“The political message is greater than the economic hit,” said Chiao Chun, a former trade negotiator for the Taiwanese government.

Even though about 90 percent of Taiwan’s imported gravel and sand comes from China, most of that is manufactured. China accounted for only about 11 percent of Taiwan’s natural sand imports in the first half of this year, according to the Bureau of Mines.

The two types of Taiwanese fish exports that China restricted last week — chilled white striped hairtail and frozen horse mackerel — are collectively worth about $22 million, less than half the value of the Taiwanese grouper trade that was banned earlier this year. They are also less dependent on the Chinese market.

As for Taiwan’s half-a-billion-dollar citrus industry, its shipments to China account for only 1.1 percent of the island’s total agricultural exports, according to Taiwan’s Agriculture Council. A popular theory is that Beijing singled out citrus farmers because most orchards are in southern Taiwan, a stronghold for the governing political party, the Democratic Progressive Party, a longtime target of Beijing’s anger.

Future bans may become more targeted to punish industries in counties that are D.P.P. strongholds, said Thomas J. Shattuck, an expert on Taiwan at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House. There may also be less retaliation against counties run by the Kuomintang opposition party “in an attempt to put a finger on the scale for Taiwan’s local, and even national, elections,” he added.

increasingly indispensable node in the global supply chains for smartphones, cars and other keystones of modern life. One producer, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, makes roughly 90 percent of the world’s most advanced semiconductors, and sells them to both China and the West.

simulated a blockade of Taiwan.

Even though some of the exercises took place in the Taiwan Strait, a key artery for international shipping, they did not disrupt access to ports in Taiwan or southern China, said Tan Hua Joo, an analyst at Linerlytica, a company in Singapore that tracks data on the container shipping industry. He added that port congestion would build only if the strait was completely blocked, port access was restricted or port operations were hampered by a labor or equipment shortage.

“None of these are happening at the moment,” he said.

Vessels that chose to avoid the Taiwan Strait last week because of the Chinese military’s “chest beating” activities would have faced a 12- to 18-hour delay, an inconvenience that would generally be considered manageable, said Niels Rasmussen, the chief shipping analyst at Bimco, an international shipping association.

If Beijing were to escalate tensions in the future, it would indicate that it was willing to put at risk China’s own economy as well as its trade and relations with Japan, South Korea, Europe and the United States, Mr. Rasmussen said by phone from his office near Copenhagen.

“That’s just difficult to accept that they would take that decision,” he added. “But then again, I didn’t expect Russia to invade Ukraine.”

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U.S. Gas Prices Fall Below $4 a Gallon, AAA Says. Here’s Why.

Gas prices in the United States fell below $4 a gallon on Thursday, retreating to their lowest level since March, a sign of relief for Americans struggling with historically high inflation and a political boost for President Biden, who has been under pressure to do more to bring down prices.

The national average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline now stands at $3.99, according to AAA. That’s still higher than it was a year ago but well below a peak of nearly $5.02 in mid-June. The average price has fallen for 58 consecutive days.

Energy costs feed into broad measures of inflation, so the drop is also good news for policymakers who have struggled to contain rising prices. It is a welcome development for Mr. Biden, who has spent recent weeks trumpeting the drop in gasoline prices, even as he pledges to do more to bring costs down. Mr. Biden has criticized oil companies for their record profits, and this year he released some of the nation’s stockpile of oil in an effort to reduce price pressures.

cost of gasoline at the pump is determined by global oil prices, which have tumbled to their lowest point since the war in Ukraine began in February, a drop that reflects in part the growing concern of a worldwide recession that will hit demand for crude.

said in a statement, citing it as one example of recent “encouraging economic developments.”

For consumers, falling gas prices offer a respite from a shaky economy, rapid inflation and other worries. “We have new rising diseases and inflation, and people expect a recession,” said Zindy Contreras, a student and part-time waitress in Los Angeles. “If I just had to not worry about my gas tank taking up $70, that’d be a huge relief, for once.”

Ms. Contreras has been filling up her 2008 Mazda 3 only halfway as a result of the higher prices, costing her $25 to $30 each visit to the pump, and she had found opportunities to car-pool with friends. These days, Ms. Contreras usually gets gas twice a week, driving 15 miles to and from work each week and an additional 10 to 50 miles a week, depending on her plans.

The national average price masks wide regional variations. Prices vary according to the health of local economies, proximity to refineries and state taxes, said Devin Gladden, a spokesman with AAA.

weaker demand because of high costs, a sharp decline in global oil prices in recent months and the suspension of taxes on gasoline in a handful of states.

