Wednesday, March 31, 2021

New Mexico primed to join US recreational pot wave

Tourist Rene Greenmyer takes a picture of her friend Dawn Plonkey, outside the state capitol building on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Arizona residents happened to pass by the 1999 bronze sculpture "Passage," by Dan Namingha as New Mexico lawmakers met in a special session to revisit a sprawling set of marijuana legalization proposals that led to a deadlock during the regular session earlier in March. Plonkey says she doesn't use marijuana but voted in favor of a ballot initiative to legalize it in Arizona. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio) | Photo: AP

Updated: March 31, 2021 

SANTA FE, N.M (AP) - New Mexico is joining a wave of states that are legalizing recreational marijuana as its Democrat-dominated Legislature sent a package of cannabis bills Wednesday to a supportive governor.

Lawmakers used a marathon two-day legislative session to push through marijuana legalization for adults over 21 and a companion bill that automatically erases many past marijuana convictions, overriding skeptical Republicans.

By signing the bills, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham would extend legal recreational pot sales in the American Southwest by April 2022, when the New Mexico legislation kicks in, and join 16 states that have legalized marijuana, mostly through direct ballot initiatives. California and Colorado were among the first in the U.S. to legalize marijuana, with Arizona becoming one of the latest in the region to follow suit earlier this year. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a legalization bill Wednesday, and a proposal in Virginia is awaiting the governor's signature.

The New Mexico initiative would reconsider criminal drug sentences for about 100 prisoners, and give the governor a strong hand in licensing the industry and monitoring supplies.

New Mexico flirted with cannabis legalization in the 1990s, when then-Gov. Gary Johnson challenged taboos against decriminalization in defiance of Republican allies. The state's medical marijuana program founded in 2007 has attracted more than 100,000 patients.

The Legislature was reticent to legalize until now. Several hardline opponents of legalization in the state Senate were voted out of office by Democrats in 2020 primary elections, in a shift that paved the way for Wednesday's historic vote.

Under the advancing legalization package, New Mexico would levy an initial excise tax on recreational marijuana sales of 12% that eventually rises to 18%. That's on top of current gross receipts on sales that range from roughly 5% to 9%.

Possession of up to 2 ounces (57 grams) of marijuana would cease to be a crime, and people would be allowed six plants at home - or up to 12 per househ

The reforms would eliminate taxes on the sales of medical marijuana and seek to ensure adequate medicinal supplies.

"The United States of America is in the midst of a sea change when it comes to this," said Democratic state Rep. Javier Martinez of Albuquerque, lead sponsor of the legalization bill. "This bill begins to repair the harms of prohibition."

State oversight would largely fall to the governor-appointed superintendent of the Regulation and Licensing Department that would issue licenses for a fee to marijuana-related businesses. The agency initially would have the authority to limit marijuana production levels by major producers - a lever over market supplies and pricing.

Several senators warned against the production cap as a recipe for creating a government sanctioned monopoly, amid lobbying for price supports by some incumbent medical marijuana producers.

The legalization bill creates a cannabis control division to oversee 10 types of industry licenses. Those include micro-licenses with low annual fees for small producers to grow up to 200 marijuana plants and also package and sell their products.

Bill sponsor Martinez says that provides an important measure of equity, within a bill designed to support communities that suffered from criminalization of marijuana and tough policing.

Past drug convictions don't automatically disqualify applicants for marijuana business licenses. The odor of marijuana or suspicion of possession are no longer legal grounds to stop, detain or search people.

Legalization bill co-sponsor Rep. Deborah Armstrong says New Mexico will respond to early pitfalls of legalization in other states as it mandates child-proof packaging for marijuana products.

Public health advocates condemned provisions that allow public consumption lounges for recreational cannabis, citing the dangers of second-hand smoke and vapor to workers and patrons.

Lawmakers discarded a Republican-sponsored bill from Sen. Cliff Pirtle of Roswell that emphasized low taxes in an effort to stamp out illicit weed and would have provided low-cost licenses to small pot farmers by linking fees to the number of plants in cultivation.

Local governments cannot prohibit pot businesses but can regulate locations and hours of operation, under the proposal. Bill sponsors say that sheriffs and police want consistency from town-to-town on rules and enforcement.

Republican state Sen. Gay Kernan of Hobbs voted against legalization and said she was amazed that legislative colleagues would support the freedom to buy mind-altering drugs amid New Mexico's struggles with poverty and opioid overdoses.

"I just think it's terribly unfair to impose this kind of significant change in our way of life and areas of the state that clearly do not welcome this," Kernan said.


Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.

(Copyright 2021 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Company at heart of J&J vaccine woes has series of citations

MARCH 31, 2021 

FILE - In this March 25, 2021 file photo, a box of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is shown in a refrigerator at a clinic in Washington state. A batch of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine failed quality standards and can’t be used, the drug giant said late Wednesday, March 31, 2021. The drugmaker didn’t say how many doses were lost, and it wasn’t clear how the problem would impact future deliveries. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) TED S. WARREN AP

The company at the center of quality problems that led Johnson & Johnson to discard an unknown amount of its coronavirus vaccine has a string of citations from U.S. health officials for quality control problems.

Emergent BioSolutons, a little-known company at the center of the vaccine supply chain, was a key to Johnson & Johnson's plan to deliver 100 million doses of its vaccine to the U.S. by the end of May. But the company has been cited repeatedly by the Food and Drug Administration for problems such as poorly trained employees, cracked vials and mold around one of its facilities, according to records obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act. The records cover inspections at Emergent facilities since 2017.

Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday that a batch of vaccine made by Emergent at its Baltimore factory, known as Bayview, can't be used because it didn't meet quality standards. It wasn't clear exactly how many doses were involved or how the problem would affect future delivers of J&J's vaccine. The company said in a statement it was still planning to deliver 100 million doses by the end of June and was “aiming to deliver those doses by the end of May.”

J&J locked arms with Emergent in April 2020, enlisting the lesser-known company to manufacture the vaccine J&J was developing with federal funding. At the time, Emergent’s Bayview facility wasn’t scaled for making millions of doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine, according to the FDA records that describe the plant as a contract testing laboratory that “did not manufacture products for distribution.” Upgrades in technology and personnel were required before Bayview could begin making what’s known as “drug substance” material for the vaccine, a two-month process during which the required biological cells are grown.

The FDA inspected Emergent’s Bayview plant in April 2020, just as the agreement with J&J was being announced. The federal agency criticized the company for problems with its testing of a potential treatment for anthrax, according to the records obtained by the AP. The FDA’s lead investigator cited the company for failing to train employees “in the particular operations they perform as part of their function and current good manufacturing practices.”

On the same day, Johnson & Johnson, in a separate news release, heralded its partnership with Emergent as a step toward the pharmaceutical giant’s goal of supplying more than 1 billion doses of the vaccine globally by the end of 2021.

Other problems cited by the FDA during the April 2020 inspection included failures by the Bayview plant “to ensure that electronically held data generated during analytical testing” of material “was protected from deletion or manipulation.” The FDA’s lead investigator, Marcellinus Dordunoo, wrote that Emergent hadn’t investigated what he described as “data integrity concerns.”

The inspection was the most recent in a series of critical reports from the FDA about Emergent, including one following a December 2017 inspection at a plant in Canton, Massachusetts, in which the FDA said the company hadn’t corrected “continued low level mold and yeast isolates” found in the facility. Nearly a year later, agency investigators questioned why Emergent had “an unwritten policy of not conducting routine compliance audits” at a separate plant in Baltimore, known as Camden, where an anthrax vaccine is filled into vials.

