Trump Carbon Plan Attacked by Coastal States, Lauded by Coal Interests

President Donald Trump’s proposal to replace an Obama-era policy to fight climate change with a weaker plan allowing states to write their own rules on emissions from coal-fired power plants was criticized by coastal states, but applauded by coal interests on Wednesday. Under the proposed Affordable Clean Energy plan that acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Andrew Wheeler issued in August, the federal government would set carbon emission guidelines, but states would have the leeway to set less stringent standards on coal plants, taking into account the age and upgrade costs of facilities. The heads of environmental and energy agencies from 14 mostly coastal states, including California, New York and North Carolina, told the EPA in joint comments on the Trump plan that it would result in minimal reductions of greenhouse gases, and possibly result in increased emissions, relative to having no federal program on the pollution. “We urge EPA to abandon this proposal and instead to maintain or update the (Obama era) Clean Power Plan,” which the states said would fulfill EPA’s obligations under federal clean air law and support the efforts of states to mitigate the effects of climate change. Some states including New York and Virginia have threatened to sue the EPA if the plan becomes law. The comment period on the plan ends on Wednesday night and a final rule from the EPA is expected later this year. Coal and some utility interests lauded the Trump plan. “The proposed ACE rule is a welcome return to …

Cuba Says Investor Interest Up Despite US Hostility

Cuba’s foreign trade and investment minister said on Wednesday the country had signed nearly 200 investment projects worth $5.5 billion since it slashed taxes and made other adjustments to its investment law in 2014. Cuba began a major effort to attract foreign investment as socialist ally Venezuela’s economy went into crisis and has ratcheted it up as export revenues decline and the Trump administration backtracks on a detente begun under then-U.S. President Barack Obama. “Foreign investment in Cuba is growing despite the recent strengthening of the U.S. economic, trade and financial blockade, though it is below what we want,” the minister, Rodrigo Malmierca, said at an investment forum in Havana. Even as the forum unfolded, debate on an annual resolution condemning U.S. sanctions got under way at the U.N. General Assembly in New York and the Trump administration said that on Thursday it would announce new sanctions aimed at Cuba’s military and security services. Malmierca said 40 new projects were signed over the last year valued at $1.5 billion. Many agreements are in the tourism sector and are often simple management and marketing accords. Others are in manufacturing, oil exploration and, to a lesser extent, areas such as pharmaceuticals, agriculture and logistics. Cuba says it wants a minimum $2.5 billion per year in direct foreign investment to dig its way out of years of crisis and stagnation. While $5.5 billion in deals may have been signed since 2014, the government has said only around $500 million has actually been invested …

Fitch Shifts Mexico Debt Outlook From Stable to Negative

Fitch Ratings changed its outlook on Mexico’s long-term foreign-currency debt issues Wednesday from “stable” to “negative,” citing the potential policies of President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. The leftist Lopez Obrador has tried to smooth anxieties in the business community, but upset many on Monday by cancelling a partly built, $13 billion new airport on the outskirts of Mexico City. The private sector had strongly backed the airport project, but Lopez Obrador called it wasteful. Instead he plans to upgrade existing commercial and military airports. He made the decision based on a public referendum that was poorly organized and drew only about 1 percent of the country’s voters.   Alfredo Coutino, Latin America director at Moody’s Analytics, said the decision to cancel the airport project “added not only volatility but also uncertainty to the economy’s future, because it signals that policymaking in the new administration can be based more on such kind of subjective consultation and less on technical or fundamentals consistent with the country’s needs.” “The cancellation has certainly introduced an element of uncertainty in markets and investors,” Coutino wrote, “which could start affecting confidence and credibility.” Fitch confirmed its BBB+ investment-grade rating for Mexican government debt, but said Wednesday “there are risks that the follow-through on previously approved reforms, for example in the energy sector, could stall.” Lopez Obrador has said he will review private concessionary oil exploration contracts granted under current President Enrique Pena Nieto’s energy reform, but won’t cancel them if they were fairly granted. The fear …

Порошенко: в Україні мінімальну зарплату отримує понад 4,5 мільйони людей

Мінімальну зарплату офіційно отримує понад 4,5 мільйони людей в Україні, повідомив президент України Петро Порошенко під час зустрічі з представниками бізнесу. «Зараз в Україні понад 4,5 мільйони людей працює за мінімальну заробітну плату. Це неправильно і це означає, що нам є куди рухатися», – сказав Порошенко. Він зазначив, що «є два шляхи»: підвищувати мінімальну заробітну плану або проводити детінізацію зарплат. З 1 січня 2018 року мінімальна зарплата була встановлена на рівні 3 723 гривень. Уряд обіцяє, що у 2019 році «мінімалка» зросте до 4 170 гривень. …

Appendix Removal Linked to Lower Risk of Parkinson’s

Scientists have found a new clue that Parkinson’s disease may get its start not in the brain but in the gut – maybe in the appendix. People who had their appendix removed early in life had a lower risk of getting the tremor-inducing brain disease decades later, researchers reported Wednesday. Why? A peek at surgically removed appendix tissue shows this tiny organ, often considered useless, seems to be a storage depot for an abnormal protein – one that, if it somehow makes its way into the brain, becomes a hallmark of Parkinson’s. The big surprise, according to studies published in the journal Science Translational Medicine: Lots of people may harbor clumps of that worrisome protein in their appendix – young and old, people with healthy brains and those with Parkinson’s. But don’t look for a surgeon just yet. “We’re not saying to go out and get an appendectomy,” stressed Viviane Labrie of Michigan’s Van Andel Research Institute, a neuroscientist and geneticist who led the research team. After all, there are plenty of people who have no appendix yet still develop Parkinson’s. And plenty of others harbor the culprit protein but never get sick, according to her research. The gut connection Doctors and patients have long known there’s some connection between the gastrointestinal tract and Parkinson’s. Constipation and other GI troubles are very common years before patients experience tremors and movement difficulty that lead to a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Wednesday’s research promises to re-energize work to find out why, and learn who’s …

Corporate Pledge to Deal With Plastic Draws Mixed Reaction

More than 250 corporate signatories joined together to try and deal with plastic pollution in an announcement timed to coincide with the 5th Annual “Our Ocean Conference” in Bali, Indonesia.   Under terms of the agreement, the companies agreed to, among other things, make all of the plastics they produce recyclable by 2025. The signatories, including Coca-Cola, Danone, and Kellogg, also agreed to a 2025 deadline to increase the amount of recycled plastic they use in the production of their various products.   Reoccurring problem   Environmental groups like Greenpeace cautiously welcomed the announcement as “moving in the right direction,” but say the agreement is way too open-ended to have much of an impact.   The facts are that around the world, according to a recent study, a whopping 91 percent of all plastic is never recycled. And all that plastic ends up in landfills, in the ocean, in the food chain and ultimately in us. Greenpeace also noted that this agreement doesn’t change much because “corporations are not required to set actual targets to reduce the total amount of single-use plastics they are churning out. They can simply continue with business as usual after signing the commitment.”   Business as usual is also how the group Oceana views the agreement. It put out a stronger statement, denouncing the agreement. “None of these companies have committed to stop using plastic, to stop putting plastic into consumer products, or to even offer consumers alternatives.”   Less plastic, more recycling   Most …

Birthday Blues for Bitcoin as Investors Face Year-on-Year Loss

Bitcoin was heading towards a year-on-year loss on Wednesday, its 10th birthday, the first loss since last year’s bull market, when the original and biggest digital coin muscled its way to worldwide attention with months of frenzied buying. By 1300 GMT, bitcoin was trading at $6,263 on the BitStamp exchange, leaving investors who had bought it on Halloween 2017 facing yearly losses of nearly 3 percent. A year ago, bitcoin closed at $6,443.22 as it tore towards a record high of near $20,000, hit in December. That run, fueled by frenzied buying by retail investors from South Korea to the United States, pushed bitcoin to calendar-year gains of over 1,300 percent. Ten years ago, Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoin’s still-unidentified founder, released a white paper detailing the need for an online currency that could be used for payments without the involvement of a third party, such as a bank. Traders and market participants said the Halloween milestone was inevitable, given losses of around 70 percent from bitcoin’s peak and the continuing but incomplete shift towards investment by mainstream financial firms. “The value mechanisms of crypto and bitcoin today are based more on underlying tech than hype and FOMO (fear of missing out),” said Josh Bramley, head trader at crypto wealth management firm Blockstars. Growing use of blockchain – the distributed ledger technology that underpins bitcoin – is now powering valuations of the digital currency, he said, cautioning that some expectations for widespread use have not yet materialized. Others said improvements to infrastructure …

In Venice’s War on Mega-Ships, Cruise Lines Fire Back

The population of Italy’s Renaissance canal city of Venice has been on a steady decline for years. At the same time, the number of tourists keeps rising and many Venetians complain their city should not be turned into what some critics describe as a “Disneyland on water.” Their biggest complaint is about the arrival of gigantic cruise ships that dock right at Saint Mark’s Square. Big ships present a dilemma for the city and its economy. The Venetians have long called them “monsters” because, many say, the massive cruise ships in their lagoon are not only eyesores that block the view, but also displace water due to their size and have been hurting the foundations of the city’s gorgeous Renaissance-era buildings. Nearly 99-percent of the 18,000 Venetians who voted in an unofficial referendum organized by the No Big Ships campaign group in June last year said they wanted the vessels to stay out of the lagoon. Fewer than six months later and under intense public pressure, the Italian government announced ships weighing more than 96,000 tons will be banned from entering St. Mark’s basin and have to dock elsewhere. Now, questions are emerging — mainly by the cruise industry — on what the restrictions mean for the economy of Venice, and Italy in general. Cruise lines say they have an interest in protecting the sites they seek to showcase, and are defending their presence by pointing to the economic benefits their ships bring to port cities. Cruise Lines International Association President Roberto …