Tariffs on solar panels threaten Biden’s climate change goals

Yahoo! News

Tariffs on solar panels threaten Biden’s climate change goals

Ben Adler, Senior Editor – May 26, 2022

An ongoing Department of Commerce investigation into whether China is circumventing tariffs on its solar energy products is slowing the expansion of solar power capacity in the U.S., according to industry and outside experts.

“In the blink of an eye, we’re going to lose 100,000 American solar workers and any hope of reaching the president’s clean energy goals,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energies Industry Association (SEIA), said in a statement late last month.

On March 25, James Maeder, the deputy assistant secretary of commerce for anti-dumping and countervailing duty operations, announced an investigation into whether crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand or Vietnam that use components from China violate tariffs on Chinese solar imports. Pending the outcome of that investigation, tariffs could be applied — even retroactively, for recent purchases — to solar panels from those four Southeast Asian countries.

Solar panel installers anxious not to run up what could potentially be a huge tax bill are therefore avoiding buying panels from those major suppliers and are often unable to fulfill orders.

A worker wearing a mask, head covering and rubber gloves, leans over a solar battery to assemble it in a bare manufacturing facility, with one other worker visible in the distance.
A worker assembles a solar battery at Irex Energy JSC’s manufacturing facility in Vung Tau, Vietnam, in 2019. (Yen Duong/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

As a result, on April 27, after surveying its members on the effect the investigation is having, the SEIA cut by 46% its forecast for new solar installations in 2022 and 2023. A May 10 analysis by Rystad Energy, an independent energy research consulting company, found a potentially even more dramatic contraction in the solar industry, concluding that 64% of the 27 gigawatts of new solar capacity that was to be installed in this year is in jeopardy.

With new tariffs potentially being imposed in August, clean energy advocates and experts say the problems may only grow worse in the months ahead. “Imports have fallen off, projects are being canceled, and projections of growth are being revised radically downward,” David Roberts, host of the podcast “Volts,” said Wednesday. “The tariffs could be anywhere from 30%-250%, which would radically change the economics of big solar projects, and, if applied, will be retrospective over the last two years, which means even existing contracts are in jeopardy. The uncertainty has cast a pall over the entire sector.”

President Biden is publicly committed to expanding solar capacity as quickly as possible to combat climate change. The White House has issued press releases and fact sheets touting its administrative moves to encourage the installation of wind turbines and solar panels on federal lands and waters, and the president has proposed tens of billions of dollars in subsidies for rooftop solar panels in his budget reconciliation package.

Joe Biden, in dark glasses and pursing his lips, in front of a solar array.
In June 2019, while running for president, Joe Biden walks past solar panels at the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative in Plymouth, N.H. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

The administration is caught between its climate goals and its desire to protect American manufacturers from unfair trade practices. If China can produce cheaper solar panels, with or without a government subsidy, it benefits American consumers and helps speed up the replacement of fossil fuels that cause greenhouse gas emissions. But allowing a rival to dominate the supply chain of growing U.S. energy sources could be risky, as Europe has seen with its reliance on Russian oil and gas. Every president wants to create domestic manufacturing jobs, which tend to pay relatively well, especially for those without a college degree.

In 2012, the Obama administration imposed tariffs on Chinese solar panel components — increasing the cost by 24% to 36% — when it found that, in violation of trade agreements, Chinese manufacturers were unfairly undercutting American competitors by using loans from the Chinese government to produce more panels at lower prices. (Tariffs have since increased to as much as 250%.)

The measure was supposed to bolster American solar manufacturing, but it didn’t work out that way.

President Barack Obama at the microphone in front of a solar array.
In March 2012, President Barack Obama tours Sempra’s Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility in Boulder City, Nev. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

“What happened was not that American domestic manufacturing flourished. What happened was: The same Chinese manufacturers decided to locate some of their supply chain in other countries,” Marcelo Ortega, an analyst at Rystad Energy who produced its recent report, told Yahoo News. Those countries include the four in Southeast Asia at issue in this case. As U.S. imports of solar panels from China fell, imports from these other countries rose just as fast.

In February, Auxin Solar, a U.S. manufacturer of solar modules, filed a complaint with the Commerce Department, which is responsible for enforcing the tariffs, claiming that the solar manufacturers in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are making an end run around the tariffs on Chinese photovoltaic cells. Imports from those countries accounted for 85% of all imported U.S. solar power capacity installed in 2021 and 99% of solar imports in the first two months of this year, according to Rystad’s analysis.

Companies that provide solar panels to U.S. customers say their business has been thrown for a loop.

“It makes deploying solar simply just more difficult and more expensive,” Gabe Phillips, CEO of Catalyst Power, a retail energy provider and solar developer, told Yahoo News. “On the distributed solar side, the pricing’s all over the place. They can’t commit to pricing. They’ll give me a price, with the caveat that it’s contingent on the outcome of this case. It’s stymieing the sales process.”

Two women in head coverings, masks, gloves and blue work clothes, bend over a production line.
Employees in Nantong City, in China’s Jiangsu province, work on the solar panel production line at a workshop of Jiangsu Fox Group on April 18. (Zhai Huiyong/VCG via Getty Images)

Apart from the uncertainty in pricing, the process of providing a customer with solar energy has become slower and less reliable.

“Suppliers don’t want to take the risk of being slapped with a potential 100% import tariff,” Ortega said. When the SEIA surveyed its members, 83% reported that purchases had recently been canceled or delayed.

“At the moment, the products we’re seeking to market have been pushed back at least a quarter,” Phillips said. “There’s less expectation of panel availability, and therefore dates for projects are being pushed back.”

