Category Archives: US News

US news, from Albany Tribune

An F/A-18E Super Hornet, attached to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31, and an F/A-18F Super Hornet, attached to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213, prepare to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) to conduct strike missions against ISIL targets. George H.W. Bush is supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert Burck/Releasedl)

Airstrikes Continue To Target ISIL In Syria, Iraq

U.S. military forces continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria yesterday and today using bomber and fighter aircraft to conduct 10 airstrikes, U.S. Central Command officials reported Wednesday.

Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted seven airstrikes in Iraq yesterday and today using attack, fighter and remotely-piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists, officials said.

According to U.S. Central Command officials, In Syria, 10 airstrikes near Kobani struck an ISIL fighting position, a large ISIL unit, two tactical ISIL units, and destroyed four ISIL staging areas and six ISIL fighting positions.

Officials said that In Iraq, two airstrikes near Mosul destroyed an ISIL bulldozer, two ISIL vehicles, three ISIL-occupied buildings and an ISIL fighting position, and also struck a large ISIL unit. Near Kirkuk, two airstrikes destroyed an ISIL tank, an ISIL Humvee and another ISIL vehicle, and also struck two ISIL units. North of Sinjar, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL Humvee and an ISIL vehicle. Northwest of Ramadi, an airstrike damaged an ISIL checkpoint.

And, west of Bayji, an airstrike destroyed one ISIL vehicle and damaged another.

All aircraft returned to base safely, according to U.S. Central Command officials, adding that airstrike assessments are based on initial reports.

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the terrorist group ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group’s ability to project power and conduct operations. U.S. Central Command officials said.

Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the U.S., Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the U.S., Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Fine-grained silica sand is mixed with chemicals and water before being pumped into rock formations to prevent the newly created artificial fractures from closing after hydraulic fracturing is completed. Photographer: Bill Cunningham, USGS

Follow The Sand To The Real Fracking Boom – Analysis

By James Stafford

When it takes up to four million pounds of sand to frack a single well, it’s no wonder that demand is outpacing supply and frack sand producers are becoming the biggest behind-the-scenes beneficiaries of the American oil and gas boom.

Demand is exploding for “frac sand”–a durable, high-purity quartz sand used to help produce petroleum fluids and prop up man-made fractures in shale rock formations through which oil and gas flows—turning this segment into the top driver of value in the shale revolution.

“One of the major players in Eagle Ford is saying they’re short 6 million tons of 100 mesh alone in 2014 and they don’t know where to get it. And that’s just one player,” Rasool Mohammad, President and CEO of Select Sands Corporation told

Frack sand exponentially increases the return on investment for a well, and oil and gas companies are expected to use some 95 billion pounds of frack sand this year, up nearly 30% from 2013 and up 50% from forecasts made just last year.

Pushing demand up is the trend for wider, shorter fracs, which require twice as much sand. The practice of downspacing—or decreasing the space between wells—means a dramatic increase in the amount of frac sand used. The industry has gone from drilling four wells per square mile to up to 16 using shorter, wider fracs. In the process, they have found that the more tightly spaced wells do not reduce production from surrounding wells.

This all puts frac sand in the drivers’ seat of the next phase of the American oil boom, and it’s a commodity that has already seen its price increase up to 20% over the past year alone.

Frac sand is poised for even more significant gains over the immediate term, with long-term contracts locking in a lucrative future as exploration and production companies experiment with using even more sand per well.

Pioneer Natural Resources Inc. says the output of wells is up to 30% higher when they are blasted with more sand.

Citing RBC Capital Markets, The Wall Street Journal noted that approximately one-fifth of onshore wells are now being fracked with extra sand, while the trend could spread to 80% of all shale wells.

Oilfield services giants such as Halliburton Co. and Baker Hughes Inc. are stockpiling sand now, hoping to shield themselves from rising costs of the high-demand product, according to a recent Reuters report. They’re also buying more sand under contract—a trend that will lead to more long-term contracts and a longer-term boost for frac sand producers.

In this environment, the new game is about quality and location.

Frac sand extraction could spread to a dozen US states that have largely untapped sand deposits, but the biggest winners will be the biggest deposits that are positioned closest to major shale plays such as Eagle Ford, the Permian Basin, Barnett, Haynesville and the Tuscaloosa marine shale play.

