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Russian pipe-laying vessel enters Danish waters to complete Nord Stream 2 pipeline

Russian-flagged pipelayer Fortuna has departed from the German port of Mukran and entered Danish waters, shortly after Copenhagen expanded the list of ships allowed to participate in construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

Data from vessel tracking websites showed that Fortuna was sailing in Danish waters in the Baltic Sea on Wednesday. According to Myshiptracking, the vessel set sail from Mukran, where pipes for the Nord Stream 2 are stored, and is set to return to the port in October.




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Fortuna is one of the few ships that can help complete the multibillion-dollar project to deliver Russian gas to European consumers. Its participation became possible after the Danish Energy Agency (DEA) greenlighted the use of ships with anchor positioning, which had been banned from the works under previous rules. However, pipelaying cannot resume before August 3, as local environmental bodies could still appeal the regulator’s ruling.

Before the recent approval, only one Russian ship fit all the necessary technical requirements to finish the last stretch of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline: the Akademik Cherskiy, which has made the long journey from Russia’s Far East and is also moored in Mukran.




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Russia had to look for ways to finish the massive energy project on its own at the end of last year, after Swiss-Dutch pipelaying firm Allseas withdrew its vessels over the threat of US sanctions. While the latest attempt by Washington to prevent the completion of Nord Stream 2 failed, the Trump administration is now considering new ways to stop the project and impose new sanctions on companies linked to it.

Germany has repeatedly decried US attempts to thwart the project. Berlin said it had “noted with regret” US plans to expand sanctions on the underwater pipeline, saying that the move would “constitute a serious interference in European energy security and EU sovereignty.”

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US aggression against China to blame for what is happening in Hong Kong – economist to RT’s Boom Bust

The Trump administration’s anti-China policies, including tariffs and attacks on telecoms giant Huawei, have forced the Chinese government to tighten its grip over Hong Kong, an analyst tells RT.

Speaking to RT’s Boom Bust on the developments in the Chinese territory after Beijing imposed its national security law, Jeffrey Tucker of the American Institute for Economic Research said that it’s unclear how the bill will affect the economy. Some businesses operating in Hong Kong are now concerned that they could be found violating some provisions of the law, and face penalties varying from fines to confiscation of funds. 

“The US has given up all leverage over the situation by escalating the problems with China,” the editorial director said, adding that the law could create hurdles for companies.

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The analyst believes that the US failed to back the development of private enterprise in China and instead punished Beijing for attempting to adopt a free enterprise model.

“In many ways, the blame for what’s happening in Hong Kong right now really should rest in part with Washington, DC. For years now it’s been one attack after another…that’s made China annoyed and it’s broken down our influence,” Tucker noted.

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China to test digital yuan via ride-hailing platform with over 550 million users

China’s central bank is partnering up with the country’s ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing to test the use of its sovereign digital currency. The digital yuan may be offered to the public as early as next year.

The regulator is working with Didi to apply digital currency electronic payment (DCEP) to the ride-hailing app, Didi said on Wednesday. The company, which currently serves a total of over 550 million users and is often described as China’s Uber, may thus become one of the world’s first’s corporate users of a government-created virtual currency.

According to Didi, “the government seeks to support the development of the real economy sectors with innovative financial services.” Didi’s peak for daily ride-sharing orders has surpassed 30 million, said the company’s CEO Cheng Wei in early June, adding that the bike-sharing business saw daily orders reach 10 million.




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China’s central bank set up a research team six years ago to explore the possibility of launching its own digital currency. In May, the bank revealed plans to have the digital yuan ready in time for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Limited trials are already underway in four cities across the country.

The digital yuan, which is projected to replace paper money, will be linked to the holder’s smartphone number, with transactions taking place through an app. Users will be able to transfer money between accounts by tapping phones, much like having physical cash change hands. The currency will be legal tender, so it could be exchanged without needing a bank as an intermediary.

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Passengers’ trust in Boeing & FAA is broken, Allied Pilots Association spokesman tells RT’s Boom Bust

Although Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have completed certification-flight tests on the 737 MAX, the troubled jets are far from returning to the skies, an aviation-industry insider believes.

“Why should you trust them? The trust is broken with Boeing and, to a certain extent, with the FAA,” said Dennis Tajer, Communications Committee Chairman for the Allied Pilots Association, the labor union that represents American Airlines pilots.

While the company is set to fix the stabilizing MCAS software that doomed two flights, it also needs to properly train pilots and go beyond being merely an absurd “iPad course,” according to Tajer.

