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    (Bloomberg) -- Negotiations on a new coronavirus relief bill edged toward the brink of collapse after a meeting Thursday between White House officials and top congressional Democrats ended with each side accusing the other of being unwilling to compromise and the biggest issues far from resolved.The four negotiators, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, emerged from a more than three-hour meeting with little to show and with no guarantee they would resume talks on Friday.Mnuchin and Meadows said that while talks made progress on a few areas of possible compromise, there still are disagreements on the topline numbers for a stimulus bill and on the biggest individual provisions, including aid to state and local governments that Democrats want.“The differences are still significant,” Meadows said.Pelosi said Republicans are not facing up to the gravity of the economic calamity confronting the U.S. Schumer said the meeting was “disappointing” because the White House wasn’t willing to meet them in the middle.“We are very far apart,” Pelosi said. “It’s most unfortunate.”The talks began under the pressure of expectations from financial markets and the threat from President Donald Trump that he’ll act unilaterally to restore some of the stimulus measures that ran out during a stalemate in Congress.Meadows and Mnuchin said they will consult with Trump and call Pelosi and Schumer Friday to determine if it makes sense to meet. Schumer made clear Democrats are willing to keep talking.A bigger-than-expected gain in American jobs in July, shown in a government release Friday morning, may influence the direction of any further talks. While high-frequency data have indicated a slowdown in economic activity in recent weeks, the report showed a 1.76 million jump in payrolls, beating most estimates. The unemployment rate fell to 10.2%, though that’s still higher than at the peak of the Great Recession in 2009.In the meantime, the $600 a week supplemental unemployment insurance payment from the last stimulus has run out for millions of jobless Americans and remains one of the biggest sticking points in the talks. Republicans want to cut the benefit, while Democrats are demanding it be extended. Other provisions of the March stimulus also have run dry or are about to.Wall Street is hoping for a deal. U.S. stocks climbed Thursday on optimism that the two sides will come to terms on a stimulus deal. But any hint that negotiators won’t be able to resolve differences over a new U.S. relief package will spark jitters.“Anything that we can do to continue to provide a bridge to people as we get through this crisis is going to be really important,” said Chuck Cumello, president and chief executive officer of Essex Financial Services. “The U.S. consumer is driving two-thirds of the economy.”Both parties continued to send brickbats each other’s way all week, and that continued Thursday night with both sides assigning blame for the failure to make progress.“They were unwilling to meet in the middle, they said it mostly has to be their way and they admitted that,” said Schumer.Meadows said Trump may go through with taking executive action after “coming to the realization that perhaps some of our Democrats both in the House and Senate are not serious about compromise and are not serious about trying to meet the needs of the American people.”Democrats have proposed a $3.5 trillion dollar package that passed the House in May, while Republicans countered last week with a $1 trillion proposal.Aid for state and local governments was a major source of the antagonism Thursday night.Mnuchin said Trump won’t agree to a “bailout” of state and local governments with existing budget difficulties, though he is open to some aid related to Covid-19 and to help firefighters and police. Democrats are demanding nearly $1 trillion in aid and warn of massive public sector layoffs in revenue starved areas.The rest of Congress is in a period of suspended animation waiting for a resolution. Senators jetted home Thursday afternoon, joining House members who departed Washington last week. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is leaving the negotiating to the White House and Democrats, who control the House.He said senators would subject to recall for any votes. House leaders have also said members would return with 24 hours notice once there’s a deal to vote on.(Updates with job’s report in ninth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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    The Hatch Act is suddenly on everyone’s radar after news broke that the Trump administration plans to use the White House South Lawn for President Donald Trump’s nationally televised nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention later this month. Twitter lit up in response citing provisions in the Hatch Act that would be broken should Trump stage the high-profile campaign event on government property.But what is the Hatch Act, and why is the Trump administration being accused of violating it? Put simply, the Hatch Act says that if you work for a federal agency, you cannot use the platform of your office, which is funded by taxpayers, to advocate for your personal political beliefs. The Hatch Act became law in 1939 to protect federal workers from outside pressures to participate in a specific political activity or risk losing their job. The legislation came about after Democratic officials used federal workers in the Works Progress Administration to help them campaign in swing states. Its purpose is to separate public office from politics.The philosophy behind the Hatch Act is to prevent federal employees from engaging in political activity while on the job which may sound confusing since they, you know, work in politics; however, the lines are made pretty clear. Regulations state that federal employees are barred from “using his or her official title while participating in political activity” or “using his or her authority to coerce any person to participate in political activity.” Political activity in this instance is considered activities directed toward the success or failure of a political party, candidate, or partisan political group. In this particular instance, this would be referring to the success of Trump’s reelection campaign.But the question remains: What happens to the president and his administration if they engage in this kind of activity? There are some notable exceptions to the Hatch Act. Unless involving criminal activity, the president and vice president are technically exempt from these restrictions. The only instance in which the Hatch Act applies directly to the president – thanks to a 1993 amendment to the Act – is if they use their position to intimidate, threaten, or coerce a federal employee. However, this doesn’t make the talk on Twitter irrelevant. “He may not be violating the Hatch Act, but he is ordering other people to,” Richard Painter, former chief White House ethics lawyer, told the Washington Post. “At a certain point you are using White House resources, and that is a violation of the Hatch Act.”With criminal activity being the exception, Hatch Act violations don’t involve charges or possible jail time. The Office of Special Counsel, a special body set up just for the Hatch Act, investigates and determines whether a violation has occurred. It can be a career-ending error. The decision of whether to punish a person found violating the Act falls on the boss. If they decide not to do anything about it, the investigation ends there. A prime example is White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. She has violated the Hatch Act numerous times but avoids consequences despite the Office of Special Counsel advising that she be removed from her position.In the case of using the White House South Lawn, it could be considered a misuse of congressionally appropriated funds for political gain which would be criminally enforceable. While the Hatch Act violations would fall on Republican National Convention planners and Trump administration employees rather than Trump, misuse of funds could reach Trump. Former vice president Joe Biden has given mixed signals as to whether he would pursue Trump and his allies in investigations should he become president. The statute of limitations for misusing funds would not have run out in 2021, but Biden made it clear he wouldn’t involve himself in Justice Department decisions. “In terms of having the Justice Department go look at an individual or whatever, the Justice Department is not my lawyer,” Biden said in a May interview on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Trump's Latest Interview Was Full Of False ClaimsTrump's Hypocrisy On Schools Reopening This FallWhy Trump Is REALLY Trying To Ban TikTok

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    A vast fishing armada off Ecuador’s biodiverse Pacific islands has stirred alarm over ‘indiscriminate’ fishing practicesJonathan Green had been tracking a whale shark named Hope across the eastern Pacific for 280 days when the satellite transmissions from a GPS tag on her dorsal fin abruptly stopped.It was not unusual for the GPS signal to go silent, even for weeks at a time, said Green, a scientist who has been studying the world’s largest fish for three decades in the unique marine ecosystem around the Galápagos Islands.But then he looked at satellite images in the area where Hope was last tracked – more than a thousand nautical miles west of the islands – and noticed the ocean was being patrolled by hundreds of Chinese fishing boats.“I began to look into it and found that at the very end of her track she began to speed up,” said Green, co-founder and director of the Galápagos Whale Shark Project.“It went from one knot to six or seven knots for the last 32 minutes – which is, of course, the speed of a fishing boat,” he said.The fishing vessels that Green saw on the satellite images are believed to belong to an enormous Chinese-flagged fleet which Ecuadorian authorities last week warned was just outside the Galápagos Islands’ territorial waters.