allied Houthis in Yemen for more than four years in support of the exiled internationally-recognized government of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

US To Send 'Thousands' More Troops To Saudi Arabia - Reuters reports, citing defense or administration sources, that the US is set to send thousands of additional troops to Saudi Arabia in the wake of last month's Aramco attacks.  "The United States is planning to send a large number of additional forces to Saudi Arabia following the Sept. 14 attack on its oil facilities, which Washington and Riyadh have blamed on Iran," according to a breaking Reuters report.  Though the Pentagon has yet to officially confirm the report with comment, Reuters noted the "sources did not specify exactly how many troops would be deployed but said it was expected to be in the thousands. And Bloomberg reports this could be as many as 1,800 new personnel, pending an official Pentagon statement:Defense Secretary Mark Esper is expected to announce a new deployment of U.S. forces to the Middle East as tensions rise over Turkey’s military operations in northern Syria and an explosion on an Iranian oil tanker. As many as 1,800 military personnel, including two air squadrons, are expected to be deployed to the region, including to Saudi Arabia, according to a defense official.Since last month the Pentagon has already deployed up to 3,000 troops to the kingdom in coordination with King Salman and crown prince MbS for "regional stability" and to counter Iran. Ironically this comes as Trump has promised to "slowly" get "out of the Middle East". One journalist and MidEast analyst aptly questioned, "Is this to prop up the House of Saud internally, or warn off Iran?"

The Saudi Crown Prince’s Final Option -  Since the emergence of MBS as a main power player in the Kingdom, the crown prince has been under fire from his ultra-conservative religious opponents inside Saudi Arabia. More recently, more liberal voices such as former minister of energy Khalid Al Falih have been criticizing some of the Crown Prince’s policies. MBS has responded emphatically to this dissent, first with the Ritz Project and then with the removal of Khalid Al Falih and several other major power players. The strategy currently being implemented is designed to support the long-awaited Aramco IPO, an event that MBS sees as solidifying his power in the Oil Kingdom. The consolidation of MBS’ power all seemed to be going to plan until the recent drone attacks on Abqaiq. The severity of these attacks seems not to be fully understood by media and analysts as most are still taking the word of Aramco and the Saudi minister of energy as gospel when it comes to the impact. To call the updates coming out of Saudi Arabia optimistic is an understatement, an attack of that size cannot be undone in a matter of days. And even if the damage done to Abqaiq is technically restored, and Saudi oil is flowing at the same rates as before, the world has changed. We now know that with a small amount of low intensity advanced weapon systems, the heart of the global oil sector can be significantly disrupted. Saudi Arabia’s pivotal position as the main stabilizer of the oil markets has been at best dented or, at worst, destroyed. No repair shop will be able to bring back the unquestioned confidence in Saudi Arabia as the eternal swing producer upon which the security of energy supply can depend. With less than 30 drones and cruise missiles, Saudi’s spare production capacity was removed from the market. And, contrary to what many analysts believe, it is yet to come back online The Iran-Saudi conflict has entered a new phase, with the real threat of a full-scale conflict. The situations in Iraq and Libya will also suffer from the instability created by this stand of. And despite this instability, Saudi Arabia’s important ally, the United States, has refused to be fully drawn into the conflict. The link between Trump and MBS appears to be weakening as the geopolitical pressure cranks up. Washington appears will to bark but not to bite when it comes to Iran’s actions against Saudi Arabia. U.S. analysts and policy makers don’t seem to understand that this stance not only weakens US influence in the region, but directly opens the doors for opposition to MBS inside of the Kingdom. A possible Aramco IPO presentation at FII2019, followed by a 1% listing at the Saudi Tadawul, would put MBS firmly back in the spotlight and weaken any opposition. With the current stalemate in the region, more than 4000 investment funds, sovereign wealth funds and corporations will be sitting in the conference halls of the Ritz, willing to hand over the much needed cash and multibillion projects to solidify MBS’ position. Open support for MBS will be in place very soon, with Russian president Vladimir Putin expected to head to Riyadh very soon. In stark contrast to the waning Trump-MBS friendship, Putin is openly a big supporter of the crown prince’s strategy and dreams. Russian sovereign wealth fund RDIF and others are flocking to Riyadh’s hotels as further evidence of Russian support. Moscow appears set to capitalize on Washington’s weak response to the recent attacks in Saudi Arabia, and MBS will be eager to take advantage. A closer Saudi-Russian relationship may end up helping to restrain Iran, as the Islamic Republic is heavily dependent on Moscow’s support.

Nearly 100 Protesters Dead as Calls Grow for Iraqi Government to Resign — As the death toll nears 100 people killed and with thousands injured in a week of intense demonstrations, the Iraqi government on Saturday announced the lifting of a curfew in Baghdad as calls came for it to resign.In the worst violence seen since the declared defeat of the Islamic State group in March, security forces fired live ammunition into crowds of people protesting across Iraq against corruption, unemployment and a lack of services. According to the government-backed Iraqi Human Rights Commission, at least 93 people have been killed so far, while nearly 4,000 people have been injured.  Reuters reported police snipers shooting at protesters on Friday, escalating the death toll. Security sources have also accused gunmen of hiding among the demonstrators, while a number of police officers have been killed.  Demonstrations have taken place in numerous regions across the country in the past week, including Baghdad, Basra, Nasiriya and Mosul. Concrete barriers have been erected in the capital Baghdad in areas where police clashed with protesters, a significant move in a period when many of the previous concrete barriers erected to prevent IS car bombings were being removed.The Iraqi government has also imposed a blackout by blocking internet access across the country. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was set to convene an emergency meeting on Saturday to discuss the protesters’ demands. However, former prime minister Haider al-Abadi on Friday became the latest to join a chorus of voices calling on the government to resign. Abadi, whose own political career was torpedoed by his response to similar protests in Basra last year, also called for the “formation of a criminal court of corruption” and warned that the reforms demanded by protesters needed to be swiftly implemented. Influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has also called for the resignation of the government, and called on his Sairoun parliamentary group, the largest group in the parliament, to suspend its activities. On Friday, the National Axis alliance, the largest Sunni parliamentary bloc, also announced the suspension of its parliamentary activities in response to the protests.

Death toll in Iraq protests tops 105 - Scattered protests continued on Sunday as a tense calm settled over much of Baghdad following five days of mass demonstrations that left at least 105 dead and more than 6,100 wounded as of early Sunday. These are the figures released by Iraq’s Interior Ministry, and the real number of casualties is no doubt far higher. A combination of police, soldiers, counter-terrorism operatives and militiamen have unleashed live ammunition, rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon against unarmed demonstrators, in their great majority young unemployed workers and university graduates. As the protests grew larger, snipers were deployed on rooftops in the Iraqi capital to pick off demonstrators. Protesters arrested by security forces have been beaten and humiliated, while at least in one case, a young activist couple was shot to death by a masked death squad. By late Sunday night, another eight protesters were reportedly gunned down in eastern Baghdad’s impoverished Sadr City district, where Shia guerrillas battled US troops more than a decade ago. The intensity of the last five days of state violence is a direct manifestation of the crisis and instability of the regime headed by Abdul Mahdi, which has sought to rule by means of a sectarian appeal to Iraq’s Shia majority, while attempting to balance between Washington and Tehran. This government sits atop a social powder keg. Iraqi society has been ravaged by three decades of US wars, economic blockades and occupation, whose net effect has been the decimation of what was once the most advanced social infrastructure—including public education and healthcare as well as popular living standards—in the Middle East. What has replaced the authoritarian Ba’athist regime overthrown by the 2003 US invasion, with its leader Saddam Hussein put to death, was not the “democracy” promised by Washington, but a kleptocracy run by a collection of sectarian-based parties which came to power on the backs of American tanks. Abdul Mahdi is representative of this ruling clique, named finance minister in the first puppet government installed by the US occupation after a political career that saw him evolve from Ba’athism to the Stalinist Iraqi Communist Party, to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), a pro-Iranian exile militia, and finally Washington’s stooge. The mass uprising has centered in Baghdad and the heartland of the majority Shia population in southern Iraq, and its fury has been directed at both the government and the Shia sectarian parties.

Why Is Iraq Blowing Up Now? - Yes, Iraq.  It has not made front page headlines with so much else going on, but over the last several days there has been an escalating series of protests against corruption in various parts of Iraq and culminating yesterday in Baghdad with one being met by soldiers firing openly upon the demonstarters with the result being about 104 dead and 6,100 wounded.  The government of Adel Abdul al Mahdi appears in danger of facing a no confidence motion and falling as it has lost the support of fellow Shia leader al-Sadr, who has a large faction of supporters in the parliament and how apparently is supporting the demonstraters. Corruption has become an increasingly widespread problem around the world, so much so that we increasingly take it for granted and remain unimpressed by it.  And we are tired of hearing about Iraq, a nation we made a mess of, are now mostly not much bothered with, and especially since it appears that ISIS has been largely defeated.  Indeed, opposition to the deep government corruption there laid low while the war against ISIS was on.  But now with its defeat, many want something done about it. The way to realize the scale of it is Iraqi oil production has finally seriously recovered from all these wars and is now up to about 4.5 million barrels per day.  That makes it fourth in the world with a bit less than half of that the top three have: US, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.  Of course, the US still consumes more than it produces. Other major producers, including many nations producing much less than Iraq, have large state funds accumulated from their oil export earnngs, and much of which is being used to fund many useful things in their respective nations.  No such fund exists in Iraq and billions of dollars worth of earnings have simply disappeared.  Nobody knows where it has gone to and is going to.  The scale of this is truly immense; and when one stops to think about it, it becomes clear why there is such anger in Iraq now.  The nation has suffered decades of repression and war and destruction.  Peace has finally more or less arrived, and all this money is flowing in.  But none of it seems to be being used to fix up all the messes. This is likely to get worse before it gets better.

