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Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney takes part in a General Affairs Council on Article 50, in Brussels
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney takes part in a General Affairs Council on Article 50, in Brussels, Belgium March 19, 2019 REUTERS/Yves Herman

March 19, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Britain must present a detailed plan how to push the agreement on its withdrawal from the European Union through parliament to get the EU’s approval for an extension of the March 29th membership deadline, Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting of EU ministers on Brexit, Coveney said there was a lot of concern among EU countries about the uncertainty the lack of a decision from Britain has created.

Unless Britain asks for and is granted an extension of the negotiations on the terms of its exit from the bloc, it will crash out on March 29th without an agreement, which both sides expect would lead to chaos and a sever economic shock.

But Coveney said that EU leaders, who will discuss Brexit on Thursday afternoon at a summit in Brussels, would need some convincing to grant an extension of the talks that have already been going on for two years.

“Any plan will have to be very persuasive on how they (Britain) will use the time. If there is a request for an extension it will have to be accompanied by a very detailed plan on what they will do to get majority support,” he said.

“It is very clear that EU do not want to grant an extension that brings us back to same point as today in three months time,” Coveney said.

He said the EU would not re-open the already agreed withdrawal deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May and subsequently rejected twice by her parliament, but that the EU was open to changes in the political declaration on future relations tht accompanies the withdrawal treaty.

(Reporting By Thomas Escritt, writing by Jan Strupczewski)

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Spain's Foreign Minister Josep Borrell attends Arab league and EU summit, in Sharm el-Sheikh
FILE PHOTO: Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell attends a summit between Arab league and European Union member states, in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, February 24, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

March 19, 2019

WARSAW (Reuters) – Spain thinks the EU should be ready to offer Britain an extension of the Brexit process, but London must first explain how it will seek a new agreement, Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said at an event in Warsaw on Tuesday.

“To move to another kind of agreement they need time and I think we should be ready to give them more time. But they need to do something more than that, they need to explain how they are going to look for a new agreement,” Borrell said, speaking at the College of Europe campus in Warsaw.

Britain would need to organize European Parliament elections if there is no agreement in the short-term, he added.

(Reporting by Alan Charlish; Writing by Joanna Plucinska; Editing by Peter Graff)

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Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visit the New Zealand House to sign the book of condolence on behalf of the Royal Family in London
FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visit the New Zealand House to sign the book of condolence on behalf of the Royal Family in London, Britain March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

March 19, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife Meghan paid their respects on Tuesday for the victims of last week’s mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in which 50 people were killed.

The couple visited the High Commission of New Zealand in London, where they signed a book of condolence on behalf of the British royal family. They also laid small bouquets of flowers outside the building, known as New Zealand House.

Harry and Meghan, who married last May and are expecting their first child this spring, visited New Zealand late last year as part of their Pacific tour.

Fifty people were killed and dozens injured when a gunman opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch during Friday prayers.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday.

(Reporting By Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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FILE PHOTO: A coffee grower selects coffee fruits on a canvas in Chinchina
FILE PHOTO: A coffee grower selects coffee fruits on a canvas in Chinchina, Colombia November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez/File Photo

March 19, 2019

By Julia Symmes Cobb and Ayenat Mersie

BOGOTA/NEW YORK (Reuters) – A proposal by Colombian coffee growers’ federation that producer countries sell their high-quality harvests untethered from the New York market price could encourage buyers to look for alternative providers, importers and exporters said.

The federation in late February said it would discuss a possible unlinking from the New York benchmark price with other producers of high-quality arabica and buyers in an effort to sell coffee above production costs.

Prices on the New York market have hovered at or below $1 per pound so far in 2019. Last week, the most-active ICE arabica futures contract bottomed at a 13-year low of 94.65 cents per pound.

Brazil harvested a record-large coffee crop last year, and is on track to produce another massive harvest this crop year, despite it being the off-year in its biennial production cycle.

Colombia, which prices much of its coffee at a differential to futures, is proposing an unlinking that would set its prices between $1.40 and $1.50 per pound. The Colombian federation is already beginning discussions with other producers, it said.

But despite the proposal’s popularity with struggling growers, an alternative price could have buyers looking elsewhere.

“There was a time a while ago, when Colombia was so far above everyone else, quality-wise,” said Shawn Hackett, president of Hackett Financial Advisors, a Florida-based futures brokerage and research firm specializing in agricultural commodities.

“Nowadays, there’s some really good quality in Brazil, really good quality in Central America, in Africa.”

PAST EFFORTS

Colombia’s federation has long made the case to large buyers that it is in their interest to ensure producers earn a profit.

Colombian farmers need to make 760,000 pesos ($245.84) per 125-kg (275-lb) shipment on the domestic market to meet production costs, the federation has said. Prices were at 692,000 pesos per shipment on Monday.

Coffee price cartels have been attempted before, but failed.

An effort in 2000 to get coffee producers to hold back 20 percent of output until prices climbed to $1.05 per pound was scrapped after just a few producer countries – including Colombia – agreed to participate.

The higher the target price, the greater the incentive for those outside a price agreement to increase output, a United Nations report on the effort said.

Successful control of coffee prices will also require the participation of importers, who have largely ignored requests to pay more, despite warnings that farmers will switch crops if they cannot turn a profit.

Due to slumping prices and delays in certifying organic beans, coffee producers in Peru, for example, have been seen abandoning their crop to work on plantations that grow coca, the main ingredient in cocaine, the federation there said recently.

In 2013, some Colombian farmers even floated switching from arabica coffee – which is a smoother-tasting, more expensive bean – to the cheaper-to-grow robusta, which is used more in instant coffee.

“If the spread between the market and the prices that the Colombian exporters are trying to charge gets big enough, you will probably see a lot of people switch over to other origins,” said a U.S. importer. “People will become less dependent upon Colombian coffee.”

Colombian exporters agree.

“I don’t think the proposal is realistic,” said Giancarlo Ghiretti, of specialty exporter Caravela Coffee. “Selling large amounts of coffee outside of the market is difficult and risky. Large buyers will look to replace Colombia with other origins.”

The U.S. National Coffee Association said its members, who include major chains Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee & Tea, agree growth requires stability for farmers, but price controls are generally unsuccessful.

“While the pressure to find quick economic fixes is understandable due to current market dynamics, history shows that policies designed to control price ultimately hurt those they are meant to protect,” the industry group’s president Bill Murray said in an email.

Colombia produced 13.6 million 60-kg bags of washed arabica last year, more than any other country but down 4.5 percent from 2017. Dry weather is expected to help the crop recover this year.

(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb in Bogota and Ayenat Mersie in New York; editing by Helen Murphy, Dan Flynn and G Crosse)

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French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner attends a ceremony at the Police Prefecture in Paris
FILE PHOTO: French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner attends a ceremony at the Police Prefecture in Paris, France, December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

March 19, 2019

By Julie Carriat

PARIS (Reuters) – Opposition leaders accused French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, an ally of President Emmanuel Macron, of incompetence after he said on Tuesday he was unaware of policing decisions made during rioting on the Champs Elysees.

After another flare-up of violence in Saturday’s yellow vest protest, which left the landmark Paris avenue looking like a battleground, calls for heads to roll have grown in France, despite its traditional tolerance for street protests. Rioters set fire to a bank and ransacked stores.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe sacked Paris police chief Michel Delpuech on Monday and two other officials, his chief of staff Pierre Gaudin and Frederic Dupuch of the local police force, a police source said on Tuesday.

But politicians piled pressure on Castaner who has been in the job for five months. He was booed in parliament on Tuesday, before an expected grilling from lawmakers.

“The Paris police chief is only a fall guy supposed to cover for Castaner’s blatant incompetence,” Jordan Bardella, far-right Marine Le Pen’s candidate for European elections said on Twitter.

Castaner faced criticism from opposition politicians after a video of him dancing in a trendy Paris nightclub on the night of the violence surfaced in French media.

Castaner told French radio a tougher police approach, decided after rioters looted shops on the Champs Elysees in early December, had not been applied on March 16 as he had ordered.

He said he was only made aware that senior police officials had instructed their teams on the ground to hold back on using flash-balls when he visited a police station near the Champs Elysees on Sunday.

France has long taken a tolerant approach to protests, farmers have poured manure in front of ministries and trade unions have held creative demonstrations.

But the violent, balaclava-clad protesters among the yellow vest demonstrators for such a sustained period has forced the government to introduce increasingly tough policing tactics.

This month, United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called for an investigation into the possible excessive use of force by police during the protests, adding to criticism from the European Parliament and national human rights bodies.

This criticism had contributed to “inhibiting” police ranks, Castaner suggested.

“There was a form of inhibition. Some officials in the hierarchy, some police officers have doubts. Such doubt is not acceptable when you’re faced with ultra-violent behavior,” Castaner said.

Macron’s office and Castaner denied French media reports that the president had threatened to fire his minister.

What began as a movement against a since-scrapped fuel tax hike and the high cost of living, the yellow vest protests have become a broader movement against Macron, his reforms and elitism.

Even before Saturday’s destruction, insurance companies had registered 170 million euros of damage since the start of the yellow vest weekly marches in mid-November.

(Additionnal reporting by Sarah White, Emmanuel Jarry, Marine Pennetier and Simon Carraud, Editing by Michel Rose and Janet Lawrence)

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Shoppers carry shopping bags as they take care of their last-minute Christmas holiday gift purchases outside department stores in Paris
FILE PHOTO: Shoppers carry shopping bags as they take care of their last-minute Christmas holiday gift purchases outside department stores in Paris, France, December 23, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

March 19, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – French quarterly growth will firm in the first half the year as consumer spending benefits from improving household incomes and recovering business confidence after protests at the end of last year, the INSEE statistics agency said on Tuesday.

The euro zone’s second-biggest economy is set to post growth of 0.4 percent in both the first and second quarters, up from 0.3 percent in the final three months of last year, INSEE forecast in its quarterly economic outlook.

The economy would have grown 0.4 percent at the end of last year as well if it were not for the impact of the yellow vest anti-government unrest, which INSEE estimated at 0.1 percentage point.

