Equities Rally as Bonds Rally and on Upbeat J&J Vaccine News

Posted on 03/01/2021 7:48 AM

Why do they call some Democrats ‘Progressive’? | Dems delete minimum wage language


In Today’s Digital Newspaper


Market Focus:
• U.S. stock futures rising
• U.S. consumer spending increased 2.4% in January
• Biden budget may not arrive until April
• If you are buying a home… sorry. If you are selling a home… congrats

• Freight rates are rising and so is investor interest in the shipping sector
• ASF in Malaysia
• Ag demand update

Record-setting January soybean crush expected
• AgResource projects Brazil’s bean crop will fall shy of 130 MMT due to wet weather
• Russian wheat prices climb leading up to export duty hike

Policy Focus:
WSJ: Not even half of Biden/Democrats’ $1.9 trillion package for true Covid relief
• Bill expands PPP to farmers, ranchers
• Price discovery for spring crop insurance prices ended Friday
• DMC payments triggered for more coverage levels in January
• Biden officials, airlines met Friday; biofuel proponents see more demand potential


Biden Administration Personnel

• Timothy Wu, a major antitrust advocate against Big Tech, likely to join NEC


China Update:
• Annual meeting of National People’s Congress of China begins on Friday
• Beijing plans vote on strengthening its sway over Hong Kong
• China’s official gauge of factory activity fell to its weakest level in nine months
• China’s shortfall in babies is clouding its growth horizon
• China to start carbon emissions trading by June in step toward 2060 goal
• Chinese soybean futures hit record
• Demand for wheat at China’s auctions has faded over past month


Trade Policy:
• Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala starts as WTO leader
• Biden administration trade agenda report due


Energy & Climate Change:

• • Trump didn’t tap a $40 billion program, but Biden administration wants to
• Biden hiking cost of carbon, changing how the U.S. tackles global warming  
• Buttigieg cool on gas-tax hike
• What’s missing in electric-vehicle revolution: places to plug in
• Europe is buying electric vehicles at a record pace and has overtaken China
• U.S. biofuels interests eye U.K. market as country to up level of biofuel in gasoline

Food & Beverage Industry Update:
NYT focus on highly processed foods
• Campbell Soup rejoins CBA

Coronavirus Update:
• 47.2 million in U.S. vaccinated
• FDA, CDC clear Johnson & Johnson’s shot, giving U.S. a third option


Politics & Elections:
• Former President Donald Trump rejected idea of starting third political party
• Why do they call some Democrats “Progressive”?
• Andrew Cuomo apologizes over some interactions with staffers

Other Items of Note:
WSJ: Iran rejects offer of direct U.S. nuclear talks
• House passes wilderness protection bill  
• Earmarks return as House Democrats set new guidelines
• Virginia in 2024 to allow recreational marijuana




Equities today: U.S. stock futures are rising as bonds rally and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which requires just one dose and can be stored without extreme refrigeration, has been given emergency use authorization. Major indexes are poised to rebound sharply as investors await signals from Federal Reserve officials on whether the central bank will push back against bond-market tumult. The biggest monthly rise in bond yields since 2016 injected fresh uncertainty into the market, hitting technology stocks and triggering volatility streaks that saw the Dow swing more than 1,000 points over three days. Things appear to be turning around this morning as the 10-year Treasury yield fell 4 bps to 1.4%. The 10 largest stocks in the Nasdaq, including Apple, Amazon.com and Tesla, lost more than $660 billion in value this past week. The Nasdaq is up 1.2% in premarket trading. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 2.4% by the close and China’s Shanghai Composite Index added 1.2%.


     U.S. equities Friday: The Dow fell 469.64 points, 1.50%, at 30,932.37. The Nasdaq rose 72.91 points, 0.56%, at 13,192.34. The S&P 500 declined 18.19 points, 0.48%, at 3,811.15.


     For the week, the tech-heavy fell 4.9%, its worst percentage loss since the week ended Oct. 29.


