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Oil soars past $105 as Russia’s attack on Ukraine rattles markets

Global benchmark Brent crude touched a high of $105.79 on Thursday.

Oil prices jumped on Thursday, with Brent rising above $105 a barrel for the first time since 2014, after Russia’s attack on Ukraine exacerbated concerns about disruptions to global energy supply.
Russia launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea in the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II.
The United States and Europe have promised the toughest sanctions on Russia in response.
“If sanctions affect payment transactions, Russian banks and possibly also the insurance that covers Russian oil and gas deliveries, supply outages cannot be excluded,” said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.
At least three major buyers of Russian oil were unable to open letters of credit from Western banks to cover purchases on Thursday, sources told Reuters.
Brent crude was up $8.15, or 8.4 percent, at $104.99 a barrel as of 12:21 GMT, having touched a high of $105.79. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude jumped $7.33, or 8 percent, to $99.43.
Brent and WTI hit their highest since August and July 2014 respectively.
“Russia is the third-largest oil producer and second-largest oil exporter. Given low inventories and dwindling spare capacity, the oil market cannot afford large supply disruptions,” said UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo.
“Supply concerns may also spur oil stockpiling activity, which supports prices.”
Russia is also the largest provider of natural gas to Europe, providing about 35 percent of its supply.
United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed the UK and its allies would unleash a massive package of economic sanctions on Russia and said the West must end its reliance on Russian oil and gas.
China warned of the impact of tensions on the stability of the energy market.
“All countries that are truly responsible should take responsible actions to jointly maintain global energy security,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said.
Global oil supplies remain tight as demand recovers from coronavirus pandemic lows.
Underscoring the tight market, premiums on crude contracts for loading in one month over contracts for loadings in six months, a metric closely watched by traders, hit a record high at $11.55 a barrel.
“This growing uncertainty during a time when the oil market is already tight does leave it vulnerable, and so prices are likely to remain volatile and elevated,” said Warren Patterson, head of ING’s commodity research.
Analysts believe that Brent is likely to remain above $100 a barrel until significant alternative supplies become available from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
The US and Iran have been engaged in indirect nuclear talks in Vienna that could lead to the removal of sanctions on Iranian oil sales.
Iran’s top security official Ali Shamkhani said on Twitter on Thursday that it is possible to achieve a good nuclear agreement with Western powers after significant progress in negotiations.
Analysts are warning of inflationary pressure on the global economy from $100 oil, especially for Asia, which imports most of its energy needs.
“Asia’s Achilles heel remains its vast import needs for energy, with surging oil prices bound to take a hefty bite out of income and growth over the coming year,” said HSBC economist Frederic Neumann. –


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Global stocks plunge as Russia attacks Ukraine

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on January 24, 2022 in New York City. Stocks fell again on Monday as inflation fears, rising oil prices and continued tensions with Russia added to economic worries for global markets.
Hong Kong (CNN Business) Global stocks plunged after President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine, drawing condemnation from the West and making punishing sanctions all but certain.
European stocks tumbled on Thursday. The FTSE 100 fell 3.9% in London, while France’s CAC 40 dropped 3.8% and Germany’s DAX 30 shed 4%. Russian stocks crashed, with the country’s main index dropping 45% before recovering some losses and closing 33% lower.
US stocks fell sharply. The Nasdaq Composite declined 0.2%, opening the day in bear-market territory. The Dow sank 1.9%, or 675 points. The S&P 500 fell 1.2%.
In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HSI) dropped 3.2%, its biggest daily loss in five months. Japan’s Nikkei 225 (N225) lost 1.8% and China’s Shanghai Composite moved 1.7% lower.
The pain spread beyond stocks. The Russian ruble briefly crashed about 10% to a record low of 90 against the US dollar.
Brent crude, the world benchmark, topped $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014 on its way to $103 per barrel. US crude jumped 5.2% to $97.33 a barrel.


