The challenges of making that happen, though, become clear when climbing the confined, 334-step stairwell that winds up to the belfry. Also evident: the quality of the renovation.

Bright morning light shone in through the four restored clock faces — perched high above the Houses of Parliament — each with 324 pieces of pot opal glass produced in Germany. Newly refurbished golden orbs that decorate the tower’s stonework glinted in the sun.

The sheer size of Big Ben, weighing a little over 15 tons, is impressive, as is the intricacy of a clock mechanism based on the most advanced technology available to its 19th-century creators. It still loses no more than a second in accuracy a week.

The Elizabeth Tower is not the first clock tower to watch over Parliament — that one is thought to date from around 1290. In 1834, a fire destroyed the Palace of Westminster, leading to the construction of the modern-day building that is one of the most famous examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the world.

And when the original clock tower was built, it was constructed with a rising scaffold, “so it rose as if by magic, it was noted at the time,” Mr. Watrobski said.

In May 1859, crowds lined the streets to greet Big Ben’s arrival. The enormous bell was pulled by 16 horses to Westminster, where it took 18 hours to haul it nearly 200 feet to the belfry before it could first ring out.

Back then, the clock tower was the most advanced and ambitious public building of its age, but by 2017, stonework was deteriorating, water was leaking into the belfry, and the steps, ironwork and guttering were all in need of repair. There was even still damage dating from 1941, when Parliament was bombed during World War II.

“Like all historic buildings, you don’t really know until you peel off the skin what you are going to find underneath,” Mr. Watrobski said. “There was a considerable amount of damage to cast iron and to stonework.”

The restoration work has gone a long way to modernizing the Elizabeth Tower, which will reopen this year to tourists. But the improvements will benefit visitors and maintenance staff alike.

An elevator has been installed, as has a restroom at the top — the lack of which previously meant Big Ben’s maintenance workers had to trek down the 334 steps whenever they were in need of one. There is even now a spot for the staff to make tea.

While Big Ben needs constant maintenance, the clock had never been fully serviced until this restoration. After it was dismantled, it was secreted away from London, more than 280 miles, to the workshop of the Cumbria Clock Company in northwestern England.

Given its symbolic importance, its whereabouts while being serviced was never disclosed.

To help keep the work under wraps, the Cumbria Clock Company removed signs from its building to make it harder for uninvited visitors to find. When a group of walkers once peered through a window and asked if they were looking at the famous clock, they were told that they were instead viewing one from Manchester Town Hall.

“It was very important that what we were doing was kept secret,” said the company’s director, Keith Scobie-Youngs, who was worried that it might attract thieves or vandals as well as curious tourists.

Mr. Scobie-Youngs said that the clock had been in remarkably good condition and that he had been awed by the skill of the 19th-century clockmakers.

“Nobody had ever attempted to build a clock that size to the accuracy demanded,” he said, adding, “I refer to it as being the smartphone of the 1850s.”

Mr. Scobie-Youngs also lauded Big Ben: “There is a unique sound to it,” he said. “It is that unique heartbeat.”

The bell’s bong, he said, was instantly recognizable to Britons. “When people were a long way from home, and it was on the radio, that unique sound brought people home again,” Mr. Scobie-Youngs said.

Freshly painted, finished with enough gold to cover four tennis courts, and complete with more than 7,000 replacement stones and carvings, the exterior of the Elizabeth Tower stands as a monument to what can be achieved by modern restoration, protecting it, hopefully, for the next 75 years.

Even for those who spent years on the project, the result was a pleasant surprise, said Charlotte Claughton, a senior project leader. She said that she was taken aback when the scaffolding came down and she saw the building shining, “as if it was new,” in the sunlight.

“It was hugely exciting to see it. There are a few moments that catch you off guard, and that was one of them,” Ms. Claughton said. “It was heartwarming.”

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In Buffalo, New Apartments Sprout Up in Vacant Warehouses

BUFFALO — Buffalo was riding a decade-long economic turnaround when a racially motivated attack by a gunman killed 10 people in May, overshadowing the progress. While the city grieved, it also had to reckon with unflattering portrayals of the East Side, the impoverished neighborhood where the massacre took place.

Those harsh takes tell only part of the story, say residents, business owners and city officials. Now, they are determined to put the focus back on the recovery.

Major efforts to improve the East Side have been afoot for years, like new job-training facilities and the overhaul of a deserted train station. And citywide initiatives to pour billions into parks, public art projects and apartment complexes have made Buffalo a more desirable place to live, advocates say.

Those efforts may have even reversed a chronic population decline: The latest census figures show Buffalo’s population has increased for the first time in 70 years.

“The other story about Buffalo needs to be told, that investments are being made,” said Brandye Merriweather, the president of the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, a nonprofit group that works to repurpose empty city-owned lots.

“I am very sensitive to the issues that the shooting has raised,” said Ms. Merriweather, who grew up across the street from where the shooting took place and still has family in the neighborhood.

The wave of progress began in 2012 when New York’s governor at the time, Andrew M. Cuomo, pledged $1 billion in grants and tax credits as part of a revitalization effort, and it has been fueled by a mix of taxpayer funds and private investments in the years since.

