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US and China scuffled over nuclear ‘football’ during Trump’s Beijing visit: Axios



The military aide carrying the nuclear football (second from left) with U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping at Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

Thomas Peter – Pool/Getty Images

The military aide carrying the nuclear football (second from left) with U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

Things got physical between U.S. and Chinese officials over the nuclear “football” during President Donald Trump’s visit to Beijing last year, Axios reported Sunday.

A military aide carrying the “football” — a briefcase with contents for the president to authorize a nuclear strike — was blocked by Chinese security officials at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People in November 2017, according to the report, which cited five sources “familiar with the events.”

The briefcase is supposed to be close to the president at all times. Chief of Staff John Kelly, after hearing about the incident, rushed over and told U.S. officials to keep walking, Axios said. That resulted in a commotion between the Americans and the Chinese.

“A Chinese security official grabbed Kelly, and Kelly shoved the man’s hand off of his body. Then a U.S. Secret Service agent grabbed the Chinese security official and tackled him to the ground,” according to the report.

The news outlet reported the scuffle was over “in a flash” and the Chinese never touched the briefcase. The chief of the Beijing security detail apologized, Axios said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent outside of normal business hours.

For more on the skirmish, see the full story from Axios.

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Anthony Levandowski pardoned after stealing trade secrets from Google



Former Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski leaves the federal court after his arraignment hearing in San Jose

Reuters/Stephen Lam

President Donald Trump has pardoned Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer sentenced to prison for stealing trade secrets relating to driverless cars from the search giant.

On Wednesday, Levandowksi was among dozens of individuals who received a full pardon from Trump on his last night in the White House.

The White House listed tech billionaire Peter Thiel and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey as supporters of Levandowski’s pardon. Thiel was a major supporter and advisor for the 2016 campaign, but did not back Trump’s reelection effort. Luckey hosted a fundraiser for Trump just weeks before the 2020 election.

In August, Levandowski was sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing trade secrets. He transferred thousands of files from Google before leaving the company. He went on to found a start-up called Otto which was acquired by Uber.

Google’s self-driving car unit Waymo then accused Uber of using those trade secrets in its driverless car technology, which Uber denied. In 2018, Uber and Waymo settled their legal dispute. But Levandowski, who was fired from Uber in 2017, had to face criminal charges.

The sentencing judge in Levandowski’s case called it the “biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen.”

Trump gave Levandowski a full pardon, calling him “an American entrepreneur who led Google’s efforts to create self-driving technology.”

“Mr. Levandowski pled guilty to a single criminal count arising from civil litigation. Notably, his sentencing judge called him a ‘brilliant, groundbreaking engineer that our country needs.’ Mr. Levandowski has paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good.”

In March, Levandowski declared bankruptcy after a court said he had to pay $179 million to Google over his split with Waymo.

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European Central Bank is set for a change of focus



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OPEC chief pledges to deepen ties with Biden administration



An off-shore oil platform off the coast in Huntington Beach, California on April 5, 2020.

Leonard Ortiz | MediaNews Group | Orange County Register | Getty Images

DUBAI — Oil-producing group OPEC will continue to strengthen its relationship with the U.S. energy industry under Joe Biden’s new administration, the oil cartel’s Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo told CNBC on Tuesday.

It comes despite the Democratic leader’s stated commitment to fight climate change and focus on renewable energy.

Barkindo congratulated Biden for his upcoming inauguration during a virtual panel hosted by the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum, and said: “We continue to deepen this relationship, which we found mutually beneficial to all of us.”

“And we intend to continue along this fashion going forward and the administration of President Biden,” he told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in an exclusive interview.

OPEC leaders were known to have at times communicated with outgoing President Donald Trump, who was particularly vocal and active about the oil markets and what he believed oil-producing countries should do to alter crude prices.

Biden’s likely change in approach — as well as his focus on investment in non-oil energy sources — have reportedly unsettled some in the 13-member oil-producing group. The president-elect’s potential return to the Iran nuclear deal, which could bring millions of barrels of new oil onto the market, has also raised concerns. 

The OPEC chief has been diplomatic when it comes to discussing U.S. presidents, but some in the organization are wary of strains with Biden, according to sources cited by Reuters.

Asked if he had been in touch with Biden yet, Barkindo replied: “No, not at all.”

“We believe that we have established very mutually beneficial productive relationships with the industry in the United States. And I think we have no option but to continue to strengthen this relationship under President Biden,” he added.

Climate change under Biden

Dan Yergin, a longtime oil industry expert and founder of IHS Markit, said during the same panel that Biden’s biggest impact on the oil industry would be his commitment to climate change action. 

“I think he is going to step on the gas on climate,” Yergin said. He expects the administration to provide “incentives for electric vehicles … For solar, wind, and more regulations (for the oil industry) across the board.”

The bitter truth is that a clean energy transition is coming, and coming very fast.

Fatih Birol

International Energy Agency

Biden has named climate change as one of the four biggest crises facing the U.S. and plans to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord on his first day in office. Trump withdrew from the climate deal in 2017.

Looking ahead, global trends surrounding energy and climate may be worrying OPEC member states far more than whoever is in the White House.

“It is extremely important to understand one thing,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said during the panel. “The share of oil in the global energy markets will decline. And the speed of this decline will be determined by the pace of energy transitions.”

“The bitter truth is that a clean energy transition is coming, and coming very fast,” said Birol.

He also said the world should expect to see more innovations like carbon capture, hydrogen power, electric vehicles and new generation of nuclear power.

“The political position of the U.S. will give unmistakable signals to investors around the world,” he added.

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