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A statue is pictured next to the logo of Germany's Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt
FILE PHOTO: A statue is pictured next to the logo of Germany’s Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, Germany September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

March 20, 2019

By Matt Scuffham

(Reuters) – Deutsche Bank AG’s merger talks with Commerzbank AG has put its 10,000 U.S. workers on edge, three employees told Reuters, with some concerned a deal could pressure Deutsche to further shrink or even dispose of its U.S. businesses.

The future of the bank’s U.S. trading and investment banking presence had already been in question, with some shareholders calling for further cuts on top of ones announced last year, and speculation has intensified following confirmation of the merger talks on Sunday.

The German government, which has a 15 percent stake in Commerzbank, is expected to retain a stake in the combined business if a deal materializes. Some employees fear that could pressure the bank to focus on its home market.

Both banks have cautioned that the outcome of the talks remains uncertain, and the process could drag on for months. In the meantime key employees could decamp to rival Wall Street banks and hedge funds, further weakening a business that has underperformed for years. Several executives have left the bank’s U.S. operations in recent months.

“We don’t know what’s going on. Everything is up in the air,” said one senior employee within the bank’s U.S. equity sales business, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Chief Executive Christian Sewing reiterated in a memo to staff on Sunday that Deutsche aimed to remain a “global bank with a strong capital markets business,” and a source familiar with the matter said the merger would not change the bank’s commitment to a strong U.S. presence.

Deutsche Bank declined to comment on Wednesday.

German finance minister Olaf Scholz, reportedly a proponent of the merger, has previously stressed the need for Germany’s banking sector to support German companies who want to go abroad to export.

After the 2007-2009 financial crisis, Deutsche maintained a large presence on Wall Street, even as European rivals like Credit Suisse Group AG made big cuts to U.S. investment banking operations.

Deutsche Bank’s U.S. business has brought in around half of revenue for its overall investment banking unit, which includes corporate and investment banking as well as trading, even though it came with a relatively high cost of capital.

However, encumbered by litigation and regulatory investigations into past misconduct, the business has struggled to compete with Wall Street rivals.

Deutsche had said last May that it would reduce its global headcount to well below 90,000 from 97,000. That included a 25 percent cut in equities sales and trading jobs, a significant number of which were in New York, where it has lagged rivals.

Cutting more jobs in the United States would not provoke the same political pushback that the two banks would face if they axe jobs in Germany, banking analysts say.

PAY CONCERNS

Even if Deutsche Bank keeps its U.S. operations largely intact following a Commerzbank deal, some staff fear pay and bonuses would decline because the combined entity would face a backlash from German taxpayers if its remuneration was seen as excessive.

Commerzbank, which is focused on personal and commercial lending, typically pays its staff less than Deutsche Bank. If the German government were to retain a stake in a combined entity, lawmakers would likely argue that it should keep a tight rein on pay.

Traders at Deutsche Bank’s U.S. equities business have already felt a squeeze, with some receiving substantially smaller bonuses for 2018, the sources said.

That has contributed to a decline in morale, which has been exacerbated by the departure of senior staff including Brad Kurtzman, co-head of equities trading in the Americas, who is leaving at the end of this month, the sources said.

A recent focus on recruiting college graduates, held up by senior management as an affirmation of the bank’s long-term commitment to the trading division, has done little to quell concern, they added.

One employee, who asked not to be named, said further defections are considered likely as staff look to pre-empt further cuts should the Commerzbank deal go through.

(Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

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FILE PHOTO: An employee moves car components in a production line at the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg
FILE PHOTO: An employee moves car components in a production line at the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, Germany, March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

March 20, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – Volkswagen’s supervisory board is set to meet on Friday to discuss the company’s ambitious cost-reduction plans, Der Spiegel reported on Wednesday, citing company sources.

The magazine said the extraordinary board meeting has been scheduled to mediate between management at Germany’s biggest carmaker and the head of its works council, Bernd Osterloh, who is also a member of the supervisory board.

A Volkswagen spokesman said he did not know of any planned board session.

A participant at a staff gathering on Wednesday told Reuters that Osterloh had said that unless the management offered concessions on planned job cuts there could be a confrontation that would “paralyze the company for months”.

Volkswagen this month said it would shrink its workforce by up to 7,000, raise productivity and eke out 5.9 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in annual savings at its core VW brand by 2023 in an effort to raise operating margins to 6 percent.

Der Spiegel, which also referred to the staff meeting, reported that Osterloh demanded a jobs guarantee to 2029 and that the Wolfsburg-based carmaker restaffs all currently open positions.

“I will tell Mr. Porsche the same thing this week,” Osterloh was quoted as saying by the meeting participant who spoke to Reuters.

Wolfgang Porsche is chairman of Porsche SE, the holding company that controls Volkswagen, and is a member of Volkswagen’s supervisory board. Tensions had flared this month after he criticized what he described as rigid structures in Wolfsburg and demanded greater flexibility from VW’s workers to help Chief Executive Herbert Diess to overhaul the carmaker.

“We give job guarantees until 2025 or 2028 and have no idea what the competition in China will be unveiling in two years time,” Porsche said at the time.

Osterloh has retaliated by blaming management mistakes for high costs and low profitability at VW.

(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Douglas Busvine and David Goodman)

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New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft arrives for the 89th Academy Awards Oscars Vanity Fair Party in Beverly Hills
FILE PHOTO: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft arrives for the 89th Academy Awards Oscars Vanity Fair Party in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., February 26, 2017. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

March 20, 2019

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft will reject a conditional plea deal offered by Florida prosecutors on charges of soliciting prostitution, sources told CNN on Wednesday.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday afternoon that prosecutors offered to defer prosecution for Kraft and the two dozen other men arrested in the case, but any defendant who accepts the offer must admit that there is enough evidence to lead to a conviction at trial.

Additionally, any defendant who accepts the deal must complete an education course about prostitution, perform 100 hours of community service, be tested for sexually transmitted diseases and pay court costs, according to the Journal.

Mike Edmondson, a spokesman for the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, told CNN the offer was standard for first-time offenders, and that none of the people charged had accepted as of Wednesday morning.

Kraft entered a not guilty plea after being charged with two misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution at a day spa in Jupiter, Fla. The 77-year-old billionaire is alleged to have twice visited the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in January and received sex acts in exchange for money.

Jupiter police have said Kraft was caught on surveillance video on both occasions, Jan. 19 and Jan. 20.

Kraft is scheduled to be arraigned March 28 in Palm Beach County, Fla.

The charges came in a police sting that law enforcement said was aimed at stopping human trafficking through massage parlors in Florida.

If Kraft chooses to go to trial and is convicted, he could receive one year in jail, a $5,000 fine and 100 hours of community service. Edmondson told CNN, however, that those misdemeanor charges generally result in no more than a 60-day sentence in county jail.

–Field Level Media

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Defense Secretary James Mattis welcomes Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Wei Fenghe to the Pentagon
FILE PHOTO: U.S. and Chinese flags are seen before Defense Secretary James Mattis welcomes Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Wei Fenghe to the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

March 20, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday a trade deal with Beijing is coming along, with U.S. trade negotiators going to China soon.

Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said his administration is talking about leaving tariffs on China for a long period of time. Trump has said the threat of tariffs makes Beijing eager to reach a deal.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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Members of a rescue team search for victims after a tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale SA collapsed, in Brumadinho
FILE PHOTO: Members of a rescue team search for victims after a tailings dam owned by Brazilian mining company Vale SA collapsed, in Brumadinho, Brazil January 28, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

March 20, 2019

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Executives at Vale SA, the world’s largest iron ore miner, quashed efforts by Brazilian authorities to audit one of its mining dams months before it collapsed and killed over 300 people, a state prosecutor said, according to the news website, G1.

William Garcia, a prosecutor in Minas Gerais where the January disaster occurred, told G1 his office had filed subpoenas with Vale last June to review safety documents regarding Vale’s dam.

But Vale’s lawyers responded in November and did not provide those documents, arguing they had received positive reviews by an auditor the firm had hired, the German firm Tuv Sud, he said.

Tuv Sud “was used to make it more difficult for prosecutors to investigate and hide from public view the state of that dam, which was so critical that less than two months later it broke,” Garcia said at an anti-corruption event in Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais.

Investigators have been scrutinizing the relationship between Vale and Tuv Sud, which had certified the dam as safe, including allegations the auditor was hired after another firm declined to certify the structures as safe.

Tuv Sud and Vale declined to comment. Garcia did not respond to a request for comment.

The tailings dam at Vale’s Corrego do Feijao iron ore mine burst on Jan. 25, releasing a torrent of mining waste that buried workers and local residents in the nearby town of Brumadinho.

In the wake of the latest incident, Vale set up a three-person committee to carry out its own investigation into what caused the dam to break.

On Wednesday, the company said it had appointed Manuel Martins, a consultant, to the committee to replace Jean-Pierre Remy, who was previously a consultant to prosecutors who investigated an earlier collapse of a Vale dam in 2015.

(Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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U.S. President Trump departs on travel to Ohio from the White House in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs on travel to Ohio at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

March 20, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he does not mind if the public is allowed to see the report that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is preparing about his investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and any possible links to the Trump campaign.

Mueller is expected to send his report to Attorney General William Barr soon.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Tim Ahmann)

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Britain's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Stephen Barclay is seen outside Downing Street in London
Britain’s Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Stephen Barclay is seen outside Downing Street in London, Britain March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

March 20, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Parliament will have the chance to discuss a motion on Brexit on Monday, Brexit minister Stephen Barclay said, confirming government plans to set out a process for parliament to find a way forward on Britain’s departure from the European Union.

“We will come back on Monday and set out at the despatch box exactly how we will honor the commitment,” Barclay said on Wednesday, referring to an announcement made last week by Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, writing by William James)

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Russian President Putin attends a meeting with businessmen in Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with businessmen in Moscow, Russia March 20, 2019. Alexander Nemenov/Pool via REUTERS

March 20, 2019

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin met on Wednesday heads of the world’s top oil traders Glencore and Vitol, as well as BP’s chief executive, among others, promising favorable conditions for business.

The meeting, attended by BP CEO Robert Dudley, Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg and Vitol’s Chairman Ian Taylor, among others, is a rare gathering in the Kremlin of some of the world’s most influential energy players.

Russia, one of the world’s top oil producers and exporters, has been under Western sanctions since 2014, which include restrictions on some financial instruments and development of some types of energy resources by foreign firms.

Putin, in opening remarks before the meeting was closed to reporters, said that Russia “is doing all (that’s) necessary so that foreign investors, our partners, friends feel themselves as comfortable as possible on the Russian market”. He did not elaborate.

