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World’s tallest wooden skyscraper planned in Tokyo

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A Japanese company is planning to build the world’s tallest wooden skyscraper with 90 percent of the building made of wood.

Sumitomo Forestry says its wooden high-rise — dubbed the W350 — will be 350 meters tall and the planned structure will be a hybrid of mostly wood and steel.

The 70-storey building, expected to be built in Tokyo, will comprise of stores, offices, hotels and private homes, the company noted in plans released earlier in February.

Sumitomo Forestry, which notes on its website that “happiness grows from trees,” said it aimed to create environmentally-friendly, timber-utilizing cities which “become forests through increased use of wooden architecture for high-rise buildings.”

Building with wood is still not cheap, however.

Using 185,000 cubic meters of timber, the building is expected to cost around 600 billion Japanese yen ($5.6 billion) which is twice the amount of a conventional high-rise building constructed with current technology.

However, the company believed that those costs would come down as timber became a more-frequently used material: “Going forward, the economic feasibility of the project will be enhanced by reducing costs through technological development.”

Currently the tallest wooden building is 18-storeys high (53 meters) and serves as accommodation for students at the University of British Colombia.

Greenery will feature heavily in the building from Sumitomo Forestry with foliage connecting from the ground to top floors offering “a view of biodiversity in an urban setting.”

The building plans show balconies that continue around all four sides of the building, giving a space “in which people can enjoy fresh outside air, rich natural elements and sunshine filtering through foliage.”

With earthquakes not unusual in Japan, the building will incorporate a structural system composed of braced tubes made from columns, beams and braces “to prevent deformation of the building due to lateral forces such as earthquakes or wind.”

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Uber lost $2 billion in Didi stake this week on China crackdown threat

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Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi speaks at a product launch event in San Francisco, California on September 26, 2019.

Philip Pacheco | AFP via Getty Images

Uber’s one-time, $9.4 billion stake in Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi has dwindled by half in less than a month as China escalates its threats to U.S.-listed companies. More than $2 billion of the drop came this week.

Didi’s American depositary shares, which debuted at $14 a piece in June on the New York Stock Exchange, plunged 21% on Friday to $8.02, after falling 11% a day earlier. They had reached a closing high of $16.40 on July 1, the second day of trading.

Uber owns about 12% of Didi, making it the second-largest investor behind SoftBank. Uber obtained its stake in 2016 after selling its Chinese business to Didi in exchange for equity in its rival.

Didi’s IPO came with a lot of hype and a market cap of close to $70 billion. But the honeymoon was short-lived, as within days of the offering separate reports surfaced that Chinese officials were conducting a cybersecurity review of the company and that Didi had been advised to postpone its listing and review its network security weeks before it went public.

The news worsened this week, after Bloomberg reported that Chinese regulators are planning punishments against Didi, including a fine that could exceed the record $2.8 billion Alibaba paid earlier this year after an anti-monopoly investigation. Didi did not respond to requests for comment on the Bloomberg report earlier this week.

Penalties could include delisting or withdrawal of U.S. shares, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Chinese lawmakers have announced plans of late to limit the ability of domestic companies to list overseas.

While Uber is still showing a profit from its initial investment in Didi, valued at about $2 billion five years ago, it’s falling fast. At the end of March, Uber valued the stake at $5.9 billion in its quarterly filing. As of Friday, it’s down to $4.6 billion.

Uber isn’t the only company getting hit by Didi’s drop. SoftBank’s stake has fallen from close to $14 billion after the IPO to under $8 billion. Tencent, the Chinese internet conglomerate, has seen the value of its Didi holdings fall to $2.5 billion from about $4.3 billion.

Uber’s shares have held up this week, rising 2.3% to $47.26.

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Covid cases are rising again in all 50 states across U.S. as delta variant tightens its grip

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Covid cases are on the rise in all 50 states and the District of Columbia as the delta variant rapidly spreads across the U.S. and the virus once again tightens its grip.

The U.S. is reporting an average of about 43,700 new cases per day over the past week — far below pandemic highs but up 65% over the previous seven days and nearly three times as high as the level two weeks ago, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows. Cases hit a 15-month low in late June before they began to rise yet again as fewer people got vaccinated and the more infectious delta variant took hold in the country.

Vaccination rates peaked in April at more than 3 million shots per day but have dropped off considerably in recent months to around 530,000 a day, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Florida and Nevada are reporting the highest daily average of new cases per capita over the past week, all of which are at least double the U.S. rate.

Each of those states also have vaccination rates below the nationwide level, with the biggest gap visible in Louisiana, where 47.7% of the eligible age 12-plus population has received one shot or more compared with 65.9% for the country overall.

Hospital admissions of Covid patients are up 32% compared with one week ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The count of daily Covid deaths, which typically lag an increase in case counts by a few weeks or more, has ticked upward but not at the same pace as cases or hospitalizations. Many Americans most vulnerable to the virus also now have some level of protection, as 89% of seniors have received at least one shot.

