An Iraqi soldier stands next to a military vehicle at the entry of Zubair oilfield after a rocket struck the site of residential and operations headquarters of several oil companies at Burjesia area, in Basra, Iraq June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani
June 19, 2019
By Aref Mohammed and Ahmed Rasheed
BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) – A rocket hit a site in southern Iraq used by foreign oil companies on Wednesday, including U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil, wounding three people and threatening to further escalate U.S.-Iran tensions in the region.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack near Iraq’s southern city of Basra, the fourth time in a week that rockets have struck near U.S. installations.
Three previous attacks on or near military bases housing U.S. forces near Baghdad and Mosul caused no casualties or major damage. None of those incidents were claimed.
An Iraqi security source said it appeared that Iran-backed groups in southern Iraq were behind the Basra incident.
“According to our sources, the team (that launched the rocket) is made up of more than one group and were well trained in missile launching,” the security source said.
He said they had received a tip-off several days ago the U.S. consulate in Basra might be targeted but were taken by surprise when the rocket hit the oil site.
Abbas Maher, mayor of the nearby town of Zubair, said he believed Iran-backed groups had specifically targeted Exxon to “send a message” to the United States.
U.S.-Iranian hostility has risen since President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and other world powers in May last year.
Trump has since reimposed and extended U.S. sanctions on Iran, forcing states to boycott Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own. Tehran has threatened to abandon the nuclear pact unless other signatories act to rein in the United States.
The U.S. face-off with Iran reached a new pitch following attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf in May and June that Washington blames on Tehran. Iran denies any involvement.
While the long-time foes say they do not want war, the United States has reinforced its military presence in the region and analysts say violence could nonetheless escalate.
Some Western officials have said the recent attacks appear designed to show Iran could sow chaos if it wanted.
Iraqi officials fear their country, where powerful Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim militias operate in close proximity to some 5,200 U.S. troops, could become an arena for escalation.
The United States has pressed Iraq’s government to rein in Iran-backed paramilitary groups, a tall order for a cabinet that suffers from its own political divisions.
Iraq’s military said three people were wounded in Wednesday’s strike by a short-range Katyusha missile. It struck the Burjesia site, west of Basra, which is near the Zubair oilfield operated Italy’s Eni SpA.
Police said the rocket landed 100 meters from the part of the site used as a residence and operations center by Exxon. Some 21 Exxon staff were evacuated by plane to Dubai, a security source said.
Zubair mayor Maher said the rocket was fired from farmland around three to four kilometers (2 miles) from the site. A second rocket landed to the northwest of Burjesia, near a site of oil services company Oilserv, but did not explode, he said.
“We cannot separate this from regional developments, meaning the U.S.-Iranian conflict,” Maher said.
“These incidents have political objectives … it seems some sides did not like the return of Exxon staff.”
Exxon had evacuated its staff from Basra after a partial U.S. Baghdad embassy evacuation in May and staff had just begun to return.
Burjesia is also used as a headquarters by Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Eni., according to Iraqi oil officials.
The officials said operations including exports from southern Iraq were not affected.
A separate Iraqi oil official, who oversees foreign operations in the south, said the other foreign firms had no plans to evacuate and would operate as normal.
A Shell spokesman said its employees had “not been subject to the attack … and we continue normal operations in Iraq.”
Wednesday’s rocket strike fits into a pattern of attacks since May, when four tankers in the Gulf and two Saudi oil pumping stations were attacked.
They have been accompanied by a spate of incidents inside Shi’ite-dominated Iraq, which is allied both to the United States and fellow Shi’ite Muslim Iran.
The attacks in Iraq have caused less damage but have all taken place near U.S. military, diplomatic or civilian installations, raising suspicions they were part of a campaign.
A rocket landed near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad last month causing no damage or casualties. The United States had already evacuated hundreds of diplomatic staff from the embassy, citing unspecified threats from Iran.
Iran backs a number of Iraqi Shi’ite militias which have grown more powerful after helping defeat Islamic State.
Iraqi officials say that threats from Iran cited by Washington when it sent additional forces to the Middle East last month included the positioning by Iran-backed militias of rockets near U.S. forces.
Rockets hit on or near three separate military bases housing U.S. forces near Baghdad and in the northern city of Mosul in three separate attacks since Friday.
(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal in Dubai; Writing by John Davison; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Jon Boyle and Andrew Cawthorne)
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.
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)
President Donald Trump’s plan to begin deporting “millions” of undocumented immigrants as soon as next week will start with people who have defied final deportation orders, acting Immigration, Customs and Enforcement Director Mark Morgan says.
Morgan told Fox News Wednesday night that the process would begin with those who have had previous access to a lawyer and a court hearing but haven’t complied with the final edict. ICE will help people who voluntarily comply execute an “ordered, dignified” exit from the U.S., he said.
“We have a demographic that has had an enormous amount of due process,” Morgan said. “We’re not going to exempt any demographic.”
The president’s announcement of the plan earlier this week was seen as a signal he may be opening a new front in his war on immigration ahead of his formal his re-election campaign kickoff last night.
Trump said in a Monday tweet that ICE would begin removing migrants “as fast as they come in” but didn’t provide details about what the new initiative would entail. Morgan said Wednesday that the operation will focus on those who have been issued final deportation orders by federal judges but remain in the country.
The president has been focusing on undocumented immigrants — one of his signature issues — in recent weeks as he tries to make the case that voters should re-elect him in 2020.
Morgan said told CNN earlier this month that the new ICE effort could prove a disincentive for migrant families currently traveling to the U.S. who count on legal limits on the time children can be held in government custody to secure release into the country.
Trump is eager to demonstrate that he’s taking a hard line on immigration as he increasingly focuses on his re-election campaign, which he’s set to launch Tuesday night in Orlando, Florida.
In 2016, Trump won the White House with a populist message and promises to build a wall and stop flows of illegal immigration. But the president has struggled to secure congressional support for construction of his signature border barrier, and migration flows have surged in recent months as migrant families from Central America pour into the country from Mexico.
The campaign of Kamala Harris, a senator from California seeking the Democratic nomination to oppose Trump in the general election, said Trump’s tweet is evidence he wants “to rid our country of ethnic and racial groups he doesn’t like.”
“History has shown us what happens when governments begin mass roundups based on ethnic background or national origin,” Harris campaign manager Juan Rodriguez said in a statement.
Earlier this month, Trump threatened to impose new tariffs on Mexico if the country didn’t stem those migrant flows. The U.S. ultimately relented after the Mexican government agreed to step up internal immigration enforcement efforts.
The administration has also requested $4.5 billion in emergency funds that would help address the surge of migrants at the border but not be used for wall construction.
Source: NewsMax Politics
A converted supermini car Zastava 750, which has its combustion engine replaced with an electric one by BB Classic Cars, drives in Skopje, North Macedonia, May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
June 19, 2019
SKOPJE (Reuters) – In the North Macedonian capital Skopje, a small light blue car, reminiscent of bygone Communist times, silently zips through the streets in the first major attempt in the Balkan country to produce its own electric vehicle.
It is the brainchild of Skopje-based BB Classic Cars, a local company which restores vintage cars and now converts some of them to electric ones with help from a government innovation fund partly aimed at promoting greener technologies.
North Macedonia, which wants to join the European Union where tighter emissions rules are due to come into force in 2020, is battling major pollution mainly from car emissions and heating coal. It is planning to introduce subsidies for purchases of less polluting or zero emission cars.
BB Classic Cars converted the supermini Zastava 750, an upgraded license-built Fiat 600 popular across the now-defunct Yugoslavia, replacing its petrol engine with an electric one.
Milorad Kitanovski, director of the BB Classic Cars, said that the performance of converted Zastava 750s, originally manufactured in Serbia’s city of Kragujevac from the early 1960s until mid-1980s, is the same or better than the original.
“The engine has a far greater potential for a far greater performance and higher speed, but we limited it to 120 kilometers per hour,” Kitanovski said.
The converted cars are fitted with electric motors manufactured by Germany’s Kessler which also has a plant in North Macedonia. Kitanovski did not say how much the company invested to make the conversion.
The car has a range of 150 kilometers, while charging time is around three hours with a home charger, and only 15 minutes with rapid chargers.