Perhaps the most visible sign of Buffalo’s changing fortunes are its new apartments, which turn up in empty warehouses, former municipal buildings and longtime parking lots converted into much-needed housing. In the last decade, 224 multifamily projects — encompassing 10,150 apartments, most of them rentals, the equivalent of about $3 billion in investment — have opened or are underway, according to the office of Mayor Byron W. Brown.

And the pace of new housing appears to be quickening: A third of the total, or 78 projects, were unveiled just in 2020 and 2021, the mayor’s office said.

Among them is Seneca One Tower, the city’s tallest building and one of Buffalo’s most prominent projects. Completed in 1972 as a home for a bank, it sat vacant in recent years. Now, the 40-story downtown spire features a variety of uses after a $100 million renovation.

Douglas Development, which bought the tower six years ago, added 115 apartments while also installing a food hall, a large gym and a craft brewery. It also raised walls around a plaza to curb Lake Erie winds.

Barbara Foy, 64, who began renting a two-bedroom apartment at Seneca One this spring with her husband, Jack, 65, said she enjoyed sleeping with her blinds cracked to enjoy the glitter of the skyline. For almost three decades, Ms. Foy worked around the corner as a social worker, though she never really stuck around at night, instead driving back to her home in the suburbs.

But revitalization has helped her see Buffalo in a whole new light. “There seems to be something going on every weekend,” Ms. Foy said, adding that she enjoyed the city’s Pride parade in June. “Buffalo has really come alive, and I’m so proud of it.”

Office leasing has been slow. About 70 percent of the spaces at Seneca One are rented, most of them to M&T Bank, which is based in Buffalo, as well as a dozen small tech firms. The vacancy rate for top office buildings downtown was 13 percent at the end of last year, according to the brokerage firm CBRE, down from 14 percent in 2020.

Residential leasing, on the other hand, has been robust. It took just nine months to rent all of the apartments at Seneca One after they hit the market in fall 2020 for up to $3,000 a month, said Greg Baker, a director of development at Douglas. Buffalo’s median rent is $800 a month, according to census figures.

Since its Seneca One purchase, Douglas has acquired about 20 properties in the region, including former hotels and hospitals that will be converted to housing.

“People are selling houses in the suburbs to move back into the city, versus when I was younger, when they would live in the suburbs and commute to the city,” said Mr. Baker, a Buffalo native.

In a spread-out city that’s sliced up by highways, improving infrastructure has been a priority, too, though efforts so far have mostly come to fruition on the West Side. For instance, a stretch of Niagara Street near a bridge to Canada that was once lined with auto dealerships now gleams with new sidewalks, streetlights and a protected bike lane. Bike shops and restaurants have revived dilapidated storefronts there, too.

Nearby, workers are about to begin a $110 million overhaul of LaSalle Park, a 77-acre waterfront green space that’s hemmed in by Interstate 190. Plans call for a wide pedestrian bridge over the highway.

Softening the rough edges of Buffalo’s commercial past is also a focus downtown, at Canalside, a neighborhood-in-progress that hugs a short remnant of the original Erie Canal. On a recent afternoon, school groups milled around signs explaining how Midwest wheat and pine once flowed through Buffalo en route to Europe. Movie nights and yoga classes take place on lawns nearby.

“Buffalo may have a ways to go, but it still has come a long way,” Stephanie Surowiec, 32, said as she sat in the sun sipping a hard cider bought from a nearby stand. A nurse who grew up in Buffalo’s suburbs, Ms. Surowiec lives in the city limits today.

If there’s a model for how Buffalo can wring new uses from its industrial hulks, it might be Larkinville, a former soap- and box-making enclave in the city that developers reinvented as a business district about a decade ago. Blocklong factories that now hold offices huddle around a plaza dotted with colorful Adirondack chairs. Wednesday night concerts are a summer staple.

Makeovers of a similar scale are fewer on the East Side, but that could soon change.

This spring, officials announced an infusion of $225 million for the neighborhood, including $185 million from the state. Among the funding is $30 million for an African American heritage corridor along Michigan Avenue and $61 million to redevelop Central Terminal, a 17-story Art Deco train station that had its last passengers in 1979.

In June, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced an investment of $50 million for the East Side to help homeowners with repairs and unpaid utility bills.

Some projects have already produced tangible results, like the redevelopment of a 35-acre portion of factory-lined Northland Avenue. Though many of the neighborhood’s properties remain derelict, one, which made machines for metalworking, was reborn in 2018 as 237,000-square-foot Northland Central, an office and educational complex. It includes the Northland Workforce Training Center, which teaches job skills to area residents.

“The impact of the place has been phenomenal,” said Derek Frank, 41, who enrolled in classes after serving an eight-year prison sentence for dealing drugs. Today, Mr. Frank is employed as an electrician, as is his son, Derek Jr., 21, who attended classes alongside his father.

“Them putting that building right here in the heart of the city makes it accessible and convenient,” he added.

But East Side redevelopment plans have sometimes hit bumps. An effort to create a cluster of hospitals called the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus has caused gentrification. But advocates point out that the hospitals, which employ 15,000, have picked up some of the economic slack after factories shut down.

