The Canadian Press – Oct 19, 2022 / 9:22 am | Story: 391430
Photo: The Canadian Press
Canadians are continuing to feel the pinch at the grocery store as food prices continue to soar at the fastest rate in four decades, and one economist says there likely won’t be any meaningful relief until early next year.
“It’s definitely going to take a little bit of time, for example, for any input prices to work through layers of the manufacturing process down to wholesalers, down to retailers before they show up as slower price growth on consumers’ receipts,” RBC economist Claire Fan said in an interview.
Statistics Canada’s latest consumer price index report released Wednesday showed that while overall inflation cooled slightly to 6.9 per cent in September from 7.0 per cent in August, food prices were up a staggering 11.4 per cent compared with a year ago.
Food prices increased at the fastest rate since August 1981 in September and have been increasing at a faster rate than all the items the consumer price index tracks for 10 consecutive months.
Food price growth remained broad-based in the month.
Statistics Canada said on a year-over-year basis, Canadians paid more for items such as meat, which was up 7.6 per cent, dairy products, which rose 9.7 per cent, bakery products, which rose 14.8 per cent, and fresh vegetables which were up 11.8 per cent.
Canadians also paid a lot more for fresh fruit, which was up 12.7 per cent, coffee and tea, which were up 16.4 per cent, seafood, which rose 7.6 per cent, non-alcoholic beverages, which were up 14.7 per cent, and cereal products, excluding baby food, which rose 17.9 per cent.
The agency said unfavourable weather conditions contributed to food price increases.
Higher prices for important inputs such as fertilizer and natural gas, as well as geopolitical instability stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also contributed to the increases, Statistics Canada said.
Fan added that higher transport costs, longer transport times, higher packaging prices, as well as labour costs — tied to wage growth, in particular, given ongoing labour shortage issues — are all putting pressure on how much shoppers are paying at the grocery store.
In a note, CIBC economist Karyne Charbonneau said that although food prices continue to rise at a historic pace, it is not the main focus for the Bank of Canada, who is paying closer attention to core inflation, which excludes food and energy.
The latest data comes as some Canadian grocery chains get vocal about their prices.
On Monday, Loblaw Companies Ltd. said it would freeze prices on all its in-house No Name products until Jan. 31, 2023, a campaign met with critics warning the company could look to recoup profit losses elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Metro Inc. said Tuesday it is holding food prices steady as usual this holiday season and will not accept cost increases from its suppliers during this period.
The Canadian Press – Oct 19, 2022 / 9:12 am | Story: 391426
Photo: The Canadian Press
This year’s grain harvest has farmers hopeful it will make up for last year’s poor crop yield, yet supply chain stalls could put a further wrench in agriculture profits.
The Western Grain Elevator Association said that capacity remains stable but not comfortable, as grain elevator levels reach 85 per cent, leading to fears of grain delivery delays.
Western Canada’s grain harvest is an estimated 75 million tonnes this year, said Wade Sobkowich, executive director for the Western Grain Elevator Association, as drought, floods and wildfires contributed to a below average harvest of 49 billion tonnes the year prior.
Sobkowich said 85 per cent is an acceptable fulfilment level. When the rate drops below that, railcar delays impact the entire supply chain, leading to a buildup at the grain elevators and slow down farmer deliveries.
“Farmer’s don’t get paid until they deliver,” he said.
Last year, one in nine people were employed by the agriculture sector, contributing $135 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Currently, farmers are ordering around 10,000 to 11,000 railcars per week, said Sobkowich.
The AG Transport Coalition’s most recent grain report from September, said that Canadian National Railway fulfilled 88 per cent of hopper cars and Canadian Pacific Railway fulfilled 77 per cent, at an increase of 73 per cent the week prior.
CP spokeswoman Salem Woodrow, said in a statement that the company is prepared to meet the transportation needs of grain customers this crop year.
She said CP ramped up hopper car delivery at the start of the crop year, matching record order fulfilment and port unload levels over September.
Sobkowich said the discrepancy in the numbers between CP and CN is due to the recording methods of CP as the railway company calculates the demand they accept rather than legitimate demand.
“Probably, in CP’s view they are performing better than what our numbers show,” said Sobkowich.
CN also said it has made record grain movements, as 2.62 million tonnes of grain move from Western Canada in September, said CN spokesman Jonathan Abecassis.
Although, Abecassis said CN did have a slow start to the season, as the harvest was slow to get underway and grain supplies were tight given the impact of last year’s drought.
“Unfortunately, getting trains moving again is a progressive process, it doesn’t all just happen at once,” said Abecassis in a statement.
Sobkowich said CN seems to be holding at an acceptable level, “although of course we would like to see them get closer to 100 per cent.”
