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Saturday, December 3, 2022

week ending Dec 3

​​Fed's Bullard: we've got a ways to go on rate hikes (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve needs to raise interest rates quite a bit further in order to gain control of inflation and bring back down toward the central bank's 2% goal, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said on Monday. "We've got a ways to go," Bullard said in an interview with MarketWatch, as he restated his conviction that the Fed's target policy needs to rise to at least a range between 5.00% and 5.25% from the current level to be "sufficiently restrictive" to reduce inflation. "We want to get this inflation under control much sooner than in the 1970s," Bullard added, noting that he prefers to get the policy rate up in short order to create the conditions for price pressures to ebb throughout next year. However, Bullard also repeated comments made earlier this month that he would defer to Fed Chair Jerome Powell regarding how much higher to move rates at upcoming policy meetings.

Fed’s Bullard Says Markets Underestimating Chances of Higher Rates -- Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said financial markets are underestimating the chances that policymakers will need to be more aggressive next year in raising interest rates to curb inflation. “There is still a heavy degree” of expectations that inflation will go away naturally, Bullard said Monday in a webcast interview with MarketWatch and Barron’s. US stocks extended losses and Treasury yields rose following Bullard’s comments. New York Fed President John Williams also issued a speech at about the same time saying officials have more work to do to curb inflation that remains “far too high.” Read more: Fed’s Williams Says Further Tightening Needed to Cool Inflation Fed officials have signaled they plan to raise their benchmark rate by 50 basis points at their final meeting of the year on Dec. 13-14, after four successive 75 basis-point hikes. But policymakers could also raise their forecasts for how high interest rates will eventually go when they update their economic projections during the meeting in the face of persistently high inflation. The main rate is currently in a target range of 3.75% to 4%. Bullard on Monday reiterated his view that the Fed needs to at least reach the bottom of the 5% to 7% range to meet policymakers’ goal of being restrictive enough to stamp out inflation near a four-decade high. Minutes from the Nov. 1-2 gathering showed widespread support among officials for calibrating their moves, with a “substantial majority” agreeing it would soon time to slow the pace of rate increases. But views around how high they will eventually need to lift borrowing costs was less clear, with “various” policymakers seeing a case for going somewhat higher than expected.

2 Fed Officials Favor Keeping Key Rate at Peak Through 2023 (AP) — Two Federal Reserve officials said Monday that they favor raising the Fed's key rate to roughly 5% or more and keeping it at its peak through next year — longer than many on Wall Street have expected. John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who is among a core group of officials around Chair Jerome Powell, said in a speech to the Economic Club of New York that the central bank has “more work to do” to reduce inflation closer to its 2% target. And James Bullard, president of the St. Louis Fed, suggested that financial markets are underestimating the likelihood the Fed will have to be more aggressive in its fight against the worst inflation bout in four decades. The Fed has raised its benchmark short-term rate six times this year, to a range of 3.75% to 4%, with each of the last four hikes being a historically large three-quarters of a point. The central bank is expected to raise rates by an additional half-point when it next meets in mid-December. Though that would represent a reduction in the size of its rate hikes, Fed officials have stressed that they expect to keep their key rate at a historically high level well into the future. Because the Fed's benchmark rate influences many consumer and business loans, its aggressive series of hikes have made most loans throughout the economy sharply more expensive. That has been particularly true of mortgage rates, which have risen dramatically over the past year and have severely crimped home sales. In an interview with Marketwatch, Bullard suggested that the speed of the Fed's rate hikes isn't as important as the ultimate level of its benchmark rate, which he said could exceed the 5% that financial markets have priced in. “Markets are underpricing the risk that the (Fed) will have to be more aggressive rather than less aggressive in order to contain the very substantial inflation that we have,” Bullard said. The central bank, he added, will likely have to keep its benchmark rate above 5% all through 2023 and into 2024. He also reiterated his view that the Fed should be prepared to raise that rate to the “lower end” of a range between 5% and 7%. By contrast, financial markets have projected that the Fed will have to reverse course and start cutting rates by next September, presumably in response to a recession that many economists expect will occur next year. Williams suggested that there are some positive signs that inflation is easing, noting falling prices for lumber, oil, and other commodities. Supply chains are also loosening, he said: A measure of supply chain snarls maintained by the New York Fed has declined by three-quarters from its pandemic peak. Yet the job market has stayed stronger than he expected, Williams said, with the unemployment rate, at 3.7%, still near a half-century low. “That argues that we’ll need to have a somewhat higher path for interest rates" than the Fed projected in September, Williams said. At that time, the officials forecast that their benchmark rate would reach a range of 4.5% to 4.75% by early next year. He said he now expects the unemployment rate to rise to 4.5% to 5% by the end of next year, with inflation falling to 3% to 3.5% by then. At that level, inflation would still exceed the Fed's target of 2%, thereby extending its inflation fight into 2024, Williams said.

The Fed’s Liabilities under QT: November Update by Wolf Richter - We generally discuss the Fed’s assets on its balance sheet: Treasury securities, MBS, repos, etc. But today, we’re going to look at the four major liabilities on the Fed’s balance sheet. On every balance sheet, total assets = total liabilities + capital (the Fed’s capital is limited by Congress, currently $42 billion). Total liabilities dropped to $8.58 trillion, according to the Fed’s weekly balance sheet released a day later than normal, on Friday, due to Thanksgiving. This was down by $344 billion from the peak on April 13, 2022, and the lowest since November 3, 2021. Total liabilities mirror the Fed’s total assets (minus $42 billion in capital). But there are big shifts in the composition of those liabilities, which is what we’re going to look at in a moment, involving banks, Treasury money market funds, the amazingly record-popular US paper dollars, and the government’s checking account: Reserves plunged by $1.12 trillion since December 2021. Reserve balances – cash that banks put on deposit at the Fed to earn interest, similar to a big savings account – plunged by $1.12 trillion from the peak in December 2021. Late 2021 was when the Fed began “tapering” its QE asset purchases, and QE ended in March 2022. Banks use their reserve accounts at the Fed to transfer money between banks and to do business with the Fed, such as selling securities to the Fed under QE. Reserves are a liability on the Fed’s balance sheet; they’re money that the Fed owes the banks. Reserves are the most liquid, risk-free interest-paying asset banks can invest in, and they also figure into the banks’ regulatory capital. The Fed, as of the last FOMC meeting, pays the banks 3.9% interest on reserves.. Alternatively, banks can invest their excess cash by buying Treasury securities, and they’re doing that. The one-month Treasury yield is currently 4.16%, but these securities are less liquid than reserves; they have to be sold in order to be turned into cash, while reserve accounts are like a savings account that banks can just draw on. The banks, on their own balance sheets, don’t call these reserves “reserves.” That’s a Fed term. Banks carry them as assets and call them “interest-earning deposits,” “interest-earning cash” or similar. Reserves are a manifestation of liquidity in the banking system that is not chasing after other assets. QT is draining liquidity from the financial system, and one of the places where the liquidity drain shows up is in reserves. But the $1.12-trillion plunge in reserves is far larger than the $344 billion decline in the Fed’s overall assets and liabilities under QT. This means that banks are now chasing after other options that are paying higher yields than reserves, and these options include Treasury securities. This bank-cash put on deposit at the Fed represents only a small portion of the cash that the banks received from their customers’ deposits. [For banks, a customer deposit is two things on its books: the amount owed the customer (a liability); and the amount in cash received from the customer (an asset). To earn income with this cash, a bank buys securities, or puts the cash on deposit at the Fed, or makes loans, etc. It also has to keep some on hand to process transactions, meet withdrawals, etc.] Total deposits (the liability) at all US commercial banks dropped by $433 billion from the peak in April 2021, to $17.7 trillion. In other words, customers lent banks $17.7 trillion in cash, via savings products and transaction accounts, such as individual and business checking accounts, corporate payroll accounts, and corporate accounts that suddenly and briefly swell with cash when major transactions take place, such as the purchase of a company involving billions of dollars in cash. But customers are now finding better use for some of their cash than depositing it at the bank and earning nearly no yield, while for example shorter-term Treasury securities now pay over 4%, and so they’ve pulled $433 billion in cash out of banks since April.

US Bank Deposit Flight Not A Sign Of Higher Rates To Come -- Bank deposits at US commercial banks are starting to decline. This is an early warning sign of a weakening US economy – not of higher spending and rising inflation – and so does not necessitate tighter Fed policy than is currently priced.Total deposits at US banks swelled almost $5 trillion through the pandemic to peak at over $18 trillion, taking the bank loan-to-deposit level to the lowest in at least 50-years at under 60%. Deposits -- driven by the checkable deposits of households -- rose, primarily as stimulus checks were paid into people’s accounts while consumer spending plummeted.But now, deposits are beginning to fall from their high level.To see why, we have to drill down into the data. The chart below shows that main driver of the fall is a decline in household savings deposits. Some of this drop may be reflected in the rise in household’s checkable deposits, as people shift money out of their savings account into their current account, but overall the fall in savings deposits is larger than the rise in checkable ones.This represents a drawing-down of pre-pandemic savings, as savings deposits did not rise through the pandemic (all the government stimulus went into checkable accounts).If we drill down further, we can see it is those in the 50th to 99th percentile income groups who have driven this fall in household savings deposits, which is approximately those households who earn $70k to $570k.A reasonable inference to make is it is those at the lower end of this range who are experiencing the most hardship from the rising cost-of-living -- the so-called squeezed middle, who face rising costs but miss out on government help -- and are eating into savings to maintain their standard of living.This a sign of a weakening economy, not one that is about to face an imminent and renewed inflationary impulse. In fact, falling deposit growth is empirically a sign of declining inflation. This is counter-intuitive on first glance, but banks create deposits when they create loans, so at the margin deposit growth is driven by loan growth.Loan growth is starting to ease back, which along with a weakening economy points to inflation continuing to weaken. This is not an environment where the Fed is likely to up its rate-tightening ante.

Four High Frequency Indicators for the Economy --These indicators are mostly for travel and entertainment. The TSA is providing daily travel numbers. This data is as of November 27th.This data shows the 7-day average of daily total traveler throughput from the TSA for 2019 (Light Blue), 2020 (Black), 2021 (Blue) and 2022 (Red). The 7-day average is 7.2% below the same week in 2019 (92.8% of 2019). (Dashed line) Air travel - as a percent of 2019 - has picked up recently - but still below pre-pandemic levels. This data shows domestic box office for each week and the median for the years 2016 through 2019 (dashed light blue). The data is from BoxOfficeMojo through November 24th. Movie ticket sales were at $142 million last week, down about 45% from the median for the week. This graph shows the seasonal pattern for the hotel occupancy rate using the four-week average. The red line is for 2022, black is 2020, blue is the median, and dashed light blue is for 2021. Dashed purple is 2019 (STR is comparing to a strong year for hotels). This data is through Nov 12th. The occupancy rate was up 0.9% compared to the same week in 2019. The 4-week average of the occupancy rate is above the median rate for the previous 20 years (Blue) and close to 2019 levels. This graph, based on weekly data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), shows gasoline supplied compared to the same week of 2019. As of November 18th, gasoline supplied was down 9.4% compared to the same week in 2019. Recently gasoline supplied has been running below 2019 and 2021 levels - and sometimes below 2020.

US Complains Russia Has Abruptly Postponed Nuclear Arms Control Talks - On Monday the United States said that Russia has "unilaterally postponed" important nuclear arms control talks without explanation. The resumption of New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New Start) negotiations was supposed to happen this week, but now a potential date for their continuation remains uncertain."The United States is ready to reschedule at the earliest possible date as resuming inspections is a priority for sustaining the treaty as an instrument of stability," the US State Department said.It was a mere weeks ago that the two sides finally agreed to restart the talks for the first time since Russia's Ukraine invasion, given the growing international alarm over the increasing prospect of nuclear confrontation and accompanying rhetoric. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at the time that New START will be focus of bilateral talks in the near future. "We have agreed that the BCC [Bilateral Consultative Commission] will meet in the near future under the terms of the New START Treaty. The work of the BCC is confidential, but we do hope for a constructive session."New START remains the last significant end of Cold War era agreement on nuclear arms control between Washington and Moscow. It is also one of the last hoped-for points of positive communications between the two sides, given spiraling relations over the Ukraine war.The commission has not met in more than a year, in October 2021, with central aspects of the treaty since stalled due to attempts of the US to resume nuclear arsenal inspections on Russian soil, which Moscow rebuffed. According to The Associated Press on Monday:The State Department said Russia had “unilaterally postponed” a meeting of the Bilateral Consultative Commission that was scheduled to begin Tuesday in Egypt and last through next week. It said Russia had promised to propose new dates but had offered no reason for the delay.Russia had complained that it was actually the US side which "deprive the Russian Federation of the right to conduct inspections on American territory." If New START can't be successfully renewed, this would mark the collapse of the last nuclear agreement between the rival superpowers, creating an ever more dangerous situation for the world.

Pressure Builds On Biden For Ukraine Weapons Tracking & Oversight - Pressure has continued building for the Biden administration and Pentagon to provide stricter oversight and accounting for the massive military assistance and weaponry sent overseas to Ukraine, at a moment total defense aid is about to hit the $20 billion mark. GOP leaders have warned the Biden administration to expect greater restrictions and oversight during the next Congress. This as the kind of enthusiastic support for the Ukrainians among the broader American public seen in the opening months of the war appears to have turned to frustration at the spectacle of open-ended amounts of taxpayer funds being poured into a conflict which has no end in sight... Despite the State Department and Pentagon recently presenting plans to ensure greater oversight, Republicans who will soon enjoy a slim majority in Congress are readying to press for more, reports The Washington Post."Yet the reckoning could begin before the Republican takeover. A series of provisions on offer in the House-passed version of this year’s annual defense authorization bill would require a web of overlapping reports from the Pentagon and the inspectors general who police transfers of articles of war, plus the establishment of a task force to design and implement enhanced tracking measures," The Washington Post writes. Among the most dangerous and ambitious of these efforts so far was reveled weeks ago. American troops are said to be performing "inspections" of US weapon caches on the ground in Ukraine, but significantly away from frontline fighting. There have already been several inspections overseen by a US Defense attache and a US Office of Defense Cooperation team based out of the Ukrainian capital. Yet as the new Washington Post reporting details, a growing number of Democrats are joining skeptical Republicans: "The taxpayers deserve to know that investment is going where its intended to go," Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a veteran-turned-lawmaker, said in an interview.Crow led an effort in the House Armed Services Committee to include in the defense bill instructions to the Defense Department Inspector General to review, audit, investigate and otherwise inspect the Pentagon’s efforts to support Ukraine. He called the directive "necessary," even if he does not count himself among the critics insinuating the Defense Department and the Ukrainians have failed to take the matter seriously enough.

EU Accuses Washington Of Making A Fortune From Ukraine War -"Nine months after invading Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is beginning to fracture the West," Politico observes in a surprising admission which marks a stark reversal from prior mainstream media optimism and cheerleading of the White House's blank check approach to supporting Ukraine. "Top European officials are furious with Joe Biden’s administration and now accuse the Americans of making a fortune from the war, while EU countries suffer."There's clearly growing frustration among European officials over Washington's refusal to push the Zelensky government to the negotiating table while an unprecedented billions worth of weaponry and defense aid pours in, risking unpredictable escalation between NATO and Russia. Meanwhile European populations will continue being the first to pay the price amid frigid winter temperatures and a simultaneous severe energy supply crisis even as some leaders still spout abstract ideals of "sacrifice". And all the while Biden has continued rolling out his controversial green subsidies and taxes which are widely perceived as unfairly punishing European industries at this most sensitive juncture. A senior European official speaking to Politico additionally blasted the White House policy of in effect using the Ukraine war to line the pockets of American defense contractors while at the same turning a deaf ear on European pleas for some relief to the no-win situation."The fact is, if you look at it soberly, the country that is most profiting from this war is the U.S. because they are selling more gas and at higher prices, and because they are selling more weapons," the senior official said. The person acknowledged a large-scale shift in sentiment happening, largely driven by the intractable 'win in Ukraine at all costs' stance of the US administration: The explosive comments — backed in public and private by officials, diplomats and ministers elsewhere — follow mounting anger in Europe over American subsidies that threaten to wreck European industry. The Kremlin is likely to welcome the poisoning of the atmosphere among Western allies. "We are really at a historic juncture,” the senior EU official said, arguing that the double hit of trade disruption from U.S. subsidies and high energy prices risks turning public opinion against both the war effort and the transatlantic alliance. "America needs to realize that public opinion is shifting in many EU countries."But the US National Security Council has lately reiterated its position that the crisis is solely on Putin's shoulders full-stop, while Washington is simply presenting ramped-up US liquefied natural gas delivery to Europe as fulfilling the need to "diversify away from Russia," according to a NSC statement.

'Woke Warfighters': GOP Report Says Leftist Ideology, Gender "Insanity" Weakening America's Military - Republican lawmakers have decried the Biden administration for policies that they say are weakening America’s military through leftist indoctrination and “woke” ideological posturing to appease “Ivy League faculty lounges or progressive pundits.”“Unfortunately, President Joe Biden and his administration are weakening America’s warfighters through a sustained assault fueled by woke virtue signaling,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) in a report titled “Woke Warfighters,” according to Fox News. “Our military’s singular purpose is to ‘provide for the common defense’ of our nation. It cannot be turned into a left-wing social experiment. It cannot be used as a cudgel against America itself.”The report cites several examples of the administration’s stance. One example was Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s first action after being confirmed by the Senate, which included signing a “racism” memorandum. The message directed all service members and Department of Defense civilian employees to conduct a “one-day stand-down” to discuss extremism within their ranks. This was despite the fact that in a force of more than 2.1 million active and reserve members, there were only 100 such cases of alleged “extremism,” according to data collected by the Biden administration.“The world is a dangerous place, and the Biden Administration’s insanity is eroding our greatest source of security in it,” said the report, citing the military’s promotion of Marxist critical race theory, sex reassignment procedures, and transgender ideology, as well as the punishment of those who oppose such things.

US Bans Huawei, ZTE Telecom Equipment Citing Threats To National Security -U.S. regulators have imposed a ban on electronic equipment created by several major Chinese tech corporations, citing national security concerns.The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted new rules on Nov. 25 that will prohibit the import or sale of Chinese communications equipment deemed to pose an unacceptable risk to national security.The new rules will bar equipment from Chinese telecom firms Huawei and ZTE from being imported into or sold in the United States. The order will also prohibit telecommunications equipment and video surveillance equipment produced by Hytera, Hikvision, and Dahua, as well as the companies’ subsidiaries or affiliates By unanimous vote, the FCC concluded that the products posed an “unacceptable risk to [the] national security of the United States or the security and safety of United States persons,” according to a statement.“The FCC is committed to protecting our national security by ensuring that untrustworthy communications equipment is not authorized for use within our borders, and we are continuing that work here,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.“These new rules are an important part of our ongoing actions to protect the American people from national security threats involving telecommunications.”Products from the companies will not be allowed for import, marketing, or sale until the FCC approves the measures taken by the companies to remedy how their products might be used against the national interest.Congress voted to bar all federal agencies from purchasing products from the five listed companies back in 2018. The new rules will expand and modify the FCC’s “Covered List” of banned products to prevent private entities from bringing the items into the United States.“Today, the FCC takes an unprecedented step to safeguard our communications networks and strengthen America’s national security,” said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr.“Our unanimous decision represents the first time in the FCC’s history that we have voted to prohibit the authorization of communications and electronic equipment based on national security considerations. And we take this action with the broad, bipartisan backing of congressional leadership.”The order on Friday implemented requirements from the Secure Equipment Act of 2021, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden last November, the FCC said.

Biden's 'Buy American' Rules Undermining Infrastructure Spending -The $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that Congress passed in November 2021 is touted as one of the signature accomplishments of the Biden administration. However, a fatal flaw in the law is gumming up the works and making it hard to turn all that money into new bridges and roads. That flaw is a far more expansive "Buy American" provision than what's been typically used previously. As state and local government "trade" publication Route Fifty explains: "The law added more materials that must be produced in the United States on projects getting federal money. Before, for example, the Buy America provisions applied to iron and steel. Now, they'll apply to construction materials such as copper wiring, glass, fiber optic cable, and plastics."That's causing a rising backlash from state transportation departments -- in red and blue states alike. This month, Roger Millar, Washington state's secretary of transportation, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation on behalf of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials begging for relief from the red tape: "The quick implementation of Buy America requirements for such a broad range of materials will cause delays in project delivery while states, contractors, manufacturers, and suppliers continue working to determine how best to track and verify these materials." Thus, in trying to give favors to U.S. manufacturers, the Buy American rule in the Democrats' infrastructure package undercuts construction firms that face project delays and disruptions for lack of compliant materials. To the typical person, Buy American rules sound great. However, when the rubber hits the road, they're garbage.Thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this year we will begin fixing more than 65,000 miles of highway. And when we use taxpayer dollars to rebuild America — we are going to Buy American. In addition to all the extra bureaucracy needed to scrutinize and track the materials being used, Buy American rules force government project managers to spend more for materials since their choice of vendors is drastically reduced. “Given the current supply chain constraints, moving to all U.S.-sourced construction materials will inevitably lead to project sponsors paying a premium to meet the Act’s requirements," wrote American Public Transportation Association President Paul Skoutelas in June. "The question then becomes whether the market/industry can absorb a doubling, tripling or even a quadrupling of costs for construction materials.” That means that $1.2 trillion won't go nearly as far as it could if project managers had unfettered access to the global market for materials.

Little appetite for Manchin permitting bill in congressional lame-duck session - Among the items on Congress’ lengthy to-do list by the end of the year is U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s proposal to speed up the federal government’s permitting process that certifies energy projects do not harm the environment. But the bill, which was a condition of the centrist West Virginia Democrat’s support for his party’s larger climate, health care and taxes measure earlier this year, may still not have the support it needs to pass, with progressive Democrats concerned about the effects on environmental protections. Failing to pass a bill this year would be a disappointment to Manchin and his allies in the oil, gas and coal sectors, who have pushed for years to loosen federal permitting requirements. Some renewable energy advocates also say that federal permitting must be reformed for wind and solar technology to reach their highest potential. But it would be welcome news for environmental advocates, who say the bill would weaken a fundamental environmental law that protects communities from pollution, while providing little in the way of new renewable energy capacity. Congress is expected to be in session through much of December, before adjourning for a new session in January and a split government as Republicans take over the House with a slim majority. “It’s a pretty tight calendar, and they have a lot they have to do,” said Brett Hartl, the government affairs director for the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity, which opposes the Manchin bill, speaking of the lame-duck session of Congress. “So do you spend a lot of time on a piece of legislation that is very deeply divisive?” Environmental groups, including those in the environmental justice movement that seeks to protect marginalized communities from exposure to pollution, have opposed the bill from the start.The measure would put time limits on environmental reviews and restrict communities’ power to challenge agency decisions in court. “Senator Manchin’s legislation is a harbinger for the permanent silencing of environmental justice communities in the permitting process, while also eviscerating the rights to due process in a court of law should they deem it necessary to protect their communities from harm,” 70 environmental justice organizations said in a Nov. 15 letter to President Joe Biden.The letter was distributed Monday by U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, a progressive Arizona Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee and has vocally opposed the Manchin bill.

Committee deadlocks on EPA air nominee - Joe Goffman’s nomination to head EPA’s air office survived a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee vote this morning, but the veteran environmental lawyer now faces a battery of obstacles to winning final Senate confirmation in the remaining weeks of a lame-duck session. On its fourth try, the 20-member panel deadlocked 10-10 along party lines. The tie means that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) would have to resort to a procedural motion known as a discharge petition to bring the nomination before the full Senate before attempting a final confirmation vote. Those time-consuming tactics face an unforgiving calendar. It’s also unclear whether all 50 Senate Democrats would support Goffman, whose work to curb coal consumption has angered fossil fuel advocates. Last year, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) joined most Republicans in unsuccessfully opposing the nomination of Janet McCabe to become EPA’s deputy administrator. A Manchin spokesperson declined to comment when asked about the senator’s stance on Goffman’s candidacy. At Tuesday’s EPW Committee meeting, Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats, voted in favor of the nomination but warned that he would not back it on the Senate floor unless he first receives a written commitment from EPA related to implementation of a $7 billion provision in the Inflation Reduction Act that he said was intended to spur adoption of residential rooftop solar power for low-income and working-class families. In an email, EPA spokesperson Khanya Brann later said that the agency is “committed to continuing to work” with Sanders on implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act. Calling Goffman “exceptionally qualified” to lead the Office of Air and Radiation, Brann said, “We look forward to Congress moving forward on his confirmation.” While the value of confirmation is difficult to pinpoint, it’s generally seen as a plus in dealings with Congress because it provides evidence of Senate backing for individual appointees.

DOE watchdog begs for cash to combat 'large-scale frauds' - The Energy Department’s internal watchdog is warning that she can’t properly oversee the department that’s playing a central role in the Biden administration’s energy and infrastructure policies.DOE Inspector General Teri Donaldson sent a memo and a special report to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm this month warning that the IG’s office doesn’t have sufficient funding to keep tabs on the department as it takes on new programs and receives a cash influx under massive new climate, energy and infrastructure legislation.“The OIG has been, and continues to be, severely underfunded,” Donaldson wrote to Granholm in the memo dated Nov. 22.DOE’s budget and loan authorities have ballooned thanks to infrastructure and energy legislation championed by the Biden administration. Those infrastructure and energy laws include funding for the DOE inspector general’s office, but Donaldson argues that it isn’t enough.“This continued and compounded dilution of OIG funding will result in insufficient oversight of both existing programs and the more than 50 newly established programs,” Donaldson wrote.If her office doesn’t receive additional funding, she warned, “critical areas such as research security, clean energy, grid deployment, scientific computing, stockpile stewardship, environmental cleanup, and pit production, to name a few, will not receive appropriate OIG oversight.”Her office also won’t be able to provide “near-term audit and inspection assistance that the President has specifically requested to minimize the longer-term impacts from the large-scale frauds that often plague Federal programs providing such funding on a rapid timeline.”DOE’s implementation of energy and infrastructure laws is certain to be a focal point for newly empowered House Republicans, who have promised intense oversight of the laws championed by the Biden administration. Republicans have been promising intense scrutiny of DOE’s loan guarantee program, pointing back to Solyndra — a solar panel company that declared bankruptcy after receiving federal loan guarantees during the Obama administration (Greenwire, Oct. 13).Donaldson wrote in her memo to Granholm that she is “currently working with Congress and the Office of Management and Budget to correct this underfunding problem for the OIG.” She thanked the DOE secretary for her support “as we enter such a challenging and exciting time at the Department.”

DOE girds for House Republican oversight -The Department of Energy, critical to deploying President Joe Biden’s clean energy and climate goals, will likely be facing a two-year onslaught of subpoenas, hourslong hearings and letters demanding information now that Republicans have won control of the House. For months, Republican committee leaders have been firing off requests for documents and other information. Those requests have largely been met with indifference. But the GOP committee leaders will gain powers to issue subpoenas and conduct lengthy hearings on those issues. The list of targets is long. House Energy and Commerce ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) has vowed to investigate the billions going to the DOE Loan Programs Office as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. And House Oversight and Reform ranking member James Comer (R-Ky.) is asking questions about the department’s tapping of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, including when DOE allegedly sold SPR oil to a Chinese company financially linked to frequent GOP target Hunter Biden. Rodgers and Comer are expected to lead those committees in the next Congress. Former DOE officials say the agency needs to start preparing. “Republicans are gonna get back to the relevant oversights, in terms of really looking into the department, ensuring the dollars are being spent properly,” said Dwayne Bolton, a former Trump-era DOE deputy assistant secretary at the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs. Eric Mahroum, a former senior adviser at the DOE during the Trump administration, predicted that Republicans “will really dig into the IRA.” He added that some of the questions would include, “What are we spending on what projects, and which industries, like solar and wind, are getting to the front of the line?” Lawmakers have showered the agency with cash over the past few years from new laws like the Inflation Reduction Act, the infrastructure bill, the CHIPS and Science Act and annual spending legislation. All told, DOE received $129.98 billion in total funding in fiscal 2022, according to, more than double any previous year. And even more money is on the way. Indeed, DOE’s inspector general said this month that “the massive spending bills create enormous challenges for management.” She warned that her underfunded office would be hamstrung to root out “the large-scale frauds that often plague Federal programs providing such funding on a rapid timeline” (Greenwire, Nov. 28). Paul Bledsoe, strategic adviser for the center-left Progressive Policy Institute, says it is critical that DOE officials effectively counter Republican arguments. “There’s a risk to the Biden administration,” he said. “The Biden administration has an immense challenge to wisely administer tens of billions of dollars in new spending through the department.” DOE did not respond to requests for comment.