The state of Wisconsin has been a major frac sand venue, with over 100 sand mines, loading and processing facilities permitted as of 2013, compared to only five sand mines and five processing plants in 2010.

But with the surge in demand for this product, companies are looking a bit closer to shale center to cut down on transportation costs and improve the bottom line.

One of the hottest new frac sand venues is in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains, which is not only closer by half to the major shale plays, saving at least 25% per ton on transportation costs, but also allows for year-round production that will fill the gap in shortages when winter prevents mining in northern states.

“In the southern US, we can operate year round, so there is no fear of a polar vortex like that we saw last year with some other producers,” says Mohammad of Select Sands, which has two known producing frac sand mines in northeastern Arkansas, in the Ozark Mountains, and sells the bulk of its frac sand to producers in the Eagle Ford, Barnett and Haynesville shales, as well as in the new marine shale, Tuscaloosa.

Chicago-based consulting company Professional Logistics Group Inc. found in 2012 that transportation represented 58% of the cost of frac sand, while Select Sands estimates the costs between 66-75% today.

The competition is stiff, but this game is still unfolding, while increased demand is reshaping the playing field.

US Silica Holdings Inc. says demand for its own volumes of sand could double or triple in the next five years, and its three publicly-traded rivals—Emerge Energy Services Fairmount Santrol and Hi-Crush Partners have also made strong Wall Street debuts over the past two years.


Ferguson Remains On Edge After Violent Night

The Midwestern U.S. town of Ferguson, Missouri, and surrounding areas are bracing for more protests after a grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in August.

The decision, announced late Monday, sparked a night of violence that saw protesters loot businesses and set fire to cars and at least a dozen buildings.

The violence erupted despite appeals for calm from U.S. President Barack Obama and the family of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was fatally shot by officer Darren Wilson on August 9. The family was expected to make a public statement at 11 a.m. local time Tuesday.

Protesters planned to demonstrate on Tuesday outside the courthouse in nearby Clayton, where the grand jury began meeting within weeks of Brown’s fatal shooting August 9.

In nearby St. Louis, the police chief promised to beef up security following 21 arrests for vandalism, including broken storefront windows, on Monday evening.

“A large presence, very early on, will be a deterrent,” Chief Sam Dotson said, according to Reuters news service. For Tuesday evening, “we’ll have resources deployed.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights joined the calls for restraint Tuesday, urging protesters “to avoid violence and destruction” in the wake of the grand jury decision. In a statement, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said, “People have the right to express their dismay and their disagreement with the grand jury’s verdict, but not to cause harm to others, or to their property, in the process.”

Worst violence in months

Although no serious injuries were reported, Monday night’s unrest was the worst in suburban Ferguson in months.

At least 61 people were arrested there, largely for burlary and trespassing, according to The Associated Press. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said at least a dozen buildings were set on fire, most of them destroyed. He said there were no reports of injuries.

“Those are businesses that may never come back. So, frankly, I’m heartbroken about that,” Belmar said.

“Now the good news is we have not fired a shot,” he said. “As far as I know, we don’t have any serious injuries to police officers. They got banged up a little bit with rocks. One lieutenant from the patrol got hit in the head with a glass bottle, but … as far as I know, we haven’t caused any serious injuries tonight.”

Early Monday night, police used smoke and tear gas to disperse the protesters, some of whom set police cars on fire and threw objects at police. Sporadic gunfire could be heard in the neighborhood.

Firefighters on Tuesday morning continued monitoring the scene in Ferguson, dousing the charred remains of some businesses, The Associated Press reported. Though broken glass still littered the sidewalk in front of looted stores, downtown streets were calm.

Schools in Ferguson and surrounding cities cancelled Tuesday classes.

Protests spread to other cities

Demonstrations were also held in cities across America. At Times Square in New York City, protesters held signs decrying “police tyranny” and chanted the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” slogan that has become popular at rallies against police violence.

In Chicago and Oakland, California, protesters flooded freeways, blocking cars with their hands held in the air. In Washington, D.C., a small crowd of protesters also gathered outside the White House.

Brown’s shooting death inflamed tensions in the predominantly black St. Louis suburb, which is patrolled by an overwhelmingly white police force.

