Tag Archives: caribbean

Corona Effect: US Economy Shrank 3.5% in 2020

The U.S. economy shrank 3.5 percent in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses, schools and events, marking the first annual contraction since the Great Recession, according to data released by the Commerce Department on Thursday.

U.S gross domestic product (GDP) suffered its largest annual decline since 1946 due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Commerce Department. The outbreak of COVID-19 caused the steepest economic collapse since the Great Depression, wiping out more than 20 million jobs and years of economic growth within two months.

U.S. GDP increased by an annualized rate of 4 percent in the final three months of 2020, according to the data released Thursday, following an annualized gain of 33.4 percent in the third quarter and and 31.4 percent annualized decline in the second quarter. But the economic rebound staged in the second half of 2020 has been dampened by the rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout the country.

Roughly 9 million jobs lost during onset of the pandemic have yet to be recovered, and those without work have struggled to get by with swaths of the economy still largely shut down by the virus. The federal government approved more than $4 trillion to fund pandemic response and economic rescue, though Democratic lawmakers and many economists say more is still needed.

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Haiti: If He Stays or If He Goes, in the End, Only Moise Knows

Bloomberg) — Everyone agrees that the Haitian president’s term ends Feb. 7, but there’s disagreement over which year.

As far as the opposition is concerned, President Jovenel Moise’s time is up next month, and they’ve protested and clashed with security forces as that day draws near. He says his term runs through 2022, and has no plans to quit before then.

The struggle over term limits comes as the poorest nation in the Americas grapples with 20% inflation, its sharpest economic contraction in a decade and surging gang-violence. In addition, Haiti is still recovering from the deadly 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, while chronic political instability has seen it churn through four presidents in a decade.

Moise, 52, maintains that his five-year term began when he was sworn in on Feb. 7, 2017, a position supported by the Organization of American States. But the opposition — and some legal scholars — says the clock started ticking in 2016, in the wake of chaotic and disputed elections that led to an interim presidency and a new vote.

Read More: Bandits Take Over Valley That Was Long Haiti’s Breadbasket

To complicate matters, Moise began ruling by decree last year after legislative elections were shelved and parliamentary terms expired amid a dispute over his hand-picked electoral authority. He’s used that sweeping power to create a new national intelligence service and broadened the definition of “terrorism” to include the blocking of roads — one of the main forms of protest.

U.S. Reaction

For months, the U.S., the European Union and the Organization of American States, among others, have urged new legislative elections to restore the balance of power. Instead, Moise is proposing a referendum in April to modify the constitution, followed by legislative and presidential elections in September and a run-off in November. That would essentially leave him governing by decree into 2022.

Haiti’s opposition fears the constitutional referendum is another power grab — an attempt by Moise to cling to his office, as the current constitution bars consecutive presidential terms.

The government has provided few details about the new constitution, but Moise has repeatedly said he wants to make the country more governable. At a Jan. 1 event marking Haiti’s independence, he said the nation’s institutions had been hijacked by “corrupt oligarchs” who have created “a predatory state that works only for their own petty interests.”

The presidency didn’t reply to an email seeking additional comment.

While the Donald Trump administration pushed for new elections it also maintained cordial relations with Moise, one of the Caribbean’s most vocal backers of the U.S. campaign against the Venezuelan government.

That dynamic may be changing.

Last month, a group of Democrat lawmakers including Gregory Meeks, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, accused Moise of “pursuing an increasingly authoritarian course of action” and said it would work with the Joe Biden administration to support “a credible, Haitian-led transition back to democratic order.”

Chaotic Country

Haiti’s constitution is ambiguous when it comes to the exact start-date of Moise’s five-year term, said Nicole Phillips, the legal director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, a coalition of non-profit organizations. That means the political struggle is playing out on the streets.

Moise’s “failure to hold any kind of election, his consolidation of power in the executive branch and his acting as a quasi-dictator, those are facts that are propelling legitimate opposition arguments that he needs to step down,” she said in a telephone interview from Port-au-Prince.

