Energy

With the entrance of former Vice President Joe Biden into the 2020 Democratic presidential contest on Thursday, the field is largely set, with all the big names included.

The sprawling Democratic field features candidates ranging from 37 to 77 years old; liberals and moderates; senators, governors and mayors; and an unprecedented number of women and minorities. Democrats view the upcoming election as a must-win, and they’re looking to nominate someone who is their best hope to beat President Donald Trump.

Here are the 20 candidates:

JOE BIDEN

Age: 76

Best known for: Being former President Barack Obama’s vice president from 2009 to 2017 and U.S. senator from Delaware from 1973 to 2009.

Biggest strength: He’s well-known nationally and popular in some places Democrats have lost recently, such as working-class swing states Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, his birthplace.

Biggest weakness: Biden would be the oldest person ever elected president, with a nearly five-decade record for opponents to comb through, at a time many in his party are clamoring for a new generation to take the reins. The notoriously chatty former senator also tends to commit verbal gaffes and faced recent accusations by some women of uninvited, though nonsexual, touching.

CORY BOOKER

Age: 49

Best known for: Serving as mayor of Newark and, currently, U.S. senator from New Jersey. He made headlines last year during his self-proclaimed “‘I am Spartacus’ moment” as he flouted Senate rules against disclosing confidential documents during Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation fight.

Biggest strength: His optimistic, unity-first attitude could resonate at a time of deep political divisions.

Biggest weakness: Trying to convince voters that he’s tough enough to take on Trump.

PETE BUTTIGIEG

Age: 37

Best known for: Serving as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and being a former Naval intelligence officer.

Biggest strength: He’s won over voters and many skeptics with his intelligence and an articulate yet plain-spoken speaking style. He’s also shown an ability to inspire voters of different ages with a message of hope and “a new generation of leadership” and has been able to raise millions more than many of his Democratic rivals.

Biggest weakness: His youth and lack of political experience — his only public office has been leading the community of about 100,000 people — will give some voters pause. He also will need to ramp up his campaign operations and do more to appeal to minority voters in order to maintain his early momentum.

JULIAN CASTRO

Age: 44

Best Known for: Serving as Health and Human Services secretary during President Barack Obama’s second term and as the mayor of San Antonio, Texas, for five years.

Biggest strength: His youthfulness and status as the only Latino in the race could help him win the votes of Democrats looking for a new face of their party.

Biggest weakness: His fundraising lags well behind other contenders.

JOHN DELANEY

Age: 56

Best known for: Being a former congressman from Maryland.

Biggest strength: He has rolled out a rural-focus policy that includes proposals to strengthen family farmers and rural infrastructure, a plan that could play well in the battleground Rust Belt states won by Trump.

Biggest weakness: Low name recognition.

TULSI GABBARD

Age: 38

Best known for: Serving as a U.S. representative for Hawaii; the first American Samoan and first Hindu to be elected to Congress.

Biggest strength: Her military service in Iraq and Kuwait with the Hawaii National Guard.

Biggest weakness: She has been criticized for traveling to Syria in 2017 to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been accused of war crimes and even genocide. She was also forced to apologize for her past work advocating against gay rights.

KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND

Age: 52

Best known for: The senator from New York is one of her chamber’s most vocal members on issues of sexual harassment, military sexual assault, equal pay for women and family leave.

Biggest strength: Not being afraid to defy her own party in the #MeToo era, calling early for Democratic Sen. Al Franken’s resignation over sexual misconduct allegations and saying Bill Clinton should have voluntary left the presidency over an affair with intern Monica Lewinsky.

Biggest weakness: Sluggish campaign fundraising in the wake of some unpleasant #MeToo headlines of her own, with Gillibrand acknowledging there were “post-investigation human errors” made when her Senate office investigated allegations of sexual misconduct against various staffers.

KAMALA HARRIS

Age: 54

Best known for: The former California attorney general is now the junior U.S. senator from California, known for her rigorous questioning of Trump’s nominees.

Biggest strength: As the one black woman in the race, she’s able to tap into networks like historically black colleges and universities and her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority that haven’t been fully realized before.

Biggest weakness: Her prosecutorial record has come under scrutiny amid a push for criminal justice reform.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER

Age: 67

Best known for: Being a quirky brewpub owner who became a politician late in life, rising to governor of Colorado.