Nearly two-thirds of people in a recent AAA survey said they had altered their driving habits because of high prices, mostly by taking fewer trips and combining errands. On Thursday, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries revised down its forecast for global oil demand this year.

Regardless of the causes, the lower prices are a welcome change for drivers for whom the added expense — often $10 to $15 extra for a tank of gas — had become yet another hurdle as they sought to get their lives back to normal as the coronavirus pandemic eased.

“The affordability squeeze is becoming very real when you see these high prices at the gas pump,” said Beth Ann Bovino, the U.S. chief economist at S&P Global. “So, in that sense, it’s a positive sign certainly for those folks that are struggling.”

That cushion — cash not spent on gasoline that can go elsewhere — also extends to businesses, particularly as the price of diesel fuel drops. Diesel, which is used to fuel, for instance, farm equipment, construction machinery and long-haul trucks, has also fallen from a June record, though at a slower pace than gasoline prices.

The drop in the price of gas is also good news for the economy, as businesses face less pressure to pass energy costs on to their customers — a move that would add to the country’s inflation problem.

hurricanes later this year could damage Gulf Coast refineries and pipelines, choking off supplies.

For now, though, the steady drop in the cost of fuel offers Americans a reprieve.

“If gasoline prices stay at or near the levels they have reached, that would mean much more cushion for households,” Ms. Bovino said.

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Hearth Market by Fuel Type, Product, Placement, Design, Application, Fireplace Type, Vent Availability, Ignition Type, Material and Region – Global Forecast to 2027 – ResearchAndMarkets.com

DUBLIN–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The “Global Hearth Market by Fuel Type (Wood, Electricity, Gas, Pellet), Product (Fireplaces, Inserts, Stoves), Placement, Design, Application, Fireplace Type, Vent Availability, Ignition Type, Material and Region – Forecast to 2027” report has been added to ResearchAndMarkets.com’s offering.

The global hearth market was valued at USD 9.3 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach USD 14.8 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 7.7% during the forecast period.

Indoor Hearths: The fastest-growing segment of the hearth market

An indoor hearth offers great warmth during chilly fall and winter nights. This can help reduce heating bills because most indoor fireplaces require little kindling and wood. Also, they are a great interior decoration for indoor spaces because they offer an inviting decor to the overall ambience. These hearths are integrated with different technologies and come in varied shapes and sizes. Apart from the heating efficiency of the hearth, the overall esthetic value and power consumption benefits are also valued by end users. Indoor hearths are in high demand these days.

More and more individuals are installing this product as they learn about the benefits of a high-quality indoor hearth. Indoor hearths are available across a wide price range, targeting different income groups. The easy availability of several types of indoor hearths with varying designs, fuel types (wood, gas, electricity, pellet), costs, and related accessories has further boosted the adoption of indoor hearths.

Modern Hearth: The highest growing design segment in hearth market

The modern hearths segment is projected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period. Modern hearths are equipped with remote controls and the latest technologies to support better fuel efficiency and low emission rates. Lower maintenance and operational costs of modern hearths are also expected to drive their growth compared to traditional hearths.

Modern hearths are better equipped to accommodate the guidelines issued by the regulatory bodies. They are comparatively more fuel- and cost-efficient. Modern hearth designs have gained immense popularity due to their visual and esthetic appeal, low maintenance costs, and energy efficiency. Together, these features are expected to drive the market growth for modern hearths.

North America: The largest region in the hearth market in 2021

North America held the largest share of ~64% of the hearth market in 2021. The market growth in this region is rising predominantly due to the strong presence of key hearth manufacturers such as HNI Corporation, Glen Dimplex, Napoleon, Travis Industries (Axis Industrial Holdings Inc.), and HPC Fire Inspired. These players dominate the global hearth market by focusing on their organic and inorganic growth and delivering hearth products with cost-efficient operations and environment-effective fuel modes. In addition, the cold climate and increasing demand for esthetic appeal and home decoration are some of the key driving factors for the hearth market’s growth in the region.

Market Dynamics

Drivers

Restraints

Opportunities

Challenges

Companies Mentioned

For more information about this report visit https://www.researchandmarkets.com/r/fcy2cf

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Electric Cars Are Too Costly for Many, Even With Aid in Climate Bill

Policymakers in Washington are promoting electric vehicles as a solution to climate change. But an uncomfortable truth remains: Battery-powered cars are much too expensive for a vast majority of Americans.