He said the WGEA will continue to watch fulfilment levels closely but has some concerns about how delivery stalls could persist into the fall.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced an $8 million investment in new grain terminal equipment in the Port of Montréal earlier this month to improve the quality of the grain-cleaning service, optimize traffic flow in the yard, and increase capacity for loading and handling containers.
“Thanks to these funds, grain exports here at the Port of Montréal will be able to move more than double,” said Alghabra at a news conference.
In a phone interview, Alghabra said a new rail regulation will come into force, that requires rail companies to provide more information about operations and performance. However, the details of the regulation have yet to be announced.
The minister’s announcements come after the National Supply Chain Task Force said in a final report that urgent action from both government and industry is needed to keep goods flowing in Canada.
The Canadian Press – Oct 19, 2022 / 9:06 am | Story: 391425
Photo: Covis Pharma
Federal health advisers have ruled that a drug intended to prevent premature births doesn’t work, clearing the way U.S. regulators to follow through on a long-delayed effort to get it off the market.
The Food and Drug Administration’s advisory panel voted 14-1 that the injectable drug Makena should be removed from the market, despite appeals from the manufacturer to keep it available pending additional research.
The experts essentially agreed with a 2020 FDA decision that deemed the drug ineffective and called for its removal. The manufacturer, Covis Pharma, had challenged that decision, setting up this week’s rare public hearing.
“There’s no strong evidence that the drug is effective,” said Margaret Katz of the University of Southern California. “I would recommend the drug be withdrawn until we can get the data that really shows effectiveness.”
Most panelists encouraged Covis to continue studying the drug to determine if any women can benefit.
FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf is expected to make a final decision on withdrawing the drug in the next several months. If Califf follows the panel’s advice, it would be the first time the FDA has formally pulled a drug that it initially approved based on promising early data.
The FDA granted Makena accelerated approval in 2011 based on one small study in which it appeared to reduce the rate of premature birth in women with a history of the problem. Preterm birth raises the risk of disability and death in infants and affects about 10% of U.S. deliveries.
FDA’s approval was conditioned on a larger follow-up study to confirm whether Makena resulted in healthier outcomes for babies.
But in 2019, results from that 1,700-patient international study showed the drug neither reduced premature births — as originally thought — nor resulted in healthier outcomes for infants.
The FDA has been moving to revoke the drug’s approval since then. But the long, bureaucratic process underscores the difficulty of removing a drug from the market when a manufacturer won’t do so voluntarily.
Luxembourg-based Covis Pharma argued this week that Makena benefits women at highest risk of early deliveries, including Black Americans, and proposed narrowing its approval to that group while it conducted another study to confirm its effectiveness. The company’s presentations included outside experts who said removing Makena would worsen racial disparities in prenatal care.
“The FDA should do what is best for our patients, which is to keep this medication available for those of us who manage these very high-risk patients every day,” Dr. Yolanda Lawson, an obstetrics specialist at Baylor University, told the FDA panel.
But the experts ultimately sided with FDA scientists, who stressed that they were “unable to identify a group of women for whom Makena had an effect.” The drug also carries risks, FDA noted, including blood clots and depression.
The FDA has faced pressure to crack down on unproven drugs approved under its accelerated approval program, which has allowed dozens of drugs to launch based on early results since the early 1990s. The flipside of the program means removing drugs when their initial promise isn’t confirmed by later studies.
Makena has become something of a poster child for the program’s downsides, since the drug has remained on the market for more than a decade without any confirmed benefit. According to a recent federal report, the U.S. has spent $700 million on Makena since 2018 through various government programs, including Medicaid.
Even if the drug is removed, some doctors are expected to continue prescribing its key ingredient as a specialty medication. Compounding pharmacies have long offered their own formulations of the drug. Both Makena and the compounded medications consist of a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone, which helps the uterus grow and maintain a pregnancy.
The Canadian Press – Oct 19, 2022 / 9:01 am | Story: 391424
Photo: The Canadian Press
Loblaw Companies Ltd. is raising the supply chain handling fees it charges suppliers of its grocery and drugstores.
In a letter to suppliers dated Oct. 3, the company says it experienced significant year-over-year increases in many of its supply chain costs, including higher “cartage” or freight costs.
Loblaw says its fees will go up Jan. 1, 2023, with distribution centre delivery charges increasing to 1.17 per cent and direct-to-store delivery charges rising to 0.36 per cent.
Sylvain Charlebois, Dalhousie University professor of food distribution and policy, says the notice is an example of a unilateral decision made by grocers to increase fees and get suppliers to financially support their operations.
He says sometimes the higher fees and charges are warranted, and sometime they aren’t, and says this points to why the grocery industry needs a code of conduct.
In a progress report in July, an industry committee set up to establish a grocery code of conduct said it made significant progress but may require government intervention if it fails to resolve the outstanding matters by November.
