PARIS

A man walks into the JP Morgan headquarters at Canary Wharf in London
A man walks into the JP Morgan headquarters at Canary Wharf in London May 11, 2012. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/File Photo GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD PACKAGE – SEARCH “BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD JULY 11” FOR ALL IMAGES

March 25, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – JPMorgan is asking around 300 staff in its London office to sign new contracts that will require them to move to one of the bank’s other hubs in the European Union if there is a no-deal Brexit, according to a person familiar with the matter.

This is part of JPMorgan’s plans to shift hundreds of staff if Britain leaves the EU without an exit deal so that it can continue to offer clients in the bloc trading, advisory and banking services. The U.S. investment bank is currently building up its offices in Frankfurt, Paris and Luxembourg as part of its Brexit planning.

A source said that JPMorgan staff in London asked to sign new contracts had already been consulted on the matter, and those who did not wish to move would not be made redundant.

The news was first reported by Bloomberg.

Britain was due to leave the EU on March 29 but that was delayed last week. Now, the country will leave the EU on May 22 if Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed withdrawal agreement is approved by parliament this week.

If not, Britain will have until April 12 to offer a new exit plan or decide to leave without a treaty.

(Reporting by Rachel Armstrong. Editing by Jane Merriman)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The shadow of a worker is seen beside the EU Commission building in Brussels, Belgium
FILE PHOTO: The shadow of a worker is seen beside the EU Commission building in Brussels, Belgium, October 17, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

March 25, 2019

By Leigh Thomas

PARIS (Reuters) – France will push for the presidency of the European Commission rather than the European Central Bank when top EU jobs come up for negotiations later this year, three sources briefed on discussions over the matter said.

Paris is eager to secure one of the most powerful jobs in the European Union, with the Commission seen as preferable because it has a greater role in shaping legislation at a critical juncture for the European project, whereas the ECB’s monetary policy responsibilities are narrower.

The European Commission, which serves as the EU’s executive and civil service, will appoint a new president for a five-year term after European Parliament elections take place in May, to succeed Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker.

ECB President Mario Draghi will stand down at the end of October.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told the French Senate last week France would fight to “defend its interests” once negotiations over the EU jobs begin, mentioning the need for Europe to find a leader able to strengthen regional sovereignty in the face of China and the United States.

“There are excellent French candidates for the ECB. But if you want to have an influence on the future of Europe, it’s the Commission that is more important,” a French government source said.

No formal decision has yet been taken on which job France will pursue. President Emmanuel Macron will be responsible for making the choice in the end. His office declined to comment.

Who gets the Commission presidency depends on which party comes out on top in European Parliament elections on May 23-26, and negotiations between EU governments that follow.

The choice of Commission president could see a sharp conflict between national leaders and the European Parliament, which is keen to see them nominate one of the lead candidates in the EU elections – such as the center right’s Manfred Weber, a German, or center left’s Frans Timmermans, a Dutchman.

The role of parliament, which must endorse any Commission president, risks complicating what has always been a complex power play among the member states and the pan-EU political movements to which national leaders belong.

Meanwhile, Bank of France Governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau has been mentioned as a potential candidate to run the ECB, while Benoit Coeure, a respected Frenchman on the ECB’s executive board, is also seen as a possibility in what is also certain to be a compromise among the euro zone’s biggest powers.

If France does not seek the ECB job, that could open the way for a northern European since the post has been held by Italy’s Draghi for over seven years. Former Finnish central bank chief Erkki Liikanen is regarded in a Reuters poll of economists as the most likely winner while Bundesbank chief Jens Weidmann is also seen as a contender.

“The Commission is the most important job because it’s the most political. The ECB has already done what it can do,” one source familiar with thinking inside the government said.

REFORM PLANS

Playing in France’s favor for the Commission is the fact that a Frenchman has not led it since Jacques Delors in the late 1980s and early 1990s whereas a Frenchman, Jean-Claude Trichet, ran the ECB from 2003 until 2011.

Macron would support the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, French conservative Michel Barnier, for Commission president if it looked like he had chance of getting it, a source close to Macron said in February.

Barnier, like several other potential candidates mentioned, has not formally declared an interest.

The head of the Commission plays a critical role in shaping legislative priorities, which would help Macron’s reform plans for the bloc in the wake of Britain’s planned departure.

Macron wants to overhaul European industrial and competition policy. He has suggested reviewing the Schengen border-free system and creating a common police and asylum office.

In addition to the Commission and ECB jobs, EU countries will need to find a new head of the European Council, currently Donald Tusk, which is responsible for heading negotiations among EU leaders.

If the stars do not align for France on the Commission, Macron could still have a shot at putting a Frenchman in charge of the European Central Bank, with Villeroy regarded a serious contender in other European capitals.

“Villeroy has a lot of support in governments who aren’t French. His candidacy is taken very seriously even in Berlin,” said a source familiar with the situation, who also confirmed France is gunning for the Commission.

Nobody has declared their interest in the ECB job yet and the selection process is not expected to start until after the European elections.

The top posts at the European Commission and ECB are only two of a handful of senior jobs that will open up. EU commissioners – one from each member state – will also need to be named, while at the ECB, Coeure’s term expires at the end of the year.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Additional reporting by Yves Clarisse and Jean-Baptiste Vey in Paris, Alastair Macdonald in Brussels and Balazs Koranyi in Frankfurt; Editing by Luke Baker and Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks during a Franco Chinese seminar of global governance in Quai d'Orsay in Paris
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks during a Franco Chinese seminar of global governance in Quai d’Orsay in Paris, France, March 25, 2019. Julien de Rosa/Pool via REUTERS

March 25, 2019

By Michel Rose and John Irish

PARIS (Reuters) – France and China will sign trade deals worth billions of euros on Monday during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping but Paris will also take the opportunity to push back against Beijing’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative.

President Emmanuel Macron wants to forge a united European front to confront Beijing’s advances.

After he and Xi meet later on Monday, the two will hold further talks on Tuesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Jean-Claude Juncker, heads of the EU executive.

Xi arrived in France after visiting Italy, the first Western power to endorse China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative as Rome tries to revive its struggling economy.

The Belt and Road Initiative plan, championed by Xi, aims to link China by sea and land with Southeast and Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, through an infrastructure network on the lines of the old Silk Road.

France says Silk Road cooperation must work in both directions.

An official in Macron’s office said significant progress was expected in terms of opening up the Chinese market for some farm goods, especially poultry.

French officials have also expressed the hope that a multi-billion dollar deal for China to buy dozens of Airbus planes could be finalised.

In a column in Le Figaro published on Sunday, Xi made clear he wanted Paris to cooperate in the Belt and Road project, calling for more trade and investment in sectors ranging from nuclear energy, aeronautics and agriculture.

“French investors are welcome to share development opportunities in China. I also hope that Chinese companies can do better in France and make a greater contribution to its economic and social development,” he wrote.

French officials describe China as a both a challenge and partner, saying France must remain especially vigilant over any Chinese attempts to appropriate foreign technology for its own means.

The EU is already weighing a more defensive strategy on China, spurred by Beijing’s slowness in opening up its economy, Chinese takeovers in critical sectors, and a feeling in European capitals that Beijing has not stood up for free trade.

“An awakening was necessary,” Macron said in Brussels on Friday. “For many years we had an uncoordinated approach and China took advantage of our divisions.”

As part of efforts to push that approach, Macron will host Merkel and Juncker on Tuesday to meet with Xi to move away from a purely bilateral approach to ties.

“Macron is not happy to see China win so many prizes in Rome, so he has invented a bizarre European format by inviting Merkel and Juncker as a counterbalance to show that he is the driving force behind European integration,” said one Paris-based Asian diplomat.

($1 = 0.8833 euros)

(Additional reporting by Marine Pennetier and Richard Lough; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-HarirI is seen during the meeting to discuss a draft policy statement at the governmental palace in Beirut
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-HarirI is seen during the meeting to discuss a draft policy statement at the governmental palace in Beirut, Lebanon February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

March 25, 2019

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has undergone a “precautionary” heart procedure in Paris, his office said on Monday.

“Hariri this morning underwent a cardiac catheterization and stent insertion procedure at the American Hospital in Paris,” the statement said.

Quoting his doctor, the statement said Hariri, 48, was “in good health” and would be returning to his home in Paris in the evening.

(Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-HarirI is seen during the meeting to discuss a draft policy statement at the governmental palace in Beirut
FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-HarirI is seen during the meeting to discuss a draft policy statement at the governmental palace in Beirut, Lebanon February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

March 25, 2019

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has undergone a “precautionary” heart procedure in Paris, his office said on Monday.

“Hariri this morning underwent a cardiac catheterization and stent insertion procedure at the American Hospital in Paris,” the statement said.

Quoting his doctor, the statement said Hariri, 48, was “in good health” and would be returning to his home in Paris in the evening.

(Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is pictured as he speaks with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe during a dinner at the Hotel de Matignon in Paris
FILE PHOTO – Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is pictured as he speaks with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (not pictured) during a dinner at the Hotel de Matignon in Paris, France November 21, 2018. Lucas Barioulet/Pool via REUTERS

March 25, 2019

DUBAI (Reuters) – Abu Dhabi’s crown prince approved on Monday 5.6 billion dirhams ($1.52 billion) for research and development surrounding water scarcity and food security over the next five years.

“We have directed the Executive Committee to form global partnerships that seek innovative solutions in these vital areas,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan wrote on Twitter.

(Reporting by Alex Cornwell, Writing by Nafisa Eltahir)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Yoko Ono gestures as she unveils the
FILE PHOTO: Yoko Ono gestures as she unveils the “John Lennon: The New York City Years” exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex in New York May 11, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

March 25, 2019

By Toby Sterling

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – In March 1969, newlyweds John Lennon and Yoko Ono skipped a honeymoon and instead staged a “bed-in” in Amsterdam to promote world peace during the Vietnam War.

Dressed in white, the artistic duo received visitors and held press conferences from bed in the presidential suite atop Amsterdam’s Hilton Hotel from March 23-29.

A photo exhibition and other events remembering Ono and Lennon, the Beatles songwriter who was shot and killed in New York in 1980, are being held this week in the Dutch capital to commemorate the events 50 years ago.

Amid flowers and self-made signs reading “Hair Peace” and “Bed Peace”, the couple put forward a simple strategy for achieving world harmony: reject violence of all forms.

“If you believe violence will solve the problem, that’s up to you. I don’t,” John told one reporter.

“Nobody’s ever tried the peace thing.”

The incident was memorialized in “The Ballad of John and Yoko”, released shortly before the Beatles broke up:

Drove from Paris to the Amsterdam Hilton / Talking in our beds for a week / The news people said, “Say what you doing in bed?” / I said, “We’re only trying to get us some peace.”

In 2012, Ono released for free “Bed Peace”, a documentary about the Amsterdam bed-in and a second bed-in the couple held several months later in Montreal, Canada.

At one point, Ono dismisses a book of poems and manifestos handed to her by a self-styled “revolutionary”.

“I’m sorry, no matter how beautiful your poem is, if you can’t share with people, it’s crap,” she said.

To honor their memory, a white “Peace Tulip” will be planted outside the hotel on Thursday.

Other commemoration events in Amsterdam include a film evening, concert and tour of the famous room #902.

Fifty years later, world peace has not yet arrived.

Skeptics at the time pointed out that not everybody can afford to stay in bed all day or be as famous as John and Yoko.

“Stop asking if it’s going to work, do something yourself,” an annoyed Lennon told one reporter in the documentary.

“Grow your hair, wear a sign.”

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Andrew Cawthorne)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Woman with a Louis Vuitton-branded shopping bag looks towards the entrance of a branch store by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton in Vienna
FILE PHOTO: A woman with a Louis Vuitton-branded shopping bag looks towards the entrance of a branch store by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton in Vienna, Austria October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo

March 25, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Shares in luxury goods group LVMH briefly fell almost 9 percent at the open on Monday before recovering in what traders said was likely a “fat finger” erroneous trade.

The shares on Paris’ CAC 40 opened at 310.45 euros ($351.34) and fell to 285.7 euros, their lowest since Feb. 12 in the opening minutes.

The stock then recovered most of the lost ground and were at 312.75 euros, down 0.2 percent, at 0905 GMT.

LVMH and Euronext, which operates the CAC 40 stock exchange, were not immediately available for comment.

“It was probably a fat finger right at the start of trading,” said a Paris-based trader.

