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January 1, 2023 – rdspinvestments

January 1, 2023

Meta set to make decision on Trump’s return to Facebook – FT

Stock Markets 5 hours ago (Jan 01, 2023 12:45AM ET)

Meta set to make decision on Trump’s return to Facebook - FT© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: The logo of Meta Platforms is seen in Davos, Switzerland, May 22, 2022. Picture taken May 22, 2022. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo/File Photo

(Reuters) – Facebook (NASDAQ:) owner Meta Inc is preparing to announce whether it will allow former U.S. President Donald Trump back on to Facebook and Instagram, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.

The social media giant had previously said it will decide by Jan 7 whether to allow the former president to return. However, that decision is now expected to be announced later in the month, the newspaper said, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Meta has set up a working group to focus on the matter, according to people with knowledge of its operations, the report said, adding that the group includes staffers from the public policy and communications teams, as well as from the content policy team.

Meta did not immediately respond to a request by Reuters for comment.

The development comes after Elon Musk, Twitter’s new owner, revoked a permanent ban on Trump in November last year on the social media platform after polling users.

Trump maintained that he had no interest in returning to Twitter.

“I don’t see any reason for it,” the former president had said via video when asked whether he planned to return to Twitter by a panel at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership meeting.

Trump has mounted relentless attacks on the integrity of U.S. voting since his 2020 election defeat and launched a bid in November to regain the presidency in 2024, aiming to pre-empt potential Republican rivals.

Bombardment, air raid sirens mark Ukraine’s start to the New Year

Bombardment, air raid sirens mark Ukraine's start to the New Year© Reuters. People gathered next to a Christmas tree to celebrate the New Year eve before a curfew, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in front of the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine December 31, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

By Gleb Garanich and Valentyn Ogirenko

KYIV (Reuters) -Russia continued intense attacks on Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine early on New Year’s Day, following a barrage of missiles fired on Saturday, with air raid sirens wailing for hours overnight.

Ukraine’s Air Force command said that they had destroyed 45 Iranian-made Shahed drones — 32 of them after midnight on Sunday and 13 late on Saturday.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in a combative New Year address signalled that the war, now in its 11th month, will continue, a speech that contrasted with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s messages of gratitude and unity.

As sirens blared for over 4 hours in Kyiv, some people shouted from their balconies, “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to heroes!” Reuters witnesses reported.

Curfews ranging from 7 p.m. to midnight remained in place across the country, making celebrations for the start of 2023 impossible in public spaces.

Fragments from destroyed missiles caused minimal damage in the capital’s centre, and preliminarily reports indicated there were no wounded or casualties, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on social media.

Ukraine’s top command said in a report on Sunday that Russia had launched 31 missile and 12 air strikes across the country in the previous 24 hours.

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said on Twitter: “Russia coldly and cowardly attacked Ukraine in the early hours of the new year. But Putin still does not seem to understand that Ukrainians are made of iron.”

Andrii Nebytov, chief of Kyiv’s police, posted a photo on his Telegram messaging app, allegedly of a piece of drone used in the attack on the capital with a hand-written sign on it in Russian saying “Happy New Year”.

“These wreckage are not at the front, where fierce battles are taking place, they are here, on a sports grounds, where children play,” Nebytov said.

Attacks on Saturday killed at least one person in Kyiv and injured a dozen. They followed many bombardments over the past months, which Russia has chiefly directed at Ukraine’s energy and water infrastructure.

The newest attacks had damaged infrastructure in Sumy, in the northeast of the country, Khmelnytskyi in the west and Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in southeast and south, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said.

“Let the day be quiet,” Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region said early on Sunday, after reporting heavy shelling of several communities in the region overnight, that wounded one.

Separately, Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the southern Russian region of Belgorod bordering Ukraine, said that overnight shelling of the outskirts of Shebekino town had damaged houses but there were no casualties.

Russian media also reported multiple Ukrainian attacks on the Moscow-controlled parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, with local officials saying that at least nine people were wounded.

Russia’s RIA state news agency reported, citing a local doctor, that six people were killed when a hospital in Donetsk was attacked on Saturday.

