Ten states, however, have adopted their own laws that specify which patients, based on their income and family size, qualify for free or discounted care. Among them is Washington, where Providence is based. All hospitals in the state must provide free care for anyone who makes under 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that threshold is $83,250 a year.

In February, Bob Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, accused Providence of violating state law, in part by using debt collectors to pursue more than 55,000 patient accounts. The suit alleged that Providence wrongly claimed those patients owed a total of more than $73 million.

Providence, which is fighting the lawsuit, has said it will stop using debt collectors to pursue money from low-income patients who should qualify for free care in Washington.

But The Times found that the problems extend beyond Washington. In interviews, patients in California and Oregon who qualified for free care said they had been charged thousands of dollars and then harassed by collection agents. Many saw their credit scores ruined. Others had to cut back on groceries to pay what Providence claimed they owed. In both states, nonprofit hospitals are required by law to provide low-income patients with free or discounted care.

“I felt a little betrayed,” said Bev Kolpin, 57, who had worked as a sonogram technician at a Providence hospital in Oregon. Then she went on unpaid leave to have surgery to remove a cyst. The hospital billed her $8,000 even though she was eligible for discounted care, she said. “I had worked for them and given them so much, and they didn’t give me anything.” (The hospital forgave her debt only after a lawyer contacted Providence on Ms. Kolpin’s behalf.)

was a single room with four beds. The hospital charged patients $1 a day, not including extras like whiskey.

Patients rarely paid in cash, sometimes offering chickens, ducks and blankets in exchange for care.

At the time, hospitals in the United States were set up to do what Providence did — provide inexpensive care to the poor. Wealthier people usually hired doctors to treat them at home.

wrote to the Senate in 2005.

Some hospital executives have embraced the comparison to for-profit companies. Dr. Rod Hochman, Providence’s chief executive, told an industry publication in 2021 that “‘nonprofit health care’ is a misnomer.”

“It is tax-exempt health care,” he said. “It still makes profits.”

Those profits, he added, support the hospital’s mission. “Every dollar we make is going to go right back into Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Alaska and Montana.”

Since Dr. Hochman took over in 2013, Providence has become a financial powerhouse. Last year, it earned $1.2 billion in profits through investments. (So far this year, Providence has lost money.)

Providence also owes some of its wealth to its nonprofit status. In 2019, the latest year available, Providence received roughly $1.2 billion in federal, state and local tax breaks, according to the Lown Institute, a think tank that studies health care.

a speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures.”

Ms. Tizon, the spokeswoman for Providence, said the intent of Rev-Up was “not to target or pressure those in financial distress.” Instead, she said, “it aimed to provide patients with greater pricing transparency.”

“We recognize the tone of the training materials developed by McKinsey was not consistent with our values,” she said, adding that Providence modified the materials “to ensure we are communicating with each patient with compassion and respect.”

But employees who were responsible for collecting money from patients said the aggressive tactics went beyond the scripts provided by McKinsey. In some Providence collection departments, wall-mounted charts shaped like oversize thermometers tracked employees’ progress toward hitting their monthly collection goals, the current and former Providence employees said.

On Halloween at one of Providence’s hospitals, an employee dressed up as a wrestler named Rev-Up Ricky, according to the Washington lawsuit. Another costume featured a giant cardboard dollar sign with “How” printed on top of it, referring to the way the staff was supposed to ask patients how, not whether, they would pay. Ms. Tizon said such costumes were “not the culture we strive for.”

financial assistance policy, his low income qualified him for free care.

In early 2021, Mr. Aguirre said, he received a bill from Providence for $4,394.45. He told Providence that he could not afford to pay.

Providence sent his account to Harris & Harris, a debt collection company. Mr. Aguirre said that Harris & Harris employees had called him repeatedly for weeks and that the ordeal made him wary of going to Providence again.

“I try my best not to go to their emergency room even though my daughters have gotten sick, and I got sick,” Mr. Aguirre said, noting that one of his daughters needed a biopsy and that he had trouble breathing when he had Covid. “I have this big fear in me.”

That is the outcome that hospitals like Providence may be hoping for, said Dean A. Zerbe, who investigated nonprofit hospitals when he worked for the Senate Finance Committee under Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa.

“They just want to make sure that they never come back to that hospital and they tell all their friends never to go back to that hospital,” Mr. Zerbe said.

The Everett Daily Herald, Providence forgave her bill and refunded the payments she had made.

In June, she got another letter from Providence. This one asked her to donate money to the hospital: “No gift is too small to make a meaningful impact.”

In 2019, Vanessa Weller, a single mother who is a manager at a Wendy’s restaurant in Anchorage, went to Providence Alaska Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital.

She was 24 weeks pregnant and experiencing severe abdominal pains. “Let this just be cramps,” she recalled telling herself.

