Tag Archives: Business

The Oil Industry Got Together and Agreed Things May Never Get Better

Thousands of industry participants gathered in London for their annual get-together, only to find a world awash in crude and hardly a life jacket in sight.

by Andy Hoffman

Brent-Calendar-Swaps-2016-17-12MNTHSU.S. Is Running Out of Room for Oil

The thousands of attendees seeking reasons for optimism didn’t find them at the annual International Petroleum Week. Instead they were greeted by a cacophony of voices from some of the largest oil producers, refiners and traders delivering the same message:
There are few reasons for optimism. The world is awash with oil. The market is overwhelmingly bearish.
No Hope
Producers are bracing for a tough year. Prices will stay low for up to a decade as Chinese economic growth slows and the U.S. shale industry acts as a cap on any rally, according to Ian Taylor, chief executive officer of Vitol Group, the world’s largest independent oil trader. Even refiners, whose profits have held up better than expected, are seeing a worsening outlook.

“The oil industry is facing a crisis,” said Patrick Pouyanne, CEO of Total SA, Europe’s biggest refiner. BP Plc boss Bob Dudley described himself as “very bearish” and joked that the surplus is so extreme that people will soon be filling swimming pools with crude.
As the world runs out of places to store oil, “I wouldn’t be surprised if this market goes into the teens,” said Jeff Currie, head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
Cuts? What Cuts?
Crude prices surged briefly last month on speculation the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would team up with Russia to cut production. The head of the nation’s biggest oil company had other ideas.
“Tell me who is supposed to cut?” said Igor Sechin, CEO of Rosneft. “Will Saudi Arabia cut production? Will Iran cut production? Will Mexico cut production? Will Brazil cut production? Who is going to cut?”

Supply exceeds demand by as much as 1.7 million barrels a day, so cutting 1 million from production would in theory make prices more “reasonable,” Sechin said. Nevertheless, Rosneft is focused on preserving its traditional markets against the competition, he said.

Cuts on the scale required to balance the market just aren’t happening. While some fields have started to fall victim to low prices, only 0.1 percent of global output has been curtailed because it’s unprofitable, researcher Wood Mackenzie estimates.
A Profitable Opportunity
Traders are the only ones enjoying the slump as they profit from sky-high volatility and a market structure called contango – where prices in the future are higher than today – that means they can make money just by keeping oil in storage tanks.
Goldman’s Currie Expects Oil Volatility to Go Higher
As the price of U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude slumped close to 12-year lows this week, another opportunity emerged: super-contango. Places to store oil on land are running out in some places, and the contango is getting so steep that it’s becoming profitable to hire supertankers, fill them with crude and anchor them offshore.
Terrible Market, Great Party
Throughout the gloom, champagne flowed, backed by a jazz quartet.
If it’s hard times for the industry, that wasn’t obvious from the cocktail party circuit. Kuwait Petroleum Corp. welcomed guests to ballroom of the Four Seasons hotel in London’s exclusive Mayfair district with hospitality as if nothing had changed since 2014, when oil was $100 a barrel. Tables were laden with shashlik, oysters and even a whole lamb carved by a chef. In the dessert room, a chocolate fountain bubbled alongside bowls of strawberries.
The State Oil Co. of the Azerbaijan Republic – where a currency crisis has provoked street protests – offered four whole roast lambs, a sushi bar and chocolate truffles to thousands of guests at Park Lane’s Grosvenor House Hotel.
“We didn’t cut back,” said Elshad Nassirov, the company’s vice-president of marketing and investments, “in order not to spoil the mood.”


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Closer than we think: Ruling from US agency solves a big problem for self-driving cars

by Lloyd Alter

self driving car

via Paleofuture

Back in 1958, Arthur Radebaugh started a comic series that set out visions of the future called Closer than we think; According to Matt Novak of Paleofuture, it “gave people a look at some of the most wonderfully techno-utopian visions that America had to offer”. One of those visions was of a self-driving car, and it really is now closer than we think.

Along with the technological problems to be solved are the legal ones, including the question of whether you can actually have a car without a driver. Google has concluded that the biggest problem with the self-driving car is the person in it, and wants to build them without steering wheels or brake pedals which software can handle but meatware screws up. Google “expresses concern that providing human occupants of the vehicle with mechanisms to control things like steering, acceleration, braking… could be detrimental to safety because the human occupants could attempt to override the (self-driving system’s) decisions.” The State of California didn’t like this idea and ruled last year that the cars should be capable of having humans drive them, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the regulatory body for the whole country, appears to be open to the idea.

self-driving carTom Vanderbilt/via

Last November Google asked the NHTSA for a ruling, in particular noting that their proposed car…

…is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. Such a design anticipates that the driver will provide destination or navigation input, but is not expected to be available for control at any time during the trip. This includes both occupied and unoccupied vehicles. By design, safe operation rests solely on the automated vehicle system.

