the economic outlook in the United States, however cloudy, is still better than in most other regions.

loss of purchasing power over time, meaning your dollar will not go as far tomorrow as it did today. It is typically expressed as the annual change in prices for everyday goods and services such as food, furniture, apparel, transportation and toys.

A fragile currency can sometimes work as “a buffering mechanism,” causing nations to import less and export more, Mr. Prasad said. But today, many “are not seeing the benefits of stronger growth.”

Still, they must pay more for essential imports like oil, wheat or pharmaceuticals as well as for loan bills due from billion-dollar debts.

debt crisis in Latin America in the 1980s.

The situation is particularly fraught because so many countries ran up above-average debts to deal with the fallout from the pandemic. And now they are facing renewed pressure to offer public support as food and energy prices soar.

Indonesia this month, thousands of protesters, angry over a 30 percent price increase on subsidized fuel, clashed with the police. In Tunisia, a shortage of subsidized food items like sugar, coffee, flour and eggs has shuttered cafes and emptied market shelves.

New research on the impact of a strong dollar on emerging nations found that it drags down economic progress across the board.

“You can see these very pronounced negative effects of a stronger dollar,” said Maurice Obstfeld, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an author of the study.

central banks feel pressure to raise interest rates to bolster their currencies and prevent import prices from skyrocketing. Last week, Argentina, the Philippines, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Sweden, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Britain and Norway raised interest rates.

World Bank warned this month that simultaneous interest rate increases are pushing the world toward a recession and developing nations toward a string of financial crises that would inflict “lasting harm.”

Clearly, the Fed’s mandate is to look after the American economy, but some economists and foreign policymakers argue it should pay more attention to the fallout its decisions have on the rest of the world.

In 1998, Alan Greenspan, a five-term Fed chair, argued that “it is just not credible that the United States can remain an oasis of prosperity unaffected by a world that is experiencing greatly increased stress.”

The United States is now facing a slowing economy, but the essential dilemma is the same.

“Central banks have purely domestic mandates,” said Mr. Obstfeld, the U.C. Berkeley economist, but financial and trade globalization have made economies more interdependent than they have ever been and so closer cooperation is needed. “I don’t think central banks can have the luxury of not thinking about what’s happening abroad.”

Flávia Milhorance contributed reporting from Rio de Janeiro.

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Elton John Performs At The White House

The White House has always had musical guests come and perform, but what is the history and strategy behind these visits?

From Wembley Stadium in London to Madison Square Garden in New York City, Sir Elton John has performed on some of the biggest stages in the world. Friday, he performed for a relatively smaller crowd: an audience of 2,000 people at the White House.  

Over the past decade, the White House has hosted a slew of musical guests.  

Artists like Jennifer Hudson, Smokey Robinson and Lin Manuel-Miranda have performed at the White House as part of the Obama administration’s celebrations of American music.  

Singer Kid Rock attended the Trump administration’s signing ceremony for the Music Modernization Act.  

And performers like Olivia Rodrigo and the K-Pop boy band BTS have spoken at the White House to advocate for the COVID-19 vaccine and to address the issue of anti-Asian hate crimes. 

David Jackson is a professor of political science at Bowling Green State University.  

“The demographics that each of the artists bring with them are demographics that the party is trying to persuade,” said Jackson.

Jackson has been researching the political influence of celebrity endorsements for the past two decades, and he’s noted that since President Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, the administration’s choices for musical guests and performances can be seen as “an attempt to bring together generations.” 

Some of the performers during the 2020 Democratic National Convention included Gen Z pop star Billie Eilish, folk rock musician Stephen Stills and Broadway singer Billy Porter.  

“A celebrity endorsement’s a great thing. It gives energy, enthusiasm, helps raise money, helps persuade people, but it’s a lot more complicated than that,” he said.  

He noted that celebrity endorsements are only effective if the celebrities are familiar, likable, and credible in the eyes of fans.  

Elton John has long been an advocate for LGBTQ rights and a major activist in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  

The British icon’s performance at the White House has been dubbed “a night when hope and history rhyme,” and honorees in attendance include “everyday history-makers” like teachers, health care professionals and LGBTQ advocates. 

Source: newsy.com

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Biden: Russia ‘Shamelessly Violated’ U.N. Charter In Ukraine

President Biden also highlighted consequences of the invasion for the world’s food supply, pledging $2.9 billion in global food security aid.

President Joe Biden declared at the United Nations on Wednesday that Russia has “shamelessly violated the core tenets” of the international body with its war in Ukraine as he summoned nations around the globe to stand firm in backing the Ukrainian resistance.

