Persistent Inflation Threatens Biden’s Agenda

WASHINGTON — At least once a week, a team of President Biden’s top advisers meet on Zoom to address the nation’s supply chain crisis. They discuss ways to relieve backlogs at America’s ports, ramp up semiconductor production for struggling automakers and swell the ranks of truck drivers.

The conversations are aimed at one goal: taming accelerating price increases that are hurting the economic recovery, unsettling American consumers and denting Mr. Biden’s popularity.

An inflation surge is presenting a fresh challenge for Mr. Biden, who for months insisted that rising prices were a temporary hangover from the pandemic recession and would quickly recede. Instead, the president and his aides are now bracing for high inflation to persist into next year, with Americans continuing to see faster — and sustained — increases in prices for food, gasoline and other consumer goods than at any point this century.

That reality has complicated Mr. Biden’s push for sweeping legislation to boost workers, expand access to education and fight poverty and climate change. And it is dragging on the president’s approval ratings, which could threaten Democrats’ already tenuous hold on Congress in the 2022 midterm elections.

CNBC and Fox News show a sharp decline in voter ratings of Mr. Biden’s overall performance and his handling of the economy, even though unemployment has fallen quickly on his watch and economic output has strengthened to its fastest rate since Ronald Reagan was president. Voter worry over price increases has jumped in the last month.

via executive actions.

“There are distinct challenges from turning the economy back on after the pandemic that we are bringing together state and local officials, the private sector and labor to address — so that prices decrease,” Kate Berner, the White House deputy communications director, said in an interview.

Mr. Biden’s top officials stress that the administration’s policies have helped accelerate America’s economic rebound. Workers are commanding their largest wage gains in two decades. Growth roared back in the first half of the year, fueled by the $1.9 trillion economic aid bill the president signed in March. America’s expansion continues to outpace other wealthy nations around the world.

Inflation has risen in wealthy nations across the globe, as the pandemic has hobbled the movement of goods and component parts between countries. Virus-wary consumers have shifted their spending toward goods rather than services, travel and tourism remain depressed, and energy prices have risen as demand for fuel and electricity has surged amid the resumption of business activity and some weather shocks linked to climate change.

But some economists, including veterans of previous Democratic administrations, say much of Mr. Biden’s inflation struggle is self-inflicted. Lawrence H. Summers is one of those who say the stimulus bill the president signed in March gave too much of a boost to consumer spending, at a time when the supply-chain disruptions have made it hard for Americans to get their hands on the things they want to buy. Mr. Summers, who served in the Obama and Clinton administrations, says inflation now risks spiraling out of control and other Democratic economists agree there are risks.

“The original sin was an oversized American Rescue Plan. It contributed to both higher output but also higher prices,” said Jason Furman, a Harvard economist who chaired the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama.

That has some important Democrats worried about price-related drawbacks from the president’s ambitious spending package, complicating Mr. Biden’s approach.

ease the pain of high-profile price spikes, like gasoline. Some in his administration have pushed for mobilizing the National Guard to help unclog ports that are stacked with imports waiting to be delivered to consumers around the country. Mr. Biden has raised the possibility of tapping the strategic petroleum reserve to modestly boost oil supplies, or of negotiating with oil producers in the Middle East to ramp up.

During a CNN town hall last week, Mr. Biden conceded the limits of his power, saying, “I don’t have a near-term answer” for bringing down gas prices, which he does not expect to begin dropping until next year.

“I don’t see anything that’s going to happen in the meantime that’s going to significantly reduce gas prices,” he said.

Janet L. Yellen, the Treasury secretary, told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that she expects improvement in the overall inflation rate “by the middle to end of next year, second half of next year.”

With an American public that had gone nearly 40 years without seeing — or worrying — about inflation, the issue provides an opening for the opposition. Republicans have turned price spikes into a weapon against Mr. Biden’s economic policies, warning that more spending would exacerbate the pain for everyday Americans.

“It’s everywhere,” said Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, in an interview. “You can’t live your life without seeing your paycheck buy less.”

White House officials have monitored inflationary pressure for months. They remain convinced, as they were in April, that price increases will not spiral out of control and force abrupt interest-rate increases from the Federal Reserve that could slam the brakes on growth.

The president and his top advisers remain confident that price growth will start to fall well before the midterms. They defend the size of the rescue plan and say Americans are focused on inflation right now because the success of the stimulus bill accelerated economic and employment growth and took a larger issue — the availability of jobs for people who want them — off the table.

“It is a highly incomplete view to try to assess the economy, and even people’s views about the economy, by looking at inflation alone,” Jared Bernstein, a member of Mr. Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, said in an interview. “You also have to appreciate the robustness of the expansion, and how it’s lifting job and earnings opportunities.”

Mr. Bernstein and other advisers say many of the causes of inflation are already improving. They point to calculations by Mark Zandi, a Moody’s Analytics economist, that suggest Americans who have left the labor force will begin flocking back into the job market by December or January, because they will likely have exhausted their savings by then.

