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May 14, 2020

Europe’s leaders under pressure to make facemasks compulsory

Spain is considering becoming the first country in western Europe to make the wearing of facemasks in public places mandatory, even though their effectiveness in containing the pandemic has been questioned throughout the continent.

Madrid has asked regional leaders for their opinion about whether masks should be made obligatory for all people in public places, including streets, or whether they should merely be recommended. “If it is decided to make it compulsory, there are many other factors that will have to be assessed,” Fernando Simón, the head of Spain’s emergency health ....

This content is taken from www.thetimes.co.uk

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May 14, 2020

Cryptocurrency Market Is Becoming Even More Concentrated

While Bitcoin has dominated the headlines in the cryptocurrency market since its introduction more than a decade ago, the sector is becoming even more concentrated among it and two rivals.

Bitcoin, Tether and Ethereum accounted for about 90% of trading volume on digital-asset exchanges this year among top-10 cryptocurrencies, up from 75% a year ago, according to researcher Messari.

The change follows a deep market crash in March, when Bitcoin as well as the more than 5,000 other coins listed on crypto exchanges nosedived. Searching for safety, many investors also flocked to Tether, which is a so-called stablecoin, whose value is supposed to not deviate much, and is used as a conduit to purchase other coins.

Historically, Bitcoin hasn’t dropped as much as many of the smaller coins during market crashes. It also just went through the so-called halving, when new coins issued to computers supporting the network as a reward were decreased. Enthusiasts have also made the case recently that it’s a hedge against inflation with central banks seeking to boost growth amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ether, meanwhile, is the leading digital ledger technology that allows for execution of autonomous transactions controlled by software. It’s widely expected to unveil new, enhancing technologies this year.
This content is taken from www.bloomberg.com

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May 14, 2020

First meeting of coronavirus oversight panel reflects Congress’s struggle to stake out role in addressing pandemic

Democrats’ efforts to be watchdogs for the federal government’s coronavirus response limped into motion Wednesday with the first meeting of a special committee created to examine the pandemic.

Yet the open briefing, held via videoconference, largely served to highlight the frustrations and limitations that lawmakers, especially Democrats, have encountered this spring as Congress has struggled to stake out its role in addressing the pandemic.

The proceeding did not feature any current administration officials as President Trump has balked at cooperating, calling the House a “bunch of Trump haters.” It took place nearly six weeks after the panel was first announced, it covered the familiar ground of testing and treatments with former federal health officials, and it at times devolved into partisan attacks — particularly from Republicans who compared the oversight effort to the impeachment of President Trump and slammed Democrats for not highlighting the virus’s origins in China.

“We should be looking at China, their role in this,” said Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.). “Because China lied, Americans died.”

Yet the oversight imperatives for the legislative branch are clear: Congress has already approved nearly $3 trillion in rescue funding — the largest emergency commitment of taxpayer resources outside of wartime the nation has ever seen — and there are ongoing questions about the administration’s ability to marshal the federal government to fight the virus amid its efforts to reopen the economy.

A Tuesday hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee — the first official proceeding featuring administration witnesses since mid-March — showed the power of the congressional spotlight.

This content is taken from www.washingtonpost.com

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May 14, 2020

Abbott coronavirus test missed a large number of positive results caught by a rival firm, preliminary study says

The Abbott coronavirus test hailed by President Trump and used by the White House failed to detect infected samples in a large number of cases that were caught by a rival firm, a preliminary study says.

The speedy Abbott test, which is supposed to determine in five to 13 minutes whether a person has the virus, missed a third of the positive samples found by the diagnostic company Cepheid when both tests used nasopharyngeal swabs, said the study done by a group from New York University. It missed more than 48 percent when both firms’ tests used dry nasal swabs. The former penetrates deeply into the nasal passages, while the latter is less invasive.

The study, while preliminary and not yet peer-reviewed, raised questions about a test that has been praised by Trump, who displayed it at a Rose Garden news conference on April 2 and said it created “a whole new ballgame.” As the pandemic was creating a sense of urgency about testing, the Abbott test triggered a scramble among governors and other state officials because bottlenecks were causing waits of as long as a week or more for test results.

Abbott denied Wednesday that there were major flaws in its test. “It’s unclear if the samples were tested correctly in this study. Abbott has distributed about 1.8 million ID NOW tests and the reported rate of false negatives to Abbott is at 0.02 percent,” Abbott spokesman John Koval said. “This rate has been previously shared with the FDA. In communications with the users of the test, it is performing as expected.”

The White House was shaken last week when two staffers tested positive for the virus. Four officials who have been tested said the White House was using only the Abbott model.

Abbott’s customers also include small physician groups and big retailers such as CVS, which is deploying the ID NOW test at its five large-scale drive-through testing sites in large public parking lots, including the Georgia Institute of Technology lot in Atlanta and the Twin River Casino lot in Lincoln, R.I.

This content is taken from www.washingtonpost.com

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May 14, 2020

Easing lockdown: UK rushes back to work and play

Packed into Underground trains or relishing their new-found freedom on the golf course, Britons yesterday began the slow process of returning to work — and to play.

In London, commuters queued round the corner to board overcrowded Tubes to get to work. Out on the fairways, golfers who have not touched their clubs in weeks booked every slot they could find. It was, said one club secretary, harder than getting a ticket to Glastonbury.

The tentative return to work was less of a surge than the turning of the tide. But as the nation began its “baby steps” back to normality yesterday, the appearance .........

This content is taken from www.thetimes.co.uk

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May 14, 2020

Heat-tolerant algae could save coral reefs from warming seas

Coral reefs under threat from rising ocean temperatures could be saved by training algae to become more tolerant of warmer waters, a study has found.

Corals turn white in a process known as bleaching when a rise in water temperature causes them to expel the colourful algae that live in their tissue and supply most of their nutrition.

The Great Barrier Reef off Australia lost about half its corals after heatwaves in 2016 and 2017 caused mass bleaching. Scientists reported last month that......

This content is taken from www.thetimes.co.uk

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May 14, 2020

Don’t miss! These 11 stocks rose over 10% each in every June quarter of last 4 years

Investors look for consistent performers that can survive multiple market cycles.

Data throws up names of 11 BSE stocks from large, mid, and smallcap space that has given more than 10 percent returns each consistently in the June quarters of the last 4 years.

Indian markets plunged by about 30 percent in the March quarter pushing Sensex and Nifty into bearish phase amid the outbreak of coronavirus. This led to persistent selling by foreign investors. Since the start of the June quarter of financial year 2021, markets have stabalised a bit. Sensex is up 10 percent so far in the June quarter.

Data collated from AceEquity for the past 4 years for the June quarter showed that there are 11 stocks that have consistently given strong returns of over 10 percent each. These include Welspun Enterprises, Bajaj Finance, Kotak Mahindra Bank, GMM Pfaudler, Punjab Alkalies, and KG Petrochem Ltd.

“Among the above names, Kotak Mahindra and Bajaj Finance have been reporting strong financial performance consistently so we’re not surprised with the trend in these two. However, it could be multiple factors viz. expectation of higher earnings, buoyancy in the overall market etc. in case of the other stocks,” Ajit Mishra, VP Research, Religare Broking told Moneycontrol.

Barring a few, most of the companies belong to the small & midcap segment of the market which was brutally hammered in the March quarter and is still showing no signs of recovery so far in the June quarter.

This content is taken from www.moneycontrol.com

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March 23, 2020

Senate falls far short of votes needed to advance coronavirus bill, as clash between Republicans and Democrats intensifies

Senate Democrats blocked a massive coronavirus stimulus bill from moving forward Sunday as partisan disputes raged over the legislation aimed at arresting the economy’s precipitous decline.

Lawmakers had hoped to pass the enormous $1.8 trillion bill by Monday, but Sunday night they were scrambling to revive talks, with the stock market poised for another sharp drop and households and businesses fretting about an uncertain future.

Negotiations continued even as the initial procedural vote fell short; 47 senators voted in favor and 47 were opposed. The tally was well short of the 60 votes needed to move forward. The number of “aye” votes was especially low because five Republicans are quarantined over coronavirus fears.

Although senators of both parties and Trump administration officials vowed to continue negotiating — around the clock if necessary — the failed vote was the latest negative signal about Congress’s ability to come together around the legislation, which aims to inject close to $1.8 trillion into businesses and households. Policymakers are scrambling to address a spike in layoffs and businesses gasping for assistance as millions of Americans stay home to avoid contagion.

Ever since Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced the legislation Thursday night, senators have missed one self-imposed deadline after another to reach a deal. The vote Sunday evening was delayed three hours so talks could continue after it became clear it would fail, but no resolution was reached, and it failed anyway. McConnell set another procedural vote for around 12:30 p.m. Monday and dared Democrats to block it.

This content is taken from www.washingtonpost.com

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March 23, 2020

Taking Stock: Rs 14 lakh cr M-cap eroded in a day; Sensex below 26,000

It was a fast and furious fall we witnessed on D-Street which pushed the S&P BSE Sensex below 26,000 while the Nifty50 plunged more than 1,000-points to break multiple support levels on its way down.

Investors lost nearly Rs 14 lakh cr in terms of market capitalisation. The average market capitalisation of the BSE-listed companies fell from Rs 116.09 lakh cr recorded on March 20 to Rs 102.13 lakh cr as on March 23.

Let’s look at the final tally on D-Street on March 23 – the S&P BSE Sensex dropped 3,934 points to record worst ever one-day decline in absolute terms. The index closed at 25,981.

This content is taken from www.moneycontrol.com

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March 22, 2020

‘Wartime President’? Trump Rewrites History in an Election Year

WASHINGTON — With the economy faltering and the political landscape unsettled as the coronavirus death toll climbs, a stark and unavoidable question now confronts President Trump and his advisers: Can he save his campaign for re-election when so much is suddenly going so wrong?

After three years of Republicans’ championing signs of financial prosperity that were to be Mr. Trump’s chief re-election argument, the president has never needed a new message to voters as he does now, not to mention luck. At this point, the president has one clear option for how to proceed politically, and is hoping that an array of factors will break his way.

The option, which he has brazenly pushed in recent days, is to cast himself as a “wartime president” who looks in charge of a nation under siege while his likely Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., is largely out of sight hunkered down in Delaware. This gambit, however, requires a rewriting of history — Mr. Trump’s muted approach to the virus early on — and it’s far from clear if many voters will accept the idea of him as a wartime leader.

Then there are other variables that he and his allies hope will fall in their favor: that the outbreak of the virus will slow and, in the warmer months, dissipate; that the states will get it under control; that the federal government’s steps taken so far will flatten the curve; that Mr. Biden and the Democrats will look impotent and inconsequential by comparison; and that enough voters will move past his initial efforts to play down the virus’s dangers.

The great unknown, of course — and the tremendous risk to Mr. Trump’s political fate, no matter what he says or does — is that the human cost, the economic toll, and the longevity and course of the pandemic are all X factors that will most likely play out for months and could be strongly salient if not severe by the time of the November general election.

In perhaps the best-case scenario for Mr. Trump, the patina of a “wartime president” could prove to be influential with casual voters who don’t dig into the details of his belated response to the coronavirus, which included dismissing the criticism of his handling of the threat as a Democratic “hoax” and contributing to a slow start in testing for the virus.

This content is taken from www.nytimes.com