The White House declined to comment on the record, noting that it does not get involved in legal proceedings such as the current Commerce Department investigation, but it reiterated the president’s commitment to deploying solar power.

“While we cannot comment on an ongoing, independent judicial investigation, the process cannot factor in policy or our solar strategy,” a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity wrote in an email. “President Biden remains committed to standing up clean solar energy across the country to lower energy bills for families, create good-paying union jobs, and … grow our clean energy economy. As the president has made clear from the earliest days of the campaign, solar power is at the heart of his agenda for cutting energy costs for American families, creat[ing] good jobs, and fight[ing] the climate crisis that is already causing unprecedented harm to our economy and national security.”

A worker in a red hardhat walks across a solar array followed by a colleague carrying a solar panel.
Electricians install solar panels at LaGuardia Airport in Queens, N.Y., in November 2021. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

The solar industry’s answer is to build up American solar manufacturing without resorting to jacking up the price on imports.

“I understand the detriment to American manufacturing that dumping causes,” Phillips said. “However, I’m not sure that I have a problem with the Chinese government subsidizing American renewable energy development. There are other ways that we could support our own domestic manufacturing of solar panels, other than sticking a tariff on someone else’s solar panels. We could do what China does and subsidize [it]. There must be tools that are available.”

Uvalde newspaper publishes powerful front page 2 days after school massacre

Yahoo! News

Uvalde newspaper publishes powerful front page 2 days after school massacre

Dylan Stableford, Senior Writer – May 26, 2022

The Uvalde Leader-News, a locally owned newspaper in Uvalde, Texas, published a powerful front page on Thursday, two days after 19 children and two teachers were killed in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.

The cover of the twice-weekly paper was completely black, except for the date of the massacre — May 24, 2022 — a stark reminder of the darkness that has enveloped the community of about 16,000 people in southwest Texas.

The front page of Thursday's Uvalde Leader-News.
The front page of Thursday’s Uvalde Leader-News. (Uvalde Leader-News)

Inside, the first 10 pages of the 12-page paper contain news from what would have been an ordinary week in a small town: graduations, taxes, local elections, weather, sports. Three collegiate rodeo athletes have qualified for the National Rodeo Finals, the paper reported.

There is almost no indication of the carnage that unfolded on Tuesday, except for the announcement of a blood drive at the civic center on Saturday (there is an urgent need for donors, particularly those with type O blood, the paper said) and an advertisement for the Robb School Memorial Fund established by the First State Bank of Uvalde. An ad for the Uvalde Honey Festival, which had been scheduled for June 10 and 11, shows that it has been canceled without explanation.

The final two pages, however, are dedicated to the tragedy.

Crosses with the names of victims of the mass shooting are seen at a memorial outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Thursday.
Crosses with the names of victims of the mass shooting at a memorial outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on Thursday. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Under the headline “City’s Soul Crushed,” the back page of the paper includes photos of children being taken out of the school through windows, and a teacher running to safety after the last of her students were evacuated.

Another shows the suspect’s abandoned pickup truck crashed in a ditch, and a rifle, believed to be the shooter’s, sitting atop a duffel bag on the ground next to the passenger door.

There is also a story about the school district’s graduation ceremonies, which had been scheduled for Friday, being postponed.

“My heart is broken,” Hal Harrell, the district’s superintendent, is quoted as saying. “We are a small community and we are going to need your prayers to get through this.”

Ukrainian ambassador on Texas school shooting: ‘Should not happen in US’

The Hill

Ukrainian ambassador on Texas school shooting: ‘Should not happen in US’

Laura Kelly – May 25, 2022

Ukraine’s Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova on Tuesday expressed solidarity with Americans following the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, saying that such violence “should not happen in the U.S.”

“For us, the pain of losing children, especially of that age, is something we live for the past 90 days nonstop, and our condolences go to the American people,” she said.

“This should not happen anywhere. It should not happen in the U.S. and it should not happen in Ukraine.”

Markarova said that Ukraine’s condolences are with the American people, describing the “horrible tragedy” in Texas, where at least 19 children and two adults were killed in a shooting rampage by an 18-year-old on Tuesday. The age of the victims is not yet released but the elementary school included second, third and fourth grades.

“This cycle of hate and brutal shooting and shooting children and civilians in general, should be stopped.”

Markarova spoke with reporters briefly before addressing the American Jewish Committee’s Diplomatic Seder, where she thanked Washington diplomats, representing dozens of countries, and the American Jewish community for supporting Ukraine in its more than three-month, defensive war against Russia.

Hundreds of Ukrainian children are believed to have been killed amid indiscriminate and alleged targeting of civilian areas by Russian forces during the unprovoked invasion of the nation.

Markarova later tweeted that losing children to gun violence “in a peaceful time is a tragedy beyond understanding. Ukraine knows too well the horror of growing number of lost children.”

CBS News poll: More Americans label GOP extreme, but Democratic Party as weak

CBS News

CBS News poll: More Americans label GOP extreme, but Democratic Party as weak

Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus, and Kabir Khanna – May 22, 2022

With midterm primaries helping set the direction for the Democratic and Republican parties, most Americans, including many of the parties’ own voters, aren’t terribly happy with the parties or what they’re talking about. Given that Sunday’s CBS News poll finds most aren’t happy with the direction of the country either, the major political parties aren’t providing much solace.

For starters, the Democratic Party — which controls Congress and the presidency — is not seen by a majority as either “effective” or “in touch,” which are, no doubt, important measures for a party in power. The Democratic Party is more apt to be described as “weak,” a label applied by a slight majority of Americans, than it is “strong.”

