japan

FILE PHOTO: Passersby walk past in front of an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Passersby walk past in front of an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

March 21, 2019

By Andrew Galbraith

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Shares in Asia rose on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve took a more accommodative stance at its policy meeting, but concerns over slowing global growth and U.S.-China trade talks are expected to limit gains.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.5 percent in early trade. Australian shares were last down 0.1 percent.

Markets in Japan are closed on Thursday for a public holiday.

The rise in the broad Asian index followed a wobbly session on Wall Street overnight, as growth and trade concerns overcame an initial shift toward more risk-taking sparked by the Fed’s dovish shift.

In comments at the end of a two-day policy meeting Wednesday, the Fed abandoned projections for any interest rate hikes this year amid signs of an economic slowdown, and said it would halt the steady decline of its balance sheet in September.

But while investors cheered the Fed’s new approach, the reasons behind it sparked concern. Lingering worries about China-U.S. trade talks, which are set to resume next week, also weighed on the investment mood, with U.S. President Donald Trump warning that Washington may leave tariffs on Chinese goods for a “substantial period” to ensure Beijing’s compliance with any trade deal.

“What the Fed is doing is trying to engineer a soft landing. What the market is hearing though is things have gotten so weak so quickly … and the earnings outlook is so dire that real money managers don’t want to chase this rally,” Greg McKenna, strategist at McKenna Macro wrote in a morning note to clients.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.55 percent to 25,745.67, the S&P 500 lost 0.29 percent to 2,824.23 and the Nasdaq Composite added less than 0.1 percent to 7,728.97.

The Fed’s comments pushed yields on benchmark U.S. Treasurys lower, with 10-year notes yielding 2.5245 percent compared with a U.S. close of 2.537 percent on Wednesday.

The abandonment of plans for more rate hikes this year pushed the two-year yield, sensitive to expectations of higher Fed fund rates, to 2.3982 percent, down from a U.S. close of 2.4 percent.

After falling on Wednesday, the dollar steadied, with a basket tracking the currency against major rivals flat at 95.910.. It was up a hair against the Japanese currency, buying 110.70 yen.

The euro was up 0.14 percent on the day at $1.1427, while sterling rebounded from a sharp drop Wednesday after British Prime Minister Theresa May asked the EU to delay Brexit until June 30, a shorter extension than some in the market had been expecting. May later said she was “not prepared to delay Brexit any further.”

The pound was up 0.11 percent at $1.3211.

In commodity markets, oil prices, which had jumped Wednesday on supply concerns, retreated.

U.S. crude fell 0.1 percent to $60.17 a barrel after touching four-month highs on Wednesday. Brent crude was a touch lower at $68.47 per barrel.

Gold gained on the weaker dollar, with spot gold up 0.27 percent at $1,315.72 per ounce. [GOL/]

(Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amnesty International is seen next to director of Mujeres En Linea Luisa Kislinger, during a news conference in Caracas
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amnesty International is seen next to director of Mujeres En Linea Luisa Kislinger, during a news conference to announce the results of an investigation into humans rights abuses committed in Venezuela during protests against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela February 20, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jass

March 21, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Amnesty International attacked the electric vehicle (EV) industry on Thursday for selling itself as environmentally friendly while producing many of its batteries using polluting fossil fuels and unethically sourced minerals.

Manufacturing batteries can be carbon intensive, while the extraction of minerals used in them has been linked to human rights violations such as child labor, a statement from the rights group said.

“Electric vehicles are key to shifting the motor industry away from fossil fuels, but they are currently not as ethical as some retailers would like us to believe,” it said, announcing the initiative at the Nordic Electric Vehicle Summit in Oslo.

Production of lithium-ion batteries for EVs is power intensive, and factories are concentrated in China, South Korea and Japan, where power generation is largely dependent on coal or other fossil fuels, Amnesty said.

Global automakers are investing billions of dollars to ramp up electric vehicle production. German giant Volkswagen for one plans to raise annual production of electric cars to 3 million by 2025, from 40,000 in 2018.

Amnesty demanded the EV industry come up with an ethical and clean battery within five years and in the meantime that carbon footprints be disclosed and supply chains of key minerals identified.

Last month, a letter seen by Reuters showed that 14 non-governmental organizations including Amnesty and Global Witness had opposed plans by the London Metal Exchange to ban cobalt tainted by human rights abuses.

Instead of banning the cobalt brands, the LME should work with firms that produce them to ensure responsible souring, they said.

(Reporting by Eric Onstad; Editing by Jan Harvey)

Source: OANN

People are reflected in a puddle as they pass by a mural near the EU headquarters in Brussels
People are reflected in a puddle as they pass by a mural near the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

March 21, 2019

By Robin Emmott and Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union will discuss a more defensive strategy on China on Thursday, potentially signaling an end to the unfettered access that Chinese business has enjoyed in Europe but which Beijing has failed to reciprocate.

Caught between a new U.S.-Chinese rivalry for economic and military power, EU leaders will try to find a middle path during a summit dinner in Brussels, the first time they have discussed at the highest level how to deal with Beijing.

“We are fully open,” European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen said of the EU’s economy. “China is not, and it raises lots of questions,” Katainen told Reuters, arguing that the world’s second-largest economy could no longer claim special status as a developing country.

Meeting as Chinese President Xi Jinping starts a tour of France and Italy, EU leaders – who have often been divided over China – want to present a united front ahead of an EU-China summit on April 9.

According to a draft April summit statement seen by Reuters, the EU is seeking to set deadlines for China to make good on trade and investment pledges that have been repeatedly pushed back, although Beijing must still agree to the final text.

That was a message delivered to State Councillor Wang Yi by EU foreign ministers on Monday. It marked a shift toward what EU diplomats say is a more “assertive and competitive mindset”.

“In the past, it has been extremely difficult for the EU to formulate a clear strategy on China, and past policy documents have not been strategically coherent,” said Duncan Freeman at the EU-China Research Centre at the College of Europe. “There is now a clear effort to do that.”

In a document to prepare the EU summit, the European Commission called China a “systemic rival”.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign to warn against Huawei telecommunications equipment in next-generation wireless networks has accelerated EU discussions about its position.

The deepest tensions lie around China’s slowness to open up its economy, a surge of Chinese takeovers in critical sectors and an impression that Beijing has not stood up for free trade.

GERMANY IS KEY

With over a billion euros a day in bilateral trade, the EU is China’s top trading partner, while China is second only to the United States as a market for European goods and services.

Chinese trade restrictions are more severe than EU barriers in almost every economic sector, according to research firm Rhodium Group and the Mercator Institute for China Studies.

Unlike the United States, which has a naval fleet based in Japan to wield influence over the region, the EU lacks any military power to confront China, so its approach is technical.

But any new EU policies could prove complicated to implement, as EU capitals continue to court Chinese investment. Italy plans to join China’s multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road infrastructure project, while free-traders Ireland, Sweden and the Netherlands are wary of any restrictions on commerce.

Germany’s views will be important as Berlin has at times pressed for a tougher response to unfair competition from Chinese rivals but also championed a closer relationship with Beijing.

“Their position needs to stabilize. At the moment it changes on almost every day of the week,” the senior envoy said.

(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

An employee counts U.S. dollar bills at a money exchange office in central Cairo
An employee counts U.S. dollar bills at a money exchange office in central Cairo, Egypt, March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

March 20, 2019

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) – The dollar nursed heavy losses in Asia on Thursday after the Federal Reserve stunned markets by abandoning all plans to raise rates this year, a signal its three-year campaign to normalize policy might be at an end.

Investors rushed to price in the prospect of rate cuts later this year, while benchmark Treasury yields dived to their lowest since early 2018.

The Fed’s swerve sent the dollar sliding to 110.67 yen, with its 0.6 percent loss overnight the biggest drop since the flash crash of early January.

The euro flew to a seven-week peak and was last trading at $1.1424, a world away from its recent low of $1.1177. That left the dollar down at 95.929 against a basket of currencies, having lost 0.5 percent overnight.

“Markets were universally poised for a very benign outcome and the Fed dutifully delivered, their message overall matching the most dovish of expectations,” said Richard Franulovich, head of FX strategy at Westpac.

“The median 2019 projection is for no hikes, a strong majority of 11 among 17 at zero; a dramatic shift from just two members looking for no Fed hikes in 2019 back in December.”

It had previously tipped two hikes this year. The central bank also trimmed its forecasts for economic growth and inflation, while lifting that for unemployment.

Driving home the dovish shift, the Fed will now stop running down its balance sheet in September, some months earlier than many had expected.

Investors reacted by wagering the next move in rates would be down, with fund futures now implying around 11 basis points of easing by December.

Yields on two-year notes sank to 2.40 percent, dead in line with the effective funds rate, and five-year yields dropped even further to 2.33 percent.

The only solace for the dollar was that other central banks around the globe have also turned decidedly dovish in recent months as growth slowed pretty much everywhere.

That need for stimulus means many central banks will not want to see their currencies appreciate against the dollar, giving them reason to sound even more accommodative.

“The more cautious tone and downgraded U.S. economic outlook will limit dollar upside,” said CBA senior currency strategist Joseph Capurso.

“However, with similarly soft economic growth outlooks elsewhere including Europe, China, Australia and Japan it is questionable whether the dollar will depreciate to any significant extent.”

One currency with problems of its own was sterling, which retreated to $1.3192 after British Prime Minister Theresa May’s request to delay Brexit until June 30 faced resistance from parts of the European Union.

Faring better was the New Zealand dollar as data on domestic economic growth came in firmer than many bearish investors had expected.

Strong household spending and business investment lifted gross domestic product 0.6 percent in the December quarter, helping the kiwi climb to a seven-week top of $0.6923.

(Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A woman looks at scarves on sale at a department store in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: A woman looks at scarves on sale at a department store in Tokyo March 30, 2012. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

March 20, 2019

By Ritsuko Ando

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s 24-hour convenience stores are struggling to stay open around the clock as an industry that has continually expanded now finds itself at the sharp end of a labor shortage.

Franchise owners, some of whom were forced to work amid massive snowstorms or in the wake of a family death, have launched a campaign to persuade industry leader 7-Eleven to allow stores to close earlier.

Although the debate has focused on their plight, it has also raised doubts over the future of a $100 billion industry that faces an aging population, slow economic growth and new competitors such as Amazon Prime.

“The question is, how much demand is there for 24-hour service in an age when online shopping is expanding?” said Takayuki Kurabayashi, a Nomura Research Institute partner who specializes in consulting for the retail industry.

Japanese convenience stores began expanding in the 1970s as their 24-hour accessibility proved a perfect match with the country’s dense population and late-night work culture.

The brightly lit stores, which locals call “combini,” are ubiquitous and an essential part of modern Japanese life, offering everything from neckties to packaged “bento” lunches for city workers.

Rural Japanese rely on the stores for parcel and ATM services, or even as lifelines during disasters such as earthquakes.

The franchise system promoted a nationwide expansion that took the total number of stores to roughly 58,000 last year, a majority operated by the big three: 7-Eleven, originating in the U.S. but now Japanese-owned; FamilyMart, UNY Holdings’ convenience store arm; and Lawson, a subsidiary of trading house Mitsubishi Corp.

For years, the franchise model shielded operations from the direct effects of Japan’s labor crunch. But now, the tightest labor market more than 40 years is hurting store owners, who pay salaries after handing over royalty fees.

A union of convenience store owners said they were finding it increasingly hard to hire enough employees. Many owners said they worked long hours themselves to keep stores open 24 hours – a requirement in most franchise contracts.

“At the time of the agreement, we could not foresee the current labor shortage or spike in minimum wages,” said Mitoshi Matsumoto, a union member who owns a 7-Eleven store in Osaka, referring to the deal he and his wife signed with the company.

Struggling to keep the store running after his wife’s death last year, he began closing it for a few hours at night, and was threatened with a fine.

His pleas to management and lawmakers drew widespread sympathy in a country in which “work-life balance” has become a buzzword and employers have come under fire for cases of death by overwork.

Even the pro-business Nikkei newspaper wrote an editorial saying stores should be allowed reasonable working hours even if consumers suffer slight inconveniences.

Amid such pressure, the company said that on Thursday, it would begin testing shorter hours at 10 of its more than 20,700 stores. It emphasized that the change was experimental and that it was not yet altering its 24-7 format.

SATURATION AND INNOVATION

Roy Larke, who analyses Japan’s retail industry as editor of JapanConsuming.com, said he sees the sector as saturated and consolidation inevitable.

“We do have too many convenience stores now, sometimes literally next door to each other. There are probably around 10 percent too many,” he said.

Katsuhiko Shimizu, spokesman for Seven & i Holdings which owns 7-Eleven and general merchandise chain Ito-Yokado, disagreed.

“There’s room for innovation,” he said, citing the company’s efforts to incorporate more automation and artificial intelligence in processes ranging from stocking to check-out.

Chains are also testing new formats such as outlets that combine drugstores, dry cleaners and even gyms. FamilyMart has opened some such stores with the country’s largest discount chain, Don Quijote, to inject excitement.

Analysts warn against underestimating a sector known for maintaining high margins and rarely discounting, helped by constant product renewals and staples like 100-yen (90-cent) coffees.

They also say it’s too early to predict the outcome of Japan’s online grocery delivery race, which is only getting started.

Although Amazon’s grocery and same-day delivery services are considered threats, convenience stores are also launching online platforms; their affiliations with traditional supermarkets and logistics networks are seen as advantages.

“It’s not clear-cut whether Amazon will be overwhelmingly powerful here,” said Larke. “Especially in food, it doesn’t have the game to itself.”

Convenience stores, like other Japanese businesses, have also been expanding abroad. But Nomura Research’s Kurabayashi warned that those foreign markets, including China, were also aging.

“What’s happening in Japan is eventually going to happen elsewhere in Asia,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

(Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

Source: OANN

A boy walks past a sign with voting instructions on his way to school in Honiara
A boy walks past a sign with voting instructions on his way to school in Honiara, Solomon Islands, March 11, 2019. Picture taken March 11, 2019. ISHMAEL AITOREA/Handout via REUTERS

March 20, 2019

By Charlotte Greenfield and Tom Westbrook

WELLINGTON/SYDNEY (Reuters) – As politicians hit the hustings across the Solomon Islands two weeks out from a general election in the South Pacific archipelago, the loyalty of one of Taiwan’s few remaining allies is in the balance.

Some Solomons’ candidates are promising to review lucrative, but loosening, ties with Taipei that if broken, could trigger a reshaping of diplomatic relations in a region home to a third of Taiwan’s shrinking list of allies.

Although Pacific island states offer little economically to either China and Taiwan, their support is valued in global forums such as the United Nations and as China seeks to isolate Taiwan. China see the democratically ruled island as a renegade province with no right to state-to-state ties.

In the Solomons, where two-thirds of exports go to China, many politicians are questioning whether diplomatic ties with Taiwan are still in their best interests.

“Sooner or later, when we see our country hasn’t been able to grow out of this relationship, we are at liberty to review our relations and to explore other avenues,” said former Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, who is contesting the election.

Lilo’s views, echoed in the rival ruling Democratic Alliance Party policy manifesto, and by other candidates, have caught Taipei’s attention.

Taiwan this month sent its deputy foreign minister to the tropical capital of Honiara shore up the alliance.

President Tsai Ing-wen is also touring the South Pacific this week, visiting other allies Palau, Nauru and the Marshall Islands to “deepen ties and friendly relations”.

Already five countries have switched recognition to China since Tsai took office in 2016, leaving just 17 mostly small, undeveloped countries that formally recognize Taiwan.