Climate activists set to pressure Biden with Congress divided -The limited at best prospects for major climate legislation under a divided Congress has left many environmental advocacy groups hoping to amp up pressure on the Biden administration to advance regulations that are more protective of the environment. While there are some legislative climate issues to watch with a GOP House and Democratic Senate, activists say the best chance at progress has shifted to steps that might be taken administratively. “We do not see Congress as the avenue for major progress in the next 12 months and we think there’s a lot more ground we can cover in implementation, executive action and states,” Holly Burke, a spokesperson for the environmental group Evergreen Action, told The Hill. “We will keep our eye on the ball with regards to Congress, but we’re not going to invest most of our time there,” she added. Democrats and Republicans are bitterly divided on climate change, with the GOP voting unanimously against the sweeping legislation known as the Inflation Reduction Act, which represented the biggest steps taken by a U.S. Congress on the issue. Advocates would have sought to build on that win with a Democratic Senate and House, but now see regulation and implementation of that climate and tax bill as their next frontiers. “I don’t want to take our foot off the gas on Congress in terms of making sure we continue to make the modest progress that’s possible again through appropriations [and] through the farm bill, but in terms of the main focus of what the Sierra Club is looking to advance the climate agenda, it’s absolutely [Inflation Reduction Act] implementation, which goes hand-in-hand with executive action,” said Melinda Pierce, the Sierra Club’s legislative director. “I’m hoping we see quite a bit from the Biden administration on administrative rules that have been slowly progressing,” she added. “I think we’re going to see a whole bunch come to fruition at the end of this year and certainly next year.” Major regulations that the Biden administration is expected to advance are pollution and climate standards for power plants and heavy-duty vehicles, as well as limits for how much soot and smog can be in the air. Pierce said that air quality regulations like these are “critically important” to her organization. Burke said her organization would particularly pay attention to a set of regulations that pertain to the power sector since decarbonizing that area is key to bringing down emissions for the entire economy. In terms of implementing the Inflation Reduction Act, Pierce said she’d be watching how federal agencies handle the scale and speed of its investments as well as making sure that states take full advantage of the bill. Energy industry advisers say they will maintain a focus on Congress, especially with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) seeking to advance permitting reform legislation. Manchin’s package is aimed at speeding up the approval process for energy projects, including both fossil fuels and renewable energy. His efforts have been backed by Democratic leaders as part of a deal to get him to support the sweeping climate bill, and Manchin has been working to convince Republicans to get on board. Several have indicated that they are interested in working with him, though it’s an issue that has a good chance of spilling into the next year from the lame-duck session.

Biden Admin Quietly Greenlights Plan To Build Huge Gulf Oil Terminal -The Biden administration has quietly approved plans to build a new crude oil terminal in the Gulf of Mexico off Texas, seemingly in contradiction to the president’s climate agenda.The Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration approved the application (pdf) for Enterprise’s Sea Port Oil Terminal, one of four proposed offshore oil export terminals, on Monday.According to the application, the port will be located offshore of Freeport, Texas. It will have 4.8 million barrels of storage capacity and add 2 million barrels per day to the U.S. oil export capacity.In its 94-page decision (pdf), the Maritime Administration said that it had approved the application because the construction and operation of the port is “in the national interest and consistent with other policy goals and objectives.”“The construction and operation of the Port is in the national interest because the Project will benefit employment, economic growth, and U.S. energy infrastructure resilience and security,” the administration wrote. “The Port will provide a reliable source of crude oil to U.S. allies in the event of market disruption and have a minimal impact on the availability and cost of crude oil in the U.S. domestic market.” The decision states that the project will expand on an existing Enterprise Crude Houston operated terminal located in Houston and will generate 62 permanent jobs over 30 years. Additionally, 1,400 temporary construction jobs will be created, with the majority of the workforce being hired from existing labor pools in Texas and Louisiana, according to the application.

Congress Looks to Intervene in Rail Dispute as Strike Deadline Looms – NYTimes -After urging from President Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would consider an agreement that could avert a shutdown of the nation’s freight trains.— Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday that lawmakers plan to intervene this week in the deepening labor dispute between rail companies and their unionized workers, voting on whether to impose an agreement that could avert a shutdown of the nation’s freight trains just before Christmas. The announcement came shortly after President Biden called on Congress to act, saying the dispute cannot be allowed to “hurl this nation into a devastating rail freight shutdown.” In a statement, Mr. Biden urged the House and Senate to swiftly pass legislation to impose a compromise labor agreement that his administration helped broker but that has failed to win the support of all the rail labor unions. “On the day that it was announced, labor leaders, business leaders and elected officials all hailed it as a fair resolution of the dispute between the hardworking men and women of the rail freight unions and the companies in that industry,” Mr. Biden said in the statement. He called on Congress “to pass legislation immediately to adopt” the agreement. Ms. Pelosi said in a statement soon afterward that “this week, the House will take up a bill adopting the tentative agreement — with no poison pills or changes to the negotiated terms — and send it to the Senate.” It is less clear what will happen in the Senate, where Democrats have 50 seats in the 100-member chamber and most bills require Republican support to pass. The deadline for action is in early December, when several of the labor unions plan to go on strike if an agreement is not reached. In urging Congress to impose a solution on the dispute, Mr. Biden picked an aggressive stance that could pit him and his Democratic allies against the wishes of rank-and-file union members, who have long been frustrated with treatment by the rail companies.

IRS Warns Americans To Report Annual PayPal, Venmo Transactions Exceeding $600 Per Year - The Internal Revenue Service is warning Americans that they need to prepare to report transactions of at least $600 per year through 'third-party' payment processors such as Venmo and PayPal. In a notice posted Tuesday to, businesses and the self-employed are warned that cumulative income of at least $600 per year through apps - which also include Zelle and Cash App - will need to be reported on a tax form known as 1099-K, according to Marketwatch.According to the agency, the notice is primarily aimed at part-time workers, those with side-gigs and people selling goods. It does not apply to non-commercial transactions such as reimbursing people, or one-off transactions such as selling old furniture, Marketwatch reports.That said - considering that the 3rd party providers are going to start reporting transactions exceeding $600, how will the IRS know you're selling 'old furniture' versus, say, sweaters made out of cat hair on Ebay?Before this year, the threshold for filing a Form 1099-K report was at least 200 transactions totaling an aggregate of at least $20,000.When Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, it included a provision that reduced the reporting threshold to a single transaction over $600.The Biden administration hopes that by reducing the threshold, the measure will crack down on Americans evading taxes by not reporting the full extent of their gross income. –MarketWatch In short, this will undoubtedly raise taxes on people making under $400,000 per year.

Fauci's 7-Hour Deposition- What We Know So Far --Via The Brownstone Institute, - The transcript is not yet available and no reporters were allowed. But from the Attorneys General who brought the suit, the plaintiffs in the case and their attorney, and other parties to the lawsuit against the Biden administration, we have some information about the deposition provided by Anthony “I am the Science” Fauci. He has been the face of the pandemic response and stands accused of colluding with Big Tech to suppress dissent in violation of the First Amendment. The question of whether the deposition was to be public was itself the subject of legal attention. The Department of Justice filed to block all recording and personally identifiable information for fear of public harassment, and this condition was granted. As a result, we have no transcript (yet) and one senses a great skittishness even from those who were there to explain the fullness of what transpired. Major national media have shown no interest in getting the story. Nonetheless, we do have information thanks to some candid tweets and an article by one of the plaintiffs. The main takeaway is that Fauci has come down with a serious case of amnesia. Over seven hours, reported Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, he mostly stonewalled detailed questioning by answering that he has no clear memory of details that would shed light on his involvement in speech suppression. “Wow! It was amazing to spend 7 hours with Dr. Fauci. The man who single-handedly wrecked the U.S. economy based upon ‘the science.’ Only to discover that he can’t recall practically anything dealing with his Covid response!” This is despite the hundreds of pages and many public statements that seem to confirm that the White House and many government agencies worked very closely with Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others, to control the narrative for the better part of two years. And these efforts are probably ongoing. Eric Schmitt, the Attorney General of Missouri and now Senator-Elect, bought the suit along with the Attorney General of Louisiana. Schmitt tweeted “some takeaways from the deposition of Fauci: Fauci knew the Lab Leak theory had merit but it’d come back to him & sought to immediately discredit it; He defended lockdowns; The rest of us ‘don’t have the ability’ to determine what’s best for ourselves.” In addition, he wrote: “In the Fauci depo this week the court reporter sneezed. Fauci wanted her to wear a mask. This is the mentality in Nov 2022 of the guy who locked down our country & ruined countless lives & livelihoods.The Experts followed suit. Dissent was censored. In America. Never Again.”

Only 28% Of Americans Are Worried About COVID Anymore; New Poll Finds- A Gallup poll has found that fewer than a third of Americans remain worried about COVID. “Twenty-eight percent of Americans say they are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat worried’ they will get COVID — the lowest percentage Gallup has recorded since the summer of 2021,” the pollster notes. The survey also found that 78% believe the pandemic to be “over,” a new high, with most people saying that everyone should “lead their normal lives as much as possible and avoid interruptions to work and business.” Gallup further notes that “The same poll finds the smallest percentages of Americans yet reporting they are steering clear of specific situations because of the coronavirus, including avoiding large crowds (24%), avoiding travel by plane or public transportation (19%), avoiding going to public places (16%) and avoiding small gatherings (13%).” “Use of face masks remains fairly common, but the 40% saying they have worn one in the past week when outside their home is also a new low during the pandemic,” the pollster adds. Most Americans are not bothering with social distancing anymore either, according to the poll. “About six in 10 Americans (59%) say they have made no attempt to isolate themselves from people outside their household in the past 24 hours — the most eschewing social distancing since the beginning of the pandemic,” Gallup explains. “Sixteen percent, similar to the level in April, now say they have completely or mostly isolated themselves from people outside their household, while 25% — the lowest reading since April 2020 — say they have isolated themselves partially or a little,” the report further notes.

Press reports claim Liz Cheney blocks probe of FBI, Pentagon in January 6 attack - Staff members of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol have told the media that the committee’s vice-chair, Republican Liz Cheney, has blocked examination of the role of the national-security agencies in Trump’s attempt to overthrow the government and remain in power, despite losing the 2020 election. Two media reports, from NBC News and the Washington Post, cite unnamed staffers irate over Cheney’s efforts to focus the investigation and the committee’s final report, now in the concluding stages, exclusively on the role of Trump. The effect would be to downplay the actions of the intelligence agencies and high-level Republicans, as well as their connections to fascist groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. Even these two press accounts may amount to a further cover-up, as neither mentions the role of the Pentagon in the events of January 6. Top civilian and military figures in the US high command blocked the dispatch of National Guard troops to assist police who were battling the attackers inside and outside the Capitol. These troops were held back for more than three hours, and the Capitol was actually cleared with the assistance of Virginia and Maryland local and state police, not the soldiers. What the two press accounts do reveal is that Cheney’s role on the committee, where she has been the most intransigent in prosecuting a case against Trump, has been in the service of a definite political agenda: she is seeking to exonerate the Republican Party as a whole, and protect key institutions of the state, particularly the FBI. This is hardly surprising, given that she is the daughter of former vice president and former secretary of defense Richard Cheney, and herself held high-level positions in the State Department. Liz Cheney is a full-throated defender of American imperialism and of the institutions on which it relies, both for war abroad and for suppressing political opposition at home. The NBC report, first aired on November 11 with little notice in the corporate media, was the first significant account of the internal workings of the House committee based on leaks from staff members. They were said to be up in arms over a decision, pushed by Cheney, to focus the committee’s final report on the work of the “gold team” of investigators, who had concentrated on the personal role of Trump in the events leading up to and during January 6. There were three other investigative teams, each labeled with a different color: blue, for the response of law enforcement and intelligence agencies; green, for the fundraising to support the January 6 rally at the White House; and purple, for the role of groups like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and other fascist or militia-type organizations. Critically, there was no group dedicated to examining the role of Congressional Republicans in preparing the attack, although as many as a dozen were directly involved in building the rally that became the launching pad for the violent assault. Nor was the role of the Pentagon singled out, although the “blue team” reportedly interviewed some former and current Pentagon officials. Their findings will be largely excluded from the final report. The blue team did not focus on the role of the military, but rather on why the FBI “failed to act on a torrent of information on social media threatening violence in the weeks leading up to the Capitol riot,” according to the NBC report. The NBC report added, citing an email to the current number two official in the FBI, that the FBI leadership had been warned that a “sizable percentage” of agents were “sympathetic” to those attacking the Capitol. The Washington Post report, published November 23, confirmed the NBC News report and explored Cheney’s political motivation for focusing the investigation entirely on Trump. It claimed as its sources “15 former and current staffers” who “expressed concern that important findings unrelated to Trump will not become available to the American public.”

True Colors- J6 Staff Lash Out At Liz Cheney For Allegedly Burying Parts Of The Investigation -- Authored by Jonathan Turley, There is a deepening division on the J6 Committee as staffers turn on Liz Cheney over the final report on the January 6th riot. Angry rhetoric is flying with staffers accusing the Committee of becoming a “Cheney 2024 campaign” while both the Cheney spokesperson and Committee spokesperson lashed out at the staff members as “disgruntled” and producing shoddy or biased work. The underlying issue, however, is important and revealing. The Committee’s color coated teams include a “Blue Team” on the failure to prepare adequately for the riot. That part of the investigation is reportedly being dumped or reduced. Members of the “Green” and “Purple” teams are also reportedly irate.Cheney was soundly defeated in her primary in Wyoming and will soon leave Congress. She is being pushed by some Democrats as a possible surprise candidate for House Speaker if they could get a few Republican votes. That seems highly unlikely. The Republicans are likely to end up with the identical margin held by the Democrats for the past two years. Alternatively, some Democrats want Cheney to run for president either to dog Donald Trump in the primary debates or to run as an independent to siphon off votes in the general election.That seems to be the suspicion for some staffers in the Washington Post story. Fifteen former and current staffers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, expressed concerns that important findings unrelated to Trump will not become available to the American public…Several committee staff members were floored earlier this month when they were told that a draft report would focus almost entirely on Trump and the work of the committee’s “Gold Team,” excluding reams of other investigative work.Potentially left on the cutting room floor, or relegated to an appendix, were many revelations from the “Blue Team” — the group that dug into the law enforcement and intelligence community’s failure to assess the looming threat and prepare for the well-forecast attack on the Capitol. The proposed report would also cut back on much of the work of the Green Team, which looked at financing for the Jan. 6 attack, and the Purple Team, which examined militia groups and extremism. “We all came from prestigious jobs, dropping what we were doing because we were told this would be an important fact-finding investigation that would inform the public,” said one former committee staffer. “But when [the committee] became a Cheney 2024 campaign, many of us became discouraged.” If true, the report will largely track the virtual exclusive focus of the hearings with open references to the 2024 election as an overriding concern.Some of us have lamented that the J6 Committee could have been so much more than a one-sided, highly partisan investigation. House Democrats barred two Republican members originally selected by GOP leaders, who then boycotted the panel in response.Even with the GOP boycott, the Committee could have followed the type of balanced inquiry that pursued allegations tied to the Pearl Harbor attack or Watergate. It could have insisted on balanced hearings with witnesses and dissenting views.Nevertheless, the committee revealed important, often disturbing details. It was important for Americans to hear from figures like former attorney general Bill Barr and White House lawyers who struggled to counter unfounded advice given to Trump by outside lawyers on challenging the 2020 election. There were painful scenes of Capitol police overwhelmed at barricades and members of Congress hunkered down in offices.Yet, the focus on a single approved narrative gave the hearings the feel of an infomercial selling a product that most of us bought two years earlier.

Oath Keepers Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs found guilty of seditious conspiracy in Jan. 6 case — A federal jury in Washington on Tuesday found Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs, another member of the far-right organization, guilty of seditious conspiracy in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, a victory for the government in a case that involved a rarely used Civil War era statute.Three other members of the group who were on trial alongside Rhodes and Meggs — Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell — were found not guilty on the seditious conspiracy charge. All five defendants were found guilty of obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting for their actions on Jan. 6, 2021.The seditious conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Rhodes' attorneys said they plan to appeal that conviction. Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes found guilty of seditious conspiracy (video) The seditious conspiracy case is the most serious to grow out of the Justice Department's sprawling investigation into the U.S. Capitol attack. The two seditious conspiracy verdicts were wins for the department, which has brought forward the relatively rare charges against a number of Oath Keepers, as well as members of the far-right Proud Boys.Attorney General Merrick Garland lauded the work of prosecutors and federal agents, saying in a statement that the Justice Department "is committed to holding accountable those criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy on January 6, 2021."The not guilty verdicts for three of the defendants could be seen as a sign that jurors did not think the Justice Department proved that Harrelson, Watkins and Caldwell had planned ahead of time to storm the Capitol.Caldwell's attorney, David Fischer, called the seditious conspiracy acquittal a big win for his client."It obviously was a major victory for Mr. Caldwell...and it was just as obviously a major defeat for the Department of Justice," Fischer told reporters outside the courthouse.Some of the most violent rhetoric the government presented during the nearly two-month trial came from the two defendants who were found guilty of seditious conspiracy: Rhodes and Meggs. In evidence presented by the government, both men showed particular disdain for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and talked about their desire to do her violence.All three defendants who went inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 — Meggs, Harrelson and Watkins — were found guilty of conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging their official duties. Rhodes and Caldwell were on Capitol grounds that day but did not go inside the building.Watkins was also found guilty on a count of civil disorder and aiding and abetting because, as she admitted on the stand, she helped push against officers inside the Capitol. Caldwell, who was also found guilty of tampering with documents or proceedings and aiding and abetting, was the only one of the five who was not detained while awaiting trial.

Oath Keeper Stewart Rhodes Found Guilty of Seditious Conspiracy - A JURY HAS returned two landmark guilty verdicts in the Jan. 6 Oath Keepers trial, convicting founder Stewart Rhodes and fellow militia member Kelly Meggs of seditious conspiracy. The historic verdict — the most serious yet secured in relation to the events of Jan. 6 — was nonetheless mixed. Alleged co-conspirators Jessica Watkins, Thomas Watkins, and Kenneth Harrelson were found not guilty of sedition. Meggs and Watkins were, however, found guilty of the lesser charge of conspiring to disrupt the counting of the votes of the Electoral College. All five prosecuted members of the militia group were found guilty on charges of obstructing an official proceeding. Four of the five, including Rhodes, were found guilty of “tampering with documents or proceedings and aiding and abetting.”Top Justice Department officials celebrated the convictions as victories for the rule of law. “Democracy depends on the peaceful transfer of power,” said FBI Assistant Director Steven M. D’Antuono. “This case shows that force and violence are no match for our country’s justice system.” Attorney General Merrick Garland said the verdict underscores that the federal government remains “committed to holding accountable those criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy on January 6, 2021.”Throughout the trial, which opened on Oct. 4, the government alleged that Rhodes and his subordinates committed “seditious conspiracy” by working to block, by force, the peaceful transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.Sedition is rarely prosecuted, and convictions are even rarer. The Oath Keepers are a conspiratorial militia group that recruits heavily from former-military and law enforcement personnel. The militia began as fiercely anti-government, coping a defensive posture against fever-swamp-nightmares that federal authorities could turn entire cities into internment camps. But the militia came to embrace Donald Trump as a hero figure and hoped and believed Trump might marshall them into battle against antifa and other perceived leftist threats. In its conspiratorial worldview, the group saw Biden’s win as a “ChiCom puppet coup” — a victory for the “deep state,” Communist China, shadowy globalists, and alleged “pedophiles” in Congress. According to the government’s case, the Oath Keepers leadership began preparing for what Rhodes repeatedly presaged as “a bloody, bloody civil war” in the immediate aftermath of the November 2020 election. On a Nov. 9 GoToMeeting conference call, Rhodes urged his followers to accompany him to the nation’s capital: “Let’s go to D.C. together. I’ll be right there with you,” he said. “I want my bikers, I want my fucking street fighters, I want my brawlers.” Key to the prosecution’s argument was the extensive trove of contemporaneous communications produced by the defendants, including audio recordings and text messages. (Three members of the militia previously pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy charges, agreeing to cooperate with the government.) In one recording, defendant Kelly Meggs can be heard saying that “pepper spray is legal. Tasers are legal. And stun guns are legal. And it doesn’t hurt to have a lead pipe with a flag on it.

Trump hosts fascist Nick Fuentes and anti-Semite Kanye West for dinner at Mar-a-Lago compound --Last Tuesday, one week after announcing his 2024 presidential campaign, former President Donald Trump hosted anti-Semite billionaire rapper Ye, formerly Kanye West, and fascist Nicholas Fuentes at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.According to multiple reports, the three, along with a Trump political adviser, held a cordial dinner meeting that lasted for roughly two hours.West a longtime admirer of Trump, has vented his hatred of Jews publiclyin the last few months. After the rapper released an unapologetic torrent ofanti-Semitic bile in multiple online and television interviews, he was dropped as a paid endorser by several major corporations, including Adidas.Despite, or more likely because of, his remarks, West was welcomed by the former president to his home last week. Trump confirmed the dinner on his personal social media platform, Truth Social, writing on Friday that Ye “was asking me for advice concerning some of his difficulties, in particular, having to do with his business.“We also discussed,” Trump wrote, “politics, where I told him he should definitely not run for president, ‘any voters you may have should vote for TRUMP.’”The 2024 Republican front-runner added that the pair “got along great” and that West “expressed no anti-Semetism, [sic] & I appreciated all of the nice things he said about me on ‘Tucker Carlson.’ Why wouldn’t I agree to meet?”Trump ended the post, “Also, I didn’t know Nick Fuentes.”The claim that Trump does not know who Fuentes was, or that he would be joining him for dinner, has no credibility.As a former president, Trump is afforded around-the-clock Secret Service protection. There is no way someone is allowed to enter Trump’s compound without first getting cleared by the agency.Furthermore, Trump, a prolific liar, has repeatedly claimed that he did not know detestable right-wing figures or groups, even after it was demonstrably proven that he did.

Apple Threatens To Ban Twitter From App Store, Won't Say Why- Musk - Having seen waves of extreme over-reactions to Elon Musk's take-over of Twitter - and demands for all sorts of censorship being reinstated - we have seen an armada of virtue-signaling among advertisers pulling their spending from the free-speech platform. Following demands from numerous former blue-checks for the deplatforming of such a dangerous app as Twitter has surely become... In a New York Times op-ed, the former head of trust and safety at Twitter, Yoel Roth, wrote Twitter under Musk's leadership is at risk of being removed from Apple and Google's app stores if they fail to follow guidelines: "Failure to adhere to Apple's and Google's guidelines would be catastrophic, risking Twitter's expulsion from their app stores and making it more difficult for billions of potential users to get Twitter's services. This gives Apple and Google enormous power to shape the decisions Twitter makes," Roth said. He explained, "as I departed the company, the calls from the app review teams had already begun." ...Elon Musk has just broken the news that, seemingly confirming the rumors, Apple is threatening to pull Twitter's app from its app-store... and won't say why... Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022 Musk is not taking this lying down as one would expect, first questioning where Tim Cook hates free speech? What’s going on here @tim_cook? — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022 Then asking his 119 million followers if Apple should publish its censorship actions... Apple should publish all censorship actions it has taken that affect its customers — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2022 Which for now is extremely tilted towards 'yes'...

Elon Musk says he will create his own smartphone if Apple and Google drop Twitter app amid rightward lurch - After sparking controversy earlier this week by proposing “general amnesty” for suspended accounts, Musk responded to right-wing podcaster Liz Wheeler’s suggestion that he should create a new phone if the tech giants choose to boot Twitter from their app stores. Ms Wheeler pointed out that the endeavour would not be a challenge for a man who builds rockets to Mars, and claimed that “half the country would happily ditch the biased, snooping iPhone & Android” and purchase instead what she coined as the “tELONphone.” Musk said that he is contemplating the idea as a last resort. “I certainly hope it does not come to that, but, yes, if there is no other choice, I will make an alternative phone,” he wrote. Musk has faced backlash for defending lax restrictions after his $44bn (£37m) Twitter takeover last month. He pressed that accounts that have not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam” would be allowed back on the platform. In the past, Twitter has implemented bans on accounts over questionable content, abuse, misinformation, extremism, threats of violence, and violation of privacy or copyright. The Tesla founder has already reversed bans on controversial figures including Donald Trump, whose account was banned for dangerous speech in the aftermath of the January 6 attack in the Capitol. The new Twitter CEO has also reinstated right-wing professor Jordan Peterson and comedian Kathy Griffin, who had changed her handle to “Elon Musk,” on the platform. Musk’s “amnesty” proposal would likely entail a more widespread reverse of bans.

Twitter Bans Multiple Antifa Accounts After Threats And Attempts To Burn Down Tesla Dealerships Elon Musk’s Twitter has suspended several accounts belonging to extreme leftist Antifa groups following years of incitement to violence culminating in threats to commit arson against Tesla facilities. Journalist Andy Ngo tweeted the details, noting that while some accounts are suspended, others remain active:

    • A violent extremist propaganda site that makes printable radicalization texts for #Antifa recruits has been suspended under @elonmusk’s Twitter. Crimethinc wrote materials brainwashing readers into violent hatred of the state, police & property ownership.
    • Crimethinc disseminated texts brainwashing readers to violent extremism, praised domestic terrorist attacks against the state, & instructed people on how to commit violent crimes. You call it a “culture jamming anarchist publication”? What did you call ISIS propaganda?
    • Violent extremist #Antifa collective @crimethinc has been suspended at the moment. The international group operates like ISIS: makes propaganda & training material to radicalize militants toward violence. Though the main account was suspended, they operate a dozen other accounts:

Musk Blasts Claims That Reinstating Banned Twitter Accounts Puts 'Lives At Risk' - Twitter’s new boss Elon Musk took a swipe at a mainstream media report that cited activists claiming lives were being put at risk by Musk’s decision to reinstate a number of banned Twitter accounts, including that of former President Donald Trump. “Much Ado About Nothing,” Musk said in a tweet Friday, responding to left-leaning Axios’ report that carried the caption: “Activists warn lives at risk over Elon Musk’s amnesty plans for suspended Twitter accounts.” Musk on Thursday announced a “general amnesty” for some suspended Twitter accounts, provided that the accounts weren’t engaging in “egregious spam” or hadn’t broken the law.“The people have spoken,” Musk wrote on Twitter in response to a poll that showed the vast majority of his followers on the platform voting in favor of a “general amnesty” for banned accounts.“Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” he added, which translates as “the voice of the people, the voice of God” in Latin.That came several days after Musk ran a poll asking his Twitter followers to weigh in on whether Trump’s suspended account should be reinstated, with most voting in favor.“The people have spoken. Trump will be reinstated. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk said in a post.But Musk’s decision to reinstate suspended accounts has fired up critics who see unfettered speech as a danger.Axios, a left-leaning media outlet, ran a story in response to Musk’s pledge to restore suspended accounts, sharing it on Twitter with the caption: “Activists warn lives at risk over Elon Musk’s amnesty plans for suspended Twitter accounts.”The report cited a number of individuals and organizations who had a critical take on Musk’s banned account reinstatement. One of the individuals Axios cited was Alejandra Caraballo, clinical instructor at Harvard Law’s cyberlaw clinic, who told The Washington Post that for marginalized communities, the amnesty was “existentially dangerous.”“It’s like opening the gates of hell in terms of the havoc it will cause,” Caraballo said, adding that “People who engaged in direct targeted harassment can come back and engage in doxing, targeted harassment, vicious bullying, calls for violence, celebration of violence.”She added that both Apple and Google should consider removing Twitter from the respective app store offerings.

The Media's Deranged Hysteria Over Elon Musk's Promised Restoration Of Free Speech by Glenn Greenwald via Substack -It was easy to predict that there would be an all-out war from Western power centers if Musk sought to mildly reduce censorship on Twitter. Still, the media outdid itself...It is hard to overstate how manic, primal and unhinged is the reaction of corporate media employees to the mere prospect that new Twitter owner Elon Musk may restore a modicum of greater free speech to that platform. It was easy to predict — back when Musk was merely toying with the idea of buying Twitter and loosening some of its censorship restrictions — that there would be an all-out attack from Western power centers if he tried. Online censorship has become one of the most potent propaganda weapons they possess, and there is no way they will allow anyone to dilute it even mildly without attempting to destroy them. Even with that expectation in place of what was to come, the liberal sector of the corporate media (by far the most dominant media sector) really outdid itself when it came to group-think panic, rhetorical excess, and reckless and shrill accusations.In unison, these media outlets decreed that not only would greater free speech on Twitter usher in the usual parade of horribles they trot out when demanding censorship — disinformation, hate speech, attacks on the “marginalized,” etc. etc. — but this time they severely escalated their rhetorical hysteria by claiming that Musk would literally cause mass murder by permitting a broader range of political opinion to be aired. The Washington Post's Taylor Lorenz even warned of supernatural demons that would be unleashed by these new free speech policies, as she talked to a handful of obviously neurotic pro-censorship “experts” and then wrote about these thinly disguised therapy sessions with those neurotics under this headline: “‘Opening the gates of hell’: Musk says he will revive banned accounts.”But the self-evident absurdity of this laughable meltdown and the ease of mocking it should not obscure that there are lurking within these episodes some genuinely insidious and serious dangers. These preposterous media employees are just the sideshow. But what they are doing, unwittingly or otherwise, is laying the groundwork for far less frivolous and more serious people to use the attacks on Musk to further fortify the regime of censorship they have been constructing: the limitlessly demonizing language heaped on him, the success they have already had in driving away many if not most corporate advertisers from Twitter, the threats to once again abuse the monopoly power of Google and Apple to destroy Twitter or at least cripple it if Musk does not comply with their censorship orders (as they succeeded in doing last year to the free speech site Parler when it became the most-downloaded app in the country and refused to censor on demand).To examine the media tactics being invoked, and to highlight the underlying conflicts among power centers at stake in this battle, we devoted our monologue to this topic as part of Friday night's episode of the pre-launch test-runs we are airing of our new live SYSTEM UPDATE program, soon to debut nightly on Rumble. As we explained last week, these test-run episodes are designed to air for now solely on the Locals platform, and are available for now exclusively to our Substack and Locals subscribers, in order to elicit feedback and help us perfect the show as we prepare for our debut on Rumble. The audience feedback we received after our first episode and the first interactive after-show we did was genuinely helpful, and we spent the week incorporating many of our audience's suggestions in order to elevate the quality of our program as we head toward our launch.But given the timeliness of our latest monologue to these still-unfolding events, as well as the fact that we were able to keep the test-run glitches to a minimum, we have posted this new full thirty-minute monologue on Rumble, for anyone to watch here. Reflecting the success we believe we can achieve in reaching a large new audience with our program, the number of viewers we attracted to that test-run show before the first full day has already exceeded 100,000: on a Saturday, over Thanksgiving weekend.As we always have done and will continue to do with all video broadcasts and video reporting we do, we have created and are posting a full transcript of the monologue for subscribers only, available below, for those who prefer to read rather than watch (though we do believe that the video component of the show allows us to use another dimension in conveying our reporting, one of the main reasons we committed to produce this new live program on Rumble). But for those who prefer to read, the transcript of our Musk analysis is below; those wishing to watch our new SYSTEM UPDATE monologue can do so by clicking this link and then watch the video on Rumble.

