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Turkish President Erdogan greets his supporters during an opening ceremony in Istanbul
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters during an opening ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey, June 18, 2019. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

June 19, 2019

By Orhan Coskun, Humeyra Pamuk and Jonathan Spicer

ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has gone on the warpath against the main opposition days ahead of a re-run of a mayoral vote in Istanbul, scrapping plans to avoid divisive rhetoric that some officials in his ruling AK Party believed would alienate voters.

Standing atop a bus in Istanbul on Tuesday, Erdogan claimed the opposition’s mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu aligned with coup plotters, without presenting evidence, and later warned of unspecified actors targeting Turkey’s independence.

After weeks of keeping an uncharacteristically low profile, the president re-inserted himself into the campaign with his usual confrontational style.

The switch is a risk for Erdogan and the AK Party (AKP), which suffered a shock defeat in Istanbul in March local elections – a loss that some in his party believed was in part due to the president’s uncompromising style.

The loss marked one of his biggest setbacks in 16 years in power, and the AKP challenged the result.

According to interviews with five party officials, as well as their advisers, Erdogan and his party had decided in recent weeks to effectively air-brush the president from the campaign ahead of the June 23 Istanbul vote, including erasing his face from highway-side billboards and cancelling dozens of planned rallies across the city.

AKP officials had concluded that Erdogan’s uncompromising approach had become a liability with some key voters in Istanbul, especially Kurds and AKP supporters who were turned off by his polarizing rhetoric, the party insiders said.

By laying low, Erdogan also could have distanced himself in the event of another defeat, advisers added.

But things changed earlier this week with internal party polling showing Imamoglu slightly ahead, prompting Ergodan to intervene, according to two of the people.

In recent days, “Erdogan had asked party officials if it is possible to arrange a meeting or a rally to make a speech every day in Istanbul” ahead of the vote, a senior AKP official said. “That’s the new strategy.”

Defeat on Sunday for Erdogan’s hand-picked mayoral candidate, former prime minister Binali Yildirim, would serve as a further embarrassment for the president after the AKP succeeded in annulling the March result.

It would also weaken what only three months ago appeared to be his iron grip on power as Turkey battles recession, jockeys in war-torn Syria, and balances its U.S. and Russian ties.

It may embolden challengers to his rule, although it wouldn’t immediately affect the balance of power in Ankara.

An AKP spokesman declined to comment on the shifting strategy.

In public appearances in recent days, Erdogan urged supporters to help him rally voters this weekend.

“We can’t hand our Istanbul to these liars,” Erdogan said in a speech on Tuesday, referring to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and its mayoral candidate Imamoglu.

Imamoglu has denied any links with the coup plotters.

“I know things will be said,” Imamoglu said in an interview with state broadcaster TRT Haber late Tuesday. He added: “These attacks are the attacks of those who cannot digest that we are ready for the task.”

STRATEGY ‘BACKFIRED’

Erdogan, the country’s most dominant political figure since the modern Turkish state’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, launched his own career in Istanbul and had served as its mayor.

The AKP and its Islamist predecessors had for 25 years controlled the city, which has a budget of close to $4 billion and accounts for a third of the country’s economic output.

Ahead of Turkey’s local elections in March, Erdogan held up to eight rallies a day addressing thousands of voters and millions more on live television. He delivered tough nationalist messages, asking voters to support the AKP as “a matter of survival.”

“The Erdogan campaign strategy backfired, especially among Kurds and middle-class conservatives,” in part because of his polarizing rhetoric said Galip Dalay, a visiting scholar at the University of Oxford.

After Erdogan’s Istanbul mayoral candidate Yildirim lost by some 13,000 votes, the AKP complained that the election was marred by irregularities.

Last month, Turkey’s High Election Board scheduled the re-run, a move that opponents said was politically influenced and heightened concerns about eroding rule of law and institutional independence.

According to AKP officials and insiders, the party is targeting the 1.7 million voters who stayed home on March 31, particularly conservative Kurds and AKP supporters looking for more focus on fixing the country’s stalled economy.

“People who didn’t vote and disenchanted voters, as well as Kurdish voters, will be a major factor,” said one AKP official, who added that the party was looking to boost turnout from an already high 84 percent in March to 94 percent.

The party had in recent weeks emphasized a face-to-face campaign in areas that had relatively low overall turnout and high Kurdish populations, officials say.

That included bringing several elderly Kurdish leaders from the country’s southeast to the city to build support in small neighborhood gatherings, sources close to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) told Reuters.

But a return to a prominent role for Erdogan in the campaign in the past few days followed fresh polling data and a debate on Sunday between the two mayoral candidates.

Imamoglu, who won the March vote, was gaining momentum, according to figures published Monday by polling firm Mak Danismanlik. Internal polls from the two leading parties showed the CHP candidate enjoying a narrow lead over the AKP’s Yildirim as of last week.

“Erdogan looked at the internal polls and saw that Yildirim still lagged behind, so he decided to go all in,” said one source close to the party with knowledge of the recent polling. “But it could have the opposite impact on voters and push them away.”

COURTING KURDS

In Istanbul’s working-class Esenyurt district, where turnout was low in March and the CHP ousted the AKP, resident Halil Cetin said Erdogan should step back.

“This survival rhetoric was too much at the center and people were annoyed by this, saying ‘This is a municipal vote, what kind of a survival issue could there be?’” said Cetin, originally from Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish Diyarbakir region. Yildirim “resonates,” he added.

Among the overtures the AKP has made to Kurds in recent weeks was lifting a years-long ban on lawyers visiting jailed Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan, a move that prompted several Kurdish lawmakers and thousands of prison inmates to end hunger strikes.

But such gestures were unlikely to make a meaningful impact on Kurdish voters, said HDP Group Chairman Saruhan Oluc. “These little acts have no chance of creating a positive response,” he said in an interview.

The economy remains another key challenge for AKP and Erdogan, who have seen support hurt by last year’s currency crisis that tipped Turkey’s economy into recession, devalued the lira by 30% and sent inflation soaring.

“The economy is problematic. The voters are heavily influenced by the developments in the economy and we see the impact of that by them not going to the ballot box,” the senior AKP official said.

(Additional reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul and Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Cassell Bryan-Low)

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Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is seen during a closed door interview before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill
Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is seen during a closed door interview before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

June 19, 2019

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hope Hicks, once a close aide to U.S. President Donald Trump, arrived on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to face questions in Congress about six instances in which Democrats believe Trump may have broken the law during the 2016 presidential campaign and while in the White House.

The White House has asserted immunity over testimony by Hicks involving her 14 months in the Trump administration, according to a knowledgeable source, continuing its strategy of not cooperating with House investigations.

The 30-year-old Hicks, accompanied by two personal lawyers, ignored shouted questions from reporters as she arrived just before 9 a.m. (1300 GMT) to appear under subpoena in a closed session of the House Judiciary Committee.

Two White House lawyers also were expected to join her, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

Hicks could remain well into the evening, fielding a wide range of questions from the panel’s 41 Democratic and Republican lawmakers and staff.

Hicks was Trump’s former campaign press secretary and his White House communications director until she left in March 2018 and later became chief communications officer and executive president for Fox Corporation, parent company of Fox News.

Democrats want to hear from her about alleged hush money payments made during the campaign to two women, including porn star Stormy Daniels, who say they had affairs with Trump. He has denied the affairs.

They also want Hicks to talk about five examples of potential obstruction of justice by Trump that are laid out in U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as the president’s efforts to impede the Mueller investigation.

Hicks was mentioned 183 times in Mueller’s report.

Assertions during questioning of executive privilege, a legal principle sometimes cited by presidents to keep White House information under wraps, would block a key line of inquiry by the committee and could lead to a subsequent legal challenge.

Despite the closed setting, Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, view Hicks’ appearance as a breakthrough for their congressional investigation, which could trigger impeachment proceedings against the president if it unearths evidence of serious misconduct.

Democrats say her appearance could help undermine Trump’s strategy of stonewalling congressional investigators by encouraging others to cooperate with them and by giving investigators the chance to challenge any executive privilege assertions, possibly in federal court.

MANY TOPICS

Democrats want Hicks to testify about an effort by the president to mislead the public about a June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower in New York, where the Mueller report said campaign officials, including the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., met with Russians offering “dirt” on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. A key question is whether Trump himself was aware of the meeting at the time.

Aides said Hicks also would be asked about alleged obstruction by Trump involving McGahn, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former FBI Director James Comey and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

A transcript of her testimony, which will be released after the interview, will be featured at a Thursday hearing where the committee will examine an ABC News interview, in which Trump said he saw nothing wrong with accepting damaging information about a U.S. political opponent from a foreign government, aides said.

The White House last month asserted executive privilege to block the release of Mueller’s unredacted report and related evidence, such as investigative interviews. The committee and the Justice Department have since reached an agreement giving panel members access to more of the Mueller report and some underlying material from the investigation.

The House voted 229-191 on June 11 on party lines to

authorize House committees to file lawsuits in federal court seeking orders from judges to compel officials to cooperate with official congressional demands for testimony or evidence.

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn, a star witness in the Mueller report, last month defied a subpoena for his testimony and documents after the White House directed him not to cooperate with the Judiciary panel.

McGahn could face legal action. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said last week that other witnesses, including Hicks and former McGahn aide Annie Donaldson, also could face court action if they defy committee subpoenas.

Mueller’s 448-page report found insufficient evidence to establish that the Trump campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow, despite numerous contacts between the campaign and Russia. It also described numerous attempts by Trump to impede Mueller’s investigation but stopped short of declaring that he committed a crime.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Peter Cooney and Bill Trott)

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Russian national Oleg Pulatov, accused of downing of flight MH17, is seen in this handout photo
Russian national Oleg Pulatov, one of the accused of downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, nearly five years after the crash that killed 298 passengers and crew, is seen in this handout photo released by Dutch Police and obtained by Reuters on June 19, 2019. Dutch Police/Handout via REUTERS

June 19, 2019

By Toby Sterling and Anthony Deutsch

NIEUWEGEIN, Netherlands (Reuters) – Three Russians and a Ukrainian will face murder charges for the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine which killed 298 people, in a trial to start in the Netherlands next March, an investigation team said on Wednesday.

The suspects are likely to be tried in absentia, however, as the Netherlands has said Russia has not cooperated with the investigation and is not expected to hand anyone over.

“These suspects are seen to have played an important role in the death of 298 innocent civilians”, said Dutch Chief Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke.

“Although they did not push the button themselves, we suspect them of close cooperation to get the (missile launcher) where it was, with the aim to shoot down an airplane.”

Dutch Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus said in a letter to parliament the Netherlands had taken unspecified “diplomatic steps” against Moscow for failing to fully comply with legal requests or providing incorrect information.

The Dutch-led international team tasked with assigning criminal responsibility for the plane’s destruction named the four suspects as Russians Sergey Dubinsky, Oleg Pulatov and Igor Girkin, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko. It said international arrest warrants for the four had been issued.

Girkin, 48, a vocal and battle-hardened Russian nationalist, is believed to live in Moscow where he makes regular public appearances. He is a commentator on Russian and foreign affairs via his own website and YouTube channel.

“The rebels did not shoot down the Boeing,” Girkin told Reuters on Wednesday without elaborating.

Ukrainian authorities said they would try to detain Kharchenko, the suspect believed to be on their territory.

MH17 was shot out of the sky on July 17, 2014, over territory held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Everyone on board was killed.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “The Russian Federation must now cooperate fully with the prosecution and provide any assistance it requests.” There were 10 Britons on the flight.

RUSSIAN MISSILE

Most of those on board were Dutch. The joint investigation team formed by Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine found that the plane was shot down by a Russian missile.

Last year Russian President Vladimir Putin called MH17’s downing a “terrible tragedy” but said Moscow was not to blame and there are other explanations for what happened.

The governments of the Netherlands and Australia have said they hold Russia legally responsible.

Asked if she expected the suspects to attend the trial, Silene Fredriksz, whose son Bryce was on the plane, said: “No, I don’t think so. But I don’t care. I just want the truth, and this is the truth.”

Moscow has said it does not trust the investigation.

“Russia was unable to take part in the investigation despite expressing an interest right from the start and trying to join it”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The investigation team said Girkin was a former FSB security service colonel who served as minister of defense of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) in the summer of 2014.

It said Dubinsky was head of the military intelligence agency of DNR, while Pulatov was head of a second department of the DNR military intelligence agency. Kharchenko was head of a reconnaissance battalion for the second department, it said.

Prosecutors have said the missile system that brought down the plane came from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, based in the western Russian city of Kursk.

(Additional reporting by Bart Meijer in Amsterda, Maria Vasilyeva and Anastasia Teterevleva in Moscow; Editing Hugh Lawson and Janet Lawrence)

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FILE PHOTO: EU summit following the EU elections in Brussels
FILE PHOTO: European Council President Donald Tusk holds a news conference after a European Union leaders summit following the EU elections, in Brussels, Belgium May 28, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

June 19, 2019

By Philip Blenkinsop and Belén Carreño

BRUSSELS/MADRID (Reuters) – European Council President Donald Tusk said on Wednesday that he was “cautiously optimistic” that EU leaders would agree names to hold the bloc’s top jobs when they meet in Brussels on Thursday.

Multiple diplomats and officials have told Reuters it may be too soon for a deal at the summit, which will be chaired by Tusk, citing disagreement between Berlin and Paris over a German candidate Manfred Weber’s bid to take over at the helm of the bloc’s executive Commission later this year.

“There are different views, different interests, but also a common will to finalize this process before the first session of the European Parliament,” Tusk said in an invitation letter to the 28 national leaders.

“I remain cautiously optimistic, as those I have spoken to have expressed determination to decide swiftly. I hope we can make it on Thursday.”

The new leaders will help set the EU’s course for the next five years as the bloc struggles with weak economies and a wave of euroskeptic sentiment at home, as well as facing external challenges from the United States to Russia to China.

Following an EU-wide election last month, the new European assembly is due to gather for the first time on July 2 and should then elect its new president for 2019-24.

That job is part of a package of the EU’s most senior leadership positions that come vacant soon.

They include replacements for European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the bloc’s chief diplomat Federica Mogherini, the head of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt Mario Draghi, and Tusk himself.

“I think that there is a chance of reaching an agreement at the summit,” said a senior EU diplomatic source. “At least, we are going to know which candidacies can fly and which couldn’t.”

Others have pointed out, however, that German Chancellor Angela Merkel could not drop Weber – who is a deputy head of her Bavarian sister party CSU – just yet.

Weber’s bid to lead the European Commission is firmly opposed by French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as the socialist Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez who is seeking to raise Madrid’s sway in the bloc.

WEBER’S LAST DANCE?

Should a deal prove elusive this week, Brussels sources said another leaders’ summit could take place on June 30 or July 1, or even in late August.

“There’s a strong desire to get things done quickly. I don’t see things going on beyond the summer,” another senior EU diplomat said on Wednesday.

The EU needs to balance out political affiliations, regional distribution and the candidate’s own profiles. The bloc is also seeking to let more women into its male-dominated leadership, with expectation that senior Commission roles would go to candidates such as Spain’s Economy Minister Nadia Calvino.

Beyond a firm majority – or, preferably, unanimity – among the 28 national leaders, any candidate to run the next European Commission must also be approved by the new European Parliament.

Despite voting to quit the bloc in 2016, Britain remains one of the 28 members and has members of the European Parliament until it finally leaves.

