Trump administration record puts America first


(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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UPDATED 10:05 AM PT – Sunday, January 17, 2021

As President Trump’s first term in office comes to a close, Americans are reflecting on the impact he’s had over the past four years.

Among these accomplishments was an unprecedented economic boom in which America gained millions of jobs and unemployment reached record lows. In the process, the President prioritized American workers and families, including minorities.

“We have seen African Americans way up and Hispanic-Americans way up and people have seen that,” President Trump said. “You know, I’ve said — with regard to the black community — I’ve done more than any other president with the exception of Abraham Lincoln.”

The President also made waves in deregulation, which provided aid to American workers and businesses while bolstering U.S. energy independence.

“We got you the biggest regulation cuts,” President Trump stated. “There’s no president…that got anywhere near to the regulation cuts. It used to take 20 years to get a highway approved.”

His administration also improved ‘fair and reciprocal trade,’ which put America first and ending the “NAFTA nightmare.”

Even amid a worldwide pandemic, the President managed to save millions of lives with his actions to tackle COVID-19. From banning travel from China to the historic accomplishments of Operation Warp Speed, his administration has carried the nation on its way to recovery.

In terms of healthcare, President Trump granted Americans choice and affordability in their care.

“We pay the lowest price in the world, protect social security and medicare,” the President noted. “And we will always protect patients with pre-existing conditions.”

President Trump also kept his promise to secure American borders by making great progress in building a wall on the southern border. He also bolstered the nation’s international leadership by rebuilding our military with more than $2 trillion in defense spending.

TOPSHOT – US President Donald Trump participates in a ceremony commemorating the 200th mile of border wall at the international border with Mexico in San Luis, Arizona, June 23, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

All in all, from the day he was sworn in to office in 2017, the President has never failed to put America first.

MORE NEWS: Biden Seeks To Legalize 11M Immigrants On ‘First Day’

 



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Philippines’ dollar reserves hit new record


The ease of borrowing in dollars across the globe has been key in preventing the health and economic crisis from spiraling into a financial one by providing companies and governments cheap access to funds. But it may also be sowing seeds for the next crisis: If the greenback sees a sustained appreciation trend, it will drive up debt-servicing costs, potentially creating, for some, repayment difficulties down the road.

The Philippines’ dollar reserves reached a new all-time high as of end-2020, the central bank said on Friday.

GROSS international reserves (GIR) — which shield the country from liquidity shocks — stood at $109.8 billion as of end-December, up 4.8% from $104.8-billion level as of end-November and 25% higher than the $87.839 billion a year earlier.

“This buffer is equivalent to 11.7 months’ worth of imports of goods and payments of services and primary income, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said in a statement on Friday.

“It is also about 9.6 times the country’s short-term external debt based on original maturity and 5.5 times based on residual maturity,” it added.

The BSP said the increase was supported by inflows from the central bank’s foreign exchange operation, revaluation gains from its gold holdings, and proceeds from the national government’s global bonds.

These gains were partially offset by foreign currency debt payments by the national government.

“The BSP has more than enough GIR to weather most short term spikes in demand for foreign currency in the future with reserves hitting yet another historical high and accounting for a good number of months worth of imports,” ING Bank-NV Manila Senior Economist Nicholas Antonio T. Mapa said in an email.

Broken down, gold reserves stood at $11.605 billion as of end-November, climbing 45% against its $8.015-billion level a year ago.

Gains from investment abroad stood at $93.428 billion, making up the bulk of the reserves. It rose 24% from last year’s $75.304 billion.

Buffers in the form of reserves in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increased 37.7% to $812.9 million from $590.4 million.

Special drawing rights – or the money the Philippines can tap from the IMF – went up 3.6% to $1.224 billion from $1.182 billion in the year prior.

Meanwhile, foreign currency deposits decreased 0.8% to $2.726 billion from $2.747 billion.

BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno has said they expect to continue beefing up the dollar reserves with the crisis yet to be resolved.

During the BusinessWorld One on One online interview on Wednesday, Mr. Diokno that GIR could possibly reach “$110 billion this year and even $120 billion by next year”.

“The BSP will continue to be opportunistic in investing to maximize value to the bank, choosing between gold, dollars and Treasuries [securities] when market conditions warrant it,” ING Bank-NV Manila’s Mr. Mapa said. — Luz Wendy T. Noble








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Wayne Rooney: ‘I’ve had my time’ – England’s record goal scorer becomes Derby’s new manager


Wayne Rooney says he “has had his time and it’s time for the younger generation to have theirs” after being appointed as Derby County’s new manager on a two-and-a-half-year contract.

The 35-year-old, who had been in interim charge since Phillip Cocu was sacked on 14 November, has now also officially retired as a player.

READ MORE: Rooney appointed Derby County manager

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NASA Says 2020 Tied for Hottest Year on Record


The results are finally in: 2020 was one of the hottest years in recorded history, according to data released today by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. By NASA’s reckoning, it tied with 2016 for the hottest year in the books, while NOAA placed it in the number-two spot.

Regardless of its final placement, 2020’s feverish heat came without the major El Niño event that boosted global temperatures to a new high four years ago—and thus the year provides an important marker of the power of the long-term warming trend driven by human activities that emit greenhouse gases. “Until we stop doing that, we’re going to see this over and over again,” says Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which keeps the agency’s temperature records.

In the final reckoning, 2020 was just 0.04 degree Fahrenheit behind 2016, according to NOAA (whose records go back 141 years). NASA found that 2020 was in a statistical tie with 2016. The variation between NASA and NOAA is partly because of the different ways each processes temperature data: NOAA does not extrapolate temperatures over the Arctic to make up for missing data there, and Schmidt says leaving that information out misses one of the fastest-warming spots on the globe.

One of 2020’s notable hotspots was Siberia, which was covered by an angry, deep-red blotch on global temperature maps. The region has been exceptionally hot since the beginning of that year, contributing to last January being the planet’s warmest on record. At one point the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk reported 100.4 degrees F. If this figure is verified by the World Meteorological Organization, it would be the first time recorded temperatures above the Arctic Circle have surpassed 100 degrees F.

Where temperatures have been warmer or cooler than average across the globe in 2020. Credit: NOAA

But this hotspot is not the sole reason that 2020 is at the top of the charts. Above-average temperatures were prevalent over large swaths of the globe. Europe and Asia had their hottest years on record, while South America and the Caribbean had their second-hottest, according to NOAA. The world’s oceans had their third warmest year. And there are always hotspots somewhere on the globe in a given year—so the one in Siberia is not all that unusual, Schmidt says. In 2019, for example, the main hotspot was elsewhere in the Arctic, in an area encompassing parts of Alaska, Canada and Greenland.

But broad areas of warmth and more localized hotspots are both linked to the long-term warming trend. “It’s gotten to the point where these intense heat waves would not be possible in any reasonable amount of time in a non-human-perturbed climate,” Schmidt says. A recent analysis of the role of global warming in Siberia’s prolonged heat found that such extremes would happen around once every 80,000 years in the absence of anthropogenic warming. These extremes are also happening over larger areas than they would in the absence of climate change, Schmidt says.

Importantly, 2020’s ranking at or near the top of the charts happened without the major El Niño event that helped propel 2016 to the top of the rankings. During an El Niño a band of warm ocean water covers the tropical Pacific Ocean, which can raise global temperatures. “When we have a big El Niño event, we do tend to have a record being broken,” Schmidt says, adding that this factor is often what causes the record to be broken by a large amount. But an El Niño is not necessary to take the lead: both 2014 and 2015 became the then-hottest year without one. “We’ve broken the records pretty consistently, even in years where we didn’t have an El Niño,” Schmidt says. This fact also speaks to the way the inexorable rise in warming has been steadily elevating the baseline temperatures that events such as El Niño or heat waves add to. Recently, even years with a La Niña event (which tend to be cooler, because colder ocean waters spread across the tropical Pacific) are warmer than El Niño years of decades past.

To that point, 1998—the one 20th-century year that had until recently remained in NOAA’s top 10 warmest—did have a major El Niño. It was a record-setting outlier at the time. But because of global warming, the earth’s baseline temperature has shifted so much higher that 1998 is now being left in the dust (2016, which had a similarly strong El Niño, was 0.63 degree F hotter). It has now officially been knocked out of NOAA’s top 10. All of the 10 warmest years in its records have occurred since 2005—and the top seven have occurred since 2014—says Ahira Sánchez-Lugo, a climatologist at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

That bunching of heat records in more recent years is, again, because of long-term warming, which is stacking the deck for ever more frequent records. A 2017 analysis in Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society noted that between the late 19th century and 1980, new records for the hottest year would happen about every eight to 11 years. Since 1981, they have been occurring about every three to four years.

So 2020’s high ranking was not entirely unexpected—and is yet another stark example of how far the earth’s climate has deviated from its natural course. “Everything that you see is conditioned on this long-term trend,” Schmidt says. “I work for NASA, but it’s not rocket science.”

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Japan’s households, firms keep piling up cash at record pace as pandemic persists





FILE PHOTO: Women walk past a restaurant at a shopping district in Tokyo, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, Japan August 17, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

January 13, 2021

By Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s currency in circulation and bank deposits rose at a record pace in December, data showed on Wednesday, as a resurgence in coronavirus infections prompted companies and households to continue hoarding cash rather than spending it.

The numbers highlight the challenge the government faces in trying to contain the virus without threatening Japan’s already fragile economic recovery.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to announce an extension of state of emergency measures beyond Tokyo as early as Wednesday as COVID-19 infections keep rising.

Japan’s M3 money stock – or currency in circulation and deposits at financial institutions – rose 7.63% in December from a year earlier, marking the biggest increase on record, Bank of Japan data showed. The rise slightly exceeded a 7.59% gain in November.

Companies continue to pile up deposits as a precaution against the pandemic, while households are holding off on spending due to uncertainty over the outlook, a BOJ official said at a briefing.

Japan’s economy has been recovering moderately, after suffering its biggest postwar slump in April-June last year due to curbs imposed on economic activity to contain the virus.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)




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Coronavirus Australia live update: NSW and Victoria record no new Covid cases; Qld considers quarantine in mining camps | Australia news


There’s been some question marks about whether or not we should be using regional hotel facilities for our hotel quarantine system.

I just want to emphasise that this has been looked at very closely by the New South Wales public health team over the full duration of this particular pandemic which is almost, for us, a year ago it commenced. It was 25 January we had our first four cases.

And on any one day, in our hotel quarantine system, we have about 3,500 staff … in our hotel – health hotels, our special health accommodation, we have 650 people in that situation. That’s … slightly bigger than the Royal North Shore hospital.

There’s strong views held in our public health team it makes sense to continue to have the hotel quarantine arrangements we currently have.

One of the other very serious concerns that public health would have, if they were moved into the regions, first of all, there are challenges around the transportation of people who have come from overseas, with the possible virus from overseas, being in a bus for an hour or two, to whichever region may be considered.

But we simply do not believe, the public health advice here in New South Wales, we don’t believe there would be an advantage, in fact, distinct disadvantages to consider moving our public health hotels out of the Sydney regional area.

There’s also another critical factor, and that’s if we do get people who deteriorate, we want them to be able to transferred to a major tertiary hospital as quickly as possible. In other words, one that has the preeminent specialists available to look after the people who may end up with Covid.

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Cricket news: Australia vs India Test series, Tim Paine captain record, stats, scores, Gavaskar slams skipper


Indian legend Suni Gavaskar has forecast the Fourth Test at the Gabba as the end of an era for Australian cricket.

Tim Paine has found himself the focus of an extraordinary attack by Indian cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar, who says the Australian captain is “hopeless” and likely captaining his final game in Brisbane.

Gavaskar, who is commentating the series for Channel 7, strongly objected to Paine’s personal attack on Indian batsman Ravi Ashwin on day five of the SCG Test and has gone even harder since.

“As a captain, (Paine’s) got no tactical nous at all,” Gavaskar told India Today.

“I mean when you’re having somebody like a Mitchell Starc or a Pat Cummins, with the kind of pace and bounce that they generate, not to have a fielder in the leg gully to Indians who are not very tall, it just tells you that you have no idea about captaincy.

“Because when you fend the ball off around or under your shoulders, the odd ball is going to go up in the air. It happened in the first Test, now again in this Test there were a couple of opportunities, but he didn’t have anybody there.

“Even towards the end when it was clearly obvious that India was looking to save the game and not go and win it, he had a cover, when that man could have been brought in.

“Because even if a boundary had been hit, it wasn’t going to affect the Australians. He could’ve had two men around the corner … and there were a couple of chances that could have been taken if an extra man had been there.

“So as a captain, well, he’s hopeless and he’s probably captaining for the last time in this series from a tactical point of view.”

Paine fronted at an unscheduled press conference to apologise for his behaviour in the field and his poor performance in the drawn match with the gloves and as a leader.

But in Gavaskar’s eyes it’s too little, too late.

“If you allow the Indian team to bat 130-odd overs without getting wickets – this is a very good Australian attack,” he said.

“Everything could have made a difference. Paine was more interested in talking to the batsman rather than his field placing and bowling changes.

“So I won’t be surprised if there is a change in the Australian captaincy after the series. He was a little bit disturbed, his concentration was not there after that little episode.”

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Retail sales in 2020 worst on record


Retailers suffered their worst annual sales performance on record in 2020, driven by slump in demand for fashion and homeware products, figures show.

While food sales growth rose 5.4% on 2019, non-food fell about 5%, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said.

It meant an overall fall of 0.3% in a year dominated by the Covid-19 impact, the worst annual change since the BRC began collating the figures in 1995.

Christmas offered little cheer, with much of the High Street still closed.

“Physical non-food stores, including all of non-essential retail, saw sales drop by a quarter compared with 2019,” said Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive.

“Christmas offered little respite for these retailers, as many shops were forced to shut during the peak trading period,” she said.

The 5.4% rise in food sales was fuelled by shoppers flocking to supermarkets and online grocers to ensure they were stocked up during the pandemic.

In December, total retail sales increased by 1.8% as shoppers spent more in the run-up to Christmas. Like-for-like sales for the month were up 4.8% as overall shop takings were still affected by restrictions and temporary closures.

Online non-food sales jumped by 44.8% in December, according to the new figures, as a higher proportion of shopping took place online.

Worse to come?

The BRC’s sales monitor is collated with the consultancy KPMG, whose UK head of retail, Paul Martin, said: “In the most important month for the retail industry, there was some positive growth due to the ongoing shift of expenditure from other categories such as travel and leisure.

“Once again we saw big swings in the types of products being purchased and the channels used for shopping, with much of the growth taking place online, where nearly half of all non-food purchases were made.”

But he warned that the new lockdown would worsen conditions for many non-essential shops and the High Street generally.

Last week, a report from the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) said that 2020 was the worst for High Street job losses in more than 25 years, as the coronavirus accelerated the move towards online shopping.

Nearly 180,000 retail jobs were lost last year, up by almost a quarter from 2019, the CRR said.



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Pension payouts hit a record Sh20.4 billion


Economy

Pension payouts hit a record Sh20.4 billion


National Treasury building. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Statistics by the office of the Controller of Budget (CoB) shows that the value of retirement perks paid out to civil servants jumped 33.33 percent in July-September 2020 from Sh15.36 billion in a similar window of 2019 — exposing the pension burden facing the government.
  • Michael Kagika, the Director of Pensions at The National Treasury, attributed the Sh5.08 billion jump to a court ruling that led to the revision of pension claims for teachers who retired between 1997 and 2003.

Pension and gratuity payouts hit a record high of Sh20.44 billion in the first quarter of the current financial year, new data shows, even as the Treasury raced to clear a backlog and honour a court award to a group of retired teachers.

Statistics by the office of the Controller of Budget (CoB) shows that the value of retirement perks paid out to civil servants jumped 33.33 percent in July-September 2020 from Sh15.36 billion in a similar window of 2019 — exposing the pension burden facing the government.

Michael Kagika, the Director of Pensions at The National Treasury, attributed the Sh5.08 billion jump to a court ruling that led to the revision of pension claims for teachers who retired between 1997 and 2003.

“Teachers who retired between July 1, 1997 and June 30, 2003 went to court and had a revision of their pension,” he told the Business Daily Monday.

“After the judgment, what this meant was that the employer (Teachers Service Commission) had to review the list and this resulted in significant increase in the pension claims. We are paying most of the claims now.”

The High Court in 2019 upheld a ruling in which the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) was ordered to process pensions for more than 50,000 teachers who retired between July 1,1997 and June 30,2003 based on salaries awarded in the 1997 agreement.

The TSC had unsuccessfully sought to overturn an October 23, 2008 by Justice David Maraga, claiming that the retired teachers had inflated the amount payable, contrary to the court’s direction of 2008. The teachers’ employer argued that the amount should have been Sh16.7 billion and not Sh43.2 billion but lost in its application to have the ruling set aside and the matter heard by a three-judge bench.

“After the judgment, what this meant was that the employer (Teachers Service Commission) had to review the list and this resulted significant increase in the pension claims. We are paying most of the claims now,” Mr Kagika said without providing details of the amount of pension payout to teachers in the July-September 2020 period.

He also attributed the jump to the Treasury’s bid to clear a backlog that has been in place for years as the State grappled with the rising burden of pension payouts.

The Treasury last year said that it would re-engineer and upgrade the pensions system to clear the pension payment backlog by December.

”We also had a backlog and increasing our efficiencies has also led to the rise in pension payouts,” Mr Kagika said.

Pension payment for retired civil servants stood at Sh13.27 billion in the first quarter of the 2017/18 year but has now increased 54 percent to Sh20.44 billion in similar period over the four years.

The jump in pension payouts comes at a time the State rolled out the long-awaited Public Service Superannuation Scheme (PSSS) where all civil servants make monthly contributions for their pension starting with this month’s salary.

More than 530,000 civil servants, including police and teachers, will starting this month take a two percent cut from their salaries for their pension contribution.

The contribution will increase to five percent in the second year and 7.5 percent in the third year.

Under the scheme, civil servants will cede about Sh2.4 billion monthly or Sh28.8 billion annually to the fund that will emerge as Kenya’s largest pension scheme.

The government will match every worker’s monthly contribution at the rate of 7.5 percent of the pensionable salary.

Civil servants had for years not been contributing to their pension, with their benefits paid straight from public coffers.

The Treasury has warned that the pension burden remains a risk to the budget.

It has budgeted Sh119.19 billion towards retirees benefits in the current year to June, an amount which is nearly three-and-a half times more than the Sh27.71 billion seven years earlier.

In October 2019, more than 300,000 retired civil servants received a three percent pay rise, adding to the cost of keeping them comfortable in old age.

The adjustment was in keeping with the tradition of increasing the monthly pension by three percent every two years to match the rising cost of living.

The pension burden on the taxpayer has been piling over the years despite a knee-jerk decision in 2009 to raise the retirement age from 55 to 60, partly due to the Treasury’s failure to push through necessary reforms, including a contributory scheme.

The increase in the retirement age was meant to slow down the number of retirees entering the pension pool and offer the government headroom to set up the contributory pension scheme, which has been shelved several times.

The looming retirement of some 25,000 teachers before 2022 in addition to other civil servants exiting service in the coming years further add to the pension burden. Between March to September 2018, more than 50,000 people exited the civil service.

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UK steps up vaccinations as coronavirus-related deaths and case numbers hit record highs



The United Kingdom is facing its worst weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, its Chief Medical Officer says, with deaths and cases in the country hitting record highs ahead of the rollout of a mass vaccination program.

According to Johns Hopkins University, deaths from the virus have now exceeded 81,500 in the UK — the world’s fifth-highest toll — with 3,081,368 people testing positive for the virus since the pandemic began.

A new, more transmissible variant of the disease is surging through the population, with one in 20 people in parts of London now infected.

In a bid to get on top of the pandemic and to try to restore some degree of normality by the spring, the UK is rushing out its largest ever vaccination program, with shots to be offered to all those in its top four priority categories — about 15 million people — by the middle of next month.

But the Government’s Chief Medical Adviser, Chris Whitty, warned the situation would deteriorate in the meantime.

“The next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS (National Health Service),” he said.

“Anybody who is not shocked by the number of people in hospital who are seriously ill at the moment and who are dying over the course of this pandemic, I think, has not understood this at all. This is an appalling situation,” he told the BBC.

NHS facing ‘a significant crisis’

During the peak of the first outbreak in April about 18,000 people were in hospital but now there are 30,000.

Professor Whitty said the health service was facing “a significant crisis”.

“Everybody says that this is the most dangerous time we’ve really had in terms of numbers into the NHS,” he said.

Last week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the city’s hospitals were in danger of being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, and ministers and health chiefs pleaded with people to respect lockdown measures and stay at home unless it was essential to go out.

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