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ANCHORAGE, Alaka (AP) — The Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for a controversial gold and copper mine near the headwaters of the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery in southwest Alaska.The Army Corps of Engineers said in a statement that the permit application to build the Pebble Mine was denied under both the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act.The corps said the discharge plan from the Pebble Limited Partnership, the mine’s backers, doesn’t comply with Clean Water Act guidelines.The agency “concluded that the proposed project is contrary to the public interest,” according to the statement from Col. Damon Delarosa, commander of the corps’ Alaska district. Pebble partnership CEO John Shively said he was dismayed, especially after the corps had indicated in an environmental impact statement in July that the mine and fishery could coexist.“One of the real tragedies of this decision is the loss of economic opportunities for people living in the area," Shively said in a statement. The environmental review “clearly describes those benefits, and now a politically driven decision has taken away the hope that many had for a better life. This is also a lost opportunity for the state’s future economy.”The denial comes as somewhat of a surprise.The Corps of Engineers in July released an environmental review that the mine developer saw as laying the groundwork for key federal approvals. The review said that under normal operations, Pebble Mine, proposed for southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, “would not be expected to have a measurable effect on fish numbers and result in long-term changes to the health of the commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay.”However, in August, the corps said it had determined that discharges at the mine site would cause “unavoidable adverse impacts to aquatic resources” and laid out required efforts to reduce those effects. That prompted Alaska’s Republican U.S. senators to oppose the project. Sen. Dan Sullivan, who won reelection in November, went so far as to declare the project “dead.”Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., which owns the Pebble Limited Partnership, said it had submitted a mitigation plan on Nov. 16. If the project were to have secured approval from the corps, there was still no guarantee it would have been built. It would have needed state approval, and President-elect Joe Biden has expressed opposition to the project.Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency withdrew restrictions on development that were proposed — but never finalized — under the Obama administration and said it planned to work with the corps to address concerns. Critics of the project saw Pebble as getting a lifeline under the Trump administration. However, Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was among those who voiced opposition earlier this year. The president said in August he would “listen to both sides” on the issue.The Pebble partnership had praised the corps’ environmental review, while critics of the project said it lacked scientific rigor. ___Associated Press journalist Becky Bohrer in Juneau contributed to this report.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cannabis stocks are flying high after voters in New Jersey, Arizona and three other states cleared the way for expanding legal sales of marijuana. Shares in some of the biggest cannabis companies, including Aurora Cannabis, Canopy Growth and Cresco Labs, are up between 24% and 75% so far this month. By comparison, the benchmark S&P 500 index is up 11%. Investors are encouraged because the successful ballot initiatives broaden the potential market for legal cannabis sales and show marijuana is becoming increasingly more accepted throughout the U.S. The stocks began rallying after Election Day. Voters in New Jersey, Arizona, Montana and South Dakota approved legalizing sales of marijuana for adults. South Dakota also approved sales for medical use, as did Mississippi.The expansion of sales to adults alone represents a nearly 20% increase in the potential U.S. market for legal cannabis, according to industry tracker BDSA.“That continues to open up new markets for these legal U.S. cannabis companies,” said Morningstar analyst Kristoffer Inton. “That supports a really robust U.S. market growth.”All told, cannabis is now legal for adults in 15 states and the District of Columbia. Thirty-six states allow for some form of access for medicinal use. The successful state ballot initiatives have prompted analysts to revise their outlook for U.S. cannabis sales. Cowen now projects the legal marijuana market will grow to $34 billion by 2025, up from an earlier forecast of $31 billion. Morningstar estimates that annual U.S. cannabis sales will reach $70 billion for the adult-use segment and $15 billion for medical.The legal cannabis market has been growing as companies open more dispensaries. Curaleaf, which has operations in 23 states, tripled its revenue in the third quarter from a year earlier, thanks in part to having added locations in Florida and other states. The Wakefield, Massachussetts-based company’s shares are up 55% this year. Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries, which sells its products in California and 10 other states, is up more than 91% this year. The company’s third-quarter revenue more than doubled from a year earlier as it expanded distribution of its products.Despite their big rally this month, shares in Aurora, MedMen Enterprises, Tilray and other big cannabis companies are down more than 60% this year. It’s a far cry from just a couple of years ago, when early enthusiasm about the prospects for rapid sales growth and blockbuster company mergers had cannabis stocks skyrocketing.While industry analysts project the market for cannabis products will continue to grow over the next decade, the industry remains constrained by government regulations that stem from marijuana being illegal at the federal level. Those regulations are hurdles for companies when it comes to getting access to banking and other services.Still, the fact that voters in South Dakota, Montana and Mississippi, states that tend to vote Republican, embraced some form of marijuana legalization, bodes well for the industry’s efforts to get cannabis-friendly laws passed nationally. “The industry would have preferred a Democratic sweep, but the passage of all five ballot initiatives, including three in Republican states, makes cannabis less partisan,” said Bobby Burleson, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has already passed the SAFE Banking Act, which would free up banks to do business with license marijuana companies, but the bill has stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate.The outcome of two runoff elections in Georgia could determine control of the Senate, which would be key in future efforts to enact pro-cannabis laws.However, a change in federal marijuana law isn’t essential for the U.S. cannabis market to continue growing, at least at this point, Inton said.“Even in the states that have already legalized, there’s still so much runway left for growth," he said.