“The cost of three hours of charging is less than 1 euro ($1.12), for the 10 kilowatts which is the battery capacity,” Kitanovski said.
The price tag is set around 20,000 euros ($22,568.00) and the company is mainly looking at international buyers, he said.
In comparison, Porsche Macedonia offers Volkswagen’s e-UP! and e-Golf electric cars for 25,000 euros and 37,000 euros respectively, according to a February report by the country’s MIA news agency.
(Reporting by Ognen Teofilovski; Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)
FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the upper house of the Italian parliament, in Rome, Italy March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Yara Nardi/File Photo
June 19, 2019
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission has asked Italy to adopt new measures to cut its growing public debt and avoid an EU disciplinary action that could lead to financial sanctions and stricter oversight of the country’s fiscal policies.
Italy narrowly averted such sanction procedure late last year, when it reached an agreement with the Commission, the European Union’s executive, over its 2019 budget. The Commission had initially rejected the budget, saying it would not cut Italy’s large debt.
Official data released in April showed Italy’s debt grew to 132.2% of gross domestic product in 2018, the largest ratio in the EU after bailed-out Greece. It is set to expand further this year and next, according to Commission forecasts, in spite of EU rules that say the debt should fall.
Italy’s euroskeptic government has so far shown little inclination to reduce its debt. Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has instead urged a relaxation of EU fiscal rules and wants broad tax cuts — without explaining how they would be funded.
The possible next steps are:
June 20-21: EU leaders meet in Brussels for a quarterly summit. The meeting offers Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte a chance to discuss ways to avoid the debt procedure with the outgoing Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker.
June 26: The European Commission could recommend the opening of a disciplinary procedure against Italy if Rome makes no concessions. Exceptionally, this decision could be postponed to July 2, but EU officials have repeatedly said a delay is unlikely.
July 1-2: EU governments’ officials meet and could decide to endorse the Commission’s proposal to start a disciplinary action over Italy’s debt.
July 8-9: EU finance ministers gather in Brussels for a regular monthly meeting, where they are expected to decide on the possible formal opening of disciplinary proceedings against Italy, if recommended by the Commission.
Once the procedure is started, Italy will be required to adopt measures, such as higher taxes and spending cuts, to correct its deviation from fiscal targets within three or six months from the beginning of the procedure.
July 29: If EU finance ministers open a disciplinary procedure, July 29 would be the deadline for the Commission to propose what would be unprecedented financial sanctions against Rome. If deemed in “serious” breach of EU rules, the Italian government could be required to lodge with the Commission a non-interest bearing deposit worth 0.2% of GDP — around 3.5 billion euros ($3.9 billion).
Aug. 7: Euro zone governments would have 10 days, until Aug. 7, to block by qualified majority a Commission proposal to impose sanctions.
Sept. 20: Italy presents updated growth and public finance targets, which will be the framework of its 2020 budget.
Mid-October: First possible deadline for Italy to meet, in its 2020 draft budget, the fiscal requirements imposed by the EU in the disciplinary procedure.
Failure to act could trigger further sanctions, including a fine of up to 0.2% of GDP, the suspension of billions of euros in EU funds and closer fiscal monitoring by the European Commission and the European Central Bank.
Further failure to cooperate could incur even stricter penalties. Those might include a fine of up to 0.5% of GDP, the potential loss of multi-billion-euro loans from the European Investment Bank, and precautionary monitoring by the EU of Italy’s plans to issue new debt.
Nov. 1: The new Commission is expected to take office, unless the mandate of the existing executive is extended.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio in Brussels; additional reporting by Giuseppe Fonte and Gavin Jones in Rome; Editing by Catherine Evans)
FILE PHOTO – A North Korean flag is seen on the top of its embassy in Beijing, China, February 7, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee
June 19, 2019
By Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea has provided its largest food and aid donation since 2008 to U.N. aid program in North Korea, officials said on Wednesday, amid warnings that millions of dollars more is needed to make up for food shortages.
South Korea followed through on a promise to donate $4.5 million to the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), and announced it was also providing 50,000 tonnes of rice for delivery to its northern neighbor.
North Korea has said it is facing droughts, and U.N. aid agencies have said food production fell “dramatically” last year, leaving more than 10 million North Koreans at risk.
“This is the largest donation from the Republic of Korea to WFP DPRK since 2008 and will support 1.5 to 2 million children, pregnant and nursing mothers,” WFP senior spokesman Herve Verhoosel said in a statement, referring to his agency’s operation in North Korea, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
More aid would be needed, however, to make up for the shortfalls, he said.
“WFP estimates that at least 300,000 metric tons of food, valued at $275 million, is needed to scale up humanitarian assistance in support of those people most affected by significant crop losses over successive seasons,” Verhoosel said.
North Korea is under strict international sanctions over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
While inter-Korean engagement spiked last year amid a push to resolve the nuclear standoff, Seoul’s efforts to engage with Pyongyang have been less successful after a second U.S.-North Korea summit ended with no agreement in February.
SANCTIONS A PROBLEM
South Korea would work with the WFP to get the aid as quickly as possible to the North Korean people who need, the South’s Unification Ministry, which handles relations with North Korea, said in a statement.
“The timing and scale of additional food assistance to North Korea will be determined in consideration of the outcome of the aid provision this time,” the ministry said.
According to South Korean officials the rice is worth 127 billion won ($108 million).
The government would aim to have the rice delivered before September, and officials were in touch with counterparts in North Korea, Unification minister Kim Yeon-chul told reporters.
South Korea’s Agriculture Ministry said the last time South Korea sent rice to North Korea was in 2010, when 5,000 tonnes were donated. The largest donation ever was in 2005 when South Korean sent 500,000 tonnes of rice.
Seoul also recently donated $3.5 million to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for humanitarian projects in North Korea.
Technically humanitarian aid is not blocked by the sanctions, but aid organizations said sanctions enforcement and a U.S. ban on its citizens traveling to North Korea had slowed and in some cases prevented aid from reaching the country.
Aid shipments have also been controversial because of fears that North Korea’s authoritarian government would divert the supplies or potentially profit off it.
Verhoosel said the WFP would require “high standards for access and monitoring” to be in place before distributing any aid.
In March, Russia donated more than 2,000 tonnes of wheat to the WFP’s North Korea program.
(Reporting by Josh Smith. Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin.; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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.”
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.
Guests watch in horror as massive huntsman spider eats a possum in their ski lodge.
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FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte gestures at a news conference during the Southern EU Countries Summit in front of the Auberge de Castille in Valletta, Malta, June 14, 2019. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
June 19, 2019
ROME (Reuters) – Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Wednesday that Italy’s commissioner in the European Union’s next executive should have an important economic job.
Addressing the Chamber of Deputies ahead of an EU summit later this week, Conte said his government would push to obtain “a top-drawer economic portfolio.”
The term of the current European Commission expires on Oct. 31, and EU governments have begun negotiations over the next team of commissioners.
(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte and Angelo Amante, writing by Gavin Jones, editing by Giselda Vagnoni)
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at his official residence after an earthquake, in Tokyo, Japan June 18, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. THIS IMAGE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY, AN UNPROCESSED VERSION HAS BEEN PROVIDED SEPARATELY.
June 19, 2019
TOKYO (Reuters) – A strong and shallow earthquake struck Japan’s northwest coast around Niigata prefecture on Tuesday, triggering a small tsunami, shaking buildings and cutting power to around 9,000 buildings.
The magnitude 6.4 quake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), lasted for as long as 20 seconds and damage included a landslide that struck a road, according to public broadcaster NHK. There were no initial reports of fatalities or fires.
Authorities lifted a 0.2-1.0 meter tsunami warning for the region after waves several centimeters high struck parts of the Niigata coast.
A tsunami of up to one meter could have caused some flooding and damage in low-lying coastal areas and river banks, though much of Japan’s coastline is guarded by sea walls.
“We will work closely with local authorities to provide any disaster measures including lifesaving and rescue operations and have instructed officials to provide information in a timely and accurate manner,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga – the top government spokesman – told a media briefing.
The quake struck at 10.22 p.m. local time (1322 GMT Thursday) at a depth of 12 kilometers (7.5 miles), the USGS said.
