By Jarrett Renshaw PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's decision to grant a bankrupt Philadelphia refiner relief from biofuel laws drew criticism on Tuesday from the country's biofuels sector and its allies, who said it sets a bad precedent. The EPA and the Carlyle Group-backed Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery agreed on Monday that the refiner will have to satisfy only roughly half of its $350 million in outstanding compliance obligations under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS requires refiners to blend biofuels such as ethanol into their fuel or buy credits, known as RINs, from those that do. Independent refiners, including some as large as Valero Energy Corp, have long complained about the RFS standards, saying it has boosted costs as the price of credits rose from just a few cents in 2012 to more than $1 at times in 2013 and 2016. However, biofuels companies say the standards are critical to Midwest farmers and help produce cleaner, home-grown fuels like ethanol. Industry representatives complained about the EPA settlement, calling it a bailout for a mismanaged company. "I am very troubled at the precedent this sets and there are discussions underway whether the EPA has the legal standing to grant the relief. We are exploring our options," said Michael McAdams, head of the Advanced Biofuels Association. President Donald Trump has called several White House meetings to change the program. The EPA has signaled it is willing to exempt more small refineries, which would limit potential buyers for the credits. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, of Iowa, said the settlement raises a couple questions: "How are the RIN obligations being treated compared to the other obligations of PES? Does this set an unfair precedent for other refiners that continue to act in good faith to comply with the law?" PES was given relief on about half of its outstanding obligations. The company, which lacks blending facilities, entered into bankruptcy owing 467 million credits from 2016 and 2017, with only 210 million credits in hand, the filing showed. The settlement puts PES on stable path to success and protects 1,100 jobs, Cherice Corley, a company spokeswoman, said in an email Tuesday. But more needs to be done, Corley said. "This is only a partial and temporary reprieve, and we are hopeful that policymakers will substantively address the flawed RINs compliance mechanism so that a restructured PES and other independent merchant refiners can finally compete on a level playing field," Corely said. PES got a huge win. It does not have to go into the market and buy some 250 million in compliance credits covering 2016, 2017 and part of 2018. The refiner can turn over its available credits to the EPA, and is excused from any shortfall. "There’s no denying it - the EPA settled in a way that was beneficial to the bankruptcy and this particular firm. It sends a bad signal about what the EPA will accept in the future," said Scott Irwin, agricultural economist at the University of Illinois. PES blamed its financial woes on the cost of buying the credits.. But other factors contributed to the bankruptcy, including withdrawal of more than $590 million in dividend-style payments from the company by its investor owners. Private equity firm Carlyle rescued the refinery from shutting in 2012, putting up $175 million for majority control. Most dividends paid to the investor group were backed by loans taken against refinery assets. Monday's settlement alleviates fears that the refinery was going to be exempt from the program moving forward or be allowed to dump millions of credits onto the market, traders said. The EPA will now require PES to buy credits semi-annually, rather than annually. That makes it more difficult for the refinery, the largest on the U.S. East Coast, to build a large short position or defer its obligations and risk getting into a hole, as it did in 2017. Prices for renewable fuel (D6) credits for 2018 were at 39 cents on Tuesday, little changed from a day earlier, having already lost 40 percent in the last two weeks. Prices for 2017 are selling at an unusual discount versus the 2018 prices in the wake of the PES settlement, traders said. (Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Ayenat Mersie; Editing by Susan Thomas and Lisa Shumaker)
- The Daily Beast
Earlier this week, Project Veritas released the first of what it promised would be many shocking revelations from CNN’s internal editorial meetings, which founder James O’Keefe appears to have infiltrated and recorded over the course of several weeks.First, the right-wing group tried to make hay out of the fact that one high-level CNN staffer considered Fox News host Tucker Carlson to be racist—while simultaneously misidentifying the staffer in question. Their latest bombshell? CNN President Jeff Zucker thinks Rudy Giuliani is “crazy.”According to Project Veritas’ website, O’Keefe believes it will be “virtually impossible for the American public to take CNN’s reporting seriously after listening to these tapes.” And yet, once again, nothing that Zucker has said should surprise anyone who has been paying attention to Giuliani, especially in the weeks since Trump lost the presidential election to Joe Biden.“There is a term for what Rudy Giuliani is suspected of being, which is ‘useful idiot,’” a voice identified as Zucker’s can be heard saying in a tape made just a couple of days after the man formerly known as “America’s mayor” started pushing material supposedly obtained from Hunter Biden’s laptop.He goes on to call Giuliani’s efforts to undermine the election a “really important story,” adding, “It gets tied to the Hunter Biden email disinformation campaign. That’s the way we do this, because it’s all tied and part-and-parcel of one. I know Washington is working on putting that all together.”In a more recent call, when another staff member suggests that the “real craziness is the client,” referring to President Trump, “not the lawyers,” the voice ID’d as Zucker agrees before saying, “I think you raise a good point about not just pawning it off on the crazy legal team, but the client is the one who is directing the crazy legal team.”Other comments from Zucker that seem to have outraged Project Veritas concern the baseless allegations of pedophilia against Biden that circulated online, especially among QAnon Facebook groups, in the run-up to the election.“The president of the United States has just retweeted a post accusing Joe Biden of being a pedophile to his 86 million followers which is just beyond,” he says on another tape. “You know it also is just unacceptable that the president of the United States is trafficking in this and doing it.”Once again, an exposé intended to make Zucker and CNN look bad has only revealed that they are simply adhering to reality.Project Veritas’ CNN Sting Uncovers Explosive News That Tucker Carlson Is RacistRead more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- Associated Press
The leader of a pro-gun group that stages armed protests against police violence has been charged with pointing a rifle at federal officers while in Kentucky for a demonstration. John F. Johnson, who calls himself “Grandmaster Jay,” is facing a federal charge of assaulting task force officers. A complaint filed in federal court in Louisville said Johnson pointed a rifle, which had a flashlight mounted to it, at officers who were on a roof in downtown Louisville on Sept. 4.