Protests in December saw some of the worst street violence in Paris in decades with rioters rampaging through upmarket neighborhoods, smashing store windows and burning cars.

With the exception of a flare-up last weekend, the violence has largely subsided since President Emmanuel Macron offered concessions in December worth more than 10 billion euros ($11.3 billion) in a package intended to boost the incomes of the poorest workers and pensioners.

INSEE said higher incomes would help consumer spending rebound 0.5 percent in the first quarter after flatlining at the end of last year in the face of the unrest, which forced many stores in central Paris to be boarded up during the peak holiday shopping period.

Business investment was also expected to recover in the first half of the year as confidence firmed albeit not to rates seen before a slowdown at the end of last year.

INSEE saw a limited impact to the French economy from Britain’s departure from the European Union, in theory still planned for the end of the month.

It estimated an orderly Brexit would knock a cumulative 0.3 percent off French growth over several quarters, while the impact could be as much as 0.6 percent if London failed to reach a Brexit deal with the EU and tariffs were raised.

That was much less than impact INSEE estimated for Ireland (-1.4 to -4.1 percent) and Germany (-0.5 percent to -0.9 percent), as both countries are closer trade partners with Britain that France.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas and Myriam Rivet; Editing by Alison Williams)

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FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: European Union flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium March 19, 2019 REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

March 19, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU member states should be empowered to scrutinize each other’s democratic track record, Germany and Belgium said on Tuesday, in an attempt to beef up the bloc’s defenses against nationalist, populist governments flouting its key principles.

The proposal, made at a meeting of EU ministers, coincides with high-profile EU investigations against Poland and Hungary for undermining the independence of their courts and media, while Romania is accused of rolling back on anti-graft reforms.

Germany and Belgium say their proposal would create space for member states to flag rule-of-law concerns early on rather than wait – as at present – for problems to escalate enough in a given country to trigger the EU’s existing mechanism – the complex and multi-stage Article 7.

The EU has invoked Article 7 to investigate concerns that Poland’s nationalist government has undermined the rule of law. The process could theoretically lead to Poland losing its voting rights in the EU, but it has now lain largely dormant for months.

EU states have been unable to agree since last autumn on how to proceed with a similar inquiry into Hungary.

Acknowledging the hurdles their proposal is likely to face, Germany and Belgium suggested the new screening procedure would only be voluntary and carry no sanction.

“The EU is a union of values. It is not only about the single market,” Germany’s EU minister Michael Roth said in presenting the plan for an annual peer review. “Everybody has to adhere to those values, they are not just nice-to-have.”

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said he hoped the new mechanism would be fleshed out by the end of the year. It was swiftly backed by the Netherlands.

The health and resilience of EU democracies are in focus ahead of European Parliament elections in May, in which pro-EU parties face off against eurosceptics who promote nationalist and populist policies that at times go against the liberal democratic values of the bloc.

The EU’s main center-right group, the European People’s Party, is due to decide on Wednesday whether to expel the Fidesz party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban over his anti-EU, anti-immigration campaigns.

Both Warsaw and Budapest have sometimes yielded to EU pressure, offering concessions in their push to centralize more powers. But the EU has been largely unsuccessful in preventing them from tightening controls on the judiciary, media and civil society groups.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska and Peter Maushagen, Editing by Gareth Jones)

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glossier1
Undated handout image of Glossier products. REUTERS/Glossier/Handout

March 19, 2019

(Reuters) – Glossier Inc, the online cosmetics company with a cult following among millennials, has raised $100 million in funding led by Sequoia Capital, as it readies new products after sales doubled last year.

The funding gives the company a valuation of $1.2 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, placing it among a clutch of billion-dollar makeup brands that have grown rapidly thanks to the social-media celebrity of their founders.

Kylie Cosmetics, Pat McGrath Labs, Jessica Alba’s Honest Beauty and Huda Beauty are other brands with a valuation nearing or above $1 billion, according to media reports.

Known for their “millennial pink” packaging, Glossier products have been worn by Beyonce, Chrissy Teigen, Miranda Kerr and other celebrities. With nearly 2 million Instagram followers, the brand has grabbed eyeballs with ads that feature everyday people, products that cover a variety of skin tones and an emphasis on a natural, “no-makeup” appearance.

The company, launched by U.S. lifestyle blogger Emily Weiss in 2014 as an online business, has grown to over 200 employees and last year surpassed $100 million in revenue from its direct-to-consumer line, it said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Glossier launched “Play,” a brand that sells more colorful, flashier makeup, as part of efforts to grow its customer base.

Glossier also announced it had hired Vanessa Wittman, a former finance executive at Dropbox and Yahoo-owner Oath Inc, as its new chief financial officer.

Its latest funding round, a series D, included some existing investors as well as new investors Tiger Global Management and Spark Capital.

“Beauty consumers increasingly want to interact with brands and purchase products online,” said Megan Quinn, general partner at Spark Capital. “The industry’s conglomerates are ill-equipped to retrofit their businesses to this new reality.”

Glossier was valued at $390 million after a $52 million funding round one year ago, according to PitchBook Data.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar)

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The British union flag and the EU flag are seen flying near the Houses of Parliament, in London, Britain
The British union flag and the EU flag are seen flying near the Houses of Parliament, in London, Britain, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

March 19, 2019

By Elizabeth Piper

LONDON (Reuters) – In a week when Brexit was plunged into deeper uncertainty, eurosceptics in Theresa May’s Conservative Party are eyeing their dream scenario – a new prime minister and a new deal to leave the European Union.

After parliament’s speaker made it even harder for May to get her EU divorce agreement approved by reluctant lawmakers, some pro-Brexit Conservatives have embraced the possibility of a delay, hailing it as a chance to reset talks under a new leader.

It is a risky strategy – a weakened May has been calling members of the so-called European Research Group of eurosceptic lawmakers to warn them that without her deal, they risk losing Brexit to pro-EU lawmakers in the parliament.

And by no means all eurosceptics will back their calls – others fear a long extension could risk Brexit and further destabilize a deeply divided and increasingly angry Britain, which voted 52-48 percent to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.

But some are vocal in their desires, saying after becoming numb to the warnings, threats and promises directed by an increasingly desperate team at the prime minister’s Downing Street office, they now see only one solution – May, and her Brexit deal, must go.

“From my perspective, I would prefer a lengthy extension to a transitional arrangement because it gives us more leverage,” said a Conservative former minister and Brexit supporter.

“I think that inside the EU we could have much more heft and particularly, as is probably the case, the prime minister isn’t around too much longer and there is a successor … Under a new leader we would say: ‘well, you know that Withdrawal Agreement that we said we were happy with, well we’re not now’.”

According to Brexit supporter Andrew Bridgen, May’s parliamentary enforcers, or whips, have promised some Conservatives that the prime minister would leave office in return for their support for the deal.

But that offer is not good enough.

While his first preference is to leave with no deal on March 29 to avoid further splits in the Conservative Party, he said: “Then I prefer a long extension to a bad deal because at least we’ll be able to get out.”

“As soon as we sign that Withdrawal Agreement we can’t get out, we’re never out, because they’ve got a veto on us getting out,” Bridgen told Reuters.

DEAL, NO DEAL, NO BREXIT

May has been trying to resuscitate her Brexit deal, which sees close economic ties with the EU, after lawmakers crushed it first in January by the largest margin in modern history and then again last week by 149 votes.

Fighting against those who describe the deal – which Brexit supporters fear could trap Britain in the EU’s economic sphere indefinitely – as “dead”, May and other members of her team have been phoning and messaging to try to rally support.

Eurosceptics have been approached, the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May’s minority government, has been locked in talks with ministers and opposition Labour lawmakers have been enticed with investment offers in an attempt to win over parliament for a third vote.

But Speaker John Bercow raised another barrier on Monday when he ruled that the government could not present the same deal again and it would have to be changed in some way.

Against some expectations, the ruling boosted many eurosceptics. While Downing Street wanted to portray it as a threat to Britain’s departure from the EU, pro-Brexit lawmakers saw it as a potential existential threat to May’s administration.

“All I know for certain are three things: May has got to go, we are going to have a new prime minister and I can’t see us getting out of this issue without a general election,” said Bridgen. “Brexit now depends on who the new prime minister is.”

May has consistently said she does not want a new election, something that can only be triggered by a successful no confidence vote against the government or the government asking for, and securing, parliament’s approval for a new poll.

For some lawmakers, particularly those who won their place in parliament with only a small majority, the prospect of an election is uncomfortable.

“I am very anxious that if we go into a long extension we might have an election, the pressure to revisit the question (of Brexit) increases, the whole thing becomes at risk, and also there’s a massive political price,” said another ex-minister.

“You’re telling 17.4 million people who voted to leave that five years later you’ll still be a member. You can understand the fury. It would do real damage to both parties but in particular the Conservatives, as the government that failed to deliver it.”

(Additional reporting by William James; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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The Citigroup Inc logo is seen at the SIBOS banking and financial conference in Toronto
FILE PHOTO: The Citigroup Inc (Citi) logo is seen at the SIBOS banking and financial conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada October 19, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

March 19, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) said on Tuesday it has fined Citigroup $25 million for violating the Fair Housing Act after it denied some borrowers preferential rates on the basis of their race, color or other factors.

The OCC found that the bank’s program to provide eligible mortgage loan customers either reduced closing costs or an interest rate reduction had control weakness. As a result of these problems, some bank borrowers did not receive the benefit for which they were eligible, the OCC said.

(Reporting by Michelle Price)

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Dominique Auzias, co-founder of the Petit Fute French touristic guide book, poses during an interview with Reuters for the launching of their North Korea guide book in Paris
Dominique Auzias, co-founder of the Petit Fute French touristic guide book, poses during an interview with Reuters for the launching of their North Korea guide book in Paris, France, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

March 19, 2019

By John Irish and Noémie Olive

PARIS (Reuters) – A French publisher has produced a rare guide to North Korea, highlighting its history, cultural wealth and beautiful landscapes but advising tourists not to take the politically sensitive book with them.

