Pelosi pledges U.S. support on visit to Ukraine; civilians evacuated from Mariupol


Pelosi pledges U.S. support on visit to Ukraine; civilians evacuated from Mariupol

April 30, 2022

KYIV/BEZIMENNE, Ukraine (Reuters) -Around 100 Ukrainian civilians were evacuated from the ruined Azovstal steelworks in the city of Mariupol on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, after the United Nations confirmed a “safe passage operation” was in progress there.

The strategic port city on the Azov Sea has endured the most destructive siege of the war with Russia – now in its third month – with Pope Francis, in an implicit criticism of Moscow, telling thousands of people in St Peter’s Square on Sunday it had been “barbarously bombarded”.

“For the first time, we had two days of a ceasefire on this territory, and we managed to take out more than 100 civilians – women, children,” Zelenskiy said in a nightly video address.

The first evacuees would arrive in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Monday morning, he said, adding that he hoped conditions would continue that allowed for more people to be evacuated.

With fighting stretching along a broad front in southern and eastern Ukraine, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledged continued U.S. support for Ukraine “until victory is won” after she met Zelenskiy in an unannounced visit to Kyiv.

Russia’s military has turned its focus to Ukraine’s south and east after failing to capture Kyiv in the early weeks of a war that has flattened cities, killed thousands of civilians and forced more than 5 million to flee the country.

In Mariupol, Moscow declared victory on April 21 even as hundreds of holdout Ukrainian troops and civilians took shelter in the Azovstal steelworks, a vast Soviet-era complex with a network of bunkers and tunnels, where they have been trapped with little food, water or medicine.

Negotiations to evacuate the civilians had repeatedly broken down in recent weeks, with Russia and Ukraine blaming each other.

But on Sunday, more than 50 civilians arrived at a temporary accommodation centre after escaping from Mariupol, a Reuters photographer said.

The civilians arrived on buses in a convoy with U.N. and Russian military vehicles at the Russian-held village of Bezimenne, around 30 km (18 miles) east of Mariupol, where a row of light blue tents had been set up.

One of the evacuees, Natalia Usmanova, 37, said she had been so terrified as Russian bombs rained down on the plant sprinkling her with concrete dust that she felt her heart would stop.

“When the bunker started to shake, I was hysterical. My husband can vouch for that. I was so worried the bunker would cave in,” she told Reuters in Bezimenne.

A spokesperson for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said a “safe passage operation” had started on Saturday and was being coordinated with the International Committee of the Red Cross, Russia and Ukraine.

He said no further details could be released so as not to jeopardise the safety of evacuees and the convoy.

Denys Shleha, commander of Ukraine’s 12th National guard brigade, speaking to television on Sunday from the Azovstal plant, said several hundred civilians remained in bunkers there, including about 20 children, and that one or two additional evacuation efforts of similar scale would be needed.

Russia’s defence ministry said 80 civilians had been evacuated from the plant.

A plan to evacuate civilians from areas of the devastated city outside the steelworks had been postponed to Monday morning, Mariupol’s city council said.


Footage posted by Zelenskiy on Twitter on Sunday showed him, flanked by an armed escort and dressed in military fatigues, greeting a U.S. congressional delegation led by Pelosi outside his presidential office the previous day.

“We stand with Ukraine until victory is won. And we stand with our NATO allies in supporting Ukraine,” Pelosi, the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, said on Sunday at a press briefing in Poland.

Zelenskiy praised as substantive four hours of talks with Pelosi focused on U.S. weapons deliveries, adding he was grateful to all of Ukraine’s partners who visit Kyiv at such a difficult time.

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in New York he would add provisions to a $33 billion Ukraine aid package to allow the United States to seize Russian oligarchs’ assets and send money from their sale directly to Kyiv.

President Joe Biden asked Congress to approve the aid package on Thursday in what would mark a dramatic escalation of U.S. funding for Ukraine.

Biden spoke with Pelosi on Sunday about her trip, a White House official said without elaborating.

Moscow calls its actions a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian nationalism fomented by the West. Ukraine and the West say Russia launched an unprovoked war of aggression.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was not demanding that Zelenskiy “give himself up” as a condition for peace.

“We are demanding that he issue an order to release civilians and stop resistance. Our aim does not include regime change in Ukraine,” Lavrov said in a media interview published on his ministry’s website.


In the east, Moscow is pushing for complete control of the Donbas region, where Russian-backed separatists already controlled parts of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces before the invasion.

On Sunday, Kharkiv region governor Oleh Synehubov warned residents in the north and east of the city of Kharkiv to remain in their shelters due to heavy Russian shelling. Reuters could not immediately verify reports of shelling in the area.

Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region, in a social media post, urged people to evacuate while it was still possible.

Ukraine’s military said Russian forces were fighting to push north from Kherson to the cities of Mykolayiv and Kryvyi Rih, and Zelenskiy said Russian troops continued to launch strikes on residential areas and had destroyed grain storage depots.

“This will only build up the toxic attitude to the Russian state and increase the numbers of those working to isolate Russia,” Zelenskiy said.