Loblaw vice-president of communication Catherine Thomas says at this time of year, the company advises its suppliers of fees to move goods through its network for the following year.
“This includes situations where we pick up, ship and deliver their goods for them,” she said in an emailed statement.
“Our costs for handling this business have gone up and consequently we are notifying suppliers of some adjustments to the fees, if they choose to use these services.”
Earlier this week, Loblaw announced it would freeze prices on all its in-house No Name products until Jan. 31, 2023, in an effort to help customers grappling with inflation.
Critics warned the company could look to recoup profit losses elsewhere.
Staff Writer / Delta Optimist – Oct 19, 2022 / 7:28 am | Story: 391418
Photo: WorkSafe BC
WorkSafe BC has imposed a penalty to a manufacturer following an incident last month at the firm’s paper manufacturing facility in the Tilbury area of Delta.
The provincial agency attended Westbond Industries Inc. in response to an incident that resulted in a worker sustaining serious injuries.
According to a news release from WorkSafe BC, as the worker was clearing a paper jam in the rollers of a running machine, the worker got caught in the machine.
WorkSafe BC determined that the machine had not been locked out and its guard had been removed. In addition, the firm’s standard practices for clearing jams did not require the machines to be locked out, said the news release.
“The firm failed to ensure lockout was conducted in accordance with procedures made available to all workers, a repeated violation. The firm also failed to provide its workers with information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure their health and safety. These were both high-risk violations,” stated WorkSafe BC.
A fine of $17,059.52 was imposed for the high-risk violations.
WorkSafe BC noted the manufacturing sector in B.C. has an injury rate that is 24 percent higher than the provincial average.
In 2021, there were over 19,000 time-loss injuries in the manufacturing sector in B.C. and close to 4,000 of these were serious injuries.
The Canadian Press – Oct 19, 2022 / 6:39 am | Story: 391404
Photo: The Canadian Press
British food prices rose at the fastest pace since 1980 last month, driving inflation back to a 40-year high and heaping pressure on the embattled government to balance the books without getting help for the nation’s poorest residents.
Food prices jumped 14.6% in the year through September, led by the soaring cost of staples such as meat, bread, milk and eggs, the Office for National Statistics said Wednesday. That pushed consumer price inflation back to 10.1%, the highest since early 1982 and equal to the level last reached in July.
The figures immediately fueled demands that the government do more to help families and retirees as it struggles to regain credibility after an ill-fated package of tax cuts roiled financial markets. Treasury chief Jeremy Hunt ditched the package after he took office last week, but he has warned that this will be a difficult winter and spending reductions also will be needed.
Glenn Sanderson, head teacher at St. Aidan’s Catholic Academy in Sunderland, said schools across the country are finding it difficult to feed needy children, with many diverting money from textbooks and classroom teaching to subsidize meal programs. The suggestion of government budget cuts in this environment is “appalling,” he said.
“Parents… are having to make difficult decisions — do they pay the bus fare to send their child to education or do they use that money to feed their child,” Sanderson told the BBC. “In today’s society, I find that completely unacceptable.”
Hunt this week told the House of Commons that the government would “prioritize help for the most vulnerable while delivering wider economic stability.” But he also backed away from Prime Minister Liz Truss’ previous commitment to increase pensions in line with inflation.
Downing Street spokesman Max Blain said “no decisions have been made” on pension guarantees.
“We are very aware of how many vulnerable pensioners there are,” but the government is not making “any commitments on any particular policy areas at this point,” he said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has boosted food and energy prices around the world, with shipments of natural gas, grains and cooking oil disrupted. That added to price rises that began last year as the global economy started to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the jump in food costs took the biggest bite out out of household budgets in Britain last month, prices are rising across the board. Transportation costs jumped 10.9%, furniture and households goods rose 10.8%, and clothing was up 8.4%. Housing costs rose 9.3%, driven by the rising price of energy.
The government has sought to shield consumers from the impact of rising energy prices by capping the cost of electricity and natural gas. But Hunt has now limited the price cap to six months, instead of the two years originally promised.
That means inflation is likely to stay higher for longer than previously forecast, said Jack Leslie, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, a think tank that focuses on improving living standards for low- and middle-income people.
“This bleak outlook means that family incomes will continue to fall sharply again next year, especially as support with energy bills is withdrawn,” Leslie said in a statement. “That is the context of debates within government about whether previous commitments to uprate benefits or pensions in line with prices should be the next U-turn to be announced.”
Faster inflation also fuels expectations that the Bank of England will raise interest rates further and faster as it struggles to return inflation to its 2% target.
The central bank is trying to slow inflation without tipping Britain into recession. The British economy shrank an estimated 0.3% in August after growing just 0.1% in July, according to ONS figures.
