United States

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

March 21, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN

President Donald Trump said Thursday that it's time for the United States to recognize Israel's control over the disputed Golan Heights, an announcement that signals a shift in U.S. policy and comes ahead of the Israeli prime minister's planned visit next week to the White House.

The administration has been considering recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967. Last week, in its annual human rights report, the State Department dropped the phrase "Israeli-occupied" from the Golan Heights section, instead calling it "Israeli-controlled."

"After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel's Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!" Trump tweeted.

Minutes later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted his appreciation. "At a time when Iran seeks to use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel, President Trump boldly recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Thank you President Trump!"

In addition to its policies toward the Palestinians, the U.S. has taken a hard line toward Iran, much to Netanyahu's delight.

Trump's announcement came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Jerusalem, lauding warm ties with Israel and promising to step up pressure on Iran. Pompeo's words gave a public boost to the Israeli leader at the height of a tight re-election campaign. Netanyahu is to be in Washington for two days next week — two weeks before Israel's April 9 ballot.

Standing together in Jerusalem Thursday, neither Netanyahu nor Pompeo mentioned the heated Israeli election campaign. But Netanyahu, facing a tough challenge from a popular former military chief and reeling from a series of corruption allegations, has repeatedly sought to focus attention on his foreign policy record and strong ties with Trump.

Pompeo has said his trip has nothing to do with politics.

Netanyahu thanked Pompeo for the Trump administration's strong stance against Iran, which Israel regards as an existential threat.

Netanyahu has accused Iran of attempting to set up a terrorist network to target Israel from the Golan Heights, using the incident to repeat his goal of international recognition for Israel's claim on the area.

"You could imagine what would have happened if Israel were not in the Golan," he said. "You would have Iran on the shores of the Sea of Galilee."

Pompeo paid a solemn visit Thursday to Jerusalem's Western Wall along with Netanyahu in an apparent sign of support for Israel's control of the contested city.

Pompeo is the highest-ranking American official to tour the holy site with any Israeli leader. His visit was likely to further infuriate the Palestinians, who already have severed ties with the U.S. over its Jerusalem policies.

Pompeo and Netanyahu prayed at the wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, before depositing written prayers in its crevices and then touring nearby tunnels and synagogue. Neither made any public comment at the site.

The secretary said he thought it was important to visit the wall with the Israeli leader as a show of support for Israel.

"I think it's symbolic that a senior American official go there with a prime minister of Israel," he said before making the trip. "It's a place that's important to many faiths and I'm looking forward to it. I think it will be very special."

Israel captured east Jerusalem and the Old City in the 1967 Mideast war, and for decades, U.S. officials refrained from visiting the Western Wall with Israeli leaders to avoid the appearance of recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the city's most sensitive holy sites. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

But the Trump administration has upended the longstanding policy, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem last year after recognizing the city as Israel's capital. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital.

Senior U.S. officials, including Trump and numerous predecessors, have visited the wall privately in the past, but never with an Israeli leader.

The Old City is home to Jerusalem's most sensitive holy sites, including the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where tradition says Jesus was entombed and resurrected. Pompeo, a devout Christian, also stopped at the church.

Next to the Western Wall is a hilltop compound revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. The spot, which once housed the biblical Temples, is the holiest site in Judaism and today is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.

The competing claims to the site are a frequent source of tension and lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

When Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, he said it did not determine the city's final borders. But the gesture was perceived as unfairly siding with Israel and prompted the Palestinians to sever ties with the U.S. The Palestinians already have rejected a planned Mideast peace initiative by the administration.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Pompeo's visit added additional obstacles to peace hopes. "While they are claiming to be trying to solve the conflict, such acts only make it more difficult to resolve," he said.

While previous secretaries of state have traditionally met with the Palestinians when visiting the region, Pompeo has no such talks planned.

"The Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side. We need to help them figure out how to do that," Pompeo said. "It's a fact, and this administration wishes well for the Palestinian people."

In addition to the Jerusalem recognition, the administration also has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, helping fuel a financial crisis for Abbas' Palestinian Authority.

At a meeting with Pompeo, Israel's President Reuven Rivlin expressed his deep concern about the Palestinians, both in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and under the internationally backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

"If the Palestinian Authority will collapse, we will have to take care about what is going on,"

Source: NewsMax

FILE PHOTO: Lighthizer testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer testifies at a House Ways and Means Committee on U.S.-China trade in Washington U.S., February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

March 21, 2019

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s plans for trade negotiations with the United States fall far short of what is required and any idea of delaying formal talks would not work, the U.S. ambassador to the EU said on Thursday.

The European Commission, which negotiates trade deals on behalf of the 28 EU countries, has presented two negotiating mandates to governments for approval, one on reducing tariffs on industrial goods, the other on making it easier for companies to clear their products for sale on both sides of the Atlantic.

“The mandate that is being circulated falls far short of what even (Commission) President Juncker and President Trump discussed in July in Washington. The idea was to have a wide-ranging conversation about all aspects of our relationship,” Gordon Sondland told an AmCham business conference in Brussels.

The EU and the United States ended months of standoff in July when President Donald Trump agreed with Jean-Claude Juncker not to hit EU car imports with extra tariffs while the two sides worked on improving economic ties.

EU governments have failed so far to agree on launching formal trade talks, Germany pressing for a quick start, and France bidding for more time.

Stalling, said Sondland, would have consequences.

“The more the EU leadership plays the delay game the more we will have to use leverage to realign the relationship,” he said.

Some in Europe, he said, believed they could simply wait for a new U.S. president, but this tactic would not work.

“The (U.S.) Democrats disagree with President Trump on many issues…. but when it comes to fixing our trade imbalance with the EU there is no daylight between (us), none,” he said.

A key part of the July agreement was to remove import duties on “non-auto industrial goods”. The EU has said cars should be included and rejected Washington’s demand that agriculture should feature in talks too.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told Congress last week that discussions were at a “complete stalemate”.

The EU says progress has been made – its two negotiating mandates, discussions of possible regulatory cooperation and the doubling of U.S. soybean imports into Europe since July, although mainly because they are cheaper than rival imports.

Sondland repeated the U.S. line that agriculture had to be part of trade discussions, but acknowledged that the two sides could build up deals piece by piece, as long as they did move though the issues.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Source: OANN

Phil Bryant, governor of Mississippi, speaks during an election night party for Republican U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith in Jackson
FILE PHOTO: Phil Bryant, governor of Mississippi, speaks during an election night party for Republican U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith in Jackson, Mississippi, U.S., November 27, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

March 21, 2019

(Reuters) – Mississippi’s Republican governor signed one of America’s strictest abortion bills on Thursday banning women from obtaining an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can often occur before a woman even realizes she is pregnant.

Dubbed the ‘heartbeat bill,’ this is the second legislative attempt in less than a year aimed at restricting abortions in a state with a single abortion clinic.

In a tweet earlier this week, Governor Phil Bryant thanked the state’s legislature for “protecting the unborn” by passing the bill and sending it to him for his signature.

The Mississippi law joins a wave of similar Republican-backed measures recently introduced in Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia.

Conservative Republican proponents say these bills are intended to challenge Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark ruling that women have a constitutional right to an abortion.

U.S. states are jostling for a showdown on abortion rights in 2019, with all eyes on the conservative-dominated Supreme Court.

Just last November, a U.S. federal judge struck down a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks, ruling that it “unequivocally” violates women’s constitutional rights.

The new Mississippi bill prohibits the abortion of a fetus with a detectable heartbeat, before the point where a woman may be aware she are pregnant.

It also states that any physician who violates the restriction is subject to losing the license to practice medicine.

The law makes exceptions for women whose health is at extreme risk. It is a victory for anti-abortion groups, but abortion rights advocates have promised to pursue legal action to overturn it.

“This ban is one of the most restrictive abortion bans signed into law, and we will take Mississippi to court to make sure it never takes effect,” Hillary Schneller, staff attorney at the global abortion rights advocacy group Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

“This ban — just like the 15 week ban the Governor signed a year ago — is cruel and clearly unconstitutional.”

A fetus that is viable outside the womb, usually at 24 weeks, has widely been considered the threshold in the United States to prohibit an abortion.

Last week, a federal judge blocked Kentucky’s fetal heartbeat abortion law. An Iowa judge overturned that state’s heartbeat law in January after declaring it violated the state’s constitution.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Nick Carey and Richard Chang)

Source: OANN

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

March 21, 2019

By Marc Frank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BREXIT AND TRUMP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A couple look towards signs pointing out distances to different cities,at an observation post in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights
FILE PHOTO: A couple look towards signs pointing out distances to different cities,at an observation post in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, January 21, 2019. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

March 21, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday it was time to back Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Middle East War.

“After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!” Trump said on Twitter.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by David Alexander)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Lebanon President Michel Aoun addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon President Michel Aoun addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, September 11, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler/File Photo

March 21, 2019

BEIRUT (Reuters) – U.S. sanctions on Hezbollah are harming Lebanon as a whole, President Michel Aoun said on Thursday ahead of a visit to the country by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The United States deems the heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah group a terrorist organization and has been steadily increasing financial sanctions against it as part of efforts to counter Iran.

Shi’ite Muslim Hezbollah has a large armed militia that has helped Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his eight-year war against rebels, but it is also a political party in Lebanon with seats in the parliament and cabinet.

“Lebanon is within the siege that has been imposed on others, particularly on Iran. And it is passing, as a result of that, through a big crisis,” Aoun told Russian media in Lebanon, the Lebanese Presidency office said.

Sanctions against Hezbollah introduced since 2016 raised fears among Lebanese that U.S. correspondent banks might deem Lebanese banks too risky to do business with, harming a major part of Lebanon’s economy.