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Cuba Hopes Biden Will Quickly Reverse Trump’s Hard-line on the Island

The Cuban government hopes that the new US president, Joe Biden, will “quickly” reverse the hard line towards the island of his predecessor, Donald Trump, and resume the thaw initiated by Barack Obama in 2014.

This was stated to Reuters by Carlos Fernández de Cossío, the top Cuban Foreign Ministry official in charge of relations with the the US..

“Everything could be reversed in the short term if that is the will of the government,” he says in an interview with the British agency. Havana is open to dialogue, he says, but acknowledges that it will not make “political concessions” in exchange for a relaxation of sanctions.

Fernández de Cossío points out that Biden’s promises suggest he will restart the process where he left off when he was Obama’s vice-president.

Fernández de Cossío is also optimistic that Biden’s team will include officials with experience in relations with Cuba, “who would not be swayed by simplified narratives…This team has more experience than any other in the last 60 years,” he said.

The last measure against the Island’s regime by the Trump administration came just five days before leaving office, with the sanctions imposed on the Cuban Ministry of the Interior and its head, General Lazaro Alberto Alvarez Casas, for “serious human rights abuses.”

Earlier that same week, the US included Cuba in the list of countries sponsoring terrorism; it had been removed from the list in 2015 during the Obama Administration.

Last May, Washington included the island in the list of countries that “do not fully cooperate” with US anti-terrorism efforts, and, among other sanctions, banned the sending of remittances to Cuba through companies controlled by the Cuban Armed Forces, and included in its black list companies “controlled” by the military, such as Gaesa, Fincimex and Kave Coffee.

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4 Tons of Cocaine Seized from Fishing Boat off Barbados

More than four tonnes of the high-purity cocaine were discovered on a fishing vessel that was intercepted off the coast of Barbados.

Deputy Director Tom Dowdall, head of NCA International, said: “A seizure of this size will have a dramatic impact on the organised crime groups involved, and deprive them of huge profits.”

Working with European partners as part of an investigation started last year, the NCA developed intelligence leading to the identification of the fishing vessel that was carrying the drugs.

On January 17, a French naval vessel operating out of Martinique intercepted and boarded the boat in international waters east of Barbados.

The NCA said the 4.2 tonnes of cocaine found on board would likely have had “a street value of several hundred million pounds to criminal networks in Europe”.

The boat and her eight crew were apprehended and handed over to administrative and judicial authorities.

Fishing vessel being searched. Picture: Forces armées aux Antilles/Defénse

Throughout the operation, officers from the NCA’s international network shared intelligence and coordinated the deployment of law enforcement and military assets, working closely with international partners through the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre (MAOC-N) in Lisbon.

Mr Dowdall said: “The role played by the NCA in identifying and locating the vessel was critical to the success of the operation.

“Through MAOC-N we were then able to ensure that the boat was intercepted by our partners, in this case the French Navy.

“Working with our European partners we have stopped a huge haul of drugs from making it onto the European market, and I’ve no doubt some of that would have ended up in the UK in the hands of criminal gangs also engaged in violence and exploitation.”

Cocaine package being opened by an officer. Picture: Forces armées aux Antilles/Defénse

 

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Space X Tourists Pay $55m Each to Blast Off

Larry Connor, Michael Lopez-Alegria (former NASA astronaut), Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe

These are the private astronauts who are paying $55 million to ride a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station next year, in what will be the first privately crewed mission.

Paying crew members Larry Conor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe, will be led on the mission by retired NASA astronaut Michael López-Alegría, who has traveled to space four times and is now the vice president of Aximo Space.

Connor is the managing partner of a real estate investment firm based in Ohio, Pathy is the chief executive of Canadian investment firm Mavrik Corp, and Stibbe is a businessman and former Israeli Air Force fighter pilot.

The trip will be conducted in collaboration between Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Aximo Space, which is coordinating the mission. The two announced their partnership in March 2020.

