government

Activists from the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of non-governmental organisations opposing lethal autonomous weapons or so-called 'killer robots', stage a protest at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
Activists from the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of non-governmental organisations opposing lethal autonomous weapons or so-called ‘killer robots’, stage a protest at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, March, 21, 2019. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

March 21, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams and other activists warned on Thursday that fully autonomous weapons could be deployed in just 3-4 years and urged Germany to lead an international campaign for a ban on so-called “killer robots”.

Williams, who won the Nobel in 1997 for leading efforts to ban landmines, told reporters Germany should take bold steps to ensure that humans remained in control of lethal weapons. “You cannot lead from the rear,” she said.

Critics fear that the increasingly autonomous drones, missile defense systems and tanks made possible by new artificial intelligence could turn rogue in a cyber-attack or as a result of programming errors.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called last week for action to ensure human control of lethal weapons, but is pushing a non-binding declaration rather than a global ban, given opposition by the United States, Russia and China.

The United Nations and European Union have called for a global ban, but discussions so far have not yielded a clear commitment to conclude a treaty.

Activists from over 100 non-governmental groups gathered in Berlin this week to pressure Maas and the German government to take more decisive action after twice endorsing a ban on fully autonomous weapons in their 2013 and 2018 coalition accords.

They rallied at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, with a life-sized robot telling onlookers: “Not all robots will be friendly. Stop killer robots now.”

“If Germany showed leadership and got behind it, we’d soon have the rest of Europe behind it,” said Noel Sharkey, a leading roboticist and co-founder of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.

He said it was only a matter of years before fully autonomous weapons could be deployed in battle given rapid advances in artificial intelligence and other technologies.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN

European Union leaders summit in Brussels
French President Emmanuel Macron arrives for a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

March 21, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – The French Senate referred President Emmanuel Macron’s top aides to prosecutors on Thursday for withholding information from an investigation into Macron’s former bodyguard, prompting the government to accuse the legislature of exceeding its powers.

In one of the sharpest confrontations in years between France’s powerful executive and its parliament, Macron’s government described the move by the opposition-controlled Senate as a “political coup”.

The Senate announced on Thursday it had referred Macron’s top aide Alexis Kohler, his chief of staff Patrick Strzoda and Lionel Lavergne, the Elysee’s top security official, to prosecutors.

It accused them of withholding information from an investigation into former presidential bodyguard Alexandre Benalla, who was sacked last year after being filmed beating up protesters while wearing a police helmet and civilian clothes.

“This is neither reasonable nor measured, this is a political coup,” government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told reporters of the Senate move.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe took the rare step of boycotting the government’s weekly question-and-answer session at the Senate, his office said.

The Senate has been investigating Benalla, who was fired as Macron’s security aide after video emerged of his confrontation with May Day protesters.

He was sacked only after Le Monde newspaper broke the story, prompting criticism that the president had failed to act sooner. He has also been investigated over other accusations, including that he used a diplomatic passport after he was fired.

Last month, an investigative committee of French senators said the top Elysee officials had withheld information from them during their six month investigation and recommended the case be referred to prosecutors.

Macron’s government has argued that the Senate was contravening the separation of powers by questioning decisions by the executive branch. Many experts on French constitutional law say the Senate has acted within its rights.

“This is a perfectly legitimate move by the senate’s investigative committee,” Jean-Philippe Derosier, a constitutional law expert at the University of Lille told Reuters, saying the government’s criticism was “not justified.”

(Reporting by Michel Rose and Elizabeth Pineau; Editing by Peter Graff)

Source: OANN

European Union leaders summit in Brussels
French President Emmanuel Macron arrives for a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

March 21, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – The French Senate referred President Emmanuel Macron’s top aides to prosecutors on Thursday for withholding information from an investigation into Macron’s former bodyguard, prompting the government to accuse the legislature of exceeding its powers.

In one of the sharpest confrontations in years between France’s powerful executive and its parliament, Macron’s government described the move by the opposition-controlled Senate as a “political coup”.

The Senate announced on Thursday it had referred Macron’s top aide Alexis Kohler, his chief of staff Patrick Strzoda and Lionel Lavergne, the Elysee’s top security official, to prosecutors.

It accused them of withholding information from an investigation into former presidential bodyguard Alexandre Benalla, who was sacked last year after being filmed beating up protesters while wearing a police helmet and civilian clothes.

“This is neither reasonable nor measured, this is a political coup,” government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told reporters of the Senate move.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe took the rare step of boycotting the government’s weekly question-and-answer session at the Senate, his office said.

The Senate has been investigating Benalla, who was fired as Macron’s security aide after video emerged of his confrontation with May Day protesters.

He was sacked only after Le Monde newspaper broke the story, prompting criticism that the president had failed to act sooner. He has also been investigated over other accusations, including that he used a diplomatic passport after he was fired.

Last month, an investigative committee of French senators said the top Elysee officials had withheld information from them during their six month investigation and recommended the case be referred to prosecutors.

Macron’s government has argued that the Senate was contravening the separation of powers by questioning decisions by the executive branch. Many experts on French constitutional law say the Senate has acted within its rights.

“This is a perfectly legitimate move by the senate’s investigative committee,” Jean-Philippe Derosier, a constitutional law expert at the University of Lille told Reuters, saying the government’s criticism was “not justified.”

(Reporting by Michel Rose and Elizabeth Pineau; Editing by Peter Graff)

Source: OANN

A sign advertises homes for sale in a new housing development in Dickinson
FILE PHOTO: A sign advertises homes for sale in a new housing development in Dickinson, North Dakota January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen

March 21, 2019

By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve’s decisive statement this week that interest rates are unlikely to rise this year sends a signal to U.S. households: keep buying stuff.

The Fed tries to guide the U.S. economy by controlling the interest rate banks charge one another for overnight loans. Moving this rate up lifts other rates in the economy, making it costlier for people to use their credit cards or to buy homes and cars. Higher rates also make companies rethink investments.

A solid majority of Fed policymakers on Wednesday said higher rates are unlikely this year, leading investors to bet the economy might slowing enough for the Fed to actually cut rates.

The following are some possible consequences for American households:

EASY CREDIT

The Fed’s signal on its interest rate outlook led key market rates to fall, including the yield on 10-year Treasury bonds. That is a sign that rates are also falling for loans used to buy houses and cars. Interest rates for credit cards may also drift lower. Mortgage rates have been falling since November when Fed policymakers made clear they would be patient about rate decisions.

GRAPHIC-Falling mortgage rates: https://tmsnrt.rs/2UOhJvq

SAVING DISCOURAGED

Lower rates also encourage spending by taking the shine off some common ways to save money. Low yields reduce the return on money in savings accounts as well as in funds made up of safe-haven government bonds. This poses a problem for retirees who depend more on their income from savings and who take a hit from lower rates on Treasury bonds. The Fed has argued that retirees benefit from actions taken to support the broader economy.

GRAPHIC-Weak returns on deposits: https://tmsnrt.rs/2HwPA9n

RETIREMENT BOOST

Rising stock prices comprise the flip side of lower bond yields. That boosts the value of private retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s, particularly those of young people whose accounts tend to be weighted toward stocks.

The benchmark S&P 500 stock index surged after the Fed’s decision, reflecting the view that cheaper borrowing costs would help company profits. It is possible that stock market gains could boost consumer spending because people sometimes loosen their purse strings after a rise in perceived wealth.

GRAPHIC-Rate pressure: https://tmsnrt.rs/2UNxaEj

BUOYANT LABOR MARKET

The U.S. jobless rate is near its lowest level in 50 years although lately there have been signs of softening in the labor market. Hiring slowed sharply in February and the number of new jobless claims every week has also been ticking higher. The Fed’s action aims to keep the labor market solid. That could help encourage more people to rekindle job searches they had given up when the economy was still weak following the 2007-09 financial crisis.

GRAPHIC-U.S. employment picture: https://tmsnrt.rs/2HAXkad

(Reporting by Jason Lange, editing by G Crosse)

Source: OANN

People take part in a protest against government's plans to overhaul the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, on the Chain Bridge in Budapest.
People take part in a protest against government’s plans to overhaul the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, on the Chain Bridge in Budapest, Hungary, March 21, 2019. The banner reads “Free academy”. REUTERS/Tamas Kaszas

March 21, 2019

By Gergely Szakacs

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Around 1,000 people rallied outside the Hungarian Academy of Science (HAS) on Thursday to protest against government moves to overhaul the institution, which scientists say is the latest threat to academic independence.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who took power in 2010, has tightened controls over Hungarian public life, including the courts, the media and the economy, as well as education and now scientific research.

The European Parliament’s main center-right bloc voted on Wednesday to suspend Orban’s Fidesz party amid concerns it has violated European Union principles on the rule of law.

Some of the protesters on Thursday carried EU flags and waved banners saying “Thinking does not harm your health”.

“The Hungarian Academy of Science is a trustee of the preservation and development of Hungarian culture and science,” the Forum of Academy Workers, a movement founded by HAS research staff, said on its Facebook page.

“Yet, our nearly 200-year-old national institution is left fighting for its survival.”

OVERHAUL

The second protest against Orban’s reforms in as many months followed an accord between the ministry overseeing the overhaul and leaders of the academy to separate the science research network from the academy’s teaching institutions.

The research arm would be run by a new management body, with members selected by the government and the academy, according to a joint letter of intent signed early this month.

But HAS staff said the accord, reached as a result of what they called government “blackmail”, was unacceptable.

The academy is solely funded by the government but self-managing, with a network of scientific research bodies employing about 5,000 people.

The rally was due to march to the Innovations and Technology Ministry to wave red cards at minister Laszlo Palkovics, architect of the reform, which is due to take effect at the start of next year.

Orban’s government says the aim of the reform is to reap more economic benefits from scientific research.

“My actions are driven solely by the desire to make the Academy and the entire Hungarian research ecosystem more efficient,” Palkovics told private broadcaster atv.hu.

The demonstrators rejected that argument.

“This is a pretty dangerous tendency when we talk about the need for science to turn a profit immediately and manage scientific life solely according to economic interests,” said 19-year-old student Milan Szabo.

Concerns over the erosion of academic freedom and other democratic rights in Hungary have triggered several anti-government demonstrations in recent months.

(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Source: OANN

Britain's Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Caribbean tour
FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, attend a reception at the Prime Minister’s official residence, in Kingstown, St Vincent and Grenadines, March 20, 2019. Jane Barlow/Pool via REUTERS

March 21, 2019

By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) – Prince Charles and his wife Camilla arrive in Cuba on Sunday as part of a Caribbean tour, the first British royals to visit the Communist-run nation even as ally the United States seeks to isolate the country.

The royal couple were asked by the UK government to add Cuba to their tour of former and current British territories in hopes of boosting commercial relations and political influence.

The plans were made before the Trump administration intensified efforts this year to end what it views as Latin America’s “troika of tyranny”: the socialist governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. It has warned foreign companies away from doing business with Cuba, continuing its reversal of Trump predecessor Barack Obama’s detente with the island.

“The visit shows a fresh willingness by the UK to engage with Cuba in the Diaz-Canel era,” said Paul Hare, a former British ambassador to Cuba who lectures at Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies.

“The UK has long seen the U.S. trade embargo as the wrong way to produce greater openness and tolerance of new ideas in Cuba,” he said.

The visit will be welcomed on the island, which has seen a decline in high-profile visits since the likes of Pope Francis, then-U.S. President Obama and the Rolling Stones graced its shores just a few years ago.

“This visit means a lot because it shows the world that Cuba is a safe country and at the same time, in spite of economic and political adversities, it continues as a country of social interest,” culture ministry employee Mariela Gonzalez, 42, said on the streets of Havana.

The royal couple will dine with Cuba’s new president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, who succeeded Raul Castro a year ago. They first met last November on Prince Charles’ 70th birthday, when the Cuban president was visiting London.

There are no plans for Charles to meet Raul Castro, who remains head of the Communist Party, though that could change, according to Britain’s embassy.

The royals’ schedule through Wednesday, when they depart for the Cayman Islands, includes a tour of Havana’s restored colonial district, visits to community and green energy projects, a meeting with young entrepreneurs, reviewing a parade of antique British cars, and various cultural activities.

Former Royal Ballet star Carlos Acosta, who returned to his native land in 2015 to start a dance company, termed the visit “great” and said he hoped it would strengthen relations.

“I was formed here and for many years I was in the UK and built my career, so these two nations are very important to me,” said the world-renowned Acosta, who will take over direction of England’s Birmingham Royal Ballet next year.

BREXIT AND TRUMP

Britain has worked through its embassies worldwide to strengthen bilateral commercial relations since a referendum three years ago to exit the European Union. 

Plans for high-level officials to accompany the Prince of Wales were scuttled by the political drama playing out in London over how best to leave the EU before a March 29 deadline.

British trade with Cuba was less than $100 million last year. However, some 200,000 British tourists vacation there annually.

Insurer Lloyds of London and British-based accounting firm Ernst and Young do a brisk business on the island, as do lubricants manufacturer Castrol and Aberdeen Standard Investments, which manages Cuba-focused real estate firm CEIBA Investments Ltd

A handful of well-known British corporations have investments in Cuba through subsidiaries, for example Imperial Brands Plc, British-American Tobacco Plc and Unilever.

These and other British companies may eventually become targets of lawsuits by Cuban-Americans if Washington presses ahead with a tougher stance on foreign investment.

The Trump administration has threatened to activate a dormant law as soon as next month that allows American citizens to go to court against foreign companies “trafficking” in their nationalized and confiscated properties taken at the time of Cuba’s 1959 Revolution.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; additional reporting by Nelson Acosta; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

Rep. Max Rose said Thursday he decided to tell a group of Jewish people in his district in Staten Island that he's sorry for the words of fellow Rep Ilhan Omar because he believes in changing American politics.

"Everybody is blaming each other," the New York Democrat told MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "She caused pain in the Jewish community. She apologized, but we are working as hard as we can to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Muslims also are feeling an incredible amount of pain, said Rose, noting that Staten Island and Brooklyn have one of the largest Muslim communities in the country.

However, he said he does not believe Omar to be anti-Semitic, but he thought her tweets were, and he apologized "because they came out of Congress. This shouldn't be news that someone did this. This should be run of the mill stuff."

He also noted that on the same day or the day before Omar made her comments about Jews and the government on Twitter, there was a "very, very public threat made against her life."

"There is an incredible rise of Islamophobia in this country," said Rose, while commenting on an anti-hate resolution that was passed after Omar's tweets. Initially, the resolution was going to be against anti-Semitic statements but was widened to encompass other religions and walks of life.

"What I saw was a resolution that pronounced objection and opposition to acts of hate, as they rise across the county, particularly anti-Semitism and Islamophobia," said Rose.

Source: NewsMax

Jason Hopkins | Energy Investigator

  • FACT, an ethics watchdog group, filed a complaint with the IRS against Fair Fight Action, a nonprofit organization founded by Stacey Abrams. 
  • FACT says Fair Fight is violating its tax-exempt status by promoting Abrams’ political career instead of solely focusing on its stated goal of promoting voting rights. 
  • After losing her 2018 gubernatorial bid, Abrams openly considered a 2020 run for Senate and the White House. 

