Trump Drops Tariff In opposition to U.A.E. at Final Minute: Dwell Updates

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Credit…Bryan Denton for The New York Times

President Donald Trump exempted the United Arab Emirates from tariffs on its aluminum exports on Wednesday morning, using one of the final acts of his presidency to give a break to a country where he has business ties.

In March 2018, Mr. Trump announced a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports from a variety of countries, including the U.A.E., saying their metal exports had put American aluminum producers out of business and therefore threated national security.

In the announcement on Wednesday, Mr. Trump said the United States and the U.A.E., a major exporter of aluminum, had an important security relationship, and had carried out talks to find another means to address the threat to American national security.

The Trump administration replaced the tariffs on aluminum from the U.A.E. with a quota, which would allow imports “to remain close to historical levels without meaningful increases.” The arrangement would limit export surges by the United Arab Emirates and discourage aluminum overcapacity, the announcement said.

In September, Mr. Trump helped seal a landmark agreement between Israel and the U.A.E., in which the two agreed to “full normalization of relations” in exchange for Israel suspending annexation of occupied West Bank territory.

Before coming into office, Mr. Trump also pursued various real estate projects in the U.A.E., including hotels and golf courses. The Trump International Golf Club in the city of Dubai opened for business in early 2017, soon after Mr. Trump became president.

the Keystone XL pipeline has long been opposed by environmentalists but supported by the oil industry and construction unions.Credit…Chris Machian/Omaha World-Herald, via Associated Press

TC Energy, a Canadian pipeline company, said on Wednesday that it was suspending work on the Keystone XL pipeline in anticipation that President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will revoke a vital permit that enabled its construction on his first day in office.

The pipeline, intended to bring heavy Canadian crude from oil sands to American refineries, has long been opposed by environmentalists but supported by the oil industry and construction unions. Its construction has been delayed frequently because of government reviews and legal challenges.

“TC Energy will review the decision, assess its implications, and consider its options,” the company said in a statement.

Anthony Levandowski in California in 2019. He was one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent engineers but was sentenced in August to 18 months in prison.Credit…Jason Henry for The New York Times

Among the dozens of politicians and business figures pardoned by President Trump in the twilight of his time in the White House is a former senior engineer at Google who pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets related to self-driving car technology.

The engineer, Anthony Levandowski, a prominent member of Google’s moonshot effort to build autonomous vehicles, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in August after he was convicted of stealing information from Google before founding his own autonomous-vehicle company. A White House statement issued early Wednesday said that Mr. Levandowski’s pardon was supported by a number of Mr. Trump’s most prominent Silicon Valley supporters, including the investor Peter Thiel.

The full pardon is a capstone in what has been one of Silicon Valley’s most precipitous rise-and-fall stories in recent memory.

Mr. Levandowski had been one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent engineers, earning millions working on technology Google felt would remake transportation. After departing Google, he started his self-driving car company, called Otto, which he then sold to Uber for more than $600 million.

But in 2017, Google’s self-driving car company, called Waymo, sued Uber for theft of trade secrets, singling out Mr. Levandowski for having taken years of autonomous-vehicle research to strengthen Uber’s self-driving efforts. Uber later fired Mr. Levandowski and settled with Waymo.

Mr. Levandowski’s troubles did not end with the settlement. With evidence that he had downloaded thousands of files related to Google’s self-driving technology before leaving, the Justice Department filed criminal charges in 2019. Mr. Levandowski eventually pleaded guilty to one count of trade secret theft in an agreement with federal prosecutors to drop the remaining charges.

After years of legal disputes, Mr. Levandowski faced financial uncertainty. Last year, he filed for bankruptcy protection after a court ordered him to pay $179 million to Google for violating his contract.

He had been scheduled to begin serving his prison sentence after coronavirus outbreaks were under control.

Mr. Levandowski was among a batch of last-minute pardons and clemencies issued by Mr. Trump before leaving office. The list included Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former top political adviser who was under indictment on charges that he misused money he helped raise for a group backing the construction of a border wall; and Dwayne Michael Carter Jr., the rapper known as Lil Wayne, who was facing prison because of a weapons charge.

The White House statement announcing the pardon for the engineer said, “Mr. Levandowski has paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good.”

Sales of grooming appliances jumped 20 percent in the second quarter, Procter & Gamble said.Credit…Etienne Laurent/EPA, via Shutterstock

As the pandemic drags on, Americans are continuing to try to cut their own hair, trim their own beards and wax their own eyebrows. The efforts, often met with varying degrees of success, have helped bolster the bottom line of Procter & Gamble.

The consumer goods giant said on Wednesday that its quarterly revenue jumped 8 percent, fueled by higher demand for its cleaning products, such as Comet and Mr. Clean, and shaving and styling tools, including Gillette and Venus. The company said sales of its grooming appliances jumped 20 percent in the second quarter of its fiscal year, which ended Dec. 31, as people continued to skip the salon and clip and pluck at home.