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Larry Connor, Michael Lopez-Alegria (former NASA astronaut), Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe are to be the first space crew of Axoim Space that will soar the the International Space Station for an eight day mission next years.  Lopez-Alegria is the vice president of Axoim

Larry Connor, Michael Lopez-Alegria (former NASA astronaut), Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe are to be the first space crew of Axoim Space that will soar the the International Space Station for an eight day mission next years.  Lopez-Alegria is the vice president of Axoim

The trip will be conducted in collaboration of the Elon Musk-owned SpaceX and Aximo Space, which is coordinating the mission ¿ the two announced their partnership in March 2020. The first crew will spend eight days at the space station

The trip will be conducted in collaboration of the Elon Musk-owned SpaceX and Aximo Space, which is coordinating the mission – the two announced their partnership in March 2020. The first crew will spend eight days at the space stations1

The first private crew will spend eight days at the space station, and will take one or two days to get there aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule following liftoff from Cape Canaveral.

SpaceX and Axoim had initially set this January for the first crew flight, but is now shooting for January 2022.

At the time of the partnership announcement, the firm said it had secured one seat on the craft, but today the ship has two more passengers.

Real estate mogul Larry Connor to be the first private mission pilot in space history

The 70-year-old Connor will become the second-oldest person to fly in space, after John Glenn’s shuttle flight in 1998 at age 77.

He will also serve under Lopez-Alegria as the capsule pilot, making him the first private astronaut mission pilot in the history of space travel.

‘I believe space is the last great frontier,’ Connor said.

‘I’m thrilled and honored to be a part of this historic mission.’

‘That’s what I’m excited about.’

‘It’s not about being the first pilot. It’s about doing things that can only be done in space – experiments in microgravity. It’s a unique way to help humankind.’

Connor made his first fortune in computer equipment in the 1980s and 90s, before founding the Connor Group real estate investment firm in 2003.

From left, crew members Eytan Stibbe, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Mark Pathy, and Larry Connor

From left, crew members Eytan Stibbe, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Mark Pathy, and Larry Connor

Montreal businessman Mark Pathy initially feared the private spaceflight offer was a scam

Pathy, 51, is the father of three young children. He has dreamed of traveling in space all his life, but was skeptical when he first heard about the opportunity.

‘I wasn’t sure it was completely real, and I’d never heard of this company, Axiom,’ he told the Washington Post.

‘I obviously was not going to blast off in a rocket if this was some sort of Mickey Mouse travel outfit. But the more I inquired and the more I spoke with them directly, the more I realized they were the real deal. It was really possible.

‘And that moment where you think, ‘Holy cow, this is something I could actually do,’ it’s a bit of a surreal moment.’

Pathy plans to with the Canadian Space Agency and the Montreal Children’s Hospital on health-related research projects during the mission.

Retired Israeli fighter pilot Eytan Stibbe was friends with astronaut who died on Columbia shuttle disaster

Stibbe, 63, flew combat missions for the Israeli Air Force and later went on to found investment firm Vital Capital.

He is aware of the risks of spaceflight, not least because he was a close friend of Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon.

Ramon died when the space shuttle Columbia came apart on reentry in 2003.

‘Obviously there’s some fear, and this is definitely extreme. And then there are risks, and I’m aware of the risks,’ Stibbe told the Post.

Stibbe plans to conduct scientific research coordinated by the Ramon Foundation and the Israeli Space Agency.

The first crew will spend eight days at the space station, and will take one or two days to get there aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule following liftoff from Cape Canaveral

The first crew will spend eight days at the space station, and will take one or two days to get there aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule following liftoff from Cape Canaveral

Axiom CEO Michael Suffredini says the flight is a ‘watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space.’

‘These guys are all very involved and doing it for kind of for the betterment of their communities and countries, and so we couldn’t be happier with this makeup of the first crew because of their drive and their interest,’ Suffredini said.

Each of these first paying customers intends to perform science research in orbit, he said, along with educational outreach.

Lopez-Alegria, a former space station resident and spacewalking leader, called the group a ‘collection of pioneers.’