GENEVA (AP) — The president of African soccer who was banned for five years for financial mismanagement by FIFA’s ethics committee said on Wednesday he will appeal the ruling to sport’s highest court.Lawyers for Ahmad Ahmad, the former government minister from Madagascar, announced on his Twitter account he will challenge the ban when he receives the written grounds of an “incomprehensible and shocking decision” made by the committee. FIFA said Monday that the document would be provided within 60 days. “This decision was not rendered in a fair and impartial manner,” Ahmad's legal team wrote.Ahmad pledged to also ask the Court of Arbitration for Sport to freeze the ban during his appeal process so he can continue campaigning for re-election. The Confederation of African Football’s 54 member countries are scheduled to vote on March 12.Before then, Ahmad and other potential candidates must pass an integrity and eligibility check overseen by FIFA-appointed officials.The FIFA ethics committee found Ahmad had "breached his duty of loyalty, offered gifts and other benefits, mismanaged funds and abused his position as the CAF President,” since being elected in 2017.The charges related to CAF organizing and financing an Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca with 16 federation presidents and an equipment supply contract with a French company that had little track record in soccer.FIFA investigators relied on a forensic audit of CAF finances by an international accountancy firm that also worked for the Cairo-based soccer body.This was a conflict of interest, Ahmad’s lawyers claimed Wednesday, adding he was “refused the right to examine some witnesses” at his FIFA ethics committee hearing.Potential candidates for the CAF presidency include two current executive committee members — Augustin Senghor of Senegal and Ahmed Yaya of Mauritania — former FIFA executive committee member Jacques Anouma of Ivory Coast and Patrice Motsepe, a billionaire businessman and soccer club owner from South Africa.___More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is bracing for President-elect Joe Biden to move beyond the Trump administration’s state-by-state approach to the COVID-19 crisis and build out a national strategy to fight the pandemic and distribute the eventual vaccine.The incoming administration’s approach reflects Democrats’ belief that a more comprehensive plan, some of it outlined in the House’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, is needed to get the pandemic under control. Republicans have resisted big spending but agree additional funding is needed. With the nation on edge but a vaccine in sight, the complicated logistics of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans raise the stakes on the major undertaking.“We have an incredible challenge on our hands,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, which is approaching the anniversary of its first reported case of the virus last January.A vaccine can only go so far, Murray warned, without a distribution plan. "A vaccine can sit on a shelf. A vaccination is what we’re talking about,” she said.As Congress weighs a new round of COVID-19 relief, federal officials say doses of the vaccine could begin shipping within a day of Food and Drug Administration approval. Three pharmaceutical manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — have announced early results. But the rollout faces a patchwork of state plans, a transitioning White House and potential backlash from vaccine skeptics, despite the rising U.S. death toll of nearly 260,000 people. Biden said Tuesday on NBC's “Nightly News with Lester Holt” that his team has started meeting with COVID-19 officials at the White House on how to “get from a vaccine being distributed to a person being able to get vaccinated.”Democrats have been sounding the alarm that the Trump administration’s delay in granting Biden’s team access to transition materials was wasting precious time. States submitted draft vaccination planning documents last month, but not all of them have made full plans public. Private Capitol Hill briefings by officials from Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine effort, left some lawmakers fuming last week over what they called a lack of coordination with Biden’s camp.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that his department “immediately” started working with Biden’s staff after the General Services Administration formally acknowledged the election results.Azar said he wanted to ensure Biden’s transition would be “in the spirit of looking out for the health and well-being of the American people and, in particular, saving lives through this COVID-19 pandemic.”From the start, the pandemic has challenged and reflected the two parties’ approaches to the public health crisis, with the Trump administration largely outsourcing many decisions to the states and Democrats pressing for a more nationalized approach.In Congress, Republicans largely rejected the $2 trillion-plus House bill from Democrats as excessive. They prefer their own $500 billion Senate effort, saying states and cities can tap funding from previous relief legislation. Senate Democrats blocked that bill twice as insufficient.Biden's campaign called for $25 billion for vaccines to “guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.” That's similar to the amount included in both the House and the Senate bills, through different strategies, and Congress previously mandated that vaccines be free. With fresh legislation stalled, it’s uncertain if states will have the resources needed once the FDA approves the vaccines.During a conference call this week with governors, Azar and other health officials fielded a range of questions. Governors were seeking guidance on which populations they should prioritize for the vaccine and whether there was a list of pharmacies available to administer the two-dose regimens, according to a readout of the call provided by the office of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.Blaire Bryant, who oversees health care policy at the National Association of Counties, said a national strategy for communicating vaccine information to the public and the funding to make vaccinations equitable are vital.