Delivering a forceful condemnation of Russia’s seven-month invasion, President Biden said reports of Russian abuses against civilians in Ukraine “should make your blood run cold.” And he said President Vladimir Putin’s new nuclear threats against Europe showed “reckless disregard” for Russia’s responsibilities as a signer of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

He criticized Russia for scheduling “sham referenda” this week in territory it has forcibly seized in Ukraine.

“A permanent member of the U..N Security Council invaded its neighbor, attempted to erase a sovereign state from the map. Russia has shamelessly violated the core tenets of the U.N. charter,” he told his U.N. audience.

President Biden called on all nations, whether democracies or autocracies, to speak out against Russia’s “brutal, needless war” and to bolster Ukraine’s effort to defend itself.

“We will stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression, period,” President Biden said.

He also highlighted consequences of the invasion for the world’s food supply, pledging $2.9 billion in global food security aid to address shortages caused by the war and the effects of climate change. President Biden praised a U.N.-brokered effort to create a corridor for Ukrainian grain to be exported by sea, and called on the agreement to be continued despite the ongoing conflict.

The president, during his time at the U.N. General Assembly, also planned to meet Wednesday with new British Prime Minister Liz Truss and press allies to meet an $18 billion target to replenish the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

But the heart of the president’s visit to the U.N. this year was his full-throated censure of Russia as its war nears the seven-month mark. One of Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassadors, Gennady Kuzmin, was sitting in Russia’s seat during President Biden’s speech.

The address came as Russian-controlled regions of eastern and southern Ukraine have announced plans to hold Kremllin-backed referendums in days ahead on becoming part of Russia and as Moscow is losing ground in the invasion. Russian President Putin on Wednesday announced a partial mobilization to call up 300,000 reservists and accused the West of engaging in “nuclear blackmail.”

The White House said the global food security funding includes $2 billion in direct humanitarian assistance through the United States Agency for International Development. The balance of the money will go to global development projects meant to boost the efficiency and resilience of the global food supply.

“This new announcement of $2.9 billion will save lives through emergency interventions and invest in medium- to long-term food security assistance in order to protect the world’s most vulnerable populations from the escalating global food security crisis,” the White House said.

President Biden was confronting no shortage of difficult issues as leaders gather this year.

In addition to the Russian war in Ukraine, European fears that a recession could be just around the corner are heightened. Administration concerns grow by the day that time is running short to revive the Iran nuclear deal and over China’s saber-rattling on Taiwan.

When he addressed last year’s General Assembly, President Biden focused on broad themes of global partnership, urging world leaders to act with haste against the coronavirus, climate change and human rights abuses. And he offered assurances that his presidency marked a return of American leadership to international institutions following Donald Trump’s “America First” foreign policy.

But one year later, global dynamics have dramatically changed.

His Wednesday address comes on the heels of Ukrainian forces retaking control of large stretches of territory near Kharkiv. But even as Ukrainian forces have racked up battlefield wins, much of Europe is feeling painful blowback from economic sanctions levied against Russia. A vast reduction in Russian oil and gas has led to a sharp jump in energy prices, skyrocketing inflation and growing risk of Europe slipping into a recession.

President Biden’s visit to the U.N. also comes as his administration’s efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal appears stalled.

The deal brokered by the Obama administration — and scrapped by Trump in 2018 — provided billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for Iran’s agreement to dismantle much of its nuclear program and open its facilities to extensive international inspection.

“While the United States is prepared for a mutual return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, if Iran steps up to its obligations, the United States is clear: We will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons,” President Biden said.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said no breakthrough with Iran was expected during the General Assembly and that administration officials would be consulting with fellow signers of the 2015 agreement on the sidelines of this week’s meetings.

This year’s U.N. gathering is back to being a full-scale, in-person event after two years of curtailed activity due to the pandemic. In 2020, the in-person gathering was canceled and leaders instead delivered prerecorded speeches; last year was a mix of in-person and prerecorded speeches. Biden and first lady Jill Biden were set to host a leaders’ reception on Wednesday evening.

China’s President Xi Jinping opted not to attend this year’s U.N. gathering, but his country’s conduct and intentions will loom large.

Weeks after tensions flared across the Taiwan Strait as China objected to the high-profile visit to Taiwan of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, President Biden called for “peace and stability” and said the U.S. would “oppose unilateral changes in the status quo by either side.” That came days after President Biden repeated that the U.S. would militarily assist Taiwan if China sought to invade.

China’s government on Monday said President Biden’s statement in a CBS “60 Minutes” interview that American forces would defend the self-ruled island was a violation of U.S. commitments on the matter, but it gave no indication of possible retaliation.

