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Climate change worries push travelers to these ‘last chance’ locales



Travel interest boost: 68 percent

The Maldives has seen the biggest spike in travel, as the island nation uses mass tourism to raise the funds necessary to adapt to climate change. That includes relocating thousands of people and building the necessary infrastructure to accommodate them.

The paradise atolls, famous for their turquoise waters and idyllic beaches, may be under water by 2100, according to the United Nations. That’s a fate the Maldives is trying to avoid.

Last year, tourists flocking to the Maldives insured an average of $3,593 in nonrefundable costs, an 11 percent increase from the year before, according to Squaremouth. Those costs could include airfare, hotel, and recreational activities.

Round-trip plane tickets from New York City to the Maldives cost around $1,000 on the low end, while hotels can range from under $50 to around $2,000 per night, depending on the level of amenities.

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Public support for Covid vaccines rises but skepticism remains: study



Pharmacist, Murtaza Abdulkarim (L) administers a dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine to a patient at a temporary vaccination centre, staffed by pharmacists and pharmacist assistants, at the Al-Abbas Islamic Centre in Birmingham, West Midlands on February 4, 2021.

Oli Scarff | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — More than three quarters of people in the U.K. now say they are “very likely” to have a coronavirus vaccine, a survey by the University of Oxford has found, up from 50% among the same group of survey respondents five months ago.

The study, part of the University of Oxford-funded research projectCoping with COVID-19′, was conducted on a representative sample of over 1,600 U.K. adults using the polling company YouGov. 

It found that the percentage of people who are “likely” or “very likely” to take the vaccine has increased to 87% from 78% since the sampling of respondents last October.

It found that age remains a strong predictor of willingness to take the vaccine with the 50-59 age group now much more positive about the vaccine since October.

There is a group of around 7% of the population who remain “very unlikely” to take the vaccine and this has not shifted greatly, the study said.

The survey of 1,200 UK residents, contacted in early October 2020 and again in the first week of February 2021, showed strong relationships between political attitudes and the intention to accept the vaccine, however, and that important gaps remain, driven by income and ethnicity.  

Co-authored by scholars from the University of Oxford, London School of Economics, and University College London, the study found that people on lower incomes are, on average, much less willing to take the vaccine. It also found that ethnic minority participants’ opinion of the vaccine had edged slightly in favor of the shot, but still trailed the white population represented in the survey.

The U.K.’s vaccination rollout began in December, with priority given to the elderly, care home residents and staff, and health care workers. The nationwide vaccination program has been seen as a success so far, with the rollout now extending to more priority groups in younger age brackets, and those deemed clinically vulnerable. As of Monday, almost 18 million people have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Government officials have expressed concern over vaccine hesitancy among some key groups, however, including care home workers and some ethnic minorities.

Barriers to vaccine uptake can include a perception of risk, low confidence in the vaccine, distrust in the medical establishment and a lack of endorsement or communication from trusted providers and community leaders, the government said in a recent report. It has sought to tackle vaccine hesitancy by engaging faith leaders and local medical practitioners that can easily engage with their local communities and encourage vaccine take-up.

However, one’s political persuasion was found to affect vaccine acceptance too, according to the Oxford study, including whether respondents voted for Brexit or not. The study found “Remainers,” those who voted for the U.K. to stay in the EU, are 7 percentage points more likely to be willing to take the vaccine than “Leavers,” or those who did not vote in the 2016 referendum. 

People who voted for the Brexit party or Green in 2019 — and especially those who did not vote at all — were found to be the least willing to take the vaccine, with supporters of the Scottish National Party and Liberal voters most positively inclined.  

Much is riding on vaccine rollouts in the U.K. and beyond. The U.K. government has recently set out a four-step plan to lift a national lockdown in England over the coming weeks and months, but has said it would rely on data rather than dates in determining how and when it lifts restrictions. How quickly it can re-open public life will affect how quickly its economy, which contracted almost 10% in 2020, can bounce back.

Ben Ansell, professor of Comparative Democratic Institutions at the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford University, said the findings showed “important gaps remain especially among groups whose trust in politicians is typically lower: non-voters, younger citizens, and poorer households.”