The Republican Party, for its part, is described by a slight majority as “extreme,” a term Americans apply to the GOP more so than to Democrats, though neither really escapes the label. Independents are more likely to call the GOP extreme. The GOP is described as “strong” more often than as “weak,” but it is also described by Americans more often as “hateful” than as “caring” — by double digits.

Primaries tend to find candidates arguing over matters that appeal to their bases, but as different as each side’s campaigns are, there is something voters of each side share: a desire for candidates to focus on inflation. Perhaps that’s no surprise, given how large it looms for most Americans.

Among Democrats, who also want a focus on taxing the wealthy and racial justice, many also want their candidates to focus on protecting abortion rights. In fact, especially among those who care a lot about the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade — almost all say they want the party’s nominees to focus on abortion rights.

Republicans want their nominees to focus on stopping illegal immigration and talk about traditional values. Illegal immigration is especially a priority among self-described conservative Republicans.

A majority of independents also want the Democrats to focus on abortion rights.

And there’s an asymmetry on abortion focus between the parties: even more Democrats want their candidates to focus on supporting abortion rights than Republicans want their candidates to talk about opposing it.

But despite being in power during a time of inflation, Democrats don’t cede that much ground to Republicans on who’s trusted to deal with it. It’s 51% of Americans who trust the GOP, not much more than the 49% who trust the Democrats on inflation. It’s the same nearly even gap on the economy. And that may be because the parties’ candidates aren’t talking about it enough.

Democrats have an advantage being trusted on abortion and coronavirus.

The Trump factor

Within the Republican rank-and-file, there’s a divide over how much they want to hear about loyalty to former President Donald Trump, some of which we’re seeing play out in the primaries right now. A slight majority of Republicans do want their candidates to focus on showing loyalty to Trump, but nearly half don’t. Related to this, four in 10 Republicans want the nominees focused on the 2020 election, but most don’t.

Who is fighting for whom?

We also see such dramatic differences in which people Americans think the parties support — or don’t. The overall picture reminds us of how much Americans see the parties dividing them, not only on policy, but by demographic groups.

Americans overall are more likely to see the Republican Party as fighting for White people than for Black people — by more than two to one. In fact, more say the Republican Party fights against the interests of Black Americans than is neutral toward them. It’s similarly true for views of the Republican Party’s approach to Hispanic people, with more feeling it works against them, rather than for them, and by more than two to one, against LGBTQ people than for them. Americans do think the GOP fights more for people of faith than do Democrats.

Conversely, they see the Democratic Party as fighting for Black and Hispanic Americans more so than for White Americans.

Americans are more likely to believe the GOP fights more against the interests of women than for women, and women overall describe things this way.

Men, meanwhile, are much more likely to think the Democrats fight more for women than for men, but a majority of men think the Republican Party fights for them (and more so than for women).

Echoing some of these perceptions are big differences in how partisans within the parties approach the country’s racial diversity — and each group’s partisans tend to think they’re not being treated fairly.

Big majorities of Democrats think immigrants make America better in the long run; a majority of Republicans say they make America worse.

Republicans are more likely to say White Americans suffer “a lot” of discrimination than they are to say Black Americans do.

Democrats see quite the opposite. And Democrats are more likely to say it’s very important for political leaders to condemn White nationalism.

Republicans tend to see America’s changing diversity as neither good nor bad, but those who take a position tend to say bad. Democrats (whose ranks are made up of more people of color) say it’s a good thing.

This CBS News/YouGov survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,041 U.S. adult residents interviewed between May 18-20, 2022. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the U.S. Census American Community Survey and Current Population Survey, as well as to 2020 presidential vote. The margin of error is ±2.5 points.

‘Solid symbol of United States strength’: USS Nimitz introduced an enduring era

Pensacola News Journal

‘Solid symbol of United States strength’: USS Nimitz introduced an enduring era

Hill Goodspeed – May 22, 2022

The scene in Norfolk, Virginia, on May 4, 1975, awakened memories of earlier ceremonies in the historic place where many Navy ships embarked upon their service on the Seven Seas. Historic aircraft carriers under the overall command of an admiral whose namesake ship entered service that day. Amidst pageantry that included a 21-gun salute, colorful flags fluttering in the breeze and martial music, President Gerald R. Ford marked the commissioning of the USS Nimitz (CVN 68), the world’s second nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

President Gerald R. Ford and other dignitaries are pictured during the commissioning ceremony for USS Nimitz on May 3, 1975.
President Gerald R. Ford and other dignitaries are pictured during the commissioning ceremony for USS Nimitz on May 3, 1975.

“I see this great ship as a double symbol of today’s challenging times. She is first of all a symbol of the United States, of our immense resources in materials and skilled manpower, of our inexhaustible energy, of the inventive and productive genius of our free, competitive economic system, and of our massive but controlled military strength,” said the president, who during World War II sailed as a crewman on board an aircraft carrier in Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz’s Pacific Fleet. “Wherever the United States Ship Nimitz shows her flag, she will be seen as we see her now, a solid symbol of United States strength, United States resolve — made in America and manned by Americans. She is a movable part and parcel of our country, a self-contained city at sea plying the international waters of the world in defense of our national interests. Whether her mission is one of defense, diplomacy or humanity, the Nimitz will command awe and admiration from some, caution and circumspection from others, and respect from all.”

President Ford’s words were prophetic and still ring true today for not only Nimitz, but also the nine Nimitz-class carriers that have followed her down the ways, the last being USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), which was commissioned in 2009. Though the Gerald R. Ford-class carriers, the lead ship of which was commissioned in 2017, represent the Navy’s newest flattops, the ships of the Nimitz class will remain a vital component of the Navy’s arsenal.