President Biden on Wednesday also declared that “fundamental freedoms are at risk in every part of our world,” citing last month’s U.N. human rights office report raising concerns about possible “crimes against humanity” in China’s western region against Uyghurs and other largely Muslim ethnic groups.

He also singled out for criticism the military junta in Myanmar, the Taliban controlling Afghanistan, and Iran, where he said the U.S. supports protests in Iran that sprang up in recent days after a 22-year-old woman died while being held by the morality police for violating the country’s Islamic dress code.

“Today we stand with the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran, who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights,” President Biden said. “The United States will always promote human rights and the values enshrined in the U.N. Charter in our own country and around the world.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Why Is It So Difficult To Bring Detained Americans Home?

There are over 50 Americans that are wrongfully detained in several countries, and many wonder why is it hard to negotiate their release.

If you ask American diplomats and military leaders, Trevor Reed never should have been in that nightmare, wasting away in a Russian prison. 

“Every day that I was in prison there, I never fully was able to accept that that was real. You kind of wake up and you’re like, maybe this is a nightmare. Maybe I’m not, you know, like a political prisoner here. Maybe this didn’t happen,” said Reed.  

Russian officials arrested the marine corps veteran in 2019 and accused him of assaulting local police — charges U.S. officials criticized as “absurd.”

In 2020, a Russian court sentenced Reed to nine years in prison. 

He would spend nearly 1,000 days there. 

1,000 days he thought might be his last. 

“I was losing so much weight, I thought ‘Okay, I’m not going to make it,’ said Reed.  

Reed’s interview with our station in Waco, Texas was only possible because the Biden administration agreed to a prisoner swap in April. 

It sent a Russian pilot convicted of drug smuggling to Moscow in exchange for bringing Reed home. 

TODD UNGER: You’re about to cross that tarmac. And you’re thinking what? 

TREVOR REED: I just thought the whole thing was like extremely surreal. 

But Reed’s story is the exception. He is one of the few Americans recently detained overseas who made it back to their families. 

The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation says at least 67 U.S. citizens are detained overseas and nine out of 10 of them are wrongly detained. 

Diane Foley is the organization’s founder. She named it after her son James Foley who went missing in November of 2012 while reporting in Syria. Nearly two years later ISIS posted a video online showing his murder. Foley was one of what his mother calls “bargaining chips” for foreign powers.   

“We fear that the 67 public cases are a tip of the iceberg, if you will. We suspect is hundreds more,” said Foley. “Often they want various concessions that we don’t want to give. The whole process of negotiation is the part that’s essential. I think too often in the past, because this is not pleasant or difficult or easy. It’s been avoided, frankly.”

The Foley Foundation advocates for hostages and journalist safety. 

Foley says countries including Iran, China and Russia are currently wrongfully detaining U.S. nationals or U.S. lawful permanent residents. 

“They usually have an agenda and they often will make hold us hostage as the government,” said Foley. 

The arrest and sentencing of women’s basketball superstar Brittney Griner thrust the issue back into international headlines. 

The U.S. State Department is escalating its efforts to bring Griner home and considers her “wrongfully detained.” 

“We are doing everything we can, almost all of it unseen, almost all of it unsaid in public,” said Ned Price, spokesperson for the U.S. State Department.  

Advocates, like Foley, believe the calls for urgency in these situations are good — but it can also up the ante for the captors. 

“The publicity helps our administration to recognize and do what it must do, to negotiate and bring them home. But the downside is it can increase the value of that particular person who’s been detained. And that’s always a risk,” said Price.  

The White House is weighing a prisoner swap to bring Griner and another wrongfully imprisoned American, Paul Whelan, back to the U.S. 

Political experts and opinion columnists have said such a move could set a dangerous precedent. It would give foreign adversaries a motivation to detain Americans on trumped up charges again. 

Others like Trevor Reed say a swap may be necessary.  

“The Russians took Paul Whelan, and immediately asked for a prisoner exchange. The U.S. said ‘oh no, they could extort the United States’ and if that’s your argument would be they didn’t take more Americans hostage, but they did. After that, they took me,” said Reed.  

Russian police arrested Whelan, a former marine, in 2018 and accused him of espionage. 

Whelan’s family disputes the charges and says he’s being held as leverage in a geopolitical dispute. 

“It is going to be an ongoing problem for Americans traveling around the world. Not just in Russia not just with Paul’s case. And the delays that the U.S. government suffers when they decide who to handle it just makes it worse for the particular family involved,” said David Whelan, Paul’s brother. 

