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Reuters

Confusion, missing ballots as eight U.S. states vote during coronavirus pandemic

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Confusion, missing mail-in ballots and long lines at some polling centers marred primary elections on Tuesday in eight states and the District of Columbia, the biggest test yet of voting during the coronavirus outbreak.

A voter casts his ballot at Dona Ana County Government Center during the New Mexico primary in Las Cruces, New Mexico, U.S., June 2, 2020. REUTERS/Paul Ratje

The most extensive balloting since the pandemic sparked lockdowns in mid-March served as a dry run for the Nov. 3 general election. It offered a glimpse of the challenges ahead on a national scale if that vote is conducted under a lingering threat from COVID-19.

All of the states voting on Tuesday encouraged or expanded mail-in balloting as a safe alternative during the outbreak, and most sharply reduced the number of in-person polling places as officials struggled to recruit workers to run them.

That led to record numbers of mail-in ballots requested and cast in many states, along with an explosion of complaints about delayed ballots and questions about where to vote after polling places were consolidated.

“The big story out of Pennsylvania is really voter confusion,” said Suzanne Almeida, interim director of government watchdog Common Cause Pennsylvania.

Polling places in at least four Pennsylvania counties opened late, and voting machines failed in at least three of the state’s counties, including Philadelphia, according to the Pennsylvania Election Protection Coalition voting rights group.

While most in-person voting locations featured extensive safety protocols – including masks, sanitizer and social distancing for lines – there were lapses.

“It is a mess in there. People confused. No social distancing, it is packed with machines, tables and people,” Rich Garella, of the voting rights group Protect Our Vote Philly, said of one south Philadelphia location.

The voting in some areas also was complicated by massive protests after an African-American man died in police custody in Minnesota last week. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said a city curfew would not be enforced until 30 minutes after polls close. In Washington, voters and poll workers will be exempt from that city’s curfew, Mayor Muriel Bowser said.

Robert Wood, 54, said he considered not going to the polls given the dual threat of the coronavirus and riots. But the South Philadelphia resident said he thought last week’s events made it even more important.

“As a black man, I know a lot of people lost their lives so that I can vote. I take that seriously,” Wood said.

Counting the flood of mail-in ballots could delay the results, officials said. In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf extended the deadline for receiving mailed ballots postmarked by June 2 to June 9 in six counties, including Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania and three of the other states voting – Indiana, Maryland and Rhode Island – had delayed their nominating contests from earlier in the year to avoid the worst of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 105,000 people in the United States. Iowa, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota and the District of Columbia also were voting on Tuesday.

The primaries come amid a partisan brawl over voting by mail, which Democrats support as a safe way to cast a ballot and Republican President Donald Trump condemns as ripe for fraud. Numerous studies have found little evidence of voting fraud tied to mail-in ballots.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has essentially wrapped up the Democratic presidential nomination to face Trump in November, but seven of the states also will have primaries for state and congressional offices.

Among the top races contested on Tuesday is a Republican congressional primary in Iowa. U.S. Representative Steve King, who has a long history of making racially charged remarks, faces a stiff re-election challenge after being largely abandoned by party leadership.

Reporting by John Whitesides and Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Soyoung Kim, Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis

Source: http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/topNews/~3/dsQv3O8cQmg/confusion-missing-ballots-as-eight-u-s-states-vote-during-coronavirus-pandemic-idUSKBN2391B5

Blockchain

India to have a ‘window’ for Bitcoin, says minister amid crypto ban FUD

The Ministry of Finance of India continues to form a careful position on private cryptocurrencies.

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The minister of finance of India, Nirmala Sitharaman, has given a ray of hope for the Indian cryptocurrency community as more fear, uncertainty and doubt circulate regarding a supposedly impending ban on digital assets. 

In a Saturday interview with India Today, Sitharaman emphasized that the ministry does not plan to shut off Indian innovations associated with Bitcoin (BTC) and its underlying blockchain technology.

“From our side, we are very clear that we are not shutting all options off. We will allow certain windows for people use, so that experiments on the blockchain, Bitcoins or cryptocurrency […] and fintech, which depend on such experiments, will have that window available for them. We are not going to shut it off,” she said.

Sitharaman said that the ministry is finalizing a cabinet note on crypto as India continues formulating its official stance on the asset class. “It is nearing completion, and then it will be taken to the cabinet. The Supreme Court had commented on cryptocurrency. We are very clear that the Reserve Bank of India will take a call on an official cryptocurrency,” she said.

After India’s supreme court lifted a crypto banking ban one year ago, reports of a new ban started circulating in early 2021. In February, another anonymous Indian official claimed that the government was about to introduce a complete ban on crypto, giving investors up to six months to liquidate their holdings.

On Sunday, Reuters published a report citing an anonymous senior government official who claimed that India is preparing to enforce a blanket ban on crypto and impose major penalties on rule-breakers. As part of an alleged bill, India is planning to criminalize “possession, issuance, mining, trading and transferring crypto-assets,” the source claimed.

Despite reports of a ban from anonymous sources continuing to surface, Sitharaman said in early March that the ministry wants to form a “calibrated” stance on digital assets. 

Nischal Shetty, founder of local crypto exchange WazirX, seemed optimistic about Sitharaman’s comments in a tweet, stating that it is time for the Indian crypto community to build. 

The RBI and the Ministry of Finance did not immediately respond to Cointelegraph’s request for comment.

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Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/india-to-have-a-window-for-bitcoin-says-minister-amid-crypto-ban-fud

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Reuters

Fintech banker McLaughlin hunts bigger deal after upsized SPAC IPO

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – The blank check firm co-founded by one of the most prominent U.S. financial technology investment bankers will broaden its search for merger partners to companies worth up to $10 billion after pricing a larger initial public offering (IPO).

Steve McLaughlin started FT Partners in 2001 and since then, the fintech-focused investment bank has worked on mergers and acquisitions and public and private fundraising for the likes of BlackRock Inc, StoneCo Ltd and GreenSky Inc.

An alumnus of Goldman Sachs, McLaughlin and FT Partners have also been involved in advising a half-dozen firms in mergers with so-called special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), most recently mobile bank MoneyLion’s $2.9 billion combination with Fusion Acquisition Corp.

Alongside Gene Yoon, founder of technology-focused investment firm Bregal Sagemount, McLaughlin is now sponsoring his own SPAC. Independence Holdings Corp. priced a $435 million IPO on Monday, having increased the number of units sold due to investor demand.

SPACs are shell companies that raise funds from investors to take a private company public.

Pulling in extra cash and fully exercising the greenshoe, a share allotment potentially sold in the days after an IPO prices, McLaughlin told Reuters on Tuesday, will allow Independence to target larger fintech companies, beyond the $5 billion maximum size previously considered.

He added a deal involving a company that processes payments between businesses, or one providing financial management services, would be likely for Independence.

“We provide an incredibly attractive option for a company as we’ve successfully taken many companies through this complex process, so we can give comfort to founders and investors along the way,” McLaughlin said.

Despite heightened investor interest in cryptocurrencies, McLaughlin said Independence wouldn’t be investing in a firm in that industry because most businesses are still too early in their development.

He added it was highly unlikely that Independence would end up merging with a client of his investment bank.

Source: Reuters – Fintech banker McLaughlin hunts bigger deal after upsized SPAC IPO

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Reuters

Former Disney executives Mayer and Staggs plan new SPAC – source

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(Reuters) – Former Walt Disney Co executives Kevin Mayer and Thomas Staggs plan to raise $300 million in an initial public offering for a new special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The duo’s first SPAC, Forest Road Acquisition Corp, agreed a three-way merger last week with fitness companies Beachbody LLC and Myx Fitness LLC that was valued at around $2.9 billion.

Former basketball star Shaquille O’Neal, who is also on the board of directors at pizza chain Papa John’s International Inc, and Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, are working for Forest Road II as a strategic advisor and a director, respectively, the source said.

Mayer and Staggs will serve as co-chief executives and co-chairmen of the new SPAC, the source said. They had worked with the first Forest Road SPAC as a strategic advisor and director, respectively.

The source requested anonymity ahead of a regulatory disclosure on the SPAC IPO.

Mayer was Disney’s top streaming executive before he left the media giant last year to become the chief executive of popular video app TikTok. He departed the company three months after joining. Staggs worked at Disney for 26 years and held various roles including chief operating officer.

SPACs are shell companies that raise funds to take a private company public. They have gained immense popularity since last year, as they allow companies to go public by eschewing traditional IPOs.

A string of high-profile SPACs have been raised in the last 12 months, including by financial investors William Ackman and Barry Sternlicht, former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and ex-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Source: Reuters – Former Disney executives Mayer and Staggs plan new SPAC-source

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Reuters

Global firms raise $546 billion in January as SPAC frenzy continues

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(Reuters) – Companies raised $546 billion from new bond and share issues in January, as a flood of central bank money-printing and recovering stock markets brought record numbers of new listings, SPAC deals and share sales, Refinitiv data showed on Wednesday.

The numbers included $106.15 billion in initial public offerings (IPOs), SPACs and secondary offerings, with the amount of money raised by SPACs alone soaring 20 times to $24.26 billion from a year earlier, the data showed.

Companies also raised nearly $439.9 billion in corporate debt in January, a 5% fall since the same period last year, but still the second largest January in 25 years.

A SPAC, a shell company that raises money in an IPO before later merging with a privately held company to take the latter public, has become many investors structure of choice over the past year.

January’s haul was already 30% of a total $79 billion raised by SPACs in the whole of 2020.

Traditional IPO volumes in the United States, however, remained higher than SPACs in January, hitting a 25-year high of $33.9 billion.

Some 47% new bond and share issues were U.S. offerings in January this year, with China second with $23.96 billion.

Nasdaq was the clear winner among exchanges, with 167 issues raising $41.12 billion, followed by the New York Stock Exchange and the Hong Kong Exchange a close third, with both raking in a little more than $18 billion respectively.

That was in stark contrast to European financial hubs London and Frankfurt, which raised $4.29 billion and $1.72 billion respectively.

Chinese online video company Kuaishou Technology is the biggest IPO globally so far this year, raising $5.42 billion in Hong Kong, followed by Polish parcel locker business InPost SA which raised $3.40 billion in Amsterdam.

Source: Reuters – Global firms raise $546 billion in January as SPAC frenzy continues

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