New Twitter Sign-Ups Hit All-Time Record Despite Cancel Campaign - by Jonathan Turley -Since Elon Musk bought Twitter with a pledge to restore free speech protections, the media and political establishment have maintained an unrelenting campaign to use pressure from corporations and foreign governments to force him to restore censorship policies. Reporters have covered seemingly every celebrity declaring that they are leaving the site or even selling their Teslas in protest. As companies joined the boycott, commentators gleefully announced the “death,” “collapse,” and “demise” of the social media company with some mocking Musk’s endangerment of billions for free speech. New figures, however, appear to show that the public is solidly with Musk on the free speech issue. New signups at Twitter are at an all-time high with two million new signups per day.As these companies and activists demand censorship, customers are signing up in mass to embrace the greater diversity of viewpoints and expression at the company. While companies are yielding to demands from the left that they cut off ad revenue until Musk restores censorship, users are flocking to the site.The over two million new sign-ups per day represent a 66% increase over the same time frame last year, according to figures released by Musk.Of course, it has long been known that the public wants more, not less, free speech. It is the political establishment that is struggling to retain control over speech on social media at any cost. Facebook even tried a massive commercial campaign to convince the public to embrace censorship.President Joe Biden has led calls for censorship on social media, which have been largely heeded by companies like Facebook and Twitter. Biden is accusing Twitter of “spewing lies all across the world” by seeking to reduce one of the largest censorship systems in history. President Biden has previously accused social media companies of “killing people” by refusing to impose robust censorship over a wide range of subjects. Many of those banned or censored were doctors with opposing views on the data and the science related to the pandemic.Some of those doctors were the co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, which advocated for a more focused Covid response that targeted the most vulnerable population rather than widespread lockdowns and mandates. Many are now questioning the efficacy and cost of the massive lockdown as well as the real value of masks or the rejection of natural immunities as an alternative to vaccination. Likewise, those who alleged that the virus may have begun in a lab in China were widely denounced and the views barred from being uttered on social media platforms. It was later learned that a number of leading experts raised this theory with Fauci and others early in the pandemic.We are now seeing increasing evidence of back channels used by government and political figures to maintain a censorship system by surrogate in the social media companies and foreign allies. President Biden however, has denounced Musk as a guy who “goes out and buys an outfit that spews lies all across the world.” He then claimed “There are no editors anymore. There are no editors anymore.”The President the added:“How do people know the truth? What do they — how do they make — make a distinction between fact and fiction? There’s so much — so much going on. And we’re in the middle of this.”Indeed, perish the thought that citizens might be left to pursue the truth on their own without the government or surrogates in the media framing it for them. How could we possibly “know the truth” without our social media overlords?

Jeffrey Epstein sex abuse accusers sue JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank for alleged cover-up - Two women who accused Jeffrey Epstein of sexual abuse slapped JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank with separate lawsuits, claiming the financial giants chose profits over reigning in the convicted pedophile’s alleged sex-trafficking operation. The women, identified only as Jane Does, filed the lawsuits Thursday in New York federal court, seeking class-action status and unspecified financial damages, according to the complaints reviewed by The Post. The lawsuits state both banks assisted and participated in Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking by enabling him to make payments to women for sex acts and that the banks profited from Epstein’s activities. “We believe this claim lacks merit and will present our arguments in court,” a Deutsche Bank spokesman told The Post. JPMorgan declined comment. Both banks worked with the disgraced financier after he pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from a minor in Florida in 2008. Epstein died in a federal Manhattan detention center in 2019 while awaiting trial on federal sex-trafficking charges. In the suit against Deutsche Bank, the woman claims she was sexually abused by Epstein and trafficked to his friends for 15 years — from about 2003 until about 2018. She was also paid in cash for sex acts, according to her suit. During that time, the bank ignored several red flags including payments to numerous young women and large withdrawals of cash, the suit said. New York’s regulator found Epstein, his related entities and associates had more than 40 accounts at Deutsche Bank, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first broke news of the lawsuits. “[Deutsche Bank] knowingly participated in the Epstein sex-trafficking venture by (among other things) providing the financial underpinnings for Epstein to have ready and reliable access to resources — including cash — to recruit, lure, coerce, and entice young women and girls to be sexually abused and to cause them to engage in commercial sex acts and other degradations,” the suit said.

Epstein accusers sue JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank, claiming banks benefited from sex trafficking operation - — Two anonymous women who accuse the late Jeffrey Epstein of sexual abuse have filed separate civil lawsuits against JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Deutsche Bank AG, claiming the big banks enabled and benefitted financially from Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking operation. The class action suits were filed in part under a new law in New York, which allows adult sexual abuse survivors to sue their alleged abusers, even if the statute of limitations has expired. When he died, Epstein was awaiting trial on federal charges accusing him of operating a sex trafficking ring from 2002 to 2005 at his Manhattan mansion and his Palm Beach estate, and allegedly paying girls as young as 14 for sex. The new lawsuit filed against JPMorgan accuses the financial institution of having “provided special treatment to the sex-trafficking venture, thereby ensuring its continued operation and sexual abuse and sex-trafficking of young women and girls.” “Without the financial institution’s participation, Epstein’s sex trafficking scheme could not have existed,” the lawsuit states. A separate lawsuit filed Thursday by a second anonymous woman representing a class of plaintiffs says when JP Morgan started “separating itself from Epstein” in 2013, Deutsche Bank “became the bank that Epstein needed to fund his sexual abuse and sex-trafficking operation.” “Knowing that they would earn millions of dollars from facilitating Epstein’s sex trafficking, and from its relationship with Epstein, Deutsche Bank chose profit over following the law. Specifically, Deutsche Bank chose facilitating a sex trafficking operation in order to churn profits,” the suit claims. The suit alleges Deutsche Bank ignored red flags including payments to numerous young women and large withdrawals of cash. In 2020, New York regulators fined Deutsche Bank $150 million and slammed the lender for “mistakes and sloppiness” in its relationship with Epstein. According to the regulator, the bank was repeatedly made aware of past accusations against Epstein and his alleged accomplices as soon as he became a client.

Lawsuit alleges investor Leon Black raped a woman inside Jeffrey Epstein's home Billionaire investor Leon Black has been sued by a woman alleging he “brutal[ly]” raped her at Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan townhouse in spring 2002.Cheri Pierson names both Black — the co-founder and former CEO of private equity behemoth Apollo Global Management — and the estate of the late Epstein as defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed in New York court on Monday.Pierson alleges Epstein arranged for her to give Black a massage on the third floor of Epstein’s New York City mansion, which she agreed to in exchange for money that she “desperately needed” to care for her young daughter. Instead, she alleges, Black raped her in a “brutal attack” that left her “swollen, torn, and bleeding.”“By the time Ms. Pierson exited the massage suite and rode down the elevator with Black, she could barely walk out of the house onto the sidewalk, as she was in excruciating pain and still in shock,” said the complaint filed by law firm Wigdor LLP.Black denied the allegations Monday. His attorney, Susan Estrich of Estrich Goldin, said in a statement that the claims “are categorically false and part of a scheme to extort money from Mr. Black by threatening to destroy his reputation.” According to Forbes, Black’s net worth is $9 billion.The former Wall Street tycoon — who stepped down as CEO of Apollo in January 2021 after an independent review of his ties to convicted sex offender Epstein —expressed regret for his dealings with Epstein in a letter to investors in 2020. The New York Times reported Black may have paid up to $75 million to Epstein for consulting and other services, according to two people with knowledge of the transactions, adding that the two “often socialized and dined together.” Black is also facing claims from Russian model Guzel Ganieva, who said he sexually abused her and then falsely accused her of extortion when she spoke out. Black has denied those allegations as well. Several weeks before the alleged assault, according to the complaint, Epstein had told Pierson he would arrange a meeting with a wealthy and powerful man he did not name — whom he allegedly said could potentially help with a skincare product she was trying to market. After the alleged rape Pierson, who did not have health insurance, was so badly injured that it was difficult for her to urinate for “several weeks,” according to the complaint.

BlockFi Files For Widely Anticipated Bankruptcy, Cites FTX Collapse - Crypto lender BlockFi will file for a widely anticipated bankruptcy on Monday, as the fallout from FTX's implosion continue to spread, a source at the company tells Decrypt. The New Jersey-based company will "will focus on recovering all obligations owed to BlockFi," but that "recoveries from FTX will be delayed" due to ongoing bankruptcy proceedings at the failed crypto exchange, reads an official statement. "With the collapse of FTX, the BlockFi management team and board of directors immediately took action to protect clients and the Company," said Mark Renzi, the company's financial adviser. According to the filing, BlockFi has between 1 and 10 billion in liabilities. Creditors - of which there are an estimated 100,000 or more, include FTX (second-largest) and the SEC. (h/t @tier10k) The filing also confirms that the company has $256.9 million in cash on hand.BlockFi allows users to earn a yield for depositing (or 'staking') idle cryptocurrencies on the platform. The firm first halted withdrawals on November 11, the day FTX filed for bankruptcy."We, like the rest of the world, found out about this situation through Twitter," BlockFi said at the time. "We are shocked and dismayed by the news regarding FTX and Alameda."Around a week later, a source at BlockFi told Decrypt that it was considering bankruptcy.As Bitcoin Magazine notes, This filing is yet another example of lenders facing insolvency in recent months in the wake of industry-wide collapse. In July of this year, Celsius filed for bankruptcy, and just recently, Genesis halted withdrawals, forcing Gemini Earn to as well.According to a source that spoke with Decrypt, alongside the bankruptcy proceedings, BlockFi will also be laying off a “large portion” of its staff. BlockFi was bailed out by FTX in June of 2022 as a result of contagion from the collapse of cryptocurrency hedge fund Three Arrows Capital, and was shortly acquired by FTX..  With the recent implosion of FTX and the connected Alameda Research hedge fund, questions about BlockFi’s ability to cover customer assets began to surface. These only increased after BlockFi confirmed they did not have further clarity on the situation surrounding FTX and began limiting customers on their platform, including halting withdrawals. In a blog post, BlockFi included additional resources for customers with questions about the proceedings.

Young Crypto Founder Shocks Industry With Sudden Death at 30 in His Sleep - Tiantian Kullander, the influential young founder of cryptocurrency company Amber Group, died suddenly in his sleep on Nov. 23, the company confirmed. The group had just received a $3 billion valuation earlier this year, and was in the process of raising another $100 million—a meteoric success in which he played an integral role after launching Amber in 2017 with a group of finance insiders, including former Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Morgan Stanley workers. His meteoric rise continued, and in 2019 he earned a spot on the Forbes Under 30 list. “He put his heart and soul into the company, in every stage of its growth. He led by example with his intellect, generosity, humility, diligence and creativity,” the company wrote in a statement confirming his death on their website, commemorating him as a “devoted” husband and “loving” father. Known affectionately by his peers as “TT,” the company remembered him as a “respected thought leader and widely recognized pioneer for the industry.” Further details surrounding Kullander’s death were unavailable—except for the fact he passed while asleep. The statement also said Kullander sat on the “Board of Fnatic (one of the world’s most successful e-sports organizations) and founded KeeperDAO (the first on-chain liquidity underwriter) before giving it back to its community.”

Sheila Bair, Former Chair of the FDIC, Is Now an “Organizer/Director” of a Cayman Islands Crypto Company that Got a U.S. National Bank Charter Last Year -By Pam and Russ Martens: - On November 17, Sheila Bair, the former Chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) during the financial crisis of 2008, went on CNBC to lament the lack of controls leading to the collapse of the crypto currency exchange, FTX. During the interview, Bair used the phrase “nobody looking behind the curtain.”But Bair, herself, is listed as an “Organizer/Director” of a crypto-related company called Paxos, where nobody can genuinely look behind the curtain because its parent, Kabompo Holdings Ltd., is based in the offshore secrecy jurisdiction of the Cayman Islands. According to the bare bones filings Kabompo has made with the Securities and Exchange Commission each time it has raised money from private investors, it has used an address that is a Post Office Box at Ugland House in Grand Caymen. According to a previous report from the Government Accountability Office, the audit arm of Congress, Ugland House is home to 18,857 corporations. In 2009, President Obama called it either “the largest building in the world or the largest tax scam in the world.”Despite the dark curtain that Ugland House draws around the corporations housed there, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the regulator of national banks in the United States, granted Paxos conditional approval to operate a national bank, Paxos National Trust, on April 23 of last year. The national bank charter will allow Paxos National Trust to operate in all 50 states without getting separate approvals from the individual states. The OCC’s letter to Paxos that details the conditional approval contains the following breathtaking paragraph:“The Bank will be an uninsured national bank whose operations will be limited to those of a trust company and activities related thereto. The Bank will provide a range of services associated with digital assets that are permissible for a national bank, including custody services for digital assets; custody and management of USD stablecoin reserves; payment, exchange, and agent services; other cryptocurrency services, such as trading services and enabling partners to buy and sell cryptocurrency; and ‘know your customer’ as a service, which includes customer identification, sanctions screening, enhanced due diligence, customer risk rating, and other related services. These activities are currently being conducted by Paxos Trust Company, LLC, a New York-chartered limited liability trust company (Paxos Trust Company). The Bank and Paxos Trust Company will be affiliates and direct wholly owned subsidiaries of Kabompo Holdings Ltd., Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands (Kabompo).” Let this sink in for a moment. The OCC is willing to allow a company whose parent is housed in a secrecy jurisdiction to conduct “know your customer” activities “as a service” and engage in a sprawling range of crypto activities – despite crypto being called a scam or a sham by a growing list of veteran investors, academics and computer scientists.Legendary investor Warren Buffet has called the largest cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, ‘rat poison squared’; global economist, Nouriel Roubini, told the Senate Banking Committee in 2018 that ‘Crypto is the Mother of All Scams and (Now Busted) Bubbles While Blockchain Is The Most Over-Hyped Technology Ever, No Better than a Spreadsheet/Database.’ More recently, Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, one of the most valuable tech companies in the world, stated that cryptocurrencies are ‘100% based on greater fool theory.’ And just this past June 1, more than 1,600 scientists and software engineers wrote to Committee chairs in Congress to warn that both crypto and blockchain are shams.” Paxos also appears to have run amok of the FDIC’s rules on using the imprimatur of the FDIC to make its stablecoins appear to have the backing of federal deposit insurance from the FDIC. (See screen shot below taken from the Paxos website yesterday morning.) The most brazen sentence on the Paxos web site is this: “Paxos maintains FDIC-insured deposits for stablecoins at the following depositories:”

Binance's 'CZ' Says Half Billion WhatsApp User Records For Sale On Dark Web - Nearly half a billion WhatsApp users' mobile phone numbers are allegedly for sale on a dark web community forum, according to multiple sources, including Binance's billionaire Changpeng "CZ" Zhao. "A new set of 487 million WhatsApp phone numbers for sales in the Dark Web," CZ tweeted Sunday. He said a sample of hacked data "indicates the phone numbers are legit." CZ warned users on the Meta-owned platform that "threat actors downstream will use this data to conduct smishing (phishing messages) campaigns." A new set of 487 million WhatsApp phone numbers for sales in the Dark Web. A sample indicates the phone numbers are legit. Please stay vigilant as threat actors downstream will use this data to conduct smishing (phishing messages) campaigns. Stay SAFU.— CZ Binance (@cz_binance) November 27, 2022Cybernews initially confirmed the hack. They said: On November 16, an actor posted an ad on a well-known hacking community forum, claiming they were selling a 2022 database of 487 million WhatsApp user mobile numbers.The dataset allegedly contains WhatsApp user data from 84 countries. Threat actor claims there a re over 32 million US user records included.Another huge chunk of phone numbers belongs to the citizens of Egypt (45 million), Italy (35 million), Saudi Arabia (29 million), France (20 million), and Turkey (20 million).The dataset for sale also allegedly has nearly 10 million Russian and over 11 million UK citizens' phone numbers.The threat actor told Cybernews they were selling the US dataset for $7,000, the UK – $2,500, and Germany – $2,000.Cybernews also posted a screenshot of the seller's post on the forum featuring the total number of phone numbers per country.

Thoughts On A Crypto Crisis - If you’ve never seen the movie “There Will Be Blood” starring Daniel Day Lewis, then now might be a good time. Based loosely on an Upton Sinclair novel that satirizes the early days of the oil industry, it portrays the life of an independent oil man who rises to great wealth and power at the expense of his humanity. While that character’s arc is predictable, what makes the movie is his back and forth interaction with a young pastor whose own lust for power turns out to be just as great, and just as corrupting. Lewis’ character, while evil, is at least self-aware about his greed and selfishness. The pastor is not, and in some ways turns out the more pathetic character.Welcome to the state of crypto in its thirteenth year, except that in our story the greedy entrepreneur and the morally bankrupt spiritual leader have turned out to be the same person. FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, but also Do Kwon (of Terra), Su Zhu (of Three Arrows Capital), Alex Mashinsky (of Celsius) and a few others. All claimed to be working towards the greater good. All ended up obscenely wealthy in the process. All turned out to be frauds.Tempting as it might be to focus all of our energy into anger towards these men, this is a time for self reflection. As an industry, but also a community. Crypto has attracted millions of people from all over the world and the vast majority are good people who believe in this new way of building trust. But we are terrible at picking leaders (with a few exceptions) and have only ourselves to blame when they let us down.The great irony of the collapses we’ve experienced lately is that nobody has to use these firms. Unlike Wall Street, where consumer choices are always limited (by design) the censorship resistance of crypto often means nobody has to use any service. Most of FTX’s clients could have custodied their own coins and used DeFi, in the same way that people who wanted a more decentralized stablecoin could have used Dai.And yet, countless users who came to crypto to get away from traditional authorities ended up running into the arms of services offered by inexperienced leaders who act like they are running a cult. But why?The simplest answer is greed. The KwonZhuMashFried’s of the world all promised their followers a faster road to riches. Greed has an exponential function. The more money people make, the more they (paradoxically) want, despite the marginal utility of the next dollar declining quickly. Crypto has made a lot of people rich, but for every user who cashes out there seems to be two who double down. This compulsion for always making more drives some people to suspend disbelief and to seek out the quacks who make the most grandiose promises.But blaming everything on greed is too simple. There has to be more to this story, and true self reflection requires going deeper.

Dream Houses --THOMAS MORE’S UTOPIA has become the archetypical presentation of earthly paradise, famously detailing a prospective society in which reason and progress rule all. Despite protestations of realism, the best way to read Alex Hemingway’s essay “To Solve the Housing Crisis, We Have to Increase the Housing Supply” is as a particularly insipid installment in this utopian tradition. Published in Jacobin in September, it is furthermore an exercise in imaginary promises undertaken by a latter-day adherent of the capitalist injunction to pursue growth at all costs. That this piece appears in Jacobin, an ostensibly “socialist” publication, goes a long way towards burying its call for capital accumulation under the thinnest veneer of left politics at its most bleeding-heart chauvinist.Hemingway begins by declaring a supposed fact: “The truth is there is no way out of the housing crisis without a tremendous effort to end the chronic shortage of homes, which helps drive up rents.” He then goes on to list five reasons why “the issue of supply should matter even—maybe especially—to those of us who focus most of our efforts on expanding public and nonmarket housing”: (1) a low vacancy rate benefits landlords; (2) large investors “thrive on the housing shortage”; (3) the previous two points are proven true by academic studies; (4) which means that building must continue, without end, until rents drop; and (5) any attempt to secure rights for renters against landlords must come after the housing shortage is ended in accordance with reason number four. I can sum these five points up with two: (1) capitalism can alone solve its own crises; and (2) it should be allowed to do so, regardless of how long it takes, before we even consider intervening in other ways.The magnitude of this shortage of homes (or, really, a supply deficit) is not identified until later in the essay, when he cites a Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) report that states the province of British Columbia needs to add five hundred seventy thousand additional residential units per year, beginning in 2019, above a “business-as-usual scenario” (a 1,347 percent increase above 2019’s 39,383 completed units) to return to the level of affordability (measured as rent or monthly mortgage payments as a share of total household income) last seen in 2003–2004. The timing of this is important, as it is just before Canada began experiencing its own, slow-motion version of the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis, reflected in the dramatic and sustained rise of residential property prices—likewise spurred on by low interest rates and mortgage lending. At the same time, rent prices have been on a tear, increasing well ahead of wages. In effect, the CMHC proposes turning back the clock nearly two decades in an attempt to shift the blame, to mutate a crisis of rapacious financial lending into a crisis of construction—a bit like fussing about a splinter while leaving a gaping chest wound untreated.

Adobe Data: Strong Online Shopping on Black Friday - Hits New Record - American consumers spent a record $9.12 billion shopping online on Black Friday (November 25), up 2.3% YoY, according to Adobe Analytics data.Electronics were a major growth driver, with online sales up 221% over the average day in October 2022.Smart home items (up 271%) and audio equipment (up 230%) particularly sold well. Toys remained a strong category (up 285%), while exercise equipment performed well also (up 218%).As online spending picked up, consumers who are dealing with inflation and higher prices, are embracing flexible ways to make payments.Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) orders have risen by 78% when you compare this past week (November 19 – 25) to the week prior.BNPL revenue is up a significant 81% in the same period. Mobile shopping remains a big story, with Black Friday hitting a new record: 48% of online sales came from smartphones, up from 44% last year.On Black Friday, hot sellers included toys such as Fortnite, Roblox, Bluey, Funko Pop!, and Disney Encanto.Gaming remained a popular category, as shoppers snatched up Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 devices, along with games including FIFA 23, NBA 2k23, and Pokemon Scarlet & Violet.Other top sellers included drones, Apple MacBooks, and Dyson products (airwrap and vacuum). eCommerce activity is expected to remain strong this weekend, with shoppers set to spend over $9 billion online ($4.52 billion on Sat, $4.99 billion on Sun).Adobe expects Cyber Monday to be the season’s (and year’s) biggest online shopping day again, driving $11.2 billion in spend and growing 5.1% YoY. Today (November 26) is also Small Business Saturday, as consumers are urged to shop with local, independent retailers.Adobe Analytics data shows that smaller retailers ($10 million to $50 million in annual revenue) have struggled in an uncertain economic environment, with online sales growing 3 times less than large retailers (over $1 billion in annual revenue). Discounts this weekend: Across all retailers, consumers can expect strong discounts this Saturday and Sunday for apparel (peaking at 17% off listed price), toys (33%), sporting goods (19%), and televisions (17%).Cyber Monday will offer the best deals for computers (27%), as well as furniture (11%). Those looking to buy an appliance should consider waiting until Thursday (Dec. 1), when discounts are set to peak at 18% on average.

Dallas Fed Manufacturing Growth Declines in November The Dallas Fed released its Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey (TMOS) for November. The latest general business activity index came in at -14.4, down 5 from last month. All figures are seasonally adjusted.Here is an excerpt from the latest report:Growth in Texas factory activity abated in November, according to business executives responding to the Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey. The production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, fell five points to near zero, suggesting little change in output from October.Perceptions of broader business conditions continued to worsen in November. The general business activity index posted a seventh consecutive negative reading but moved up five points to -14.4. The company outlook index pushed down further, from -9.1 to -15.2. The outlook uncertainty index retreated 18 points to 20.4, still slightly elevated relative to its average reading of 16.6.Expectations regarding future manufacturing activity were mixed in November. The future production index remained positive, pushing up six points to 8.9. The future general business activity index remained negative, though it ticked up to -17.5. Most other measures of future manufacturing activity were positive and saw increases in index values this month.Monthly data for this indicator only dates back to 2004, so it is difficult to see the full potential of this indicator without several business cycles of data. Nevertheless, it is an interesting and important regional manufacturing indicator.

"Recession Is Coming" As Fed "Is Going Too Crazy" - Dallas Fed Respondents Slam US Economic Outlook --While the headline Dallas Fed Manufacturing survey did not weaken as much as expected, the production index, a key measure of state manufacturing conditions, fell five points to near zero - its weakest level since the COVID lockdowns in 2020...Under the hood, several other measures of manufacturing activity indicated contraction this month. The new orders index plummeted to -20.9 - its sixth month in a row in negative territory and lowest reading since May 2020. The growth rate of orders index dropped seven points to -19.9. The capacity utilization index turned negative, falling from 9.1 to -3.4, and the shipments index posted a second consecutive negative reading at -7.5, down from -1.6 in October. Additionally, perceptions of broader business conditions continued to worsen in November. The general business activity index posted a seventh consecutive negative reading but moved up five points to -14.4. The company outlook index pushed down further, from -9.1 to -15.2.

November Regional Fed Manufacturing Overview - Five out of the twelve Federal Reserve Regional Districts currently publish monthly data on regional manufacturing: Dallas, Kansas City, New York, Richmond, and Philadelphia.Regional manufacturing surveys are a measure of local economic health and are used as a representative for the larger national manufacturing health. They have been used as a signal for business uncertainty and economic activity as a whole. Manufacturing makes up 12% of the country's GDP. The other 6 Federal Reserve Districts do not publish manufacturing data. For these, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book offers a short summary of each districts’ manufacturing health. The Chicago Fed published their Midwest Manufacturing Index from July 1996 through December of 2013 The latest average of the five for November is -8.9, down from the previous month.

November Employment Report: 263 thousand Jobs, 3.7% Unemployment RateFrom the BLS: Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 263,000 in November, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, health care, and government. Employment declined in retail trade and in transportation and warehousing....The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for September was revised down by 46,000, from +315,000 to +269,000, and the change for October was revised up by 23,000, from +261,000 to +284,000. With these revisions, employment gains in September and October combined were 23,000 lower than previously reported. The first graph shows the job losses from the start of the employment recession, in percentage terms.The current employment recession was by far the worst recession since WWII in percentage terms.However, as of August 2022, the total number of jobs had returned and are now 1.044 million above pre-pandemic levels. I'll post this graph through the January 2023 report (includes the annual revision). The second graph shows the year-over-year change in total non-farm employment since 1968. In November, the year-over-year change was 4.90 million jobs.  Employment was up significantly year-over-year.Total payrolls increased by 263 thousand in November.  Private payrolls increased by 221 thousand, and public payrolls increased 42 thousand.Payrolls for September and October were revised down 23 thousand, combined.The third graph shows the employment population ratio and the participation rate.The Labor Force Participation Rate decreased to 62.1% in November, from 62.2% in October. This is the percentage of the working age population in the labor force.The Employment-Population ratio decreased to 59.9% from 60.0% (blue line).The fourth graph shows the unemployment rate.The unemployment rate was unchanged in November at 3.7% from 3.7% in October. This was above consensus expectations; however, September and October payrolls were revised down by 23,000 combined. 

California Food Stamps Costs Soar To Record Highs (Despite Record Low Unemployment) California's participation in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in 2022 peaked at 4.9 million people as of July (and then dropped to 4.6 million in August). That was higher than California's previous highest food stamp participation of 4.8 million people in June 2020. What is more confusing is that the last time food stamp participation was this high, the Golden State's unemployment rate was over 16%. Currently, it is at 3.8% - the lowest level since at least 1976. As reports, California has approved funding in the 2022-23 budget to allow undocumented immigrants ages 55 and over to get food assistance under the state-funded California Food Assistance Program, which is separate from the federally-funded SNAP program.California has given extra SNAP money to recipients due to COVID-19.Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in October that the COVID-19 state of emergency would end Feb. 28, 2023.The per-person cost of the SNAP program has increased from $123.22 per month in March 2020 before the state of emergency declaration to $277.12 as of August 2022.That $277.12 August 2022 benefit is the state's highest ever for the federal SNAP program.Perhaps what is even more interesting about the latest slew of state-based data is that the number of individuals receiving food stamps in Tennessee has dropped to the lowest levels since November 2003.Gov. Bill Lee did not renew a COVID-19 state of emergency in November 2021, which had been in effect for 20 months. Additional emergency SNAP benefits authorized by the federal government ended Dec. 31. The SNAP benefits cost per person was $256.66 in December and dropped in January to $166.82.The state's unemployment rate during the pandemic peaked at 15.9% in April 2020 and dropped to 3.4% as of September 2022.Lee also signed a law that took effect in May that added a work requirement to receive food assistance.

WaPo Tells Americans To Eat Bugs As They Can No Longer Afford Traditional Seasonal Dinners - The Washington Post advised Americans Sunday that instead of a traditional season dinner, which now is unaffordable for a quarter of families, they should instead look to eating bugs.Yes really.In an article headlined Salted ants. Ground crickets. Why you should try edible insects, the Post stated “Consumers can already find foods like salted ants on Amazon and cricket powder protein bars in Swiss grocery stores.”Yummmmm, ants.The piece quoted a six year old girl in Pennsylvania who was supposedly given a rousing ovation by onlookers for eating fried worms.The piece states “It’s not that bad!” she exclaimed. “It kind of tastes like kettle corn!”There’s the usual crap about crickets having more protein than beef and everyone in third world countries already eating them, so why are you any better… etc“Watching others enjoy insects may also help break down barriers,” the piece states under a sub headline “Creating a new norm.”It further states “before insects can become common fare, more diners must be convinced that six-legged critters are, in fact, food. Through tasting experiments, surveys and educational demos, researchers, entrepreneurs and educators are delving into consumers’ psychology and finding that resistance to insect-eating can be strong.”You don’t say.We’re not eating fucking bugs.This is the latest in a growing trend of pushing bug eating on the masses as a way of ‘saving the planet’.How about a weed side salad? And why not wash down your worm food with a tall refreshing glass of sewage?in 2020, the World Economic Forum published two articles on its website which explored how people could be conditioned to get used to the idea of eating weeds, bugs and drinking sewage water in order to reduce CO2 emissions.A separate article published on the WEF website outlined how people can be conditioned to enjoy consuming ‘food’ which on the surface sounds disgusting.The ‘Great Reset’ is about enacting a drastic reduction in living standards for the plebs which will force them to put bugs, weeds and sewage on the menu while the Davos elites continue to feast on the finest cuisine in their ivory towers.