Griner and Whelan’s cases are in the hands of a State Department Office President Obama set up in 2015 to negotiate releases for hostages and wrongfully detained Americans. 

It’s called the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs.

“There was really, you know, a lot of pressure on the Obama administration to find out why what are we doing with hostage families,” said Foley.  

In July, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to increase the consequences for people tied to wrongful detainment. 

The move builds on the 2020 Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage Accountability Act which made permanent that State Department Office President Obama set up.   

The law’s namesake was a retired FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007. 

His family says he died in Iranian custody as the longest-held hostage in American history. 

Iran denies involvement in Levinson’s disappearance or detention. 

President Biden’s order will now allow officials to sanction and place entry restrictions on those it believes wrongfully detained Americans. 

The State Department is also adding a “D” indicator on travel advisories to show the risk of detention in a country. 

Right now the department has “D”s listed for Myanmar, North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Russia and China.  

“We weigh the totality of circumstances in every case, whether it’s the case of Brittney Griner, whether it’s the case of Paul Wheelan, whether it’s the case of Americans in Iran. There’s going to be unique factors in each and every one of those cases,” said Price.  

Families, like Trevor Reeds’ and James Foleys’, say the government needs to be more transparent with families when their loved one is imprisoned abroad. 

“The United States government did not recognize my son as wrongfully detained for almost a complete year. We need them to declare Americans wrongfully detained much quicker,” said Joey Reed, Trevor’s father.  

“I would hope that it could become evermore a priority and have more assets applied to bringing people home, as opposed to needing to pick up the pieces after horrific executions,” said Foley. 

Trevor Reed says he’s grateful for the Biden administration’s work. 

But believes the White House can do more to help Griner, Whelan and the dozens of others held abroad against their will. 

UNGER: What is your message to them? 

REED: You know, my message to them is, do whatever you have to do there to survive. And if you have hope, then then don’t give that up. 

Source: newsy.com

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Democrats Defend Control Of U.S. Senate

Democrats seem to have found a bright spot for their chances in recent months over the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

It’s Labor Day and we’re just over two months out from the general election. But despite legislative wins over the summer, Democrats across the country are fighting for reelection in the shadow of President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings. But they seem to have found a bright spot for democratic chances in recent months over the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

Heidi Heitkamp served as a Democratic U.S. Senator in North Dakota. She was elected in 2012 but lost her seat in the 2018 midterms. 

“I think that there is a critical importance not to run away from the president,” the One Country Project Founder said.

Heitkamp is no stranger to hyper-partisan politics where even the word “bipartisanship” might not sit well with swing state voters.

“Well, I think the first thing is, don’t use the word “bipartisan,” she said. “I think you say, ‘Do you want to get stuff done?’ … Don’t talk in generalities. Talk in specifics. What [does] this means to people’s lives?”

But, if history is any indication, it might be nearly impossible for Democrats to hold on to the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.

But in the Senate, the president’s party remains on the offensive, hoping to expand their majority in 2022.

Ed Pagano served as President Barack Obama’s liaison to the Democratic-led U.S. Senate from 2012 to 2014. He was charged with pushing the Obama administration’s policies on Capitol Hill.  

“The control of the senate really is critical,” the Akin Gump Partner said. “It determines what bills are on the floor, what nominations move forward? Who is the chairman or the chair of the committees of jurisdiction?”  

Pagano is no stranger to just how hard it can be to get Republicans on board with a Democratic president’s agenda.

“Social issues? I don’t see any agreement. And as for spending, very little,” he continued.

Right now, the Senate has 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. It’s a simple majority when Vice President Kamala Harris exercises her role as president of the Senate and casts the tie breaking vote for Democrats.

This year, Democrats are defending vulnerable Senators in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire. But on the offensive they’re looking to flip seats in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Three of those states are up for grabs, with incumbent Republicans not seeking re-election.

Despite the number of competitive races, recent polls show several Democratic candidates leading in key swing states.

“I think we’ve nominated some great candidates to deliver that message in the middle of the country. And then they’ve nominated just outrageously extreme candidates,” Heitkamp said.

But if Democrats lose just one seat in the Senate, they could end up in the same situation as President Obama’s final two years in office after he lost the Senate and the House with little Democrats to do other than hope for executive action — but leaving them virtually powerless to push through the president’s nominees. 

“Losing the Senate can actually be more detrimental because you lose the nominations/ You lose the ability to put in lifetime appointments on the judiciary,” Prime Policy Group Senior Adviser Marty Paone said. “I mean, you just look at the Merrick Garland failure for one.” 