Emergent’s revenues skyrocketed during the Trump administration, jumping from around $523 million in 2015 to more than $1.5 billion in 2020. The company has invested heavily in lobbying the federal government, according to disclosure records, which show the company spent $3.6 million on lobbying in 2020 alone.

Emergent is one of about 10 companies that Johnson & Johnson is using to speed up manufacturing of its recently approved vaccine, the company said. The Bayview factory where the tainted vaccine ingredient was found had not yet been approved by the FDA, so no vaccine in circulation is affected. Emergent declined to comment.

President Joe Biden has pledged to have enough vaccines for all U.S. adults by the end of May. The U.S. government has ordered enough two-dose shots from Pfizer and Moderna to vaccinate 200 million people to be delivered by late May, plus the 100 million single-dose shots from J&J.

A federal official said Wednesday evening the administration’s goal can be met without additional J&J doses.

A J&J spokesman said earlier Wednesday that the company met the end-of-March goal, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s online vaccine tracker showed J&J had provided about 6.8 million doses to the U.S. vaccine effort. J&J has been shipping finished vaccines from its factory in the Netherlands to the U.S.

J&J said it was putting more of its manufacturing and quality experts inside Emergent’s factory to supervise production of the COVID-19 vaccine, a move meant to enable delivery of an additional 24 million vaccine doses through April.

J&J said it still expects to deliver more than 1 billion vaccine doses globally by the end of the year.

The J&J vaccine has been viewed as crucial for vaccination campaigns around the world, because only one shot is required and it can be shipped and stored at standard refrigeration temperatures, unlike some other vials that must be kept frozen. The company also has pledged to sell the vaccine without a profit, but only during the pandemic emergency.

The problem with the vaccine batch was first reported by The New York Times. The FDA said it was aware of the situation but declined further comment.


Johnson reported from Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, and Lardner from Washington. Associated Press writers Matt Perrone and Zeke Miller in Washington and Jason Dearen in New York contributed to this report.


Contact AP’s global investigative team at Follow Richard Lardber on Twitter at @RPLardner.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.




Turkey: request to close HDP rejected on procedural grounds

Constitutional court sends back dossier to prosecutor

31 MARCH, 

ISTANBUL - The Turkish Constitutional Court has sent back an indictment demanding the closure of pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) to the prosecutor over alleged ties to "PKK terrorists", Anadolu news agency reports. The court cited procedural mistakes in the dossier of over 600 pages. The halt to an attempt to shut down the HDP, the third-largest force in Parliament thanks to the nearly six million votes obtained during the last elections, was in the air after the reporting judge, appointed by the Constitutional Court, had noted several formal mistakes in the indictment, including the wrong identification of some of the 687 members of the party for which it was requested to suspend all political activities for five years. Two of them have reportedly died.

The prosecutor of the Court of Cassation will have to correct the reported errors before it can file a new request to dissolve the party accused by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his nationalist allies of the MHP to be the political arm of the PKK. The HDP has always denied the allegations after enduring harsh repression for years in Turkey, with dozens of mayors and lawmakers ousted and hundreds of militants and leaders detained, including the charismatic leader Selahattin Demirtas, who has been in jail since 2016.

Why Amazon-backed food delivery app Deliveroo flopped in its market debut


Deliveroo shares plunged around 30% shortly after the London Stock Exchange opened Wednesday.

The food delivery app — founded and led by American entrepreneur and former Morgan Stanley analyst Will Shu — has become one of the best-known start-ups in the U.K.

But Deliveroo has been plagued by worries over the risks to its business model if regulators crack down on the gig economy

A distributor of Deliveroo is seen riding his bike with a package with food on a street on July 31, 2019 in Madrid, Spain.
Jesús Hellín | Europa Press | Getty Images

LONDON — When Deliveroo chose London for its hotly anticipated IPO, the food delivery company was hailed as a “true British tech success story” by U.K. Finance Minister Rishi Sunak.

But the Amazon-backed company failed to deliver on its first day of trading Wednesday. Shares plunged sharply as markets opened, with investors questioning Deliveroo’s ability to generate profits and an eye-popping £7.6 billion ($10.5 billion) valuation.

“That path to profitability is what is potentially under threat if we see increased regulation around workers’ rights,” Hargreaves Lansdown equity analyst Sophie Lund-Yates told CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe.”

“I think that is the biggest reason we have seen so much anxiety injected into the trading this morning.”

The food delivery app — founded and led by American entrepreneur and former Morgan Stanley analyst Will Shu — has become one of the best-known start-ups in the U.K. It employs over 2,000 people across 12 markets and uses a network of over 100,000 riders to deliver food from 115,000 restaurants and grocers. By market value, its IPO is London’s biggest since Glencore went public nearly a decade ago.

But the stock got a frosty reception from investors. Deliveroo has been plagued by worries over the risks to its business model if regulators crack down on the gig economy. Earlier this month, Uber reclassified all 70,000 of its U.K. drivers as workers entitled to a minimum wage and other benefits, after the country’s Supreme Court ruled that a group of the app’s drivers should be treated as workers.

Deliveroo issued its shares at just £3.90, right at the bottom of its initial range. However, shortly after trading started on the London Stock Exchange, the share price fell 30% to around £2.73 and questions are now being asked about how much further it can fall. Theoretically, Deliveroo can cancel the IPO until April 7 as it has opted for a “conditional offer.”

VIDEO 03:26 Workers’ rights threaten Deliveroo profitability, says analyst

By comparison, U.S. rival DoorDash saw its shares surge more than 85% on the opening day of trading in December, giving it a market cap of over $60 billion at the time. Closer to home, Deliveroo faces fierce competition from the likes of Uber and Just Eat Takeaway. That rivalry has added to concerns about the ability of Deliveroo to grow its margins and eventually become profitable.

The Deliveroo listing was led by investment banks JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs, with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citi, Jefferies and Numis also part of the syndicate. The stock was overallocated but that didn’t stop it tanking as it floated, leaving some early investors frustrated with how the investment banks priced the company’s shares.

Three hedge funds bet against Deliveroo’s stock Wednesday with short positions, according to two people familiar with the matter who preferred to remain anonymous as the details haven’t been made public. Short selling is a strategy in which an investor sells borrowed shares and buys them back in future at a lower price, the aim being to pocket the difference if the stock price declines.


Several top institutional funds have shunned Deliveroo’s IPO, citing regulatory risks around its business model and governance. Deliveroo decided to opt for a dual-class share structure, meaning that its founder would have greater voting rights than other investors.

While London is pushing for this type of structure to be permitted on the premium segment of its stock exchange — which makes firms eligible for inclusion in benchmark indexes like the FTSE 100 — top investment firms have complained that this may risk watering down investor protections.

“Deliveroo has gone from hero to zero as the much-hyped stock market debut falls flat on its face,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell. “It had better get used to the nickname ‘Flopperoo.’”

“The narrative took a turn for the worst when multiple fund managers came out and said they wouldn’t back the business due to concerns about working practices,” Mould added. “This is likely to have spooked a lot of people who applied for shares in the IPO offer, meaning they are racing to dump them.”

Deliveroo tried to persuade its customers in the U.K. to buy £50 million worth of shares in the IPO via its app. These retail investors — who were able to spend £250 to £1,000 on shares — are locked in until April 7, meaning they can’t sell their shares until restrictions lift.

“RIP my investment,” wrote amateur investor and primatologist Sam Elliot on Twitter after seeing Deliveroo’s share price collapse.

“Thankfully I did the minimum investment of £250 as I knew it was a risky investment,” he told CNBC.