Death Toll In Iraq Soars As Pro-Iran Gunmen Start 'Shooting Protesters' - Iraqi paramilitary groups close to Iran are suspected of joining attacks on protesters in Baghdad and other cities, leading to heavy loss of life among demonstrators. Some 107 people have been killed and over 6,000 wounded in the last six days, though hospital doctors say the government is understating the true number of fatalities.“The pro-Iranian militia have each taken a sector of Baghdad and are responsible for its security,” a source, who does not want his name published, told The Independent. He said that snipers belonging to these groups had fired live rounds at protesters, often aiming for the head or heart. Eyewitnesses say that Iraqi soldiers are also firing directly into crowds of the protesters, who are demanding the fall of the government, jobs and an end to corruption.The gunmen shooting protesters come from pro-Iranian factions of the Hashd al-Shaabi or Popular Mobilization Units, an 85,000-strong strong body that came into being to stop the Isis advance on Baghdad after the fall of Mosul in 2014. It is a coalition of about 30 groups, many of them predating Isis, which is paid for by the Iraqi government and nominally under its control, but with widely varying political loyalties. They includes powerful units, such as Ketaeb Hezbollah, which say opening that their first loyalty is to the Iranian leadership.The demonstrations in Baghdad and in much of Shia southern Iraq are largely spontaneous, but where there are local leaders they have sometimes been singled out for killing.Haider Karim Al-Saidi, a leading organiser of the protests, was shot dead by a sniper near Al-Mudhafar Square late on Sunday night. Earlier, witnesses had reported that they had seen snipers taking up positions on roof tops overlooking the square. Footage shows how snipers, allegedly belonging to Iran-backed militias, were targeting peaceful protesters in Baghdad in cold blood. Who holds these militias accountable for this heinous crime? #Iraq pic.twitter.com/nNobrvXoz7

US Troops Will Withdraw From Northeast Syria to Avoid Imminent Turkish Invasion -  — In a surprise announcement late Sunday night, the White House Press Secretary released a statement that said, “Today, President Donald J. Trump spoke with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey by telephone. Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation in Northern Syria. The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in that operation, and the United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial “Caliphate,” will no longer be in the immediate area.”The statement does not make it clear if U.S. troops will fully withdraw from Syria or if they will just relocate. The statement also says, “Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years.” The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Saturday that it would “not hesitate to turn any unprovoked attack by Turkey into an all-out war” to defend the region of northeast Syria that it controls. The SDF responded to a threat by Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan, who said on Saturday that Turkey will soon launch an “air and ground military operation” in northeastern Syria and warned it could happen “as soon as today or tomorrow.” The SDF is led by the Syrian Kurdish Militia YPG, who the Turkish government considers to be a terrorist organization. In August, Turkey and the U.S. agreed to create a safe zone in Kurdish controlled Syria along the Turkish border to settle some two million Syrian refugees. Part of the deal was to clear the area of all the Kurdish fighters, which Erdogan complains the U.S. military has failed to do. Erdogan and President Trump also agreed to meet in Washington next month to discuss the issues with the safe zone in northeastern Syria. Washington has always hoped to avoid a military confrontation between Turkey and the YPG. The shortsighted policy of arming and backing an enemy of Turkey so close to their border was bound to have dangerous consequences.

Analysis: President Trump hands over northern Syria to Turkey - President Trump's announcement to withdraw all U.S. forces from northern Syria came as a bombshell for the Syrian Democratic Forces who sacrificed many of their ranks on the bloody battlefields of northeast Syria, to defeat fanatical ISIS combatants prepared to fight to the last man and woman.The top Kurdish commander of U.S.-backed SDF forces, Mazlum Kobone, said himself that more than 11,000 of his soldiers were killed in the war against ISIS. The U.S. supplied essential aerial bombardments and logistical advice but it was the local fighters on the ground who bore the brunt of the bloodshed.  The latest White House statement never once mentioned the contribution of those SDF combatants – the vast majority made up of Syrian-Kurdish YPG fighters -- and took sole U.S. credit for defeating the ISIS territorial "Caliphate."  Now it appears the Trump administration is abandoning those Kurdish allies altogether, in favor of the Kurds' nemesis, the Turkish government. Turkey has been fighting separatist Kurds across the border inside its own territory for decades, and in recent years has incurred several times into Syria to fight against Syrian Kurds. For Donald Trump to hand the fate of Syria's Kurds over to their sworn enemy Turkey not only represents a major disservice to the people who did more to defeat ISIS in Syria than anyone else, but it also sends an ominous message to any group who would ever consider allying themselves to the United States in the future.  The Kurds are not likely to roll over and accept this without a fight. Perhaps anticipating the White House move, YPG spokesman Mustafa Bali said just two days ago the SDF, "is committed to the security mechanism framework and has been taking necessary steps to preserve stability in the region. However we will not hesitate to turn any unprovoked attack by Turkey into an all-out war on the entire border to DEFEND ourselves and our people."

Washington green lights Turkish attack on Kurdish forces in Syria - On Sunday night, in a major shift in US war policy, the White House gave a green light for a Turkish invasion of northern Syria. In doing so, it has abandoned to their fate Kurdish nationalist militias that have fought since 2015 as Washington’s main proxy force in the NATO war in Syria, and which the Turkish government denounces as terrorists to be bloodily suppressed. After Trump called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the White House issued a statement at 11 p.m. Sunday declaring: “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria. The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.” Yesterday, as US troops withdrew from positions along the Turkish-Syrian border, Erdoğan said the Turkish attack could begin any time. “We made a decision," he declared. "We said, ‘one night we could come suddenly.’ We continue with our determination... It is absolutely out of the question for us to further tolerate the threats from these terrorist groups.” Turkish armored vehicles patrol as they conduct a joint ground patrol with American forces in the so-called "safe zone" on the Syrian side of the border with Turkey, near the town of Tal Abyad, northeastern Syria, Friday, Oct.4, 2019. With US approval, the Turkish government is preparing a bloodbath against Kurdish forces in Syria. Washington and Ankara have agreed that Turkish troops are to control a zone in northern Syria 30 kilometers deep, along 480 km of the Turkish-Syrian border (19 miles by 300 miles). Ankara plans to forcibly resettle in this zone 1 to 2 million of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees who fled to Turkey during the eight-year NATO proxy war in Syria, and has threatened to pursue its offensive outside this zone if necessary. US troops are reportedly withdrawing from a 100 km stretch of the border from Tal Abyad to Ras al-Ain to allow Turkish troops to attack through this gap. However, the BBC reported that in light of Ankara’s threats of a broader invasion, “British and American special forces have for months been making preparations for a partial or full withdrawal from the area if the situation escalates.”

Erdogan's Syria Invasion Begins: Turkish Jets Filmed Bombing Kurdish Targets - Erdogan's promised Turkish military operation in northeast Syria has begun, as confirmed by regional media and video footage. On Monday night Turkish fighter jets commenced bombing the Semelka Border Crossing in far northeast Syria on the border with Iraq.  Both Hezbollah-affiliated al-Mayadeen television channel and Israeli media are also reporting Turkish jets have attacked Kurdish targets in northern Syria. This as the US claimed to have effectively shut down Northern Syria airspace to Turkey, and while Russian jets have reportedly been observed patrolling southern Syria, presumably to ensure the Turkish incursion comes nowhere near Syrian Army positions. The Semelka crossing since 2016 acted as a key SDF supply point between Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq and the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. Turkey's Anadolu Agency also reports Turkish officers have been expelled from the Joint Air Operations Center which was the heart of coordinated anti-ISIL activities among the allies, meaning US surveillance and reconnaissance data are no longer shared with Ankara. In northeast Syria a rapid US withdrawal from border observation posts at Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain has reportedly already occurred, paving the way for the imminent Turkish incursion.  Citing Pentagon spokeswoman Carla Gleason, Anadolu noted, howeverShe stopped short of saying that the air space has been shut down to Turkey, but noted "if you’re not on the air tasking order, it’s really hard to coordinate flights in that area." We might note that when it comes to the Kurds, Erdogan has never suffered qualms about having to "coordinate" his actions with allies.  It appears Trump's dire Twitter warning to "obliterate" Ankara's economy, directed both at the Turks and at US hawks who accuse the president throwing Kurdish partner forces to the wolves, was ineffective, given by all indicators a Turkish aerial campaign has commenced.

10,000 ISIS Unleashed: Syrian Kurds Warn Of Mass Prison Break If Turkey Invades - Syria's US-backed Kurdish militias are warning that over 10,000 jihadists, among these thousands of ISIS terrorists, could go free as a result Turkey's 'imminent' invasion of northeast Syria. The numbers of ISIS terrorists unleashed in the wake of the Turkish military incursion could be the biggest since the height of the Islamic State caliphate's existence, per Syrian Kurdish official statements reported by Fox News:Aside from the existential threat to the Kurdish fighters posed by Turkey, Syrian Kurdish forces are also warning that ISIS sleeper cells are actively plotting to free about 12,000 militants currently detained by the Kurds and may take advantage of the Turkey-triggered turmoil to aid their plans.Those in custody include about 2,500 foreign fighters from Europe and elsewhere whose native countries have been reluctant to take them back — and about 10,000 other captured fighters from Syria and Iraq.One major but relatively underreported fact is that over at least the past two years makeshift Kurdish/SDF prisons have held many of the region's most dangerous terrorists with the Pentagon's help. Kurdish forces have blamed Turkey for unleashing ISIS jihadists on northern Syria in the first place. Despite a US statement late Sunday saying that Turkey will now take custody of the thousands of militants after Washington announced it "will not support or be involved in the [Turkish] operation" and "will no longer be in the immediate area," a rapid US withdrawal from border bases such as at Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain in northeast Syria (which has already happened at both locations), leaves the fate of ISIS prisoners in the area in question.