“I don’t have proof but my hypothesis is that she was caught by vessels from the same fleet which is now situated to the south of the islands,” Green told the Guardian. She is the third GPS-tracked whale shark to have gone missing in the last decade, he added.The Chinese fleet, numbering more than 200 vessels, is in international waters just outside a maritime border around the Galápagos Islands and also Ecuador’s coastal waters, said Norman Wray, the islands’ governor.Chinese fishing vessels come every year to the seas around the Galápagos, which were declared a Unesco world heritage site in 1978, but this year’s fleet is one of the largest seen in recent years. Of the 248 vessels, 243 are flagged to China including to companies with suspected records of illegal, unreported and unregulated, or IUU, fishing, according to research by C4ADS, a data analysis NGO.The fleet includes fishing boats and refrigerated container – or reefer – ships to store enormous catches.Transferring cargo between vessels is prohibited under international maritime law yet the Chinese flotilla has supply and storage ships along with longline and squid fishing boats.“There are some fleets which don’t seem to abide by any regulations,” said Wray.One captain of an Ecuadorian tuna boat saw the Chinese fishing boats up close in early July, before the end of the tuna season. “They just pull up everything!” said the captain, who asked not to be named. “We are obliged to take a biologist aboard who checks our haul; if we catch a shark we have to put it back, but who controls them?”He recalled navigating through the fleet at night, constantly changing course to avoid boats, as their lights illuminated the sea to attract squid to the surface.“It was like looking at a city at night,” he said.mapThe longline fishing boats had up to 500 lines, each with thousands of fishhooks, he estimated, and claimed that some of the vessels would turn off their automatic tracking systems to avoid detection, particularly when operating in protected areas.Chinese fishing practices first caught the attention of Ecuador in 2017 when its navy seized the Chinese reefer Fu Yuan Yu Leng 999 within the Galápagos marine reserve. Inside its containers were 6,000 frozen sharks – including the endangered hammerhead shark and whale shark.“It was a slaughterhouse,” said Green, describing the images of the cargo hold. “This kind of slaughter is going on on a massive scale in international waters and nobody is witnessing it.”The seizure prompted protests outside the Chinese embassy in Quito; Ecuador fined the vessel $6m and the 20 Chinese crew-members were later jailed for up to four years for illegal fishing.The arrival of the latest fleet has also stirred public outrage and a formal complaint by Ecuador as its navy is on alert for any incursion into Ecuadorian waters.The Chinese embassy in Quito said that China was a “responsible fishing nation” with a “zero-tolerance” attitude towards illegal fishing. It had confirmed with Ecuador’s navy that all the Chinese fishing vessels were operating legally “and don’t represent a threat to anyone”, it said in a statement last month. On Thursday China announced a three-month fishing ban in the high seas west of the marine reserve, but it will not come into force until September.Roque Sevilla, a former mayor of Quito, who is leading a team in charge of designing a “protection strategy” for the islands, said the fleet practices “indiscriminate fishing – regardless of species or age – which is causing a serious deterioration of the quality of fauna that we will have in our seas”.Ecuador would establish a corridor of marine reserves with Pacific-facing neighbours Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia to seal off important areas of marine diversity, Sevilla told the Guardian.Protecting the Cocos Ridge, an underwater mountain range which connects the Galápagos Islands to mainland Costa Rica, and the Carnegie Ridge which links the archipelago to Ecuador and continental South America, could close off more than 200,000 sq nautical miles of ocean otherwise vulnerable to industrial fishing, he said.He added Ecuador had called for a diplomatic meeting with Chile, Peru, Colombia and Panama to present a formal protest against China.“When the Galápagos’s protected area was first created it was cutting edge,” said Matt Rand, director of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy, “but compared to other newer marine protected areas Galápagos is now potentially lacking in size to protect the biodiversity.”Milton Castillo, the Galápagos Islands’ representative for Ecuador’s human rights ombudsman’s office, said he had asked the prosecutor’s office to inspect the cargo holds of the Chinese ships based on the legal principle of the universal and extraterritorial protection of endangered species.China’s distant-water fishing fleet is the biggest in the world, with nearly 17,000 vessels – 1,000 of which use “flags of convenience” and are registered in other countries, according to research by the Overseas Development Institute.The fleet often fishes in the territorial waters of low-income countries, the report said, having depleted fish stocks in domestic waters.Green said the “explosion of life” created by the confluence of cold and warm ocean currents around the Galápagos Islands is exactly why the Chinese armada is hovering around the archipelago’s waters.“The Galápagos marine reserve is a place of very great productivity, high biomass but also biodiversity,” he said. 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