VIDEO 09:24 Dark kitchens: Where does your food delivery really come from?

Fred Destin, a venture capital investor who backed Deliveroo in its early days, is optimistic the company will rebound. “Deliveroo might be facing some headwinds but I’m very bullish on the long term opportunity,” he told CNBC. “I think the market will over time recognize that it is a resilient and defensible business.”

Manish Madhvani, co-founder and managing partner at tech investment firm GP Bullhound, said the initial figures are a “bit of a setback” for London, which was “gaining momentum as a listings destination.”

However, he said it’s important to note that the company is still highly valued. “There may have been a mistake on the pricing given the market conditions, but we shouldn’t forget how truly pioneering the Deliveroo model is, rather than getting bogged down in the headlines,” he said.

Growth to value

Another big concern for investors is the sustainability of high-growth companies like Deliveroo as countries around the world seek to reopen their economies. The rollout of coronavirus vaccines has put pressure on U.S. tech stocks trading at significantly high multiples to revenue, such as Zoom, Netflix and Amazon.

Such companies benefited during the pandemic due to lockdown restrictions that resulted in people spending much more of their time at home. Zoom, Netflix and Amazon are still up roughly 107%, 38% and 56% in the last 12 months, respectively.

“From a more cynical point of view, conditions are about as good as they will ever be when everyone is literally locked in their house,” Hargreaves’ Lund-Yates told CNBC, adding the company is “really banking on” stay-at-home trends continuing long after the pandemic.

“Is the current valuation justified?” she added. “It is sadly a case of wait and see there. It’s a big question.”

Deliveroo's share price tumble dents CEO Will Shu's fortune by $144 million during opening hours of trading
Kate Duffy
Will Shu, Deliveroo CEO and cofounder, inaugurates its first Deliveroo kitchen site in France, called Deliveroo Editions on July 3, 2018 in Saint-Ouen, France. Aurelien Morissard/IP3/Getty Images

Deliveroo CEO Will Shu saw the value of his stake in the firm fall to $474 million on its stock market debut.

His stake was worth $618 million at the opening share price, but fell as investors shunned the IPO.

Shu is also thought to have sold shares worth around $36 million when the firm listed.

Deliveroo CEO Will Shu is a wealthy man after the food delivery firm he cofounded floated on the London Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

Shu, the largest individual shareholder at Deliveroo, is thought to have sold around 6.7 million shares when the market opened, at the opening price of £3.90 ($5.35), making $36 million from that transaction.

The value of his remaining 6.3% stake is not currently as high as anticipated, after shares in the firm tumbled as much as 30% on its debut.

At the time of writing, the drop has seen Shu's stake in the firm plummet to a value of $474 million in the opening hours of trading, down $144 million from $618 million at open.

The company's listing price range for the IPO was between 390 pence ($5.35) and 460 pence ($6.33). At the higher end of the range, Shu's stake would have been worth as much as $729 million.

Shu's stake will fluctuate throughout the day and its value could end up being higher or lower by market close.

Read more: Here's the 5 things investors need to know ahead of the Deliveroo IPO

Deliveroo's IPO gave it an opening valuation of about $10.5 billion but it shed more than $2.7 billion in market value in its first hours as a public firm under the ticker "ROO."

The company, founded in 2013 by Shu and his friend Greg Orlowski, has faced criticism from large investors and activists in the run-up to its IPO over its business model.

Deliveroo's app allows consumers to order grocery and food on demand, and the firm relies on a network of gig-economy riders to ferry the goods out.

At least six investment firms, including Aviva Investors, Rathbones, Legal & General, and Standard Life Aberdeen, announced they wouldn't invest in Deliveroo. Some cited both its lack of full-year profitability, and the threat posed to future profitability by its ongoing reliance on gig-economy riders.

"Deliveroo has gone from hero to zero as the much-hyped stock market debut falls flat on its face," said AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould on Wednesday. "It had better get used to the nickname 'Flopperoo'."

Deliveroo IPO flop deals blow to London's tech ambitions

Oscar Williams-Grut
·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Wed, March 31, 2021

Watch: Amazon backed Deliveroo slumps in trading debut

When food delivery startup Deliveroo announced plans to list on the London Stock Exchange at the start of the month, UK chancellor Rishi Suank personally lauded the move.

Sunak hailed the company as a "true British tech success story" and said Deliveroo would be the first of many major tech companies to chose London.

"We are looking at reforms to encourage even more high growth, dynamic businesses to list in the UK," the chancellor said. "So it's fantastic that Deliveroo has taken this decision to list on the London Stock Exchange."

Deliveroo was meant to be the flag bearer for a new wave of tech companies coming to London thanks to stock market reforms announced in this year's budget.

Now those ambitions are in doubt after Deliveroo's disastrous IPO. Shares sunk 30% in the minutes after trading began on the company's first day of dealing on Wednesday. The slump was the worst opening day performance of a major listing in years.

"On one side, you say it’s a bit of a disaster since any tech company now would think: no way London isn’t the place – the big funds are not on my side and the regulations are still not that good," said Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at "On the other, it could really reinforce the need for change or the City would miss out on much more."

The question many bankers and tech executives will be asking themselves is: were Deliveroo's problems a one-off or is London still less tech-friendly than New York?

READ MORE: Deliveroo shares plunge on London stock market debut

"This certainly isn’t the London PR opportunity the government would have been hoping for," said Sophie Lund-Yates, a senior equity analyst at stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown.

Deliveroo's problems were apparent from the start. Shortly after the IPO was announced several of the City of London's biggest institutional investors — including Aviva (AV.L), Aberdeen Standard Life (SLA.L) and L&G (LGEN.L) — all lined up to publicly say they would not take part in the float.

Investors were concerned about Deliveroo's treatment of delivery drivers, its persistent losses, a chunky valuation, and the IPO's structure, which gave founder William Shu continued control of the company even after listing.

UK's chancellor of the exchequer, BILLIONAIRE Rishi Sunak. Photo: PA

"Share structure has clearly been a big issue for UK investors," said Freddy Colquhoun, investment director at JM Finn, a money manager that invests over £9bn ($12bn) of client funds.

"I think there was an assumption that what works in the US would work in the UK too and investors would be accepting of the out-sized voting influence of Shu. This, coupled with concerns over regulatory pressures coming [and] the timing of the IPO just as we unlock restrictions, meant that a toppy valuation for a loss making business was not flavour of the day."

Like many others institutions, JM Finn avoided Deliveroo's listing.

Bankers cut the proposed value of the business by £1bn ahead of the float but the price cut wasn't enough to address more fundamental concerns.

A Deliveroo rider cycles through central London. 
Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

READ MORE: Deliveroo IPO to list at bottom end of projected range

Deliveroo lets freelancers book jobs to deliver food on its platform and pays per order completed. The company disclosed in its prospectus that it was involved in labour disputes in the UK, France, Spain, the Netherlands, and Italy. Governments in Australia, the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy are investigating its working arrangements.

These disclosures made worrying reading given the rising focus on ESG in the City — environmental, social, and governance factors. Concerns about a potential rise in operating costs were also heightened by Deliveroo's persistent losses. The company has lost £785m over the last three years, although revenues have grown rapidly over the same period.

"I think the market is waking up to reality," said Bill Blain, a strategist at Shard Capital. "Firms in a low margin, highly competitive, no-barriers to entry sector are unlikely to succeed – whatever the technological advantage they claim."

