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US stocks plunge amid coronavirus variant fears – live




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Vern Buchanan, a Republican congressman, said on Monday he had tested positive for Covid-19 even though he is fully vaccinated.

Vern Buchanan.

Vern Buchanan. Photograph: Chris O’Meara/AP

“I look forward to returning to work as soon as possible,” said the 70-year-old, who has been in Congress since 2007. “In the meantime, this should serve as a reminder that although the vaccines provide a very high-degree of protection, we must remain vigilant in the fight against Covid-19.”

The Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, told reporters a surge in cases in his state and others in the US south was due to a “seasonal pattern”, rather than the Delta variant and so many Americans choosing to remain unvaccinated.

One statistic released by the White House estimated that 20% of new US cases last week occurred in Florida. DeSantis, who has insisted the state will impose no more virus-related lockdowns or mandates, told reporters the increase was expected in mid-summer.

DeSantis also said it was counterproductive to berate or ridicule people who have concerns about the vaccine or simply do not want it.

More worldwide Covid news here:




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US stocks plunge amid Covid variant fears

Stocks plunged in the US on Monday morning, as all three major US stock indexes followed their European counterparts with broad sell-offs fuelled by fears of surging cases of the Delta variant of the Covid virus and renewed lockdowns and economic pressures.

The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were both down more than 2% by midday, the Dow on track for its worst day in nearly nine months. US 10-year Treasury yields fell to a five-month low.

“Despite the Covid or Delta variant fears,” Oliver Pursche, senior vice-president at Wealthspire Advisors in New York, told Reuters. “Sell-offs can happen at any time and people like to slap a reason on it. We think the US economic recovery is on track and will continue.

“Hopefully, [the infection surge] gives people a wake-up call, maybe they should get vaccinated. It’s clear that the vaccine works, it’s overwhelmingly safe and people should get vaccinated.”

Concurrently, the US Business Cycle Dating Committee said the recession touched off by the coronavirus lasted only two months, ending in April 2020 after a sharp drop in economic activity caused by the first stages of the pandemic. The group of macroeconomists who assign the start and end dates of US business cycles said indicators of both jobs and production “point clearly” to a rebound beginning in May.

Around 22m jobs disappeared from company payrolls in March and April 2020, sparking concern about a new Depression and leading Congress and the White House to approve several massive relief packages to keep firms and households afloat.

But during May 2020 2.8m people were brought back to work, and over the next year about 15m jobs were recovered. That said, the hole in the US job market remains substantial, and filling it a focus of the Biden administration and the Federal Reserve.

This year may still see the fastest expansion of economic activity in 40 years, but rekindled fears about the pandemic on Monday hit markets hard.




Capitol attack: Trump supporter gets eight-month sentence

A Florida man was sentenced earlier today to eight months in prison for his role in the 6 January insurrection in Washington, a punishment likely to set a benchmark for later cases.

Paul Hodgkins.

Paul Hodgkins. Photograph: AP

Paul Hodgkins, from Tampa, pleaded guilty to obstructing an official proceeding after he breached the US Senate chamber during the attack on the US Capitol.

Hodgkins was filmed wearing a Trump 2020 T-shirt, with a flag over his shoulder and eye goggles around his neck, and seen taking a selfie with a self-described “shaman” in a horned helmet and other rioters on the dais behind him.

He is the first rioter to be sentenced for a felony crime in connection with the attack, which saw hundreds storm the Capitol after they were fed lies about election fraud. More than 570 people have been charged regarding the riot, during and after which five people died.

Prosecutors had asked for Hodgkins to serve 18 months, saying in a court filing he “like each rioter contributed to the collective threat to democracy” by forcing lawmakers to temporarily abandon their certification of Joe Biden’s victory and to scramble for shelter.

Speaking in court in Washington on Monday, Hodgkins apologised and said he was ashamed. Reading from a prepared text, he described being caught up in euphoria as he walked through Washington, then followed a crowd of hundreds up Capitol Hill and into the Capitol building itself.

“If I had any idea that the protest … would escalate [the way] it did … I would never have ventured farther than the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue,” Hodgkins told the US district judge, Randolph Moss.

He added: “This was a foolish decision on my part.

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DoJ won’t prosecute Ross for misleading Congress on Census

A government investigation has found that Wilbur Ross, Donald Trump’s commerce secretary, misled Congress about why he wanted to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Cencus.

Wilbur Ross.

Wilbur Ross. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

It is a federal crime to make false statements before Congress, but Joe Biden’s Department of Justice will not prosecute Ross.

Critics said the Trump administration was trying to influence districting for elections by adding a question about citizenship to the Census, as undocumented people would therefore avoid the survey and cities with high populations of such people, which tend to vote Democratic, might consequently lose seats.

The AP explains:


According to critics, the citizenship question was inspired by Republican redistricting expert Tom Hofeller, who had previously written that using citizen voting-age population instead of the total population for the purpose of redrawing of congressional and legislative districts could be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.

In congressional testimony, Ross said the Department of Justice requested adding the citizenship question to the census form in late 2017 for the purpose of enforcing federal voting rights law. The inspector general said that “misrepresented the full rationale”.

The supreme court blocked adding the question ahead of the 2020 Census.

Ross, now 83, is a longtime Trump associate who features in many of the rash of recent books about the Trump administration – often for falling asleep during meetings and speeches.

Here’s Sam Levine on what ultimately happened regarding districting after the Cencus was done:

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