Good night, Q-MHI readers! (02 Jul 05.27) Edition
|HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW|
130 countries have agreed to a 15% global minimum corporate tax. Previously reluctant China and India are now on board, but Ireland has not yet signed on.The U.S. has won international backing for a global minimum rate of tax as part of a wider overhaul of the rules for taxing international companies, a major step toward securing a final agreement on a key element of the Biden administration’s domestic plans for revenue raising and spending.
Officials from 130 countries that met virtually agreed Thursday to the broad outlines of what would be the most sweeping change in international taxation in a century. Among them were all of the Group of 20 major economies, including China and India, which previously had reservations about the proposed overhaul.
Those governments now will seek to pass laws ensuring that companies headquartered in their countries pay a minimum tax rate of at least 15% in each of the nations in which they operate, reducing opportunities for tax avoidance.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is guiding the negotiations, estimates that governments lose revenue of between $100 billion and $240 billion to tax avoidance each year.
“After years of intense work and negotiations, this historic package will ensure that large multinational companies pay their fair share of tax everywhere,” said OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann.
The World Health Organization urged Western countries to recognize Chinese vaccines. Sinovac’s and Sinopharm’s jabs are among those the WHO has authorized for emergency use. Separately, nine European countries will reportedly accept travelers who received Covishield, the India-made version of AstraZeneca’s shot.
The EU drug regulator is currently considering licensing China’s Sinovac vaccine, but there is no timeline on a decision. It also does not recognize versions of the AstraZeneca vaccine that were made in India, effectively barring travel for people in developing countries who received doses via the U.N.-backed initiative known as COVAX.
“Any measure that only allows people protected by a subset of WHO-approved vaccines to benefit from the reopening of travel … would effectively create a two-tier system, further widening the global vaccine divide and exacerbating the inequities we have already seen in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines,” a WHO statement said Thursday. “It would negatively impact the growth of economies that are already suffering the most.”
The WHO said such moves undermine “confidence in life-saving vaccines that have already been shown to be safe and effective.” In its reviews of the two Chinese vaccines, the U.N. health agency said both were found to significantly reduce the risk of hospitalizations and deaths.
The two Chinese shots are “inactivated” vaccines, made with killed coronavirus, whereas the Western-made shots are made with newer technologies that instead target the “spike” protein that coats the surface of the coronavirus.
Although Western countries have largely relied on vaccines made in the U.S. and Europe, such as Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca, many developing countries have used the Chinese-made shots.
Earlier this year, the head of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged the effectiveness of its home-grown shots was low. Numerous countries that have used millions of doses of the two Chinese shots, including the Seychelles and Bahrain, have seen COVID-19 surges even with relatively high levels of immunization.
Russia started giving out booster shots. Rising infections prompted officials to encourage an extra jab for those immunized more than six months ago. Russian health authorities on Thursday launched booster coronavirus vaccinations for people immunized more than six months ago, as the country faces a surge in new infections and deaths.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said he had received a booster shot and urged city residents to follow suit.
“In view of the difficult epidemiological situation today, doctors recommend having booster shots six months after vaccination,” Sobyanin said on his blog. “I’m pleading with you not to miss a chance to get additional protection from the virus, which is particularly important amid the spread of a more aggressive delta variant.”
Moscow health authorities on Thursday started offering booster shots with the domestically produced, two-shot Sputnik V vaccine and its one-shot Sputnik Light version. Other Russian regions are also starting to offer booster shots.Health Minister Mikhail Murashko told a government meeting Tuesday that the ministry has issued guidelines allowing those who contracted COVID-19 to get vaccinated six months after they recovered, and those who have been immunized to get booster shots six months after their first vaccination.
Health authorities said the more contagious delta variant of the virus has accounted for the bulk of recent new infections in Moscow and some other regions. The nation’s chief sanitary doctor, Anna Popova, confirmed Tuesday that authorities also registered the first infection with the “delta plus” variant, which has an extra mutation, although its significance is unclear.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova has cited studies indicating that immunity in those who have recovered from the virus persists for six months on average and winds down gradually after nine to 12 months.
The Health Ministry’s guidelines indicated that the booster shots will be rolled out until at least 60% of the population has immunity against COVID-19. Once that goal is reached, booster shots will be delivered once a year.
Meanwhile, the WHO warned a third wave in Europe could be inevitable.
Kim Jong Un wants to be even best-er friends with China. With North Korea battling a food shortage and the pandemic, its leader said he’d push for closer ties with Beijing.