The advisers are also continuing to explore more actions they could take, including efforts to increase the number of truck drivers near ports and to force lower prices and more competition in the food industry.

“We are always all in on everything,” Ms. Berner said.

To which many officials add a caveat: Almost anything the White House could do now will take time to push prices down.

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Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok Is Detained in Apparent Coup

ImageA man wore Sudan’s flag as a pile of tires burned during a protest in Khartoum, Sudan, last week.
Credit…Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters

NAIROBI, Kenya — Military forces detained Sudan’s prime minister early on Monday in an apparent coup that endangered the northeast African nation’s fragile transition to democracy from authoritarian rule.

The Sudanese Ministry of Culture and Information said in a Facebook post that the joint military forces had placed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok under house arrest and pressured him to release a “pro-coup statement.” After refusing to “endorse the coup,” the ministry said, Mr. Hamdok was then moved to “an unknown location.”

The military also detained several top cabinet members and civilian members of the Transitional Sovereignty Council, the ministry said.

The detentions came about one month after the authorities said they had thwarted a coup attempt by loyalists of the deposed dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

As news of the arrests spread, protesters filled the streets of the capital, Khartoum, early Monday. Television stations showed people burning tires in Khartoum, with plumes of smoke filling the skies. The information ministry also said that internet connections had been cut and that the military had closed bridges.

The possibility of a coup has haunted the country’s transitional government since 2019, when Mr. al-Bashir was overthrown, and Sudan has been rocked by protests from two factions. One side had helped topple Mr. al-Bashir after widespread mass protests, and the other backs a military government.

On Monday, pro-democracy demonstrators chanted: “The people are stronger. Retreat is impossible.” Some clapped, and the procession of demonstrators grew larger.

Relations between the leaders of the transitional government, which is made up of civilian and military officials, have been strained. In recent days, pro-military protesters have demanded the dissolution of the transitional cabinet, a step many pro-democracy groups have denounced as setting the stage for a coup.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, the main pro-democratic political group, had warned on social media that the military was preparing to seize power. The association urged residents on Monday to take to the streets to resist what they called a “military coup.”

“The revolution is a revolution of the people,” the group, which is made up of doctors, engineers and lawyers organizations, said in a Facebook post. “Power and wealth belongs to the people. No to a military coup.”

Credit…Brittainy Newman/The New York Times

As the protests intensified on Monday, NetBlocks, an internet monitoring organization, said there had been a “significant disruption” to internet services affecting cellphone and some fixed lines in the country. That disruption, it said, “is likely to limit the free flow of information online and news coverage of incidents on the ground.”

For months, the country has been wracked by political uncertainty and the challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic, and Sudan’s economy is in a precarious state, with growing unemployment and rising food and commodity prices nationwide.

The army chief of staff had been expected to hand over leadership of the transitional cabinet to Mr. Hamdok in November, which would have given him a largely ceremonial post, but one that would have signified full civilian control of Sudan for the first time in decades.

On Saturday local time, Jeffrey Feltman, the United States special envoy for the Horn of Africa, met with the Sudanese prime minister and reiterated the Biden administration’s support for a civilian democratic transition.

On Monday, Mr. Feltman said the United States was “deeply alarmed at reports of a military takeover of the transitional government.”

“This would contravene the Constitutional Declaration and the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people and is utterly unacceptable,” Mr. Feltman said in a statement. “As we have said repeatedly, any changes to the transitional government by force puts at risk U.S. assistance.”

After the detentions on Monday, state television played national patriotic songs, and local news reports said that Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the sovereignty council, was expected to make a statement about the unfolding events.

Credit…Brittainy Newman/The New York Times

After President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for nearly 30 years, was ousted in a coup in 2019, the country began taking tenuous steps toward democracy, but has been plagued with unrest and an attempted military takeover.

His government was replaced by an 11-member sovereign council consisting of six civilians and five military leaders, who were given the task of preparing the country for elections after a three-year transition period.

The council appointed Abdalla Hamdok, an economist who has held several United Nations positions, as prime minister, and his government immediately embarked on an ambitious program designed to placate pro-democracy demonstrators and rejoin the international community.

Mr. Hamdok’s government eased decades of strict Islamist policies, scrapping an apostasy law and abolishing the use of public flogging. It also undertook a political and economic overhaul. It revived talks with rebel groups, and began investigations into the bloody suppression of the Darfur region under Mr. al-Bashir, promising to prosecute and possibly hand over to the International Criminal Court those wanted for war crimes there.

But stubborn obstacles to progress remained, including the coronavirus pandemic, stagnant economic growth and continued violence in Darfur. Mr. Hamdok survived an assassination attempt, and concerns of a coup swirled when the country entered lockdown last year to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Last month Sudanese authorities said they had thwarted an attempted coup by loyalists of Mr. al-Bashir. Soldiers had tried to seize control of a state media building in the city of Omdurman, across the Nile from the capital, Khartoum, but they were stopped and arrested.

Mr. Hamdok blamed the failed coup on Bashir loyalists, both military and civilian, and described it as a near miss for the country’s fragile democratic transition.

