Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Biden Urges Leaders to Cut Methane Gas

Photo By Gage Skidmore

“We believe the collective goal is both ambitious but realistic, and we urge you to join us in announcing this pledge at COP26,” Biden said. Biden hopes this push will create a huge push for forward momentum in climate control.

Climate change is one of Biden’s highest priorities. In a virtual meeting of the Major Economies Forum (MEF), US greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets a larger global effort to drop US greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030.

Robert Durst Found Guilty of Murder

78 year old Durst was found guilty of murdering friend Susan Berman and is expected to spend the rest of his life in prision. After what was seemingly a confession in HBO’s “The Jinx,” Robert found not only being on trial for one murder, but now several others including his missing wife.

The Durst real estate empire is now run by Robert’s brother, Douglas Durst, who claims Robert would also like to kill him.

Fewer than 3.5 % of Africans vaccinated against COVID – Africa CDC

FILE PHOTO: John Nkengasong, director of the African Union's Centers for Disease Control, speaks at a news conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

GENEVA (Reuters) – Less than 3.5% of Africans are vaccinated against COVID-19, far short of its official target of 60%, John Nkengasong, director of Africa’s Centers for Disease Control, said on Tuesday.

World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the same briefing that the continent was being “left behind by the rest of the world” and that this would allow the coronavirus to keep circulating.

(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy and Emma Farge; Editing by Kevin Liffey)


Wall St slips as tax uncertainty outweighs easing inflation worries

FILE PHOTO: New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) building after the start of Thursday's trading session

By Ambar Warrick and Devik Jain

(Reuters) – Wall Street indexes fell on Tuesday on uncertainty over a possible increase in corporate taxes, even though slowing growth in monthly consumer prices eased some fears of the Federal Reserve reducing stimulus early.

Sectors including energy and financials pulled back from their strong gain in the previous session and were the worst performers in early trading.

Major technology stocks continued to lag their broader peers and U.S.-listed Chinese firms dropped further as investors remained wary of regulatory shocks from Beijing.

Focus is now on the potential passage of U.S. President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget package, which is expected to include a proposed corporate tax rate hike to 26.5% from 21%.

A possible hike in corporate taxes is yet another uncertainty, along with recent concerns over slowing economic growth due to rising COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, data from the Labor Department showed underlying consumer prices rose at their slowest pace in six months in August, suggesting that inflation had probably peaked. July’s reading had also shown a slight slowdown in price increase.

But consumer price inflation is still at high levels. Along with strong producer prices last week and some discord among Fed members over when to begin tapering, it meant investors were still uncertain over the policy shift.

“It doesn’t force the Fed’s hand, so there’s a possibility that the Fed could drag its feet and when they do announce tapering, it may be smaller than what the Street may be looking for that time,” said Robert Pavlik, senior portfolio manager at Dakota Wealth in Fairfield, Connecticut.

“I’m not thinking that they do any tapering in September, but I’m not sure where their heads are all at. If it’s up to (Fed Chair) Powell, he’ll wait till November. But other Fed members seem to be on different pages.”

At 10:12 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 110.28 points, or 0.32% , to 34,759.35, the S&P 500 lost 9.54 points, or 0.21 %, to 4,459.19 and the Nasdaq Composite lost 4.14 points, or 0.03 %, to 15,101.35.

Market participants now expect a substantial correction in stock markets by the end of the year, with some investors turning bearish on a global economic recovery.

Among individual stocks, CureVac fell more than 3% after the German biotechnology firm canceled manufacturing deals for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine with two prospective partners, after rivals with approved shots boosted production.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by a 1.4-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by about a 1.5-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P 500 posted 2 new 52-week highs and one new low while the Nasdaq recorded 44 new highs and 42 new lows.

(Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Devik Jain; Editing by Arun Koyyur)


U.S. Justice Dept scales back use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants

The crest of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday announced it was curtailing the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies from using chokeholds to restrain suspects or executing no-knock warrants at peoples’ homes before entering.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch)


Californians to decide governor’s fate in Republican-backed recall

By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) -California voters will decide on Tuesday whether to recall Governor Gavin Newsom in a special election that will test the power of a Republican Party still dominated by former President Donald Trump in a deeply Democratic state.

Newsom, a first-term governor and former lieutenant governor and San Francisco mayor, is fighting for his political future in only the second recall election for governor in state history despite 55 attempts.