There was no immediate response from Kyiv, which almost never publicly claims responsibility for any attacks inside Russia or on Russian-controlled territories in Ukraine.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the Russian media reports.

Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, calling it a “special operation” to “denazify” and demilitarise Ukraine, which he said was a threat to Russia. Kyiv and its Western allies say Putin’s invasion was merely an imperialist land grab.

Russian forces have been engaged for months in fierce fighting in the east and south of Ukraine, trying to defend the lands Moscow proclaimed it annexed in September and which make up the broader Ukrainian industrial Donbas region.

Market misery deals sovereign wealth funds historic setback in 2022 -study

Market misery deals sovereign wealth funds historic setback in 2022 -study© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Passersby walk past an electric stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, December 30, 2022. REUTERS/Issei Kato

By Marc Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Heavy falls in stock and bond markets over the last year have cut the combined value of the world’s sovereign wealth and public pension funds for the first time ever – and to the tune of $2.2 trillion, an annual study of the sector has estimated.

The report on state-owned investment vehicles by industry specialist Global SWF found that the value of assets managed by sovereign wealth funds fell to $10.6 trillion from $11.5 trillion, while those of public pension funds dropped to $20.8 trillion from $22.1 trillion.

Global SWF’s Diego López said the main driver had been the “simultaneous and significant” 10%-plus corrections suffered by major bond and stock markets, a combination that had not happened in 50 years.

It came as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine boosted commodity prices and drove already-rising inflation rates to 40-year highs. In response, the U.S. Federal reserve and other major central banks jacked up their interest rates causing a global market sell-off.

“These are paper losses and some of the funds will not see them realized in their role as long-term investors,” López said. “But it is quite telling of the moment we are living.”

Graphic: Sovereign wealth and public pension funds hit by market troubles, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/byprllwawpe/Pasted%20image%201672418487721.png The report, which analysed 455 state-owned investors with a combined $32 trillion in assets, found that Denmark’s ATP had had the toughest year anywhere with an estimated 45% plunge that lost $34 billion for Danish pensioners.

Despite all the turbulence though, the money funds spent buying up companies, property or infrastructure still jumped 12% compared with 2021.

A record $257.5 billion was deployed across 743 deals, with sovereign wealth funds also sealing a record number of $1 billion-plus “mega-deals”.

Singapore’s supersized $690 billion GIC fund topped the table, spending just over $39 billion in 72 deals. Over half of that was piled into real estate with a clear bias towards logistics properties.

In fact, five of the 10 largest investments ever by state-owned investors took place in 2022, starting in January when another Singapore vehicle, Temasek, spent $7 billion buying testing, inspection and certification firm Element Materials from private equity fund Bridgepoint.

In March, Canada’s BCI then agreed to acquire 60% of Britain’s National Grid (LON:) Gas Transmission and Metering arm with Macquarie. Two months later, Italy’s CDP Equity wealth fund spent $4.4 billion on Autostrade per l’Italia alongside Blackstone (NYSE:) and Macquarie.

“If financial markets continue to fall in 2023, it is likely that sovereign funds will keep ‘chasing elephants’ as an effective way of meeting their capital allocation requirements,” the report said.

It tipped SWFs from the Gulf such as ADIA, Mubadala, ADQ, PIF, QIA to become much more active in buying up Western firms having received large injections of oil revenue money over the past year.

Chinese state media seek to reassure public over COVID-19

Chinese state media seek to reassure public over COVID-19© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Police guard an area to avoid mass gatherings during New Year’s Eve celebration, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China December 31, 2022. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo

By Martin Quin Pollard, Xiaoyu Yin and Tingshu Wang

WUHAN (Reuters) -Thousands of Chinese took to the streets to mark the New Year as authorities and state media sought to reassure the public that the COVID-19 outbreak sweeping across the country was under control and nearing its peak.

Though many people in major cities have continued to isolate as the virus spreads through the population, New Year revelries appeared to be mostly unaffected as people celebrated the end of 2022 and the turn into 2023.

In Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first identified at the end of 2019, residents said anxieties about the impact of easing strict zero-COVID restrictions to live with the disease had now abated – at least for the young and healthy.

“Basically, now my friends and I feel relatively positive and optimistic,” said a 29-year old tutor surnamed Wu. “Many people are going out and about.”

“We all know that especially for the middle-aged and the elderly, especially those over 60 years old, especially those with underlying diseases, they will be affected by this virus,” he said.

A long line of people queued at the emergency department of Wuhan’s Tongji Hospital, a major facility for COVID-19 patients, such as 72-year-old resident Huang, who wanted to be identified by her surname only.

“I don’t feel well. I have no energy. I can’t breathe. I used to be in good health. I had X-rays to check my lungs… This hospital is a lot of trouble, you have to wait a long time,” she said.

DATA UNDER SCRUTINY

China’s abrupt U-turn on COVID controls – as well as the accuracy of its case and mortality data – have come under increasing scrutiny both at home and overseas.

The surge in cases has raised fresh worries about the health of the economy and in his first public comments since the change in policy, President Xi Jinping called in a New Year’s address for more effort and unity as China enters a “new phase”.

China reported one new COVID-19 death in the mainland for Dec. 31, the same as a day earlier, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on Sunday.

The accumulated official death toll in China now stands at 5,249, far lower than in other large countries. The government has rejected claims that it has deliberately underreported the total number of fatalities.

At the Hankou funeral home on the outskirts of Wuhan, an intermittent stream of mourners and hearse drivers were arriving on Sunday.

Staff at the site’s heavily guarded entrance declined to answer questions about their recent workloads. But funeral homes in other cities in China – including Chengdu and Beijing – said that they were busier than ever since China abruptly ditched its COVID curbs last month.

China’s CDC reported 5,138 official confirmed cases on Saturday, but with mass testing no longer in operation, experts say the actual number of infections is significantly higher.

State media in the city of Guangzhou in southeastern China said on Sunday that daily cases peaked at around 60,000 recently, and now stand at around 19,000.

Authorities have been trying to reassure the public that they have the situation under control and state news agency Xinhua published an editorial on Sunday saying that the current strategy was “a planned, science-based approach” reflecting the changing nature of the virus.

REASSURANCE

Xinhua said separately the manufacturing of medicines had accelerated in the last month, with production of pain relievers ibuprofen and paracetamol now at 190 million tablets per day, five times higher than in early December.

Antigen test kit production has nearly doubled to 110 million per day in a month, it said.

On Sunday, Australia and Canada joined the United States and others in requiring travellers from China to provide negative COVID-19 tests when they arrive. Morocco will impose a ban on people arriving from China, its foreign ministry said.

Australian Health Minister Mark Butler said additional measures would also be considered amid concerns that China is not disclosing enough information about the nature and extent of the current outbreak.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen offered on Sunday to provide China with “necessary assistance” to help it deal with the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Germany’s finance minister sees 2023 inflation at 7%

Germany's finance minister sees 2023 inflation at 7%© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: German Finance Minister Christian Lindner speaks at the Brandenburg Gate, during a ceremony for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, in Berlin, Germany, December 18, 2022. REUTERS/Christian Mang

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s finance minister expects inflation in Europe’s biggest economy to drop to 7% this year and to continue falling in 2024 and beyond, but believes high energy prices will become the new normal.

“The target remains 2%. This must be a top priority for the European Central Bank and the German government,” Christian Lindner said in an interview with Bild newspaper published on Sunday.

Pushed by spiking energy prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and falling Russian energy exports, Germany’s year-on-year inflation has slowed slightly in November to 11.3% from a high of 11.6% the month prior.

Lindner said Germany needs an “unbiased” energy policy in order to keep industry ticking, adding that domestic gas and oil fracking and nuclear energy should be considered in the energy sources mix along with renewables.

“The ban (on fracking) should fall. Then private investors can decide whether the mining is economical,” he added.

Production of and oil has been declining in Germany, mainly because unconventional fracking is banned and nature protection laws make it difficult to seek permission for new drilling.

