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Trump invokes production law to compel GM to supply ventilators | US news


Donald Trump has bowed to overwhelming pressure and invoked a law that enables him to compel General Motors to mass produce breathing equipment for coronavirus sufferers.

For days the US president has resisted calls to use the Defense Production Act (DPA), claiming “we’re a country not based on nationalsing our business” and even drawing comparisons with the socialist government of Venezuela.

But Trump finally shifted position on Friday as he came under criticism from state governors, Democrats and doctors for playing down a nationwide shortage of ventilators, which enable a person with compromised lungs to keep breathing.

Covid-19 is a respiratory illness. Most who contract it recover but it can be fatal, particularly among older people and those with underlying health problems.

Trump announced he had signed a presidential memorandum directing his health secretary to use “any and all authority available under the Defense Production Act to require General Motors to accept, perform, and prioritize Federal contracts for ventilators”.

He added: “Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course.

“GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives.”


The decision followed 24 hours of confusion in which Trump initially expressed scepticism about the dire warnings of ventilator shortages, particularly in New York, where medical officials say the situation is desperate.

“I have a feeling that a lot of the numbers that are being said in some areas are just bigger than they’re going to be,” he told the Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday night.

“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You know, you go into major hospitals sometimes they’ll have two ventilators, and now all of a sudden they’re saying: ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’”

The comments provoked a backlash and on Friday morning Trump appeared to shift gear, lambasting GM for allegedly over-promising and over-charging. In tweets littered with capital letters and exclamation marks, he also urged Ford to churn out ventilators.

“As usual with ‘this’ General Motors, things just never seem to work out,” he wrote. “They said they were going to give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, ‘very quickly’. Now they are saying it will only be 6000, in late April, and they want top dollar. Always a mess with Mary B.”

The “Mary B” reference was to GM’s chief executive. Mary Barra, as Trump renewed his grievance with her for closing and selling a factory in a state vital to his re-election campaign.

He added: “General Motors MUST immediately open their stupidly abandoned Lordstown plant in Ohio, or some other plant, and START MAKING VENTILATORS, NOW!!!!!! FORD, GET GOING ON VENTILATORS, FAST!!!!!!”

The tweet stood in sharp contrast to a message sent in May last year, praising the decision to sell.

The comments came after a New York Times report that the White House had backed away from announcing a major ventilator deal with GM and Ventec Life Systems because the cost was too high.

Trump also tweeted he might “Invoke the ‘P’”, then clarified that he meant the DPA, which grants the president power to compel companies to expand industrial production of key materials or products for national security. Small-government conservatives had urged against such a move, suggesting the threat of the law would be leverage enough.

In a separate tweet, Trump said the federal government had bought a large quantity of ventilators from a number of companies, and that details would be announced later on Friday.

Critics say Trump ignored early warnings about the threat of the pandemic and had he acted sooner, mass production of ventilators would now be well under way.

Experts warn that the US is hundreds of thousands of machines short of what it need to treat a sharply rising number of coronavirus patients.

New York, Michigan, Louisiana and Washington state are current hot spots and the total of US cases has surpassed those confirmed in China and Italy. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, by Friday there were about 94,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the US and more than 1,400 deaths.

Hillary Clinton, a former New York senator and secretary of state, tweeted: “A month ago, Trump said: ‘It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.’ Yesterday, he said: ‘I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.’

“What will it take to get [him’] to listen to experts instead of his own hunches?”





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PMQs: Boris Johnson faces Jeremy Corbyn ahead of 2020 budget – live news | Politics


Cabinet received an update from the health secretary and the prime minister on the coronavirus outbreak. The PM wished Nadine Dorries a speedy recovery, noting that she was following official advice to self-isolate.

The chancellor set out the measures being taken to manage the impact of coronavirus, laying out details of his economic action plan that will be announced at budget.

He outlined how this plan – combined with the measures announced by the governor of the Bank of England this morning – will make the UK one of the best placed economies in the world to manage the potential impact of the virus. The chancellor added the budget will ensure businesses, the public and those in public services working on the front line against the virus get the support they need.

He said despite the impacts of the outbreak being uncertain, we have the economic tools to overcome the disruption caused by the virus and move the country forwards.

The chancellor also said that despite coronavirus being “front and centre in our minds”, the budget will implement the manifesto on which the government had been elected. He said it was vital that people know this is a budget that delivers on the promises made to the British people – investing in public services and cutting taxes for millions of hardworking people – and that there could be no delay in laying the foundations for a decade of growth where opportunity was spread equally across the UK.

The PM said that this budget starts to tackle head on the challenges facing our economy and country – addressing productivity and regional imbalances – and showing that the government is responding to the public’s desire for change. It will set the path for further action through the year.



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Fort Langley development proposed as Kwantlen First Nation partnership


A stalled plan to redevelop two big plots of Downtown Fort Langley might be back on the table in the form of a partnership with the Kwantlen First Nation, the partners announced March 4.

The proposal is to arrange a transfer of the 1.2 hectares of prime commercial real estate, in two parcels, from the Eric Woodward Foundation to the Kwantlen, which would apply to have it added to the First Nation’s reserve.