Tourism is one of the few remaining reliable sources of foreign income for North Korea, after the U.N. imposed sanctions targeting 90 percent of its $3 billion annual exports including commodities, textiles and seafood.

Tensions over North Korea’s tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles spiked on the Korean peninsular last year and there were fears of a U.S. military response to North Korea’s threat to develop a weapon capable of hitting the United States.

“There are a lot of people that are interested in this country be it for nuclear and military reasons, but also economically so … it’s important to provide information,” said Dominique Auzias, president of the Petit Fute, which publishes some 800 guides.

“As it’s a country that’s closed and forbidden everybody dreams of going there,” he said.

Some 400 French tourists visit the country each year with trips costing about 2,000 euros ($2,267).

The reclusive communist state has no official diplomatic relations with France.

Talks in June last year between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provided a detente even if in recent weeks tensions have once again flared.

North Korean authorities would probably confiscate the printed edition given some of the material, Auzias said.

“You don’t go for adventure, but to discover,” he said.

The guide, which took three years to put together, touches little on where to stay or eat because accessing the country as a tourist can only be done through specific travel agents who determine what visitors see.

In some cases however they respond to requests and Auzias said the guide helps people decide what they would like to see.

It makes clear it is imperative to stick to the country’s strict rules or face dire consequences as American student Otto Warmbier did in 2016 when he was sentenced to 15 years of forced labor for trying to steal a propaganda poster in his hotel.

He was returned to the United States in a coma 17 months later, and died shortly after. A coroner said he died from lack of oxygen and blood to the brain.

“The first time I went 10-12 years ago I was proud because I was one of the rare French citizens to get in … but my second moment of happiness was about three weeks later when I left because it was suffocating and mind-boggling,” Auzias said.

(Reporting by John Irish and Noemeie Olive; Editing by Bate Felix and Alexandra Hudson)

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French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire attends the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris
FILE PHOTO: French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire attends the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, France, November 27, 2018. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

March 19, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – The French economy should grow about 1.4 percent this year, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Tuesday, revising down the forecast of 1.7 percent growth in this year’s budget.

Le Maire told the Senate’s law and economic affairs commissions that the yellow vest anti-government unrest had in the short-term trimmed 0.2 percentage points off growth in 2018 and 2019.

“Growth should be about 1.4 percent in 2019, a number that I will confirm when the stability program is presented,” Le Maire told senators in a hearing on the impact of the protests.

The government usually updates its growth estimate in April when it sends its annual stability program to the European Commission.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas and Yann Le Guernigou; Editing by Bate Felix)

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U.S. President Trump welcomes Brazilian President Bolsonaro at the White House in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to the White House in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

March 19, 2019

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White House Social Media Director Scavino awaits start of joint news conference at the White House in Washington
FILE PHOTO: White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino awaits the start of a joint news conference between U.S. President Donald Trump and Poland’s President Andrzej Duda in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., September 18, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

March 19, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he will look into Facebook’s apparent decision to block public comments by White House social media director Dan Scavino.

Scavino posted a screen shot late on Monday of a message from Facebook saying he was temporarily blocked from making public comments because some of his comments had been reported as spam.

“Dear Facebook—AMAZING. WHY ARE YOU STOPPING ME from replying to comments followers have left me – on my own Facebook Page!!?? People have the right to know. Why are you silencing me??? Please LMK!” Scavino said in his post.

The message from Facebook included links labeled “This is a mistake” and “OK.” It was not clear if Scavino reported the possible mistake to Facebook or if he was still blocked.

Trump pounced on the issue. “I will be looking into this!” Trump said in a Twitter post.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trump accused social media platforms Facebook, YouTube and Twitter of favoring his Democratic opponents over him and his fellow Republicans. Alphabet Inc’s Google owns YouTube.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Steve Orlofsky)

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EU chief Brexit negotiator Barnier holds a news conference after a General Affairs Council on Article 50 in Brussels
European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier holds a news conference after a General Affairs Council on Article 50 in Brussels, Belgium March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

March 19, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – An extension of Brexit talks beyond the March 29th deadline would only make sense if it increased the chances of the already agreed deal being ratified by Britain, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Tuesday.

Barnier said that after two years of talks with Britain on its withdrawal from the bloc, the key moment has now come for London to make up its mind and end the genuine uncertainty that its lack of decision on the way forward has created.

“Does an extension increase the chances of ratification of Withdrawal Agreement? What would be the purpose and outcome? How can we ensure that, at the end of a possible extension, we are not back in the same situation as today?” Barnier told a news conference.

“If Theresa May requests an extension before the European Council on Thursday, it will be for the 27 leaders to assess the reason and usefulness […] EU leaders will need a concrete plan from the UK in order to be able to make an informed decision,” he said.

(Reporting By Gabriela Baczynska, writing by Jan Strupczewski)

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FILE PHOTO: United States diplomat Elliott Abrams listens during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council called to vote on a U.S. draft resolution calling for free and fair presidential elections in Venezuela at U.N. headquarters in New York
FILE PHOTO: United States diplomat Elliott Abrams listens during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council called to vote on a U.S. draft resolution calling for free and fair presidential elections in Venezuela at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

March 19, 2019

ROME (Reuters) – Talks between the United States and Russia over the crisis in Venezuela were positive and substantive but the two sides were still divided over the legitimacy of President Nicolas Maduro, U.S. special representative Elliott Abrams said on Tuesday.

“No, we did not come to a meeting of minds, but I think the talks were positive in the sense that both sides emerged with a better understanding of the other’s views,” Abrams said, adding that both sides had agreed on the depth of the crisis.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Crispian Balmer)

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FILE PHOTO: Italian Deputy Prime Minister and right-wing League party leader Matteo Salvini attends a news conference at the Foreign Press Club in Rome
FILE PHOTO: Italian Deputy Prime Minister and right-wing League party leader Matteo Salvini attends a news conference at the Foreign Press Club in Rome, Italy December 10, 2018. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

March 19, 2019

By Crispian Balmer

ROME (Reuters) – Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said on Tuesday he would not let an Italian-flagged charity ship disembark 49 Africans rescued in the Mediterranean, setting up a fresh confrontation with humanitarian groups over migration.

The Mare Jonio picked up the migrants, including 12 minors, on Monday after their rubber boat started to sink in the central Mediterranean, some 42 miles (68 km) off the coast of Libya.

The vessel headed straight for the nearby Italian island of Lampedusa but was not granted permission to dock and is currently sailing close to land, awaiting further instructions.

Salvini, who heads the anti-immigrant League party, has told non-governmental organizations that Italy’s ports are closed to them, accusing them of playing into the hands of human traffickers — which they have denied.

“Italy must not give in to blackmail by a ship run by the social centers,” Salvini said on Twitter, referring to left-wing groups that have helped finance the Mare Jonio.

The collective that organized the sea rescue, “Mediterranea”, said it had operated in accordance with international human rights and maritime law. “Italy must indicate a safe haven,” it said in a statement.

New arrivals to Italy have plummeted since Salvini took office last June, with just 348 migrants coming so far this year, according to official data, down 94 percent on the same period in 2018 and down 98 percent on 2017.

His closed-port policy has helped support for his League party double since March 2018 elections, with Italians backing his uncompromising stance after almost 650,000 migrants came to Italy from North Africa between 2014 and early 2018.

However, humanitarian groups say his actions have driven up deaths at sea and left many migrants languishing in overcrowded, dangerous Libyan detention centers.

Mediterranea said its rescue operation had saved the migrants either from death or from being picked up by Libyan coastguards and “taken back to suffer again the torture and horror from which they were fleeing”.

Earlier this year, Salvini kept a Dutch-flagged vessel, run by a German charity, at sea for more than two weeks with nearly 50 migrants aboard before neighboring Malta agreed to let the ship disembark there.

However, Salvini will struggle to find a similar solution this time because the Mare Jonio is Italian-flagged.

Last August, he blocked an Italian coastguard ship with 150 migrants aboard for almost a week before relenting. Magistrates put him under investigation for abuse of power and kidnapping and have asked parliament to strip him of his immunity from prosecution.

The upper house Senate is due to vote on that on Wednesday, but the request looks certain to be rejected, with Salvini arguing that he acted in the national interest.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Source: OANN

Logo of General Motors is pictured at its plant in Silao
FILE PHOTO: A logo of General Motors is pictured at its plant in Silao, in Guanajuato state, Mexico, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

March 19, 2019

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – General Motors said on Tuesday it would invest 10 billion reais ($2.65 billion) in two of its Brazilian plants located in the state of Sao Paulo.

The two plants are located in Sao Caetano do Sul and Sao Jose dos Campos and employ 15,000 people, jobs that will be maintained as part of the investment plan.

(Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun)

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The logo of Barclays is seen on the top of one of its branch in Madrid
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Barclays is seen on the top of one of its branch in Madrid, Spain, March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/File Photo

March 19, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Barclays on Tuesday urged shareholders to reject activist investor Edward Bramson’s bid for seat on the bank’s board, saying he lacks the necessary experience and has different incentives to other investors.

In its most detailed statement yet on Bramson, who is seeking election to the board at Barclays’ annual general meeting on May 2, the bank said that he is likely seek what it said could be a destabilizing restructuring of the bank.

(Reporting by Lawrence White; Editing by David Goodman)

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FILE PHOTO: Hungary PM Orban delivers annual state of the nation address
FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban leaves the stage after delivering his annual state of the nation speech in Budapest, Hungary, February 10, 2019. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

March 19, 2019

By Thomas Escritt and Marton Dunai

BRUSSELS/BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will attend a meeting of conservative officials from across Europe that may decide whether his party will stay in the main EU center-right political group where he has been accused of authoritarianism.

Wednesday’s meeting of delegates from the European People’s Party could be the denouement of a years-long dispute between the populist, anti-immigration Orban and more mainstream, pro-EU parties in the EPP that accuse him of flouting the rule of law.

Thirteen member parties called for a vote on the Fidesz party’s continuing membership after it distributed posters depicting European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, an EPP member, as a puppet manipulated by billionaire George Soros into backing uncontrolled immigration into Hungary.

