U.S. crude oil production is flirting with record highs heading into the new year, thanks to the technological nimbleness of shale oil drillers . "It's a total turnaround from where we were in the '70s," said Frank Verrastro, senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Shale oil drills can now plunge deep into the earth, pivot and tunnel sideways for miles until they hit an oil pocket, Verrastro said. The United States is so awash in oil that petroleum-rich Saudi Arabia's state-owned oil and natural gas company is reportedly interested in investing in the fertile Texas Permian Basin shale oil region, according to a report last month. U.S. oil production averaged around 9.6 million barrels per day in 2017. The highest U.S. production based on monthly government data is above 10 million barrels per day, which dates back to 1970. read more
Charles P. Pierce: On Thursday, El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago sat down with Michael Schmidt of The New York Times for what apparently was an open-ended, one-on-one interview. ... In my view, the interview is a clinical study of a man in severe cognitive decline, if not the early stages of outright dementia. ... In this interview, the president is only intermittently coherent. He talks in semi-sentences and is always groping for something that sounds familiar, even if it makes no sense whatsoever and even if it blatantly contradicts something he said two minutes earlier. To my ears, anyway, this is more than the president's well-known allergy to the truth. This is a classic coping mechanism employed when language skills are coming apart.
Following Donald Trump's Christmas morning tweet announcing that he'd soon be "back to work in order to Make America Great Again," the president reportedly spent the next seven days visiting his golf club. Starting on Dec. 26, Trump's motorcade was spotted arriving at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida, at 9 a.m. on six consecutive mornings, per pool reports. On Jan. 1, the seventh day since his tweet, Trump arrived at the club at around 8:50 a.m., BuzzFeed News reported, just minutes after he tweeted about having "much work" to do. read more
South Korea has offered high-level talks with North Korea next Tuesday to discuss its possible participation in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. The North's leader, Kim Jong-un, said earlier he was considering sending a team to Pyeongchang in South Korea for the Games in February. He said the two sides should "urgently meet to discuss the possibility." South Korea's president said he saw the offer as a "groundbreaking chance" to improve relations.
For all that he's never stopped reliving the Watergate years, [John] Dean seems surprised at how relevant what he went through 45 years ago remains. Not that everything is the same -- for one, he thinks that in today's media and political environment, [President] Nixon might have finished his term. "There's social media, there's the internet, the news cycles are faster. I think Watergate would have occurred at a much more accelerated speed than the 928 days it took to go from the arrest at the Watergate to the conviction of Haldeman and Ehrlichman and Mitchell, et al.," Dean said. "There's more likelihood he might have survived if there'd been a Fox News."
State Rep. Bill Chumley (R-Woodruff) and state Rep. Mike Burns (R-Taylors) pre-filed a bill last month that would establish a commission to design an African-American Confederate veterans monument, reported The State. "In all my years of research, I can say I have seen no documentation of black South Carolina soldiers fighting for the Confederacy," said historian Walter Edgar, the longtime director of the University of South Carolina's Institute for Southern Studies. "In fact, when secession came, the state turned down free (blacks) who wanted to volunteer because they didn't want armed persons of color. Edgar, who wrote a history of the state, said any black person who served in a Confederate unit in South Carolina was either a slave or an unpaid laborer working against his will.
President Donald Trump began the New Year by sending an angry, early morning tweet criticizing Pakistan. Trump tweeted: "The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!" It was not immediately clear why Trump opted to tweet on Pakistan.
Veteran journalist Carl Bernstein said Sunday that President Donald Trump's lawyers are telling him what he wants to hear about the probe ending soon to prevent Trump from firing Mueller. "There are many times he has expressed, I'm told by people in the White House, the desire to fire Mueller, the desire to pardon people under investigation including his family," Bernstein, a CNN contributor, told CNN's Dana Bash on State of the Union. "His lawyers are telling him what he wants to hear -- that's what I'm told -- by lawyers in the White House, they're telling him what he wants to hear to keep him from acting precipitously and to go off and fire Mueller in a rage, or fire (Deputy Attorney General) Rod Rosenstein in a rage. They have an out-of-control client."
If you think the government has no business telling business its business, this has been a pretty great year. If, on the other hand, you think government has a role to play in ensuring fair play by companies that have shown themselves to be guided almost exclusively by self-interest and a disregard for consumers and public welfare, this year has been nothing short of horrendous. And 2018 doesn't look much better. The Trump administration has been single-mindedly focused on getting rid of rules and regulations that businesses say hindered competition, innovation and free markets. "The consumer protections that were put in place over the past two generations are being destroyed brick by brick under the Trump administration," said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League. read more
Early in 2017, Donald Trump was worried the dollar was getting too strong. At the start of 2018, he has nothing to worry about. This year, the US dollar recorded an annual decline for the first time in five years. The ICE dollar index, which measures the dollar against a basket of six other currencies, fell nearly 10% in 2017. That's biggest annual decline since 2003 when the US dollar fell almost 15%. ... Most analysts predict a similarly tough year for the greenback in 2018. Goldman Sachs expects a "soggy dollar," meaning a dollar that has "all but finished pricing the relative strength of the US vs. the global economy."
When Dan Schetter saw how the weather was shaping up on Christmas Day -- below zero temperatures and a wind chill hovering around -25 degrees -- he knew it would be a great day for surfing a blustery Lake Superior. Even better, they were fantastic conditions to grow his signature ice beard. ... "It's not like we're trying to out-ice beard each other," he said of other surfers. "I just happen to have the biggest ice beard."
A 67-year-old Slidell man [in Louisiana] who served as a go-between for an international team of scammers running a "Nigerian prince" email scheme has been arrested after an 18-month investigation. Michael Neu, who is neither Nigerian nor a prince, has been charged with 269 counts of wire fraud and money laundering. Neu helped shuttle fraudulently obtained money to his co-conspirators, some of whom actually do live in Nigeria, according to the Slidell Police Department.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said on Monday the United States should be aware that his country's nuclear forces are now a reality. Kim, wearing a Western-style gray suit and tie, said in his customary annual address his country had achieved the historic feat of "completing" its nuclear forces and added he has a nuclear button on his desk. "The US should know that the button for nuclear weapons is on my table," he said during the speech. read more
"My wife's nurse had to stand for 30 mins and administer a drug slowly through a syringe because there are almost no IV bags in the continental U.S. anymore. See, they were all manufactured in a Puerto Rican factory which still isn't fixed," [Ben Boyer] wrote. "Meanwhile that stupid swollen --- golfs," he added. The tweet spread like wildfire. By Saturday morning, it had more than 100,000 likes and 62,000 retweets. "I think probably it wouldn't have blown up without that there," Boyer said of his allusion to President Trump in an interview with Newsweek. "I don't regret it. Those are very much the words that I feel. But this stuff goes beyond that." read more
President Trump wished Americans a Happy New Year from his Mar-a-Lago luxury resort in south Florida on Sunday, saying that his New Years wishes extended to not just his supporters but also his "enemies" and the "fake news" media. "As our Country rapidly grows stronger and smarter, I want to wish all of my friends, supporters, enemies, haters, and even the very dishonest Fake News Media, a Happy and Healthy New Year," he wrote. "2018 will be a great year for America!" read more