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FBI director under pressure to resign after Florida school shooting

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Pressure is mounting on the FBI director to resign after his agency admitted it failed to investigate a warning that the man accused of killing 17 people at a Florida high school possessed a gun and the desire to kill.

The disclosure spread angry disbelief among residents of the Miami suburb of Parkland where Wednesday’s massacre unfolded, and led Florida’s governor Rick Scott to call for FBI chief Christopher Wray to resign.

“The FBI’s failure to take action against this killer is unacceptable,” Scott, a Republican, said in a statement. “We constantly promote ‘See something, say something’, and a courageous person did just that to the FBI. And the FBI failed to act.”

Scott’s comments came after the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a statement that a person described as someone close to accused gunman Nikolas Cruz, 19, called an FBI tip line on Jan. 5, weeks before the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, to report concerns about him.

“The caller provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behaviour, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting,” it said.

That information should have been forwarded to the FBI’s Miami field office for further investigation, but “we have determined that these protocols were not followed”, it said.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he has ordered a review of FBI procedures following the shooting, carried out by a gunman armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and numerous ammunition cartridges.

“We have spoken with victims and families, and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy,” Wray said in a statement.

The FBI has also separately been criticized by some Republicans over its investigation of allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, heaping further scrutiny on the agency led by Wray since President Donald Trump fired James Comey last year. Russia denies any involvement.

The mishandled information followed a tip-off to the FBI in September about a YouTube comment in which a person named Nikolas Cruz said: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.”

The FBI said it investigated that comment but was unable to trace its origins, closing the inquiry until Cruz surfaced in connection with Wednesday’s shooting.

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Abu Dhabi eyes new partnerships for carbon capture as oil price climbs

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Oil rich Abu Dhabi and its national oil company are eyeing new partnerships in carbon capture technology as rising oil prices put a renewed focus on big oil’s climate mitigation strategies.

“There is no credible way of reaching global climate goals without seriously advancing and ensuring the widespread adoption of carbon capture and storage,” Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) Managing Director and Group CEO said over the weekend.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology aims to reduce the level of carbon that’s released into the atmosphere through conventional power generation and industrial processes by storing waste carbon in a place where it won’t enter the atmosphere, typically underground. Long-term carbon storage is a fairly new concept, and its environmental, economic and technical aspects are still being debated. 

ADNOC, which pumps more than 3 million barrels of oil a day, has pledged to lower its greenhouse gas emissions and boost CO2 storage. It joins a long list of oil majors that have come under increasing pressure to speed up climate efforts as higher prices put the industry on a more sustainable path.

We continue to see it as a game changer, and we are very ready to partner with others within and even outside our industry to enable wider CCS adoption.

Sultan Al Jaber

UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and ADNOC Managing Director

“This goes beyond just the oil and gas industry,” Al Jaber said. “I see an opportunity and an important role for carbon capture and storage across sectors that are hard to decarbonize and that use the most energy, such as heavy industry, manufacturing and chemicals,” he added.

Al Jaber made the comments last week at a virtual CERAWeek panel session alongside Vicki Hollub, CEO of Occidental, and energy economist Dan Yergin, Vice Chairman of IHS Markit.

Oil prices spiked on Monday, with Brent crude topping $70 after an attack on Saudi oil facilities and after OPEC and its allies decided to keep production cuts in place in April. Higher prices are a boon for the key oil exporters of the Gulf, like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which still rely heavily on oil export revenues to drive economic growth. Oil prices collapsed below zero and into negative territory in April last year.

Carbon partnerships

ADNOC recently partnered with French oil major Total to explore opportunities in CO2 emission reductions and CCS. It comes as the UAE aims to reduce its carbon intensity a further 25% over the next decade.

“We continue to see it as a game changer, and we are very ready to partner with others within and even outside our industry to enable wider CCS adoption,” Al Jaber said.

ADNOC, which has plans to aggressively ramp up oil production capacity in coming years, says it can capture 800,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually through its Al Reyadah facility in Abu Dhabi. As oil production capacity grows, it also plans to expand the capacity of the program to capture 5 million tons every year by 2030. 

“Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) will need to form a key pillar of efforts to put the world on the path to net-zero emissions,” the International Energy Agency said in a publication last year. “After years of slow progress, new investment incentives and strengthened climate goals are building new momentum behind CCUS,” it added. 

Al Jaber, who’s also the UAE’s special envoy for climate change, didn’t say what type of partnerships the company was seeking to form. ADNOC recently said its also exploring the potential of new fuels such as hydrogen, which Al Jaber said shows “great promise as a close to zero-carbon fuel” that could be produced at scale as part of ADNOC’s existing hydrocarbon value chain.

Demand recovery

Al Jaber also expressed optimism  on the positive impact of vaccines and stimulus programs on the global economic recovery, which feeds directly into oil demand.

“Looking regionally, we see that one of the major powerhouses of the global economy, China, has already recovered in GDP terms, and is back to robust growth,” he said. “We expect another key player in the global economy, the U.S., to return to its pre-Covid level of GDP this year and continue growing into 2022,” he added.

Al Jaber also pointed to the improving recovery in oil demand, which fell to lows of around 75 million barrels per day at the height of global lockdowns. “Global consumption is currently around 95 million barrels per day and we expect it to rise above pre-Covid levels by the end of this year,” he said.