Political factions in the parliament are still discussing a coalition agreement and a pro-EU majority is in the works between the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), the socialists, the liberals and the greens.

The EPP, the parliament’s largest multi-country grouping, has so far stuck firmly with Weber. The socialists promote Dutchman Frans Timmermans, who currently is a deputy head at the Commission responsible for the rule of law.

The bloc’s current top competition official in Brussels, Denmark’s Margrethe Vestager, runs for the liberals. The group, which includes Macron’s allies, on Wednesday elected a former Romanian prime minister, Dacian Ciolos, as their new leader.

Brussels sources said Merkel’s condition for eventually dropping Weber could be demanding that no other candidate proposed by the European Parliament – Timmermans or Vestager – get to lead the Commission either. Other names in the running include the bloc’s Brexit negotiator and center-right Frenchman Michel Barnier, Belgium’s liberal caretaker Prime Minister Charles Michel, Bulgaria’s World Bank head, Kristalina Georgieva, or Lithuania’s outgoing President Dalia Grybauskaite.

GRAPHIC – EU top jobs race – https://tmsnrt.rs/2WSEMJU

(Additional reporting by Robin Emmott, Peter Maushagen and Sabine Siebold in Brussels, Giselda Vagnoni in Rome, Gederts Gelzis in Riga, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alison Williams)

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FILE PHOTO: Sweden's prime minister speaks at campaign rally in Stockholm
FILE PHOTO: Sweden’s Prime Minister Goran Persson speaks at a campaign rally one day before Sunday’s general election in Stockholm September 16, 2006. REUTERS/Bob Strong/File Photo

June 19, 2019

By Johan Ahlander and Esha Vaish

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Swedbank shareholders elected Goran Persson as chairman on Wednesday, with the former Swedish Prime Minister pledging to “clean the house” after a money-laundering scandal.

Sweden’s oldest retail bank has lost its chief executive, chairman and a third of its stock market value this year as its Estonian business was embroiled in a money laundering inquiry.

Swedbank, which is under investigation in the United States, the Baltics and Sweden, now faces the potential threat of sanctions and fines as it seeks to regain public confidence.

The most recent allegations against Swedbank, reported by Swedish state TV in March, say it processed gross transactions of up to 20 billion euros a year from high-risk, mostly Russian non-resident clients, through Estonia from 2010 to 2016.

Swedbank suspended its two top Estonian executives on Tuesday as part of an internal inquiry into its compliance with anti-money laundering rules which it launched in April under shareholder pressure for greater transparency.

Swedbank bulked up its board with three appointments at its annual shareholder meeting, including the addition of Persson, as it seeks to regain investor confidence following the scandal, which has also engulfed neighboring Danske Bank.

The 70-year-old former Swedish politician has emerged as a troubleshooter since playing an instrumental role in reviving Sweden’s economy after a financial crisis in the 1990s.

Persson, a Social Democrat who served as prime minister for a decade until 2006 and has since sat on several boards including smaller regional lender Alandsbanken, vowed to restore confidence in Swedbank and work for a better corporate culture.

“We’re going to clean our house. That work starts now,” Persson said after his election as chairman of Swedbank, whose shares were up 1% to 140.50 Swedish crowns at 1031 GMT.

Shareholders also voted in Bo Magnusson and Josefin Lindstrand as new members of the board, which also faces the task of finding a new chief executive for the bank.

Persson expects a new CEO to be in place by “end of autumn.”

(Reporting by Johan Ahlander and Esha Vaish in Stockholm; editing by Johannes Hellstrom and Alexander Smith)

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Trump Sees The Future Is Keeping America Great Because He Has 2020 Vision! Trump Is Making America Great Again! Will You Vote For Trump?

Trump officially launches re-election campaign, makes case for second term: ‘Keep America Great’
President Trump formally launched his 2020 re-election campaign Tuesday night before a jam-packed crowd in Orlando’s Amway Center, and quickly unloaded on the media organizations and government actors he said tried their hardest to bring down both See More his candidacy and then presidency with the Russian collusion scandal. “Our patriotic movement has been under assault from the very first day,” Trump said. He specifically called out the “phony” dossier used by the FBI to secure a secret surveillance warrant to surveil one of his former aides, Carter Page. To supporters’ delight, Trump even debuted a new impersonation of Hillary Clinton.

For the most part, Tuesday’s rally focused on Trump’s policy successes, from criminal justice reform to the economy. He also touted the planned Space Force, celebrated the “obliteration” of ISIS, and Republicans’ role in a newly energized national pro-lifemovement. And after polling the boisterous crowd, Trump appeared to settle on a new campaign slogan: “Keep America Great.” Still, not everyone loves the new Trump rallying cry. In an op-ed in the Opinion section of FoxNews.com, Fox News contributor Deroy Murdock explains why he believes the president needs a better re-election campaign slogan and what it should be.

Republicans demand Democratic leadership condemn AOC for ‘concentration camp’ remarks
Top Republicans are urging Democratic leadership to condemn Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks comparing detention facilities on the southern border to concentration camps. Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., on Monday told her Instagram followers on a live-stream that the U.S. government is “running concentration camps on our southern border.”

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said AOC’s remarks disrespect history and disregard what happened during the Holocaust. “It’s a total disregard to the facts, in particular about the Holocaust, but also you see the extent to which her colleagues and the people whoare supposed to be leading the Democrats in the House – Speaker Pelosi, Steny Hoyer – won’t stand up and criticize what she’s saying and condemn those comments,” the House Republican Caucus chairwoman said in an interview on “The Story with Martha MacCallum.”

The debate over slavery reparations comes to the Hill
Slavery reparations will be the center of debate during a scheduled hearing Wednesday before a House Judiciary subcommittee. After being treated as a fringe issue, reparations increasingly have been discussed by the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have endorsed looking at the idea, though they have stopped short of endorsing directpayouts for African-Americans. Still, the nation remains divided on the issue, as illustrated by remarks ahead of Wednesday’s hearing by Sen. Cory Booker, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In addition to Booker, actor and activist Danny Glover and writer Ta-Nehisi Coates are also among the witnesses expected to testify at the hearing.

Will a US-China trade talk breakthrough come at the G-20?
President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed to meet in Japan and discuss trade at the G-20 Summit, amid a weeks-long stalemate on negotiations and tension over looming new tariffs on China. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that he and Xi had had “very good” telephone conversations. “We will be having an extended meeting next week at the G-20 in Japan,” the president tweeted. “Our respective teams will begin talks prior to our meeting.”

Pentagon in transition as acting Defense Secretary Shanahan plans to depart
President Trump abruptly announced Tuesday that acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is withdrawing from consideration to lead the Pentagon and he’s naming Secretary of the Army Mark Esper as Shanahan’s replacement. While speculation had brewed for days about Shanahan’s status, the announcement came shortly after the publication of an explosive USA Today report that the FBI has been probing a violent domestic dispute from 2010 between Shanahan and his then-wife as part of his background investigation. Speaking to reporters outside the White House,the president said, “it’s a difficult time for Pat,” adding Shanahan would take “some time off for family matters.” In a resignation letter Tuesday, Shanahan said “it is unfortunate that a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up and painted in an incomplete and therefore misleading way in the course of this process.”

TODAY’S MUST-READS
Kelly Shackleford: Why Oregon cake bakers’ victory matters so much (for all of us).
New York clerk ‘will not be granting drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants,’ contrary to new law: report.
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MINDING YOUR BUSINESS
Will the Fed cut interest ratesduring its meeting this week?
Amazon Prime Day 2019: Here’s everything we know so far.
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Former head of European football association UEFA Michel Platini leaves a judicial police station where he was detained for questioning over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament, in Nanterre
Former head of European football association UEFA Michel Platini leaves a judicial police station where he was detained for questioning over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament, in Nanterre, France June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

June 19, 2019

PARIS (Reuters) – Michel Platini, the former head of European soccer association UEFA, was freed in the early hours of Wednesday after having questioned over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament to Qatar.

A Reuters photographer saw Platini leave a local police station, where he had been detained for questioning on Tuesday.

Platini’s lawyer, William Bourdon, said his client was innocent of all charges and that he had been questioned on “technical grounds.”

France’s national financial prosecutor’s office, which specializes in investigating economic crimes and corruption, has been leading a probe into the awarding of the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

It is looking into possible offences including private corruption, conspiracy and influence peddling.

Platini is one of France’s most famous sportsmen and soccer stars. He led France to victory in the 1984 European Championship and played in two World Cup semi-finals.

(Reporting by Arthur Connan, Gonzalo Fuentes and Emmanuel Jarry; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Mathieu Rosemain)

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A car passes in front of Toyota dealer in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
A car passes in front of Toyota dealer in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia June 15, 2019. Picture taken June 15, 2019. REUTERS/ Hamad I Mohammed

June 19, 2019

By Marwa Rashad and Stephen Kalin

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia began courting Toyota two years ago to build a large car plant as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s grand plan to wean the kingdom off oil revenues and create jobs for young Saudis.

But the Japanese carmaker has rebuffed Riyadh’s overtures following talks that dragged on without tangible results because high labor costs, a small domestic market and a lack of local supplies gave Toyota pause for thought, four sources said.

Securing a deal with a major automaker by 2020 for a car plant is a key target in the Gulf state’s national industrial strategy, part of a broader agenda to diversify the economy of the world’s largest oil exporter.

Failure to do so would be a setback for Prince Mohammed, coming after the listing of oil giant Saudi Aramco was shelved and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi tarnished the kingdom’s image.

“Nobody would say ‘No, full stop’ … but they politely conveyed they’re not interested,” said an industry source familiar with the Toyota talks.

Toyota said it could not comment on the current internal discussions and communication with the Saudi government.

Saudi Arabia’s ministry of energy, industry and mineral resources and the government media office did not respond to requests for comment.

As part of measures designed to create 1.6 million manufacturing and logistics jobs by 2030, Prince Mohammed wants to localize half the production of imported vehicles and weapons – which are expected to account for up to $100 billion in spending by Saudi government entities and consumers by 2030.

Under the deal Toyota signed in March 2017, the Japanese company agreed to conduct a feasibility study for an industrial project to make vehicles and car parts in the kingdom.

Two sources familiar with the matter said Toyota concluded after the study and negotiations that Saudi Arabia would need to provide huge subsidies for the project to be viable.

“They found that production costs will be similar to other countries only if there is a 50% government incentive. But even then, they aren’t sure it will be profitable,” said one source with knowledge of the negotiations.

(GRAPHIC: Saudi Arabia GDP breakdown – https://tmsnrt.rs/2WDjAZb )

TOUGH SELL

When it comes to establishing manufacturing, Riyadh hopes to replicate its 1980s push into petrochemicals – the cornerstone of an industrial drive that turned Saudi Basic Industries (SABIC) into the world’s fourth biggest petrochemicals firm.

Hundreds of thousands of Saudis work in petrochemicals, one of the biggest contributors to the economy outside oil. But it took decades to build up the industry, even with huge government funding and cheap raw materials.

Saudi Arabian Military Industries, owned by the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, is spearheading the drive to localize military spending. It aims to generate $10 billion in revenue over the next five years and hopes to generate 30% of revenues from export markets by 2030.

For cars, the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program (NIDLP) wants half the roughly 400,000 vehicles bought each year in Saudi Arabia to be made there by 2030, one source said.

But Toyota, which has a 30 percent market share, only proposed a small plant producing up to 10,000 vehicles using imported goods and the Saudis wanted a bigger factory, the industry source and the source familiar with the talks said.

A strategy document posted on NIDLP’s website acknowledged that Saudi Arabia had a major competitive disadvantage and state incentives would be needed to create “substantial commercial justifications” to attract carmakers.

It did not provide specifics about the disadvantages, nor the size and kind of state incentives required.

At NIDLP’s launch in January, the state approved 45 billion riyals ($12 billion) of incentives to develop an auto sector, including duty rebates, human resources subsidies and tax holidays, but it wasn’t enough, the industry source said.

NIDLP did not respond to requests for comment.

Asked if it would consider the project if the economic conditions changed, Toyota said: “We do not comment on assumptions about the current and future situations.”

(GRAPHIC: Economy by sector in 2018 – https://tmsnrt.rs/2IUeZbs)

JOBS PUSH

The NIDLP is aiming to create 27,000 jobs in the automotive sector by 2030 by attracting so-called original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

One obstacle, though, is the absence of a local supply chain for car parts, three automotive industry executives said.

Riyadh would need to build integrated economic districts producing components such as windows, batteries and wheels to lower costs, a senior executive at a Western auto firm said.

“If I have to open a manufacturing process in Saudi and then import every single component from abroad, I do not have any economical plus,” he said. “The problem is not really setting up a plant, but having the entire value chain.”

The local market is also relatively small. Demand for cars in Saudi Arabia has fallen by some 50% over three years to about 450,000 cars in 2018, as a drop in oil prices and departure of expatriates hit consumption, said Subhash Joshi, director of mobility practice at research firm Frost & Sullivan.

“Saudi Arabia and (Gulf) countries have been persistently disappointing in terms of sales in recent years, so it’s not as if OEMs would be entering a booming market,” said Justin Cox, director of global production at LMC Automotive.

Cox said countries such as Egypt and Turkey had more advantages for carmakers.

Toyota has a 1.2 billion euro plant with an annual capacity of 150,000 vehicles in Turkey, which is in a customs union with Europe. A plant Nissan set up in Egypt in 2005 with a $200 million investment will produce 28,000 cars this year.

Cars imported into the GCC customs union which includes Saudi Arabia only attract a 5% tariff, offering little protection against cheap imports for countries trying to get domestic car production off the ground.

CARMAKERS WARY

Turkey and Egypt also provide experienced, cheap manpower while Riyadh has been reducing the number of foreign laborers to create jobs for Saudis, who prefer higher-paying public jobs. Some 10 million foreigners have been doing the strenuous, lower-paid jobs largely shunned by the 20 million nationals.

Khalid al-Salem, who oversees the development of industrial cities, said the authorities were working on incentives to lure Saudis to industrial jobs instead of retail, where entry requirements are easier and pay is higher. He did not elaborate.

It’s not the first time Saudi Arabia has attempted to lure automakers.

In 2012, Jaguar Land Rover signed a deal to explore producing 50,000 Land Rovers a year in the kingdom at a cost of 4.5 billion riyals ($1.2 billion), but it never moved forward.

The industry source said the British luxury brand, owned by India’s Tata Motors, got a better offer from a European country.

“We continually review our global manufacturing footprint. At this time, our focus remains on our manufacturing presence in the UK, China, Brazil and mainland Europe,” Jaguar Land Rover said in an emailed response when asked about the Saudi project.

Two of the sources said Riyadh has also approached Nissan Motor Co in recent years.

They said the Japanese firm considered contract manufacturing through a 75% Saudi-owned venture – without the Nissan brand – but the arrest of former chairman Carlos Ghosn last year meant it was off the table for now.

Nissan declined to comment.

MINING AND PHARMACEUTICALS

While Saudi Arabia is struggling to lure carmakers, it does have a truck assembly industry. But analysts say assembling vehicles imported in kit form requires less investment and doesn’t create as many jobs as building cars from scratch.

Economists say, however, that Saudi Arabia does have the potential to build competitive industries and create jobs in the mining and pharmaceutical sectors.

