TEHRAN — The line outside the Tehran polling station was short and sedate on Friday morning, nothing like the energized down-the-block crowd that usually turns out for presidential elections in Iran.
But when Abdolnaser Hemmati, the moderate in the race, showed up to vote, the sidewalk outside the polling station, set up at the Hosseinieh Ershad religious institute, suddenly crackled to life.
“Your views are useless for this country,” one heckler shouted at Mr. Hemmati, the former governor of Iran’s central bank, holding up his phone to immortalize the moment.
Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s judiciary chief, who is close to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
death in a U.S. airstrike last year brought crowds of mourners onto the streets.)
“Despite all the shortages and shortcomings, we love our nation, and we will defend it to the last drop of blood,” said Marziyeh Gorji, 34, who works in a government office and said she had voted for Mr. Raisi because of his ties to revolutionary figures and his experience. “The people are upset, I understand that. But not voting is not the solution.”
She motioned to her 5-year-old twin sons, who wore buttons featuring General Suleimani’s face. “I will raise them to be like General Suleimani,” she said.
At Lorzadeh mosque in south Tehran, a poor and religiously conservative neighborhood, Muhammad Ehsani, 61, a retired government employee, said his ballot was an expression of faith in the ideals of the Islamic revolution that brought Iran’s current leadership to power.
Being a citizen was like riding a bus, he said. If things were not going well — as every voter agreed they were not — the problem was with the driver, not with the bus.
“What should we do?” he said. “It’s not logical to sit at home and not get on. It’s logical to get another company, another driver.”
Draped across the entrance of the mosque was a banner with a picture of General Suleimani next to the words, “The Islamic Republic is considered a shrine. Those who are voting are defending the shrine.”
The morning’s voting was marred by widespread reports of electronic voting systems malfunctioning and going offline from polling stations across Iran, according to Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. As polls opened Friday morning, voters showed up to hear that they could not vote, and multiple polling stations had to delay their opening by more than an hour, Tasnim reported.
“This is an epidemic of ballot boxes malfunctioning now,” said Kian Abdollahi, Tasnim’s editor in chief, during a live election report on Clubhouse, the audio-only social media app. “This is unacceptable given concerns about low election turnout.”
Tehran’s governor confirmed that there were technical problems with electronic voting systems at 79 polling stations across the capital.
It was not immediately clear what had caused the problems.
Outside the Hosseinieh Ershad polling station, Shabna, 40, a government employee who works in information technology and also gave just one name, was alternately throwing her fist in the air as she chanted “I support Hemmati” and tugging her colorful head scarf, which was slipping amid all the excitement, back into place.
“We want to stop this engineered election,” she said, explaining that she believed Mr. Hemmati, as an economist, was best qualified to turn the economy around. A minute later, she was locked in an argument with a Hemmati critic.
But most voters interviewed on Friday did not seem to have such strong views about any particular candidate. They were there to vote because they always had, or because they believed in the system.
Efat Rahmati, 54, a nurse, said it was strange that the Iranian authorities had excluded so many candidates from the race, a fact that many Iranians said had paved the way for Mr. Raisi to win. But she had still decided to vote, partly out of a personal liking for Mr. Raisi, and partly because the authorities “have more knowledge than me about this issue,” she said. “I think Raisi was better than the rest anyway.”
Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting from New York.
Across town at the Waldorf Astoria, the landmark Art Deco hotel where the top 33 floors of guest rooms are being converted to 375 condos starting at $1.8 million, residents will have use of a co-working lounge, private offices, board room and meeting rooms in what will be called The Empire Club. The project is expected to be completed in 2023.
But work areas in existing buildings have already been put to good use. At Hamilton Cove, a rental building in Weehawken, N.J., the co-working space even became an incubator for a new business during the pandemic.
Three childhood friends, employed in different fields, live in the building and had been meeting in the space daily to keep each other company while working remotely. But they realized there was nowhere nearby to get a really good cup of coffee.
“We all had Keurig machines in our apartments,” said Joe Graziano, age 27, one of the trio. “But if we wanted cold brew, we figured we would have to go all the way to Hoboken and back,” a 40-minute round-trip walk.