Kim made the comments in a message to Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulating him on the 100th founding anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
“The Workers’ Party of Korea, by its firm unity with the Chinese Communist Party, would raise (North Korea)-China friendship to a new strategic point as required by the times and as desired by the peoples of the two countries,” Kim was quoted as saying.
In an apparent reference to the United States, Kim said that “hostile forces’ vicious slander and all-round pressure upon the Chinese Communist Party are no more than a last-ditch attempt and they can never check the ongoing advance of the Chinese people,” according to KCNA.
Kim’s message came a day after state media said he had told a powerful Politburo meeting that a “crucial” lapse in the anti-virus campaign has caused a “great crisis.” He did not elaborate, but there was speculation that Kim may have aimed to raise a call for international assistance, including vaccine shipments.
On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin held out the possibility of sending assistance to North Korea.
“China and the DPRK have a long tradition of helping each other when they encounter difficulties,” Wang said, referring to the North by the initials of its official name. “If necessary, China will actively consider providing assistance to the DPRK.”
OPEC+ neared a deal on oil output. A ministerial panel backed a gradual increase in production through the end of 2021 to keep prices steady,“The price reaction says everything,” Giovanni Staunovo, a commodity analyst at UBS Group AG, said after preliminary details of the OPEC+ deal had emerged. “The supply increase would be less than market participants expected and demand is still expected to rise into August.”
Crude has risen around 50% this year, with the recovery in demand from the pandemic outpacing the revival of OPEC+ supplies after last year’s deep cuts. Oil’s surge, combined with a rally in other commodities, has central banks fretting about inflation again. It also shows how Saudi Arabia and Russia are back in the driving seat of the global energy market — a remarkable comeback from negative prices just over a year ago.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies are already in the process of reviving crude supplies halted last year in the initial stages of the pandemic. The 23-nation coalition decided to add about 2 million barrels a day to the market from May to July, and the question before ministers on Thursday was whether to keep going in the coming months.
The market has experienced a supply deficit for much of this year as the group’s output increases didn’t keep pace with the demand recovery. In the cartel’s view, that’s been an entirely necessary remedy — the only way to deplete the vast surplus in fuel stockpiles that accumulated as economies went into lockdown.
Now, the group’s data show oil inventories are back down to average levels as a strong revival in fuel consumption continues. Demand in the second half will be 5 million barrels a day higher than in the first six months of the year, OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo said on Tuesday.Bloomberg reports.
Robinhood filed to go public. Paperwork filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission showed the retail investment platform earned $7.5 million in 2020, its first profitable year since it was founded in 2013.Robinhood filed to go public on July 1 revealing just how profitable the pandemic year has been for a company dedicated to giving investors commission-free stock trading on their phones.
Paperwork filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showed the financial services company earned $7.5 million in 2020, its first profitable year since it was founded in 2013. The company lost hundreds of millions in recent years, including a $107 million loss in 2019 and a whopping $1.4 billion in fundraising-related losses in the first quarter of 2021. The company will be listed under the stock ticker HOOD.
|WHAT TO WATCH FOR|
The US June jobs report is out today, an important indicator on the country’s labor shortage and inflation expectations, as well as the Fed’s future plans. Analysts are predicting 700,000 new jobs, which would be a big uptick from May. ADP’s monthly report of private payrolls showed companies added 692,000 workers in June, above expectations but down from 886,000 in May.All signs point to continued unpredictability ahead: While CEOs can’t stop talking about the labor shortage, workers holding out for higher wages shouldn’t surprise low-paying employers—especially in the restaurant industry. Dissatisfied workers are quitting and retiring in record numbers. (If you’re thinking about leaving your job, our chatbot can tell you if it’s the right move.) There’s a bright spot for 16- to 19-year-olds: It’s the best year in decades for teens to get summer jobs.MAPPING OFFSHORE WIND POTENTIAL
Offshore wind is a huge opportunity for the US but the fishing industry is worried about its businesses. Notably, the lobster industry pushed for the moratorium on wind farms near Maine’s coast that advanced through the local state legislature this week.Maine is now set to study the effect of wind turbines operating in its waters, but Europe’s been researching the effects of wind on lobstering areas for years. What it’s learned can help steer both wind and fishing industries in the US.SATELLITES ARE MAKING POLLUTION HARDER TO HIDEIn May, the shipping vessel X-Press Pearl suffered a catastrophic fire and sank, spilling its cargo of chemicals and microplastics into the sea. Residents are already seeing devastating impacts on local marine life. The owner of the ship and Sri Lanka’s government say that no oil has spilled from the vessel.Satellites disagree. Analysis of radar data (shown below overlaid on a satellite map in Orbital’s dashboard) suggest that hundreds of tons of oil spilled from the vessel, represented in gray.