Syrian Kurds Say 'Partnership' With Assad Or Russia Likely If Turkey Invades -As we predicted in the wake of the White House's late Sunday announcement that “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria” and that American troops will withdraw from the "immediate area" this will ensure that the United States' Kurdish proxies in Syria, now in Erdogan's cross hairs, will quickly do a deal with "the devil we know" that is, come under the protection of Assad and the Syrian Army. On Monday the commander of the US trained and armed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Mazlum Abdi, indicated just that in a bombshell statement. “We are considering a partnership with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with the aim of fighting Turkish forces,” he said. "This is one of the options we have on the table," the top SDF commander added. In the statement he further called on the American people to put pressure on President Donald Trump to stay the course in northeast Syria. No doubt this is sure to get the immediate attention of the top Pentagon brass, given current and former defense officials (in both the Obama and Trump administrations) have routinely said that among US goals in Syria is ensuring Syria's Kurdish militias do not seek rapprochement with Damascus. In most places were the Kurdish YPG/SDF are dominant, they simply inherited control of territory which the Syrian Army had in 2013 and 2014 rapidly withdrew from amid an intense al-Qaeda/ISIS onslaught. Thus throughout the war in many local areas along the Euphrates Kurdish and pro-Assad forces have entered into pragmatic and tacit cooperation, despite being official "enemies" based on Kurdish-US partnership.  Of the possible looming US troops withdrawal, or at least a withdraw from crucial border posts in the north, Abdi said in an interview with NBC News: “Frankly, this makes us disappointed. The decision harms Syrian trust in the United States and the credibility of the United States.”

Turkey opens ground assault on Syria's Kurds; U.S. Republicans turn on Trump (Reuters) - Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel allies attacked Kurdish militia in northeast Syria on Wednesday, pounding them with air strikes and artillery before starting a cross-border ground operation that could transform an eight-year-old war. The assault began days after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled American troops out of the way, prompting denunciations from senior members of his own Republican Party who say he abandoned the Syrian Kurds, loyal allies of Washington. “The Turkish Armed Forces and the Syrian National Army have launched the land operation into the east of the Euphrates river as part of the Operation Peace Spring,” the Turkish defense ministry tweeted after nightfall, following a day of pounding the area from the air. Turkish media reported troops entering Syria at four points, two of them close to the Syrian town of Tel Abyad and two close to Ras al Ain further east. Turkey told the United Nations Security Council in a letter seen by Reuters that its military operation would be “proportionate, measured and responsible.” The 15-member body will meet on Thursday to discuss Syria at the request of the five European members, Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland. Thousands of people fled Ras al Ain toward Hasaka province, held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The Turkish air strikes killed at least five civilians and three fighters from the SDF and wounded dozens of civilians, the SDF said. Reuters journalists at Akcakale on the Turkish side of the frontier watched as explosions struck Tel Abyad. After dark, the red flare of rockets could be seen fired across the border into Tel Abyad, and flames burned near the town. Explosions from Tel Abyad could be heard eight hours into the bombardment. A witness reached by telephone said civilians were fleeing en masse.

Thousands flee, hundreds reported dead in Turkish attack on U.S.-allied Kurds in Syria - The offensive against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) led by Kurdish YPG militia, which began days after Trump pulled U.S. troops out of the way and following a phone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, opens one of the biggest new fronts in years in an eight-year-old civil war that has drawn in global powers. “We have one of three choices: Send in thousands of troops and win Militarily, hit Turkey very hard Financially and with Sanctions, or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds!” Trump said in a Twitter post on Thursday. “I hope we can mediate,” Trump said when asked about the options by reporters at the White House. Without elaborating, Trump said the United States was “going to possibly do something very, very tough with respect to sanctions and other financial things” against Turkey. The SDF have been the main allies of U.S. forces on the ground in the battle against Islamic State since 2014. They have been holding thousands of captured IS fighters in prisons and tens of thousands of their relatives in detention. SDF forces were still in control of all prisons with Islamic State captives, a senior U.S. State Department official said in a briefing with reporters on Thursday.

Erdogan threatens to flood Europe with 3.6 million refugees as Syria offensive forces tens of thousands to flee  - Turkey’s president has threatened to send millions of Syrian refugees to Europe in retaliation for stinging world criticism of his military operation in northern Syria that has left 17 civilians dead, including several children.Lashing out at the European Union and others that joined a global chorus of condemnation, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned he would “open the gates” if anyone called his offensive “an invasion”. Seventeen civilians and dozens of fighters on both sides, have been killed since Turkish troops and its Syrian rebel allies launched a cross-border incursion against Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Wednesday.  Among the dead in Syria are three children, rights groups have reported. The Turkish authorities meanwhile said that that six people, including a nine-month-old baby had been killed on the Turkish side. Over 60,000 people have since fled their homes as Ankara’s military advanced, capturing nine Syrian villages and encircling two Kurdish-held towns. Under airstrikes and heavy artillery, panicked residents of the Syrian border towns told The Independent they had “nowhere to hide”.

US soldier in Syria: 'I am ashamed for the first time in my career' -- A U.S. special forces member serving with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria said Turkey is inflicting atrocities as it invades northeastern Syria. “I am ashamed for the first time in my career,” the unidentified soldier, who has been involved in the training of indigenous forces on multiple continents, told Fox News Wednesday.“Turkey is not doing what it agreed to. It’s horrible,” the soldier added. “We met every single security agreement. The Kurds met every single agreement [with the Turks]. There was no threat to the Turks — none — from this side of the border.”Turkey launched an offensiveagainst Kurdish groups Wednesday in northern Syria after President Trump announced that U.S. troops would withdraw from the area in anticipation of the operation, removing the chief deterrent to Ankara's offensive. Trump sparked a firestorm in Washington over the decision, saying he does not want to fight “endless wars.” “The Kurds fought with us, but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so. They have been fighting Turkey for decades. I held off this fight for almost 3 years, but it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN.”  Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a staunch Trump ally and defense hawk, fired back, saying the decision was a “disaster in the making” that “ensures [an] ISIS comeback” and “will be a stain on America’s honor for abandoning the Kurds.”

US Special Forces in Syria ‘Mistakenly’ Bombed by Turkey -  In a surprise Treasury Department press briefing early Friday afternoon, Steven Mnuchin said the president hasauthorized” new sanctions on NATO member Turkey over its ongoing assault on US-backed Syrian Kurdish groups in northern Syria, also as bipartisan legislation targeting Turkey has been introduced in both the House and Senate.  Turkey has now given Trump every reason to unleash the newly authorized sanctions, as Newsweek reports that American special forces troops have come under Turkish fire.According to the breaking exclusive: “A contingent of U.S. Special Forces has been caught up in Turkish shelling against U.S.-backed Kurdish positions in northern Syria.” It was “apparently by mistake,” the report adds. The Newsweek report cites an “Iraqi Kurdish intelligence official and senior Pentagon official” to say that “Special Forces operating in the Mashtenour hill in the majority-Kurdish city of Kobani fell under artillery fire from Turkish forces” amid operations related to ‘Operation Peace Spring’.It will be interesting to see what Ankara’s defense will be no doubt claiming the attack on Americans was ‘accidental’ and ‘inadvertent’ given that, as Newsweek continues:The senior Pentagon official said that Turkish forces should be aware of U.S. positions “down to the grid.” While the official could not specify the exact number of personnel present, but indicated they were “small numbers below company level,” so somewhere between 15 and 100 troops.No US casualties were mentioned in initial reports, however, this will likely be enough to trigger Washington sanctions in 3, 2, 1… But in the meantime Russia Responds- All Foreign Troops With Illegal Presence Should Leave Syria -- Russia's response to the White House's late Sunday shock announcement saying “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria” has been relatively muted. Though Trump reportedly told Erdogan the US won't back the operation in a 'last minute' weekend phone call, it still appears a tacit US green light, considering American forces have now moved away from the Turkish border with northern Syria and are in a “wait and see” position. While a Kremlin spokesman said in reaction that all foreign military forces ‘with illegal presence’ should leave Syria, and that "Syria’s territorial integrity must be preserved," a looming American exit from the theater no doubt has Russian officials breathing a sigh of relief in terms of their number one defined priority — preserving and defending the Assad government.  Russia has proven it can deal with Erdogan's expansionist policies, but not the United States' presence in Syria. Over the past years going back to 2015 US and Russian forces have on multiple occasions been on the brink of directly clashing, igniting a possible WWIII scenario.

ISIS Jail Break Begins- Riots At Sprawling Al-Hol Prison Camp As Turkey Invades - There's growing concern that over 10,000 jihadists, among these thousands of ISIS terrorists, could go free as a result of Turkey's ongoing invasion of northeast Syria. This is especially the case at the sprawling al-Hol prison camp, administered and guarded by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), home to over 70,000 people - mostly families of known ISIS fighters. This as the White House seems to have washed its hands of the matter, leaving the question up to local and regional powers, especially Turkey. Al-Hol is considered ground zero for a potential resurgent ISIS, ready to explode as SDF security was already severely undermanned even months prior to this week's Turkish Army attack, and now there's large scale rioting breaking out, per SDF official reports and video footage.   Months ago, the BBC reported of the refugee city in the desert: "Al-Hol is a nightmare, a camp that has grown from 11,000 people, to more than 70,000. It is swollen with the dark aftermath of the collapsed pseudo-caliphate. It is ready to burst."It appears the remnant ISIS insurgents are taking advantage of the Turkish operation to regroup, and to gain freedom from the many makeshift detention centers across northeast Syria maintained by the SDF.Crucially, the SDF announced days ago that under Turkish attack they can no longer maintain appropriate level of security guarding their ISIS prisoners. And though American special forces personnel are still present at a number of bases in the region (after having fallen back from border observation posts amid the Turkish operation), it doesn't appear the Pentagon has any sort of contingency plan.