An ethics watchdog group filed a complaint with the IRS against Stacey Abrams’ nonprofit organization, Fair Fight Action, alleging it violated federal law.

The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) — a government watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. — is saying Fair Fight is working to promote Abrams’ political career in lieu of promoting voting rights, which, if accurate, it says would be in violation of its 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status.

Originally founded in 2014 as Voter Access Institute, Abrams changed the name to Fair Fight Action in December 2018. Fair Fight’s stated goal is the promotion of voter rights, and it advocates for a number of different election reforms. However, under its 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status, it cannot provide “support for an individual’s personal political activities.”

In its complaint to the IRS, FACT argues Abrams used Fair Fight to promote her own political ambitions.

The complaint says since Abrams lost her gubernatorial election, Fair Fight has helped pay for Abrams’ statewide speaking tour, Facebook ads that attacked Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp and promoted herself, a Super Bowl ad, hosted watch parties for supporters to “cheer” for Abrams as she gave the Democratic response to the State of the Union, and accepted donations from a “Stacey Abrams Fundraiser.”

These activities have gone on as Abrams openly mulled a 2020 Senate candidacy and even a presidential bid. Former Vice President Joe Biden is reportedly considering Abrams as his running mate, should he run and win the Democratic presidential nomination. Any political run for office by Abrams, experts argue, would elevate concerns over Fair Fight’s activities.

“It is extremely concerning that Stacey Abrams appears to be abusing our nation’s tax laws for her personal political gain,” Kendra Arnold, the executive director of FACT, said in a statement Tuesday. “The IRS has on numerous occasions ruled against groups trying to advance personal interests, and it is imperative the IRS investigate Fair Fight Action’s conduct.”

Abrams’ team hit back against the complaint.

“We know the playbook for Trump and his allies. They’re going to do whatever it takes to undermine our movement to ensure free and fair elections. We have to fight back now,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo — Abrams’ 2018 campaign manager who runs Fair Fight — in an email to supporters.

Groh-Wargo called the complaint “baseless” and said her group was not promoting Abrams.

Georgia Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams walks on stage and waves at the audience for a campaign rally at Morehouse College with Former US President Barack Obama on Nov. 2, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

ATLANTA, GA – NOVEMBER 02: Georgia Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams walks on stage and waves at the audience for a campaign rally at Morehouse College with Former US President Barack Obama on November 2, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. Obama spoke in Atlanta to endorse Abrams and encourage Georgians to vote. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

FACT pushed back against the accusation that it is a partisan organization, pointing out that it filed similar complaints with Republicans as well.

“Whoever we identify with questionable behavior, they fail to respond to the actual legitimacy of the complaint and just try to characterize us in one way or another,” Arnold told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We have filed complaints against every type of candidate and elected official. We do not consider party affiliation.” (RELATED: House Oversight Committee Opens Investigation Into Alleged Georgia Voter Suppression)

This is not the first time a nonprofit led by Abrams received negative headlines.

Third Sector Development, a nonprofit launched by Abrams that focuses on registering black voters, has been hit with seven different tax liens over the past few years for unpaid employment contributions. Georgia state regulators filed three tax liens against the group in the past year, and the Georgia Department of Labor filed four tax liens between 2014 and 2016. Abrams blamed the issues on clerical errors.

Follow Jason on Twitter

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

Source: The Daily Caller

Glenn Sacks | Contributor

Charter school advocates have claimed charter schools are “under assault from coast to coast, especially as union-led teacher strikes pound states and localities.” In reality, it is public education that has been under attack. Charters have siphoned off badly-needed funds while enrolling the most desirable students and leaving those they don’t want in underfunded public schools.

comprehensive study conducted by University of Oregon political economist/professor Gordon Lafer, Ph.D., found that California’s Oakland, San Diego, and East Side Union High School Districts suffer annual losses of $5,705, $4,913, and $6,618 respectively for each student lost to a charter. Lafer cautions that these numbers “should be considered a “conservative, minimum estimate.”

Similarly, in a 2016 study, the MGT consulting group estimated that the diversion of students to charter schools costs LAUSD$508 million a year — $4,957 per each student lost to a charter.

This occurs because much of traditional schools’ expenses are “fixed costs” that cannot easily be scaled down upon declines in enrollment. These expenses — which Lafer estimates at 50 percent — include maintaining, repairing, heating and cooling school buildings, operating cafeterias, and managing many administrative functions.

Traditional schools also must retain facilities and services that can quickly be deployed in response to an unexpected influx of students, such as 2014’s Central American child migration crisis or when a charter suddenly closes. Charters bear no such responsibility. Yet despite traditional schools’ additional, long-term obligations, when a student leaves for a charter, the district loses all of the funds appropriated for that student.

As prominent charter supporter Robin Lake acknowledges, “School boards and superintendents are faced with a situation where they lose enrollment so quickly that the only thing they can do is close schools, lay off teachers…increase class sizes, and slash their central office staffing and support levels.” This is a key factor, she says, that “often triggers a slow 
death spiral
.”

Moreover, in some areas, such as Los Angeles, charters open in the face of significant overall enrollment decline — an irrational use of public education funds.

Charter advocates also assert such schools “raise student achievement more than traditional public schools,” and proffer research citing their higher standardized test scores as proof. Google “charters outperform” and you will be deluged with similar claims.

However, even the most inclusive, fair-minded charter operators still gain an enormous benefit from the selection effect.

Longtime charter advocate David Osborne acknowledges “families have to choose charter schools, so kids with disengaged families are more likely to remain in district schools … this gives charters an advantage.” At the same time, charter schools can and do rid themselves of troublesome students far more easily than traditional public schools.

I experienced this selection effect when I moved from our high school’s residential school to its magnet. Our magnet accepts everybody, just as any public school does. Yet in our magnet, major indices for student success, such as attendance, legal status, and parents who are educated and/or speak English are significantly higher than in the residential school. Magnet students outperform the residential students in practically all areas, and are greatly over-represented on academic and athletic teams and in student government. Yet the only thing that separates them is that our magnet students wanted to apply and the residential students didn’t.

Moreover, according to journalist Stephanie Simon, a Reuters study found that “charters aggressively screen student applicants, assessing their academic records, parental support, disciplinary history, motivation, special needs and even their citizenship.” She noted some of the barriers Reuters found:

  • Lengthy application forms often printed only in English, that require student and parent essays, report cards, test scores, disciplinary records, teacher recommendations and medical records.
  • Demands that students present Social Security cards and birth certificates for their applications to be considered.
  • Mandatory family interviews.
  • Assessment exams.
  • Academic prerequisites.

How can one possibly compare the test scores at such schools with those of traditional public schools, who accept all students?

Sometimes unwittingly, even the most sincere charter advocates support policies which serve to write off many traditional public school students. Charters as currently operated amount to a rescue mission to liberate the best and brightest from the struggling ship of public education. That ship, once relieved of the only passengers deemed to be worth saving, can then be sent on its way or allowed to sink.

It has fallen to teachers’ unions to fight for public education. Our strikes and protests have been inspired by a simple belief — all students deserve a quality education.

Glenn Sacks teaches at James Monroe High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District and is co-chair of United Teachers of Los Angeles at Monroe.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

Source: The Daily Caller

Imported automobiles are parked in a lot at the port of Newark New Jersey
Imported automobiles are parked in a lot at the port of Newark New Jersey, U.S., February 19, 2019. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

March 21, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A conservative group has sued the U.S. government for access to a report on whether auto imports pose a big enough security risk to justify hefty tariffs on the sector, part of a growing chorus demanding a copy of the document.

Cause of Action Institute (CoA), a watchdog aligned with the conservative political activists David and Charles Koch, asked the District of Columbia Federal Court on Wednesday to require the Commerce department to hand over a copy of the report, which could unleash tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported cars and parts.

Last month, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross submitted the so-called “Section 232” national security report to President Donald Trump, starting a 90-day countdown for him to decide whether to impose the tariffs on millions of imports.

The Commerce department declined to comment.

The industry has warned that tariffs could add thousands of dollars to vehicle costs and potentially lead to hundreds of thousands of job losses throughout the U.S. economy.

The Commerce Department started its investigation in May 2018 at Trump’s request. Known as a Section 232 investigation, its purpose was to determine the effects of imports on national security. It had to be completed by February.

In the suit, CoA alleged the Commerce Department has missed deadlines to respond to Freedom of Information Act Requests it filed for the report on Feb. 18, a day after the report was sent to the White House.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has also sought a copy of the report without success, Politico reported.

Administration officials have said tariff threats on autos are a way to win concessions from Japan and the EU. Last year, Trump agreed not to impose tariffs as long as talks with the two trading partners were proceeding in a productive manner.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Additional Reporting by David Shepardson and David Lawder; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf
FILE PHOTO: A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf, Iran, July 25, 2005. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

March 21, 2019

By Alex Lawler

LONDON (Reuters) – Iran’s oil exports have dropped in March to their lowest daily level this year, according to tanker data and industry sources, even before Washington formally requires importing countries to reduce purchases to avoid infringing U.S. sanctions.

Shipments are averaging between 1.0 and 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) so far this month, according to Refinitiv Eikon data and three other companies that track Iranian exports. That’s lower than February, when shipments were at least 1.3 million bpd.

Shipments have dropped from at least 2.5 million bpd in April 2018, the month before U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions, fueling a year of economic crisis in the country.

Tehran has vowed to keep exporting oil despite U.S. efforts to reduce its shipments to zero, but the export decline could be another indicator of economic pressure from the embargo.

In a new year speech on Thursday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the Islamic Republic had resisted U.S. sanctions and called on the government to boost national production to face enemy pressures.

For the oil market, the drop in Iranian shipments will add to an OPEC-led oil supply cut and comes ahead of U.S. plans to clamp down further on Iranian exports from May, after ending of the current round of fairly generous waivers from sanctions.

Still, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, which began cutting production from Jan. 1 to bolster prices, are unlikely to be in a rush to change course, analysts say, without concrete signs of a shortage.

“We do expect less Iranian oil exports after May,” said Sara Vakhshouri of energy consultant SVB Energy International.

“However, we don’t think that OPEC will increase its production in anticipation of lower Iranian oil exports, but only if there are clear signs of further Iran and/or Venezuelan export cuts in the market,” Vakhshouri said.

Venezuela, an OPEC member, is also under U.S. sanctions which have curbed its exports.

Iran’s export levels have become more opaque since U.S. sanctions on the country’s oil sector took effect in November, although estimates of March supplies are falling into a narrower range than in previous months.

Kpler, a company that tracks oil flows, said Iranian shipments so far in March had dropped sharply to 1.03 million bps from 1.44 million bpd in February.

“Iranian crude loadings have struggled through the first half of March,” Kpler said in a report, although it said exports would rise closer to 1.3 million bpd in the rest of March.

(Editing by David Holmes)

Source: OANN

A man walks past Deutsche Bank offices in London
FILE PHOTO: A man walks past Deutsche Bank offices in London, Britain, December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

March 21, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank on Thursday hiked its expectation of a no-deal Brexit to 20 percent – the highest level ever – from 10 percent as the third attempt to get UK parliamentary approval for the nation’s exit from the European Union looms.

“The risks of a last-minute accident have increased,” said Oliver Harvey, head of Brexit research at the German bank, adding that “government strategy appears to be being made off the hoof”.

Deutsche Bank’s new call on a no-deal Brexit came after JP Morgan also upped its chances of an exit without a deal to 15 percent from 10 percent. The deadline for an agreement on Brexit is next Friday.

Deutsche Bank cut its estimated chances of UK Prime Minister May winning the next parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal to 25 percent, from 35 percent previously.

“In a worst-case scenario, we anticipate the government will seek an emergency extension of Article 50 even as late as the end of next week, should the third attempt to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement fail,” Harvey wrote.

He ascribed a 55-percent probability to that outcome.

The bank also closed its “short EUR/GBP” recommendation as ratification of Prime Minister May’s deal was no longer its base case.

Deutsche Bank had trimmed its expectation of a no-deal Brexit from 15 percent to 10 percent at the end of last month.

(Reporting by Helen Reid; editing by Josephine Mason)

Source: OANN

A man walks past Deutsche Bank offices in London
FILE PHOTO: A man walks past Deutsche Bank offices in London, Britain, December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

March 21, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank on Thursday hiked its expectation of a no-deal Brexit to 20 percent – the highest level ever – from 10 percent as the third attempt to get UK parliamentary approval for the nation’s exit from the European Union looms.

“The risks of a last-minute accident have increased,” said Oliver Harvey, head of Brexit research at the German bank, adding that “government strategy appears to be being made off the hoof”.

Deutsche Bank’s new call on a no-deal Brexit came after JP Morgan also upped its chances of an exit without a deal to 15 percent from 10 percent. The deadline for an agreement on Brexit is next Friday.

Deutsche Bank cut its estimated chances of UK Prime Minister May winning the next parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal to 25 percent, from 35 percent previously.

“In a worst-case scenario, we anticipate the government will seek an emergency extension of Article 50 even as late as the end of next week, should the third attempt to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement fail,” Harvey wrote.

He ascribed a 55-percent probability to that outcome.

The bank also closed its “short EUR/GBP” recommendation as ratification of Prime Minister May’s deal was no longer its base case.

Deutsche Bank had trimmed its expectation of a no-deal Brexit from 15 percent to 10 percent at the end of last month.

(Reporting by Helen Reid; editing by Josephine Mason)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Jane Philpott, when she was newly appointed president of the Treasury Board, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
FILE PHOTO: Jane Philpott, when she was newly appointed president of the Treasury Board, signs a book in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, January 14, 2019. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) – A Canadian cabinet minister, who had quit in protest over the government’s handling of a corruption scandal, said she and others had more to say about the matter, indicating more pain to come for embattled Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau has been on the defensive since Feb. 7 over allegations that top officials working for him leaned on former justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, last year to ensure that construction firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc avoided a corruption trial.

“There’s much more to the story that should be told,” former treasury board president, Jane Philpott, told Macleans’ magazine in an interview released on Thursday.

“I believe we actually owe it to Canadians as politicians to ensure that they have the truth,” she said. Philpott added that she and Wilson-Raybould had more to say but did not elaborate further. Philpott, a close political ally of Wilson-Raybould, quit on March 4.

Trudeau has denied any political interference to protect SNC-Lavalin from a bribery trial.

The crisis may threaten Trudeau’s reelection chances in the upcoming October vote. Polls show Trudeau’s center-left Liberals, who as recently as January looked certain to win the election, could lose to the official opposition Conservatives.

As well as the two ministers, the affair has claimed Trudeau’s closest political aide and the head of the federal bureaucracy. A Liberal legislator who backed Wilson-Raybould quit on Wednesday to sit as an independent.

Trudeau suffered further potential embarrassment on Thursday when SNC-Lavalin Chief Executive Neil Bruce denied he had told government officials that 9,000 jobs could be at risk if the firm was found guilty of offering bribes to Libyan officials.