Opposition by University of California strikers grows against UAW’s dropping of COLA demand - Opposition among striking academic workers at the University of California continues to grow against any efforts by United Auto Workers bargainers to abandon their core demands. On November 14, 48,000 teaching assistants, lecturers, researchers and other academic workers walked out to demand substantial raises, cost-of-living protection (COLA), increased parental leave and other improvements. Last week, UAW bargaining teams announced in online caucus meetings that they had dropped the demand for COLA. In response, numerous rank-and-file workers began angrily shouting “No COLA, No Contract” before UAW officials muted them and rapidly shut down the meeting. Many strikers also called for the replacement of the bargaining team. On Thanksgiving day, when pickets were closed for the holiday, UAW Local 5810’s bargaining team released a video on Twitter claiming that “UC has finally made a serious offer to Postdocs that addresses major concerns.” Bargaining members hailed a proposed increase in parental leave from 4 to 8 weeks and an $11,000 pay increase for postdocs by October 2023. But several aspects of these claims are misleading. Under California law, parents are eligible for 60–70 percent of their income via the Paid Family Leave (PFL) for up to 8 weeks. This means the UC proposal simply puts them in compliance with state policy. As for the salary increase, this would quickly be eaten up by the soaring cost of living. California consumer prices jumped 13.9 percent between January 2021 and October 2022, according to the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. A statement signed by 27 members of the UAW Local 2865 and Student Researchers United-UAW bargaining team acknowledges the widespread opposition to the dropping of the COLA demand and tries to defend this abject capitulation. Arguments from “some of our colleagues” that “it is too soon, and our strike is too strong, for us to ‘start conceding,’” are misplaced and the result of failing to understand the “give and take” of the bargaining process. Moreover, strikers are being unrealistic if not selfish, they suggest, for demanding “open-ended” wage increases. “[B]y bargaining now, while we are strong, we can use our strike power to compromise on our terms—and this strategy is working,” they write. The “choice to prioritize definite wage increases instead of open-ended ones” was not made “out of fear or desperation” but was “an active step that we are confident will bear the strongest material gains in the final contract.” They conclude: “Our strike is historic, but our power is not infinite. Even if we could compel the University to accept uncertain year-over-year wage increases, we believe it would come at the expense of a critical increase to our base wage.”

Can Daily Multivitamins Improve Cognition? - The Incidental Economist – video w/ Dr Aaron Carroll - A recent study looked at whether taking cocoa as a supplement or taking a multivitamin could improve cognitive function (or at least slow cognitive decline) in older adults. Well, according to the study, the cocoa wasn’t doing anything, but the multivitamins did seem to have an influence on cognition. But, as we so often have to, we’re going to take a close look at the study and say “hold on a minute.” Let’s take a close look at how the study was conducted and get a sense of just how much credence we should lend these findings.

Poor Healthcare Outcomes Resulting from Discrimination - Introduction to a Real World Issue: Taken from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Health (NIAID) headed by Dr. Anthony S. Fauci.Health disparities are gaps in the quality of health and health care mirroring differences in socioeconomic status, racial and ethnic background, and education level. These disparities may stem from many factors, including accessibility of health care, increased risk of disease from occupational exposure, and increased risk of disease from underlying genetic, ethnic, or familial factors. NIH-designated U.S. health disparity populations include American Indians/Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, Blacks/African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, sexual and gender minorities, socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, and underserved rural populations.Batocchio sponsored The Incidental Economist (the health services research blog) at Mike’s Blog on Crooks and Liars this week. Incidental Economist Kristina’s topic was about the LGBTQ community and discriminatory healthcare. It is an interesting post and I hope you read it. What I did was expand upon it by adding more detail on the amount and detail of discrimination by governmental, commercial, and government entities. (graphics)

“Analyzing LGBTQ+ Health Outcomes from Health Care Discrimination,” The Incidental Economist, Kristina Carvalho - Health care discrimination is not new, and the negative health impacts are well documented for some minority groups in the United States, especially Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities. While health care discrimination is also common against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, and other identified (LGBTQ+) individuals, the consequences are less clear.Expectedly, there is significant evidence of health care discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. A national study found that, in the past year, 47% of LGBTQ+ respondents were refused care from a provider and more than 20% were denied insurance coverage on gender-affirming care (e.g., hormone therapy, reconstructive surgeries).What’s more, different states have different protections for LGBTQ+ individuals against health care discrimination. Given the diversity, I was curious to see if health outcomes also differed from state to state. Below is the research I found. Surprisingly, there isn’t much available.

  • Tennessee (TN) remains one of 27 states where there are no LGBTQ+ inclusive insurance protections. Additionally, state Medicaid policy and state employee benefits have explicitly excluded gender-affirming care and coverage since at least 2014. There also exists a recent for pre-pubescent minors, and State Senate and House leaders plan to expand it to include pubescent minors in their first bill of 2023. One study from 2021 found that LGBTQ+ Nashvillians were more likely to report unmet medical needs and repeated mental distress than their non-LGBTQ+ peers, due in large part to high prescription costs from being uninsured.
  • Nebraska (NE): Partial Protections: 44% of Americans live in states without nondiscrimination protections and NE is one of them. While NE does not ban hormone treatment for minors, it has explicitly excluded it and gender-affirming surgery for state employees and those eligible for Medicaid since at least 2014. A 2016 study of over 400 Nebraskans found reduced rates of depression and suicide in transgender and gender non-conforming patients who had trans-inclusive health care providers. This mirrors national trends as well.
  • California (CA): Having the most legal protections, CA explicitly prohibits insurance discrimination, covers gender-affirming surgery and hormone therapy, and is the only sanctuary state for minors seeking gender-affirming medical care.This year, the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that although LGBTQ+ Californians are now insured as much as or more than their non-LGBTQ+ peers, there are still delays in accessing prescriptions and care.

Surprisingly, the data above is all I could find on health care discrimination and health outcomes for LGBTQ+ individuals. Given the significant research on barriers to health care and the resulting physical and mental health disparities among other minority groups (e.g., higher rates ofillness and death across various conditions), I expected to find more.Even more surprising, there were no studies to report on health outcomes in the most restrictive states (e.g. Arkansas, Arizona), nor in Alabama where gender-affirming medical care for minors is considered a felony crime.Despite the minimal data available on impact, we do have enough evidence that health care discrimination exists within the LGBTQ+ community and that is enough to try to stop it.At the federal level, the Department of Health and Human Services is currently trying to update the Affordable Care Act to include nondiscrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s not finalized yet though, as public comment in the upcoming months will determine whether this revision is adopted.

Covid: Omicron BQ variants dominant, XBB circulating at low level - The omicron BQ coronavirus subvariants rose to dominance in the U.S. as people gathered for the Thanksgiving holiday, putting people with compromised immune systems at increased risk. BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are causing 57% of new infections in the U.S., according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday. The omicron BA.5 subvariant, once dominant, now makes up only a fifth of new Covid cases.The BQ subvariants are more immune evasive and likely resistant to key antibody medications, such as Evusheld and bebtelovimab, used by people with compromised immune systems, according to the National Institutes of Health. This includes organ transplant and cancer chemotherapy patients.There are currently no replacements for these drugs. President Joe Biden, in an October speech, told people with compromised immune systems that they should consult with their physicians and take extra precautions this winter."New variants may make some existing protections ineffective for the immunocompromised. Sadly, this means you may be at a special risk this winter," Biden said.The XBB subvariant is also circulating at a low level right now, causing about 3% of new infections. Chief White House medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, in a briefing Tuesday, said XBB is even more immune evasive than the BQ subvariants.Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the new boosters, which were designed against omicron BA.5, probably aren't as effective against infection and mild illness from XBB. But the shots should protect against severe disease, he said. Singapore saw a spike in cases from XBB, but there wasn't a major surge in hospitalizations, he added.Moderna and Pfizer said last week that their boosters induce an immune response against BQ.1.1, which is a descendent of the BA.5 subvariant. Fauci, in the press briefing, said public health officials believe there is enough immunity from vaccination, boosting and infection to prevent a repeat of the unprecedented Covid surge that occurred last winter when omicron first arrived.

Another Study Finds Heart Inflammation Higher After Moderna Vaccination Versus Pfizer - Cases of heart inflammation after COVID-19 vaccination were more common among Moderna recipients than those who received Pfizer’s shot, according to a new study. Canadian researchers analyzed a database and identified 141 cases of myocarditis, a form of heart inflammation, within 21 days of a dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, both of which utilize messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.That was compared with an expected number of just 20 cases.Cases were much higher for young males, as previous studies have found, but were elevated even higher following receipt of a second dose of the Moderna vaccine compared with a second dose of the Pfizer shot.The incidence, though, was higher after receipt of a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine.“In this population-based cohort study, observed rates of hospital admissions or emergency department visits for myocarditis after mRNA vaccination for SARS-CoV-2 were higher than expected based on historical background rates, particularly after the second dose, among those who received the mRNA-1273 (Moderna) vaccine, among males and among younger patients (18–29 yr),” Dr. Zaeema Naveed and other researchers with the University of British Columbia and British Columbia Centre for Disease Control wrote.The paper was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Nov. 21.Research dating back to mid-2021 shows that the incidence of heart inflammation is higher following a Moderna second dose for young males when compared to a Pfizer second dose.Dr. Anish Koka, a cardiologist based in the United States, said on Twitter that the new study highlights the lack of action by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which continues to recommend that young males receive either vaccine.“The rates of Moderna are really much higher for dose 2 in young men,” Dr. Walid Gellad, a professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, said. “I remain perplexed why US never acted on this information, which has been known for a year.”

Treating long COVID is rife with guesswork - Dozens of major medical centers have established specialized COVID-19 clinics around the country. A crowdsourced project counted . But there’s no standard protocol for treating long COVID. And experts are casting a wide net for treatments, with few ready for formal clinical trials. It’s not clear just how many people have suffered from symptoms of long COVID. Estimates vary widely from study to study — often because the definition of long COVID itself varies. But the more conservative estimates still count millions of people with this condition. For some, the lingering symptoms are worse than the initial bout of COVID-19. Others, like Lucas, were on death’s door and experienced a roller-coaster recovery, much worse than expected, even after a long hospitalization. Symptoms vary widely. Lucas had brain fog, fatigue and depression. He’d start getting his energy back, then go try light yardwork and end up in the hospital with pneumonia.It wasn’t clear which ailments stemmed from being on a ventilator so long and which signaled the mysterious condition called long COVID. “I was wanting to go to work four months after I got home,” “I said, ‘You know what, just get up and go. You can’t drive. You can’t walk. But go in for an interview. Let’s see how that works,’” Rick did start working earlier this year, taking short-term assignments in his old field as a nursing home administrator. But he’s still on partial disability.Why has Rick mostly recovered while so many haven’t shaken the symptoms, even years later?“There is absolutely nothing anywhere that’s clear about long COVID,” said , an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. “We have a guess at how frequently it happens. But right now, everyone’s in a data-free zone.”Researchers like Deeks are trying to establish the condition’s underlying causes. Some of the theories include inflammation, autoimmunity, so-called microclots and bits of the virus left in the body. Deeks said institutions need more money to create regional centers of excellence to bring together physicians from various specialties to treat patients and research therapies.Patients say they are desperate and willing to try anything to feel normal again. And often they post personal anecdotes online.“I’m following this stuff on social media, looking for a home run,” Deeks said.The National Institutes of Health promises big advances soon through the , involving thousands of patients and hundreds of researchers. “Given the widespread and diverse impact the virus has on the human body, it is unlikely that there will be one cure, one treatment,” , director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, told NPR. “It is important that we help find solutions for everyone. This is why there will be multiple clinical trials over the coming months.”Meanwhile, tension is building in the medical community over what appears to be a grab-bag approach in treating long COVID ahead of big clinical trials. Some clinicians hesitate to try therapies before they’re supported by research. , who oversees more than 2,000 long COVID patients at the Cleveland Clinic, said a bunch of one-patient experiments could muddy the waters for research. She said she encouraged her team to stick with “evidence-based medicine.”“I’d rather not be just kind of one-off trying things with people, because we really do need to get more data and evidence-based data,” she said. “We need to try to put things in some sort of a protocol moving forward.” It’s not that she lacks urgency. Englund experienced her own long COVID symptoms. She felt terrible for months after getting sick in 2020, “literally taking naps on the floor of my office in the afternoon,” she said.More than anything, she said, these long COVID clinics need to validate patients’ experiences with their illness and give them hope. She tries to stick with proven therapies. But other doctors are willing to throw all sorts of treatments at the wall to see what might stick.

Long covid has pushed brain fog into the spotlight - Haze. Slow. Drunk. Lost. These are the words some people use to describe “brain fog.”The condition, a form of cognitive dysfunction, has been plaguing people with certain chronic illnesses for years. But now, a new wave of people with long covid are experiencing it, casting a spotlight on the often debilitating condition.“It’s a moment where the public and the medical community are realizing that this is real. This is what happens after certain infections,” said Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology at Yale University and a co-author of a review article on covid-19-related cognitive impairment.“I think it's their time to be recognized,” she said.Research shows a majority of people experiencing long-covid symptoms have reported brain fog — a collection of symptoms, including impaired attention, concentration, memory and processing speed. Iwasaki and Michelle Monje, a professor of neurology at Stanford University,examined more than 100 studies relevant to cognitive dysfunction after covid.They outlined six potential causes for covid-related cognitive dysfunction and concluded that a likely common cause is lung inflammation that causes inflammation in the brain and subsequently, the dysfunction of neural cells.Patients who have experienced brain fog, caused by a wide range of conditions, say the effects can be life-altering and devastating. They say it keeps them from many activities such as driving, biking and public speaking. Some have had to alter their work schedules or stop working entirely. And nearly all of them say it has forced them to rely on a notebook — keeping to-do lists that include the most basic tasks such as remembering to eat.Depending on the underlying cause, there are treatments for brain fog ranging from exercise protocols to cognitive rehabilitation, but there is no method proven to work for all patients.Dennis Kolson, a neurologist in the Penn Neuro COVID Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania, said that since the clinic opened last year, physicians have evaluated about 350 long-covid patients for complaints, including brain fog. He said people uniformly appreciated having the chance to talk with a physician who understands their symptoms. “'Am I like the others? Are you seeing people like me?’ I get that question every time,” Kolson said. “I say, nearly always, ‘Yes. You’re not alone.’ ”

A catalogue of losses: what chronic fatigue syndrome took away from my life -On Friday, 14 December 2012, I would experience the sudden onset of an illness that, looking back almost a decade later, bears a powerful resemblance to the narratives of those suffering from long Covid.That night, I had plans to meet a woman I was seeing. At the time, I was working as an adjunct English professor at a local college in Westchester, New York, commuting over the George Washington Bridge from my fourth-floor walkup in Hoboken, New Jersey, and trying to persuade distracted 19-year-olds to appreciate the black comedy and cryptic comeuppances of Flannery O’Connor. After walking back to my apartment from the gym, I showered and sprayed on cologne. But before I could leave, a wave of weakness and disorientation crashed over me. My balance became wobbly, and my stomach lurched forward and back. I staggered through my apartment as if it was the cabin of a boat heaving and pitching in a storm.This weather, I was soon to find out, would never pass.Over the next few hours, I threw up several times, and the malaise swept over my thoughts and rendered my movements slack and sluggish. While I still went out that night, I felt off – languid and feeble. It was a friend’s 25th birthday and she’d invited me to a downtown Hoboken bar. While everyone around me coagulated into one viscous organism, spinning to the music like a human carousel, I was stuck at half-speed, wandering the sloshy floors in a different sort of stupor.But I was 26 years old, and my longstanding approach to illness – whether a cold, cough, virus, or stomach bug – was to ignore it and continue with my normal activities in a deluded gesture of masculine contempt. I assumed that, like all the previous maladies that had passed through my life – asthma attacks, walking pneumonia, chickenpox, influenza – this too would promptly bow out. When a week went by and I still felt lethargic, fatigued and mentally adrift, my nonchalance surrendered to a creeping wariness. It was December, though, and I was determined not to let this lingering illness ravage the holidays. On Christmas morning, back in the leafy Connecticut suburb where I grew up, I trudged out of my childhood bedroom cloaked in an oppressive torpor. The malaise was only thickening.

An Update on That mRNA Lettuce Research - In September 2021, the OP published an article about putting mRNA vaccines into lettuce. The National Science Foundation (NSF) had awarded a research group from UC-San Diego, UC-Riverside, and Carnegie Mellon $500,000 to investigate this potential new technology. This project had three major goals. The first was to determine whether or not DNA containing the mRNA vaccines could be delivered to plant cells. The second was if, once in the plant cells, the mRNA could replicate and produce amounts of mRNA comparable to the mRNA vaccines currently on the market. The third point of the research was, assuming mRNA could replicate in the cells, to determine the correct dosage.The researchers claim that this project has the potential to produce mRNA vaccines that aren’t as temperature sensitive as the mRNA vaccines currently on the market. They believe that, in the long run, this has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of producing and storing mRNA vaccines because cold storage is so expensive.At the time, a flurry of news articles about this research project was released, enough that USA Today felt the need to “fact check” the claim that people might be eating vaccines in salads. Those of us who were so intrigued and concerned last year may be wondering, have they made any progress? UC and Carnegie Mellon have not posted any updates since last year. In the USA Today fact-checking article above, the head researcher, Dr. Juan Pablo Giraldo, admits that the technology is many years away. “This research will take a couple of years to show proof of concept of the technology. . . If successful, it will need more studies and several more years for people to use leafy greens as mRNA vaccine factories.” As weird and concerning as this particular project may sound, it is important to recognize that this is only one of many kinds of vaccine development out there. And this project isn’t even aimed specifically at producing vaccines for one particular disease. The researchers are just working on a potential template for producing mRNA in general. Human trials are being conducted to see if mRNA can be used to treat HIV, rabies, and influenza. Research is being done to see if it can be used to treat cancer. Using mRNA to treat all kinds of disease is a hot research topic right now, and producing mRNA in plants is only one little part of it. And think about the delivery. Getting your mRNA in veggies would be a form of oral vaccination. There is one company in Israel, Oramed Pharmaceuticals, working on an oral Covid vaccine, but that has still not been approved. Research is being done on delivering a wide variety of vaccines orally, but oral vaccine delivery is generally difficult because our stomach acids can destroy so many substances. There is a lot of work to be done in making effective vaccines available through food, and I don’t think this will be coming to a plate near me soon. Having said that, will I keep paying attention and growing my own produce? Yes. I see two particular areas of concern, one ecological, one philosophical.

Exposure to certain drugs and environmental risk factors during embryonic development can cause changes similar to autism - Little is known about how social behavior develops in the earliest stages of life. But most animals––including humans––are born with an innate ability to interact socially or form bonds with others. And that contributes to success throughout life.Now, a new animal study points to a gene that is important for the earliest development of basic social behaviors.The work also suggests that exposure to certain drugs and environmental risk factors during embryonic development can cause changes to this gene, leading to alterations in social behavior that are similar to those found in individuals who have autism. Much to their surprise, the researchers also found they could reverse some of the effects using an experimental drug.“This study helps us understand at the molecular level why sociability is disrupted during the very earliest stages of life,” “It also gives us an opportunity to explore potential treatments that could restore sociability in these animals and, perhaps in time, eventually in humans as well.”More broadly, their findings suggest that the gene—TOP2a—controls a large network of genes that are known to increase the risk of autism. It also may serve as a link between genetic and environmental factors that contribute to onset of disorder, Peterson adds. The study, conducted by University of Utah Health researchers and colleagues nationwide, appears in the Nov. 23 issue of Science Advances.

Flu season continues to intensify in the US, and holiday gatherings could make it worse — Americans gathered for Thanksgiving last week amid a flu season that’s worse than any has been in more than a decade, and experts continue to urge caution as multiple respiratory viruses circulate at high levels nationwide. A growing number of US states – now 33 – are experiencing “high” or “very high” respiratory virus activity, and seasonal flu activity continues to be “elevated across the country,” according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.. In the week ending November 19, nearly 1 in 10 deaths nationwide (9.4%) was due to pneumonia, influenza or Covid-19 – well above the seasonal baseline of about 6%. And the CDC estimates that there have been at least 6.2 million illnesses, 53,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths from influenza this season. Flu and RSV, another respiratory virus that especially affects children, have hit harder and earlier than usual this season after the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the past two seasons and as the nation eases back on prevention measures. While flu continues to ramp up, RSV has shown signs of slowing nationwide, but test positivity rates are still higher than they’ve been in years, and cumulative hospitalization rates are about 10 times higher than typical for this point in the season. Less than two months in, the RSV hospitalization rate this season is already nearing the total RSV hospitalization rate from the entire 2018-19 season. Thousands of people are still dying from Covid-19 each week, too. The latest surveillance data does not capture Thanksgiving week or the effects of holiday gatherings. Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths reached record high levels during last year’s holiday season – and this holiday season could also bring a rise in spread.

Flu activity climbs higher, more pediatric deaths reported | CIDRAP - The nation's flu markers for the week ending Nov 19 climbed higher, with most of the continental US reporting high or very high activity and reports of five more deaths in children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today in its latest update.The early-season surge is occurring alongside brisk respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) activity that has overwhelmed some children's hospitals. Also, COVID-19 variants continue to shift, with cases, hospitalizations, and deaths showing small rises.In its latest FluView update, the CDC said 35 states are experiencing high or very high activity, with only 6 still reporting low activity, mostly in the north. At the national level, the percentage of respiratory samples that tested positive for flu at clinical labs rose from 14.7% to 18.2%. Positivity rose in most CDC regions, remained stable in the south-central states, and declined in the southeast.H3N2 is still the dominant strain, making up 78% of influenza A samples. Seasons dominated by H3N2 are known to be tough on seniors and young children, and the virus is known to evolve to evade protection from the H3N2 component of the vaccine. But so far, the CDC said the majority of flu viruses tested are similar to the viruses included in this year's seasonal flu vaccines.The percentage of outpatient visits for flulike illness, which can reflect activity from other respiratory viruses, rose slightly from 5.8% to 6%.For hospitalizations, the cumulative rate per 100,000 population was 11.3%, the highest for this point in the year since the 2010-2011 flu season. The highest rates are in seniors, followed by children ages 0 to 4 years old.Five more pediatric flu deaths were reported, bringing the season's total to 12. The deaths occurred between early October and the middle of November. All involved influenza A. Of two subtyped viruses, one was H1N1 and the other was H3N2. Meanwhile, the 7-day average for new daily COVID-19 cases today is 43,692, up 8% compared to a week ago, according to the Washington Post tracker. Similarly, the daily average for deaths is 379, up 24% from last week. And likewise, hospitalizations are up 5%. Though small, the uptick in COVID-19 activity is occurring against the backdrop of the steadily rising proportion of Omicron subvariants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, which are known to more easily evade earlier protection from vaccination or previous infection.In its last variant proportion estimates, the CDC said the original BA.5 Omicron subvariant now makes up only 19.4% of sequenced samples. BQ.1 now makes up 27.9%, with BQ.1.1 making up 29.4%. XBB, an Omicron variant recombinant fueling outbreaks in Asia, is rising slowly and currently makes up 3.1%.In other COVID developments, protests in China over the country's "zero COVID" policy flared in at least 10 major cities over the past several days, with the country experiencing a sharp rise in daily cases.In Shanghai, for example, protesters clashed with police and called for the removal of China's president and the end of Chinese Community Party rule, according to CBS News. The rare protests were partly triggered by anger over the deaths of 10 people in an apartment fire in which the response was reportedly delayed due to excessive lockdown measures.

Flu continues to spread across the U.S., infecting millions, CDC reports - The floodgates have opened on flu, with millions of people across the U.S. reporting illness and nearly 3,000 deaths from influenza since the beginning of October, according to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.With the start of the holiday season and large family gatherings, cases are expected to keep rising.“We are likely to see an increase in the upcoming weeks,” Lynnette Brammer, an epidemiologist and team lead of CDC’s domestic influenza surveillance team, told NBC News.So far this season, an estimated 6.2 million flu illnesses have been logged, according to the latest CDC data.Twelve of the influenza deaths occurred in children.Of the samples reported to the CDC this season, about 76% are the H3N2 strain of influenza A. The rest are H1N1. Both versions of the flu can result in severe illness.However, most flu patients sick enough to end up in the intensive care unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville have tested positive for H1N1, said Dr. Todd Rice, director of VUMC's medical intensive care unit."People don't have a good appreciation for how severe flu can be," said Brammer.Flu barreled in unusually early this year, along with Covid and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which has inundated hospital systems. Several years of limited viral activity have resulted in few people with immune systems capable of fighting off the most virulent infectious diseases.“We are dealing with three very contagious respiratory viruses,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, coordinator for the White House Covid-19 Task Force. “Our expectation is we are likely to see an increase in the upcoming weeks," particularly with influenza and Covid.The surge in RSV, however, may have peaked, Jha said. "Nationally, the numbers do seem to be turning down," Jha said. "We'll want to see over the next couple of weeks where that goes. But the preliminary evidence right now is pretty hopeful."Typical flu seasons ramp up in December, peaking in January or February, said Dr. Julie Morita, executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.With the early start to the flu season this year, many people were infected before they had a chance to get vaccinated, making it easier for the virus to spread.“There was a bigger pool of people who were unvaccinated than there would have been in ordinary seasons,” said Morita, who is also a former public health commissioner for Chicago. "That could be contributing to why we’re seeing such high rates of disease right now.”The latest CDC data on flu activity shows spread “very high” across much of the nation, especially in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, as well as New York City and Washington, D.C.There is no evidence that spread of the flu will burn out anytime soon.“It’s a pretty safe bet that flu activity is going to continue on for several more weeks or months,” said Brammer.Intensive care units are already seeing a surge in the sickest patients.“Three weeks ago, we were not seeing much flu in our ICU,” Rice said. “Then the floodgates opened.”Now, 30% to 40% of Rice’s patients in need of the most intensive care have the flu.He blames, in part, the early arrival of influenza. “It resulted in more people at risk because there were fewer people vaccinated.”

Nearly 3,000 people have already died from the flu this season: CDC -The flu season arrived early and is bound to get worse, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its latest release of flu data. "Seasonal influenza activity is elevated across the country," said the health agency in its Nov. 28, 2022, edition of the Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report. The report covered the week ending Nov. 19. This year, over 2,900 people, including 12 children,, have died from influenza since October, said the CDC; five of those children died the week ending Nov. 19. An estimated 53,000 people have been hospitalized by flu so far this season, the agency said. The cumulative hospitalization rate this year is "higher than the rate observed in week 46 during every previous season since 2010-2011," the report noted. A total of 12 children, including five in the past week, have died from the flu this year, the CDC reported. A total of 12 children, including five in the past week, have died from the flu this year, the CDC reported. (iStock) Typically, the flu season peaks in later winter months, noted the CDC. "This is severe and early flu season in terms of case numbers of hospitalizations and deaths," Dr. Marc Siegel, a Fox News medical contributor and professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, told Fox News Digital via email on Tuesday. "Several children have died." He also said, "There are several reasons, including that this is a bad strain of flu. We have had very mild flu seasons the last few years, so our partial immunity from previous exposure is lacking, and flu shot uptake is down — even though it is a good match this year." Flu season "generally peaks" in January-February, he noted, but "it is already at high levels in many states."

Shortages of antivirals, antibiotics compound stress of a rough season for viral illnesses in kids | CNNShortages of key medications used to treat common childhood illnesses like flu, ear infections and sore throats are adding to the misery of this year’s early and severe respiratory virus season.“Right now, we are having severe shortages of medications. There’s no Tamiflu for children. There’s barely any Tamiflu for adults. And this is brand-name and generic,” said Renae Kraft, a relief pharmacist in Oklahoma City. Additionally, “as far as antibiotics go, there’s not a whole lot.”Kraft often works in rural areas of the state, floating between pharmacies when extra help is needed. On Monday, she worked in Holdenville, where there are two pharmacies: Pruett’s and Walmart. The same wholesaler stocks both stores, so if one pharmacy is out, the other usually is, too.Kraft estimates that she had 20 people come in to Pruett’s to fill prescriptions for Tamiflu on Monday, but she didn’t have any, so she sent them to Walmart, which still had some.On social media, families say they’ve hunted for hours for oseltamivir, the generic version of Tamiflu, and the first-line antibiotics amoxicillin and Augmentin. Inhalers of the drug albuterol, which is used to open airways in the lungs, are also in short supply, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, which maintains a list of drug shortages.Anyone can report a shortage for the society’s list, and pharmacists from the University of Utah verify the information with drug manufacturers.“In my 25 years of being a pediatrician, I’ve never seen anything like this,” said pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Stacene Maroushek of Hennepin Healthcare in Minnesota. “I have seen families who just aren’t getting a break. They have one viral illness after another. And now there’s the secondary effect of ear infections and pneumonia that are prompting amoxicillin shortages.” The cause of these shortages doesn’t seem to be a manufacturing problem, “It’s just increased demand ahead of schedule and higher than usual,” According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of US states have “high” or “very high” respiratory virus activity. Most of that is due to influenza, which hit early and hard this year. Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is also playing a role. Nationwide, about 1 out of 5 tests for RSV was positive last week, a rate much higher than any point over the past two years. There have been about 8 flu hospitalizations for every 100,000 people this season, rates typically seen in December or January. The cumulative hospitalization rate hasn’t been this high at this point in the season in more than a decade. Prescription fills for the antiviral Tamiflu are at a 10-year high for this time of year, according to, a company that helps people find discounts for prescription drugs. People in the US are six times more likely to be taking Tamiflu at this point in the flu season as during the winter of 2019-20, which the next highest year.As for the antibiotics amoxicillin and Augmentin – a combination of amoxicillin and clavulanate, an agent that helps guard against antibiotic resistance – it’s not entirely clear why demand is so high.The CDC considers these to be first-line therapies for many common childhood ailments, like ear and sinus and throat infections. Some viral illness, like influenza, can leave the body more vulnerable to secondary bacterial infections that may need treatment with antibiotics. But these antibiotics have also been prescribed inappropriately when a child’s illness is really caused by a virus. Antibiotics kill bacteria, but they don’t do anything to fight viral illnesses.

