Olympics-Badminton-Malaysian pair knock out Indonesia’s beloved ‘Minions’

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Badminton – Men’s Doubles – Quarterfinal – MFS – Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021. Aaron Chia of Malaysia in action as Soh Wooi Yik of Malaysia looks on during the match against Marcus Fernaldi Gideon of Indonesia and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed July 29, 2021
By Richa Naidu
TOKYO (Reuters) -Celebrated men’s doubles world leaders Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia lost in the Olympics quarter-finals to a Malaysian pair in about half an hour for the week’s second major upset in badminton competition.
Gideon and Sukamuljo – known fondly at home as the “Minions” because of their diminutive stature – lost 21-14 21-17 to world number nine pairing Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik.
“I really can’t believe we won this today, especially at the Olympics,” Soh said. “It was the best game in my life, in my career.”
The match comes on the heels of one of the biggest upsets in badminton history on Wednesday, when men’s singles world number one Kento Momota’s Olympic dreams were crushed by number 38 Heo Kwang-hee of South Korea in the group stage. [nL8N2P43R2]
“I don’t think anybody expected that but we have to respect Momota has been through a lot the last two years, he hasn’t played that much competitively,” said Denmark’s men’s singles world number two Viktor Axelsen, who smashed his way to a 21-16 21-14 victory over Taiwan’s Wang Tzu-wei in the last 16.
“I’m really happy with the way I played at a high level – not too many mistakes and I managed to go through with my game plan,” Axelsen said.
Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara, the women’s singles world number three, made quick work of Canada’s Michelle Li in a tidy 21-9 21-7 match in the round of sixteen.
Okuhara, who said she was “a little scared” but won because she kept her focus, now faces China’s He Bing Jiao.
“China usually focuses on the Olympic Games more than other countries so I think I need to prepare well and think about her tactics,” she said.
Rio silver medallist and women’s singles world number seven PV Sindhu from India beat Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt 21-15 21-13 in a match that kept them both on their toes.
“I was rushing in my defence, and my coach was obviously telling me I was playing in the wrong way,” Sindhu said. “But I think I realised that after two, three points and I changed.
“I think the second game was pretty much fine because I was maintaining the lead and I was under control.”
In the women’s doubles quarter-finals, world number one pair Japan’s Yuki Fukushima and her injured partner Sayaka Hirota lost 18-21 21-10 21-10 to Chinese Jia Yi Fan and Chen Qing Chen, ranked third. There were 82 strokes in 84 seconds in one rally.
South Korea’s world number four duo Kim Soyeong and Kong Heeyong won a tense battle with second-ranked Japanese pair Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara, beating them 21-14 14-21 28-26.
(Reporting by Richa Naidu; Editing by Stephen Coates and Ken Ferris)

Olympics-Athletics-Without Bolt the 100m is suddenly a race again

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FILE PHOTO: Jamaican Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt (3) runs against Jose Carlos Moreira of Brazil (1), Ryan Bailey of the U.S. (2) and Churandy Martina (4) of the Netherlands in the “Mano a Mano” challenge, a 100-meter race in Rio de Janeiro April 19, 2015. REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes July 29, 2021
By Omar Mohammed
TOKYO (Reuters) – The post-Usain Bolt era in the Olympic 100 metres begins this weekend as the United States seek to regain supremacy in the event they dominated for more than a century.
Jamaican Bolt won the last of three straight titles in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro and since his retirement the following year nobody has really stepped up to stamp their authority on the sport’s most-watched race.
The U.S have won more golds in the event than all other nations combined, having taken 16 of the 28 Olympic titles contested, but their last success came via Justin Gatlin in 2004.
This year, though, they are back gunning to top the podium, even without the presence of banned world champion Christian Coleman.
Seven out of the eight sprinters with the fastest times in 2021 have been Americans, led by Trayvon Bromell whose 9.77 second run in Florida last month is the fastest of the year and marks him as the race favourite.
He won the U.S. trials in 9.80 to put a long and troublesome injury history behind him, but the self-described “silent killer” is not happy with the favourite tag.
“When you put yourself into that bubble, into that box, a lot of expectations come into it,” he said recently. “When you start living in other people’s world then you get off of your own plan.”
Bromell’s closest challenger is probably his compatriot Ronnie Baker, who came second to him at the U.S. trials with a time of 9.85.
Baker beat Bromell in Monaco, his second successive Diamond League win, and has run an impressive wind-aided 9.78s seconds in the past.
Unlike his compatriot, Baker is happy to blow his own trumpet. “I am one of the best runners in the world, hands down. I have been, since 2018,” he said after his win in Monaco, a race that included his rivals in Tokyo.
He has also had to overcome injuries over the last few years, but he said that he was feeling confident heading into Tokyo.
“This year is probably the most technically sound I have been,” he said. “I know I can run way faster than anyone.”
WHO CAN SPOIL THE PARTY?
While the U.S. sprinters, that include Fred Kerley, the 2019 400m world bronze medallist, are definitely contenders for all three medals, there are other runners coming to Tokyo with a mission, though unusually Jamaica look a touch off the pace.
Andre De Grasse won bronze in the 100m in Rio, then bagged himself a silver in the 200m and secured another bronze in the 4x100m relay, making him the first Canadian athlete to win Olympic medals in all three sprint events.
He too though has struggled with injuries, missing a chunk of time in 2017 and 2018 with hamstring problems. He did secure a bronze in the 100m and silver in the 200m at the 2019 world championships in Doha and that big-race pedigree could put him in good stead in a relatively inexperienced field.
“The last Olympics I felt like I had a good shot at winning gold, this Olympics I feel I have a shot,” he told Reuters in an interview in June.
“We’re all just as fast, we all have around the same personal bests,” he said. “You have to do it on that exact day… that’s the hard part.”
Another non-American who can make some noise in Tokyo is the South African sprinter Akani Simbine who finished fifth five years ago and boasts the second fastest time of the year.
The 2018 Commonwealth champion, who has a tattoo of himself on his calf, won a Diamond League meet in Florence this season, and is another not short of confidence.
Yohan Blake, now 31, probably carries Jamaica’s hopes and The 2012 silver medallist still lays claim to being the second-fastest man in history.
(Reporting by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Toby Davis)

Factbox-Juggernauts of the sky: How Boeing, Airbus freighters compare

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FILE PHOTO: The Airbus logo is pictured at Airbus headquarters in Blagnac near Toulouse, France, March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau July 29, 2021
(Reuters) – Airbus has announced a freighter version of its wide-bodied A350 in a bid to loosen Boeing’s decades-old dominance of the market for dedicated cargo planes.
This is how freighters from the two plane giants compare. It excludes older passenger planes that have been converted to freighters, a separate market also dominated by Boeing.
AIRBUS
——
A350F
Entry into service: 2025
Maximum range: Unpublished
Maximum payload: 109 tonnes*
Engines: Rolls-Royce Trent XWB
**List price: Unpublished
(A350-900 passenger jet $317.4 million
A350-1000 passenger jet $366.5 million
The aircraft will be between A350-900 and -1000 in length)
A330-200F
Entry into service: 2010
Maximum range: 4,000 nautical miles (7,400 kilometres)
Maximum payload: 70 tonnes (153,000 pounds)
Maximum take-off weight: 233 tonnes (513,700 pounds)
Cargo capacity: 31 pallets + 2 LD3 containers
Engines: Pratt & Whitney PW4000 or Rolls-Royce Trent 700
**List price: $241.7 million
Total delivered: 38
Unfilled orders: 0
BOEING
——
747-8F
Entry into service: 2011
Maximum range: 4,265 nautical miles (7,898 kilometres)
Maximum payload: 137.8 tonnes (303,700 pounds)
Maximum take-off weight: 447.7 tonnes (987,000 pounds)
Cargo capacity: 46 pallets + 2 LD1 containers
Engines: General Electric GEnx
List price: $419.2 million
Total delivered: 97
Unfilled orders: 10
777F
Entry into service: 2009
Maximum range: 4,970 nautical miles (9,204 kilometres)
Maximum payload: 102 tonnes (224,900 pounds)
Maximum take-off weight: 347.8 tonnes (766,800 pounds)
Cargo capacity: 37 pallets
Engines: General Electric GE90
List price: $352.3 million
Total delivered: 209
Unfilled orders: 46
767-300F
Entry into service: 1995
Maximum range: 3,255 nautical miles (6,028 kilometres)
Maximum payload: 52.5 tonnes (115,700 pounds)
Maximum take-off weight: 166.8 tonnes (412,000 pounds)
Cargo capacity: 31 pallets + 2 LD-2 containers
Engines: General Electric CF-6
List price: $220.3 million
Total delivered: 197
Unfilled orders: 53
777FX – possible new Boeing freighter
Entry into service: N/A
Maximum payload: 116 tonnes*
(Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said on Wednesday a 777X freighter, temporarily dubbed 777FX, could be its next programme)
*Unconfirmed estimates from industry sources
**Airbus last updated list prices in 2018
(Reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney and Tim Hepher in Paris; Editing by Jan Harvey)

Revival of on-the-go snacking helps Hershey lift annual sales outlook

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FILE PHOTO: Hershey’s chocolate bars are shown in this photo illustration in Encinitas, California January 29, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake July 29, 2021
(Reuters) -Hershey Co raised its annual sales outlook and beat estimates for quarterly results on Thursday, as consumers bought more of its chocolates at airports, movie theaters and other food joints after the easing of COVID-19 curbs.
With Americans stepping out more after vaccinations and the relaxation of lockdowns, demand has rebounded for on-the-go consumables and refreshments after a year of weak sales.
Sales at Hershey’s mainstay North America business rose 12.3% in the second quarter as consumers munched on SkinnyPop popcorn and gluten-free snack Pirate’s Booty.
The company also reported a 70.2% surge in overseas market sales, marking a revival in a business that suffered last year due to coronavirus restrictions and the pandemic’s impact on consumer spending.
Overall, net sales jumped nearly 17% to $1.99 billion, exceeding the average analyst estimate of $1.84 billion.
The U.S. chocolatier said it expected 2021 net sales to rise between 6% and 8%, compared with a prior forecast of 4% to 6% growth. Analysts expected annual sales to be up nearly 6%, according to Refinitiv IBES data.
But Hershey maintained its annual adjusted profit outlook of $6.79 to $6.92 per share, citing higher supply chain costs.
Excluding one-time items, the company earned $1.47 per share in the quarter ended July 4, beating expectations of $1.43 per share.
(Reporting by Mehr Bedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)

Blinken says Iran negotiating process cannot go on indefinitely

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FILE PHOTO: European External Action Service (EEAS) Deputy Secretary General Enrique Mora and Iranian Deputy at Ministry of Foreign Affairs Abbas Araghchi wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria April 6, 2021. EU Delegation in Vienna/Handout via REUTERS July 29, 2021
By Simon Lewis
KUWAIT (Reuters) -U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday the negotiating process with Iran to revive a 2015 nuclear deal could not go on indefinitely, and that the ball is in Tehran’s court.
Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington to revive the nuclear pact, from which then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States in 2018, adjourned on June 20, two days after the hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi was elected president of the Islamic Republic. Raisi takes office on Aug. 5.
Parties involved in the negotiations, which also include China, Russia, France, Britain, Germany and the European Union, have yet to say when they might resume.
“We are committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely,” said Blinken, addressing a news conference in Kuwait.
“At some point the gains achieved by the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) cannot be fully recovered by a return to the JCPOA if Iran continues the activities that it’s undertaken with regard to its nuclear program,” he said.
“We have clearly demonstrated our good faith and desire to return to mutual compliance with the nuclear agreement…The ball remains in Iran’s court and we will see if they’re prepared to make the decisions necessary to come back into compliance.”
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last say on Iran’s state matters, declared on Wednesday that Tehran would not accept Washington’s “stubborn” demands in nuclear talks and again flatly rejected adding any other issues to the deal.
Gulf Arab states have asked to be included in the negotiations, and for any deal to address what they call Iran’s ballistic missile programme and destabilising behaviour in the region.
Blinken also said he had discussed during his visit to Kuwait, where he met with the ruling emir, the subject of relocating Afghan interpreters.
Many Afghans who worked with NATO forces fear reprisals from Islamist Taliban insurgents as U.S. troops depart.
The United States uses several military bases in Kuwait, with which it has strong relations after leading a coalition that ended Iraq’s 1990-91 occupation of the Gulf state.
(Reporting Simon LewisWriting by Maher Chmaytelli and Lisa BarringtonEditing by Mark Heinrich)

Detained Biafra separatist’s family complain to UK over lack of assistance

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FILE PHOTO: Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader Nnamdi Kanu is seen at the Federal high court Abuja, Nigeria, on January 20, 2016. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo July 29, 2021
LONDON (Reuters) – The family of Nnamdi Kanu, a secessionist leader and British citizen who is detained in Nigeria, has accused Britain of failing to provide him with consular assistance, the family’s London lawyers said on Thursday.
Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group that campaigns for part of southeastern Nigeria to secede, was brought back to Nigeria in June after years on the run abroad and is being held pending a treason trial.
Bindmans, a London law firm, said it had sent a pre-action letter to British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on behalf of Kanu’s family, challenging Britain’s failure to assist him.
A junior Foreign Office minister had said last week that Britain stood ready to provide consular assistance to Kanu and had requested consular access from the Nigerian government.
However, Bindmans said no consular visit had taken place.
“Despite the family’s concern that he has been subject to torture and is being denied essential medical treatment, the British High Commission have so far failed to visit him in detention,” it said in a statement.
Kanu was supposed to appear in court in Abuja on Monday but the authorities failed to produce him, citing logistical issues. His trial was adjourned until October.
Nigeria has not revealed the circumstances of Kanu’s detention. His Nigerian lawyer has accused authorities in Kenya of detaining and mistreating him before handing him over to Nigeria; Kenya has denied involvement.
Bindmans said Kanu might have been the subject of extraordinary rendition from Kenya to Nigeria, an unlawful practice.
The Foreign Office in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Kanu faces 11 charges including treason, terrorism and illegal possession of firearms.
IPOB wants a swathe of the southeast to split from Nigeria. The region tried to secede in 1967 under the name Republic of Biafra, triggering a three-year civil war in which more than a million people died, mostly of starvation.
(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Three dead as wildfire in south Turkey rages on -minister

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FILE PHOTO: Plumes of black smoke rise from the forest around Manavgat, 75 km (45 miles) east of the resort city of Antalya, Turkey, July 28, 2021. REUTERS/Kaan Soyturk July 29, 2021
ISTANBUL (Reuters) -Three people were found dead as a forest fire burned for a second day in southern Turkey on Thursday, the country’s AFAD disaster agency and the agriculture minister said.
Efforts to rescue others and extinguish the blaze continued after more than 100 people were evacuated, required medical treatment or suffered property damage.
Television footage showed burnt buildings and people fleeing across fields as firefighters backed by helicopters battled blazes that were in some cases near tourist destinations.
Hot weather and strong winds caused fires to spread around the town of Manavgat, 75 km (45 miles) east of the resort city of Antalya, and nearby villages.
Agriculture Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said an 82-year-old man had been found dead during the evacuation of Kepezbeleni, 16 km northeast of Manavgat, and two people were found dead in Degirmenli, 20 km east of Manavgat.
A plane, a drone, 19 helicopters, about 250 vehicles and 960 personnel were involved in firefighting efforts.
“Houses located in areas that could be impacted by the fire have been evacuated. Several homes, offices, farms, agricultural fields, greenhouses, and vehicles have been damaged by fire,” AFAD said.
Authorities evacuated 18 villages and districts in Antalya while 16 more villages were evacuated in the neighbouring provinces of Adana and Mersin, Pakdemirli said. Authorities evacuated a Manavgat hospital.
Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast is known for its scorching summer heat, which often causes wildfires. Officials have said the latest fires are the biggest to date.
Pakdemirli said there had been 41 wildfires in 13 of Turkey’s 81 provinces since Tuesday, of which 31 were under control. Blazes in Osmaniye and Kayseri were still burning.
Television footage showed a separate fire raging in hills near a residential area in the Aegean coastal resort of Marmaris.
Turkey has battled a series of disasters caused by extreme weather conditions this summer, including flash floods last week that killed six people in the Black Sea region.
(Reporting by Yesim Dikmen, Ezgi Erkoyun and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Ezgi Erkoyun; Editing by Dominic Evans, Catherine Evans and Timothy Heritage)

Olympics-Tennis-Swiss Bencic goes for gold as Djokovic cruises into semis

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Tennis – Women’s Singles – Semifinal – Ariake Tennis Park – Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland reacts after winning her semifinal match against Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan REUTERS/Edgar Su July 29, 2021
By Rozanna Latiff and Sudipto Ganguly
TOKYO (Reuters) -Belinda Bencic could become the first woman to clinch a singles tennis gold for Switzerland after she booked a place in the Olympic final with a hard-won 7-6(2) 4-6 6-3 victory over Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina on Thursday.
Standing in front of her in Saturday’s title match will be Czech Marketa Vondrousova, who sent out Ukrainian Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-1 in an one-sided contest.
On the men’s side, 20-times major champion Novak Djokovic eased into the last four with a commanding performance over Japan’s Kei Nishikori but world number two Daniil Medvedev bowed out with a 6-2 7-6(5) loss to Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta.
Bencic was in tears after she closed out a nervy battle against the 20th-ranked Rybakina, who squandered multiple leads during a topsy-turvy semi-final on Centre Court.
The win will ensure a tennis medal for Switzerland for the fourth Olympic Games in a row, while Bencic will have a chance to be the first player to win a singles gold for the country since Marc Rosset won the men’s Olympic final in 1992.
“I mean my emotions right now are too high. To have the medal, for me it’s the greatest thing ever,” the 24-year-old told reporters.
“To be here as an athlete, for the Olympics, it’s amazing and also to have a medal, it’s something I dreamt off and I didn’t think it will become reality.”
The Swiss could also become just the fifth player to make the finals in both the singles and doubles tournaments since tennis’s return to the Olympics in 1988.
She and partner Viktorija Golubic will take on Brazilian pair Laura Pigossi and Luisa Stefani in a women’s doubles semi-final later on Thursday.
DOMINANT DJOKOVIC
Matches began at 3pm local time on Thursday, after organisers agreed to delay competition following complaints from players about the hot and humid conditions at the Ariake Tennis Park.
Top-ranked Djokovic was at his dominant best in his 6-2 6-0 win over Nishikori as he stayed on course to become the first player to win all four Grand Slams and Olympic gold in the same year since Steffi Graf in 1988.
“The matches are not getting easier but my level of tennis is getting better and better,” said the Serbian, whose win over Nishikori ended local hopes for a singles medal.
“I’ve done that so many times in my career. I know that I’m the kind of player that the further the tournament goes, the better I feel on court, and that’s the case here.
“Best performance of the tournament tonight against a good opponent.”
Djokovic will next play either German fourth seed Alexander Zverev or Frenchman Jeremy Chardy for a place in Sunday’s final.
In their first meeting, Karen Khachanov edged Frenchman Ugo Humbert 7-6(4) 4-6 6-3 in a closely-fought match to book a spot in the men’s semi-finals against Carreno Busta.
It ruled out an all-Russian semi-final and the Spaniard said his match against Medvedev was one of his best in his career.
“Daniil is a really good player, he’s very solid from the baseline,” said the world number 11. “I think I returned very well all the time. That’s very important when you play against these kind of players.”
In men’s doubles, Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig secured an Olympic medal for Croatia by beating New Zealanders Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus 6-2 6-2 for a place in the title match.
(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Clare Fallon and Toby Davis)

Olympics-Swimming-Rio golden boy Schooling struggles to rediscover speed

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Swimming – Men’s 100m Butterfly – Heats – Tokyo Aquatics Centre – Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021. Joseph Schooling of Singapore in action REUTERS/Lisi Niesner July 29, 2021
By Simon Evans
TOKYO (Reuters) – Rio golden boy Joseph Schooling, one of the faces of the Games five years ago after his surprise gold in the 100m butterfly, failed to qualify from the Tokyo heats on Thursday but said he would bounce back from the disappointment.
Singaporean Schooling was his country’s first ever Olympic gold medal winner in 2016 with his stunning victory over his boyhood hero Michael Phelps.
But he finished 44th in Thursday’s heats with a time of 53.12 — 2.73 seconds off the leading pace of American Caeleb Dressel.
Dressel’s time equalled Schooling’s Olympic record of 50.39 from Rio — a time the Singaporean has not been close to since.
“The time just didn’t reflect everything that we have done this year, sometimes that is just how it is, it is hard to digest,” Schooling told reporters.
“You live to fight another day though and I sure as hell don’t want it to end like this; it is just one of those meets,” said the 26-year-old said.
“We have been working our tail off for the last 15 months and definitely had bigger expectations than this but sometimes you just have weeks like this; that is not an excuse, it is just more fuel for next time” he added.
Since 2016, Schooling has gone under 51 seconds three times — twice at the 2017 World Championships and once at a meeting in the U.S.
He struggled at the 2019 World Championships, failing to make the semi-finals in his events, but had hoped to be closer to his best in Japan.
“It felt very flat, like boxing 12 rounds but you are starting in the 11th round, that’s how it felt,” he said.
“It is about finding that spark, it could be one realisation or could be months of work. It is about finding out what it is,” he said.
Schooling also entered the 100m freestyle in Tokyo but also failed to get out of the heats.
Asked what his plans would now be, he said: “I have no idea but I definitely don’t want it to end like that”.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, Additional reporting by Martin Petty, Aaron Sheldrick and Farah Master in Hong Kong and Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Clare Fallon)

HBO’s New Animated Royal Satire ‘The Prince’ Is Tasteless, and, More Seriously, Not Even Funny

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HBO Max doubtless knew it was courting royal controversy when it stealth-dropped its new show The Prince, a new series centered around a foul-mouthed and inconsiderate animated version of Prince George, the 8-year-old son of Prince William and Kate Middleton.But still, they probably didn’t expect the reaction to be this bad.Social-media users, fan sites, and industry accounts piled on Thursday to complain that the new show is not only cruel and abusive to an 8-year-old child, but also disrespectful to the memory of the only recently deceased Prince Philip. They also—much more worryingly for HBO at least—said it is not very funny.The new show, based on an Instagram account by creator Gary Janetti, had been expected to premiere earlier in the year but its release was delayed, reportedly, after Philip’s death. Being caught by surprise by the passing of a 99-year-old man you have mercilessly satirized is one thing; failing to actually do anything about editing out the offending content when your show finally airs is quite another. However, it appears that no one involved in this show figured out that a sensible use of the extra time they had been gifted would be to remove Philip from the series, in which he is far from sympathetically portrayed. Fan account Animated Plus said that Philip was “portrayed in the series as a nasty, inept, senile man.”The show, which features the voices of Orlando Bloom, Alan Cumming, and Sophie Turner, was described as “a potential turd” by industry website AV Club, which suggested the surprise dropping of the show was a strategy to minimize criticism, extending the restroom analogy, saying: “The longer you hype it up, the more the stink will have a chance to spread—so you might as well just pop it in the toilet right now, ahead of the purifying flush.”The trailer for the show shows George (voiced by Janetti) complaining that his tea “tastes like piss” and calling the queen a “bad bitch.” Prince Harry is portrayed as stupid and entitled. Prince William is seen demanding to be carried to the bathroom by an aide. (Isn’t the truth, that Prince Charles used to have his toothpaste squeezed onto his brush by his valet, good enough?)Social-media users were left competing for imaginative ways to slam the new offering.Probably not HBO’s finest hour. And maybe Janetti should hold off on that trip to London for now.

Groups working to recall San Francisco DA raise nearly double the funds of anti-recall groups

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Two groups working to recall liberal San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin have raised nearly double the funds than two groups supporting the left-wing DA. The San Franciscans for Public Safety Supporting the Recall of Chesa Boudin group has raised nearly $650,000, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Another group, the Committee Supporting the Recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin, has raised $273,000 since March. Meanwhile, two groups that support the left-wing DA have raised a combined $485,000. LEFT-WING SAN FRANCISCO DA FACES RECALL PETITION AMID CRIME SPIKEBoundin, whose campaign for DA was bankrolled by donations tied to billionaire George Soros, is facing a potential recall over his soft-on-crime approach amid a crime spike, according to activists. “He refuses to adequately prosecute criminals and fails to take drug dealing on our neighborhood streets seriously. He doesn’t hold serial offenders accountable and has released them from custody without consequences. Boudin’s response to victims? ‘Hopefully’ home burglaries will go down,” states the Recall Chesa Boudin website, which was paid for by San Franciscans for Public Safety Supporting the Recall of Chesa Boudin. SAN FRANCISCO DA CHESA BOUDIN PLEDGED NOT TO PROSECUTE PUBLIC URINATION The Committee Supporting the Recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin has until Aug. 11 to collect 51,325 valid signatures to get the recall election on the ballot, while San Franciscans for Public Safety Supporting the Recall of Chesa Boudin has until Oct. 25 to collect the same amount of signatures. “We’ve got two weeks more or less to go, but we are very confident,” recall supporter and the public face of the Committee Supporting the Recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin, Richie Greenberg, said of the deadline. Greenberg did not give the exact number of signatures he currently has. One PAC, called Neighbors for a Better San Francisco, bankrolled $400,000 to recall Boudin, which supporters of the DA describe as “alarming.”  “We know District Attorney Boudin has taken on powerful special interests and now it seems those same special interests are working in the dark to undo the 2019 election,” Julie Edwards, a spokesperson for an anti-recall committee, said.CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPBoundin himself sponsored the committee Friends of Chesa Boudin Opposing the Recall. While another group, the San Franciscans Against the Recall of Chesa Boudin, is a local branch of the Real Justice PAC, which works to support “reform-minded prosecutors” and was co-founded by controversial activist Shaun King. Boudin’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News’s request on the matter.San Francisco is currently seeing a spike in crimes, notably of shop lifting and hate crimes. Business owners and security officials in San Francisco have recently decried the “lawlessness” in the city over shoplifting, and some businesses were forced to alter operating hours in response to the crimes. “This is really bad. I’ve been in the Bay area 20 years, I’ve never seen this,” a local security guard, J.C. Hernandez, told Fox News earlier this month.”It’s just lawlessness,” he added. “People are just openly coming in and stealing stuff.”San Francisco has also seen a rise in hate crimes, with police reporting 28 hate crime cases in the month of June alone, and say the number of incidents is likely higher as many are never reported to officials. “It’s a shock. It’s disturbing. It hurts my heart to see it happen in San Francisco,” said San Francisco Police Commissioner Larry Yee of the crimes, according to KTVU Fox 2.

Olympics-Judo-Japan’s Hamada, Wolf win golds to match record haul

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Judo – Men’s 100kg – Quarterfinal – Nippon Budokan – Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021. Peter Paltchik of Israel in action against Aaron Wolf of Japan. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse July 29, 2021
By Tetsushi Kajimoto
TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan’s Aaron Wolf and Shori Hamada grabbed gold medals in their respective judo finals on Thursday, taking the host nation’s tally to eight golds from the sport at the Tokyo Games and matching their record haul from Athens 2004.
Wolf, 25, world champion in 2017, threw South Korean Cho Gu-ham to secure a dramatic ippon victory that ended over five minutes of gruelling Golden Score sudden death overtime in the men’s -100kg final.
Wolf, whose mother is Japanese and father is from the United States, beat Uzbekistan’s Mukhammadkarim Khurramov to make it to the quarters, where he overcame Israel’s Peter Paltchik.
In the semi-finals, Wolf beat Georgian Varlam Liparteliani, the world number one and Rio silver medallist, with a dynamic o-uchi-gari throw to score a waza-ari victory.
South Korea’s Cho won silver, while the bronze medals went to Jorge Fonseca of Portugal and Niiaz Iliasov of the Russian Olympic Committee.
In the women’s -78 kg division final, 2018 world champion Hamada defeated French world number one Madeleine Malonga with a quick and solid pin to win the gold medal.
Earlier, Hamada, 30, had pinned Beata Pacut of Poland for an ippon victory in the elimination round of 16, then beat Aleksandra Babintseva of the Russian Olympic Committee via sliding lapel choke to reach the semis.
Hamada, ranked two in her division, beat German Anna Maria Wagner with a cross armlock for an ippon victory in semi-finals.
The bronze medals went to Wagner and Mayra Aguiar of Brazil.
(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Toby Davis)

Olympics-Archery-First archer from Chad feels ‘no stress’ despite loss

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Archery – Women’s Individual – 1/32 Finals – Yumenoshima Archery Field, Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021. Marlyse Hourtou of Chad in action REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne July 29, 2021
By Ju-min Park
TOKYO (Reuters) – Marlyse Hourtou, the first Olympic archer from Chad, shot her first arrow for a perfect 10 and took a set off a top-ranked South Korean opponent before bowing out in the women’s individual event on Thursday.
Although she eventually lost to South Korea’s An San in her first matchplay appearance, Hourtou said she felt “no stress”, enjoying one of the biggest moments of her life.
The 25-year-old, who celebrated her birthday on Thursday, secured a spot at the Tokyo Games through a tripartite invitation, which are special invitational quota places intended to improve universality.
Hourtou became the first athlete outside track and field and judo to carry Chad’s flag at the Olympics.
In the 1/32 eliminations round, she faced the formidable An who has already won two golds at the Tokyo Games.
Undeterred, Hourtou took the first set with her first arrow by hitting a perfect 10, outscoring An by one point. However, An won the next three sets to advance to the next round.
“I’m the first archery contestant from Chad to come to the Olympic Games,” Hourtou said. “Although I was beaten I know lots of people in Chad are happy for me.”
Elimination rounds for the men’s and women’s individual events took place on Thursday when there were no major upsets other than India’s Atanu Das knocking out London Olympic champion Oh Jin-hyek of South Korea in the men’s event.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Additional reporting by Hugh Lawson; Editing by Ken Ferris)

China’s CATL unveils sodium-ion battery – a first for a major car battery maker

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FILE PHOTO: A sign of Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) is seen on its building in Ningde, Fujian province, China August 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer July 29, 2021
BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s CATL on Thursday became the first major automotive battery maker to unveil a sodium-ion battery, saying it planned to set up a supply chain for the new technology in 2023.
As electric vehicles become increasingly popular, demand for key battery ingredients, particularly cobalt, has spiked. That has spurred car and battery makers to seek alternatives to the current three main technologies – nickel-cobalt-aluminium (NCA), nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) and lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries.
The sodium-ion batteries do not contain lithium, cobalt or nickel. It did not disclose cost details of the new batteries.
CATL, China’s top car battery maker with a market value of almost $200 billion, also unveiled a battery pack that integrates sodium-ion and lithium-ion batteries.
The energy density of its new sodium-ion batteries is still lower than that of LFP batteries, Huang Qisen, deputy head of CATL’s research centre told an online briefing. But he added that they perform well in cold-weather and fast-charging scenarios.
CATL, which competes with Japan’s Panasonic Corp and South Korea’s LG Chem, has over 5,000 researchers, its chairman, Zeng Yuqun, told the briefing.
It is also developing other technologies that integrate battery cells directly onto an electric vehicle’s frame to extend its driving range.
Automakers that CATL supplies include Tesla Inc, Volkswagen AG and Geely.
(Reporting by Yilei Sun and Tony Munroe; editing by Edwina Gibbs and Jason Neely)

AstraZeneca COVID-19 sales jump as drugmaker navigates vaccine challenges

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FILE PHOTO: A health worker shows a vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as Thailand start a mass inoculation at a gymnasium inside the Thammasat University in Pathum Thani, Thailand June 7, 2021. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/File Photo July 29, 2021
By Pushkala Aripaka and Alistair Smout
(Reuters) -Second-quarter sales of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine more than tripled to $894 million from the first quarter, but the drugmaker on Thursday again delayed its U.S. application for approval as it gathers more data for submissions.
The vaccine has been touted as a major weapon against the pandemic because it is cheaper and easier to use than some rivals. AstraZeneca and its Indian manufacturing partner say they have supplied a billion doses to 170 countries so far.
The company began work on the vaccine last year after teaming up with the University of Oxford, despite having no prior vaccine experience.
But the shot has also faced setbacks, including disputes over data, production problems, and links to rare side-effects that have led some countries to stop or restrict its use. The United States has been particularly critical of the vaccine.
AstraZeneca said on Thursday it now expected to seek U.S. approval for the vaccine in the second half of this year, and it still hopeful the shot will have a role to play there. Previously, it had planned an application during the first half.
A senior executive separately told Reuters that the company was exploring options for the future of its COVID-19 vaccine business, with more clarity on the matter expected by the end of the year.
Elsewhere, AstraZeneca is hoping for a boost from the recent purchase of rare medicines business Alexion.
Including Alexion, it now expects total revenue to increase by a low-twenties percentage this year, and core earnings of $5.05 to $5.40 per share. The forecasts do not include sales from the vaccine.
AstraZeneca shares fell 1.4% in early trade but had recovered the losses and edged higher by 1109 GMT.
VACCINE WOES
The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker is also hoping to settle legal proceedings with the European Commission over vaccine delivery commitments.
Despite setbacks, the company said the vaccine, Vaxzevria, brought in $1.17 billion in sales in the first six months of year, putting it among its best selling products, behind first-placed lung cancer drug Tagrisso on $2.54 billion.
Vaccine sales were based on deliveries of about 319 million doses, it said, giving an average price of about $3.7 per dose. Deliveries from its partner, India-based Serum Institute, were not included.
AstraZeneca has said it will not make a profit from the shot during the pandemic but hopes to eventually generate earnings to make the business sustainable. Costs related to the vaccine shaved a cent off second-quarter earnings per share. That was down from 3 cents in the previous three months.
The company said it was also looking into how long the vaccine’s protection lasts and if a booster dose would be needed to keep up immunity.
“People received their second dose, at the earliest in March/April this year, so we need more time to know whether the protection is lasting or needs boosting,” CEO Pascal Soriot said at a media briefing.
While AstraZeneca did not forecast vaccine sales for the year, rivals Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have guided to $33.5 billion, $19.2 billion and $2.5 billion for their COVID-19 shots, respectively.
Total revenue of $8.22 billion for the three months to June beat analysts’ consensus forecast of $7.58 billion. But core earnings of 90 cents per share fell short of an estimated 92 cents.
(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru and Alistair Smout in LondonEditing by Mark Potter, Kirsten Donovan)

Factbox-Key points of Credit Suisse Archegos post-mortem

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FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of Swiss bank Credit Suisse are seen at the Paradeplatz square in Zurich, Switzerland March 24, 2021. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo/File Photo July 29, 2021
(Reuters) – Credit Suisse released a review on Thursday into what led the bank to lose $5.5 billion in its dealings with investment fund Archegos, as the bank reported a near-80% fall in second-quarter profit.
The frank 165-page report by law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison found the losses were the result of a “fundamental failure of management and controls” in the bank’s prime brokerage unit and investment bank.
Credit Suisse said in response it would continue to remediate the shortcomings identified and put “risk management at the heart of its decision-making processes”.
Representatives for Archegos have not responded to requests for comment.
Here are details from the report, which can be found here https://www.credit-suisse.com/about-us/en/reports-research/archegos-info-kit.html
ARCHEGOS RELATIONSHIP WITH CREDIT SUISSE
Credit Suisse’s relationship with Archegos head Bill Hwang began in 2003 through his Tiger Asia fund.
In 2012, Tiger Asia and Hwang settled insider trading allegations with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In 2014, Hwang and Archegos were banned from trading securities in Hong Kong for four years.
Credit Suisse continued to do business with Archegos both during and after these criminal and regulatory matters, the report said.
Credit Suisse conducted two reputational risk reviews of Archegos, but the first did not begin until “years” after the SEC and DOJ resolutions.
In 2015, a routine compliance review of Archegos picked up negative news about Hwang, which led Prime Services to subject Archegos to a reputational risk review.
“That process was largely perfunctory”, the report said.
When the Hong Kong trading ban was lifted in 2018, prime services sought permission to restart trading with Archegos in Asia, which resulted in a second reputational risk review that largely mirrored the first. Trading in Hong Kong restarted.
ARCHEGOS RISK MANAGEMENT 2012-2019
Credit Suisse’s risk management internal credit rating of Archegos improved several rungs between 2012 and 2016 due to the fund’s increasing net asset value (NAV), which grew from $500 million in 2012 to $3.9 billion in 2016.
In 2019 Archegos asked Credit Suisse to materially lower its swap margin requirements, from around a 15-25% initial margin. Credit Suisse agreed to a new standard swap margin rate of 7.5% in May 2019.
This led Archegos to “significantly increase its swap exposure with Credit Suisse”.
In November 2019, an annual credit review of Archegos recommended maintaining its BB- rating and more than doubling the fund’s risk limit, despite a 40% decline in its net asset value.
BUILD UP OF RISK IN 2020
Over the course of 2020, Archegos’s risk profile increased “significantly”.
“Archegos began regularly breaching its stress scenario limits,” the report said.
“Rather than call additional margin, as was its contractual right, Credit Suisse attempted to re-balance Archegos’s portfolio by requiring that it add market shorts”
By Sept. 1, 2020, Archegos’s overall holdings at Credit Suisse had risen to $9.5 billion, more than 75% of which was long.
Archegos began regularly breaching its risk limits with Credit Suisse in the spring of 2020. By April 2020, Archegos’s “potential exposure” was more than 10 times its $20 million limit.
Meanwhile, the value of Archegos’ investments fell from approximately $3.5 billion in February to $2 billion in April, triggering an option for Credit Suisse to terminate its swaps portfolio.
Prime Services did not terminate the portfolio, but risk management asked the business to confirm its comfort with Archegos’s existing margin levels.
The business responded that it “remain(ed) comfortable with the existing margin framework”.
By July 16, 2020, Archegos had over $600 million in “net scenario exposure” — more than 240% of its limit. Within a week, on July 22, 2020, Archegos’s net exposure had jumped to $828 million.
“From that point on, Archegos remained in breach of its scenario limits virtually every week until its March 2021 default”, the report said.
By the end of December, the concentration and liquidity risk of Archegos’s portfolio had substantially increased.
RED FLAGS RAISED
In around September 2020, a risk management analyst covering Archegos raised concerns to his supervisor about Archegos.
He said the team in New York was not “adequately staffed to be reliable”.
The analyst and his supervisor agreed that the prime services risk (PSR) unit was not adequately managing Archegos portfolio risk. But when they followed up again with PSR, they were told that progress was being made.
FINAL MONTHS
In January 2021 Archegos’s internal credit rating at Credit Suisse was downgraded from BB- to B+, due to an increase in how long it was estimated it would take to liquidate its positions.
Archegos’s risk limit breaches continued to grow. The bank asked Archegos for $750 million in additional margin in February 2021. Archegos posted $500 million.
The bank also came up with a new margin proposal for Archegos, which would have required it post more money.
On Feb. 23 they contacted Archegos to discuss it.
“The written proposal was sent to Archegos the next day
but Archegos ignored it despite repeated follow ups from Credit Suisse”.
The bank continued to chase Archegos on the dynamic margin proposal; the business scheduled three follow-up calls in the five business days before Archegos’s default, all of which Archegos cancelled at the last minute.
During the weeks that Archegos was “considering” this proposal, it began calling the “excess variation margin” it had historically maintained with Credit Suisse.
Between March 11 and March 19, and despite the fact that the
margining proposal sent to Archegos was being ignored, Credit Suisse paid Archegos a total of $2.4 billion — all of which was approved by risk managers.
From March 12 through March 26, the date of Archegos’s default, Prime Financing permitted Archegos to execute $1.48 billion of additional net long trades.
ARCHEGOS COLLAPSE
During the week of March 22nd, the value of Archegos’s positions fell. Its single largest position, ViacomCBS, dropped 6.7% on March 22 and continued to fall in the days that followed.
On March 23, Archegos had over $600 million of excess margin remaining at Credit Suisse but that excess margin was wiped out by market movements and Archegos owed Credit Suisse more than $175 million by the next day, which Archegos paid.
On March 24, another of Archegos’s significant positions, Tencent Music Entertainment Group, fell 20%.
Credit Suisse determined it would be making a $2.7 billion call for variation margin the next day.
The matter was escalated to the co-heads of Prime
Services and the head of equities, who scheduled a call with Archegos for that evening to inform it of the upcoming margin call. Archegos told Credit Suisse it could not meet either Credit Suisse’s or any of its other prime brokers’ margin calls on the following day.
That evening, Credit Suisse’s investment bank chief executive and group chief risk officer were informed; it was the first time either recalled hearing about Archegos.
On the morning of March 25, 2021, Credit Suisse issued two margin calls that totalled more than $2.8 billion.
Archegos reiterated that its cash reserves had been exhausted by margin calls from other prime brokers earlier in the week.
On the morning of March 26, Credit Suisse delivered an Event of Default notice to Archegos and began unwinding its
Archegos positions.
Credit Suisse lost approximately $5.5 billion as a result of Archegos’s default and resulting unwinding of positions.
(Compiled by Rachel Armstrong; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Comcast’s quarterly revenue tops estimates on theme parks, advertising lift

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FILE PHOTO: The Comcast NBC logo is shown on a building in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 13, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo July 29, 2021
By Eva Mathews and Helen Coster
(Reuters) – Comcast Corp’s second-quarter revenue beat Wall Street estimates on Thursday, as the media giant emerges from the pandemic, benefiting from higher ad sales and theme parks reopening.
The pandemic has created a distinction between digital businesses and those that are more reliant on in-person interactions. Comcast has a mix of both.
Total revenue rose 20.4% to $28.55 billion in the quarter, beating analysts’ estimates of $27.18 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
The company, which is the largest cable operator in the United States, lost 399,000 video customers in the most recent quarter, fewer than the 490,000 loss analysts expected.
Comcast’s NBCUniversal has aggressively pushed its digital platforms this year and views the Olympic Games as a vital driver of subscribers for its Peacock streaming service.
But with deep-pocketed rivals that entered the space earlier than Comcast, Peacock still faces a challenging road ahead.
NBC’s broadcast of the Tokyo Olympic Games opening ceremony drew 16.9 million viewers, the smallest U.S. television audience for the event in the past 33 years, according to Nielsen data provided by NBCUniversal. Both the average primetime TV audience and the total audience on TV and streaming combined for the subsequent four nights declined on every night except Sunday.
Mass vaccinations have also helped NBCUniversal’s theme parks, which have reopened. Theme parks revenue amounted to $1.1 billion during the quarter, versus just $136 million a year ago, when stay-at-home orders crippled the business.
Demand for Comcast’s wireless and internet services stayed strong as customers continued to work and learn from home. The company added 354,000 internet customers during the quarter, compared with Factset estimates of 272,000.
Universal’s big-budget action spectacle “F9” and animated feature “Boss Baby 2” bolstered NBC’s studios business, which had been hammered by COVID-related production delays and theater closures. Revenue rose 8.4% to $2.22 billion.
Comcast posted a nearly 33% rise in ad sales at NBCUniversal Media, with businesses getting back to spending after a year of slashed marketing budgets.
The company reported adjusted earnings per share of 84 cents in the second quarter, beating estimates of 67 cents.
Shares of Comcast rose 1.2% in premarket trading.
(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru and Helen Coster in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

NYSE-owner ICE’s second-quarter profit more than doubles

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FILE PHOTO: A screen displays the logo and ticker symbol for Intercontinental Exchange, Inc. on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., November 3, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid July 29, 2021
(Reuters) – Intercontinental Exchange Inc, the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, reported a jump in second-quarter profit on Wednesday, helped by the strong performance of its mortgage technology business.
Net income attributable to the company more than doubled to $1.25 billion, or $2.22 per share, for the three months ended June 30, from $523 million, or 95 cents per share, a year earlier.
(Reporting by Niket Nishant in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)

Fauci and the ‘Noble Lie’

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You should read this essay on trust and manipulation in public-health policy by Kerrington Powell and Vinay Prasad.
A key point is that expertise is non-transferable: Even if we accept that it is ethical for public figures to mislead the public for the public’s own good, being an expert in infectious diseases does not give you any special insight into other complex questions, such as public behavior. People who are high achievers in one field mistakenly believe that they possess a kind of generalized cleverness applicable to other areas of endeavor — call it Krugman’s Fallacy.
(I would say that I do not believe that it is ethical for public figures to mislead the public for the public’s own good — but isn’t that what I would say if I did?)
The authors conclude:

Noble lies—small untruths—yield unpredictable outcomes. Nietzsche once wrote, “Not that you lied to me, but that I no longer believe you, has shaken me.” Public health messaging is predicated on trust, which overcomes the enormous complexity of the scientific literature, creating an opportunity to communicate initiatives effectively. Still, violation of this trust renders the communication unreliable. When trust is shattered, messaging is no longer clear and straightforward, and instead results in the audience trying to reverse-engineer the statement based on their view of the speaker’s intent. Simply put, noble lies can rob confidence from the public, leading to confusion, a loss of credibility, conspiracy theories, and obfuscated policy.
Noble lies are a trap. We cannot predict the public’s behavior, and loss of trust is devastating.

Prada sees sales growth in second half after strong recovery in H1

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FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a closed Prada shop after partial lockdown measures were introduced amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Geneva, Switzerland, November 16, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse July 29, 2021
MILAN (Reuters) – Italian fashion group Prada sees sales rising further in the second half of the year after revenues beat market expectations in the first six months, extending a recovery from the worst of the COVID-19 crisis.
The Milan-based, Hong Kong-listed luxury group said on Thursday total revenues jumped by 66% at constant exchange rates to total 1.5 billion euros ($1.78 billion), a touch under their first half 2019 pre-pandemic levels, but above 1.43 billion euros sales expected by analysts according to a consensus by Refinitiv.
“The sales momentum will stay strong in the second half of the year”, Chief Executive Officer Patrizio Bertelli said, adding the group will hold a capital markets day in the Autumn.
($1 = 0.8423 euros)
(Reporting by Claudia Cristoferi, editing by Silvia Aloisi)

Credit Suisse CEO expects wrap-up of FINMA ‘Spygate’ query, Archegos just warming up

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss bank Credit Suisse is seen at its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland March 24, 2021. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo July 29, 2021
ZURICH (Reuters) – Credit Suisse expects Swiss watchdog FINMA’s proceedings over the bank’s 2019 spying scandal to wrap up soon, Chief Executive Thomas Gottstein said on Thursday, while its discussions with the supervisor on the more recent Archegos scandal has only just begun.
“(In terms of) discussions around Archegos, Greensill and the Spygate topic (with FINMA): we understand that Spygate (proceedings) should be concluded very soon,” Gottstein told journalists on a call following the bank’s results.
“In terms of Archegos, we have just started now the discussions and interviews,” he said.
“As you probably know, it’s not only the Swiss regulator but also the U.S. and U.K. regulator who are looking into this, and it’s not only with Credit Suisse. There were a handful of other prime brokers that we understand are being approached and will be part of that regulatory investigation.”
The bank is also in the process of conducting interviews with regulators on the Greensill matter, Gottstein said, adding he could not comment on the timing of the conclusion of regulatory probes into either the Greensill or Archegos matters.
(Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Michael Shields)

Climate, Entomophagy, and a Moral Debate (for Some)

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Pasta made from the insect protein in the German retailer Metro AG supermarket in Duesseldorf, Germany, March 02, 2018. (Thilo Schmuelgen/Reuters)

Writing the other day about meat and its enemies, I suggested that the drive to persuade people to eat more insect-based food in order to help save the planet might run into objections from vegans (and some vegetarians):
To the extent that scientists and food technologists can develop nutritious, cost-competitive, and tasty plant-based or lab-grown alt-meat or, aided by creative cooks, conjure up treats out of another much talked-about option, protein-rich insect-based grub, good for them. It only widens consumer choice, for carnivores, flexitarians, vegetarians, or vegans. (Never mind that not many vegetarians and, in theory, no vegans will stoop to entomophagy.)
It was, let’s face it, no great feat of the imagination to think that vegans and vegetarians might have ethical qualms about eating our insect pals, but, judging by an article, “Don’t Farm Bugs,” written by Jeff Sebo and Jason Schukraft  for Aeon, I had underestimated the depth of the moral concerns that might be triggered (for some) by the prospect of mankind’s greedy eyes turning towards hexapod snacks.
An extract:
Interest in insect farming is booming. Insects have been heralded as a sustainable alternative to traditional animal agriculture, with a litany of articles touting the environmental benefits of insect protein. Socially minded investors have piled into the space, with recent funding rounds totalling more than $950 million.
Socially responsible investing is what it is.
Back to Sebo and Schukraft:
Lost in all the hype is an uncomfortable question: do we want to encourage a food system that farms animals by the trillion?
By number of animals killed annually, the most farmed insects are crickets, mealworm beetle larvae and black soldier fly larvae. The most common slaughter methods on these farms include baking, boiling, freezing and shredding. In most jurisdictions, there are no welfare regulations that govern insect slaughter. Operators are free to kill the insects in whatever manner is most efficient.
The core of Sebo and Schukraft’s argument is based on sentience, or even the possibility of sentience, a thesis that makes for some fascinating reading, both as an idea, but also for some of the examples included:
Researchers who treated a group of shaken flies with the human antidepressant lithium chloride found that the ‘treatment can suppress this depression-like state in flies’.
Well, I found that fascinating.
On the other hand:
While insects have many traits that suggest sentience, they have at least some traits that suggest non-sentience as well. For example, mantids are known to continue mating even as they are devoured by their partner. Injured honey bees do not show more of a preference towards morphine than non-injured honey bees. And even decapitated cockroaches are capable of relatively impressive feats of learning….
I respect the caution implicit in the inclusion of that “relatively.”
If there is a non-negligible chance that insects are sentient, then killing insects is like driving drunk; it imposes a non-negligible risk on others against their will. Granted, the nature of the risk is different. We are definitely killing individuals who are possibly sentient, rather than possibly killing individuals who are definitely sentient. But the result is the same in both cases. There is a non-negligible chance that we are killing sentient beings, and we have a moral responsibility to consider that possibility when deciding what to do.
This leads to the surprising conclusion that we should accept a moral presumption against harming insects. If an action would kill an insect unnecessarily, then we have moral reason not to perform that action, all else being equal. And if an action would kill trillions of insects unnecessarily, then we have trillions of reasons not to perform that action, all else being equal.
Well, that rather depends on who is deciding what is or is not “moral.” There is also the small question of hierarchy, a persistent presence within a natural world that is not known for its kindliness, “red in tooth and claw” and all that: Given the choice between saving a billion larvae, or one human (or, for that matter, one dog), I suspect that most (admittedly, human) moral systems would consign the grubs to the grim reaper.
But even if we remove the either/or (human  or bug) from the equation, how to decide whether an insect’s death is “necessary?” Some savages, of course, might think that this isn’t even worth considering.

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Entertainingly, in the light of all the proselytizing in a wider and wider section of the media, Sebo and Schukraft appear not altogether convinced by those who argue that entomophagy will help save the planet:
[I]nsect farming is not the public health or environmental saviour that it claims to be. The reality is that insect farming and traditional animal farming are mutually reinforcing systems. Industry insiders know that selling insects for human consumption is not profitable at scale. (The ‘yuck’ factor will take a long time to overcome.) Thus, the new insect farms are selling their product primarily to huge aquaculture operations in which ground insect powder is added to fishmeal. The industry is also lobbying hard to allow chicken and pig factory farmers to use insects as feed. By reducing the cost of animal feed, insect farming might enable an expansion of factory farming systems.
The environmental benefits of insect farming are thus misleading. Farmed insects are not replacing other farmed animals; they are being fed to them. The emergence of insect farming thus reinforces another already inefficient supply chain. Plant-based supply chains – including for plant-based meats – are generally much more sustainable than the animal-based supply chains to which insect farms are contributing. And humans can produce plant-based proteins without bringing into existence trillions of possibly sentient beings each year, all so that we can then confine them, kill them and eat them either directly or, more likely, indirectly, via other farmed animals.
Problem solved?
Nope.
Unfortunately, plant-based agriculture also harms insects, through the use of agricultural insecticides….
Oh well.
Anyway, read the whole thing and draw your own conclusions. To me, it was an intriguing discussion in its own right, but also as an example of how far, as a species, we can take an argument.
Meanwhile, no larvae will, I hope, be harmed in my upcoming dinner – a street-bought hot dog.

Mind you . . .

Loeffler group says in brief judge should dismiss 'inflammatory' DOJ suit against Georgia voting law

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Former Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s voting group, Greater Georgia, is filing a brief Thursday in the Northern District of Georgia calling for a judge to dismiss the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Georgia over its controversial new election security law, which Democrats say equates to voter suppression. The Justice Department’s “inflammatory allegations,” the Greater Georgia brief says, “are not only demonstrably false and not based in reality, but even if true, fail to state a valid claim” under the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Citing the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold Arizona’s voting laws in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the brief continues to say that the “VRA requires ‘proof’ that the challenged state law or regulation establishes processes that ‘are not equally open to participation’ by members of a protected class… ‘[T]he mere fact that there is some disparity in impact,’ even if shown to exist, does not establish a violation.'””Plaintiff does not, and cannot, point to any aspect of any challenged provisions that is not equally and uniformly applied to the entire electorate nor can it identify any special restriction on Blacks’ participation in Georgia’s electoral process,” the brief reads. GEORGIA AG FILES SCATHING RESPONSE TO DOJ’S ELECTION LAWSUIT, BLASTING IT AS ‘SHAMELESS POLITICAL ATTACK’Loeffler’s Greater Georgia group, which is formed in the model of Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight, advocated for the Georgia law called S.B. 202, which President Biden has equated to Jim Crow laws. Republicans, meanwhile, say the law on the balance expands voting opportunities and its election security provisions are not overly burdensome. “Viewed objectively and in consideration of the totality of the circumstances, the Act maintains Georgia’s place as a state where it is very easy to vote while addressing recent problems, adding reasonable and uniform safeguards and maintaining no-excuse absentee voting,” the Greater Georgia brief says. As evidence, Greater Georgia cites the law’s expansion of early voting and codification of drop boxes.”For the first time in Georgia’s history the challenged Act codifies the ability of counties to provide drop boxes for the collection of absentee ballots—increasing voter access,” the brief says, while emphasizing that the law also has important “safeguards” to promote “uniformity in how counties may utilize drop boxes.” Democrats, meanwhile, cite restrictions on who can give water to voters standing in line as evidence that the law is meant to suppress minority votes. They also say that main reason such a law was passed in early 2021 is former President Trump’s false claims that the presidential election – particularly in Georgia – was stolen. That connection, they say, proves that the law is simply meant to suppress minority votes in order to bolster Republicans’ chances in future elections. CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPThe Greater Georgia brief also attacks the DOJ’s standing to sue Georgia over its voting laws, alleging that the Justice Department can only bring a suit against the state to enforce the VRA. And because in Georgia’s estimation there is no VRA violation, it says the suit is invalid.

CDC yet to release COVID data behind mask reversal

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More than a day after issuing new guidance that vaccinated people should wear masks indoors – recommendations that are likely to affect millions of Americans in the form of private and public mask mandates – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to release the data behind its decision. The lack of clarity on what exactly the agency is basing its decision on comes as states and cities across the country are working to vaccinate more of their citizens. And it’s making some local officials reluctant to follow the CDC’s advice on nearly universal masking.WHERE TO FIND COVID VACCINES”While the CDC issued their guidance yesterday at about 3 p.m., they have not yet released their scientific reports on the data that underlies their recommendation,” New York City Health and Hospitals President and CEO Mitchell Katz said at a Wednesday press conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio. 
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adjusts her face mask during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill in Washington, in this Thursday, March 18, 2021, file photo. 
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)”I think we owe it to New Yorkers to very carefully, as you say, review that information and understand its implications,” Katz added. “Our focus has to be on getting people vaccinated.” MASK MANDATES POUR IN NATIONWIDE AFTER CDC REVISES GUIDANCE FOR VACCINATED PEOPLE”We’re assessing the information. What really is important is to assess the research behind it. Which is what our team is doing,” de Blasio said when asked why the city is delaying any action to mandate mask-wearing for vaccinated folks. “We’ve got to make sure we understand the ramifications and what makes sense to do.”CDC Director Rochelle Walensky explained that the reason for the CDC’s reversal on indoor masking for vaccinated people is because “in rare occasions, some vaccinated people infected with the delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and pass the virus to others.”They “may be contagious,” Walensky said, because “the amount of virus” in vaccinated people infected by the delta variant “is pretty similar to the amount of virus in unvaccinated people.” According to the Associated Press, the data to support this claim emerged over the last couple of days from over 100 samples from several states and one other country. The CDC has not released the data yet, and it is not public. 
Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio attends the opening of a vaccination center for Broadway workers in Times Square on April 12, 2021 in New York City. De Blasio and his top health officials Wednesday were reluctant to re-implement a mask mandate without data from the CDC to support its new guidelines. 
(Noam Galai/Getty Images)CDC GUIDANCE FALLOUT: HOUSE, WHITE HOUSE BRING BACK MASK MANDATES”The vast majority of transmission is occurring through unvaccinated individuals,” Walensky said Tuesday. But, she added, “we thought it was important for [vaccinated] people to understand that they could pass the disease onto someone else.” CDC guidance published Tuesday cited “unpublished data” reviewed by its COVID-19 Response Team.The CDC did not reply to a request for comment from Fox News Wednesday about the data behind its mask guidance, when it will release the numbers and the exact nature of the samples.The CDC also did not address whether it is worried about mass non-compliance with its new guidelines as even some high-profile Democrats like de Blasio, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hesitate to bring back masking rules. The CDC cannot itself mandate mask-wearing — state and local governments do. But many state and local governments closely follow the CDC’s guidance on the coronavirus and some immediately adopted mask mandates after the CDC announcement Tuesday, including Nevada and Kansas City. CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP”I have stuck with CDC guidance throughout the pandemic and today is no different,” Kansas City, Missouri Quinton Lucas said. “I will return Kansas City to a mask mandate indoors based upon national and regional health guidance and discussion with other Kansas City leaders. I will provide further details in the morning.”The new CDC mask guidance comes despite the fact that COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death. The vaccines also massively reduce the risk of virus transmission.The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Kyrsten Sinema’s Right That America Can’t Afford Dems’ ‘Free’ Trillions

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The left predictably erupted after Kyrsten Sinema joined her Senate colleague Joe Manchin and declared her opposition to their party’s reconciliation bill that would cost $3.5 trillion over the decade. With the votes of all 50 Senate Democrats needed to enact such legislation, either of them or any other Democrat has veto power over the whole package.A progressive organization has announced a series of Arizona television ads telling Sinema, “You’ve become the problem.” These two senators are subjected to a daily dose of progressive vitriol that often exceeds even that directed at Mitch McConnell. They are seen as traitors, working with Republicans to sabotage the full Democratic control of Congress and the White House that took a decade to build and requires a blitzkrieg of legislative activity before the next election in 15 months.Except that Sinema and Manchin are absolutely correct. We cannot afford a massive $3.5 trillion expansion of government.Before the pandemic, the national debt stood at $17 trillion. The pandemic added roughly $5 trillion in (mostly necessary) new legislative costs.Democrats have already enacted on top of that a $1.9 trillion “stimulus” bill filled with unnecessary items like bailouts for states with large budget surpluses. The bipartisan infrastructure deal that advanced in the Senate on Wednesday evening would add $600 billion over the decade in new spending, and the president’s proposed 8.4 percent hike in discretionary spending would cost $1 trillion over the decade. Adding $3.5 trillion over the decade for this reconciliation bill — plus another $1 trillion to renew policies with fake expiration dates, such as the child credit expansion — would bring the total ten-year price tag to $8 trillion.It is fashionable to dismiss cost and deficit concerns during this period of low interest rates. Besides, critics assert, Japan has shown that surging debt levels do not matter. Such assertions are remarkably short-sighted.First, Washington would need to finance not only today’s $8 trillion spending spree, but also the underlying $105 trillion in baseline deficits projected by the Congressional Budget Office over the next three decades. These deficit estimates — which are driven almost exclusively by the Social Security and Medicare systems’ projected cost of $100 trillion more than they will collect in payroll taxes and premiums — already assume peace, prosperity, and low interest rates.However, anyone with student loans understands that, when debt grows too large, even low interest rates won’t make the monthly payments easy. Similarly, CBO estimates that even with low interest rates, interest will become the largest item in the federal budget, and consume half of all tax revenues within three decades. And if interest rates do rise, the government’s reliance on short-term debt means all this debt would rollover into the higher rates. Each percentage point that interest rates exceed the CBO baseline would add $30 trillion in interest costs over three decades. In terms of long-term costs, that is like adding an extra Defense Department every time interest rates rise by one percentage point.This one percentage increase in interest rates above the baseline would push the debt level in 30 years to 264 percent of the economy. At that point, interest payments alone would cost two-thirds of all tax revenues, and annual deficits would exceed 12 percent of the economy. This is not some far-fetched scenario. It is merely the CBO baseline with interest rates gradually rising to five percent over a few decades.What do these shortfalls mean for families? Even under the low interest rate scenario, merely stabilizing the national debt at the current 100 percent share of the economy would require gradually doubling payroll taxes to 30 percent, or imposing a European-style value-added tax (essentially a national sales tax) that gradually rises past 30 percent over three decades. And even then, modest budget deficits would continue. In that context, borrowing $8 trillion more this decade — $60,000 for every household — would be pouring gasoline on a fire. Even assuming that interest rates never again exceed 3 percent, this year’s spending spree alone would add $240 billion in interest costs to the federal budget every year, forever. That is $240 billion each year that could otherwise provide free public college, finance major climate initiatives, or significantly expand health care coverage. Instead, it will be spent on interest for bondholders.Some Democrats suggest that the Federal Reserve can finance all this new spending with the printing press. While the economic effects of the Fed financing $3 trillion in recent government borrowing are undetermined, it is absurd to assume it would — or should — finance this $8 trillion spending spree or a large portion of the $100 trillion baseline debt this way. The numbers are just too large.Other Democrats assert that we can just tax the rich. Yet even combining virtually every progressive tax increase — including a 70 percent income tax bracket, higher capital gains taxes, Social Security taxes on all wages, an 8 percent wealth tax, a 77 percent estate tax, a carbon tax, and steep new taxes on Wall Street and corporations — would not even balance the baseline budget over the next decade, much less this new spending spree. And even that assumes that combined marginal tax rates of nearly 100 percent do not harm the economy. We can pin our long-term economic solvency to the hopes that interest rates never exceed two percent again, but that would be extraordinarily reckless. As for Japan’s aforementioned debt: It has benefitted from higher domestic savings to finance their debt, yet the nation has nonetheless suffered under slow economic growth rates for three decades. That leaves the option of burying our heads in the sand and hoping for some undefined miracle. The danger of soaring debt is that — much like global warming — by the time you can directly feel its effects, it is too late to address them without significant pain. Nations that find themselves with unsustainable debt face three painful choices: historic tax increases, drastic spending cuts, or running the printing press. Much better to make responsible decisions today to avoid these awful options.This does not mean the progressive wish list is dead. Instead, it means that anything worth doing is worth paying for. Republicans absolutely should have paid for their $1.5 trillion tax cut. And responsible Democrats should scale back — and pay for — their top priorities from the remaining $6 trillion of this year’s $8 trillion wish list (or cap their new borrowing at $1.5 trillion to match the GOP tax cuts).Progressives could afford many of their goals if they were willing to address the $100 trillion Social Security and Medicare shortfalls projected over the next few decades. Even trimming benefits for wealthy seniors could save trillions of dollars over the long-term. Modest proposals like family leave, child tax credits, and clean energy investments can be funded by trimming existing programs, or with smaller tax increases. But if progressive instead want to spend like Europeans, they should be willing to tax like Europeans. That means preparing the middle class for substantially higher income and payroll taxes and creating exorbitant new value-added taxes.Spending trillions of dollars on popular benefits is easy, especially when you can dump the painful costs on future taxpayers. Sinema and Manchin deserve credit for demanding that new benefits be provided in a manner that is economically and fiscally sustainable. Today’s television ads may be nasty, but tomorrow’s taxpayers will thank them.

My Five-Year-Old Daughter May Not Survive Your Refusal to Wear a Mask

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Choose life. Wear masks.My wife and I decided to choose life and have been wearing masks even after the CDC prematurely, and foolishly, told the fully-vaccinated they could stop wearing them back in May. While many of you might complain about the annoyance of wearing a mask at grocery stores or at the gym, we have to constantly worry about the survival of our immuno-suppressed daughter, Nusayba. Her health is always at stake, and much more so due to the reckless ignorance and arrogant entitlement of my fellow Americans who still mistake selfishness for freedom and have decided to embrace the virus over masks, vaccines, and other life-saving measures.While millions in this nation are choosing death, Nusayba is a Stage 4 cancer survivor and a liver transplant recipient who had to fight to celebrate her recent 5th birthday. She is just one of millions of Americans with a compromised immune system, thus making them fatally susceptible to COVID-19. As I wrote in May before the latest surge, it remains to be seen if fully vaccinated individuals with immuno-compromised systems will produce enough antibodies to ward off the virus, which is why whenever you choose to wear a mask indoors, you’re choosing to protect not only yourself, but also vulnerable people like my daughter.

Olympics-Judo-Japanese judoka Hamada wins gold in women’s -78 kg division in Tokyo

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Judo – Women’s 78kg – Gold medal match – Nippon Budokan – Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021. Madeleine Malonga of France and Shori Hamada of Japan react after the match. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse July 29, 2021
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese judoka Shori Hamada won the gold medal in the women’s -78 kg category in the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday, beating Madeleine Malonga of France in the final.
Bronze medals went to Anna-Maria Wagner of Germany and Mayra Aguiar of Brazil.
(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; editing by Clare Fallon)

Didi Global considers going private to placate China – WSJ

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FILE PHOTO: The logo for Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Global Inc is pictured during the IPO on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) floor in New York City, U.S., June 30, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo July 29, 2021
(Reuters) -China’s Didi Global is considering going private to placate Chinese authorities and compensate investor losses since the ride-hailing firm listed in the United States, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
The company has been mulling delisting plans as crackdown in China widens and it has received support from cybersecurity regulators, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter.
Didi has been in talks with bankers, regulators and key investors to figure how to resolve the problems following its listing on the New York Stock Exchange, the report added. (https://on.wsj.com/3ybFu4h)
U.S-listed shares of Didi rose 40% to $12.42 in premarket trading. The company did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.
A take-private deal that would involve a tender offer for its publicly traded shares is one of the preliminary options being considered, the report said.
Didi listed on the New York Stock Exchange in June, raising about $4.4 billion in its initial public offering in the biggest stock sale by a Chinese company since the 2014 listing of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd..
(Reporting by Chavi Mehta in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

Singapore Airlines posts $302 million first-quarter loss

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FILE PHOTO: A Singapore Airlines Airbus A330-300 plane takes off behind a Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner at Changi Airport in Singapore March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo/File Photo July 29, 2021
(Reuters) – Singapore Airlines Ltd (SIA) on Thursday posted a S$409 million ($302 million) first-quarter loss, narrower than a year earlier, helped by a strong air cargo market and no major impairments.
The company posted a record S$1.1 billion loss a year earlier.
The airline reported revenue of S$1.30 billion, up from S$851 million a year earlier.
($1 = 1.3544 Singapore dollars)
(Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru and Jamie Freed in Sydney; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

Biden, Harris unveil strategies to address 'root causes' of immigration

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The Biden administration on Thursday rolled out its strategies to address the root causes of immigration, a step officials call a “core component” of efforts to establish a “fair, orderly, and humane immigration system.” President Biden, in March, tapped Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the administration’s diplomatic efforts to address the “root causes” of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. HARRIS TELLS DACA RECIPIENTS THAT ADMINISTRATION WILL TAKE ‘ACTION’ AFTER PROGRAM IS RULED UNLAWFUL”In Central America, the root causes of migration run deep—and migration from the region has a direct impact on the United States,” Harris said in a statement. “For that reason, our nation must consistently engage with the region to address the hardships that cause people to leave Central America and come to our border.” The vice president, in rolling out the new strategies, said that under the Biden Administration, she and the president have “restarted” U.S. engagement with Central American governments to create a “comprehensive” strategy to address the root causes of migration. “First, addressing the root causes of migration is critical to our overall immigration effort,” Harris explained. “Second, providing relief is not sufficient to stem migration from the region.” Harris said that the root causes “must be addressed both in addition to relief efforts—and apart from these efforts.” “In everything we do, we must target our efforts in those areas of highest-out migration—and ensure that these programs meet the highest standards of accountability and effectiveness,” Harris said. “Third, unless we address all of the root causes, problems will persist,” Harris added, noting that it is the “goal” of the administration to deal with “corruption” in the region, and “mitigate the lack of economic and educational opportunities on the ground.” “Fourth, and most importantly, the United States cannot do this work alone,” Harris said. “Our strategy is far-reaching—and focuses on our partnerships with other governments, international institutions, businesses, foundations, and civil society.” Harris said that, at this point, the governments of Mexico, Japan and Korea, and the United Nations have joined the United States in providing “relief” to the region. Harris also called on the private sector—in the United States and abroad—to invest in the region. “Private sector investment not only boosts economic opportunity, but also incentivizes regional governments to create the conditions on the ground to attract such investment,” Harris said. “Ultimately, our administration will consistently engage in the region to address the root cases of migration. We will built on what works, and we will pivot away from what does not work,” Harris said. “It will not be easy, and progress will not be instantaneous, but we are committed to getting it right.” She added: “Because we know The strength and security of the United States depends on the implementation of strategies like this one.” The Root Causes Strategy “identifies, prioritizes and coordinates actions to improve security, governance, human rights, and economic conditions in the region,” while integrating various U.S. government tools including “diplomacy, foreign assistance, public diplomacy and sanctions.” Senior administration officials said implementation of the strategy will rely on the expertise of a wide range of U.S. departments and agencies, with support from governments inside and outside the region, the private sector, Congress, and more. Officials said the U.S. will coordinate a “place-based” approach, targeting areas where migrants are most likely to come from. The strategy, according to officials, has been broken down into five pillars: addressing economic insecurity and inequality; combatting corruption, strengthening democratic governance and advancing the rule of law; promoting respect for human rights, labor rights and a free press; countering and preventing violence, extortion, and other crimes perpetrated by criminal gangs, trafficking networks, and other organized criminal organizations; and combating sexual, gender-based and domestic violence. The administration on Thursday also rolled out its Migration Strategy, which officials called the first U.S. government strategy focused on strengthening cooperative efforts to manage safe, orderly and humane migration in North and Central America. The Migration Strategy includes efforts to stabilize populations with acute needs; expand access to international protection; expand access to protection in countries of origin; improve and expand temporary labor programs in the region with worker protections; assist and reintegrate returned persons; foster “secure and humane” management of borders; strengthen regional public messaging about migration; and expand access to “lawful pathways” for protection and opportunities in the United States. Senior administration officials said that Biden and Harris “inherited a broken and dysfunctional system,” acknowledging that there were “a number of problems that pre-existed the Trump administration,” but said the Trump administration “made them so much worse.” “For this strategy to be successful, we will have to undertake sustained efforts, which is both hard work over time, but also a very hard-nosed approach to having an impact on the ground for the people of the region who are suffering so badly.” CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPThe administration’s strategies come as migrant crossings into the United States across the U.S.-Mexico border hit a 10-year high. More than 188,000 migrants were encountered in June. Encounters of family units, meanwhile, surged by 25% to 55,805 from 44,746 in May.Fox News’ Adam Shaw contributed to this report. 

Britain’s ITV says ‘no current plans’ for another ‘X Factor’ series

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FILE PHOTO: Television mogul Simon Cowell poses for photographers as he arrives for the film “One Direction: This is Us”, in London August 20, 2013. REUTERS/Neil Hall July 29, 2021
LONDON (Reuters) – British broadcaster ITV said it has “no current plans” for another series of music talent show “The X Factor”.
The singing competition, created by British music mogul and television personality Simon Cowell, debuted on UK screens in 2004 and kick-started the careers of chart toppers such as Leona Lewis, One Direction and Little Mix.
Its last series aired in 2018 before going on hiatus.
“There are no current plans for the next series of The X Factor at this stage,” an ITV spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Thursday.
Once hugely popular, the UK show has seen ratings fall over the years.
Newspaper The Sun reported late on Wednesday Cowell was axing the series “for at least five years”. 
The show, in which aspiring singers aim to win a recording contract and are mentored by celebrity judges, has been exported around the world and has had various spin-offs, including a celebrity version in 2019.
(Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

Olympics-Sailing-Badloe primed for gold as yachtsmen ‘tack on’ to grab advantage

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Sailing – Men’s 49er – Opening Series – Enoshima Yacht Harbour – Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021. Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell of Britain in action. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado July 29, 2021
By Philip O’Connor
ENOSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) -Dutchman Kiran Badloe is all but assured of Olympic gold in Saturday’s medal race in the RS:X windsurfing as athletes in other sailing disciplines remained locked in intriguing tactical battles for advantage in the waves on Thursday.
Badloe will take over the crown from compatriot and two-time Olympic champion Dorian van Rijsselberghe if he can avoid a premature start or disqualification in the final race.
“We’re almost there, we’re not there yet, but if I do my thing and don’t do anything crazy in the medal race, it should be mine, and that feeling is just unreal,” he told reporters.
In the women’s RS:X windsurfing event, Yuxiu Lu of China rattled off three excellent races, finishing second, third and second again to take control, putting herself in pole position for Saturday’s medal race.
Yuxiu leads Briton Emma Wilson by four points and French Olympic champion Charline Picon by six, but Picon is not giving up hope of retaining her Olympic title just yet.
“We are close, and everything could happen on the medal race,” she told reporters. Asking what the gap was to pole position, Picon said, “Six points? I play for gold.”
For Wilson, whose mother Penny competed in the same event in the 1992 and the 1996 Games, being so close to winning an Olympic medal is a situation that is hard to fathom.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” she told reporters. “I’ve watched the Olympics since I was a little kid, it’s always been a dream.”
A typhoon earlier in the week threatened to give the sailors problems but as the opening series of races reaches its climax, they are trying to take the wind from each other’s sails, literally and figuratively.
Men’s 49er class leaders Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell had a target on their backs after a strong start and the Britons found their competitors ‘tacking on’, or blocking the wind, in a bid to catch up.
“They just ‘sit on our wind’, as it’s called. They give us less wind coming from behind them, and it makes it very difficult to get free, especially when it’s consistently happening and happening downwind,” Fletcher explained.
“It’s brilliant really, it’s a compliment in a way, but it’s not nice when you’re battling it out,” his team mate Bithell added.
The racing continues on Friday, with the first medals being decided on Saturday.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Clare Fallon)

Olympics-Golf-Straka storms to Tokyo lead as Matsuyama grinds

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Golf – Men’s Individual – Final – Round 1 – Kasumigaseki Country Club – Kawagoe, Saitama, Japan – July 29, 2021. Sepp Straka of Austria in action. REUTERS/Murad Sezer July 29, 2021
By Toshiki Hashimoto
KAWAGOE, Japan (Reuters) – Austrian surprise package Sepp Straka upstaged a slew of golf’s biggest names at the Olympics on Thursday to take a one-shot lead in a sweltering opening round as home hero Hideki Matsuyama battled to stay in touch after a recent brush with COVID-19.
Teeing off in the first group with his twin brother Sam carrying his bag, 28-year-old Straka shot an Olympic record-equalling eight-under 63 at Kasumigaseki Country Club to be one stroke clear of Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond.
Belgium’s Thomas Pieters and Mexican Carlos Ortiz were a stroke further back on six-under as headline acts Justin Thomas (71) and Rory McIlroy (69) laboured on an oppressive day marred by a long suspension due to the threat of lightning.
Straka was cooling off in the clubhouse before the two-hour 20-minute break was called, and savouring a return to form after a dire period on the U.S. PGA Tour.
“If you put it in the fairway on this course you can really take advantage,” Straka told reporters after rolling in eight birdies in a blemish-free round.
“I got hot with my irons, especially my short irons, my wedges. I was really knocking down the flagstick and really tried to stay aggressive.”
Masters champion Matsuyama, carrying Japan’s medal hopes on his shoulders after recently recovering from COVID-19, shot a 69 to be six off the pace but said he felt the lingering effects of his illness as he ran out of gas on the back nine.
Matsuyama had four birdies in his first eight holes before bogeys on nine and 11 stalled him.
“It was very difficult. Towards the end, mental side and focus faded away from me,” said the burly 29-year-old, Japan’s first major winner.
In such a golf-mad nation, Matsuyama deserved a crowd but the lack of spectators due to COVID-19 made for a surreal atmosphere.
Volunteers held up “quiet” signs to patches of vacant grass and British Open champion Collin Morikawa (69) called “fore” somewhat needlessly as he sprayed a shot into trees on the first.
American Morikawa was hardly alone in having to hack his way out of the thick Zoysia grass thriving off the fairways.
Others had little pay on the greens, including Thomas. The American was a picture of torment after none of his birdie putts fell in an astonishing round of 18 pars.
Pieters took an easier route to the hole with an eagle on the par-four 11th, landing a 127-yard iron behind the pin and watching it back-spin into the cup.
It highlighted a courageous round for the Belgian who woke feeling “terrible” after suffering fever, head-ache and a minor COVID-19 scare on Wednesday.
“Both of my COVID tests came back negative. I was feeling a bit stressed yesterday, but I probably just didn’t drink enough. I’m feeling a bit better now,” he said.
(Writing by Ian Ransom; Editing by Toby Davis)

Olympics-Water, water everywhere – but don’t forget to drink, says Swedish sailor

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Sailing – Women’s Laser Radial – Opening Series – Enoshima Yacht Harbour – Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021. Josefin Olsson of Sweden in action. REUTERS/Carlos Barria July 29, 2021
(Adds dropped story identifier, byline)
By Philip O’Connor
ENOSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) – The sailors at the Tokyo Games might be surrounded by water, but it’s the wrong kind – and the risk of dehydration during an intense period of racing is a major factor to take into account as they plot their course for Olympic gold.
With the Games taking place at the height of the Japanese summer and temperatures often over 30 degrees at the sailing venue in Enoshima, athletes like Sweden’s Josefin Olsson have to take every chance to top up their liquid reserves.
“You’ve really got to be out in front when it comes to hydration. A race takes 50 minutes and we don’t drink anything during the race, so you really have to fill up before and between the races,” the 31-year-old told Reuters.
Olsson is competing in the Laser Radial class, where the opening series of 10 races decides the 10 sailors who will contest Sunday’s medal race in seas that are much warmer than the Swede is used to.
“The water here is so warm. Usually when we get out on the sea it’s cooler, you get cooled down, and when the sea breeze comes in it gets cooler, but here the water is nearly 27, 28 degrees, so you don’t get cooled down in the same way,” she said.
Olsson, currently third after eight races in the opening series, is one of many competitors who went to great lengths to prepare for the heat in Japan ahead of the Olympics.
“We have a climate chamber in Stockholm and I did some days there before we came here, and I feel that I have the benefit of that now,” the 31-year-old said. “It was actually tougher in the climate chamber than it is here, so it was very useful.”
The Swede said she was not sure exactly how much fluid she lost during an average race, but she said she was constantly trying to replenish it.
“It ends up being a lot of litres… You drink so much before and between the races that you’re almost ready to vomit,” she said.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Olympics-Swimming-‘Weirdo’ Dressel turns lone wolf to focus on gold quest

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Swimming – Men’s 100m Freestyle – Final – Tokyo Aquatics Centre – Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021. Caeleb Dressel of the United States looks on after setting a new Olympic record to win the gold medal REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach July 29, 2021
By Martin Petty
TOKYO (Reuters) -Newly crowned Olympic champion Caeleb Dressel describes himself as a loner and a “bit of a weirdo” as he blocks out distractions in his quest for a gold-medal haul in Tokyo.
The American set an Olympic record of 47.02 seconds on Thursday to win by a fingertip in the men’s 100 metres freestyle, denying Rio champion Australian Kyle Chalmers a second successive title in a thrilling contest in swimming’s marquee event.
It was Dressel’s first individual Olympic gold and his second in Japan after Monday’s U.S. 4x100m freestyle relay win, with 50 freestyle, 100 butterfly and relay golds still within his grasp.
“I don’t really talk to many people at these meets, I’m kind of a loner, a little bit of a weirdo,” said Dressel, 24.
He is also shunning social media and keeping contact with family back home to a minimum.
“You have to manage your emotions,” he said, moments after a tearful medal ceremony.
“I cry a lot. And so I can’t be calling them (family) every night, you know, exerting that energy, but it’s got to be put into my swimming.
“I’m not on Instagram, I know I’m not posting anything… it’s energy that I don’t need to be exerting,” he said. “That’s just how I work and operate so I’m not bashing anyone. That’s just my routine.”
Dressel set the pace on Thursday down the first 50 metres, with Chalmers and Russian Kliment Kolesnikov close behind, then fended off a late charge from the Australian to cling on for gold.
Chalmers turned third at the halfway mark and was pulling back stroke for stroke but left his fightback too late, finishing just 0.06 behind, equalling his lifetime best, with Kolesnikov third.
Chalmers said he was used to chasing Dressel into the finish and was delighted with his form.
“It’s very special,” he said. “Lots of people are actually struggling to do that, so to stand up and do that, I’m really proud.”
The Olympic gold was Dressel’s fourth overall, including his two relay wins in Rio in 2016, and came amid expectations on him to double that at this Games.
“I’m pretty good at putting a face on,” he said.
“I know my name is out there and I understand that but I couldn’t care less about it. But it’s just something that comes with the sport, when you’re on top of the podium.
“I’m fine with it and it’s up to me whether or not I turn it into stress.”
(Reporting by Martin Petty and Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Clare Fallon)

Olympics-Swimming-Australia coaches hit back at attacks over relay team selection

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FILE PHOTO: Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe attends a news conference in Mumbai, India, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade July 29, 2021
By Aaron Sheldrick
TOKYO (Reuters) – Australia’s swimming coaches came out swinging in defence of their selection decisions on Thursday after their powerful women’s 4x200m freestyle relay team finished third behind China and the United States.
The Australians had set the fastest qualifying time and, with 200 and 400 freestyle champion Ariarne Titmus in their ranks, were heavily favoured to do the double after winning the 4x100m gold.
But while they swam under their own previous world record it was not enough, the Chinese coming home first to set a new world mark just ahead of the United States.
Former Olympic gold medallists Ian Thorpe and Giaan Rooney, along with the Australian media, criticized the decision to chose a different team for the heats and the final, leaving out in-form teenager Mollie O’Callaghan.
“The biggest miss was Mollie O,” Rooney tweeted, while The Australian newspaper’s headline read: “Blunder costs 4x200m gold”.
Nine-time Olympic medallist Thorpe said he was “a little curious” about the line-up, which saw Titmus joined by Emma McKeon, Madi Wilson and Leah Neale.
However, head coach Rohan Taylor and assistant Dean Boxall said they had been working on the strategy for two years.
Taylor said he wanted a fresh team for the final after learning the lessons of Beijing, where like Tokyo the finals were in the morning after night-time heats, which he said had led to some “flat” performances in the medal races.
O’Callaghan had broken the junior world record in the heats, which was faster than the other team members in the final apart from Titmus.
The teenager did not get back to the athletes village until around 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Taylor said.
“The guarantee of her (O’Callaghan) going quicker, when we had fresh cattle, fresh athletes to go in, we took that strategy and that’s what we played it out,” Taylor said.
Boxall, who went viral on social media earlier in the week after his wild celebration of Titmus’s success in the 400m freestyle, was no longer in dancing mood when asked about the decision to leave O’Callaghan out.
“I coach Mollie, Mollie is my girl,” said Boxall, adding the team’s job was “to get the girls into the final and it was eight girls”.
Asked if he would change the strategy after the criticism, Taylor said: “No absolutely not.”
(Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

China raises export tariffs for some steel products again in green push

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FILE PHOTO: An employee monitors molten iron being poured into a container at a steel plant in Hefei, Anhui province September 9, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer July 29, 2021
By Min Zhang and Shivani Singh
BEIJING (Reuters) -China will raise export tariffs for pig iron and ferrochrome, and remove export tax rebates for 23 steel products from Aug. 1, the second adjustment in three months as it seeks to ensure domestic supply while controlling output to curb emissions.
Export tariffs for high-purity pig iron will be lifted to 20% from 15%, and for ferrochrome will be increased to 40% from 20%, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement on Thursday.
The country will also cancel export tax rebates for 23 steel products, including some cold-rolled coils and silicon steel which have higher added-value compared with carbon steel.
“(The changes) aim to promote upgrade and high-quality development of the steel industry,” said the finance ministry.
China, the world’s top steel producer had already adjusted its tariffs on May 1, when it removed export tax rebates for 146 steel products, hiked pig iron and ferroalloys export tariffs and exempt some temporary import tariffs.
The adjustments came as the country wants to ensure domestic supplies when curtailing production for fewer carbon emissions.
However, as steel demand and prices are still well supported by the global economic recovery, the country’s steel products exports picked up 23% in June after a 34% drop in May.
Meanwhile, steel output in the first half also jumped 11.8% in China, making it harder to keep to the promise of no rise in annual crude steel production in 2021.
“The efforts to control exports are for more production curbs,” said Tang Chuanlin, analyst with CITIC Securities.
Tang also noted that the steel supply crunch will remain in the second half of the year.
“Even though considering the backflow of exported products, the industry is still facing more than 5% shortages,” he added.
Futures prices for the most-traded steel rebar and hot rolled coils on the Shanghai Futures Exchange had jumped 32% and 37%, respectively, so far this year.
(Reporting by Min Zhang and Shivani Singh; Editing by Edmund Blair and David Evans)

Westpac economist says Australia central bank should lift bond purchases immediately

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FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians walk past the main entrance to the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) head office in central Sydney, Australia, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/David Gray July 29, 2021
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s central bank should immediately boost its bond purchase programme from A$5 billion per week to A$6 billion, Westpac chief economist Bill Evans said, in order to cushion the economy from the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown in Sydney.
“Immediately lifting the purchase pace … would send exactly the right message – the new flexible policy is responding to a significant deterioration in the economic outlook,” Evans wrote in a note on Thursday.
Evans said the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) should also commit to maintaining the A$6 billion purchase through to November “in recognition of the economy’s sudden deterioration and the uncertainty around the recovery phase”.
Earlier on Thursday, Westpac downgraded its forecast for Australia’s A$2 trillion economy, predicting a 2.2% contraction in the third quarter, from a previous expectation for a 0.7% contraction.
The revision reflected an expected 7.8% contraction in New South Wales’ (NSW) economy this quarter as a result of a lengthy coronavirus lockdown in its capital, Sydney, which is poised to enter its sixth week of lockdown.
New daily cases in the city surged to a record high of 239 on Thursday with growing fears the stay-home orders could extend to September, wreaking havoc on the economy.
The RBA will hold its monthly Board meeting on Aug.3 where it is widely expected to leave its cash rate at a record low 0.1% and reverse an earlier decision to taper its bond purchases to A$4 billion per week. [AU/INT]
(Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Russia fines Google 3 million rbls for violating personal data law

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FILE PHOTO: A man walks past a logo of Alphabet Inc’s Google in front of at an office building in Zurich, Switzerland July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann July 29, 2021
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia on Thursday fined Google 3 million roubles ($41,017) for violating personal data legislation, Google’s first fine for that offence, Moscow’s Tagansky District Court said.
Google confirmed the fine and offered no further comment.
The penalty comes amid a wider standoff between Russia and Big Tech, with Moscow routinely fining social media giants for failing to remove banned content and seeking to compel foreign tech firms to open offices in Russia.
State communications regulator Roskomnadzor said last month that Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., could be fined up to 6 million roubles for not storing the personal data of Russian users in databases on Russian territory.
Russia has previously fined Google for not deleting banned content. Google has also irked the Russian authorities by blocking some YouTube accounts owned by pro-Kremlin figures and media.
($1 = 73.1390 roubles)
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova and Maria Vasilyeva; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Carmel Crimmins)

Lindt chocolate bunny hops towards victory in trademark battle

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FILE PHOTO: Lindt ‘Goldhase’ chocolate bunnies of Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Spruengli decorate a staircase during the company’s annual news conference in Kilchberg, Switzerland March 8, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann July 29, 2021
By Kirsti Knolle and Silke Koltrowitz
BERLIN/ZURICH (Reuters) -Lindt & Spruengli’s gold foil-wrapped chocolate Easter bunny scored a legal win on Thursday as Germany’s federal court ruled its gold tone had trademark protection.
The Swiss premium chocolate maker has been fighting many court battles over the years to protect one of its best-selling products that, according to the federal court, crossed German counters more than 500 million times in the past 30 years.
After failing to get comprehensive trademark protection for the shape of its sitting bunny, Lindt changed its tactics, trying to protect the shade of the foil instead, a strategy that seems to start bearing fruit.
Germany’s federal court said the tone of the gold foil used to wrap its chocolate bunnies had trademark protection, citing market research presented by the company that showed that 70% of respondents associated the gold tone with the Lindt bunny.
A court in Munich had previously rejected Lindt’s claims against German confiserie Heilemann, owned by Viba Sweets, that also sells a sitting bunny in golden foil. The appeals court will now have to reexamine the case.
Lindt & Spruengli said it did not intend to force another chocolate bunny manufacturer out of the market, but was defending itself against copycats exploiting the reputation it had built for its product over years.
“There are many ways to design Easter bunnies that don’t infringe Lindt & Spruengli’s rights,” said a spokesperson for the company that raised its full-year guidance after reporting strong Easter sales this week.
Viba Sweets was not immediately available to comment.
(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Michael Shields)

Euro zone sentiment hits record high in July, peak may be near

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FILE PHOTO: Shoppers walk down Hohe Strasse shopping district one day before Germany goes back to a complete lockdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Cologne, Germany, December 15, 2020. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen July 29, 2021
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Euro zone economic sentiment hit a record high in July, estimates from the European Commission showed on Thursday, but a drop in optimism among consumers and the slower rate of increase may signal the peak is fast approaching.
The EU executive said its monthly survey that sentiment in the 19-country single-currency bloc rose to 119.0 points in July, a record since data began to be collected in 1985, from 117.9 in June, which was already a 21-year high.
However, as the positive impact of the reopening of economic activities begins to wane and fears grow around the Delta coronavirus variant, sentiment grew at a slower pace.
“Compared to the last months, the latest improvement was much weaker, suggesting that the indicator is approaching its peak,” the European Commission said in a statement.
The rise in sentiment in July was supported by a new surge of optimism in the manufacturing sector which reached another all-time-high after repeated increase this year as factory managers remain largely upbeat.
Confidence also rose to its highest level since August 2007 in the services sector, which has been hit hardest during the pandemic and is the chief beneficiary of the current reopenings.
But the rise in the overall sentiment was checked by a decline in consumers’ confidence, after a five month rally, partly caused by households’ worse assessment of the future economic situation and plans to make major purchases.
That contributed to a slight fall of optimism in the retail sector.
Selling prices expectations continued to increase across the board in line with forecasts of higher inflation towards the end of the year in the euro zone.
For European Commission data click on:
https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/indicators-statistics/economic-databases/business-and-consumer-surveys_en
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)

South Africa property, retail firms bet on townships despite unrest

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FILE PHOTO: A view shows damage inside a shopping mall following protests that have widened into looting, in Durban, South Africa July 13, 2021, in this screen grab taken from a video. Courtesy Kierran Allen/via REUTERS July 29, 2021
By Nqobile Dludla
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Recent unrest in South Africa damaged hundreds of businesses but property developers and retailers say they remain committed to the fast-growing consumer markets of its predominantly Black townships.
Riots broke out this month after former President Jacob Zuma handed himself in to start a 15-month jail term for contempt of court.
More than 300 people died and about 3,000 stores were looted, over half of them belonging to major retailers and fast food brands.
At least 161 shopping malls, 11 warehouses and eight factories suffered heavy damage, sites that include tenants such as grocery chain Shoprite and Walmart majority-owned Massmart.
The hardest hit areas included Durban’s uMlazi and Johannesburg’s Soweto and Alexandra townships in KwaZulu-Natal and the economic heartland of Gauteng.
Graphic: South African stores looted and damaged during unrest – https://graphics.reuters.com/SAFRICA-ZUMA/RETAIL/zdpxoynrkvx/chart.png
Exemplar REITail had five of its 27 malls damaged, including three which are expected to take up to four months to return to normal operations, CEO Jason McCormick told Reuters.
Yet McCormick said the company remained committed to not only repairs, but the development of another 30 malls in the pipeline.
“What happened was tantamount to a black swan event. I don’t think anyone ever foresaw the extent of this ever happening,” McCormick said at one of the group’s malls in Johannesburg.
McCormick’s views reflected those expressed by six other CEOs and executives of listed property companies and two retailers interviewed by Reuters.
Vukile Property Fund, for example, will repair its damaged Daveyton Mall in Johannesburg, one of the first township malls, and will forge ahead with a 90 million rand ($6.1 million) upgrade of the site, CEO Laurence Rapp said.
“It’s one of our most successful malls in the portfolio in terms of all its trading densities and trading statistics,” Rapp said, adding that the current book value of the six damaged properties is around 2.8-3 billion rand.
Real estate developers and retailers have spent the last two decades targeting rising consumer spending by the Black middle class in areas that were disadvantaged for decades under white minority rule.
For such communities, the benefits include jobs and the convenience of having shops nearby, eliminating the cost of travelling to other towns, and these developments in turn attract other retailers and services such as banks.
Fraym, a U.S.-based company which analyses data on communities across the world, in 2019 identified South Africa’s townships as the biggest and fastest-growing retail market over the previous 10 years.
Leon Kok, chief operating officer at Redefine Properties, the second-biggest listed property firm in South Africa, said the company was committed to maintaining its presence but opening new shopping centres at this point was unlikely, not due to the unrest but rather to the pandemic’s impact on the economy.
The companies said where security and risk mitigation measures are not strong enough to fight lawlessness, they ensure that they have adequate insurance cover to manage the risk.
COST OF DOING BUSINESS
Dipula Income Fund’s damaged malls will take about four to eight months to rebuild at an estimated cost of 250-300 million rand, CEO Izak Petersen told Reuters.
Arrowhead Properties’ Montclair Mall in the port city of Durban will take three to six months to be up and running, with the damage estimated at 30-50 million rand, Chief Investment Officer Alon Kirkel told Reuters.
Although the scale of the looting and damage was unexpected, Ninety One Portfolio Manager Ann-Maree Tippoo said this type of unrest was already priced in and the risk return profile of these investments were reasonably well understood by property firms.
“So the commitment to these types of assets and areas will remain because the return profile is quite astounding compared to other retail assets,” Tippoo told Reuters.
She noted the total return on township retail (including capital valuation changes) was 5.7% in 2020 versus minus 6.7% for suburban retail, citing data from the South African Property Owners Association.
Vukile’s Rapp said: “For us it’s a cost of doing business in these areas but the returns are really, really good. So therefore you accept the cost, the risk, for the return.”
Still, some players may delay further investment beyond repairing damage pending economic growth, cautioned Sasfin senior equity analyst Alec Abraham.
Many are still assessing the extent of the damage from the violence which began on July 9 and lasted until July 15.
($1 = 14.7808 rand)
(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; editing by MacDonald Dzirutwe and Jason Neely)

French minister accuses UK of imposing 'discriminatory' and 'excessive' quarantine rules

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The UK government’s decision to keep quarantine measures for travellers coming from France while removing them for all other European countries is “discriminatory” and “excessive”, a French minister has said.On Wednesday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed England would allow fully vaccinated visitors from both the EU and the United States to arrive without needing to quarantine from 2 August.
But he added that tougher rules will continue to be in place for France, which, although on the amber list, still requires travellers to quarantine on their return regardless of their vaccine status.

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said the measures will be reviewed next week

Mr Shapps said this advice would be reviewed at “the end of next week” as part of an ongoing assessment of travel rules.But French Europe minister Clement Beaune described the move as “incomprehensible on health grounds” and accused the UK government of making decisions “not based on science”.

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“It’s excessive, and it’s frankly incomprehensible on health grounds,” Mr Beaune told French TV channel LCI.
“It’s not based on science and [it’s] discriminatory towards the French.”

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Mr Beaune said the UK government should use “common sense” and review the matter “as quickly as possible”.He added that the French government are not planning to place any increased measures on British citizens “for now”.

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Currently, only people who received their jabs in the UK can avoid quarantine when arriving from amber list countries, – but this also does not apply to France

UK ministers have said quarantine rules are being kept in place for travellers from France because of the prevalence of the Beta variant of coronavirus.But French officials have strongly argued against the decision.Currently, only people who received two vaccines in the UK can avoid quarantine when arriving from amber list countries.The UK government said the rule change would help to reunite family and friends whose loved ones live abroad.But this rule also does not apply to France.Speaking to Kay Burley on Sky News on Wednesday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the government is “increasingly confident” that more countries will soon be added to the amber and green travel lists.The foreign secretary said he believes opportunities for international travel can in the near future be opened up further and did not rule out the possibility of popular European holiday destinations moving to different categories in the moving government’s traffic light travel system at the next review point a week on Thursday.

Olympics-‘Tears of immense joy’: Residents toast Japan’s gold rush

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Gymnastics – Artistic – Men’s Individual All-Around – Medal Ceremony – Ariake Gymnastics Centre, Tokyo, Japan – July 28, 2021. Daiki Hashimoto of Japan poses with his gold medal. REUTERS/Mike Blake July 29, 2021
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese residents in the Olympic host city of Tokyo celebrated their athletes’ success in the global sports showpiece on Thursday by queuing up for photos around an Olympic monument near the city’s National Stadium.
Host nation Japan is enjoying a stellar Games, sitting third in the medal table with 13 golds, four silvers and five bronzes, behind only sports giants China and the United States.
Sporting a Tokyo 2020 Japan blazer, Chiyoko Oshima and her friend had originally held tickets to several matches, including men’s gymnastics, but due to the ban on spectators at the Games they have instead resorted to viewing them from a hotel room.
Oshima said she was surprised to see Daiki Hashimoto come back from behind to claim gold in an electrifying gymnastics performance to become at 19 the youngest-ever men’s Olympic gymnastics all-around champion.
“The fact that these people are so young, and that they prepared with all their strength and heart, and when we saw their huge success on TV, we toasted and shed tears of immense joy,” said 62-year-old Oshima.
Some residents, such as Ryoko Yoshioka, believe Japan may have tasted bigger success if there wasn’t a ban on spectators.
    “So this time they’re not allowing spectators, but I think if there were spectators then it would allow for a stronger support base for the athletes. There are many Japanese supporters out there, and it surely brings power to our athletes,” said Yoshioka.
    The Games were postponed last year due to the pandemic and opinion polls have consistently shown that the majority of Japanese are against holding it during the pandemic.
Tokyo recorded 3,177 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, authorities announced, hitting a daily record high for a second straight day as a spike in infections puts pressure on hospitals.
(Reporting by Joseph Campbell; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

German unemployment falls in sign of continuing recovery

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FILE PHOTO: A job centre of Germany’s Federal Labour Office is seen in Munich, Germany November 8, 2017. REUTERS/Michael Dalder July 29, 2021
BERLIN (Reuters) – German unemployment fell in July as companies hired more staff in light of a recovery in Europe’s largest economy, official figures showed on Thursday.
The Labour Office said the number of people out of work fell by 91,000 in seasonally adjusted terms to 2.598 million. A Reuters poll had forecast a fall of 28,000. The seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell to 5.7%.
“Unemployment and underemployment have continued to fall sharply since the start of the summer break,” Labour Office head Detlef Scheele said in a statement. “Companies are increasingly looking to hire new staff.”
The release of the jobless figures followed the publication on Monday of a survey showing German business morale fell unexpectedly in July on continuing supply chain worries and amid rising coronavirus infections.
After more than two months of steady decline, COVID-19 cases have been rising since early July, due mainly to the spread of the more infectious Delta variant.
Roughly 60% of Germany’s 83 million people have had a first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine and about half are fully vaccinated.
(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Madeline Chambers)

Panasonic’s Q1 profit soars 27 times on robust demand for car batteries, appliances

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FILE PHOTO: A logo of Panasonic Corp is pictured at the Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Japan, October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai July 29, 2021
By Makiko Yamazaki and Tim Kelly
TOKYO (Reuters) -Panasonic Corp said first-quarter operating profit surged more than 27 times, handily beating expectations as demand for home appliances and automotive batteries recovered from a particularly weak COVID-hit year.
Profit for April-June rose to 104.4 billion yen ($950 million) from 3.8 billion yen a year earlier, some 50% higher than market expectations and its strongest performance for a first quarter since 2008.
Panasonic, a key supplier of batteries to Tesla Inc, has moved away from low-margin consumer electronics, and now focuses on electric car batteries, industrial-use components and production machinery.
That said, its home appliances including air conditioners and TVs have sold well this year as people spend more time at home during the pandemic.
The automotive business swung to a profit of 9.8 billion yen, benefiting from growing demand for electric car batteries through its decade-old, sometimes testy, partnership with Tesla. That compares with a loss of 9.5 billion yen in the same period a year earlier when it was forced to suspend production at its joint venture with Tesla in Nevada.
Panasonic is launching a test line in Japan to make Tesla’s so-called 4680 battery cells, which the automaker claims will halve battery costs and help it ramp up battery production 100-fold by 2030.
It is adding a new production line at the Nevada factory and is looking to build a lithium-ion battery business in Europe that would supply car makers there. The Japanese firm also has a battery partnership with Toyota Motor Corp.
Tesla this month posted record vehicle deliveries for the second quarter, weathering a global chip crunch better than rivals, and on Monday it posted market-beating quarterly earnings.
Panasonic reaffirmed its full-year forecast of an annual profit of 330 billion yen, slightly lower than analysts’ forecasts.
($1 = 109.76 yen)
(Reporting by Makiko Yamazaki and Tim Kelly; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

British drone insurer Flock raises $17 million led by Palihapitiya

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FILE PHOTO: Chamath Palihapitiya, founder and CEO of Social Capital, speaks during the Sohn Investment Conference in New York City, U.S., May 8, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid July 29, 2021
LONDON (Reuters) – British drone insurer Flock has raised $17 million from investors in early-stage funding led by venture investor Chamath Palihapitiya’s Social Capital, Flock said on Thursday.
Flock started out insuring commercial drones, and added car and van fleets last year. It provides so-called usage-based insurance, adjusting premiums according to real-time information such as weather conditions and distance travelled.
Trends such as ride-sharing and same-day delivery require new types of insurance, CEO Ed Leon Klinger said, as the world also looks ahead to driverless cars.
“These customers are changing very, very quickly but the world of insurance hasn’t really adapted.”
Flock, which started in 2018, said its drone insurance book made up more than 35% of the UK commercial drone market, with clients including the BBC, Netflix and the National Health Service. Motor insurance clients include Jaguar Land Rover.
“Flock has the potential to help unlock and enable a truly autonomous world, and even save lives,” said Social Capital CEO Palihapitiya, who is also the chair of space tourism firm Virgin Galactic Holdings.
Klinger declined to give a valuation for Flock but said it was growing rapidly and may seek further funds from investors next year.
The COVID-19 pandemic had spurred demand for its product, as fleet managers were able to save on insurance costs when business lockdowns left cars unused, Klinger said.
Flock currently has around 20 staff but is hiring 60 more, and plans to expand its motor business into Europe, he added.
Insurtech, a fast-growing segment of the financial technology, or fintech, industry, has benefited from investor interest in startups, with the traditional insurance industry considered slow to change and to adopt technology.
Global insurtech funding exploded to $7.4 billion in the first half, making 2021 a record funding year already, insurance broker Willis Towers Watson said on Thursday.
Existing Flock investors Anthemis and Dig Ventures also participated in the series A funding round.
(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Mark Potter)

Telefonica raises 2021 outlook after record quarterly profit

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Spanish Telecom company Telefonica is seen on a sewage cover outside its headquarters in Madrid, Spain, May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Sergio Perez July 29, 2021
MADRID (Reuters) – Spanish telecoms group Telefonica raised its outlook for the full year on Thursday, after posting a record net income of 7.74 billion euros ($9.2 billion) thanks to the sale of its Telxius tower unit and the UK tie-up of O2 and Virgin Media.
Telefonica said it now expects revenue and core profit to be “stable” or to see “a slight growth” in 2021, buoyed in part by its Brazilian and German markets which reported strong results on Wednesday. It had forecast a “stabilisation” three months ago.
For the second quarter, the company posted core profit of 13.47 billion euros, an organic 3.3% increase compared with the same quarter last year, but a 3.6% drop in real terms as it continues to struggle with high costs and competition.
The Spanish telecoms group said its second quarter results were helped by the sale of its Telxius mobile mast division, adding Telefonica UK was no longer accounted for under the full consolidation method.
The operator also announced its technology unit, Telefonica Tech, had bought cloud and security service provider Cancom Ltd for 340 million pounds ($473.99 million), betting on the fast-growing market segment as businesses digitise their operations en masse amid the pandemic.
Telefonica, like European rivals, has been facing growth issues aside from the impact of the pandemic and has been selling assets to cut debt and fund an upgrade to next-generation 5G networks.
Telefonica’s net financial debt shrank by around 30% to 26.2 billion euros.
($1 = 0.8436 euros)
($1 = 0.7173 pounds)
(Reporting by Inti Landauro and Clara-Laeila; additional reporting by Jesus Aguado; editing by Uttaresh.V and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

South Korea’s Krafton IPO prices at top of range to raise $3.75 billion

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FILE PHOTO: Players are pictured as they attend the PUBG Global Invitational 2018, the first official esports tournament for the computer game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in Berlin, Germany, July 26, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch July 29, 2021
SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean game developer Krafton Inc said on Thursday it had priced its initial public offering (IPO) at the top of its indicative range to raise 4.3 trillion won ($3.75 billion).
Krafton shares were priced at 498,000 won compared with a range of 400,000-498,000 won per share, it said.
($1 = 1,145.7800 won)
(Reporting by Jihoon Lee and Joyce Lee; editing by Jason Neely)

Spirits maker Diageo’s sales exceed estimates on strong U.S. demand

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FILE PHOTO: A bartender takes a bottle of Johnnie Walker whisky in Almaty, Kazakhstan June 22, 2017. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov July 29, 2021
By Siddharth Cavale
(Reuters) -Spirits group Diageo reported on Thursday a better-than-expected rise in full-year organic net sales growth, as North American bars and restaurants reopened helping boost demand for its tequila brands and Johnnie Walker whisky.
By region, North America grew the strongest boosted by consumers trading up to more premium spirits such as tequila, liqueurs and higher-end bottles of Johnnie Walker scotch.
Organic net sales rose 16% for the year ending June 30, beating the 13.7% rise analysts had expected, according to company-supplied estimates.
Diageo, whose shares slipped 0.8% in early trade, said it was raising its annual dividend by 5% to 44.59 pence per share.
The company said rising North American demand came despite its move to raise prices on its Casamigos tequila brand and Baileys liqueur, which was driven by the trend for home baking during COVID-19 lockdowns.
The company said that, with 85% of restaurants and bars in North America now open, it saw higher levels of restocking and replenishment, boosting organic net sales by 20% in the region.
In the European region, Turkey and Northern Europe were the strongest performers helped by strong demand for scotch whiskies in shops.
Sales in Africa and Asia also rose by double digit percentages, mainly due to easier comparisons to last year.
The London-listed company said it expected organic net sales momentum to continue into fiscal 2022, but with volatility in the short term.
Lavanya Chandrashekhar, who was promoted to chief financial officer in July, told reporters volatility was coming from lockdowns in markets such as India, South Africa and Indonesia, where there has been a rise in COVID-19 cases in recent months.
She said a ban on alcohol sales during lockdowns in South Africa had an impact, while retail sales to travellers had fallen as air and other global travel was dented.
(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Edmund Blair)

Olympics Insider Calls Bullshit on Firing of Black Performer From Opening Ceremony

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TOKYO—In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, an employee for a company that helped produce the Olympics Opening Ceremony says that the Tokyo Organizing Committee lied in official statements about its reasons for cutting an African performer from the event.On July 22, the day before the Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony, Senegalese percussionist Latyr Sy posted on Facebook that his performance in the event had been abruptly canceled in May. According to Sy and his team, after repeatedly asking for an explanation, representatives from the Japanese advertising monolith Dentsu—the Games’ exclusive marketing partner—eventually told them that the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games had raised concerns that “people will ask: Why is there an African in it?”Sy’s post went viral, and the backlash over his allegations forced a response from the committee. Its spokesperson, Masanori Takaya said in a July 24 press conference that Sy’s allegations were “not factual” and that due to “budgetary constraints and COVID-19 countermeasures, a number of musicians and performances had to be canceled.”But according to a Dentsu employee who spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity, removing Sy from the ceremony was at least just as expensive as keeping him.“Was any money actually saved by cutting him from the ceremonies? Not really because we paid a generous kill fee. You could also look at it as hush money. He was supposed to stay quiet,” said the employee. “The head of the Olympic Committee, [Toshiro] Muto, said that the African was cut due to budget restraints. That’s kind of a lie. You can’t unilaterally cancel a contract without paying most of it. And in this case, I’ve heard the artist was paid more than originally promised.”The employee added that while “Sy wasn’t the only performer” cut from the ceremony, “it’s true, someone in the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee was miffed about having an African performer in a Japanese Ceremony. There was of course opposition to even having Naomi Osaka light the torch, but she is a naturalized Japanese and she is a winner. Everyone loves a winner.”Responding to a request for comment from The Daily Beast regarding Sy’s removal, the Tokyo Organizing Committee provided the same reasoning it initially did. “Changes were made to the Ceremony for reasons entirely different to the situation described in the article. Plans for the Opening Ceremony originally included a musical segment in which many musicians, including the musician in question, would perform,” the statement read. “However, due to budget constraints as well as the necessity for COVID-19 countermeasures, the creative plans for the Ceremony were changed.” “I might leave this country I love so much.”—

Does Dolly Parton Know What’s Happening at Her Stampede?

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Dolly Parton became a true hero of the pandemic when she put $1 million into vaccine research and appeared in a video of herself getting the shot in March.She marked that occasion by singing an a cappella version of her anthem “Jolene” that should have convinced all who heard it.“Vaccine vaccine, vaccine, I’m begging of you, please don’t hesitate. Vaccine, vaccine vaccine, because once you’re dead, that’s a bit too late.”

Dear Reality Dating Shows: Fat People Fuck, Too

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As a trash TV connoisseur, I have to say: There’s never been a better time to love reality dating shows. The Bachelor might be in a bit of a tailspin, but over the past couple of years, several series have taken the genre in fun, fascinating, often inventively vapid directions. Netflix’s Dating Around ushered in a lower-key approach in 2019, the same year that MTV debuted a deliciously messy, loud, and completely queer season of its long-running show Are You the One? And HBO Max just launched FBoy Island, a deliciously shallow Bachelor in Paradise-Love Island mash-up from former Bach producer Elan Gale.But each new twist on this old formula highlights the one pernicious flaw everyone still refuses to touch. In their pursuit of freshness, producers will strand horny influencers on a remote island and “challenge” them not to have sex with one another for 30 days; they will dress models up in full prosthetics and send them on blind dates as demons and dolphins, and they will force them to get engaged without ever seeing one another. But they still won’t let anyone above a size 2 fall in love on screen.As of 2016, the average American woman is between a size 16 and 18—both of which are nonetheless considered plus-sized. (America’s cult of thinness is apparently powerful enough to make us forget basic statistical comprehension.) Reality dating shows, meanwhile, remain glorified advertisements for the diet industry. Influencers have become a go-to casting pool; they often go on to parlay their TV fame into sponcon deals for products like laxative “detox” teas. Reality producer Mike Darnell once acknowledged that the average reality contestant is around a size 2.This fixation on slender bodies can be easy to dismiss; reality fans know better than anyone that realism is rarely these shows’ actual goal. But the continued lack of interest in people who actually look like the general population perpetuates the discrimination fat people face every day—while dating, at the doctor’s office, and pretty much everywhere else. (As a cusp-sized woman, I use the term “fat” in this piece as a neutral descriptor in light of its reclamation by the community itself.)In the nearly two decades The Bachelor has been on air, only one “plus sized” contestant has ever appeared—and she went home on Night One. Bo Stanley, a former pro surfer and plus-sized model, battled for “Prince Farming” Chris Soules’ heart in 2015 but did not receive a rose.Apart from their introduction, The Bachelor included only one moment between Stanley and Soules—when he told her that his farm produces high-quality pork and beef, and she replied, “Oh, shoot, I would love to try that out. I’m a plus-sized model so I’ve got to keep up my curves!” The episode didn’t bother to include Stanley’s exit.It’s not surprising that The Bachelor, a franchise that has never excelled at diversity, would include only an athletic plus-sized model who really appears to fall into a nebulous in-between category called “cusp-sized”—or that she went home on Night One. But even dating shows that claim to be about personality seem allergic to anyone whose body might actually resemble the average audience member.Love Is Blind, Netflix’s explosive phone-booth-based dating show, went viral when it premiered last February. But critics observed that its purported goal seemed like a farce, given that everyone on the show was conventionally attractive and, once again, not just straight-sized but generally thin. This “social experiment” was never an experiment at all because the series already knew the answer to its own question—an answer programs like these routinely create by refusing to acknowledge that, yes, fat people can be hot, fall in love, and be horny and messy, too.When Too Hot to Handle debuted last spring, it was therefore no surprise to find that all of the “hotties” seemed to share the same build: slender and toned. One contestant’s description of his “type” during the premiere could have doubled as the show’s credo: “I like model-looking girls,” he said. “Skinny.” Charming!But the absurdity peaked with Netflix’s newly released Sexy Beasts—which dares to put conventional hotties in furry costumes to finally answer the question, “Could you fall in love with someone based on personality alone?” Never mind that the first subject is a literal model, and that everyone who comes afterward satisfies all the same norms. “

The Creepy Far-Right Plot to Bring John McAfee Back From the Dead

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Bombastic software pioneer and sometimes-yacht-based fugitive John McAfee has been dead for more than a month. His widow, his lawyer, and the government of Spain, where McAfee died in a jail cell, all confirm that he has passed away.Just don’t tell that to the more than 130,000 people who have followed a series of newly created Telegram accounts purporting to belong to a still-alive McAfee.In life, McAfee was an anti-virus software entrepreneur who would later become involved in failed presidential bids on the Libertarian Party line, cryptocurrency evangelism, conspiracy theories, high-seas living, New Age healing, murder and sexual-assault allegations (he was not charged) and, according to prosecutors, millions of dollars in tax evasion. He died in a Spanish jail cell on June 23, of apparent suicide, while awaiting extradition to the U.S. on tax charges.McAfee’s larger-than-life persona and some of his fringe stances made him a folk hero of conspiracy movements like QAnon, which McAfee even referenced during his life. Shortly after McAfee’s death, in fact, his Instagram account—which had been run by other people while he was in jail—posted a large “Q” image, sparking a frenzy of conspiratorial chatter.The Instagram account was later removed. But beginning in mid-July, a trio of accounts on the Telegram platform have emerged, all purporting to be very-much-dead McAfee. Since then, those accounts have racked up followers by pushing QAnon-like ramblings and providing a countdown clock for revelations that—shockingly—never materialized. Now the fake McAfee accounts are sowing discord in the QAnon world, elbowing in on the audience of longer-running QAnon influencers.McAfee’s former lawyer, Andrew Gordon, confirmed that the accounts were not legitimate.“I have been in close contact with John’s widow, Janice McAfee, who identified the body some weeks ago,” Gordon told The Daily Beast. “There is no reason to suspect John might still be alive, and certainly not that he would be running any Telegram channels which he did not open prior to his death.” Janice McAfee, widow of John McAfee, flanked by her lawyer Javier Villalba, leaves the prison where her husband was found dead.Albert Gea/Reuters But the accounts, which launched between July 18 and July 22, have gone to lengths to pose as McAfee, even preemptively attacking Gordon.On July 20, the largest account (currently more than 125,000 subscribers) authored an introductory post claiming that, “I Would Describe Myself As Quite Sane and Lucid, Which is Why I’m Still Alive. John McAfee.”It then posted several of McAfee’s personal documents, and a short screed against Gordon, whom it accused of profiting from McAfee. The other, smaller fake McAfee accounts (including one that launched two days before the largest channel) copy-pasted the same message.In fact, those supposedly identifying documents, including a scan of McAfee’s gun license from 2012, were easy to obtain online. A multi-media documentary group, for instance, is trying to sell versions of the documents as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a form of digital art. The McAfee Telegram channels appeared to copy McAfee documents straight from the documentary group’s online listings, even going so far as to urge people to join the documentary group’s chat room.Administrators of the Telegram channels are not listed on the platform, and so could not be reached for comment for this story. But when reached for comment, an administrator for the documentary group’s chat room told The Daily Beast that his organization had nothing to do with the McAfee imposters, and that they had been flummoxed by claims that the subject of their project was still alive.“We are not associated with that Telegram, and have no idea who is or who is pushing such conspiracy theories,” the administrator said. “To the best of our knowledge John David McAfee is indeed dead and not alive. The same goes for Elvis and Tupak. [sic] We are documentarians, perhaps the guys at ghost hunters can help out.”The Telegram accounts, however, appear well-versed in McAfee-related conspiracy theories. John McAfee on his yacht anchored at the Marina Hemingway in Havana in 2019. Adalberto Roque/Getty In July 2019, internet sleuths postulated that McAfee ran a YouTube channel that uploaded drone footage of pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s island. (The Daily Dot questioned the theory at the time, noting that some of the uploads appeared to have taken place while McAfee was in jail.) That YouTube account went silent approximately a year ago, then resumed posting pro-Trump conspiracy videos in early July. The McAfee Telegram accounts have linked to the account’s new videos multiple times.Not all of the Telegram references are conspiratorial throw-backs. Shortly after their launch, the accounts began posting cryptic messages in the style of the QAnon conspiracy theory. In garbled messages, the posts claimed an imminent release of information on Donald Trump’s foes. Despite a countdown clock included in some of the messages, the prophesied moment (early last Friday morning) came and went without any revelations. In replies to the fake McAfee posts, fans tried to “decode” the messages, asking each other if they knew how to access “the dark web” for more information.QAnon fans are no strangers to disappointment, of course. “Q,” their theory’s anonymous progenitor, assured followers for years that Hillary Clinton or her allies were on the verge of arrest, or that Trump was about to reveal a child sex-trafficking plot by his political foes. Those prophecies never materialized, and Q has since stopped posting.In Q’s absence, a network of conspiratorial influencers have tried adopting the movement’s followers. Some of those B-league paranoiacs have appeared to take issue with the fake McAfee accounts, which represent a new would-be prophet muscling in on their turf.“I usually never call out people,” one of those large accounts told its 145,000-plus followers on Monday. “But this one here needs to be called [FAKE] [INFILTRATION].” The account went on to implicate the fake McAfees in a conspiracy theory about China.Ron Watkins, another prominent QAnon influencer, also denounced the McAfees as dupes. Watkins is a former administrator of the site where “Q” used to post, and was the subject of a documentary series accusing him of personally controlling the “Q” account. (Watkins denies the allegation.)On Sunday, Watkins warned followers of the McAfee account co-opting QAnon fandom. (He could not be reached for comment.)“The John McAfee telegram account didnt [sic] announce anything at the end of the countdown,” he wrote. “None of the alleged 31 terabytes of deadman’s switch data has materialized. Now his account is posting Q-style drops and signing them as McAfee. Be careful.”

VH1’s ‘Behind the Music’ Is Back. Will Audiences Care?

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Despite some skepticism surrounding its launch back in March, Paramount+, formerly known as CBS All Access, has been a surprising standout in a never-ending flood of streaming services, thanks to an attractive slate of properties acquired in the 2019 CBS-Viacom merger.Aside from hosting Paramount Pictures films and flagship programs like Survivor and The Good Fight, much of the platform’s hype has centered around millennial-targeted reboots and spin-offs of Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV and VH1 classics, like The Real World, iCarly, a Beavis and Butt-head film in the works and a newly announced Surreal Life. Their library also includes a patchy but popular archive of iconic programs from the reality TV and music channels, including VH1 Storytellers, True Life, and MTV Unplugged.The streamer’s next nostalgic endeavor is a reboot of the hit VH1 series Behind the Music, which drops its first episode July 29. First airing 24 years ago, the documentary series gave music fans an intriguing, hour-long glimpse behind the curtain of their favorite acts, including revelatory interviews with the performers themselves—if they were still among the living, of course. The series’ executive producer and writer Gay Rosenthal got the world’s biggest artists to open up about their traumatic upbringings, tabloid rumors, industry beefs, financial challenges, and career victories. While the show aimed to cover subjects who were considered past their prime or retired from the industry—the show was originally pitched as an inquiry into the lives of disgraced R&B duo Milli Vanilli—it also began covering contemporary artists in its later seasons.After seven years off the air, the new Behind the Music offers much of the same content and storytelling as the original—at least in the first three episodes given to critics. When Paramount+ announced the project in March, it advertised new episodes featuring previously covered artists Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Bret Michaels, Huey Lewis and Fat Joe with “artists interviews, a creative refresh and reimagined visual style.” Likewise, eager viewers should expect a slightly modified repackaging of the original episodes as opposed to a complete retelling and recontextualizing of the musicians’ biographies—much like the Remastered versions of the original episodes that appeared on VH1 Classic.In the reboot’s defense, the easily digestible, chronological structure of the show is, in part, what made it so watchable. So it makes sense that the producers forewent experimenting with a format that attracted so many eyeballs in the first place. However, the result is just about as satisfying as simply going on YouTube and accessing the original episodes where much of Behind the Music can be found (in lieu of the series not being available on streaming platforms.)For instance, the first two episodes, which profile Ricky Martin and LL Cool J, are almost identical to their 2011 and 2013 Remastered episodes. Notably, Martin’s original Behind the Music documentary from 2000 was updated to incorporate his struggles with his sexuality in the early phases of his solo career and eventual coming-out in 2010. This latest edition features new soundbites from the Latin pop superstar that don’t exactly add new insight on these events so much as re-emphasize the vulnerability and sincerity that’s made Martin’s story so effective.The parts of the episode that feel the freshest are when the writers re-examine Martin’s legacy within the context of the new wave of Latin artists dominating U.S. charts like Maluma, Rosalia, Ozuna, and fellow Puerto Rican artist Bad Bunny—the latter of whom appears throughout the documentary to discuss the impact of growing up with Martin as a national figure and, at one point, even relates to being pestered by the media about his sexual orientation.LL Cool J’s episode is also in conversation with the current era of rap music that’s been penetrated by Black Lives Matter and other social movements in recent years. Competing with the angrier, overtly political sounds of Public Enemy and N.W.A, LL Cool J found himself at a crossroads in the late ’80s when his party anthems and romantic ballads failed to strike a chord with hip-hop fans, resulting in a unanimous booing at the Apollo that would provide inspiration for “Mama Said Knock You Out.”The new episode covers his decision to make his most political statement to date in a freestyle about the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd that he posted on Instagram last summer. In examining his fraught relationship with politics, the episode curiously omits “Accidental Racist,” his much-maligned duet with Brad Paisley from 2013 in which the country singer defends the Confederate flag as a symbol of Southern pride. As the rapper’s political insights seem to remain moderate at best, it may have proved more intriguing to focus on his impact in the melodic, woman-friendly rap that’s paved the way for artists like Drake to become global superstars. Instead, we get a stilted interview from lifelong fan Eminem, whose most compelling tidbit is that the rapper once gifted him the same chains he wore in the “I’m Bad” music video. Advertisement “In examining his fraught relationship to politics, the episode curiously omits “Accidental Racist,” his much-maligned duet with Brad Paisley from 2013 in which the country singer defends the Confederate flag as a symbol of Southern pride.” Of the first three subjects, viewers will perhaps have the most catching up to do with Huey Lewis, who’s spoken publicly about his battle with Ménière’s disease but is obviously less of a headline-grabbing figure in today’s culture. In a new interview, the 71-year-old singer recounts his on-and-off struggles with the disease that impacts his hearing and, consequently, his ability to sing. Unlike Martin and LL Cool J’s episodes, that end on a note of triumph and continued success, Lewis’ story is more tragic, as he continues to seek a cure for his condition. His paints the most multi-layered and human portrait of the singer as opposed to examining him primarily as a cultural artifact.Whatever viewers may have expected from this reboot, the updated series still manages to captivate audiences based on the potency of the artists’ stories alone, no matter how many times they’re retold. It also may increase demand for the original series to be made available on Paramount, since the series’ whereabouts, outside of what’s available on YouTube, remains a mystery as ViacomCBS licenses its properties to other companies, like Netflix and the Paramount Network. Nevertheless, with the new Behind the Music, the streamer has managed to cash in on yet another product of peak cable TV that will likely appease the same millennial, pop culture-obsessed audience that it used to.

Nikki Glaser on the One Ann Coulter Roast Joke She Regrets

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Nikki Glaser was telling an extremely dirty joke during the taping for her most recent Netflix special Bangin’ when she spotted her father in the crowd.“I was in the middle of my set talking about guzzling cum or just something filthy and I see my dad’s head in the audience,” Glaser tells me on this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast. “And my dad and mom have seen everything I do, they know what I talk about, I don’t hold back at all. And it was the first time that I was like, that would be really hard to hear if you were a parent. He probably doesn’t want to hear this at all!”If this self-described lack of “empathy” has occasionally complicated her personal life, it has been a major asset for Nikki Glaser’s side hustle as one of the best celebrity roasters of all-time. She first broke through by taking Ann Coulter to the mat at the Comedy Central Roast of Rob Lowe in 2016 before following that up with even tougher jokes at the subsequent roasts of Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin. “It’s allowed me to be so brazen on stage and say things that most people wouldn’t,” she says of the emotional “superpower” that has turned her into a comedy superstar. “Because I’m not thinking about how people will react.”Below is an edited excerpt from our conversation and you can listen to the whole thing—including why she wanted to host FBoy Island, and what to expect from her next hour-long special—right now by subscribing to The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, Amazon Music, or wherever you get your podcasts and be the first to hear new episodes when they are released every Tuesday.The first [roast] you did was the Rob Lowe roast in 2016 and I remember it mostly for Ann Coulter’s horrible bomb. Looking back at it, you really went at her I think harder than anyone else on that stage.I remember Amy Schumer was really in my corner for that set and she was someone that I had helped with jokes before. And so she really was like, this is a huge opportunity to tell this woman what we all want to tell her. She’s truly evil. And so I just went to a place of, like, I really want to go as hard on her as possible. Because for the first time at a roast, she really deserves it. We roasted Donald Trump before, but we didn’t know how much we all would hate him. There’s rarely been someone there that is that loathed and deserving of being loathed and knows what they’re doing and has made a character that is evil on purpose because they’re a sad person inside.It was my first roast, so I made some choices that I didn’t like. The joke that honestly broke my career open—I don’t regret it, I guess, but I kind of do—was the one that was like, “The only person you’ll ever make happy is the Mexican who digs your grave.” I didn’t like that I said “Mexican.” I look back on that joke and that’s making me someone who assumes that Mexicans dig graves, which I guess is a stereotypical thing that you could put in a joke. But everyone loved that joke and was like, “That’s so mean to her!” And I feel like that joke is more mean to Mexicans for no fucking reason, saying that that’s all they do. And that it’s a foregone conclusion that it’s going to be a Mexican and obviously Mexicans hate you because of your immigration beliefs. That joke is always quoted back to me. And I cringe when I hear it, because if I were Mexican, I would have been like, “This fucking bitch, we don’t need her to speak for us.” It’s a great joke and it wasn’t written by me and I took it on right before I went on stage. I added it to my set because why not? But I already had that kind of spidey-sense of, like, this doesn’t feel good. Advertisement It was also the first time that I had experienced this thing where I write all these mean jokes and then I get there and I forget that they are going to be sitting there when I say it. I literally forget. And I remember being on the red carpet before that and getting asked, “So how do you feel about saying these jokes to these people?” And I was like, oh my god, I had not even thought of it. And you know what, that’s my superpower, is this inability to think about the scariest thing until it’s about to happen and it’s too late.I wonder if that helps explain why you’re so good at the roasts.I think it does. It’s like the fear of heights that that Free Solo guy has. I just don’t have it when it comes to offending people. But also when I find out I’ve offended people, Matt, I am so upset and want to find them and right the wrong. I don’t enjoy offending people. People think I love making people feel awkward. And I hate it! So the Rob Lowe roast was the night that I got to prove myself to Comedy Central. And I feel really confident about what I did and I worked my fucking ass off. And I was a little hurt by the jokes that they said about me. And I didn’t expect that, but just as I don’t have empathy for the person on the other side of my jokes, I did not prepare myself at all for what would be said about me.You weren’t thinking about that?No! And thank god, because I guess it was better in the moment. But I don’t know, I usually get wildly depressed after these because I’m like, “I have to get injections in my face so they won’t say that next time?” And then they’ll make fun of you having injections in your face, so you can’t win. Comedian Nikki Glaser at The Comedy Central Roast of Rob Lowe at Sony Studios on Aug. 27, 2016, in Los Angeles, California.Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Advertisement Yeah, I talked to Natasha Leggero about how there’s only a handful of ways that people roast female comedians.Old, slut, not funny. That’s it.And you kind of move from “slut” to “old” as the years go on.Yeah! And “old slut” becomes like, gross, no one wants you, how pathetic is that? And it’s funny, at these roasts, I go first all the time. So any jokes about me not being funny just don’t work because I just killed. And I love that. There was one time where someone really impressive was up there and I was like, I can’t wait for them to even just say my name. And I remember I just so undoubtedly killed that there was a joke on the teleprompter that was about me not being funny and they just go, “Actually, just skip that one.” So I tend to hear jokes about me looking like a male to female transsexual, or me looking old, or me having no ass, or me having a horse face. I mean, these are all things you say about skinny women. Or having an eating disorder, which you know, is true—or was true—but like, who cares? But they do find new ways to like really hurt my feelings, which, you know, is the goal.So the next one was Bruce Willis in 2018. Is there anything that stands out from that one?That one was so fun because I got to sit next to Edward Norton, who I was a big fan of, very intimidated by. And he didn’t really have much to say to me before the show. He was kind enough, but we weren’t chit-chatting. And I was like, I guess we’re not going to be buds or whatever. Because he was probably nervous. I was too. Not rude at all, but I wanted to have a connection with this guy. But then I go up and I do my set and then I come back and now Edward is a fan, because he just saw me work and respects me more and is much more chatty and all of a sudden we’re friends. And it was like, yes! So then after his set, I split an edible with him. And he was telling me hilarious stories about Bruce from when they worked together and I had a real night with Edward Norton. I got Edward Norton alone and was able to be friendly with him and social in a setting that I don’t think anyone else could ever get a person of that caliber, coming in as a stranger in that situation. Advertisement “That was the set that blew me up and changed my life. And I was devastated.” Did you stay friends?No, you know, I was hoping that he would slide [into my DMs] or find a way to get in touch with me so that we could remain friends. But no. But I do know that if I ran into him again, he would remember me because it was a mutual admiration. It felt so good to be able to perform. Because when I meet someone who’s super famous, who I love, I know that they would love me, but they’re not aware of me. And I want them so badly to see me perform so that they can have respect for what I do.And then there was Alec Baldwin.My memory from the Alec Baldwin roast was just being devastated afterwards, because I forgot to do two jokes. Well, actually, two jokes had been cut the morning of because Caitlyn Jenner found out that someone had been practicing a set around town talking about her car crash. And she did not want jokes about that.There were no jokes at all about it in the whole roast, huh? Advertisement No jokes at all. And there were some really good ones. And unless I’m told specifically not to do something, I’m going to do it. And Comedy Central was like, we strongly suggest you don’t. And I go, “But have you heard that from her? Can I talk to her and ask her?” And they wouldn’t let me talk to her. So the morning of the roast, they finally go, “Listen, she heard that someone might be doing jokes about it and she said she would walk off the stage if that happened.” And I was like, OK, then I’ll pull them. Like I said, I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. Then there was another joke that I loved so much. It was, “Alec Baldwin has a podcast called Here’s the Thing, which is exactly how he introduced Caitlyn to me backstage.” Which I thought was just a beautiful joke. And I fucking forgot to do it. It just didn’t end up in the script. And then I’m on stage and I heard someone reference his podcast, and I go, “[Gasps] Can I get up and do it again?” I was freaking out. And then afterwards, I cried at the after party. I had the set of my life. That was the set that blew me up and changed my life. And I was devastated. I couldn’t have any fun. And that was one of the last times I let a regret during a live performance send me into a tailspin.But the one thing that I do remember the most and a decision that I stand by is when I assembled my writing team for that, I always give a kind of mission statement for each person. And for Blake Griffin, I was like, I just want every joke to be about how hot he is and how I want to fuck him. And my writers were like, but it’s a roast. And I’m like, find a way to make it work. Because the thing is, I’m really bad at letting boys know I like them. I’m so brazen on stage, but I’m not good at being like, “I like you and would entertain going on a date with you.” I would rather make jokes about it so that I can get off on the fact that if he doesn’t want me, I can be like, “Oh, they’re just jokes.” But if he does, I just like gave you the in, now you know.So did he take the in?Well, it was funny because we definitely had a nice time talking before and we were sitting right next to each other, randomly enough… because I asked to be placed next to him at rehearsal. Because I knew from the Edward Norton thing that whoever you’re sitting next to, you really talk to all night. So we definitely were having a flirtation. And my whole set was about wanting to fuck him. And then he got up on stage and said I looked like Larry Bird and that I couldn’t pass for 33, because he was number 33. And he said a couple other things that were so mean. And I know who wrote those jokes for him. And that’s not blowing his cover. Blake is hilarious, legit hilarious. Advertisement “He DM’ed me, like, “The people have spoken, I think we have to give them what they want.” And I was like, “Yeah, I’m down” And then we were going to hang out if he ever came to New York. And I guess he just hasn’t come to New York at all, even though I think he definitely is there?” Everybody gets other comedians to write jokes for them.Yeah, I probably wrote as many jokes in my set as Blake wrote in his. There’s no shame in having other people write jokes for you and Blake truly is a funny person. But I think Jimmy Carr wrote some of those jokes and Jimmy is always a person that whenever I’m in a setting where he can poke fun at me, he can be so mean. He’s just too acute with his insults and they can be so mean about my looks, which I do not handle well, because that stems from all of my insecurities about feeling that I’m somehow ugly. So when I found out, I was like, “Jimmy fucking Carr!” And I think maybe Neal Brennan wrote some too. And Neal is very insecure about his looks so he’s able to write to that as well. He’s able to really nail it. And so when I found that out, I was like, fuck those guys. But at the time I was more like, fuck Blake. Which was a good feeling, because if a boy is mean to you, in the past I’d be like, I like him more. But this made me like, ugh. If you are able to say those things about me, I don’t want my husband—and I know that, like, our arms just touched, but I was already marrying him in my head—I can’t marry someone who said I looked like Larry Bird, this is over! And then he did slide into my DMs eventually. He DM’ed me, like, “The people have spoken, I think we have to give them what they want.” And I was like, “Yeah, I’m down” And then we were going to hang out if he ever came to New York. And I guess he just hasn’t come to New York at all, even though I think he definitely is there? So no, we have not connected since. But I got the slide in my DMs and that’s probably all I really want in the end anyway. Because I’m scared of intimacy. Sean Hayes, Nikki Glaser and Blake Griffin during the Comedy Central Roast of Alec Baldwin at Saban Theatre on Sept. 7, 2019, in Beverly Hills, California. Jerod Harris/Getty The other joke that did stand out to me rewatching it is the one you made about Jeff Ross, when you asked him, “How do you get 10s, I mean teens?” That’s a joke that has aged kind of complicatedly, I would say. Advertisement Yeah, unlike the women he dates. No, I’m just kidding. I’m friends with Jeff Ross and feel very conflicted about all of that. And that joke was actually used in—someone wrote something about the allegations against him and referenced that joke as like, “She knew!” And I’m like, no, I know that his girlfriends are like decades younger than him, but that’s the same for every male comedian in their forties or fifties, or whatever Jeff is.So it wasn’t exposing some open secret?No, it was me making a joke of how he dates young hot girls, but not like illegal hot girls. And you can’t take roast jokes as facts. Although, I am trying to call out things that maybe people wouldn’t know about other people. And I guess someone could say, like, ”Oh my god, she knew about the accusations that would come up!” But I didn’t and it was not from that place, it was just a coincidence. And I hate even talking about any of this stuff, as you can tell, I’m tensing up. I was talking about the Aziz [Ansari] thing recently on a podcast and I was just like, can we just move on? Because I honestly see both sides of it and I never don’t want to trust women. And I also know that—and this isn’t about Aziz or about Jeff or about anyone—but I truly believe that I could be friends with a lot of monsters. I think there are a lot of people out there that have done disgusting things—both women and men that have done disgusting things—and my whole policy now is, I don’t care if you keep working.Bill Cosby, go on tour! I don’t want him to. I wish I could literally kill him with my bare hands. He’s the only person that I would probably want to murder, just because I’ve seen his show, actually. I’ve hated Bill Cosby since he came to my college in 2006. I fell asleep during his show. I’ve always hated Bill Cosby. I didn’t know that he was going to be one of the most prolific serial rapists we’ve ever known—allegedly—but I just feel like it’s up to the consumer. I was on board with “cancel culture” for a while and now I’m just really scared of it. And I think that everyone just needs to make up their mind whether they want to consume it or not. I am just trying my best to love everyone and hear everyone out and give everyone the benefit of the doubt before I try to cancel or pile on. But sometimes it’s tempting because sometimes you already hate someone comedically and then they come out as a pedophile and you go, I’ve always resented your success because you’re not even funny. And now you’re a creep, fuck yes! And then for some comedians like Louis [C.K.], I can’t watch him anymore. It’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy him. I probably would love his new stuff, but I’ve heard he doesn’t talk about the thing.Yeah, I feel like if he did an hour about that— Advertisement I would be back on board!I think it would make a huge difference. And that’s why I don’t know why he doesn’t do it because I think it would give him some credit.I’m sure he has his reasons. But it’s a personal choice for me. I don’t understand why my brain works this way. I can still enjoy Michael Jackson. I can still enjoy some Chris Brown songs that aren’t about loving and cherishing women. Because for me to enjoy those songs, I need to believe the person singing them loves and cherishes women. So what he’s done goes against that. For me to enjoy Thriller, I don’t need to think that [Michael Jackson] hasn’t molested children. For Louis, to enjoy him, I need to trust him.Next week on The Last Laugh podcast: Comedian and star of Bob’s Burgers and The Mysterious Benedict Society, Kristen Schaal.

‘The Green Knight’ Is One of 2021’s First Must-See Movies

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Legends are made of gallant adventurers accepting trials and facing fears, and such a challenge is embraced not only by The Green Knight’s protagonist Sir Gawain (Dev Patel) but also by its writer/director David Lowery, who here undertakes the imposing mission of adapting the 14th-century chivalric romance Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.A film about heroism and storytelling that questions the very nature of both, Lowery’s follow-up to 2018’s The Old Man & the Gun is a mesmerizing affair, infused with dreamy mystery and a sense of onerous burden, both of which elevate this saga of valor, sacrifice, and the thorny relationship between myth and reality. At once a surreal nightmare of magic and malevolence and a canny critique of the tall tales we tell ourselves and each other, it’s an exceptional marriage of the medieval and the modern.Pitched between John Boorman’s extravagant Excalibur and Robert Bresson’s austere Lancelot du Lac, Lowery’s grungy and gloomy fantasy epic (in theaters July 30) has deconstruction on its mind, and those heady concerns ultimately enhance its beguiling intrigue and terror. “I’m not ready,” confesses Sir Gawain as he races from the brothel where his lover (Alicia Vikander) works. Alas, ready he must soon be. At an ensuing Christmas gathering at the Round Table, Sir Gawain’s weary uncle King Arthur (Sean Harris) beckons his nephew to his side, confiding that he wishes to know the young man better. An immature drunkard playboy, Sir Gawain responds that he has no personal story to tell, at which point fate—or rather, his mother Morgan Le Fay (Sarita Choudhury)—intervenes, conjuring the Green Knight (Ralph Ineson), a towering tree bark-covered warrior who enters the Round Table on horseback, wielding a mighty axe. Via a letter, the Green Knight proposes a game: to acquire his prized weapon, one of Arthur’s stout men need only level a single blow against him. The catch? In one year’s time, that same individual must find the Green Knight at the Green Chapel, bend the knee, and receive a return blow. Dev Patel stars as Sir Gawain in The Green KnightA24 Desperate to demonstrate his worthiness, Sir Gawain agrees to this bargain, and with Excalibur in hand—and considerable hesitation in his eyes, since his adversary immediately lowers his neck to facilitate a fatal attack—he severs the Green Knight’s head from his shoulders. The interloper, however, is far from dead; rather, his body rises, collects his decapitated noggin and rides off, cackling madly as he departs. Thus The Green Knight sets its classical scene, with Lowery employing a bevy of devices—including haunting transitional fades, and cross-cutting between Sir Gawain’s ordeal and Morgan Le Fay’s witchy ceremony—to cast an ominous spell. In shots of wax seals cracking, water dripping on damp rock, and moss sprouting between stone tiles, the director suggests the totemic significance of everything, Earthly and otherwise, in this ancient world, which creaks and groans with weighty menace.Split into chapters, The Green Knight is shrouded in mist and shadow, soggy with rot, and illuminated by unnatural light that creeps over the edges of thatched roofs and scraggly mountain ridges. It’s into this landscape that, one year after his encounter with the Green Knight, Sir Gawain ventures, bolstered by an enchanted sash (from his mother) that will protect him from harm so long as he keeps it around his waist, and determined to carry out his end of the deal and, in doing so, achieve the honor that all knights seek. This upsets Vikander’s lady, who believes that goodness is enough to make a man, and who also pines to be Sir Gawain’s courtly bride. The silence with which Sir Gawain greets that latter sentiment, however, implies that he has little faith or interest in trying to upend the status quo. Consequently, when he embarks on his quest, he does so with a single-minded resolve to live up to the lofty expectations of Arthur, the Round Table, and himself.Lowery’s circular camera pans allude to the push-pull between the past and the present (and the natural and supernatural, and the authentic and the illusory), just as his rotating camerawork conveys Sir Gawain’s topsy-turvy condition. Meanwhile, a puppet show about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, as well as Sir Gawain’s later encounter with a spirit named Winifred (Erin Kellyman) who longs to reclaim her own severed head, speak to the film’s fascination with storytelling, and its fraught relationship with reality. The Green Knight is a fable about a crusader who wishes to cement his own fairytale legacy, and that self-consciousness is ever-present as Sir Gawain makes his way from dirt road to war-torn battlefield to foggy cliff to swampy marsh, along the way encountering a variety of figures who are untrustworthy (Barry Keoghan’s bandit), unnerving (Alicia Vikander’s regal Esel, wife of Joel Edgerton’s Lord), unfathomable (a collection of nude, motherly giants) or friendly—namely, a fox whose red coat matches the hue of Sir Gawain’s cloak, and who turns out to have more to say than just indecipherable howls. “Its collection of majestically bleak landscapes, harried close-ups and cryptic magical elements (even Merlin goes unidentified, despite two appearances) do much to heighten its mood of perpetual, perplexing mortal and existential peril.” The Green Knight operates as if in a fugue state. Its collection of majestically bleak landscapes, harried close-ups and cryptic magical elements (even Merlin goes unidentified, despite two appearances) do much to heighten its mood of perpetual, perplexing mortal and existential peril. The film holds definitive answers close to its vest, and yet it’s never opaque to the point of aggravation, thanks to Lowery’s command of his melancholic tone and Patel’s potent lead performance. Sir Gawain is a would-be champion who boasts as much doubt and dread as bravery, and his anxieties are palpable throughout, even as his specific thoughts and motivations remain hard to pin down. Courtesy of Patel’s magnetic turn, he’s a riddle of a protagonist, which feels ideal for an odyssey about the unresolvable tension between adhering to, and rejecting, traditional notions of right and wrong, good and evil, and heroism and villainy—all of which culminates in a breathtaking final passage of cowardice and courage. Advertisement Midway through The Green Knight, Vikander’s Esel confides to Sir Gawain that, when she transcribes stories for books, she sometimes makes improvements where she sees fit—a sly nod to Lowery’s own aim of translating, and interpreting, his famed source material. Enthralling and enigmatic, his Arthurian adventure proves that he’s more than up to that task.

Finally, a Pair of Hiking Pants That Aren’t Dorky Looking

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Scouting Report: These hiking pants are actually stylish—I know, hard to believe hiking pants can be both functional and good looking, too.All hiking pants have one problem: no matter which way you cut it they all look pretty dorky, especially once you’re off the trail. You know what I mean—they are all made of that one fabric that is lightweight (maybe sun protecting) and have way too many pockets. The cut is never right and let’s be honest, they aren’t even that comfortable. But here’s the thing: they do their job. I thought I had to settle for this uncool clothing, but then I found a pair of hiking pants that actually aren’t dorky looking. In fact, they’re far from it. Patagonia Skyline Traveler Pants What I love most about Patagonia’s Skyline Traveler Pants is that they look like the joggers I’ve been wearing all year. They are made with a recycled nylon, polyester, and spandex blend that makes them some of the stretchiest pants I own, and as a result, some of the most comfortable, too. But this stretch has a purpose beyond comfort—it helps to have total mobility while ascending a steep stretch of trail. Beyond the comfort and the ability to move freely in them, they are stylish. The bottom cuffs are partially elasticised, giving a shape to the calf that most other hiking pants lack. This means that they don’t look like hiking pants at all. They look great—chic, almost—with both sneakers and hiking boots. I could wear these to a bar or even the office and have no problems whatsoever. But best of all, they do their job—they are water resistant, rip-proof, rugged, and trail tested.I never thought I’d find a pair of hiking pants I actually liked as regular pants, a pair that could go beyond sitting in my closet until the few times a year I actually go on the trail. The great thing about these pants is that I want to wear them—mainly because I don’t look like a total dork while I have them on.Scouted selects products independently and prices reflect what was available at the time of publish. Sign up for our newsletter for more recommendations and check out our coupon site for more deals. If you buy something from our posts, we may earn a small commission.

Foreign secretary 'unlikely' to attend Beijing Winter Olympics as calls for boycott grow

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Dominic Raab has said it is “unlikely” that he will attend the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022, amid growing calls for British dignitaries to boycott the event over alleged human rights abuses in China.The foreign secretary told Kay Burley on Sky News he doubts he will attend the sporting event, but that individuals should be “mindful not to try and overly politicise the Olympics”.
It comes after Labour said a boycott is necessary unless China allows the United Nations to carry out a thorough investigation into “systematic persecution” of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province – claims Beijing has denied.And last week, MPs made a non-binding vote in parliament calling on the government to stage a diplomatic boycott of next year’s Games.

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Calls for a boycott of the event have grown in recent months

The foreign secretary told Sky News: “In general, I think, and you are seeing it now, we are mindful not to try and overly politicise the Olympics.

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“In this country questions like whether the athletes participate are decided as a matter of law independently by the IOC (International Olympic Committee).
“Of course there are great sensitivities around Xinjiang and things like that.

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“We will decide our level of representation at a political-diplomatic level in due course”I think it is unlikely I will go.”

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Labour say the UK should send no dignitaries to the event unless Chinese authorities allow an investigation to take place

Earlier this month, a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office spokesperson said “no decisions have been made” about the attendance of UK government officials to the event.The foreign secretary has previously described the atrocities alleged to be taking place in China as “one of the worst human rights crises of our time” and has warned that the world “cannot simply look the other way”.But Labour have called for greater action.An open letter from shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy and shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens written earlier this month said the UK government “should not send ministers, Royal Family members or senior representatives to participate in any official duties or ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics” – unless Chinese authorities allow an investigation into ongoing activities.They said the boycott should be triggered if China does not grant inspectors access to Xinjiang by 14 September – the opening of the UN General Assembly session in New York.And speaking to Kay Burley on Thursday, shadow home office minister Jess Phillips described the foreign secretary’s position on the matter as “weak”.

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Protests against the games being held in China were held in Berlin earlier this year

“I think that (Mr Raab’s) answer there about not politicising the Olympics is a bit weak if I am honest,” she told Sky News.”I think that it’s… these are huge global events and while they are sporting events, they offer Britain a soft power option to speak about the kind of things that the people in our country care about.”And what is happening to the Uighur Muslims in China is not something that we should sit back and just ignore.”So I hope very much that they listen.”The Games are due to take place in February next year.

Yes, Heavy-Metal Band GWAR Has a Rye Whiskey and It’s Good

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When I was in the first half of my twenties I lived in Richmond, Virginia, where I was finishing college at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and cooking on the line at The Village Cafe. I have never known another place like The Village. The booths were filled with tattoo artists, professors, hustlers—it was a Lou Reed song come to life in the South.It’s hot in Richmond, and The Village was aggressively air conditioned. Pitchers of iced coffee were cheap, and Dika Newlin, one of the last living students of composer Arnold Schoenberg, would come in and drink a Stinger next to Blind John (three eggs soft scrambled with extra cheddar, double bacon and rye toast).I cooked French toast for Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys there. More often than not, someone connected to the heavy metal band GWAR was around. Hillary (the best manager I ever had) was engaged to the tour manager, I think, and the band’s singer Slymenstra Hymen (AKA Danielle Stampe) was a good friend of hers.GWAR was, at the time, inescapable. I was more of a Kepone guy, myself, which was GWAR adjacent, closer to indie rock and punk than GWAR. GWAR was over the top. A GWAR show is like a heavy metal wrestling tournament. Real Grand Guignol fantasmagoria with double kick drums, stag horns, enormous prosthetic phalli and fountains of fake blood soaking the crowd. GWAR took the tongue in cheek Thanatos driven performances of bands like Iron Maiden all the way to the edge. At GWAR shows, members of the audience are fed into a gigantic meat grinder set up in front of the drum risers. (I’ve always wondered if there’s a green room down there—after you are lowered through the molded foam teeth of the grinder are you greeted with a PBR and some merch?)During the two decades I spent up in New York before moving back to Virginia, GWAR doesn’t seem to have lost any momentum. There’s GWARBar in Richmond, which serves half-pound burgers “freshly ground in the GWAR meat grinder” and beer-battered seitan nuggets called “Seitan’s Balls.” You can “bring peace to your inner scumdog” with GWAR’s Bud of the Gods CBD products. Still, it’s hard to imagine a crossover with the more staid world of craft distilling, and I was surprised and excited to learn that Catoctin Creek distillery in Loudoun County, Virginia, was working with the band to create Ragnarök Rye ($99). The second batch of the 92-proof spirit was just released.How does that partnership work exactly? According to the press materials, the distillery first “conducted experiments on aging the blood of GWAR” using barrels charred by a comet. The white dog, or however one would accurately describe the resulting distillate, was diluted with melted Antarctic ice, and GWAR “hurled the whiskey barrels into the orbit of the moon,” where they spun through “the deathly coldness of space and the life-giving heat of the sun.”Seems totally legit. The result is pleasantly oaky, with big rye toast, spice and orange oil flavors on the palate. There’s a sweetness tying the whole profile together that’s probably because of the sugar maple wood staves in the barrel it was aged in rather than the intergalactic blood, but who knows. Each bottle is sealed with a topper made from “rare metal ore sourced from the fillings of trolls” and cast in the likenesses of each of the members of GWAR: Blóthar the Berserker; Balsac the Jaws of Death; Jizmak da Gusha; Beefcake the Mighty; and Pustulus Maximus. Catoctin Creek Let me explain a bit more about GWAR’s shtick. Once upon a time, according to band mythology, the GWAR members fought as part of a troop of intergalactic warriors called the Scumdogs of the Universe, but they were banished to Earth for disloyalty.If I’ve got the story straight, they wiped out all life and managed to start it all over again. Naturally, they then decided that the best way forward was to pretend that they were wearing costumes and that the “band” had originated, not in the far reaches of outer space, but in the punk rock DIY culture of the 1980s.Or maybe they were a bunch of art school kids that found that their love of representational art, wrestling, comic books and horror movies had no comfortable place in the abstractionist minded studios of VCU.But I’m splitting hairs here.In 1984, Hunter Jackson was making a low-budget space pirate movie called “Scumdogs of the Universe.” His motto was, “Don’t talk about it. Do it.” The band, then known as Death Piggy, borrowed some costumes (a mix of futuristic and horror) from the movie, and everything fell into place.Michael Bishop, an early member of GWAR who returned to the band to take on the role of Blóthar and sing lead vocals in 2014 after the death of founding vocalist Dave Brockie, told me: “It came through punk rock, and the idea of making fanzines, and making bands, and making shows, and making your own entertainment, and really doing without the idea that what you were doing was trying to sell something on a larger scale. You were just making it, without the thought of what was going to happen down the line.”At first, the marriage of Catoctin Creek and GWAR would seem unlikely, even ill advised. GWAR isn’t exactly the sort of music you put on to enhance your contemplation of the complexities of aroma rising up from your tasting glass. Scott Harris, who founded Catoctin Creek Distillery with his wife Becky in 2009, told me “I’m kind of a Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand kind of guy.”The reason the union makes sense, however, is because Catoctin Creek comes from a very similar place. Different medium, different aesthetic, but Scott and Becky Harris got into the distilling with the original handful of small scale distillers. Back then, it wasn’t clear that distilling was a viable business. It wasn’t even clear that you could get a fire marshal to give you approval for a distillery. In fact, the odds of it working were perhaps longer than the probability that a horror movie-inspired heavy metal band would take off in a college town. Catoctin Creek When Catoctin Creek started, people didn’t drink rye whiskey and their customers were astonished to learn that someone might make spirits nearby using locally grown raw materials and sell the product to people in their own community.“For us, craft meant it was completely, 100 percent tied into the local foods movement,” said Scott Harris. From the jump, they wanted to be “local whiskey, made by a local family using local ingredients and local vendors.” They always wanted to make it themselves, and they always wanted to make it from scratch. In the beginning, they even designed the labels themselves.GWAR and Catoctin Creek are very much products of Virginia. “Both things” said Bishop, “are a product of our locality.” When GWAR first got in touch with the distillery, Scott Harris said he told them that it sounded fun, but he didn’t know how to even design it. The Scumdog motif, as it were, is a little out of their wheelhouse. Of course GWAR has people for that, but anyway that’s just the packaging.The core values of the original set of small-scale American distillers focused on craft, regional influence and doing it yourself. The very same values, in other words, that gave us GWAR. Don’t talk about it. Do it.

Olympics-Athletics-Pole vaulters Kendricks, Chiaraviglio hit by COVID, sending chill through Games

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FILE PHOTO: Athletics – Ostrava Golden Spike – Municipal Stadium, Ostrava, Czech Republic – May 19, 2021 Sam Kendricks of the U.S. before the Pole Vault Men REUTERS/David W Cerny July 29, 2021
By Mitch Phillips
TOKYO (Reuters) – Pole vaulters Sam Kendricks of the United States and German Chiaraviglio of Argentina have been ruled out of the Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19, rattling competitors.
United States Olympic and athletics officials confirmed on Thursday that Kendricks, a double world champion, had tested positive, tweeting: “The health and safety of our athletes, coaches and staff is our top priority.
“In alignment with local rules and protocols he has been transferred to a hotel to be placed in isolation and is being supported by the USATF and USOPC staff.”
The immediate knock-on effect was that members of the Australian team were forced to isolate in their rooms as a precaution, but resumed normal activities later on Thursday after negative tests were confirmed.
Swedish world record-holder Armand Duplantis told reporters at a press conference on Thursday that he had not been in contact with his American rival Kendricks.
“I have been super lucky just not to have come into contact with him,” he said. “All the pole vaulters are pretty spooked out right now.”
Duplantis told reporters that he had plans to meet up with Kendricks on Wednesday but that didn’t happen. “So that was a pretty lucky dodge right there,” he said.
“We are all pretty spooked out right now,” he said. “It’s been a weird hour for sure.”
Argentina’s Chiaraviglio confirmed on social media that he was out of the Games as well, and was isolating in a hotel.
“It is very hard to process something like that, it will take me a long time,” he wrote, via a translation. “Living through this is very hard, but I know that this will also pass.”
Chiaraviglio said he had a positive saliva test but negative PCR test after he arrived in Japan, for three days. On Wednesday, however, both tests – saliva and nasal – came back positive.
“That’s when I knew it was all over,” he wrote.
Games procedures state that athletes who are contact-traced and have not yet competed are isolated from the rest of the squad. They then have to be tested six hours prior to their competition and return a negative result in order to compete.
The athletics programme begins on Friday, with the pole vault qualifying event on Saturday.
Kendricks won the world title in 2017 and 2019 and Olympic bronze in Rio 2016 and his battle with world record-holder Duplantis was expected to have been one of the highlights of the track and field programme.
“Sam is an incredible and accomplished member of Team USA and his presence will be missed. Out of respect for his privacy, we cannot provide more information at this time,” the United States Olympic Committee tweeted.
United States Track and Field (USATF) said Kendricks and his close contacts were immediately notified and protocols were activated to isolate him.
“We are following the guidance on next steps to ensure the safety of the remainder of our delegation, and to offer support to Sam,” USATF tweeted.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips and Omar Mohammed; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell, Shri Navaratnam and Clare Fallon)

Olympics-Shooting-Stefecekova, Liptak win trap golds in Tokyo

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Shooting – Women’s Trap – Qualification Day 1 – Asaka Shooting Range, Tokyo, Japan – July 28, 2021. Zuzana Rehak Stefecekova of Slovakia in action REUTERS/Ann Wang July 29, 2021
TOKYO (Reuters) -Zuzana Rehak Stefecekova of Slovakia won the women’s trap gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics at the Asaka Shooting Range on Thursday.
Kayle Browning of the United States won the silver, while the bronze went to Alessandra Perilli of San Marino.
Two-time silver medallist Stefecekova had hit all 125 targets to storm into the final, where she prevailed 43-42 against Browning.
Perilli’s third place finish ensured San Marino’s first ever Olympic medal.
World number one Fatima Galvez of Spain and 2012 London champion Jessica Rossi of Italy could not get through the qualifying round.
In the men’s event, Czech shooter Jiri Liptak won gold via a shoot-off with compatriot David Kostelecky, who grabbed the silver. The two team mates hugged, laughed and sat down together on the spot after Kostelecky missed his final shot.
Matthew Coward-Holley of Britain won the bronze.
Croatia’s Josip Glasnovic, champion from Rio, crashed out in the qualification round.
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Peter Rutherford and Hugh Lawson)

Olympics-Swimming-Speedster Finke celebrates gold after sprint from nowhere

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Swimming – Men’s 800m Freestyle – Medal Ceremony – Tokyo Aquatics Centre – Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021. Gold medalist Robert Finke of the United States celebrates on the podium REUTERS/Molly Darlington July 29, 2021
By Martin Petty
TOKYO (Reuters) – American Bobby Finke has his coaches to thank after a last-gasp surge from nowhere that won him Olympic gold medal on Thursday in the men’s 800 metres freestyle, with an astonishing finish in a distance race that might put some sprinters to shame.
Finke was in the pack trailing Rio gold medallist Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy by more than a body length for much of the race and was fourth with 100m to go, but switched pace dramatically into the last turn and clawed back into contention.
The 21-year-old American burst off the wall and quickened down the final straight with a last 50 metres that was faster than those of all the medallists in both the men’s 200 and 400 freestyle events.
“I cannot tell you how many times my coaches throughout the fall and spring teach us how to switch gears in the last stages,” said Finke, who finished in 7:41.87 in the inaugural event, his first major title.
“Switch gears at the end of the race, just do my best and have that sprint.”
Paltrinieri was beaten into silver by 0.24 seconds and Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk was a close third.
“I wasn’t holding anything back, honestly,” Finke added. “When I realised I’d started to gain ground I was more motivated to pass them.”
“That’s probably the happiest I’ve been in the sport.”
Paltrinieri, 26, swam a bold race from an outside lane and never faded, opening up a huge lead that he held right up to the final touch. He even managed a second wind towards the end, but was powerless against Finke’s late pace.
The Italian, the 1,500 freestyle champion in Rio, celebrated his silver as if it were a gold and said it was remarkable he was even able to compete after two weeks out with glandular fever last month.
“It was pretty bad, at some point I was thinking ‘Am I coming or not?’,” he told a news conference, for which he arrived, beaming, and wrapped in an Italian flag.
“My condition was really awful, really bad. I was depressed and asking myself why now? Why now?”
“Today, I thought I had to put my heart in the swimming pool and not think about anything else just swim, and it was great.”
(Additional reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Olympics-Badminton-Momota fans mourn historic upset; Koreans cry with joy

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Badminton – Men’s Singles – Group Stage – MFS – Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, Tokyo, Japan – July 28, 2021. Heo Kwang-Hee of South Korea in action during the match against Kento Momota of Japan. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger July 29, 2021
By Richa Naidu and Sangmi Cha
TOKYO/SEOUL (Reuters) – Yoo Hyo-jeo, a South Korean marketing specialist based in Tokyo, wept with joy when she watched her countryman Heo Kwang-hee knock the world’s number one men’s singles player out of the Olympics.
Heo, ranked 38, smashed his way to a stunning 21-15 21-19 victory against Japanese badminton hero Kento Momota on Wednesday.
The 25-year-old Korean shuttler, who lives and trains in Seoul, overwhelmed Momota several times with sharply angled smashes that his opponent was unable to counter, sometimes hitting Momota himself before the Japanese player could dodge the powerful shots.
“I was really surprised by Heo Kwang-hee’s dazzling skills,” said Yoo, 33. “Every time he succeeded in attacks, he shouted out full of energy and I loved his spirit.”
“I am no expert to say whether he will win gold but I just hope he does well till the end of the Games and continues to be a healthy athlete — I will continue to support him from afar.”
Heo, who took up badminton in 2004 and began to focus on singles during middle school, has said it was one of his life’s ambitions to win a gold in Tokyo.
He has a tough road ahead of him with players such as Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen and Anders Antonsen at the top of their game, but his performance against Momota shows that ranking tables are not everything.
“Heo’s game was strategic and he played hungrily, without giving any easy points,” Niklas Karvonen, 29, a community director from Tokyo, said. “To be honest it was a bit heartbreaking to watch the game as he was my favourite.”
From Tokyo to India, Momota’s fans are stunned by the loss.
Momota’s journey to Tokyo 2020 was fraught with personal and professional setbacks, including contracting COVID-19. The 26-year-old was embroiled in an illegal gambling scandal months before the Rio Games in 2016, and banned by the Nippon Badminton Association.
Then world number two, Momota was excised from the league tables and by the time he got back on the court in 2017 he was ranked 282nd. With a 39-match unbeaten streak, he clawed his way back to the top.
“Kento was touted as the next big thing after Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei,” Vaibhav Manocha, 31, a research analyst from Gurgaon, India, said. “He has a nice fairytale around him and everyone was hyped to see him get that gold.”
Still, Manocha and other fans are sure they will see Momota — dubbed badminton’s comeback kid by some media — rise again.
“He’s been abandoned, then protected by a god,” Hitoshi Ohori, Momota’s coach from his Tomioka High School days, told a local sports daily. “I think he’ll probably continue living that kind of life, like he is driven by some divine power.”
“If he’s able to help enliven everyone in the country, beyond the Olympics, then that’s the real thing that matters.”
(Reporting by Richa Naidu in Tokyo and Sangmi Cha in Seoul. Additional reporting by Ritsuko Ando in Tokyo. Editing by Clare Fallon)

Chinese yuan bears return after regulatory crackdown on private sector: Reuters poll

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FILE PHOTO: A China yuan note is seen in this illustration photo May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration July 29, 2021
By Anushka Trivedi
(Reuters) – Investors turned bearish on the yuan for the first time since April as China’s regulatory crackdown on private sector firms sent jitters through markets, while sentiment towards the Indian rupee improved from a fortnight ago, a Reuters poll found.
Short positions were raised on all other Asian currencies like the Philippine peso, Malaysia’s ringgit and the Thai baht as the region’s dire COVID-19 situation and prospects of broad dollar strength eroded their appeal.
All 13 responses for the poll were received, however, before the U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell signalled on Wednesday that the U.S. central bank was in no rush to start tapering its stimulus as the economy was “some ways away” from showing substantial progress on jobs.
Previous polls have shown investors reducing their long bets on the yuan since June but investors became firmly bearish this week after Beijing increased scrutiny over education, technology and property sectors, sparking uncertainty over future investments in the country.
Over the week, the yuan slipped below the 6.50 per dollar mark, stocks shed more than 4%, while the Chinese 10-year government bond futures fell 0.4%.
The Indian rupee was the only outlier, as bearish bets on the currency were trimmed by more than half.
India’s stock markets have been trading at record peaks since June, drawing record inflows of US$37 billion this year from foreign investors, as per National Stock Exchange data, setting the rupee up for its fourth straight weekly gain.
“The rupee is one of the better placed currencies in Asia given India’s sharp decline in COVID-19 cases over recent weeks,” said TD Securities analysts in a note.
Meanwhile, short bets on the low-yielding won were at their highest since May last year, as South Korea’s COVID-19 woes kept investors at bay.
The country suffered its worst wave of infections in July, like other developing Asia counterparts; Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.
All of them imposed some form of curbs to arrest the infection rate, which prompted International Monetary Fund on Tuesday to scale back growth forecasts for most economies in the region.
The Reuters survey is focused on what analysts believe are the current market positions in nine Asian emerging market currencies: the Chinese yuan, South Korean won, Singapore dollar, Indonesian rupiah, Taiwan dollar, Indian rupee, Philippine peso, Malaysian ringgit and the Thai baht.
The poll uses estimates of net long or short positions on a scale of minus 3 to plus 3.
A score of plus 3 indicates the market is significantly long U.S. dollars. The figures included positions held through non-deliverable forwards (NDFs).
The survey findings ASIAPOSN are provided below (positions in U.S. dollar versus each currency):
DATE USD/CN USD/K USD/SG USD/I USD/TW USD/IN USD/M USD/PH USD/T
Y RW D DR D R YR P HB
29/07 0.27 0.78 0.71 0.27 0.36 0.29 1.4 1.21 1.49
15/07 -0.15 0.27 0.53 0.23 0.13 0.68 1.06 1.06 1.56
01/07 -0.29 -0.29 0.02 0.36 -0.19 0.5 0.49 -0.04 0.85
17/06 -0.63 -0.36 -0.49 -0.5 -0.58 -0.21 -0.05 -0.31 0.2
03/06 -1.34 -0.51 -0.55 -0.4 -0.44 -0.71 0.32 -0.66 0.37
20/05 -0.33 0.43 0.37 -0.06 0.33 -0.03 0.26 -0.22 0.81
06/05 -0.52 -0.39 -0.58 0.31 -0.59 0.86 -0.04 -0.35 0.5
22/04 -0.17 -0.23 -0.44 0.56 -0.38 0.75 -0.03 -0.37 0.58
08/04 0.72 0.48 0.3 0.59 0.77 0.2 0.46 0.36 0.91
25/03 0.3 0.65 0.46 0.45 0.5 0.05 0.54 0.11 0.54
(Reporting by Anushka Trivedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

South Africa’s Transnet restores operations at ports after cyber attack

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FILE PHOTO: Container ships wait to load and offload goods in port in Cape Town, South Africa, April 17, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings July 29, 2021
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African state logistics firm Transnet has fully restored operations at ports following a cyber attack that forced the firm to declare force majeure at its container terminals, the Ministry of Public Enterprises said.
The department said late on Wednesday that the main system responsible for container operations had been restored and that the force majeure was under review with the intention to lift it in the coming days.
The cyber attack, which hampered container terminals at Transnet’s key ports of Durban, Ngqura, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town from Thursday, could cause backlogs and hamper exports from the region.
The Ministry of Public Enterprises said Durban’s container terminals were fully functional while in the Eastern Cape the container operations were still being restored.
Transnet, which operates major South African ports, as well as railway networks that transport minerals and other commodities for export, said on Tuesday the force majeure for its container terminals would be lifted as soon as it had made significant progress in restoring its IT systems.
The ministry said preliminary assessments showed Transnet and its customer data had not been compromised by the cyber attack.
(Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Edmund Blair)

Hotel group Accor checks in for recovery after smaller H1 loss

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of French hotel operator AccorHotels is seen on top of the company’s headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, France, February 17, 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes July 29, 2021
(Reuters) – Europe’s biggest hotel group Accor SA said on Thursday it was confident of recovery in all geographies with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide after the company reported a smaller operating loss for the first half of the year.
“Since May, we have seen a clear recovery. Positive signs including the ramp-up of vaccine rollout and the progressive reopening of borders will continue throughout the summer,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sebastien Bazin said.
Accor, which operates 5,199 hotels in 110 countries, posted a narrower first-half earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) loss of 120 million euros ($142.28 million), compared with a loss of 227 million euros a year earlier.
Still under pressure from the pandemic fallout, the group’s revenue per available room (RevPAR), a key measure for a hotel’s top-line performance, slumped 60% compared with the first half of 2019.
While situations differed across nations, Europe helped accelerate the recovery momentum as lockdown restrictions eased, the French hotelier said.
The group, which runs high-end chains Sofitel and Pullman, as well as budget ones such as Ibis, added that it saw an improvement of about 5 points in RevPAR every month since April and a similar trend this month.
First-half revenue fell 6% on a like-for-like basis to 824 million euros.
Accor confirmed the recurring cost savings of 200 million euros as part of the plan announced last year to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, adding that its EBITDA should benefit from a positive impact of 70 million euros this year.
The group said 93% of its hotels were now open, compared with 87% in April.
It refrained, however, from offering a definite outlook for the year, confirming average monthly cash burn at less than 40 million euros.
($1 = 0.8434 euros)
(Reporting by Anna Pruchnicka, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

Nokia lifts full-year forecast as turnaround takes root

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Nokia is seen at the Nokia Paris-Saclay campus in Nozay, near Paris, France, June 30, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier July 29, 2021
By Essi Lehto
HELSINKI (Reuters) -Nokia on Thursday raised its full-year outlook as promised after reporting a stronger-than-expected second-quarter operating profit, as the telecom equipment maker benefits from a sharp turnaround in its business.
The company said it now expects full-year net sales of 21.7 billion euros to 22.7 billion euros, up from its prior estimate of 20.6 billion euros to 21.8 billion euros.
Shifting geopolitics and a sharp round of cost cutting have put Nokia firmly back in the global 5G rollout race just a year after CEO Pekka Lundmark took the reins, allowing it to gain ground on Swedish arch-rival Ericsson.
“We have executed faster than planned on our strategy in the first half which provides us with a good foundation for the full year,” Lundmark said in a statement on Thursday, but added that Nokia still expects typical seasonal effects to be less pronounced this year.
The Finnish company now expects full-year operating profit margin of 10% to 12%, instead of the 7% to 10% expected previously.
Nokia’s April-June comparable operating profit rose to 682 million euros ($808.51 million) from 423 million euros a year earlier, beating the 408-million euro mean estimate in a Refinitiv poll of analysts.
The company on July 19 won its first 5G radio contract in China, securing a share in one of China Mobile’s three new 5G contracts, while Ericsson lost market share after getting caught up in a political spat.
Ericsson had been expected to get a lower share of China’s 5G roll-out after Sweden decided to exclude Chinese vendors from its own networks.
Second-quarter net sales rose 4% to 5.31 billion euros, compared to a mean estimate of 5.15 billion by analysts.
Nokia’s mobile networks unit, which struggled in recent years as it bet on the wrong semiconductor type and lost clients, saw its comparable operating profit rise to 249 million euros from 183 million a year earlier.
The driver of the company’s strong first-quarter results, the network infrastructure unit, reported a surge in comparable operating profit to 162 million euros from 66 million euros.
Nokia had announced on July 13 that it would raise its outlook, but did not provide any details.
($1 = 0.8435 euros)
(Reporting by Essi Lehto; editing by Terje Solsvik and Sriraj Kalluvila)

Orange writes down $4.4 billion on weaker Spanish prospects

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FILE PHOTO: A woman walks past the logo of French telecom operator Orange at the company headquarters in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris, France, June 3, 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes July 29, 2021
By Mathieu Rosemain
PARIS (Reuters) – Orange, France’s biggest telecom firm, on Thursday announced a 3.70 billion-euro ($4.39 billion) impairment on the value of its Spanish activities reflecting competition that has hurt sales and profits in its second-largest market.
The group was forced to join a race to low-cost offers in Spain where six telecoms operators compete.
The potential acquisition of Euskaltel by Spanish operator Masmovil could alleviate some pressure on prices but it still has to go through.
“The situation remains difficult,” Chief Financial Officer Ramon Fernandez said, referring to Spain. Its first-half core operating profits in Spain plummeted by more than 16%.
The group now sees a return to growth in profits next year. It has announced 485 layoffs in the country, following a reshuffle of its offerings and the nomination of a new boss.
The impact of competition in Spain in the second-quarter was less than what analysts expected.
Orange’s quarterly earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation after leases (EBITDAaL) fell by 0.4% to 3.27 billion euros ($3.88 billion).
That edged the 3.26 billion euros expected by 17 analysts in a company-compiled poll.
Quarterly revenue rose 2.6% to 10.6 billion euros and beat market expectations, thanks to a good performance in Africa and Middle East.
Orange confirmed its full-year targets, including a slight decline in core operating profit and an underlying cash flow from telecom activities of over 2.2 billion euros.
It also confirmed its targets for 2023, which include underlying cash flow from telecom activities of between 3.5 billion euros and 4 billion euros. ($1 = 0.8435 euros)
(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Jason Neely)

Spain’s Cellnex posts wider first-half loss, raises outlook

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FILE PHOTO: A telecom antenna of Spain’s telecoms infrastructures firm Cellnex are seen under main telecom tower, known as “Piruli”, in Madrid, Spain, March 10, 2016. REUTERS/Sergio Perez July 29, 2021
By Joan Faus
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Europe’s largest mobile phone tower operator Cellnex reported a wider first-half net loss of 67 million euros ($79.15 million) on Thursday but raised its full-year revenue and core earnings outlook as it consolidates recent acquisitions.
Adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) at the Spanish group rose 53% to 804 million euros versus the same period of 2020, while total revenue grew 47% to 1 billion euros.
Cellnex now expects an adjusted EBITDA of between 1.91 billion euros and 1.93 billion euros in 2021 versus a prior target range of 1.815 billion euros-1.855 billion euros, while it also hiked its revenues outlook for the full year to between 2.535 billion euros and 2.555 billion euros from around 2.4 billion euros.
Chief Financial Officer Jose Manuel Aisa said the results consolidate several investments announced last year. “We remain in a very steady trend regarding prior quarters,” he told Reuters.
Aisa attributed the 55% widening of the first-half net loss to amortizations, and what he described as a very conservative accounting policy.
Since its listing in 2015, the Barcelona-based company, which has a market capitalisation of around 37 billion euros, has invested heavily, buying up assets, assembling a portfolio of around 93,000 masts, which will reach a total of 130,000 in 12 European countries once its recent operations are finalised.
($1 = 0.8465 euros)
(Reporting by Joan Faus, editing by Inti Ladnauro)

Nestle raises guidance after coffee drinkers boost its first half

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FILE PHOTO: The company’s logo is seen at a Nestle plant in Konolfingen, Switzerland September 28, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann July 29, 2021
By Silke Koltrowitz
ZURICH (Reuters) -Food giant Nestle raised its full-year organic growth guidance to 5-6% after strong demand for coffee lifted organic sales by a better-than-expected 8.1% in the first half of the year.
Food groups are grappling with surging commodity costs that are hitting margins, but Nestle, with well-known brands like Nescafe coffee and Purina pet food, may be better placed than others to offset them through price increases and efficiency gains.
“We expect full-year organic sales growth between 5% and 6%,” Chief Executive Mark Schneider said in a statement on Thursday. “We have built the foundation for delivering consistent mid-single-digit organic growth for years to come.”
The company had been aiming for 2021 organic sales growth in excess of the 3.6% achieved last year.
Organic sales growth, which excludes acquisitions and currency swings, at Nestle accelerated to 8.1%, from 2.6% in the year-ago period, the world’s biggest food group said. This was ahead of an estimate for 7.4% growth in a company-compiled consensus.
Growth accelerated to 8.6% in the second quarter, from 7.7% in the first three months of the year.
Net profit rose slightly to 5.9 billion Swiss francs ($6.49 billion), also ahead of a consensus estimate of 5.84 billion Swiss francs.
The underlying trading operating profit margin remained stable at 17.4% in the first half despite increases in commodities, packaging and transportation costs.
Peer Unilever said last week it expected cost inflation to be in the high-teens in the second half of the year.
Nestle said it was raising prices, optimising its product mix, rolling out revenue management tools and running its businesses more efficiently to manage cost inflation.
The company, based in Vevey on Lake Geneva. It is targeting an underlying trading operating profit margin around 17.5% this year and a moderate margin improvement beyond 2021.
(Reporting by Silke KoltrowitzEditing by Caroline Copley, Michael Shields and Sonali Paul)

Powell presses pause on dollar’s rally; sterling surging

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FILE PHOTO: A trader shows U.S. dollar notes at a currency exchange booth in Karachi, Pakistan December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro July 29, 2021
By Tom Westbrook
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The dollar slipped to multi-week lows in Asian trading on Thursday after fresh reassurance that U.S. interest rate hikes are distant and as riskier currencies drew support from China’s efforts to soothe stock market jitters.
About a month of dollar gains had already lost momentum leading in to Wednesday’s Federal Reserve meeting and Chairman Jerome Powell’s remark that rate increases were “a ways away” was enough to tip it a touch lower still.
The euro edged to a two-week high of $1.1860 and the Australian and New Zealand dollars clung to gains made in a bounce on Wednesday. Sterling, which has been surging on optimism over the re-opening of the British economy, touched a one-month high of $1.3940.
The dollar index was softer for a fourth straight session, last trading at a two-week low of 92.110, while the Chinese yuan edged up to stand as high as 6.4691 per dollar in onshore trade and has now regained ground lost in tandem with a regulatory-driven plunge in Chinese equities on Tuesday. [CNY/]
“In the short-term, there’s been a reduction of taper fears, and that’s why we’ve seen the dollar heading lower,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior analyst at brokerage OANDA in Jakarta.
“Improving risk sentiment should be associated with a weaker dollar,” added National Australia Bank’s head of FX strategy Ray Attrill.
A Bloomberg report on a call China’s securities regulator held with banks and brokers to soothe nerves following heavy equities selling also helped sentiment and riskier currencies.
A CNBC report saying China Securities Regulatory Commission told brokerages on the call that China would continue to allow companies to list in the United States offered further support, as did solid rises in Chinese stock indexes on Thursday.
The Australian dollar was last up about 0.1% at $0.7379, capped by concerns over a lengthening lockdown in Sydney that is likely to drag on the national economy.
The New Zealand dollar rose 0.2% to $0.6971.
SURGING STERLING
Recent resilience in safe-haven currencies such as the Japanese yen and Swiss franc suggests plenty of caution remains in currency markets as global coronavirus cases rise, yet at the same time sterling’s gains reflect optimism that the British economy can be re-opened as vaccinations progress.
The British currency is the biggest G10 gainer on the dollar this week. It climbed some 2.6% from a five-month low it touched last week to the one-month top it hit on Thursday.
The pound notched up its highest levels in almost four months on the euro on Wednesday. It has also made strong gains on the yen and especially on the Australian dollar, against which it is up 3.6% from low touched in early July.
Though experts and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have cautioned it is too early to draw conclusions, England’s re-opening last week has yet to spark a surge in cases or in hospitalisations.
“At the moment, the UK’s (COVID) position is pretty good and I do think that’s had an impact,” said NAB’s Attrill.
Later on Thursday, traders will be looking at German labour and inflation data, European sentiment surveys and second-quarter U.S. GDP – where the consensus is for 8.5% annualised growth, albeit from a wide range of forecasts.
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

Robinhood’s meme stock status fuels IPO uncertainty

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3D-printed Robinhood logo is seen in front of U.S. dollar banknote in this illustration taken, July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic July 29, 2021
By Krystal Hu and Echo Wang
(Reuters) – Robinhood Markets Inc thrived thanks to the popularity of so-called meme stocks such as GameStop Corp with retail investors. Becoming a meme stock itself comes with trading volatility that is giving pause to some potential investors in its initial public offering.
The trading app’s monthly active users surged from 11.7 million at the end of December to 21.3 million as of the end of June, as retail investors on social media sites such as Reddit speculated on stocks such as GameStop and AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.
In an unusual move, Robinhood has reserved between 20% and 35% of its IPO shares for retail investors who are users of its app. The IPO is expected to price later on Wednesday and raise about $2 billion.
Robinhood has warned in its IPO registration that the participation of retail investors could trigger a rollercoaster ride in its shares that could prove too risky for those seeking long-term sustainable gains.
A Reuters review of social media posts on sites such as Reddit and interviews with Robinhood customers showed that some retail investors were skeptical about the IPO’s prospects.
Among the reasons they cited were their assessment that Robinhood’s pursuit of a $35 billion valuation was unrealistic, the risk of regulators cracking down on Robinhood’s business, and the company’s imposition of trading curbs when the meme stock trading frenzy flared up at the end of January.
“I had enjoyed Robinhood a lot, it sparked my interest in investing, it’s easy to use and straightforward. I just don’t trust them to do what’s right for their customers the next time they find themselves in a hard spot,” said machinist Zachary Wells, a Robinhood customer in Kansas City, Missouri, who has been trading on the app for more than a year.
A Robinhood spokesperson declined to comment.
Robinhood placed temporary restrictions on buying GameStop and other stocks that hedge funds had bet against earlier this year, on grounds this was needed for the financial and operational stability of its platform. It triggered calls among some investors on Reddit for a boycott of Robinhood’s IPO.
The brokerage has also been criticized for relying on “payment for order flow” for most of its revenue, under which it receives fees from market makers for routing trades to them and does not charge users for individual trades.
Critics argue the practice, which is used by many other brokers, creates a conflict of interest, on the grounds that it incentivizes brokers to send orders to whoever pays the higher fees. Robinhood contends that it routes trades based on what is cheapest for its users, and that charging a commission would be more expensive.
Sherrie Hardy, another Robinhood customer in Michigan, decided to skip the IPO offerings on concerns that the newly listed shares could be volatile. She said she would wait for its first quarterly earnings before buying the stock.
To be sure, many Robinhood customers plan to take advantage of the offering and invest in the IPO. Chris Brumby, a manager at a construction company in Florida and Robinhood user, said he was considering investing more than $20,000 in the IPO after watching Robinhood’s online roadshow on Saturday.
“I like the product and I know once they get their cryptocurrency wallet, it’ll be big business from new cryptocurrency customers,” Brumby said.
Many IPOs benefit from excluding retail investors, who end up fueling a first-day trading pop by snapping up shares in the open market. By letting many retail investors under the IPO tent, Robinhood is making it less likely that investors will see big gains on the first day.
In a sign of the potential trading volatility in stock, some Robinhood users, such as Benhamish Allen, a 42-year-old teacher from California, plan to invest in the IPO “on margin” by borrowing from Robinhood to juice their returns.
“It seems silly I should be able to borrow money from a company and then buy that company back with the money I borrowed,” Allen said.
(Reporting by Krystal Hu and Echo Wang in New York; Editing by Greg Roumeliotis in New York and Steve Orlofsky)

UK 'increasingly confident' more countries will move to amber or green travel lists

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The government is “increasingly confident” that more countries will soon be added to the amber and green travel lists, Dominic Raab has told Sky News.The foreign secretary said he believes opportunities for international travel can in the near future be opened up further as “the momentum forward is positive”.
Mr Raab also did not rule out the possibility of popular holiday hotspot Spain moving to a different category in the government’s traffic light travel system at the next review point a week on Thursday.”We’ve done the job we had to do domestically and as we see other countries catch up if you like, I think we are increasingly confident that more countries will go either on amber or on to green,” he told Kay Burley on Sky News.Pressed on whether Britons wanting to book trips to Spain would be safe to do so, the minister added: “I can’t rule things out that the JBC (Joint Biosecurity Centre) and the government will decide but they’ll make that decision next week in terms of the traffic light system for all the relevant countries.”

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On Wednesday, the government announced that fully vaccinated travellers from the EU and the US will not have to quarantine when arriving in England, Scotland and Wales from an amber list country.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the change would come into force from 4am on 2 August and that applicable passengers must have received two jabs with vaccines authorised by either the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

More on Dominic Raab

Mr Raab said there is the “right level of security and assurance” to allow this loosening of quarantine restrictions for EU and US travellers to take place.”We keep an eye on the variants, but because of the 70% double vaccination of our population and because we are insisting only people from the US, the EU and perhaps in due course, as we build up confidence in the system other countries, we proceed on that basis,” the foreign secretary told Sky News.”Because it is people who are double vaccinated we believe we have got the right level of security and assurance against people who might be at risk of a variant coming in from abroad.”Mr Raab added that the requirement for those eligible to have been vaccinated with FDA or EMA approved vaccines “demonstrates that we’ve looked at that very carefully”.Asked whether the same rule could be brought in for other countries, the foreign secretary confirmed he has been in touch with his counterparts from other nations.”Already overnight I have had foreign ministers message me saying we’ve noticed the announcement – what can we do to do this on a reciprocal basis,” Mr Raab told Sky News.”I think the key thing about the EU countries and the US, they are countries where we’ve got high trust in the mechanism for verifying double vaccination. Those are the kind of countries that we’d want to pursue in the future.”The foreign secretary refused to “speculate” on precisely which other countries could see a similar policy introduced.On Wednesday, deputy leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner called the further relaxation of quarantine rules for US and EU travellers coming to England, Scotland and Wales “reckless”.And speaking to Kay Burley on Thursday morning, shadow home office minister Jess Phillips called for more data to back up the government’s decision.”As much as the next person I want to see people coming here and being able to go holiday,” Ms Phillips told Sky News.”But what I don’t understand and what the foreign secretary didn’t illuminate on any further is exactly what the data is on each of these countries.”So I don’t know what even the amber list, or the slightly reddy, rusty, amber list that France is on, I don’t know what data that is based on.”And I think that is really important.”Travellers coming from the EU and US will still be required to complete a pre-departure test before arriving in England, Scotland and Wales, alongside a PCR test on or before day two after they have landed.Mr Shapps also announced the resumption of international cruises.The announcement came after a COVID Operations meeting, which was attended by senior cabinet ministers.The Department for Transport confirmed separate rules will continue to apply for those arriving from France and that the measures announced on Wednesday “will be kept under review and be guided by the latest data”.They also reiterated that while some restrictions remain in place, travellers “should expect their experience to be different and may face longer wait times than they are used to”.Health Secretary Sajid Javid hailed the quarantine rule change as a “boost to the economy” and said it is “safe from a public health point of view”.Both Scotland and Wales will also allow quarantine-free travel for those fully vaccinated travellers from the EU and the US from amber-list countries, but Northern Ireland has yet to announce if it will also relax the rules.Northern Ireland has yet to announce if it will also relax the rules.Currently, those arriving in the UK from amber list locations – which includes the US and much of the EU – must have had both doses of a coronavirus jab as part of the UK’s own vaccination programme to avoid the requirement to self-isolate for 10 days.

Olympics-Archery-Power of love helps Indian Das defeat London champion Oh

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Archery – Men’s Individual – 1/16 Finals – Yumenoshima Archery Field, Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021. Atanu Das of India in action REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne July 29, 2021
By Ju-min Park
TOKYO (Reuters) – There are no spectators at Yumenoshima Park Archery Field due to COVID-19 restrictions but India’s Atanu Das is still enjoying the support of his number one fan: his wife — fellow archer Deepika Kumari.
And that hard-core following certainly helped Das on Thursday as he defeated London Olympic champion Oh Jin-hyek from South Korea in the individual elimination rounds.
“Good job! Confidence!” Kumari yelled to her husband, a lone voice of support in the stand where a dozen Korean staff and team members tried to urge Oh to victory.
World number one Kumari is also a real medal prospect for India after advancing to the round of eight in the women’s individual event.
“I was hearing her the whole time, and she was pushing me up and telling me to believe in myself” Das told Reuters, showing off his two rings — a wedding ring and an Olympic ring.
Das said he and Kumari, who married in a low-key ceremony in July last year, are staying in separate rooms in the Athletes’ Village but they train together and are with each other most of the time.
They did not team up for the mixed team competition, though, with Kumari and Pravin Jadhav losing to South Korea in the quarter-finals.
If they partnered up, Das said the two could have won.
“I expected the mixed team, but unfortunately…” he said.
Das will next meet Takaharu Furukawa of Japan on Saturday for a place in the quarter-finals of the individual competition.
“My message for India is please pray for us and please encourage us. We will try our best, and move ahead,” Das said.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Olympics-Cycling-Gone in 60 seconds: Olympic dreams dashed for Japan’s Hatakeyama

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July 29, 2021
By Mari Saito
TOKYO (Reuters) – Less than a minute. That’s all it took for Japanese BMX rider Sae Hatakeyama’s Olympic dreams to crash as she fell and broke her collarbone in her very first run of BMX racing’s quarter-finals on Thursday.
Hatakeyama’s exit will prove to be particularly painful for hometown fans, who also saw her male counterpart fail to qualify for the semi-finals.
BMX racing, an official Olympic sport since Beijing, is known as a high-octane sport with elevated risks of injury.
During each of the runs of the quarter-finals on Thursday, six riders whizzed down a 10-meter tall ramp to fly over a series of slopes, squeaking around steeply banked turns before sprinting to the finish.
Hatakeyama, who came third earlier this year in a BMX Supercross event, appeared to have a decent start, but then clipped one of her wheels on another athlete’s, making her tumble to her side.
The Japanese rider did not finish the race after her fall and pulled out of the remaining two runs of the quarter-finals. Fellow Japanese rider Yoshitaku Nagasako also lost out on a chance to advance.
Nagasako’s coach Masahiro Sampei said the doctor found that Hatakeyama had broken her left collarbone after the crash.
“I think she is very devastated, because she has been preparing for this for a long time, and now it is gone in seconds,” said Sampei.
“But she is still young, and I hope she can make the most of this experience,” he added.
Colombia’s BMX queen Mariana Pajon, who won all three heats of her quarter-final group, and 15 other riders advanced to the women’s semi-finals, which will be held on Friday.
Like many of her peers, Hatakeyama started riding bikes when she was a toddler. In previous interviews, the Japanese athlete has said she had her training wheels off by three and was in her first race when she was four. By the time she was six, she had already won her first race.
Ahead of Thursday’s race, Hatakeyama posted a photo of Ariake Urban Park on Instagram and expressed her excitement for the Games.
“I still can’t believe that it’s happening in Japan but I’m honored to be competing in Home Olympic!” she wrote under her photo.
(Additional reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Credit Suisse 78% Q2 net profit slide shows Archegos hit

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss bank Credit Suisse is seen at a branch office in Bern, Switzerland, Oct. 28, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann July 29, 2021
ZURICH (Reuters) – Credit Suisse on Thursday posted a 78% fall in second-quarter net profit, as a steep drop in its investment banking revenues sharpened the blow from recent Archegos and Greensill scandals.
Net profit of 253 million Swiss francs ($278.45 million) missed average forecasts for 334 million Swiss francs in the bank’s own poll of 18 analysts.
Meanwhile, it unveiled its findings from an investigation into the Archegos matter.
“Credit Suisse delivered resilient underlying second quarter results and strong capital ratios as we are benefiting from having taken decisive actions to address the challenges raised by the Archegos and Supply Chain Finance Funds matters. We take these two events very seriously and we are determined to learn all the right lessons,” Chief Executive Thomas Gottstein said in a statement.
Analysts had expected a nearly $600 million hole caused by more losses at stricken fund Archegos and further weakness in the bank’s trading and advisory businesses to bring second-quarter net profit down to a quarter of its value a year ago.
Excluding Archegos and other significant items, Credit Suisse said pre-tax income would have dropped 11%.
Switzerland’s second-biggest bank has been reeling from the aftermath of twin shocks unleashed in March, when its prime brokerage business lost more than any other competitor from the collapse of family office Archegos, and as its asset management division scrambled to return some $10 billion of client investments linked to insolvent supply chain finance firm Greensill.
In a 165-page review, law firm Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrisson gave a damning assessment of the bank’s risk management practices in its prime services unit and broader investment bank, though it did add there was no evidence of fraudulent or illegal activity.
“The Archegos matter directly calls into question the competence of the business and risk personnel who had all the information necessary to appreciate the magnitude and urgency of the Archegos risks, but failed at multiple junctures to take decisive and urgent action to address them,” the report.
($1 = 0.9086 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi, editing by Kirsti Knolle and Michael Shields)

AB InBev sees return to pre-pandemic levels as beer sales surge

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FILE PHOTO: Cans of Jupiler beer are seen on the bottling line at Anheuser-Busch InBev brewery in Leuven, Belgium November 25, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir July 29, 2021
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, restored second-quarter revenue to pre-pandemic levels and beat market expectations for profit as drinkers took advantage of eased restrictions in its major markets.
A year on from its worst quarter of the COVID-19 crisis, the Belgium-based brewer benefited from increased beer consumption across the Americas, in Europe and South Africa, including a leap of more than 50% in Colombia.
Only in China, which moved out of its coronavirus lockdown earlier in 2020, were beer volumes lower.
The brewer of Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona, retained its forecast that core profit (EBITDA) would grow by between 8 and 12% this year, with revenue increasing by a faster pace with healthy volumes and prices.
In the second quarter, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose 31% on a like-for-like basis to $4.85 billion, against consensus expectations for a 19% increase.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

Volkswagen ups margin target again on record earnings

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of German carmaker Volkswagen is seen on a rim cap in a showroom of a Volkswagen car dealer in Brussels, Belgium July 9, 2020. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir July 29, 2021
FRANKFURT (Reuters) -Europe’s largest carmaker Volkswagen on Thursday raised its profit margin target for the second time in less than three months, pointing to record earnings in the first six months of 2021 that came in above pre-pandemic levels.
The company said it now expected an operating return on sales of 6.0-7.5%, having previously guided for 5.5-7%. First-half operating profit before special items reached 11.4 billion euros ($13.5 billion), above the 10 billion euros achieved in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc in the global economy.
“We’re keeping up our high pace, both operationally and strategically. The record result in the first half of the year is clear proof of how strong our brands are and how attractive their products are,” Chief Executive Herbert Diess said in a statement.
The news comes a day after the carmaker, along with partners, launched a tender offer for French-listed Europcar that values the car rental firm at 2.9 billion euros ($3.4 billion).
Volkswagen also lowered the outlook for deliveries to customers, now expecting them to be up noticeably in 2021 as an ongoing shortage of crucial semiconductors will be felt mostly in the second half of the year.
The company previously expected deliveries to rise significantly.
($1 = 0.8433 euros)
(Reporting by Christoph SteitzEditing by Tomasz Janowski)

Sanofi raises profit forecasts after strong second quarter

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FILE PHOTO: A Sanofi logo is seen during the company’s annual results news conference in Paris, France, February 6, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier July 29, 2021
PARIS (Reuters) – Sanofi raised its 2021 outlook after its vaccines and star eczema treatment Dupixent helped it post better-than-expected second-quarter results on Thursday.
The French drugmaker said it was now targeting earnings per share to grow around 12% at constant exchange rates this year. It had previously been expecting a “high single digit” rise in earnings.
(Reporting by Matthias Blamont; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

Olympics-Puberty not sole factor in transgender eligibility, says IOC

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FILE PHOTO: Weightlifting – Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games – Women’s +90kg – Final – Carrara Sports Arena 1 – Gold Coast, Australia – April 9, 2018. Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand is introduced. REUTERS/Paul Childs/File Photo July 29, 2021
By Karolos Grohmann
TOKYO (Reuters) – Male puberty is not the sole factor in ascertaining whether transgender athletes have an advantage over competitors, the International Olympic Committee’s medical chief said on Thursday.
New Zealand’s weightlifter Laurel Hubbard is set to become the first transgender athlete to compete at an Olympics when she starts in the heavyweight 87+kg category on Aug. 2 at the Tokyo Games.
The 43-year-old’s inclusion has been extremely divisive, with some questioning the fairness of transgender athletes competing against women.
Hubbard, who will be the oldest lifter at the Games, had competed in men’s weightlifting competitions before transitioning in 2013.
Scientists have pointed to the biological advantages of those who have gone through puberty as males, such as bone and muscle density and some athletes have publicly opposed her Olympic participation.
Supporters of transgender inclusion argue the process of transition decreases that advantage considerably.
“Laurel Hubbard is a woman competing under rules of her federation,” IOC medical director Richard Budgett told a news conference on Thursday.
“When it comes to advantages and disadvantages there is more to learn, there is always more science.”
“There are a lot of aspects of physiology and anatomy and the mental side that contribute to an elite performance and it is very difficult to say ‘yes she has an advantage because she went through male puberty’, when there are so many other factors to take into account. It is not simple.”
The IOC had cleared the way in 2015 for transgender athletes to compete at the Games as women, provided their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition.
There is now an ongoing IOC-led review of all the scientific data to determine a new framework that would allow international federations to take decisions for their sport individually, according to the IOC.
“There is a lot of disagreement across the whole world of sport and beyond on this issue of eligibility,” Budgett said.
Australia’s weightlifting federation had tried to block Hubbard from competing in the women’s event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games but has been supportive of her selection for Tokyo.
“Everyone agrees transgender women are women but it is a matter of eligibility for sport and particular events. It really has to be very sports-specific.”
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

AOC accused of judging legislation by skin color of its supporters

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the influential New York Democrat, received some backlash over a tweet that showed profile photos of the bipartisan group of senators behind the infrastructure bill that advanced on Wednesday. Both Democrats and Republicans praised the bill’s momentum. President Biden himself called the day “historic.”But progressives have voiced their opposition and accuse the party of not going far enough to advance the agenda. The Hill pointed out that Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., both criticized the lack of diversity in the group of bipartisan senators. Bush posted, “Is this the Bipartisan Infrastructure Group or the audience at a Kid Rock concert?”Ocasio-Cortez posted a still frame from an MSNBC report that showed the group of senators and wrote, “A lot of times, ‘bipartisan agreements’ are just as defined by who people in power agree to exclude than include.”Her tweet was praised by supporters who said these White politicians cannot know the issues facing minority communities, but detractors responded by saying that bills should be scrutinized on their merits, not the appearance of the supporters.”This from AOC, by the way, is not an argument,” Mark Hemingway, a senior writer at RealClearInvestigations, posted. “It is pure ad hominem that says nothing about the bill or its merits. A healthy culture would repudiate her for judging legislation solely by the skin color of the people supporting it.”Some asked her who was excluded.The congresswoman’s office did not immediately respond to an after-hours email from Fox News. Ocasio-Cortez, like other progressives, has been critical of the plan that she said does not go far enough to address climate change. Earlier this month, she said progressives will “tank” the bipartisan infrastructure bill if Democrats don’t also pass a spending package that includes provisions on climate change, jobs and other liberal priorities. The Senate voted Wednesday night to begin work on a nearly $1 trillion national infrastructure plan, acting with sudden speed after weeks of fits and starts once the White House and a bipartisan group of senators agreed on major provisions of the package that’s key to Biden’s agenda.After weeks of stop-and-go negotiations, the rare bipartisan showing on a 67-32 vote to start formal Senate consideration showed the high interest among senators in the infrastructure package. But it was unclear if enough Republicans will eventually join Democrats to support the final passage.GET THE FOX NEWS APPDinesh D’Souza, the conservative filmmaker, told Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” on Wednesday that Democrats will likely convert a small victory into a bigger victory. “It will give them the kind of momentum they say, “OK well we got the first thing done, now we need to get to second base and the third base and finally to the home run,” he said. The Associates Press contributed to this report.

Australia’s Macquarie Group trims dividend expectations to use cash for growth

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Australia’s biggest investment bank Macquarie Group Ltd adorns a door to their Sydney office headquarters in Australia, October 28, 2016. REUTERS/David Gray July 29, 2021
By Paulina Duran
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s Macquarie Group said first-quarter profit for fiscal 2022 was “significantly up” compared with the pandemic-hit period a year earlier, but warned of lower dividends to come so that it can divert cash to grow its business.
The country’s largest investment bank and fund manager made the comments on Thursday in its quarterly update but did not provide an earnings number for the first quarter or explicit guidance for fiscal 2022 earnings.
It cut its annual dividend payout policy to between 50% and 70% from a range of 60% to 80% at the end of fiscal 2021.
The decision was driven by a significant capital deployment recently, including A$3.8 billion ($2.80 billion) worth of investments over the past nine months, and its intention to have more “flexibility” given “further opportunities in the coming months”, it said.
The warning of a lower payout drove shares only 0.5% lower in early trading before recovering to be up 0.03% by late morning.
“While a reduction in the target payout ratio would normally bode poorly for an Australian financial, given Macquarie’s very strong track record in investing incremental capital at a solid return above its cost of capital, we think the market will be more than comfortable,” Goldman Sachs analysts said.
Asked during a media call about a recent news report that a consortium led by Macquarie Group was considering an offer for Sydney Airport Holdings, Chief Executive Officer Shemara Wikramanayake declined to comment. Sydney Airport rejected a A$22.26 billion takeover proposal from a group of infrastructure funds earlier this month.
The Sydney-based conglomerate said its investment banking, asset management and lending businesses had positive outlooks, but last year’s windfall from its commodities trading business was unlikely to be repeated this fiscal year.
“We are expecting improved transaction activity and outlook for investment realizations to drive results, and we’ve seen increased balance sheet deployment,” Wikramanayake said of the group’s investment banking unit called Macquarie Capital.
“In the commodities and global markets business, despite having had a good experience over this last quarter, we … expect it can be significantly down.”
Macquarie, the second-largest gas marketer in North America behind oil major BP, posted a record annual profit in 2020, beating its guidance, as it benefited from volatility caused by winter storms sweeping across Texas and other U.S. states.
($1 = 1.3578 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney and Sameer Manekar and Arundhati Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

Airbus launches A350 freighter

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FILE PHOTO: A logo of Airbus is seen at the entrance of its factory in Blagnac near Toulouse, France July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier July 29, 2021
PARIS (Reuters) – Airbus said on Thursday its board had backed plans for a new freighter version of its A350 passenger jet as it seeks to break rival Boeing’s dominance of the air cargo market.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)

ATP roundup: Daniil Medvedev survives heat to make Olympics quarters

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Tennis – Men’s Singles – Round 3 – Ariake Tennis Park – Tokyo, Japan – July 28, 2021. Daniil Medvedev of the Russian Olympic Committee celebrates after winning his third round match against Fabio Fognini of Italy REUTERS/Mike Segar July 29, 2021
Second seed Daniil Medvedev battled oppressive heat and humidity that required him to take two medical timeouts on his way to beating Fabio Fognini of Italy to reach the quarterfinals of the 2020 Olympics on Wednesday in Tokyo.
The heat index hit 99 degrees as the Russian fought off Fognini 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. Before the third set, the 25-year-old Medvedev cooled off in the shower before returning to the court to finish off the match in two hours, 26 minutes. In the quarterfinals, Medvedev will meet the sixth seed, Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain, who defeated German Dominik Koepfer 7-6 (7), 6-3.
Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece couldn’t shake a leg injury, and the third seed was upset by Ugo Humbert of France 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2. Humbert will meet Russian Karen Khachanov, who eliminated Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-1, 2-6, 6-1.
The conditions didn’t seem to affect top seed Novak Djokovic, who cruised past Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain 6-3, 6-1 as the Serb continues in the fourth leg of his quest for the Golden Slam — an Olympic gold medal and all four Grand Slam tournaments of the year. If he wins gold and the U.S. Open in September, he will join Steffi Graf of Germany (1988) as the only player to reach those heights.
Standing in his way in the quarterfinals is Kei Nishikori of Japan, the former world No. 4, who fought off Ilya Ivashka of Belarus in the first set but blew past him in the second with a 7-6 (7), 6-0 win.
The final quarterfinal will feature fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany, a straight-sets winner over Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili, against Jeremy Chardy, who ousted Liam Broady of Great Britain.
Generali Open
Top-seeded Casper Ruud of Norway was pushed the limit by a lucky loser from qualifying before advancing to the quarterfinals in Kitzbuhel, Austria.
Ruud outlasted Spain’s Mario Vilella Martinez 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 in a match that lasted almost 2 1/2 hours. Ruud faced just two break points in the match, and he lost both, while he converted three of his seven break opportunities.
Second-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut played a similarly tight match but wound up losing 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-5 to Spanish countryman Pedro Martinez. Another Spaniard, fourth-seeded Albert Ramos-Vinolas, lost 7-6 (3), 1-6, 7-5 to Italy’s Gianluca Mager.
Also reaching the quarterfinals were third-seeded Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, Daniel Altmaier of Germany, Jozef Kovalik of Slovakia, Arthur Rinderknech of France and Mikael Ymer of Sweden.
Truist Atlanta Open
U.S. teen Brandon Nakashima stunned top-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada in the second round at Atlanta, rallying for a 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (4) win.
Nakashima, a 19-year-old ranked 115th in the world, reached his first career ATP Tour final last week, falling in the title match at Los Cabos, Mexico, to Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie.
Fifth-seeded Taylor Fritz also moved on to the Atlanta quarterfinals, defeating fellow American Steve Johnson 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-1. Australia’s Jordan Thompson beat German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk 7-6 (6), 6-4.
The last match of the night was another all-U.S. affair, with fourth-seeded Reilly Opelka edging qualifier Bjorn Fratangelo 7-6 (3), 7-6 (4).
–Field Level Media

Olympics-Athletics-World champion vaulter Kendricks out of Games with COVID

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FILE PHOTO: Athletics – Ostrava Golden Spike – Municipal Stadium, Ostrava, Czech Republic – May 19, 2021 Sam Kendricks of the U.S. before the Pole Vault Men REUTERS/David W Cerny July 29, 2021
By Mitch Phillips
TOKYO (Reuters) -American double world champion pole vaulter Sam Kendricks has been ruled out of the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19, the United States Olympic Committee (USOPC) said on Thursday.
“The health and safety of our athletes, coaches and staff is our top priority,” USOPC tweeted after confirming the positive test announced earlier by the athlete’s father.
“In alignment with local rules and protocols he has been transferred to a hotel to be placed in isolation and is being supported by the USATF and USOPC staff.
“Sam is an incredible and accomplished member of Team USA and his presence will be missed. Out of respect for his privacy, we cannot provide more information at this time.”
United States Track and Field (USATF) said that Kendricks and his close contacts were immediately notified and protocols were activated to isolate him.
“We are following the guidance on next steps to ensure the safety of the remainder of our delegation, and to offer support to Sam,” USATF tweeted.
Kendricks won the world title in 2017 and 2019 and Olympic bronze in Rio 2016. His battle with world record holder Mondo Duplantis of Sweden was expected to have been one of the highlights of the athletics programme, which begins on Friday.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, Omar Mohammed; Editing by Kenneth & Shri Navaratnam)

Olympics-Swimming-China win women’s 4x200m freestyle in world record time

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Swimming – Women’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay – Final – Tokyo Aquatics Centre – Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021. Team China celebrate winning gold and setting a world record. REUTERS/Marko Djurica July 29, 2021
TOKYO (Reuters) – China won the gold medal in the women’s 4x200m freestyle in a world record time of seven minutes 40.33 seconds at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday.
The time bettered Australia’s record of 7:41.50 from the 2019 world championships. The United States won the silver and Australia took the bronze.
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney.)

Olympics-Swimming-China’s ‘butterfly queen’ Zhang wins 200m in Olympic record

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Swimming – Women’s 200m Butterfly – Medal Ceremony – Tokyo Aquatics Centre – Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021. Zhang Yufei of China poses with her gold medal REUTERS/Lisi Niesner July 29, 2021
TOKYO (Reuters) – Zhang Yufei wrapped herself in a Chinese flag and beamed with joy after setting an Olympic record to win gold in the 200m butterfly at the Tokyo Games on Thursday.
The 23-year-old, who finished runner-up to Canada’s Margaret MacNeil in the 100m, touched the wall in 2:03.86, well ahead of U.S. pair Regan Smith and Hali Flickinger, to win China’s first swimming gold of the Games.
Waving her arms and cheering after the win, a teary-eyed Zhang soaked up the moment, beaming at her team mates in the stands after exiting the pool as they chanted her name.
Xuzhou-born Zhang, dubbed China’s “Butterfly Queen”, is part of the country’s new generation of rising stars emerging from the shadow of Olympic and world champion Sun Yang, who has been banned from competing for four years due to doping violations.
Zhang, who finished sixth in the Rio final, could not stop smiling as she received her medal on the podium then rushed to pick up a large Chinese flag that had been thrown down onto the pool deck.
Wrapping it around herself, she also encircled her American rivals Smith and Flickinger in the flag as they stood and posed for pictures.
Chinese netizens flocked to social messaging platforms to praise her, while local media lauded her achievements.
“Today Zhang Yufei steadily took the lead all the way and won the gold despite the impressive strength of her American competitors,” said China’s state backed Xinhua News agency.
(Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Fiscal stimulus, vaccines likely fueled U.S. economic growth in the second quarter

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FILE PHOTO: Guests enjoy outdoor dining in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., May 23, 2021. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs July 29, 2021
By Lucia Mutikani
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. economy likely gained steam in the second quarter, with the pace of growth probably the second fastest in 38 years, as massive government aid and vaccinations against COVID-19 fueled spending on travel-related services.
The anticipated acceleration in gross domestic product last quarter would lift the level of GDP above its peak in the fourth quarter of 2019. Even with the second quarter likely marking the peak in growth this cycle, the economic expansion was expected to remain solid for the remainder of this year.
A resurgence in COVID-19 infections, driven by the Delta variant of the coronavirus, however, poses a risk to the outlook. Higher inflation, if sustained, as well as ongoing supply chain disruptions could also slow the economy. The Commerce Department will publish its snapshot of second-quarter GDP growth on Thursday at 8:30 a.m EDT (1230 GMT).
“Consumers have plenty of income and wealth ammunition to support consumer spending, while business inventories remain lean and restocking efforts are poised to support business investment and overall GDP growth substantially in the second half of the year,” said Sam Bullard, a senior economist at Wells Fargo in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday kept its overnight benchmark interest rate near zero and left its bond-buying program unchanged. Fed Chair Jerome Powell told reporters that the pandemic’s economic effects continued to diminish, but risks to the outlook remain.
The economy likely grew at an 8.5% annualized rate last quarter, according to a Reuters survey of economists. That would be the second-fastest GDP growth pace since the second quarter of 1983. The economy grew at a 6.4% rate in the first quarter, but that is subject to revision.
With the second-quarter estimate, the government will publish revisions to GDP data. Given that this is not a comprehensive benchmark revision, economists expect only modest changes to previously published estimates.
The National Bureau of Economic Research, the arbiter of U.S. recessions, declared last week that the pandemic downturn, which started in February 2020, ended in April 2020.
Economists expect growth of around 7% this year, which would be the strongest performance since 1984. The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday boosted its growth forecasts for the United States to 7.0% in 2021 and 4.9% in 2022, up 0.6 and 1.4 percentage points respectively, from its forecasts in April.
President Joe Biden’s administration provided $1.9 trillion in pandemic relief in March, sending one-time $1,400 checks to qualified households and extending a $300 unemployment subsidy through early September. That brought the amount of government aid to nearly $6 trillion since the pandemic started in the United States in March 2020.
STRONG CONSUMER SPENDING
Nearly half of the population has been vaccinated against COVID-19, allowing Americans to travel, frequent restaurants, attend sporting events and engage in other services-related activities that were curbed early in the pandemic.
The pick-up in services likely boosted consumer spending in the second quarter, with double-digit growth anticipated in the segment that accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy. While spending on goods remained strong, the pace likely slowed from earlier in the pandemic, when Americans were cooped up at home.
Some of the slowdown in goods spending reflects shortages of motor vehicles and other appliances, whose production has been hampered by tight supplies of semiconductors across the globe. Higher prices, with inflation above the Fed’s 2% target, could also be causing some to postpone purchases.
Though the fiscal boost is fading and COVID-19 cases are rising in states with lower vaccination rates, consumer spending will likely continue to grow.
“Those states also tend to be the ones most resistant to public health measures to combat the pandemic, such as mask mandates and limits on indoor activities,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
“Thus, the types of widespread restrictions on economic activity seen earlier in the pandemic, and then again in late 2020 and early 2021, are unlikely to be widely reimposed, which will greatly limit the economic fallout from the Delta variant and increasing coronavirus cases.”
Households accumulated at least $2 trillion in excess savings during the pandemic. Record high stock market prices and accelerating home prices are boosting household wealth. Wages are also rising as companies compete for scarce workers.
A separate report from the Labor Department on Thursday is likely to show the labor market recovery gaining traction. According to a Reuters survey, 380,000 people likely filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week.
Initial claims rose to a two-month high in the week ended July 17, but economists blamed the jump on difficulties stripping out seasonal fluctuations from the data.
“The likely temporary rise in initial claims could partly be related to seasonal adjustment issues or a larger reduction in employment in the auto sector around the usual break in summer auto production given supply issues facing the industry,” said Veronica Clark, an economist at Citigroup in New York.
The economy likely received a further boost from business investment, especially on equipment, as companies ramp up production, though spending on nonresidential structures such as mining exploration, shafts and wells probably declined for a seventh straight quarter.
Trade was likely a drag on GDP growth for a fourth straight quarter as strong demand sucked in imports. Expensive building materials and soaring house prices likely weighed on the housing market in the second quarter.
Inventories, which were sharply drawn down in the first quarter, are a wild card. Supply constraints have made it difficult for businesses to replenish stocks. An improvement is, however, expected in the second half as spending shifts further to services from goods.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Olympics-Two Games-related staff hospitalized- organisers

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FILE PHOTO: A police officer wearing a face mask stands near the entrance of the Main Press Centre, ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in Tokyo, Japan, July 19, 2021. REUTERS/Phil Noble July 29, 2021
TOKYO (Reuters) – Two Games-related people have been hospitalised but neither of the cases are serious, Tokyo Olympic organisers said on Thursday, declining to provide further details citing privacy concerns.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Sam Nussey; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

Pandemics & protests: Unrest grips developing countries

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FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators march during anti-government protests, as Colombia commemorates Independence Day, in Bogota, Colombia July 20, 2021. REUTERS/Santiago Mesa July 29, 2021
By Karin Strohecker
LONDON (Reuters) -From Tunisia and South Africa to Colombia, social unrest is sweeping through developing countries, a reminder of income inequalities that have deepened during the COVID-19 crisis.
While developed countries have deployed massive injections of fiscal and monetary stimulus to shelter economies and citizens since the pandemic began early last year, poorer nations lack the same firepower.
The charts below detail some of the causes and consequences of civil unrest across the developing world:
1/UNREST ON THE RISE
Riots, general strikes and anti-government demonstrations around the world increased by 244% over the last decade, according to the 2021 Global Peace Index.
Produced by think tank the Institute for Economics and Peace, the Index ranks more than 160 countries and territories according to their peacefulness.
The nature of such unrest has changed, however: tensions increasingly stem from the economic blow of the pandemic.
“Growing unease with lockdowns and rising economic uncertainty resulted in civil unrest increasing in 2020,” the authors of the latest index report wrote.
“The changing economic conditions in many nations increases the likelihood of political instability and violent demonstrations,” researchers noted, adding they recorded more than 5,000 pandemic-related violent events between January 2020 and April 2021.
They expect little respite in the near-term.
2/THE PANDEMIC FACTOR
Disease outbreaks, from the bubonic plague in the Middle Ages to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, have shaped politics, subverted the social order and often caused unrest.
Epidemics reveal or worsen pre-existing fault lines; countries with more frequent and severe epidemics also experienced greater unrest on average, International Monetary Fund researchers found.
A pandemic can suppress unrest in the early stages, IMF economist Philip Barrett found — as witnessed in the last year, with the notable exceptions of Lebanon and the United States.
Thereafter the risk spikes — including heightened risk of a major political crisis that threatens to bring down a government and which typically occurs in the two years following a severe epidemic.
Tunisia, whose already weak economy has been further devastated by COVID-19, looks a prime example: President Kais Saied sacked the government on Sunday after months of protests, marking the biggest political crisis since the country’s 2011 revolution.
3/TRIGGERS AND DRIVERS
There are usually early warnings that risks are on the rise.
Higher living costs stemming from reforms such as removing food and fuel subsidies usually contribute. Another factor often seen is the dismantling of mechanisms such as an independent judiciary, free press or freedom of assembly, all of which allow for peaceful dissent, said Miha Hribernik at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft.
The presence of large marginalized groups – political or religious – add to the mix.
Examples abound: a spat over a tiny metro ticket price hike sparked Chile’s 2019 protests, though deep grievances around income inequality were already simmering.
In South Africa, deadly protests kicked off in July after the arrest of ex-President Jacob Zuma. But they were also likely to be a culmination of tensions caused by lockdown-induced job losses.
“The ‘spark’ that ignites protests is often the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back, and is impossible to predict,” said Hribernik.
4/THE MACRO IMPACT
Economic fallout depends on drivers and country-specific circumstances. Protests linked to politics or elections often have a small impact – demonstrations after the 2012 election of Enrique Pena Nieto as Mexico’s president or Chile’s 2013 presidential vote had reduced GDP by 0.2 percentage points six months later, IMF researchers calculated.
But if the unrest is driven by socio-economic concerns, contractions tend to be sharper, the Fund said, citing the July 2019 Hong Kong protests or France’s ‘yellow vest’ unrest in 2018.
Both shaved one percentage point off GDP, the IMF estimates.
“Demonstrations triggered by a combination of both socio-economic and political factors – not unlike what we saw in Tunisia and Thailand earlier this year – have the biggest impact,” the IMF’s Metodij Hadzi-Vaskov said.
Weak institutions and limited policy space amplify the hit, meaning countries with weak pre-pandemic fundamentals will suffer the most should social discontent turn into unrest.
4/MARKET & POLICY MAKING IMPLICATIONS
Stock markets in authoritarian countries suffer more during protests, falling 2% within three days of such an event and 4% in the following month, the IMF calculates.
Tunisia’s dollar bonds tumbled after its latest political crisis. South Africa’s rand slid in the days after protests ripped through the country, with disruptions to its busy shipping ports felt well beyond its borders.
Some governments opt to soothe protesters with bigger handouts but then face questions on funding budget deficits. These can lead to higher borrowing costs – Colombia for instance saw its credit rating cut to junk after botched tax reforms and protests.
For Yerlan Syzdykov, Amundi’s global head of emerging markets, it is sometimes just about whether a government can survive.
“If we don’t have social cohesion in a country, we have to try and understand how the government plans to react to that … or whether there is a political force that comes in and implements change.”
(Reporting by Karin Strohecker; Additional reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Sujata Rao and Catherine Evans)

Postal workers union bristles at Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate

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The influential American Postal Workers Union on Wednesday said, at this point, it opposes a coronavirus vaccine mandate from the Biden administration but encouraged workers to voluntarily take the jabs. “While the APWU leadership continues to encourage postal workers to voluntarily get vaccinated, it is not the role of the federal government to mandate vaccinations for the employees we represent,” the union said in a statement obtained by Fox News. CLICK HERE FOR THE LATEST ON THE CORONAVIRUSThe union did not immediately respond to an after-hours email from Fox News. The union said in the statement that the safety of its workers is “of paramount importance” but “at this time the APWU opposes the mandating of COVID-19 vaccinations.”The Food and Drug Administration in December approved the Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. But there is a distinction between the EUA and full FDA approval. President Biden said at a recent CNN town hall that he believes the full FDA approval should be granted by the fall. A full FDA approval means that companies and government bodies will have a firmer legal footing to mandate the jabs.Biden said he is considering requiring all federal employees to be vaccinated. “That’s under consideration right now but if you’re not vaccinated you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were,” Biden said Wednesday. “We have a pandemic because of the unvaccinated, and they’re sowing enormous confusion.”Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, told C-SPAN that the union supports vaccine mandates, according to Reuters.GET THE FOX NEWS APP”If you come back in and you’re are not vaccinated, everybody in that workplace is jeopardized,” Trumka said.Reuters, citing a source familiar with the matter, reported that Biden is expected Thursday to announce that about two million civilian federal workers “will need to be vaccinated or face testing, social distancing, mask requirements and limits on travel.” The Associated Press contributed to this report

Olympics-Swimming-American Dressel wins men’s 100m freestyle gold

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Swimming – Men’s 100m Freestyle – Final – Tokyo Aquatics Centre – Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021. Caeleb Dressel of the United States looks on. REUTERS/Marko Djurica July 29, 2021
TOKYO (Reuters) – Caeleb Dressel of the United States won the gold medal in the men’s 100m freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday.
Kyle Chalmers of Australia won the silver and Russian Kliment Kolesnikov took the bronze.
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney.)

Australia central bank seen reversing taper decision as lockdowns hit economy: Reuters poll

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FILE PHOTO: An ibis bird perches next to the Reserve Bank of Australia headquarters in central Sydney, Australia February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz July 29, 2021
By Swati Pandey
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s central bank will likely reverse a decision to trim its bond buying programme when it holds its monthly meeting next week with the country’s economy in dire straits due to a longer and deeper virus lockdown in Sydney.
All but one of 44 economists surveyed by Reuters between July 22 and 28 see no change to the policy rate of 0.1% at the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) Aug. 3 board meeting with one predicting a cut to 0.05%.
Of the 25 economists who answered a question about the RBA’s quantitative easing programme, 14 believe the central bank would reverse its taper decision made in July due to a fast-spreading COVID-19 outbreak in the country’s most populous city.
Sydney is currently in its fifth week of coronavirus lockdown, which has been extended until the end of August led by a relentless surge in COVID-19 cases of the highly transmissible Delta variant.
“With recent COVID-19 developments, Australia has slipped from leader to laggard,” said Nomura economist Andrew Ticehurst.
“We agree with others that the RBA will now likely put on ice its plans to taper bond buying from early September,” Ticehurst said.
Last month, the RBA announced it would trim its bond buying programme to A$4 billion per week, from the current weekly pace of A$5 billion starting September as economic outcomes had handily surpassed expectations.
Since then, many economists have sharply downgraded forecasts for Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) in a dramatic reversal of the country’s economic fortunes.
The A$2 trillion ($1.5 trillion) economy is seen shrinking in the current quarter, its first contraction since June 2020, with a heavy blow seen on the labour market and private consumption.
Economists also pushed back their expectations for the next RBA rate hike to the third quarter of 2023, from earlier predicting a 15 basis points increase in the second quarter, a median of 19 respondents showed.
(Polling by Shaloo Shrivastava and Vivek Mishra in Bengaluru; Writing by Swati Pandey; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Japan COVID-19 adviser urges clear risk message as cases surge in Olympic host

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A woman wearing a protective mask, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, walks past a fence outside the National Stadium, the main venue of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, July 28, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon July 29, 2021
By Linda Sieg and Ami Miyazaki
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan faces its most serious situation since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the country’s top medical adviser warned on Thursday, urging the government to send a “clearer, stronger message” about growing risks, including to the medical system.
Olympic host city Tokyo recorded 3,177 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, hitting a daily record high for a second straight day as a spike in infections puts pressure on hospitals. Nationwide new cases topped 9,500 for the first time, media reported.
“The biggest crisis is that society does not share a sense of risk,” top medical adviser Shigeru Omi told a parliamentary panel. “The numbers (for Tokyo) surpassed 3,000 and this may have some announcement effect. Without missing this chance, I want the government to send a stronger, clearer message.”
The spike in infections adds to worries about the Games, which are taking place under unprecedented conditions including a ban on spectators in most venues.
The surge also spells trouble for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, whose support ratings are at their lowest since he took office last September, ahead of a ruling party leadership race and a general election this year.
Omi said vaccinations would help contain the virus, but many more factors threatened to cause further rises in infections including the prevalence of the highly transmissible Delta variant, weariness of restrictions, and the Olympics.
Only 26.5% of residents of Japan are fully vaccinated and the rollout has hit supply snags recently.
Many Japanese have worried the influx of athletes and officials for the Games will add to the surge, while experts have warned that holding the high profile sports event sends a confusing message about the need to stay home.
Olympic athletes, staff and media must follow strict rules including frequent testing to prevent any spread of the virus from inside an “Olympic bubble”.
Organisers on Thursday announced 24 new Games-related COVID-19 cases including three athletes, bringing the total to 193 since July 1.
Tokyo is under its fourth state of emergency set to run through the Olympics, but the mostly voluntary measures have proven less effective than in the past.
(Reporting by Linda Sieg and Ami Miyazaki; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

Olympics-Swimming-Late surges bring gold for US and Australia

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Jul 29, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Robert Finke (USA) competes in the men’s 800m freestyle final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Grace Hollars-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2021
By Simon Evans
TOKYO (Reuters) – With two astonishing late surges, American Bobby Finke won the men’s 800m freestyle and Australia’s Izaac Stubblety-Cook took the men’s 200m breaststroke at the Tokyo Games on Thursday.
Finke pulled off a major upset by winning gold ahead of Italian world champion Gregorio Paltrinieri, who led all the way until the 750m turn when German Florian Wellbrock moved in front for the last length.
But Finke then made his late move and powered home in a time of 7:41.87. Wellbrock faded but Paltrinieri did not, the Italian, who had been a doubt for the Games due to illness, touching 0.24 seconds behind Finke to take the silver.
Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk took the bronze medal.
Finke said he had to push hard when he saw Paltrinieri was clawing his way back towards the finish.
“I noticed when I was about 10 metres out that he was catching a little ground and that was all the motivation I needed,” said the American.
In the 200m breaststroke, Arno Kamminga of the Netherlands led at the 150m turn and was inside world record time as he fought with Finland’s Matti Mattsson.
Stubbletly-Cook was third on the last turn, 1.2 seconds adrift of the lead, but then delivered an astonishing final lap to secure the country’s fifth gold medal in the pool so far and the first for their men.
(Reporting by Simon Evans, Additional reporting by Martin Petty, Aaron Sheldrick and Farah Master in Hong Kong and Alan Baldwin in London; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Olympics-Swimming-China’s Zhang wins women’s 200m butterfly gold

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Swimming – Women’s 200m Butterfly – Final – Tokyo Aquatics Centre – Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021. Zhang Yufei of China in action REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach July 29, 2021
TOKYO (Reuters) – Zhang Yufei of China won the gold medal in the women’s 200m butterfly at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday.
Regan Smith of the United States won the silver and her compatriot Hali Flickinger took the bronze.
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney.)

Chinese stocks in tentative bounce, Fed in no hurry to taper

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FILE PHOTO: A Stock Exchange of Hong Kong (HKEX) logo in Beijing, China September 4, 2020. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang July 29, 2021
By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian shares managed a semblance of calm on Thursday as the U.S. Federal Reserve signalled it was in no rush to taper stimulus, though the mood was fragile as investors waited to see if Beijing could stem the recent bloodletting in Chinese shares.
There was also some promising news on the long-awaited U.S. infrastructure bill as the Senate voted to move ahead on the $1.2 trillion deal.
Yet much depended on how China’s markets fared amid reports regulators had called banks overnight to ease market fears about tighter rules on the education sector.
“The message is that profit has not become a dirty word in the Chinese system of ‘Socialism with Chinese characteristics’, only in certain sectors,” said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at NAB.
“How successful the messaging by the authorities will be in putting a floor under the broader Chinese stock market remains to be seen.”
For now, gains were tentative with blue-chip shares up 1.4%, but still down more than 5% for the week, while the Shanghai Composite Index added 1.1%.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan bounced 1.1%, having slid to its lowest since early December on Wednesday. Japan’s Nikkei edged up 0.4%, while South Korea was flat.
S&P 500 futures eased 0.2%, as did EUROSTOXX 50 futures. Nasdaq futures dipped 0.3% perhaps weighed by a retreat in Facebook stock.
Facebook Inc shed 3.5% after the company warned revenue growth would “decelerate significantly,” even as it reported strong ad sales.
Markets had see-sawed overnight when the Federal Reserve policy statement said “progress” had been made toward its economic goals, seeming to bring nearer the day when it might start tapering its massive asset buying campaign.
However, Fed Chair Jerome Powell took a dovish turn by emphasising that they were “some ways away” from substantial progress on jobs.
“The difference in tone between the statement and press conference may simply reflect Powell being on the dovish side of the Committee,” said JPMorgan economist Michael Feroli.
“In any event, there are three more job reports before the November meeting, and two more between the November and December meetings,” he added. “We continue to expect a December announcement, though we see a risk it could occur in November.”
The next Fed meeting is not until late September, offering the market a break from tapering talk.
For bonds, the net result was that U.S. 10-year yields eased back to 1.236% after a brief pop higher, leaving them not far from recent five-month lows of 1.128%.
The pattern was the same for the dollar, which edged up on the FOMC statement only to flag on Powell’s remarks.
That left the euro up at $1.1846, and above its recent four-month trough of $1.1750.
The dollar faded to 109.70 yen, and away from a top of 110.58 early in the week. All of which saw the dollar index dip to 92.236, off its recent top at 93.194.
In commodity markets, gold remained sidelined at $1,808 an ounce having now spent 17 sessions in a $30 range.
Oil prices firmed after data showed U.S. crude inventories fell to pre-pandemic levels, bringing the market’s focus back to tight supplies rather than rising COVID-19 infections.
Brent was last off 7 cents at $74.67 a barrel, while U.S. crude lost 4 cents to $72.35.
(Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

Sydney posts record daily COVID-19 cases, police powers extended to enforce lockdown

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A lone bird walks past the quiet Circular Quay train station during a lockdown to curb the spread of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Sydney, Australia, July 28, 2021. REUTERS/Loren Elliott July 29, 2021
SYDNEY (Reuters) – The COVID-19 Delta outbreak in Australia’s biggest city Sydney grew by 239 cases on Thursday, the highest daily rise since the pandemic started, forcing authorities to increase police powers to shut down businesses not complying with lockdown measures.
More than two million residents in eight Sydney hotspots will now be forced to wear masks outdoors and must stay within 5 km (3 miles) of their homes.
Sydney is in its fifth week of an extended nine-week lockdown, which is scheduled to end August 28, but the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant continues to grow.
“It only takes a handful of people, or a small percentage, to do the wrong thing, to cause a setback for all of us. We can’t afford setbacks,” state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.
Most new locally acquired cases were detected in Sydney, with at least 66 having spent time in the community while infectious. Authorities have said Sydney’s lockdown will not ease until cases in the community are near zero.
New South Wales reported a total of 177 cases a day earlier.
Sydney, home to a fifth of Australia’s 25 million population, is grappling with its worst outbreak for this year forcing authorities on Wednesday to extend lockdown restrictions for another month.
More than 2,800 cases have been detected so far, with 182 people hospitalised. Fifty-four are in intensive care, 22 of whom require ventilation. Two new deaths were recorded, taking the total number of deaths in the latest outbreak to 13.
With only about 17% of people above 16 years fully vaccinated in New South Wales state, infections have steadily risen despite Greater Sydney being in lockdown since June 26.
Greater Sydney’s extended lockdown of around 6 million people is expected to take a heavy toll on Australia’s A$2 trillion ($1.50 trillion) economy with many businesses forced to close, raising prospects of the country recording its second recession in as many years.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he expected the national economy to shrink in the September quarter but hoped Australia could avoid a recession if New South Wales suppress the outbreak soon.
“With respect to the December quarter, that does depend to a large extent how successful New South Wales, our largest state economy, is in getting on top of this virus,” Frydenberg told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
($1 = 1.3561 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Michael Perry)

Olympics-Organisers report 24 new Games-related COVID-19 cases

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FILE PHOTO: A sign with a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) safety instruction is seen at the media center in Miyagi Stadium, during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture, Japan, July 26, 2021. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh July 29, 2021
TOKYO (Reuters) – Tokyo Olympics organisers on Thursday reported 24 new Games-related COVID-19 cases, including three athletes.
The latest daily cases have brought the total Games-linked number since July 1 to 193.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

China’s assets remain attractive despite recent correction – state media

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FILE PHOTO: A China yuan note is seen in this illustration photo May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration July 29, 2021
SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s state media on Thursday said yuan-denominated assets remain attractive and that short-term market panic does not represent long-term value, the latest official effort to shore up investor confidence.
The verbal support for markets comes as brutal sell-offs in Chinese shares have prompted worries about a spillover effect to other asset classes, including bonds and foreign exchange.
“In general, investment institutions generally believe that the current market correction is still a short-term event shock, rather than a reversal caused by changes in fundamentals,” the China Securities Journal said in a front-page commentary.
“The broad investment trend in favor of yuan-denominated assets will not be reversed.”
It added “speaking from fundamental perspective, China’s economy remained steadily improving and on a positive trend, while earnings expectations of listed companies have improved substantially.”
Regulatory moves aimed at the education, property and technology sectors sparked heavy selling earlier this week in Chinese markets, and have left global investors bruised and uncertain over the outlook for investment in Chinese firms.
China and Hong Kong stocks rebounded sharply in early trade on Thursday, with both blue-chip CSI 300 index and Shanghai Composite Index jumping more than 1%.
A separate front-page commentary published on the Economic Daily, which is run by China’s State Council, also said on Thursday that the recent correction in the stock market was mostly driven by sentiment.
China’s “capital market has the basis and capability for steady and healthy development,” it said.
Meanwhile, the state-backed China Daily on Thursday cited unnamed sources saying China remained supportive of domestic companies seeking to list overseas and that regulators would soon unveil more measures to further open capital market to foreign entities.
(Reporting by Winni Zhou and Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Biden to ask federal workers Thursday to get vaccinated or face testing -source

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden makes remarks from the White House after his coronavirus pandemic relief legislation passed in the Senate, in Washington, U.S. March 6, 2021. REUTERS/Erin Scott July 29, 2021
By David Shepardson and Nandita Bose
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday is expected to announce that about two million civilian federal workers will need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face testing, social distancing, mask requirements and limits on travel, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Biden, who will deliver remarks on COVID-19 at the White House at 4 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Thursday, will not mandate vaccines for federal employees and those who decide against getting a vaccine will not be at risk of being fired, the source said.
The plan is similar to what some states and New York City have announced, the source added. For example, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday that state employees will be required to be vaccinated or get tested weekly.
On Tuesday, Biden said his administration was considering the requirement for federal employees.
Numerous U.S. agencies on Wednesday mandated masks at federal buildings in COVID-19 hot spots in line with instructions issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), according to an OMB email seen by Reuters.
The White House also said masks are required indoors in federal buildings for all employees and visitors, whether or not vaccinated, in those areas experiencing sharp increases in infections.
On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said nearly 67% of U.S. counties were at substantial or high transmission rates, up from 63.4% on Tuesday.
The federal government is racing to contain the pandemic in the hope of avoiding future nationwide shutdowns, as the virulent Delta variant of the coronavirus blazes through parts of the United States and immunizations lag.
Some organized labor groups such as the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) said it opposes a vaccine mandate for federal employees and expressed concern about Biden’s expected announcement.
“While the APWU leadership continues to encourage postal workers to voluntarily get vaccinated, it is not the role of the federal government to mandate vaccinations for the employees we represent,” the group said in a statement.
Others such as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told C-SPAN that the union supports vaccine mandates.
“If you come back in and your are not vaccinated, everybody in that workplace is jeopardized,” Trumka said.
(Reporting by David Shepardson and Nandita Bose in Washington; editing by Grant McCool)

They Were the Biggest, Loudest Cop Union in America. Then Came Jan. 6.

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Since historic protests against police violence in America broke out in force last May, police unions across the country have come under renewed and sometimes scathing scrutiny. After all, they have long been reliable defenders of cops who shoot and kill unarmed people, and their leaders have a penchant for slamming police critics, whether lawmakers and celebrities who advocate for controversial policies like “defunding the police,” or rank and file protesters.Given this track record, Michael Fanone, one of the many cops who fended off rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, said he expected the largest police union in the country, the Fraternal Order of Police, to come out strongly in defense of him and fellow officers. The cops who stared down violent pro-Trump mobs that day have not only had to deal with their own physical and emotional injuries, but also endure criticism from Republican lawmakers, hostile civilians, and even efforts by the former president to downplay the seriousness of the January riot.But in an interview on CNN Wednesday, Fanone—fresh off from testifying to Congress on Tuesday about his experience at the Capitol—said he received no outreach from the union immediately after Jan. 6. Even though the D.C. Metro cop has been a dues-paying member of the FOP since he first became a police officer, he said, it wasn’t until six months after the riot that he spoke with FOP President Patrick Yoes to voice his concerns about a lack of support from the union.“I’ll be honest with you,” he told CNN, “I wasn’t particularly impressed with that conversation. I was extremely disappointed.”Among the things Fanone was visibly pissed about was what he described as the FOP’s failure to marshall their institutional support on behalf of the officers who defended the Capitol. This is a group that represents over 300,000 officers across the country, and has more than 100,000 followers on social media.A review of statements and social-media posts by The Daily Beast bolster Fanone’s case. While the union has decried the Capitol attack from the jump, the posts, and conversations with experts, paint a picture of a typically loud-mouthed lobby that has been relatively muted thanks to undying devotion to Donald Trump.Fanone did not respond to a request for comment for this story. Yoes declined an interview for this story through a spokesperson, and the National FOP did not respond to a request for comment.In their initial statement about the attack on the Capitol on January 6, the FOP called on Donald Trump to “forcefully urge” the “demonstrators” to “stop their unlawful activity, to stand down, and to disperse.”The group followed up with a statement two days later, on January 8, in response to a Chicago FOP leader who downplayed the riot in an interview, indicating the regional leader’s thoughts did not reflect the larger group. The FOP called rioters “criminals” and rejected the “gross mischaracterization” of the event and “sees the incident for what it was—a violent mob of looters and vandals, visiting fear and destruction on one of our nation’s most sacred spaces, who should be held accountable for their actions and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”The language was forceful.But according to Fanone, it died down almost immediately after the riot, and as officers came under attack from lawmakers. And a review of social-media posts by the group suggest it did not deploy anywhere close to its full arsenal of rhetorical grenades.A January 2020 post from the FOP features commentary about a video of an officer in Baltimore attempting to subdue a subject on the ground while a group of onlookers kick at the officer and demand he get off the man’s neck. The FOP wrote that the officer was “conducting his lawful duty” while the “degenerate dirtbags” surrounded, kicked, and assaulted him before a laughing crowd. “Not a single person watching attempts to help the officer being assaulted and to add insult to injury, they film the entire encounter,” the union wrote.An August 2020 FOP post at the height of George Floyd protests called out the “vile and disgusting mob” and linked to an officer allegedly being hit by a brick. “Criminals have seized the opportunity to terrorize our communities. It is well past time for this lawlessness to end!”An October 2020 post highlighted a California man seen on video appearing to steal a gun from an officer and allegedly firing a shot in their direction. In response, the FOP called out the “#DefundThePolice mob & their disgusting anti-police rhetoric” to explain why officers were being ambushed and attacked.It’s safe to say the attack on cops at the Capitol was far more violent and destructive. In addition to one officer, Brian Sicknick, dying of natural causes after being attacked by protesters using chemical spray, dozens more were attacked in brutal fashion by far-right terrorists wielding flagpoles, skateboards, and the officers’ own weapons. Two officers died by suicide in the weeks after the attack.Fanone, for his part, was attacked with his own Taser, later having a heart attack and brain problems in connection with the assault.Kalfani Ture, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Quinnipiac University, who in addition to being a professor is a former law-enforcement officer in Georgia, said that if the FOP had applied the same standards to the Capitol attack, it would have been a departure from the organization’s affiliation with the Republican Party.“As with all Faustian bargains, they often produce great contradictions,” he told The Daily Beast of the FOP and its ties to the modern, far-right incarnation of the GOP.The saga of Ashli Babbit, the unarmed white woman who was shot and killed while trespassing at the U.S. Capitol that day and has become a martyr on the far right, is illustrative.Trump, the face of the party, has called for the name of the officer who shot and killed Babbit to be released in recent rallies—despite the officer already being cleared by the Justice Department. He also suggested that Babbit was shot by a “head of security” for a “high-ranking” Democratic member of Congress—statements that senior law enforcement officials told NBC News were false. And as The Daily Beast reported, the president regrets not lowering the White House flag to half-staff in her honor.But the FOP has been virtually silent on Babbit and the (unidentified) cop who killed her, a review of the group’s posts and statements shows. The contrast with how the FOP aggressively responded to high-profile police shootings over the past year—including cases where cops were charged with crimes—and their posture on the Babbit incident is palpable.On June 18, 2020, Yoes issued a statement condemning the Fulton County District Attorney’s “hasty” decision to charge Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe with felony murder for the shooting of Rayshard Brooks, a Black man who was unarmed. “A District Attorney has the responsibility to fully review the facts of a possible crime judiciously before bringing a criminal charge,” said Yoes. “In this case, the charge against Mr. Rolfe was announced by the District Attorney in a televised news conference before the independent Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) had completed its official investigation and without consultations with GBI.”In other instances, the FOP has made it a point to root out “disinformation” related to police shootings and urged for due process before rushing to judgement of officers.On April 22, the FOP issued a statement supporting the Columbus Police Department after the shooting of armed teen girl Ma’Khia Bryant, calling it “yet another demonstration of the impossible situations our officers often find themselves in.” They asked for “patience” as an investigation played out and commended the Columbus Police Department for releasing body-camera footage of the shooting immediately “before the narrative can be distorted or disinformation takes hold in a community” and called the shooting “an act of heroism, but one with tragic results.”The same calls to beat back similar disinformation, some of which flowed from Trump himself, are nowhere to be found in connection with the Capitol riot.Calling out Trump—or even going harder after the rank-and-file rioters who said they marched on his behalf—would be difficult for an organization that has closely aligned itself to him, Ture said. He pointed to an image on the National FOP website which prominently features a roundtable meeting between Trump and officials at the White House. The union also endorsed his re-election bid last year, prior to the insurrection. “

Olympics-Rowing-Italy win lightweight women’s double sculls gold

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Rowing – Women’s Lightweight Double Sculls – Final A – Sea Forest Waterway, Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021. Valentina Rodini of Italy and Federica Casarini of Italy in action REUTERS/Leah Millis July 29, 2021
TOKYO (Reuters) – Italy won Olympic rowing gold in the lightweight women’s double sculls on Thursday at Tokyo’s Sea Forest Waterway.
France took silver, while the Netherlands claimed bronze.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Blinken warns Afghanistan could become 'pariah state' if peace not made with Taliban

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Wednesday that Afghanistan would become a “pariah state” if a peace deal is not reached between the government and the Taliban. “An Afghanistan that does not respect the rights of its people, an Afghanistan that commits atrocities against its own people would become a pariah state,” Blinken told reporters. AFGHANISTAN MINISTRY SETS CURFEW IN BID TO CURB TALIBAN ATTACKSThe secretary of state’s comments came after he visited top Indian diplomat, External Affairs Commissioner Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who committed to working towards peace in Afghanistan through diplomatic measures.In recent weeks, the Taliban has made major advances following the withdrawal of U.S. troops and has gained control of roughly half of Afghanistan’s 421 districts. Surrounding nations have voiced concern about increased terrorist activity that could spill over into neighboring countries.Jaishankar called the security implications an “inevitable” side effect of the conclusion of a 20-year long war and withdrawal of U.S. security forces.”What is done is done,” he said calling for diplomatic solutions over increased military action. “It is a policy taken, and I think in diplomacy you deal with what you have.”GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS SAYS THE ‘TALIBAN HAS THE MOMENTUM’ IN AFGHANISTANBlinken’s meeting with his Indian counterpart coincided with a meeting between a Taliban delegation and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Wednesday, Reuters reported. Wang said the Taliban are expected to “play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan.”Blinken called the meeting a “positive thing” and said Beijing’s efforts could help find a peaceful resolution and establish “some kind of [Afghan] government…that’s truly representative and inclusive.”CLICK HERE FOR THE FOX NEWS APPThe secretary of state – who continued on to Kuwait to secure safe passage for former translators fleeing the Taliban-ridden nation – said U.S.-Indian ties were a “top foreign policy” priority for the Biden administration.”There are few relationships in the world that are more vital than the one between the United States and India,” Blinken told reporters. “We believe this partnership will be critical for delivering stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, and for showing the world how democracies can deliver for their people.”

Olympics-Rowing-Croatia, New Zealand triumph in men’s and women’s pairs

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Rowing – Men’s Pair – Medal Ceremony – Sea Forest Waterway, Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021 Gold medallists Martin Sinkovic of Croatia and Valent Sinkovic of Croatia celebrate in their boat with their medals REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw July 29, 2021
(Corrects temperature in fourth paragraph)
TOKYO (Reuters) -Croatia’s mighty Sinkovic brothers came out on top in the men’s pair and New Zealand’s unstoppable crew triumphed in the women’s event as Olympic rowing continued Thursday at Tokyo’s blustery Sea Forest Waterway.
Martin Sinkovic and Valent Sinkovic, who won gold in the double sculls in Rio and were pairs world champions in 2018 and 2019, pulled away from the field almost immediately to win in 6:15.29, 1.29 seconds ahead of silver medallists Romania, with Denmark taking bronze.
After clinching their Wednesday semi-final in a world best time, Kiwis Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler again dazzled, overcoming a slow start and closing a nine-metre margin to take the lead shortly after the midway point to win in 6:50.19, with Russian Olympic Committee and Canada taking silver and bronze, respectively.
Tokyo Bay again dished out windy conditions and the heat continued to punish competitors, with temperatures hovering near 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) Thursday morning, as the sun broke through early cloud cover.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in Tokyo; Editing by Stephen Coates)

Hyundai Motor, LG’s battery unit to invest $1 billion in EV partnership

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FILE PHOTO: Employees of Hyundai Motor Group leave after the company’s new year ceremony in Seoul, South Korea, January 2, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji July 29, 2021
(Reuters) – South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Group and LG Energy Solution said on Thursday they would set up a joint venture (JV) in Indonesia to establish a battery cell plant for electric vehicles (EV), investing $1.1 billion with each owning half the business.
The JV will help Hyundai Motor Co and its sister company Kia Corp secure a stable supply of EV batteries at a competitive price for their battery electric vehicles.
LG Energy Solution (LGES), the wholly owned battery subsidiary of LG Chem Ltd, and Hyundai signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indonesian government to build the plant in the country, the companies said in a joint statement on Thursday.
The news comes as global automakers move to secure EV batteries in anticipation of a rise in sales because of government subsidies and quotas worldwide seeking to cut carbon emissions.
Construction of the plant will start in the fourth quarter of 2021 and will be completed by the first half of 2023, the companies said.
Indonesia is promoting the domestic development of EV and battery production to create a downstream industry for the country’s rich supply of lithium battery ingredient, nickel laterite ore.
(Reporting by Akriti Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Gerry Doyle)

NY Gov. Cuomo, whose admin hid nursing home data, says he's 'always chosen to do the right thing'

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that he has “always chosen” to do the “right thing” rather than the “political thing,” despite facing repeated accusations of wrongdoing. “Politicians don’t like to suggest actions that are not popular,” Cuomo said while announcing that state employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or face weekly testing.LEE ZELDIN: GOV. CUOMO ‘ABSOLUTELY’ NOT OUT OF WOODS ON NURSING HOME DEATHS”A politician who suggests too many unpopular options is not a long-term politician, but there’s a choice of doing the political thing or doing the right thing and I’ve always chosen to do the right thing and I believe ultimately that is even the best politics, but I think we have to go further here. I think we need dramatic action to get control of this situation.”Cuomo added that patient-facing healthcare workers at state-run hospitals will be required to take the vaccine and will not be given the option to submit to weekly testing. While the governor says he’s “always chosen to do the right thing,” he’s faced repeated accusations of doing just the opposite. The Cuomo administration severely undercounted nursing home deaths after the governor ordered long-term care facilities to accept positive coronavirus patients in the early stages of the pandemic. Cuomo officials also reportedly altered a report on nursing home deaths to obscure the fact that the administration was undercounting such deaths. The governor has also faced scrutiny for granting immunity to nursing home executives from coronavirus-related lawsuits. The immunity for the nursing home execs followed a large donation to Cuomo’s campaign from a high-powered health care industry group. The governor has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in the nursing home saga. CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPCuomo has also faced repeated accusations of sexual misconduct, which are currently being investigated by New York Attorney General Leticia James. Her investigation is believed to be in its final stages.The governor has denied any wrongdoing and dismissed calls for his resignation.Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed reporting  

Olympics-Rowing-Croatia win gold in men’s pair

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Rowing – Men’s Pair – Final A – Sea Forest Waterway, Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021. Martin Sinkovic of Croatia and Valent Sinkovic of Croatia celebrates after winning gold REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw July 29, 2021
TOKYO (Reuters) – Croatia won Olympic gold in the men’s pair on Thursday at Tokyo’s Sea Forest Waterway.
Romania finished second to take silver, while Denmark claimed bronze in the rowing event.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in Tokyo; Editing by Stephen Coates)

Olympics-Rowing-New Zealand win gold in women’s pair

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Rowing – Women’s Pair – Final A – Sea Forest Waterway, Tokyo, Japan – July 29, 2021. Grace Prendergast of New Zealand and Jackie Gowler of New Zealand in action REUTERS/Leah Millis July 29, 2021
TOKYO (Reuters) – New Zealand won Olympic gold in the women’s pair on Thursday at Tokyo’s Sea Forest Waterway.
The Russian Olympic Committee team took silver, while Canada claimed bronze in the rowing event.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in Tokyo; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

Olympics-Rowing-Ireland win lightweight men’s double sculls gold

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Rowing – Men’s Lightweight Double Sculls – Semifinal 2 – Sea Forest Waterway, Tokyo, Japan – July 28, 2021. Fintan McCarthy of Ireland and Paul O’Donovan of Ireland in action REUTERS/Leah Millis July 29, 2021
TOKYO (Reuters) – Ireland clinched the Olympic rowing gold in the lightweight men’s double sculls on Thursday at Tokyo’s Sea Forest Waterway.
Germany won silver, while Italy claimed bronze.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

China regulator talks to investment banks to calm market jitters – sources

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FILE PHOTO: A Chinese national flag flutters outside the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) building on the Financial Street in Beijing, China July 9, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang July 29, 2021
HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s Securities and Regulatory Commission (CSRC) on Wednesday night held a meeting with executives of top global investment banks with an aim to calm financial markets nerves, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The online meeting followed a brutal sell-off in shares of Chinese companies this week after investors were spooked by Beijing’s rules published over the weekend that ban for-profit tutoring in core school subjects.
The new rules for the private education companies closely followed China’s antimonopoly campaign against technology giants and new regulations for home-grown companies looking to list overseas.
“This is more to calm the market to isolate the education industry and not to over interpret it,” said one of the people, who has knowledge of the regulatory meeting chaired by CSRC vice chairman Fang Xinghai.
CSRC did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
The sources could not be named as they were not allowed to speak to the media.
Bloomberg first reported the development on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Scott Murdoch, Cheng Leng and Samuel Shen; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Sam Holmes)

Outrage Grows After Deputies Beat Native American Man, Kill His Dog

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Last Saturday around 2 a.m., a pair of deputies in a tiny California city responded to a report of domestic violence at an apartment complex.But instead of finding the 911 caller or their alleged suspect, the cops tased, pepper-sprayed and beat a Native American man and shot and killed his dog.The disturbing encounter, captured in bystander video and body cam footage released by the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, has sparked outrage and divided residents in Bishop, a city of about 3,700 people near the Nevada border.George Barlow, 32, was at an empty gas station on the Bishop Paiute Reservation when one of the Inyo County deputies first approached. The sheriff’s own narrative of the incident reveals Barlow wasn’t even their suspect. “While looking in the area, the deputies noticed a male subject across the street at the Chevron station, which was closed; the subject was agitated and yelling,” a press release states.On Monday, the sheriff’s office released body cam footage of the shocking episode, which put Barlow in the hospital. (Warning: This footage includes images of police beating Barlow and shooting his dog to death.)According to cops, Barlow charged at a deputy, refused to follow commands, and grabbed one deputy’s baton—all of which the body-cam footage backed up. But police also claimed that the dog, a pitbull, was shot after Barlow ordered it to attack, and there were no audible commands of that nature in the footage released by police. They’ve charged Barlow with crimes including obstruction / resisting officers, threatening criminal intent, assault with a deadly weapon non-firearm, violation of parole, and battery on a peace officer.Footage of the incident released by both cops and a bystander on social media seems to show the situation wasn’t so clear cut.Inyo County District Attorney Thomas Hardy told The Daily Beast the charges against Barlow have not been referred to his office. “It’s my understanding that the sheriff has an active investigation into Mr. Barlow, but it has not been referred over,” Hardy said.Hardy is investigating the two deputies for possible crimes related to excessive force, however. “It is our highest priority right now,” Hardy said, adding that he’s received numerous emails from citizens demanding accountability. “But it’s more important to be thorough and accurate than to be fast. That being said, I hope we will have it wrapped up in a few weeks instead of a few months.”To Barlow’s family and supporters, the incident is another reminder of what they view as law enforcement’s brutal treatment of Indigenous residents.“My cousin George ‘fit the description’ and because of that he is in the hospital on life support and his dog is dead,” one family member wrote on Instagram and on a GoFundMe page. “He was not the person in question.”Barlow “did not deserve to be brutalized like this, nobody does,” the relative added on the fundraising site, which has raised more than $25,000 for Barlow’s medical bills and lawyer fees. “Law enforcement in Payahuunadü (the Owens Valley) has a history of brutalizing Native citizens and we receive little to no justice.”One childhood friend of Barlow’s, Lina Sandoval, described him as “the biggest teddy bear” who had a smile on his face regardless of what heartbreak he was going through, including the loss of his mother recently. “Despite his big size, he’s not aggressive,” Sandoval told us. “That’s why this is so shocking and disappointing.”“People in Bishop are trying to justify what happened because supposedly the dog was attacking the officers,” Sandoval added. “The dog is not seen in the video until the police are beating George.”The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office’s 11 minute 41 second video of the incident shows the pitbull intervening and jumping up at the deputy as he tussles with Barlow, as well as the deputy shouting, “I’m gonna shoot your dog.” But the footage did not clearly capture the dog biting the deputies, though police said they “suffered dog bites.”The video also includes audio of the 911 call that led deputies to the area. In it, a woman reports an alleged domestic violence incident around 2 a.m. at an apartment building on Tu Su Lane.According to a police statement, the deputies didn’t find the caller and went to the Chevron station across the street. One deputy spotted Barlow, who according to police said, “Can I kill you too,” before charging at him. (Body cam footage reviewed by The Daily Beast does appear to capture Barlow saying, “Can I … you too,” though what exactly he is saying from across the parking lot is hard to make out.)Authorities also confirmed the deputies then struck Barlow with their batons, but said that was done after two tasers weren’t effective.The second deputy also pepper-sprayed Barlow, police say, and he dropped the baton and walked off. Barlow was arrested after the deputies deployed a sheriff’s K-9 to pursue him.Although the body-camera footage confirmed some of the deputies’ claims about the encounter, it only raised questions about other things.At one point in an officer’s body-cam video, Barlow’s hands were in the air and he was standing shirtless, away from the cops, and yelling, “Help” while a taser’s red laser marked his chest before one of the deputies deployed it. The officer deployed the taser as Barlow turned to walk away.A video posted to social media that was captured by a bystander from across the street paints a murkier image of the incident.In the social media video, Barlow can be seen on the ground while officers kick him as he appears to grip one of their batons and his dog runs in circles.Questions also remain about the initial encounter between Barlow and the deputies that police say kicked off the violent chain of events.In the first body-cam released by cops, a deputy can be seen approaching the gas station pumps and yelling “Yo” to Barlow, who responds with “Hi” before jogging closer.“Don’t run at me, bro,” the cop warns, as Barlow runs toward him. “Back up, you’re gonna get tased.”“What do you want?” Barlow asks as he runs toward the deputy and raises his arms in the air. “What are you fucking with me for?”From there, the cop deploys the taser and things immediately escalate. At the point when Barlow’s dog is shot, it was near Barlow, the footage shows.The second deputy then grabs his German Shepherd police dog from a truck and chases after Barlow. “Help me!” Barlow shouts after the police dog jumps at him and he falls to the ground.“Stop resisting! You’re under arrest!” one of the cops can be heard yelling. The images are too dark to see, but Barlow’s screams can be heard along with the growling.Police said Barlow was transported to the hospital “with one dog bite and multiple lacerations from the struggle, and the use of taser darts and batons.”Footage from a third body cam, from a Bishop Police Department officer, showed Barlow lying naked in a pool of blood while the cops told him they were trying to render aid.While Barlow’s condition is unclear, local radio station Sierra Wave published a photo of him with a breathing tube in the hospital.Barlow’s family did not return messages from The Daily Beast seeking comment, but one relative posted to Facebook Monday with an update: “George had the tubes taken out!!! He is breathing on his own with medication as well… his voice is a little raspy, probably from the tubes, but I hear he is in good spirits!!!”On Tuesday, according to the Sierra Wave, friends and relatives demanded an investigation at a meeting of the Inyo County Board of Supervisors.“What would you do if George Barlow was your son? The whole community is your family,” said one person identified as Roger Barlow.The board chair replied that “legally we can’t discuss” the matter. Sheriff Jeff Hollowell then told the crowd that his agency hired an independent firm to conduct an investigation, which should take about three weeks.Sandoval told The Daily Beast it’s “absolutely absurd” that Barlow is still facing charges.“He wasn’t a threat to anyone, he did not deserve this,” she said.WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO

Whistleblowers Say ‘Gross Mismanagement’ at Migrant Kids’ Detention Facility Led to Nightmare Conditions

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Mismanagement by contractors at a federal detention facility for migrant children in Texas led to squalid conditions for the young detainees, according to a new whistleblower complaint released Wednesday.The whistleblowers, describing what they say they witnessed at the facility from April to June 2021, sound the alarm about what they call “gross mismanagement, gross waste, and abuse of authority.” A senior U.S. Public Health Service manager allegedly concealed the true size of a substantial coronavirus outbreak at the detention facility amid a shortage of masks. The same manager, when asked about a lack of delousing kits, said there were no lice at the camp—even as a girls tent occupied by hundreds of detainees had to be locked down because of a severe lice outbreak. When questioned about the outbreak, the manager was dismissive, saying that since girls have longer hair than boys, they would naturally be more prone to lice infestations, according to the complaint. Boys detained at the facility complained of having no underwear at all or only one pair. One whistleblower said he suggested using his federal expense card to purchase underwear at a nearby Costco or Walmart. A senior federal manager allegedly told him, “I don’t have time for this s–t.”Construction workers at Fort Bliss are also accused in the complaint of sexually harassing the girls detained there, and when federal employees expressed concerns, managers at the facility “resisted taking their complaints,” according to the report.Private contractors with no experience in caring for children operate nearly every aspect of the Fort Bliss facility, the whistleblowers allege. They name three: Chenega Corporation, Servpro, and Rapid Deployment Inc., which won contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to government spending records.Arthur Pearlstein and Lauren Reinhold, the whistleblowers, are career federal civil servants who were posted to Fort Bliss from April to June 2021. Pearlstein worked on clinical assessments of detainees and with small groups providing mental health services; Reinhold in the detainees’ girls’ tent and on the call center team. The whistleblowers filed their first complaint in early July.Pearlstein and Reinhold’s complaint reads, “Federal detailees witnessed significant waste, fraud and abuse. When they attempted to express their concerns to federal managers they were told—time and again—it was the contractors that were in charge and government employees needed to be responsive to the contractors’ needs. The contractors ignored or rejected most detailee concerns.”Nor was theirs the first report of inadequate care at Fort Bliss. Earlier this year, children complained that they were given rotten food and forced to sleep in hot, overcrowded tents. Amnesty International has cited Fort Bliss’ conditions as a reason to end the detention of migrant children entirely in the U.S.

Powell says Fed likely to taper asset purchases ‘at the same time’

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A screen displays a statement by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell following the U.S. Federal Reserve’s announcement as traders work on the trading floor at New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, New York U.S., July 28, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly July 29, 2021
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve will likely reduce its monthly purchases of mortgage-backed securities and Treasuries simultaneously when it is time to pare back its support for the U.S. economy, though policymakers are debating whether to wind down the buying of MBS at a faster pace, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Wednesday.
Some U.S. central bank policymakers have said they want to end their monthly $40 billion of MBS purchases faster than the $80 billion in Treasuries because of the hot U.S. housing market.
“There really is little support for the idea of tapering MBS earlier than Treasuries. I think we will taper them at the same time,” Powell said in a news conference after a two-day policy meeting that marked the Fed’s first “deep dive” into when and how it could start reducing its asset purchases.
“The idea of reducing MBS purchases at a somewhat faster pace than Treasuries does have some attraction for some people – others not so much,” he added. “I think it’s something that we’ll be continuing to discuss.”
A Fed decision to cut its purchases of both Treasuries and MBS simultaneously would show that the central bank is probably following the same playbook it used when it began tapering its asset purchases in 2014, said Tom Garretson, senior portfolio strategist at RBC Wealth Management.
“To change the approach from the last cycle would muddy the messaging and there’s no benefit to it,” Garretson said. “The market expectation was that they would go at the same time.”
(Reporting by Howard Schneider and Ann Saphir with David Randall in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler and Paul Simao)

Samsung Elec says demand for chips to remain strong after Q2 profit rises

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of Samsung Electronics is seen at its headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, April 4, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo July 29, 2021
By Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang
SEOUL (Reuters) -Samsung Electronics Co Ltd said on Thursday it expects favourable market conditions for its component business in the second half of the year, after announcing its highest quarterly operating profit since 2018.
The world’s top maker of memory chips and smartphones posted a 54% jump in operating profit in the April-June quarter to 12.6 trillion won ($10.95 billion), from 8.1 trillion won a year earlier.
Samsung said the result was buoyed by strong memory-chip prices and higher-than-expected demand from consumer electronics makers and data centre customers.
Mobile profits dipped from the previous quarter due to constrained supply of mobile processor chips and production disruptions related to the coronavirus pandemic, it said in a statement.
Net profit rose 73% to 9.6 trillion won. Revenue climbed 20% to 63.7 trillion won.
($1 = 1,150.2300 won)
(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

U.S. Senate approves union lawyers to NLRB, giving Democrats control

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FILE PHOTO: The seal of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is seen at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., May 14, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo July 29, 2021
By Daniel Wiessner and David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed union lawyers Gwynne Wilcox and David Prouty to seats on the National Labor Relations Board, paving the way for a Democratic majority that is likely to reverse a series of employer-friendly Trump-era decisions.
The Democrat-led Senate voted 52-47 to approve the nomination of Wilcox, a partner at Levy Ratner in New York, and 53-46 to confirm Prouty, the general counsel of New York City service worker union SEIU 32BJ.
A White House spokesperson hailed the confirmations and said Biden has “made it a priority to appoint members to the NLRB who will protect worker organizing, collective bargaining, and workers’ rights to engage in concerted activity.”
The NLRB hears unfair labor practice cases brought by workers and unions and oversees private-sector union elections.
Wilcox will fill a vacant seat with a term expiring in August 2023. Prouty will serve a five-year term beginning next month, when Republican William Emanuel’s term ends.
The Senate last week voted 51-50 to confirm https://www.reuters.com/legal/transactional/vp-breaks-tie-bidens-pick-nlrb-general-counsel-2021-07-21 Jennifer Abruzzo, a career NLRB attorney who more recently worked for the Communication Workers of America union, to serve as the board’s general counsel. Biden fired Trump-era GC Peter Robb on his first day in office in January.
Wilcox and Prouty did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Wilcox has worked on a series of high-profile cases in her decades-long career, including a major recent NLRB case accusing McDonald’s https://www.reuters.com/article/employment-mcdonalds/mcdonalds-intervenes-to-defend-joint-liability-settlement-amid-shakeup-in-nlrb-leadership-idUSL1N2LK275 of retaliating against franchise workers who participated in an organizing campaign.
Prouty was previously general counsel of the union UNITE HERE and served as a senior lawyer for the Major League Baseball Players Association from 2008 through 2017, when he joined SEIU 32BJ. The union represents about 175,000 workers in New York City.
Biden’s nominations https://www.reuters.com/legal/transactional/unions-hail-nomination-high-profile-labor-lawyer-nlrb-2021-05-27 of Wilcox and Prouty were hailed by the country’s largest labor unions, who said their deep experience, including Wilcox’s stint as an NLRB field attorney, made them uniquely prepared to tackle challenges faced by workers.
But Republicans, who have criticized the changes Biden has made at the board as showing favoritism to unions over workers, have expressed concerns https://www.reuters.com/legal/transactional/republicans-call-nlrb-dol-nominees-very-troublesome-2021-07-15 about the NLRB nominees’ union ties and progressive records.
(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner and David Shepardson; editing by Richard Pullin)

China’s new ambassador arrives in U.S. with words of optimism

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FILE PHOTO: The People’s Republic of China flag and the U.S. flag fly on a lamp post along Pennsylvania Avenue near the U.S. Capitol in Washington during then-Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit, January 18, 2011. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang/File Photo July 29, 2021
By Michael Martina
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China’s new ambassador to Washington, Qin Gang, on Wednesday wished the United States victory against COVID-19 and said great potential awaited bilateral relations, striking an optimistic tone as he arrived at his new post amid deeply strained ties.
Qin’s arrival comes days after high-level talks in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and senior Chinese diplomats ended with both sides signaling that the other must make concessions for ties to improve.
Qin, 55, a vice foreign minister whose recent past portfolios have included European affairs and protocol, is replacing China’s longest serving ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, 68, who last month announced his departure after eight years in Washington.
“I firmly believe that the door of China-U.S. relations, which is already open, cannot and should not be closed,” Qin told reporters at his residence in the U.S. capital after arriving from the airport.
“The China-U.S. relationship has come to a new critical juncture, facing not only many difficulties and challenges, but also great opportunities and potential,” Qin said.
He said relations kept moving forward “despite twists and turns,” and added that the U.S. economy was improving under President Joe Biden’s leadership.
“I wish the country an early victory against the pandemic,” he added.
Qin, who did two stints as a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman between 2006 and 2014, has earned a reputation for often pointed public defenses of his country’s positions.
Relations between Beijing and Washington deteriorated sharply under former President Donald Trump, and Biden has maintained pressure on China, stepping up sanctions on Chinese officials and vowing that the country won’t replace the United States as the world’s global leader on his watch.
China’s Foreign Ministry has recently signaled there could be preconditions for the United States on which any kind of cooperation would be contingent, a stance some analysts say leaves dim prospects for improved ties.
The post of the U.S. ambassador to China has been vacant since October, when Republican Terry Branstad stepped down to help with Trump’s reelection campaign.
With many U.S. ambassador posts to allied countries still unfilled, Biden has yet to nominate a replacement for China, though former ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns is considered a favorite candidate in foreign policy circles.
(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Need for Skepticism

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Government legislative titles often sound fantastic; certainly, there is a branding guru in charge of naming potential legislation something that appeals to the masses.But the titles don’t always fairly describe the legislation they are attached to. To translate these grand sounding legislative titles into normal English, you must employ a healthy dose of skepticism and be able to translate Orwellian doublespeak into everyday language.To do that, all of us should bring some skepticism to the table. Skeptics begin by questioning those who put forth any given argument or idea and think about what may be in it for them. To do that, skeptics must think independently and resist going along with the crowd. Let’s take two legislative efforts currently under consideration: the so-called Sensible Taxation and Equity Promotion Act and President Joe Biden’s American Families Plan.These brilliantly named bills hide the fact that they are designed to pull money out of the private sector and pour it into government coffers. These bills claim to make taxation sensible and equitable, but the question should be to whom. The answer: the government itself. It makes more sense to government officials to collect more money, even if it means taxing money from unrealized gains in value. This would force families to sell small businesses and farms and pull invested money out of the private sector, where it is generating more value, and hand it over to the government, which will not only redistribute it but waste it.This should lead skeptics to ask whether the government or the private sector is more effective in managing money. For those in the government or those who receive money from the government, the answer is the government. For those who are not in government or those who believe that government is ineffective and inefficient, the answer is the private sector. But let’s dig a little deeper.Those government officials currently in power, who are spending more than the government is collecting in taxes, think this is a great idea. This is their way to siphon more money from individuals and give it to the government. The unspoken downside is that the government is not efficient in spending the dollars.Let’s look at some recent data on how the government is doing with your money. The General Accountability Office reports that nearly 10% of unemployment payments were improper in 2019. This means that more than $2.6 billion were spent incorrectly. But it gets worse. From March 2020 to April 2021, the overpayment was $12.9 billion, according to GAO. And, by the time all the accounting is complete, this figure will more than double, according to the Labor Department, which estimates that $26 billion of the CARES unemployment distribution will be found to have been incorrectly spent.Such exemplary performance should, of course, be rewarded by giving the government even more money to waste. Since we only have one government in our country, it is a monopoly. That simple fact represents the root of the problem.”Because it is a monopoly, government brings inefficiency and stagnation to most things it runs; government agencies pursue the inflation of their budgets rather than the service of their customers; pressure groups form an unholy alliance with agencies to extract more money from taxpayers for their members,” Matt Ridley wrote in his book, “The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves.” “Yet despite all this, most clever people still call for government to run more things and assume that if it did so, it would somehow be more perfect, more selfless, next time.”
According to a report issued this week by Regional Economic Models, a non-partisan economic modeling firm, the STEP Act and President Biden’s American Families Plan would adversely affect our economy. The titles might sound good, but those titles are unlikely to accurately describe what they will accomplish.”Our analysis of the STEP Act proposals to repeal the step-up in basis at death, make death a tax realization event, and increase the tax liability of trusts under the Biden Administration’s proposed 39.6% top capital gains tax rate (plus the existing 3.8% net investment income tax) shows significant negative impacts on the national economy,” said Peter Evangelakis, Ph.D., vice president of economics and consulting at REMI. “We find close to one million annual job losses, 10-year decreases in economic output and GDP of about $2 trillion and $1 trillion respectively, declines of over $600 billion and $6 billion respectively in private investment and R&D spending, and about $1 trillion in foregone personal income, or up to $10,000 per household.”We need to not only defeat these legislate acts, but more importantly, we need to heighten our skepticism, especially when the government says there are here to help.

Saving Our National Hyde

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Watch out whenever a politician says, “I’m a devout Catholic, but…” Whatever follows the “but” shows where their true allegiance lies. So it is with President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who are out of step with their Church’s teaching on the subject of abortion. Both have expressed a desire to see abortion rights extended, even up to the moment of birth—which is infanticide.Now they even want to repeal the Hyde Amendment, a 40-year old congressional measure that blocks federal funding for abortions.Writing for Lifenews.com, Micaiah Bilger notes, “The Hyde Amendment is a longstanding, bipartisan measure that prohibits taxpayer funding for elective abortions in Medicaid and other federal programs. Pro-life researchers estimate it has saved at least 2.4 million babies from abortion, and polls consistently show that a strong majority of Americans support it.”Nancy Pelosi opposes the Hyde Amendment despite her claim of being a “devout Catholic.” Why? Because “it’s an issue of fairness and justice for poorer women in our country.”It seems to me the “devout Catholic” line is gratuitous and aims to deceive the gullible.Both Pelosi and Biden could be labeled “cafeteria Catholics.” “I’ll take this part of the Church’s teaching, but not that part.”I remember my long-time pastor (in the conservative Presbyterian tradition), Dr. D. James Kennedy, once said that the Christian Church in all its forms has stood against abortion from the very beginning of the Church to the present (with a few exceptions among liberal “Christians”) and has always provided loving alternatives. But today, since the Left has made abortion a political issue, the Church is “preaching politics” when speaking out against abortion. No, we’re not. We’re speaking out on behalf of Judeo-Christian morality. Meanwhile, support for Henry Hyde’s Amendment has waned among Democrat legislators. But not all, thankfully. Last week (7/21/21), Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) wrote to the Senate Appropriations Committee: “Recent public polls show almost 60% of Americans oppose or strongly oppose using taxpayer dollars to support abortion. Both Democrat and Republican presidents have signed the Hyde Amendment into law. It has passed through both Democrat and Republican-controlled Congresses, and it was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1980. Repealing this provision would eliminate over 40 years of bipartisan precedent.”The amendment is named after the late U.S. Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL), who died in 2007.I interviewed Henry Hyde for Christian television in 1987 about abortion and the Constitution. He told me, “There is no constitutional justification for Roe v. Wade. No one had ever seen a right of privacy or whatever other distortion the Court found to justify its decision.”And here we are all these years later, and the Left is working overtime to squash the Hyde Amendment, which I think first and foremost honors the conscience rights of those who oppose abortion. It’s bad enough to have fellow Americans killed by abortion willy-nilly, but to force us who disagree with abortion to pay for it? That’s far worse.Should Jews have to pay for measures that would destroy Israel? No.Should Blacks have to pay for the misguided “work” of the KKK? No.Should Christians have to pay for abortions, which they find morally repugnant? No.Conscience rights, which correlate with religious liberty, are paramount.The Left doesn’t seem to care about conscience rights. But conscience rights were very important to George Washington and other Founding Fathers.After the War for American Independence, the father of our country wrote a letter to the Quakers of Pennsylvania. Quakers are pacifists who don’t believe in picking up arms, even for national defense. Washington said to them, in effect: We could have used your help here in the recent war, but in America we honor and respect your rights of conscience.
James Madison, who played a critical role in the framing of the Constitution, said, “‘The equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his religion according to the dictates of his conscience’ is held by the same tenure with all our other rights” (Memorial and Remonstrance, 1785).Sam Adams, a key founding father who helped light the spark for independence, wrote, “As neither reason requires nor religion permits the contrary, every man living in or out of a state of civil society has a right peaceably and quietly to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience” (The Rights of the Colonists, 1772).And on it goes.Amazingly, after decades of a barrage of propaganda in favor of abortion from Hollywood and the media and politicians, a large majority of Americans still want to see this bipartisan measure remain in force. Even if they are “pro-choice,” most Americans favor saving the Hyde Amendment. I vote in favor of saving our national Hyde. I can think of 2.4 million reasons why.Jerry Newcombe, D.Min., is the executive director of the Providence Forum, an outreach of D. James Kennedy Ministries, where Jerry also serves as senior producer and an on-air host.

Towards a Doctrine of Retaliatory Cyber-Responses

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Last week, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) announced the launch of an investigation into the recent string of ransomware attacks against U.S. firms and infrastructure. That followed a formal, multi-ally announcement the day before accusing Chinese intelligence of directing an attack against Microsoft Exchange servers used by American businesses, non-profits, and academic institutions. These announcements came on the heels of a series of inward-facing steps outlined by the Biden administration between early June and mid-July, representing the early turning of gears as Washington reluctantly pivots towards ransomware and other major cyberattacks. We saw the standup of a ransomware task force at DOJ, instructions for businesses on cyber-resiliency, and the expansion of focus of an existing State Department rewards program to include cyberattacks. Just yesterday the administration announced that some of these mandates for business will become mandatory for companies operating in federally defined critical sectors. All this activity – the new initiatives and the formal announcements – all of it, is wrongheaded and its unhelpful. We are overdue for an adjustment. We need to right now begin to have a serious conversation centered around another perspective, one that rejects this type of disruption and subversion as a fait accompli. If we do so, and broaden the discussion now, we might discover what a model of credible, effective cyber-deterrence could look like.In 1993, President Clinton ordered airstrikes against an intelligence complex in downtown Baghdad as both a retaliation and a warning after details emerged that Iraqi agents had attempted an assassination of former President Bush. The strikes took place around 1-2am, timed to minimize civilian casualties, and the physical damage was widely considered secondary to the message being sent to the regime and to the world. Airstrikes by previous and successor presidents fit a similar pattern, with usually similar precautions taken and – rightly or wrongly – words like surgical, smart, or more recently targeted, accompanying the word airstrike. From Reagan in Libya, Clinton also in Sudan and Afghanistan, to Obama and Trump in Syria, these limited-in-scope military actions are a comfortably accepted tool of presidential foreign policy. It is time to take that precedent, looking to those reasonably successful uses of limited force, and discuss what they will look like in the cyber-realm. The United States needs to now seriously consider Retaliatory Cyber-Responses (RCRs) distinct from our traditional and ongoing cyber espionage activities. The risks of such a course are apparent, and it’s natural for us to immediately jump to the risk of inviting further escalation from our adversaries in an area of such recently demonstrated domestic vulnerability. But what’s missing from that analysis is that we are already living those risks. And in the majority of the aforementioned responsive or deterrent strikes conducted by previous U.S. presidents, the tradeoff between retaliation and deterrence has normally weighed in our favor. We now live in the era of the risks we fear unleashing, our mindset just needs to catch up. Our adversaries, state and nonstate, have made that choice for us, and are in an era of infrastructure-threatening cyber-subversion. A credible deterrent requires us to abandon the failed law enforcement model, but also on going beyond shadowy Cyber Command activity, and embracing higher risk and better returns. We must consider retaliatory and public cyber responses: if a pipeline in the U.S. goes down, a pipeline in the country the attack originated from should experience a disruption of some kind in that same sector. Again, in the model of targeted airstrikes we can and should minimize the type and length of the disruption and guard against unintended cyber-collateral damage. But the effects our of response should be recognizable to the foreign leader – and potentially both that country’s public and the American public – as the deliberate and intended result of American retaliation. American unwillingness to respond sufficiently to what were precedent-setting acts of cyber-subversion is creating greater long-tail risk than a heartier response, and at the same time allows our adversaries to set the terms of escalation. We remain bound by a ruleset that isn’t working, doesn’t prevent disruption to the homeland, and ensures the pain and risk are felt only on one side. They shut down a pipeline, we shut down a website. Innovation in RCRs is risky. U.S. Critical Infrastructure Sectors – the list of sixteen sectors Biden warned Putin were off limits – were designated as such nearly a decade ago in an updated presidential directive as areas deserving of additional security and resiliency measures. That’s because attacks against those sectors are judged to immediately impede U.S. safety or put U.S. lives in danger, in addition to a few other significant risks. That’s why, for example, the Emergency Response Sector and the Water Supply/Wastewater Sector appear on the list. This is not an argument that we should target critical infrastructure, it’s instead mentioned to highlight that the consequences and the risks to cyber-retaliation are immediate and very much non-virtual, just like action in these areas always is. One can think of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant airstrike in 1998 as an example of when this kind of attack yields much blowback and little benefit. However, by setting a definitive and roundly noticed deterrent, we brook less overall risk and the benefits of time-boxing it than if we allow the cycle of provocation to continue unreturned and of unknown length. 
Embracing RCR may put a chill on relations with countries this administration is hoping to get to join big ticket climate efforts and other actions, but if the only way to get them on board is to respond fecklessly to aggression, then our ability to lead isn’t sustainable regardless. Put the ransomware criminals and the hackers – and the nations that harbor and sponsor them – back in the box, and we can more effectively shrink the cyberattack ‘file’ in our foreign relations. By shortening the timeframe of conflict and shrinking the collective foreign affairs attention it commands, we will actually be better positioned to move forward on other issues, and we’ll be doing so on firmer and better respected footing. 

Coming Soon: America's 'Social Credit' System?

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China is in the process of expanding the “social credit” system they have been rolling out in phases since 2014Much like what we have for our financial credit ratings, China’s “social credit” system attaches a positive point value to behavior that the government views as praiseworthy (showing integrity, responsibility and/or trustworthiness) and a negative point value for behavior it wants to discourage. “Bad” behavior includes spending too much time playing video games, not caring for aging parents, poor driving, jaywalking, not paying one’s debts and, of course, criticizing the government.The enormity of this effort is impossible to overstate. Chinese companies (and foreign companies authorized to do business in China) collect massive amounts of data on Chinese people from their cellphone and internet use and turn it over to the Chinese government. Dozens of government agencies share data and information with each other. Hundreds of millions of surveillance cameras watch Chinese people in cities across the country (with hundreds of millions more to come). Advanced facial recognition technology and complex algorithms assist in determining the identity of those being surveilled in public places. And, of course, there are the “informers” — members of the local community who report the good and bad conduct of their neighbors and co-workers to authorities.Eventually, every Chinese citizen over a certain age will have a “social credit” score.The consequences of a low social credit score are serious. Those with low scores are “blacklisted” and denied travel benefits, including access to visas or even the ability to buy plane or train tickets. They can be denied employment or promotions at work. Their children can be denied access to the best schools and universities. Their names and faces are often placed prominently on public billboards to “name and shame” them.Chinese people interviewed by western news organizations defended the social credit system, claiming that it will produce more responsible people and a better society. This is perhaps unsurprising, as China does not have the individualist culture that America does. But then, the Chinese know that their social credit score may well go down if they do criticize the system, so one may have to take the glowing reviews with a grain of salt.However, Americans should not just shrug off these oppressive initiatives as something that could only happen in China. For one thing, a significant amount of the surveillance technology used by China’s communist government was developed and provided by American companies. These are names we know and recognize, including Seagate, Intel and HP Inc., among others.If the technology can be used there, it can be used here for the same purposes.That should concern us, especially given other trends we are seeing here in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have brought out the statist authoritarianism in many of our government officials — and much of the citizenry. Every day, we see more calls for social compliance on pain of sanctions.Information about the efficacy of COVID vaccines and the need for masks are two good examples of why this trend is so dangerous. We cannot seem to get solid, verifiable information on either. Just this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shifted gears yet again on the need for vaccinated individuals to wear masks and the need for K-12 children to wear masks in schools. Just two weeks ago, we were assured that masks were not necessary because the vaccines are effective. Now, we are being told that the vaccines are effective, but that masks are necessary anyway. But we are not being shown the data that allegedly supports the ever-changing “consensus.” Dr. Sanjay Gupta stated on CNN, “this is data that has not even been published yet.”And yet, despite the capriciousness of the government’s official party line on all things COVID, social and broadcast media are rife with videos of public shaming of non-mask wearers, and calls to “make life hard” for those who will not (or cannot) take the vaccine, including refusing access to public places like restaurants and sports arenas and even denial of medical treatment. Public and private employers across the U.S. are mandating the vaccine, and dozens of lawsuits have been filed by Americans who have already been fired for not getting it.
Just last week, the White House announced that they were calling on Facebook and other big tech social media companies to censor what President Joe Biden calls “misinformation” about COVID vaccines and the virus itself. But those same social media companies (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) have already been actively censoring accurate information about COVID that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the CDC and Democrats wanted suppressed; specifically, evidence supporting the theory that the virus originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. And this is in addition to censoring other accurate information when it promotes conservative political ideas or casts unfavorable light on favorite Democrat politicians. Facebook and Twitter conveniently banned news stories about Biden’s son Hunter and the damning information on his laptop right before the November 2020 presidential election.And there’s more. Since the 2020 election — and the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol — there has been an active attempt by the Democratic Party and their lap dogs in the press to smear all Trump supporters as “racists,” “extremists,” “white supremacists,” “domestic terrorists” and “the insurrectionist next door.” In such a climate, it is even more concerning when the FBI asks people to start reporting family members, neighbors and friends whose beliefs or behavior are “suspicious.” And Americans are doing just that.How far are we, really, from a China-style surveillance state and social credit system?

Imagine If They Hadn’t Lied To Us For The Last 18 Months

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Everybody wrap something around your face again even though they said you wouldn’t need to if you got vaxxed! But they didn’t lie – no, apparently a bunch of people – and not just those evil white nationalist-Christian-gun-Jesus-flag people – are refusing to get the vaccine, and the reason is that they are moral defectives somehow in thrall to Tucker Carlson’s Svengali-like powers of persuasion. You see, the people who won’t get it are stupid people who hate science because they refuse to trust the people who have spent the last year-and-a-half lying to them.I don’t blame those folks a bit. Let’s try a thought experiment. Let’s imagine our ruling class was not as utterly corrupt, dishonest, incompetent and downright stupid as it manifestly is. I know that’s hard, but go with me.This weird new virus appears and starts spreading. Instead of leveraging it to take down Trump, the Democrats appear with the Republican president and GOP leadership to announce they are working together to solve the problem. Imagine that instead of shaming people, first about wearing masks, then about not wearing masks, then about not wearing two masks, then no masks, then masks again, they went with transparency. “We are not sure how much, if at all, masks work. We’re running test trials to see and we’ll tell you what we find as soon as we have the data. In the meantime, let’s all wear them just in case.” And then, when they ran the studies, they would tell us the answer. Have you seen any studies about masks? We get a lot of that fascist gnome and others telling us to wear masks (after initially telling us they were useless – remember that memory-holed narrative?) but where’s the actual science?See, you have to believe the science, and believe them when they tell you what it is yet won’t show you. Obey!But trust is earned, and these people act like it is their right to have our trust, that we owe them to take it on faith that whatever these people say is the Gospel. Except they are wrong all the time, and instead of owning up to it, they treat you like some sort of idiot for noticing. When you don’t trust people who are perpetually wrong, that’s not denying science. That is science – you are making observations, and drawing reasonable conclusions. In this case, the observation is that our establishment sucks, and that it can’t be trusted.How far would a little humility gone? Very far. Imagine, and this will be hard, these masterminds getting up and saying, “America, we were wrong about something. We thought it was right, but we tested it and we found we were not right. Here is the data, and now that we have better information, we are changing our recommendation.”What would we say? “Oh, okay. They were doing the best they can and being straight with us. People make mistakes. We need to learn from them. After all, it’s been a century since the last pandemic so we have a lot of lessons to re-learn. Let’s move forward.”But no. No, there’s no humility. They make a mistake and they don’t stand up and admit it. Instead, they just change the narrative and act as if the narrative du jour was always the narrative. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. But we’re not blind or stupid for noticing.They tell us the vaccine is going to make us immune from COVID. Then it turns out you can still get it, just not as bad. Yet when people notice this 180-degree spin, the smart set shrieks like Donald Sutherland at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.Just imagine if they had been honest and forthright. But that was not in the cards. The ruling caste’s conceit is that we are idiots, unable and unworthy to make simple decisions for ourselves. We must be guided, nudged, or intimidated, if necessary, into making the right choice. And we do not deserve explanations, because the last thing our elite wants is accountability. Instead, they want unlimited power. Look at their arbitrary emergency rules and regulations. You could go to a strip club but not a church. Huh? And the courts, again, let us down initially by not enforcing the Constitution. It was an emergency, after all, and as we all know, in an emergency you need to rule by decree, say our betters. So, we got to watch idiots walking around in the sunshine with mouth thongs on while cops busted mommies for letting little Billy play on the slide. At no time did most of the establishment reconsider or change. No, it doubled down on failure. Yet we’re supposed to trust it?And then there are the revelations about where it came from. They first blamed the innocent pangolin. But it looks like it was our elite’s buddies the Chi Coms, except when people raised that notion earlier, they got banned by social media. Our establishment limited our ability to speak about something true. Think about that. And they want to do it again.
And that’s where the vaccine hesitancy comes in. The smart set squanders its trust then is shocked to find that its trust has been squandered. People are seeing side effects from the vaccine. Those were always going to happen. But our elite is unwilling to level with people about them and let individuals manage their own risks. Instead, our garbage elite dismisses people with questions as “anti-vaxxers” instead of engaging with them and earning their trust. See, we peasants are unworthy of engagement. How dare we seek to choose for ourselves? The nerve of us serfs!I got the vaccine. I also had the disease. I talked to conservative doctors I trusted about my unique situation and made my decision. You should do the same – you know your situation, and you should balance the risks. I don’t tell other people what to do because it’s not my business and I don’t know their story. I’ve had people get on me for mine, and they need to back off – they don’t know my situation and it’s none of their business. Similarly, theirs is none of mine.The establishment has squandered its credibility, which is why its demand that everyone take the shot is getting shriller and the attempts to force people more punitive. Imagine if they had been honest from the beginning. Imagine if they had been held accountable. But to do that, you have to imagine having a ruling class that doesn’t suck. And that’s more imagination than anyone can muster.Conservatives Must Stand Together and Fight. Join Townhall VIP. And Check Out Last Week’s Stream of Kurtiousness, I Hate American Women’s Soccer.My sixth Kelly Turnbull action thriller, The Split, is out. Get my most recent bestseller, as well as my other novels about what happens when America splits into red and blue countries, People’s Republic, Indian Country, Wildfire, Collapse, and Crisis!

Robinhood, gateway to ‘meme’ stocks, raises $2.1 billion in IPO-source

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FILE PHOTO: Robinhood logo is seen on a smartphone in front of a displayed stock graph in this illustration taken, July 2, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo July 29, 2021
By Echo Wang
(Reuters) – Robinhood Markets Inc, the owner of the trading app which emerged as the go-to destination for retail investors speculating on this year’s ‘meme’ stock trading frenzy, raised $2.1 billion in its initial public offering (IPO) on Wednesday.
The company is seeking to capitalize on individual investors’ fascination with cryptocurrencies and stocks such as GameStop Corp, which have seen wild swings after becoming the subject of trading speculation on social media sites such as Reddit. Its monthly active users surged from 11.7 million at the end of December to 21.3 million as of the end of June.
Robinhood sold 55 million shares in its IPO at $38 apiece, the bottom of its targeted price range of $38 to $42, a person familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. In an unusual move, Robinhood had said it would reserve between 20% and 35% of its shares for its users.
The IPO values Robinhood at $31.8 billion. It makes it one of the most valuable U.S. companies to have gone public year-to-date, amid a red-hot market for new listings.
The source requested not to be identified ahead of an official announcement. Robinhood did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Echo Wang in New York)

Infrastructure deal overcomes hurdle to advance in U.S. Senate

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to reporters about the bipartisan infrastructure bill at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., July 28, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz July 29, 2021
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bipartisan infrastructure package of roughly $1 trillion received the 60 votes necessary to advance in the 100-seat U.S. Senate on Wednesday, passing a key milestone that moves the emerging legislation toward formal debate and possible passage.
Voting continued in the Democratic-held chamber.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell)

Washington, D.C. mayor announces plan to hire 170 additional police officers amid crime spike

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Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Wednesday that she plans to add 170 police officers to the city’s force amid rising violence and several high profile shootings in the city. “Right now, I have directed MPD to use any overtime necessary to meet our public safety demands,” the Democratic mayor wrote in a statement. The statement noted that Bowser plans to hire 170 additional Metropolitan Police Department officers by 2022. “But we know that is not a complete solution or the right long-term solution. We also know we need all of our officers to be fresh, rested, and in the best position to make good decisions – and that requires having a full force to meet all of our community’s needs.”DC SHOOTING LEAVES TWO DEAD AMID CITY’S CRIME WAVEBowser added, “The department is in a good position to make additional hires and move swiftly to close the gap between attrition and hiring, and that’s what this plan is going to help us do.”Bowser is a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has pushed for defunding the police in favor of community policing and funding social justice organizations. Last year, the city council voted to defund the police department by shifting $23 million out of its budget in a move that Bowser publicly opposed. Homicides in the city hit a 16-year high in 2020 and local media outlets reported in April of this year that 2021 was on track to be even deadlier. Earlier this month, gunfire broke out near the Washington Nationals baseball stadium causing players and fans to flee the area in a chaotic scene that drew national attention. MAN WHO RAN FOR COVER DURING DC SHOOTING DEMANDS CITY ACTION: ‘THERE NEEDS TO BE MORE POLICE’That shooting was followed up by a brazen shooting in an upscale Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C. that sent restaurant patrons fleeing in all directions and sparked outrage in the community. Dozens of angry residents took to the streets recently to march in protest of the increased gun violence after a six-year-old girl was shot and killed riding her scooter. CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP”This is something that we’ve been warning about for years,” D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said about the lack of resources he has to fight crime.  “We don’t really have the ability to hire officers right now. We have a defined amount of resources to deal with a very large city that continues to grow.”

Texas teens find dead man's body, steal his jewelry and post it on Snapchat: police

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Two Texas teen girls discovered the remains of a 25-year-old man, stole his jewelry and posted video of the macabre act to Snapchat, police say.The man is believed to have hanged himself in a Medina Valley drainage ditch.The girls, 17 and 16 years old, face felony charges of theft from a human corpse in connection with the Monday morning incident, according to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office.TEXAS’ FORT WORTH SCHOOLS SPENT $2M ON EQUITY CONSULTANTS LAST YEAR AMID EMBRACE OF CRT, SLIDING GRADESHomicide investigators said they had ruled out foul play and believed the man’s death was a suicide. He was found hanging from roadside railing by “what appeared to be a shirt,” according to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies were dispatched to the intersection of Sunday Song and Charismatic Monday morning.
(Photo Illustration/Google Maps)After the girls stumbled onto the body, they called another friend who called 911 at around 8:38 a.m. Monday, according to investigators.The teens told deputies they were walking to a local gas station and saw something in the drainage ditch. They went closer to take a look and found the victim.But on Tuesday, investigators said they learned of a video circulating on social media that showed the scene before deputies arrived.It allegedly showed the 17-year-old taking a gold necklace off the dead man’s chest, according to FOX San Antonio. The video was sent anonymously to Bexar County Sheriff’s deputies.Investigators saw the older teen and said they recognized her as a witness at the scene. According to an arrest affidavit, the friend told them she did it because the necklace “matched her fashion style.”The girls allegedly admitted to stealing the necklace, but investigators said they only kept the charm. Authorities have not recovered the chain.CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPThe girls surrendered the pendant and deputies returned it to the man’s family, according to FOX 29.The girls were charged with theft from a human corpse. The older one was arrested Tuesday night and was released on $2,000 bond as of Wednesday afternoon, jail records show. The 16-year-old was not listed on the county inmate roster.

