Crude Prices Skyrocket Following Houthi Attack on Major Saudi Oil Facility - That’s in the news on Monday September 16, 2019


Weekend drone strikes on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure have effectively wiped out about 5 percent of the global daily production, sending oil prices skyrocketing to historic levels Monday. The attacks at an oil processing facility at Abqaiq and an oil field at Khurais on Saturday knocked out nearly 6 million barrels of daily crude production. The Iranian-supported Houthi rebel group in Yemen claimed responsibility Monday, and the group threatened more attacks against Aramco, the Saudi-owned oil company. A Saudi military spokesman said Monday a preliminary investigation showed the weapons used against the facilities were Iranian. President Donald Trump said the U.S. is "locked and loaded" but waiting to decide how to react until after Saudi Arabia determines definitively who was behind the strikes. The oil supply disruption is greater than that of the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the Arab-Israeli War from in 1973 and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 -- all three of which led to major energy crises. In London, prices for Brent, the international benchmark for crude oil, jumped $12 a barrel, the largest increase since the late 1980s. Analysts say the attack could also influence crude prices well into next year.




North Korean leader Kim Jong Un invited President Trump to visit Pyongyang in a letter sent in August amid stalled denuclearisation talks. That's according to a South Korean newspaper, citing diplomatic sources. Kim, in the letter sent in the third week of August, spoke of his “willingness” for a third summit and extended an invitation for Trump to visit the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. Trump on Aug. 9 said he had received a “very beautiful letter” from Kim, but U.S. officials have not said anything about a second letter in August. Trump and Kim have met three times since June last year to discuss ways to resolve a crisis over North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, but substantive progress has been scant. Since their third meeting June 30 in the Demilitarised Zone, North Korea has several times tested short-range projectiles. An unidentified director-general for U.S. affairs at North Korea’s foreign ministry said on Monday he hoped a “good meeting” with working-level U.S. officials would take place “in a few weeks”.




Firefighters made substantial progress over the weekend fighting a large wildfire in Northern California that's been burning for nearly two weeks charring more than 50 thousand acres. Officials said the Walker Fire is now 68 percent contained in the Plumas National Forest, northwest of Sacramento. The blaze began Sept. 4 and quickly grew to 17 thousand acres. More than 2,000 personnel are assigned to the fire, which has now burned close to 55 thousand acres -- the largest U.S. wildfire of the year so far. The fight became more difficult Sunday with winds up to 40 mph, which sent embers as far as a half-mile away. Officials said the fire has not yet destroyed any structures, and thunderstorms forecast for Monday could help firefighters control the flames.




United Auto Workers went on strike against General Motors on Monday following the collapse of talks on a new contract over differences on pay and health-care benefits. The union represents more than 46 thousand GM workers at more than 50 U.S. facilities. This is the UAW's first national strike since 2007. The UAW extended its contracts with Ford and Fiat Chrysler while negotiations with those automakers continue. GM said Sunday the auto company's offer to the union includes more than $7 billion in investments, more than 5,400 jobs, higher pay, and improved benefits, but union leaders said the sides are far apart on economic issues, despite some progress being made in the negotiation.




Volkswagen has agreed to pay up to 127 million Australian dollars ($87 million) to settle an Australian class action stemming from the 2015 diesel emissions scandal. The German automaker and a lawyer said Monday the settlement - in the Federal Court in Sydney - has yet to be approved by a judge. Volkswagen will pay between AU$87 million and AU$127 million, depending on how many owners of the affected 100 thousand Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda diesel vehicles sold in Australia join the class action. Volkswagen said in a statement that it made no admission of liability in the settlement. Volkswagen has also agreed to pay the plaintiffs’ legal costs, which have yet to be assessed. Volkswagen has paid 30 billion euros ($33.5 billion) in fines and civil settlements around the world after it was revealed that the world’s largest automaker after Toyota installed software on diesel vehicles to cheat on emissions tests. Volkswagen announced in May it had set aside 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) for legal risks related to the diesel scandal.




New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Sunday that the state's health commissioner this week would recommend banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. The commissioner will make the proposal to the state Public Health and Health Planning Council, which has the power to issue emergency regulations that could be enforced in two weeks. Cuomo said it was unacceptable to market flavors such as bubble gum and cotton candy that have been blamed for rising vaping among teens. He said, "These are obviously targeted to young people and highly effective at targeting young people." Nearly 40 percent of the state's high school seniors and 27 percent of its high school students overall use e-cigarettes, according to the state health department. High school use was just 10.5 percent in 2014.




Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy Sunday days after reaching a tentative settlement with many of the state and local governments that accuse the drug manufacturer of fueling the opioid crisis. The settlement reportedly could be worth $12 billion. The Sackler family, which owns the company, agreed to pay at least $3 billion and relinquish control of the company. Some of Purdue's legal battles are continuing. About half of the states declined to sign the settlement, which is expected to lead to the end of the company. Purdue's profitable and highly addictive painkiller OxyContin has been closely linked to the opioid epidemic. Purdue Pharma marketed the time-released opioid as a safer narcotic painkiller, but it was blamed for a rise in addiction and overdose deaths.




Ric Ocasek, the lead singer of the new wave band The Cars, died Sunday in New York City. He was 75. Ocasek was found unresponsive in his Manhattan home late Sunday afternoon by his estranged wife, model Paulina Porizkova. He appeared to have died of natural causes. The Cars' self-titled debut album marked a milestone for new-wave music, hit the top 20 on the Billboard 200, and included the hit singles "Just What I Needed" and "My Best Friend's Girl." The Cars were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. Ocasek was best known as The Cars' frontman, rhythm guitarist, and main songwriter, but he also was a successful producer, working with everyone from Weezer to No Doubt to Bad Brains. His death follows the news over the weekend that another music legend, Eddie Money, died Friday from stage 4 esophageal cancer. Money had several major hits in the 1970s and 1980s including "Baby Hold On," "Two Tickets To Paradise," "Take Me Home Tonight," "Shakin'," and more. He and his family starred in a reality show on AXS TV, "Real Money" in 2018. Eddie Money was 70.