Sen. Sherrod Brown: American consumers losing power over their savings and paychecks is an emergency, too.

MarketWatch – Outside the Box

Opinion: Sen. Sherrod Brown: American consumers losing power over their savings and paychecks is an emergency, too.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau holds Wall Street and big banks accountable. The U.S. Supreme Court must protect it, writes Sen. Sherrod Brown.

Sherrod Brown – March 27, 2023

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) says the CFPB must remain strong and independent. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank sent shockwaves through the global economy and had the makings of another crisis. Depositors raced to withdraw money. Banks worried about the risk of contagion. I spent that weekend on the phone with small business owners in Ohio who didn’t know whether they’d be able to make payroll the next week. One woman was in tears, worried about whether she’d be able to pay her workers. 

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Federal Reserve responded quickly, took control of the bank, and contained the fallout. Consumers’ and small businesses’ money was safe. That Ohio small business was able to get paychecks out.

The regulators were able to protect Americans’ money from incompetent bank executives because when Congress created the Federal Reserve in 1913 and the FDIC in 1933, it ensured that their funding structures would remain independent from politicians in Congress and free from political whims. 

But now, as the U.S. Supreme Court considers the case of Community Financial Services Association v. CFPB, these independent watchdogs’ ability to keep our financial system stable faces an existential threat.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is the only agency solely dedicated to protecting the paychecks and savings of ordinary Americans, not Wall Street executives or venture capitalists. Corporate interests have armies of lobbyists fighting for every tax break, every exemption, every opportunity to be let off the hook for scamming customers and preying on families.

The CFPB’s funding structure is designed to be independent, just like the Fed and the FDIC.

Ordinary Americans don’t have those lobbyists. They don’t have that kind of power. The CFPB is supposed to be their voice — to fight for them. The CFPB’s funding structure is designed to be independent, just like the Fed and the FDIC. Otherwise, its ability to do the job would be subject to political whims and special interests — interests that we know are far too often at odds with what’s best for consumers.

Since its creation, the CFPB has returned $16 billion to more than 192 million consumers. It’s held Wall Street and big banks accountable for breaking the law and wronging their customers. It’s given working families more power to fight back when banks and shady lenders scam them out of their hard-earned money. 

The CFPB can do this good work because it’s funded independently and protected from partisan attacks, just as the Fed and the FDIC are. So why, then, does Wall Street claim that only the CFPB’s funding structure is unconstitutional?

Make no mistake — the only reason that Wall Street, its Republican allies in Congress, and overreaching courts have singled out the CFPB is because the agency doesn’t do their bidding. The CFPB doesn’t help Wall Street executives when they fail. It doesn’t extend them credit in favorable terms or offer them deposit insurance like the other regulators do. The CFPB’s funding structure isn’t unconstitutional — it just doesn’t work in Wall Street’s favor.

If the Supreme Court rules against the CFPB, the $16 billion returned to consumers could be clawed back. What would happen then — will America’s banks really go back to the customers they’ve wronged with a collection tin?

Invalidating the CFPB and its work would also put the U.S. economy — and especially the housing market — at risk.

Invalidating the CFPB and its work would also put the U.S. economy — and especially the housing market — at risk. For more than a decade, the CFPB has set rules of the road for mortgages and credit cards and so much else, and given tools to help industry follow them. If these rules and the regulator that interprets them disappear, markets will come to a standstill. 

By attacking the CFPB’s funding structure and putting consumers’ money at risk, Wall Street is putting the other financial regulators in danger, too. 

The Fifth Circuit’s faulty ruling against the CFPB is astounding in its absurdity — the court ruled that the authorities that other financial agencies, like the Federal Reserve and the FDIC, have over the economy do not compare to the CFPB’s authorities. In other words, the court is claiming that the CFPB supposedly has more power in the economy than the Fed.

That’s ridiculous. Look at the extraordinary steps taken to contain the failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank — the idea that the CFPB could take action even close to as sweeping is laughable.

But we know why the Fifth Circuit put that absurd assertion in there — they recognize the damage this case could do to these other vital agencies, and to our whole economy.

Imagine what might happen if another series of banks failed and the FDIC did not have the funds to stop the crisis from spreading.

The FDIC’s own Inspector General has stated that the Fifth Circuit ruling could be applied to their agency. If that happens, the FDIC and other regulators could be subject to congressional budget deliberations, which we all know are far too partisan and have resulted in shutdowns. Imagine what might happen if another series of banks failed and the FDIC did not have the funds to stop the crisis from spreading, or the Deposit Insurance Fund to protect depositors’ money. Imagine if politicians caused a shutdown, and we were without a Federal Reserve. 

U.S. financial regulators are independently funded so that they can respond quickly when crises happen. It’s telling, though, that plenty of people in Washington don’t seem to consider the CFPB’s issues in the same category. Washington and Wall Street expect the government to spring into action when businesses’ money is put at risk. But when workers are scammed out of their paychecks, that’s not an emergency — it’s business as usual. 

When Wall Street’s abusive practices put consumers in crisis, the CFPB must have the funding and strength it needs to carry out its mission — to protect consumers’ hard-earned money. 

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

More: Supreme Court to hear case that will decide the future of consumer financial protection

As Jimmy Carter lives his final days, we wonder if he and the country were cheated

The Sacramento Bee – Opinion

As Jimmy Carter lives his final days, we wonder if he and the country were cheated | Opinion

Jack Ohman – March 27, 2023


As President Jimmy Carter lives out his final days in hospice care, America has already begun observing something of a pre-state funeral for a good man whose stature has only grown in the 42 years since he left the White House.