“No one understood what happened. It was likely a mistake,” said another trader.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Blandine Henault in PARIS, Danilo Masoni in MILAN and Josephine Mason in LONDON, editing by Louise Heavens)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: INTERPOL President Meng Hongwei poses during a visit to the headquarters of International Police Organisation in Lyon
FILE PHOTO: INTERPOL President Meng Hongwei poses during a visit to the headquarters of International Police Organisation in Lyon, France, May 8, 2018. Jeff Pachoud/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

March 25, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – The wife of the missing Chinese former head of Interpol said she had written to French President Emmanuel Macron to ask for his help on the eve of a visit by his counterpart Xi Jinping.

Grace Meng told France 24 she had not heard from her husband Meng Hongwei since he travelled to China from France, where Interpol is based, in late September. China has said it is investigating Meng for wrongdoing.

“I hope the president can help Mr Meng and his family, to protect our fundamental human rights,” Grace Meng said in the interview broadcast on Sunday evening.

China’s foreign ministry declined to comment.

France’s Agence France Presse said Grace Meng wrote to Macron on March 21.

Meng’s wife, who has remained in Lyon with the couple’s two children, said she feared the Chinese authorities wanted to kidnap her family.

“They have no bottom-line. Even if I am in France, they want to kidnap me and my children.”

Meng, 65, was appointed president of the global police cooperation agency in late 2016, part of a broader Chinese effort to gain leadership positions in key international organizations.

Under Xi, China has been engaged in a sweeping crackdown on official corruption. Chinese authorities said several days after Meng’s arrest that the vice minister was being investigated for bribery.

Macron hosted Xi at a private dinner on the French Riviera on Sunday night, ahead of a working meeting in Paris on Monday.

Grace Meng said her husband was “devoted to the motherland”.

“He was well-known for his reformist views”, she said in the interview.

(Reporting by Richard Lough in Paris, additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: INTERPOL President Meng Hongwei poses during a visit to the headquarters of International Police Organisation in Lyon
FILE PHOTO: INTERPOL President Meng Hongwei poses during a visit to the headquarters of International Police Organisation in Lyon, France, May 8, 2018. Jeff Pachoud/Pool via Reuters/File Photo

March 25, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – The wife of the missing Chinese former head of Interpol said she had written to French President Emmanuel Macron to ask for his help on the eve of a visit by his counterpart Xi Jinping.

Grace Meng told France 24 she had not heard from her husband Meng Hongwei since he travelled to China from France, where Interpol is based, in late September. China has said it is investigating Meng for wrongdoing.

“I hope the president can help Mr Meng and his family, to protect our fundamental human rights,” Grace Meng said in the interview broadcast on Sunday evening.

China’s foreign ministry declined to comment.

France’s Agence France Presse said Grace Meng wrote to Macron on March 21.

Meng’s wife, who has remained in Lyon with the couple’s two children, said she feared the Chinese authorities wanted to kidnap her family.

“They have no bottom-line. Even if I am in France, they want to kidnap me and my children.”

Meng, 65, was appointed president of the global police cooperation agency in late 2016, part of a broader Chinese effort to gain leadership positions in key international organizations.

Under Xi, China has been engaged in a sweeping crackdown on official corruption. Chinese authorities said several days after Meng’s arrest that the vice minister was being investigated for bribery.

Macron hosted Xi at a private dinner on the French Riviera on Sunday night, ahead of a working meeting in Paris on Monday.

Grace Meng said her husband was “devoted to the motherland”.

“He was well-known for his reformist views”, she said in the interview.

(Reporting by Richard Lough in Paris, additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

Nathalie Loiseau, French Minister attached to the Foreign Affairs Minister, attends the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris
FILE PHOTO – Nathalie Loiseau, French Minister attached to the Foreign Affairs Minister, attends the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, June 13, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

March 25, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s European Affairs minister will resign later on Monday to lead President Emmanuel Macron’s party in May’s European Parliament elections, a government source said.

Nathalie Loiseau, a career diplomat who headed the elite ENA school of administration before joining Macron’s government, had put herself forward as the headline candidate for the elections.

Her departure from the government is likely to lead to a cabinet reshuffle.

(Reporting by Marine Pennetier; writing by John Irish; editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)

Source: OANN

French riot police officers check people on the Champs-Elysees avenue during the Act XIX (the 19th consecutive national protest on a Saturday) of the
French riot police officers check people on the Champs-Elysees avenue during the Act XIX (the 19th consecutive national protest on a Saturday) of the “yellow vests” movement in Paris, France, March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

March 23, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – French military forces joined police in Paris on Saturday to tackle the nineteenth consecutive weekend of “yellow vest” protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s government.

Protesters were banned from gathering on the Champs Elysees after shops and businesses there were looted and wrecked last weekend, prompting the government to call in “Operation Sentinelle” military units.

Pockets of demonstrators began to gather in other parts of Paris and other major French cities in the latest protests which began in November after public anger against fuel taxes rises.

The movement has morphed into a broader backlash against Macron’s government, despite it scrapping the fuel taxes.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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

The logo of EDF is seen on the French state-controlled utility EDF's headquarters in Paris
FILE PHOTO: The logo of EDF (Electricite de France) is seen on the French state-controlled utility EDF’s headquarters in Paris, France, February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

March 22, 2019

By Bate Felix

CORDEMAIS, France (Reuters) – French utility EDF aims to convert its 1,200-megawatt (MW) Cordemais coal-fired power plant by spring 2022 into one that burns pellet fuel made from discarded wood, giving the unit a new lease of life.

If successful, the process – known as Ecocombust – could be exported and adapted to other coal plants, saving jobs, while Cordemais would boost France’s security of supply in winter.

But EDF must convince the government by autumn that the project is financially and environmentally viable. French grid operator RTE is also expected to determine by April whether the plant is surplus to requirements.

In its long-term energy plan, France has laid out moves to phase out electricity generation from coal by 2022, with the goal of decarbonizing energy production by 2050.

The decision sounded the death knell for the five remaining coal-fired generators in France, with an installed capacity of around 3,000 MW. Three of the generators – Cordemais 4 and 5, and Havre 4 – are operated by state-controlled EDF.

Cordemais in western France was overhauled two years ago to meet new emissions and safety standards at a cost of several million euros, and could keep operating until 2035, EDF says.

France’s two other coal generators, Emile Huchet 6 and Provence 5, with a combined installed capacity of 1,200 MW, are operated by German utility Uniper.

EDF executives said the Ecocombust project, already in an advanced test phase, would burn pellets made from discarded “class B” wood and garden waste, for large-scale power generation. The project is the first of its kind, they say.

Although pellets from wood chips and sawdust are widely used for heating, Eric Bret, EDF’s head of thermal power generation, said the process was different because the company would not cut down any trees.

“The pellets are made from … everyday objects such as beams, doors, window frames and furniture, which until now are mostly recycled or buried in landfill,” he said.

SOURCED LOCALLY

Lionel Olivier, director of the Cordemais and Havre power plants, said the pellets would be 70 percent “class B” wood and 30 percent residue from grass, tree branches and garden waste, all sourced within a radius of 150 km (93 miles).

He said EDF was setting up a supply chain that included municipal waste authorities and companies, but would need state aid.

EDF declined to say what the conversion would cost and how much it had invested in the process.

At capacity, it aims to replace around 1.3 million to 2 million tonnes of coal imported annually from Poland, Australia and the United States, with about 700,000 tonnes of biomass.

Tests carried out in August with 80 percent pellet fuel and 20 percent coal to generate electricity for over four hours were successful, Olivier said.

The pellets have 20 percent less energy or caloric value than coal, which could reduce each generator’s output capacity to 530 MW from 600 MW currently, he added.

Cordemais’ production would focus on periods of peak power demand in winter. After the conversion, output would be reduced to 800 hours annually from 4,000 hours, he said.

“Runtime would be five times less than the current production using coal but it will focus on a period when power prices are higher and more profitable,” Olivier said.

He added that the plant would also use five times less coal and emit five times less carbon dioxide.

(Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Dale Hudson)

Source: OANN

The logo of EDF is seen on the French state-controlled utility EDF's headquarters in Paris
FILE PHOTO: The logo of EDF (Electricite de France) is seen on the French state-controlled utility EDF’s headquarters in Paris, France, February 15, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

March 22, 2019

By Bate Felix

CORDEMAIS, France (Reuters) – French utility EDF aims to convert its 1,200-megawatt (MW) Cordemais coal-fired power plant by spring 2022 into one that burns pellet fuel made from discarded wood, giving the unit a new lease of life.

If successful, the process – known as Ecocombust – could be exported and adapted to other coal plants, saving jobs, while Cordemais would boost France’s security of supply in winter.

But EDF must convince the government by autumn that the project is financially and environmentally viable. French grid operator RTE is also expected to determine by April whether the plant is surplus to requirements.

In its long-term energy plan, France has laid out moves to phase out electricity generation from coal by 2022, with the goal of decarbonizing energy production by 2050.

The decision sounded the death knell for the five remaining coal-fired generators in France, with an installed capacity of around 3,000 MW. Three of the generators – Cordemais 4 and 5, and Havre 4 – are operated by state-controlled EDF.

Cordemais in western France was overhauled two years ago to meet new emissions and safety standards at a cost of several million euros, and could keep operating until 2035, EDF says.

France’s two other coal generators, Emile Huchet 6 and Provence 5, with a combined installed capacity of 1,200 MW, are operated by German utility Uniper.

EDF executives said the Ecocombust project, already in an advanced test phase, would burn pellets made from discarded “class B” wood and garden waste, for large-scale power generation. The project is the first of its kind, they say.

Although pellets from wood chips and sawdust are widely used for heating, Eric Bret, EDF’s head of thermal power generation, said the process was different because the company would not cut down any trees.

“The pellets are made from … everyday objects such as beams, doors, window frames and furniture, which until now are mostly recycled or buried in landfill,” he said.

SOURCED LOCALLY

Lionel Olivier, director of the Cordemais and Havre power plants, said the pellets would be 70 percent “class B” wood and 30 percent residue from grass, tree branches and garden waste, all sourced within a radius of 150 km (93 miles).

He said EDF was setting up a supply chain that included municipal waste authorities and companies, but would need state aid.

EDF declined to say what the conversion would cost and how much it had invested in the process.

At capacity, it aims to replace around 1.3 million to 2 million tonnes of coal imported annually from Poland, Australia and the United States, with about 700,000 tonnes of biomass.

Tests carried out in August with 80 percent pellet fuel and 20 percent coal to generate electricity for over four hours were successful, Olivier said.

The pellets have 20 percent less energy or caloric value than coal, which could reduce each generator’s output capacity to 530 MW from 600 MW currently, he added.

Cordemais’ production would focus on periods of peak power demand in winter. After the conversion, output would be reduced to 800 hours annually from 4,000 hours, he said.

“Runtime would be five times less than the current production using coal but it will focus on a period when power prices are higher and more profitable,” Olivier said.

He added that the plant would also use five times less coal and emit five times less carbon dioxide.

(Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Dale Hudson)

Source: OANN

General view of the skyline of La Defense business district with its Arche behind Paris' landmark, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris
General view of the skyline of La Defense business district with its Arche behind Paris’ landmark, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees Avenue in Paris, France, January 13, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

March 22, 2019

By Jonathan Cable

LONDON (Reuters) – Businesses across the euro zone performed much worse than expected this month as factory activity contracted at the fastest pace in nearly six years, hurt by a big drop in demand, a survey showed on Friday.

While a downturn in manufacturing was partly offset by stable – yet relatively weak – growth in the euro zone’s dominant services industry, the surveys suggested the bloc’s economy had a poor first quarter.

That supports the European Central Bank’s change of tack earlier this month. It pushed out the timing of its next post-rate increase until 2020 at the earliest and said it would offer banks a new round of cheap loans to help revive the economy.

IHS Markit’s Flash Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index, which is considered a good guide to economic health, dropped to 51.3 this month from a final February reading of 51.9, missing a Reuters poll median expectation for 52.0.

“Manufacturing is clearly the main area of weakness and concern at the moment. The manufacturing downturn is gaining momentum and will act as an increasing drag on the economy in the second quarter,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

“To what extent can the services sector come to the rescue? It certainly helped prop up the economy in the first quarter but is in one of its slowest growth spells since 2016. Forward looking indicators aren’t looking particularly encouraging.”