With the final decommissioning of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) on Feb. 3, 2017, Nimitz became the oldest active aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy. In today’s digital world, it is humorous to read a newspaper account from 1975 lauding the technology on board the ship, where her first commanding officer, Capt. Bryan Compton, could address the crew on color television, which also boasted three channels for viewing by off-duty sailors and Marines. That she now operates with sophisticated 21st century technology speaks to the soundness of the Nimitz-class design, the lead ship having adapted to the times in her 47th year of service.

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The USS Nimitz operates in company with the battleship USS Missouri in 1987.
The USS Nimitz operates in company with the battleship USS Missouri in 1987.

After a brief shakedown cruise in the Caribbean and North Atlantic following her commissioning, Nimitz deployed to the Mediterranean in July 1976 with the guided-missile cruisers USS South Carolina (CGN 37) and USS California (CGN 36), marking the first time in a decade that nuclear-powered ships deployed to the Mediterranean. In 1979, the carrier played a starring role on the silver screen, the ship’s spaces transformed into a Hollywood set for the filming of “The Final Countdown” starring Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen. The plot involved Nimitz and her crew going back in time to the eve of the Pearl Harbor attack and the decision on whether to alter the course of history. The film provided a number of crewmen the opportunity to speak lines and featured aerial sequences showing VF-84 Jolly Rogers F-14 Tomcats with their colorful skull and crossbones tail markings.

It did not take long for the nation’s newest flattop to also assume a leading role on the real world stage. In 1980, while underway in the Indian Ocean during a deployment marked by 144 consecutive days at sea, RH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters launched from the ship to take part in Operation Evening Light (also known as Operation Eagle Claw). The attempted rescue of 52 American hostages held in Tehran ended in tragedy at a landing site in the Iranian desert. The following year, while Nimitz conducted exercises in the Gulf of Sidra near Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s “Line of Death,” two of her embarked F-14 Tomcats of the VF-41 Black Aces shot down a pair of Libyan Su-22 Fitters after the enemy aircraft fired upon them.

RH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters are pictured on the flight deck of the USS Nimitz prior to the attempted rescue of the Iran hostages.
RH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters are pictured on the flight deck of the USS Nimitz prior to the attempted rescue of the Iran hostages.

Shifting to her new homeport of Naval Station Bremerton, Washington, in 1987, Nimitz spent the ensuing years participating in Operations Earnest Will, protecting the shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf and flying combat air patrols as part of Operation Southern Watch. In the Far East, she provided U.S. Navy presence off Taiwan during a volatile standoff between that nation and China in 1995. In 1997 to 1998, she completed an around-the-world cruise, concluding it at Norfolk, the place of her birth, where she entered the yard for refueling and overhaul.

She emerged in June 2001, and just weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks put to sea and set course for her new homeport at NAS North Island. California. In March 2003, she deployed for the first time to the Fifth Fleet Area of Responsibility and launched air strikes in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The cruise marked the first deployments of both the F/A-18F Super Hornet and E-2C Hawkeye 2000, with Nimitz also becoming the first aircraft carrier to deploy with an air wing containing two Super Hornet squadrons.

In 2005, the carrier commemorated 30 years of service, film crews spending the entire deployment on board for the PBS documentary “Carrier,” which provided an intimate look at life aboard the ship. Amidst deployments supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Nimitz shifted her homeport to Everett, Washington, and helped evaluate the future of carrier aviation as the platform for the first carrier landings of the F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. The carrier’s 2017 deployment included combat operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, followed by a period in overhaul.

An F/A-18C Hornet from the VMFA-323 "Death Rattlers" makes an arrested landing on the flight deck of the USS Nimitz in 2021.
An F/A-18C Hornet from the VMFA-323 “Death Rattlers” makes an arrested landing on the flight deck of the USS Nimitz in 2021.

A testament to the ship’s longevity occurred during her most recent deployment in the shadow of COVID-19, an 11-month cruise in which the carrier and embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 conducted over 35,345 flight hours and 14,141 traps. Among the latter was a landing by an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323 Death Rattlers. It marked the final time that the venerable aircraft, which equipped the famed Blue Angels from 1986 through 2020, deployed on board an aircraft carrier. When Nimitz entered service in 1975, the Hornet had yet to make its first flight.

In a message to the personnel of the U.S. Pacific Fleet on Sept. 2, 1945, Fleet Admiral Nimitz wrote about what they owed to those who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II.

“To them we have a solemn obligation … to insure that their sacrifice will help to make this a better and safer world in which to live,” he stated. “It will also be necessary to maintain our national strength at a level which will discourage future acts of aggression aimed at the destruction of our way of life.”

The number of times Nimitz will leave the shores of the United States are numbered, her decommissioning slated for 2025, a half century after President Ford so eloquently captured in words what she represented. In that time, she has more that met the obligations her namesake outlined in 1945, and the class of carriers that followed her will carry that torch for many decades to come.

Hill Goodspeed is the historian for the National Naval Aviation Museum and a columnist for the News Journal. 

White House says 20 internet companies will provide effectively free internet to millions of Americans

Yahoo! Finance

White House says 20 internet companies will provide effectively free internet to millions of Americans

Ben Werschkul, Senior Producer and Writer – May 9, 2022

The Biden administration announced Monday that 20 leading internet service providers have agreed to offer basic low cost plans that will be free for millions of Americans after a refund.

The 20 companies, including AT&T (T), Comcast (CMCSA), and Verizon (VZ), cover more than 80% of the U.S. population. They will immediately provide at least one plan that costs no more than $30 a month and provides download speeds of at least 100 mbps.