The stakes are high for both sides. Losing Fidesz’s legislators – currently there are 12 – could cost the center-right group its position as largest party in the European Parliament after May’s elections. Worse, other parties might follow.

But for Orban, being in a group containing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and venerable government parties from the Netherlands, Belgium and Scandinavia gives him access to the continent’s power brokers and confers a mainstream respectability that other populists lack.

The CDU has gone to great lengths to preserve relations with Fidesz, even as rights groups accused him of stoking ethnic hatred with anti-migration campaigns, and interfering with judicial independence.

But the posters, and Orban’s campaign against the private Central European University in Budapest that Soros founded, could have pushed things too far.

There are signs that the calculus is shifting for Orban as well: Hungary’s pro-government press have called for Fidesz to quit the EPP rather than endure “humiliating” negotiations.

“All the signals that are coming from Budapest suggest they are targeting a break,” said Andreas Nick, the CDU’s point-man on relations with Hungary in Germany’s parliament. “It looks as if they are really begging to be kicked out.”

Nick has described a meeting with a Fidesz official who asked him whether he “also got money from George Soros” after he had had expressed support the Central European University . “I showed him the door,” he said.

Orban has talked of shifting the EPP to the right. If that fails, he has suggested Fidesz could form an alliance with Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS).

It is also possible that the 260 delegates could hedge their decision, for example by suspending, but not expelling, Fidesz.

The challenge is most serious for Manfred Weber, a German ally of Merkel’s who is the conservative bloc’s lead candidate in the European Parliament elections and a possible successor to Juncker as European Commission chief – an ambition that could depend on whether he can keep Fidesz on side.

But unsuccessful attempts at mediation could undermine his authority and are a gift to other parties that accuse the EPP of being soft on what they call fundamental European values such as democracy and the rule of law.

“Viktor Orban has undermined freedom of the press in Hungary, forced a university to close and harassed NGOs,” said Ska Keller, the Greens leader in the European Parliament.

“Manfred Weber cannot be trusted as a candidate for the EU’s top job if he continues to defend Orban.”

(Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Source: OANN

German Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Nahles delivers a statement following the Hesse state election, in Berlin
FILE PHOTO: German Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Andrea Nahles delivers a statement following the Hesse state election, in Berlin, Germany, October 29, 2018. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

March 19, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – The leader of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in conservative Angela Merkel’s coalition, wants to extend a freeze on arms exports to Saudi Arabia imposed after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, she said on Tuesday.

“I will speak out for and propose to my parliamentary party that there is an extension of the stop, the moratorium, for another six months,” SPD leader Andrea Nahles said before a party meeting.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Michelle Martin)

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FILE PHOTO: Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked delivers a statement to members of the media, at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked delivers a statement to members of the media, at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem November 19, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

March 19, 2019

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An election campaign video starring Israel’s far-right justice minister spoofs perfume ads to sell her political priorities, but has a strong whiff of muddled message given the fragrance is labeled “Fascism.”

The intended meaning of the ad – three weeks before Israel’s election – is largely lost on people who just see the word fascism in English but who do not speak Hebrew and so cannot understand the voice-over.

In the spot, Ayelet Shaked walks slowly down a staircase, her hair gently tossed by a breeze, as a female narrator whispers seductively in Hebrew: “Separation of powers”, “Restraining the Supreme Court”.

Shaked is frequently critical of Israel’s top court as being too liberal and interventionist, but these and other views of her New Right party have been roundly criticized by leftists.

Some, the commercial implies, may see her views as fiercely nationalistic: former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak once called some of her comments about reforming the Supreme Court “proto-fascist”.

But, Shaked says, holding the perfume bottle with its label: “To me, it smells like democracy”.

Reaction on social media to the ad, sponsored by the New Right, ranged from “great” to “strange”.

“This is one of the most bizarre election ads you have ever seen … Viktor Orban on steroids,” Barak Ravid, the diplomatic correspondent for Israel’s Channel 13 TV, tweeted, in a reference to Hungary’s far-right prime minister.

Under Orban, Hungary passed a law in December to set up courts overseen by the justice minister, a move critics said would allow political interference in judicial matters.

Shaked’s New Right party, which she leads along with Education Minister Naftali Bennett, is part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition. It has been sliding in opinion polls and is forecast to win about six seats in the 120-member parliament in the April 9 election.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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Tour de France
FILE PHOTO: Cycling – Tour de France – Rest day – Carcassonne, France, July 23, 2018. The logo of Team Sky is seen on a bus on the second rest day. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

March 19, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s hugely successful Team Sky has been bought out by chemicals giant Ineos and will change its to Team Ineos from May this year, the cycling team confirmed on Tuesday.

Ineos is owned by Britain’s richest man Jim Ratcliffe.

Broadcaster Sky said last December that it would end its involvement with the team that has won six Tour de France’s since it was founded by Dave Brailsford in 2010.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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FILE PHOTO: Lockheed Martin's logo is seen during Japan Aerospace 2016 air show in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Lockheed Martin’s logo is seen during Japan Aerospace 2016 air show in Tokyo, Japan, October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

March 19, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – A German military helicopter tender likely to be fought out between U.S. arms makers Lockheed Martin and Boeing will get “mandatory” funding of 1.61 billion euros ($1.8 billion) under German budget plans, a government document shows.

Some lawmakers and industry officials had worried that the long-awaited tender could be postponed because Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen secured only half the 4 billion euro increase in military spending she had sought for 2020.

However the document, which is due to be approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet this week, singled out the heavy-lift helicopter as the only major arms program on a list of “mandatory elements” of a new four-year budget plan.

The helicopter program is expected to cost Germany around 4 billion euros ($4.54 billion) in the longer term, a rich prize for the winning bidder.

Germany’s defense ministry has previously said it expects to choose either of two U.S. helicopter models, the twin-rotor CH-47 Chinook helicopter built by Boeing, or the new CH-53K King Stallion built by Lockheed’s Sikorsky helicopter unit.

Procurement of the 45-60 helicopters will continue beyond 2023, which is why the four-year plan budgets for a smaller sum.

The Defence Ministry issued a pre-solicitation notice for the new helicopter in February, saying it expected to issue a formal request for proposals in the second half of 2019.

A ministry spokesman declined to comment on the finance ministry document or any specific funding requests.

“We’re at the beginning of the process,” he said.

German government officials will debate and refine the budget request in coming months, and changes are possible, but the fact that the helicopter program was designated mandatory should prevent a postponement of the program, experts said.

Another big arms project that was to be launched this year, an 8 billion euro MEADS missile-defense system, to be built by Europe’s MBDA, owned by Airbus, Italy’s Leonardo and Britain’s BAE Systems, and Lockheed, was not included on the mandatory funding list.

Also absent were four new multi-role MKS 180 warships expected to cost 4.5 billion euros ($5.11 billion), along with a option for two additional ships.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke, Andrea Shalal and Sabine Siebold; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Dodgers at Los Angeles Angels
FILE PHOTO: Mar 7, 2019; Tempe, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) runs to third base after hitting a triple against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

March 19, 2019

Mike Trout is on the verge of a 12-year, $430 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Angels, ESPN reported Tuesday.

Trout, 27, is a two-time American League Most Valuable Player and was scheduled to become a free agent in 2020. The agreement, per ESPN, tacks on 10 years to the final two seasons remaining on Trout’s $144.5 million agreement with the Angels.

The deal would smash the massive contract signed by Bryce Harper — 13 years, $330 million with the Philadelphia Phillies — on March 2.

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke had the MLB record annual average salary at $34.4 million. Trout would eclipse that mark with $36 million AAV.

Boxer Canelo Alvarez signed a contract with DAZN worth a minimum of $365 million.

Trout has a staggering 64.3 Wins Above Replacement through his age-26 season, which is far beyond any player at his age in Major League Baseball history.

The 24th pick in the 2009 amateur draft, Trout has made the playoffs only once with the Angels in eight seasons. Speculation built that he could bounce to the Phillies when his contract expired — Trout grew up less than an hour away in New Jersey — but the Angels declared their commitment to the superstar.

Trout, who has a career .307 batting average with 240 home runs, 648 RBIs, 793 runs and 189 stolen bases in 1,065 career games, also finished second in the MVP voting four times.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

Brazilian President Bolsonaro participates in Brazil-U.S. Business forum
FILE PHOTO: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro participates in a Brazil-U.S. Business Council forum to discuss relations and future cooperation and engagement in Washington, U.S. March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

March 19, 2019

By Lisandra Paraguassu

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro endorsed U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration agenda on the eve of their first meeting at the White House, saying he supports a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and that most immigrants to the United States wish to do harm.

Bolsonaro, a far-right congressman who rode to the presidency with a brash, anti-establishment campaign modeled on Trump’s 2016 run, has pledged a new era of pro-American policy in the Southern Hemisphere’s second-largest country.

Ahead of Tuesday’s Oval Office meeting, Bolsonaro waived a visa requirement for U.S. visitors to Brazil and later in a Fox News interview on Monday night threw his weight behind Trump’s immigration agenda, which includes a wall on the Mexican border.

“We do agree with President Trump’s decision or proposal on the wall,” Bolsonaro said, in remarks translated to English by the broadcaster. “The vast majority of potential immigrants do not have good intentions. They do not intend to do the best or do good to the U.S. people.

“I would very much like the U.S. to uphold the current immigration policy, because to a large extent we owe our democracy in the Southern Hemisphere to the United States,” he said.

Bolsonaro, a former army captain, rose to power praising the U.S.-backed military government that ran Brazil for two decades before a return to democracy in 1985, echoing Cold War rhetoric in his presidential campaign about the need to fight a continued communist threat.

Since his inauguration in January, Bolsonaro also has adopted elements of Trump’s presidential style, including taunting political foes on Twitter and denouncing media coverage he does not like as “fake news.”

Although he did not get into specifics of his agenda in Washington, Bolsonaro said the presidents would discuss a deepening political and economic crisis in socialist Venezuela.

Bolsonaro said Brazil is the country most interested in seeing an end to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, which he called a “drug trafficking dictatorship.”

In addition to their shared political agenda, Bolsonaro spoke hopefully of a blossoming friendship with Trump.