The state is looking to triple mining’s contribution to gross domestic product by 2030 by focusing on untapped reserves of bauxite, phosphate, gold, copper and uranium.

Saudi authorities estimate the country holds 500 million tonnes of phosphate ore, about 7% of global proven reserves and a new mining law to boost foreign investment is being drafted.

Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, said investment in mining infrastructure would likely have the most direct impact on developing new manufacturing industries.

Pharmaceuticals is another strategic sector for NIDLP. About 25 local manufacturing plants produce 30% of prescription drugs consumed now and the government wants to double the sector’s contribution to non-oil gross domestic product to 1.97% by 2020.

Suhasini Molkuvan, program manager at Frost & Sullivan, said the target was almost close to reality though a lack of investment in research and development and intellectual property left local firms dependent on multinationals.

“Diversity is easier said than done,” said a senior Riyadh banker. “It might be achievable in 15 to 20 years if they continue to make the push.”

(Additional reporting by Sylvia Westall, Tuqa Khalid and Saeed Azhar in Dubai, Costas Pitas in London, Naomi Tajitsu in Tokyo and Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing; editing by Ghaida Ghantous and David Clarke)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones try to make a catch on a long pass in front of Philadelphia Eagles defender Jalen Mills in the third quarter of their NFL football game in Philadelphia
FILE PHOTO: Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones try to make a catch on a long pass in front of Philadelphia Eagles defender Jalen Mills in the third quarter of their NFL football game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., September 6, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar

June 19, 2019

The Atlanta Falcons are confident they will re-sign wide receiver Julio Jones to a new long-term extension before training camp begins next month, ESPN reported Tuesday.

Jones has two years remaining on his deal, which owes him $9.6 million in 2019 and $11.4 million in 2020. He signed a contract adjustment as training camp opened last July — giving him $4.4 million, including $2.9 million from his 2019 salary, up front — and the team reportedly promised to do a full extension this offseason. That came after Jones missed the Falcons’ entire offseason program and threatened to hold out into training camp.

The 30-year-old again missed voluntary workouts this summer, but he showed up for mandatory minicamp. He told reporters in April he isn’t concerned with being the NFL’s highest-paid wide receiver.

In his eighth season, Jones is coming off of his sixth Pro Bowl selection — fifth in a row — after catching 113 passes for a league-high 1,677 yards and eight touchdowns last season. He remains the NFL’s all-time leader in career receiving yards per game (96.7).

–Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford played through broken bones in his back last year, according to a team reporter.

Mike O’Hara, a long-time Lions beat reporter who now works for the team’s website, said of Stafford on a recent episode of his podcast, “He had a broken back last year. Broken bones in his back.”

After taking 12 hits against the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 2, Stafford was listed with a back injury for the final four weeks of the 2018 season, including limited participation and questionable designations for games in Weeks 14-16. He played in all four games, throwing for 691 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions as the Lions went 2-2.

–The former NFL running back who wore “He Hate Me” on his jersey during his season in the XFL was found safe after going missing in South Carolina, according to a report from the Charlotte Observer.

Police said Torrold “Rod” Smart was located and was OK, the Observer reported. Earlier in the day, the Lancaster (S.C.) County Sheriff’s Office said Smart was a “missing endangered person” and was seeking information regarding his whereabouts.

Smart, 42, played college football at Western Kentucky. As an undrafted free agent in 2000, he was signed by the then-San Diego Chargers but was released. The following year, he played for the Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL, then later in 2001 played in the Canadian Football League and with the Philadelphia Eagles. He played four more seasons with the Carolina Panthers.

–New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas is headed for paydirt, one way or another.

General manager Mickey Loomis said on Mad Dog Sports Radio that the Saints and Thomas have begun talks geared toward a long-term deal. Thomas, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, had 125 receptions for 1,405 yards in 2018.

“We’ve had some conversations, and I like keeping that close to the vest until there’s something to report, but look, we love what Mike’s done for us,” Loomis said. “He’s a fantastic player, one of the best at his position in the league, and hopefully we can keep him a Saint for a long time as well.”

–More than 5,000 Denver Broncos fans attended owner Pat Bowlen’s memorial service, according to the team.

Bowlen died last week at age 75 after a fight with Alzheimer’s disease. The team hosted a public memorial service at Broncos Stadium at Mile High, where fans walked past photos and memorabilia from Bowlen’s life and watched a video tribute in his honor.

Former Broncos players such as John Elway, Rod Smith and Peyton Manning also attended the service. Bowlen will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame posthumously this August.

–Former Senior Bowl director and Cleveland Browns general manager Phil Savage is expected to join the New York Jets’ personnel department under new general manager Joe Douglas, NFL Network reported.

Per the report, Savage’s role is not yet fully defined, but an announcement “should come this week,” absent a setback. NFL Network also reported Ravens assistant director of pro personnel Chad Alexander will join the Jets as director of player personnel.

ESPN reported the Jets are hiring Indianapolis Colts vice president of player personnel Rex Hogan as assistant general manager, after Hogan served as New York’s senior director of college scouting from 2015-17.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

MLB: San Diego Padres at Colorado Rockies
FILE PHOTO: Jun 14, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado (13) celebrates after a solo home run in the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

June 19, 2019

The Major League Baseball Umpires Association criticized the one-game suspension of San Diego Padres infielder Manny Machado, calling it “a slap in the face” and “a disgrace to the game.”

Machado was suspended for “aggressively arguing and making contact with” plate umpire Bill Welke as he disputed a called third strike in Saturday’s game against the Colorado Rockies.

“One game..one single game. What kind of precedent is that setting? It is NOT okay to throw a temper tantrum and physically touch someone of authority, just because you don’t agree. Violence in all workplaces is not tolerated. Period,” the MLBUA’s statement read, in part.

Major League Baseball, which also fined Machado an undisclosed amount for the incident, issued a statement opposing the umpires association’s input on the matter. The league statement said it was inappropriate for the umpires’ union to comment on player discipline, just as it would be inappropriate for the players’ union to comment on umpire discipline.

–The New York Yankees activated outfielder Giancarlo Stanton from the 10-day injured list before their game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Stanton, 29, had been out since April 1, having played just three games this season while battling multiple injuries. He batted fifth and played right field upon his return.

The Yankees also are expecting outfielder Aaron Judge, who has played in just 20 games this season because of an oblique injury, to return this week.

–Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve will join the team on the road and could be back in the lineup on Wednesday.

Altuve, a six-time All-Star and the 2017 American League MVP, has been out since May 11 due to a strained left hamstring.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch said outfielder George Springer, who has been sidelined since May 25 because of a hamstring strain, could go on a rehab assignment later this week. Reliever Collin McHugh (elbow), out since May 15, also is nearing a return, Hinch said.

–The condition of former Red Sox star David Ortiz was upgraded to good by doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where he remains in the intensive care unit.

Tiffany Ortiz offered the update on her husband in a statement issued by the team. She said David Ortiz “continues to make progress with his recovery.”

Ortiz, 43, was shot in the back June 9 as he visited a club in his hometown of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He had surgery for internal injuries that evening, then was flown to Boston the following day and underwent a second operation.

–Catcher Zack Collins, the 10th overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, was recalled by the Chicago White Sox.

Welington Castillo left Sunday’s game with soreness in his back and was placed on the 10-day injured list. He was diagnosed with a strained left oblique.

The White Sox also reinstated left-handed pitcher Jace Fry from the 10-day injured list, filling the roster spot that opened when right-hander Thyago Vieira was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte on Monday.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

U.S. President Donald Trump reacts on stage formally kicking off his re-election bid with a campaign rally in Orlando
U.S. President Donald Trump reacts on stage formally kicking off his re-election bid with a campaign rally in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

June 19, 2019

By Steve Holland

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday formally launches what may be an uphill battle to persuade voters to give him four more years in office, as he bets a strong U.S. economy will outweigh voter concerns about his unorthodox style and polarizing policies.

At an evening rally in Orlando, Florida, Trump, who has long made it known he is running for re-election, will begin making his case with gusto for a second term. He and his wife, Melania, and a large contingent of senior White House staff arrived in Orlando aboard Air Force One for the occasion.

The Trump of 2020 most certainly will bear a strong resemblance to the Trump of 2016 – brash and eager to bash opponents and promote tough policies on trade and immigration.

Two-and-a-half years into his tenure, Trump sees plenty of positive factors, led by a growing economy with low unemployment.

“If the economy stays strong, he is very likely to get re-elected,” said Trump confidant Newt Gingrich, a former Republican speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

But an investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, coupled with a presidential style marked by name-calling and eye-popping tweets, has undermined some Americans’ confidence in Trump before the November 2020 election.

He also has stirred division with his hard-line policies on immigration and unsettled business and farm groups with his use of tariffs in trade disputes with China and some allies.

Democrats cite a string of broken promises in Trump’s first term, from lowering drug prices to closing corporate tax loopholes and stopping plant closures. In a media call on Tuesday, Democratic Party officials focused on his moves to weaken the signature healthcare law of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, without providing an alternative.

“Donald Trump is launching his campaign for re-election tonight and the American people face a choice – we can make Trump an aberration or let him fundamentally and forever alter the character of this nation,” said Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager for Democratic front-runner Joe Biden.

POLLING CONCERNS

A Reuters/Ipsos poll on June 11 gave Trump a 40% job approval rating, compared with 57% who disapproved. Other opinion polls have shown him running consistently behind his main Democratic challengers, such as Biden, in key battleground states.

Republican strategists say the fundamentals favor Trump as he heads into his election but that he faces challenges given his bare-knuckled approach, which he refuses to temper.

“His support with his base is as strong as it’s ever been for any Republican incumbent president. The challenge is adding to that and building the coalition he needs for re-election,” said Republican strategist Ryan Williams, a former adviser to 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

In a Twitter post before his trip, Trump said: “Republican enthusiasm is at an all time high. Look what is going on in Orlando, Florida, right now!”

The Orlando Sentinel, however, welcomed the president’s visit with an editorial titled: “Our endorsement for president in 2020: Not Donald Trump.”

Trump supporters with tents and sleeping bags started camping out at the rally venue on Monday and thousands had gathered by Tuesday afternoon in a torrential downpour. “It was like a big Trump party,” said Maureen Bailey, who slept in a tent with her twin sister, Laureen Vartanian.

Local Democratic Party officials planned a “Win With Love” rally a few blocks from the Trump rally.

Starting his 2020 push in Florida, which the former New York businessman considers his second home, shows how important the state is to Trump’s re-election hopes. He would like to recreate the state-by-state electoral victory map he assembled to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.

That election included Trump victories in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and he thus far faces challenges in all those states, along with North Carolina.

FLORIDA IS A KEY

Democrats vow to win back industrial states like Pennsylvania and Michigan that flipped to Trump in 2016 after decades of voting Democratic in presidential elections, and they believe his behavior and policies will generate strong turnout among Americans eager to turn him out of office.

Trump campaign advisers wave off the polls at this stage, saying Trump had trailed in most polls in 2016 and still won.

The advisers believe Trump’s chances will improve once Democrats go through their hard-fought nominating process and produce a nominee for him to face off against.

Nobody is expecting Trump to change his behavior. Aides who had urged him early in his White House tenure to tone down his style are long gone.

Some Trump advisers had urged the president to begin his campaign launch in New York with a nostalgic recreation of the scene from June 2015 when Trump and his wife rode down an escalator at Trump Tower for his announcement speech.

On his flight to Tokyo on May 24, Trump turned down the idea, based on input from the first lady, who thought he should do something new and was adamantly against the escalator ride, said a person with direct knowledge of the conversation.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington and Carlo Allegri in Orlando; Editing by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney)

Source: OANN

The White House mounted a last-ditch effort Tuesday to prevent former communications director Hope Hicks from speaking with lawmakers, saying she is “absolutely immune” from discussing her time working for President Donald Trump.

According to Axios, White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., to argue against Hicks being compelled to testify as the Democrat-led panel investigates the Trump administration.

“Ms. Hicks is absolutely immune from being compelled to testify before Congress with respect to matters occurring during her service as a senior adviser to the President,” reads the letter, which then makes a multi-pronged argument to support the claim.

Among the reasons Cipollone cited is the fact Department of Justice precedent dictates the “president and his immediate advisers” cannot be forced to testify in front of Congress.

Cipollone added later, “the president has directed Ms. Hicks not to answer questions before the committee relating to the time of her service as a senior adviser to the president.

“The long-standing principle of immunity for senior advisers to the president is firmly rooted in the Constitution’s separation of powers and protects the core functions of the presidency, and we are adhering to this well-established precedent in order to ensure that future presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the Office of the President.”

Hicks, who now works as the chief communications officer of Fox, will testify on Capitol Hill behind closed doors Wednesday.

According to Politico, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee will ask her about five specific instances of possible obstruction of justice committed by Trump.

Source: NewsMax Politics

Employee works on assembling an electric vehicle (EV) at a factory of Suda Electric Vehicle Technology Co, in Sanmenxia, Henan
An employee works on assembling an electric vehicle (EV) at a factory of Suda Electric Vehicle Technology Co, in Sanmenxia, Henan province, China March 19, 2019. Picture taken March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

June 19, 2019

By Kane Wu, Yilei Sun and Julie Zhu

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) – Last year, Wei Qing and his private equity investment team visited more than 20 Chinese electric vehicle manufacturing startups.

The end result? They decided not to invest in any.

“There are too many uncertainties from when a company tells a story in the early stage, to when it produces a sample car and raises funds, to the eventual mass production,” said Wei, managing director at Shanghai-based Sailing Capital.

Wei, who declined to name the EV makers his team visited, said he thinks only a few of them will survive. Sailing instead decided to invest in an EV parts supplier, he added.

His concerns reflect what bankers describe as increasingly tough funding times for Chinese EV makers which must jostle for attention in a crowded sector and produce convincing arguments about future profitability despite government cuts to EV subsidies and plans to phase them out.

Numerous setbacks plaguing Tesla Inc in its quest for sustained profitability as well as a dramatic slide in sales and problems with some cars at Chinese startup Nio Inc have also put investors on their guard.

This year, Chinese EV makers have raised just $783.1 million as of mid-June compared with $6 billion for the same period a year earlier and $7.7 billion for all of 2018, according to data provider PitchBook.

One Hong Kong-based banker said he had been approached by at least a dozen EV makers seeking new funds but had to pass on most of them as they were not able to set themselves apart from the crowd.

Even fundraising efforts that have gotten off the ground are not moving as fast as EV makers would like.

“It is challenging,” said the banker who began working on one fundraising this year. “If you can get a meeting with investors, you can always tell a story, but some don’t even reply to your requests for a meeting.”

He declined to be identified as the negotiations were not public.

(For a graphic on ‘Fundraising by Chinese EV Companies’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2IjAjYt)

SUBSIDY WOES

Eager to curb smog and jump-start its own auto industry, China has said it wants so-called new energy vehicles (NEVs) – which also include hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell cars – to account for a fifth of auto sales by 2025 compared with 5% now.

Those ambitions have spawned a plethora of EV startups competing not just with each other, but also global automakers and Tesla, which plans to start production in China this year.

About 330 EV firms are registered for some sort of subsidy, government data shows, although the number of more well established startups is much smaller, at around 50.

But amid criticism that some firms have become overly reliant on government funds, Beijing has reduced subsidies, raised the standards needed for vehicles to qualify and flagged they will end altogether after 2020.