In partnership with another childhood friend, Aaron Smith, they started a pop-up coffee cart company. The four friends wrote up a business plan and chipped in money. Mr. Smith, who runs the operation, built the company’s two carts from scratch.
So far the carts have popped up in three apartment buildings in Weehawken, after which they became permanent fixtures in the lobbies of two of the buildings, one of them Hamilton Cove. The fledgling company also has added a coffee bike with coffee and tea on tap.
“The idea is to grow organically and see what happens,” said Mr. Graziano.
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Despite the loud busking music, arcade lights and swarms of people, it was hard to be distracted from the corner street stall serving steaming cupfuls of tteokbokki — a medley of rice cake and fish cake covered in a concoction of hot sweet sauce. I gulped when I felt my friend tugging on the sleeve of my jacket, anticipating that he wanted to try it. After all, I promised to treat him out if he visited me in Korea over winter break.
The cups of tteokbokki, garnished with sesame leaves and tempura, was a high-end variant of the street food, nothing like the kind from my childhood. Its price of 3,500 Korean won was also nothing like I recalled, either, simply charged more for being sold on a busy street. If I denied the purchase, I could console my friend and brother by purchasing more substantial meals elsewhere. Or we could spend on overpriced food now to indulge in the immediate gratification of a convenient but ephemeral snack.
At every seemingly inconsequential expenditure, I weigh the pros and cons of possible purchases as if I held my entire fate in my hands. To be generously hospitable, but recklessly drain the travel allowance we needed to stretch across two weeks? Or to be budgetarily shrewd, but possibly risk being classified as stingy? That is the question, and a calculus I so dearly detest.
Unable to secure subsequent employment and saddled by alimony complications, there was no room in my dad’s household to be embarrassed by austerity or scraping for crumbs. Ever since I was taught to dilute shampoo with water, I’ve revised my formula to reduce irritation to the eye. Every visit to a fast-food chain included asking for a sheet of discount coupons — the parameters of all future menu choice — and a past receipt containing the code of a completed survey to redeem for a free cheeseburger. Exploiting combinations of multiple promotions to maximize savings at such establishments felt as thrilling as cracking war cryptography, critical for minimizing cash casualties.
However, while disciplined restriction of expenses may be virtuous in private, at outings, even those amongst friends, spending less — when it comes to status — paradoxically costs more. In Asian family-style eating customs, a dish ordered is typically available to everyone, and the total bill, regardless of what you did or did not consume, is divided evenly. Too ashamed to ask for myself to be excluded from paying for dishes I did not order or partake in, I’ve opted out of invitations to meals altogether. I am wary even of meals where the inviting host has offered to treat everyone, fearful that if I only attended “free meals” I would be pinned as a parasite.
Although I can now conduct t-tests to extract correlations between multiple variables, calculate marginal propensities to import and assess whether a developing country elsewhere in the world is at risk of becoming stuck in the middle-income trap, my day-to-day decisions still revolve around elementary arithmetic. I feel haunted, cursed by the compulsion to diligently subtract pennies from purchases hoping it will eventually pile up into a mere dollar, as if the slightest misjudgment in a single buy would tip my family’s balance sheet into irrecoverable poverty.
Will I ever stop stressing over overspending?
I’m not sure I ever will.
But I do know this. As I handed over 7,000 won in exchange for two cups of tteokbokki to share amongst the three of us — my friend, my brother and myself — I am reminded that even if we are not swimming in splendor, we can still uphold our dignity through the generosity of sharing. Restricting one’s conscience only around ruminating which roads will lead to riches risks blindness toward rarer wealth: friends and family who do not measure one’s worth based on their net worth. Maybe one day, such rigorous monitoring of financial activity won’t be necessary, but even if not, this is still enough.
In a real estate market where luxury apartments can sell for $100 million or more, we’ve become a bit numb to the value of a mere million. But objectively, $1 million is still about three times the sale price of the median U.S. home (roughly $350,000) — a price very much out of reach for most.
So what makes a house worth a million dollars? While square footage, construction type and quality of finishes will affect value, two homes that are identical on paper can vary wildly in price depending on — you guessed it — location, location, location.
