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Critical Infrastructure News

Virtually all vehicles with internal combustion engines have catalytic converters, which are intended to reduce 90% or more of harmful greenhouse gases emitted from an exhaust system. Converters offer tremendous benefits to the environment, as well as to the growing number of criminals who steal them.

According to one major U.S. car insurer’s claims data, catalytic converter theft increased by nearly 300% between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021. During those 12 months, almost $34 million was paid to company policyholders to settle claims. The previous year’s payout was less than $9 million.

Catalytic converters are typically placed near a vehicle’s rear exhaust system, exposed and accessible to thieves. An experienced criminal needs only a few minutes and a battery-powered saw to remove a converter. Thieves operate so quickly that they often work in broad daylight.

Modern gas- and diesel-powered engines pass exhausts through catalytic converters, where small amounts of rare and expensive metals, including rhodium, platinum and palladium, start a chemical reaction, turning the gasses into less-toxic pollutants for release. These metals make each stolen converter worth up to $800 to black-market auto parts suppliers and scrapyards. 

Fueling the recent increase in converter thefts is the reduced mining of the three rare metals due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions at South African mines, which contain an estimated 95% of the world’s supply.

Read more: Security Mag 

The Biden administration released a series of reports late last week detailing the dire implications that climate change will have, and indeed is already having, on U.S. national security and global security more broadly. Analyses from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the National Security Council (NSC), the Department of Defense (DoD), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) all point to similar conclusions—climate change will continue to be one of the most significant drivers of geopolitical instability in the coming years. As resources grow scarcer, competition for water, food, energy, and arable land will all increase, leading to a likely uptick in both intra- and interstate wars. The climate-security nexus demonstrates the complexity of the challenge, and shows how issues like extreme weather events, migration, conflict, and access to resources are inextricably linked and impossible to disaggregate. Just last month, speaking at a U.N. Security Council debate organized under Ireland’s Presidency, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change a “code red” for humanity.

  • U.S. government and international analyses all point to similar conclusions—climate change will continue to be one of the most significant drivers of geopolitical instability in the coming years.
  • Strategic competition in the Arctic is expected to intensify drastically, as states move to build up a more robust posture in the region and develop greater access to shipping lanes.
  • Some forecasts suggest that tens of millions of people will be displaced due to the effects of climate change, with many of these people in the Global South—sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.
  • A U.S. intelligence community report listed these countries as especially vulnerable to climate change: Guatemala, Haiti, North Korea, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Iraq, Burma, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Honduras.

Read more: The Soufan Center

In June, the Thomson Reuters Institute and Thomson Reuters Regulatory Intelligence published a Special Report: Cryptos on the Rise, which looked at the state of crypto assets, their risk and regulation, and how their impact and acceptance is evolving around the world. The report included a Compendium of Country-by-Country Crypto Regulations.

Since publication, much has transpired globally in crypto regulation, warranting a special recap of the report that focuses on U.S. regulation, ahead of a global update next year.

Although the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is sure to play a central role in the regulation of digital assets, rules, guidance and enforcement actions brought by other authorities are already beginning to take shape. For example, federal regulators have begun staking out their territory for regulating digital assets while several states have raced ahead with their own laws. Like much U.S. financial services regulation, there is significant jurisdictional overlap, and the well-established concept of a “regulatory patchwork” is beginning to unfold for cryptos.

Several states and other federal regulators such as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) are all moving forward to regulate cryptos in their respective areas of authority.

Read more: Reuters

The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) sent a letter today to U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland highlighting the violence, threats, and harassment faced by public health department leaders and staff in the course of fulfilling their duties responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and requesting that the Department of Justice include the protection of public health department officials and staff in its directive to address the increased risk in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school-related personnel.

The full letter can be found here.

“We strongly request that you include the protection of public health department officials and staff in your directive to federal authorities to meet with local, state, Tribal, and territorial law enforcement to address the increased risk in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school-related personnel.

Read more: HSToday

The world is gripped by an energy crunch — a fierce squeeze on some of the key markets for natural gas, oil and other fuels that keep the global economy running and the lights and heat on in homes. Heading into winter, that has meant higher utility bills, more expensive products and growing concern about how energy-consuming Europe and China will recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rising energy costs are another pressure point on businesses and consumers already feeling the pinch of higher prices from supply chain and labor constraints.

The biggest squeeze is on natural gas in Europe, which imports 90% of its supply — largely from Russia — and where prices have risen to five times what they were at the start of the year, to 95 euros from about 19 euros per megawatt hour.

Read more: ABC News