Australian billionaire woos Canadians, hoping to build big coal mine in Rocky Mountains By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Australian mining heiress and Chairman of Hancock Prospecting group Gina Rinehart prepares to award medals to competitors at Australian Synchronised Swimming Championships in Sydney

By Jeff Lewis

TORONTO (Reuters) – Australian mining magnate Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting Pty is hoping a charm offensive, from annual fundraising parties to local refurbishments at a golf course, will help overcome opposition to a massive new coal mine in Canada’s Rocky Mountains.

Hancock unit Riversdale Resources’ Grassy Mountain mine, which is forecast to produce 4.5 million tonnes of steelmaking coal per year, would span 2,800 hectares and could set a precedent for new projects in the region. Opponents say the project would harm wildlife and water in the area.

In June, the province of Alberta, home to most of Canada’s oil reserves, rolled back 1970s-era restrictions on open-pit coal mining to jumpstart an economy hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and plunging oil prices.

The proposal for Grassy Mountain predates that change. But Alberta’s move is at odds with Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s effort to wean the country from coal and comes as a growing number of banks, insurers and investors shun the fossil fuel due to climate concerns.

Public hearings are slated to begin in October for the Grassy Mountain, which requires federal and provincial approvals.

Hancock is among a raft of Australian companies with projects in the region, aiming to ship coking coal from Alberta to Asian markets. Atrum Coal (AX:) and privately held Montem Resources are also pursuing nearby mines and exploration ventures, as is private developer Cabin Ridge Project Ltd.

The company has sponsored annual Australia Day fundraising bashes, and also opened a newly rebuilt golf course this month, accompanying eight new holes at the local Crowsnest Pass Golf Club. The work helped clear the way for a coal loadout near the course.

Hancock, which took over the firm that owned Grassy Mountain last year, matched funds raised at this year’s event to support a local senior’s association in Crowsnest Pass, Alberta.

Still, landowners remain worried about water use and habitat destruction in an ecologically sensitive mountain corridor renowned for postcard scenery and wildlife.

“I think 10 years down the road the water will be polluted to the point that we may not be able to grow crops,” said alfalfa farmer Norm Watmough, 76, whose holiday cabin abuts the mine lease. “It’s going to destroy southern Alberta.” Hancock declined to comment and referred questions to filings in which the company details its plans to treat wastewater.

Landowners said they are worried that selenium from waste rock could leach into nearby waterways. The company has said in filings that it plans to pump water with high selenium and nitrate concentrations to saturated zones in pits and build waste rock dumps at higher elevations to minimize risks.

Miners have welcomed Alberta’s move to loosen environmental protections to increase open-pit mining along the Rockies’ eastern slopes.

Canada has committed to eliminate coal-fired power by 2030 and last month said it would assess climate impacts of new thermal coal mines and exports.

Coking coal is “less of a concern at the present time than thermal coal,” Canadian Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said. “But to the extent that there are significant (project) impacts that can’t be mitigated, then obviously that becomes a lot more challenging.”

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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‘Fortnite’ maker accuses Apple of illegal monopolistic practices in tech battle royale that appears headed for a courtroom

The maker of “Fortnite” has launched a Battle Royale against Apple Inc., accusing the tech giant of seeking to “unlawfully maintain its monopoly.”

Epic Games said Thursday it filed legal papers against Apple

after the iPhone maker booted the company’s hit game “Fortnite” out of its App Store, and a lawyer representing Epic confirmed that the complaint was filed in the Northern District of California. Apple removed the game after Epic began offering players a discount on in-game purchases if they opted to make a direct payment and not buy their digital offerings through the App Store.

The game maker came prepared for a fight, debuting a video that spoofs Apple’s classic 1984 advertisement, which urged customers to oppose conformity and prevent International Business Machines Inc.

from dominating the computer market. Back then, Apple warned that without a change, the year 1984 could mirror George Orwell’s dystopian “1984” novel; Epic Games cautions in its ad that 2020 could come to embody “1984” as well.

