Timing and Details Murky for Coming Biden Covid Aid/Stimulus Package

Posted on 01/12/2021 8:08 AM

USDA reports | RFS waivers | Yuan rally | Cuba labeled state sponsor of terror

 


In Today’s Updates


 

Market Focus:
• U.S. federal budget deficit $572 billion in first quarter of fiscal year 2021
• Commodity traders await slew of USDA reports today
• USDA daily export sale: 120,000 MT soybeans to unknown during 2020-2021
• Rising rates for dry-bulk shipping
• Russia considering increasing wheat-export tax set to take effect from mid-Feb.

• Cotton futures limit expanded
Slow improvement in Brazilian weather
• Soybean exports from Brazil’s top-producing state will likely pick up late February
• Cordonnier lowers Argentine corn crop peg, notes sliding crop ratings

Policy Focus:
• Biden to detail Covid aid/stimulus bill package on Thursday
• CFAP 2 payments edge higher in most recent week
• Daschle: Room for compromise on infrastructure, climate

 

China Update:
• China has reimposed lockdowns as it battles its worst outbreak in months
• China hikes corn and soybean import projections
• China to auction more frozen pork later this week  
• U.K. announces actions relative to Xinjiang
• Australia blocks China acquisition of local building contractor

 

Trade Policy:
• Trump administration labels Cuba a state sponsor of terror
• Lawmakers send Trump adminis. advice on Sec. 201 investigation into blueberries

 

Energy & Climate Change:

• Reports signal Trump administration to grant some waivers of RFS requirements
• EPA water official to temporarily take reins once Trump departs  
• U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell more than 10% in 2020
• Investors lobbying for shareholder votes on companies’ climate change policy


Food & Beverage Industry Update:
• Tyson Foods, Pilgrim's Pride reached deals to settle price-fixing claims
• USDA asked to accelerate protections for food system
• Canada launches criminal probe into death of Cargill meatpacking worker in Alberta


Coronavirus Update:
• Just under 3% of U.S. population has received a Covid vaccine
• Gorillas in San Diego zoo have coronavirus

 

Politics & Elections:
• Trump to tout border wall in first public appearance since riot  
• Sen. Klobuchar writing book about monopolies
• Some ag firms suspend campaign contributions
• Trump's ban from Twitter following the Capitol riots has sparked new debates
* Profile of USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue


Other Items of Note:
• FBI warns armed protests planned in every state in run up to Biden inauguration
• India’s Supreme Court pauses implementation of new agricultural laws
• Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson dies
• A bit crazy re: bitcoin?

 


MARKET FOCUS


 

Equities today: Global stock markets were mostly higher overnight. U.S. stock indexes are pointed toward firmer openings. The Hang Seng Index rose 368.53 points, 1.32%, at 28,276.75. Japan’s Nikkei was up 25.31 points, 0.09%, at 28,164.34, after being closed Monday for a holiday. European equities are lower in early action.

 

     U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow finished down 89.28 points, 0.29%, at 31,008.69. The Nasdaq lost 165.54 points, 1.25%, at 13,036.43. The S&P 500 was down 25.07 points, 0.66%, at 3,799.61.

 

     If the economy snaps back quickly this year, the Fed may be able to start paring back its bond-buying stimulus efforts later in the year, said Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Raphael Bostic. He said he is open to slowing the central bank’s $120 billion-a-month Treasury and mortgage bond buying if the economy is performing well. But Bostic cautioned, "The recovery is directly linked to the pace of vaccinations and its effectiveness both in terms of numbers, but also in terms of the confidence it instills in consumers." If the vaccine rollout is disappointing, Bostic said that could "push us back several quarters" in terms of returning the U.S. economy to pre-pandemic levels.

 

     Fed assets

 

U.S. federal budget deficit was $572 billion in the first quarter of fiscal year 2021, the Congressional Budget Office estimates — $215 billion more than the deficit recorded during the same period last year. Revenues were about the same in the first quarter compared with the year-ago period, but outlays were up 18% from the same period in fiscal year 2020. Some of the increase was linked to payments shifted from January 2021 into December 2020 as they normally are made on Jan. 3, but that was a Saturday in 2021. If not for those payments, the first quarter deficit would have totaled $525 billion, which would have been an increase of $191 billion compared to year ago.

 

     The U.S. Treasury will issue its monthly budget update Jan. 13.

