Yellen Treasury Secretary Nomination Hearing Today

Posted on 01/19/2021 7:40 AM

EPA seeks comments on E15, waivers | Biden to propose 8-year citizenship path for immigrants


In Today’s Updates


Market Focus:
• Yellen testimony to urge congressional approval of more Covid aid
• Corporate earnings season ramping up
• Hang Seng Index reaches 20-month high
• Wall Street economists projecting pickup in economic growth later in 2021

• World Economic Forum outlines virtual summit’s agenda
U.S. oil rig count is recovering
• February futures for Asian liquefied natural gas surging
• Survey: Extreme weather and climate action failure two top risks facing world
• Financial experts abroad: dollar will stay weak
• EU wheat is up some 30 cents since Friday
• Ag demand update
Cordonnier maintains Brazilian crop estimates
• No change to consultant’s Argentine crop projections, either
• Ukraine to decide whether to cap corn exports next week
• IKAR lowers Russian wheat export forecast

Policy Focus:
• Biden aide warns economy needs action
• Biden to propose 8-year citizenship path for immigrants
• Paycheck Protection Program returns
• Court rules against California on trucker breaks
• Farmers urged to file CCC-941 adjusted gross income (AGI) certifications


China Update:
• On Monday, Beijing said its gross domestic product rose 2.3% last year
• Forecasters expect China’s economy to grow by another 8% or more in 2021
• Soy sauce producer’s chief tops China’s 50 wealthiest executives
• Chinese grain imports notch records


Trade Policy:
• EU sees chance with Biden for aircraft deal
• Report on possible auto duties stays secret


Energy & Climate Change:

• Oil giant Total buys stake in world's biggest solar developer
• PepsiCo will first target ag supplies in a push to eliminate greenhouse gas
• EPA seeks comments on general RFS waiver requests for 2019, 2020
• EPA proposes changes relative to E15

Food & Beverage Industry Update:
• McDonald’s, Shake Shack and others enter the chicken-sandwich war
• France blocks $20 billion takeover of Carrefour by Canada’s Couche-Tard
• Pizza Hut plans to test sending drones to drop multiple orders at landing zones

Coronavirus Update:
• On Thursday, Johnson & Johnson will release initial results of Covid-19 vaccine trial
• WHO issues more warnings on vaccine hoarding
• Biden rejects Trump's push to lift Covid-19 travel restrictions.


Politics & Elections:
• Blinken, Biden’s nominee for secretary of State, to face Senate confirmation hearing
• More Biden picks
• Biden will bar senior appointees from accepting special bonuses from former employees
• Trump’s last day in office
• As inauguration nears, U.S. Capitol becomes secured encampment

Other Items of Note:
• N. Korea could be planning missile launch to coincide with Biden’s inauguration
• Seven members of UN General Assembly lose voting rights  
• FAA approves fully automated commercial drones




Equities today: U.S. equity futures signal higher openings. Hang Seng Index reached a 20-month high as record Chinese funds rushed in. The pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 edged up 0.2%. Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, will appear before a Senate committee, where she is expected to call for greater government borrowing. Yellen served as top White House economist in the 1990s and Fed Chairwoman in the 2010s. Two years ago, Yellen co-signed a letter urging Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin not to move forward with plans to relax oversight of big financial firms, and last year, she called for a "new Dodd-Frank." Along with the Biden administration, Yellen has emphasized the need to create "equitable growth" and could use the tools of the Treasury Department to combat climate change and rebuild regulatory institutions like the Financial Stability Oversight Council. Meanwhile, corporate earnings season is ramping up, with more of America’s big banks releasing fourth-quarter earnings. Bank of America and Goldman Sachs report today, while Morgan Stanley steps up on Wednesday.


On tap today:


     • Janet Yellen appears before the Senate Finance Committee, which is considering her pending nomination as Treasury Secretary, at 10 a.m. ET.
     • USDA Export Inspections, 11 a.m. ET.
     • Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane in conversation with Oxford University's Alan Rusbridge at 1 p.m. ET.


Yellen urges more aid to avoid longer, more painful U.S. recession. Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for Treasury secretary, plans to tell lawmakers today that the U.S. risks a longer, more painful recession unless Congress approves more aid and urge them to “act big” to shore up the recovery, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing prepared reports when she testifies today before the Senate Finance Committee, which is considering her nomination. “Economists don’t always agree, but I think there is a consensus now: Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now — and long-term scarring of the economy later,” Yellen will say. “Over the next few months, we are going to need more aid to distribute the vaccine; to reopen schools; to help states keep firefighters and teachers on the job.”


     Addressing concerns about the $1.9 trillion cost of the latest aid proposal, Yellen said: “Neither the President-elect, nor I, propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden. But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big.”


    Yellen will say that she would face a “dual mission” as Treasury secretary. Her first task is to see Americans through the pandemic, she says in her prepared testimony. “But then there is the longer-term project. We have to rebuild our economy so that it creates more prosperity for more people and ensures that American workers can compete in an increasingly competitive global economy.”


     A question for Yellen: How much debt is too much? In the past four years, U.S. government debt held by the public has increased by $7 trillion to $21.6 trillion. At 100.1% of gross domestic product, the debt already exceeds the annual output of the economy, putting the U.S. in company with economies including Greece, Italy and Japan.


     Debt and GDP


     Federal spending


Wall Street economists are projecting a pickup in economic growth later in 2021 as vaccination efforts accelerate. Investment-grade mutual and exchange-traded funds have taken in more than $12 billion this year as of Jan. 13, according to Refinitiv Lipper, after posting the largest one-year inflow ever in 2020. “There’s still a lot of demand because of the lack of yield globally,” says Hans Mikkelsen, high-grade strategist at Bank of America.


World Economic Forum outlines its virtual summit’s agenda. The theme of next week’s gathering of political and business leaders, usually held in Davos, Switzerland, is “A Crucial Year to Rebuild Trust.” It will feature President Xi Jinping of China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and European leaders like Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president. The only U.S. official named as a speaker is Dr. Anthony Fauci.


Market perspectives:


     • Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is lower following the recent good rebound from a 2.5-year low scored earlier this month. Nymex crude oil futures prices are firmer and are trading around $52.75 a barrel. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note stands at 1.12%.

     • Crude oil futures have firmed ahead of the U.S. trading start with Brent crude continuing to outpace advances in U.S. futures. WTI crude is trading around $52.50 per barrel while Brent crude has moved above $55.30 per barrel. Crude was little changed in Asian trading, with U.S. crude down one cent at $52.41 per barrel while Brent crude was up 32 cents at $55.07 per barrel.


     • U.S. oil rig count is recovering, and Princeton Energy Advisors is forecasting tight petroleum inventories and sharply higher oil prices next year. Details: Total oil rig counts were up, +12 to 287; Horizontal oil rig counts were also up, +10 to 252. Oil demand will pick up in 2021, but it will take until the second half of the year for that to filter through. The IEA is forecasting a rise of 5.5 million barrels per day in demand.


     • February futures for Asian liquefied natural gas hit nearly $20 per million British thermal units last week according to data from Refinitiv. As recently as mid-December, they were only trading around $8 per MMBtu.


     • For the third year running, extreme weather and climate action failure were listed as the two top risks facing the world according to a survey (link) of global leaders conducted by the World Economic Forum. Along with the coronavirus pandemic, respondents included livelihood crises as the most critical short-term threat facing the world in 2021.


     • The view from financial experts abroad is that the dollar, currently near its weakest level in three years, will stay weak, holding on to much of its 2020 decline.


        Dollar specs


     • EU wheat is up some 30 cents since Friday. The Russian export tax is forcing world prices higher, says one analyst.


     • Ag demand: Algeria tendered to buy a nominal 50,000 MT of wheat, though the country often buys more than it tenders for. The Philippines reportedly made no purchase in its tender to buy 100,000 MT of feed wheat and 80,000 MT of feed barley. Japan’s ag ministry received no offers in its simultaneous buy and sell auction in which the ministry was seeking 80,000 MT of wheat and 100,000 MT of feed barley. The country is also seeking to buy a total of 72,653 MT of food-quality wheat from the U.S. and Canada in a regular tender. Taiwan’s MFIG purchasing group issued an international tender to buy up to 65,000 MT of animal feed corn from the U.S., Brazil, Argentina or South Africa. Turkey postponed its international tender to buy a total of 400,000 MT of milling wheat.


Items in Pro Farmer's First Thing Today include (Link to subscribe to FTT):

     • Cordonnier maintains Brazilian crop estimates
     • No change to consultant’s Argentine crop projections, either
     • Ukraine to decide whether to cap corn exports next week
     • IKAR lowers Russian wheat export forecast




— Biden aide warns economy needs action. A top economic adviser to Biden warned the U.S. economy is “spiraling downward” and called for swift action to address vulnerabilities that the global pandemic has drawn into focus. Brian Deese, who will serve as director of Biden’s National Economic Council, said Sunday that the $1.9 trillion spending plan would generate “the kind of robust recovery we need.” “We are at a very precarious moment,” Deese said on Fox News Sunday. “The economy and the virus are spiraling downward. Now is the time to act.”


     Meanwhile, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said Biden’s proposed stimulus package would cause the economy to overheat — and that could be a good thing. The package is one of the boldest economic plans the U.S. has seen, Summers said in an interview Friday with David Westin for Bloomberg Television’s Wall Street Week. As written, it would overheat the economy, but the debate shouldn’t be about that aspect, but whether it would do more for those who have been left behind during the pandemic-led re cession, he said. Summers didn’t elaborate on what the overheating would look like; the term typically refers to inflation accelerating too much, eventually proving harmful to the economy.


— Biden to propose 8-year citizenship path for immigrants. President-elect Joe Biden plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on Day One of his administration, hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status, a massive reversal from the Trump administration's immigration policies. The legislative proposal puts Biden on track to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities following four years of President Donald Trump's more restrictive policies. It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years, but it fails to include the traditional trade-off of enhanced border security favored by many Republicans, putting passage in a narrowly divided Congress in doubt.


— The Paycheck Protection Program returns. The federal small-business relief program reopens to all lenders today, after smaller banks were given access to the initiative last week. Companies can apply for a second loan, but there are tighter restrictions, including proof of at least a 25% decline in revenue any quarter last year.


— Court rules against California on trucker breaks. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act regulations, not California labor law, govern meal and rest break requirements for some commercial truck drivers, the Ninth Circuit ruled Friday. Therefore, California’s break rules—which require “more breaks, more often and with less flexibility as to timing”—won’t apply to some truck drivers, the court said.


     The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied separate challenges to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 2018 preemption determination. The challenges were brought as petitions for review by the California Labor Commissioner, two Teamsters affiliates, and two individual drivers.


— Farmers urged to file CCC-941 adjusted gross income (AGI) certifications. If you have experienced delays in receiving Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) payments, Loan Deficiency Payments (LDPs), Market Gains on Marketing Assistance Loans (MALs), or any other farm program payouts, it may be because you have not filed form CCC-941, Adjusted Gross Income Certification. USDA informs that if you don’t have a valid CCC-941 on file for the applicable crop year, you will not receive payments. All farm operator/tenants/owners who have not filed a CCC-941 and have pending payments should immediately file the form with their recording county FSA office. Farm operators and tenants are encouraged to ensure that their landowners have filed the form. FSA can accept the CCC-941 for 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.




On Monday, Beijing said its gross domestic product rose 2.3% last year. While that is the weakest annual rate of growth since the Mao era, it was enough to make China the only major world economy to gain any ground at all last year and accelerated its likely overtaking of the U.S. economy.


     China GDP 2020


— Forecasters now expect China’s economy to grow by another 8% or more in 2021, helping put it on track to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy by 2028, as many as five years earlier than pre-coronavirus projections. Iris Pang, chief economist for Greater China at Dutch bank ING, forecasts the economy to grow by 12%, partly owing to a low base of comparison, and even projects a 7% total growth rate for 2021. According to a recent report from the Center for Economics and Business Research, China will even overtake the U.S. to become the world's biggest economy by 2028, due to contrasting recoveries from the coronavirus pandemic.


     China GDP outlook


— Soy sauce producer’s chief tops China’s 50 wealthiest executives. Cheng Xue, the vice-chairwoman of Foshan Haitian Flavoring, has displaced dozens of technology executives as China’s highest-paid corporate chieftain, according to the inaugural Hurun China Richest Professional Managers 2021 report. The personal wealth of Cheng, 50, is estimated at 65 billion yuan (US$10 billion), due to her 9% stake in Haitian according to Forbes, which quadrupled in value since its 2014 initial public offering in Shanghai. Cheng’s success may be the exception rather than the norm, belying the harsh reality for Chinese women, who still earn 22% less than their male colleagues according to a 2018 survey of 10,000 career women by, the Chinese equivalent of LinkedIn.


— Chinese grain imports notch records. China imported a record-high 11.3 MMT of corn in 2020, including 2.25 MMT in December, Chinese customs data showed yesterday. That was well beyond its annual quota of 7.2 MMT and up 136% from year’s shipments. China also imported a record-high 8.38 MMT of wheat in 2020, which was 87% of its 9.64 MMT annual quota, a marked improvement from just 30% of its quota last year. Its annual wheat imports were 140% above year-ago levels. Beijing’s purchases of barley and sorghum were also up a dramatic 36% and 479% from year-ago levels, respectively. China’s efforts to rebuild its hog herd after African swine fever (ASF) and purchase commitments under the Phase 1 trade deal drove the record-setting grain buys, with more big numbers likely in 2021. ASF has also led to aggressive Chinese pork buys. It brought in 4.39 MMT of the meat last year, a 108% jump from 2019. That included 440,000 MT in December shipments.


U.S./China Phase 1 tracker: China’s purchases of U.S. goods. Link




— EU sees chance with Biden for aircraft deal. The European Union and U.S. have a chance to reach an elusive agreement over aircraft subsidies within six months of Biden’s entry into office, according to a senior EU trade official. Sabine Weyand, trade director in the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm in Brussels, said ending the 17-year dispute over illegal aid to Airbus and Boeing would be easier were each side to halt its retaliatory tariffs against the other.


— Report on possible auto duties stays secret. The Trump administration may keep secret a report it has prepared justifying possible tariffs on imported passenger vehicles and auto parts because the report is protected by executive privilege, a federal court said. Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 962 allows the president to restrict imports if he determines it’s in the interest of national security.




— Oil giant Total buys stake in world's biggest solar developer. The French energy giant said it would pay $2.5 billion for a 20% stake in Adani Green Energy, an Indian solar-energy company, as part of a continuing global transition away from fossil fuels. Link to WSJ article. The deal will boost Total’s low-carbon credentials and give it a share of India’s rapidly growing renewable-energy market. In September Narendra Modi, the prime minister, promised a significant increase in the country’s renewable-energy capacity by 2022.


— PepsiCo will first target agricultural supplies in a push to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions across its supply chain by 2040. The Doritos chips and Tropicana juice maker said it would initially cut greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by 75% and by 40% in areas that are outside its own manufacturing processes and supply chain by 2030. Details via Reuters item. PepsiCo will accelerate the use of smart irrigation systems, improve soil health and reduce deforestation, its chief sustainability officer, Jim Andrew, said in an interview with Reuters.


— EPA seeks comments on general RFS waiver requests for 2019, 2020. The late regulatory push by the Trump administration is continuing across government, with EPA seeking comment on additional biofuels issues.


     In documents published in today’s Federal Register (link), EPA is seeking public comments on “a number of petitions” EPA received for a general waiver of Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) obligations for 2019 and 2020. “These petitions argue that recent events warrant EPA exercising its general waiver authority on the basis of severe economic harm,” EPA said. “In late March, a group of small refineries requested a waiver of the 2019 and 2020 obligations of their individual small refineries. In April and May, the Governors of several states submitted three separate petitions for waivers of the nationwide volumes.”


     General waiver requests are allowed under the Clean Air Act at the discretion of EPA if they determine after seeking public input “that implementation of the applicable annual volume requirements would severely harm the economy or environment of a state, region, or the United States.”


     EPA noted that the petition from a group of small refiners requested a waiver of their individual Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs), the petition “also puts forth a new legal interpretation allowing EPA to waive individual obligations under the general waiver authority.” However, EPA noted their “prior interpretations of the general waiver authority only allowed a reduction in the nationwide volume requirements,” the agency said.


     Background. The governor of Louisiana on April 7 submitted a request for a waiver of RFS obligations “by an amount commensurate with the current projected shortfall in national gasoline and diesel consumption.” The governors of Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming also submitted also submitted a petition request that did not specify the level that should be waived. A request from Pennsylvania in May submitted a request that severe harm to the state and the East Coast region from “increase annual RFS volume obligations.”


     EPA is seeking comments on the petitions received, setting a deadline for those comments of 30 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register, seeking input on whether the petitions meet the criteria for granting a waiver, whether they have demonstrated “severe economic harm” to a state, region or the US among other issues. EPA wants those responding to provide “data, specific supporting examples, and technical analysis” to back up their position.


     Further, EPA said the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) had submitted a letter to the agency that the waiver should be granted on the basis of “severe environmental harm,” focusing on land-use changes and habitat losses among other things.


     “At this time, we are not reconsidering or otherwise reexamining the 2019 or 2020 RFS rulemakings or any other prior action or soliciting comment on any issues beyond those specifically raised by the petitions and the NWF letter in support,” EPA concluded. “We are also not proposing to either grant or to deny any of the petitions.”


     EPA has yet to grant any of the prior general waiver requests received over the years that contend there is severe economic harm from meeting the RFS requirements. So, it would seem those requesting the action have a fairly high bar to meet in order for the agency to grant the requests.


— EPA proposes changes relative to E15. EPA today published a proposed rule in the Federal Register (link) that would propose either removing or modifying the E15 label currently required to be displayed on gas pumps that dispense the fuel. EPA noted that as of October 2019, there were 1,809 stations that were registered as selling E15, or about 1% of all retail stations.


     EPA is requesting comment on whether state and local governments would be preempted from requiring different labels on fuel dispensers.


     As for modifying the label, EPA said that could include removing the “Attention” stripe along the top and bottom of the label; removing the phrase E15 from the and including the phrase “contains up to 15% ethanol;” revising the language to say “safe for use in” as opposed to the current phrase “use only in;” revising the language to say “avoid use in” versus the current “don’t use in.”


   The agency is also offering the “potential removal” of the E15 label requirement which they said “could result in elimination of the E15 survey requirement.” Regarding removal of the requirement, EPA noted that they believe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regs “would require that E15 dispensers be labeled” according to that agency’s requirements. Further, removing the requirement would also mean that would have to be removed from the Clean Air Act.


     As for underground storage tanks (USTs), EPA said they are “proposing to modify the UST regulations to grant certain allowances for compatibility demonstration for storage of ethanol blends. EPA is also proposing compatibility requirements for future UST installations or component replacements that would ensure compatibility with higher blends of ethanol.”


     There is a 90-day comment period on the plan.




— McDonald’s, Shake Shack and others enter the chicken-sandwich war. Major fast-food chains are competing to capture consumers’ enthusiasm for what some say is the future of eating out, as the industry grapples with slowdowns and restrictions brought on by the pandemic. Link for details via the WSJ.


     Chicken run
     Chicken numbers

— France blocks $20 billion takeover of Carrefour by Canada’s Couche-Tard. The French government shot down an offer from Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard to acquire hypermarket chain Carrefour, saying the move threatened jobs and France’s food security amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Couche-Tard’s offer to buy Carrefour for 16.1 billion euros, equivalent to $19.66 billion, would have created the world’s third-largest grocery retailer, behind Walmart Inc. and Lidl owner Schwarz Group. But French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Couche-Tard Chairman Alain Bouchard in a closed-door meeting in Paris on Friday that he was opposed to the takeover, according to reports.


— Pizza Hut plans to test sending drones to drop multiple orders at landing zones that operate as hubs for delivery drivers.




 Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 are at 95,628,637 with 2,043,024 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. case count is at 24,079,207 with 399,003 deaths.

       Link to Covid Case Tracker
       Link to Our World in Data


— On Thursday, Johnson & Johnson will release the initial results of its Covid-19 vaccine trial.


— WHO issues more warnings on vaccine hoarding. The World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanonom Ghebreysus has warned of a “catastrophic moral failure” if vaccines are not made more readily available to poor countries. In highlighting the divide between rich and poor, Tedros pointed out that high-income countries had distributed roughly 39 million vaccine doses so far, whereas those classified as low-income had only distributed 25 in total. COVAX, a vaccine-sharing scheme co-led by the WHO and meant to distribute vaccines in poor countries, accused rich ones of hoarding. The program is part of a global scheme co-led by an international vaccine alliance called Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, as well as the WHO. It was established to ensure equitable vaccine access for every country in the world, and aims to deliver 2 billion doses of safe, effective vaccines by the end of 2021. Only after each nation receives vaccine doses for 20% of its population would countries' Covid risk profiles be considered in a subsequent phase of vaccine distribution.


— Biden rejects Trump's push to lift Covid-19 travel restrictions. A presidential proclamation released by the White House moved to lift bans on most travel into the U.S. from Europe, the U.K. and Brazil on Jan. 26. But President-elect Joe Biden's press secretary said there was no intention to lift the restrictions and in fact there were plans to strengthen measures around international travel.




— Tony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for secretary of State, today will face a Senate confirmation hearing. He is expected to be pressed by Democratic and Republican lawmakers on a wide range of foreign policy issues including Iran, China, North Korea, and the United States’ global response to the coronavirus pandemic. He will get questions on WestExec Advisors, an international consulting firm he co-founded in 2017. The company and its clients, which include foreign governments, have come under scrutiny in recent months given how many members of the consulting firm are expected to join the Biden administration.


— More Biden picks. President-elect Joe Biden tapped Rachel Levine for assistant health secretary, opening the door for the first openly transgender official to be confirmed by the Senate. Levine serves as secretary of health in Pennsylvania and has been leading the state’s public health response to the coronavirus pandemic.


     Gary Gensler was officially named to lead the SEC. Biden picked Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs trader and head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, to run the securities regulator. Rohit Chopra was chosen to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where he previously served as assistant director. Both picks were supported by progressives.


     Biden also named environmental law expert Janet McCabe to be deputy EPA administrator; House Appropriations Committee staff director Shalanda Young to be deputy chief of the Office of Management and Budget; and New York City Emergency Management Division Commissioner Deanne Criswell to be FEMA administrator.


— Biden will bar his senior appointees from accepting special bonuses from their soon-to-be-former employees. Link to details via the Washington Post.


Trump’s last day in office. He leaves office with an approval rating of just 34%, according to a Gallup poll. President Trump is expected to announce a final wave of pardons as he enters the final full day of his presidency. According to reports, the pardons include those close to the president as well as commutations for some offenders serving long prison sentences. The president is expected to issue as many as 100 pardons and commutations but was leaning against some of the more controversial proposed grants of clemency at the urging of his advisers.


— As inauguration nears, the U.S. Capitol becomes a secured encampment. The highly visible measures appeared to have dissuaded Trump supporters and extremist groups from coming to Washington on Sunday. Intelligence reports had flagged the possibility of further demonstrations on Capitol Hill and at state capitols, prompting extra vigilance. President Trump won’t attend President-elect Biden’s inauguration Wednesday, instead heading to Florida that morning.


Photo: Graeme Sloan/Bloomberg News




— North Korea could be planning a new missile launch to coincide with Joe Biden’s inauguration, according to an analysis of satellite imagery near the site of previous tests. Analysts from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies identified a barge used for previous tests that was likely being modified for a fresh launch. After this month’s ruling party congress, a North Korean military parade showed off what appeared to be a new submarine launched missile.


—  Seven members of the UN General Assembly have lost their voting rights after falling behind on money owed to the international organization, according to António Guterres, the secretary-general. The Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Iran, Libya, Niger, South Sudan and Zimbabwe all owe a sum equal to or greater than their share of the UN’s operational costs from the past two years.


— FAA approves fully automated commercial drones. American Robotics has received Federal Aviation Administration approval of a drone device that can takeoff and land on its own. However, the approval is limited to three agricultural sites and the drone can’t be flown higher than 400 feet from ground. The approval granted to American Robotics marks a shift away from consideration of applications for exemptions on a case-by-case basis for specific vehicles performing specific tasks. It opens the door to a range of additional uses that eventually could include other drone models, with higher and longer flights over more-populated areas.




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