Apple charges developers 30% of purchases made through the App Store, and 15% after the first year of subscriptions. This has been the focus of antitrust investigations into the company, which is worth nearly $2 trillion thanks to the money it collects from the iPhone and the apps and services that are delivered through it. Epic has long tried to avoid paying such fees, previously launching its own store to get around Alphabet Inc.’s


similar Play Store that is bundled with Google’s rival Android operating system.

Google booted Fortnite from the Play Store late Thursday after Epic Games rolled out the same discounted direct-payment option on its app for Android users. Those with Android devices will still be able to play the game by downloading it through Epic’s own app store, but they won’t be able to play through the official store offered by Google, which also keeps a 30% cut of digital purchases made on apps downloaded through the Play Store.

“While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies,” Google said in a statement quoted by The Verge.

See also: ‘Fortnite’ spurned Android, then Google found a major security flaw in its app

Fortnite had racked up more than 125 million app installations and more than $1 billion in player spending on Apple iOS devices alone through mid-May, according to mobile-app research company Sensor Tower.

After Epic publicly announced Thursday morning that it would offer users on Apple’s iOS operating system a discount on purchases made through their own store instead of through Apple, the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant removed the app from the App Store. In response, Epic filed a lawsuit against Apple that says it seeks “to end Apple’s unfair and anticompetitive actions that Apple undertakes to unlawfully maintain its monopoly” involving app distribution and in-app purchases.

An Apple spokesperson said in a statement that Epic Games introduced the feature without the company’s approval and did so “with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines regarding in-app payments.”

The statement also said that Apple will “make every effort to work with Epic to resolve these violations so they can return ‘Fortnite’ to the App Store.”

An Epic spokeswoman confirmed the suit in an email to MarketWatch.

As part of its blitz against Apple, the company has launched a page on its website with the tagline “#FreeFortnite” that tells customers to use this hashtag in support of Epic by engaging with the App Store’s official Twitter account. The hashtag was trending on Twitter within an hour of the site’s launch.

Epic says on its website that players who’ve already downloaded “Fortnite” to their Apple mobile devices “should have no issues continuing to play Chapter 2 – Season 3’s 13.40 update.” Once the new season begins, Epic expects that players will be able to play the older content but not access new material.

For more: Apple and Facebook could be most vulnerable among the antitrust suspects

Apple’s fee policies around the App Store have come under increased scrutiny from both developers and regulators recently. Big developers including Spotify Technology SA

have looked for ways to avoid paying Apple a cut of subscription fees, and the developers of Hey, a new email app, publicly battled with Apple in June after the email service rolled out its app without an option to buy subscriptions from within the app. Apple and Hey’s developers eventually reached a compromise.

Regulators and lawmakers in the U.S. and Europe have also questioned the company’s App Store policies and whether they stifle competition.

Epic argues in its complaint that Apple “harms app developers’ relationship with their customers” through its mandatory involvement in all transactions since customers “often blame Epic” for problems related to payments. “In addition, Apple is able to obtain information concerning Epic’s transactions with its own customers, even when Epic and its own customers would prefer not to share their information with Apple,” the complaint said.

Evercore ISI analyst Amit Daryanani said in a note to clients late Thursday that Apple collects an estimated $30 million monthly from Fortnite. The company generated $13.2 billion last quarter in revenue for its services segment, which includes the App Store. He expects the legal battle to be “a multi-year process that is appealed at every level of the US court system.”

Apple shares rose 1.8% Thursday and have gained more than 50% in the past three months as the Dow Jones Industrial Average

, which counts Apple as a component, has added 20%.

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July Jobs: Hitting The Brakes


July saw the recovery stall out in many ways. The unemployment insurance numbers tell the weekly story:

Like everything else, the normally highly reliable UI tables have gone all wonky on us. The difficulty states are having with their ancient IT systems has been well-documented. But additionally, the substantial Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is counted in the “All Programs” table, not with the normal UI. Many recipients are overlapping, but there is no way to shake that out. Right now, there are almost 11 million PUA recipients, and 1.5 million recipients of other smaller programs, mostly the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, part of the same legislation.

These programs have now ended, but that won’t show up in the data for a couple of weeks.

