Monday, February 19, 2024

Presidents Day 2024 / God Bless America!

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Saudi Arabia Adjusts Oil Capacity Expansion in Response to Energy Transition

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https://tankterminals.com/news/saudi-arabia-adjusts-oil-capacity-expansion-in-response-to-energy-transition/?vgo_ee=wc44ApFADtFASnakr2HRWFCxtyMKuwQfDc5YshbgQ%2BHTdgLlle1cCA%3D%3D%3A%2F8uMD38RZiZz3h3KZQexaSIGuCk4VNQe 

Saudi Arabia has revised its oil capacity expansion plans, attributing the change to the ongoing global energy transition.

On January 30, the Saudi government directed the state-owned oil company, Aramco, to maintain its maximum sustained production capacity at 12 million barrels per day (bpd), scaling back from a previously set target of 13 million bpd to be achieved by 2027.

This announcement was made by the Saudi Energy Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, during the IPTC petroleum technology conference in Dharan.

The decision to adjust the expansion plan aligns with Saudi Arabia’s broader environmental commitments, including its goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2060, with Aramco aiming for net zero emissions from its operations by 2050.

Prince Abdulaziz emphasized the kingdom’s substantial spare oil capacity, highlighting its readiness to mitigate potential disruptions in global oil supplies due to conflicts or natural disasters.

Aramco’s CEO, Amin Nasser, reaffirmed the company’s capability to adjust production levels as needed, noting a current spare capacity of approximately 3 million bpd.

This flexibility is part of Saudi Arabia’s strategy to adapt to market demands and maintain its position as the world’s largest holder of spare oil capacity, under the current OPEC+ agreement which has Saudi oil production approximately 3 million bpd below its maximum sustainable capacity.

The Energy Minister also expressed criticism of the International Energy Agency’s decision to release oil from emergency reserves following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, questioning the lack of appreciation for countries that maintain emergency oil capacities.

Despite adjustments in production targets and the anticipated energy transition, Nasser predicts an increase in oil demand, projecting a rise to 104 million bpd in the current year and further to 105 million bpd by 2025.

This forecast suggests a continued reliance on oil in the near term, despite the global shift towards renewable energy sources.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Some Service Members Say They Were ‘Coerced’ Into Taking COVID-19 Vaccine: Survey

Some Service Members Say They Were ‘Coerced’ Into Taking COVID-19 Vaccine: Survey

https://www.theepochtimes.com/us/some-service-members-who-took-covid-19-vaccine-due-to-mandate-say-they-were-coerced-survey-5580469?src_src=morningbriefnoe&src_cmp=mb-2024-02-12&est=AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAbOgkZhYcwdLd%2FrYaqmB5DLl7wk9AJCYDuqakhKpFjY2fijshQalp4A%3D%3D 

In an independent survey conducted by the author last fall, 229 individuals currently serving in the U.S. military voluntarily participated by responding to a multitude of questions. Results helped to reveal the difficulties faced by some members of the U.S. Armed Forces who were confronted by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s August 2021 military vaccine mandate.

Part of the anonymous questionnaire addressed the COVID-19 vaccine status of the participating service member, various details about the now-rescinded military vaccine mandate, as well as the deliberate coercion faced by many who opposed it.

All branches of the military as well as enlisted and officer ranks responded to the survey. Survey participants served in the military for an average of about 16 years.

Out of the 229 participants, 169 were active duty service members. Eighty-seven percent, or 199, were unvaccinated against COVID-19. Of the 30 who were vaccinated, only two said they had wanted to do it.

Twenty out of 30 individuals who admitted taking the vaccine claim they were injured by the vaccine. Ninety-three percent of the participants said they know someone they believe has been injured by the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Epoch Times spoke to two of the survey’s participants who used a pseudonym out of concern about reprisals. Both emphasized that their views don’t reflect those of the Department of Defense, or the Department of the Army and Department of the Air Force, respectively.

Coercion

Officer Alvin Johnson (a pseudonym) is a 20-year combat veteran of the Army with multiple deployments around the world. He opposed the COVID-19 vaccine that was once-mandated by the Department of Defense (DOD) in August 2021.