“Today’s hotter-than-anticipated inflation reading paves the way for another aggressive interest rate increase from the Bank of England at its next meeting in early November,” said Victoria Scholar, head of investment at Interactive Investor. “However, the central bank is between a rock and a hard place as it looks to curb price pressures without inadvertently adding to the risk of recession.’’
It’s the same calculation going on in other countries, but the U.S. Federal Reserve has signaled it will continue its rapid rate hikes to combat inflation that is at a decades-high 8.3%.
The European Central Bank at its meeting next week is expected to make another big increase to curtail record inflation in the 19 countries that use the euro currency. The EU’s statistics agency, Eurostat, on Wednesday adjusted eurozone inflation for September down slightly to 9.9%.
The Canadian Press – Oct 19, 2022 / 6:35 am | Story: 391403
Photo: The Canadian Press
Canada’s annual inflation rate dropped slightly to 6.9 per cent in September – but the cost of groceries continues to climb.
In its latest consumer price index report, Statistics Canada said the slight deceleration from 7.0 per cent inflation in August is mostly attributed to lower gas prices, which fell by 7.4 per cent in September.
In British Columbia, the inflation rate was pegged at 7.7 per cent, up from 7.3 per cent in August.
Meanwhile, grocery prices rose at the fastest rate since August 1981, with prices up 11.4 per cent compared with a year ago.
Statistics Canada said food prices have outstripped the overall inflation rate for 10 consecutive months.
The federal agency says the rapidly rising grocery prices are due to weather conditions, higher prices for fertilizer and natural gas and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Wages continue to grow, though at a slower rate than prices. According to Statistics Canada, average wages were up 5.2 per cent in September compared with a year ago.
For homeowners or prospective buyers, higher interest rates are pushing up the cost of mortgage interest, while other costs rise at a slower pace.
With September marking the start of the academic year for many students, Statistics Canada said tuition fees were up 2.3 per cent compared with a year ago.
On a monthly basis, the consumer price index rose by 0.1 per cent.
The slight decline in the headline inflation rate is similar to what the U.S. experienced in September, with their headline inflation rate falling from 8.3 to 8.2 per cent.
The Bank of Canada will be monitoring the latest data on CPI ahead of its next interest rate announcement on next Wednesday, paying close attention to its preferred core measures of inflation.
According to Statistics Canada, these measures, which tend to provide less volatile readings, were unchanged from August.
The Bank of Canada, which has a mandate to maintain low and stable inflation, has been combating high inflation with higher interest rates.
The central bank has raised its key interest rate five times this year, bringing it from 0.25 to 3.25 per cent.
The interest rate hikes feed into higher borrowing costs for Canadians and businesses, which slow spending in the economy.
The Bank of Canada is aiming to slow spending enough to bring inflation back to its two per cent target, though the full effect of these rate hikes will take time to work its way through the economy.
Still, the effect of higher interest rates is beginning to be felt in the housing market, which has been cooling after home prices reached a peak in February.
The Associated Press – Oct 18, 2022 / 6:49 pm | Story: 391370
Insurance companies that have long said they’ll cover anything, at the right price, are increasingly ruling out fossil fuel projects because of climate change — to cheers from environmental campaigners.
More than a dozen groups that track what policies insurers have on high-emissions activities say the industry is turning its back on oil, gas and coal.
The alliance, Insure Our Future, said Wednesday that 62% of reinsurance companies — which help other insurers spread their risks — have plans to stop covering coal projects, while 38% are now excluding some oil and natural gas projects.
In part, investors are demanding it. But insurers have also begun to make the link between fossil fuel infrastructure, such as mines and pipelines, and the impact that greenhouse gas emissions are having on other parts of their business.
This includes extreme weather events such as hurricanes, which are forecast to become more potent with global warming. Hurricane Ian recently caused tens of billions of dollars in damage in the United States.
Earlier this month Munich Re, one of the world’s biggest reinsurers, said it would stop backing new oil and gas fields beginning next April.
“Insurance is the Achilles heel of the fossil fuel industry and has the power to accelerate the transition to clean energy,” said Peter Bosshard, the report’s author.
That’s because projects that require large amounts of capital are unlikely to attract investment if they can’t get insurance to cover potentially costly mishaps.
Insure Our Future said its annual scorecard of 30 companies ranked Allianz, AXA and Axis Capital best for their coal exit policies, while Aviva, Hannover Re and Munich Re came out on top for oil and natural gas.
By contrast, some insurers such as Berkshire Hathaway, Starr and Everest Re have adopted few or no restrictions coal, oil or gas projects, it said. The alliance also criticized Lloyd’s of London for announcing plans for ending coal coverage two years ago but then declaring it optional.