Dudley, once the head of TNK-BP, a Russia-British joint venture bought by Rosneft in 2013 for $55 billion, last met Putin in February. BP now holds a 19.75 stake in Rosneft, whose CEO Igor Sechin was also present on Wednesday.

Glasenberg and Taylor are rare visitors to the Kremlin, though they usually attend the economic forum in St Petersburg.

Glencore has a wide range of interests in Russia from oil trading to aluminum and power assets, while Vitol is active in oil trading as well. Putin has invited all the company bosses to take part in an economic forum in St Petersburg, a ‘Russian Davos’, in June.

The Kremlin meeting comes amid talk that U.S.companies could boycott Moscow’s showcase forum in June following Russia’s arrest of prominent U.S. investor Michael Calvey on embezzlement charges. Calvey denies the charges.

The Kremlin called Wednesday’s gathering a ‘meeting with representatives of the UK business circles’.

Russia-UK relations also turned frosty after Britain accused Moscow of the poisoning of a former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal – accusations Moscow denies.

“As a group here we are grateful for the opportunity to participate in the effort in restoring trust and mutually beneficial relationships between our two countries,” Dudley said in his opening remarks.

Remarks by Glasenberg and Taylor were not made public.

(Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya, Maria Vasilyeva and Tom Balmforth; Writing by Katya Golubkova; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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Russian President Putin attends a meeting with businessmen in Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with businessmen in Moscow, Russia March 20, 2019. Alexander Nemenov/Pool via REUTERS

March 20, 2019

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin met on Wednesday heads of the world’s top oil traders Glencore and Vitol, as well as BP’s chief executive, among others, promising favorable conditions for business.

The meeting, attended by BP CEO Robert Dudley, Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg and Vitol’s Chairman Ian Taylor, among others, is a rare gathering in the Kremlin of some of the world’s most influential energy players.

Russia, one of the world’s top oil producers and exporters, has been under Western sanctions since 2014, which include restrictions on some financial instruments and development of some types of energy resources by foreign firms.

Putin, in opening remarks before the meeting was closed to reporters, said that Russia “is doing all (that’s) necessary so that foreign investors, our partners, friends feel themselves as comfortable as possible on the Russian market”. He did not elaborate.

Dudley, once the head of TNK-BP, a Russia-British joint venture bought by Rosneft in 2013 for $55 billion, last met Putin in February. BP now holds a 19.75 stake in Rosneft, whose CEO Igor Sechin was also present on Wednesday.

Glasenberg and Taylor are rare visitors to the Kremlin, though they usually attend the economic forum in St Petersburg.

Glencore has a wide range of interests in Russia from oil trading to aluminum and power assets, while Vitol is active in oil trading as well. Putin has invited all the company bosses to take part in an economic forum in St Petersburg, a ‘Russian Davos’, in June.

The Kremlin meeting comes amid talk that U.S.companies could boycott Moscow’s showcase forum in June following Russia’s arrest of prominent U.S. investor Michael Calvey on embezzlement charges. Calvey denies the charges.

The Kremlin called Wednesday’s gathering a ‘meeting with representatives of the UK business circles’.

Russia-UK relations also turned frosty after Britain accused Moscow of the poisoning of a former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal – accusations Moscow denies.

“As a group here we are grateful for the opportunity to participate in the effort in restoring trust and mutually beneficial relationships between our two countries,” Dudley said in his opening remarks.

Remarks by Glasenberg and Taylor were not made public.

(Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya, Maria Vasilyeva and Tom Balmforth; Writing by Katya Golubkova; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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Informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Bucharest
FILE PHOTO: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks to the media during the informal meeting of the European Union foreign ministers in Bucharest, Romania, January 31, 2019. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via REUTERS

March 20, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – Britain’s request for a delay to Brexit will be rejected by the EU if Prime Minister Theresa May cannot provide sufficient guarantees that her parliament will approve the divorce deal she negotiated, France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

The French stance was markedly tougher in tone than the public rhetoric out of Berlin, where Germany’s foreign minister said only that an orderly British departure from the European Union would solve the Brexit turmoil.

May asked for a three-month delay to Brexit on Wednesday to buy time to get her twice-rejected departure deal through parliament. Her request came just nine days before Britain is formally due to leave the EU, the latest twist in more than two years of negotiations that have left British politics in chaos.

“A situation in which Mrs May was not able to present to the European Council sufficient guarantees of the credibility of her strategy would lead to the extension request being dismissed and opting for a no-deal exit,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told the French National Assembly.

A senior official in President Emmanuel Macron’s office said May had requested a “technical extension”. This suggested that approval would be conditional on the British parliament ratifying the withdrawal agreement negotiated by May.

Any extension has to be approved by all 27 EU members remaining in the bloc.

In recent weeks, Germany has appeared to adopt a more conciliatory stance. Paris and Berlin are discussing their response to May’s delay request, a source familiar with the diplomatic effort said, with Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel due to meet on Thursday in Brussels, on the sidelines of an EU summit.

Speaking in Berlin, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he expected EU leaders to make a decision on how to proceed with May’s request at that summit.

“We’d like to know where it leads,” Maas told a news conference in Berlin. “We’ve always said that if the (European) Council has to decide on a deadline extension for Britain, then we’d like to know why and what for.”

(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Richard Lough and Kevin Liffey)

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Informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Bucharest
FILE PHOTO: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian speaks to the media during the informal meeting of the European Union foreign ministers in Bucharest, Romania, January 31, 2019. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via REUTERS

March 20, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – Britain’s request for a delay to Brexit will be rejected by the EU if Prime Minister Theresa May cannot provide sufficient guarantees that her parliament will approve the divorce deal she negotiated, France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

The French stance was markedly tougher in tone than the public rhetoric out of Berlin, where Germany’s foreign minister said only that an orderly British departure from the European Union would solve the Brexit turmoil.

May asked for a three-month delay to Brexit on Wednesday to buy time to get her twice-rejected departure deal through parliament. Her request came just nine days before Britain is formally due to leave the EU, the latest twist in more than two years of negotiations that have left British politics in chaos.

“A situation in which Mrs May was not able to present to the European Council sufficient guarantees of the credibility of her strategy would lead to the extension request being dismissed and opting for a no-deal exit,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told the French National Assembly.

A senior official in President Emmanuel Macron’s office said May had requested a “technical extension”. This suggested that approval would be conditional on the British parliament ratifying the withdrawal agreement negotiated by May.

Any extension has to be approved by all 27 EU members remaining in the bloc.

In recent weeks, Germany has appeared to adopt a more conciliatory stance. Paris and Berlin are discussing their response to May’s delay request, a source familiar with the diplomatic effort said, with Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel due to meet on Thursday in Brussels, on the sidelines of an EU summit.

Speaking in Berlin, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he expected EU leaders to make a decision on how to proceed with May’s request at that summit.

“We’d like to know where it leads,” Maas told a news conference in Berlin. “We’ve always said that if the (European) Council has to decide on a deadline extension for Britain, then we’d like to know why and what for.”

(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Richard Lough and Kevin Liffey)

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President of the European Council Donald Tusk is seen at the start of EU Tripartite Social Summit in Brussels
President of the European Council Donald Tusk is seen at the start of EU Tripartite Social Summit in Brussels, Belgium March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

March 20, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Council President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday that granting Britain a short postponement of Brexit was possible on the condition that Britain’s House of Commons votes in favor of the stalled divorce agreement next week.

Should that happen, Tusk said no extraordinary EU leaders’ summit would be needed next week before the current Brexit date of March 29. Otherwise, he might call the 27 national leaders of EU countries staying on together after Brexit back to Brussels.

“In the light of the consultations that I have conducted over the past days, I believe that a short extension will be possible, but it will be conditional on a positive vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons,” Tusk told journalists before chairing the EU leaders’ talks in Brussels this Thursday and Friday.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Gabriela Baczynska)

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President of the European Council Donald Tusk is seen at the start of EU Tripartite Social Summit in Brussels
President of the European Council Donald Tusk is seen at the start of EU Tripartite Social Summit in Brussels, Belgium March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

March 20, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Council President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday that granting Britain a short postponement of Brexit was possible on the condition that Britain’s House of Commons votes in favor of the stalled divorce agreement next week.

Should that happen, Tusk said no extraordinary EU leaders’ summit would be needed next week before the current Brexit date of March 29. Otherwise, he might call the 27 national leaders of EU countries staying on together after Brexit back to Brussels.

“In the light of the consultations that I have conducted over the past days, I believe that a short extension will be possible, but it will be conditional on a positive vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons,” Tusk told journalists before chairing the EU leaders’ talks in Brussels this Thursday and Friday.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Gabriela Baczynska)

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Iron workers install steel beams during a hot summer day in New York
Iron workers install steel beams during a hot summer day in New York, July 17, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

March 20, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. International Trade Commission said on Wednesday that domestic producers were being harmed by imports of fabricated structural steel from Canada, China and Mexico, keeping alive an investigation that could lead to duties on the products.

The ITC’s preliminary determination ensures that an anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigation launched by the U.S. Commerce Department last month will move forward.

U.S. lawmakers, car companies and Canada and Mexico have strongly urged the Trump administration to drop U.S. national security tariffs on steel and aluminum imports after a deal announced last year to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The fabricated structural steel under investigation is used in major building projects, including bridges, office and residential buildings, parking decks and ports.

If the Commerce Department determines the imports are being dumped in the U.S. market at less than fair value, unfairly subsidized, or both, and if the ITC affirms its finding of harm, the United States will impose duties for an initial five years.

The department launched the trade case after receiving a petition from an industry trade group.

The United States imported $658.3 million worth of fabricated structural steel from Canada in 2017, $841.7 million worth from China, and $406.6 million from Mexico.

The Commerce Department alleges there are 44 subsidy programs for Canadian fabricated structural steel, including tax programs, grant programs, loan programs, export insurance programs, and equity programs. There are also 26 subsidy programs for China and 19 subsidy programs for Mexico, according to the agency.

Last month, a Canadian steel industry group said it would strongly oppose anti-dumping duties on certain steel imports from Canada. The Canadian Institute of Steel Construction said allegations “that these products from Canada are unfairly traded and cause injury to U.S. producers of fabricated steel products are baseless.”

(Writing by Tim Ahmann; Editing by David Alexander and Susan Thomas)

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Weightlifting - Men's 94kg
FILE PHOTO: 2016 Rio Olympics – Weightlifting – Final – Men’s 94kg – Riocentro – Pavilion 2 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 13/08/2016. Sonny Webster (GBR) of Britain competes. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

March 20, 2019

(Reuters) – British weightlifter Sonny Webster was given an additional three-year ban from all sport for coaching three athletes during his period of ineligibility, which was in breach of anti-doping rules, United Kingdom Anti-Doping (UKAD) said on Wednesday.