The army chief of staff had been expected to hand over leadership of the sovereign council next month to Mr. Hamdok — a largely ceremonial post, but also one that signifies full civilian control of Sudan for the first time in decades.

Credit…Ashraf Shazly/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Three years ago Sudanese protesters protested against the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who had ruled the country for three decades since a 1989 coup.

Mr. al-Bashir had led his country through disastrous wars and famine, but it was anger over the rising price of bread that incited the first protests in December of 2018. After nearly four months of demonstrations and dozens of deaths at the hands of security forces, Mr. al-Bashir was forced from power in April 2019.

He had ruled Sudan longer than any other leader since the country gained independence in 1956, and was seen as a pariah in much of the world. He hosted Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, leading to American sanctions, and in 1998 an American cruise missile struck a factory in Khartoum for its alleged links to Al Qaeda.

Mr. al-Bashir presided over a ruinous 21-year war in southern Sudan, where his forces pushed barrel bombs from planes onto remote villages. The country ultimately divided into two parts in 2011, when South Sudan gained independence. But Mr. al-Bashir kept fighting brutal conflicts with rebels in other parts of Sudan.

In addition, he sent thousands of Sudanese soldiers to fight outside the country, including in the civil war in Yemen.

Mr. al-Bashir, 77, has been imprisoned since his ouster. He has been wanted by the international court in The Hague since 2009 over atrocities committed by his government in Darfur, where at least 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million displaced in a war from 2003 to 2008, the United Nations estimates.

The international court has been pressing Sudan’s transitional government, which took over after Mr. al-Bashir was deposed, to hand him over along with other leaders accused of crimes in Darfur.

Sudanese courts convicted Mr. al-Bashir of money laundering and corruption charges in late 2019 and sentenced him to two years in detention. He still faces charges related to the 1989 coup, and could be sentenced to death or life imprisonment if he is convicted.

Credit…Marwan Ali/Associated Press

The U.S. envoy for the Horn of Africa was in Sudan as recently as Saturday, urging the military and the civilian leadership to continue the country’s planned transition to democracy as protests broke out.

Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, met in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok on Saturday. They were joined by other leaders, including Lt.-Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who heads the military and the sovereignty council, and Gen. Mohammed Hamadan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, another senior military member of the council.

Mr. Feltman “emphasized U.S. support for a civilian democratic transition in accordance with the expressed wishes of Sudan’s people,” the American Embassy in Khartoum said on Twitter. He called on all parties to stick by the constitutional declaration that the military and opposition signed after Mr. al-Bashir’s ouster and a peace agreement reached last year by the government and rebel groups.

Credit…Bryan Denton for The New York Times

Sudan spent the better part of three decades isolated from the world, as its former leader Omar Hassan al-Bashir housed terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, engaged in bloody wars with his own people and squandered revenue from oil production.

Since Mr. al-Bashir was ousted in 2019, the leadership of the nation, part civilian and part military, has made overtures to Israel, the United States and the international criminal court in The Hague, where its former leader is wanted. The country’s hope was that by normalizing relations with former antagonists it could lure badly needed investment.

In 2011, South Sudan split from Sudan and formed it own nation, taking with it claims to more than 90 percent of the region’s oil reserves. That was a blow to Sudan’s economy, already beleaguered by sanctions.

After the new government formed in 2019, it began taking steps to improve foreign ties.

The United States, which lifted many sanctions on Sudan in 2017, took the country off the list of nations that support terrorism last year. President Trump had announced the decision, saying the removal was made in exchange for a $335 million compensation payment to the victims of the 1998 Qaeda attacks on American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

That deal was made possible after Sudan agreed to recognize Israel, part of a Trump administration effort to pressure Arab nations to normalize relations with the country. Sudan’s move, however, appeared short of actually establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel.

Sudan’s cabinet also voted in August to ratify the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the criminal court, and said it had agreed to extradite Mr. al-Bashir.

But his extradition remains a contentious issue in Sudan, and could now be in serious doubt. Some of the country’s military leaders were implicated along with Mr. al-Bashir in the atrocities in Darfur, a western region. If he were to be extradited, he might give evidence that could expose Sudan’s military leaders to prosecution.

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In India, Facebook Struggles to Combat Misinformation and Hate Speech

On Feb. 4, 2019, a Facebook researcher created a new user account to see what it was like to experience the social media site as a person living in Kerala, India.

For the next three weeks, the account operated by a simple rule: Follow all the recommendations generated by Facebook’s algorithms to join groups, watch videos and explore new pages on the site.

The result was an inundation of hate speech, misinformation and celebrations of violence, which were documented in an internal Facebook report published later that month.

bots and fake accounts tied to the country’s ruling party and opposition figures were wreaking havoc on national elections. They also detail how a plan championed by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, to focus on “meaningful social interactions,” or exchanges between friends and family, was leading to more misinformation in India, particularly during the pandemic.

a violent coup in the country. Facebook said that after the coup, it implemented a special policy to remove praise and support of violence in the country, and later banned the Myanmar military from Facebook and Instagram.