Death of former Pope Benedict overshadows New Year at Vatican

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Death of former Pope Benedict overshadows New Year at Vatican© Reuters. Candles stand next to St. Peter’s Square after former Pope Benedict died in the Vatican, in Rome, Italy, December 31, 2022. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

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By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) -Pope Francis marked the Roman Catholic Church’s traditional World Day of Peace on Sunday but the start of the new year at the Vatican was overshadowed by the death of his predecessor, Benedict.

Francis presided at a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica as the body of Benedict, who died on Saturday at the age of 95, was being prepared for three days of public viewing in the same church starting Monday.

On Sunday the Vatican released the first images of the late Benedict, showing him dressed in red and gold liturgical vestments and laying in state in the chapel of the monastery where he died.

His body will be moved privately to the basilica, unlike what followed the death in 2005 of Pope John Paul, whose body was moved in a solemn outdoor procession that was televised live around the world.

In accordance with Benedict’s wishes, his funeral on Thursday will be simple and solemn. It will be the first time in many centuries that a sitting pope will preside at the funeral of his predecessor. Benedict, who stepped down in 2013, had been the first pontiff in 600 years to resign.

Jan. 1 is also the feast of the Mother of God and in his homily, Francis asked the Madonna to accompany “our beloved” Pope Emeritus Benedict “on his passage from this world to God”.

Benedict was also remembered in one of the prayers at the Mass.

In his homily, Francis urged his listeners to work actively for peace, and not “waste time glued to a keyboard in front of a computer screen” but to “dirty our hands and to do some good”.

Later at his Sunday blessing in St. Peter’s Square, Francis made another appeal for an end to the conflict in Ukraine, saying it was “intolerable contrast” with the theme of the day.

PRAISE, BUT ALSO CRITICISM FOR BENEDICT

On Saturday night the Vatican released Benedict’s two-page “spiritual testimony” written in 2006, a year after his election as pope. There was no explanation why Benedict did not update it as he became older and more frail.

In it, he asked in a general, spiritual way, that God would welcome him to internal life “despite all my sins and insufficiencies”.

Francis on Saturday called Benedict a noble, kind man who was a gift to the Church and the world.

While tributes to the former pope continued to be made by world leaders, and conservative members of the faithful, others were highly critical of his pontificate.

Some recalled the severe discipline he meted out to progressive theologians, particularly in Latin America, when he was head of the Vatican’s doctrinal department under Pope John Paul II. Those actions prompted liberal Catholics to dub then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger “God’s Rottweiler”.

And while some have credited Benedict with taking important steps to formalise the Vatican’s response to clergy sexual abuse, victims groups accused him of protecting the institution at all costs.

“In our view, the death of Pope Benedict XVI is a reminder that, much like John Paul II, Benedict was more concerned about the Church’s deteriorating image and financial flow to the hierarchy versus grasping the concept of true apologies followed by true amends to victims of abuse,” the anti-abuse group SNAP said.

Like many Vatican officials who worked with Benedict, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet said he believed the German pontiff had left behind “a great legacy” as a man of God and a man of culture.

“I believe this is also a task for the future, to deeply rethink the Christian faith in the face of the challenges of our time,” Ouellet told Reuters.

Defiant Ukrainians cheer New Year as drones blasted from skies

Defiant Ukrainians cheer New Year as drones blasted from skies© Reuters. People gathered next to a Christmas tree to celebrate the New Year eve before a curfew, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in front of the St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine December 31, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

By Gleb Garanich and Herbert Villarraga

KYIV/DONETSK PROVINCE FRONT LINE, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukrainians cheered from their balconies while their air defences blasted Russian missiles and drones out of the sky in the first hours of 2023, as Moscow saw in the new year by attacking civilian targets across Ukraine.

Ukrainian forces shot down 45 Iranian-made Sahed drones fired by Russia on the first night of the year, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday evening, praising Ukrainians for showing gratitude to the troops and one another.

“Drones, missiles, everything else will not help them,” he said of the Russians. “Because we stand united. They are united only by fear.”