Trudeau has often referred to the 9,000 potential job losses as a reason for helping the firm, which wanted to take advantage of new legislation to pay a large fine rather than be prosecuted.

“Until we are able to put this behind us, it’s pretty difficult to grow our Canadian workforce,” Bruce told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. on Thursday.

Asked whether he had mentioned a specific number of jobs that could be at risk, he replied: “No, we never gave a number.”

A court conviction would bar SNC-Lavalin from bidding on federal government contracts for 10 years.

Bruce added that if the company’s share price continued to suffer, it might become a takeover target. He played down comments by officials that the company might move abroad.

SNC-Lavalin’s headquarters are in the populous province of Quebec, where the Liberals say they need to pick up more seats in the October election to retain a majority government.

Trudeau has dismissed calls for a public inquiry, noting the House of Commons justice committee was probing the matter. That committee – dominated by Liberal legislators – shut down its inquiry on Tuesday, saying no more action was needed.

In protest, the Conservatives forced the House to sit through the night on Wednesday casting votes on hundreds of confidence motions. The marathon continued into Thursday.

“We’ll keep fighting and we hope Canadians join us in this cause and raise their voices,” Conservative legislator Michelle Rempel told reporters.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Source: OANN

IMF logo is seen outside the headquarters building in Washington
FILE PHOTO: International Monetary Fund (IMF) logo is seen outside the headquarters building in Washington, U.S., as IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde meets with Argentine Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

March 21, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund is still awaiting guidance from its members on whether to recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s leader, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said on Thursday, adding that there is no schedule for an IMF board meeting to decide the issue.

Rice told an IMF news briefing that there is still no clarity on Venezuela’s leadership situation and any shift in the Fund’s recognition of the government will be guided by its 189 member countries and the international community and “views are still being formed.”

Another Washington-based multilateral institution, the Inter-American Development Bank, last week replaced the representative of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with an economist backed by Juan Guaido, a major setback for the Maduro government.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Source: OANN

Michael Cohen’s business partner on the failed Trump Tower Moscow project will testify publicly before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 27, the committee announced.

Felix Sater will testify “about his business ventures with the Trump Organization and the potential Trump Tower Moscow deal,” according to a Thursday press release from the committee.

The committee will also have an open hearing on March 28 on “Putin’s Playbook: The Kremlin’s Use of Oligarchs, Money and Intelligence in 2016 and Beyond.”

The hearings are the first under Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff’s tenure.

Sater, a real estate executive who has worked as an informant for the U.S. government for decades, worked with Cohen beginning in late 2015 to build a Trump-branded skyscraper in Moscow. (RELATED: Bruce Ohr Testimony Undercuts Adam Schiff’s Theory About FBI’s Handling Of Dossier)

Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, speaks about President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, during an interview with Mike Allen of Axios, on Jan. 31, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Sater sent several text messages touting the project and pledging to get the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also came up with the idea to offer Putin a $50 million penthouse as part of the negotiation to secure the deal. Sater said the offer was part of a “marketing conversation” he had with Cohen.

Cohen pleaded guilty in the special counsel’s probe to lying to Congress about the timeline of his work on the Trump Tower project. He claimed that negotiations ended in January 2016, before the beginning of the 2016 primaries. Cohen acknowledged in his Nov. 29 plea agreement that he continued his efforts through June 2016.

Sater, who has known Cohen since childhood, has said he saw no evidence of election-related collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.

Schiff, a California Democrat, has shifted his focus recently from the question of collusion to whether Russia or other foreign countries have compromised President Donald Trump through lucrative business deals.

Follow Chuck on Twitter

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

Source: The Daily Caller

Some Democrats are pushing for a complete overhaul of the U.S. government – from lowering the voting age to expanding the size of the Supreme Court, CNN is reporting.

The list of reforms being proposed by prominent Democrats goes far beyond climate change and healthcare, the news network said in an analysis posted Thursday.

Here are some of the changes being floated by the Democrats:

  • Overhauling the election system:  Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a presidential candidate, has endorsed abandoning the Electoral College.
  • Expanding the size of the Supreme Court: Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Warren – all presidential candidates — told Politico they would consider increasing the number of justices on the high court.
  • Addition of a new state: CNN noted every Democrat making a bid for the White House, who serves in the House or Senate, has endorsed making Washington D.C. a state.
  • Lowering the voting age: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has endorsed lowering the voting age to 16, which would require a constitutional amendment.

    CNN noted the idea have little or no chance of becoming reality in the near future. And President Donald Trump commented on the proposals on Wednesday calling the Democrats "strange" for pushing them.

Source: NewsMax

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement about Brexit in Downing Street in London
FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement about Brexit in Downing Street in London, Britain March 20, 2019. Jonathan Brady/Pool via REUTERS

March 21, 2019

By Kylie MacLellan

LONDON (Reuters) – If British Prime Minister Theresa May hoped a televised address late on Wednesday would help persuade wavering lawmakers to support her Brexit deal, it appears to have backfired, instead alienating the very people she needs to win over.

On Thursday, lawmakers lined up to attack the statement in which May blamed parliament for the need to seek a delay to Britain’s March 29 European Union exit. They branded it dangerous, reckless, toxic and irresponsible.

May’s Brexit deal has twice been crushed by parliament, first in January in the largest government defeat in modern history and again this month by a smaller, yet still sizeable, margin. She needs to win over at least 75 lawmakers to get it through.

“The Prime Minister’s statement was disgraceful,” said opposition Labour lawmaker Lisa Nandy, who represents a Brexit-supporting area. “Pitting parliament against the people in the current environment is dangerous and reckless,” she added on Twitter. “She’s attacking the MPs (Members of Parliament) whose votes she needs. It will have cost her support.”

Nandy had put forward a proposal which backed May’s deal on the condition parliament has a greater say in the next phase of Brexit talks, but told ITV: “I will not support a government that takes such a dangerous, reckless approach to democracy.”

After writing to the EU on Wednesday to request a three-month delay to Brexit, May told Britons parliament had done “everything possible to avoid making a choice”.

“Of this I am absolutely sure: you the public have had enough. You are tired of the infighting. You are tired of the political games and the arcane procedural rows,” she said in the televised statement from her Downing Street office.

“You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with. I agree. I am on your side. It is now time for MPs to decide.”

May’s statement succeeded in uniting both pro-Brexit and pro-EU lawmakers – against her.

“If you are trying to persuade numbers of MPs to back a proposition, you don’t do that by insulting them,” pro-Brexit Conservative lawmaker Mark Francois told Sky News.

Conservative Sam Gyimah, who quit as a government minister over the Brexit deal and now supports a second referendum, said May resorting to a “blame game” was “all part of her strategy to run down the clock and rule out other options. Toxic.”

“DIAL DOWN THE HATE”

Several lawmakers said they had received death threats in recent weeks as Brexit has come to a head in parliament, and warned May’s comments had fueled the flames.

“Last week I received a message saying that my head should be chopped off,” said Labour lawmaker Paula Sherriff, who represents an electoral district neighboring one where Labour lawmaker Jo Cox was killed by a man obsessed with extreme right-wing ideology a week before the 2016 Brexit vote.

“I apprehended the prime minister last Thursday evening and I begged her ‘dial down the hate prime minister,’” she told parliament. “People are frightened … and the prime minister must show some leadership.”

Fellow Labour lawmaker Wes Streeting said May’s speech had been incendiary, warning on Twitter “If any harm comes to any of us, she will have to accept her share of responsibility.”

Asked about the suggestion May’s speech had put lawmakers at risk, her spokeswoman said: “I would flatly reject that.”

“It was a message to the public on a significant decision she has taken,” she said.

In response to the concerns, parliament’s Speaker, John Bercow, told lawmakers: “None of you is a traitor, all of you are doing your best … I believe passionately in the institution of parliament, in the rights of members of this House and in their commitment to their duty.”

“The sole duty of every member of parliament is to do what he or she thinks is right.”

(Editing by Stephen Addison)

Source: OANN

Google is refusing to remove an application activists believe promotes the idea that homosexuality is both a sin and susceptible to change.

The Living Hope Ministries is essentially a conversion therapy app, according to LGBTQ rights groups that are urging Google to ding the project. The app, which has already been removed by Apple and Amazon, offers young people and parents articles and testimonials.

Nearly 140,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org pushing the company to make a move. Supporters of the app argue, meanwhile, that the project neither supports nor practices conversion therapy, a type of therapy designed to turn gay people into heterosexuals. The American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association oppose such practices.

“We are hopeful that technology companies recognize the harm of apps that promote conversion therapy. The Trevor Project hears from conversion therapy survivors in crisis every day, and we remain committed to ending the harmful practice in every state because we know it contributes to an increased risk of suicidal behavior among LGBTQ youth,” Trevor Project CEO Amit Paley told Axios Wednesday.

(PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)

People pass by the Google logo at the Web Summit in Lisbon on November 8, 2017. (PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA/AFP/Getty Images)

Supporters of the app claim it allows gay men and women to square their homosexuality with orthodox Christianity. Pressure on Google will likely intensify as activists press the issue. The company has gotten hit in the past for offering controversial apps, including one in 2018 allowing citizens to report what they consider instances of blasphemy to the Indonesian government.

The so-called Smart Pakem app was created through the Google Play platform and allows users to report “deviant” religious ideas directly to Indonesian authorities. The country’s anti-blasphemy laws target “those who disgrace a religion” or who otherwise express “hostility” to religion. (RELATED: Google App Allows People To Report Blasphemy To Indonesian Government)

Google could also receive internal pressure.

The Daily Caller News Foundation reported March 18 that the company banned a video explaining Christian teaching on same-sex marriage from advertising on YouTube in 2018 after employees pushed and prodded for the ban. The video was flagged in June 2018 in an internal listserv run by Google’s human resources department, according to communications and other internal documents.

Google has not yet responded to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika looks at journalists after casting his ballot during the parliamentary election in Algiers
FILE PHOTO: Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika looks at journalists after casting his ballot during the parliamentary election in Algiers, Algeria, May 4, 2017. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Lamine Chikhi and Aidan Lewis

ALGIERS/CAIRO (Reuters) – Protests that brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets in Algeria over the past month led President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to scrap plans to run for a fifth term.

He postponed an election originally set for April and announced that experts would oversee a transition to a “new system” in coming months. Protesters say this is not enough.

WHAT CAUSED THE PROTESTS?

The immediate cause was Bouteflika’s candidacy. Calls for protests spread after it was confirmed on Feb. 10. Mass rallies began on Feb. 22, and numbers rose over the following two Fridays. After Bouteflika abandoned plans to stand but stopped short of stepping down — raising the prospect that he would stay in power for the rest of the year — the protests swelled.

More broadly, protests drew on frustration among millions of Algerians who feel politically and economically excluded, and resentment against an aging and secretive elite that has controlled Algeria since independence from France in 1962.

President since 1999, Bouteflika became a symbol of an independence generation that clung to power. He oversaw a return to stability after a civil war in the 1990s but in his second decade in power was incapacitated and mostly absent from public life, fuelling a sense of drift and decline.

Plans to diversify the economy away from oil stalled in a sclerotic system many saw as corrupt and riven with cronyism.

HOW DID BOUTEFLIKA SURVIVE SO LONG?

Major Islamist groups were discredited by the 1990s war and along with a liberal opposition were coopted or excluded when it ended. As the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) reasserted itself, political apathy set in and election turnouts dropped.

When uprisings swept the region in 2011, Algeria used a heavy security and oil money to curtail demonstrations.

There were frequent local protests, but these demanded state resources, not political change. Factional battles played out in the domestic media, relatively free by regional standards. Then, as now, neither ruling elite factions nor Bouteflika and his entourage appeared able to agree on a succession plan.

WHO HAS BEEN RUNNING THE COUNTRY?

Bouteflika has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013, but by then he had already sidelined or outlived the generals who brought him to power. General Mohamed “Toufik” Mediene, head of military intelligence and the man widely seen to be the real center of power in Algeria, departed in 2015.

While the army remained Algeria’s most powerful institution, an informal clique around the presidency amassed more influence, including Bouteflika’s younger brother Said. An emerging business elite profiting from surging oil income also benefited.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE SCENARIOS NOW?

Bouteflika announced that an “independent and inclusive” national conference would draft and new constitution and set a date for elections, and should conclude its work by the end of the year. An interim, technocratic government is being formed.

But this plan has been cast into doubt as Bouteflika’s position has weakened. Protesters want him to step down when his five-year term ends in April and say their goal is sustain pressure and prevent infiltration from “Bouteflika’s system”.

Chief of staff Gaed Salah has said the army should take responsibility for solving the crisis but so far it has been waiting in the wings. The army is more reluctant to intervene directly than in the past. Its decision to cancel parliamentary elections in 1992 that Islamists were poised to win triggered the conflict that left up to 200,000 people dead.

Islamism is in decline, and a new leader may come from the political mainstream. Ahmed Benbitour, a former prime minister, and Mustapha Bouchachi, a rights activist and lawyer, are among those emerging as protest leaders.

WHAT CHALLENGES DO PROTESTERS FACE?

Protesters are trying to remain peaceful. From the start, they have worried that factions within the security forces may provoke violence to discredit protesters, or that demonstrations could turn violent when protesters’ demands are not met.

Another challenge is to find leaders with enough experience and broad support — those who served under Bouteflika may be discredited in the eyes of protesters.

Protesters fear that factions holding power and associated patronage networks will look to survive even as they abandon Bouteflika. Most observers believe that while Bouteflika and his clique will leave power, the system around them will remain.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Algeria is Africa’s biggest country by landmass and has a population of more than 40 million. It is a major oil and gas producer and OPEC member, and a top supplier of gas to Europe.

Western states see Algeria as a counter-terrorism partner. It is a significant military player in North Africa and the Sahel, and diplomatically involved in crises in Mali and Libya.

Algeria also backs the Polisario Front independence movement in Western Sahara, in opposition to its neighbor Morocco.

(Writing by Aidan Lewis, Editing by William Maclean)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Buildings are seen in the financial district in Oslo,
FILE PHOTO: Buildings are seen in the financial district in Oslo, Norway May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Tarmo Virki

HELSINKI (Reuters) – Norway’s capital Oslo will become the first city in the world to install wireless charging systems for electric taxis, hoping to make recharging quick and efficient enough to speed the takeup of non-polluting cabs.

The project will use induction technology, with charging plates installed in the road at taxi ranks linking to receivers installed in the vehicle, Finnish utility Fortum said on Thursday.

From 2023 onward all taxis in Oslo will have to be zero emission and Norway wants all new cars to be zero emission by 2025. Among other nations, Britain and France have similar goals for 2040.

Fortum, which is working with U.S. firm Momentum Dynamics and the City of Oslo on the scheme, said the greatest hurdle for electrification of taxis had so far been the infrastructure, as it is too time consuming for cabbies to find a charger, plug in, then wait for the car to charge.

Induction is more energy efficient and enables charging the taxis while they are in the slowly moving queues at taxi ranks.

“Time equals money when taxi drivers are working,” said Ole Gudbrann Hempel, head of Fortum’s public charging network in Norway.