Dramatic Video Shows ISIS Prison Break Under Turkish Artillery Fire In Syria --  After President Trump days ago revealed the US military in northeast Syria had moved some of the “most dangerous” ISIS terrorists amid fears they could escape as Turkish forces invade US allied Kurdish areas, saying “We’re putting them in different locations where it’s secure,” a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) official has told reporters that at least 5 ISIS members have escaped after a mortar struck their prison. This comes after a separate earlier 'riot' and escape attempt incident filmed at al-Hol prison camp. CCTV footage released by Syrian Kurdish authorities appears to confirm this, at a moment Qamishli continues to be under severe bombardment through late Friday:  The Independent (UK) reports of the incident in Qamishli city, which is now under attack by Turkey: Five Isis militants have broken out of a prison in northern Syria after Turkish shelling nearby, a spokesman in the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has said. The detainees escaped from a prison in Qamishli city, Marvan Qamishlo said.The official statement from the SDF's Coordination and Military Ops Centers said that "5 ISIS detained militants fled Jirkin prison in Qamishli as a result of Turkish shelling."Separate video released showed the moments Turkish artillery shells rained down on the prison:

Reports: Up to 35 Russian Mercenaries Killed in Libya  As many as 35 Russian mercenaries are reported to have been killed in Libya while they were fighting for Khalifa Haftar, the military general most associated with the rule of the late leader Muammar Gaddafi, who launched an offensive earlier this year on the Libyan capital of Tripoli, home to the country’s internationally-recognized government, according to a Russian media. The mercenaries are thought to work for the Wagner Group, a military contractor run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman nicknamed Putin’s Chef because he holds lucrative Kremlin catering contracts. Asked by VOA about the reports of the fatalities in an airstrike on the outskirts of Tripoli, where Haftar’s forces have been bogged down for months, Maria Zakharova, the Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, said she had “no detailed information” and suggested directing questions to Russia’s defense ministry. The spokeswoman later dismissed any notion the mercenaries are Kremlin-linked, saying there’s little Russia can legally do to prevent “private Russian citizens from acting as bodyguards overseas.” 

 New Clashes Erupt in Libya; Fighting Reported in South Tripoli - — Launched in April, Khalifa Hafter’s bid to take over Libya, and the capital of Tripoli, looks to be breaking out again, with his forces attacking fighters from the UN-backed unity government over the past couple of days.The Hafter forces opened fire on the unity force fighters in southern Tripoli, and heavy fighting is reported in parts of the city. The unity government’s office is claiming to have retaken parts of the city lost in the early push.Details are scant, but the unity government is accusing the UAE of having gotten involved, and that they captured and destroyed a UAE-provided armored vehicle from Hafter forces. The UAE is one of several nations that is seen as backing Hafter’s takeover of Libya, with many believing that the takeover by a military dictator would stabilize the country. This faction is led by Egypt’s military junta, which seems to want to replicate its own coup there.

 Did China Just Announce the End of U.S. Primacy in the Pacific? For decades, the United States has taken China’s ballistic missile capability for granted, assessing it as a low-capability force with limited regional impact and virtually no strategic value. But on October 1, during a massive military parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Beijing put the U.S., and the world, on notice that this assessment was no longer valid. In one fell swoop, China may have nullified America’s strategic nuclear deterrent, the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and U.S. missile defense capability. Through its impressive display of new weapons systems, China has underscored the reality that while the United States has spent the last two decades squandering trillions of dollars fighting insurgents in the Middle East, Beijing was singularly focused on overcoming American military superiority in the Pacific. If the capabilities of these new weapons are taken at face value, China will have succeeded on this front.  In the West, it is called RMA, short for “Revolution in Military Affairs.” The term was first coined by Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov in the early 1980s. Ogarkov, who was at the time serving as the chief of the Soviet general staff, spoke of“developments in nonnuclear means of destruction [which] promise to make it possible to sharply increase (by at least an order of magnitude) the destructive potential of conventional weapons, bringing them closer, so to speak, to weapons of mass destruction in terms of effectiveness.” 

China Services PMI Tumbles To 7-Month Lows - With China coming back from Golden Week celebrations, all eyes are on PMI data (expected to be flat from August) as a sign that things are not getting any worse ahead of this week's trade negotiations in Washington. This is the last PMI print for September (after a mixed bag from official data across services and manufacturing):

  • China Official Manufacturing PMI small rise to 49.8
  • China Official Non-Manufacturing small drop to 53.7 (lowest since Nov 2018)
  • China Caixin Manufacturing notable rebound to 51.4 (highest since Feb 2018)
  • China Caixin Non-Manufacturing dropped to 51.3 (lowest since Feb 2019)

The weakness is somewhat surprising given the position China might want to portray during this week's negotiations.

Chinese Citizens Will Be Required To Scan Their Faces To Use The Internet - The Chinese government continues its Orwellian practices with the announcement that citizens will have to use facial recognition technology to access the internet (which is already highly fire-walled.) This is all a part of China’s social credit system that will take effect on Dec. 1st.  After the law is in effect, Chinese citizens who want to have the internet installed at their houses or on their smartphones will be required to undergo a facial recognition process by Chinese authority to prove their identities, according to the new regulation. This is significant because now the Chinese government will use the internet to rate citizens based on their daily behavior online.mSince 2015, Chinese citizens have been required to show their ID cards while applying for a landline or the internet. This new law is put in place to verify that the ID belongs to the person applying for services. The new law was published on the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) website and distributed to all Chinese telecom carriers on Sept. 27th, which includes three demands be met, Epoch Times reports. First, all telecom carriers must use facial recognition to test whether an applicant who applies for internet connection is the owner of the ID that they use since Dec. 1. At the same time, the carriers must test that the ID is genuine and valid.Second, all telecom carriers must upgrade their service’s terms and conditions and notify all their customers that they are not allowed to transfer or resell their cell phone SIM card to another person by the end of November 2019.Third, telecom carriers should help their customers to check whether there are cell phone or landline numbers that don’t belong to them but registered under their names since Dec. 1. For unidentified numbers, the telecom carries must investigate and close the lines immediately.This comes on the heels of another Chinese pilot program which allows citizens to pay for subway/train travel using just their facial biometrics as Activist Post reported. This new system also compensates elderly Chinese in the city of Shenzhen, China, with a free ride — if they pay with their face  — providing incentives for using facial recognition technology.

Chinese citizens must pass a facial-recognition test to use the internet as part of Beijing's social credit system - China has stepped up its internet censorship by demanding its citizens pass a facial-recognition test to be able to use web services. People who want to have the internet installed at home or on their phones must have their faces scanned by the Chinese authority to prove their identities, according to a new regulation. The rule, which will take effect on December 1, is said to be part of the social credit system which rates the Chinese citizens based on their daily behaviour.At present, a Chinese citizen will need to show his or her ID card while applying for a landline or the internet. The facial-recognition test is set to verify that the ID card belongs to the applicant. The directive was issued by the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology late last month. The Ministry claimed the move would help improve the country's internet security and combat terrorism. Chinese citizens are also banned from re-selling their SIM cards by the regulation to prevent unregistered users from making calls from mobile phones. China has been building the world's largest facial-recognition surveillance system. The Big-Brother-style scheme is powered by hundreds of millions of AI street cameras aiming to identify any of the country's citizens within three seconds. 

Hong Kong protests: tens of thousands defy mask ban as mobs go on rampage against mainland China-linked businesses and MTR Tens of thousands of Hong Kong protesters defied a new mask ban for a third straight day as a radical core went on a wrecking spree across the city, vandalising mainland China-linked property, setting fires and targeting police with noticeably bigger petrol bombs, and engaging in bloody fist fights. The masked mobs smashed banks, stores and bookshops associated with mainland China, trashed government buildings and started fires at the exits of several MTR stations as they continued their attack on the city’s railway operator for allegedly aiding police in their clearance operations. After a total shutdown for 1½ days, the rail operator reopened half of its stations at midmorning on Sunday, only to then close four stations and suspend the services of seven lines later after it became a target yet again. It closed the entire network at 9pm. The majority of MTR stations remained closed on Monday morning, including Admiralty, Prince Edward and Mong Kok. The whole system would be shut again at 6pm to “allow more time for repair”, the MTR Corporation said. In Wan Chai on Sunday, after a tense face-off and an exchange of petrol bombs and tear gas, police conducted sweeps and detained groups of protesters. Many were then unmasked, revealing their youthful appearance, before they had their hands zip-tied as they were escorted onto a coach that took them away. For the first time, the People’s Liberation Army barracks in Kowloon East issued a warning in Cantonese in the early evening after demonstrators shone laser lights as they walked past the buildings en route to another location. A yellow flag went up at the top of the building warning the demonstrators as several men in uniform were seen filming the protesters and a floodlight shone on them. Nothing more came of the tense moment, however, as both sides soon cleared from the scene.

Hong Kong could be at 'tipping point' as warning flag unfurled at Chinese military barracks - The Chinese military garrison in Hong Kong offered a rare public reaction in the face of taunts from protesters Sunday, as violence escalated across the city over the weekend.Video from Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK shows a yellow flag raised from atop a People's Liberation Army (PLA) building in Kowloon Tong, in north Kowloon, warning protesters they could be prosecuted if they continued to approach the barracks. The flag appears to be similar to those used by police during protests.Half a dozen personnel could be seen standing on top of the barracks shining flashlights at dozens of protesters below, who were aiming laser pointers and other lights at the building. The incident is believed to be the first known interaction between the PLA and protesters during 18 weeks of anti-government demonstrations.Police sources told CNN that it was not the police on the roof of the building but was personnel from the PLA responding to the crowd. At no point did the soldiers venture from the garrison. CNN has reached out to the office of the Hong Kong Chief Executive, the People's Liberation Army in Hong Kong and the Chinese Defense Ministry for comment.  The interaction comes as protests intensified over the weekend following Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam's use of emergency powers to ban face masks at public gatherings.