And if Democrats do lose the Senate, it could mean a major roadblock to Biden’s agenda — something Republican Senate candidates are campaigning on, making the race all about President Biden in many of the 34 states with Senators up for re-election.

Source: newsy.com

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Expansion of Clean Energy Loans Is ‘Sleeping Giant’ of Climate Bill

Tucked into the Inflation Reduction Act that President Biden signed last week is a major expansion of federal loan programs that could help the fight against climate change by channeling more money to clean energy and converting plants that run on fossil fuels to nuclear or renewable energy.

The law authorizes as much as $350 billion in additional federal loans and loan guarantees for energy and automotive projects and businesses. The money, which will be disbursed by the Energy Department, is in addition to the more well-known provisions of the law that offer incentives for the likes of electric cars, solar panels, batteries and heat pumps.

The aid could breathe life into futuristic technologies that banks might find too risky to lend to or into projects that are just short of the money they need to get going.

failure of Solyndra, a solar company that had borrowed about $500 million from the Energy Department, to criticize the Obama administration’s climate and energy policies.

Backers of the program have argued that despite defaults like Solyndra, the program has been sustainable overall. Of the $31 billion the department has disbursed, about 40 percent has been repaid and interest payments in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, 2021, totaled $533 million — more money than the failed Solyndra loan.

The Energy Department’s loan programs began in 2005 under the George W. Bush administration but expanded significantly in the Obama era. The department provided a crucial loan that helped Tesla expand when it only sold expensive two-door electric sports cars; the company is now the world’s most valuable automaker.

Under the Trump administration, which played down the risks of climate change, the department’s loan office was much less active. The Biden team has been working to change that. Last month, the department said it planned to loan $2.5 billion to General Motors and LG Energy Solution to build electric-car battery factories in Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

complicate the qualification process.

  • Plug-In Hybrids: After falling behind all-electric cars, U.S. sales of plug-in hybrids have been surging. The high cost of electric cars and gasoline have given them an opening.
  • Car Crashes: Tesla and other automakers capture data from their vehicles to operate their products. Experts say the collected information could also improve road safety.
  • A Frustrating Hassle: The electric vehicle revolution is nearly here, but its arrival is being slowed by a fundamental problem: The chargers where people refuel these cars are often broken.
  • One beneficiary of the new loan money could be the Palisades Power Plant, a nuclear facility on Lake Michigan near Kalamazoo, Mich., that closed in May. The plant had struggled to compete in the PJM energy market, which serves homes and businesses in 13 states, including Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

    The Biden administration has made nuclear power a focal point of its efforts to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 2035. The administration has offered billions of dollars to help existing facilities like the Diablo Canyon Power Plant — a nuclear operation on California’s coast that is set to close by the end of 2025 — stay open longer. It is also backing new technologies like small modular reactors that the industry has long said would be cheaper, safer and easier to build than conventional large nuclear reactors.

    The owner of the Palisades facility, Holtec International, said it was reviewing the loan program and other opportunities for its own small reactors as well as bringing the shuttered plant back online.

    “There are a number of hurdles to restarting the facility that would need to be bridged,” the company said in a statement, “but we will work with the state, federal government, and a yet to be identified third-party operator to see if this is a viable option.”

    Rye Development, a company based in West Palm Beach, Fla., that is working on several projects in the Pacific Northwest.

    geothermal power; old coal power plants as sites for large batteries; and old coal mines for solar farms. Such conversions could reduce the need to build projects on undeveloped land, which often takes longer because they require extensive environmental review and can face significant local opposition.

    “We’re in a heap of trouble in siting the many millions of acres of solar we need,” Mr. Reicher said. “It’s six to 10 million acres of land we’ve got to find to site the projected build out of utility scale solar in the United States. That’s huge.”

    Other developers are hoping the government will help finance technologies and business plans that are still in their infancy.

    Timothy Latimer is the chief executive and co-founder of Fervo Energy, a Houston company that uses the same horizontal drilling techniques as oil and gas producers to develop geothermal energy. He said that his firm can produce clean energy 24 hours a day or produce more or less energy over the course of a day to balance out the intermittent nature of wind and solar power and spikes in demand.

    Mr. Latimer claims that the techniques his firm has developed will lower the cost for geothermal power, which in many cases is more expensive than electricity generated from natural gas or solar panels. He has projects under development in Nevada, Utah, Idaho and California and said that the new loan authority could help the geothermal business expand much more quickly.

    “It’s been the talk of the geothermal industry,” Mr. Latimer said. “I don’t think we were expecting good news a month ago, but we’re getting more ready for prime time. We have barely scratched the surface with the amount of geothermal that we can develop in the United States.”

    For all the potential of the new law, critics say that a significant expansion of government loans and loan guarantees could invite more waste and fraud. In addition to Solyndra, the Energy Department has acknowledged that several solar projects that received its loans or loan guarantees have failed or never got off the ground.

    A large nuclear plant under construction in Georgia, Vogtle, has also received $11.5 billion in federal loan guarantees. The plant has been widely criticized for years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns.

    “Many of these projects are funded based on political whim rather than project quality,” said Gary Ackerman, founder and former executive director of the Western Power Trading Forum, a coalition of more than 100 utilities and other businesses that trade in energy markets. “That leads to many stranded assets that never live up to their promises and become examples of government waste.”

    But Jamie Carlson, who was a senior adviser to the energy secretary during the Obama administration, said the department learned from its mistakes and developed a better approach to reviewing and approving loan applications. It also worked more closely with businesses seeking money to ensure that they were successful.

    “It used to be this black box,” said Ms. Carlson, who is now an executive at SoftBank Energy. “You just sat in purgatory for like 18 months and sometimes up to two years.”

    Ms. Carlson said the department’s loans serve a vital function because they can help technologies and companies that have demonstrated some commercial success but need more money to become financially viable. “It’s there to finance technologies that are proven but perhaps to banks that are perceived as more risky,” she said.

    Energy executives said they were excited because more federal loans and loan guarantees could turbocharge their plans.

    “The projects that can be done will go faster,” said William W. Funderburk Jr., a former commissioner at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power who now runs a water and energy company. “This is a tectonic plate shift for the industry — in a good way.”

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    Iran Deal Tantalizingly Close, But U.S. Faces New Hurdles

    The Biden administration faces new and potentially insurmountable domestic political hurdles to forging a lasting agreement.

    Last week’s attack on author Salman Rushdie and the indictment of an Iranian national in a plot to kill former national security adviser John Bolton have given the Biden administration new headaches as it attempts to negotiate a return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

    A resolution may be tantalizingly close. But as the U.S. and Europe weigh Iran’s latest response to an EU proposal described as the West’s final offer, the administration faces new and potentially insurmountable domestic political hurdles to forging a lasting agreement.

    Deal critics in Congress who have long vowed to blow up any pact have ratcheted up their opposition to negotiations with a country whose leadership has refused to rescind the death threats against Rushdie or Bolton. Iran also vows to avenge the Trump administration’s 2020 assassination of a top Iranian general by killing former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Iran envoy Brian Hook, both of whom remain under 24/7 taxpayer-paid security protection.

    Although such threats are not covered by the deal, which relates solely to Iran’s nuclear program, they underscore deal opponents’ arguments that Iran cannot be trusted with the billions of dollars in sanctions relief it will receive if and when it and the U.S. return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, a signature foreign policy accomplishment of the Obama administration that President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018.

    “This is a tougher deal to sell than the 2015 deal in that this time around there are no illusions that it will serve to moderate Iranian behavior or lead to greater U.S.-Iran cooperation,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    “The Iranian government stands to get tens of billions in sanctions relief, and the organizing principle of the regime will continue to be opposition to the United States and violence against its critics, both at home and abroad,” he said.

    Iran has denied any link with Rushdie’s alleged attacker, an American citizen who was indicted for attempted murder and has pleaded not guilty in the Aug. 12 stabbing at a literary event in Western New York. But Iranian state media have celebrated Iran’s long-standing antipathy toward Rushdie since the 1988 publication of his book “The Satanic Verses,” which some believe is insulting to Islam.

    Media linked to Iran’s leadership have lauded the attacker for following through on a 1989 decree, or fatwa, calling for Rushdie to be killed that was signed by Iran’s then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

    And the man who was charged with plotting to murder Bolton is a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Justice Department alleges the IRGC tried to pay $300,000 to people in the United States to avenge the death of Qassam Suleimani, the head of its elite Quds Force who was killed by a U.S. airstrike in Iraq in 2020.

    “I think it’s delusional to believe that a regime that you’re about to enter into a significant arms control agreement with can be depended on to comply with its obligations or is even serious about the negotiation when it’s plotting the assassination of high-level former government officials and current government officials,” Bolton told reporters Wednesday.

    “It certainly looks like the attack on Salman Rushdie had a Revolutionary Guard component,” Bolton said. “We’ve got to stop this artificial division when dealing with the government of Iran between its nuclear activities on the one hand and its terrorist activities on the other.”

    Others agree.

    “Granting terrorism sanctions relief amid ongoing terror plots on U.S. soil is somewhere between outrageous and lunacy,” said Rich Goldberg, a former Trump administration national security council staffer and longtime deal critic who is now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which has also lobbied against a return to the JCPOA.

    While acknowledging the seriousness of the plots, administration officials contend that they are unrelated to the nuclear issue and do nothing to change their long-held belief that an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be more dangerous and less constrained than an Iran without one.

    “The JCPOA is about the single, central challenge we face with Iran, the core challenge, what would be the most threatening challenge we could possibly face from Iran, and that is a nuclear weapon,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said this week. “There is no doubt that a nuclear-armed Iran would feel an even greater degree of impunity, and would pose an even greater threat, a far greater threat, to countries in the region and potentially well beyond.”

    “Every challenge we face with Iran, whether it is its support for proxies, its support for terrorist groups, its ballistic missiles program, its malign cyber activities — every single one of those — would be more difficult to confront were Iran to have a nuclear weapons program,” he said.

    That argument, however, will be challenged in Congress by lawmakers who opposed the 2015 deal, saying it gave Iran a path to develop nuclear weapons by time-limiting the most onerous restrictions on its nuclear activities. They say there’s now even more tangible evidence that Iran’s malign behavior make it impossible to deal with.

    Two of the most outspoken critics of the deal, Republican senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, have weighed in on what the Rushdie attack should mean for the administration.

    “The ayatollahs have been trying to murder Salman Rushdie for decades,” Cruz said. “Their incitement and their contacts with this terrorist resulted in an attack. This vicious terrorist attack needs to be completely condemned. The Biden administration must finally cease appeasing the Iranian regime.”

    “Iran’s leaders have been calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie for decades,” said Cotton. “We know they’re trying to assassinate American officials today. Biden needs to immediately end negotiations with this terrorist regime.”

    Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, or INARA, the administration must submit any agreement with Iran for congressional review within five days of it being sealed. That begins a 30-day review period during which lawmakers may weigh in and no sanctions relief can be offered.

    That timeline means that even if a deal is reached within the next week, the administration will not be able to start moving on sanctions relief until the end of September, just a month from crucial congressional midterm elections. And, it will take additional time for Iran to begin seeing the benefits of such relief because of logistical constraints.

    While deal critics in the current Congress are unlikely to be able to kill a deal, if Republicans win back control of Congress in the midterms, they may be able to nullify any sanctions relief.

    “Even if Iran accepts President Biden’s full capitulation and agrees to reenter the Iran nuclear deal, Congress will never vote to remove sanctions,” the GOP minority on the House Armed Services Committee said in a tweet on Wednesday. “In fact, Republicans in Congress will work to strengthen sanctions against Iran.”

    Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

    Source: newsy.com

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    CDC Director Announces Shake-Up, Citing COVID Mistakes

    The agency has long been criticized as too ponderous, focusing on collection and analysis of data but not acting quickly against new health threats.

    The head of the nation’s top public health agency on Wednesday announced a shake-up of the organization, saying it fell short responding to COVID-19 and needs to become more nimble.

    The planned changes at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — CDC leaders call it a “reset”— come amid criticism of the agency’s response to COVID-19, monkeypox and other public health threats. The changes include internal staffing moves and steps to speed up data releases.

    The CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told the agency’s staff about the changes on Wednesday. It’s a CDC initiative, and was not directed by the White House or other administration officials, she said.

    “I feel like it’s my responsibility to lead this agency to a better place after a really challenging three years,” Walensky told The Associated Press.

    The Atlanta-based agency, with a $12 billion budget and more than 11,000 employees, is charged with protecting Americans from disease outbreaks and other public health threats. It’s customary for each CDC director to do some reorganizing, but Walensky’s action comes amid a wider demand for change.

    The agency has long been criticized as too ponderous, focusing on collection and analysis of data but not acting quickly against new health threats. Public unhappiness with the agency grew dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts said the CDC was slow to recognize how much virus was entering the U.S. from Europe, to recommend people wear masks, to say the virus can spread through the air, and to ramp up systematic testing for new variants.

    “We saw during COVID that CDC’s structures, frankly, weren’t designed to take in information, digest it and disseminate it to the public at the speed necessary,” said Jason Schwartz, a health policy researcher at the Yale School of Public Health.

    Walensky, who became director in January 2021, has long said the agency has to move faster and communicate better, but stumbles have continued during her tenure. In April, she called for an in-depth review of the agency, which resulted in the announced changes.