“I’m willing to open my heart up to him and do whatever is good, to the benefit of both the Brazilian and the American people,” Bolsonaro told Fox News.

(Writing and additional reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun; Editing by Brad Haynes and Bill Trott)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss bank UBS is seen in St. Moritz
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss bank UBS is seen in St. Moritz, Switzerland, February 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo

March 19, 2019

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s markets watchdog said on Tuesday it had fined Swiss bank UBS a record 27.6 million pounds for failing to report 136 million transactions properly for nearly a decade in a repeat offense.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said the failings cover reports between November 2007 and May 2017.

“If firms cannot report their transactions accurately, fundamental risks arise, including the risk that market abuse may be hidden,” said Mark Steward, the FCA’s executive director of enforcement.

The FCA had already fined UBS 100,000 pounds in November 2005 for transaction reporting failings.

UBS said on Tuesday it was pleased to have resolved what it called a “legacy matter”, which is was fully provisioned for.

“Although there was never any impact on clients, investors or market users the bank has made significant investments to enhance its transaction reporting systems and controls,” UBS said in a statement.

Under European Union securities law, banks must report transactions like stock and bond trades in a timely and accurate way so that regulators can spot any suspicious moves quickly.

The FCA said UBS failed to ensure it made proper reports on 86.67 million transactions that were required to be notified to the regulator. It also wrongly reported 49.1 million transactions to the FCA that did not require reporting.

By agreeing to a speedy settlement, UBS qualified for a 30 percent discount, thereby avoiding a bigger fine of 39.4 million pounds.

UBS is the 13th financial firm to be fined for transaction reporting failures under EU rules that came into force in 2007.

(Reporting by Huw Jones, editing by Sinead Cruise and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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Jockeys, most of whom are children, compete during the 18th International Camel Racing festival at the Sarabium desert in Ismailia
Jockeys, most of whom are children, compete on their mounts during the 18th International Camel Racing festival at the Sarabium desert in Ismailia, Egypt, March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

March 19, 2019

By Amr Dalsh

ISMAILIA, Egypt (Reuters) – Remote-controlled robot jockeys lined up at a major camel racing festival in northeastern Egypt, as owners came under pressure from campaigns to stop using child riders.

Organizers fielded around 20 robots – child-sized devices with a whipping arm that can be triggered at a distance – alongside dozens of real children as part of a trial run.

“God willing, in a year, there will be no human jockeys, except for some adults for the sake of tradition,” said Eid Hamdan Hassan, head of the Egyptian Camel Federation, which organized the festival in the Sarabium desert of Ismailia.

Several Gulf countries have banned child jockeys from the traditional Bedouin sport after rights groups said the youngsters were often injured and some had been abducted or sold by their families.

Owners at last week’s Egyptian event said the bans had prevented them from fielding teams in Gulf festivals – and they hoped the move to robots would help them get in.

Esam el-Din Atiyah, president of the African Camel Racing Federation, which includes Egypt, acknowledged that child riders were sometimes injured. “Human rights organizations have said that this is child exploitation,” he said.

He personally wanted Egypt to move to robot-only events, but the transition was costly and would take time, he added.

Young jockeys at the event – local children mostly aged 6-13 – defended the tradition and their participation.

Sayed Mohamed, 11, said children were better than robots at steering.

“The camel might lean sideways. We (the children) are better at riding leaning camels so that we can straighten its route.

“The robot works well with camels that don’t tend to lean.”

Around 150 camels competed in eight categories over distances from five to 15 km, cheered on by more than 1,000 spectators.

Local tribes prepare their best camels with a special diet of beans, barley, date paste and milk.

Victory raises a camel’s value. “When a camel wins, you sell it for a good price – from 150,000 to 200,000 Egyptian pounds($8,700-$11,600),” said camel owner Mohamed Mostafa. “The camel that doesn’t win is sold for only 10,000.”

(Additional reporting by Lena Masri; writing by Aidan Lewis and Lena Masri; editing by Andrew Heavens)

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Ethiopian Red Cross workers carry a body bag with the remains of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash victims at the scene of a plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopian Red Cross workers carry a body bag with the remains of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash victims at the scene of a plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

March 19, 2019

By Omar Mohammed

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Financiers, passengers and industry partners are, for now, still backing Ethiopian Airlines’ quest to become Africa’s dominant carrier, despite a March 10 crash that killed 157 people.

The causes of the Flight 302 tragedy will likely take months to establish. While much of the international focus has been on U.S. planemaker Boeing and its 737 MAX 8 jet, the airline’s reputation could also hinge on the results of the investigation.

Although crash inquiries focus on preventing future accidents rather than attributing liability, any findings that the carrier fell short in plane maintenance or piloting could be damaging.

For the present, however, passenger confidence in Ethiopian Airlines, long regarded as one of the most reliable in Africa, has remained steady, according to the company. Cancellation and booking rates are unchanged since the crash, said spokesman Asrat Begashaw.

“We are operating as normal,” he told Reuters. “Our brand is keeping its level, and we are okay.”

Two banking sources with knowledge of the matter said that, barring a major new twist in the investigation with long-term fallout, banks were still comfortable lending to Ethiopian Airlines.

“Ethiopian is a solid company,” said one, an official from an international bank that helped finance the acquisition of some Ethiopian Airlines planes. “No reason to change the way the bank sees its credit risk at this point.”

A vote of confidence from lenders is important for the airline because its years of rapid expansion have largely been financed by international borrowing.

The second source, a top European aviation banker, said Ethiopian Airlines was “a good airline, with a good reputation”.

“So unless it (the crash) is a major problem of piloting or maintenance – and it is far too early to talk about that – they will still have access to financing,” the source added.

The sources declined to be identified because the matters are confidential.

FOREIGN INVESTORS

Ethiopian Airlines has borrowed from foreign banks including JP Morgan, ING Capital and Societe Generale over the past decade. It also has outstanding bonds worth $540 million, though none due until 2024, Refinitiv data shows.

The borrowing helped finance the acquisition of stakes in or establish partnerships with at least four African carriers, establishing hubs to feed traffic into Addis Ababa. Last year, the Ethiopian capital overtook Dubai as the main gateway for long-haul passengers into Africa.

The airline’s fleet grew from 35 planes in 2007 to 111 in 2019. It now flies to more than 119 international destinations, up from 52 a decade ago.

The expansion has made the state-owned carrier, founded in 1945, the most profitable major airline on the continent. Ethiopian’s net profit in the 2017/18 financial year rose to $233 million from $229 million the previous year; operating revenue jumped 43 percent to $3.7 billion.

Last year, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced plans to sell a minority stake in the airline as part of a broad strategy to open up the country to foreign investors.

Industry analysts said it was too early to evaluate the impact of the crash on the airline’s long-term plans but said, for now, its reputation remained largely intact.

“It’s a very strong management team, with good vision,” said Nawal Taneja, an author and professor at Ohio State University’s Center for Aviation Studies. “We’ve got to look at the strength of the airline as a whole, not just this one incident.”

PARTNERS, BOEING BOOKINGS

Those who want to travel across Africa have few options other than flying. Conflict, poor roads, and limited cross-border train transport often make travel by land difficult.

Analysts said the crash was unlikely to damage Ethiopian’s partnerships with African carriers, key to a strategy that helped increase passenger numbers from 2.5 million a decade ago to 10.6 million last year, or with other industry players.

One such partner is ASKY, a Togo-based carrier which Ethiopian Airlines helped launch in 2010.

“Ethiopian’s accident has not affected our partnership in any way,” said Lionel Tsoto, the airline’s head of public relations. “We continue just as before.”

Global aviation leasing firm GECAS said the airline was a “close and valued partner who we look forward to working with in the future”.

The crash, which saw the Nairobi-bound flight go down minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa, triggered a global grounding of 737 MAX planes, wiping about 10 percent off Boeing’s share price. GRAPHIC: http://graphics.thomsonreuters.com/testfiles/boeing737maxseries

Investigators have noted similarities with another deadly crash in Indonesia five months ago involving a plane of the same type owned by Lion Air, but safety officials stress the investigation is at an early stage.

Ethiopian Airlines, which grounded its handful of remaining 737 MAX planes, said it would decide whether to cancel orders for 29 others after a preliminary investigation.

Analysts said it was unlikely that the carrier would cancel the orders, worth $3.5 billion at the current list price, because Boeing would have to fix any problems before regulators permit the jet to fly again.

Boeing will be keen to retain the airline as a customer; more than half of Ethiopian’s fleet are Boeing jets.

“Ethiopian have been very loyal to Boeing in the past,” said Phil Seymour, chief executive of the IBA Group, a Surrey-based aviation consultancy.

“They will be in control of the conversation with Boeing now,” he added. “I would suspect that the business decision is to stick with the order.”

(Additional reporting by Tim Hepher and Inti Landauro in Paris, Rachel Armstrong in London, Maggie Fick in Addis Ababa and John Zodzi in Lome; Editing by Katharine Houreld, Alexandra Zavis and Pravin Char)

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Oyub Titiev, the head of human rights group Memorial in Chechnya, attends his verdict hearing at a court in the town of Shali, in Chechnya
Oyub Titiev, the head of human rights group Memorial in Chechnya, attends his verdict hearing at a court in the town of Shali, in Chechnya, Russia, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Said Tsarnayev

March 19, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt condemned the sentence handed out to a prominent human rights activist by a court in Chechnya, calling it “an awful example of Russia suppressing vital work of human rights defenders”.

Oyub Titiev, who runs the office of the Memorial Human Rights Center in the southern Russian region, was sentenced to four years in a penal settlement on Monday after he was found guilty of possessing illegal drugs. His supporters say he was framed, with the drugs planted in his car.

Hunt wrote on Twitter on Tuesday: “Fabricated charges & absurd sentence imposed on Oyub Titiev are intended to silence his work in holding Russian govt to account for human rights abuses in Chechnya – they must #FreeTitiev.”

(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)

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U.S. President Trump departs for Alabama from the White House in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs to visit storm-hit areas of Alabama from the White House in Washington, U.S., March 8, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

March 19, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that the big tech platforms, Facebook, YouTube owner Google and Twitter, were on the side of the left, along with the “corrupt media.”

