Saltwater infiltrates drinking supply as Mississippi River levels drop – National & International News – Thu 3Nov2022

Record-low water levels on the Mississippi are creating problems for commerce and other hazards.

 

Saltwater infiltrates drinking supply as Mississippi River levels drop. Fed raises rates again, but is it helping inflation? US officials: Russian commanders discussed using nukes in Ukraine.

NATIONAL NEWS

Saltwater infiltrates drinking supply as Mississippi River levels drop

In Plaquemines Parish, LA, health officials are warning residents with high blood pressure and heart problems not to drink the tap water. As the water level of the Mississippi River has dropped drastically, it has created serious supply chain hurdles. Barges carrying goods up and down river have been delayed as the Army Corps of Engineers work to dredge navigable pathways in the riverbed. But the low volume of river water has also allowed saltwater from the Gulf to creep upriver. This could have implications for agriculture, but it is already affecting drinking water supplies in Louisiana.

Plaquemines Parish health officials say that although the tap water has a higher salt content than they’re used to, it’s safe for people without serious health issues to drink and bathe in.

To try to combat the saltwater intrusion, the Army Corp of Engineers is constructing an underwater levee. The saltwater usually travels beneath the level of fresh water, so the levee should at least reduce the volume of saltwater traveling upriver. But with the Mississippi at its lowest volume on record from Louisiana all the way up to Illinois, the only real solution is rain. For now, its unclear how long it will be until sufficient rain falls upriver in the Midwest to make a difference.

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Fed raises rates again, but is it helping inflation?

Yesterday, the Federal Reserve announced its sixth interest rate hike this year, and the fourth .75-point hike in a row. The key rate now stands in a range of 3.75%- 4%, the highest in 15 years. The Fed embarked on this series of aggressive rate hikes in order to curb rising inflation. But among economists, opinions differ on whether it’s actually working. Some fear that a rapid rise in rate hikes risks tipping the economy into a recession and driving up unemployment.

The point of raising interest rates is to cool consumer demand. Despite rising prices, consumer demand remains high. Because of rate hikes consumers may be racking up higher interest on their credit purchases. But the hikes also increase the cost of borrowing, hitting home sales and business loans.

While the rate of year-on-year inflation has come down in recent months, it remains stubbornly high. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell uses these indicators to decide whether more correction is necessary. Powell signaled yesterday that the Fed would likely pause on further rate hikes in the immediate future, but emphasized that we’re not out of the woods yet when it comes to inflation.

What worries many economists are Powell’s public statements indicating that he sees higher unemployment as not a bug, but a feature of his market correction formula. As businesses ramp up hiring for the holidays, unemployment claims are dropping. But these employment gains are likely to be temporary. We won’t know the true impact of these rate hikes on employment numbers until at least February 2023.

Although the Fed is tasked with bringing down inflation, its tools for doing so are limited. Changes in interest rates won’t effect some of the core cause of inflation, such as supply chain snarls and rampant price-gouging by corporations in various industries.

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INTERNATIONAL NEWS

US officials: Russian commanders discussed using nukes in Ukraine

Two anonymous US officials have told CBS news that Russia’s senior military commanders discussed when and how they might deploy nuclear weapons in Ukraine at a meeting in mid-October. This was around the same time that Russia was accusing Ukraine of plotting to use nuclear weapons against Russian troops on its own soil. Ukraine and its Western allies dismissed the allegations as an attempt by Russia to set up a pre-text for its own plans to use nuclear weapons.

At the time, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu took the unusual step of reaching out to his counterparts in the US, Turkey and France to discuss the possibility that Ukraine might use a “dirty bomb”. A “dirty bomb” is an improvised device that uses conventional explosives to scatter nuclear waster or other radioactive material over a wide area. These are not as massively destructive as devices that use a nuclear reaction as the explosive mechanism, but they are dangerous and can render an area uninhabitable.

Energoatom, the company that runs Ukraine’s nuclear plants, has raised alarms about a secret Russian construction project at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The plant has been under Russian military occupation since March, although its Ukrainian crew continues to run and maintain the facility. Russian forces at the plant have not allowed either the plant’s Ukrainian minders nor international inspectors anywhere near the structure. Energoatom feared that the Russians might be using nuclear waste from the plant to construct its own dirty bomb. 

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