(Reporting by Hamuda Hassan and Jorge Silva in Dobropillia, Ukraine, and Natalia Zinets in Kyiv; Additional reporting by Reuters journalists; Writing by Clarence Fernandez, Frances Kerry, Alex Richardson and Michael Martina; Editing by David Goodman, Alexandra Hudson, Angus MacSwan, Daniel Wallis and Diane Craft)

Ukraine is relying on its secret weapon in the war against Russia: Trains

NBC News

Ukraine is relying on its secret weapon in the war against Russia: Trains

Phil McCausland and Patrick Smith – April 28, 2022

KYIV, Ukraine — The passenger train from Kyiv to Sumy was running Thursday morning with just a six-minute delay. The 200-mile route crosses territory scarred by more than two months of ground battles and aerial bombardment since Russia’s invasion began.

Despite what appear to be concerted efforts by the Russian military this week to disable the vital Ukrainian rail network, this journey and dozens of others are providing a crucial means of military support and civilian escape through the country.

Rail also acts as a symbol of Ukraine’s defiance and the limits of Russia’s military power. After cities and towns were reduced to rubble, with thousands killed, the trains are still running.

Ukraine has one of the largest rail networks in the world, with 12,400 miles of track. Rail is one of the country’s largest employers, with more than 260,000 staff members.

Before the war, it played a minor role in Ukraine’s agriculture and mining industries, but it has become a crutch for commodity industries as Russia maintains a blockade on the Black Sea. The movement of grain now is essential to maintain the country’s reputation as “Europe’s breadbasket.”

But the trains are no longer just for commodities and long journeys, as the network now moves military ordnance, refugees and humanitarian aid. Increasingly, it is transporting families back to areas previously held by Russian troops.

It delivers foreign leaders, too: Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv on Sunday, arriving by train from Poland, as have several other Western officials.

Lviv Ukraine with Phil McCausland (Brendan Hoffman for NBC News)
Lviv Ukraine with Phil McCausland (Brendan Hoffman for NBC News)

Rail has played a pivotal role for both sides of the war, and it may help explain the failure of Russian forces to win control of the country. Russia was unable to fully use the railways in the early stages of the invasion, experts say, leading to logistical problems and images of Russian trucks stuck in winter mud.

“The railways have played a massively important role in the conflict so far, insofar as it’s the way the Russian motorized ground forces move their troops around,” said Emily Ferris, a Russia expert at the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank in London. “All of the problems they’ve had in the north are because they weren’t able to control the logistical hubs.”

Until recently, Russian forces had stopped short of targeting railway infrastructure in Ukraine in the hope they would take control of it themselves, said Oleksandr Pertsovskyi, the CEO of Ukrainian Railways’ passenger trains business.

“The Russian military depends heavily on rail logistics, and one of the reasons why they’re rather inefficient is the fact that they don’t have reliable supply lines at the moment,” he said.

Seemingly unable to take control of the rail network, Russia instead now appears to be intent on trying to disable it.

“Two weeks back, it appears that there were more and more deliberate attacks on rail infrastructure,” Pertsovskyi said.

Missiles rained down on five Ukrainian train stations and regional railway hubs Monday night, mostly in western and central areas, killing a railway worker and wounding four others, the Ukrainian rail authority said. The Russian Defense Ministry said in a briefing Monday that the railway station attacks were designed to stop the shipment of “foreign weapons and military equipment” to Ukrainian troops in the eastern Donbas region.


It’s there that Russian forces are now focused, with a crucial battle for eastern Ukraine that could be decided by Kyiv’s ability to mobilize equipment and weapons — much of which is being sent by allies to aid the defensive stand — by road and rail.

Russia wants to stop the inbound military aid from Western countries that are beginning to resupply the Ukrainians, said Gen. Philip Breedlove, a retired four-star Air Force general and former supreme allied commander of NATO, speaking by phone from Florida.

But that’s not the whole story.

“It’s also just another step in Russia’s ongoing war against the Ukrainian civilian population, on innocents,” said Breedlove, now the chair of the Frontier Europe Initiative at the Washington-based Middle East Institute.

“I believe the Russians are attacking, on purpose, civilian structures that move people around and protect people,” he said. “They want Ukrainians to lose confidence in the civilian transportation infrastructure.”

The Russians are “scattering these little attacks around” to keep killing a “few people in this town, kill a few people in that town, kill a few people over here,” to maintain pressure and civilian fear, Breedlove said.

Other experts agree that the airstrikes on railway targets also underscore the slow progress of Russia’s campaign and signal that the conflict has entered a dangerous new phase. Perhaps the first glimpse of that was the deadly attack on a train station in Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region on April 8, in which at least 30 people died and 100 others were injured, Ukrainian officials said.

TOPSHOT-UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT (Anatolii Stepanov / AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT-UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT (Anatolii Stepanov / AFP via Getty Images)

“In general, it’s part of a wider pattern to target Ukrainian infrastructure and civilians and to degrade their physical capacity to resist but also their morale — which doesn’t seem to be working,” said Ruth Deyermond, an expert in Russian security policy at King’s College London.

“Once it became clear that the Russian army wasn’t going to walk in and take Kyiv or Kharkiv or other cities, they moved to the second phase, which was trying to reduce parts of Ukraine to rubble, exactly as they did in Chechnya in the 1990s — it’s part of a long-standing pattern,” she said.

So far, every time a railroad is damaged, it just keeps getting repaired.

