Hidden Menace: Massive methane leaks speed up climate change
LENORAH, Texas (AP) — To the naked eye, the Mako Compressor Station outside the dusty West Texas crossroads of Lenorah appears unremarkable, similar to tens of thousands of oil and gas operations scattered throughout the oil-rich Permian Basin.
What’s not visible through the chain-link fence is the plume of invisible gas, primarily methane, billowing from the gleaming white storage tanks up into the cloudless blue sky.
The Mako station, owned by a subsidiary of West Texas Gas Inc., was observed releasing an estimated 870 kilograms of methane – an extraordinarily potent greenhouse gas — into the atmosphere each hour. That's the equivalent impact on the climate of burning seven tanker trucks full of gasoline every day.
But Mako’s outsized emissions aren’t illegal, or even regulated. And it was only one of 533 methane “super emitters” detected during a 2021 aerial survey of the Permian conducted by Carbon Mapper, a partnership of university researchers and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The group documented massive amounts of methane venting into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations across the Permian, a 250-mile-wide bone-dry expanse along the Texas-New Mexico border that a billion years ago was the bottom of a shallow sea. Hundreds of those sites were seen spewing the gas over and over again. Ongoing leaks, gushers, going unfixed.
Russia steps up strikes on Ukraine amid counterattacks
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces on Thursday launched massive missile strikes on Ukraine's Kyiv and Chernihiv regions, areas that haven't been targeted in weeks, while Ukrainian officials announced an operation to liberate an occupied region in the country's south.
Kyiv regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba said on Telegram that a settlement in the Vyshgorod district of the region was targeted early on Thursday morning; an “infrastructure object” was hit. It wasn't immediately clear if there were any casualties.
Vyshhgorod is located 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) north of downtown Kyiv. Kuleba linked the strikes with the Day of Statehood, which Ukraine was marking for the first time on Thursday.
“Russia, with the help of missiles, is mounting revenge for the widespread popular resistance, which the Ukrainians were able to organize precisely because of their statehood,” Kuleba told Ukrainian television. “Ukraine has already broken Russia’s plans and will continue to defend itself.”
Chernihiv governor Vyacheslav Chaus reported that multiple missiles were fired from the territory of Belarus at the village of Honcharivska.
Kim threatens to use nukes amid tensions with US, S. Korea
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned he’s ready to use his nuclear weapons in potential military conflicts with the United States and South Korea, state media said Thursday, as he unleashed fiery rhetoric against rivals he says are pushing the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war.
Kim’s speech to war veterans on the 69th anniversary of the end of the 1950-53 Korean War was apparently meant to boost internal unity in the impoverished country amid pandemic-related economic difficulties. While Kim has increasingly threatened his rivals with nuclear weapons, it’s unlikely that he would use them first against the superior militaries of the U.S. and its allies, observers say.
“Our armed forces are completely prepared to respond to any crisis, and our country’s nuclear war deterrent is also ready to mobilize its absolute power dutifully, exactly and swiftly in accordance with its mission,” Kim said in Wednesday's speech, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
He accused the United States of “demonizing” North Korea to justify its hostile policies. Kim said regular U.S.-South Korea military drills that he claimed target the North highlight U.S. “double standards” and “gangster-like” aspects because it brands North Korea’s routine military activities — an apparent reference to its missile tests — as provocations or threats.
Kim also alleged the new South Korean government of President Yoon Suk Yeol is led by “confrontation maniacs” and “gangsters” who have gone further than previous South Korean conservative governments. Since taking office in May, the Yoon government has moved to strengthen Seoul’s military alliance with the United States and bolster its own capacity to neutralize North Korean nuclear threats including a preemptive strike capability.
US economy likely grew modestly, if at all, last quarter
WASHINGTON (AP) — After going backward from January through March, the U.S. economy probably didn't do much better in the spring.
On Thursday morning, the government will reveal just how weak economic growth was in the April-June quarter — and perhaps offer clues about whether the United States may be approaching a recession.
The report comes at a critical time: On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by a sizable three-quarters of a point for a second straight time in its push to conquer the worst inflation outbreak in four decades. The Fed is aiming for a notoriously difficult “soft landing”: An economic slowdown that manages to rein in rocketing prices without triggering a recession.
Forecasters surveyed by the data firm FactSet have estimated that the nation's gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic output — eked out a tepid annual gain of 0.8% last quarter. Modest as it would be, that would amount to a sharp improvement over the economy’s 1.6% contraction in the January-March quarter.
Still, quarterly growth that sluggish would represent a drastic weakening from the 5.7% growth the economy achieved last year. That was the fastest calendar-year expansion since 1984, reflecting how vigorously the economy roared back from the brief but brutal pandemic recession of 2020.
What's in, and out, of Democrats' inflation-fighting package
WASHINGTON (AP) — What started as a $4 trillion effort during President Joe Biden's first months in office to rebuild America's public infrastructure and family support systems has ended up a much slimmer, but not unsubstantial, compromise package of inflation-fighting health care, climate change and deficit reduction strategies that appears headed toward quick votes in Congress.
Lawmakers are pouring over the $739 billion proposal struck by two top negotiators, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and holdout Sen. Joe Manchin, the conservative West Virginia Democrat who rejected Biden's earlier drafts but surprised colleagues late Wednesday with a new one.
What's in, and out, of the Democrats' 725-page “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022” as it stands now:
LOWER PRESCRIPTION DRUG COSTS
Launching a long-sought goal, the bill would allow the Medicare program to negotiate prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, saving the federal government some $288 billion over the 10-year budget window.
'New Cold War': Russia and West vie for influence in Africa
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Russian, French and American leaders are crisscrossing Africa to win support for their positions on the war in Ukraine, waging what some say is the most intense competition for influence on the continent since the Cold War.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and French President Emmanuel Macron are each visiting several African countries this week. Samantha Power, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, went to Kenya and Somalia last week. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, will go to Ghana and Uganda next week.
“It's like a new Cold War is playing out in Africa, where the rival sides are trying to gain influence,” said William Gumede, director of Democracy Works, a foundation promoting good governance.
Lavrov, in his travels across the drought- and hunger-stricken continent, has sought to portray the West as the villain, blaming it for rising food prices, while the Western leaders have accused the Kremlin of cynically using food as a weapon and waging an imperial-style war of conquest — words calculated to appeal to listeners in post-colonial Africa.
Under President Vladimir Putin, Russia has been working to win support in Africa for several years, reinvigorating friendships that date back a half-century, when the Soviet Union backed many African movements fighting to end colonial rule.
Seeking new funds, Hamas raises taxes in impoverished Gaza
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Gaza’s Hamas rulers have imposed a slew of new taxes on imported clothes and office supplies just ahead of the new school year, sparking limited but rare protests in the impoverished coastal strip.
The move by the militant group comes at a time when Gaza’s 2.3 million people are suffering not only from a 15-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade, but also from a new jump in prices caused by global supply-chain issues and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“This is a wrong, oppressive decision that destroys the national economy,” said Nahed al-Sawada, who imports clothes from China and Turkey.
A list by the Ministry of Economy includes planned taxes on items like packaged nuts, with an import tariff of 2,000 shekels (nearly $600) per ton. In the past, nuts were imported tax free. The tariff on a ton of toilet paper rose from $90 to $580. The taxes are set to go into effect on Aug. 1.
The list also includes a tax of about $3 on pair of jeans, and $230 on a ton of plastic folders used to store papers. Demand for these items increases ahead of the school year.
Black family sues Sesame Place, alleging discrimination
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A Baltimore family is suing a Sesame Street-themed amusement park for $25 million over claims of racial discrimination, alleging multiple costumed characters ignored a 5-year-old Black girl during a meet-and-greet event last month.
The lawsuit comes in the wake of a video, shared widely on social media, showing two other Black girls apparently being snubbed by a costumed employee during a parade at the park in Langhorne, outside Philadelphia. Sesame Place apologized in a statement and promised more training for its employees after the video went viral earlier this month.
The suit, which seeks class action status, was filed in a federal court in Philadelphia against SeaWorld Parks, the owner of the Sesame Place, for “pervasive and appalling race discrimination.”
The lawsuit alleges four employees dressed as Sesame Street characters ignored Quinton Burns, his daughter Kennedi Burns and other Black guests during the meet-and-greet on June 18. The lawsuit says “SeaWorld's performers readily engaged with numerous similarly situated white customers.”
During a press conference held Wednesday, one of the family's attorneys, Malcolm Ruff, called for transparency from SeaWorld and for the company to compensate the Burns family. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Rejected by courts, retirees take last shot to save pensions
WASHINGTON (AP) — Dave Muffley thought he had it made when it came to a solid retirement. The Indiana man spent roughly 30 years as a salaried maintenance technician for Delphi Corp., a subsidiary of General Motors Corp., and expected to retire with a comfortable income by the time he hit 62.
But when GM plunged into the biggest industrial bankruptcy proceeding in history in 2009, and the federal government negotiated its restructuring, Muffley’s expected retirement package was slashed, and his life’s trajectory would spiral.
The Russiaville resident, now 68, lost 30% of his retirement savings, his promised health care coverage and his faith in government.
Muffley is one of an estimated 20,000 Delphi workers hurt by the GM bankruptcy, and many have spent the past 13 years fighting to get back what they lost. After taking the issue all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear their case this year, the retirees were cut off from their last legal remedy.
Now, they’re looking to Congress to do for them what the courts would not. Legislation to restore the pension savings of the workers has gained support from both the left and the right in Congress. It passed the House on Wednesday and supporters are hopeful the Senate will follow suit.
Wounded Knee artifacts highlight slow pace of repatriations
BARRE, Mass. (AP) — One by one, items purportedly taken from Native Americans massacred at Wounded Knee Creek emerged from the dark, cluttered display cases where they’ve sat for more than a century in a museum in rural Massachusetts.
Moccasins, necklaces, clothing, ceremonial pipes, tools and other objects were carefully laid out on white backgrounds as a photographer dutifully snapped pictures under bright studio lights.
It was a key step in returning scores of items displayed at the Founders Museum in Barre to tribes in South Dakota that have sought them since the 1990s.
“This is real personal,” said Leola One Feather, of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, as she observed the process as part of a two-person tribal delegation last week. “It may be sad for them to lose these items, but it’s even sadder for us because we’ve been looking for them for so long.”
Recent efforts to repatriate human remains and other culturally significant items such as those at the Founders Museum represent significant and solemn moments for tribes. But they also underscore the slow pace and the monumental task at hand.
The Associated Press