That has led to sharp slowdown as vehicle prices rise. Sales of NEVs in May rose just 1.8% from a year earlier compared with 18.1% in April, and 62% growth for 2018.

Surviving in the current funding environment, requires much cost discipline, Daniel Kirchert, CEO at Nanjing-based EV maker Byton, told Reuters.

“Given the current situation, it is not enough for any startup to come up with good products and be fast to market. At least it’s equally important to manage cost. Not only fixed costs but variable cost,” he said.

Byton, which is backed by state-owned automaker FAW Group and battery supplier Contemporary Amperex Technology Co (CATL) is one of a few EV makers with a fundraising round in train, seeking $500 million.

Others include Leap Motor, backed by state-owned Shanghai Electric Group Corp and Sequoia Capital China, which is seeking $372 million as well as CHJ Automotive, founded by serial entrepreneur Li Xiang, which wants to raise as much as $500 million.

Those with successful funding under their belts this year include Baidu Inc-backed WM Motor Technology Co Ltd which closed a $446 million round in March, according to PitchBook.

Some have obtained money outside private equity. E-Town Capital, a Beijing government investment firm, will invest 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) in a joint venture with Nio, which could help Nio build its own plant.

TESLA, NIO WEIGH

But overall, industry funding prospects are much bleaker, particularly as Tesla and Nio struggle.

Founder Elon Musk told Tesla employees last month the $2.7 billion the company recently raised would give it just 10 months to break even at the rate it burned cash in the first quarter. Shares in the industry pioneer have slid 32% in the year to date.

Nio’s shares have been hit harder, down 60% this year on a cut to its delivery outlook, a halving in first-quarter sales from the previous quarter, increased competition and reduced subsidies. Its reputation has also been hurt after three vehicles caught on fire and by the inadvertent shutting down of a car on Beijing’s prestigious Changan Avenue after the driver initiated a software update.

Nio declined to comment.

“Some of the listed EV industry leaders are currently underperforming in the secondary trading market and that has created pressures for the sector’s short-term outlook,” said Brian Gu, president of EV startup Xpeng Motors and a former senior JP Morgan banker.

“We are seeing investors become more cautious, selective and keenly focused on the frontrunners. I think this trend is likely to persist,” he said.

An investor in WM Motor was more downbeat about the willingness of private equity investors to fund the industry.

“Nio is probably the best among Chinese EV start-ups. Look where it stands now – how can that make us comfortable about writing cheques for other EV start-ups?” said the investor who also held Nio shares but sold them this year.

(Reporting by Kane Wu and Julie Zhu in Hong Kong and Yilei Sun in Beijing; Additional reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing; Editing by Jennifer Hughes and Edwina Gibbs)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan speak to the media at the State Department in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan speak to the media at the State Department in Washington, U.S., April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

June 18, 2019

By Phil Stewart and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan abandoned his quest for the top Pentagon job on Tuesday as reports emerged of domestic violence in his family, plunging the leadership of the U.S. military into new uncertainty just as tensions with Iran are rising.

Shanahan said he made the decision, first announced by U.S. President Donald Trump in a tweet, to prevent his three children from reliving “a traumatic chapter in our family life.”

“It is unfortunate that a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up,” Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, said in a statement.

Hours after naming Secretary of the Army Mark Esper to replace Shanahan as acting secretary, Trump told reporters he would likely nominate the former Raytheon executive and army veteran to the defense secretary position.

Shanahan, 56, was thrust into the role in an acting capacity in January, after then Defense Secretary Jim Mattis abruptly resigned over policy differences with Trump.

He had been due to go before U.S. senators for confirmation hearings when the allegations of incidents of domestic violence surfaced as part of FBI background checks.

USA Today reported that the FBI had been examining a nine-year-old dispute involving Shanahan and his then-wife.

The newspaper reported https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/06/18/defense-secretary-fbi-patrick-shanahan-wife-domestic-violence-altercation/1470811001 that Shanahan said in a statement late on Monday that he “never laid a hand on” his former wife. USA Today reported that he and his wife both claimed they had been punched by the other and that his wife was arrested after the incident but the charges were dropped.

The Washington Post also reported that Shanahan’s teenage son allegedly hit his mother with a baseball bat in 2011, when the Shanahans were already living apart, leaving her unconscious in a pool of blood.

The Post said Shanahan had been responding to its questions about the incidents since January. He told the paper he now believes he was wrong to say in a memo to his ex-wife’s brother that his son had acted in self-defense.

“Bad things can happen to good families . . . and this is a tragedy, really,” the paper quoted Shanahan as saying. He added the disclosure of the incident would “ruin my son’s life.”

IRAN TENSIONS

Shanahan has been a prominent figure as tensions between the United States and Iran have risen in recent weeks. It was Shanahan who announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East on Monday, citing concerns about a threat from Iran.

Worries about a confrontation between the two countries have mounted since attacks last week on two oil tankers near the Gulf. Washington blamed long-time foe Iran for the incidents but Tehran denies responsibility.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said it was a bad time for the United States not to have stable leadership at the Pentagon.

“This is a very difficult time, with everything going on in Iran and with provocations and counteractions. And to have no Secretary of Defense at this time? It’s appalling, and it shows the chaos in this administration,” he told reporters.

The decision to stand down promises to prolong what has already been the longest period without a confirmed defense secretary.

Shanahan was the longest official in history to serve as secretary of defense in only an acting capacity, according to Pentagon records. Part of the delay was due to Shanahan being under investigation by the Pentagon inspector general for allegedly seeking preferential treatment of Boeing while at the department. He was cleared of wrongdoing in April.

Shanahan did not have prior experience in national security matters before he was picked by Mattis to be his deputy.

A source familiar with the situation said Shanahan met Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday morning to say he wanted to step down. The source, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the decision was 100 percent Shanahan’s.

(Additional reporting by Makini Brice and Amanda Becker; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Mary Milliken, Nick Zieminski and Sonya Hepinstall)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: World Athletics Championships
FILE PHOTO: Athletics – World Athletics Championships – women’s 100 metres final – London Stadium, London, Britain – August 6, 2017 – Elaine Thompson of Jamaica after the race. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

June 18, 2019

By Kayon Raynor

KINGSTON, Jamaica (Reuters) – As Jamaica prepares to select their world championship team, the exhilarating days of the nation’s male sprinters, led by Usain Bolt, dominating the world are gone, two of the Caribbean island’s top coaches say.

While the country’s female sprinters continue to excel, the men do not rank among the year’s best in either the 100 or 200 meters.

“It appears we are going through another one of those cycles,” coach Glen Mills, who guided Bolt to eight Olympic gold medals and 14 world championship medals between 2007 and 2017, told Reuters.

“I think that there is talent in the junior level that could develop, which could move us once again to the forefront,” said the optimistic Mills two days before the June 20-23 national championships which will help determine the Jamaican team for the Sept. 28-Oct. 6 world championships in Doha.

Stephen Francis, who brought two-times world 100m bronze medalist and former record holder Asafa Powell to global attention, blamed a variety of reasons for the recent decline.

“You find that a combination of bad coaching, bad environment, bad influences and a lack of discipline and all that kind of thing are responsible for the fall,” Francis said in an interview with Reuters.

“I stated a couple of years ago that there was going to be a problem with male sprinting in Jamaica.”

The saving grace has been the female sprinters led by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, a five times global champion at 100m, and Rio double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, the coaches believe.

“Our female program looks very lucrative with our top females over the years, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson and of course we have quite a large number of youngsters including Briana Williams (World under-20 double gold medalist) among others,” Mills said.

Francis added: “Shelly and Elaine are there, but you have others in the pipeline who one expects in two or three or four years will replace them.

“But not so for the men, I don’t know if anybody can say where the next good talent is coming from.”

Still there is optimism that Jamaica could win as many as 10 medals in Doha.

“I think we have at least three events where we have prospects on the male side… obviously the discus (2019 world leader (Fedrick Dacres), the sprint hurdles (Olympic and world champion Omar McLeod), maybe the 400m and maybe the long jump,” Francis said.

“On the female side, there are a whole lot of events where we have medal prospects.”

Fraser-Pryce and Thompson are among the year’s fastest in the 100, Janeek Brown and Danielle Williams in the 100m hurdles and the women’s 4x100m relay team.

(Editing by Gene Cherry and Toby Davis)

Source: OANN

Billionaire and frequent Republican donor John Catsimatidis said Tuesday that he declined an appeal for funds from former Vice President Joe Biden, who is running for the Democratic nomination for president.

Catsimatidis, a supermarket mogul who is worth an estimated $3.1 billion, told CNBC that Biden approached him at a fundraiser being held at the home of investment manager Jim Chanos in New York. Catsimatidis said that when Biden asked for his support he “just smiled.”

He added that although he does admire Biden’s “common sense,” he will continue to support President Donald Trump in 2020.

“I think Joe Biden is the most common sense nominee of the 23 people running in the Democratic Party,” Catsimatidis said. “Monetarily, I did not commit to helping him but I will help him brotherly, on my radio show and with all my media contacts.”

According to CNBC, Chanos’ event was attended by almost 180 guests, and donors contributed $2,800. The Hill reports that Biden suggested at the event that his campaign has raised almost $20 million.

CNBC also notes that Catsimatidis donated over $116,000 to the 2016 Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, while also donating $100,000 to Trump’s Victory.

He wrote on Twitter on Tuesday: “On this great day of Trump kicking off his 2020 Campaign in Orlando I want to make it clear… Me and my family are supporting [Trump] 100 percent We are fighting for the soul of America!”

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) logo is seen before the FCC Net Neutrality hearing in Washington
FILE PHOTO: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) logo is seen before the FCC Net Neutrality hearing in Washington February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

June 18, 2019

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will vote in July on whether to auction a key band of largely unused 2.5 GHz spectrum to help advance next-generation 5G wireless networks and scrap requirements that it be used for education, the agency said on Tuesday.

The FCC in May 2018 voted to consider releasing additional key 2.5 GHz mid-band spectrum reserved in the 1960s for what is now known as the Educational Broadband Service.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement the proposal would give existing users more flexibility in how they use the spectrum. “Valuable mid-band spectrum available for new mobile services will allow for more efficient and effective use of these airwaves and will advance U.S. leadership in 5G,” he added.

Pai said last year the FCC was seeking to ensure that existing users would retain spectrum, give some entities a chance to obtain new licenses “and then auctioning off the remaining white spaces.” Reuters reported the auction plans earlier on Tuesday.

Sprint Corp uses leased spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band in its existing 4G network and 5G network that it is being rolled out. That spectrum is a key part of Sprint and T-Mobile US Inc’s proposed $26 billion tie-up and 5G plan, and is not directly affected by the auction, FCC officials said.

The U.S. Education Department in a June 7 letter told the FCC it should maintain an “educational use requirement” for that spectrum and suggested setting aside revenue from license sales to help students who lack the internet access required to do their homework.

The FCC proposal would remove that educational requirement, officials told reporters on a conference call. It did not provide an auction timetable but said the proposal would establish a “competitive bidding window.” Several FCC auctions are planned this year, the agency added.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr last year noted that the 2.5 GHz band is unused in about half the country, and more than 90% of the licenses held by educational institutions are leased to other entities.

Carr said those arrangements show “many educational institutions have contracted with those providers so that each can focus on what it does best: the former can educate

students, and the latter can build wireless networks.”

The FCC also plans to vote next month on revising its children’s television programming rules, it said in a statement.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Richard Chang)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Australian Open - Second Round
FILE PHOTO: Tennis – Australian Open – Second Round – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, January 16, 2019. Russia’s Maria Sharapova in action during the match against Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

June 18, 2019

By Martyn Herman

SANTA PONSA, Spain (Reuters) – After two weeks enjoying the delights of Mallorca it was time for business for Maria Sharapova on Tuesday as she launched her comeback from a six-month injury lay-off in style.

The Russian five-times Grand Slam champion struggled for rhythm initially on the low-bouncing grasscourt at the Mallorca Open but picked up the pace to beat Viktoria Kuzmova 7-6(8) 6-0.

It was a small step for the 32-year-old who will face reigning Wimbledon champion and top seed Angelique Kerber in a standout second-round match at the Santa Ponsa Tennis Club.

Kerber, who suffered an ankle injury during the claycourt season and lost in the first round at the French Open, beat Belgian qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure 7-5 4-6 6-2.

Former world number one Sharapova admitted there is still much to work on but was encouraged by her display in negotiating a tricky opening round — her first competitive match since the St Petersburg Open in January.

There were a few double faults in the first set but the right shoulder that has caused her so much trouble in the past and needed minor surgery in February appeared to hold up.

She saved two set points in the opener but allowed her opponent, ranked 39 places higher than her at 46, only six points in the second as a large crowd, which included tournament referee Toni Nadal, watched under a blazing sun.

It was the 2004 Wimbledon champion’s first win on grass for four years in only her second match on the surface in that time.

“It was nice to get a victory,” she told reporters.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been out there so it felt really good to go through a few things I’ve worked on and get the arm into action again. There’s a lot to work on but I had to start somewhere.”

Wildcard Sharapova said she felt “optimistic” about the shoulder that needed minor surgery in February and did not feel anything “too sharp” during the match.

With rain falling elsewhere in Europe, Mallorca appeared a wise choice as a starting point for a suspect shoulder but it was not all smooth for wildcard Sharapova against Kuzmova.

The Slovak broke to lead 6-5 in the first set as Sharapova served three double-faults. Sharapova broke back immediately to force a tiebreak but had to fend off a set point at 6-7 and another at 7-8 before sealing the set when Kuzmova missed a forehand.

A confident Sharapova romped through the second set.

Victoria Azerenka, the third former world number one in action on the day, was beaten 1-6 6-4 7-5 by Caroline Garcia.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)

Source: OANN

Argentine politician Sergio Massa arrives for a meeting with presidential candidate Alberto Fernandez in Buenos Aires
Argentine politician Sergio Massa arrives for a meeting with presidential candidate Alberto Fernandez (not pictured), in Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 12, 2019. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

June 18, 2019

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentine politician Sergio Massa, who recently pledged his support to the main opposition challengers to President Mauricio Macri, is in line to play a key role in the country’s Congress if his new allies win national elections later this year.

The former chief of staff said on Tuesday he would be the first on a list of candidates to lead the Chamber of Deputies, one of the country’s two houses of Congress, if Peronist hopeful Alberto Fernandez wins the presidency.

Massa, a centrist politician who had himself eyed a presidential run, struck an alliance last week with Fernandez and his unrelated running mate Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who served as president from 2007 to 2015.

The alliance – which had raised the question of what role Massa would take – is expected to widen the appeal of the Fernandez-Fernandez ticket to more moderate voters, particularly in the key province of Buenos Aires.

Argentina’s National Congress is comprised of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.

“Beyond my personal interest, our biggest responsibility is to give Argentines the possibility to build a majority to have a new government,” Massa said during a seminar in Buenos Aires.

The Fernandez-Fernandez pairing will take on center-right leader Macri in elections in October. If no candidate wins 45% of votes in the first round of voting – or wins at least 40% with a 10 percentage point margin over the second-place finisher – the race will go to a runoff in November.

Macri, who has been hit hard in the polls by a painful economic recession and market volatility, will seek re-election with running mate Miguel Ángel Pichetto, another moderate Peronist.

