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Federal officials say that the company responsible for maintaining a Texas interstate where 130 vehicles crashed in icy conditions two years ago, killing six, failed to address the deteriorating road conditionsByJAMIE STENGLE Associated PressMarch 23, 2023, 2:54 PMDALLAS — The company responsible for maintaining a Texas interstate where 130 vehicles crashed in icy conditions two years ago, killing six, failed to address the deteriorating road conditions, federal officials said Thursday.That portion of Interstate 35 West in Fort Worth was not treated with salt the morning of the Feb. 11, 2021, crash, the National Transportation Safety Board said. The agency said that while North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners Segment 3 had pretreated the southbound lanes of I-35W 44 hours earlier with a liquid brine solution, crews checking the road about 45 minutes before the crash didn’t recognize that the elevated portion of the interstate where the crash occurred needed additional de-icing treatment.A spokesman for North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners Segment 3 did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

BENGALURU, India — If India stopped burning coal tomorrow, over five million people would lose their jobs. But for a price tag of around $900 billion over the next 30 years, the country can make sure nobody is left behind in the huge move to clean energy to curb human-caused climate change, according to figures released by New Delhi-based think tank Thursday.The International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology, known by the acronym iFOREST, released two reports detailing how much it will cost for India to move away from coal and other dirty fuels without jeopardizing the livelihoods of millions who still are employed in coal mines and thermal power plants. Ensuring that everyone can come along in the clean energy shift that’s needed to stop the worst harms of climate change and guaranteeing new work opportunities for those in fossil fuel industries, known as a just transition, has been a major consideration for climate and energy analysts. “Just transition should be viewed as an opportunity for India to support green growth in the country’s fossil fuel dependent states and districts,” said iFOREST head Chandra Bhushan.To get the $900 billion figure, the group researched four coal districts in India and identified eight different cost factors, like setting up infrastructure and getting workers ready for the transition.The biggest single investment to enable a just transition will be the cost of setting up clean energy infrastructure, which the report estimates could be up to $472 billion by 2050. Providing workers with clean energy jobs will cost less than 10% of the total amount required for a just transition, or about $9 billion. The think tank said $600 billion would come as investments in new industries and infrastructure, with an additional $300 billion as grants and subsidies to support coal industry workers and affected communities.“The scale of transition is massive. If formal and informal sector workers are included, we are talking about an industry that is the lifeline for 15 to 20 million people,” said Sandeep Pai, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington D.C. based think tank. “Reports like this are extremely important since the just transition conversation is beginning only now in India … we need much more.”India is one of the largest emitters of planet-warming gases behind only China, the U.S. and the EU. The country depends on coal for 75% of its electricity needs and for 55% of its overall energy needs and is still a far way off quitting.Earlier this month, the Indian government issued emergency orders stipulating that coal plants are run at full capacity through this summer to avoid any power outages. The country’s coal use is expected to peak between 2035 and 2040, according to government figures.Prime minister Narendra Modi announced in 2021 that the country will achieve net zero emissions — where it only puts out greenhouse gases that it can somehow offset — by 2070. On Monday, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres urged nations to speed up their net zero goals, calling for developing countries to set a target of 2050. He was met with a muted response.The reports recommends that the Indian government focuses on retiring old and unprofitable mines and power plants first. Over 200 of India’s more than 459 mines can be retired in this way.“The energy transition has to start with coal,” said Jayant Sinha, who represents the coal-rich Hazaribagh constituency in the central Indian state of Jharkhand, adding that the switch to clean energy needs both funds and institutions to ramp it up. “Both of this must happen together for a successful transition,” he said.Partnerships with developed countries to help the coal-reliant nations of South Africa, Indonesia and Vietnam make a just energy transition have been made in recent years. While these deals are steps in the right direction, they’re too small in scale to make a real impact, energy experts say.It’s still not clear if India will be open to a similar just energy transition deal.Indian leaders have expressed skepticism over climate funds promised by developed nations, pointing to a promise to give low-income and developing countries $100 billion every year to help with climate challenges back in 2009 that still hasn’t been met. ___Follow Sibi Arasu on Twitter at @sibi123___Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