Hong Kong protests: economy lost an estimated HK$2.8 billion over ‘golden week’, experts say Hong Kong’s economy lost at least HK$2.8 billion (US$356 million) over the past six days, according to local analysts and business leaders, with visitor numbers in free-fall and the city’s rail network crippled by rampaging anti-government protesters. Experts who spoke to the Post on Monday said the damage to certain business sectors – such as retail, dining, transport and hotels – could exceed HK$1.9 billion over the three-day holiday weekend. Each source also predicted that Hong Kong’s economy would only get worse as the protest crisis grinds on. The head of a local brokerage firm estimated that the MTR Corporation lost around HK$500 million over the weekend, citing the damage caused by protesters and the loss of ticket revenue. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Friday issued a ban on masks at public assemblies by invoking a colonial-era emergency law not used in more than half a century. Protesters reacted with violence, strongly denouncing and defying the mask ban as they unleashed destruction and chaos across Hong Kong on Saturday and Sunday. Amid the mayhem, rumours appeared online that the new level of destruction could result in restrictions on the city’s financial system that would target protesters.Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po on Sunday swiftly quashed the rumours, saying the government had no plan to impose foreign exchange controls and was committed to keeping a free flow of capital in the city.

Hong Kong Is Sinking Into a Recession With No Recovery in Sight - Hong Kong is facing its first recession since the global financial crisis, with little prospect of an immediate recovery as the city confronts its most violent protests in decades. From luxury hotels and major shopping malls to neighborhood stores and restaurants in tourist hubs like Central, Causeway Bay and Tsim Sha Tsui, businesses are closing early or seeing fewer customers. Even when things are open, stores and the airport are quiet, as tourists stay away. The city’s subway network, or MTR, was closed entirely for long stretches during the holiday weekend from Oct. 4 amid the violent backlash to Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s attempt to quell months of protests by invoking a colonial-era emergency law. Hong Kong is on the verge of its first recession since the financial crisis The economy in Hong Kong contracted in the second quarter, almost certainly in the third quarter and the data are still deteriorating. The question is how deep and prolonged the pain will be. Once Asia’s manufacturing powerhouse before the rise of mainland China, Hong Kong’s freewheeling consumer and finance-led economy is highly vulnerable to a collapse in confidence that has been delivered by the turmoil. The city’s government has struggled to make the case that it has the policy tools to arrest the slide while the unrest continues. “I do not expect to see any strong measures that can instantaneously turn things around,” said Dong Chen, senior Asia economist with Pictet Wealth Management, one of a growing chorus of experts predicting Hong Kong had a second straight quarterly contraction in the three months through September. “The best scenario is after this political unrest they can come up with longer-term planning or measures to solve structural problems.”

 India’s state of siege in Kashmir continues - With the blessing of India’s Supreme Court and the staunch support of big business and virtually the entire opposition, the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government continues to subject Jammu and Kashmir to an unprecedented security lockdown and communications blackout. Since August 5—for the last 69 days—the 13 million residents of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) region have been denied all cell phone and internet access. Tens of thousands of Indian army troops and paramilitaries remain deployed in cities, towns and villages across J&K to brutally suppress any anti-government actions, and to police curfews and restrictions on people’s movements whenever and wherever they are imposed. Security forces have detained thousands of people without charge, including boys as young as 9 years old, while steadfastly refusing to provide any accounting of the number of detained, their names, and current whereabouts. This state of siege was implemented to enforce the BJP’s August 5 constitutional coup. Without warning, let alone any consultation with Kashmiris, the government stripped J&K of its special semi-autonomous constitutional status by presidential fiat, and then downgraded and bifurcated what had been India’s only Muslim-majority state. Henceforth, J&K is to be governed as two Union territories, effectively placing the region under permanent central government trusteeship. Modi’s assault on J&K has multiple reactionary objectives. These include strengthening India’s hand against neighbouring Pakistan and China, and whipping up chauvinism and bellicose nationalism to energize the BJP’s Hindu supremacist activist base and intimidate and divide the working class under conditions of a deepening economic crisis and mounting social opposition. Government officials claimed that “normalcy” would be quickly re-established in J&K. But long before the security lockdown entered its current tenth week, they stopped giving any clear indication of when cell phone and internet service will be restored or those detained without charge released. Modi’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who personally supervised the initial phases of the stage of siege from Srinagar, J&K’s largest city, has cynically said that the lifting of the cell phone and internet restrictions “depends on” Pakistan ceasing to use these networks to send “signals” to “operatives.”

Kashmir conflict: Woes deepen as lockdown stifles economy - The lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir has cost the region's economy more than $1bn in two months, according to industry experts. BBC Hindi's Vineet Khare reports. Mushtaq Chai recalls the afternoon of 2 August when he received a "security advisory" from the administration. A prominent local businessman, he owns several hotels across the Muslim-majority valley in Indian-administered Kashmir. The note warned of "terror threats" and advised that tourists and Hindu pilgrims should "curtail their visit... and return as soon as possible". Mr Chai, like many others, took the advisory seriously. Two years before, seven Hindu pilgrims were killed in a militant attack while returning from the Amarnath cave, a major Hindu shrine in Kashmir's Anantnag district. "This was the first time in Kashmir's history that tourists and pilgrims were asked to leave," Mr Chai says. Soon officials arrived to enforce the order, and Mr Chai and his staff made arrangements for all of the guests to leave immediately. Days later, on 5 August, the federal government stripped the region of its special status and placed it under a communications lockdown. Two months on, the situation is far from normal. Internet and mobile phone connections remain suspended, public transport is not easily available, and most businesses are shut - some in protest against the government, and others for fear of reprisals from militants opposed to Indian rule. There is also a shortage of skilled labour, as some 400,000 migrants have left since the lockdown began. What's more, the streets are deserted and devoid of the tourist business which had supported up to 700,000 people.

Mexico: 100,000 university workers strike as López Obrador’s vows deeper austerity - About 100,000 university employees went on strike across Mexico Wednesday to protest the bankruptcy imposed by the federal government on nine state universities and to demand greater funds for public education. At least 30 universities joined the strike, which was called by the National Confederation of University Workers (CONTU). Management at the bankrupt universities have informed workers that they will soon stop paying wages and benefits indefinitely since they have not received money for payrolls since August. Some universities could close before the end of the year. In his daily morning press briefing on Wednesday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador denounced the strike as “blackmail” aimed at appropriating the “people’s sacred money.” He stated, “We are all obligated to act with austerity, and I can speak like that because I have the moral authority,” citing the cuts in the budget for the Presidency and for other top officials. While promising a higher budget for universities in 2020, López Obrador sought to scapegoat striking educators for any future regressive policies. “We have to act with discipline,” he added, “because, if money is handed right and left, then it would turn into a deficit and we would have to raise taxes; create new taxes; impose fuel price hikes, like before; ask for loans, increase the debt, like before.” López Obrador’s filthy tactic is of a piece with the so-called “education reform” implemented under his predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and effectively continued under López Obrador’s Morena party. The legislation set up a system of teacher evaluations aimed at charging teachers with “underperformance” to scapegoat them for the social crisis in the country and to justify greater cuts in spending and privatizations. Social anger against López Obrador’s education policies has escalated since the beginning of the year. In January and February, teachers in the southern states of Michoacán and Oaxaca struck and blocked key railway lines to protest the non-payment of benefits. In February, thousands of workers of the Autonomous University of Mexico City (UACM) struck to demand a major raise in spending and salaries, and they were soon joined by the Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM), and the Universities of Oaxaca, Coahuila and Chapingo.

 Darkening Outlook For Trade - Global Air Cargo Rates Continue To Plummet, Hit 4-Year Low -- As global trade volumes continue to fall, air cargo rates are hitting their lowest levels in four years, reported The Journal of Commerce (JOC).Peter Stallion, an analyst at Freight Investor Services (FIS), told JOC that air cargo rates out of Asia in Aug. and Sept. have generally been a good indication of what to expect in 4Q. He said rates in Asia haven't been this low since 2015, and that could mean the global economy is likely to slow through the year. mWorldACD, a firm focused on advising air cargo companies, said in the first eight months of 2019, from January to August, global air cargo demand fell 5% YoY. For the same period, demand for Asian carriers sank by 6%. WorldACD said chargeable weight declined 7% for the first eight months on a YoY basis, which sparked worldwide revenue declines for global air cargo firms of at least 16%. More specifically, air cargo originating in Europe plummeted 15.3% and was down 11.6% for cargo originating in Asia-Pacific. Andrew Herdman, director-general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA), said cargo demand from Asia fell 6.4% in Aug. YoY as macroeconomic headwinds continued to gain momentum into late summer, now fall.

Crisis In The Skies- 2019 Airline Bankruptcies On Pace For Fastest Growth In History - As macroeconomic headwinds develop in the global economy, something odd, but not really surprising, is occurring: the bankruptcy rate for airliners across the world is exploding, at a pace never seen before, reported Reuters, citing a new report from the International Bureau of Aviation (IBA).  Airline bankruptcies generally start to gain pace right before an economic downturn, and during a recession, which means the latest surge in bankruptcies, from companies like India's Jet Airways, British travel group Thomas Cook and Avianca of Brazil, suggests 2020 could be a disastrous year for the global economy.  IBA states, "2019 has seen the fastest growth in airline failure in history," with about 17 carriers filing for bankruptcy protection as of Sept. With peak summer travel season winding down, many airliners are dealing with high debt loads, earnings deterioration, dwindling cash, higher fuel costs, a stronger dollar, and global economic turmoil that is squeezing the most vulnerable carriers. "The last quarter of the year tends to see more failures during the northern hemisphere winter," Phil Seymour, IBA's chief executive, told Reuters. Seymour said the strong dollar had severely damaged emerging market carriers. Reuters notes that the series of bankruptcies has helped cash-strapped carriers acquire planes and airport slots at heavily discounted prices. France's Aigle Azur and XL Airways, Germania, Flybmi, and Adria of Slovenia, are some of the carriers that filed for bankruptcy this week. With the Boeing 737 MAX fleet grounded, cash-strapped carriers have been exploring substitutes, and it's the bankrupted carriers' fleets that those companies are seeking to acquire. Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair has been dealing with financial distress tied to the grounding of the MAX. The carrier decided to acquire Airbus A-320s that were previously leased by bankrupted T homas Cook, as a substitute for the MAX.

