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First Published: September 24: 2015
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North America

 
Examining the Risks of New Oil and Gas Production in Canada

 

|| Thursday: July 02: 2020 || ά. Further investments in oil and gas infrastructure and, particularly, in new oil sands projects, new shale and tight oil fields and new LNG projects, are, increasingly, risky, given the market trends and fundamentals. This Paper, published by the Stockholm Environment Instittute:SEI examines the risks of future Canadian oil and gas development, using an analysis, based on the fundamentals of supply and demand in oil and gas markets.

The Paper, also, considers how this development squares with Canada’s climate commitments and a growing momentum towards a transition away from fossil fuels. It comes amid the COVID-19 outbreak and aims to inform energy planning and economic recovery, especially, in Canada. The authors find that it could be a mistake to hitch Canada’s recovery and future economic prospects too tightly to fossil fuel production, even, in the western provinces where oil and gas remain top of mind.

Canada’s oil and gas industry is, particularly, vulnerable to drops in global oil demand and price, a trend, that, may, persist well into the future and the country’s oil and gas producers, may, face increasing challenges in competing with other, lower-cost producers.

This Paper, also, considers what these market outlooks mean for Canada’s long-term, net zero greenhouse gas emissions targets, which will require the country to untangle itself from dependence on oil and gas production.

Even, in times of economic stability, the workings of oil and gas markets can seem opaque. It can be difficult to understand how a barrel of oil can sell for $100 one year and just $50 the next, as happened in the middle of the last decade. Now, a global pandemic has added to that uncertainty, with oil prices hitting all-time lows of below $20 per barrel. But, even, in the throes of the current economic crisis, policy-makers focused on the long-term health of people and the economy can look to the fundamentals of supply and demand in oil and gas markets to help guide recovery efforts.

After all, those fundamentals will drive the role of oil and gas in our societies for decades to come. In this Paper, we examine the risks of future Canadian oil and gas development, using an analysis based on these fundamentals. We, also, consider how this development squares with Canada’s climate commitments and a growing momentum towards a transition away from fossil fuels. We write as the COVID-19 outbreak in Canada is, hopefully, beginning its long, slow retreat. Our aim is to inform energy planning and economic recovery, especially, in Canada.

Many of the same observations will, also, apply in the United States and across Latin America, Africa and Europe, where extraction costs are higher than those for the lowest-cost producers in the Middle East. In recent weeks, both the Canadian national government and the provincial government in the oil patch of Alberta have announced economic support measures for oil and gas industry and workers. Indeed, people across the country, including, workers in the oil and gas industry, need extraordinary support to make it through this COVID-induced economic crisis.

But as this Paper shows, it could be a mistake to hitch Canada’s recovery and future economic prospects too tightly to fossil fuel production, even, in the western provinces where oil and gas remain top of mind. Oil and gas is a volatile industry, with a long history of boom and bust cycles. Furthermore, around the world, other, lower-cost producers, may well be able to out-compete some Canadian sources of these fuels. This makes further investments in oil and gas infrastructure and expansion risky for Canadian communities, that, might, otherwise, count on those revenues and those jobs.

Furthermore, right before the pandemic, Canada was in the middle of a discussion about its climate action plan. Government planners in climate and energy were preparing details on how to meet the goal of net zero emissions country-wide by 2050, which is the global emissions target consistent with meeting the 01.5°C temperature limit, that Canada helped secure at COP21 in Paris in 2015. While those climate goals are not centre stage for many in mid-2020, they are no less pressing. When the debate about how to meet the net zero emissions goal returns in earnest, Canada will have to further reckon with how to move away from fossil fuels.

As several observers have noted, meeting ambitious decarbonisation targets could require Canada to untangle itself from oil and gas and reduce its production, especially, from the oil sands: Harvey and Miao 2018; Hughes 2018; OECD 2017; Palen et al. 2014; Sherlock 2019. This Paper discusses the oil market, then the gas market and closes with a discussion of what these market outlooks suggest for policy-makers in Canada, especially, those leaders in the administration of Prime Minister Mr Justin Trudeau, who are concerned both with ensuring a resilient economic recovery and minimising the risk of runaway climate change.

In April 2020, the oil market experienced a historic collapse. In some places, oil traders were actually paying to unload their oil, since there were few places left to store it. This example, though extreme, is in line with economic theory. When demand for oil or any commodity product drops rapidly, suppliers aggressively compete to find buyers. They cut prices and cut them again, until they can move their product. And, if, oil traders find themselves with oil on their hands and nowhere to put it, they, may, even, in this rare circumstance, have to pay someone to take it.  The extremely low prices, seen in recent weeks, will resolve over time, as oil producers around the world will take the obvious and necessary step to shut down some oil wells, ceasing production in places where prices cannot cover costs.

This process, along with the natural declining production from existing wells, will, eventually, help demand and supply reach equilibrium. Where will this reshuffling leave Canada’s oil industry? To explore this question, we look at how oil consumption and prices will settle when economies emerge from the effects of the COVID crisis and demand and supply reunite. That landing place for price and quantity will be determined not just by the pace of economic recovery but, also, by trends in technology and behaviour, many of which were already underway pre-COVID.

The future of oil will, also, be affected by policies governments put in place to follow through on their announced intentions to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as, in the Paris Agreement. Oil demand can be described in a similar way, with the relationship to price reversed. For consumers, the lower the price of oil, the higher the demand, as people can afford to drive or fly more and have less incentive to purchase efficient or alternative, e.g, electric vehicles.

Any producer in the chart shown to the left of 105 million barrels of oil per day, including, most already-producing projects in Canada, should be able to compete, based on their cost of production being lower than about $85 per barrel. Indeed, according to fossil fuel companies and oil industry analysts, most existing Canadian oil resources have break-even costs below this price, meaning that they can cover their on-going operations and maintenance costs, if not necessarily pay back investors for the prior, ‘sunk’ capital costs.

Unlike oil production, fossil gas production, often, called natural gas, in Canada has declined modestly, by a few percent, in recent years, from prior highs in 2006. However, the country has plans to expand production, chiefly, from the shale formations, such as, the Montney shale, of Alberta and British Columbia. New wells in these fields have been expected not only to offset recent declines but, by 2030, to eclipse 2006 levels: Canada Energy Regulator 2019.

Regardless of the financial risks of oil, expanding supply is a loss when it comes to the global climate. As described in this Paper, adding more supply decreases the long-term price of oil, thereby, increasing consumption and by inference, carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, under baseline oil market outlooks, research suggests that oil consumption and price levels could be as sensitive to changes in supply as they are to changes in demand: Caldara et al. 2019. That means, the supply and the demand curves would be similarly steep, similar slopes, just in opposite directions. he similar steepness of oil supply and demand curves means that decreasing long-term oil supply can have, under certain circumstances, roughly as much impact on global oil consumption as reducing oil demand: Erickson et al. 2018.

Another way to look at this is that, if, supply decreased in Canada, other global producers would only be able to make up some of the lost production, at higher cost. Global consumption would, thus, decrease by up to half the amount of reduced production. The climate benefits of reducing the production of oil sands could be, even, greater than for most other types of oil, since the oil sands are more greenhouse gas emissions-intensive to extract, refine, and combust than most other oils. This means that whatever oil would, partially, substitute for any reduced Canadian production would likely be less emissions-intensive: Erickson and Lazarus 2014; Israel et al. 2020; Oil Climate Index 2016.

Read the Paper

::: This Analysis, Examining risks of new oil and gas production in Canada, is done by P Erickson and M Lazarus 2020: SEI Report: Stockholm Environment Institute: US Centre: Seattle :::

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United States of America: Utility-Scale Solar Development Remains Off-Limits on Over 99% of More Than 100 Million Federally-Owned Acres Across Solar-Rich Southwest

 

 

|| Thursday: June 18: 2020 || ά. The largest property owner in the US, the Bureau of Land Management:BLM, has acreage set aside for utility-scale solar development on only 0.03% of the roughly 100 million acres it manages across the sun-rich Southwest, finds a Report, published today by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis:IEEFA. The Report, ‘Federal Land Agency Lags on Solar Development Approvals Across Southwest US’ urges ‘stronger direction from above’ over state and field-level BLM offices, that, may, otherwise be resistant to approving permits for utility-scale solar installations on public lands.

“The BLM for the most part remains an agency, that is behind the curve on responsible build-out of these publicly owned resources, which are ripe for development and which would bring local economic benefits while bolstering national security.” Said Mr Karl Cates, an IEEFA Analyst and Lead Author of the Report. “It is time for the BLM to reconsider its restrictive land-use policies on this front and to even the playing field in a way, that allows renewable energy development to vie on an equal footing with competing interests and to help scale up the new energy economy in communities, that are in dire need of reinvestment.”

The Bureau, which manages lands across Arizona, New Mexico, California, Colorado, Nevada and Utah, has designated only a small fraction of a percentage of its acreage as Solar Energy Zones:SEZs, even, though, the BLM has millions of acres in its regional portfolio well suited for solar development. The numbers clearly indicate that these lands are not being used to their potential: Of the 119 million acres the BLM manages across the six southwestern states, 100 million acres or, nearly, 84%, are completely off-limits for utility-scale solar development. 