The White House says that 40% of the U.S. population, about 48 million households, will be eligible to sign up through an existing program called the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The program is aimed at lower income Americans and offers participants a discount of up to $30/month on their internet bill, meaning they’ll effectively get free service if they can get online with one of these participating companies.

AT&T CEO John Stankey said his company’s new plan “when combined with federal ACP benefits, provides up to 100 Mbps of free internet service.”

“Internet for all requires the partnership of business and government, and we are pleased to be working with the Administration, Congress and FCC to ensure everyone has accessible, affordable and sustainable broadband service,” he said.

‘High speed internet at home is no longer a luxury’

Monday’s news come largely thanks to $65 billion set aside for high speed internet in the Bipartisan Infrastructure law. That money has helped fund the ACP and is also being directed towards parallel efforts to increase coverage areas and speeds.

“High speed internet at home is no longer a luxury: it’s a necessity for children to learn, workers to do their job, seniors and others to access health care through telemedicine, and for all of us to stay connected in this digital world,” a senior administration official told reporters in previewing the announcement.

‘A historic opportunity’

Families are eligible for the ACP mostly based on income level. Any household making less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level — $55,500 for a family of four in the continental U.S. — is eligible. Households can also qualify if they participate in certain government programs like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.

“The Affordable Connectivity Program is a historic opportunity to close the digital divide by empowering more Americans to get online and connect to our increasingly digital world, “ said David N. Watson, the CEO and president of Comcast.

The full list of participating companies includes Allo Communications, AltaFiber, Altice USA, Astound, AT&T, Breezeline, Comcast, Comporium, Frontier, IdeaTek, Cox Communications, Jackson Energy Authority, MediaCom, MLGC, Spectrum, Verizon, Vermont Telephone Company, Vexus Fiber, and Wow! Internet, Cable, and TV.

Verizon, as an example, will now offer its existing Fios service for $30/month to program participants. Other companies, like Spectrum, say they will increase the speeds of an existing $30/month plan to reach the 100 mbps standard set by the White House, where their infrastructure allows it.

Pushing more companies to ‘make the same commitments’

Notably missing from Monday’s announcement are many smaller and rural internet service providers that would have a challenge meeting the White House’s pricing or speed requirements.

“I think that there are roughly 1,300 participating internet providers in the ACP right now and we would obviously love for each and every one of them to make the same commitments that these 20 companies are doing,” said a senior administration official.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 14: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks on the Biden administration’s Affordable Connectivity Program at the South Court Auditorium at Eisenhower Executive Office Building on February 14, 2022 in Washington, DC. During the event Harris announced that 10 million households had enrolled in the program which helps families access high-speed, affordable internet. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Vice President Kamala Harris discusses the Affordable Connectivity Program in February. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

These companies cover 50% of the rural population. Those Americans are still eligible to sign up for the ACP, but they may continue to face slower speed or plans that aren’t fully covered by the $30 refund.

So far, 11.5 million households have signed up to receive ACP benefits. The program was first created as a relief measure in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, and Biden officials have moved to make it a permanent as a way to lessen the digital divide.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will speak at the White House Monday alongside internet company CEOs as the first part of a multi-pronged effort to drive signups. That effort includes a new website, GetInternet.gov, and direct outreach from federal agencies like the Social Security Administration as well as states.

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

China hits out at Japanese PM’s five-nation tour of ‘confrontation’

South China Morning Post

China hits out at Japanese PM’s five-nation tour of ‘confrontation’

May 6, 2022

Beijing has accused Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of “provoking confrontation” between China and major powers after Tokyo and London signed a landmark pact to “rapidly accelerate” defence and security ties.

On the final leg of his five-nation Asian and European tour, Kishida signed a reciprocal access agreement with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday and – in a veiled swipe at China – vowed to help realise a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused Kishida of fanning anti-China sentiment on his trip to Britain, Italy, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, saying the visits were an attempt to expand Japan’s military power – something prohibited under its pacifist constitution.

“The Japanese side frequently uses diplomatic activities to … talk about China, play up regional tensions, and hype the so-called China threat. What Japan is doing is [trying to] find an excuse for its own expansion of military power, and to undermine the trust and cooperation of countries in the region.”

Beijing was particularly incensed by Kishida’s comments on Taiwan.

In a press conference with Johnson after their meeting, the Japanese leader said: “Peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is critical not only for Japan’s security but also for the stability of international society.”

He vowed that Japan and its allies would “never tolerate a unilateral attempt to change the status quo by the use of force in the Indo-Pacific, especially in East Asia”.

“Ukraine may be East Asia tomorrow,” Kishida warned, likening Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a runaway province, to Ukraine, which Russia invaded on February 24.

Zhao said China firmly opposed Kishida’s assessment.

“The Taiwan issue is entirely China’s internal affair and cannot be compared with the Ukraine issue,” he said.

“Japan bears historical guilt towards the Chinese people on the Taiwan issue, and should be more cautious in its words and deeds, and has absolutely no right to make irresponsible remarks.

“If Japan really wants peace and stability in East Asia, it should immediately stop provoking confrontation between major powers and do more things that are conducive to enhancing mutual trust among regional countries and promoting regional peace and stability.”

Beijing was initially hopeful that Kishida, who took office in October, would be more dovish on China than his conservative predecessors Yoshihide Suga and Shinzo Abe.

Instead, there are growing signs that China’s already strained relations with Japan will dip further, with the Kishida administration edging closer to Washington and actively forging an anti-China alliance in the region, according to observers.