A stern New Year’s speech from Russian President Vladimir Putin signalled no let-up to his assault on Ukraine, in contrast with Zelenskiy’s earlier message of hope.

As sirens blared in Kyiv, some people shouted from their balconies, “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to heroes!”

Fragments from the late-night attack caused minimal damage in the capital’s centre, and preliminary reports indicated there were no wounded or casualties, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on social media. Attacks earlier on Saturday had hit residential buildings and a hotel in the capital, killing at least one person and injuring more than 20.

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink said on Twitter: “Russia coldly and cowardly attacked Ukraine in the early hours of the new year. But Putin still does not seem to understand that Ukrainians are made of iron.”

At the front line in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk Province, troops toasted the new year. Soldier Pavlo Pryzhehodskiy, 27, played a song on guitar he had written at the front after 12 of his comrades were killed in a single night.

“It is sad that instead of meeting friends, celebrating and giving gifts to one another people were forced to seek shelter, some were killed,” he told Reuters. “It is a huge tragedy. It is a huge tragedy that cannot ever be forgiven. That is why the New Year is sad.”

In a nearby front line trench, soldier Oleh Zahrodskiy, 49, said he had signed up as a volunteer after his son was called up to fight as a reservist. His son was now in a hospital in the southern city of Dnipro, fighting for his life with a brain injury, while his father manned the front.

“It is very tough now,” he said, holding back tears.

‘HAPPY NEW YEAR’

Andrii Nebytov, chief of Kyiv’s police, posted a photo on his Telegram messaging app, showing what was described as a piece of drone used in an attack on the capital, with a hand-written sign on it in Russian saying “Happy New Year”.

“This wreckage is not at the front, where fierce battles are taking place, this is here, on a sports grounds, where children play,” Nebytov said.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said it had targeted production, storage and launch sites of Ukrainian drones with long range missiles on New Year’s Eve.

Russia has flattened Ukrainian cities and killed thousands of civilians since Putin ordered his invasion in February, claiming Ukraine was an artificial state whose pro-Western outlook threatened Russia’s security. Moscow has since claimed to have annexed around a fifth of Ukraine.

Ukraine has fought back with Western military support, driving Russian forces from more than half the territory they seized. In recent weeks, the front lines have been largely static, with thousands of soldiers dying in intense trench warfare.

Since October, Russia has launched mass missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, casting cities into darkness and cold as winter sets in. Moscow says the strikes aim to reduce Ukraine’s ability to fight; Kyiv says they have no military purpose and are intended to hurt civilians, a war crime.

“The main thing is the fate of Russia,” Putin said in a New Year’s Eve address in front of a group of people dressed in military uniform instead of the normal backdrop of the Kremlin walls. “Defence of the fatherland is our sacred duty to our ancestors and descendants. Moral, historical righteousness is on our side.”

Zelenskiy delivered his own address on Saturday in near darkness, in front of a fluttering Ukrainian flag. He described the year past as a national awakening.

“We were told: you have no other option but to surrender. We say: we have no other option than to win,” he said.

“This year has struck our hearts. We’ve cried out all the tears. We’ve shouted all the prayers,” Zelenskiy said. “We fight and will continue to fight. For the sake of the key word: ‘victory’.”

The latest air strikes damaged infrastructure in Sumy, in the northeast, Khmelnytskyi in the west as well as Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the southeast and south, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said.

In Orikhiv in Zaporizhzhia region, shelling killed one person and wounded three, regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said on Telegram.

Grid operator Ukrenergo said the past day had been “difficult” but the electricity situation was “under control” and emergency outages were not being implemented.

In Russia, Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the southern region of Belgorod bordering Ukraine, said overnight shelling of the outskirts of Shebekino town had damaged houses but there were no casualties.

Russian media also reported multiple Ukrainian attacks on the Moscow-controlled parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, with local officials saying at least nine people were wounded.

Russia’s RIA state news agency cited a local doctor as saying six people were killed when a hospital in Donetsk was attacked on Saturday. Proxy authorities in Donetsk also said one person had been killed by Ukrainian shelling.