Roughly, 286,000 acres or, less than 0.25% of the total, are approved for utility-scale development. About, 19.4 million acres or, 16% of these lands, are open to variances, that could allow utility-scale solar development. The Report notes, also, that oil and gas account for roughly 70% of all economic activity on BLM lands. 

The Bush and Obama administrations passed laws and issued directives for federal agencies to encourage development of renewable energy projects on taxpayer-owned lands. And, although, the Trump administration is known, generally, for trying to discourage renewable energy development, in January it approved the 690-megawatt:MW Gemini Solar Project, the largest solar farm in US history and one, that could serve as a template for future utility-scale project approvals.

IEEFA Study uses the proposed Shiprock Solar project in the Four Corners area of New Mexico as a case study of obstacles, faced by solar power developers on BLM lands. Shiprock would be built mainly on 1,980 acres of BLM land near the San Juan Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant in its fifth decade of service. The Report notes that the Four Corners area boasts a skilled workforce, rich solar resources and proximity to existing power industry infrastructure and that the Shiprock project is seen as an example of the possibilities for developing a post-coal economy in the region.

The coal-fired 847MW San Juan station is set to be closed in 2022 and the 1,540MW Four Corners Power Plant also is expected to be shelved soon. The Navajo Generating Station in Arizona, once the biggest coal-fired plant west of the Mississippi, closed seven months ago, and the 253MW Escalante Station in New Mexico will be closing later this year.

For Shiprock to proceed, its backers would have to obtain a variance, that is available on roughly 20 million of the bureau’s 100 million acres in the region but that would require a maze-like approval process.  “Projects like Shiprock are more than suitable for timely and prudent use of BLM lands regionally and are a model for how millions of BLM acres in the Southwest could be economically tapped for low-cost utility-scale solar power generation.” Mr  Cates said.

“Stronger direction from above may be required, if, the agency is to, more effectively, leverage its solar-rich resources and tap into the growing utility and corporate demand for this clean, low-cost domestic energy option.” the Report concludes.

About IEEFA: The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis:IEEFA examines issues related to energy markets, trends and policies. The Institute’s mission is to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy.

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Black Workers Face Two of the Most Lethal Pre-existing Conditions for Corona Virus: Racism and Economic Inequality

 

|| Sunday: June 14: 2020 || ά. ‘We’re all in this together’ has become a rallying cry during the corona virus pandemic. While it is true that COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way, the magnitude and nature of the impact has been anything but universal. Evidence to date suggests that black and Hispanic workers face much more economic and health insecurity from COVID-19 than white workers.

Though, black and brown communities share many of the experiences, that make them more susceptible, there are, also, important differences between these communities, that need to be understood in order to effectively combat the adverse economic and health effects of the virus. This Report, by the Economic Policy Institute, America, focused, specifically, on black workers, is the first in a series, that will explore how racial and economic inequality leave workers of colour with few good options for protecting both their health and economic well-being. A forthcoming report will highlight conditions for Hispanic workers.

Although, the current strain of the corona virus is one, that humans have never experienced before, the disparate racial impact of the virus is deeply rooted in historic and on-going social and economic injustices. Persistent racial disparities in health status, access to health care, wealth, employment, wages, housing, income and poverty all contribute to greater susceptibility to the virus: both economically and physically.

There are three main groups of workers in the COVID-19 economy: those, who have lost their jobs and face economic insecurity, those, who are classified as essential workers and face health insecurity as a result and those, who are able to continue working from the safety of their homes. Unfortunately, black workers are less likely to be found in the last group. They have suffered record numbers of job losses over the last two months, March 2020-May 2020, along with the ensuing related economic devastation. They, also, are disproportionately found among the essential workers in the economy today, continuing to go to their workplaces, risking their health and that of their families because they are unable to sustain adequate social distance from their co-workers and customers.

The labour market has continued to deteriorate, as evidenced by massive numbers of unemployment insurance claims through the middle of May, Shierholz 2020. As of May 16, nearly, one in four workers have applied for unemployment insurance benefits, either in the regular programme or through the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance programme, since stay-at-home orders first went into effect.

Furthermore, in the first month of job losses, for every 100 workers, who were able to file for UI, 37 additional workers tried to apply but could not get through the system to make a claim: Zipperer and Gould 2020. While many of those, who initially couldn’t get through have likely been able to in subsequent weeks, it is, also, likely that would-be applicants face on-going challenges and that the reported number of applicants understates the magnitude of the problem.

The latest national data available to assess the impact of job losses for black and white workers separately is the Current Population Survey for April 2020. The labour market started deteriorating in March but fell off a cliff in April. While the losses have certainly continued, the April data gives us a first look at how black and white workers are faring.

February provides a benchmark for the pre-pandemic economy. As will be described in greater detail later, the black unemployment rate has, even, in the tightest of labour markets, been persistently and significantly higher than the white unemployment rate. Both began rising in March and, then, skyrocketed in April. As of the latest data, the black unemployment rate is 16.7%, compared with a white unemployment rate of 14.2%.

And while these differences are notable, they mask, even, greater disparities, that are apparent when we look at unemployment rates by race and gender. White men experienced a large but, relatively smaller, rise in unemployment. Still, the white male unemployment rate is now higher than the highest point the overall unemployment rate reached in the depths of the Great Recession: 10.0%, in October 2009. White women experienced the largest increase in unemployment, while black women now have the highest unemployment rate of the four groups analysed. It should be noted that across race, gender and ethnicity, Hispanic women actually have the highest unemployment rate as of April 2020, about one in five Latina workers are unemployed.

Black workers are more likely to be in front-line jobs, that are categorised as ‘essential’, forcing them to risk their own and their families’ health to earn a living. Not only are black workers losing their jobs at an incredible pace, those, who aren’t losing their jobs are more likely to be found on the front lines of the economy in essential jobs. Rho, Brown, and Fremstad 2020 conducted an important and useful study of six sectors of the economy, that are considered essential and in which most workers are on the front lines of the COVID-19 labour market. Their results show that black workers make up a disproportionate share of these essential workers, who are forced to put themselves and their family members at additional risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 in order to put food on the table.

Black workers make up about one in nine workers overall; they represent 11.9% of the workforce. However, black workers make up about one in six of all front-line-industry workers. They are disproportionately represented in employment in grocery, convenience and drug stores: 14.2%; public transit: 26.0%; trucking, warehouse and postal service: 18.2%; health care: 17.5%; and child care and social services: 19.3%. While, in the near term, this protects them from job loss, it exposes them to greater likelihood of contracting COVID-19 while performing their jobs.

African Americans have disproportionately high COVID-19 death rates and are more likely to live in areas experiencing outbreaks. Given the disproportionate representation of black workers in front-line occupations where they face greater risk of exposure to COVID-19, it is not surprising that illness and deaths are disproportionately found among black workers and their families. African Americans’ share of those, who have died from COVID-19 nationally is nearly double, 01.8 times higher than their share of the US population. The ratios are, even, higher in some states: in Wisconsin and Kansas, the rate of African American deaths is more than four times as high as their share of the population in those states: Meepagala and Romer 2020. By comparison, whites account for a smaller share of deaths than their share of the population. 

The Centres for Disease Control:CDC, also, reports weighted population distributions in an effort to reflect racial:ethnic distributions of the geographic locations where COVID outbreaks are occurring. These weighted population distributions indicate that African Americans represent a larger share of the population in areas where outbreaks are occurring than their representation in the population overall: 18.2% compared with 12.5%. Therefore, one of the reasons for disproportionately higher rates of COVID deaths among African Americans is the fact that they are more likely to live in areas, that have experienced COVID outbreaks. Even, accounting for this fact, African Americans still have higher death rates than their weighted population shares would indicate.

The devastating effects of COVID-19 on the economic and physical well-being of black Americans were entirely predictable given persistent economic and health disparities. In this section, we describe some of the underlying economic and health factors behind the unequal outcomes observed thus far. These same factors will, ultimately, prolong the effects of the pandemic on black workers and their families long after the immediate threat has passed.

Black workers and their families were economically insecure before the pandemic tore through the United States. The pandemic and related job losses have been, especially, devastating for black households because they have historically suffered from higher unemployment rates, lower wages, lower incomes and much less savings to fall back on, as well as, significantly higher poverty rates than their white counterparts. This prior insecurity has magnified the current economic damage to these workers and their families.

Let’s start with the labour market. Historically, black workers have faced unemployment rates twice as high as those of their white counterparts. When the overall unemployment rate averaged 03.7% in 2019, the white non-hispanic unemployment rate was 03.0% and the black unemployment rate was twice as high, coming in at an average of 06.1% over the year. This difference can not be explained away by differences in educational attainment. At every level of education, the black unemployment rate is significantly higher than the white unemployment rate, even, for those workers with college or advanced degrees.