“But fear not, we will win anyway, just like we did before! #MAGA,” he said in a tweet. MAGA refers to his 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

Facebook, Alphabet’s Google and Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz and David Shepardson)

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FILE PHOTO: The Supreme Court stands before decisions are released for the term in Washington
FILE PHOTO: The Supreme Court is seen in Washington, U.S., May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

March 19, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday endorsed U.S. government authority to detain immigrants awaiting deportation anytime – potentially even years – after they have completed prison terms for criminal convictions, handing President Donald Trump a victory as he pursues hardline immigration policies.

The conservative-majority court ruled 5-4 that federal authorities could pick up such immigrants and place them into indefinite detention at any time, not just immediately after they finish their prison sentences.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

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U.S. and EU flags are pictured during the visit of Vice President Pence to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: U.S. and European Union flags are pictured during the visit of Vice President Mike Pence to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

March 19, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said on Tuesday that Washington’s “selfish” approach to trade was not sustainable, but it was too early to say that EU-U.S. trade talks were doomed to fail.

The Trump administration has imposed stiff tariffs on U.S. imports of steel and aluminum and set off a trade war with China in a bid to redress what it sees as unfavorable terms that contribute to a U.S. trade deficit of over half a trillion dollars a year.

The Commission, which negotiates trade agreements on behalf of the 28-nation European Union, has been in talks with U.S. authorities since last July, seeking to clinch a deal on industrial goods trade.

EU governments are now discussing the details of a negotiating mandate for the Commission, while Washington has until mid-May to decide whether to make good on President Donald Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on imports of European cars.

“It is too early to say that our trade discussions are doomed to fail,” Katainen told a regular news briefing.

“There are discussions going on on several levels and … we can end up having some sort of an agreement with the U.S. on trade, but let’s not go deeper than this,” he said, adding that the scope of negotiations had to be clear and that a deal would require a lot of good will and political capital on both sides.

Asked about a reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Katainen said it was problematic and that attempts to get it done were like pushing a rope.

“Japan, China and the EU are willing to reform the WTO, the U.S. has not been that interested, but they are willing to cooperate,” he said.

“Even though the U.S. authorities may think that selfishness is better than cooperation, it is not a sustainable way of thinking. We need better, rules-based trade in the future where the international community sets the rules,” he said.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Congress last week that the WTO was using an “out of date” playbook despite dramatic changes including the rise of China and the evolution of the internet.

He said Washington was nonetheless working “diligently” to negotiate new WTO rules to address these problems.

(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Former Trump personal attorney Cohen departs after House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney of U.S. President Donald Trump, talks to reporters as he departs after testifying before a closed House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young


March 19, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Federal authorities sought warrants to investigate Michael Cohen’s email accounts in July 2017, nine months before the office and hotel room of U.S. President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer were raided, according to documents made public on Tuesday.

Emails were sought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office, which is probing Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as well as the FBI, according to the documents.

The documents, totaling several hundred pages, were released after U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan on Monday ordered federal prosecutors to make redacted versions public, in response to requests by various news media organizations.

The April 2018 raids on Cohen’s office and hotel room were part of an investigation that eventually led Cohen to plead guilty to campaign finance crimes, in connection with the payment of hush money to silence women who claimed to have had sexual relationships with Trump.

Cohen was sentenced in December to serve three years in prison. Since pleading guilty, he has publicly turned on Trump, telling a U.S. House of Representatives committee last month that his former boss was a “con man” and “cheat.”

Trump has denied having the sexual relationships, and said his campaign did not collude with Russia. Moscow has denied meddling in the 2016 election.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Honduran migrant Ariel, 19, who is waiting for his court hearing for asylum seekers returned to Mexico to wait out their legal proceedings under a new policy change by the U.S. government, is pictured after an interview with Reuters in Tijuana
Honduran migrant Ariel, 19, who is waiting for his court hearing for asylum seekers returned to Mexico to wait out their legal proceedings under a new policy change by the U.S. government, is pictured after an interview with Reuters in Tijuana, Mexico March 18, 2019. Picture taken March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Duenes

March 19, 2019

By Lizbeth Diaz and Mica Rosenberg

TIJUANA/NEW YORK (Reuters) – A group of asylum seekers sent back to Mexico was set to cross the border on Tuesday for their first hearings in U.S. immigration court in an early test of a controversial new policy from the Trump administration.

The U.S. program, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), turns people seeking protection in the United States around to wait out their U.S. court proceedings in Mexican border towns. Some 240 people – including families – have been returned since late January, according to U.S. officials.

Court officials in San Diego referred questions about the number of hearings being held on Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which did not respond to a request for comment. But attorneys representing a handful of clients were preparing to appear in court.

Migrants like 19-year-old Ariel, who said he left Honduras because of gang death threats against himself and his family, were preparing to line up at the San Ysidro port of entry first thing Tuesday morning.

Ariel, who asked to use only his middle name because of fears of reprisals in his home country, was among the first group of asylum-seeking migrants sent back to Mexico on Jan. 30 and given a notice to appear in U.S. court in San Diego.

“God willing everything will move ahead and I will be able to prove that if I am sent back to Honduras, I’ll be killed,” Ariel said.

While awaiting his U.S. hearing, Ariel said he was unable to get a legal work permit in Mexico but found a job as a restaurant busboy in Tijuana, which does not pay him enough to move out of a shelter.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other advocacy groups are suing in federal court to halt the MPP program, which is part of a series of measures the administration of President Donald Trump has taken to try to curb the flow of mostly Central American migrants trying to enter the United States.

The Trump administration says most asylum claims, especially for Central Americans, are ultimately rejected, but because of crushing immigration court backlogs people are often released pending resolution of their cases and live in the United States for years. The government has said the new program is aimed at ending “the exploitation of our generous immigration laws.”

Critics of the program say it violates U.S. law and international norms since migrants are sent back to often dangerous towns in Mexico in precarious living situations where it is difficult to get notice about changes to U.S. court dates and to find legal help.

Immigration advocates are closely watching how the proceedings will be carried out this week, especially after scheduling glitches created confusion around three hearings last week, according to a report in the San Diego Union Tribune.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which runs U.S. immigration courts under the Department of Justice, said only that it uses its regular court scheduling system for the MPP hearings and did not respond to a question about the reported scheduling problems.

Gregory Chen, director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said there are real concerns about the difficulties of carrying out this major shift in U.S. immigration policy.

“The government did not have its shoes tied when they introduced this program,” he said.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Tijuana and Mica Rosenberg in New York; Editing by Bill Trott)

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An aircraft engine being built at Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix
FILE PHOTO: A worker is seen building an aircraft engine at Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. on September 6, 2016. REUTERS/Alwyn Scott

March 19, 2019

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – New orders for U.S.-made goods rose less than expected in January, held back by decreases in orders for computers and electronic products, in another indication of slowing manufacturing activity.

Factory goods orders edged up 0.1 percent, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday, as demand for primary metals and fabricated metal products fell. That followed an unrevised 0.1 percent gain in December.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast factory orders rising 0.3 percent in January. Factory orders increased 3.8 percent compared to January 2018.

The release of the report was delayed by a 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government that ended on Jan. 25.

Reports last Friday showed manufacturing output fell for a second straight month in February and factory activity in New York state hit nearly a two-year low this month.

Manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 percent of the economy, is losing momentum as the stimulus from last year’s $1.5 trillion tax cut package fades. Activity is also being crimped by a trade war between the United States and China as well as by last year’s surge in the dollar and softening global economic growth, which are hurting exports.

In January, orders for machinery rose 1.5 percent after falling 0.4 percent in December. Orders for mining, oil field and gas field machinery fell 2.7 percent after tumbling 8.2 percent in December.

Orders for electrical equipment, appliances and components rebounded 1.4 percent after dropping 0.3 percent in December. Computers and electronic products orders fell 0.9 percent after decreasing 0.4 percent in December.

Orders for primary metals declined 2.0 percent and fabricated metal products orders fell 0.6 percent. Transportation equipment orders increased 1.2 percent in January, slowing from the prior month’s 3.2 percent rise.

Orders for civilian aircraft and parts increased 15.6 percent in January. Motor vehicles and parts orders gained 0.4 percent.

The Commerce Department also said January orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, which are seen as a measure of business spending plans on equipment, rose 0.8 percent as reported last week. Orders for these so-called core capital goods dropped 0.8 percent in December.

Shipments of core capital goods, which are used to calculate business equipment spending in the gross domestic product report, also increased 0.8 percent in January as previously reported. Core capital goods shipments edged up 0.1 percent in December.

(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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A Wall St. street sign is seen near the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York
FILE PHOTO: A Wall St. street sign is seen near the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 7, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 19, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Investors remained bullish on longer-dated U.S. Treasuries for a sixth consecutive week on worries about a slowing economy and expectations inflation will stay muted despite a tight domestic labor market, a J.P. Morgan survey showed on Tuesday.

The margin of investors who said they were “long,” or holding more Treasuries than their portfolio benchmarks, over those who said they were “short,” or holding fewer Treasuries than their benchmarks, increased to nine percentage points from 7 points the prior week, according to the survey.

Three weeks ago, the gap between longs and shorts rose to 11 percentage points, the highest since September 2016.

The survey results come the same day Fed policymakers begin a two-day meeting at which they are expected to leave interest rates unchanged.Twenty-eight percent of the investors surveyed said on Monday for a third straight week they were long on U.S. government bonds, the J.P. Morgan survey showed.

The share of investors who said they were short Treasuries fell to 19 percent from 21 percent a week ago.

The percentage of investors who said they were “neutral,” or holding Treasuries equal to their portfolio benchmarks, edged up to 53 percent from 51 percent the week before, J.P. Morgan said.

Positions among active clients, which include market makers and hedge funds, showed no bearish bets on longer-dated Treasuries. Active net longs rose to 30 percent, the highest since May 2018, while the share of these clients who said they were neutral increased to 70 percent from 60 percent.

In early Tuesday trading, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury was 2.6267 percent, up from 2.6050 percent a week ago.