(Reporting by Gabriel Burin; writing by Adam Jourdan; editing by Leslie Adler)

Source: OANN

Rep. Mark Green Tuesday applauded President Donald Trump’s choice of Secretary of the Army Mark Esper as acting Secretary of Defense, following the president’s tweeted announcement.

“He’s a West Point classmate of mine, as is Secretary (Mike) Pompeo,” said the Tennessee Republican on Fox News’ “Outnumbered Overtime,” while admitting he doesn’t know the reasoning behind why Esper was tagged.

Trump said on Twitter that former Boeing executive Pat Shanahan, who was named as acting secretary earlier this year after the resignation of retired Gen. James Mattis.

Trump announced in May that he would be nominating Shanahan to fill the secretary’s spot. The president never made the nomination official, and he said in his tweet Tuesday that Shanahan withdrew to devote more time to his family.

Shanahan told The Washington Post, however, that he was withdrawing because he feared traumatizing his adult children over “dredging up” past incidents of domestic violence in his home, including in 2011, when his then-17-year-old son attacked his mother with a baseball bat and severely injured her.

Last week, NBC News reported that Trump was having second thoughts about formally nominating Shanahan and that he had been asking confidants while in Normandy about potential alternatives.

Green said that he believes Esper has done a “great job” as Secretary of the Army, a position he’s held since 2017.

“He gets what’s going on in the world, and he understands the DOD’s role,” said Green.

Green also responded to the decision to move more troops into Iran, noting that Iran has been trying to leverage Europe and China against the United States.

“That’s not going to work,” said Green. “The world will stick together, and especially if they start increasing the enrichment of uranium.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: Boris Johnson, leadership candidate for Britain's Conservative Prime Minister, leaves home in London
FILE PHOTO: Boris Johnson, leadership candidate for Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister, leaves home in London, Britain, June 15, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

June 18, 2019

LONDON (Reuters) – Boris Johnson, the frontrunner to replace British Prime Minister Theresa May, won the most votes cast in the second round of voting for Conservative Party leader on Tuesday, with four other candidates also getting through.

Johnson, a former London mayor and foreign minister, won 126 votes, with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in second place on 46 votes and environment minister Michael Gove third with 41 votes.

The international development minister Rory Stewart was fourth on 37 votes and the interior minister Sajid Javid was fifth on 33 votes.

One candidate — former Brexit minister Dominic Raab — was eliminated after he failed to receive the required minimum of 33 votes.

Now the remaining candidates will face further votes to whittle down the contest to two, when Conservative members will decide who will become leader, and Britain’s next prime minister.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper. Editing by Andrew MacAskill)

Source: OANN

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., said Tuesday he is “not at this point” ready to support an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, but he does want an investigation into whether he violated his office or committed any crimes.

“Because ultimately, what we’ve learned and I think this is clear at this point, the Mueller report is over 450 pages or so of mostly damning evidence,” Rep. Deutch told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

But to move forward, the House needs to hear from key figures like former White House counsel Don McGahn and ex-Trump aide Hope Hicks to display to the American people, many of whom have not read the Mueller report, what was going on.

“Bring in the people who are the subjects of the Mueller report, so people can hear the outrageous conduct the president wanted them to pursue,” Deutch said.

Deutch on Tuesday also commented about Trump’s use of Twitter, noting it often serves as a distraction.

Trump has planned to live-tweet the upcoming Democratic debates, according to The Wall Street Journal, and Deutch said, because the president gave that publication the scoop, “we stop talking about his incoherent policy on Iran. We stop talking about his interview last week where he said he would welcome foreign governments . . . all that gets taken off the table because we’re obsessed with his Twitter account? My god, there’s been a lot that happened over the past week that I think should alarm all of us.”

He said he is also concerned about Trump’s actions with Iran, because his strategy is not clear, adding Congress must end the Authorization for Use of Military Force law.

Source: NewsMax Politics

Tennis: French Open
FILE PHOTO: Jun 2, 2019; Paris, France: Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) hits the ball to Stan Wawrinka (not pictured) on day eight of the 2019 French Open at Stade Roland Garros. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

June 18, 2019

(Reuters) – Rain forced the cancellation of the second day’s play at the Queen’s Club Championships on Tuesday, with matches involving the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Juan Martin del Potro rescheduled for Wednesday.

As many as 10 singles matches and two doubles contests were set to be played on Tuesday but spells of rain led to a number of false starts before the organizers were forced to cancel the day’s play after 1700 local time (1600GMT).

Britain’s former world number one Andy Murray is scheduled to make his comeback on Wednesday, five months after what he has described as “life-changing” hip resurfacing surgery following his first round exit at the Australian Open.

The 32-year-old Scot will partner Spain’s Feliciano Lopez in the doubles competition.

The Queen’s Club tournament is a traditional warm-up event for the Wimbledon Championships which start on July 1.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)

Source: OANN

As President Donald Trump denounces “fake polling,” the popularity of daughter Ivanka Trump just might be a catalyst for re-election in a 2020 race that can turn on the narrowest of margins, Newsweek reports.

The report cites a Firehouse Strategies and 0ptimus poll that has Ivanka’s favorability trumping her presidential father in three key swing states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

“While not by overwhelming margins, Ivanka Trump maintains better net favorability among likely voters in these three states than her father does,” according to the pollsters.

Those rust-belt states were decisive for President Trump’s election in 2016 and Ivanka’s popularity could prove pivotal, according to Newsweek.

Ivanka Trump’s results in the poll:

  • Pennsylvania (+3): 38% favorable, 35% unfavorable.
  • Michigan (+1): 37% favorable, 36% unfavorable.
  • Wisconsin (-4): 35% favorable, 39% unfavorable.

President Trump’s favorability margins in the poll:

  • Pennsylvania -3 points.
  • Michigan -5 points.
  • Wisconsin -7 points.

President Trump has lashed out at polling and fired three pollsters who leaked unfavorable results to the media this week, but his poll also has former Vice President Joe Biden leading in the hypothetical matchup in those three battleground states.

According to former White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, as quoted in “Kushner, Inc.: Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump,” per Newsweek, Ivanka Trump is already projecting a presidential flair.

“She thinks she’s going to be president of the United States,” Cohn said, according to author Vicky Ward. “She thinks this is like the Kennedys, the Bushes, and now the Trumps.”

The Firehouse/0ptimus poll was conducted June 11-13 among 1,687 likely voters.

Source: NewsMax Politics

President Donald Trump has a tough re-election battle ahead of him, but he’ll be fighting on the strength of having a “remarkable economy” and for keeping his promises, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Tuesday.

“It’s tough, but I think we are at 92% negative press coverage,” Gingrich told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.” “The fact that he is still standing is kind of amazing.”

Trump’s record on the economy, job creation and rising wages are bringing him credit, Gingrich added, and “he has been very good on judges, very good on deregulation, very good on tax cuts.”

But the president thinks he’ll win, said Gingrich, and “he believes it’s going to be a fight to the finish, but he also believes that the Democrats are pretty weak, and I am inclined to agree with him. I think they could stumble into a disaster if they are not careful.”

Gingrich’s comments came as hundreds of people camped out in Orlando waiting for the president’s official campaign announcement Tuesday night, and he said that’s because Trump has a “very intense relationship with his base.”

He noted that about 100,000 people registered to attend the kickoff event, but the building where it’s being held has capacity for 25,000.

“Trump is unique in that he was elected in the end by all the people who were mad at Washington, who wanted somebody with goals, who didn’t mind that he had weaknesses, as long as he was a fighter,” said Gingrich. “He has convinced them he is a fighter.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

One of film producer Weinstein's new attorneys Baez speaks following a hearing at New York Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City
FILE PHOTO: Part of film producer Harvey Weinstein’s new legal team, attorney Jose Baez, speaks following a hearing at New York Supreme Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., January 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

June 18, 2019

NEW YORK (Reuters) – One of the lawyers representing Harvey Weinstein in his rape trial due to begin in September has asked a judge to let him drop the former movie producer as a client, the New York Post reported, citing a letter from the attorney to the New York court.

The attorney, Jose Baez, asked a Manhattan justice to let him off the case six months after Weinstein, 67, hired him because of their strained relationship, the newspaper reported on Monday.

“Mr. Weinstein has engaged in behavior that makes this representation unreasonably difficult to carry out effectively and has insisted upon taking actions with which I have fundamental disagreements,” Baez wrote to Manhattan Supreme Court Justice James Burke last week, according to the newspaper.

Baez did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Prosecutors in New York accuse Weinstein, 67, of forcibly performing oral sex on a woman in 2006 and raping another woman in 2013. Weinstein faces five criminal charges, including rape, and could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 9.

More than 70 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct. He has denied all accusations and said any sexual contact was consensual.

Weinstein hired Baez and Harvard University law professor Ron Sullivan after his former attorney Ben Brafman left the case in January. Sullivan left the case last month after his defense of Weinstein sparked an outcry at Harvard and led to his dismissal from a dean role.

Baez previously represented Casey Anthony, a Florida woman found not guilty in 2011 of murdering her 2-year-old daughter Caylee in a high-profile criminal case.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Will Dunham)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell delivers the Federal Reserve’s Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell delivers the Federal Reserve’s Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

June 18, 2019

By Howard Schneider and Ann Saphir

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO – (Reuters) – Bond investors expect an aggressive set of U.S. interest rate cuts this year, and a voluble president pines for the “old days” when his predecessors bullied central bankers to get their way.

If Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell had a complicated task last year in calling an early halt to further Fed rate hikes, his mission in a Wednesday press conference may be even trickier: Thread the needle between growing expectations that lower rates are coming soon and economic data that looks reasonably healthy with rates just where they are.

Failing to pull it off could trigger the same sort of volatility and tightening of financial conditions witnessed in December, when Powell’s press conference remarks were interpreted as overly hawkish and in part responsible for an 8% drop in the S&P 500 over the next few days.

At the extreme, that sort of volatility could feed into the real economy and make the Fed’s job in coming weeks even more complicated.

“Powell will have to do a lot of tap dancing,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists wrote Friday in outlining how the Fed will need to account for expected slower U.S. growth, weak inflation and trade risks, without making it seem as if a serious downturn is in the offing.

“This is a Fed that wants to insure that the recovery will continue,” they said. “The goal will be to talk about the need to ease policy but underscore that a recession is not around the corner.”

The Fed begins its two-day policy meeting on Tuesday, and will issue a new statement and economic projections at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Wednesday. Powell’s press conference is scheduled to begin Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. (1830 GMT)

The central bank is expected to leave its benchmark overnight policy rate unchanged at its current range of between 2.25% and 2.5%. The federal funds rate has been at that level since December after a three-year cycle of monetary policy tightening that began slowly but ended with roughly quarterly rate hikes over 2017 and 2018.

A ‘DARKENED’ OUTLOOK?

The mood has clearly shifted since the Fed last met in early May, in part because of trade policy choices made by President Donald Trump and which the president has demanded be offset with looser monetary policy.

But it is unclear by how much. One Federal Reserve regional bank president has referred to the outlook as “darkened,” and another has called for lower rates “soon.” Powell in his most recent public comments dropped the use of the word “patient” in referring to the Fed’s posture when it comes to deciding on the next rate move.

That suggested to many analysts that the word will disappear from the policy statement as well. In May that 279-word missive said the Fed “will be patient as it determines what future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate may be appropriate.”

But an absence of patience doesn’t mean the central bank is on a hair trigger. The focus on Powell will center around how he describes the Fed’s sensitivity to upcoming data, how seriously it views the risks of a widening trade war, and whether it still sees weak inflation as likely “transitory,” as he described it in May.

A LITTLE ‘FEDSPLAINING’?

Despite his December misstep, Powell has been given generally good marks by Wall Street investors for his ability to communicate policy.

His immediate predecessors had their own miscues.

Former chairman Ben Bernanke triggered weeks of global bond market volatility with his 2013 comments about the Fed’s plan to reduce its bond purchases. And former chair Janet Yellen in 2015 had to navigate the difficulties of the first interest rate increase since the 2007 to 2009 financial crisis.

But Powell this week may have a pronounced information gap to fill. As of March, 11 of 17 policymakers felt that rates at year-end would be unchanged from today, and the other six saw them as likely a bit higher.

The expected performance of the economy has not changed that much since then. Even if Trump’s trade policies have been hard to predict, Fed officials say the economic consequences could just as easily cavort to the upside if, for example, an upcoming meeting of the Group of 20 nations ends with any hint of progress in U.S.-China trade negotiations.

At this point, as economists at Goldman Sachs wrote over the weekend, the “hurdle” for the Fed to cut rates “is likely to be higher than widely believed,” with the economy and markets either healthier or more aligned with Fed policy than was the case in the 1990s when the Fed used preemptive “insurance” rate cuts to encourage continued economic growth.

If Fed officials don’t collectively push their rate view down, as markets expect and the White House demands, it will be up to Powell to explain why.

(Graphic: Fed communications ratings – https://tmsnrt.rs/31DehYx)

(Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Dan Burns and Andrea Ricci)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: UEFA President Platini addresses a news conference after a UEFA meeting in Zurich
FILE PHOTO: UEFA President Michel Platini addresses a news conference after a UEFA meeting in Zurich, Switzerland, May 28, 2015. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich/File Photo

June 18, 2019

By Emmanuel Jarry

PARIS (Reuters) – Michel Platini, the former head of European football association UEFA, was detained for questioning by French police on Tuesday over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament to Qatar, a judicial source told Reuters.

Platini’s lawyer William Bourdon was not immediately available for comment. The detention of the former soccer star was first reported by French investigative website Mediapart.

France’s national financial prosecutor’s office (PNF), which specializes in investigating economic crimes and corruption, has been leading a probe into the awarding of the 2022 tournament to the Gulf emirate since 2016. It is looking into possible offences including private corruption, conspiracy and influence peddling.

The decision in December 2010 to award the World Cup to Qatar surprised many given the lack of potential local audiences for the games, the extremely hot summer weather, and the poor performance of the country’s national squad. It will be the first Arab state to host the competition.

Le Monde newspaper reported that prosecutors were particularly looking into a lunch hosted by France’s then president, Nicolas Sarkozy, nine days before the announcement that Qatar would host the cup. Platini and Qatar’s prime minister at the time, Sheikh Tamim Ben Hamad Al Thani, were guests at the lunch.

Two of Sarkozy’s aides at that time, Claude Gueant and Sophie Dion, were also questioned by police on Tuesday, judicial sources confirmed to Reuters. Dion remains detained with Platini, while Gueant has been released, the sources said.

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry, Inti Landauro and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Luke Baker and Hugh Lawson)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: White House Communications Director Hope Hicks leaves the U.S. Capitol after attending the House Intelligence Committee closed door meeting in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Then-White House Communications Director Hope Hicks leaves the U.S. Capitol after attending the House Intelligence Committee closed door meeting in Washington, U.S., February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

June 18, 2019

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hope Hicks, once a close aide and communications director for President Donald Trump, becomes on Wednesday the first member of his inner circle to testify to the congressional panel leading a probe into possible obstruction of justice by Trump.

Democrats who control the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee believe Hicks can provide important insights into troubling chapters of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and Trump’s efforts to interfere with the investigation.

“She’s our first fact witness,” said Jamie Raskin, a Democratic lawmaker on the committee. “Having somebody talking about what happened from a personal perspective will be a dramatic debut for the committee.”

Hicks, who was one of Trump’s closest aides during the 2016 campaign and the first 14 months of his presidency, was subpoenaed to testify and is due to appear at 9 a.m. (1300 GMT) on Wednesday, the committee said.