During Carter’s one term in office, he was labeled an “incompetent” politician by some critics, largely because 52 American diplomats and foreign service workers were taken hostage in Iran, and Carter was unable to bring them home in time to save his own presidency.

That stroke of bad luck, a terrible hand that Carter’s presidency drew, came on the heels of a recession, an energy crisis and the lingering aftermath of the Vietnam/Watergate era that dampened American patriotism. Carter, ever the honest soul, made the hostages and sagging American optimism his primary concerns, to his political detriment.

If he had been more cunning and less earnest, Carter would have played performative politics and appealed to our latent jingoism and xenophobia. That’s what Ronald Reagan did to throttle Carter at the polls in 1980.

But did Reagan have clandestine help that we never knew about until now?

It was a bitter irony that as Carter lay dying in his hometown of Plains, Georgia, a dirty story about the Iran hostages materialized out of the mists of time.

Peter Baker, the White House Bureau Chief for The New York Times, published an article on March 18 with this opening paragraph:

“It has been more than four decades, but Ben Barnes said he remembers it vividly. His longtime political mentor invited him on a mission to the Middle East. What Mr. Barnes said he did not realize until later was the real purpose of the mission: to sabotage the re-election campaign of (President Jimmy Carter).”

Barnes was a former lieutenant governor of Texas, arguably the most powerful political job in the state, and a longtime aide to the late Texas Gov. John Connally. Connally died in 1993, after surviving the assassination attempt that claimed the life of President John F. Kennedy.

When Reagan won the GOP nomination for president in 1980, Connally “resolved to help Reagan beat Carter,” and then make the case to Reagan that he should be defense secretary, wrote The New York Times.


“What happened next Mr. Barnes has largely kept secret for nearly 43 years. Mr. Connally, he said, took him to one Middle Eastern capital after another that summer, meeting with a host of regional leaders to deliver a blunt message to be passed to Iran: Don’t release the hostages before the election. Mr. Reagan will win and give you a better deal,” according to The Times.

A perusal of President Carter’s memoir, “Keeping Faith,” shows no reference to Barnes, and only one derisive mention of Connally about his debate performance.

There is this poignant passage, however:

“It was very likely I had been defeated and would soon leave office as President because I had kept these hostages and their fate at the forefront of the world’s attention, and had clung to a cautious and prudent policy in order to protect their lives during the preceding fourteen months.”

I can tell you that the political milieu of October 1980 featured the oft-expressed bleatings of Republicans warning voters of a sneaky “October surprise,” orchestrated by President Carter.

Carter had ordered a hostage rescue mission in April 1980. This attempt ended tragically when a chopper hit one of the mission’s C-130 transport planes. Another chopper was about to fail, and the mission was aborted.

Of course, this tragedy was widely trumpeted by the GOP as Carter’s latest incompetent failure.

About half of the Iran hostages are still alive, and The New York Times reported on March 22 that they are divided about whether the Barnes revelations were meaningful, or whether Connally’s efforts were effective.

We’ll never know. But we know this: Jimmy Carter did his best to be an honorable president. He reached the twilight of his life at peace, unlike Barnes who shared a story with The New York Times that reeked of the opportunism and dirty politics that are all too common in our republic today. Carter was as decent a man in The White House as he was when he left the White House.

It’s why some are already shedding tears for Jimmy Carter ahead of an emotional state funeral to come.

Florida’s Latest Tourism Problem Is Twice the Width of the United States

The Street

Florida’s Latest Tourism Problem Is Twice the Width of the United States

Jena Greene – March 27, 2023

The dreaded return of an invasive species could ruin beach-going up and down the coast.

Between hurricane season, rising water levels, ongoing feuds between Disney and the local government, and crazed spring breakers, Florida already has enough to worry about. 

The last thing the state wants is a giant blob of seaweed headed directly for a coastal impact on its pristine sunny beaches — but it’s looking like that’s what it’s going to get. 

DON’T MISS: If You Want to Visit Florida for Spring Break, It May Be Too Late

Seaweed Blob Florida Lead KL 032723
Pedro Portal/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty
What is Sargassum Seaweed?

Buoyant brown seaweed, or The Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt as it’s formally known, is something many Floridians have come to know. It’s an invasive species that’s something of a grim reaper for sea life; it kills some marine animals and destroys coral reefs in its path.

Sargassum is a brown, rubbery seaweed that releases a foul odor once it washes up on the beach and decays in the sunlight. In the ocean, the seaweed tends to bind up and reproduce, creating big, blobby problems for boaters and animals. It’s also one of the few marine species that replicates (and therefore, gets bigger) while on the water’s surface. 

Once it’s washed up, it can take days or even weeks to remove the stuff. Since it smells sulphuric and makes beaches difficult to enjoy, some hotels even see decreased foot traffic while it’s around. 

How Big Is the Seaweed Blob Heading for the U.S.? 

Sargassum regularly washes up on coastal North and central America, particularly around Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean. But this year’s Sargassum is massive at 5,000 miles (8,000 km) long, and stretches between West Africa and the Gulf of Mexico. That’s nearly twice as wide as the U.S. 

“What is unusual this year compared to previous years is it started early,” University of South Florida oceanography professor Chuanmin Hu said. “The algae generally blooms in the spring and summer, but ‘this year, in the winter, we already have a lot.'”

Experts say it’s already started showing up on Key West, FL. There’s already an estimated 10 million metric tons of the seaweed floating around in the middle of the ocean and it’s likely to get bigger before it washes up. 