Ms. Weller was in labor. She gave birth via cesarean section to a boy who weighed barely a pound. She named him Isaiah. As she was lying in bed, pain radiating across her abdomen, she said, a hospital employee asked how she would like to pay. She replied that she had applied for Medicaid, which she hoped would cover the bill.

After five days in the hospital, Isaiah died.

Then Ms. Weller got caught up in Providence’s new, revenue-boosting policies.

The phone calls began about a month after she left the hospital. Ms. Weller remembers panicking when Providence employees told her what she owed: $125,000, or about four times her annual salary.

She said she had repeatedly told Providence that she was already stretched thin as a single mother with a toddler. Providence’s representatives asked if she could pay half the amount. On later calls, she said, she was offered a payment plan.

“It was like they were following some script,” she said. “Like robots.”

Later that year, a Providence executive questioned why Ms. Weller had a balance, given her low income, according to emails disclosed in Washington’s litigation with Providence. A colleague replied that her debts previously would have been forgiven but that Providence’s new policy meant that “balances after Medicaid are being excluded from presumptive charity process.”

Ms. Weller said she had to change her phone number to make the calls stop. Her credit score plummeted from a decent 650 to a lousy 400. She has not paid any of her bill.

Susan C. Beachy and Beena Raghavendran contributed research.

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Bank Of England Raises Rates But Avoids Bolder Hike Like Fed

By Associated Press
September 22, 2022

Surging inflation is a worry for central banks because it saps economic growth by eroding people’s purchasing power.

The Bank of England raised its key interest rate Thursday by another half-percentage point to the highest level in 14 years, but despite facing inflation that outpaces other major economies, it avoided more aggressive hikes made by the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks.

It is the Bank of England’s seventh straight move to increase borrowing costs as rising food and energy prices fuel a cost-of-living crisis that is considered the worst in a generation. Despite facing a slumping currency, tight labor market and inflation near its highest level in four decades, officials held off on acting more boldly as they predicted a second consecutive drop in economic output this quarter, an informal definition of recession.

The bank matched its half-point increase last month — the biggest in 27 years — to bring its benchmark rate to 2.25%. The decision was delayed for a week as the United Kingdom mourned Queen Elizabeth II and comes after new Prime Minister Liz Truss’ government unveiled a massive relief package aimed at helping consumers and businesses cope with skyrocketing energy bills.

The new measures have eased uncertainty over energy costs and are “likely to limit significantly further increases” in consumer prices, the bank’s policymakers said. They expected inflation — now at 9.9% — to peak at 11% in October, lower than previously forecast.

“Nevertheless, energy bills will still go up and, combined with the indirect effects of higher energy costs, inflation is expected to remain above 10% over the following few months, before starting to fall back,” the monetary policy committee said.

The bank signaled it is prepared to respond more forcefully at its November meeting if needed. Its decision comes during a busy week for central bank action marked by much more aggressive moves to bring down soaring consumer prices.

The U.S. Federal Reserve hiked rates Wednesday by three-quarters of a point for the third consecutive time and forecast that more large increases were ahead. Also Thursday, the Swiss central bank enacted its biggest-ever hike to its key interest rate.

Three of the British bank’s nine committee members wanted a similar three-quarter-point raise but were outvoted by five who preferred a half-point and one who voted for a quarter-point.

The decision “suggests the Bank of England is concerned about the U.K.’s economic deteriorating outlook amid the looming threat of recession,” said Victoria Scholar, head of investment at interactive investor. “The timid increase will do little to stem the slide in sterling but may avoid inadvertently inducing unnecessary pain for the economy which is already grappling with slowing demand and deteriorating confidence.”

Surging inflation is a worry for central banks because it saps economic growth by eroding people’s purchasing power. Raising interest rates — the traditional tool to combat inflation — reduces demand and therefore prices by making it more expensive to borrow money for big purchases like cars and homes.

Inflation in the United Kingdom hit 9.9% in August, close to its highest level since 1982 and five times higher than the Bank of England’s 2% target. The British pound is at its weakest against the dollar in 37 years, contributing to imported inflation.

To ease the crunch, Truss’ government announced it would cap energy bills for households and businesses that have soared as Russia’s war in Ukraine drives up the price of natural gas needed for heating.

The Treasury is expected to publish a “mini-budget” Friday with more economic stimulus measures, and the bank said it won’t be able to assess how they will affect inflation until its November meeting..

The Bank of England expects gross domestic product to fall by 0.1% in the third quarter, below its August projection of 0.4% growth. That would be a second quarterly decline after official estimates showed output fell by 0.1% in the previous three-month period.

The weakness partly reflects a smaller-than-expected rebound after an extra June holiday to celebrate the queen’s 70 years on the throne and the impact of another public holiday Monday for her funeral, officials said.

The bank avoided pressure to go bigger even as other banks around the world take aggressive action against inflation fueled by the global economy’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and then the war in Ukraine.