    “It’s not lost on me that we fell short in many ways” responding to the coronavirus, Walensky said. “We had some pretty public mistakes, and so much of this effort was to hold up the mirror … to understand where and how we could do better.”

    Her reorganization proposal must be approved by the Department of Health and Human Services secretary. CDC officials say they hope to have a full package of changes finalized, approved and underway by early next year.

    Some changes still are being formulated, but steps announced Wednesday include:

    —Increasing use of preprint scientific reports to get out actionable data, instead of waiting for research to go through peer review and publication by the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

    —Restructuring the agency’s communications office and further revamping CDC websites to make the agency’s guidance for the public more clear and easier to find.

    —Altering the length of time agency leaders are devoted to outbreak responses to a minimum of six months — an effort to address a turnover problem that at times caused knowledge gaps and affected the agency’s communications.

    —Creation of a new executive council to help Walensky set strategy and priorities.

    —Appointing Mary Wakefield as senior counselor to implement the changes. Wakefield headed the Health Resources and Services Administration during the Obama administration and also served as the No. 2 administrator at HHS. Wakefield, 68, started Monday.

    —Altering the agency’s organization chart to undo some changes made during the Trump administration.

    —Establishing an office of intergovernmental affairs to smooth partnerships with other agencies, as well as a higher-level office on health equity.

    Walensky also said she intends to “get rid of some of the reporting layers that exist, and I’d like to work to break down some of the silos.” She did not say exactly what that may entail, but emphasized that the overall changes are less about redrawing the organization chart than rethinking how the CDC does business and motivates staff.

    “This will not be simply moving boxes” on the organization chart, she said.

    Schwartz said flaws in the federal response go beyond the CDC, because the White House and other agencies were heavily involved.

    A CDC reorganization is a positive step but “I hope it’s not the end of the story,” Schwartz said. He would like to see “a broader accounting” of how the federal government handles health crises.

    Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

    Source: newsy.com

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    Biden Administration’s Bid to Cap Russia Oil Prices Faces Resistance

    WASHINGTON — The Biden administration’s push to form an international buyers’ cartel to cap the price of Russian oil is facing resistance amid private sector concerns that it cannot be reliably enforced, posing a challenge for the U.S.-led effort to drain President Vladimir V. Putin’s war chest and stabilize global energy prices.

    The price cap has been a top priority of Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, who has been trying to head off another spike in global oil costs at the end of the year. The Biden administration fears that the combination of a European Union embargo on Russian oil imports and a ban on the insurance and financing of Russian oil shipments will send prices soaring by taking millions of barrels of that oil off the market.

    But the untested concept has drawn skepticism from energy experts and, in particular, the maritime insurance sector, which facilitates global oil shipments and is key to making the proposal work. Under the plan, it would be legal for them to grant insurance for oil cargo only if it was being sold at or below a certain price.

    Mike Salthouse, global claims director at The North of England P&I Association Limited, a leading global marine insurer. “If you have sophisticated state actors wanting to deceive people, it’s very easy to do.”

    He added: “We’ve said it won’t work. We’ve explained to everybody why.”

    That has not deterred Ms. Yellen and her top aides, who have been crisscrossing the globe to make their case with international counterparts, banks and insurers that an oil price cap can — and must — work at a moment of rapid inflation and the risk of recession.

    “At a time of global anxiety over high prices, a price cap on Russian oil is one of the most powerful tools we have to address inflation by preventing future spikes in energy costs,” Ms. Yellen said in July.

    The Biden administration is trying to mitigate fallout from sanctions adopted by the European Union in June, which would ban imports of Russian oil and the financing and insuring of Russian oil exports by year’s end. Britain was expected to enact a similar ban but has not yet done so.

    not solve the world’s oil supply problems. European officials, who have been skeptical, continue to say they are analyzing its viability.

    restricted natural gas flows to parts of Europe in retaliation for sanctions, would curb oil exports because of their importance to its economy.

    senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who works in the financial services industry, said of Russia’s cooperation with a price cap. “If that were the case, he wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine in the first place.”

    But proponents believe that if the European Union bans insurance transactions, an oil price cap may be the best chance to mitigate the economic fallout.

    John E. Smith, former director of the foreign assets control unit, said the key was ensuring that financial services firms and maritime insurers were not responsible for vetting every oil transaction, as well as providing guidance on complying with the sanctions.

    “The question is will enough jurisdictions agree on the details to move this forward,” said Mr. Smith, who is now co-head of Morrison & Foerster’s national security practice. “If they do, it could be a win for everyone but Russia.”

    Matina Stevis-Gridneff contributed reporting from Brussels.

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