Sargassum Can Affect Travel and Tourism

It’s no surprise that many hotels view giant seaweed blobs as problematic for tourism, but there are several measures some can take to mitigate its impact. 

“Keeping sargassum at bay from a beach where it’s determined to wash ashore is like fighting a rising tide,” Afar reports. “Apart from removing what washes ashore as it arrives, [USF professor Brian] Barnes says a hotel might consider installing a floating boom offshore (usually made of PVC and deployed parallel to the shoreline) with the goal of preventing sargassum from coming ashore. But again, it represents a small measure against a monumental task.”

Luckily, mild to moderate exposure to Sargassum doesn’t a major risk to human health, and some animals, including sea turtles, even dine on the stuff. 

Kerry: Americans don’t need to have ‘lower quality of life’ to fight climate change

Yahoo! News

Kerry: Americans don’t need to have ‘lower quality of life’ to fight climate change

Ben Adler, Senior Editor – March 24, 2023

Americans do not have to compromise on their quality of life in order to help prevent catastrophic climate change, special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry told Yahoo News.

When asked about the recent backlash regarding proposals to restrict the use of private jets or gas stoves, Kerry argued that no such changes are necessary in order to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“When you say ‘change your lifestyle,’ people feel, ‘Oh, you’re challenging me to have a lower quality of life,’” the former secretary of state and United States senator said in a Friday interview at Yahoo News’ New York City offices. “No, we don’t have to have a lower quality of life.”

John Kerry
Climate czar John Kerry. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Ethan Hill for Yahoo News)

Even while addressing climate change, Kerry maintained, Americans will still be able to enjoy the comforts of modern life as long as they choose lower-emission alternatives as a part of their lifestyle.

“Do you have to change some of the choices you make in your life? Yeah, I have now a solar field outside the house that’s feeding the house,” Kerry said. “I drive an electric car now. I didn’t do that five years ago. And when I got in the electric car, I said, ‘Why did I wait so long?’ It’s a fabulous drive. So I think that, yes, we have to make different decisions, but they do not have to — and shouldn’t, absolutely shouldn’t — reduce the quality of life of our citizens.”

Although home solar panels and electric vehicles have long been unaffordable to many Americans, the Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law by President Biden last year, includes subsidies for families making less than $150,000 to buy EVs, solar panels and other low-emissions technology.

But even with the passage of Biden’s new climate law, the U.S. is projected to fall short of the president’s pledge to cut emissions by 50% by 2030. Kerry acknowledged that current policies are insufficient to achieve that goal and said new initiatives are needed to speed up the switch to clean energy.

“Despite all the efforts, we’re not at the pace we need to be to meet the goals we’ve set,” Kerry conceded. “So we have to pick up the scale, pick up the efforts of transition.

“Frankly, nobody should fear this,” he added. “It’s not a challenge to our quality of life. There are great jobs in this transition. Last year, the year before, the fastest-growing job in America was wind turbine technician and the third-fastest-growing job was solar panel installer.”

Projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that over the coming decade, demand for workers in those fields will be among the fastest growing in the nation.

Kerry has been accused of hypocrisy by conservative media outlets such as Fox News for the fact that, until last summer, his wife’s family owned a plane through a charter-flight company. Studies have shown that private jets cause five to 14 times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions per passenger than commercial flights. Kerry noted that he doesn’t use a private jet to travel the world meeting with other governments to work on climate change agreements.

“I didn’t fly private while I was in this job,” Kerry said. “I’ve had one, maybe two private flights, which were military flights in order to get to China during COVID, where we were forced into that, but I fly commercially.” (A spokesperson has previously stated that Kerry isn’t an owner of the company that had the airplane.)

Carbon offset programs have come under increasing scrutiny, however, with critics accusing them of overestimating their environmental benefits.

Kerry went on to say that the aviation sector will ultimately see its emissions reduced through the substitution of biofuels, which are made from feedstocks like corn and manure, for traditional jet fuel.

“We’re already moving on sustainable aviation fuel,” Kerry said. “Boeing and United and others have joined in a pledge. Now 5% of the fuel they’re going to use is going to be sustainable aviation fuel — even though it’s far more expensive than other fuel available. … But we have to be thoughtful about [the fact that] we’re not going to suddenly wipe out every aircraft in the world and not fly.”

Similarly, Kerry suggested that gas stoves and home heating units won’t necessarily all have to be replaced with electric models, if their manufacturers can find a way of eliminating their emissions. “That’s the challenge for the industry, to capture their emissions,” the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee said.

Kerry, 79, is now a grandfather and has been in public service for the last four decades. Asked what the planet will look like when his young grandchildren are his age, he said the answer is up to the older generations.

“It depends entirely on the decisions their parents and grandparents make today,” he said. “We have it in our hands to guarantee them a healthy and strong future. We also — by virtue of indifference, arrogance, inattention — have it in our capacity also to really foul the planet beyond recognition.”

He also urged young people who will be most impacted by climate change to try to shape the future they will live in.

“Get involved,” Kerry said. “We need you desperately. Young people have, historically, in our country … been the agents of change. … It was kids in college who went down South and helped to break the back of Jim Crow.”

“I think that we need young people again to make sure they’re talking to their parents, their grandparents, and going out and acting on their beliefs,” he added.

2 things you should be asking your colonoscopist

CBS News

2 things you should be asking your colonoscopist

Sara Moniuszko – March 24, 2023

Getty Images/iStockphoto

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month — the perfect time to talk about the importance of screening for colon cancer via colonoscopies.