This month, Sweden’s central bank raised its key interest rate by a full percentage point, while the European Central Bank delivered its largest-ever rate increase with a three-quarter point hike for the 19 countries that use the euro currency.

But British policymakers signaled they will “respond forcefully, as necessary” if there are signs that inflationary pressure is more persistent than expected, “including from stronger demand.”

The bank said it’s also moving ahead with plans to trim its bond holdings built up under a stimulus program, selling off 80 billion pounds ($90 billion) worth of assets over the next year to bring its portfolio down to 758 billion pounds.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Ukraine’s Donbas, Where Putin Sowed the Seeds of War

CHASIV YAR, Ukraine — On a clear spring morning eight years ago, Oleksandr Khainus stepped outside his house to go to work at the town factory when he spotted new graffiti scrawled across his fence. “Glory to Russia,” vandals had written in angry black spray paint. “Putin,” another message said.

Mr. Khainus was perplexed. It was true that Chasiv Yar, the Rust Belt-like town where he has spent his entire life in a region called the Donbas, had long contained many conflicting opinions on its identity. Geographically, the Donbas was part of Ukraine, no question, but it was so close to Russia and so tied to it historically that many maintained that their true home really lay eastward.

“It was the type of stuff you’d argue about over the dinner table,” he said. “But nothing that anyone would get violent over.”

protests exploded. Armed separatists seized chunks of the Donbas right under the authorities’ noses. Two so-called People’s Republics were declared. Russian troops stormed in.

the most far-reaching war in generations. It was the Donbas that became Mr. Putin’s pretext for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. And now it is heating up again.

masterful offensive in the Kharkiv region, in Ukraine’s northeast, where town after town fell without a shot. Now they are heading south. Columns of dark green military trucks and American-made rocket launchers are thundering down the long, straight highways into the Donbas. But they will have a much harder fight on their hands.

Wagner Group and close air cover because of the proximity to the Russian border. They can also rely on separatist fighters and a well-financed network of citizen-spies who relay secret information to the invaders, often with devastating consequences.

Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s pro-Russia president, out of office. Mr. Yanukovych came from a Donbas steel town. In one stroke, Russia lost its ally and the Donbas elite its godfather. That is when the trouble started.

People flooded into the Donbas streets waving Russian flags. At first, said Alisa Sopova, a journalist for a Donbas newspaper at the time, “We were sure they were fake people brought in from Russia to pose for Russian TV.”

to speak so much Russian. A critical aspect of Ukrainian independence was reviving the Ukrainian language, marginalized during Soviet times. But those arguments were typically confined to social media posts or intellectual debates, until this moment.

“I’d go into the supermarket to buy some meat, and the shopkeeper tells me, ‘If you don’t speak Ukrainian, I’m not going to sell you any meat,’” Mr. Tsyhankov said. “I’ve been speaking Russian my whole life. How do you think that made me feel?”

done something similar in 2008 in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two regions of Georgia, and before that the Russians had meddled in Moldova, backing the breakaway Transnistria region. The tools were generally the same: bankrolling pro-Russia political parties; deploying intelligence agents to foment protests; sowing disinformation through Russian TV.

Mr. Putin’s strategy was to turn strategic slices of the former Soviet Union into separatist hotbeds to hobble young nations like Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, all struggling to break free from Moscow and move closer to Europe.

Under the Kremlin’s wing, Donbas’s separatists killed Ukrainian officials, took territory and declared the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic. When Ukrainian forces rolled in to quell the rebellion, some residents saw them as occupiers. They spoke a different language, hailed from a different region, embraced a different culture — or so went the pro-Russia narrative. In some villages, babushkas lay down in the roads blocking Ukrainian tanks, officers said, and in one, an especially cunning babushka kept stealing the soldiers’ helmets.

“It was frustrating,” said Anatolii Mohyla, a Ukrainian military commander. “We’d come to liberate them and they’d give us the finger.”

Mr. Putin dispatched thousands of Russian troops to support the separatists, later saying he had been “forced to protect” the Russian-speaking population. Towns like Chasiv Yar were occupied by separatist fighters, then liberated by Ukrainian troops a few months later. By 2015, the heavy fighting had died down. But it was not like Mr. Putin forgot about the Donbas.

He upped the ante in 2021, saying, “Kyiv simply does not need the Donbas.” And on Feb. 21 of this year, three days before he invaded Ukraine, Mr. Putin accused the Ukrainian government of perpetrating a “genocide.” He justified the most cataclysmic war in decades by citing the very tensions he himself stoked.

In early April, the agricultural land around Chasiv Yar began to thaw. Mr. Khainus, the pro-Ukraine farmer, drove out to check a sunflower field. A Ukrainian military vehicle raced up. A soldier leaned out the window and fired an assault rifle, the bullets skipping up in the dirt. Mr. Khainus slammed on the brakes.

A Ukrainian commander he recognized, a man whom Mr. Khainus said he had complained about before, jumped out. The commander greeted him with a punch to the head, Mr. Khainus said, and then smashed him in the face with a rifle butt.