 

On tap today:

 

     • U.S. job openings and labor turnover survey for November is out at 10 a.m. ET.
     • Federal Reserve: Atlanta’s Raphael Bostic on the economic recovery and inequality at 9:30 a.m. ET, governor Lael Brainard on artificial intelligence and financial services at 9:35 a.m. ET, Boston’s Eric Rosengren to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce at 11 a.m. ET, Messrs. Bostic and Rosengren, Dallas's Robert Kaplan and Minneapolis's Neel Kashkari on racism, education and the economy at 11 a.m. ET, Cleveland’s Loretta Mester to the European Economics and Financial Center at 12 p.m. ET, St. Louis’s James Bullard in a Wall Street Journal virtual discussion at 1 p.m. ET, and Kansas City’s Esther George on the economy and monetary policy at 1 p.m. ET.
     • USDA reports including supply/demand forecasts, Crop Production/Annual Summary, Grain Stocks, Rice Stocks. Noon ET.

 

Market perspectives:

 

     • Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index near steady.Nymex crude oil futures prices are higher, hit a 10-month high overnight, and are trading around $53.00 a barrel.


     • U.S. government bond yields continued to rise Monday, marking their sixth-consecutive session of gains after logging the biggest one-week increase since June. This morning they extended their climb, with the 10-year yield rising to 1.152% from 1.131% on Monday, according to Tradeweb. Driving yields higher in recent sessions: increased investor expectations for new stimulus measures later this year after Democrats won control of the Senate. The 10-year yield rose above 1% for the first time since March after last week’s election results.

 

     Bonds rise

 

     • Crude oil prices have risen ahead of the U.S. trading start, after being weaker in Asian action. U.S. crude is trading around $52.85 per barrel and Brent around $56.40 per barrel. In Asian action, U.S. crude was down nine cents at $52.16 per barrel and Brent was 10 cents lower at $55.56 per barrel.

 

     • China’s yuan reached the highest level since 2018 versus a basket of trading partners’ currencies on upbeat growth prospects.

 

     • Russia is considering increasing the wheat-export tax of 25 euros/ton set to take effect from mid-February, says Eduard Zernin, head of Russia’s grain-export union. The measure was intended to stabilize domestic grain prices. An Interfax report on Monday cited one grain-market source saying a tax of 50 euros/ton was being considered.

 

     • Cotton futures limit expanded. The start of trading today (Jan. 12) for ICE cotton futures will see all cotton No. 2 futures contracts have an expanded daily limit of 400 points (four cents per pound). The higher limit was triggered by two or more of the first five delivery months closing at a limit bid or offer, according to the ICE Exchange.

 

     • USDA daily export sale: 120,000 MT soybeans to unknown destinations during 2020-2021 marketing year

 

     • Ag demand update: Bangladesh tendered to buy 50,000 MT of wheat. A group of South Korean flour mills issued a tender to buy around 50,000 MT of milling wheat from the U.S. and 25,000 MT from Canada. Syria’s state grains agency issued an international tender to buy 200,000 MT of soft milling wheat. Egypt tendered to buy an unspecified amount of wheat from global suppliers; Romania has the lowest offer, with an unusually low number of trading houses taking part. Turkey’s state grain board issued an international tender to buy around 400,000 MT of milling wheat. Turkey’s state grain board provisionally purchased around 155,000 MT of corn in an international tender. The country also tendered to buy 155,000 MT of animal feed barley. Jordan also tendered to buy 120,000 MT of animal feed barley.

 

     • Transportation update:
        * Rising rates for dry-bulk shipping have pushed the Baltic Dry Index to a three-month high. (Lloyd’s List)
        * Growing numbers of U.S. importers are signing trans-Pacific container contracts early to ensure capacity later this year (Journal of Commerce).
        * Ocean-going cargo carriers are preparing to impose new fuel surcharges on shipping customers. (The Loadstar)

 

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

     • Slow improvement in Brazilian weather
     • Soybean exports from Brazil’s top-producing state will likely pick up late February
     • Cordonnier lowers Argentine corn crop peg, notes sliding crop ratings

 


POLICY FOCUS


 

—  Biden to detail Covid aid/stimulus bill package on Thursday. “My priority is to get, first and foremost, a stimulus bill passed,” President-elect Joe Biden said Monday when asked about concerns that impeachment could delay a relief package. “I’ve been speaking with some of my Republican colleagues about being able to move on a second package sooner than later,” he said, referring to his pledge for another spending bill following the one last month.