Assuming the addition is successful, Fort Langley Properties, a company wholly owned by the foundation, would lease the land back to co-develop the real estate into a mixed-use commercial and residential district in the heart of the historic village’s shopping district.

The Kwantlen view the proposal as “an amazing step towards reconciliation,” Chief Marilyn Gabriel said in a news release, “helping to strengthen the Kwantlen First Nation and promote ourselves as a key partner and leader in our regional economy.”

“Kwantlen has been growing tremendously in capacity and working tirelessly to promote meaningful partnerships within our territories for the next seven generations,” Gabriel said.

The Kwantlen “are always looking to increase our land base for the Nation,” said Brenda Knights, CEO of the First Nation’s economic development corporation, Seyem.

The 2014 example of the transfer of the 21-hectare Jericho Lands to a Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish First Nations corporation “spurred a lot of interest across Canada” for similar ventures, Knights said.

“Squamish as well recently acquired lands,” Knights said, “so we see this as Kwantlen’s time now.”

The Kwantlen still have to submit an application, which could take three-to-five years to complete, under federal rules that were revised last fall to shorten the process from an average of 10 years, Knights said.

The property, valued at $13 million to $14 million, is less than a kilometre away from the Kwantlen’s existing 181-hectare IR 6 lands. Knights said the First Nation previously had property from within that reserve expropriated for the old Albion Ferry and is going through the process to have that returned as well.

Such a downtown addition, however, would remove development from the municipal authority of the Township of Langley, where current owner Woodward has had on-again, off-again plans to redevelop the two properties into a mixed-use neighbourhood with 100,000 square feet of commercial space and 75 residential units. In the past, the Fort Langley community has been divided over the amount of change such development would bring to the downtown district, which is designated a heritage conservation area.

Woodward, who has also been a councillor for the Township of Langley since 2018, withdrew previous applications for development with the township. Woodward said the economics of renovation don’t make sense for 11 of 12 buildings on the two properties, save for the 1928 Simpson Bros. building at the corner of Glover Road and McBride Street, which he had always planned to restore.

“And we’re in this bind where we’ve had delays with getting approvals to move forward, and in the interim, not been allowed to remove them,” Woodward said.

In the meantime, Woodward had begun transferring ownership of the properties, many that sit empty and boarded up, from his company, Statewood Properties, to the non-profit charitable foundation, which he intends to be a legacy for the community’s benefit. And late last spring he started discussions with the Kwantlen about the possibility of a development in partnership with the First Nation.

“In hindsight, it’s fantastic to have ended up here,” Woodward said of the partnership and being able to draw the Kwantlen into economic development on property that is within their traditional territory. “And I think that the way we’ve been talking about it that once this announcement is public, to the people in Fort Langley and Langley, it will seem obvious, inevitable and wonderful. Not about buildings and not about some temporary dispute with a few politicians who won’t be around much longer.”

Knights said the application to add land only initiates the process, which will involve consultation with the Township of Langley to work through concerns and deal with agreements over municipal services, and eventually a referendum for all Kwantlen residents.

“We’re often on the receiving end of referrals from government (over developments) and now we’re playing that role,” Knights said.

And while Woodward had previous plans for the site, Knights said what finally gets built will have to be determined through the planning process.

“Certainly our membership will be interested in having a strong presence in Fort Langley and having the buildings reflect Kwantlen,” Knights said, but whatever it is has to make economic sense.

Kwantlen First Nation Coun. Tumia Knott added that they want to be good neighbours with the township.

I think it’s really important that it’s complementary to the region (and) fits within community values,” Knott said. “Not just Kwantlen’s values, but the values of the region of Fort Langley that we call home.”

In a news release, Knights referred to the partnership as a unique initiative in private-public reconciliation with a First Nation that impressed B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser.

“It’s great to see partnerships like this one demonstrating the real benefits of reconciliation,” Fraser said in a statement, “that by working together, we get better outcomes that benefit First Nations, governments and the communities and people they serve.”

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Davos 2020: Javid, Merkel and Soros in spotlight – business live | Business






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OSCE to deploy first-ever election observation mission to Uzbekistan



BAKU, Azerbaijan, Dec. 14

By Fakhri Vakilov – Trend:

More than 50 observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly are going to Uzbekistan for observing the 22 December parliamentary elections, Trend reports citing OSCE’s press service.

It is the first time for the OSCE PA observing an election in Uzbekistan.

OSCE PA President George Tsereteli (MP, Georgia) will serve as Special Co-ordinator and leader of the short-term OSCE observer mission, following an appointment by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak. Tsereteli has led a number of observer missions in the past, including to Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Moldova, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

“As we are deploying for the first time a full-fledged observation mission to the country, this is also the first time that Uzbekistan’s new reforms are really put to the test. We hope to see good-faith implementation in line with OSCE election-related commitments,” said Tsereteli.

Tsereteli has appointed OSCE PA Vice-President Kari Henriksen (MP, Norway) to lead the OSCE PA observer delegation.

“As observers, we will look at all aspects of the election system, as well as the media environment and political climate, and will offer a fair and balanced assessment,” said Henriksen. “Our election observation is a check on progress and part of a larger process in supporting democratic development across the OSCE area.”




For the 22 December parliamentary elections, the OSCE PA will work closely with observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. They will deliver the post-election statement of preliminary findings and conclusions at a press conference in Tashkent on 23 December.

The elections will be assessed for their compliance with commitments found in the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document.

Follow author on Twitter:@vakilovfaxri

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Squamish Nation approves $3-billion housing project in Kitsilano


Squamish Nation voted 87 per cent in favour of moving ahead with the project in partnership with Westbank Development to build 6,000 rental housing units in 11 towers on a 11.7-acre parcel of land in Kitsilano.

The development of the reserve lands at Sen̓áḵw, which is adjacent to the Burrard Bridge and Vanier Park, represents the single largest development on First Nation lands in Canada, according to the Squamish Nation. The city of Vancouver will have no power to regulate what is built.


Artist renderings of the 6,000-unit Senakw development proposed for Squamish First Nation lands in Kitsilano adjacent to the Burrard Bridge.

Revery Architecture /

PNG

“The Squamish Nation Council is thrilled with the outcome of this referendum, which was approved by a landslide. This is truly a landmark moment in our Nation’s history. The Sen̓áḵw Project will transform the Squamish Nation by providing immense social, cultural, and economic benefits to Squamish Nation members for generations to come,” said Squamish Nation councillor Khelsilem, in a statement on Facebook.

Construction on the first phase is expected to begin in 2021.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said earlier this year that this is what reconciliation looks like, and that the prospect of new rental units in Vancouver is “exciting.”

There are two other major real estate projects in Vancouver in planning that involve First Nation groups: the 90-acre Jericho Lands in West Point Grey and a plan for 2,500 homes on 21 acres at the Heather Land in the Cambie Corridor.

In 2014, city council designated Vancouver as a City of Reconciliation and set as its goal the creation of “sustained relationships of mutual respect and understanding with local First Nations and the urban Indigenous community.”



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UK economy at its lowest point since 2009



The British economy had its worst quarter since 2009, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported on Tuesday.

The economy flatlined month-on-month in October, after two months of decline.

Services expanded by 0.2% from August-to-October, offsetting a 0.7% contraction in manufacturing and 0.3% in construction.

Reflecting a drop in manufacturing exports, Britain’s goods trade deficit widened to £14.5bn in October, up from £11.5bn in September.

The pound shrugged off the low growth, gaining both against the dollar and the Euro. The pound broke over €1.19 on Monday, for the first time since May 2017. The rally seems to respond to polling, which suggests the Conservatives have a strong lead, betting on an orderly exit which removes the risk of a cliff-edge exit.



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Saudi Aramco becomes world’s biggest listed company as shares surge 10% – business live | Business


A screen advertising Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company Aramco with Arabic reads, “promising future” in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this week

A screen advertising Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company Aramco with Arabic reads, “promising future” in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this week Photograph: Amr Nabil/AP

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.

It’s a massive day on the Saudi stock market as oil giant Aramco finally makes its debut — becoming the biggest listed company in the world.

Saudi Aramco is floating today, after raising $25.6bn through its sometime troubled IPO. That valued the company at $1.7trillion – even more than Apple ($1.2 trillion).

The opening auction on the Tadawul is underway as I type, so we’ll soon know if the float is a success.

If Aramco’s shares rally today, then the $2trillion valuation craved by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could be in sight again.

But it’s an usual float – just 1.5% of Aramco’s stock is actually floating. The rest is owned by the Saudi state.

That scarcity could help push the stock higher, after international investors proved reluctant to back the IPO.

Human rights concerns, the climate crisis, and corporate government concerns all forced the Saudis to rein in their ambitious plans for the float, and restrict it to Middle East investors.

As my colleague Jillian Ambrose explains:


It was originally expected to sell about 5% through a dual-listing on the Saudi market and on a major international stock exchange.

The IPO lost the support of international investors, which are sceptical of the company’s valuation. Investors are also wary of Aramco’s close ties to the Saudi regime, which is embroiled in geopolitical conflict and whose behaviour has raised human rights concerns.
Among local investors demand for Aramco shares was almost three times oversubscribed after the Saudi government encouraged Middle Eastern investors and wealthy Saudi families to support the IPO.

Aramco’s shares were sold at 32 riyals each. The stock should start trading soon, so we’ll see if it spikes or slides…..

Also coming up today

The City is becoming more anxious about tomorrow’s general election.

A closely-watched poll from YouGov showed Boris Johnson’s likely majority has narrowed – from 68 seats to just 28. A hung parliament is still a real possibility, which knocked sterling a little last night.

The pound is trading around $1.3135 this morning, having hit $1.32 last night (before YouGov hit the wires).

Plus, America’s central bank is holding its last (scheduled) meeting of 2019, but we’re not expecting fireworks.

The agenda

  • 12.30pm GMT: US inflation: Expected to rise to 2.0% per year, from 1.8%
  • 3.30pm GMT: US weekly oil inventories
  • 7pm GMT: US Federal Reserve decision: expected to leave interest rates unchanged



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