(GRAPHIC: Investors positions in longer-dated U.S. Treasuries – https://tmsnrt.rs/2V9OjHR)

(Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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FILE PHOTO: Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, arrives to attend his trial at the courthouse in Lyon
FILE PHOTO: Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, Archbishop of Lyon, arrives to attend his trial, charged with failing to act on historical allegations of sexual abuse of boy scouts by a priest in his diocese, at the courthouse in Lyon, France, January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Emmanuel Foudrot

March 19, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – Philippe Barbarin, the French Roman Catholic cardinal convicted this month of failing to report sexual abuse allegations, said on Tuesday that Pope Francis had turned down his offer to resign.

“On Monday morning, I put forward my resignation to the hands of the Holy Father. Invoking the presumption of innocence, he declined to accept this resignation,” said Barbarin in a statement set by France’s Lyon Catholic Church.

Barbarin is appealing the verdict against him.

(Reporting by Marine Pennetier and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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Molten copper is poured at the KGHM copper and precious metals smelter processing plant in Glogow
FILE PHOTO: Molten copper is poured at the KGHM copper and precious metals smelter processing plant in Glogow May 10, 2013. REUTERS/Peter Andrews

March 19, 2019

WARSAW (Reuters) – Lawmakers from Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party proposed on Tuesday to cut mining tax payments so that major copper producer KGHM could spend more money on investment.

The mining levy, introduced in 2012 and calculated using a formula based on local production volumes and prices, primarily affects KGHM, a major employer in southeast Poland and one of the world’s biggest copper and silver producers.

Poland holds general election this year. The tax has been a subject of debate during previous campaigns. In 2015, some politicians had promised to scrap it.

KGHM paid 1.67 billion zlotys ($442 million) in mining tax in 2018, while the group’s profit were 1.66 billion zlotys.

“Lowering the mining levy by 15 percent … will make additional funds available to KGHM, which will significantly translate into long-term stability and development of the company,” lawmakers said in draft law published on parliament’s website.

Reducing the mining levy would lower budget revenues by an estimated 180 million zlotys in 2019 and 240 million zlotys in subsequent years, the draft said.

By 1310 GMT shares in KGHM had risen by 4.2 percent.

(Reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Agnieszka Barteczko and Edmund Blair)

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Turkish President Erdogan addresses his supporters during a rally for the upcoming local elections, in Istanbul,
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during a rally for the upcoming local elections, in Istanbul, Turkey March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

March 19, 2019

ANKARA (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called on New Zealand to restore the death penalty for the gunman who killed 50 people at two Christchurch mosques, warning that Turkey would make the attacker pay for his act if New Zealand did not.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday after a lone gunman opened fire at the two mosques during Muslim Friday prayers.

“You heinously killed 50 of our siblings. You will pay for this. If New Zealand doesn’t make you, we know how to make you pay one way or another,” Erdogan told an election rally of thousands in northern Turkey. He did not elaborate.

He said Turkey was wrong to have abolished the death penalty 15 years ago, and added that New Zealand should make legal arrangements so that the Christchurch gunman could face capital punishment.

“If the New Zealand parliament doesn’t make this decision I will continue to argue this with them constantly. The necessary action needs to be taken,” he said.

Erdogan is seeking to drum up support for his Islamist-rooted AK Party in March 31 local elections. At weekend election rallies he showed video footage of the shootings which the gunman had broadcast on Facebook, as well as extracts from a “manifesto” posted by the attacker and later taken down.

That earned a rebuke from New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters, who said he told Turkey’s foreign minister and vice president that showing the video could endanger New Zealanders abroad.

Despite Peters’ intervention, an extract from the manifesto was flashed up on a screen at Erdogan’s rally again on Tuesday, as well as brief footage of the gunman entering one of the mosques and shooting as he approached the door.

Erdogan has said the gunman issued threats against Turkey and the president himself, and wanted to drive Turks from Turkey’s northwestern, European region. Majority Muslim Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, is split between an Asian part east of the Bosphorus, and a European half to the west.

Erdogan’s AK Party, which has dominated Turkish politics for more than 16 years, is battling for votes as the economy tips into recession after years of strong growth. Erdogan has cast the local elections as a “matter of survival” in the face of threats including Kurdish militants, Islamophobia and incidents such as the New Zealand shootings.

A senior Turkish security source said Tarrant entered Turkey twice in 2016 – for a week in March and for more than a month in September. Turkish authorities have begun investigating everything from hotel records to camera footage to try to ascertain the reason for his visits, the source said.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans and Nick Tattersall)

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A general view shows destruction after Cyclone Idai in Beira
A general view shows destruction after Cyclone Idai in Beira, Mozambique, March 16-17, 2019 in this still image taken from a social media video on March 19, 2019. Care International/Josh Estey via REUTERS

March 19, 2019

MAPUTO/HARARE (Reuters) – Cyclone winds and floods that swept across southeastern Africa affected more than 2.6 million people and could rank as one of the worst weather-related disaster recorded in the southern hemisphere, U.N. officials said on Tuesday.

Rescue crews are still struggling to reach victims five days after Cyclone Idai raced in at speeds of up to 170 kph (105 mph) from the Indian Ocean into Mozambique, then its inland neighbors Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Aid groups said many survivors were trapped in remote areas, surrounded by wrecked roads, flattened buildings and submerged villages.

“There’s a sense from people on the ground that the world still really hasn’t caught on to how severe this disaster is,” Matthew Cochrane, spokesman for International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.

“The full horror, the full impact is only going to emerge over coming days,” he added.

The official death count in Mozambique stands at 84 – but its president Filipe Nyusi said on Monday he had flown over some of the worst-hit zones, seen bodies floating in rivers and now estimated more than 1,000 people may have died there.

The cyclone hit land near Mozambique’s port of Beira on Thursday and moved inland throughout the weekend, leaving heavy rains in its wake on Tuesday.

Studies of satellite images suggested 1.7 million people were in the path of the cyclone in Mozambique and another 920,000 affected in Malawi, Herve Verhoosel, senior spokesman at the U.N World Food Programme said. It gave no figures for Zimbabwe.

WORST FEARS

Several rivers had broken their banks, or were about to, leaving a huge area covered by the waters, and only accessible by air and water, Lola Castro, WFP regional director for Southern Africa, told the U.N. briefing by phone from Johannesburg.

Heavy rains preceded the cyclone, compounding the problems, said Clare Nullis of the U.N. World Meteorological Organization said .

“It the worst fears are realized … then we can say that it is one of the worst weather-related disasters, tropical-cyclone-related disasters in the southern hemisphere.” Droughts are classed as climate-related not weather-related.

In Beira, a low-lying coastal city of 500,000 people, Nullis said the water had nowhere to drain. “This is not going to go away quickly,” she said.

Beira is also home to Mozambique’s second largest port, which serves as a gateway to landlocked countries in the region.

The control room of a pipeline that runs from Beira to Zimbabwe and supplies the majority of that country’s fuel had been damaged, Zimbabwe’s Energy Minister Jorum Gumbo told state-owned Herald newspaper on Tuesday.

“We, however, have enough stocks in the country and I am told the repairs at Beira may take a week,” he was quoted as saying.

(Reporting Manuel Mucari in Maputo and Macdonald Dzirutwe in Harare; Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva and Mfuneko Toyana and Emma Rumney in Johannesburg; Editing by Catherine Evans and Andrew Heavens)

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U.S. Republican House leaders speak after meeting with Trump at the White House in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Paul Ryan speaks after meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Young

March 19, 2019

(Reuters) – Fox Corp on Tuesday appointed former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, Chief Executive Officer of Formula One Group Chase Carey and two others to its board.

Carey served as president and chief operating officer from 2009 to 2015 at Twenty-First Century Fox.

The newly spun-off media company, which will mark a new phase for billionaire Rupert Murdoch’s media business, will debut on the Nasdaq on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Vibhuti Sharma; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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FILE PHOTO: Kazakh President Nazarbayev speaks during his annual state-of-the-nation address at the Akorda presidential residence in Astana
FILE PHOTO: Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev speaks during his annual state-of-the-nation address at the Akorda presidential residence in Astana, Kazakhstan October 5, 2018. REUTERS/Mukhtar Kholdorbekov

March 19, 2019

ALMATY (Reuters) – Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, said on Tuesday he was resigning as the Central Asian nation’s leader after three decades in power.

He made the comments in a televised address.

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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FILE PHOTO: Iranian Material Display at a Military Base in Washington
FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Department of Defense exhibit shows a “Qiam” ballistic missile manufactured in Iran, at a military base in Washington, U.S., November 29, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago/File Photo

March 19, 2019

GENEVA (Reuters) – A senior U.S. arms control official said on Tuesday that Iran’s missile program is detribalizing the Middle East and raising the risk of a “regional arms race” through the provision of such weapons to armed groups in Lebanon and Yemen.

U.S. President Donald Trump said when he quit a landmark 2015 deal that lifted international sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear activities that it failed to rein in Iran’s missile program or curb its regional meddling.

The United States has accused Iran of defying a U.N. Security Council resolution by carrying out a ballistic missile test and two satellite launches since December.

“Iran’s missile program is a key contributor to increased tensions and destabilization in the region, increasing the risk of a regional arms race,” Yleem Poblete, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, said in a speech to the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament.

“Iran must immediately cease activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and halt the proliferation of missiles and missile technology to terror groups and other non-state actors,” she said, denouncing Iran’s support to the Houthi movement in Yemen and to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

She said Iran had provided ballistic missiles to the Houthis that were fired into Saudi Arabia and unmanned aerial systems to Houthi groups that enable strikes against land-based targets in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“We are committed to aggressively countering Iran’s regional proliferation of ballistic missiles and its unlawful arms transfers,” she added.

Poblete urged “all responsible countries” to enforce United Nations Security Council resolutions restricting the transfer of missile-related technologies to Iran.

She further accused Iran of “pursuing pharmaceutical-based agents for offensive purposes”, but did not elaborate.

An Iranian diplomat took the floor to reject her remarks as “cheap, unprofessional, false, irrelevant and pathetic” and accused the United States of “sabotaging” the Geneva forum.