It measured 6.7 according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, and in some places was as high as a strong six on the agency’s seven-point “Shindo”, or Seismic Intensity Scale, which measures ground motion at specific points unlike magnitude which expresses the amount of energy released.
Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (Tepco) Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant was not affected by the quake, which hit 85 km ( 53 miles) northeast of the site. All of its seven reactors were already shut down, NHK said.
A Tepco spokesman said an initial inspection showed no damage to the plant, and inspectors would carry out more detailed checks.
The quake also temporarily halted express bullet train services in the region, with some roads also closed, according to NHK.
(Reporting by Tim Kelly, Elaine Lies, Linda Sieg, Takaya Yamaguchi and Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Catherine Evans and John Stonestreet)
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 )
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)
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.
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)
FILE PHOTO: Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at the Istana in Singapore, June 7, 2019. REUTERS/Feline Lim
June 19, 2019
By Colin Packham
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will need to secure just three votes in the country’s upper house to pass legislation after election results on Wednesday showed his government picked up four additional Senate seats.
Morrison’s position will be tested when he seeks to pass his major re-election policy of A$158 billion in tax cuts when lawmakers return to parliament for the first time since the election — expected to be in the first week of July.
Morrison secured re-election in May when his coalition won a majority of seats in Australia’s lower house – a result he declared as a political miracle.
Confirming the final results for the Senate, the Australian Electoral Commission said Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition won 19 of the 40 seats contested.
These lawmakers will now sit alongside 16 government Senators who were not up for re-election this year, giving Morrison 35 of the 76-seats in Australia’s Senate.
The government previously held 31 seats, leaving them dependent on the support of independents to pass legislation.
While Morrison remains shy of an outright majority, several right-wing independents are expected to support the bulk of his legislation.
“The government has struggled for years to pass legislation. This Senate will be much friendlier, and the bulk of Morrison’s agenda will become law,” said Haydon Manning, a professor of political science at Flinders University, told Reuters.
The conservative government in April proposed A$158 billion in tax cuts over the next decade, primarily aimed at middle-income earners.
While Australia’s opposition Labor party has promised to support the tax cuts for the lower income earners, it has said it will oppose the third stage of the fiscal plan that delivers tax cuts that favor higher earners.
Morrison has said the tax cuts will not be split, setting the stage for a political fight amid calls for urgent fiscal stimulus to boost a flagging economy.
Australia’s central bank earlier this month cut interest rates for the first time in nearly three years, though it warned the economy needed additional support.
Should Morrison win enough support for his tax plan, about 10 million middle- and low-income earners – will receive up to A$1,080 ($742.72) per person.
Economists have estimated the tax breaks would inject about A$7.5 billion into the economy over 2019/20.
(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Michael Perry)
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference about the government’s decision on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie
June 19, 2019
By David Ljunggren and Nia Williams
OTTAWA/CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) – Canada on Tuesday approved as expected a hotly contested proposal to expand the western Canadian crude oil pipeline it bought last year, providing hope for a depressed energy industry but angering environmental groups.
Construction on the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline is scheduled to resume this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference. A senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said earlier that Ottawa expected legal challenges to the approval.
The project would triple Trans Mountain’s capacity to carry 890,000 barrels per day from Alberta’s oil sands to British Columbia’s Pacific coast, alleviate congestion on existing pipelines and diversify exports away from the United States.
Trudeau, who faces a tough fight in a national election scheduled for October, has been under pressure both from western Canadian politicians who accuse him of doing too little for the oil industry, and from environmental groups, which see the oil sands as a highly polluting source of crude production.
“This isn’t an either/or proposition. It is in Canada’s national interest to protect our environment and invest in tomorrow, while making sure people can feed their families today,” he said, adding he knew some people would be disappointed.
The Liberal government previously approved the expansion in 2016 but that decision was overturned last year after a court ruled the government had not adequately consulted indigenous groups.
The approval was widely expected as the government spent C$4.5 billion ($3.4 billion) to buy the 66-year-old pipeline from Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd last year to ensure that the expansion proceeded. Western Canada’s oil production has expanded faster than pipeline capacity, causing a glut of crude to build up.
Trudeau said the government would make a series of accommodations to indigenous concerns about the pipeline, including on protections of killer whale and fish habitats in British Columbia.
One group of indigenous activists in British Columbia, called Tiny House Warriors, vowed in a statement that the expansion would not be built on their territory.
“The Trudeau government does not have the right to put a pipeline through unceded Secwepemc land,” spokeswoman Kanahus Manuel said.
FURTHER OBSTACLES AHEAD
The government’s latest approval can be appealed through the courts. Trans Mountain also requires various permits and route approvals in British Columbia, where that province’s left-leaning New Democratic Party government opposes the project.
The B.C. government also plans to appeal a recent British Columbia Appeal Court ruling that the provincial government cannot restrict the flow of oil on pipelines that cross provincial boundaries.
British Columbia Premier John Horgan said his government was “disappointed” with the federal government’s decision but would not unduly withhold construction permits.
Mike Hurley, mayor of Burnaby, where the pipeline terminates in a tank farm near the Westridge Marine Terminal on Burrard Inlet, said his city was “absolutely against” the pipeline expansion.
“It brings too much extra risk into our community and we don’t believe the risk is worth the rewards. There’s risk of fire, explosion, chemical releases, a natural disaster for our First Nations people who use the inlet so much, and for business.”
Construction is expected to take 2-1/2 years, investment bank Tudor Pickering Holt & Co said. Assuming work on the expansion resumes this year, the expanded pipeline could be in service in early 2022.
“We will measure success not by today’s decision but by the beginning of actual construction and more importantly by the completion of the pipeline,” said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, a frequent critic of Trudeau. “This is now a test for Canada to demonstrate to the rest of the world we are a safe place in which to invest.”
The decision will help create billions in economic benefits across Canada as it allows Canadian oil to reach higher-paying international markets, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association said in a statement.
Eighty percent of the expanded pipeline’s total capacity has been contracted to companies including Suncor Energy Inc, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd and Exxon-owned Imperial Oil Ltd, according to a National Energy Board filing.
The Canadian government has long said it planned to sell the pipeline once most of the obstacles to its construction have been cleared. Numerous indigenous groups have said they are interested in investing in it.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Nia Williams in Calgary; Additional reporting by Kelsey Johnson in Ottawa and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)
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)
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)
FILE PHOTO: The logo for Anadarko Petroleum corp. is displayed on a screen on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 30, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
June 18, 2019
By Sabina Zawadzki
LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. energy firm Anadarko Petroleum Corp on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for the construction of a $20 billion gas liquefaction and export terminal in Mozambique, the largest single LNG project approved in Africa.
The announcement, which occurred at an event in Mozambique, was widely expected after Anadarko last month flagged the decision date.
“As the world increasingly seeks cleaner forms of energy, the Anadarko-led Area 1 Mozambique LNG project is ideally located to meet growing demand, particularly in expanding Asian and European markets,” Chief Executive Officer Al Walker said in a statement http://pdf.reuters.com/htmlnews/htmlnews.asp?i=43059c3bf0e37541&u=urn:newsml:reuters.com:20190618:nPn4scVtza.
Anadarko has agreed to be taken over by Occidental Petroleum Corp. Once that deal goes ahead, Occidental has agreed to sell assets including the Mozambique LNG project to French oil major and large LNG trader Total SA. Officials at Total were not immediately available for comment.
Natural gas use is growing rapidly around the world as countries seek to meet rising energy demand and wean their industrial and power sectors off dirtier coal.
The project, which has committed long-term supplies to utilities, major LNG portfolio holders and state companies around the world, underscores the industry’s conviction that LNG demand will soar in years to come despite a slump in prices this year.
Low prices for the gas that is super-cooled for transportation prompted fears final investment decisions (FIDs) such as Anadarko’s would be delayed or scrapped. But the U.S. company gathered enough long-term buyers to underpin the financing of the project.
“Flexible commercial arrangements, including an innovative co-purchase agreement with Tokyo Gas and Centrica, have been instrumental in securing the project a roster of high-quality customers in a crowded LNG market,” said Frank Harris, head of LNG Consulting at Wood Mackenzie.
LNG prices slumped this year as a jump in supply from new terminals in the United States, Australia and Russia were not totally met by higher demand in Asia.
The trade is also nowhere near as developed as the market for crude oil, causing erratic price movements.