A broad offensive by Russian forces targeted military infrastructure across Ukraine as well as several airports. The assault began hours before dawn and quickly spread across central and eastern Ukraine as Russian forces attacked from three sides. Putin warned of bloodshed unless Ukrainian forces lay down their arms.
“The world is shocked as Russia launches a major military offensive against Ukraine,” analysts for ING wrote Thursday in a research note. “Financial markets are predictably witnessing a flight to safety and may have to price in slower growth on the further spike in energy prices,” they added.
Investors will watch for the West’s response to Russia’s aggression, which is likely to include punishing sanctions.
“The question will then be which Russian financial institutions are targeted for severe financial sanctions,” the ING analysts said. – CNN.

Driverless cars won’t be good for the environment if they lead to more auto use

For years, self-driving car technology has remained tantalisingly just beyond the horizon. Bold predictions notwithstanding, fully automated vehicles still haven’t appeared in showrooms. But the technology appears poised for a leap forward in 2022.
Companies including Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Honda are bringing so-called Level 3 AVs to market that will let drivers take their hands off the wheel under specific conditions, and virtually every major auto manufacturer is testing self-driving systems.
Automated vehicles hold tremendous promise. Cars that handle most or all of the driving tasks could be safer than human drivers, operate more efficiently and open up new opportunities for seniors, people with disabilities and others who can’t drive themselves. But while attention has understandably focused on safety, the potential environmental impacts of automated vehicles have largely taken a back seat.
We study automated vehicle technologies and how consumers are likely to use them. In two recent studies, our research teams found two creative ways to assess the real-life impacts that automated vehicles could have on the environment.
By analysing drivers’ use of partially automated vehicles and simulating the expected impact of future driverless vehicles, we found that both automated vehicle types will encourage a lot more driving. This will increase transportation-related pollution and traffic congestion, unless regulators take steps to make car travel less appealing.

More miles, more carbon emissions

Research has previously suggested that automated vehicles could cause people to drive more than they currently do, leading to more congestion, energy consumption and pollution. Riding in a car as a passenger is much less stressful than driving, so people might be willing to sit through longer trips and battle more traffic if they can relax and do other things during the journey. The promise of a relaxed, comfortable commute to work could even make some people move farther away from their workplaces and accelerate suburban sprawl trends.
People would also have the ability to send their cars on “zero-occupancy” trips, or errands without passengers. For example, if you don’t want to pay for parking downtown, at some point you may be able to send your car back home while you’re at work and summon it when you need it. Convenient, but also twice the driving.
This could be a big problem. The transportation sector is already the leading contributor to US greenhouse gas emissions. States like California with aggressive plans to combat climate change have recognized that reducing the number of vehicles miles that people travel is a critical strategy. What if automated vehicle technology makes it harder to achieve these goals?

The real-world environmental impacts of automated cars

While we and other researchers have predicted these outcomes through modelling, no one has been able to verify them because fully automated vehicles aren’t commercially available yet. We found two innovative ways to use currently available technologies to study the real-world impacts of automated vehicles.
In a study published in mid-2021, we surveyed 940 people who drive partially automated vehicles. Systems like Tesla’s Autopilot can assist with driving tasks and reduce the burden of driving, although to a lesser degree than fully automated vehicles will.
We found that drivers who used Autopilot drove an average of nearly 5,000 more miles per year than those who didn’t. In interviews with 36 drivers of partially automated vehicles, they generally said they were more willing to sit in traffic and took more long-distance trips, all because of the increased comfort and reduced stress provided by semi-automated systems.
In a separate study conducted in late 2019 and early 2020, we simulated the function of a fully automated vehicle by providing 43 households in Sacramento, California, with a chauffeur service to take over the family driving duties and tracking how they used it. These households increased their vehicle miles travelled by 60 per cent over their pre-chauffeur travel, and dramatically reduced their use of transit, bicycling and walking. More than half of the increase in vehicle travel involved sending chauffeurs on zero-occupancy trips without a household member in the car.