However, Lebanon’s Central Bank has repeatedly said that the banking sector is fully compliant with sanctions and that foreign institutions are satisfied with how it implements regulation.

“We don’t expect more measures against the banks,” Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, said.

But he said the “negative impact of the siege on Hezbollah afflicts all Lebanese, as it does the Lebanese banks”.

“Every Lebanese bank has uncertainty about dealing with a depositor, fearing that he has a link with Hezbollah … This mutual fear does not build an economy and sound trade relations,” he added.

U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo is due to visit Lebanon on Friday and Saturday after trips to Kuwait and Israel. In Israel, Pompeo described Iran-backed Hezbollah as a risk to the Lebanese.

Aoun is scheduled to visit Russia over March 25-26 after being invited by President Vladimir Putin, Aoun’s office said.

(Writing by Lisa Barrington and Tom Perry; Editing by David Goodman)

Source: OANN

Not only is there a national emergency on the border, but there is one in Congress, too, for their inaction on immigration reform, according America First Policies vice chair Kimberly Guilfoyle in The Daily Caller.

"Congress tried to veto reality," Guilfoyle wrote. "Instead, President Trump vetoed Congress.

". . . By any measure of objective reality, there is a national emergency at the southern border. There's also another national emergency. It's in Washington where Congress refuses to recognize reality or do anything about it."

Congress' inaction has invited human traffickers to flood our borders, because they know they ostensibly protected by politics, she claimed.

The mass migration gets released into the United States by court order and the undocumented immigrants compete against Americans for jobs, perhaps even flooding the market and causing wage deflation for those laborers, she added.

"No matter how hard Congress tries to ignore, deny and dodge reality, we have a humanitarian, security, and enforcement crisis at the border," Guilfoyle wrote. "As Homeland Security Secretary Kirsten Nielsen said, it is beyond a national emergency — it's a total meltdown of our immigration system.

". . . The president took an oath to preserve and protect our country. He takes that oath seriously. Congress must take off its blindfold and work with President Trump to end the immigration crisis threatening our nation."

Source: NewsMax

Palestinian demonstrators protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian demonstrators protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

March 21, 2019

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel said on Thursday a U.N. report critical of its use of lethal force during Palestinian protests on the Gaza border was biased and should have included a demand that the enclave’s dominant Hamas group take action to stop anti-Israeli violence.

A U.N. Commission of Inquiry on the demonstrations, which began nearly a year ago, said this week that Israel should investigate the shootings of more than 6,000 people, far beyond the criminal inquiries it has announced into 11 killings.

Issuing an official response to the commission’s report, Israel said it had “serious concerns about the factual and legal analysis conducted by the commission, its methodologies and the clear evidence of political bias against Israel”.

Gaza health authorities say some 200 people have been killed and thousands injured by Israeli fire since Palestinians launched the protests. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper along the frontier.

Protesters have been demanding the lifting of an Israeli blockade of the territory and a right to return to land from which their ancestors fled or were expelled. Israel has said it has no choice but to use deadly force to defend the frontier.

Addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, the inquiry commission’s chairman, Santiago Canton, called on Israel, which boycotted the day-long debate, to review immediately its military’s rules of engagement.

Israel’s response, published on its Foreign Ministry’s website, said the commission’s “bias is most evident in (its) absolute failure … to make recommendations concerning Hamas”.

The militant group, Israel said, sends women, children and others to sabotage the Israeli security fence along the frontier and to act as shields for armed attacks. Balloons and kites have been flown across the border into Israel to start fires.

“If the commission seriously wished to provide an objective report that would contribute towards human rights and the safety of individuals, (it) would have seen fit to demand Hamas take action in the context of these events,” Israel said.

Asked about the Israeli allegations, Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas official in Gaza, said “most of those killed were hit hundreds of meters from the fence – evidence that Israeli soldiers had deliberately targeted them”.

A summary accompanying the 252-page report said protest organizers “encouraged or defended demonstrators’ indiscriminate use of incendiary kites and balloons”, and Gaza’s de facto authorities did not stop such acts.

The Human Rights Council, a 47-member forum, is due to vote on Friday on four resolutions related to the occupied Palestinian territories.

European states are divided on the resolutions, including a text related to the Gaza inquiry, with some expected to vote against and others abstaining, diplomats said.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, quit the Geneva forum last year over what it says is bias against Israel.

Gaza is home to 2 million Palestinians, mainly stateless descendants of people who fled or were driven from Israel on its founding in 1948. Israel captured Gaza in a 1967 war but pulled out troops and settlements in 2005. Hamas took control in 2007.

Since then, Israel has fought three wars against the Islamist group and, along with Egypt, imposed a blockade of the territory that the World Bank says has collapsed its economy.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva)

Source: OANN

Palestinian demonstrators protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian demonstrators protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, in the southern Gaza Strip March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

March 21, 2019

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel said on Thursday a U.N. report critical of its use of lethal force during Palestinian protests on the Gaza border was biased and should have included a demand that the enclave’s dominant Hamas group take action to stop anti-Israeli violence.

A U.N. Commission of Inquiry on the demonstrations, which began nearly a year ago, said this week that Israel should investigate the shootings of more than 6,000 people, far beyond the criminal inquiries it has announced into 11 killings.

Issuing an official response to the commission’s report, Israel said it had “serious concerns about the factual and legal analysis conducted by the commission, its methodologies and the clear evidence of political bias against Israel”.

Gaza health authorities say some 200 people have been killed and thousands injured by Israeli fire since Palestinians launched the protests. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper along the frontier.

Protesters have been demanding the lifting of an Israeli blockade of the territory and a right to return to land from which their ancestors fled or were expelled. Israel has said it has no choice but to use deadly force to defend the frontier.

Addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, the inquiry commission’s chairman, Santiago Canton, called on Israel, which boycotted the day-long debate, to review immediately its military’s rules of engagement.

Israel’s response, published on its Foreign Ministry’s website, said the commission’s “bias is most evident in (its) absolute failure … to make recommendations concerning Hamas”.

The militant group, Israel said, sends women, children and others to sabotage the Israeli security fence along the frontier and to act as shields for armed attacks. Balloons and kites have been flown across the border into Israel to start fires.

“If the commission seriously wished to provide an objective report that would contribute towards human rights and the safety of individuals, (it) would have seen fit to demand Hamas take action in the context of these events,” Israel said.

Asked about the Israeli allegations, Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas official in Gaza, said “most of those killed were hit hundreds of meters from the fence – evidence that Israeli soldiers had deliberately targeted them”.

A summary accompanying the 252-page report said protest organizers “encouraged or defended demonstrators’ indiscriminate use of incendiary kites and balloons”, and Gaza’s de facto authorities did not stop such acts.

The Human Rights Council, a 47-member forum, is due to vote on Friday on four resolutions related to the occupied Palestinian territories.

European states are divided on the resolutions, including a text related to the Gaza inquiry, with some expected to vote against and others abstaining, diplomats said.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, quit the Geneva forum last year over what it says is bias against Israel.

Gaza is home to 2 million Palestinians, mainly stateless descendants of people who fled or were driven from Israel on its founding in 1948. Israel captured Gaza in a 1967 war but pulled out troops and settlements in 2005. Hamas took control in 2007.

Since then, Israel has fought three wars against the Islamist group and, along with Egypt, imposed a blockade of the territory that the World Bank says has collapsed its economy.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva)

Source: OANN

Lauryn Overhultz | Columnist

U.S. figure skater Mariah Bell, 22, is under investigation after allegedly slashing her South Korean competitor with her skate during a Wednesday practice.

16-year-old Lim Eun-soo claims Bell crashed into her on purpose during the final warmup at the International Skating Union World Figure Skating Championships and intentionally left a gash in Eun-soo’s calf, according to the New York Post.

The incident, which is similar to the time Tonya Harding was accused of hiring someone to injure her rival during the 1994 Winter Games, seemed to be premeditated, according to a rep from the Korean sports agency All That Sports.

Eun-soo had been skating near the outer edges of the rink for space when Bell crashed into her from behind and “suddenly kicked and stabbed Lim’s calf with her skate blades” the spokesperson told Yonhap News. (RELATED: Olympic Figure Skaters Credit God In Unlikely In Return To God)

“Mariah Bell didn’t apologize to Lim Eun-soo after the incident and instead continued to rehearse for her routine. We believe this is not a minor situation that can happen in an official rehearsal,” the spokesperson said.

Eun-soo went on to compete in the ladies short program despite the injury to her calf and even placed fifth overall beating out Bell who placed sixth.

All That Sports has requested that the Korea Skating Union file a complaint against Bell.

Both skaters are trained by the same Los Angeles coach and Eun-soo’s rep claims Bell has been bullying and harassing Eun-soo leading up to the competition.

Source: The Daily Caller

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte arrives to greet the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base in Manila
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte arrives to greet the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base in Manila, Philippines, Thursday, February 28, 2019. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

March 21, 2019

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte said Manila’s relations with Beijing will not be jeopardised despite two former officials filing a complaint with the International Criminal Court over China’s aggression in the disputed South China Sea.

Since taking office in 2016, the Philippine leader re-oriented his foreign policy away from longtime ally the United States and toward China, despite decades of mistrust and bitter maritime disputes with Beijing.

However, the country’s former anti-graft chief and former foreign affairs minister is asking the ICC to conduct a preliminary examination on China’s role in the South China Sea.

The letter was dated March 13 – four days before the Philippines’ unilateral withdrawal from the ICC was formalized.

Duterte said: “They think they have a good case and I would say that there is no jurisdiction over this country and of China.”

Close ties will remain as China understands that anyone can file a case as the Philippines is a democratic country, he told reporters late on Thursday.

Duterte is facing criticism from opponents for making too many political concessions to China in return for billions of dollars of pledged Chinese loans and investment, most of which have yet to materialize.

China says it has irrefutable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and the waters around them.