He does not remember much after that. He shared photographs of himself lying in a hospital bed with two black eyes. Military and law enforcement officials declined to comment.

Mr. Khainus remains a supporter of the military, saying, “One stupid person doesn’t represent the army.”

But, he added wryly: “It’s one thing to be a patriot in Kyiv. It’s another to be a patriot in the Donbas.”

At 9 p.m. on July 9, four cruise missiles slammed into a dormitory at the old ceramic plant. The buildings crumbled as if they were made out of sand. Viacheslav Boitsov, an emergency services official, said there were “no military facilities nearby.”

But according to Mr. Mohyla and Oleksandr Nevydomskyi, another Ukrainian military officer, Ukrainian soldiers were staying in that building. The night before, they said, a mysterious man was seen standing outside flashing light signals, most likely pinpointing the position.

The military calls such spies “correctors,” and they relay navigational information to the Russians to make missile and artillery strikes more precise. Ukrainian officials have arrested more than 20 and say correctors are often paid several hundred dollars after a target is hit. The strike in Chasiv Yar was one of the deadliest: 48 killed, including 18 soldiers, the officers said.

“For sure there are Russian agents in this town,” Mr. Mohyla said. “There might even be spies in our unit.”

Few in Chasiv Yar are confident that the town will stay in government hands.

Mr. Khainus said the Russians were steadily moving closer to his sunflower fields. About a week ago, a friend’s house was shelled. A day later, in an online messaging channel, separatist supporters said Mr. Khainus should be next, calling him a “hero” — adding an epithet.

Is he scared?

“Why should I be?” he said. “They’re nobodies.”

Mr. Tsyhankov, the retired dump truck driver nostalgic for the Soviet times, seemed pained by all of the bloodshed but did not blame the Russians or the separatists. “They’re doing the right thing,” he said. “They’re fighting for the Russian language and their territory.”

As he said goodbye, insisting that his guests take with them a jug of his homemade apple juice and some fresh green grapes, he shook his head at the enormity of it. “Why can’t we be friends with you guys, the Americans?” he asked. “Politics are keeping all of us hostage.”

Every night, the horizon in Chasiv Yar lights up with explosions. Ukrainian soldiers operate here almost as if they are on enemy territory, hiving themselves off from the public, watching their backs, traveling by night in long convoys of cars with the lights blacked out, the drivers wearing night vision goggles. According to separatist messaging channels, the Wagner mercenaries have reached the outskirts of Bakhmut, a major Donbas town. As for Soledar, it is now off limits to journalists, but volunteers there trying to rescue civilians say it is as deadly as ever.

People here used to describe the Donbas in simple terms like “beautiful,” “honest,” “unbreakable” and “free.”

Now it is destroyed, depopulated, sad and empty.

“It’s like the Rust Belt,” Ms. Sopova said. “It’s not needed anymore. All that industry is obsolete.”

Countless communities have risen in the Donbas. Many are now falling. Ms. Sopova glimpses a perhaps not so faraway future where the Donbas goes back to what it once was: a wild field.

Oleksandra Mykolyshyn contributed reporting.

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U.S. Northeast faces potential energy shortages as rails start to shut

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Unused oil tank cars are pictured on Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad tracks outside Hinsdale, New York August 24, 2015. Picture taken August 24, 2015. REUTERS/Lindsay DeDario/File Photo

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NEW YORK, Sept 14 (Reuters) – Some trains carrying fuel components to the U.S. Northeast have been halted in preparation for a possible railroad shutdown in the coming days, two sources familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.

The northernmost East Coast states rely on railroad shipments to supplement pipeline deliveries from the U.S. Gulf. The region is among the largest fuel consumers in the nation, where U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data shows that in July inventories of heating oil and diesel reached the lowest levels in at least three decades.

Major railroads, including Union Pacific (UNP.N) and Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRKa.N) BNSF, must reach a tentative deal with three unions representing 60,000 workers before 12:01 a.m. on Friday to avert a shutdown.

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Unit trains to the Northeast that carry commodities including ethanol and crude oil have already stopped, two sources told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

All railroads are preparing to wind down operations in the next day, said a spokesperson at Norfolk Southern (NSC.N) who declined to comment further. Passenger rail operator Amtrak has already canceled all long-distance routes nationwide as their trains run largely on freight lines outside of the U.S. Northeast. read more

Nationwide, stocks of distillates, which include heating oil and diesel, are at their lowest levels seasonally since 2000, according to EIA data.

The situation is more dire in New England and the Central Atlantic states. In that region, stretching from Maine to Maryland, stocks are at 16.6 million barrels, lowest seasonally since the EIA started keeping the data in 1990.

Fuel distributors generally have inventories to last several days and those markets can also receive imports, but prices would be expected to rise in anticipation of a possible shortage.

Some shippers, anticipating a shutdown, have already stopped transporting hazardous materials around the United States, including fuel blending components.

“I already have companies that have been limiting their production knowing this was coming and now they’ll have to face the music and shut down,” said Tom Williamson, a railcar broker and owner of Transportation Consultants, which manages over 2,000 railcars.

He said he has been busy the past few days communicating with clients who are starting to shut down production of hazardous materials.

The upper Northeast relies on rail for shipments of crude oil, natural gas and fuel products more than other regions because of a lack of pipelines. New England receives most of the natural gas it uses to heat homes and light stoves by rail, according to consultancy RBN Energy, making it vulnerable to a stoppage.

“Over the past 20 years, regional imbalances between where products are produced and where they are demanded has increased,” said Debnil Chowdhury, vice president, Americas head of refining and marketing, S&P Global Commodity Insights. “This has increased the need to transfer products from the Gulf Coast to the (Northeast).”

Pipelines carrying fuel and natural gas from Texas and other oil and gas-producing states of the U.S. South are already full, Chowdhury said, leaving little room to increase flows on the lines if a shutdown happens.

“All sorts of stuff is going to grind to a halt,” said one executive familiar with the region’s rail operations, who asked not to be named. “It’s going to be brutal.”

In July, governors of New England states wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm warning her that the region faced surging winter heating bills due to lack of natural gas pipeline connectivity.

They also asked the Biden Administration to suspend the Jones Act, which requires goods moved between U.S. ports to be carried by ships built domestically and staffed by U.S. crew, for the delivery of LNG for at least a portion of the upcoming winter.

In 2021, the six-state New England region got most of its power, or 46%, from natural gas, according to ISO New England, the region’s power grid operator. On the coldest winter days, the grid relies on oil as well to fuel a much bigger percentage of power generation.

Nationwide, shippers for oil and chemical companies are making contingency plans.

“We are starting to see impacts already,” said Chris Ball, chief executive officer of Quantix, a Houston-based company that provides trucks and trailers to transport chemicals for companies including Exxon Mobil, Dow and LyondellBasell.

“They (railroads) have already restricted what they’re taking and so we’re getting a fair amount of trucking orders across our whole network,” Ball said.

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Reporting by Laila Kearney, Laura Sanicola and Jarrett Renshaw; Additional reporting by Arathy Somasekhar in Houston and Scott DiSavino in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Laura Sanicola

Thomson Reuters

Reports on oil and energy, including refineries, markets and renewable fuels. Previously worked at Euromoney Institutional Investor and CNN.

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Live Updates: Ukraine Claims More Ground in Blitz in Northeast

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian forces entered the key Russian military stronghold of Izium on Saturday, continuing their rapid advance across the northeast and igniting a dramatic new phase in the more than six-month war.

“Izium was liberated today,” the city’s mayor, Valeriy Marchenko, said in an interview. While he was not yet in the city himself, he said that he was in contact with the police and that emergency services were working to clear it of possible hazards before residents could return.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense — which a day earlier had said that it was moving to reinforce its defensive positions in the region — confirmed on Saturday that it had pulled its forces out of Izium, six months after its forces laid siege to and then seized the city. In a statement, it presented the retreat as a preplanned move, intended to strengthen its efforts in the east where its army has been bogged down for weeks.

Maintaining control of towns and cities has at times proven tenuous over the course of the war, and it was not immediately clear how secure Ukraine’s control over Izium was and what efforts Russia might take to try to win it back.

But the loss of Izium — a strategically important railway hub that Russian forces seized in the spring after a bloody weekslong battle — could mark a turning point in the war, dwarfed only by Russia’s humiliating defeat around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in the spring.

The first signs that Russian forces would retreat rather than fight emerged late on Friday.

“Yesterday evening, Russians put a white flag nearby the railway station,” Yevhen, a Ukrainian officer who participated in the liberation of Izium, said in a telephone interview. “There was street fighting all over the night.” He asked to be identified by only his first name out of concerns for his security.

Much about the Ukrainian offensive in the Kharkiv region, where Izium is, was shrouded in uncertainty amid a lack of official confirmation, and military analysts cautioned that it was a fast-moving situation that could change by the hour.

But the lightning offensive in the country’s northeast has reshaped what had become a grinding war of attrition. In a matter of days, Russian front lines have buckled, Moscow’s troops have fled and one village after another has come once more beneath Ukraine’s yellow and blue banner — like the town of Kupiansk just north of Izium, which sits on key supply routes to the eastern front line.

Ukraine’s Security Service posted a photo on Telegram showing members of the special forces in Kupiansk.

“We move further!” the post read, according to the Ukrinform news agency.

As Ukrainian officials celebrated the turn of events, however cautiously, some prominent pro-Kremlin military bloggers expressed anger and frustration at the rapid developments.

A Russian military blogger, who goes by the name Rusich, has 278,000 followers on Telegram and claimed to be in the city on Friday, wrote that the surrender of Izium was a “small setback” and urged his followers not to “despair.”

With the Russians out of towns and cities they had battered in order to seize, the cost of their monthslong occupation was just starting to come into focus. Ukrainian officials said they had dispatched investigators to newly liberated towns to begin compiling evidence of Russian war crimes.

In his overnight address, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said the military had recaptured more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region.

“Actions to check and secure the territory continue,” he said. “We are gradually taking control of new settlements.”

The eastern offensive, which began earlier this week, has cleared Russian forces from more than 2,500 square kilometers of land in the Kharkiv region as of Friday, according to an estimate by the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank.

“There is still a lot that we don’t know about the offensive, but it is clear this was well planned and executed by Ukrainian forces,” said Rob Lee, a military analyst at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “It looks like a very effective combined arms operation with tanks, mechanized infantry, Special Operations forces, air defenses, artillery and other systems.”

Ukrainian and Western officials cautioned that the offensive operations were in their early days, that the situation was fluid and that any gains were far from secure. Some military analysts warned that the Ukrainians’ rapid advance could leave them stretched thin and vulnerable to counterattack.

In addition to the counteroffensive in the northeast, Ukraine has been making a push in the south to recapture territory in the Kherson region.

Mr. Marchenko, the mayor of Izium, said that about 12,000 residents had remained in the city and desperately needed humanitarian supplies.

He said he hoped that residents who had fled could start returning in three or four days but that devastation awaited them.

“There’s no single residential building that wasn’t damaged,” the mayor said.

“Heating is the biggest problem,” he added. “I doubt whether we would be able to restore the heating system before winter.”

Oleksii Reznikoff, Ukraine’s defense minister, did not comment on specific gains but at a conference in Kyiv on Saturday he said the Russian troops were on the run.

“Russian troops will run, and they will, believe me, because today we are destroying their logistics chains, warehouses, and so on,” he said. “And the question will arise: ‘And where should they go?’ It will be like an avalanche.”

One line of defense will shake and it will fall, he said, and then another and another.

Ivan Nechepurenko and Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.

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European Union Leaders Divided On How To Curb Soaring Energy Costs

By Veronica De La Cruz
September 10, 2022

The EU’s energy commissioner says the current crisis has made it clear how essential renewable energies, like solar and wind, are for the future.

European Union energy ministers are struggling to reach an agreement on ways to ease soaring energy prices.

Russia has cut supplies of the cheap, natural gas the 27-nation bloc has relied on for years to generate electricity, power factories, and heat homes. 

European officials call it energy blackmail — a punishment for their backing of Ukraine.

“We have to set and send a clear and strong signal that we will do whatever it takes in order to protect our households, our economies, and to ensure that there will be enough energy and for affordable prices,” said Jozelf Sikela, Czech industry minister. “I am pretty sure that all the member states and also the Commission will understand that there is no time to lose.”

The prospect of factory shutdowns and rolling blackouts has the EU debating subsidies, price caps and profit taxes. These are economic measures once considered bad policy, amounting to interference with the market.

“The big interference here is from the Russian government,” said Eamon Ryan, Irish minister for transport. “They, through their acts, have used gas as a weapon of war, and that has affected the whole market. We cannot just be ideological and say we’re not going to touch the market. We have to intervene because the whole market has been played with in this way.”

Protesters in Italy say energy costs are adding to the strain.

Germany is considering reactivating two of its nuclear power plants that were scheduled to be shut down. 

French President Emmanuel Macron says the best energy is that which is not consumed. He’s calling for a 10% reduction in energy use in the coming months to avoid rationing in the winter. 

The EU’s energy commissioner says the current crisis has made it clear how essential renewable energies, like solar and wind, are for the future.

“Renewables do not only matter on the climate side, but they also allow us to take the responsibility for our consumption into our own hands,” said Kadri Simson, EU commissioner for energy.

The energy ministers are expected to present their proposals to the European Commission next week.

Source: newsy.com

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Energy Standoff With Russia Leaves Millions Unable To Afford Heating

By Luke Hanrahan
September 7, 2022

In Britain, businesses are on the brink, and parents are already skipping meals to pay their electricity bills due to high energy costs.

Fish and chips — a delicious British staple — was relatively cheap to produce until now.  

A reduction in Russian gas supplied to Europe has caused energy bills for restaurant owner Harri Niaza, who owns Olley’s Fish Experience, to be twice as expensive. Inflation has caused the cost of potatoes and fish to double.   

“Gas and electricity is affecting every single person and that’s our issue. I need to re-think how we operate. Cut hours down to make it leaner? Just open two hours in the evening, you know ‘queue up get your food – bye bye’. But how are my staff going to survive?” said Niaza. 

Russia is to blame for the increase in energy costs because of soaring prices of wholesale natural gas after Russia sharply cut its supplies to Europe.  