Four of the six Pacific island nations aligned with Taiwan have elections this year, putting its Pacific stronghold under increasing pressure.

The elections also come at a time when traditional regional powers from the West and Japan have been boosting their presence in the Pacific due to unease at China’s growing influence there.

Last week, the new U.S. ambassador to Australia said China was using “pay-day loan diplomacy” to exert influence in the Pacific.

“The West is watching the outcome of the election in the Solomon Islands very closely. There is no doubt that there are some Solomon Islands lawmakers who would like to align with China,” said a senior U.S. diplomatic source.

“There is a legitimate worry that it will have a domino effect.”

FLASHPOINT OR CASHPOINT?

Acknowledging that China takes the position that there is “one China” and Taiwan is part of it is the “common consensus of international society”, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

“The Chinese government, under the one China policy and the principles of peaceful coexistence, develops friendly cooperation with countries across the world,” he said, without elaborating.

Shifting allegiances are nothing new in the South Pacific.

Vanuatu flirted with recognizing Taiwan in 2004 but ultimately stuck with Beijing, while Kiribati and Nauru have each switched sides in the past.

The Solomons have recognized Taiwan since 1983.

The chain of islands stretching across some 600,000 sq km (232,000 sq miles) of ocean is a strategic gateway to the South Pacific and was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in World War II.

It is the largest of Taiwan-aligned Pacific countries, with access to the airfields and deepwater ports the conflict left behind.

The Solomons’ situation is further complicated by an unpredictable coalition building process after the vote, expected to last weeks before a government is formed.

FUNDING CRITICISMS

Taiwan is fighting to retain its ties.

“I think China is trying everything they can do to replace us in our diplomatic allies,” Taiwan’s deputy chief of mission to the Solomons, Oliver Liao, told Reuters in a phone interview.

He said Taipei was cautiously optimistic of retaining Honiara’s friendship because it has a long history of rural-development donations.

“Many friends here continue to share with us how much they appreciate Taiwan’s support and how they appreciate the flexibility this budgetary support allows – politicians and also the citizens.”

Its strategy, though, has come under fire.

Taiwan’s support of around $9 million a year is paid directly into a government account which lawmakers tap for projects in their far-flung provinces, with little oversight.

“In the rural areas there is no tangible development,” said Andrew Fanasia, politics reporter at the Solomon Star newspaper.

“Mostly these people blame their leaders and this fund.”

Anti-graft agency Transparency Solomon Islands says “vote buying” with cash linked to development funds is by far the most common complaint it fields, according to data it collected in 2017 and 2018.

Lawmakers say there are successes, and the government’s rural development website lists health and sanitation projects, community buildings, and text-message testimonies from citizens about improvements to their lives.

But even Taiwan’s Liao – and former prime minister Lilo – say economic progress has not been fast enough.

And in the capital, patience with the incumbents charged with disbursing Taiwan’s largesse is in short supply.

“Most students would really like to see a change in the leadership and style,” said law student Ishmael Aitorea, 25, on the phone from the student association office of the University of the South Pacific in Honiara.

“The perception is that if the old parliament members go back, nothing will change.”

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield in WELLINGTON, Tom Westbrook and Colin Packham in SYDNEY, Yimou Lee in TAIPEI and Philip Wen in BEIJING; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Source: OANN

A boy walks past a sign with voting instructions on his way to school in Honiara
A boy walks past a sign with voting instructions on his way to school in Honiara, Solomon Islands, March 11, 2019. Picture taken March 11, 2019. ISHMAEL AITOREA/Handout via REUTERS

March 20, 2019

By Charlotte Greenfield and Tom Westbrook

WELLINGTON/SYDNEY (Reuters) – As politicians hit the hustings across the Solomon Islands two weeks out from a general election in the South Pacific archipelago, the loyalty of one of Taiwan’s few remaining allies is in the balance.

Some Solomons’ candidates are promising to review lucrative, but loosening, ties with Taipei that if broken, could trigger a reshaping of diplomatic relations in a region home to a third of Taiwan’s shrinking list of allies.

Although Pacific island states offer little economically to either China and Taiwan, their support is valued in global forums such as the United Nations and as China seeks to isolate Taiwan. China see the democratically ruled island as a renegade province with no right to state-to-state ties.

In the Solomons, where two-thirds of exports go to China, many politicians are questioning whether diplomatic ties with Taiwan are still in their best interests.

“Sooner or later, when we see our country hasn’t been able to grow out of this relationship, we are at liberty to review our relations and to explore other avenues,” said former Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, who is contesting the election.

Lilo’s views, echoed in the rival ruling Democratic Alliance Party policy manifesto, and by other candidates, have caught Taipei’s attention.

Taiwan this month sent its deputy foreign minister to the tropical capital of Honiara shore up the alliance.

President Tsai Ing-wen is also touring the South Pacific this week, visiting other allies Palau, Nauru and the Marshall Islands to “deepen ties and friendly relations”.

Already five countries have switched recognition to China since Tsai took office in 2016, leaving just 17 mostly small, undeveloped countries that formally recognize Taiwan.

Four of the six Pacific island nations aligned with Taiwan have elections this year, putting its Pacific stronghold under increasing pressure.

The elections also come at a time when traditional regional powers from the West and Japan have been boosting their presence in the Pacific due to unease at China’s growing influence there.

Last week, the new U.S. ambassador to Australia said China was using “pay-day loan diplomacy” to exert influence in the Pacific.

“The West is watching the outcome of the election in the Solomon Islands very closely. There is no doubt that there are some Solomon Islands lawmakers who would like to align with China,” said a senior U.S. diplomatic source.

“There is a legitimate worry that it will have a domino effect.”

FLASHPOINT OR CASHPOINT?

Acknowledging that China takes the position that there is “one China” and Taiwan is part of it is the “common consensus of international society”, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

“The Chinese government, under the one China policy and the principles of peaceful coexistence, develops friendly cooperation with countries across the world,” he said, without elaborating.

Shifting allegiances are nothing new in the South Pacific.

Vanuatu flirted with recognizing Taiwan in 2004 but ultimately stuck with Beijing, while Kiribati and Nauru have each switched sides in the past.

The Solomons have recognized Taiwan since 1983.

The chain of islands stretching across some 600,000 sq km (232,000 sq miles) of ocean is a strategic gateway to the South Pacific and was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in World War II.

It is the largest of Taiwan-aligned Pacific countries, with access to the airfields and deepwater ports the conflict left behind.

The Solomons’ situation is further complicated by an unpredictable coalition building process after the vote, expected to last weeks before a government is formed.

FUNDING CRITICISMS

Taiwan is fighting to retain its ties.

“I think China is trying everything they can do to replace us in our diplomatic allies,” Taiwan’s deputy chief of mission to the Solomons, Oliver Liao, told Reuters in a phone interview.

He said Taipei was cautiously optimistic of retaining Honiara’s friendship because it has a long history of rural-development donations.

“Many friends here continue to share with us how much they appreciate Taiwan’s support and how they appreciate the flexibility this budgetary support allows – politicians and also the citizens.”

Its strategy, though, has come under fire.

Taiwan’s support of around $9 million a year is paid directly into a government account which lawmakers tap for projects in their far-flung provinces, with little oversight.

“In the rural areas there is no tangible development,” said Andrew Fanasia, politics reporter at the Solomon Star newspaper.

“Mostly these people blame their leaders and this fund.”

Anti-graft agency Transparency Solomon Islands says “vote buying” with cash linked to development funds is by far the most common complaint it fields, according to data it collected in 2017 and 2018.

Lawmakers say there are successes, and the government’s rural development website lists health and sanitation projects, community buildings, and text-message testimonies from citizens about improvements to their lives.

But even Taiwan’s Liao – and former prime minister Lilo – say economic progress has not been fast enough.

And in the capital, patience with the incumbents charged with disbursing Taiwan’s largesse is in short supply.

“Most students would really like to see a change in the leadership and style,” said law student Ishmael Aitorea, 25, on the phone from the student association office of the University of the South Pacific in Honiara.

“The perception is that if the old parliament members go back, nothing will change.”

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield in WELLINGTON, Tom Westbrook and Colin Packham in SYDNEY, Yimou Lee in TAIPEI and Philip Wen in BEIJING; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Trump addresses members of U.S. military during refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump introduces U.S. Army Bronze Star recipient Sgt. Sean Rogers after calling him onstage while addressing members of the military during a refueling stop at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska, U.S., February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Mike Stone

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Defense is proposing to pay for President Donald Trump’s much-debated border wall by shifting funds away from projects that include $1.2 billion for schools, childcare centers and other facilities for military children, according to a list it has provided to lawmakers.

The Pentagon gave Congress a list on Monday that included $12.8 billion of construction projects for which it said funds could be redirected.

Around 10 percent of the list relates to educational establishments and includes school buildings for the children of service members in places like Germany, Japan, Kentucky and Puerto Rico.

The move comes as a surprise given the Trump administration’s oft-touted support for the sacrifices made by military families and suggests the White House’s desire to build a wall on the border with Mexico outstrips nearly all other issues.

However, of the $1.2 billion in projects related to education, approximately $800 million worth are far in the future, and those funds could readily be used for wall construction and replaced later.

The Pentagon told Congress that just because a project was listed, it “does not mean that the project will, in fact, be used” as a funding source to build sections of the border wall.

Trump earlier in March asked for $8.6 billion in his 2020 budget request to help pay for his promised wall on the U.S-Mexico border to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking. It drew swift criticism from Democrats.

He declared a national emergency in a bid to fund the wall without congressional approval, a move that allows his administration to use money from the military construction budget, if needed.

In a tense Congressional hearing last week, Democratic senators demanded that they be provided a list of military funds that could be utilized to fund wall construction.

Military officials have vowed that they would not use any funds from military housing. A recent Reuters investigation https://reut.rs/2t1Y2UA found thousands of U.S. military families were subjected to serious health and safety hazards in on-base housing, prompting moves from lawmakers to improve landlord controls.

But elementary and middle schools on bases around the world serving military families are at risk of suffering from the funding diversion, as well as a new engineering building and parking garage at West Point, the Army’s military academy in New York state.

Joint Base Andrews, where the president’s Air Force jet is based, was slated to receive $13 million for a “Child Development Center,” but funding for that project is on the list.

The base currently has three child development centers serving the 12,000 to 14,000 active and reserve military stationed there.

(Reporting by Mike Stone; Editing by Chris Sanders and Rosalba O’Brien)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Trump addresses members of U.S. military during refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump introduces U.S. Army Bronze Star recipient Sgt. Sean Rogers after calling him onstage while addressing members of the military during a refueling stop at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska, U.S., February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Mike Stone

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Defense is proposing to pay for President Donald Trump’s much-debated border wall by shifting funds away from projects that include $1.2 billion for schools, childcare centers and other facilities for military children, according to a list it has provided to lawmakers.

The Pentagon gave Congress a list on Monday that included $12.8 billion of construction projects for which it said funds could be redirected.

Around 10 percent of the list relates to educational establishments and includes school buildings for the children of service members in places like Germany, Japan, Kentucky and Puerto Rico.

The move comes as a surprise given the Trump administration’s oft-touted support for the sacrifices made by military families and suggests the White House’s desire to build a wall on the border with Mexico outstrips nearly all other issues.

However, of the $1.2 billion in projects related to education, approximately $800 million worth are far in the future, and those funds could readily be used for wall construction and replaced later.

The Pentagon told Congress that just because a project was listed, it “does not mean that the project will, in fact, be used” as a funding source to build sections of the border wall.

Trump earlier in March asked for $8.6 billion in his 2020 budget request to help pay for his promised wall on the U.S-Mexico border to combat illegal immigration and drug trafficking. It drew swift criticism from Democrats.

He declared a national emergency in a bid to fund the wall without congressional approval, a move that allows his administration to use money from the military construction budget, if needed.

In a tense Congressional hearing last week, Democratic senators demanded that they be provided a list of military funds that could be utilized to fund wall construction.

Military officials have vowed that they would not use any funds from military housing. A recent Reuters investigation https://reut.rs/2t1Y2UA found thousands of U.S. military families were subjected to serious health and safety hazards in on-base housing, prompting moves from lawmakers to improve landlord controls.

But elementary and middle schools on bases around the world serving military families are at risk of suffering from the funding diversion, as well as a new engineering building and parking garage at West Point, the Army’s military academy in New York state.

Joint Base Andrews, where the president’s Air Force jet is based, was slated to receive $13 million for a “Child Development Center,” but funding for that project is on the list.

The base currently has three child development centers serving the 12,000 to 14,000 active and reserve military stationed there.

(Reporting by Mike Stone; Editing by Chris Sanders and Rosalba O’Brien)

Source: OANN

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

March 20, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–By Sean Kramer, Field Level Media

Source: OANN

Idemitsu Kosan Co. Chief Executive Officer Takashi Tsukioka attends a news conference in Tokyo, Japan
FILE PHOTO: Idemitsu Kosan Co. Chief Executive Officer Takashi Tsukioka attends a news conference with Showa Shell Sekiyu Chief Executive Officer Tsuyoshi Kameoka (not in picture) in Tokyo, Japan, October 13, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

March 20, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese refiners will unlikely continue to import oil from Iran from April unless Japan gets a sanctions waivers extension from the U.S. government, Takashi Tsukioka, president of the Petroleum Association of Japan (PAJ), said on Wednesday.

The PAJ head said he believes the government is negotiating with the United States to get such a waiver and that PAJ would support this effort.

Japanese refiners have been asking the government to seek an extension of the U.S. sanctions waivers after the initial 180-day exemption period is over in early May. [nL3N1ZO2R2]

Japanese officials and their U.S. counterparts met last week in Washington to discuss the U.S. sanctions on Iran, according to a statement from Japan’s foreign ministry.

“Japan has told the U.S. that the sanctions should not negatively affect Japan’s stable supply of energy and Japanese companies’ operations,” an official at Japan’s industry ministry said, although declining to comment on the result of the talks.

Asked if Japan will extend sovereign ship insurance to import Iranian oil to the financial year that starts on April 1, PAJ’s Tsukioka said: “We understand the insurance is due to roll-over. We are just waiting for an announcement.”

Tsukioka had said in November, shortly after the U.S. sanctions waivers had been granted, that it was unclear whether the government would extend sovereign ship insurance into the new financial year.

(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Tom Hogue)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn sits inside the car as he leaves his lawyer's office after being released on bail from Tokyo Detention House, in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn sits inside the car as he leaves his lawyer’s office after being released on bail from Tokyo Detention House, in Tokyo, Japan, March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Norihiko Shirouzu

YOKOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) – In September 2007, despite weighty responsibilities at the helm of Nissan Motor Co and alliance partner Renault SA, Carlos Ghosn found time to get involved in a seemingly straightforward business decision.

Two days before Nissan’s executive committee was due to formalize the choice of a company called TVS as a partner for sales and marketing in India, Ghosn threw his weight behind a different firm: Hover Automotive India Pvt Ltd, four company sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Hover had been a candidate but was knocked out of the running because it had been deemed insufficiently experienced in automotive distribution and marketing, they said. However, its founder and chairman, Moez Mangalji, was a close family friend of Ghosn’s, the sources added.

A Nissan executive wrote to the team preparing for the committee meeting saying it was Ghosn’s wish that Hover be recommended over TVS, two of the sources said, adding that this was enough to ensure Hover got the job.

The incident is part of Nissan’s wide-ranging probe into what it calls years of serious misconduct by Ghosn. There is no evidence of Ghosn benefiting from the decision but it is an example of conduct investigators believe helped his friends at Nissan’s expense, the two sources added.