Each of the private astronauts had to pass medical tests and will get 15 weeks of training, according to Suffredini.

Axiom plans about two private missions a year to the space station. It also is working to launch its own live-in compartments to the station beginning in 2024.

This section would be detached from the station once it’s retired by NASA and the international partners, and become its own private outpost.

Russia has been in the off-the-planet tourism business for years, selling rides to the International Space Station since 2001.

Eight space tourists have so far gone to the ISS on Russian Soyuz rockets with the company Space Adventures.

The first was Dennis Tito, who paid $20 million for an eight-hour stay on the ISS back in 2001. The last to go was Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte, in 2009.

Other space companies like Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin plan to take paying customers on up-and-down flights lasting just minutes. These trips – much more affordable with seats going for hundreds of thousands versus millions – could kick off this year.

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Biden’s 1st ‘Level with America’ Health Briefing Predicts 90,000 Feb. Deaths

The Biden administration launched its new level-with-America health briefings with a projection that as many as 90,000 more in the U.S. will die from the coronavirus in the next month — a somber warning as the government strains to improve delivery and injection of vaccines.

The tone of the hourlong briefing was in line with President  Biden’s promise to be straight with the nation about the outbreak that has already claimed more than 425,000 U.S. lives, but was still a jarring reminder of the harsh road ahead. Zeke Miller and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar report.

It marked a sharp contrast to what had become the Trump show, when public health officials were repeatedly undermined by a president who shared his unproven ideas without hesitation.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says there’s reason to be concerned about the impact of some coronavirus mutations on vaccines but scientists have plenty of options for adjustments to maintain the effectiveness of vaccines and treatments.

States Easing Restrictions: Several states are loosening their coronavirus restrictions on restaurants and other businesses because of improved infection and hospitalization numbers but are moving cautiously, in part because of the more contagious variant taking hold in the U.S.

While the easing could cause new infections to rise, health experts say it can work if done in a measured way and if the public remains vigilant about masks and social distancing, David Eggert and Don Babwin report.

Vaccine Minorities: The role that race should play in deciding who gets priority for the COVID-19 vaccine in the next phase of the rollout is being put to the test in Oregon. An advisory committee will vote today on whether to prioritize people of color, target those with chronic medical conditions or some combination.

The debate shows the growing commitment to put racial equity at the heart of the nation’s mass vaccination campaign as the virus disproportionally affects people of color. Experts say 18 states included ways to measure equity in their original vaccine distribution plans and more have likely done so since the shots started arriving, Gillian Flaccus reports from Portland.

 

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New Wonder Drug Successful in Treating COVID-19

A new Covid-19 drug has been found to prevent 100 per cent of symptomatic infections during trials on the NHS.

The promising results suggest that the experimental antibody cocktail, developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc, could be used as a “passive vaccine” to block coronavirus.

Patients who took part in the trial, run with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), were injected with the antibody cocktail, called REGEN-COV, which is made up of lab-enhanced antibodies that are designed to mimic how the body would respond to an invading virus.

The drug was administered to people who had been exposed to coronavirus from someone in their household, with the trial showing that the antibodies stopped symptomatic cases entirely.

Results also found that the drug reduced overall infections by 50 per cent in the first week after exposure, while scientists also reported that it significantly reduced the length of illness in infected people.

Phase three results from the trial are expected early in the second quarter of this year.

George D Yancopoulos, president and chief scientific officer at Regeneron, said: “Even with the emerging availability of active vaccines, we continue to see hundreds of thousands of people infected daily, actively spreading the virus to their close contacts.

“The REGEN-COV antibody cocktail may be able to help break this chain by providing immediate passive immunity to those at high risk of infection, in contrast to active vaccines which take weeks to provide protection.”

Dr Penny Ward, chair of the Education and Standards Committee of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine, explained that while vaccinations will prevent disease, they take around 14 to 21 days to take effect.

She said: “In an immediate contact situation, this is too long to prevent illness which may, in an individual at high risk, be fatal.