“At $20 billion, today’s FID is the largest sanction ever in sub-Saharan Africa oil and gas,” added Jon Lawrence, an analyst with Wood Mackenzie’s sub-Saharan Africa upstream team.
The project is also expected to be transformational for Mozambique, one of the poorest nations on earth beset by economic crisis, conflict stemming from a civil war and serious governance malaise, whose annual gross domestic product is just $13 billion.
The government of Mozambique said the project is expected to create more than 5,000 direct jobs and 45,000 indirect jobs.
With a 12.88 million tonne per year (mtpa) capacity, Mozambique LNG is one of the largest greenfield LNG facilities to have ever been approved. It involves building infrastructure to extract gas from a field offshore northern Mozambique, pump it onshore and liquefy it, ready for further export by LNG tankers.
On the African east coast, the liquefaction plant will be able to sell LNG to both the lucrative Asian market, home to 75%of global LNG demand, and to the flexible European market, which helps balance global LNG trade by soaking up excess supply.
Mozambique LNG joins other mega-projects approved in the past year such as Exxon Mobil Corp’s 16 mtpa U.S. Golden Pass plant and Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s 14 mtpa LNG Canada facility.
Still expected this year are approvals from Exxon for a 15.2 mtpa project also in Mozambique, and from Russia’s Novatek for its 19.8 mtpa Arctic LNG-2 plant.
Anadarko’s partners in the Mozambique LNG project are Mitsui, Mozambique state energy company ENH, Thailand’s PTT and Indian energy firms ONGC, Bharat Petroleum Resources and Oil India.
(Reporting by Sabina Zawadzki in London; additional reporting by Scott DiSavino in New York and Debroop Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Jan Harvey, Marguerita Choy and Arun Koyyur)
Sanctions are working against Iran, and as it is “lashing out,” the Trump administration is acting “absolutely appropriate” with the steps it has taken to protect U.S. allies and assets in the region, Rep. Michael Waltz said Tuesday.
“Inflation is spiking,” the Florida Republican told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.” “You have a series of labor strikes…since the president lifted the waivers, in terms of Iran being able to export its oil, they have dropped from 2.5 million barrels per day to less than 400,000.”
That has caused Iran’s government to “externalize the problem,” which is creating an “external crisis,” said Waltz.
He also said Iran’s pressure on Europe is “blackmail,” as it is trying to create a narrative blaming the current issues on the United States for pulling out of the Iran deal.
“That ignores the fact that Iran is supporting terrorism all over the region and Syria, Iraq, Yemen,” said Waltz. “It is holding Americans hostage as we speak.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., has also blamed Trump’s actions and called on the United States to reinstate the Iran nuclear deal, and Waltz said she is ignoring the “fact of history,” from the Beirut bombings to the deaths of more than 500 American soldiers during the Iraq War.
“At the end of the day, they are emboldened by a perceived weakness, and deterred by strength,” said Waltz.
He also on Tuesday commented on the Trump 2020 rally taking place in his home state noting that a win in Florida is important to a presidential race.
Source: NewsMax Politics
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)
FILE PHOTO: Single family homes being built by KB Homes are shown under construction in San Diego, California, U.S., April 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
June 18, 2019
By Lucia Mutikani
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. homebuilding fell in May, but groundbreaking activity in the prior two months was stronger than previously thought, pointing to some tentative signs of improvement in the struggling housing market.
Land and labor shortages are, however, making it difficult for builders, especially in the single-family housing segment, to fully take advantage of a sharp decline in mortgage rates. That has left the housing market continuing to grapple with tight inventory and sluggish sales growth.
The report from the Commerce Department on Tuesday came as Federal Reserve officials started a two-day policy meeting.
Low inflation, a slowing economy and an escalation in the trade war between Washington and Beijing have led financial markets to fully price in an interest rate cut this year, pulling down mortgage rates. The U.S. central bank is, however, not expected to cut rates on Wednesday.
“Housing continues to wander along, not doing much better but not weakening a whole lot,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania.
Housing starts dropped 0.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.269 million units last month amid a drop in the construction of single-family housing units, the government said. Data for April was revised up to show homebuilding rising to a pace of 1.281 million units, instead of increasing to a rate of 1.235 million units as previously reported. Housing starts in March were also stronger than initially estimated.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast housing starts edging up to a pace of 1.239 million units in May.
Single-family homebuilding, which accounts for the largest share of the housing market, dropped 6.4% to a rate of 820,000 units in May. Single-family housing starts fell in the Northeast, the Midwest and West, but rose in the South, where the bulk of homebuilding occurs.
Some on the weakness in groundbreaking activity likely reflects heavy rain and flooding in some parts of the country.
The housing market hit a soft patch last year and has been a drag on economic growth for five straight quarters.
The PHLX housing index was trading higher, in line with a broadly firmer U.S. stock market. The dollar rose slightly against a basket of currencies, while U.S. Treasury yields fell.
Despite the recent signs of improvement in housing starts, there are concerns that renewed trade tensions between the United States and China could hurt future home building.
A survey on Monday showed confidence among homebuilders ebbed in June, with builders continuing “to report rising development and construction costs, with some additional concerns over trade issues.”
Builders said that despite lower mortgage rates, “home prices remain somewhat high relative to incomes, which is particularly challenging for entry-level buyers.”
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate has decreased to 3.82% from a peak of about 4.94% in November, according to data from mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac. According to the latest data, house prices rose 3.7% in March from a year ago, outpacing wages, which increased 3.1% in May.
Building permits rose 0.3% to a rate of 1.294 million units in May. It was the second straight monthly increase in permits. Building permits have been weak this year, with much of the decline concentrated in the single-family housing segment.
Permits to build single-family homes increased 3.7% to a rate of 815,000 units in May, after five straight monthly declines. Permits were boosted by a 7.7% jump in the South, the largest gain since December 2016. But single-family housing permits fell in the Northeast, West and Midwest.
“The gain in permits along with more favorable buying conditions points to gradually improving activity over the summer,” said Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina. “That said, lower mortgages rates will not likely be rocket fuel for residential construction, and a surge in activity is unlikely.”
Starts for the volatile multi-family housing segment surged 10.9% to a rate of 449,000 units last month. Permits for the construction of multi-family homes dropped 5.0% to a pace of 479,000 units.
Housing completions fell 9.5% to 1.213 million last month. Realtors estimate that housing starts and completion rates need to be in a range of 1.5 million to 1.6 million units per month to plug the inventory gap. The stock of housing under construction was little changed at 1.131 million units.
“If you were waiting for more construction to deal with the nation’s growing housing shortage, you are going to have a longer wait,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York.
(Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
FILE PHOTO: Bombardier’s logo is seen on the building of the company’s service centre at Biggin Hill, Britain March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo
June 18, 2019
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s government will buy three new Bombardier jets this year, RND newspapers reported on Tuesday, adding that the deal would have a volume of 240 million euros ($268.51 million).
The finance ministry is willing to approve the on-top budget request by the defense ministry to unlock the funds, RND reported, citing a confidential document the finance ministry sent to the budget commission in the lower house of parliament.
Germany’s government fleet, transporting Angela Merkel and ministers around the world, has been grappling with a series of technical incidents and outages over the last months. It has decided to order three new Airbus A350-900 aircrafts in April.
(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel; Editing by Michael Nienaber)
FILE PHOTO: View of the house of District President of Kassel Walter Luebcke, who was found dead, is pictured in Wolfhagen-Istha near Kassel, Germany, June 3, 2019. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo
June 18, 2019
BERLIN (Reuters) – The murder of a prominent politician by a suspected right-wing radical is an assault on Germany’s democratic system and should serve as a wake-up call, the interior minister said on Tuesday, pledging to combat all forms of extremism.
The arrest of a right-winger over the shooting two weeks ago of Walter Luebcke, a regional ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel known for his pro-migrant views, shocked Germany and prompted calls for a more pro-active government response to anti-immigrant extremists.
“Right-wing extremism is a serious danger for our free society. We must fight it with all we can,” Horst Seehofer, a Bavarian who opposed the open-door migrant policy Merkel operated in 2015-16, told a news conference.
“The attack on a representative of our state is an alarm signal … combating extremism and terrorism of all kinds is a central matter for this government,” he said.