In some cases, Pertsovskyi said, damaged train lines can be fixed in a few hours. Destroyed or damaged bridges are harder to address, but “the bottom line is that even though the attacks are constant and intensifying, we still are able to run the system,” he said.

Actually destroying the rail infrastructure, he said, is “not an easy task, because the system is quite reliable.”

Damage caused by shelling close to the train station in Lviv this month. (@lesiavasylenko / Twitter)
Damage caused by shelling close to the train station in Lviv this month. (@lesiavasylenko / Twitter)

The railway system Russia has relied upon may not have proven so resilient.

Satellite pictures showed trains laden with military hardware making their way to the Ukrainian border in the weeks of buildup to the invasion — including through Belarus.

But the rail link from Belarus to Ukraine was severed, the head of the Ukrainian rail network said in March, leaving Russian forces even more reliant on their limited number of trucks, which were prime targets for small-scale ambush attacks, Ferris said.

“Controlling the railways is key here,” she said. “The Ukrainians know that, and they tried quite hard when they saw Russian advances on certain cities and villages … to bomb things like the bridges and cut off rail connections to stop the Russians where they were.”

The next logical step for Russia’s plan to create a corridor across Ukraine’s south is to take the Black Sea port of Odesa. A bridge linking the region with the rest of Ukraine and neighboring Romania was shelled twice this week, a possible effort to cut it off from military supplies.

But as in the north, Russian forces may find victory here easier said than done.

“The Russian army has done very badly and suffered tremendous losses,” Deyermond said. “Now they’re talking about the south and Donbas — but even there it’s very hard to see how they have the capacity to do that.

“Will they make significant military gains?” she said. “Possibly, but are they going to be able to hold them? That seems much less likely.”

Phil McCausland reported from Kyiv, and Patrick Smith reported from London.

Ukraine weapon switcheroos are flushing Soviet arms out of Europe

Defense News

Ukraine weapon switcheroos are flushing Soviet arms out of Europe

Joe Gould, Sebastian Sprenger – April 28, 2022

WASHINGTON ― As some Eastern European nations send their Soviet-era kit to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s attack, the new weapons those nations stand to get in return from the United States and its allies could shape the continent’s arsenal for years to come.

The tactic of backfilling donated tanks in Poland, air defense gear in Slovakia or armored trucks in Slovenia, for example, is meant to beef up Ukraine’s resistance while offering European Union members a way to remain out of direct conflict. The transactions, many of which go unpublicized, add a new dynamic to an already volatile military procurement pattern in Europe that clashes with the bloc’s lengthy plans for collectively developed weapons.

“When it comes to new equipment, the Eastern European partners will primarily turn to the United States,” said Matthias Wachter, chief defense analyst at the German industry association BDI. “Germany and France have unfortunately disqualified themselves in the eyes of many eastern Europeans by way of their reluctant stance on military support for Ukraine.”

For example, Poland is in line to receive an undisclosed number of Challenger 2 tanks from the U.K. to backfill its supply of T-72 tanks to Ukraine. That’s in addition to the planned purchase of 250 Abrams tanks from the United States in a deal worth almost $5 billion.

As a result, Poland, once interested in joining the German-French Eurotank development effort, will now be flush with modern tanks for decades to come, Wachter noted.

Washington has worked for years to get former Warsaw Pact countries to replace their Soviet-era equipment with NATO-compatible kit. A $713 million tranche of aid announced Monday, aimed at Ukraine and its neighbors, is meant to do just that.

With the new package, the U.S. stands to benefit both strategically — getting partners and allies off Russian equipment to improve interoperability and deny money for Moscow — and financially, thanks to the subsidization of American weapons abroad.

The aid does include Soviet-era ammunition, rockets and artillery for Ukraine to use for the fight now, but the Biden administration also foresees Ukraine and its neighbors using more Western equipment over the long term, according to a U.S. government summary obtained by Defense News.

The summary ticked off dozens of categories of Ukrainian military needs ― from night-vision devices to multiple launch rocket systems ― that could be fulfilled by the U.S. or other NATO allies.

The package announced Monday included, beyond Ukraine, more than $300 million divided between more than a dozen Central and Eastern European countries ― for equipment, training or both. Billed as backfilling supplies of weapons that countries are sending Ukraine, the State Department-controlled Foreign Military Financing is also meant to “enhance partner military integration with NATO,” the summary read.

NATO aspirant Georgia’s $35 million portion would support the fielding of “brigade combat equipment sets,” counter-drone technologies and the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System, which is a joint and coalition command-and-control fires support system.

Ukrainian servicemen install a machine gun on a tank during repairs following a fight against Russian forces in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, on April 27, 2022. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)
Ukrainian servicemen install a machine gun on a tank during repairs following a fight against Russian forces in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, on April 27, 2022. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

Another $23 million would go to Bosnia and Herzegovina, from the Europe Recapitalization Incentive Program, which the U.S. State Department launched in 2018 to speed up the process of getting allied nations off Russian gear. The money would buy an additional two medium-lift helicopters in addition to four UH-1H helos delivered in 2021 through the program.

The package would provide:

The State Department fulfilled its obligation to notify Congress in recent days in order to get the funding in place, but not all of the specifics are finalized, according to a U.S. government official not authorized to speak about the matter on the record.