Norway has the world’s highest rate of electric car ownership, partly thanks to long-term perks such as free or discounted road tolls, parking and charging points. Last year, almost one in three new cars sold was electric.

The government also exempts electric vehicles from taxes on traditional vehicles that are very high in a country which does not have its own fossil fuel car industry to lobby against them.

With just five million people, Norway bought 46,143 new battery electric cars in 2018, making it the biggest market in Europe, ahead of Germany with 36,216 and France on 31,095, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association.

(Editing by Terje Solsvik and David Holmes)

Source: OANN

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic poses during an interview with Reuters in Belgrade, Serbia
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic poses during an interview with Reuters in Belgrade, Serbia, September 13, 2018. REUTERS/Djordje Kojadinovic

March 21, 2019

By Aleksandar Vasovic and Ivana Sekularac

BELGRADE (Reuters) – The failure to revive talks between Serbia and Kosovo on normalizing relations could destabilize the Western Balkan region still recovering from the wars of the 1990s, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on Thursday.

Twenty years after NATO bombed the now-defunct Yugoslavia to halt Serbia’s brutal crackdown on Albanians in Kosovo, its former southern province, talks are stalled.

Albanian-majority Kosovo declared independence in 2008 and won recognition from the United States and most EU countries, but not Serbia or its big power patron Russia, and some 4,000 NATO troops remain to safeguard peace in the tiny country.

Both countries must fully normalize ties, before either could progress further on their way to join the European Union.

“Every day of delays could create conditions in which one spark could set the region on fire. The Western countries should know that,” Vucic told Reuters in an interview.

“That is the danger … when national sentiments are stoked.”

In response to Serbia’s bid to prevent Kosovo’s membership in international organizations, Pristina imposed 100 percent tariffs on goods imported from Serbia, something that could cost the Serbian economy 600 million euros in one year, around 0.4 percent of GDP.

To restore the dialogue, Serbia wants those taxes abolished, a move supported by the EU and the United States.

What any settlement could look like is unclear. Both Vucic and Kosovo President Hashim Thaci have floated ideas about a “correction of borders” or “delimitation” – terms interpreted by analysts as land swaps.

The West sees the integration of the entire region into the EU and NATO as a way to maintain regional stability.

“Our accession to the European Union depends on the dialogue with Pristina and whether one day we will manage to reach a deal,” Vucic said, adding that he expected Germany, France or the EU to become more active in the negotiating process.

“I think we will see some of their initiatives in the near future,” he said, without elaborating.

Vucic, in power since 2012, said he had no plan to resign or call early elections, something demanded by thousands in opposition protests that started last December accusing his government of cronyism, corruption and stifling media freedoms, something he denies.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The Ericsson logo is seen at the Ericsson's headquarters in Stockholm
FILE PHOTO: The Ericsson logo is seen at the Ericsson’s headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden June 14, 2018. Picture taken June 14, 2018. REUTERS/Olof Swahnberg

March 21, 2019

By Joanna Plucinska

WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland will fall behind the rest of Europe on 5G unless it makes regulatory changes, an Erissson executive told Reuters, raising fresh concerns over the country’s plans as it considers excluding China’s Huawei from its 5G rollout.

Swedish telecoms equipment maker Ericsson is among the companies that could benefit should Poland bar Huawei from its 5G plans over concerns about cybersecurity vulnerabilities in the Chinese company’s equipment.

A number of European governments, including the Czech Republic and Poland, have raised concerns about Huawei’s role in the next generation of mobile connectivity, with the European Union is also considering proposals to exclude Chinese firms from 5G networks.

“Ericsson is ready. But there needs to be spectrum made available and this should be made available in 2020 by the latest, otherwise Poland can really fall behind Europe,” said Martin Mellor, Ericsson’s manager for Poland.

Finland’s Nokia and Ericsson are the leading European contenders to provide 5G equipment for Poland, the largest economy in eastern Europe.

As well as freeing up spectrum frequencies for 5G, the Polish government needs to ease regulations for building new sites for the next-generation network, Mellor said.

“There may be the need to have a denser network, so you can see lamp posts, bus stations, street furniture becoming part of the 5G network,” he said. “It would be beneficial if it was easier to build on these sites.”

Poland also needs to recalibrate power density limits, which Mellor said are among the most limited in Europe, to allow base stations to transmit enough electricity to make the 5G network function.

The government has yet to announce a decision on Huawei and finding viable replacements for Chinese telecoms equipment will be challenging, Poland’s deputy digital minister Wanda Buk told Reuters.

    Telecoms industry and government officials told Reuters that Ericsson’s equipment is considered significantly more expensive than Chinese alternatives, which is why most operators in Poland opted for Huawei-produced equipment.

Ericsson’s commercial offerings are priced at a competitive rate, Mellor said.

“Like all companies, Ericsson will always evaluate its commercial offerings,” he added.

(Additional reporting by Anna Koper; Editing by David Goodman)

Source: OANN

“On the advice of counsel, Mr. Stone will not produce the documents requested by the House Committee on the Judiciary,” Stone’s attorney wrote to Nadler in a letter reviewed by The Daily Caller, adding, “whether the documents requested by the House Committee on the Judiciary exist or not, they are subject to a Fifth Amendment claim.”

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 25: U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) listens during a House Rules Committee meeting at the U.S. Capitol February 25, 2019 in Washington, DC. The Democrat-led committee is meeting to consider a resolution to block the national emergency declaration that seeks to allow President Trump to shift spending to fund sections of a U.S.-Mexico border wall. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Stone’s attorney continued, “Mr. Stone’s invocation of his Fifth Amendment rights must be understood by all to be the assertion of a Constitutional right by an innocent citizen, who is currently defending his innocence, and one who denounces secrecy for the purposes of advancing innuendo.”

Stone instead noted that Nadler should seek relevant documents from the House Select Committee On Intelligence, where he testified in September 2017. Stone also pointed to the recent charges he faces from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.  Stone was indicted on seven counts by Mueller’s team on charges of allegedly making false statements to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing a government investigation. (EXCLUSIVE: Trump Considers Reviewing FBI Policies After Stone Raid) 

Pictured is U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“As a current criminal defendant, with the presumption of innocence guaranteed to him, it is not in Mr. Stone’s best interest to participate in any additional proceedings, outside those in federal court, until the charges are resolved,” Stone said.

The indictment against Stone claims that a “senior official” on Trump’s 2016 campaign asked Stone to inquire with Wikileaks about possible impending releases of damaging information on Hillary Clinton in July 2016. Stone told The Daily Caller at the time of his indictment he is “unfamiliar” with the email referenced within Mueller’s indictment, but noted that perhaps it needed more context.

Nadler’s document requests to Stone included anything related to Michael Cohen, contacts with foreign governments, and his communications with Trump.

Source: The Daily Caller

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Corbyn and EU's Chief Brexit Negotiator Barnier meet in Brussels
Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks to the media after a meeting with European Union’s Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels, Belgium March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

March 21, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – British Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said after meeting the EU’s Brexit negotiator that he will push ahead with Brexit and seek to renegotiate the terms of the divorce deal.

Corbyn’s meeting with Michel Barnier on Thursday came as Prime Minister Theresa May is struggling to get her divorce deal through parliament and has asked the EU for an extension to negotiations.

“Our determination is to find an agreement, which means we prevent a no-deal Brexit, and that we have a future constructive relationship with the European Union that could be negotiated during an extension period,” Corbyn told reporters.

He added: “This morning’s meetings have been positive and we have done what I believe the government ought to be doing, which is instead of bringing back a twice-rejected deal to the British parliament, looking for a constructive alternative.”

(Reporting By Elizabeth Piper. Writing by Andrew MacAskill; editing by Stephen Addison)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: People carry national flags and banners during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers
FILE PHOTO: People carry national flags and banners during a protest calling on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to quit, in Algiers, Algeria March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Lamine Chikhi

ALGIERS (Reuters) – One of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s few remaining allies in the face of mass protests, business leader Ali Haddad, is facing pressure to quit as head of Algeria’s main business association, a move that would further weaken the embattled head of state.

Bouteflika’s long-time strategic partners, from members of the governing FLN party to trade unionists, have abandoned the president, peeling away layers of his ruling elite.

The 82-year-old president also relied on influential figures like Ali Haddad, who has made billions through public works projects awarded by the government and investments in the media.

He also funded Bouteflika’s election campaigns and heads the FCE, a top business association whose leaders have been long-time supporters of the president.

The forum for entrepreneurs has been hit by a series of resignations from members who have turned their backs on Bouteflika since the protests began on Feb 22.

“Voices inside the FCE exist and they have publicly called for an extraordinary General Assembly to replace Ali Haddad,” said Laid Benamor, former vice president of the organization, who resigned from it after the demonstrations began.

“He is today associated with cronyism and favors. The union must return to its original purpose, an apolitical economic space, to regain credibility.”

Haddad was not immediately available for comment.

A second businessman, Ourahmoune Nabil, described Haddad as one of the symbols of Bouteflika’s system of rule and added that he must go, echoing public sentiment.

“There won’t be a real change if Bouteflika leaves and Haddad stays,” he said.

The FCE was not immediately available for comment.

NO CLEAR SUCCESSOR

Bouteflika, 82, who has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke five years ago, bowed to the protesters last week by reversing plans to stand for a fifth term.

But he stopped short of stepping down and said he would stay in office until a new constitution is adopted, effectively extending his present term.

His move failed to placate Algerians, who want veterans of the 1954-1962 independence war against France who dominate the establishment to step aside so a new generation of leaders can create jobs, fight corruption and introduce greater freedoms.

Even if Bouteflika quits, Algerians could face a new crisis. There is no clear successor who has won the backing of the army and is younger than 70.

One option, experts say, is to create a high council of state that will set a date for general elections.

Bouteflika and his inner circle have built a multi-layered network of power over the years that includes the military — which often orchestrates politics from behind the scenes.

On Wednesday, army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah threw his weight behind protesters, saying they have expressed “noble aims”.

The ruling National Liberation Front party, known by its French acronym FLN, has also sided with the demonstrators, leaving Bouteflika more vulnerable than ever.

(Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by William Maclean)

Source: OANN

The Wider Image: Water is now gold for desperate Venezuelans
Eleazar Azuaje, who is in charge of looking after the water system for the apartment block, checks the water level of the main tank of the building in Caracas, Venezuela, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

March 21, 2019

By Shaylim Valderrama

CARACAS (Reuters) – Living with a scarcity of water is becoming the norm for many Venezuelans.

Families interviewed by Reuters say they have spent months without receiving any water from the tap after power blackouts cut off supply and pipes failed due to a lack of maintenance. Faced with uncertainty of when it might return, and whether it would be enough, they are conserving as much as water as they can take from rivers or buy at shops. They are bathing, washing clothes and dishes, and cooking with just a few liters a day.

From the poorest slums, to the wealthiest neighborhoods, the shortage of water cuts across Venezuelan society as families endure the country’s deepest ever economic crisis.

A 5 liter (1.32 gallons) bottle costs about $2 at a Caracas supermarket, out of reach for many low-income people in Venezuela, where the monthly minimum wage is only around $6 each month.

“We try to save water scrubbing ourselves standing in bowls,” said Yudith Contreras, a 49-year-old lawyer, in her apartment where little water has arrived over the past two years. She has taken to getting water from streams that run down the Avila mountain above Caracas.

Contreras, who is from one of the families interviewed by Reuters in a ten-story housing complex in downtown Caracas, said her family recycles the water by using it to flush the toilet. In her kitchen and bathroom, she keeps containers of water, which she carries up the nine floors to her apartment as the elevator does not work.

“You have to save water because we don’t know how long this situation will go on for,” she said.

Some residents of the building, a few blocks from the presidential Miraflores Palace, have already exhausted their water supplies. “Today I finished all that I had stored,” said David Riveros, a retired bus driver living on the first floor.

President Nicolas Maduro’s government blames the scarcity of water on a long drought and also accuses opponents of sabotaging its supply. The country’s opposition, led by Juan Guaido, who in January invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency after declaring Maduro’s re-election a fraud, says the problem is due to little maintenance done over many years on Venezuela’s power and water networks.

Earlier this month, Venezuela was plunged deeper into chaos after a near week-long power blackout cut off the already scant water supply to most residents. Since then, Maduro has promised to place enormous water tanks on the roofs of houses and apartment blocks to alleviate the problem.

Since the nationwide blackout, the worst in decades, lines of people queuing to fill up water flowing from the Avila have multiplied, despite warnings that the water was not fit for consumption and could contain bacteria and parasites.

Yuneisy Flores, a 31-year-old homemaker whose family live on the fourth floor, washes her dishes in cartons and strains the water to remove the leftovers of food. She then uses the liquid to flush the toilet. She bathes her 3-year-old daughter in a sink to recycle the water.

In her home, three tanks and several other containers collect water when it comes intermittently. Flores, her husband, and their two little children bathe in one of the tanks, which holds some 18 liters.

“It’s hard, too hard, you can die without water,” she said. “We weren’t aware of this before. Water now is gold.”

(See related photo essay here: https://reut.rs/2FpLiOK)

(Additional reporting by Carlos Garcia Rawlins and Carlos Jasso; Writing by Angus Berwick; editing by Diane Craft)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. ambassador to Yemen on Capitol Hill in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Matthew Tueller, U.S. ambassador to Yemen on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

March 21, 2019

ADEN (Reuters) – The U.S. ambassador to Yemen blamed the Iran-aligned Houthi movement on Thursday for the stalling of a U.N.-led peace deal in the main port of Hodeidah and said the group’s weapons pose a threat to other countries in the region.

The Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Houthis reached a ceasefire and troop withdrawal deal for Hodeidah, which is under Houthi control, at talks in Sweden in December. The pact was the first major breakthrough in efforts to end the four year war.

While the truce has largely held, the troop withdrawal by both parties has yet to materialize with each side blaming the other for lack of progress. The deal aimed to avert a full-scale assault on the port which is a lifeline for millions of Yemenis facing starvation.

“We are greatly frustrated by what we see as delays and stalling on the part of the Houthis in implementing what they agreed to in Sweden, but I have great confidence in the UN envoy and what he is doing,” ambassador Matthew Tueller told a televised news conference in the southern port of Aden, where the internationally recognized government is based.

“We are willing to work with others in order to try to implement these (Sweden) agreements and see whether the Houthis can in fact demonstrate a political maturity and start to serve the interests of Yemen rather than acting on behalf of those who seek to weaken and destroy Yemen,” he said.

Tueller said he had “not given up hope” that the deal would be implemented in Hodeidah, where thousands of Yemeni forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition are massed on the outskirts.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the war which pits the Houthis against other Yemeni factions backed by the Saudi-led coalition loyal to the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The Houthis ousted Hadi’s government from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014.

The conflict is widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Houthis, who control Sanaa and most population centers, deny being puppets of Tehran and say their revolution is against corruption.

The United States has sided with the Yemeni government against the Houthis and provides military support to the Saudi-led coalition, including help with targeting for Saudi air strikes.