When you’re ready to make an appointment, did you know there are two things you can ask the colonoscopist to make sure you will be getting a thorough exam?

During a “CBS Mornings” Facebook Live hosted by CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook, gastroenterology experts discussed the quality metrics people can ask of their doctors who are doing the procedure.

First is the adenoma detection rate, or ADR, explains Dr. Mark Pochapin, head of gastroenterology and hepatology at NYU Langone Health, who was part of the discussion.

“Adenoma is a type of polyp that we find that has the potential of turning cancerous. These are the polyps we want to make sure we find and remove,” Pochapin explained. “We should be able to have a rate that is measured.”

During a colonoscopy, a long, flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end is inserted into the rectum of the patient, allowing the doctor to view the inside of the colon and remove any polyps or abnormal tissue, the Mayo Clinic explains. Since the patient is typically under sedation or anesthesia, these removals are not felt.

“Colon polyps are common in adults and are harmless in most cases. However, most colon cancer begins as a polyp, so removing polyps early helps to prevent cancer,” the National Institutes of Health says.

For patients getting their first screening colonoscopy, a physician’s ADR rate should be 25% to 30% or even higher, Pochapin says.

“I think most of us have adenoma detection rates over 40%, meaning that 40% of the time in patients getting their first screening colonoscopy, we find at least one adenoma,” he continued. He encouraged people to ask their physician about what their ADR rate is. “See if they have a response. They really should be measuring that to make sure that their quality is good.

The second thing to ask about is withdrawal time.

“If you withdraw the scope too quickly, you might miss something… it’s important that people make sure that they take their time when they’re doing the procedure,” Pochapin says.

Withdrawal time should really be around seven or eight minutes, with six minutes being the “absolute minimum” if there are no findings, he notes, adding that too long of a withdrawal time isn’t good either.

This time frame refers just to the scope withdrawal time, not the total time for the whole procedure.

“If you find a polyp, it takes time to remove that polyp… so the colonoscopy may take 40 minutes,” he explains. “You’re inserting the scope, you’re removing polyps and in addition you’re looking.”

Colorectal cancer is the third deadliest form of cancer in the United States. The American Cancer Society anticipates 153,020 new cases this year, and 52,550 deaths.

The best way to reduce your risk? Getting screened.

In 2018, the recommended age to get a first colonoscopy screening was lowered to 45 for those at average risk.

If you’re at increased risk, which includes having a family history or inflammatory bowel disease, talk to your doctor about being screened earlier.

What millennials need to know about colon cancer: Q&A with Dr. Jon LaPookColon cancer rates keep rising in younger age group, new study finds

Do Anti-ESG States Know They’re Facing Some of the Worst Climate Change Hazards?

The Motley Fool

Do Anti-ESG States Know They’re Facing Some of the Worst Climate Change Hazards?

By The Daily Upside   – March 24, 2023 

Unless the data are dead wrong, it is increasingly clear that many of the U.S. states facing some of the greatest climate change hazards appear to be the ones most virulently opposed to environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies.

The data also show something else that we don’t like to talk about: Americans are already dying due to climate change and have been since around 2005. U.S. cities from coast to coast are experiencing fatalities in the double digits yearly, especially south of the Mason-Dixon line, according to an in-depth project surveying more than 24,000 regions of the world, led by the United Nations Development Program and New York-based Rhodium Group, a provider of independent research, data and analytics tackling mission-critical global topics.

In Texas, the fatality rate due to climate change – for instance, from heat stroke or other underlying causes – is estimated to be 14 people a year per 100,000 of the population in both Dallas and Austin. Those numbers will rise to 38 and 39, respectively, by 2040, and leap to 130 and 131 people a year, respectively, by 2080, according to the data.

The situation in Phoenix is even more dire, with an annual fatality rate of 17 people per 100,000 of the population, climbing to 46 by 2040 and 148 people a year by 2080. In Atlanta, the fatality rate is estimated to be around 10 people a year per 100,000, with that number at 29 by 2040 and shooting to 100 people by 2080.

“The mortality impact is some of the most striking of the data,” says Hannah Hess, associate director at Rhodium, who worked on the project. “When you look at the year 2040, it can seem really far out and distant in the future, but the people most affected by the heat are 65 and older – those are people in their 40s today who will be impacted.” 

By the same token, those in their 20s and 30s will be confronting even higher temperatures, and those who are currently in their teens or younger will be forced to contend with some of the most extreme climate challenges of anyone alive.

This week, President Biden cast his first veto since taking office, rejecting a bill that would have scuttled a Labor Department rule he put in place allowing money managers to account for climate change when making investment decisions for their clients’ retirement savings. The Biden rule supplanted a Trump-era rule that sought to impede the consideration of ESG principles in investing, “even in cases where it is in the financial interest of plans to take such considerations into account.”

In issuing the veto, Biden blasted “MAGA House Republicans” and others for risking Americans’ retirement plan savings by making it illegal to weigh ESG principles. “Your plan manager should be able to protect your hard-earned savings, whether Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene likes it or not,” he said, noting strong opposition from the Republican congresswoman from Georgia.

Two Democrats also backed the bill. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who charged that Biden’s veto was “absolutely infuriating” and denounced the administration’s “radical” and “progressive agenda,” and Jon Tester of Montana, who voted alongside the Senate’s Republicans to overturn the Biden rule.

Both Georgia and West Virginia are forecast to sustain pronounced effects from climate change relative to northern states, like Montana.