Among the employed, black workers face significant pay penalties. No matter how you cut the data, black workers face significant pay gaps in the labour market and research has shown that these pay gaps have grown since 2000 and in the decades before: Gould 2020a; Wilson and Rodgers 2016. On average, black workers are paid 73 cents on the white dollar. We know from a host of economic research that a person’s wages are not a simple function of individual ability. Instead, workers’ ability to claim higher wages rests on a host of social, political, and institutional factors outside their control: Manning 2003; Card, Devicienti, and Maida 2011. Because of historic and current privilege in the labour market: National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders 2016, white men enjoy exceptionally high wages. Therefore, the gap between white men and black men is, particularly, stark. Black men are paid only 71 cents on the white male dollar. Black women, who face both gender and race discrimination, are paid, even, less: 64 cents on the white male dollar.

Black–white wage gaps persist across the wage distribution, as well as, at different levels of education in the pre-pandemic economy. The black–white wage gap is smallest at the bottom of the wage distribution, where a wage floor, otherwise known as, the minimum wage, keeps the lowest-wage black workers from being paid, even, lower wages. The largest black–white wage gaps are found at the top of the wage distribution and are explained in part by occupational segregation, the under-representation of black workers in the highest-wage professions and over-representation in lower-wage professions and the pulling away of the top more generally.

Similarly, across various levels of education, a significant black–white wage gap remains. Black workers can’t simply educate their way out of the gap. Even, black workers with an advanced degree experience a significant wage gap compared with their white counterparts.

Not only is black worker pay significantly less than that of their white counterparts but,  their benefits are as well. Along with health insurance, discussed in more detail below, two benefits are acutely important at this particular time: paid sick days and the ability to work from home. These two work place benefits help shield workers from economic losses by allowing them to take paid time off to care for themselves or family members and allowing them to stay out of harm’s way and still earn a pay check by working from home. Black workers are less likely than white workers to enjoy these benefits.

The Family First Corona virus Response Act was an important first step in providing vital paid sick days but, somewhere between 06.8 million and 19.6 million private-sector workers were left without paid sick days as a result of the firm-size exemptions in the law: Gould and Shierholz 2020. Obviously, those loopholes need to be closed and workers regardless of race or ethnicity, also, need a permanent fix to this basic labour standard.

Given what we know about job losses and essential workers, it’s not surprising that significantly fewer black workers can telework than white workers. Fewer than one in five black workers in the pre-pandemic economy were able to work from home. This inability to keep their jobs and stay safe makes it, even, harder for black workers to maintain economic and health security during this difficult time.

Significant gaps in both employment opportunities and wage levels translate into lower incomes and higher poverty rates in the pre-pandemic economy. In 2018, median household income for white households was 70% higher than for black households: $70,642 vs $41,692). On top of decades of preferential wealth accumulation for white families versus black families: Rothstein 2017; Darity et al. 2018, lower incomes are one of the reasons that black families haven’t been able to build up savings to weather storms, such as, the one our country finds itself in today.

At the bottom of the income distribution, the black poverty rate is two-and-a-half times the white poverty rate. One in five black people in this country live below the poverty line, that’s below about $26,000 annual income for a family of four. Job loss for those living at such low incomes is absolutely shattering.

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The US Economy Entered Recession in February: The National Bureau of Economic Research

 

|| Monday: June 08: 2020 || ά. The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research:NBER maintains a chronology of the peaks and troughs of US. business cycles. The Committee has determined that a peak in monthly economic activity occurred in the US economy in February 2020. The peak marks the end of the expansion that began in June 2009 and the beginning of a recession.

The expansion lasted 128 months, the longest in the history of US business cycles, dating back to 1854. The previous record was held by the business expansion, that lasted for 120 months from March 1991 to March 2001. The Committee, also, determined that a peak in quarterly economic activity occurred in 2019Q4. Note that the monthly peak, February 2020, occurred in a different quarter, 2020Q1 than the quarterly peak.

The Committee determined these peak dates in accord with its long-standing policy of identifying the months and quarters of peak activity separately, without requiring that the monthly peak lie in the same quarter as the quarterly peak. A recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, normally visible in production, employment and other indicators. A recession begins when the economy reaches a peak of economic activity and ends when the economy reaches its trough. Between trough and peak, the economy is in an expansion.

Because a recession is a broad contraction of the economy, not confined to one sector, the Committee emphasises economy-wide indicators of economic activity. The Committee believes that domestic production and employment are the primary conceptual measures of economic activity.

In determining the date of the monthly peak, the Committee considers a number of indicators of employment and production. The Committee normally views the payroll employment measure, which is based on a large Survey of employers, as the most reliable comprehensive estimate of employment. This series reached a clear peak in February. The Committee recognised that this survey was affected by special circumstances, associated with the pandemic of early 2020.

In the Survey, individuals, who are paid but not at work are counted as employed, even, though, they are not in fact working or producing. Workers on paid furlough, who became more numerous during the pandemic, thus, resulted in an overcount of people working in recent months. Accordingly, the Committee, also, considered the employment measure from the Bureau of Labour Statistics Household Survey, which excludes individuals, who are paid but on furlough.

This series plateaued from December 2019 through February 2020 and, then, fell steeply from February to March. Because both series measure employment during the week or pay period containing the 12th of the month, they understate the collapse of employment during the second half of March, as indicated by unprecedented levels of new claims for unemployment insurance. The Committee concluded that both employment series were, thus, consistent with a business cycle peak in February.

The Committee believes that the two most reliable comprehensive estimates of aggregate production are the quarterly estimates of real Gross Domestic Product:GDP and of real Gross Domestic Income:GDI, both produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis:BEA. These measures estimate production, that occurred over an entire quarter and are not available monthly. The most comprehensive monthly measure of aggregate expenditures, which includes roughly 70 percent of real GDP, is monthly real personal consumption expenditures:PCE, published by the BEA.

This series reached a clear peak in February 2020. The most comprehensive monthly measure of aggregate real income is real personal income less transfers, from the BEA. The deduction of transfers is necessary because transfers are included in personal income but do not arise from production. This measure, also, reached a well-defined peak in February 2020.

In dating the quarterly peak, the Committee relies on real GDP and real GDI as published by the BEA and on quarterly averages of key monthly indicators. Quarterly real GDP and real GDI peaked in 2019Q4. The quarterly average of employment as measured by the payroll series rose from 2019Q4 to 2020Q1. However, the Committee concluded that the special factor noted above implies that the series should not play a significant role in determining the quarterly peak. The quarterly average as measured by the household survey reached a clear peak in 2019Q4. The Committee concluded that like GDP and GDI, the number of people working, also, reached its quarterly peak in 2019Q4.

The fact that the monthly peak of February occurred in the middle of 2020Q1 while the quarterly peak occurred in 2019Q4 reflects the unusual nature of this recession. The economy contracted so sharply in March, the final month of the quarter, that in 2020Q1, GDP, GDI and employment were significantly below their levels of 2019Q4.

The usual definition of a recession involves a decline in economic activity, that lasts more than a few months. However, in deciding whether to identify a recession, the Committee weighs the depth of the contraction, its duration and whether economic activity declined broadly across the economy, the diffusion of the downturn. The Committee recognises that the pandemic and the public health response have resulted in a downturn with different characteristics and dynamics than prior recessions.

Nonetheless, it concluded that the unprecedented magnitude of the decline in employment and production and its broad reach across the entire economy, warrants the designation of this episode as a recession, even, if, it turns out to be briefer than earlier contractions. 

The Committee members, participating in the decision were Mr Robert Hall, Stanford University, Chair; Mr Robert Gordon, Northwestern University; Mr James Poterba, MIT and NBER President; Ms Valerie Ramey, University of California, San Diego; Ms Christina Romer, University of California, Berkeley; Mr David Romer, University of California, Berkeley; Mr James Stock, Harvard University and Mr Mark Watson, Princeton University.

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An Open Letter to All-American Americans: All Americans Fighting the Unfinished Independence War on All-American Streets Should Work to Create a New Political Movement and Party: All-American Progressive Democrats: To Re-Architecture a New America on Non-Racial All-American Soil

 

 

 

|| Friday: June 05: 2020: Munayem Mayenin || ά. On Friday, June 12, The Humanion Portable Daily will celebrate completing its first year. We will publish a Special All-America Issue on that day as ‘All-American Progressive Democrats’, that must rise from the streets of America as the new third Political Movement and Party in American all-cemented two-party ‘political-corruption-regime’ politics or the Complicity Mechanism of Republicans:Democrats to maintain the olden, outdated, racist, biased and prejudicial system of governance. Tinkering, plastic surgery or gimmicking or the illusion that the Republicans or the Democrats can or will make things better, regardless of who their leader is, nothing of the sort will do.

America, in order to reach, architecture and become a new non-racial and All-American land, country, state and people under the rule of law before which all people of America are All American and all equal. And that equality must be philosophical, political philosophical, political economical and cultural. Americans are now fighting the unfinished War of Independence to rid America of racism, fascism and all kinds of white supremacist filths and this new political movement and political party should exist and work to bring about a monumental constitutional revolution, that the world has never seen before: to re-architecture, rearrange, reshape, re-orientate the entire country: all states, local governance architecture and the entire federal governance system, with a new constitutional arrangement, new governance structures, the legislatures, the executives, the judiciaries, included in it are the law enforcements, for all states and all local governments and the federal governance.