In Sri Lanka, people were able to automatically add hundreds of thousands of users to Facebook groups, exposing them to violence-inducing and hateful content. In Ethiopia, a nationalist youth militia group successfully coordinated calls for violence on Facebook and posted other inflammatory content.

Facebook has invested significantly in technology to find hate speech in various languages, including Hindi and Bengali, two of the most widely used languages, Mr. Stone said. He added that Facebook reduced the amount of hate speech that people see globally by half this year.

suicide bombing in the disputed border region of Kashmir set off a round of violence and a spike in accusations, misinformation and conspiracies between Indian and Pakistani nationals.

After the attack, anti-Pakistan content began to circulate in the Facebook-recommended groups that the researcher had joined. Many of the groups, she noted, had tens of thousands of users. A different report by Facebook, published in December 2019, found Indian Facebook users tended to join large groups, with the country’s median group size at 140,000 members.

Graphic posts, including a meme showing the beheading of a Pakistani national and dead bodies wrapped in white sheets on the ground, circulated in the groups she joined.

After the researcher shared her case study with co-workers, her colleagues commented on the posted report that they were concerned about misinformation about the upcoming elections in India.

Two months later, after India’s national elections had begun, Facebook put in place a series of steps to stem the flow of misinformation and hate speech in the country, according to an internal document called Indian Election Case Study.

The case study painted an optimistic picture of Facebook’s efforts, including adding more fact-checking partners — the third-party network of outlets with which Facebook works to outsource fact-checking — and increasing the amount of misinformation it removed. It also noted how Facebook had created a “political white list to limit P.R. risk,” essentially a list of politicians who received a special exemption from fact-checking.

The study did not note the immense problem the company faced with bots in India, nor issues like voter suppression. During the election, Facebook saw a spike in bots — or fake accounts — linked to various political groups, as well as efforts to spread misinformation that could have affected people’s understanding of the voting process.

In a separate report produced after the elections, Facebook found that over 40 percent of top views, or impressions, in the Indian state of West Bengal were “fake/inauthentic.” One inauthentic account had amassed more than 30 million impressions.

A report published in March 2021 showed that many of the problems cited during the 2019 elections persisted.

In the internal document, called Adversarial Harmful Networks: India Case Study, Facebook researchers wrote that there were groups and pages “replete with inflammatory and misleading anti-Muslim content” on Facebook.

The report said there were a number of dehumanizing posts comparing Muslims to “pigs” and “dogs,” and misinformation claiming that the Quran, the holy book of Islam, calls for men to rape their female family members.

Much of the material circulated around Facebook groups promoting Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, an Indian right-wing and nationalist group with close ties to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P. The groups took issue with an expanding Muslim minority population in West Bengal and near the Pakistani border, and published posts on Facebook calling for the ouster of Muslim populations from India and promoting a Muslim population control law.

Facebook knew that such harmful posts proliferated on its platform, the report indicated, and it needed to improve its “classifiers,” which are automated systems that can detect and remove posts containing violent and inciting language. Facebook also hesitated to designate R.S.S. as a dangerous organization because of “political sensitivities” that could affect the social network’s operation in the country.

Of India’s 22 officially recognized languages, Facebook said it has trained its A.I. systems on five. (It said it had human reviewers for some others.) But in Hindi and Bengali, it still did not have enough data to adequately police the content, and much of the content targeting Muslims “is never flagged or actioned,” the Facebook report said.

Five months ago, Facebook was still struggling to efficiently remove hate speech against Muslims. Another company report detailed efforts by Bajrang Dal, an extremist group linked with the B.J.P., to publish posts containing anti-Muslim narratives on the platform.

Facebook is considering designating the group as a dangerous organization because it is “inciting religious violence” on the platform, the document showed. But it has not yet done so.

“Join the group and help to run the group; increase the number of members of the group, friends,” said one post seeking recruits on Facebook to spread Bajrang Dal’s messages. “Fight for truth and justice until the unjust are destroyed.”

Ryan Mac, Cecilia Kang and Mike Isaac contributed reporting.

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How Russia Is Cashing In on Climate Change

PEVEK, Russia — A refurbished port. A spanking new plant to generate electricity. Repaved roads. And money left over to repair the library and put in a new esplanade along the shore of the Arctic Ocean.

Globally, the warming climate is a creeping disaster, threatening lives and livelihoods with floods, fires and droughts, and requiring tremendous effort and expenditure to combat.

But in Pevek, a small port town on the Arctic Ocean in Russia’s Far North capitalizing on a boom in Arctic shipping, the warming climate is seen as a barely mitigated bonanza.

“I would call it a rebirth,” said Valentina Khristoforova, a curator at a local history museum. “We are in a new era.”

Arable land is expanding, with farmers planting corn in parts of Siberia where it never grew before. Winter heating bills are declining, and Russian fishermen have found a modest pollock catch in thawed areas of the Arctic Ocean near Alaska.