Some of the issues Deliveroo faced — such as regulatory pressure and the nature of the food delivery market — are relatively unique. Others — such as a hefty valuation for a loss making company and a dual-class share structure — are far more universal to the tech industry. It raises questions about whether London's investment community is ready to accept high-growth tech businesses even if rules are relaxed.

“The initial figures for Deliveroo are a bit of a setback as London was gaining momentum as a listings destination," said Manish Madhvani, co-founder and managing partner at technology investment and advisory firm GP Bullhound.

"So much great work has gone into creating unicorns companies and global household tech names, which we then eventually lose to the US markets. That is a core problem that needs addressing."

A DoorDash food delivery person makes his way through 
slushy snow in Times Square in New York, US.
 Photo: Anthony Behar/Sipa USA

Many people are struck by the comparison with DoorDash (DASH), a US food delivery app which saw its shares surge 86% in New York after its IPO. The company lost $667m (£485m) last year on revenues of $885m. Deliveroo lost £225bn last year on revenues of £1.2bn. DoorDash is currently valued at $41bn, while Deliveroo's first day slump puts it closer to £5.5bn.

"We need to change how we perceive loss-making businesses," said Madhvani. "If we don’t do that in the UK, we will keep losing valuable businesses to the US."

Still, most in the City of London don't believe Deliveroo's flop will permanently damage London's tech ambitions.

"A lot of the fundamental jitters in this case are more company, rather than country, specific," said Lund-Yates.

At least part of Deliveroo's poor IPO performance also came down to timing. Investors attention has been shifting away from tech businesses towards companies that will benefit when economies began to reopen. Several recent US tech floats have been forced to price at the lower end of expectations and seen shares fall below their opening day price.

"Deliveroo firmly falls into the pandemic winners category, but at a time when traders are looking for value recovery plays, this doesn’t look like the most attractive proposition," said Josh Mahoney, a senior market analyst at IG.

Blain said the UK government was "damn silly" to make Deliveroo a flagship deal but predicted British investors would welcome better tech businesses with open arms.

"It remains critical that top tech firms can and will list in London – and it will happen," he said.
Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan, explained by VOX

Biden’s new plan takes an expansive view of infrastructure.

By Ella Mar 31, 2021
President Joe Biden talks to reporters during the first news conference of his presidency in the East Room of the White House on March 25 in Washington, DC. 
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Joe Biden proposed his opening bid on Wednesday for a $2 trillion infrastructure package that pushes the US toward a clean energy economy.

The bulk of Biden’s plan involves upgrading America’s roads, bridges, and public transit. But it also takes a sweeping definition of the word “infrastructure,” expanding long-term care for older adults through Medicaid, banning exclusionary zoning, and investing in community-based violence reduction programs, among many other things.

The American Jobs Plan, which he formally introduced Wednesday at a union training center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will invest about $2 trillion over the next eight years, amounting to about 1 percent of America’s GDP per year over that time, an administration official estimated.

“It’s time to build our economy from the bottom up and the middle out,” Biden said, emphasizing the need for more good paying and union jobs. “Wall Street didn’t build this country; you, the middle class, built this country. And unions built the middle class.”

The plan includes $621 billion in infrastructure spending dedicated to rebuilding the nation’s roads, bridges, ports, and rail systems. It also contains $300 billion to bolster manufacturing, $213 billion for affordable housing, and a collective $380 billion for research and development, modernizing America’s electricity grid, and installing high-speed broadband around the country. The plan also includes $400 billion for home- and community-based health and elder care.

Vox’s German Lopez is here to guide you through the Biden administration’s unprecedented burst of policymaking. Sign up to receive our newsletter each Friday.

The White House estimates the infrastructure plan will be paid for within the next 15 years, if Biden’s newly proposed “Made in America” tax plan is also passed. That tax plan would raise the corporate tax rate to 28 percent to pay for infrastructure and close a number of loopholes to prevent corporations from stashing their money in offshore banks to evade taxes. It does not, however, raise the capital gains tax — an idea Biden initially floated during his presidential campaign.

Biden plans to argue that revitalizing American infrastructure will create millions of well-paying jobs, lower the country’s carbon emissions, and help the US compete on the world stage, especially with China.

“Part of the economic logic of this plan is that this is not just about infrastructure, but it’s about creating more jobs and more industrial strength in the United States,” a Biden administration official told reporters. “When you make these infrastructure investments and couple it with the president’s commitment to buy American, you’re pulling forward and creating demand that will help accelerate new industries in the US.”

Biden’s infrastructure package will be paired with a second piece of his jobs plan, focused on paid family and medical leave and expanded health insurance, which he’s expected to unveil in the coming weeks.

This wide-ranging list of priorities — with another package yet to come — shows just how much Biden and congressional Democrats are hoping to pass in a relatively short time. With the 2022 midterms on the horizon, Democrats are running against the clock with already razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate. Unless Democrats can convince the Senate parliamentarian otherwise, they have only one more chance to pass a bunch of priorities through budget reconciliation — which requires just 51 votes, rather than the filibuster-proof 60.

Biden’s jobs plan also reveals an administration that is fundamentally rethinking the role of government in America. Rather than the anti-government ethos that has permeated both Democratic and Republican administrations since Ronald Reagan, the Biden administration is embracing the big-government mantle of historic Democratic Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Multiple sources told Vox that while the White House plans to make bipartisan overtures to congressional Republicans, they ultimately view budget reconciliation as a reliable fallback plan to get an ambitious package passed.

“I think that is the endgame of all of this, most of this will be done through a reconciliation package,” a Democratic congressional aide told Vox. “That’s what the White House believes at the end of the day.”

Even so, the process will likely drag on much longer than the passage of Biden’s earlier $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus bill. Precisely because the stimulus bill was passed so quickly, there is a lot of pent-up demand from lawmakers to get their state’s and district’s priorities included. Many members will be jockeying for their wish lists to be included in the next budget package.

Infrastructure will dominate conversations on Capitol Hill for months to come. To start, here’s Biden’s next big economic proposal, broken down.

What’s in the American Jobs Act

The Biden administration’s first priority was always to get the pandemic under control. Now that vaccinations are ramping up and Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package is law, the president is turning to jobs.

The American Jobs Plan is designed to spur job growth in a number of sectors, including construction, clean energy, and long-term care. The plan envisions millions of housing units, school buildings, and veterans’ hospitals being built and retrofitted, lead pipes being eliminated from America’s water infrastructure, and 500,000 electrical vehicle charging stations being installed on the nation’s roadways.

Comparing the plan’s investment to the creation of the American highway system in the 1950s and the space race of the ’50s and ’60s, a Biden administration official said the goal of the plan is to “revitalize our national imagination and put millions of Americans right now in work that’s desperately needed for the nation.”

Here are the toplines of what’s in the American Jobs Plan.

The $621 billion in infrastructure spending is the largest chunk of Biden’s plan, aiming to modernize 20,000 miles of highways, roads, and main streets, fix the 10 most economically significant bridges in the country, and repair 10,000 smaller bridges. Biden’s plan calls for $85 billion to modernize public transit and $80 billion to be put toward Amtrak for repairs and improving train corridors.

Invests $174 billion in the electric vehicle market, building out a network of 500,000 EV chargers on roads by 2030. The plan also calls for the electrification of 20 percent of the school bus fleet, and using federal procurement to electrify the entire federal fleet, including the US Postal Service. It also talks about giving consumers point of sale rebates and tax incentives to buy American-made electric vehicles, incorporating a plan from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Eliminates all lead pipes and service lines in drinking water systems, and puts $56 billion in grants and flexible loans to states, tribes, and territories to upgrade drinking, wastewater, and stormwater systems.