Under the ICC rules, any individual, group or state can communicate with the prosecutor on alleged crimes falling under the court’s jurisdiction. The complaints can form the initial basis of the preliminary examinations.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Alison Williams)

Source: OANN

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

March 21, 2019

By Alex Lawler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Editing by David Holmes)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO - The HSBC bank logo is seen at their offices in the Canary Wharf financial district in London
FILE PHOTO: The HSBC bank logo is seen in the Canary Wharf financial district in London, Britain, March 3, 2016. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause

March 21, 2019

By Lawrence White

LONDON (Reuters) – HSBC has signed a deal to offer BlackRock’s Aladdin investment management software to the bank’s wealthy customers, in a boost to the U.S. asset manager’s plans to squeeze money from technology by selling it to rivals.

Aladdin began as an internal tool at BlackRock before becoming the linchpin of Chief Executive Larry Fink’s plan to increase revenues from technology. It is used by investment managers to help to oversee risks and make investment decisions.

Robert Goldstein, chief operating officer at BlackRock, said HSBC’s scale would mean many more advisers would have access to capabilities previously only available to institutional investors.

The partnership between Europe’s largest bank and the world’s biggest asset manager comes as both industries are battling to use technology to increase profits and improve service.

Guilherme Lima, HSBC’s group head of wealth management, said the software would help investors to understand hidden risks in their portfolios by acting as an ‘X-ray’ that could look through a mix of individual stock holdings, mutual funds and index trackers to reveal that all of them are exposed to a single stock, for example, or macro-economic risk.

That will help HSBC to respond to growing demand from wealthy customers for their banks to offer advice rather than simply selling products.

“It’s about being able to have a detailed conversation with the client and provide more value added advice,” Stuart Parkinson, global head of product, investments and collaboration in HSBC’s private bank, said.

BlackRock’s Fink has said he aims to increase revenues from technology to 30 percent of the firm’s total by 2022, as the broader stockpicking business has come under pressure from lower cost index funds.

More than 200 institutions and around 25,000 investment professionals use Aladdin and its risk analytics, BlackRock says.

Some market participants have questioned whether this presents a systemic risk, as the growing number of firms using the software for investment decisions could make portfolios more correlated and hence exposed to market shocks.

BlackRock executives have downplayed this idea, saying customers use Aladdin in different ways to suit their own purposes.

HSBC has already begun to roll out the platform in the United States and in Hong Kong, the bank said. Over the next 2-3 years Aladdin will eventually be offered to all customers who hold $1 million or more with the bank.

HSBC’s retail bank and its private bank which serves wealthier customers both chose Aladdin independently of each other after running a lengthy procurement process, HSBC’s Parkinson said.

(Reporting By Lawrence White. Editing by Jane Merriman)

Source: OANN

William Davis | Contributor

During a visit to Jerusalem, Israel, alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo decried the “dark wave of anti-Semitism” across Europe and the U.S.

Pompeo took the time to criticize perceived anti-Semitism from members of Congress while in the Israeli capital, although he did not mention anybody by name. (RELATED: Ted Cruz Slams The UN For Defending Hamas Over Israel: It’s ‘Absurd And Dishonest’)

“All nations, especially those in the West, must go to the barricades against bigotry,” Pompeo said. “Sadly, we in the United States have seen anti-Semitic language even in the great halls of our own capital.”

Pompeo’s comments come amid weeks of debate after Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar made comments that were widely perceived to be anti-Semitic, something for which she drew criticism from all sides of the political spectrum. (RELATED: Omar Has Gotten In Hot Water With Frequent Comments About Israel)

Omar has previously accused Israel of “hypnotizing the world,” and has been accused of using tropes about Jewish money to question U.S. support for the lone Democratic state in the Middle East.

Pompeo’s trip to Israel comes weeks away from the Israeli elections, where Netanyahu is facing a tough re-election bid after being indicted on fraud and bribery charges. The elections will take place April 9.

Follow William Davis on Twitter

Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: A liquified natural gas (LNG) tanker leaves the dock after discharge at PetroChina's receiving terminal in Dalian
FILE PHOTO: A liquified natural gas (LNG) tanker leaves the dock after discharge at PetroChina’s receiving terminal in Dalian, Liaoning province, China July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Chen Aizhu

March 21, 2019

By Sabina Zawadzki

LONDON (Reuters) – Asian spot prices for liquefied natural gas (LNG) broke below the $5 per million British thermal unit (mmBtu) mark this week following a 13-week price slide that reflects the absence of growth in demand or any major outages.

Spot prices for May delivery to Northeast Asia dropped 80 cents to $4.65 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) this week according to traders although there were few actual transactions with Asia’s biggest buyers, Japan, Korea or China.

Asian LNG spot prices are now at their lowest level since May 2016 and close to the lowest point in Refinitiv records going back to 2010 of $4.00 per mmBtu, which was reached in April 2016.

They are also lower than the European natural gas hub price in the Netherlands and Britain, which usually trade at a premium to spot Asian LNG prices. The last time this happened was in January and February of 2015, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

There were two transactions completed in the Platts market on close (MOC) window, both cargoes to India.

The first one was sold by Vitol to Gunvor for Indian west coast delivery at the start of May for $4.55 per mmBtu. Vitol also sold to Glencore a cargo to Dahej terminal for the end of May at $4.75 per mmBtu.

In Europe, prices were heard at discounts of 20 cents to month-ahead Dutch gas prices at the TTF hub, which were at around $4.98 per mmBtu on Thursday.

Deliveries into North West Europe have jumped to 67 cargoes, or 4.24 million tonnes, this month from 54 cargoes in January, which was a record high for the region since Refinitv Eikon data began in 2013.

The influx has helped to halve prices at both the Dutch and British hubs since their peaks in September.

The market has been inundated with supplies coming onstream from the United States, Russia and Australia. In addition Egypt, which has had to import LNG in previous years due to gas shortages, has started to ramp up its exports.

A cyclone heading for north western Australia may disrupt LNG loading there, according to Kpler, a shipping intelligence company.

Vessels have been cleared at Dampier, loading point for Woodside’s Pluto and North West Shelf LNG, and Ashburton, the loading point for Chevron’s Wheatstone LNG, according to Pilbara Port Authority.

(Reporting by Sabina Zawadzki. Editing by Jane Merriman)

Source: OANN

Seattle Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki acknowledges to fans as he leaves the field in the bottom of eighth inning during the game against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo
Seattle Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki acknowledges to fans as he leaves the field in the bottom of eighth inning during the game against the Oakland Athletics at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo March 21, 2019.

March 21, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese baseball player Ichiro Suzuki, who accumulated the most hits ever in top tier professional baseball in 28 seasons across Japan and the United States, announced his retirement on Thursday.

Suzuki, 45, made the announcement in a Seattle Mariners statement after playing for the team in the second game of their Major League Baseball opening series against the Oakland Athletics.

(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Toby Davis)

Source: OANN

Voters in Wisconsin recognize Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez more than they recognize most of the Democrats running for president in 2020.

An Axios report revealed that Sen. Bernie Sanders was recognized by voters more than all other 2020 candidates in the survey, followed by former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Every other candidate in the 2020 Democratic primary was known less than Ocasio-Cortez.

Description Official portrait of Vice President of the United States Joe Biden.Andrew Cutraro, White House Photographer

Official portrait of Vice President of the United States Joe Biden. Andrew Cutraro, White House Photographer

They didn’t just know her name, either. Members of the focus group in the study could recall past campaign slogans, as well as major policy stances, such as her efforts in environmental issues, as well as her efforts to combat inequality. The researchers noted the words “Green New Deal” did not come up. (RELATED: Poll: New Yorkers Consider Ocasio-Cortez A Villian In Amazon Pullout By Wide Margins)

Sens. Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Kamala Harris were each recognized at about the same rate, all with a recognizability score of 2.5 out of 10. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke earned a score of 1 out of 10, and the rest of the candidates running for office fell well short of that score according to the report.

Axios surveyed an unknown number of “swing voters” for the Wisconsin focus group. Members of the group were shown a photo of one of the politicians and asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 on how confident they were in identifying that person.

Source: The Daily Caller

Phil Bryant, governor of Mississippi, speaks during an election night party for Republican U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith in Jackson
FILE PHOTO: Phil Bryant, governor of Mississippi, speaks during an election night party for Republican U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith in Jackson, Mississippi, U.S., November 27, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

March 21, 2019

(Reuters) – Mississippi’s Republican governor was due to sign one of America’s strictest abortion bills on Thursday banning women from obtaining an abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can often occur before a woman even realizes she is pregnant.

Dubbed the ‘heartbeat bill,’ this is the second legislative attempt in under a year aimed at restricting abortions in a state with a single abortion clinic.

In a tweet earlier this week, Governor Phil Bryant thanked the state’s legislature for “protecting the unborn” by passing the bill and sending it to him for his signature.

The Mississippi bill joins a wave of similar Republican-backed measures recently introduced in Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia.

Conservative Republican proponents say these bills are intended to challenge Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 landmark ruling that women have a constitutional right to an abortion.

U.S. states are jostling for a showdown on abortion rights in 2019, with all eyes on the conservative-dominated Supreme Court.

Just last November, a U.S. federal judge struck down a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks, ruling that it “unequivocally” violates women’s constitutional rights.

The new Mississippi bill prohibits the abortion of a fetus with a detectable heartbeat, before the point where a woman may be aware she are pregnant.

It also states that any physician who violates the restriction is subject to losing their license to practice medicine.

The bill makes exceptions for women whose health is at extreme risk. It is a victory for anti-abortion groups, but abortion rights advocates have promised to pursue legal action if Bryant signs the bill.