Nowhere do the prospects seem brighter than in Russia’s Far North, where rapidly rising temperatures have opened up a panoply of new possibilities, like mining and energy projects. Perhaps the most profound of these is the prospect, as early as next year, of year-round Arctic shipping with specially designed “ice class” container vessels, offering an alternative to the Suez Canal.

The Kremlin’s policy toward climate change is contradictory. It is not a significant issue in domestic politics. But ever mindful of Russia’s global image, President Vladimir V. Putin recently vowed for the first time that Russia, the world’s fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases and a prodigious producer of fossil fuels, would become carbon neutral by 2060.

vulnerable to wildfires, reinforce dams against river flooding, rebuild housing collapsing into melting permafrost, and brace for possible lower world demand for oil and natural gas.

Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear company that is coordinating investment in the shipping lane, said the initiative benefits from climate change but will also help fight it by reducing emissions from ships sailing between Europe and Asia by 23 percent, compared with the much longer Suez route.

The trip from Busan, in South Korea, to Amsterdam, for example, is 13 days shorter over the Northern Sea Route — a significant savings in time and fuel.

told the Russian media.

signed a deal with DP World, the Dubai-based ports and logistics company, to develop ports and a fleet of ice-class container ships with specially reinforced hulls to navigate icy seas.

The thawing ocean has also made oil, natural gas and mining ventures more profitable, reducing the costs of shipping supplies in and products out. A multi-billion-dollar joint venture of the Russian company Novatek, Total of France, CNPC of China and other investors now exports about 5 percent of all liquefied natural gas traded globally over the thawing Arctic Ocean.

Overall, analysts say, at least half a dozen large Russian companies in energy, shipping and mining will benefit from global warming.

One benefit the people of Pevek haven’t felt is any sense that the climate is actually warming. To them, the weather seems as cold and miserable as ever, despite an average temperature 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than 20 years ago.

Global warming has been “a plus from an economic point of view,” said Olga Platonova, a librarian. Still, she and other residents say that in light of the costly and dangerous changes worldwide, they have no reason to celebrate.

And even here the environmental impacts are uncertain many say, citing the (to them) alarming appearance in recent years of a flock of noisy crows never seen before.

And Ms. Platonova had one other regret: “It’s a shame our grandchildren and great-grandchildren won’t see the frozen north as we experienced it.”

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Rising Rents Stoke Inflation Data, a Concern for Washington

The recovery in the New York area as a whole has been uneven as some families have moved to the city, bidding up prices, while others are struggling to pay, said Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, which represents landlords of mostly rent-stabilized housing.

“You have bidding wars for one unit, and then a renter who can’t pay,” he said. “A tale of two cities is happening within the same building.”

Drew Hamrick, the senior vice president of the Colorado Apartment Association, a landlord group, said the rise in rents is not driven by landlords but by market factors.

“Landlords don’t really set the price, consumers set the price,” he said. “It’s musical chairs.”

Even if there is a pullback in rents next year, today’s suddenly higher housing costs could make for a painful adjustment period. Higher rent costs can reverberate through people’s lives and force tough decisions.

Luke Martinez, a 27-year-old in Greenville, a town in East Texas, is contemplating buying a trailer and setting his family up on an R.V. lot after learning that he is losing the three-bedroom house he has been renting for about $1,000 per month since 2016.

“It’s insane the amount of rent, even in this little podunk town,” Mr. Martinez said.

He’s looking at paying up to $1,500 per month for a new place, which will be tough. After getting laid off at the start of the pandemic, he had been living partly on savings — padded by an insurance payout after his car was stolen and totaled. He returned to working in automotive repair only this week. His wife had been working the front desk at a hotel until two months ago, but she is now home-schooling their 8-year-old.

If they end up renting at the higher price, they will most likely afford it by forgoing a new car.

“It’s pretty much just scraping by,” he said of his lifestyle.

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As Western Oil Giants Cut Production, State-Owned Companies Step Up

Kuwait announced last month that it planned to invest more than $6 billion in exploration over the next five years to increase production to four million barrels a day, from 2.4 million now.

This month, the United Arab Emirates, a major OPEC member that produces four million barrels of oil a day, became the first Persian Gulf state to pledge to a net zero carbon emissions target by 2050. But just last year ADNOC, the U.A.E.’s national oil company, announced it was investing $122 billion in new oil and gas projects.

Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer after Saudi Arabia, has invested heavily in recent years to boost oil output, aiming to raise production to eight million barrels a day by 2027, from five million now. The country is suffering from political turmoil, power shortages and inadequate ports, but the government has made several major deals with foreign oil companies to help the state-owned energy company develop new fields and improve production from old ones.

Even in Libya, where warring factions have hamstrung the oil industry for years, production is rising. In recent months, it has been churning out 1.3 million barrels a day, a nine-year high. The government aims to increase that total to 2.5 million within six years.

National oil companies in Brazil, Colombia and Argentina are also working to produce more oil and gas to raise revenue for their governments before demand for oil falls as richer countries cut fossil fuel use.