Procter & Gamble reported revenue of $19.75 billion for the quarter. The company earned $3.85 billion, up from $3.72 billion in the same quarter the previous year.

“We delivered another strong quarter of results across all key measures — top line, bottom line and cash,” said David Taylor, the company’s chairman, president and chief executive.

The company, which also owns brands like Tide and Gain, reported a 12 percent increase in its fabric and home care segment, which includes cleaning products. Its health care segment, which includes Oral B and Vicks products, reported sales growth of 9 percent, offset by a decline in the sales of respiratory products with fewer people catching colds and the flu this season.

Procter & Gamble raised its guidance for the 2021 fiscal year, forecasting sales growth of 5 to 6 percent, from a previous outlook of 3 to 4 percent. But investors were unimpressed, and shares dropped 1 percent after the earnings report was released.

Jack Ma appearing at a livestreamed event on Wednesday.

Jack Ma has filmed action scenes with big-time martial artists, sung duets with pop stars and appeared at corporate rallies dressed as a glam rocker and as a masked Michael Jackson impersonator. A wallflower he is not.

So speculation ran rampant after the prominent entrepreneur and co-founder of the Alibaba Group vanished from public view late last year. He had criticized Chinese regulators for what he called their overly cautious attitude toward the country’s financial system, and the authorities cracked down on his business empire shortly afterward. After that he began to skip previously scheduled appearances, prompting questions in China and in the global news media about his fate.

Mr. Ma now appears to be attempting to put the speculation to rest.

On Wednesday, he made his first public appearance since late October. He spoke at a livestreamed event honoring educators in China’s village schools. He did not address his troubles but said he would spend more time in philanthropic endeavors.

“In this time, my colleagues and I have been learning and thinking,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks published in the local news media. “We will throw ourselves more resolutely into educational philanthropy.”

Mr. Ma, a former English teacher, said that it was the responsibility of business executives of his generation to work toward common prosperity by revitalizing rural areas and developing village education. His speech was consistent with his recent efforts to step away from Alibaba’s day-to-day operations and focus more on philanthropy, though he retains considerable sway over his business empire.

His remarks were widely covered in the Chinese state-run news media, suggesting at the very least that Beijing’s censorship machine approved of his remarks. His appearance relieved some investors, who drove Alibaba’s Hong Kong-traded shares up about 9 percent in afternoon trading.

Mr. Ma, who ran Alibaba from its founding in 1999 to its rising as one of the world’s biggest and most valuable technology companies, has long been cautious around the Chinese government. Like many entrepreneurs in the country, he has forged ties with Beijing officialdom to head off any regulatory troubles.

But the rise of Alibaba’s sister company, Ant Group, put him increasingly at odds with China’s state-dominated financial system. Ant Group, which was once an Alibaba subsidiary and offers services like electronic payments and lending, now plays a huge role in the financial lives of many Chinese people. It had planned an initial public offering for late last year in Shanghai and Hong Kong, in what was widely expected to be the largest fund-raising of its kind.

But in October, at a public event, Mr. Ma accused Chinese state-run banks of behaving like “pawnshops” and the country’s financial regulators of limiting innovation by obsessing over risk.

About a week later, the government halted Ant Group’s I.P.O. and later ordered it to shake up its business practices. Then it began an antitrust investigation into Alibaba.

Amid the official blowback, Mr. Ma began to bow out of previously scheduled appearances, including as a judge on an African entrepreneur-themed talent show that he had created. That ignited speculation, especially after other entrepreneurs who challenged Chinese officialdom were dealt heavy punishments.

On his first day as president, Joseph R. Biden Jr. will move unilaterally to aid Americans struggling to afford housing and student loan payments amid the Covid-19 pandemic, but will not cancel large amounts of student debt as progressive activists had hoped.

The long-previewed steps are part of Mr. Biden’s pledge to take immediate executive action to help struggling Americans as the pandemic continues to disrupt everyday life.

He will extend a federal moratorium on evictions and ask agencies, including the Departments of Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, and Housing and Urban Development, to prolong a moratorium on foreclosures on federally guaranteed mortgages. Mr. Biden’s extensions would run through March.

Another planned executive order, for Americans with heavy educational debt, would continue a pause on federal student loan interest and principal payments through September.

The actions may not be enough to satisfy some Democrats and progressive groups, who urged more aggressive moves. They include Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who will become majority leader on Wednesday and had pushed Mr. Biden to act on Day 1 to cancel up to $50,000 per person in student debt. Instead, Mr. Biden’s aides renewed his campaign call for Congress to act to cancel up to $10,000 in individual student debt.

Mr. Biden is also set to issue a flurry of orders that seek to narrow racial and gender inequalities in the economy, through actions inside and outside the federal bureaucracy.

He will direct federal agencies to conduct reviews looking to root out systemic discrimination in their policies and to reverse historic discrimination in safety-net and other federal spending, aides said. He will establish a working group examining federal data collection on diversity grounds.

And Mr. Biden will reverse several Trump administration orders that sought to undermine diversity efforts in the United States, including canceling President Trump’s 1776 Commission, which released a report on Monday that historians said distorted America’s history of slavery. Mr. Biden will also revoke an order that limited diversity training and other inclusion efforts for federal agencies and contractors.

The recall order covers vehicles including the Ford Ranger, Edge and Fusion made from 2007 to 2012.Credit…Jeff Kowalsky/EPA, via Shutterstock

Federal regulators on Tuesday ordered Ford Motor to recall about three million cars to replace defective airbags made by the Japanese supplier Takata.

Ford had sought to have the vehicles excluded from recalls, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found the airbags were similar to those subject to earlier recalls.

Takata airbags have been found to explode under certain conditions, shooting out inflater shrapnel that can injure or even kill drivers and passengers. The defect has been linked to more than a dozen deaths in the United States. Ford had argued its testing found the type of airbag inflaters used in its vehicles did not show a tendency to degrade over time.

The recall order covers vehicles including the Ford Ranger, Edge and Fusion made from 2007 to 2012.

Mazda had also sought to exclude some of its models from recalls. NHTSA ordered Mazda to recall an additional 5,800 vehicles.

More than 70 million vehicles equipped with Takata airbag inflaters have been recalled in more than 40 countries.

Quincy officials are working with with developers and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority to rebuild the Quincy T station and spur housing, office and retail development.Credit…M. Scott Brauer for The New York Times

For state and local governments, the pandemic has brought financial gloom: Tax collections are down, public health expenses are up and their infrastructure backlog is growing.

For developers and real estate investors, it all spells opportunity. The fiscal challenges could spur new ways for the private sector to collaborate with state and local governments.

Public-private partnerships, known as P3s, rely on developers and investors to shoulder upfront financial risk, often delaying payments from governments until revenue starts flowing or certain construction benchmarks are reached.

The partnerships have been used for projects in parts of Asia, Australia, Britain, Canada and other parts of Europe. But state and local governments in the United States have been slower to embrace them. As their fiscal woes become worse, some government officials are looking more closely at them as a tool to jump-start their economies.

Data suggests governments will need all the help they can get:

The partnerships have a mixed record, but they could be one way to bring back Main Streets and reinvigorate downtowns, experts say.

“It can be an incredible use of private markets to help further development, planning and smart growth that cities and towns need but are unable to do on their own,” said Lauren Jezienicki, the founder and chief executive of the One Circle Company, a residential real estate firm, who worked on the partnerships when she was a senior vice president at Bozzuto, a real estate developer.

By: Ella Koeze·Data delayed at least 15 minutes·Source: FactSet

  • Stocks on Wall Street rose for a second day on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 on track to close at a fresh record, adding to a rally that has been fueled by expectations for large-scale economic stimulus from the incoming Biden administration.

  • The S&P 500 rose more than 1 percent, led higher by technology stocks. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite rose about 1.5 percent to record territory.

  • Netflix climbed more than 14 percent after the streaming service said on Tuesday that it had more than 200 million customers and no longer needed to borrow money for its day-to-day operations.

  • President Biden is expected to sign a flurry of executive orders on Wednesday, including ones to extend moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures and to continue a pause on federal student loan interest and principal payments.

  • On Tuesday, Janet Yellen, Mr. Biden’s nominee for Treasury secretary, reiterated the new administration’s plans for a large fiscal stimulus package during her confirmation hearing in the Senate. The plans received some criticism from Republican lawmakers over concerns about increasing the federal budget deficit, a possible sign of legislative battles to come.

The revived Paycheck Protection Program is off to a smoother — and slower — start than it had last spring, when desperate borrowers deluged banks with loan applications and overwhelmed the government’s computer systems.

The program opened broadly on Tuesday as the Small Business Administration, which manages the relief program, began accepting applications from all lenders. The agency allowed a small subset of community lenders and tiny banks to start submitting their applications last week.

In the program’s first week, the agency approved around 60,000 applications from nearly 3,000 lenders, the it said on Tuesday. Those applications totaled $5 billion, consuming around 2 percent of the $284 billion the program has available to lend.

Those figures do not include loan applications sent to the agency on Tuesday, the first day most lenders were allowed to send in loan requests. New fraud checks and other safeguards mean that most applications will now take at least a day to gain approval.

The program is open to both first-time borrowers and to some returning ones: The hardest-hit small businesses, those with a drop in sales of at least 25 percent since the pandemic took hold, are eligible for a second loan.

Lenders said they were preparing for significant demand, especially for second-round loans. John Asbury, the chief executive of Atlantic Union Bank, in Richmond, Va., said he expected that at least 60 percent of his bank’s 11,000 borrowers would return for another loan.

Officials from the Treasury Department have said they anticipate that the program’s funding will be sufficient to fulfill all requests. Mr. Asbury hopes that’s true.

“We simply don’t know how much of a rush we’re going to get,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of calls.”

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