LendingTree recently conducted a study to find out which U.S. metropolitan areas had the highest percentages of owner-occupied homes valued at $1 million or more. While no one area could be shown to have a majority of homes worth a million, San Jose, Calif., home to Silicon Valley tech workers, came closest — with about 47 percent, and the median home value was close too: $968,800. In San Francisco, another tech hub, more than 36 percent of homes were valued at $1 million or more, with a median value of $840,600.
The New York City metropolitan area — where an apartment sold in 2019 for a record $238 million — was fifth on the list, with a median home value of $450,900. (If this number seems low, keep in mind that the metropolitan areas include not just the cities themselves, but also surrounding commuter communities.)
The portion of homes worth $1 million exceeded 10 percent in only five U.S. metropolitan areas, and accounted for less than 1 percent in all 10 metropolitan areas with the lowest percentage of homes in the price bracket, as seen in this week’s chart.
Clean Energy Fuels CEO Andrew Littlefair on Thursday addressed the recent enthusiasm for his company’s stock forged on online forums like Reddit.
“I’ve read a lot of these posts, it seems like they get it,” Littlefair told CNBC’s Jim Cramer in an interview on “Mad Money.”
“One of the things that comes through again and again is, they said, ‘Hey these guys at Clean Energy take something nobody wants, clean it up, put it in a vehicle, make money and save the planet. I kind of like that.’ So, I think they get it,” Littlefair said.
Last week, Clean Energy Fuels entered the crosshairs of Reddit traders, who first captured Wall Street’s attention in late January when they piled into shares of GameStop and a few other companies.
Clean Energy Fuels jumped more than 30% on June 9 to close at $13.02, as mentions of the California-based firm spiked online.
Enthusiasm has seemed to wane a bit in recent days, although the stock rose almost 4% Thursday to finish at $11.12. Clean Energy Fuels is up about 41% year to date.
The company is a provider of renewable natural gas, which is a “pipeline-quality gas that is fully interchangeable with conventional natural gas,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Clean Energy Fuels takes the methane from manure and processes it in such a way that it can be used as fuel for vehicles, Cramer explained. In April, the company reached an agreement with Amazon to provide the e-commerce giant with access to its RNG stations.
“For us, it’s building them, now 19, new stations and making available 27 other stations, so they’ll be using 46 of our stations. We’ll be selling them all RNG, and so we’re very excited about that,” Littlefair said about the Amazon tie-up.
49ers legend Joe Montana has put his Napa Valley estate back on the market — this time with a more than $4 million price cut.
The sprawling villa and surrounding grounds have been on the market on and off for 12 years, first listed for a whopping $49 million in 2009. But according to a statement from the family at that time, they “took it off soon after when their four children (now aged 27-33) begged them to keep it a few more years.”
Maine Governor Janet Mills (D) and members of the Democratic-run state legislature are moving closer to making Maine the first state to institute a policy that will translate into more expensive groceries and other consumer goods, acting as a regressive tax hike on all Maine residents. Referred to as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), the proposed first-of-its-kind program entails levying a fee on consumer goods manufacturers, with that added cost subsequently passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices at checkout. If the bill implementing this program, LD 1541, is to be enacted, Governor Mills will head into her 2022 re-election campaign having rejected tax hikes on the wealthy, while imposing a regressive and hidden tax hike that does the greatest harm to low income households who can least afford the added cost.
Backers of the EPR program tout it as beneficial to the environment and a way to fund new recycling equipment and procedures. Yet no evidence has been offered to indicate that this new program will improve recycling technology, permit local tax relief, or reduce the amount of trash in landfills, as EPR proponents claim. In 2019, Maine Democrats declined to advance carbon tax legislation in the face of vocal public opposition to that regressive tax hike. That defeated carbon tax shares key features in common with the EPR program and the fee it imposes.
Like a carbon tax, the EPR program is marketed as a way to protect the environment. As with a carbon tax, the program created by LD 1541 would effectively impose a regressive tax hike by increasing the cost of basic necessities in a manner that disproportionately harms low income Mainers.