“This approach could protect patients receiving chemotherapy for cancer, enable control and prevention of outbreaks in an institutional setting, and reduce pressure on health services.”

Further treatments in development

The results of the trial come as another clinical study is being launched to see whether two Covid-19 antibody treatments could be combined to improve patient outcomes.

British drugs firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and clinical-stage immunology company Vir Biotechnology’s treatment, known as VIR-7831, will be given to low-risk patients with mild to moderate Covid-19 alongside bamlanivimab, developed by US pharmaceutical company Lilly.

Both VIR-7831 and bamlanivimab are monoclonal antibodies – man-made proteins that act like natural human antibodies in the immune system.

The researchers will also examine whether the combined treatment can increase a patient’s resistance to existing and new variants.

Bamlanivimab is already approved for emergency use in the treatment of Covid-19 in the US, while VIR-7831 is in phase 3 clinical studies with initial results expected in the first quarter of 2021.

Trials for the combination therapy are due to take place in the US and Puerto Rico.

Dr Hal Barron, chief scientific officer at GSK, said: “Despite the significant progress on vaccines, there remains an urgent patient need for multiple therapeutic approaches to help prevent the severe consequences of Covid-19.

“Partnering with Lilly to study VIR-7831 with bamlanivimab will provide the scientific community with further data on the important role these therapies could play in reducing the impact of this devastating pandemic.”

The study comes as NHS England boss Sir Simon Stevens told MPs on Tuesday (26 January) that he believes coronavirus could become a “much more treatable disease” over the course of the next six to 18 months as more Covid-19 treatments become available.

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Scientific Report: SKN Has Beaten Coronavirus

LONDON, Jan. 27, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — The Federation of St Kitts and Nevis has largely tamed the spread of COVID-19, notes a data-tracking site assembled of over 4,000 scientists.

The report provides guidelines and recommendations for policymakers, businesses and individuals and has been in operation since February 29, 2020. The team includes New England Complex Systems Institute, Harvard, UCLA and MIT epidemiologists, clinicians, technology creators and data analysts. To date, the Federation has recorded only 35 cases and zero deaths.

The site rates countries as either ‘winning’, ‘nearly there’ or ‘needs action’, depending on the seven-day rolling average of their new confirmed cases. St Kitts and Nevis ranks under the ‘winning’ list and is classified in the ‘green zone’. This means the country has had no new local transmission for 14 consecutive days, any new cases are imported and isolated upon entering the zone, and the region does not share a land border with a red zone.

The site states: “Green countries are either at that point [zero new cases] or very close to it. Yellow countries are those which could reach that point within a reasonable time frame. They still have to get lower to be green. Red countries are either going the wrong way, staying constant, or going down very slowly.”

Also making the list of ‘winners’ were countries like Australia, Iceland, Vietnam and New Zealand. From the Caribbean, Dominica and the Bahamas are mentioned to be doing well in controlling new cases of the virus.

Aside from St Kitts and Nevis’ immediate action to close borders, limit gatherings and equip hospitals with state-of-the-art amenities to deal with COVID-19 patients, Prime Minister Timothy Harris’ government also allocated Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Programme funds to help the economy during the lockdown. CBI funded the Poverty Alleviation Programme, which provided low-income households with a monthly stipend.

During a webinar, the Prime Minister said, “it is the resources […] from the CBI Programme that allowed us to respond so early and properly.”

St Kitts and Nevis is one of the safest places to be. [It] has the least number of confirmed COVID-19 cases of all sovereign states in the [Caribbean]. That is a remarkable record as we speak. We have not one death associated,” said Les Khan, the head of the nation’s CBI Unit in another webinar. “We acted quickly and decisively with regard to the science and the experiences of other countries to put St Kitts and Nevis in a strong place,” he added.

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Doomsday Clock Remains at 100 Seconds to Armageddon

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists kept its “Doomsday Clock” at 100 seconds to midnight, describing the COVID-19 pandemic as a “wakeup call” that governments are unprepared to handle grave threats facing the world.