“SEVERE DANGER” TO REGION

The Sunni Muslim coalition twice tried to seize the port last year in a bid to weaken the Houthis by cutting off their main supply line. The United Nations and aid groups fear a full-on offensive may disrupt operations at the port that handles the bulk of Yemen’s imports and trigger mass starvation.

The alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates accuses Iran of smuggling weapons, including missiles which have targeted Saudi cities, to the Houthis. The group and Tehran deny the accusations.

Tueller said the United States was working with Yemeni authorities to prevent arms smuggling from Iran and to strengthen local security institutions.

“The fact that there are groups that have weapons, including heavy weapons and even weapons that can threaten neighboring countries, and those weapons are not under the control of the institutions of the state – this is a severe danger to the region as well as to Yemen,” he said.

The United States does not support groups that “seek to divide Yemen”, Tueller said, in an apparent reference to southern separatists whose forces have been taking part in coalition operations under the leadership of the UAE.

The complex war has revived old strains between North and South Yemen, formerly separate countries which united into a single state in 1990. A separatist leader warned this month that any peace deal that fails to address the south’s wish for self-determination could trigger a new conflict.

(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli and Ghaida Ghantous in Dubai; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Source: OANN

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman stand next to the dedication plaque at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman stand next to the dedication plaque at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young/Pool

March 21, 2019

By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described Hezbollah on Wednesday as a risk to Middle East stability and conferred with Israel about the heavily armed, Iranian-backed Lebanese group ahead of a trip to Beirut.

Pompeo, who has been on a regional tour to promote the Trump administration’s hard tack against Iran, received a warning from Israel which worries it may again be in the sights of Hezbollah forces winding down their intervention in Syria’s war.

Meeting Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem, Pompeo listed Hezbollah, Palestinian Hamas and Yemen’s Houthis – all recipients of Iranian support – as “entities that present risks to Middle East stability and to Israel”.

“They are determined to wipe this country off the face of the planet and we have a moral obligation and a political one to prevent that from happening. You should know that the United States is prepared to do that,” Pompeo said in public remarks at the meeting.

For its part, Israel has carried out repeated air strikes on Hezbollah in Syria, where the Shi’ite Muslim militia – along with Russian air power – helped President Bashar al-Assad turn the tables against mainly Sunni Muslim rebels and militants.

In a speech broadcast on the Persian new year on Thursday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the Islamic Republic had successfully resisted “unprecedented, strong” U.S. sanctions.

Iran has faced economic hardship since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew last year from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and reimposed sanctions.

Focusing his remarks on Lebanon, Rivlin told Pompeo that its prime minister, Saad al-Hariri, “cannot say to anyone that Lebanon is separate from Hezbollah” – a reference to the group’s political clout in Beirut where it has ministers in the government as well as lawmakers in parliament.

“If some(thing) will happen from Lebanon toward Israel, we will hold Lebanon as the responsible (party)”, Rivlin said, speaking in English.

Washington also has been increasingly voicing concern at Hezbollah power, echoing Israel, whose forces were fought to a standstill by the militia in a 2006 Lebanon war.

Pompeo’s visit to Jerusalem was widely seen in Israel as a boost for Netanyahu, who enjoys a close relationship with Trump, just three weeks before a closely contested Israeli election.

In a further signal of solidarity with Israel, Pompeo was later scheduled, accompanied by Netanyahu, to visit Judaism’s Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City.

In May 2017, Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the wall, but did not ask Netanyahu to join him.

Seven months later, Trump broke with decades of U.S. policy and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, incensing Palestinians who claim the city’s eastern sector as the capital of a future state they seek.

Last May, Washington moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Pompeo also visited the embassy on Thursday.

(Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN

David Krayden | Ottawa Bureau Chief

Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is urging the Trump administration to take some “real action to stop gun violence” and ban assault weapons.

In a Thursday morning tweet, Sanders said the United States should emulate the recent actions of New Zealand, where this week’s mosque shootings that massacred 50 people have prompted the government to toughen already strict gun laws in the country.

“This is what real action to stop gun violence looks like. We must follow New Zealand’s lead, take on the NRA and ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons in the United States,” tweeted Sanders.

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) takes the stage at a campaign rally in Concord, New Hampshire, U.S., March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) takes the stage at a campaign rally in Concord, New Hampshire, U.S., March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

(RELATED: The Key To Winning In 2020 Will Be Properly Explaining Socialism, Says Bernie Sanders)

Sanders cites an article in the Washington Post that details the “action” in New Zealand, where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Thursday that her government was banning semiautomatics six days after shootings in two Christchurch mosques that killed 50 people. Police say the attacker was prepared for another assault.

Arden said she plans to buyback weapons that are already in circulation and prosecute anybody who doesn’t comply with the ban.

“On 15 March, our history changed forever. Now, our laws will, too,” Ardern said, according to the Post. “We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place.”

Supporters listen as Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Sanders is introduced in Concord

Supporters listen as Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is introduced at a campaign rally in Concord, New Hampshire, U.S., March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder.

Sanders comes from a rural state where gun ownership is high and hunting popular. Although he was reluctant to promote wide gun control as a senator, the senator supported an assault weapons ban in 1994. (RELATED: Bernie Sanders’ New Speechwriter Lauded The ‘Economic Miracle’ Of Venezuelan Socialism)

His position hardened in the wake of the Parkland shootings in February 2018, when a student killed 17 of his peers. Sanders was a popular speaker at Parkland rallies that advocated increased gun control in America.

Follow David on Twitter

Source: The Daily Caller

David Krayden | Ottawa Bureau Chief

Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is urging the Trump administration to take some “real action to stop gun violence” and ban assault weapons.

In a Thursday morning tweet, Sanders said the United States should emulate the recent actions of New Zealand, where this week’s mosque shootings that massacred 50 people have prompted the government to toughen already strict gun laws in the country.

“This is what real action to stop gun violence looks like. We must follow New Zealand’s lead, take on the NRA and ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons in the United States,” tweeted Sanders.

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) takes the stage at a campaign rally in Concord, New Hampshire, U.S., March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) takes the stage at a campaign rally in Concord, New Hampshire, U.S., March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

(RELATED: The Key To Winning In 2020 Will Be Properly Explaining Socialism, Says Bernie Sanders)

Sanders cites an article in the Washington Post that details the “action” in New Zealand, where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Thursday that her government was banning semiautomatics six days after shootings in two Christchurch mosques that killed 50 people. Police say the attacker was prepared for another assault.

Arden said she plans to buyback weapons that are already in circulation and prosecute anybody who doesn’t comply with the ban.

“On 15 March, our history changed forever. Now, our laws will, too,” Ardern said, according to the Post. “We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place.”

Supporters listen as Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Sanders is introduced in Concord

Supporters listen as Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is introduced at a campaign rally in Concord, New Hampshire, U.S., March 10, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder.

Sanders comes from a rural state where gun ownership is high and hunting popular. Although he was reluctant to promote wide gun control as a senator, the senator supported an assault weapons ban in 1994. (RELATED: Bernie Sanders’ New Speechwriter Lauded The ‘Economic Miracle’ Of Venezuelan Socialism)

His position hardened in the wake of the Parkland shootings in February 2018, when a student killed 17 of his peers. Sanders was a popular speaker at Parkland rallies that advocated increased gun control in America.

Follow David on Twitter

Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza walks during a ceremony in tribute to the former late President Colonel Jean-Baptiste Bagaza at the national congress palace in Bujumbura, Burundi
FILE PHOTO: Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza walks during a ceremony in tribute to the former late President Colonel Jean-Baptiste Bagaza at the national congress palace in Bujumbura, Burundi May 16, 2016. REUTERS/Evrard Ngendakumana/File Photo

March 21, 2019

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Burundian authorities have charged three schoolgirls accused of defacing a picture of President Pierre Nkurunziza, spokeswoman for the country’s Supreme Court, Agnès Bangiricenge, said on Thursday.

The three girls were among seven school children arrested last week in Kirundo province, in Burundi’s northeast and some 200 kilometers from the commercial capital Bujumbura. Four others were subsequently released.

All were all accused of insulting Nkurunziza by scribbling over images of him printed in their school text books.

A regional court in Kirundo decided on Wednesday to detain the three further and proceed with a full trial, Bangiricenge said.

They will await trial in a nearby prison and could face up to five years in jail on conviction, a judge told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“It is true that scribbling (on the president’s picture) is a punishable offence under the Burundian law but since it was committed by teenagers, I believe  this is a mitigating circumstance,” David Ninganza, a children’s rights defender working for local group SOGEPAE, told Reuters.

“Those school children are not engaged in any political fights and need no political posts. That’s why judges have to consider all those issues in their investigations.”

School children have in the past been kicked out of school for similar offences, with some jailed and released. 

In 2016, 11 children were jailed on accusations of defacing a photograph of Nkurunziza in a school text book.

In another incident in the same year, more than 300 students of a school in the capital’s Ruziba neighborhood were sent home after being accused of defacing Nkurunziza’s image.

Hundreds of Burundians have been killed in clashes with security forces and half a million have fled abroad since Nkurunziza announced in 2015 he would run for a third term in what his opponents saw as a breach of the constitution. He won re-election.

Early this month, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Burundi had forced the United Nations to shut its local human rights office after 23 years.

In 2016 Burundi suspended all cooperation with the U.N. human rights office in Burundi after a U.N.-commissioned report accused the Bujumbura government and its supporters of being responsible for crimes against humanity.

Bachelet said there were still credible reports of serious human rights violations in Burundi, including arbitrary killings, forced disappearances, ill-treatment, arrests and detention, and curbs on freedom of association, expression and movement.

(Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Elias Biryabarema and Peter Graff)

Source: OANN

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson MP speaks to media after the DUP annual party conference in Belfast
FILE PHOTO: Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson MP speaks to media after the DUP annual party conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland November 24, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

March 21, 2019

By Padraic Halpin

DUBLIN (Reuters) – The small Northern Irish party that props up British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is no closer to backing her EU divorce agreement as talks between the sides continue, the party’s Brexit spokesman said on Thursday.

The Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) 10 lawmakers in London have twice opposed the agreement May struck with the European Union and their support is vital if she is to stand any chance of reversing two heavy defeats.

“No, we’re not yet. We will however continue to talk to the prime minister because we think it is our duty to try and undo some of the damage included in the Withdrawal Agreement,” the DUP’s Sammy Wilson told Irish national broadcaster RTE when asked if they were any closer to backing the deal.

“We have made it quite clear that unless there is a legal means by which Northern Ireland would not be treated differently from the United Kingdom, not just assurances or promises but acting legislation, we will not be supporting the Withdrawal Agreement.”

May made an impassioned appeal to British lawmakers to support her on Wednesday after the EU said it could only grant her request to delay Brexit for three months if parliament next week backed her plans for leaving.

Wilson described the plea, in a televised address, as an attempt by the prime minister to try to shift the blame from “her own incompetent negotiations” and said she seemed to lump all those who voted against the deal together.

In a bid to win over the DUP, May also said on Wednesday that she intended to put forward further domestic proposals to protect the internal market of the United Kingdom.

Wilson said any proposals to keep Northern Ireland aligned with the rest of the United Kingdom would also have to be acceptable to the faction of Brexit hardliners in May’s own Conservative Party who are opposed to her deal and want a clean break from the EU.

“There is no point in us agreeing to something that is not deliverable anyway, nor do we have any intention of doing so. That’s why there are a lot of gaps in the negotiations at present. We will continue to talk but time is running out,” he said.

“It seems that if the agreement ever comes back to the House of Commons next week, those matters are not going to be resolved.”

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Source: OANN

Sign of the European central Bank (ECB) is seen ahead of the news conference on the outcome of the Governing Council meeting, outside the ECB headquarters in Frankfurt
FILE PHOTO: Sign of the European central Bank (ECB) is seen ahead of the news conference on the outcome of the Governing Council meeting, outside the ECB headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, March 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

March 21, 2019

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The European Central Bank has launched a rare attack on EU governments for failing to give it ultimate oversight of clearing houses processing trillions of euros worth of securities.

Dominated by the London Stock Exchange, the clearing of financial contracts denominated in euros has become a political battleground since Britain voted to leave the European Union in 2016, with the bloc’s authorities vying to gain oversight of this key market on both sides of the Channel.

Under a provisional deal struck this month, EU governments and lawmakers gave the Paris-based European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) and national supervisors the final word in supervising central clearing counterparties (CCPs) based in the EU.

But the ECB said in a letter published late on Wednesday this undermined its ability to “monitor and assess risks posed by CCPs” and sought to block a change to its own rules that would force it to follow ESMA’s decisions on the matter.

“Under these amendments, the ECB would not enjoy regulatory powers in respect of CCPs established within the European Union,” ECB President Mario Draghi said in the letter to George Ciamba, chair of the EU’s General Affairs Council.

This body, which prepares the meetings of the European Council of EU government leaders, was expected to decide on the proposed changes next week.

If the ECB is successful in blocking the amendments to its statute, ESMA would still likely gain oversight of clearing houses but its decisions would not be binding on the ECB.

This would limit the ECB’s responsibility and possibly also leave the burden of providing liquidity to clearing houses in times of stress to the euro zone’s national central banks.

In the letter, also sent to the head of the EU’s parliament and other authorities, the ECB’s Governing Council withdrew its 2017 recommendation to change its statute with respect to clearing.

“One of the overarching objectives of the Recommendation cannot be fulfilled, namely, to ensure that the Eurosystem would have binding powers to monitor and assess risks posed by CCPs,” Draghi said in the letter.

The head of the European Parliament’s economic committee, Roberto Gualtieri, struck a sympathetic tone at a hearing on Thursday, blaming the European Council and Commission for failing to take on board the ECB’s concerns.

(Reporting by Francesco Canepa; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Police search the dorm room of Mashal Khan, accused of blasphemy, who was killed by a mob at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan
FILE PHOTO: Police search the dorm room of Mashal Khan, accused of blasphemy, who was killed by a mob at Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, Pakistan April 14, 2017. REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Jibran Ahmed

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – A Pakistani anti-terrorism court sentenced two men, including a local government official, to life in prison on Thursday for their role in the brutal campus lynching two years ago of a university student accused of blasphemy.

Mashal Khan, 23, was attacked and killed by a mob on the campus of a university in Mardan, in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, following a dormitory debate about religion.

In February last year the court convicted 31 people, sentencing one person to death, while acquitting 26 others.

A joint investigation team had later found the blasphemy allegations against Mashal Khan to be false.

Outrage over the killing raised concerns about the misuse of Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws, which stipulate the death sentence for insulting Islam or the Prophet Muhammad.

On Thursday the court sentenced two more men to life imprisonment, while acquitting two others.

Arif Khan, a local government official who had been a member of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, was convicted for provoking and participating in the lynch mob.

The court ruling noted two videos in which Khan is seen “torturing Mashal” and “congratulating his co-accused for committing the murder”.

Khan’s grave continues to be guarded by police, due to fears that it will be defaced by religious hardliners despite his name being cleared of blasphemy.

In a separate case in the eastern city of Bahawalpur, a college student was arrested and charged on Wednesday for stabbing his English professor to death. Police said the student was angered by a farewell party that the professor was organizing, believing it was un-Islamic as women would attend.