So given that, we see three things

  • The continued claims number has come off its downward trajectory in July and flattened out, though it may be coming down again in August.
  • The all programs number has remained incredibly sticky at around 30 million.
  • The net is that the difference of 12-15 million people remains incredibly sticky since mid June.

So given all the caveats, it’s hard to say precisely what is happening, except that we see flat lines in July. The BLS jobs surveys were conducted the week ending July 18, so it is capturing some, but not all of what is happening.

I find it helpful to compare everything we are going through with the GFC, because most everyone reading this remembers it well. Here’s that comparison:

So we see that last uptick is substantially smaller than the first two in May and June. Also, we have a long, long way to go, just to get to the GFC bottom.

Why NSA?

Unlike most analysts, I have been using the not seasonally adjusted numbers since this all started. Why?

Under normal circumstances, the adjustments are important, because without them, every January and July would look like recessions.

I pulled out the recent action so you can see what a more normal 10-year period of NSA payrolls looks like.

But never has seasonality been less relevant. The adjustments are multiplicative, not additive, so they can be very large when we are dealing with large numbers like we are now. The adjustments in July are large, and inflate payrolls quite a bit in contrast to the three previous months, which are smaller and understate payrolls.

But most importantly, I want the answer to the question, “How many Americans were employed in mid-July?” The not seasonally adjusted numbers answer that question, or at least try to. It’s not without issues, as we will see, especially with education employment in July.

Problem for a later date: the seasonal adjustments are based off previous years’ NSA numbers. They are going to have to come up with some way of adjusting the adjustments for all the highly unusual data coming through in 2020. If they don’t, Q2 2021 will look like the greatest economic miracle of all time, only to be crushed hard in Q3 and Q4.

The Household Survey: In Which I Just Give Up

The household survey, from where the headline unemployment rate comes, has been a mess since April, and there are three sources here

  • Surveys normally done through in-person interviews are happening on the phone, which is less than ideal. There is also limited staff at the offices.
  • Historically low response rates.
  • Coding error by the Census Bureau interviewers, now four months running. It was around 5 pp of unemployment in April, but now down to around 1 pp.

Low response rates are the curse of any survey, because it’s hard to get a random sample that way. The response rate is up to 67% from a low of 65% in June, but this is well off the normal 83% rate.

But given the numbers we have, especially combining with other data sources, the unemployment rate is most certainly higher than reported. By how much is hard to know.

This is an attempt to get at the real rate, adding back in the error and accounting for the substantial churn in the participation rate, but these are still based off numbers I consider unreliable. If I had a gun to my head and had to guess, I would put the rate at around 13% right now, which would be the high previous to 2020.

We’ll look at some alternative data, but it doesn’t make the picture much clearer.

The Employer Survey

The employer survey is also not without problems, even before any of this. The employer survey undergoes annual revisions, and in recent years, it has been overcounting by about half a million people every report.

But the response rates are back to normal, though procedures are not. Some of the data is being collected via online surveys, and these are less preferable to the usual phone interviews. But it’s the best we have.

So starting from the top.

42% of lost jobs have returned, which is another way of saying 58% have not. That translates to 8% of February jobs lost. That is a bit misleading, since the NSA numbers are counting lots of education workers still out of work, many of whom would not be counted as employed right now anyway. It’s still unclear how many will be returning to work in the fall.

But there is a tremendous amount of variation hiding underneath that. The diffusion index is a way of measuring how widespread job losses or gains are, not their size. Zero means that all industries are seeing job losses, 100 means all industries are seeing job gains, and 50 means split down the middle.

The diffusion index hit 4 in April, the lowest ever, beating the 2009 record of 17. Let’s zoom in:

This indicates that April job losses were incredibly widespread, in almost every industry. May and June saw winners beating losers, but not like losers beat winners in April. July was a retreat from June, but still with winners beating losers.

So this frames what we see in the employer survey’s detailed splits: some jobs are coming back at a pretty fast rate. But there is a group of industries, which we also saw were the hardest hit in the Q2 GDP report. These are services that have high fixed costs and make up for it with density and volume – passenger transportation, leisure, hospitality, travel, residential medical, child day care, video production, and personal care.

Together, these were 19% of all jobs in February, but only 17% by July with employment still down 19% from February levels. They account for 39% of all remaining job losses, and 55% of remaining ex-education losses.