Webster, 25, had accepted a four-year ban in December 2017 after he tested positive for banned substance ostarine. At the time, Webster said he spent his life’s savings trying to prove his innocence.

UKAD said they received information that Webster received payment for coaching three athletes during his ineligibility period when he was not supposed to participate or assist athletes in any capacity.

Webster’s ban, that was set to end in June 2021, has now been extended to June 13, 2024.

“Athletes and athlete support personnel must be fully aware that when they break the rules and receive a sanction, UKAD will continue to monitor their activity, and any prohibited involvement in sport will be punished accordingly,” UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said in a statement.

“Hopefully this case serves as a warning to those serving bans that any athletes committing further violations during the term of that ban will result in additional and significant sanctions.”

Webster finished 14th in the 94kg category at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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Weightlifting - Men's 94kg
FILE PHOTO: 2016 Rio Olympics – Weightlifting – Final – Men’s 94kg – Riocentro – Pavilion 2 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 13/08/2016. Sonny Webster (GBR) of Britain competes. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

March 20, 2019

(Reuters) – British weightlifter Sonny Webster was given an additional three-year ban from all sport for coaching three athletes during his period of ineligibility, which was in breach of anti-doping rules, United Kingdom Anti-Doping (UKAD) said on Wednesday.

Webster, 25, had accepted a four-year ban in December 2017 after he tested positive for banned substance ostarine. At the time, Webster said he spent his life’s savings trying to prove his innocence.

UKAD said they received information that Webster received payment for coaching three athletes during his ineligibility period when he was not supposed to participate or assist athletes in any capacity.

Webster’s ban, that was set to end in June 2021, has now been extended to June 13, 2024.

“Athletes and athlete support personnel must be fully aware that when they break the rules and receive a sanction, UKAD will continue to monitor their activity, and any prohibited involvement in sport will be punished accordingly,” UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said in a statement.

“Hopefully this case serves as a warning to those serving bans that any athletes committing further violations during the term of that ban will result in additional and significant sanctions.”

Webster finished 14th in the 94kg category at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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FILE PHOTO: Southwest Airlines Co. Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft at Midway International Airport in Chicago
FILE PHOTO: Southwest Airlines Co. Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft sit next to the maintenance area after landing at Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Kamil Kraczynski

March 20, 2019

By Tracy Rucinski and Allison Lampert

CHICAGO/MONTREAL (Reuters) – U.S. and Canadian airlines that fly the roughly 175-seat aircraft face a logistical challenge: which flights to cancel and which to cover with other planes following the global grounding of Boeing Co’s 737 MAX jets.

Southwest Airlines Co and American Airlines Group Inc, the two largest MAX operators in the United States, said they have bolstered their reservation and operations teams to figure out how to spread flight cancellations across their networks, not just on MAX flights.

American Airlines, for example, had most of its 24 MAX jets flying in and out of Miami, where load factors have been full during the Spring Break season.

“We can’t just cancel all of those flights, so the goal is to spread out the cancellations across our entire system to impact the least amount of customers,” American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said.

This means that an American Airlines flight from Miami to the Caribbean initially scheduled on a 737 MAX may now fly on a 737-800 with a similar seat configuration, while that 737-800 flight is canceled.

“It’s a challenge to explain to customers who weren’t previously booked on a MAX why their flight is canceled,” Feinstein said.

The 737 MAX jets were grounded last week following two fatal crashes in the past five months, the causes of which are under investigation.

Southwest, the largest MAX operator in the world with 34 jets representing about 5 percent of its total fleet, is cancelling about 150 flights per day due to the grounding, but not all on MAX routes.

Southwest shares were down 2.3 percent on Wednesday and American shares fell 2.1 percent.

Steve West, Senior Director of Southwest’s Operations Control, said the company is trying to cancel flights five days in advance, while looking at issues such as weather that could free up jets, like last week’s snowstorm in Colorado.

Southwest and American were already grappling with a larger than normal number of out-of-service aircraft, further straining their fleets.

So far United Airlines, with 14 MAX aircraft, has not canceled any flights due to the grounding, but has had to put smaller aircraft on some routes and fly the larger 777 to places like Hawaii.

It is unclear how long the grounding will last. Deliveries are also on hold, meaning an additional hit to airlines due to receive more of the jets this year.

Boeing has over 5,000 orders for the MAX, which sold fast thanks to its higher fuel-efficiency and longer range. Now airlines face a dent to 2019 profits.

Calgary-based WestJet said it took steps prior to the MAX grounding to start protecting trans-border flights to sunny destinations that were previously scheduled to fly with the carrier’s 13 MAX planes.

Meanwhile, Air Canada said on Tuesday it would remove its 24 737 MAX aircraft from its schedule until at least July 1, 2019.

“It is easier to put the aircraft back in the schedule than to pull it out,” said a source familiar with the carrier’s thinking, who is not allowed to publicly discuss its strategy.

(GRAPHIC-Boeing 737 MAX deliveries in question link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2Hv2btC).

(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 20, 2019

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Dow Jones Industrial Average triggered a technical signal on Tuesday that many investors believe could portend more gains for stocks in the short term, known as the golden cross.

The chart pattern comes about when a short-term moving average moves above a longer-term moving average. Moving averages are popular trend indicators used by technical analysts.

In the case of the Dow on Tuesday, the 50-day moving average crossed above the index’s 200-day moving average, which is the most widely watched combination among technicians. Some analysts employ additional criteria in determining whether a cross is triggered, for example, if both moving averages are sloping upward, which the Dow’s currently are.

Even with the Dow’s slightly lower close on Tuesday on trade concerns, the 50-day managed to end the session above the 200-day moving average.

Other major indexes, such as the S&P 500 and Nasdaq, have moved closer to a golden cross as stocks continue to rally off their late December lows, buoyed by a Federal Reserve pause in interest rate hikes and building investor optimism for a trade deal between the U.S. and China.

“All signs are pointing towards continued good performance, and the golden cross just accentuates that because that is another positive story,” said Ken Polcari, managing principal at Butcher Joseph Asset Management in New York.

Polcari said the cross should not be looked at in a vacuum, however, and pointed to gains in the S&P 500 and Nasdaq that have lifted those indexes above their highs from early March as further evidence the market is strengthening.

“You have to look at it in the context of some of the other indicators,” Polcari said.

On Dec. 7, the S&P 500 triggered a bearish counterpart, known as a “death cross,” when the 50-day moving average fell below the 200-day. The benchmark index went down another nearly 11 percent before bottoming on Dec. 24.

The Dow last triggered a golden cross on April 19, 2016 and closed out the year 9.5 percent higher from there.

(Graphic: Dow Golden Cross link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2ULiKEu).

Still, the golden cross is far from a bulletproof signal. According to Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research in New York, using a “golden cross” strategy yielded a lower return than the compound annual growth rates for the Dow and smallcap Russell 2000 index since 1990.

The results were different for the S&P 500, however, with the “golden cross” strategy yielding returns similar to the index while also enabling investors to avoid major sell-offs and bouts of volatility.

Since 2000, the biggest drop yearly using a cross strategy would be 6 percent versus 38 percent for the index. In addition, the strategy topped the performance of the index 55 percent of the time.

(Dow triggers golden cross link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2HvPWNE).

As a result, Stovall thinks the strategy could be feasible for an investor depending on what their goal is.

“In many ways (technical analysis) is an interpretive science. I think it is a good one, but not everybody interprets the pattern the same way,” he said.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Alden Bentley and Phil Berlowitz)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, March 10, 2019. Gali Tibbon/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

March 20, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House next Monday and Tuesday, the White House said.

“The president and the prime minister will discuss their countries’ shared interests and actions in the Middle East during a working meeting on March 25,” the White House said in a statement on Wednesday. Trump will host Netanyahu at a dinner on March 26, it said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Tim Ahmann)

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FILE PHOTO: An Afghan man casts his vote during the parliamentary election at a polling station in Kabul, Afghanistan
FILE PHOTO: An Afghan man casts his vote during the parliamentary election at a polling station in Kabul, Afghanistan October 21, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/File Photo

March 20, 2019

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s presidential election has been postponed by two months to Sept. 28, as authorities try to iron out problems with the voting process, the election board said on Wednesday.

The election was pushed back for the second time to allow time for reforms to the voting system, Independent Election Commission spokesman Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi said.

It was originally scheduled for April but was delayed to July 20 due to concerns about winter conditions and security.

Afghanistan’s parliamentary election took place in autumn after months of wrangling and delay.

That vote was marred by accusations of widespread fraud including ballot-stuffing, technical problems with biometric registration equipment, and attacks by Taliban insurgents.

President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and former national security adviser Mohammad Haneef Atmar are among the declared candidates for the presidential election.

It is unclear how recurring peace talks between U.S. officials and the Taliban may affect the election.

The Taliban has so far refused to talk with the Ghani government, which it considers illegitimate.

(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi in Kabul; Writing by Rod Nickel; Editing by Catherine Evans and Andrew Cawthorne)

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An employee works at the assembly line of jerked beef at a plant of JBS S.A, the world's largest beef producer, in Santana de Parnaiba
FILE PHOTO: An employee works at the assembly line of jerked beef at a plant of JBS S.A, the world’s largest beef producer, in Santana de Parnaiba, Brazil December 19, 2017. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

March 20, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Brazil’s farm minister said on Wednesday that the U.S. agreement to conduct further inspections on the country’s meatpacking system is an insufficient “gesture,” as negotiators had hoped to reopen the U.S. market to fresh Brazilian beef.

Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias joined Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro this week on a visit to Washington, resulting in Brazil announcing a tariff-free quota for wheat imports and steps toward allowing U.S. pork imports.

(Reporting by Chris Prentice and Ayenat Mersie; Writing by Jake Spring)

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FILE PHOTO: Steinhoff's former Chief Executive Markus Jooste appears in parliament to face a panel investigating an accounting scandal that rocked the retailer in Cape Town
FILE PHOTO: Steinhoff’s former Chief Executive Markus Jooste appears in parliament to face a panel investigating an accounting scandal that rocked the retailer in Cape Town, South Africa, September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

March 20, 2019

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The suspended former chief financial officer of Steinhoff is helping authorities with investigations into $7 billion-plus accounting fraud at the South African retailer, he said on Thursday.