“We’ve been working for years, especially among the NATO allies, to get rid of the remainder of what Warsaw Pact material they’ve got because, No. 1, they’re NATO members, so we want that interoperability and we want to eliminate the potential for Russian leverage, if they’re dependent on Russia [for equipment],” the official said.

The announcement of the aid came as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held the inaugural meeting of defense leaders from over 40 nations to better coordinate efforts in support of Ukraine’s defense against Russia, which invaded its neighbor Feb. 24. Austin has been at the center of U.S. efforts to spur European nations to send their older equipment to Ukraine in exchange for Western gear.

Though this latest aid package includes so-called nonstandard ammunition Ukraine can immediately use, whether Kyiv ultimately turns to NATO-compatible equipment is not a given.

“I don’t think Ukraine’s made a decision about that. And you can’t really expect them to have made a decision right now while they’re fighting for their lives,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Wednesday.

The U.S. is providing equipment to backfill allied countries because some are risking their own security by sending that equipment, and “it’s the responsible thing for us to do, to have conversation[s] with these allies and partners about what their needs are going to be going forward as well,” Kirby said.

Just as the Pentagon is using a stepped-up dialogue with the American defense industry to probe its ability to meet the needs of the U.S. military, its allies and Ukraine, Austin asked the assembled leaders to assess the “health and vitality” of their own defense-industrial bases, in light of a new reality in Europe, Kirby said.

“We know that whatever happens here, however this war ends, the security landscape in Europe has changed. Not ‘is changing,’ not ‘will change,’ ” Kirby said.

Former CIA Director Warns Of Putin’s Next Move In Ukraine


Former CIA Director Warns Of Putin’s Next Move In Ukraine

Lee Moran – April 28, 2022

Former CIA director John Brennan said Russian President Vladimir Putin knows his plan for invading Ukraine has “completely collapsed” and warned the Russian leader will resort to threatening the West.

On Wednesday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House,” Brennan told anchor Nicolle Wallace that Putin is “clearly reacting to ongoing developments” in Ukraine, “many of which have been setbacks to Russia,” he said.

Putin has “been adapting on the military battlefield in Ukraine by consolidating and repositioning forces along the east and the south” because of “the pummeling” his forces have received, Brennan said. The Russian leader also is “reacting to the strength of NATO support and particularly the ongoing supply of weapons and ammunition to the Ukrainian forces,” he continued.

Brennan envisioned Putin putting more pressure on other neighboring countries, such as Poland and Bulgaria, where he’s cut off natural gas deliveries.

Putin “realizes that his initial game plan has just completely collapsed and therefore he has to adapt and react,” said Brennan, who led the CIA from 2013 to 2017.

“It’s going to be a combination of saber-rattling and rhetorical flourishes, he’s trying to again threaten the West,” he added. “But also taking these types of steps to try to appeal to those sympathizers in Europe and also the United States, unfortunately, as a way to again split the NATO alliance and to weaken the resolve and the determination of NATO to continue to support Ukraine.”

Watch the interview here:

Why neither Russia nor Ukraine wants to discuss the mystery explosions at strategic Russian facilities

The Week

Why neither Russia nor Ukraine wants to discuss the mystery explosions at strategic Russian facilities

Peter Weber, Senior editor – April 28, 2022

Explosion in Belgorod, Russia
Explosion in Belgorod, Russia Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Russian media reported explosions Wednesday at an ammunition depot near Belgorod and two other storage facilities near Ukraine’s eastern border, in the latest instances of “unexplained fires and explosions at strategic locations in Russia, including storage depots, a sensitive defense research site, and the country’s largest chemical plant,” The Washington Post reports.

“All of the sites hit are likely involved in supplying fuel and ammunition to the troops engaged in Donbas and the damage may hinder Russia’s efforts to sustain its offensive there,” the Post reports, raising “suspicions that at least some may have been caused by sabotage or Ukrainian attacks.”

Local Russian officials blamed an April 1 explosion at fuel depots in Belgorod on Ukrainian attack helicopters, but as the incidents multiplied, it became “a subject which officials in Moscow prefer to avoid,” BBC Monitoring’s Vitaliy Shevchenko writes. “Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory would be an embarrassment to the Kremlin, which had been hoping to have control of Ukraine within days of invading it in February.”

For their part, “Ukrainian officials have hinted at some involvement in the incidents without expressly acknowledging them,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

“Karma is a cruel thing,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote in Russian on Wednesday. Oleksiy Arestovych, a military adviser to Zelensky, suggested “you need to look for reasons inside Russia — for example, hiding the means by which money has been stolen from the Russian defense ministry.”

“It is clear why Ukraine would be reluctant to admit any cross-border attacks,” writes the BBC’s Shevchenko: “They would amount to a major escalation in an already bitter conflict.”

And there are plausible explanations other than sabotage or airstrikes. Thanks largely to negligence, Russia already “suffers from self-inflicted injuries in peacetime,” Russian security expert Keir Giles at London’s Chatham House tells the Journal. “When put under additional strain of an offensive war, it is no surprise that the rate of natural accidents should increase.”

