The great American natural gas reckoning is upon us

“Whether LNG is better for the climate than other options is a topic of intense debate. If it replaces coal, then in general, yes. Since it’s made mostly of methane, it burns more cleanly than coal, producing roughly half of the greenhouse gas emissions. But it’s still a fossil fuel that contributes to warming, and every new gas terminal, transport tanker, and power plant implies these emissions will continue for decades more.
By one estimate, US LNG shipments to China reduced the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions — the amount of greenhouse gases released per unit of energy — by as much as 57 percent. Other analyses have also found that countries that import LNG produce power with lower emissions than with local coal. Another advantage is that gas produces fewer air polluting substances like particulates, so turning away from coal has immediate health benefits. And having more cheap gas on the global market could undermine the case for new coal power plants in some countries, if they can secure a reliable gas supplier.

But some environmental activists say this paints too optimistic a picture. For gas importers like the United Kingdom, LNG has a greenhouse gas footprint four times larger than gas extracted locally. Methane is itself a heat-trapping gas, about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so small leaks from gas infrastructure — as little as 0.2 percent — can quickly overwhelm any environmental advantages. The added steps of chilling and shipping gas create even more opportunities for LNG to escape, and the industry has done a poor job of tracking its fugitive emissions. In addition, some LNG exports will simply fill in existing gas needs, as they do in parts of Europe, so the climate impact overall is at best a wash, though likely worse than more locally produced gas. At the same time, renewable energy is already the cheapest source of electricity in many parts of the world, and climate activists argue that gas no longer serves as a bridge to a low-carbon world.”

How Boeing put profits over planes

“Experts say that the root of Boeing’s present troubles is a longstanding culture issue. Over the years, the company’s top decision-makers went from detail-oriented engineers to slick suits with MBAs.
“You’ve got a management team that doesn’t seem terribly concerned with their core business in building aircraft,” says Aboulafia.

There’s one name that keeps popping up when people talk about Boeing’s cultural downslide: Jack Welch, the legendary — and infamous — executive who helmed the conglomerate General Electric from 1981 to 2001. Welch was known for ushering in a sea change of “lean” management that ruthlessly made cuts in both manufacturing processes and the workforce, all in the service of pumping up stock prices. His leadership style included firing the worst-performing 10 percent of GE staff every year; he reportedly laid off over 250,000 people during his tenure. He inspired an entire generation of business leaders, and this Welchian GE philosophy was eventually brought over to Boeing.

Historically, Boeing was renowned for its boundary-pushing innovations in aviation, which helped put commercial air travel on the map. But in 1997, Boeing bought a rival plane maker called McDonnell Douglas; instead of Boeing culture influencing McDonnell, however, the opposite happened. The engineer-focused company got a heavy dose of the cutthroat GE ethos as McDonnell’s CEO — a Welch disciple — became the president and chief operating officer, and later CEO, of the merged company. Other Boeing leaders, including James McNerney and current CEO David Calhoun, have also had stints at GE.

In Flying Blind: The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing, journalist Peter Robison describes an environment where safety concerns were concealed or downplayed, in part to be faster and cheaper than Airbus, the former underdog that overtook Boeing as the biggest commercial aircraft manufacturer in the world in 2019.

The company began relying more on subcontractors; It had its own fuselage plant until 2005, when it sold it to a private equity firm — that entity became Spirit AeroSystems. Today, Boeing only completes the final assembly of a plane after it sources parts from thousands of suppliers. Outsourcing is cheaper — but using so many suppliers reduces the fine-tune control and oversight a company has over the parts that make up their product, according to aviation experts.

While lean management was the name of the game for Boeing’s rank-and-file, in the past decade the company’s executives spent over $43 billion buying back their own stocks and paying out nearly $22 billion in profits to shareholders. By buying back shares and removing them from the public market, the individual value of a share automatically rises even though nothing about the company’s operations has changed.

Those billions represent cash that could have been reinvested in developing the next line of Boeing planes or hiring more quality inspectors. Former Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, who led the company during the deadly Max crashes, reportedly received an exit package of $62 million.

After the merger, there was also “an open labor war between the unions and the management,” says Hamilton.

In 2000, feeling demoralized and disrespected by the leadership shift, over 22,000 Boeing engineers went on strike. One of the chants heard during the strike: “No nerds, no birds.” As in, if Boeing doesn’t let engineers do their jobs properly, with adequate pay, there would be no airplanes. The engineers got the extra money they asked for, but not the ideological win. Boeing bled about $750 million due to the strike, according to Robison, and kept on with its cost-cutting drive while Boeing’s workers have kept sounding the alarm with every mass layoff.