In a video of his pre-interrogation released on social media, the student confessed to stabbing his professor Khalid Hameed, saying he “spoke against Islam” and that “it’s a good thing” he died.

He said he had not reported his professor to the authorities because “the law protects blasphemers”.

(Additional reporting and writing by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Families and relatives of Islamic State militants are seen after they surrender themselves to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in al-Ayadiya, northwest of Tal Afar
FILE PHOTO: Families and relatives of Islamic State militants are seen after they surrender themselves to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in al-Ayadiya, northwest of Tal Afar, Iraq, August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Ari Jalal/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Raya Jalabi

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The hallways of the Rusafa Central Criminal Court in Baghdad teemed with anxious toddlers on the days their mothers were on trial. Then they vanished again, into the women’s prison, where they have lived for the past year and a half. They sleep on thin mattresses in crowded cells, bored, hungry and often sick. They are the foreign children of Islamic State.

Among them is Obaida, the two-year-old son of a Chechen woman, Laila Gazieva. Gazieva was detained in late 2017 while fleeing the Islamic State stronghold of Tal Afar in northern Iraq, and convicted six months later for belonging to the militant Islamist group. On the day Gazieva was sentenced to life in prison, so too were at least a dozen other young women, court records show.

Obaida remains with his mother in a Baghdad women’s jail, according to Russian government records. About 1,100 children of Islamic State are caught in the wheels of Iraqi justice, said sources with knowledge of the penitentiary system. The youngest, like Obaida, stay with their mothers in prison. At least seven of these children have died because of the poor conditions, according to detainees, embassy records reviewed by Reuters and sources familiar with the prison.

Several hundred older children are being prosecuted for offences ranging from illegally entering Iraq to fighting for Islamic State. Some 185 children aged nine to 18 have already been convicted and received sentences from a few months to up to 15 years in juvenile detention in Baghdad, said a spokesman for the judicial council that oversees the Rusafa Central Criminal Court, which is hearing most of the Islamic State cases involving foreigners. Seventy seven of those convicted children were girls.

The children are the forgotten victims of Islamic State: betrayed by the parents who took them to a war zone, groomed from the age of four in the militants’ poisonous ideology and, in many instances, abandoned by the countries they came from for fear they are a future threat. In some 20 interviews, diplomats, the children’s mothers and sources familiar with their cases and the penitentiary system described the youngsters’ ordeal.

Nadia Rainer Hermann, a German woman in her early twenties, serving a life sentence for belonging to Islamic State, told Reuters her two-year-old daughter spent her days on a dank mattress in a filthy and cramped cell in the women’s jail. “I’m afraid every day my daughter might get sick and die,” she said. The older children were angry and frustrated with their captivity, she said, and lashed out at the guards and one another.

Iraqi government officials declined to comment about the foreign women and children in Iraqi custody or about the jail conditions. Iraq has said previously it wants to help those who aren’t guilty of any crime to return to their home countries.

“IT WAS A GOOD LIFE”

Gazieva spoke to Reuters in September 2017 when she and her son, an infant at the time, were being held in a camp near Mosul, in northern Iraq. She hoped that she and Obaida could return to France, where she lived before traveling to Iraq. But she doesn’t hold a French passport. “I don’t want to stay in this camp, or in this country. I’m terrified of what will happen to us,” she said.

Gazieva, then aged 28, was sitting cross-legged on the floor of a large tent next to a small pile of her few remaining belongings, her hands fiddling with her French residence card. On her lap lay Obaida, his small body sweating under the Iraqi sun. He was crying and hungry; Gazieva said she wasn’t producing enough milk to feed him properly.

Dressed in the black clothing favored by followers of Islamic State, Gazieva was among 1,400 women and children packed into overflowing tents in the dusty encampment. She spoke to her son in Russian, while dozens of young mothers with infants nearby spoke in German, French and Turkish. They sat in clusters, on mounds of blankets. Armed guards walked among the older children.

The Iraqis had no idea what to do with their captives. They presented Iraq and nearly two dozen foreign governments with an unprecedented legal and diplomatic challenge. While there was nothing unusual in men going abroad to fight, this was the first time so many women and children had joined them. There is no universal law governing repatriations, said Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve, a legal charity that campaigns for human rights.

Gazieva said she had ended up in Islamic State territory unwittingly.

Aged 17, she fled separatist violence in Russia’s Chechnya region and settled in France. Then, in 2015, after divorcing her husband – a man who, in her view, was not sufficiently devout – she said she set off on a tour of Turkey with some Russian women she’d met in a chat room. She left her three children behind in France, for what she said was a short holiday.

Gazieva said the women convinced her to drive down the coast. She realized too late that they had entered Syria. She was scared at first, but then grew to like Islamic State. Within a few months she had married a Chechen Islamic State fighter, “because that’s what you did,” and moved to Iraq.

For a time, at least, life in the so-called caliphate was good, Gazieva said. Obaida was born in the general hospital of Mosul with the help of Iraqi midwives conscripted by Islamic State when the Iraqi city was still firmly in its grip. Foreign fighters and their families held elite status in the city. They were given nicer homes – confiscated from Iraqi owners – and better rations and medical care.

“Life here was like in France, except that here I was free to practice my religion in peace,” she said. “My mother didn’t understand, she said I’d changed. But I’m like before, I just wear a niqab,” she added, referring to her face covering.

A few months after Obaida was born, Iraqi and U.S. forces began a campaign to take back Mosul. By then, Gazieva was a widow and living in the northern town of Tal Afar, where she escaped the fighting. Once again, life was charmed, according to Gazieva and fighters and their families interviewed by Reuters. In Tal Afar, the women had chicken coops and friendly neighbors. “It was a good life,” she said, “except for the bombings. But when I was a child, there was a war in Chechnya, so I’m used to bombings.”

Things changed in August 2017. Iraqi forces had taken back Mosul and the fighting moved north. Women, children and the remaining Islamic State men fled from Tal Afar through Kurdish-held territory towards the Turkish border. They traveled on foot in groups of 20 or more, describing a harrowing journey which lasted days, walking on roads strewn with body parts, drones buzzing overhead. They said they had been told by diplomats and friends who’d made the trek in the weeks before that the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters would let them cross into Turkey. Instead, they were made to surrender.

After several days in Kurdish custody, Gazieva and her son were transferred with the other women and children to Iraqi federal authorities in Mosul, going from the dusty refugee camp to a detention facility where they lived in an uncovered prison yard. The captives were taken to Baghdad in late 2017, where they have remained ever since, joined by foreign women and children detained elsewhere in Iraq. In all, up to 2,000 foreign women and children are in Iraqi custody, said sources with knowledge of the penitentiary system.

ANXIOUS, IDLE AND TRAUMATIZED

Documents from the Rusafa Central Criminal Court, reviewed by Reuters, show that Gazieva was one of 494 foreign women convicted there between late 2017 and August 2018 for belonging to or aiding Islamic State. The women are citizens of more than 18 countries, mainly Turkey, Russia and countries of central Asia. Records from one of the two chambers that are hearing the cases showed that up to 20 women were sentenced to death by hanging for belonging to Islamic State or participating in its activities. So far, none of these sentences have been carried out, judicial sources said.

The women’s prison in central Baghdad was not equipped to handle the arrival of so many women and their children. The jail is overcrowded and rife with disease, said inmates, diplomats who have visited the captives and sources familiar with the prison.

Hermann, the German woman who was sentenced to life in prison in August 2018, spoke to Reuters through the bars of a courthouse holding cell, about three by 10 meters large. “We sleep 12 to a room smaller than this, not counting the children,” she said. Hermann was one of six women interviewed by Reuters.

The majority of the children are still living with their mothers in prison, anxious, idle and traumatized, said diplomats and sources close to the penitentiary system. They include toddlers, like Obaida, and children as old as 12. There is limited medical attention, and many of the foreign women and children are suffering from a scabies infestation and malnutrition, among other ailments. They didn’t have enough clothes to keep warm during the winter. Some of the women cut up the abayas, or robes, they wore on arrival, to make hats and socks for their children.

The women sleep on thin mattresses on the floor with a few blankets to share, food is served in meager portions, and the guards have on many occasions kept flickering lights on for days at a time, three women told Reuters. Aid agencies are helping the Iraqi government provide essentials for the women and children, including clothes and milk, but funds are limited and foreign governments are barely pitching in.

At least seven young children, including Russians and Azeris, have died in the jail because of the squalid conditions, according to several detainees, two prison guards, people who have visited the prisoners and embassy records reviewed by Reuters. At least three women have also died, intelligence and diplomatic sources said. Iraqi government officials declined to comment.

Confirming the identities of the women and children is hard in a maze of conflicting testimony and unreliable paperwork. There were few original documents to work with because many of the women parted with their identity cards in a pledge of allegiance to Islamic State. Family ties, nationalities and identities were mostly compiled from interviews with the detainees. In some instances, Iraqi authorities carried out DNA tests.

Some children are tethered to women who aren’t their mothers. Four women told Reuters they believed it was their duty to look after the children of dead friends or relatives. Others had taken into their care kidnapped Iraqi children, their fellow prisoners said. When questioned by authorities, the women identified these children as their own.

During the fight for Mosul, Iraqi security forces found about 90 foreign children wandering the battlefield alone or in the care of strangers. In most cases, the children were identified and many were sent home. But some were too young or too traumatized to tell aid workers who they were, and about a dozen remain, unidentified, in an orphanage in Baghdad.

“THE LONGER WE KEEP THEM, THE HARDER IT WILL BE”

In September 2017, Iraq’s prime minister at the time, Haider al-Abadi, said his government was “in full communication” with the foreign children’s home countries “to find a way to hand them over.” But by January 2018, talks had stalled, and Iraq began prosecutions, diplomats said.

Children over the age of nine are held criminally responsible under Iraqi law, compared with 11 at a federal level in the United States and 14 in Germany. The children’s cases are heard by a juvenile court, where they face three possible charges under Iraq’s counter-terrorism laws: illegally entering Iraq, which carries a maximum one year in detention; membership of Islamic State, which carries five to seven years; and assisting Islamic State in carrying out terrorist activities, which can bring up to 15 years.

Some child defendants had joined attacks on Iraqi forces, blown up checkpoints and built explosive devices, said an expert on Iraqi juvenile justice.

Judge Aqeel al-Birmani, a counter-terrorism judge who has sentenced some of the children’s parents, told Reuters: “Some of them may be young but they knew what they were doing. They were trained to lie.”

Children under 13 who haven’t committed violence generally receive sentences of three to six months for illegally entering Iraq. They are then free to return home, in theory. But in reality, many of them end up staying in Iraqi children’s homes, unwanted by their home countries. Sentences are harsher for older children. German teenager Linda Wenzel, for example, is serving six years in juvenile detention for membership of Islamic State and illegally entering Iraq. German officials declined to comment on specific cases. The Interior Ministry said it estimates up to 150 adults and children who are German nationals or may have a claim to German residency are in detention in Iraq.

Social workers worry about the long sentences, particularly for older children who will be moved into adult facilities after they turn 18. There, they fear, any efforts made to rehabilitate the detainees in juvenile facilities will be undone by exposure to violent criminals. “Children should be detained only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest period necessary,” said Laila Ali, a spokesperson for Unicef Iraq. “When children are detained, specific measures adapted to their age must be taken to protect them, regardless of the reason for the deprivation of their liberty.”

Fionnuala Ni Aolain, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights While Countering Terrorism, said in terms of international law, reintegration and rehabilitation “the longer we keep them there, the harder that is going to be.”

Across the border in Syria, foreign children of more than a dozen different nationalities have been lingering in camps, while European governments wrangle over their fates. France said on March 15 it had repatriated several young children from camps in northern Syria. The children were orphaned or separated from their parents.

For Gazieva, the choices over her son’s future are bleak. Since she doesn’t hold a French passport, her son has no claim to French nationality. Russia, the country Gazieva ran away from, might be her son’s only option to leave Iraq. Russia’s Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to questions about Gazieva’s case. It said an operation to evacuate Russian children from Iraq had begun in the autumn of 2017 and Russian officials in Baghdad continued to work to bring home all Russian minors.

The fates of the children of some other nations are less clear.

Turkey accounts for the largest number of foreign children in Iraqi custody, people familiar with the penitentiary system said. Turkish diplomats are monitoring the health of these children and providing medicines, a Turkish official said. Efforts are being made to bring home Turkish citizens who are not guilty of any crime, starting with the children, the official added.

Other children are from Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan with a scattered few from Jordan, Syria, France, Germany and Trinidad and Tobago.

Legal charity Reprieve is involved in the cases of foreign fighters and their families detained in Syria and to a lesser extent Iraq. Founder Stafford Smith said countries “have a legal responsibility to their citizens, particularly vulnerable ones like children who are in detention through no fault of their own.”

But some countries are dragging their feet, according to diplomats and other sources familiar with the cases. Some children born in Islamic State territory don’t have recognized birth certificates, making it difficult to prove their nationality.

Germany, Georgia and France have repatriated some children. A French official said such decisions were made case by case, taking into consideration whether the mother wanted to give up her child and whether separation was in the child’s interest.

Tajikistan has said it will take children back soon.

But some governments have little incentive to bring women and children back. There is little public sympathy for the children of militants. “It’s a sensitive issue given the public’s reaction,” said a Western diplomat in Baghdad. “We’re discussing returning the children of people responsible for blowing up their cities.”

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad, Alissa de Carbonnel in Brussels, Maria Tsvetkova in Moscow, John Irish in Paris, Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara and Andrea Shalal in Berlin; editing by Janet McBride and Richard Woods)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey hold a news conference for their proposed
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) hold a news conference for their proposed “Green New Deal” to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. February 7, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

March 21, 2019

By Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom

WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – U.S. solar and wind power companies may have the most to gain from the Green New Deal, an ambitious proposal backed by several Democratic presidential candidates to end U.S. fossil fuel consumption within a decade.

But do not expect the renewable energy firms to endorse it.

Representatives of America’s clean energy companies are withholding their support for the climate-fighting plan, calling it unrealistic and too politically divisive for an industry keen to grow in both red and blue states.

The cool reaction reflects the difficulty that progressive politicians vying for the White House may have in selling aggressive global-warming policy to the business community and more moderate voters.

It also underscores a new reality for U.S. solar and wind power companies long associated with the environmental left: As they have improved technology and lowered prices, their growth is shifting from politically liberal coastal states to the more conservative heartland, where skepticism of climate change and government subsidies runs high.

“If you just broadly endorse the Green New Deal, you are liable to upset one side of the aisle or the other. And that’s not constructive,” said Tom Werner, the CEO of SunPower Corp, one of the nation’s biggest solar power companies.

“The idea that you could go 100 percent (clean energy) in 10 years would require a lot of things happening perfectly, simultaneously,” he said. “You’d have to have bipartisan support, 52-state support.”

The Green New Deal was introduced last month by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat Congresswoman from New York, along with fellow Democrat Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts. It has since become the center of a renewed debate in Washington about how vigorously the government must act to address climate change.

The Congressional resolution, which has no force of law, calls for the federal government to make investments to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in a decade by meeting 100 percent of America’s power demand with clean, renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, or geothermal energy.

