March

U.S. President Trump departs on travel to Florida from the White House in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs the White House to depart on travel to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida from the White House in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

March 22, 2019

PALM SPRINGS, Fla. (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday that U.S.-backed forces had dislodged the Islamic State militant group from its last holdout in Syria.

“Here’s ISIS on Election Day. And here’s ISIS right now,” Trump said, using the acronym for the group, as he displayed a before-and-after map to reporters, with the “before” portion full of red dots and the after-map empty.

“You guys can have the map. Congratulations,” Trump said. “I think it’s about time.” The president has previously displayed a map illustrating the diminution of Islamic State.

Trump has said Islamic State no longer holds territory several times over the past few weeks. But U.S. officials told Reuters that fighting still continued late into Thursday between U.S.-backed forces and Islamic State militants in the last remaining territory it holds.

Earlier on Friday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters Islamic State no longer held any territory in Syria and that U.S. acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had briefed the president on the milestone as he was traveling to Florida on Air Force One.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battled Islamic State militants holed up in the Baghouz area overnight, supported by U.S.-led coalition air strikes, the SDF said, seeking to defeat the last pockets of jihadist resistance.

The SDF has been battling for weeks to defeat Islamic State in the Baghouz enclave in southeastern Syria at the Iraqi border, all that remained of the territory the militants ruled, which once spanned a third of Syria and Iraq.

While the U.S.-backed SDF has captured most of the area, Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, told Reuters SDF fighters were clashing late on Thursday with IS militants in more than two positions where they were refusing to surrender.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Idrees Ali; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

People take shelter after Cyclone Idai in a secondary school in Guara Guara outside Beira
People take shelter after Cyclone Idai in a secondary school in Guara Guara outside Beira, Mozambique, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Emma Rumney

March 22, 2019

By Emma Rumney

GUARA GUARA, Mozambique (Reuters) – At a camp near the city of Beira for people rescued from Mozambique’s catastrophic flooding, residents were dealing on Friday with worries about their future and shortages of pretty much everything – water, food and medicines.

Also, painfully, some of them lacked information about how their relatives were faring.

Aid organizations such as the World Food Programme and Red Cross are delivering food, water, shelter and other basic supplies to the camp at Guara Guara, which was set up by the government, and scores of others like it in the flood zone around Beira.

But with roads cut off, progress is slow. Camps like the one at Guara Guara, 45 km (30 miles) west of Beira, can be reached only by helicopter. There are a limited number of craft available and they are in huge demand.

Fernando Marevere, a local village chief, said the main concern for new arrivals at Guara Guara was food and medicines, which were both in short supply.

Eight large tents were sent to the camp on Wednesday, but on Friday most people were outside in the blazing sun, or huddling into small patches of shade cast by the branches of sparse trees.

People also took shelter in the village’s secondary school – whose roof was still intact – sitting or slumped, head down, at its wooden desks. A number of elderly women were curled up on their side on the dirt floor.

Fresh water was in low supply and there were no toilets. The camp’s residents, numbering in the hundreds, washed in a stream nearby.

Medical tents were small and cramped.

A young boy bawled as doctors worked on a deep cut on his foot, as a family friend held him still and shielded his face from the gore.

Augusto Jose, a pharmacy technician who had come from Beira to help, told Reuters the main concern was malaria, and how to diagnose it with so few tests at hand.

Esther Zinge, 60, from near the town of Buzi, had not eaten anything yet on Friday. She had missed breakfast while waiting in line with her husband for the doctor, because he was unwell.

“The help is coming, but it’s coming very slowly,” she said, adding that what did arrive had to be given to children first.

“We had to ask a local hospital for soya milk so we can stretch out the food. All we’ve had so far is biscuits,” she said. “The conditions are terrible, and more people keep coming.”

Cyclone Idai pummeled the port city of Beira and its low-lying surrounds last week with ferocious winds and tore inland, dumping torrential rains and causing massive flooding in swathes of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

The storm killed 242 people in Mozambique and 259 in Zimbabwe, and numbers were expected to rise, relief agencies said. In Malawi, 56 died in heavy rains before the onset of Idai.

‘MISSING FAMILIES’

Left with nothing, many people at Guara Guara were concerned for their future or the health of their small children. But the biggest fear, a number of people said, was for relatives and friends they had not heard from since the waters started rising.

There is no electricity, phones or internet at the camp.

Louisa Ndena, 60, was sitting on the ground in a white aid tent surrounded by family members and toddlers.

“Besides our missing families, the thing we are most worried about is disease,” she said, explaining that there are no toilets, and if the village’s residents would not let them use theirs, they use bushes for privacy.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Friday its relief efforts included sending teams to the region to help families without access to telephones or the internet find their missing relatives.

“The agony of not knowing what happened to your loved ones in a disaster like Cyclone Idea is indescribable,” said Diane Araujo, an ICRC delegate deploying to Beira.

At Guara Guara, Albino Jose Albino, 18, was alone in the camp aside from friends, without an idea about what happened to his mother or seven siblings.

He too complained about a lack of food, water and shelter, but was more angry that he had no way to register his family as missing.

“They are not giving us details about our families, our lost families,” he said. “Someone should be responsible for this.”

(Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva; Writing by Frances Kerry; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Source: OANN

Neetu Chandak | Education and Politics Reporter

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) said Thursday that a soccer coach who allegedly took $200,000 in relation to the massive admissions bribery scandal resigned.

Men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo, 46, allegedly took two payments of $100,000 from William Rick Singer to help one male and one female applicant to get into UCLA as athletes, ESPN reported Friday. Both the applicants did not play soccer, however. (RELATED: USC Bars Students Possibly Linked To Admission Bribery Scandal From Registering For Classes)

Singer reportedly helped parents get their children into elite colleges like Stanford University, the University of Southern California and Georgetown by cheating the college entrance exam system, Fox News reported. He ran the charity, Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF), which was used to facilitate the bribes.

At least 50 people were allegedly involved in the bribery scandal, including “Full House” star Lori Loughlin and “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman.

Salcedo served as the lead coach for 15 years, making him the second longest tenured in UCLA’s soccer program for men. His leadership took UCLA to six conference titles and the NCAA tournament for 14 seasons, according to ESPN.

Pictured is a soccer ball. SHUTTERSTOCK/Pasko Maksim

Pictured is a soccer ball. SHUTTERSTOCK/Pasko Maksim

The former men’s soccer coach was put on leave March 12, CBS LA reported. Salcedo is set to make his first appearance in a Boston federal court Monday.

Salcedo played for UCLA in the 1990s and played Major League Soccer for five years, according to ESPN.

The women’s soccer team at the school has also been under scrutiny after student Lauren Isackson’s parents used bribes to get her on the team. Isackson had no prior experience playing soccer. Head UCLA women’s soccer coach Amanda Cromwell was not charged, CBS LA reported.

Isackson was taken off the team, but remains at the school.

“If UCLA discovers that any prospective, admitted or enrolled student has misrepresented any aspect of his/her application…UCLA may take a number of disciplinary actions, up to and including cancellation of admission,” UCLA said in a statement, according to CBS LA.

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Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels
Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium March 22, 2019. Julien Warnand/Pool via REUTERS

March 22, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Italy is considering compensation claims against the European Commission for the strict interpretation it gave to EU banking rules, the Italian prime minister said on Friday, after a landmark EU ruling this week over a bank rescue.

On Tuesday the EU general court overturned Brussels’ decision to block a 2014 rescue plan of small Italian lender Tercas, prompting compensation calls from Italian banks which argued that subsequent banking rescues in Italy were more costly because of the Commission’s strict position.

“We have to draw political and juridical conclusions, including about a compensation plan,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told reporters after a summit of EU leaders in Brussels.

Earlier this week Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi had also flagged the possibility of a legal action against Brussels.

Conte backed Moavero’s comments but called for a cautious approach as the EU Commission could also appeal the ruling, he told reporters.

Conte, whose eurosceptic government has used public funds to help Italy’s ailing Carige bank and has not ruled out further support, said the Tercas ruling “set a precedent” which could enable a less strict application of EU banking rules.

The European Commission has said it is assessing the judgment and its consequences on future interventions.

Seven banks have been rescued in Italy since the Tercas case, including Banca Monte dei Paschi, the world’s oldest lender still in operation, and a smaller bank in Tuscany whose collapse and the subsequent wipeout of its creditors triggered the suicide of one of them.

The Tercas rescue was orchestrated by Italy’s deposit guarantee fund, which Brussels said could not be used for measures other than its core function of paying back savers hit by a bank failure.

The EU court ruling, labeled “historic” by EU lawmakers, effectively dismissed the Commission’s argument.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN

Chris White | Energy Reporter

Tech analysts are scrutinizing Facebook after recent reports reveal the social media company left millions of passwords open to staff members.

Facebook violated fundamental computer-security practices, analysts say, after the company confirmed millions of passwords were readily available to staff. Basic security practices require organizations and websites hold sensitive information in a scrambled form that makes it virtually impossible to recover the original text.

“There is no valid reason why anyone in an organization, especially the size of Facebook, needs to have access to users’ passwords in plain text,” cybersecurity expert Andrei Barysevich told reporters. Facebook, meanwhile, said there is no evidence suggesting that employees abused the information. (RELATED: REPORT: Facebook Gave AI Control Of A Crucial Personal Data Collection Tool)

Other experts made similar points. Storing passwords in plain text is “unfortunately more common than most of the industry talks about,” Jake Williams, president of Rendition Infosec, told reporters. A Facebook blog post confirming the matter suggests the practice might have been “sanctioned,” he said, adding that it’s possible a “rogue development team” was responsible.

Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg reacts as he speaks at the Viva Tech start-up and technology summit in Paris, France, May 24, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Facebook normally encodes passwords before storing them, the company noted Thursday in its blog post. Security researcher Rob Graham was skeptical. Facebook engineers apparently added code that defeated the safeguards, he told reporters. “They have all the proper locks on the doors, but somebody left the window open,” Graham said.

Facebook is pushing back against such speculations. A company representative told The Daily Caller News Foundation that such claims are “speculative and not supported by the investigation we have conducted since January.” In most cases the password information would not have been readily apparent to employees working on data sets where the information was present, the representative noted.

Reports of the lapse come less than a week after CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced March 6 that Facebook would begin shifting gears, moving from a social network to a platform where people communicate with smaller groups and their private content disappears shortly thereafter.

Facebook has been under fire since suspending data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica for reportedly working with President Donald Trump’s campaign team to gather private information in the runup to the 2016 presidential election. Zuckerberg also became $5 billion poorer in March 2018 as reports about Cambridge Analytica and other privacy data breaches began taking their toll.

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: Flags flutter outside the Houses of Parliament in London
FILE PHOTO: Flags flutter outside the Houses of Parliament, ahead of a Brexit vote, in London, Britain March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Jacobs

March 22, 2019

(Reuters) – The risk that Britain will crash out of the EU without an agreement is rising again, some banks say, after Prime Minister Theresa May received a two-week reprieve that could be her last chance to arrange an orderly exit.

At the end of January, banks informally canvassed by Reuters saw no-deal probabilities as low but rising. But that risk appeared to have receded after parliament voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

But their views have shifted slightly this week after the European Union told May to get lawmakers’ approval for a Brexit deal by April 12, failing which Britain must present a new Brexit plan. In any case it has to leave the EU by May 22 — with or without a plan.

Goldman Sachs, Deutsche, JPMorgan, ING and some other banks have upped probabilities of a no-deal Brexit though they still see a relatively low 10 to 25 percent risk of this outcome. Some such as Goldman also assign a high probability to Britain ultimately opting to staying in the EU.

For an interactive version of the chart below, click here https://tmsnrt.rs/2Ua88yG:

(Reporting by London markets team; Graphic by Ritvik Carvalho; Compiled by Sujata Rao; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Company logo of the Bank of America and Merrill Lynch is displayed at its office in Hong Kong
FILE PHOTO: The company logo of the Bank of America and Merrill Lynch is displayed at its office in Hong Kong March 8, 2013. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

March 22, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday said Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch subsidiary had agreed to pay $8 million to settle charges it mishandled American Depositary Receipts (ADRs).

The bank is one of several the SEC has fined in recent months for mishandling the issuance of ADRs which are U.S. securities that represent foreign shares of a foreign company.

(Reporting by Michelle Price; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Source: OANN

Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York
Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 22, 2019

By Kate Duguid

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The spread between three-month Treasury bills and 10-year note yields inverted on Friday for the first time since 2007 after U.S. manufacturing data missed estimates.

The three-month 10-year yield spread, the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of the yield curve, narrowed to minus 0.56 basis points. An inverted yield curve is widely understood to be a leading indicator of recession.

The Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index report, which tracks activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector, on Friday disappointed investors, with the headline index down 0.5 percent to 52.5 versus the expected 53.6. Earlier, Germany reported that domestic manufacturing contracted further in March, driving the benchmark 10-year U.S. government bond below zero and adding to fears of a global slowdown in growth.

The soft data exacerbated a trend that began on Wednesday after the Fed issued a statement showing policymakers foresaw no further rate hikes for 2019 given the slowdown in the American economy.

“The reality is the market is now expecting lower rates on average over the next 10 years than we have currently. And it’s a combination both of a dovish Fed and also ongoing global growth concerns,” said Jon Hill, U.S. rates strategist at BMO Capital Markets.

“We’re clearly beginning to see green shoots of the end of this cycle. It’s now a question of timing and if the Fed’s dovish pivot will be sufficient to either delay or moderate the recession.”