Congress has begun trying to address that problem. The climate and energy package passed on Sunday by the Senate, the Inflation Reduction Act, would give buyers of used electric cars a tax credit.

But automakers have complained that the credit would apply to only a narrow slice of vehicles, at least initially, largely because of domestic sourcing requirements. And experts say broader steps are needed to make electric cars more affordable and to get enough of them on the road to put a serious dent in greenhouse gas emissions.

would eliminate this cap and extend the tax credit until 2032; used cars would also qualify for a credit of up to $4,000.

With so much demand, carmakers have little reason to target budget-minded buyers. Economy car stalwarts like Toyota and Honda are not yet selling significant numbers of all-electric models in the United States. Scarcity has been good for Ford, Mercedes-Benz and other carmakers that are selling fewer cars than before the pandemic but recording fat profits.

Automakers are “not giving any more discounts because demand is higher than the supply,” said Axel Schmidt, a senior managing director at Accenture who oversees the consulting firm’s automotive division. “The general trend currently is no one is interested in low prices.”

Advertised prices for electric vehicles tend to start around $40,000, not including a federal tax credit of $7,500. Good luck finding an electric car at that semi-affordable price.

Ford has stopped taking orders for Lightning electric pickups, with an advertised starting price of about $40,000, because it can’t make them fast enough. Hyundai advertises that its electric Ioniq 5 starts at about $40,000. But the cheapest models available from dealers in the New York area, based on a search of the company’s website, were around $49,000 before taxes.

Tesla’s Model 3, which the company began producing in 2017, was supposed to be an electric car for average folks, with a base price of $35,000. But Tesla has since raised the price for the cheapest version to $47,000.

pass the House, would give buyers of used cars a tax credit of up to $4,000. The used-car market is twice the size of the new-car market and is where most people get their rides.

But the tax credit for used cars would apply only to those sold for $25,000 or less. Less than 20 percent of used electric vehicles fit that category, said Scott Case, chief executive of Recurrent, a research firm focused on the used-vehicle market.

The supply of secondhand vehicles will grow over time, Mr. Case said. He noted that the Model 3, which has sold more than any other electric car, became widely available only in 2018. New-car buyers typically keep their vehicles three or four years before trading them in.

SAIC’s MG unit sells an electric S.U.V. in Europe for about $31,000 before incentives.

New battery designs offer hope for cheaper electric cars but will take years to appear in lower-priced models. Predictably, next-generation batteries that charge faster and go farther are likely to appear first in luxury cars, like those from Porsche and Mercedes.

Companies working on these advanced technologies argue that they will ultimately reduce costs for everyone by packing more energy into smaller packages. A smaller battery saves weight and cuts the cost of cooling systems, brakes and other components because they can be designed for a lighter car.

You can actually decrease everything else,” said Justin Mirro, chief executive of Kensington Capital Acquisition, which helped the battery maker QuantumScape go public and is preparing a stock market listing for the fledgling battery maker Amprius Technologies. “It just has this multiplier effect.”

$45 million in grants to firms or researchers working on batteries that, among other things, would last longer, to create a bigger supply of used vehicles.

“We also need cheaper batteries, and batteries that charge faster and work better in the winter,” said Halle Cheeseman, a program director who focuses on batteries at the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, part of the Department of Energy.

Gene Berdichevsky, chief executive of Sila Nanotechnologies, a California company working on next-generation battery technology, argues that prices are following a curve like the one solar cells did. Prices for solar panels ticked up when demand began to take off, but soon resumed a steady decline.

The first car to use Sila’s technology will be a Mercedes luxury S.U.V. But Mr. Berdichevsky said: “I’m not in this to make toys for the rich. I’m here to make all cars go electric.” 

A few manufacturers offer cars aimed at the less wealthy. A Chevrolet Bolt, a utilitarian hatchback, lists for $25,600 before incentives. Volkswagen said this month that the entry-level version of its 2023 ID.4 electric sport utility vehicle, which the German carmaker has begun manufacturing at its factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., will start at $37,500, or around $30,000 if it qualifies for the federal tax credit.

Then there is the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV, produced in China by a joint venture of General Motors and the Chinese automakers SAIC and Wuling. The car reportedly outsells the Tesla Model 3 in China. While the $4,500 price tag is unbeatable, it is unlikely that many Americans would buy a car with a top speed of barely 60 miles per hour and a range slightly over 100 miles. There is no sign that the car will be exported to the United States.