The shooting sparked weeks of sometimes violent protests and looting. Adding to the tension was the often heavy-handed response by police, who used armored vehicles and tear gas.

Brown’s family members, who have called for restraint, issued a statement saying they were “profoundly disappointed” at the ruling.

Lawyers for Wilson said in a statement that the grand jury’s decision shows the officer “followed his training and followed the law” during the confrontation with Brown.

Appeal for calm

In a statement from the White House, President Barack Obama acknowledged some are “deeply disappointed” at the ruling, but called on protesters to be peaceful.

Attorney General Eric Holder said federal investigations continue into the shooting and into whether the Ferguson Police Department is engaging in unconstitutional practices.

Calling Brown’s death a “tragedy,” Holder said it is “far more must be done to create enduring trust” between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

Accounts of August 9 shooting

Stories differed as to what happened in the August 9 shooting. Lawyers for Brown’s family said he was trying to surrender when the officer shot him. Wilson’s supporters said he shot Brown in self-defense.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said the grand jury met for 25 days and heard 70 hours of testimony from 60 witnesses.

McCulloch praised the jurors for completing “this monumental responsibility,” and he lauded the “unprecedented cooperation” between federal investigators and local authorities.

He said that much of the witness testimony contradicted evidence from the scene and that many witnesses later changed their stories, admitting they had not actually observed the confrontation.

The prosecutor also extended his sympathy to Brown’s family over his death. McCulloch concluded his prepared remarks by saying he joined with the family, clergy and others “in urging everyone to continue the demonstrations, continue the discussion … but do so in a constructive way.”

The father of the slain teenager appealed for calm last week. In a video posted online, the elder Michael Brown said hurting others or destroying property is “not the answer” to frustration over what is seen as racial injustice.

Protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Photo by Loavesofbread, Wikipedia Commons.

Ferguson Grand Jury Decides Not To Indict

After months of weighing evidence and testimony, a grand jury in Missouri has decided against indicting Darren Wilson, the white police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown during a street confrontation almost four months ago.

The announcement came Monday evening after days of agonizing suspense in this central U.S. state and beyond.

“After their exhaustive review of the evidence,” jurors determined that no probable cause exists to bring charges against Wilson, said Robert P. McCullogh, St. Louis County prosecutor, speaking from the courthouse in the county seat of Clayton.

As they awaited the decision, hundreds of people gathered in the streets of nearby Ferguson, where the 18-year-old Brown was killed. The mood there was tense, with some demonstrators carrying signs bearing messages such as “Jail for Life.”

The August 9 shooting sparked rioting the following night. Protests, sometimes violent, erupted for weeks, and police responded with tear gas and armored vehicles. Demonstrations have continued in Ferguson and in Clayton, where the grand jury began meeting in late August.

McCullogh said the jurors had heard more than 70 hours of testimony and reviewed extensive evidence. He said all of it would be released following his news conference.

He praised the jurors for completing “this monumental responsibility,” and he lauded the “unprecedented cooperation” between federal investigators and local authorities.

The prosecutor also extended his sympathy to Brown’s family over his death. He concluded his prepared remarks by saying he joined with the family, clergy and others “in urging everyone to continue the demonstrations, continue the discussion … but do so in a constructive way.”

After the announcement, Brown’s family issued a statement saying they were “profoundly disappointed.”

Lawyers for Wilson, the police officer, said the grand jury agreed that the officer’s actions were in accordance with the laws and regulations that govern police procedures.

Appeals for calm

On Monday, streets around the courthouse had been barricaded and neighboring businesses had boarded up storefronts, hedges against any trouble that might erupt with news of the grand jury’s decision. But, despite throngs of law enforcement officers and news media, not a protester was in sight less than an hour before McCullough shared the grand jury’s decision.

Government officials in Missouri repeatedly have appealed for calm.

At a news conference earlier Monday evening, Governor Jay Nixon joined several other officials in calling for “peace, respect and restraint” no matter what the outcome.

“No matter what is announced, people will be emotional,” acknowledged the county’s executive, Charlie A. Dooley. He urged people “to remain focused on long-term systemic changes.” He said officials were committed to de-escalating negative actions while ensuring free speech, with the help of law enforcement and National Guard troops.

“I do not want people in this community to think they have to barricade their doors and take up arms,” Dooley cautioned.