(Reporting by Kate Duguid; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)

Source: OANN

Britain's Secretary of State for Business Greg Clark walks outside Downing Street in London
Britain’s Secretary of State for Business Greg Clark walks outside Downing Street in London, Britain March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

March 22, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s business minister Greg Clark said on Friday that the government would allow parliament to hold votes to indicate what Brexit plans might be able to command the support of a majority of lawmakers.

“The government will facilitate … the ability for parliament to express a majority of what it would approve,” Clark told BBC TV.

Asked about possible plans on Monday by lawmakers to force such indicative votes, he said: “The commitment that the government has made seems to me very clear: the government will provide that so there’s no reason why the government should be forced to do something that it is committed to do anyway.”

(Reporting by Michael Holden. Editing by Andrew MacAskill)

Source: OANN

Flags are pictured at the top of Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Flags are pictured at the top of Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

March 22, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Reserve returned less to the U.S. Treasury and paid more in interest to major banks in 2018 compared to the year before, as it continued trimming its balance sheet as part of a return to more standard monetary policy.

In its annual audited financial statement, released on Friday, the central bank reported it earned $112.3 billion on its asset holdings in 2018, down $1.3 billion from the year before. After paying its own expenses of around $7 billion, it sent $65.3 billion to the Treasury. That represented a decline of around $15.2 billion from the remittances to taxpayers in 2017.

The Fed’s major expense was the $38.5 billion in interest paid to banks on excess reserve deposits held at the Fed, an increase of $12.6 billion over 2017 that reflected the interest rate increases the central bank approved through last year.

The Fed now manages its target interest rate through raising or lowering the “Interest on Excess Reserves,” which sets the standard for a range of other interest rates established by financial institutions.

The Fed since October 2017 has been shrinking the amount of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities it holds, reversing the accumulation of securities it launched to battle the 2007 to 2009 economic crisis. Those holdings fell about $379 billion over 2018.

(Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: An aerial photo shows Boeing 737 MAX airplanes parked on the tarmac at the Boeing Factory in Renton
FILE PHOTO: An aerial photo shows Boeing 737 MAX airplanes parked on the tarmac at the Boeing Factory in Renton, Washington, U.S. March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson/File Photo

March 22, 2019

By Alwyn Scott and Eric M. Johnson

NEW YORK/SEATTLE (Reuters) – Much like tapping the brake pedal in a car to disengage cruise control, a sharp tug on the controls of older models of Boeing Co’s 737 used to shut off an automatic trim system that keeps the plane flying level, giving the pilot control.

But Boeing disabled the “yoke jerk” function when it brought out the 737 MAX, the latest version of its top-selling jet – and many pilots were unaware of the change, aviation experts told Reuters.

(Understanding controls on the Boeing 737 MAX: https://tmsnrt.rs/2OjLSAt)

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

(Ethiopian Airlines crash and black boxes: https://tmsnrt.rs/2ChBW5M)

The difference may help explain why pilots struggled to keep their aircraft climbing after takeoff on two fatal 737 MAX flights less than five months apart that killed 346 people.

Pilots of a Lion Air flight that crashed in October scoured a handbook for answers as the plane repeatedly lurched downward in the first minutes of flight, Reuters reported.

An Ethiopian Airlines flight that went down on March 10 showed “clear similarities” to the Lion Air accident, aviation authorities said after seeing black-box data.

A pair of switches on the center console between the pilots will turn off the automatic trim and a mechanism, new on the 737 MAX, known as the Maneuver Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, that is suspected of playing a role in both disasters.

TRAINING MATERIAL ‘NOT CLEAR’

But pilots would have needed to know that MCAS existed, that it had unusual power to force the plane down and that “a hard pull on the yoke” would no longer turn off the automatic trim that uses MCAS, John Hansman, an aeronautics professor at MIT, said in an interview.

“That wasn’t clear to the pilots flying the airplane,” Hansman said. “The training material was not clear on that.”

Boeing declined to comment. In the aftermath of the Lion Air crash, Boeing pointed to long-established procedures that pilots could have used to handle a malfunction of the anti-stall system, regardless of whether the pilots knew MCAS existed.

That checklist tells pilots to switch off the two stabilizer trim cutout switches on the central console, and then to adjust the aircraft’s stabilizers manually using trim wheels.

An American Airlines flight manual mentions MCAS only in a table of acronyms, according to an October 2018 edition of the 1,400-page book seen by Reuters. Pilots have raised questions about why more detail on MCAS was not included.

The American Airlines manual’s two-page description of trim controls describes a “trim circuit,” but not how MCAS could be triggered by a faulty sensor reading, which is also suspected in the two crashes.

PREVENTING A DANGEROUS STALL

The MCAS system was designed to counteract the effect on the plane’s handling caused by new larger 737 MAX engines, which had to be placed farther forward and higher on the wings because the 50-year-old 737 design sits relatively low to the ground. That move gave the MAX a tendency to nose up into a stall, a dangerous position in which a plane loses lift as too little air flows across its wings.

MCAS, essentially a few lines of computer code in the flight control system, relies on data from two small, blade-shaped sensors near the nose of the aircraft that measure the angle of air flow. Faults in the sensors are not uncommon, and MCAS relies on only one sensor at a time during flight. In the Lion Air crash, investigators found a faulty reading led the plane’s computer to believe it was stalled and to push the nose down.

Boeing later issued a bulletin reminding pilots how to respond to such a faulty reading. An optional warning light could have alerted pilots to the faulty sensor.

MAINTENANCE, TRAINING UNDER SCRUTINY

Investigators unraveling the Lion Air crash are looking at maintenance records and whether the pilots had enough training to handle the emergency, among other factors.

The 737 MAX can fly without MCAS, so the feature was not considered “flight-critical” even though it has extraordinary power to steer the plane, said an industry expert with knowledge of the system who spoke on condition of anonymity. MCAS controls the large horizontal wing on the plane’s tail known as the stabilizer, while the pilot controls smaller flaps or “elevators” on the stabilizer.

Over several minutes, the stabilizer can shift position enough that the elevator controls can no longer counteract the downward direction of the plane, the source said.

“They gave more control power to the automation than to the pilot,” the source said of the MCAS design.

The Lion Air pilots flew for about five minutes by using the elevator to counteract the stabilizer every 15 or 20 seconds, said Hansman, based on readings from the flight data recorder. After that, the pilot tried pulling back hard on the controls.

“That’s what suggests that the crew didn’t understand the system. They thought they were shutting MCAS off and didn’t,” Hansman said. “Whereas any time during the entire sequence, they could have reached to the middle console and just shut it off.”

(Reporting by Alwyn Scott in New York and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) deputy leader Nigel Dodds, speaks to the media outside the Cabinet Office, in London
FILE PHOTO: Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) deputy leader Nigel Dodds, speaks to the media outside the Cabinet Office, in London, Britain March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

March 22, 2019

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Nothing has changed as far as the Brexit divorce deal British Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking to convince lawmakers to back, the deputy leader of the Northern Irish party propping up her government said on Friday.

The Democratic Unionist Party’s Nigel Dodds said in a statement May had missed an opportunity to put forward proposals to EU leaders to improve the prospects of an acceptable deal, describing it as a “disappointing and inexcusable” failure.

“Lectures by the Prime Minister putting the blame on others cannot disguise the responsibility her government bears for the current debacle and the fact that her agreement has been twice overwhelmingly rejected,” Dodds added in a statement ahead of a third vote where his party’s stance will be vital.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Peter Graff)

Source: OANN

Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

March 22, 2019

(Reuters) – Following are five big themes likely to dominate thinking of investors and traders in the coming week and the Reuters stories related to them.

1/ TAKE IT EASY

With the U.S. Federal Reserve well and truly doubling down on its dovish guidance this month, the global rate hiking cycle is at an end. There are exceptions of course but the big central banks of the developed world — the Fed, the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan — have all reacted decisively to the steady drumbeat of depressing economic data by pushing any policy tightening plans to the backburner.

But instead of deriving any comfort from the pivot, some in the market are interpreting the moves as desperate measures to ward off impending recession. That fear is certainly evident on bond markets where the gap between three-month and 10-year U.S. treasury yields — one of the gauges the Fed uses to assess inflation risks — has inverted. European yield curves too have flattened and German 10-year government borrowing costs have slid back below zero percent for the first time since 2016.

There are outliers. Norway has hiked rates while Hungary and Czech rates may also rise this coming week. One could argue Norway’s economy has been lifted by oil this year, while emerging European economies have been recovering nicely. But the question is: with the world’s biggest economy starting to hurt, Fed rate cuts bring priced for 2020 and G4 bond yields plunging, can any market avoid being sucked in? On Wednesday, New Zealand’s central bank could become the latest to flag downside risks to growth and interest rates.

(Graphic: U.S. federal funds activity png link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2EcJkRq).

2/ DEADLINES, RED LINES

March 29 is when Britain was supposed to leave the European Union, 2-1/2-years after a slender majority voted to leave the bloc. EU leaders have now granted Prime Minister Theresa May a two-week reprieve, during which she must persuade lawmakers to accept the divorce deal she has negotiated. Not easy, given they have resoundingly defeated it twice already. She is expected to make another attempt and if the deal still fails, several possibilities open up, from a no-deal Brexit to Brextension and even exit from Brexit.

The question is whether May will be flexible on any of the “red lines” she outlined in 2016, ruling out a customs union with the EU, UK’s membership of the single market and any role for the European court of justice. Seen by many as an extreme interpretation of the referendum, it has stymied efforts to find a solution to the Northern Ireland border issue.

With all this in play, many warn that markets are still assigning too low a probability to a no-deal Brexit — banks such as Goldman Sachs and Deutsche reckon that risk at just 15-20 percent. But though this is rising, most analysts warn.

Sterling has tumbled this month after strengthening for two months straight and jitters are bubbling up on derivative markets. Here one-month pound risk reversals show an elevated premium for sterling puts — options that confer the right to sell at a certain price. Implied sterling volatility — a gauge of expected daily swings — has slipped off highs but remain above some typically volatile emerging currencies such as Brazil’s real or the Turkish lira.

(Graphic: No-deal Brexit probabilities IMG link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2VlgLGT).

3/ GLASS QUARTER FULL

Back in January, the U.S. Federal Reserve fired up investors’ appetite for risk by pledging to be patient with future rate rises. In March it sealed that promise by doubling down on its dovish stance and scaling back projected 2019 interest-rate increases to zero. The result: a 10 percent-plus bounce on global stocks in the January-March period. The S&P500 is headed for its best first quarter of any year since 1991. Other big Q1 winners with dollar-based gains close to 30 percent are Chinese shares and Brent crude.

What happens next? To some, the rally in what are inherently risky, growth-reliant assets makes little sense when the world economy is in slowdown mode and should therefore evaporate. But others counter the second quarter will bring more gains. They note that despite double-digit gains, investors have mostly been betting against stocks for most of 2019. Investment research firm TrimTabs says equity funds have seen outflows of $18.7 billion this year through Wednesday. They have instead channeled $73.1. billion into bond funds.

(Graphic: S&P 500 vs U.S.10-Year Treasury Yield link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2UNzRFP).

(Graphic: Q1 performance link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2UQo3CG).

4/EURO GLOOM TO BOOM — OR DOOM

Despite a strong rally across markets this year, European equities remain one of the most disliked regions in the world. Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s monthly fund manager survey confirmed that view, with investors naming “short” European equities as the most crowded trade for the first time.

For contrarians, that’s a gift – a sign bearish positioning on Europe has got too extreme and stocks should rise from here.

Indeed, there are some positive signals from recent macroeconomic data, from retail sales to wages. That has sparked a quiet rise on Citi’s index of euro zone macro surprises which now, interestingly, sits above the equivalent U.S. index. There are also predictions that as China’s economy starts benefiting from the stimulus its authorities have unveiled, Europe too will feel the effect.

But after every glimmer of hope, comes a dampener. February PMI data from Germany and the euro zone sent markets reeling.. Next up are the Ifo business climate survey and consumer confidence figures. Those should tell us whether it is too early to call a bottom.

(Graphic: macro surprises March 22 link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2HAy8B0).

5/YUAN: STRONG AND STABLE

Chinese markets aren’t abandoning hopes that authorities may soon relax trading rules for the yuan. Beijing and Washington are locked in heated discussions on a deal to end their trade war and President Donald Trump hopes to extract a commitment to yuan stability. The Chinese have other compulsions. The yuan fell more than 5 percent in 2018 but this year it is rising too rapidly for comfort. As China makes its way into global benchmark stock and bond indices, foreigners are rushing into its markets. In January and February, inflows under the Stock Connect scheme were almost quadruple the amount last year.

Rumors are swirling that China’s currency regulator SAFE will rescind requirements for banks to maintain reserves on dollar purchase contracts and also remove the secretive X-factor used to guide the currency’s trading range. Theoretically, those steps would count as efforts to free the yuan – they were imposed last year to curtail speculators betting against the yuan. Detractors might say China is creating conditions for yuan depreciation. The coming week should offer some visibility as a U.S. trade delegation, headed by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, shows up in China for the next round of tariff negotiations.

(Graphic: China’s yuan rises as foreign investment picks up link: https://tmsnrt.rs/2HBZbLX).new york stock

(Reporting by Karin Strohecker, Saikat Chatterjee and Helen Reid in London; Jennifer Ablan in New York and Vidya Ranganathan in Singapore; Compiled by Sujata Rao; Editing by Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

Rolex Datejust watches are displayed at the Baselworld Watch and Jewellery Show in Basel
FILE PHOTO: Rolex Datejust watches are displayed at the Baselworld Watch and Jewellery Show in Basel, Switzerland March 22, 2017. Picture taken March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

March 22, 2019

By Silke Koltrowitz

BASEL, Switzerland (Reuters) – Watches of Switzerland expects to make further acquisitions in the United States, which it first entered in 2017 with the purchase of jeweler Mayors, its chief executive told Reuters.