The campaign to oust the Democratic governor began with a conservative Republican group and gained steam during the pandemic. Conservatives, angered by Newsom’s liberal policies on LGBTQ rights, immigration and crime, also became infuriated by his decision to close schools and require masks and vaccinations against COVID-19.

The removal of Newsom, a popular figure in one of the most liberal U.S. states, would likely embolden Republicans and set off alarms among Democrats, coming just over a year before the 2022 elections that will decide control of Congress.

Recall also could mean the end of Newsom’s political ambitions, widely believed to include possible runs for the U.S. Senate or the presidency.

The latest public opinion polls showed Newsom with strong support. In a survey released on Friday by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, 60.1% of likely voters said they favored retaining the governor and 38.5% opposed him staying in office.

Democrats have returned twice as many ballots as Republicans so far in a four-week early voting period, state data showed. About 38% of voters have already submitted their ballots.

That is a dramatic turnaround from earlier this summer, when polls showed so few Democrats were planning to vote that Newsom’s job was in jeopardy in a state where Republicans make up less than a quarter of the electorate.

The polls “changed Democrats’ mindset from sitting back on the couch to saying, ‘This is something we’ve got to do,'” said Paul Mitchell, whose firm Political Data Intelligence analyzed state ballot return information.

Under California’s recall system, voters are asked to vote “yes” or “no” on whether to recall Newsom. If more than 50% of voters say Newsom should be recalled, then the candidate with the most votes on the second question – even if less than a majority – automatically replaces him for the remainder of his four-year term.

Republican radio host and Trump supporter Larry Elder leads the slate of 46 replacement candidates. Elder has vowed to remove requirements for vaccines and mask wearing.

In the Berkeley poll, he was supported by about 38% of those likely to vote on a replacement. Kevin Paffrath, a Democrat and YouTube host, received 10% support, followed by former Republican San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer at 8%.

Former gubernatorial nominee John Cox and Republican reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner also are on the ballot.


Results from the recall may not be immediately known. Mail-in ballots can be postmarked as late as Tuesday.

Many Republicans are expected to vote in person on Tuesday, fueled by Trump’s false claims that Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election with fraudulent mail-in voting. For days leading up to California’s recall election, Trump said it also would be “rigged” against Republicans.

Elder made such claims as well. He told reporters in Los Angeles last week, “There may well be shenanigans,” according to CNN and other media.

Mitchell said Republicans would need overwhelming turnout for in-person voting on Tuesday, and Democratic participation would need to slow way down, for Newsom to be recalled.

The last time a Republican took the helm of the overwhelmingly Democratic state was in 2003, when actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was chosen in a recall to replace Democrat Gray Davis.

If Newsom wins, he will enter next year’s re-election campaign in a particularly strong position, with the most likely Republican opposition weakened from the recall race, said California State University political scientist Raphael Sonenshein.

Newsom ramped up his outreach to Democrats in recent weeks, including appearing with President Joe Biden at a rally on Monday night. Newsom has tied the recall effort to Trump and said Elder would impose conservative policies on abortion, immigration, gun rights and other issues.

(Reporting by Sharon BernsteinEditing by Colleen Jenkins, Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis)





In Argentina’s north, a ‘white gold’ rush for EV metal lithium gathers pace

In Argentina's north a new 'white gold' rush for EV metal lithium

By Agustin Geist

SALTA, Argentina (Reuters) – In Argentina’s remote northern Salta province, the silence of the desert landscape is broken only by the hum of machinery pumping salt-water brine to extract lithium, a sign of accelerating efforts to ride the global electric vehicle boom.

Beneath the South American country’s highland salt flats, reached by winding mountain roads, is buried the world’s third largest reserve of the ultra-light battery metal, which has seen a price spike over the past year on the back of a global push towards greener modes of transport.

Already the fourth top producer of lithium worldwide, Argentina’s national and local governments are now looking to speed up development, held back for years by red tape, high tax rates, rampant inflation and currency controls.

Provinces like Salta are building regional mining logistics nodes and access roads, lowering tax rates and rationalizing confusing rules for the sector to attract investment in the ‘white gold’ metal.

That has seen a flurry of new activity, deals and plans to ramp up production, which could make Argentina a key player in the electric vehicle supply chain in coming years, with demand from carmakers and buyers like China expected to gain pace.

“Argentina could become the world’s leading producer from brines in less than a decade if the flow of projects is followed and maintained,” David Guerrero Alvarado, a consultant advising Canada’s Alpha Lithium, told Reuters in Salta.