Turkey Joins Russia's Ruble-Based Alternative To SWIFT -- After repeated warnings over the past couple of years, Turkey and Russia have signed a pact to increase use of the ruble and lira in cross-border payments, with Turkey signing on to Russia's alternative to SWIFT, the international telecommunications protocol used by banks and central banks the world over. Though SWIFT is an international cooperative owned by its members, with more than 10,000 banks worldwide relying on its system for handling sizable inter-bank transactions, the safety of the network was brought into question after a series of cyberattacks in 2015 and 2016 resulted in the theft of $101 million from the Central Bank of Bangladesh. For the first time since SWIFT's laucnh, the hacks stoked doubts about the system's safety, and prompted many US rivals, including Russia, to ramp up work on their alternatives to SWIFT.  China and Russia have signed agreements to bolster trade between the two countries, including settling a larger percentage of their bilateral trade in rubles and renminbi. For China, bilateral trade with Russia grew from $69.6 billion in 2016 to $107.1 billion last year. China is Russia's biggest partner for imports and exports. There has also been talk about India joining Russia's SWIFT alternative as Washington continues to threaten New Delhi with sanctions over its decision to purchase Russian-made missile-defense systems.According to Reuters, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov signed the agreement with Ankara on Tuesday. The agreement, signed on Oct. 4, will encourage the two countries to start using Russia's system in mutual settlements.The agreement envisions Turkish banks and companies becoming connected to the Russian version  of the SWIFT payment system, while enhancing the infrastructure in Turkey to allow Russian MIR cards, designed by Moscow as alternative to MasterCard and VISA, to work.

Thousands rally in Kiev to protest autonomy plan for eastern Ukraine (Reuters) - Thousands of people gathered in Kiev’s main square on Sunday to protest against President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s deal with Moscow to grant autonomy to Ukraine’s pro-Russian rebel-held east as part of efforts to end a five-year conflict there. In the first breakthrough toward a possible peace deal in years, envoys from Moscow and Kiev agreed at talks on Tuesday on an election schedule for the Donbass region and on legislation giving it special status. Ukraine also agreed to call back its forces from the current contact line with separatist fighters. But for many Ukrainians, these measures represent a huge betrayal by Zelenskiy who took power in April after a landslide election win. The war in eastern Ukraine has killed more than 13,000 people since April 2014. “This is the beginning of the full capitulation of Ukraine,” 53-year-old Roman, who fought in Donbass as a volunteer. He declined to give his surname.

 For The First Time Ever, Greece Issues Negative Yielding Debt - As armies of fixed income strategists battle over whether US Treasuries are facing higher or lower yields, Greece has no such qualms and in a historic shift today, the former bond market pariah and Eurozone's most indebted nation, joined the exclusive club of negative-yielding European nations when bond investors lined up to pay the nation that was at the heart of Europe's sovereign debt crisis. A sale of €487.5 million of 13-week bills on Wednesday drew Greece's first-ever negative yield of minus 0.02% as investors now pay Athens for the privilege of lending it cash, as Bloomberg first reported. Greece joins the likes of Ireland, Italy and Spain - not to mention virtually all core Eurozone nations - which benefit from the ECB's insane monetary policy and deepening fears of a global recession. It’s been an unprecedented turnaround for twice bankrupt Eurozone member, whose bondholders suffered massive losses back in March 2012 when the country was forced to accept the biggest bond restructuring in history, bringing the Eurozone to the verge of collapse. Just a few years and several trillions in bond purchases by the ECB later, the region is grappling with an altogether different problem - the spread of negative yields, which reduces borrowing costs for governments in a form of soft default, one which is crushing savers, pension funds and insurers, and which has prompted some of the most respected names in finance to shriek in terror as the cost of money in even Europe's most insolvent nations is now negative. Jon Day, a fixed-income portfolio manager at Newton Investment Management, said the move was “another symptom” of the “global grab for yield, especially in euro-denominated bonds,” pointing out that short-dated Greek bonds were previously one of the few government markets where a positive return was on offer. Indeed, as recently as 2017, the Greek 13-week bills yielded a "generous" 2.70% before they started their journey to NIRP just over two years ago. 

ECB Whistleblowers Emerge- Former Central Bankers Cry Out Against Draghi's Monetary Insanity - On Friday, a group of former senior European central bankers published a memo attacking the unhinged monetary policy of the European Central Bank, which they claim is "based on the wrong diagnosis" and risks ending its independence. Their criticism is in response to a package of massive easing measures announced by the ECB last month, including "open-ended QE" that triggered unprecedented opposition within the top echelons of the central bank, and set up a "resistance" faction within the ECB itself spearheaded by Germany, France and the Netherlands, as it has now emerged that all along Mario Draghi was the central banker of Europe's insolvent periphery, even as his NIRP policies crushed Europe's legacy banking system. The rare public attack on the ECB - in the eyes of the FT - underlined how Christine Lagarde could have a fight on her hands after she takes over from Mario Draghi as president of the bank at the end of this month, when - not if - she decides to loosen monetary policy even more in the face of the eurozone’s mounting economic slowdown.  Commenting on the unprecedented mutiny against the former Goldmanite Mario Draghi, whom the extremely confused socialist elements - desperate for acceptance by some, any echo chamber - have called "legendary" even though it is his policies that have crushed Europe's working classes, One River CIO Eric Peters said it is nothing short of a "whistleblower's" attempt at seeking salvation just before the end which they describe that "like other central banks the ECB is threatened with the end of its control over the creation of money."  We republish from Peters' latest note below:

 Long Term Real Interest Rates Fell Below Zero in all Euro Area Countries - The 10-year real government bond yield, which is the nominal yield deflated by expected inflation, has fallen below zero in Italy and Greece, boosted by increased market confidence for their new governments. Romania is the only remaining EU country with a positive real interest rate. Negative real interest rates vastly help fiscal sustainability and provide a great opportunity to invest in much needed infrastructure and the transition to a carbon-neutral economy.While nominal interest rates of all euro-area countries converged to the German rates during the first decade of the euro, large differences developed with the emergence of the euro crisis after 2009: interest rates in southern European countries and Ireland increased significantly in 2010-2013, while the rate in Germany and other top-rated countries decreased. The differences in nominal interest rates were translated to even larger differences in real interest rates, that it, nominal rates adjusted by expected inflation. Expected inflation in Germany was (and still is) higher than in southern Europe, thereby driving a large gap in real interest rates.Low real interest rates greatly help borrowers, including the public sector, and might also boost investment and growth. At the same time, they are bad for savers. Conversely, high real government bond yields could undermine fiscal sustainability and pull private sector interest rates up, making corporate and household borrowing more costly, which weakens economic recovery. Therefore, divergent interest rate developments in the euro area is a concern and it could also undermine the transmission of ECB’s monetary policy. The good news is that the interest rate divergence narrowed significantly in recent months. In this post I calculate the 10-year real government bond yields for 27 EU countries in comparison with Japan and the United States. I found that the real rates have fallen below zero in every euro-area country, and with the exception of Romania, in all EU countries too.

Johnson Threatens To 'Sabotage' EU By Vetoing Budget, Sending "Nuclear Weapon" Farage To Brussels - The next 'Brexit Day' deadline is roughly three weeks away, and as Prime Minister Boris Johnson rallies support for his new Brexit plan, British media report that he has started playing 'hardball' with the EU.In an effort to discourage the EU from extending the Brexit deadline, the Telegraph reports that Johnson has threatened to sabotage the bloc's next seven-year budget, while sending Nigel Farage to Brussels as the UK's EU commissioner.As for the EU's 2021-2027 budget, Brussels hopes it will be approved in March, but Johnson could veto it with the stroke of a pen if the UK is still in the EU come March.Steve Baker, the former Brexit minister, praised Johnson's alleged plan, describing Nigel Farage as a "nuclear weapon" being sent "into the heart of the asteroid," the British tabloid the Sun reports. Johnson would be sending Farage with the explicit purpose to "disrupt the bloc's workings" and "sabotage" EU structures.Johnson released a new Brexit deal last week that would in effect keep Northern Ireland in the EU single market for all goods while following UK customs rules. The plan would also give Northern Ireland a vote whether to remain party to the arrangement every four years (like the hated Irish Backstop, the new plan would only take effect if negotiations between the UK and the EU over a future trading relationship fail). Irish PM Leo Varadkar has insisted that a deal could be reached over the next two weeks, though many other EU officials, including Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, have poured cold water on the proposal's chances of success. And even Varadkar said Johnson's plan would merely form the basis of "deeper negotiations."  Assuming the EU backs Johnson's deal, or some version of it, the PM believes he can get the Tory rebels below 10, which could help him push it over the line thanks to the support of the 10-member DUP. Johnson needs 320 votes for a Commons majority.