Nets' Kyrie Irving slams Nike, calls new signature sneaker 'trash'

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Brooklyn Nets superstar Kyrie Irving took a shot at Nike on Wednesday.Irving, who makes $11 million per year in endorsements with the company, shared his thoughts on the new “Kyrie 8” sneakers coming out soon, and he said that Nike plans on releasing the shoe without his approval.CLICK HERE FOR MORE SPORTS COVERAGE ON FOXNEWS.COMIrving called them “trash” and said that he had nothing to do with them.”I have nothing to do with the design or marketing of the upcoming #Kyrie8, IMO these are trash!” Irving wrote on Instagram. “I have absolutely nothing to do with them! Nike plans to release it without my okay regardless of what I say, so I apologize in advance to all of my sneaker heads and true supporters of the #KAI11 brand.”PELICANS’ JAXSON HAYES ARRESTED, HOSPITALIZED FOLLOWING ALLEGED VIOLENT ALTERCATION WITH POLICEPhotos of the new sneakers leaked online and that’s when Irving expressed his feelings in the comments section of the Instagram post. The sneakers aren’t for sale yet, but since Irving made it public how he feels about them, Nike may rethink releasing the newest edition of his signature shoes.CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPIn 54 games last season, Irving finished with 26.9 points, 6.0 assists, and 4.8 rebounds for the Nets. Next year, Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden will look to lead Brooklyn back into the playoffs with hopes of claiming an NBA championship.

Mitch McConnell 'doesn't care' what Pelosi says regarding infrastructure

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Senate minority leader calls the infrastructure package a ‘work in progress’ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joined “Kudlow” to discuss President Biden’s infrastructure proposal and whether it will be a bipartisan effort. The senator also discussed how to get Americans comfortable taking the COVID-19 vaccine. MITCH MCCONNELL: If this bill never comes together on infrastructure what they would do is …

Indiana man charged with murder and arson after allegedly decapitating woman, setting her apartment on fire

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Firefighters were called to the scene of an apartment that caught fire in Clarksville, Indiana on Tuesday morning when they discovered a 67-year-old woman’s decapitated body inside the burning home. Clarksville police responded to the scene and immediately started reviewing surveillance footage and canvassing the area, leading them to 36-year-old Brian Williams, who they arrested less than eight hours later on murder and arson charges. Surveillance footage showed Williams leaving Melody Gambetty’s apartment with suitcases on Monday afternoon, Maj. Joel DeMoss said at a press conference Wednesday, adding that it appears to be a botched robbery. When police tracked Williams to his home, they discovered those suitcases with dismembered body parts inside. TEXAS MAN PLEADS GUILTY IN 1995 COLD CASE MURDER OF CALIFORNIA MOM, AUTHORITIES SAYA probable cause affidavit obtained by Fox-affiliate WDRB said that “located inside one of the victim’s suitcases was a human cranium, with full facial tissue to include hair attached, believed to belong to the victim (deceased).” A small handsaw with blood on the blade was also in the suitcase, as well as a “plastic container with a lid, containing multiple human digits (fingers and toes),” according to the affidavit. 
Brian Williams, 36, was arrested and charged with murder and arson after allegedly decapitating 67-year-old Melody Gambetty and setting her home on fire. 
(Clarksville Police Department)”Yesterday’s crime scene, in my 23 years, is one of the most horrific that we’ve been involved in,” Maj. DeMoss said Wednesday. Gambetty also suffered stab wounds, DeMoss said, but an official cause of death will not be known until an autopsy is performed on Thursday morning. Williams’ defense attorney lobbied in court for him to be released from jail under supervision, but the judge ordered him to be held in the Clark County Jail without bond, WDRB reported. His next court date is Sept. 1. CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPThe homicide occurred in Clarksville, Indiana, a town of about 20,000 people across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky. “Clarksville is a small community. We’re very close here,” Clarksville Police Chief Mark Palmer said Wednesday. “So when you have such a heinous crime such as this… it sends a shock wave throughout the community.”

Alex Rodriguez spotted hitting up same Italian shops hours after Jennifer Lopez: report

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That could’ve been an awkward run-in.Alex Rodriguez and sports reporter Melanie Collins were spotted visiting some upscale pit stops in St. Tropez — just two hours after his ex-fiancée Jennifer Lopez hit the very same shops.In coordinating white outfits, Rodriguez, 46, and Collins went shopping at a Chanel store Tuesday and also picked up ice cream cones at Le Café de Paris during his birthday trip to Europe.The former New York Yankees slugger looked summer-ready in a button-down linen shirt, joggers and aviator sunglasses. His new gal pal, for her part, wore a white midi dress with sandals, sunglasses and a crossbody Chanel purse.ALEX RODRIGUEZ ENJOYS BIRTHDAY GETAWAY IN SAINT-TROPEZ WITH MYSTERY BLONDE, JESSIE JAMES AND ERIC DECKER
Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez both made appearances at the same shops in Italy, but at different times on Tuesday. Rodriguez and Lopez broke off their engagement earlier this year. The ‘Let’s Get Loud’ singer has since moved on with actor Ben Affleck.

UK car output up a third after slump but sector warns of chip shortage

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FILE PHOTO: Imported cars are parked in a storage area at Sheerness port, Sheerness, Britain, October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls July 28, 2021
By Costas Pitas
LONDON (Reuters) – British car production rose by nearly a third in the first half of 2021 from last year’s slump, but remained down on the five-year average as the sector warned that COVID-19 continued to cause staffing and supply problems.
While factories were forced to close as the pandemic hit Britain in March last year, they have operated in 2021 with protective measures in place, although a lack of semiconductor chips has hit volumes.
Some companies have also been affected by staff having to self-isolate for catching COVID-19 or being in contact with someone who had, as cases rose in recent weeks.
Output increased by an annual 31% in the first six months of the year to 498,923 vehicles, helped by a 22% increase in June, industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said, while noting the impact of chip supply problems.
“The global shortage of semiconductors is having an … unpredictable effect,” said SMMT chief Mike Hawes. “All manufacturers are having trouble seeing exactly where their supplies are going to come from and how they are going to distribute them across their numerous plants around the world.”
Production could remain below 1 million this year after a bigger-than-previously-expected hit due to the lack of chips, the SMMT said, citing an independent forecast.
The sector has also been adjusting to a new trading relationship with the EU, its biggest export market.
Announced investment rose 25% to 606 million pounds ($841 million) between January and June, thanks mainly to spending by sportscar maker Lotus (owned by Geely) and design and engineering company Gordon Murray.
Major brands including Nissan and Vauxhall parent Stellantis have this month made fresh commitments, but the sector is pushing for more battery gigafactories.
“We know there are discussions going on,” said Hawes.
($1 = 0.7208 pounds)
(Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by David Holmes)

SoftBank sells 45 million shares in Uber – source

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FILE PHOTO: A screen displays the company logo for Uber Technologies Inc. on the day of it’s IPO at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 10, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo July 28, 2021
(Corrects SoftBank’s ticker symbol in paragraph 1)
By Echo Wang
(Reuters) -SoftBank is selling about 45 million of its shares in Uber Technologies Inc, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.
Uber shares were down 4.6% at $44 in extended trading.
Any buyer will have a 30-day lockup period, the source said.
The person added that the Japanese investment giant’s motive was unrelated to the performance of Didi Global and Alibaba and SoftBank just thought it was a good time to cash out partially on its Uber stake and take some profit.
CNBC had first reported the sale, saying it was to cover for losses seen in its investment in Didi and Alibaba.
SoftBank’s stake in Uber is now down to less than 100 million shares, CNBC added, citing one source.
(Reporting by Rithika Krishna in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

‘Better Call Saul’ star Bob Odenkirk hospitalized after ‘heart-related incident’

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FILE PHOTO: 35th Film Independent Spirit Awards – Arrivals – Santa Monica, California, U.S., February 8, 2020 – Bob Odenkirk. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo July 28, 2021
By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -U.S. screen actor Bob Odenkirk remained hospitalized in New Mexico on Wednesday with an unspecified heart ailment after falling ill during production of his television show “Better Call Saul,” according to publicists and his former “Breaking Bad” co-star, Bryan Cranston.
Odenkirk, 58, collapsed on the New Mexico set of the darkly humorous AMC crime drama, which was shooting its sixth and final 13-episode season, and was taken to a nearby hospital, two sources close to the actor confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday night, on condition of anonymity.
Representatives for the actor issued a brief statement on Wednesday saying the performer was listed in stable condition “after experiencing a heart-related incident.”
“He and his family would like to express gratitude for the incredible doctors and nurses looking after him, as well as his cast, crew and producers who have stayed by his side,” the statement said.
“Better Call Saul” is a prequel spinoff of the hit AMC crime drama “Breaking Bad,” which introduced Odenkirk as Saul Goodman, the shrewd, sharp-witted criminal defense lawyer for that show’s protagonist, high school teacher-turned-methamphetamine chemist Walter White, played by Cranston.
In an Instagram post on Wednesday, Cranston said he was “anxious all morning” after waking up to news of Odenkirk’s collapse.
“He is in the hospital in Albuquerque and receiving the medical attention he needs,” Cranston wrote. “Please take a moment in your day today to think about him and send positive thoughts and prayers his way.”
Another friend and former co-star, David Cross, who appeared with Odenkirk in the 1990s HBO sketch comedy series “Mr. Show with Bob and David,” tweeted, “Bob is one of the strongest people I know both physically and spiritually.”
Cross added: “He WILL get through this.”
Odenkirk’s publicists and management team declined to comment on the situation. AMC and Sony Pictures Television, which produces “Better Call Saul,” did not immediately respond to requests for a statement.
“Better Call Saul” traces the transformation of Odenkirk’s character from a onetime two-bit scam artist and struggling public defender named Jimmy McGill into the morally conflicted attorney Saul Goodman, who ultimately makes a career representing drug traffickers and underworld figures.
The show has earned Odenkirk four Primetime Emmy Award nominations. His motion picture credits include supporting roles in such films as “Nebraska,” “The Post” and “Little Women.” More recently he starred in the big-screen action thriller “Nobody.”
(Reporting by Steve Gorman; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Aurora Ellis)

Pentagon chief to nudge ties with Vietnam as human rights concerns linger

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin answers reporters questions at the Pentagon as the U.S. military nears the formal end of its mission in Afghanistan in Arlington, Virginia, U.S. July 21, 2021. REUTERS/Ken Cedeno/File Photo July 28, 2021
By Idrees Ali
HANOI (Reuters) -U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will on Thursday look to nudge forward security ties with Vietnam that have been slowly deepening as both countries watch China’s activities in the South China Sea with growing alarm.
Despite growing military relations, more than four decades after the Vietnam War ended in 1975, President Joe Biden’s administration has said there are limits to the relationship until Hanoi makes progress on human rights.
Vietnam has emerged as the most vocal opponent of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and has received U.S. military hardware, including coastguard cutters.
“(Vietnam) wants to know that the U.S. is going to remain engaged militarily, it’s going to continue its presence in the South China Sea,” said Greg Poling, with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
On Wednesday, a U.S. Navy warship carried out a transit through the Taiwan Strait. While such operations are routine, they usually anger Beijing.
Lieutenant General Vu Chien Thang, director of the Defense Ministry’s Foreign Relations Department, said the coronavirus and measures to “enhance maritime law enforcement capability” would be discussed.
A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they would also sign a “memorandum of understanding” for Harvard and Texas Tech University to create a database that would help Vietnamese search for those missing from the war.
On Sunday, the United States shipped 3 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Vietnam, raising the amount given by the United States, via the global COVAX vaccine scheme, to 5 million doses.
Austin will meet his counterpart along with Vietnam’s president and prime minister.
Poling said there was a limit to how fast and far the Vietnamese were comfortable with deepening ties.
Experts say there are lingering concerns in Vietnam about Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact in 2017.
There are also limits to how far the United States is willing to deepen relations before Vietnam improves its human rights record.
Vietnam has undergone sweeping economic reforms and social change in recent decades, but the ruling Communist Party retains a tight grip over media and tolerates little dissent.
In Singapore on Tuesday, Austin said the United States would always lead with its values.
“We will discuss those values with our friends and allies everywhere we go and we don’t make any bones about that,” Austin said.
This month, Marc Knapper, Biden’s nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to Vietnam vowed to boost security ties but said they could only reach their full potential if Hanoi made significant progress on human rights.
(Reporting by Idrees AliEditing by Robert Birsel and Lincoln Feast.)

Former FDA commissioner: New CDC mask guidance will likely have 'negligible impact' on curbing Delta variant

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Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb warned Wednesday that the latest CDC mask reversal could have a “negligible impact” on the spread of the Delta variant, telling CNBC that “we’re not going to get enough bang for our buck” by instructing those who have already received the COVID-19 vaccine to continue to mask up indoors.The updated CDC guidance urges vaccinated people to wear masks in indoor public settings as part of a nationwide effort to curb the Delta variant as it rears its head in cities across the U.S. BIDEN ADMINISTRATION SLAMMED OVER MASKS, VACCINE REVERSALWhile Gottlieb believes the recent spike in positive cases will likely dissipate in the coming weeks, he worries the CDC’s guidance will have a counterproductive impact by further dissuading those already on the fence about the vaccine. Gottlieb did however emphasize that vaccinated people “need to be mindful” that they are still at risk of transmitting the virus, he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”Instead, he argued, the guidance should be focused on encouraging symptomatic individuals to get tested and take necessary safety precautions, he explained. “Much more prudent guidance to people would be that if you are vaccinated in a high prevalence area, in contact with [the] virus, you think you might have the virus because you have mild symptoms, be prudent, get tested, maybe wear a mask especially if you are around a vulnerable person,” he said.There is still significant pushback against universal masking, and not all jurisdictions are following the CDC’s suit. The St. Louis County Council voted to end its recently implemented mask mandate Tuesday night, according to FOX 2. County Executive Sam Page, however, says the mandate is still in effect despite the vote. And the St. Louis city mask mandate, FOX 2 reported, is still in effect. CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPEven some Democratic governors who are known for their aggressive coronavirus mitigation measures are now slow to follow the CDC with universal masking. “Whether or not that should then translate to general guidance for the entire population, I don’t think that that’s the case,” Gottlieb said. “I don’t think we’re going to get enough bang for our buck by telling vaccinated people that they have to wear masks at all times to make it worth our while.”

Inside Princess Diana's niece Lady Kitty Spencer's wedding festivities: From a 'boozy hen party' and more

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Princess Diana’s niece Lady Kitty Spencer and her new husband Michael Lewis posed for a photo on Sunday, the day after the couple’s wedding.Lady Spencer wore a cream lace dress with flowers and bows on it while Lewis paired a white button-down top with khaki pants. The couple posed during a photoshoot in Villa Aurelia park in Rome. Spencer, 30, and Lewis, 60, got married Saturday during a lavish black-tie ceremony at Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati.Spencer and Lewis’ wedding ceremony wasn’t the only party the couple threw leading up to the wedding, according to the Daily Mail.PRINCESS DIANA’S NIECE LADY KITTY SPENCER SAYS ‘I DO’ TO MICHAEL LEWIS IN ITALY
Newly married Princess Diana’s niece Lady Kitty Spencer and her husband Michael Lewis pictured posing for a photo shoot at Villa Aurelia park in Rome on the day after their big wedding a lavish ceremony held at Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati. 
(BACKGRID)Lady Spencer had her first wedding-related party on July 4 as she invited her girlfriends to a “boozy hen party,” or what one would call a Bachelorette party, the outlet reported. The event is held for a woman who is about to be off the dating market.CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT NEWSLETTERLady Spencer and her group of girls enjoyed a sidecar tour near Florence and attended a winery tour, Daily Mail reported. The weekend before the wedding, Spencer reportedly returned to Florence and celebrated her upcoming nuptials to Lewis with her girlfriends again. The group celebrated with a night on the town while wearing black dresses and colorful wigs, according to the outlet. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE FOX NEWS APPPrior to marrying Spencer, the South African furniture magnate was married to his first wife Leola. The ex-couple shares three adult children.

Marlins trade OF Marte to A's and RHP García to Astros

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Buried in last place in the NL East, the Miami Marlins made an impact on the AL West race with two trades Wednesday.Miami sent right-handed reliever Yimi García to the Houston Astros, and traded outfielder Starling Marte to the Oakland Athletics.The Astros sent outfielder Bryan De La Cruz and right-hander Austin Pruitt to Miami. First-place Houston began the day with a six-game lead over Oakland in the AL West.CLICK HERE FOR MORE SPORTS COVERAGE ON FOXNEWS.COMOakland gave up left-hander Jesús Luzardo for Marte. The Marlins will cover nearly all of Marte’s remaining contract for 2021, and he becomes a free agent after this season.”We felt like Starling was frankly the best position player that was out there on the market,” A’s general manager David Forst said before his team’s game in San Diego. “We’ve always said when the team performs and puts itself in a playoff position, it’s on us to do whatever we can to try and help them.”The A’s also acquired left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin this week from the Chicago Cubs.”We’ve added two really solid pieces to help this team over the next two months,” Forst said.Marte, 32, is batting .306 with an .859 OPS and 22 stolen bases in 25 attempts. It’s the third time in 18 months that Marte has been traded, and he joins an outfield that also includes Ramón Laureano and Mark Canha.The Marlins made the deal after they were unable to reach an agreement with Marte on a contract extension.”New horizons open, and I will continue to give my best wherever I go,” Marte tweeted.García became a closer this season and is 3-7 with a 3.47 ERA and 15 saves in 18 chances.Luzardo is 2-4 with a 6.87 ERA in 13 games, including six starts. He was sidelined for four weeks in May after he broke the pinkie on his pitching hand when he thumped a table while playing a video game.CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPLuzardo and A.J. Puk were prized left-handed prospects in Oakland’s organization.”We’ve been an organization that’s built around pitching,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said before his team’s game in Baltimore. “To get a guy like that back at a trade deadline with huge potential is obviously a nice deal for us.”De La Cruz is hitting .324 with 12 home runs and 50 RBIs in 66 games for Triple-A Sugar Land, Pruitt is 12-9 with a 4.89 ERA in 69 games with the Astros and Tampa Bay Rays since 2017.

Geraldo Threatens to Kick Fox Co-Host ‘in the Ass’ to Protect His Grandkids

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For the second day in a row on Wednesday, Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera passionately advocated for vaccine mandates while labeling Americans who are refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as “selfish” and “arrogant.”This time around, however, he also threatened to kick his co-host Greg Gutfeld “in the ass” if he came into his grandchildrens’ home without first being vaccinated.During Wednesday’s broadcast of Fox News panel show The Five, the hosts largely revisited their off-the-rails argument from the previous day, which revolved around the CDC reversing course and recommending indoor mask usage for vaccinated people in high-transmission areas.Besides grumbling about the CDC’s revised guidelines, which were enacted due to a surge in hospitalizations and cases among the unvaccinated, the show’s conservative panelists also took issue with the Biden administration endorsing vaccine passports for businesses and public places. (Ironically, Fox News itself has quietly implemented its own vaccine passport system for its employees.)After co-host Katie Pavlich claimed the CDC had “undermined their entire argument” for vaccine passports with its latest mask guidelines, Rivera shot back that Pavlich’s remarks were “baloney.”“I think less of people who are not vaccinated. I think it’s an arrogant, selfish, reckless act. I have five grandchildren, all under the age of 12, who are susceptible to someone sneezing on them,” he exclaimed, noting his grandkids are all too young to be vaccinated at this point.“I think it is absolutely so selfish, that it is appalling,” Rivera continued. “Sometimes the government has to tell, not ask. The government has to tell right now. I want people to have to show, when I go to the bar, I want to know everybody is vaccinated. Or have the test. Here is my negative test, here it is, and every week it has to be updated.”Noting that the government has mandated other vaccines, Rivera dismissed his colleagues’ arguments that vaccine mandates and passports were an affront to personal freedom by calling their position “caveman stuff.”After co-host Jesse Watters said that Rivera was “politicizing” the issue and his approach was “not a good way to get people vaccinated,” Gutfeld chimed in and insisted that Rivera didn’t want to “persuade anybody” to get the jab.“Because nothing you said is persuasive. When you call people names — and I know this for my own history—it doesn’t persuade anybody,” the so-called comedian added.“You know what? Too bad,” Rivera fired back. “If you come into my grandchildren’s house and you are not vaccinated, I’m going to kick you in the ass!”Gutfeld, briefly taken aback, responded: “It’s your house. Don’t let them in!”The two would go back and forth a bit more, with Gutfeld arguing that most unvaccinated Americans have legitimate reasons for refusing the shots and Rivera accusing his co-host of “presenting the message of uncertainty” about vaccines. (Recent polling finds that Fox News viewers are far less likely to get vaccinated than the public at large.)“When you sit here and try to crap on Americans because it makes you feel good, ‘You’re not going to come to my house!’ We don’t want to go to your house! We want to live our lives,” Gutfeld shouted at the end.“I’m not going to invite you,” Rivera retorted.

Celebrity Sommelier Has Been Moonlighting as an Arsonist: FDNY

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A New York City celebrity sommelier has been arrested after allegedly setting several outdoor dining structures ablaze on at least three occasions this year.Caleb Ganzer, 35, has been charged with a slew of crimes, including third-degree arson, third-degree criminal mischief, and second-degree reckless endangerment for setting fires all within a ten-block radius of lower Manhattan in January, June, and July, the New York City Fire Department told The Daily Beast. All the fires—which did not result in any injuries—were also all set within a few blocks of Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, a SoHo Parisian hotspot where Ganzer is currently the wine and managing director.“We as the company are aware of the incident, and Mr. Ganzer is on a leave of absence,” Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “If there are any other follow-up questions at this point, we have no further comment.”Ganzer’s sister declined to comment on the arrest, telling The Daily Beast she “had no idea” about the allegations before hanging up. Other members of Ganzer’s family, colleagues, and the sommelier himself did not immediately respond for comment.According to Starchefs.com, the 2017 Food & Wine Sommelier of the Year recipient got his start in hospitality working in a restaurant while studying at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While studying abroad in Paris his senior year, Ganzer told the outlet he began learning about wine—which spurred a passion that prompted him to move to New York City after graduation.Ganzer has worked as a sommelier at several major New York City hotspots, including Eleven Madison Park and Boulud. In 2016, however, Ganzer told the outlet he jumped at the chance to take over the New York outpost of Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels. That same year, he was awarded the “Best New Sommelier of 2016” award from Wine & Spirit Magazine.Two years later, Ganzer even launched VKNOW, an app to help the public learn about wine. During the pandemic, Ganzer also became the chief marketing officer of Berkshires Direct Shop, a local vegetable delivery service.Last January, Ganzer made local headlines after registering with the Federal Election Commission to be a write-in candidate in the race for President of the United States. “It’s actually surprisingly easy, you just have to fill something out online,” Ganzer told WCBS 880. “I’ve been thinking about this ever since I was in third grade.”But authorities allege that since New York City has re-opened, Ganzer has been doing much more than trying to help the people of New York—and his wine bar.Authorities say Ganzer was originally arrested for a July 13 fire, which was set at around 2:55 a.m. in the outdoor dining structure owned by Prince Street Pizza in lower Manhattan.Surveillance footage of the incident obtained by The Daily Beast shows a man wearing shorts, a long jacket, and a backpack walking up to the wooden pavilion of the beloved pizza establishment and setting it on fire with what appears to be a small lighter. He then walks to the other side of the structure and lights it on fire again before simply walking away, according to the video.Photographs of the structure after the fire show the wood heavily charred, and its plexiglass on the back wall bent from the flame.After a thorough investigation, FDNY said marshals established the fire set at Prince Street Pizza revealed the same pattern as the two blazes they put out earlier this year. Those incidents include a Jan. 8 fire that was set in the outside dining structure owned by Forsythia Restaurant, and a trash fire set on June 26 near SoHo.Ganzer’s case will be prosecuted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which declined to comment on the case until he is arraigned in criminal court.“Every act of arson has the potential to spread rapidly, endangering the lives of New Yorkers and FDNY members,” Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said in a statement. “Thankfully in these incidents, there were no injuries and the suspect has been apprehended before another fire could be set.”

Baseball-Nationals game postponed due to COVID-19 issues

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FILE PHOTO: Jul 27, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; General view of Citizens Bank Park during the fifth inning of a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Washington Nationals. /Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo July 28, 2021
(Reuters) – The Washington Nationals’ game against the host Philadelphia Phillies, originally scheduled to be played on Wednesday, has been postponed to allow for further COVID-19 testing involving members of the Nationals team, Major League Baseball said.
The game will be made up as part of a doubleheader that will be played on Thursday starting at 12:05 p.m. ET (1605 GMT), MLB said in a news release.
The postponement comes a day after Nationals All-Star shortstop Trea Turner tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to leave Washington’s game in Philadelphia during the first inning on Tuesday.
According to an ESPN report that cited multiple sources, several Nationals players and coaches tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.
The Nationals have already dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak this year that forced them to launch their 2021 regular season five days after originally scheduled.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)

Activision Blizzard Workers Walk Out Over ‘Frat Boy’ Culture

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They came bearing signs befitting an outraged video game contingent: “Nerf Male Privilege” and “Fight Bad Guys In Game; Fight Bad Guys [In Real Life].”On Wednesday, workers at Activision Blizzard staged a virtual and in-person walkout in protest of the company’s culture and its handling of a harassment and gender discrimination suit filed by the State of California last week.The lawsuit alleged that Activision Blizzard “fostered a pervasive ‘frat boy’ workplace,” including “blatant sexual harassment without repercussions.” It was a striking rebuke of one of the video game industry’s most powerful players.Then the company made things much worse. Kelvin Liu, the firm’s director of communications, told CNN that the allegations were “distorted” and in some cases outright false. Meanwhile, Frances Towsnend, Activision Blizzard’s executive vice president for corporate affairs, sent a note to employees characterizing the lawsuit as “​​truly meritless and irresponsible.” That didn’t sit well with the rank and file, some of whom say they had experienced inappropriate conduct themselves. “The statements being made do not reflect the [feelings] of the employees,” a current worker told The Daily Beast, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Organizers planned the walkout at headquarters in Santa Monica, and more than 3,000 workers have signed a letter calling Townsend’s comments “abhorrent.”In response to the uproar, Activision Blizzard CEO Robert Kotick sent a message to staff on Tuesday, acknowledging that the original response was “quite frankly, tone deaf.”“I have asked the law firm WilmerHale to conduct a review of our policies and procedures,” he wrote in the letter, which was previously published by Polygon. CEO Robert Kotick conceded the company’s response to the lawsuit was “quite frankly, tone deaf.”Drew Angerer/Getty In a statement to The Daily Beast, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson added, “We are fully committed to fostering a safe, inclusive and rewarding environment for all of our employees around the world. We support their right to express their opinions and concerns in a safe and respectful manner, without fear of retaliation.”California’s lawsuit outlined a number of serious allegations. Women were allegedly promoted more slowly than their male counterparts but were fired more quickly. Men openly boasted about their sexual exploits, joked about rape, and made unwanted sexual advances. Employees were groped at company events.In one especially horrifying anecdote, a female staffer allegedly died by suicide after her supervisor brought butt plugs and lubricant on a work trip.Cher Scarlett, who worked at Blizzard for a year ending in 2016, told The Daily Beast that her first interaction with the company took place in 2013, when she applied to be a front-end developer with six years of experience. “I was told by the person who interviewed me that I was not really a software engineer, that I was more of a designer,” she says.When she eventually joined the company, she says she experienced harassment, including a constant stream of crude jokes. “On more than one occasion, I heard people talking about selling women for sex,” she says. “HR wasn’t really a safe place for people to go.”“Such conduct is abhorrent and will not be tolerated,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in response to the allegations. “We appreciate the courage of any current or former employee in coming forward and will fully investigate any such claims brought to our attention.” More than 3,000 Activision Blizzard workers have signed a letter blasting the company.David McNew/AFP via Getty Workers at Activision Blizzard have been known to vocalize their discontent before. In 2019 a group of employees walked out after the company banned a Hong Kong-based professional gamer for saying “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.” The company does significant business in mainland China. Amid blowback, Activision Blizzard later reduced the gamer’s punishment.Kotick, now in his late fifties, first acquired a stake in Activision in 1990, when the company was on the brink of bankruptcy. The company merged with Vivendi Games in 2008, becoming Activision Blizzard in the process. Kotick’s stake in the combined entity is now worth over $250 million.Despite the current blowback, which has lightly dented Activision Blizzard’s stock, shares rose close to 1 percent on Wednesday. Either way, Kotick will be fine. Last year his total compensation, including stock awards, tallied $154 million.

Dell stops some U.S. gaming PC shipments over new efficiency rules

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FILE PHOTO: A logo of Dell Technologies is seen at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo July 28, 2021
(Reuters) – PC maker Dell Technologies Inc said it has stopped shipping some versions of its powerful gaming systems to California and five other states because the products do not meet new energy efficiency standards.
In a statement sent to Reuters late on Tuesday, Dell said the regulations affect “select configurations” of its Alienware Aurora R10 and R12 gaming PCs. Gaming PCs made by Dell and others use powerful chips for cutting-edge graphics in video games. Those components mean gaming systems typically consume far more electricity than an average computer.
The Alienware Aurora Ryzen Edition R10 gaming desktop, which is among the affected products, costs $1,819.99, according to Dell’s website.
California’s toughened efficiency regulations for computers went into effect on July 1. The state has said the new standards will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and also will lower electricity bills for consumers.
Residential computers and computer monitors account for up to 2.9 percent of the electricity consumption in the most populous U.S. state, according to a California report.
In addition to California, Dell will no longer ship the products to customers in Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont and Washington state.
Dell said it will have new models and configurations that “will meet or exceed these regulations, in line with our long-term focus to address energy and emissions.”
The California Energy Commission, which wrote the new standards, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. Justice Dept. warns states to tread carefully in auditing elections

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland attends a news conference to announce that the Justice Department will file a lawsuit challenging a Georgia election law that imposes new limits on voting, at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 25, 2021. REUTERS/Ken Cedeno/File Photo July 28, 2021
(Removes incorrect reference in paragraph 8 to Biden winning Florida)
By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday issued legal guidance aimed at curbing voting rights abuses in U.S. states such as Arizona, where Republican officials launched a contentious audit in a failed bid to reverse former President Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss.
In the guidance, the U.S. Justice Department raises concerns about the “unusual second round of examinations” into 2020 election results cropping up in various states even though none of the prior state recounts had “produced evidence of either wrongdoing or mistakes that casts any doubt on the outcome of the national election results.”
Trump has falsely said the election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud, and his Republican allies sought on this basis to undo his losses to Biden in key states. Numerous states have passed new Republican-backed voting restrictions in the aftermath of Trump’s false claims.
The Justice Department also issued guidance laying out the federal voting rights laws governing elections in a direct response to states such as Georgia that have, among other restrictions, limited early voting and voting by mail.
“I think the reason we’re issuing this as guidance is to tell jurisdictions generally that we are concerned that if they’re going to conduct these audits … they have to comply with federal law,” a Justice Department official told reporters on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. “This document sets down a marker.”
The legal guidance fulfills a pledge that https://www.reuters.com/legal/government/us-attorney-general-vows-aggressively-defend-voting-rights-2021-06-11 Attorney General Merrick Garland made in June when he vowed to aggressively enforce voting rights laws. Following that speech, the department sued Georgia, accusing the state of unlawfully violating the rights of Black voters with its new voting restrictions https://www.reuters.com/legal/government/us-sue-georgia-over-restrictive-new-state-voting-law-source-2021-06-25.
In May, Arizona halted plans to knock on voters’ doors https://www.reuters.com/business/legal/auditors-halt-plans-knock-arizona-voters-doors-amid-justice-department-scrutiny-2021-05-10 as part of the audit after a top official in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division warned that canvassing could run afoul of federal laws banning voter intimidation.
Trump allies in Pennsylvania https://www.reuters.com/world/us/trump-ally-pennsylvania-pushes-arizona-style-audit-2020-election-2021-07-07 and Florida have recently said they are hoping to launch audits similar to Arizona’s.
The official who spoke to reporters on Wednesday said the Justice Department has not sent out any more letters since the Arizona one but has “spoken to people in various jurisdictions about their concerns with what’s being proposed in those jurisdictions.”
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Will Dunham)

Tunisian president replaces head of television station

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FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Kais Saied takes the oath of office in Tunis, Tunisia, October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi/File Photo July 28, 2021
TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisian President Kais Saied removed the head of the national television station, Mohamed al-Dahach, on Wednesday and appointed a temporary replacement, his office said, after calls to protect free speech.
Saied on Sunday invoked emergency powers to seize control of government, remove the prime minister and freeze Parliament in a move his foes have called a coup.
He removed Dahach after an incident on Wednesday afternoon when officials from the journalists’ syndicate and human rights league said they were forbidden entry to the station even though they had been invited to appear on a show.
Amira Mohammed, the deputy head of the journalists’ syndicate, said Dahach had told her an army commander had ordered him not to allow guests into the building. The army had surrounded the television station on Sunday.
Both Mohammed and the human rights official, Basem Trifi, later managed to appear on the show. An adviser to Saied and an army spokesman were also interviewed on the programme and both denied that any order had been given to stop guests entering.
Some Tunisian journalists called on social media for Dahach to be fired.
On Monday police raided the Al Jazeera news bureau in Tunis, prompting the U.S. State Department to say it was troubled by the move and urge “scrupulous respect” for freedom of press.
On Wednesday, a New York Times reporter said she had been detained for two hours in Tunis but was then released and allowed to continue working.
Since its 2011 revolution that introduced democracy, Tunisia has enjoyed far greater press freedoms than any of its neighbours. State news agency TAP regularly covers anti-government protests and statements critical of the authorities.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara; writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)

Yelling, Throwing, Tweeting: The Day Masks Returned to Congress

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Hours into the return of a face mask requirement in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) threw a mask at a Democratic staffer, a Democrat and a Republican got in several shouting matches about the Republican’s vaccination status off the House floor, and the Speaker of the House called her GOP counterpart a “moron” for criticizing the mask guidance.And that was all before lunch.Later on in the day, Democrats continued to stoke the fire by lobbing social media bombs at their mask-resistant GOP colleagues. “Tired of their lame asses,” tweeted Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI).Republicans, meanwhile, grilled the Capitol’s top physician over why he advised a return to the masking requirement. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) came to his own conclusion: that the decision was motivated by Democrats’ desire to “keep you living in fear with your mask, even if you’ve been vaccinated.” “

Elizabeth Warren backs Newsom in recall fight, accuses 'Trump Republicans' of 'coming to grab power'

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom received the backing of Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a fiery ad released Wednesday, as the top progressive accused “Trump Republicans” of “coming to grab power” in the Golden State.The Massachusetts Democrat tied the recall election to alleged Republican attacks on “the right to vote” as well as challenges to election results.  CAITLYN JENNER TO EMBARK ON STATEWIDE BUS TOUR NEXT MONTH IN BID FOR CALIFORNIA GOVERNORSHIP”We’ve seen Trump Republicans across the country attacking election results and the right to vote,” Warren said in the 30-second clip. “Abusing the recall process and costing the taxpayers millions.”The ad hit Californian airwaves just weeks ahead of when voters can expect to receive mail-in ballots for the Sept. 14 election. Newsom faces over 40 contenders vying to oust him from office following his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Big names like Olympic gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, and talk radio host Larry Elder are just a few of the more than 20 Republican candidates running against Newsom.Another eight Democrats, one Libertarian, nine independents, and two Green Party members have also made it on the official ballot.Warren had already thrown her weight behind Newsom in condemning the recall election on social media. But her Wednesday ad highlights the national attention that top Democrats are paying to the gubernatorial race. Though more than 46% of Californian voters are registered as Democrats – which is nearly double the number of registered Republican voters – Newsom could still face a tough election. CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR NEWSOM BLAMES CONSERVATIVE MEDIA FOR ‘THIS DAMN RECALL’ ELECTION AGAINST HIMA recent poll by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies found that 47% of Californian voters support removing Newsom from office, while 50% said they oppose the move.The poll points to what could be a closer race than Democrats originally believed possible in the deep blue state. Newsom’s campaign appears to have taken notice of the tight polling and reached out to supporters in a Wednesday email, pleading for high voter turnout. “Let us be very direct and very honest: if we do not have the resources we need to turn out our voters, we could lose this recall,” read the email, first reported by Politico. Warren addressed voting in her ad and explained that Californians will receive a mail-in ballot asking them to vote for or against the recall election of Newsom. “Vote ‘no’ to protect California and our democracy,” Warren told ad viewers. “Stop the Republican recall.”CLICK HERE FOR THE FOX NEWS APPVoters will be asked two questions on their September ballot. The first, whether or not Newsom should be recalled, and second, who should replace him. If the majority votes not to recall Newsom, he will remain in office. 

Web Welfare in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Package

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(Philippe Wojazer / Reuters)

At long last, we have some details of the bipartisan infrastructure deal, courtesy of Politico. Congress will be expected to vote on a massive bill without reading it, and we know what that leads to: unintentionally creating new programs they didn’t know were there.
On July 15, I wrote about how Congress used a fake emergency to create web welfare. It allocated $3.2 billion in the second COVID-relief bill passed right after Christmas in 2020 to the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program (EBBP). That program provides up to $50 per month to qualifying households for broadband service.

Well, now it looks like it’s just going to be a permanent welfare program.
The EBBP was premised on the “emergency” of people getting their Internet cut off because they were unemployed because of the pandemic and couldn’t pay their bills. That’s a legitimate concern, especially with many students forced into online schooling. But the FCC had already averted that emergency with existing broadband programs for low-income households, public–private partnerships, and extraordinary regulatory actions at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. From March 12 to May 1 of 2020, a time when unemployment peaked at around 23 million people, the FCC only received 498 complaints about Internet service being cut off. But in December 2020, well after the unemployment rate had fallen back to single digits and consumer spending had rebounded, Congress decided there was a broadband emergency and created the EBBP.

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The EBBP only took effect in May of this year, well after the worst of the pandemic’s economic effects, because it took the FCC months to implement Congress’s wishes from December 2020. It was scheduled to last until the $3.2 billion was spent, which probably would have taken around a year.
But now it is being extended and renamed. From the broadband section of the bipartisan infrastructure deal details:
This provision would devote additional funds to the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program. . . . This program is being renamed the Low-Income Broadband Benefit and the subsidy will be provided at a lower rate (down to $30 from an original $50 per month), to extend its longevity across the 5-year budget window.
The reduction from $50 per month to $30 per month doesn’t mean much. Many low-income broadband plans cost less than $30 per month (AT&T, for example, advertises its own as $10 per month or less), so it amounts to the federal government paying millions of people’s Internet bills.
Nearly 4 million households were enrolled in the EBBP as of July 25. With the program no longer related to the pandemic, we can expect that number to continue to grow. And while the details don’t say how much money has been allocated to the program, if it’s going to last “across the 5-year budget window,” it will be politically impossible to take away from beneficiaries when funding expires and almost certainly will be renewed in perpetuity.
Hardly anyone noticed this program in the Christmas tree bill Congress passed in December 2020. Now it’s on track to become a permanent addition to the welfare state. This is how omnibus-based government works.

Randal Grichuk, Blue Jays top Red Sox to open twin bill

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Jul 28, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (13) and center fielder George Springer (4) and right fielder Randal Grichuk (15) celebrate after defeating the Boston Red Sox in the seventh inning of a double header at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports July 28, 2021
Randal Grichuk hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the fourth inning and drove in three runs as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the host Boston Red Sox 4-1 in seven innings in the first of a day-night doubleheader on Wednesday afternoon.
George Springer also hit a solo home run for Toronto, which lost 5-4 in the series opener Monday. The game was a makeup of Tuesday’s scheduled contest that was postponed due to inclement weather.
Blue Jays starter Robbie Ray (9-5) tossed six innings of one-run ball with five hits, three walks and eight strikeouts. Jordan Romano pitched a scoreless seventh inning with one strikeout to pick up his eighth save of the season.
J.D. Martinez drove in the only run of the game for the Red Sox. Boston starter Garrett Richards (6-6) allowed four runs on eight hits with one walk and two strikeouts over four innings to earn the loss.
Martinez grounded out to shortstop to drive in the game’s first run for Boston in the first inning. Enrique Hernandez opened the inning with a walk and reached third on Rafael Devers’ single before Martinez recorded his RBI.
Bo Bichette walked to lead off the second inning and, with two outs, Grichuk tied the game at 1-1 with an infield single to Richards to allow Bichette to score.
Grichuk then clocked his 19th home run of the season in the fourth to put the Blue Jays ahead for good at 3-1. Springer’s solo shot for his ninth homer of the season in the fifth added an insurance run.
Boston right-hander Tanner Houck (0-2, 2.50 ERA) opposes Toronto left-hander Steven Matz (8-5, 4.34 ERA) in the second game of the day-night twin bill at 7:10 p.m. ET. The four-game series at Fenway Park concludes Thursday.
-Field Level Media

Biden raises eyebrows with claim he 'used to drive' 18-wheeler truck

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Forty-eight-year political veteran President Biden raised eyebrows on Wednesday when he claimed to have driven an 18-wheeler truck — a claim the White House struggled to defend.Biden was visiting a Mack Truck facility in Pennsylvania when he made the claim to have driven the massive trucks before, which require a special kind of license.”I used to drive an 18-wheeler, man,” Biden said on Wednesday in a video posted to Twitter. “I got to.”BIDEN HECKLED AT TERRY MCAULIFFE RALLY IN VIRGINIA: ‘IT’S NOT A TRUMP RALLY, LET HIM HOLLER’There is scant evidence that Biden has ever driven an 18-wheeler truck.When asked if the president had ever driven such a truck, a White House spokesperson pointed to a December 1973 article from the Wilmington Evening Journal that showed Biden rode in an 18-wheeler on a 536-mile haul to Ohio.Fox News pressed the spokesperson about the president’s claim – noting that riding in a truck is not the same as driving one – at which point the president’s spokesperson pointed to a United Federation of Teachers post that touched on Biden driving a school bus in the past as a summer job.CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPThe majority of school buses, on average, “have two axles, with the bigger models having two wheels on the front axle and four wheels on the dual axle, for a total of six wheels,” according to SchoolBusFleet.com.Fox News pressed again about the president’s claim, pointing out that a school bus is not the same as an 18-wheeler truck, but did not receive a response by publishing time.

‘Masking Madness from the CDC’

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President Joe Biden participates in a town hall-style interview in Cincinnati, Ohio, July 21, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

This week on The Editors, Rich, Charlie, and Jim discuss the absurd new masking guidance from the CDC, Biden’s lame CNN town hall, and a Senate committee’s appalling vote concerning women and the draft. Listen below, or subscribe to this show on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, or Spotify.
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PM urges world leaders to dig deep to boost children's education across globe

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Boris Johnson is urging world leaders to dip into their pockets to boost children’s education across the globe and help avoid a “legacy of wasted talent” as a result of the coronavirus crisis.The prime minister will host a summit in London on Thursday with the aim of fundraising among governments, business and charities for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).
The GPE aims to raise $5bn (£3.6bn) over the next five years in order to get 175 million more children into education around the world.

Image:
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta will close Thursday’s summit

Ahead of the Summit, Mr Johnson said: “We have a fight on our hands to ensure COVID-19 does not scupper the life chances of millions of children, leaving a lasting legacy of wasted talent.”Too many children around the world – girls in particular – were already out of school before the pandemic.

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“Enabling them to learn and reach their full potential is the single greatest thing we can do to recover from this crisis and build better, greener and fairer societies.
“Today I am urging governments, businesses and philanthropists to invest in the future by fully funding the transformative work of the Global Partnership for Education.”

More on Boris Johnson

Girls are feared to be particularly at risk of never returning to school once they have left, with 132 million girls around the world already estimated to be out of school even before the impact of the COVID pandemic.Thursday’s summit is being jointly hosted with Kenya and will be opened by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and his Kenyan counterpart, Raychelle Omamo.The prime minister and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who held bilateral talks at Chequers on Wednesday, will close the summit, along with Australia’s former prime minister Julia Gillard, who is the GPE’s chair.World leaders, businesses, UN agencies, charities and youth leaders will join the summit both virtually and in person.The UK last month pledged £430m to the GPE at the G7 Summit in Cornwall.

