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Kevin McCarthy Suffers 11th Ballot Defeat for Speaker of the House

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Kevin McCarthy Suffers 11th Ballot Defeat for Speaker of the House

The race for the next Speaker of the United States House of Representatives will continue for a fourth day after lawmakers voted to adjourn proceedings on Thursday evening following a historic 11th ballot loss for Republican Kevin McCarthy amid a tense impasse in Washington.

Despite McCarthy’s last-ditch efforts to subdue opposition and secure the votes he needs to be elected House Speaker, 20 Republicans repeatedly voted against him, denying him the simple majority he needed to win the gavel.

The protracted stalemate revealed long-simmering tensions within the Republican party and prompted speculation about how lawmakers might chart a way forward. McCarthy has resisted calls for him to step down in favor of another Republican, and Democrats have declined suggestions that they might support McCarthy or collaborate with Republicans to select a new Speaker.

Late Thursday night, a slim majority of lawmakers agreed to adjourn, setting the stage for a new round of voting on Friday at noon. The House began voting on Tuesday, but no consensus has been reached.

The House of Representatives is required by the Constitution to select a Speaker before it can move on to legislative business.

Kevin McCarthy Needs 218 Votes

McCarthy made history by becoming the first candidate for Speaker in a century to require multiple rounds of voting. In 1923, there were nine voting rounds. Some of the rebels have personal grievances with McCarthy, while others have demanded rule changes that would facilitate McCarthy’s ouster.

After months of negotiations, it appeared on Thursday that McCarthy had agreed to change the rules so that only one member of the House could request a vote of no confidence. However, the changes did little to move the dial and bring him closer to the 218 votes needed for a simple majority in the chamber.

The Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections of November. McCarthy is in a difficult position because the “red wave” he predicted did not materialize and Republicans hold a razor-thin majority in the chamber, leaving him dependent on a small number of rebels.

The Club for Growth, an ultra-low-tax organization, and the Congressional Leadership Fund, a McCarthy-aligned fundraising organization, announced late Wednesday that they had reached an agreement whereby the latter would not spend money on open Republican primaries in safe seats.

Trump VOTE FOR KEVIN

The agreement was viewed as a victory for conservative Republicans who had previously objected to McCarthy’s efforts to support more centrist candidates. McCarthy received an apparent boost earlier on Wednesday when former US president Donald Trump issued a ringing endorsement of his candidacy, declaring:

“It’s now time for all our GREAT Republican House members to VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY!”

Trump’s efforts failed to sway the dissenters, which is the latest indication that his influence within the party is waning. One of the Republican rebels, Lauren Boebert, referred to Trump as her “favorite president” but said he should be urging McCarthy to withdraw.

Some of McCarthy’s allies have also urged the California congressman to step down in favor of a consensus candidate who could unite the party’s warring factions. Steve Scalise, a congressman from Louisiana and McCarthy’s deputy, has been proposed as an alternative by a number of members, both publicly and privately.

Despite suggestions that Democrats and a group of Republicans could band together to support an alternative Speaker candidate, Democratic leaders have shown little willingness to help break the impasse. Instead, Democrats voted unanimously in favor of Hakeem Jeffries, who took over as party leader in the House after Nancy Pelosi announced her intention to step down.

Source: FT, VOR News

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UK Energy Giant BP’s Profits Double To $27.7 Billion

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LONDON, England — On Tuesday, BP announced that it had made the most money ever in a single year. This added to calls for the UK government to raise taxes on companies that are making money off of the high prices of oil and natural gas because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

BP, which has its headquarters in London, said that its underlying replacement cost profit, which does not include one-time items or changes in the value of inventories, went up from $12.8 billion in 2021 to $27.7 billion in 2022. BP earned $26.8 billion in 2008 when tensions in Iran and Nigeria drove global oil prices to a record of more than $147 per barrel.

BP also said it would buy back more shares from shareholders worth $2.75 billion and raise its quarterly dividend by 10%.

But public anger, especially in the country where the company is based, is likely to make the good news for BP shareholders less exciting. High oil and gas prices have hit Britain hard, with double-digit inflation fueling a wave of public-sector strikes, a surge in food bank use, and calls for politicians to expand a tax on energy companies‘ windfall profits to help pay for public services.

Ed Miliband, who is in charge of the environment for the opposition Labour Party, has asked the UK government to put a “proper” windfall tax on energy companies.

BP

BP Faces Critisism Over The Profit Margins

“Yet another day of huge profits at an energy giant, windfalls from war,” Miliband said.

Shell, based in London, received similar criticism last week after reporting that its annual earnings more than doubled to a record $39.9 billion.