     The yield on the 10-year Treasury ticked down to 1.459% on Friday, from 1.513% on Thursday, its highest closing level in a year. For the month of February, the 10-year yield rose 0.369 percentage points. That is the largest one-month increase in the yield since November 2016.


On tap today:


     • IHS Markit's U.S. manufacturing index for February is expected to hold steady at 58.5, unchanged from a preliminary reading. (9:45 a.m. ET)
     • Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index for February is expected to tick up to 58.9 from 58.7 a month earlier. (10 a.m. ET)
     • U.S. construction spending for January is expected to increase 0.8% from a month earlier. (10 a.m. ET)
     • Federal Reserve speakers: New York’s John Williams at a webinar on culture at 9 a.m. ET; governor Lael Brainard on financial stability at 9:05 a.m. ET; and Atlanta’s Raphael Bostic, Cleveland’s Loretta Mester and Minneapolis’s Neel Kashkari on housing at 2 p.m. ET.
     • USDA Grain Export Inspections, 11 a.m. ET
     • European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde gives pre-recorded remarks to the German Association for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses at 11:10 a.m. ET.
     • Reserve Bank of Australia releases a policy statement at 10:30 p.m. ET.


U.S. consumer spending increased 2.4% in January after household incomes jumped 10%, mainly on the latest round of stimulus checks. Investors expect Congress to pass another fiscal aid package in the coming weeks. That money should at some point lead to more spending — and more economic growth. That, in turn, should bolster corporate earnings.


Biden budget may not arrive until April. The fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget proposal from the Biden administration may not arrive in Congress until mid-to-late April, according to House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.). Though there are a smattering of FY 2022 hearings on tap, the formal budget submission is expected to be held up as the new administration staffs up the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). "So much is delayed because of OMB and the president's budget," Yarmuth said. "It wouldn't start before we get the president's budget. Now we're told it's gonna be mid-to-late April." The White House would only say that the budget will be delayed. The delay means that work on a second budget reconciliation package would be delayed, a package that is expected to focus on infrastructure and climate change among other areas.


Market perspectives:


     • Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is higher ahead of the U.S. trading start, with only the euro showing slight weakness against the U.S. currency. The U.S. 10-year Treasury yield is currently fetching 1.445%.

     • Crude oil futures are higher but have pared gains from those seen in Asian action. U.S. crude is trading around $62.05 per barrel while Brent is around $65 per barrel. Crude oil was higher in Asian action, with U.S. crude up $1.07 at $62.57 per barrel while Brent crude was up $1.41 at $65.83 per barrel.


     • If you are buying a home… sorry. If you are selling a home… congrats, it’s a seller’s market. The U.S. is short some 3 million homes, Kiplinger reports, the result of home construction consistently falling behind demand. Reasons include too few buildable lots and too many regulations, which bar construction of multifamily projects or, sometimes, any new houses. Too few workers, too. But most noteworthy is rising costs. Over the past 12 months, the cost of the materials that go into residential construction is up by 7%, on average. Lumber prices alone have soared a staggering 70% just since mid-November.


     • Freight rates are rising and so is investor interest in the shipping sector.  Shares in shipping companies are having a bumper year, the Wall Street Journal reports (link), amid strong demand in the developed world for Asia-made goods and skyrocketing shipping prices. Shares in Maersk Line parent A.P. Moeller-Maersk have gained 40% since the beginning of last year, while those of China’s Cosco Shipping have nearly tripled. Profits have accelerated, boosted by soaring freight rates from North Asia to the U.S. West Coast and North Europe, according to S&P Global Platts. Shipping rates won’t stay elevated forever, and container volumes are likely to recede once the pandemic winds down and demand for consumer goods wanes. But shipping companies are also riding a structural tailwind, with orders for new vessels relatively light, suggesting the good times may last for some time.


        Freight rates


     • ASF in Malaysia. Malaysia plans to cull 3,000 wild and domestic pigs due to an outbreak of African swine fever in wild boar and backyard pigs on Borneo island. The mid-February discovery of the outbreaks marks the country’s first cases of the disease, according to the World Organization for Animal Health. So far, just 22 pigs have been culled.


     • Weekend demand news: South Korea’s Nonghyup Feed Inc. bought around 137,000 MT of animal feed corn to be sourced from global origins. Syria issued an international tender to buy 25,000 MT of white Chinese rice or Egyptian short grain rice.


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

     • Record-setting January soybean crush expected
     • AgResource projects Brazil’s bean crop will fall shy of 130 MMT due to wet weather
     • Russian wheat prices climb leading up to export duty hike




—  Not even half of the Biden/Democrats’ $1.9 trillion stimulus package is likely for true Covid relief, according to a detailed accounting by the Wall Street Journal editorial board (link). “The rest of the bill — more than $1 trillion — is a combination of bailouts for Democratic constituencies, expansions of progressive programs, pork, and unrelated policy changes,” according to the accounting. “Our favorite is $1.5 million for the Seaway International Bridge, which connects New York to Canada and is a priority for New York Sen. Chuck Schumer. And don’t overlook the nearly $500 million for, as the CBO puts it, “grants to fund activities related to the arts, humanities, libraries and museums, and Native American language preservation.”


     The House early Saturday cleared its version of the latest aid package. Link for details. Senate Democrats were spending the weekend plotting ways to salvage the minimum wage provision, which would gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2025. Democrats has been drafting alternative plans — including tax penalties for large corporations that pay low hourly wages — that could qualify under Senate rules and achieve similar goals but have shelved the attempt after it became clear over the weekend that getting all 50 Senate Democrats to agree on specific language would risk missing the March 14 deadline for extending expiring supplemental unemployment benefits. The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour as part of the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief legislation failed to qualify under fast-track budget rules that Democrats are using to pass the stimulus without Republican support.


— Bill expands PPP to farmers, ranchers. A bipartisan bill aims to expand access for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to agriculture producers harmed during the pandemic. The legislation from Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.), would permit farmers and ranchers in agricultural partnerships the ability to utilize their gross income to determine maximum federal loan amounts. “We want to help them out, just like we want to help out any other small business,” Hagedorn said.


— Price discovery for spring crop insurance prices ended Friday. Prices are projected at the following per bushel levels:


  • Corn: $4.58 ($3.88 last year)
  • Soybeans: $11.87 ($9.17)
  • HRS wheat: $6.53 ($4.35)

     This marks the highest corn price levels since 2014 and the highest bean price since 2013. For most Midwest producers, the deadline for purchasing crop insurance is March 15.


— DMC payments triggered for more coverage levels in January. The national average margin for January 2021 is at $7.14 per cwt., which USDA said will mean Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) payments are triggered for January. Dairy operations that elected Tier 1 margin coverage levels $9.50, $9.00, $8.50, $8.00, $7.50 per cwt. and Tier 2 margin coverage levels at $8.00, $7.50, will be issued a payment. DMC payments are triggered when the difference between the national all milk price and the national average feed cost falls below the margin trigger selected by producers.


— Biden officials, airlines met Friday and it didn’t take long for biofuel proponents to hype the session. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, National Economic Council (NEC) Director Brian Deese, and National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy held a virtual meeting with more than a dozen passenger and freight airline leaders, with administration officials pushing passage of the Covid aid plan which will “build a bridge towards economic recovery for airlines and airline workers,” according to a readout of the session from the White House.


     Officials also welcomed reports from the airline industry regarding “ongoing and future efforts to address climate change, and they offered the administration’s support to strengthen and advance the airlines’ climate goals.” Delta and American separately announced Friday that they had partnered with Deloitte to reduce emissions through sustainable fuel use. Separately, Delta and American Airlines announced agreements with Deloitte to buy sustainable aviation fuel. Delta said it would buy low-emission fuel that is made primarily from renewable waste and residue materials for its aircraft from Neste, with the fuel to be dropped into its existing infrastructure and mixed with conventional airline fuel. The airline said it would result in a reduction of about 1,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide. American’s agreement would result in a reduction in Scope 3 emissions (indirect emissions) by some 3,050 metric tons of carbon dioxide.


     Comments: There was conjecture by some commodity traders regarding the possible “huge increase” in renewable fuel ahead for the airline industry. At best, sources say, the timeline for that is lengthy.



—  Timothy Wu, the Columbia University professor known as a major antitrust advocate against Big Tech, is likely to join the White House National Economic Council, according to several media reports.



Annual meeting of National People’s Congress of China begins on Friday, where the country’s latest five-year economic plan will be announced, among other measures.


— Beijing plans vote on strengthening its sway over Hong Kong. At an annual legislative session opening on Friday, Chinese lawmakers are expected to vote on changes to the composition of the committee that picks Hong Kong’s top official, potentially curbing the influence of opposition groups, according to people familiar with the proposal told the Wall Street Journal (link). Authorities charged dozens of the city’s most prominent opposition figures with national-security offenses after the political figures took part in unofficial primary elections, the largest use of the sweeping new law since it was imposed on the territory by Beijing. Police said they charged 39 men and eight women on Sunday with one count each of conspiracy to commit subversion, and they will appear in court Monday morning.


— China’s official gauge of factory activity fell to its weakest level in nine months in February. The National Bureau of Statistics said its manufacturing purchasing managers index dropped to 50.6, still above the 50 mark that separates activity expansion from contraction. The bureau attributed the slowdown in factory production and demand to the Lunar New Year holiday, which fell in February this year.


     China factory info


— China’s shortfall in babies is clouding its growth horizon. In the short term, the Chinese economy looks comparatively strong — helped by its quick stamping out of the virus’s spread and heavy state investment — and some economists earlier this year predicted that China could overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy by 2028, years earlier than expected. But the world’s most populous country is losing when it comes to demographics, according to the Wall Street Journal (link). Ahead of the results of China’s once-a-decade census, there have been several indications that fewer babies were born in the country in 2020 than in any year since 1961, when China suffered mass starvation. A report from Capital Economics this month says it is possible that slowing productivity growth and a shrinking workforce would prevent China from ever overtaking the U.S., or that if it does, the U.S. would regain the top spot again, helped by immigration that keeps refilling its supply of workers.


     China babies


— China to start carbon emissions trading by June in step toward 2060 goal. China is set to launch an online carbon emissions trading system this quarter, speeding up efforts to curb pollution and help attain its carbon-neutral goal by 2060. A full-scale testing would be carried out soon to ensure a smooth opening of trading, Huang Runqiu, the Minister of Ecology and Environment, said during a visit to central Hubei province, where the registration system and data for the exchange will be based. Shanghai, home to the bourse, will host trading on Friday and Saturday. “Early implementation of the trading mechanism is desirable,” Huang said in a separate statement issued by the ministry. “We must ensure that the inauguration of online trade will take place before the end of June.” The trading system will initially include coal or gas-fired power plants, manufacturing facilities with captive power plants and major refineries owned by state-controlled oil giants such as Sinopec and PetroChina.


— Chinese soybean futures hit record high. Tight supplies and expectations for Chinese producers to reduce soybean plantings in favor of corn propelled the count’s soybean futures on the Dalian Commodity Exchange to a record high to start the week. The May contract shot 2.5% higher to 6,058 yuan ($937.23) per metric ton. Rising edible oil prices also provided support, as did expectations for delayed arrivals of soybean imports due to Brazil’s harvest delays.


— Demand for wheat at China’s auctions has faded over the past month. China sold 1.681 MMT of wheat at a Feb. 23-24 auction of state reserves, representing 41.7% of the total put up for auction. The average price of 2,374 yuan ($367.32) per metric ton was near steady with the previous tally, but up slightly from the start of the month. Demand for wheat has faded since mid-January, when nearly all of the wheat put up for auction was selling.


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




— Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala starts as WTO leader. The term of former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as WTO director general starts today. This also marks the start of a two-day session of the WTO General Counsel. The meetings this week are expected to focus on a request for a temporary waiver of Covid-19 vaccine patent protections in a bid to try and boost production of the jabs. But there has been no agreement at the world trade body on the matter even as some U.S. lawmakers and groups are pressing for the administration to no longer oppose the temporary waiver.


— Biden administration trade agenda report due. The Biden administration is expected to release the President’s Trade Agenda report today, the first chance to see some potential trade thinking from the new administration. While the report largely looks back at developments of the past year, there is typically a portion of the report that is more forward looking. Attention will be on whether the issue of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) renewal comes up as the current version expires in July. But given the early stages of the Biden administration, the report may not be as loaded with trade agenda items as otherwise might be the case. Still, it is a chance for the administration to perhaps spell out in more detail what their agenda will be on various trade issues.




— Trump didn’t tap a $40 billion program, but Biden administration wants to. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said one of her top priorities is to use the department’s loan program to jumpstart her work. The program offering federal loans and loan guarantees to start-ups and energy projects has $40 billion authorized by Congress but untouched by the Trump administration. That can be funneled into companies bringing new energy technologies to market, especially for power units, battery storage and grid improvements, among others. The loan has been criticized by Republicans for supporting private-sector projects that they say don’t need the money or waste it with little return. Granholm said she wants to ensure the program’s accountability and that its money is used efficiently.


     Granholm said that, as part of nationwide improvements, she would like to see Texas add more electricity transmission connections with neighboring states, so it has more options to get power during local shortages. But she also acknowledged state leaders would have to allow new connections. “They have to decide whether they want the rest of the country to be able to offer a hand of help when they are in the midst of a crisis, like other states do,” she said.


     Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is planning to introduce federal legislation aimed at helping pay for weatherization at power plants. Texas hadn’t required power plants there to follow federal recommendations on preparing for severe winter weather, widely cited as an underlying cause of the recent crisis. Cornyn’s plan would create a grant program that runs through the Energy Department.


— Biden hiking cost of carbon, changing how the U.S. tackles global warming. The Biden administration plans to boost the figure it will use to assess the damage that greenhouse gas pollution inflicts on society to $51 per ton of carbon dioxide — a rate more than seven times higher than that used by former president Donald Trump’s administration. (President Barack Obama established an interagency working group that set the number at $37 per ton by the end of his presidency.) The number, known as the “social cost of carbon,” could reach as high as $125 per ton once the administration conducts a more thorough analysis. National climate adviser, Gina McCarthy, told the Washington Post that the administration is setting an initial price to inform its policies “and then work more diligently about what the actual cost might be as we move forward, and get the information that we need to be able to do that.”


     Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) called the move a backdoor carbon tax” that would lead to higher energy costs. “The administration is laying the traps to justify punishing new regulations," Barrasso said in a statement. "Since the president can’t rationalize the crippling costs of his climate policies, he needs to exaggerate the benefits.”


    Weather and climate disasters on the rise. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has estimated that last year there were “22 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters across the United States, shattering the previous annual record of 16 events.”


— Buttigieg cool on gas-tax hike. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Friday that Biden opposes raising the federal gasoline tax because it would violate his pledge to not raise taxes on middle-class Americans. “The president’s made a commitment that this administration will not raise taxes on people making less than $400,000 a year,” Buttigieg said during a Friday appearance on Bloomberg Radio’s Sound On show. “And so that rules out approaches like the old-fashioned gas tax.”


— What’s missing in the electric-vehicle revolution: places to plug in. While EVs can be powered up at home, industry analysts and academics believe that a fast-charging infrastructure is essential to getting beyond their current limited adoption, the Wall Street Journal reports (link). Yet so far, only one car maker has offered a reassuring pitch about conveniently and reliably recharging on the go: Tesla. And Tesla’s fast-charging technology doesn’t work on non-Tesla cars. Building the requisite charging infrastructure for the rest of the EV universe will be expensive. The Biden administration has proposed building a network of 550,000 chargers in the next five years, which would cost billions. “The fact that many believe such a government investment is required shows just how little faith many industry insiders have in the ability of private enterprise to solve this problem,” the WSJ article notes. One issue: Building out the nation’s charging infrastructure might not be profitable. EVs currently make up around 2% of vehicles sold each year in the U.S., and the Department of Energy says more than 80% of EV charging happens at home. The article details: “More than half of Americans live in single-family dwellings where, in theory, an EV could be charged, and 63% of all U.S. housing units of every kind have a garage or carport. But any EV owners planning a trip far from home, or who can’t charge at home, must rely on apps to plot an efficient route and ensure they don’t get stranded.” The item notes some who recently spent about 58 hours on a road trip in his Chevy Bolt that would have taken about 30 hours in a gas-powered vehicle. Reason: the need to regularly power up the Bolt’s battery at a “fast” charger — so called because they’re many times faster than typical home chargers.




— Europe is buying electric vehicles at a record pace and has overtaken China as the world’s biggest EV market. The continent’s share of global new electric car sales nearly doubled to 43% last year, while China and the U.S. lost market share. But Europe’s surge relies heavily on government incentives doled out during the pandemic, and analysts warn the momentum could be reversed if and when that support is withdrawn. EVs are still considerably more expensive than equivalent combustion-engine vehicles. This isn’t likely to change until later this decade, analysts say, as battery prices come down because of new technology, greater scale and competition.




—  U.S. biofuels interests eye U.K. market as country to up level of biofuel in gasoline. The United Kingdom (U.K.)  will increase the share of ethanol in its motor fuel to 10%, up from a current 5%, with the country saying the move is aimed at reducing the impact of driving in the country. The U.K. Department of Transport said the change could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 750,000 tonnes per year, the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars of the road.


     U.S. biofuel groups welcomed the move, hoping that it translates into additional demand for U.S. ethanol as the U.K. biofuel infrastructure needs to be increased to meet the rising demand. The U.S. exported around 600,000 barrels of ethanol to the U.K. in 2020, down about 55,000 barrels from 2019 levels as Covid restrictions limited travel and gasoline demand in the U.K. Data from the U.K. indicated that overall ethanol consumption was at 4.7 million barrels in 2019. The hoped-for rise in U.S. ethanol exports to the U.K.  would be a welcome demand development but may not be a sustained market given an expected push to bolster the biofuel infrastructure in the U.K.




— A focus on highly processed foods. Highly processed foods are cheap, convenient and engineered to taste good. And article says they’re also unhealthy, and researchers are debating if they’re addictive. Link for more from the NYT.


— Campbell Soup rejoins CBA. In 2017, in a major dispute over the labeling of GMO foods, Campbell Soup was the first major food company to leave the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA); it has now rejoined the trade group, which renamed itself the Consumer Brands Association (CBA).




 Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 are at 114,193,914 with 2,532,756 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. case count is at 28,605,937 with 513,092 deaths. The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center said that there have been 75,236,003 doses administered, 24,779,920 have been fully vaccinated, or 7.57% of the U.S. population.

       Link to Covid Case Tracker
       Link to Our World in Data


— 47.2 million in U.S. vaccinated. The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covers 38.7% of the prioritized population and 14.2% of the total population.


— FDA, CDC clear Johnson & Johnson’s shot, giving U.S. a third option. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday authorized Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, beginning the rollout of millions of doses of a third effective vaccine. An advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) voted unanimously Sunday to recommend the use of J&J’s one-shot Covid-19 vaccine as the federal government prepares to ship out millions of doses this week. One administration official familiar with the distribution of the vaccine said that shipments would begin on Monday and deliveries could arrive as soon as Tuesday. J&J has pledged to provide the U.S. with 100 million doses by the end of June. When combined with the 600 million doses from the two-shot vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna slated to arrive by the end of July, there will be more than enough shots to cover any American adult who wants one. The new vaccine’s 72% efficacy rate in the U.S. clinical trial site falls short of the roughly 95% rate found in studies testing the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Across all trial sites, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine also showed 85% efficacy against severe forms of Covid-19 and 100% efficacy against hospitalization and death.




— Former President Donald Trump rejected the idea of starting a third political party and instead teased the idea of a 2024 run in his first public appearance since leaving office 39 days ago. In a speech to close the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, Trump rattled off the accomplishments of his term in the White House, repeated his contention that he won the 2020 election, and added: “Who knows? I may even decide to beat them a third time.” In a straw poll, 97% of attendees approved of his leadership of the party, 70% want him to run again and 55% said he was their preferred candidate in 2024.


— Why do they call some Democrats “Progressive”? It is a subsection of the Democratic Party. Progressivism is a political philosophy in support of social reform. It is a movement that identifies as progressive "a social or political movement that aims to represent the interests of ordinary people through political change and the support of government actions.” Michael Chaplan, college English teacher at Nihon University, School of Law, wrote: The reason why the word “progressive” is necessary is that when George H.W. Bush was running for president, he tried to make the word ‘liberal’ into some sort of insult. He even coined “the L word” as an insult. So, some Democrats wondered whether they were allowed to use the word “liberal.” When somebody came up with “progressive,” such Democrats grabbed it.”


— Andrew Cuomo apologizes over some interactions with staffers.​ Facing a second sexual-harassment accusation from a former aide, New York's governor acknowledged he had sometimes been overly personal while interacting with staff and relented to the state attorney general’s request for an independent probe of misconduct allegations. The New York Post said Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday tried to explain away allegations of sexual harassment as “jokes” that were misinterpreted as “unwanted flirtation.”





— Iran rejected a European Union offer to hold direct nuclear talks with the U.S. in the coming days, risking renewed tension between Tehran and Western capitals, the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend. Senior Western diplomats said Iran’s response doesn’t quash the Biden administration’s hopes of reviving diplomatic efforts to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, struck between Iran and six world powers and abandoned by the Trump administration in 2018. But they told the WSJ that it seemed to set a deadlock: Iran wants a guarantee it wouldn’t walk away from a meeting with the U.S. without some sanctions relief, which Washington has so far ruled out.


— House passes wilderness protection bill. The House on Friday passed an eight-bill public lands package that would designate 1.5 million acres of federal land as wilderness and blocks new mining near the Grand Canyon. Members passed the Democratic-sponsored package mostly along party lines on a vote of 227-200, with eight Republicans in favor. The legislation would expand and open conservation and recreation areas in California, Colorado, and Washington state.


— Earmarks return as House Democrats set new guidelines. As expected, earmarks are coming back for Congress’s next round of annual funding bills, but for-profit companies will be excluded and the money available will only be a small slice of appropriations. House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) announced on Friday her panel’s plan to solicit members’ requests for earmarks, the system of designating funds for specific local projects that’s been banned for a decade.


— With 1 in 3 Americans now living in a state where adult marijuana use is legal, Virginia is no longer sitting on the sidelines. Over the weekend, local lawmakers narrowly approved compromise legislation that would make it the first state in the south to allow recreational weed. The bill now goes to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who supports legalization, for his signature. The state is hoping that its commercial recreational marijuana program could generate nearly $1.5 billion in annual sales within five years of the scheduled start on Jan. 1, 2024. Specifics of the regulations were punted until next year, when they'll be decided by the legislature.



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