Ben la Grange is one of eight individuals named in an investigation of what an independent report by auditor PwC said was a complex scheme in which intercompany deals worth 6.4 billion euros ($7.3 billion) were wrongly recorded as external income to prop up profits and hide costs in underperforming subsidiaries.

“I am cooperating with all government agencies,” said La Grange, who was suspended last August but remains on the Steinhoff payroll as a consultant.

Former CEO Markus Jooste, who could not reached for comment via his lawyer, is among the eight executives named in the 15,000-word report conducted by PwC over the past 15 months. Jooste has previously denied any wrongdoing.

Steinhoff is under investigation by South Africa police, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority capital markets watchdog and exchange operator JSE.

The state prosecutor in Oldenburg, Germany, has also been investigating the company for suspected accounting irregularities since 2015.

Steinhoff first disclosed the hole in its accounts in December 2017, shocking investors who had backed its reinvention from a small South African business to a multinational retailer at the vanguard of the European discount furniture retail industry.

(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by David Goodman)

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Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini speaks in the upper house of the Italian parliament, in Rome
Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini speaks in the upper house of the Italian parliament, in Rome, Italy March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

March 20, 2019

By Gavin Jones

ROME (Reuters) – The Italian parliament on Wednesday blocked prosecutors from pursuing an investigation into Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini for abuse of power and kidnapping migrants.

Salvini, who is interior minister and leader of the right-wing League party, has declared Italy’s ports closed to illegal migrants and asylum seekers since he formed a ruling coalition last year with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.

In August, he blocked an Italian coastguard ship with 150 migrants aboard for almost a week off the coast of Sicily before finally letting it dock after Albania, Ireland and Italy’s Catholic Church agreed to house them.

Magistrates subsequently put him under investigation and asked parliament to strip him of his immunity from prosecution, but on Wednesday the upper house, the Senate, threw out the request and said he had been acting in the national interest.

“I hope no one in this chamber … has any difficulty in understanding the concept of nation and national sovereignty,” Salvini told lawmakers ahead of the vote.

“This is why Italians pay my salary: to defend our borders and to maintain the security of our country.”

With voting still under way, Senator Maurizio Gasparri, who heads the panel charged with considering Salvini’s case, said it was already clear that a large majority had voted in his favor.

The issue has sown division within the government and particularly within 5-Star, which has in the past criticized parliamentary maneuvering to halt judicial proceedings against lawmakers.

5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio held an online ballot last month among members, who voted 59-41 percent to protect Salvini.

However, two 5-Star senators said they would ignore that ballot and vote against their coalition ally. These are expected to be expelled from the movement, which would reduce the government’s already slim Senate majority.

An Italian-led push to disrupt smuggling networks and boost Libyan coastguard interceptions helped to reduce the number of migrants who successfully crossed the Mediterranean Sea from Africa to Italy by around 80 percent last year, to about 23,000, according to the International Organization for Migration. Some 1,300 died in the attempt.

In the latest of a series of stand-offs involving charity rescue ships, an Italian vessel carrying 49 African migrants was escorted into the port of Lampedusa by police on Tuesday, with Salvini calling for the crew to be arrested.

Prosecutors on Wednesday ordered the ship to be seized and opened an investigation into the captain on suspicion of aiding and abetting human trafficking.

(Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Source: OANN

Former President of Kazakhstan Nazarbayev attends a joint session of the houses of parliament in Astana
Former President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev attends a swearing-in ceremony before Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is sworn in as Kazakh acting president during a joint session of the houses of parliament in Astana, Kazakhstan March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov

March 20, 2019

By Mariya Gordeyeva

ALMATY (Reuters) – When Nursultan Nazarbayev announced he was stepping down as president of Kazakhstan, many people in the ex-Soviet state, where more than half the population have known no other leader, did not know how to process the news.

“Grandpa Nazarbayev has quit!” wept a little girl in a video that has gone viral among Kazakh internet users since Nazarbayev made his surprise announcement on Tuesday on state television.

An adult could be heard explaining to the sobbing girl: “He has retired, he has got old after all”.

Nazarbayev’s announcement he planned to hand the presidency to a lieutenant came out of the blue, even though there has been speculation about when he would step down for years.

Kazakhs tuning in to his televised address were expecting a routine message of congratulations on the eve of Nowruz, a major holiday across Central Asia and parts of the Middle East.

Nazarbayev, a 78-year-old former steel worker and Communist party apparatchik, had run Kazakhstan since 1989, first as a Communist boss and then as a routinely re-elected president.

A personality cult has gradually flourished around him – streets, schools and an airport are named in his honor – with an attendant sense he is irreplaceable.

“I feel uneasy,” said a 38-year-old Kazakh housewife who asked not to be named, when asked what she made of Nazarbayev’s announcement.

“He has done so much for our people, it’s a shock of course,” said 16-year-old student Nariman. “It will be unusual to have another person at the helm.”

Some people’s knee-jerk reaction was to buy dollars – queues formed at night at some bureaux de change and the cash exchange rates briefly jumped, prompting the central bank to warn cash traders against “speculation” in the morning.

But there was also a sense of relief that the worst-case scenario – in which Nazarbayev died while still in office, prompting conflict between rival elite factions – has been averted.

“I think this was a timely decision. You know, one needs to make an exit in a proper manner and at the right time,” said Gennady, a 67-year-old trade union official.

Some Kazakhs joked that the veteran leaders of Kazakhstan’s fellow ex-Soviet states, Russia and Belarus, could take a leaf out Nazarbayev’s book and bow out.

“I challenge my friends Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko to do the same,” read a humorous caption to Nazarbayev’s final photo behind the presidential desk in an image shared by many Kazakhs on social networks.

(Reporting by Mariya Gordeyeva; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A view of a burnt carriage of Samjhauta Express train in Deewana near Panipat town
FILE PHOTO: A view of a burnt carriage of Samjhauta Express train in Deewana, near Panipat town, February 19, 2007. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Aftab Ahmed

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – An Indian court on Wednesday acquitted four Hindu men accused of bombing a train between India and Pakistan in 2007 that killed 68 people, mostly Pakistanis, citing a lack of evidence, defense lawyers said.

The ruling comes weeks after a sharp escalation in tensions between India and Pakistan after a suicide car bomb in Kashmir killed 40 Indian paramilitary police. Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack.

The court in the northern state of Haryana gave its verdict after dismissing a petition filed last week by the daughter of a Pakistani victim who wanted to get her statement recorded as a witness.

“Prosecution has failed to prove the case so the court acquitted all of them,” lawyer Mukesh Garg told reporters outside the court. “The court first rejected the application from a Pakistani lady.”

One of those declared not guilty is Swami Aseemanand, a self-styled Hindu holy man and former member of the nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the parent of India’s ruling party.

Aseemanand was jailed in 2010 after admitting his involvement in the attack on the train near Panipat, a city about 100 km (62 miles) north of Delhi. He later said he was tortured to give a false statement.

Two coaches of the Samjhauta Express, a bi-weekly train that runs between New Delhi and Lahore in Pakistan, caught fire late on Feb. 19, 2007, after two Improvised Explosive Devices exploded, according to a charge-sheet filed by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2013.

In all, the NIA had accused eight men of conducting what it described as a “dreadful terrorist act”. It said the group had been “angry with attacks on Hindu temples by jihadi terrorist activities”. One of the accused was murdered in December 2007 and three others absconded from justice.

Pakistan earlier questioned what it called India’s lack of action against the accused. India had responded by accusing Pakistan of failing to act against militant groups behind attacks in Mumbai in 2008, in which 166 people were killed.

Asaduddin Owaisi, an Indian lawmaker and prominent Muslim leader, criticized Wednesday’s verdict.

“68 dead and nothing to account for them, nothing to say that justice has been done,” he said in a tweet.

(This story corrects to say northern state of Haryana not Himachal Pradesh in paragraph 3)

(Additional reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Krishna N. Das and Gareth Jones)

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Man is seen in front of an electronic board showing stock information on the first day of trading in the Year of the Pig at a brokerage house in Hangzhou
FILE PHOTO: A man is seen in front of an electronic board showing stock information on the first day of trading in the Year of the Pig, following the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday, at a brokerage house in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

March 20, 2019

By Helen Reid

LONDON (Reuters) – After plowing billions into emerging market equities since October, investors have started to show signs of hesitation, but an uptick in earnings expectations should reassure those hoping to capitalize on stronger economic growth in the emerging world.

Emerging equity funds have suffered outflows over the past three weeks, according to EPFR data, and investors in a recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey described emerging markets as the “most crowded trade”.

Year-to-date net fund flows into emerging markets total $15.7 billion, against $61.8 billion exiting developed markets, and global asset allocators have been increasing their exposure, betting that the worst is over and a declining dollar will help emerging economies.

Francois Savary, chief investment officer at wealth manager Prime Partners, who has an overweight on emerging equities in his asset allocation, said investors are searching for growth in a world where it is looking increasingly scarce.

“It’s not only a play on the last phase of the cycle, it is the fact that we have doubts about the U.S. economy down the road,” added Savary.

The relative health of emerging companies’ earnings compared to the rest of the world is a central draw. Analysts have increased their expectations for EM earnings growth this month while forecasts slide everywhere else.

Emerging markets valuations and return on equity March 20: https://tmsnrt.rs/2Cv5flh

Emerging earnings growth by country: https://tmsnrt.rs/2Cv4j0f

Small versus large emerging markets MARCH 20: https://tmsnrt.rs/2Hy0dJ5

emerging markets earnings growth expectations inch higher March 20: https://tmsnrt.rs/2HwrlIk

CHINA GOLD RUSH

The inclusion of China’s domestic A-Shares into MSCI’s emerging markets index has also been a game-changer, making it far easier for international investors to access Chinese stocks.

Data from the Institute of International Finance showed that the lion’s share of emerging market equity inflows – $10.6 billion of a total of $13.9 billion in February – piled into Chinese stocks.

“The Tencents, Alibabas and Baidus of this world are not just Chinese growth stories, they’re becoming global international growth stories,” said Edmund Shing, head of equities and derivatives strategy at BNP Paribas in London.

“From that point of view, people are coming back to that sector and thinking that’s a better place to be. I would argue these leading technology companies are more innovative than their U.S. counterparts,” he added.

But investors are treading with caution, having learnt the hard way not to be too hopeful after many false dawns.

“No-one is breaking out the champagne on this. We’re just hoping we get a decent year, and arguing that U.S. valuations versus EM are quite stretched,” said Charles Robertson, global chief economist at Renaissance Capital.

Return on equity across emerging markets has risen to a five-year high, while valuations, at 11.6 times forward earnings, are 30 percent cheaper than the S&P 500.