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Biden wants Yemen war to end, but may have worsened it, analyst says

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U.S. President Joe Biden wants to end the war in Yemen, but it’s not likely that the conflict can be dialed back anytime soon, according to Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the hawkish Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“In fact, if anything, I think this is likely to make the conflict grow worse,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Tuesday.

Biden announced last month that the U.S. will withdraw its support for the offensive against the Houthi forces in Yemen.

Previous administrations under Donald Trump and Barack Obama backed the Saudi-led alliance in its intervention in the civil war in Yemen.

Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa from the internationally recognized Yemeni government.

A year later, Saudi Arabia led a coalition of Sunni Arab states in support of the Yemeni government to oust the Houthis, a militia backed by Shiite-majority Iran.

We’re simply going to hope that an Iran-backed militia will come to the table and act reasonably. Unfortunately, I think this is wishful thinking.

Jonathan Schanzer

Foundation for Defense of Democracies

According to the United Nations, the war has already caused an estimated 233,000 deaths — including more than 100,000 fatalities from indirect causes such as lack of food, health services and infrastructure.

Schanzer said Biden’s move will not help end the war in Yemen because the U.S. does not have concessions to offer to the Houthis, who now have less incentive than before to make compromises.

“What the Biden administration has done is, it has taken the military option off the table for the United States, even by way of proxy through the Saudis,” he said.

Diplomacy the only option

The U.S. also removed the Houthis from being designated as a foreign terrorist organization, and took them off the Specially Designated Global Terrorist list.

“What is left right now is diplomacy,” Schanzer said.

“The reality that we are now facing is that we’ve taken really all of our other leverage off the table, and we’re simply going to hope that an Iran-backed militia will come to the table and act reasonably,” he said. “Unfortunately, I think this is wishful thinking.”

He noted that the Houthis have stepped up strikes even though the U.S. special envoy to Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, has implored them to negotiate.

Smoke billows above the residential area following airstrikes of the Saudi-led coalition targeting Houthi-held military positions on March 7, 2021 in Sana’a, Yemen.

Mohammed Hamoud | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Schanzer said Saudi Arabia’s continued military operations could be “one of the few pieces of leverage” that the U.S. could use in discussions with the Houthis.

Still, he acknowledged that there is an aversion to being involved in the conflict. “It looks … as if the Biden administration has itself tied in knots a bit,” he said.

It’s unlikely that there will be progress toward ending the Yemen war for now, he said, pointing to the aggression from the Houthis.

“With the swarm drone attacks and the ballistic missile attacks and other acts of violence they’ve carried out in the Saudi state, it’s very, very hard to imagine that the Saudis are going to want to dial back on their reprisals,” he said.

— CNBC’s Amanda Macias contributed to this report.

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House plans to pass Biden Covid relief bill

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The House plans to pass Democrats’ $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill this week and get fresh aid to Americans starting this month.

The chamber aims to approve the rescue package in time for President Joe Biden to sign it before key unemployment programs expire on Sunday. The Senate passed the legislation on Saturday.

Democratic leaders hope to get the legislation through the House as soon as Tuesday, but passage could slip to Wednesday as representatives wait for the Senate to send the massive proposal back across the Capitol.

“It could be that we get it tomorrow afternoon and then it has to go to [the House Rules Committee]. And we’d take it up Wednesday morning at the latest,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Monday.

The bill extends a $300 per week boost to unemployment benefits through Sept. 6 and sends direct payments of up to $1,400 to most Americans. The stimulus money will start hitting accounts this month, Biden said Saturday.

The bill also includes an expansion of the child tax credit, rental payment assistance and funds for Covid-19 vaccine distribution and testing. It directs money to state, local and tribal governments, along with schools.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 4, 2021.

Joshua Roberts | Reuters

Democrats passed the bill in the evenly split Senate without Republican support through the budget reconciliation process. They are not expected to win any votes from House Republicans, as the GOP criticizes what it calls wasteful spending in the bill.

When the House passed a different version of the plan last month, no Republicans supported it and two Democrats opposed it. Despite the lack of GOP votes the first time around, Pelosi is holding out hope for Republican support.

“The House now hopes to have a bipartisan vote on this life-saving legislation and urges Republicans to join us in recognition of the devastating reality of this vicious virus and economic crisis and of the need for decisive action,” she said in a statement Saturday.

While changes made to appease conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia drew criticism from House progressives, the bill appears set to pass the House on Tuesday. The Senate bill limited the number of people receiving direct payments relative to the House plan by capping them at $80,000 in income for individuals and $160,000 for joint filers.

It also reduced the jobless benefit supplement to $300 from $400 in the House bill. The policy will last an additional week, through Sept. 6.

After the Senate passed the changes, House progressives signaled they would vote for the revised plan.

“Importantly, despite the fact that we believe any weakening of the House provisions were bad policy and bad politics, the reality is that the final amendments were relatively minor concessions,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said in a statement Saturday. “The American Rescue Plan has retained its core bold, progressive elements originally proposed by President Joe Biden and passed in the House relief package.”

Republicans criticized Democrats for pursuing the relief package on their own. The GOP also targeted what it called wasteful spending not needed to end the pandemic and boost the economic recovery.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., argued Democrats wanted to push through “unrelated policy changes that they couldn’t pass honestly.”

McConnell also pointed to a better-than-expected February jobs report as evidence that nearly $2 trillion in spending is unnecessary.

Biden and Democrats have said the country needs the stimulus spending to sustain economic gains and help the millions of people still receiving unemployment benefits or unable to afford food and rent.

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