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Musk boosts his brand, and NBCUniversal’s, on ‘Saturday Night Live’

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By Joseph White

DETROIT (Reuters) -Billionaire Elon Musk dropped a surprise early in his hotly anticipated turn as host of “Saturday Night Live,” saying in his monologue that he “is the first person with Asperger’s” to host the show, before clowning through skits for the first global livestream of the NBCUniversal comedy show.

Musk, one of the world’s richest individuals, opened his monologue by telling an audience in more than 100 countries he is “the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL. At least the first to admit it.” The billionaire made light of his tendency to speak in a monotone, adding “I’m pretty good at running human in emulation mode.”

Asperger syndrome is a condition on the autism spectrum that is associated with difficulty in social interaction, and sometimes is referred to as high functioning autism.

Many had wondered how Musk would handle himself during a live comedy show. The answer was that he, and the show’s writers, sought to soften the rough edges of Musk’s public persona. Throughout the show, Musk gently poked fun at himself, including his penchant for provocative tweets and the time he smoked a joint on a podcast.

“To anyone I’ve offended I just want to say, I reinvented electric cars and send people to Mars on a rocket ship. Did you think I would be a Joe normal dude?”

Musk’s mother, Mae, joined him on stage and the two made a joke about Dogecoin, the cryptocurrency Musk has touted. Cryptocurrency jokes popped up throughout the show. In one sketch, Musk was cast as a bow-tie wearing cryptocurrency expert on the show’s Weekend Update segment. Dogecoin and other digital currencies had surged in price ahead of Musk’s SNL appearance.

Dogecoin fell during the show and was last down about 12% from late Friday at around $0.53. It hit a record high Thursday above $0.73.

Musk was most convincing playing a version of himself as head of SpaceX dealing with an emergency on a Martian colony. The crisis had a happy ending, until it didn’t.

In the end, Musk will keep his day jobs. Still, the “Saturday Night Live” appearance offered plenty of synergies with his real gigs as “technoking” and Chief Executive of Tesla Inc, head of rocket launch company SpaceX and even chief of the Boring Company, a tunnel construction venture.

Musk got days of attention across all forms of media ahead of the show, and shared the spotlight with a prototype of Tesla’s futuristic Cybertruck that Tesla brought to Manhattan on Friday. Video of the hulking, angular pickup prowling Manhattan streets blew up on social media.

During the show, a Tesla supercharger made an incongruous cameo appearance in a skit set in an old West saloon. Musk played a gunslinger who had developed an electric horse, and advocated tunneling through the earth to escape a shootout.

Musk often boasts that Tesla doesn’t spend billions on advertising the way established automakers do. He doesn’t have to so long as he has access to platforms like Twitter or “Saturday Night Live.”

Musk’s appearance also boosted NBCUniversal. The media company used Musk’s global celebrity – and the controversy surrounding his appearance on a stage normally reserved for film stars or professional comedians – to get attention for launching the “Saturday Night Live” franchise beyond the confines of broadcast television. The company said Saturday’s show was streamed live via Alphabet Inc’s YouTube to more than 100 countries.

(Reporting By Joe White; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Brazil’s Vale says output begins at Reid Brook nickel deposit in Canada

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Vale’s Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in Northern Labrador has started the production at its Reid Brook deposit, the Brazilian miner said in a securities filing on Tuesday.

Vale said the Canadian Reid Brook and Eastern Deeps mines are likely to produce 40,000 tonnes of nickel by 2025.

 

(Reporting by Carolina Mandl; editing by Jason Neely)

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EU, U.S. agree to talk on carbon border tariff

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The United States and European Union agreed on Tuesday to hold talks on the bloc’s planned carbon border tariff, possibly at the World Trade Organisation, EU chief executive Ursula von der Leyen said.

U.S. President Joe Biden met European Commission President von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday for a summit tackling issues from trade to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The leaders also discussed climate change policy, including the EU’s plan to impose carbon emissions costs on imports of goods, including steel and cement, which the Commission will propose next month.

“I explained the logic of our carbon border adjustment mechanism,” von der Leyen told a news conference after the summit.

“We discussed that we will exchange on it. And that WTO might facilitate this,” she said.

Brussels and Washington are keen to revitalise transatlantic cooperation on climate change, after four fractious years under former president Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, they outlined plans for a transatlantic alliance to develop green technologies and said they will coordinate diplomatic efforts to convince other big emitters to cut CO2 faster.

But the EU border levy could still cause friction. A draft of the proposal said it would apply to some U.S. goods sold into the EU, including steel, aluminium and fertilisers.

Brussels says the policy is needed to put EU firms on an equal footing with competitors in countries with weaker climate policies, and that countries with sufficiently ambitious emissions-cutting policies could be exempted from the fee.

The United States and EU are the world’s second- and third- biggest emitters of CO2, respectively, after China.

A draft of the EU-U.S. summit statement, seen by Reuters, repeated commitments the leaders made at the G7 summit at the weekend to “scale up efforts” to meet an overdue spending pledge of $100 billion a year by rich countries to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming.

It did not include firm promises of cash. Canada and Germany both pledged billions in new climate finance on Sunday, and campaigners had called on Brussels and Washington to do the same.

The draft statement also stopped short of setting a date for the United States and EU to stop burning coal, the most polluting fossil fuel and the single biggest of greenhouse gas emissions.

Brussels and Washington said they will largely eliminate their CO2 emissions from electricity production by the 2030s.

 

(Reporting by Kate Abnett, additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Andrew Heavens and Barbara Lewis)

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U.S. fine Air Canada $25.5 milliom over delayed refunds

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The U.S. Transportation Department said on Tuesday it was seeking a $25.5 million fine from Air Canada over the carrier’s failure to provide timely refunds requested by thousands of customers for flights to or from the United States.

The department said it filed a formal complaint with a U.S. administrative law judge over flights Air Canada canceled or significantly changed. The penalty is “intended to deter Air Canada and other carriers from committing similar violations in the future,” the department said, adding Air Canada continued its no-refund policy in violation of U.S. law for more than a year.

Air Canada said it believes the U.S. government’s position “has no merit.” It said it “will vigorously challenge the proceedings.”

Air Canada obtained a financial aid package this spring that gave the carrier access to up to C$5.9 billion ($4.84 billion) in funds through a loan program.

The carrier said it has been refunding nonrefundable tickets as part of the Canadian government’s financial package. Since April 13 eligible customers have been able to obtain refunds for previously issued nonrefundable tickets, it said.

The Transportation Department disclosed it is also “actively investigating the refund practices of other U.S. and foreign carriers flying to and from the United States” and said it will take “enforcement action” as appropriate.

The administration said the Air Canada penalty sought was over “extreme delays in providing the required refunds.”

Refund requests spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March 2020, the Transportation Department has received over 6,000 complaints against Air Canada from consumers who said they were denied refunds for flights canceled or significantly changed. The department said the airline committed a minimum of 5,110 violations and passengers waited anywhere from five to 13 months to receive refunds.

Last month, a trade group told U.S. lawmakers that 11 U.S. airlines issued $12.84 billion in cash refunds to customers in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic upended the travel industry.

In May, Democratic Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal called on carriers to issue cash refunds whether flights were canceled by the airline or traveler.

($1 = 1.2195 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Shepardson in WashingtonAdditional reporting by Allison Lampert in MontrealEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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