Once these are achieved, get these states with the new constitutional arrangement re-set and let these states to, simultaneously, withdraw from the federal state and, immediately, taking hold of all the powers, duties, responsibilities and sovereignty of the federal state and government on behalf of all Americans, bringing the federal to end and organise themselves as states into a New Constitutional Convention to do three things: a: hold the powers, duties, responsibilities and sovereignty, that the federal state and government did until a new federal state comes into existence once again; b: agree a new constitution for America to replace the old Constitution because the entire governance system, mechanism and apparatus of America are racial, prejudicial and jingoistic in essence. The jingoism is arising out of the whole gun-worshiping in the American constitution and the inner-flow of the racism and racist undertones in the entire system. This new constitution, that all states as Constitutional Convention has agreed and signed up to, is, then, accepted by all these states and they, then, thus, jointly, bring into existence a new United States of America, based on the new constitution.

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Mexico: Amnesty International Requests Meeting With President López Obrador in Light of Human Rights Crisis in the Country

 

 

 

|| Wednesday: February 19: 2020 || ά. Amnesty International has sent an open letter to President Mexican Mr Andrés Manuel López Obrador today, requesting a meeting with him and expressing its concern over the government’s response to the grave human rights crisis, that Country is facing. “Although, the government has taken some action on human rights issues, this action is still not enough to, seriously, address the crisis, that the country has been facing for many years now.

It is worrying to hear disparaging speeches from President López Obrador about the role of human rights defenders or, to see how the National Guard is used to thwart the passage of migrants and refugees or, that, faced with a wave of homicides and femicides, the government would maintain failed strategies of militarisation of public security tasks of previous administrations.” said Ms Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

“Rather than evading responsibility and attacking the individuals and organisations, working to highlight the crisis, that Mexico is facing, we urge the President to approach civil society to find solutions to this grave situation and to position human rights as a central focus for the remainder of his presidential term.”

Amnesty International has reported on human rights violations in Mexico for more than four decades. Since the inauguration of the current government, the Organisation has recorded some specific progress on human rights issues, particularly, acknowledging the efforts, that have been made in relation to disappeared persons.

“This request for a meeting with the president is in response to an invitation, that he himself extended to the Organisation, when he was running for office and we issue it with the intention of contributing to addressing the human rights crisis, facing the country.” said Ms Tania Reneaum Panszi, the Executive Director at Amnesty International Mexico.

“It is important for the president to listen to our suggestions from civil society to put a stop to the human rights crisis in the country, that, sadly, implies a high cost in terms of people’s lives and other grave human rights violations every day.”

The Agency is, increasingly, concerned about the President’s statements against civil society and human rights defenders in Mexico, the role of the National Guard in issues, related to migration and the violation of the right to asylum, the lack of results in terms of violence against women and femicides and the need to protect human rights in the public security field.

In December 2019, Amnesty International published a review of the state of human rights during the first year of President Mr López Obrador’s government in its Report, ‘When Words Are Not Enough’. To date, the government has not responded to the appeals, made by the Organization nor has it followed up on the recommendations in the Report.

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And Why Is Mr Trump Proposing Such Devastating Cuts to Critical Services For Seniors and Working Families: To Extend His Tax Handouts to the Wealthy Increasing Them From $01.9 Trillion Over 10 Years to $03.1 Trillion Over 13 Years

 

 

 

|| Wednesday: February 12: 2020: Heidi Shierholz Writing || ά. Mr Donald Trump, may have, run on a promise to defend Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But his latest budget breaks that promise with cuts, that hurt seniors, low-income families and people with disabilities. Mr Trump’s newly released budget would: make deep cuts to Medicaid, threatening the health security of millions; call for $135 billion in cuts to Medicare prescription drug coverage, with no guarantees these cuts would not harm beneficiaries;

Cut Social Security Disability Insurance:SSDI and Supplemental Security Income:SSI, harming people, who are unable to work due to disabilities; cut education funding through privatisation of K-12, encourage states to roll back health and safety protections for children in exchange for one-time child care funding and reduce student financial aid for college by $170 billion over ten years, harming children of all ages and young adults;

Weaken worker safety protections, including, an 11% budget cut to the Department of Labour, putting big business ahead of working people and cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program:SNAP and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families:TANF, threatening the food security of hungry children.

And why is Mr Trump proposing such devastating cuts to critical services for seniors and working families? To extend his tax handouts to the wealthy, increasing them from $01.9 trillion over 10 years to $03.1 trillion over 13 years. And greatly increasing military spending on new hypersonic and nuclear weapons.

But that’s not all! Mr Trump’s budget proposal, also, contains cuts to affordable housing, infrastructure, environmental protection and more. Instead of devastating cuts to critical programmes, we need a budget, that invests in our country’s future.

One, that improves the economic well-being of low and middle-income families by making investments, that will generate good jobs, expanding public investments in affordable college and child care and one, that protects and expands social insurance programmes and uses government purchasing power to lower health care costs.

::: Caption: Image: Campaign Against Arms Trade  :::

::: Heidi Shierholz is a Senior Economist and Director of Policy, Economic Policy Institute Policy Centre :::

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Workers’ Rights in America: Why Is the Trump Administration Trying Its Hardest to Erode Away Workers’ Rights

 

 

 

|| Tuesday: February 04: 2020: Heidi Shierholz Writing || ά. Labour rights in the United States are under attack. At every turn, the Trump administration is attempting to undermine unions and weaken collective bargaining rights. Attacks are coming from the states, as well, often, in the form of ‘right to work’ laws.

This month, EPI published updated statistics, detailing that the share of workers in unions throughout the United States is now less than half of where it was 40 years ago. This is bad news for our labour rights and this is bad news for the middle class of the United States. The share of workers in the US, who are represented by a union, slid to 11.6% in 2019 and o7.1% in the private sector. That represents a decline from the prior year and continues a long-term trend: unions are under attack and policymakers have failed to step in to level the playing field. This has led to a steep decline in union coverage in the United States.

In the late 1970s, more than one in four people were represented by a union. That level has now slid dramatically to less than one in eight workers. That is a stunning erosion and has played a major role in the financial uncertainty of America’s middle class. As union coverage declines, so do the prospects of working families throughout our country. Working people are now losing around $200 billion annually as a result of the decline in unions over the last 40 years with that money being redistributed upward, to the people, who, already, have the most.

The rapid erosion of union representation is not because workers don’t want unions anymore. Far from it. In fact, a higher share of non-union workers today say that they would vote for a union in their workplace than was the case 40 years ago. Fierce corporate opposition to union organising is a primary contributor to the rapid decline of unions in the United States.

Although, the National Labour Relations Act makes it illegal for employers to intimidate, coerce or fire workers in retaliation for participating in union-organising campaigns, the penalties are grossly insufficient to provide a meaningful disincentive for such behaviour. In more than two in five union elections, employers are charged with illegal behaviour and in, at least, one in five union elections, employers are charged with illegally firing workers, who are involved in organising.

As union membership falls so do the economic prospects of the middle class. The time is now for Congress to stand up for working people throughout the United States and one of the best ways to do that is by strengthening labour unions. The Trump administration has been working overtime to undermine labour protections and union rights, that have taken a century to build.

Policymakers have introduced legislation, the Protecting the Right to Organise:PRO Act and the Public Sector Freedom to Negotiate Act, which would modernise and reform current labour law. A vote on the PRO Act in the House of Representatives is expected soon, possibly, as early as next week. These bills would help restore union coverage and the right to representation on the job and Congress should pass them immediately.

The EPI Policy Centre is here to fight for the rights of working people throughout the United States. Together, we can enact meaningful legislation to protect working families.

::: Heidi Shierholz is a Senior Economist and Director of Policy at the Economic Policy Institute’s Policy Centre :::

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Housing Segregation in America: What a Strange Land Is This Land of the Free Where Everything Seems to Stay Stuck in the Rudimentary Prejudice of Colour: Where Is the Colour in the Ideas of Liberty Or Equality Or Humanity

 

|| Sunday: February 02: 2020: Richard Rothstein Writing || ά. Housing segregation underlies many of our country’s most serious problems: disparities in education and wealth between black and white families and the persistent health issues and high incarceration levels within African American communities. This is no small matter.  

Recently, I described in the New York Times how the Trump administration is set to erode the limited progress we have made toward unwinding government housing policies, that segregated neighbourhoods throughout our nation. The administration now proposes housing rules, that will make it much more difficult to challenge many policies, that reinforce residential racial segregation.  

The social and economic problems, that are a direct result of housing segregation are stubborn and damaging. Educators have not been able to make significant progress in their efforts to close the racial gap in academic achievement in large part because we enrol the most socially and economically disadvantaged children in poorly resourced schools, located in poorly resourced neighbourhoods.

