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peppertree's Journal
peppertree's Journal
July 29, 2021

GDP increased 6.5%, well below expectations but topping pre-Covid levels

The U.S. economy rose at a disappointing rate in the second quarter in a sign that the U.S. has escaped the shackles of the Covid-19 pandemic but still has more work to do, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

Gross domestic product, a measure of all goods and services produced during the April-to-June period, accelerated 6.5% on an annualized basis - slightly better than the 6.3% gain in the first quarter, which was revised down narrowly.

While that would have been strong prior to the pandemic, the gain was considerably less than the 8.4% Dow Jones estimate.

Gross private domestic investment fell 3.5% as declines in private inventory and residential investment held back gains.

Rising imports and a 5% decline in the rate of federal government spending also were factors, the Bureau of Economic Analysis report said.

The overall increase came thanks to increasing private expenditures, which rose 11.8% as private consumption accounted for 69% of all activity. Nonresidential fixed investment, exports and state and local government spending also helped boost output.

At: https://www.nbcnews.com/business/autos/gdp-increased-6-5-well-below-expectations-n1275377

Chef Sean Sherman at his newly-opened Owamni restaurant in Minneapolis.

Higher spending on food services and accommodation accounted for a full one third of growth in the second quarter - though the emergence of the Delta variant has clouded prospects for the sector moving forward.
July 29, 2021

Gov. Kate Brown signs ambitious energy bill

Oregon’s clean energy bill, which sets one of the most ambitious timelines in the country for moving to 100% clean electricity sources, was signed by Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday.

The legislation lays out a timetable for the state’s two major power companies — Portland General Electric and Pacific Power — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity sold to Oregon consumers.

Additionally, it bans the expansion or new construction of power plants that burn fossil fuels and allocates $50 million in grants for community-based energy projects, among other measures.

At: https://ktvz.com/news/government-politics/2021/07/27/gov-kate-brown-signs-ambitious-energy-bill/

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown visits Eugene electric vehicle maker Arcimoto.

Legislation signed by Gov. Brown today funds clean energy ventures, bans new fossil fuel-burning power plants, and requires state utilities to adopt 100% emission-free output by 2040.
July 28, 2021

Peru swears in new President Pedro Castillo

Peru has sworn in new President Pedro Castillo, a leftist former teachers’ union leader who already faces mounting challenges to build his government, tackle the coronavirus crisis and unite a deeply polarised country.

Castillo was sworn in at midday local time (1700 GMT) on Wednesday in the capital, Lima, after weeks of uncertainty following a hard-fought June presidential runoff that saw him edge right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori by about 44,000 votes.

Castillo, a 51-year-old former rural schoolteacher, becomes Peru’s first president in decades with no ties to the country’s political or economic elite.

Peru has been hard-hit by the pandemic, recording 195,000 COVID-19 deaths - the highest per capita in the world - and suffering an 11.1% fall in GDP last year after 20 years of uninterrupted growth.

The country, which has seen years of political upheaval and uncertainty, also remains deeply divided.

In an early setback for President Castillo, an opposition-led alliance won a vote on Monday to lead Peru’s Congress - a sign of challenges ahead to his plans to reform the constitution and increase mining taxes.

At: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/7/26/peru-opposition-to-lead-congress-in-setback-for-president-elect

Peruvian President Pedro Castillo, in his trademark straw sombrero, delivering his inaugural address today.

The first smallholder (campesino) elected president of the nation of 33 million, Castillo spoke of tackling the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in Peru, reforming the constitution and a highly unequal health system, economic stimulus and aid to the poor, making public college education tuition-free, and stamping out usury and corruption among other goals.

In a symbolic move, Castillo will not reside in the Pizarro House - pledging to instead cede the baroque palace to the Culture Ministry.

A right wing-dominated Congress will make his agenda an uphill battle however.
July 28, 2021

Argentina signs deal with Pfizer for 20 million Covid-19 vaccines

After months of arduous negotiations, congressional controversy and a presidential decree smoothing the way, Health Minister Carla Vizzotti announced Tuesday that Argentina had signed an agreement with U.S. pharmaceutical firm Pfizer for 20 million Covid-19 vaccines.

"Yesterday [Monday] I signed a binding agreement with Pfizer for 20 million doses of vaccines during 2021," Vizzotti, 49, said at a press conference at the Casa Rosada.

Vizzotti said details over logistics and delivery dates were still to be finalised.

She said that the Pfizer/BioNTech jabs may initially be used primarily for minors aged 12 to 17 - an age group (4.25 million) for which Covid vaccination was approved in Argentina on Friday following a similar move by the EU and elsewhere.

The Alberto Fernández administration has set a goal of getting all willing adults (around 90%) vaccinated by September.

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/argentina/argentinas-government-signs-deal-with-pfizer-for-20-million-covid-19-vaccines.phtml

Argentine Health Minister Carla Vizzotti gestures during today's press conference in which an agreement with Pfizer for 20 million Covid-19 vaccines was announced.

The agreement follows a July 2 decree signed by President Alberto Fernández creating the legal exemptions needed to allow the import of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Disputes stemming from Pfizer's earlier claims on sovereign assets as collateral - as reported by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in April - had hampered their access to Argentina.

Of the country's 33 million adults age 18 and older, 73% have received at least one dose - though only 19%, both doses.
July 27, 2021

Argentina declares emergency due to low water levels in Parana River

Low water levels in the Paraná River in Argentina have prompted authorities to declare a 180-day water emergency for seven eastern provinces - obliging government agencies to adopt measures to mitigate the effects of water shortages.

The order affects Buenos Aires, Chaco, Corrientes, Entre Ríos, Formosa, Misiones, and Santa Fe provinces - which together are home to nearly 60% of Argentines.

The lack of water in the river, which has reached its lowest level in 77 years due to drought in southern Brazil, could affect agricultural production, potable water supply, energy generation and shipping operations.

The Paraná is a key commercial waterway for Argentina, carrying 125 million tons of cargo annually and at least 70% of the nation's exports.

Meanwhile, it was stated that Argentina's National Bank and the AFIP federal revenue agency would provide tax and loan assistance to those in need of aid, state news agency Télam reported.

Earlier this month, Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero said that the federal government would create a 1 billion-peso ($10 million) fund to assist areas affected by low water levels - to be mostly focused on emergency potable water works.

The Alberto Fernández administration is planning to tender a new concession for the 3,442 km (2,139 mi) Paraná-Paraguay waterway operations. This project would involve increasing the maximum waterway depth to 40 feet (12.2m), from the current 34 feet.

At: https://www.bnamericas.com/en/news/argentina-declares-emergency-due-to-low-water-levels-in-parana-river

A man walks on the normally submerged riverbed on the Paraná, north of Rosario, Argentina.

A severe drought in southern Brazil has led to the river's lowest levels since 1944.

The drop in the Paraná's levels also threaten the country's recovering export sector - which in June recorded its best figure in 7 years.
July 26, 2021

Pope Francis celebrates grandparents on first World Day for elderly

Pope Francis celebrated the Roman Catholic Church’s first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly on Sunday.

Francis solicited a round of applause from the faithful in St. Peter’s Square and urged people everywhere to reach out to older generations.

“Grandparents and grandchildren, the elderly and youth together showed one of the beautiful sides of the Church, and showed the alliance between the generations,’’ the pontiff, 84, said in off-the-cuff remarks from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

At: https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2021/07/25/pope-francis-grandparents-elderly-day-241114

Pope Francis delivers his message for the First World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

The world's senior citizen population - estimated at a record 750 million - has borne the brunt of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
July 24, 2021

Argentina extends vaccination to minors aged between 12 and 17 with risk factors

Argentina's Health Ministry announced Friday that its national Covid-19 vaccination programme is being extended to include minors aged 12 to 17 with existing risk factors.

The announcement came after authorities in the European Union (EU) said that they would approve the Moderna vaccine for that age group, following pressure from parents groups.

Argentina took delivery of 3.5 million doses of the U.S.-made vaccine last week thanks to a donation from the Joe Biden administration.

Argentina has around 4.25 million adolescents aged between 12 and 17.

At: https://www.batimes.com.ar/news/argentina/argentina-extends-vaccination-to-minors-aged-between-12-and-17-with-risk-factors.phtml

La Plata, Argentina, resident Lorena Torbidoni sings to her 16 year-old daughter Milagros Da Giau.

Today's Health Ministry announcement will make the recently-acquired Moderna Covid-19 vaccine available to minors aged 12 to 17 with existing risk factors.

Of the country's 33 million adults age 18 and older, over 23 million have received at least one dose - though only 6 million, both doses.
July 23, 2021

'No banana republic': Brazil's politicos guarantee 2022 vote after bombshell story

Brazil's political leaders lined up on Thursday to stress next year's presidential election is certain to take place, after a bombshell newspaper report that Brazil's defense minister had issued a threat about holding the highly polarized vote.

Estado de S. Paulo reported that Defense Minister Walter Braga Netto, 64, a former army general, had told powerful House Speaker Arthur Lira via an interlocutor that the 2022 election would not take place unless printed ballots were used.

Both Lira and Braga Netto denied the report.

The Estado de S. Paulo story landed at a fraught time in Brazil, amid repeated - and unfounded - allegations by President Jair Bolsonaro that the country's electronic voting system is vulnerable to fraud.

With his popularity falling after overseeing the world's second deadliest coronavirus outbreak, the far-right former army captain is pushing to replace the system with printed ballots, but the bill has not gained much traction in Congress.

At: https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/report-brazil-defense-minister-threatened-2022-vote-sparks-uproar-2021-07-22/

Brazil's Defense Minister Walter Braga Netto looks on after a ceremony at the Ministry of Defense in Brasilia, Brazil, earlier today.

Braga Netto's reported threat that the 2022 election would be cancelled unless printed ballots were used has raised alarm in the South American giant of 214 million.

Most polling has Braga Netto's right-wing boss, President Jair Bolsonaro, behind populist former President Lula da Silva by double digits.
July 22, 2021

Chile approves emergency use of Sputnik-V coronavirus vaccine

Chile's Institute of Public Health (ISP) approved emergency use of the Russian Sputnik-V vaccine against COVID-19, joining the country's already massive inoculation program, the institute said in a statement.

"We have approved the Sputnik-V vaccine to be used in Chile," ISP President Heriberto García said in the statement.

The committee evaluated data from Chile as well as Mexico and Argentina, where, among 67 other countries, the Russian vaccine is also applied. García noted that Sputnik-V has an effectiveness of 91.6%, and no major adverse effects had been observed.

To date the country has given more than 13 million of its 19 million inhabitants at least one vaccine dose from an arsenal that includes China's Sinovac (80%), Pfizer, and AstraZeneca.

At: https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/chile-approves-emergency-use-sputnik-v-coronavirus-vaccine-2021-07-21/

Chile's Institute of Public Health (ISP) President Heriberto García announces the approval of Gamaleya's Sputnik-V vaccine for use in Chile.

Latin America's most vaccinated nation (along with Uruguay), Chile had reported a slowdown in deliveries of doses from Pfizer and other sources.

President Francisco Fernández Sagasti in neighboring Peru likewise announced the purchase of 20 million Sputnik-V doses for his country - one of the region's least vaccinated.
July 19, 2021

France's honours Rev. Jesse Jackson with the Legion d'Honneur

Source: Reuters

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday awarded U.S. civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson the Legion d'Honneur, one of France's highest honours, in recognition of what he called "a long walk towards emancipation and justice".

A political activist, minister, and former shadow U.S. senator for the District of Columbia representing the Democratic party, Jackson has been involved in civil rights activism since the 1960s, when he worked alongside Martin Luther King.

Jackson, 79, was appointed commander of the Legion d'Honneur, one of the highest ranks in the distinction.

"From your earliest years, you were hungry for knowledge and justice, and you are a special friend of France, a brother for us," Macron said in a solemn address at the Elysee palace.

Read more: https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/frances-honours-rev-jesse-jackson-with-legion-dhonneur-2021-07-19/

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