CNN was reporting that law enforcement around the country had been put on alert before the decision. At least several regional school districts had canceled classes as of Monday evening.

The White House said U.S. President Barack Obama has urged any protesters to be peaceful after the decision.

Obama, speaking Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week,” said he had called Nixon “to make sure that he has a plan to respond in a careful and appropriate way to any potential violence – to be able to sort out the vast majority of peaceful protesters from the handful who are not.”

More than three months have passed since Wilson killed 18-year-old Brown after some sort of confrontation in the middle of a street in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson.

Stories differ as to what happened August 9. Lawyers for Brown’s family say he was trying to surrender when the officer shot him. Wilson’s supporters say he shot Brown in self-defense.

The 12-member grand jury will decide whether Wilson should be charged with first- or second-degree murder or involuntary or voluntary manslaughter.

The deadly shooting sparked weeks of sometimes violent protests and looting. Police added to the tension with heavy-handed responses, including the use of armored vehicles and tear gas.

Wilson married in October

Meanwhile, St. Louis County records released Monday indicate that Wilson got married last month, The New York Times first reported. He married another Ferguson Police Department officer, Barbara Spradling, on Oct. 24. He has been on paid leave since the shooting.

The news drew a bitter response from Deray McKesson, a local activist. The Chicago Tribune reported that McKesson tweeted: “Darren Wilson is out here CHILLIN. His life clearly hasn’t slowed down even though Mike’s ended.”

Preparing for decision

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has already declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard in case Wilson is not indicted.

Protest groups from around the country are planning to descend on Ferguson in large numbers if the grand jury exonerates Wilson.

Law enforcement officials in Ferguson have agreed on “rules of engagement” with some organized activist groups, hoping to ensure that any demonstrations are peaceful when the grand jury decision is issued.

The father of the slain teenager appealed for calm Friday. In a video posted online, Michael Brown, Sr. said hurting others or destroying property is “not the answer” to frustration over what is seen as racial injustice.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel shakes hands with President Barack Obama at the White House today. The president announced that Hagel would resign his position as defense secretary. Courtesy photo White House/DoD

Obama Announces Hagel’s Resignation As Defense Secretary

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jake Richmond

(DoD News) — Praising Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s “class and integrity,” President Barack Obama announced today at the White House that Hagel will leave his post.

The president said Hagel has agreed to remain in his position until a successor is nominated and confirmed. For that, Obama said, he is “extraordinarily lucky and grateful.”

“When I asked Chuck to serve as secretary of defense, we were entering a significant period of transition,” Obama said. That transition included the drawdown in Afghanistan, the need to prepare our forces for future missions, and tough fiscal choices to keep our military strong and ready.

Last month, Obama said, Hagel came to him to discuss the final quarter of his presidency. It was then that Hagel initially determined that, having guided the department through this transition, it was an appropriate time for him to complete his service, the president added.

A Steady Hand

“Over nearly two years, Chuck has been an exemplary defense secretary,” Obama said, crediting Hagel for providing a steady hand during the modernization of the administration’s strategy and budget to meet long-term threats, while still responding to immediate challenges such as ISIL and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Hagel said he is “immensely proud” of what the department has accomplished during his tenure.

“I believe we have set not only this department, the Department of Defense, but the nation on a stronger course toward security, stability and prosperity,” the secretary said.

Privileged to Serve

Hagel called his opportunity to serve as defense secretary the “greatest privilege of my life.”

In the meantime, Hagel said, “I will stay on this job and work just as hard as I have over the last couple of years, every day, every moment, until my successor is confirmed by the United States Senate.”

The United States of America can proudly claim the strongest military the world has ever known, Obama said.

“That’s the result of the investments made over many decades, the blood and treasure and sacrifices of many generations,” he said. “It’s the result of the character and wisdom of those who lead them as well, including a young Army sergeant in Vietnam who rose to serve as our nation’s 24th secretary of defense.”