“The term ‘heartbeat bill’ is a manipulative misnomer,” The Center for Reproductive Rights, a global abortion rights advocacy group, tweeted on Wednesday. “These bills actually rob women of their choice to have an #abortion before they even know they’re pregnant.”

The group added that it would sue Bryant if he signs the bill into law.

A fetus that is viable outside the womb, usually at 24 weeks, has widely been considered the threshold in the United States to prohibit an abortion.

Last week, a federal judge blocked Kentucky’s fetal heartbeat abortion law. An Iowa judge overturned that state’s heartbeat law in January after declaring it violated the state’s constitution.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Nick Carey)

Source: OANN

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the death anniversary of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran
FILE PHOTO: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the death anniversary of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran, Iran, June 4, 2017. TIMA via REUTERS

March 21, 2019

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran is determined to boost its defence capabilities despite mounting pressure from the United States and its allies to curb its ballistic missile programme, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday.

“We need to take Iran to a point that enemy understand that they cannot threaten Iran … America’s sanctions will make Iran self-sufficient,” Khamenei said in a speech broadcast live on state TV.

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States last May from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers, saying it gave too much away to Iran, and reimposed far-reaching U.S. sanctions.

The U.S. sanctions aim to force Iran to accept tougher restrictions on its nuclear work, drop its ballistic missile program and scale back support for militant proxies in Middle East conflicts from Yemen to Syria.

Khamenei said the European signatories of the deal had failed to maintain Iran’s interests.

“They have stabbed Iran in the back … The Western countries have proved they cannot be trusted,” he said in the speech in the holy Shi’ite city of Mashhad.

The other signatories to the nuclear deal – Germany, France, Britain, the European Union, Russia and China – have remained committed to the agreement and have been trying to salvage the pact by a mechanism to circumvent Trump’s sanctions.

Iran says its missile programme is purely defensive and has rejected the curbs on it demanded by the United States. Tehran says it has missiles with a range of up to 2,000 km (1,250 miles), which puts Israel and U.S. military bases in the region within reach.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Frances Kerry)

Source: OANN

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the death anniversary of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran
FILE PHOTO: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the death anniversary of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran, Iran, June 4, 2017. TIMA via REUTERS

March 21, 2019

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran is determined to boost its defence capabilities despite mounting pressure from the United States and its allies to curb its ballistic missile programme, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday.

“We need to take Iran to a point that enemy understand that they cannot threaten Iran … America’s sanctions will make Iran self-sufficient,” Khamenei said in a speech broadcast live on state TV.

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States last May from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers, saying it gave too much away to Iran, and reimposed far-reaching U.S. sanctions.

The U.S. sanctions aim to force Iran to accept tougher restrictions on its nuclear work, drop its ballistic missile program and scale back support for militant proxies in Middle East conflicts from Yemen to Syria.

Khamenei said the European signatories of the deal had failed to maintain Iran’s interests.

“They have stabbed Iran in the back … The Western countries have proved they cannot be trusted,” he said in the speech in the holy Shi’ite city of Mashhad.

The other signatories to the nuclear deal – Germany, France, Britain, the European Union, Russia and China – have remained committed to the agreement and have been trying to salvage the pact by a mechanism to circumvent Trump’s sanctions.

Iran says its missile programme is purely defensive and has rejected the curbs on it demanded by the United States. Tehran says it has missiles with a range of up to 2,000 km (1,250 miles), which puts Israel and U.S. military bases in the region within reach.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Frances Kerry)

Source: OANN

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

March 21, 2019

By Aleksandar Vasovic and Ivana Sekularac

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Source: OANN

Job seekers speak with potential employers at a City of Boston Neighborhood Career Fair on May Day in Boston
Job seekers speak with potential employers at a City of Boston Neighborhood Career Fair on May Day in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

March 21, 2019

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, pointing to still strong labor market conditions, though the pace of job growth has slowed after last year’s robust gains.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 221,000 for the week ended March 16, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Data for the prior week was revised to show 1,000 more applications received than previously reported.

The Labor Department said no states were estimated. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 225,000 in the latest week. Claims have been drifting in the middle of their 200,000-253,000 range this year.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, rose 1,000 to 225,000 last week.

The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady on Wednesday and its policymakers abandoned projections for further rate increases this year, noting that “the labor market remains strong but growth of economic activity has slowed from its solid rate in the fourth quarter.”

The unemployment rate is 3.8 percent and annual wage growth in February was the strongest since 2009.

The claims data covered the survey week for the nonfarm payrolls portion of March’s employment. The four-week average of claims fell 11,000 between the February and March survey periods, suggesting a pickup in job growth after hiring almost stalled last month.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by only 20,000 jobs in February, the fewest since September 2017. The slowdown followed big gains in December and January.

Average job growth has moderated to about 165,500 per month from 223,250 per month in 2018, reflecting a shortage of workers and softening economic growth as the stimulus from a $1.5 trillion tax cut package fades.

A trade war between the United States and China, as well as slowing global growth and uncertainty over Britain’s exit from the European Union, are also hurting domestic economic activity.

Thursday’s claims report showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid decreased 27,000 to 1.75 million for the week ended March 9.

The four-week moving average of the so-called continuing claims rose 6,000 to 1.77 million.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani Editing by Paul Simao)

Source: OANN

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

March 21, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“SEVERE DANGER” TO REGION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: OANN

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

March 21, 2019

By Dan Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: OANN

David Krayden | Ottawa Bureau Chief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow David on Twitter

Source: The Daily Caller

David Krayden | Ottawa Bureau Chief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow David on Twitter

Source: The Daily Caller

Derek Hunter | Contributor

On the show today, there are two main points: When you attack a dead guy, no matter how true your attacks may be, it drowns out whatever message you’re hoping to get across; and progressives will never miss an opportunity to chip away at the rights of individuals, even if it means standing on a pile of bodies to do it.

Listen to the show:

President Donald Trump had some great economic news to talk about in Ohio yesterday, but a five-minute tangent of criticizing the late Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain was all anyone was talking about when his speech was done. The best thing the President has going for his reelection is just how crazy Democrats have become, but the worst thing he has going for him is his ability to stop all over his own message.

It’s one thing to counter-punch, which the president usually does and does well. It’s another to punch down. Yesterday, Trump not only punched down; he punched the ground — a grave. No matter how valid the criticisms were, they come across as unseemly when the target is dead. We make the case (and expect to catch outrage over it – let the hate email flow).

New Zealand is moving to ban every type of gun the Mosque terrorist attack shooter used and any accessory they could think of. Liberals in the United States immediately cheered the move and called for similar action here. The problem for them is, in New Zealand, owning a gun is a privilege. In the United States, it is a right. It’s why Democrats are talking about packing the Supreme Court; they want to control any institution they can use to impose their will on the American people.

A woman in the U.K. is under investigation for a possible hate crime because she used the “wrong pronoun” to describe a trans person on Twitter. Meanwhile, a program to educate kids on LGBT issues is being halted in Birmingham because the Muslim community complained about it. It’s the insanity of intersectionality come to life.

Finally, New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused Fox News hosts of calling her “Cortez” because they’re racists and she’s Hispanic. The only problem is, as usual, it was a complete lie. She won’t apologize because, well, no one will hold her accountable.

Political correctness is fascism, and fascism is on the march.

Please help spread the word about The Daily Daily Caller Podcast. Please take a minute to rate and review on iTunes, share on social media and be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode:

The Daily Daily Caller Podcast is a daily look and mocking of the news from a conservative perspective. Hosted by Derek Hunter, it is available in audio form Monday-Thursday and will have a video option on Fridays.

Derek Hunter is a columnist and contributing editor for The Daily Caller and author of “Outrage, INC: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science, Journalism, and Hollywood” from HarperCollins, available nowPick Up a copy, or several copies, here. Send compliments and complaints to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @derekahunter.

Source: The Daily Caller

Derek Hunter | Contributor

On the show today, there are two main points: When you attack a dead guy, no matter how true your attacks may be, it drowns out whatever message you’re hoping to get across; and progressives will never miss an opportunity to chip away at the rights of individuals, even if it means standing on a pile of bodies to do it.

Listen to the show:

President Donald Trump had some great economic news to talk about in Ohio yesterday, but a five-minute tangent of criticizing the late Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain was all anyone was talking about when his speech was done. The best thing the President has going for his reelection is just how crazy Democrats have become, but the worst thing he has going for him is his ability to stop all over his own message.

It’s one thing to counter-punch, which the president usually does and does well. It’s another to punch down. Yesterday, Trump not only punched down; he punched the ground — a grave. No matter how valid the criticisms were, they come across as unseemly when the target is dead. We make the case (and expect to catch outrage over it – let the hate email flow).

New Zealand is moving to ban every type of gun the Mosque terrorist attack shooter used and any accessory they could think of. Liberals in the United States immediately cheered the move and called for similar action here. The problem for them is, in New Zealand, owning a gun is a privilege. In the United States, it is a right. It’s why Democrats are talking about packing the Supreme Court; they want to control any institution they can use to impose their will on the American people.

A woman in the U.K. is under investigation for a possible hate crime because she used the “wrong pronoun” to describe a trans person on Twitter. Meanwhile, a program to educate kids on LGBT issues is being halted in Birmingham because the Muslim community complained about it. It’s the insanity of intersectionality come to life.

Finally, New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused Fox News hosts of calling her “Cortez” because they’re racists and she’s Hispanic. The only problem is, as usual, it was a complete lie. She won’t apologize because, well, no one will hold her accountable.

Political correctness is fascism, and fascism is on the march.

Please help spread the word about The Daily Daily Caller Podcast. Please take a minute to rate and review on iTunes, share on social media and be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode:

The Daily Daily Caller Podcast is a daily look and mocking of the news from a conservative perspective. Hosted by Derek Hunter, it is available in audio form Monday-Thursday and will have a video option on Fridays.