Williamson said the PMIs pointed to first-quarter GDP growth of 0.2 percent, below the 0.3 percent predicted in a Reuters poll last week. [ECILT/EU]

The flash manufacturing PMI sank to 47.6 from February’s 49.3, its lowest reading since April 2013 and well below the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction.

A Reuters poll had predicted a modest rise to 49.5 and even the most pessimistic economist surveyed had predicted a reading of 48.4.

An index measuring output, which feeds into the composite PMI, plummeted to a near six-year low of 47.7 from 49.4.

Highlighting the struggles faced by factories, the new orders index dropped to 44.5 from 46.3, a level not seen since the end of 2012. Casting more shadows on the outlook, companies ran down old orders and raw materials and built up stocks of completed goods.

Growth in the services industry slowed in line with a Reuters poll. Its PMI dipped to 52.7 from 52.8.

And some of that activity came from completing old work. The backlogs of work index fell to 49.0 from 51.0, only the second time it has been sub-50 in almost three years.

Adding to the melancholy picture, services slowed their hiring.

So with forward-looking indicators turning increasingly downbeat, optimism about the year ahead waned. The composite future output index dropped to 59.9 from 60.6.

Source: OANN

General view of the skyline of La Defense business district with its Arche behind Paris' landmark, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris
General view of the skyline of La Defense business district with its Arche behind Paris’ landmark, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees Avenue in Paris, France, January 13, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

March 22, 2019

By Jonathan Cable

LONDON (Reuters) – Businesses across the euro zone performed much worse than expected this month as factory activity contracted at the fastest pace in nearly six years, hurt by a big drop in demand, a survey showed on Friday.

While a downturn in manufacturing was partly offset by stable – yet relatively weak – growth in the euro zone’s dominant services industry, the surveys suggested the bloc’s economy had a poor first quarter.

That supports the European Central Bank’s change of tack earlier this month. It pushed out the timing of its next post-rate increase until 2020 at the earliest and said it would offer banks a new round of cheap loans to help revive the economy.

IHS Markit’s Flash Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index, which is considered a good guide to economic health, dropped to 51.3 this month from a final February reading of 51.9, missing a Reuters poll median expectation for 52.0.

“Manufacturing is clearly the main area of weakness and concern at the moment. The manufacturing downturn is gaining momentum and will act as an increasing drag on the economy in the second quarter,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit.

“To what extent can the services sector come to the rescue? It certainly helped prop up the economy in the first quarter but is in one of its slowest growth spells since 2016. Forward looking indicators aren’t looking particularly encouraging.”

Williamson said the PMIs pointed to first-quarter GDP growth of 0.2 percent, below the 0.3 percent predicted in a Reuters poll last week. [ECILT/EU]

The flash manufacturing PMI sank to 47.6 from February’s 49.3, its lowest reading since April 2013 and well below the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction.

A Reuters poll had predicted a modest rise to 49.5 and even the most pessimistic economist surveyed had predicted a reading of 48.4.

An index measuring output, which feeds into the composite PMI, plummeted to a near six-year low of 47.7 from 49.4.

Highlighting the struggles faced by factories, the new orders index dropped to 44.5 from 46.3, a level not seen since the end of 2012. Casting more shadows on the outlook, companies ran down old orders and raw materials and built up stocks of completed goods.

Growth in the services industry slowed in line with a Reuters poll. Its PMI dipped to 52.7 from 52.8.

And some of that activity came from completing old work. The backlogs of work index fell to 49.0 from 51.0, only the second time it has been sub-50 in almost three years.

Adding to the melancholy picture, services slowed their hiring.

So with forward-looking indicators turning increasingly downbeat, optimism about the year ahead waned. The composite future output index dropped to 59.9 from 60.6.

Source: OANN

A sugar beet plant is pictured in a field in Sommette-Eaucourt
A sugar beet plant is pictured in a field in Sommette-Eaucourt, France, March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

March 22, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – Farmers in western Europe have begun sugar beet planting, with first indications pointing to a drop in area for the next harvest after a price slump fueled by the end of European Union production quotas.

The market downturn has prompted Europe’s biggest sugar refiner Suedzucker to announce the closure of several factories by 2020, which could lead farmers in affected zones to make further cuts to beet planting next year.

This year’s expected decline in planting should curb EU production and help to turn a global sugar surplus that has been pressuring prices into a net deficit, analysts say.

“The depressed markets after the end of the quotas has forced farmers to adapt,” said Timothe Masson, economist at the French sugar beet growers group CGB, pegging a fall in plantings at EU level at about 5 percent.

Assuming an average sugar yield, EU sugar production in 2019/20 would fall to about 18 million tonnes, Masson said.

That would be down 3 million tonnes from output in 2017/18, the first season after the end of quotas, and stable versus the current 2018/19 season, when harvests were hit by drought.

EU sugar output could be reduced by a further 700,000 tonnes by aphid attacks, with many farmers in the bloc no longer allowed to use neonicotinoid pesticides because of concerns they are harmful to bees, Masson added.

In France, the EU’s largest beet grower which has forbidden these crop chemicals, the area drop could reach 8 percent compared to last year, he said.

As of last week, French farmers had sown about 1 percent of 445,000 hectares expected in 2019, Masson said.

Frequent showers this month have slowed early sugar beet planting, contrasting with rapid spring barley sowing in February during a warm, dry spell.

In Germany, chilly conditions were holding up planting.

Most farmers are waiting for an improvement in the current cool and cold weather before starting sowing, said Guenter Tissen, CEO of German sugar industry association WVZ.

Beet cultivation in Germany was under pressure from unequal competition within the EU, with some countries paying premiums and some still permitting use of neonicotinoids, unlike Germany, he said, adding that it was too early to give area forecasts.

In the UK, the crop area for the 2019/20 season is expected to be between 5 percent and 10 percent lower than this year, Associated British Foods said in its latest update last month.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris, Michael Hamburg in Hamburg and Nigel Hunt in London; Editing by David Goodman)

Source: OANN

Paris Auto Show
The Daimler is seen during a press conference on the second press day of the Paris auto show, in Paris, France, October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

March 22, 2019

By Kane Wu and Julie Zhu

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Daimler has asked Goldman Sachs to help it explore increasing its stake in Chinese carmaker BAIC Motor Corp, its main China joint venture partner, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

A deal would be only the second since the world’s biggest auto market relaxed foreign ownership rules last year.

Daimler’s rival BMW became the first to take advantage of the changes when it agreed in October to buy control of its venture with Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd for 3.6 billion euros ($4.08 billion).

Caps on foreign ownership previously prevented overseas carmakers from controlling any Chinese maker or joint venture with foreign peers. Last year those limits were removed for firms making fully electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which will be followed in 2020 by the removal of limits on makers of commercial vehicles such as trucks and buses.

In 2022, the limits will be lifted on the wider car market. BMW’s deal with Brilliance China will only take effect then.

Daimler’s discussions with BAIC are at an early stage and its plan to increase the stake in BAIC’s Hong Kong-listed entity has not been finalised and could change later, cautioned the people, who declined to be identified as the information is confidential.

Daimler holds 30.4 percent of BAIC’s Hong Kong-listed shares, representing a 9.55 percent overall stake in its Chinese partner, according to BAIC’s June 2018 interim report.

State-owned BAIC Group and steel giant Beijing Shougang owns 42.6 percent and 12.8 percent of BAIC through its non-tradable domestic shares, respectively.

It is not clear whether Daimler would seek a majority stake in BAIC, which has a current market capitalisation of $4.9 billion.

Daimler declined to comment on speculation about its partnerships. Beijing-based BAIC did not respond to a request for comments. Goldman declined to comment.

Daimler owns 49 percent in Beijing Benz Automotive Co, its main JV with BAIC, as well as a 3.93 percent stake in Beijing Electric Vehicle Co., a subsidiary of BAIC. It also has a smaller JV with new energy vehicle maker BYD.

It is also setting up a ride-hailing JV in China with Geely Group, Reuters reported in October. Geely bought a 9.69 percent stake in Daimler in early 2018 and demanded an alliance.

Daimler sold 653,000 cars in China last year, its biggest sales market in the world.

Two separate people with knowledge of the matter said Daimler would still like to raise its 49 percent stake in Beijing Benz Automotive. It held talks with BAIC last year but those petered out earlier this year, said one of them.

BAIC denied a Bloomberg report in early December that Daimler had raised the prospect of increasing its stake in Beijing Benz to at least 65 percent.

(Reporting by Kane Wu and Julie Zhu in Hong Kong, and Yilei Sun in Beijing; Additional reporting by Arno Schuetze and Edward Taylor in Frankfurt; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

An aerial photo shows Boeing 737 MAX airplanes parked on the tarmac at the Boeing Factory in Renton
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

March 22, 2019

By Cindy Silviana and Tracy Rucinski

JAKARTA/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Boeing Co will mandate on MAX jets a previously optional cockpit warning light, which might have warned of problems that possibly played a role in the recent crashes of Ethiopian and Indonesian planes, two officials briefed on the matter said.

The safety feature is expected to be offered as part of a software update to the MAX fleet that was grounded in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines crash, said the officials who asked not to be identified.

The crash set off one of the widest inquiries in aviation history and cast a shadow over the Boeing MAX model intended to be a standard for decades.

Boeing did not immediately comment on the plan to make the safety feature standard, but separately said it was moving quickly to make software changes and expects the upgrade to be approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the coming weeks.

But Indonesia’s national carrier Garuda said on Friday that customers had lost trust in the planes and it has sent a letter to Boeing asking to cancel an order for 49 MAX 8s – the first airline to publicly confirm plans to cancel an order for the troubled aircraft.

The current order was valued at $6 billion at list prices and Garuda, which currently has one MAX in its fleet, said it could switch to other Boeing models.

While a direct link between the crashes has not been proven, initial investigations show similarities and attention has focused on an automated flight-control system, MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), that came into service two years ago with the MAX.

The software is designed to prevent a loss of lift that can cause an aerodynamic stall, sending the plane downwards in an uncontrolled way. In the Lion Air crash, it may have been erroneously activated by a faulty sensor, investigators believe.

Chicago-based Boeing will also retrofit older planes with the cockpit warning light, the officials told Reuters. The world’s largest plane maker previously offered the alert, but it was not required by aviation regulators.

Boeing has said it plans to make software changes to the aircraft, but it is unclear how long it will take Boeing to refit existing MAX planes with new software or hardware.

Experts said it could take weeks or months to be done, and for regulators to review and approve the changes. Regulators in Europe and Canada have said they will conduct their own reviews of any new systems.

The FAA has said installation of the new software and related training was a priority.

SOFTWARE FIX

Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s vice president of commercial marketing, said the software changes include changes in the control laws of the airplane, an update of the displays, the flight manual, as well as the training.

Boeing has tested the improvements in a simulator and in the air, he said on Thursday. He defended Boeing’s design and production processes, adding that it was too early to speculate on what the investigations will show.

The company has said there was a documented procedure to handle the automated system at the heart of the problem.

The pilots’ union of Southwest Airlines, the largest operator of the MAX, said it is working with the company, Boeing, other pilot unions and the FAA to test and validate the new software.

“We still would like to have more detail on the development, control parameters and testing done on the algorithm that will trigger an MCAS event,” the union said in a statement.

The American Airlines’ pilots union told Reuters it expects to test the software fix on simulators this weekend in Renton, Washington, where Boeing builds the MAX and has two simulators.

MAX simulator training is currently not required, partly because not many simulators exist.

Southwest and American expect to receive MAX simulators later this year.

Ethiopian Airlines said on Thursday the simulators are not designed to replicate the MCAS problems. The airline is among the few that do have a simulator but the captain of the doomed flight had no chance to practise on it before the crash, a pilot colleague said.

MOUNTING PRESSURE

The two crashes killed almost 350 people.

Since the Ethiopian crash, Boeing shares have fallen 12 percent and $28 billion has been wiped off its market value.

Pressure has mounted on the company from U.S. legislators, who are also expected to question the FAA. The company also faces a criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

Several lawsuits already filed on behalf of victims of the Lion Air crash referring to the Ethiopian accident. Boeing declined to comment on the lawsuits.

Consumer advocate and former U.S. presidential candidate Ralph Nader lost a grand-niece in the Ethiopian crash and urged whistleblowers to help challenge the aviation industry and get to the bottom of what happened.

“They lulled us into complacency,” he said in an interview in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal.

(For a graphic on ‘Boeing 737 MAX deliveries in question’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2Hv2btC)

(For a graphic on ‘Grounded 737 MAX fleet’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2O6jQbI)

(For a graphic on ‘Ethiopian Airlines crash and black boxes’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2ChBW5M)

(Additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington, Jamie Freed in Singapore, Bernadette Christina Munthe in Jakarta, Maggie Fick and Jason Neely in Addis Ababa, Tim Hepher in Paris, and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Writing by Sayantani Ghosh, Georgina Prodhan and Ben Klayman)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prince Harry arrives with girlfriend actress Meghan Markle at the wheelchair tennis event during the Invictus Games in Toronto
FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prince Harry (R) arrives with girlfriend actress Meghan Markle at the wheelchair tennis event during the Invictus Games in Toronto, Ontario, Canada September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/File Photo

March 22, 2019

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) – Wearing his army fatigues while on tour in Afghanistan in 2013 thousands of miles from home, Britain’s Prince Harry cut a relaxed figure as he told journalists: “I am one of the guys, I don’t get treated any differently.”

Now with the birth of his first child expected next month, Queen Elizabeth’s grandson and his wife Meghan will have to decide how “normal” a life they want the future seventh-in-line to the British crown to have.

“I don’t think there’s been a member of the royal family that hasn’t said they want their children to have a normal upbringing,” Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty Magazine told Reuters.

“Even the queen said she wanted her children to have as normal an upbringing as possible. But with the media attention it’s actually not possible to have a totally normal upbringing.”

Harry is all too familiar with the attention that comes with being a British royal.

The disintegration of the marriage of his parents – heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles and his late first wife Diana – was played out in the public glare and his mother was killed in a Paris car crash in 1997 as the limousine carrying her and her lover Dodi al-Fayed crashed as it fled chasing paparazzi.

In the last two years, Harry has spoken openly of his mental anguish at the loss of his mother when he was just 12 and how in the years that followed he struggled with his royal status.

“I didn’t want to be in the position I was in, but I eventually pulled my head out of the sand, started listening to people and decided to use my role for good,” he said in a 2017 interview with Newsweek.

“Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.”

Diana had been keen that her two sons should be brought up away from the stuffy confines of royal palaces and their traditions. She took them on trips to the cinema, to McDonald’s, and to a theme park.

“Thank goodness I’m not completely cut off from reality. I am determined to have a relatively normal life, and if I am lucky enough to have children, they can have one too,” said Harry.

But how realistic is Harry’s wish? Polls suggest he is one of the most popular British royals, vying with the 92-year-old queen and his elder brother William for top spot, and his marriage to a glamorous Hollywood actress has only increased the media and public fascination.

“I can’t see this child being raised in any other way than pretty traditionally and with a great dollop of privilege,” said Robert Jobson, author of “Prince Charles at 70: Our Future King”.

Meghan, whose rift with members of her own family has provided great fodder for tabloids, giving her a clear insight into the baggage that being a royal brings, has not made any public statement about the possible upbringing for the baby.

But, speeches made by Harry since the pregnancy was announced have hinted how they do not want their child not be valued on their royal background.

“You don’t judge someone based on how they look, where they’re from, or how they identify,” Harry told 12,000 students at London’s Wembley Arena in March.

As well as his own upbringing, Harry and Meghan can look to the experiences of other royals. William has fiercely sought to defend the privacy of his children, George, Charlotte and Louis and so far the media have generally abided by requests to leave them alone.

“In reality, they can do normal within the royal confines,” said Claudia Joseph, author of “How to Dress Like A Princess”.

“We’ve seen that William and Kate have brought up George, Charlotte and Louis out of the public eye and both William and Harry were left alone to a certain extent until they left university.”

Royal author Jobson said whatever Harry and Meghan’s aims, it will be almost impossible for their child to completely escape his or her background.

“I believe this child probably won’t have to serve as a member of the royal family but will certainly be a celebrity for a very, very long time.”

Source: OANN

United Nations workers mourn their colleagues during a commemoration ceremony for the victims at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town Bishoftu
United Nations workers mourn their colleagues during a commemoration ceremony for the victims at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town Bishoftu, near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa NegerI

March 21, 2019

By Maggie Fick and Tim Hepher

ADDIS ABABA/PARIS (Reuters) – At the headquarters of the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority, a paper sign balanced above room 107 and a threadbare square of carpet welcome a stream of foreign visitors to the Accident Investigation Bureau.

The office – with three investigators and an annual budget of less than 2.5 million Birr ($89,000) – is leading a multi-party, multi-nation probe into what caused an Ethiopian Airlines flight to crash on March 10, killing all 157 people on board.

Brusque foreign investigators in cargo pants and Ethiopians in suits or reflective vests wave away questions from reporters on how their inquiries are progressing.

This modest agency is under intense international scrutiny because the results of its investigation could have far-reaching consequences for the global aviation industry.

If the investigators highlight flaws in the 737 MAX 8 that echo a recent crash of the same model in Indonesia, their report could deal a major blow to Boeing, the world’s biggest planemaker and a massive U.S. exporter.

But if investigators find Ethiopian Airlines fell short in maintenance, training or piloting, that could damage one of Africa’s most successful companies, a symbol of Ethiopia’s emergence as a regional power.

Disagreements have broken out in Addis Ababa between Ethiopian authorities and foreign investigators over issues including the handling of evidence and crash site management, according to several sources close to the investigation.

Kevin Humphreys, a former Irish regulator who founded the country’s air investigation agency, told Reuters the high stakes involved tend to make probes like this one particularly tough.

“There are tensions because it is unrealistic to assume that international protocols are always going to work. There is a potentially important economic impact from such investigations.”

An 18-strong team of American investigators has been sent to aid the Ethiopians with the inquiry, including representatives from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Boeing, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which certified 737 MAX planes as safe.

U.S. and some other foreign investigators are unhappy because Ethiopia is so far sharing only limited information, the sources said.

“There is no opportunity for the international community to benefit and learn from this,” said one of them, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Some foreign officials are also unhappy about the prominent role Ethiopian Airlines played in the probe, suggesting a possible conflict of interests, they said.

But one Addis Ababa-based source said the carrier’s role in the investigation does not necessarily indicate it is trying to exert undue influence. The airline is more likely involved because it is the most well-funded and staffed state enterprise able to help the over-stretched inquiry team, he added.

“When you have a vacuum, someone has to fill it,” he said.

Ethiopian Airlines’ spokesman Asrat Begachew said the carrier was supporting the investigation. “We are not taking the lead,” he added, declining to comment further.

Under global aviation rules, interested parties like airlines and manufacturers are discouraged from speaking publicly about the investigation.

Yet in the first days after the Flight 302 crash, Ethiopian Airlines made all of the public statements, including announcing the black box recorders would be sent overseas for data extraction.

It was not until six days after the tragedy that the Ministry of Transport began briefing the media and public.

Hours after the crash, Ethiopian Airlines tweeted a picture of its CEO Tewolde Gebremariam holding a piece of debris in the crater of the crash site, surprising aviation experts who said the site should have been preserved for investigators.

Musie Yehyies, spokesman for Ethiopia’s Ministry of Transport, said the government had been quick to share information about the crash. He denied there was any mistrust between the Ethiopians and other parties.

“Our friendship with the United States is obvious,” he told Reuters. “Plenty of governments have been offering assistance, and some of them have helped practically.”

The ministry did not respond to requests for comment on the airline’s role in the investigation or any potential conflict of interest.

Ethiopia’s Accident Investigation Bureau and civil aviation authority, which fall under the transport ministry, declined to comment on the investigation or any grievances of parties involved.

Boeing, the FAA and the NTSB also declined to comment.

BLACK BOXES

The cockpit voice and flight data recorders were recovered the day after the crash, but it took Ethiopian investigators three days to decide where to send them for the information to be extracted and decoded. Like many fast-growing players, the Ethiopians do not have the technology to perform the task.

In a sign of the distrust between the parties, the Ethiopians turned down an American offer to perform the analysis in the United States, according to two sources.

U.S. authorities declined to comment.

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde personally approached German authorities to request to send the black boxes to Germany to have the data extracted there, a separate source with knowledge of matter told Reuters. Airlines are not usually involved in such decisions, according to current and former investigators.

The airline could not comment on the investigation, a spokesman said in response to questions about the incident.

However German officials said they too did not have the most recent software needed to extract the data, so the devices were eventually sent to France.

Partial data from the flight data recorder was shared informally late on Monday with U.S. and French investigators in Paris, but nothing from the cockpit voice recorder, three sources familiar with the matter said.

It is common for the host investigator to closely guard voice recordings to protect privacy but unusual for relatively little data to be available a week after being downloaded.

“As an investigator, it is hard to understand the logic behind withholding safety-of-flight information,” Greg Feith, a former senior air safety investigator with the NTSB, said on Facebook on Thursday.

Ethiopia said on Thursday it had begun analyzing cockpit data and was working with U.S. and European experts.

Following Ethiopian Airlines’ last major crash, outside Beirut in 2010, an investigation led by the Lebanese and to which France contributed blamed crew mismanagement of the aircraft and poor communication in the cockpit.

The airline – led by the same CEO as today – said the report was “biased, lacking evidence, incomplete,” pointing to evidence of an explosion on board.

HIGH STAKES

Most crash investigations end up pinpointing a combination of factors.

For decades, reconstructions by independent investigators have been credited with reducing air accidents to record low levels. The system of co-operation works by sticking to technical details and avoiding blame or other agendas.

Safety experts worry that too many turf battles can cloud the progress of an investigation.

“The sole purpose of an accident investigation is to reduce the chances of something ever happening again,” said Paul Hayes, safety director at the Flight Ascend Consultancy.

The Flight 302 crash triggered the global grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX jets, wiping billions off the company’s market value. Also on the line are more than $500 billion worth of 737 MAX orders.

Ethiopian Airlines is regulated by the country’s civil aviation authority, but its resources are far more extensive. The carrier’s operating revenue in the 2017/18 financial year was $3.7 billion. This dwarfs the regulator’s budget, which is 360 million Birr ($12.5 million) for this fiscal year.

CRASH SITE

Responsibility for leading the probe fell to Ethiopia because the crash occurred on its soil. Nairobi-bound Flight 302 went down into farmland minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa.

The crash killed people from 35 countries, all of which are also entitled to examine the crash site and join in the investigation. America, China, Kenya, Britain, Canada, Israel, France and other nations have sent investigators.

Some nations were unhappy that Ethiopia was using heavy earth-moving equipment at the site, potentially damaging evidence or human remains, although others said that was the only way to move heavy items such as engines.

Some foreign officials also complained of being unable to access the site in the days after the crash.

After Israel’s team were not given permission to visit the site, the Israeli prime minister eventually called the Ethiopian prime minister on Wednesday, a statement on the Israeli prime minister’s website said. 

A permission letter – from Ethiopian Airlines – was issued late on Thursday for the Israeli ambassador and emergency response unit ZAKA, a source familiar with the incident added.

The European Union’s aviation safety agency, EASA, waited more than a week to be allowed to join the crash investigation.

“The Ethiopian investigation body is very keen to keep a very, very closed circle around the investigation,” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky told the European parliament on Monday.

(Additional reporting by Jason Neely in Addis Ababa, Katharine Houreld in Nairobi, Georgina Prodhan in Paris and David Shepardson in Washington; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Alexandra Zavis and Pravin Char)

Source: OANN

Inside view of a greenhouse at the botanical garden
Inside view of a greenhouse at the botanical garden “Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil” in Paris, France, March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

March 21, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – French Open organizers on Thursday unveiled the brand new Court Simonne Mathieu, hoping the 5,000-seat arena will boost the tournament’s atmosphere as they raised the prize money by more than eight percent.

Named after France’s second-most decorated female player, the arena is nestled among the area’s graceful 19-century greenhouses.

The prize money has been raised from 39.2 million euros ($44.48 million) up to 42.6 million, with the singles’ winners each earning a cheque of 2.3 million euros.

Tournament director Guy Forget doesn’t yet know which players will be the first to step onto the brand new court when the French Open starts on May 26, but he is certain the arena will be worthy of the occasion.

“Wimbledon, the U.S. and Australian Open spread out, they have facilities that are more modern, more comfortable, we were a bit lagging behind,” Forget said.

“Thanks to this court and the stadium that has been growing in size, we will be able to welcome all the fans in perfect conditions.”

Concern for the greenhouses was at the heart of the fierce opposition the French Tennis Federation faced when it announced the revamp, because the plan involved expanding the venue into the picturesque Serres d’Auteuil.

The famed botanical garden is home to 6,000 square meters of greenhouses built in 1898 and contain works by the sculptor Auguste Rodin, and the Roland Garros expansion has added more than 1,300 sqm of greenhouses to the existing ones.

The center court, Court Philippe Chatrier, has been partially restored before being equipped with a retractable roof for the 2020 edition.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

Source: OANN

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

March 21, 2019

By Raya Jalabi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“IT WAS A GOOD LIFE”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANXIOUS, IDLE AND TRAUMATIZED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tajikistan has said it will take children back soon.

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

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

Source: OANN

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

March 21, 2019

(Reuters) – European stock markets opened lower on Thursday, as the impact on banks of an accommodative policy message from the U.S. Federal Reserve outweighed any broader lift to sentiment from its abandoning of further interest rate hikes this year.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index dipped 0.3 percent, driven by falls in Paris, Madrid and Frankfurt that contrasted with a strong reaction on Asian markets to the Fed’s statement and news conference.

Germany’s DAX led with a 0.5 percent fall, weakened by a 1 percent loss for bank stocks, which tend to suffer when expectations for future interest rates fall.

Banking shares across Europe had also risen earlier this week on signs of a merger between Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank.

A bright spot were semiconductor makers, boosted by Micron Technology’s upbeat outlook for the sector, which soothed worries about falling demand for smartphones. Infineon and STMicro were both up 2 percent.

EssilorLuxottica’s shares slumped to the bottom of the CAC 40 and the STOXX 600 on new tensions in its boardroom as the top shareholder and executive chairman accused the Franco-Italian group’s executive vice chairman of a power grab.

Investors punished HeidelbergCement, the world’s second-largest cement maker, after its results and Swedish construction group Skanska fell 3.2 percent after it said it would not reach a target for operating margins.

London’s FTSE 100 index was the only index to buck the trend, gaining 0.3 percent as miners benefited from higher copper prices on the back of a weaker dollar.

The market’s internationally-focussed blue chip stocks also tend to gain on falls for sterling, which was suffering again from Britain’s failure to find a clear route out of the European Union before a March 29 deadline.

Among its midcaps, a profit warning from British precision engineering group Renishaw Plc due to a slowdown in Asia drove its shares 14 percent lower.

(Reporting by Agamoni Ghosh and Patrick Graham; editing by Josephine Mason)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: An American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight approaches for landing at Reagan National Airport in Washington
FILE PHOTO: An American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 flight from Los Angeles approaches for landing at Reagan National Airport shortly after an announcement was made by the FAA that the planes were being grounded by the United States in Washington, U.S. March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Tracy Rucinski and Jamie Freed

CHICAGO/SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Pressure mounted on Boeing Co in Washington as U.S. lawmakers called for executives to testify about two crashed 737 MAX jets, even as the world’s biggest planemaker worked to return the grounded fleet to the skies.

A Senate panel plans to schedule a hearing with Boeing at an unspecified date, officials said, the first time a U.S. congressional committee has called the company’s executives to appear for questioning over the crashes.

The same panel, the Senate Commerce subcommittee on aviation and space, will also question FAA officials on March 27, likely about why the regulator agreed to certify the MAX planes in March 2017 without requiring extensive additional training.

The Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10 that killed all 157 on board has set off one of the widest investigations in aviation history. Initial reports from investigators say there are clear similarities between the crash and the Lion Air accident that killed all 189 crew and passengers in November.

While no direct link has yet been established, the MCAS flight control software and related pilot training are at the center of the investigation, and U.S. lawmakers are questioning the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification of MAX’s safety.

Boeing has promised a swift update to the MCAS, and the FAA said the installation of new software and related training was a priority.

However, extra computer-based training will be required after the software update, the pilot union of MAX’s biggest customer, Southwest Airlines Co, said on Wednesday, becoming the first major airline union to comment.

Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association said it had previewed the proposed Boeing training, including a required test, which would be mandatory for Southwest pilots before flying the 737 MAX again.

A Boeing spokeswoman said training on the software update would be provided by the manufacturer, but declined to disclose further details.

Regulators in Europe and Canada have said, however, they will seek their own guarantees of the MAX’s safety.

MOUNTING SCRUTINY

The Ethiopian Airlines crash has shaken the global aviation industry and cast a shadow over the Boeing model intended to be a standard for decades to come.

Investigators examining the Lion Air crash are weighing how the MCAS system ordered the plane to dive in response to data from a faulty sensor and whether the pilots had enough training to respond appropriately to the emergency, among other factors.

MCAS is meant to prevent a loss of lift which can cause an aerodynamic stall and send the plane downwards in an uncontrolled way.

The pilots of the doomed Lion Air flight scrambled through a handbook to understand why the jet was lurching downwards in the final minutes before it hit the water, three people with knowledge of the cockpit voice recorder contents said.

Indonesian investigators have said the cockpit voice recorder information was leaked to the media and they plan to hold a news conference at 0830 GMT on Thursday.

Boeing has said there was a documented procedure to handle the problem.

The company was sued on Wednesday in federal court in Chicago by the estate of one of the Lion Air crash victims in which the plaintiffs referred to the Ethiopian crash to support a wrongful death claim against the company.

A Boeing spokesman said the company does not respond to, or comment on, questions concerning legal matters.

The Seattle Times reported the Federal Bureau of Investigation was joining the investigation into the MAX’s certification. An FBI spokeswoman in Seattle would neither confirm nor deny that it was a part of any investigation.

Criminal prosecutors at the U.S. Justice Department, who are also investigating the FAA’s oversight of Boeing, have issued multiple subpoenas to Boeing, CNN reported, citing sources briefed on the matter.

Bloomberg said U.S. officials started investigating the FAA’s approval of the MAX software linked to the Lion Air plane crash last year within weeks after the accident, citing people familiar with the matter.

The Pentagon Inspector General said it would investigate a complaint that Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, violated ethical rules by allegedly promoting Boeing while in office.

Facing high-profile scrutiny, Boeing reshuffled executives in its commercial airplanes unit to focus on its response.

FINAL MOMENTS

Before the Lion Air flight crashed, sources told Reuters the Indian-born captain, aged 31, was quiet, while the Indonesian officer, 41, said “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is greatest”.

A different crew on the same plane the previous evening had the same situation but resolved it after running through three checklists, though they did not pass on the information to the doomed Indonesian crew, a preliminary report in November said.

As with the Indonesia flight, the Ethiopian crew radioed about control problems shortly after take-off and sought to turn back. Ethiopia’s civil aviation head Wosenyeleh Hunegnaw said he expected a report on the investigation within 30 days.

For now, more than 350 MAX aircraft are grounded, and deliveries of nearly 5,000, worth more than $500 billion, are on hold. Boeing’s shares have fallen 11 percent since the Ethiopian Airlines crash, wiping $26 billion from its market value.

(For a graphic on ‘Boeing 737 Max deliveries in question’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2Hv2btC)

(For a graphic on ‘Ethiopian Airlines crash and black boxes’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2ChBW5M)

(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski in Chicago and Jamie Freed in Singapore; Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru, Maggie Fick and Jason Neely in Addis Ababa, David Shepardson in Washington, Tim Hepher in Paris, Jonathan Stempel in New York, David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Cindy Silviana in Jakarta, Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Writing by Sayantani Ghosh; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: OANN

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

March 20, 2019

By Gabriela Baczynska

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday to give Prime Minister Theresa May an offer to delay Brexit beyond March 29, on condition that she can finally win over her many opponents in parliament next week.

Nearly three years after Britons narrowly voted in a referendum to leave the EU, May has been unable to unite her divided cabinet, parliament or nation behind her exit plan.

Increasingly embattled, she asked the EU on Wednesday to postpone Brexit until June 30 to give her time to secure a deal in parliament and avoid an abrupt departure next week that could spell economic chaos.

“We could consider a short extension conditional on a positive vote on the Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons,” summit chairman Donald Tusk said in a letter inviting all 28 EU national leaders to Brussels talks.

Any delay must be unanimously approved by all the other 27 national EU leaders, increasingly exasperated with Britain’s inability to find a way of a domestic political deadlock that is weighing heavily on the whole bloc.

Raising the stakes, France threatened to reject May’s request and the EU’s executive said Britain had to be out by May 23 to avoid having to take part in European Parliament elections.

May said in London late on Wednesday that she opposed any further postponement, telling parliament to pick between her deal, a no-deal divorce, or no Brexit.

“It is now time for MPs (lawmakers) to decide,” May said in a televised statement. “You want us to get on with it. And that is what I am determined to do.”

All 28 leaders assemble in Brussels at 1400 GMT. May will address her peers before leaving the room while they discuss the issue.

The 27 are then expected to agree what will amount to a technical extension, intended to give Britain time to pass the necessary exit legislation – if the House of Commons approves the divorce package before March 29.

EXIT DATE APPROACHING FAST

The chamber has already twice voted it down heavily, with some saying May’s deal would leave Britain too closely aligned with the EU, others arguing that it would not be close enough.

If Britain fails to ratify the deal in time, and with the legal exit date of March 29 approaching fast, Tusk could then call an emergency summit for late next week.

At stake would then be a “no-deal” Brexit or a much longer extension to give the British parliament time to find a notional consensus approach. Brexit’s backers fear that, with such a long delay, their project might never materialize.

EU supporters hope a longer delay could pave the way for a new vote in Britain or a reversal of May’s strategy to leave the EU’s single market and customs union, a policy that has exposed intractable differences over how to handle the Irish border.

But this would appear to require Britain to take part in European elections in late May that it had never expected to participate in – or present the EU with a painful constitutional conundrum.

The EU wants to avoid repeated Brexit delays or more renegotiations of the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement, put together in months of painstaking talks with London. It is designed to settle Britain’s bill with the EU, guarantee expatriates’ rights and provide a status-quo transition period after Brexit.

As Brexit is sapping EU resources, the leaders will also turn to other pressing issues on Thursday and Friday. These include the state of their economies, their ties with China, climate change and ringfencing the European elections from illegitimate interference.

Eyes will also be on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who will be meeting his EU peers a day after his Fidesz party was suspended from Europe’s main center-right alliance over a venomous campaign against EU institutions and migration policies.

(Reporting by Brussels, London and Paris bureaux; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Source: OANN

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke claimed recently that climate scientists are “absolutely unanimous” that “we have no more than 12 years to take bold action” on climate change.

Verdict: False

O’Rourke appears to be misconstruing the findings of a 2018 U.N. report. While climate scientists believe that global warming is a serious concern, experts we spoke to say there is no 12-year deadline to avert catastrophic climate change.

Fact Check:

O’Rourke was in Iowa on one of his first campaign stops of the 2020 presidential cycle when he took an audience question about the Green New Deal, a resolution proposed by Democrats in Congress to combat climate change and lower greenhouse gas emissions to net zero.

“The question is on the Green New Deal, and by extension, if you don’t mind, I’ll take the spirit of the question. We face catastrophe and crisis on this planet, even if we were to stop emitting carbon today, right now, at this moment,” O’Rourke began.

“This is our final chance. The scientists are absolutely unanimous on this – that we have no more than 12 years to take incredibly bold action on this crisis,” he claimed March 14.

O’Rourke appears to be referencing a 2018 report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that says global warming is likely to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels between 2030 and 2052.

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also cited the IPCC report when she warned that “the world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change” in January, and several news outlets have similarly covered the report, with one headline proclaiming a 12-year deadline to avert a “climate change catastrophe.”

Neither these articles nor O’Rourke’s comments are an accurate reflection of the report’s findings, though. The report “does not state that we have 12 years left to limit/stop/counteract climate change,” Jonathan Lynn, head of communications and media relations for the IPCC, told The Daily Caller in an email.

The Paris climate accord seeks to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, which led policymakers to ask the IPCC what it would take to meet that benchmark.

The world has already experienced roughly 1 degree Celsius of global warming, according to the IPCC report, and in order to avoid surpassing 1.5 degrees Celsius, it estimated that net global carbon emissions would have to decline 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by around 2050.

“The lower the emissions in 2030, the lower the challenge in limiting global warming to 1.5ºC after 2030 with no or limited overshoot,” Lynn told the Caller.

Lynn emphasized, however, that the 1.5-degree benchmark should not be thought of as a point of no return. “One key finding could be summarized as ‘every bit of warming matters,’” he said. “So if you end up at 1.6 that would be worse than 1.5, but better than 1.7 or 2.0. It’s not as if going through one of those thresholds changes everything.”

Jason Smerdon, a climate researcher at Columbia University, described the impacts of climate change as a “sliding scale.”

“This is not a binary choice that will decide whether or not we fall off a cliff in 12 years,” he told the Caller in an email. “The formula is simple: the warmer things get the bigger the challenges and risks will be.”

Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe estimates that the impacts of climate change would be generally adaptable at 1.5 degrees Celsius, challenging at 2 degrees Celsius and system altering at 3 degrees Celsius, but she cautioned that there’s no “magic number” in terms of a benchmark.

“Trying to put a number on exactly how much global temperature change is dangerous, and how much carbon we can put into the atmosphere before we hit that level, is like trying to put a number on exactly how many cigarettes we can smoke before we develop lung cancer,” she said in a PBS video last year.

Regardless, climate scientists believe that climate change does pose a serious threat.

“I would say there is strong consensus in the scientific community that limiting warming to 1.5 or 2C is important if we want to avoid dangerous levels of climate change and that avoiding those levels requires swift, immediate, and urgent action,” Smerdon told the Caller. “But the scientific community does not believe that we only have 12 years and then all is lost.”

The O’Rourke campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Follow Aryssa on Twitter 

Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: Brigitte Bardot the former French film star turned animal rights activist gestures as she speaks to ..
FILE PHOTO: Brigitte Bardot the former French film star turned animal rights activist gestures as she speaks to EU [Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas (not pictured)] at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, June 9, 2006. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

March 20, 2019

SAINT-DENIS-DE-LA-REUNION, France (Reuters) – The highest ranking official on the French island of Reunion filed a legal suit against former film star and animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot on Wednesday after receiving a letter deemed “racist” by the authorities.

In the letter, sent on Tuesday to the prefect of Reunion and local media, Bardot described inhabitants of the Indian Ocean island as “aboriginals who have kept the genes of savages” and denounced what she called the barbaric treatment of animals by a “degenerate population”.

“This letter contains terms that are offensive and racist toward the inhabitants of Reunion”, prefect Amaury de Saint-Quentin said in a statement.

Bardot’s lawyer was not immediately available for comment.

The Brigitte Bardot Foundation, dedicated to animal protection, said Bardot had written the letter as a personal initiative, separate from the institution.

Bardot, now 84, rose to sex symbol status as an actress in the 1950s. She starred in numerous films and was also famous as a singer and fashion model but in recent decades has become better known as an outspoken campaigner for animal welfare.

Reunion is an overseas French department in the southern Indian Ocean, to the east of Madagascar, and is known for its volcanoes, coral reefs and rainforest.

Bardot’s comments triggered widespread outrage on the island, with several officials saying they would also take legal action. Two anti-racism NGOs, Licra and SOS Racisme, said they too intended to go to court.

“Ordinary racism has no place in the exchange of opinions”, France’s Minister of Overseas Territories Annick Girardin said on Tuesday, adding that she would add her name to the complaint filed by the island’s prefect.

In Paris, the president of the lower house of parliament, Richard Ferrand, expressed his “contempt” for Bardot’s comments.

Animal rights activists say abuse of animals is common on the island and that animal sacrifice is tolerated in some religious ceremonies.

(Reporting by Bernard Grollier; Additional reporting by Julie Carriat and Elizabeth Pineau; Editing by Richard Lough and Gareth Jones)

Source: OANN

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

March 20, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: OANN

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

March 20, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: OANN

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

March 20, 2019

By Maggie Fick and Cindy Silviana

ADDIS ABABA/JAKARTA (Reuters) – The world’s biggest planemaker Boeing faced growing obstacles to returning its grounded 737 MAX fleet to the skies on Wednesday, while chilling details emerged of an Indonesian crash with similarities to the Ethiopian disaster.

Experts suspect an automated system, meant to stop stalling by dipping the nose, may be involved in both cases, with pilots unable to override it as their jets plunged downwards.

The March 10 Ethiopian Airlines crash has shaken the global aviation industry and cast a shadow over the flagship Boeing model intended to be a standard for decades to come, given parallels with the Lion Air calamity off Jakarta in October.

The twin crashes killed 346 people.

(GRAPHIC: Ethiopian Airlines crash – https://tmsnrt.rs/2Hn6V4k)

Chicago-headquartered Boeing has promised a swift update of the automatic flight software for the craft but major regulators in Europe and Canada want to be sure themselves, rather than rely on U.S. vetting.

As Ethiopian investigators pored over black box data from their crash, sources with knowledge of the doomed Lion Air cockpit voice recorder revealed how pilots scoured a manual in a losing battle to figure out why they were hurtling down to sea.

Investigators examining the Indonesian crash want to know how a computer ordered the plane to dive in response to data from a faulty sensor and whether pilots had enough training to respond appropriately to the emergency.

Communications showed that in the final moments, the captain tried in vain to find the right procedure in the handbook, while the first officer was unable to control the plane.

“It is like a test where there are 100 questions and when the time is up you have only answered 75,” said one of the sources with knowledge of the cockpit recording that has not been made public. “So you panic. It is a time-out condition.”

At the end, the sources told Reuters, the Indian-born captain, 31, was quiet, while the Indonesian officer, 41, said “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) – an Arabic phrase to express excitement, shock, praise or distress. The plane then hit water.

U.S. “CREDIBILITY DAMAGED”

Boeing has said there was a documented procedure to handle the situation. A different crew on the same plane the evening before had the same problem but solved it after running through three checklists, though they did not pass on all that information to the doomed crew, the preliminary report by investigators released in November said.

Rowing back from previous reliance on U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) vetting, Canada and the European Union will now seek their own guarantees over the MAX planes, complicating Boeing’s hopes to get them flying worldwide again.

Regulators want to be absolutely sure of Boeing’s new automated flight control system, known as MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), and that pilots are fully trained to handle it.

“Our credibility as leaders in aviation is being damaged,” wrote Chesley Sullenberger, a U.S. pilot famed for landing a jet on the Hudson River saving all 155 people on board a decade ago.

“Boeing and the FAA have been found wanting in this ugly saga that began years ago but has come home to roost with two terrible fatal crashes, with no survivors, in less than five months, on a new airplane type, the Boeing 737 Max 8, something that is unprecedented in modern aviation history,” he added in a scathing article on marketwatch.com.

(GRAPHIC: The grounded 737 Max fleet – https://tmsnrt.rs/2u5sZYI)

Facing such high-profile scrutiny, Boeing, one of the United States’ most prestigious exporters, reshuffled executives in its commercial airplanes unit to focus on the crash fallout.

(GRAPHIC: Boeing 737 Max deliveries in question – https://tmsnrt.rs/2Hv2btC)

VOICE RECORDINGS

The FAA noted in a statement that its “robust processes” and “full collaboration with the aviation community” were key to safety worldwide. The regulator is due to have a new head soon, likely to be former Delta Air Lines executive Steve Dickson.

U.S. President Donald Trump had apparently been considering his longtime personal pilot, John Dunkin, before leaning toward Dickson who had a 27-year career at Delta.

In Ethiopia, which is leading the investigation, experts were poring over the in-flight recording of Captain Yared Getachew and First Officer Ahmednur Mohammed’s voices.

As with the Indonesia flight, they radioed control problems shortly after take-off and sought to turn back, struggling to get their plane on track before it hit a field. However, there is no proven link and experts emphasize that every accident is a unique chain of human and technical factors.

For now, though, more than 300 MAX aircraft are grounded round the world, and deliveries of nearly 5,000 more – worth well over $500 billion – are on hold.

Development of the 737 MAX, which offers cost savings of about 15 percent on fuel, began in 2011 after the successful launch by its main rival of the Airbus A320neo. The 737 MAX entered service in 2017 after six years of preparation.

(Reporting by Maggie Fick and Jason Neely in Addis Ababa, Tim Hepher in Paris, David Shepardson in Washington, David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Jamie Freed in Singapore, Cindy Silviana in Jakarta; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Jon Boyle)

Source: OANN

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

March 20, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Assets worth around a trillion pounds $1.32 trillion) are moving from London to hubs in the European Union ahead of Brexit, with the parallel shift in jobs likely to top 7,000, consultants EY said on Wednesday.

Banks, asset managers and insurers in London are opening or expanding hubs in the EU to avoid disruption from Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Britain is legally due to leave next week, but the British government is asking Brussels for a delay.

In its latest Brexit Tracker, EY said that 23 companies have announced the transfer of about a trillion pounds in assets, up from 800 billion pounds in the last quarter.

Dublin remains the most popular destination for relocations, with 28 companies saying they have plans to set up shop there, but Frankfurt, Luxembourg and Paris are catching up, with between 21 and 18 firms.

“As 29 March draws nearer, companies are reconfirming or revising the statements they have made about the extent of staff and operational changes they are making, but we are not seeing many last-minute surprises – firms are executing their plans as expected,” EY said in a statement.

(Reporting by Huw Jones; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

Source: OANN

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

March 20, 2019

By Norihiko Shirouzu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOO MUCH POWER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PLETHORA OF ACCUSATIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: OANN

Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) of a Lion Air JT610 that crashed into Tanjung Karawang sea is seen inside a special container after it was found under the sea, during a press conference at Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta
Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) of a Lion Air JT610 that crashed into Tanjung Karawang sea is seen inside a special container after it was found under the sea, during a press conference at Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta, Indonesia, January 14, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

March 20, 2019

By Cindy Silviana, Jamie Freed and Tim Hepher

JAKARTA/SINGAPORE/PARIS (Reuters) – The pilots of a doomed Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX scoured a handbook as they struggled to understand why the jet was lurching downwards, but ran out of time before it hit the water, three people with knowledge of the cockpit voice recorder contents said.

The investigation into the crash, which killed all 189 people on board in October, has taken on new relevance as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other regulators grounded the model last week after a second deadly accident in Ethiopia.

Investigators examining the Indonesian crash are considering how a computer ordered the plane to dive in response to data from a faulty sensor and whether the pilots had enough training to respond appropriately to the emergency, among other factors.

It is the first time the voice recorder contents from the Lion Air flight have been made public. The three sources discussed them on condition of anonymity.

Reuters did not have access to the recording or transcript.

A Lion Air spokesman said all data and information had been given to investigators and declined to comment further.

The captain was at the controls of Lion Air flight JT610 when the nearly new jet took off from Jakarta, and the first officer was handling the radio, according to a preliminary report issued in November.

Just two minutes into the flight, the first officer reported a “flight control problem” to air traffic control and said the pilots intended to maintain an altitude of 5,000 feet, the November report said.

The first officer did not specify the problem, but one source said airspeed was mentioned on the cockpit voice recording, and a second source said an indicator showed a problem on the captain’s display but not the first officer’s.

The captain asked the first officer to check the quick reference handbook, which contains checklists for abnormal events, the first source said.

For the next nine minutes, the jet warned pilots it was in a stall and pushed the nose down in response, the report showed. A stall is when the airflow over a plane’s wings is too weak to generate lift and keep it flying.

The captain fought to climb, but the computer, still incorrectly sensing a stall, continued to push the nose down using the plane’s trim system. Normally, trim adjusts an aircraft’s control surfaces to ensure it flies straight and level.

“They didn’t seem to know the trim was moving down,” the third source said. “They thought only about airspeed and altitude. That was the only thing they talked about.”

Boeing Co declined to comment on Wednesday because the investigation was ongoing.

The manufacturer has said there is a documented procedure to handle the situation. A different crew on the same plane the evening before encountered the same problem but solved it after running through three checklists, according to the November report.

But they did not pass on all of the information about the problems they encountered to the next crew, the report said.

The pilots of JT610 remained calm for most of the flight, the three sources said. Near the end, the captain asked the first officer to fly while he checked the manual for a solution.

About one minute before the plane disappeared from radar, the captain asked air traffic control to clear other traffic below 3,000 feet and requested an altitude of “five thou”, or 5,000 feet, which was approved, the preliminary report said.

As the 31-year-old captain tried in vain to find the right procedure in the handbook, the 41-year-old first officer was unable to control the plane, two of the sources said.

The flight data recorder shows the final control column inputs from the first officer were weaker than the ones made earlier by the captain.

“It is like a test where there are 100 questions and when the time is up you have only answered 75,” the third source said. “So you panic. It is a time-out condition.”

The Indian-born captain was silent at the end, all three sources said, while the Indonesian first officer said “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is greatest”, a common Arabic phrase in the majority-Muslim country that can be used to express excitement, shock, praise or distress.

The plane then hit the water, killing all 189 people on board.

French air accident investigation agency BEA said on Tuesday the flight data recorder in the Ethiopian crash that killed 157 people showed “clear similarities” to the Lion Air disaster. Since the Lion Air crash, Boeing has been pursuing a software upgrade to change how much authority is given to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, a new anti-stall system developed for the 737 MAX.

The cause of the Lion Air crash has not been determined, but the preliminary report mentioned the Boeing system, a faulty, recently replaced sensor and the airline’s maintenance and training.

On the same aircraft the evening before the crash, a captain at Lion Air’s full-service sister carrier, Batik Air, was riding along in the cockpit and solved the similar flight control problems, two of the sources said. His presence on that flight, first reported by Bloomberg, was not disclosed in the preliminary report.

The report also did not include data from the cockpit voice recorder, which was not recovered from the ocean floor until January.

Soerjanto Tjahjono, head of Indonesian investigation agency KNKT, said last week the report could be released in July or August as authorities attempted to speed up the inquiry in the wake of the Ethiopian crash.

On Wednesday, he declined to comment on the cockpit voice recorder contents, saying they had not been made public.

(Reporting by Cindy Silviana in Jakarta, Jamie Freed in Singapore and Tim Hepher in Paris; writing by Jamie Freed; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Stanislas Niox-Chateau, Co-Founder & CEO of Doctolib, poses at the entrance of the company's headquarters in Paris
FILE PHOTO: Stanislas Niox-Chateau, Co-Founder & CEO of Doctolib, poses at the entrance of the company’s headquarters in Paris, France, November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

March 19, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – Franco-German start-up Doctolib, an online booking platform for doctors, has raised 150 million euros from a pool of investors led by U.S. venture capital giant General Atlantic, it said on Tuesday.

The fundraising brings the company’s valuation to over 1 billion euros ($1.14 billion), it said in a statement, taking it to the coveted club of so-called “unicorns” — or startups that valued above that threshold.

General Atlantic, which has $31 billion in assets under management, which has notably invested in China’s biggest e-commerce company Alibaba and flat-sharing app Airbnb, made health one of the key fields in which to invest.

Doctolib’s existing investors, which include investment firm Eurazeo, France’s state-owned investment bank Bpifrance and venture funds Kernel and Accel, also took part in the round, the company’s fifth.

The six-year-old group, based in Paris and Berlin, has not yet reached break even and does not disclose its financial figures.

It says it receives about 30 million online visits from patients every month and works with over 75,000 physicians, who subscribe to its online service for 109 euros a month.

Doctolib’s software aims to cut the so-called “no show” rate, or the number of people who do not turn up for their medical appointments.

It also seeks to ease doctors’ day-to-day communication with patients via remote visits by computer and the sharing of health documents on its platform.

Doctolib intends to spend the new funds to double its staff to 1,500 in the next three years. It also aims to expand out these two markets internationally but declined to provide any target. ($1 = 0.8810 euros)

(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain and Gwenaelle Barzic; Editing by Bate Felix)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Customers walk out of an IKEA store in Madrid
FILE PHOTO: Customers walk out of an IKEA store in Madrid, Spain, October 10, 2018. REUTERS/Susana Vera

March 19, 2019

By Daina Beth Solomon

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – IKEA is scouting Mexico’s biggest cities for its first store locations in the country, the furniture retailer said, as it expands in Latin America to battle growing competition in its core U.S. and European markets.

The Swedish chain known for modern and inexpensive designs is looking at sites in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey, the company’s local franchisee said.

“We’re looking at the biggest cities in Mexico, with those three being the most important,” said Antonia Banuelos-Leon, country marketing manager for IKEA Mexico, in an interview on Monday. “We’re also looking at the country as a whole.”

The company is likely to announce its plans within a month, and is considering various store formats, Banuelos-Leon said. She declined to comment on store numbers or the timeline.

Stores in Europe and the United States drive the majority of sales for Inter IKEA Group and its franchisees, but rival retailers, especially online, are increasingly vying for shoppers. IKEA has 427 stores across 52 markets, with more in the works aimed at growing its customer base.

Late last year, IKEA announced plans to enter Latin America, starting with Chile in 2020 followed by Colombia and Peru.

Banuelos-Leon said IKEA Mexico, which is part of IKEA franchisee Ikano Group, opened an office in Mexico City last April and has advertised job openings in the capital and Guadalajara in recent months.

The country’s dense capital area, with more than 20 million people and scant open space, could challenge IKEA’s traditional model, which calls for vast warehouses on city outskirts packed with goods from lamps to couches and eateries known for their Swedish meatballs.

That model is changing. In January, IKEA announced plans to open its first store in the center of Paris, selling a full range of goods on a compact footprint.

(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Additional reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher in Mexico City and Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Richard Chang)

Source: OANN

Katie Jerkovich | Entertainment Reporter

Paris Jackson reportedly is refusing to go back to rehab following her alleged attempted suicide scare over the weekend, which lead friends to “spring into action.”

Sources close to the 20-year-old model told TMZ on Tuesday, that those close to her were all prepared on Sunday to help her go and be her support. But she reportedly refused to go. (RELATED: Paris Jackson Calls Out Paparazzi Over Comparison To Her Dad: ‘Does No One Remember’ The Disguises)

Paris Jackson attends the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 4, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Paris Jackson attends the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 4, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

According to the outlet:

Those close to Paris suggested rehab after what law enforcement says was a suicide attempt over the weekend, landing her in the hospital. We’re told the attempted suicide shows some serious underlying problems … they say Paris is dealing with all sorts of emotional issues as well as substance abuse issues.

It comes following reports that Jackson had to be hospitalized early Saturday morning after she reportedly slit her wrists, per law enforcement. (RELATED: Paris Jackson Hits Back At Claims Of ‘Creepy’ Edited Photo Of Her Dad [PHOTOS])

Following the alleged attempted suicide, she was placed on a temporary 5150 hold. Sources claim she’s been not doing well ever since the documentary “Leaving Neverland” came out, which details allegations of child abuse leveled at her late father, Michael Jackson.

Shortly after reports surfaced about her alleged suicide attempt, the actress hit back once again.

“F— you you f—ing liars,” Jackson tweeted in response to the report.

Another source disputed the attempted suicide reports and shared with People magazine that, “Paris had an accident this morning that required medical treatment. She is currently resting at home and doing fine.”

Source: The Daily Caller

Britain, European and French flags are seen before a news conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris
FILE PHOTO: Britain, European and French flags are seen before a news conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

March 19, 2019

By Richard Lough and Jean-Baptiste Vey

PARIS (Reuters) – France is ready to veto any British request for a Brexit delay that either kicks the can down the road without offering a way out of its deadlock or imperils European Union institutions, an official in President Emmanuel Macron’s office said on Tuesday.

The warning came as Britain planned to ask the EU to extend the negotiating period by at least three months after Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans for another vote on her twice-defeated divorce deal were thrown into turmoil.

The Elysee official’s comments were the strongest indication yet from Macron’s office that France will not agree to an extension beyond the scheduled March 29 leave date simply to save Britain from a chaotic exit with no deal.

Asked about a possible French veto, the official said: “it is a possible scenario, yes, if the conditions for an extension are not met.” Any extension has to be approved by all 27 EU members remaining in the bloc.

Macron, an ardent Europhile, has championed an EU refusal to reopen at the eleventh hour Britain’s withdrawal agreement, the result of more than two years of hard-fought negotiations.

The presidential aide said France would assess any request for an extension against two criteria: is there a credible British plan, or strategy, that can win a majority in Westminster; and what will the impact be on the smooth running of Europe’s institutions?

An extension beyond late June, a month after European elections in late May, could see Britain maintain a commissioner in the EU executive, lawmakers in the European Parliament and a seat at the table of EU leaders, with influence on decisions for the bloc’s future even as it tries to leave.

A no-deal exit by Britain was “not desirable, was not being pushed by the EU, by France or other member states, but will impose itself on us if no real alternative is put forward in the next few days or even the next few hours,” the official added.

May’s spokesman said on Tuesday the prime minister was writing to European Council President Donald Tusk to ask for a delay. He did not disclose how long a delay she would seek, but said she believed it should be as short as possible.

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

French officials say in private that they are not alone in their stance but that they are more willing than other countries to stick their necks out because Britain will always blame the French for their misfortunes.

In Brussels, Germany’s Europe Minister Michael Roth complained that EU patience was being sorely tested by London but adopted a softer tone than Paris, saying Germany’s main aim was to avoid a no-deal Brexit, which would disrupt business across the continent.

“Everything has been done to avoid a no-deal and a disorderly British exit,” the French presidency official said. “Now, we need a clear political choice in the United Kingdom.”

(Reporting by Jean Baptiste Vey and Richard Lough; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Source: OANN

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

March 19, 2019

By Julie Carriat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 19, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 19, 2019

By John Irish and Noémie Olive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 19, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 19, 2019

By Omar Mohammed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOREIGN INVESTORS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PARTNERS, BOEING BOOKINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Protesters wearing yellow vests walk down the Champs Elysees during a demonstration by the
FILE PHOTO: Protesters wearing yellow vests walk down the Champs Elysees during a demonstration by the “yellow vests” movement in Paris, France, March 9, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

March 19, 2019

By Leigh Thomas

PARIS (Reuters) – A strong majority of people in wealthy countries want to tax the rich more and there is broad support for building up the welfare state in most countries, a survey conducted for the OECD showed on Tuesday.

In all of the 21 countries surveyed, more than half of those people polled said they were in favor when asked: “Should the government tax the rich more than they currently do in order to support the poor?” The OECD gave no definition of rich.

Higher taxation of the rich has emerged as a political lightning rod in many wealthy countries, with U.S Democrats proposing hikes and “yellow vest” protesters in France demanding the wealthy bear a bigger tax burden.

Support was highest in Portugal and Greece, both emerging from years of economic crisis, at nearly 80 percent compared with an average of 68 percent, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said.

The Paris-based forum’s survey of 22,000 people about perceived social and economic risks also found deep discontent with governments’ social welfare polices, which many people said were insufficient, the OECD said.

On average, only 20 percent said they could easily receive public benefits if needed while 56 percent thought it would be difficult to get benefits, the survey found.

People were on average particularly concerned about access to good quality, affordable long-term care for the elderly, housing and health services.

Not only did people say they were not getting their fair share given what they paid into the system, people in all countries except Canada, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands did not think that their governments were heeding their views.

“These feelings spread across most social groups, and are not limited just to those deemed ‘left behind’,” the OECD said in an analysis of the survey’s results.

The feeling of injustice was even higher among the highly educated and high-income households, it added.

In light of the high level of discontent, a majority of people wanted their government to do more in all countries except France and Denmark, whose welfare systems are among the most generous in the world.

Most people said the top priority should be better pensions with 54 percent saying that would make them feel more economically secure.

Healthcare followed in second place at 48 percent while nearly 37 percent were in favor of a guaranteed basic income benefit, which has attracted international interest from policymakers but has yet to be tried at the national level.

(Reporting by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Richard Lough and Janet Lawrence)

Source: OANN

An Airbus A350-1000 Xwb is seen on static display during the 52nd Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris
FILE PHOTO: An Airbus A350-1000 Xwb is seen on static display during the 52nd Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France, June 22, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

March 19, 2019

(Reuters) – Taiwanese start-up StarLux Airlines has ordered 17 Airbus A350 XWB aircraft for long-haul services, European planemaker Airbus said https://www.airbus.com/newsroom/press-releases/en/2019/03/starlux-airlines-orders-17-a350-xwb-aircraft-for-longhaul-services.html on Tuesday.

The order, which consists of 12 A350-1000S and 5 A350-900S, would be worth $6 billion at list prices https://www.airbus.com/newsroom/press-releases/en/2018/01/airbus-2018-price-list-press-release.html.

StarLux intends to use the planes on its premier long-haul operations from Taipei to Europe and North America, as well as selected destinations within the Asia-Pacific region, Airbus said.

“We are positive that with the A350 XWB, we will be able to spread our wings to further destinations, bringing our best-in-class services to more people over the world in the near future,” StarLux Airlines Founder and Chairman Chang Kuo-wei said.

StarLux and Airbus had signed a memorandum of understanding for the 17 wide-body planes at the Farnborough Airshow in July 2018.

(Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by David Holmes)

Source: OANN

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

March 19, 2019

By Maggie Fick and Tim Hepher

ADDIS ABABA/PARIS (Reuters) – The investigation into the final minutes of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 turned on Tuesday to the secrets in the cockpit voice recorder as Boeing and a shaken global aviation industry hung on the outcome.

The voices of Captain Yared Getachew and First Officer Ahmednur Mohammed could reveal what led to the March 10 crash of the Boeing 737 MAX that has worrying parallels with another disaster involving the same model off Indonesia in October.

(GRAPHIC: Ethiopian Airlines crash – https://tmsnrt.rs/2Hn6V4k)

The twin disasters killed 346 people.

Black box data was downloaded in France but only Ethiopian experts leading the probe have heard the dialogue between Getachew, 29, and Mohammed, 25. The data was back in Addis Ababa on Tuesday, sources familiar with the probe told Reuters.

Experts believe a new automated system in Boeing’s flagship MAX fleet – intended to stop stalling by dipping the plane’s nose – may have played a role in both crashes, with pilots unable to override it as their jets plunged downwards.

Both came down just minutes after take-off after erratic flight patterns and loss of control reported by the pilots. However, every accident is a unique chain of human and technical factors, experts say.

The prestige of Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa’s most successful companies, and Boeing, the world’s biggest planemaker and a massive U.S. exporter, is at stake in the inquiry.

AWKWARD QUESTIONS FOR INDUSTRY

Lawmakers and safety experts are questioning how thoroughly regulators vetted the MAX model and how well pilots were trained on new features. For now, regulators have grounded the existing fleet of more than 300 MAX aircraft and deliveries of nearly 5,000 more – worth well over $500 billion – are on hold.

Pressure on the Chicago-headquartered company has grown with news that federal prosecutors and the U.S. Department of Transportation are scrutinizing how carefully the MAX model was developed, two people briefed on the matter said.

The U.S. Justice Department was looking at the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) oversight of Boeing, one of the people said. And a federal grand jury last week issued at least one subpoena to an entity involved in the plane’s development.

In the hope of getting its MAX line back into the air soon, Boeing said it will roll out a software update and revise pilot training. In the case of the Lion Air crash in Indonesia, it has raised questions about whether crew used the correct procedures.

“Lives depend on the work we do,” acknowledged Boeing boss Dennis Muilenburg, facing the biggest crisis of his tenure.

The MAX, which offers cost savings of about 15 percent on fuel, was developed for service from 2017 after the successful launch by its main rival of the Airbus A320neo.

(GRAPHIC: The grounded 737 Max fleet – https://tmsnrt.rs/2u5sZYI)

After Ethiopia, France and the United States all noted parallels with the Indonesia crash, one person familiar with the probe said black box data showed the Ethiopian Airlines jet’s “angle of attack” was “very similar” to the Lion Air plane.

The angle of attack is a fundamental parameter of flight, measuring the degrees between the air flow and the wing. If it is too high, it can throw the plane into an aerodynamic stall.

GLOBAL RAMIFICATIONS

In the hot seat over its certification of the MAX without demanding additional training and its closeness to Boeing, the FAA has said it is “absolutely” confident in its vetting.

But given the U.S. probe, Canada said it would re-examine its acceptance of the FAA validation and do its own independent certification.

The crisis has put the airline world in a spin.

One company, Norwegian Airlines, has already said it will seek compensation after grounding its MAX aircraft.

Various firms are reconsidering Boeing orders, and some airlines are revising profit forecasts given they now cannot count on maintenance and fuel savings factored in from the MAX.

Beyond the corporate ramifications, anguished relatives are still waiting to find out what happened.

Many have been visiting the crash site in a charred field to seek some closure, but there is anger at the slow pace of information and all they have been given for funerals is earth.

Abdulmajid Shariff, a Yemeni who lost his brother-in-law, was heading home on Tuesday. “I’m just so terribly sad. I had to leave here without the body of my dead brother. But I have to praise almighty God, there is nothing more to do.”

(Reporting by Maggie Fick and Jason Neely in Addis Ababa, Tim Hepher in Paris, David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Jamie Freed in Singapore; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Georgina Prodhan)

Source: OANN

Container cranes are pictured at the Port of Singapore
FILE PHOTO: Container cranes are pictured at the Port of Singapore, June 10, 2018. REUTERS/Feline Lim

March 19, 2019

By Jonathan Saul and Nina Chestney

LONDON (Reuters) – More ports around the world are banning ships from using a fuel cleaning system that pumps waste water into the sea, one of the cheapest options for meeting new environmental shipping rules.

The growing number of destinations imposing stricter regulations than those set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are expected to be a costly headache for cruise and shipping firms as they face tough market conditions and slowing world trade. They might have to pay for new equipment and extra types of fuel and adjust their routes.

Singapore, China and Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates have already banned the use of the cleaning systems, called open loop scrubbers, from the start of next year when the new IMO rules come into force.

Reuters has learned that individual ports in Finland, Lithuania, Ireland and Russia, have all banned or restricted such equipment, according to interviews with officials and reviews of documents by Reuters. One British port has occasionally imposed restrictions.

Norway is also working on open loop scrubber bans around its world heritage fjords, an official with the climate and environment ministry told Reuters. A ban on all types of scrubbers is also proposed, the official added.

The IMO rules will prohibit ships from using fuels with sulfur content above 0.5 percent, unless they are equipped with exhaust gas cleaning systems. The open loop scrubbers wash out the sulfur and some industry experts believe they are the cheapest way to meet the new global rules.

Companies that invested in open loop scrubbers will be unable to use them while sailing through those port waters. They also fear the IMO rules could change again and ban open loop scrubbers altogether.

The world’s top cruise operator Carnival Corporation has invested over $500 million to deploy the devices.

Carnival’s Mike Kaczmarek, senior vice president for marine technology and refit with oversight of the group’s scrubbers program, said the port moves were “very troubling”.

“The more ports that participate in this, the greater the (economic) impact,” he said.

“A lot of people out there…in good faith have made significant investments.”

Ships with open loop scrubbers docking or sailing through those ports would need to store waste in tanks until it could be discharged elsewhere or avoid the ports.

The other option is to use a scrubber with a “closed loop”, which stores the waste until it can be treated on land. There are also hybrid scrubbers with a loop that can be open or closed.

Ship owners could also choose another energy source such as low sulfur fuel or liquefied natural gas (LNG). Some experts say there will be enough low sulfur fuel available to avoid fitting scrubbers.

Data from Norwegian risk management and certification company DNV GL shows there will be a total of 2,693 ships running with scrubbers by the end of 2019 – based on current orders – and over 80 percent of them will be open loop devices, compared with 15 percent using hybrid scrubbers and 2 percent opting for closed loop scrubbers.

REGULATORY UNCERTAINTY

Initial research to date into the environmental impact of open loop scrubbers has produced a range of results. The ports and authorities that have banned them have acted in anticipation of studies that conclusively show the discharge is harmful, environmental groups say.

International regulation often lags local action and the IMO rules were agreed in 2016 after years of tense discussions.

An official with Sweden’s Gothenburg port said it recommended shipowners in their waters not to use open loop scrubbers as a precautionary principle to “avoid discharges of scrubber wash water in coastal waters and port areas”.

Businesses are waiting to see if the IMO rules will change.

“What is terrible for business is uncertainty in regulation and changes which are not broadcast well in advance,” said Hamish Norton, president of dry bulk shipping group Star Bulk Carriers, among the biggest investors in scrubbers.

Jurisdictions that have not imposed restrictions are also watching closely.

The IMO encouraged member states in February to research the impact of scrubbers on the environment. An IMO spokeswoman said it was up to countries to make any proposal to tighten scrubber regulation, which would need consensus approval by its 174 member states.

The 28 European Union countries submitted a paper to the IMO which said the use of open loop scrubbers was “expected to lead to a degradation of the marine environment due to the toxicity of water discharges”. It said it wanted to see “harmonization of rules and guidance”.

A separate paper submitted to the IMO, commissioned by Panama – the world’s top ship registration state – and conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said more scientific investigation was needed.

THE FRONT PAGE TEST

A number of jurisdictions without bans, including Gibraltar, South Korea and Australia said they were investigating.

“We will study to find out how harmful it is to oceans and then consider what actions we can take,” said an official with South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

“If the IMO sets out a guideline on this, we will comply.”

Others are pushing back. Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, said it concluded in research last year that there was little impact on the marine environment from scrubber water discharges.

Carnival said a study it commissioned concluded that scrubbers were safe and discharges were over 90 percent lower than maximum allowable levels in various waters.

Nevertheless, many in the industry expect the rules to change.

Ivar Hansson Myklebust, chief executive with Hoegh Autoliners, said at a recent Marine Money conference the vehicle transporter was not ordering any scrubbers.

“The (open loop) scrubbers have a hard time passing the front page test taking pollutants from the air and dumping it into the sea,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Gary McWilliams in Houston, Gederts Gelzis in Riga, Andrius Sytas in Vilnius, Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Roslan Khasawneh in Singapore, Esha Vaish in Stockholm, Jane Chung in Seoul, Yuka Obayashi in Tokyo, Gus Trompiz in Paris, Gleb Stolyarov in Moscow and Anne Kauranen in Helsinki; editing by Anna Willard)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The Hyundai logo is seen during the first press day of the Paris auto show
FILE PHOTO: The Hyundai logo is seen during the first press day of the Paris auto show, in Paris, France, Oct. 2, 2018. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau/File Photo

March 19, 2019

(Reuters) – South Korean automakers Hyundai Motor Co and Kia Motors Corp will together invest $300 million in Indian ride-hailing platform Ola, playing catch-up in the global race to invest in mobility firms.

The move follows the $275 million that the pair invested in Singapore-based ride-hailing firm Grab last year.

Hyundai, Kia and Ola will collaborate to develop fleet and mobility solutions, electric vehicles and infrastructure specific to the Indian market, they said in a joint statement.

The deal, Hyundai and Kia’s biggest combined investment, marks Hyundai’s foray into fleet vehicles.

Hyundai is one of the biggest automakers operating in India, where affiliate Kia plans to start production this year at its first factory in the country.

Ola’s other investors include SoftBank Group Corp and Tencent Holdings Ltd.

(Reporting by Tanvi Mehta in BENGALURU and Hyunjoo Jin in SEOUL; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu and Christopher Cushing)

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FILE PHOTO: The British flag flies next to European flags at the European Commission in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: The British flag flies next to European flags at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium December 8, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman

March 19, 2019

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Leaving the European Union is making it harder for fintech firms in Britain to recruit top talent, a report said on Tuesday, threatening to slam the brakes on a 7 billion pound ($9 billion)growth sector just as EU states step up competition.

The Fuelling Fintech report from TheCityUK, which promotes Britain as a financial center, and recruitment firm Odgers Berndtson, said fintech and other financial services firms must work harder to secure the skills they need.

Fintech employs 60,000 people and investment grew by 154 percent in 2017.

The report offers ways to generate more “home grown” tech talent as immigration faces curbs after Brexit.

“Since the Brexit vote in June 2016, there has been a significant decrease of graduates coming to the UK from France and Germany in particular,” said Miles Celic, chief executive of TheCityUK.

Up to a fifth of the skills needed in recent years has come from EU countries, and UK hirers are now seeing a net migration of tech graduates back to the bloc.

Companies struggle to fill roles in coding, cloud computing, machine learning, software development, cyber, artificial intelligence and blockchain, the report said.

“There is a risk that those talented migrants with the skills needed by the UK will leave before these skills can be replaced by home-grown talent,” Celic said.

(GRAPHIC: TheCityUK/Odgers Berndston Report – https://tmsnrt.rs/2ObgELT)

The report recommends copying pharmaceuticals and manufacturing by forging long-term partnerships with academia to create a pipeline of skilled people – and also looking beyond graduates.

Better data gathering on the skills needed and better retraining of existing employees are also needed, the report said.

Britain has emerged as a leading fintech hub in Europe in recent years but now faces increased competition from EU cities such as Berlin, Paris and Luxembourg that can offer access to the bloc’s vast single market. Britain’s future access to the EU market could remain unclear for some time to come.

“The current shortage of tech talent is a strategic issue for the UK’s financial and related professional services industry, yet little has been done to quantify our current and future skills need,” said Nathan Bostock, chief executive of Santander UK bank and chair of TheCityUK’s working group on trade and investment.

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Mark Potter)

Source: OANN


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