A spokesman for Ghosn said the former Nissan chairman did not intervene on behalf of Hover, that Hover met key criteria to launch the distribution business, and all partnership decisions were made by Nissan’s executive committee.

“The baseless accusations against Mr. Ghosn and steady stream of leaks from certain Nissan executives are a transparent and dishonorable attempt to smear Mr. Ghosn’s reputation, destabilize and reset the balance of power in the Alliance, and distract from Nissan’s alarming performance,” the statement from Ghosn’s spokesman said.

The spokesman declined repeated requests by Reuters to be identified, citing the “sensitive nature of the topics.”

A representative for Mangalji said Hover employed experts with substantial experience and “that at no point was Hover aware of any special treatment on its behalf by Mr Ghosn or anyone else.”

Ghosn would continue to back Hover even after Nissan dealers in India began protesting in 2012 to executives about a collapse in sales, according to the sources, who declined to be identified, citing the sensitivity of the subject.

Those protests grew in 2013, with some groups representing Nissan’s India dealers sending letters to senior executives, imploring them to step in, and Nissan ultimately dropped Hover as a partner the next year.

An internal Nissan document that summarizes some of the decision-making around the choice of Hover and which one source said was created in 2014, was also reviewed by Reuters.

Company insiders say the Hover episode was a defining moment for some managers inside Nissan, leading them to question the agenda of a man who had been universally lauded for bringing Nissan back from the brink of bankruptcy.

At the same time, the sources acknowledge there was little resistance among the executive committee and other management to Ghosn’s support for Hover and one other dealership decision in the Middle East that had raised eyebrows within Nissan.

“In so many ways it was assumed that what he said would not need to be questioned. That applies to just about every decision he made,” one of the sources said.

TOO MUCH POWER

Looking back at Ghosn’s reign, it is clear that too much power was concentrated in one man, and that management did not do enough, Nissan Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa told employees in a town hall meeting one week after Ghosn’s Nov. 19 arrest.

“For 19 years, management, myself included, we allowed his high-handedness, allowed wrongdoings, and regret for that is what I think we all feel,” he said, according to a copy of his speech reviewed by Reuters.

“Our biggest and most urgent task….is to undo the negative legacy that resulted from years of Ghosn’s leadership and corporate governance,” he added.

Last week, Nissan and major shareholder Renault said they would break up the all-powerful chairmanship position held by Ghosn, with the chairman of Renault serving as head of the alliance but not as chairman of Nissan.

An external committee is due to make recommendations this month on changing Nissan’s corporate governance including procedures for executive appointments and compensation.

The re-evaluation of Ghosn’s legacy is also driving a broader shift in Nissan’s strategy, particularly Ghosn’s practice of setting ambitious objectives for sales and profitability called ‘commitments’, where managers were held to account if they were not delivered.

“If you couldn’t meet them then you’d be in trouble, those numerical targets came to feel like threats,” Saikawa told the town hall meeting. “Now, we have to change this, work out something that is healthier.”

PLETHORA OF ACCUSATIONS

Not until 2017 did a lone internal auditor, Hidetoshi Imazu, discreetly start making checks into dealings that Nissan now says were orchestrated by Ghosn.

Imazu had been aware of queries by Nissan’s external auditor Ernst & Young ShinNihon LLC about the purpose of a Dutch unit Zi-A Capital, according to one source. Payments for Nissan-owned luxury apartments used by Ghosn were made through Zi-A Capital and its units, sources have previously said.

Imazu’s concerns also followed a June 2017 Reuters report https://www.reuters.com/article/us-renault-nissan-bonuses/exclusive-renault-nissan-considers-hidden-bonus-plan-documents-idUSKBN1941FU that Renault-Nissan alliance bankers had drawn up plans to pay millions of dollars in undisclosed bonuses to Ghosn and other managers through a separate Dutch unit, the source said.

Saikawa would only learn of the probe around October last year after Imazu and Hari Nada, head of Nissan’s CEO office and an ally Imazu later teamed up with, had turned their findings over to prosecutors, two sources said.

Nissan declined to make Imazu, Nada and Saikawa available for comment on this article.

Tokyo prosecutors have accused Ghosn of under-reporting $82 million in compensation for 2010-2018 – pay he had arranged to receive after his retirement.

He has also been charged with temporarily shifting personal losses to Nissan after a foreign exchange contract went sour and improperly steering $14.7 million in Nissan funds to a firm owned by Saudi businessman Khaled Al-Juffali.

Ghosn has said he is innocent and believed the compensation arrangements had been vetted by experts. Both Ghosn and the Khaled Juffali Company have asserted the $14.7 million in payments were for legitimate business purposes.

“Mr. Ghosn is innocent of the charges brought against him and he will be vindicated,” the statement from Ghosn’s spokesman said.

Nissan investigators continue to pursue a number of other leads with the probe expanding as whistleblowers come forward, one source said.

The alleged schemes took so long to come to light, sources with knowledge of the probe said, due to Ghosn’s practice of conveying his wishes verbally to trusted lieutenants rather than in writing. Many payments were made via the ‘CEO Reserve’, a budget for unplanned expenses, and were made through unconsolidated units which did not require vetting by the CFO or external auditors, they said.

In addition to the case involving Juffali, one key focus of the automaker’s probe is a sum of more than $30 million in Nissan funds Ghosn arranged to have transferred via the CEO Reserve to a Nissan distributor in Oman owned by businessman Suhail Bahwan and whether the money was used to repay personal debt, the sources said.

Ghosn’s spokesman said payments of $32 million made over nine years were rewards for the Bahwan firm being a top Nissan dealer. Such dealer incentives were not directed by the CEO and the funds were not used to pay any personal debt for Ghosn, the spokesman added.

One of the Nissan sources countered that dealer rewards were a planned event each year and were not paid via the CEO Reserve.

A spokesman for Bahwan did not respond to requests for comment.

The probe is also looking at the amount of money spent on Nissan-owned residences in Paris, Beirut and Rio de Janeiro and how the payments were made through units.

Ghosn’s spokesman said officials at Nissan, including Saikawa and Nada, had been aware of and had approved of the provision of the residences.

Investigators are also examining payments to Ghosn’s sister, Claudine Bichara de Oliveira, for what two sources describe as a fictitious job advising on global donation activities.

Those payments date back to 2003 and total nearly $700,000 through 2016, documents seen by Reuters show.

An internal Nissan letter dated March 27, 2003 shows Ghosn asked Oliveira if she would work for Nissan’s global donation advisory council and that she signed the agreement. A source said, however, there was no evidence that the council existed.

The spokesman, who also represents Ghosn’s sister, said appropriate officials had approved the contract with the sister, and that Nissan officials opposed to Ghosn were attacking his family with false accusations.

(Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu; Additional reporting by Gary McWilliams in Houston, Tuqa Khalid in Dubai and Tim Kelly in Tokyo; Editing by Joe White and Edwina Gibbs)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn leaves from his residence in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn leaves from his residence in Tokyo, Japan, March 8, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

March 20, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – The trial of former Nissan Motor Co boss Carlos Ghosn on charges of under-reporting his salary is expected to start in September, public broadcaster NHK said on Wednesday.

Ghosn was released on $9 million bail earlier in March after spending more than 100 days in a Tokyo detention center. He faces charges of under-reporting his salary at Nissan by about $82 million over nearly a decade.

Ghosn has said the charges are “meritless”.

He was stripped of the role of Nissan chairman but remains a board member.

(Reporting by Stanley White; Editing by David Dolan)

Source: OANN

Police officers and workers in protective suits are seen at a checkpoint on a road leading to a farm owned by Hebei Dawu Group where African swine fever was detected, in Xushui
Police officers and workers in protective suits are seen at a checkpoint on a road leading to a farm owned by Hebei Dawu Group where African swine fever was detected, in Xushui district of Baoding, Hebei province, China February 26, 2019. Picture taken February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Hallie Gu

March 20, 2019

By Dominique Patton

BAODING, China (Reuters) – When pigs on the Xinda Husbandry Co. Ltd breeding farm in northern China began dying in growing numbers in early January, it looked increasingly likely that the farm had been struck by the much feared African swine fever, an incurable disease that has spread rapidly across the country since last year.

But after taking samples from some pigs, local officials in the Xushui district of Baoding city, about an hour’s drive from Beijing, said their tests came back negative, said Sun Dawu, chairman of Hebei Dawu Agriculture Group, the farm owner.

As hundreds of pigs began dying daily on the 20,000-head farm, the company obtained a test kit that showed some positive results for the virus. But after further lobbying by Xinda, officials just offered the company subsidies for farm buildings and other investments, said Sun.

Sun’s account of events and pictures taken by farm staff of dead pigs lying in rows and a pile outside the farm could not be independently verified.

Xushui district said in a faxed response to Reuters on Tuesday that it was opening an investigation into the case, adding that it had found some “discrepancies” with the reported version of events.

“If there is illegal behavior, relevant departments will handle it according to the law,” added the statement from the local government’s investigative committee.

Farmers and other industry insiders told Reuters that China’s African swine fever epidemic is far more extensive than official reports suggest, making the disease harder to contain, potentially causing pork shortages and increasing the likelihood that it will spread beyond China’s borders.

“Our full expectation is that the number of cases is under-reported,” said Paul Sundberg, executive director at the Swine Health Information Center in Ames, Iowa, which is funded by American pork producers.

“And if there’s so much of that virus in the environment in China, then we are at increased risk of importing it.”

China does not permit the commercial sale of African swine fever test kits, though many are now available. Official confirmation must come from a state-approved laboratory.

“Public confirmation of disease is the government’s job,” Sun told Reuters at his company headquarters in Xushui in late February.

Frustrated by the lack of action and mounting losses from the disease, Sun eventually published details of the suspected outbreak on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo on Feb. 22.

Two days later, it became the first African swine fever case in Hebei province, one of the north’s top pig producing regions, to be reported by China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, about seven weeks after the company says it had alerted local authorities.

By then, more than 15,000 pigs on the Xinda farm had already died, said Sun, and the company even sold on thousands of pigs – potentially spreading the disease further.

Sun said officials did not explain why their first test had been negative, though he suggested it may have been because they took samples from live pigs on the farm and did not test the dead ones.

China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs did not reply to a faxed request for comment on the case.

The agriculture ministry has warned against covering up outbreaks of the disease, and in January highlighted two large farms that had tried to conceal outbreaks.

UNCONFIRMED OUTBREAKS

Detailed accounts of unconfirmed outbreaks shared with Reuters by two other farm company managers suggest Sun’s experience is not unique.

In one case in northern China last year, local officials declined to even carry out a test. In another case in Shandong province, official test results came back negative, despite clinical symptoms that strongly pointed to African swine fever and a positive test result obtained by the company itself.

Neither manager was willing to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Once an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) is confirmed, all pigs on the farm, as well as any within a 3-km (1.8-mile) radius, must be culled and disposed of, according to Chinese law, and farmers should be paid 1,200 yuan ($180) per pig culled.

For some cash-strapped county governments, avoiding compensation payments could be an incentive not to report disease, said a senior official with a major pig producer.

When the disease hit one of the company’s 6,000-head sow farms in the northeast in November, local authorities did nothing, the official said.

“It was never tested by the government. We couldn’t do the test because we didn’t have the capability. But there’s no question it was ASF, based on the symptoms and lesions,” he told Reuters, declining to be identified because of company policy.

A county official in northeastern Liaoning province told Reuters in January that the local government had poured so much money and resources into preventing and controlling African swine fever that it risked bankrupting the county.

But wealthy Shandong province, northern China’s biggest producer of hogs, has only confirmed one case of the disease, on Feb. 20.

Insiders at one company said four of its farms in the province had suffered swine fever infections, however, suggesting more unconfirmed outbreaks may have occurred.

After the company’s first outbreak in early January the local government tested and the results came back negative, said an executive, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Shandong province’s animal husbandry bureau did not respond to a fax seeking comment on unreported cases.

‘SPATIAL RANDOMNESS’

There is no cure or vaccine for African swine fever and it kills about 90 percent of infected pigs.

Analysts forecast pig production in China, which eats about half of the world’s pork, will fall more than during the 2006 ‘blue ear’ epidemic, one of the worst disease outbreaks in recent years, with some expecting a decline of around 30 percent in 2019.

That would send meat prices soaring and trigger huge demand for imports.

The agriculture ministry said last week the pig herd in February had dropped 16.6 percent year-on-year, and sow stocks were down more than 19 percent.

China also has a patchy record of reporting disease. Details of the blue ear outbreak, which infected more than 2 million hogs, did not emerge until months after the damage had already been done, and the number of pigs that died is still disputed.

Like blue ear, African swine fever does not harm people. But it is classified a reportable disease by the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), a global body that promotes transparency, and member country China is obliged to report each outbreak.

“You need to move faster than the virus, it’s a very simple equation of how to control disease,” said Trevor Drew, director of the Australian Animal Health Laboratory at the national research agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. “If you don’t know where the virus is, you can’t stop it.”

Since August 2018, Beijing has reported 112 outbreaks in 28 provinces and regions. The increase has slowed considerably in 2019 and the agriculture ministry said earlier this month the situation was “gradually improving”.

But some suspect the disease is worse than the official data suggest.

“I am very much hoping that I am wrong, but if I consider the epidemiological characteristics of this virus disease, I would have to be extremely skeptical,” said Dirk Pfeiffer, a professor of veterinary epidemiology at the City University of Hong Kong.

He pointed to the “spatial randomness” of the reported outbreaks, unusual for an infectious disease, which normally develops in clusters.

The high rate of detection of the virus in food products carried from China to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia, as well as domestically, also indicated a much higher presence of the virus in Chinese pigs than reported, said Pfeiffer and others.

LARGE FARMS, LARGE LOSSES

With extremely high density of pigs, raised largely on low-biosecurity farms, tackling disease is widely recognized as a major challenge for China.

But the disease has hit both small farms and large producers, say industry insiders, despite better hygiene and training at factory farms.

“The large producers have not been spared,” said a manager with a company that supplies several of China’s top pig producers. “Everyone is trying really hard on biosecurity, but they’re still getting outbreaks, and they’re frustrated and losing hope.”

He said he knew of eight large breeding farms that had experienced outbreaks, including two on very large, 10,000-head sow farms. None were officially reported.

He declined to be named or to reveal the names of the producers because of client confidentiality.

Beijing has not officially reported any swine fever on the farms of large listed producers, whose shares are trading at record levels as investors bet the big producers will benefit from tighter supplies.

Qin Yinglin, chairman of China’s No.2 producer, Muyuan Foods Co Ltd, which raised 11 million pigs for slaughter last year, said most large companies were likely to be infected.

“If you checked carefully, testing one-by-one, then for sure everyone has it,” he told Reuters in an interview. “This is a high probability event.”

He said it was “not yet known” if his firm had been hit.

(For a graphic on ‘African swine fever in China’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2QMhmzL)

(Reporting by Dominique Patton and Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Tony Munroe and Alex Richardson)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - U.S. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi
FILE PHOTO – U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sit down for a dinner during the second U.S.-North Korea summit at the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

March 20, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will extend unilateral sanctions against North Korea by two years, public broadcaster NHK said on Wednesday.

Japan will extend a trade embargo on North Korea and a ban on North Korean ships entering Japanese ports by two years, according to the report.

The government is expected to approve the extension at a cabinet meeting early next month, NHK said.

The decision would come after a second meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month collapsed over differences on U.S. demands for Pyongyang’s denuclearisation and North Korea’s demand for sanctions relief.