Ohio flu hospitalizations spike: ‘We’re in for it’ – The 2022-2023 flu season is seeing a spike in hospitalizations in Ohio. According to data from the Ohio Department of Health, 433 people were hospitalized with influenza from November 13th through November 19th.That’s the most recent data reported.During this time period, emergency room visits for influenza-like illnesses are not only up, but they are also higher than in previous yearsduring the same time period, data shows.“If we look at our southern neighbors, their flu numbers are doing this, it’s like a straight line up,” said UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Amy Edwards pointing up with her hand in an interview with FOX 8 last week. “The early indications are, we’re kind of in for it, which is not fun.” Emergency room visits for influenza-like illnesses have been up over the last 8 weeks, according to ODH. Hospitalizations are up 76.73% over last week, ODH reports, and have increased every week for the last 8 weeks.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Ohio’s flu activity is considered high.Ohio has reported 1 flu death, a 13-year-old boy who died earlier this month.

First flu death in CT confirmed as flu season more severe, earlier onset, with almost 6,000 cases so far – Hartford CourantThe state Department of Public Health confirmed the state’s first death from the flu Monday, as Connecticut is being hit with an unusually high number of flu cases and hospitalizations. The death was of a New London County man in his 50s. No other information about the fatality were released. “This is a tragic reminder that the 2022-23 flu season is already an active one. There have been almost 6,000 cases of flu so far this season, mostly in the very young and very old, and 102 hospitalizations, “far higher than any of the last four years,” Commissioner Manisha Juthani said Monday in an online press briefing. The number of cases is likely a low estimate, given that few people test for flu and many may not report having gotten the disease, Juthani said. Flu is joining respiratory syncytial disease as appearing earlier and more fiercely than normal. RSV is highest in Hartford County, Juthani said, while Fairfield County has the most flu cases so far. “This is an early flu season for us,” Juthani said. “We have not had a flu season this early over the last four years at least, for sure, in terms of data that we have at DPH. And it is continuing to trend up so we can only expect that it will get higher.” Given the 102 hospitalizations so far, Juthani said this season is looking like it will be the worst in the state in some time. Most of the hospitalizations for flu are those over age 75, she said. The H1N1 strain and other type A strains are most prevalent now, but the B strain may come later. Flu vaccines are effective against several strains of flu. Juthani said COVID-19 appears to be leveling off but she expects there to be a surge this winter and she hopes the flu will not have a second peak but will simply be an earlier season than normal.

Monkeypox renamed due to racism concerns - (AP) — The World Health Organization has renamed monkeypox as mpox, citing concerns the original name of the decades-old animal disease could be construed as discriminatory and racist. Vigil set to honor those killed in Walmart shooting The U.N. health agency said in a statement Monday that mpox was its new preferred name for monkeypox, saying that both monkeypox and mpox would be used for the next year while the old name is phased out. WHO said it was concerned by the “racist and stigmatizing language” that arose after monkeypox spread to more than 100 countries. It said numerous individuals and countries asked the organization “to propose a way forward to change the name.” In August, WHO began consulting experts about renaming the disease, shortly after the U.N. agency declared monkeypox’s spread to be a global emergency. To date, there have been more than 80,000 cases identified in dozens of countries that had not previously reported the smallpox-related disease. Until May, monkeypox, a disease that is thought to originate in animals, was not known to trigger large outbreaks beyond central and west Africa. Outside of Africa, nearly all cases have been in gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men. Scientists believe monkeypox triggered outbreaks in Western countries after spreading via sex at two raves in Belgium and Spain. Vaccination efforts in rich countries, along with targeted control interventions, have mostly brought the disease under control after it peaked in the summer. In Africa, the disease mainly affects people in contact with infected animals such as rodents and squirrels. The majority of monkeypox-related deaths have been in Africa, where there have been almost no vaccines available. U.S. health officials have warned it may be impossible to eliminate the disease there, warning it could be a continuing threat mainly for gay and bisexual men for years to come. Mpox was first named monkeypox in 1958 when research monkeys in Denmark were observed to have a “pox-like” disease, although they are not thought to be the disease’s animal reservoir. Although WHO has named numerous new diseases shortly after they emerged, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS and COVID-19, this appears to be the first time the agency has attempted to rechristen a disease decades after it was first named. Numerous other diseases, including Japanese encephalitis, German measles, Marburg virus and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome have been named after geographic regions, which could now be considered prejudicial. WHO has not suggested changing any of those names.

Education officer says 12,000 students test positive for STIs - An education officer in Kirinyaga Central sub-county says at least 12,000 out of 16,000 students have tested positive for sexually transmitted diseases. He was addressing parents at New Kerugoya Victory Academy on Thursday. Kennedy Machora sa said medics in county health facilities where some students sought treatment were concerned after the majority of the tests returned positive results. He added the situation necessitated an emergency meeting between the Ministry of Education, the local security team, and the Ministry of Health via the public health department to discuss how to test students in school. Officials from the Ministry of Education visited schools and reached an agreement with management to administer tests on all students, he said. Kirinyaga central Sub-county education officer says out of16,000 students in schools in the sub-county 12,000 have tested positive for STDs Machora said there are concerns that many more students may be infected but are unaware of it. He explained the data was from January to June of this year, and officials are still waiting for results from July to December. Machora said investigations show most students engage in unprotected sex during school closing and opening days when they hire vehicles and abuse drugs. He said students should not be allowed to hire PSVS but should travel in shared vehicles with members of the public. He also urged parents to ensure their children attended church services after the parents must restrict their movements.

Kirinyaga county denies report of 12,000 STI infected students - Kirinyaga county health team has denied the report that the 12,000 students have tested positive of sexually transmitted diseases. In a statement on Monday, the county executive for Medical Services, Public Health and Sanitation George Karoki said the "claims cannot be substantiated." On Thursday, Kirinyaga Central subcounty director for Education, Kennedy Machora, said 12,000 out of 16,000 secondary school students in the subcounty were treated for STIs. "In the case in point, the data announced is extremely exaggerated and its source cannot be ascertained," Karoki said. He clarified that the department of health has treated 1,345 cases of STIs in the subcounty and 4,409 cases in the entire county in 2022. "However, these cases are for the general population and not for a specific cohort of patients," he said. He further said the department has not, at any point, carried out mass STI testings on secondary school students. Karoki said community education to caution youth from risky sexual behaviour must be embraced by all sectors. He, however, said it was crucial for officers in other departments to consult the health department for accurate data. Karoki fired out at Machora, saying it was reckless and irresponsible of him to make such statement. "We would like him to present the source of his information, failure to which he should be held accountable," he warned. The health executive assured that the department is committed to offering high standard preventative and curative services to all, including students.

This country is facing an appalling condom shortage, activists says - Civil society groups in Kenya are complaining about a chronic shortage of free condoms across the country, a report said. Condoms are usually imported by Kenya and distributed for free but due to high taxes suppliers are no longer providing Kenya with free condoms, BBC reported. The activists want the government to remove taxes on the products as it will help in reducing new HIV infections as Kenya needs about 455 million condoms annually, but the government is only able to procure 150 million. Condoms are central to campaigns to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia. Kenya records about 34,000 new HIV infections annually. However, since 2020, there has been a steady increase especially among sex workers. Civil society groups have put the blame on the government's high import taxes as a packet that has three condoms is sold for about $1in Kenya – a cost too high for many. If the shortage persists, Kenya could roll back on the gains made over the years in tackling HIV, activists have warned.

1.8M Chickens Slaughtered In Nebraska As Bird Flu Pecks Away At Food Supply --Another 1.8 million chickens were ordered to be culled in Nebraska after agriculture officials analyzed yet another bird flu outbreak on a farm.The latest culling comes after 50 million birds have been slaughtered nationwide to try and contain the ongoing outbreak according to AP, so who knows if it's actually true.Fortunately the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) issued a report, which adds that this is the 13th farm in the state to suffer an outbreak this year. According to the report, 6.8 million birds have been killed in Nebraska - the second-most behind Iowa, which has killed 15.5 million.After the affected flock is culled, the NDA will establish a 6.2-mile control zone around the affected premises.Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is a highly contagious virus which spreads easily among birds via nasal and eye secretions, along with manure, the NDA said in a statement. Symptoms include a lack of energy and appetite, decreased egg production or malformed eggs, and sudden death in birds even if they aren't showing symptoms.The disease can survive 'for weeks' in contaminated environments.According to Yahoo, Turkey and chicken farms aren't the only facilities affected by bird flu this year - as a petting zoo in Utah had an outbreak in recent days.

Houston power outage triggers boil water notice for millions - The nation’s fourth-largest city — Houston — remains under a boil-water notice Monday after a power outage at the city’s water treatment plant triggered a drop in pressure that knocked out the delivery of safe drinking water for more than 2.2 million people.Officials there are casting the order as precautionary, noting that pressure was immediately restored at the East Water Purification Plant after two transformers failed to deliver power and were quickly brought back online.Even so, some are questioning why it took hours for a boil-water notice to be ordered and for the information to trickle out to residents preparing to head back to school and work Monday morning.“I saw the notice at 7:30 a.m. on Twitter. … You would think that council members would have been made aware this was something that was happening,” Houston City Council Member Tiffany Thomas told E&E News in an interview.The outage shines a bright light on vulnerabilities in the Southeast’s sprawling water systems and ties to the electric grid. Last year, a deep freeze across the South hamstrung the region’s grid and triggered boil-water notices and evacuations, and millions of Houston residents were placed under a boil-water notice due to a drop in water pressure (Greenwire, Feb. 18, 2021).When asked about public anger and fear that the current boil-water notice has triggered, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, defended the city’s response at a press conference Monday and laid out a timeline of when three units at the East Water Purification Plant lost power as two transformers failed at the site beginning Sunday morning. The mayor said the current event marks the city’s third boil-water notice.Turner said the crisis began at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, when two units inside the plant lost power and a third unit lost power 20 minutes later. By 11 a.m., Turner said, a plant electrician was on-site, but pressure at more than a dozen sensors dropped below the “emergency regulatory level” of 20 pounds per square inch. But the bulk of those sensors rebounded within two minutes, and power and water pressure were restored by 3:30 p.m. Sunday.Officials later discovered that two transformers on-site, including a backup unit, went offline due to a ground trip and electrical overload, said Turner.“There were two transformers, one was the backup to the first, and they both failed,” he said. “You do have backup generation … but when you have the two transformers that failed … and you can’t connect to the grid but the power is running, and you can’t connect to your generators, then you have a very unique and unfortunate situation.”Throughout the day, officials reviewed sensor data and, in cooperation with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, decided to impose a boil-water notice at 6:44 p.m. Sunday. Based on lab results of water samples, Turner said, the boil-water notice could be lifted as soon as Monday night or Tuesday morning.

EPA skips stricter aircraft pollution regs -Have patience.That, in essence, is the response of EPA officials to criticism that they are whiffing on an opportunity to strengthen commercial jet aircraft engine pollution regulations and benefit environmental justice communities.The tension is on display in a newly published final rule aimed at syncing U.S. emissions standards for new engines with the guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a U.N. agency responsible for air transport issues.With a January 2023 deadline looming, however, EPA acknowledges the revised standards will have no immediate effect in curbing releases of harmful particulate matter and highlights their importance in keeping domestic engine manufacturers competitive in the global marketplace.“EPA has historically given significant weight to uniformity with international requirements as a factor in setting aircraft engine standards,” the rule says. “The fact that most airplanes already meet the standards does not in itself mean that the standards are inappropriate, provided the agency has a reasonable basis after considering all the relevant factors.”But it adds that EPA views “regulation of aircraft PM emissions as a long-term process, with the potential for successive standards of increasing stringency.”In a follow-up to studies showing that many communities near airports have disproportionately high populations of people of color and low-income residents, the agency is also undertaking an analysis to more fully understand the resulting “human health or environmental effects.”In answers to emailed questions provided after this story was originally published, an EPA spokesperson said Monday that work on the analysis has begun, with plans to release it next year. No follow-up rulemaking, however, is currently under way to strengthen the actual emission regulations, but EPA continues “to be active at ICAO on technical work that could lead to development of future PM standards,” she said Particulates are linked to an array of cardiovascular and respiratory ills, including a higher risk of early death for people with preexisting conditions.

License Plates Could Be Printed On McDonald's Bags To Stop Littering - There's been talk about McDonald's in southwest Great Britain could print car license plates on drive-thru bags to prevent customers from littering. "It's not clear exactly how the number plate would be printed on packaging, but it could be scanned onto the brown bags that contain the food," Daily Mail noted. Chris Howell, Swansea Council's head of waste, parks and cleansing, told a climate change corporate delivery committee meeting: "The Welsh Government has explored with McDonald's, or their franchises, whether or not they could print number plates of cars collecting takeaways from their drive-throughs with a view that that would discourage people from discarding their materials (litter)."Howell said one of the biggest hurdles with fast-food companies is that if one chain adopts the climate initiative, customers will go to competitors that don't print license plates on bags. "If McDonald's do it, then people will just go to Burger King instead of McDonald's, because nobody wants to have their private details printed on that packaging." He added: "I think it's a really good idea but at the minute it's fraught with some difficulties." The nationalist political party in Wales, Plaid Cymru, first proposed the idea more than two years ago during the pandemic lockdown when party leaders noticed a spike in fast-food trash along city streets and highways.

This question could seal fate of SCOTUS Forest Service fracas - After raising two sons and parting ways with his partner in 2000, Larry Wilkins, a Vietnam War veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, craved quiet. In 2004, he found what he called a “picture-perfect” 10-acre patch of land along the East Fork of the Bitterroot River, nestled in the stately ponderosa pines of the Bitterroot National Forest in the farthest reaches of western Montana.Wilkins, who goes by “Wil,” said his “perfect neighbor” is a California couple who fixed up a caboose as a summer cabin and live near Wilkins’ property along Robbins Gulch Road only about two weeks per year. “I moved here for peace of mind and for quality of life,” Wilkins, 72, said in a recent interview. But things didn’t stay perfect for long.On Wednesday, Wilkins’ attorneys will appear before the nation’s highest bench to argue that the Montana landowner and one of his neighbors, Jane Stanton, should have legal recourse against the Forest Service for posting a sign in 2006 along Robbins Gulch Road indicating that it was open to the public.Wilkins and Stanton sued the Forest Service in 2018, saying that installation of the sign exposed their lands to hunters, trespassers and thieves.Supreme Court arguments in Wilkins v. United States will focus not on the claims Wilkins and Stanton have raised against the Forest Service but on a procedural question that could make or break the property owners’ case: Did their lawsuit come too late?The justices’ decision could have implications for legal disputes under “countless” federal laws that impose statutory deadlines, said Kian Hudson, an attorney at Barnes & Thornburg LLP.Two lower courts have sided with the Justice Department’s position that Wilkins and Stanton exceeded a deadline under the Quiet Title Act, which allows lawsuits against the federal government for using or modifying property up to 12 years after a challenger knows — or should have known — that the United States held a claim on the land. Then the justices, who only agree to hear a tiny percentage of cases that come their way, added Wilkins to their calendar — potentially indicating that they see things differently.Wilkins hopes they do.He said he has spotted hunters on snowmobiles at 5 a.m. speeding through the field beside Stanton’s house, which is located across from his on Robbins Gulch Road. He said cat hunters have turned their dogs loose on his property to track cougars, bobcats and wolverines that prowl a ridge behind his house. Wilkins recalled following one of those hunters down to Highway 93 and pulling over to snap photos of the man’s license plate while the man called his dogs in from their chase.“And people coming in and poaching and killing elk off of our properties,” Wilkins said, growing heated. “I’m sorry. I just get a little wound up. I’ve got to push my chill button.” Perhaps the worst offense occurred on a night in September 2019, when Wilkins spotted his cat, Mr. Kitty, limping and bleeding. “I went back across town to the local office store, and I had reward posters made, and I posted a $1,000 reward and put it on the road along Robbins Gulch for the conviction of the person who shot my cat,” Wilkins said.

Devastating floods in Nigeria were 80 times more likely because of climate crisis -- The heavy rain behind recent devastating flooding in Nigeria, Niger and Chad was made about 80 times more likely by the climate crisis, a study has found. The finding is the latest stark example of the severe impacts that global heatingis already wreaking on communities, even with just a 1C rise in global temperature to date. The floods that struck between June and November were among the deadliest on record in the region. Hundreds of people were killed, 1.5 million were displaced and more than 500,000 hectares of farmland was damaged.The study, by an international team of climate scientists as part of the World Weather Attribution (WWA) group, used weather data and computer models to compare the likelihood of the heavy rain in today’s heated world versus a world without global heating. Such rain would have been extremely rare without human-caused heating, they found, but is now expected once a decade. The WWA study said the reason the floods were so disastrous was that people in the region were already very vulnerable to extreme weather, as a result of poverty, violent conflicts and political instability. The WWA team also assessed the 2021 drought in the central Sahel region inAfrica that damaged crops and contributed to a food crisis in 2022. However, the scientists were unable to estimate the influence of the climate crisis because of a lack of weather station data, pointing to the need for investment in weather stations.“We are seeing everywhere in the world just how important it is to know what the weather is today, so we can properly understand how it’s changing and where we need to focus our adaptation efforts,” said Dr Friederike Otto at Imperial College London.

Satellite Images Show Climate Change Impacts on Rivers and Glaciers - Drought, floods and the melting of glaciers affected almost every part of the world in 2021, according to a new WMO report. Climate change is distorting rain patterns across the planet, leading to drought and floods, while rising temperatures are causing glaciers to melt, according to the first ever comprehensive review of water resources by the World Meteorological Organization. The WMO says it aims to publish global water reports annually from now on in response to calls for more accurate data in an era of growing demand and limited supplies. The State of Global Water Resources report for 2021, released on Tuesday, analyzes the effects that higher temperatures are having on the planet’s freshwater bodies. Global temperatures are now 1.1C higher than in pre-industrial times, and last year was one of the seven hottest years on record.

Expert Panel Recommends Standardizing Disaster Death Counts - An expert panel created by Congress endorsed the method of calculating death tolls from extreme weather disasters like Hurricanes that President Trump attacked in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, E&E reports. Simply relying on death certificates, the panel’s report finds, risks dramatically undercounting the human toll of disasters. For example, initial counts put the number killed in Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria at just 64, but estimates endorsed by the panel attributed 2,975 deaths to the storm. That number, which Trump claimed was “done by Democrats” to hurt him politically, is now considered the official death toll. Hurricane Maria was not an aberration, however. The death toll for Hurricane Ike, which hit Texas in 2008, has been estimated at between four and 104, and the death toll of Hurricane Katrina is still uncertain. The panel also called for nationwide standards to ensure consistency from disaster to disaster.

Groups call for carbon capture pipeline permits to be paused in Iowa - Opponents of three carbon capture pipelines proposed in Iowa and surrounding states want federal regulators to call for a moratorium on construction, saying current safeguards are inadequate to protect people who live near the projects.About three dozen environmental, public health and tribal groups onMonday asked the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to call for a delay in action on state carbon capture pipeline permits until the agency establishes new safety guidelines.There was no immediate response from the agency. It said in May it would seek new rules for carbon dioxide pipelines after a pipeline ruptured in Satartia, Mississippi, in February 2020, sending 45 people to the hospital.The agency fined the pipeline owner nearly $4 million for safety violations. Regulators also have called for research into the safety and construction of carbon capture pipelines, which are intended to carry liquefied carbon dioxide emissions to deep wells where they can be sequestered."Any CO2 pipeline permits given before those gaps have been filled will be gambling with public and environmental safety," the groups said in the letter to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. "We know the forthcoming regulatory overhaul will impact the siting and therefore the risk/safety of communities."The groups, including Food & Water Watch, the Science & Environmental Health Network and the Sierra Club's Iowa Chapter, said California already has imposed a moratorium on carbon capture pipelines until the federal agency establishes new safeguards.Carolyn Raffensperger, the Science & Environmental Health Network's executive director, said it makes sense to pause permitting."We know PHMSA says its existing rules are not adequate," Raffensperger said Monday. "And yet, we have three pipelines rushing to site the projects, before those safety measures are even" established.

With Federal Aid on the Table, Utilities Shift to Embrace Climate Goals - — Just two years ago, DTE Energy, a Michigan-based electric utility, was still enmeshed in a court fight with federal regulators over emissions from a coal-burning power plant on the western shore of Lake Erie that ranks as one of the nation’s largest sources of climate-changing air pollution.But in September, Gerard M. Anderson, who led DTE for the last decade, was on the South Lawn of the White House alongside hundreds of other supporters of President Biden, giving a standing ovation to the president for his success in pushing a climate change package through Congress — a law that will help accelerate the closure of the very same coal-burning behemoth, known as DTE Monroe, that his company had been fighting to protect.Mr. Anderson’s position reflects a fundamental shift among major electric utilities nationwide as they deploy their considerable clout in Washington: After years of taking steps like backing dark-money groups to sue the government to block tighter air pollution rules, DTE and a growing number of other utilities have joined forces to speed the transition away from fossil fuels.Their new stance is driven less by evolving ideology than the changing economics of renewable energy, fueled in part by the sheer amount of money the federal government is putting on the table to encourage utilities to move more quickly to cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy like solar and wind.In that way, it is a leading example of the effects of the Biden administration’s willingness to engage in what is often called industrial policy: providing public funding to bolster critical industries in support of the nation’s broad strategic goals.But if industrial policy initiatives can provide powerful incentives to corporations to pursue those goals, they also inevitably raise questions about whether they are constructed in ways that reward companies for taking actions that market forces would lead them to take anyway — an issue that hovers over the legislation embraced by both Mr. Biden and the electric utilities.With the passage of the climate and economic policy bill known as the Inflation Reduction Act, DTE and other big utilities like American Electric Power, NextEra Energy and Southern Company stand to benefit from the largest package of subsidies ever granted to the industry.It is a 10-year, $220 billion hodgepodge of tax breaks and major changes in federal tax law and other climate-change-inspired inducements that amount to a kind of lobbyist wish list never before considered even remotely possible by the industry. With so much on the line financially, the industry ramped up spending on lobbyists to help push the package through the House and the Senate. It has also directed at least $17 million in campaign contributions to lawmakers since last year, targeting in particular key players like Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic majority leader, and Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, whose consent was vital to getting the measure passed. The legislation will do more than just accelerate efforts to meet climate change goals, according to an analysis by The New York Times of the 273-page law. Buried in the hundreds of pages are carefully crafted provisions that will eventually help electric utilities gain additional profits for years to come, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars per year for some of the larger players, according to Wall Street analysts. “Let’s be honest — these guys can say all they want about the environment and how we are all aligned,” said Shahriar Pourreza, who has spent two decades studying the utility industry for Wall Street firms. “But you strip back the layers of the onion and this is also a major long-term growth opportunity for these utilities.”

Why utilities resist simple upgrades to boost renewables - Next summer, grid operators will boost the power in a western New York transmission line whenever the wind is blowing. The region’s utility, National Grid, has decided to take advantage of breezes, which cool lines that would otherwise heat and sag with increased power flows — potentially hitting trees. A new system of sensors will provide operators with real-time data on wind, temperature and humidity conditions. The use of a so-called dynamic line rating system will open the door for more power to flow onto the grid from western New York wind farms. “You get this wonderful coincidence of events,” said Jonathan Marmillo, co-founder and vice president of LineVision, the Somerville, Mass., manufacturer of the sensors. When the wind spins turbines, it will also cool the power lines, increasing their capacity. That’s key as transmission struggles to keep up with growing renewable energy projects, in the race to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of a zero-carbon grid by 2035. The U.S. will need to double or triple its power line capacity, experts calculate — a daunting challenge when major transmission projects can take a decade or more to build. But U.S. utilities have not welcomed dynamic line rating, or DLR, which could increase a line’s power-carrying capacity pacity by 30 to 44 percent, according to a 2019 Department of Energy report to Congress. The reason is part bureaucracy, part apprehension — and part the utilities’ bottom line, according to analyses from federal agencies and experts. “The U.S. provides transmission owners little incentive to deliver more power over existing lines or to reduce transmission congestion,” the DOE report said. Widespread adoption of DLR in the U.S., it added, would also “influence the performance of electricity markets, impacting the profitability or viability of specific generation sources.” In New York’s case, adoption of the technology will help the state meet its demanding clean energy goals, Marmillo said. The DOE report also notes that DLR has enjoyed nearly a dozen successful pilot tests in the U.S., Europe and Canada. On top of smoothing the way for renewables, dynamic line rating can also save customers money by cutting down on the congestion charges — the increased costs that occur when cheaper power can’t get on crowded lines.

Hydrogen plans advance at gas utilities as industry gets policy signals - A pair of federal hydrogen initiatives are giving natural gas utility executives renewed confidence in their ability to deploy the low-carbon fuel in distribution systems. Hydrogen commentary was fairly muted throughout previous earnings reporting periods, as gas utilities launched previously announced pilot projects and awaited clarity on federal policy. But the chatter picked up during the most recent round of quarterly earnings calls, which wrapped Nov. 18. The catalysts were clear. In August, U.S. lawmakers included a low-carbon hydrogen production tax credit in the Inflation Reduction Act, the nation's largest-ever investment in clean energy. Additionally, the U.S. Energy Department advanced a plan to invest $8 billion to develop several regional hydrogen hubs. The Inflation Reduction Act's renewable fuel incentives have "the potential to help accelerate our existing efforts to decarbonize" the gas grid, New Jersey Resources Corp. President and CEO Steve Westhoven told analysts during a Nov. 17 conference call. The company launched the first East Coast hydrogen blending pilot project about a year ago. Xcel Energy Inc. Chairman, President and CEO Robert Frenzel said the Inflation Reduction Act's hydrogen production tax credit "should improve our competitive advantage in delivering low-cost, clean fuels." Like many of its peers, Xcel executives also linked the federal hydrogen hub program and other DOE support to its participation in the emerging hydrogen economy. Xcel is participating in two hydrogen hub applications, one in the Upper Midwest and another among Western states including Colorado, Frenzel noted during an Oct. 27 conference call. Xcel has received a $12 million DOE grant to pilot high-temperature hydrogen production using excess steam and electric power from its Prairie Island nuclear plant in Minnesota. Xcel's electric and gas utilities in Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin and neighboring states could also be consumers of hydrogen, Frenzel said. The company has committed to making some of its gas turbines hydrogen capable, the executive said. The company is also evaluating opportunities to incorporate hydrogen into clean heat plans, which gas utilities will need to file in Colorado under new regulations, Xcel CFO Brian Van Abel said.

Corn use for fuel ethanol at 386 million bushels in September - The USDA recently released its Grain Crushings and Co-Products Production report for November, reporting that corn use for fuel ethanol was down in September when compared to both the previous month and September 2021. Total corn consumed for alcohol and other uses was 435 million bushels in September, down 10 percent when compared to the previous month and down 5 percent when compared to the same month of last year. Usage included 90.6 percent for alcohol and 9.4 percent for other purposes. Corn consumed for fuel alcohol was at 383 million bushels, down 11 percent from August and down 6 percent when compared to September 2021. Corn consumed for dry milling fuel production and wet milling fuel production was 92.7 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively. The USDA withheld the volume of sorghum that went to fuel alcohol production in September to avoid disclosure for individual company data. The agency also withheld data for August, but reported that 269,000 hundredweight (cwt) (15,064 tons) of sorghum was used to produce fuel alcohol in September 2021. At dry mills, condensed distillers solubles reached 101,728 metric tons in September, up from both 88,329 tons the previous month and 85,920 tons in September of the previous year. Corn oil production was at 159,873 tons, down from 180,062 tons the previous month, but up from 155,918 tons in September 2021. Distillers dried grains production fell to 281,984 tons, down from both 335,885 tons in August and 293,344 tons in September of the previous year. Distillers dried grains with solubles production fell to 1.61 million tons, down from both 1.87 million tons in August and 1.76 million tons in September 2021. Distillers wet grains production was at 1.25 million tons, down from 1.32 million tons the previous month, but up when compared to 1.19 million tons in September of last year. Modified distillers wet grains production was at 498,142 tons, down from 544,168 tons the previous month, but up from 423,404 tons in September of last year. At wet mills, corn germ meal production fell to 48,056 tons, down from both 61,012 tons in August and 57,868 tons in September of last year. Corn gluten feed production fell to 238,468 tons, down from 248,856 tons the previous month and 280,232 tons in September 2021, Corn gluten meal production fell to 101,787 tons, down from 102,538 tons in August and 106,657 tons in September of the previous year. Wet corn gluten feed production was at 192,999 tons, up from 189,203 tons the previous month, but down from 208,335 tons in September 2021. At dry and wet mills, carbon dioxide captured fell to 215,487 tons, down from both 247,075 tons in August and 234,343 tons in September 2021.