Operating room is wrecked, at least 1 fighter has been killed: Azovstal does not see how to help the injured from now on

Ukrayinska Pravda

Operating room is wrecked, at least 1 fighter has been killed: Azovstal does not see how to help the injured from now on

Alyona Mazurenko, “Ukrainska Pravda” – April 29, 2022 (Ukrayinska Pravda) April 28, 2022

At least one Ukrainian defender died under the rubble of a field hospital at the “Azovstal” plant, and almost a hundred wounded soldiers got another concussion. Source: Head of “Azov” Regiment press service Orest, informed “Ukrainska Pravda” interlocutors Quote: “Part of the building and the operating room collapsed as a result of the shelling. Over 500 injured people and doctors got trapped.

The shelling was deliberately targeted at the field hospital.” “Shelling from naval artillery began immediately after the bombing.” “The wounded were staying in a dilapidated shelter and could do nothing about the fire that broke out as a result of the shelling. At least one injured man was buried under the rubble.

The fighters received new injuries and concussions.” “In these conditions we do not know how we can protect those who defended Ukraine from the beginning of the war and the full-scale offensive of the aggressors and those who can no longer hold weapons in their hands.

We call on the whole world to pay attention to the flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention and to help us save those who saved the whole of Ukraine.” Details: According to “Ukrainska Pravda” interlocutor, almost 100 Ukrainian defenders at “Azovstal” got concussions.

Earlier, the “Azov” Regiment said that last night Russian aggressors conducted about 50 air strikes and dropped a large number of phosphorus bombs on Mariupol. “Azov” called on the authorities to take decisive measures to lift the blockade of the city or evacuate residents and defenders.

On the night of April 28, the Russian aggressors struck at a military field hospital on the territory of the “Azovstal” plant in Mariupol – there were casualties. Background: Mariupol has been under siege since 1 March. During his meeting with Vladimir Putin, Russian Minister of Defence, Sergei Shoigu stated that Mariupol had been allegedly seized by the aggressors, and added that the “Azovstal” plant was under Ukrainian defenders’ control.

Vladimir Putin ordered to stop the assault on the “Azovstal” plant for the camera, but the shelling only intensified after that. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukrainian forces still lacked the means to conduct a military operation to relieve the siege of Mariupol. On April 23, the “Azov” Regiment posted a video from the basements of the “Azovstal plant” in Mariupol, which was under aggressors’ siege. It featured children hiding from Russian bombs.

Defenders of Mariupol requested an “extraction” procedure, following the example of the operation in Dunkirk in 1940. They refused to surrender to the Russians because they did not trust the aggressors. Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, has said that the Ukrainian and Russian leadership have agreed for international organizations, in particular the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, to organize the evacuation of civilians from Mariupol.

Americans are moving out of urban counties like never before

Yahoo! Finance

Americans are moving out of urban counties like never before

Grace O’Donnell and Adriana Belmonte – April 28, 2022

Americans leaving urban counties reached a new high in 2021 as droves of people settled in suburban and exurban counties.

More than two-thirds of large urban counties saw their populations decline, according to a recent report by the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) that used federal statistics. This marked the first time in 50 years that counties with an urban center and more than 250,000 people experienced negative growth as a category.

While some migration patterns had been in effect before the pandemic, COVID-era remote work and delayed immigration accelerated the shift.

“The big key takeaway to me was just how dramatic the effect was in 2021,” August Benzow, the lead researcher on the study, told Yahoo Finance.

Rural areas grew in population between 2020 and 2021. (Map: EIG)
(Map: EIG)

Exurban counties saw the biggest increase across the board, with about 80% gaining population. These counties are defined as areas with “a population smaller than 50,000, at least 25 percent of their population in a large or medium-sized suburb, and must be in a metro with a population of 500,000 or higher.”

“While there has been much discussion of a flight to the suburbs, the share of suburban counties growing actually declined,” the report stated. “Instead, exurban and rural counties saw a rising share of counties that gained population, with non-metropolitan rural counties seeing the highest population gain since 2008.”

The share of rural counties with population growth underscored the demand for more remote places.

‘Bigger, cheaper housing’

Housing affordability and spaciousness are likely culprits for the shift away from major cities.

“The tendency is just for people to maybe be attracted to cities when they’re younger and then move out to the suburbs and exurban places to find bigger, cheaper housing when they choose to have families,” Benzow said. “That trend has always sort of defined the map.”

Urban counties saw huge gains in the early 2000s that began petering out after the Great Recession. In 2011, nearly all of the top 15 counties for population growth were large urban counties, whereas just three were in 2021.

“That trend really picked up after COVID hit and during the pandemic as people started, for different reasons, exiting these more urban counties and moving further out,” Benzow said. “Suburbs are the dominant forces of the landscape in terms of being where the cheap affordable big housing is.”

People wearing masks load furniture into a U-haul moving truck in New York City. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

The result of the outward expansion from major metropolitan areas such as New York City and Washington D.C. created a phenomenon that has been called the “donut effect.” As counties farther out from city centers grow their populations, city centers become hollowed out due to departing residents.

However, the influx of people to suburbs and exurbs is more welcome in some places than in others.

In some areas like Billings, Montana, the housing inventory hasn’t been able to keep up with the increased demand, which has driven up housing costs for new and long-time residents alike. Other counties surrounding major cities hope to make the most of the population growth.

“There are definitely some negative effects in places that are getting too many people at once,” Benzow said. “But then there’s also the places that have been on the outskirts of metros and have maybe not seen a lot of populations grow and now are benefiting from having more people coming in and creating more jobs and more economic activity.”