Germany is home to some 12,700 potentially violent far-right radicals, domestic intelligence agency BfV estimates, and a Civey poll showed 60 percent of Germans think the government is doing too little to oppose them.
Luebcke, the head of the district government in Kassel in the state of Hesse, was shot in the head at close range on the terrace of his home two weeks ago. A 45-year-old named by police as Stephan E. was arrested at the weekend after they found his DNA at the scene.
Investigators said he was a known right-wing radical in the 1980s and 1990s. He had been a member of a shooting club but did not have a gun license.
German media have reported that the suspect was a member of an armed branch of the banned ‘Blood and Honour’ European network of neo-Nazis, but Seehofer said it was unclear whether he was part of a group or a loose network of right-wing extremists.
Germany was shaken by the chance discovery in 2011 of a neo-Nazi cell, the National Socialist Underground whose members murdered eight Turks, a Greek man and a German policewoman from 2000 to 2007.
After fierce criticism of the intelligence agencies and police for underestimating the risk of far-right violence, reforms were introduced, such as closer coordination between agencies and regions.
BfV chief Thomas Haldenwang said much had changed. “But in view of the scale of the threat from the right, we are not in a position to say we have mastered (it),” he told reporters.
Last year, Germany was shaken by violent right-wing protests in the eastern town of Chemnitz after the killing of a Cuban-German citizen for which two immigrants were arrested. Soon after, the then head of the BfV was ousted after he was accused of harboring right-wing sympathies.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; editing by John Stonestreet)
FILE PHOTO: John Glen, local Member of Parliament for Salisbury and South Wiltshire, talks to the media in Salisbury, Britain, April 3, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
June 18, 2019
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s government is committed to doing whatever it can to keep its financial sector globally competitive after Brexit, financial services minister John Glen said on Tuesday.
Britain is due to leave the European Union on Oct. 31 but it has yet to secure a divorce settlement with the bloc, the UK financial sector’s single biggest customer.
Uncertainty for finance has increased as a new British prime minister is being selected.
Glen said there must be a “clear plan” to maintain the UK financial sector’s global success as it cannot be taken for granted.
“It would be a tragedy if we lost our competitive advantage by accident,” Glen told a TheCityUK conference.
He knew the financial sector, known in Britain as the City, wanted an end to the ‘Brexit impasse’.
Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Luxembourg and Dublin have been vying to attract new hubs being opened by UK-based financial companies needing an EU base after Brexit.
Bankers see the shift of some jobs and activities from the City to the EU as inevitable and one-way, whatever the future UK trading deal with Brussels.
But Glen said none of those rival financial centers in the EU can match all that London has to offer.
TheCityUK’s new chair, Mark Tucker, said the financial sector was Britain’s most successful economic sector bar none and has a comparative advantage over other countries in that it is difficult, if not impossible, to replicate.
“It’s the envy of other nations,” said Tucker, who also chairs HSBC bank.
Finance needed to recover the public’s trust and have a “coherent and united front” so that it becomes more than the sum of its parts to demonstrate the benefits that finance brings to the economy and communities, Tucker said.
(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Catherine Evans and Louise Heavens)
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)
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)
FILE PHOTO: French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire delivers a speech during a high-level forum on debt at the Finance ministry in Paris, France, May 7, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo
June 18, 2019
PARIS (Reuters) – Renault’s alliance with Japanese partner Nissan remains French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire’s priority ahead of any further consolidation with the likes of Fiat-Chrysler, he said on Tuesday.
“It is not in our interest at all to weaken this alliance,” Le Maire told Europe 1 radio. The French government is Renault’s biggest shareholder with a 15% stake.
Asked to comment on media reports that Fiat’s top executive had been in Paris over the weekend, Le Maire replied: “It poses me no problems at all if the head of Fiat were to spend his time in Paris.”
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by David Goodman)
FILE PHOTO: U.S. based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller/File Photo
June 18, 2019
ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey has ordered the arrest of 128 military personnel over suspected links to the network accused by Ankara of orchestrating an attempted coup in 2016, state-run Anadolu news agency said on Tuesday.
Police were looking for just over half of the suspects in the western coastal province of Izmir and the rest across 30 other provinces, Anadolu said.
They were suspected of being supporters of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused by Turkish authorities of masterminding the failed putsch three years ago. Gulen has denied any role.
More than 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial, while about 150,000 people from the civil service, military, and elsewhere have been sacked or suspended from their jobs under crackdowns since the attempted coup.
Rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies have criticized the scope of the crackdown, saying Erdogan has used the abortive coup as a pretext to quash dissent.
The government has said the security measures are necessary due to the gravity of the threat Turkey faces, and has vowed to eradicate Gulen’s network in the country.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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)
FILE PHOTO: Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini attends a joint news conference following a cabinet meeting in Rome, Italy, June 11, 2019 REUTERS/Remo Casilli
June 18, 2019
By Crispian Balmer
ROME (Reuters) – Italy is the United States’ most reliable ally in Europe, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said on Monday, keen to present himself as a strong, trustworthy statesman during a flying visit to Washington.
Fresh from his triumph in last month’s European parliamentary election, when his League party came top of the polls in Italy, Salvini went to Washington to burnish his credentials as a dynamic EU leader with a glowing future.
“At a time when European Union institutions are fragile and changing significantly, Italy wants to be the first, most solid, valid, credible and coherent partner for the United States,” he said on his Facebook page.
Salvini held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence and visited Washington landmarks, sending home a flurry of Facebook videos and tweets to chronicle the brief trip.
Salvini, who also serves as interior minister in the government, has no direct say in foreign policy, which is overseen by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero — neither of whom have direct political affiliation with any group.
As head of Italy’s biggest party, Salvini seemed eager to reposition Italian diplomacy during his trip, however, saying he shared a “common vision” with Washington on China, Iran, Venezuela, Libya and the Middle East.
Italy has often adopted cautious lines in key diplomatic areas, seeking to serve as a bridge between various worlds.
Earlier this year, Rome angered the United States when it refused to recognise Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president — a position imposed on the Italian government by the League’s coalition ally, the 5-Star Movement.
Italy further incurred Washington’s displeasure in March when it became the first major Western power to endorse China’s ambitious “Belt and Road” infrastructure project in an effort to boost its own vital export market.
However, in a news conference posted on his Facebook page, Salvini said the government was considering banning China’s Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd from bidding for infrastructure projects in Italy following warnings from the United States that it could endanger national security in the West.
“When you raise the issue of national security and also have a shared vision and shared values with the United States, then you reach a time when business deals have to stop,” he said.
Salvini was one of the first prominent EU politicians to throw his weight behind Donald Trump in 2016 as he campaigned to become U.S. president and attended one of his election rallies.
He left Washington on Monday singing the praises of the president’s economic policy.
The next Italian budget “will have to be Trumpian” he said, referring to tax cuts introduced by the U.S. administration.
Salvini has pledged to introduce a flat tax in 2020, but the European Union executive has warned that heavily indebted Italy cannot afford such budget largesse and has threatened Rome with disciplinary action unless it gets its accounts in order.
“We will try to convince the EU with numbers and by being polite. But we will cut taxes regardless and they are just going to have to get used to the idea,” he said.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
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)
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas talks in his chambers at the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, U.S. June 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
June 18, 2019
By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday urged the U.S. Supreme Court to feel less bound to upholding precedent, advancing a view that if adopted by enough of his fellow justices could result in more past decisions being overruled, perhaps including the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
Writing in a gun possession case over whether the federal government and states can prosecute someone separately for the same crime, Thomas said the court should reconsider its standard for reviewing precedents.
Thomas said the nine justices should not uphold precedents that are “demonstrably erroneous,” regardless of whether other factors supported letting them stand.
“When faced with a demonstrably erroneous precedent, my rule is simple: We should not follow it,” wrote Thomas, who has long expressed a greater willingness than his colleagues to overrule precedents.
In a concurring opinion, which no other justice joined, Thomas referred to the court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed Roe and said states cannot place an undue burden on the constitutional right to an abortion recognized in the Roe decision. Thomas, a member of the court at the time, dissented from the Casey ruling.
Thomas, 70, joined the court in 1991 as an appointee of Republican President George H.W. Bush. Thomas is its longest-serving current justice.