Racial health disparities stem, in part, from so many African American families, consigned to areas where they have less access to healthy air and healthy foods. Black men’s unjustifiable rates of incarceration, partly result from their concentration in segregated neighbourhoods, that lack viable employment opportunities or decent public transportation to access good jobs. Segregation, also, has a direct political impact: further polarisation in our country.  

How can we ever develop the common national identity, essential to the preservation of our democracy, if, so many black and white families live so far from one another that we have no ability to understand and empathise with each other’s life experiences?

In The Colour of Law, I described how 20th century federal, state and local policies, explicitly racial, created, reinforced and sustained racial boundaries in every metropolitan area in the United States. The Civil Rights movement won important victories in the 1950s and 1960s, yet, our failure to redress residential segregation underlies our most serious racial inequalities.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited ongoing racial discrimination in housing but, did little to explicitly prohibit policies, that reinforce segregation where the racial intent is either masked, unconscious or, even, absent. Yet, courts, up to the US. Supreme Court, have consistently found that discriminatory policies, even, if, racial bias is unintentional, that perpetuate segregation are a violation of the Act where non-discriminatory alternatives are available. A proposed rule of the Department of Housing and Urban Development would undermine those court decisions.

“Even, if, federal, state and local officials, along with banks, insurance companies and real estate brokers, no longer intend to discriminate by race, their policies can sometimes have that effect, reinforcing and perpetuating segregation.” I showed in my New York Times piece last month. The Trump administration is poised to make the situation even, worse.

A second rule proposed by the administration removes the requirement that suburban communities have an ‘affirmative’ plan to remove policies and practices, that perpetuate segregation. And yet, a third rule would allow retail banks, that take deposits from residents of low-income neighbourhoods to fail to extend mortgages and other credit products to residents of those neighbourhoods.

In short, the administration’s hostility to justice for racial minorities continues unabated. We should invest in policies, that can reverse the effects of generations of housing segregation and ensure that all Americans have access to essential community resources, regardless of their race and regardless of the neighbourhoods, in which they were born. Redressing segregation is necessary to enhance the economic opportunities of current and future generations.

::: Richard Rothstein is a Distinguished Fellow at the Economic Policy Institute and the Author of The Colour of Law :::

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Bankruptcies Multiply For the US Fracking Sector Amid Mountain of Debts

 

|| Wednesday: January 29: 2020 || ά. Bankruptcies among fracking-focused companies exploded in 2019 and the outlook for the sector is decidedly grim, according to a briefing note released Tuesday by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis:IEEFA.

The 42 bankruptcy filings among Exploration and Production companies in 2019 involved nearly $26 billion in debt, double the $13 billion in bankruptcy-related debt filed in 2018. The briefing note, Bankruptcies in Fracking Sector Mount in 2019, attributes the sector’s struggles to over-production, stagnant oil and gas prices and ballooning debt.

“We’ve been watching these companies flounder under mounting debt and negative cash flows for many years.” said Ms Kathy Hipple, an IEEFA Financial Analyst and Author of the Brief. “It’s getting harder and harder for these companies to find investors to keep them afloat and avoid imploding.”

The Key Findings

::: 42 US. EandPs filed for bankruptcy in 2019.

::: Their aggregate debt was $26 billion, double the amount from 2018.

::: Appalachian frackers have been hit, especially, hard as natural gas prices were cut by one-third.

::: Bankruptcy-related debt among oilfield services companies, that rely on revenue from frackers, also, doubled in 2019 compared to 2018.

After years of rising debt and negative cash flows, the fracking sector has experienced an on-going wave of bankruptcies over the past five years. Natural gas prices are expected to hit low levels not seen since the 1970s and oil prices throughout the year averaged $57 per barrel compared to $65 the year before.

Credit ratings agency Moody’s concludes that the oil and gas industry ‘never fully recovered’ from the 2015-2016 oil price slump. “We are seeing slowdowns and negative cash flows spill over into the oil services sector, that relies on the EandP companies for their business.” said Ms Hipple. “And heavy hitters, such as, Schlumberger and Halliburton recorded significant losses in 2019.”

More bankruptcies are all but certain, as oil and gas borrowers must repay or refinance more than $100 billion dollars in debt over the next few years, the briefing note concludes.

“Under present conditions, it’s difficult to see any light at the end of the tunnel for oil and gas producers.” said Ms Hipple.

About IEEFA: The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis:IEEFA conducts global research and analyses on financial and economic issues related to energy and the environment. The institute’s mission is to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy.

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US: The Wind Farms Are Forever: As Coal Gas and Nuclear Plants Struggle to Survive A Fast-growing Industry Digs In For the Future

 

 

|| Sunday: January 26: 2020: Karl Cates Writing || ά. When the Lake Benton II wind farm in southwestern Minnesota was taken off-line this past October after 20 years of service, the shutdown made news for its novelty. Wind farms are being built these days, not closed and Lake Benton II was supposed to last until 2029. At Around the same time that the 100-Megawatt Wind Farm Made Headlines, AES Southland retired a 506MW gas-powered unit at its Los Angeles-area Redondo Beach plant, which was commissioned 70 years ago.

Exelon Corp had just retired the 820MW, 45-year-old nuclear plant at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania and the operators of Navajo Generating Station in Arizona had closed a 750MW unit as part of a phased shutdown, that took the entire 2,250MW plant off-line in November. The 630MW Unit three of the coal-fired, 39-year-old Baldwin Energy Complex in Illinois was retired in September, as was the 100MW Nucla coal plant in Colorado, after 60 years of operation.

But Lake Benton II was different. Indeed, timing is the only thing the Minnesota wind farm has in common with all those other plants, none of which are coming back. The Lake Benton wind farm is being reconfigured now with 44 higher-performing turbines to replace the original 138. With a generation capacity of 100MW, it is not a gigantic wind farm but, it is a prime example of a resilient and booming industry, that shows no sign of slowdown in its growth and that persists in part because wind farms seldom ever die. They are typically just retooled, ‘repowered’ in industry terms, with new hardware, that gives them another 20 or 30 years of life. Rarely is a wind farm ever truly decommissioned.

Momentum around US wind-powered electricity was detailed most recently  in an update, published in December by the Energy Information Administration:EIA, showing that wind-generation capacity in September hit 100GW nationally, a first. That milestone marked a more than doubling in capacity since 2012 and a roughly 300 percent increase over the past decade.

The EIA hasn’t compiled fourth-quarter 2019 data yet but said it expected an additional 07.2GW of wind generation to come online in December alone, EIA analysts note that more projects are commissioned toward the end of calendar years because developers rush to take advantage of expiring tax credits. The EIA is projecting that an additional 14.3GW of capacity will be installed in 2020, meaning that over the course of a year or so the 100GW recorded in September will have been eclipsed by more than 20 percent, a gain, that suggests runaway momentum.

The EIA dispatch included several other nuggets of note:

::: Kansas has pulled ahead of California, 06.2GW to 06.1GW in overall wind generation capacity, a strong indicator, that the recent uptake of wind is being driven more than ever by economics and  not public policy, as it was 30 or 40 years ago when California was the epicentre of the wind industry.

::: Texas, Iowa and Oklahoma continue to lead in installed capacity, accounting, respectively, for 26.9 percent, 08.9 percent, and 08.1 percent of national wind-powered generation, although, Illinois, 04.8 percent, Minnesota, 03.9 percent, Colorado, 03.7 percent, North Dakota, 03.2 percent  and Oregon, 03.2 percent are up-and-coming.

::: A little more than a quarter of all wind-powered electricity nationally is scattered now across 32 other states, suggesting that the appetite for wind farms knows few geographic bounds.

Analysts say wind and solar will give even gas-powered generation a run for its money. Analysts at Morningstar are bullish on the ‘exploding sector of renewable power’, arguing that wind and solar, while continuing to diminish the role of coal, will give even gas-powered generation a fierce run for its money, which is, actually, already, happening. In an analysis published last week, SandP Global Market Intelligence calculated that wind and solar accounted for 52 percent of all new US power generation in 2019, compared with 46 percent for gas, hydro accounted for the remaining 02 percent, a sharp turn considering that in 2018 gas-fired generation’s share of new capacity totalled 78 percent.

Morgan Stanley in December cited a ‘second wave of renewables’ as the driving force behind coal’s share of the market likely dropping to 08 percent by 2030 from 27 percent in 2018.

Global trends show where the US is going. Bloomberg New Energy Finance in a January 16 report estimated renewable energy investment worldwide at $282.2 billion in 2019, up from $280.2 billion in 2018. BNEF divided the activity, almost, evenly between wind and solar. While the US wind industry is well out in front of utility-scale solar, the gap is closing, in part because utility-scale projects are increasingly being coupled with new battery-storage technology.

Technological advances, also, explain wind’s  gains. Over the past 10 years, average turbine capacity, according to SansP, Global Market Intelligence, has risen to 02.73MW from 01.66MW. Average rotor diameter has increased to 123 meters from 78 metres, capacity factors have risen to 33 percent from 27.8 percent and the current pipeline is estimated at 03.7MW and average rotor diameter at 135 meters.