Many of the insurers reviewed introduced their restrictions in the last year, though the exact policies differ significantly, the report said.
Some countries have meanwhile proposed applying the idea of insurance to help countries facing massive costs due to climate change.
Germany, which chairs the Group of Seven leading economies, and the V20 alliance of vulnerable nations, chaired by Ghana, last week agreed to promote the idea of a “global shield” against climate risks.
The proposal, to be discussed at next month’s United Nations climate summit in Egypt, partly addresses demands from poor countries for more financial help to cope with the loss and damage resulting from rising global temperatures.
Haleluya Hadero And Alexandra Olson, The Associated Press – Oct 18, 2022 / 6:48 pm | Story: 391369
Photo: The Canadian Press
Chris Smalls, right, the head of the Amazon Labor Union, speaks to Amazon workers and supporters at the rally in Castleton-On-Hudson, about 15 miles south of Albany, N.Y., Monday, Oct. 10, 2022. The startup union that clinched a historic labor victory at Amazon earlier this year is slated to face the company yet again, aiming to rack up more wins that could force the reluctant retail behemoth to the negotiating table. (Rachel Phua via AP)
Amazon workers in upstate New York overwhelmingly rejected a union bid on Tuesday, handing a second defeat to the labor group that’s been attempting to drag the company to the negotiating table since its historic win earlier this year.
Warehouse workers near Albany cast 406 votes out of the 612 ballots counted — or about 66% — against the Amazon Labor Union, giving the company enough support to push back the fledgling group composed of former and current Amazon workers.
According to the National Labor Relations Board, which is responsible for overseeing the election, 206 workers — or 33.6% — voted in favor of joining the union. The agency said 949 employees were eligible to vote, and the 31 additional ballots that were challenged by either Amazon or the union were not enough to sway the outcome.
The facility is located in the town of Schodack, near one of the most unionized metro areas in the country, according to Unionstats.com. It’s what’s known as a non-sort center, a warehouse where employees pack more bulky items such as rugs, patio furniture or outdoor equipment.
Experts had noted a win there would have given the union more leverage in its quest to negotiate a contract with Amazon and a chance to demonstrate its prior win at a facility on Staten Island, New York wasn’t a one-off.
Stephanie Luce, a professor at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies, said it is too early to know how much of a setback Tuesday’s loss will be given how unpredictable the labor landscape has been. Few labor experts, she said, would have predicted the ALU’s victory at Staten Island, or similar victories at Starbucks and other companies.
For Amazon, the election outcome on Tuesday was welcome news: “We’re glad that our team in Albany was able to have their voices heard, and that they chose to keep the direct relationship with Amazon as we think that this is the best arrangement for both our employees and customers,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement.
Chris Smalls, the fired Amazon worker who led the ALU to a first-ever victory of an Amazon warehouse in the U.S., said in a statement that his group was proud of the workers who challenged Amazon’s “vicious anti-union campaign.”
“This won’t be the end of ALU at ALB1,” Smalls said, using the official name for the warehouse. He noted organizers were feeling “both anger and disappointment.”
“It was a sham election where workers were subjected to intimidation and retaliation on a daily basis and even the workers who volunteered to be election observers were faced with threats of termination,” Smalls said.
In the past week, organizers have said Amazon threatened to take away unpaid time off from workers who volunteered to be election observers. Heather Goodall, the main organizer at the facility, accused the company of calling police on her several times while she was soliciting support near the facility during her time off. An Amazon spokesperson said the company only did that when non-employees were present. ALU attorney Seth Goldstein said the union was considering its legal options.
Overall, the union has filed more than two dozen charges with the NLRB accusing the company of unfair labor practices that damaged its ability to organize. Still, Smalls noted they were going to continue their campaign to unionize Amazon warehouses.
“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” he said.
This was the fourth union election at an Amazon warehouse this year, and the third one led by the ALU. Following their unexpected win in April in Staten Island, the group was stung by a loss at another, smaller facility nearby. A union election in Alabama, led by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union at a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, remains too close to call.
Goodall launched the organizing drive near Albany in the spring, just a few months after she joined the company to assess working conditions. Soon after that, she approached the ALU after gaining some support from workers who wanted to unionize. A major point of concern, she has said, were warehouse injuries, which Amazon has acknowledged to be higher in its facilities than the industry average.
To push back against the efforts, Amazon held mandatory meetings for its employees urging them to reject the union, the kind of meetings the NLRB’s top prosecutor is now attempting to outlaw. The company has also been hanging fliers and other literature around the facility encouraging workers to vote no.
The election outside Albany marked the first time the union was tested beyond Staten Island. Before the group’s first loss, many believed organizing the second Staten Island facility would be more challenging due to the larger share of part-time workers, who might have other sources of income and less of a connection with their co-workers. Smalls and other organizers were also more distracted with media appearances and defending their historic win.