Brexit: Rejection - 10/07/2019 - Yves Smith - In one sense, despite all the hue and cry, not much has changed with Brexit, even as the EU Council (October 16-17) and Benn Act (October 19) dates draw nigh. The UK’s latest proposal to the EU is so far from anything they could consider that the EU has already rejected it and even refused to have talks over the past weekend. Britain’s sherpa David Frost is set to meet with Michel Barnier’s team today, but the UK has already been told through multiple channels that it needs to present a worked-out program, with draft language (no more “non papers”) and changing its position to boot if talks are to go anywhere. But one critical thing may have changed, albeit too late to alter the trajectory. The Government is getting “nos” it can’t ignore any more.Barnier has repeatedly to told the Government to quit trying to go around him to heads of state. The Mail reported that Macron and Merkel both declined requests from Johnson to see them, although Macron at least took a call. That didn’t go the way Johnson wanted. Macron said the EU and UK needed to come to an agreement by Friday for the EU Council to be able to act at its meeting. Macron also told Johnson to work through Barnier. Per a spokesman:The President told [Mr Johnson] that the negotiations should continue swiftly with Michel Barnier’s team in coming days, in order to evaluate at the end of the week whether a deal is possible that respects European Union principles.Varadkar said specifically that this Friday is the drop dead date for coming up with a deal. This would normal come off as quite a rebuff, except Macron was merely having to state what should have been obvious to Johnson and his Brexit team had they bothered to consider anything other than their own pet wishes. Richard North has patiently described how EU leaders need to be briefed by their sherpas before EU Council meetings, and for that, the sherpas need to receive completed documents and briefing materials days before the meeting. North’s latest words on a familiar themeWithout the preliminary stages, the European Council won’t even consider a draft which means that unless a final legal draft can be agreed by the end of business on the Thursday, there is very little chance of a deal being agreed by the coming session of the European Council. For one to be agreed by 31 October, there would have to be a special Council called, which might be difficult to arrange…. Some of the Member States are required by their constitutions – or conventions – to consult with their own parliaments – or, at least, the party leaders – adding more time to the process. Some insist on responding to communications from Brussels in their own languages, making it a point of principle to do so. That adds an extra time constraint, before the papers can be delivered to the General Affairs Council. In the call with Macron, Johnson tried the Burning Saddles “Back off, the sheriff really just might shoot himself” threat, that the EU should not get complacent and assume an extension was in the cards. Downing Street sources asserted the other big claim as to why the EU should knuckle under and accept his dead-on-arrival Brexit offer of last week: that Parliament would vote the current proposal through.

UK says chances of Brexit deal slim; EU chides 'blame game' (AP) — Britain and the European Union traded ill-tempered barbs Tuesday as the U.K. said a Brexit deal might be impossible, while insisting it was still working for one with just over three weeks until its scheduled departure from the bloc. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said EU intransigence had led to a breakdown in negotiations, prompting a top European leader to warn against playing a “stupid blame game” — and chide Johnson in Latin. Johnson’s office gave a gloomy assessment after his call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday morning. In a statement to British media, Downing Street said Merkel had told Johnson that “a deal is overwhelmingly unlikely” unless the U.K. agreed to let Northern Ireland continue to follow EU customs rules in order to maintain an open border with EU member Ireland. That is something the British government says it can’t accept. Downing Street said that “if this represents a new established position, then it means a deal is essentially impossible not just now but ever.” How people and goods will move across the Irish border is the main sticking point to a deal. The German government confirmed that Merkel and Johnson had spoken but declined to comment on the substance of “confidential conversations.” European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said “the EU position has not changed. We want a deal. We are working for a deal with the U.K.” European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted testily that “what’s at stake is not winning some stupid blame game.”

Tusk accuses Johnson of playing Brexit 'blame game' - European Council President Donald Tusk has warned British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that Brexit is not about "winning some stupid blame game" but what is at stake is the future of Europe and the UK. In a tweet he added: "At stake is the future of Europe and the UK as well as the security and interests of our people. You don't want a deal, you don't want an extension, you don't want to revoke, quo vadis?". Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said it was hard to disagree with Mr Tusk's comments but "we remain open" to finalising a fair Brexit deal. He added that the Taoiseach wants to find a compromise on Brexit that works, but is not willing to be boxed into a corner and accept proposals that are not consistent with the current agreement or the backstop. Responding to leaks to British media outlets in which it was claimed that Leo Varadkar does not want to reach an agreement, Mr. Coveney said the briefing to UK media was about putting pressure on the Taoiseach. He said if the approach from the British government is to "take it or leave it" on their latest proposal from last week, then "the British side must know there is not going to be a deal". The Foreign Affairs Minister said the comment from president Donald Tusk is a reflection of frustration.

EU slams Boris Johnson’s ‘untried, revocable’ Brexit plan - Brussels on Monday said it needed Britain to present a viable proposal for the post-Brexit UK-Irish border, rather than "untried" arrangements that could be subject to cancellation. Negotiations are approaching crunch time, with EU leaders set to meet next week to discuss how to proceed with Brexit. European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva on Monday said the heads of government would need revised UK proposals in time to prepare for the talks. The plans currently with the EU were submitted by the UK last week. "I think we all agree we need a workable solution now and not something based on untried and revocable arrangements that would be left to negotiation during the transition period," Andreeva said. "As we have also recalled, the UK proposals presented last week do not meet at present the objectives of the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland," she said, referring to negotiating terms agreed in 2017. "This is also the shared view of European Parliament, but also all member states." Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted that he will not seek to delay Brexit further and that Britain will leave the EU on October 31. However, he may be forced to request an extension from Brussels because of a law passed by members of Parliament aimed at stopping a potentially economically calamitous no-deal exit from the bloc.

Brexit: confusion - I do wish the media would avoid the trap of describing Johnson's proposal as keeping Northern Ireland inside the Single Market for goods (and electricity). Regulatory alignment – or even a common regulatory area – does not constitute membership of the Single Market; nor does it guarantee so-called frictionless movement of goods across the border.An easy cross-check is to look at the Swiss situation, where its trade deals with the EU require it to adopt the relevant elements of the Single Market acquis yet, by no measure can it be said that the borders between Switzerland and the adjoining EU Member States are frictionless.Not only do we have the Financial Times falling into the trap, we also have the Guardian doing it, illustrating the shallow grasp the legacy media has of the technicalities of Brexit.Nevertheless, the paper does do us a favour, featuring the EU's "point-by-point" rejection of Johnson's proposal, on the same day that the prime minister in office complained that the EU had not yet explained in detail what its objections were. Apparently, these were handed to David Frost last Friday, so Johnson has had plenty of time to look at them.As an aside, we have the Mirror reporting on urgent questions in the House of Commons, where the parliamentary under-secretary of state for DexEu, James Duddridge, was challenged as to whether he had even seen, much less read, Johnson's proposal, whence he refused to confirm "which documents I have and have not seen". That makes me wonder whether Johnson himself has read his own proposal. At 44 pages, it might be a little long for a man who is not famed for his attention to detail, in which case reading the Commission's critique might not have been too helpful, even if he had taken time out to read it. Perhaps if he spent a little less time touring NHS hospitals, he might have time to do his day job.

Goldman Believes Johnson Can Still Pull Off Last-Minute Brexit Deal - Analysts at Goldman have been assiduously tracking 'Brexit' odds, and with the uproar over Prime Minister Boris Johnson's alternative Brexit plan this week, the bank's Brexit team has published a new note laying out the various alternatives for how the Brexit drama might play out over the coming weeks. In terms of the final outcome, the bank's odds haven't changed much:  Goldman's team of analysts still believe that the most likely outcome (60%) is for the UK and EU to agree on a deal before Oct. 31. Next up? Another delay - the 'no Brexit at all' option - to which the analysts assigned odds of 25%. The least likely outcome (15%), despite all of the handwringing and hysteria in Parliament, is a 'no deal' Brexit on Oct. 31, as most expect the Commons will find some way to force Johnson to comply with a law requiring him to request a delay if a Brexit deal isn't reached by mid-October. Their biggest cause for optimism is their belief that Johnson's deal, contentious as it may be, will serve as the basis for a final deal with the EU27. According to PM Johnson’s latest Brexit proposals, Northern Ireland (NI) and Great Britain (GB) would both leave the EU’s customs union, but NI would remain aligned with EU regulations on all goods and agri-foods. This plan would necessitate customs checks on North-South trade and regulatory checks on East-West trade, with the former taking place away from the frontier and the latter subject to re-approval by the Northern Ireland Assembly every four years. In most other respects, PM Johnson’s Brexit proposals resemble the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between the UK and the EU under former Prime Minister Theresa May.The customs checks proposed between Northern Ireland and Ireland are contentious because they repudiate the joint commitment made in December 2017 to avoid "a hard border, including any physical infrastructure or related checks and controls" on the island of Ireland.The mechanism for approval by the NI Assembly is contentious because, at least on current proposals, the DUP would have an effective veto over Northern Ireland’s position in the EU’s single market. Any such veto would be unacceptable to Ireland, not least because it risks hardening the North-South regulatory border in the future.Johnson's plan, as the analysts observe, strikes a compromise between two proposals: "The Northern Ireland-Only Backstop" (which was rejected by the Commons) and the "Brady Amendment", which was rejected by the EU27. Because of this, they believe both sides have room for compromise.

A No 10 Source Says a Brexit Deal Is 'Essentially Impossible' After a Call Between the PM and Angela Merkel  - A No 10 source has said a Brexit deal is "essentially impossible" after a call between the PM and Angela Merkel. Boris Johnson and the German chancellor spoke earlier about the proposals he had put forward to the EU - but the source said she made clear a deal based on them was "overwhelmingly unlikely". Mrs Merkel's office said it would not comment on "private" conversations. But the BBC's Adam Fleming said there was "scepticism" within the EU that Mrs Merkel would have used such language. And the EU's top official warned the UK against a "stupid blame game". President of the European Council Donald Tusk sent a public tweet to Mr Johnson, telling him "the future of Europe and the UK" was at stake. With efforts to get a deal by the end of the month on an apparent knife edge, Mr Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar have said they hope to meet later in the week. But Mr Varadkar told an interviewer on Tuesday evening he thought it would be "very difficult" to secure an agreement by next week. He said the UK had "repudiated" the deal negotiated previously with Theresa May's government and had "sort of put half of that now back on the table, and are saying that's a concession. And of course it isn't, really". And following talks in Downing Street, the president of the European Parliament said there had been "no progress" and MEPs would not agree to a compromise deal "at any price". David Sassoli said the UK's new proposed customs arrangements for Northern Ireland were a "long way from something to which the Parliament could agree". The president of the European Parliament said the EU faced a no-deal exit or a further delay Amid frantic diplomatic manoeuvring in European capitals, details of a call earlier on Tuesday between the UK and German leaders have reignited tensions across the continent. The No 10 source suggested Mrs Merkel told her counterpart the only way to break the deadlock was for Northern Ireland to stay in the customs union and for it to permanently accept EU single market rules on trade in goods.