The average long-term U.S. mortgage fell for the second straight week which, combined with moderating home prices, could give house hunters a break and the housing market a boost as the spring buying season begins.Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the average on the benchmark 30-year rate fell to 6.42% from 6.6% last week. The average rate a year ago was 4.42%.Even though financial markets remain jittery over recent bank collapses and the Fed raised its benchmark lending rate by another 25 basis points Wednesday, some economists think there may be light at the end of the tunnel for the downtrodden housing market.“On the homebuyer front, the news is more positive with improved purchase demand and stabilizing home prices,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “If mortgage rates continue to slide over the next few weeks, look for a continued rebound during the first weeks of the spring homebuying season.”Last year’s big rise in mortgage rates — which can add hundreds of dollars a month in costs for homebuyers — chilled the housing market. Before surging 14.5% in February, sales of existing homes had fallen for 12 straight months to the slowest pace in more than a dozen years.In 2022, existing U.S. home sales fell 17.8% from 2021, the weakest year for home sales since 2014 and the biggest annual decline since the housing crisis began in 2008, the National Association of Realtors reported earlier this year.But recently there has been some good news for those seeking to move: the national median home price slipped 0.2% from February last year to $363,000, marking the first annual decline in 13 years, according to the NAR.The average long-term rate hit 7.08% in the fall — a two-decade high — as the Federal Reserve cranked up its key lending rate in a bid to cool the economy and stymie persistent, four-decade high inflation.In their latest quarterly economic projections, the policymakers forecast that they expect to raise that key rate just once more — from its new level of about 4.9% to 5.1%, the same peak they had projected in December.While the Fed’s rate hikes do impact borrowing rates across the board for businesses and families, rates on 30-year mortgages usually track the moves in the 10-year Treasury yield, which lenders use as a guide to pricing loans. Investor expectations for future inflation, global demand for U.S. Treasurys and what the Federal Reserve does with interest rates can also influence the cost of borrowing for a home.Treasury yields have fluctuated wildly since the collapse of two mid-size U.S. banks two weeks ago, with the 10-year falling to 3.47% Thursday. The 10-year yield reached 5.07% before the bank collapses, its highest level since 2007.The rate for a 15-year mortgage, popular with those refinancing their homes, also came down again this week, to 5.68% from 5.9% last week. It was 3.63% one year ago.

Police in Montenegro say they have arrested Terraform Labs founder Do Kwon, who is wanted in South Korea in connection with a $40 billion crash of the firm’s cryptocurrencyByThe Associated PressMarch 23, 2023, 11:24 AMPODGORICA, Montenegro — Police in Montenegro have arrested Terraform Labs founder Do Kwon, who is wanted in South Korea in connection with a $40 billion crash of the firm’s cryptocurrency that devastated retail investors around the world, the European country’s interior minister said Thursday.“Montenegrin police arrested an individual who is believed to be one of the most wanted fugitives, South Korean citizen Do Kwon,” Interior Minister Filip Adzic said on Twitter. Montenegrin authorities were awaiting official confirmation of the identity of a man who was arrested at the airport in the capital, Podgorica, with false documents, but they believe it’s Kwon, Adzic added. South Korea asked Interpol in September to circulate a “red notice” for the 31-year-old across the agency’s 195 member nations to find and apprehend him.Kwon and five others connected to Terraform are wanted because of allegations of fraud and financial crimes in relation to the implosion of its digital currencies in May 2022. TerraUSD was designed as a “stablecoin,” which are pegged to stable assets like the U.S. dollar to prevent drastic fluctuations in prices. However, around $40 billion in market value was erased for the holders of TerraUSD and its floating sister currency, Luna, after the stablecoin plunged far below its $1 peg in May.Related Topics

The Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly has given final legislative approval to a Medicaid expansion agreementByGARY D. ROBERTSON Associated PressMarch 23, 2023, 10:29 AMRALEIGH, N.C. — A Medicaid expansion deal in North Carolina received final legislative approval on Thursday, likely ending a decade of debate over whether the closely politically divided state should accept the federal government’s coverage for hundreds of thousands of low-income adults. North Carolina is one of several Republican-led states that have begun considering expanding Medicaid after years of steadfast opposion. Voters in South Dakota approved expansion in a referendum in November. And in Alabama, advocates are urging lawmakers to take advantage of federal incentives to expand Medicaid in order to provide health insurance to thousands of low-income people.Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, a longtime expansion advocate, is expected to sign the bill, which would leave 10 states in the U.S. that haven’t adopted expansion. North Carolina has 2.9 million enrollees in traditional Medicaid coverage. Advocates have estimated that expansion could help 600,000 adults.The House voted 87-24 in favor of the deal, after little debate. Some members clapped after it passed, which is usually not permitted under chamber rules. The Senate already approved the legislation last week. The final agreement also included provisions scaling back or eliminating regulations that require state health officials to sign off before medical providers open certain new beds or use equipment. Senate Republicans demanded the “certificate of need” changes in any deal.Republicans in charge of the General Assembly for years had been skeptical about expansion, which originated from the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act. But they have come around to the idea over the past year, deciding that Congress was neither likely to repeal the law nor raise the low 10% state match that coverage requires. And a financial sweetener contained in a COVID-19 recovery law means North Carolina also would get an estimated extra $1.75 billion in cash over two years if they joined. Legislators hope to use much of that money on mental health services. There’s no set start date in the law for expansion under the legislation, but it also comes with one caveat: It can’t happen until after a state budeget law is approved. This usually happens in the early summer. Cooper panned that provision, which could give GOP leaders leverage to include unrelated items he may strongly oppose.The state’s 10% share of expenses for Medicaid expansion recipients would be paid through hospital assessments. Hospitals also are expected to receive larger reimbursements for treating Medicaid patients through a federal program the state is requested to enter in the legislation.

A court in Belarus has sentenced a reporter for the now-closed local edition of one of Russia’s most popular newspapers to three years in prison for insulting the country’s authoritarian leaderByThe Associated PressMarch 23, 2023, 10:18 AMTALLINN, Estonia — A court in Belarus on Thursday sentenced a reporter for the now-closed local edition of one of Russia’s most popular newspapers to three years in prison for insulting the country’s authoritarian leader.Hienadz Mazheyka was sentenced for a 2021 article in Komsomolskaya Pravda that cited an acquaintance of a man killed in a police raid as speaking favorably of him. The story angered President Alexander Lukashenko, who has suppressed opposition and criticism with increasing severity.The man killed, an IT worker named Andrei Zeltsar, was shot when agents of the Belarusian KGB raided an apartment building in what was described as a search for terrorists. A KGB officer also died in the raid. The story was taken down from the newspaper’s website quickly, but authorities blocked the website and Komsomolskaya Pravda later closed its Belarus operation. Mazheyka fled to Russia after the blockage, but was detained in Moscow and sent back to Belarus.Russia has close ties with Belarus and stations troops and weapons there that have been used in the fighting in Ukraine. Lukashenko has ruled Belarus since 1994 and his repression of opposition intensified after a monthslong wave of protests in 2020 following the presidential election that gave him a sixth term in office — which the West and Belarus’ opposition have denounced as a sham. The Belarusian Association of Journalists says there are 36 journalists either imprisoned or in detention awaiting trial.“The situation with free speech in Belarus is the worst in Europe and the retaliation against Mazheyka only confirms that,” said journalists’ association head Andrei Bastunets. Related Topics

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co.’s electric vehicle business has lost $3 billion before taxes during the past two years and will lose a similar amount this year as the company invests heavily in the new technology.The figures were released Thursday as Ford rolled out a new way of reporting financial results. The new business structure separates electric vehicles, the profitable internal combustion and commercial vehicle operations into three operating units.Company officials said the electric vehicle unit, called “Ford Model e,” will be profitable before taxes by late 2026 with an 8% pretax profit margin. But they wouldn’t say exactly when it’s expected to start making money.Chief Financial Officer John Lawler said Model e should be viewed as a startup company within Ford. “As everyone knows, EV startups lose money while they invest in capability, develop knowledge, build (sales) volume and gain (market) share,” he said.Model e, he said, is working on second- and even third-generation electric vehicles. It currently offers three EVs for sale in the U.S.: the Mustang Mach E SUV, the F-150 Lightning pickup and an electric Transit commercial van. The new corporate reporting system, Lawler said, is designed to give investors more transparency than the old system of reporting results by geographic regions. The automaker calculated earnings for each of the three units during the past two calendar years. Model e had pretax losses of $900 million in 2021 and $2.1 billion last year, and it is expected to lose $3 billion this year. In the past two years Ford has announced it would build four new battery factories and a new vehicle assembly plant as well as spending heavily to acquire raw materials to build electric vehicles.By the end of this year, the company based in Dearborn, Michigan, expects to be building electric vehicles at a rate of 600,000 per year, reaching a rate of 2 million per year by the end of 2026.Ford Blue, the unit that sells internal combustion and gas-electric hybrid vehicles, made just over $10 billion before taxes during the last two years. Ford Pro, the commercial vehicle unit, made $5.9 billion during those years, the company said.For this year, Ford expects Ford Blue to post a $7 billion pretax profit, modestly better than last year. Ford Pro is expected to earn $6 billion before taxes, nearly double its earnings last year, Lawler said.Ford was to present the new structure, announced last March, to analysts and investors on Thursday. Other business units include corporate, Ford Credit and Ford Next, a new business incubator. Shares of Ford rose 1.8% in Thursday morning trading ahead of the presentation.Lawler said the company is changing the way it does business, not just doing an accounting exercise.“After 120 years, we’ve essentially re-founded Ford,” he said. “We’re embracing technology and competitive disruption in our industry, fundamentally changing how we’re thinking, how we’re making decisions, and how we’re running the company.”