Whether spurred on by public investment or other reasons, Buffalo has seen notable growth. Its population of 278,000 in the 2020 census was up 7 percent from 261,000 in 2010.

Buffalo enjoys a steady stream of immigrants, like the family of Muhammad Z. Zaman, which immigrated from Bangladesh in 2004 in part because Buffalo was one of the few places in the United States with an Islamic grade school, Mr. Zaman said.

Today, Mr. Zaman, 31, a working artist, is one of several muralists hired to add bright designs to walls of buildings left exposed by demolitions. One of his creations, which incorporates Arabic calligraphy that translates to “our colors make us beautiful,” jazzes up the side of a structure on Broadway.

“When we first moved here, I felt like we were the only Bangladeshi family,” said Mr. Zaman, who noted that there wasn’t a single halal-style restaurant in Buffalo in the mid-2000s, versus about 20 today. “Now, people are coming here from all over the place.”

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Gas Prices Around the World Threaten Livelihoods and Stability

“NO ES SUFICIENTE” — It’s not enough. That was the message protest leaders in Ecuador delivered to the country’s president this past week after he said he would lower the price of both regular gas and diesel by 10 cents in response to riotous demonstrations over soaring fuel and food prices.

The fury and fear over energy prices that have exploded in Ecuador are playing out the world over. In the United States, average gasoline prices, which have jumped to $5 per gallon, are burdening consumers and forcing an excruciating political calculus on President Biden ahead of the midterm congressional elections this fall.

But in many places, the leap in fuel costs has been much more dramatic, and the ensuing misery much more acute.

Britain, it costs $125 to fill the tank of an average family-size car. Hungary is prohibiting motorists from buying more than 50 liters of gas a day at most service stations. Last Tuesday, police in Ghana fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators protesting against the economic hardship caused by gas price increases, inflation and a new tax on electronic payments.

largest exporter of oil and gas to global markets, and the retaliatory sanctions that followed have caused gas and oil prices to gallop with an astounding ferocity. The unfolding calamity comes on top of two years of upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, off-and-on shutdowns and supply chain snarls.

World Bank revised its economic forecast last month, estimating that global growth will slow even more than expected, to 2.9 percent this year, roughly half of what it was in 2021. The bank’s president, David Malpass, warned that “for many countries, recession will be hard to avoid.”

ratcheting down gas deliveries to several European countries.

Across the continent, countries are preparing blueprints for emergency rationing that involve caps on sales, reduced speed limits and lowered thermostats.

As is usually the case with crises, the poorest and most vulnerable will feel the harshest effects. The International Energy Agency warned last month that higher energy prices have meant an additional 90 million people in Asia and Africa do not have access to electricity.

Expensive energy radiates pain, contributing to high food prices, lowering standards of living and exposing millions to hunger. Steeper transportation costs increase the price of every item that is trucked, shipped or flown — whether it’s a shoe, cellphone, soccer ball or prescription drug.

“The simultaneous rise in energy and food prices is a double punch in the gut for the poor in practically every country,” said Eswar Prasad, an economist at Cornell University, “and could have devastating consequences in some corners of the world if it persists for an extended period.”

Group of 7 this past week discussed a price cap on exported Russian oil, a move that is intended to ease the burden of painful inflation on consumers and reduce the export revenue that President Vladimir V. Putin is using to wage war.

Price increases are everywhere. In Laos, gas is now more than $7 per gallon, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com; in New Zealand, it’s more than $8; in Denmark, it’s more than $9; and in Hong Kong, it’s more than $10 for every gallon.

Leaders of three French energy companies have called for an “immediate, collective and massive” effort to reduce the country’s energy consumption, saying that the combination of shortages and spiking prices could threaten “social cohesion” next winter.

increased coal production to avoid power outages during a blistering heat wave in the northern and central parts of the country and a subsequent rise in demand for air conditioning.

Germany, coal plants that were slated for retirement are being refired to divert gas into storage supplies for the winter.

There is little relief in sight. “We will still see high and volatile energy prices in the years to come,” said Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency.

At this point, the only scenario in which fuel prices go down, Mr. Birol said, is a worldwide recession.

Reporting was contributed by José María León Cabrera from Ecuador, Lynsey Chutel from South Africa, Ben Ezeamalu from Nigeria, Jason Gutierrez from the Philippines, Oscar Lopez from Mexico and Ruth Maclean from Senegal.

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The Fed Raises Interest Rates by 0.75 Percentage Points to Tackle Inflation

The Federal Reserve took its most aggressive step yet to try to tame rapid and persistent inflation, raising interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point on Wednesday and signaling that it is prepared to inflict economic pain to get prices under control.

The rate increase was the central bank’s biggest since 1994 and could be followed by a similarly sized move next month, suggested Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, underscoring just how much America’s unexpectedly stubborn price gains are unsettling Fed officials.

As central bankers drive their policy rate rapidly higher, it will make buying a home or expanding a business more expensive, restraining spending and slowing the broader economy. Officials expect growth to moderate in the coming months and years and predicted that unemployment will rise about half a percentage point to 4.1 percent by late 2024 as their policy squeezes companies and workers.

economic projections they released Wednesday, which would be the highest level since 2008. They also foresee the Fed’s policy rate peaking at 3.8 percent at the end of 2023, up from 2.8 percent when projections were last released in March.