Energy companies around the world are making a lot of money, which has led to calls for the fossil fuel industry to do more to help with high energy bills and reduce carbon emissions that hurt the environment. Last week, Exxon Mobil, which is based in the United States, said it made a record $55.7 billion.

Last year, Britain put a 25% windfall tax on earnings from oil and gas production in the country. In 2023, the tax will go up to 35%. Opposition leaders have chastised the government for allowing energy companies to reduce their tax liability by investing in the United Kingdom.

BP said it took a $1.8 billion charge last year to cover the new UK tax.

BP

The Company Had To Pay Lots Of Fees To Leave Russia

The company also had to pay $25.5 billion in fees because it decided to pull out of its investments in Russia after Russia invaded Ukraine.

After taking into account one-time costs and changes in the value of inventories, BP reported a net loss of $2.49 billion for 2022. This is a big change from the year before, when it made a net profit of $7.57 billion.

BP said on Tuesday that it would invest an extra $8 billion in its oil and gas businesses, as well as in clean energy, hydrogen, and charging stations for electric cars, through 2030.

The investments will increase oil and gas production to approximately 2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day by 2030. BP had planned to cut production by 40%, but the new goal is only 25% less than what was planned for 2019.

“We will prioritize projects where we can deliver quickly, at a low cost, and using our existing infrastructure, allowing us to minimize additional emissions while maximizing both value and our contribution to energy security and affordability,” said CEO Bernard Looney statement.

BP

Prices Of Oil Has Been Falling

Following the invasion of Ukraine, energy prices skyrocketed. Brent crude, a global oil price benchmark, averaged $101.32 per barrel last year, 43% higher than in 2021. The average wholesale price of natural gas in the United Kingdom increased by 76%.

Prices have been falling in recent months, with Brent crude averaging $88.87 per barrel in the fourth quarter.

“The question is, what will they do with record profits and operating cash flow? Governments are already questioning record profits from peer global energy companies,′′ according to Gianna Bern, author of “Investing in Energy: A Primer on the Economics of the Energy Industry.” “At a time when inflation and gas prices are both at record highs, energy companies around the world will have to rethink the cost and availability of energy for everyone.”

According to Alice Harrison, fossil fuels campaign leader at environmental advocacy nonprofit Global Witness, BP’s profits were made “on the back of three global crises” — the Ukraine war, the energy crisis, and climate breakdown.

“These massive profits will be a bitter pill to swallow for those in need,” Harrison said. “There’s no denying it: BP is richer because we’re poorer.”

SOURCE – (AP)

 

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Salman Rushdie Gives First Interview Since 2022 Stabbing

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NEW YORK – Salman Rushdie is blind in his right eye, struggles to write, and has “frightening” nightmares months after being stabbed repeatedly as he prepared to give a lecture.

However, he expressed gratitude during his first interview since the attack.

“Well, you know, I’ve been better,” he told David Remnick of The New Yorker in an interview published Monday. “However, given what happened, I’m not so bad.”

“The major injuries are essentially healed,” Rushdie continued. “I have sensation in my thumb, index finger, and the bottom half of my palm. I’m getting a lot of hand therapy and am told I’m doing great.”

Remnick, who spoke with Rushdie in person at his agent’s office in Manhattan and via Zoom, wrote that the Booker Prize-winning author had lost more than 40 pounds (18 kilograms) and now reads mostly on an iPad, where he can adjust the lighting and font size.

rushdie

Rushdie Went Into Hiding In Iran

“On the right side of his face, there is scar tissue,” Remnick wrote. “He speaks as fluently as ever, but one side of his lower lip droops. His left hand’s ulnar nerve was severely damaged.”

Rushdie, 75, went into hiding for years after Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989 calling for his death because of the novel “The Satanic Verses'” alleged blasphemy. But he’d been moving around freely for a long time, with little security, and had no qualms about appearing at the Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education and retreat center in western New York, last August.

Rushdie was on stage when he was approached by a young man in black carrying a knife. Hadi Matar, who is accused of assaulting and trying to kill the victim, has said he is not guilty. Rushdie called Matar an “idiot” in his New Yorker interview but expressed no resentment.

“Over the years, I’ve worked very hard to avoid recrimination and bitterness,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a good look. One of the ways I’ve dealt with this situation is to look forward rather than back. What happens today is less important than what happens tomorrow.”

rushdie

The Man Complained The Stabbing Made Book Sales Go Up

The interview was published on the eve of the release of Rushdie’s new novel, “Victory City,” which he finished a month before his assassination. “Victory,” which features a protagonist who lives to be 247, is a typically surreal and exuberant narrative about an imagined ancient poem that has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, with The Washington Post’s Ron Charles writing that “Rushdie’s magical style unfurls wonders.”

Rushdie had been silent on social media for months but now occasionally tweets and even responds to insults. When a Twitter user told him last week that he was living a “disgraceful life,” Rushdie responded, “Oh, another fan! “I’m overjoyed.”

During the interview, he complained that the stabbing had increased his book sales, as if people liked him more when he was in danger.

rushdie

Rushdie Suffered From 15 Stab Wounds

“Everyone loves me now that I’m almost dead,” he said. “That was my error back then. I not only lived, but I tried to live well. That was a terrible oversight. Better to get 15 stab wounds.”

On Monday, he tweeted a photo of himself staring directly into the camera lens, his face thinner than in photos taken before the stabbing, his right eye hidden behind a dark lens in his glasses frame.

Otherwise, he is still attempting to recover. Rushdie has written that he initially struggled to write fiction after the fatwa and is still struggling, saying that when he sits down to work, “nothing happens,” just a “combination of blankness and junk.”

One project he might consider is a sequel to his 2012 memoir “Joseph Anton,” which he wrote in the third person.

“This does not feel third-person to me,” Rushdie said of a potential sequel. “I believe a first-person story is when someone sticks a knife into you. “That is an “I” story.”

SOURCE – (AP)

 

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MYANMAR: UN Chief Backs Democracy For Myanmar 2 Years After Takeover

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THE UNITED NATIONS – Two years after Myanmar’s military seized power, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed support for the country’s democratic aspirations while warning that the military’s planned elections coincide with a crackdown on civilians and political leaders “risk exacerbating instability.”

According to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric, the secretary-general strongly condemns all forms of violence in Myanmar as the country’s crisis worsens “and fuels serious regional implications.”

On February 1, 2021, the army deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government, arresting her and top members of her ruling National League for Democracy party, which had won a landslide victory for a second term in a November 2020 general election.

Security forces used lethal force to suppress widespread opposition to the military takeover, killing nearly 2,900 civilians and arresting thousands more who participated in nonviolent protests. The brutal crackdown sparked armed resistance across much of the country. The military government has designated major anti-army organizations as “terrorist” organizations.

The military enacted a new law on political party registration, published on Friday, making it difficult for opposition groups to mount a serious challenge to army-backed candidates in a general election later this year. It sets minimum requirements for parties, such as a number of members 100 times higher than in the 2020 elections and strict rules about how much money they can spend.

myanmar

The Secretary-General Continues To Stand In Solidarity

“The military’s stated intention to hold elections amid intensifying aerial bombardment and burning of civilian houses, as well as ongoing arrests, intimidation, and harassment of political leaders, civil society actors, and journalists,” said the United Nations spokesman. “The proposed polls risk exacerbating instability unless conditions allow the people of Myanmar to freely exercise their political rights.”

The secretary-general “continues to stand in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and to support their democratic aspirations for an inclusive, peaceful, and just society, as well as the protection of all communities, including the Rohingya,” according to Dujarric.

Long-standing discrimination against Rohingya Muslims in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, including denial of citizenship and a slew of other rights, erupted in August 2017 when Myanmar’s military launched a “clearance campaign” in northern Rakhine state in response to attacks on police and border guards by a Rohingya militant group. As troops allegedly committed mass rapes and killings and burned thousands of homes, over 700,000, Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, where they remain in camps.

The International Court of Justice, the United Nation’s highest court, ordered Myanmar to do everything possible to prevent genocide against the Rohingya in January 2020. A two-day-old report from an independent commission set up by Myanmar’s government found that there were reasons to think that security forces committed war crimes against the Rohingya but not genocide.

myanmar

Myanmar To Work Closely With South-Asian Countries

Guterres praised the United Nations Security Council’s first-ever resolution on Myanmar, which called for an immediate cessation of violence in the Southeast Asian country and urged its military rulers to release all “arbitrarily detained” prisoners, including Suu Kyi, and to restore democratic institutions.

The resolution asks all parties to “respect human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.” It also encourages opposing parties to talk to each other and make peace.

The resolution is “an important step that emphasizes the urgency for strengthened international unity,” according to Dujarric.

According to the spokesman, Noeleen Heyzer, the United Nations special envoy for Myanmar, will work closely with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to implement the Security Council’s call to “engage intensively with all relevant parties in Myanmar to achieve an end to the violence and to support a return to democracy.” On January 1, Indonesia took over as ASEAN chair from Cambodia.

“The U.N. is committed to remaining in Myanmar and addressing the multiple vulnerabilities that have arisen due to the military’s actions since February 2021,” Dujarric said, urging unrestricted access to all affected communities.

“The secretary-general reiterates his call for neighboring countries and other member states to urge Myanmar’s military leadership to respect the will and needs of the people and adhere to democratic norms,” a United Nations spokesman said.

SOURCE – (AP)

 

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