One result of these advances is that new or repowered wind farms can produce more power with fewer turbines, a business model, that builds on a winning formula with zero fuel costs. Manufacturers, seeking to leverage that advantage, are, also, customising turbines to take into account regional wind speeds.

Technology is at work on the off-shore front as well. The average off-shore utility-scale turbine in 2010 had a capacity factor of 03MW and was about 100 metres tall. The International Energy Agency predicts that by 2030 turbines will exceed 250 meters in height ‘with nameplate capacities of 15MW to 20MW’. GE, the biggest supplier to the US market, has just rolled out a 12MW turbine.

While the US has lagged in its uptake of off-shore resources, that is changing. In Virginia, Dominion Energy is developing 2,640MW of off-shore wind generation. New York, which last year mandated the off-shore buildout of 9,000MW of wind capacity and in October signed contracts with two companies for completion of 1,700MW by 2024, is opening a trade school, that aims to graduate 2,500 wind technicians over the next five years. Regulators in Connecticut are weighing bids to build 2,000MW of capacity off the state’s coastline.

Bigger markets for renewables are being driven as well by new policies within the utility industry itself. Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a 44-member group of co-ops in the Rocky Mountain West, announced last week that it would speed up the shutdown of coal plants in Colorado and New Mexico alongside plans to replace much of that output with, almost, 1,000MW of rural solar and wind capacity.

In a similar but much larger initiative, Pacifi Corp, a regional utility, based in Oregon, will build 4,600MW of wind-generation capacity and 6,300MW of solar across five states. Minnesota-based Xcel Energy, which is bigger than Pacifi Corp, is closing two coal-fired plants in southeastern Colorado and replacing that capacity with 2,075MW of renewables, about equally divided between wind and solar. Xcel’s plan is part of a strategy, that emphasises investing more in Texas wind assets and eliminating its coal-fired generation across the upper Midwest.

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, the repowering of Lake Benton II is happening as two, even, newer nearby projects, 50MW Jeffers, commissioned in 2008 and 30MW Community Wind North, commissioned in 2011, are, also, being retooled so that each generates a bigger bang for its buck. The Minnesota examples are among many indicators across the country that the wind industry has legs.

Another indicator: An announcement two weeks ago by Xcel subsidiary Northern States Power that it is seeking regulatory approval to run its two remaining Minnesota coal-fired plants, the 511MW Allen S. King power station and 682MW of the 2,238MW Sherburne County Plant, on a seasonal basis instead of year-round. This is a clear signal that wind facilities, such as, Lake Benton II are winning the race against coal.

::: Karl Cates is an IEEFA Energy Transition Policy Analyst :::

 

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Once Upon Time In America: There Was Chicago and There Was May Day: And Now There's Something Called Economic Policy Institute

 

 

 

|| Saturday: December 14: 2019 || ά. We publish this email, sent out from the Economic Policy Institute of America:EPI, by Mr Steven Greenhouse, that speaks of the ‘attacks’ the Trump Administration has continuously made and are still making against the workers and working people of America, many of whom were led to believe voting Mr Trump was going to serve and protect their interests. The rich owned media outlets have all supported the ascendency of Mr Trump and they still do and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future: The Humanion:

::: Donald Trump likes to promote himself as a friend of “forgotten” workers. But his administration has worked all too often to undermine America’s workers, as well as the institution that has traditionally been their biggest champion: labor unions. Month after month EPI has done groundbreaking research that shines a spotlight on the Trump administration’s attacks on workers and unions.

Donate to EPI today to protect the nation's working people from policies that undermine their ability to earn a fair wage and support their families. In recent generations, as the power of unions has declined, wages have stagnated, income inequality has grown, and corporate America has gained far too much sway over our politics and policymaking. EPI has done an invaluable job detailing and explaining these unfortunate trends.

Trump’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has systematically rolled back workers’ ability to form unions and collectively bargain for a fair return on their work. Trump’s NLRB, for example, is proposing to deny workers the right to use their employer’s email system to discuss problems they face at work. Trump’s NLRB has also overturned a rule that would have made it far easier for workers at McDonald’s and other franchised operations to unionize.

EPI has played a vital role in setting the record straight about Donald Trump’s bogus claims that he is a champion of America’s workers.  Donate today to make sure the truth is heard. Trump’s imprint on the Supreme Court has seriously set back workers’ rights. Trump’s first nominee to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, delivered the deciding vote in the 5-to-4 Epic Systems case, which makes it far harder for workers to protect their rights at work; it allows corporations to prohibit workers from banding together to bring class action lawsuits over wage theft, sexual harassment, and other workplace violations.

Gorsuch also cast the deciding vote in a case that delivered a major blow to labor unions. In Janus v. AFSCME, the court’s conservative majority ruled that government employees can’t be required to pay fees to the unions that bargain for them and win raises for them. By allowing many government workers to become “free riders,” that ruling has thrown obstacles in front of public-employee unions in an attempt to undermine their effectiveness.

The labor movement in the United States is already far weaker than its counterparts in other industrialized nations. Just one in 10 American workers belongs to a union, down from more than one in three in the 1950s. With employer resistance on the rise, compounded by the Trump administration’s hostility, unions are under attack as never before.  

In no other industrial nation do employers fight so hard to defeat labor unions. At a time when corporate America has grown hugely powerful, we need a strong workers’ movement to serve as a countervailing force to business’s might and billionaire donors. We know this is possible. A growing number of Americans want to join a union.

A 2017 MIT study found that 48 percent of nonunion workers would join a union if they could, up from 32 percent in 1995. A 2019 Gallup poll found that public approval for unions is near its highest level in 50 years. Union membership actually grew in 2017 before declining in 2018, a sign that unions could grow once again if we rolled back the Trump Administration’s attacks on organizing and enacted stronger labor laws.

The recent wave of teacher strikes shows that workers not only can win better pay and working conditions when they stand together, but can also win for the community at large―for instance, by demanding smaller class sizes and more librarians and nurses in the schools. In other encouraging signs for labor, union membership has been growing in the service and hospitality industries, as well as in areas that don’t yet have a strong union footprint, including the tech industry, grad students, and digital journalism.

EPI plays an essential role not just in educating and enlightening, but in galvanizing public support for America’s workers. For years, EPI has been the single best source of information and statistics on what is happening with the nation’s 150 million workers―whether about wage stagnation or the many benefits that unions provide, such as safer workplaces and higher wages for unionized and nonunionized workers alike.  

Thanks, EPI, for all that you do to fight for an economy that works for everyone. Donate today to power the research that is so vital to lift up America’s workers and build a fairer economy.

::: Steven Greenhouse is the Author of Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present and Future of American Labour :::

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The Fast-Changing Energy Landscape in America: Tribal Utility-scale Solar Initiatives Emerge Across the Southwest US

 

 

 

|| Monday: October 28: 2019 || ά. Deals for utility-scale solar installations are accelerating on tribal lands in the Southwest US, finds a Report, published by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis:IEEFA. The Report, ‘Tribal Utility-Scale Solar Initiatives Advance Across Southwest US’, cites the emergence of battery-storage technology, state energy policy changes and the rapidly falling prices of utility-scale solar as driving factors.

In Nevada, the Moapa Band of Paiutes in 2017 blazed the tribal utility-scale solar trail with a 250-megawatt:MW installation, that supplies power directly to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power:LADWP. The tribe is proceeding now with the development of two new solar farms, one 200MW and the second 300MW, that will provide power to NV Energy, the biggest utility in Nevada.

In New Mexico, the first tribal utility-scale solar project on record, on Jicarilla Apache land, will send power via the Public Service Company of New Mexico to the City of Albuquerque as part of a larger plan to replace generation, that will be lost in the closure of the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station, which has grown so uncompetitive as to be a drain on ratepayers.

The Jicarilla Project is a sign, like the Nevada projects, of things to come in one other respect: It pairs solar generation, 50MW, with a storage component, 20MW. In Arizona and Utah, the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority has partnered with the Salt River Project in Phoenix on a 55MW solar park, that feeds into the regional grid and the tribal utility has struck a deal with 16 Utah cities to buy electricity from a planned 66MW solar farm on tribal land in San Juan County, Utah.

“All the deals are tied to long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) that run from 15 to 25 years and pricing on the most recent ones, ranging from, roughly, $21-$23 per megawatt-hour:MWh, shows why utility-scale solar has become so attractive.” the Report states. “Gas and coal-fired electricity generation, by comparison, are much more expensive.”

The Report notes, for example, industry details from Lazard’s most recent annual levelised cost of electricity data update, which put the cost of coal-fired generation nationally at $60-$143:MWh and gas-fired generation at $41-$74:MWh. The unsubsidised cost for wind ranged from $29-$56:MWh, with the subsidised cost falling as low as $14:MWh. Lazard estimated the unsubsidised price of utility-scale solar at $36-$44:MWh.

The Report notes, nonetheless, that tribal lands in the Southwest US remain vastly under-developed on the utility-scale solar front and that enormous opportunity exists for deals between utility companies, tribal governments and tax-equity developers.