Eventually, Ms. Bailo of the Center for Automotive Research said, carmakers will run out of well-heeled buyers and aim at the other 95 percent.

“They listen to their customers,” she said. “Eventually that demand from high-income earners is going to abate.”

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UK leadership candidate Truss: junk food taxes “are over”

LONDON, Aug 2 (Reuters) – The frontrunner to become British prime minister, Liz Truss, said she would scrap plans to restrict multi-buy deals on food and drink high in fat, salt, or sugar and would not impose any new levies on unhealthy food.

Britain already taxes sugar in soft drinks, and in May delayed until October next year rules banning deals such “buy one get one free” on food and drink high in fat, salt or sugar due to the cost-of-living crisis. read more

“Those taxes are over,” Truss said in an interview with the Daily Mail. “Talking about whether or not somebody should buy a two-for-one offer? No. There is definitely enough of that.”

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Truss said Britons wanted the government to focus on things like delivering good transport links, communications infrastructure and cutting National Health Service waiting lists.

“They don’t want the government telling them what to eat,” she said.

The ban was also due to include restrictions on free refills for soft drinks in restaurants. Limits on the location of unhealthy foods in shops are still due to go ahead in October.

Opinion polls of Conservative Party members, who will elect their new leader and the country’s next prime minister, show Truss is leading her rival former finance minister Rishi Sunak ahead of a result due on Sept. 5.

The chairman of Britain’s biggest supermarket group Tesco (TSCO.L), John Allan, in June criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government for not being consistent on policy, including over anti-obesity measures. read more

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Reporting by Kylie MacLellan. Editing by Andrew MacAskill

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Al Qaeda’s Zawahiri survived harsh mountains, killed in posh Kabul locality

A photo of Al Qaeda’s new leader, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, is seen in this still image taken from a video released on September 12, 2011. SITE Monitoring Service/Handout via REUTERS TV/

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Aug 2 (Reuters) – Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, who had a $25 million U.S. bounty on his head, survived years in Afghanistan’s rugged mountains but his last months were spent in an upscale Kabul neighbourhood where top officials from the Taliban also live.

U.S. officials said Hellfire missiles from a U.S. drone killed the 71-year-old when he came out on the balcony of a safe house in Kabul on Sunday morning. U.S. President Joe Biden said no civilians were killed. read more

The Taliban confirmed an air strike on a residential house in the Sherpoor area of Kabul but said there were no casualties.

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Zawahiri moved to a “very safe place” in Kabul a few months after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August last year, a senior leader of the radical group told Reuters on Tuesday on the condition of anonymity.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid condemned the drone strike and called it a violation of “international principles”. Two Taliban spokesmen did not respond to Reuters request seeking details about Zawahiri’s death.

Unverified pictures on social media of what was described as the target of the attack showed shattered windows of a pink building, its fences topped with rolls of barbed wires. The house appeared two to three stories tall and ringed by trees.

Sherpoor is a quiet, leafy part of Kabul with large houses, where former Afghan general and ethnic Uzbek strongman Abdul Rashid Dostum had lived, among other local dignitaries. Some houses have swimming pools in their attached gardens.

U.S. and NATO embassies are within a few km (miles) of the area.

A woman who lives in the neighbourhood and spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said she and her family of nine moved to the safe-room of their house when she heard an explosion at the weekend. When she later went to the rooftop, she saw no commotion or chaos and assumed it was some rocket or bomb attack – which are not uncommon in Kabul.

The senior Taliban leader said Zawahiri spent most of his time in the mountains of Helmand province’s Musa Qala district after the Taliban government was overthrown in 2001 when the United States sent troops to the country.

He said Zawahiri kept a low profile there but went in and out of Pakistan’s border regions several times.

Pakistan’s foreign office did not respond to questions about Zawahiri’s reported movements in and out of Pakistan.

In January, 2006, CIA-operated Predator drones fired missiles at a house in Damadola, a village in the Pakistani tribal region of Bajaur, in the belief that Zawahiri was visiting. He was not but at least 18 villagers were killed.

TOP SECURITY

Other Taliban sources said the group gave the “highest-level security” to Zawahiri in Kabul but he was largely inactive operationally and needed the Taliban’s permission to move.

A Kabul police official described Sherpoor as Kabul’s “most safe and secure neighbourhood” and that the drone strike there was a “great shock”.

