Sunday, 20 Jun 2021

State department staff warned leaders against investigating COVID-19's origins, fearing it would 'open a can of worms,' according to a senior Trump appointee

WHO rules out new 'hybrid' Covid-19 variant in Vietnam

HANOI (REUTERS) – A coronavirus variant that the Vietnam authorities thought was a combination of the strains first detected in Britain and India is not a new hybrid but part of the existing strain first found in India, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) representative in Vietnam told Nikkei.

“There is no new hybrid variant in Vietnam at this moment based on WHO’s definition,” Dr Kidong Park said in an online interview with the newspaper, adding that it was within the delta variation that originated in India.

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Crude Oil Climbs As Restrictions Ease

Crude oil prices continued over one-year highs as easing restrictions in various countries ushered in travelers and bolstered expectations of a rapid surge in the demand for fuel.

Inconclusive and slow pace of dialogue with Iran on the nuclear deal, buoyant manufacturing data from the U.S., Europe etc. as well as the decision of OPEC+ to stick to a disciplined and gradual easing of supply curbs lent energy to the oil prices as they remain firm at period highs.

Brent crude for August settlement rose to a high of $71.98 in early trade, after rising 0.13 percent from previous close. Likewise, West Texas Intermediate crude for July settlement rose to a high of $69.40 after gaining 0.09 percent from previous close.

As per data released by the American Petroleum Institute, U.S. crude oil stocks fell by 5.36 million barrels in the week ended May 28th compared to a drop of 0.439 million in the previous week, and much higher than the market expectations of a 2.114 million barrels drop.

Markets await the U.S. government data on crude oil inventories for the same week later in the day and a market assessment of likely inventory deficits is bound to retain the price of crude at current high levels. Despite the easing of supply curbs and the concerns on fossil fuels and carbon emissions, the resurgence of domestic and international travelers, after months of lockdowns and restrictions, is expected to keep the world’s appetite for oil unquenched and feed the bullish momentum for the black liquid at least in the medium term.

Russia to remove dollar assets from National Wealth Fund

  • Russia will completely remove U.S. dollar assets from its National Wealth Fund (NWF), while increasing the share of the euro, Chinese yuan and gold.
  • Russia on Wednesday said it plans to spend up to 400 billion roubles annually from the NWF in a bid to boost state investment in infrastructure projects and finance its development strategy.

Russia will completely remove U.S. dollar assets from its National Wealth Fund (NWF), while increasing the share of the euro, Chinese yuan and gold, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said on Thursday, with the changes expected within a month.

Russia's NWF, which accumulates Russia's oil revenue and was initially designed to support the pension system, stood at $185.9 billion as of May 1. It forms part of Russia's gold and FX reserves that totalled $600.9 billion on May 27.

After the changes, the share of the euro will stand at 40%, the yuan at 30% and gold at 20%. The Japanese yen and British pound will account for 5% each, Siluanov said at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).

"Like the central bank, we have decided to reduce investments of the NWF in dollar assets," Siluanov said.

Russia on Wednesday said it plans to spend up to 400 billion roubles annually from the NWF in a bid to boost state investment in infrastructure projects and finance its development strategy.

Meredith Accepts Revised Offer For Local Media Group From Gray Television At $2.825 Bln Cash

Media company Meredith Corp. (MDP) announced Thursday that it has accepted a revised proposal from Gray Television, Inc. (GTN) to acquire Meredith’s Local Media Group for approximately $2.825 billion in cash. The two companies have entered into an amendment to their previously announced definitive merger agreement reflecting the revised terms.

Under the terms of the revised Gray proposal, Meredith shareholders would receive $16.99 per share in cash, revised from the previously announced $14.51 per share in cash, and 1-for-1 equity share in post-close Meredith.

The consideration was revised by Gary after Meredith received an unsolicited proposal from another party after announcing the definitive agreement with Gray.

Meredith’s Board of Directors gave due consideration to both proposals and unanimously approved the revised Gray proposal. The Board of Directors of Meredith unanimously recommends that Meredith shareholders vote in favor of the revised Gray proposal.

The transaction is still expected to close in the fourth quarter of calendar 2021, and there have been no changes to the previously announced anticipated closing process. The Federal Communications Commission accepted Meredith and Gray’s applications for the transaction’s approval on May 26, 2021.

A month ago, Meredith had agreed to sell the Local Media Group to Gray Television for $2.7 billion in cash.

State department staff warned leaders against investigating COVID-19's origins, fearing it would 'open a can of worms,' according to a senior Trump appointee

Staff in two US government bureaus warned leaders against pursuing an investigation into the origins COVID-19 because it would “open a can of worms,” according to an internal memo viewed by Vanity Fair. 

Thomas DiNanno, former acting assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, said in the January 9 memo that staff in two bureaus told managers “not to pursue an investigation into the origin of COVID-19,” per Vanity Fair. 

DiNanno, appointed by former President Donald Trump, said in the memo that his team had faced “apprehension and contempt” from technical staff, and a “complete lack of response to briefing and presentations” on the matter. 

DiNanno was responding to a memo from Chris Ford, acting undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security.

The staff who raised the concerns were from DiNanno’s bureau and the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, DiNanno said in the memo.

The theory that COVID-19 leaked from a lab in the Chinese city of Wuhan has gained traction in recent weeks, but many scientists still dispute its likelihood. 

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