The court now has a 5-4 conservative majority, and Thomas is among its most conservative justices.
He demonstrated his willingness to abandon precedent in February when he wrote that the court should reconsider its landmark 1964 New York Times v. Sullivan ruling that made it harder for public officials to win libel lawsuits.
“Thomas says legal questions have objectively correct answers, and judges should find them regardless of whether their colleagues or predecessors found different answers,” said Jonathan Entin, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “Everyone is concerned about this because they’re thinking about Roe v. Wade.”
The Thomas opinion focused on “stare decisis,” a Latin term referring to the legal principle that U.S. courts should not overturn precedents without a special reason.
While stare decisis (pronounced STAR-ay deh-SY-sis) has no formal parameters, justices deciding whether to uphold precedents often look at such factors as whether they work, enhance stability in the law, are part of the national fabric or promote reliance interests, such as in contract cases.
In 2000, conservative then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist left intact the landmark 1966 Miranda v. Arizona ruling, which required police to advise people in custody of their rights, including the rights to remain silent and have a lawyer.
Writing for a 7-2 majority, Rehnquist wrote that regardless of concerns about Miranda’s reasoning, “the principles of stare decisis weigh heavily against overruling it now.” Thomas joined Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent from that decision. But even Scalia, a conservative who died in 2016, had a different view of stare decisis.
In a widely quoted comment, Scalia once told a Thomas biographer, Ken Foskett, that Thomas “doesn’t believe in stare decisis, period,” and that “if a constitutional line of authority is wrong, he would say let’s get it right. I wouldn’t do that.”
Stare decisis has also split the current court, including last month when in a 5-4 decision written by Thomas the justices overruled a 1979 precedent that had allowed states to be sued by private parties in courts of other states.
Justice Stephen Breyer, a member of the court’s liberal wing, dissented, faulting the majority for overruling “a well-reasoned decision that has caused no serious practical problems.” Citing the 1992 Casey ruling, Breyer said the May decision “can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.”
Thomas said the court should “restore” its jurisprudence relating to precedents to ensure it exercises “mere judgment” and focuses on the “correct, original meaning” of laws it interprets.
“In our constitutional structure, our rule of upholding the law’s original meaning is reason enough to correct course,” Thomas wrote.
Thomas also said demonstrably erroneous decisions should not be “elevated” over federal statutes, as well as the Constitution, merely because they are precedents.
“That’s very different from what the Court does today,” said John McGinnis, a law professor at Northwestern University in Chicago.
McGinnis said the thrust of Thomas’s opinion “makes clear that in a narrow area he will give some weight to precedent. But at the same time, he thinks cases have one right answer, and might find more cases ‘demonstrably erroneous.’”
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)
FILE PHOTO: A Sydney businessman walks into the light outside the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), February 3, 2015. REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo
June 18, 2019
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s central bank believes it will likely have to cut interest rates further from the current record low of 1.25% in order to push down unemployment and revive growth in wages and inflation.
Minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) June policy meeting showed its Board decided cutting rates by a quarter point at that meeting would help speed up the economy, but would not be enough on its own.
“Given the amount of spare capacity in the labor market and the economy more broadly, members agreed that it was more likely than not that a further easing in monetary policy would be appropriate in the period ahead,” the minutes showed.
Financial markets have already priced in another rate cut to 1% by August and a further move to 0.75% by early next year.
The Board also noted that lower rate were not the only policy option available to assist with unemployment, echoing calls by RBA Governor Philip Lowe for government action on infrastructure spending and economic reform.
So far, the newly re-elected government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison has downplayed the need for fiscal stimulus and stuck to plans for returning the budget to surplus in 2019/20.
The Liberal National Coalition won re-election in mid-May, beating the favored Labor Party.
Tuesday’s minutes showed the Board judged lower rates would support the economy by pushing down the value of the Australian dollar. The currency has duly fallen to five-month lows since the RBA’s June 4 meeting.
Lower rates would also reduce debt repayments by households, so freeing up extra cash, while lowering borrowing costs for business, the minutes showed.
The Board acknowledged that cutting rates crimped returns for savers, but felt the overall impact would be to support economic growth.
Members also saw little risk that easing policy would lead to a risky rise in household borrowing or to an unexpectedly strong pick up in inflation.
Indeed, the Board judged that the factors suppressing inflation and wage growth would last for some time given the extent of spare capacity in the labor market.
Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., June 17, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
June 18, 2019
By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
NEW YORK (Reuters) – China’s holdings of U.S. Treasury bonds and notes for the month of April fell to the lowest level since May 2017, data from the U.S. Treasury department showed on Monday, highlighting an uncertain outlook on a trade deal between Beijing and Washington.
Chinese holdings of U.S. government debt declined for a second straight month, to $1.113 trillion in April, from $1.120 trillion the previous month. Even so, the world’s second-largest economy remains the largest non-U.S. holder of Treasuries.
(For a graphic on ‘China, Japan Holdings of U.S. Treasuries’ click http://tmsnrt.rs/2DJ1ckW)
Belgium, which analysts surmised is where China would typically keep some of its holdings, also fell to $179.8 billion in April, from $186.6 billion in March.
“This is a head-scratcher given that Chinese reserves during the month only declined by just under $4 billion,” said Gennadiy Goldberg, senior rates strategist, at TD Securities in New York. “So there’s quite a bit more selling than would have been justified.”
He said it could have been profit-taking from the build-up of holdings in the first quarter of the year. “If you look at the flow of funds, for example, there was notable buying of Treasuries in Q1. So this certainly suggests that foreigners are taking more profits off the table,” Goldberg said, while saying he does not think the decline was related to the trade conflict.
“If this were trade-related, you would have seen either more pressure on the Chinese yuan and you would have seen a decline in foreign exchange reserves on a one-for-one basis,” Goldberg said.
If Belgium’s holdings were included, it was almost a $15 billion decline.
The data showed that Japan, the second-largest non-U.S. holder of Treasuries, also reduced its holdings of Treasuries in April, to $1.064 trillion, from $1.078 trillion the previous month.
Overall, foreign holdings of Treasuries dropped to $6.433 trillion in April, from $6.473 trillion in March.
Foreign flows of U.S. Treasuries, meanwhile, showed an inflow of $16.949 billion in April, from net selling of $12.526 billion in March. Offshore private investors purchased Treasuries, at $45.366 billion during the month, from only $91 million previously.
(For a graphic on ‘Foreign purchases of U.S. Treasuries’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2TM2p21)
Foreigners continued to sell U.S. stocks in April to the tune of $964 million, after outflows of $23.638 billion in March. Foreign investors have sold stocks for 12 straight months.
The report showed foreigners bought $46.9 billion in net long-term securities in April, after selling $25.9 billion in March.
(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Susan Thomas and Leslie Adler)
Preliminary figures show falling numbers of migrant families were crossing the southern border illegally in recent weeks, the Washington Post reported Monday.
Customs and Border Protection data shows more than 85,000 “family unit” members at the border in May, an average of nearly 2,800 per day. That number has declined about 13% since the beginning of June, the Post reported.
Overall, U.S. officials say they are expecting a decline of 15-20% decline in border arrests from May, when authorities detained more than 144,000 and migration levels reached their highest point since 2006, the Post reported.
The time frame of the decline corresponds with the period that President Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs on Mexico and the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador agreed to a crackdown to avoid the penalty, the Post noted.
“We are seeing initial actions and we are seeing some signs they’re having an impact,” an unnamed U.S. official told the Post. “But I think it’s still too early to tell.”
Border arrests typically surge in the spring, when demand for U.S. farm labor grows, then subside during peak summer months, the Post reported.
For example, border arrested dropped 17% from May 2018 to June 2018, the Post reported.
If the June arrest numbers continue to decline, it would be the first month this year that CBP has notched a drop in enforcement actions.
Source: NewsMax Politics
FILE PHOTO: Shoppers ride escalators at the Beverly Center mall in Los Angeles, California November 8, 2013. Picture taken November 8. REUTERS/David McNew
June 17, 2019
By Jason Lange, Chris Prentice and David Lawder
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – This year’s holiday season could be tighter for many Americans if the U.S. government imposes tariffs on another $300 billion worth of Chinese imports – because that will include tech products, game consoles, toys, cribs, ornaments and Santa hats.