Benzow added that “it’s a mixed bag, and it depends on how places can soak up all these newcomers and to what extent that’s a permanent shift too.”

More people left urban areas between 2020-2021, particularly in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area. (Chart: National Bureau of Economic Research)
More people left urban areas between 2020-2021, particularly in New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area. (Chart: National Bureau of Economic Research)
‘Sunbelt and the Mountain West continued to outshine’

Another population dynamic that showed no indication of slowing down was migration Westward.

For instance, Phoenix’s Maricopa County, Arizona, experienced the most significant population growth despite being classified as a large urban county.

“Overall, the Sunbelt and the Mountain West continued to outshine the rest of the country,” the report stated. “Remote rural counties in eastern Oregon and northern Idaho experienced robust population growth while every single county in Nevada gained population.”

Urban cores in the Great Plains and Midwest generally fared worse, with some exceptions, while all large urban counties lost population in the Northeast. In the South, Wake County in North Carolina, which encompasses Raleigh, bucked the trend by adding 16,651 residents, and metropolitan areas in Texas and Florida largely retained their populations.

Aerial shot of suburban homes under construction in Marana, Arizona.
(Getty Images)

How these demographic shifts affect key issues such as labor markets, political maps, and resource distribution has yet to unfold.

“We’re still kind of waiting for the dust to settle” from the upheaval that the pandemic brought about, Benzow said.

“Some of the effects of the pandemic that drove this outmigration are likely temporary, such as young people moving back in with their parents and the more affluent retreating to vacation homes,” Benzow wrote in the report. “However, it seems less likely that those who purchased homes in the suburbs and exurbs during the pandemic, motivated in part by new remote work options, will be selling and moving back to cities.”

Adriana Belmonte is a reporter and editor covering politics and health care policy for Yahoo Finance.

Grace is an assistant editor for Yahoo Finance.

As climate-change-fueled drought worsens, California issues water restrictions for millions of residents

Yahoo! News

As climate-change-fueled drought worsens, California issues water restrictions for millions of residents

David Knowles, Senior Editor – April 28, 2022

Officials in California, now in its third year of drought that scientists have linked to climate change, have issued unprecedented water restrictions for millions of residents.

In the southern part of the state, where the start of 2022 was the driest in recorded history and average temperatures continue to rise at a faster pace than other parts of the country, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) has issued restrictions on roughly 6 million customers. The cutback, which begins on June 1, prohibits residents from watering lawns and plants more than one day per week.

“We are seeing conditions unlike anything we have seen before,” Adel Hagekhalil, the district’s general manager, told the Los Angeles Times. “We need serious demand reductions.”

The MWD sources its water from the State Water Project, which funnels water from rivers in the northern part of the state southward to 27 million residents, and from the Colorado River. Approximately 40 million people in the Southwest rely on the Colorado for water, and with extreme drought worsened by climate change showing no signs of easing, supplies from the river have been stretched thin.

Earlier this month, the federal government declared a water shortage at Lake Mead, one of the Colorado’s biggest reservoirs, that triggered water supply cuts. In March, California’s State Water Project announced that after a promising start to the state’s rainy season, the bone-dry first few months of 2022 meant it would limit its anticipated allocation of water to just 5% of normal.

Aerial view of Lake Mead, a reservoir formed by Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, shown at 30% capacity on Jan. 11, 2022, near Boulder City, Nevada.
Lake Mead, a reservoir formed by Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, is shown at 30% capacity on Jan. 11. (George Rose/Getty Images)

“We are experiencing climate change whiplash in real time, with extreme swings between wet and dry conditions,” Karla Nemeth, director of the California Department of Water Resources, said in a written statement.

Water restrictions are also being issued in the northern part of the state, which typically supplies water to Southern California. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the East Bay Municipal Utility District board voted Wednesday to immediately begin water restrictions for 1.4 million residents, following its declaration of a Stage 2 Drought Emergency. Homeowners in the district, which includes Oakland, Berkeley and many other areas east of San Francisco, will now be prohibited from watering lawns between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and can report others who are not adhering to the new rules. The overall goal, EBMUD said, is to cut water use by 10% in the district.

Late-season snowstorms in the Sierra Nevada in recent days have boosted what little had remained of the snowpack, giving ski resorts a welcome reprieve, but an annual April 1 survey conducted by the Department of Water Resources found that snow levels were just 38% of the annual average.

Sprinklers spray water onto grass as a jogger runs through a city park in San Diego.
Sprinklers spray water onto grass as a jogger runs through a city park in San Diego. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Numerous scientific studies have established the connection between drought and climate change, with warmer temperatures speeding up evaporation, drying out soils and plant life.

“Drought — a year with a below-average water supply — is a natural part of the climate cycle, but as Earth’s atmosphere continues to warm due to climate change, droughts are becoming more frequent, severe, and pervasive,” NASA says on its website. “The past 20 years have been some of the driest conditions in the American West on record.”

Warmer temperatures and extreme heat waves are also exacerbating drought in places like SomaliaIndia and Pakistan, threatening crops and posing health risks for residents.

The Revolt of the College-Educated Working Class

The New York Times

The Revolt of the College-Educated Working Class

Noam Scheiber – April 28, 2022

Over the past decade-and-a-half, many young, college-educated workers have faced a disturbing reality: that it was harder for them to reach the middle class than for previous generations. The change has had profound effects — driving shifts in the country’s politics and mobilizing employees to demand fairer treatment at work. It may also be giving the labor movement its biggest lift in decades.