“Deaths haven’t risen because we have done an incredible job of fully vaccinating the populations most likely to die from Covid-19, especially those over 65 and nursing and assisted home residents,” Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, infectious disease specialist at the University of California at San Francisco, said in an interview. “Deaths also lag infection rate in a few cases, but I also anticipate the death rate not to budge.”

The overwhelming majority of serious Covid cases — 97% of hospital admissions, and 99.5% of Covid deaths — are occurring among those who are not vaccinated, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told reporters at a White House briefing Thursday.

President Joe Biden and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky have both called the current state of the outbreak “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

U.S. officials are pleading for Americans to get vaccinated against the delta variant, which Walensky said is one of the most infectious respiratory diseases ever seen by scientists. At 68.6% of the adult population at least partially vaccinated, the U.S. has still not reached Biden’s July Fourth goal of getting 70% of Americans aged 18 and older to receive one shot or more.

The variant is highly contagious, largely because people infected with the delta strain can carry up to 1,000 times more virus in their nasal passages than those infected with the original strain, according to new data.

“The delta variant is more aggressive and much more transmissible than previously circulating strains,” Walensky told reporters at a briefing Thursday. “It is one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of, and that I have seen in my 20-year career.”

Local officials across the country are now pleading with Americans to once again wear masks indoors. Several counties in California and Nevada are now advising all residents to wear masks in public indoor settings — whether they are vaccinated or not. Local leaders in at least three more states have reinstated mask mandates, issued facial covering recommendations or threatened the return of strict public health limits for all residents — in defiance of CDC guidelines that say vaccinated people don’t have to follow those protocols in most settings.

“The easiest and best and most effective way that we can prevent the emergence of a new variant and crush the already existing delta variant is to get everyone vaccinated,” said White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci in an interview Wednesday with CNBC.

— CNBC’s Bob Towey contributed reporting.

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China sanctions Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross

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China said Friday it has sanctioned seven people, including former Trump Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in response to U.S. penalties imposed on Chinese officials over Beijing’s clampdown on democracy in Hong Kong. 

The reciprocal sanctions were imposed under China’s new Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law, which was passed in June. The sanctions are a response to the United States’ recent warning to companies about the risks of doing business in Hong Kong.

They also came days before Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is to visit China, making her the most senior U.S. official to visit China during the Biden administration. 

In addition to Ross, others sanctioned include Carolyn Bartholomew, chair of the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission; Jonathan Stivers, former staff director of the Congressional Executive Commission on China; and Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch’s China director. 

Also sanctioned were DoYun Kim at National Democratic Institute for International Affairs; Adam Joseph King, senior program manager of the International Republican Institute and the Hong Kong Democratic Council. 

Ross, a billionaire businessman and investor, has done business in China. As Commerce secretary, he was one of the faces of former President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.

“I would like to stress once again that Hong Kong is China’s Special Administrative Region and its affairs are an integral part of China’s internal affairs,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in a statement. “Any attempt by external forces to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs would be as futile as an ant trying to shake a big tree.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a Friday press briefing that the U.S. is aware of China’s newest sanctions.

“We are undeterred by these actions and we remain fully committed to implementing all relevant U.S. sanctions on authorities,” Psaki said at the briefing. “These actions are the latest examples of how Beijing punishes private citizens, companies and civil society organizations as a way to send political signals and further illustrates the PRC’s deteriorating investment climate and rising political risks.”

Psaki said it follows China’s “baseless sanctioning” of two commissioners from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in March, 28 U.S. officials in January as well as sanctions on U.S. officials and organizations in July 2020. 

The Chinese Embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The State Department did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Lijian said Friday that China “firmly opposes and strongly condemns” the Biden administration’s issuance of the Hong Kong Business Advisory last week, which warns that U.S. firms are facing several risks posed by China’s sweeping national security law in Hong Kong. 

“These acts gravely violate international law and basic norms governing international relations, and severely interfere in China’s internal affairs,” Lijian said in the statement. 

China’s national security law was passed in June 2020 and has been condemned by Washington for aiming to limit Hong Kong’s autonomy and banning literature that is critical of the Chinese Communist Party. 

A Biden administration advisory, published jointly by the departments of State, Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security, says businesses face risks of warrantless electronic surveillance, surrendering data to authorities and “restricted access to information.”

It also sanctioned several Chinese officials with Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong for limiting autonomy in the territory. 

“Beijing has chipped away at Hong Kong’s reputation of accountable, transparent governance and respect for individual freedoms, and has broken its promise to leave Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy unchanged for 50 years,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement about the advisory. 

The Hong Kong warning came days after the Biden administration issued a similar advisory for firms with businesses and operations in Xinjiang province, where there is growing evidence that the Chinese government has carried out genocide and other human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.

The relationship between Beijing and Washington became even more strained under the Trump administration, which provoked a trade war and worked to ban Chinese technology companies from doing business in the U.S. 

Biden has previously said that his approach would differ from his predecessor’s, stating that he would work closely with allies to push back against Beijing.

The Chinese sanctions on Ross came soon after the Department of Justice declined to prosecute him for allegedly misleading Congress about census citizenship questions.

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