He said influential people from the former governments of Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani had built spacious houses in Sherpoor. Senior Taliban leaders and their families now lived there, the official said.

Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon, helped coordinate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States.

A U.S. official said U.S. officials identified that Zawahiri’s family – his wife, his daughter and her children – had relocated to a house in Kabul and subsequently identified Zawahiri at the same location.

Officials were not aware of him leaving it and on multiple times they identified him on its balcony – where he was ultimately struck. read more

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Reporting by Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar, Rupam Jain in Mumbai and Gibran Peshimam in Islamabad; Writing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri killed in U.S. drone strike in downtown Kabul

  • Zawahiri tracked to safe house in Kabul
  • Hit by Hellfire missile while standing on balcony
  • ‘This terrorist leader is no more’ – Biden
  • Taliban ‘grossly violated’ Doha Agreement – Blinken

KABUL/WASHINGTON, Aug 2 (Reuters) – The United States killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri with a drone missile while he stood on a balcony at his home in Kabul, U.S. officials said, the biggest blow to the militants since Osama bin Laden was shot dead more than a decade ago.

Afghanistan’s Taliban government has not confirmed the death of Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who had a $25 million bounty on his head and helped to coordinate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.

U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Zawahiri was killed when he came out on the balcony of his safe house in the Afghan capital at 6:18 a.m. (0148 GMT) on Sunday and was hit by Hellfire missiles from a U.S. drone.

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“Now justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more,” U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday.

Biden said he authorised the strike after months of planning and that no civilians or family members were killed.

“The world will be a safer place,” said Britain’s foreign minister Liz Truss.

Three spokespeople in the Taliban administration declined comment on Tuesday. The United States accused the Taliban of violating an agreement between them by sheltering Zawahiri.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid previously confirmed that a strike took place in Kabul on Sunday and called it a violation of “international principles”.

A spokesperson for the interior ministry said a house was hit by a rocket in Sherpoor, a leafy residential neighbourhood in the centre of Kabul. “There were no casualties as the house was empty,” Abdul Nafi Takor said.

Taliban authorities threw a security dragnet around the house and journalists were not allowed nearby.

A woman who lives in the neighbourhood and spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said she and her family of nine moved to the safe room of their house when she heard an explosion at the weekend.

When she later went to the rooftop, she saw no commotion or chaos and assumed it was a rocket or bomb attack – which is not uncommon in Kabul. read more

A senior Taliban official told Reuters that Zawahiri was previously in Helmand province and had moved to Kabul after the Taliban took over the country in August last year.

White House spokesman John Kirby told CNN the United States did not have DNA confirmation of Zawahiri’s death, citing “visual confirmation” along with other sources.

He warned al Qaeda and those harbouring the group.

“We are still going to stay vigilant, we’re still going to stay capable,” he told MSNBC.

The State Department warned U.S. citizens overseas that “there is a higher potential for anti-American violence” following the killing and that al Qaeda supporters “may seek to attack U.S. facilities, personnel or citizens.” read more

PROVIDING SANCTUARY

After U.S. Navy SEALS shot bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, Zawahiri succeeded him as leader.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry on Tuesday said it “stands by countering terrorism in accordance with international law and relevant UN resolutions.”

Kirby said no notifications were given in advance of the strike, when asked at a briefing on Tuesday if Pakistan had been told ahead of time.

Zawahiri had spent years as al Qaeda’s main organiser and strategist. But a lack of charisma and competition from rival militants Islamic State hobbled his ability to inspire devastating attacks on the West. read more

Reuters Graphics

There were rumours of Zawahiri’s death several times in recent years, and he was long reported to have been in poor health.

The drone attack is the first known U.S. strike inside Afghanistan since the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops and diplomats in 2021.

The killing may bolster the credibility of Washington’s assurances that it can still address threats from Afghanistan without a military presence in the country.

“I was critical of President Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan, but this strike shows we still have the capability and will to act there to protect our country,” said U.S. Representative Tom Malinowski, a Democrat. read more

Zawahiri’s death also raises questions about whether he received sanctuary from the Taliban.

A senior U.S. administration official said senior Taliban officials were aware of his presence in Kabul and said the United States expected the Taliban to abide by an agreement not to allow al Qaeda fighters to re-establish themselves there.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Taliban had “grossly violated” the Doha Agreement between the two sides by hosting and sheltering Zawahiri.