Derek Hunter is a columnist and contributing editor for The Daily Caller and author of “Outrage, INC: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science, Journalism, and Hollywood” from HarperCollins, available nowPick Up a copy, or several copies, here. Send compliments and complaints to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @derekahunter.

Source: The Daily Caller

Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 21, 2019

By Amy Caren Daniel

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures were subdued on Thursday, a day after the Federal Reserve abandoned projections for any interest rate hikes this year amid signs of an economic slowdown.

At the conclusion of its two-day monetary policy meeting on Wednesday, the central bank brought its three-year drive to tighten monetary policy to an abrupt end, and released details of a plan to end the monthly reduction of its balance sheet.

Shares of U.S. lenders, which are sensitive to interest rates, took a hit after the statement.

Citigroup Inc, Bank of America Corp and JPMorgan Chase & Co fell between 0.10 and 0.47 percent in light premarket trading on Thursday.

“The decision by the Fed to go all in on the dovish pivot caught markets off guard, with investors expecting a more cautious and gradual approach from a central bank that typically errs on the more hawkish side,” Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda in London, wrote in a note.

“Whether this is a sign that policy makers are genuinely concerned about the economy in 2019 or that they’ve finally bowed to external pressure, it’s certainly a bold move.”

A dovish Fed and hopes of a resolution to the ongoing trade war between United States and China have spurred a rally in stocks this year, with the S&P 500 now about 4 percent away from its record closing high in September.

Investors will now keep a close watch on trade talks between the United States and China as U.S. trade delegates travel to Beijing to resume negotiations.

President Donald Trump warned on Wednesday that Washington may leave tariffs on Chinese goods for a “substantial period” to ensure that Beijing complies with any trade agreement.

At 6:37 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 18 points, or 0.07 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 0.5 points, or 0.02 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 10.5 points, or 0.14 percent.

Among stocks, Micron Technology Inc rose 3.6 percent after the chipmaker said it sees a recovery in the memory chip market coming and reported a quarterly profit that beat estimates.

Boeing Co slipped 0.4 percent after pressure mounted on the world’s largest planemaker in Washington as U.S. lawmakers called for executives to testify about two crashed 737 MAX jets.

Economic data on tap includes initial claims for state unemployment benefits, which are expected to have fallen to 225,000 in the week ended March 16 from 229,000 in the previous week. The data is due at 8:30 a.m. ET.

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

Source: OANN

Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 21, 2019

By Amy Caren Daniel

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures were subdued on Thursday, a day after the Federal Reserve abandoned projections for any interest rate hikes this year amid signs of an economic slowdown.

At the conclusion of its two-day monetary policy meeting on Wednesday, the central bank brought its three-year drive to tighten monetary policy to an abrupt end, and released details of a plan to end the monthly reduction of its balance sheet.

Shares of U.S. lenders, which are sensitive to interest rates, took a hit after the statement.

Citigroup Inc, Bank of America Corp and JPMorgan Chase & Co fell between 0.10 and 0.47 percent in light premarket trading on Thursday.

“The decision by the Fed to go all in on the dovish pivot caught markets off guard, with investors expecting a more cautious and gradual approach from a central bank that typically errs on the more hawkish side,” Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda in London, wrote in a note.

“Whether this is a sign that policy makers are genuinely concerned about the economy in 2019 or that they’ve finally bowed to external pressure, it’s certainly a bold move.”

A dovish Fed and hopes of a resolution to the ongoing trade war between United States and China have spurred a rally in stocks this year, with the S&P 500 now about 4 percent away from its record closing high in September.

Investors will now keep a close watch on trade talks between the United States and China as U.S. trade delegates travel to Beijing to resume negotiations.

President Donald Trump warned on Wednesday that Washington may leave tariffs on Chinese goods for a “substantial period” to ensure that Beijing complies with any trade agreement.

At 6:37 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 18 points, or 0.07 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 0.5 points, or 0.02 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 10.5 points, or 0.14 percent.

Among stocks, Micron Technology Inc rose 3.6 percent after the chipmaker said it sees a recovery in the memory chip market coming and reported a quarterly profit that beat estimates.

Boeing Co slipped 0.4 percent after pressure mounted on the world’s largest planemaker in Washington as U.S. lawmakers called for executives to testify about two crashed 737 MAX jets.

Economic data on tap includes initial claims for state unemployment benefits, which are expected to have fallen to 225,000 in the week ended March 16 from 229,000 in the previous week. The data is due at 8:30 a.m. ET.

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

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

U.S. bomber B-52 flies over during the final day of NATO Saber Strike exercises in Orzysz
FILE PHOTO: U.S. bomber B-52 flies over during the final day of NATO Saber Strike exercises in Orzysz, Poland, June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

March 21, 2019

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin on Thursday said that flights by U.S. B-52 strategic bombers across the Baltic Sea’s neutral waters near Russia’s borders created tension in the region.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said earlier on Thursday that it had scrambled fighter jets to intercept a U.S. B-52 strategic bomber after it began flying toward Russia’s borders.

“In general, I will limit myself to only saying that of course such actions by the United States do not lead to a strengthening of an atmosphere of security and stability in the region that directly adjoins Russia’s borders. On the contrary, they create additional tensions.”

Russia’s European exclave of Kaliningrad is on the Baltic Sea.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Andrew Osborn; editing by Andrew Osborn)

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 11, 2019. REUTERS/Staff

March 21, 2019

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Stock exchanges in Europe are not harming markets or gouging customers with the fees they charge for data, an industry-commissioned report said on Thursday.

The report from consultants Oxera for the Federation of European Securities Exchanges (FESE) wants to counter accusations from investment funds that “monopoly” bourses were continually hiking fees for market data to lift profits.

Investment firms have called on the EU’s markets watchdog ESMA to review market data fees charged by exchanges, saying they keep on rising despite falling costs of computing and data storage.

Oxera’s report concludes that “economic analysis suggest that the current charging structures for market data are unlikely to have detrimental effects on market outcomes for investors.”

FESE said that while fees have been “challenged by some”, the report showed that aggregate market data revenues have risen by only 1 percent a year, from 230 million euros ($261.2 million) in 2012 to 245 million euros in 2018.

“Costs have remained stable over the last five years,” said Rainer Riess, FESE director general.

Policymakers should be very mindful that any changes do not harm how prices of shares are formed, Riess added.

TRANSATLANTIC

Investment funds face scrutiny over their own fees charged customers and want to cut costs.

They have to buy data to help show regulators that they are obtaining the best share prices on behalf of investors in a region where many platforms trade the same stocks.

The Alternative Investment Management Association, Managed Funds Association, Britain’s Investment Association and two German funds bodies BVI and BAI, asked ESMA in December to enforce an EU securities law that requires market data to be sold on a “reasonable commercial basis”.

The bloc’s competition officials are also facing pressure to intervene.

In the United States the Securities and Exchange Commission repealed two data price changes last May for public feeds for Nasdaq and New York Stock Exchange listed securities for the first time after complaints from asset managers.

The battle across the Atlantic has led to market participants like Fidelity Investments and hedge fund Citadel to back a new, low cost Members Exchange bourse to compete with NYSE.

FESE said the real issue was not prices but the “often very low quality” of data from off-exchange or “dark” trading platforms.

There has been talk for many years of a “consolidated tape” or a single pipe for gathering share prices from different platforms, like in the United States.

FESE said data intermediaries or vendors were already offering a de facto tape for prices on the bulk of so-called “lit” exchanges, where prices and trades are instantly visible.

(Reporting by Huw Jones, Editing by William Maclean)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Reliance Industries is pictured in a stall at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Trade Show at Gandhinagar
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Reliance Industries is pictured in a stall at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Trade Show at Gandhinagar, India, January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Amit Dave

March 21, 2019

By Nidhi Verma and Marianna Parraga

NEW DELHI/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – India’s Reliance Industries is selling fuels to Venezuela from India and Europe to sidestep sanctions that bar U.S.-based companies from dealing with state-run PDVSA, according to trading sources and Refinitiv Eikon data.

Reliance had been supplying alkylate, diluent naphtha and other fuel to Venezuela through its U.S.-based subsidiary before Washington in late January imposed sanctions aimed at curbing the OPEC member’s oil exports and ousting Socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

At least three vessels chartered by the Indian conglomerate supplied refined products to Venezuela in recent weeks, and another vessel carrying gasoil is expected to set sail to the South American nation as well, according to the sources and data.

A Reliance spokesman wrote to Reuters in an email and said: “Reliance is and will remain in compliance with the sanctions and shall work with the concerned authorities.”

He also said “the volume of products supplied to and crude oil imported from Venezuela have not increased.”

Reliance, an Indian conglomerate controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, has significant exposure to the financial system of the United States, where it operates subsidiaries linked to its oil and telecom businesses, among others.

The Indian market is crucial for Venezuela’s economy because it has historically been the second-largest cash-paying customer for the OPEC country’s crude, behind the United States.

Additional sanctions against Venezuela are possible in the future, as U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has not yet tried to prevent companies based outside the United States from buying Venezuelan oil, a strategy known as “secondary sanctions.”

Refinitiv Eikon trade data shows that Reliance shipped alkylate, a component for motor gasoline, to Venezuela on vessels Torm Mary and Torm Anabel in recent weeks. Those originated in India and passed through the Suez Canal.

It also shipped a gasoline cargo using tanker Torm Troilus to Venezuela and is preparing to send 35,000 tonnes of gasoil in a vessel called Vukovar to the South American nation.

“Reliance is also supplying some products from its Rotterdam storage,” a source familiar with Reliance’s operation said.

PDVSA did not reply to a request for comment.

In a statement last week, Reliance said its U.S. unit has completely stopped all business with PDVSA. Reliance also halted all supply of diluents including heavy naphtha to Venezuela and does not plan to resume such sales until sanctions are lifted, according to the release.