After years of frustrating disappointments, production in the Vaca Muerta, or Dead Cow, oil and gas field in Argentina has jumped this year. The field had never supplied more than 120,000 barrels of oil in a day but is now expected to end the year at 200,000 a day, according to Rystad Energy, a research and consulting firm. The government, which is considered a climate leader in Latin America, has proposed legislation that would encourage even more production.

“Argentina is concerned about climate change, but they don’t see it primarily as their responsibility,” said Lisa Viscidi, an energy expert at the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington research organization. Describing the Argentine view, she added, “The rest of the world globally needs to reduce oil production, but that doesn’t mean that we in particular need to change our behavior.”

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Exuberant Art and Cable Car Can Lift a Poor, Violent Place Only So High

MEXICO CITY — Observed from a soaring cable car, the city is a sea of concrete stretching to the horizon, ruptured only by clusters of skyscrapers and the remains of ancient volcanoes. Some 60 feet below is the borough of Iztapalapa, a warren of winding streets and alleyways, its cinder block houses encasing the neighborhood’s hills in insipid gray.

But then, on a rooftop, a sudden burst of color: a giant monarch butterfly perched atop a purple flower. Further along the route of Mexico City’s newest cableway, a toucan and a scarlet macaw stare up at passengers. Later, on a canary yellow wall, there is a young girl in a red dress, her eyes closed in an expression of absolute bliss.

The 6.5-mile line, inaugurated in August, is the longest public cableway in the world, according to the city government. As well as halving the commute time for many workers in the capital’s most populous borough, the cable car has an added attraction: exuberant murals painted by an army of local artists, many of which can be viewed only from above.

most crime-ridden areas of Mexico City.

“People want to rescue their history, the history of the neighborhood,” said the borough’s mayor, Clara Brugada Molina. “Iztapalapa becomes a giant gallery.”

Sprawling toward the outer edge of Mexico City, Iztapalapa is home to 1.8 million residents, some of whom are among the poorest in the city. Many work in wealthier neighborhoods, and before the cable car, this often meant hourslong commutes.

As with many poor urban areas of Mexico, Iztapalapa has long been afflicted by both a lack of basic services, like running water, as well as high levels of violence, often linked to organized crime.

June survey from Mexico’s national statistics agency, nearly eight of 10 residents said they felt unsafe — among the highest rate for any city in the country.

Women in particular face pervasive violence in Iztapalapa, which ranks among the top 25 municipalities in the country for femicide, in which a woman is killed because of her gender. From 2012 to 2017, city security cameras recorded more instances of sexual assault against women in Iztapalapa than in any other Mexico City borough, according to a 2019 report from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

a giant re-enactment of the crucifixion of Christ.

“That religious stigma weighs against you,” Ms. Cerón said.

As far as the murals go, she says they look beautiful but have done little to make her feel safer.

“It does nothing for me to have a very pretty painted street if three blocks away, they’re robbing or murdering people,” she said.

Alejandra Atrisco Amilpas, an artist who has painted some 300 murals across Iztapalapa, believes they can make residents prouder of where they live, but she admits they can only go so far.

“Paint helps a lot, but sadly it can’t change the reality of social problems,” she said.“A mural isn’t going to change whether you care about the woman being beat up on the corner.”

Ms. Atrisco, who is gay, said she had come up against conservative attitudes during the project, whether from male artists doubting her abilities or local officials barring her from painting L.G.B.T.Q.-themed murals.

“Violence against women, yes, but lesbians, no,” she said, smiling ruefully.

Still, Ms. Atrisco believes her work can affect residents’ lives by representing the characters of Iztapalapa in full color.

“Every day you confront a new challenge, every day a new wall and a new story,” she said. “You make dreams come true a little bit — you become a dream maker.”

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September Consumer Price Index: Inflation Rises

Consumer prices jumped more than expected last month, with rent, food and furniture costs surging as a limited supply of housing and a shortage of goods stemming from supply chain troubles combined to fuel rapid inflation.

The Consumer Price Index climbed 5.4 percent in September from a year earlier, faster than its 5.3 percent increase through August and above economists’ forecasts. Monthly price gains also exceeded predictions, with the index rising 0.4 percent from August to September.

The figures raise the stakes for both the Federal Reserve and the White House, which are facing a longer period of rapid inflation than they had expected and may soon come under pressure to act to ensure the price gains don’t become a permanent fixture.

On Wednesday, President Biden said his administration was doing what it could to fix supply-chain problems that have helped to produce shortages, long delivery times and rapid price increases for food, televisions, automobiles and other products.

Social Security Administration said on Wednesday that benefits would increase 5.9 percent in 2022, the biggest boost in 40 years. The increase, known as a cost-of-living adjustment, is tied to rising inflation.

jumped early in 2021 as prices for airfares, restaurant meals and apparel recovered after slumping as the economy locked down during the depths of the pandemic. That was expected. But more recently, prices have continued to climb as supply shortages mean businesses cannot keep up with fast-rising demand. Factory shutdowns, clogged shipping routes and labor shortages at ports and along trucking lines have combined to make goods difficult to produce and transport.

expect higher prices. If people believe that their lifestyles will cost more, they may demand higher compensation — and as employers lift pay, they may charge more for their goods to cover the costs, setting off an upward spiral.

though typically too little to fully offset the amount of inflation that has occurred this year. There are notable exceptions to that, including in leisure and hospitality jobs, where pay has accelerated faster than prices.