“It has become clear that our expectations were misplaced. Japan is not just following the US in countering China, it is actually trying to exploit the differences between Beijing and Washington to boost its own geopolitical influence and seek military build-up,” said Liu Jiangyong, an expert on regional affairs at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Along with an agreement to share ammunition and supplies, the broad pact on defence cooperation between Japan and Britain will enable faster troop deployment and foster joint training and disaster relief efforts.

Japan recently signed a similar pact with Australia.

Benoit Hardy-Chartrand, an international affairs expert at Temple University in Tokyo, said the deal was important because it showed that Japan was serious about strengthening defence partnerships with other allies and partners, including outside the Indo-Pacific region.

“It also underscores the UK’s stated desire to play a greater role in Asia, a desire that has also been expressed by an increasing number of European countries,” he said.

“Despite the fact that global attention has been rightly focused on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this deal also shows that in the long term, most Western partners intend on allocating more resources to the Indo-Pacific, with Japan being a key partner.”

Zhou Chenming, a Beijing-based military analyst, said the Japanese-British deal was worrying because it reflected both London’s further tilt toward the Indo-Pacific and Tokyo’s geopolitical ambitions.

“There is little detail available about the new agreement, but it will surely have a negative impact on the regional situation,” Zhou said.

“On top of its obsession with the situation in Hong Kong, a hot-button issue in China’s rivalry with the West, Britain’s attempts to get more involved in the sensitive geopolitics in the Asia-Pacific may fuel tensions and lead to crises.”

Zhou noted the signing of the London-Tokyo pact also coincided with efforts by Aukus, a trilateral security grouping formed last year by the US, Britain and Australia, to enlist Japan in their military manoeuvring in the region.

Following a Japan trip next week by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, US President Joe Biden will also visit Tokyo later this month, with China and the Ukraine war high on the agenda.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also visited Japan last week in his first official trip to East Asia, skipping Berlin’s top trading partner China.

My Great-Grandpa Killed My Great-Grandma Giving Her An Abortion On Their Kitchen Table

HuffPost – Personal

My Great-Grandpa Killed My Great-Grandma Giving Her An Abortion On Their Kitchen Table

“Come say goodbye to your mother,” he told my grandmother as he brought her and her siblings into the kitchen, where their mother lay dying.

By Linda Black – May 6, 2022

"The room, table, and her mother’s lower half were awash with her blood. This is the only memory my grandmother had of her mother."
“The room, table, and her mother’s lower half were awash with her blood. This is the only memory my grandmother had of her mother.”

In 1919, my 7-year-old grandmother was startled awake in the early hours by her father. “Come say goodbye to your mother,” he told her. He brought her and her siblings into the kitchen, where their mother lay dying on the kitchen table. The room, table, and her mother’s lower half were awash with her blood. This is the only memory my grandmother had of her mother. Any positive memories were shocked from her system in that moment.

My grandmother’s father killed her mother performing an illegal abortion. He was never charged with a crime. After the death of his wife, he kept his younger daughter and his young boys with him. He sent my grandmother to work as a farmhand for a relative. To him, the abortion was a necessary risk. They already had too many kids.

In 1919, it was illegal in many states to provide information about birth control or abortion. My great-grandmother had no choice when it came to having sex with her husband; it was considered marital duty. That gave her no say in being pregnant. Her lack of choice killed her.

By her own account, my grandmother never felt loved after the death of her mother. The relatives who raised her treated her like the help. My grandmother married the first man to take an interest in her (my grandfather was a lovely man). She was 16. He was older and living with his parents. Until the death of her husband’s mother, my grandmother was treated as a servant in his house.

Her siblings fared little better. The younger brothers were regularly beaten by their father, and my great-aunt (the younger sister) was molested by their father. My great-aunt eventually married a man like her father. He abused her from the time of their marriage until the day of her death. The brothers disappeared. For decades my grandmother had no idea what had happened to her brothers. She didn’t find them until they were in their 60s.

My great-grandmother has a host of great-granddaughters and great-great-granddaughters. At least two of us have had legal abortions. I was barely 18, just starting college. The abortion was not harrowing; being pregnant was. I could not wait to be relieved of that burden. On the drive home after, I kept sighing with relief and saying, “Thank God that’s over.” Since that day, I have used two forms of birth control without fail (yes, even during marriage).

My adult child has never had sex without contraceptives. Currently, my child is wild with fear after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion indicating a plan to overturn Roe. Their health and life is too complicated to successfully manage a pregnancy or a child. This gentle soul is in a state of panic on behalf of all fertile people with uteruses. In speaking with my offspring, I had to promise that if Roe is overturned, I would form a pipeline to help people make their way to a country where abortion is legal. My kid can’t sleep for worrying about those who will fall through the cracks — those who will die due to unsafe abortions. My child knows the story of my great-grandmother.

I have never rested easy knowing a group of elderly and middle-aged men could make decisions stripping me of my rights. At the state and federal level, governmental representatives are mostly white, mostly male, and most have some financial privilege. They are mostly people who will never need an abortion. Some number of these men, when it was prudent to their futures, have paid women to get abortions on the quiet. They have paid for their daughters’ abortions. Men with power have been doing this in the United States almost since its inception. Still, they work to see Roe overturned.

“In speaking with my offspring, I had to promise that if Roe is overturned, I would form a pipeline to help people make their way to a country where abortion is legal. My kid can’t sleep for worrying about those who will fall through the cracks — those who will die due to unsafe abortions. My child knows the story of my great-grandmother.”