The group’s second loss shows how difficult it is to replicate a union win at Amazon, said John Logan, the director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University, adding the company’s might combined with its large warehouses and high turnover rate makes organizing particularly challenging.
“It’s very difficult for any union to win there,” he said. “(Amazon) has so many resources to throw at this.”
The company has also been trying to undo the ALU’s lone victory, filing more than two dozen objections to the election and seeking a redo vote. Last month, a federal labor official concluded the union should be certified as a bargaining representative for the warehouse, but Amazon said it intends to appeal the decision.
Last week, Amazon workers at a separate facility in California filed for their own union election, seeking to join the ALU.
Luce, the CUNY professor, said that historically, attempts to unionize new industries, or groups of workers take years, not months. And she noted that other labor unrest at Amazon facilities, including recent strikes, could keep the momentum going.
“I definitely think people are going to keep trying,” she said. “The question is at what point they will get discouraged and turn around, but I don’t think we are there yet.”
Tom Krisher, The Associated Press – Oct 18, 2022 / 6:46 pm | Story: 391367
Photo: The Canadian Press
FILE – Cars wait at a red light during rush hour on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, April 22, 2021. Eleven additional people were killed in crashes involving vehicles using automated driving systems during a five-month period earlier this year, according to newly released government data, part of an alarming pattern of incidents linked to the technology. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
Eleven people were killed in U.S. crashes involving vehicles that were using automated driving systems during a four-month period earlier this year, according to newly released government data, part of an alarming pattern of incidents linked to the technology.
Ten of the deaths involved vehicles made by Tesla, though it is unclear from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s data whether the technology itself was at fault or whether driver error might have been responsible.
The 11th death involved a Ford pickup. The automaker said it has to report fatal crashes to the government quickly, but it later determined that the truck was not equipped with its partially automated driving system.
The deaths included four crashes involving motorcycles that occurred during the spring and summer: two in Florida and one each in California and Utah. Safety advocates note that the deaths of motorcyclists in crashes involving Tesla vehicles using automated driver-assist systems such as Autopilot have been increasing.
The new fatal crashes are documented in a database that NHTSA is building in an effort to broadly assess the safety of automated driving systems, which, led by Tesla, have been growing in use. Tesla alone has more than 830,000 vehicles on U.S. roads with the systems. The agency is requiring auto and tech companies to report all crashes involving self-driving vehicles as well as autos with driver assist systems that can take over some driving tasks from people.
The 11 new fatal crashes, reported from mid-May through September, were included in statistics that the agency released Monday. In June, the agency released data it had collected from July of last year through May 15.
The figures that were released in June showed that six people died in crashes involving the automated systems, and five were seriously hurt. Of the deaths, five occurred in Teslas and one a Ford. In each case, the database says that advanced driver assist systems were in use at the time of the crash.
Michael Brooks, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, said he is baffled by NHTSA’s continued investigations and by what he called a general lack of action since problems with Autopilot began surfacing back in 2016.
“I think there’s a pretty clear pattern of bad behavior on the part of Tesla when it comes to obeying the edicts of the (federal) safety act, and NHTSA is just sitting there,” he said. “How many more deaths do we need to see of motorcyclists?”
Brooks noted that the Tesla crashes are victimizing more people who are not in the Tesla vehicles.
“You’re seeing innocent people who had no choice in the matter being killed or injured,” he said.
A message was left Tuesday seeking a response from NHTSA.
Tesla’s crash number may appear elevated because it uses telematics to monitor its vehicles and obtain real-time crash reports. Other automakers lack such capability, so their crash reports may emerge more slowly or may not be reported at all, NHTSA has said.
NHTSA has been investigating Autopilot since August of last year after a string of crashes since 2018 in which Teslas collided with emergency vehicles parked along roadways with flashing lights on. That investigation moved a step closer to a recall in June, when it was upgraded to what is called an engineering analysis.
In documents, the agency raised questions about the system, finding that the technology was being used in areas where its capabilities are limited and that many drivers weren’t taking steps to avoid crashes despite warnings from the vehicle.
NHTSA also reported that it has documented 16 crashes in which vehicles with automated systems in use hit emergency vehicles and trucks that were displaying warning signs, causing 15 injuries and one death.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which also has investigated some of the Tesla crashes dating to 2016, has recommended that NHTSA and Tesla limit Autopilot’s use to areas where it can safely operate. The NTSB also recommended that NHTSA require Tesla to improve its systems to ensure that drivers are paying attention. NHTSA has yet to act on the recommendations. (The NTSB can make only recommendations to other federal agencies.)
Messages were left Tuesday seeking comment from Tesla. At the company’s artificial intelligence day in September, CEO Elon Musk asserted that, based on the rate of crashes and total miles driven, Tesla’s automated systems were safer than human drivers — a notion that some safety experts dispute.
“At the point of which you believe that adding autonomy reduces injury and death, I think you have a moral obligation to deploy it,” Musk said. “Even though you’re going to get sued and blamed by a lot of people. Because the people whose lives you saved don’t know that their lives were saved. And the people who do occasionally die or get injured, they definitely know, or their state does, that it was, whatever, there was a problem with Autopilot.”
Teslas with automated systems have driven more than 3 million vehicles on the road, Musk said.
“That’s a lot of miles driven every day. And it’s not going to be perfect. But what matters is that it is very clearly safer than not deploying it.”
In addition to Autopilot, Tesla sells “Full Self-Driving” systems, though it says the vehicles cannot drive themselves and that motorists must be ready to intervene at all times.
The number of deaths involving automated vehicles is small compared with the overall number of traffic deaths in the U.S. Nearly 43,000 people were killed on U.S. roads last year, the highest number in 16 years, after Americans returned to the roads as the pandemic eased. Authorities blamed reckless behavior such as speeding and driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol for much of the increase.
The Canadian Press – Oct 18, 2022 / 4:16 pm | Story: 391340
Photo: The Canadian Press
President Joe Biden speaks during a Democratic National Committee event at the Howard Theatre, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Joe Biden will announce the release of 15 million barrels of oil from the U.S. strategic reserve Wednesday as part of a response to recent production cuts announced by OPEC+ nations, and he will say more oil sales are possible this winter, as his administration rushes to be seen as pulling out all the stops ahead of next month’s midterm elections.
Biden will deliver remarks Wednesday to announce the drawdown from the strategic reserve, senior administration officials said Tuesday on the condition of anonymity to outline Biden’s plans. It completes the release of 180 million barrels over six months authorized by Biden in March. That has sent the strategic reserve to its lowest level since 1984 in what the president called a “bridge” until domestic production could be increased. The reserve now contains roughly 400 million barrels of oil.
Biden will also open the door to additional releases this winter in an effort to bring prices down, but administration officials would not detail how much the president would be willing to tap and the conditions under which he would do so.
Biden will also say that the U.S. government will restock the strategic reserve when oil prices are at or lower than $67 to $72 a barrel, an offer that administration officials argue will increase domestic production by guaranteeing a baseline level of demand even if prices fall. Yet the president is also expected to renew his criticism of the profits reaped by oil companies — repeating a bet made this summer that public condemnation would matter more to these companies than shareholders’ focus on returns.
It marks the continuation of an about-face by Biden, who has tried to move the U.S. past fossil fuels to identify additional sources of energy to satisfy U.S. and global supply as a result of disruptions from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and production cuts announced by the Saudi Arabia-led oil cartel.
The prospective loss of 2 million barrels a day — 2% of global supply — has had the White House saying Saudi Arabia sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin and pledging there will be consequences for supply cuts that could prop up energy prices. The 15 million-barrel release would not cover even one full day’s use of oil in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration.
The administration could make a decision on future releases a month from now, as it requires a month and a half for the strategic reserve to notify would-be buyers.
Biden had pledged to speak about his plans to reduce gasoline prices this week. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to say what policies Biden will discuss, telling reporters at Tuesday’s briefing, “I will let the president speak for himself.”
Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said a past release of oil from the U.S. strategic reserve contributed to a decline in prices at the pump this summer. That decline ended last month as prices began to rise again, though they’ve eased somewhat in the past week.
Bernstein suggested to Fox News Sunday that the reserve is large enough that the White House could tap it again.
“There are still 400 million barrels of oil in the strategic reserve — it is more than half full,” Bernstein said, adding that Biden had not yet made a final decision on releasing more barrels.
Biden still faces political headwinds because of gas prices. AAA reports that gas is averaging $3.87 a gallon, up from a month ago when falling prices at the pump suggested that the president and his fellow Democrats were faring better in surveys.
An analysis Monday by ClearView Energy Partners, an independent energy research firm based in Washington, suggested that two states that could decide control of the evenly split Senate — Nevada and Pennsylvania — are sensitive to energy prices. The analysis noted that gas prices over the past month rose above the national average in 18 states, which are home to 29 potentially “at risk” House seats.
Even if voters want cheaper gasoline, expected gains in supply are not materializing because of a weaker global economy. The U.S. government last week revised downward its forecasts, saying that domestic firms would produce 270,000 fewer barrels a day in 2023 than was forecast in September. Global production would be 600,000 barrels a day lower than forecast in September.