The ESG fight, not surprisingly, is focused on money – primarily, how resources will be marshaled or redirected in anticipation of future shifts that are expected to devastate real estate, housing and jobs markets. “Without concerted and urgent action, climate change will exacerbate inequalities and widen gaps in human development,” the UNDP projected at the end of last year.

A smattering of top money managers and private equity firms have begun to prepare for the transition, touting pro-ESG investing principles that aim to capture a profit. But they have also warned adopting these strategies poses heightened financial and reputational risks with the growing anti-ESG backlash.

The world’s biggest private-equity firm, Blackstone, disclosed in a recent filing that pushback from states across the country over so-called “boycotts” of investments in the fossil fuel industry could affect the company’s fundraising and revenue and will be perceived negatively by some stakeholders. Others signaling similar headwinds include KKR & Co., State Street, Carlyle Group, T. Rowe Price, TPG Inc., Ares Private Equity Group, Raymond James, and BlackRock.

While partisanship seems to be ruling the debate, it’s worth looking closely at what is forecast for some of the states that are most assiduously pursuing anti-ESG legislation, many of which are expected to experience some of the most serious fallout of climate change. Among them are Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Idaho, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina and Florida.  

Over the past few years, these states have sought to introduce or pass legislation barring companies from discriminating against investing in fossil fuel developers or energy companies contributing to climate change. Those succeeding in passing legislation against so-called “woke capitalism” include Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Idaho, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina and Florida. 

Other states that have tried or are still trying to pass anti-ESG legislation include North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Arkansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a Denver nonpartisan research organization. Meanwhile, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida have more anti-ESG legislation pending, in addition to what they’ve already enacted, even though all of them are now dealing with fatalities from climate change.

Hess says research shows that some states’ attitudes may change on climate change as “those places start to feel the impact,” but, until then, states suffering the ongoing fatalities of climate change while fighting to ban ESG-friendly policies, sustainability practices and “social credit scores” to protect investments in fossil fuels is “an odd reality.”

Worth noting are the states that have pursued anti-ESG legislation, but will not feel the impact of climate change as strongly as some of the states mentioned above. They are Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Alaska.

The one state that will be hard hit by climate change but is working to bolster pro-ESG initiatives – and block any attempts to stop it from doing so – is California. According to the UNDP-Rhodium data, the state’s cities are already sustaining some of the highest annual fatality rates in the country due to climate change. At present, the death toll is estimated to be around a dozen people per 100,000 of the population in San Francisco and Sacramento, but is seen rising to 30 and 33, respectively, by 2040, and 104 and 113 people a year, respectively, by 2080.

Other cities that are being impacted by climate change include Los Angeles, Houston, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, Miami, Virginia Beach, Raleigh, Charlotte and Washington, DC, according to the data.

Interestingly, the data show a handful of states will see some benefits from climate change, at least in theory. Rising temperatures likely will contribute to fewer mortality rates in cooler cities such as Seattle, Portland, Denver, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indianapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Pittsburg, Philadelphia, New York and Boston. These benefits stem from the fact that, as temperatures rise, annual fatality rates resulting from cold weather will ease, Hess says.

Even with fewer fatalities in some regions, by the end of the century, the effects of climate change will eventually overtake much of the U.S., whether through rising temperatures, changes in precipitation, droughts, serious weather patterns, or what is expected to be an influx of displaced populations – also known as “climate refugees” – who will need to migrate to safer locations to survive. That means anyone living in safe zones will find their regions more and more crowded. 

“Income will matter a lot in how people will be able to adapt and respond to the impact of climate,” Hess says.

Banking industry intent on killing the golden goose: Bye banks: Recent turmoil is spurring many to move their money

The Washington Post

Bye, banks: Recent turmoil is spurring many to move their money

Abha Bhattarai, The Washington Post – March 24, 2023

FILE – Customers and bystanders form a line outside a Silicon Valley Bank branch location, Monday, March 13, 2023, in Wellesley, Mass. The sudden crisis in the U.S. banking industry is sure to cause some tightening of lending and credit and a slowdown in the pace of borrowing and spending. If it does, the crisis could actually end up aiding the Federal Reserve in the elusive goal the Fed has been pursuing for a full year: A much lower inflation rate. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Dan Ushman isn’t sure where he’ll end up stashing his company’s money. But he’s been thinking a lot about it these days.

The start-up founder recently moved savings out of Silicon Valley Bank, whose spectacular collapse this month set off tremors across the financial industry, and parked it in accounts at Bank of America and Chase while he contemplates what’s next – brokerage accounts, perhaps, or money market funds, Treasury-backed trusts or certificate of deposit accounts.

The goal, he says, is simple: to reduce risk while maximizing interest.

“Having SVB collapse out from under us gave us a lot of pause,” said Ushman, 38, founder of a software firm in Chicago. “We’re thinking hard about how to spread our cash around. We want higher yields and safety. But the thing about business savings is that they’re savings until you need them, so we don’t want to lock anything up long-term.”

Across the country, millions of Americans are making similar calculations, trying to figure out how to best allocate their money following the implosion of two U.S. banks and the emergency takeover of European banking giant Credit Suisse last weekend, which set off fears of a global financial crisis.

The crisis so far doesn’t seem to have come, and the government has taken great pains to reassure depositors that bank accounts are safe. But that hasn’t stopped people from shifting their money around. Americans are moving hundreds of billions of dollars out of banks – especially smaller, regional banks – into larger institutions, as well as money market funds, government bonds, high-yield online savings accounts, even cryptocurrencies and gold.

