Forget deploying economic sanctions or other diplomatic measures to address the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to the oil and gas lobbying group the American Petroleum Institute, what the country needs to be focused on right now, in the middle of this humanitarian crisis, is securing “energy security at home and abroad” — by expanding oil and gas production at home. But even as the lobbying group was calling for more domestic drilling to prepare for dwindling foreign fossil fuel assets, it was also calling on the U.S. government not to place sanctions on Russian oil and gas production. In other words, according to fossil fuel companies, the best way to deal with this catastrophe is to drill, baby, drill… everywhere.
Find out how they did that and much more in today’s Midday Poster below.
“These days, there are angry ghosts all around us, dead from wars, sickness, starvation. And nobody cares. So you say you're under a curse? So what? So's the whole damn world.” — Jigo to Ashitaka in Hayao Miyazaki’s 1997 film Princess Mononoke.
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The fossil fuel industry isn’t letting the Russian invasion of Ukraine go to waste. As the world watches the crisis unfold, fossil fuel interests are more than willing to contradict themselves to justify more oil and gas production everywhere.
Last night, just before Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the invasion, the American Petroleum Institute (API), a lobbying group for oil and gas companies, tweeted, “As crisis looms in Ukraine, U.S. energy leadership is more important than ever. Here are four things the @WhiteHouse can do right now to ensure energy security at home and abroad.” The group’s suggestions for “energy security” included allowing drilling on federal lands and “reducing legal & regulatory uncertainty,” among other proposals aimed at expanding oil and gas production.
But even as the API warned that the invasion could cut off access to Russian fossil fuel assets, it was also fighting against sanctions on Russian oil and gas, some of which is produced by American fossil fuel companies. In other words, the group is saying both that domestic oil and gas production must increase due to the invasion, and calling on the U.S. government not to slow down Russian oil and gas production.
Reuters reported last month: “Energy companies have also reached out directly to U.S. lawmakers to press for a ‘cool down’ or ‘wind down’ period so their assets are not seized if they are unable to fulfill business agreements in Russia.” API had also met with lawmakers to discuss sanctions.
Their lobbying seems to have been successful. The next round of U.S. sanctions on Russia will not target the energy sector, where the U.S. and European nations are still spending about $1 billion a day buying Russian fossil fuels.
Will a convicted bank get another get-out-of-jail free card that gives it access to billions of dollars of American retirees’ savings? That question will be answered early next month.
At issue is banking behemoth Credit Suisse asking the Biden administration to again waive sanctions related to its 2014 conviction for operating what the Department of Labor described as “an illegal cross-border banking business that knowingly and willfully aided and assisted thousands of U.S. clients in opening and maintaining undeclared accounts.”
The 2014 charges suggested Credit Suisse was helping U.S. citizens dodge taxes abroad, and should have triggered Labor Department sanctions to prevent the bank from managing retirement funds. Instead, the following year the Obama administration issued a five-year exemption for the bank to keep the classification that allowed them to do just that — perhaps not a coincidence, given that Credit Suisse employees had donated more than $380,000 in campaign cash to President Barack Obama.
Earlier this month, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) sent a letter to the U.S. Labor Department calling on the agency to reject the latest proposed exemption that would allow Credit Suisse to continue managing client retirement funds.
“We urge you to reconsider and rescind this proposal, which would undermine efforts to hold Credit Suisse accountable for its illegal behavior," wrote the senators.
The Senators’ demands got an extra boost this week when The Guardian broke a bombshell story revealing a colorful array of new scandals in which Credit Suisse clients are currently embroiled. The piece — based on an anonymous whistleblower’s leak that contains details of accounts tied to 30,000 Credit Suisse clients worldwide — spotlights “the hidden wealth of clients involved in torture, drug trafficking, money laundering, corruption, and other serious crimes.”
It remains to be seen whether the Biden administration will take lawmakers’ warnings about Credit Suisse seriously this time, or if it will follow in Obama’s footsteps and continue to keep accountability for such corporate crimes far out of reach.
A new HealthAffairs article comparing 394 counties across the U.S. shows that government mask mandates were associated with significantly reduced COVID-19 cases.
The observational study, which took place between March and October of 2020, found that on average, the daily case incidence in masked counties compared with unmasked counties declined by 33 percent six weeks after the mandates took effect.
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- STARBUCKS MISSES DEADLINE TO SLOW UNION ELECTIONS: Coffee behemoth Starbucks faced a setback last week in its attempt to stall its workers’ unionizing efforts. The company has been working tirelessly to delay union elections by requesting that all stores in a region be covered by a single union vote — but it was eight minutes late in sending key paperwork to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the nascent Starbucks Workers United union. “Just before noon, counsel attempted to send the complete service email a second time but was again prevented from doing so when Outlook crashed again,” a Starbucks lawyer wrote in a filing to the labor board. The NLRB ultimately sided with the union in its decision to prevent Starbucks from making its case for nixing individual store elections, a decision the company can appeal.
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- AFGHANS STARVE AS WASHINGTON INSIDERS LINE THEIR POCKETS: As millions of Afghans face severe famine in the wake of President Joe Biden’s callous decision to seize $7 billion in Afghanistan’s central bank currency reserves, lawyers and lobbyists connected to the Biden administration could end up raking in a good chunk of the confiscated cash. Recently, Biden pledged to direct $3.5 billion of the looted reserves to families of 9/11 victims. As a result, Washington law firms like Jenner & Block LLP — whose attorney Lee Wolosky worked at the White House on Afghanistan issues until last month — as well as Kreindler & Kreindler are lining up to score shares of the funds. According to The Intercept, “under even a conservative 15 percent fee structure, the Afghan funds would create a windfall of $525 million in legal fees.”
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