by The Chicago Times Staff

July 14, 2021

WASHINGTON — Officials at the White House believe that a recent spike in inflation may last for a while, but that it will eventually subside as widespread bottlenecks that have severely disrupted the supply chain begin to dissipate.

Prices for goods and services increased by the most in 13 years fueling fears that a rapidly recovering economy could lead to out-of-control growth.  Consumer prices rose 0.9 percent in May and 5.4 percent over the previous year, according to the Labor Department’s monthly report.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile oil and gas prices, increased by 4.5 percent in the past year, the highest increase since November 1991.

Consumer prices have risen in tandem with the economy’s faster-than-expected recovery from the pandemic, as Americans, flush with stimulus funds, eagerly begin spending again on everything from vacations to new clothing.

While the Biden administration believes that the price hike will last quarters, not months, until the supply chain bottleneck is resolved, it believes that inflation has already peaked in some sectors, such as used cars, which saw a 10.5 percent increase in June, the largest monthly increase since records began.

The rise in prices for goods and services has been mostly downplayed by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who blames it on supply shortages and a wave of pent-up demand among consumers as more Americans are vaccinated and begin their post-pandemic lives.

Powell has maintained that inflation is likely to be “higher and more persistent than we expect,” even though he has said it could be “higher and more persistent than we expect.”

Investors are concerned that rising inflation will force the Fed to hit the brakes sooner than expected and begin withdrawing its massive monetary support for the economy.

While inflation is rising, job growth has slowed to pre-crisis levels, leaving 9.5 million Americans unemployed.

Fed officials unanimously agreed to keep interest rates near zero, where they have been since March 2020, and to continue purchasing $120 billion in bonds each month during their two-day policy-setting meeting in June.

Even though policymakers raised headline inflation expectations to 3.4 percent for 2021 – a full point higher than the March forecast – the Fed gave no indication in June that it was considering scaling back its aggressive bond-buying program. 


by The Chicago Times Staff

July 13, 2021

CHICAGO (CBOT) — Coffee prices may soon rise as Brazil, the world’s largest coffee producer, suffers from the worst drought in nearly a century.  Brazil’s total coffee harvest in 2021 is expected to drop by the most since 2003, according to the Department of Agriculture.  Brazil’s Arabica crop is expected to yield 15 million 132-pound bags less than expected in 2020.


by The Chicago Times Staff

July 11, 2021

OTTAWA — After a blaze destroyed the town of Lytton, British Columbia, and killed two people earlier this month, Canada imposed rail transportation restrictions in areas where there is a high wildfire risk.

According to a statement from the Transport Ministry, the order will require both Canadian National Railway Co and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd to take precautions against wildfires, including reducing train speeds.

On Friday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra issued a 48-hour rail halt in parts of British Columbia.  The new restrictions went into effect on Sunday morning and will be in effect until October 31st.

According to Alghabra, the order “will put in place interim measures while the department works with railway companies to incorporate these fire risk reduction measures on a permanent basis.

CP said it would follow the directive, while CN said it would continue to operate according to strict protocols and regulations.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) announced on Friday that teams of investigators would be dispatched to determine whether freight trains were to blame for two fires, including the one that ravaged Lytton.

According to official data, there are 297 wildfires burning in British Columbia, an increase of 97 in just two days.

Trains will have to run at reduced speeds across the country when there is a high risk of fire and the outside temperature is high.  In addition, CN and CP will be required to develop a fire risk mitigation plan and consult with indigenous communities regarding fire hazards.



ComEd uses goats to clear grass and brush under power lines – a safer and greener way to help keep energy reliable

CHICAGO (July 7, 2021) – ComEd’s four-legged employees are taking a break from eating vegetation under power lines in Pekin, Ill., for a boat cruise on the Chicago River. Twenty goats will join ComEd employees today to take in downtown views from the river and educate customers about ComEd’s goat vegetation management program.