Invests $100 billion to build out the nation’s high-speed broadband infrastructure to 100 percent coverage, including in remote and rural areas. Biden’s plan also commits to working with Congress to reduce the price of broadband, but doesn’t specify exactly how.

Invests $213 billion to build and retrofit over 2 million homes and commercial buildings, including community colleges, aging schools, child care facilities, veterans’ hospitals, and federal buildings. Biden’s plan calls for 1 million affordable housing units to be produced or retrofitted, and over 500,000 homes for low- and middle-income homebuyers to be built or rehabilitated. The plan also calls for the elimination of exclusionary zoning.

Puts $16 billion toward plugging old oil and gas wells, abandoned coal and uranium mines, as well as funding environmental resiliency jobs including restoring forests, wetlands, and watersheds. The plan calls for $10 billion to create a Civilian Climate Corps to conserve public lands and waters, one of Biden’s campaign promises. Conservation advocates argued that environmental restoration and resilience jobs like these can put people to work even more quickly than clean energy jobs. “Some of the earliest job wins you’re going to see are going to be in the restoration space,” Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, told Vox. “They don’t require materials or construction, new fabrication of different goods and materials. The only thing that’s needed is money.”

Invests $100 billion to modernize the nation’s electrical grid, and extend and expand the production and investment tax credits to accelerate clean energy jobs and projects in wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy.

The bill also includes some ideas that might stretch the traditional definition of infrastructure:

Bolsters unions by calling on Congress to pass the pro-union Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Biden’s plan similarly asks Congress to tie federal investments in clean energy and infrastructure to prevailing wage laws, and requires that investments in transportation meet existing transit labor protection

Bans “exclusionary zoning” and harmful land-use policies, including minimum lot sizes, mandatory parking requirements, and prohibitions on multifamily housing.

Expands long-term care under Medicaid, increasing access to home and community-based services and giving more people the chance to receive care at home. The Biden administration’s plan aims to increase the quality of care-giving jobs and offer home health workers more chances to unionize and increase their wages

As part of a plan to target workforce development in underserved communities, Biden’s plan would put $5 billion over eight years to support evidence-based community violence prevention programs, and invest in job training for formerly incarcerated individuals.

It’s worth repeating that this wide-ranging plan is Biden’s opening bid, not a final product. The next few months of negotiations with Congress will ultimately determine how many of these provisions will make it into a final bill — and it will take even more negotiations to get that bill passed.

Biden’s infrastructure plan is also a climate plan

Biden’s infrastructure plans contain one of his key campaign promises to tackle climate change: getting the nation’s economy to be powered by 100 percent clean electricity by 2035.

“This is something that is part of the president’s plan and that he intends to work with Congress on,” the Biden administration official said of the clean energy standard in the infrastructure plan.

Biden’s administration has been bullish on the potential of wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy to become the primary source of power in the United States. Wind and solar are becoming attractive to utility companies simply because they’ve become much cheaper forms of power than what’s generated by fossil fuels. Renewables already produced 20 percent of US electricity in 2020 and could be poised to generate a greater share if Biden’s plan is passed by Congress.

Even with the weight of the federal government behind this goal, getting the country to 100 percent clean electricity will be easier said than done. Industry and utility representatives told Vox that getting the nation to 80 percent renewable electricity by 2035 is viewed as doable, but finishing the last 20 percent will be more challenging.

“It’s going to require everything we have from a policy and technology standpoint, and all of the tools we have in our toolbox,” Dr. Karen Wayland, policy adviser to electricity utility coalition group Gridwise Alliance, told Vox.

Congressional Democrats writ large — but especially progressives — view Biden’s infrastructure bill as their best hope to do something meaningful on climate change. Already, the effects of a warming planet are inescapable, with frequent strong storms and historic wildfires and droughts. As Biden releases his plan, progressives are already calling for something much bigger — $10 trillion in spending over the next decade on infrastructure and climate change.

“We think this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really put forward what we know we need to tackle the climate crisis that we face,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), also chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told Vox in a recent interview.

Progressives have been in constant communication with White House staff, including White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, communicating their desire for the administration to go even bigger.

“While this plan represents some of the boldest thinking we’ve seen from the Democratic Party in the last decade, the fact is it’s not bold enough to defeat the crises facing our country now,” Evan Weber, political director of youth climate organization Sunrise Movement, told Vox. “We’re definitely communicating with the administration how we’re feeling every step of the way.”

The next few months will be the real test for Democratic unity

With some Democratic lawmakers in the House already threatening to withhold their votes in order for a state and local tax deduction to be included in any tax policy changes to pay for infrastructure, lines are already being drawn within the Democratic caucus.

During Covid-19 relief bill negotiations, Biden was able to get the final product remarkably close to what he originally proposed. That could be much more difficult to replicate with an infrastructure package.

Whatever line the White House had to walk between pleasing moderate and progressive Democrats during the American Rescue Plan process will only be magnified in the coming months. Progressives will push the White House to be bolder, while moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) will push them to work with Republicans — who almost certainly would fight any attempt to raise taxes on corporations or the wealthy to pay for a massive bill.

“The question there is really what’s going to make it through the legislative process,” former Obama climate adviser John Podesta told Vox in a recent interview.

The process of drafting and passing an infrastructure bill and a pay-for structure that the White House, the Senate, and the House all agree on will likely be drawn out through the summer and into the fall. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has laid out a September deadline to pass the approximately $500 billion five-year surface transportation reauthorization bill, and Senate committees are coming up with a topline number for their version of that bill. Still, negotiations over the surface transportation bill could be overshadowed by Biden’s larger infrastructure plan.

While there has been some talk on Capitol Hill about passing a bipartisan roads and bridges infrastructure bill (which is viewed as having the most potential for bipartisan agreement) and then putting the more ambitious pieces of Biden’s infrastructure plan into a budget reconciliation bill, nothing is final yet.

“There’s going to be a lot of members leaving their print on the next piece,” a Democratic congressional aide told Vox

Here’s what’s in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposal

President Joe Biden is laying out a roughly $2 trillion plan for improving the nation’s infrastructure and shifting to greener energy over the next 8 years.

 PUBLISHED: March 31, 2021 

By Tami Luhby, Katie Lobosco and Kate Sullivan | CNN

Now that his massive coronavirus relief package is law, President Joe Biden is laying out his next big proposal: A roughly $2 trillion plan for improving the nation’s infrastructure and shifting to greener energy over the next 8 years.

He is set to unveil the effort, dubbed the American Jobs Plan, on Wednesday at an event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — the opening move in what’s expected to be a months-long negotiation with Congress.

The nation’s infrastructure is sorely in need of repair. It recently earned a C- score from the American Society of Civil Engineers, which said an additional $2.6 trillion in funding is required over the next decade. But Biden is also pitching his plan as an investment to benefit communities of color, rural Americans and others burdened by decay or lagging modernization.

The infrastructure spending plan is the first of a two-part proposal to help the nation’s economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic. The President is expected to unveil his package focusing on the “care economy,” including investments in education and child care, in coming weeks.

The President plans to pay for this part of his recovery package by raising corporate taxes — a core campaign promise the administration says would raise more than $2 trillion over the next 15 years.

Here’s what we know so far about Biden’s infrastructure proposal, according to the White House.

Transportation: $621 billion

Funding improvements to roads, bridges, railways and other infrastructure has been a central piece of Biden’s recovery plans. He has said that it will create “really good-paying jobs” and help the nation compete better.