Tunisian president bashes ‘wrong choices’ on economy

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FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Kais Saied takes the oath of office in Tunis, Tunisia, October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi/File Photo July 28, 2021
TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisian President Kais Saied said on Wednesday that “wrong economic choices” had caused major financial problems in his first comments on the economy since using emergency powers to seize control of government late on Sunday.
In a meeting with the head of the UTICA business union shown in a video distributed by the presidency, Saied indicated a coming crackdown on corruption cases but said there was “no intention to harm or abuse” business people.
He said 460 people had stolen 13.5 billion dinars ($4.8bln) from Tunisia and offered a “penal settlement” if they returned the money.
“I propose a penal reconciliation with businessmen involved in looting the people’s money and tax evasion in exchange for their commitment to projects … instead of being prosecuted and imprisoned,” said Saied, a former law professor who came to office in 2019 campaigning against corruption and an entrenched political elite.
Saied did not elaborate on his proposal.
When he seized government powers on Sunday, a move denounced by opponents as a coup, he also said he would take over public prosecutions and removed immunity from members of parliament.
Economic stagnation, with successive governments pulled between the competing demands of foreign lenders and a powerful labour union, has contributed to growing public anger before Saied’s move on Sunday.
In his meeting with UTICA head Samir Majoul the president also called on traders to reduce prices and warned them not to hoard goods or speculate, saying violations would be prosecuted.
After his declaration, Tunisian bond prices fell sharply on Monday.
(Reporting by Tarek Amara in Tunis and Alaa Swilam and Ahmed Tolba in Cairo, writing by Angus McDowall, editing by Grant McCool)

Qualcomm forecasts sales above Wall Street as supply bottlenecks ease

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FILE PHOTO: A Qualcomm sign is shown outside one of the company’s many buildings in San Diego, California, U.S., September 17, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo July 28, 2021
By Stephen Nellis
(Reuters) -Qualcomm Inc on Wednesday forecasted fiscal fourth quarter revenue higher than Wall Street expectations thanks to sales of 5G phones, including Apple Inc’s iPhones, and a growing portfolio of other chips.
The San Diego, California-based company is the biggest supplier of mobile phone chips in the world and the leader in 5G technology, supplying modem chips that help iPhones connect to wireless data networks and the modems and central processors for much of the Android market.
Shares were up 3.1% to $146.86 in after-market trading following the results, which could alleviate some concerns among investors about the impact of a global chip shortage on the smart phone market, including the iPhone.
Qualcomm Chief Executive Officer Cristiano Amon told investors during a conference call that the company’s efforts to secure its chips from multiple manufacturing partners were making progress, with the first shipment of significant volume in the fiscal third quarter and more to come in the coming months.
“We’re still on track to materially improve supply by the end of the calendar year,” Amon said.
The company is also benefiting from the exit from the global smartphone market of China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. Huawei’s flagship models did not use Qualcomm chips but its rivals, who are now snapping up market share, mostly do.
Qualcomm has also been working to boost sales of other chips, such as radio-frequency chips that augment its 5G phone chips and whose sales have doubled in the past year. Sales are also growing for a variety of chips for cars and for “internet of things,” or IoT, applications.
Qualcomm said on Wednesday it expects sales of those chips to hit $10 billion this fiscal year, up from $6 billion the previous year. The company also said it expects adjusted profits of $8.24 per share for its fiscal 2021, nearly double the previous year.
Qualcomm’s chip revenue forecast for the current fiscal fourth quarter had a midpoint of $7.25 billion, compared with analyst estimates of $6.83 billion, according to Refinitiv data.
CHIP SHORTAGE
Some analysts believe a global chip shortage has held back Qualcomm’s sales. Qualcomm executives have said that while their own supply chain bottlenecks are easing, some of their customers cannot find the chips they need to make full devices.
Apple on Tuesday predicted the chip shortage would start to hit its iPhone in the fourth quarter.
On Wednesday, Qualcomm said that global sales of 5G handsets for 2021 was likely to come in at the higher end of its forecast of 450 to 550 million handsets. That means that phone makers are likely directing any chips that are in short supply toward production of their more profitable 5G devices. Apple shares rose 0.14% in after-hours trading after Qualcomm’s results.
“While there remain some parts tightness in some periphery chips in the smartphone sector, we don’t think its material enough to cause any meaningful downside, as the industry will prioritize the supply for 5G instead of 4G,” said Kinngai Chan, an analyst at Summit Insights Group.
Qualcomm forecast overall sales and adjusted profits with midpoints of $8.8 billion and $2.25 per share, above estimates of $8.50 billion and $2.04 per share, according to Refinitiv data.
The company predicted revenue with a midpoint of $1.55 billion from its patent licensing business, compared with analyst expectations of $1.56 billion, according to Refinitiv data.
For the fiscal third quarter ended June 27, Qualcomm said overall adjusted revenues and adjusted profits were $8 billion and $1.92 per share, higher than estimates of $7.58 billion and $1.68 per share, according to Refinitiv data.
Mobile handset chips remain Qualcomm’s biggest seller, increasing 57% to hit $3.86 billion in the quarter.
“Qualcomm has done a phenomenal job in driving the 5G ecosystem. For sure it’s moving a lot faster than 4G,” said Paolo Pescatore, an analyst at PP Foresight.
But sales of other chips have been expanding, with radio frequency chips and IoT chips reaching sales of $957 million and $1.4 billion, up 114% and 83% from a year earlier, respectively.
(Reporting by Stephen NellisEditing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Conviction of Big Democratic Donor Is a Rare Victory for Queer Black Men

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Being a Black queer progressive often means pushing ahead shoulder to shoulder with people who may be better than conservatives, but not by so much. It means enduring subtle racism and microaggressions, and being gaslighted if you speak up about that. And sometimes it means being racially tokenized and sexually fetishized by the very people who you rely on to advocate for you.The conviction on Tuesday of 66-year-old Ed Buck marked the first time I have seen true justice for Black queer people leveled against another person within the progressive movement.Buck, a white, gay donor to progressive causes and politicians now faces a potential life sentence after he was finally convicted of multiple crimes in connection with the deaths of two Black men who overdosed in his West Hollywood apartment where he’d brought them to “party and play.”After Gemelle Moore died from a methamphetamine overdose in July of 2017, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office found that the 26 year old’s death was accidental. In July of 2018, the District Attorney declined to press charges.Six months later, 55-year-old Timothy Dean, another gay Black man, died at Buck’s home, where his body was on a mattress littered with drug paraphernalia and sex toys, according to a coroner’s report.Yet even as activists and journalists like Jasmyne Cannick kept a spotlight on Buck, the “malevolent” predator, as prosecutors finally called him, was only charged after a third Black man, a 37 year old known only as Joe Doe, narrowly survived a September, 2019 visit to his apartment where Buck gave him, too, a large dose of methamphetamine.Buck was finally arrested that month, on state drug and battery charges for his treatment of Joe Doe. Federal charges related to the deaths of Moore and Dean quickly followed. Prosecutors said that Buck’s home was full of pictures of men in compromising positions, and that “It is only a matter of time before another one of these vulnerable young men dies of an overdose.”His conviction on Tuesday happened to come down on the fourth anniversary of Moore’s death.According to a wrongful death suit filed by Moore’s mother, Buck had solicited her son for sex and insisted on injecting him crystal meth. In Moore’s last journal entry, he wrote, “If it didn’t hurt so bad, I’d kill myself, but I’ll let Ed Buck do it for now.” Advertisement The bombshell verdict felt like a watershed moment for Black queer progressives who have followed his case for years. When I first covered the initial calls for Buck to be charged, I received pushback from other liberals who felt that calling him out during the Trump era was a distraction from the larger issues at hand that could be weaponized against the LGBTQIA community. That reminded me of similar arguments made by members of the Black community when Bill Cosby and R. Kelly were accused of sexual abuse, and people calling for justice were told that their efforts could “tarnish the reputations” of such public figures.But whatever happened to principle over politics, purpose over position? Four years of grassroots organizing, led by mostly Black and brown LGBTQIA people and our allies, revealed the lack of solidarity within the progressive world. Did Buck give lots of money to support Hillary Clinton and others who would have served our nation better than Republicans? Sure, but that doesn’t give him a free pass to exploit and prey on vulnerable Black men.This verdict was all-too-rare recognition that Black lives, even those of the queer and powerless, matter. Too often, sexual abuse of those who are both Black and queer does not receive nearly as much attention as the abuse of our white cis-het counterparts.“Buck exerted power and control over his victims, typically targeting individuals who were destitute, homeless or struggling with drug addiction,” the Department of Justice said Tuesday, after his conviction. “He exploited the wealth and power balance between them by offering his victims money to use drugs and to let Buck inject them with narcotics.”I hope that prosecutors and reporters dedicate more time and attention to such crimes, and become aware of the ways that sexuality and race are both used to dismiss far too many victims. It’s a shame that two Black men had to die in a horrific and embarrassing manner for justice to finally be served. I’m left thinking about so many others who have not been believed, in life or in death, because their abuser was richer, whiter or, sadly, more “progressive.”Progressives need to heighten our determination to call for more accountability, rather than silence.

Facebook warns of significant slowdown in sales growth

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FILE PHOTO: A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo July 28, 2021
(Reuters) -Facebook Inc said on Wednesday it expects revenue growth in the third and fourth quarters to “decelerate significantly,” sending the social media giant’s shares down about 5% in extended trading.
The company beat Wall Street estimates for quarterly revenue, bolstered by increased advertising spending as businesses build their digital presence to cater to consumers spending more time and money online.
The company’s total revenue, which primarily consists of ad sales, rose to $29.08 billion in the second quarter from $18.69 billion a year earlier, beating analysts’ estimates of $27.89 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Facebook, like its peers, has seen increased demand for digital ads as the pandemic drove consumers to shop largely online, forcing several businesses to create online stores and markets using social media platforms.
The world’s largest social network’s revenue from advertising rose 56% to $28.58 billion in the second quarter ended June 30, Facebook said.
The company said it expects Apple’s recent privacy change, requiring iPhone app developers to begin asking users’ permission to collect certain data for ads, to impact in the third quarter. Facebook has argued Apple’s recent requirement that iPhone app developers begin asking users’ permission to collect certain data for ads would harm its business and hurt small companies that rely on personalized advertising.
Monthly active users came in at 2.90 billion, up 7% from the same period last year but missing analyst expectations of 2.92 billion and marking the slowest growth rate in at least three years, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Net income rose to $10.4 billion, or $3.61 per share, from $5.18 billion, or $1.80 per share, a year earlier. Analysts had expected a profit of $3.03​ per share.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford and Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel and Lisa Shumaker)

PayPal beats estimates on online spending boost

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FILE PHOTO: PayPal app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo/File Photo July 28, 2021
(Reuters) – PayPal Holdings Inc reported better-than-expected quarterly results on Wednesday, benefiting from a pandemic-driven shift to online shopping and digital transactions and a rise in consumer spending as economies reopen.
San Jose, California-based PayPal processed a total of $311 billion in payments in the second quarter ended June 30, up 40% from a year earlier, and added 11.4 million net new active accounts.
The company said it now expects annual total payment volumes to rise between 33% and 35%.
PayPal has been among the big winners of the COVID-19 pandemic as people afraid to catch the virus used its payment services to shop and pay bills online from the safety of their homes.
The company reported a net income of $1.18 billion, or $1 per share, in the second quarter.
On an adjusted basis, PayPal earned a profit of $1.15 per share, compared with analysts’ expectations of $1.12 per share, according to Refinitiv data.
Total revenue rose 19% to $6.24 billion, above estimates of $6.27 billion.
Venmo, PayPal’s app that allows individuals in the United States to send and receive money, processed $58 billion in payments, up 58% from a year earlier.
(Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

Ford raises full-year profit outlook after stronger-than expected quarter

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The Ford 2021 Bronco SUV is seen on the assembly line at Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, U.S., June 14, 2021. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook July 28, 2021
DETROIT (Reuters) -Ford Motor Co on Wednesday boosted its profit forecast for the year after reporting better-than-expected quarterly results.
The No. 2 U.S. automaker raised its expectation for full-year operating profit by about $3.5 billion, to between $9 billion and $10 billion.
Ford estimated a roughly 30% increase in its vehicle volume from the first to the second half of the year. However, it said it also expected higher commodity costs, investments in the company’s “Ford+” plan and lower earnings by Ford Credit, leading to lower operating profit in the second half.
The company reported an operating profit of $1.1 billion, and boosted its full-year forecast for adjusted earnings before interest and taxes to between $9 billion and $10 billion.
Net income dropped to $561 million from $1.1 billion in the year-ago quarter.
Revenue climbed to $26.8 billion from $19.4 billion over the same period.
(Reporting by Ben Klayman and Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Leslie Adler and Richard Chang)

German airline Condor to acquire Airbus A330neo jets

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FILE PHOTO: An Airbus A330neo aircraft lands as a Dassault Aviation Falcon jet of AVdef (Aviation Defense Service) flies nearby during its maiden flight event in Colomiers near Toulouse, France, October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau July 28, 2021
By Tim Hepher
PARIS (Reuters) – German leisure airline Condor said on Wednesday it would order 16 Airbus A330neo jets to replace a wide-bodied fleet of Boeing 767 aircraft.
“The first aircraft is expected in autumn 2022, whilst the replacement of the entire long-haul fleet is scheduled to be completed by mid-2024,” Condor said on its website.
It did not say how it would acquire the planes but market sources said it was expected to buy an unspecified number from Airbus with the rest to be rented from leasing companies.
The deal comes a day after EU regulators approved 525.3-million euros ($619.3 million) in German aid for Condor that will help the airline restructure after an earlier decision was annulled by a European court..
It follows a competition between Airbus and Boeing to provide the A330neo or Boeing 787 to Condor, the sources said.
Condor has a mixed fleet of planes from both planemakers, but relies solely on its ageing 767s for long-haul needs.
The A330neo is an upgraded version of the A330 passenger plane with recent Rolls-Royce engines. It competes with the newer but more expensive Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
The sources said the deal will provide homes for undelivered A330neo jets originally earmarked for Indonesia’s Garuda or AirAsia X of Malaysia – debt-strapped carriers whose finances have worsened during the pandemic, raising doubts over A330neo deliveries.
Reuters reported earlier on Wednesday that Airbus was also in talks to replace Boeing jets at another European leisure carrier, British airline and holiday group Jet2.
If confirmed, the deal could involve the purchase of around 50 Airbus jets, worth some $5 billion before industry discounts of at least 50%. But while Airbus is seen as front-runner, talks between Jet2 and suppliers are said to be ongoing.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)

Residents flee as winds fan massive wildfire in southern Turkey

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Smoke from a wildfire is seen in Manavgat, Antalya, Turkey July 28, 2021 in this still image taken from social media video. TWITTER/@ONURBURAKCELIK/via REUTERS July 28, 2021
ANKARA (Reuters) – A massive forest fire in southern Turkey spread to the town of Manavgat as the flames were fanned by strong winds on Wednesday, according to the local mayor, and TV footage showed residents running for their cars as streets were engulfed in smoke.
Footage showed plumes of black smoke rising from the forest around Manavgat, 75 km (45 miles) east of the resort city of Antalya, and Mayor Sukru Sozen said flames had spread as far as the town centre, where many buildings were being evacuated.
“The fire has spread to the town centre. It’s growing even more with the wind. It’s impossible for us to determine the size of the damage, there is damage in the villages too. We have not seen anything like this,” Sozen told broadcaster Haberturk.
Antalya Mayor Muhittin Bocek said the fire had started at four different points. He told Haberturk four neighbourhoods had been evacuated but there were no reports of casualties yet.
Authorities could not immediately say what caused the fire.
Agriculture Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said authorities were battling the flames with a firefighting plane, 19 helicopters, 108 vehicles and some 400 personnel.
Turkey’s AFAD disaster agency said emergency teams from nearby provinces were also called into action, while authorities evacuated settlements near the forest.
Antalya, a popular destination for both foreign and local tourists, is known for its scorching summer heat. Bocek said the extreme heat and strong winds were fanning the fire as it swept through the pine forest.
The fire comes as Turkey battles with a series of disasters caused by extreme weather conditions in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, flash floods in the Black Sea provinces of Rize and Artvin damaged homes and property. The floods killed six people in Rize, according to AFAD.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Alex Richardson)

MPs call for 'five a day'-style campaign to get kids exercising after lockdowns

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A new campaign similar to the “five a day” healthy eating message should encourage kids to do at least an hour’s exercise a day amid fears about the impact of COVID lockdowns on children’s activity levels, MPs have said.In a new report by the House of Commons’ digital, culture, media and sport committee, the government is also urged to set up a “Work Out to Help Out” scheme – similar to last summer’s “Eat Out to Help Out” campaign – to get people participating in organised sport.
The group of MPs also want more action to protect grassroots sporting clubs, which have nurtured many of Great Britain’s athletes currently competing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Image:
Grassroots clubs have nurtured many of Great Britain’s athletes currently competing in Tokyo

Conservative MP Julian Knight, the committee’s chair, said the last year-and-a-half of the coronavirus crisis had “left the already perilous finances of grassroots sport in tatters”.”Community sports clubs nurture Olympic medallists and bring joy to people young and old, we cannot let them go to the wall,” he said.

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Mr Knight branded a delay to the government’s £150m fund for under-threat community groups as “disappointing and unhelpful”.
And he urged ministers to take up his committee’s ten recommendations to “better protect the spaces we exercise in and put grassroots sport on a more sustainable financial footing”.

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“The government must also play its part in getting people active again following the pandemic or risk consequences for public health in the future,” Mr Knight added.Among the committee’s recommendations are:• a sporting equivalent of the “Eat Out to Help Out” campaign, entitled “Work Out to Help Out”, to incentivise volunteers and participants to get involved, participate in organised sport and support the sporting infrastructure, both in England and across the UK• before the end of this year, the government should initiate a nationwide communications campaign, similar to that of the “five a day” campaign, to emphasise the importance of children and young people engaging in at least 60 minutes of moderate activity every day• the government work with Sport England, UK Sport and the National Lottery to review and revise the current funding models to enable sports organisations to accumulate greater reserves and, as a result, have more of a cushion to support themselves with should another situation like the COVID pandemic occur• the government should set out the ways in which it intends to encourage schools across the country to make their facilities more available to community and grassroots sports clubs at a fair rate• Sport England and Sport UK should be required to publish, at least annually, information about the diversity of candidates for all advertised roles in their organisations and the boards that make those appointmentsThe group of MPs said there were indications the COVID crisis had caused weight gain and a fall in activity levels in children.
Follow the Daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, SpreakerThey said data from Sport England showing 100,000 fewer children met the recommended level of activity in 2020 than in 2019 was “of significant concern”.The committee also warned of the yet unknown impact of England’s third national lockdown on people’s fitness.

Inflation: ‘Transitory’ Taking Longer to Transit

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Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testifies during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., December 1, 2020. (Susan Walsh/Reuters)

Full transcript of Fed chairman Powell’s statement here.
Some extracts (my emphasis added):
Inflation has increased notably and will likely remain elevated in coming months before moderating. As the economy continues to reopen and spending rebounds, we are seeing upward pressure on prices, particularly because supply bottlenecks in some sectors have limited how quickly production can respond in the near term. These bottleneck effects have been larger than anticipated, but as these transitory supply effects abate, inflation is expected to drop back toward our longer-run goal. Very low readings from early in the pandemic as well as the pass-through of past increases in oil prices to consumer energy prices also contribute to the increase, although these base effects and energy effects are receding.
The process of reopening the economy is unprecedented, as was the shutdown at the onset of the pandemic. As the reopening continues, bottlenecks, hiring difficulties, and other constraints could continue to limit how quickly supply can adjust, raising the possibility that inflation could turn out to be higher and more persistent than we expect.
Our new framework for monetary policy emphasizes the importance of having well-anchored inflation expectations, both to foster price stability and to enhance our ability to promote our broad-based and inclusive maximum-employment goal. Indicators of longer-term inflation expectations appear broadly consistent with our longer-run inflation goal of 2 percent. If we saw signs that the path of inflation or longer-term inflation expectations were moving materially and persistently beyond levels consistent with our goal, we’d be prepared to adjust the stance of policy.
. . . As the Committee reiterated in today’s policy statement, with inflation having run persistently below 2 percent, we will aim to achieve inflation moderately above 2 percent for some time so that inflation averages 2 percent over time and longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored at 2 percent. We expect to maintain an accommodative stance of monetary policy until these employment and inflation outcomes are achieved. With regard to interest rates, we continue to expect that it will be appropriate to maintain the current 0 to ¼ percent target range for the federal funds rate until labor market conditions have reached levels consistent with the Committee’s assessment of maximum employment and inflation has risen to 2 percent and is on track to moderately exceed 2 percent for some time.
In addition, we are continuing to increase our holdings of Treasury securities by at least $80 billion per month and of agency MBS by at least $40 billion per month until substantial further progress has been made toward our maximum-employment and price-stability goals….
In coming meetings the Committee will again assess the economy’s progress toward our goals, and the timing of any change in the pace of our asset purchases will depend on the incoming data. As we have said, we will provide advance notice before making any changes to our purchases…
You can find commentary on the subsequent press conference here (via CNBC).

Statements by a Fed chairman can be read in many different ways, and usually are.
But it would seem to me that, although Powell recognizes transitory inflation is taking a little longer to transit than hoped, that, so far as he is concerned, the risk–reward calculation has not changed. That’s made easier by the fact that the reward of lower unemployment clearly weighs higher for him than the risk of “transitory” inflation lasting long enough to feed upon itself.  That’s just as well as that risk is evidently increasing. No taper yet, then, quite clearly, nor anytime soon.
As I mentioned the other day:
The longer this “transitory” period of higher inflation endures, the greater the risk that inflationary expectations will become embedded in the “real” world (bond yields may show no serious signs of any impending concern, but that owes a lot to the Fed’s machinations, and, in all likelihood, some four- dimensional chess by bond investors). Inflation has a nasty habit of feeding on upon itself. And it can, as Bloomberg’s John Authers has put it, be “habit-forming.

Vice Uses Staff as Saudi Arabia Focus Group

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Vice wants to know what its employees think of Saudi Arabia’s image.In a message posted Wednesday to one of Vice’s internal Slack channels, Frederik Lauridsen—whose LinkedIn lists him as Director of Operations for Vice Media Group in Asia, the Middle East and Africa—wrote that he hoped staff at the youth-focused news organization would help in “gathering some information on associations and perceptions people around the world have about Saudi Arabia.”“Please help us out and take our survey,” he said, punctuating the message with a heart emoji.The survey, titled “Image of Saudi Arabia,” queried how staffers view the kingdom, “what associations come to mind when mentioning the country,” if they could list 3-4 facts about the country or its people, and how “you think people in your country perceive Saudi Arabia.”Furthermore, the survey asked what it would take for Vice employees to consider relocating to or visiting Saudi Arabia. “Please finish the sentence. I would consider moving and working in Saudi Arabia’s capital, Riyadh, if…,” it queried. “Please finish the sentence. I would visit Saudi Arabia and its capital, Riyadh, if….”Wednesday’s message, according to insiders, was shared in a Vice “workspace” primarily used by the business side, but several of the site’s journalists confirmed they saw it and were taken aback. Vice did not return a request for comment on this story.The bizarre internal survey demonstrates an at-times unusual relationship between the global news organization and top Saudi entities—ties that have occasionally made some of the outlet’s journalists uncomfortable. (Despite the company’s controversial connections to Saudi Arabia, Vice’s reporters have maintained a steady flow of critical reporting about the regime.)The Wall Street Journal reported that in 2018, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and former Vice Media Executive Chairman Shane Smith discussed a joint venture between the media company and the Saudi government.For years, Saudi Arabia attempted to gain a greater foothold in American media and entertainment. Saudi Research & Marketing Group, a Riyadh-based media and publishing company with close ties to the regime, has invested heavily in Penske Media, the entertainment media powerhouse that owns The Hollywood Reporter, Rolling Stone, Variety, and several other major entertainment media brands.But the 2018 assassination of Washington Post journalist and Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul sparked nearly universal condemnation from media organizations across the U.S., causing many to re-evaluate their relationships with companies with direct ties to the Saudi regime. For example, CNN, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and other media organizations canceled appearances by their top journalists at Saudi-sponsored events, and talent agency Endeavor backed out of a massive planned partnership with the kingdom.Vice has also produced documentaries for a Saudi government-controlled company. And earlier this year, Vice opened a business-focused office in the Saudi capital city Riyadh in an effort that was “driven by our mission to champion young voices.”The company also told The Hollywood Reporter that it was partnering with the Saudi Research & Marketing Group to establish a training program for Saudi creatives. Vice had previously put the partnership with SRMG under review following the Khashoggi slaying.The Saudi initiatives come as Vice attempts to make its business more appealing as it maneuvers behind the scenes to go public via a special purpose acquisitions company (SPAC), the increasingly popular shell companies many major digital-media organizations are using to go public while avoiding burdensome regulations.Also on Wednesday, The New York Times reported that the media company plans a major editorial shift toward “videos and other forms of visual storytelling.” Some journalists were alarmed at the announcement that the company plans to reduce the number of text articles on Vice properties including Vice.com, Refinery29, and i-D by 40 to 50 percent—a plan that was not widely known to many of the organization’s digital staffers before the move was announced in the Times.

The Best Tech Deals from Best Buy, HP, Verizon and More

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When it comes to finding the best technology, it always helps to look for the deals. It may seem counterintuitive, but some of the top places to purchase the latest and greatest in tech usually have some pretty great sales going on. We’ve rounded up some of the best that are happening right now, from computers to cell phones.Best Buy: Up to 50% off Clearance, Open-Box, Refurbished and Pre-Owned Items Apple MacBook Air 13.3″ Laptop with Touch ID Best Buy: Free Shipping Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Verizon: 20% off Apple Airpod Pros Apple Airpod Pros Verizon: Free Phone When You Switch or Add a New Line Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G UW HP: Extra 10% off configurable HP Business notebooks and workstations HP Pro c640 G2 Chromebook Dell: $50 off with code 50OFF499 Inspiron 14 Laptop AT&T: Up to $700 Off Eligible Smartphones When You Switch to AT&T iPhone 12 Pro Max Express: VPN 49% off Regular Monthly Pricing plus 3 Months Free 49% off Regular Monthly Pricing plus 3 Months Free Scouted selects products independently and prices reflect what was available at the time of publish. Don’t forget to check out our coupon site to find more tech deals from Best Buy and Newegg. If you buy something from our posts, we may earn a small commission.

Exclusive-Biden to tap Huawei prosecutor for key China export post -source

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U.S. President Joe Biden is applauded visits the Mack-Lehigh Valley Operations Manufacturing Facility in Macungie, Pensylvania, U.S., July 28, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein July 28, 2021
By Karen Freifeld
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. prosecutor Thea Kendler, an attorney on the criminal case against China’s Huawei and its Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, will be nominated for a Commerce Department post vital to controlling exports to China, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Kendler, an attorney in the Justice Department’s national security division, will be nominated as assistant secretary for export administration at the Commerce Department, the person said. The nomination is expected later on Wednesday. 
Kendler is expected to work under Alan Estevez, a former Pentagon official, who was nominated on July 13 to be the Commerce Department’s undersecretary for industry and security, a position central to the U.S.-China tech battle.
The department has restricted sales to Huawei Technologies Co Ltd since 2019, when the company and dozens of its non-U.S. affiliates were added to the U.S. trade blacklist, hobbling the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker.
Companies are placed on the so-called “entity list” if their actions are viewed as contrary to U.S. security or foreign policy interests.
Recently, the Biden administration added companies to the blacklist over human rights abuses and high-tech surveillance in Xinjiang. Dozens of other Chinese companies on the list include surveillance manufacturers Hikvision and Dahua Technology.
U.S. companies are banned from selling goods to companies on the list without Commerce Department licenses, which are difficult to obtain.
In adding Huawei two years ago, the Commerce Department cited the criminal case filed against the company in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York, alleging violations of U.S. law, including the export of goods, technology and banking services to Iran, which is subject to U.S. sanctions.
Kendler, a trial attorney in the Justice Department National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, is among the lawyers in charge of prosecuting the high-profile case, which has strained ties between the United States, Canada and China.
The indictment led to the 2018 arrest in Canada of Meng, who faces charges of bank fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC Holdings Plc about Huawei’s business in Iran. Meng, daughter of the company’s founder, has been fighting extradition ever since. She has said she is innocent.
Huawei has pleaded not guilty to the indictment, which has been updated to include charges for theft of trade secrets.
Prior to joining the Justice Department in 2014, Kendler served as senior counsel in the Commerce Department’s Office of Chief Counsel for Industry and Security. Before that, she was a trade lawyer in private practice.
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by Chris Sanders and Richard Chang)

England scraps quarantine for fully vaccinated EU, U.S. visitors

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FILE PHOTO: A traveller wearing a face mask walks at the Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in London, Britain, July 26, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls July 28, 2021
By Sarah Young and Elizabeth Piper
LONDON (Reuters) -England will allow fully vaccinated visitors from the European Union and United States to arrive without needing to quarantine from next week, in a huge and long-awaited boost for airlines and travel companies.
Britain’s travel industry has criticised the government for being too slow to open up, saying it has squandered its lead in the global vaccine rollout and given the EU a headstart in attracting tourists.
Now, from Aug. 2, travellers with U.S. and EU-approved vaccines will not have to quarantine. Lifting the same requirement for fully vaccinated Britons returning from medium-risk countries in July helped to kickstart a travel recovery.
The new rule applies to England, and devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales said they would follow suit. The UK government said international cruise sailings could also restart from England.
Airlines, such as British Airways, and Britain’s biggest airport Heathrow, weighed down by cumulative pandemic losses of $4 billion, welcomed the move but said more was needed if the industry was to recover from the collapse in demand.
Top of the list is a reopening of the UK-U.S. travel corridor which is still affected by a ban on all non-U.S. citizens who have been in Britain.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told LBC Radio earlier on Wednesday that he wanted U.S. citizens to come to England “freely” and was discussing making changes.
Travellers also still have to take an expensive COVID-19 test before departure and shortly after arrival in England.
BA Chief Executive Sean Doyle said the company’s trials had proved it could check travellers for vaccination status quickly and safely.
“This step will allow us to reunite loved ones and get Global Britain back in business, giving the economy the vital boost it so badly needs,” he said in a statement.
Changing the quarantine rules for the United States and EU will ease access to some of Britain’s biggest markets for visitor volumes. It will also help companies drum up business after the severe financial strain of 16 months of pandemic-linked restrictions.
In response to the announcement, United Airlines said it would lay on extra flights to London.
Shares in British Airways were up 3% while easyJet rose 4% and Wizz Air jumped 7%. Airlines make nearly all their profits during the summer season and easyJet had said this month that it was directing more flights to Europe where there is more demand.
“It’s the right thing, it should be done, but like I said it is little bit too late,” easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren told LBC.
The UK government has said it was keeping quarantine rules for travellers from France because of the presence of the Beta variant there, but French officials say the bulk of cases comes from the overseas island of La Reunion in the Indian Ocean.
Britain will review the status of travellers from France at the end of next week. French officials have complained about British travel restrictions for France since a last-minute decision to keep them beyond July 19.
An lawmaker from President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party called Wednesday’s decision “absurd”.
“Quarantine for the fully vaccinated from Lille but not Brussels; Paris but not Miami; Annecy but not Geneva; Montpellier but not Barcelona,” Alexandre Holroyd, whose constituents include French people living in Britain said on Twitter.
“Vaccines work: give those who are protected against #covid their freedom back.”
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, writing by Sarah Young, Kate Holton and Alistair Smout; additional reporting by Michel Rose in Paris and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by William Schomberg and Alistair Bell)

Olympics-Hockey-Brothers face off against each other at Tokyo Games

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Hockey – Men’s Pool A – Japan v New Zealand – Oi Hockey Stadium, Tokyo, Japan – July 27, 2021. Leon Hayward of New Zealand defends against Kenta Tanaka of Japan. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis July 28, 2021
By Daniel Leussink
TOKYO (Reuters) – Playing against his younger brother at the Olympic hockey tournament is not something New Zealand goalkeeper Leon Hayward had thought would ever happen.
But on Wednesday, Leon, 31, faced off against his 28-year-old brother Jeremy, who played as a defender for Australia in their match against the Kiwis in a spectator-less stadium at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“The magnitude of the event is kind of the big thing,” said Leon after the game, with his brother standing next to him.
“Jeremy and I have been competitive since we were young. It doesn’t matter whether it’s cricket or football or whatever, and this is just how it has come about.”
The contest between the siblings could happen after Leon “moved across the ditch” – in the words of Jeremy – something he could do because the pair’s mother was born in New Zealand. Leon made his international debut for New Zealand in 2019.
While growing up, Leon’s tough love had helped his brother reach his targets, Jeremy said after the Kookaburras won 4-2 against New Zealand in the evening match.
“Growing up, he taught me toughness, that’s for sure. He beat me up a fair bit. He taught me how to be tough and we love each other, and I thank him for that,” said Jeremy.
“He always was a bit stronger than me and I always had a target to reach. Always looking up to him, the bigger brother.”
There was no sign of sibling rivalry during the match, except when Jeremy used a penalty corner to fire a powerful shot at Leon’s goal, teasingly trying out his brother.
With a spectacular save, Leon gloved it on the post.
“I think Jeremy’s scored about four this year so far against me so it’s good to get a save, finally,” he said.
(Reporting by Daniel Leussink; Editing by Toby Davis)

Olympics-Tennis-Djokovic dominant as heat woes prompt schedule change

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Tennis – Men’s Singles – Round 3 – Ariake Tennis Park – Tokyo, Japan – July 28, 2021. Novak Djokovic of Serbia in action during his third round match against Alejandro Davidovich of Spain REUTERS/Mike Segar July 28, 2021
By Rozanna Latiff and Sudipto Ganguly
TOKYO (Reuters) -Novak Djokovic eased into the Tokyo 2020 men’s singles quarter-finals on Wednesday, satisfied with his form and organisers’ decision to delay the start of matches amid complaints from players about the hot and humid conditions.
Tennis matches at the Ariake Tennis Park will begin from 3pm local time (0600 GMT) from Thursday, governing body International Tennis Federation said after requests from players who had struggled in the stifling weather.
World number two Daniil Medvedev, who along with Djokovic had lobbied for the schedule change, said he had struggled to breathe during his 6-2 3-6 6-2 third round win over Italian Fabio Fognini.
“Even from the first set, I didn’t feel good enough with my breathing,” said the 25-year-old, who is competing for the Russian Olympic Committee. “That’s why I called the physio, I felt like my diaphragm was blocked.”
Medvedev next plays Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, whose compatriot Paula Badosa retired from her women’s singles quarter-final match against Czech Marketa Vondrousova due to heatstroke. Badosa and Carreno Busta also withdrew from the mixed doubles event which began on Wednesday.
Djokovic, who took to the court later in the afternoon, said he was happy with the scheduling change after a comfortable 6-3 6-1 win over Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
He followed up that match with a victory in the mixed doubles, partnering Nina Stojanovic to take out Brazilian pair Marcelo Melo and Luisa Stefani 6-3 6-4.
“I’m very satisfied with my performance,” Djokovic said.
“It’s first time that I’m playing officially mixed doubles and it’s amazing how well we clicked and the chemistry was very good from the beginning and just played a great match. Perfect ending of the day, two out of two.”
The 34-year-old Serbian, who is aiming to become the first man to win all four Grand Slam titles and Olympic gold in the same calendar year, booked a singles quarter-final meeting with Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who moved past Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 7-6(7) 6-0.
Nishikori, who won the bronze medal at the Rio Games in 2016, is the host country’s last remaining hope for a singles medal after women’s number two Naomi Osaka lost in a third round upset on Tuesday.
Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, who made the final at Roland Garros last month, was beaten 2-6 7-6(4) 6-2 by Frenchman Ugo Humbert.
Fellow French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova also lost, falling 6-0 3-6 6-3 in the women’s singles to Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic, who will face Kazakh Elena Rybakina for a spot in the gold medal match.
Ukraine’s world number six Elina Svitolina, the fourth and highest surviving seed in the women’s singles draw, advanced with a 6-4 6-4 win over an error-prone Camila Giorgi of Italy.
Newly-wed Svitolina, watched by husband and French tennis star Gael Monfils, said she felt no extra pressure after top seeds Ash Barty, Osaka, and Aryna Sabalenka crashed out.
“You know when you are higher ranked everyone wants to beat you and everyone is extremely motivated to beat you,” she said.
“I just try to focus on my game and not think so much about what’s going on in the other side of the net.”
(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Shri Navaratnam, Peter Rutherford, John Stonestreet and Christian Radnedge)

Motor racing-Verstappen determined to deny Hamilton a 100th win

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FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 – British Grand Prix – Silverstone Circuit, Silverstone, Britain – July 18, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen before the race Pool via REUTERS/Lars Baron/File Photo July 28, 2021
By Alan Baldwin
(Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton can become the first Formula One driver to win 100 races but Red Bull’s world championship leader Max Verstappen intends to be the one celebrating in Hungary on Sunday.
Hamiiton has won eight times at the Hungaroring, a record he shares with fellow seven times world champion Michael Schumacher for most wins at the same grand prix.
The Mercedes driver’s 99th victory, at his home British Grand Prix 10 days ago after a high-speed first lap collision with Verstappen, turned up the heat on the title battle and added acrimony.
Both teams must now attend a virtual meeting with stewards after Red Bull sought a review of the decision to hand Hamilton only a 10 second penalty for causing the accident at Silverstone.
Verstappen, whose lead was slashed from 33 points to eight after 10 rounds, will be particularly fired up to rebuild his advantage before the August break.
If Hamilton were to triumph with the fastest lap at the Hungaroring, and Verstappen finish second, the pair would sign off for the summer level on points and wins.
There are sure to be plenty more clashes ahead but Verstappen, 13 years younger than Hamilton at 23, would rather do his talking on the track.
“I don’t have much to say on all the media hype and to be honest I am not interested in getting involved in any of that,” he said.
“I know what happened at Silverstone as I was in the car and obviously I feel a certain way about how my race ended but now I’m just focusing on making sure we are the best we can be on track so we can stay ahead in the championship.
“The team can take care of the official side of things and anything that needs looking into after the crash but my job is the same as always — to be the best I can and try to win on Sunday.”
Verstappen also has good memories of Hungary, taking his first pole there in 2019 and finishing second the last two years.
“I enjoy Hungary as a track and let’s hope there is a little less action on the way to the grid as the mechanics worked some sort of miracle to get my car out for the race last year,” he said.
The Dutch driver crashed before the start last year, leaving his mechanics racing to repair the suspension and replace a front wing.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff saw Red Bull coming back strongly.
“It is a track that will likely suit our competitors more, but we’ll give it all we’ve got,” he said.
Hungary also holds happy memories for Alpine’s double world champion Fernando Alonso, who took the first win of his F1 career at the circuit with Renault in 2003 and who turns 40 this week.
“It feels like a big go-kart circuit. We all love driving there because I think the driver has a quite a bit more input than some circuits,” said the Spaniard.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)

Fed establishes standing repo facilities to support money markets

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FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve building is pictured in Washington, DC, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo July 28, 2021
By Jonnelle Marte
(Reuters) – The Federal Reserve announced on Wednesday it will establish separate domestic and international standing repo facilities to backstop money markets during times of stress.
The domestic standing repo facility, or SRF, will conduct daily overnight repo operations against Treasury securities, agency debt securities and agency mortgage-backed securities.
Through the facility for foreign and international monetary authorities, known as the FIMA repo facility, the U.S. central bank will enter into overnight repo agreements as needed with foreign official institutions against their holdings of Treasury securities held at the New York Fed.
“These facilities will serve as backstops in money markets to support the effective implementation of monetary policy and smooth market functioning,” the Fed said in a statement after the end of its latest two-day policy meeting. [nL1N2P30V1]
Fed officials held detailed discussions at their June 15-16 policy meeting about how these programs might be designed, according to minutes from that meeting.
The Fed began intervening in money markets in September of 2019 when reserves in the banking system fell too low, leading to a spike in short-term borrowing rates. The central bank also increased its repo offerings in March of 2020 after the coronavirus pandemic led to a rush for cash.
Setting up permanent repo facilities may lessen the need for the Fed to be reactive when markets are disrupted and could help to keep short-term rates within the central bank’s target range.
The domestic standing repo facility will initially be open to primary dealers, a list of two dozen financial institutions that are trading counterparties with the New York Fed. It will later be expanded over time to include additional depository institutions, the Fed said in its statement https://www.newyorkfed.org/markets/opolicy/operating_policy_210728.
(Reporting by Jonnelle Marte; Editing by Chris Reese and Paul Simao)

Google will require COVID-19 vaccine for U.S. employees to step into campuses

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FILE PHOTO: A sign is pictured outside a Google office near the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, U.S., May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Paresh Dave/File Photo July 28, 2021
(Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Wednesday it would require employees in the United States to be vaccinated for stepping into its campuses, in an effort to get its workers immunized against COVID-19.
The company said it would expand the vaccination drive to other regions in the coming months. (https://bit.ly/3zQJfNf)
Many tech companies including Microsoft Corp and Uber have said they expect employees to return to office, months after pandemic-induced lockdowns forced them to shift to working remotely.
In April, Salesforce said it would allow vaccinated employees to return to some of its offices.
Google also said on Wednesday it would extend its work-from-home policy through Oct. 18 due to a recent spike in cases in different regions caused by the Delta variant.
“We’ll continue watching the data carefully and let you know at least 30 days in advance before transitioning into our full return to office plans,” the company added.
(Reporting by Tiyashi Datta in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

QAnon-Loving Ex-Marine Accused in Capitol Riot Fled to Mexico as Feds Closed In

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A QAnon-loving ex-Marine was still on parole for several crimes when he allegedly assaulted at least two police officers during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot—and fled his California sober living home for Mexico as the FBI hunted him down.That’s according to an FBI search warrant affidavit obtained by The Daily Beast, which reveals new details about alleged insurrectionist James Burton McGrew, a Mississippi veteran and conspiracy theorist who was identified by investigators thanks to a distinctive “King James” tattoo on his abdomen that matched an old police booking photo.“James’s [sic] loves his country,” says a fundraising appeal posted by his family on GiveSendGo, a Christian crowdfunding site. “He is a 3rd generation Marine. His Grandfather and his Father were also Marines. James’s [sic] was brought up to Love and Fear God. He is a father of one son and helps take care of an Old Mom. WE NEED JAMES HOME. We greatly appreciated all the support everyone has shown and there is still a Great America. God Bless and Thank You.” As of now, the campaign has brought in $0 of its stated $200,000 goal. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia At least 57 of the more than 500 people facing charges for participating in the Jan. 6 Capitol rampage are U.S. military veterans, including a number who are still serving, according to a CBS News analysis of court filings. About 25 percent of Jan. 6 defendants with military ties are also linked to right-wing extremist groups, such as the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. McGrew is the fourth Mississippian thus far to face charges related to Jan. 6.On Jan. 6, McGrew, who was spotted both inside and outside the Capitol building, “aggressively approached law enforcement officers, yelling statements such as ‘We’re coming in here, whether you like it or not,’ and ‘Fight with us, not against us,’” states the affidavit, which is signed by a member of the FBI San Diego Joint Terrorism Task Force. “After McGrew was pushed back with the crowd, McGrew lunged forward to strike a law enforcement officer.” He then retreated, but “within seconds” again confronted officers trying to control the violent mob, allegedly striking another cop before trying to grab his baton. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia The day after the insurrection, a tipster outed McGrew to the FBI, who told agents that McGrew had spoken of traveling to Washington, D.C., to “protest” the “stolen vote,” and had purchased bear spray to bring with him, the affidavit states. This person said McGrew “did believe in some elements of the QAnon conspiracy theory, including the ‘deep state,’” adding that McGrew was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. In February, another concerned citizen contacted the FBI with photos of McGrew inside the Capitol, according to the affidavit.Two months went by. In late April, McGrew, who was living at a sober home in Carlsbad, California, flew to Mississippi for a hearing on prior state charges to which he had previously pleaded guilty: possession of a chemical precursor, shoplifting, and motor vehicle theft. But McGrew, who was by then off parole and on probation, never showed up for a scheduled meeting with his probation officer. McGrew’s worried mother reported him missing, and told police her son had taken off in her 2005 Ford F-150 pickup truck.Investigators got permission from a judge to track McGrew’s cell phone. Cell tower data and the phone’s GPS showed the device traveling west from Mississippi, arriving in Gilbert, Arizona, a day later. At roughly the same time, FBI agents raided the sober home where McGrew had been residing. However, he wasn’t there.“During the search of McGrew’s room at the sober living facility, a ‘[Columbia]’ jacket, which appeared identical to the jacket worn by McGrew while he was inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, was seized,” the affidavit states.According to information reviewed by investigators, McGrew’s phone remained in Arizona—although he didn’t. The day after the FBI searched McGrew’s room at the sober home in Carlsbad, McGrew appeared in his mom’s truck at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in Pine Valley, California. There, he told agents he was en route to Carlsbad. A short time later, a worker at the sober home contacted the FBI and said McGrew was “attempting to return.”The caller “advised the residents of the sober living facility did not want McGrew back at the facility,” and that the staff would help find another place for him to stay.Although the affidavit doesn’t provide specifics, McGrew at some point during this period drove to Mexico. When he crossed the border back into the U.S. in San Ysidro, California, the affidavit states he was with a female passenger he told U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents he met “when she was sleeping outside of the hotel McGrew was staying at in Vista, California. McGrew explained that he was headed to Glendale, Arizona, where he planned to move in with his half-sister.On May 25, automated license plate readers clocked McGrew’s mother’s truck around Glendale. On May 28, FBI agents arrested McGrew outside his sister’s apartment.McGrew’s lawyer, a controversial figure who has also represented such figures as teen shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, numerous members of the Proud Boys, and former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, McGrew’s mother spoke briefly to The Daily Beast by phone.“Everything’s, I guess, in procedure,” said Leslie McGrew. “That’s all I can say.”McGrew’s half-sister did not respond to a message seeking comment.McGrew is due back in D.C. federal court on Aug. 19.

Speaking (Economic) Truth to (Biden’s) Power

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President Joe Biden gestures as he departs for travel to Cincinnati, Ohio from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2021.
(Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Joe Biden wants Americans to trust the federal government to keep them safe and prosperous. Remember when leftists used to counsel against trusting the feds? I do. Now that they have control, doubters should shut up.
One of those doubters is the indefatigable James Bovard, who has been blowing the whistle on government waste, folly, and sheer villainy for many decades. In this essay for the Future of Freedom Foundation, Bovard speaks truth to power. The government’s reckless spending is making us less prosperous and less free.
He writes:
Biden promised ‘fastidious oversight to make sure there’s no waste or fraud’ in the multi-trillion-dollar bonanza. But politicians define “waste” differently than taxpayers define the term. Any handout that produces political gratitude is a fruitful investment according to Washington scoring. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), promised, ‘We’re going to be watchdogging this every single step of the way.’ However, the attendance by senators at congressional oversight hearings is on par with attendance at baseball games during COVID lockdowns. Most members of Congress will pay little attention to the details of the law as long as their constituents get deluged with free money.
Free money. That’s all this is about. Government spending doesn’t produce anything other than demands for more. Meanwhile, it undermines the desire to work. We’re experiencing vast increases in the number of dollars at the same time our output of goods and services is falling. Prices must rise, but of course that will be blamed on anything except federal policy.
Bovard sums up this way: “Addicting citizens to government handouts could be the easiest way to breed mass docility and enable politicians to stretch their power. The bigger the government becomes, the more votes it can buy. At some point, soaring government spending and the taxation to finance handouts becomes a Damocles sword over the entire political system. As economist Warren Nutter warned, ‘The more that government takes, the less likely that democracy will survive.’”
Correct. But Biden & Co. aren’t much interested in democracy. They’re bent on total power.

Fox News Host Calls Out J.D. Vance for Saying Simone Biles Shouldn’t Be Praised

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Fox News host Dagen McDowell pushed back on Wednesday against Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance’s assertion that superstar gymnast Simone Biles’ withdrawal from Olympic events over mental-health concerns shouldn’t be seen as heroic, declaring that Biles “deserves praise up and down all day long until the end of time.”After the legendary gymnast revealed that she pulled out of the women’s team event because of her inner struggles with mental health amid intense pressure—she has since withdrawn from the individual all-around event—Biles has received an outpouring of sympathy and support, with many lauding her courage for opening up about the sensitive issue.At the same time, a number of right-wing media figures and pundits blasted Biles with a series of personal and vicious attacks, labeling her a “quitter” and “selfish sociopath” who has brought “shame on our country.”Appearing as a guest host on Wednesday’s broadcast of Fox News’ midday panel show Outnumbered, Vance, who recently launched an Ohio Senate campaign, added to the right-wing pile-on.Asked by Fox host Harris Faulkner whether he feels Biles “let down the country” by dropping out of Olympic events, the Hillbilly Elegy author said that while he understands that she’s “going through a lot of pressure” he is upset with how the press has portrayed Biles.“We tried to turn a tragic moment, Simone Biles quitting the team, into this act of heroism,” Vance stated. “I think it reflects pretty poorly on our therapeutic society that we try to praise people not for moments of strength, not for moments of heroism, but for their weakest moments.”He went on to say that the “normal response would be to say it’s a shame that she’s going through this” before griping once again that the press has “turned this into this weird therapeutic moment” by praising her.“It’s the media that wants us to obsess over somebody’s failures instead of their successes,” he added.McDowell, for her part, immediately rebutted Vance’s take.“I don’t see it as a failure. I think the praise is coming because she was open about what she was facing,” McDowell responded.She then noted that Biles was sexually abused by former Team USA doctor Larry Nassar, who sexually assaulted more than 100 young women and girls. Adding that this was the first Olympics for Biles since that story broke, McDowell said that Biles is likely dealing with post-traumatic stress.Furthermore, as the Fox host observed, COVID-19 has resulted in the athletes being very isolated without any family support system on-hand. McDowell also pointed out that Biles could “run the risk of catastrophic injury” if she attempted to compete while dealing with a mental block before saying she can relate to Biles’ experience.“I can speak personally. I’m glad she’s talking about it,” she continued. “I can’t do gymnastics and I’m not putting myself at risk but a lot of people cope with say suffering panic attacks. I’ve had panic attacks on the air. You push through. I tried to talk about it.”The Fox host concluded: “I’m not comparing myself to Simone Biles. What she’s done and everything she’s overcome, every hurdle she jumps, she deserves praise up and down all day long until the end of time.”Faulkner, meanwhile, attempted to provide some cover for Vance at the end of the segment.“You know, I hear you and J.D., you really resonated when you say sometimes we don’t celebrate the moments we should,” she said, adding: “J.D., you’re right. We have to celebrate the good times. Not make heroes when they’re bad but be there, be present with them when it’s not working out.”

Olympics-Biles’ openness can help end stigma around mental health – psychologist

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FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Gymnastics – Artistic – Women’s Team – Final – Ariake Gymnastics Centre, Tokyo, Japan – July 27, 2021. Simone Biles of the United States wearing a protective face mask gestures. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo July 28, 2021
(Reuters) – The decision by American gymnast Simone Biles to prioritise her wellbeing at the Tokyo Olympics will go a long way in helping to fight the stigma of mental illness, an expert in the field said on Wednesday.
According to Ben Miller, a psychologist and president of California-based Well Being Trust, mental health has been marginalised in society for far too long and athletes speaking up on the topic should all be applauded.
“Other athletes that might have struggled with similar issues now feel like it’s OK for them to talk about it. There’s something very powerful in that moment,” Miller told Reuters in a video interview.
“You’re always going to have your detractors and people that say, ‘Oh well, they’re just making excuses because they didn’t perform well.’ Which I say that’s a shame. That is an example of stigma.”
Biles, who won four gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics, this week cited the pressure of living up to expectations and a need to protect her mental health for her decision to pull out of the team competition in Tokyo.
The 24-year-old American has subsequently also withdrawn from the individual all-around competition.
Miller said that while top athletes have trainers to help with the physical side of performance, a person’s mind is part of their body and should be cared for with the same diligence so they can manage the pressure of competing on a big stage.
This is especially crucial for athletes who had to endure a one-year delay to the Olympics due to COVID-19 and are competing amid strict protocols that have left them with no family support on site and without spectators at venues in host city Tokyo.
“We’re in the middle of a pandemic still, so there’s all that social disconnect, there’s no crowds to cheer you on, there’s a lot of things that COVID has amplified or magnified that I think are underneath a lot of this stuff,” said Miller.
“So, I think number one is that you need to have somebody in place that can address the mental health side of your health. If we don’t have that, then it’s just window dressing.”
Miller said ensuring athletes can get the mental health care they may need will go a long way in improving their overall wellbeing, not just for their performance, but for their lives.
“We take these athletes and we train them to the peak of physical performance. We teach them, we work with them, we push them, we challenge them, and it’s focused on their bodies,” said Miller.
“And by not paying attention to their minds, they’re never going to get as much out of their bodies. And in some cases, it actually might be their minds that are the things that limit their ability to be most affective.”
(Reporting by Kurt Hall in Mexico City and Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)