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A man makes his way in a business district in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: A man makes his way in a business district in Tokyo, Japan May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

March 20, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s government downgraded its assessment of the economy in March for the first time in three years, blaming a bruising U.S.-China trade war for slumping exports and industrial output.

The Cabinet Office, which helps coordinate government policy, said on Wednesday the economy is in gradual recovery, but exports and output are showing signs of weakness.

The monthly economic report for March was a downgrade from February, when the Cabinet Office simply said the economy is in gradual recovery.

The March report gave a pessimistic outlook, saying this bout of weakness could continue for some time in the future.

The downbeat assessment could fuel calls for the government to delay a nationwide sales tax hike scheduled for October, and increase speculation that the Bank of Japan (BOJ) will take some steps to bolster economic growth.

Exports fell for a third straight month in February and industrial output in January saw its sharpest decline in a year as tit-for-tat tariffs between Washington and Beijing slowed China’s economy and reduced demand for mobile phone parts and chip-making equipment from Japan.

The Cabinet Office downgraded its assessment of industrial production for the second consecutive month, saying it has shown signs of weakness and flatlined.

Despite the damage from the trade war, Japan’s economy should continue to grow moderately because consumer spending and capital expenditure are holding up, a Cabinet Office official told reporters at a briefing.

For March, the government left unchanged its assessment that consumer spending is recovering and capital expenditure is increasing.

However, there are concerns that companies will start cutting capital expenditure plans for fiscal 2019 in April due to uncertainty about global trade policy.

Japan’s manufacturing sector is exposed to the trade war because it sends electronic parts and capital goods to China, where they are used to make finished products destined for the United States.

The government is scheduled to raise the nationwide sales tax to 10 percent from 8 percent in October, but there are concerns this will weaken consumer spending and harm growth.

The BOJ last week cut its view on exports and output, but left its radical easing policy unchanged.

(Reporting by Stanley White; editing by Darren Schuettler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to media after phone talks with U.S. President Donald Trump after second North Korea-U.S. summit, in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to media after phone talks with U.S. President Donald Trump (not pictured) after second North Korea-U.S. summit, at Abe’s residence in Tokyo, Japan February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

March 20, 2019

By Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday he sees the central bank’s inflation target as a means to achieve the more important goal of reviving the economy, in a sign that firing up inflation may no longer be a priority for the government.

The premier’s comments followed those from Finance Minister Taro Aso, who warned the Bank of Japan last week against insisting on hitting its price goal.

Abe defended the BOJ for missing its 2 percent inflation target, telling parliament that the government gives a passing grade to its policies for boosting jobs and economic growth.

“The BOJ’s price target is not only a target but a means to revive the economy,” Abe told parliament, adding the priority for many central banks across the globe, including the BOJ, was to spur growth and create more jobs.

“With monetary policy, you can create jobs and put an end to deflation. In doing so, you need an inflation target of 2 percent,” Abe said.

“In achieving our fundamental goal of spurring growth, (the BOJ’s policies) have had a sufficient effect,” he said.

Abe’s views contrast with remarks by BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, who have consistently said achieving the bank’s price target was its priority.

Speaking at the same parliament committee, Kuroda said the central bank was ready to ramp up stimulus if the economy loses momentum for hitting his price target.

With inflation distant from its target, the BOJ is struggling to balance the need to drive up inflation and address the rising cost of prolonged easing such as the hit to bank profits from years of ultra-low interest rates.

As heightening overseas risks such as trade protectionism threaten Japan’s fragile economic recovery, BOJ policymakers disagreed on the next policy move at their January rate review, according to minutes of the meeting released on Wednesday.

Abe reiterated that the government hopes the BOJ keeps up efforts to achieve its inflation target, with an eye on economic, price and financial developments.

The premier said there was no inconsistency between his views and those of Aso, who said last week that “things could go wrong” if the BOJ insisted too much on achieving its price goal.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

ISU World Figure Skating Championships - Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan
ISU World Figure Skating Championships – Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan – March 20, 2019. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia in action during the Pairs Short Program. REUTERS/Issei Kato

March 20, 2019

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) – Russian pair Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov took a commanding lead after the short program at the World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama on Wednesday after a fall left French favorites Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres in seventh.

James and Cipres, undefeated this season and the first French pair to win the European Championship in over 80 years, went down when James botched the landing on their throw triple flip and fell to the ice.

James later said a collision with Italy’s Matteo Guarise during the warm-up prior to their performance had rattled her.

“I didn’t see Matteo, Matteo didn’t see me so we crashed and I fell,” she told the International Skating Union (ISU). “It took me off a little and I was not very comfortable after. I felt a little dizzy, so I tried to stay focused.

“It was a bad skate for us today, and with the fall it was very tiring after.”

Tarasova and Morozov, who placed fourth at the 2018 Winter Olympics and second at last year’s worlds, renewed their season’s best score with 81.21 points in a dramatic, dynamic routine that had the audience clapping along at the Saitama Super Arena, just north of Tokyo.

“During the European Championships we had the same mistake both in short and free programs. Therefore, now we had to train harder not to allow this to happen anymore,” Tarasova said. “We decided to make everything at our maximum.”

James and Cipres were on 68.67 points after their routine, in which Cipres also made an uncharacteristic error when he doubled a toeloop.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “The season was long, we were not good on the ice today. It was not our moment, not our day.”

Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China, who have had an injury-plagued season, were second on 79.24 after delivering a graceful routine, with compatriots Peng Cheng and Jin Yang in third with 75.51.

“While we had several mistakes at the beginning of the program, otherwise the score would be above 80 points, we still performed our best, and we would like to skate well in the free program as well,” Sui said.

The pairs winner will be decided on Thursday with the free program. The championship competitions last until March 23.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Descendants of Koreans who were conscripted to the Japanese imperial army or recruited for forced labor under Japan's colonisation surround a statue of a girl as they attend an anti-Japan rally in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul
FILE PHOTO: Descendants of Koreans who were conscripted to the Japanese imperial army or recruited for forced labor under Japan’s colonisation surround a statue of a girl as they attend an anti-Japan rally in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, June 22, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/File Photo

March 20, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – The Japan Times, an English-language newspaper that amended its description of “comfort women” and wartime forced laborers last year, apologized to its staff last month, but threatened legal action against anyone found leaking confidential information.

In a five-sentence note published last November, the paper said it would refer to Korean laborers simply as “wartime laborers” and would describe comfort women as “women who worked in wartime brothels, including those who did so against their will.”

The move polarized readers. Some saw it as an effort to whitewash Japan’s wartime history, while others celebrated the move as a way to correct foreign misinterpretations.

In an email sent to the paper’s staff on Feb 28, Japan Times president Takeharu Tsutsumi apologized for causing “turmoil.” A Japan Times source shared the email with Reuters; it was verified by several other employees at the paper.

The president explained that the purpose of the style change was to “enable us to report controversial issues in a fair and neutral manner,” and denied that the paper had shifted its political views.

“Some European and American media have accused us with the narrative that ‘The Japan Times’ editorial direction moved to the right following the change in ownership.’ Based on groundless speculation, this is inaccurate,” he wrote, adding that on the other hand “Japan’s right wingers seem to have welcomed this change, but by no means did we intend to reflect any right-wing views.”

Reuters called and emailed Tsutsumi for comment about the internal email. In response, a public relations representative for the Japan Times wrote in an email that it would not respond to queries about internal documents.

In January, Reuters published a story based on interviews with nearly a dozen sources at the Japan Times, as well as hundreds of pages of internal emails and presentation materials, that showed the revision was partly made to ease criticism that the publication was “anti-Japanese” and increase advertising revenue from Japanese corporations and institutions.

The issue of comfort women and Koreans forced to work in wartime factories and coal mines remains incendiary more than seven decades after the war.

Despite the backlash, Tsutsumi told staff there was no significant impact on the number of subscribers. In his email to staff last month, Tsutsumi also called the Reuters story “regrettable” and said it “coupled speculations with information taken out of context to promote a certain narrative.”

“According to the Reuters article, the company’s confidential materials and remarks made at the All Company Meeting appear to have been leaked,” he wrote, saying it was regrettable if any information had been divulged by employees.

“The act of leaking confidential information and the act of damaging the company’s reputation constitutes a violation of compliance,” he wrote. “If we learn the identity of the parties who leaked confidential information, we would have no other choice but to penalize them.”

Some of the paper’s staff have criticized the recent changes.

In an open letter published online last month ahead of the president’s email, Tozen, a labor union representing mostly foreign workers in several industries across Japan, and its Japan Times chapter demanded a full retraction of the style changes.

The paper’s local union, which has 15 members, has been in collective bargaining meetings with management over the issue. Members of the Japan Times chapter declined to comment on the contents of the recent all company e-mail.

“Both changes were pushed through with total disregard for the input of knowledgeable writers and editors, with zero advance notice, and the changes also show a disturbing disregard for the mainstream historical record,” the paper’s union members wrote in the letter.

(Reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

Source: OANN

Office workers walk to the train station during evening rush hour in the financial district of Singapore
Office workers walk to the train station during evening rush hour in the financial district of Singapore March 9, 2015. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Choonsik Yoo

SEOUL (Reuters) – Confidence among Asian companies held near three-year lows in the first quarter as a U.S.-China trade dispute dragged on, pulling down a global economy that is already on a downward path, a Thomson Reuters/INSEAD survey found.

The Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asian Business Sentiment Index tracking firms’ six-month outlook was flat in the March quarter from the previous quarter’s 63, compared with a near three-year low of 58 set in the September quarter.

A reading above 50 means optimistic respondents outnumbered pessimists, but the latest index still marks one of the five worst since the world started its recovery from the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

“Things have not gotten worse but a lot of uncertainty is putting companies in wait-and-see mode,” Antonio Fatas, a Singapore-based economics professor at global business school INSEAD, said of U.S.-China talks on trade relations.

“In one week, it looks like they are promising and the week after it looks like they are going nowhere, and so there’s a lot of wait-and-see attitude,” he added, saying the uncertainty is forcing companies to put off investment decisions.

A global trade war was cited as the chief business risk by respondents for the third quarter in a row, though by a smaller margin. Higher interest rates emerged as the second-biggest risk, outpacing a slowing Chinese economy.

A total of 100 companies from a range of sectors responded to the survey, conducted from March 1-15 in 11 Asia-Pacific countries where 45 percent of the world’s population live and 32 percent of global gross domestic product is generated.

RECESSION UNLIKELY, POLITICS A RISK

The United States and China have put on hold a planned escalation of their trade war pending negotiations, but the much-awaited conclusion of the latest round of talks has also been delayed even though remarks from the two sides have been optimistic.

Global agencies including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have said failure to resolve trade tension could further slow a downward-trending global economy.

Regional powerhouses China, Japan and South Korea all saw exports fall last month, with China and South Korea suffering their worst annual declines in overseas sales in around three years.

The index staying above the neutral point of 50 suggests companies in Asia are not expecting an imminent global recession, but languishing near multi-year lows indicates companies are exerting caution.

“We don’t see a global hard landing as a likely scenario when we look at economic factors such as inflation and credit conditions,” said Young Sun Kwon, economist at Nomura in Hong Kong. “But there are big uncertainties in politics.”

Lessons from the 2008-2009 global financial meltdown have forced countries to strengthen economic defenses, but factors such as Britain’s planned exit from the European Union and the U.S. Federal Reserve’s uncertain path are posing threats.

With less than two weeks before the March 29 divorce date, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is still struggling to push a departure deal with the EU through the British parliament.

In the United States, the Fed has declared a pause in its tightening campaign, but economists foresee at least one more increase later this year despite increasing signs of slowdown in major economies.

Respondents to the survey included Canon Inc, Suzuki Motor Corp, Thai Beverage PCL, Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co and Delta Electronics Thailand PCL.

Note: Companies surveyed can change from quarter to quarter.

(GRAPHIC: Business sentiment index – https://tmsnrt.rs/2Cnw6je)

(GRAPHIC: Biggest perceived risks – https://tmsnrt.rs/2OcedbY)

(PDF of survey: https://tmsnrt.rs/2UJ70Cs)

(Reporting by Choonsik Yoo; Additional reporting by Orathai Sriring in BANGKOK; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

Source: OANN

A sign board of Bank of Japan is displayed at the headquarters in Tokyo
A sign board of Bank of Japan is displayed at the headquarters in Tokyo, Japan January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

March 20, 2019

By Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) – Bank of Japan policymakers disagreed on how quickly the central bank should ramp up monetary stimulus, minutes of their January rate review showed on Wednesday, as heightening overseas risks threatened to derail the country’s fragile economic recovery.

While most members agreed it was appropriate to maintain the BOJ’s current stimulus program, one of them said the central bank must stress its readiness to take “quick, flexible and bold” action including additional easing, the minutes showed.

“Given the timing of achieving the price target had been delayed, it was undesirable to adopt a stance of not taking action until a serious crisis occurred,” the member was quoted as saying in the minutes.

Another member, however, said acting too hastily during times of uncertainty could lead to financial imbalances and unnecessary swings in the economy, the minutes showed.

Some in the nine-member board also warned that an increasing number of regional banks could be taking excessive risks to secure profits as years of ultra-low interest rates hurt their bottom line, the minutes showed.

“We need to look carefully at whether regional banks are lending in a way where they are earning returns that meet the risks,” one of the members said.

The BOJ kept monetary settings unchanged at the January meeting, pledging to guide short-term rates at minus 0.1 percent and 10-year bond yields around zero under a policy dubbed yield curve control (YCC).

YCC IMPACT UNDER DOUBT

The BOJ faces a dilemma. Years of heavy money printing for asset purchases have dried up market liquidity and hurt commercial banks’ profits, stoking concern over the rising risks of prolonged easing.

And yet, subdued inflation has left the BOJ well behind other major central banks in dialing back crisis-mode policies, leaving it with little ammunition to battle the next recession.

In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Isao Kubota, the influential chairman of a major regional bank, said the BOJ’s ultra-loose policy is making it tough for commercial banks to earn profits out of lending.

“We are in the sixth year of this policy and, I think intuitively, the accumulation of the side-effects might be enormous,” Kubota said.

With weakening global demand hurting Japan’s export-reliant economy, the board debated the effectiveness of the current program in lifting prices.

One member said the BOJ’s YCC policy has had only a limited impact in boosting prices and inflation expectations.

“This member said further analysis and consideration were needed on the relationships between inflation and the levels of interest rates or monetary base,” according to the minutes.

A few policymakers saw room for more policy coordination with the government if overseas risks deal a severe blow to Japan’s economy, the minutes showed.

While the minutes do not identify the name of the board members who made the comments, BOJ’s Goushi Kataoka has publicly said stronger fiscal and monetary steps could be necessary to prevent a further economic slowdown.

Deputy Governor Masazumi Wakatabe is also considered by markets as among reflationist-minded members of the BOJ board.

Many in the BOJ are clinging to hopes that Japan’s economy will emerge from the current soft patch in the second half of this year. But if conditions continue to deteriorate, the BOJ could face pressure to offer additional monetary support, analysts say.

Yet, BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda has ruled out the chance of additional monetary easing over the near term. A well-known fiscal hawk, he also warned against the idea that government can spend recklessly to pull the economy out of the doldrums.

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim & Shri Navaratnam)

Source: OANN

A man walks past an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo
A man walks past an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

March 20, 2019

By Hideyuki Sano

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares got off to a cautious start on Wednesday, holding close to six-month highs on hopes the U.S. Federal Reserve will stick to a dovish stance and unveil a plan to stop cutting bond holdings later this year.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan ticked down 0.1 percent from a six-month high touched the previous day. Japan’s Nikkei was also down 0.1 percent.