“It ends up making all Maine families pay higher, hidden costs for food and other essential goods with no guarantee that their property taxes will be cut,” explained Julie Rabinowitz in an alert recently sent out by Maine People Before Politics, an Augusta-based policy research organization. “It is a hidden, regressive tax. It will hurt people on fixed incomes.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistic recently confirmed that the 12 month period from May 2020 to May 2021 saw inflation of 6.6%. That rise in producer prices represents the largest annual increase in the final demand index since BLS began tracking it 11 years ago. If LD 1541 is signed by Governor Mills, or if she lets it become law without her signature, Mainers will face further price inflation on basic necessities.
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York University in Toronto’s Dr. Calvin Lakan estimates that the EPR program imposed by LD 1541 would raise the cost of consumer products in Maine by anywhere from $99 million to $134 million per year. Dr. Lakan’s estimates, based on research using Maine’s own recycling data, that enactment of LD 1541 will translate into a potential monthly cost increase between $32 and $59 for a family of four.
“Under LD 1541, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection would set the packaging fee schedule on producers, based on the per-ton costs derived from collecting and processing a given producer’s packaging material,” explains Nicholas Linder of the Maine Policy Institute. “Advocates of the legislation claim similar laws have existed in countries in Europe and Asia with no significant impact on consumer prices.”
In addition to the hidden tax effectively imposed by LD 1541, multiple bills have been filed by Maine legislators this year to more directly raise taxes on upper income households and businesses. LD 498 would impose a progressive income tax hike, raising Maine’s top income tax rate from 7.15% to 10.15%. That represents a more than 41% rate increase that would apply to filers with annual income above $200,000. Maine lawmakers have also introduced legislation to raise the personal income tax rate from 7.15% to 8.93% and hike the corporate rate from 8.93% to 12.4%. All of those income tax hikes targeting upper income filers are considered dead on arrival should they even make it to the Governor’s desk. That’s because, as the Maine Wire recently reported, “Mills pledged not to raise taxes during her gubernatorial campaign, and her opposition, particularly to LD 498, has put her at odds with progressives in her own party.”
Maine residents already pay the nation’s 12th highest state and local tax burden. Governor Mills’ opposition to income tax hikes will stop that burden from rising higher this year. Yet, while Governor Mills says she won’t entertain tax hikes on those with the highest levels of income, it is reported that she will either sign LD 1541, the EPR bill, or let it become law without her signature. Should it play out that way, Governor Mills will head into her 2022 reelection campaign having raised taxes, in an opaque manner at that, on Mainers who can least afford the additional costs, while rejecting tax increases on those with the most resources. That is a record with which former Governor Paul LePage (R) and other potential 2022 challengers to Mills could have a field day.
LD 1541 was approved by the Maine House with a 84-59 vote on June 16 and is expected to be voted on in the Maine Senate on June 17. If enacted, Maine will become the first state with an Extended Producer Responsibility program. Two EPR bills have been introduced in the Oregon legislature, one of which, House Bill 2065, is backed by Governor Kate Brown (D). EPR backers in Oregon and elsewhere are seeking to manufacture an incentive for companies to change the packaging materials they use.
“To create that incentive, producers are responsible for all waste costs associated with their products, including waste collection, transportation and management, and litter cleanup costs,” said Representative Janeen Sollman (D), sponsor of the other Oregon EPR bill, House Bill 2592. “Making producers responsible for waste is an important step toward a circular economy.”
There is a chance that an EPR bill is approved in Oregon before lawmakers adjourn the current legislative session. Regardless of what happens in Maine and Oregon, expect lawmakers and governors in other states to pursue similar legislation in the coming months and years.
China’s economy is on a tear. Factories are humming, and foreign investment is flowing in. Even so, the wealthy and powerful people atop some of the country’s most prominent companies are heading for the exits.
The latest are Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xin, the husband-and-wife team that runs Soho China, a property developer known for its blobby, futuristic office buildings. In striking a deal this week to sell a controlling stake to the investment giant Blackstone for as much as $3 billion, Mr. Pan and Ms. Zhang are turning over the company as high-profile entrepreneurs come under public and official scrutiny in China like never before.
Soho China did not respond to a request for comment.
China’s most famous tycoon, the Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, has kept an uncharacteristically low profile since late last year, when the government began a regulatory crackdown on his companies and the wider internet industry. Colin Huang, founder of the Alibaba rival Pinduoduo, resigned as chairman in March, less than a year after he stepped down as chief executive. In May, Zhang Yiming, founder of TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, said he would hand over the chief executive post to focus on long-term strategy.
Under the Communist Party’s top leader, Xi Jinping, nationalism has been resurgent in China, and the government has sought to exert more direct influence over the private sector. Even before this week’s sale, Mr. Pan and Ms. Zhang of Soho China had been avoiding the spotlight more than they did during an earlier, freer era of China’s economic revival.
going after businesspeople and intellectuals with big online followings. The police that year arrested Wang Gongquan, a friend of Mr. Pan’s and supporter of human rights causes, on charges of disrupting public order.
Mr. Pan and Ms. Zhang began selling off property holdings in China and spending more time in the United States. The family of Ms. Zhang and the Safra family of Brazil, long involved in international banking, teamed up to buy a 40 percent stake in the General Motors building in Manhattan.
They noted that the couple donated generously to Harvard and Yale but not to Chinese universities.
After media reports accused Soho China of “fleeing” Shanghai by selling projects there, Mr. Pan wrote on Weibo: “Buying and selling is normal. Don’t read too much into it.”
The company’s last big public event was the opening of Leeza Soho, a lithe, spiraling skyscraper in Beijing, in late 2019. Zaha Hadid, the famed architect who designed the tower and a friend of Ms. Zhang’s, had died a few years earlier.
Last year, Ren Zhiqiang, a retired property mogul and friend of Mr. Pan’s, was detained for an essay he shared with friends on a private chat group. The essay criticized Mr. Xi’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak and the direction he was taking the country. Mr. Ren was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Today, Mr. Pan’s and Ms. Zhang’s Weibo accounts are filled with bland, friendly material: holiday greetings, book recommendations, photos of flowers in bloom outside Soho China buildings. Both of their accounts are set to display only the past half year’s posts.
On Wednesday night, minutes after Soho China announced the sale on its official Weibo account, Mr. Pan reposted the announcement without comment, in what online commentators called a “silent farewell.”
GENEVA — President Biden had three big tasks to accomplish on his first foreign trip since taking office: Convince the allies that America was back, and for good; gather them in common cause against the rising threat of China; and establish some red lines for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whom he called his “worthy adversary.”
He largely accomplished the first, though many European leaders still wonder whether his presidency may yet be just an intermezzo, sandwiched between the Trump era and the election of another America First leader uninterested in the 72-year-old Atlantic alliance.
He made inroads on the second, at least in parts of Europe, where there has been enormous reluctance to think first of China as a threat — economically, technologically and militarily — and second as an economic partner.
Mr. Biden expressed cautious optimism about finding ways to reach a polite accommodation with Mr. Putin. But it is far from clear that any of the modest initiatives the two men described on Wednesday, after a stiff, three-hour summit meeting on the edge of Lake Geneva, will fundamentally change a bad dynamic.
when he refers to Beijing’s actions against the Uyghur population and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities as genocide.
So Mr. Biden toned down his autocracy vs. democracy talk for this trip. And that worked.
Yet while “Biden has gotten words from the Europeans, he hasn’t gotten deeds,” said James M. Lindsay, director of studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Settling some trade issues is a very good start. But it’s not how you start, but how you finish, how you translate the sentiments in the communiqués into common policies, and that will be very difficult.’’
Mr. Biden carefully choreographed the trip so that he demonstrated the repairs being made to the alliance before going on to meet Mr. Putin. Mr. Biden made clear he wanted to present a unified front to the Russian leader, to demonstrate that in the post-Trump era, the United States and the NATO allies were one.
That allowed Mr. Biden to take a softer tone when he got to Geneva for the summit meeting, where he sought to portray Mr. Putin as an isolated leader who has to worry about his country’s future. When Mr. Biden said in response to a reporter’s question that “I don’t think he’s looking for a Cold War with the United States,’’ it was a signal that Mr. Biden believes he has leverage that the rest of the world has underappreciated.