“We’re in uncharted territory,” she said. “The more information, the more guidance we can get from the federal level, the better.”She said states do have access to previously approved funding, but cash-strapped local governments have been reluctant to draw down the remaining dollars for vaccines. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, she said.As Congress debates funding, at least two Republican senators are participating in vaccine trials as a way to build confidence among Americans skeptical of the federal effort.Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement that he hoped his participation “will reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who is participating in the Pfizer trials, asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to consider the “unique challenges” of distributing the vaccine to remote and rural communities like those in his state.Daines said in a letter to the CDC that it will also be “critical” to ensure access for frontline health care and essential workers, as well as older adults and people with medical conditions.Other lawmakers, though, have brushed off concerns. GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he expects vaccine distribution will be “well underway” by the time Biden takes office Jan. 20.Murray, as the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, grew concerned this summer as she said the Trump administration outsourced much of the vaccine distribution planning to the states.She drafted a 19-page paper calling for $25 billion to stand up a vaccination program with supply chains, hired personnel, drive-in clinics and other ways to provide no-cost vaccines. She warned of the Trump administration's “lack of centralized leadership” and “chaotic communication” with the states.Biden and Murray have since talked about her approach, which draws on input from health professionals on Biden’s team. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a member of Biden's COVID-19 task force, briefed Senate Democrats the week after the election.Murray compared the vaccine effort to sending a man to the moon or fighting a world war. She said it will take all Americans joining to say, “This is a pandemic, and I'm going to do my part to get the country out of it.”___Associated Press writers Candice Choi in New York and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President-elect Joe Biden (all times local):10:50 a.m.President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani is headed to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to continue his fight to overturn the results of the election and secure Trump a second term. Pennsylvania has already certified its results and awarded its 20 electors to Democrat Joe Biden, who was declared the winner of the Nov. 3 election.Giuliani is leading legal challenges to the balloting in Pennsylvania and other states as the Republican president seeks to maintain his base of supporters and keep his options open for opportunities post-presidency.Giuliani claimed in a Wednesday interview with New York radio station AM 970 that illegal votes were cast, especially in Philadelphia, that he wants to see disqualified. But a broad coalition of top government and industry officials says the Nov. 3 election was “the most secure in American history.”In Pennsylvania on Saturday, a conservative Republican judge shot down the Trump campaign’s biggest legal effort in the state with a scathing ruling that questioned why he was supposed to disenfranchise 7 million voters with no evidence to back its claims and an inept legal argument at best.___HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN'S TRANSITION TO THE WHITE HOUSE:President-elect Joe Biden plans a Thanksgiving address to the nation, and he's expected to focus on shared sacrifices during the holiday season and express confidence that Americans will get through the coronavirus pandemic together.Read more:— Analysis: Biden prioritizes experience with his Cabinet picks— Congress braces for Biden's national coronavirus strategy— US jobless claims rise to 778,000 as the coronavirus pandemic worsens— Q&A: Will Twitter and Facebook crack down on Trump? ___HERE'S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:9:35 a.m.Chinese President Xi Jinping has congratulated U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and expressed hope for “win-win cooperation” amid conflicts over trade, technology and security. China on Wednesday became one of the last major governments to congratulate Biden. There was no explanation for the delay, but some commentators suggest Beijing might want to avoid straining relations with President Donald Trump, who hasn’t conceded.A statement carried by the official Xinhua News Agency says Xi told Biden “healthy and stable” relations are “the common expectation of the international community." The statement says: “We hope the two sides will uphold the spirit of non-conflict and non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, will focus on cooperation, control differences and promote healthy and stable development of Chinese-U.S. relations."