It also calls for massive investments in green infrastructure projects like “smart grids” to improve efficiency, along with a guarantee of millions of high-wage jobs with paid vacations, medical leave and retirement security. The resolution does not get into detail about how subsequent legislation would achieve these goals.

So far, at least eight Democratic presidential hopefuls – including senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota – have endorsed the plan as they seek to stand in stark opposition to the pro-drilling policies of President Donald Trump.

Trump’s fellow Republicans have widely panned the Green New Deal, saying it would cost trillions of dollars of taxpayer money, may be technically unfeasible, and smacks of radical socialism.

Rhiana Gunn Wright, founder of the think tank New Consensus, which is drawing up Green New Deal policies, said her group will not estimate costs of the plan until it is more fully drafted next year. She said opponents’ estimates are premature and do not account for the benefits of climate action and the costs of inaction.

The feasibility of the proposal has been a source of concern for the clean energy industry, too.

“We love the enthusiasm the Green New Deal has brought to the climate issue … but we need to operate in political reality,” said Dan Whitten, vice president of public affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar industry’s main lobby group.

Another concern is the fact that the plan extends beyond energy and climate policies to include guarantees of jobs, training and healthcare for communities affected by climate change, said Greg Wetstone, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, a non-profit organization promoting renewable energy industries.

“It creates controversy and complexity, tying this to issues that are not in our sphere,” he said.

Representatives of renewable energy firms Sunrun and Sunnova Energy said they were happy the Green New Deal was drawing so much attention to clean industry but stopped short of endorsing the plan.

“The Green New Deal has sparked an important conversation, and we’re excited to be part of it,” said Alex McDonough, Vice President of Public Policy at Sunrun.

INROADS IN TRUMP COUNTRY

The U.S. solar and wind industries have expanded over the last decade, thanks to lucrative government subsidies, and now employ some 350,000 workers nationwide – more than four times more than the coal sector, according to the 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report released this month.

While the growth began in liberal-leaning regions such as California and New England, it has more recently come in states that voted heavily for President Donald Trump in 2016, including Texas, North Carolina, Iowa and Florida, according to data from the American Wind Energy Association, Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and SEIA.

That has helped strengthen the industry’s appeal to Republican lawmakers, allowing it to rebrand as a jobs engine in addition to a tool for combating global warming. And during the last election cycle in 2018, solar and wind companies contributed significantly more money to Republican candidates than to their traditional Democratic allies.

“We have raised these industries above science experiments and feel-goodery, and we are now real businesses and can’t just play to one half of the country,” said one renewable sector lobbyist, who asked not to be named discussing the topic.

“Staying out of the line of fire is the goal of most companies and trade associations,” said another clean energy industry representative. “There will be a real danger for our industry and companies if they are shouting out about the Green New Deal from the rooftops.”

The Sunrise Movement, a grassroots group that brought the Green New Deal into the national spotlight by holding demonstrations and confronting lawmakers on video, said it was aware of the reticence of green energy companies to back their proposal.

“We’ve met with companies and industries who could have a lot to gain from the Green New Deal, but the politics at this stage are too difficult to navigate,” Sunrise co-founder Evan Weber said.

He said Sunrise had met with the SEIA and AWEA, along with other executives.

Weber said industry support for the Green New Deal would be welcomed but is not vital: “We don’t expect all of them to be a strong advocate for the Green New Deal until the politics shift.”

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Brian Thevenot)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey hold a news conference for their proposed
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) hold a news conference for their proposed “Green New Deal” to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. February 7, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

March 21, 2019

By Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom

WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – U.S. solar and wind power companies may have the most to gain from the Green New Deal, an ambitious proposal backed by several Democratic presidential candidates to end U.S. fossil fuel consumption within a decade.

But do not expect the renewable energy firms to endorse it.

Representatives of America’s clean energy companies are withholding their support for the climate-fighting plan, calling it unrealistic and too politically divisive for an industry keen to grow in both red and blue states.

The cool reaction reflects the difficulty that progressive politicians vying for the White House may have in selling aggressive global-warming policy to the business community and more moderate voters.

It also underscores a new reality for U.S. solar and wind power companies long associated with the environmental left: As they have improved technology and lowered prices, their growth is shifting from politically liberal coastal states to the more conservative heartland, where skepticism of climate change and government subsidies runs high.

“If you just broadly endorse the Green New Deal, you are liable to upset one side of the aisle or the other. And that’s not constructive,” said Tom Werner, the CEO of SunPower Corp, one of the nation’s biggest solar power companies.

“The idea that you could go 100 percent (clean energy) in 10 years would require a lot of things happening perfectly, simultaneously,” he said. “You’d have to have bipartisan support, 52-state support.”

The Green New Deal was introduced last month by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat Congresswoman from New York, along with fellow Democrat Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts. It has since become the center of a renewed debate in Washington about how vigorously the government must act to address climate change.

The Congressional resolution, which has no force of law, calls for the federal government to make investments to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in a decade by meeting 100 percent of America’s power demand with clean, renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, or geothermal energy.

It also calls for massive investments in green infrastructure projects like “smart grids” to improve efficiency, along with a guarantee of millions of high-wage jobs with paid vacations, medical leave and retirement security. The resolution does not get into detail about how subsequent legislation would achieve these goals.

So far, at least eight Democratic presidential hopefuls – including senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota – have endorsed the plan as they seek to stand in stark opposition to the pro-drilling policies of President Donald Trump.

Trump’s fellow Republicans have widely panned the Green New Deal, saying it would cost trillions of dollars of taxpayer money, may be technically unfeasible, and smacks of radical socialism.

Rhiana Gunn Wright, founder of the think tank New Consensus, which is drawing up Green New Deal policies, said her group will not estimate costs of the plan until it is more fully drafted next year. She said opponents’ estimates are premature and do not account for the benefits of climate action and the costs of inaction.

The feasibility of the proposal has been a source of concern for the clean energy industry, too.

“We love the enthusiasm the Green New Deal has brought to the climate issue … but we need to operate in political reality,” said Dan Whitten, vice president of public affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar industry’s main lobby group.

Another concern is the fact that the plan extends beyond energy and climate policies to include guarantees of jobs, training and healthcare for communities affected by climate change, said Greg Wetstone, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, a non-profit organization promoting renewable energy industries.

“It creates controversy and complexity, tying this to issues that are not in our sphere,” he said.

Representatives of renewable energy firms Sunrun and Sunnova Energy said they were happy the Green New Deal was drawing so much attention to clean industry but stopped short of endorsing the plan.

“The Green New Deal has sparked an important conversation, and we’re excited to be part of it,” said Alex McDonough, Vice President of Public Policy at Sunrun.

INROADS IN TRUMP COUNTRY

The U.S. solar and wind industries have expanded over the last decade, thanks to lucrative government subsidies, and now employ some 350,000 workers nationwide – more than four times more than the coal sector, according to the 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report released this month.

While the growth began in liberal-leaning regions such as California and New England, it has more recently come in states that voted heavily for President Donald Trump in 2016, including Texas, North Carolina, Iowa and Florida, according to data from the American Wind Energy Association, Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables and SEIA.

That has helped strengthen the industry’s appeal to Republican lawmakers, allowing it to rebrand as a jobs engine in addition to a tool for combating global warming. And during the last election cycle in 2018, solar and wind companies contributed significantly more money to Republican candidates than to their traditional Democratic allies.

“We have raised these industries above science experiments and feel-goodery, and we are now real businesses and can’t just play to one half of the country,” said one renewable sector lobbyist, who asked not to be named discussing the topic.

“Staying out of the line of fire is the goal of most companies and trade associations,” said another clean energy industry representative. “There will be a real danger for our industry and companies if they are shouting out about the Green New Deal from the rooftops.”

The Sunrise Movement, a grassroots group that brought the Green New Deal into the national spotlight by holding demonstrations and confronting lawmakers on video, said it was aware of the reticence of green energy companies to back their proposal.

“We’ve met with companies and industries who could have a lot to gain from the Green New Deal, but the politics at this stage are too difficult to navigate,” Sunrise co-founder Evan Weber said.

He said Sunrise had met with the SEIA and AWEA, along with other executives.

Weber said industry support for the Green New Deal would be welcomed but is not vital: “We don’t expect all of them to be a strong advocate for the Green New Deal until the politics shift.”

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Brian Thevenot)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City
FILE PHOTO: Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Dave Graham and Stefanie Eschenbacher

ACAPULCO, Mexico (Reuters) – For two years, financiers at Mexico’s biggest annual banking bash issued veiled warnings about the risk of veteran leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador taking power.

Now he is president, they and industry bosses have changed tack, pledging support for the popular new leader and his plans to revive the economy from the bottom up.

Bank bosses have used the run-up to the banking convention in Acapulco beginning on Thursday to signal approval for Lopez Obrador’s plans to tackle chronic inequality via welfare handouts, ramp up financial inclusion and lift economic growth.

“The financial sector has been and will continue to be committed to Mexico’s development, which is why he celebrate and go along with the measures … announced by the Mexican government,” Marcos Martinez, head of the Mexican banking association (ABM), said at a recent event with Lopez Obrador.

Martinez and other bankers hope the president will meet pledges to tackle corruption and gang violence in Latin America’s No. 2 economy, buttressing growth with the rule of law.

Still, skepticism about his economic credentials is widespread in business circles. So far executives have reasoned they have more to gain by working with him than picking a fight with a president whose approval ratings run close to 80 percent.

Lopez Obrador, who took office in December, wiped billions of the value of Mexican financial assets when he canceled a new Mexico City airport on Oct. 29. Proposals floated by his MORENA party in Congress to curb bank fees also spooked markets.

Yet even as he rolls out welfare schemes across Mexico, he has promised to run a tight budget to protect the country’s investment-grade credit rating and says he can achieve average annual growth of 4 percent during his six-year term.

At this week’s conference in Acapulco, Mexico’s banks would likely deliver a clear message to the president that they will work with him to achieve his goals, said a senior financial industry source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

That could unlock funds for Lopez Obrador’s plan to create jobs via infrastructure spending, and complement the goal of employers’ federation COPARMEX to lift the spending power of the lowest paid by tripling the minimum wage by 2024.

Cooperating with Lopez Obrador to encourage an expansion of the Mexican middle class could become a major driver of growth, and help curb the president’s worst instincts, a senior industrialist said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Stating Mexico had “more financial resources than there are projects”, the new head of Mexico’s powerful CCE business lobby, Carlos Salazar, said last month it would work to end extreme poverty by the end of Lopez Obrador’s term.

By then, the ABM aims to get 30 million more people to use banking services – nearly three-quarters of those estimated to be without an account – and to support domestic demand by boosting lending to small businesses, homebuyers and families.

Deputy finance minister Arturo Herrera told Reuters the government would push hard on financial inclusion at the banking convention, where Lopez Obrador is due to speak on Friday.

However, for the president to make the most of the goodwill in boardrooms, he must work harder to undo the damage caused by poor decisions such as the scrapping of the airport, said Gustavo de Hoyos, head of employers’ lobby COPARMEX.

Business wanted to invest, but right now, the government scored only about “50 percent” on investor confidence, he added.

“If the president and his team can take advantage of these strengths,” de Hoyos told Reuters, “I think we could see really big progress in the course of this administration.”

(Reporting by Dave Graham and Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City
FILE PHOTO: Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Dave Graham and Stefanie Eschenbacher

ACAPULCO, Mexico (Reuters) – For two years, financiers at Mexico’s biggest annual banking bash issued veiled warnings about the risk of veteran leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador taking power.

Now he is president, they and industry bosses have changed tack, pledging support for the popular new leader and his plans to revive the economy from the bottom up.

Bank bosses have used the run-up to the banking convention in Acapulco beginning on Thursday to signal approval for Lopez Obrador’s plans to tackle chronic inequality via welfare handouts, ramp up financial inclusion and lift economic growth.

“The financial sector has been and will continue to be committed to Mexico’s development, which is why he celebrate and go along with the measures … announced by the Mexican government,” Marcos Martinez, head of the Mexican banking association (ABM), said at a recent event with Lopez Obrador.

Martinez and other bankers hope the president will meet pledges to tackle corruption and gang violence in Latin America’s No. 2 economy, buttressing growth with the rule of law.

Still, skepticism about his economic credentials is widespread in business circles. So far executives have reasoned they have more to gain by working with him than picking a fight with a president whose approval ratings run close to 80 percent.

Lopez Obrador, who took office in December, wiped billions of the value of Mexican financial assets when he canceled a new Mexico City airport on Oct. 29. Proposals floated by his MORENA party in Congress to curb bank fees also spooked markets.

Yet even as he rolls out welfare schemes across Mexico, he has promised to run a tight budget to protect the country’s investment-grade credit rating and says he can achieve average annual growth of 4 percent during his six-year term.

At this week’s conference in Acapulco, Mexico’s banks would likely deliver a clear message to the president that they will work with him to achieve his goals, said a senior financial industry source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

That could unlock funds for Lopez Obrador’s plan to create jobs via infrastructure spending, and complement the goal of employers’ federation COPARMEX to lift the spending power of the lowest paid by tripling the minimum wage by 2024.

Cooperating with Lopez Obrador to encourage an expansion of the Mexican middle class could become a major driver of growth, and help curb the president’s worst instincts, a senior industrialist said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Stating Mexico had “more financial resources than there are projects”, the new head of Mexico’s powerful CCE business lobby, Carlos Salazar, said last month it would work to end extreme poverty by the end of Lopez Obrador’s term.

By then, the ABM aims to get 30 million more people to use banking services – nearly three-quarters of those estimated to be without an account – and to support domestic demand by boosting lending to small businesses, homebuyers and families.

Deputy finance minister Arturo Herrera told Reuters the government would push hard on financial inclusion at the banking convention, where Lopez Obrador is due to speak on Friday.

However, for the president to make the most of the goodwill in boardrooms, he must work harder to undo the damage caused by poor decisions such as the scrapping of the airport, said Gustavo de Hoyos, head of employers’ lobby COPARMEX.

Business wanted to invest, but right now, the government scored only about “50 percent” on investor confidence, he added.

“If the president and his team can take advantage of these strengths,” de Hoyos told Reuters, “I think we could see really big progress in the course of this administration.”

(Reporting by Dave Graham and Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Source: OANN

An anti-Brexit protester waves an EU flag outside the Houses of Parliament in London
An anti-Brexit protester waves an EU flag outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

March 21, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – More than 700,000 people have rushed to sign a petition on the British parliament’s website calling for the government to revoke its divorce notice to the European Union and remain in the bloc.

Attracting thousands of signatures every few minutes, the petition took off in the hours after Prime Minister Theresa May made a televised address to the country late on Tuesday, criticizing squabbling lawmakers for failing to agree an exit strategy and telling parliament to make a final choice.

“It is high time we made a decision,” May said, telling Britons: “I am on your side.”

EU leaders will tell May on Thursday she can have two months to organize an orderly Brexit but Britain could face a disruptive ejection from the bloc next Friday if she fails to win backing from parliament.