Reuters could not verify the reports. There was no immediate response from Kyiv, which rarely comments on attacks inside Russia or on Russian-controlled territories in Ukraine.

Jail time hardened Lula’s resolve to tackle poverty over profit

Jail time hardened Lula's resolve to tackle poverty over profit© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva cries while speaking during a meeting with members of the government transition team in Brasilia, Brazil November 10, 2022. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino REUTERS

By Anthony Boadle and Lisandra Paraguassu

BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s 580-day stretch behind bars imbued him with a renewed sense of social justice, the leftist’s allies and confidants said, convincing him of the need to prioritize ending poverty over boosting profits.

Lula was sworn in on Sunday for an unprecedented third term, capping a dramatic turnaround for one of the world’s most enduring political leaders, who first ran for president in 1989.

Jailed for graft in 2018 – the year right-wing former President Jair Bolsonaro was elected – Lula’s convictions were overturned in 2019, allowing him to oust Bolsonaro in October’s election.

As he strives to unite a nation riven by economic woes, a bruising pandemic and Bolsonaro’s far-right populism, Lula is looking to his prison days for inspiration, allies and confidants told Reuters.

He learned from three failed presidential bids to tone down his leftist ideals and make peace with Brazil’s powerful private sector during his 2003-10 presidency. But Lula 3.0 plans to double down on fighting poverty, ending hunger, and attacking racism, allies said, while also rewarding loyal Workers Party (PT) jail visitors with key cabinet positions.

“Prison reinforced the sense that he has a duty above all to the poor in Brazil,” said Tarso Genro, a former PT governor of Rio Grande do Sul and a close Lula associate. “He went to prison strong and came out stronger.”

The more ideological Lula who emerged from jail in 2019 should not be a cause for concern, friends and allies said. He is still the same pragmatist who honed his powers of persuasion as a union leader in the Sao Paulo auto plants of the 1970s, they added.

Lula aides have encouraged comparisons with former South African leader Nelson Mandela, who spent over a quarter of a century behind bars as an opponent of the country’s apartheid.

But many on Faria Lima, the so-called “Brazilian Wall Street,” who fondly recall the business-friendly Lula of the early 2000s are holding their breath, worried that increased social spending and a loyalist cabinet will damage Brazil’s fiscal credibility and usher in a new era of graft-stained statism.

“The initial reaction to Lula 3.0 on Faria Lima is not favorable,” said economist Andre Perfeito, referring to the market dip after Lula’s spending proposal was announced. “Many investors bet on Bolsonaro winning and they almost got it right, so it is natural they are not happy.”

Recent cabinet appointments – including PT leader Fernando Haddad as finance minister – have also troubled some investors.

Lula also recently named PT stalwart and economist Aloizio Mercadante as head of national development bank BNDES, which during previous PT governments lent billions of reais to projects consumed by allegations of waste and graft, though bank officials have said they were transparent.

Lula’s spokesman Jose Chrispiniano said the president supported fiscal responsibility and believes that strengthening the economy is the best way to combat poverty.

“He does not see any contradiction between caring for the poorest and promoting growth. On the contrary, he thinks caring for the poor and giving them the opportunity to work and consume is what generates sustainable growth,” he told Reuters.

READING BEHIND BARS

Lula’s new-found social awareness was ignited by reading books on race, slavery and hunger behind bars, as well as biographies of Fidel Castro and Nelson Mandela, according to his website. He also perused “Lulismo in crisis,” a critical review of his movement and its missteps by his former press secretary Andre Singer.

It was augmented by his relationship with Rosangela da Silva, or Janja, a PT activist 20-years his younger whom he married on release and who looks set to be a key political player. Lula became a widower when his first wife Mariza died the year before he went to jail.

Janja – who helped organize Lula’s election certification and Sunday’s inauguration, as well as advising on cabinet choices – was among hundreds of PT true-believers who camped outside his prison in the southern city of Curitiba.

“Good morning, President Lula,” his devotees would chant as the day began, followed by “Good night, President Lula,” as he went to bed.