Universal Health Coverage For US Military Veterans Within Reach, But Many Still Lack Coverage

Over a million US military veterans lacked healthcare coverage in 2012, according to new estimates published in The Lancet. While many people believe that all veterans are covered by the Veterans Affairs health care system, less than half (8.9 million) of the 22 million veterans in the US are covered by VA health benefits, and most veterans are covered by private health insurance. Uninsured veterans are more likely to be young, single, African American, and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, the authors of this viewpoint estimate that universal health coverage for veterans is within reach, thanks to the Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid expansion and subsidies for private health care. According to the authors, 87% of currently uninsured veterans could be eligible for health coverage through the Medicaid expansion, via the subsidized private health insurance market, or by enrolling in VA health benefits. Uninsured veterans are more likely to be clustered in states that have rejected the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. Of the top five states with the highest number of uninsured veterans, four [1] are states that have rejected the expansion (the fifth, California, has accepted the expansion, but is also the most populous state in the union).

“Largely on account of the Affordable Care Act, the goal of universal health coverage for veterans is closer than ever,” explains author Dave A Chokshi. “There remain political hurdles to achieving this goal, both in the false impression that the VA already provides universal coverage, and the decision by several states to reject the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. While eligibility for insurance is not tantamount to access to care, universal coverage is an important first step towards high-quality healthcare.”

[1] There are an estimated 126000 uninsured veterans in Texas, 95000 in Florida, 54000 in North Carolina, and 53000 in Georgia

Barack Obama weekly talk

Obama: Immigration Accountability Executive Action – Transcript

In this week’s address, the President laid out the steps he took this past week to fix our broken immigration system. Enacted within his legal authority, the President’s plan focuses on cracking down on illegal immigration at the border; deporting felons, not families; and accountability through criminal background checks and taxes. These are commonsense steps, but only Congress can finish the job. As the President acts, he’ll continue to work with Congress on a comprehensive, bipartisan bill — like the one passed by the Senate more than a year ago — that can replace these actions and fix the whole system.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
Las Vegas, Nevada

Hi everybody. Today, I’m at Del Sol High School, in Las Vegas, to talk with students and families about immigration.

We are a nation of immigrants. It has always given America a big advantage over other nations. It keeps our country young, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.

That’s why, nearly two years ago, I came to this school and laid out principles for immigration reform. And five months later, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in the Senate came together to pass a commonsense compromise bill. That bill would have secured our border, while giving undocumented immigrants who already live here a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. Independent experts said it would grow our economy, and shrink our deficits.

Now, had the House of Representatives allowed a yes-or-no vote on that kind of bill, it would have passed with support from both parties. Today it would be the law. But for a year and a half, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote. Now, I still believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together — both parties — to pass that kind of bipartisan law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President — the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me — that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.

I took those actions this week. We’re providing more resources at the border to help law enforcement personnel stop illegal crossings, and send home those who do cross over. We’ll focus enforcement resources on people who are threats to our security — felons, not families; criminals, not children. And we’ll bring more undocumented immigrants out of the shadows so they can play by the rules, pay their full share of taxes, pass a criminal background check, and get right with the law.

Nothing about this action will benefit anyone who has come to this country recently, or who might try and come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive. And it’s certainly not amnesty, no matter how often the critics say it. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today — millions of people living here without paying their taxes, or playing by the rules. And the actions I took this week will finally start fixing that.

As you might have heard, there are Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better. Well, I have one answer for that: Pass a bill. The day I sign it into law, the actions I’ve taken to help solve this problem will no longer be necessary.

In the meantime, we can’t allow a disagreement over a single issue to be a dealbreaker on every issue. That’s not how our democracy works. This debate deserves more than politics as usual. It’s important for our future. It’s about who we are, and the future we want to build.

We are only here because this country welcomed our forebears, and taught them that being American is about more than what we look like or where we come from. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal — that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will. That’s the country we inherited, and it’s the one we have to leave for future generations.

Thank you, God bless you, and have a great weekend.

Oregon's John Kitzhaber

Kitzhaber On Immigration: ‘As Oregonians, We Believe In A Fair Shot For Everyone’

Following President Barack Obama’s executive action on Immigration, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber said in a statement that the President ‘took appropriate action … showing leadership in moving this country’s immigration laws in the right direction.”

In the opinion of Kitzhaber, “As Oregonians, we believe in a fair shot for everyone. The President’s message reflects those values of fairness and honors basic human rights.”

In the statement, Kitzhaber also took time to address Republican concerns over the President’s actions.

“This isn’t the first time that a president has taken action on a national level,” Kitzhaber said, adding that “both Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush took similar steps.”