Until the U.S. announcement, Zawahiri had been rumoured to be elsewhere inside Afghanistan or in Pakistan’s tribal area.

A video released in April in which he praised an Indian Muslim woman for defying a ban on wearing an Islamic head scarf dispelled rumours that he had died.

WIFE, FAMILY IN SAME HOUSE

The senior U.S. official said the United States found out this year that Zawahiri’s wife, daughter and her children had relocated to a safe house in Kabul, then identified that Zawahiri was there as well.

He was identified multiple times on the balcony, where he was ultimately struck. He continued to produce videos from the house and some may be released after his death, the official said.

In the last few weeks, Biden convened officials to scrutinise the intelligence. He was updated throughout May and June and was briefed on July 1 on a proposed operation by intelligence leaders.

On July 25, Biden received an updated report and authorised the strike once an opportunity was available, the official said.

With other senior al Qaeda members, Zawahiri is believed to have plotted the Oct. 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole naval vessel in Yemen which killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured more than 30 others, the Rewards for Justice website said.

He was indicted in the United States for his role in the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people and wounded more than 5,000 others.

Both bin Laden and Zawahiri eluded capture when U.S.-led forces toppled Afghanistan’s Taliban government in late 2001 following the Sept. 11 attacks.

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Reporting by Idrees Ali and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Alexandra Alper, Eric Beech, Jonathan Landay, Arshad Mohammed, Patricia Zengerle, Matt Spetalnick in Washington, Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar, Susan Heavey in Washington and Reuters staff in Kabul; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Krishna N. Das and Costas Pitas; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Nick Macfie, Grant McCool and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Idrees Ali

Thomson Reuters

National security correspondent focusing on the Pentagon in Washington D.C. Reports on U.S. military activity and operations throughout the world and the impact that they have. Has reported from over two dozen countries to include Iraq, Afghanistan, and much of the Middle East, Asia and Europe. From Karachi, Pakistan.

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How a New Corporate Minimum Tax Could Reshape Business Investments

WASHINGTON — At the center of the new climate and tax package that Democrats appear to be on the verge of passing is one of the most significant changes to America’s tax code in decades: a new corporate minimum tax that could reshape how the federal government collects revenue and alter how the nation’s most profitable companies invest in their businesses.

The proposal is one of the last remaining tax increases in the package that Democrats are aiming to pass along party lines in coming days. After months of intraparty disagreement over whether to raise taxes on the wealthy or roll back some of the 2017 Republican tax cuts to fund their agenda, they have settled on a longstanding political ambition to ensure that large and profitable companies pay more than $0 in federal taxes.

To accomplish this, Democrats have recreated a policy that was last employed in the 1980s: trying to capture tax revenue from companies that report a profit to shareholders on their financial statements while bulking up on deductions to whittle down their tax bills.

reduce their effective tax rates well below the statutory 21 percent. It was originally projected to raise $313 billion in tax revenue over a decade, though the final tally is likely to be $258 billion once the revised bill is finalized.

would eliminate this cap and extend the tax credit until 2032; used cars would also qualify for a credit of up to $4,000.

Because of that complexity, the corporate minimum tax has faced substantial skepticism. It is less efficient than simply eliminating deductions or raising the corporate tax rate and could open the door for companies to find new ways to make their income appear lower to reduce their tax bills.

Similar versions of the idea have been floated by Mr. Biden during his presidential campaign and by Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts. They have been promoted as a way to restore fairness to a tax system that has allowed major corporations to dramatically lower their tax bills through deductions and other accounting measures.

According to an early estimate from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the tax would most likely apply to about 150 companies annually, and the bulk of them would be manufacturers. That spurred an outcry from manufacturing companies and Republicans, who have been opposed to any policies that scale back the tax cuts that they enacted five years ago.

Although many Democrats acknowledge that the corporate minimum tax was not their first choice of tax hikes, they have embraced it as a political winner. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, shared Joint Committee on Taxation data on Thursday indicating that in 2019, about 100 to 125 corporations reported financial statement income greater than $1 billion, yet their effective tax rates were lower than 5 percent. The average income reported on financial statements to shareholders was nearly $9 billion, but they paid an average effective tax rate of just 1.1 percent.

“Companies are paying rock-bottom rates while reporting record profits to their shareholders,” Mr. Wyden said.

told the Senate Finance Committee last year. “This behavioral response poses serious risks for financial accounting and the capital markets.”

Other opponents of the new tax have expressed concerns that it would give more control over the U.S. tax base to the Financial Accounting Standards Board, an independent organization that sets accounting rules.