 

     Details of Biden’s plan are expected to be drawn from House Democrats’ $3.4 trillion Heroes Act, which passed in May and was blocked by the GOP-controlled Senate. Biden’s plan will likely include an expansion of the child tax credit and tax break for dependent care. It could also have an expansion of the earned income tax credit.

 

   Biden on Friday highlighted that the current historically low level of interest rates allows for taking action to bolster both the short-term and long-term growth outlook. Ultimately, it would “reduce our national debt burden,” he said.

 

     Hurdles remain in getting measure through Senate. Republicans have signaled they will likely resist another major package after the last two record-high $2 trillion and $900 billion relief bills. Biden and incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will need to hold the Democratic caucus together. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Friday said he wants direct payments “targeted to those who need it.” On Sunday, he said $2,000 checks aren’t a clear “no” for him but indicated he’s skeptical. Among his concerns: many higher income families who have not lost their jobs get the benefit. Parts of Biden’s plan, including stimulus checks, unemployment relief and rental assistance, can be passed with just 50 votes using a special procedure for budgetary legislation. But other measures, such as state and local aid, may not qualify for reconciliation, and would then require 60 votes; at least 10 Republicans would be needed to proceed.

 

    Incoming Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wants to link expanded unemployment benefits for gig workers and the long-term unemployed to automatic triggers that would extend the programs based on national and state unemployment rates. The idea is to remove the need to negotiate repeated extensions after the initial bill is passed. Wyden is also interested in boosting supplemental unemployment insurance payments to the $600 level that expired in mid-2020. The December bill included $300.

 

     Timing of the next Covid aid/stimulus. Parts of last month’s $900 billion aid bill start running out in mid-March. There are several factors that will determine the timing of another stimulus check. Will they be included in a stand-alone bill or combined with other stimulus measures? Will impeachment proceedings slow things down? Biden wants to include the next round of stimulus checks in a multi-trillion-dollar economic relief package that would also provide money for vaccine distribution, opening schools, state and local government, enhanced unemployment benefits, student loan relief, and much more. If his plan is to combine all these relief measures into a single bill, it would likely take longer to get through Congress, even as the Democrats control the Senate once it convenes, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote. Just one Democratic defector could stymie a comprehensive bill when the new Senate is seated. A few Republican votes could be needed too, which could take some time to accomplish. If so, delivery of the next round of stimulus checks could be delayed until late February or March — or later.

 

     Impacts. Jefferies economists estimate that $1 trillion in additional spending would add two percentage points to economic growth over the next two years. They forecast this would be enough for gross domestic product to close the output gap (the difference between where it is now and its potential) sometime next year — one to 1 1/2 years earlier than would otherwise be the case. That would drive unemployment down more quickly and inflation back toward the Fed’s 2% target sooner. The Fed would likely remain accommodative, but the firm’s economists think the yield on the 10-year Treasury could hit 2%, versus the current 1.13%, by the end of 2021.

 

— CFAP 2 payments edge higher in most recent week. Payments under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) moved up to $13.14 billion as of Jan. 10, with approved applications now totaling 889,001. The payments nudged above $13 billion in the prior week.

 

     Payouts by category did not change greatly, with acreage-based payments at $6.19 billion, accounting for 47.1% of CFAP 2 payments with 586,264 approved applications. Another $3.41 billion has been made for livestock, 26% of total CFAP 2 payments on 435,757 approved applications. USDA has paid $2.3 billion for sales commodities, 17.5% of all payments, on 64,143 approved applications. Another $1.19 billion has been paid for dairy, 9% of all payments, on 23,444 approved applications. USDA payments for eggs/broilers under CFAP 2 total $55.5 million, 0.4% of all payments, on 32,798 approved applications.

 

— Daschle: Room for compromise on infrastructure, climate. Former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who had experience navigating a divided Senate in 2001, said he sees policy issues ripe for potential compromise in the 117th Congress. Daschle said Monday at a forum with former Republican leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) held by the Bipartsian Policy Center that there’s no guarantee that President-elect Joe Biden can get anything done minus cooperation between Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) given ongoing polarization between the parties.

 

     “Give Mitch McConnell reasons to be a partner, reasons to be cooperative,” said Daschle, who’s now chairman of the Daschle Group at Baker Donelson. “Do that, I guarantee you, you’re going to accomplish twice, three, four times as much as you will otherwise.”

 

     It’s possible to find 60 votes to pass an ambitious infrastructure package and another economy recovery plan, Daschle said. “There’s probably 60 votes if we do Covid right again,” he added. While more difficult, Daschle said deals also are possible on immigration and climate change bills, including an infrastructure package that deals with climate issues. “I might note that some of the brightest red states have the greatest alternative energy infrastructure in the country today,” Daschle said. “So, it’s not necessarily at all a partisan issue.”
 


CHINA UPDATE


 

China has reimposed lockdowns as it battles its worst outbreak in months, quarantining more than 20 million people ahead of the biggest holiday of the year. Meanwhile, provincial and municipal authorities across China have encouraged their citizens to refrain from travel during the festive season due to the new outbreak.

 

— China hikes corn and soybean import projections, but analysts say projections still seem light. China’s ag ministry hiked its 2020-21 corn import projection by 3 MMT from December to 10 MMT, citing the “enlarging” price difference between domestic and international corn. Chinese corn prices hit new records this week. The ministry also lowered its 2020-21 corn production forecast from 264.71 MMT to 260.67 MMT, a move many have said is long overdue. The country’s expected corn deficit widened more than 2 MMT to 18.51 MMT. USDA in December pegged China’s corn crop at 260 MMT and imports at 16.5 MMT. The ag ministry also raised its soybean import projection from 95.1 MMT to 98.1 MMT, citing rising demand from its livestock sector for soymeal. USDA pegs Chinese imports at 100.0 MMT. China’s cotton import projection edged 100,000 MT higher to 2.1 MMT.

 

— China to auction more frozen pork later this week. China will sell 30,000 MT of frozen pork from its state reserves on Jan. 15, the country’s merchandise reserve management center said today. After a break for several months, China has renewed these auctions to boost supplies ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday in February.

 

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

 

— U.K. announces actions relative to Xinjiang, saying country has ‘moral duty’ to respond. The U.K. will impose fines and will bar companies from government contracts if they do not adhere to guidelines being announced by the U.K. government relative to China’s Xinjiang region. In remarks to parliament, U.K. Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said the country has a “moral duty” to respond to China’s actions on the situation in Xinjiang, as he stated there is a growing body of evidence relative to ill treatment of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region and forced labor. Raab stated he has “made clear” to China his concerns over actions in Xinjiang and said the U.K. has to make sure that businesses in the country are not part of the Xinjiang supply chains and firms with annual turnover of more than 36 million pounds ($49 million) will be required to publish a supply chain transparency report of face fines. The fines would be set at a later date. Raab said that China’s response has been to deny any human rights violations have taken place. 

 

— Australia blocks China acquisition of local building contractor. Australia has blocked China State Construction Engineering Company (CSCEC) from acquiring Australia’s Probuild on “national security” grounds under new foreign investment rules that took effect January 1. Rejection of the A$300 million ($US230.9 million) deal rachets up tensions between Australia and China, with the Financial Times reporting experts said the block of a “relatively small acquisition” is a signal that Australian approvals of mergers and acquisitions now face higher hurdles. Simon Gray, Probuild’s executive chairman, blamed “politics” for Canberra’s decision to torpedo the deal, according to the Australian Financial Review, noting that the company undertook less-sensitive work than rival company John Holland that had been acquired in 2015 by the China Communications Construction Company for A$1.1 billion. The development is the latest in a series of developments between the two countries that has seen increasing tensions.

 


TRADE POLICY


 

— Trump administration labels Cuba a state sponsor of terror. The Trump administration put Cuba back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism on Monday, reversing an Obama-era decision and making it harder for President-elect Joe Biden to quickly revive diplomatic ties with Havana. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he’s designating Cuba because the country continues to harbor American fugitives including Joanne Chesimard, convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1973, and refuses a Colombian extradition request for National Liberation Army members linked to a 2019 bombing that killed 22. Officials said the process of getting Cuba back on the list was a lengthy one and if the U.S. had wanted to play politics, it would have re-designated Cuba before the November presidential election, not after.

 

     Cuba joins Syria, Iran and North Korea on the U.S. list. Cuba had originally been put on the list in 1982 but was removed by President Barack Obama in 2015 as he sought to improve economic and diplomatic relations with the Caribbean nation.

 

     Biden previously said he wants to revive the Obama-era policy of easing economic and travel restrictions regarding Cuba in hopes that closer ties and more capitalism will pave the way for democratic change in Cuba.

 

— Lawmakers urge Trump administration to oppose any potential remedy as part of ongoing Section 201 investigation into blueberries. A statement (link) from the Blueberry Coalition for Progress & Health applauds Sens. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and David Schweikert (R-Az.) for leading a bicameral, bipartisan letter (link) to the administration on the topic. Joining the leads in sending the congressional letter to the administration were a group of 14 lawmakers, including those from the Southwest, “farm states,” and the U.S.-Peru Caucus.

     Additionally, the lawmakers signal their concerns with the ITC’s Section 332 investigations into strawberries, cucumbers, squash, and bell peppers and cite the potential for retaliation from our trading partners against U.S. agricultural exports Some 30-plus food and agriculture trade associations/companies in December sent a letter to USTR/ITC expressing their concerns with the 201 investigation.

 


ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE


 

— Reports signal Trump administration to grant some waivers of RFS requirements. The Trump administration is poised to issue additional small refinery exemptions (SREs) relative to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), according to reports from Reuters and Politico, with both indicating the decisions could come yet this week for requests made by refiners for the 2019 compliance year.

 

     EPA data shows 32 SRE requests are pending for the 2019 compliance year and another 14 for the 2020 compliance year.

 

     Politico reported that refineries in Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming and Utah would not likely receive SREs after the January 2020 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision invalidating three SREs on the basis that such waivers had to be received annually since 2011. The Supreme Court said Friday it would review the 10th Circuit Court decision. Politico reported that EPA could issue partial waivers for the 2019 compliance year. The reports come after some speculated the pending Supreme Court review could put any action on hold.

 

     It did not take long for biofuel groups to respond. In a joint statement, corn and ethanol trade groups said the appellate judges “got it right the first time, and we will continue to defend the court’s ruling and stand up for the renewable fuel producers and farmers who have been harmed by the granting of these waivers.”

 

— EPA water official to temporarily take reins once Trump departs. Charlotte Bertrand, the policy chief at the EPA’s water office, will temporarily take over leadership of the agency at noon on Jan. 20 after President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in, the agency has confirmed. Bertrand is a career employee who was part of a three-person team leading the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention under President Donald Trump. She has also worked in the EPA’s land and emergency management office. Biden has nominated North Carolina environmental regulator Michael Regan to lead the EPA. Regan has already started meeting with Senate lawmakers and only needs a simple majority vote.

 

— U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell more than 10% in 2020, reaching their lowest levels in three decades as the coronavirus slowed the economy. The estimate published today by the Rhodium Group warned that the steep drop was the result of extraordinary circumstances.

 

— Investors are lobbying for mandatory shareholder votes on how companies are responding to climate change. And the asset manager State Street said it would vote against boards that did not disclose the racial and ethnic makeup of their directors. Link to FT items here and here/paywall.

 


FOOD & BEVERAGE INDUSTRY


 

— Pilgrim’s & Tyson agree to settle chicken antitrust case. Two major chicken producers reached agreements with buyers to settle complaints over price-fixing allegations. Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., owned by Brazil’s JBS SA, said it will pay $75 million to settle the class action suit, according to a regulatory filing on Monday. Tyson Foods Inc. said in a separate statement that it had reached an “agreement in principle” without disclosing terms. Neither company admitted wrongdoing. Poultry buyers including Chick-fil-A and Target Corp. sued top U.S. chicken producers for fixing meat prices for years. The proposed deal is subject to court approval.

 

     Pilgrim’s in October agreed to pay a $110.5 million fine in a plea deal with the U.S. Department of Justice on the price-fixing allegations, which ensnared two former chief executives. The company said the new settlement will be reflected in its fourth-quarter results. Pilgrim’s and Tyson both said they believes a settlement is in the best interest of the company and its shareholders.

 

— USDA asked to accelerate protections for food system workers and fix lingering problems in the supply chain, using authority and funding provided by Congress in last month’s $900 billion coronavirus response package. Incoming Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) wants action on the topic (link for details), and House Ag members and other farm-state lawmakers made a similar request in a letter to USDA on Monday (link).
 