“I’m not a lab rat and neither are the people I work with,” he told The Epoch Times.

Officer Johnson was one of the 227 participants who believe the COVID-19 vaccine should not have been mandated. Approximately 95 percent said the mandate was unlawful.

“While holding out [from taking the vaccine], I was forced to wear a mask and was often singled out for being unvaccinated,” Officer Johnson said. Bringing these concerns to his command, “I was simply told: ‘I don’t make the rules.’” Threats that would negatively impact his personal life and career soon followed.

Without the vaccine, Officer Johnson would have been prohibited from coming home to see my family. At the time, his wife was at risk of a serious medical concern that could require his presence at a moment’s notice. “You can see I had no choice but to take the shot,” he said. “At the same time I would be prevented from being my wife, my orders to deploy were also being threatened.”

Like Officer Johnson, over 72 percent of survey participants also said they were “coerced” into receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and/or boosters. Nearly 95 percent of those who objected to the vaccine said they faced reprisals, including verbal threats of punitive legal action, loss of promotion, and exclusion from career enhancing schools.

Officer Johnson reluctantly took the first round of the COVID-19 vaccine at a local pharmacy chain store.

After the August 2021 mandate was rescinded in January 2023, and having received the vaccine, Officer Johnson still faced roadblocks to his career advancement. “With a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMOR) in my record for initially refusing the vaccine, I was not promoted to a higher rank,” he said.

“Even though I have since taken the vaccine, I’m losing month income and hundreds of thousands of dollars over my lifetime in retirement pay for not being able to promote.” Almost half of the participants in the survey said they were also “financially harmed by non-compliance with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.”

Officer Johnson said he knows others in a similar predicament, including some who were forced to retire or separate from the Army long before finishing their career. Nearly 90 percent of the survey’s participants said they know someone who was separated or forced to leave military service because of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

“Like many of them, I’ve been shot at and deployed [to a combat zone] by an organization that turned on me, and that has caused quite a bit of emotional and psychological trauma,” he said. “Having spent my adult life in service to my country, my experience has been absolutely destructive to my morale and physical well-being.”

Calls For Accountability

Master Sergeant Asher Grove (a pseudonym) has served in the Air Force for nearly 20 years. While investigating the COVID-19 vaccine, he said adverse risks that might have been associated with the drug were never made available to service members.

According to the survey, only three percent were informed by qualified medical personnel of known risks associated with the COVID-19 vaccine, including damage to reproductive health for females and increased risk of heart disease.

With past immunizations, he was given “a fact sheet,” he said. With a pre-existing health concern and guidance from God, he was adamantly opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine.

With the denial of both religious accommodation and medical exemption requests, Master Sgt. Grove said he was “slapped with a letter of reprimand.” According to him, “this was the only real coercion I faced, that I’d get continue to get in trouble for taking objection to the vaccine.”

Ultimately, it was an appeals court in Ohio that upheld an injunction to protect members of the Air Force from being punished for refusing the vaccine that prevented him from having any further negative impact to his career. Sadly, he said, many other service members were forced to retire or separate prior to the injunction.

“DOD leaders should be held accountable in the manner [the mandate] was enforced,” he said. All 229 participants of the survey agreed to this proposition.

“Trust in leadership suffered greatly when people were forced to do something they should have never been forced to do,” he said.

“Having witnessed so many people oppose the vaccine for religious concern and more, I was able to witness the greatest battle I’ve seen in my life,” Master Sgt. Grove said. “It wasn’t a battle fought on a foreign field, but it was a battle against good and evil in our own country.”

For him, the rescission of the vaccine mandate in January 2023 was “a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done so this never happens again.”