In the two weeks since SVB’s dramatic collapse, investments in money market funds, a type of mutual fund focused on low-risk securities, have ballooned by nearly $240 billion, according to the Investment Company Institute. Yields on 2-year Treasury bonds have fallen 24 percent as a result of booming demand. Money market funds are not insured by the government the way bank accounts less than $250,000 are. But even riskier investments are thriving, too: Bitcoin prices have risen 40 percent, and gold is up about 10 percent.

Overall, an estimated $550 billion in deposits have moved from smaller and regional banks to large banks and money market funds in the past two weeks, according to an analysis by JPMorgan.

“Turmoil in the markets always puts money in motion,” said Danielle Lucht, a financial adviser in Cape Coral, Fla., who is fielding twice as many calls from clients as she was a few weeks ago. “The big concern right now is: Is my money safe? How can I make it safer? People who have cash in simple savings accounts are using this as an opportunity to move their money.”

About 12 percent of Americans say they have taken money out from the bank “because of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank,” and 18 percent say they are considering doing so, according to a Yahoo News/YouGov poll released Tuesday. (It is also worth noting, though, that most people – 55 percent – said they are confident the banking system is safe.)

The recent shift builds on a trend that began a year ago, when the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates after years of keeping them near zero. Suddenly regular bank accounts – that pay very little, if any, interest – became much less attractive than other investments offering higher returns.

That steady movement out of bank accounts took on a life of its own this month after fears of bank failures led customers at SVB and Signature Bank of New York to take out billions of dollars in cash in a matter of a few hours. The result was a bank run that triggered the collapse of both institutions.

The Federal Reserve and other regulators were quick to step in with emergency measures aimed at stemming similar runs at other banks. But panic persists: This week, shares of PacWest Bancorp, a regional California institution, tumbled 17 percent after it said it had lost 20 percent of its deposits this year. Economists say that lack of confidence in a company’s stock can be self-fulfilling if it prompts customers to remove their money, leaving the bank in even worse shape.

At First Republic Bank, not even a $30 billion rescue package from the nation’s biggest banks has been enough to keep people from taking out their money. In all, customers have withdrawn about $70 billion in recent weeks, or roughly 40 percent of the bank’s deposits, the Wall Street Journal reported this week.

“People are looking around and saying, ‘I really don’t want to be uninsured,'” said Itamar Drechsler, a finance professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “They’re buying government bonds and going to bigger banks at the expense of regionals.”

The federal government insures deposits of up to $250,000 in any given bank account, though there are looming questions about whether it might raise that cap or extend protection to all deposits as it did at SVB and Signature Bank of New York this month. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen struggled to manage the fallout from remarks Wednesday over the extent to which the federal government could insure deposits over the limit at other banks if they failed; markets fell after she spoke, and she later amended her written testimony to stress that the government has “tools we could use again” and would be “prepared to take additional action if warranted.”

Still, the recent panic has been enough to spook those with large sums piled into traditional bank accounts. Brenton Wickam, 53, a commercial real estate investor in Silicon Valley, hadn’t thought twice about keeping his personal savings in one bank account – until recently.

When SVB collapsed, Wickam started getting a barrage of text messages all saying the same thing: “First Republic’s next.” That was particularly troubling to Wickam, who had been banking there for years.

Last week, he showed up at a local branch to begin moving his savings into new accounts, in $250,000 chunks so they’d be insured by the government. The leftover money he took to Wells Fargo, though he plans to invest it in money markets or Treasurys.

“I felt like the dumbest guy in the room, keeping all of my cash in one bank account,” Wickam said. “I’ve been around awhile – 2000, 2008, I’ve seen what a financial crisis looks like – but I was just being lazy.”

The exodus of deposits, particularly from smaller banks, is particularly worrisome because it could have a chilling effect on how much those institutions are able to loan. Nearly 70 percent of commercial real estate loans, for example, come from small and midsize banks, Fed data shows.

“The consequence of this is manyfold,” said Torsten Slok, chief economist at Apollo Global Management. “The reality is, banks finance themselves through deposits.”

A drop in deposits, he said, would mean banks have less money on hand to make loans. If someone walked in looking for a $40,000 car loan, for example, and a bank didn’t have much in deposits, it would have to borrow that money from wholesale markets, where interest rates have risen rapidly in the past year. As a result, borrowers could face higher interest rates and stricter standards, Slok said.

“If banks across the country suddenly say, ‘We’re going to tighten lending standards for anyone who would like to buy a car or a house or get a corporate loan’ – if they stop lending money out, you could have a sudden stop in the economy,” he said. “That begins to raise the risk of a recession.”

Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell pushed back against that fear this week, saying the banking system is “sound and resilient.”

“We took powerful actions with Treasury and the FDIC, which demonstrate that all depositor savings are safe and that the banking system is safe,” Powell said in a news conference on Wednesday. “Deposit flows in the banking system have stabilized over the last week.”

Verbal assurances aside, the interventions of regulators have raised more questions than answers for many Americans. They’ve also prompted many people to stop and consider their investment habits, since interest rates are at their highest level in 16 years.

“The silver lining in this debacle is that it’s caused people to pause and ask, ‘Is my money OK at the bank?,'” said Rick Salmeron, a financial adviser in Dallas, who has seen a rush toward high-yield online savings accounts. “They’re realizing, ‘Wow, I have all of this cash making a paltry 0.01 percent interest in the bank when I could be getting 3.5 percent.'”