“When so much of the U.K. Government’s lockdown exit strategy rests on successful vaccine roll out, these insights will be of immediate importance to policymakers in both their internal deliberation on policy and their outward facing communication with the public.”

The Economist Intelligence Unit has forecast that, if vaccine rollouts proceed as it currently expects, most developed countries should have immunized 60-70% of their population by mid-2022. It believes the economic impact of vaccination rollouts should emerge sooner, however, with a global economic recovery to pick up pace from mid‑2021.

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Klarna CEO ‘deeply worried’ about tweets promoting BTC



Klarna co-founder and CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski speaks on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin 2019 on December 11, 2019.

Noam Galai | Getty Images

LONDON — The boss of European fintech giant Klarna says he’s “deeply worried” about posts promoting bitcoin on Twitter and thinks regulators should act to protect people from potential losses.

Sebastian Siemiatkowski told CNBC that, though he thinks bitcoin could be an “interesting technology,” he fears retail investors may get drawn in by tweets urging people to buy the cryptocurrency without thinking about the risks involved.

“If I go on Twitter and search for bitcoin, I can see people writing: ‘Buy now or you’re going to miss the biggest opportunity of your life,'” Siemiatkowski said in an interview Wednesday.

“If I would take Klarna stock and advertise it with similar writing I would get a fine or I would even be put to jail,” he added. “I am very surprised why regulators aren’t chasing these elements.”

Bitcoin has been on a wild ride lately. It’s surged more than 400% in the last 12 months, with backers pointing to increased demand from institutional buyers. Bitcoin’s climb has reminded some market watchers of its monster rally in 2017, which took the digital coin close to $20,000 only to shed 80% of its value the subsequent year.

Crypto bulls say things are different this time, with mainstream investors and large corporates like Tesla now buying into bitcoin. Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently came out as a believer in bitcoin last month, briefly adding the hashtag #bitcoin to his Twitter bio — a move that led to a 20% spike in the cryptocurrency’s price — and calling it a “good thing” in a discussion on the buzzy audio chat app Clubhouse.

Musk has also tweeted several times about dogecoin, a meme-inspired token that started out as a joke. His tweets have caused concern for some investors, who worry people will lose substantial amounts of cash from speculative trading.

“It’s great that we can introduce new financial products and so forth,” Siemiatkowski said. “But they need to follow the standard regulations that we put in place and somebody needs to police that to make sure those are being met because otherwise what we will have is a lot of consumers losing a lot of money. And that’s just unfortunately what is happening.”

Fintech regulation

BNPL plans are touted as an alternative to credit cards. But consumer advocacy groups like Which? warn they often entice people — particularly young people — to spend more than they can afford.

Klarna, which has raised a total of $2.1 billion in funding to date and was last privately valued at $10.6 billion, said it welcomed the move toward regulation. However, Siemiatkowski warned authorities to avoid making “prescriptive regulation” that could harm innovation.

“If they want to regulate ‘buy now, pay later,’ don’t tell us exactly how to do underwriting,” he said Wednesday. “Tell us what the maximum losses are or how our losses should benchmark versus credit cards and other products in the market and then let innovation drive so we can create great experiences.”

Klarna is close to finalizing a deal to raise fresh funds ahead of a potential stock market debut, sources familiar with the matter told CNBC. The sources preferred to remain anonymous as the details haven’t yet been made public. According to a Bloomberg report, the round could value the firm at $31 billion. Klarna declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.

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Fed Chair Powell testifies before House panel



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Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, completing his two-day virtual swing through Capitol Hill.

In remarks delivered before the Senate Banking Committee a day ago, the central bank leader cautioned that the economic recovery remains challenged and the Fed is committed to using its policy tools in full force until employment and inflation reach acceptable levels.

Powell characterized inflation as “soft” and said that while “inflation dynamics do change over time, they don’t change on a dime.” Markets greeted his comments enthusiastically, turning a sharp sell-off on Wall Street into a modest gain by the time the trading day ended.

As with his appearance before the Senate panel, Powell will deliver prepared remarks followed by a Q&A session with committee members.

Read more:

Powell says inflation is still ‘soft’ and the Fed is committed to current policy
A recap of Fed Chair Powell’s inflation and interest rates comments to the Senate
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen makes push for major stimulus, sees bigger risk in not doing enough

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