Venezuela has overall imported some 160,000 barrels per day of fuel and diluents for its extra heavy oil output since the U.S. measures were imposed, according to PDVSA and Refinitiv data, below levels prior to the sanctions but still enough to supply gas stations and power plants.

Reliance is among the biggest buyers of Venezuelan oil, although the company has recently said it has not increased crude purchases from Venezuela. In 2012, Reliance signed a 15-year deal to buy between 300,000 to 400,000 bpd of heavy crude from PDVSA.

Ship tracking data obtained by Reuters showed that Reliance’s average purchases from Venezuela were less than 300,000 bpd in 2018 and in the first two months of this year.

Venezuela continues to supply at least some oil to India. A very large crude carrier (VLCC) is anchored off Venezuela’s Jose port waiting to load oil bound for India, and at least six other vessels of the same size are underway to India’s Sikka and Vadinar ports, according to the Refinitiv data.

PDVSA’s second-largest customer in India is Nayara Energy, partially owned by Russian energy firm Rosneft, one of PDVSA’s primary allies.

(Reporting by Nidhi Verma in NEW DELHI and Marianna Parraga in MEXICO CITY; Editing by Henning Gloystein and Tom Hogue)

Source: OANN

Turkish lira banknotes are seen in this picture illustration in Istanbul
Turkish lira banknotes are seen in this picture illustration in Istanbul, Turkey August 14, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/Illustration

March 21, 2019

ANKARA (Reuters) – Fears over renewed tensions with the United States reversed some of the Turkish lira’s overnight gains in early trade on Thursday following a dovish Fed decision that had boosted emerging market currencies late on Wednesday.

The United States could soon freeze preparations for delivering F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, officials told Reuters, in what would be the strongest signal yet by Washington that Ankara cannot have both the advanced aircraft and Russia’s S-400 air defences system.

The lira firmed to 5.4160 against the dollar in the wake of the Fed decision but eased back to 5.4415 after Reuters report, analysts said.

Amid a slowing economy the Fed now sees only one rate hike next year, and announced a plan to end its balance sheet reduction program by September.

“It’s a very positive decision for emerging market currencies including the lira, and we were able to observe its impact on the market, with lira gaining around 1 percent against the dollar,” an Istanbul-based forex trader said.

“However, the report that ties with the U.S. are seen entering a difficult period was the only factor that limited this rise.”

The United States is nearing an inflection point in a years-long standoff with Turkey, a NATO ally, after so far failing to sway President Tayyip Erdogan that buying the S-400 Russian air defense system would compromise the security of any F-35 aircraft delivered to Turkey.

While no decision has been made yet, U.S. officials confirmed that Washington was considering halting steps now underway to ready Turkey to receive the F-35, which is built by Lockheed Martin Corp.

(Reporting by Nevzat Devranoglu; Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Source: OANN

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

March 21, 2019

By Henning Gloystein

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

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

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

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

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

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

The U.S. sanctions are also disrupting supply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: OANN

Graves of Ukrainian Army members Holub and Paselsky who were killed in the east, are seen at a 18th century Lychakiv cemetery in Lviv
Graves of Ukrainian Army members Yuriy Holub, 22, (L) and Nazar Paselsky, 21, who were killed in the east, are seen at a 18th century Lychakiv cemetery in Lviv, Ukraine March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

March 21, 2019

By Natalia Zinets

LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – At a cemetery in western Ukraine, a tall, gray-haired man lights candles and kisses the gravestone of his 35-year-old brother Taras, whose death, he said, changed his mind about who should win this month’s presidential election.

Taras, a medical volunteer, was killed in 2015 rescuing wounded soldiers near Debaltseve during the government’s five-year-old conflict in eastern Ukraine against Kremlin-backed rebels, his brother Ihor Konchevych said.

He died for a free and independent Ukraine, something their grandfathers could only dream of in the Soviet era, he said, and President Petro Poroshenko is the best candidate to keep it on that path, even though he has not ended the war as he promised.

“In 2014, I did not vote for him,” said Ihor, a dermatologist whose teenage nephew and niece are now fatherless. “Now (I will) for one reason: he is pro-Ukraine, Russia does not support him.”

Such support could help Poroshenko, who has consistently trailed in opinion polls, scrape into the second round and potentially win a second term.

It suggests that at least in western Ukraine, where Poroshenko’s polling remains relatively robust, his opposition to Russia and championing of the army, the church and closer ties with Europe and the United States is getting through.

It also suggests some people are willing to swallow whatever disappointment they might feel about his failure to end the war, lift living standards or thoroughly tackle corruption, because they see him as better than the alternatives.

At stake in the election is the leadership of a country on the front line of the West’s confrontation with Russia, five years after the Maidan street protests ousted Poroshenko’s Russia-friendly predecessor Viktor Yanukovich and the Russian annexation of Crimea.

It is a country still fighting a conflict in the eastern Donbass region that has killed 13,000 people despite a notional ceasefire, a shrunken state propped up by Western aid and sanctions against Moscow.

The election has boiled down to a three-horse race between the confectionary magnate Poroshenko, comic actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, with Poroshenko second and Zelenskiy extending his lead thanks to his fresh face and strong anti-corruption message.

HEARTLAND OF MAIDAN

It is perhaps not surprising that Poroshenko’s pro-Western messages resonate in Lviv, a picturesque city of cobblestone streets and central European charm that was under the Austrian empire until the First World War and is geographically closer to European Union countries than to Kiev.

The region was a driving force behind successive revolutions, including the 2014 protests in Maidan: according to Reuters’ calculations, around 50 of the more than 100 protesters killed during the Maidan protests were from the west, 19 of them from the Lviv region alone.

The city is heavily Ukrainian-speaking compared to the Russian-speaking eastern regions. A survey by pollster SOCIS suggests voters in the west care more about the war and less about, for example, rising utility tariffs than the average Ukrainian.

The brother of Lesya Senyk, a 51-year-old kindergarten director, was one of those killed on Maidan, a protest sparked by Yanukovich’s decision to renege on signing a political and trade agreement with the EU after pressure from Moscow.

Her brother’s sacrifice, she said, means Ukraine has become a proper state with a stronger army and aspirations to join the European Union.

Senyk did not vote for Poroshenko in 2014 but she will now. “I do not know who else could have saved the state in those difficult times, after the Maidan and during the war,” she said. “Maybe he’s not perfect. But we are not saints.”

NO COUNTRY FOR CLOWNS

Poroshenko won an emphatic victory in the 2014 election but his popularity has fallen sharply.

He can boast success: he secured visa-free travel for Ukrainians to the EU. There have been reforms and the government has stayed in an International Monetary Fund bailout program: a reassurance to investors.

Poroshenko successfully lobbied for Ukraine to establish a national Orthodox church, independent from Russia. While he did not win the war, he did not lose it, and ramped up defense spending to 5 percent of gross domestic product from 3 percent under Yanukovich. A Poroshenko win is the worst-case scenario for Russia, which is a plus in some voters’ eyes.

But he has been forced to apologize for his pledge to win the war within weeks, and that is not enough for some.

The parents of 22-year-old Yuriy Holub, who was killed in eastern Ukraine in 2014, will not vote for him.

“He promised, promised,” said Holub’s father Hryhoriy, who is blind. “Why did you promise if you were not confident that you can fulfill your promise? If he were an honest man he would quit of his own accord.”

His wife Hanna, who holds pictures of her son close to her face due to her own failing sight, also said Poroshenko had let them down. “First he said everything would be over in two weeks … But such heavy shelling happened and our child was killed,” she said in a trembling voice. “There is no trust now.”

Their son is buried in Lviv’s 18th century Lychakiv cemetery, along with about 70 others killed in the east.

Nazar Paselsky lies buried in a grave near Holub. Paselsky was killed by shelling, aged 21, in the Luhansk region in August 2014. His mother Hanna and father Mykola adopted a boy after Nazar’s death. Photos of Nazar, his diploma and his bravery award are on display on top of their cabinet.

Hanna voted for Poroshenko last time “because he promised that everything will be over in three days. I wanted my child to come back home alive.” Now she does not trust any candidate to guarantee a future for her adopted one-year-old, but thinks she might end up voting for Poroshenko in the second round.

Twelve years younger than Poroshenko, Zelenskiy has tapped into disillusionment about Ukraine’s progress since Maidan and the desire for new faces in politics.

But some people, like Hryhoriy Zhalovaga, whose son Anatoliy died on Maidan, said a strong army was what was needed, not an entertainer with no political experience. Quoting another student during a commemoration ceremony for Maidan victims at the school his son attended, he said: “Those who will vote for Zelenskiy, what do they want, a country of clowns?”

Lviv-based analyst Oleg Gryniv said such views mean Poroshenko will probably carry a majority in the western areas like Galicia, which contains Lviv, citing the example of Ukraine’s first post-Soviet President Leonid Kravchuk.

“When he traveled through the eastern regions, they asked him about the price of socks, whether gas prices would be lowered,” he said. “And when he arrived in Galicia, there was only one question – whether the state would be kept intact.”

(Additional reporting Sergiy Karazy; writing by Matthias Williams; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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

FILE PHOTO: A Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft is seen at the ILA Air Show in Berlin
FILE PHOTO: A Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft is seen at the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt -/File Photo

March 21, 2019

By Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States could soon freeze preparations for delivering F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, officials told Reuters, in what would be the strongest signal yet by Washington that Ankara cannot have both the advanced aircraft and Russia’s S-400 air defense system.

The United States is nearing an inflection point in a years-long standoff with Turkey, a NATO ally, after so far failing to sway President Tayyip Erdogan that buying a Russian air defense system would compromise the security of F-35 aircraft.

“The S-400 is a computer. The F-35 is a computer. You don’t hook your computer to your adversary’s computer and that’s basically what we would be doing,” Katie Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told Reuters.

While no decision has been made yet, U.S. officials confirmed that Washington was considering halting steps now underway to ready Turkey to receive the F-35, which is built by Lockheed Martin Corp.

“There (are) decisions that come up constantly about things being delivered in anticipation of them eventually taking custody of the planes,” said Wheelbarger.

“So there’s a lot of things in train that can be paused to send signals to them (that we’re serious),” she added, without detailing those steps.

However, another U.S. official said one of the measures the United States was looking at was alternatives to an engine depot in Turkey, without giving more details. The official said any potential alternatives would likely be somewhere in Western Europe. Turkey is home to an F-35 engine overhaul depot in the western city of Eskisehir.

If Turkey was removed from the F-35 program, it would be the most serious crisis in the relationship between the two allies in decades, according to Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The strains on ties between Washington and Ankara already extend beyond the F-35 to include strategy in Syria, Iran sanctions and the detention of U.S. consular staff.

“This (the F-35 standoff) is really a symptom, not a cause of the problem between the two countries,” Aliriza said.

Many U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, worry that Turkey is drifting away from NATO and watch improving relations between Ankara and Moscow with concern. The prospect of Russian contractors or officials on Turkish bases that also are home to the F-35 is unfathomable to many U.S. officials.

The tensions could further escalate. If Ankara goes ahead with the Russian deal, Turkey also could face U.S. sanctions.

ERDOGAN IMPASSE

Despite U.S. hopes that Turkey may still forgo the S-400, experts say Erdogan may have already backed himself into a rhetorical corner. He has repeatedly said he would not reverse course on the S-400, saying earlier in March: “Nobody should ask us to lick up what we spat.”

A decision to drop Turkey from the F-35 program would have broader repercussions, since Ankara helps manufacture parts for the aircraft, including components of the landing gear, cockpit displays and aircraft engines.

Wheelbarger acknowledged that the Pentagon, in light of the standoff, was looking “across the board” at potential alternate suppliers for F-35 parts, including in other NATO countries.

“It’s prudent program planning…to ensure that you have stability in your supply chain,” she said, without speculating that Turkey might be dropped from the program.

Washington has sought to persuade Turkey to purchase the American-made Raytheon Co Patriot defense system, instead of S-400s. Erdogan has said that Turkey was still open to buying Patriot systems from the United States but only if the conditions are suitable.

Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said that in addition to the Patriot air defense system, the American offer “includes significant government-to-government cooperation on advanced system development.”

Although Turkey has held out the prospect of buying both the S-400 and the Patriot system, the United States has warned Turkey it will take its offer of Patriots off the table unless it changes course.

A Turkish S-400 purchase could also trigger a fight with the U.S. Congress, which has already blocked all major arms sales to Ankara while the S-400 deal is pending.

Lawmakers could renew attempts to introduce legislation that would legally prohibit the Trump administration from allowing Turkey to have the F-35 if it secures the S-400s.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Mary Milliken and Alistair Bell)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are seen before a family photo during the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci/File Photo

March 21, 2019

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may meet President Donald Trump in the United States in late April for talks on North Korea and Japan-U.S. trade, two government officials and Japanese media said on Thursday.

The meeting was requested by the Japanese side and arrangements were being made for the end of April, the Asahi Shimbun daily said, without giving a specific date.

Two government officials familiar with the matter told Reuters that planning for Abe’s visit was underway.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said an overseas trip by Abe had not been decided.

The talks would likely focus on North Korea after Trump’s failed meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in February, against a backdrop of Tokyo’s concern that is being sidelined in those negotiations, the Asahi Shimbun said.

Japan’s cabinet is expected to vote next month on extending unilateral sanctions against North Korea by two years, public broadcaster NHK said on Wednesday.

Japan-U.S. trade is also expected to be on the agenda.

Trump has prodded Japanese automakers to add more jobs in the United States as the White House has threatened to impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported vehicles, on the grounds of national security.

Japanese officials have repeatedly said that Abe and Trump agreed last year that Washington would not impose auto tariffs as long as bilateral trade talks are going on.

The Asahi Shimbun said discussions are also being held on a separate meeting in April between Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

(Reporting by Yoshifumi Takemoto; writing by Elaine Lies; editing by Darren Schuettler)

Source: OANN

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during “A Civil Society Dialogue on Securing Religious Freedom in the Indo-Pacific Region” forum in Taipei, Taiwan March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

March 21, 2019

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen will visit Hawaii next week on a tour of diplomatic allies in the Pacific, official media said on Thursday, a move likely to anger China, which claims the self-ruled island as its own amid tension across the strait.

China regards Taiwan as its sacred territory and regularly calls it the most sensitive and important issue in ties with the United States, complaining to Washington about transit stops by Taiwan presidents.

Tsai will transit Hawaii next Wednesday on her way home from an eight-day visit to three diplomatic allies, the official Central News Agency said.

Taiwan, which China deems ineligible for state-to-state relations, has formal ties with 17 countries, almost all small nations in Central America and the Pacific.

The island battles to keep its allies from switching their allegiance to China, which last year persuaded Burkina Faso, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador to forge relations with Beijing.

(Reporting by Yimou Lee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Source: OANN

Fox News’ Dana Perino criticized the Democratic presidential candidates who have come out in favor of dismantling the Electoral College, during her Wednesday appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

California Sen. Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke have all stated their belief that the country should do away with the Electoral College and elect presidents via the popular vote.

WATCH:

“It’s a litmus test, right? Is there a Democratic candidate who is saying no? Cory Booker kind of tapped the breaks on it, whoa, whoa, whoa, I don’t know. But he will get there. This is happening,” Perino stated. “Remember, it’s Eric Holder also, I think, who during the Obama administration suggested this. But the Democrats didn’t need to talk about this when President Obama was president because he won the Electoral College. Okay?” (RELATED: Democratic Lawmaker Introduces Constitutional Amendment To Abolish The Electoral College)

“The institutions have held up but the Democrats are now talking about actually dismantling those institutions. And what is interesting to me is that the reason that the country is set up this way with different states is because we are republic. You have a representative government,” she continued.

“If you do away with that and you just elect the president by whoever lives in New York and California, then, and you just erase all of those boundaries, then you truly are for open borders,” Perino concluded. “Then you are no longer of the United States of America. You are like united people of America where perhaps, not so united, right, just the people of America.”

Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio rebuked the Democrats’ plan to get rid of the Electoral College on twitter Tuesday morning.

US senator Marco Rubio, addresses the press on the humanitarian aid shipments sent by the US government for Venezuela that are stockpiled at a collection center in the Colombian border, at the Simon Bolivar international bridge in Cucuta, Colombia, border with San Antonio de Tachira, Venezuela on February 17, 2019. - Thousands of volunteers in Venezuela will begin mobilizing on Sunday to bring American aid into their crisis-hit country despite a blockade by President Nicolas Maduro who claims the assistance could be cover for a US invasion. US aid that has been piling up in the Colombian border town of Cucuta has become the frontline of the confrontation between Guaido and Maduro. (Photo by Luis ROBAYO / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images)

US senator Marco Rubio, addresses the press on the humanitarian aid shipments sent by the US government for Venezuela that are stockpiled at a collection center in the Colombian border, at the Simon Bolivar international bridge in Cucuta, Colombia, border with San Antonio de Tachira, Venezuela on February 17, 2019. (LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images)

“The Democrat plan to get rid of the Electoral College has nothing to do with making sure every vote counts,” Rubio stated. “It’s about diminishing the electoral power of what liberals arrogantly call the ‘flyover states’ & of Americans they habitually disrespect as uneducated & backwards.” (RELATED: Marco Rubio Rebukes Democrats’ Attempt To Get Rid Of The Electoral College)

President Donald Trump also supported the Electoral College on Twitter, saying, “Campaigning for the Popular Vote is much easier & different than campaigning for the Electoral College. It’s like training for the 100 yard dash vs. a marathon. The brilliance of the Electoral College is that you must go to many States to win.”

Twelve states have passed laws mandating that their Electoral College votes go to the winner of the national popular vote, but none of the laws will go into effect unless the combined number of Electoral College votes reach 270 — the number of votes needed for a presidential candidate to win.

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Source: The Daily Caller

Virginia Kruta | Associate Editor

Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls have so far proposed or signaled willingness to discuss at least four major policy ideas that would require the U.S. Constitution to be amended.

  • Lowering the voting age to 16
  • Introducing term limits for Supreme Court justices
  • Dissolving the Electoral College and adopting a National Popular Vote
  • Reintroducing the Equal Rights Amendment

As more and more Democrats enter the rapidly expanding field, each vying for the chance to challenge President Donald Trump’s re-election bid, it is becoming apparent that most of them are looking for ways to change the status quo — even if that means changing the Constitution as well.

Lowering the voting age to 16.

In order for the voting age to be lowered to 16, Congress would have to pass an amendment to an amendment. The 26th Amendment, ratified in 1971, lowered the national voting age from 21 to 18. A new amendment would have to be ratified that would supersede the 26th.

Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar have not given this particular policy their full-throated endorsement, but all three have said that they are at least willing to have the conversation. (RELATED: Nancy Pelosi Says She Personally Supports Lowering The Voting Age To 16)

Introducing term limits for Supreme Court justices.

Article III, Section I of the Constitution states that, “The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour …” Unless they are impeached, judicial appointments are for life or until the appointee retires.

But Democratic New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has suggested that Supreme Court justices should be subject to term limits and that every president should have the opportunity to make three high court appointments during his or her term in office.

Several Democratic candidates, including former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, have said that they were open to changes on the court. Buttigieg and O’Rourke have voiced support for a new court with 15 justices — five chosen by Democrats, five chosen by Republicans and five chosen by unanimous approval of the other 10 justices.

Dissolving the Electoral College and adopting a National Popular Vote

In order to replace the Electoral College with a National Popular Vote, which would allow the president to be elected directly by the people, an amendment superseding Article II, Section I (clauses 2 and 3), as well as the 12th Amendment, would be necessary.

Democrats have been calling for a move to a popular vote, arguing that it’s the only way to make sure that “every vote counts.” A number of states have already attempted to side-step the Electoral College by opting to give all of their electoral votes to the winner of the nationwide popular vote. Renewed calls came from many in the party after the 2016 presidential election, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but lost the Electoral College.

Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, called for the change almost immediately following Clinton’s 2016 loss.

Warren planted her flag on this particular issue during a Monday town hall in Mississippi, saying, “Every vote matters.”

O’Rourke and Buttigieg — along with former HUD Secretary Julian Castro — have also voiced support for a move to the popular vote. “We ought to actually be a place where the person who gets the most votes for president gets to win the election,” Buttigieg explained.

Reintroducing the Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment states that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Proponents argue that it would make it easier to enforce equal pay laws, protect access to abortion and help to protect women from harassment.

The ERA has been around for decades without ever getting enough states on board to ratify it. Ratification of this amendment would be a priority for Harris.

The 2020 primary is just getting underway and at least a few more candidates are expected to declare their intentions in the coming weeks, so this may just be the tip of the iceberg with regard to radical policy proposals and possible changes to the Constitution.

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Source: The Daily Caller

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

March 21, 2019

By Robin Emmott and Philip Blenkinsop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GERMANY IS KEY

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

Whitney Tipton | Contributor

Authorities arrested a California man Tuesday for allegedly setting up phony PACs and websites to raise money for Democrats.

Prosecutors charged John Pierre Dupont, 80, with wire fraud and identity theft, NBC News reported. He allegedly used $250,000 raised to pay personal expenses, including the purchase of a Mercedes-Benz.

Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York allege Dupont established three fraudulent political action committees and at least a dozen websites to raise money for various campaigns, including for Democratic 2020 presidential contenders Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke. Dupont set up a website claiming to raise money “to unite immigrant families,” the complaint also alleges.

Geoffrey Berman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks at a press conference about the apprehension of a suspect in the recent spate of mail bombings at the Department of Justice on October 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Geoffrey Berman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks at a press conference in Washington, DC. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

“Thousands of donors believed their hard-earned money was being used to support the causes described in solicitations, but in reality, the scam PACs had no operations beyond the fundraising itself, and no funds were used to support candidates,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. (RELATED: Woman Who Climbed Statue Of Liberty To Protest Trump Sentenced To 5 Years Probation)

The criminal complaint alleges Dupont accepted $250,000 across various fraudulent entities since 2015, zero of which was ever actually donated to any candidate or cause. Instead, Dupont paid his rent, made cash withdrawal and used approximately $25,300 to purchase a Mercedes-Benz sedan, the complaint alleges.

In addition to the criminal charges, the complaint notes that Dupont failed to report any of the donations to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Dupont served time for convictions in 1985 of mail fraud and again in 1991 of bank fraud and money laundering, the Los Angeles Times reported. At one point in 1992, Dupont escaped from a minimum-security federal prison in Oregon. Federal authorities captured Dupont in 1997 and released him in 1999.

The charges carry up to 22 years if Dupont is convicted.

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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

Whitney Tipton | Contributor

Authorities arrested a California man Tuesday for allegedly setting up phony PACs and websites to raise money for Democrats.

Prosecutors charged John Pierre Dupont, 80, with wire fraud and identity theft, NBC News reported. He allegedly used $250,000 raised to pay personal expenses, including the purchase of a Mercedes-Benz.

Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York allege Dupont established three fraudulent political action committees and at least a dozen websites to raise money for various campaigns, including for Democratic 2020 presidential contenders Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke. Dupont set up a website claiming to raise money “to unite immigrant families,” the complaint also alleges.

Geoffrey Berman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks at a press conference about the apprehension of a suspect in the recent spate of mail bombings at the Department of Justice on October 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Geoffrey Berman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, speaks at a press conference in Washington, DC. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

“Thousands of donors believed their hard-earned money was being used to support the causes described in solicitations, but in reality, the scam PACs had no operations beyond the fundraising itself, and no funds were used to support candidates,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. (RELATED: Woman Who Climbed Statue Of Liberty To Protest Trump Sentenced To 5 Years Probation)

The criminal complaint alleges Dupont accepted $250,000 across various fraudulent entities since 2015, zero of which was ever actually donated to any candidate or cause. Instead, Dupont paid his rent, made cash withdrawal and used approximately $25,300 to purchase a Mercedes-Benz sedan, the complaint alleges.

In addition to the criminal charges, the complaint notes that Dupont failed to report any of the donations to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Dupont served time for convictions in 1985 of mail fraud and again in 1991 of bank fraud and money laundering, the Los Angeles Times reported. At one point in 1992, Dupont escaped from a minimum-security federal prison in Oregon. Federal authorities captured Dupont in 1997 and released him in 1999.

The charges carry up to 22 years if Dupont is convicted.

Follow Whitney on Twitter

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

Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO - Khalilzad listens to speakers during a panel discussion on Afghanistan at the Conservative Political Action conference (CPAC) in Washington
FILE PHOTO – Zalmay Khalilzad, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations, listens to speakers during a panel discussion on Afghanistan at the Conservative Political Action conference (CPAC) in Washington, February 12, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

March 20, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, will meet with Chinese, Russian and European Union diplomats on Afghanistan on Thursday as he tries to forge a peace deal with the Taliban to bring an end to America’s longest war.

“Discussion topics include international support for the Afghan peace process, the role each party can play in bringing an end to the war, and progress to date in peace talks,” the State Department said in a statement.

The meeting at the State Department will include Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s presidential envoy to Afghanistan; Deng Xijun, his Chinese counterpart; and Roland Kobia, the EU’s special envoy.

Khalilzad will brief them on his recent talks in Doha, Qatar, with the Taliban, where the United States reported progress but no final deal on a withdrawal of U.S.-led international forces.

The Taliban rejects direct negotiations with the Kabul government led by President Ashraf Ghani, accusing it of being a U.S. puppet.

U.S. negotiators are pressing the Taliban to accept a ceasefire and talks on Afghanistan’s political future with representatives of Afghan society, including Ghani’s government. But the talks have primarily focused on the Taliban’s counter-terrorism assurances and a U.S. troop withdrawal.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - Khalilzad listens to speakers during a panel discussion on Afghanistan at the Conservative Political Action conference (CPAC) in Washington
FILE PHOTO – Zalmay Khalilzad, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations, listens to speakers during a panel discussion on Afghanistan at the Conservative Political Action conference (CPAC) in Washington, February 12, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

March 20, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, will meet with Chinese, Russian and European Union diplomats on Afghanistan on Thursday as he tries to forge a peace deal with the Taliban to bring an end to America’s longest war.

“Discussion topics include international support for the Afghan peace process, the role each party can play in bringing an end to the war, and progress to date in peace talks,” the State Department said in a statement.

The meeting at the State Department will include Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s presidential envoy to Afghanistan; Deng Xijun, his Chinese counterpart; and Roland Kobia, the EU’s special envoy.

Khalilzad will brief them on his recent talks in Doha, Qatar, with the Taliban, where the United States reported progress but no final deal on a withdrawal of U.S.-led international forces.

The Taliban rejects direct negotiations with the Kabul government led by President Ashraf Ghani, accusing it of being a U.S. puppet.

U.S. negotiators are pressing the Taliban to accept a ceasefire and talks on Afghanistan’s political future with representatives of Afghan society, including Ghani’s government. But the talks have primarily focused on the Taliban’s counter-terrorism assurances and a U.S. troop withdrawal.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: An AT&T logo is seen at a AT&T building in New York City
FILE PHOTO: An AT&T logo is seen at a AT&T building in New York City, October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – AT&T Inc Chief Executive Randall Stephenson said Wednesday that China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is making it very difficult for European carriers to drop the company from its supply chain for next-generation 5G wireless service.

“If you have deployed Huawei as your 4G network, Huawei is not allowing interoperability to 5G — meaning if you are 4G, you are stuck with Huawei for 5G,” said Stephenson at a speech in Washington. “When the Europeans say we got a problem — that’s their problem. They really don’t have an option to go to somebody else.”

The United States has been pressuring other countries to drop Huawei from their networks. Stephenson said the U.S. government could do a better job explaining the security risks of Huawei. “The biggest risk is not that the Chinese government might listen in on our conversations or mine our data if we use their equipment,” Stephenson said.

Within a decade, 5G will drive all U.S. factories, utilities, refineries, traffic management and help underpin autonomous vehicles. “If that much of infrastructure will be attached to this kind of technology do we want to be cautious about who is the underlying company behind that technology. We damn well better be,” Stephenson said.

Huawei did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The United States warns that next-generation 5G equipment, which some telecoms experts see as more vulnerable to attack than previous technology, could be exploited by the Chinese government for spying if supplied by Huawei.

Huawei has grown rapidly to become the world’s biggest maker of telecoms equipment and is embedded in the mobile networks and 5G plans of many European operators. It denies that its technology represents a security risk.

In the United States, 5G networks will largely be built by Nordic equipment makers Ericsson and Nokia , and Strayer said there were safer alternatives to Huawei.

The United States has also alleged Huawei violated its sanctions on Iran and stole intellectual property. No evidence of spying has been presented publicly even as scrutiny on Huawei has intensified, and several Western countries have restricted the firm’s access to their markets.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday Germany was not planning to exclude any one company from its 5G auction per se, but rather wanted bidders in the mobile spectrum auction to meet certain requirements.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Source: OANN


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