“We should all be truly worried about the U.S. representative’s misbehavior as we all warn that they may turn violent since they lack any human logic to talk and listen in a normal manner as we are used to,” he said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Tom Miles; writing by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by William Maclean)

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FILE PHOTO: British and EU flags flutter outside the Houses of Parliament in London
FILE PHOTO: British and EU flags flutter outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

March 19, 2019

By Thomas Escritt and Gabriela Baczynska

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union governments are exasperated by British dithering over quitting the bloc but have little appetite for pushing it out on schedule next week without a divorce deal, senior figures said on Tuesday.

EU ministers in Brussels to prepare a summit with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday voiced frustration after the speaker of parliament threw up a new obstacle for her plan to get her Brexit deal ratified before the March 29 deadline.

“Our patience as the European Union is being sorely tested at the moment,” German Europe minister Michael Roth told reporters. “Dear friends in London, please deliver. The clock is ticking.”

But Roth also echoed comments in Berlin by Chancellor Angela Merkel, the EU’s pre-eminent leader, who said she would “fight to the last minute” until midnight (2300 GMT) on March 29 to ensure an orderly exit for the EU’s second-ranked economy.

He said Germany’s main aim was to avoid a no-deal Brexit, which would disrupt business across the continent.

However, after two defeats for the Withdrawal Agreement that May negotiated with the EU, and her difficulty in trying to get it through parliament on a third vote even before the speaker ruled that it must be substantially changed, it is not clear how May can avert this without asking fellow leaders for more time.

ALL DEPENDS ON MAY

Leaders expect to discuss such an extension at the two-day summit starting on Thursday afternoon. But if May has yet to make a concrete proposal on her next move then, then the summit can do little more than outline possible steps — such as a readiness to give her a couple of months, or maybe longer.

“If there is no move from London, the leaders can also decide to wait,” said Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders. “It really depends on what May will say at the summit.”

Diplomats said member states were still discussing options for extension — possibly only for two to three months, if May persuades them she can clinch a deal at home, or for much longer if May accepts that radical reworking is needed. But these would come with conditions and might not be agreed until next week.

Merkel said there was “far too much in flux” to forecast the outcome of the summit, but her foreign minister, Heiko Maas, told reporters in Finland: “If more time is needed, it’s always better to do another round than a no-deal Brexit.”

EU diplomats say it is highly probable that leaders will unanimously support some sort of extension rather than see Britain lurch out of the bloc in 10 days’ time — even though some governments are starting to argue for ending the uncertainty and trusting to arrangements already put in place to mitigate the effects of a sudden, immediate exit.

Aides to French President Emmanuel Macron, a powerful voice on the Council alongside Merkel, say the onus is on Britain to say what it would do with more time.

“This uncertainty is unacceptable,” his EU affairs minister Nathalie Loiseau said in Brussels on Tuesday.

“Grant an extension? What for? Time is not a solution, it’s a method — if there’s an objective and a strategy. And it has to come from London.”

(Writing by Alastair Macdonald; @macdonaldrtr; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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A policeman gestures outside Brynseng School after an attacker armed with a knife injured a teacher and three other staff, in Oslo
A policeman gestures outside Brynseng School after an attacker armed with a knife injured a teacher and three other staff, in Oslo, Norway March 19, 2019. Jon Eeg/NTB Scanpix/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NORWAY OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN NORWAY.

March 19, 2019

OSLO (Reuters) – An attacker armed with a knife injured a teacher and three other staff at a school in Oslo on Tuesday, police said.

Police said they apprehended the attacker and the motive was not immediately clear.

The four victims, all school employees, were taken to hospital with minor injuries, police told Norwegian news agency NTB.

(Reporting by Terje Solsvik; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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The Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel pauses during a news conference after a monetary policy review in Mumbai
FILE PHOTO: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit Patel pauses during a news conference after a monetary policy review in Mumbai, India, December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

March 19, 2019

By Suvashree Choudhury

MUMBAI (Reuters) – Economists raised concerns over a sharp slowdown in Indian economy and pitched for a monetary policy boost to support growth at a meeting with the nation’s central bank chief on Tuesday, according to three participants.

Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das met more than a dozen economists to get their views on the economy ahead of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decision due on April 4.

Most economists expect the six-member MPC to cut the repo rate by 25 basis points for the second time in a row next month to 6.00 percent, a level last seen in August 2017.

While the economists did not specify the extent of rate cut that the RBI could consider, one of them called for a 50-basis- point reduction, one of the participants said.

“Most of the participants said that monetary policy needs to do the heavy lifting to boost growth as there was no space for fiscal expansion,” another participant said.

The meeting under Das, who took charge in December, was in sharp contrast to the previous ones under former governor Urjit Patel, who was slightly reclusive and preferred to meet a small group of 5-6 economists. Das’ style has, however, been more open and communicative.

India’s economy expanded by 6.6 percent during October-December, its slowest pace in five quarters, on weak consumer demand and investments, dealing a major blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he seeks a second term in office at a general election that kicks off next month.

Slowing growth has hit the federal government’s tax collections, constraining its ability to substantially boost spending ahead of elections.

However, neither Das nor any RBI official from the monetary policy department gave any indication of their thoughts or views, as is typical in such big-group meetings.

Economists and strategists spoke of several issues including drought, liquidity management, exchange rate, inflation, growth, bank credit growth, real interest rates and monetary policy transmission.

“The meeting went on for two-and-a-half hours as there were many participants,” said another economist who attended the meeting.

“But they didn’t say a single word on these topics.”

The RBI did not respond to an email seeking comment on the meeting with economists.

Some economists pointed out that food inflation could begin inching up after September if monsoon rains were not sufficient, but was unlikely to push retail inflation past the RBI’s 4 percent target.

Consumer inflation was at 2.57 percent on-year in February as food prices continued to fall for a fifth straight month.

The economists also raised concerns over a slowdown in global growth that has hurt India’s exports. India’s outbound shipments grew 2.4 percent annually in February, slower than 3.7 percent in January.

“Overall, the view was that the downside risks to growth have increased since the last policy while inflation risks have remained muted,” said a third participant.

“Not many of us clearly specified how much rate cut we wanted, but we presented the facts to make it clear to RBI that there was a need for a big boost to the economy.”

(Reporting by Suvashree Choudhury; Editing by Shreejay Sinha)

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Saudi Arabia's King Salman attends Arab league and EU summit, in Sharm el-Sheikh
FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman attends a summit between Arab league and European Union member states, in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, February 24, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

March 19, 2019

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has launched four entertainment projects in the capital Riyadh, together worth 86 billion riyals ($23 billion), state television reported on Tuesday.

The projects include a park, sports track and an art center.

The King also ordered that one of the capital’s main roads should be named after crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

(Reporting by Marwa Rashad; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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FILE PHOTO: Pumpjacks are seen against the setting sun at the Daqing oil field in Heilongjiang
FILE PHOTO: Pumpjacks are seen against the setting sun at the Daqing oil field in Heilongjiang province, China December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Stringe

March 19, 2019

By Dmitry Zhdannikov

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices rose to new 2019 highs on Tuesday, supported by supply cuts from OPEC and falling output from Iran and Venezuela due to U.S. sanctions.

Brent crude oil futures were up 55 cents at $68.09 per barrel at 1145 GMT, having earlier risen to a new 2019 high of $68.16 a barrel, their highest since November 2018.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were at $59.47 per barrel, up 38 cents from their last settlement. They have also risen on Tuesday to their highest since November 2019 of $59.57 a barrel.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on Monday scrapped its planned meeting in April, effectively extending supply cuts that have been in place since January until its next regular meeting in June.

OPEC and a group of non-affiliated producers including Russia, known as OPEC+, cut supply in 2019 to halt a sharp price drop which began in the second-half of 2018 due to booming U.S. production and fears of a global economic slowdown.

Saudi Arabia has signaled that OPEC and its allies may continue to restrain oil output until the end of 2019.

“The OPEC+ deal has brought stability to crude prices and signs of an extension have taken crude higher,” said Alfonso Esparza, senior market analyst at futures brokerage OANDA.

Prices have been further supported by U.S. sanctions against oil exports from Iran and Venezuela, traders said.

Venezuela has suspended its oil exports to India, one of its key export destinations, the Azeri energy ministry said on Tuesday, citing Venezuela’s oil minister.

Because of the tighter supply outlook for the coming months, the Brent forward curve has gone into backwardation since the start of the year, meaning that prices for immediate delivery are more expensive than those for dispatch in the future, with May Brent prices around $1.20 per barrel more expensive than December delivery Brent.

(GRAPHIC: Brent crude oil forward curves – https://tmsnrt.rs/2FlM7YZ)

Outside OPEC, analysts are watching U.S. crude oil production, which has risen by more than 2 million barrels per day (bpd) since early 2018, to around 12 million bpd, making the United States the world’s biggest producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Weekly output and storage data will be published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) on Wednesday.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a note that economic “risks are skewed to the downside” and that “we forecast global demand growth of 1.2 million bpd year-on-year in 2019 and 1.15 million bpd during 2020”.

The bank said it expected “Brent and WTI to average $70 per barrel and $59 per barrel respectively in 2019, and $65 per barrel and $60 per barrel in 2020.”

(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing Joseph Radford and Louise Heavens)

Source: OANN

NVIDIA logo shown at SIGGRAPH 2017
FILE PHOTO: A NVIDIA logo is shown at SIGGRAPH 2017 in Los Angeles, California, U.S. July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

March 19, 2019

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel-based Cognata, a developer of simulation platforms for self-driving cars, said on Tuesday it was partnering with U.S. chip supplier Nvidia Corp to speed up testing and validation for autonomous driving.

The companies will deliver an array of scenario and traffic models using large-scale, hardware-in-the-loop simulation, it said.

The simulation, Cognata said, will reduce testing time and costs, as well as produce better product quality and increase safety.

“Highly accurate and scalable traffic model simulation technology is essential to validate autonomous vehicle systems within nearly infinite combinations of real-world scenarios,” said Cognata CEO Danny Atsmon.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Steven Scheer)

Source: OANN


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