“ComEd is excited to bring the goats to Chicago this year to show one of our innovative and sustainable solutions to ensure reliable power for families and businesses,” said Michelle Blaise, senior vice president of technical services at ComEd. “The goats work hard to clear vegetation in hard-to-reach places, helping us to prevent power outages in an environmentally-friendly way. If anyone deserves a break, it’s them.”

The ComEd goats will cruise the Chicago River between the DuSable Bridge and LaSalle Street Bridge on Wednesday, July 7, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Since 2019, ComEd has enlisted the support of over 200 goats to help clear vegetation in Pekin, Ill., in terrain that is difficult to access. The goats’ “work” helps ComEd avoid power outages and service disruptions often caused by overgrown vegetation near power lines. Using goats cuts the cost and time required to clear the vegetation by more than half, reduces safety risks to workers and is an eco-friendly alternative.

The goats are on loan to ComEd from goat grazing company Goats on the Go. After clearing 13 acres of land last year, ComEd’s goats are continuing the hard work this summer through the month of July.

To learn more about the goats’ #HotGoatSummer and track their progress, check out ComEd’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.



by The Chicago Times Staff

July 9, 2021

SPRINGDALE, AR — According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, Tyson Foods is recalling another 500,000 pounds of chicken due to concerns that the meat may be contaminated with listeria.

According to the FSIS, the total amount of chicken products subject to recall has reached 8,955,296 pounds.  The massive recall comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in collaboration with state authorities, discovered that the poultry sickened three people, one of whom died.

Schools, nursing homes, hospitals, restaurants, various retailers, and Department of Defense locations all received potentially contaminated “ready-to-eat” chicken products.  The chicken products were commercially sold to schools and were not part of the USDA National School Lunch Program, according to the FSIS.

The recalled products, which were labeled with the establishment number “EST. P-7089,” were sold at Walmart, Target, Kroger, Publix, and H-E-B, among others.  Between December 26, 2020, and April 13, 2021, they were created.

Fajita Chicken Breast Strips, Oven Roasted Diced Chicken Breast, Pulled Chicken Breast, Pulled Chicken Breast, and Chicken Wing Sections are among the items available.  The full FSIS list of recalled Tyson products and labels can be found here.

Customers should check their freezers for potentially contaminated products, which they should discard or return to the store where they were purchased.

Listeriosis is a serious type of food poisoning that causes symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, confusion, loss of balance, muscle aches, and convulsions.  An infection in a pregnant woman can result in miscarriages, stillbirths, premature birth, or a life-threatening infection in the newborn.

Listeriosis can be fatal in the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

See the full announcement on the FSIS website for more details.


by The Chicago Times Staff

July 7, 2021

WASHINGTON — Amtrak announced a $7.3 billion purchase of new trains on Wednesday, claiming that it will “transform the future of rail travel” in the United States.

Siemens Mobility Inc. in California, a subsidiary of German conglomerate Siemens AG, will build a new fleet of 83 trains, some of which will be hybrid-battery powered.

“These new trains will reshape the future of rail travel by replacing our aging 40-to-50-year old fleet with state-of-the-art, American-made equipment.  This investment is essential to preserving and growing our Northeast Regional and state-supported services and will allow our customers to travel comfortably and safely, while deeply reducing criteria pollutants.” Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn said in a statement.

The taxpayer-funded railroad company claims that its new models will have more comfortable seating, as well as onboard Wi-Fi, individual power outlets and USB ports, and touchless restroom controls.

Amtrak, formally the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, stated in a press release that its investment will allow it to add an additional 130 trains to its fleet in the future, in addition to the purchase of equipment and a long-term parts supply and service agreement, facility modifications and upgrades, and other program expenses.

Amtrak’s order is the largest contract Siemens Mobility has ever had in North America, according to the company’s own press release.

The major agreement comes as President Joe Biden, a staunch supporter of Amtrak, pushes for an additional $80 billion in rail spending over the next five years as part of his infrastructure plan.  Under the president’s proposal, Amtrak would be the primary recipient of the funds.