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The spokesman added that Boeing also needs to get the green light from all the regulators, not only the FAA, which had earlier downplayed some risks.

“You can sense that there seems to be another rush to get this airplane going again,” Tajer told Boom Bust. “When it’s fixed, and we’re trained, and the airplane is fully vetted – and not just by the FAA, but by all these other regulators who are interested in calling into question how to make it even better – then that airplane will be good to fly.”

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China will dethrone US as world’s leading economy this year – RT’s Keiser Report

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a ‘savings glut’ in the United States, which goes “completely against” policies designed to stimulate American economic growth, say Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert.

“People are not consuming because we are entering depression,” Max explains, noting that the American economy is not built for savings. “The financial system is collapsing again, this is the global financial crisis part two, it’s the Federal Reserve crisis part 12, and it’s the depression part two.”

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According to him, “China will end up being the dominant economy in the world, not because it will outgrow all of the other economies, but because it will be impacted the least by the global depression.”

Meanwhile, America will be “impacted severely” by the Global Depression, along with the UK, France, and Italy. “China will be impacted the least, so they will be by default the world’s leading economy,” says Max.

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Covid-19 lockdowns are a ‘luxury of the rich,’ says Pakistan’s central bank governor

The coronavirus pandemic is a public health crisis and until it’s addressed, there will most likely be economic hardships ahead, said Pakistan’s central bank governor Reza Baqir.

Pakistan lifted a two-month-long national lockdown in early May. However, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government is currently targeting outbreak hotspots in the country and locking down those areas again, because Covid-19 cases surged once the countrywide lockdown was eased.

“We are very concerned. First and foremost, this is a public health crisis – we have to remind ourselves of that,” Baqir told CNBC. “And, only on a secondary basis, then it becomes an economic crisis. Until the public health crisis is addressed, we should continue to expect challenges on the economic front,” he added. 

According to Baqir, prolonged national lockdowns are a “luxury of the rich,” while “for countries like Pakistan, the trade-off between lives and livelihood is a very real trade-off.” 




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He explained that Pakistan has many day laborers who earn daily wages, and that a lockdown would have abruptly cut off their only source of income. Without savings to dip into, many of those people would have been faced with starvation, he said. 

To help the economy weather the coronavirus crisis, Pakistan’s central bank has injected about $7 billion, or 2.5 percent of GDP into the economy, in terms of liquidity support to households and businesses. Last week, it also slashed the monetary policy rate by 100 basis points to seven percent. 

“There is no doubt that we face grave challenges,” Baqir said, adding, “I think the smart lockdown strategy of locking down hotspots in cities so far is working reasonably well, and we are confident that, with the combination of measures, for us, on the economic side, we should come out of this crisis largely unscathed.” 

Pakistan has reported more than 213,000 cases of coronavirus. The number of infections surged to 4,300 as of Thursday, with 78 dying in a 24-hour period.

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US drug maker says its coronavirus medication will cost up to $5,700 per treatment

Gilead Sciences announced pricing plans for its coronavirus-fighting drug remdesivir. It will charge the US government and other developed countries $390 per vial, or about $2,340 for a typical five-day course of treatment.

The US biopharmaceutical company said it would offer a one-price model to avoid the need for country-by-country negotiations that could slow down access. For commercially insured patients, the five-day course will cost $3,120.
The longer 10-day treatment course will cost governments $4,290 per patient and $5,720 for a US patient with private insurance.

“We wanted to make sure that nothing gets in the way of remdesivir getting to patients,” Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day said. The price “will make sure all patients around the world have access to this medicine.”

The company also said it has entered into agreements with generic manufacturers to provide the drug at a “substantially lower cost” in developing countries.

Given the potential to reduce costs for hospitals and to save lives, Gilead said its price of $390 per vial is “well below” the drug’s value.

“At the level we have priced remdesivir and with government programs in place, along with additional Gilead assistance as needed, we believe all patients will have access,” O’Day said.

It has taken nearly two months for Gilead to announce a price for the Covid-19 drug since it received emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat patients.  

US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) said it has secured more than 500,000 treatment courses of the drug, which it will distribute to American hospitals through September.

“President Trump has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorized therapeutic for COVID-19,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said, adding: “To the extent possible, we want to ensure that any American patient who needs remdesivir can get it.”

Gilead also plans to start human trials for an inhaled version of remdesivir. According to the company, it will continue to invest in ramping up production of the drug to meet demand.

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India draws up plan to boost auto exports in the next 5 years – report

The Indian government is reportedly preparing an incentive scheme to support domestic car makers and components producers to grab a bigger share in the global auto market.

