European energy prices, digital money | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack

MADRID (AP) — European governments are slashing fuel taxes and doling out tens of billions to help consumers, truckers, farmers and others cope with spiking energy prices made worse by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But for some truckers, fishermen and others whose livelihoods hinge on fuel, the measures aren’t enough. They have been staging protests to push politicians to ease their financial pain. The war has exacerbated a monthslong energy crunch in Europe, and governments have limited options to provide lasting relief as households and businesses face crippling energy bills, high prices at the pump and other effects. Volatile energy markets control natural gas and oil prices that are soaring and driving record inflation.


Pandemic relief money spent on hotel, ballpark, ski slopes

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Associated Press review finds that state and local governments have spent nearly $1 billion worth of federal coronavirus aid on projects that have little to do with combating the pandemic. The spending runs the gamut. In Broward County, Florida, $140 million will help to build an upscale hotel. In Dutchess County, New York, $12 million is being used to renovate a minor league ballpark. Alabama plans to spend $400 million building new prisons. When congressional Democrats passed their $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan a year ago, they characterized it as “emergency funding” that would keep front-line workers on the job, open schools and ramp up vaccinations.


IRS unit gets no funds to enforce sanctions on rich Russians

WASHINGTON (AP) — The IRS criminal investigation arm tasked with tracking down sanctioned Russian oligarchs’ property failed to receive an infusion of money in the Ukraine aid package. This appears to be because of broader reluctance by Republicans to put more money into IRS enforcement actions. Republicans close to the spending bill negotiations said the mission of the IRS should be to administer and enforce the U.S. tax code, not to enforce sanctions. The White House requested $30 million to trace financial activities associated with sanctioned people. Many of the sanctions levied on Russia’s elite and its Central Bank are imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department and its various enforcement arms, including those at the IRS.


US plan aims to end racial, ethnic bias in home appraisals

Vice President Kamala Harris has announced a plan that’s intended to end racial and ethnic discrimination in the appraisal of home values. The plan is part of a broader federal effort to address a wealth gap that systemic inequality has perpetuated. Among the 21 steps in the plan is a legislative proposal to modernize the governance structure of the appraisal industry. Appraisers help to determine the value of a home so buyers can receive a mortgage. An analysis by mortgage buyer Freddie Mac shows appraisers are more likely to undervalue homes in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods. This form of discrimination widens the racial wealth gap.


Stocks fall on Wall Street as crude oil prices climb again

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks closed lower on Wall Street Wednesday, giving back nearly all of the gains they made a day earlier, as crude oil prices rose sharply again. The S&P 500 lost 1.2%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.3% and the Nasdaq fell 1.3%. Technology, health care and financial stocks were among the biggest losers. Retailers and communications companies also lost ground. Energy stocks rose along with crude oil prices. Bond yields eased back. U.S. President Joe Biden headed to Europe for an emergency NATO meeting Thursday, where sanctions and the Russian oil embargo will likely top the agenda.


Powell: Digital currencies will require new regulations

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday that new forms of digital money such as cryptocurrencies and stablecoins present risks to the U.S. financial system and will require new rules to protect consumers. Powell, speaking on a panel organized by the Bank for International Settlements, a global organization of central bankers, also said that new technologies will likely make electronic payments cheaper and faster. But they could also destabilize existing financial institutions, he said.


Putin wants ‘unfriendly countries’ to pay rubles for gas

MOSCOW (AP) — President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will demand “unfriendly” countries pay for Russian natural gas exports only in rubles from now on. Putin told a meeting with government officials Wednesday that “a number of Western countries made illegitimate decisions on the so-called freezing of the Russian assets, effectively drawing a line over reliability of their currencies, undermining the trust for those currencies.” Economists said the move appeared designed to try to support the ruble, which has collapsed against other currencies since Putin invaded Ukraine and Western countries responded with far-reaching sanctions against Russia. But some expressed doubt that it would work.


Outdoor Retailer show moving to Utah despite boycott threats

DENVER (AP) — The Outdoor Retailer trade show has announced it is moving from Denver back to Salt Lake City next year despite threats of a boycott from big-name recreation companies and an environmental group. The biannual show moved to Denver in 2018 after Utah lawmakers asked President Donald Trump to repeal the newly designated Bears Ears National Monument. Two dozen outdoor recreation companies, including Patagonia, REI and The North Face, and The Conservation Alliance have threatened to boycott the show if it moves back to Salt Lake City. But Outdoor Retailer’s owner says it can better fight for public lands protections from the event’s longstanding former home in Utah.


The S&P 500 lost 55.37 points, or 1.2%, to 4,456.24. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 448.96 points, or 1.3%, to 34,358.50. The Nasdaq shed 186.21 points, or 1.3%, to 13,922.60. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies ended down 36.14 points, or 1.7%, to 2,052.21.

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