— Canadian law enforcement has launched a criminal probe into the death of a Cargill meatpacking worker in Alberta, Canada, one of 950 plant employees who were infected by the coronavirus last spring. Cargill is also facing a proposed class-action lawsuit on behalf of individuals who had close contact with company employees, the CBC reports (link).

 


CORONAVIRUS UPDATE


 

 Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 are 90,976,653 with 1,947,243 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. case count is at 22,619,030 with 376,283 deaths.

 

       Link to Covid Case Tracker
       Link to Our World in Data

 

—  Just under 3% of the U.S. population has received a Covid vaccine. About 8.99 million people in the U.S. have received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, or about 2.7% of the U.S. population, as of Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That represents less than one-third of the 25 million total doses distributed to states by the U.S. government and is far behind estimates made by Health Secretary Alex Azar in December that 20 million people would be vaccinated by the end of 2020. Both of the vaccines approved so far for emergency use in the U.S. require a second shot.

 

     Uneven vaccine implementation by states is evident. Roughly 1 in 20 residents have been vaccinated in West Virginia, whereas in California fewer than 1 in 50 have received a vaccine. It’s not for lack of supplies. California, for example, still has more than 2 million vaccine doses left to distribute.

 

     Meanwhile, reports note that President-elect Joe Biden is frustrated about vaccine implementation developments. Politico reports that Biden has expressed frustration at his coronavirus response staff for underperforming, putting Biden’s goal of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office in jeopardy. Biden completed his vaccine regimen ahead of his Jan. 20 inauguration and said he would release a vaccine distribution plan later this week.

 

— Gorillas in San Diego zoo have coronavirus. Three of the eight gorillas at San Diego Zoo Safari Park are infected with the coronavirus, the first known cases among gorillas in the United States.

 


POLITICS & ELECTIONS


 

— Trump to tout border wall in first public appearance since riot. President Donald Trump plans to tout completed sections of his border wall in Alamo, Texas today — his first public event since some of his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol. The administration has built about 452 miles, much of that replacing existing barriers. Trump financed the project in part by redirecting military spending.

 

— Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) is writing a book about monopolies that could serve as a blueprint for the Biden administration. The book, Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power From the Gilded Age to the Digital Age, is a mix of history, law, personal anecdotes and politics. Link to a New York Times article for details.

 

— Some ag firms suspend campaign contributions. Smithfield Foods and Archer Daniels Midland are among U.S. companies that suspended federal campaign contributions until more is known about the riot at the U.S. Capitol last week.

— Trump's ban from Twitter following the Capitol riots has sparked new debates on the role of social media companies. Germany and France both objected to the decision, saying that free speech rules should be overseen by the government and not a private company.

 

     Parler, the conservative platform, is now suing Amazon for kicking it off its servers as multiple alternatives tout their own "free speech" credentials.

 

     Twitter has also banned more than 70,000 accounts which share QAnon conspiracy theories in a further crackdown.

 

— USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, a Georgia native, is one of the Cabinet officials who lasted the duration of the Trump administration. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a profile of Perdue (link).

 


OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE     


 

— FBI warns that armed protests were being planned in every state in the run up to the inauguration of Joe Biden as president on January 20. Security in Washington, DC and in many states has been tightened. Chad Wolf, the acting head of homeland security, resigned, citing “ongoing and meritless court rulings.” The Government Accountability Office previously found his appointment to be unlawful.

 

—  India’s Supreme Court paused the implementation of new agricultural laws that have prompted huge protests by farmers. The government of Narendra Modi, the prime minister, insists the reforms will make the industry more competitive, but farmers say it will hurt their bottom line. The court’s chief justice promised to set up a panel to hear farmers’ grievances.

 

— Sheldon Adelson, billionaire casino owner and Republican mega-donor, dies at 87. Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon G. Adelson has died. Adelson's death was confirmed by his wife, Miriam. He was being treated for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, his company disclosed in early 2019. He was listed by Forbes magazine in 2020 as the 19th-richest American, with holdings estimated at $29.8 billion. After he took his Las Vegas Sands Corp. public in 2004, his wealth increased by $1 million an hour. During the 2008 recession, it plummeted for a time at $1,000 a second, the Los Angeles Times notes.

 

— A bit crazy re: bitcoin? Many would-be cryptocurrency millionaires face a big problem: They can’t remember the passwords to their digital wallets. Link for details via the NYT.

 


 

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