In an attempt to give a “big push” to the key sector crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Heavy Industries (DHI) has come up with a five-year stimulus plan, Reuters said citing government sources. The initial proposal is already being reviewed by local industry groups.

“For autos the government has engaged with various stakeholders. We have to see what needs to be done in the global context,” Reuters cited one of the officials as saying.




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It is unclear whether the companies will get funds from the government or enjoy tax breaks as the forms of benefit have not been revealed. An official said that one of the proposals suggests giving companies benefits proportionate to the distance between their facility and sales destinations to compensate for higher warehousing and logistics costs, while another said that the measures could target production of specific car models.

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Although details of the initiative have not been finalized, it is already understood that the companies will have to meet several conditions to be eligible for the proposed incentives.

The minimum revenue and operating profit thresholds for car manufacturers are expected to be set at 100 billion rupees ($1.3 billion) and 10 billion rupees ($131 million) correspondingly. The target levels for auto part makers are set to be around five times lower. Moreover, the firms should have a presence in several countries outside India and contribute to research.

Some analysts noted that New Delhi should minimize conditions for the auto industry players as the ambitious plan comes amid hard times for most industrial sectors, with demand hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

India became the seventh largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles in 2018 and aims to further expand the sector. However, the pandemic is set to put the expansion plan on halt as the country’s auto exports already nosedived at the beginning of this fiscal year. According to an Engineering Export Promotion Council (EEPC) study cited by the media, the sector suffered a 73-percent decline in exports, falling from $852.3 million in May 2019 to $230.3 million in May 2020.

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China launches world’s ‘smartest’ mega hydropower station (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

The first power-generating unit of the Wudongde Hydropower Station in China has been successfully put into operation on Monday. Wudongde is the world’s seventh-biggest hydroelectric power plant, and the fourth largest in China.

The launch ceremony was attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Dubbed the ‘smartest’ hydropower station in the world, it is located on the border of the Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in southwest China. The station has been constructed using cutting-edge intelligent technologies, including real-time temperature monitoring and advanced grouting equipment.

Thermometers and cooling pipes have been embedded in the concrete to detect its temperature in real time. The water flow can be automatically adjusted to realize the cooling process of concrete in an intelligent way.

Wudongde is the first dam in the world to fully use low-heat cement that can withstand large temperature differences. The temperature difference, which causes the cracking of concrete and threatens the safety of the dam, is a worldwide problem in hydropower engineering.

Wudongde was designed as a concrete double-curved arch dam with a maximum height of 270 meters. The foundation bed of the dam is only 51 meters thick, which makes the hydropower station the thinnest 300-meter arch dam in the world at present. The “thin” concrete will be able to afford a storage of approximately 7.4 billion cubic meters of water in its reservoir.

The excavation length of the main workshop of the underground power station in Wudongde dam broke the world record with a height of 89.8 meters, equivalent to a 30-story building.

The hydropower station will be able to generate 38.9 billion kilowatts of electricity annually after its 12 generating units start operation. The project is scheduled to be fully completed in December 2021.

The amount of hydropower produced by Wudongde will save 12.2 million tons of standard coal and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide by 30.5 million tons and 104,000 tons every year.

Together with Baihetan Hydropower Station, Xiluodu Hydropower Station and Xiangjiaba Hydropower Station, Wudongde will form part of a cascade of power stations on the Jinsha River. The cluster will have an installed capacity of more than 46 million kilowatts and will generate about 190 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.

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German business continues to invest in Russia, despite Covid-19 pandemic

The volume of German companies’ direct investment in the Russian economy amounted to €1.8 billion ($2 billion) in the first quarter of 2020, according to the Russian-German Chamber of Commerce.

“Despite the measures to combat the coronavirus infection… the volume of direct investment has practically not changed compared to the same period of 2019 [Ed. – €1.9 billion],” the chamber said, citing Bundesbank data. 

“The fact that German business continues to actively invest in Russia, despite the measures to combat the spread of coronavirus infection in Germany, Russia, and around the world, shows that the Russian market remains attractive, regardless of serious political tensions, sanctions and global trade conflicts,” said the chamber’s chairman, Matthias Schepp.




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He explained that family-owned medium-sized enterprises in Germany, which traditionally actively invest in Russia, are focused on the long term and are not afraid of temporary crises.

In 2018 and 2019, German companies poured some €3.3 billion ($3.7 billion) and €2.1 billion ($2.3 billion), respectively, into the Russian economy. According to Schepp, German business in Russia has already passed the test of crises, including Western sanctions, and “will be able to successfully overcome the current coronavirus pandemic.”

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