It will be a closed-door interview with lawmakers, and the committee will release a transcript afterward.

The White House is trying to prevent former Trump aides from cooperating with a string of congressional investigations into Trump, so it is unclear how helpful the 30-year-old public relations consultant will be.

Hicks’ attorney did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Mueller’s 448-page report refers to Hicks more than 180 times and places her in the middle of some of the most incriminating episodes involving Trump, who did not agree to answer Mueller’s questions on obstruction.

Democrats want Hicks to shed light on a June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower in New York, where the Mueller report said campaign officials, including the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., met with Russians who had offered “dirt” on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

One question is whether Trump himself was aware of the meeting at the time.

The Mueller report quotes former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates as saying Trump Jr. told Hicks, other campaign staff and Trump family members about his plans for the meeting but that Hicks denied knowing about the meeting until months later.

The report also recounts how in July 2017, Trump directed Hicks to issue a misleading statement to the press saying only that the Trump Tower meeting had been about Russian adoption.

“I would like to know about her involvement in that process and what she personally knew happened,” said Ted Lieu, another Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. “She was involved in that whole chain of events, where the president lied about what actually happened.”

Mueller’s report concluded there was insufficient evidence to establish that the Trump campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow. It also described attempts by Trump to impede Mueller’s probe, but stopped short of declaring that he committed a crime.

EVIDENCE OF OBSTRUCTION?

Hicks was also present for two separate episodes that Mueller cited as offering relevant evidence of obstruction after Trump took office: his efforts to get former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to redirect the Russia probe away from his 2016 election campaign team, and his attempts to persuade former White House Counsel Don McGahn to deny that Trump asked him to remove Mueller.

Lawmakers are not sure whether Hicks will talk about her time in Trump’s administration. The White House has already directed her not to give the committee documents pertaining to her tenure there, which ended in March 2018. Last month, the White House directed McGahn to ignore a subpoena for documents and testimony, leading him to skip a committee hearing.

House Republicans dismiss the committee probe as political overreach calculated to placate Democratic voters who want Trump impeached.

“It just seems like the Democrats are trying to influence the 2020 election and using the committees to do so,” said Debbie Lesko, a Republican on the panel.

Legal experts believe Hicks could decline to answer questions on key topics, citing Trump’s assertion of executive privilege over the Mueller report.

That could force the committee to seek a federal court order directing her to testify, an action the full House authorized in a party-line vote last week.

The committee has also subpoenaed Annie Donaldson, McGahn’s former chief of staff, to testify on June 24. Donaldson did not respond to a Reuters query.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes
FILE PHOTO: A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France, June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo

June 18, 2019

By Katie Paul and Anna Irrera

SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Facebook Inc revealed plans on Tuesday to launch a cryptocurrency called Libra, the latest development in its effort to expand beyond social networking and move into e-commerce and global payments.

Facebook has linked with 28 partners in a Geneva-based entity called the Libra Association, which will govern its new digital coin set to launch in the first half of 2020, according to marketing materials and interviews with executives.

Facebook has also created a subsidiary called Calibra, which will offer digital wallets to save, send and spend Libras. Calibra will be connected to Facebook’s messaging platforms Messenger and WhatsApp, which already boast more than a billion users.

The Menlo Park, California-based company has big aspirations for Libra, but consumer privacy concerns or regulatory barriers may present significant hurdles.

Facebook hopes it will not only power transactions between established consumers and businesses around the globe, but offer unbanked consumers access to financial services for the first time.

The name “Libra” was inspired by Roman weight measurements, the astrological sign for justice and the French word for freedom, said David Marcus, a former PayPal executive who heads the project for Facebook.

“Freedom, justice and money, which is exactly what we’re trying to do here,” he said.

Facebook also appears to be betting it can squeeze revenue out of its messaging services through transactions and payments, something that is already happening on Chinese social apps like WeChat.

The Libra announcement comes as Facebook is grappling with public backlash due to a series of scandals, and may face opposition from privacy advocates, consumer groups, regulators and lawmakers.

Some Facebook adversaries have called for the company to incur penalties, or be forcibly broken up, for mishandling user data, allowing troubling material to appear on its site and not preventing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election through a social media disinformation campaign.

It is not clear how lawmakers or regulators will react to Facebook making a push into financial services through the largely unregulated world of cryptocurrency.

In recent years, cryptocurrency investors have lost hundreds of millions of dollars through hacks, and the market has been plagued by accusations of money-laundering, illegal drug sales and terrorist financing.

Facebook has engaged with regulators in the United States and abroad about the planned cryptocurrency, company executives said. They would not specify which regulators or whether the company has applied for financial licenses anywhere.

Facebook hopes it can bring global regulators to the table by publicizing Libra, said Kevin Weil, who runs product for the initiative.

“It gives us a basis to go and have productive conversations with regulators around the world,” said Weil. “We’re eager to do that.”

MAJOR PARTNERS

Bitcoin, the most well-known cryptocurrency, was created in 2008 as a way for pseudonymous users to transfer value online through encrypted digital ledgers. Early developers believed that the world needed an alternative to traditional currencies, which are controlled by governments and by central banks.

Since then, thousands of bitcoin alternatives have launched, and Facebook is just one of dozens of blue-chip companies dabbling with the underlying technology. But its status as a Silicon Valley behemoth that touches billions of people around the world has created significant buzz around Libra’s potential.

Partners in the project include household names like Mastercard Inc, Visa Inc, Spotify Technology SA, PayPal Holdings Inc, eBay Inc, Uber Technologies Inc and Vodafone Group Plc, as well as venture capital firms like Andreessen Horowitz.

They hope to have 100 members by Libra’s launch during the first half of 2020. Each member gets one vote on substantial decisions regarding the cryptocurrency network and firms must invest at least $10 million to join. Facebook does not plan to maintain a leadership role after 2019.

Though there are no banks among the inaugural members, there have been discussions with a number of lenders about joining, said Jorn Lambert, executive vice president for digital solutions at Mastercard. They are waiting to see how regulators and consumers respond to the project before deciding whether to join, he said.

The Libra Association plans to raise money through a private placement in the coming months, according to a statement from the association.

PRIVACY, REGULATORY CONCERNS

Although Libra-backers who spoke to Reuters or provided materials are hopeful about its prospects, some expressed awareness that consumer privacy concerns or regulatory barriers may prevent the project from succeeding.

Calibra will conduct compliance checks on customers who want to use Libra, using verification and anti-fraud processes that are common among banks, Facebook said.

The subsidiary will only share customer data with Facebook or external parties if it has consent, or in “limited cases” where it is necessary, Facebook said. That could include for law enforcement, public safety or general system functionality.

Transactions will cost individuals less than merchants, Facebook said, though executives declined to provide specifics. Each Libra will be backed by a basket of government-backed assets.

The company plans to refund customers who lose money because of fraud, Facebook said.

Sri Shivananda, Paypal’s chief technology officer said in an interview that the project is still in its “very, very early days,” and there were conversations in progress with regulators.

Mastercard’s Lambert characterized Libra similarly, noting much needed to happen before the launch.

If the project receives too much regulatory pushback, he said, “we might not launch.”

(Reporting by Katie Paul and Anna Irrera; Editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra and Lisa Shumaker)

Source: OANN

PM hopeful Boris Johnson leaves his home in London
PM hopeful Boris Johnson leaves his home in London, Britain, June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

June 18, 2019

By William Schomberg

LONDON (Reuters) – Boris Johnson got a further boost in his campaign to become Britain’s prime minister on Tuesday when a second former rival in the race backed him to lead the country out of its Brexit crisis.

Hours before the six contenders to replace Theresa May were due to be whittled down by the party’s lawmakers, Andrea Leadsom declared her support for Johnson, the clear favorite.

“He is the best placed to get us out of the EU at the end of October,” Leadsom, a former leader of the House of Commons who was eliminated from the leadership contest last week, told LBC radio. “Secondly, I do believe he is an election winner.”

On Monday, health minister Matt Hancock, who quit the race on Friday, also backed Johnson, despite their contrasting views on Brexit, saying he was almost certain to win the contest.

Johnson, a former London mayor and foreign minister, has given unequivocal statements that he will take Britain out of the European Union by Oct. 31 whether or not an agreement can be struck with the bloc to smooth the transition.

“We must leave the EU on October 31st, with or without a deal,” Johnson wrote again on Twitter on Tuesday.

Sterling fell to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar in nearly six months on Tuesday.

‘CONFRONTATION WITH EU’

“It looks like Boris Johnson is going to be the next prime minister unless there is a big surprise and that indicates a looming confrontation with the European Union,” said Lee Hardman, a FX strategist at MUFG in London.

Johnson was due to participate in a televised debate on Tuesday evening along with the candidates who survive the second round of voting.

Those who do not receive the backing of more than 33 of the 313 Conservative lawmakers will be eliminated. If all candidates have more than 32 votes, the one with the fewest is eliminated.

Johnson opted not to appear in a first debate on Sunday and stayed away from question-and-answer sessions in parliament that the other five candidates attended on Monday.

His rivals kept up their calls on Johnson to spell out his plans for Brexit in more detail.

“What I find alarming and I want to try to clarify as soon as possible, hopefully in these debates this evening, is that half the people in his campaign have got the impression that he intends to leave on Oct. 31 with no deal,” Rory Stewart, Britain’s aid minister, told BBC radio.

“And the other half seem to have got the impression that he’s going for the softest of soft Brexits. The only way that we are going to have stability in our government, or our party or our country, is if people trust us.”

Johnson’s rivals hope that during Tuesday’s debate he will commit more of the gaffes that have marked his career.

But, barring a major upset, he looks set to make the final two in the race, when mainly pro-Brexit Conservative Party members will cast the deciding votes in July.

Johnson’s willingness to contemplate a no-deal Brexit could set up a clash with parliament which has voted against such an outcome. Brussels has ruled out a re-negotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement, the divorce deal it reached with May last year.

Johnson won the support of 114 Conservative lawmakers in the first round of the leadership contest. The result of Tuesday’s second round of voting is due around 1700 GMT.

(Additional reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam attends a news conference in Hong Kong
FILE PHOTO: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam looks down during a news conference in Hong Kong, China, June 15, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

June 18, 2019

By Clare Jim and Anne Marie Roantree

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam will address the city on Tuesday after some of the biggest and most violent protests seen in the financial hub against an extradition bill that she postponed in a stark reversal of policy.

The bill would allow case by case extraditions to mainland China and despite its postponement, around two million people spilled on to the streets on Sunday, demanding Lam step down and scrap the bill entirely.

Lam’s climbdown, with the approval of China’s Communist Party leaders, was the biggest policy reversal since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and presented a new challenge for Chinese President Xi Jinping who has ruled with an iron fist since taking power in 2012.

Many accuse China, where the courts are strictly controlled by the Communist Party, of extensive meddling since the handover, with the extradition proposals a further example.

Lam hasn’t appeared publicly since the Sunday protests that were the largest in the city for decades.

Since the proposed amendments to the Fugitives Offenders’ Ordinance was first put to the legislature in February, Lam has repeatedly rebuffed concerns voiced in many quarters, including business groups, lawyers, judges, and foreign governments against the bill.

Critics say the bill would undermine Hong Kong’s rule of law, guaranteed by the “one country, two systems” formula, under which Hong Kong returned to China, by extending China’s reach into the city, and allow individuals to be arbitrarily sent back to China where they couldn’t be guaranteed a fair trial.

Lam issued an apology on Sunday night through a written government statement that many people said lacked sincerity. It failed to pacify many marchers who said they no longer trusted her and doubted her ability to govern.

Lam, a career civil-servant known as “the fighter” for her straight-shooting and tough leadership style, took office two years ago pledging to heal a divided society. Some observers say she is unlikely to step down immediately but any longer-term political ambitions she may have harbored are now all but dead.

Many protest organizers say they will continue to hold street demonstrations until Lam scraps the bill, fearing that authorities may seek to revive the legislation in future when the public mood is calmer.

(Reporting by Hong Kong newsroom; Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Source: OANN

Illustration photo of Australian dollars
Australian dollars are seen in an illustration photo February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

June 18, 2019

By Hideyuki Sano and Stanley White

TOKYO (Reuters) – The Australian dollar on Tuesday eased to its lowest levels since early January after the nation’s central bank flagged a further rate cut, while the British pound was hobbled by rising worries of a no-deal Brexit

With markets focused on U.S. Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan meetings later this week, traders latched on to minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) June meeting which showed policymakers were prepared to cut rates once more to revive wages growth and inflation.

“The market is already pricing in two rate cuts (in Australia), and there are some speculative moves to push the Aussie lower,” said Yukio Ishizuki, foreign exchange strategist at Daiwa Securities.

The RBA minutes sent the Aussie slumping to $0.6833, its lowest since the flash crash of early January. It was last fetching $0.6837.

Markets are pricing in about 50% chance of another rate cut next month by the RBA, which delivered its first easing in almost three years just two weeks ago..

The pound was under pressure after former foreign minister Boris Johnson got a boost on Monday in his campaign to become prime minister as one of his former rivals and EU supporter Matt Hancock backed him.

That rattled markets as Johnson, the face of the official campaign to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum, has promised to lead Britain out of the EU with or without a deal.

The pound, which tumbled to a 5-1/2-month low of $1.2532 on Monday, last traded at $1.2530. It also fell to its weakest level since January against the euro, which climbed to 89.74 pence, compared to a two-year low of 84.56 touched just over a month ago.

The pound could be in for a rough ride in coming days, with a raft of potentially market-moving events ahead, including consumer inflation and retail sales data, due on Wednesday and Thursday respectively, and the Bank of England’s policy announcement on Thursday.

The dollar eased slightly to 108.23 yen on Tuesday as a decline in Japanese stocks triggered about of risk aversion.

“The yen may have a little more room to rise if U.S. stocks take a hit and trigger a bout of risk aversion,” Daiwa Securities’ Ishizuki said.

The dollar index measuring its value against six major currencies also declined slightly to 97.446, undermined by the New York Fed’s business index fell this month by a record to reach its weakest level in more than 2-1/2 years.

The Fed’s two-day policy meeting starting later on Tuesday is the next major focus after markets have priced in more than two 25 basis-point rate cuts by year-end.

That marks a sharp contrast to the Fed’s official forecast in March, which showed policymakers deemed the next move would be a hike.

“As markets are now pricing in rate cuts in the second half of this year, the question is how the Fed will respond to such an outlook,” said Shinichiro Kadota, senior strategist at Barclays.

The euro was little changed in Asia, trading at $1.1231.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Source: OANN

Illustration photo of Australian dollars
Australian dollars are seen in an illustration photo February 8, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

June 18, 2019

By Hideyuki Sano and Stanley White

TOKYO (Reuters) – The Australian dollar on Tuesday eased to its lowest levels since early January after the nation’s central bank flagged a further rate cut, while the British pound was hobbled by rising worries of a no-deal Brexit

With markets focused on U.S. Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan meetings later this week, traders latched on to minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) June meeting which showed policymakers were prepared to cut rates once more to revive wages growth and inflation.

“The market is already pricing in two rate cuts (in Australia), and there are some speculative moves to push the Aussie lower,” said Yukio Ishizuki, foreign exchange strategist at Daiwa Securities.