Wall Street shares were narrowly mixed on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 losing 0.01 percent and the Nasdaq adding 0.12 percent.

The Federal Reserve, which is wrapping up its two-day policy review later on Wednesday, is expected to lower its policymakers’ rate projections from December, when their median expectations were for two rate hikes this year.

Since the beginning of year, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has said the central bank would be patient – interpreted as code word for holding off on a rate hike – on signs of slowing economic growth in the United States and many parts of the world.

Financial markets have gone even further by pricing in a rate cut this year. Fed funds futures point to about a 30 percent chance of a cut by the end of year.

The Fed is also expected to lay out a plan to stop shrinking its $4 trillion balance sheet, or so-called quantitative tightening. Many policy makers have suggested the Fed is likely to conclude the process and stabilize its bond holdings by the end of this year.

“I think market consensus centers around an end in September but we expect the Fed to end its balance sheet rolloff in June, at around $3.85 trillion yen, based on our calculations on the amount of excess reserves the Fed will need,” said Shuji Shirota, head of macroeconomic strategy at HSBC Securities in Tokyo.

Expectations of a dovish Fed have dented the U.S. dollar, which has already been under pressure this year after Powell all but signaled a pause to the tightening cycle at the previous meeting.

The dollar’s index against a basket of six major currencies hit 2 1/2-week low of 96.288 on Tuesday and last stood at 96.390.

The euro traded at $1.1354, near Tuesday’s two-week high of $1.1362.

The dollar fetched 111.41 yen, slipping from Friday’s nine-day high of 111.90.

The British pound remained hostage to headlines on Brexit.

Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to ask the European Union to delay Brexit by at least three months after her plan to hold a third vote on her deal was thrown into disarray by a surprise intervention from the speaker of parliament.

May had earlier warned parliament that if it did not ratify her deal, she would ask to delay Brexit beyond June 30, a step that Brexit’s advocates fear would endanger the entire divorce.

On the other hand, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said an extension would only make sense if it increased the chances of May’s deal being ratified by Britain’s House of Commons.

Sterling last stood flat at $1.3265, off its nine-month peak of $1.3380 hit a week ago.

Market players held on to hopes of a trade deal between Washington and Beijing as officials from both sides remained locked in negotiations.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plan to travel to China next week for another round of trade talks with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, a Trump administration official said on Tuesday.

Oil prices held close to four-month highs on expectations that OPEC would continue production cuts through the end of the year and after data from the American Petroleum Institute (API) showed a surprise draw-down on crude inventories.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures stood flat at $59.02 per barrel after touching its highest since November at $59.57 on Tuesday.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A man cycles past chimneys of facotries at the Keihin Industrial Zone in Kawasaki
FILE PHOTO: A man cycles past chimneys of facotries at the Keihin Industrial Zone in Kawasaki, Japan September 12, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

March 19, 2019

By Tetsushi Kajimoto and Izumi Nakagawa

TOKYO (Reuters) – Confidence among Japanese manufacturers hit its weakest in two-and-a-half years in March, a Reuters poll showed, as global trade friction fueled concerns that a postwar record growth cycle driven by Abenomics may be over.

The monthly poll, which tracks the Bank of Japan’s (BOJ) closely watched tankan quarterly survey, found confidence fell for a fifth straight month while sentiment in the service sector held steady, suggesting domestic demand is unlikely to offset external risks such as the trade war and China’s slowdown.

Both manufacturers’ and service-sector morale is expected to rise just slightly over the coming three months, underscoring a bumpy road ahead for the world’s third largest economy, according to the Reuters Tankan.

The central bank will closely read the results of its official tankan due out April 1 for clues on strength of sentiment and capital expenditure at its policy meeting next month when it issues fresh economic and price projections.

The BOJ stood pat at its policy review last week, citing an economy posting gradual growth, but cut its views of exports and output due to increasing headwinds from overseas.

Slowing growth in Europe and China, the Sino-U.S. trade war and uncertainty surrounding Britain’s exit from the European Union have strained businesses around the world.

While U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping appear to be closer in striking a truce in the U.S.-China trade war, Japan’s export sector remains vulnerable to the fallout from trade friction between the world’s two largest economies.

In the Reuters poll of 479 large- and mid-sized companies, completed by 250 firms on the condition of anonymity over the March 4-15 period, managers also complained about costs of raw materials squeezing profits.

Sluggish consumer spending makes it difficult to pass on such costs to thrifty customers, they wrote in the survey.

“Our clients are turning cautions on capital expenditure due to the U.S.-China trade war, spreading protectionism and political jitters in emerging countries,” a manager of a machinery maker wrote in the survey.

The Reuters Tankan sentiment index for manufacturers fell three points to 10 in March, with exporters of electronics, precision equipment, steel and nonferrous metals especially gloomy.

The manufacturers’ index was down 13 points from three months ago, indicating the possibility of a similarly sharp decline in the BOJ tankan. The Reuters Tankan index is expected to inch up to 11 in June.

The service-sector index held steady at 22 in March from a month earlier but was down from 31 seen three months ago, indicating a likely decline for the sector in the official tankan, which measures confidence on a quarterly basis.

The service-sector index is seen edging up to 23 in June.

The BOJ’s last tankan out in December found the business mood held steady from three months ago, but business conditions were seen worsening ahead amid trade war and slowdown in China.

The Reuters Tankan indexes are calculated by subtracting the percentage of pessimistic respondents from optimistic ones. A positive figure means optimists outnumber pessimists.

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

David Hookstead | Reporter

March Madness is here, and that means it’s time to throw some serious cash on the table.

As everybody knows, I’m a bit of a gambler. It’s just how I’m wired, and I generally do pretty well. March Madness is like Christmas on cocaine for gamblers.

It’s three solid weeks of games. It literally doesn’t get better at all. That’s why I asked people on Twitter how much they planned on gambling, and the results shocked me! Of the 1,295 voters, 71 percent said they’d gamble under $100.

Only 15 percent said they’d gamble more than $1,000.

These results were shocking to me, and they actually made me distraught. How is it possible that nearly three-quarters of the voters aren’t going to wager more than $100? I must be dreaming, right?

A great gambling rush during March Madness is like a drug being shot straight into my veins. It’s even better in fact because unlike drugs, a little gambling on college basketball never killed anybody. (RELATED: The March Madness Bracket Has Been Released)

Plus, are you really living life if your next mortgage payment isn’t on the line? I don’t think so.

There are some days you just know are going to suck. You just know, and that’s exactly what happened when I saw the results of this poll.

This isn’t what our founding fathers fought for. This isn’t why we dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. We didn’t go to the moon so that you guys could play it safe. We’re Americans.

We did all that cool stuff to have the freedom to drink some beers and piss our money away as we experience an emotional rollercoaster.

Ncaa Basketball GIF by NCAA March Madness - Find & Share on GIPHY

Second greatest emotional swing this country ever had was the Boston Tea Party. The first was when Duke stole a national title from Wisconsin. See, it all ties together. By not gambling on March Madness and risking your mental health and happiness, you’re pretty much saying that you hate freedom. (RELATED: Watch Wisconsin Beat Kentucky In The 2015 Final Four)

Freedom GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Don’t hate freedom. Don’t force me to associate with people like that. Do the right thing here. Put some beer on ice, get the grill fired up, and prepare for some great games.

Follow David Hookstead on Twitter

Source: The Daily Caller

Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter

Japan’s government will publicly back restrictions on developing robots that can kill without human intervention at an upcoming U.N. conference, departing from the country’s usual policy.

The Japanese government already opposed the creation of lethal autonomous weapons systems, or LAWS, which are robots empowered with artificial intelligence that equips them to kill human beings without the direction of another human. Japan initially cautioned against regulating the development of LAWS on the basis that such regulations could hinder the creation of advanced but more benign artificial intelligence. (RELATED: Robots Are Flooding US Industries)

“We do not intend to develop any lethal weapon that is completely autonomous and functions without human control,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, according to The Asahi Shimbun.

Japanese officials will announce a policy shift, however, at the U.N.’s Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva from March 25 to 29, calling for restrictions on LAWS and a possible global ban on them in the future, according to Japan Today. Japanese officials hope to take a lead role in conversations about international regulation of LAWS, given what they see as a current stall in conversations about the development of artificial intelligence.

Japanese officials are expected to submit not only a summary of their views on the matter of A.I. development, but also a call to establish an international panel of A.I. technical experts.

Austria, Brazil and Chile, led a coalition of 26 countries in 2018 in calling for a treaty prohibiting the development of LAWS at the CCW, but the U.S., Israel, Australia, South Korea, Russia and several other countries blocked the proposed treaty, arguing that such a prohibition would be premature and that there are potential advantages to developing what critics have called “killer robots.”

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

March 19, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: OANN

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

March 19, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Source: OANN

A trader passes by screens showing Spotify on the floor at the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: A trader passes by screens showing Spotify on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 19, 2019

By Medha Singh

(Reuters) – U.S. stock futures rose slightly on Tuesday as investors anticipated a more accommodative policy stance from the U.S. Federal Reserve in a two-day policy meeting this week.

A flurry of downbeat economic data this month has supported market expectations that the Fed may reinforce a halt to further rises in interest rates.

The Fed concludes its deliberations with a news conference on Wednesday.

Investors will also be watching out for the central bank’s “dot plot,” a diagram showing individual policymakers’ rate views for the next three years, along with details on its plan to reduce holdings in bonds.

Traders currently expect no rate hikes this year, and are even building in bets for a rate cut in 2020.

Optimism that the Fed will remain less aggressive in raising rates and hopes of a resolution to a bitter trade dispute between the U.S. and China helped the markets claw back most of their losses from late last year.

The benchmark S&P 500 hovers at a five-month high and is just 3.5 percent away from its September record closing high.

At 7:04 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 102 points, or 0.39 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were up 11.25 points, or 0.4 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 27 points, or 0.37 percent.

Technology and financial stocks helped Wall Street’s three main indexes rise on Monday, the benchmark index and the tech-heavy Nasdaq’s fifth rise in last six sessions.

The blue-chip Dow’s advance has been hindered by Boeing Co as the world’s largest planemaker faces increased scrutiny in the wake of two deadly crashes of its 737 MAX aircraft in five months.

Boeing shares slipped 0.6 percent in premarket trading on Tuesday after shedding about 12 percent since the March 10 plane crash in Ethiopia.

Chip designer Nvidia Corp jumped 1.6 percent on partnering with Softbank Group Corp and LG Uplus Corp to deploy cloud gaming servers in Japan and Korea later this year.

In economic news, data at 10 a.m. ET is expected to show new orders for U.S.-made goods rose 0.3 percent in January after edging up 0.1 percent the month before.

(Reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

Source: OANN

An employee of Germany's Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) uses his mobile phone in front of a screen set up for the auction of spectrum for 5G services at the Bundesnetzagentur headquarters in Mainz
An employee of Germany’s Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) uses his mobile phone in front of a screen set up for the auction of spectrum for 5G services at the Bundesnetzagentur headquarters in Mainz, Germany, March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

March 19, 2019

By Douglas Busvine

MAINZ, Germany (Reuters) – Germany begins an auction of spectrum for next-generation 5G mobile networks on Tuesday, the outcome of which will play a decisive role in determining whether Europe’s largest economy remains competitive in the digital age.

It nearly didn’t happen: a raft of lawsuits brought by network operators was thrown out by a court only last week. The buildup has also been overshadowed by U.S. pressure on its allies to bar Chinese vendors from participating in building 5G networks due to national security fears.

In the end, regulators preferred to draft tougher rules for all vendors rather than meet the U.S. demand to banish China’s Huawei Technologies, the global network market leader.

Here’s an overview of how the auction will work:

WHAT IS BEING AUCTIONED?

Germany’s Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) is auctioning off 41 blocks of spectrum in the 2 GHz and 3.6 GHz bands.

These frequencies have relatively short range and high data-carrying capacity, suiting them to use in running ‘connected’ factories – an industrial policy priority.

Urban areas should get 5G coverage early, with another application likely to be super-fast domestic wireless broadband.

WHO’S TAKING PART?

Germany’s three network operators – Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica Deutschland – have been admitted into the auction.

Also participating is 1&1 Drillisch, a virtual mobile operator controlled by United Internet that wants to run a fourth network.

The Big Three filed lawsuits to delay the auction, arguing that its requirement to provide high-speed coverage to 98 percent of households by 2022 was too onerous. They also criticized rules for network sharing, arguing they would make life too easy for new market entrants.

The Cologne Administrative Court threw out those lawsuits on Friday. Outstanding litigation may yet lead to the results of the auction being reviewed, although BNetzA says it is on firm legal ground.

HOW MUCH MONEY WILL THE AUCTION RAISE?

BNetzA has declined to forecast proceeds but the federal government hopes to raise several billion euros – money it will reinvest in upgrading Germany’s broadband networks.

The last auction in 2015, for 4G frequencies, raised 5.1 billion euros ($5.8 billion). Back in 2000, a 3G auction raised more than 50 billion euros – a ruinous sum that forced some players out of the market and others to merge.

HOW WILL IT WORK?

The auction is being held in old army barracks in the south-western city of Mainz. Bid teams will have to surrender their phones when they enter. They will submit offers from separate rooms via a secure network, and can only seek guidance via fax from their head offices.

All 41 blocks will be auctioned simultaneously and results will be published online https://www.bundesnetzagentur.de/DE/Sachgebiete/Telekommunikation/Unternehmen_Institutionen/Frequenzen/OeffentlicheNetze/Mobilfunknetze/mobilfunknetze-node.html after each round. Minimum bids range between 1.7 million and 5 million euros and total 104.6 million euros. The process ends when no fresh bids are entered.

Based on past experience, the auction could run for weeks – a previous one in 2010 lasted six weeks.

WHAT ABOUT U.S. CALLS TO SHUT OUT CHINESE VENDORS?

Germany resisted calls from the United States to shut Chinese network vendors out of its 5G buildout due to national security concerns.

Instead of banning Huawei outright, regulators have tightened rules on all network vendors. These won’t bid in the auction but will be key partners in upgrading network infrastructure.

WHAT ABOUT OTHER EUROPEAN AUCTIONS?

Several countries – among them Ireland, Finland, Italy, Switzerland and Austria – have already auctioned 5G spectrum. Most have been low-key affairs, with only modest sums raised because the sales were designed to leave operators with money left over to invest in network upgrades.

The exception was Italy, where frenzied bidding last year raised 6.5 billion euros for the cash-strapped government but left operators financially stretched.

Countries like France have yet to hold 5G auctions, leaving Europe as a whole lagging early adopters like the United States, Japan and Korea.

($1 = 0.8818 euros)

(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A security guard walks past in front of the Bank of Japan headquarters in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: A security guard walks past in front of the Bank of Japan headquarters in Tokyo, Japan January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

March 19, 2019

By Leika Kihara

FUKUOKA, Japan (Reuters) – Japan’s ultra-loose monetary policy is making it tough for commercial banks to earn profits out of lending, a problem that cannot be fixed through bank mergers, the influential chairman of a major regional bank in southern Japan said.

Isao Kubota, chairman of Nishi-Nippon City Bank and once a finance ministry colleague of Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, praised the BOJ chief’s massive stimulus program for correcting a damaging yen spike and revitalizing the economy.

But Kubota said the length of the stimulus program is causing some problems, including hurting financial institutions’ profits for years due to low interest rates.

Extraordinary monetary steps, such as Kuroda’s massive asset-buying program and negative interest rates, could be useful and effective as “short-term, emergency” measures, Kubota told Reuters on Monday.

“But the longer the policy continues, the worse the side effects become,” he said. “We are in the sixth year of this policy and, I think intuitively, the accumulation of the side-effects might be enormous.”