From his 15-square-meter cell on the third floor of the Federal Police headquarters in Curitiba, Lula set about reorganizing the PT and managing his legal defense. It was there he planned the failed presidential campaign of Haddad, a regular visitor who lost to Bolsonaro in 2018.

When he left prison, Lula was determined to set the record straight on his imprisonment and said he wanted to be re-elected to clear his name in the people’s court. He called his imprisonment a political witch-hunt, fabricated by the right to keep him from running in 2018.

Another close aide, PT Senator Humberto Costa, said Lula matured politically in jail.

“What drove him to run again was the need to leave his mark, not just politically but historically, by bringing lasting change to Brazil,” Costa said.

Lula takes over in Brazil, slams Bolsonaro’s anti-democratic threats

Lula takes over in Brazil, slams Bolsonaro's anti-democratic threats© Reuters. Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stands next to Sonia Guajajara, nominee for minister of Indigenous Peoples, during the presentation of the ministers nominated for his government at the transition government building in Brasilia, B

By Anthony Boadle and Gabriel Stargardter

BRASILIA (Reuters) -Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sworn in as Brazil’s president on Sunday, delivering a searing indictment of far-right former leader Jair Bolsonaro and vowing a drastic change of course to rescue a nation plagued by hunger, poverty and racism.

In a speech to Congress after officially taking the reins of Latin America’s biggest country, the leftist said democracy was the true winner of the October presidential vote, when he ousted Bolsonaro in the most fraught election for a generation.

Bolsonaro, who left Brazil for the United States on Friday after refusing to concede defeat, rattled the cages of Brazil’s young democracy with baseless claims of electoral weaknesses that birthed a violent movement of election deniers.

“Democracy was the great victor in this election, overcoming … the most violent threats to freedom to vote, and the most abject campaign of lies and hate plotted to manipulate and embarrass the electorate,” Lula told lawmakers.

Lula, who was behind bars during Bolsonaro’s 2019 inauguration on graft convictions that were later overturned, delivered a veiled threat to his predecessor.

“We do not carry any spirit of revenge against those who tried to subjugate the nation to their personal and ideological designs, but we will guarantee the rule of law,” Lula said, without mentioning Bolsonaro by name. “Those who erred will answer for their errors.”

He also accused Bolsonaro’s administration of committing “genocide” by failing to respond properly to the COVID-19 virus that killed more than 680,000 Brazilians.

“The responsibilities for this genocide must be investigated and must not go unpunished,” he said.

Although Bolsonaro’s Florida trip insulates him from any immediate legal jeopardy in Brazil, he now faces mounting judicial risks – related to his anti-democratic rhetoric and his pandemic handling – after losing his presidential immunity, legal experts said.

Lula’s plans for government provided a stark contrast to Bolsonaro’s four years in office, which were characterized by backsliding on environmental protections in the Amazon (NASDAQ:) rainforest, looser gun laws and weaker protections for indigenous peoples and minorities.

Lula said he wants to turn Brazil, one of the world’s top food producers, into a green superpower.

U.S. SUPPORT

In his first decisions as president, Lula restored the authority of the government’s environmental protection agency Ibama to combat illegal deforestation, which had been diluted by Bolsonaro, and revoked a measure that encouraged illegal mining on protected indigenous lands.

He also unfroze the billion-dollar Amazon fund financed by Norway and Germany to back sustainability projects, reinforcing his commitment to ending deforestation in the Amazon, which surged to a 15-year high under Bolsonaro.

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, who shared little in common with Bolsonaro and chafed at his lackluster environmental policies, wished Lula and his Vice President Geraldo Alckmin success.

“We look forward to continuing the strong U.S.-Brazil partnership in trade, security, sustainability, innovation, and inclusion,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted. “Here’s to a bright future for our countries – and the world.”

King Charles of Britain congratulated Lula on his return to office in a letter in which he offered to deepen cooperation with Brazil, especially on the environment.

“I was encouraged to hear you emphasize the urgent need to tackle the climate crisis in your victory speech and at COP27,” the king wrote in the letter disclosed by the British embassy.