Steve Miller, 51, a stay-at-home dad in Orange County, Calif., recently moved his family’s savings from a large bank to a Vanguard federal money market account. It wasn’t so much panic over recent bank failures that prompted the move, he said, but rather the realization that he could be earning much higher interest on his money. Now he’s earning 4.65 percent interest.

“We have always kept our cash reserves parked in the bank, but this was a good trigger,” he said. “It made me realize we could be earning much more by being invested in Treasury bills.”

The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein contributed to this report.

GOP needs an intervention: Trump, Turning Up Heat, Raises Specter of Violence if He Is Charged

The New York Times

Trump, Turning Up Heat, Raises Specter of Violence if He Is Charged

Maggie Haberman – March 24, 2023

Former President Donald Trump at an America First Education Policy event at in Davenport, Iowa on March 13, 2023. (Desiree Rios/The New York Times)
Former President Donald Trump at an America First Education Policy event at in Davenport, Iowa on March 13, 2023. (Desiree Rios/The New York Times)

In an overnight social media post, former President Donald Trump predicted that “potential death and destruction” may result if, as expected, he is charged by the Manhattan district attorney in connection with hush-money payments to a porn star made during the 2016 campaign.

The comments from Trump, made between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. on his social media site, Truth Social, were a stark escalation in his rhetorical attacks on the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, ahead of a likely indictment on charges that Trump said would be unfounded.

“What kind of person,” Trump wrote of Bragg, “can charge another person, in this case a former president of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting president in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a crime, when it is known by all that NO crime has been committed, & also that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our country?”

“Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely hates the USA!” the former president wrote.

A spokesperson for Bragg did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In an email to his staff last week, Bragg wrote that the office “will continue to apply the law evenly and fairly, and speak publicly only when appropriate.”

“We do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York,” he added.

Trump is also being investigated by the Justice Department in connection with his efforts to stay in power leading up to the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

In a post this past Saturday, Trump erroneously claimed that he was to be arrested three days later and urged people to protest and “take our nation back.”

Since then, he has called Bragg, the first Black district attorney in Manhattan, an “animal” and appeared to mock calls from some of his own allies for people to protest peacefully, or not at all.

“Our country is being destroyed as they tell us to be peaceful,” Trump said in a post Thursday.

Trump has also attacked Bragg for having received indirect financial support from billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

So far, Trump’s calls for protests have been largely ignored, with just handfuls of people coming out for a demonstration Monday organized by some of his New York Republican allies.

In a statement published Friday in Politico’s New York Playbook newsletter, a group of civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and former Gov. David Paterson, condemned Trump’s statements.

This disgraceful attack is not a dog whistle but a bullhorn of incendiary racist and antisemitic bile, spewed out for the sole purpose of intimidating and sabotaging a lawful, legitimate, fact-based investigation,” they said. “These ugly, hateful attacks on our judicial system must be universally condemned.”

Bragg is weighing charges against Trump in connection with hush money his former fixer and lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid late in the 2016 campaign cycle to Stormy Daniels, a porn star who claimed to have had an affair with Trump.

Putin’s Mercenary Prigozhin Shifts Focus After Ukraine Setbacks


Putin’s Mercenary Prigozhin Shifts Focus After Ukraine Setbacks

Bloomberg News – March 23, 2023

(Bloomberg) — Yevgeny Prigozhin, the powerful founder of mercenary group Wagner, is preparing to scale back his private army’s operations in Ukraine after Russian military chiefs succeeded in cutting key supplies of men and munitions, people familiar with the matter said.

Seen as an increasing threat by the security and political establishment, Prigozhin is struggling with a manpower and ammunition shortage in Ukraine after he was barred from recruiting from prisons, his primary source of recruits, and deprived of supplies. Wagner troops so far have failed to take their main target – the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut – despite months of trying and staggering losses. Now, Prigozhin is planning to shift focus back to Africa, the people said.

The shift is a sudden turn in fortunes for Prigozhin, a longtime Putin ally who catapulted himself to prominence as the tough-guy alternative to Russia’s faltering military in Ukraine.

But as his fighters struggled to advance more than a few dozen kilometers in and around Bakhmut despite months of fighting, top commanders managed to sow doubts with Putin about Wagner’s vaunted military prowess, arguing that what results he got came from using waves of convict troops sent to their deaths, people close to the Kremlin and intelligence services said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss matters that aren’t public.

The Russian leader ultimately stepped in to transfer prison recruiting to the Defense Ministry, cutting off the flow of recruits to Wagner. Munitions supplies from the military slowed. Prigozhin’s independence also rankled with the Kremlin.

“Prigozhin is getting in everyone’s way,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of R.Politik political consultancy. “His only protection now is his personal relationship with Putin, who still considers him useful in a certain way.”

After weeks of complaining publicly that the military wasn’t delivering vital shells and other supplies, Prigozhin admitted ealier this month that Wagner would have to “reset and cut down its size” after the battle for Bakhmut is over. He recently touted Wagner’s capture of a village in the area, but didn’t mention that its population was only two people according to the last census.

There’s no sign at present that Prigozhin will redeploy troops to Africa, but the people familiar with the situation said operations there are likely to get more of his attention in the future as the situation in Ukraine has become more difficult for his forces.

A recruitment announcement posted Monday invited applicants for mercenary vacancies for six months in Ukraine and 9-14 months in Africa, specifying that those who want to serve in African countries would be placed on reserve.