The UK relies heavily on gas to generate electricity, and bills have already increased by 50%.  

Millions of people are already struggling to cope as energy and food prices skyrocket during the country’s worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation. The energy increases, together with rapidly rising food costs, are expected to trigger a recession later this year. 

People are desperate for answers as to how they’re going to go about paying their bills this winter. 

“Prices have increased two fold and I wonder how people are going to cope. I’m finding it difficult. I hope not many people are finding it as difficult as I am,” said Victor Yobo, a UK resident.   

“This is the hardest that I’ve ever known it, it’s really difficult. Particularly post COVID. It’s a real struggle just staying afloat really,” said Michael Dombey, a UK resident. 

“I’m worried for my son and the younger people, I don’t know? We’re in trouble — we’re in trouble,” said Carol Edwards, another UK resident.   

For Michael O’Keeffe and his wife Eileen, the cost of making a cup of tea has tripled.

There’s only one harder time they can remember.

“We got through the war and the rationing, and we will get through it. But I think for the next six, eight, nine months it’s going to be very, very difficult,” said Eileen.  

Britain is not alone in its battle to control rocketing costs, with millions being forced into poverty across the continent as Europeans suffer the consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine; and the knock effect of gas supplies from east to west being switched off. 

Source: newsy.com

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U.K. Leader Liz Truss Vows Energy Relief, Rules Out Windfall Tax

By Associated Press
September 7, 2022

Truss rebuffed opposition calls for a new windfall tax, but refrained from explaining how she’d fund a plan meant to help the public pay energy bills.

Newly installed U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss told Parliament on Wednesday that she would tackle Britain’s “very serious” energy crisis while still slashing taxes, ruling out imposing a windfall levy on oil companies to pay for her plans to offset the soaring cost of heating and electricity.

Truss rebuffed opposition calls for a new windfall tax, even as she refrained from explaining how she would fund a plan meant to help the public pay energy bills skyrocketing because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the economic aftershocks of COVID-19 and Brexit.

She said during her first session of prime minister’s questions that she would set out a plan on Thursday to help with the immediate prices crisis so that people “are able to get through this winter,” as well as measures to bolster Britain’s long-term energy security.

But she added: “I am against a windfall tax. I believe it is the wrong thing to be putting companies off investing in the United Kingdom just when we need to be growing the economy.

“This country will not be able to tax its way to growth,” she said, to thunderous cheers from Conservative lawmakers in a packed House of Commons.

Truss’s spokesman said she wouldn’t cancel a windfall tax imposed in May by former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, her defeated Conservative leadership rival, but wouldn’t bring in a new one. She is also scrapping a previously announced increase in corporation tax from 19% to 25%.

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said that amounted to handing billions to energy firms that have pocketed hefty profits because of high energy prices. Instead, the cost of price relief will have to be paid by British taxpayers, he said, branding Truss’s economic plans a “Tory fantasy.”

British news media have reported that Truss plans to cap energy bills. The cost to taxpayers of that step could reach 100 billion pounds ($116 billion).

“The prime minister knows she has now choice but to back an energy price freeze, but it won’t be cheap and the real choice, the political choice is who is going to pay,” Starmer said. “Is she really telling us that she is going to leave (energy companies’) vast excess profits on the table and make working people foot the bill for decades to come?”

In her energy plan Truss also is likely to greenlight more oil and gas exploration in the North Sea and could lift a ban on fracking — both ideas that have been condemned by environmentalists.

Earlier Wednesday, Truss led the first meeting for her new Cabinet — a government diverse in race and gender and united in its support for the new leader’s staunchly free-market views.

Truss, 47, was appointed prime minister by Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday after winning an internal Conservative Party election to lead the Tories. The former foreign secretary is Britain’s third female prime minister after Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May. All three have been Conservatives.

She immediately put her stamp on the government, clearing out many ministers from the administration of former Prime Minister Boris Johnson — notably those who had backed Sunak in the Conservative leadership contest.

She made Kwasi Kwarteng her Treasury chief, a key role for a Cabinet whose inbox is dominated by the energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which threatens to push energy bills to unaffordable levels, shuttering businesses and leaving the nation’s poorest people shivering at home this winter. Kwarteng is the first Black holder of the job whose formal title is Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Truss ally Therese Coffey becomes Britain’s first female deputy prime minister and also leads the health ministry as the state-funded National Health Service grapples with soaring demand and depleted resources in the wake of COVID-19.

For the first time, none of the U.K.’s “great offices of state” – prime minister, chancellor, foreign secretary and home secretary – is held by a white man. James Cleverly, whose mother is from Sierra Leone, is foreign secretary and Suella Braverman, who has Indian heritage, has been named home secretary, responsible for immigration and law and order.

In her first speech as prime minister on Tuesday, Truss said she would cut taxes to spur economic growth, bolster the NHS and “deal hands on” with the energy crisis.