Consumer Price Index jumped 8.6 percent in May from a year earlier, the fastest increase since late 1981. The pace was brisk even after the stripping out of food and fuel prices.

While the Fed’s preferred price gauge — the Personal Consumption Expenditures measure — is climbing slightly more slowly, it remains too hot for comfort as well. And consumers are beginning to expect faster inflation in the months and years ahead, based on surveys, which is a worrying development. Economists think that expectations can be self-fulfilling, causing people to ask for wage increases and accept price jumps in ways that perpetuate high inflation.

“What we’re looking for is compelling evidence that inflationary pressures are abating, and that inflation is moving back down,” Mr. Powell said at his news conference Wednesday, noting that instead the inflation situation has worsened. “We thought that strong action was warranted.”

One Fed official, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Esther George, voted against the rate increase. Though Ms. George has historically worried about high inflation and favored higher interest rates, she would have preferred a half-point move in this instance.

Stock prices have been plummeting and bond market signals are flashing red as Wall Street traders and economists increasingly expect that the economy may tip into a recession. On Wednesday, the S&P 500 rose 1.5 percent, climbing after the release of the decision and Mr. Powell’s news conference, most likely because investors had already expected the Fed to make a large move.

The economy remains strong for now, but the Fed’s actions are beginning to have a real-world impact: Mortgage rates have risen sharply and are helping to cool the housing market; demand for consumer goods is showing signs of beginning to slow as borrowing becomes more expensive; and job growth, while robust, has begun to moderate.

While the economic path ahead may be a rocky one, the Fed’s policymakers contend that things would be worse in the long run if they did not act. As prices surge, worker pay is not keeping up. That means that families are falling behind as they try to afford gas, food and rent, even in a very strong labor market.

“You really cannot have the kind of labor market we want without price stability,” Mr. Powell said Wednesday, explaining that what officials want is a job market with lots of job opportunities and rising wages. “It’s not going to happen with the levels of inflation we have.”

The White House has been emphasizing that the Fed plays the key role in bringing down inflation, even as the Biden administration does what it can to reduce some costs for beleaguered consumers and urges companies to improve gas supply.

“The Federal Reserve has a primary responsibility to control inflation,” President Biden wrote in a recent opinion column. He added that “past presidents have sought to influence its decisions inappropriately during periods of elevated inflation. I won’t do this.”

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Oil tops $120 a barrel on Saudi pricing despite OPEC+ deal

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A drilling rig operates in the Permian Basin oil and natural gas production area in Lea County, New Mexico, U.S., February 10, 2019. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

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  • Saudi Arabia raises official prices for Asian buyers
  • OPEC+ unlikely to reach increased output target -JP Morgan
  • WTI hits highest since early March

June 6 (Reuters) – Oil prices settled slightly lower after choppy trade on Monday, buoyed by Saudi Arabia raising its July crude prices but amid doubts that a higher output target for OPEC+ oil producers would ease tight supply.

Brent crude fell 21 cents, or 0.2%, to settle at $119.51 a barrel after touching an intraday high of $121.95.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 37 cents, or 0.3%, to settle at $118.50 a barrel after hitting a three-month high of $120.99. The benchmark fell by $1 earlier in the session.

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Saudi Arabia raised the July official selling price (OSP) for its flagship Arab light crude to Asia by $2.10 from June to a $6.50 premium over Oman/Dubai quotes, just off an all-time peak recorded in May when prices hit highs due to worries of disruptions in supplies from Russia. read more

The price increase followed a decision last week by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, together called OPEC+, to boost output for July and August by 648,000 barrels per day, or 50% more than previously planned, though constraint in global refining capacity has kept prices elevated.

“Crude inputs into the U.S. refineries have been reduced by about 6% from four years ago at this time with this reduction associating with a need for less crude cover while contributing to a severe tightness in the gasoline and diesel markets,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Illinois.

The increased target was spread across all OPEC+ members, many of which have little room to increase output and which include Russia, which faces Western sanctions after its invasion of Ukraine in February.

“With only a handful of … OPEC+ participants with spare capacity, we expect the increase in OPEC+ output to be about 160,000 barrels per day in July and 170,000 bpd in August,” JP Morgan analysts said in a note.

On Monday, Citibank and Barclays raised their price forecasts for 2022 and 2023, saying they expected Russian output and exports to fall by around 1 million to 1.5 million bpd by end-2022. read more

Separately, Italy’s Eni and Spain’s Repsol could begin shipping small volumes of Venezuelan oil to Europe as soon as next month, five people familiar with the matter told Reuters. read more

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Reporting by Laura Sanicola; Additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla in London, Florence Tan in Singapore and Sonali Paul in Melbourne; editing by Jason Neely, Will Dunham and Chris Reese

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Taser maker halts drone project; most of its ethics panel resigns

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The headquarters for Axon Enterprise Inc, formerly Taser International, is seen in Scottsdale, Aizona, U.S., May 17, 2017. Picture taken May 17, 2017. To match Special Report USA-TASER/EXPERTS REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo

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June 6 (Reuters) – Taser-maker Axon Enterprise Inc (AXON.O) said it was halting a project to equip drones with stun guns to combat mass shootings, a reversal that did not stop most of its ethics advisory board members from announcing their resignation on Monday in protest over the original plans.

The May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which killed 19 children and two teachers, prompted Axon to announce last week it was working on a drone that first responders could operate remotely to fire a Taser at a target about 40 feet (12 m) away.

Nine of 12 members of the company’s AI Ethics Board quit over concerns the drones would harm over-policed communities and that Axon publicized its ambitions without consulting the group. The resignations and Axon’s scuttled plans were first reported by Reuters.

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“In light of feedback, we are pausing work on this project and refocusing to further engage with key constituencies to fully explore the best path forward,” Chief Executive Rick Smith said in a statement.

The action by ethics board members marked a rare public rebuke for one of the watchdog groups some companies have set up to gather feedback on emerging technologies, such as drones and artificial intelligence (AI) software.

Smith said it was unfortunate that members withdrew before Axon could address their technical questions, but the company “will continue to seek diverse perspectives to challenge our thinking.”

Axon, which also sells body-worn cameras and policing software, has said its clients include about 17,000 out of the roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States.

It explored the idea of a Taser-equipped drone for police since at least 2016, and Smith depicted how one could stop an active shooter in a graphic novel he wrote. The novel shows a daycare center with what looks like an enlarged smoke alarm, which first recognizes the sound of gunfire and then ejects a drone, identifying and tasing the shooter in two seconds.

Axon first approached its ethics board more than a year ago about Taser-equipped drones, and the panel last month voted eight to four against running a limited police pilot of the technology.

The company announced the drone idea anyway, as it said it wanted to get past “fruitless debates” on guns after the Uvalde shooting, sending shares up nearly 6%. They were down 0.5% on Monday.

Ethics board members worried the drones could exacerbate racial injustice, undermine privacy through surveillance and become more lethal if other weapons were added, member Wael Abd-Almageed said in an interview.

“What we have right now is just dangerous and irresponsible,” said Abd-Almageed, an engineering research associate professor at University of Southern California.

The board likewise had not evaluated use of the drones by first responders outside police, it said. And members questioned how a drone could navigate closed doors to stop a shooting.

The drone is “distracting society from real solutions to a tragic problem,” resigning board members said in a Monday statement.

CEO Smith has said drones could be stationed in hallways and move into rooms through special vents. A drone system would cost a school about $1,000 annually, he said.

Formed in 2018, the ethics panel has guided Axon productively on sensitive technologies such as facial recognition in the past.

Giles Herdale, one of the remaining ethics board members, told Reuters he chose not to resign because he could have more influence “if I am in the tent than outside it.”

For others, the company’s drone announcement prior to a formal report by the board broke with practice, said member Ryan Calo, a University of Washington law professor.

“I’m not going to stay on an advisory board for a company that departs so far from expectation and protocol or, frankly, who believes ubiquitous surveillance coupled with remote non-lethal weapons is a viable response to school shootings,” he said.

Barry Friedman, the board chairman, resigned as well.

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Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in Palo Alto, Calif., and Paresh Dave in Oakland, Calif.; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel and Tomasz Janowski

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Saudi Arabia hikes July crude prices surprisingly high for Asia buyers

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General view of Aramco tanks and oil pipe at Saudi Aramco’s Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in Saudi Arabia May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

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June 6 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, raised July crude oil prices for Asian buyers to higher-than-expected levels amid concerns about tight supply and expectations of strong demand in summer.

The official selling price (OSP) for July-loading Arab Light to Asia was hiked by $2.1 a barrel from June to $6.5 a barrel over Oman/Dubai quotes, just off an all-time-high recorded in May.

That was much higher than most market forecasts for an increase around $1.5. Only one respondent of six in a Reuters poll had predicted a jump of $2. read more

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“The price jump is unexpected, especially the Arab Light. We are puzzled by the decision,” said an Asian oil trader.

Reuters Graphics

The hike by state oil producer Saudi Aramco (2222.SE) came despite an agreement by OPEC+ states to boost output by 648,000 barrels per day (bpd) in July and a similar amount in August in an effort to offset Russian supply losses. That compares with an initial plan to add 432,000 bpd a month over three months until September. read more

But the increases have been divided across member countries including Russia and states such as Angola and Nigeria which struggle to meet their targets, leading to fears that the actual boost to supply may fall short of official plans.

Countries in the northern hemisphere, such as the United States, typically kick off their driving seasons in July sending demand for gasoline surging. China, the world’s No.1 oil importer, is also re-opening some cities such as Shanghai after lengthy COVID-19 lockdowns.

“Demand is also very strong in this cycle and Saudi can afford to hike OSPs,” said another Asian oil trader.

Some demand for Saudi oil could be countered by persistent flows of Russian oil to China and India, which have refused to condemn Moscow for the invasion of Ukraine and have been ramping up purchases of Russian cargos at bargain prices.

Moscow says it is carrying out a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and Western countries dismiss Russia’s claims as a pretext to invade.

Saudi Aramco on Sunday night also raised its OSP for European and Mediterranean buyers, but kept U.S. differentials unchanged.

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Reporting by Moataz Mohammed and Yasmin Hussein, Muyu Xu in Singapore; Editing by Catherine Evans and Edwina Gibbs

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A Farmer Holds On, a Fraying Lifeline for a Besieged Corner of Ukraine

SIVERSK DISTRICT, Ukraine — One of the few civilians still driving on a road leading toward the battle front, Oleksandr Chaplik skidded to a stop and leaned out the car window to swap information with a villager.

He was taking supplies back to his village, one of a handful still in Ukrainian hands that lie in the path of the Russian advance.

“We are surrounded on all sides,” said Mr. Chaplik, 55, a dairy and livestock farmer. “It is the second month without light, without water, without gas, without communication, without the internet, without news. Basically, horror.”

“But people need to eat,” he said. “I am a businessman. So I am doing my job.”

Mr. Chaplik owns about 75 acres of land near the city of Sievierodonetsk, where Russian and Ukrainian troops have been battling for control in heavy street fighting in recent days. The countryside around his farm is under almost constant bombardment by Russian forces trying to encircle the easternmost Ukrainian forces and lay siege to Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.

street fighting raged in the contested city of Sievierodonetsk. Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, warned that the conflict appeared to have become a “war of attrition” and advised allies to be prepared for “the long haul.”

“My nerves are cracking,” he said, as he declined another phone call. “I am working 14 to 15 hours a day. Physically I am tired.”

So now he is arranging for his son to bring in a mobile antenna, so the villagers can be in touch with their relatives.

He sees more problems on the horizon. The war has disrupted farming and food production to such an extent that people in eastern Ukraine could go hungry in coming months, he warned.

The potatoes are already planted, which will provide food for the villagers, he said, but meat and milk will become scarce.

“If I do not prepare feed for my cows they will die this winter,” he said. “I cannot cut the hay because of the cluster bombs in the fields and I need 12,000 bales of hay and I do not have the workers.”

And as he follows the progress of the war, and the steady advance of Russian troops, he said it was likely that they would seize control of the village and he would lose the farm that he built up over more than 20 years.

Separatist forces backed by Russia seized the area in 2014 but were pushed back after a few months. But this time he said he did not expect President Vladimir V. Putin to stop. The Russian leader wants to seize a swath of the country from the city of Kharkiv in the northeast to Odessa in the southwest, he said.

“He will not calm down,” he said. “He will fight for a year, two, three, until he reaches his goal.”

Mr. Chaplik has been slaughtering his pigs, so only one remains, slumbering in his pen. The newborn calves will have to be slaughtered too, he said. “It’s a shame.”

If the Russians came, he added, he would have to leave his guard dogs, six German shepherds. “I could not bear to put them down,” he said. “I will let them loose.”

If the shells came too close, he would take his workers and leave, he said. “I will start anew,” he said. “Give me a little piece of land, in Ukraine, in the United States, wherever. I can build a great business again.”

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Live Updates: Facing Heavy Losses, Ukraine Slowly Falls Back in East

Amid the roar of artillery and bone-rattling explosions, New York Times photographers have borne graphic witness to the fight to survive. These are their stories and images.

Through the three months of Russia’s invasion, New York Times journalists have chronicled carnage and courage, ruin and resolve, across the wide arc of combat through eastern Ukraine, where Vladimir V. Putin’s brutal offensive is now concentrated.

At the front line and within easy range of it, they have joined civilians whose homes, families and emotions have been shattered, as well as Ukrainian soldiers — hardened veterans and green volunteers — using tools as modern as surveillance drones and as ancient as trenches.

Amid the roar of artillery, the clatter of small arms and bone-rattling explosions, Times photographers have borne graphic witness to the fight to survive and kill — or just survive. These are their accounts and images from the last few weeks of that fight.

On the front line south of Izium, a Russian-captured city just north of the Donetsk region, two Ukrainian 122-mm guns thundered across the rolling landscape last week. They belonged to an artillery detachment of the 93rd Mechanized Brigade, called in to fire on Russian forces who had pinned down Ukrainian troops.

The camouflaged gunners then worked at lightning speed to conceal their position, moving broken branches to hide from view the smoking barrels of the powerful weapons. A young soldier wearing a bandanna and a determined expression burst out of the greenery, sprinting back into the woods to hide from enemy drones. Soon the team was reloading, aiming and firing again.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
Credit… Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

Along the same front, a dozen members of the 95th Air Assault Brigade camped in a concrete building at an abandoned farmhouse. Throughout the night, in pairs, they took turns on sentry duty from inside a trench system worming down a hillside, overlooking a valley of rolling wheat fields pockmarked with dark clumps of dirt kicked up by the impact of recent shelling by Russian artillery.

Several nearby buildings had been shattered by shelling, and the thump of artillery exchanges between Ukrainian and Russian troops a few miles north rumbled day and night.

Artem Sandul, 20, pulled on a cigarette under the cover of a wood and mud bunker in the trenches as dawn broke. Until Russia invaded on Feb. 24, he had been flipping burgers at a McDonald’s. Now he was cooking for his fellow soldiers, his commander seemingly keeping him back from the most dangerous shelling a couple of miles up the road, where Ukrainian lines were only 400 yards from Russian lines in some places.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Near Izium, jets, most likely Russian, flew low over Ukrainian positions, firing defensive flares to confuse antiaircraft batteries, then made a sharp turn toward the trenches and screamed by so low that they disappeared behind a tree line before vanishing over the horizon.

On Tuesday, in Vuhledar, about 30 miles southeast of the Russian-occupied Donetsk, an artillery team from the 53rd Brigade responded to Russian artillery fire the soldiers said was coming from inside a church about four miles away.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

In Barvinkove, a Ukrainian-held town 20 miles southwest of Izium, a cyclist pedaled past blown-out buildings and a barricade, while at a small base, soldiers drank coffee and a sniper prepared his rifle for a mission. Nearby, Russian forces were trying to push southward, part of a pincer move to trap the Ukrainian troops still holding a pocket of territory in the two eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

On the seesawing front line of that pocket lies Bakhmut, a largely evacuated town of blasted building shells, rubble and incinerated vehicles, where two huge craters bracket the administrative building. In newly reinforced defensive positions, Ukrainian soldiers tried to hold off the Russian advance, amid the constant din and ground shudder of artillery fired by both sides.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

In that region, Times photographers encountered evidence of Russian losses, too. Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces, mostly volunteer fighters, managed to retake the village of Novopil. With Russian troops still less than half a mile away, the evidence of a fierce battle was everywhere, in the wreckage of houses and the stench of dead bodies.

In front of a small shed, the body of a Russian soldier lay where he had been cut down, his clean, well-polished boots at odds with the surrounding devastation. His brown suede belt bore the hammer and sickle of the Soviet Union.

Near Bilohorivka were the ravaged bodies and tanks of hundreds of Russian troops whose disastrous attempt to cross the Seversky Donets River fell to deadly Ukrainian heavy artillery.

But many of those caught in the destruction did not wear uniforms. Vitaliy Kononenko, 47, had just built a new home for his family in the Zaporizhzhia region in southern Ukraine, but before he could bring his wife and children to see it, it was destroyed.

In the train station in Pokrovsk, in the Donetsk region, Anna Vereschak, 43, boarded a westbound evacuation train with her daughters Milana, 5, and Diana, 4, after bombardment forced them from their village. Another woman, Valentina, ushered her blind 87-year-old mother, Nina, onto the train.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times
Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times
Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Millions of Ukrainians have fled their homes, particularly from the east, taking only what they can cram into a bag or two, often after holding out for weeks or months in basements despite bombardment, hunger and isolation. Some of the fiercest fighting now is around Sievierodonetsk, in the Luhansk region, the easternmost city still held by Ukraine.

In Lysychansk, just across the bombed-out bridge from Sievierodonetsk, three police officers braved artillery fire to collect the bodies of the dead, like a 65-year-old woman known to neighbors as Grandma Masha. Her dog growled and barked from his kennel as they loaded her into a body bag and then their white van.

Grandma Masha could not get the medicine she needed to treat her diabetes, according to a neighbor, Lena, 39. Her son had left with his family and was not able to return when she fell ill.

“It’s a completely stupid war — but no one asked for my opinion,” said Lena, who, like most people interviewed, gave only her first name because she feared for her safety.

In an apartment block in Sievierodonetsk, already partially blasted and burned by shelling, residents huddled in the basement, resigned, at last, to evacuation. They barely reacted to the sounds of explosion and nearby gunfire.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

Across the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, and the southern part of the Kharkiv region, Times photographers found Ukrainian troops in every imaginable phase of daily life in a combat zone.

In an underground bunker were dozens of members of the Carpathian Sich Battalion — eating, sleeping, cleaning their weapons and chatting on cellphones with their wives and girlfriends. Some gathered around a monitor to watch drone video of a recent attack. Most smoked.

The floor and walls of the bunker quaked as a tank round hit a nearby building, and small-arms fire followed. Bullets ricocheted off walls outside. The Russians were close.

A handful of Ukrainian soldiers dashed outside to repel the attack, while others collected their weapons and waited by the door in case they were needed. They weren’t; the shooting subsided.

One soldier lit a stove and began frying buckwheat.

Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times
Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times
Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

At a well-guarded and heavily fortified checkpoint, fighters built more trenches and bunkers, using sandbags and rough-hewn logs, in preparation for a possible Russian advance in their direction. Warned of incoming artillery fire, they ducked into a bunker, and a medic in the group boasted that their hideouts could take almost anything the Russians might fire at them.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

The evidence of war was strewn across the ravaged landscape. Wreckage was everywhere, from collapsed buildings and buckled streets to burned-out tanks. A common sight was the tail of a rocket sticking out of the ground, a reminder of the constant danger from above.

The smells and sounds of war were everywhere, too. Few civilians were around, but troops were omnipresent, patrolling, scavenging, resting and building fortifications when they were not fighting.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
Credit… Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

After their armored vehicle broke down, a dozen soldiers from Ukraine’s 95th Air Assault Brigade recently stood by a roadside near the city of Kramatorsk, smoking, like stranded commuters waiting for a lift.