A one-time catering entrepreneur who said he founded Wagner in the Kremlin’s first war in Ukraine in 2014, Prigozhin sent troops to help Russia shore up Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. He also built a network in Africa stretching from Libya to Sudan, Mali and the Central African Republic in support of the Kremlin’s geopolitical goals. Most recently, there have been reports Wagner is moving into Burkina Faso after the country ordered French troops to leave. The US and its allies have slapped sanctions on Prigozhin and Wagner.

Leaving on an African tour last month, French President Emmanuel Macron branded Wagner as “the life insurance of failing regimes and putschists,” calling it “a group of criminal mercenaries.”

Italian intelligence warned in a recent report that the increased activity of Russian private military companies could destabilize Northern and Western Africa, prompting an increase of migrant flows toward the European Union. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is extremely worried about a summer migration wave, according to a person familiar with her thinking. Her defense minister publicly blamed the mercenaries for fueling a surge in migrant boats crossing the Mediterranean. Prigozhin denied that.

Convict Soldiers

Since the invasion of Ukraine, Prigozhin shifted his major efforts there, winning Kremlin permission to recruit prisoners with promises of early release if they survived six months on the battlefield.

Sent into combat with little preparation, about half of the 40,000 convicts who signed up have been killed or wounded in the fighting in Bakhmut and the capture earlier this year of the small salt-mining town of Soledar, according to UK intelligence estimates. Wagner in addition has some 10,000 professional contractors fighting in Ukraine that it has deployed more cautiously, the US says.

Prigozhin announced last week that he’d opened recruitment centers in sports centers and martial arts clubs in 42 Russian cities and said Sunday he hopes to sign up 30,000 new recruits, but it’s unclear how successful he’ll be in attracting volunteers.

His influence seemed to peak late last year as he publicly attacked Kremlin appointees in Russia and spooked insiders with calls for Stalin-style crackdowns on opponents. Sergei Surovikin, a top general with experience in Syria who was seen as an ally, was given command of the Ukraine invasion.

Prigozhin saved the harshest treatment for top military commanders. In a video posted on social media in December, Wagner fighters used expletives to describe Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s top general, because of their shortage of ammunition. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also came in for attacks.

The first outward sign that Prigozhin had gone too far came early this year, when Putin promoted Gerasimov to oversee the war in place of the Prigozhin ally.

Revelations of extreme brutality by Wagner including summary executions of ex-inmates who refused orders to fight that have emerged from defectors who fled to Europe damaged Prigozhin’s reputation in Putin’s eyes, one of the people with knowledge of the issue said.

Prigozhin’s shock troops remain useful from a military perspective, and if Bakhmut falls, Wagner may continue to play a role in further assaults in a bid to seize the remaining Ukrainian-held cities in the eastern Donbas region, said two people close to the Kremlin and intelligence services.

Political Reach

But he won’t be allowed any opportunity in state-controlled media to claim credit for taking Bakhmut, which would be the first significant advance for Russia since mid-2022, said one of them.

Prigozhin has also hinted that he’s not giving up political ambitions inside Russia, where he controls a powerful pro-Kremlin media company and enjoys lucrative state contracts. He said in a recent video message that Wagner will “transform itself from the best private army in the world into an army with ideology, and this ideology will be the struggle for justice.”

Ultimately, without the approval of the Russian leadership, that too could be denied him.

“Prigozhin became far too independent, which violated the balance between the elite clans,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Only Putin can decide what the limits are.”

Report Signals Humiliating End for Russia’s Shadow Army in Ukraine

Daily Beast

Report Signals Humiliating End for Russia’s Shadow Army in Ukraine

Shannon Vavra – March 23, 2023

Reuters/Misha Japaridze/Pool/File Photo
Reuters/Misha Japaridze/Pool/File Photo

Yevgeny Prigozhin is preparing to pull his Wagner Group mercenaries’ attention away from the war in Ukraine, according to a Bloomberg report that cites sources familiar with the matter.

His current plan is to focus the private mercenaries’ focus back to countries in Africa, such as Sudan, Mali, and the Central African Republic, where Wagner has deployed forces. On Monday, Wagner posted a recruitment notice offering deployments to African countries that would last between nine to 14 months, Bloomberg reported.

The apparent decision to recalibrate Wagner operations in Ukraine comes after a series of setbacks Wagner has faced in trying to work with the Russian government to wage war in Ukraine. Prigozhin, who enlisted private mercenaries from prison, was blocked in recent weeks from recruiting from prisons. His colleague was also recently barred from accessing Russia’s military command in Ukraine.

Tensions have spilled over into the public eye as well. Wagner Group has also had to resort to pleading with Russia in various videos posted to social media to provide more ammunition they said was desperately needed to try to fight in Ukraine, to no avail.

It’s not clear how quickly the changes will go into effect. Evidence has emerged this week that suggests Wagner Group is still fighting in southern Bakhmut as well as Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Bohdanivka, and in the direction of Predtechyne, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

Witnesses Unravel the Chinese Mass Murder Mystery That Could Ruin Putin

Though Wagner Group has been working to flood the field with personnel, Prigozhin’s army has so far failed to capture Bakhmut, which they have been trying to seize for months.

Wagner Group’s efforts have not been particularly successful. Tens of thousands of Wagner fighters have died, according to a Russian non-governmental organization.

The White House National Security Council characterized the losses in and around Bakhmut as “an extraordinary cost” for Russia.

The Wagner Group has at times blamed those failures on Russia’s idle efforts to help out Wagner with supplies.

“We appeal to our colleagues and friends from the Ministry of Defense. We are confident there is this ammunition somewhere in the stockpiles, and we need them acutely… We will do the work for you—help us with ammunition,” some Wagner fighters said in a recent video on social media.