“Tribal lands of the Southwest US are far and away the largest single repository of utility-scale solar potential but, development of these resources has moved at an almost-glacial pace.” the Report states. “Indications are that a paradigm shift is at work, however, as tribal interests begin to partner with developers, that bring tax-advantage incentives to the table and with utility companies driven by the low cost of utility-scale solar; state mandates, also, in some instances are helping propel the uptake of renewable energy.”

About IEEFA: The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis:IEEFA conducts global research and analyses on financial and economic issues related to energy and the environment. The Institute’s mission is to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy.

Readmore:::ω.

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Economic Policy Institute Urges the US Labour Department Not to Weaken Overtime Standards for Working People

 

 

|| Monday: September 30: 2019 || ά. Economic Policy Institute:EPI’s, America, Policy Director Ms Heidi Shierholz has submitted comments opposing US Labour Department’s proposal to set the threshold, under which salaried workers are guaranteed overtime to $35,308 for a full-year worker. Ms Shierholz’s analysis shows that this proposal does not go far enough to protect working people, leaving behind millions of workers, who would have been covered by a 2016 Obama Administration proposal.

In her comment, Ms Shierholz makes the case that DOL uses an inappropriate methodology to set the salary threshold in its proposal, while the 2016 rule would supplant used a more appropriate, albeit conservative, methodology. “The 2016 threshold was painstakingly researched and economically justified. The department’s new proposed rule is based on a deeply flawed set of assumptions, including, the notion that someone struggling on $35,000 a year is a highly paid executive, who doesn’t need or deserve overtime protections and will leave millions of workers behind as a result.” said Ms Shierholz.

“We encourage the department to drop this rule-making and, instead, defend the 2016 threshold.” Ms Shierholz points out that the Labour Department neglected to include automatic increases in its proposal. Without automatic updates, millions of workers will be left behind as the threshold is eroded by inflation.

Instead of indexing the threshold to an appropriate benchmark, DOL has indicated that they intend to undertake a new rule-making process, which is a costly and time-consuming process, every four years to update the threshold. Even, if, the department followed through with this commitment, the threshold would not be updated regularly enough and employers and employees alike would be forced to deal with extra uncertainty.

Ms Shierholz’s analysis shows that 08.2 million workers, who would have benefitted from the 2016 final rule will be left behind by this proposal, far more than estimated by DOL. This includes 04.2 million women, 03.0 million people of colour, 04.7 million workers without a college degree and 02.7 million parents of children under the age of 18.

The 08.2 million workers left behind by this proposal are comprised of 03.1 million workers, who would have gotten new overtime protections under the 2016 rule and another 05.1 million workers, who would have gotten strengthened overtime protections under that rule.

About Economic Policy Institute:EPI: EPI is an independent, non-profit think tank, that researches the impact of economic trends and policies on working people in the United States. EPI’s research helps policymakers, opinion leaders, advocates, journalists and the public understand the bread-and-butter issues affecting ordinary Americans.

Readmore:::ω.

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The University of Calgary's Life Sciences Innovation Hub Receives $08.5 Million Funding From the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund to Act as a Catalyst to Turn Research Into Commercial Ventures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

|| February 06: 2019 || ά. The University of Calgary is receiving $08.5 million for programming to support turning advanced research into business opportunities at the new Life Sciences Innovation Hub. Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund:OCIF made the announcement today at the Hub with Dr Ed McCauley, the President and Vice-chancellor of the University of Calgary, Mayor Mr Naheed Nenshi and Mr Barry Munro, the Chair of the Board of Directors for OCIF. This is good news, surely and The Humanion publishes it here as such. But, we must point out this that all universities and learning agencies of the World must bear in mind not all research, though, equally vital, can be commercialised instantly so that they do not close their vision and fall into the trap of only funding poverty-fuelled research.

Poverty-fuelled, because, that poverty is of lacking of vision and, poverty does not and can not fuel much of anything. Because, in such cases, the institutions would have blinded themselves with the short-termist money-spinning research focus. For the ultimate function of research is two-fold: to enable questioning and learning so to innovate and so to seek to advance the human condition for only through new knowledge and learning and innovation humanity does and can develop itself so to take forward the human condition. This applies to all research work, regardless of disciplines of the studies of learning. Thus, a great deal of research will not make money, will not make a penny today but the vision of the funding university must ensure that it sees in what ways a piece of research contributes to this advancing the human condition. Take genetics, as an example: Gregory Mendel’s life’s work or research would not get a penny of funding from anyone to fund his research because his research would not make a penny in a century! Now, stop and think, what would be the consequences, were such a ground-breaking, paradigm-shifting research, that would lift and shift and take forward the human condition in far more ways than, even, today, we are able to fully grasp, to be overlooked, rejected and thrown into the academic dustbins? Without vision universities cripple themselves and with poverty of vision they chain themselves. We have the faith that the University of Calgary shall not do either and continue to craft and carve out ways and paths, that are anew and afresh, that are always going to tell the world: these are ways, that had not existed before.

“This funding is critical to the development of our new Life Sciences Innovation Hub at the University Research Park, a place, that accelerates cross-disciplinary projects in discovery and innovation.” said Dr McCauley. “The university leads the way in advancing the emerging life sciences sector and diversifying Calgary’s economy. Whether we are investigating the human micro-biome or supporting best practices in production animal health, we are driving innovation, based on discoveries for the benefit of Calgary and Alberta.”

The Life Sciences Innovation Hub is forecast to incubate 20 to 40 life sciences companies per year. A key element of the Hub is supporting research with a commercialisation focus for both early-stage incubator companies, as well as, growing and developing companies occupying their own space in the building. The Hub was first unveiled last November and is scheduled to open in July.

“Life sciences is a critical component of our economic strategy and we, already, have a great university doing ground-breaking work.” said Mayor Mr Nenshi. “This funding will help us bring that ground-breaking work to market, creating jobs and a more resilient economy.”

The Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund was launched by the City of Calgary in April 2018 to support investments within the city, that spur growth and create jobs in strategic sectors. Life sciences is one of the sectors, identified for growth in the economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy. OCIF funding will support specialised programming for entrepreneurs and companies at the Hub. It was not used to acquire or refurbish the building.

“Some of the most advanced research in the world is being done at the University of Calgary. There is a tremendous opportunity to leverage that research and create the next great life sciences companies in Calgary.” said Mr Munro. “That is what we plan to achieve with the OCIF investment: fund the programmes to build the skills to transition to the business world and to help attract global capital to support these companies and entrepreneurs.”

A steering committee will be created to advise the University on programming at the Life Sciences Innovation Hub, that will include industry, Calgary Economic Development, the University of Calgary, Innovate Calgary and Creative Destruction Lab:CDL-Rockies.:::ω.

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Nicaragua: The Onslaught Against Key Human Rights Groups

 

 

|| December 23: 2018 || ά. After the Nicaraguan Government announced that it had asked two key human rights institutions to leave the country, the head of the United Nation Human Rights Ms Michelle Bachelet, said on Friday that she was extremely alarmed by a decision that means, in effect, there will be no functioning independent human rights bodies left in Nicaragua.

According to High Commissioner Bachelet, the two non-profit human rights organisations were set up by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights:IACHR, in full co-operation with the Government after the violence and unrest earlier this year. One of them is MESENI, a follow-up mechanism from IACHR, set up specifically for Nicaragua and the other is known as, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts:GIEI.

“After the earlier cancellation of the registration and confiscation of properties of national NGOs working on human rights, the de facto expulsion of the two IACHR organisations means there are now virtually no functioning independent human rights bodies left in Nicaragua.” said Ms Bachelet. She added further that the Government has said it will no longer accept visits by the IACHR itself.

Since April, when student-led protests began in response to a decree, which raised taxes and ordered changes to social security, hundreds of people have been arrested. The UN human rights office:OHCHR has received reports that fair trial rights of protesters and their leaders are being violated.

According to media reports, the violence and civil unrest has led to around 300 deaths and a report from the UN rights office in late August, detailed numerous violations carried out by Nicaraguan security forces, including, extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances. The report noted that 22 police officers had, also, lost their lives.

“Coupled with the parallel clamp-down on independent media, including, last weekend’s raids on media outlets, the net result is a country where civil society is in danger of being shut out altogether and international organisations are, also, struggling to keep operating.” warned the UN Human Rights High Commissioner.

“These actions by the Government make resolution of the crisis affecting the country much more difficult and risk blocking all dialogue within the country, with neighbouring states and with the international community at large, with possible wide-ranging consequences.” she said. She further added that hoping that some common ground can be found with the Government so this trend can be reversed.

Caption: Artículo 66: Students protest in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua, July 2018: Image: UN Photo:::ω.

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In 2016 Over 38,000 People Were Killed and 116,000 Suffered Non-Fatal Injuries Due to Firearms in the United States: Amnesty International Report Declares Gun Violence in the United States to Be a Human Rights Crisis

 

 

 

|| September 14: 2018: Amnesty International News || ά. The U.S Government has allowed gun violence to become a human rights crisis, according to ‘In the Line of Fire: Human Rights and the U.S Gun Violence Crisis’. a new Report from Amnesty International. The report examines how all aspects of American life have been compromised in some way by the unfettered access to guns, with no attempts at meaningful national regulation. While most countries have licensing and regulation systems in place for firearms, the United States lacks measures like a national registration and 30 states allow handguns to be owned without a license or permit.

“The U.S. government is prioritising gun ownership over basic human rights. While many solutions have been offered, there has been a stunning lack of political will to save lives.” said Ms Margaret Huang, the Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. “Despite the huge number of guns in circulation and the sheer numbers of people killed by guns each year, there is a shocking lack of federal regulations, that could save thousands.” Acknowledging the decades of work by impacted communities and activists, the Amnesty International Report aims to support those efforts by placing the problem of gun violence in the framework of universally recognised human rights and offering solutions within that framework, that the U.S should adopt to address the crisis.

In 2016, the last year stats were available, over 38,000 people were killed and 116,000 suffered non-fatal injuries due to firearms in the United States. The Report examines the ways in which gun violence affects communities of colour, where gun violence is the leading cause of death for men and boys between the ages of 15 and 34, who are 20 times more likely to be killed by a gun than their white counterparts. Women facing domestic violence and children are, also, disproportionately affected.

While the Report offers many different recommendations for each of the focus areas, the overarching call is for national laws, that would eliminate the current inadequate and arbitrary patchwork of state laws, that leave people in some states more vulnerable to gun violence than others. Among the recommendations are:

Comprehensive background checks; National regulations for licensing and registering firearms and required training for gun ownership; Ban on semi-automatic assault rifles and other military-grade weapons; Investment in evidence-based community violence reduction and prevention programs; Mandatory safe-storage laws

The Report notes that, while mass shootings have profound emotional and psychological effects and could be prevented by banning assault rifles and high-capacity firearms, such mass events only account for less than one percent of gun deaths. More common and less publicised are individual incidents, that pervade everyday life in communities across the country.  To that end, the report shares individual stories of people affected by gun violence.

“You have to understand, our children are suffering.” said Ms Pam Bosley, a Chicago mother, whose son Terrell was killed by gun violence in a still-unsolved crime in 2006 and, who spoke with Amnesty International for the Report. “We need social services and counselling for youth. How can we expect them to survive and excel in this climate? When a child is killed, at most, the school will bring in a counsellor for one day. If, they treated us like Sandy Hook, things would be different. When lives were taken in that community, they brought in counsellors for a year to work with the kids, our kids go through this every day. Our community is not valued by America. They don’t feel like we are worth the counselling or support.”

The Report, also, explores the consequences for the thousands of people, who survive gun violence. On average, more than 317 people are shot every day and survive, at least, long enough to get to the hospital. The mental, physical and financial consequences of their injuries shape their lives forever. This is a public health crisis of astonishing proportion, with remarkably little government response, given the life-long effects on many survivors.

Dr. Thomas Scalea, the Director of the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Centre in Baltimore, spoke to Amnesty International about a patient, who exemplifies the struggles faced by survivors: “I have one guy, who had multiple shots. I’ve operated on him, may be, 15 or 20 times in 18 months, because he had a lot of problems, he was really sick. But I got him through it and we closed his colostomy and he is fixed and he is known as a ‘great save.’ Except he was, also, shot in the arm and has severe nerve damage and he made a living moving stuff, picking things up. You need two arms to pick things up, so he is disabled and he can not work. And that’s it, there is no re-education or training. And in order to get disability you have to be able to negotiate the health care system and that’s hard enough for me to do, so how do you think it’s going to work out for him?”

In addition to working to implement the federal and local recommendations made in the report, Amnesty International will work with local partners at the state level, starting with initiatives in Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan. In Illinois, Amnesty International members will urge the Governor to pass the Combatting Illegal Gun Trafficking Act, that will help stop the flow of illegally trafficked guns and stop gun dealers from opening next to schools and day cares. In Ohio, activists will work to stop a bill, that would make violent confrontations with firearms more likely to occur. A third campaign in Michigan aims to pass a law allowing family members to take steps to prevent loved ones from harming themselves or others.

Further campaign efforts will call on city and state governments to invest in communities by fully funding community-based solutions programmes, proven to be the most effective urban gun violence reduction interventions in the U.S.:::ω.

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Regardless of How the American Flag is Flown: Senator McCain’s Legacy Is This: Being American and Being the Supporter of White Supremacy Racism and Xenophobia and Being in the Pocket of Big Money are Incompatible

 

 

 

 

|| August 27: 2018 || ά. The Humanion is saddened to hear, with the world, that Senator McCain has lost his battle with brain cancer with his hall-mark staunchest of will, steely determination and fierce dignity and our sincere condolences go to his family, friends and colleagues at this saddest of times. The Humanion, has very little to say about much of his politics and world view and much to say against all that he stood for because he happened to have chosen a very conservative way of serving America. However, this piece is about, not the politician McCain but the human McCain and as such, he had and still have and will continue to have ‘enemies’ in the political front, no one can fail to acknowledge the integrity of this human being. Maverick he has been, surely, he contradicted himself many a times, he faltered and, sometimes, failed in his judgment to his own detriment, such as, choosing his running mate at the last time he ran for the Presidency, but he had a ‘method’ to his ‘madness’ or ‘being that maverick’. And in this, he voted against Obama care while it came about but, yet, he voted down the later efforts by his own party to repel this very same act. This goes to show this mind was a ‘living, developing and progressing mind’, that it learnt and took notes of the reason and evolving evidence and was capable of passing the ‘dictate’ of the dogma and make decisions based on that ‘learning’.

No republican presidential candidate is very likely to contradict an ardent and wild supporter at an election rally, that was jumping up and down with wild accusations and allegations against his opponent but he had the decency, honour and dignity to ensure his ‘disassociation’ was vocalised and heard and noted for he stood for America in this: America is neither a country nor a nation, if, it becomes racist, if, it becomes white supremacists, if, it falls to the grasp of xenophobia and it surely becomes a ‘toy-thing’ of the rich as and when it is under the ‘prowess’ of big money, which is what has happened a long time ago and more and more it is not ‘we the people’ but ‘it the money’, that determines the fate and rate and ratio of America. McCain was, probably, the last Republican, who stood for this: that America is not and can not be a people, land, country and nation unless it raises itself to the highest of abstractions: values: democracy, rule of law, liberty and equal opportunities and dignities, ideals, that its founders dreamt of but America has been faltering and falling away from it ever since and now stands at the point of ‘self-annihilation’ for the current path, that America has taken, has the potential to end it all. America, might, scream that this is the way to make America great again but this is the way America is going towards its self-diminishing.

He was a kind of his own, Senator McCain. Love him or loathe him: but must you acknowledge him, register him and come to respect him. In his failures he was humane and in his successes he was more so. But how would the world view him: he subscribed to the world view of America being a ‘power’ in the world, but he wanted it to be a ‘good power’ fostering and supporting a rule-based democratic world not dictated and bullied but working together and party-lines must always be ‘crossable’ to him and he has shown that by his life. Whether he was a ‘hero’ is a pointless ‘sentimental’ argument. It should be a different question: he was and he existed but did he aspire, aim and try to serve his country throughout his life: no one can deny that he did his absolute utmost do so and that is not a mean feat!

Deny what the Americans may, Senator McCain has shown and left a legacy for the ‘ruined America’, once his very party’s administration comes to an end, to redirect them towards ‘America’: we the people: that people is made of the Original Americans, whites and blacks and African-Americans and Hispanics and Arab-Americans and Asian Americans and Christians and Jewish and Muslims and Buddhists and Rastas and Sikhs and many, who do not follow any faith and those, who are men and those, who are women and those, who are able and those, who are disabled and this and that and the other: America there is none, if, it does not accept all that diversity and unify itself under the most abstract of all values. The Humanion pays tributes to this human being, despite not liking the vast chunk of his ‘politics’ or what his party stands for and a great deal of what he stood for, for the legacy he has left behind: they are ideals by which America must seek to rebuild itself while the destruction of it is attempted and contemplated and implemented by the current administration and, then, there is still the people, the Americans and there it all becomes so diverse a symphony is required: that symphony of America is diversity of its people and its unity is in its humanity: rise to grasp that and go forth to forge an America: mature, well developed and visionary enough to celebrate its humanity, which will not happen unless and until America forgets everything and repeats education, Universal Education for all from Seattle to Alabama, from Detroit to New Orleans, from Alaska to Ohio: and this humanity comes in all colours and sizes and shapes except there is no room for white supremacy, there is no room for racism and masochism and misogyny and there is no room for hatred and xenophobia and there is not a nano-dot of a space for ‘big money’ dictating the human condition. This legacy of Senator McCain is the biggest challenge for the Republican Party that it can not exist as a political party fostering, harbouring, festering, feeding, courting and exploiting white supremacy, racism and xenophobia and, were it to fail to follow that course it will begin to become irrelevant in the political landscape for America can not exist as a white supremacist country but will perish away in destruction. America can only stay as the statue of liberty of all humanity and to be able to leave this behind for one’s people and country is not a small accomplishment and we need not be Republicans nor Democrats nor anything else to say this.:::ω.

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