It is abundantly clear that the anti-abortion folks do not care about babies or people with uteruses. If they did, people with uteruses would have access to excellent health care and birth control. Our government would ensure that every member of every family was well fed and healthy. Children in foster care would be given well-vetted places to live. The system would provide the help parents need to appropriately support and love their children, thus returning kids safely to their parents when possible. Foster parents would be given enough money to raise these children. Foster kids would be aided into adulthood with significant job training or college. It would be less expensive to adopt foster children into loving homes. Childcare would be available as a matter of course. All people with uteruses would have access to paid maternity leave. Sick leave would not be limited in any job.

The top-level corporate executives (usually male) would not make 1,000 times more money than their employees. (In 2018, Walmart’s chief executive officer made over $23 million; his average full-time employee, often a woman, earned just under $22,000.) The lives of people with uteruses and children pale when compared to this alternate reality.

In the early 20th century, women and children were legally the property of men. So, we might understand why they had so few rights. What confuses me is this: Why do women and people with uteruses have little support and tenuous control over their own bodies today?

Turning back time will not give anti-abortion folks comfort. It will ruin lives, families, and result in shocking deaths of women and those with uteruses. In 2022, no one should die on a table covered in their own blood from a botched illegal abortion like my great-grandmother did.

As a teen, Linda Black was the fourth runner-up in a Miss Teen-Kentucky beauty pageant. Her first job was at Wendy’s. As an adult, Linda earned a B.A. and a Ph.D., working for over 30 years as a college professor. She now works in the administrative side of higher education. Her current favorite film is “Gaslight.” Her current favorite book is “Skeleton Woman Buys the Ticket.” She is bossed around by an adult child, a delightful dog, and a slightly sinister cat.

MORE FROM HUFFPOST PERSONAL…

My 11-Year-Old Patient Was Pregnant. Here’s What I Want You To Know About Being ‘Pro-Life. ‘I’m An Abortion Nurse. These Stories Might Shock You, But They’re All Too Real. I Wish I’d Had A ‘Late-Term Abortion’ Instead Of Having My Daughter

Mexico to reroute trade railway connection from Texas to New Mexico due to Abbot’s $4 billion stunt.

Daily Kos

Mexico to reroute trade railway connection from Texas to New Mexico due to Abbot’s $4 billion stunt.

Gabe Ortiz, Daily Kos Staff – May 03, 2022 

PHARR, TX - APRIL 13: A Texas Department of Public Safety trooper inspects a commercial truck near the Pharr-Reynosa International bridge on April 13, 2022 in Pharr, Texas. The bridge reopened to commercial traffic after 5 p.m. after being closed since Monday because of Mexican truckers on strike. (Photo by Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images)
“A Texas Department of Public Safety trooper inspects a commercial truck near the Pharr-Reynosa International bridge on April 13, 2022 in Pharr, Texas.”

Mexico has been planning a trade railway that spans thousands of miles from Mazatlán to Winnipeg, with a connection in Texas. But while the T-MEC Corridor railway connecting the two nations is still happening, the stop in Texas is not.

Mexican officials have now decided to instead reroute the line through New Mexico, The Dallas Morning News reports. It’s a major loss for Texas, because border states thrive and depend on international trade. But the state has only one person to blame for this change: Greg Abbott.

RELATED STORY: Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star border stunt balloons by another $500 million

Mexican Economy Minister Tatiana Clouthier said Abbott’s political stunt forcing commercial vehicles to undergo redundant inspections caused officials to rethink the Texas connection, all but calling the right-wing governor too volatile to deal with. Abbott shut down his $4 billion stunt just ten days after announcing it, following intense bipartisan opposition ranging from fellow state Republicans to the White House.

“We’re now not going to use Texas,” Clouthier said in the report. “We can’t leave all the eggs in one basket and be hostages to someone who wants to use trade as a political tool.”

But despite Texas’ own data showing that the governor’s redundant inspections turned up precisely zero migrants or drugs, he’s threatened to reinstate the policy. Not because of some new perceived threat—but because he didn’t like critical remarks by Mexico’s president. That threat probably didn’t help Abbott’s case when it came to the rail line—but why should Mexican officials further deal with a hostile actor when there are far friendlier neighbors?

“Jerry Pacheco, president of the Santa Teresa-based Border Industrial Association, called Clouthier’s announcement ‘a very positive step for New Mexico,’ but cautioned that such a project will take years to complete and ‘anything can happen in that time,’” The Dallas Morning News said. Pacheco told the outlet that they hope this fosters a continued relationship even if there’s a snag with the line.

“If this particular project doesn’t work out, there’ll be other projects that the Mexican government will have and they’ll speak favorably of New Mexico because they know we want to work with them in a constructive way,” Pacheco continued. He noted that Abbott’s stunt forcing massive commercial delays led to higher traffic numbers for his state.

Economists in Texas have said Texas’ now-rescinded policy “will cost the equivalent of 77,000 job years for the country and 36,300 for Texas’ economy,” The Dallas Morning News recently reported. Nationally, Abbott caused us roughly $9 billion in lost gross domestic product. But he’s also going to have to grapple with the interpersonal damage he created with his neighbor to the south (that is, if he even cares). The Dallas Morning News in its newer report said that Mexican Foreign Minster Marcelo Ebrard called Abbott’s policy extortion.

“I close the border and you have to sign whatever I say,” he said is what Abbott was forcing on them. “That’s not a deal; a deal is when you and I are in agreement on something.”

RELATED STORIES:  Angry over Mexico’s remarks, Abbott threatens to reinstate stunt that cost state $4 billion

‘Everything is halted’: Shanghai shutdowns are worsening shortages

The Washington Post

‘Everything is halted’: Shanghai shutdowns are worsening shortages

Abha Bhattarai – April 26, 2022

Containers are seen at the Yangshan Deep-Water Port in Shanghai, China

Thousands of air fryers are stuck in factories, warehouses and ports in central China, where shutdowns have stalled millions of dollars worth of inventory for Yedi Houseware, a family-run business in Los Angeles.