An attempt to tow them failed, so the soldiers, with their weapons, piled aboard another armored vehicle and set off in the day’s fading light toward the front.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times
Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

The men of the 93rd Brigade are at the forefront of efforts to hold off the Russian advance south of Izium. Small units of mortar teams have camped out in destroyed villages, battling Russian forces that have thrown everything at them.

They spoke of enduring days of near-constant shelling, sheltering in dank basements, surrounded by jars of pickled vegetables.

Thoughts rarely strayed far from the lethal stakes, but between such harrowing episodes, it was striking how the ordinary business of life, like a highway breakdown, never quite disappeared.

A kiosk in Bakhmut did a brisk trade serving coffee, burgers and sandwiches to soldiers coming and going from the fighting.

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
Credit… Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

In Barvinkove, which has come under heavy Russian bombardment, a few local women were still hawking vegetables and dairy products under the shade of a tree in the town center. A passing soldier, back from the front to refuel, asked to buy some herbs.

The woman refused to take payment for her goods, waving him off and wishing him well.

Credit…Finbarr O’Reilly for The New York Times

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How Jack Welch’s Reign at G.E. Gave Us Elon Musk’s Twitter Feed

When Jack Welch died on March 1, 2020, tributes poured in for the longtime chief executive of General Electric, whom many revered as the greatest chief executive of all time.

David Zaslav, the C.E.O. of Warner Bros. Discovery and a Welch disciple, remembered him as an almost godlike figure. “Jack set the path. He saw the whole world. He was above the whole world,” Mr. Zaslav said. “What he created at G.E. became the way companies now operate.”

Mr. Zaslav’s words were meant as unequivocal praise. During Mr. Welch’s two decades in power — from 1981 to 2001 — he turned G.E. into the most valuable company in the world, groomed a flock of protégés who went on to run major companies of their own, and set the standard by which other C.E.O.s were measured.

Yet a closer examination of the Welch legacy reveals that he was not simply the “Manager of the Century,” as Fortune magazine crowned him upon his retirement.

broken up for good.

the fateful decision to redesign the 737 — a plane introduced in the 1960s — once more, rather than lose out on a crucial order with American Airlines. That decision set in motion the flawed development of the 737 Max, which crashed twice in five months, killing 346 people. And while a number of factors contributed to those tragedies, they were ultimately the product of a corporate culture that cut corners in pursuit of short-term financial gains.

Even today Boeing is run by a Welch disciple. Dave Calhoun, the current C.E.O., was a dark horse candidate to succeed Mr. Welch in 2001, and he was on the Boeing board during the rollout of the Max and the botched response to the crashes.

When Mr. Calhoun took over the company in 2020, he set up his office not in Seattle (Boeing’s spiritual home) or Chicago (its official headquarters), but outside St. Louis at the Boeing Leadership Center, an internal training center explicitly built in the image of Crotonville. He said he hoped to channel Mr. Welch, whom he called his “forever mentor.”

The “Manager of the Century” was unbowed in retirement, barreling through the twilight of his life with the same bombast that defined his tenure as C.E.O.

He refashioned himself as a management guru and created a $50,000 online M.B.A. in an effort to instill his tough-nosed tactics in a new generation of business leaders. (The school boasts that “more than two out of three students receive a raise or promotion while enrolled.”) He cheered on the political rise of Mr. Trump, then advised him when he won the White House.

In his waning days, Mr. Welch emerged as a trafficker of conspiracy theories. He called climate change “mass neurosis” and “the attack on capitalism that socialism couldn’t bring.” He called for President Trump to appoint Rudy Giuliani attorney general and investigate his political enemies.

The most telling example of Mr. Welch’s foray into political commentary, and the beliefs it revealed, came in 2012. That’s when he took to Twitter and accused the Obama administration of fabricating the monthly jobs report numbers for political gain. The accusation was rich with irony. After decades during which G.E. massaged its own earnings reports, Mr. Welch was effectively accusing the White House of doing the same thing.

While Mr. Welch’s claim was baseless, conservative pundits picked up on the conspiracy theory and amplified it on cable news and Twitter. Even Mr. Trump, then merely a reality television star, joined the chorus, calling Mr. Welch’s bogus accusation “100 percent correct” and accusing the Obama administration of “monkeying around” with the numbers. It was one of the first lies to go viral on social media, and it had come from one of the most revered figures in the history of business.

When Mr. Welch died, few of his eulogists paused to consider the entirety of his legacy. They didn’t dwell on the downsizing, the manipulated earnings, the Twitter antics.

And there was no consideration of the ways in which the economy had been shaped by Mr. Welch over the previous 40 years, creating a world where manufacturing jobs have evaporated as C.E.O. pay soars, where buybacks and dividends are plentiful as corporate tax rates plunge.

By glossing over this reality, his allies helped perpetuate the myth of his sainthood, adding their own spin on one of the most enduring bits of disinformation of all: the notion that Jack Welch was the greatest C.E.O. of all time.

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