Biggest strength: An unorthodox political persona and successful electoral track record in a swing state. He’s one of the few governors in a race heavy with senators and D.C. stalwarts.

Biggest weakness: He’s previously joked that he was too centrist to win the Democratic nomination. As governor he disappointed some environmentalists by not regulating the energy industry more. He’s another white male baby boomer in a party filled with younger and more diverse candidates that better reflect its base.

JAY INSLEE

Age: 68

Best known for: Being governor of Washington state and a former congressman.

Biggest strength: His campaign emphasis is on combating climate change, which he frames as an economic opportunity in addition to a moral imperative.

Biggest weakness: He risks being labeled a one-issue candidate.

AMY KLOBUCHAR

Age: 58

Best known for: The three-term Minnesota senator raised her national profile during a Senate committee hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when she asked him whether he had ever had so much to drink that he didn’t remember what happened. He replied, “Have you?”

Biggest strength: She’s known as a pragmatic lawmaker willing to work with Republicans to get things done, a quality that’s helped her win across Minnesota, including in rural areas that supported Trump in 2016. She says her Midwestern sensibilities would help Democrats reclaim critical battlegrounds like Wisconsin and Michigan.

Biggest weakness: Her pragmatism may work against her in a primary, as Democratic voters increasingly embrace more liberal policies and positions. There have also been news reports that she has mistreated staff.

WAYNE MESSAM

Age: 44

Best known for: Serving as the mayor of Miramar, Florida, and playing on the Florida State University Seminoles’ 1993 national championship football team.

Biggest strength: He touts his mayoral experience balancing government regulations needed to protect the environment while allowing room for companies to prosper.

Biggest weakness: Low name recognition and funding.

SETH MOULTON

Age: 40

Best known for: The Massachusetts congressman and Iraq War veteran gained national attention for helping lead an effort within the party to reject Nancy Pelosi as House speaker after Democrats regained control of the chamber.

Biggest strength: Military and congressional experience.

Biggest weakness: Low name recognition, late start on the fundraising necessary to qualify for the summer debate stage.

BETO O’ROURKE

Age: 46

Best known for: The former congressman narrowly lost the 2018 Senate race to Republican Ted Cruz in Texas, the country’s largest conservative state.

Biggest strength: A do-it-yourself campaign style that packs lots of travel and multiple events into long days and encourages off-the-cuff discussions with voters that still allow O’Rourke to talk up his days as a onetime punk rock guitarist and his love for his home on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Biggest weakness: He’s longer on enthusiasm and vague, bipartisan optimism than actual policy ideas, and the style-over-substance approach could see O’Rourke’s strong early fundraising slip once the curiosity begins to fade.

TIM RYAN

Age: 45

Best known for: The Ohio congressman made an unsuccessful bid to replace Nancy Pelosi as House Democratic leader in 2016.

Biggest strength: Ryan has touted himself as a candidate who can bridge Democrats’ progressive and working-class wings to win the White House.

Biggest weakness: Low name recognition, late start on grassroots fundraising.

BERNIE SANDERS

Age: 77

Best known for: A 2016 presidential primary campaign against Hillary Clinton that laid the groundwork for the leftward lurch that has dominated Democratic politics in the Trump era.

Biggest strength: The Vermont senator, who identifies himself as a democratic socialist, generated progressive energy that fueled his insurgent 2016 campaign and the best fundraising numbers of any Democrat so far.

Biggest weakness: Expanding his appeal beyond his largely white base of supporters.

ERIC SWALWELL

Age: 38

Best known for: The California congressman is a frequent guest on cable news criticizing President Donald Trump.

Biggest strength: Media savvy and youthfulness could appeal to young voters.

Biggest weakness: Low name recognition, late start on grassroots fundraising.

ELIZABETH WARREN

Age: 69

Best known for: The senator from Massachusetts and former Harvard University law professor whose calls for greater consumer protections led to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under then-President Barack Obama.

Biggest strength: Warren has presented a plethora of progressive policy ideas, including eliminating existing student loan debt for millions of Americans, breaking up farming monopolies and mammoth technology firms, implementing a “wealth tax” on households with high net worth and providing universal child care.