Biden would spend $621 billion on roads, bridges, public transit, rail, ports, waterways, airports and electric vehicles in service of improving air quality, reducing congestion and limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

His proposal calls for allocating $115 billion to modernize 20,000 miles of highways, roads and main streets, and $20 billion to improve road safety for all users. It would fix the “most economically significant large bridges” and repair the worst 10,000 smaller bridges.

Biden would also invest $85 billion to modernize existing transit and help agencies expand their systems to meet demand. This would double federal funding for public transit.

Infrastructure is President Biden's next focus. Here's what that means

Another $80 billion would go to address Amtrak’s repair backlog and modernize the Northeast Corridor line between Boston and Washington DC — the line Biden relied on for decades to get home to Delaware — as well as to connect more cities.

Also, the President would funnel $25 billion to airports and $17 billion to inland waterways, ports and ferries.

Biden is also proposing to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles with a $174 billion investment in the electric vehicle market. It includes giving consumers rebates and tax incentives to buy American-made electric vehicles and establishing grant and incentive programs to build a national network of 500,000 charging stations by 2030. It would also replace 50,000 diesel transit vehicles and electrify at least 20% of yellow school buses.

Home care services and workforce: $400 billion

Biden would provide $400 billion to bolster caregiving for aging and disabled Americans.

His plan would expand access to long-term care services under Medicaid, eliminating the wait list for hundreds of thousands of people. It would provide more opportunity for people to receive care at home through community-based services or from family members.

It would also improve the wages of home health workers, who now make approximately $12 an hour. One in six live in poverty, the administration says. It would put in place an infrastructure to give caregiving workers the opportunity to join a union.

During his presidential campaign, Biden said he would devote $450 billion to allow more older Americans and their families to receive care at home or in their communities, as opposed to nursing homes and other institutions.
Manufacturing: $300 billion

Biden wants to put $300 billion toward boosting manufacturing.

Under his plan, $50 billion of the money would be invested in semiconductor manufacturing and another $30 billion would go towards medical manufacturing to help shore up the nation’s ability to respond to a future outbreak.

Some of the funds would be carved out for manufacturers that focus on clean energy, rural communities, and programs that give small businesses access to credit. About $20 billion would be used to create regional innovation hubs that would support community-led projects.

Biden is asking Congress to include $46 billion that would be used to make federal purchases of things like electric cars, charging ports, and electric heat pumps for housing and commercial buildings that would boost the clean energy industry.

Biden has already signed an executive order aimed at boosting American manufacturing. It set in motion a process that would change the rules regarding federal spending on American-made goods, equipment, vehicles and materials for infrastructure projects — with a 180-day deadline that comes up in July.

Housing: $213 billion

The plan would invest $213 billion toward building, renovating and retrofitting more than two million homes and housing units.

Biden is calling on Congress to produce, preserve and retrofit more than a million affordable and energy efficient housing units. The plan would also build and rehabilitate more than 500,000 homes for low- and middle-income homebuyers.

The proposal would eliminate exclusionary zoning laws, which the White House says inflates housing and construction costs. Biden is calling on Congress to enact a new grant program that awards flexible funding to jurisdictions that take steps to eliminate barriers to creating affordable housing.

Homes would be upgraded though block grant programs, extending and expanding home and commercial efficiency tax credits and through the Weatherization Assistance Program.

Research and development: $180 billion

Biden is calling on Congress to invest $180 billion to advance US leadership in critical technologies, upgrade the US’s research infrastructure and establish the US as a leader in climate science, innovation and research and development.

His plan would also aim to eliminate racial and gender inequities in research and development and science, technology, engineering and math. Biden is calling on Congress to make research and development investments in historically Black colleges and other minority-serving institutions.

Water: $111 billion

Biden’s plan allocates $111 billion to rebuild the country’s water infrastructure.

It would replace all of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines in order to improve the health of American children and communities of color. The White House says replacing the pipes would reduce lead exposure in 400,000 schools and childcare facilities.

The proposal would upgrade the country’s drinking water, wastewater and stormwater systems, tackle new contaminants and support clean water infrastructure in rural parts of the country.

Schools: $100 billion

Biden calls for $100 billion to build new public schools and upgrade existing buildings with better ventilation systems, updated technology labs, and improved school kitchens that can prepare more nutritious meals.

Another $12 billion would go to states to use towards infrastructure needs at community colleges.

The President is calling for an additional $25 billion to help upgrade child care facilities and increase the supply of child care in areas that need it the most. The plan also calls for expand a tax credit to encourage employers to build care facilities at places of work.
Digital infrastructure: $100 billion

Biden wants to invest $100 billion in order to give every American access to affordable, reliable and high-speed broadband.

The proposal would build a high-speed broadband infrastructure in order to reach 100% coverage across the nation. The plan would aim to promote transparency and competition among internet providers.

Biden says he is committed to working with Congress to reduce the cost of broadband internet and increase its adoption in both rural and urban areas.
Workforce development: $100 billion

The President would allocate $100 billion to workforce development — helping dislocated workers, assisting underserved groups and getting students on career paths before they graduate high school.

It would provide $40 billion to retrain dislocated workers in high-demand sectors, such as clean energy, manufacturing and caregiving.

It would invest $12 billion in programs to train the formerly incarcerated, create a new subsidized jobs program, eliminate sub-minimum wage provisions and support community violence prevention programs.

The proposal would also funnel $48 billion into apprenticeships, career pathway programs for middle and high school students and job training programs at community colleges.

Veterans’ hospitals and federal buildings: $18 billion

The plan would provide $18 billion to modernize the Veterans Affairs’ hospitals, which are on average more than 40 years older than a private sector hospital, according to the White House.

It also calls for $10 billion to modernize federal buildings.

Here’s how Biden plans to pay for it:

Corporate tax hike: Biden would raise the corporate income tax rate to 28%, up from 21%. The rate had been as high as 35% before former President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans cut taxes in 2017.

Global minimum tax: The proposal would increase the minimum tax on US corporations to 21% and calculate it on a country-by-country basis to deter companies from sheltering profits in international tax havens.

Tax on book income: The President would levy a 15% minimum tax on the income the largest corporations report to investors, known as book income, as opposed to the income reported to the Internal Revenue Service.

Corporate inversions: Biden would make it harder for US companies to acquire or merge with a foreign business to avoid paying US taxes by claiming to be a foreign company. And he wants to encourage other countries to adopt strong minimum taxes on corporations, including by denying certain deductions to foreign companies based in countries without such a tax.

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Biden unveils massive $2 trillion infrastructure plan, proposed tax hikes
 to pay for it

By Lisa Mascaro and Josh Boak, 
Associated Press
Wednesday, March 31, 2021 

WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden wants $2 trillion to reengineer America's infrastructure and expects the nation's corporations to pay for it.

The president travels to Pittsburgh on Wednesday to unveil what would be a hard-hatted transformation of the U.S. economy as grand in scale as the New Deal or Great Society programs that shaped the 20th century.

White House officials say the spending over eight years would generate millions of new jobs as the country shifts away from fossil fuels and combats the perils of climate change. It is also an effort to compete against the technology and public investments made by China, the world's second-largest economy and fast gaining on the United States' dominant position.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the plan is "about making an investment in America - not just modernizing our roads or railways or bridges but building an infrastructure of the future."

Biden's choice of Pittsburgh for unveiling the plan carries important economic and political resonance. He not only won Pittsburgh and its surrounding county to help secure the presidency, but he launched his campaign there in 2019. The city famed for steel mills that powered America's industrial rise has steadily pivoted toward technology and health care, drawing in college graduates from western Pennsylvania in a sign of how economies can change.