“We shouldn’t be daunted by the challenges we face,” Truss said in her speech. “As strong as the storm may be, I know the British people are stronger.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Liz Truss Set To Become New Prime Minister Of The United Kingdom

By Associated Press

and Newsy Staff
September 5, 2022

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss received 81,326 Conservative Party votes, beating former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, who received 60,399 votes.

Britain’s Conservative Party has chosen Foreign Secretary Liz Truss as the party’s new leader, putting her in line to be confirmed as prime minister.

Truss’s selection was announced Monday in London after a leadership election in which only the 180,000 dues-paying members of the Conservative Party were allowed to vote. Truss beat rival Rishi Sunak, the government’s former Treasury chief, by promising to increase defense spending and cut taxes, while refusing to say how she would address the cost-of-living crisis.

Truss received 81,326 votes to Sunak’s 60,399.

Queen Elizabeth II is scheduled to formally name Truss as Britain’s prime minister on Tuesday. The ceremony will take place at the queen’s Balmoral estate in Scotland, where the monarch is vacationing, rather than at Buckingham Palace.

The two-month leadership contest left Britain with a power vacuum at a time when consumers, workers and businesses were demanding government action to mitigate the impact of soaring food and energy prices. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has had no authority to make major policy decisions since July 7, when he announced his intention to resign.

With household energy bills set to increase by 80% next month, charities warn that as many as 1 in 3 households will face fuel poverty this winter, leaving millions of people to choose between eating and heating their homes. The Bank of England has forecast that inflation will reach a 42-year high of 13.3% in October, threatening to push Britain into a prolonged recession.

Johnson was forced to resign after a series of ethics scandals that peaked in July when dozens of cabinet ministers and lower level officials resigned over his handling of allegations of sexual misconduct by a senior member of his government.

Under Britain’s parliamentary system of government, the center-right Conservative Party was allowed to hold an internal election to select a new party leader and prime minister, without going to the wider electorate. A new general election isn’t required until December 2024.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Scholz promises 65 bln euros to shield Germans through tough winter

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  • Package funded through additional tax revenue
  • Gas stores now 85% full
  • Scholz promises welfare state will shield Germany from turmoil

BERLIN, Sept 4 (Reuters) – Germany will spend at least 65 billion euros ($64.7 billion) on shielding customers and businesses from soaring inflation, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Sunday, two days after Russia announced it was suspending some gas deliveries indefinitely.

The measures, agreed after 22 hours of talks between the three coalition parties, included benefit hikes and a public transport subsidy, to be paid for from a tax on electricity companies and by bringing forward Germany’s implementation of the planned 15% global minimum corporate tax.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has led to inflation worldwide and prompted warnings of social and economic turmoil as the world weans itself off cheap energy and flexible global supply chains.

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In Germany, where year-on-year inflation was running at 7.9% in August, the effect has been exacerbated by Russia’s reduction in volumes of gas pumped to the country, which has caused a surge in the price of energy fuelling Europe’s largest economy.

“Russia is no longer a reliable energy partner,” Scholz told a news conference, adding that Germany’s earlier preparations meant that it would get through the winter heating season.

Gas stores reached 85% of capacity on Saturday, almost a month ahead of schedule, partly thanks to corporate consumers cutting consumption.

But while supplies were sufficient, the government would need to help shield consumers and businesses from the higher costs, he said.

“You’ll never walk alone,” he added, switching to English to recite a song famously adopted by fans of English soccer club Liverpool.

The energy crunch came into sharper relief when Russia’s state-controlled energy giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM) said on Friday that it was keeping closed its main Nord Stream 1 pipeline, the biggest single pipeline carrying Russian gas to Germany.

Scholz rejected suggestions that losing the steady flows of cheap Russian gas off which Germany has prospered for dedcades could herald a new, darker era for his country.

“Germany will come through this time as a democracy because we are very economically strong and we are a welfare state: the two together are important,” he told ZDF television. “With every new windpark, we will become more independent.”

The latest package brings to 95 billion euros the amount allocated to inflation-busting since the Ukraine war began in February. By contrast, the government spent 300 billion euros on propping up the economy over the two years of the pandemic.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner said the 65 billion announced on Sunday could be increased if electricity prices rose further. The windfall tax – dubbed a “coincidence tax” to assuage his party’s objections to the original term – would bring in revenue in the “two-digit billions”, he said.

Part of the proceeds would be used to offer 1.7 billion euros in tax breaks to 9,000 energy intensive companies, a government document showed.

($1 = 1.0049 euros)

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Reporting by Thomas Escritt
Editing by David Goodman and Frances Kerry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomas Escritt

Thomson Reuters

Berlin correspondent who has investigated anti-vaxxers and COVID treatment practices, reported on refugee camps and covered warlords’ trials in The Hague. Earlier, he covered Eastern Europe for the Financial Times. He speaks Hungarian, German, French and Dutch.

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