The Department of Defense, Department of the Army, and Department of the Air Force didn’t respond by press time to requests by The Epoch Times for comment

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Friday, February 2, 2024

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Verdict Delayed in Trump Civil Fraud Trial as Judge Engoron Weighs Lifetime Business Ban

Verdict Delayed in Trump Civil Fraud Trial as Judge Engoron Weighs Lifetime Business Ban

https://www.theepochtimes.com/us/verdict-delayed-in-trump-civil-fraud-trial-as-judge-engeron-weighs-lifetime-business-ban-5578910?src_src=morningbriefnoe&src_cmp=mb-2024-02-02&est=sjRxAggsxtf8Igf0WyAuj6Jbx37c3%2BoM8ln98IJYz74IHkx8irZtEw69PlKGfg6TAMfjkw%3D%3D 

The verdict in former President Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial in Manhattan that could see him banned for life from doing business in New York has been delayed until mid-February, according to a court spokesperson.

Justice Arthur Engoron said during the trial’s closing arguments on Jan. 11 that he hoped to make his final decision by Jan. 31 in a much-anticipated verdict that could, in addition to hitting the former president with a lifetime business ban, see him fined $370 million.

After the tentative Jan. 31 deadline came and went without a verdict, the spokesperson for the New York State Office of Court Administration, Alfred Baker, said that the judge is now expected to deliver his decision in early to mid-February.

Mr. Robert also questioned the monitor’s competency, alleging “numerous factual inaccuracies” in her report, which he characterized as “misleading and disingenuous.”

He argued that the errors cited by the monitor have been blown out of proportion and that every item she identified had been fully resolved.

“The Monitor now twists immaterial accounting items into a narrative favoring her continued appointment, and thereby the continued receipt of millions of dollars in excessive fees,” Mr. Robert argued.

Ms. Jones did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Trump attorney’s claims.

The Trial

The trial centers on allegations that the former president and his company, The Trump Organization, defrauded banks, insurers, and others by allegedly overvaluing his assets and exaggerating his net worth in documents used in deals and to secure loans.

The case was brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who initially wanted to fine the former president $250 million but later increased this to $370 million.

Justice Engoron has already issued a summary judgment, finding President Trump and his company liable for fraud. The trial was to decide the remaining claims of conspiracy, insurance fraud, and falsifying business records.

Ms. James, a Democrat, has requested a broad range of penalties against President Trump, including a $370 million disgorgement and a permanent ban on his doing business in New York state and with any New York-based financial institution.

New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks to the press outside the New York State Supreme Court after closing arguments in the civil fraud trial against the Trump Organization in New York on Jan. 11, 2024. (Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images)
New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks to the press outside the New York State Supreme Court after closing arguments in the civil fraud trial against the Trump Organization in New York on Jan. 11, 2024. (Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images)

Recently, Ms. James’s office provided Justice Engoron with a “notice of supplemental authority,” basically a newfound legal precedent, to bolster her call for a Trump business ban.

Colleen Faherty, Ms. James’s assistant, provided Justice Engoron with the notice to draw his attention to a verdict in an unrelated case that banned the defendant from participation in the pharmaceutical industry for life. This is the same type of ban that Ms. James is asking Justice Engoron to impose on President Trump.

While it’s unclear how the judge will weigh the notice, even before the start of the trial he ordered the immediate cancellation of President Trump’s business certificates and the dissolution of his LLCs.

However, that order was paused by an appeals court for at least the duration of the trial after the defense argued it would suddenly cast hundreds of Trump Organization employees’ livelihoods into disarray.

The former president has denied any wrongdoing and has claimed that the case is a politically motivated plot to undermine his 2024 White House run. He is the front-runner by far for the Republican presidential nomination.

President Trump has also said that if he loses the case, it will have a deeply chilling effect on businesses in New York City and could even prompt others to pack up and leave.
*This article has been updated to reflect receipt of a statement from the spokesperson for the New York State Office of Court Administration.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

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Traders divert Russian oil products around Africa to avoid Red Sea -sources, LSEG

The Galaxy Leader cargo ship is escorted by Houthi boats in the Red Sea

https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/traders-divert-russian-oil-products-around-africa-avoid-red-sea-sources-lseg-2024-01-31/ 