EPA approves RFS fuel pathway for Chevron refinery - The U.S. EPA has approved a fuel pathway that allows Chevron U.S.A. Inc. to generate D6 renewable fuel renewable identification numbers (RINs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard for several biofuels produced from soybean oil via coprocessing with petroleum at its refinery in El Segundo, California (Chevron El Segundo Soy FFC Pathways). Chevron’s petition, filed in September 2020, originally sought approval for a D5 advanced biofuel pathway. Work by the agency to consider the D5 pathway continues. According to documents released by the EPA, Chevron petitioned the agency to approve a facility-specific pathway for the generation of D5 RINs for renewable gasoline, renewable gasoline blendstock, renewable jet fuel and nonester renewable diesel fuel produced from soybean oil through co-processing with petroleum feedstocks in the fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) unit of the El Senundo refinery. As part of its petition, Chevron submitted data to EPA to perform a lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) analysis of these fuels produced through the Chevron El Segundo FFC Pathways. The EPA said this analysis involved a straightforward application of the same methodology and much of the same modeling used for the March 2010 RFS rule. The EPA has not previously evaluated soybean oil co-processing in an FCC unit, and said the primary difference between the Chevron analysis and modeling completed for the March 2010 RFS rule is the consideration of the facility-specific mass and energy balance data for the Chevron El Segundo FCC process. Based on its assessment, the EPA said that renewable gasoline, renewable gasoline blendstock, renewable jet fuel, and renewable diesel produced through the Chevron Segundo Soy FCC Pathways qualify to generate D6 RINs, provided Chevron adheres to conditions specified by the agency and the fuel meets other definitional and RIN generation requirements for renewable fuel specified by the RFS regulations. Under the RFS, eligible biofuels must achieve a 20 percent GHG reduction to be eligible to generate D6 RINs. Chevron’s petition requested D5 eligibility, which requires a 50 percent GHG reduction. The EPA said additional review is needed to determine appropriate conditions for D5 RIN eligibility. In the interest of time, the EPA said Chevron asked the agency to move forward with a D6 determination while review of D5 eligibility continues.

Looming rail strike threatens biofuel, ag transport - A threatened strike by rail workers has the biofuel industry bracing for another knockdown while memories of the Covid-19 pandemic’s disruptions are still fresh.Most crop-based fuels like corn ethanol are shipped by freight rail, and much of the grain or soybeans used to make them move on trains as well, according to the industry. The potential hit to biofuels is one of the more significant impacts for American agriculture.“Our country’s ethanol producers rely greatly on the railroads to move their products to market, and if the nation’s trains stop running, the nation’s ethanol biorefineries stop running too,” Geoff Cooper, CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group, said in a statement Tuesday praising President Joe Biden for prodding Congress to avert a walkout. Biden on Monday called on Congress to intervene, ratifying a labor agreement crafted this fall that was rejected by some of the unions representing railroad workers. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) responded that the House would vote on the issue this week (E&E Daily,Nov. 29).The industry relies on rail for 70 percent of ethanol shipments, with 20 percent moving by truck and 10 percent by barge, according to the RFA. A strike would be a “disaster,” Cooper said, adding that biofuels support 400,000 jobs nationally.The association has urged rail companies and labor unions to quickly ratify a long-term agreement, and it joined other agricultural and business groups Monday on a letter to key lawmakers asking Congress to intervene to prevent a work stoppage — a move Congress has made in past disputes.“The American agricultural community could see disruptions in transporting 6,300 carloads of food and farm products that are carried by rail daily,” the groups said in the letter to the top Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate.Ethanol moves mainly by rail because its alcohol content precludes pumping it through oil pipelines, according to the Association of American Railroads. And the fuel depends on a wide network of trains; as much as one-fifth of ethanol shipments originate on short-line or regional railroads, the AAR said, owing to biofuel plants’ locations in rural areas. U.S. railroads have moved about 395,000 carloads of ethanol per year over the past five years, according to the Renewable Fuels Association.

High demand and prices for lithium send mines into overdrive - Salty water gurgles quietly through a pipe across a dry lakebed and into a Caribbean-blue pond. It's carrying an element that is crucial to the electric car revolution and, suddenly, one of the world's hottest commodities: lithium. Silver Peak, halfway between Reno and Las Vegas, may not resemble most people's mental image of a mine. But for decades it's been the sole domestic producer of lithium in the United States. Now the small mine is in the process of doubling its output, and facing new rivals, as part of a massive global phenomenon that's reshaping multiple industries. Demand for electric cars is soaring and, in turn, straining supplies of lithium, which is used in the vehicles' massive batteries. Proposals for new mines abound, accompanied by controversies. One proposed site threatens the only habitat of a rare Nevadan wildflower, for example, while another has outraged both indigenous groups and ranchers. But new mines aren't the only way to get more lithium. And they're certainly not the fastest. For the next three to five years, the world will largely be relying on already-operating mines to scale up as fast as they can, says Susan Zou, an energy metals analyst with Rystad Energy. "Actually, in the past six months, we have been already quite surprised to see how fast those existing projects have responded to the lithium price hikes," she says. Silver Peak shows that the race to produce more lithium isn't just happening in the future, through battles over proposed mines. It's well underway. As a pure metal, lithium bursts into flames when it touches water. In its salt form, it treats mood disorders. (It was an ingredient in the original recipe for 7 Up).And — most significantly for the global economy — a single particle of lithium will readily shed an electron, and then zip back and forth between the positive and negative ends of a rechargeable battery, storing and discharging power as it goes. Lithium-ion batteries are a key part of every feasible path to reducing the climate crisis. Electric vehicles can help reduce the use of gasoline and diesel. Giant batteries can store electricity from wind and solar farms to displace coal and natural gas. The batteries' promise: the quality of life that fossil fuels have provided, minus the fossil fuels themselves.

Germany Tees Up Windfall Tax On Solar And Wind - Ah, yes. The sweet smell of saving the planet with "green" energy while getting to rake in even more taxes...nothing like having your left-wing virtue signaling cake and eating it too. Such is the case in Germany, where the country is getting ready to "table a €130 per megawatt hour cap on the earnings of wind, solar and nuclear generators", according to ReNews, citing Bloomberg. Draft law indicates that the German government is planning on "reclaiming" some of the profits belonging to electricity companies in order "to fund a €54bn consumer aid package" that likely wouldn't be necessary if Germany's power grid was independent from the get-go. Instead, the country - which famously relies on Russia for energy and has shunned most nuclear power plant plans for the foreseeable future - apparently hopes to spur more supply by clamping down on the earnings of energy companies...and yes - even the companies generating power through "green" means. The new law "is scheduled to pass the upper house of the German Parliament on 16 December and go into effect on 1 January," the report says. It'll apply for 10 months and will be backdated to the beginning of September 2022. "Germany joins a growing number of European countries preparing to set their own national caps on renewable energy earnings that fall below the European Commission’s suggested levy of €180/MWh," ReNews wrote. While the measures are only intended to last until June 2023, the report notes they "could be" extended until the end of 2024

Plane Crashes Into High Voltage Power Lines Leaving 120,000 Without Power In Maryland -Approximately 120,000 customers in Montgomery County, Maryland were without power Sunday night after a small plane crashed into high-voltage power lines just north of Montgomery Village. The pilot and passenger, identified as Patrick Merkle, 65, of Washington, and Jan Williams, 66, of Louisiana, are reportedly alive and unharmed in the aircraft, and authorities are in cell phone contact with them according to Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein. Rescue personnel have had to wait until crews can ground the lines before attempting to extract the plane, with Goldstein saying that crews would need to go up the lines themselves in order to put clamps or cables onto the wires to ensure there is no static electricity or residual power that could pose danger to any involved, according to DC News Now.

Nonprofits fight Tennessee Valley Authority contracts in Memphis - The showdown over the legal ties that bind the Tennessee Valley Authority to 150-plus local power companies is coming to a Memphis courtroom this week.Attorneys for TVA and three environmental nonprofits will argue before U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker on Thursday about whether a lawsuit questioning the legality of TVA's 20-year, rolling electricity contracts should proceed to trial or be dismissed.The court hearing is part of a two-year-old legal effort by attorneys from the Southern Environmental Law Center, which represents the three nonprofits, to challenge TVA's effort to secure its customer base — the 150-plus local power companies throughout its seven-state footprint — over the long-term.The venue for the case — Memphis — is not an accident. Memphis, Light, Gas and Water is the largest local power company in TVA. It represents about 10% of TVA's electricity load and a corresponding amount of revenue. It is among a handful that has not signed the 20-year, rolling electricity contract.For the past four years, MLGW considered leaving TVA. It asked private companies to bid on its electricity supply throughout 2021 and 2022. In September, then-CEO J.T. Young and a consultant, GDS, recommended MLGW sign the 20-year deal with TVA.The MLGW board delayed a vote on the 20-year deal this month because one company that bid on its electricity protested the decision to award TVA the contract.Any affirmative vote on the TVA contract by the MLGW board would also need to be voted up or down by the Memphis City Council. Several council members have signaled they would not approve the contract.There are also the unknown wishes of incoming MLGW CEO Doug McGowen, who starts in mid-December. McGowen, who is the city of Memphis chief operating officer, leaves his current post on Dec. 2. He has not yet weighed in on what he thinks the utility should do about its power supply.The outcome of the case could render the 20-year contract moot or it could leave Memphis with the same choice it has now — sign a long-term deal with TVA or maintain its flexibility. The decision, the environmental groups suing TVA argue, has real consequences for the environment.

Report: TVA’s Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis ranks #10 in most contaminated U.S. sites Every TVA coal-fired plant in Tennessee is leaking dangerous contaminants at unsafe levels, report finds, The Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal ash dumps in Memphis rank among the worst in the nation for contamination of groundwater with cancer-causing toxins, according to a new report that relied on the power provider’s own records.TVA’s coal ash dumps at the now-defunct Allen Fossil Plant rank as the 10th worst contaminated sites in the country in a report released earlier this month that examined groundwater monitoring data from coal-fired plant operators, including TVA.TVA’s own monitoring data shows its Memphis dumps are leaking arsenic at levels nearly 300 times safe drinking water limits. Unsafe levels of boron, lead and molybdenum are also being recorded there.The report, prepared and published by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice, shows that coal ash dumps at every TVA coal-fired facility across Tennessee are leaking dangerous contaminants at unsafe levels, including arsenic, cobalt, lithium, molybedenum, boron, lead and sulfate, into groundwater.Coal plant owners are ignoring the law and avoiding cleanup because they don’t want to pay for it. TVA, the nation’s largest public power company, was ordered in 2015 to investigate the extent of contamination caused by its coal ash dumps, come up with a plan to clean up its coal ash pollution and decide what to do with the dumps to prevent future contamination.But the utility still hasn’t completed its investigation at all its Tennessee plants or announced final plans for the millions of tons of coal ash — the byproduct from burning coal to produce electricity — TVA has stashed away in unlined, leaky dirt pits across the state.The utility is not alone in dallying to comply with the 2015 directive, known as the Environmental Protection Agency’s “coal ash rule,” according to the new report — Poisonous Coverup: The Widespread Failure of the Power Industry to Clean Up Coal Ash Dumps.“Seven years after the EPA imposed the first federal rules requiring the cleanup of coal ash waste dumps, only about half of the power plants that are contaminating groundwater agree that cleanup is necessary, and 96 percent of these power plants are not proposing any groundwater treatment,” the report stated.According to the report, 91 percent of the 292 coal ash dump sites in the nation are leaking dangerous toxins, heavy metals and radioactive material into groundwater at dangerous levels, “often threatening streams, rivers and drinking water aquifers.” “In every state where coal is burned, power companies are violating federal health protections,” said Lisa Evans, Senior Attorney at Earthjustice. “Coal plant owners are ignoring the law and avoiding cleanup because they don’t want to pay for it.”

US Nuclear Reactors Among The Oldest In The World - The United States' 92 nuclear reactors currently in operation have a mean age of 41.6 years, the third oldest in the world. As Statista's Katharina Buchholz reports, the only nuclear fleets that are older are those of Switzerland (46.3 years) and Belgium (42.3 years). Also older are the singular reactors in use in Armenia and the Netherlands. The U.S. was among the first commercial adopters of nuclear energy in the 1950s, explaining the number of aging reactors today. A building boom between the 1960s and 1970s created today’s nuclear power plants in the United States. The five reactors completed in the 1990s and the one finished in 2016 were all holdovers of delayed construction projects from the 1970s experiencing roadblocks due to regulatory problems and mounting opposition to nuclear energy. The most recent construction start date of a completed U.S. reactor today is 1978 - one year before the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, which further cemented the public's rejection of nuclear energy and the challenges of updating nuclear reactor infrastructure today. However, two reactors started at Vogtle power plant in Georgia in 2013 will join the grid soon as the newest additions to the U.S. fleet. They too experienced many regulatory and other delays, culminating in the bankruptcy of the reactor construction company. The U.S. government stepped in with a loan so that the project can now be finished almost 17 years after its initial proposal. The U.S. today is one of only 15 countries which the World Nuclear Industry Status Report lists as actively pursuing nuclear energy. This includes new nuclear programs in the United Arab Emirates, Belarus and Iran that were started in the past decade only, as well as a younger program in China that started producing power in 1991 and today has a mean reactor fleet age of just nine years. India, running a nuclear energy program since 1969, nevertheless saw much more recent construction than the U.S., achieving a current mean reactor age of 24.2 years. Many European countries which were early adopters of the technology are meanwhile phasing out their programs, at times before the end of reactors' expected lifespans.

Managing NuScale, other SMR waste will be ‘roughly comparable’ with conventional reactors, DOE labs find -- - SMRs will offer zero-emission scalable nuclear technology to produce electricity, heat and clean water, helping meet greenhouse gas targets, while still requiring the industry and policymakers to devise waste disposal solutions. Managing nuclear waste from SMRs, still in development, would have few challenges compared with traditional light water reactors, according to a Nov. 18 report by the Argonne and Idaho labs that studied three designs scheduled to be built and operated by the end of the decade.Each of the three designs offers advantages and disadvantages over large light water reactors, said Taek Kyum Kim, a senior nuclear engineer at the U.S Department of Energy’s Argonne lab in Lemont, Illinois. Each reactor, he said, has “pluses and minuses” depending on factors such as uranium enrichment, thermal efficiency and discharge burnup, the amount of thermal energy produced from fuel.“All told, when it comes to nuclear waste, SMRs are roughly comparable with conventional pressurized water reactors, with potential benefits and weaknesses depending on which aspects you are trying to design for,” Kim said. “Overall, there appear to be no additional major challenges to the management of SMR nuclear wastes compared to the commercial-scale large LWR wastes.”A May 31 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences came to a different conclusion. A comparison of SMRs shows that designs cooled by water, molten salt and sodium will increase the volume of nuclear waste requiring management and disposal by factors of two to 30, the study said.“These findings stand in sharp contrast to the cost and waste reduction benefits that advocates have claimed for advanced nuclear technologies,” Lindsay Krall, the study’s lead author, said in a posting byStanford News.“Simple metrics, such as estimates of the mass of spent fuel, offer little insight into the resources that will be required to store, package and dispose of the spent fuel and other radioactive waste,” she said.Jose Reyes, chief technology officer and co-founder of NuScale, which is designing an SMR cited among the subjects of the Academy of Sciences study, said average fuel burnup and other measures are “within the values typically observed in the existing fleet of LWRs.”“Therefore, the NuScale 250-MWt design does not produce more spent nuclear fuel than the small quantities typically observed in the existing LWR fleet,” he said in a rebuttal in June in Nuclear NewsWire.

Why Ohio’s top oil and gas producing counties continue to lag in jobs --A decade after the start of Ohio’s shale gas boom, counties with the most oil and gas production continue to have higher-than-average unemployment rates.A review of state data shows that unemployment rates in Belmont, Carroll, Guernsey, Harrison, Jefferson, Monroe and Noble Counties have exceeded the statewide average every year since 2010, casting doubt on the view that the shale gas industry would be a game changer for jobs in Appalachian Ohio.A report commissioned by the industry-funded Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program predicted in 2011 that the shale gas industry would create or support 204,000 jobs as soon as 2015. Annual reports by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, however, show a net increase of less than 21,000 jobs in core and supporting industries since a 2012 lawopened Ohio to widespread development of fracked, horizontal wells.Even with the jobs that were added, the top-producing counties still have higher unemployment rates compared to the state overall. The Energy News Network interviewed more than a dozen experts and local sources and heard four recurring explanations for the disparity.

  • 1. Jobs — and workers — came and went. Oil and gas drilling jobs are similar to construction in that the work tends to be temporary and often performed by workers who travel from one job site to the next. “Our crews move from one well pad to the next, so the jobs follow the rigs; same with pipelines,” said Mike Chadsey, spokesperson for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.Once wells are producing, there’s much less work to be done, and thus fewer jobs. Meanwhile, many temporary jobs were filled with out-of-state workers, especially in the early years.
  • 2. Not all jobs are where the drilling is. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services estimated about 8,600 people worked in core shale-related industries in 2021, with another 184,000 working in "ancillary" industries ranging from trucking to engineering. Many of those jobs, particularly in ancillary fields, are not necessarily based in the same place as the drilling. For example, less than 2% of Ohio's freight trucking jobs in the ancillary categories are based in the seven highest oil- and gas-producing counties, federal data show.
  • 3. Infrastructure and workforce support are lacking. From reliable broadband access to wide, well-maintained roads, Ohio’s top oil and gas counties still lack much of the infrastructure that many employers consider a prerequisite before opening facilities. “The infrastructure isn't there,” said Amy Rutledge, a longtime Carroll County resident who led its convention and visitors bureau until 2020. Many businesses expect fast internet, reliable cell phone service, and quick access to interstate freeways. But while I-70 and I-77 cross the seven-county region, Carroll County has no four-lane roads, she said.
  • 4. Declines in other industries continued. The rise of Ohio’s shale industry coincided with the ongoing loss of coal jobs and manufacturing work. Coal mining employed fewer than 300 people in Ohio in the first quarter of 2022 — less than one-tenth as many as in 2012. And Monroe County lost about 600 jobs in 2013 when Ormet Corporation shut down its aluminum smelter in Hannibal, Ohio. Monroe County Commissioner Mick Schumacher said oil and gas jobs helped some displaced workers stay in the area. But those other job losses have still taken a toll. Large manufacturing operations that would use the area’s wet gas haven't moved in yet, either. A proposed PTTGC America petrochemical plant for Belmont County was announced in 2015. But “there is no timeline for a final investment decision” by the company, said spokesperson Matt Englehart at JobsOhio, which has spent roughly $50 million on the proposed site.

Gas project, EJ concerns collide in the Florida Panhandle - — Some longtime residents of this city’s predominantly Black north side smell trouble in plans to develop a natural gas export hub on a tract vacated by a massive paper mill. The St. Joe Co. plant was a major employer and a major generator of foul-smelling emissions and health concerns for Beverly Ash and her neighbors in this small Florida Panhandle city. “I can go down this street and name a whole lot of people that passed, on every street here. Most of them had cancer-related illnesses,” said Ash, the owner of Moma Dot’s soul food restaurant in North Port St. Joe. “We don’t need another plant, because we had a lot of people that got sick and died.”Local politicians say those fears are unfounded and have touted the liquefied natural gas proposal’s potential to bring new jobs to the area. The dispute underscores a national tension over the benefits and costs of LNG at a time when U.S. gas exports are surging.Biden administration officials have framed LNG as a geopolitical asset that could help wean Europe off Russian gas and ditch dirtier fuels like coal. At the same time, President Joe Biden is promising to funnel money for environmental cleanups and clean energy into disadvantaged communities like North Port St. Joe.How LNG projects fit into those efforts is at the heart of a fierce debate in this sleepy port city of 3,300 people that’s just a 10-minute drive from the Panhandle’s famous white-sand beaches.“This administration is like Janus, the god of two faces,” said Sacoby Wilson, an associate professor at the University of Maryland and a former member of EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. “On the one hand, you say you support environmental justice, but you do policy that’s not for environmental justice.”

Biden Admin Quietly Greenlights Plan To Build Huge Gulf Oil Terminal -The Biden administration has quietly approved plans to build a new crude oil terminal in the Gulf of Mexico off Texas, seemingly in contradiction to the president’s climate agenda.The Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration approved the application (pdf) for Enterprise’s Sea Port Oil Terminal, one of four proposed offshore oil export terminals, on Monday.According to the application, the port will be located offshore of Freeport, Texas. It will have 4.8 million barrels of storage capacity and add 2 million barrels per day to the U.S. oil export capacity.In its 94-page decision (pdf), the Maritime Administration said that it had approved the application because the construction and operation of the port is “in the national interest and consistent with other policy goals and objectives.”“The construction and operation of the Port is in the national interest because the Project will benefit employment, economic growth, and U.S. energy infrastructure resilience and security,” the administration wrote. “The Port will provide a reliable source of crude oil to U.S. allies in the event of market disruption and have a minimal impact on the availability and cost of crude oil in the U.S. domestic market.” The decision states that the project will expand on an existing Enterprise Crude Houston operated terminal located in Houston and will generate 62 permanent jobs over 30 years. Additionally, 1,400 temporary construction jobs will be created, with the majority of the workforce being hired from existing labor pools in Texas and Louisiana, according to the application.

US shale producers chase productivity gains --Quality not quantity is now the primary objective for most US shale oil producers as they strive to improve capital efficiency. Improving well productivity is becoming the major challenge for the sector as firms face up to growing constraints on output growth. Rising costs, oil service supply-chain bottlenecks and well-performance issues have forced operators to scale back their plans and focus on improving yields. "We have been not satisfied with the 2022 well performance and have made a significant step change to our well-return thresholds going forward," Pioneer Natural Resources chief executive Scott Sheffield says, echoing comments by other publicly owned companies during the recent round of third-quarter earnings calls. Pioneer plans to use its extensive portfolio of contiguous acreage in the Permian Midland basin to focus on drilling longer wells that also exploit multiple stacked rock layers. "Our development strategy has fully transitioned to a full stack approach, which includes drilling up to six highly productive zones," Sheffield says. By drilling 15,000ft (4,572m) laterals, Pioneer says it can generate 20pc higher returns than from 10,000ft wells and aims to bring more than 100 of these wells on line next year compared with 50 or so this year. Other top shale producers are also prioritising longer laterals for the same reasons and are busy buying up adjacent land rights to extend their reach. In the US, the mineral rights for oil extraction belong to the landowner so firms must secure contiguous acreage to drill longer wells. Diamondback Energy recently bought two Midland basin firms — FireBird Energy and Lario Permian — with complementary land assets. "We have a significant amount of long lateral development ahead of us," the firm's chief financial officer Kaes Van't Hof says. Optimising well productivity is also a strategic goal for shale firms. Longer laterals, better well spacing and stacked developments not only improve returns but also slow decline rates. "Importantly, this resource capture allows us to sustain a high-margin production from these assets for many years to come and does not require us to accelerate drilling activity across other parts of the portfolio to maintain our overall productive capacity," Devon Energy chief executive Rick Muncrief says. Devon's underlying decline rates have improved significantly since its 2020 merger with WPX Energy. Well productivity in the shale patch has stalled since the pandemic (see graph). Average oil output from newly completed wells across the seven shale formations covered by the EIA's monthly Drilling Productivity Report (DPR) has remained just under 700 b/d since mid-2021 after nearly tripling in 2014-20. Part of the reason for this may be the high proportion of older drilled-but-uncompleted (DUC) wells used to create new capacity out of the massive DUC backlog accumulated during the pandemic. But the DUC share of new well completions has fallen from about a quarter in mid-2021 to virtually none today. Last month saw a small increase in the DUC count for the first time since mid-2020.

US rule would limit methane leaks from public lands drilling | AP News
- The Interior Department has proposed rules to reduce methane leaks from oil and gas drilling on public lands, in the Biden administration's latest move to aggressively tackle emissions of the climate-warming greenhouse gas.The rules by the Interior's Bureau of Land Management would impose strict monthly time and volume limits on flaring, the process of burning excess natural gas at a well, and require payment for flaring that exceeds those limits.Global methane emissions are the second-biggest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide and come primarily from oil and gas extraction, landfills and wastewater and livestock farming. Methane is a key component of natural gas and is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, but doesn't last as long in the atmosphere before it breaks down. Scientists have argued that limiting methane is necessary to avoid the worst consequences of global warming. The proposal would also require oil and gas producers to develop waste minimization plans demonstrating the capacity of available pipeline infrastructure for anticipated gas production. The BLM could delay action on or ultimately deny a permit to drill to avoid excessive flaring of gas, an activity it said has significantly increased over the last few decades."This proposed rule will bring our regulations in line with technological advances that industry has made in the decades since the BLM's rules were first put in place, while providing a fair return to taxpayers," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement on Monday. Officials said the proposal would generate $39.8 million a year in royalties for the U.S. and prevent billions of cubic feet of gas from being wasted through venting, flaring and leaks. The BLM has a statutory mandate and legal authority to prevent the waste of public and tribal resources."This draft rule is a common-sense, environmentally responsible solution as we address the damage that wasted natural gas causes," said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. "It puts the American taxpayer first and ensures producers pay appropriate royalties."The BLM's proposed rule comes after the Environmental Protection Agency said it would expand its 2021 methane rule to require drillers to identify and plug leaks at every well site across the country. The EPA said its updated rule would slash methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 87% below 2005 levels and move the U.S. closer to its commitment to curb overall methane emissions by 30% by 2030.In addition to the EPA rule, the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress earlier this year would impose a tax on energy producers that exceed a certain level of methane emissions. Mallori Miller, vice president of government relations for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, argued that federal methane regulation should be handled by the EPA."The issue is not as cut and dried as this regulation would make it seem as there are many reasons to vent and flare gas, such as safety concerns and connectivity issues," Miller said. "Of course, it will always be in the best interest of a producer to capture and sell a commodity on the marketplace when at all possible." Cole Ramsey, vice president of upstream policy at the American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry's largest trade group, said the association supports waste prevention regulations consistent with the Interior's authority to require the economic capture of greenhouse gasses. "We look forward to reviewing the proposed regulation in its entirety and will work with BLM in support of a final rule that is cost-effective and furthers the progress we continue to make on reducing emissions," Ramsey said.

Biden-Harris Administration Makes $50 Million Available to Clean Up Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells on Tribal Lands | U.S. Department of the Interior — The Department of the Interior today announced final guidance for Tribes on how to apply for the first $50 million in grant funding available under President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides a total of $4.7 billion to address orphaned wells across the country, including $150 million for Tribal communities over five years. The final guidance is the result of a 60-day nation-to-nation consultation process.There are several thousand orphaned oil and gas wells on Tribal lands, jeopardizing public health and safety by contaminating groundwater, seeping toxic chemicals, emitting harmful pollutants including methane, and harming wildlife. Some of these wells are underwater, which creates an especially high risk of adverse impacts.“Through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are making historic investments to reclaim orphaned oil and gas wells on Tribal lands and address long-standing environmental injustices left behind by extractive industries,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “As part of our treaty and trust responsibility we have engaged in nation-to-nation consultations since the inception of this program so we can assist tribal nations in revitalizing their communities and help ensure future generations will have clear air, drinkable water, fertile soil and an overall good quality of life.”The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes a historic $13 billion investment in Tribal communities — the largest investment in Tribal infrastructure ever. This includes funding to repair wastewater and sanitation systems, clean up legacy pollution, and invest in climate resilience, such as funding community-driven relocation planning and adaption for Tribes impacted by rising seas, coastal erosion and storm surges.

BOEM to Offer 958K Acres Off Alaska Coast in New Lease Sale The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has announced that it will offer approximately 958,202 acres off Alaska’s southcentral coast in a lease sale scheduled for December 30, 2022. Dubbed the Cook Inlet Outer Continental Shelf Oil & Gas Lease Sale 258, the sale will offer for lease 193 blocks in the northern part of the Cook Inlet Planning Area in federal waters, BOEM outlined. The sale is in compliance with the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA), BOEM pointed out, adding that the IRA directed it to hold the auction by December 31 this year. BOEM highlighted that, last month, it published a final environmental impact statement for the lease sale that identified “robust” mitigation measures to be considered in leasing the area. Mitigation measures identified in the final notice of sale will help protect sea otters, beluga whales, and subsistence, recreational, and commercial fisheries, BOEM noted. “On Friday, December 30, 2022, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will open and publicly announce bids received for blocks offered in the Cook Inlet Planning Area Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Lease Sale 258 (Cook Inlet Sale 258),” BOEM said in an organization statement. “The lease sale terms include stipulations to protect biologically sensitive resources, mitigate potential adverse effects on protected species, and avoid potential conflicts associated with oil and gas development in the region,” BOEM noted. “BOEM’s proposed economic terms are designed to encourage diligent development while ensuring a fair return to taxpayers,” BOEM added. Back in October, BOEM announced the next steps for oil and gas leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to comply with provisions in the IRA. These included a proposed sale for the Gulf of Mexico region and the completion of the environmental review for Cook Inlet, offshore Alaska.

US to Auction Almost 1 Million Acres Off Alaska for Oil Drilling - The Biden administration plans to offer hundreds of thousands of acres off the coast of Alaska for new oil and gas drilling next month, a sale mandated in Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act to win the support of holdout West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin. The auction of more than 958,000 acres in Alaska’s Cook Inlet next month, announced by the Interior Department Monday, could produce nearly 200 million barrels of crude and 300 billion cubic feet of natural gas over the lifetime of the lease sales, according to department estimates, though it’s debatable whether any drilling will actually occur. The lease sale, to be held Dec. 30, was one of several previously canceled offerings reinstated in the Democrats’ climate spending bill signed into law in August, and considered a linchpin to win Manchin’s support. The Biden administration announced it had canceled the Cook Inlet sale in May citing a lack of interest, prior to the legislation’s enactment. Still, news of the sale that includes federal waters stretching roughly from Kalgin Island in the north to Augustine Island in the south, drew outrage from environmental groups, such as the Center for Biological Diversity. The nonprofit has said the activity would harm one of the world’s most endangered whale populations -- the Cook Inlet beluga -- as well as other species.