The fact that rents and other housing costs are now climbing only compounds the concern that price gains are becoming stickier.

“You have the sticky, important and cyclical piece of inflation surprising to the upside,” said Laura Rosner-Warburton, an economist at MacroPolicy Perspectives. “It is certainly a very significant development.”

Matt Permar, a 24-year-old mail carrier from Toledo, Ohio, rents a two-bedroom apartment in a suburban area with a friend from college. The pair had paid $540 a month each for two years, which Mr. Permar called “pretty standard.” But that has changed.

“With the housing market being the way it is, they raised it about $100,” he said of his monthly rent. As a result, Mr. Permar said, he will have less cash to save or invest.

The Fed aims for 2 percent inflation on average over time, which it defines using a different but related index, the Personal Consumption Expenditures measure. That gauge is released at more of a delay, and has also jumped this year.

Central bankers have said they are willing to look past surging prices because the gains are expected to prove transitory, and they expect long-run trends that had kept inflation low for years to come to dominate. But they have grown wary as rapid price gains last.

The Fed’s September meeting minutes showed that “most participants saw inflation risks as weighted to the upside because of concerns that supply disruptions and labor shortages might last longer and might have larger or more persistent effects on prices and wages than they currently assumed.”

Fed officials’ moves toward slowing their bond purchases could leave them more nimble if they find that they need to raise rates to control inflation next year. Officials have signaled that they want to stop buying bonds before raising rates, so that their two tools are not working at odds with each other.

Wall Street is watching every inflation data point closely, because higher rates from the Fed could squeeze growth and stock prices. And climbing costs can cut into corporate profits, denting earning prospects.

White House officials and many Wall Street data watchers tend to emphasize a “core” index of inflation, which strips out volatile food and fuel prices. Core inflation climbed 4 percent in the year through last month, but the monthly gain was less pronounced, at 0.2 percent.

Some economists welcomed that moderation as good news, along with the cooling in key prices, like airfares, that had popped earlier in the economic reopening. Others emphasized that once supply chain kinks were worked out, prices could drop on products like couches, bikes and refrigerators, providing a counterweight to rising housing expenses.

Omair Sharif, founder of Inflation Insights, said he expected consumer price inflation to moderate, coming in at 2.75 percent to 3 percent on a headline basis by next July, and for core inflation to cool down even more.

“I don’t think there’s any reason to panic,” he said.

Ana Swanson and Ben Casselman contributed reporting.

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The Body Collector of Spain: When Migrants Die at Sea, He Gets Them Home

ALGECIRAS, Spain — No one knew the man’s name when he washed ashore. His body had floated in the ocean for weeks, and it then sat much of the summer unidentified in a refrigerator in a Spanish morgue.

He was one among thousands lost at sea during what has been a record year for migrant drownings in Spain. And he might have been sent with the other unclaimed dead to an unmarked grave if Martín Zamora had not figured out that the body had a name, and a life.

He was Achraf Ameer, 27, a mechanic from Tangier. He had been missing for weeks when Mr. Zamora reached his family by WhatsApp. He had found their son’s body. He could bring it to them in Morocco, for a price.

“Sometimes, I get the feeling that some years ahead — in 30, 40, 50 years, I don’t know how many — they will look at us like monsters,” he said. “They’ll see us all as monsters because we just let people die this way.”

tracks the deaths. The International Organization for Migration, a United Nations body that keeps a more conservative count, has recorded more than 1,300 deaths so far this year.

Helena Maleno Garzón, who heads Caminando Fronteras, said Spain’s situation was especially perilous because it is the only European country with smuggling routes on both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. “These include some of the most dangerous routes which are now being used,” she said.

Dozens of boats have gone down this year near the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off West Africa.

Migrant boats also are tempted by the narrowness of the Gibraltar Strait, only nine miles wide in one section, despite strong currents that sink many boats. Some migrants drown only hours after leaving Africa, their bodies later washing ashore on beaches in Spain’s southern region of Andalusia.

The Spanish media sometimes carry stories about the latest bodies. Then, when the headlines recede, Mr. Zamora’s work begins.

The body is the mystery. The clothes are often the only clues.

“It can be hard to identify someone’s face,” Mr. Zamora said. “But a shoe, a jersey, a T-shirt — suddenly a family member will recognize it, because it once was a gift.”

His first clue came in 1999, when he found a note inside the clothes of a dead Moroccan man. Back then, the government was outsourcing to funeral homes the job of burying unclaimed remains in a field alongside the local cemetery.

Mr. Zamora was on call when that body and 15 others were discovered on the beaches. He brought the corpses back to his mortuary and discovered the damp note with a phone number in Spain.

He called and a man on the other end of the line claimed to know nothing. But a few days later, Mr. Zamora recalled, the same man called back and admitted he was the brother-in-law of the young man who had drowned.