Orbital EOSData like these, from the newest generation of small satellites, can help emergency responders, but could also be used as evidence in legal disputes over who is liable for the consequences of this disaster.✦ Satellites never sleep, and we’re covering what the eyes in the sky can and can’t do for those of us on Earth. If your own eyes are having a tough time staying open lately, you’re not alone. Take advantage of our Sleep Week sale, and grab a membership for 40% off—just use code SLEEPWEEK.
|HANDPICKED Q-MHI |
( The first one is so good, we took it out from behind the paywall.) A ruling on Olympic swim caps evokes decades of racism in the sport, the global ruling body for competitive swimming, has told a company named Soul Cap that its headwear for swimmers with voluminous hair will not be permitted in any competitions FINA recognizes, ranging from county meets to the Olympics.
Soul Cap, a UK firm started four years ago, had applied to FINA last year, ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, for its headwear to be officially approved. Its founders had started the company because they saw that people with “volume-blessed” hair—and in particular Black people who sported their hair in Afros, dreadlocks, and weaves—struggled to wear ordinary swim caps. Soul Cap’s headwear is more capacious, and comes in sizes up to XXL.“We’d sent a variety of our sizes to FINA,” a Soul Cap spokesperson said. “But we were actually rejected on registration, which meant we couldn’t even appeal their decision.” FINA ruled that international swimmers “never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration.” Soul Cap’s headwear, the ruling said, did not follow “the natural form of the head.”
Both “made in India” vaccines are in the middle of international political storms
India’s much-celebrated “homegrown” vaccines aren’t getting the international validation they crave and it’s making the Indian government livid.
Yesterday (June 30), India refused to recognise the EU’s digital Covid certificate until it includes both the Indian vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin.
This wrath comes after the EU included the AstraZeneca jab named Vaxzevria among the four accepted vaccines but the identical, India-made version called Covishield didn’t find itself on the list.
Read Xi Jinping’s full 100th anniversary speech and then notice who sends their congrats
(July 1), China’s Communist Party celebrates its 100th anniversary. For the occasion, Chinese president and party chairman Xi Jinping gave a speech on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, which is translated into English in the transcript below, provided by the party to Nikkei Asia via Xinhua News Agency:
“Comrades and friends,
Today, the first of July, is a great and solemn day in the history of both the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese nation. We gather here to join all party members and Chinese people of all ethnic groups around the country in celebrating the centenary of the Party, looking back on the glorious journey the party has traveled over 100 years of struggle, and looking ahead to the bright prospects for the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
The world’s social media giants admit they can’t protect women online
Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube made their first joint commitment to curb the harassment women face on their platforms, according to The World Wide Web Foundation. The social media giants pledged on July 1 to give users more granular control over who interacts with their posts and improve their reporting processes—for example, by giving users the ability to track their harassment reports during each stage of review.
The promises are the culmination of an advocacy campaign from the World Wide Web Foundation, which wrote an open letter to the CEOs of the four companies signed by 212 activists, academics, politicians, journalists, and civil society leaders. “Four of the world’s biggest tech platforms have worked with the Web Foundation to adopt a bold set of commitments to tackle online abuse and improve women’s safety on their platforms, marking the first time there has been cross-industry collaboration on ways companies can address the issue,” it said in a statement.
Each of these companies has individually made similar commitments in the past. Facebook unveiled anti-harassment tools designed to help users avoid unwanted friend requests and messages in 2017. That year, Twitter strengthened its reporting tools and tightened its rules around non-consensual nudity in a bid to make women safer online. YouTube vowed to step up its anti-harassment enforcement in 2019, and TikTok gave users more power to report, block, or delete comments on their videos last year.
An analysis of 250 retailers shows what online shopping does to profit margins The unstoppable ascent of e-commerce is spurring a corresponding decline in retailers’ profit margins, according to an analysis of six key European markets and more than 250 retailers. The trend is only set to continue with the pandemic speeding online shopping’s growth, making profits for the competitive retail industry that much harder to come by.
Over roughly the past decade, retailers’ pre-tax profit margins across the UK, Spain, Switzerland, France, Italy, and Germany have dwindled from 6.4% to 4.5%, said the study by Alvarez & Marsal, a management consultancy, in partnership with Retail Economics, a research firm focused on the UK’s retail and consumer industries. It pointed to online shopping as a major contributor. Its analysis found an inverse correlation between the increase in share of sales happening online and margins: as e-commerce penetration rises, margins fall.
It said it expects the trend to keep gathering momentum in the wake of the pandemic, as some of the online shopping habits consumers embraced become permanent. By 2025, it forecasted pre-tax margins for retailers in the six countries it analyzed will sink to just 3.2%. Without the pandemic prodding shoppers toward e-commerce, margins would have dropped only to 3.7%, it estimated. The gap translates to profits across those markets being €11 billion ($13 billion) less by that point than they would have been otherwise.
India’s renewable energy sector is set to witness a clash between the country’s two richest men
India’s renewable energy sector is set to become a battleground for the country’s top billionaires.
On June 24, when India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, announced his clean energy business, many heads turned to the country’s second-wealthiest man Gautam Adani who has had a strong presence in the renewables space for many years. Everyone was keen to know what Adani’s next moves will be to achieve his ambition of becoming India’s largest clean energy player by 2030.
The share price of Adani Green Energy, the renewables business of the Adani Group—which has gone up by around 850% over the last year—fell following Ambani’s announcement, perhaps due to fears that the company’s future growth would be under pressure.
A Chinese police academy is auctioning off dogs who didn’t make the cut. Cowardly, small pups who weren’t great at following commands will find new homes with civilians.A police academy in China is planning to auction off police dogs who failed to qualify due to “cowardice” and “weak retrieving abilities”.
According to an official notice from the Criminal Investigation Police University of China this month, 54 dogs will be put up for public auction on July 7 at the academy.
An attached list from the academy showed that the dogs are mostly German shepherds and Belgian Malinois, which are commonly used to aid police work due to their agility, obedience and intelligence.
Most of the dogs were disqualified for “cowardice”, the list revealed; some for body strength, including “small size” or “weak limbs”; while others were eliminated for a lack of obedience, including “weak pickup and retrieving abilities”.
On auction day, videos of each dog will be shown to the public before bidding begins at 200 yuan (US$30.9). The highest bidder will be able to collect the dog on the same day.
It didn’t take long for ancient Sicilian elephants to shrink to the size of horses. New research shows it could have happened in as few as 40 generations.In a paper published earlier this month, scientists found clues to just how much island living can rapidly alter the evolution of these animals.
“Evolution on islands is a quite intriguing field of science, since it can be seen as an experiment of nature or evolution in action,” said Sina Baleka, the paper’s lead author and a paleogeneticist at McMaster University in Canada. She and her co-authors hope their findings can offer insights into how species living today are affected by geographic isolation on islands and in other habitats.
Evidence of smaller versions of extinct elephants has been found worldwide. Fossils of elephant species on islands off California and Siberia as well as in the Mediterranean and Indonesia show that these giants became much, much smaller. In some cases, these dwarves evolved down to the size of a large horse.
But much remains to be learned about how many millenniums of evolution it may take for mammals as massive as elephants to shrink to a horse-like size. To make sense of this mystery, the scientists focused on fossils of a species of dwarf elephant from Sicily, the large island off the toe of Italy’s boot. The fossils were excavated in the late 19th century from the Puntali Cave, not far from the city of Palermo, and are believed to be 50,000 to 175,000 years old.
This work wasn’t easy. It’s not as though Sicilian fossils neatly represented every single ancient elephant species at every phase of its size reduction, Dr. Baleka said. So she and her colleagues used a variety of techniques to study the rate at which the species’ ancestors became dwarves, including paleogenetics, paleontology, geochronology and different dating methods.
Jeff Bezos is bringing an aerospace pioneer on his Blue Origins flight. Wally Funk, 82, trained to be an astronaut in 1961 but NASA never let her fly.Wally Funk, one of the “Mercury 13” pilots who fought to open NASA’s early astronaut program to women, will ride with Jeff Bezos on his space company’s first crewed mission out of Earth’s atmosphere later this month, the billionaire announced on Instagram Thursday.Funk brings the crew size for New Shepard’s debut flight carrying humans on July 20th to four, including Bezos, his brother Mark, and a yet-to-be-named passenger who paid $28 million for their trip to space in an auction that closed last month. Bezos’ presence on the first flight is seen as a show of confidence in New Shepard’s safety.
Funk’s inclusion as an “honored guest” is the latest symbolic move to inaugurate Blue Origin’s space tourism program — the July 20th date is the anniversary of the first US Moon landing, and the New Shepard capsule is named after Alan Shepard, the first American astronaut.“In 1961, Wally Funk was at the top of her class as part of the ‘Mercury 13’ Woman in Space Program,” Bezos said on Instagram. “Despite completing their training, the program was cancelled, and none of the thirteen flew.”
“It’s time. Welcome to the crew, Wally. We’re excited to have you fly with us on July 20th as our honored guest.”
Funk, 82, was an iconic aviator in the mid-20th century and one of 13 women to graduate from the privately funded Women in Space Program, where she underwent rigorous astronaut training but was ultimately never able to go to space. When NASA opened its astronaut applications up to women in 1976, Funk applied three times but was turned down each time.
Funk’s space enthusiasm hasn’t died. She’s also booked a front row seat on the suborbital SpaceShipTwo plane from Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson’s space tourism firm that competes with Bezos’ Blue Origin, according to the magazine Texas Monthly. Like New Shepard, SpaceShipTwo flies to the edge of space roughly 62 miles high, the internationally recognized marker for space.
The toilet on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will have a 360-degree view. It’s located inside the glass dome at the nose of the spacecraft.You know those restaurants where half of the reason to visit is to spend some time in the gorgeous bathroom? Turns out space may be the same thing.
An astronaut set to board the first civilian space flight aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spaceship revealed that the rocket’s toilet will be housed in a glass cupola at its tip. When the cupola design was revealed earlier this year, SpaceX Founder Elon Musk tweeted that the glass dome was “probably most ‘in space’ you could possibly feel.” And it turns out: the best way to take in the view may be on the spaceship’s porcelain throne.Jared Isaacman, a jet pilot who purchased four seats onboard SpaceX and will serve as mission command, revealed that the eye-popping glass dome is also where the toilet will sit.
“It’s not a ton of privacy. But you do have this kind of privacy curtain that cuts across the top of the spacecraft, so you can kind of separate yourself from everyone else,” Isaacman told Insider. “And that also happens to be where the glass cupola is. So, you know, when people do inevitably have to use the bathroom, they’re going to have one hell of a view.”
Both SpaceX and NASA have declined to reveal more information about the toilet aboard the Crew Dragon, but other passengers have teased out more information. After taking the Crew Drago to the International Space Station last year, NASA astronaut Doug Hurley told reporters that the toilet “works very similar to the one we were used to in the Space Shuttle, and it worked very well. We had no issues with it.”
The SpaceX mission is set to be the first orbital spaceflight ever without a professional astronaut on board. Although the costs of the space tickets have not been revealed, NASA estimated that the mission could cost around $55 million per seat.
The mission could take off as early as Sept. 15. The space tourists will spend about three days in orbit, conducting experiments and enjoying the view. But it’s TBD how much the toilet aboard Crew Drago will be used.
Bull sharks make friends with each other—and exclude others. “You can’t swim with us!”They reach 3.5 metres long, weigh more than 200kg and are an apex predator. But even apex predators need friends. And, according to new research, bull sharks may be capable of making them.
A recently published study from Fiji shows that bull sharks develop companionships – with some sharks showing preferences for certain individuals and avoiding others.
Researchers studied data collected over 3,000 shark dives in Fiji’s Shark Reef Marine Reserve (SRMR), one of the world’s most sought-after diving destinations. The dives spanned 13 years and noted the behaviour of 91 individual bull sharks, clearly distinguishable by external features, such as scars and deformed or missing fins.
Using a number of statistical approaches, the researchers looked for patterns of associations between sharks that could be explained by factors other than just pure chance. And indeed, the scientists found unequivocal evidence for long-term associations.“Some bull shark individuals seem to prefer long-term companions and avoid others,” said Dr Juerg Brunnschweiler, an independent shark researcher from Switzerland who designed the study.
“Working on the large Fiji dataset was really exciting and scientifically important since there is a big research gap regarding the social behaviour of bull sharks,” said Dr Thibaut Bouveroux, a post-doctoral researcher from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in the United States and lead.Bouveroux usually investigates how and why marine mammals create social bonds. For this study, he used his social structure analysis skills and applied them to Fiji’s bull sharks.
“The available long-term data collection gave us a real opportunity to better understand if bull sharks are able to develop social bonds in a provisioned site and how they were affected over time,” he said.