Chevron can resume key role in Venezuela’s oil output, exports - Chevron Corp on Saturday received a U.S. license allowing the second-largest U.S. oil company to expand its production in Venezuela and bring the South American country’s crude oil to the United States. The decision grants broader rights for the last big U.S. oil company still operating in U.S.-sanctioned Venezuela. However, it restricts any cash payments to Venezuela, which could reduce the oil available to export. License terms are designed to prevent state-run oil firm Petróleos de Venezuela, known as PDVSA, from receiving proceeds from Chevron’s petroleum sales, U.S. officials said. The license lasts for six months and will be automatically renewed monthly thereafter, the U.S. Treasury said. The U.S. authorization “brings added transparency to the Venezuelan oil sector” and allows Chevron to benefit from sales of “oil that is currently being produced” by its joint ventures with PDVSA, the California-based company said in a statement. Following oil sanctions on Venezuela in 2019, Chevron received an exemption to trade its Venezuelan crude to recoup pending debts. But those privileges were suspended a year later. Chevron’s four PDVSA joint ventures produced about 200,000 barrels per day of crude oil and exported the crude around the world prior to the sanctions. The United States issued the license on the same day that Venezuela and opposition leaders began a political dialogue in Mexico City by agreeing to ask the United Nations to oversee a fund providing food, healthcare and infrastructure to Venezuelans. Terms bar Chevron from helping the OPEC member develop new oilfields but provides a way for the company to recoup some of the billions of dollars owed by PDVSA through the oil sales. It also allows the U.S. company to import supplies to help process the country’s crude oil into exportable grades.

MTS supports Jamaica’s first ship-to-ship fuel transfer - Maritime & Transport Services Limited (MTS), a member of the Shipping Association of Jamaica, has supported Jamaica’s first ship-to-ship bunkering exercise of a vessel that is fuelled by liquefied natural gas (LNG). The vessel, the Solar Alice, received some 1,200 cubic metres of LNG bunkers from the Avenir Accolade, which is represented by MTS, on November 13, at Portland Bight, St Catherine. The Avenir Accolade operates between Jamaica and Puerto Rico transporting LNG. Maritime & Transport Services provides ship agency, liner service sales, warehousing, oil spill equipment and bunkering. According to Kim Clarke, chairman of MTS, rules established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for the reduction of the environmental impact of ocean-going vessels will see an increase in the use of LNG as a fuel for ships. He added that Jamaica’s location in the central Caribbean provides a great opportunity for the island to be a refuelling location for vessels that use this environmentally friendly fuel source. LNG emits less carbon dioxide than coal or oil. Natural gas is cooled to minus 162 degrees Celsius, which turns it into a liquid. Liquefaction reduces the volume to 1/600 of that of gas and enables it to be transported in large quantities by sea.

Europe To Raise LNG Import Capacity Significantly Through 2024 - The EU and the UK are expected to raise their combined LNG import capacity by 34%, or by 6.8 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d), by 2024 compared with 2021, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Monday, citing data from the International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers (GIIGNL) and trade press. Europe’s regasification capacity is set to increase by 5.3 Bcf/d by the end of 2023 and rise by an additional 1.5 Bcf/d by the end of 2024, according to the estimates. After a relatively modest expansion of LNG import capacity before 2022, Europe has rushed to reactivate and relaunch projects since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Floating storage regasification units (FSRUs) are being set up in Germany, the Netherlands, and Finland. Eemshaven in the Netherlands and Wilhelmshaven and Brunsbüttel in Germany are expected to be operational by the end of this year. So far this year, around 1.7 Bcf/d of the new and expanded LNG regasification capacity has been added in the Netherlands, Poland, Finland, Italy, and Germany, the EIA said. The new EemsEnergy terminal in the Netherlands consists of two FSRU vessels and received its first import cargo in September 2022. The new FSRU terminal at Wilhelmshaven, Germany was completed earlier this month. Regasification terminals currently under construction in seven EU countries could add an additional 3.5 Bcf/d of new capacity by the end of 2023. Germany, Poland, France, Finland, Estonia, Italy, and Greece are currently working to expand LNG import capacities, mostly with FSRUs, according to the EIA. Demand destruction amid high prices could dent part of the LNG consumption in the short term in both Europe and Asia. But even in a weaker demand scenario, Europe will need a lot of LNG to replace all the Russian gas it will have lost after the end of this winter and to build up adequate inventories ahead of the 2023/2024 winter.

Shell Buys Renewable Natural Gas Producer For $2 Billion - Shell Petroleum, a wholly owned subsidiary of Shell, has reached an agreement with Davidson Kempner Capital Management, Pioneer Point Partners, and Sampension to acquire Nature Energy Biogas for nearly $2 billion. The acquisition will be absorbed within Shell’s current capital range, which remains unchanged. Based in Denmark, Nature Energy is a producer of Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) from agricultural, industrial, and household wastes. By purchasing the shares in Nature Energy, Shell will acquire the largest RNG producer in Europe, its portfolio of cash-generative operating plants, associated feedstock supply, and infrastructure, its pipeline of growth projects, and its in-house expertise in the design, construction, and operation of innovative and differentiated RNG plant technology. This acquisition will further increase Shell’s ability to work with its established customer base across multiple sectors to accelerate its transition to net-zero emissions. It will also support Shell’s ambition to profitably grow its low-carbon fuel production and customer offering in our world-leading customer-facing marketing business.

Egypt ready to meet part of Europe demand for natural gas, says minister - - Petroleum Minister Tareq al-Molla says that Egypt is ready to meet some of the demand for natural gas in Europe. Efforts exerted over the past years have made of Egypt one of the solutions to the ongoing energy problem, the minister said during the inauguration of the eighth “Egypt Oil and Gas Convention” earlier Sunday. Talking figures, the minister said that last year Egypt exported some seven million tons of liquefied natural gas – 80 percent of which went to European Union (EU) markets. This year, exports totaled around eight million tons, with 90 percent going to Europe, he added. Molla said that successes of the petroleum sector in Egypt are credited to an integrated program implemented in partnership between the public and private sector and fully supported by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the government. The petroleum sector is also seeking mechanisms of action that would maximize cooperation with international partners to be able to make optimal use of natural resources, potentials and cadres, the minister told the gathering. Molla said he is optimistic about future success stories in light of continued and fruitful cooperation between local and international petroleum companies. All parties should unite to achieve goals of the Petroleum Ministry’s strategy, atop of which increasing and sustaining oil production, as well as reducing emissions, he urged.

Gaza gas deal could make improbable partners out of Israel and Hamas - Europe’s race to secure alternatives to Russian energy supplies is reviving a long-forsaken Palestinian initiative to extract natural gas off the coast of the blockaded Gaza Strip. Palestinian officials said that rapidly advancing negotiations with Egyptian investors could bring a rare glimmer of hope to Palestinians, after plans to develop Gaza’s gas — along with plans for the creation of a Palestinian state — were sidelined by more than two decades of grinding conflict with Israel and equally intractable Palestinian political divisions. The $1.4 billion project, which will be finalized by February 2023 and may launch gas production by March 2024, will be a high-stakes collaboration among the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Israel and Hamas, the Islamist militant group that rules the Gaza Strip. Hamas and Israel have engaged in four devastating wars in the Gaza Strip. Both will need to be, at least tacitly, on board. The multilateral partnership will also, industry and political analysts say, throw a lifeline to the cash-strapped and deeply unpopular Palestinian Authority, which is based in the West Bank and has for the past 15 years held no authority in the Gaza Strip. The Ramallah-based authority sees Gaza’s gas reserves as a “pillar to improving its fiscal plans,” said Zafer Milhem, chairman of the Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Authority. “We’ve been waiting for this development and the prosperity that comes with it,” he said. “I hope this will be a step toward the future.” The Egyptian-led project “will contribute to strengthening Palestinian national independence,” said a February 2021 memorandum of understanding between the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF) and Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Co. (EGAS), an Egyptian consortium of investors.

Greece expands oil exploration area into disputed zone with Libya - Greece announced on Navtex website the expansion of the area of seismic surveys for oil and gas deposits off the island of Crete, in response to a request from the American company ExxonMobil, which was granted exploration rights, saying that it also serves a geopolitical purpose, according to the Greek newspaper Ekathimerini. According to a report by the newspaper on Saturday, Greece expects accusations from Turkey and the Libyan government of Athena after granting rights in a disputed area, considering that islands, such as Crete, cannot have a continental shelf, and therefore an exclusive economic zone. Analysts say that drilling in the expanded area defined by Navtex (11,000 square kilometers compared to 6,500 square kilometers reserved on November 7) does not affect Turkish interests in the eastern Mediterranean, adding that if Libya chooses to protest, Turkey will support it by sending research ships to the region which will further escalate the tension with Greece, Ekathimerini said.

The European Union's Misguided Energy Price Cap Proposal - Only 15 years ago, the European Union produced more natural gas than Russia exported, according to the EIA. Repeating past mistakes and maintaining a failed energetic interventionist policy would only worsen what is already a structural disaster.The prohibitive cost of electricity and gas in Europe is not a result of market flaws, but of a completely unsustainable cost structure where consumers are forced to pay escalating taxes, a hidden CO2 tax, subsidies, and other rising regulatory costs. More than 60% of an average euro area country household bill is made up of taxes and regulated costs, according to Eurostat. Brussels cannot turn water into wine, and, similarly, the European Union cannot “cap” the price of natural gas and oil. It is almost ironic, but European leaders are spending days debating whether to impose a cap on Russian oil that would be set above the current Urals price and significantly above the five-year average levels.The only thing that these so-called “caps” would achieve in a global energy market is to provide a massive subsidy that would then have to be repaid with higher tariffs or taxes afterwards. In Spain they already made the horrifying mistake that led to what was called the tariff deficit: Putting a cap on a tariff and passing the difference with the actual price to the following year with added interest charges. What the tariff deficit mechanism did was perpetuate higher tariffs even in periods of low commodity prices as the tariff deficit ballooned. The proposed gas cap would produce a comparable tariff deficit but at an enormous level if implemented throughout Europe.Additionally, in a globalized and international market, the cap would create enormous arbitrage incentives that would only benefit China, which would continue purchasing cheap Russian commodities and exporting to Europe its more competitive goods.We must not forget that the natural gas “cap” in Spain has been a genuine catastrophe. Elevating it to Europe would be worse.According to Enagas data, natural gas demand in Spain soared while it declined in the rest of Europe, due to the disguised subsidy that the “cap” entails. Additionally, the cost of the measure for the country has increased to 13 billion euros, according to the power sector, which all citizens will pay with higher taxes, and this has led to a massive transfer of funds to France, which benefits from purchasing subsidized energy from Spain at a discount price while Spanish consumers pay the cost in higher bills.The total cost of exports to France has exceeded 715 million euros (from 15 June to 4th November, according to sources of the power sector). Additionally, a significant increase in tariffs (+98 €/MWh) is added for clients with fixed contracts, converting their fixed contracts into variable ones due to the subsidy of natural gas prices.The creation of a tariff deficit, which is what the current proposal would do to Europe, implies higher future costs and a larger debt burden. Short-term price “cuts” on gas and oil disguise the reality, incentivize demand while also creating an overcharge whose financing will result in higher prices and taxes in the future.A European gas and oil cap causes no harm to Russia at all. We should have learned by now and that through exports to China, India, and other Asian countries, Russia continues to set trade surplus records.A European “cap” on Russian gas and oil would be a subsidy to China at the expense of European taxpayers.Additionally, by short-term subsidizing the price, the gas cap would create an artificial demand and a perverse incentive. More natural gas consumption and the long-term reliance on fossil fuels is maintained.

Hungary fuel price cap hinges on smooth Russian oil shipments, government says - Hungary can only maintain a fuel price cap beyond Jan. 1 if oil shipments from Russia flow without interruption and oil and gas group MOL's refinery in Szazhalombatta operates continuously, the government said on Monday. Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government introduced the fuel price cap in November 2021 to shield Hungarian consumers from surging inflation but was forced to narrow its scope in July because of supply problems. "We can only maintain this measure ... if oil shipments from Russia arrive without disruptions and the Szazhalombatta refinery operates continuously," a government spokesman said in an emailed reply to Reuters. MOL has temporarily curbed fuel deliveries to some retailers this month after oil supplies from Russia via the Druzhba pipeline fell substantially below normal levels. Oil supply to parts of Central and Eastern Europe via a section of the Druzhba pipeline were suspended temporarily this month after a Russian rocket hit a power station that is close to the Belarus border and provides electricity for a pump station. Hungarian headline inflation rose to an annual 21.1% in October, from 20.1% in September, boosted by surging food and energy prices.

Russian Diesel Halt Still Looking Like Europe's Big Problem - Europe continues to lean heavily on Russia as a source of diesel with fewer than ten weeks to go until sanctions all but block the trade -- a stark reminder of the work that still needs to be done to find new supplies. The European Union and UK received almost half their waterborne imports of diesel-type fuel from Russia in the first 24 days of this month, Vortexa Ltd. data compiled by Bloomberg show. The level of reliance jumped sharply from October, when the region’s overall imports surged to cope with strikes that knocked out French oil refining capacity. Overall, tankers delivered an average 1.34 million barrels a day of diesel-type fuel during Nov. 1-24 into the EU and UK, according to Vortexa data. That’s sharply down from October, but still higher than the average for the first 10 months of the year. From Feb. 5, EU sanctions will all but cut-off seaborne imports of diesel and other refined products from Russia. The country is still by far the bloc’s single biggest external supplier, meaning buyers face a sharp crunch unless they can source more barrels from elsewhere to fill the gap. The EU and UK received about 600,000 barrels a day of diesel-type fuel in shipments from Russia during November 1-24, 45% of total arrivals. In October they took 34% from Russia and the average for the first 10 months of the year was 51%.While Europe is under pressure to find alternative supplies, Russia also needs to identify new homes for its exports: in September, more than half went to the EU. Turkey is also a significant buyer, along with Morocco and Tunisia. Russia also exports large volumes of other petroleum products. Naphtha is a petroleum product that can be used either to make gasoline, or, as a feedstock in the petrochemicals industry. Fuel oil, essentially a leftover from the refining process, has multiple potential uses, including to generate power and as ship fuel. Russia’s total shipments of oil products this month are on course to hit their highest on a barrels a day basis since February, when the invasion of Ukraine began. Not all Russia-made fuel is always exported from the country’s ports -- some can be shipped via other countries and is not included in the statistics used in this article.

India To Receive First LNG (Gas) Cargo From Indonesian Plant -India will receive its first cargo from Indonesia's Tangguh liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant at the Dahej terminal today, according to a Refinitiv analyst and Refinitiv ship tracking data. The LNG cargo is being transported by the BW Helios tanker, said Olumide Ajayi, senior LNG analyst at Refinitiv. "The vessel which had been acting as a floating storage since it lifted the cargo in mid-September is currently on a term charter to British oil major BP and is due to arrive at state-owned Petronet's Dahej terminal on November 28," he said. The BW Helios picked up the cargo of 132,000 cubic metres at the Tangguh LNG loading facility on Sept. 18, according to Refinitiv data, and has a discharge date of Nov. 28. Olumide Ajayi added that the shipment was unusual as Indonesian LNG cargoes are typically exported to north Asia, and that India receives LNG cargoes from Qatar, Oman and the UAE. Japan, China and Korea are key LNG consumers in north Asia, but high inventories and muted spot demand in the region have weighed on Asia spot LNG prices in recent weeks. Operated by BP, the Tangguh LNG plant is in Indonesia's West Papua province and began production in 2009. Its output capacity is 7.6 million tonnes of LNG per annum (mtpa) from two existing trains.

India purchased 40% of seaborne Russian Urals oil in November: Report - India bought about 40% of all Urals seaborne export volumes loading in November, outperforming other states as buyers, Reuters calculations based on Refinitiv and traders' data showed on Monday. Russian Urals oil shipments to India accounted for about 40% of the total sea exports of Urals in November, not including the transit of oil from Kazakhstan, which is sold as KEBCO, Reuters calculations showed. At the same time, shipments of the grade to Europe, which was previously the largest consumer of seaborne Urals, in November amounted to slightly less than a quarter. Almost the entire volume was delivered to refineries, in which Russian oil companies hold shares. The total volume of shipments of Urals oil from the Russian ports in November amounted to 7.5 million tonnes, excluding the transit volumes of Kazakhstan. On Dec. 5, the European Union imposes an embargo on the supply of seaborne shipments of Russian oil. According to traders, the volume of supplies of Urals oil to Europe may be further reduced in December, since the embargo involves a ban on the supply of Russian oil even by Russian companies to their remaining refining assets in the EU. EU discussions of a price cap for the Russian oil is also complicating trade for December volumes, traders said, raising uncertainty. Turkey remains the main buyer of Urals in the Mediterranean, in November, deliveries to this country accounted for about 15% of all Urals sea exports, according to Reuters calculations. In addition, several shipments of Urals are heading to Egypt's Port Said, where they are expected to be reloaded onto larger tankers for onward delivery to Asia, possibly China. China accounted for less than 5% of Urals sea exports in November, according to the data, but traders expected some of the tankers to change their destinations to China later.

India and China are still snapping up Russian oil — but they are demanding huge bargains which is hitting Kremlin's war chest ---Russian energy revenues may finally be feeling the pinch — the European Union's sweeping sanctions against the country's energy exports are about to kick in on December 5, more than nine months into the Ukraine invasion. As Kremlin is set to lose its single largest customer, it is redirecting seaborne exports to Asia, in particular to India and China. But that's proving to be difficult business. India and China now account for about two-thirds of all Russian seaborne crude-oil exports, and as major customers, they are demanding massive discounts for their purchases, Bloomberg's oil strategist Julian Lee wrote on Sunday. Russia's flagship Urals crude oil was trading at a discount of $33.28, or about 40% to the international Brent crude oil at the end of last week, according to Bloomberg's analysis of data from trade news service Argus and the Intercontinental Exchange in Europe. That's a steep fall from the $2.85 discount that Urals was trading at in 2021. Due to the Urals' widening discount, Russia is losing about $4 billion a month in energy revenues, per Bloomberg's calculations. This is significant, especially since oil prices have fallen sharply in recent months due to fears about a recession, strong Russian output, and falling demand, after prices hit multi-year highs earlier in 2022. That is also why Washington doesn't appear to be too worried about India and China's huge purchase of Russian oil, even if they pay prices above a G7 imposed price cap. Russian oil "is going to be selling at bargain prices and we're happy to have India get that bargain or Africa or China. It's fine," US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Reuters on November 11. Brent crude futures are about 4.3% higher this year so far at around $81.30 a barrel after spiking over 30% in the days after the Ukraine war broke out.

Leaking Oil Pipeline Pollutes Sea Off Coast of Lebanon - A leak in an oil pipeline that stretches from Kirkuk in Iraq to Tripoli in Northern Lebanon has polluted the sea off the Abdeh-Akkar port, endangering the fish population and contaminating the nets of the fishermen who depend on the sea for their livelihoods. The disaster comes as Lebanese continue to struggle with the worst economic crisis the nation has ever faced, with currency devalued by 90 percent and some citizens attempting to storm local banks that have shut down rather than allow depositors to withdraw their savings. The Iraq-Lebanon pipeline suffers from wear and cracks, according to a report by L’Orient Today, and is also regularly sabotaged by individuals who use special pumps to withdraw oil they then sell in the local market. A fisherman in Akkar shared a video of the oil spill from the leaking Iraqi oil pipeline, which passes through Syria and then crosses Akkar, with L’Orient Today, lamenting the country’s latest disaster. “The water’s smell is foul, and the oil has polluted our nets and threatened the remaining fish population,” the fisherman wrote, urging the Tripoli oil facilities to “stop this leakage immediately.”

$15.4bn lost to oil production shortfalls in 2022 --Nigeria’s oil production averaged 1.34 million barrels per day in the first 10 months of 2022 against the 2022 Budget benchmark of 1.88 million barrels per day, costing the nation about 161.58 million barrels in lost production. At an average crude oil price of $95 per barrel it means the country lost about $15.35 billion in estimated earnings. Latest data by the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, NUPRC, showed that total oil production for the first ten months was 409.94 million barrels against the budget provision of 571.5 million barrels. The data also showed that oil production fell in the first 10 months of 2022 by 21.37 percent when compared to 497.55 million barrels of oil produced over a similar period in 2021. According to the Budget Office, Gross Oil Revenue amounting to N2,172.35 billion was collected in the first half of 2022 as against N4,684.98 billion prorate budget projection for the period. This denotes a decrease of N2,512.63 billion (53.63 percent) below the 2022 half year budget estimate. The agency stated that it was, however, an increase of N272.56 billion (14.35 percent) above the actual half year gross oil revenue performance reported in 2021. A breakdown of the revenue by sub-head showed that only Crude Oil and Gas Sales of N489.38 billion surpassed its half year projection of N437.03 billion by N52.35 billion (11.98 percent). It stated that other Oil Revenue items fell below their respective half year projections. Petroleum Profit and Gas Taxes of N909.56 billion, Royalties (Oil & Gas) of N750.93 billion, Concessional Rentals of N1.88 billion, Gas Flared Penalty of N39.19 billion, Incidental Oil Revenue (Royalty Recovery & Marginal Field Licenses) of N22.04 billion and Miscellaneous (Pipeline fees etc.) of N7.94 billion fell below their half year projections of N2,786.15 billion, N1,277.0 billion, N3.21 billion, N55.27 billion, N97.54 billion and N28.78 billion by N1,876.59 billion (67.35 percent), N526.07 billion (41.20 percent), N1.32 billion (41.26 percent), N16.08 billion (29.09 percent), N75.51 billion (77.41 percent) and N20.84 billion (72.40 percent) respectively.

Illegal pipelines, oil theft: SERAP drags Buhari to ECOWAS Court - THE Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, yesterday, sued the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration over its failure to probe the operations of illegal oil pipelines between 2001 and 2022, as well as mention the name and prosecute those suspected to be involved. The suit was filed by Eric Dooh, (who is suing for himself as a leader of the Goi Community in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, and on behalf of the Goi Community), and 15 other concerned Nigerians. The suit, filed on their behalf by SERAP lawyer, Kolawole Oluwadare, followed recent reports of the discovery of at least 58 illegal oil pipelines used to steal the country’s oil wealth. In the Suit filed last Friday before the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, the Plaintiffs are seeking “an order directing and compelling the Buhari government to immediately probe the reports of operations of illegal pipelines and oil theft, name and prosecute suspected perpetrators.” The Plaintiffs also sought: “An order directing and compelling the Buhari government to fully recover any proceeds of crime, and to respect, protect, and fulfil the human rights of the people of Niger Delta that have continued to suffer the effects of oil theft by non-state actors.” In the suit, the Plaintiffs argued that “The Buhari government is failing to uphold its international legal obligations to ensure that the country’s oil wealth is used solely for the benefit of Nigerians and that the wealth does not end up in private pockets. “Poor and socio-economically vulnerable Nigerians have continued to pay the price for the stealing of the country’s oil wealth apparently by both state and non-state actors. “Despite the country’s substantial oil wealth, successive governments have largely squandered the opportunity to use the wealth to improve the lives and well-being of ordinary Nigerians. “The illegal pipelines have been operated for many years without notice, implying a flagrant violation of international human rights obligations to ensure the proper, effective and efficient management of the country’s wealth and natural resources.” Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

CNPC’s Tarim Oilfield constantly increases oil, natural gas output - The Tarim Oilfield, operated by the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), China's leading oil and gas producer, has produced 6.6 million tons of crude oil so far this year, a record high, China Media Group (CMG) reported on Sunday. The “Hade-Fuman” bloc of the oilfield has recently accelerated its production, with crude oil production capacity rising by an additional 500,000 tons per year, the report said, citing CNPC. The bloc has produced 2.66 million tons so far this year, increasing 340,000 tons year-on-year, laying a foundation for the overall new record of crude oil output by the oilfield, Li Xuguang, the head of the “Hade-Fuman” oil and gas production bloc said. Located in Tarim Basin, the Tarim oilfield is a major petroliferous basin in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The oilfield’s extra-deep gas field, the Kela-Keshen gas field, has produced more than 200 billion cubic meters of natural gas as of November 11, 2022, providing stable gas supplies to the country’s West-to-East Gas Transmission Pipeline, significantly contributing to China's green and low-carbon development. In 2022, the Tarim Oilfield stepped up efforts to expand its production capacity, with 115 new oil wells being dug and all have entered operation. A total of 30 8,000-meter extra-deep wells have completed drilling, also a record high, CNPC said. The drilling period for the 8,000-meter extra-deep wells has been shortened to 360 days from 600 days, the report said, citing a senior oilfield engineer. The Tarim Oilfield is the largest ultra-deep oil and gas field in China, and a significant natural gas source of the country's West-to-East Gas Transmission Pipeline. At present, the oilfield’s daily production of crude oil reaches 20,000 tons and natural gas is 92 million cubic meters. It is expected that the annual oil and gas production of the oilfield will exceed 33 million tons.

UAE moves up oil production capacity expansion to 2027 - The board of Abu Dhabi's ADNOC endorsed plans on Monday to bring forward the company's five million barrel per day oil production capacity expansion to 2027 from a previous target of 2030, the state oil firm said in a statement. The new date will provide ADNOC with the flexibility to meet rising global energy demand, it said. The United Arab Emirates' hydrocarbon reserves increased by 2 billion stock tank barrels (STB) of oil and 1 trillion standard cubic feet (TSCF)of natural gas in 2022. The additional reserves increase the UAE's reserve base to 113 billion STB of oil and 290 TSCF of natural gas, ADNOC said.

Iraq plans to start expanding oil export capacity from next year, official says --Iraq, OPEC’s second largest producer, plans to start increasing oil export capacity from its southern ports from next year to add a total of 1 million to 1.5 million barrels a day by 2025, according to its OPEC delegate. The project involves rehabilitating the southern Khor Al-Amaya port and marine pipelines, Mohammed Saadoon, Iraq’s national representative at OPEC and a deputy director general of the state-run oil marketing company known as SOMO, said in an interview on state-run Iraqiya TV. Export capacity from southern ports is due to increase between 150,000 to 250,000 barrels a day from next year, he said. Iraq exported 3.293 million barrels a day from its southern ports in October, according to the oil ministry. Iraq is trying to boost revenue from oil and entice global companies to work in the country after decades of turmoil marked by wars, sanctions and militant attacks. The output cuts decided by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies last month won’t affect Iraq’s oil exports, Saadoon said. Iraq’s oil sales price has averaged $97 a barrel so far this year, he said. The oil ministry is also pursuing plans to boost oil production to 5 million-5.5 million barrels a day by 2028, Saadoon said. The country produces 4.652 million barrels a day, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani said on November 12.

Global Crude Oil Inventories Rising -Global crude oil inventories have been rising prior to a European embargo on Russian crude imports due to take effect on December 5, energy and environmental geo-analytics company Kayrros noted in a new report sent to Rigzone. “Global onshore crude oil inventories built by nearly 70 million barrels in the last four weeks, or close to 2.5 million barrels per day, reaching the highest weekly average since September 2021,” Kayrros stated in the report. “On its face, the gain does not appear to support calls for increased OPEC output ahead of the producer group’s December 4 meeting and the coming into effect of the EU embargo on Russian crude imports on December 5,” Kayrros added. According to Kayrros, China alone accounted for more than half of the estimated build in global onshore crude oil stockpiles. “Its crude inventories gained roughly 36 million barrels from end-October to end-November, or ~1.3 million barrels per day, led by East China, Shandong Province and Southern China,” Kayrros said. European onshore crude oil inventories also edged up in the last four weeks to reach their highest level since July 2021, Kayrros outlined. “By end-November, the region’s crude stocks were roughly on par with their pre-Covid levels at this time of year,” the company stated. Middle East and North Africa crude oil inventories also “extended the rising trend begun in early August”, Kayrros noted, adding that the region grew by an estimated nine million barrels in the last four weeks. “The UAE, recently described in media reports as angling for an increase in OPEC production targets, led the latest build,” Kayrros highlighted. In a separate report sent to Rigzone earlier this month, Kayrros noted that crude oil inventories held in onshore crude tanks had been edging lower. “Most recently, a drop in Japanese stocks, partially reversing earlier builds, has been leading the global decline,” Kayrros stated in that report. In a statement sent to Rigzone last month, Kayrros said global onshore crude stocks had been flat for several weeks and crude supply and demand in balanc

Oil Rebounds From China Crash On OPEC+ Production Cut Headlines - Last week we saw oil prices dump and pump on rapidly denied rumors (reported by WSJ) of an OPEC production hike. At the time we tweeted our expectations...If anything MBS will cut more Fast forward a few days and we see a headline, via Eurasia Group, claiming that discussions of OPEC production cuts are under discussion...“Given overall market conditions, OPEC+ will seriously consider a new production cut at its upcoming meeting, particularly if crude prices fall much below their current level in the next week,” analysts at Eurasia Group say in report.“Ultimately, the decision will depend on the trajectory of the oil price when OPEC+ meets and how much disruption is evident in markets because of the EU sanctions”To be frank, this is just pure speculation and not even a qualified 'fake leak' strawman from OPEC (like the WSJ article last week), but it has prompted a response in oil markets.WTI is trading back at $77, up almost 1% on the day now, after the overnight puke on the heels of the chaos seen in China raising anxiety about demand...