While welcoming the President’s executive action on immigration, Kitzhaber said this action is “only a stop gap.”

The Governor said, “It remains to be seen whether Congress will step up, do what’s right, and pass meaningful immigration reform, or whether it will continue to play politics with the lives of millions who have been living, working, and contributing to our communities for years.”

Suzanne Bonamici

Bonamici Says Obama Immigration Action ‘Meaningful First Step,’ But Limited

Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01) said in a statement  that President Barack Obama’s action on immigration “is a meaningful first step, but it is limited and temporary.”

Bonamici said that, “After spending more than a year urging Speaker Boehner to take up the Senate’s bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill, I am pleased that President Obama is taking action to bring millions of aspiring Americans out of the shadows to contribute to our country’s future.”

According to Bonamici, “Across NW Oregon constituents talk about the need for policy changes on immigration. Business owners need reform to eliminate uncertainty surrounding their workforce. Technology companies want an updated Visa process to keep skilled workers in the United States. And families long for the opportunity to build their lives and keep their relatives together.”

Bonamici noted that, “A bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill passed the Senate 511 days ago; it is long past time for the House to take action. It is our responsibility to address this important issue and pass permanent reform.”

Senator Jeff Merkley

Merkley on Senate Commodities Report: “Extremely Disturbing,” Regulators Must Act

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley issued a statement after the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a report and held hearings finding that Wall Street banks have become heavily involved in the ownership and control of physical commodities, raising the potential for market manipulation. The commodities involved touch nearly every consumer and every corner of the American economy, such as oil, natural gas, and aluminum.

“This report is extremely disturbing and raises many questions about why financial regulators were not aggressively investigating and acting on these issues long before now,” according to Merkley.

In the opinion of Merkley, “If a bank owns enough of a commodity to control the supply and demand of a product, and at the same time is profiting from trades on that product, it’s obvious that there’s a massive potential for market manipulation. Now we know it’s not just potential, but reality. As this report reveals, Goldman Sachs manipulated the supply of aluminum at the same time as they were trading it. This type of market manipulation has real costs for our businesses and consumers, and it’s unacceptable. Big banks shouldn’t be able to rig the economic playing field in their favor at the cost of our economy and our middle class families.”

“There are many other alarming details contained in this report, including banks’ extensive involvement in the energy sector and the massive risks that banks’ positions in physical commodities could pose to their own stability and to our economy as a whole. This report should serve as a serious wake-up call to regulators to get our banks out of the oil tanker and aluminum warehouse business and back into the banking business, taking deposits and making loans to families and businesses,” Merkley added.

Merkley highlighted banks’ involvement in commodities in Oregon in 2012, and earlier this year sent a comment letter to the Fed urging them to close the loopholes that allow banks to own physical commodities.

In a separate hearing today, Merkley questioned William Dudley, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, on whether the Federal Reserve should continue to allow banks to own and control physical commodities.

US Cardinal To Undocumented: You Can ‘Come Out Of The Shadows’

By Elise Harris

The vice president of the U.S. bishops’ conference has said that charitable immigration reform must address the needs of both legal and illegal immigrants, encouraging the latter to come forward and receive help.

“Immigration (reform) should be more comprehensive, that is, we cover all immigrants, even the undocumented. We give people a chance to get their green card, a chance to come out of the shadows, so that when they work the money they get for themselves helps the culture too,” Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo told CNA on Nov. 19.

“From my point of view, it’s important that immigrants come out of the shadows, particularly the undocumented ones. In my mind it’s one of the most important things we could do.”

Present in Rome for a Nov. 17-21 congress on the Pastoral Care for Migrants, Cardinal DiNardo, who is Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, offered his comments just one day before U.S. President Barack Obama revealed a major immigration reform package, issued by executive order.

In what is seen as a highly-contentious move, the president announced that he would stay the deportation of certain undocumented immigrant parents for up to three years, allowing them to work legally. Eligibility requirements include having lived in the U.S. for at least five years, having children who are U.S. citizens or legal residents, passing a criminal background check and agreeing to pay taxes.

Roughly 4 million people will likely qualify for this measure, while thousands of others will benefit from other changes. The president extended benefits of temporary residence to more children of undocumented immigrants, expanding the eligibility for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and extending their temporary stay from two to three years.