Many Japanese regional banks are grappling with diminishing returns from traditional lending as years of ultra-low rates hurt their bottom line and a dwindling population triggers an exodus of companies to bigger cities.

While Japan’s banking lobbies have complained about the pain from the BOJ’s policies, financial regulators have urged regional banks to cut costs and find new ways to make money.

Some BOJ officials have said mergers could be among options for regional banks to beat a deteriorating business environment.

BIGGER PROBLEMS

But Kubota argued that simply prodding regional banks to merge won’t solve a bigger problem created by the BOJ’s yield curve control (YCC) policy, which caps long-term rates at zero.

“Regardless of whether (the BOJ) intends to do so or not, they are squeezing the profits of commercial banks,” Kubota said of YCC’s impact on bank profits.

“The other side of the coin is that, this kind of phenomenon is never resolved through, for example, mergers of banks. By nature, because of this policy, banks as a whole are made unprofitable.”

Under YCC, the BOJ now pledges to guide short-term rates at minus 0.1 percent and the 10-year bond yield around zero percent. The policy has made it tough for banks to profit from traditional business of borrowing short-term funds and lending them at higher yields.

“We want an early stoppage to this kind of policy. That we can say. But we can’t say what the authorities should do,” Kubota said, when asked whether commercial banks would be better off if the BOJ abandoned negative rates. “They have powers, authorities. They also have responsibilities for the outcome of their policy.”

Despite the mounting challenges to achieving 2 percent inflation, Kuroda won’t abandon his target, said Kubota, who thinks he sees the governor’s way of thinking “very well” as former colleagues.

Both studied under prominent economists at Oxford University as graduate students dispatched from Japan’s Ministry of Finance.

“He’s confident and he’s a good politician,” Kubota said of the BOJ governor. “Even if he thinks something is dubious, he would never say so, so long as there is a need for the policy.”

(Additional reporting by Takahiko Wada; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

Source: OANN

Japanese Olympic Committee President Takeda attends JOC board of directors meeting in Tokyo
Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda attends JOC board of directors meeting in Tokyo, Japan, March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

March 19, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – The head of Japan’s Olympic Committee, Tsunekazu Takeda, said on Tuesday he will step down from his position when his current term ends in June.

French prosecutors placed Takeda under formal investigation in December for suspected corruption in Japan’s successful bid to host the 2020 Summer Games.

Takeda, who was president of the 2020 bid committee, said during a JOC board of directors meeting in Tokyo that he would step down from his position when his term ends and not seek re-election.

(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Jack Tarrant; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Tsunekazu Takeda, President of the Japanese Olympic committee, attends a news conference in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Tsunekazu Takeda, President of the Japanese Olympic committee, attends a news conference in Tokyo, Japan January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

March 19, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) chief Tsunekazu Takeda, who is expected to announce plans to step down on Tuesday, is also set to resign as a member of the International Olympics Committee, Kyodo News reported.

French prosecutors placed Takeda under formal investigation in December for suspected corruption in Japan’s successful bid to host the 2020 Summer Games.

(Reporting by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: MLB: Spring Training-Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers
FILE PHOTO: Feb 25, 2019; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) looks on prior to facing the Chicago Cubs at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

March 19, 2019

For the first time since 2010, Clayton Kershaw won’t be the Opening Day starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The left-hander, who has started a club-record eight straight openers, was ruled out of the March 28 start against the Arizona Diamondbacks due to the persistent shoulder inflammation he has dealt with all spring. He has yet to pitch in a spring training game.

“When he’s ready to pitch for us is when he’s going to pitch for us,” said manager Dave Roberts, adding that it was unlikely Kershaw will begin the season on the active roster.

Roberts didn’t announce an Opening Day starter on Monday, but right-hander Walker Buehler is definitely in the mix. The last Opening Day starter for the Dodgers not named Kershaw was Vicente Padilla in 2010.

–Atlanta Braves right-hander Julio Teheran is set to make his sixth consecutive Opening Day start, which would tie him with Hall of Famer Warren Spahn for the longest modern-day streak in franchise history.

Teheran’s Opening Day streak is now the longest current one in the majors after the Dodgers said that Kershaw’s streak will end at eight. Spahn opened six seasons in a row from 1957 to 1962, when the Braves were in Milwaukee.

Teheran, 28, has spent all eight of his major league seasons with the Braves, compiling a 67-62 record with a 3.64 ERA. Teheran went 9-9 last season with a 3.94 ERA, striking out 162 and walking 84 in 175 2/3 innings over 31 starts.

–A poor spring training won’t prevent Ichiro Suzuki from starting the Seattle Mariners’ opener in his native Japan.

Seattle manager Scott Servais said Ichiro will be in the starting lineup Wednesday when the Mariners face the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo.

Suzuki, 45, is just 2-for-31 this spring, but Servais has no qualms about penciling his name in the lineup.

–Texas Rangers starting pitcher Yohander Mendez will miss the first half of the season because of an elbow injury, team officials announced.

The 24-year-old exited his spring training start Sunday in the third inning after losing velocity and feeling tightness in his pitching elbow. An MRI revealed a Grade 1 strain of the ulnar collateral ligament. The left-hander will not need Tommy John surgery.

The plan is to give him six weeks of rest, followed by about another six weeks of a throwing program.

–Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia will not break camp with the team and instead will begin the 2019 season on the injured list.

Pedroia expects to remain in Florida and play extended spring training games to build strength in his surgically repaired left knee. Manager Alex Cora said there is no reason to fear a long-term absence from Pedroia.

Utility options Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez are likely to platoon at second base with Pedroia out of the mix.

–In the midst of the Philadelphia Phillies’ late-season collapse in 2018, Carlos Santana apparently provided the biggest hit in the team’s clubhouse.

Philadelphia posted an abysmal 8-20 record in September after having the best record in baseball in late July, and the team’s then-first baseman — now with the Cleveland Indians — reportedly took his bat to the clubhouse television upon discovering his younger teammates playing the video game Fortnite during one game against rival Atlanta.

“I see a couple players — I don’t want to say names — they play video games during the game,” the 32-year-old veteran told ESPN, relating how he slugged the TV the players were using. “We come and lose too many games, and I feel like they weren’t worried about it — weren’t respecting their teammates or coaches or the staff or the (front) office. It’s not my personality. But I’m angry because I want to make it good.”

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Men look at stock quotation boards outside a brokerage in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Men look at stock quotation boards outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Issei Kato

March 19, 2019

By Tomo Uetake

Asian shares treaded water on Tuesday ahead of a U.S. Federal Reserve policy meeting, hovering near six-month highs, while sterling was choppy as the speaker of Britain’s parliament banned another vote on same Brexit deal.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was virtually flat, just a hair away from the highest level since Sept. 21.

Japan’s Nikkei average dropped 0.5 percent, while Australian stocks eased 0.1 percent.

All three major U.S. indexes rose overnight, lifted by banks and tech names, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq Composite adding between 0.3 and 0.4 percent each. [.N]

“Speculators appear to be betting on rise in stock prices on the back of a dovish Fed. The Fed is unlikely to kill such hopes. Yet there is a risk the Fed could tone down its dovishness,” said Masanari Takada, cross-asset strategist at Nomura Securities.

With signs of global economic growth slowing, traders were focused on the Federal Reserve, which is kicking off its two-day policy meeting on later in the day, for clues about the likely path of U.S. borrowing costs.

In particular, investors will be focusing on whether policymakers have sufficiently lowered their interest rate forecasts to more closely align their “dot plot”, a diagram showing individual policymakers’ rate views for the next three years.

Also expected is more detail on a plan to stop cutting the Fed’s holdings of nearly $3.8 trillion in bonds.

“A key focus is when the Fed will omit the word ‘patient’ from its statement, as that would be a pre-requisite for a rate hike,” said Toru Yamamoto, chief fixed income strategist at Daiwa Securities.

In the currency market, the pound found firmer footing on Tuesday after slipping to as low as $1.3183 overnight as lawmakers cast doubt on Prime Minister Theresa May’s third attempt to get parliament to back her Brexit deal. [GBP/]

May’s Brexit plans were thrown into further turmoil on Monday when the speaker of parliament ruled that she could not put her divorce deal to a new vote unless it was re-submitted in fundamentally different form.

May has only two days to win approval for her deal to leave the European Union if she wants to go to a summit with the bloc’s leaders on Thursday with something to offer them in return for more time.

Meanwhile, senior diplomats said the European Union leaders could hold off making any final decision on any Brexit delay when they meet in Brussels later this week, depending on what exactly May asks them for.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies barely moved and was at 96.498.

The Japanese yen edged up 0.1 percent to 111.27 yen to the dollar, while the euro was almost flat at $1.1334.

Oil prices rose to near four-month highs on Monday, supported by the prospect of extended OPEC-led oil supply curbs and signs of inventory declines in U.S. crude stockpiles. [O/R]

Early on Tuesday, U.S. crude futures slipped 0.2 percent to $58.99 a barrel.

(Reporting by Tomo Uetake; Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

Kim Jong-hoon, a senior researcher at Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT) demonstrates an application 'Watch Out' that gives an alert to a user distracted by using smart phone while crossing a zebra crossing, in Ilsan
Kim Jong-hoon, a senior researcher at Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT) demonstrates an application ‘Watch Out’ that gives an alert to a user distracted by using smart phone while crossing a zebra crossing, in Ilsan, South Korea, March 12, 2019. Picture taken on March 12, 2019. The message reads: “A car is approaching from the left, watch out for the car”. REUTERS/Minwoo Park

March 19, 2019

By Minwoo Park

ILSAN, South Korea (Reuters) – A city in South Korea, which has the world’s highest smartphone penetration rate, has installed flickering lights and laser beams at a road crossing to warn “smartphone zombies” to look up and drivers to slow down, in the hope of preventing accidents.

The designers of the system were prompted by growing worry that more pedestrians glued to their phones will become casualties in a country that already has some of the highest road fatality and injury rates among developed countries.

State-run Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT) believes its system of flickering lights at zebra crossings can warn both pedestrians and drivers.

In addition to red, yellow and blue LED lights on the pavement, “smombies” – smartphone zombies – will be warned by laser beam projected from power poles and an alert sent to the phones by an app that they are about to step into traffic.

“Increasing number of smombie accidents have occurred in pedestrian crossings, so these zombie lights are essential to prevent these pedestrian accidents,” said KICT senior researcher Kim Jong-hoon.

The multi-dimensional warning system is operated by radar sensors and thermal cameras and comes with a price tag of 15 million won ($13,250) per crossing.

Drivers are alerted by the flashing lights, which have shown to be effective 83.4 percent of the time in the institute’s tests involving about 1,000 vehicles.

In 2017, more than 1,600 pedestrians were killed in auto related accidents, which is about 40 percent of total traffic fatalities, according to data from the Traffic Accident Analysis System.

South Korea has the world’s highest smartphone penetration rate, according to Pew Research Center, with about 94 percent of adults owning the devices in 2017, compared with 77 percent in the United States and 59 percent in Japan.

For now, the smombie warning system is installed only in Ilsan, a suburban city about 30 km northwest of the capital, Seoul, but is expected to go nationwide, according to the institute.

Kim Dan-hee, a 23-year-old resident of Ilsan, welcomed the system, saying she was often too engrossed in her phone to remember to look at traffic.

“This flickering light makes me feel safe as it makes me look around again, and I hope that we can have more of these in town,” she said.

(Reporting by Minwoo Park; Editing by Jack Kim, Robert Birsel)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - A man runs on a crosswalk at a business district in central Tokyo
FILE PHOTO – A man runs on a crosswalk at a business district in central Tokyo, Japan September 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

March 19, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s government is expected to keep its view of the economy as “recovering at a moderate pace” in its monthly report for March but not risks from overseas, the Nikkei business daily reported on Tuesday.

The government will carefully examine the economic situation over the coming few months, while keeping its view that the economy remains on the recovery path, the report said.

The Nikkei last week reported that the government was considering a slight downgrade to its view of the economy as exports and production fell on slowing demand from China.

In February, the government said the economy was in a moderate recovery but a series of weak data on corporate sentiment, capital expenditure and exports shows the U.S.-China trade war is hurting the outlook for the world’s third-largest economy.

Japan’s exports and factory output have weakened as demand was hit by slowing global growth and the China-U.S. trade war.

The Bank of Japan last week kept its monetary policy unchanged but cut its view on overseas economies to say they are showing signs of slowdown. It also revised down its view on exports and output. [nL3N2115QE ]

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Sam Holmes)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The SoftBank Group logo displayed at the SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is displayed at SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

March 18, 2019

(Reuters) – Chip designer Nvidia Corp said on Monday it has partnered with Softbank Group Corp and LG Uplus Corp to deploy cloud gaming servers in Japan and Korea later this year.

Nvidia makes graphics chips for PCs and laptops that help video games look more realistic. Now the company is putting those same chips inside servers in data centers so that gamers who do not have an Nvidia chip in their computer can stream games from the data center.

Nvidia said at a conference in San Jose, California, that it has created a “pod” of its graphics cards that can support up to 10,000 gamers streaming games at once.

The company said Softbank and LG Uplus would use the cards for services to let customers stream games over 5G networks, the next generation of wireless data networks.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; editing by G Crosse)

Source: OANN

Vietnamese who live in Japan celebrate Vietnamese New Year at a Catholic Church in Kawaguchi, near Tokyo
Vietnamese who live in Japan celebrate Vietnamese New Year at a Catholic Church in Kawaguchi, near Tokyo, Japan February 10, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

March 18, 2019

By Linda Sieg and Ami Miyazaki

TOKYO (Reuters) – When a young Vietnamese woman found out late last year that she was pregnant after arriving in Japan on a “technical trainee” visa, she was given a stark choice: “Have an abortion or go back to Vietnam.”

But returning home would leave her unable to pay back the $10,000 she borrowed to pay recruiters there.

“She needs to stay to pay back her debts,” said Shiro Sasaki, secretary general of the Zentoitsu (All United) Workers Union, who has advocated on her behalf and said such threats were common.

Buoyed by hopes of higher wages but burdened by loans, Vietnamese youth – the fastest-growing group of foreign workers in Japan – will be among those most affected by a new scheme to let in more blue-collar workers that kicks off in April.

“Trainees from China have been declining as wages there rise with economic growth, while in Vietnam, unemployment is high for youth with high education levels, so many young people want to go abroad to work,” said Futaba Ishizuka, a research fellow at the Institute of Developing Economies, a think tank.

The technical trainee program is widely known as a back door for blue-collar labor in immigration-shy Japan. Reported abuses in Japan include low and unpaid wages, excessive hours, violence and sexual harassment. In Vietnam, unscrupulous recruiters and brokers often charge trainees exorbitant fees.

Such problems will persist and could worsen under the new system, aimed at easing a historic labor shortage, according to interviews with activists, academics, unionists and trainees.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose conservative base fears a rise in crime and a threat to the country’s social fabric, has insisted that the new law, enacted in December, does not constitute an “immigration policy.”

That worries critics.

“In fact, Japan is already a country of immigrants. But because they say it is not an ‘immigration policy’ and the premise is that people will not stay, they only take temporary steps,” said Japan Civil Liberties Union director Akira Hatate. “The needs of society are not met, and the needs of the workers are not met.”

GROWING NUMBERS

The trainees system began in 1993 with the aim of transferring skills to workers from developing countries. But persistent abuses developed early on, experts say.

Those issues were spotlighted last year during debate over the new law.

Among the high-profile cases was that of four companies’ using trainees for decontamination work in areas affected by radiation after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Two firms, also accused of not paying appropriate wages, were banned from employing trainees for five years; the others got warnings from the justice ministry.

A labor ministry survey published in June showed more than 70 percent of trainee employers had violated labor rules, with excessive hours and safety problems most common. That compared to 66 percent for employers overall.

The Organization for Technical Intern Training (OTIT), a watchdog group, was set up in 2017. This month, it issued a reminder to employers that trainees are covered by Japanese labor law. It specifically banned unfair treatment of pregnant workers.

Harsh conditions led more than 7,000 trainees to quit in 2017, experts say, many lured by shady brokers promising fake documentation and higher-paying jobs. Almost half were from Vietnam.

Because trainees are not permitted to switch employers, leaving their jobs usually means losing legal visa status. A few go to shelters run by non-profit groups or get help from unionists; many disappear into a labor black market.

“The situation is completely different from what they were told back home,” said Shigeru Yamashita, managing director of the Vietnam Mutual Aid Association in Japan. “They have debts they cannot repay with their salaries at home, so the only option is to flee into the black market for labor.”

ADDRESSING SHORTAGES

The new law will allow about 345,000 blue-collar workers to enter Japan over five years in 14 sectors such as construction and nursing care, which face acute labor shortages. One category of “specified skilled workers” can stay up to five years but cannot bring families.

A second category of visas – currently limited to the construction and shipbuilding industries – allows workers to bring families and be eligible to stay longer.

Nguyen Thi Thuy Phuong, 29, left her husband and elementary-school-age child home in Vietnam to work as a trainee in a knitwear factory in Mitsuke City in northern Japan.

The textile industry was not included in the new visa program after coming under fire for the high number of labor violations in its trainee programs.

Now she wishes she could bring her family and stay longer than three years.

“Life in Japan is convenient, and the air is clean,” she told Reuters in careful Japanese during a break from work.

For-profit employment agencies and individuals can register as liaisons between recruiters and employers. These “registered support organizations” will not need licenses.

Immigration authorities will provide oversight of the new foreign workers; the labor ministry’s immigration bureau will become an agency on April 1, a bureaucratic distinction that gives it more clout.

On Friday, the justice ministry issued fresh rules for the new system, including a requirement that foreign workers be paid at least as much as Japanese employees.

But Sasaki said the agency’s focus would be residence status, not labor conditions.

Some companies have woken up to the risk of losing investors if they or their suppliers violate workers’ rights, said Japan Civil Liberties Union’s Hatate.

But the rush to implement the new law has left local authorities worried that too little has been done to support and integrate more foreigners.

“If there is not a proper framework to accept them and they are thought of as purely a way to fill the labor shortage, for certain there will be major problems,” Yuji Kuroiwa, governor of Kanagawa Prefecture near Tokyo, told Reuters.

Takashi Takayama, whose Vietnamese name is Cao Son Quy, fled Vietnam as a refugee in 1979. He recalled how foreigners were laid off in droves after the 2008 global financial crisis and fears a similar scenario when demand for labor eases after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“When the Olympics are over, I think a tragic event will occur,” Takayama said at a Vietnamese New Year celebration at a Catholic church outside Tokyo. “I don’t want to see that.”

(Editing by Gerry Doyle)

Source: OANN

Graeme Gallagher | Contributor

In new research done by NASA, more than half of the astronauts who traveled to the International Space Station (ISS) and on space shuttles had dormant herpes and other viruses reactivate, reports CNN.

The testing, which was published in Frontiers in Microbiology, showed that the longer astronauts stayed in space, the more likely that these viruses will flare up. This new discovery could spell danger for longer missions, such as a mission to Mars.

Blood, urine and saliva samples were collected from these astronauts before, during and after spaceflight. The virus “shedding,” which is when it successfully reactivates, occurred most during the flight itself, according to the research. (RELATED: Trump’s Space Policy Boils Down To Going To Mars)

Members of the International Space Station (ISS) expedition 59/60, NASA astronauts Christina Hammock Koch (L) and Nick Hague (R) and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, pose at the end of a press conference at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 13, 2019. (KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Members of the International Space Station (ISS) expedition 59/60, NASA astronauts Christina Hammock Koch (L) and Nick Hague (R) and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin, pose at the end of a press conference at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 13, 2019. (KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

“To date, 47 out of 89 (53%) astronauts on short space shuttle flights, and 14 out of 23 (61%) on longer ISS missions shed herpes viruses in their saliva or urine samples,” wrote Satish K. Mehta, the lead study author. “These frequencies —  as well as the quantity — of viral shedding are markedly higher than in samples before or after flight, or from matched healthy controls.”

For the same reason that viruses reactivate on Earth, constant exposure to stress is the culprit for these viruses in astronauts. While in space flight, the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, increase in astronauts. These same hormones are known to suppress the immune system, leading to the viruses being more susceptible to reactivation.

“NASA astronauts endure weeks or even months exposed to microgravity and cosmic radiation —  not to mention the extreme G forces of take-off and re-entry,” said Mehta in a press release. “This physical challenge is compounded by more familiar stressors like social separation, confinement and an altered sleep-wake cycle.”

“In keeping with this, we find that astronaut’s immune cells — particularly those that normally suppress and eliminate viruses — become less effective during spaceflight and sometimes for up to 60 days after,” said Mehta.

Members of the International Space Station (ISS) expedition 54/55, NASA astronaut Scott Tingle (L), Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov (C) and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shake hands before their final exam at the Gagarin Cosmonauts' Training Centre in Star City outside Moscow on November 29, 2017. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Members of the International Space Station (ISS) expedition 54/55, NASA astronaut Scott Tingle (L), Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov (C) and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shake hands before their final exam at the Gagarin Cosmonauts’ Training Centre in Star City outside Moscow on November 29, 2017. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Even though the viruses re-emerged, it did not necessarily lead to the return of the symptoms. Of the 89 astronauts, only six had herpes breakouts in space, in which “all were minor.” (RELATED: NASA Successfully Lands Deep-Drilling Insight Lander On Mars)

However, the viruses affecting the astronauts have implications for infecting others, such as newborns, as chickenpox and shingles were still apparent in their bodies 30 days after the flight returned.

The discovery poses a new threat for long-term trips in space, especially as NASA plans for new trips to the moon and Mars. A round-trip mission to Mars is estimated to take up to three years.

“The magnitude, frequency and duration of viral shedding all increase with length of spaceflight,” said Mehta.

International Space Station over the planet Earth. Elements of this image furnished by NASA. (Vadim Sadovski/Shutterstock.com)

International Space Station over the planet Earth. Elements of this image furnished by NASA. (Vadim Sadovski/Shutterstock.com)

The ideal solution for the problem would be vaccines for the astronauts; however, this has only proved successful against chicken pox. As the trials for other herpes vaccines have shown minimal promise, researchers are focused on finding “targeted treatment regimens” for the individual astronauts, which has already found success for patients on Earth. (RELATED: 10-Year Study Of More Than 650,000 People Releases Report On Measles Vaccine And Autism)

“This research has tremendous clinical relevance for patients on Earth, too,” explained Mehta. “Already, our spaceflight-developed technologies for rapid viral detection in saliva have been employed in clinics and hospitals around the world.”

The Trump administration’s 2020 budget proposal for NASA contained the funds necessary to fulfill President Donald Trump’s Space Policy Directive 1, which calls for a return to the moon and a trip to Mars.

Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: Intel's logo is pictured during preparations at the CeBit computer fair in Hanover
FILE PHOTO: Intel’s logo is pictured during preparations at the CeBit computer fair, which will open its doors to the public on March 20, at the fairground in Hanover, Germany, March 19, 2017. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

March 18, 2019

By Stephen Nellis

(Reuters) – A U.S. government-led group is working with chipmaker Intel Corp and Cray Inc to develop and build the nation’s fastest computer by 2021 for conducting nuclear weapons and other research, officials said on Monday.

The Department of Energy and the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago said they are working on a supercomputer dubbed Aurora with Intel, the world’s biggest supplier of data center chips, and Cray, which specializes in the ultra-fast machines.

The $500 million contract for the project calls on the companies to deliver a computer with so-called exaflop performance – that is, being able to perform 1 quintillion – or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 – calculations per second.

If the project succeeds, Aurora would represent nearly an order of magnitude leap over existing machines that feature so-called petaflop performance, capable of doing 1 quadrillion, or 1,000,000,000,000,000 – calculations a second.

It also heightens the stakes in a race in which the United States, China, the European Union, and Japan have all announced plans to build exaflop-capable supercomputers.

One of Aurora’s primary functions would be simulating nuclear blasts, a pillar of weapons development since the ban of live detonation testings.

Aurora will be built with artificial intelligence capabilities for projects such as developing better battery materials and helping the Veterans Administration prevent suicides, Rick Stevens, an associate lab director with Argonne overseeing the exascale computing project, said during a news briefing.

The project is a win for Intel, which will supply its Xeon CPU chips and Optane memory chips for Aurora.

Intel has been fending off rival U.S. chipmaker Nvidia Corp’s rise in the chip content of supercomputers as the machines take on more artificial intelligence work. Nvidia’s chips are found in five of the world’s current top-10 supercomputers, though the Nvidia chips are found alongside chips from its rivals, according to TOP500, which ranks the machines.

The world’s current most powerful machine, the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, contains chips from International Business Machines Corp and Nvidia.

The source of chips for supercomputers has become a factor in trade tensions between the United States and China. The world’s third-fastest supercomputer – the Sunway TaihuLight in China – has chips developed domestically in China.

Chirag Dekate, an analyst with Gartner who studies the supercomputing market, said that despite the small contract size relative to Intel’s overall revenue, the work done on Aurora will eventually filter down to the company’s commercial customers.

“It’s not just a jingoistic race between the U.S. and China,” Dekate said. “The innovations that Intel is developing here will percolate down to other parts of its business.”

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

Khalid al-Hussan attends a signing ceremony at Tokyo Stock Exchange
FILE PHOTO: Chief Executive Officer of the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) Khalid al-Hussan attends a signing ceremony with Japan Exchange Group (JPX) Chief Executive Officer Akira Kiyota (not in picture) at Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE), Japan March 14, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato

March 18, 2019

By Marwa Rashad

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s listed companies could see holdings by foreign investors rise to 10 percent when their shares are included in index providers MSCI and FTSE’s emerging-market indices, the chief executive of Tadawul told Reuters on Monday.

Tadawul is the Middle East’s largest exchange and Saudi Arabia’s main exchange. It has a total market capitalization of around $541.3 billion, with a free float of about 40 percent.

Saudi shares on Monday joined the FTSE Emerging All Cap Index with a weighting of 2.9 percent. In May, Saudi shares will join the MSCI Emerging Markets Index.

Khalid al-Hussan said he expected equities on Tadawul to attract $5 billion of passive fund inflows after the FTSE Russell inclusion. Foreign investors currently hold 5.9 percent of Saudi shares.

Active foreign investors in the market have been increasing since the beginning of the year, and the number of qualified foreign investors registering to trade on the Saudi exchange is increasing everyday.

Hussan said he estimates the Saudi exchange to see “around $5 billion of passive inflows coming from FTSE and around $10-11 from MSCI and some inflows from S&P.”

Foreigners have been net buyers of Saudi stocks since the start of the year, plowing more than $2.1 billion year-to-date into the Saudi market. The Saudi index is up nearly 9.6 percent, outperforming its Gulf peers.

“You have to applaud the Saudis for what they’ve done over the past year in relation to opening up the market, said Fadi Al Said, managing director and head of the MENA investment team at Lazard Asset in Dubai.

“I think the opening up the market, the QFI process, has gone through an evolution of simplifying the process,” Al Said said.

Index provider MSCI incorporated shares of United Arab Emirates and Qatar companies into its emerging market index in 2014.

Foreigners excluding strategic investors own less than 2 percent of Saudi stocks, analysts have said. Currently, foreign ownership of listed stocks is capped at 49 percent.

Hussan said it was too early to discuss raising the cap, given current ownership levels and size of the market.

“We would love that challenge to happen in the market and it will show that our market is very attractive, but until then I don’t see that the 49 percent is an obstacle to international investments, taking into the account the size of the Saudi market.”

The Saudi main equities index closed up 1 percent on Monday.

Tadawul is expected to introduce index futures this year, pending the feedback it receives from investors to the rules and regulations of trading derivatives, which will be offered for public consultation over next two weeks, he said.

(Reporting By Marwa Rashad; additional reporting by Nafisa Eltahir, editing by Hadeel Al Sayegh, Larry King)

Source: OANN

DJ Masatane Muto, diagnosed with the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), mixes music using a smart eyewear called 'Jins Meme' which detects eye and head movements, during his performance on the stage in Tokyo
DJ Masatane Muto, diagnosed with the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), mixes music using a smart eyewear called ‘Jins Meme’ which detects eye and head movements, during his performance on the stage in Tokyo, Japan, January 24, 2019. Picture taken January 24, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

March 18, 2019

By Kwiyeon Ha

TOKYO (Reuters) – The music booms and lights flash as Masatane Muto, a wheelchair-bound disc jockey, uses is eyes to put on a show at a recent Tokyo music festival.

Muto, who lost the use of his hands to Lou Gehrig’s Disease, wears a pair of high-tech glasses connected to an app that controls music-mixing software.

“Through my performance, I hope to show that everybody should be given the chance to express themselves,” Muto, 32, told Reuters Television after performing at the J-Wave Innovation World Festa.

Muto was a 27-year-old advertising executive when he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease – a progressive neurological disease in which patients gradually lose control of most of their muscles, though mental function remains unimpaired.

The disease, which gained prominence in 2014 through the “Ice Bucket Challenge” global video fundraising campaign, is terminal, with most patients dying within three to five years of their diagnosis. There is currently no treatment.

On the train home after his diagnosis, Muto vowed to make the rest of his life as innovative and creative as possible.

He quit his job and founded the group “WITH ALS” to raise awareness of the disease and help other patients live their lives to the fullest.

Muto dreamed of being a disc jockey and tracked down the latest technology to make it happen.

Now a radio personality, he performs as a disc and video jockey under the moniker “EYE VDJ”, mixing music with smart eyewear that detects his eye movements and allows him to use an app connected to music-mixing software.

A three-point sensor on the nose pad of the JINS MEME glasses detects subtle electronic changes in the surrounding skin which are caused by blinking or movement of the eyes.

The eyeglasses sell for 27,300 yen ($245) a pair, cheaper than many other eye-tracking devices. The source code for JINS MEME has been released to the public in the hope that others will find their own ways of using it, Muto said.

“ALS is thought to be an incurable disease, but I believe hope is now growing for ALS patients to pursue their lifestyle and quality of life with the help of technology,” he said.

Muto said his next dream is to perform at the opening ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020.

“By then I may be bedridden, but I can perform with the help of technology and the support of many people,” he said.

(Writing by Elaine Lies; Editing by Darren Schuettler)

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 and Senator Ed Markey 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., Feb. 7, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

March 18, 2019

By Julien Ponthus, Tommy Wilkes and Ritvik Carvalho

LONDON (Reuters) – Having spent three years and more than 2.6 trillion euros ($3 trillion) trying to boost economic growth across the euro zone, the European Central Bank’s mixed record may open the door for a high-spending, radical alternative.

With populist and anti-austerity parties looking to build support before European parliamentary elections in May just as growth withers, so-called Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is challenging conventional thinking on debt, deficits and how economies should be run.

Popularized by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a rising star of the American left, MMT posits in essence that a country with the ability to print its own currency can create and spend money freely, so long as inflation is kept under control.

The country can’t be forced into defaulting on its debts since it can always print money to pay creditors, the theory runs.