With the sugar rush of U.S. tax cuts wearing off, U.S. profit margins look set to wane while EM margins have further to go.

Earnings for EM overall are expected to grow 6.8 percent this year – down from the 12 percent growth expected back in September, but still set to outpace the United States.

Thawing China-U.S. trade relations have also helped buoy the market.

“Because they’re seeing macro getting better, trade getting better, China doing the right things, as long as they can see that forward progress they can feel that some level of past disappointment can be just that – in the past,” said Andrew Jones, emerging markets equity portfolio manager at Pinebridge Investments in New York.

A “CROWDED TRADE”?

The BAML survey could be a bad omen for emerging markets. Previous “crowded trades” include bitcoin and the FAANGs, which went on to slide significantly.

On Tuesday, the latest survey showed short European equities had succeeded EM, however, comforting investors who say the asset class hasn’t reached the eye-watering valuations characteristic of such trades.

“When I meet clients there is certainly a lot of interest, but have people really started to move? I would say no,” said Robert Horrocks, chief investment officer at Matthews Asia.

The market is not factoring in the idea there could be a sustained earnings cycle in Asia, he added, saying Asian earnings could outgrow Europe by 3 to 5 percentage points.

Some, like Peter Elam Hakansson, chairman and CIO at East Capital in Stockholm, are homing in on specific countries where they see particularly strong earnings growth.

“Some of the most interesting developments will be in Brazil and Russia where you had some very nice earnings growth but the market is not really appreciating it,” said Hakansson.

Brazil and Russia have delivered the strongest year-on-year earnings growth of top EM countries, while Taiwan and South Korea – hit by U.S.-China trade tariffs – have had sharply negative earnings growth.

Data from Copley Fund Research shows that emerging market funds are overweight India and consumer staples stocks, while the biggest underweights are Taiwan, South Korea, communication services, and China and Hong Kong.

Others are seeking contrarian plays in the context of a U.S.-China trade war potentially nearing its end.

Al Bryant, EM portfolio manager at River & Mercantile in Chicago, said he holds some Chinese port operators.

“Global trade isn’t going away,” he said. “That’s our one option play, if you will, on a (trade) compromise coming out.”

Bryant is also focusing on small-cap stocks, which have a better earnings growth outlook while trading at lower valuations than large-caps.

“Small-caps are tilted away from state-owned enterprises, more tilted to privately owned and consumer companies whose story is a lot more attuned to the consumer demand you’re seeing in EM,” Bryant said.

(Reporting by Helen Reid, Additional reporting by Karin Strohecker and Josephine Mason, Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Ford logo is seen at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan
FILE PHOTO: The Ford logo is seen at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 20, 2019

By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co said on Wednesday it is adding production of a fully electric vehicle at a second North American plant as part of its $11 billion investment plan set last year.

The No. 2 U.S. automaker said it is investing about $900 million in southeast Michigan and creating 900 jobs through 2023 as part of its electric vehicle push. That includes a plan to invest more than $850 million to expand production capacity at its Flat Rock, Michigan, plant to build EVs.

“When we were taking a look at our $11 billion investment in electrification, it became obvious to us that we were going to need a second plant in the not-too-distant future to add capacity for our battery electric vehicles,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of global operations, said in a telephone interview.

Ford is negotiating an alliance with Germany’s Volkswagen AG to work together on electric and autonomous vehicles. Hinrichs said those talks have been positive, but that there was nothing to announce.

Ford in January 2018 said it would increase its planned investments in electric vehicles to $11 billion by 2022 and have 40 hybrid and fully electric vehicles in its model lineup. That investment figure was up from the previous target of $4.5 billion by 2020.

Automakers have been boosting investment in the development of EVs in part because of pressure from regulators in China, Europe and California to slash carbon emissions from fossil fuels. They also are being pushed by electric carmakers like Tesla Inc.

Of the 40 vehicles, Ford said at the time that 16 would be fully electric and the rest would be plug-in hybrids.

The Flat Rock plant, which currently employs 3,400 people, builds the Ford Mustang and Lincoln Continental cars. The plant investment includes adding a second shift and funding to build the next-generation Mustang.

Ford already was planning an all-electric sport utility vehicle in 2020 that will be built at its Cuautitlan, Mexico, plant.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker also said on Wednesday that it will build its first self-driving vehicles for use by commercial customers at a new manufacturing center in southeast Michigan starting in 2021, and will build its next-generation North American Transit Connect commercial and passenger van in Mexico starting that same year.

The next-generation Transit Connect small van will be built at Ford’s Hermosillo, Mexico, plant and increases U.S. and Canadian vehicle content consistent with the proposed new North American trade agreement, the company said. The vehicle is now built in Spain.

Hinrichs said he is optimistic Congress will approve the proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Susan Thomas)

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FILE PHOTO: A man walks in front of the Brazil's state-run Petrobras oil company headquarters in Rio de Janeiro
FILE PHOTO: A man walks in front of the Brazil’s state-run Petrobras oil company headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

March 20, 2019

By Gram Slattery and Carolina Mandl

RIO DE JANEIRO/SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Warburg Pincus-backed firm Trident Energy is in exclusive talks with Petroleo Brasileiro SA to acquire a pair of Brazilian oil clusters, two sources with knowledge of the matter said this week, as the state-run company known as Petrobras moves to revive the sale effort.

Petrobras had agreed in July to enter into exclusive talks with Ouro Preto Oleo e Gas, a Brazilian energy company backed by private equity firm EIG Global Energy Partners, to sell its Pampo and Enchova shallow water oil clusters off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.

At the time, the clusters were expected to fetch around $1 billion. However, Ouro Preto reduced its offer and Petrobras walked away, Reuters reported in January.

Petrobras has since entered exclusive talks with Trident Energy, which had bid for the fields in 2018 but did not enter into direct talks with Petrobras because its offer was below Ouro Preto’s offer, according to the sources.

Trident was set up by former executives of independent Anglo-French oil firm Perenco in 2016. Its portfolio is comprised of production assets located in Equatorial Guinea. An acquisition of the Pampo and Enchova clusters in Brazil’s Campos Basin would mark its first foothold outside of Africa.

Petrobras and Trident did not respond to requests for comment.

Petrobras is currently divesting a wide range of mature onshore and offshore oilfields, among other assets, in a bid to cut debt and refocus on Brazil’s promising deepwater ‘pre-salt’ play. Last week, Petrobras CEO Roberto Castello Branco said he expected the company would complete $10 billion in divestments in the first four months of 2019.

The quick pivot to Trident after the collapse of talks with Ouro Preto illustrates the resolve of Petrobras to push ahead with those asset disposals. The often complex sales have proceeded in fits and starts.

Should Petrobras and Trident come to terms, the sources said, Petrobras will likely hold a final rebidding round, in which competing parties, including Ouro Preto, can submit final bids of varying values for Pampo and Enchova, so long as those bids have the same contractual terms as any agreement with Trident.

Together, Pampo and Enchova produced almost 39,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, according to July figures, making it the largest mature production asset in Petrobras’ divestment portfolio.

(Reporting by Gram Slattery and Carolina Mandl; Editing by David Gregorio)

Source: OANN

Fans dressed as Harry Potter participate in an event attempting to beat the previous Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people dressed as Harry Potter, in Monterrey, Mexico
FILE PHOTO: Fans dressed as Harry Potter participate in an event attempting to beat the previous Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people dressed as Harry Potter, in Monterrey, Mexico November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

March 20, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Run by goblins and boasting secure vaults guarded by a dragon, Gringotts Bank is where witches and wizards come to store their money and treasures in the magical world of Harry Potter.

Now fans of J.K. Rowling’s books and the Hollywood films can walk into the marbled hall of the wizarding bank in a new extension of Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, where sets from the movies have been recreated.

With crystal chandeliers and quills, ledgers and piles of wizard coins on goblin tellers’ desks, the set of Gringotts Wizarding Bank is the London attraction’s biggest expansion since it opened its doors in 2012.

Also on show is the vault where villain Bellatrix Lestrange stored her valuables. There are rubberized golden treasures, costumes and restored prosthetics for the films’ goblin looks.

“It was a real restoration process…to bring all of these back to life and back to kind of camera ready condition,” actor Warwick Davis, who played Gringotts employee Griphook, told Reuters during a press preview on Tuesday.

“These sorts of products deteriorate very quickly in storage so it’s quite a feat to actually see them here looking as good as they do.”

The Gringotts Bank set opens to the public on April 6. Other sets from the “Harry Potter” films at the attraction include the eerie Forbidden Forest and Great Hall of Hogwarts.

(Reporting by Hanna Rantala; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Peter Graff)

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FILE PHOTO: The 2016 Volvo XC90, winner of the Truck of the Year award at the North American International Auto Show, is displayed in Detroit
FILE PHOTO: The 2016 Volvo XC90, winner of the Truck of the Year award at the North American International Auto Show, is displayed in Detroit, Michigan, January 11. 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

March 20, 2019

By Esha Vaish

GOTHENBURG (Reuters) – Swedish automaker Volvo hopes to reinforce its reputation for safety-first driving by installing cameras and sensors in its cars from the early 2020s, monitoring drivers for signs of being drunk or distracted and intervening to prevent accidents.

The safety features, detailed at a briefing in Gothenburg on Wednesday which fleshed out plans outlined earlier this month, mark another step by Volvo toward its pledge to eliminate passenger fatalities by 2020.

Volvo, which in the 1950s was the first carmaker to introduce the three-point seatbelt, had said on March 4 it would introduce a 180 km per hour speed limit on all new vehicles.

Volvo said the cameras and sensors will be installed on all models built on its SPA2 platform for larger cars such as the XC90 SUV, on which its driverless cars will also be built, starting in the early part of the next decade.

Intervention if the driver is found to be drunk, tired or distracted by checking a mobile phone – among the biggest factors in accidents – could involve limiting the car’s speed, alerting the Volvo on Call assistance service, or slowing down and parking the car, it said.

Development of technology that would support such maneuvers has accelerated in the past year as the industry increasingly focuses on electric and autonomous cars.

Volvo Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson told journalists the technology developments meant carmakers had the responsibility to take on the role of Big Brother to ensure safety on roads.

While the strategy meant Volvo, owned by China’s Geely, might lose some customers keen on high speeds, it also opened opportunities to win parents who wanted to buy the safest car to carry their children, he said.

Volvo also said it would introduce Care Key, allowing a Volvo buyer to set a speed limit for themselves or before lending the car to younger or inexperienced drivers, as standard on all its cars from 2021.

Samuelsson said Volvo was talking to insurers to offer favorable terms to what it termed as “club max 180” customers who were using the safety features.