Oil Markets May Be Misjudging News of China Lockdown - Oil markets may be misjudging news of China’s lockdown, according to a new market note sent to Rigzone by Rystad Energy late Monday. In the note, Rystad said its analysis of the impact of the latest lockdowns, as reflected in real-time traffic activity, shows their likely effect on China’s short-term oil demand, particularly in transportation, is likely to be minor. “China’s nationwide road traffic has so far been resilient despite the latest round of lockdowns,” Rystad Energy Senior Vice President Claudio Galimberti stated in the note. “Reported Covid-19 cases have reached new highs in mainland China, with daily infection numbers surpassing their previous April peak and surging above 40,000 on November 28,” he added. “The latest surge of infections has led to new lockdowns and movement restrictions of varying magnitude being imposed across several of China’s largest cities, including Guangzhou, Chongqing and Beijing,” Galimberti continued. The Rystad VP highlighted that real-time data on mainland Chinese road activity indicates a small downturn in country level road traffic during the fourth week of November, “sliding from 97 percent to 95 percent of 2019 levels”. “By comparison, the country level road traffic index dropped to around 90 percent in April 2022 amid the large-scale Shanghai lockdown,” Galimberti said in the note. “Over the last few days, we have already seen a rebound in road activity as certain short-lived lockdown measures have been eased and the traffic index has thereafter climbed back to 98 percent,” he added. Galimberti pointed out, however, that Chinese road traffic remains well below comparable 2020 and 2021 levels “as persistent lockdowns and China’s growth slowdown weigh on road traffic”. “In essence, so far, the latest round of lockdowns appears to be mimicking previous ones, with nationwide road traffic only marginally affected while selected provinces undergoing comparatively severe lockdowns to try and suppress Covid outbreaks,” Galimberti said. “However, the street protests against lockdowns emerging in various parts of the country are a novelty and could become a source of further disruption in the coming days,” he added. According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), China’s daily confirmed Covid-19 case peak was seen on May 28, 2022, at 94,753. The country has seen more than 9.5 million confirmed cases of Covid-19, with over 30,000 deaths, WHO figures show. As of November 21, China has administered a total of 3.4 billion vaccine doses, according to WHO data.

Defying forecasts, crude oil prices wiped out most of this year's gains and could head lower - Oil prices are defying expectations and are barely higher on the year, as the outlook for oil demand continues to deteriorate for now. West Texas Intermediate crude futures for January settled higher Monday at $77.24 per barrel, following a drop to $73.60 per barrel, the lowest price since last December. WTI was up 2.2% for the year, after briefly turning negative earlier Monday. Gasoline prices at the pump have also been falling dramatically and could be cheaper than last year for many Americans by Christmas, according to an outlook from the Oil Price Information Service. On Monday, the national average was $3.546 per gallon of regular unleaded fuel, down from $3.662 a week ago but still higher than the $3.394 a year ago, according to AAA. China's Covid latest lockdowns have significantly changed the outlook for oil, which some experts had predicted could spike to $150 per barrel or more after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. While crude futures briefly wiped out their gains for 2022 Monday morning, they had been as much as 70% higher on the year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent WTI to about $130 a barrel last March. China's lockdowns and the rare protests against Beijing this weekend have raised more doubt about the outlook for the country's already weakened economy. "We think the recessionary [forces] around the world, particularly in the three largest economies, are dominating the macro environment for the year as a whole, and we think that the issues we've been identifying as relatively bumpy in the period ahead are going to remain," said Ed Morse, global head of commodities research at Citigroup. "Right now, we are looking at macro headwinds rather than tailwinds." Morse was one of the more bearish strategists on Wall Street in 2022, but he said the latest market developments and the hit to major economies made even his forecast too bullish. He had revised his outlook higher at the end of the third quarter, based on the shift by OPEC+ to focus on prices and the pending ban of Russian crude by Europe. The oil market has been focused on those two potential catalysts for higher prices, but the impact on demand from the slowdown in China and new lockdowns has outweighed concerns about supply for now. The European Union's ban on purchases of seaborne Russian oil takes place Dec. 5. The EU is also expected to announce price caps for Russian crude. OPEC+ is also a factor. The group includes OPEC, plus other producers, including Russia. The group surprised the market in October when it approved a production cut of 2 million barrels a day. "We're waiting to see if they signal even deeper cuts. There were rumors in the market about that happening," Brent futures , the international benchmark, was lower Monday afternoon at $83.19 per barrel, recovering from $80.61 per barrel, the lowest price since January.

US Urgently Mediating Between Turkey & Syrian Kurds To Prevent Ground Offensive - Turkey has reportedly laid out its conditions for refraining from a ground offensive against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria, Kurdish media reported.According to local sources, the Turkish bombardment – although ongoing – has decreased significantly as of the last few days. The sources added that this is due to the current US mediation between Turkey and the Kurdish militant group. "Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar received the US ambassador, Jeffry L. Flake, at the ministry’s headquarters in Ankara," the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement on 24 November, without further clarification. During the meeting, the US ambassador reportedly offered a 30-kilometer pullback of Kurdish forces to prevent Turkey from launching its promised ground offensive. According to a Kurdish media report, however, Ankara has not only demanded a 30-kilometer withdrawal of the SDF from Turkey’s borders, but also that all members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Syria be handed over to Turkish custody.The report also states that Turkey has demanded "the allocation of partial oil revenues in SDF-controlled areas for the benefit of factions loyal to Ankara [and the areas under their control]," referring to the Syrian National Army (SNA) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA).Ankara has also requested the establishment of "observation points," either independent ones or joined by the US coalition, to allow Turkey to "monitor weapons transfers [following the SDF withdrawal]."The Kurdish report also states that Ankara is willing to "substitute" all of its conditions with a handover "of the entire area" to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). The report also accused Turkey of having a secret agreement with Russia that would allow it to occupy more Syrian territory. This could be due to Russian pressure on the Kurdish militants to withdraw.While the US mediates between Turkey and the Kurds, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Friday that a Turkish ground offensive in Syria is still imminent and will begin "when the time comes."Moreover, Erdogan identified the northern Syrian towns of Ras al-Ain, Manbij, and Ain al-Arab (Kobane), as the site of the upcoming ground offensive. According to Turkish Interior Minister Suleiman Soylu, the order for the Istanbul bombing was taken in Manbij.

Iran Demands US Team Be Kicked Out Of World Cup Over Altered Flag - Iran is demanding that the US Soccer team be disqualified from the World Cup going into Tuesday's much anticipated US-Iran match, after more off-field controversy has sent tensions to boiling point. A Saturday social media post across the official social media accounts of the US Soccer Federation (USSF), including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram - featured an altered version of the Iranian national flag without the Islamic emblem in the center. US Soccer said it was to show solidarity with the ongoing 'anti-hijab' protest movement which has been raging for over two months inside Iran. "We wanted to show our support for the women in Iran with our graphic for 24 hours," the US Soccer federation said. The USSF said this was in "support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights."In response, Iran's soccer federation said the move "disrespected the national flag of Islamic Republic of Iran," and additionally that it was "unethical and against international law." It is driving outrage inside Iran, given that state media is describing that the US is "removing the symbol of Allah" from the Iranian flag. According to a description in the Associated Press: The Islamic Republic emblem, designed in 1980, is four curves with a sword between them. It represents the Islamic saying: "There is no god but God." It also resembles a tulip or lotus.In response, on Sunday Iran state media called for the US team to be immediately booted from the World Cup for the intentionally "distorted image" of the flag. Tasnim news agency said in a statement, "By posting a distorted image of the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran on its official account, the US football team breached the FIFA charter, for which a 10-game suspension is the appropriate penalty." It emphasized:

Satellite Imagery Shows Extensive Destruction Of Ukraine Power Grid - It was only a matter of time. The recent Russian pull-back of troops clearly indicated a broad shift in tactics, and the one thing that the Kremlin avoided for several months seemed like the next most logical step - Full spectrum strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure. Initially, Ukraine's media spin suggested that the precision strikes were "ineffective", with western news outlets showing only a handful of images of craters in streets and some scarred apartment buildings. There were limited admissions of damage to the power and water grids, but Ukraine claimed that these systems would be back and functional within days. This did not happen. Not surprisingly, Ukraine suffered far more damage to their utilities than the government and media let on. Later estimates ranged from 60% to 80% of the nation's grid destroyed or unusable and the latest satellite photos of active lights at night support this. Below, we can see lights across Ukraine on February 24th at the start of the war. Next, we have an image taken from November 24th. More than half the nation is in total darkness and the comparison to neighboring countries is stark. For the majority of the war Ukraine enjoyed near full use of their power grid, internet, water, gas, and other amenities, which is highly unusual during an invasion. The reasons for Vladimir Putin seeking to avoid damage to infrastructure are unknown, but public optics are the most likely explanation. With power resources nearly destroyed, the citizenry of Ukraine is facing a long cold winter with little to no relief in sight.No doubt the media will portray this as a cold weather holocaust, though, elimination of infrastructure is usually the first measure of a large scale attack. It is standard operating procedure for the US military, for example. At this point, the coldest temperatures have yet to hit Ukraine, with average lows of 21°F (-6°C) in December. This kind of weather is not a problem with infrastructure intact, but with the grid down there will be chaos.Water pipes will freeze and bust across major population centers, leaving only well water. The effects of the cold will be cumulative, and without heating and electric most other operations including economic operations will grind to a halt. Ukraine's population will have gone from relative comfort to brutal survival in the span of a couple months. The next most obvious outcome is a refugee crisis, with millions of people seeking shelter in neighboring countries in order to escape the cold. Though mainstream analysts are finally admitting to the grid problem, there is still very little coverage of the actual consequences we are about to witness. The assertions that Ukraine is "winning" the war are harder to sell while at the same time acknowledging the massive economic and humanitarian disaster that is escalating in the wake of supposed victory.

20 NATO States "Pretty Tapped Out" After Weapons Transfers To Ukraine - Two-thirds of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have depleted their stockpiles by sending weapons to Kiev, according to an alliance official. Even larger NATO states are struggling to meet the demands of Ukraine’s war effort. The New York Times reported on Sunday the North Atlantic alliance is struggling to meet Kiev’s battlefield needs. According to one NATO official, 20 out of 30 members are "pretty tapped out" regarding their ability to supply Ukraine with additional weapons. While larger states like the US, France, Germany, and Italy have the ability to arm Ukraine, those governments have also resisted sending specific weapons systems requested by Kiev. Ukraine has sought long-range surface-to-surface missiles known as ATACMS from Washington. However, the White House has rebuffed the request out of concerns the munitions could be used to hit Russian territory. Part of the cause of the dwindling arms supply is the massive demand for artillery. Currently, Ukrainian forces are firing thousands of rounds daily, but the US can only produce 15,000 rounds per month. Camille Grand, a defense expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told NYT, "[a] day in Ukraine is a month or more in Afghanistan."The increased demand for weapons has been a significant boon for the Western arms industry. "Taking into account the realities of the ongoing war in Ukraine and the visible attitude of many countries aimed at increased spending in the field of defense budgets, there is a real chance to enter new markets and increase export revenues in the coming years," said Sebastian Chwalek, CEO of Poland’s PGZ, an entity that owns multiple arms manufacturers. US arms makers are also profiting off the war. In May, during a visit to a Lockheed Martin plant, President Joe Biden said Washington would increase the number of weapons the US would produce. The President said his plan to ramp up production would not come cheap. The American arms profiteering has upset some Europeans. According to POLITICO, one European official said, "the fact is, if you look at it soberly, the country that is most profiting from this war is the US because they are selling more gas and at higher prices, and because they are selling more weapons."

“Instructions from Kiev”: Ukraine Propaganda Messaging --by Yves Smith -Below we are reproducing a post from Ukraine Telegram, along with an assessment from Colonel Douglas Macgregor. A long-standing military colleague sent the material to Macgregor, who deems it to be authentic.One thing that is striking about the text of Ukraine gaslighting messaging points is the focus on creating dissent in the military with the intent of achieving regime change in Moscow. One thing I have inferred despite my considerable distance from Russian Telegram is the degree to which it seems to be highly critical of the Russian government’s conduct of the war. This seems to go beyond possible self-selection. Yes, ex-soldiers and other war nerds can no doubt come up with mistakes made, as well as having a general hankering for more aggressive action. Mind you, Russia is now moving into that footing with its dissection of Ukraine’s electrical grid. That is presumably be followed sometime in the winter with an increase in the tempo of the war. But Surovikin promised a grinding war. If that translates into grinding in more places, and faster loss of Ukraine/Western men and materiel, will that be kinetic enough to make these armchair generals happy?What has struck me with my limited contact with Russian Telegram is that its members seem too often to become overwrought about minor setbacks, like the loss of three Russian helicopters at an airbase due to apparent sabotage. Yes, this is bad and suggests not enough care was taken to prevent such an event (although one could easily argue given the ferocity of Ukraine intent that the level of successful terrorist operations has been comparatively modest). But the level of upset on Telegram seemed wildly disproportionate, and hence not organic…particularly given that the Western press also flogged the story.Some of the messaging in the Western press is also so uniform as to raise questions about how so many journalists can suddenly be thinking the same thing. For instance, now that they can’t not mention Russia’s destruction of Ukraine’s electrical grid, the spin is that this move is an act of desperation by Russia, a last-ditch effort to salvage its failing campaign….which will clearly fizzle into nothing when they run out of missiles.Now to Macgregor, who I hope you will thank for letting me publish his finding. Hoisted from e-mail:The instructions below from the Kiev Government to its propaganda organs read like talking points for the Washington Post, New York Times, and most of the major western media. These points were lifted from a Ukrainian telegram channel. The stories that appear in Western media begin with the utterly false and misleading assertions on the list below. Encouraged by Western Governments, Western Journalists eagerly adopt them and present the fairy tales that proceed from them as factual.Trotsky who distinguished himself during the Russian Civil War and the Russian Invasion of Poland with the creation of similarly effective lies and fabrications would be enormously proud of Zalenskiy and the work he and his apparatus are doing.

Kenya hit by condom shortage over taxes – activists -- Civil society groups in Kenya are complaining about a chronic shortage of free condoms across the country. The life-saving products are usually imported and distributed for free but due to high taxes suppliers are no longer providing Kenya with free condoms. The activists want the government to remove taxes on the products as it will help in reducing new HIV infections. Kenya needs about 455 million condoms annually, but the government is only able to procure 150 million. Condoms are central to campaigns to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia. However, for the last two years, a specific brand that the government has been distributing for free has been hard to find in public hospitals across Kenya. Civil society groups have put the blame on the government’s high import taxes. A packet that has three condoms goes for about $1 – a cost too high for many. Kenya records about 34,000 new HIV infections annually. However, since 2020, there has been a steady increase especially among sex workers. And there are fears that, Kenya could roll back on the gains made over the years in tackling HIV.

In coming global recession, job cuts won't mean mass layoffs: Report - The global economy is stuttering, and some of the world’s biggest names are already laying off thousands of employees. But there’s a glimmer of good news: This time around, workers have a better-than-usual shot at holding onto their jobs if recession arrives. Almost three years after Covid-19 hit, companies around the world still complain that they can’t get the talent they need. They worry about labour shortages that will likely last beyond not just the pandemic, but the next downturn too. Deeper forces, such as changes in population and immigration, are shrinking the pool of workers they can hire from. All of this means that despite weakening demand for their goods and services, many businesses are looking to retain or even add staff, rather than let them go — hoarding labour that they know they’ll need once the economy starts accelerating again. There have been plenty of high-profile lay-off announcements lately, from the likes of Amazon and Goldman Sachs Group. But they may prove to be outliers. That would make the coming economic slowdown very different, and in some ways less painful, than the ones the world has gotten used to. Bloomberg Economics projects that unemployment will rise by about 3.3 million across developed economies by 2024, a period in which most are expected to suffer recessions. While that’s a lot of lost jobs, it’s fewer than the 5.1 million shed in the relatively mild downturn that began in 2001, and is dwarfed by the scale of the past two global slumps. What’s more, the starting point for employment is historically strong. The jobless rate in major developed economies, at 4.4 per cent in September, is the lowest since the early 1980s, said the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. This time, white-collar industries including business services, tech, banking, and real estate, where staffing numbers are far above pre-Covid levels and layoffs have already begun, may be more vulnerable to job cuts.

Universities Australia volunteers to channel students into war drive - Behind the backs of students, Universities Australia (UA), the body representing the country’s university managements, has urged the Albanese Labor government to establish “internships” to funnel students—including international students—into the Australian military. UA is seeking to involve the 39 public universities more fully into preparations for Australian participation in US-led wars, by also ramping up their partnerships with weapons makers and military research contracts with the Australian and US governments. A Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 helicopter and an Australian Defence Force MRH90 land at Sam Hill Airfield in Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area in Central Queensland [Photo: Australian Department of Defence] UA presented a submission to the government’s “Defence Strategic Review.” The submission marks a new stage in integrating Australian universities into the military-intelligence apparatus. UA proposes increasing military-funded undergraduate places at universities. It calls for defence sponsorship of more students who would be committed to military service after graduation, and internships in defence organisations. The submission also effectively offers up students from “strategic allies” as military recruits. It advocates “opening up currently restricted internships and roles to the 100,000+ international students from allied countries studying in Australia [emphasis added].” UA highlights that a quarter of Australia’s 400,000 international students come from “Australia’s key strategic allies”: India, Japan, UK, Canada and the US. The Albanese government’s review aims to “meet the nation’s security challenges through to 2033 and beyond.” It is preparing a huge expansion of military spending on top of the AUKUS plans to acquire long-range nuclear-powered submarines, hyper-sonic missiles and other weaponry from the US and UK for use against China. The review is part of the Albanese government’s bid to hold up its end of US-led plans for war against China—plans in which Australia is key in the Indo-Pacific region—as well as participation in the US-NATO imperialist war already underway against Russia in Ukraine. Recommendations from the review are expected to be delivered in early 2023 by ex-Labor Defence Minister Professor Stephen Smith and former Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston. But the Labor government is anxious to bolster Australia’s role in US war aims well before the review is finalised.

New Zealand government reaffirms support for US-NATO war against Russia - Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has been invited to speak by video-link to the New Zealand parliament, as Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party-led government continues and deepens its support for the US-NATO imperialist war against Russia in Ukraine. The invitation was publicly reported on November 22, although a date has not yet been announced. Underscoring its significance is the fact that Zelensky will be only the second world leader ever to speak to the New Zealand parliament (the first was Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2011). New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Defence Minister Peeni Henare announcing the deployment of 120 more troops to Britain to train Ukrainian forces. August 15, 2022. [Photo: Jacinda Ardern] The announcement follows New Zealand defence minister Peeni Henare’s visit to Ukraine, which the government revealed on November 20. He met with Ukraine’s defence minister Oleksii Reznikov in Kiev and discussed New Zealand’s contribution to the war, which includes 120 NZ soldiers training Ukrainian troops in the UK, and $60 million in military and other support. While in Europe, Henare also visited the UK, where he spoke with his British counterpart Ben Wallace about the war against Russia, and extended the deployment of 66 NZ soldiers in the UK as part of the training mission until the end of July 2023. New Zealand also has a dozen military personnel involved in intelligence operations relating to the war based in the UK, and another 12 embedded with NATO in Europe assisting with “administration support” and logistics. Henare said in a statement that visiting Kiev had sent a message that “our support for the Ukrainian defensive effort against Russia’s illegal invasion is unwavering.” While saying “it is important to push for de-escalation and diplomacy,” Henare also expressed support for the Ukrainian regime’s “mind set of we can win, we will win, and we must win.” Kiev has rejected negotiations to end the fighting unless Russia meets its demand for a complete demobilisation and withdrawal. The NZ government’s statements align with the US and NATO propaganda that presents Ukraine’s far-right regime as the blameless victim of “Russian aggression.” In reality, Vladimir Putin’s disastrous invasion was deliberately provoked by the imperialist powers; it was a desperate response to NATO’s military build-up, encirclement and threats against Russia. The drive to war sharply accelerated after the imperialist powers in Europe and the US engineered a coup in Kiev in 2014, bringing to power a viciously anti-Russian regime backed by fascists, and sparking a civil war and the break-away of Crimea and two eastern provinces. Washington is using Ukraine’s population as cannon fodder to weaken Russia militarily in what are the initial stages of a Third World War for the redivision of the planet. The aim of the US is nothing less than the subjugation of the entire Eurasian landmass. War against Russia is the antechamber to war with China, which Washington considers its main economic and geopolitical threat.

Brazil and Argentina Just Agreed to Use Local Currencies for Bilateral Energy Trade, In Yet Another Snub for US Dollar --As NC readers are well aware (in large part thanks to Michael Hudson’s comprehensive coverage of the topic), the world is gradually dedollarizing. The US government’s decision to weaponize its own currency in its escalating tête-à-tête with Russia has merely served to intensify the race among countries in the global south to find alternative payment arrangements that do not include the greenback. But as Yves recently pointed out, with input from payments systems expert Clive, replacing the dollar as global reserve currency is likely to be a long, painstaking process, “with a ton of moving parts”:Right now, key countries are starting to do large bi-lateral transactions involving non-dollar currencies. That’s a start but a long way from a new system. Remember it took two world wars and a Great Depression for the dollar to dethrone sterling, and that was merely replacing one dominant trade currency with another, and not potentially devising a new system that does not depend on the control and backing of a single central bank.That all said, when two of the largest countries on the American continent, Brazil and Argentina, sign an agreement to establish a bilateral payment system in local currencies for the purchase and sale of electricity, it is worth taking note.Said agreement formed part of an extension to the Energy Exchange Memorandum signed by the governments of the two countries last week. The memorandum, which regulates the supply of electricity and gas between the two countries, was first signed in 2019 and was set to expire at the end of this year. The new agreement extends the memorandum until 2025, after which it will be automatically renewed every four years.The document was signed by Argentina’s Secretary of Energy, Flavia Royon, the Argentine Ambassador to Brazil, Daniel Scioli and the Brazilian Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy under outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro, Hailton Madureira de Almeida.If anything, one can expect Lula’s incoming government to be even more enthusiastic about bilateral currency agreements in Latin America. Lula himself has called for the creation of a single currency for Latin America called the “sur”, based on the Bancor international currency union proposed by Keynes. According to the proposal, first floated by Fernando Haddad, a former mayor of Sao Paulo and ex-presidential candidate of the left-wing Workers’ Party (PT), the sur would function as a wholesale central bank digital currency linking up the region’s national currencies.The project is still very much in its infancy and would probably face insurmountable technical, political and economic obstacles. It is also highly questionable whether a CBDC is even desirable, as I have argued in numerous articles (starting with this one). But the idea has nonethelessgained the approval of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, so the political momentum is growing.The bilateral currency arrangement between Brazil and Argentina has been on the cards for some time. In 2008, both countries agreed to stop requiring bilateral trade to be paid for in dollars, albeit with limited impact. Then, at an event in Sao Paolo in July this year, the respective heads of the Industrial Organization of Argentina (UIA) and the Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo (FIESP) endorsed a proposal to pay for electricity in local currencies. At the event, Argentine Minister of Productive Development, Daniel Scioli, said the use of local currencies for bilateral energy trade was part of a raft of policies designed to reduce dependence on the dollar.

EU Gets Tough on China as US Steals European Industry -European leaders have finally woken up to the fact that Washington is benefitting at their expense with the US/NATO proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. Despite their economies being harmed by Washington, the EU continues to take a much tougher stance against Beijing.NATO leaders are set to meet Nov. 29-30 in Bucharest and will discuss ways to “reduce dependency” on China. At the same time, EU leaders are debating how to deal with their US “ally” coaxing European industry to American shores.Ahead of French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Washington, Paris is signaling that Europe would be more willing to go along with a more hardline China stance if the US backs down on efforts to poach European industry with its subsidies in the Inflation Reduction Act. Yet, there are reasons to believe that’s a dead end, and some Europeans are already waving the white flag.While the EU is suddenly in emergency mode over its industry being wiped out by American rivals – something that’s been obvious to many for months – its focus all year has been on Moscow and Beijing. Here’s a brief roundup of the China focus:The bloc is busy hammering out an Anti-Coercion Instrument, which aims to take countermeasures against outside countries that attempt to pressure bloc states using the member states’ economic dependencies. China, which implemented a de facto trade embargo against Lithuania after it allowed Taiwan to open a liaison office in Vilnius, is widely seen as the primary target of the rule.European lawmakers are also finalizing new rules to curb acquisitions or bids for public contracts by subsidized foreign companies. Again it is widely believed the rules are aimed primarily at China. It came on the heels of the uproar over Chinese efforts to obtain a controlling stake in a Hamburg port terminal. In the end, Berlin approved a sale of 24.9% of the terminal to Cosco.American companies could also face scrutiny from the new legislation due to the Inflation Reduction Act, which has subsidies for US-based manufacturers of electric cars, batteries and renewable energy products and consumers who buy such American-made products. But it would only apply to American companies if they try to buy EU companies or in public procurement bids and not in the case of EU companies relocating production or building of future factories.China’s Global Times argues that Europe should blame the US for its decline in competitiveness but doesn’t believe that will be the case:

COVID Lockdown Protests Erupt In Beijing, Xinjiang After Deadly Fire - Protests have erupted in Beijing and the far western Xinjiang region over COVID-19 lockdowns and a deadly fire on Thursday in a high-rise building in Urumqi that killed 10 people (with some reports putting the number as high as 40). Crowds took to the street in Urumqi, the capitol of Xinjiang, with protesters chanting "End the lockdown!" while pumping their fists in the air, following the circulation of videos of the fire on Chinese social media on Friday night. Protest videos show people in a plaza singing China's national anthem - particularly the line: "Rise up, those who refuse to be slaves!" Others shouted that they did not want lockdowns. In the northern Beijing district of Tiantongyuan, residents tore down signs and took to the streets.Reuters verified that the footage was published from Urumqi, where many of its 4 million residents have been under some of the country's longest lockdowns, barred from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days.In the capital of Beijing 2,700 km (1,678 miles) away, some residents under lockdown staged small-scale protests or confronted their local officials over movement restrictions placed on them, with some successfully pressuring them into lifting them ahead of a schedule. –Reuters

Will Japan and South Korea Learn From US Allies in Europe? -Japan and South Korea are facing difficult decisions over Washington’s intensifying conflict with Beijing. The US is working to get both countries to join efforts to economically isolate and militarily contain China.Seoul and Tokyo need look no further than how Washington’s allies in Europe are suffering in their efforts against Russia for an example of the sacrifices the US will demand. And yet right-wing governments in both Japan and South Korea seem to be sleepwalking into frontline roles in an unwinnable conflict that could decimate their economies.While Tokyo and Seoul have been pragmatic in their dealings with Russia, early indications are they’re going to have a more challenging time navigating what’s to come in the US economic war against China.After a meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit earlier this month, the leaders from the US, Japan, and South Korea issued a joint statement against China, calling for “maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” The statement added:President Biden reiterated that the U.S. commitment to defend Japan and the ROK is ironclad and backed by the full range of capabilities, including nuclear … The Leaders strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in waters of the Indo-Pacific, including through unlawful maritime claims, militarization of reclaimed features, and coercive activities.Washington’s has done all it can to gin up controversy over the previously-uncontroversial “One China” policy with regards to Taiwan. Billions of dollars in military aid goes to Taiwan, as did one Nancy Pelosi. The manufactured crisis over Taiwan and Chinese “aggression” are now the stated reasons for military buildups in South Korea and Japan (and elsewhere, such as Guam).According to Kyodo News, Tokyo is working on new long-range missiles that would be able to reach parts of China. Toshiyuki Shikata, a former lieutenant general in the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, told Stars and Stripes:It is necessary to change [the constitution], but it is important that the political parties come together. It is not just about changing the capacity of the missiles; it’s about changing the concept of national security … If China attacks Taiwan, it will threaten the lives of the Japanese. Japan has no choice but to reinforce their weapons.Prime Minister Kishida Fumio of Japan is a prominent China hawk, often claiming that “Ukraine today could be East Asia tomorrow” and promoting the US accusation that Beijing is planning an “unprovoked” invasion of Taiwan.Japan’s moves ignore Article 9 of the country’s constitution stating that its people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes,” but the threat is apparently too big to ignore. 

Strong support for an international mass movement against war at Germany’s University of Leipzig - In the run-up to the international webinar against war hosted by the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) on December 10, IYSSE members spoke to workers and young people in Leipzig about the danger of nuclear war. At the webinar, socialists from many countries and different continents will discuss an international strategy to avert the upcoming world war and to build a mass movement in the youth based on the working class. IYSSE members and supporters posted hundreds of posters around the city.The IYSSE campaign won a strong response. An American student studying at the Leipzig University of Commerce was particularly concerned that the war in Ukraine is expanding into an all-out war between the NATO powers and Russia: “My father is in the US Army and was recently stationed in Poland to train Polish troops. Why would the US send soldiers to Poland if it isn’t going to break out there soon?”“I think this webinar will be great for stopping the war,” said Khalil, who spoke to us in English, in front of the Albertina Library of the University of Leipzig. “We as a population do not want war anywhere in the world. But people suffer under national egoism when someone says: ‘This is my country.’ This should not be. Everywhere you see double standards. War also takes place in Myanmar and Palestine, but this isn’t covered by most media outlets.”In front of the Faculty of Sports Science, the IYSSE spoke with two young students from India, who are also very concerned about the development of the war and would like to participate in the webinar. One of them said: “It is a global development and a global problem. Tensions are growing everywhere. We come from India, the government is also rearming and preparing for a war against China.” Ariana comes from Italy and studies psychology in Leipzig. She asked, “When has a war ever produced anything good? Anyway, never for us, right? I feel like it’s not a good time to be alive. The far-right is growing stronger everywhere, especially in Italy ...” To this, IYSSE members replied that the conditions for the seizure of power by the working class were more favourable than ever, since it is more numerous and interconnected than ever before.