The hard math for Biden is that oil production has yet to return to its pre-pandemic level of roughly 13 million barrels a day. It’s about a million barrels a day shy of that level. The oil industry would like the administration to open up more federal lands for drilling, approve pipeline construction and reverse its recent changes to raise corporate taxes. The administration counters that the oil industry is sitting on thousands of unused federal leases and says new permits would take years to produce oil with no impact on current gas prices. Environmental groups, meanwhile, have asked Biden to keep a campaign promise to block new drilling on federal lands.
Biden has resisted the policies favored by U.S. oil producers. Instead, he’s sought to reduce prices by releasing oil from the U.S. reserve, shaming oil companies for their profits and calling on greater production from countries in OPEC+ that have different geopolitical interests, said Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs at the American Petroleum Institute.
“If they continue to offer the same old so-called solutions, they’ll continue to get the same old results,” Macchiarola said.
Because fossil fuels lead to carbon emissions, Biden has sought to move away from them entirely with a commitment to zero emissions by 2050. When discussing that commitment nearly a year ago after the G-20 leading rich and developing nations met in Rome, the president said he still wanted to also lower gas prices because at “$3.35 a gallon, it has profound impact on working-class families just to get back and forth to work.”
Since Biden spoke of the pain of gas at $3.35 a gallon and his hopes to reduce costs, the price has risen another 15.5%.
Michael Liedtke, The Associated Press – Oct 18, 2022 / 2:10 pm | Story: 391299
Photo: The Canadian Press
The Netflix menu is shown on a screen in Pittsburgh, on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. Netflix posted its third quarter results a few weeks before the company launches a cheaper version of its video streaming service that will include ads for the first time, a shift that the company is hoping will accelerate its growth again. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Netflix reversed its recent subscriber losses with a summertime gain that management is hoping to build upon with the upcoming launch of a cheaper version of the video streaming service that will include ads for the first time.
The Los Gatos, California, company disclosed Tuesday that it picked up 2.4 million subscribers during the July-September period, a comeback from a loss of 1.2 million customers during the first half of the year amid stiffer competition and soaring inflation that’s squeezing household budgets.
Netflix now boasts 223 million subscribers, enabling the company to at least temporarily reclaim the mantle as the world’s largest video streaming service. Walt Disney Co. eclipsed Netflix in August when it reported its service had 221 million subscribers, a number that will be updated Nov. 8 when Disney is scheduled to report its summertime results.
“After a challenging first half, we believe we’re on a path to reaccelerate growth,” Netflix predicted in a shareholder letter accompanying the third-quarter results.
The uptick in subscribers also helped Netflix earn $1.4 billion, or $3.10 per share, a 4% dip from the same time last year. Revenue climbed 6% from last year to $7.93 billion. The subscriber gains, earnings per share and revenue all topped analyst projections compiled by FactSet.
Netflix’s shares surged nearly 13% after the latest numbers came out. Even so, the stock has still lost more than half its value so far this year, reflecting worries that Netflix’s best days have passed.
Now that Netflix is growing again, it will be aiming to accelerate the momentum with its first ad-supported plan that debuts in the U.S. and 11 other markets in early November. The new option will cost $7 per month in the U.S., less than half the price for Netflix’s most popular $15.50-per-month plan without commercial interruptions.
“Netflix still has a lot of room to grow and capture the share in a price-sensitive market,” Investing.com analyst Haris Anwar said in a sign of renewed optimism about the company’s prospects.
In a possible sign Netflix isn’t expecting the ad-backed plan to be an immediate hit, management is forecasting it will add 4.5 million subscribers during the October-December period. Although that would be Netflix’s biggest quarterly gain this year, it would still be down from the 8.3 million subscribers added during the same holiday-season period last year.
Netflix is apparently hoping to de-emphasize Wall Street’s long-running focus on its subscriber growth by stopping to provide forecasts about how many customers it expects to add from one quarter to the next. Management disclosed Tuesday that its subscriber projection for the current quarter will be its last, but that it will continue to predict earnings and revenue in hopes investors will pay more attention to those figures.
Although investors have generally been enthusiastic about Netflix’s expansion into the advertising market, one major concern is whether the additional revenue generated from selling commercials will be enough to offset the losses from current subscribers who switch to the cheaper option from higher prices they are currently paying.
Netflix is projecting revenue of nearly $7.8 billion for the quarter covering the holiday season that traditionally spurs more advertisers, slightly below what analysts had been anticipating, according to FactSet. If Netflix delivers on its revenue forecast, it will translate into a 4% increase from the same time last year. By comparison, Netflix’s posted a year-over-year revenue gain of 16% in its 2021 holiday-season quarter.
But an analysis by the research firm Insider Intelligence foresees advertising contributing a significant chunk of Netflix’s revenue. Next year, Netflix should bring in more than $830 million from advertisers in the U.S. alone, followed by more than $1 billion in the U.S. in 2024, according to Insider Intelligence.