The Chicago-based group chose to keep the clock — which symbolically reflects how close the world is to destruction — at 11:58 p.m., and 20 seconds, saying the mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic indicates a lack of the structures necessary to combat other grave threats.

“The hands of the Doomsday Clock remain at 100 seconds to midnight, as close to midnight as ever,” said Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in a statement. “The lethal and fear-inspiring COVID-19 pandemic serves as a historic ‘wake-up call,’ a vivid illustration that national governments and international organizations are unprepared to manage the truly civilization-ending threats of nuclear weapons and climate change.”

Since the start of the pandemic, 100.7 million people have been infected and 2.17 million have died worldwide, including 25.57 million cases and 428,015 deaths in the United States, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.

“Though lethal on a massive scale, this particular pandemic is not an existential threat. Its consequences are grave and will be lasting. But COVID-19 will not obliterate civilization, and we expect the disease will recede eventually,” the group said.

The group also warned of the threat of nuclear conflict, particularly between the United States and Russia, calling on the two countries to extend the New START treaty for as long as possible.

“The U.S., Russia and the world’s nuclear powers must stop shouting at each other,” said former California Gov. Jerry Brown, the group’s executive chair. “It’s time to eliminate nuclear weapons, not build more of them.”

The scientists also expressed the need for the United States to to address the issue of climate change by rejoining the Paris Agreement and reducing the use of fossil fuels. U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order last week to re-enter the pact.

“Over the coming decade, fossil fuel use needs to decline precipitously if the worst effects of climate change are to be avoided,” said Susan Solomon, member of the group’s science and security board.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists first began the tradition in 1947 as a way to gauge the world’s proximity to nuclear holocaust. In 2007 the group added climate change as a factor in the clock’s setting.

The furthest the clock has ever been from midnight was set in 1991, at 11:43, or 17 minutes from “doomsday,” after the United States signed the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and the Soviet Union dissolved.

Prior to 2020, 2 minutes to midnight had been the closest the clock had ever been set, reaching that point both during the Cold War and following the first U.S. test of a thermonuclear weapon.

Jan. 27 (UPI) — The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists on Wednesday chose to keep its “Doomsday Clock” at 100 seconds before midnight, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, the threat of nuclear war and climate change.The Chicago-based group chose to keep the clock — which symbolically reflects how close the world is to destruction — at 11:58 p.m., and 20 seconds, saying the mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic indicates a lack of the structures necessary to combat other grave threats.

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Climate Change: Biden Accelerates US Move to Clean Energy

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the most ambitious U.S. effort to stave off the worst of climate change, President Joe Biden signed executive orders to transform the nation’s heavily fossil-fuel powered economy into a clean-burning one, pausing oil and gas leasing on federal land and targeting subsidies for those industries.

The directives aim to conserve 30 percent of the country’s lands and waters in the next 10 years, double the nation’s offshore wind energy, and move to an all-electric federal vehicle fleet, among other changes. Biden’s sweeping plan is aimed at staving off the worst of global warming caused by burning fossil fuels.

But his effort it also carries political risk for the president and Democrats as oil- and coal-producing states face job losses from moves to sharply increase U.S. reliance on clean energy such as wind and solar power.

“We can’t wait any longer″ to address the climate crisis, Biden said Wednesday at the White House. ”We see with our own eyes. We know it in our bones. It is time to act.″

He said his orders will “supercharge our administration’s ambitious plan to confront the existential threat of climate change.”

Biden has set a goal of eliminating pollution from fossil fuel in the power sector by 2035 and from the U.S. economy overall by 2050, speeding what is already a market-driven growth of solar and wind energy and lessening the country’s dependence on oil and gas. The aggressive plan is aimed at slowing human-caused global warming that is magnifying extreme weather events such as deadly wildfires in the West and drenching rains and hurricanes in the East.

Biden acknowledged the political risk, repeatedly stating his approach would create jobs in the renewable energy and automotive sectors to offset any losses in oil, coal or natural gas.