Biggest weakness: She is viewed as one of the most liberal candidates in the Democratic field, which could hurt her chances among moderates. Her policy-heavy approach also risks alienating voters at a time when other candidates are appealing to hearts as much as to minds.

MARIANNE WILLIAMSON

Age: 66

Best known for: Best-selling author and spiritual leader.

Biggest strength: Outsider who could draw interest from voters who are fans of her books.

Biggest weakness: Low name recognition, little political experience.

ANDREW YANG

Age: 44

Best known for: Entrepreneur who has generated buzz with his signature proposal for universal basic income to give every American $1,000 a month, no strings attached.

Biggest strength: Robust policy agenda, tech savvy.

Biggest weakness: Low name recognition, no political experience.

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: An oil pump is seen operating in the Permian Basin near Midland
FILE PHOTO: An oil pump is seen operating in the Permian Basin near Midland, Texas, U.S. on May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Ernest Scheyder

April 25, 2019

By Henning Gloystein

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Brent crude oil on Thursday rose above $75 per barrel for the first time in 2019 in the wake of tightening sanctions on Iran, while gains in U.S. prices were crimped by a surge in U.S. supply.

Brent crude futures rose to a 2019 high of $75.01 per barrel on Thursday and were at $74.90 per barrel at 0705 GMT, up 33 cents, or 0.4 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $65.94 per barrel, up 5 cents from their previous settlement.

Traders said Brent was receiving support on Thursday from a halt of Russian oil exports to Poland and Germany via a pipeline due to quality concerns.

The United States this week said it would end all exemptions for sanctions against Iran, demanding countries halt oil imports from Tehran from May or face punitive action from Washington.

“Following the U.S. decision to toughen its sanctions on Iran … we have revised up our end-year forecast for Brent crude from $50 to $60 per barrel,” analysts at Capital Economics said in a note.

The U.S. decision to try and bring down Iran oil exports to zero comes amid supply cuts led by producer Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) since the start of the year aimed at propping up prices.

As a result, Brent prices have risen by almost 40 percent since January.

Still, Brian Hook, U.S. Special Representative for Iran and Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State, said on Thursday “there is plenty of supply in the market to ease that transition and maintain stable prices”.

Consultancy Rystad Energy said Saudi Arabia and its main allies could replace lost Iranian oil.

“Saudi Arabia and several of its allies have more replacement barrels than what would be lost from Iranian exports,” said Rystad’s head of oil research Bjoernar Tonhaugen.

“Since October 2018, Saudi Arabia, Russia, the UAE, and Iraq have cut 1.3 million bpd, which is more than enough to compensate for the additional loss,” he added.

Capital Economics said it expected “oil prices to fall this year as sluggish global growth weighs on oil demand, U.S. shale output grows strongly and investor aversion to risk assets like commodities increases”.

South Korea’s economy unexpectedly shrank in the first quarter, the Bank of Korea said on Thursday, marking its worst performance since the global financial crisis.

China’s Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday that his nation’s economy “still faces downward pressure”.

On the supply side, U.S. crude oil production has risen by more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) since early 2018 to a record of 12.2 million bpd currently, making the United States the world’s biggest oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

In part because of soaring domestic production, U.S. commercial crude oil inventories last week hit a October 2017 high of 460.63 million barrels, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday. That was a rise of 1.3 million barrels.

(GRAPHIC: U.S. oil drilling, production & storage levels link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2DxgF8W).

(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Tom Hogue)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sign is seen on the podium at EPA headquarters in Washington
FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sign is seen on the podium at EPA headquarters in Washington, U.S., July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Ting Shen/File Photo

April 24, 2019

By Jarrett Renshaw

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. biofuels trade group asked a federal court on Wednesday to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from giving refiners new waivers from the country’s biofuels law until the agency reverts to the tougher criteria it used to assess applications before Donald Trump’s presidency, according to court papers.

The waivers can exempt small refineries — those with a production capacity of 75,000 barrels per day or less – from the requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard, which mandates U.S. refiners blend biofuels into the fuel pool or buy compliance credits from those who do.

Trump’s EPA has vastly expanded the biofuel waiver program to save the oil industry money, angering Midwest farmers who say the policy destroys demand for corn-based ethanol and other biofuels at a time they are already struggling – putting the administration in the center of a fight between two key constituencies.

“We want to return to normalcy,” Michael McAdams, head of the Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA), which filed the injunction in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, said in an interview on Wednesday. “My members will continue to suffer irreparable harm unless the EPA changes its ways.”

The U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard is meant to help farmers by requiring refiners to blend certain volumes of biofuels into their fuel each year or purchase credits from those that do. But the RFS also allows small refineries to apply for exemptions to the regulation if they can prove that compliance would cause them financial harm.

For 2017, the Trump administration’s EPA granted 35 exemptions to small refineries without denying any applications, up from seven exemptions issued in the last year of the Obama administration, according to EPA data.

That has reduced the costs of credits some refiners such as Valero Energy Corp, PBF Energy Inc and HollyFrontier Corp must buy in order to comply with the RFS, saving them hundreds of millions of dollars.

The EPA has argued it was forced to use a more liberal assessment process for waiver applications after a U.S. Appeals Court said in 2017 that the agency had been too strict in granting waivers during the Obama administration.

But ABFA has argued the agency illegally changed its process of assessing applications, making it possible for refineries owned by major oil companies like Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Corp to secure them.

The EPA, which typically does not comment on pending litigation, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

ABFA asked the court to stop the EPA from granting the next round of exemptions for the year 2018 – due to come any day now – until its case challenging the 2017 waivers is resolved or the agency decides to go back to its old way of assessing applications.

“We can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube if the 2018 exemptions are approved using an illegal scoring system,” said McAdams.

According to ABFA’s complaint, the Trump administration’s EPA stopped considering whether a refinery could remain profitable while complying with the RFS, and instead began considering only whether compliance would cause a “disproportionate” financial impact, an easier hurdle to clear.

In 24 out of 48 recent cases, the EPA granted waivers to refiners that the government believed would have remained competitive and profitable if they had been forced to comply with the RFS, ABFA alleged in the court documents, citing EPA documents outlining their decisions.

(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih speaks during the Gulf Intelligence Saudi Arabia Energy Forum in Riyadh
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih speaks during the Gulf Intelligence Saudi Arabia Energy Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

April 24, 2019

By Stephen Kalin and Saeed Azhar

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producer, will remain active in the debt markets after its debut $12 billion bond earlier this month, which was “only the beginning”, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said on Wednesday.

Falih, speaking at a financial conference in Riyadh, also said Aramco would access the equity markets earlier than expected after the company gained exposure among investors through the bond sale.

Many saw the debt deal as a relationship-building exercise with international investors ahead of Aramco’s planned initial public offering, aimed at raising money for the government as Saudi Arabia looks to cut its budget deficit and diversify its economy.

Saudi officials have said the new planned listing date is 2021, but Falih told the conference on Wednesday that the share sale “could slip or come forward a little bit”.

Aramco received more than $100 billion in orders by April 9 for its debut bond – even after its prospectus said the kingdom would not guarantee Aramco’s notes – but chose to sell only $12 billion.

The bond came on the heels of Aramco’s planned $69.1 billion acquisition of a 70 percent stake in petrochemicals firm Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.

JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, HSBC, Citi, Goldman Sachs and National Commercial Bank were the bonds’ bookrunners.

JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, along with other banks, worked on the planned stock market listing of Aramco before the move was postponed last year.

(Reporting by Stephen Kalin and Saeed Azhar; Writing by Hadeel Al Sayegh and Davide Barbuscia; Editing by Dale Hudson)

Source: OANN

A cargo train loaded with coal dust, moves past the port area near City Station in Karachi
A cargo train loaded with coal dust, moves past the port area near City Station in Karachi, Pakistan September 24, 2018. Picture taken September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

April 24, 2019

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – People living in countries along China’s new “Silk Road” favor investment in renewable energy over the construction of coal-fired power plants, according to a poll released on Wednesday ahead of a major summit in Beijing.

Environmental group E3G, which commissioned the poll, said the results showed there was little support for investment in coal, despite China’s role as a major funder of new plants.

“China should now work with governments, business and investors at the upcoming forum to make sure these demands are met,” said Nick Mabey, chief executive of E3G.

The survey was released ahead of China’s second international forum on its 2013 Belt and Road initiative, which is designed to build infrastructure and encourage trade and economic cooperation along the old Silk Road route connecting China to Europe and elsewhere.

According to a draft communique seen by Reuters, world leaders attending the summit will call for sustainable financing that promotes green growth.

But concerns have been raised that China is using the program to export substandard polluting technologies, even as it boosts the share of renewable power at home in a bid to cut smog and climate-warming greenhouse gases.

The YouGov poll of more than 6,000 people covered Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Turkey and Vietnam, which are among the top 10 locations for the construction of new coal-fired power plants, with many backed by Chinese developers.

Over 85 percent of those surveyed said they favored investment by foreign governments, banks and companies in renewable projects, while less than a third said they favored investments in coal.

More than 90 percent said solar power should be a priority. Coal-fired power was less popular than nuclear in four of the six countries.

In a separate announcement on Wednesday, a coalition of Chinese environmental groups urged Beijing to draw up green guiding principles for investment in Belt and Road countries.

“The host country’s climate objectives and the long-term impact of investment activities on the local environment must be taken into consideration,” said Yang Fuqiang, a senior climate advisor with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

(Reporting by David Stanway; editing by Richard Pullin)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Candidate Zelenskiy waves to supporters following the announcement of an exit poll in Ukraine's presidential election in Kiev
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy waves to supporters following the announcement of the first exit poll in a presidential election at his campaign headquarters in Kiev, Ukraine April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi

April 24, 2019

By Pavel Polityuk

KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday called on the government and state energy company Naftogaz to hold talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on lowering household gas prices from May 1.

The IMF, which is helping Ukraine with a multi-billion dollar loan program, has said it wants to see gas prices set at their market level.

Zelenskiy, who has yet to take office but won a landslide election victory on Sunday, said in a statement on his team’s Facebook page he wanted prices to be lower.

“Let’s not just in words, but in deeds show that we can take decisions in people’s interests,” the statement said.

“For the past four months, gas prices in Europe have been decreasing and now the price of gas for the population in Ukraine is higher than the price of gas on the European market.”

The same statement warned that neighboring Russia might limit energy supplies to Ukraine from June 1, and that, from Jan. 1, Moscow might move to halt gas transit through Ukraine altogether, a move it said would result in significant financial losses and gas supply risks.

“These challenges require us to take effective and fast action,” the statement said.

An IMF spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman in March said he would urge the finance ministry and Naftogaz to start talks with the IMF to try to prevent any future rise in gas tariffs.

The government raised gas prices by nearly a quarter in October, allowing it to secure a new $3.9 billion stand-by aid agreement with the IMF.

According to a previously adopted government resolution, gas prices were due to rise by 15 percent from May 1. But earlier this week the government and Naftogaz agreed a slight decrease in tariffs.

Naftogaz said prices would fall by around 3.5 percent to 8,247 hryvnias ($310.56) per 1,000 cubic meters from May 1.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Matthias Williams)

Source: OANN

Pumpjacks are seen against the setting sun at the Daqing oil field in Heilongjiang
FILE PHOTO: Pumpjacks are seen against the setting sun at the Daqing oil field in Heilongjiang province, China December 7, 2018. Picture taken December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

April 24, 2019

By Henning Gloystein

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices fell on Wednesday amid signs that global markets remain adequately supplied despite a jump to 2019 highs this week on Washington’s push for tighter sanctions against Iran.

Brent crude futures were at $74.13 per barrel at 0456 GMT, down 38 cents, or 0.5 percent, from their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $65.93 per barrel, down 37 cents, or 0.6 percent, from their previous settlement.

Crude oil prices for spot delivery rose to 2019 highs earlier in the week after the United States said on Monday it would end all exemptions for sanctions against Iran, demanding countries halt oil imports from Tehran from May or face punitive action from Washington.

The spot price surge has put the Brent forward curve into steep backwardation, in which prices for later delivery are cheaper than for prompt dispatch.

Stephen Schork of the Schork Report energy newsletter, said the shift to backwardation in the past four months was “a sign that the market’s underlying fundamentals have shifted away from a spot market that is well supplied to a market where demand is beginning to overtake supply.”

U.S. sanctions against oil exporter Iran were introduced in November 2018, but Washington allowed its largest buyers limited imports of crude for another half-year as an adjustment period.

With Iranian oil exports likely declining sharply from May as most countries bow to U.S. pressure, global crude markets are expected to tighten in the short-run, Goldman Sachs and Barclays bank said this week.

Despite the tight spot market, analysts said global oil markets remained adequately supplied thanks to ample spare capacity from the Middle East dominated Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Russian and also the United States.

The International Energy Agency (IEA), a watchdog for oil consuming countries, said in a statement on Tuesday that markets are “adequately supplied” and that “global spare production capacity remains at comfortable levels.”

The biggest source of new oil supply comes from the United States, where crude oil production has already risen by more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) since early 2018 to a record of more than 12 million bpd early this year, making America the world’s biggest oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

“Total oil supplies from the United States are expected to grow by 1.6 million bpd this year,” the IEA said.

Commercial inventories in the United States are also high.

U.S. crude oil inventories rose by 6.9 million barrels in the week to April 19 to 459.6 million, data from industry group the American Petroleum Institute showed on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; editing by Richard Pullin)

Source: OANN

The Google logo is pictured at the entrance to the Google offices in London
FILE PHOTO: The Google logo is pictured at the entrance to the Google offices in London, Britain January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

April 24, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday wrote to Google’s chief executive raising concerns about reports of a massive database known as Sensorvault that allegedly contains precise consumer location information from hundreds of millions of devices.

The letter from Democrats and Republicans on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee to CEO Sundar Pichai seeks a briefing and answers on how this information is used and shared, citing a New York Times report that the database includes nearly every consumer with an Android mobile device, in some cases storing information dating back to 2009.

A representative for Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, said in a statement: “The data in question is used for Location History, which is off by default. If a user chooses to turn it on, we can provide helpful information, like real-time data to help them beat traffic on their way home from work. They can delete their Location History data, or turn off the product entirely, at any time.”

The letter is one of several sent by members of Congress in recent months that raise concerns about how Google and other big Internet companies use information they have gathered about consumers.

The letter, which was signed by Democratic Representatives Frank Pallone and Jan Schakowsky and Republicans Greg Walden and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, asked Google who has access to the Sensorvault database and which Google services or apps collect the information.

The lawmakers asked for answers to their questions as well as a briefing on the issue by May 10.

They also asked Google if information is collected from consumers who requested that their data not be shared and asked to be briefed on any third parties, other than law enforcement, given access to location data.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and other free online services rely on advertising for revenue and use data collected on users to more effectively target those ads.

Congress has long been expected to take up privacy legislation after California passed a strict privacy law that goes into effect next year.

Two U.S. senators introduced a bill in early April that would ban online social media companies like Facebook and Google from misleading consumers in order to convince them to give up personal data.

The bill from Mark Warner, a Democrat, and Deb Fischer, a Republican, would also ban online platforms with more than 100 million monthly active users from designing addicting games or other websites for children under age 13.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Diane Bartz; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Rosalba O’Brien)

Source: OANN

A man looks on in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Nanjing
FILE PHOTO: A man looks on in front of an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

April 24, 2019

By Andrew Galbraith

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Equity markets in Asia rose on Wednesday morning after upbeat earnings helped the Nasdaq and S&P 500 indexes reach record closing highs on Wall Street overnight, while oil retreated from its near six-month highs.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.1 percent in early trade in Asia. The gains followed a strong performance on Wall Street, driven by robust results from Coca-Cola, Twitter, United Technologies and Lockheed Martin.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.52 percent to 26,647.97, the S&P 500 gained 0.91 percent to 2,934.31 and the Nasdaq Composite added 1.35 percent to 8,123.25.

On Wednesday morning, S&P 500 e-mini stock futures were up 0.03 percent at 2,938.75, just short of a record high of 2,944.75 on October 3.

Australian shares gained 0.6 percent, while Japan’s Nikkei stock index was 0.3 percent higher. Seoul’s Kospi was up 0.1 percent.

Analyst said that alongside better-than-feared corporate earnings, a more supportive policy environment is helping to boost risk appetites.

“The Fed has been joined in its dovish tilt by major central banks across the globe … the tilt globally reflects genuine concern not to allow individual countries and the globe to tip into recession. That risk has receded,” Greg McKenna, strategist at McKenna Macro in Australia, said in a note to clients.

Equity market gains had been bolstered on Tuesday by rising energy shares after Brent crude, the global benchmark, hit its highest level since Nov. 1.

Oil prices had surged after the United States ended six months of waivers that allowed Iran’s eight biggest buyers, most of them in Asia, to continue importing limited volumes of Iranian oil.

Gulf OPEC members said that rather than offset any shortfall resulting from the U.S. decision on waivers, they would raise output only if there was demand.

But early on Wednesday, Brent had given up some gains, trading down 0.54 percent at $74.11 per barrel. U.S. crude dipped 0.54 to $65.94 a barrel.

U.S. Treasury yields ticked lower. Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes yielded 2.5686 percent compared with a U.S. close of 2.57 percent on Tuesday, while the two-year yield, slipped to 2.3516 percent, compared with a U.S. close of 2.364 percent.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major rivals, eased 0.03 percent to 97.606. The dollar was down 0.04 percent against the yen to 111.82.

The euro edged 0.08 percent lower to buy $1.1216.

Spot gold fell about 0.1 percent to $1,271.07 per ounce.

(Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

Source: OANN

Cho Eun-hye and her one-and-a-half-year-old Korean Jindo dog Hari, both wearing masks, go for a walk on a poor air quality day in Incheon
FILE PHOTO: Cho Eun-hye (R) and her one-and-a-half-year-old Korean Jindo dog Hari, both wearing masks, go for a walk on a poor air quality day in Incheon, South Korea, March 15, 2019. Picture taken on March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Hyun Young Yi

April 24, 2019

By Joori Roh and Cynthia Kim

SEJONG, South Korea (Reuters) – South Korea announced a proposed 6.7 trillion won ($5.87 billion) supplementary budget on Wednesday to tackle unprecedented air pollution levels and to boost exports bruised by weak external demand amid the Sino-U.S. trade war.

The planned stimulus package allocates 2.2 trillion won to battle air pollution, including subsidies for replacing old diesel-powered cars as well as for buying air purifiers and using renewable energy technologies, the finance ministry said.

Another 4.5 trillion won will be used to increase export credit financing and to create jobs.

“(The extra budget is) to resolve national predicament caused by fine dust and to support the public economy through pre-emptive economic measures,” the ministry said in a statement.

It sees the extra budget lifting Asia’s fourth-largest economy’s growth by 0.1 percentage point this year and adding at least 73,000 jobs, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki told a briefing.

In March, parliament approved a bill designating the air pollution problem a “social disaster”, paving the way for President Moon Jae-in’s government to draft a fiscal stimulus program to combat it.

Also in March, exports contracted for a fourth month in a row.

Last week, the central bank cut its 2019 growth forecast to a seven-year low of 2.5 percent, underlining worries that weak external demand and trade frictions could stunt economic recovery.

A loss of jobs is also a worry.

South Korea’s unemployment rate jumped to a nine-year high in January, hurt by the government-led hikes in minimum wages and growth concerns among businesses.

Employment conditions improved slightly in March, but it is still in a difficult situation, according to the finance ministry.

To fund the proposed extra budget, the government plans to issue 3.6 trillion won of deficit-covering bonds, according to the ministry’s budget chief.

The remaining 3.1 trillion won will be financed from above-target tax revenue collected in 2018 and by funds that state-owned companies manage.

This year marks the fifth straight year for South Korea to propose an extra budget for stimulus, sparking sharp criticism that this no longer is an emergency measure.

When asked if the current economic situation warrants adjustments in fiscal spending, Finance Minister Hong said his team is making “pre-emptive responses” to boost growth, as is allowed South Korea’s economic stimulus law.

South Korea can draw up an extra budget when there is a war or large-scale disaster outbreaks, or when there are concerns over economic recessions and mass lay-offs, according to the national finance act.

Moon’s ruling Democratic Party likely faces a challenge winning parliamentary approval of the budget bill, as it only holds 43 percent of the National Assembly’s 300 seats. Moon will need to gain support from nearly 30 opposition lawmakers.

The ministry sees South Korea’s economy growing 2.6 percent this year if the extra budget bill is approved and executed in a timely manner. It plans to submit the bill on Thursday.

(Reporting by Joori Roh and Cynthia Kim; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

Source: OANN


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