“If we can encourage and support better behavior with technology that helps drivers to stay out of trouble, that should logically also have a positive impact on insurance premiums,” Samuelsson said.

(Reporting by Esha Vaish in Gothenburg; Editing by David Holmes)

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FILE PHOTO: Marjan Sarec, Slovenia's PM speaks during an interview in Ljubljana
FILE PHOTO: Slovenia’s Prime Minister Marjan Sarec speaks during an interview with Reuters in Ljubljana, Slovenia, February 1, 2019. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Marja Novak

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) – The five parties of the Slovenian center-left government coalition signed an agreement of cooperation with the opposition Left party to secure support for its main projects over the next year, the six parties said on Wednesday.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry warned that the agreement could hurt the Slovenian economy because the demands of the Left are expected to raise taxes and public spending.

But Prime Minister Marjan Sarec, whose government took over in September after June’s general election, said the minority government has no choice but to seek opposition support for its projects. The coalition holds 43 out of 90 parliamentary seats while the Left has 9 seats.

“The government is a minority coalition government. If we want to do anything we have to make arrangements, that is the reality of democracy,” Sarec told Radio Slovenia.

The Left expects its cooperation with the government will lead to higher taxes on profit, more public apartments with non-profit rents, an improved national health system and more long-term jobs, Left spokesman Nikola Janovic Kolenc told Reuters.

The Chamber of Commerce said the demands of the Left could burden companies by as much as 1.4 billion euros ($1.59 billion)and hit the 46 billion-euro economy.

“We need a favorable business environment, productivity growth and the respect for those who work. The agreement between the coalition and the Left does not guarantee any of these. It is a mixture of expensive populist decrees which go against the development of the economy,” it said in a statement.

The agreement was signed just before the Left helped parliament confirm its 2019 budget plan earlier on Wednesday.

According to the agreement the Left will cooperate in the preparation of the 2020 and 2021 budgets later this year, which are expected to be confirmed by parliament before the end of 2019.

The largest opposition party, the center-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), claims the Left is in fact stronger than the coalition parties.

“As long as the state is actually governed by the Left the economy will be regressing,” said Branko Grims, a member of parliament from the SDS.

(Reporting by Marja Novak; editing by Ken Ferris)

Source: OANN

MMA: UFC 173-Renan Barao vs. TJ Dillashaw
FILE PHOTO: May 24, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; TJ Dillashaw (blue) pins down Renan Barao (red) during their UFC 173 bantamweight championship bout at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Dillashaw won the bout by way of TKO. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

March 20, 2019

TJ Dillashaw surrendered the UFC bantamweight belt Wednesday, announcing he was informed by the New York State Athletic Commission and the United States Anti-Doping Agency of an “adverse finding in a test taken for my last fight.”

The New York governing body also suspended him for one year and issued a $10,000 fine, citing “violations relating to use of a prohibited substance.” The suspension is retroactive to Jan. 19, the date of the fight.

Dillashaw (16-4) said “while words can’t even begin to express how disappointed I am at this time, please know that I’m working with my team to understand what has occurred and how to resolve this situation as quickly as possible. Out of fairness and respect to the rest of my division, I’ve informed the UFC that I’ll be voluntarily relinquishing my title while I deal with this matter.”

The 33-year-old had held the title since November 2017, his second title reign, claiming the belt in a knockout of Cody Garbrandt at UFC 217.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

People make their way past the National Bank of Greece headquarters in central Athens
FILE PHOTO: People make their way past the National Bank of Greece headquarters in central Athens, Greece, February 19, 2017. Picture taken February 19, 2017. REUTERS/Michalis Karagiannis

March 20, 2019

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece is planning to submit a bill to parliament on Friday to protect borrowers from home foreclosures, a government official said on Wednesday, though it is yet to secure the agreement of its lenders on its terms.

A wrangle over rules governing loans that have pledged a primary home as collateral helped delay the release of about 1 billion euros from Greece’s lenders, including the European Union and the European Central Bank, earlier this month.

The lenders, who are still monitoring Greece’s progress after it emerged from an international bailout seven months ago, want stricter terms than those proposed by Athens.

“Talks between the government and the supervisory institutions over the clarification of technical details will continue until Friday,” the official said, without clarifying if the government would submit the bill without securing lenders’ consent.

To conclude its second-post bailout review and qualify for the cash, Athens needs to get the green light from lenders before the new framework passes into law.

The issue is set to be discussed at a meeting of euro zone deputy finance ministers on Monday. A Commission representative said on Wednesday he is optimistic a deal can be reached before a meeting of euro zone finance ministers on April 5.

Greece has been working on a new framework to succeed a law protecting borrowers from home foreclosures to accelerate the clean-up of bad loans burdening its banking sector, while protecting those hit by the crisis.

Its latest disagreement with lenders hinges on the scope of the new legal framework, including ceilings on primary home market values, income criteria to qualify for protection and the inclusion of small corporate loans.

A banker told Reuters on Wednesday that talks had reached a stalemate. Greece wanted to include a total of 11 billion euros in sour loans in the new scheme, while the lenders had capped the amount to 6-7 billion, another banker said.

Sour loans account for about 45 percent of banks’ overall loan book. The country has promised regulators it will take steps to shrink bad loans by more than a third by the end of 2019.

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Renee Maltezou and Jan Harvey)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The Google logo is pictured at the entrance to the Google offices in London
FILE PHOTO: The Google logo is pictured at the entrance to the Google offices in London, Britain January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

March 20, 2019

By Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday cast doubt on a $8.5 million settlement Google had agreed to pay to end an internet privacy dispute, directing a lower court to review whether plaintiffs who accused the search engine operator of wrongdoing in a class action lawsuit were legally eligible to sue.

The justices threw out the lower court’s ruling that had upheld the settlement and directed it to take a fresh look at whether the plaintiffs had actually been harmed by Google and had the necessary legal standing. The plaintiffs had argued that Google violated federal privacy law by allowing other websites to see users’ search queries.

Google is part of Alphabet Inc.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi speaks during a news conference at the Carthage Palace in Tunis
FILE PHOTO: Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi speaks during a news conference at the Carthage Palace in Tunis, Tunisia November 8, 2018. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Tarek Amara

TUNIS (Reuters) – Tunisia’s president called on Wednesday for changes to the new constitution to give the presidency more power, in the latest escalation of a dispute between the two highest offices in the country.

The constitution, adopted in 2014 after the uprising of 2011 that ousted autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, significantly erodes the previously extensive power of the presidency and gives the prime minister and parliament a much bigger role.

But President Beji Caid Essebsi and Prime Minister Youssef Chahed have been at loggerheads since last year, culminating in the president’s son being suspended from the ruling party in September.

Essebsi has called on Chahed to resign but he defied him and formed a new governing coalition last November with the moderate Islamist Ennahda party.

Now, with a parliamentary election due in October and a presidential vote starting in November, Essebsi is calling for an overhaul of the nation’s ruling charter.

The parliamentary race is expected to be fought closely by Ennahda, the more secular Tahya Tounes party of Chahed, and the Nidaa Tounes party now led by Hafedh Caid Essebsi, the president’s son. No one has yet declared their candidacy for the presidency.

“The president has no major functions and the executive power is in the hands of the prime minister,” Essessbi said in a speech broadcast on state television at the Palace of Carthage to mark Independence Day.

“It would be better to think about amending some chapters of the constitution,” he said. The president controls defense and foreign policy – both in reality relatively minor policy areas.

The political wrangling over the past months has alarmed donors who have kept the country afloat with loans granted in exchange for a promise of reforms such as cutting a bloated public service.

The president’s son has accused Chahed of failing to tackle high inflation, unemployment and other problems.

The North African country has been hailed as the Arab Spring’s only democratic success, because protests toppled Ben Ali without triggering the violent upheaval seen in Syria and Libya.

But since 2011, nine cabinets have failed to resolve Tunisia’s economic problems, which include high inflation and unemployment, and impatience is rising among lenders such as the International Monetary Fund.

Annual inflation hit a record high of 7.5 percent in 2018 as the dinar currency tanked, making food imports more expensive.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

MLB: Spring Training-Seattle Mariners at Yomiuri Giants
Mar 17, 2019; Tokyo, Japan; Seattle Mariners right fielder Domingo Santana (16) flips his helmet in the air after being picked off of second base during the fifth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Tokyo Dome. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

March 20, 2019

TOKYO – Domingo Santana led an offensive barrage with an opposite field grand slam and the Seattle Mariners topped the Oakland Athletics 9-7 in the first game of the 2019 regular season in the Tokyo Dome.

A sellout crowd of 45,787 clamoring to see what is likely Ichiro Suzuki’s final pro appearance in Japan was treated to an offensive showcase in the first of a two-game series. The Mariners and A’s combined for 16 hits and five home runs, including a game-changing grand slam from Santana in his Mariners debut.

“Any time someone comes up with a big clutch hit, we score some runs, that’s a huge deal,” Mariners right-hander Marco Gonzales said. “You can see that once this team starts going, once we start firing it’s kind of a domino effect. Seeing him get things going for us in a big way.”

Santana inside-outed an 0-1 pitch, sneaking it inside the right-field foul pole to clear the bases and put Seattle on top 5-2 in the top of the third. The blast capped a five-run inning, and the Mariners would not relinquish the lead.

Khris Davis brought Oakland back within 5-4 on the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the third, blasting a line-drive, two-run home to left-center field. It was Oakland’s second home run of the night after Stephen Piscotty opened the power show in the first inning.

The Mariners tacked on runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Tim Beckham crushed a two-run home run to left field the very next at-bat to eventually put Seattle ahead 9-4.

The bulb flashes of cameras started immediately when Ichiro walked to the on-deck circle in the top of the third. The crowd roared during his two plate appearances, and when he made his exit in the fourth inning, coming out with the position players only to turn around and return to the dugout. He was replaced by Daniel Vogelbach.

“Ichiro will play in the game tomorrow. Not sure if he will start but he will get out there at some point,” manager Scott Servais said. “With Ichiro’s situation coming into this series certainly wanted to give him an opportunity to play, but we also wanted to give other players an opportunity to get into the game and do what’s best for the team.”

Servais said the Mariners are going one day at a time deciding whether Ichiro would make the 25-man roster when the team returns to the U.S.

Matt Chapman brought Oakland back with a three-run home run, the game’s fifth homer, in the seventh inning off of Nick Rumbelow to make it 9-7.

Hunter Strickland finished off the A’s 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth, fanning Chapman to earn the save in his debut for the Mariners.