Limiting pollution from automated car use

These findings show that automated vehicles will encourage a lot more driving in the future and that partially automated vehicles are doing so now. Is there any way to reap its benefits without making climate change, air quality, and congestion worse?
Requiring future automated vehicles to use zero-emission technology, as California is doing, can be a big help. But until the US develops a 100 per cent carbon-free electricity system, even electric cars will produce some upstream emissions from power generation. And all car travel causes other harmful impacts, such as water and air pollution from brake and tire wear, collisions with wildlife and traffic congestion.
To prevent an explosion in driving and associated harms, regulators and communities need to send signals that driving isn’t free. They could do this by putting a price on car travel – particularly on zero-occupancy trips.
The main policies that have this effect today are federal and state fuel taxes, which currently average around 49 cents per gallon for gasoline and 55 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. But the impact of fuel taxes on drivers’ behaviour will decline with the adoption and spread of electric vehicles. This means that the transportation sector will need to develop new funding mechanisms for ongoing costs like maintaining roads.
In place of fuel taxes, state and federal governments could adopt user fees or charges for the number of vehicle miles that drivers travel. Correctly pricing the cost of private vehicle travel could encourage travellers to consider cheaper and more efficient modes, such as public transit, walking and bicycling.
These fees could be adjusted based on location – for example, charging more to drive into dense city centres – or other factors such as time of day, traffic congestion levels, vehicle occupancy and vehicle type. Modern communication technologies can enable such policies by tracking where and when cars are on the roads.
Another option would be to promote shared fleets of automated vehicles rather than privately owned ones. We envision these as commercial companies, similar to Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing providers. Having a car available when needed could make it possible to forgo car ownership and could serve travel demand much more efficiently by essentially acting as on-demand transit. These networks could also help riders reach fixed-route public transportation services that operate on main transportation corridors.
All of these policies will be most effective if they are adopted now, before automated vehicles are widespread. A transportation future that is automated, electric and shared could be environmentally sustainable – but in our view, it’s unlikely to evolve that way on its own.

Downsizing looms as KQ plans to cut aircraft fleet

The carrier has a 36-aircraft fleet, 19 of which it wholly owns while the rest are leased

Kenya Airways is planning to cut its aircraft fleet to 30 from the current 36, a cost-cutting measure that is likely to see a number of employees sent parking.
A source privy to recommendations by Steer Group and attended an induction meeting between a new consultant and KQ top management told the Star in confidence that the national carrier is considering cutting Boeing 787s to five, and reducing Embraer 190s from 15 to 10.
According to our source, the consultancy firm, Steer Group concluded its turnaround plan for the airline late last year.
It is, however, expected to maintain the number of B737s at 15.
Yesterday, the airline’s chairperson Michael Joseph said the decision is yet to be made.
“Nothing has been decided,’’ Joseph said in a short message.
Both KQ’s CEO and the airline’s communications director Dennis Kashero had not responded to our several texts and Whatsapp messages by the time of going to press. None responded to our calls
The carrier has a 36-aircraft fleet, 19 of which it wholly owns while the rest are leased. Embraer makes up the bulk of its fleet with 15 aircraft.
The airline flies to 56 destinations worldwide— 46 of which are in Africa.
Talks of fleet cut perhaps signals reorganization plan at the country’s national carrier, which was presented to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ahead of the Sh26.6 billion capital injections by the National Treasury in the supplementary budget for the current financial year.
According to IMF, the Kenyan government agreed to assume $827.4 million of KQ’s debt and provide financial support in FY2022 and FY2023.
The international lender revealed that the Kenyan government would provide $473 million to handle the airline’s payment obligations and restructuring costs as part of the assistance package.
Early this month, KQ’s chief executive Allan Kilavuka welcomed the government’s conditional bailout saying it will help the airline strengthen its cash flow and speed up much-needed reforms including its network, fleet and operations
“The financial support will help the airline strengthen its cash flow and speed up much-needed reforms including its network, fleet and operations. Other areas focus on cost restructuring, productivity and efficiency,” Kilavuka said in a note seen by the Star.
In an internal notice, Kilavuka said the National Treasury has also helped in procuring Seabury Consulting to guide in network trimming, rationalization of flight frequencies and other cost-cutting measures in yet another government attempt to shore up the national carrier’s financial position.
The planned fleet cut is likely to see a number of employees sent home, a move opposed by the workers’ unions led by the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) and the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU).
A KAWU official told the Star that the union will oppose any move to send members home, workers at the airline are already overstretched and further downsizing will worsen the situation.
”We will deliberate and share an official statement. KQ must address corruption and system losses if it wants to remain competitive. Downsizing is not a solution to financial issues and growth,” he said.
The pilots’ body on other hand is advocating for increased activities in profitable routes, staff retention to cut on hiring costs and adoption of high capacity flights.
According to the Kenya Aviation Recovery Road Map prepared by the lobby last year, diversification of KQ’s business model like the establishment of secondary hubs, capitalising on low hanging routes and rapid of existing profitable networks requires a high degree of experts.
The recovery plan which informed most of the measures presented to IMF includes replacing some of the Embraer 190 in the fleet with the larger medium-range aircrafts such as the Boeing B737-800 and the Airbus A320 family to meet the underserved needs of the market.
They are also routing for a multi-purpose passenger aircraft with optimized cargo-carrying capacity, saying consideration should be given to the Boeing 777-300ER which is an aircraft that can uplift up to 40 Tonnes of cargo, with full passengers and their luggage.
“We cannot talk of downsizing when our competitors are on expanding and hiring spree. Qatar Airways, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines and other emerging regional peers aggressively planning for a post-covid takeoff,’’ Murithi Nyagah said.
According to KQ’s report, the airline ended 2020 with a workforce of 3,652, having lost about 1,123 employees. Half of the airline staff left through resignations or voluntary early retirements.
In an open letter to President Uhuru Kenyatta, the union said that the airline must work on a talent retention programme if it seeks to compete with peers in the market.
It said that at least 120 pilots have in the last four years sought greener pastures in competing airlines such as Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates, RwandAir, Etihad, All Nippon Airways, American Eagle and Oman Air.
“Efforts to replace these pilots has not been sufficient and this is evidenced by the 49,000 leave days currently owed to 430 pilots in employment at Kenya Airways,” the letter reads in part. –