The RBA minutes sent the Aussie slumping to $0.6833, its lowest since the flash crash of early January. It was last fetching $0.6837.

Markets are pricing in about 50% chance of another rate cut next month by the RBA, which delivered its first easing in almost three years just two weeks ago..

The pound was under pressure after former foreign minister Boris Johnson got a boost on Monday in his campaign to become prime minister as one of his former rivals and EU supporter Matt Hancock backed him.

That rattled markets as Johnson, the face of the official campaign to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum, has promised to lead Britain out of the EU with or without a deal.

The pound, which tumbled to a 5-1/2-month low of $1.2532 on Monday, last traded at $1.2530. It also fell to its weakest level since January against the euro, which climbed to 89.74 pence, compared to a two-year low of 84.56 touched just over a month ago.

The pound could be in for a rough ride in coming days, with a raft of potentially market-moving events ahead, including consumer inflation and retail sales data, due on Wednesday and Thursday respectively, and the Bank of England’s policy announcement on Thursday.

The dollar eased slightly to 108.23 yen on Tuesday as a decline in Japanese stocks triggered about of risk aversion.

“The yen may have a little more room to rise if U.S. stocks take a hit and trigger a bout of risk aversion,” Daiwa Securities’ Ishizuki said.

The dollar index measuring its value against six major currencies also declined slightly to 97.446, undermined by the New York Fed’s business index fell this month by a record to reach its weakest level in more than 2-1/2 years.

The Fed’s two-day policy meeting starting later on Tuesday is the next major focus after markets have priced in more than two 25 basis-point rate cuts by year-end.

That marks a sharp contrast to the Fed’s official forecast in March, which showed policymakers deemed the next move would be a hike.

“As markets are now pricing in rate cuts in the second half of this year, the question is how the Fed will respond to such an outlook,” said Shinichiro Kadota, senior strategist at Barclays.

The euro was little changed in Asia, trading at $1.1231.

(Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO - Mohamed Mursi, head of the Brotherhood's newly formed Justice and Freedom Party gestures during an interview with Reuters in Cairo
FILE PHOTO – Mohamed Mursi, head of the Brotherhood’s newly formed Justice and Freedom Party gestures during an interview with Reuters in Cairo, May 28, 2011. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany

June 18, 2019

CAIRO (Reuters) – Former Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi has been buried alongside other senior figures of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, his son, Ahmed Mursi, said on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

The burial was attended by members of the family in Cairo’s Nasr City after authorities refused burial in Mursi’s home province of Sharqiya in the Nile Delta, Ahmed Mursi said.

“We washed his noble body at Tora prison hospital, read prayers for him at the prison hospital … and the burial was at the Muslim Brotherhood spiritual guides,” Ahmed wrote.

Mursi died on Monday from a heart attack after collapsing in a Cairo court while on trial on espionage charges, authorities and a medical source said. He was 67.

Mursi, a top figure in the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, had been in jail since being toppled by the military in 2013 after barely a year in power, following mass protests against his rule.

His death is likely to pile international pressure on the Egyptian government over its human rights record, especially conditions in prisons where thousands of Islamists and secular activists are held.

(Reporting By Ali Abdelaty, writing by Sami Aboudi)

Source: OANN

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees
Jun 17, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez (24) and starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (19) shake hands after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

June 18, 2019

Masahiro Tanaka pitched a two-hitter and was backed by two homers, as the New York Yankees opened a 10-game homestand with a 3-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night.

Tanaka (5-5) turned in a third straight strong start against the Rays, allowing only a leadoff single to Austin Meadows in the fourth and a two-out single to Willy Adames in the fifth. In three starts this season against Tampa Bay, Tanaka has allowed one run on 10 hits and one walk in 22 innings, with 23 strikeouts.

Tanaka struck out 10, walked one, threw 76 of 111 pitches for strikes, faced two above the minimum and produced his 14th career double-digit strikeout game.

DJ LeMahieu and Cameron Maybin went deep for the Yankees, who homered for the 20th straight game. It is the second-longest streak in team history, behind only a 25-game streak from June 1-29, 1941.

Red Sox 2, Twins 0

J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts each went 2-for-4 with an RBI, and Rick Porcello threw seven shutout innings to outduel Jose Berrios and lead Boston past Minnesota in Minneapolis.

It was a season-high sixth straight victory for Boston, which also moved six games above .500 for the first time this season.

Porcello (5-6) allowed four hits and a walk while striking out eight to pick up his first road victory in four decisions. Ryan Brasier pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his seventh save. Berrios (8-3) gave up one run on five hits with 10 strikeouts over eight innings.

Cardinals 5, Marlins 0

Miles Mikolas pitched six scoreless innings, Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler slugged home runs, and host St. Louis earned a win over Miami.

Mikolas (5-7), a native Floridian who lost to his hometown Marlins last week, was much better this time around, allowing six hits — all singles — and no walks while striking out four. He combined with three relievers on an eight-hit shutout and ended his personal five-decision losing streak.

Carpenter went 3-for-4 with his 10th homer of the season, a double and two runs, helping the Cardinals improve to 6-2 in their past eight games. The Marlins have dropped nine of their past 11 games.

Rangers 7, Indians 2

Danny Santana belted a two-run homer, and Lance Lynn struck out nine and allowed just one run in seven innings as Texas defeated Cleveland in Arlington, Texas.

Elvis Andrus ripped a two-run double, and former Indian Shin-Soo Choo and Jeff Mathis each drove in a run for the Rangers, who scored all seven of their runs with two outs.

Francisco Lindor and rookie Oscar Mercado each belted a solo homer for the Indians, who fell for just the fourth time in 12 games.

Braves 12, Mets 3

Ronald Acuna Jr. continued his torrid offensive pace with three more hits, including a leadoff home run, and Atlanta defeated visiting New York.

Acuna was 3-for-5 with his 17th homer and two RBIs and extended his hitting streak to nine games, matching his season best. Acuna, who was 4-for-5 on Sunday, is hitting .409 (18-for-44) with three homers during the streak. He lifted his batting average to .301.

Brian McCann and Ozzie Albies also had three hits and struck back-to-back homers for the Braves in the eighth inning. Atlanta has won 10 of its past 11 games. The Mets have lost four of their past five.

Reds 3, Astros 2

Luis Castillo overcame errant command of the strike zone, and host Cincinnati held on through some tense moments in the latter innings for a victory over Houston.

Castillo (7-1) walked a career-high six batters, but he allowed only two hits and fanned seven while working six-plus innings. Michael Lorenzen got the last two outs for his third save.

The Reds scored all of their runs in the fifth inning, on a two-RBI single from Nick Senzel and an RBI hit from Eugenio Suarez.

Angels 10, Blue Jays 5

Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani each homered and had three RBIs, Felix Pena pitched six-plus innings in relief, and Los Angeles won at Toronto.

Trout had four hits, including a two-run double. Justin Upton and Kole Calhoun also homered for the Angels. Pena (5-1) allowed four runs, six hits and three walks while striking out five.

Cavan Biggio hit two home runs and had three RBIs for Toronto, and Randal Grichuk added a two-run homer.

Phillies at Nationals, ppd.

The scheduled game between Philadelphia and host Washington was rained out. It will be made up as part of a split doubleheader on Wednesday.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan opposition lawmaker Gilber Caro speaks during an interview with Reuters in Caracas
FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan opposition lawmaker Gilber Caro speaks during an interview with Reuters in Caracas, Venezuela June 12, 2018 in this still image taken from a video. REUTERS TV/ via REUTERS

June 18, 2019

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela on Monday freed opposition lawmaker Gilber Caro, who was detained in April in what allies said was a violation of his parliamentary immunity, the opposition-controlled National Assembly said on Twitter.

The move by President Nicolas Maduro’s government, which faces a challenge to its legitimacy from National Assembly leader Juan Guaido, comes days before a visit by Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, to meet victims of rights abuses and speak with both leaders.

“The parliamentarian Gilber Caro should never have been jailed,” the National Assembly said. “Today he comes out from behind bars, but just like all Venezuelans, he still is not free.”

In January, Guaido invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, calling Maduro a dictator and saying his 2018 re-election was illegitimate. He has been recognized as Venezuela’s rightful leader by dozens of countries, including the United States and most South American neighbors.

Maduro calls Guaido a U.S.-backed puppet seeking to oust him in a coup. He retains control of state functions and Venezuela’s armed forces.

The U.N. last month criticized the Maduro government’s handling of Caro’s arrest, saying its failure to confirm his fate and whereabouts constituted an “enforced disappearance” under international law.

Caro, who had previously spent 18 months in jail on treason and weapons charges between 2017 and 2018, was freed from the Sebin intelligence agency’s Caracas headquarters, known as the Helicoide, attorney and former lawmaker Pedro Diaz-Blum told Reuters.

Diaz-Blum is a member of the Boston Group, a network of U.S. and Venezuelan legislators that has served as an intermediary between the government and the opposition for more than a decade. The group on Monday posted a brief video on Twitter of Caro greeting some of its members in an office.

Rights group Penal Forum said Melvin Farias and Junior Rojas, two men it called political prisoners and said had been jailed for more than a year, had also been freed.

Several politicians close to Guaido who have been arrested in recent weeks remain behind bars, including his chief of staff Roberto Marrero and National Assembly Vice President Edgar Zambrano.

(Reporting by Mayela Armas and Vivian Sequera; Additional reporting by Tibisay Romero in Valencia; Writing by Luc Cohen and Clarence Fernandez)

Source: OANN

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans-Press Conference
FILE PHOTO: Apr 17, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry following a press conference announcing the hiring of Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin at the New Orleans Pelicans facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports – 12548272

June 18, 2019

The New Orleans Pelicans picked up the 2020-21 option for head coach Alvin Gentry, ESPN reported on Monday, putting him under contract for the next two seasons.

Gentry, 64, has spent the past four seasons coaching the Pelicans, going 145-183 with three losing years. He led the team to the second round of the playoffs in 2017-18 before a drop-off this year.

The Pelicans went 33-49 this season. All-Star forward Anthony Davis requested a trade in the middle of the campaign and sat out or had his minutes limited for much of the second half.

Davis was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this week for a package of three players — Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart — and three first-round picks. The Pelicans are expected to rebuild around those players and former Duke star Zion Williamson, the presumptive first overall pick in Thursday’s draft, after winning the lottery for the top pick earlier this month.

Gentry has also been a head coach for the Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns, going 480-533 in the regular season across parts of 16 seasons and 17-13 in three playoff appearances.

–Field Level Media

Source: OANN

More than a dozen people broke State Department rules in handling former Secretary Hillary Clinton’s emails, resulting in 23 violations and seven infractions of security protocols, multiple reports stated.

The information came in a letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who oversees the security review, Fox News reported.

According to the Washington Times, some of the 15 people got write-ups placed in their security files at the department that could affect future attempts to gain security clearances, the department said.

“The department considers and violation of security policies to be a serious matter,” wrote Mary Elizabeth Taylor, assistance secretary for legislative affairs.

The State Department, calling the matter “serious,” said it expected to conclude the investigation by Sept. 1, Fox News reported.

Taylor wrote that disciplinary consequences were pending.

“In every instance in which the Department found an individual to be culpable of a valid security violation or three or more infractions, the Department forwarded the outcome to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Personnel Security and Suitability (DS/PSS), to be placed in the individuals’ official security file,” Taylor wrote. 

“This referral occurred whether or not the individual was currently employed with the Department of State and such security files are kept indefinitely,” Taylor added. “Consistent with the referral policy, for individuals who were still employed with the Department at the time of adjudication, the Department referred all valid security violations or multiple infractions to the Bureau of Human Resources.”

The State Department declined to release the names of the employees.

Investigations in 2016 found nearly two dozen emails Clinton sent or received contained top secret information, while more than 2,000 others contained classified information, the Washington Times noted.

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: Emilio Lozoya, former CEO of Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex)
FILE PHOTO: Emilio Lozoya, former chief Executive Officer of Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) in Mexico City, Mexico August 17, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

June 17, 2019

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A Mexican court ruled on Monday to allow the arrest of Emilio Lozoya, former chief executive of state-owned oil company Pemex, who is facing corruption charges, according to a court document dated Monday and seen by Reuters.

The decision nullified an earlier ruling that suspended an arrest warrant against Lozoya issued last month. “The suspension that had been granted is null and void,” the document said.

Mexican authorities say the case centers on bribes paid in connection with the purchase by Pemex of a fertilizer plant under the previous government. Reuters could not reach Lozoya for comment. He has always denied wrongdoing and defended the fertilizer factory purchase as a wise investment.

“I know perfectly well that he committed no crime,” one of Lozoya’s lawyers, Javier Coello, told local radio on Monday, vowing to fight the charges at trial.

The government’s move against Lozoya is one of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s boldest steps, since taking office in December, to fulfill a campaign promise to stamp out corruption.

(Reporting by Miguel Angel Gutiérrez, Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Susan Thomas)

Source: OANN

A Rohingya refugee child looks at others studying at a makeshift madrasa at the Burma Para refugee camp near Cox's Bazar
A Rohingya refugee child looks at others studying at a makeshift madrasa at the Burma Para refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh December 27, 2017. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

June 17, 2019

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – There was a “systemic failure” of the United Nations in dealing with the situation in Myanmar ahead of a deadly 2017 military crackdown because it did not have a unified strategy and lacked Security Council support, according to an internal report.

The crackdown drove more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh. U.N. investigators have said the operation was executed with “genocidal intent” and included mass killings, gang rapes and widespread arson.

Myanmar denies widespread wrongdoing and says the military campaign across hundreds of villages in northern Rakhine was in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents.

“Without question serious errors were committed and opportunities were lost in the U.N. system following a fragmented strategy rather than a common plan of action,” wrote former Guatemalan foreign minister and U.N. ambassador Gert Rosenthal in a 34-page internal review, seen by Reuters.

“The overall responsibility was of a collective character; in other words, it truly can be characterized as a systemic failure of the United Nations,” wrote Rosenthal, who was appointed by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier this year to look at U.N. involvement in Myanmar from 2010 to 2018.

He said senior U.N. officials in New York could not agree on whether to take a more robust public approach with Myanmar or pursue quiet diplomacy and that conflicting reports on the situation were also sent to U.N. headquarters from the field.

The United Nations struggled to balance supporting the Myanmar government with development and humanitarian assistance, while also calling out the authorities over accusations of human rights violations, Rosenthal concluded.

“The United Nations system … has been relatively impotent to effectively work with the authorities of Myanmar to reverse the negative trends in the area of human rights and consolidate the positive trends in other areas,” he said.

“The United Nations’ collective membership, represented by the Security Council, bears part of that responsibility, by not providing enough support to the secretariat when such backing was and continues to be essential,” Rosenthal wrote.

The 15-member Security Council, which visited Myanmar’s Rakhine state last year, has been deadlocked with Myanmar allies China and Russia pitted against western states over how to deal with the situation.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Rosenthal’s report was due to be sent to all 193 U.N. members states on Monday and would then be posted publicly online.

“Its conclusions and observations have been fully accepted by the Secretary-General, and he will work very closely with the senior leadership to make sure they’re implemented,” he said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Susan Thomas)

Source: OANN

Special counsel Robert Mueller must testify before Congress on the contents of his report, Sen. Richard Blumenthal told CNN’s “New Day” on Monday.

“I think he has to understand that part of his job as special counsel is to appear before congressional committees,” the Connecticut Democrat said. “I hope he will do it voluntarily. If not, a subpoena may be necessary. Robert Mueller wrote the book and it is a powerful 450-page description, obstruction and a threat by the Russians. Most Americans won’t read the book, they have to see the movie and Robert Mueller is the movie.”

Blumenthal stressed that “The key is accountability and Bob Mueller is the absolutely critical witness to holding the president accountable for his lawbreaking.”

The senator also commented on his party’s intention in the House to call those mentioned in the Mueller report who have not worked in the White House and therefore cannot claim executive privilege, such as former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and political adviser Chris Christie.

“They have no claim of executive privilege,” Blumenthal said. “But I’d argue that those individuals who worked in the White House previously like [former White House Counsel Don] McGahn and some of the others also lack a viable claim of executive privilege and it will be rejected by the courts.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

There are many more questions to be asked about how far the origins of the Russia investigation went to protect 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and how much then-President Barack Obama knew, Rep. Doug Collins said Monday.

“Others were saying no, we will never charge her,” the Georgia Republican told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.” “We have (former FBI Director James) Comey preparing the exoneration, then you take the same group, everybody who goes into the Russian investigation, exactly the same people. This was not low-level investigating.”

There are still a few weeks left before the Inspector General’s report will be completed, said Collins, and he believes Democrats are “very concerned” about it.

“They know right now that all they have is to paint the president in a bad light,” said Collins. “What they do know is that the report will come out. You are actually taking on American citizens, using a secret court to do this when you have unverified documents.”

He added that he agrees with President Donald Trump’s contention in an interview last week that Obama had to know about the investigation, as it was “much higher up than just these investigators. We see the influence.”

Collins also discussed the escalating situation with Iran, commenting that the only thing the country agrees with is Trump’s strength.

“That was so disheartening, the Iran deal, which I was firmly against from day one,” said Collins. “Now they say they’re going to break the treaty. They were never really abiding by it to start with.”

Collins also on Monday discussed the immigration and border situation, and accused Democrats of using migrants as “pawns.”

“We have issues that need to be fixed,” said Collins. “We need some humanitarian aid there because they’re coming through in droves. We’ve got to fix the incentive for it.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: Egypt's deposed president Mohamed Mursi greets his lawyers and people from behind bars at a court wearing the red uniform of a prisoner sentenced to death, during his court appearance with Muslim Brotherhood members on the outskirts of Cairo
FILE PHOTO: Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Mursi greets his lawyers and people from behind bars at a court wearing the red uniform of a prisoner sentenced to death, during his court appearance with Muslim Brotherhood members on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, June 21, 2015. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh/File Photo

June 17, 2019

CAIRO (Reuters) – Former Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi, the first democratically elected head of state in Egypt’s modern history, died on Monday aged 67 after collapsing in a Cairo court while on trial on espionage charges, authorities said.

Mursi, a top figure in the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, had been in jail since being toppled by the military in 2013 after barely a year in power following mass protests against his rule.

The public prosecutor said he had collapsed in a defendants’ cage in the courtroom shortly after speaking, and had been pronounced dead in hospital at 4:50 p.m. (1450 GMT). It said an autopsy had shown no signs of recent injury on his body.

After decades of repression under Egyptian autocrats, the Brotherhood won a parliamentary election after a popular uprising toppled Mubarak and his military-backed establishment in 2011.

Mursi was elected to power in 2012 in Egypt’s first free presidential election, having been thrown into the race at the last moment by the disqualification on a technicality of millionaire businessman Khairat al-Shater, by far the Brotherhood’s preferred choice.

His victory marked a radical break with the military men who had provided every Egyptian leader since the overthrow of the monarchy in 1952.

Mursi promised a moderate Islamist agenda to steer Egypt into a new democratic era where autocracy would be replaced by transparent government that respected human rights and revived the fortunes of a powerful Arab state long in decline.

But the euphoria that greeted the end of an era of presidents who ruled like pharaohs did not last long.

The stocky, bespectacled man, born in 1951 in the dying days of the monarchy, told Egyptians he would deliver an “Egyptian renaissance with an Islamic foundation”.

Instead, he alienated millions who accused him of usurping unlimited powers, imposing the Brotherhood’s conservative brand of Islam and mismanaging the economy, all of which he denied.

STATE OF EMERGENCY

Security sources said the Interior Ministry had declared a state of alert on Monday, notably in Mursi’s home province of Sharqiya in the Nile Delta, where the body was expected to be taken for burial.

Mursi had been in court for a hearing on charges of espionage emanating from suspected contacts with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which had close ties to the Brotherhood.

His body was taken to the Tora prison hospital, state television reported.

His lawyer said Mursi’s health had been poor in jail. “We had put in several requests for treatment, some were accepted and others were not,” the lawyer, Abdel-Menem Abdel-Maqsood, told Reuters.

Mursi was serving a 20-year prison sentence for a conviction arising from the killing of protesters during demonstrations in 2012, and a life sentence for espionage in a case related to the Gulf state of Qatar. He had denied the charges.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan mourned his fellow Islamist as a martyr.

“Putting doubts aside, he has become a martyr today with the fulfillment of God’s order … Our prayers are with him,” Erdogan said.

“Condolences to all my brothers who walked the same path as he did. Condolences to the people of Egypt. Condolences to his family and those close to him.”

Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, a backer of Mursi and his Brotherhood, tweeted his condolences to Mursi’s family “and to the brotherly Egyptian people”.

(Reporting by Nayera Abdullah and Enas al-Ashray; Writing by Nadine Awadalla and Sami Aboudi; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Source: OANN

Two days after the unexpected announcement by Rep. Susan Brooks that she would not seek re-election in Indiana’s 5th District, her fellow Republicans in and out of Congress are still in shock.

Former U.S. Attorney Brooks, 58, had been one of the most visible of the thirteen Republican women in the U.S. House. Brooks, in fact, was perhaps the most vigorous proponent of Republican women running for Congress.

After four terms in, she was a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus, which sought more centrist solutions to issues. Brooks also voted with the Trump Administration on nearly every issue, according to Congressional Quarterly report.

Her announced departure was met with glee by Democrats. Illinois Rep. Cheri Butros, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told reporters that the decision of Brooks, “who was working hard to recruit women to run for office, underscores the problem Washington Republicans have created for themselves.”

Democrats sent early signals they plan to wage an all-out effort to win the 5th, its solid Republican registration and history notwithstanding. Former State Rep. Christine Hale, the losing Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2016, is soon expected to throw her hat in the ring.

Among Republicans, no less than a dozen candidates are mentioned for the open seat. Early reports indicate Brooks was trying to convince her top aide Megan Savage to seek the seat. If she runs, Savage is expected to take the same center-right line as her boss.

Also mentioned is State Sen. John Ruckelshaus, nephew of former Environmental Protection Administrator and onetime Indiana State Rep. William D. Ruckelshaus. John is considered a moderate in the mold of his uncle.

The early conservative favorite appears to be former State Sen. Mike Delph, a self-styled constitutionalist with a strong following among both cultural and economic conservatives. Last year, in a major upset, Delph lost his senate seat to Democrat J.D. Ford.

For now, national Republicans privately voice concern that even if they hold Brooks’ seat and that of Rep. Liz Cheney (who is pondering a Senate bid) in Wyoming, the number of women in the House Republican Caucus could drop below the present 13.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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Source: NewsMax Politics

Most Democratic and independent voters said the Democratic Party’s top priority in the 2020 election was beating President Donald Trump, a new poll conducted on behalf of The Daily Beast found Monday.

Ipsos surveyed hundreds of voters, and found the leading male Democratic candidates hold a 5 percentage point advantage over the two leading female candidates. Additionally, the vast majority of voters said the Democratic Party’s top priority in choosing a candidate is whether they can beat Trump. 

  • 82% said the party’s priority is to nominate someone who can beat Trump.
  • 40% said nominating a woman is not a priority for the party.
  • 38% said nominating a minority candidate is not a priority.
  • 20% said nominating a white man is not a priority.

The survey also found most Democrats and independents, 74%, say they would be comfortable with a female president. But these voters are split over whether a female candidate would have a harder time than a man running against Trump: 39% agree it would be harder, 26% disagree, and 28% neither agree nor disagree.

One-in-five respondents said they agree with the statement women are “less effective in politics than men.”

“Talk about learning the wrong lessons,” Jen Palmieri, a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

“I think Democrats have a lot of trauma about the 2016 outcome and are suspicious that voters have an unease with women candidates,” she said. “But the actual record shows a different story.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

President Donald Trump sent out a tweet Monday insisting he is ahead in surveys against Democratic presidential candidates, even though internal polling by his own re-election campaign showed he is behind former Vice President Joe Biden in several battleground states.

“Only Fake Polls show us behind the Motley Crew,” Trump wrote. “We are looking really good, but it is far too early to be focused on that. Much work to do!”

Trump’s comment came a day after he reportedly fired three pollsters following the leak of the 17-state survey which showed him behind in the race in numerous crucial places, according to Politico.

Trump last week denied the “phony polls” existed, insisting “we are winning in every single state that we’ve polled.”

CNN reported Trump has been angry for several days about the internal polls leaked to the media.

Although his campaign has publicly pushed back against the surveys, saying they are weeks old and do not reflect the current reality, a person familiar with the situation told CNN those denials had less to do with the quality of the polls than about pacifying the president.

Source: NewsMax Politics

FILE PHOTO: Logo of Sotheby's auction house is seen in Zurich
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Sotheby’s auction house is seen at a branch office in Zurich, Switzerland October 25, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

June 17, 2019

By Sudip Kar-Gupta and Svea Herbst-Bayliss

PARIS/BOSTON (Reuters) – Patrick Drahi, the billionaire behind telecoms and media group Altice, agreed on Monday to buy Sotheby’s in a deal worth $3.7 billion, marking the storied art auction house’s return to private ownership after 31 years.

The acquisition will allow avid art collector Drahi to join rival French billionaire Francois Pinault at the top of the art world and New York society, with Pinault’s holding company Artemis owning a majority stake in Sotheby’s rival Christie’s.

Rival French billionaire and LVMH boss Bernard Arnault is equally active in the arts world via his Louis Vuitton foundation.

Drahi’s expansion in the United States also has echoes of former Vivendi boss Jean-Marie Messier, who helped Vivendi move into entertainment via the Universal business.

Sotheby’s said it would be acquired by BidFair USA, an acquisition vehicle set up by Drahi, which had offered $57 in cash per share to buy out Sotheby’s.

The offer represented a premium of 61% to Sotheby’s closing price on Friday, and gives Sotheby’s a market capitalization of $2.6 billion.

It will result in Sotheby’s returning to private ownership after 31 years as a public company. Founded in London in 1744, Sotheby’s had the distinction of being the oldest company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

It also marks a new chapter for the auction house that became a destination for a new generation of wealth created on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and around the world, art experts said.

By having been public, in many ways, Sotheby’s operated at a competitive disadvantage to its main U.S. rival, Christie’s, which was already private, experts said.

“Now the company can become more flexible and nimble as a privately-held enterprise and it will be interesting to see the changes that will be made,” said Abigail Asher, a partner at international art consultants Guggenheim, Asher.

LOEB WELCOMES DEAL

The art world has been a favorite in recent times for investors looking to make extra returns in a world of ultra-low interest rates, with the prices of many expensive works of art having steadily increased.

A report published by Swiss bank UBS and Art Basel in March said that the global art market had enjoyed another uptick in 2018.

Drahi said he would be funding the takeover through financing arranged by French bank BNP Paribas and by equity provided by his own funds. Drahi has also been selling non-core assets in recent years to ease concerns over the debt levels of his businesses.

Drahi said he would not be selling shares in his Altice Europe business, but would be cashing in a small stake in his Altice USA division. Shares in Altice USA fell around 2% on Monday.

“I am making this investment for my family, through my personal holding, with a very long-term perspective,” said Drahi, adding that the takeover also further highlighted how his family had been settling down in the United States.

About five years ago Sotheby’s ended a long-running fight with activist investor Daniel Loeb’s hedge fund Third Point, by asking Loeb and two associates to join Sotheby’s board, and Loeb was instrumental in hiring Smith as CEO.

Loeb, a prominent art collector, on Monday praised the sale.

The price “affirms the value we saw when we first invested in Sotheby’s, and rewards long-term investors like Third Point who believed in its potential,” Loeb told Reuters.

BNP Paribas and Morgan Stanley advised Drahi, while LionTree Advisors worked on behalf of Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s was founded in London in 1744, and expanded overseas in the 20th century, moving to New York in 1955, Asia and then France in 2001.

Famous items sold by Sotheby’s include the collections of the late Duchess of Windsor, the personal collection of artist Andy Warhol and Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream” in 2012.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Svea Herbst-Bayliss and Nivedita Balu; Editing by Deepa Babington and Ed Osmond)

Source: OANN

There is no way former President Barack Obama did not know people in his administration were investigating and taking actions against then-candidate Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Monday.

“You want to suggest to me that the attorney general has a private meeting with former President (Bill) Clinton on an airplane in Phoenix for, I think, 45 minutes and the current sitting president, Barack Obama, doesn’t know about it?” Gingrich told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” while responding to comments Trump had made in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

Gingrich added he does not think Obama would have seen press coverage of the meeting between his attorney general Loretta Lynch and Clinton, during the week when the FBI was going to interview her, without asking Lynch what was going on.

“Barack Obama is a really smart guy,” Gingrich said. “He was also sort of a control freak. Do you think the FBI said ‘oh, we’re going to go get a FISA warrant, a foreign intelligence warrant, in order to investigate an American presidential campaign,’ and nobody thought to mention it to the incumbent president?”

Then-Vice President Joe Biden may or may not have known, added Gingrich, but in his case, “he is so flaky, he might not have known if he knew . . . but Obama is really, really smart, and I think it’s very unlikely, virtually impossible that all this stuff went on and he wasn’t in some way informed.”

Source: NewsMax Politics

As President Donald Trump wages his rejection of “fake polling,” results from a media poll in Texas has the president’s re-election as a 50-50 proposition, including 60% of independents saying they would vote for someone else in the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

“The most interesting and more consequential thing, this far out, is that amongst independents, 60% say they will probably or definitely vote for somebody else,” Texas Politics Project pollster Joshua Blank told the Tribune. “Overall, Texas independents tend to be more conservative than liberal and tend to look more like Republicans than like Democrats . . . and things have gotten worse among independents.”

Among all voters in the poll, a combined 50% say they will definitely (39%) or probably (11%) vote for President Trump’s re-election, while another combined 50% say they opposite, they will probably not (7%) or definitely not (43%) vote to re-elect President Trump.

“That 50-50 number encapsulates how divisive Trump is,” the poll’s co-director James Henson told the Tribune.

Texas has long been considered a reliably Republican state, but Democrats have made strides – narrowly losing 2018 midterm races, including former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, challenge of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas – therefore putting more emphasis on the independent vote tally in the state.

“As the state becomes more competitive along partisan lines, at the same time it remains polarized, independents matter more,” Henson told the Tribune. “For a long time, we didn’t have any reason to pay attention to them.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden (23%) leads the Democratic primary field by 8 points over O’Rourke (15%) and 

RealClearPolitics has Biden leading President Trump by 2.5 percentage points, albeit mostly within the margin of error.

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune polled 1,200 registered voters over the Internet from May 31-June 9 with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.83 percentage points.

Source: NewsMax Politics


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