“The potential politicization of the F.A.S.B. will likely lead to lower-quality financial accounting standards and lower-quality financial accounting earnings,” Ms. Hanlon and Jeffrey L. Hoopes, a University of North Carolina professor, wrote in a letter to members of Congress last year that was signed by more than 260 accounting academics.

the chief economist of the manufacturing association. “Arizona’s manufacturing voters are clearly saying that this tax will hurt our economy.”

Ms. Sinema has expressed opposition to increasing tax rates and had reservations about a proposal to scale back the special tax treatment that hedge fund managers and private equity executives receive for “carried interest.” Democrats scrapped the proposal at her urging.

When an earlier version of a corporate minimum tax was proposed last October, Ms. Sinema issued an approving statement.

“This proposal represents a common sense step toward ensuring that highly profitable corporations — which sometimes can avoid the current corporate tax rate — pay a reasonable minimum corporate tax on their profits, just as everyday Arizonans and Arizona small businesses do,” she said. In announcing that she would back an amended version of the climate and tax bill on Thursday, Ms. Sinema noted that it would “protect advanced manufacturing.”

That won plaudits from business groups on Friday.

“Taxing capital expenditures — investments in new buildings, factories, equipment, etc. — is one of the most economically destructive ways you can raise taxes,” Neil Bradley, chief policy officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. He added, “While we look forward to reviewing the new proposed bill, Senator Sinema deserves credit for recognizing this and fighting for changes.”

Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

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The Children of War

No victim of war emerges without suffering some kind of loss: A home eviscerated. A loved one vanished. A life snatched away.

Yet no one loses as much to war as children — scarred by its ravages for a lifetime.

In Ukraine, time is dwindling to prevent another “lost generation” — the oft-used expression not only for young lives taken, but also for the children who sacrifice their education, passions and friendships to shifting front lines, or suffer psychological scars too deep to be healed.

The online ticker at the top of a Ukrainian government page, “Children of War” flickers with a grim and steadily rising tally: Dead: 361. Wounded: 702. Disappeared: 206. Found: 4,214. Deported: 6,159. Returned: 50.

“Every one of Ukraine’s 5.7 million children have trauma,’’ said Murat Sahin, who represents the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, in Ukraine. “I wouldn’t say that 10 percent or 50 percent of them are OK — everyone is experiencing it, and it takes years to heal.”

According to humanitarian agencies, more than a third of Ukrainian children — 2.2 million — have been forced to flee their homes, with many of them displaced two or three times, as territory is lost. Over half of Ukraine’s children — 3.6 million — may not have a school to go back to come September.

Yet even with war moving into its sixth month, children’s advocates say there is time to make meaningful changes to how young people emerge from the conflict.

In Lviv’s maternity wards, mothers pray that the fighting ends before their infants are old enough to remember it. In eastern Ukraine, activists search for children who disappeared across the front lines. Across the country, aid workers and Ukrainian officials are scrambling to repair bombed-out schools and start psychological support.

“We believe in the resilience of children,” said Ramon Shahzamani, the chairman of War Child Holland, a group that focuses on psychological and educational support for children in conflict zones.

“If you’re able to reach children as soon as possible, and help them deal with what they have experienced and what they have seen,” he said, “then they are able to deal with their emotions.”

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

That resilience is evident in the way that children have adapted their daily lives — scribbling drawings in crayon and paint on the wall of a dank basement where they are held captive, or inventing a game based on the frequent checkpoint stops they are subjected to. They mimic the grim reality they witness in the war, but also find ways to escape it.

In the Donbas, a 13-year-old girl named Dariia no longer flinches, or runs, when a shell hits nearby, so accustomed is she to the terror that erupts daily.

Even so, there is the cost of unhealed psychological trauma. And the effects are not only mental, but also physical.

Children exposed to war are at risk of “toxic stress,” a condition triggered by extreme periods of adversity, said Sonia Khush, the director of Save the Children in Ukraine. The effects are so powerful that they can alter brain structures and organ systems, lasting long into children’s adult lives.

Offering a hopeful path through war is not just for Ukraine’s children today, Mr. Shahzamani said. It is for the sake of the country’s future, too.

The War Child group recently surveyed children and grandchildren of those who lived through World War II, and found that families even two generations later were affected by wartime traumas.

“War is intergenerational,” he said. “That is why it is extremely important to work on the well-being and mental health of children.”