In 2019, the company said it could cut as many as 900 inspectors — the people who make sure the plane is ready to fly. In 2020, it laid off about 16,000 people. Some were offered buyouts, a move that the company might have regretted when it had to go on a hiring spree after the pandemic, and after the 737 Max was cleared to fly again. “So you have a lot of inexperienced workers who now have their hands on the airplane rather than the mature, highly experienced workers who were laid off or took early retirement,” says Hamilton.

Despite the regular rounds of mass layoffs, last summer, Boeing’s CEO Dave Calhoun said he would love to ramp up the production of 737 planes from 50 to 60 per month, which would further elevate the pace of work for Boeing workers who already felt pressured to meet unrealistic quotas. A 2019 New York Times report interviewed over a dozen people about their experience working at Boeing, who said they saw many safety hazards during assembly — like debris left on planes — and claimed that they were fired for raising potential problems.

Boeing’s treatment of its 10,000-plus subcontractors has come under scrutiny, too, as the company has demanded ever-lower prices. “They treated their suppliers the way they treated their workers — as a disposable commodity,” says Aboulafia.

Boeing’s strategy to continually shrink costs doesn’t appear to have paid off. The company hasn’t turned an annual profit in the past five years. Airbus is selling more planes, and recent headlines about Boeing are putting a halo over Airbus’s comparative reputation. In January alone, Boeing lost $35 billion in market value as its stock price fell.”

What we’re getting wrong about 2024’s “moderate” voters

“A final chunk of Americans are a rare breed in America’s political parties. They don’t fit neatly on the ideological spectrum; on the partisan spectrum, they tend to lie outside the political parties. Some academics, like Fowler and his team, call them “idiosyncratic” moderates, but I think “weird” is simpler since it describes just how difficult they are to read.
Unlike disengaged moderates, weird moderates are engaged — aware of political news, policies, and debates — but like disengaged moderates, they hold a mix of opinions. They aren’t really drawing those positions from the ideological extremes, so they tend toward moderation on a variety of issues. Because of the weird mix of ideas they have, they might not feel represented by either party or by a specific conservative or liberal ideology. They also include your classic “socially liberal but fiscally conservative” types who might have been more predominant in the Democratic and Republican parties of less polarized times. They’re not consistently liberal or conservative on all topics and therefore are open to persuasion. They hold the opinions they do have strongly, unlike the true moderate, but feel overlapping pressures when making a decision in the voting booth.”

“The imperative to persuade true and weird moderates runs counter to the trend of America’s political parties, which have been moving further to the political left and right while also becoming more ideologically consistent internally — pushing out moderates of all kinds. Party leaders have been leading this push, but the rank and file has followed suit in the last two decades, as rates of self-identified moderates have been on the decline in both parties.”

4 Chinese citizens charged with helping Iran obtain U.S. technology for military use

“Four Chinese nationals have been charged with providing U.S. technology to Iran, according to the Justice Department.
“Baoxia Liu, aka Emily Liu; Yiu Wa Yung, aka Stephen Yung; Yongxin Li, aka Emma Lee; and Yanli Zhong, aka Sydney Chung, unlawfully exported and smuggled U.S. export-controlled items through China and Hong Kong,” the Justice Department said”

Syphilis cases are skyrocketing across the U.S. Here’s what you need to know.

“Cases of syphilis continue to climb in the U.S. New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday found that, while syphilis cases made up a fraction of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the U.S., new diagnoses are dramatically increasing. More than 200,000 cases of syphilis were diagnosed in 2022, marking a 17% increase from the previous year. That represents an 80% increase since 2018, part of a “decades-long upward trend,” according to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.
Congenital syphilis — which is when the disease is passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy — has also gone up. The CDC reported in November that about 3,700 babies tested positive for syphilis in the U.S. in 2022 — more than 10 times the number diagnosed a decade earlier — and 300 of them were stillborn or died soon after birth.

Why are syphilis cases on the rise? “There has been a consistent decrease in funding for sexual health services and programs throughout last couple of decades,” Kristen Krause, deputy director for the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies at the Rutgers School of Public Health, tells Yahoo Life. As a result, fewer people are aware of the disease and are tested for it, including women.

Syphilis isn’t the most common STI in the U.S.; that distinction goes to chlamydia. But it’s hard to ignore how quickly cases are increasing across the country. Syphilis isn’t as well known as other STIs, but experts say it should be on your radar.”

Accused of Dictatorial Ambitions, Trump Doubles Down on Authoritarianism

“To some extent, Trump’s argument that “A PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES MUST HAVE FULL IMMUNITY,” as he put it in an all-caps Truth Social post last week, mirrors the position his lawyers have taken in seeking dismissal of federal charges stemming from his attempts to remain in office after losing reelection in 2020. Although a former president can be prosecuted for “purely private conduct,” they say, he can be prosecuted for “official acts” only if they resulted in impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate.