The Democratic president's infrastructure projects would be financed by higher corporate taxes - a trade-off that could lead to fierce resistance from the business community and thwart any attempts to work with Republicans lawmakers. Biden hopes to pass an infrastructure plan by summer, which could mean relying solely on the slim Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate.

Marking a year of loss and disruption, President Joe Biden on Thursday signed into law the $1.9 trillion relief package that he said will help the U.S. defeat the coronavirus and nurse the economy back to health.

The White House says the largest chunk of the proposal includes $621 billion for roads, bridges, public transit, electric vehicle charging stations and other transportation infrastructure. The spending would push the country away from internal combustion engines that the auto industry views as an increasingly antiquated technology.

Another $111 billion would go to replace lead water pipes and upgrade sewers. Broadband internet would blanket the country for $100 billion. Separately, $100 billion would upgrade the power grid to deliver clean electricity. Homes would get retrofitted, schools modernized, workers trained and hospitals renovated under the plan, which also seeks to strengthen U.S. manufacturing.

The new construction could keep the economy running hot, coming on the heels of Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package - economists already estimate it could push growth above 6% this year.

Separately, Biden will propose in the coming weeks a series of soft infrastructure investments in child care, family tax credits and other domestic programs, another expenditure of roughly $2 trillion to be paid for by tax hikes on wealthy individuals and families, according to people familiar with the proposal.

Funding the first $2 trillion for construction and "hard" infrastructure projects would be a hike on corporate taxes that would raise the necessary sum over 15 years and then reduce the deficit going forward, according to a White House outline of the plan. Biden would undo the signature policy achievement of the Trump administration by lifting the corporate tax rate to 28% from the 21% rate set in a 2017 overhaul.

To keep companies from shifting profits overseas to avoid taxation, a 21% global minimum tax would be imposed. The tax code would also be updated so that companies could not merge with a foreign business and avoid taxes by moving their headquarters to a tax haven. And among other provisions, it would increase IRS audits of corporations.

White House officials led by National Economic Council Director Brian Deese offered a private briefing Tuesday for top lawmakers in both parties. But key GOP and business leaders are already panning the package.

"It seems like President Biden has an insatiable appetite to spend more money and raise people's taxes," Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the GOP whip, said in an interview.

Scalise predicted that, if approved, the new spending and taxes would "start having a negative impact on the economy, which we're very concerned about."

The business community favors updating U.S. infrastructure, but it dislikes higher tax rates. An official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who insisted on anonymity to discuss the private talks said the organization fears the proposed tax hikes could undermine the gains from new infrastructure. The Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs, would rather have infrastructure funded with user fees such as tolls.

Pittsburgh is a series of steep hills and three intersecting rivers. Its steel mills once covered the sky in enough soot that men needed to take spare white shirts to work because their button downs would turn to gray by lunch. Only last year the city, amid the coronavirus pandemic, met Environmental Protection Agency standards for air quality, even though it is increasingly the home of tech and health care workers with college degrees.

Infrastructure spending usually holds the promise of juicing economic growth, but by how much remains a subject of political debate. Commutes and shipping times could be shortened, while public health would be improved and construction jobs would bolster consumer spending.

Standard & Poor's chief U.S. economist, Beth Ann Bovino, estimated last year that a $2.1 trillion boost in infrastructure spending could add as much as $5.7 trillion in income to the entire economy over a decade. Those kinds of analyses have led liberal Democrats in Congress such as Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal to conclude Tuesday, "The economic consensus is that infrastructure pays for itself over time."

But the Biden administration is taking a more cautious approach than some Democrats might like. After $1.9 trillion in pandemic aid and $4 trillion in relief last year, the administration is trying to avoid raising the debt to levels that would trigger higher interest rates and make it harder to repay.

Psaki said Tuesday that Biden believes it's "the responsible thing to do" to pay for infrastructure through taxes instead of borrowing. But the White House in its outline of the plan also couched the tax hikes as a matter of fairness, noting that 91 Fortune 500 companies paid $0 in federal corporate taxes in 2018.
US Catholic leaders join LGBTQ group to condemn discrimination against transgender people

‘It is our Catholic duty to affirm the dignity of transgender people and to defend them from harm,’ the statement reads.

Archbishop John Wester, of Santa Fe. (AP Photo/Sid Hastings, File)
March 31, 2021

By Jack Jenkins

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Two Roman Catholic bishops and other church leaders have teamed up with the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, to condemn discrimination against transgender people, the groups announced Wednesday (March 31).

In a statement provided to Religion News Service, Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico; Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky; and the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests as well as the presidents of two Jesuit organizations declared that, “we, Bishops, religious and lay leaders of the Roman Catholic Church join with the Human Rights Campaign in calling for an end to the epidemic of violence against transgender individuals.”

March 31 has been celebrated as Transgender Day of Visibility since 2009.

RELATED: Pope Francis encourages nun helping trans community in Argentina

The statement, which cites the words of St. John Paul II, notes that the Catechism of the Catholic Church insists “every sign of unjust discrimination” against LGBTQ people “should be avoided” and condemns violent acts perpetrated against transgender people in recent years that have been documented by HRC.

“It is our Catholic duty to affirm the dignity of transgender people and to defend them from harm,” the statement reads.

The statement invokes St. Bonaventure — “we are led to contemplate God in (all creation)” — before adding “this is no less true of our transgender siblings.”

It concludes: “Transgender people have always been members of our local parishes and the witness of their lives … leads us to greater contemplation of God and the mystery of our faith. To our transgender siblings, may you always know that the Image of God resides in you, and that God loves you.”

In addition to the bishops, signers include the Rev. Michael Garanzini, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities; Tom Chabolla, president of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps; the Rev. Bob Bonnot and the Rev. Louis Arceneaux, who serve as executive director and secretary, respectively, of the Association of United States Catholic Priests; and the Rev. Neil Pezzulo.

HRC President Alphonso David celebrated the statement.

“The life-threatening violence against the transgender community, spurred by discrimination and hate, is a moral issue and one in which the voices of Catholic leaders are critical to the safety of our transgender siblings,” he said in a press release. “This is a critical moment to come together united, propelled by our faith, and lift our voices to unequivocally say that transgender rights are human rights, and they must be protected.”

The statement comes less than a week after Stowe publicly endorsed the Equality Act, a bill that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to offer anti-discrimination protection for LGBTQ Americans in an array of areas, including housing, education, lending and civic affairs.

“LGBTQ people reflect the image of likeness of God, just as anyone else, and so it is our duty to love and defend them,” Stowe wrote in a March 19 letter to Sens. Dick Durbin and Chuck Grassley, according to America Magazine. “As a Catholic bishop, I hate to see any form of harmful discrimination protected by law and it is consistent with our teaching to ensure that LGBTQ people have the protection they need.”

Stowe’s support for the bill came in direct opposition to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has campaigned against the Equality Act and argued that it “discriminates against people of faith precisely because of those beliefs.”

The Kentucky cleric was also among 14 active and retired Catholic bishops who signed a statement in January that called on “all people of goodwill” to “help, support, and defend LGBT youth” who have been bullied, harassed and fallen victim to violent attacks. More than 20 priests in Stowe’s diocese followed suit a month later, signing a statement arguing that religious people have a duty to “help, support, and defend LGBT youth who attempt suicide at much higher rates than their straight counterparts.”

None of the statements directly challenges church teaching such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which, among other things, refers to “homosexual tendencies” as “objectively disordered.” Earlier this month, the Vatican released a statement declaring that LGBTQ couples cannot receive a blessing by a priest.