Egypt executed 57 men and women in October and November, nearly double the 32 people reported in the whole of 2019, Amnesty International said on Wednesday. At least 15 of those executed had been sentenced to death in cases related to political violence following what Amnesty called unfair trials, the London-based human rights group said in a report. "The Egyptian authorities have embarked on a horrifying execution spree in recent months, putting scores of people to death, in some cases following grossly unfair mass trials," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director.
The prominent pro-democracy supporter's detention comes a day after several activists were jailed.
- Architectural Digest
From a private island to a tiny Vermont tree houseOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- The Week
President-elect Joe Biden has settled on a team to lead the U.S. through its biggest ongoing crisis, two people familiar with the decision tell Politico.Jeff Zients, who headed the National Economic Council under former President Barack Obama and is co-chair of Biden's transition team, will reportedly be named the White House's COVID-19 coordinator. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general under Obama, will reportedly return to his role with more responsibilities, and Biden's coronavirus advisory board co-chair Marcella Nunez-Smith will get a special role focused on health disparities.Zients "isn't a health care guru, and he's the first to say that," one source close to Biden told Politico. But his managerial experience is seen as an asset as the U.S. prepares to roll out a vaccine and combat the coronavirus-induced economic crisis — "he's essentially playing that role with the transition now," the source said. Zients will reportedly be paired with health experts including Murthy, who has already been a part of Biden's coronavirus plans. Nunez-Smith, a Yale University associate professor of medicine, will meanwhile help address how COVID-19 and other health care issues disproportionately affect people of color.The left wing of the Democratic party isn't expected to be thrilled with Zients' selection, The New York Times reports. Progressive groups such as Revolving Door Project and Justice Democrats have already pointed out his corporate record, and the fact that an anesthesia company managed under the investment firm Zients ran had poor reviews. Under Obama, "his role was essentially to be a management consultant for the executive branch: cutting costs, finding efficiencies and looking at things like a businessman," Revolving Door said in a document about Zients' background.More stories from theweek.com The Donald goes down to Georgia Biden says he's concerned about reports Trump is considering preemptive pardons 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims
- Associated Press
The official serving as President Donald Trump’s eyes and ears at the Justice Department has been banned from the building after trying to pressure staffers to give up sensitive information about election fraud and other matters she could relay to the White House, three people familiar with the matter tell The Associated Press. Heidi Stirrup, an ally of top Trump adviser Stephen Miller, was quietly installed at the Justice Department as a White House liaison a few months ago.
- Business Insider
Attorney for Jared Kushner and a Trump fundraiser investigated by DOJ in alleged bribery-for-pardon scheme
The New York Times reported that a lawyer for President Trump's son-in-law was investigated by the Justice Department this summer.
A bilateral trade deal between Taiwan and the United States would reinforce U.S. support for the democratic island in the face of "unrelenting intimidation" from China, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday. Taiwan, claimed by China as its own territory, has long angled for a trade deal with its most important diplomatic and military backer, and in August Tsai announced a relaxation on imports of U.S. pork and beef, removing a stumbling block.
- Yahoo News Video
As a pair of critical Senate runoff races approach on Jan. 5, Georgia Republican leaders find themselves in a conundrum, trying to balance indulging President Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud with supporting state GOP election officials. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Republican, is frustrated with the misinformation about the election process in his state. “I’m actually embarrassed at the amount of misinformation that continues to show up on Twitter feeds and Facebook posts and blogs that takes literally 10 seconds to debunk,” Duncan told Yahoo News. “Anybody could debunk it, but because they’ve let themselves get to a point where they’re more worried about flipping an election result than they are following the truth, that’s how we’ve gotten here.”
- USA TODAY
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been a top official dealing with the pandemic.
- Associated Press
A Democratic congressional candidate who trailed by six votes after a recount said Wednesday she will forgo further legal challenges in Iowa and instead appeal directly to the U.S. House for additional recount proceedings. Rita Hart's campaign had until Wednesday afternoon to contest the election under Iowa law following Monday's certification of results in which Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks was declared the winner of the closest House race in decades. An election contest in Iowa would have set in motion the formation of a five-judge panel that would have been required to rule on who won the race by Tuesday, Dec. 8.
- The Week
Several Republican lawmakers are showing enthusiasm for a potential 2024 run from President Trump, Politico reports.Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) went so far as to say he would support Trump's candidacy if he chooses to run, while Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said he "should run and would have the support" of the Republican Party.Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.), both of whom have had their names floated as potential presidential candidates, also indicated to Politico that they'd back Trump's effort to return to the White House, as did Sens. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who said the U.S. "would benefit tremendously" from another Trump term. Blackburn, though, is still holding out hope Trump will win his doomed battle to overturn the 2020 results.Not everyone was overtly enthusiastic, however, including some of Trump's notable allies like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who declined to comment. Cotton is another senator many speculate could launch his own bid, so he may be keeping things close to the vest. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), meanwhile, said he doesn't talk about hypotheticals, a point echoed by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) may have been the hardest to read. He repeated his opinion that Trump would be the clear favorite if he ran, but didn't hint one way or another how he'd feel about it. "I know it's an interesting story, but I have no idea," he told Politico.More stories from theweek.com 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims Biden says he's concerned about reports Trump is considering preemptive pardons Trump administration pushes ahead with sale of oil and gas leases in Alaska wildlife refuge
Philippine police on Friday threatened to cane people who violate social distancing protocols as the Southeast Asian nation fights the spread of the coronavirus during the festive season. The Philippines celebrates one of the world's longest Christmas seasons, starting as early as September, and crowds have started to flock to sprawling malls and shopping centres despite the pandemic. Police general Cesar Binag, commander of the coronavirus task force, told a news conference that police and soldiers would patrol in public areas in the capital Manila, the hotspot of COVID-19 cases, carrying 1 meter rattan sticks to measure distancing.
- Associated Press
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has named Tina Flournoy, a veteran Democratic strategist and aide to the Clintons, as her chief of staff, the transition team announced Thursday. Flournoy's appointment as Harris' top staffer adds to a team of advisers led by Black women. Harris, who is of Jamaican and Indian heritage, is the nation's first female vice president.
- The Independent
Educator says she wants to keep on teaching when Joe Biden becomes president
- The Telegraph
Former Hong Kong politician Ted Hui has announced he has chosen to go into exile as Beijing intensifies its crackdown on high-profile figures of the former British colony’s pro-democracy movement. Mr Hui, 38, initially fled to Denmark this week where he was joined by his family, but he said he would make his way to the UK to continue his pro-democratic activities. He joins Nathan Law, a prominent Hong Kong human rights activist now based in London, and a growing diaspora of dissidents who are continuing to advocate for more international pressure on China to allow greater rights and freedoms in the Asian financial hub. “My personal determination is that my exile will not be a migration. My only home is Hong Kong which is why I will not apply for asylum in any country,” said Mr Hui, adding that he would make it his “life mission” to fight for the city’s freedom. “There is no word to explain my pain and it’s hard to hold back tears,” he said as he announced his decision via Facebook. Mr Hui also revealed he had resigned from the opposition Democratic Party of Hong Kong. Last month he was one of 15 legislators who quit the city’s legislative council in protest at Beijing’s decision to oust four colleagues over their political views.
- The Week
FBI directors are appointed for 10-year terms, largely to insulate them from political pressure, and presidents rarely cut those terms short. President Trump did, firing FBI Director James Comey soon in May 2017 — prompting the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller — and he has come close to firing Comey's successor, Christopher Wray, several times, The New York Times reports. President-elect Joe Biden plans on returning to the regular norms and customs. Wray, like Comey, is a Republican.Biden is "not removing the FBI director unless Trump fired him," a senior Biden adviser tells the Times. Advisers also said Biden is leaning toward appointing David S. Cohen as CIA director, though he hasn't made any final decision. Cohen, a former deputy CIA director, is backed by Biden's choice for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, the Times reports, and "ensuring an easy partnership between Ms. Haines and the CIA director is a priority of the new administration."Trump soured on Wray soon after appointing him, and it took an intervention by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Attorney General William Barr to talk Trump down from firing him over the summer, the Times reports. Trump reportedly told advisers in the fall that he would fire Wray right after the election. If he follows through, Biden will be able to pick a director of his choosing.More stories from theweek.com The Donald goes down to Georgia Biden says he's concerned about reports Trump is considering preemptive pardons 5 absurdly funny cartoons about Trump's desperate fraud claims
Two coronavirus vaccine candidates developed by China's Clover Biopharmaceuticals triggered strong immune responses in an early-stage human trial and appeared to be safe, the company said on Friday. The vaccine candidates, one containing an adjuvant from GlaxoSmithKline and the other from Dynavax, induced strong immune responses including neutralizing antibodies and cell-mediated immunity in a Phase 1 clinical trial, Clover said.
- Associated Press
A top Pakistani court on Wednesday declared the country’s ailing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who lives in exile in London, a fugitive from justice after he failed to return home to face additional corruption charges. The move by the Islamabad High Court comes months after Sharif was given the chance to voluntarily return home. The next court hearing will be held in a week’s time, when the judges will discuss whether to proceed with the hearings and try Sharif in absentia.