Officials say the death toll from a magnitude 6.5 earthquake that struck much of Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan earlier this week has risen to 21, after eight more deaths were reported in remote areasByThe Associated PressMarch 23, 2023, 9:34 AMISLAMABAD — The death toll from a magnitude 6.5 earthquake that struck much of Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan earlier this week rose to 21 on Thursday, after eight more deaths were reported in remote areas, officials said.Ten died in Afghanistan and 11 in Pakistan after the temblor rattled this South Asian region late on Tuesday. More than more than 130 people were reported injured when roofs of hundreds of homes collapsed. Most of the damage was reported in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, bordering Afghanistan.Shafiullah Rahimi, a Taliban spokesperson for the Ministry of Natural Disaster Management, said the quake killed 10 there and injured 60. He said 800 houses were damaged across Afghanistan.According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the epicenter of the magnitude 6.5 quake was 40 kilometers (25 miles) south-southeast of the district of Jurm in Afghanistan’s mountainous Hindukush region, bordering Pakistan and Tajikistan. The quake struck 188 kilometers (116 miles) deep below the Earth’s surface.The region is prone to violent seismic upheavals. A magnitude 7.6 quake in 2005 killed thousands of people in Pakistan and disputed Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan. Related Topics

Why COVID-19 Forecasting and Mathematical Modeling Are ImportantCDC is  working closely with state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments, and other public health partners, to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Forecasts of disease burden help inform public health decision making by projecting the likely impact of COVID-19 in the next few weeks.  These forecasts are generated using mathematical models by CDC partners in the COVID-19 Forecast Hub. Forecasts are used to inform public health decisions about pandemic planning, resource allocation, implementation of social distancing measures, and other interventions.
Bringing Together Forecasts for COVID-19 Deaths, Hospitalizations, and Cases in the United States
CDC works with partners to bring together weekly forecasts based on statistical or mathematical models that aim to predict:

National and state numbers of new COVID-19 hospitalizations per day for the next 4 weeks.

Previously, forecasts also predicted the number of new COVID-19 deaths and cases per week. Death forecasts stopped in March 2023 and case forecasts stopped in February 2022. Archives of past case and death forecasts are available.
Ensemble forecasts
Forecasting teams in the COVID-19 Forecasting Hub predict numbers of hospitalizations using different modeling methods, types of data (e.g., COVID-19 data, demographic data, mobility data), and estimates of the impacts of interventions (e.g., social distancing, use of face coverings). These forecasts are developed independently and shared publicly here. It is important to bring these forecasts together to help understand how they compare with each other and how much uncertainty there is about what may happen in the near future.
An “ensemble” forecast combines each of the independently developed forecasts into one aggregate forecast to improve prediction over the next 4 weeks.  This article, Ensemble Forecasts of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the U.S. describes the “ensemble” forecast methodology and its usefulness as a real-time tool to help guide policy and planning.
Weekly forecasts submitted to CDC are posted on these websites:

CDC COVID Data Tracker houses an interactive tool to see previous forecasts. The tool also has forecasts on weekly reported COVID-19 cases and cumulative and incident COVID-19 deaths in the United States.