There’s no deal – so what next? - There will be no last-minute deal. The talks between the UK and the EU have effectively broken down. It isn’t that there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, it’s that there’s no tunnel at all. The blame game is now far more advanced than the negotiations. The diplomatic crockery has been smashed even before Boris Johnson and the leaders of the EU27 have arrived in Brussels for this month’s European Council. The question now is whether the talks can ever be resuscitated at a later date —  or if we are in a world where the only options are no Brexit or no deal.The assumption had long been that as the 31 October deadline neared, one side or the other would blink. That the pressure would produce a compromise. Instead, all sides are raising the stakes and hardening their stances. No. 10 is blaming Irish and EU intransigence for the failure of the talks; Donald Tusk is using Twitter to make jabs at the British Prime Minister. A deal seems to be a lost cause.One of the biggest problems is that 31 October, the departure date that became the trademark of the Johnson leadership campaign, is not a deadline any more. Parliament has seen to that. No. 10’s plan to make the EU and Dublin choose between ‘a new deal and no deal’ has been scuppered by the Benn Act. There’s no pressure on the other side to compromise to avoid no deal and the consequent inevitable hardening of the Irish border.What is frustrating No. 10 is a sense that the other side of the table is taking for granted the concessions it is offering: mainly a UK/Northern Ireland regulatory border and effectively leaving Northern Ireland in the EU single market for goods and agriculture. No. 10 fears that the Irish approach is, essentially, to wait and see whether Johnson will win a majority — and if he does, only then to contemplate his proposal.When Leo Varadkar met Johnson in Dublin last month, the Prime Minister was left with the distinct impression that if he was prepared to put a regulatory border in the Irish Sea then Dublin would be prepared to think creatively about other matters. No. 10 offered up this concession, but to no avail. Even those in Downing Street who are inclined to a more diplomatic approach than the Vote Leave veterans are irritated that the Irish have failed to engage with the UK proposal.   They believe that because their solution brings with it Unionist consent, it is built to last in a way that the backstop wasn’t; polls suggest that around 80 per cent of Unionists are uncomfortable with the backstop. Yet still the EU says that the proposal doesn’t pass muster.The Benn Act sends Johnson naked into the conference chamber. If there’s no deal by 19 October, then the government must ask the EU for an extension. However much Downing Street huffs and puffs about this, there isn’t a way round this law.  The solidarity of the EU27 that London has failed to crack in three years isn’t about to break now. The EU is about to take back control, deciding the conditions on which it will grant the UK an extension and, crucially, the length of it. It will make the ticking clock work in its favour.

No-deal Brexit threatens the health of UK citizens living with HIV in other European countries There is little clarity about how UK citizens living in Spain and elsewhere in the European Union will continue to get HIV treatment in the event of a no-deal Brexit, posing risks both for individuals living with HIV and the public health, according to an article in the medical journal AIDS. Several British citizens have already sought help from the HIV Legal Clinic at the University of Alcalá (near Madrid), say legal professors Jean McHale and Miguel Ramiro Avilés. As a third of the UK citizens living in the European Union (EU) are in Spain, the Spanish example is particularly relevant. The authors outline various scenarios. If the UK remains part of EU, British citizens living in Spain will continue to have access to healthcare in Spain, as guaranteed by EU law. The UK government reimburses the Spanish government for these costs. If the UK government resurrects the withdrawal agreement that Theresa May’s government negotiated with the EU, this would safeguard healthcare rights for UK citizens resident in other EU countries. This is based on the principle of reciprocity – EU citizens with settled status in the UK would continue to have access to healthcare. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the situation is more complex. UK citizens currently in Spain will need to obtain a residence visa. If they do not, they will be considered irregular migrants and would not have access to Spanish healthcare because they are considered to be able to use the NHS in the UK. For UK citizens with a Spanish residence visa, the situation then depends on whether the UK and Spanish governments make a bi-lateral agreement about healthcare. If the governments do make a reciprocal agreement which guarantees rights to Spanish citizens in the UK, British citizens in Spain will continue to have access to healthcare. However, it is unlikely that such an agreement will be made before 31 October. And the Spanish government’s contingency measures for such an agreement only cover it for 21 months. What happens after that is unclear.

Brussels braced for possible Boris Johnson walk-out at next week’s Brexit summit - Brussels is braced for Boris Johnson to storm out of next week’s EU summit on Brexit after the expected failure to secure agreement on a replacement for the Irish backstop.Speculation is rife that the Prime Minister will walk out of the European Council in Brussels as part of a British strategy to “fabricate a crisis”. EU diplomatic sources warned that the tactic would fail in forcing the bloc to shift its red lines. “You can hit your fists on the table but in the end only the fist will hurt,” one EU diplomat said.   “If they want to walk out, they can walk out but if they want a deal they will have to come back to the table,” the diplomat said.

Brexit: MPs could hijack emergency Saturday sitting of Commons to force through second referendum - Parliamentary supporters of a Final Say referendum could hijack an emergency sitting of the Commons on 19 October to force a public vote on any Brexit outcome. The idea is being discussed behind the scenes by MPs who are increasingly confident they have a majority to enshrine a referendum in law before the deadline of the end of this month. The first Saturday sitting of the Commons since the Falklands War in 1982 comes on the same day as hundreds of thousands of people are expected to march through London to demand a People’s Vote under the banner Together for the Final Say. Prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to use the recall to stage a vote on a no-deal Brexit, in the hope that his almost inevitable defeat would allow him to blame MPs if he is eventually forced to ask Brussels for a delay. But any motion tabled by the PM would be open to amendments requiring the final outcome of Brexit talks to be subject to a national vote.

 Johnson’s major U-turn sets up 48 hours to clinch Brexit deal - Boris Johnson has signalled that he will make a last-ditch U-turn on his plans for the Irish border, setting up 48 hours of intense negotiations that will make or break a Brexit deal. On a day of rapid movement in talks, EU sources said the prime minister had conceded that there could not be a customs border on the island of Ireland – a critical step away from his previous position. That came after European ambassadors prompted tentative hope of a deal by giving the green light for what some diplomats described as a “tunnel” discussion in which a small team of negotiators meet for intensive talks to find a break-through moment. The Democratic Unionist party and European Research Group (ERG), a group of rightwing Conservatives, later issued statements promising flexibility, keeping hope alive that Johnson could find support for a new offer in the House of Commons. But amid ongoing scepticism that a deal could be forced through in the short time left and with Angela Merkel due to hold talks with Emmanuel Macron on Sunday night, the prime minister faces a frantic race to push through his fresh proposals with Brussels or at home. “The UK has accepted that there is not a deal that involves a border on the island of Ireland – that is a big break from what they were saying,” one EU source said. “Now the key is for them to lay out how their new position over the weekend.” On Friday, Johnson twice refused to deny that Northern Ireland could still stay in the EU’s customs territory after Brexit when asked by reporters on Friday. “I think it would be wrong of me to give a running commentary on the negotiations,” he said. “With the greatest possible respect I think, look at everything I’ve said previously. I think you can draw your own conclusions from that. But let our negotiators get on.” Johnson added: “I can certainly tell you that under no circumstances will we see anything that damages the ability of the whole of the United Kingdom to take full advantage of Brexit, and I think that’s what people would expect, and that’s what I think we can achieve.”

Donald Tusk: No workable Brexit deal yet, but let’s keep talking  - The U.K. has “still not come forward with a workable, realistic proposal” but there are “promising signals” that a deal could be reached, Donald Tusk said. The European Council president spoke to journalists this morning shortly before a meeting between the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and U.K. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay concluded in Brussels. “There’s no guarantee of success and the time is practically up, but even the slightest chance must be used,” Tusk said. “Technical talks are taking place in Brussels as we speak.” It comes after one-to-one talks on Thursday between Boris Johnson and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar concluded positively. Varadkar told reporters that after a “very positive and very promising” meeting it was now possible for both parties to strike a deal by the “end of October.” Tusk today reiterated the positive outcomes of that meeting. “Yesterday, when the Irish Taoiseach and the UK PM met, they both saw — for the first time — a pathway for a deal,” he said. Tusk added that he told Johnson a week ago that if there had been no workable proposal in sight by today, he would have publicly announced there were “no more chances” of a deal by the deadline. “Prime minister Johnson promised the EU to come forward with a solution that would work for all. A solution that would not only satisfy the hardcore Brexiteers, but also solve our well known and legitimate objectives: to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, to protect the Good Friday Agreement and to ensure the integrity of the single market,” he said. “A no-deal Brexit will never be the choice of the EU.” Barnier and Barclay met this morning for around two hours. Barnier will brief EU diplomats on the meeting at lunchtime.

Johnson will ask MPs to choose deal or delay on Super Saturday - Boris Johnson will challenge MPs to back any deal he secures from Brussels within 24 hours of a crunch European summit next week when parliament sits on a Saturday for the first time in nearly 40 years. The prime minister is preparing to hold a vote on his deal on a “Super Saturday” sitting of parliament as he challenges members to endorse his approach or force through a Brexit delay. If the vote passes, parliament will sit for seven days a week, late into the night, as he seeks to push legislation through the Commons and the Lords with less than a fortnight to go before the October 31 Brexit date. The Times has been told that Mr Johnson will table a single motion on Saturday combining both a vote on any deal he secures and the terms of the Benn act, which forces him to request a Brexit extension if a deal cannot be reached. “It’s decision time for MPs,” a government source said. “They can either back the deal or back a Brexit delay. It will be a binary choice.” It comes as Remain MPs are planning to try to force through a vote on a second referendum in a move that could lead to a mass rebellion by Labour MPs and members of the shadow cabinet. They are drawing up plans to attach a confirmatory vote to any deal that is secured. Jeremy Corbyn has brushed off demands by shadow ministers including Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, and Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, to call for a vote on a second referendum before a general election.

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