Seven-month tax receipts exceed Sh1trn for first time

KRA Commissioner General Githii Mburu. 

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has collected nearly 60 percent of its full-year tax target in seven months through January on the back of economic recovery from Covid shocks and fresh taxation measures, Treasury data shows.
Collections for seven months of the current financial year ending June crossed the Sh1 trillion mark in the review period for the first time, according to exchequer statistics released by Treasury Secretary Ukur Yatani last Friday.
Tax receipts between July 2021 and January 2022 amounted to Sh1.01 trillion, a 28.89 percent jump or Sh226.76 billion more compared with a similar period previously.
This means the taxman is ahead of its target on a prorated basis, having collected an average of Sh144.52 billion per month against a prorated goal of Sh142.29 billion partly because of the low base in the previous year.
The jump has largely benefitted from progressive economic recovery from the Covid-19 shocks on the economy, aggressive use of data by the taxman to catch cheats, and increased taxation which has raised the cost of basic commodities.
The collections were also helped by the removal of Covid tax reliefs for firms and workers, except those earning less than Sh24,000, which were in place between April and December 2020.
Tax experts have also attributed the performance on increased compliance after KRA extended a partial tax amnesty to businesses and individuals who have tax arrears dating five years back to pay up without incurring accumulated interest and penalties.
KRA Commissioner-General Githii Mburu last month cited “use of data and intelligence to unearth unpaid taxes” as well as “technology to simplify tax processes” as key drivers of revenue growth.
“The excellent revenue performance has been enhanced by the sustained implementation of key strategies as enshrined in KRA’s 8th Corporate Plan (strategic plan 2021-24),” Mr Mburu said in a statement on January 14.
Taxation streams such as Pay As You Earn, Value-Added Tax and excise duty outperformed targets in six months through last December.
However, corporation taxes, while posting year-on-year growth, have bucked this trend largely due to global supply chain constraints which have raised the cost of raw materials and shipping expenses for firms. –