MOSCOW, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Traders were diverting cargoes with Russian oil products around Africa to avoid the Red Sea due to a heightened risk of attacks by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group, data from market sources and LSEG showed.
Last week, the fuel tanker Marlin Luanda, carrying Russian naphtha, was attacked in the Red Sea by Houthi rebels.
Since the full EU embargo on Russian oil products took effect in February 2023, traders have rerouted fuel oil, vacuum gasoil (VGO) and naphtha cargoes from Russian ports to Asia and the Middle East via the Red Sea and the Suez Canal as the shortest sea route.
According to LSEG shipping data, fuel oil and VGO loaded on two tankers Nissos Christiana and Alkinoos at the Russian Baltic ports, had turned around in the Mediterranean Sea and were skirting the coast of Africa on their way to India and Singapore.
Another vessel, Minerva Zoe - loaded with Russian fuel oil - was heading to Singapore but was rerouted and was now waiting near the Senegal port of Dakar.
Shipping companies sailing around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid Houthi attacks in the Red Sea face tough choices over where to refuel and restock, as well as rough conditions at sea, companies and analysts say.
A Malaysia-bound tanker from the Russian Black Sea port of Taman with vacuum gasoil is heading towards Gibraltar, shipping data showed.
Another cargo vessel, Sea Senor, loaded with naphtha at the Baltic port of Ust-Luga has already passed the Cape of Good Hope on its way to Singapore, according to the LSEG data.
Most oil product tankers loaded in Russia head to Asia through the Suez Canal. Some of them add new signage - "No link with Israel" or "No contact Isr" - to deter Houthi attacks, in addition to the usual "Armed guard on board" signs, LSEG data shows.
The U.S. and Britain have launched strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen and reinstated the militia in a list of terrorist groups in a bid to curtail future attacks.
The Houthis, who control the most populous parts of Yemen, say their attacks on ships in and around the Red Sea are in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza war.

Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Bernadette Baum

Vale cranks up iron mining just as demand concerns resurface

 

https://www.mining.com/web/vale-cranks-up-iron-mining-just-as-demand-concerns-resurface/ 

World No. 2 iron ore supplier Vale SA delivered a bigger-than-expected increase in production last quarter in a result that may undermine prices of the key steelmaking ingredient.

The Brazilian mining giant is accelerating production, posting its best December in five years, after investing in its prized Amazonian operations and improving performance at its oldest mines in the country’s southeast. Production was up from both a year ago and the previous three months, with full-year output ahead of guidance.

The bumper haul may generate some headwinds for the iron ore market, which has been fairly resilient to a slowdown in China, the biggest buyer. Prices have rallied by more than a third since mid-August, leading some analysts to forecast a decline in 2024. Still, top producer Rio Tinto Group sees increased stimulus fueling a gradual recovery in China.

Vale produced 89.4 million metric tons last quarter, easily beating the 83 million-ton average estimate among analysts tracked by Bloomberg. In a statement Monday, the Rio de Janeiro-based firm reiterated its 2024 guidance.

While production was strong, shipments came in slightly below estimates and premiums for high-grade products shrank. Vale shares fell as much as 2.6% in New York Tuesday as renewed concerns over the real estate crisis in China pushed down iron ore prices.

Vale is also a major nickel producer and a significant supplier of copper. It saw nickel output slip 5.3% from a year ago, while copper production jumped about 50%. A slump in nickel prices is stress-testing producers worldwide, raising the prospect of investment delays and production curtailments, with miners including BHP Group and First Quantum Minerals Ltd. halting some operations.

In an e-mailed response, Vale said it continues to believe in long-term nickel fundamentals driven by rising energy transition demand and moving ahead with projects. Its realized price last quarter was 7% higher than futures prices.

The sharp drop in nickel prices may prompt some closing of high-cost shafts, with the business unit close to breakeven in the fourth quarter and in the red at current prices, BI senior analyst Grant Sporre wrote in a research note.

Vale, which is set to report earnings on Feb. 22, is enduring leadership tensions amid pressure from Brazil’s government to make changes as the board prepares to decide whether to retain Eduardo Bartolomeo as chief executive officer or seek a replacement.

(By Mariana Durao)