Education is critical to psychological support, Ms. Khush said. Schools provide children with social networks among peers, guidance from teachers and a routine that can provide a sense of normalcy amid pervasive uncertainty.

More than 2,000 of Ukraine’s approximately 17,000 schools have been damaged by war, while 221 have been destroyed, according to United Nations statistics. Another 3,500 have been used to shelter or assist the seven million Ukrainians who have fled to safer parts of the country. No one knows how many will open when the academic year starts a month from now.

Credit…Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

The social destruction is even harder to repair. Thousands of families have been ripped apart as brothers and fathers have been conscripted or killed, and children forced to flee, leaving grandparents and friends behind. Aid workers have noticed a growing problem of nightmares and aggressive behavior in young children.

Before the invasion, Ukraine had about 91,000 children in institutional orphanages, more than half with disabilities, Mr. Sahin said. No tally has been released for how much that number has climbed since the war began.

One of the major unknowns of the war is the number of children orphaned or separated from their parents. But apart from those orphaned, Moscow has also forcibly deported tens of thousands of Ukrainians into Russia, according to Ukrainian officials. Many are believed to be children separated from their parents.

Now, Ukrainian activists are using clandestine networks inside Russian-held territories to try to get information on those children — and, if possible, bring them back.

There is hope for orphans, too. A new effort led by the Ukrainian government and UNICEF has encouraged about 21,000 families to register as foster families. Already, 1,000 of them are trained and taking children in.

“It’s just the beginning,” Maryna Lazebna, Ukraine’s minister of social policy, said recently. “Sometimes destruction encourages building something new, not rebuilding the past.”

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Brazil’s Lula advised to buy back Petrobras refineries, study author says

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A logo of Brazil’s state-run Petrobras oil company is seen at its headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil October 16, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

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Aug 5 (Reuters) – An oil and gas industry study commissioned by the campaign of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for the October elections will recommend bolstering Petrobras’ refining capacity, including through the reversal of refinery privatizations, one of the study’s authors told Reuters.

The study also proposes new investments and the resumption of refinery projects abandoned by Petrobras after the state-run oil company decided to focus on production from its offshore pre-salt fields as it recovered from Brazil’s biggest ever corruption probe, the so-called Car Wash scandal.

Among the proposals is the possibility of Petrobras regaining ownership of the RLAM refinery in Bahia, said study co-author William Nozaki, on the Workers Party team advising Lula on Petrobras affairs. RLAM, the largest refining asset sold in 2021 by the company, is now owned by Acelen of Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala group.

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“For some assets, it is possible to consult the partners who acquired them to… find out if they are really interested in fully remaining in the operation,” said Nozaki, coordinator at the Institute for Strategic Studies in Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels (Ineep) linked to the FUP oil workers’ union.

“This is the case with RLAM.”

The Bahia refinery was the first divested by Petrobras from the group of eight refineries that will have to be sold by the company under the agreement signed with antitrust regulator CADE in 2019 to end its monopoly in Brazilian refining.

Nozaki did not comment on the antitrust implications of renationalizing refineries. He said conversations should be started with the Mubadala fund to find out what their prospects are, and if they really want to continue operating 100% of the refinery.

Lula is leading in the polls against incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro. His government program has yet to be finished.

“The guidance given by Lula is that nothing will be done in a traumatic way for shareholders or for Petrobras’ investments,” Nozaki said.

The study will propose reassessing the sale of three refineries included in the CADE agreement that are still in the process of being sold – Repar, in Parana, Refap, in Rio Grande do Sul, and Rnest, in Pernambuco.

Besides the Bahia refinery, Petrobras has already closed deals to sell units in Amazonas (Reman), Parana (SIX), Ceará (Lubnor) and Minas Gerais (Regap).

Lula’s program echoes plans by other Latin American leftist leaders, such as Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has made boosting refinery capacity to make the country energy self-sufficient a key pillar of his presidency.

Nozaki admitted that it is “difficult” to reverse the sales of Petrobras refineries, but not impossible.

The main goal of strengthening Petrobras refining capacity is to help Brazil deal with high inflation, he said.

“Lula asked us to put all the available options on the table, from a technical point of view, and to think about how to face the problem of fuel inflation,” Nozaki said

Inflation has exceeded 11% for the last 12 months, driven by fuel prices, which Bolsonaro has tried to mitigate with tax cuts as he seeks re-election.

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Reporting by Rafaella Barros; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Jan Harvey

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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