“I told him, ‘I’ll make you a deal: I’ll charge you half the price to get the body home, but you have to help me look for the rest of the families,’” Mr. Zamora said.

The man agreed to guide him to the region in southeastern Morocco where his brother-in-law had lived. Mr. Zamora first took care of the body of the young man, embalming it and sending it back to Morocco. Then he got permission from a local judge to take the clothes of the other dead migrants to Morocco.

Mr. Zamora and the relative went from village to village, carrying a large rack on which they hung the clothes of the dead migrants, along with rings and other personal effects, which they took to markets where they knew people would go.

After two weeks they had identified the remaining 15 relatives and repatriated every body.

Mr. Zamora realized he had a solution to what had been seen as a lost cause in Spain. Yet it costs thousands of euros to repatriate the bodies. And the families that he was meeting had far less than he did.

“You find the family, you get the father and the mother, they take you to where they live and you see it’s a tin shack on the side of a mountain with two goats and a rooster, and they tell you they want their son back,” he said. “What do you do? Be a businessman or be sentimental?”

Mohammed El Mkaddem, an imam at the mosque in Algeciras which makes collections for the families of the dead, said he understood Mr. Zamora’s constraints. “In the end, they run a funeral home and it’s a business,” said the imam. “But they do what they can, and we’re thankful for it.”

José Manuel Castillo, the director of the city morgue in Algeciras, said Mr. Zamora filled a gap left by the authorities. “Someone has to take care of the paperwork and the repatriation of the bodies, and if it’s Martín Zamora, that is great,” he said.

Even in the heat of southern Spain, Mr. Zamora wears a tie and loafers, looking more like a lawyer than an undertaker. On a recent afternoon, he was working on a body with his son, Martín Jr., 17.

“They found him in his work clothes,” Martín Jr. said of the corpse. “Maybe he went straight from work into the boat.”

The boy wandered off for a moment, and Mr. Zamora began to speak, almost to himself. His son was 15 the first time they worked together, after a boat carrying 40 people capsized off the coast of Barbate, just north of Algeciras, leaving 22 dead.

He was afraid his son would have nightmares, but Martín Jr. wanted to work, he said.

“No father wants his son to see these things,” Mr. Zamora said. “But this is the world we live in.”

Just before the summer, Mr. Zamora said he received a WhatsApp message from a man who identified himself as Yusef and said he worked at a mosque in the city of La Linea, across the border from the Rock of Gibraltar.

“There were two boys we don’t know if they are alive or dead — surely they are dead,” began the voice message. “The family was looking everywhere and I said we would ask someone we know who is involved in this kind of thing.”

The next message contained a picture of three men in a dinghy with homemade life vests, taken moments before they left Morocco. One was Achraf Ameer, the illiterate mechanic from Tangier.

With that, Mr. Zamora contacted the local authorities, who had a body in the morgue. They gave Mr. Zamora photographs of the man’s clothes, and Mr. Zamora — helped by Yusef — located Mr. Ameer’s sister in Tangier and showed her a photo of the clothes. These days, Mr. Zamora rarely needs to make the trips to Morocco that he used to, making identifications from afar.

“The paint on his clothes was the paint he has on his clothes at work,” the sister, Soukaina Ameer, 28, said in a telephone interview from Tangier.

She said her brother had tried once before to cross into Spain, only to be deported. This time, he didn’t tell anyone but left cryptic hints when the family began making plans to move to a new home.

“He was always telling us: ‘I won’t be living with you in the new house,’” Ms. Ameer recalled.

He left on April 13, she said, his boat likely sinking the same night. His body floated in the sea for much of April before it came ashore around the end of the month. For the rest of the spring and part of the summer, it was placed in a morgue, where it deteriorated from not being frozen.

And so on a sweltering day, Mr. Zamora loaded Mr. Ameer’s body into his hearse and, with his son, drove past pines and sunflower fields. The body was wrapped in blankets from the Red Cross, which had found him. A hospital tag was affixed to one leg. At the mortuary, Mr. Zamora and his son arrived dressed in hazmat suits and began embalming.

Ten pumps from a long needle into Mr. Ameer’s shoulder. Another 10 into his chest. After an hour, Mr. Zamora wrapped the body in a shroud which he covered in a green cloak and sprinkled it with dried flowers, recreating a Muslim rite that an imam had once shown him. Then he shut the lid on the coffin and he and his son took off their hazmat suits. The two were covered in sweat.

Yet the work hardly felt finished. In the adjoining room sat stacks of case files, people whose bodies Mr. Zamora was still trying to locate after their relatives had gotten in touch with him. There was an Algerian man, born in 1986. There were two Moroccans who had been lost at sea; and a Syrian man, who once had a wife and lived in Aleppo.

And there was a ringing from the other room, and with it, another possible lead.

“Martín, go get my phone,” Mr. Zamora said to his son, taking off his gloves.

Aida Alami contributed reporting from Rabat, Morocco, and José Bautista from Madrid.

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