Mike Fiers took the loss for the A’s. He lasted three innings in his debut as Oakland’s opening day ace, pitching through Seattle’s five-run third inning but not coming out for the fourth.

“It was not a good job by me,” Fiers said of his outing and giving up a 2-1 lead on Santana’s blast.

He faced only seven batters his first two innings and threw only 22 pitches, but faded in the third inning and was chased after 58 pitches.

Gonzales fared better on the other side in his debut as pitching staff ace for the Mariners, going six innings, giving up three earned runs, striking out four and walking one. He exited with the lead despite giving up runs each of the first three innings, but settling down and facing only 10 batters his final three frames.

–By Sean Kramer, Field Level Media

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: EU flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Alissa de Carbonnel, Alastair Macdonald and Jean-Baptiste Vey

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union leaders will sound the alarm this week over the threat of EU elections in May being undermined by a coordinated campaign of fake news and disinformation by foreign powers.

A draft statement seen by Reuters on Wednesday, ahead of a leaders’ summit to take place in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, said they would call on governments to do more to protect the upcoming polls.

The draft statement is the latest sign of concerns over growing evidence, particularly since the U.S. presidential elections, that Russia has sought to sow division in Europe.

“Many of our nations, including France, have already been targeted by campaigns, attacks or manipulation,” an Elysee official said. “We have to increase our efforts at the European level … today our forces are scattered and not yet enough.”

The bloc’s heads of state will urge governments to share information on threats via a new warning system, launched by the bloc’s executive. They will also call for online platforms such as Facebook and Google to do more to remove misleading or illegal content.

So far efforts at the EU level have been limited by different election rules in each member state and qualms over how far regulators can go in responding to misleading content online, especially originating in its own member states.

The early warning system launched this month aims to help educate and speed responses by national authorities. Brussels has also set up its own fact-checking website.

“This is a societal challenge we are dealing with, it’s not a quick fix,” an EU official said, adding that the bloc’s mandate is to focus on threats from foreign actors.

A senior diplomat from an EU member state in the former Soviet bloc said nations bordering Russia have long been aware of the threat of disinformation but that other EU nations were finally waking up to the danger.

“It is now a priority to address the fragilities that our democratic systems may have,” the diplomat said.

Meanwhile a heated dispute between Brussels and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban over a media campaign EU officials have labeled fake news has raised concerns about the bloc’s ability to tackle outside threats when its own house is not in order.

Despite EU efforts, it will ultimately be up to national authorities to safeguard the elections, EU officials say.

(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel, Alastair Macdonald and Jean-Baptiste Vey; Editing by David Holmes)

Source: OANN

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukrainian comic actor and candidate in the upcoming presidential election, takes part in a production process of Servant of the People series in Kiev
FILE PHOTO: Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukrainian comic actor and candidate in the upcoming presidential election, takes part in a production process of Servant of the People series in Kiev, Ukraine March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

March 20, 2019

KIEV (Reuters) – Comic actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy has kept his lead in Ukraine’s presidential election race, according to an opinion poll published on Wednesday.

But support for the 41-year-old, a political novice, remains far below the level need to secure outright victory in the March 31 ballot, and most voters still do not expect him to become president, the SOCIS survey showed.

The poll by the Kiev-based research body showed Zelenskiy on 20.46 percent of votes, with incumbent Petro Poroshenko second on 13.25 percent and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko third on 9.50 percent.

A total of 39 candidates have registered for the election. If no candidate wins 50 percent, the top two will face each other in a run-off on April 21.

SOCIS said it interviewed 2,000 voters in all regions, except in annexed Crimea, from March 9 to March 14.

SOCIS said 25.5 percent of those it questioned expected Poroshenko to be re-elected, while 25.1 percent favored Zelenskiy to win, and 12.45 percent Tymoshenko.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Trump speaks while meeting with Ireland's Prime Minister Varadkar at the White House in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, March 14, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump, not one to shy away from a Twitter fight, intensified an online battle with senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway’s husband on Wednesday, calling George Conway a “husband from hell.”

Of all the brawls Trump has waded into, his back-and-forth with lawyer George Conway has been one of the more eyebrow-raising in Washington.

Trump relied heavily on Kellyanne Conway, a longtime Republican pollster and strategist, to help steer his presidential campaign to victory in 2016. She is a trusted member of his White House inner circle.

In a tweet, Trump wrote that George Conway is upset that he did not get a job in the Trump administration.

But the Washington Post quoted Conway – a litigation specialist with New York-based law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz – as saying he actually turned down an offer to head the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

In a morning tweet, Trump wrote, “George Conway, often referred to as Mr. Kellyanne Conway by those who know him, is VERY jealous of his wife’s success & angry that I, with her help, didn’t give him the job he so desperately wanted. I barely know him but just take a look, a stone cold LOSER & husband from hell!”

Trump has been expressing his irritation with George Conway in response to the lawyer’s recent suggestion that the president was suffering from a mental condition such as narcissistic personality disorder and is unfit to serve as president.

Conway suggested the diagnosis in response to a torrent of tweets unleashed by Trump last weekend laying bare his grievances with, among other topics, Fox News Channel’s weekend anchors and the late Senator John McCain.

Conway on Wednesday posted a brief response on Twitter commenting on Trump’s latest tirade: “You. Are. Nuts.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic appears before the Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic appears before the Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (“Mechanism”) ruling on a appeal of his 40 year sentence for war crimes in The Hague, Netherlands, March 20, 2019. Peter Dejong/Pool via REUTERS

March 20, 2019

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – U.N. appeals judges on Wednesday sentenced former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic to life in prison for genocide.

The appeals judges upheld Karadzic’s conviction for genocide over the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 during the Bosnian War and said the 40-year sentence ordered by trial judges was too light given the gravity of his crimes and the weight of his responsibility.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City
FILE PHOTO: Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference to announce a plan to strengthen finances of state oil firm Pemex, at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Romero

March 20, 2019

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The Mexican government is seeking a bilateral deal with the United States that includes a $10 billion development plan for Mexico and Central America aimed at addressing immigration, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday.

Lopez Obrador said the potential agreement, which would focus on generating employment so that more would-be migrants could find work at home, was discussed during a Tuesday night meeting with Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.

(Reporting by Miguel Angel Guteirrez; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Source: OANN

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet attends a session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva
FILE PHOTO: U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

March 20, 2019

GENEVA (Reuters) – The U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday that Venezuelan security forces, backed by pro-government militias, have cracked down on peaceful dissent, with excessive use of force, killings and torture documented by her office.

Bachelet, addressing the United Nations Human Rights Council, also voiced concern that the latest U.S. sanctions on financial transfers linked to the sale of Venezuelan oil “may contribute to aggravating the economic crisis”.

Venezuelan authorities had failed to acknowledge the extent and severity of the health and food crisis that has driven more than 3 million Venezuelans to flee abroad and they had adopted “insufficient” measures, she told the Geneva forum.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Tom Miles)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of a meeting in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of a meeting in Brussels, Belgium March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman -/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union executive is urging EU leaders this week to get tough on trade with Beijing and use their 2.4 trillion euro ($2.7 trillion) market in public tenders as leverage to pressure countries such as China to open up.

The bloc has sought to avoid taking sides in a multi-billion dollar trade war between Washington and Beijing, but has become increasingly frustrated by subsidies and state involvement in the Chinese economy, and what it sees as the slow pace of change.

European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen told Reuters that the time was gone when China, the EU’s second largest goods trading partner, could argue that it needed to protect its developing economy.

“The old narrative is absolutely obsolete,” he said in an interview.

EU leaders will debate relations with China over dinner at a summit on Thursday.

The Commission now wants to revive a proposal that could lead to the bloc limiting foreign firms’ access to public tenders if there is discrimination against EU firms in their home procurement market.

In such cases, a penalty surcharge of up to 20 percent would be applied to the foreign bids.

The Commission proposed its International Procurement Instrument (IPI) in 2012 and 2016, largely at the instigation of France, but faced resistance from several EU countries.

However, it believes there is more willingness now to be firm with China, notably after EU members late last year backed a system of screening foreign investments for threats to strategic technologies and infrastructure.

“Once they saw concrete acquisitions, everybody started to back the (screening) proposal,” Katainen said. “The same thing will happen with IPI as it’s a way to improve reciprocity.”

Neither the screening law nor the public procurement proposal mention China by name, but the Commission mentioned both in its 10-point action plan on EU-China relations, published last week.

A German EU diplomat welcomed the paper as a whole, calling it “comprehensive and courageous”. However, the northern EU members that are most enthusiastic about free trade fear that the measure smacks of protectionism and could harm taxpayers by shutting out cheaper Chinese providers, for instance.

The Commission says Europe needs to take a coordinated approach and that EU companies face the most discrimination in public procurement worldwide, citing Global Trade Alert data.

Of the 10 countries most discriminated against, five are European, with Germany at the top. However, China comes second, and more than 40 percent of the restrictive measures are applied in or by the United States.

Commission officials said the proposal had in mind restrictions in India, Indonesia, Russia and Turkey, but they would not be drawn on the U.S. Buy American Act at a time when the EU is trying to ease trade tensions with Washington.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; additional reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Source: OANN

A screen shows the trading info for The Walt Disney Company company on the floor of the NYSE in New York
A screen shows the logo and a ticker symbol for The Walt Disney Company on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 20, 2019

(Reuters) – Walt Disney Co closed its $71 billion acquisition of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc’s film and television assets on Wednesday, giving its upcoming streaming service a range of popular content as it takes on Netflix Inc.

The deal will expand Disney’s portfolio of some of the world’s most popular characters, uniting Mickey Mouse, Luke Skywalker and Marvel superheroes with Fox’s X-Men, “Avatar” and “The Simpsons” franchises.

The streaming service, Disney+, aims to make up for the continuing loss of subscribers from ESPN and other cable networks.

The completion of the Fox deal comes nearly a year after Disney won a bidding war against cable company Comcast Corp for the assets.

Disney also said Kevin Mayer and James Kapenstein have stepped down from its board.

Separately, Fox Corp debuted on the Nasdaq on Tuesday and named former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, Formula One Group Chief Executive Officer Chase Carey and two others to its board.

The newly spun-off media company, which will house assets including Fox News Channel and Fox Broadcast Network, is expected to bring in around $10 billion in annual revenue.

(Reporting by Akanksha Rana in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A Canadian dollar coin, commonly known as the
FILE PHOTO: A Canadian dollar coin, commonly known as the “Loonie”, is pictured in this illustration picture taken in Toronto January 23, 2015. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/File Photo

March 20, 2019

TORONTO (Reuters) – The Canadian dollar was little changed against the greenback on Wednesday ahead of an interest rate decision from the Federal Reserve and after Canada’s federal budget fell short of the amount of stimulus that might move the Bank of Canada.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, seeking to move past a political crisis threatening its re-election, lavished new spending on middle-class voters in its budget on Tuesday as it forecast a bigger fiscal deficit of C$19.8 billion in 2019-20.