It’s music to the ears of European populists demanding a ramp-up in public spending to fight unemployment and finance social programs. Years of central bank quantitative easing (QE), they say, have done little except inflate financial asset prices.

MMT is about financing government spending and the real economy, its advocates say, while QE is solely designed to stimulate financial markets through massive purchases of private and public bonds on the secondary market.

MMT is unlikely to be put into practice in the euro zone any time soon. Rules of the currency area make it impossible for member states to print money unilaterally, and mainstream policymakers have derided the economics behind it.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has called MMT “voodoo” thinking.

But the ideas underpinning the theory are helping shape an ideological push against European fiscal orthodoxy and policymakers’ reluctance to consider big public debt-funded investment schemes.

“Post-European elections, there will be much more talk at a European level of (fiscal) spending and stimulus,” John Roe, a fund manager at Legal & General Investment Management, Britain’s biggest asset manager, told Reuters.

NEW DEAL

Roe noted calls for a vast publicly funded “Green New Deal”, as touted by some left-wing U.S. Democrats, are yet to materialize in Europe. But demands for such a policy remain a possibility which investors should take seriously.

The ECB’s admission this month that QE had failed to lift inflation and economic growth, and that it would leave interest rates at rock-bottom until at least 2020, leaves it vulnerable to calls for a drastic rethink.

“Real-world Modern Monetary Theory, defined as the monetization of large public deficits by the central bank, would be most advisable in the eurozone,” even if close to impossible to implement in the bloc, said Vincent Deluard, an analyst at financial advisory firm INTL FCStone.

(GRAPHIC: Euro zone growth and inflation – https://tmsnrt.rs/2UwLSzu)

POPULIST ROUTE

With talk of Europe slipping into a spiral of “Japanification”, a combination of weak growth and low inflation, pressure is building for fresh policy approaches, although advocates of MMT are yet to appear in European discourse as frequently as they have in the United States.

That could be about to change.

“People are assuming that if there’s a continued European economic slowdown after the European elections, European politicians will say Europe needs more infrastructure and they think they can print money at no extra cost”, said Saxo Bank’s chief investment officer Steen Jakobsen.

There have already been some moves towards an MMT-type approach.

British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 proposed “people’s QE”, a government-directed central bank-financed scheme to fund infrastructure.

More recently, Italy’s ruling parties have been in a standoff with Brussels over their desire to end an EU-imposed fiscal straightjacket and spend more to revive a struggling economy.

French President Emmanuel Macron has beefed up public spending to defuse violent “yellow vest” street protests.

In a research note titled “The age of rage, what populism means for markets”, Rabobank market strategist Michael Every said investors should expect populist parties to use MMT to bolster their calls for higher public spending.

Markets should “to prepare for a far higher risk of truly paradigmatic shifts ahead”, Every warned.

ECONOMIC COLLAPSE

Little of this means much unless politicians ready to rip up the macroeconomic rulebook can make it into office. And the financial establishment is unsurprisingly near universal in its condemnation.

They argue that governments let loose to print money can set off a spiral into hyperinflation and economic collapse.

“The general idea that government debt can be financed by central banks is a dangerous proposition”, ECB chief economist Peter Praet said in a recent online Q&A.

“In the past, this has resulted in hyperinflation and economic turmoil”, Praet said, adding: “That’s why central banks are independent”.

A poll http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/modern-monetary-theory conducted by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business found that 88 percent of economic experts disagreed with the idea that countries able to borrow in their own currencies need not worry about government deficits because they can always print money to finance their debts.

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, a fiscal hawk, has also slammed MMT, calling it an “extreme argument that won’t be accepted widely.”

(GRAPHIC: MMT poll – https://tmsnrt.rs/2UAFmHZ)

UNLIKELY EVENTS

The debates around MMT might seem unlikely to rouse the average European, but interest is growing – “MMT” is a more searched term on Google than “ECB”.

For an interactive version of the below chart, click here https://tmsnrt.rs/2O4KOAd.

In a newsletter, East West Investment Management analyst Kevin Muir noted widespread anger among electorates in leading economies, arguing: “Monetary stimulus with fiscal austerity doesn’t do anything except make the rich richer.”

And while MMT might sound like a political and economic fantasy, some economists warn against discounting the momentum of populist waves: Britain’s vote to leave the EU and the election of Donald Trump had both been viewed as improbable.

Societe Generale analyst Albert Edwards believes that the next recession is likely to see the normalization of ideas such as the “People’s QE” proposed by Britain’s Corbyn, where money “just doesn’t get thrown (like) … confetti in the financial markets but is actually channeled into tax cuts or into public investment projects”.

(Additional reporting by Josephine Mason, Karin Strohecker, Helen Reid and Abhinav Ramnarayan; Editing by David Holmes)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The logos of car manufacturers Renault and Nissan are seen in front of a common dealership of the companies in Saint-Avold
FILE PHOTO: The logos of car manufacturers Renault and Nissan are seen in front of a common dealership of the companies in Saint-Avold, France, Jan. 15, 2019. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo

March 18, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – The external committee tasked with improving governance at Nissan Motor Co believes the firm can deepen ties with Renault SA without overhauling the broader alliance agreed nearly two decades ago, a person familiar with the matter said.

At the committee’s latest meeting held late last week, members were at a “near consensus” to recommend stronger roles for outside directors and establishing committees for board member nominations, auditing and determining executive pay, the person who has direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The person was speaking on condition of anonymity given that final recommendations have yet to be announced. A spokeswoman for the committee declined to comment on the discussions.

The two automakers are retooling their partnership to create a more equal footing and avoid the all-encompassing power wielded by ousted chairman Carlos Ghosn before his November arrest in Japan on financial misconduct charges.

Last week, Nissan <7201.T>, Renault <RENA.PA> and junior partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp <7211.T> established a new joint board comprising separate executives of all three automakers to oversee operations and governance, dismantling the previous structure which in practice had placed control of the alliance with Ghosn.

Executives at all three automakers said the new structure was not intended to replace or change their master agreement, which was drawn up in 2002 and gives biggest stakeholder Renault the right to appoint Nissan executives and directors.

The external committee tasked by Nissan to propose ways to bolster the firm’s corporate governance said on Sunday it would announce its final recommendations on March 27.

(Reporting by Maki Shiraki; Writing by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A Singtel logo is pictured at their head office in Singapore
FILE PHOTO: A Singtel logo is pictured at their head office in Singapore February 11, 2016. Singtel releases their quarterly results on Friday. REUTERS/Edgar Su

March 18, 2019

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore Telecommunications Ltd said on Monday it has signed a partnership to enable the use of its cross-border mobile wallet platform in Japan, as the telecom operator moves ahead with its digital payments expansion.

The partnership with NETSTARS, a Tokyo-based mobile payment technology company, will allow travelers to use their home mobile wallets on Singtel’s VIA network to pay digitally at stores in Japan – a popular destination for Southeast Asians.

Singtel, Southeast Asia’s largest telecom operator, is keen to expand beyond its traditional carrier services into areas such as digital marketing, cybersecurity, mobile payments and video streaming.

Southeast Asia, where a chunk of the 650-million population is underbanked, is becoming a crowded market for mobile payments. Singtel wants to stand out by permitting users to be able to pay with their e-wallets outside their home country.

Singtel plans to expand the mobile wallet alliance to India, the Philippines and Indonesia.

“With scale we will, over time, be able to convert payments into multiple uses,” said Arthur Lang, CEO of Singtel’s International Group, adding the company could look to provide more financial services.

Singtel’s Thai associate Advanced Info Service Pcl (AIS) is part of VIA network; and it recently signed an agreement with the digital services arm of Malaysia’s Axiata Group Berhad.

Including its regional associates, the telecom operator has a mobile customer base of over 675 million.

(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Logos of Walmart and Seiyu are pictured at the headquarters office in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: The logos of Walmart and Seiyu are pictured at the headquarters office in Tokyo, Japan July 12, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

March 18, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – The newly appointed chief executive of Walmart Japan and Japanese supermarket chain Seiyu said on Monday he had no plan to sell the Japanese supermarket, following reports last year that Walmart was looking for a buyer.

“Absolutely not at all,” Lionel Desclee said when asked whether such a sale was likely. “I’m not here to sell a business.”

Japanese media reported last year that Walmart considered selling Seiyu, and that a sale could amount to around 300 billion to 500 billion yen ($2.69 billion to $4.48 billion).

(Reporting by Ritsuko Ando)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Naotoshi Yamada poses for a photo at his office in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: Naotoshi Yamada poses for a photo at his office in Tokyo, Japan, October 3, 2018. Picture taken October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

March 18, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Superfan Naotoshi Yamada, famous in Japan for having been to every Summer Games since 1964, has died aged 92 with an unfulfilled dream of watching the Olympics when it returns to Tokyo next year.

Japanese broadcaster NHK reported on Monday that he died last week following heart failure.

Yamada, known to his Japanese compatriots as “Olympic Ojisan”, or “Olympics Grandad”, first experienced the Games when Tokyo last hosted the gathering in 1964.

He had been a colorful presence at every Summer Games since, in his distinctive gold top hat and red jacket to pair with his beaming smile.

In an interview with Reuters in October, Yamada had expressed his desire to live long enough to see the Tokyo 2020 Games [nL5N20S0MG].

“It will be the culmination of all my years cheering the Olympics,” Yamada had said.

Yamada’s haul of flags, stamps, photographs and other items collected on his Olympic travels are on display at a gallery in his hometown of Nanto City, Toyama Prefecture.

(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - Birds fly in front of Mt. Fuji and a crane at a port in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO – Birds fly in front of Mt. Fuji and a crane at a port in Tokyo, Japan January 25, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

March 18, 2019

By Tetsushi Kajimoto

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s exports fell for a third straight month in February in a sign of growing strain on the trade-reliant economy from slowing external demand and a Sino-U.S. tariff war.

Ministry of Finance data showed on Monday exports fell 1.2 percent year-on-year in February, more than a 0.9 percent decrease expected by economists in a Reuters poll.

It followed a sharp 8.4 percent year-on-year drop in January, marking a third straight month of falls due to declines in shipments of semiconductor production equipment and cars.

The trade data comes on top of a recent batch of weak indicators, such as factory output and a key gauge of capital spending, which have raised worries that a record run of postwar growth may come to an end. Some analysts say a recession cannot be ruled out.

The Bank of Japan last week cut its view on exports and output, while keeping policy unchanged. Yet, extended weakness in exports could put it under pressure to deliver more easing, especially as inflation remains well off its 2 percent target and pressure on businesses and consumers continues to rise.

Slowing global growth, the Sino-U.S. trade war and complications over Britain’s exit from the European Union have forced policy makers around the world to shift to an easing stance over recent months.

The trade war between the United States and China – Japan’s largest export markets – has already curbed global trade.

Monday’s trade data showed exports to China, Japan’s biggest trading partner, rose 5.5 percent year-on-year, rebounding from a 17.4 percent drop in January. However, overall trade to the Asian giant remained weak, as even after averaging effects of the Lunar New Year holiday, China-bound shipments declined 6.3 percent in the January-February period from a year earlier.

Japan’s shipments to Asia, which account for more than half of overall exports, fell 1.8 percent, down for a fourth straight month.

U.S.-bound exports rose 2.0 percent, but imports from the United States grew 4.9 percent, resulting in Japan’s trade surplus with the country declining 0.9 percent year-on-year to 624.9 billion yen in February.

Japan’s still-large surplus with the United States raises concerns among Japanese policymakers and auto exporters that Washington may impose hefty duties on its imports, analysts say.

Imports of Japanese cars make up about two-thirds of Japan’s $69 billion annual trade surplus with the United States, making Tokyo and Beijing targets of criticism by Trump.

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO : A man looks at an electronic stock quotation board showing Japan's Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO : A man looks at an electronic stock quotation board showing Japan’s Nikkei average outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

March 18, 2019

By Wayne Cole

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian share markets crept ahead on Monday while bonds were in demand globally on speculation the U.S. Federal Reserve will sound decidedly dovish at its policy meeting this week.

Japan’s Nikkei led the way with a rise of 0.7 percent, and MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.1 percent.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 were just a fraction lower. The S&P 500 boasted its best weekly gain since the end of November last week, while the Nasdaq had its best week so far this year.

There is much talk Fed policymakers will lower their interest rate forecasts, or “dot plots”, to show little or no further tightening this year.

Also expected is more detail on a plan to stop culling the Fed’s holdings of nearly $3.8 trillion in bonds. The two-day meeting ends with a news conference on Wednesday.

As a result, yields on three and five-year Treasuries are dead in line with the effective Fed funds rate, while futures imply a better-than-even chance of a rate cut by year end.

“Long-term bond yields remain noticeably lower across a wide range of countries,” said Alan Oster, group chief economist at National Australia Bank.

“Markets are pricing in little or no chance of a rate hike by the major central banks this year, outside of the Bank of England. The Fed is indicating that it will be patient and we don’t expect any rate hikes this year.”

Data on Friday showed U.S. manufacturing output fell for a second straight month in February and factory activity in New York state hit nearly a two-year low this month, offering further evidence of a sharp slowdown in economic growth early in the first quarter.

A marked decline in Treasury yields has dragged on the dollar, leaving it at 111.55 yen from a top of 111.89 on Friday. Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was pinned at 96.583 having shed 0.7 percent last week.

The euro was holding at $1.1321, well up from the recent trough of $1.1174 which was hit when the European Central Bank took a dovish turn of its own.

Sterling was steady at $1.3292 as markets await some clarity on where the Brexit drama was heading.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is scrambling to get support in parliament for her Brexit deal.

May has only three days to win approval for her deal to leave the European Union if she wants to go to a summit with the bloc’s leaders on Thursday with something to offer them in return for more time.

In commodity markets, spot gold was supported by the widespread decline in bond yields and stood at $1,300.35 per ounce.

Oil prices were near their highest for the year so far. U.S. crude was last off 6 cents at $58.46 a barrel, while Brent crude futures added 2 cents to $67.18.

(Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

President Donald Trump stepped up his pressure on General Motors to reopen an Ohio manufacturing plant that recently closed and put 1,700 people out of work.

Trump's arm-twisting came in two separate tweets on Saturday and Sunday .

He called on GM to reopen its Lordstown plant or find another owner, while insisting that the Detroit automaker "must act quickly."

He also blasted GM for letting down the U.S. and asserted "much better" automakers are coming to the country.

Trump praised Toyota for its investments in the U.S. in an apparent attempt to depict GM as being less committed to its home country than the Japan automaker.

GM didn't immediately respond to requests for comment Sunday.

The Lordstown closure has become a hot-button issue in an area of Ohio that is expected to be critical for Trump if he seeks re-election as promised in 2020.

Trump prevailed in Ohio in the 2016 election, a win that helped him win enough electoral votes to become president despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.

That may be one reason why Trump joined a coalition of Ohio lawmakers in efforts to get the Lordstown plant running again. The tweets marked some of his most pointed criticism of GM so far.

Trump has skewered several other U.S. companies for not doing more to help their country's economy, but his remarks so far have been more bark than bite.

For instance, he has publicly called upon Apple to shift most of its manufacturing from China to the U.S., but the Silicon Valley company continues to make its iPhones and most other products overseas.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, last week expressed doubts GM will reopen its Lordstown plant, but said the automaker indicated it's in talks with another company about using the site.

More than 16 million vehicles were made at the Lordstown plant during its 53-year history until GM closed it earlier this month as part of a massive reorganization. The company also intends to close four other North American plants by early next year.

Source: NewsMax


Current track

Title

Artist