COVID: Restrictions in England will be scrapped on Thursday

Boris Johnson had hinted on Sunday that provision for free tests could not continue at their current rate due to the cost of £2bn a month.
The legal requirement for people who test positive for coronavirus to self-isolate will be removed from Thursday and free symptomatic and asymptomatic testing will end in England from 1 April, the PM has announced.
Boris Johnson confirmed the move as he unveiled his government’s plan for “living with COVID” in the Commons.
The changes will be subject to approval by Parliament.
In an attempt to ensure people do not build up personal stockpiles of free lateral flow tests before the 1 April cut-off, individuals can now only order a box every three days, instead of every 24 hours.
From 21st February 2021
• Guidance for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake twice weekly asymptomatic testing removed
From 24 February:
• Adults and children who test positive will still be advised to self-isolate but the legal requirement will be removed
• Vaccinated contacts of positive cases will no longer be asked to test for seven days
• There will no longer be a legal requirement for close contacts who are not vaccinated to self-isolate
• Contact tracing will also come to an end
From 24 March:
• COVID provisions attached to statutory sick pay will be removed
• Wider guidance on workplace safety that been changed for COVID will be updated
From 1 April:
• Free universal testing will be scrapped and will instead be targeted at the most vulnerable
• Government officials expected the cost of a box of seven lateral flow tests to settle at around £20
• The use of voluntarily COVID status certification will also no longer be recommended
Outlining his plan for “living with COVID”, the PM said the country is now in a position to move from “government restrictions to personal responsibility”.
Commuters walk across London Bridge, in central London. The government has said it intends to lift all remaining Covid restrictions in England – including the legal rule to self-isolate – later this month. Picture date: Monday February 14, 2022.
“Before we begin I know the whole House will join me in sending our best wishes to Her Majesty the Queen for a full and swift recovery. It is a reminder that this virus has not gone away,” the prime minister told the Commons.
“But because of the efforts we have made as a country over the past two years, we can now deal with it in a very different way, moving from government restrictions to personal responsibility, so we protect ourselves without losing our abilities and maintaining our contingent capabilities so we can respond rapidly to any new variant.”
The PM continued: “Until 1 April we will still advise people who test positive to stay at home but after that we will encourage people with COVID-19 symptoms to exercise personal responsibility, just as we encourage people who may have flu to be considerate to others.”
On the end of universal free testing, the prime minister told MPs that the “biggest testing programme per person of any large country in the world” came “at vast cost”. – skynews

The seven urinary symptoms linked to Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer symptoms: PSA testing is really beneficial

PROSTATE cancer is largely symptomless, which is why it’s so important to get tested and look after your health. However, there are seven signs that are linked to the condition.
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One in eight men in the UK will get prostate cancer in their lifetime. About 78 percent of those diagnosed will survive for 10 or more years, but your chances of survival largely depend on how early you get diagnosed. There are no obvious symptoms of the disease but you should look out for certain urinary symptoms. If you have any of the following seven symptoms, you should talk to your doctor about prostate-specific antigen screening.
When diagnosed at its earliest stage, 100 percent of people with prostate cancer will survive their disease for five years or more.
Prostate cancer survival is improving and has tripled in the last 40 years in the UK, probably because of PSA testing.
The problem is, prostate cancer doesn’t usually cause any symptoms in its early stages so men often don’t get tested and diagnosed early enough to improve their chances of survival.
This is because prostate cancer normally starts to grow in the outer part of the prostate where it will not press on the urethra.
You won’t be able to detect it until prostate cancer has advanced and grown large enough to put pressure on the urethra.
The urethra carries urine from the bladder out of the penis so cancer growing here will change the way you urinate.
If you notice changes in the way you urinate, it’s more likely to be an enlarged prostate than prostate cancer but it’s still important to get your symptoms checked out.
Lots of men experience these mild symptoms over many years and don’t do anything about them, but it’s vital that you seek medical advice and testing.
The seven urinary symptoms linked to the condition are:
Trouble urinating
Decreased force in the stream of urine
Blood in the urine
Blood in the semen
Bone pain
Losing weight without trying
Erectile dysfunction
If you have locally advanced prostate cancer (when it breaks out of the prostate) or if the cancer has advanced and spread to other areas of the body, you may experience more general symptoms.
Prostate Cancer UK says the following are signs of both:
back pain, hip pain or pelvis pain
problems getting or keeping an erection
blood in the urine or semen
unexplained weight loss
Although it’s essential to see your GP, don’t panic too much. All of these symptoms could be caused by non-cancerous health problems.
Even if it isn’t cancer, your GP can help you to find out what is causing your symptoms.
Since prostate cancer doesn’t have any obvious symptoms (and if you do have symptoms, they could be caused by something else), it’s impossible to know if you have prostate cancer without getting tested.
You can’t check for prostate cancer yourself, so you must visit your GP to discuss the pros and cons of the various tests you can do. –

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