Members of this college-educated working class typically earn less money than they envisioned when they went off to school.

“It’s not like anyone is expecting to make six figures,” said Tyler Mulholland, who earns about $23 an hour as a sales lead at REI, the outdoor equipment retailer, and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. “But when it’s snow storming at 11:30 at night, I don’t want to have to think, ‘Is the Uber home going to make a difference in my weekly budget?’”

In many cases, the workers have endured bouts of unemployment. After Clint Shiflett, who holds an associate degree in computer science, lost his job installing satellite dishes in early 2020, he found a cheaper place to live and survived on unemployment insurance for months. He was eventually hired at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, where he initially made about $17.50 an hour working the overnight shift.

And they complain of being trapped in jobs that do not make good use of their skills. Liz Alanna, who holds a bachelor’s in music education and a master’s in opera performance, began working at Starbucks while auditioning for music productions in the early 2010s. She stayed with the company to preserve her health insurance after getting married and having children.

“I don’t think I should have to have a certain job just so I can have health care,” Alanna said. “I could be doing other types of jobs that might fall better in my wheelhouse.”

These experiences, which economic research shows became more common after the Great Recession, appear to have united many young college-educated workers around two core beliefs: They have a sense that the economic grand bargain available to their parents — go to college, work hard, enjoy a comfortable lifestyle — has broken down. And they see unionizing as a way to resurrect it.

Support for labor unions among college graduates has increased from 55% in the late 1990s to around 70% in the last few years, and is even higher among younger college graduates, according to data provided by Gallup.

“I think a union was really kind of my only option to make this a viable choice for myself and other people,” said Mulholland, 32, who helped lead the campaign to unionize his New York City REI store in March. Shiflett and Alanna have also been active in the campaigns to unionize their workplaces.

And those efforts, in turn, may help explain an upsurge for organized labor, with filings for union elections up more than 50% over a similar period one year ago.

Though a minority at most nonprofessional workplaces, college-educated workers are playing a key role in propelling them toward unionization, experts say, because the college-educated often feel empowered in ways that others do not.

“There’s a class confidence, I would call it,” said Ruth Milkman, a sociologist of labor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. “A broader worldview that encompasses more than getting through the day.”

While other workers at companies like Starbucks and Amazon are also supportive of unions and sometimes take the initiative in forming them, the presence of the college-educated in these jobs means there is a “layer of people who particularly have their antennae up,” Milkman said. “There is an additional layer of leadership.”

That workers who attended college would be attracted to nonprofessional jobs at REI, Starbucks and Amazon is not entirely surprising. Over the past decade, the companies’ appetite for workers has grown substantially. Starbucks increased its global workforce to nearly 385,000 last year from about 135,000 in 2010. Amazon’s workforce swelled to 1.6 million from 35,000 during that period.

The companies appeal to affluent and well-educated consumers. And they offer solid wages and benefits for their industries — even, for that matter, compared with some other industries that employ the college-educated.

More than three years after he earned a political science degree from Siena College in 2017, Brian Murray was making about $14 an hour as a youth counselor at a group home for middle-school-age children.

He quit in late 2020 and was hired a few months later at a Starbucks in the Buffalo, New York, area, where his wage increased to $15.50 an hour.

“The starting wage was higher than anything I’d ever made,” said Murray, who has helped organize Starbucks workers in the city.

Such examples appear to reflect broader economic forces.

Data from the past 30 years collected by economists Jaison R. Abel and Richard Deitz at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed that unemployment for recent college graduates shot up to over 7% in 2009 and was above 5.3% — the highest previously recorded — as late as 2015.

Jesse Rothstein, a former chief economist of the U.S. Labor Department, found in a 2021 paper that the job prospects for recent college graduates began to weaken around 2005, then suffered a significant blow during the Great Recession and had not fully recovered a decade later.

The recession depressed their employment rates “above what is consistent with normal recession effects,” wrote Rothstein, now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “Moreover, this change has persisted into the most recent entrants, who were in middle school during the Great Recession.”

While there is no simple explanation for the trend, many economists contend that automation and outsourcing reduced the need for certain “middle skilled” jobs that college-educated workers performed. Lawrence Katz, a labor economist at Harvard, said consolidation in industries that employ the college-educated also appears to have softened demand for those workers, though he emphasized that those with a college degree still typically earn far more than those without one.

Whatever the case, the gap between the expectations of college graduates and their employability has led to years of political ferment. A study of participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement, which highlighted income inequality and grew out of the 2011 occupation of Zuccotti Park in New York City, found that more than three-quarters were college graduates, versus about 30% of adults at the time. Many had been laid off during the previous five years and “were carrying substantial debt,” the report noted.

In the decade that followed, members of this same demographic group helped lead other activist campaigns, like the Black Lives Matter movement, and supported the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders. At least one member — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had worked as a waitress and a bartender during her post-college years — successfully ran for Congress.

The college-educated began flexing their muscles at work, too. Employees at digital media outlets like Gawker and BuzzFeed unionized in the 2010s, complaining of low pay and unclear paths to promotion, as did employees of think tanks and other nonprofit groups.