In addition, the president said he would increase border security resources and deport those who had illegally crossed the border recently. He said he would focus government enforcement resources on criminals and those who threaten security.

The executive order will mark the biggest change in immigration policy in three decades.

In his televised address, President Obama echoed Cardinal DiNardo’s sentiments in telling immigrants to “Come out of the shadows and get right with the law.”

The president insisted that his proposals did not amount to amnesty or straight-shot path to citizenship, although it will offer Social Security cards to those who qualify for the deferred deportation.

“What I’m describing is accountability – a common-sense, middle ground approach,” the president said.

“Mass amnesty would be unfair,” he stated. “Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character.”

Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of Seattle, chair of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, issued a Nov. 20 statement welcoming the announcement of deferred deportations, saying that the United States has “a long history of welcoming and aiding the poor, the outcast, the immigrant and the disadvantaged.”

Each day in the Church’s social service projects, hospitals, schools and parishes, the devastating consequences of the separation of families due to the deportation of parents or spouses can be seen, he said.

The bishop noted that the episcopal conference had asked the Obama administration to “do everything within its legitimate authority to bring relief and justice to our immigrant brothers and sisters,” adding that as pastors, “we welcome any efforts within these limits that protect individuals and protect and reunite families and vulnerable children.”

He urged President Obama and members of Congress to work together in pursuing permanent reforms to the U.S. immigration system that seek the best interests of both the nation and the persons who migrate to the country in search of refuge.

“We will continue to work with both parties to enact legislation that welcomes and protects immigrants and promotes a just and fair immigration policy,” the bishop said.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, issued a Nov. 20 statement, saying, “There is an urgent pastoral need for a more humane view of immigrants and a legal process that respects each person’s dignity, protects human rights, and upholds the rule of law.”

“As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, said so eloquently: ‘Every human being is a child of God! He or she bears the image of Christ! We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected, and loved,’” the archbishop said.

On the topic of improving the pastoral care of immigrants, Cardinal DiNardo explained that the Church already offers a lot of help. However, he said that a legal reform would help “lighten-up” the Church’s burden and allow greater focus on pastoral assistance.

“The Church always emphasizes the human person, so when we talk about the human person, we don’t ask if you’re an immigrant or whether you were born in the country,” the cardinal observed.

“You are a human person that has aptitudes, has a singularity, has an excellence and a dignity that we want to draw on,” he said, stressing that this vision is important to keep in mind when welcoming immigrants and helping them integrate into society.

Vice-President Joe Biden

Biden In Ukraine Amid Reports Of Boost In Nonlethal Military Aid

(RFE/RL) — U.S. President Joe Biden has arrived in Kyiv for a visit amid expectations he will announce an increase nonlethal military assistance to Ukraine.

Reuters quotes U.S. officials as saying privately that the nonlethal aid Biden will announce in Kyiv includes Humvees from excess supplies in the Pentagon’s inventory, as well as the delivery of previously promised radars that can detect the location of enemy mortars.

The reports do not specify a dollar value for the assistance.

Russia warned the United States on November 20 against supplying arms to Ukrainian forces.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich cautioned against “a major change in policy of the [U.S.] administration in regard to the conflict” in Ukraine.

He was commenting on remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama’s choice to fill the number two spot at the State Department, Anthony Blinken, who told a congressional hearing on November 19 that lethal assistance “remains on the table. It’s something that we’re looking at.”

The U.S. State Department’s Director of Press Relations Jeffrey Rathke on November 20 told reporters that “our position on lethal aid hasn’t changed. Nothing is off the table and we continue to believe there’s no military solution.”

He added, “But, in light of Russia’s actions as the nominee mentioned yesterday in his testimony, as he indicated, this is something that we should be looking at.”

The aid expected to be announced by Biden falls short of what Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko requested during a visit to Washington in September when he appealed for lethal aid — a request echoed by some U.S. lawmakers in response to what NATO allies say is Russia’s movement of tanks and troops into eastern Ukraine.

Previous nonlethal aid to Ukraine includes $53 million announced in September for military equipment such as counter-mortar detection units, body armor, binoculars, small boats, and other gear for Ukraine’s security forces and border guards in the east.

The United States and its European allies have imposed several rounds of economic sanctions on Russia for its seizure of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine.