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Trump pushes back on reports US will remove China tariffs

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday dismissed a Chinese official’s assertion that his administration has agreed to roll back some of the higher tariffs it’s imposed on Chinese goods.

The Chinese official said Thursday that the two sides had agreed to a phased cancellation of their tariff hikes as part of an emerging agreement.

Trump’s pushback suggested that negotiations haven’t progressed as far as hoped as the world’s two biggest economies struggle to negotiate an end to their trade war, which has hurt both economies.

“They’d like to have a rollback,” Trump told reporters at the White House, referring to the Chinese. “I haven’t agreed to anything.”

The two sides have been working on an initial “Phase 1” deal that was announced Oct. 12 but that still isn’t final.

Financial markets in the U.S. and globally rallied Thursday at the prospect of an agreement to wind down the U.S.-China trade fight, but then stumbled Friday on Trump’s comments before eking out small gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished up 6.44 points, or less than 0.1%, after shedding as many as 96 points earlier in the day.

Trump repeated his claims that China wants a deal more than the United States and that the United States benefits from extra tariff revenue. The president says the tariffs are paid by China, but studies conducted since the duties were imposed find that Americans businesses and consumers are paying them.

“Frankly, they want to make a deal a lot more than I do,” Trump said. “I’m very happy right now. We’re taking in billions of dollars.”

A private sector source with knowledge of the talks said Thursday that the United States had agreed to suspend the duties Trump threatened to impose December 15th on about $160 billion of Chinese imports as part of the agreement. But there is dissension in the White House about whether and by how much to roll back 15% duties on another $112 billion of goods imposed Sept. 1.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow also told Bloomberg News Thursday that if a deal were reached, it would include reduced tariffs.

“The White House never speaks with one voice,” Mary Lovely, a trade economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said Thursday.

Despite Trump’s cavalier comments, analysts say the administration has plenty of incentives to reach a deal soon. Trump said last month that the “Phase 1” pact would include the purchase of tens of billions of dollars of U.S. farm products by China, which would benefit farm states, many of which supported Trump in 2016.

The tariffs imposed in September covered clothes, toys, and shoes, raising prices for many widely used consumer goods.

And the Dec. 15 tariffs would mostly hit popular consumer products such as smart phones and laptops. Not only would that also raise consumer costs, but those tariffs would affect many products designed by U.S. companies, for which China gets relatively little of the economic benefit.

“The December tariff round would largely hit products designed and marketed by multinational firms, mostly with components from the United States and its allies, and assembled in non-Chinese-owned factories,” Lovely wrote on the Peterson Institute’s website.

The trade war stems from the Trump administration’s complaints that China is seeking to unfairly boost its high-tech industries by stealing U.S. technology or forcing American companies to share it as a condition of doing business there. Most business groups and China trade experts agree that China has violated trade rules and have largely supported the administration’s tougher line.

Still, the tariffs have hurt both countries’ economies. China’s growth slowed to an annual rate of 6% last month, a healthy pace for more advanced economies but China’s slowest in three decades.

In the United States, businesses are dealing with the tariffs’ higher costs and are uncertain about their international supply chains. They have responded by cutting their investment spending in new plants and equipment for two straight quarters. That’s lowered U.S. economic growth to 1.9% at an annual rate in the July-September quarter from 3.1% in the first three months of this year.

A report released Wednesday by a trade group opposed to the duties found that Americans paid $7.1 billion in tariffs in September, a record high for a single month.

Once a “Phase 1” deal is reached, the two sides will still need to decide where the two leaders — Trump and China’s Xi Jinping — will sign the pact. Trump said Friday that they could hold a summit in Iowa or elsewhere in U.S. “farm country.”


US officials identify 'strong culprit' in vaping illnesses

NEW YORK — U.S. health officials announced a breakthrough Friday into the cause of a mysterious outbreak of vaping illnesses, reporting they have a “very strong culprit.”

The same chemical compound was found in fluid taken from the lungs of 29 patients across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The compound — vitamin E acetate — was previously found in liquid from electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices used by many of those who got sick.

But this is the first time they’ve found a common suspect in the damaged lungs of patients, officials said.

“We are in a better place in terms of having one very strong culprit,” said the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat.

Agency officials cautioned they cannot rule out all other toxic substances, and it may take animal studies to clearly show vitamin E acetate causes the lung damage that’s been seen.

More than 2,000 Americans who vape have gotten sick since March, many of them teen and young adults, and at least 40 people have died. The bulk of the cases occurred in August and September but new cases are still being reported.

Vitamin E acetate has only recently been used as a thickener in vaping fluid, particularly in black market vape cartridges. While vitamin E is safe as a vitamin pill or to use on the skin, inhaling oily droplets of it can be harmful. It’s sticky and stays in the lungs — the CDC’s Dr. Jim Pirkle likened it to honey.

Many who got sick said they had vaped liquids that contain THC, the high-inducing part of marijuana, with many saying they got them from friends or bought them on the black market.

E-cigarettes and other vaping devices heat a liquid into an inhalable vapor. Most products contained nicotine, but THC vaping has been growing more common.

Pirkle said thickeners like vitamin E acetate probably would not be routinely added to nicotine liquids, which need to be more watery for vaping.

Juul Labs, maker of the top-selling brand of e-cigarette, issued a statement after the CDC announcement, noting that its nicotine products do not contain THC or any vitamin E compounds.

Symptoms of the vaping illness include trouble breathing, chest pain, fatigue and vomiting. Imaging tests show lung injuries and doctors can’t find infections or other causes.

About two months ago, New York drew attention to vitamin E acetate when the state’s public health lab discovered it in samples of vaping products from sick patients. In some instances, it made up more than half of the liquid in the cartridges.

The chemical has shown up in tests in other labs, too, including a U.S. Food and Drug Administration lab in Cincinnati that found vitamin E acetate in half of the more than 400 THC samples.

For the latest test, the CDC used fluid extracted from the lungs of 29 patients in 10 states, including two who died. Lab workers looked for a range of substances that had been found in various vaping devices, including nicotine, THC and other marijuana components, plant oils, mineral oil and cutting agents used on the black market.

It was an exhaustive list of more than 1,000, said Pirkle, who oversees agency’s chemical analysis labs.

The one substance that came up in all 29 was vitamin E acetate.

“To me what’s important here is both what they found, and what they didn’t find” said Scott Becker, head of the Association of Public Health Laboratories. “This was the only thing they found.”

Portland State University’s Robert Strongin, who’s researched e-cigarettes, welcomed the CDC report but cautioned it doesn’t mean other ingredients in vaping products are safe. “They still could cause long-term harm,” he said.

The CDC’s Pirkle said animal testing is now a priority and might produce results within a year.

“We really need the animal study to nail down cause and effect,” he said.


Local
Hallsville High School special needs student performs in final senior pep rally

When someone asks Jordan Crayton what she wants to be when she grows up, she says a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.

The Hallsville High School senior, who weighed 17 ounces when she was born, got to be a Bobcat cheerleader for the afternoon at the final pep rally for seniors Friday.

“She’s always teasing about being a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader when she grows up,” Jordan’s mother, Marie Crayton, said. “So I said, ‘At least you can be a Bobcat cheerleader.’ She graduates this year, so it was something fun, and she really enjoyed practicing with them and getting to know them better.”

Crayton said doctors told her Jordan would not be able hear, walk, talk or see. But she said Jordan, now 20 years old, was able to beat the odds.

“She’s on a walker now,” Crayton said. “She can talk; you can understand her. She’s done very well, by the grace of God.”

Because of her NFL cheerleader aspirations, Crayton said she wanted Jordan to have the chance to be a cheerleader for a day for her alma mater.

“She’s really active in pep rallies,” Crayton said. “In fact, she’s the most spirited all the time.”

After speaking with some teachers, the principal and cheerleading team, Crayton said Jordan was approved to perform with the cheerleaders.

Jordan was in a cheerleader uniform and went out in her wheelchair with the cheerleaders during their first routine of the pep rally. She stayed on the floor of the coliseum with the team during the rest of the festivities for the seniors.

At the end of the pep rally, Jordan joined her classmates when all the seniors came onto the court and sang the school song.

“It was overwhelming,” Crayton said. “I was fighting back the tears. Me, God and Jordan, we did this. We did this.”


Local
Weatherman forecasts Veterans Day rain, then freeze — maybe snow

Bring umbrellas to Veterans Day ceremonies Monday, and put on heavy coats to brave freezing temperatures that night.

The National Weather Service in Shreveport forecasts a 90% chance of rain during the day Monday with a high near 59 — and then the thermometer will be dropping overnight to 29 degrees.

The mercury will plunge even lower to 24 degrees overnight Tuesday, said Lisa May, meteorological forecaster with the weather service. She described it as “pretty cold temperatures this time of the year for us.”

Organizers of Gregg County’s Veterans Day program, scheduled Monday on the steps of the Gregg County Courthouse, have said the event will move to the county’s covered parking area if it’s raining.

The rain on Veterans Day and expected freezes are likely to follow sunny skies with a high of 63 and overnight low of 43 forecast for today and sunshine with a high of 69 and low of 53 on Sunday, according to the weather service.

In preparation for the freezing weather, the Atlanta District of the Texas Department of Transportation pretreated bridges with brine along state and federal highways within its jurisdiction Friday, spokesman Marcus Sandifer said Friday afternoon.

The district covers Bowie, Camp, Cass, Harrison, Marion, Morris, Panola, Titus and Upshur counties, and includes U.S. 259, U.S. 80, U.S. 271 and U.S. 79, along with Interstates 20 and 30.

“There is a possibility that we could have a freezing precipitation on Monday,” Sandifer said. “It could be snow. It could be freezing rain. It could be wet pavement.”

He said ice forms on bridges “a lot easier than the roadways.”

The brine dries but forms a solution after mixing with rain, Sandifer said. He said salt water freezes at a lower temperature than other water.

He advised drivers be cautious when approaching bridges.

Sandifer’s counterpart in the Tyler District, Kathi White, said TxDOT had no plans as of Friday afternoon to pretreat bridges or overpasses.

However, that could change, she said.

“Look at the weather,” White said. “It continues to change. We continue to monitor the weather. We do have our equipment and employees ready to respond.”

The Tyler district covers Anderson, Cherokee, Gregg, Henderson, Rusk, Smith, Van Zandt and Wood counties and includes I-20, U.S. 69, U.S. 271, U.S. 175 and Texas 31.