Public school teachers across the country walked off the job in 2018 to protest low pay and dwindling resources, while union campaigns proliferated at private colleges among graduate students and nontenure-track faculty.

Milkman pointed to several reasons that college-educated workers had succeeded at organizing even in the face of employer opposition: They often know their rights under labor law, and feel entitled to change their workplace. They believe there is another gig out there if they lose their current one.

“More education does two things — it inoculates you to some extent against employer scare tactics,” Milkman said. “And it’s not that big a deal to get fired. You know, ‘Who cares? I can get some other crummy job.’”

The pandemic reinforced the trend, disrupting the labor market just as it finally appeared to be stabilizing for recent college graduates. It made service sector jobs dangerous in addition to modestly compensated. Amid labor shortages, workers grew bolder in challenging their bosses.

No less important, the college-educated were mobilizing a larger range of workers. When their awakening was confined to white-collar workplaces and hipster coffee shops, said Barry Eidlin, a sociologist who studies labor at McGill University in Montreal, its reach was limited. But at a bigger company like Starbucks, the activism of such workers “has the potential to have much greater reverberations,” he said. “It bleeds into this broader palette of the working class.”

College-educated union supporters began forming alliances with those who did not attend college, some of whom were also budding leaders.

RJ Rebmann, who has not attended college, was hired at a Starbucks store near Buffalo last summer, but soon had trouble getting scheduled. Union supporters, including one studying biotechnology at a local community college, went to a meeting the company was holding and urged company officials to address the situation.

“The union partners were sticking up for me,” said Rebmann, who was already leaning toward supporting the union. “That was a tipping point for me in deciding how I’m going to vote.”

More than 25 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize since then.

A similar diversity of workers carried the union to an 88-14 win at the REI store in New York.

“We have a lot of students, we have a lot of folks who have had previous careers and changed it up,” said Claire Chang, a union supporter who graduated from college in 2014.

And then there is the victory at Amazon, where union supporters say their multiracial coalition was a source of strength, as was a diversity of political views.

“We had straight-up Communists and hard-line Trump supporters,” said Cassio Mendoza, a worker involved in the organizing. “It was really important to us.”

But the mix of educational backgrounds also played a role. Christian Smalls and Derrick Palmer, the two friends who helped found the union, had attended community college. Connor Spence, its vice president of membership, studied aviation while earning an associate degree. He had read popular labor studies books and helped oversee the union’s strategy for undermining the consultants Amazon hired to fight unionization.

Other workers at the warehouse had even more extensive credentials, like Brima Sylla, originally from Liberia, who holds a doctorate in public policy. Sylla speaks several languages and translated the union’s text messages into French and Arabic.

Asked how the union brought together so many people across the lines of class and education, Spence said it was simple: Most Amazon workers struggle with pay, safety concerns and productivity targets, and few get promoted, regardless of education. (The company said that about two-thirds of its 30,000 noncorporate promotions last year involved hourly employees, and that it has made extensive investments in safety.)

“Amazon doesn’t allow people of differing education levels to become separated,” Spence said. “It was the way we were able to unite people — the idea that we’re all getting screwed.”

Germany says it’s ready to stop buying Russian oil, paving the way for the EU to impose a full embargo

Business Insider

Germany says it’s ready to stop buying Russian oil, paving the way for the EU to impose a full embargo

Phil Rosen – April 28, 2022

German Economic Affairs Minister Robert Habeck with a Germany flag in the background
German Economic Affairs Minister Robert Habeck.Roberto Pfeil/Getty Images)
  • German officials said the country is prepared to stop buying Russian oil, the Wall Street Journal reported.
  • That opens the door to a full Russian oil embargo by the European Union.
  • The pivot from Germany follows a new deal with Poland that will allow it to import oil from other global suppliers through Gdansk.

German officials said the nation is now prepared to stop buying Russian oil, the Wall Street Journal reported, opening the door for the European Union to impose a fresh set of sanctions on Moscow.

In a Wednesday meeting, German representatives said they would pull back their prior objections to a full Russian oil embargo, as long as Berlin would have time to find alternatives to Russian supplies.

The pivot from Germany follows a new deal with Poland that will allow it to import oil from other global suppliers through Gdansk, a Polish port in the Baltic Sea, government officials announced Wednesday.

The infrastructure of this port allows for a direct replacement of Russian supplies as it connects to the PCK oil refinery in Schwedt, Germany, they said. Enabling alternative oil imports to reach Schwedt was a key piece to Germany lifting its opposition to an embargo.

Germany has already slashed its intake from Russia, which now accounts for 12% of Germany’s oil consumption, down from 35% before Vladimir Putin launched his war on Ukraine, Germany Economic Minister Robert Habeck had said this week.

A full EU embargo on Russian oil could signal further escalation in the economic conflict unfolding between the Western world and Moscow, which have used energy markets to try to punish each other.

The EU has already announced a ban on Russian coal and sanctioned various sectors of the Russian energy industry. But oil and gas has continued to flow, and Moscow has retaliated by demanding payments in rubles.

On Wednesday, Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland after the two countries refused to pay in rubles.

But the Financial Times reported Thursday that Germany is among four nations preparing to pay for Russian gas in rubles, despite warnings from the EU about breaking sanctions. Still, Russia declined Germany’s ruble payment earlier this week for some April and May gas deliveries.