Here’s what’s happening Wednesday in Election 2020. TODAY’S TOP STORIES: ‘AMERICA IS BACK’: President-elect Joe Biden introduced his national security team, his first substantive offering of how he’ll shift from Trump-era “America First” policies by relying on experts from the Democratic establishment to be some of his most important advisers. Biden’s Washington veterans all have ties to the Obama administration as the president-elect has sought to deliver a clear message about his desire to reestablish a more predictable engagement from the United States on the global stage. BIDEN'S TEAM: Biden’s first wave of Cabinet picks and choices for his White House staff have prized staying power over star power, with a premium placed on government experience and proficiency as he looks to rebuild a depleted and demoralized federal bureaucracy. With an eye in part toward making selections who may have to seek approval from a Republican-controlled Senate, Biden prioritized choosing qualified professionals while eschewing flashy names.SENATE SWAY: As Biden has started rolling out his administrative team, one voice has been notably silent: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Senate Republicans will hold great sway in confirming or denying Biden’s Cabinet nominees, regardless of which party controls the narrowly split Senate after runoff elections in Georgia. But key Republican senators, including the GOP leader, are keeping quiet for now. TRUMP VENTS: President Donald Trump insists that he is not giving up his fight to overturn the election results, but across the federal government preparations are beginning in earnest to support Biden’s incoming administration. Career federal officials opened the doors of agencies to hundreds of transition aides ready to prepare for Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration. And Trump signed off on allowing Biden to receive highly classified national intelligence briefings.GOP SUES: Republicans have filed a lawsuit asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to block certification of the presidential election results. A recount pertaining to Biden’s win over Trump is ongoing. The lawsuit echoes many of the arguments Trump is making in trying, unsuccessfully, to have tens of thousands of ballots discounted during the recount. At least 10 cases have been filed across the country seeking to halt certification in parts or all of key battleground states. None has been successful. QUOTABLE: “The contrast between Biden’s selections and Trump’s selections are like night and day: Biden’s picks are capable, sensible and play well in the sandbox together. Biden prefers people he has known for decades. Trump picked Rex Tillerson because he thought he looked like a secretary of state.” — Steve Rattner, a former Obama economic adviser, after Biden introduced his national security team. ICYMI:Q&A: Will Twitter, Facebook crack down on Trump?Disastrous first debate is one rerun Fox’s Wallace avoids___Find AP’s full election coverage at APNews.com/Election2020.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s president reiterated his hope Wednesday that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden would return America’s Iran policy to where he left things as vice president four years ago, state TV reported, rejoining Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers. Hassan Rouhani said that if Iran and the U.S. could find a path back to “the situation on Jan 20, 2017,” President Donald Trump’s inauguration day, “it could be a huge solution for many issues and problems.”Under Trump, tensions between the U.S. and Iran have escalated, pushing the two sides to the brink of war earlier this year.One of Trump’s signature foreign policy moves was unilaterally withdrawing from the nuclear accord in 2018, which had limited Iran’s uranium enrichment in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. Trump has since piled punishing sanctions on Iran that have devastated the country’s economy and crashed its currency. Rouhani called on Biden to “explicitly condemn” Trump’s maximum pressure campaign as well as “compensate for wrong policies pursued over the past four years,” a possible reference to the massive financial losses Iran suffered as a result of Trump’s sanctions campaign.In an effort to pressure Europe to find a way around the sanctions, Iran has gradually abandoned the limits of the nuclear deal. Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile, which would have been under 300 kilograms (660 pounds) in the deal, now stands at over 2,440 kilograms (5,380 pounds), according to the latest report by U.N. inspectors. That’s potentially enough material to make at least two nuclear weapons, experts say, if Iran chose to pursue the bomb. Iran long has maintained its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Rouhani, a relative moderate, along with Iran’s foreign minister, have signaled the country’s willingness to roll back its enrichment and return to negotiations.Although Biden appears unlikely to lift crippling sanctions on Iran in his “first steps” in office, as Rouhani demanded in his Wednesday speech, the president-elect has indicated he would return to the nuclear deal if Iran first comes back into compliance.
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — For the past four years, President Donald Trump has enjoyed the special status of a world leader on Twitter and...
NEW YORK (AP) — Competence is making a comeback. President-elect Joe Biden has prized staying power over star power when making his first wave of...