RELATED: What’s in store for the Equality Act, and why do some religions want a revision?

“Since blessings on persons are in relationship with the sacraments, the blessing of homosexual unions cannot be considered licit,” read the statement, which was signed by the prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Even so, the Vatican document is widely seen as evidence of growing discontent among some Catholics — including bishops — regarding the church’s approach to LGBTQ people and relationships: When German bishops met earlier this year, among the conversations with lay Catholics was the possibility of priests blessing same-sex couples.
Vatican makes moral case for supporting people displaced by climate change

Local Catholic groups are invited in a new Vatical document to establish ‘solidarity networks’ to ensure migrants’ dignity ‘in all phases of displacement.’

Rescue boats fill a flooded street as flood victims are evacuated as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise on Aug. 28, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

March 30, 2021
By Claire Giangravé

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Pope Francis and other Vatican leaders reiterated the Catholic Church’s commitment to “eco-justice” in a new document on Tuesday (March 30) addressing the growing number of people being displaced by climate change and calling on the church to take an active role in this “profoundly moral issue.”

“We are one planet, one human family and as brothers and sisters we must look out for each other. I don’t think a moral argument needs to be much more complicated than that,” said Cardinal Michael Czerny, who heads the section on migrants and refugees at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The cardinal’s remarks came during the presentation of “Pastoral Orientations on Climate Displaced People,” which offers data and insights for Catholic communities and dioceses on how to address the growing challenges of the climate crisis.

The document, which includes a preface from the pope, lays out ways to support migrants and integrate them in their countries of arrival.

“Besides the accompaniment of the church, we very much hope for and seek a response from the international community to recognize the shared responsibility for those brothers and sisters forced to flee because of the climate crisis,” Czerny said.

In the first half of 2020, of the 14.6 million displaced people globally, 9.8 million were displaced by droughts, floods and other cataclysmic events, according to the document. It also reports that 253.7 million people were displaced by climate disasters between 2008 and 2018, suggesting that the number will grow in the next 10 to 40 years.

The climate crisis is not just a matter of data; it has a “human face,” said the Rev. Fabio Baggio, undersecretary at the Vatican’s migrants and refugees task force.

The document presented Tuesday was written with input from local churches and religious organizations, and some clergy and lay Catholics were included in the news conference to talk about their experiences.

“Climate change isn’t a hypothetical threat,” said Archbishop Claudio Dalla Zuanna, speaking at the news conference from the Archdiocese of Beira in Mozambique, whose long coastline has been hit by cyclones, flooding and heat waves in recent years. “It’s already a reality that requires immediate action also in creating the conditions to welcome people who are displaced by the growing number of catastrophes.”

Thirty-two-year-old Mozambican Maria Madalena Issau spoke about her grueling experience in camps for the displaced not far from the city of Beira, having lost her home to the 2020 cyclones.

RELATED: Pope’s new book speaks to Americans on racism, immigration and gender equity

Local Catholic groups are invited in the document to accompany and support displaced people and establish “solidarity networks” to ensure their dignity “in all phases of displacement,” while young people are charged with being “protagonists” of the global efforts to counter climate change.

“This is the work the Lord asks now of us, and there is great joy in it,” Francis wrote. “We are not going to get out of crises like climate or COVID-19 by hunkering down in individualism but only by ‘being many together’, by encounter and dialogue and cooperation.”

Francis paid homage to Dante in an apostolic letter, citing the poet's hope for reform in the church.

In Philipp Veit’s painting about Paradiso, Dante and Beatrice speak to the teachers of wisdom Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus, Peter Lombard and Siger of Brabant in the Sphere of the Sun, Canto 10. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Dante Alighieri, the medieval Italian poet, didn’t spare popes and other Catholic prelates in “Divine Comedy,” his 14th-century masterwork detailing his imaginary journey from hell to heaven via purgatory. No fewer than four pontiffs, including the then-reigning pope, Boniface VIII, are pictured in various circles of hell in the book’s “Inferno” cantos, victims of their own greed.

(Full disclosure: Dante had a personal grudge against Boniface, whom he blamed in part for his exile from the city of Florence in 1302.)

Seven centuries later, Pope Francis paid homage to Dante in an apostolic letter released Thursday (March 25), citing the poet’s criticism of “those believers — whether Popes or the ordinary faithful — who betray Christ and turn the Church into a means for advancing their own interests.”

These believers, Francis added, are accused by Dante of “ignoring the duty of charity towards the defenseless and poor, and instead idolizing power and riches.”

In “Paradiso,” the section of Dante’s poem set in heaven, popes are outnumbered by the saints who made a commitment to the poor the cornerstone of their faith. Among them is St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis’ namesake, who left riches and titles aside to preach to the humblest of his countrymen and founded the Franciscan order.

“Saint Francis and Dante had much in common,” Pope Francis wrote in the letter, pointing to their common efforts to make the gospel accessible to the poor and unlearned. While Francis chose to preach “among the people, in small towns and the streets of the cities,” the pope wrote, Dante chose to write his works in the vernacular, an unorthodox choice for a time when poets preferred Latin to the language spoken by the commoners.

“Another feature common to the two was their sensitivity to the beauty and worth of creation as the reflection and imprint of its Creator,” said Pope Francis, who in 2016 released an encyclical on the care of creation titled “Laudato Si’.”

Portrait of Dante, painting from 1495 by Sandro Botticelli. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons

Portrait of Dante, painting from 1495 by Sandro Botticelli. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons

Born in the historic city of Florence in 1265, Dante was an astute and active political observer. As the papacy confronted the temporal authority of emperors, Dante sided with the popes by joining the political faction known as the Guelphs.

But despite his loyalty to the papacy, Dante belonged to a splinter group that longed for a renewal of the Catholic Church, rooted in its origins and distanced from the lavishness and fanfare of the church of his time. This group would be known as the White Guelphs, as opposed to the Black Guelphs, who instead supported the Catholic hierarchy.

Scholars still debate the Catholic identity of Dante and whether he should be considered a reactionary or progressive. In 1921 Pope Benedict XV wished to emphasize “the intimate union of Dante with this Chair of Peter.”

In Francis’ letter, Dante emerges as “a prophet of hope and a witness to the innate yearning for the infinite present in the human heart.” This doesn’t exempt the church, Francis writes, “from accepting also the prophetic criticisms uttered by the poet with regard to those charged with proclaiming the Gospel and representing, not themselves, but Christ.”

At different times and anniversaries, popes have deployed the memory of Dante to address the struggles facing the Catholic Church. Pope Paul VI, fresh from his experience of the two world wars and whose pontificate saw the beginning of the Vietnam War, saw Dante’s ideal of the unity of heaven as a message of peace.

For St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Dante incarnated humanity’s thirst for transcendence and meaning in a world that was increasingly besotted with consumerism, materialism and secularism. Drawing from his predecessors, Francis hails the Italian poet as representative of the church’s pilgrim voyage toward faith.

That includes many pagan individuals — be they emperors or commoners — placed in Dante’s heaven, showing, according to Francis, “that no one on earth is precluded from this path.”

The pope’s letter on Dante coincides with the Feast of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary that she would give birth to Jesus. Women, Francis pointed out, are the guiding light of “Divine Comedy.” Beatrice, Dante’s long-lost love, St. Lucy and Mary the Mother of God guide the poet in his journey. 

Pope Francis encouraged teachers, scholars and especially artists to continue “to give voice, face and heart, form, color and sound to Dante’s poetry.”

The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, led by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, will promote a series of events, art shows and conferences to share the message and beauty of Dante’s forever relevant masterpiece.