The budget contained spending measures that could lift gross domestic product by 0.2 percent this year, which is “not enough to move the dial on Bank of Canada policy,” Sal Guatieri, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said in a note.

The market has shifted from expecting further rate hikes from the Bank of Canada, which has tightened 125 basis points since July 2017, to seeing potential for a rate cut as data showed a slowdown in the country’s economy.

Canada said on Tuesday it would issue nearly 20 percent more bonds in the coming fiscal year to help the Liberal government fund its spending programs.

At 9:31 a.m. (1331 GMT), the Canadian dollar was trading nearly unchanged at 1.3321 to the greenback, or 75.07 U.S. cents. The currency traded in a range of 1.3316 to 1.3345.

The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday is expected to hold interest rates steady, shave the number of hikes projected for the rest of the year, and release long-awaited details of a plan to end the monthly reduction of its massive balance sheet.

The price of oil, one of Canada’s major exports, was dragged down by concerns about global economic growth as the U.S.-China trade dispute rumbled on, but receiving some support from tightened supply. U.S. crude oil futures were down 0.3 percent at $58.86 a barrel.

Canadian government bond prices were little changed across the yield curve, with the 10-year rising 3 Canadian cents to yield 1.725 percent.

Canada’s inflation report for February and January retail sales data are due on Friday.

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Source: OANN

The logo of Alibaba Group is seen inside DingTalk office, an offshoot of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, in Hangzhou
The logo of Alibaba Group is seen inside DingTalk office, an offshoot of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China July 20, 2018. Picture taken July 20, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song

March 20, 2019

(Reuters) – Foxconn Ventures Holdco has sold $398.4 million worth of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s shares, in a block trade in the open market managed by Goldman Sachs Group Inc, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

Foxconn sold 2.2 million Alibaba shares on Wednesday at $181.10 per share, the sources said, asking not to be identified ahead of any official announcement.

Foxconn and Goldman Sachs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Joshua Franklin in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Source: OANN

A relative carries a portrait photograph of Ethiopian Airlines pilot Yared Getachew as he mourns at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town Bishoftu
A relative carries a portrait photograph of Ethiopian Airlines pilot Yared Getachew as he mourns at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town Bishoftu, near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 14, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

March 20, 2019

By Maggie Fick

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – The dreams of the two young men soared as high as the Ethiopian Airlines planes they proudly flew.

Handsome, cosmopolitan Yared Getachew was to marry another plane captain this year. Studious, serious Ahmednur Mohammed rented his first apartment with his maiden paycheck in February.

Their lives, along with 155 others, ended when Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 plunged into a field moments after take-off in a still unexplained disaster.

Yared, 29, was captain; Ahmednur, 25, his first officer.

Yared was a popular and brilliant student who became the airline’s youngest ever captain at 27, said his father Getachew Tessema, a retired plastic surgeon and dentist.

He spoke to Reuters after a ceremony at the Kenyan embassy in Addis Ababa to honor the 32 Kenyan victims from the crash. Yared’s mother was Kenyan, making him a citizen of two nations.

“I’m very bitter,” 80-year-old Getachew said, sitting hunched with his head in his hand as he reflected on Yared’s shattered marriage plans.

“At least if he had had a child,” he trailed off painfully as friends nodded in understanding.

Yared’s brother Meno Getachew Tessema, 39, sat next to his father, sometimes putting an arm around him as the ceremony progressed. Yared visited Meno’s family in Toronto when the young pilot came to train on flight simulators in Miami twice in the past two years.

By the time of the crash, Yared had amassed 8,100 hours of flying experience, the airline said, unusual at his age but no surprise to the family. They remembered him as a committed student who shone at school as a child in his mother’s native Kenya and as a teenager in his father’s home country Ethiopia.

He went straight into Ethiopian Airlines’ Aviation Academy after high school. “His dream was to be a pilot,” said Meno, a corporate lawyer. “He was diligent, hardworking, he had a consistent work ethic … he was a rising star of Ethiopian Airlines.”

ARCHITECT TURNED PILOT

Sitting next to Yared in the cockpit on March 10 was Ahmednur Mohammed.

While the pair’s professionalism has been lauded, air safety experts fear they – and pilots in a similar crash in Indonesia in October – may not have been sufficiently versed in a new automated anti-stall system in the Boeing 737 MAX series.

The middle of three sons of a small business owner, friends from the sleepy eastern city of Dire Dawa remember Ahmednur as unusually driven to study when others would spend afternoons relaxing in the shade, chewing the narcotic leaf qat.

He spent five years at college studying his first love – architecture – where he earned the nickname 5-10 for his legendary 17-hour library stints, and received gentle ribbing for the neatness of his room.

Even as a student, Ahmednur’s skill earned him some small interior design commissions, friends said.

But the dutiful son feared he would not be able to make enough money as an architect to help his family, said his father Mohammed Omar, a white-haired 60-year-old in a carefully pressed worn suit.

So he switched to aviation school and completed two years of training. After school hours, he would visit a friend whose brother was a pilot and sit in the living room, running through cockpit checklists and motions on the couch, the friend said. He graduated with a commercial pilot’s license, the airline said.

“He would call me every three days. He would talk about his plans, he said that he was going to help his family,” his father told Reuters after Islamic prayers in Ahmednur’s memory at a relative’s house on the outskirts of Addis Ababa.

Last Friday, mosques in both the capital and Dire Dawa held prayers for Ahmednur, the family said.

After a few months rest, he began working for Ethiopian Airlines, visiting other nations — Israel, South Africa, Burkina Faso — and earning his first salary.

He adored it, said his brother Menur Mohammed.

Ahmednur amassed 350 flying hours and had just started living alone for the first time when the family heard his plane had gone down.

“It took us long to believe he was dead,” his cousin Imran Mohammed, 30, told Reuters.

“He was so excited to live on his own.”

The family wants the airline or government to build a bridge or a school, something tangible to commemorate Ahmednur: pilot, architect, son. “We want to see something in his name, to remember him,” his father said softly.

(Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

Source: OANN

A cement plant of Mexican cement maker CEMEX is pictured in Monterrey
FILE PHOTO: A cement plant of Mexican cement maker CEMEX is pictured in Monterrey, Mexico, August 19, 2018. Picture taken August 19, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

March 20, 2019

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s Cemex, one of the world’s largest cement producers, expects its consolidated volume growth this year to be similar to that of 2018, Chief Executive Fernando Gonzalez told investors at an event in New York on Wednesday.

“We expect our consolidated volume growth across all of our products more or less the same, similar growth that we saw” in 2018 compared to 2017, he said.

In 2018, the company reported consolidated cement and ready-mix volume growth of between 2 to 3 percent, and top-line growth of about 6 percent.

(Reporting by David Alire Garcia and Noe Torres; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Source: OANN

Brandon Flowers of The Killers performs at a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction show in Cleveland, Ohio
FILE PHOTO: Brandon Flowers of The Killers performs at a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction show in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., 14/04/2018. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

March 20, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Rapper Jay-Z, singer Miley Cyrus and rockers The Killers are among the stars booked to perform at an event marking the 50th anniversary in August of the Woodstock festival, one of popular music’s most historic moments.

Woodstock 50, which will be held Aug. 16-18 in Watkins Glen in upstate New York state, 150 miles away from the site of the festival, will also feature the likes of Imagine Dragons, Chance the Rapper, The Lumineers and Janelle Monae.

Some veterans of the 1969 festival – John Fogerty, Canned Heat and Santana – will also perform, according to the event’s website.

Billed as “three days of peace and music”, the Aug. 15-18, 1969 Woodstock festival saw the likes of The Who, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin take the stage before around 400,000 people, an event that became synonymous with the 1960s counterculture and anti-war movement.

The concerts were held on a dairy farm in Bethel, New York.

The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, which owns the historic site, previously announced a separate Aug. 15-18 event marking the anniversary.

(Reporting By Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A rig contracted by Apache Corp drills a horizontal well in a search for oil and natural gas in the Permian Basin in West Texas
FILE PHOTO: A rig contracted by Apache Corp drills a horizontal well in a search for oil and natural gas in the Wolfcamp shale located in the Permian Basin in West Texas, U.S. on October 29, 2013. REUTERS/Terry Wade/File Photo

March 20, 2019

(Reuters) – Next-day natural gas prices for Wednesday at the Waha hub in West Texas plunged to a record low due to an equipment failure in New Mexico that stranded gas in the Permian basin.

Spot prices at the Waha hub collapsed to an average of just 12 cents per million British thermal units (mmBtu) for Wednesday.

That fell below the contract’s prior all-time low of 21 cents in February and compares with an average of $1.72/mmBtu so far this year, $2.10 in 2018 and a five-year (2014-2018) average of $2.80, according to data available on the Refinitiv Eikon going back to 1991.

The equipment failure was on El Paso Natural Gas Pipeline Co LLC’s Lordsburg and Florida compressor stations. That failure, which caused El Paso to declare a force majeure, cut the operational capacity through the stations by about 0.2 billion cubic feet per day to around 0.4 bcfd starting on Tuesday.

El Paso, which is a unit of Kinder Morgan Inc, said the reduction will remain in effect until further notice.

The Permian is the biggest oil-producing shale basin in the United States and since much of that oil comes out of the ground with gas, it is also the nation’s second-biggest shale gas producing region, behind Appalachia in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

With production of both oil and gas more than doubling to record highs over the past five years, the pipeline infrastructure in the Permian has not been able to keep up with the rapid growth in output.

That has caused the basin’s existing oil and gas pipes to become constrained and forced some producers to burn or flare off some of the gas associated with oil production.

Those gas constraints have trapped gas in the Permian and depressed Waha prices, boosting the discount Waha trades at below the U.S. Henry Hub benchmark in Louisiana.

That spread reached $2.79/mmBtu for Wednesday, its widest since December. That compares with an average discount of $1.21 so far this year, $1.06 in 2018 and a five-year (2014-2018) average of 34 cents.

Several new pipelines are being built or developed to enable more gas to flow out of the Permian, including Oneok Inc’s WesTex and Roadrunner projects, Kinder Morgan’s Gulf Coast Express and Permian Highway projects and NAmerico Energy Holdings’ Pecos Trail.

Drillers will, however, have to wait until late 2019 and beyond for those projects to enter service.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Source: OANN


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