Owned by U.S.-based private equity firm Apollo Global Management, Watches of Switzerland has since opened several stores, including in Las Vegas and New York.

“Could we add other businesses? Very easily,” Brian Duffy said in an interview at this week’s Baselworld watch fair.

The Watches of Switzerland Group, which sells brands such as Rolex, Richemont’s Cartier and Swatch Group’s Omega and has more than 130 showrooms, is the biggest watch retailer in Britain and a candidate for a stock market listing.

Luxury watch distribution is undergoing major changes, with many small, family-owned businesses unable to keep up with the challenges of e-commerce, while watch brands are shutting down shops which do not meet their standards.

“If it’s a quality business, the right location of stores and support from the brands, it would be obvious that we’d be open to it. Probably over the couple of years ahead, we’ll do some deals in the area,” Duffy said of his U.S. plans.

Watches of Switzerland, which spans its eponymous stores as well as Mappin & Webb, Goldsmiths, Mayors, Watchshop and Watch Lab competes with rivals such as Lucerne-based Bucherer, which last year bought U.S. jeweler Tourneau.

Last year the company, which has been under Apollo’s control for more than six years, flagged that its owners were working with advisers on strategic options, including a potential initial public offering (IPO).

Duffy said that an IPO, if it happened, would most likely be on the London Stock Exchange.

“It would be good for our group with its size and scale to have public ownership, reduced leverage and great governance and accountability, sources of capital if that’s ever necessary,” he said, without giving further detail.

Apollo declined to comment.

The group’s revenue grew 21 percent to 685 million pounds ($902 million) in 2017/2018, and its operating profit rose by more than a third to 37 million pounds, about twice the levels when Apollo bought it in 2013.

(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Alexander Smith)

Source: OANN

The German share price index DAX graph at the stock exchange in Frankfurt
FILE PHOTO: The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Staff

March 22, 2019

By Virginia Furness and Dhara Ranasinghe

LONDON (Reuters) – Germany’s 10-year bond yield dived below zero percent on Friday for the first time since October 2016, as a survey showing German manufacturing contracted for a third straight month fueled fears about a widespread European slowdown.

Those concerns were exacerbated when the U.S. manufacturing sector flash Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) came in below estimates, triggering an inversion of the U.S. bond yield curve for the first time since 2007.

In a session of eye-popping moves across major bond markets, Germany’s 10-year bond yield slid over 6 basis points to minus 0.032 percent, its lowest since October 2016.

French and Dutch long-dated bond yields hit their lowest since 2016, British gilt yields fell to their lowest since September 2017 and the 10-year U.S. Treasury yields slid 10 bps to 14-month lows.

“We had tentative signs of a stabilization in the economic numbers and then the data came out today and it suggested there is no stabilization,” said Peter Schaffrik, global macro strategist at RBC Capital Markets in London.

IHS Markit’s flash composite Purchasing Managers’ Index measuring activity in German services and manufacturing, which together account for more than two-thirds of the economy, fell to 51.5 in March, its lowest reading since June 2013.

The broader euro zone PMI meanwhile showed that businesses across the 19-country currency bloc have performed much worse than expected this month.

“The narrative behind it isn’t a big surprise … But the size of the surprise is fairly material. These things happen very rarely, and the surprise is what matters the most for market activity,” said Antoine Bouvet, rates strategist at Mizuho.

The bleak data comes after the U.S. Federal Reserve this week abandoned its projections for a rate hike this year and as Brexit uncertainty has grown, bolstering demand for safe-haven assets.

The ripple effects were felt across markets.

The euro fell 0.9 percent to below $1.13, while Europe’s STOXX 600 index tumbled 1 percent. Italian bond yields rose as a “risk-off” mood gripped investors.

In a worrying sign for the European Central Bank, its favored market gauge of long-term inflation expectations fell to 1.4169 — down almost 6 bps from Thursday’s closing levels to its lowest since 2016.

HOW LOW?

Concern about growing recession risks was highlighted by the move in the U.S. bond yield curve. The gap between three-month Treasury bills and 10-year note yields inverted on Friday for the first time since 2007.

In France and Germany, 30-year bond yields slid almost 10 bps each as investors moved up the government bond curve in the hope of getting some yield. They were set for their biggest daily falls since 2016.

Germany’s 10-year yield last hit zero percent on Oct. 21, 2016, when ECB chief Mario Draghi dispelled market concerns about tapering and said the ECB remained committed to its now-ended asset purchase program. Bund yields below zero percent show investors are willing to pay the German government to hold its long-term debt, seen among the safest of assets.

“We think Bund yields can now certainly revisit the minus 0.15 percent area which refocuses investor concerns about the growth trajectory,” said Rabbani Wahhab, senior fixed income fund manager at London and Capital.

(Reporting by Virginia Furness and Dhara Ranasinghe; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Source: OANN

U.S. President Trump departs on travel to Florida from the White House in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs on travel to Palm Beach, Florida from the White House in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

March 22, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump has asked former campaign adviser Stephen Moore, an economic commentator, to accept a nomination to serve on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing an unnamed senior administration official.

Trump made the offer to Moore, a Heritage Institute senior fellow, this week after speaking with him to compliment him on an opinion article he co-authored last week, the administration official said. The article was published in the Wall Street Journal, where Moore previously worked as an editorial page writer.

(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Source: OANN

EU centre-right lead candidate Weber poses during an interview with Reuters in Brussels
Manfred Weber, the centre-right European People’s Party’s lead candidate in the European Parliament elections, poses during an interview with Reuters in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

March 22, 2019

By Alastair Macdonald

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Germans must be ready to spend to bolster economies elsewhere in Europe, the German lead candidate for the EU center-right said on Friday as campaigning gets underway for European Parliament elections in May.

Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party in the EU legislature and bidding to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as EU chief executive, told Reuters his compatriots had to understand that rising anti-EU nationalism in struggling economies like Italy should be countered by greater European investment to stimulate growth.

Under him, he said, the European Commission would expand the investment programs launched under Juncker, a fellow conservative, maintaining tight controls on euro zone public spending but promoting expenditure on infrastructure and new technologies to compete in the globalized world economy.

Insisting he should not be seen as the candidate of the bloc’s powerhouse Germany, Weber said: “I am a European candidate so that’s why we have a European program in mind. That’s why I go to Germany and tell people, don’t be surprised that we have so much populism in Italy and the Germans don’t care about youth unemployment in Italy.

“We have to understand that Europe can only have a good future if they care about the concerns of others.

“It’s only a solidarity based Europe that will work and that’s my message, all over Europe.”

Germany, running a budget surplus, has faced criticism from France, Italy and other governments struggling to free up funds for investment, but Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, with which Weber is aligned, has insisted that states must guard against wasteful expenditure and promote efficiencies.

Weber said there was funding available outside the public sector that should be encouraged: “We have a lot of money in Europe, there’s a lot of private money in Europe and we must … bring this money really alive,” he said.

The center-right would also distinguish itself from other pro-EU parties to its left by promoting free trade pacts and deepening Europe’s internal open market. It would promote better living standards in poorer EU states to curb the drive for migration of labor across the bloc, he said.

Chinese investment was welcome, he added, but there must be tougher screening to avoid the Chinese state exploiting Europe’s openness to acquire research secrets and undermine EU businesses.

DEMOCRACY DRIVE

Among challenges the next Commission will face will be from governments in the ex-Communist east, such as in Hungary and Poland, which criticize Brussels and are accused of undermining democracy by curbing media and judicial freedoms.

Weber this week helped steer the EPP to suspending its Hungarian member, Fidesz, the ruling party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Expulsion was still an option, he said, but for now Fidesz would be kept under review by an EPP monitor.

That, Weber said, was a model he could adopt if he succeeds Juncker. He would push for a mechanism to allow for annual reviews of governments’ support for the rule of law according to three criteria – fighting corruption, judicial independence and media freedom.

A Weber Commission would entrust senior independent jurists to review countries and, if need be, take them to the European Court of Justice under the EU’s infringement process. He would also seek to levy financial sanctions on states abusing rights.

Opinion polls ahead of the May 23-26 elections show the EPP would remain the biggest party in the European Parliament, giving Weber a solid chance of becoming Commission president, though he may face resistance from governments who do not want to be bound to choose from among party leaders.

Commission presidents have traditionally been former prime ministers or senior ministers but Weber said nominating a figure from parliament would bolster Europe’s democratic credentials at a time when the Union was under attack by populists.

“I want to live in a democratic Europe,” he said. “I don’t want to have a bureaucratic Europe.” He described the Council of national leaders as lacking transparency.

“I want to have a parliamentary democracy.”

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Source: OANN

EU centre-right lead candidate Weber poses during an interview with Reuters in Brussels
Manfred Weber, the centre-right European People’s Party’s lead candidate in the European Parliament elections, poses during an interview with Reuters in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

March 22, 2019

By Alastair Macdonald

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Germans must be ready to spend to bolster economies elsewhere in Europe, the German lead candidate for the EU center-right said on Friday as campaigning gets underway for European Parliament elections in May.

Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party in the EU legislature and bidding to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as EU chief executive, told Reuters his compatriots had to understand that rising anti-EU nationalism in struggling economies like Italy should be countered by greater European investment to stimulate growth.

Under him, he said, the European Commission would expand the investment programs launched under Juncker, a fellow conservative, maintaining tight controls on euro zone public spending but promoting expenditure on infrastructure and new technologies to compete in the globalized world economy.

Insisting he should not be seen as the candidate of the bloc’s powerhouse Germany, Weber said: “I am a European candidate so that’s why we have a European program in mind. That’s why I go to Germany and tell people, don’t be surprised that we have so much populism in Italy and the Germans don’t care about youth unemployment in Italy.

“We have to understand that Europe can only have a good future if they care about the concerns of others.

“It’s only a solidarity based Europe that will work and that’s my message, all over Europe.”

Germany, running a budget surplus, has faced criticism from France, Italy and other governments struggling to free up funds for investment, but Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, with which Weber is aligned, has insisted that states must guard against wasteful expenditure and promote efficiencies.

Weber said there was funding available outside the public sector that should be encouraged: “We have a lot of money in Europe, there’s a lot of private money in Europe and we must … bring this money really alive,” he said.

The center-right would also distinguish itself from other pro-EU parties to its left by promoting free trade pacts and deepening Europe’s internal open market. It would promote better living standards in poorer EU states to curb the drive for migration of labor across the bloc, he said.

Chinese investment was welcome, he added, but there must be tougher screening to avoid the Chinese state exploiting Europe’s openness to acquire research secrets and undermine EU businesses.

DEMOCRACY DRIVE

Among challenges the next Commission will face will be from governments in the ex-Communist east, such as in Hungary and Poland, which criticize Brussels and are accused of undermining democracy by curbing media and judicial freedoms.

Weber this week helped steer the EPP to suspending its Hungarian member, Fidesz, the ruling party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Expulsion was still an option, he said, but for now Fidesz would be kept under review by an EPP monitor.

That, Weber said, was a model he could adopt if he succeeds Juncker. He would push for a mechanism to allow for annual reviews of governments’ support for the rule of law according to three criteria – fighting corruption, judicial independence and media freedom.

A Weber Commission would entrust senior independent jurists to review countries and, if need be, take them to the European Court of Justice under the EU’s infringement process. He would also seek to levy financial sanctions on states abusing rights.

Opinion polls ahead of the May 23-26 elections show the EPP would remain the biggest party in the European Parliament, giving Weber a solid chance of becoming Commission president, though he may face resistance from governments who do not want to be bound to choose from among party leaders.

Commission presidents have traditionally been former prime ministers or senior ministers but Weber said nominating a figure from parliament would bolster Europe’s democratic credentials at a time when the Union was under attack by populists.

“I want to live in a democratic Europe,” he said. “I don’t want to have a bureaucratic Europe.” He described the Council of national leaders as lacking transparency.

“I want to have a parliamentary democracy.”

(Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Source: OANN

A worker at German manufacturer of silos and liquid tankers, Feldbinder Special Vehicles, moves rolls of aluminium at the company's plant in Winsen
FILE PHOTO: A worker at German manufacturer of silos and liquid tankers, Feldbinder Special Vehicles, moves rolls of aluminium at the company’s plant in Winsen, Germany, July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

March 22, 2019

By Jonathan Cable and Stanley White

LONDON (Reuters) – Manufacturers in Europe, Japan and the United States suffered in March as surveys showed trade tensions had left their mark on factory output, a setback for hopes the global economy might be turning the corner on its slowdown.

Factory activity in the 19-country euro zone contracted at the fastest pace in nearly six years.

In Japan, manufacturing output shrank the most in almost three years, hurt by China’s economic slowdown.

And a measure of U.S. manufacturing was its weakest since June 2017 while forecasters at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia slashed their estimate for economic growth in early 2019.

German 10-year bond yields, which plunged on Thursday after the U.S. Federal Reserve signaled no more rate hikes this year, dived again to fall below zero.

European shares and the euro also fell on Friday.

In New York, the spread between the three-month U.S. Treasury bill yield and the 10-year note yield narrowed to a 12-year low — a sign of concern among investors about the growth outlook.

“No other factor shapes the euro zone business cycle more than the ups and downs of global trade,” economists at Berenberg, a bank said.

The United States and China are due to resume face-to-face talks next week, but it is unclear if the two sides can narrow their differences and end the trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

European officials are also worried about the risk of U.S. tariffs on car imports from Europe.

RISKS – US CHINA TENSIONS, BREXIT, ITALY

The drop in the euro zone’s manufacturing purchasing managers index to a 71-month low of 47.7 from 49.4 in February raised the risk trade flows could turn even more negative in the short term, the Berenberg economists said.

The manufacturing downturn was partly offset by stable — but relatively weak — growth in the euro zone’s dominant services industry.

But the surveys suggested the bloc’s economy had a poor start to 2019.

IHS Markit, which published the surveys, said the PMIs pointed to first-quarter economic growth of 0.2 percent in the euro zone, below the 0.3 percent predicted in a Reuters poll last week.

The euro zone grew 0.2 percent in the final three months of 2018, its slowest pace in four years.

Earlier this month, the European Central Bank changed tack by pushing out the timing of its next rate increase until 2020 at the earliest and said it would offer banks a new round of cheap loans to help revive the economy.

“We highlight downside risks mainly stemming from the external side – e.g. trade tensions, a Chinese-led global slowdown,” Barclays economists Radu-Gabriel Cristea and Francois Cabau said about the euro zone.

“The protracted weakness in manufacturing remains a lingering risk, and overall growth concerns are likely to intensify should the industrial backdrop further deteriorate. At the same time, Italy and Brexit woes remain non-negligible, the uncertainty a further drag on sentiment.”

The headline Flash Markit/Nikkei Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) was a seasonally adjusted 48.9, the same as February’s final reading.

The index was below the 50 threshold that separates contraction from expansion for the second consecutive month.

“Concern of weaker growth in China and prolonged global trade frictions kept business confidence well below its historical average in March,” Joe Hayes, an economist at IHS Markit, said.

The flash index for total new orders – domestic and foreign – fell to its lowest since June 2016, the survey showed.

Japan is exposed to the dispute between Washington and Beijing as it ships to China big volumes of electronics items and heavy machinery used to make finished goods destined for the United States.

(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Jon Boyle)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Flowers are placed at the site of a shooting in Utrecht
FILE PHOTO: Flowers are placed at the site of a shooting in Utrecht, the Netherlands March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

March 22, 2019

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – A man suspected of killing three people in a shooting aboard a tram in the city of Utrecht this week admitted his guilt to a judge on Friday and has said he acted alone, Dutch prosecutors said.

Turkish-born Gokmen Tanis, 37, is accused of carrying out the March 18 shooting with terrorist intent. Authorities are also investigating whether he had other personal motives.

Prosecutors gave no further details of Tanis’ confession, citing the importance of further investigation.

The detention of Tanis, who was arrested after a seven-hour manhunt on Monday by Dutch security forces, was extended on Friday by the maximum amount allowed of two weeks.

He is due to appear before court again within two weeks, at which point his detention can be extended by up to 90 days.

A 40-year old man, who was held on Tuesday because Tanis was arrested in his house, was released on Friday as there was no evidence of his involvement in the shooting in any way, the prosecutors said.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Source: OANN

Ethiopians search for remains at the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash before a commemoration ceremony at the scene of the of the crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa
FILE PHOTO: Ethiopians search for remains at the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash before a commemoration ceremony at the scene of the crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

March 22, 2019

By Maggie Fick

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – A child’s foot. Fingers. A passport.

Body parts and personal effects were still strewn across the crash site of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 15, a witness told Reuters, five days after the disaster and the day before recovery efforts were halted.

With the site now fenced off, bereaved families are worried the remains of their loved ones may be left at the scene, compounding their anguish.

Citizens of 35 nations were aboard when the Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet nosedived into a field on March 10 six minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people onboard.

Families of those who perished complain of a lack of information about recovery efforts, which saw Ethiopian workers using metal parts of the aircraft to dig in the soil.

Religions such as Islam and Judaism require quick burials, but authorities said last week that identifying remains – many burned or in small pieces – might take six months.

“At the beginning, (the Ethiopian authorities) should have blocked off that place and sent an organized team to search, instead of just leaving it open. I’m unhappy about that. It’s supposed to be easier if it’s in the government’s hands,” said Milka Yimam, a dual Ethiopia-Israeli citizen whose 26-year-old son Sidrak died.

Relatives of the victims who visited the site on Monday said it had been cordoned off and the ground leveled, apart from the impact crater. The dead included a grand-niece of consumer advocate and former U.S. presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

Excavation was halted last Saturday, ministry of transport spokesman Musie Yehyies told Reuters.

“Excavation has ended for the moment since we have got everything we think we need at the moment. The site has been enclosed and can be revisited,” he said on Friday.

Global attention has mostly shifted to an investigation into the cause of the disaster, and similarities with the crash of a Lion Air 737 MAX plane in Indonesia last October that killed 189 people. Pilots of both aircraft reported control problems and crashed minutes after take-off.

The world’s entire 737 MAX fleet was grounded after the Ethiopia crash, with Boeing losing about 12 percent – or $28 billion – of its market value since the disaster.

But as headlines focus on the investigation and its financial fallout, families fear the spotlight has shifted from recovery efforts.

DIPLOMATIC PRESSURE

Israelis whose bodies are not recovered are officially listed at home as “disappeared” rather than “dead” – a status that can cause complications for relatives in matters ranging from inheritance to remarrying.

Some Jewish traditions also require a piece of the body be buried before mourning can begin, with the soul not able to rest until then, giving the families’ quest an agonizing urgency.

So the Israeli embassy has been working hard to retrieve the remains of its two citizens who died in the crash, families told Reuters.

But it hasn’t been easy. After being bounced between various government ministries, the ambassador eventually wrote to the airline to get access to the crash site, a source familiar with matter said. He got no reply – until the Israeli prime minister intervened by phoning his Ethiopian counterpart.

The ambassador and representatives of Israeli volunteer rescue and recovery organization ZAKA were finally able to access the site last Friday. They have not been allowed back.

The embassy said on Thursday ZAKA had been told it could not return to retrieve remains due to a “procedural matter” and that Ethiopia did not want to grant access for other nations.

The Ethiopian ministries of transport and foreign affairs did not respond to a request for comment.

CONFUSION OVER PASSENGERS

An Interpol-led group of nations including Germany and Canada are supporting the DNA testing, three Addis Ababa-based diplomatic sources said. Ethiopia has also contracted British firm Blake Emergency Services to recover and return the remains. The firm did not respond to requests for comment.

Remains recovered so far have been bagged and stored in an out-of-the-way area of Addis Ababa’s Bole airport, in refrigeration units usually used to store roses destined for export, before being moved to the capital’s St. Paul’s Hospital, two sources told Reuters.

Halting excavations could complicate matters for many countries, some of which are still unsure how many of their citizens were lost.

Although 18 of the victims have been identified as Canadian, others had connections to Canada, meaning its embassy has been supporting more families, said Canada’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Antoine Chevrier. Some were also dual nationals.

Ethiopian Airlines has not published the full passenger list with names and dates of birth. It did not respond to questions over when the list might be published.

Until that is done, confusion remains over dual nationals, and the citizenship of seven people onboard the flight is still not public, diplomats told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Jason Neely in Addis Ababa and Katharine Houreld in Nairobi; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Mark Potter)

Source: OANN

Lauryn Overhultz | Columnist

Gayle King is about to sign a multi-million dollar deal to stay on as the host of “CBS This Morning.”

King currently makes $5.5 million a year in her current role at CBS, according to a Thursday report from Page Six. The morning show has seen a drop in ratings recently and needs King to keep the show alive an insider said.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter published March 1, King was asked if she was planning on staying at CBS after her contract ends this year. King responded, “Oh, that’s a good question. All I can say is, I really love my job. And I think it’s kind of foolish to predict the future.” (RELATED: Gayle King Reveals The Details About Her Interview With R. Kelly)

All other contract talks have been put on hold until King signs her contract to stay, according to an insider. King’s co-host Norah O’Donnell has been in negotiations to replace host Jeff Glor on “CBS Evening News,” but O’Donnell wants the show to be headquartered in Washington, D.C., instead of New York City.

“Everything has gone very quiet. Nothing will be done until Gayle has signed her contract. It looks like she’s staying, but we don’t know what the hold up is,” the insider told Page Six.

King recently increased ratings for the morning show with her explosive R. Kelly interview.

Source: The Daily Caller

Lauryn Overhultz | Columnist

Gayle King is about to sign a multi-million dollar deal to stay on as the host of “CBS This Morning.”

King currently makes $5.5 million a year in her current role at CBS, according to a Thursday report from Page Six. The morning show has seen a drop in ratings recently and needs King to keep the show alive an insider said.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter published March 1, King was asked if she was planning on staying at CBS after her contract ends this year. King responded, “Oh, that’s a good question. All I can say is, I really love my job. And I think it’s kind of foolish to predict the future.” (RELATED: Gayle King Reveals The Details About Her Interview With R. Kelly)

All other contract talks have been put on hold until King signs her contract to stay, according to an insider. King’s co-host Norah O’Donnell has been in negotiations to replace host Jeff Glor on “CBS Evening News,” but O’Donnell wants the show to be headquartered in Washington, D.C., instead of New York City.

“Everything has gone very quiet. Nothing will be done until Gayle has signed her contract. It looks like she’s staying, but we don’t know what the hold up is,” the insider told Page Six.

King recently increased ratings for the morning show with her explosive R. Kelly interview.

Source: The Daily Caller

Makeshift memorial at tram shooting site in Utrecht
FILE PHOTO: A makeshift memorial is seen at the site of a tram shooting in Utrecht, Netherlands March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

March 22, 2019

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – A Dutch judge on Friday extended for two weeks the detention of the suspect in a shooting that killed three people in the city of Utrecht this week.

Turkish-born Gokmen Tanis, 37, is accused of carrying out the shooting aboard a tram out of terrorist intent, while authorities are also investigating whether he had other personal motives.

Prosecutors a day earlier had said they believe Tanis had a radicalized ideology and that there was no evidence of any relationship between him and the victims.

Tanis, who has been convicted of illegal weapons possession, shop lifting and burglary in recent years and has to appear in court on rape charges in July, is believed to have acted alone.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte is expected to join a march through Utrecht on Friday evening, commemorating the 19-year old woman and the 28-year old and 49-year old men who were shot dead in the attack.

The Utrecht District Court said the judge had ruled that Tanis should be permitted to communicate only with a lawyer.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling and Bart Meijer; Editing by Peter Graff and Angus MacSwan)

Source: OANN

David Hookstead | Reporter

It sounds like Johnny Manziel’s time in the AAF is off to a solid start.

The former Montreal Alouettes quarterback signed with the Memphis Express after getting booted from the CFL, and could make his debut Sunday on the NFL Network. Before that can happen, Johnny Football has to knock off some of the “rust” since last playing. (RELATED: Johnny Manziel Signs With The Memphis Express In The AAF)

Manziel told the media the following, according to the Commerical Appeal’s Jason Munz Friday morning:

I got about 13 or 14 live reps, and I was just getting some of the rust out. In Canada, I didn’t get a chance to go under center and get back to inside zone, outside zone footwork and some of the things I worked on my two years playing pro ball prior. It’ll get smoother. It’ll get cleaner as the weeks go on, I have no doubt about that.

Munz also added that he’d be “shocked” if the Texas A&M Heisman legend didn’t take some snaps Sunday against the Birmingham Iron.

I like the sound of Manziel almost certainly playing this weekend. I’ll have a couple TVs on the March Madness games, and then one streaming the AAF showdown between the Express and Iron.

It’s about time that we saw the Heisman winner back in American football. It’s been way too long. Will he go out there and dominate? Who knows, but it sounds like he’s going to be ready to roll when his number is called.

Given all the negative stuff over the past few years, that’s a really good sign.

Tune in Sunday night on the NFL Network to see the Iron and Express play, and to see how many snaps Manziel gets.

Source: The Daily Caller

Voters are giving seemingly contradictory answers when asked about which characteristics they’re looking for in a candidate and which candidate they are currently leaning towards, FiveThirtyEight reports.

More than have of respondents to a Morning Consult poll of Democrats said they want a candidate that has decades of political experience, but almost the same amount want a candidate under 70, which FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich notes are “two characteristics that might be hard to find in a single candidate.”

One such candidate, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a 68-year-old former congressman, is trailing far behind less experienced candidates like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was first elected to public office in 2012, in another Morning Consult poll released this week.

Rakich also refers to a Pew Research Center poll from March 2015, which is as far out from the 2016 election as this month is from the 2020 election. In that poll, more than half of Republican and GOP-leaning voters said they wanted a candidate with experience and a proven record, and just over a third said they wanted a fresh approach. Six months later, and 65 percent wanted someone new with a different approach.

“In short, voters’ ideas of what they want may be theoretical,” he notes.

“Alternatively, voters’ interpretations of a candidate’s brand may be hard to pin down… If nothing else, this is yet another warning that commonly discussed ideological ‘lanes’ may not accurately reflect how voters approach the primary.”

Source: NewsMax

FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis holds weekly audience at the Vatican
FILE PHOTO: Pope Francis is seen during the weekly audience in Saint Peter’s Square, at the Vatican February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi/File Photo

March 22, 2019

By Ahmed Eljechtimi

RABAT (Reuters) – Moroccan converts to Christianity, a tiny minority in an overwhelmingly Muslim country, are looking to Pope Francis’ visit next week as an chance to press their demands for religious freedom.

Francis will spend two days in Rabat on his first trip to the North African country from March 30-31 – the first visit there by any pope in nearly 35 years.

He will spend time with Roman Catholics – most of them expatriate Europeans, mainly French, and sub-Saharan African migrants – who are free to worship in churches such as the capital’s art deco St. Peter’s Cathedral.

But unlike those “foreign Christians”, Moroccan converts say they are forced to worship at home, in secret. Conversion from Islam to Christianity is banned – as it is in many Muslim countries – and proselytizing is punishable by up to three years in prison.

One group backing them – the Moroccan Association for Religious Rights and Freedoms – has already written to the Vatican, raising its concerns, and it is planning a sit-in outside a church in Rabat on the eve of the visit.

“We want laws that protect religious minorities in the country on an equal footing,” the head of the association, Jawad El Hamidy, said.

“We will seize the pope’s visit to put more pressure on the state to protect religious freedoms.”

“NO DISCRIMINATION”

Morocco has marketed itself as an oasis of religious tolerance in a region torn by militancy – and has offered training to Muslim preachers from Africa and Europe on what it describes as moderate Islam.

Government spokesman Mustapha El Khalfi said the authorities did not violate religious freedoms. “There is no persecution in Morocco and there is no discrimination on the basis of faith,” he told reporters when asked about the accusations.

But converts point to the constitution, which formally recognizes the existence of Moroccan Muslims and Jews – but not of Moroccan Christians. They also point to their day-to-day experience.

“When I went to a church to declare my faith, I was told that I was prohibited to do so by Moroccan law,” said a 40-year-old Moroccan Christian who gave his name as Emmanuel and asked not be shown while filmed.

“We call on Moroccan authorities and the Holy Father to seize the opportunity offered by this papal visit to launch a sincere dialogue on religious freedom for Moroccan citizens,” the Coordination of Moroccan Christians, a local lobby group, said.

There are no official statistics, but leaders say there are about 50,000 Moroccan Christians, most of them from the Protestant Evangelical tradition – outnumbering the estimated 30,000 Roman Catholics in the country.

There was no immediate response from the Vatican to the Association’s letter. But the most senior Roman Catholic in Morocco – the Archbishop of Rabat, Cristobal Lopez Romero – offered his support.

“We as Catholic Christians appreciate that we fully enjoy the freedom of faith but we will be happier if the Moroccan people could also enjoy that,” the Spanish cleric told reporters.

“I would love to be able to become Moroccan without having to change my religion.”

(Editing by Ulf Laessing, Philip Pullella and Andrew Heavens)

Source: OANN

A relative of one of the victims who died after an overloaded ferry sank in Tigris river near Mosul, cries during his funeral at Mosul cemetery
A relative of one of the victims who died after an overloaded ferry sank in Tigris river near Mosul, cries during his funeral at Mosul cemetery, Iraq March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Ari Jalal

March 22, 2019

By Salih Elias and Jamal Badrani

MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) – Scores of angry protesters swarmed Iraq’s president and the governor of Mosul on Friday, forcing them to leave the site of a river ferry accident that killed at least 90 people in the northern city the day before.

The capsize of the boat, which was carrying families to a recreational spot on an island in the Tigris River, was the single most deadly incident in Mosul since the city was recaptured from Islamic State in a bloody and destructive conflict in 2017.

Since the Sunni Muslim extremists were driven from Mosul nearly two years ago, relief has given way to impatience over alleged corruption as reconstruction of the destroyed city has stalled.

“No to corruption … all of you are thieves,” demonstrators chanted at President Barham Salih and Nineveh province governor Nawfal Hammadi al-Sultan, who visited the site of the capsize early on Friday after nationwide mourning was declared.

Salih’s bodyguards rushed him back to his vehicle, which quickly drove off, a Reuters reporter said. The crowd then threw stones and shoes at Sultan’s car, which sped off hitting two people, one of whom was taken to hospital, the reporter said.

Protesters blamed negligence by the local government for the accident, where the boat was loaded to five times its capacity, according to a local official. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Thursday those responsible would be held accountable. Five ferry workers were arrested.

For the people of Mosul, visits by politicians and days of mourning are not enough.

“Corruption and mismanagement are the reason for what happened. These were families trying to have fun, and they ended up bodies in the river,” said Mohammed Thannon, a student who was among the protesters.

“We reject visits by officials. They’re weak and corrupted and have failed to improve Mosul since the nightmare of Daesh (Islamic State),” he said.

Younes Abdullah, a 35-year-old civil servant, said: “We need action not words. Those who caused the tragedy must be brought before justice and executed.”

Medical sources raised the death toll from Thursday’s capsize to at least 90 people as rescue teams continued to search for the drowned and missing.

GROWING UNREST

Islamic State made Mosul its de-facto capital from 2014 to 2017 after taking over swathes of Iraq and Syria. The battle to dislodge the group killed thousands of people and destroyed large parts of the city.

Many in Mosul feel neglected by the Baghdad central government. Families have begun to rebuild their own homes, impatient with waiting for help to come and accusing officials including the governor of corruption. He rejects the allegations.

Some fear that the slow pace of restoration is creating an environment that extremists like Islamic State might once again exploit. Mosul was a key support base for jihadists including al Qaeda after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein. The rise of IS was helped by feelings among Sunni communities that they were being marginalized by the Shi’ite-dominated Baghdad government.

Mosul residents’ feeling of neglect by Baghdad and corruption among local officials is shared with other poorer provinces in Iraq, including Shi’ite-majority Basra, where riots over power, water and jobs last year turned deadly.

Dozens of people waited outside the local morgue in Mosul on Friday to hear if their missing relatives were among those who drowned.

“I have hope” that they are alive, said Ahmed Abid, waiting for news of his two younger brothers.

(Writing by John Davison and Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Source: OANN

William Davis | Contributor

The NCAA tournament is officially underway, and it has been a blast so far.

Brackets have been busted, beers have been crushed, and hearts have been broken. And we’re only one day in. Here are the best moments from the first day of the NCAA Tournament:

New Mexico State just missed on a popular upset pick due to a puzzling decision.

Bruce Pearl and Auburn exhale:

Ja Morant is an absolute superstar, and Murray State is for real.

Belmont had a shot at the upset, but couldn’t quite make the pass.

LSU survives without Will Wade. Watch out for Tremont Waters and the Tigers.

Florida capped off a perfect 4-0 day for the SEC, with an upset of Nevada.

The second day of the NCAA tournament gets underway when Iowa takes on Cincinnati at 12:15 p.m. EST on CBS.

How is your bracket looking so far? Sound off in the comments.

Follow William Davis on Twitter

Source: The Daily Caller

European Union leaders summit in Brussels
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron speak during a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

March 22, 2019

By Richard Lough

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – France said on Friday that Britain would crash out of the European Union on April 12 if it fails to ratify the Brexit withdrawal agreement and present a new plan, putting it at odds with other member states which adopted a softer stance.

President Emmanuel Macron has been the most forthright among EU leaders in wanting to draw a line under Britain’s Brexit crisis quickly to refocus on pushing forward the bloc’s agenda. Some, including Germany, have instead stressed the need to make every effort to ensure a chaotic exit is avoided.

A day after EU leaders in Brussels handed Britain a final chance to leave the bloc in an orderly fashion, disagreement broke out over the definitive deadline.

Under Thursday’s deal, May 22 will be the departure date if the British parliament finally approves next week Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement after twice resoundingly rejecting it. If it does not, Britain must present a new plan by April 12 or leave the EU without a treaty.

An official in Macron’s office said there would be no further extensions, even to implement the exit: “No, April 12 is the leave date.” European Commission officials said that April 12 was “the new March 29th” — the previous exit date.

Others said the summit conclusions were not so clear-cut.

“If there is no indication that they are going to run European elections… there is no ability to extend further,” Irish European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee said. “But at the same time, it doesn’t mean that on April 12 that is the end date.”

“It means that they have to give a timeline for what it is that they are doing or set out exactly what it is that they have planned. It takes away the possibility of a cliff-edge in 24 hours.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the legal deadline, assuming Britain does not participate in the May 23-26 European Parliament elections, was June 30 – the date the British prime minister had originally sought an extension until.

A senior EU diplomat echoed the view that there could be wriggle-room for further delays.

“My reading is rather in the direction that April 12 is the new March 29,” the diplomat said. “The door is left open for another extension.”

(Reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey, Richard Lough and Gabriela Baczynska; Writing by Richard Lough, editing by Thomas Escritt and Gareth Jones)

Source: OANN

An existing home for sale is seen in Silver Spring Maryland
FILE PHOTO: An existing home for sale is seen in Silver Spring, Maryland February 21, 2014. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

March 22, 2019

By Jason Lange

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. home sales surged in February to their highest level in 11 months, a sign that a pause in interest hikes by the Federal Reserve was starting to boost the U.S. economy.

The National Association of Realtors said on Friday existing home sales jumped 11.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.51 million units last month.

That was the highest level since March 2018 and well above analysts’ expectations of a rate of 5.1 million units. The one-month percentage change was the highest since December 2015. January’s sales pace was revised slightly lower.

February’s surge came as mortgage rates fell following signals from the Federal Reserve that it was no longer eyeing rate hikes. Several years of rising rates had put a brake on parts of the U.S. housing market in 2018, and the number of sales in February was still 1.8 percent lower than a year ago.

The U.S. housing market has also been held back by land and labor shortages, which have led to tight inventory and more expensive homes.

The median existing house price increased 3.6 percent from a year ago to $249,500 in February.

Existing home sales rose in three of the country’s four major regions and were unchanged in the Northeast.

There were 1.63 million previously owned homes on the market in February, up from 1.59 million in January.

At February’s sales pace, it would take 3.5 months to exhaust the current inventory, down from 3.9 months in January. A supply of six to seven months is viewed as a healthy balance between supply and demand.

(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

Source: OANN

People walk through the Canary Wharf financial district of London
FILE PHOTO: People walk through the Canary Wharf financial district of London, Britain, December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

March 22, 2019

By William Schomberg

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s economy has struggled beneath the weight of Brexit uncertainty for nearly three years, but many business leaders would probably be relieved just to have more of the same for the next few months.

The risk of a damaging no-deal exit by the world’s fifth-biggest economy from the European Union on March 29 has been averted by the reprieve granted to Prime Minister Theresa May by other EU leaders on Thursday.

But the possibility could return as soon as April 12. Or the delay could stretch into May or beyond, depending on the prime minister’s ability to break the Brexit impasse in parliament.

Employers took some comfort from the postponement, even if it did little to settle the wide range of Brexit outcomes that has led to many of them putting their expansion plans on hold.

“Businesses will accept a short extension because it’s a better alternative to no deal,” Seamus Nevin, chief economist at Make UK, an engineering trade group, said.

“But we really need to make decisions soon. Prolonged uncertainty just means the investment decline of recent months will continue and companies will be forced to decide whether to move production elsewhere.”

Carmakers have reduced expansion plans in Britain and many financial firms have set up operations in other EU countries.

Overall business investment fell throughout 2018, the longest such run since the global financial crisis, and another fall is expected in 2019, threatening to worsen the country’s weak productivity growth.

Britain’s economy lost momentum after the 2016 referendum decision to leave the EU.

The slowdown deepened last year as the Brexit deadline approached, with no guarantee of a transition to smooth the shock, but also reflecting the weakening of the world economy.

While Britain would bear the brunt of a no-deal Brexit hit, U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has said it is a risk for the slowing U.S. economy, along with Washington’s trade war with China.

The shock would also be felt in Europe where Britain’s closest trading partners are struggling.

“It would be a material shock for the EU at a difficult time,” Brian Coulton, chief economist at ratings agency Fitch Ratings, said. “Among the things that could tip the euro zone into a recession, it might be a candidate.”

“NATIONAL EMERGENCY”

Even the strongest Brexit supporters say a no-deal divorce would deliver a shock. But they believe the economy would adjust and flourish once it is free of the constraints of EU rules and can strike its own trade deals around the world.

Gerard Lyons, a pro-Brexit economist, said weak business investment was a long-standing British problem, not just a Brexit one, and he pointed to strong jobs growth and tax revenues as a sign of underlying resilience in the economy.

While his preferred option was for Britain to leave EU with a transition and then hammer out a trade deal, he said a no-deal Brexit would not be a disaster because progress has been made to prepare Britain’s finance industry, ports and logistics.

“It’s like a kick in the groin. It depends how hard the other side wants to kick you, and how well you maneuver yourself,” Lyons said.

The Bank of England said on Thursday that about 80 percent of almost 300 companies it surveyed felt they were as ready as they could be for a no-deal, no-transition Brexit, up from 50 percent in January.

The BoE has said a worst-case no-deal Brexit scenario — in which Britain loses the confidence of global investors and chaos hits transport and ports — could mean that the economy is 5 percent smaller in three years’ time than if the country stayed in the EU.

A more managed no-deal Brexit could reduce the hit to about 2.5 percent, still a material hit at a time when the economy is struggling to grow by more than 1.5 percent a year.

Most economists say the higher the barriers for British firms to do business in the EU, the bigger the drag will be on economic growth stretching out into the decades ahead.

Any gains from free trade deals with countries such as China or the United States would be “relatively modest”, Britain’s independent budget forecasters have said.

It is small wonder therefore that many employers are hoping for a change of the Brexit plan, even if it means yet more sapping uncertainty.

“Our country is facing a national emergency,” the Confederation of British Industry, a major employers group, and the Trades Union Congress umbrella group said on Thursday in a rare joint letter to May, urging her to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

“The shock to our economy would be felt by generations to come.”

(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Toby Chopra)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Rahul Gandhi, President of India's main opposition Congress party, addresses his party's supporters during a public meeting in Gandhinagar
FILE PHOTO: Rahul Gandhi, President of India’s main opposition Congress party, addresses his party’s supporters during a public meeting in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India, March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo

March 22, 2019

By Sanjeev Miglani

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s Congress party is struggling to forge an opposition alliance to fight a looming election having been rebuffed in the biggest state, Uttar Pradesh, regional party officials say, improving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chances of a second term.

Voting begins on April 11 and will be spread over several phases until May 19 to cover the country involving more than 900 million voters, and the count will be made on May 23.

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has been seeking an grand alliance with smaller regional parties for months to prevent a split that would make it easier for Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to come out on top.

Officials in regional parties and analysts said Gandhi’s strategy has been undermined by Congress leaders’ unwillingness to compromise or play second fiddle to regional politicians, some of whom have vaulting ambitions.

Mayawati, the powerful leader of a party championing the cause of the lowest in the Hindu caste hierarchy in the battleground state of Uttar Pradesh, said earlier this week that she won’t tie up with Congress.

Her Bahujan Samaj Party, which possesses a large vote bank in the state, has struck a deal to put up joint candidates with another regional party representing Muslims as well as other lower Hindu castes, she said in a tweet, predicting her alliance would win a majority of the parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh.

“BSP once again wants to make it very clear that in Uttar Pradesh and in the country as a whole we are not in any form of alliance or agreement with Congress,” Mayawati said.

A BSP official said that Congress had wanted to run in far too many seats rather than give way to regional parties even though its victory was not assured in those seats.

Gandhi had more success alliance building in the large eastern state of Bihar.

Congress has agreed to run in nine seats out of the 40 at stake in the state, leaving 20 to the regional ally and the rest to be allotted among still smaller parties.

“In Bihar, this is an alliance to save the constitution, if we are not together, we will lose,” said Manoj Jha, leader of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, a party that has helped put together the alliance.

In January, 23 regional groups had held a rally in the eastern city of Kolkata vowing a common platform to fight against Modi, blaming him for creating a climate of fear among India’s minority Muslims. Gandhi also promised his support.

Some Congress leaders have argued that the grand old party that led India for most of the first five decades since independence in 1947 needs to stand alone for its long term revival, rather than depend on regional partners’ support.

Congress suffered its worst showing in the 2014 election when Modi stormed to power with a commanding majority. And opinion polls show that while the BJP has lost ground since then, it is still the frontrunner in the coming election.

Political commentators said failure to stitch together an opposition alliance would help Modi’s BJP win a second term to pursue a Hindu-first agenda that undermines the secular foundations of India’s constitution.

“The 2019 battle is not to save Gandhi family or Congress party, the battle is to save India and its future,” said Shahid Siddique, editor of Nai Dunya, a Urdu language weekly newspaper.

(Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Rahul Gandhi, President of India's main opposition Congress party, addresses his party's supporters during a public meeting in Gandhinagar
FILE PHOTO: Rahul Gandhi, President of India’s main opposition Congress party, addresses his party’s supporters during a public meeting in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India, March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo

March 22, 2019

By Sanjeev Miglani

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s Congress party is struggling to forge an opposition alliance to fight a looming election having been rebuffed in the biggest state, Uttar Pradesh, regional party officials say, improving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chances of a second term.

Voting begins on April 11 and will be spread over several phases until May 19 to cover the country involving more than 900 million voters, and the count will be made on May 23.

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has been seeking an grand alliance with smaller regional parties for months to prevent a split that would make it easier for Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to come out on top.

Officials in regional parties and analysts said Gandhi’s strategy has been undermined by Congress leaders’ unwillingness to compromise or play second fiddle to regional politicians, some of whom have vaulting ambitions.

Mayawati, the powerful leader of a party championing the cause of the lowest in the Hindu caste hierarchy in the battleground state of Uttar Pradesh, said earlier this week that she won’t tie up with Congress.

Her Bahujan Samaj Party, which possesses a large vote bank in the state, has struck a deal to put up joint candidates with another regional party representing Muslims as well as other lower Hindu castes, she said in a tweet, predicting her alliance would win a majority of the parliamentary seats in Uttar Pradesh.

“BSP once again wants to make it very clear that in Uttar Pradesh and in the country as a whole we are not in any form of alliance or agreement with Congress,” Mayawati said.

A BSP official said that Congress had wanted to run in far too many seats rather than give way to regional parties even though its victory was not assured in those seats.

Gandhi had more success alliance building in the large eastern state of Bihar.

Congress has agreed to run in nine seats out of the 40 at stake in the state, leaving 20 to the regional ally and the rest to be allotted among still smaller parties.

“In Bihar, this is an alliance to save the constitution, if we are not together, we will lose,” said Manoj Jha, leader of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, a party that has helped put together the alliance.

In January, 23 regional groups had held a rally in the eastern city of Kolkata vowing a common platform to fight against Modi, blaming him for creating a climate of fear among India’s minority Muslims. Gandhi also promised his support.

Some Congress leaders have argued that the grand old party that led India for most of the first five decades since independence in 1947 needs to stand alone for its long term revival, rather than depend on regional partners’ support.

Congress suffered its worst showing in the 2014 election when Modi stormed to power with a commanding majority. And opinion polls show that while the BJP has lost ground since then, it is still the frontrunner in the coming election.

Political commentators said failure to stitch together an opposition alliance would help Modi’s BJP win a second term to pursue a Hindu-first agenda that undermines the secular foundations of India’s constitution.

“The 2019 battle is not to save Gandhi family or Congress party, the battle is to save India and its future,” said Shahid Siddique, editor of Nai Dunya, a Urdu language weekly newspaper.

(Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Source: OANN

Shaquille O'Neal laughs as he announces his retirement from NBA at a news conference in Windermere
FILE PHOTO: Shaquille O’Neal laughs while telling a story during his announcement of his retirement from the National Basketball Association (NBA) at a news conference at his home in Windermere, Florida June 3, 2011. REUTERS/Scott Audette

March 22, 2019

(Reuters) – Pizza chain Papa John’s, trying to bounce back from a series of high-profile PR blunders, on Friday named basketball star Shaquille O’Neal as its newest board member and announced an $8.25 million three-year endorsement deal with the four-time NBA champion.

The company’s shares rose nearly 6 percent in morning trade.

O’Neal will also be an investor in nine Papa John’s restaurants in Atlanta, the company said. He currently owns a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts franchise in Atlanta and previously owned 27 Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchises.

“This is a triple threat opportunity for me. I am excited to join the Board and to help lead from the top, while also investing in nine stores in my home town of Atlanta and being an ambassador for the brand,” O’Neal said in a statement.

Papa John’s has been trying to fend off rivals such as Dominos Pizza Inc and Yum Brands Inc’s Pizza Hut. Its sales have taken a hit following a public battle with its founder John Schnatter for control of the company.

O’Neal’s investment shows that the company is making swift progress in cleaning up its image after the Schnatter battle that saw the company lose its National Football League sponsorship deal and reportedly led NFL star Peyton Manning to sell his stake in 31 Papa John’s franchises last year.

Including O’Neal, six new directors have been added to the 12-member board so far this year. This includes board chairman and independent director Jeff Smith, the chief executive officer of Starboard Value LP.

Schnatter was booted as chairman last July following reports he had used a racial slur on a media training conference call, and to counter the bad publicity, the company revamped its advertising, removed Schnatter as the brand’s spokesperson and from its marketing materials and pizza boxes.

In March, the company said Schnatter was leaving the board as part of a settlement resolving the bitter dispute and would find a mutually acceptable independent director who would not be affiliated with Schnatter or hedge fund investor Starboard, which owns a nearly 10 percent stake in the restaurant chain.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

Source: OANN

EU centre-right lead candidate Weber poses during an interview with Reuters in Brussels
Manfred Weber, the centre-right European People’s Party’s lead candidate in the European Parliament elections, poses during an interview with Reuters in Brussels, Belgium, March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

March 22, 2019

By Alastair Macdonald

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Europeans don’t want Britons to vote in May’s EU parliamentary election, the lead candidate for the center-right said on Friday, in part because Nigel Farage and other British euroskeptics would disrupt the Union.

Speaking to Reuters after EU leaders agreed with Prime Minister Theresa May that Britain would elect its own members to a new European Parliament if it has not left before the May 23-26 vote, Manfred Weber of the European People’s Party (EPP) said the summit had provided needed clarity on Brexit.

Leaders hardened their insistence that Britain should be out of the European Union before the election, so as to avoid casting doubt on the EU legislature’s legitimacy.

Weber, who leads the EPP in the chamber and is campaigning to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as EU chief executive, said he was concerned, however, that if Britain took up the leaders’ offer to rethink its Brexit plan, stay until next year and send its own MEPs to the EU parliament, that would spell trouble.

“A possible participation of Great Britain in the EU elections can lead to a big success for the anti-elite parties in Great Britain. So that is my worry,” the German lawmaker said. “When Nigel Farage is back with a lot of MEPs in the EU parliament, that will create big problems for all of us.”

As leader of the UK Independence Party, Farage was a major voice in the campaign for the 2016 referendum that saw Britons vote 52-48 percent to leave. With Brexit still in doubt, he has said he will lead a new party to press for it, and would seek re-election to the European Parliament if Britons end up voting.

Farage and Weber have often clashed verbally on the floor of the chamber in Strasbourg. The EPP leader denied, however, that his party was particularly opposed to Britain returning MEPs because it would also benefit their center-left opponents. May’s Conservative Party quit the EPP a decade ago, meaning British EU elections always leave the center-right bloc empty-handed.

“It’s not about party politics,” Weber said. “It’s about how to manage the situation.

“I cannot explain to anyone in Europe … that a country which is leaving the EU has a big say in the future of the European Union. That is not understandable for people.”

Opinion polls indicate that, even without British votes, euroskeptic parties could increase their share of seats to 14 percent from 10 percent, potentially giving them a greater opportunity to disrupt efforts by the larger groupings in the pro-EU center to promote policies on European integration.

(Additional reporting by Clare Roth; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Source: OANN

Urquhart Castle stands on the banks of Loch Ness near Inverness, Scotland
Urquhart Castle stands on the banks of Loch Ness near Inverness, Scotland, Britain March 8, 2019. Picture taken March 8, 2019. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne

March 22, 2019

By Elisabeth O’Leary

INVERNESS, Scotland (Reuters) – Glen Mhor Hotel, a picturesque base for tourists hunting Scotland’s Loch Ness monster, is struggling to find staff for the summer season as workers from the European Union snub Brexit Britain.

While Prime Minister Theresa May battles to win support for her plans to leave the EU, a shortage of migrant workers from the bloc is already threatening Scotland’s economy and upsetting its politics.

Migration is a major source of irritation between London and Edinburgh. It is also one reason behind a new drive for Scottish independence from Britain.

EU migrants account for half the hospitality workforce in the city of Inverness, a hub for the Highlands tourist region popular with golfing Americans and whisky-sipping Europeans.

But local cleaning and cooking staff for the 75-room Glen Mhor are proving hard to find. Unemployment in Inverness stands at 3 percent compared with 4.2 percent in Britain as a whole.

With Brexit looming, the Victorian hotel’s manager, Frenchman Emmanuel Moine, is struggling to recruit.

“Last year I advertised for a chef de partie in a specialist French hospitality newspaper and I got 50 resumes in a few days,” Moine said, in an elegant hotel lounge overlooking the River Ness. “I didn’t get one from the UK.”

Potential staff from the EU are put off by the prospect of tougher immigration rules and a weaker pound reducing the amount of money they can send home in euros.

Sparsely populated Scotland is aging rapidly so labor shortages affect its economy more than the rest of Britain. Stemming the inflow of EU workers, as May’s government plans, will be “catastrophic”, Edinburgh says.

“Severe restrictions on immigration pose a genuine risk to the long-term health of our economy and our society,” Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says.

Home to just 5 million of Britain’s 66 million people, Scotland’s vote to remain in the EU was outweighed by the rest of the country.

Scotland’s working age population will only remain stable over the next 25 years if current migration rates persist, a University of Edinburgh study said. Migrants’ taxes and economic activity help to fund public services in areas where the population is falling.

The Scottish Fiscal Commission projected that if the UK government met its target of reducing net migration to the “tens of thousands”, the Scottish economy would shrink by around one fifth more than the rest of the UK by 2040.

Moine, Glen Mhor’s manager, says the Brexit vote had a “brutal, immediate” impact on his attempt to recruit up to 90 workers needed in the summer. He now pays his cooks 15 percent more than in 2016, the year Britain voted for Brexit.

In Britain as a whole 37 percent of workers in hospitality are non-British EU nationals, the Federation of Small Businesses says. In Scotland that number is 45 percent, and in the Highlands local hoteliers say it is about 50 percent.

SEA CHANGE

In densely populated England, many people voted for Brexit because of fears about migration. But in Scotland foreign workers help offset a birthrate at a 150-year low and keep the rural areas economically viable.

Scots rejected independence by a 10 point margin in a 2014 referendum. But many of Sturgeon’s supporters say plans to end free movement of EU citizens as part of Brexit amount to a huge change in Scotland’s circumstances that necessitates another independence vote.

Thousands of volunteers are planning a door-to-door campaign in support of independence. They hope to win over EU nationals living in Scotland who mostly rejected independence in 2014.

“We’re quite confident it will be the opposite next time around and we’ll get a pretty solid majority of EU nationals,” said Ross Greer, a pro-independence Scottish Greens lawmaker, who is involved in the campaign.

EU migration to Britain has fallen since June 2016, and net migration of EU citizens in the country fell to its lowest since 2009 in the year to September. The Scottish government estimates EU nationals in Scotland have fallen 5 percent to 223,000.

Meanwhile some workers at Glen Mhor are waiting see what Brexit actually means for them.

“This is good place to work, money is good and you can live well on the minimum. After Brexit, I don’t know what to tell you,” says Marta Ofiarska, a 41-year-old housekeeper at Glen Mhor who has been in Scotland for 13 years.

But her 21-year-old daughter went back to Poland after the 2016 Brexit vote and at least 20 of her Polish friends have left Scotland since then.

(Reporting by Elisabeth O’Leary; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Source: OANN

Saagar Enjeti | White House Correspondent

President Donald Trump revealed who he would like to run against in the 2020 presidential election, in a Friday morning interview on the Fox Business Network.

“I mean, I’d love to have Biden. I’d love to have Bernie, I’d love to have Beto. I mean, Beto seems to be the one the press has chosen. The press seems to have chosen Beto,” Trump said, adding that he believes Democrats are “saying a lot of weird things.”

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 12: Former U.S. Vice president Joe Biden speaks at the International Association of Fire Fighters legislative conference March 12, 2019 in Washington, DC. The conference addresses issues including firefighter mental health, funding the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund and collective bargaining. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 12: Former U.S. Vice president Joe Biden speaks at the International Association of Fire Fighters legislative conference March 12, 2019 in Washington, DC. The conference addresses issues including firefighter mental health, funding the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund and collective bargaining. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Trump focused much of his attention on Congressman Beto O’Rourke when asked about whether the election is a referendum on socialism vs. capitalism, saying:

When I watch Beto, I say we could dream about that. But whatever it is — no, I think it’s competence. I think it’s somebody — look. When I first ran, I was never a politician — I ran, I ran on a certain platform. I’ve done far more than I said I was going to do. When you look at the tax cuts, when you look at the regulation cuts — more than any other president, when you look at all — and it’s the biggest tax cut.

AUSTIN, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 04: U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) addresses a campaign rally at the Pan American Neighborhood Park November 04, 2018 in Austin, Texas. As Election Day approaches polls have shown the gap narrow between O’Rourke his opponent, incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Trump’s nonchalant attitude comes during the early days of the Democratic primary to see who will face off against him in the 2020 presidential election. Trump has generally pursued a policy of non-intervention in the primary, occasionally weighing in when asked about specific policy issues, but noting consistently that he does not see any candidate who he believes will beat him. (RELATED: WITNESS: Beto Tried To Flee Drunk Driving Scene After Causing High Speed Crash)

Trump said during the interview in particular that he did not want to speak too critically of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocascio-Cortez’s proposed Green New Deal, saying, “you look at this Green New Deal. It’s the most preposterous thing. Now I don’t want to knock it too much right now, because I — I really hope they keep going forward with it.  You know, frankly, because I think it’s going to be very easy to beat.”

Source: The Daily Caller

Nike shoes are seen on display in New York
FILE PHOTO: Nike shoes are seen on display in New York, U.S., March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

March 22, 2019

By Nivedita Balu

(Reuters) – Shares of Nike Inc fell 4 percent on Friday after the sportswear maker’s North America sales fell short of estimates for the first time in a year, but Wall Street analysts seemed more enthused about its new products and online growth.

The company faced intense pressure from European rivals Adidas and Puma a year ago, but has managed to win back market share with new launches of its popular Air Max and Jordan sneakers, increased focus on women’s wear and higher investment in online business.

“The athletic footwear cycle and brand power are solid. Nike’s business is strengthening in North America, and we expect the company to continue to recapture the share it has lost to Adidas,” said Jefferies analyst, adding that the stock might be slightly down given “high expectations”.

The company on Thursday blamed delay in new launches for a slowdown in apparel sales in North America during the quarter, which was marked by an outcry on social media after a Nike sneaker worn by Duke University basketball star Zion Williamson ripped open during a high-profile game.

Still, the stock continues to be one of Wall Street’s favorites. Out of 34 brokerages covering the stock, 25 analysts rate it ‘buy’ or higher and only one analyst has a sell rating on the stock.

Nike’s shares trade at 28.6 times the company’s 12-month forward earnings, compared with rival Adidas’ 21.5 times and Under Armour’s 59.5 times, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Just two brokerages – Credit Suisse and UBS – lowered their target on the stock. Credit Suisse cut its price by $3 to $97, still well above the median price target of $92.5.

Nike’s online business, which includes sales from the SNKRS and Nike apps, was the main profit driver in the reported quarter. Revenue from that business rose 36 percent in the quarter.

While most analysts were enthusiastic about the results, some said higher expenses as the only dark spot in an otherwise strong report.

Jefferies analyst Randal Konik flagged a rise in selling, general and administrative expenses due to wage-related expenses.

(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Writing by Sweta Singh; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

Source: OANN

Nike shoes are seen on display in New York
FILE PHOTO: Nike shoes are seen on display in New York, U.S., March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

March 22, 2019

By Nivedita Balu

(Reuters) – Shares of Nike Inc fell 4 percent on Friday after the sportswear maker’s North America sales fell short of estimates for the first time in a year, but Wall Street analysts seemed more enthused about its new products and online growth.

The company faced intense pressure from European rivals Adidas and Puma a year ago, but has managed to win back market share with new launches of its popular Air Max and Jordan sneakers, increased focus on women’s wear and higher investment in online business.

“The athletic footwear cycle and brand power are solid. Nike’s business is strengthening in North America, and we expect the company to continue to recapture the share it has lost to Adidas,” said Jefferies analyst, adding that the stock might be slightly down given “high expectations”.

The company on Thursday blamed delay in new launches for a slowdown in apparel sales in North America during the quarter, which was marked by an outcry on social media after a Nike sneaker worn by Duke University basketball star Zion Williamson ripped open during a high-profile game.

Still, the stock continues to be one of Wall Street’s favorites. Out of 34 brokerages covering the stock, 25 analysts rate it ‘buy’ or higher and only one analyst has a sell rating on the stock.

Nike’s shares trade at 28.6 times the company’s 12-month forward earnings, compared with rival Adidas’ 21.5 times and Under Armour’s 59.5 times, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Just two brokerages – Credit Suisse and UBS – lowered their target on the stock. Credit Suisse cut its price by $3 to $97, still well above the median price target of $92.5.

Nike’s online business, which includes sales from the SNKRS and Nike apps, was the main profit driver in the reported quarter. Revenue from that business rose 36 percent in the quarter.

While most analysts were enthusiastic about the results, some said higher expenses as the only dark spot in an otherwise strong report.

Jefferies analyst Randal Konik flagged a rise in selling, general and administrative expenses due to wage-related expenses.

(Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Writing by Sweta Singh; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

Source: OANN

Chris White | Energy Reporter

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg poked fun at Democrats running for office Thursday night while explaining his reason for not jumping into a crowded presidential race.

One of the prerequisites for running in 2020 is the need to go on an apology tour, Bloomberg said during a Bermuda Executive Forum in New York. The billionaire businessman gave former Vice President Joe Biden and Former Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke as examples of politicians willing to prostrate themselves.

“Joe Biden went out and apologized for being male, over 50, white, and he apologized for the one good piece of legislation that is an anti-crime bill,” Bloomberg said, referring to a crime bill Biden helped pass in the 1990s. He then turned his fire on O’Rourke, who the former mayor described as too wet behind the ears.

“Beto, whatever his name is. He’s apologized for being born,” Bloomberg said to laughs from the audience. He also cited his age, 77, as the primary reason for not announcing a White House bid despite flirting for months with the idea. (RELATED: Michael Bloomberg Plans To Run For 2020 Democratic Nomination)

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and former U.S. Representative Beto O'Rourke speaks during a campaign stop at Consuelo's Taqueria in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke speaks during a campaign stop at Consuelo’s Taqueria in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Bloomberg previously considered running for president in 2016 as an Independent but ultimately decided to endorse and campaign for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. He is committed to spending $500 million this election year to defeat President Donald Trump, despite passing on a presidential run.

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

PM (Taoiseach) of Ireland Varadkar waits for President of European Council Tusk in Dublin
FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister (Taoiseach) of Ireland Leo Varadkar waits to meet with President of the European Council Donald Tusk in Dublin, Ireland March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

March 22, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar issued a tongue-in-cheek reminder on Friday that European Union and non-EU countries – which neighbouring Britain is due to become – can share land borders without needing border patrol infrastructure and customs checks.

Varadkar tweeted from Brussels on the 25th anniversary of the European Economic Area that he had enjoyed meeting his counterparts from EEA members Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, who participate in the EU’s single market without being members.

“Good to meet up with the Norwegian, Icelandic and Liechtenstein PMs. All in the single market for 25 years but not in the EU,” he wrote.

“Sensible solutions are possible once red lines don’t restrict them,” he added, as he joined a drone-shot aerial photo of EU and EEA leaders in the European Council’s cavernous atrium.

Ireland, the only country that shares a land border with Britain, fears that allowing the return of border infrastructure between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland could rekindle the violence over the province’s status that marked much of the 20th century.

But British Prime Minister Theresa May’s self-declared red line that free movement between Britain and the European Union must end has become the biggest sticking point in talks over Britain’s exit from the EU. It has led to the development of the customs union “backstop” that has triggered the ire of so many of her parliamentarians.

Asked if Britain should join the EEA, Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir acknowledged this, saying: “I don’t know if our circumstances are fitting for the UK.

“We are members of the four freedoms: freedom of people, movement, services and all that, so I don’t know if that is the right solution for the UK,” she added.

Her Norwegian counterpart Erna Solberg declined to discuss May’s conundrum but praised the benefits to Norway of the freedom of movement that May opposes.

“For a long time for Norway, freedom of movement was a benefit, because in a period where we had economic growth when others had a slowdown … we benefited from the influx of labour so that our economy wasn’t overheated,” she said.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

PM (Taoiseach) of Ireland Varadkar waits for President of European Council Tusk in Dublin
FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister (Taoiseach) of Ireland Leo Varadkar waits to meet with President of the European Council Donald Tusk in Dublin, Ireland March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

March 22, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar issued a tongue-in-cheek reminder on Friday that European Union and non-EU countries – which neighbouring Britain is due to become – can share land borders without needing border patrol infrastructure and customs checks.

Varadkar tweeted from Brussels on the 25th anniversary of the European Economic Area that he had enjoyed meeting his counterparts from EEA members Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, who participate in the EU’s single market without being members.

“Good to meet up with the Norwegian, Icelandic and Liechtenstein PMs. All in the single market for 25 years but not in the EU,” he wrote.

“Sensible solutions are possible once red lines don’t restrict them,” he added, as he joined a drone-shot aerial photo of EU and EEA leaders in the European Council’s cavernous atrium.

Ireland, the only country that shares a land border with Britain, fears that allowing the return of border infrastructure between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland could rekindle the violence over the province’s status that marked much of the 20th century.

But British Prime Minister Theresa May’s self-declared red line that free movement between Britain and the European Union must end has become the biggest sticking point in talks over Britain’s exit from the EU. It has led to the development of the customs union “backstop” that has triggered the ire of so many of her parliamentarians.

Asked if Britain should join the EEA, Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir acknowledged this, saying: “I don’t know if our circumstances are fitting for the UK.

“We are members of the four freedoms: freedom of people, movement, services and all that, so I don’t know if that is the right solution for the UK,” she added.

Her Norwegian counterpart Erna Solberg declined to discuss May’s conundrum but praised the benefits to Norway of the freedom of movement that May opposes.

“For a long time for Norway, freedom of movement was a benefit, because in a period where we had economic growth when others had a slowdown … we benefited from the influx of labour so that our economy wasn’t overheated,” she said.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

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

March 22, 2019

By Steve Holland

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

“Let it come out, let people see it, that’s up to the attorney general … and we’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

“We’ll see if it’s fair,” he added.

Mueller is preparing to submit a report to U.S. Attorney General William Barr on his findings, including Russia’s role in the election and whether Trump unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe. Trump has denied collusion and obstruction. Russia has denied interfering in the election.

Barr already is coming under pressure from lawmakers to make the entire document public quickly, though he has wide latitude in what to release.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 420-0 last week on a non-binding resolution calling for Mueller’s report to be released both to Congress and to the public, but it is not clear how the measure will fare in the Senate.

Asked if the public should be allowed to see the report, Trump said: “I don’t mind.” He said he had no idea when it would be released.

As he has before, Trump questioned the legitimacy of Mueller’s investigation.

“I had the greatest electoral victory – one of them – in the history of our country, tremendous success, tens of millions of voters and now somebody’s going to write a report who never got a vote,” he said.

Mueller was appointed to handle the Russia investigation in May 2017 after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, who had been overseeing the effort. Mueller has previously held several senior positions in the Justice Department, including FBI Director.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; writing by David Alexander and Andy Sullivan; editing by Tim Ahmann and Jonathan Oatis)

Source: OANN

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, in Beirut March 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young/Pool

March 22, 2019

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s parliament speaker told visiting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday that U.S. sanctions on the Hezbollah group were having a “negative impact on Lebanon and the Lebanese”.

U.S. efforts to put pressure on the heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah are high on the agenda for Pompeo as he meets Lebanese political leaders in a Middle East trip angled at promoting Washington’s hard tack against Tehran.

The long-serving speaker Nabih Berri, a political ally of Hezbollah, told Pompeo that Hezbollah’s “resistance” against Israel was a result of continuing Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory, his office said in a statement.

Hezbollah has a large militia but the Shi’ite Muslim group is also represented in Lebanon’s parliament and in the coalition government of Sunni Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.

Israel regards Iran as its biggest threat and Hezbollah as the main danger on its borders.

Pompeo on Thursday said he would be “very clear” in his Beirut meetings that “Lebanon’s success depends on the Lebanese people (demanding) that a terrorist organisation not be in control of their government and not drive policies”.

State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said Pompeo and Berri had discussed the need to maintain calm along the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Pompeo highlighted “U.S. concerns about Hezbollah’s destabilising activities in Lebanon and the region and the risks posed to Lebanon’s security, stability and prosperity,” Palladino said.

(Reporting by Lisa Barrington and Laila Bassam, Writing by Angus McDowall, Editing by William Maclean)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Trump welcomes Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

March 22, 2019

By Rania El Gamal, Alex Lawler and Dmitry Zhdannikov

DUBAI/LONDON (Reuters) – Budget needs are forcing Saudi Arabia to push for oil prices of at least $70 per barrel this year, industry sources say, even though U.S. shale oil producers could benefit and Riyadh’s share of global crude markets might be further eroded.

Riyadh, OPEC’s de facto leader, said it was steeply cutting exports to its main customers in March and April despite refiners asking for more of its oil. The move defies U.S. President Donald Trump’s demands for OPEC to help reduce prices while he toughens sanctions on oil producers Iran and Venezuela.

The export cuts are designed to prop up prices, sources close to Saudi oil policy say. Saudi officials say the kingdom’s output policies are merely intended to balance the world market and reduce high inventories.

“The Saudis want oil at $70 at least and are not worried about too much shale oil,” said one industry source familiar with Saudi oil policy.

Another source said Saudi Arabia wanted to “put a floor under oil prices” at $70 or slightly lower, and added: “No one at OPEC can talk about output increases now.”

Officially, Saudi Arabia, which plans to raise government spending to boost economic growth, does not have a price target. It says price levels are determined by the market and that it is merely targeting a balance of global supply and demand.

Even a price of around $70 a barrel would not balance Saudi Arabia’s books this year, according to figures cited by Jihad Azour, director of the International Monetary Fund’s Middle East and Central Asia department in February. For that, he said, Riyadh needs oil prices at $80-$85 a barrel.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, also wants to make sure it avoids a repeat of the 2014-2016 oil price crash below $30 per barrel, sources familiar with Saudi policy said.

LOSS OF MARKET SHARE

Saudi Arabia plans to reduce March and April oil production to under 10 million barrels per day — below its official OPEC output target of 10.3 million bpd.

A Saudi official told Reuters this month that despite strong demand from customers, state oil giant Saudi Aramco had cut its allocations for April by 635,000 bpd below nominations — requests made by refiners and clients for crude.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said such swings were not unusual because last year the kingdom had raised output and exports above targets to avoid imminent shortages.

Saudi Arabia has also been advocating an extension of OPEC-led supply cuts beyond June until the end of 2019.

Russia, which is not an OPEC member but is cutting output in tandem with OPEC, can balance its budget at oil prices of $55 per barrel and has not made clear yet whether it is prepared to extend them when OPEC next meets in June.

“With budget needs at above $85 per barrel, the Saudis desperately need prices at above $70 per barrel,” said Gary Ross, CEO of Black Gold Investors and a veteran OPEC watcher.

“They also need to convince Russia that the strategy of output cuts makes sense despite the loss of market share to the United States,” he said.

The United States and Russia produce 12 million and 11 million bpd respectively. Unlike Russia, the United States pumps at will via its commercial energy sector, led by shale. The International Energy Agency forecasts its output will soar by another 4 million bpd in the next five years.

Those increases would be likely to outpace the growth of global demand and give Washington an even bigger share of the global market, making it a bigger exporter than Saudi Arabia.

PRESSURE FROM TRUMP

Riyadh has long been a close ally of the United States and the two countries have coordinated oil policy more closely since Trump became president than under his predecessor, Barack Obama.

Trump has supported Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite a global outcry over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi government, and has made clear he expects OPEC to help lower global oil prices.

Last year, Saudi Arabia raised output steeply under pressure from Washington. But it later heard that the United States had granted Iranian oil customers unexpectedly generous waivers and the price of oil subsequently fell to $50 per barrel.

On Monday, OPEC and its allies, led by Russia, scrapped a planned meeting in April and will decide instead whether to extend output cuts in June, once the market has assessed the impact of new U.S. sanctions on Iran due in May over its non-compliance with a deal to curb its nuclear program.

“We have to wait and see what the Americans will do first,” a second OPEC source said.

There is, however, no guarantee Saudi policy will remain unchanged if Washington puts pressure on Riyadh to raise supply.

“They (the Saudis) do care about Trump, but they can’t do whatever he says every time,” an OPEC source said.

(Editing by Timothy Heritage)

Source: OANN

Traders work on the floor of New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) after the opening bell in New York, U.S., March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

March 22, 2019

By Amy Caren Daniel

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes were set to open lower on Friday after downbeat German data exacerbated fears of a slowdown in global growth following an abrupt dovish turn by the Federal Reserve earlier this week.

German manufacturing contracted further in March, showing its lowest reading since June 2013 and adding to worries that unresolved trade disputes were slowing down Europe’s biggest economy.

Another survey showed the Euro zone’s business growth was worse than expected in March as factory activity contracted at the fastest pace in nearly six years.

“Today’s economic numbers indicate the strong relationship that China has with Europe. China has been slowing down, especially in ordering industrial products and automobiles, and that is going to hit Germany out-proportionally,” said Kim Forrest, chief investment officer at Bokeh Capital Partners in Pittsburgh

“Moreover, the Fed’s action on Wednesday show that they don’t believe the economies of the world are strong enough to continue their raising program.”

The Fed on Wednesday abandoned projections for any interest rate hikes this year as policymakers see a U.S. economy that is rapidly losing momentum.

Rate-sensitive financial stocks were set to extend their three-day decline. Citigroup Inc, Bank of America Corp and JPMorgan Chase & Co fell about 1 percent.

Adding to the uncertainty were concerns over trade after Bloomberg reported that U.S. officials downplayed the prospect of an imminent trade deal with China, just as U.S. trade delegates head to Beijing next week.

Chipmakers, which get a huge chunk of their revenue from China, fell in premarket trading. Micron Technology Inc, Intel Corp and Nvidia Corp declined between 0.4 percent and 1 percent.

Their shares rallied in previous session after Micron predicted a recovery in a memory market saddled with oversupply, as demand for mobile phones slows.

Nike Inc dropped 4.6 percent after the sportswear maker’s quarterly revenue failed to beat Wall Street estimates, as sales fell short of expectations in North America.

Nike’s partner Foot Locker Inc fell 3.7 percent.

At 8:15 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 186 points, or 0.72 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 18.5 points, or 0.65 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 44 points, or 0.58 percent.

In light of bleak factory data from Europe, investors will be watching for the U.S. Services Sector Final Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), which is likely to come in at 53.6 for March, compared with 53 for February. The report is due at 9:45 a.m. ET.

Tiffany & Co dropped 4.6 percent after the luxury retailer missed quarterly sales expectations, blaming low spending by Chinese tourists and weakness in Europe.

(Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

Source: OANN

ISU World Figure Skating Championships
ISU World Figure Skating Championships – Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan – March 22, 2019. France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron in action during the Ice Dance – Rhythm Dance. REUTERS/Issei Kato

March 22, 2019

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) – Reigning world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France took a decisive step toward a fourth ice dancing crown on Friday after clinching a strong lead with an elegant tango-themed rhythm dance.

Skating last before a packed house in Saitama, the Olympic silver medalists — who narrowly missed gold at Pyeongchang after a mishap with Papadakis’s costume in the short program — were awarded 88.42 points for their sultry routine.

“We’re very pleased with this performance, because we skated really well. We love this program, we love the choreography, we love working on it,” Papadakis said.

“There is a mandatory rhythm every year and it works for us every time more or less … This time, the Tango theme was right up our alley, that is a theme that we love.”

The pair have also been European champions every year since the 2014-2015 season but had to settle for Olympic silver last year when the clasp on Papadakis’s costume came loose.

More than five points behind after a clean, sharp routine were Russians Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov, who were only fourth in the European Championships but clinched gold at the Russian nationals and silver at the Grand Prix Final.

“I am overwhelmed with emotions,” said Sinitsina, after the two took 83.94 points.

“I am trying to restrain myself and concentrate on our elements, our program, but the emotions just burst out of me. It is a true joy to skate here.”

In third place were fellow Russians Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, fourth in the 2018 Grand Prix Final and second in the European Championships.

Bukin fell to the ice when their routine ended and mouthed “Wow!” when their score, a season’s best 83.10, came up.

“We have made an attempt to fix the mistakes that we have made at the Russian nationals and the European Championship,” he said.

“We wanted to skate heartily and enjoy our performance.”

The World Championships continue at the arena north of Tokyo on Friday evening with the ladies free skate, where Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova has a commanding lead.

American skater Mariah Bell on Wednesday made contact with South Korean rival Lim Eun-soo in a practice, leaving the Korean with a cut leg and fanning memories of the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan affair in the 1990s.

But the International Skating Union (ISU) ruled that the incident was unintentional and Korean skating officials said the two might meet later on Friday so Bell could apologize.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies, Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

Source: OANN

ECB President Draghi arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels
ECB President Mario Draghi arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium March 22, 2019. Julien Warnand/Pool via REUTERS

March 22, 2019

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The President of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi told European Union leaders on Friday that companies have to increase their preparations to face a possible no-deal Brexit, an EU source said.

“Authorities and central banks are prepared but the private sector has to step up preparations,” Draghi told EU leaders at a summit in Brussels, the source said.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Source: OANN

Democrat Party's candidate Anwar Salae campaigns at a market in Pattani province
Democrat Party’s candidate for Member of Parliament Anwar Salae campaigns at a market in Pattani province, Thailand, March 16, 2019. Picture taken March 16, 2019. REUTERS/Panu Wongcha-um

March 22, 2019

By Panu Wongcha-um

YALA, Thailand (Reuters) – Pateemoh Poh-itaeda-oh, 39, has lost four family members to violence in Thailand’s deep south, where a Muslim separatist movement has fought against rule from Bangkok for 15 years.

Now, she is running for a parliamentary seat in a general election on Sunday, hoping to have a hand in making government policies for the restive region.

Sunday’s vote is broadly seen as a battle between allies of the military junta leader seeking to stay in power and supporters of ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, a former telecommunication tycoon whose loyalists have won every general election since 2001.

But that divide has a different dynamic in the three southern border provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat, which are 80 percent Muslim, while the rest of Thailand is overwhelmingly Buddhist.

A separatist insurgency has dragged on since 2004, killing more than 6,900 people. In January, two Buddhist monks were shot dead in a suspected insurgent attack.

In previous elections, the deep south was not much courted by politicians seeking national power. But the arrival of several new parties on the political scene, along with stalled peace talks, have stirred interest in the campaign in the south – and enthusiasm to participate among newly minted candidates.

Pateemoh, a Muslim who is a candidate for the pro-junta Action Coalition for Thailand party (ACT), said she got involved because she felt for the first time there was a chance for the concerns of the south to be heard and – possibly – bring an end to the conflict.

“For a long time many Thais have looked at problems in the deep south as a marginal border issue, but this election I have seen changes,” she told Reuters at her party headquarters in Yala province.

Ending the insurgency is deeply personal to her. Three of her brothers and one sister have been shot dead since 2004 in suspected attacks by insurgents, who often target teachers and local officials for working with central government.

“I really want to be a voice in forming policy and solving the conflict issue in the deep south, and people have to remember that women’s voices need to matter in this process,” she said.

SELF-DETERMINATION

The three provinces, and a small part of neighboring Songkhla, were historically part of a Malay Muslim sultanate annexed by Thailand in 1909. Separatist tensions have simmered ever since.

A peace process between the Thai government and insurgent groups has made little headway, with violence still occurring even though the military has been directly in charge of security in the region for 15 years.

In February, Mara Patani, an umbrella organization representing many insurgent groups, said it has suspended all dialogue with Bangkok until after the election.

For decades, the deep south’s small tally of seats – 11 out of 350 being contested in this election – were seen as a reliable bloc for the Democrat Party, the country’s oldest political party that is officially non-aligned in the campaign but could prove crucial in post-vote coalition-building.

But the fresh attention being paid to the region by new parties has stoked pent-up desire for a say among both the pro-government and pro-autonomy camps there, said Samart Thongfhua, a political analyst at Prince of Songkla University in Pattani.

“Generally, people in the deep south are enthusiastic from all sides because they will feel that they can gain justice through democracy,” he said.

RELIGIOUS TENSIONS

This is the first election that a Malay Muslim from the deep south, Wan Muhamad Noor Matha, 74, is a prime ministerial candidate.

Matha, a former house speaker and the leader of Prachachart Party, is a key ally to Thaksin who could help capture votes for the “democratic front” of anti-junta parties in the deep south. Pro-Thaksin parties have in the past performed badly in the region, where he was widely blamed for exacerbating the conflict with harsh tactics when he was in power from 2001 to 2006.

Prachachart has been campaigning greater people’s participation in the region’s governance and peace process.

Analysts predict that no single party will dominate the region, with the Democrats, ACT, Bhumjaithai Party, and two anti-junta parties, Prachachart and Future Forward, all seen as competitive.

All are campaigning for greater autonomy to a varying degree for the restive region, a sensitive issue for the Thai military.

Even talking about greater autonomy alarms the region’s Buddhist minority, and coincides with the emergence on the national stage of the Buddhist nationalist Pandin Dharma Party.

“There is a sentiment that Buddhism is under threat and this has been appealing to many Buddhists here,” Ruckchart Suwan, 54, of the Buddhist Network for Peace told Reuters.

Muslim politicians say more needs to be done to improve relationship between Buddhists and Muslims.

“It is good to hear real grievances from the Buddhists so we can address it properly,” said Worawit Baru, 67, a candidate for Prachachart Party in Pattani province.

“The security forces have brought Buddhists and Muslims together over meals many times and say this represent successful reconciliation,” Worawit said. “These window-dressing approaches must stop and we need the people to speak up.”

(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Kay Johnson and Alex Richardson)

Source: OANN


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