Alpha Lithium is in the investigation stage for a project in the nearby Salar Tolillar, one of many early-stage developments that – while offering promise – need an often long and costly process to be turned into a reality.

With countries around the world scrambling to reduce emissions, rising global lithium demand and surging prices have drawn increased interest in the so-called ‘lithium triangle’ that spans parts of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.

In Argentina, mining provinces such as Salta, Jujuy and Catamarca have moved to encourage wary investors, signing an agreement in June to create uniform rules and to “strengthen infrastructure, legal security and fiscal stability.”

Salta’s Secretary of Mining and Energy, Flavia Royon, told Reuters the province could produce 200,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent annually by 2025, after flicking though a list of upcoming lithium developments.

That would be a huge ramp-up, equivalent to around one-fifth of forecast global production that year.

“There’s interest in Salta and it’s the Argentine province with the most lithium projects in the pipeline,” she said.

The country’s CAEM mining chamber predicts a lower 175,000 tonnes nationally by 2025 from an estimated 38,800 tonnes this year. But – with lithium projects often taking years to ramp up – that remains a lofty goal.

Graphic: GRAPHIC: Argentina: lithium outlook:


Argentina’s center-left government has been making a conscious and strategic push towards lithium.

Last year it lowered taxes on all mining exports to 8% from 12% and in April eased capital controls on firms taking foreign currency out of the country for projects with investments of over $100 million. It has backed the state energy firm YPF to create a lithium battery plant and is pushing a bill to lower taxes on electric cars.

“We will focus on areas and fuels of the future, that generate zero polluting emissions, which are basically hydrogen and lithium batteries,” Production Minister Matias Kulfas said in a recent meeting with reporters in Buenos Aires.

A source at the central bank, which is keen to rebuild battered foreign currency reserves, said that the country had seen growing investor interest in mining, including in lithium.

Australia’s Orocobre Ltd and U.S. miner Livent Corp, which have supply tie-ups with Toyota Corp and BMW respectively, operate the two producing lithium projects in Argentina out of a total of over 60 proposed projects in various stages of development.

Others in the country include Australia’s Argosy Minerals, Lake Resources and Greenwing Resources, as well as South Korea’s Posco and Neo Lithium Corp, backed by China’s CATL.

China’s Ganfeng Lithium Co Ltd is in a bidding war to buy Argentina-focused Millennial Lithium Corp after an unnamed battery maker made a rival bid to its $280 million offer.

Ganfeng and Lithium Americas are aiming to produce some 40,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent from the Cauchari-Olaroz mine, with production set to start in 2022.

Graphic: White gold output


Doubts, however, remain about whether Argentina can rev up its lithium output in the way it has promised. Half a decade ago, under a business-friendly government, the country expressed ambitions to overtake larger producer Chile but failed to do so.

“Argentina has the resources, but in order to transform them into reserves and making projects… a series of clear and stable rules is needed,” said Buenos Aires-based Natacha Izquierdo, an analyst at consultancy Abeceb.

Alejandro Moro, general manager of Rincon Lithium, an Australian firm that owns a concession on the Rincon salt flats in Salta, agreed there remained hurdles to attracting capital.

“This a country with a quite unstable macroeconomy, with a high degree of taxes that are imposed on the capital that comes to invest,” he said.

The firm is running a pilot plant on the flats, almost 4,000 meters (13,100 ft) above sea level. It pumps brine through pipes 30 meters below the ground, which is then refined to produce lithium carbonate. Rincon hopes to extract 50,000 tonnes a year by 2025.

Despite his reservations, however, Moro said he had become more optimistic about Argentina’s support for mining investments after meeting with senior officials a few weeks earlier.

Argentina, an agricultural powerhouse with abundant oilseeds, has for years focused energy subsidies on biofuels, but officials are now signaling a shift in priorities towards electric vehicles – and lithium.

“Definitely, lithium is going to replace biofuels,” Moro said.

GRAPHIC: Buried riches:

(Reporting by Agustin Geist in Salta; Additional reporting by Maximilian Heath, Miguel Lo Bianco and Hernán Nessi in Buenos Aires; Writing by Nicolás Misculin; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Rosalba O’Brien)







UK plans COVID boosters for over 50s to cope with “bumpy” winter

FILE PHOTO: A person receives a dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine at the Central Middlesex Hospital in London

By Alistair Smout

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain will begin a broad-based COVID-19 vaccine booster programme for older and more vulnerable people soon as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government relies on vaccines rather than further lockdowns to navigate a “bumpy” winter.

