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With electric car sales soaring and regulations increasingly favouring zero-emission vehicles, a flurry of announcements on Monday showed how the global auto industry has kicked into a higher gear as it races to speed past the fossil-fuel car era.

As part of its own 30 billion euro ($34.7 billion) electrification plan Stellantis (STLA.MI) – born out of a merger of PSA and Fiat Chrysler earlier this year – said it had entered a preliminary agreement with battery maker LG Energy Solution to produce battery cells and modules for North America, where the world’s No. 4 automaker expects more than 40 per cent of its U.S. sales will be electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030.

That follows a recent announcement that Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE) will take a 33 per cent stake in battery cell manufacturer Automotive Cells Company (ACC), founded in 2020 by Stellantis and TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) in 2020.

Carmakers are racing to secure battery supplies as they switch to electric, with dozens of new battery plants planned across Europe and America.

Ford Motor Co’s (F.N) plans to go electric in Europe received a boost on Monday as the company said it would invest up to 230 million pounds ($316 million) to retool an engine factory in northern England to produce electric car power units instead of combustion-engine transmissions.

The No. 2 U.S. carmaker has said its car lineup in Europe will be all-electric by 2030.

Companies like Mercedes-Benz Daimler maker have warned that shifting to electric will cost jobs at combustion-engine plants, so Ford’s announcement is a boost for workers making fossil-fuel engines at its Halewood plant near Liverpool.

The shift to electric has also been accompanied by changes in the automotive landscape, with a large number of startups hoping to become the next Tesla Inc (TSLA.O).

That has attracted the attention of Taiwan’s Foxconn (2317.TW), which has ambitious plans to diversify away from its role of building consumer electronics for Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and other tech firms.

Indeed, Foxconn unveiled its first three EV prototypes on Monday – an SUV, a sedan and a bus – made by Foxtron, a venture between Foxconn and Taiwanese car maker Yulon Motor Co Ltd (2201.TW).

It first mentioned its EV ambitions less than two years ago and has moved relatively quickly, this year announcing deals to build cars with U.S. startup Fisker Inc (FSR.N) and Thailand’s energy group PTT Pcl (PTT.BK).

The need for speed was also a reason Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) had Tesla CEO Elon Musk address top executives at the German carmaker over the weekend.

Volkswagen’s CEO Herbert Diess has made no secret of his ambitions to chase and overtake Tesla, the world’s leading electric carmaker.

But in a Linkedin post, Diess said he had invited Musk as a “surprise guest” to drive home the point that VW needs faster decisions and less bureaucracy for what he called the biggest transformation in the company’s history.

REUTERS
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File Photo: General view of El Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain

Survivors of a mass food poisoning four decades ago occupied Madrid’s El Prado art gallery for a few hours on Tuesday, threatening to commit suicide if their demands for aid and attention were unmet.

A photo showed six people – one in a wheelchair – holding a banner in front of “Las Meninas”, a painting by Spanish painter Diego Velazquez. Others gathered outside.

Police detained two of the protesters and the others left the museum around noon, the association “We Are Still Alive”, which defends victims, told Reuters.

They were protesting against the “humiliation” and “abandonment” from the government, the association said on its Twitter account.

“Six hours after the start of our presence here, we will start ingesting pills,” the association had warned, without giving a precise time.

The group’s demands included a meeting with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and mediators by the end of October, and money to cover medical expenses for surviving victims of one of the world’s biggest food poisoning scandals.

The poisoning killed 5,000 people and affected another 20,000, mostly with incurable conditions, it said.

‘WE ARE SICK’

There was no immediate comment from the Spanish government or the Prado. The protesters said they chose the museum because culture had helped victims to cope.

“We are sick. Physically, we are 20 years older than our IDs say,” one woman said outside.

The substance was originally for industrial use but was adulterated and illegally sold as olive oil, mostly in street markets, starting in Madrid then spreading to other areas.

Symptoms ranged from lung failure and limb deformation to the destruction of the body’s immune system.

Many survivors were crippled for life.

About 100,000 individuals were exposed and clinical disease occurred in 20,000 people, 10,000 of whom were hospitalized, according to Science Direct website.

More than 300 victims died, it said.

REUTERS
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Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania

Turkish prosecutors ordered the arrest of 158 suspects including 33 serving soldiers in an operation targeting people allegedly linked to a Muslim preacher who Turkey says was behind a 2016 failed coup, state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Tuesday.

The investigation, stretching across 41 provinces, was part of a five-year-old crackdown against the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. He denies any involvement in the putsch of July 2016, in which more than 250 people were killed.

So far 97 people have been detained in the latest operation, Anadolu said. The suspects included 110 military students who were expelled in the wake of the coup attempt, as well as 48 serving and former military personnel.

Following the failed military takeover, about 80,000 people were held pending trial and some 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others were sacked or suspended. More than 20,000 people have been expelled from the Turkish military.