After the swearing-in, Lula drove in an open-top Rolls-Royce (OTC:) to the Planalto palace, where he walked up its ramp with his wife and a diverse group that included Chief Raoni Metuktire of the Kayapó tribe, a young Black boy, a cook and a disabled man.

Lula was then handed the presidential sash – a hugely symbolic act in Brazil that Bolsonaro had repeatedly said he would never do – by Aline Sousa, a Black garbage collector.

Tens of thousands who had gathered to celebrate on Brasilia’s esplanade cheered as Lula wiped away tears.

In a subsequent speech, he pledged to unite the polarized country and govern for all Brazilians.

“There are not two Brazils,” Lula said. “We are one country, one great nation.”

Lula said he would be fiscally prudent, but made clear his main focus would be on ending hunger and narrowing rampant inequality. He also said he aims to improve the rights of women, and attack racism and Brazil’s legacy of slavery.

“This will be the hallmark of our government,” he said.

Allies said Lula’s new-found social conscience was the result of his 580 days in prison, Reuters reported on Sunday.

TIGHT SECURITY

In his initial decrees, Lula revoked Bolsonaro’s looser gun policies, which had prompted a sharp rise in gun ownership.

“Brazil does not want more weapons, it wants peace and security for its people,” he said.

Lula’s inauguration took place amid heightened security.

Some of Bolsonaro’s supporters have claimed the election was stolen and called for a military coup to stop Lula returning to office in a climate of vandalism and violence.

On Christmas Eve, a Bolsonaro supporter was arrested for making a bomb that was discovered on a truck laden with aviation fuel at the entrance to Brasilia airport, and confessed he was seeking to provoke a military intervention.

Bolsonaro has seen his support among many former allies evaporate due to the anti-democratic protests.

On Saturday night, then-acting President Hamilton Mourao, who was Bolsonaro’s vice president, criticized his former boss for allowing anti-democratic sentiment to thrive post-election.

“Leaders who were supposed to reassure and unite the nation … allowed silence or inopportune and deleterious protagonism to create an atmosphere of chaos and social disintegration,” Mourao said.

Lula’s election victory marked a stunning political comeback, giving him an unprecedented third term after a hiatus that saw him spend a year-and-a-half behind bars.

In his previous two terms as president from 2003-2010, the former union leader lifted millions of Brazilians from poverty during a commodity boom that buoyed the economy.

Now, he faces the daunting challenge of improving Brazil’s stagnant economy while also uniting a divided country.

“A lot is expected of Lula,” said Creomar de Souza, director of Dharma Political Risk consultancy in Brasilia. “He’ll have the difficult mission to restore normality and predictability in Brazil, and above all to rapidly deliver results that improve the quality of life for its inhabitants.”

Magnitude 5.4 earthquake strikes northern California

Sports & General Jan 01, 2023 02:45PM ET

Magnitude 5.4 earthquake strikes northern California

(Reuters) -A 5.4-magnitude earthquake struck 15 km (9.3 miles) southeast of California’s Rio Dell region, an area still recovering from a powerful earthquake last month.

The latest earthquake was at a depth of 27.8 km, the U.S. Geological Survey said on Sunday.

The California Department of Transportation said in a Twitter post that State Route 211 at Fernbridge was closed while it conducted safety inspections on the bridge following the tremor.

That same region of California, located in Humboldt County, was jolted by a magnitude 6.4 earthquake on Dec. 20, which crumpled homes and roads, ruptured utility lines and left thousands of residents without running water and electricity.

In the previous quake, at least a dozen people were injured, and two others died from medical emergencies that occurred during or just after the quake, according to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.

The region is known for relatively frequent seismic activity, although the 6.4-magnitude earthquake caused more disruption than usual in the largely rural area known for its redwood forests, local seafood, lumber industry and dairy farms.

In addition to the ground shaking, Northern California was also battered by heavy rains that triggered severe flooding, submerging roads and forcing evacuations in certain areas just as residents prepared to ring in the New Year.

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