FirstFT: Republicans urge supporters to embrace vaccines in abrupt shift of tone

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High-profile Republicans have lined up to call for their supporters to be inoculated in a sharp break with the loud vaccine scepticism expressed by many party members.

Party strategists said the sudden sense of urgency reflected a dawning realisation among Republicans that they risked being blamed for not doing enough to head off a surge of infections in red US states where vaccination rates are stubbornly low.

Republican governors that had made headlines in recent months by banning officials, companies and colleges from cajoling people into having a jab were this week instead touting the benefits of vaccinations to hesitant residents of their states.

Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who in May signed a bill that banned the state’s businesses from asking customers to provide proof of vaccination, this week urged Floridians to get inoculated.

Asa Hutchinson, DeSantis’s counterpart in Arkansas, has embarked on a tour of the state to try to overcome deep-seated scepticism towards inoculations.

In Washington, a group of Republican members of Congress who are also trained doctors, yesterday teamed up with two high-profile pro-Trump lawmakers, Steve Scalise and Elise Stefanik, to broadcast a similar message.

One prominent Republican said the decision to back vaccines would help limit any political damage to the party.

“There’s real political risk in the idea of re-shutting down the country. I think Republicans don’t want to be blamed for it.”

Five more stories in the news

1. Intel chief says more consolidation needed in chip industry Intel’s chief executive said more consolidation was needed in the chip manufacturing industry, days after a report that the US chipmaker was in talks to buy GlobalFoundries for $30bn. “We just view that smaller players won’t be able to keep up,” Pat Gelsinger said on a call with analysts to discuss Intel’s latest results.

  • The global shortage of semiconductors is reshaping ASML, Europe’s most valuable technology company, says innovation editor John Thornhill.

2. HBO Max gains US subscribers as Netflix slips HBO Max signed up 2.4m new subscribers in the June quarter in the US while hundreds of thousands of Americans cancelled their Netflix subscriptions, in a sign that Hollywood’s streaming wars are heating up.

3. Thermal coal prices soar Supply disruptions, a drought in China and rebounding electricity demand have fired up the thermal coal market, making the world’s least liked commodity one of this year’s best-performing assets. Since January, the Asian coal market benchmark has climbed 80 per cent to its highest level in more than a decade.

4. ECB divided over pledge to persist with negative rates The European Central Bank’s decision to become more tolerant of inflation before raising interest rates has sparked immediate criticism from some of its more hawkish policymakers in an indication of the divisions within the central bank over when to scale back bond-buying.

5. US places sanctions on Cuban military head Washington has imposed economic sanctions on Cuban defence minister Alvaro Lopez Miera over Havana’s crackdown on protesters in an effort to increase pressure on the communist regime.

Coronavirus digest

  • Health officials in Philadelphia and Houston have become the latest to recommend the wearing of face coverings indoors.

  • China has rejected the next stage of a WHO-led probe into the pandemic’s origins.

  • Boris Johnson backed an emergency plan to limit disruption to UK food supplies from Covid-related staff shortages.

  • Ibiza’s hopes of a summer-long party have been crashed by a boom in infections.

It’s striking how much Covid confusion still reigns. Tim Harford outlines five counterintuitive truths that easily slip beyond our understanding. Sign up for our Coronavirus Business Update newsletter for more.

Tim Harford: ‘While we count the cost, we should also count our blessings’
Tim Harford: ‘While we count the cost, we should also count our blessings’ © Anna Wray

The days ahead

Olympics Just a day after sacking the opening ceremony director for making Holocaust jokes, the Tokyo Olympics begins. The organisers will be hoping to put the controversies that have dogged the build-up to the troubled Games behind them once the sporting action begins. Meet nine Olympic hopefuls here.

Earnings Honeywell International and American Express report second-quarter results. American Express is likely to have been boosted by more cross-border spending as many countries eased Covid-19 restrictions in the April-June period.

Data releases Data firm IHS Markit releases its flash July PMI reports for the manufacturing and services sectors in the US.

FT Alphaville will host a Twitter Spaces session with Ecuadorean presidential candidate Andres Arauz today at 4pm UK-time. Arauz is part of a new generation of leftist Latin American leaders who oppose free-market orthodoxy and are open to experimentation with digital monetary systems. Join the conversation here or follow @izakaminska or @jemimajoanna and wait for the link to pop up.

What else we’re reading

The meaning of Emmanuel Macron The French president is an easy man to hate. There is one fault on which almost everyone seems to agree: arrogance and mépris, or contempt for ordinary people. “You can admire him without loving him,” one senior banker told Victor Mallet.

The game is still wide open The year 2021 has provided its fair share of challenges to professional fund managers as well as a somewhat less serious pursuit: the annual Financial Times stockpicking competition. Six months into this battle of cunning, wit and old-fashioned luck, it is time to see how FT hacks and 700 of our wiser readers are shaping up.

Things could fall apart for Joe Biden The US president’s tribulations — the grinding to a halt of his reform bills, the stubbornness of Covid-19 and worries about the murder rate and border crossings — are largely out of his hands, writes Edward Luce.

Ben & Jerry’s gives Unilever an ice cream headache This week’s announcement by Ben & Jerry’s that it would stop selling ice cream in the occupied Palestinian territories because it was “inconsistent with our values” triggered a ferocious response from the Israeli government and American consumers as well as Ben & Jerry’s independent board who complained the statement had been “watered down”. Unilever owns this latest policy and should either defend it or change it, says companies editor Tom Braithwaite.

With 100 days until COP26, the Paris agreement pledges are crucial Extreme weather events in the US, Canada, Europe and beyond mean the rich world, addicted to oil for decades, is now feeling an uncertainty that developing countries have suffered for years, writes Christina Figueres, the UN’s former climate chief.

FT Magazine

Inside the ‘ghost’ distilleries that have risen from the dead Single malt is fashionable again — and commanding sky-high prices. After decades of lying dormant, stills are firing up across Scotland.

© Robert Birtles

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