How quickly those backlogged appliances make it to the United States could have wide-ranging implications across the U.S. economy, as domestic manufacturers and retailers brace for another round of disruptions from recent covid-related shutdowns in Shanghai, China’s largest city. White House officials are paying close attention to the disruptions to monitor the potential impact on the U.S. economy.

“Things are getting crazy again,” said Bobby Djavaheri, the company’s president. “Everything is halted. There are closures this very minute that are adding to the supply chain nightmare we’ve been experiencing for two years.”

Other executives are dealing with similar scrambles as the situation in China appears to change every day, sweeping up many different sectors.

Widespread covid outbreaks in China have bought entire cities to a standstill and hobbled manufacturing and shipping hubs throughout the country. An estimated 373 million people – or about one-quarter of China’s population – have been in covid-related lockdowns in recent weeks because of what is known as the country’s zero covid policy, according to economists at Nomura Holdings. There are also fears that new lockdowns could soon take hold in the capital city, Beijing, escalating the threat to the global economic recovery.

Anxiety over new disruptions has already caused the Chinese stock market to fall sharply, weighing on U.S. stock indexes as well.

And there are signs things could only get worse. Continuing lockdowns in Shanghai – a major hub for America’s semiconductor and electronics supply chains – has set up automakers, electronics companies and consumer goods firms for months of delays and higher costs.

The challenges come on top of more than two years of global shipping disruptions that some had hoped would ease this year.

Tech giants and major automakers rely heavily on Shanghai-based suppliers and ports. Roughly one-half of Apple’s top suppliers, for example, are based in or near the city, according to an analysis by Nikkei Asia. (Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.) Meanwhile, Volkswagen’s chief executive said this month that the automaker is “temporarily unable to meet high customer demand” because of ongoing lockdowns. The company, which had to stop production at certain facilities for more than a month for covid-related reasons, says it is gradually resuming production now.

“If Shanghai continues being unable to resume work and production, from May, all tech and industrial players involving the Shanghai supply chain will completely shut down, especially the auto industry!” Richard Yu, head of consumer and auto business at Chinese tech giant Huawei, was reported to have said on the social media platform WeChat.

The delays and closures are adding to costs and could pose another threat to long-term inflation, which is already at a 40-year high. Yedi Housewares, for example, raised prices on all of its products, including air fryers, electric pressure cookers and bread makers, by 10 percent in January.

Costs have continued to climb since then, in part because of the war in Ukraine. The price of plastic, a major component in air fryers, is up about 5 percent this year, Djavaheri said. The company is also paying more for transportation, since it’s begun moving goods by truck from Shanghai to ports in Ningbo, three hours away, in hopes of putting them on a ship there.

White House officials are closely monitoring the situation in Shanghai, with the State Department providing frequent updates on the potential impacts. New economic data from March shows Chinese exports of good rose by 15 percent relative to last year, but this data does not reflect the impact of the Shanghai lockdown that began at the end of last month, according to a White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide internal administration assessments.

The administration is already seeing “significant impacts” to airports critical to air cargo shipments and links in the supply chain such as factories and warehouses, the person said. Despite the closure of the port, White House officials are seeing alternate ports ratcheting up their work, relieving some of the expected pressure for consumers.

Mark Beneke, who co-owns a used car dealership in Fresno, Calif., says it’s become increasing difficult to secure parts for Asian-made vehicles like Hyundai Sonatas and Kia Optimas since the Shanghai lockdown began a month ago.

Used car prices are already up 35 percent from a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Beneke says he expects them to climb even higher in coming weeks as a result of new shortages and delays.

“We were expecting prices to start coming down this summer, but it looks like they’re going to keep going up,” he said.

In some cases, though, retailers are better positioned to weather the latest challenges than they were a year ago. Many have stashed away extra inventory in U.S. warehouses and stores to guard against supply chain delays. Roughly 90 percent of goods at grocery and drugstores are in stock, according to data analytics firm Information Resources. And the number of import containers sitting on the docks for more than nine days at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has been cut by one-half since October.

At the same time, consumer demand for many goods – including clothing, toys and furniture – appears to be waning as people spend more on travel, dining out and other experiences that they largely avoided earlier in the pandemic.

“The demand just isn’t there anymore,” said Isaac Larian, chief executive of MGA Entertainment, the toy giant behind popular brands like Little Tikes and L.O.L. Surprise. “Sales are slowing down. Families are saying, ‘I’ll take my kids to Disney this summer instead of buying more toys.”

The shipping time for toys from China to U.S. stores has ballooned from 21 days to 159 days during the pandemic, he said.

“All holiday toys have to ship out of China by the beginning of August, but that is not going to happen,” Larian said. “The factories are having a tough time getting labor, prices are going up, China keeps closing provinces. The big picture is bad, worse than last year.”

Back in Los Angeles, Djavaheri of Yedi Houseware, says he’s just beginning to recover from closures in southern China earlier this year, where his company makes electric pressure cookers. The brand – which has been featured in Oprah’s Favorite Things list for three years in a row – is still struggling to make enough products to meet demand.

“To be honest, I don’t even want to be in China but it’s the only option,” Djavaheri said. “If there was a way to make air fryers or electric pressure cookers in America, I would’ve been there yesterday. Instead we’re dealing with hurdle after hurdle: Inflation, logistics, it’s a constant nightmare.”

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