Mr. Putin’s economy is “struggling,’’ he said, and he faces a long border with China at a moment when Beijing is “hellbent” on domination.
“He still, I believe, is concerned about being ‘encircled,’ ” Mr. Biden said. “He still is concerned that we, in fact, are looking to take him down.” But, he added, he didn’t think those security fears “are the driving force as to the kind of relationship he’s looking for with the United States.”
He set as the first test of Mr. Putin’s willingness to deal with him seriously a review of how to improve “strategic stability,’’ which he described as controlling the introduction of “new and dangerous and sophisticated weapons that are coming on the scene now that reduce the times of response, that raise the prospects of accidental war.”
It is territory that has been neglected, and if Mr. Biden is successful he may save hundreds of billions of dollars that would otherwise be spent on hypersonic and space weapons, as well as the development of new nuclear delivery systems.
But none of that is likely to deter Mr. Putin in the world of cyberweapons, which are dirt cheap and give him an instrument of power each and every day. Mr. Biden warned during his news conference that “we have significant cyber capability,” and said that while Mr. Putin “doesn’t know exactly what it is,” if the Russians “violate these basic norms, we will respond with cyber.”
The U.S. has had those capabilities for years but has hesitated to use them, for fear that a cyberconflict with Russia might escalate into something much bigger.
But Mr. Biden thinks Mr. Putin is too invested in self-preservation to let it come to that. In the end, he said, just before boarding Air Force One for the flight home, “You have to figure out what the other guy’s self-interest is. Their self-interest. I don’t trust anybody.”
David E. Sanger reported from Geneva and Steven Erlanger from Brussels.
One of the world’s largest diamonds has been unearthed in Botswana, the country’s government has announced.
The 1,098-carat stone, believed to be the third largest “gem-quality” diamond ever found, was presented to President Mokgweetsi Masisi on Wednesday.
The discovery was made earlier this month at the Jwaneng mine, around 75 miles from the country’s capital, Gaborone. The mine is operated by Debswana, a diamond company jointly owned by Botswana’s government and the De Beers Group, according to its official website.
An official government Twitter account wrote that “proceeds from the diamond will be used to advance national development in the country.”
The 1,098-carat stone, pictured in Gaborone, Botswana. Credit: Monirul Bhuiyan/AFP/Getty Images
“Debswana should use this latest discovery as an inflection point, for the mine to use its technology to realize more of these large discoveries,” it added.
Masisi’s office also posted a series of pictures showing the diamond being presenting to the president and his cabinet.
Officially opened in 1982, the Jwaneng mine usually yields between 12.5 million and 15 million carats of diamonds a year, according to Debswana. This month’s find is the largest gem unearthed by the company since diamonds were first discovered in Botswana in 1967, the government said.
At present, the largest diamond ever recorded is the 3,106-carat Cullinan Diamond, found in South Africa in 1905. The Cullinan was subsequently cut into smaller stones, some of which form part of British royal family’s crown jewels.
The second largest discovery is believed to be the Lesedi La Rona, a 1,109-carat stone found by Canadian firm Lucara Diamond at the Karowe mine, also in Botswana, in 2015. The diamond was sold to luxury jeweler Graff for $53 million two years later.
Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi holds the diamond as First Lady Neo Jane Masisi looks on. Credit: Monirul Bhuiyan/AFP/Getty Images
Rough diamonds are usually classified as being gem-quality, near-gem or industrial-quality, depending on their color, clarity, size and shape.
So while another, even larger diamond was found in Botswana in 2019 — a 1,758-carat stone dubbed Sewelô — experts said it could not be considered entirely gem-quality. The stone was purchased by French luxury brand Louis Vuitton in 2020 for an undisclosed sum.
Speaking to CNN at the time of Sewelô’s discovery, Rob Bates, a blogger on the diamond and jewelry industries, told CNN that only “a handful” of companies in the world know how to “economically cut” such large rough diamonds.
“But it’s always an exciting moment when a mine coughs up a huge stone like that,” he said. “It’s good for the business, good for the country of Botswana.”