“When I think of climate change and the answers to it, I think of jobs,″ Biden said. “These aren’t pie-in-the-sky dreams. These are concrete actionable solutions. And we know how to do this.″

In a change from previous administrations of both parties, Biden also is directing agencies to focus help and investment on the low-income and minority communities that live closest to polluting refineries and other hazards, and the oil- and coal-patch towns that face job losses as the U.S. moves to sharply increase its reliance on wind, solar and other other energy sources that do not emit climate-warming greenhouse gases.

Biden pledged to create “millions of good-paying, union jobs” building electric cars, installing solar panels and wind turbines, and performing specialized work to cap abandoned wells, restore mine-scarred land and turn old industrial sites “into the new hubs of economic growth.″

Even so, Republicans immediately criticized the plan as a job killer.

“Pie-in-the-sky government mandates and directives that restrict our mining, oil, and gas industries adversely impact our energy security and independence,″ said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Biden also is elevating the warming climate to a national security priority, directing intelligence agencies, the military and others to do more to prepare for the heightened risks. The conservation plan would set aside millions of acres for recreation, wildlife and climate efforts by 2030 as part of Biden’s campaign pledge for a $2 trillion program to slow global warming.

President Donald Trump, who ridiculed the science of climate change, withdrew the U.S. from the Paris global climate accord, opened more public lands to coal, gas and oil production and weakened regulation on fossil fuel emissions. Experts say these emissions are heating the Earth’s climate dangerously and worsening floods, droughts and other natural disasters.

Currently, 61% of the nation’s electric power comes from natural gas and coal, 20% from nuclear and 17% from wind, solar and other renewable energy, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says.

Georgia Tech climate scientist Kim Cobb said that “if this Day 7 momentum is representative of this administration’s 4-year term, there is every reason to believe that we might achieve carbon neutrality sooner than 2050,” even as key roadblocks lie ahead.

Biden’s actions came as his nominee for energy secretary, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, faced deep skepticism from Republicans as she tried to pitch the president’s vision for a green economy.

“The last Democratic administration went on a regulatory rampage to slow or stop energy production,” said Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, a leading Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “I’m not going to sit idly by … if the Biden administration enforces policies that threaten Wyoming’s economy.″

Granholm, whose state was devastated by the 2008 recession, promoted emerging clean energy technologies, such as battery manufacturing, as an answer for jobs that will be lost as the U.S. transitions away from fossil fuels.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry, now Biden’s climate envoy, said oil, gas and coal workers “have been fed a false narrative″ that ”somehow, dealing with climate is coming at their expense. No, it’s not. What’s happening to them is happening because of other market forces already taking place.″

Instead of possible black lung disease, a miner would have a brighter future as a solar power technician, Kerry said. “The same people can do those jobs, but the choice of doing the solar power one now is a better choice.″

The oil industry said curtailing domestic production will lead to an increase in imported oil.

“I don’t think any American wants to go back to the days of being held hostage to foreign entities that don’t have America’s best interest at heart as we lose American energy leadership,” said Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute.

Sommers and other industry leaders warned that states could lose hundreds of thousands of jobs and critical funding. Nearly one-third of New Mexico’s state budget comes from oil and gas, said Ryan Flynn, president of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association.

Biden’s directive to double energy production from offshore wind comes after the Trump administration slowed permit review of some giant offshore wind turbine projects. Significantly, he is directing agencies to eliminate spending that acts as subsidies for fossil fuel industries.

The pause in onshore leasing is limited to federal lands and does not affect drilling on private lands, which is largely regulated by states. It also will not affect existing leases and could be further blunted by companies that stockpiled enough drilling permits in Trump’s final months to allow them to keep pumping oil and gas for years.

The order exempts tribal lands, mainly in the West, that are used for energy production.

Biden also directed U.S. agencies to use science and evidence-based decision-making in federal rules and announced a U.S.-hosted climate leaders summit on Earth Day, April 22.

___

Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe and Brian Slodysko in Washington and Cathy Bussewitz in New York contributed to this report.

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