The tariffs would add 25% to the import cost of these and many other consumer items just as retail outlets throughout the world’s largest economy begin to gear up for the peak end-of-year shopping season.
Consumers have been largely shielded until now from the direct impact of the trade war between China and the United States as the administration of President Donald Trump has focused previous rounds of tariffs on imports sold to manufacturers rather consumers.
But Trump is escalating the trade war and preparing to extend tariffs to nearly all Chinese imports after talks for a deal broke down in May. The U.S. government is pushing for wide-ranging economic and trade reforms from Beijing.
Trump said he would decide whether to trigger the next round of tariffs after talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Japan later this month.
In preparation for the new round, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) on Monday began seven days of hearings for testimony from retailers, manufacturers and others impacted. Thousands of business filed comments to the USTR ahead of the hearings.
Toys, phones and televisions are all on the tariff list and represent some of the most valuable categories of products that Americans buy from China, according to a Reuters analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The new tariffs would hit cellphones whose import bill from China totaled $43 billion in 2018 – more than 80% of total cellphone imports.
They would also cover a broad set of toys, including scooters and doll carriages, whose imports totaled $11.9 billion last year. China supplied about 85% of America’s total imports of those toys.
Further pain for parents could come in the form of proposed levies on more than $5 billion worth of video game consoles. Chinese imports amounted to 98% of total U.S. imports of those consoles last year.
And U.S. imports from China of targeted Christmas products – including ornaments, nativity scenes and Christmas tree lights – totaled at least $2.3 billion last year.
An executive from a family-owned, Christmas goods supplier in upstate New York said the company has looked “long and far” to find another supplier for many typical holiday products.
“However, trying to find other countries to manufacture everything else, from Santa hats, to stockings, to glass ornaments, has been a struggle and we have been unable to do so,” Nathan Gordon of Gordon Companies Inc in Cheektowaga said in public comments posted on June 12.
HE’S MAKING A LIST
Some products previously spared by the Trump administration to avoid hitting consumers’ pockets are now on the list. That includes an array of safety and play equipment for children – including high chairs, play pens, and swings.
The proposed tariffs would hit at least $800 million of these goods.
Smart watches, smart speakers and Bluetooth audio are also included. The Consumer Technology Association estimates that 2018 imports in this category from China were up to $17.9 billion.
Retailers Walmart Inc, Target Corp, and more than 600 other companies urged Trump in a letter last week to resolve the trade dispute with China, saying tariffs hurt American businesses and consumers.
Worry over potential cost increases for Americans from tariffs has raised concern about inflation, though across the economy, prices rises remain below the U.S. Federal Reserve target of 2%.
Trump has said that China pays the tariffs, but U.S. importers actually foot the bill and either pass them on to consumers or suppliers.
(Reporting by Jason Lange and David Lawder in Washington and Chris Prentice in New York; Editing by Simon Webb and Rosalba O’Brien)
FILE PHOTO: Senator Marco Rubio questions witnesses before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about “worldwide threats” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo
June 17, 2019
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio filed legislation on Monday that would prevent Huawei Technologies Co Ltd from seeking damages in U.S. patent courts, after the Chinese firm demanded that Verizon Communications Inc pay $1 billion to license the rights to patented technology.
Under the amendment – seen by Reuters – companies on certain U.S. government watch lists, which would include Huawei, would not be allowed to seek relief under U.S. law with respect to U.S. patents, including bringing legal action over patent infringement.
On June 12, a person briefed on the matter said Huawei had told Verizon that it should pay licensing fees for more than 230 of the Chinese telecoms equipment maker’s patents and in aggregate is seeking more than $1 billion.
It appeared to be a new strategy in Huawei’s ongoing battle with the U.S. government. National security experts worry that “back doors” in routers, switches and other Huawei equipment could allow China to spy on U.S. communications. Huawei has denied that it would help China spy.
Rubio, one of the Republican party’s leading foreign policy voices, filed the measure as an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, a massive bill setting policy for spending by the Department of Defense.
While the measure is several steps from becoming law, lawmakers have successfully used the NDAA in past years to crack down on the Chinese firm.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Leslie Adler)
FILE PHOTO: Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador looks on during a news conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, June 14, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso
June 17, 2019
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico could win a trade war with the United States but it is a war Mexico doesn’t want because it would take too heavy a toll, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday.
Lopez Obrador spoke at an event with military officials in the Mexican capital where he sketched out plans to deploy members of a newly created National Guard to better enforce the border with Guatemala in a bid to make good on a migration deal he made earlier this month with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Lopez Obrador said the deal was positive because it removed Trump’s threat of across-the-board tariffs on Mexican exports to the United States if Mexico’s government did not significantly reduce the flow of U.S.-bound asylum seekers.
But in a rare instance of chest-thumping for the Mexican president, who has consistently sought to lower tensions with Trump, Lopez Obrador insisted Mexico could come out on top of such a trade conflict with its northern neighbor.
“We’re going to have good results (with the National Guard deployment) and this moves us away from the threat of the start of a trade war that isn’t advisable, because we could win it, but we don’t want the war,” Lopez Obrador said.
The migration deal Mexico struck on June 7 with the United States commits the Mexican government to contain the numbers of mostly Central American migrants within 45 days. If Trump determines that Mexico’s efforts are insufficient, he has said he would consider reviving the tariff threat.
Lopez Obrador did not mention the deadline or offer details on how he would reduce migrant numbers, but he said a trade war with the United States would be economically damaging.
“It would be like winning a pyrrhic battle,” he said, “where you win, but many things are left on the field, your strength very much weakened despite the victory.”
(Reporting by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Dave Graham and Leslie Adler)
FILE PHOTO: A “Made in USA” label is pictured on the back of a tie Medford, Massachusetts January 29, 2014. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo
June 17, 2019
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A wide range of U.S. companies told a hearing in Washington on Monday that they have few alternatives other than China for producing clothing, electronics and other consumer goods as the Trump administration prepares new tariffs on remaining U.S.-China trade.
The comments came on the first of seven days of testimony on President Donald Trump’s plan to hit another $300 billion worth of Chinese imports with duties of 25%.
Sourcing from other countries will raise costs, in many cases more than the 25% tariffs, some witnesses told a panel of officials from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, the Commerce Department, State Department and other federal agencies.
Trump and top members of his cabinet have said that the tariffs, if imposed, would accelerate a move of manufacturing out of China.
But dozens of witnesses in oral and written testimony said that moving operations to Vietnam and other countries would not be feasible for years due to a lack of skills and infrastructure in those locations. China dominates global production in industries from shoes to electronics to port gantry cranes.
“That 25% is just going to whack us on the head,” said Rick Helfenbein, president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association. “If we could move more product out of China we would, but we haven’t been able to.”
Mark Flannery, president of Regalo International LLC, a Minnesota-based maker of baby gates, child booster seats and portable play yards, said that pricing quotes for shifting production to Vietnam – using largely Chinese-made steel – were 50% higher than current China costs, while quotes from Mexico were above that.
“Currently there’s no country manufacturing metal baby gates outside of China,” Flannery said.
Child safety products such as car seats were spared from Trump’s previous tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, imposed in September 2018. But in the drive to pressure China in trade negotiations, USTR put them back on the list, along with other products spared previously, from flat-panel televisions to Bluetooth headphones.
The proposed list, which will be ready for a decision by Trump as early as July 2, includes nearly all consumer products, and could hit Christmas sales hard, particularly cell phones, computers, toys and electronic gadgets.
Marc Schneider, chief executive of fashion footwear and apparel marketer Kenneth Cole Productions, said 25 percent tariffs would wipe out the company’s profits and cost jobs.
“We’re going to lower the quality of footwear, raise prices and accomplish nothing by moving it around to other countries,” Schneider said.
Jean Kolloff, owner of cashmere importer Quinn Apparel, said her reason for opposing the tariffs was more geographical – the Alashan goat that produces light-colored cashmere wool is only found in China’s Inner Mongolia region.
The tariff hearings are underway amid a severe deterioration of U.S.-China relations since Trump accused Beijing in early May of reneging on commitments that had brought the world’s top two economies close to a deal to end their nearly year-long trade war.