As one judge noted when a skeptical D.C. Circuit panel probed the implications of that position earlier this month, it could literally give presidents a license to kill by ordering the assassination of their political opponents. Trump’s understanding of presidential immunity is, if anything, even broader.

“ALL PRESIDENTS MUST HAVE COMPLETE & TOTAL PRESIDENTIAL IMMUNITY,” Trump says, even when their actions “CROSS THE LINE” between legitimate exercises of presidential power and criminality. Otherwise, he warns, presidential “AUTHORITY & DECISIVENESS” will be “STRIPPED & GONE FOREVER.””

The Government Is Better at Picking Losers Than Winners

“All investment is risky. What better way to avoid that risk than to use other people’s money? Federal, state, and local governments dispense gifts, grants, and loans to private companies, generously funded by taxpayers and usually with vague promises of economic development in return. While politicians say they don’t like to pick winners and losers, even the “winners” sometimes turn out to be losers for taxpayers.”

The West tried to crush Russia’s economy. Why hasn’t it worked?

“many Russian banks, including some key ones involved in energy transactions, have not been barred from SWIFT. According to the Atlantic Council, “most of Russia’s regional and smaller banks, over 300, still have access to SWIFT, enabling Russia to conduct cross-border payments and transactions for imports and exports.”
“The fact that the shut out was not universal has left ample scope for Russian banks to continue to benefit from SWIFT messaging services,” said Keatinge of RUSI Europe.”

Arab States Are Giving Palestinians the Cold Shoulder. Here’s Why.

“What’s noteworthy in this entire conflict since Oct. 7 has been the lack of reaction or response from the Arab world. Saudi Arabia continues to hold the door open for a peace agreement with Israel. The UAE, Morocco and Bahrain didn’t even withdraw ambassadors. Jordan did, but of course with about half of its population being Palestinian, Jordan has a particular problem. That lack of reaction I think is very telling. If you needed another example that Arab states are not viscerally concerned about the Palestinians and their fate, this would be it.”

“The 1967 war and emergence of the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” was a watershed moment. Prior to that, the Palestinians in political terms were effectively a function of other Arab states and Arab militaries. You had the PLA, the Palestine Liberation Army, that was under command of other Arab states — Jordan and Syria in particular. So in a sense, you went from, say, 1947 and 1948 to 1967 without an independent Palestinian voice.
The trauma of ’67 changed that, where the PLO did emerge as the voice of the Palestinians. And what reaction did you get from the other Arabs? Fear and loathing. The 1967 war forced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into exile following their brethren from the ’48 war [over the founding of Israel]. Many of them wound up in Lebanon and Jordan. And in Lebanon they emerged as an entity that was increasingly independent of any Lebanese government control. … In 1969, the Cairo accords effectively gave the Palestinians under the PLO virtual autonomy in areas where they were settled. They ran the camps and increasingly ran south Lebanon, and that of course was a precipitating factor for the 1982 Israeli invasion.

But getting back to the main point: The last thing the Arab states, particularly those around Palestine and Israel, wanted to see was an independent Palestinian movement, let alone a state.”

“The 1967 war brought two dramatic changes: It ended dreams of the conquest of Israel by force of arms, and it gave rise to the PLO as a somewhat independent force.”

“Black September, the 1970 PLO effort to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy. That failed not just because of the prowess of the Jordanian military but also because the Syrians withheld the air support for the Palestinians they had promised, and that allowed the Jordanians to win the day. That Syrian air force was under command of a general named Hafez al-Assad [later ruler of Syria], whose hatred and fear of all things Palestinian was intense.

That was one of the many ironies of the Israeli invasion in 1982, in that Israel did serious work for Syria in dismantling the PLO structures in Lebanon and forcing the PLO to evacuate from Beirut.”

“secular Palestinian nationalism. But even that was seen as an existential threat to both Jordan and Syria. For both countries, the PLO was a threat that they dealt with in different ways, but for both it was their top national security concern. Everything else was secondary. I don’t think we grasped that in the case of Syria.

The so-called Arab street [a term for public opinion in the Arab world] was behind the Palestinian cause, but it never really affected policy on part of any of the Arab governments. As you go around the region almost all [the Arab governments] were united on one point, which was that the Palestinians were a threat, a foreign population that should be weakened if not exterminated.

In Syria, you had the orchestration of a campaign against the PLO, and in Jordan, and the same in Egypt. It is noteworthy there is no Palestinian population in Egypt. Going back to the days of [former Egyptian leader] Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptians saw the threat. Again, the Palestinians contributed to their isolation through some spectacular acts like the assassination of a Jordanian prime minister in front of the Sheraton hotel in broad daylight in Cairo by two Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PLPF] gunmen, one of whom stooped down to drink the assassinated prime minister’s blood.”