The NHTSA responded in a letter recently, mostly positively. The key point of contention is whether the car’s self driving system (SDS) can be considered a driver; the key issue is a rule, S5.3.1, that all cars must have foot operated brakes.

Google argues that because the SDS will control all aspects of braking, it would not be necessary or beneficial for safety for a human occupant to be able to brake the vehicle….We agree that Google’s SDS may be deemed to be the driver for purposes of compliance with these provisions. Given that there will be no foot (or even hand) control to be activated. indeed, given that the SDS will have neither feet nor hands to activate brakes, we understand that Google’s described vehicle design would not comply with S5.3.1 as written.

Old image self driving carA future lost in time/via

This is very big; it lays out a legal path for approving the cars, and may well set the pattern for dealing with other issues of insurance and liability. On The Verge, one expert, Kelley Blue Book automotive industry analyst Karl Brauer, looks at the impact:

The intricate maze of legal questions surrounding autonomous vehicles is as big a hurdle to their arrival as the remaining technological challenges. However, if NHTSA is prepared to name artificial intelligence as a viable alternative to human-controlled vehicles it could substantially streamline the process of putting autonomous vehicles on the road.

Arthur Radebaugh was a little ahead of himself, but the self-driving car really is closer than we think. Planners and city-builders had better get ready.

Tags: Cities | Self-driving car


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

National Federation of the Blind and Disability Advocates Charge Federal Health Agency with Civil Rights Violations





After forty years of the federal Rehabilitation Act and a new world of technology, blind people still forced to rely on others to read inaccessible materials
Springfield, Massachusetts (February 10, 2016): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and individual plaintiffs Juan Figueroa, Derek Manners, and Martti Mallinen announced the filing of a major federal lawsuit today in US District Court, District of Massachusetts, Western Division. The lawsuit charges the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through its sub-agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and its CMS sub-contractors, with systemically violating the civil rights of blind Medicare recipients.

The action seeks to require HHS to provide blind individuals meaningful and equally effective access to their Medicare information, as required by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (Section 504). CMS, a sub-agency of HHS, is the largest single payer for health care in the United States, providing health care coverage to nearly ninety million Americans through Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

CMS regularly communicates information to blind persons via inaccessible print and electronic formats which they cannot read. Mr. Figueroa, Mr. Manners, Mr. Mallinen, and many other NFB members have thus faced or been at risk for loss of benefits and healthcare disruption. For example, Mr. Mallinen has received information about denial of benefits and his right to appeal said denial that he could not read, potentially adversely affecting his appeal rights.

Mark A. Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “We are outraged that blind people do not have access to their personal Medicare and Medicaid information forty years after the passage of the Rehabilitation act and almost a year after CMS promised to implement a plan for equal access. Today blind people readily access information in more ways than ever before but even large print access, the simplest possible solution for those with sufficient residual vision, is not made available. This continued disregard for the privacy and civil rights of the blind is inexcusable, and blind Americans will not tolerate it.”

At a time when smart technology is presumed to be improving the lives of people with a variety of disabilities, blind Americans who rely on healthcare services provided through Medicare and Medicare contractors are forced to divulge personal and financial data to a sighted third-party when responding to CMS.  Electronic and online materials may not be any more accessible than printed ones. As a result, blind Medicare beneficiaries are often unnecessarily prevented from independently reading, filling out, signing and submitting online forms.

Appropriate auxiliary aids and services for blind individuals may include providing documents in alternative formats such as Braille, large print, audio CD, and digital navigable formats supported by computers and digital talking-book players, transmitted through data CD, e-mail, or other requested media.

The filing follows an investigation launched by Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) to establish that there were widespread incidences of communication access barriers in CMS systems. In August 2014, in response to complaints filed with the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in 2011 and 2012 under Section 504, CMS entered into an agreement with OCR. The complaints were filed on behalf of blind Medicare beneficiaries, and those similarly situated, who were not provided with notice of their rights or with effective communication under Section 504.  The agreement signed by CMS and OCR, entitled the “Commitment to Action to Resolve DREDF Section 504 Complaints” (Commitment to Action), established a timeframe within which CMS would take specified actions to ensure the agency’s compliance with Section 504 in the areas raised in OCR’s investigation of the complaints, found at

DREDF Senior Attorney, Silvia Yee, said, “CMS was required to complete a ‘Long-Term Action Plan’ by April 2015 that would ensure effective cross-disability communication access, as well as the timely provision of auxiliary aids and services to CMS beneficiaries and consumers. To date, we have not seen a Plan. People with disabilities have not been notified of any such plan. As a public entity that deals every day with people with disabilities and older Americans, CMS should lead the way to ensure compliance with disability civil rights laws, not lag behind by four decades.”

Plaintiffs are represented by DREDF; Brown, Goldstein & Levy; and Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen (SRBC).

The National Federation of the Blind
The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want; blindness is not what holds you back.

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
Founded in 1979 by people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities, the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) is a national law and policy center based in Berkeley, CA and is dedicated to protecting and advancing the civil rights of people with disabilities.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Scientists decode bed bug genome as pesticide resistance results in a resurgence

BY Christine Lepisto

bedbug mattress or street art

CC BY 2.0 Marta Kat

Recent reports highlight the growing pesticide resistance of bed bugs, a plague that was almost wiped out half a century ago, but which has crept back across the globe thanks to increased travel and exchange of pre-owned items.

Just in time, then, scientists have decoded the bed bug genome. The results of the corroboration of dozens of scientists around the world are published in a recent paper in Nature Communications.

For the most part, bed bug bites are harmless — except for the itching. And that insomnia-inducing sense that little monsters come out when the lights are off. There is evidence that bed bug bites can carry antibiotic resistant Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA) and American trypanosomes, a parasite related to Chagas disease, but scientists report that “no evidence exists of disease transmission by bed bugs in the field.” Scientists will be looking at the genome and other bed bug characteristics to determine why they do not spread disease.

Bed bugs reproduce prolifically — but in a strange and violent manner. The male bed bug pierces the abdomen of the female in what scientists call “traumatic insemination.” This method of reproduction exists in various apparently unrelated groups, so better genetic data may underpin an understanding of how this behavior evolved.

Scientists could see the genes that make bed bugs so effective: their ability to fit in small crevices, sense the location of their next meal (they live only on fresh blood), and evolution of a biting proboscis through which a small amount of anasthetic is injected to allow the parasites to feed without alerting their host all have fingerprints in the bed bug genome.

Perhaps most disturbingly, the scientists found a buildup of resistance to a broad range of pesticides, suggesting that it may not be so easy to develop new weapons against the resistant bed bugs. It seems that some of these genes have actually transferred from symbiotic bacteria carried by the bed bugs.

So if a better pesticide won’t be on the horizon to fight the resistant bugs, what can a person faced with bed bugs do? The first line has to be prevention. If you travel, check for bed bugs. Anything you bring home with you can be treated by washing at 45°C (or 115 °F) or by bagging the items and leaving it in the freezer for a week.

Larger items that cannot be washed or frozen can be bagged in plastic and left in a warm place in the sunlight. After a week, place the item in the middle of a sheet or tarp before opening the bag. Wait for the hungry pests to charge out of the bag towards you, then trap them in the sheet and immediately implement the hot wash or freezer treatment to kill the bugs.Take care with anything you buy at garage sales or second hand shops (checking these carefully for fecal spots, little black circles, provides a good clue).

if it is too late for prevention, start with a good mattress cover to minimize nighttime raids. You can check out which natural pesticides are most effective — but consider working with an exterminator because the proper application and assessment of the effectiveness of the treatment is essential to eliminating these fast-breeding bugs.

And if you do choose pesticides from the traditional spectrum — organochlorines, organophosphates and pyrethroids — be sure to hire a professional. Incorrect application and incomplete treatments help the bugs build resistance.

Tags: Bedrooms | Insects | Pesticides


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brazilian Health Officials Add ‘No Kissing’ and ‘No Sex’ to List of Zika Virus Precautions

Brazilian health officials are warning pregnant women to seriously consider who they kiss and to use condoms if they have been in countries were the Zika virus is present.

“The flurry of recommendations began in Brazil, where a top health official warned pregnant women to be caution with their kisses,” the AP reported late on Friday,

This announcement came at the start of a five-day drunken Carnival festival “where kissing as many people as possible is a top pastime,” reported the AP.

The guidelines issued also suggested that men use condoms even if their female partner is not pregnant. They also suggested abstaining from sex entirely.

Paulo Gadelha, president of the Fiocruz research institute, told reporters at a press conference that scientists have found live virus in saliva and urine, and that the possibility that the Zika virus could be spread by these two body fluids requires further study.

He also said that pregnant women should take other precautions to protect themselves and their unborn child, including kissing only a regular partner, and not sharing the forks, knives, glasses, or plates of those who may have symptoms of the Zika virus.

Previous reports by Breitbart News confirmed that Brazilian scientists have detected the live Zika virus in human saliva and urine. Their fear is that a person can contract the virus by coming into contact with these fluids.

Dr. Susan Donelan, medical director of the epidemiology department at Stony Brook University Hospital in New York was asked about these suggestions to pregnant women. She was reported to say, “I can understand the Brazilian Health Ministry being concerned about not leaving out any potential mechanism for transmission, even if it’s theoretical.” She added, “Brazil is in a particularly difficult position.”

Brazil is believed to be the country hardest hit by the Zika virus, and Brazil’s top health official said that the virus is proving worse than believed possible because most cases show no symptoms, Breitbart News reported. The country has launched a door-to-door campaign executed by 220,000 soldiers to combat the spread of the virus. Moreover, more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly have been reported and 200 or more cases are being diagnosed every week, reported Breitbart News.

U.N. officials are asking Catholic dominant countries in Latin America to allow pregnant women to have abortions if they fear their unborn child may be at risk for a Zika virus related birth defect such as microcephaly, as reported by the AP. Abortion is not legal in these countries unless a judge signs off on the procedure.

At least one Brazilian judge has declared he will approve abortions for women who have contracted Zika and can prove their unborn child has microcephaly or ancenephaly. In Brazil, abortions are only legal with judicial approval, reported Breitbart Texas.

As reported by Breitbart News, Planned Parenthood is taking advantage of Zika virus fears to push for the expansion of abortion-on-demand throughout Latin America.

Breitbart News has also reported that the fear of an unborn child developing microcephaly or other birth defects due to the Zika virus, has pushed women to get illegal abortions according to the Brazilian daily Folha de São Paulo.

The AP reported that the National Conference of Bishops in Brazil did not immediately comment on the U.N.’s suggestion to loosen abortion laws.

Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter@LanaShadwick2


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Those Days You Work From Home May End Up Wrecking the Planet

by Jessica Shankleman –

Why Working From Home Is Not So Green
More businesses than ever are asking employees to work remotely in a bid to cut rental costs for office space and take advantage of the growth of super-fast broadband, teleconferencing and smart phones.
But working from your kitchen can actually increase the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming, since those who stay home usually turn up the thermostat. Home energy consumption increases 20 percent when people work where they live, according to a study by BT Group Plc, the U.K.’s biggest broadband provider.
“The general view is home working is always a good thing, but it’s never as simple as it appears,” said Paul Swift, a consultant for Carbon Trust, a London-based research group that advises companies on sustainability. “You can have a very efficient building in a city where people are walking or using public transport. If employees working from home are switching on the heating across the entire house, it will be a negative.”

Swift and his team confirmed that working at home during the winter can quickly lead to an increase in emissions. A single hour of extra heating for most households cancels out the emissions saved by avoiding a commute, the Carbon Trust concluded in a 2014 report.
Only those home workers who live far from the office or who would otherwise drive to work contribute to an overall reduction in pollution. Employees whose daily car commute is at least eight miles, who take a bus for 14 miles or travel at least 32 miles by train can cut emissions, the report said. Those who walk or take public transport would increase their emissions by working from home.
Vodafone Libertel BV, a mobile phone provider, has acknowledged similar findings. Home working increases energy and heating use, offsetting the carbon savings from less commuting and smaller office space, according to its latest Environmental Profit and Loss Account.

More people than ever are working from home, and advocates say the practice can cut pollution. About 3.7 million employees in the U.S. do so for half their time on the job or more, double the level of 2005, according to the consultant Global Workplace Analytics.
That may contribute a reduction of 51 million metric tons of carbon emissions a year, the equivalent of taking all of New York’s commuters off the road, according to the research group that works to help businesses and communities understand the advantages of working from home.
“Barring a national disaster, we see the growth of half-time-plus telework staying at about 5 to 7 percent for the next few years,” said Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics. “The bigger growth will be among less frequent telecommuters. There we predict growth of 10 percent a year for the next few years.”
There isn’t much data on global trends. A poll of more than 18,600 people in 26 countries published by Ipsos in 2012 named India, Indonesia and Mexico as the top countries for telecommuting, followed by South Africa, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Ten percent to 35 percent of the world’s workforce worked remotely at least once or twice per week, the report found.

Of course, companies have a role to play too by ensuring their offices are as efficient as possible, using smart buildings controls and other green technologies. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings project intends to double American productivity by 2030 by improving energy efficiency. Last week, it unveiled a two new programs to collect more data on the way buildings work.
Among environmentalists, there’s some suspicion that companies have their own finances in mind when they push employees out of the office.
“Companies are interested in reducing office space for financial reasons,” said Swift of the Carbon Trust. “The environmental side is not the highest priority.”
Before it’s here, it’s on the Bloomberg Terminal.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Goodbye Gorebulbs!

by Lloyd Alter (@lloydalter)

Hillary CLinton

On sister site MNN, Matt Hickman describes how Ahead of Valentine’s Day, GE calls it quits with the CFL bulb. Matt notes that it isn’t much of a loss, as LEDs “continue to emerge as a more viable, in terms of both cost and lighting quality, incandescent alternative.”

Nobody was very happy with compact fluorescent light bulbs, because they were really just squiggly little fluorescent tubes, with their crappy color rendition, fragile construction and mercury vapor. They were also so very political, a favorite target of right wing writers when George Bush signed the energy bill that was to eventually phase out most incandescent bulbs.

gore money

There was Michelle Malkin who back in 2007 labeled them Gorebulbs, and others who called President George Bush part of “the Greenie Left who claim jurisdiction over any activity of your life that affects the environment.” Of course they should have been called Bushbulbs, he’s the President who signed the legislation, but no matter. Malkin wrote:

What happened to keeping government out of our bedroom? And our bathroom? And our utility closets? The Gore-ing of America continues…


Then there is Fox News, which as Brian Merchant puts it, claimed Energy efficient light bulbs will kill us all! Oh, those were the days.


Then of course there was our absolute favorite leglislation, Michele Bachmann’s Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act (don’t read the comments!)

This is an issue of science over fads and fashions,” she told an interviewer, and called any human connection to global warming “voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax.” She continued: “Fluorescent bulbs are more polluting because of their mercury content. We are working on a light bulb bill. If the Democrats can hose up a light bulb, don’t trust them with the country.

None of which is true, of course; it is a tiny amount of mercury, you did not need a hazmat suit and thousands of dollars to clean it up, and the energy saving bulbsactually reduced mercury pollution.

As late as 2011, Republicans were still complaining about the bulbs, with Rand Paul going on about environmental standards in general, quoted in Politco:

“Lightbulbs, refrigerators, toilets, you name it. You can’t go around your house without being told what to buy,” Paul said in 2011 while chastising an Energy Department higher-up. “You restrict my purchases. You don’t care about my choices. You don’t care about the consumer.”

In turn, Obama has openly mocked conservatives’ obsession with the bulb rules. “We’ve actually been criticized that it’s a socialist plot to restrict your freedom for us to encourage energy-efficient light bulbs. I never understood that,” the president said.

Now incandescent bulbs are pretty much gone and the compact fluorescent bulbs are following closely (I converted my home to 100% LED lighting and you should too) and there is not a peep out of the former defenders of the incandescent bulb. This should not be a surprise; the LED bulbs are pretty good, they last a long time and live up to their billing, and they save a lot of money. They are even made in America.

George Bush© JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images/ Signing the lightbulb bill

On signing the Energy independence and Security Act in 2007, President Bush noted:

Today we make a major step toward reducing our dependence on oil, confronting global climate change, expanding the production of renewable fuels and giving future generations of our country a nation that is stronger, cleaner and more secure.

Not all of that came true. But if anyone thinks for a second that we would have ever got the LEDs we have today without that legislation, whether we would have seen close to a decade of really exciting research and developments where every week it seemed Mike was covering a newer, cheaper or better LED bulb, they are dreaming. We can happily say goodbye to our Bushbulbs and Gorebulbs and all the stupid politics because they led to the development of something far better, no thanks to Michelle or Michele.

But thank you, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and George W. Bush. We really owe this milestone to you.

Tags: Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs | George W. Bush | LEDs


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,063 other followers

%d bloggers like this: