Inauguration Day 2021 began like no other. A ring of steel and tens of thousands of National Guard troops surround Washington DC for the swearing-in of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, following the insurrection at the US Capitol earlier this month by a pro-Trump mob.
The outgoing president broke with 150 years of tradition and refused to welcome his successor and be present for the peaceful transfer of power at noon. Instead, Mr Trump jetted off on Air Force One for his new life in Florida early Wednesday. Here, The Independent follows the day as it unfolds.
WASHINGTON — The Senate parliamentarian has dealt a potentially lethal blow to Democrats’ drive to hike the minimum wage, deciding that the cherished progressive goal must fall from a massive COVID-19 relief bill the party is trying to speed through Congress, Democratic Senate aides said Thursday. The finding by Elizabeth MacDonough, the chamber’s nonpartisan arbiter of its rules, comes as Democrats prepare for House approval Friday of an initial version of the $1.9 trillion package that still includes the minimum wage boost. It also forces Democrats to make politically painful choices about what to do next on the minimum wage, which has long caused internal party rifts. THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below. The White House seemed reluctant Thursday to pursue a Senate procedural power play to preserve Democrats' bid to hike the minimum wage, as lawmakers awaited a decision by the chamber's parliamentarian that could determine the proposal's fate. Democrats were on track to push a sprawling COVID-19 relief measure through the House on Friday, an initial version of a $1.9 trillion package that includes a minimum wage increase. They're hoping Congress can send President Joe Biden a final version of the bill by mid-March. The overall relief bill is Biden’s first legislative priority. It is aimed at combatting a year-old pandemic that’s stalled much of the economy, killed half a million Americans and reshaped the daily lives of virtually everyone. But first, Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough was expected at any time to reveal whether that chamber's rules would allow the minimum wage provision to remain in that bill. If she decides language raising the minimum to $15 hourly by 2025 must be dropped, it could all but kill the increase's chances of survival for now. While Biden supports the increase to $15, the White House seemed to signal reluctance to pursue one rarely used option. Democrats could bust through decades of Senate precedent, ignore the parliamentarian’s view and keep the minimum wage provision in the bill with their 51 votes. But moves like that are anathema to many Senate traditionalists like Biden, a 36-year veteran of the chamber, and would invite tit-for-tat retaliation by Republicans. “It would be a serious step for the vice-president to take that step," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said of Kamala Harris, who likely would preside over the Senate at that critical moment. “And obviously, she and the president respect the historic institution of the Senate. It would also require 50 votes." Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have voiced opposition to including the $15 minimum wage in the relief bill and other moderates have expressed concerns too, making it unclear that Democrats could rally the support they'd need to prevail. They control the Senate with Harris' tie-breaking vote. White House chief of staff Ron Klain went further Wednesday in distancing the administration from flouting the Senate's usual procedures. “Certainly, that’s not something we would do,” he told MSNBC host Joy Reid. “We’re going to honour the rules of the Senate and work within that system to get this bill passed.” Republicans solidly oppose the $15 minimum wage target as an expense that would hurt businesses and cost jobs. They also oppose the overall relief bill, saying it's too expensive, not targeted enough at people and businesses that most need it and a grab bag of gifts for Democratic allies. If MacDonough decides the minimum wage provision can remain in the bill, it would be a major boost for its proponents. But there would still be no guarantee the measure would survive because of opposition from some Democrats, suggesting that grueling bargaining on its final form would lie ahead. Every Democrat would have enormous leverage in such talks, because the party has just a 10-vote edge in the House and no votes to spare in the 50-50 Senate. It is unclear what such negotiations would produce. Democrats have discussed options including taking additional years to reach $15, lowering the dollar target, phasing the increase in by region of the country and letting the new figure grow automatically under some formula. Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., was among several Democrats who’ve expressed support for creating a way for the minimum wage to automatically keep abreast of inflation and pay scales. He added, “I’m not religious or doctrinaire about how to do it.” The pandemic relief legislation would provide millions of people with $1,400 direct payments. It contains billions of dollars for vaccines and COVID-19 testing, schools, state and local governments, the ailing restaurant and airline industries and emergency jobless benefits while providing tax breaks to lower earners and families with children. Democrats are pushing the $1.9 trillion measure through Congress under special rules that will let them avoid a Senate filibuster by Republicans, a tactic that Democrats would need an unattainable 60 votes to defeat. But those same Senate rules prohibit provisions with only an “incidental” impact on the federal budget because they are chiefly driven by other policy purposes. The parliamentarian decides if provisions pass that test. The minimum wage has stood at $7.25 since 2009. Alan Fram, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The United States launched airstrikes in Syria on Thursday, targeting facilities near the Iraqi border used by Iranian-backed militia groups. The Pentagon said the strikes were retaliation for a rocket attack in Iraq earlier this month that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition troops. The airstrike was the first military action undertaken by the Biden administration, which in its first weeks has emphasized its intent to put more focus on the challenges posed by China, even as Mideast threats persist. “This proportionate military response was conducted together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with coalition partners,” the Pentagon's chief spokesperson, John Kirby, said in announcing the strikes. “The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to deescalate the overall situation in eastern Syria and Iraq.” Kirby said the U.S. airstrikes “destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian- backed militant groups.” Further details were not immediately available. Biden administration officials condemned the Feb. 15 rocket attack near the city of Irbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish-run region, but as recently as this week officials indicated they had not determined for certain who carried it out. Officials have noted that in the past, Iranian-backed Shiite militia groups have been responsible for numerous rocket attacks that targeted U.S. personnel or facilities in Iraq. Kirby had said Tuesday that Iraq is in charge of investigating the Feb. 15 attack. “Right now, we’re not able to give you a certain attribution as to who was behind these attacks, what groups, and I’m not going to get into the tactical details of every bit of weaponry used here," Kirby said. "Let’s let the investigations complete and conclude, and then when we have more to say, we will.” A little-known Shiite militant group calling itself Saraya Awliya al-Dam, Arabic for Guardians of Blood Brigade, claimed responsibility for the Feb. 15 attack. A week later, a rocket attack in Baghdad's Green Zone appeared to target the U.S. Embassy compound, but no one was hurt. Iran this week said it has no links to the Guardians of Blood Brigade. The frequency of attacks by Shiite militia groups against U.S. targets in Iraq diminished late last year ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, though now Iran is pressing America to return to Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal. The U.S. under the previous Trump administration blamed Iran-backed groups for carrying out the attacks. Tensions soared after a Washington-directed drone strike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and powerful Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis last year. Trump had said the death of a U.S. contractor would be a red line and provoke U.S. escalation in Iraq. The December 2019 killing of a U.S. civilian contractor in a rocket attack in Kirkuk sparked a tit-for-tat fight on Iraqi soil that brought the country to the brink of a proxy war. U.S. forces have been significantly reduced in Iraq to 2,500 personnel and no longer partake in combat missions with Iraqi forces in ongoing operations against the Islamic State group. Lolita C. Baldor And Robert Burns, The Associated Press
Perth's homelessness crisis: the WA election issue Mark McGowan can't shake offFremantle’s ‘tent city’ has shed light on Western Australia’s growing number of rough sleepers – and a Labor government presiding over a ballooning public housing waiting list The tent city in Pioneer Park in Fremantle on 22 January, which was set up on Boxing Day 2020. In the past 12 months, Western Australia’s public housing waiting list has ballooned by 2,000 to 14,890 applicants. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/AAP
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) _ First Solar Inc. (FSLR) on Thursday reported fourth-quarter net income of $115.7 million, after reporting a loss in the same period a year earlier. On a per-share basis, the Tempe, Arizona-based company said it had net income of $1.08. The results missed Wall Street expectations.
The following are the top stories on the business pages of British newspapers. - Rishi Sunak is drawing up plans for a new "stealth tax" on wealthy pensioners as he seeks to repair Britain's finances after the pandemic, The Times has learnt. - About 5,000 jobs are at risk at Asda after the supermarket group launched a big restructuring in response to the rapid rise of online shopping.
25, 2021 /CNW/ -- SEMI, the industry association serving the global electronics design and manufacturing supply chain, today released the following statement from president and CEO Ajit Manocha on the support of funding incentives to expand U. semiconductor manufacturing and research by President Biden and a bipartisan group of members of Congress in a meeting at the White House on February 24, 2021.
KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. (AP) _ Universal Health Realty Income Trust (UHT) on Thursday reported a key measure of profitability in its fourth quarter. The King Of Prussia, Pennsylvania-based real estate investment trust said it had funds from operations of $11.8 million, or 85 cents per share, in the period. Funds from operations is a closely watched measure in the REIT industry.
NEW YORK — Is it Mr. Potato Head or not? Hasbro created confusion Thursday when it announced that it would drop the “Mr.” from the brand’s name in order to be more inclusive and so all could feel “welcome in the Potato Head world.” It also said it would sell a new playset this fall without the Mr. and Mrs. designations that will let kids create their own type of potato families, including two moms or two dads. But in a tweet later that afternoon, Hasbro clarified that the Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head characters will still live on and be sold in stores, but under the Potato Head brand. In a picture posted on Twitter, the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” names are less prominently displayed at the bottom of the box, instead of the top. “While it was announced today that the POTATO HEAD brand name & logo are dropping the ‘MR.’ I yam proud to confirm that MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD aren’t going anywhere and will remain MR. & MRS. POTATO HEAD,” the company tweeted. The tweet came after news of the brand name change exploded on Twitter, with people asking if Barbie will change her name next. “I think Hasbro needs to drop the “Bro” and just be “Has,'” another person tweeted. Hasbro appears to want to have it both ways: expand the brand, while not killing off its most iconic characters, which appeared in the “Toy Story” films. “They are looking to broaden the franchise,” said Robert Passikoff, founder of marketing consultancy Brand Keys. “You take the focus of what is essentially one character and now allow it to be a platform for many characters.” Kimberly Boyd, a senior vice-president at Hasbro, said the intention of the brand name change was to be more inclusive and to have the characters still live within the Potato Head universe. “It created a lot of excitement," she said about the reaction. GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy group, applauded the more inclusive Potato playset. “Hasbro is helping kids to simply see toys as toys, which encourages them to be their authentic selves outside of the pressures of traditional gender norms,” said Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s chief communications officer, in a statement. Many toymakers have been updating their classic brands in recent years, hoping to relate to today’s kids and reflect more modern families. “It’s a potato,” said Ali Mierzejewski, editor in chief at toy review site The Toy Insider, about the new playset. “But kids like to see themselves in the toys they are playing with.” Barbie, for example, has tried to shed its blonde image and now comes in multiple skin tones and body shapes. The Thomas the Tank Engine toy line added more girl characters. And American Girl is now selling a boy doll. Mr. Potato Head first hit the toy scene in 1952, when it didn’t even come with a plastic potato — kids had to supply their own vegetable to poke eyes, a nose or moustache into. Hasbro, which also makes Monopoly and My Little Pony, bought the brand and eventually added a plastic spud. Joseph Pisani, The Associated Press
KMPG said Bina Mehta would remain non-executive chair of the UK board for the next 12 months and would oversee the CEO election process, which it plans to begin this month and conclude by the end of April. The elected chief executive will serve until the end of September 2025, the company said. Mary O'Connor, head of clients and markets, will remain as CEO while the election is conducted.
Wall Street analyst Laura Martin of Needham Co. went so far as to say “Sell Netflix to buy ViacomCBS” after Wednesday’s marathon presentation of ViacomCBS’ plan for growth in the streaming arena with the March 4 launch of Paramount Plus. But Todd Juenger of Sanford Bernstein Co. is having none of it, setting his target […]
The Democratic-controlled Senate cannot include President Joe Biden's proposed $15 per hour minimum wage in a $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill the party aims to pass without Republican votes, the body's parliamentarian ruled, a Bloomberg reporter said on Twitter on Thursday. Bloomberg White House reporter Jennifer Epstein tweeted that the Senate parliamentarian had "ruled minimum-wage boost out of order". Democrats are trying to advance the COVID-19 bill under a special "budget reconciliation" process that would allow them to pass it in the Senate using a simple majority, so they will not need Republican support.
Cannae Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:CNNE) ("Cannae" or the "Company") today announced that it has entered into a forward purchase agreement with Austerlitz Acquisition Corporation I ("AUS") in which Cannae intends to purchase AUS’s Class A ordinary shares in an aggregate share amount equal to 5,000,000 Class A ordinary shares, plus an aggregate of 1,250,000 redeemable warrants to purchase one Class A ordinary share at $11.50 per share, for an aggregate purchase price of $50.0 million, or $10.00 per Class A ordinary share, in a private placement to occur concurrently with the closing of an initial business combination by AUS. Additionally, Cannae will invest $1.4 million in AUS for 933,333 private placement warrants at the initial public offering. AUS recently priced its initial public offering of 60,000,000 units at a price of $10.00 per unit. AUS has granted the underwriters of the offering a 45-day option to purchase up to an additional 9,000,000 units at the public offering price. The units are listed on the New York Stock Exchange (the "NYSE") and trade under the ticker symbol "AUS.U". Each unit consists of one of AUS’s Class A ordinary shares and one-fourth of one warrant. Each whole warrant entitles the holder to one of AUS’s Class A ordinary shares at a price of $11.50 per share. Once the securities comprising the units begin separate trading, the Class A ordinary shares and warrants are expected to be listed on the NYSE under the symbols "AUS" and "AUS WS," respectively.
AUSTIN, Texas — The catastrophic Texas blackout was a wider failure than the state's power grid, which teetered on the brink of an even bigger collapse during a freeze that knocked out electricity to 4 million customers, energy executives said Thursday. One CEO said he sounded warning days before what became one of the worst power outages in U.S. history, including to the office of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, whose regulatory appointees came under sharp criticism during the first investigative hearing since last week's crisis. Leaders of other power companies said they thought the system would hold, while also acknowledging that a failure to buttress their generators against subfreezing weather contributed to the outages. “Who is at fault?" state Rep. Todd Hunter, a Republican, demanded of witnesses during hours of testimony at the Texas Capitol. President Joe Biden is set to fly to Texas on Friday, in what will be his first visit to a major disaster site since taking office. Abbott has zeroed in almost singularly on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, accusing the state’s embattled grid operator of misleading the public about the readiness of a system that was minutes away from total collapse in the early hours of Feb. 15, when temperatures plunged and demand for electricity vastly outstripped supply. But energy executives, including those whose companies lavishly donate to Abbott and lawmakers, made clear that the fault is far wider. The testimony offered a troubling new look at how quickly America’s energy capital ran out of energy. Curtis Morgan, the CEO of Vistra Corp., told lawmakers at the outset that the blackouts affected plants that could have generated more power that was urgently needed. He said when officials from his company called utility providers, they were told they weren’t a priority. “How can a power plant be at the bottom of the list of priorities?” Morgan said. “You-know-what hit the fan, and everybody’s going, ‘You’re turning off my power plant?'" he said. At least 40 people in Texas died as a result of the storm, and 10 days after the blackout started, more than 1 million people in the state were still under boil-water notices. ERCOT officials have claimed that the scale of the forced blackouts — the largest in Texas history — were necessary to avert an even more catastrophic failure that would have wiped out power to most of the state's 30 million residents for months. “Obviously what you did didn't work," said Democratic state Sen. John Whitmire of Houston, which had more than 1 million outages. “It worked from keeping us (from) going into a blackout that we’d still be in today, that’s why we did it," ERCOT president Bill Magness said. “Now it didn’t work for people’s lives, but it worked to preserve the integrity of the system.” Among Vistra's subsidiaries is, Luminant, which operates nearly two dozen plants across Texas. Morgan blamed outdated lists of critical infrastructure in Texas for darkening gas processers and production sites as grid managers began shutting off parts of the system. Morgan didn't say how many of the company's plants were turned off or for how long, but he did say the company was within three minutes of power going offline at one nuclear plant, and that the main power grid in America’s energy capital was just moments away from total collapse Feb. 15. He said he had reached out to state officials, including Abbott's office, with concerns. “We came dangerously close to losing the entire electric system," Morgan said. Of Texas' power generators that were not operational during the storm, Magness said the freeze was responsible 42% of the failures. A lack of fuel and equipment damage unrelated to the weather also contributed, but Magness said that for 38% of the plant outages, the problem remains unclear. Republican lawmakers pulled no punches in criticizing DeAnn Walker, chairwoman of the Public Utility Commission, who was appointed to the regulatory agency by Abbott. Several were frustrated by her claims the commission had little enforcement leverage over ERCOT. “You are the chair, I would contend you are choosing not to leverage the authority we have given you. That is a serious problem," Sen. Brandon Creighton said. The outages lasted days for millions of Texas homes, and millions more lost water as water treatment plants shutdown and miles of pipes burst across the state. The toll of the storm included at least 15 hypothermia-related deaths around Houston, said Democratic state Rep. Ana Hernandez, vice chairwoman of the House State Affairs committee. The crisis has put Texas' power and fossil fuel industry under heavy scrutiny from lawmakers who reap millions of dollars in unlimited political contributions from energy interests, more than any other sector. Since 2017, Vistra Energy and its political action committee has donated more than $1.4 million to Texas politicians and groups associated with both political parties, according to state campaign finance records. Lawmakers also heard early Thursday from the top executive of NRG Energy, which has donated more than $405,000 since 2017, including $30,000 to Abbott. ___ Koenig reported from Dallas. Associated Press writer Jake Bleiberg in Dallas and Jim Vertuno in Austin contributed to this report. Paul J. Weber And David Koenig, The Associated Press
Annika Sorenstam doesn't remember golf being this difficult. With one birdie and one bad hole, Sorenstam had a 3-over 75 in the LPGA Gainbridge on her home course at Lake Nona. The LPGA Tour came to her home course and she wanted to play.
Austerlitz Acquisition Corporation I (the "Company") today announced the pricing of its initial public offering of 60,000,000 units at a price of $10.00 per unit. The Company has granted the underwriters of the offering a 45-day option to purchase up to an additional 9,000,000 units at the public offering price. The units will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange (the "NYSE") and trade under the ticker symbol "AUS.U" beginning February 26, 2021. Each unit consists of one of the Company’s Class A ordinary shares and one-fourth of one warrant. Each whole warrant entitles the holder to one of the Company’s Class A ordinary shares at a price of $11.50 per share. Once the securities comprising the units begin separate trading, the Class A ordinary shares and warrants are expected to be listed on the NYSE under the symbols "AUS" and "AUS WS", respectively.