What jumps out immediately is restaurants and bars. This is the largest group of job losses, returners and remaining job losses. June consumption in the recent Q2 GDP report saw fast food return to February levels with the rest lagging badly.

For reference, that fast food chart is what an actual V-shaped recovery looks like.

The detailed splits in the employer survey are a month behind, so the data only goes through June. Looking at non-supervisory workers at restaurants – servers, kitchen staff, fast food workers – these were 23% of all job losses through April, and 19% of all remaining ex-education job losses in June. But there is a big divergence between fast food and full service places, as you might imagine.

In April, 69% of full service restaurant workers were unemployed, but only 23% of fast food workers. In June, full service employment was still down 31%, and fast food only 8%. 64% of lost fast food jobs returned, but only 58% of full service.

So even with fast food wages rising slightly, this has been offset by falling hourly wages for tip-reliant workers in full service places, down 3.3% from February to June. With reduced weekly hours at full service, and increased weekly hours at fast food, weekly wages for those still employed are down 2.1% overall. But this is hiding the splits, where fast food workers are taking home 5.5% more in weekly pay, but full service workers getting 4.4% less.

So like in many places in the economy, we are seeing rapid changes in consumer behavior – in this case eating out less, and shifting to fast food when they do.

Next up is leisure, called recreation services over at the GDP report. This is where we see the hardest hit categories by percentage, with movie theaters and live sports still down 100% in June.

Overall, employment is still down 20% from February to July, but that was 50% in April. Again, the detailed splits only take us through June, but the numbers in many subcategories were still very large:

Fitness centers are by far the largest group here, so that’s a key thing to keep an eye on. Golf courses are the only winners, and part of that is seasonal. The other part is social distancing is possible on a golf course, and it’s one of the few paid recreational activities that remain safe.

In any event, it’s just really hard to imagine full recoveries here absent a safe, effective vaccine.

Next up is accommodations, with employment still down 28% from February to July. Looking at the consumption numbers through August, we see that recovery has been very slow:

Breaking it down, we see the larger hotel categories are still way down through June, but outdoor accommodations have seen increased employment.

Again, part of this is seasonal, but it’s also much safer to go camping.

Personal care and clothing services employment is still down 20% from February to July. In the detailed splits through June, hair and nail salons were still down 34%.

Passenger transportation is one of the hardest hit categories, with employment continuing to decrease after April, and representing almost 6% or remaining lost jobs.

In the consumption data through June, we see very small recoveries outside vehicle services.

Employment is reflecting that, though airlines are holding up a little better due to $24 billion in Federal relief for them in the last package.

Once again, there is a long road back here.

Finally, let’s break out the services I lumped into “Other”:

  • Travel agencies, including online ones, are of course dependent on the transportation and accommodations categories.
  • Day care will not recover until there are fewer parents stuck at home.
  • Residential medical has a host of issues with COVID-19, and we’ve seen numerous outbreaks at nursing homes. Nursing home consumption is down 15% from February to June, and employment is starting to follow, down slightly every month since March.
  • Film and TV sets are crowded and chaotic places where social distancing is next to impossible. On top of that, highly-paid actors and directors, the lynchpin of the whole operation, can afford to take a private plane to their ranch in Montana to ride this out in comfort, surrounded by bison and no humans.

So overall we are seeing a group of services, about a fifth of pre-pandemic employment, where recovery thus far has been weak, and there is not a lot of hope absent a safe, effective vaccine.


Retail is another hugely important area that is also under a tremendous amount of stress. But again, there is a real split in what is happening beneath the topline numbers.

Retail employment was down 15% through April, 11% of all job losses, but has shown significant returns in some areas, but not in others. Like so much else, the split reflects changing consumption patterns.

In the first place, we’ve seen a shift to nonstore retail, mostly online these days, but there is still mail order catalogs. Nonstore was never down that badly in the first place and has recovered 89% of those lost jobs.

But brick-and-mortar is where it gets interesting.

In March and April, people were hoarding food and household supplies, so employment numbers were buoyed by supermarkets and warehouse stores. But then in May and June, the nest feathering began, as people looked for more comforts and diversions in their homes. Sales of some household durables have not only recovered, but are above February levels:

So if we group together retail for household goods, these workers have not done so poorly.

Losses were never as bad to begin with for this portion of the retail landscape, and they are more or less back to February levels by July. But even the rest are not doing as badly as I had feared. This is a giant employment sector, so it could have been much worse.

The Office Jobs That Have Disappeared

In contrast to retail which is better off than I expected, there are a group of jobs categorized under professional, business, and information services that are underperforming my expectations. Altogether, this was 22 million jobs in February, 16% of all jobs. These are largely office jobs that could be done from home, but the job losses in these categories have been very sticky, with only a third of lost jobs recovered. In July they accounted for 13% of the remaining lost jobs.

Information services is publishing, broadcasting, video production, telecommunications and data services. Every one of those categories is down, and the jobs losses persisted past April through July. Many of these are likely permanent job losses.

Professional and business services is a larger grouping, so it is more mixed, but many of the categories are still down substantially, some still reducing workforce since April.

I keep expecting these to turn around, but they haven’t really.


Manufacturing always gets an inordinate amount of attention, which is an artifact of an earlier time. In the first place, we have a mostly service-based economy now, so goods-making is not nearly as important as it once was to the economy or to employment.

As many people now work in retail as they do in manufacturing, and a lot more work in leisure and hospitality. But manufacturing is certainly not small. Even though employment is down 4.8%, much less than in the services categories we looked at, this is also 5.1% of remaining lost jobs, so we’re still talking about 600k jobs.

Generally speaking, if we pull out food and petroleum, nondurables are doing a lot worse than durables. Food manufacturing is one of the best categories, and petroleum one of the worst.

Surprisingly, those household durables industries we were discussing are still seeing large job losses in the high single digits through July. There are very low inventories right now, so I expect that to change as soon as the next report.

Alternative High Frequency Data

Things are changing so rapidly that we are looking to new data sources, especially ones with shorter than monthly periodicity. The jobs report surveys were done the week ending July 18, so it is a slice in time, not a summary of the whole month. Normally, that’s fine, but things are happening too rapidly now.

We start with the Dallas Fed’s Real Time Population Survey (RPS), a twice monthly, much less detailed version of the household survey. It is telling us a very different story:

As you can see, since May the RPS has been giving us a much higher number, and also shows the recovery reversing in late June. The rates are much higher, especially now with a 7 pp difference, which is about 11 million people. Which one is right? Neither? I can’t tell you.

Google and Apple have been releasing mobility data from their maps apps. Google’s is a little more detailed, and tells us generally, where people were headed on their trips. Helpfully, workplaces are one of the categories.

The recovery in workplace trips stalled in mid June nationally and has been going sideways more or less since. If we look at COVID-19 hotspots in the sunbelt, the change is more dramatic. I’ll zoom in on this one so you can see the recent action better.

These have all fallen much more than the national numbers since mid June. We may see activity coming back in August, which is consistent with other data.

As we saw, full-service restaurants are going to be key to the jobs recovery. OpenTable has been publishing data on YoY reservations. It’s unclear how representative a sample this is, but we can assume it mostly covers the top tier of restaurants. But these are also the highest paying restaurant jobs.

We begin here on May 1. Previous to that, there was a month and a half of -100%.

So you can see that August bounce I was talking about, but the rise is much slower than the one that stalled mid June.

Looking at the COVID-19 hotspots, the pattern is even more dramatic:

Again, I’m not sure how representative the OpenTable data is, but it does generally comport with what we are seeing elsewhere.

The final look is possibly the most scary. Yelp just reported that 55% of the closings in their business listings are now permanent:


Breaking it into business categories, we see that restaurants are even higher, at 60%.


This is grim, especially for jobs. Something like half of all workers work at small businesses.

Summary Bullets

Too long? Gotcha covered:

  • The household survey remains a statistical mess, but the actual unemployment rate is almost certainly higher than what is reported. By how much is up for grabs.
  • The employer survey is doing better, and shows the jobs recovery slowing down considerably in July.
  • While job losses in April were widespread across almost all industries, job returns have been more narrow.
  • The biggest problem area continues to be high density services, which accounted for about a fifth of jobs pre-pandemic. Full service restaurants are particularly key here.
  • Retail is a huge employment sector, so whatever happens there is crucial. We see a split between household goods retail, doing pretty well considering the environment, and the others not doing nearly as well.
  • The stickiness of job losses in information and business services is troubling. These are mostly jobs that could be done from home.
  • Manufacturing job losses right now are concentrated in the non-food nondurables categories, especially petroleum. I expect more of a recovery here, especially in household durables.
  • The high frequency data confirms the slowing in July as the pandemic spread like wildfire. As it eased in late July and August, we may be on the upswing again, but at a much slower pace than before.

Stuck in Containment

I keep coming back to this since he said it, because I think it frames our situation very well. During their Q2 earnings call, Citigroup (NYSE:C) CEO Mike Corbat above finished up his scripted remarks with this:

We are in a completely unpredictable environment which no models, no cycles to point to. The pandemic has a grip on the economy and it doesn’t seem likely to loosen until vaccines are widely available.

When asked to elaborate later in the call:

I think of this going through four stages, containment, stabilization, normalization and ultimately a return to growth… I would describe right now that broadly in the world we are somewhere between containment and stabilization, right? Containment is that we can bend the curve in terms of the transmission of cases. Stabilization is that as we remove or start to take down some of the barriers or actions that were put in place…

And when you get to the third phase around normalization and simply put normalization to me is am I willing to get on the airliner? Am I willing to get in a subway? Am I willing to go into a crowded venue to watch a sporting event or a concert or what it may be? And I think realistically when we get to that third bucket, I just don’t see that coming and I would say many don’t see that coming until we feel like there’s an anti-virus vaccine that’s available for the mass population around that. And so I think one of the things that people struggle with today is the disconnect in some ways between where the market is in some ways and actually where we are in terms of this health pandemic… So I don’t want to be pessimistic in there. I want to be a realist and I just think that in order to truly normalize, that’s what’s necessary to do that. [emphasis added]

Let’s break down the key points:

  • The pandemic caused the recession, not the shutdowns. This is at root a public health problem, not a political or economic one.
  • We cannot get out of containment.
  • We will not get to normalization until there is a safe, effective vaccine. The recession only begins to end then.
  • There is a huge disconnect between the market and economy right now.

Since March, Treasury has increased the Federal debt by over $3 trillion, now at $26.5 trillion. Over half that $3 trillion is still sitting in Treasury’s checking account.

So for over a trillion dollars, and more to come, we bought some time, about 5 months of it. The point was to use that time to learn about the virus, set up a national system of best practices, and ramp up testing and tracing so that turnaround was better than this:

Demand for testing has soared in recent weeks. And we are providing testing results in about two days for the highest priority patients, and the average turnaround time for non-priority patients is at least seven days.

-Quest Diagnostics (DGX) CEO Steve Rusckowski on their earnings call July 23

In seven days of not knowing, an infected patient can transmit to dozens of other people if they don’t self-quarantine. This is not best practices.

So we already spent over a trillion dollars, with more at the ready, and we were never able to get to containment. That money and the time it bought was wasted.

So with the parties in DC still very far apart, and enhanced benefits expired, this slow trudge back looks like where we will remain until there is a safe, effective vaccine.

I’ll just leave you with this chart again:

It’s a slow ride.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

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Top U.S. health official says approval of COVID vaccines unlikely before November By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a “Vaccine COVID-19” sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration

By Carl O’Donnell and Mrinalika Roy

(Reuters) – Any potential COVID-19 vaccine backed by the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” program is unlikely to receive a green light from regulators any earlier than November or December, given the time needed for a large-scale clinical trial, the National Institutes of Health director said on Thursday.

In a call with reporters, Francis Collins said he thinks testing a vaccine in at least 10,000 people could potentially give enough evidence of safety and efficacy to clear it for wider use. U.S. late-stage vaccine trials launched so far aim to recruit up to 30,000 people.

“I would not expect to see, on the basis of what we know scientifically, that we would be at the point where the FDA could make such a judgment until considerably later than October 1st,” Collins said, referring to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Maybe November or December would be my best bet.”

He added that he is confident that at least one of the six vaccines funded by the initiative will be shown to be safe and effective by the end of the year.

President Donald Trump said last week it was possible the United States would have a coronavirus vaccine before the Nov. 3 election, a more optimistic forecast on timing than anything suggested by his own White House health experts.

Collins expects that the first tens of millions of doses of vaccine produced in the United States will be allocated to those most in need, such as patients at higher risk of complications or front line healthcare workers.

The U.S. government has helped finance the development of several vaccines and therapies through the program aimed at accelerating access to medicines to fight COVID-19.

U.S. public health officials last month charged a group of independent scientists and ethicists with developing guidelines to determine who should get the first doses of a vaccine, once one becomes available.

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

Original source link

Judge denies delay for Uber and Lyft, which could result in California ride-hailing shutdown

Lyft and Uber on Thursday lost an appeal to extend a 10-day stay on an injunction granted by a San Francisco Superior Court judge Monday.

AFP via Getty Images

The countdown to a ride-hailing shutdown in California is on after a judge on Thursday denied appeals by Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. to extend a stay of an injunction ordering the ride-hailing giants to classify their drivers as employees.

On Wednesday, Uber

and Lyft

said they would shut down ride-hailing services in the state if they lost their appeals to extend the stay.

“I am unconvinced that any extension of the 10-day stay is required,” Judge Ethan Schulman said Thursday in denying the extension. He ruled Monday in a lawsuit brought by the state attorney general and three cities that the companies must classify their drivers as employees, not independent contractors, to comply with Assembly Bill 5, a California law that was passed last year and became effective Jan. 1.

“This was just another delay tactic by Uber and Lyft,” said John Cote, spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera of San Francisco, one of the cities that sued to force the companies to comply with AB 5 while Uber challenges the law. “The court saw right through it.” 

See: Uber and Lyft must make drivers employees because California law has ‘overwhelming’ edge, judge says

A Lyft spokeswoman said Thursday the company will file to extend the stay with a state appeals court, and that if it is unsuccessful, the company will suspend operations in California. Uber will also file an appeal, and it will shut down ride-hailing in the state if that appeal is denied, a spokesman confirmed.

Some San Francisco residents said a shutdown would be inconvenient, especially during this pandemic.

Kevin Murphy, who works in retail, said he has been taking Lyft to and from work lately because it is faster and feels safer than taking public transportation. Besides, there aren’t as many bus routes available right now.

How does he feel about the legal fight between his city, the state and Lyft and Uber?

Drivers “seem underpaid. A lot of them seem to work really long hours,” Murphy said. “And a lot of them come from far away — from Sacramento, Monterey, all over the East Bay.” On the other hand, he said, Uber and Lyft seem to “make enough money as it is.”

Anne Ahola Ward, a small-business owner in San Francisco who uses Lyft to get to appointments and other destinations that are too far for her to walk to, said: “I manage to pay my workers a salary and give them benefits. You should take care of the people that are core to your business.”

She added that Uber and Lyft would “have no business without their drivers.”

The ride-hailing companies once shut down for six months in Austin, Texas, over a fight to require them to do background checks on drivers. They have also threatened to go dark in other cities — but not a whole state —over various regulatory battles, union groups point out.

“Time and again in other states we’ve seen these threats evaporate as soon as the companies get what they want,” Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary Treasurer of the California Labor Federation, said in a statement Thursday.

Lyft’s California ride-hailing business makes up 16% of its overall rides business, while for Uber that number is 9%.

Uber and Lyft, along with other gig-economy companies, are also asking California voters to decide in November whether they should be exempt from AB 5. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said Wednesday that the company’s ride-hailing operations could shut down in the state at least until then.

It is unclear what Uber intends to do with its growing Uber Eats business, which also uses delivery workers the company considers independent contractors. A company spokesman said Thursday the company understands the California attorney general “only decided to sue ride-hailing companies.”

The California attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lyft shares fell more than 5% Thursday after reporting earnings Wednesday afternoon, while Uber shares fell 1.2% to $30.46.

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