More than 17 million Britons voted in favor of leaving the EU in a 2016 referendum while 16 million voted to remain, with May serving notice of the UK’s intent to leave under Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty the following year.

The “Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU” petition on the parliament website had attracted 706,096 signatures by 1048 GMT, backed by support on social media, although the site appeared to be regularly crashing due to the large numbers trying to sign.

“The government repeatedly claims exiting the EU is ‘the will of the people’. We need to put a stop to this claim by proving the strength of public support now, for remaining in the EU,” the petition said.

Parliament must consider holding a debate on all petitions that gain more than 100,000 signatures.

Supporters wrote on Twitter that the petition showed the strength of feeling against May’s strategy while backers of Brexit said it needed to attract more signatures than the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the EU three years ago before anyone should take any notice.

More than 1.8 million people signed a petition calling for U.S. President Donald Trump to be prevented from making a state visit to Britain, leading to a debate in parliament in 2017.

More than 4 million people signed another petition in 2016 which called for another EU referendum in the event that neither the remain or leave camps achieved 60 percent of the vote.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Source: OANN

A man removes broken glass from a window after multiple explosions in Kabul
A man removes broken glass from a window after multiple explosions in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Parwiz

March 21, 2019

By Akram Walizada and Hameed Farzad

KABUL (Reuters) – Several explosions in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Thursday killed six people and wounded 23 in an attack during celebrations to mark the Persian new year, government spokesmen said.

The attacks came on Nowruz, an ancient Persian festival to mark the start of spring that is widely celebrated in Afghanistan but has also faced opposition from some hardline Islamists, who say it is un-Islamic.

There were conflicting reports about of the cause of the blasts near the Kart-e Sakhi shrine, in a heavily Shi’ite Muslim area in the west of Kabul.

An interior ministry spokesman said mortar bombs had been fired. The defense ministry said in a post on twitter that three rockets were fired at civilian homes and Nowruz gatherings.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Broken windows and collapsed walls were visible on homes and shops near the blast site. Blood stained the side of the road.

“It was terrible,” said Sayed Samim Sadit, a shopkeeper, who said he and his family were unhurt. “We were all sitting in our home and all the glass blew in on us.”

Elderly resident Haji Rajab Ali said he saw two explosions in front of him and later awoke to find himself in hospital.

Afghanistan’s defense ministry said police had arrested Thursday’s attacker and secured the area.

The attack happened two weeks after a mortar attack on a Shi’ite Muslim gathering in Kabul that killed 11 people. Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack.

Shi’ites are a minority group in Afghanistan and they have been repeatedly attacked by Sunni Muslim militant groups.

Violence has been relentless in Afghanistan even though Taliban militants are in talks with U.S. officials.

The latest round of talks wrapped up this month, with both sides citing progress, but no agreement to end the 17-year war.

The Taliban are fighting to expel foreign forces and to oust the Western-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani.

(Additional reporting by Rod Nickel and Hamid Shalizi in Kabul; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognised as the country's rightful interim ruler, takes part in a rally against President Nicolas Maduro's government in Valencia, Venezuela
FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognised as the country’s rightful interim ruler, takes part in a rally against President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Valencia, Venezuela, March 16, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso/File Photo

March 21, 2019

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan intelligence agents have detained Roberto Marrero, chief of staff to opposition leader Juan Guaido, as well as opposition legislator Sergio Vergara, Guaido’s press team said on Thursday.

The agents had raided the Caracas residences of Marrero and Vergara before dawn on Thursday, Guaido said via Twitter.

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth and Vivian Sequera; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Source: OANN

People shopping on Oxford Street in central London
People shopping on Oxford Street in central London, Britain, December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

March 21, 2019

LONDON, (Reuters) – British retail sales unexpectedly kept up a robust pace of expansion last month, after unusually warm weather boosted sales, reinforcing the sector’s role as a bright spot for the economy ahead of Brexit.

Annual retail sales growth slowed only a fraction to 4.0 percent in February after sales volumes grew at their fastest in more than two years in January, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a slowdown in sales growth to 3.3 percent.

Consumer spending has been a source of strength for the British economy at a time when businesses say that Brexit uncertainty is forcing them to postpone investment and a slower global economy is hurting export demand.

On Wednesday Prime Minister Theresa May asked for a three-month delay to Brexit on Wednesday to buy time to get her twice-rejected departure deal though parliament, but the request faced immediate resistance from the European Commission.

Sales volumes in February alone rose by 0.4 percent versus a poll forecast of a decline, after jumping by 0.9 percent in January, while annual sales growth for the three months to February was its strongest in over two years at 3.7 percent.

Falling inflation, a steady rise in wages and the lowest unemployment since 1975 have all boosted household incomes over the past year, though after inflation wages are still below their peak before the financial crisis.

Last year overall British economic growth slowed to its weakest since 2012 and the Bank of England – which is predicted to keep rates on hold later on Thursday – forecasts the weakest growth for a decade this year.

The ONS said that unusually warm weather in February had boosted spending at garden centres and on sporting equipment, sales fell at supermarkets and in clothing stores due to an end of January’s seasonal promotions.

Earlier on Thursday, major British clothing chain Next reported a small fall in annual profit on Thursday, hurt by lower store sales, and forecast another decline for 2019-2020.

Figures from the British Retail Consortium at the start of the month had suggested that annual sales growth at bigger high-street stores slowed in February, with the trade association blaming Brexit.

Separate figures from the ONS on Thursday showed the government broadly on track to meet updated borrowing goals for the 2018/19 financial year, as the strong labor market boosted income tax revenue.

Public borrowing for February, the eleventh month of the tax year, fell to 0.2 billion pounds from 1.2 billion pounds a year earlier, below economists’ average forecast of 0.6 billion pounds in a Reuters poll.

With just one month remaining of the current financial year, government borrowing totals 23.1 billion pounds, down 44 percent from the same point in the 2017/18 tax year, though these figures are likely to be revised further.

Last week Britain’s official budget forecasters cut their 2018/19 borrowing forecast to 22.8 billion pounds or 1.1 percent of GDP from 25.5 billion pounds.

Finance minister Philip Hammond said at the time that if Brexit went smoothly there would be more money for public services in a major multi-year spending review due late this year.

(Reporting by David Milliken and Andy Bruce)

Source: OANN

German Chancellor Merkel checks phone at Bundestag ahead of EU summit on Brexit delay in Berlin
German Chancellor Angela Merkel checks her phone at the lower house of parliament (Bundestag), ahead of a Brussels summit for Brexit delay discussions, in Berlin, Germany March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

March 21, 2019

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany will meet the obligation it has made to NATO allies to spend 1.5 percent of economic output on defense by 2024, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.

“The 1.5 percent target by 2024 is an obligation to NATO … I guarantee and the German government guarantees that we will meet that obligation. And that will require effort,” Merkel told the lower house of parliament.

(Reporting by Joseph Nasr; Writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Michelle Martin)

Source: OANN

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is seen outside Downing Street in London
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is seen outside Downing Street in London, Britain March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

March 21, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – The European Union could next week hold an emergency summit to offer a Brexit extension with potentially onerous conditions such as holding another referendum, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday.

“There could be and we don’t know there will be an EU emergency summit to offer us an extension,” Hunt told BBC radio.

“We don’t know what the length would be and it could have some very onerous conditions,” such as holding another referendum. He said such an option would be unlikely to be supported by the British parliament.

Hunt said the government did not yet know whether Prime Minister Theresa May’s twice-defeated Brexit deal would be brought back to parliament next week.

“Do we resolve this or have Brexit paralysis?” Hunt said. He said a no-deal exit on March 29 remained the legal default.

Hunt said if the deadlock remained next week – parliament still had the option to vote to revoke Article 50 and cancel the entire Brexit process, though it was “highly unlikely”

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill. Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

Source: OANN

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May prepares to make a statement about Brexit in Downing Street in London
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May prepares to make a statement about Brexit in Downing Street in London, Britain March 20, 2019. Jonathan Brady/Pool via REUTERS

March 21, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Theresa May has a good chance of getting her twice-defeated Brexit deal approved by parliament next week, a junior Brexit minister in her government said on Thursday.

“We have a good shot at actually landing the deal next week,” Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky. “People are coming over already because people’s minds are focusing on the deal and the ability to leave the EU in a timely and orderly way.”

When asked what happened if May’s deal was rejected for a third time, Kwarteng did not answer the question directly.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

Source: OANN

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha talks with a man as he visits Lumphini Park ahead of the general election, in Bangkok
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha talks with a man as he visits Lumphini Park ahead of the general election, in Bangkok, Thailand, March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

March 21, 2019

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand goes to the polls on Sunday under a new system that critics say the military government has devised to prevent the most popular political party, which has won every election since 2001, from returning to power.

The military government says the new rules will usher in stability after more than a decade of fractious, at times violent, politics.

After a government loyal to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a 2014 coup, the military for years banned political activity, suppressed debate, restricted the media and detained dissidents.

Sunday’s general election will officially restore civilian rule but the military will retain a decisive role in politics under a new constitution, and the former army chief who led the 2014 coup, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, is hoping to stay on as head of an elected government.

Following are some details about the new system that supporters of the self-exiled Thaksin say is aimed at blocking them from winning.

THE SENATE

The 250-seat upper house Senate is entirely appointed by the ruling junta. Under the previous constitution, the Senate was only partially appointed.

The Senate will for the first time since 1978 vote along with the lower house, the 500-seat House of Representatives, to choose the new prime minister and government.

Previously, only members of the lower house voted for prime minister.

The magic number of seats parties or alliances need to secure to form a government is 376 – 50 percent plus one of the total number in the two houses of parliament.

With the military choosing all Senate members, including seats reserved for six heads of different armed forces branches, pro-military parties would likely need to win only 126 seats in the House of Representatives to win a majority in a combined vote.

Anti-junta parties, on the other hand, which can’t count on any Senate votes, would need to win 376 seats lower house seats to gain a majority.

THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

The makeup of the 500-seat House of Representatives is what will be decided on Sunday, but not all seats are directly elected.

Under the new constitution, the House of Representatives has 350 “constituency seats”, to which voters on Sunday will directly elect a candidate and, by default, their preferred party.

It also has 150 “party seats”, up from 125 previously.

THE FORMULA FOR PARTY SEATS

Party seats are allocated under a complicated system that big parties, like Pheu Thai, the main pro-Thaksin party, say is disadvantageous for them.

Party seats are distributed by a system that “caps” the total number of seats any one party can gain, based on their percentage of total votes cast nationwide.

The “value” one seat in the House of Representatives is assigned is based on a formula that takes the total number of votes cast and divides it by the 500 seats. So, if 40 million people were to vote on Sunday, the value of one House seat would be 80,000 votes.

A party cannot win more seats than it has “earned” in total votes nationwide. And if a party has already reached or is close to its cap in constituency seats, then it cannot get any more party seats than that cap allows.

If a party wins more constituency seats than its cap, then it keeps those seats but cannot be awarded any party seats even if it was the top vote getter.

The system leaves a bigger pie of party seats for smaller parties to divide up. This will likely result in numerous smaller parties that normally would not have won any seats, awarded one or more party seats.

To illustrate the impact of the new rules, Pheu Thai won the last election, in 2011, with 204 constituency seats and then 61 party seats – awarded under a directly proportional system – as it won 48 percent of the total vote. That gave it a majority of 265 seats in the House of Representatives.

If it were to win the same number of votes this time, the new rules would mean it would end up with 42 fewer seats, which would leave it short of a majority.

CHOOSING PRIME MINISTER

A party must have at least 25 seats in the House of Representatives to nominate a candidate for prime minister.

After that, it will take the support of 376 out of 750 members of the combined houses to become prime minister.

Because the junta will have already chosen all 250 seats of the Senate, the main Palang Pracharat party allied to the military needs to gain only 126 more votes in the lower house.

That’s a huge advantage, though not a guarantee.

If no coalition can agree on prime minister, the new constitution also allows for an “outside” prime minister who is not a member of parliament.

(Writing by Chayut Setboonsarg and Kay Johnson; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: OANN

The aftermath of the Cyclone Idai is pictured in Beira
The aftermath of the Cyclone Idai is pictured in Beira, Mozambique, March 16, 2019. Josh Estey/Care International via REUTERS

March 21, 2019

BEIRA, Mozambique (Reuters) – The death toll after a powerful cyclone in Mozambique stood at 217 and around 15,000 people still needed to be rescued, the Minister of Land and Environment Celso Correia said on Thursday.

Correia said 3,000 people had already been rescued.

Cyclone Idai lashed the Mozambican port city of Beira with winds of up to 170 km per hour (105 miles per hour) last Thursday, then moved inland to Zimbabwe and Malawi, flattening buildings and putting the lives of millions at risk.

(Reporting by Emma Rumney; Writing by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Drilling rigs in the Cromarty Firth near Invergordon, Scotland
FILE PHOTO: Drilling rigs are parked up in the Cromarty Firth near Invergordon, Scotland, Britain January 27, 2015. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

March 21, 2019

By Henning Gloystein

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil eased away from 2019 highs reached earlier in the session on Thursday, but markets remain relatively tight amid supply cuts led by producer club OPEC and U.S. government sanctions against Iran and Venezuela.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $60.12 per barrel at 0712 GMT on Thursday, down 11 cents, or 0.2 percent from their last settlement. WTI reached its highest level since Nov. 12 earlier in the day, at $60.33 per barrel.

International Brent crude oil futures were at $68.52 a barrel, close to their last settlement after hitting $68.69 a barrel earlier in the session, the highest since Nov. 13.

Crude prices have been pushed up by almost a third since the start of 2019 by supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), as well as by sanctions enacted against Iran and Venezuela by the United States.

OPEC’s crude oil output has slumped from a mid-2018 peak of 32.8 million barrels per day (bpd) to 30.7 million bpd in February.

(For a graphic on ‘OPEC oil production’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2FiS2y3)

The U.S. sanctions are also disrupting supply.

“Venezuelan exports to the U.S. have finally dried up, after the sanctions were placed on them by the U.S. administration earlier this year,” ANZ bank said on Thursday.

Iranian oil exports have also slumped. The United States aims to cut Iran’s crude exports by about 20 percent to below 1 million bpd from May by requiring importing countries to reduce purchases to avoid U.S. sanctions.

The OPEC cuts and sanctions have also tightened supply within the United States.

U.S. crude oil stockpiles last week fell by nearly 10 million barrels, the most since July, boosted by strong export and refining demand, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.[EIA/S]

Stockpiles fell 9.6 million barrels, to 439.5 million barrels, their lowest since January.

Part of the drawdown is due to surging U.S. exports, which stood at a four-week average of 3 million bpd, double the amount this time a year ago, according to the EIA.

The rising exports come amid steep growth in U.S. crude oil production, which returned to its record of 12.1 million bpd last week, making America the world’s biggest producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

(For a graphic on ‘U.S. crude oil production & exports’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2ULQiTd)

(Reporting by Henning Gloystein in SINGAPORE and Colin Packham in SYDNEY; Editing by Tom Hogue and Richard Pullin)

Source: OANN


Current track

Title

Artist