British officials said COVID-19 vaccines had saved more than 112,000 lives and averted 24 million infections as they proposed a third shot for frontline health workers and those aged over 50 or clinically vulnerable, starting with people most at risk.

Johnson hopes that the booster programme, which is being undertaken on a precautionary basis without firm evidence about its likely impact, will mean that hospitals can bear the burden of all winter infections without the need for another lockdown.

But health minister Sajid Javid said a “Plan B”, involving mandatory vaccine certificates in some settings, mandatory mask wearing and asking people to work from home, was being held in reserve. Vaccinations for health workers were likely to be made compulsory, he said.

“Booster doses are an important way of keeping the virus under control for the long term,” Javid, who sets policy in England, told parliament, saying the programme would begin next week and that the plan B would be implemented only if required.

The government’s 30-page winter strategy cautioned that the plan B could be implemented at short notice.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed Scotland would also pursue a booster campaign as recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The JCVI proposed the booster be given six months after a second shot, after evidence of a small decline in vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation in older people from a little over 90% to a little under 90% over 5-6 months.

British officials said protection from two doses of vaccine beyond 6 months was uncertain and that boosters would prevent illness and deaths from COVID-19 over the winter, but did not say whether the extra shots would lower transmission rates.

“We’re not past the pandemic. We know this winter could quite possibly be bumpy at times… It’s better to be pre-emptive and to be prepared and plan for the worst,” England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam told reporters.

“The booster programme will make a very substantial impact on keeping the lid on things COVID-wise in terms of hospitalisations and deaths and keeping pressure off the NHS (National Health Service) this winter.”


Britain has recorded 134,000 COVID-19 deaths among its 67 million people. So far 44 million people have had two vaccine doses, 81 percent of those aged over 16. On Monday, the government said those aged 12 to 15 would also be offered shots.

Britain is currently recording the second highest number of new infections after the United States, which also plans booster shots along with Israel, Ireland and Italy.

Johnson scrapped the last coronavirus restrictions in England in July with the aim of a “return to normal”.

“The pandemic is far from over, but thanks to our phenomenal vaccine programme, new treatments and testing we are able to live with the virus without significant restrictions on our freedoms,” Johnson said this week.

The JCVI said its preference was that the Pfizer vaccine was used for the booster dose, or alternatively a half-dose of a Moderna shot.

Britain ordered 60 million additional Pfizer doses for the booster programme in April. Professor Wei Shen Lim, chair for COVID-19 immunisation on the JCVI, said Pfizer booster shots had performed well against the now-dominant Delta variant.

Lim said the JCVI’s advice for a booster dose did not imply that there would be a requirement for a shot every six months and said younger people may not need an early booster dose.

The British recommendation comes after some leading scientists, including from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and World Health Organisation, wrote in Monday’s Lancet medical journal that COVID boosters were not yet needed for the general population.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout, Michael Holden and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Philippa Fletcher)







U.S. median income dropped in 2020 and poverty rose, Census data shows

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: A customer counts his cash at the register while purchasing an item at a Best Buy store in Flushing

(Reuters) – The median U.S. household income decreased in 2020 and the poverty rate rose, according to a government survey released on Tuesday that helps to quantify how much Americans’ finances were affected after the coronavirus pandemic severely disrupted the U.S. economy

The U.S. Census Bureau said real median household income decreased to $67,500 in 2020, down 2.9% from 2019. The report also showed that the nation’s poverty rate rose to 11.4% from 10.5% in 2019, the first increase after five years of declines.

(Reporting by Jonnelle Marte and Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Andrea Ricci)


Senate panel may subpoena U.S. Defense Secretary Austin to testify on Afghanistan -Menendez

20th annual September 11 observance ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez, said on Tuesday he was disappointed U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin did not agree to testify at a committee hearing on Afghanistan and he may subpoena him and others to do so.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Franklin Paul)


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Biden Urges Leaders to Cut Methane Gas

"We believe the collective goal is both ambitious but realistic, and we urge you to join us in announcing this pledge at COP26," Biden...

Robert Durst Found Guilty of Murder

78 year old Durst was found guilty of murdering friend Susan Berman and is expected to spend the rest of his life in prision....

Fewer than 3.5 % of Africans vaccinated against COVID – Africa CDC

GENEVA (Reuters) - Less than 3.5%...


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