Since then, Trump raised tariffs to 25% on $200 billion of Chinese goods. The $300 billion list of products being reviewed in the hearing would bring punitive tariffs to nearly all remaining Chinese exports to the United States.
There are no meetings scheduled to resume negotiations over U.S. demands that China enforce intellectual property protections and curb forced technology transfers and industrial subsidies.
Trump has said he wants to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the June 28-29 G20 leaders summit in Japan, but neither government has confirmed a meeting.
Companies including retailer Best Buy, vacuum cleaner maker iRobot and TV streaming device maker Roku Inc all argued against the tariffs on consumer tech goods, saying they would reduce demand for electronics and ultimately threaten U.S. technology leadership.
U.S. FACTORIES, CHINESE PARTS
Not all of the witnesses on the first day of the hearing were opposed to the tariffs. Mike Branson, president of Rheem Manufacturing Co’s air conditioning division, asked Trump administration officials to close a loophole that was allowing Chinese firms to skirt air conditioner tariffs by shipping condenser and air handler units separately.
This allowed the units to be imported duty free as parts, rather than as completed systems that were subject to tariffs. Domestic manufacturers had ample capacity to make these products, Branson said.
Other companies with U.S. manufacturing operations voiced opposition to the tariffs because they depend on Chinese components, such as light-emitting diode parts for lighting manufacturer Ledvance LLC and stitched leather parts for athletic shoe maker New Balance LLC.
New Balance vice president Monica Gorman said the tariffs “will risk our company’s overall financial health, which will in turn limit our ability to maintain and re-invest in our American factories.”
(Reporting by David Lawder, Additional reporting by Chris Prentice and Jason Lange in Washington and Uday Sampath in Bengaluru, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)
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)
FILE PHOTO: Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who’s bloc came first, meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who’s political bloc came third in a May parliamentary election, in Najaf, Iraq June 23, 2018. REUTERS/Alaa al-Marjani
June 17, 2019
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr urged political blocs on Monday to pressure the prime minister to form a complete cabinet within 10 days, warning that his supporters would take a “new stance” if they failed to do so.
Sadr, who leads a large parliamentary bloc, has rallied his supporters to stage mass protests against previous governments, and has implied this could take place against the current government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.
“I call on all political blocs to charge the prime minister with completing the cabinet formation process within 10 days,” Sadr said in a letter released by his office.
“Otherwise we will have another position … and you are aware of our stance.”
Sadr’s Saeroon political bloc came first in a May 2018 general election. He has called for independent candidates to be put forth for several key cabinet positions which remain vacant over disagreement between powerful parties.
Abdul Mahdi began his term in October, but has yet to fill interior and defense posts.
Sadr, who presents himself as a nationalist who opposes the involvement of both the United States and Iran, Iraq’s two mains allies, scored a surprise victory in the May vote by promising to fight corruption and improve services.
The other largest political bloc includes candidates backed by Iran who have tried to push an interior candidate linked to Iran-backed militias.
A wild card in Iraq’s turbulent politics driven largely by sectarian interests, he has frequently mobilized tens of thousands of followers to protest against government policies and corruption.
His militia, previously known as the Mehdi Army, staged two violent uprisings against U.S. occupation forces after the invasion. Iraqi and U.S. officials described him at the time as the biggest security threat in Iraq.
(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; writing by Raya Jalabi; Editing by John Davison and Lisa Shumaker)
FILE PHOTO: Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 11, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo
June 17, 2019
By Richard Cowan and Alexandra Alper
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week is set to meet with Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the U.S. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, in a bid to fast-track passage of a delayed trade deal, two congressional aides said on Monday.
Trudeau is to travel to Washington on Thursday to meet with President Donald Trump to discuss ratification of the new North American trade accord, known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
Mexico’s Senate is scheduled to take up the legislation in a full vote on Tuesday.
The Trump administration has been pushing Congress to speed up a vote on the agreement. But the Democratic-led House of Representatives has sought more time to review the deal, with Pelosi pressing for improved enforcement mechanisms for labor and environmental standards.
Republicans, who control the U.S. Senate, have been seeking a vote on the USMCA before the August recess to avoid budget debates and 2020 presidential campaign activity, which is expected to intensify in the autumn.
Pelosi controls the overall House legislative agenda, including trade measures, and many political experts see USMCA as unlikely to come to a vote in that chamber during the summer.
Nevertheless, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a powerful business lobby seeking quick passage of the accord, sees progress for the deal as feasible in the short term, despite concerns voiced by Democrats.
“We think the objective of securing a vote on USMCA in the House before the August recess is a reasonable goal,” the chamber’s senior vice president for international policy, John Murphy, told reporters in a phone call on Monday. “The gaps are bridgeable.”
He pointed to Pelosi’s move to appoint a number of House Democrats to a working group with officials at the United States Trade Representative’s office to address their concerns as cause for cheer.
Trudeau’s meetings with congressional leaders were first reported by Politico. Trudeau’s meeting with Pelosi is scheduled for 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Thursday, a Pelosi aide said.
Canada’s government confirmed Trudeau will meet with U.S. House and Senate leaders on Thursday but provided no details.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Alexandra Alper; Additional reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Writing by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Leslie Adler)
FILE PHOTO: The convoy of a team from the United Nations and the World Food Program crosses from Houthi-controlled areas to a government-controlled areas to reach grain mills in an eastern suburb of Hodeidah, Yemen February 26, 2019. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad/File Photo
June 17, 2019
By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – United Nations food chief David Beasley warned on Monday that a phased-suspension of food assistance in Yemen was likely to begin later this week over a diversion of aid and lack of independence in Houthi-controlled areas.
Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), called on the Houthis to “simply let us do our job.”
“If we do not receive these assurances then we will begin a phased suspension of food assistance, most likely toward the end of this week. If and when we do initiate suspension we will continue our nutrition program for malnourished children, pregnant women and new mothers,” he told the U.N. Security Council.
Beasley said WFP had been unable to implement agreements with the Houthis on the registration of people in need and the rollout of a biometric system – using iris scanning, fingerprints or facial recognition – to support aid delivery.
“We are now assisting feeding over 10 million people per month but as the head of the World Food Programme I cannot assure you that all the assistance is going to those who need it most,” Beasley said.
“Why? Because we are not allowed to operate independently and because aid is being diverted for profit and or other purposes,” he told the 15-member council.
The Houthis did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Beasley’s remarks. However, earlier this month Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Houthis’ Supreme Revolutionary Committee, told Reuters the WFP insisted on controlling the biometric data in violation of Yemeni law.
In a statement, the U.N. Security Council “condemned the misappropriation of humanitarian assistance and aid by the Houthis … and reiterated their call for the rapid, safe and unhindered flow of commercial and humanitarian supplies and personnel into and across the country.”
A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government that was ousted from power in the capital, Sanaa, by the Houthis in 2014.
The conflict is widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Houthis deny being puppets of Iran and say their revolution is against corruption.
Beasley said that aid diversion was not limited to just Houthi-controlled areas, but “when we face challenges in areas controlled by the government, we have received cooperation to address the issues.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Susan Thomas and Bill Trott)
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)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo should be informing President Donald Trump that it would be wrong to take information from a foreign government about a political rival, Assistant House Speaker Ben Ray Lujan said Monday.
“He should be saying ‘Mr. President, that’s wrong, that’s illegal, the Constitution doesn’t allow it, your oath of office doesn’t allow it,'” the New Mexico Democrat told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” while discussing the president’s comments that he’d listen if someone was giving him political dirt.
“It’s absolutely concerning that if we believe were given to the campaign from the Russians in the next election that he would gladly accept them,” said Lujan.
He added that he’s become divided on whether impeachment proceedings could harm Democrats in 2020, as every day, Trump “throws one more brick into the backpack” about why they should be done.
“I think what he said over the weekend would probably be a stand-alone charge all by itself, but I think increasingly the argument has to be, is there some good constitutional reason to do this, even if the Senate, for its own reasons, will never convict,” said Lujan.
According to a new poll, Americans remain divided over whether Trump should be impeached, but Lujan said it’s clear people nationwide want investigations to continue into him and his administration. He noted that there are 12 House committees holding oversight investigations, but not only about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report but also about the “sabotage of the Affordable Care Act” and other Trump actions.
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, 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)